Christian Devotions

Archive for the ‘Purpose’ Category

What and Why

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. ~~ Genesis 1:26-27 (KJV)

Looking at these verses tells us what we are, creations in the image and likeness of God. We were created to have dominion over all the other creations of God.

And we were created in two genders. The two genders were, in my view, needed because of our human limitations. God is infinite with infinite capacities for love, tenderness, judgment and wrath.

It would be impossible to get all the qualities of God wrapped up into a single human being, unless that human form were God himself in the person of Jesus Christ.

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.

And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. ~~ Genesis 2:19-25 (KJV)

This excerpt speaks to the creation of woman out of man. She was created to be a companion equal to and fit for him. This places woman at the side of man.

The relationships in these two passages are both vertical (with God) and horizontal (with man).

Because God is our creator, we are subservient to him, to his purposes and plans. We are not capable of knowing all of those purposes and plans, but we are capable of trusting him to know them and to see them to fruition. We need only supply our obedience to him.

Because woman was created from the rib of man, they are the same flesh. She wasn’t created from his head to be dominant over him, nor from his feet to be subservient. She was created to be a companion and helper, fitted to him perfectly. Equal in all things.

This requires being respectful, submissive, kind, and loving.

We respect others because they, too, were made in God’s image.

Submission requires letting people see who we are, without pretense or mask, and letting them show us who they are the same way.

Kindness means treating each person as if they were your other self.

Loving means having their best interest at heart, equal to or even more than your own self-interest.

Those are tall orders, but possible if we remember who we are and whose we are.

Father, God,

Help us always to remember that our beginning is in you and that everyone else has that same beginning. Keep us ever faithful to tending your hurting world, mending relationships and healing wounds.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

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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.

Echoing the Messiah

The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.

The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.

I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.

For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.

He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me.

Behold, the Lord God will help me; who is he that shall condemn me? lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up.

Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.

Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.

  ~~  Isaiah 50:4-11 (KJV)

Although these verses really speak of the coming Messiah, they can also be said of the devoted Christian.

The Lord God has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. Our tongues can know the words God would have us speak. We need only to listen to Him, read His word, obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

God does not speak to us simply to tickle our ears and give us something about which to be smug and supercilious. He speaks to us for the good of His body, the church universal.

Look at the progression here. He wakens me morning by morning — every morning — to listen like an avid learner listens to a favorite teacher.

Who wakens us? The Lord God. It appears four times in this passage. The Lord God. When God is our Lord, there is nothing the world can do to shake us and our security in Him.

The second part of the progression is “I have not been rebellious.” We cannot put our wills against the will of God and be either right or successful.

The third part is “I have not turned back.” I have not been timid nor slow to obey what my ears have heard. When we listen to God, our obedience must be immediate. We are not to question God’s directives. There is a time for doing each thing. If we miss the time because of reluctance or timidity, we have actually been disobedient. Not a thing which a child of God should wish.

The fourth part of this progression is one I’d just as soon not look at. I offered my back to those who beat me… This is definitely a picture of Christ at His trials before the crucifixion. And it goes on with the pulled beard and mocking and spitting. Ugh!

I’d just as soon not have to go through stuff like this. But He did. And if He did, those of us who bear His name will go through similar trials as well. Don’t take my word for it.

Jesus is speaking here: John 16: 33 “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

And this is the end of our progression. If our Sovereign Lord has overcome the world, if He is our vindication, then nothing the world can do to us will have any lasting effect in eternity.

Father, God,

Help us to be eager to listen and swift to obey. Keep us faithful in Your service no matter how the world responds to us.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

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.

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.