Christian Devotions

Love Is the Key

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. 

~~ I Corinthians 13:1-13 (KJV)

Love is the key to the Christian life. But I think, sometimes, we miss the mark on our definition of love. While this chapter is frequently read at weddings, I believe it has less to do with weddings than the everyday relationships between friends, family, neighbors and co-workers.

Jesus said the first commandment was to love the Lord. But what kind of love is this? It certainly isn’t the same kind of physical desire and emotion that men and women sometimes feel for one another. It is, in fact, not a “feeling” so much as a decision and commitment. You seek the Lord and His will for your life, so that what you do pleases Him. It is His approval that you are wanting. His “well done, good and faithful servant” is your goal.

We love the Lord by loving what He created. This kind of love is committed to the well-being of the other. We are to work for the benefit of the Lord’s creation. Since man was created in the image of God, when we look at another person, we should strive to see the mark of God on him or her. It is that essence of the divine in each person that we respect and admire.

The qualities of love in Paul’s list spring from the recognition of God’s image in man. We have no clear picture of God except what of God is reflected in man. In eternity, we shall see Him face to face – no veil, no shadow, no dim mirror.

Father, God,

Prepare us to see You face to face. Create in us Your love for all mankind. Help us to hear as You hear, see as You see, and feel as You feel.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen

Advertisements

Do It God’s Way

Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:

And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:

And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.

And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.

And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.

And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him. ~~ Genesis 12:1-7

Abram was seventy-five years old when God told him to leave his homeland. In verse two of this reading He says “I will make of you a great nation.” And then again in verse seven he says “To your offspring I will give this land.” In these verses, God has twice said Abram would have children.

Abram and Sarai waited. It seemed like they waited forever. Years later, Abram complained to the Lord that he has only Eliezer of Damascus, his steward, as an heir. But the Lord assured Abram that his descendants will be as numerous as the sand on the seashore or the stars in the sky. God made a covenant with Abram. (Genesis Chapter 15.)

Ten years passed, and Sarai could hear her biological clock ticking. She knew that she was growing too old for bearing children. She decided to take matters into her own hands and sent Abram in to Hagar to conceive a child for her. In a way, Hagar was the original surrogate mother. At least, that was what Sarai intended. But it didn’t work that way.

Sarai was jealous of Hagar and mistreated her. Hagar ran away, only to be found of the Lord and told to come back into her servitude. But the Lord also assured her that her son would have many descendants. He told her to name the child “God Hears” – Ishmael. (Genesis 16)

The prophecy concerning Ishmael in verse twelve, however, forecasts an on-going feud between Ishmael’s line and Isaac’s line. Look at the middle east today. We have the sons of Ishmael and the sons of Isaac in constant conflict.

So let’s play a game of “what if.” What if Sarai had not become impatient, Hagar had not become pregnant, and Ishmael had never been born. Would the middle east be peaceful today? We’ll never know.

Whenever we try to do God’s will our own way, it results in a muddle. God can redeem our messes, but it is never as good as what He had planned originally. It all comes back to the arrogance of the intellect. We think we know how to help God out. We don’t.

Our function is to believe His word and obey His commands. We are to do a thing only if God says so, not because we think it’s the way to do it.

Father, God,

Help us to remember your wisdom is infinite and our minds are puny in comparison. Remind us that You do not need our assistance, only our faith and obedience.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

 

Click the link on Hagar above for a new Bible study about the God Who Sees Me.

Real or Virtual?

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. ~~ John 8:32 (KJV)

In a wireless phone store the other day, I watched a boy, about seven years of age, entranced by a virtual reality headset. Old as I am, I had no idea what those strange looking goggles were until I asked. After the explanation, it struck me that virtual reality is a kind of prison.

There is a physical reality going on around the user, but the user is totally unaware of it. The visual and aural senses are plugged in to the VR, not anything in real space. Imagine being blinded and deafened by virtual reality when an intruder enters your home.

There is a parallel here with our world. You see, this physical world is not all there is. We are told in scripture that there is another dimension, a spiritual plane.

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. ~~ Ephesians 6:11-13 (KJV)

If we are concentrated only on the physical world that we see around us, we are helpless against that spiritual dimension.

God, however, has made a way for us to be plugged into that spiritual dimension. That is the function of the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. ~~ John 14:16-17

The Holy Spirit is that within us which is plugged in to the knowledge and wisdom and comfort of God. As we learn to hear Him, we walk more closely the path Jesus would have us walk. Our steps become more sure.

No matter what the world and its evils throw at us, we are secure in the knowledge that nothing will happen to us that surprises God. He is there before us and has made provision for us regardless of what the enemy uses to try to defeat and discourage us.

We’ve read the back of the book. God wins. The enemy loses. Therefore we win!

Father, God,

Help us to become more sensitive to Your Holy Spirit. Quiet our spirits in the turmoil of this world that we may hear clearly and obey swiftly. Thank You for giving us this Comforter, the Holy Spirit.

In Jesus’ most precious name,

Amen

Forward

And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the Lord hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it.

And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed. ~~ Deuteronomy 31:7-8 (KJV)

At this point, Moses is a hundred and twenty years old. The Israelites have reached the Jordan and are about to cross over into the promised land. But God has told Moses he will not enter there. It is time to pass the torch to Joshua.

Can you imagine Joshua sitting at the edge of the river and knowing that his leader is leaving the command up to him? Perhaps there is a little trepidation. These are big shoes he is to fill.

But Moses tells him to be strong a courageous, that the Lord will go before him and be with him. The Lord says “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

I don’t believe these words were for Joshua alone. When we give our lives to the Lord, He reiterates the same words to us. “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

For the Lord will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the Lord to make you his people ~ 1 Samuel 12:22 (KJV)

In the best of times, we see the presence of the Lord. In the worst of times, we feel the support and power of the Lord. In triumph or tribulation, He is — or should be — our nearest, dearest companion.

What should we fear if the Lord goes before us?

We serve an omnipotent God. Whatever is in store for us, He has prior knowledge and has made provision for us to get through it. Nothing is too hard for Him. When we are in Him, nothing is too much for us to bear, either.

Father, God,

Remind us of your constant presence in our lives. Help us to see that whatever the challenge, You are going before us to grant us favor and prepare the way. Grant us the wisdom to hear Your commands and follow them implicitly.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Who Knows?

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.  ~~ I Corinthians 2:9 (KJV)

Omniscient is a wonderful word – one of three omni words used to describe our God.

  • Omniscient
  • Omnipotent
  • Omnipresent

We’ll look at the others later, but today I want to focus on “omniscient.” This is a compound word made up of a prefix meaning “all” and a verb meaning “to know”. So omniscient is “to know all” – everything. Past, present, future, nothing is hidden from God. He knows it all.

He can know it all because He is infinite. With Him there is no beginning and no end. There just IS.

I don’t remember the comic strip – whether Dennis, the Menace, or Family Circus – that had a Christmas panel. The room is filled with discarded wrapping paper and there is a huge pile of toys in the middle of the floor. The puzzled looking child in the middle of the frame is saying “Is this all there is?”

Sometimes we are like that child. In the middle of the life we are living now, in the midst of the disarray and turmoil, we think “Is this all there is?”

And that answer is “no”. God has more in mind for us than we can ever imagine. It’s said more than once in scripture:

For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him. ~~ Isaiah 64:4 (KJV)

When we focus on this world, we miss the point. This world is NOT the be-all and end-all of everything.

But God is.

When Moses asked God what he should tell the people about who sent him…

And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you. ~~ Exodus 3:14 (KJV)

I Am – the God who IS. Always present tense. He is yesterday, today, tomorrow, forever. Whatever happens in this life, God is there before us. He has made provision for that moment.

But more importantly, He has made provision for our eternity.

Father, God,

Help us to understand, in so far as we can understand, Your omniscience. Remind us that You know all, that You have provided for all the circumstances in which we find ourselves, and that Your provision is more than sufficient. Help us to expand our understanding so that we may rely on You alone instead of our limited intelligence.

In Jesus’ most precious name,

Amen.

 

Proverbs

The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;

To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding;

To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity;

To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.

A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:

To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

~~  Proverbs 1:1-7  (KJV)

The purpose of the proverbs is education — for attaining wisdom and discipline, for understanding words of insight. My grandmother used to say “experience is a dear school, but a fool will learn in no other.”

Proverbs are short truths drawn from long experience. When we learn from other people’s experience, we take ourselves out of the category of “fool” and put ourselves into the category of disciple.

Fool here doesn’t mean just silly or someone to laugh at. Fool in this context means perverse as well. Perverse: stubborn, hardheaded.

At one point, the Lord calls the children of Israel “a stiffnecked people.” Stiffnecked: proud, stubborn, perverse. It wasn’t a compliment.

A teachable, humble spirit is the mark of a true follower of Christ. While we know what we know, we are always ready to learn more of the Lord.

Our eagerness to learn comes from the awareness of our limitations. No matter how much we learn of God, there is always more to learn. Our finite minds are incapable of encompassing the whole of our infinite God.

But that truth should never stand in the way of our wanting more of Him.

Father, God,

Keep us from pride and stubbornness. Help us to be hungry to know more of You. Grant us a teachable spirit.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

The Christian Advantage

I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.

But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.  ~~  Job 32:7-8 (KJV)

Older is not necessarily wiser unless the wisdom of God informs it. People have no choice but to grow older day by day. They don’t have to grow wiser. We’ve all seen the perpetual adolescents who are fifty years old and haven’t yet decided what to be when they grow up. Or even decided to grow up at all. Heedlessness, recklessness, and thoughtlessness mark their actions. And when the consequences of those actions are negative, they cry “why me” incessantly. They hurry to place the blame on someone else.

But the Christian has a distinct advantage here. Jesus sent the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to teach us and to guide us. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He is fully God, just as God the Father and Jesus Christ are fully God. Therefore he has the mind of God, all the knowledge and wisdom of our Triune God.

It is up to us to cultivate a teachable spirit, to listen carefully for the promptings of the Holy Spirit. In our busy, loud, hurried world, it isn’t always easy to hear him. He doesn’t shout. He nudges you with a fleeting thought “I ought to….” Sometimes we have these fleeting thoughts, and then we talk ourselves out of them. “That doesn’t make any sense.” or “What would people say?” or “I don’t have time and energy to take that on.” We have rationalizations for everything.

When in doubt, we can ask God for confirmation. If we are to pursue that action, he will confirm it. He may speak in your head again – or he may provide an external confirmation. Someone will say something to confirm what you’ve been hearing in your head. We cannot lean on what we know alone. The finite mind of man is not equal to wrapping itself around the infinite mind of God.

If we are to be part of his plans, we learn to step out in faith. We learn to hear him, to follow him, to obey him. That is the ultimate joy, to be in the will of God.

Father, God,

Help us to learn from you so that our days may be profitable to the kingdom. Keep our ears tuned to your voice and our hearts tuned to your will. Let us be ever faithful which is the ultimate wisdom.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen