Christian Devotions

Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

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

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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

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

Braggarts

Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:

But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.    ~~  Jeremiah 9:23-24 (KJV)

People are natural braggarts.

They love to brag about their accomplishments, their possessions, their skills, their powers. But these are not things to brag about. There will always be someone who has accomplished more in less time. Someone will possess more. Someone else will have greater skill in the same field. Another person will be more powerful.

All these things are vain and empty.

God asks us to be proud of only one thing: that we know Him.

So exactly Who is He?

He is the Creator of all things. He is compassionate and gracious. He is slow to anger. He is loving and faithful. His love is shown by His willingness to forgive. He is righteous. He punishes the guilty. He is just.

It is only when we have a close relationship with Him and understand His ways that we have anything to boast about.

If we have accomplished anything, it’s only because we’ve had His favor. Anything we have acquired to possess has been a gift from Him, because He has made it possible for us to acquire it.

Any skills we have are the gift of God for the natural talents He has given us. Without that innate ability we could not have acquired these skills.

Any power we may have is through His grace. Physical strength is His gift from our birth. Political strength is His gift of favor. Financial strength is His blessing.

None of the things people boast about are theirs to brag about. They are all gifts from God. He is the only thing worth bragging about.

Father, God,

Let our mouths be full of Your praise always. Let our speech reflect Your power and might and majesty. Help us to speak of You, not our selves, that we may draw all men unto You.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Presence

And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you;

~~ Genesis 9:9 (KJV)

Beginning in Genesis, we see God deigning to communicate with man, making promises to man. The passage above is quoted from right after the flood when God promises never to flood the earth again.

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. ~~ Matthew 28:20 (KJV)

And the promise is found again in Jesus’ words to the disciples. He gives them the great commission and then a promise “lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

This is not a new concept.

That we should establish ourselves in a sense of GOD’s Presence, by continually conversing with Him. That it was a shameful thing to quit His conversation, to think of trifles and fooleries.  —  Brother Lawrence

But even before that, before Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden, we read…

And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.    ~~  Genesis 3:8 (KJV)

It is said so matter-of-factly that we are led to believe this was a common occurrence. That God walked in the garden regularly.

How many of us are constantly aware of the presence of God in our lives? Whether we are sitting in church or scrubbing the toilet, God is present – with us.

Does this thought comfort you or scare you?

In one way, it scares the puddin’ out of me.

God is a witness to everything I do, or think, or say. Therefore I must be very careful of my thoughts, words, and deeds. They must never disgrace the glory of God. They must never reflect badly on the name of Christ.

Every Christian is commissioned to be a witness for Christ.

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.  ~~ Acts 1:8 (KJV)

That’s not a part time job. It’s 24 – 7 – 365. An awesome responsibility!

But the thought of God present with me at all times comforts me as well.

It comforts me when I am uncertain what to do next. I can simply breathe a prayer for guidance and be led in the right direction or be content to stay still awaiting his nudge.

When things of this world look terribly wrong, it comforts me to know that He is not surprised by this circumstance or happening. He was there before it, and He has a plan to get me through it – no matter how terrible or devastating it may look on the surface.

The presence of God is an awesome thing. It’s reassuring to know that I have His constant companionship. It makes anything the world or the enemy can throw at me of no consequence because my God is bigger than that.

And it’s humbling, too. Why would a God so big He can create with just a word spend time with me, love me as if I were His only child? Amazing!

Neither disease, nor violence, nor natural disaster can make me fear for my life. God knew my last breath before I took the first one. My life is safe in His hands.

So is yours.

Father, God,

Help us to be more aware of Your presence – at all times, in all circumstances. Give us the grace to look to you rather than the happenings of this world. Thank You for loving us as you do. Let us never bring shame to the name of Christ.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen

 

Good Works

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Not of works, lest any man should boast. ~~ Ephesians 2:8-9 (KJV)

Salvation is simple – not easy – but simple.  Sometimes a simple truth can be brought home by something that passes for a joke.  I was reminded of that by Mikey’s Funnies.

A man dies. Of course, St. Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates.

St. Peter says, “Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in.”

“Okay,” the man says, “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.”

“That’s wonderful,” says St. Peter, “that’s worth three points!”

“Three points?” he says. “Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service.”

“Terrific!” says St. Peter. “That’s certainly worth a point.”

“One point!?!! I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.”

“Fantastic, that’s good for two more points,” he says.

“Two points!?!!” Exasperated, the man cries, “At this rate it’ll just be by the grace of God that I ever get into heaven.”

“Bingo, 100 points! Come on in!”

Trying to work our way into heaven is an exercise in futility. Nothing we can do will earn us a place in heaven. God has clearly stated how we can get there.

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)

Believe is the operative word here. Believe, trust, have faith in Jesus. Take Him at His word.

But what about good works?  Aren’t we to do them?

Of course, we are to do good works. But those works are our “thank you” notes to God for what He has done for us. They are not our tickets to heaven.

Today, take a moment to thank God for His gift of salvation. Or if you are not sure about your salvation, take a few minutes to read John 3:16-17.

Then learn the answer to the one question you need to be able to answer correctly.

He (Jesus) saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?  And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. ~~ Matthew 16:15-16

Simon Peter was one of Jesus’ disciples. He followed Jesus daily, listening to His words, watching His actions. He would have gone wherever Jesus told Him to go.

If we can follow Simon Peter’s example, knowing who Jesus is, doing His bidding at all times, we will have grasped the gift of God’s grace. The grace that leads to heaven.

Father, God,

Grant us the wisdom to see your gift of grace, the humility to acknowledge our need, the faith to believe Your word, and the persistence to follow at all times.

In Jesus’ most precious name,

Amen.

Identity

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.  ~~ Genesis 1:26-27  (KJV)

Do you really know who you are? The verse above says we were created in the image of God.  We are to have dominion, to be in charge of the earth. But we are not God.

We have limitations, limitations set by God. But we have an enemy who will continually try to get us to violate those limitations. He is always questioning us “Did God really say…?”  (Genesis 3:1)

That question is designed to make us dissatisfied with who we are. And the enemy is cunning. He will pose that question in whatever form he thinks will prod us to question God.

The enemy was successful in getting Adam and Eve to question God and to violate the stipulation God had set for them. That violation created a separation between man and God.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

Have you ever been homesick? Lonely for someone absent? Then you know what that hunger is. There is something missing – a part of you that is missing.

We are created with a God-shaped hole in our hearts. We run after things to fill that hole, but nothing satisfies exactly. Oh, we can rationalize “if I just had a little more money” – “if my family loved me more” –  “if I had just a little more success” – “if I could have one more drink” – “if I could win (fill in the blank)” – “if…  if…  if…”

None of those things will really satisfy. Only a restored relationship with God can ease that hunger. In His generosity, God has made a way for us to bridge that separation.

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)

We don’t need to let the enemy steal our identity. God has given us a path to friendship with Him again.

Father, God,

Help us to see the wiles of the enemy for what they are – the desperate ploys of a vanquished foe. Remind us of who we are and Whose we are. Grant that we may seek to fill our lives only with You, not with empty things.

In Jesus’ most precious name,

Amen.