Christian Devotions

Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

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.

 

 

Uncertainty…

And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:

And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?

And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.

And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.

But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?

So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

~~ Luke 12:16-20 (KJV)

My sainted grandmother used to say “man proposes; God disposes”. I didn’t realize that she was quoting Thomas a Kempis from his Of the Imitation of Christ. And he took his cue from Proverbs 19:21.

There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.  (KJV)

Translated by The Living Bible, it becomes:

Man proposes, but God disposes.

Life is uncertain. The man in our parable is planning to live a long time, so he laid up treasure to support himself through many years. But he will not live to enjoy those treasures because he will die that very night.

God knows our last breath before we take the first one. I find that comforting. He knows; I don’t have to know. I merely have to trust Him.

I was forcibly reminded of that a few weeks ago. A lovely young woman, the age of my daughters, died suddenly in her sleep. She was in the prime of her life, doing what she wanted to do, being successful at her endeavors. She had accomplished much at work that day. And she is gone – in the blink of an eye.

I’m very glad that her last day at work was successful. But I’m sorry that I never talked with her about her relationship with the Lord. I assumed from what I saw in her, but I don’t know.

Do you know that if this were your last breath, you would immediately be present with the Lord in Paradise?  The thief on the cross knew. Jesus told him so. (Luke 23:32-43)

You can be sure of your eternal home.

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)

It’s very simple. Just follow the Roman Road as taught by David Jeremiah.

Father, God,

I pray for everyone who reads this post that they may see and recognize their need for a Savior, that they may read the texts and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, that they may come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus, and that they may desire to follow Him forever.

In Jesus’ most precious name, we pray.

Amen.

 

 

The Power of the Tongue

Today’s reading is all about speech, appropriate speech and inappropriate speech. The tongue is a small member of the body, but it has great power.

My son, if your heart is wise,
then my heart will be glad,
my inmost being will rejoice
when your lips speak what is right.  ~~  Proverbs 18:20 (NIV)

Your lips can speak foolishness bringing all kinds of adverse consequences. If you speak wickedness many ills can befall you including the destruction of the city.

Flattery, slander, gossip, hurtful talk, quarreling, lying, all are condemned in today’s reading. How many of us have said something in the heat of a moment that we wished we could “un-say.”

It doesn’t happen. Once a word is spoken and heard, it is forever in the memory of the hearer.

In today’s world, our words have become filled with poison of all kinds. Then the words escalate to violence. And it all comes from venom in the heart.

The closing verse for today says:

The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.  ~~  Proverbs 18:21  (NIV)

My grandmother used to say: “Let your words be sweet and tender; you never know when you may have to eat them.”

Father, God,

Grant us the wisdom to speak only those things which are healing, uplifting, beautiful, profitable, honorable, and reverent. Help us to tame the wild tongue.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen

Promises Not Kept

What You Fear Will Catch Up with You

42 1-3 All the army officers, led by Johanan son of Kareah and Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah, accompanied by all the people, small and great, came to Jeremiah the prophet and said, “We have a request. Please listen. Pray to your God for us, what’s left of us. You can see for yourself how few we are! Pray that your God will tell us the way we should go and what we should do.”

4 Jeremiah the prophet said, “I hear your request. And I will pray to your God as you have asked. Whatever God says, I’ll pass on to you. I’ll tell you everything, holding nothing back.”

5-6 They said to Jeremiah, “Let God be our witness, a true and faithful witness against us, if we don’t do everything that your God directs you to tell us. Whether we like it or not, we’ll do it. We’ll obey whatever our God tells us. Yes, count on us. We’ll do it.”

7-8 Ten days later God’s Message came to Jeremiah. He called together Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers with him, including all the people, regardless of how much clout they had.

9-12 He then spoke: “This is the Message from God, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your prayer. He says, ‘If you are ready to stick it out in this land, I will build you up and not drag you down, I will plant you and not pull you up like a weed. I feel deep compassion on account of the doom I have visited on you. You don’t have to fear the king of Babylon. Your fears are for nothing. I’m on your side, ready to save and deliver you from anything he might do. I’ll pour mercy on you. What’s more, he will show you mercy! He’ll let you come back to your very own land.’

13-17 “But do not say, ‘We’re not staying around this place,’ refusing to obey the command of your God and saying instead, ‘No! We’re off to Egypt, where things are peaceful—no wars, no attacking armies, plenty of food. We’re going to live there.’ If what’s left of Judah is headed down that road, then listen to God’s Message. This is what God-of-the-Angel-Armies says: ‘If you have determined to go to Egypt and make that your home, then the very wars you fear will catch up with you in Egypt and the starvation you dread will track you down in Egypt. You’ll die there! Every last one of you who is determined to go to Egypt and make it your home will either be killed, starve, or get sick and die. No survivors, not one! No one will escape the doom that I’ll bring upon you.’

18 “This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel: ‘In the same way that I swept the citizens of Jerusalem away with my anger and wrath, I’ll do the same thing all over again in Egypt. You’ll end up being cursed, reviled, ridiculed, and mocked. And you’ll never see your homeland again.’

19-20 “God has plainly told you, you leftovers from Judah, ‘Don’t go to Egypt.’ Could anything be plainer? I warn you this day that you are living out a fantasy. You’re making a fatal mistake.

“Didn’t you just now send me to your God, saying, ‘Pray for us to our God. Tell us everything that God says and we’ll do it all’?

21-22 “Well, now I’ve told you, told you everything he said, and you haven’t obeyed a word of it, not a single word of what your God sent me to tell you. So now let me tell you what will happen next: You’ll be killed, you’ll starve to death, you’ll get sick and die in the wonderful country where you’ve determined to go and live.”
Death! Exile! Slaughter!

43 1-3 When Jeremiah finished telling all the people the whole Message that their God had sent him to give them—all these words—Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah, backed by all the self-important men, said to Jeremiah, “Liar! Our God never sent you with this message telling us not to go to Egypt and live there. Baruch son of Neriah is behind this. He has turned you against us. He’s playing into the hands of the Babylonians so we’ll either end up being killed or taken off to exile in Babylon.”

4 Johanan son of Kareah and the army officers, and the people along with them, wouldn’t listen to God’s Message that they stay in the land of Judah and live there.

5-7 Johanan son of Kareah and the army officers gathered up everyone who was left from Judah, who had come back after being scattered all over the place—the men, women, and children, the king’s daughters, all the people that Nebuzaradan captain of the bodyguard had left in the care of Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, and last but not least, Jeremiah the prophet and Baruch son of Neriah. They entered the land of Egypt in total disobedience of God’s Message and arrived at the city of Tahpanhes.  ~~  Jeremiah 42:1-43:7   (MSG)

Although I generally study in King James, sometimes The Message puts it in plainer language for today’s readers.

The remnant of Israel left in the land was uncertain of their future, so they asked Jeremiah to seek the Lord for a word. They promised that whatever God said, they would do as He said. It was a promise. They made a vow. Whether favorable or unfavorable, they would do as the Lord said.

So Jeremiah sought the Lord and came back to the people with a word from God. But the people didn’t like what God had said, so they disobeyed the Lord. No matter that they had vowed obedience. God hadn’t said what they wanted Him to say, so they called Jeremiah a liar.

We cannot seek the Lord simply for an approval stamp for the plans we have already made. But that is exactly what the people did with Jeremiah. They wanted Him to say a particular thing, but He said just the opposite.

In this story, Egypt becomes a type of the secular world. Sometimes life gets hard when you are following the Lord. Circumstances and people seem to conspire to make your way difficult, if not impossible.

When that happens, it would be so easy to rely on the “wisdom” of the world. But that is precisely what the Christian is called NOT to do. When we do that, we will suffer famine and death. Perhaps not physically, but spiritually.

Let us resolve to seek the Lord, without prejudice, and obey Him unconditionally. We need to keep our promises to God.

Father, God,

Share with us Your wisdom. Keep us from the folly of listening to the world and letting its noise drown out Your words. Help us to continue faithfully on the path You set before us.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

First published 31 August 2009

Firm in Faith

Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;

And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;

And did all eat the same spiritual meat;

And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.

Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.

Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.

Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear i t. ~~ I Corinthians 10:1-13   (KJV)

My grandmother used to say “He who will not learn from history is condemned to repeat it.” Our culture today seems to be dedicated to chasing the new and not regarding the past at all. In our schools, history is no longer taught the way we were taught half a century ago. Our children may have to repeat history because we are not teaching them correctly.

In this passage, Paul is writing to the church at Corinth. Corinth was a notoriously wicked place in its day. Believers were in danger of yielding to the current culture rather than standing firm in their beliefs.

So Paul takes them back to the wandering in the desert with Moses as their leader. The fact that they were following Moses didn’t save many of them from the consequences of their own actions. When they grumbled against God and Moses, they were bitten by snakes. But God made a way out for them with the bronze snake.

Notice that the way out requires obedience. When they look upon the bronze snake – when they do what the Lord says – then they are cured.

You see, looking to the Lord is the answer to any problem. When we are in a quandary, the answer is before us if we take the time to focus on the principles of God. When we focus on the problem, it seems insurmountable. When we look at God, the problem fades into perspective as the small matter that it is.

We need not repeat history. We can learn from it. But we must be reading the correct history text. The Bible is the history of mankind on a spiritual plane. That is the territory we must cover when we learn from history.

Father, God,

Teach us to look to You as the source of all wisdom and knowledge. Grant that we may never be so taken with our own intellect that we are beyond teaching. Give us a humility of spirit that we may be forever your students and disciples.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

First published 1 December 2009 on Garment of Praise