Christian Devotions

Archive for the ‘Discipline’ Category

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.

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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.

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.

Integrity

He that walketh uprightly walketh surely:

but he that perverteth his ways shall be known.

~~~ Proverbs 10:9 (KJV)

Eventually everything comes to light. We see this everyday in the headlines. People’s underhanded dealings eventually are exposed to public scrutiny.

This political bigwig has taken money from special interest groups.

That public figure has had an illicit affair and fathered a child.

A financial officer is caught with his hand in the till.

All these people thought they could engage in illicit activity and remain anonymous. No one would ever find out. They were deceiving themselves more than anyone else.

God has promised that the truth will come out. We just read it here. We can be sure that if the Lord says it, it is true. Eventually, all will be made known. That’s a scary thought if you’ve been trying to hide things.

Father, God,

Help us to walk in integrity. Keep us from deceptive practices and thoughts, and let us become the righteous people you intended for us to be.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Firmly Established

And king Solomon shall be blessed, and the throne of David shall be established before the Lord for ever. I Kings 2:45

Solomon’s kingdom was firmly established.

Solomon was a wise man by nature. There were factors in the kingdom that he had to eliminate. There were other things that he had to embrace.

This is true of those who would follow Jesus as well. When we become Christians, there are things we need to cut out of our lives. We break some habits that are counterproductive. We leave off socializing with people who would draw us away from our fidelity to Christ.

By the same token, there are new things that we need to add to our lives. There will be mentors and friends from this new way of living. We need to be open to the changes that God will make in our lives.

When something new comes along, we need to evaluate it in light of our relationship with Christ. If it helps us to stay true to our faith in Christ, it is something we need to adopt. If it draws us away from our faith in Christ, we need to cut it from our lives, lest we be drawn away from the faith we profess.

Father, God,

Grant us the wisdom to see what is beneficial and what is detrimental to our faith. Give us the courage to embrace the beneficial, and help us to rid our lives of the detrimental.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Obedience, the Road to Glory

Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.  ~~   Exodus 40:34-35   (KJV)

“The Glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.”

Here we’re into details. Seven times we see the Israelites did “as the Lord commanded Moses.” They followed their instructions in every specification.

When it was all completed, then the glory of the Lord filled the temple.

How do we apply this to our lives today? Well, there’s obedience. No, it’s not a dirty word. Obedience to the Lord is more to be desired than sacrifice.

It was  not the sacrifices themselves that brought the Lord into the temple. It was the obedience of the people.

God has promised to dwell with us, within in us, if we let Him. But any scrap of disobedience makes our hearts unfit to tabernacle the Lord. Try as we might, we are inadequate to be completely obedient to the Lord.

That’s where the blood of Christ atones for us. He takes on our sin and covers us with His righteousness. What a glorious exchange – our filth for His purity!

Only with a heart bent toward obedience and a reliance on the blood of Christ can we hope to experience the Glory of the Lord in the tabernacle of our hearts.

Father, God,

Help us to hear and be swift to obey. Grant us the grace to acknowledge our shortcomings and the faith to believe that Christ atoned for them all.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Purpose

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;

Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:

Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.

For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.  ~~ 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15  (KJV)

In Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica, he warned them against idleness. What he referred to was the idleness of not earning your way in the world. Not doing the work of the Lord with the purpose He had in mind for your life.

He points to himself as the example of working while teaching. This was not because his teaching was not worthy of payment, but because he wanted to show them the industriousness that needs to accompany the teacher. It is not enough to sit idly by and just think in an ivory tower. One needs to have the experience of the work at hand to base one’s theories upon.

I don’t believe it is any accident that this warning immediately follows Paul’s dissertation on the second coming of Christ. Early church fathers knew and accepted the principle that our time is short (in light of eternity) and that we must be busy about the Lord’s work.

The book of Proverbs was well known in Paul’s time. I memorized Proverbs 29:18 in the KJV when I was a child.

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

Sometimes it is a struggle to see the vision God has for your life. When the world seems to cave in upon you, when everything you thought you had is ripped away, when tragedy and destruction mark your path, you have great difficulty seeing a vision of your purpose in God’s world.Those minutes and hours, once spent, are irredeemable.

Our purpose is to serve the Lord and His church. For that we need all the time eternity can offer.

Father, God,

Teach us to number our days so that we may give a good account of them when Your Son returns. Grant that we may be useful in Your kingdom. Help us to see the vision You have for our lives.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.