Christian Devotions

Remember and Return

And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews.

For there were that said, We, our sons, and our daughters, are many: therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat, and live.

Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth.

There were also that said, We have borrowed money for the king’s tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards.

Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards.

And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words.

Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye exact usury, every one of his brother. And I set a great assembly against them.

And I said unto them, We after our ability have redeemed our brethren the Jews, which were sold unto the heathen; and will ye even sell your brethren? or shall they be sold unto us? Then held they their peace, and found nothing to answer.

Also I said, It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?

I likewise, and my brethren, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn: I pray you, let us leave off this usury.

Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them.

Then said they, We will restore them, and will require nothing of them; so will we do as thou sayest. Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they should do according to this promise.

Also I shook my lap, and said, So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labour, that performeth not this promise, even thus be he shaken out, and emptied. And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the Lord. And the people did according to this promise. ~~ Nehemiah 5:1-13 (KJV)

The problem of the haves and have-nots developed years ago. When people fall on hard times, it seems that someone is always ready to take advantage of their plight and profit from their misfortune.

God has rules about such things. Back in Leviticus, as they were coming out of Egypt, God set down some standards for the treatment of the less fortunate. Sadly, our society seems to have forgotten these principles.

We no longer seem to care about the poor in a personal manner. We let the government do it. But that is not the point. A nameless, faceless bureaucracy doesn’t really care about the individual. It simply moves like an independent organism according to a set of impersonal rules that do not factor in the variables in any person’s life.

And because of that bureaucracy, we seem to have spawned an attitude among some of the poor that they are entitled to everything they can get without turning a tap for it. In God’s law, the poor were to work for their provisions.

Ruth gleaned in the field of Boaz behind the harvesters. She worked as diligently as the harvesters and was rewarded with the fruit of her labors.

When hard times come, we have opportunities. If we are among the poor, we have the opportunity to work. If we are among the wealthy, we have the opportunity to give and to share the gleanings. We have the opportunity to lend without interest.

This was the original plan of the Lord for dealing with such circumstances. Let us remember and return.

Father, God,

We pray for those in straitened circumstances. Grant them favor that they may work their way out of that condition. We pray for those in abundance. Give them the grace to follow Your instructions in dealing with the poor. And help us to translate these principles into our government.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

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Marching Orders

And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt saying,

This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.

Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:

And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.

Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:

And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.

And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.

And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.

Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof.

And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire.

And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord’s passover.

For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord.

And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. ~~ Exodus 12:1-13 (KJV)

God makes provision for His people. This theme shows up time again. Remember how Noah and his family were preserved from the flood. God’s remnant was sheltered by the Ark.

Here again God’s people are protected. This time by the blood on the doorposts.

Despite their hardships and discouragement, and perhaps because of the demonstrated power of God’s mighty hand, they have learned to listen to the word of the Lord.

But note, please, that this time they are to be ready to move. Marching orders are imminent.

Whatever we’ve been through, God has brought us safely to this point. But we cannot rest on our laurels and huddle into ourselves for comfort.

We have marching orders, too. While Israel was marching to become a nation, we are marching to expand the Kingdom of God.

With every step we are called to model the light of God in our lives. We are called to victory over our enemies. We are called to spread the glory of His name.

Father, God,

We thank You for Your provision and protection. Help us to live with staff in hand, ready for our marching orders.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Three Little Words

 

These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.  ~~  Titus 2:15 (KJV)

Paul is an uncompromising mentor. Here he tells Titus exactly what to do and gives him the power to do it in those three little words – with all authority.

But exactly where does that authority come from?

With Paul, it came from the authority of the apostles who lived and worked with Jesus. And it came from his encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Damascus.

We don’t have Paul here, except in print. We don’t have the first century apostles except in their writings.

So if we want to speak and exhort and rebuke, our authority must come from the written word of God, the Bible.

All the credentials in the world, all the college degrees, all the certificates of completion from symposia and seminars and conferences are of no avail, if we do not speak with the authority of the written Word of God.

So let’s check up. How much time do we spend in the Word?

Father, God,

Strengthen our resolve to spend more time with you in quiet contemplation of your love letters to us. Grant that we may be a blessing to those in our sphere of influence. Set a guard on our hearts and tongues that nothing may be said or done that is not of you.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

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Restoration Is Expensive

Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.

For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.

And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied.

Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and I sat astonied until the evening sacrifice.

And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God,

And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.

Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as it is this day.

And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage. ~~ Ezra 9:1-8

It is never a good idea to do what you have expressly been told by God not to do. But we all do it from time to time. The Israelites in exile took wives from the neighboring peoples. God had expressly commanded that they not do this from the time they first entered the promised land.

Like willful children, they did it anyway – not all of them, but some did. Returning to Jerusalem, they are returning to the laws of Moses as well. They needed to purify themselves to worship the Lord again in the temple. So they decided to send the foreign wives and their children away.

We are not told where these women and children went. Could they go back to their own families? What would have been their status in their own countries? I can’t imagine that these women and children would have had easy lives after being sent away.

Did you ever notice that when man tries to make things right he sometimes messes up something else? God had told them not to do it. They did it anyway. Then when they try to fix their disobedience, they cause trouble for someone else.

The community of Israel spent two months looking at individual cases. We’re not told how many, if any, were allowed to keep their foreign wives, but there is that possible inference in the text. Otherwise why judge individual cases.

How much simpler it would have been, had they just obeyed God in the first place. How much mess they made when they decided that they knew better than God.

Are we ever guilty of thinking we know better than God? Do we do things in disobedience that require fixing later – things that cost someone else?

Father, God,

Help us to remain ever obedient to You commands, no matter the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Remind us that we see only fragments while You see the whole picture.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Day of the Lord

This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance:

That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:

Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,

And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.

For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:

Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:

But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,

Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. ~~ Focus verses: II Peter 3:1-13

Our world today is in a real mess.

We have deliberately forgotten to teach our children the truth of the scriptures. We teach, instead, theories of men as if they were proven fact.

We extrapolate scenarios from flimsy evidence. But the ultimate victory for the enemy of our souls is that we strive to make man the measure of all things.

God sets the standard. His measuring rod is the one we must live up to.

Peter answers the question about the slowness of Christ’s second coming. It is because God is graciously giving us the opportunity for all to come to the saving knowledge of Christ. He is not willing that any should perish.

But do not be deceived. He will let each of us reap the fruit of our own beliefs and actions. If someone persists in unbelief and ungodliness, He will not interrupt the logical consequences of that belief and action.

The picture he paints of the second coming is frightening. It comes suddenly, with a roar of the heavens. The earth is destroyed by fire.

How interesting!

Fire is what separates the gold from the dross. Fire is a purifying element. It burns the temporary to ash that is scattered on the air. But what is valuable remains.

I work with precious metal clay. If I choose a hollow shape for the piece I am working on, I create a papier mache type form the size and shape of the hollow I wish to create. I can make a ball of this papier mache and form a lattice work with the precious metal clay all around it.

I let it dry and then fire it in the kiln. The papier mache burns away to nothing, and I have a hollow globe of silver lace to work with as a jewelery element. I didn’t want a papier mache ball covered with silver lace. I wanted a hollow ball of silver lace. The fire removed the dross.

Our lives must be the righteousness that survives the fire. We are to be the pure gold and silver of God’s creation.

In the new heaven and new earth, all will be righteousness and peace, but the righteousness of the new heaven and new earth will be those who have been righteous here and now.

Father, God,

As we travel through this journey of life, help us to burn away the dross in our lives. Teach us what is holy and righteous. Grant that we may seek only Your righteousness all our days.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

The Balance

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.  ~~  Romans 12:1-3 (KJV)

Most people vacillate between thinking too little of themselves and thinking too much of themselves. We need to realize that our only value is the value God placed upon us. He purchased us at the price of Jesus’ blood. He bought us – he owns us. But only if we believe on him and acknowledge his lordship over us.

There is no dichotomy between flesh and spirit in us. Where one goes, the other follows. So we must choose which will lead, flesh or spirit. We can not worship God with our spirits and not with our bodies. We are a unit, body and spirit. Integrity comes from being the same at all times and in all circumstances. Either we belong to Christ or we don’t. We worship him with our bodies as well as our spirits — or we don’t really worship him at all. There is no middle ground.

So how do we, then, think of ourselves. We can gauge our worth only by our fidelity to God’s purposes – not by standards of wealth or power or anything else on earth.

Our faith in God determines our perceptions of ourselves. The greater we grow our faith, the more clearly we can see how we fit into God’s plans for our lives.

Father, God,

Grant us your perspective of our lives. Let us see your plans for us and what we need to do to fit into them properly, effectively. Help us to grow in faith.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?  ~~  Micah 6:8 (KJV)

We talk about God’s will.  We pray for healing, if it’s His will. We pray for prosperity, if it’s His will. How do you know what His will is in any circumstance?

Micah 6:8 tells you in plain language. Oh, this is written in King James English and you don’t really understand it?

We can unpack the King James version of the verse from the end to the beginning.

The last noun, and most important one, is God – thy God. Thy God is the person or thing uppermost in your mind and spirit at all times.  If you have truly made Jesus Christ the Lord of your life, you can rest in His provision.

  • Yes, we work to be faithful to His word in all things.
  • Yes, we are responsible for our actions and reactions.
  • Yes, we are responsible for how we live. And that includes how we make our living.
  • But the most important thing we are responsible for is obedience to God.

Obedience begins with a knowledge of His written word – the Bible. As we read His word, we become familiar with His desires for us. Psalm 37:4 says it plainly.

Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

This doesn’t just mean He will give us anything we desire. It means He will sow His will into our hearts to make it our heart’s desire.

The next step is to love mercy. If we are fully aware of the mercy God has shown us, we will want to pass that mercy on to others.

Judge not, that ye be not judged.  ~~  Matthew 7:1

We don’t know what is in a person’s background, what they have suffered, what they have been taught. So while we can judge an action as being wrong, immoral, or foolhardy, we do not ascribe that judgment to the person, just to the action. We remember that the person was so loved by God that He sent Jesus to pay for all that person’s sins – for all my sins. Oh!

This knowledge of God and awareness of His mercies to us will culminate in our doing justice – doing what is right in the sight of the Lord.

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. ~~ Luke 6:31

If we always treat others as we would wish to be treated, we are doing justice. It’s that simple. Not always easy, but simple.

Father, God,

Help us always to remember Your love, not just for ourselves, but for others as well. Plant in our hearts a desire to know You better, to study Your word, to follow Your lead. Give us the grace to see in others what You see in them, to love them with Your love. Help us always to be what You would have us be in this world.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.