Christian Devotions

Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Joy with Singing

Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.

For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent.

From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed, shall bring mine offering.

In that day shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings, wherein thou hast transgressed against me: for then I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride, and thou shalt no more be haughty because of my holy mountain.

I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord.

The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.

Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.

The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more.

In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack.

The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. ~~ Zephaniah 3:8-17  (KJV)

Despite man’s unfaithfulness and despite the Lord’s anger, there is yet hope. Reading these verses we see that we are told to sing and rejoice.

This is because after the Lord’s day of wrath, there is a recalling of the remnant of the faithful. Those who have been faithful will survive the day of judgment and will be found victorious.

The Lord says He will purify the lips of the peoples. that all of them may call upon His name. This reminds us of the picture of Isaiah.

And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.

Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.

Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:

And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.  ~~  Isaiah 6:4-8 (KJV)

He found himself in the throne room of God, with all the angels. The glory of the Lord was so heavy that he fell on his face saying “woe is me for I am a man of unclean lips.” And an angel took a coal from the altar and touched his lips to purify them. Then he was worthy to speak the name of the Lord as an emissary of God.

Here too, God says He will purify the lips of the people. Those of us who are faithful to God should rejoice in this passage. It means that we will speak the righteousness of God to the nation. We are to be His emissaries in this hurting world. It is our duty and our privilege to speak for the righteousness of God, the love of God, the mercy of God and the wrath of God in equal proportion.

It is only when we tell the whole truth of God that we can be rightfully called His emissaries.

Just as any parent, God grieves over His wandering children. But when we are obedient, He can rejoice over us—with singing.

Father, God,

Open our ears and hearts to learn of You. Purify our lips to tell of You. Send us wherever You wish to spread the good news to all people. Soften our hearts to love all Your children. Give us the grace to be obedient so that You can sing over us.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

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Focus on Building

I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.

And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.

Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. ~~ Philipians 4:2-9 (KJV)

There was division and dissension in the church at Philipi when Paul wrote this letter. Two of the ladies (I can see them now), probably strong-minded and willful, had disagreed on some point. The rift grew between them and started to fracture the congregation.

That happens when people focus on the differences between them and on the ugliness each of us shows.

But Paul is telling them to focus on the good things. Our minds naturally dwell upon the things that are important to us. But the reverse is also true. We begin to become the things we let our mind dwell upon.

My friend and I meet weekly, to visit, to encourage one another, to talk about the Lord, to pray together. We do not always agree. She sees things from one perspective. I see them from another. But we do not argue. She allows me my focus, and I respect hers. Frequently we edify one another because between the two of us, we have a binocular vision of what the Lord is doing in our lives.

When she is in the middle of a crisis, she doesn’t see the hand of the Lord working because of the stress of the crisis. I can see through her crisis to a plan that the Lord might have for her. The reverse is also true. When I’m in crisis, I see mostly the crisis, not the eternal perspective. She helps me put a different spin on the matter.

Frequently we agree to disagree – that is to hold different opinions of a matter. We are both aware that our opinions are not God’s law – they are merely personal interpretations of the facts. Both of us are old enough and wise enough to know that we are not the ultimate authority.

So she thinks about the things in me that are good. And I think about her good points as well. We are, in the best sense, sisters in Christ.

But if we each focused on the short-comings of the other, we would never have become friends. I have way too many faults. And even she has her share. I recognize her failings, much as I recognize my own. But I don’t labor the point either with her or myself.

Together, we have become better people, with fewer faults than we each had at the outset. Focusing on the good, the true, the praise-worthy, we have gained some of those virtues. I sincerely hope we can gain more of these virtues to swallow up our remaining faults.

Father, God,

Thank You for putting Your church together with diverse people. Help us to see the good in all the members of Your body. Keep us focused on building one another up so that the church is strengthened.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Not Good

And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;

And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.  ~~  Genesis 2:15-24 (KJV)

Relationships with other people are important. During all of creation, God said “it is good.” This is the only instance where He said “it is not good.”

Look carefully. Adam was in the Garden of Eden. He had authority over all living creatures. He was to tend the garden. He needed nothing. But he was alone. That was the only thing that was not good.

While the rest of the passage speaks to marriage most obviously, some other inferences can be drawn. Every human being needs companionship.

At one point, I worked in a nursing home. Most of the residents were alone in one way or another. They had lost themselves in dementia, or they had no close family to tend them. Others had physical limitations that didn’t allow them to stay in their own homes alone. Those that did the best were people who had family or friends visiting regularly. Or they cultivated relationships with those around them, both staff and residents.

For the others, we tried to encourage friendships among the residents. We planned social events: teas, games, meals, entertainment, and outings — feeble substitutes for relationships.

This week, I’m taking stock of my relationships. There is, of course, my husband – the primary relationship – and my children/grandchildren/great-grandchildren. But there are also friends. When you come to my age (well past retirement), many of your friends are of similar age with the concomitant health problems and frailties. You never know how long they will be with you.

Reared as an only child, I longed for sisters. During my lifetime God has given me several. Della and Sandy have gone home and left me here to miss them. Delores and Sally and Geni are still with me. They are listed in order of proximity.

I’ve known Delores for about forty years. We see each other regularly – generally once a week – and can share anything without fear of rejection. She knows most of my warts and loves me anyway.

Sally and I were in grade school together (much more than thirty years ago). She lives in Texas, so we see each other rarely. But when we can get together, we pick up in the middle of the paragraph. Although our branches extend in different directions, our roots are intertwined, like side by side grape vines with trunks twisted together and tendrils escaping all around.

Geni is a much newer friend. And my largest regret is that I have never hugged her. We met on line when she and her husband were in China. We struck up a conversation and discovered we were sisters at heart. She prays for me and my other friends, family and causes, and I pray for her and hers. We rejoice, share, complain, chat, and love one another. The only thing missing is the hug because I have never met her in person. She lives on the west coast (closer than China but still too far for coffee and conversation).

Three perfect jewels in my life, each a different color, size and shape. One is an emerald, another an opal, and finally a pearl (listed in alphabetical order, not respectively). What a treasure chest!

This week, take stock of the treasures in your relationships. What can you do to enhance them? Can you cultivate new ones?

Father, God,

You placed us all in specific positions in your world, not capriciously, but purposefully. Show us Your purposes in our relationships. Make us sensitive to new ones and help us to cultivate them to Your glory.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Words, Words, Words

A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

~~ Proverbs 18:20-21 (KJV)

These verses are all about speech, appropriate speech and inappropriate speech. The tongue is a small member of the body, but it has great power.

My son, if your heart is wise,
then my heart will be glad,
my inmost being will rejoice
when your lips speak what is right.  ~~  Proverbs 23:15-16 (NIV)

Your lips can speak foolishness bringing all kinds of adverse consequences. If you speak wickedness many ills can befall you including the destruction of the city.

Flattery, slander, gossip, hurtful talk, quarreling, lying, all are condemned in today’s reading. How many of us have said something in the heat of a moment that we wished we could “un-say.”

It doesn’t happen. Once a word is spoken and heard, it is forever in the memory of the hearer.

The closing verse for today says:

The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.  ~~  Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)

My grandmother used to say: “Let your words be sweet and tender; you never know when you may have to eat them.”

Father, God,

Grant us the wisdom to speak only those things which are healing, uplifting, beautiful, profitable, honorable, and reverent. Help us to tame the wild tongue.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

 

 

Go Where?

 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Matthew 28:18-20  (KJV)

Well, this is pretty clear. The grammarian in me notices right away that the “go ye therefore, and teach…” is in the imperative – a direction or command. As Christians, we have one over-riding job: to teach what Jesus taught.

But what about this “all nations” thing?  Are we all to travel to foreign lands to do this teaching?  I think not. “All nations” includes the people in our workplaces, our grocery stores, the restaurants and coffee shops we haunt, and even our churches.

“All nations” means the place where we are at the moment.

“But I’m no teacher” you say.  Ah, but you are. You teach by example. The way you handle yourself in difficult situations, when you are gracious to someone who has been ungracious, the faith you exhibit in the face of tragedy and loss are lessons seen and absorbed by those around you.  If your response to unfavorable situations is sufficiently different from theirs, they will come to you with questions.

After a particularly nasty time in my life, people came to me saying things like “you’re so strong,” and “I don’t see how you do it.” That gave me the opportunity to say that I wasn’t strong, but I knew where to lean which made me look strong.

You see, our teaching others is simply an opportunity to brag on God, to tell them how wonderful He is and all the beautiful things He does for us. We need not have an educational agenda – a lesson plan, if you will.  Our job is simply to answer the questions asked and to step out of the way so the Holy Spirit can do His work of convicting and wooing and teaching.

The best teachers are facilitators. They share their knowledge and instill a thirst for more knowledge in their students. There is no way that I can wrap my finite little mind around the magnificence of our infinite God. But I can share what I know and help create a thirst in others to know more.

“Go ye therefore, and teach…”

Father, God,

Help us to exemplify all that You would have us teach others. Give us the patience to wait for the questions and the wisdom to answer just enough to start the questioner on his journey to You. Fill our mouths alternately with Your words and Your silence. Let us not fall in love with the sound of our own voices.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

God Chose

And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way.

And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do;

Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?

For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.  ~~  Genesis 18:16-19 (KJV)

 

Let’s put this in the correct time frame. The men have just told Sarah that she will have a child within the year, and Abraham is about to argue with God on the destruction of Sodom.

God chose Abraham.

And he said unto him, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.  ~~  Genesis 15:7  (KJV)

Notice that God informs Abraham and saves Lot not because of what they do, but simply because God has chosen them.

Lot has spent his years in Sodom as a righteous man. But it seems that he has tolerated – and even accommodated – the abominations of the society in which he dwells. Even though he has not succumbed to those vilenesses himself.

The nation who flouts the Lord is playing with fire. See Genesis 19:24 ff.

This should be a warning to our land today. Compromising God’s word leads to disaster. Just as there are limits to God’s patience, there should also be limits on our ability to tolerate and accommodate sin.

This is not to say that we ought to be judgmental. God alone will judge.

But we must, in all good conscience, point out destructive behaviors as outlined by scripture. When we fail to warn our society, we are guilty of aiding and abetting its sins.

For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD… ~~ Genesis 18:19: (KJV)

As children of God, we are expected to keep and teach the way of the Lord. When we keep only, we’ve fallen down on half of our job.

Father God,

Give us the boldness to speak your words and righteousness. Help us to inform and teach with gentleness and love.

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.