Christian Devotions

Archive for the ‘God’ Category

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.

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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.

 

 

The Word

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.  ~~  John 1:1-3 (KJV)

In most cases, it’s better to begin at the beginning.  So we start at the beginning of the Gospel of John. We start with the Word. In this case, the Word refers to Jesus.

Jesus was in the beginning with God the Father. Equal with the Father in creative power, there was never a time when He didn’t exist.  As we anticipate the celebration of His incarnation, we need to remember that Jesus is more than the baby in the manger. He is eternal. There was never a time when he didn’t exist.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.  And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.  ~~ Genesis 1:1-3

The Word, the Word of God, the Bible, Scripture. This is our point of contact  with Jesus. We have His words. As we study them, meditate on them, commit them to memory, we come closer to the mind of Christ.

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; ~~ 2 Corinthians 10:5

As we line up our thoughts and actions with the mind of Christ, we find a peace that defies circumstance. In a world of violence, we can rest in God’s sovereignty. Nothing happens without His knowledge. Nor without His provision.

Our sight is generally limited to this temporal world. He sees things in the eternal. There is no tragedy in this life that He cannot redeem in the eternal. We may not see that redemption this side of heaven, but it’s there none-the-less.  And it can be a comfort if we let it.

Father, God,

Help us to study Your Word in order to understand Your thoughts. Grant us the vision to see and the hearts to accept what You would teach us of patience and eternity.  Help us to focus on the Word as we anticipate celebrating the incarnation of Jesus.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

PS: If you want an example of the difference Christ can make in your life, I would direct you to Doc Lynch’s post for today as well. You can find it here.

PPS: I wish you all the joys of the season, the joy of

  • knowing Jesus as your Savior
  • furthering an intimacy with God as you read His word
  • serving the temporal body of Christ in this world
  • resting in His love and provision
  • His salvation

May this Christmas season be your best ever.

And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:

But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;

From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.

For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before,

This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;

And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. ~~~ Hebrews 10:11-18 (KJV)

During the season of advent the world focuses on the coming of the Christ-child as an infant in a manger. But our reading from Hebrews shows Him in all His power and majesty as our high priest forever.

He is the propitiation for our sins. He is our ransom from the world, the flesh and the devil. He is powerful beyond all imagining. He sits at the right hand of God waiting for all His enemies to be made His footstool.

His work is done. When from the cross he said “It is finished” that was exactly what He meant. It is finished, completed, done, all over.

…because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy (v. 14 NIV).

There seems to be a contradiction in this subordinate clause. How can we be already completed as perfect and still undergoing the process of being made holy?

We are perfect in the eyes of God the Father because He sees us through the lens of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. We are “complete” in Him. But we are continually being set apart from the world for the kingdom of God. We are growing in His grace and under His guidance through the Holy Spirit.

My grandmother used to say “It’s a wasted day if you haven’t learned anything new.” Each day, let our goal be to learn more and more about Him and His ways, to walk closer and closer in His footsteps.

Father, God,

Although You see us as perfect through Jesus, our earthly lives are filled with stumbles and shortcomings. Grant that we may walk closer and closer in the footsteps of Christ with the guidance of Your Holy Spirit.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

God With Us

And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.

And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.

And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;

And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.

And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.

And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.

And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,

So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God:

And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.  ~~  Genesis 28:10-22

AARRGGHH!! Don’t we ever learn?

The verses leading up to this passage are full of egos, self-seeking and deceptions. Deceit has had serious consequences in the past and will again in this instance.

However – and this is a big however — when Jacob obeys his father’s directive to go to Paddan Aram to seek a wife, he sets his feet on a righteous path once again. And he is rewarded by this dream and promise from God.

“Surely the Lord is in this place.”

Whether we are aware of it or not, God is with us. Day in and day out, He stands with us. It is our disobedience that builds a wall between Him and us. It’s our wall. It is built brick by brick of little rejections of His call upon our lives.

Do you notice? God’s promise to Jacob is not predicated upon his apology for his deceptions. It carries no contingencies. It is full, complete, absolute.

God knows and we are learning that every action carries within itself the seed of its own reward or punishment. That is called consequences.

But our God is omnipresent – present everywhere at once. With us, beside us, within us if we let Him be.

We are into the season of advent. We will be singing “O come, O come, Immanuel.” It’s a nice song and one of my personal favorites. But it’s redundant. He has already come. He is with us. Let us rejoice in His presence.

Father, God,
Help us to be ever mindful of Your presence with us. Teach us to rely on You and only You at every moment.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen

A Righteous King

Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign.

Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also was Abi, the daughter of Zachariah.

And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did.

He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.

He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.

For he clave to the Lord, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses.

And the Lord was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not. ~~ II Kings 18:1-7 (KJV)

After all the prophecies of doom and gloom, both against the children of Israel and against their enemies, we have a moment’s respite.

Hezekiah, king of Judah, trusted the Lord and did what was right in His eyes. He removed the high places of worship to idols and cut down the Asherah poles. He took anything that could have been called an idol and destroyed it. And the Lord prospered all that he did.

In the middle of all the corruption and evil, one king brought Judah back to the worship of the true God. There are consequences for righteousness as well as consequences for sin.

The consequences of Hezekiah’s faithfulness are just what you would expect. Everything he undertook was successful.

God has given us a blueprint for success and prosperity. He handed it to Moses on Mount Sinai. We are not able to follow that blueprint precisely because we are a fallen people, but God has even given us His Son to cover our shortcomings. God looks at our hearts, not just our actions.

Because we are children of Adam and Eve, we will never be able to keep the law completely. But that shouldn’t keep us from striving to keep it all. Nor should it give us an excuse for not trying.

If we are faithful to Him, God will prosper the work of our hands. That doesn’t mean we will all be millionaires. It does mean that our efforts will be rewarded in one fashion or another.

That reward, however, should not be our goal. Our goal is complete fidelity to the Lord. We may fall short, but we can always pick ourselves up and start again. The more we seek to follow, the better we will get at it.

Father, God,

Save us from being deluded by the lures of this world. Keep us faithful, single-minded on serving You alone.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

The Crux of the Matter

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.

For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.

They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

~~ Psalm 22:14-18 (KJV)

These five verses seem to bring us to the foot of the cross of Jesus. “I am poured out like water.+ He has become our drink offering, poured out for our sins.

We are taken through the physical traumas that the Lord experienced on the cross, through the throngs of evil men around Him, clear to the casting of lots for his garments.

God gave David a vision, the words of this psalm. A picture of our salvation.

Our salvation was sealed at the foot of the cross of Christ. Without it, we have no offering to God. Jesus became our sin offering so that we could come to God without any other mediator.

It is through Jesus, and Jesus only, that we can come to the Father with the assurance that He sees us only through the saving blood of Christ.

Father, God,

Help us to remember the price of our redemption. Make us mindful of the enormity of Your love for us and the sacrifice of Jesus. Keep us humble and unassuming when we come to You with our prayers.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

First published 9 May 2009 in Garment of Praise.