Christian Devotions

Archive for the ‘Discipline’ Category

All Joy… ?

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;

Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.

A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. ~~ James 1:1-8 (KJV)

The book of James is filled with practical advice for the Christian. It was written to the tribes of Israel in diaspora and conveys practical applications of the faith for Christians today.

The opening sounds like an oxymoron. Consider it pure joy when you face trials. My first reaction is “Bah, humbug!” Who enjoys trials and persecutions and difficulties? Certainly not me!

But having been through a few of them, I can tell you that the presence of the Lord is nearest when you need him the most. When you are about to face the totally unthinkable, He will give you the exact knowledge you need precisely at the moment you need it.

The presence and nearness of the Lord will give you the strength to persevere through anything – absolutely anything – that the world and the enemy can throw at you.

When you need to know what to do next, you simply ask Him. He will tell you the next step to take. But there is a stipulation here. You need to be so familiar with His voice and His thoughts that the enemy cannot lead you astray. Those who spend time in His word will know His voice. To them it will be almost as audible as if He were speaking aloud an entire room full of people.

At times when I have been driving in the car and mulling over something that needed handling, His voice has been as audible as if He were in the seat beside me, speaking directly into my ear. Actually, for the Christian, He dwells within your heart and speaks directly to your spirit.

Our job is to be so familiar with His voice that no one can counterfeit it. Consider it all joy that you know His voice at all times and in all circumstances.

Father, God,

Draw us ever closer to You. Teach us the nuances of Your voice so that we may ever be obedient to Your word and always edified by Your presence.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

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Turn from Wicked Ways

If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. ~~ II Chronicles 7:14 (KJV)

Time and again we see in scripture where the king followed God for a while and then turned to the idols of the country he just vanquished.

When that happens, the Lord sends a conquering invader to rebuke the wandering children of Israel. Then in captivity or distress, they begin to return to the Lord and ask Him to get them out of the straits they brought upon themselves.

Our country is in distress. In 2009, we heard our president say to an international audience that the United States does not consider itself a Christian nation. Anyone with a smattering of historical knowledge knows that the nation was founded by men who were primarily Christian. Some have argued that certain of the founding fathers were deists, not Christians, but that is sort of begging the question.

In fact, the favor of the Lord on the United States will be withdrawn if those of us who bear His name do not fall on our knees and turn our nation from its wicked ways.

If my people, who are called by my name,

shall humble themselves, and pray,

and seek my face,

and turn from their wicked ways;

then will I hear from heaven,

and will forgive their sin,

and will heal their land.

This is our challenge, to fall to our knees, to turn this society from its wicked ways and to seek the face of God.

Father, God,

Grant us the special favor of hearts hungry for You. Keep us on our knees, seeking Your face for the sake of our country. Keep us on our feet, working to turn our society from its wicked ways.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Obedience

Then came the word of the Lord unto Samuel, saying,

It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the Lord all night.

And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal.

And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord.

And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?

And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.

Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the Lord hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on.

And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel?

And the Lord sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed.

Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the Lord, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the Lord?

And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.

But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal.

And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king. ~~ 1 Samuel 15:10-23 (KJV)

We get a fearful lesson in today’s reading. Saul was chosen by the Lord to be king of Israel. But Saul got carried away by his successes and decided that he knew better than God what he should do.

Saul’s disobedience grieved the Lord, and the consequence for that disobedience was the Lord’s rejection of Saul as king. When we reject the Lord, He withdraws His favor and leaves us to our own devices.

Every action carries within itself the seed of its own reward or punishment. No good parent stands between a child and the consequences of his own actions. Our God is a good and loving Father. He allows us to learn from our mistakes. But experience is an expensive teacher.

Saul could have avoided the negative consequences had he simply been obedient to the Lord.

“To obey is better than sacrifice.” Mark it well in 1 Samuel 15:22.

When we know what to do and refuse to do it, we sin. Sin separates us from God. Not a good place to be.

Father, God,

Give us ears tuned to hear You. Make our hearts ready to obey. Keep us from the sins of arrogance and disobedience.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

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.

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.