Christian Devotions

Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Confusion

And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.

And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.

So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

~~ Genesis 11:1-9 (KJV).

Why was the building of the Tower of Babel so displeasing to God?

The people’s stated aim was to build a tower that reached heaven so they could make a name for themselves. The tower was built to further man’s designs and feed his ego — not to get closer to God. In effect man decided to put himself above God.

We still have this problem today. Secular humanism seeks to make man the measure of all things — and a relative measure at that.

Without acknowledging God’s sovereignty, man has no absolute standard for morals, ethics or behavior. We live in a society that accommodates an “it’s okay for you, but it’s not right for me” attitude. This effectively lets each man decide right and wrong for himself without any other basis.

I believe it was this arrogant attitude that sparked God’s displeasure.

We seem to be prideful when we have no reason to be proud. After all, everything is the Lord’s. That includes us when we choose to follow Him.

Father, God,

Help us to be ever mindful that our relationship with You is the most important thing in our lives. Keep us, we pray, from arrogant pride.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen

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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.

Enduring

Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:

If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:

If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.

~~ 2 Timothy 2:10-13 (KJV)

Enduring is an unpopular occupation, but we have been given the grace through Christ to do just that. Enduring hardship serves to strengthen our resolve and make us less soft or brittle. It works much like annealing steel or glass.

My daughter does glass lamp work. She heats a rod or narrow length of glass til it is molten in the flame. She works with it and shapes it into the form desired. Then she puts it into an annealing oven so that it does not cool quickly, but slowly, over a period of many hours. This process makes the glass much stronger and less breakable.

It seems that God does that with some of our lives. We endure hardship of many kinds until we have been shaped into what God wants us to be. And even then, He does not turn off the heat. We sit in the annealing oven for an extended period so that we come out more serviceable than ever.

We can endure all this by focusing on Jesus Christ.

Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him.
If we disown him, he will also disown us;
if we are faithless, he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.

He is the source of our life and hope. He is the reason for our faithfulness. He is our all in all. So we can keep on keeping on.

Father, God,

When life gets very daily and the going gets tough, reassure us that all things work together for good to those who are called to Your purpose. Help us to keep the faith, doing all that You have commanded, so that we may remain faithful, just as Jesus is faithful.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

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.

Proximity

And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.

Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments:

And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.

And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.

And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.

So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan, that is, Bethel, he and all the people that were with him.

And he built there an altar, and called the place Elbethel: because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother.

But Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth.

And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him.

And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel.  ~~  Genesis 35:1-10

The rape of Dinah and the revenge of her brothers are directly related to geography. Jacob had settled in the middle of people who didn’t follow the Lord God. They were uncircumcised and had heathen practices.

Proximity to those practices has already affected Jacob’s family. The revenge exacted by Simeon and Levi makes it impossible for Jacob to stay where he is. So he moves yet again — this time to a place where reverence for the Lord is predominant.

We live in the midst of the heathen. While the United States claims to be a Christian nation, it is, in fact, a plural society. The predominant religion seems to be secular humanism. We are bombarded by advertising and entertainment that promulgate immoral behaviors. And we are criticized as narrow-minded or judgmental or intolerant when we reiterate the standards set forth in the word of God.

While we cannot move geographically into a pure country, we can rid ourselves of the “foreign gods” of humanism, consumerism, and immorality. We can purify ourselves by steeping ourselves in God’s word.

And we can move out in society, openly, honestly proclaiming God’s word. We can speak the truth that what God calls “abomination,” humanism calls “alternative lifestyle.” What society calls “choice,” God calls murder. We can speak gently, lovingly. But we must speak the truth.

Father, God,

Grant us the grace of purity of mind and heart. Give us the courage to speak boldly the truth of Your word. And keep us ever close to you.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

A Ruinous Path

These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.~~ Proverbs 6:16-19 (KJV)

This is one of the scariest passages in scripture. It enumerates things the Lord hates. And if we examine ourselves carefully, we find we have probably transgressed on at least one of these personally.

As a nation we are doubly guilty.

  • A proud look: those who have look down on those who have not.
  • A lying tongue: on air not long ago, one of the people who had been privy to the highest offices in the land said “Everyone lies.” It was said with a straight face in a matter-of-fact tone of voice. She could have been saying “It’s Monday.”
  • Hands that shed innocent blood:  we do it in the name of choice.
  • He that soweth discord among the brethren: we have racial divisions (for which there is no genetic rationale) and  political divisions and class divisions. Moreover, there are people who stir up trouble between these factions for their own reasons: power, prestige, financial gain.

Our world is full of deception and wickedness. Our nation has become party to all these evils.

We cannot believe that the Lord will just wink at these things. We have seen how He dealt with the nation of Israel when they were faithless. We must turn this nation around to follow His precepts lest similar ills befall us s well.

We, the Christians, are called upon to pray for our country and its leaders. The prayers of no one else will be sufficient.

As followers of Christ, we must examine ourselves, confess our shortcomings, and be in constant prayer for this land that we love.

Father, God,

Have mercy on our land. Help us to right the wrongs we have done as a nation. Keep us on our knees in prayer for change.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Love is…

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profits me nothing.

love suffers long, and is kind; love envies not; love vaunts not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil;

Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;

Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

love never fails: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

And now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. “

~~  I Corinthians 13:1-13 (NKJV)

Love is the key to the Christian life. But I think, sometimes, we miss the mark on our definition of love. While this chapter is frequently read at weddings, I believe it has less to do with weddings than the everyday relationships between friends, family, neighbors and co-workers.

Jesus said the first commandment was to love the Lord. But what kind of love is this? It certainly isn’t the same kind of physical desire and emotion that men and women sometimes feel for one another. It is, in fact, not a “feeling” so much as a decision and commitment. You seek the Lord and His will for your life, so that what you do pleases Him. It is His approval that you are wanting. His “well done, good and faithful servant” is your goal.

We love the Lord by loving what He created. This kind of love is committed to the well-being of the other. We are to work for the benefit of the Lord’s creation. Since man was created in the image of God, when we look at another person, we should strive to see the mark of God on him or her. It is that essence of the divine in each person that we respect and admire.

The qualities of love in Paul’s list spring from the recognition of God’s image in man. We have no clear picture of God except what of God is reflected in man. In eternity, we shall see Him face to face – no veil, no shadow, no dim mirror.

Father, God,

Prepare us to see You face to face. Create in us Your love for all mankind. Help us to hear as You hear, see as You see, and love as You love.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.