Christian Devotions

Archive for the ‘Forgiveness’ Category

All Gone

At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged.

And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it.

And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign.

~~ II Kings 24:10-12 (KJV)

This reading talks about the greatest dispersion of the children of Israel. King Nebuchadnezzar took prisoner all the assets of Judah.

He took the king, his mother, his attendants, his nobles and all the officials. He took the gold implements and treasures from the temple. He took all the fighting men in the army. And he took all the craftsmen and artisans.

Nebuchadnezzar took control of the ruler and the political structure. So the civil authority was under Nebuchadnezzar’s control.

He took all the gold implements for worship from the temple of Solomon. And the religious activity was under his control.

He took all seven thousand of the army, so there was no military force for him to contend with.

And he took all the craftsmen and artisans.

Whoa! Why would he want the artisans and craftsmen?

Our God is a creator. He gave man the gift of creativity. That creativity is most active and expressed in the work of artisans and craftsmen. But when these artisans and craftsmen create, they sometimes reflect the root of God that is in them. Their works point to the greatness of God.

But Nebuchadnezzar didn’t want the people of Judah remembering their God or continuing to worship Him. Therefore he took all the craftsmen so that they would be occupied only with the commissioned pieces that Nebuchadnezzar wanted made. They had no artistic freedom to create their pieces as God inspired. And there was no one left in Judah to create either.

He left only the poorest people of the land, those without money – and perhaps without talents or skills. He robbed the land of those who could make it shine – who had the heart and the wherewithal to make things better.

But God had promised that Judah will be restored.

For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.   ~~  Jeremiah 30:17 (KJV)

And it was so.

Our nation today is being usurped by the forces of evil. We have watched as the government is being taken over by lying, cheating, immorality and general evil.

Churches are being forbidden to speak the truth of God in fear of an accusation of bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and hate.

And creativity has been lured away by the phantom of riches and fame which have been usurped by wickedness in all its forms.

We must remember that God can restore, but we must do our part to speak out, to let our voices be heard, to quit cowering before the assumed powers of the world.

We need to remember that God is sovereign.

No matter what the world may take from you, God can restore. Nebuchadnezzar took it all, intending to wipe out Judah entirely — but God restored.

Father, God,

No matter what the world does to us, remind us that You are the restorer. You can take the broken heart and heal it. You can take the ruined family and restore it. You can take the broken spirit and help it soar and sing. Help us to soar and sing Your praises at all times, no matter what else is happening around us.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

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Redemption

And I will bring Israel again to his habitation, and he shall feed on Carmel and Bashan, and his soul shall be satisfied upon mount Ephraim and Gilead.

In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.  ~~  Jeremiah 50:19-20 (KJV)

Here is the promise of restoration. God says that Israel and Judah will be restored to the fullness of their land. That they will be a holy people because God will have forgiven the remnant he restores.

What a beautiful promise. After seventy years in exile, the people of God will come back to their land. God will see to it that their land is fruitful for their needs. They will be satisfied with the pastures and hills.

This restoration did not come easily. Israel was conquered by Assyria and then by Babylon. The people were decimated and imprisoned. Their young men were deprived of their manhood, made eunuchs to serve in the court of Nebuchadnezzar.

The search for guilt in the people of God will be fruitless because when God forgives sin, it is erased entirely. This is a picture of our redemption under the blood of Christ.

For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.

There is a victory for the believer in the atoning blood of Christ. It is our only claim to God’s mercy.  ~~  Psalm 103:11-13 (KJV)

There is a victory for the believer in the atoning blood of Christ. It is our only claim to God’s mercy.

Father God,

Help us to remember that there is only one way to Your forgiveness, through the atoning blood of Jesus. Keep us ever faithful in speaking to others, lest we be drawn into tolerance of other paths – paths which can only lead to destruction.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

 

Love Who? Forgive Who?

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)

God created man in His own image. Scripture doesn’t exactly say why God created man, but the verses in Genesis would have me believing that He created man for companionship. While it is not explicitly stated, there is the inference that God walked with Adam in the garden regularly.

Then old slewfoot entered the picture and cast doubt upon God’s word and single prohibition.

“Did God really say…?” Followed by “Well, He didn’t really mean it like that.”

Yes, He did say. And yes, He did mean just exactly that.

John 3:16 is probably the first verse a new Christian memorizes (if verse memorization is still encouraged). At least it was the first verse my contemporaries and I learned. But we didn’t learn it all, because we didn’t memorize verse 17 as well.

Most of us have heard that where it says “the world” and “whosoever” you can substitute your own name.

For God so loved ________, that he gave his only begotten Son, that __________ [believing] in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Okay, but what does this have to do with forgiveness?

Glad you asked.

See those blanks?  Now insert the name of someone who has harmed you in some way.

Yeah, the guy who cut you off in traffic or the woman who told lies about you to keep you from that promotion or anyone who has hurt you or made you angry in any manner. (For me, that includes the former son-in-law who murdered three of my grandchildren.)

When God said “the world”, he meant those people, too.

God’s love is much bigger than ours. But if God loves them, and if I’m a follower of Christ, then I must love them, also.

True love is NOT a warm, fuzzy feeling. It is a decision followed by a course of action. Love is a decision to seek the welfare of another person above your own.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

When we look at verse 17, we can take out “the world”, insert blanks again, and then write in the name of that person who has harmed or offended you.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn __________; but that __________ through him might be saved.

Oh, ouch!

Can God really forgive ____________? (Insert the name of any offense in that blank.)

Yes, he can.

Look at King David. He was called a man after God’s own heart.

And when he [God] had removed him [Saul], he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.  ~~  Acts 13:22 (KJV)

Really?

David, the man who coveted another man’s wife? David, the man who committed adultery with Bathsheba?

David, the man who tried to manipulate Uriah to cover his sin? David, the man who conspired to have Uriah killed in battle?

Yes, that David.

The saving grace was that David, imperfect and sinful as he was, did love God. He wanted to do as God willed. He simply fell far short of that mark.

In all his transgressions, David recognized his sin was against God and God’s commandments. Actually, that’s where every sin lies – against God’s commandments.

God’s capacity to forgive is much bigger than ours. But if God forgives them, and if I’m a follower of Christ, then I must forgive them, also.

Forgive – definition

transitive verb

1 : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : pardonforgive one’s enemies

2a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital (see requital sense 1) for forgive an insult

b : to grant relief from payment of forgive a debt

Forgiveness is NOT the same as reconciliation. Forgiveness is a decision followed by a course of action. Forgiveness is a decision to absolve from payment and to renounce anger and resentment against someone who has harmed you.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, … and pray for them which despitefully use you, ~~ Matthew 5:44

The only positive action you must take after that decision is to remember that person in your prayers.

Father God,

Help us to remember who we are in you. Give us the grace to see other people through your eyes of love. Empower us to be swift to forgive.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen

 

 

 

Sin on Parade

For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his glory.

The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.

Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.

Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.

As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.

The Lord standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people.

The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. ~~ Isaiah 3:8-14 (KJV)

Unacknowledged and unrepented sin is fatal. When a people will not acknowledge its sins as sin and will not repent of it, they have marked themselves for destruction.

I read this verse and shuddered: “They declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.”

As a nation, we, too, parade our sins like Sodom. We parade the sin of sodomy and give it place in our world by trying to legitimize it.

We make laws that put innocence in danger and justify expediency over righteousness.

We reward those who manipulate and scheme and commit fraud and usury.

Our legal system has been skewed to favor the powerful over the just; it has overstepped its boundaries at the behest of the powerful.

As a nation, we are in terrible shape. We have committed every sin in the book. We have earned all the reprisals listed in the book.

God is just and merciful to those who acknowledge their sin and repent. But God is also righteous, and those who flout their sin proudly will not receive mercy.

As individuals, let us examine our hearts to root out and repent of our personal sins. As a nation, let us work to return our country to the righteousness of the Lord.

Father, God,

Shine the light of Your love into our hearts to show us our sins that we may repent of them. Give us the discernment to see those who would lead us astray, and let us have the courage not to elect leaders who will pull us down that path.

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.

Here Yet A While

Listen and consider.

Father, God,

Help us to remember our worth only in terms of Jesus’ sacrifice. Remind us of your glory and generosity and love. Put a hunger in our hearts for more of you, to get closer to you, to love you more.

In Jesus’ most precious name we pray,

Amen.

Restoration Is Expensive

Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.

For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.

And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied.

Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and I sat astonied until the evening sacrifice.

And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God,

And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.

Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as it is this day.

And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage. ~~ Ezra 9:1-8

It is never a good idea to do what you have expressly been told by God not to do. But we all do it from time to time. The Israelites in exile took wives from the neighboring peoples. God had expressly commanded that they not do this from the time they first entered the promised land.

Like willful children, they did it anyway – not all of them, but some did. Returning to Jerusalem, they are returning to the laws of Moses as well. They needed to purify themselves to worship the Lord again in the temple. So they decided to send the foreign wives and their children away.

We are not told where these women and children went. Could they go back to their own families? What would have been their status in their own countries? I can’t imagine that these women and children would have had easy lives after being sent away.

Did you ever notice that when man tries to make things right he sometimes messes up something else? God had told them not to do it. They did it anyway. Then when they try to fix their disobedience, they cause trouble for someone else.

The community of Israel spent two months looking at individual cases. We’re not told how many, if any, were allowed to keep their foreign wives, but there is that possible inference in the text. Otherwise why judge individual cases.

How much simpler it would have been, had they just obeyed God in the first place. How much mess they made when they decided that they knew better than God.

Are we ever guilty of thinking we know better than God? Do we do things in disobedience that require fixing later – things that cost someone else?

Father, God,

Help us to remain ever obedient to You commands, no matter the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Remind us that we see only fragments while You see the whole picture.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.