Christian Devotions

Archive for the ‘Discipline’ Category

Obedience?

Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.

And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife.

And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy.

And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel.

And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment.

And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy.

And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me.

And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.

So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.

And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.

But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.

Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.

And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?

Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. ~~ II Kings 5:1-14 (KJV)

The name Naaman comes from a root that means pleasant or delightful. But Naaman was highly thought of because he was the commander of the army for the king of Syria when God gave the victory to Syria.

He is not an Israelite, but he does have leprosy. This term was used for all kinds of skin diseases, not just the actual disease of leprosy. In the battle, there was a captive Israelite girl who served Naaman’s wife. She told him about Elisha.

But Elisha was not impressed. He didn’t even see Naaman when he came to him for healing. He simply sent his servant to tell him to “dip in the Jordan seven times.” What an odd thing!

Naaman was incensed. He expected that the prophet would come out and make a show and heal him on the spot. But go wash in the Jordan! He had rivers at home. Why wouldn’t they do as well?

God has criteria for blessing. One of those criteria is obedience. Whether it seems to make sense to us or not. We are to obey God. It may be something silly. Or it may sound unwise—even dangerous. But God expects obedience. Once you have ascertained that it is God telling you to do something, not obeying is a sure recipe for disaster.

And don’t be deceived. Delayed obedience is disobedience. When God speaks, we are to move immediately. Naaman’s obedience was rewarded with healing.

Father God,

Keep us ever close to You so that we recognize Your voice instantaneously. Grant us the willing hearts for instantaneous and unquestioning obedience.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

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Focus on Building

I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.

And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.

Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. ~~ Philipians 4:2-9 (KJV)

There was division and dissension in the church at Philipi when Paul wrote this letter. Two of the ladies (I can see them now), probably strong-minded and willful, had disagreed on some point. The rift grew between them and started to fracture the congregation.

That happens when people focus on the differences between them and on the ugliness each of us shows.

But Paul is telling them to focus on the good things. Our minds naturally dwell upon the things that are important to us. But the reverse is also true. We begin to become the things we let our mind dwell upon.

My friend and I meet weekly, to visit, to encourage one another, to talk about the Lord, to pray together. We do not always agree. She sees things from one perspective. I see them from another. But we do not argue. She allows me my focus, and I respect hers. Frequently we edify one another because between the two of us, we have a binocular vision of what the Lord is doing in our lives.

When she is in the middle of a crisis, she doesn’t see the hand of the Lord working because of the stress of the crisis. I can see through her crisis to a plan that the Lord might have for her. The reverse is also true. When I’m in crisis, I see mostly the crisis, not the eternal perspective. She helps me put a different spin on the matter.

Frequently we agree to disagree – that is to hold different opinions of a matter. We are both aware that our opinions are not God’s law – they are merely personal interpretations of the facts. Both of us are old enough and wise enough to know that we are not the ultimate authority.

So she thinks about the things in me that are good. And I think about her good points as well. We are, in the best sense, sisters in Christ.

But if we each focused on the short-comings of the other, we would never have become friends. I have way too many faults. And even she has her share. I recognize her failings, much as I recognize my own. But I don’t labor the point either with her or myself.

Together, we have become better people, with fewer faults than we each had at the outset. Focusing on the good, the true, the praise-worthy, we have gained some of those virtues. I sincerely hope we can gain more of these virtues to swallow up our remaining faults.

Father, God,

Thank You for putting Your church together with diverse people. Help us to see the good in all the members of Your body. Keep us focused on building one another up so that the church is strengthened.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Words, Words, Words

A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

~~ Proverbs 18:20-21 (KJV)

These verses are 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 23:15-16 (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.

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.

 

 

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.

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.