Christian Devotions

Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

The Accounting

But among these there was not a man of them whom Moses and Aaron the priest numbered, when they numbered the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai.

For the Lord had said of them, They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.

~~ Numbers 26:64-65 (KJV)

After forty years of wandering, the Israelites prepare to enter the Promised Land. God orders a census, a final accounting of the numbers of the men of Israel. This census will be the basis of the distribution of the lands.

Some of the tribes have increased; some have decreased. But the total number of Israelites is smaller. They have been diminished by their faithlessness and rebellions during these forty years.

Korah, the Levite who rebelled, was swallowed up, but God preserved a remnant of his line for entry into the promised land. God always preserves a remnant of the faithful.

Of all the men who followed Moses into the desert, only Joshua and Caleb are alive. The rest have died of one cause or another because the Lord told them they would die in the desert.

But why? Their sin was one of disbelief. God had told them He was giving them the land, but when they went to look at it, they became fearful of the inhabitants. And they believed their own eyes rather than God’s promise.

There is always a day of reckoning. Every action carries within itself the seed of its own reward or punishment. The faithlessness of those men of Israel resulted in their being denied entrance to the Promised Land. Conversely, the faithful report from Caleb and Joshua is rewarded by their being allowed to enter the Promised Land.

How will we stack up at the day of accounting? Have we been faithful to believe all that the Lord has told us? Have we been rebellious? Have we been lukewarm in our ardor to know Him better?

I’m so glad that our salvation doesn’t rely on our personal accounting. It relies, instead, on our belief in Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross. Only Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient to cover all our shortcomings — past, present and future.

Father, God,

We thank You for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Keep our hearts faithful to you that we may not be found wanting in the day of accounting.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

 

Advertisements

Calling

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

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Then said I, Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.

But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.

Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord. ~~ Jeremiah 1:4-8 (KJV)

The story of Jeremiah’s call to be a prophet is a comfort to me because there are three truths in it.

First – God says to Jeremiah that He knew him before He formed him in his mother’s womb. What was true of Jeremiah is true of every person ever born.

God knew you and me before we were born. He knew what we would look like, how we would respond to challenges, whether we would be easily obedient or difficult to discipline. He knew all about us.

And He loved us.

Still loves us!

Second – He says to Jeremiah that He set him apart for a particular calling. This is also true of you and me.

God has a particular calling in mind for each person. There is an appointed time and place for us in His universe. Our highest achievement is to be faithful to that calling.

Third – He promises Jeremiah that He will never leave him. As Jeremiah goes where God tells him and says what God commands him to say, the Lord will be with him and will rescue him from whatever comes against him.

This promise is also true for you and me. When we are doing God’s work, He will be our shield and protector.

Just consider these facts:

  • God had you in mind when He spoke the words “Let there be light.”
  • God has a purpose for your life – one designed just for you alone.
  • God will never leave you.

If we believe these three statements to be true, what can stop us from being the ambassadors God wants to send to His hurting world? Of what need we be afraid?

I love the saying “The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you.” Let us resolve to stay in the will of God.

Father, God,

Thank You for Your promises to us. We are grateful that You choose to be involved in our lives to the smallest details. Help us to be faithful to You, listening closely for Your will, obeying Your calling instantaneously.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

 

Are You Weary?

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

~~ Matthew 11:28  (KJV)

Do you find yourself working harder and getting nowhere? Are you spinning your wheels to no avail? Sometimes we need to work smarter, not harder. Jesus knew that some of us would find ourselves trapped in the rat race.

Sometimes it’s because we take on more than is our true responsibility.  Some things are beyond our control. We are not responsible for them.

Some things are within our control. We are responsible for them. Our job is to learn the difference and behave accordingly.

Let’s look at the two following verses.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.       ~~       Matthew 11:28,29 KJV

Yoke is an interesting word. It is the connector between a pair of working animals to keep them in tandem. But the two animals have different functions even when yoked together.

When I was a child, my grandfather hired George, a man with a pair of horses, to plow what we lovingly called “the north 40”, a section of the city block which he owned and planted to corn and other vegetables every spring. I was fascinated watching the pair of animals, but I noticed that they did not move exactly in tandem. So I asked George what the difference was. He told me the horse on the left was the starter, but the horse on the right carried the load.

horses

At his “gee-up” the left horse moved first to overcome the inertia of the plow, but as soon as that initial inertia was diminished, the other horse pulled slightly ahead, carrying the brunt of the weight of the moving plow.

That is a picture of the relationship between us and God. God lets us make our own decisions. We can go where ever we want to. But the moment we turn to Him, our load is lightened. We have to take the first step, but He carries the load after that.

Jesus’ yoke is the word of God. Following the precepts of the word will lighten our burden. You see, our job is obedience. Then God is responsible for the results.

Father, God,

Keep us from the sin of arrogance, thinking that all depends on us, when it really depends on you. Grant us the wisdom to accept Jesus’ generous gift of salvation and peace.

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.

Fret Not

Psalm 37 sets forth a pathway of power. It is filled with things to do and not to do.

Look at the times it says “fret not” and at the imperative sentences that begin with “trust,” “commit”, and “delight.”

1 Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.

2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.

3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.

4 Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

5 Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

6 And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.

7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.

8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.

The progression is simple. It mirrors our growth in the Lord. First we come to a saving faith by believing in him. Trust in the Lord.

Then we get so excited about him that thoughts of him take over our lives. We talk about him constantly and find great joy just being in his presence.

After a while we realize that all we have is not ours, but his. So we commit our lives and our goods and our business dealings to him.

Eventually we learn to rest patiently in him, knowing that all things will come to fruition in his good time, not on our earthly timetable.

Then we can cease from wrath and anger. Those emotions come when we think someone has spoiled something we were entitled to. We are entitled to nothing but a relationship with God. All else is negotiable.

At that point, we can be still and know that he is the sovereign Lord of all the universe.

Father, God,

Help us to move from belief to trust to commitment to rest in you. Grant that we may be swift students and able practitioners. Help us to cease from all futility and know that you are the sovereign Lord, that we can cease our fretting because you have our best interest at heart.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

 

Be Still and Know

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.

Selah.

There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.

The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Selah.

Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth.

He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Selah.

~~ Psalm 46 (KJV)

David’s psalms carry us through the diversities and adversities of life. He touches all the seasons from elation and praise to persecution and despair. This psalm, however, shows us the power.

In the aftermath of a family tragedy, people would say to me “You’re so strong. I don’t see how you do it.”

And my answer was “I’m not strong. I simply know where to lean and that makes me look strong.” This is where you lean. On God. No matter what is going on around you, remember Him. Look to Him. Lean on Him.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Be still. Quiet your heart; cease striving. It all adds up to getting your heart and mind quiet enough to hear His small whispers clearly enough to heed them.

Be still… Even when chaos seems to reign, God is still in charge. He is the salvation we need so desperately.

Look at His awesome power. Look at the detailed care He takes in creation. Look at His power over the actions and affairs of men.

Truly every knee shall bow before Him. Praise His name.

Father, God,

Thank You for speaking to us in the stillness. Help us to quell our fears and calm our excitements to be able to hear You better.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Grief and Hope

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

~~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (KJV)

Grief comes to all of us from time to time. The loss of a friend or family member, loss of a job or precious possession, or wayward children can grieve us. Somehow, I seem always to have known that such grief is temporary – a reflection of our personal emotions at a specific moment in time – not a permanent condition.

It might have been Doctor G. who quoted the phrase “grieve not as them who have no hope.” I was absolutely certain that it came from this passage of scripture. But I could not find those exact words in any of the translations on biblegateway.com. That quote might just have been a paraphrase rather than a quote. At any rate, the sense is certainly from this passage.

Doctor G. stood as godfather at my baptism in the Lutheran church. He was a rock-solid foundation in my life. A spiritually wise man, he taught me many things. But more than that, he infected me with the joy of the Lord and an educated faith in Jesus.

He was a Bible scholar, a student of the word, and a poet. On my twelfth birthday, he gave me a scrapbook which he had put together with his own hands. And he wrote this poem about him and me and heaven. It’s long, so I’ll just quote the pertinent verses here.

You are twelve years old today, dear,
And I’m past seventy-three.
With back to back we’re dreaming,
But it’s different things we see.

You look AT the golden sunrise,
See dream castle in the mist:
It’s the road ahead for you, dear –
Life at its borning best.
___

I look THROUGH the golden sunset,
With its beckoning promise bright
To a day without a sundown,
Where it’s always day – not night.
___

And when you have passed the Sunset
To the day without Sundown,
When Life’s pilgrimage is over,
And you’ve won your victor’s crown;

I’ll be at the gate of heaven,
With glad heart to see you come;
Glad to welcome you, my daughter,
Into our Eternal Home.

~~ HWG

His knowledge of the word and my faith in his always telling me the exact truth – pleasant or unpleasant – gave me the assurance that this life is not all there is. I can grieve a loss, but it doesn’t decimate me.

My friend was the sister in a family with two brothers. She lost first one and then the other. At the funeral of the second brother, I went to hug her. Her grief was not only obvious, but it was painful to see. There was an element of hopelessness in it that I had never seen before. She could not be comforted.

Paul doesn’t say here that we don’t grieve. We simply do not grieve as those people who have no hope of Christ and the resurrection – no hope of heaven.

Father, God,

Grant that we may always keep our eyes upon You, not on the attractions of this world. Let us see with the eternal perspective the ultimate good in Your will, no matter how it looks from an earthly perspective.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.