Christian Devotions

Archive for the ‘Purpose’ Category

Remember and Return

And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews.

For there were that said, We, our sons, and our daughters, are many: therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat, and live.

Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth.

There were also that said, We have borrowed money for the king’s tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards.

Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards.

And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words.

Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye exact usury, every one of his brother. And I set a great assembly against them.

And I said unto them, We after our ability have redeemed our brethren the Jews, which were sold unto the heathen; and will ye even sell your brethren? or shall they be sold unto us? Then held they their peace, and found nothing to answer.

Also I said, It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?

I likewise, and my brethren, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn: I pray you, let us leave off this usury.

Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them.

Then said they, We will restore them, and will require nothing of them; so will we do as thou sayest. Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they should do according to this promise.

Also I shook my lap, and said, So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labour, that performeth not this promise, even thus be he shaken out, and emptied. And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the Lord. And the people did according to this promise. ~~ Nehemiah 5:1-13 (KJV)

The problem of the haves and have-nots developed years ago. When people fall on hard times, it seems that someone is always ready to take advantage of their plight and profit from their misfortune.

God has rules about such things. Back in Leviticus, as they were coming out of Egypt, God set down some standards for the treatment of the less fortunate. Sadly, our society seems to have forgotten these principles.

We no longer seem to care about the poor in a personal manner. We let the government do it. But that is not the point. A nameless, faceless bureaucracy doesn’t really care about the individual. It simply moves like an independent organism according to a set of impersonal rules that do not factor in the variables in any person’s life.

And because of that bureaucracy, we seem to have spawned an attitude among some of the poor that they are entitled to everything they can get without turning a tap for it. In God’s law, the poor were to work for their provisions.

Ruth gleaned in the field of Boaz behind the harvesters. She worked as diligently as the harvesters and was rewarded with the fruit of her labors.

When hard times come, we have opportunities. If we are among the poor, we have the opportunity to work. If we are among the wealthy, we have the opportunity to give and to share the gleanings. We have the opportunity to lend without interest.

This was the original plan of the Lord for dealing with such circumstances. Let us remember and return.

Father, God,

We pray for those in straitened circumstances. Grant them favor that they may work their way out of that condition. We pray for those in abundance. Give them the grace to follow Your instructions in dealing with the poor. And help us to translate these principles into our government.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

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Marching Orders

And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt saying,

This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.

Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:

And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.

Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:

And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.

And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.

And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.

Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof.

And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire.

And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord’s passover.

For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord.

And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. ~~ Exodus 12:1-13 (KJV)

God makes provision for His people. This theme shows up time again. Remember how Noah and his family were preserved from the flood. God’s remnant was sheltered by the Ark.

Here again God’s people are protected. This time by the blood on the doorposts.

Despite their hardships and discouragement, and perhaps because of the demonstrated power of God’s mighty hand, they have learned to listen to the word of the Lord.

But note, please, that this time they are to be ready to move. Marching orders are imminent.

Whatever we’ve been through, God has brought us safely to this point. But we cannot rest on our laurels and huddle into ourselves for comfort.

We have marching orders, too. While Israel was marching to become a nation, we are marching to expand the Kingdom of God.

With every step we are called to model the light of God in our lives. We are called to victory over our enemies. We are called to spread the glory of His name.

Father, God,

We thank You for Your provision and protection. Help us to live with staff in hand, ready for our marching orders.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Three Little Words

 

These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.  ~~  Titus 2:15 (KJV)

Paul is an uncompromising mentor. Here he tells Titus exactly what to do and gives him the power to do it in those three little words – with all authority.

But exactly where does that authority come from?

With Paul, it came from the authority of the apostles who lived and worked with Jesus. And it came from his encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Damascus.

We don’t have Paul here, except in print. We don’t have the first century apostles except in their writings.

So if we want to speak and exhort and rebuke, our authority must come from the written word of God, the Bible.

All the credentials in the world, all the college degrees, all the certificates of completion from symposia and seminars and conferences are of no avail, if we do not speak with the authority of the written Word of God.

So let’s check up. How much time do we spend in the Word?

Father, God,

Strengthen our resolve to spend more time with you in quiet contemplation of your love letters to us. Grant that we may be a blessing to those in our sphere of influence. Set a guard on our hearts and tongues that nothing may be said or done that is not of you.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

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The Balance

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.  ~~  Romans 12:1-3 (KJV)

Most people vacillate between thinking too little of themselves and thinking too much of themselves. We need to realize that our only value is the value God placed upon us. He purchased us at the price of Jesus’ blood. He bought us – he owns us. But only if we believe on him and acknowledge his lordship over us.

There is no dichotomy between flesh and spirit in us. Where one goes, the other follows. So we must choose which will lead, flesh or spirit. We can not worship God with our spirits and not with our bodies. We are a unit, body and spirit. Integrity comes from being the same at all times and in all circumstances. Either we belong to Christ or we don’t. We worship him with our bodies as well as our spirits — or we don’t really worship him at all. There is no middle ground.

So how do we, then, think of ourselves. We can gauge our worth only by our fidelity to God’s purposes – not by standards of wealth or power or anything else on earth.

Our faith in God determines our perceptions of ourselves. The greater we grow our faith, the more clearly we can see how we fit into God’s plans for our lives.

Father, God,

Grant us your perspective of our lives. Let us see your plans for us and what we need to do to fit into them properly, effectively. Help us to grow in faith.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

We Begin Again

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. ~~ Genesis 1:1-2 (KJV)

In the original language, the phrase “without form, and void” can be interpreted as desolate and chaotic. Gratefully I remember this formless void when my world seems too chaotic to bear.

Hope is born of the prospect that even in chaos, God sees order. Therefore, He can help me to bring order and serenity into my life. How?

The indwelling Holy Spirit can enlighten me. In some circles this is known as “discernment.” It is the result of being sensitive to the presence of God in our everyday mundanities. While we are washing the dishes or scrubbing the toilet, God is as near as our next breath. As much as if we were in meditation and prayer.

If we maintain a sense of His presence, we can be “walking with God,” as the scripture says.

Whatever happens in the world around us, God is the source of our order and serenity. Staying close to Him brings us peace. Let us resolve to stay close in this new year.

Father, God,

Help me to silence the cacophony of the everyday in order to listen to the blessed serenity of your eternity.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen

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