Christian Devotions

Constant Joy

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.

Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

  ~~  Psalm 100 (KJV)

This is one of my favorite psalms. In the first place it says “make a joyful noise” not “sing sweetly on key.” The criteria for our singing is joy, not musical ability.

But no one can be joyful all the time, can they? That depends on where your joy lies. If the joy of the Lord is your strength, then you can be joyful all the time. God is always with you. If he is the source of your joy, nothing can change it.

When things seem blackest, we can praise the Lord for who and what he is. He inhabits the praises of his people. No matter what circumstances surround us, he is unchanging and always sure. If your security is in him, nothing can shake it.

This truth allows us to be grateful to God for who and what he is, no matter what happens around us or to us.

So at all times and in all seasons, we can bring a sacrifice of praise to him. Blessing his name for who he is.

That sacrifice of praise will hold you together in the roughest of times. It draws you closer to him and reminds you of all his power and righteousness.

In a time when I thought I would drown in grief, the old hymn, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, came bubbling up out of my middle. While the grief was still there, I had an assurance that it would not overwhelm me, that with God’s help I could get through it.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

For that I was and am mightily grateful.

Father, God,

Thank you for being our peace and our strength. Remind us at all times to come to you with praise and thanksgiving so that we may always be blessed of you.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

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All Gone

At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged.

And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it.

And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign.

~~ II Kings 24:10-12 (KJV)

This reading talks about the greatest dispersion of the children of Israel. King Nebuchadnezzar took prisoner all the assets of Judah.

He took the king, his mother, his attendants, his nobles and all the officials. He took the gold implements and treasures from the temple. He took all the fighting men in the army. And he took all the craftsmen and artisans.

Nebuchadnezzar took control of the ruler and the political structure. So the civil authority was under Nebuchadnezzar’s control.

He took all the gold implements for worship from the temple of Solomon. And the religious activity was under his control.

He took all seven thousand of the army, so there was no military force for him to contend with.

And he took all the craftsmen and artisans.

Whoa! Why would he want the artisans and craftsmen?

Our God is a creator. He gave man the gift of creativity. That creativity is most active and expressed in the work of artisans and craftsmen. But when these artisans and craftsmen create, they sometimes reflect the root of God that is in them. Their works point to the greatness of God.

But Nebuchadnezzar didn’t want the people of Judah remembering their God or continuing to worship Him. Therefore he took all the craftsmen so that they would be occupied only with the commissioned pieces that Nebuchadnezzar wanted made. They had no artistic freedom to create their pieces as God inspired. And there was no one left in Judah to create either.

He left only the poorest people of the land, those without money – and perhaps without talents or skills. He robbed the land of those who could make it shine – who had the heart and the wherewithal to make things better.

But God had promised that Judah will be restored.

For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.   ~~  Jeremiah 30:17 (KJV)

And it was so.

Our nation today is being usurped by the forces of evil. We have watched as the government is being taken over by lying, cheating, immorality and general evil.

Churches are being forbidden to speak the truth of God in fear of an accusation of bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and hate.

And creativity has been lured away by the phantom of riches and fame which have been usurped by wickedness in all its forms.

We must remember that God can restore, but we must do our part to speak out, to let our voices be heard, to quit cowering before the assumed powers of the world.

We need to remember that God is sovereign.

No matter what the world may take from you, God can restore. Nebuchadnezzar took it all, intending to wipe out Judah entirely — but God restored.

Father, God,

No matter what the world does to us, remind us that You are the restorer. You can take the broken heart and heal it. You can take the ruined family and restore it. You can take the broken spirit and help it soar and sing. Help us to soar and sing Your praises at all times, no matter what else is happening around us.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Enduring

Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:

If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:

If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.

~~ 2 Timothy 2:10-13 (KJV)

Enduring is an unpopular occupation, but we have been given the grace through Christ to do just that. Enduring hardship serves to strengthen our resolve and make us less soft or brittle. It works much like annealing steel or glass.

My daughter does glass lamp work. She heats a rod or narrow length of glass til it is molten in the flame. She works with it and shapes it into the form desired. Then she puts it into an annealing oven so that it does not cool quickly, but slowly, over a period of many hours. This process makes the glass much stronger and less breakable.

It seems that God does that with some of our lives. We endure hardship of many kinds until we have been shaped into what God wants us to be. And even then, He does not turn off the heat. We sit in the annealing oven for an extended period so that we come out more serviceable than ever.

We can endure all this by focusing on Jesus Christ.

Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him.
If we disown him, he will also disown us;
if we are faithless, he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.

He is the source of our life and hope. He is the reason for our faithfulness. He is our all in all. So we can keep on keeping on.

Father, God,

When life gets very daily and the going gets tough, reassure us that all things work together for good to those who are called to Your purpose. Help us to keep the faith, doing all that You have commanded, so that we may remain faithful, just as Jesus is faithful.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Redemption

And I will bring Israel again to his habitation, and he shall feed on Carmel and Bashan, and his soul shall be satisfied upon mount Ephraim and Gilead.

In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.  ~~  Jeremiah 50:19-20 (KJV)

Here is the promise of restoration. God says that Israel and Judah will be restored to the fullness of their land. That they will be a holy people because God will have forgiven the remnant he restores.

What a beautiful promise. After seventy years in exile, the people of God will come back to their land. God will see to it that their land is fruitful for their needs. They will be satisfied with the pastures and hills.

This restoration did not come easily. Israel was conquered by Assyria and then by Babylon. The people were decimated and imprisoned. Their young men were deprived of their manhood, made eunuchs to serve in the court of Nebuchadnezzar.

The search for guilt in the people of God will be fruitless because when God forgives sin, it is erased entirely. This is a picture of our redemption under the blood of Christ.

For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.

There is a victory for the believer in the atoning blood of Christ. It is our only claim to God’s mercy.  ~~  Psalm 103:11-13 (KJV)

There is a victory for the believer in the atoning blood of Christ. It is our only claim to God’s mercy.

Father God,

Help us to remember that there is only one way to Your forgiveness, through the atoning blood of Jesus. Keep us ever faithful in speaking to others, lest we be drawn into tolerance of other paths – paths which can only lead to destruction.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

 

Social Responsibility

The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.

God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth; the Lord revengeth, and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.

The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth.

The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein.

Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.  ~~  Nahum 1:1-6 (KJV)

“The Lord is slow to anger and great in power.” One reason the Lord is slow to anger is His great love for mankind. He is not willing that any should perish, so He withholds His anger until it is obvious that the sinner or the sinful nation is not about to repent.

Remember His conversation with Abraham over Sodom. He would have withheld His anger with Sodom had there been but a few righteous men in the city. There was, in fact, only Lot. And He made a way for Lot to escape.

In Jonathan Edward’s famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, we read “The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given, and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. “

Personally, I tremble for our nation. The abominations and desecrations we tolerate in the name of political correctness have earned us the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. God is withholding his anger, I believe, because of the remnant of the righteous who still are here and still praying for the nation.

Social responsibility would have every Christian evangelizing and bringing people to God.

In a Facebook conversation regarding how to interact with the world on that score, one participant asked why we were not more vocal in telling people. There were several responses, but mine was as follows:

Some times we remain silent because there has been no question asked.

We are told to be ready with the answer when someone asks about the hope that is within us.

I try to speak only when the Spirit prompts me that the hearer is ready to hear. Otherwise, we may simply be inoculating them from the truth.

Our first line of attack must be prayer. Then we can evangelize when the Spirit prompts us.

Let us resolve to be the prayer buffer between our nation and the hands of an angry God until we can turn this nation back to its roots in faith.

Father, God,

While we are Your children, never let us for get that we have a responsibility to bring all men unto You. Help us to see ways to woo the lost for Your kingdom so that Your righteous anger will be quenched.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Love Who? Forgive Who?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.  ~~  John 3:16-17 (KJV)

God created man in His own image. Scripture doesn’t exactly say why God created man, but the verses in Genesis would have me believing that He created man for companionship. While it is not explicitly stated, there is the inference that God walked with Adam in the garden regularly.

Then old slewfoot entered the picture and cast doubt upon God’s word and single prohibition.

“Did God really say…?” Followed by “Well, He didn’t really mean it like that.”

Yes, He did say. And yes, He did mean just exactly that.

John 3:16 is probably the first verse a new Christian memorizes (if verse memorization is still encouraged). At least it was the first verse my contemporaries and I learned. But we didn’t learn it all, because we didn’t memorize verse 17 as well.

Most of us have heard that where it says “the world” and “whosoever” you can substitute your own name.

For God so loved ________, that he gave his only begotten Son, that __________ [believing] in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Okay, but what does this have to do with forgiveness?

Glad you asked.

See those blanks?  Now insert the name of someone who has harmed you in some way.

Yeah, the guy who cut you off in traffic or the woman who told lies about you to keep you from that promotion or anyone who has hurt you or made you angry in any manner. (For me, that includes the former son-in-law who murdered three of my grandchildren.)

When God said “the world”, he meant those people, too.

God’s love is much bigger than ours. But if God loves them, and if I’m a follower of Christ, then I must love them, also.

True love is NOT a warm, fuzzy feeling. It is a decision followed by a course of action. Love is a decision to seek the welfare of another person above your own.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

When we look at verse 17, we can take out “the world”, insert blanks again, and then write in the name of that person who has harmed or offended you.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn __________; but that __________ through him might be saved.

Oh, ouch!

Can God really forgive ____________? (Insert the name of any offense in that blank.)

Yes, he can.

Look at King David. He was called a man after God’s own heart.

And when he [God] had removed him [Saul], he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.  ~~  Acts 13:22 (KJV)

Really?

David, the man who coveted another man’s wife? David, the man who committed adultery with Bathsheba?

David, the man who tried to manipulate Uriah to cover his sin? David, the man who conspired to have Uriah killed in battle?

Yes, that David.

The saving grace was that David, imperfect and sinful as he was, did love God. He wanted to do as God willed. He simply fell far short of that mark.

In all his transgressions, David recognized his sin was against God and God’s commandments. Actually, that’s where every sin lies – against God’s commandments.

God’s capacity to forgive is much bigger than ours. But if God forgives them, and if I’m a follower of Christ, then I must forgive them, also.

Forgive – definition

transitive verb

1 : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : pardonforgive one’s enemies

2a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital (see requital sense 1) for forgive an insult

b : to grant relief from payment of forgive a debt

Forgiveness is NOT the same as reconciliation. Forgiveness is a decision followed by a course of action. Forgiveness is a decision to absolve from payment and to renounce anger and resentment against someone who has harmed you.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, … and pray for them which despitefully use you, ~~ Matthew 5:44

The only positive action you must take after that decision is to remember that person in your prayers.

Father God,

Help us to remember who we are in you. Give us the grace to see other people through your eyes of love. Empower us to be swift to forgive.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen

 

 

 

Great Faithfulness

Remember my affliction and roaming,
The wormwood and the gall.

My soul still remembers
And sinks within me.

This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.

They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!” ~~ Lamentations 3:18-24 (NKJV)

There was a time in my life when I could have written these verses. The personal desolation of the first twenty-one verses of Chapter 3 in Lamentations describes the circumstances of the last two decades of my life. It began with the murder of a beloved family member and spiraled downward from there.

But when the grief would have overwhelmed me, could have swallowed me whole, the words of an old hymn  built upon verses twenty-two and twenty-three seemed to rise up out of the middle of my spirit. The music and theology in that hymn buoyed my spirit to survive the waves of sorrow.

In 1972, Malcolm Smith published a book entitled Turn Your Back on the Problem. The premise was that as long as you focus on the problem you will be overwhelmed. But when you quit looking at the problem and start looking toward God, you see things in a different perspective.

No matter what the circumstances are, God is the faithful rock upon which we can build our hope. He is the source of all our strength. He deals mercifully with us.

And He starts again each morning as if it were the first morning of creation.

Great is His faithfulness.

Let us begin by being faithful to Him.

Father, God,

Grant us the wisdom and strength to keep our eyes upon You in every circumstance. Help us to focus our attention on Who You are, not on what is going on with us, within us, and around us.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.