Christian Devotions

Archive for the ‘Sin’ 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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Relationship

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:

Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:

But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. ~~~ Jeremiah 31:31-34

Today’s reading is full of promise – and personal accountability. After the diaspora,  God is going to restore Israel and Judah to the land of Canaan where He planted them in the first place.

This is to be a new covenant, not the same one He made with Abraham, nor the one He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt.

This covenant is no longer about ritual and sacrifice. It is about knowing Him. Each person is to have a personal relationship with Him.

They will all know me from the least of them to the greatest.

And He promises forgiveness, no longer remembering their sins. The descendants of Israel will only cease to be a nation in the eyes of the Lord if all the other things He created vanish from His sight. This means He has decreed Israel to be a nation in perpetuity.

The rest of us are wild shoots, grafted onto the cultivated plant. In effect, we are part of Israel and Judah – by God’s grace. Let us never forget the root that nourishes us. Let us remember to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Father, God,

We thank You for the grace with which you bestow Your blessings upon all those who believe in You. We are grateful for Your sending us Your Son that we might be reconciled to You. And we thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit through Whom we can know You better, more intimately.

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.

Good Works

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Not of works, lest any man should boast. ~~ Ephesians 2:8-9 (KJV)

Salvation is simple – not easy – but simple.  Sometimes a simple truth can be brought home by something that passes for a joke.  I was reminded of that by Mikey’s Funnies.

A man dies. Of course, St. Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates.

St. Peter says, “Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in.”

“Okay,” the man says, “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.”

“That’s wonderful,” says St. Peter, “that’s worth three points!”

“Three points?” he says. “Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service.”

“Terrific!” says St. Peter. “That’s certainly worth a point.”

“One point!?!! I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.”

“Fantastic, that’s good for two more points,” he says.

“Two points!?!!” Exasperated, the man cries, “At this rate it’ll just be by the grace of God that I ever get into heaven.”

“Bingo, 100 points! Come on in!”

Trying to work our way into heaven is an exercise in futility. Nothing we can do will earn us a place in heaven. God has clearly stated how we can get there.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. ~~ John 3:16-17 (KJV)

Believe is the operative word here. Believe, trust, have faith in Jesus. Take Him at His word.

But what about good works?  Aren’t we to do them?

Of course, we are to do good works. But those works are our “thank you” notes to God for what He has done for us. They are not our tickets to heaven.

Today, take a moment to thank God for His gift of salvation. Or if you are not sure about your salvation, take a few minutes to read John 3:16-17.

Then learn the answer to the one question you need to be able to answer correctly.

He (Jesus) saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?  And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. ~~ Matthew 16:15-16

Simon Peter was one of Jesus’ disciples. He followed Jesus daily, listening to His words, watching His actions. He would have gone wherever Jesus told Him to go.

If we can follow Simon Peter’s example, knowing who Jesus is, doing His bidding at all times, we will have grasped the gift of God’s grace. The grace that leads to heaven.

Father, God,

Grant us the wisdom to see your gift of grace, the humility to acknowledge our need, the faith to believe Your word, and the persistence to follow at all times.

In Jesus’ most precious name,

Amen.

Integrity

He that walketh uprightly walketh surely:

but he that perverteth his ways shall be known.

~~~ Proverbs 10:9 (KJV)

Eventually everything comes to light. We see this everyday in the headlines. People’s underhanded dealings eventually are exposed to public scrutiny.

This political bigwig has taken money from special interest groups.

That public figure has had an illicit affair and fathered a child.

A financial officer is caught with his hand in the till.

All these people thought they could engage in illicit activity and remain anonymous. No one would ever find out. They were deceiving themselves more than anyone else.

God has promised that the truth will come out. We just read it here. We can be sure that if the Lord says it, it is true. Eventually, all will be made known. That’s a scary thought if you’ve been trying to hide things.

Father, God,

Help us to walk in integrity. Keep us from deceptive practices and thoughts, and let us become the righteous people you intended for us to be.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Identity

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)

Do you really know who you are? The verse above says we were created in the image of God.  We are to have dominion, to be in charge of the earth. But we are not God.

We have limitations, limitations set by God. But we have an enemy who will continually try to get us to violate those limitations. He is always questioning us “Did God really say…?”  (Genesis 3:1)

That question is designed to make us dissatisfied with who we are. And the enemy is cunning. He will pose that question in whatever form he thinks will prod us to question God.

The enemy was successful in getting Adam and Eve to question God and to violate the stipulation God had set for them. That violation created a separation between man and God.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

Have you ever been homesick? Lonely for someone absent? Then you know what that hunger is. There is something missing – a part of you that is missing.

We are created with a God-shaped hole in our hearts. We run after things to fill that hole, but nothing satisfies exactly. Oh, we can rationalize “if I just had a little more money” – “if my family loved me more” –  “if I had just a little more success” – “if I could have one more drink” – “if I could win (fill in the blank)” – “if…  if…  if…”

None of those things will really satisfy. Only a restored relationship with God can ease that hunger. In His generosity, God has made a way for us to bridge that separation.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. ~~ John 3:16-17 (KJV)

We don’t need to let the enemy steal our identity. God has given us a path to friendship with Him again.

Father, God,

Help us to see the wiles of the enemy for what they are – the desperate ploys of a vanquished foe. Remind us of who we are and Whose we are. Grant that we may seek to fill our lives only with You, not with empty things.

In Jesus’ most precious name,

Amen.

 

 

Promises Not Kept

What You Fear Will Catch Up with You

42 1-3 All the army officers, led by Johanan son of Kareah and Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah, accompanied by all the people, small and great, came to Jeremiah the prophet and said, “We have a request. Please listen. Pray to your God for us, what’s left of us. You can see for yourself how few we are! Pray that your God will tell us the way we should go and what we should do.”

4 Jeremiah the prophet said, “I hear your request. And I will pray to your God as you have asked. Whatever God says, I’ll pass on to you. I’ll tell you everything, holding nothing back.”

5-6 They said to Jeremiah, “Let God be our witness, a true and faithful witness against us, if we don’t do everything that your God directs you to tell us. Whether we like it or not, we’ll do it. We’ll obey whatever our God tells us. Yes, count on us. We’ll do it.”

7-8 Ten days later God’s Message came to Jeremiah. He called together Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers with him, including all the people, regardless of how much clout they had.

9-12 He then spoke: “This is the Message from God, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your prayer. He says, ‘If you are ready to stick it out in this land, I will build you up and not drag you down, I will plant you and not pull you up like a weed. I feel deep compassion on account of the doom I have visited on you. You don’t have to fear the king of Babylon. Your fears are for nothing. I’m on your side, ready to save and deliver you from anything he might do. I’ll pour mercy on you. What’s more, he will show you mercy! He’ll let you come back to your very own land.’

13-17 “But do not say, ‘We’re not staying around this place,’ refusing to obey the command of your God and saying instead, ‘No! We’re off to Egypt, where things are peaceful—no wars, no attacking armies, plenty of food. We’re going to live there.’ If what’s left of Judah is headed down that road, then listen to God’s Message. This is what God-of-the-Angel-Armies says: ‘If you have determined to go to Egypt and make that your home, then the very wars you fear will catch up with you in Egypt and the starvation you dread will track you down in Egypt. You’ll die there! Every last one of you who is determined to go to Egypt and make it your home will either be killed, starve, or get sick and die. No survivors, not one! No one will escape the doom that I’ll bring upon you.’

18 “This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel: ‘In the same way that I swept the citizens of Jerusalem away with my anger and wrath, I’ll do the same thing all over again in Egypt. You’ll end up being cursed, reviled, ridiculed, and mocked. And you’ll never see your homeland again.’

19-20 “God has plainly told you, you leftovers from Judah, ‘Don’t go to Egypt.’ Could anything be plainer? I warn you this day that you are living out a fantasy. You’re making a fatal mistake.

“Didn’t you just now send me to your God, saying, ‘Pray for us to our God. Tell us everything that God says and we’ll do it all’?

21-22 “Well, now I’ve told you, told you everything he said, and you haven’t obeyed a word of it, not a single word of what your God sent me to tell you. So now let me tell you what will happen next: You’ll be killed, you’ll starve to death, you’ll get sick and die in the wonderful country where you’ve determined to go and live.”
Death! Exile! Slaughter!

43 1-3 When Jeremiah finished telling all the people the whole Message that their God had sent him to give them—all these words—Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah, backed by all the self-important men, said to Jeremiah, “Liar! Our God never sent you with this message telling us not to go to Egypt and live there. Baruch son of Neriah is behind this. He has turned you against us. He’s playing into the hands of the Babylonians so we’ll either end up being killed or taken off to exile in Babylon.”

4 Johanan son of Kareah and the army officers, and the people along with them, wouldn’t listen to God’s Message that they stay in the land of Judah and live there.

5-7 Johanan son of Kareah and the army officers gathered up everyone who was left from Judah, who had come back after being scattered all over the place—the men, women, and children, the king’s daughters, all the people that Nebuzaradan captain of the bodyguard had left in the care of Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, and last but not least, Jeremiah the prophet and Baruch son of Neriah. They entered the land of Egypt in total disobedience of God’s Message and arrived at the city of Tahpanhes.  ~~  Jeremiah 42:1-43:7   (MSG)

Although I generally study in King James, sometimes The Message puts it in plainer language for today’s readers.

The remnant of Israel left in the land was uncertain of their future, so they asked Jeremiah to seek the Lord for a word. They promised that whatever God said, they would do as He said. It was a promise. They made a vow. Whether favorable or unfavorable, they would do as the Lord said.

So Jeremiah sought the Lord and came back to the people with a word from God. But the people didn’t like what God had said, so they disobeyed the Lord. No matter that they had vowed obedience. God hadn’t said what they wanted Him to say, so they called Jeremiah a liar.

We cannot seek the Lord simply for an approval stamp for the plans we have already made. But that is exactly what the people did with Jeremiah. They wanted Him to say a particular thing, but He said just the opposite.

In this story, Egypt becomes a type of the secular world. Sometimes life gets hard when you are following the Lord. Circumstances and people seem to conspire to make your way difficult, if not impossible.

When that happens, it would be so easy to rely on the “wisdom” of the world. But that is precisely what the Christian is called NOT to do. When we do that, we will suffer famine and death. Perhaps not physically, but spiritually.

Let us resolve to seek the Lord, without prejudice, and obey Him unconditionally. We need to keep our promises to God.

Father, God,

Share with us Your wisdom. Keep us from the folly of listening to the world and letting its noise drown out Your words. Help us to continue faithfully on the path You set before us.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

First published 31 August 2009