Christian Devotions

Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Great Faithfulness

Remember my affliction and roaming,
The wormwood and the gall.

My soul still remembers
And sinks within me.

This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.

They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!” ~~ Lamentations 3:18-24 (NKJV)

There was a time in my life when I could have written these verses. The personal desolation of the first twenty-one verses of Chapter 3 in Lamentations describes the circumstances of the last two decades of my life. It began with the murder of a beloved family member and spiraled downward from there.

But when the grief would have overwhelmed me, could have swallowed me whole, the words of an old hymn  built upon verses twenty-two and twenty-three seemed to rise up out of the middle of my spirit. The music and theology in that hymn buoyed my spirit to survive the waves of sorrow.

In 1972, Malcolm Smith published a book entitled Turn Your Back on the Problem. The premise was that as long as you focus on the problem you will be overwhelmed. But when you quit looking at the problem and start looking toward God, you see things in a different perspective.

No matter what the circumstances are, God is the faithful rock upon which we can build our hope. He is the source of all our strength. He deals mercifully with us.

And He starts again each morning as if it were the first morning of creation.

Great is His faithfulness.

Let us begin by being faithful to Him.

Father, God,

Grant us the wisdom and strength to keep our eyes upon You in every circumstance. Help us to focus our attention on Who You are, not on what is going on with us, within us, and around us.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

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In Memoriam

And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face,  ~~  Deuteronomy 34:10 (KJV)

The death of Moses is the end of an era for the children of Israel. Joshua has been installed as leader by the laying on of hands. But the verse we focus on today is Moses’ epitaph.

Imagine speaking face to face with God. At some point we will see Him face to face, and speak with Him one on one. But Moses did it while he was here.

We can come close to this kind of relationship with God. But it requires that we seek Him above all else, that all our desires and aspirations be laid on the altar of God’s will, that all our relationships be subject to His scrutiny, that all our actions align with His commandments.

Whew! That’s a tall order. And we are incapable of fulfilling it by ourselves. We need Him. We need His Holy Spirit to shine God’s light on our circumstances, so that we can see the world around us as He sees it.

So think about your own epitaph. Will they say of you that you knew God?

Father, God,

Help us to clear our minds and hearts of all the extraneous things that would pull our attention away from You. Grant us the singleness of mind and heart to seek You above all else.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Remembering John (Jay) Dumond and his fidelity to God and family.

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.

 

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.