Christian Devotions

Archive for the ‘Discipline’ Category

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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God’s Will for Our Lives

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.

 

 

Time Out

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. ~~ Genesis 2:2-3 (KJV)

We seem to live in a hurried and harried kind of world. If we are not doing something constructive, we are absorbing inanities from the media world. But we never seem to give ourselves, or anyone else, time simply to sit and think.

God worked for six days on creation and sat down to rest on the seventh. I don’t believe it was because he needed to rest, for God is untiring. I think he did it more as an example to us. We need time to think, to ruminate, simply to be, and to be in his presence.

Without time for contemplation and meditation, we lose sight of God and our position with him and our purpose in his plans.

It is a management principle that you can expect 85% efficiency from your staff about 85% of the time. The other 15% is just “wasted?” No, the other 15% is that sabbatical that God ordained at the time of creation.

If you expect 100% effectiveness 100% of the time, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and failure. You need that sabbatical that God set aside for you.

Take your sabbath rest. Revel in God’s presence. Let him speak to you. Listen for him. Simply be. You will be amazed at how much more productive your 85% will become.

Father, God,

Help us to prioritize our lives to include a healthy dose of quiet time with You. Stir a longing in our hearts for regular Sabbath moments in our lives. Remind us that we have been set apart for Your purposes, and grant us the wisdom and fidelity and strength to carry them through.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen

Spirits

When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.

There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.

Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.

For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee.

Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God.

For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the Lord thy God hath not suffered thee so to do. ~~ Deuteronomy 18:9-14 (KJV)

God is quite specific that His people shall have nothing to do with sorcerers or witchcraft or people who practice spells. These practices are detestable to the Lord. And I believe that is because they take the emphasis off God as the author and finisher of our faith.

When you seek out someone to tell the future, you are essentially saying that you don’t believe that God is big enough to hold the future. That you don’t trust Him to make provision for you. That He is not the most important thing in your life.

And that smacks of idolatry.

The only spirit we need to seek is the Holy Spirit. All other spirits lead to the devil. They are his counterfeit of the Holy Spirit, poor imitations of the real thing.

The Holy Spirit is one person of the Triune God. He is the Paraclete, the comforter that Jesus promised His disciples. He is the portion of God that can live within us when we become His children. His presence in our lives keeps us connected with the power and will of God.

If God is the power source and we are the light bulbs, the Holy Spirit is the wire that connects us. No other spirit can connect us with God’s power. Why should we settle for a line that goes nowhere?

Father, God,

Keep us ever mindful that You are the Alpha and Omega, that all knowledge and truth resides in You, that there is no truth or knowledge outside of You. Grant us the presence of Your Holy Spirit in our lives, and help us to recognize Your voice when You speak. Stop our ears to all other voices lest we be led astray.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

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.