Christian Devotions

Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

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.

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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.

Decisions

“But as for you who forsake the Lord
and forget my holy mountain,
who spread a table for Fortune
and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny,

I will destine you for the sword,
and all of you will fall in the slaughter;
for I called but you did not answer,
I spoke but you did not listen.
You did evil in my sight
and chose what displeases me.”

Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“My servants will eat,
but you will go hungry;
my servants will drink,
but you will go thirsty;
my servants will rejoice,
but you will be put to shame.

My servants will sing
out of the joy of their hearts,
but you will cry out
from anguish of heart
and wail in brokenness of spirit.

You will leave your name
for my chosen ones to use in their curses;
the Sovereign Lord will put you to death,
but to his servants he will give another name.

Whoever invokes a blessing in the land
will do so by the one true God;
whoever takes an oath in the land
will swear by the one true God.
For the past troubles will be forgotten
and hidden from my eyes.

~~ Isaiah 65:11-16 (NIV)

In today’s world we talk about a God of love. And God is that. He surely is love. But He is also a God of wrath.

As you read these verses, you can’t help feeling sorry for those who forsake the Lord. And it seems a terribly harsh ending.

Look at it carefully, however. God gave man a free will. Man can choose whether he wants God as a part of his life or not. If he chooses to have God in his life, God will honor that. As man repents his wrongdoings, God is merciful and loving and swift to forgive. Like a doting parent, He spoils us and gives us what we want.

The people to whom God is speaking here are those who decided they wanted no part of God in their lives. And again, like a doting parent, God is letting them have their own way. He will not inflict Himself on them in life. Nor will He presume the keep them in His presence after death.

There are only two places to live in this universe. One is in the presence of God and the other is away from God. One is heaven, the other is hell. We choose. And God honors our choice because he gave man a free will.

If we choose to live in the presence of God, we can have a piece of heaven on earth. If we choose the other, well….

Father, God,

Help us to choose wisely. Keep us ever mindful of Your presence and Your will. Grant that we may always be obedient to Your promptings and swift to obey. Deliver us from waywardness.

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.

The Accounting

But among these there was not a man of them whom Moses and Aaron the priest numbered, when they numbered the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai.

For the Lord had said of them, They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.

~~ Numbers 26:64-65 (KJV)

After forty years of wandering, the Israelites prepare to enter the Promised Land. God orders a census, a final accounting of the numbers of the men of Israel. This census will be the basis of the distribution of the lands.

Some of the tribes have increased; some have decreased. But the total number of Israelites is smaller. They have been diminished by their faithlessness and rebellions during these forty years.

Korah, the Levite who rebelled, was swallowed up, but God preserved a remnant of his line for entry into the promised land. God always preserves a remnant of the faithful.

Of all the men who followed Moses into the desert, only Joshua and Caleb are alive. The rest have died of one cause or another because the Lord told them they would die in the desert.

But why? Their sin was one of disbelief. God had told them He was giving them the land, but when they went to look at it, they became fearful of the inhabitants. And they believed their own eyes rather than God’s promise.

There is always a day of reckoning. Every action carries within itself the seed of its own reward or punishment. The faithlessness of those men of Israel resulted in their being denied entrance to the Promised Land. Conversely, the faithful report from Caleb and Joshua is rewarded by their being allowed to enter the Promised Land.

How will we stack up at the day of accounting? Have we been faithful to believe all that the Lord has told us? Have we been rebellious? Have we been lukewarm in our ardor to know Him better?

I’m so glad that our salvation doesn’t rely on our personal accounting. It relies, instead, on our belief in Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross. Only Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient to cover all our shortcomings — past, present and future.

Father, God,

We thank You for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Keep our hearts faithful to you that we may not be found wanting in the day of accounting.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

 

Sin on Parade

For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his glory.

The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.

Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.

Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.

As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.

The Lord standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people.

The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. ~~ Isaiah 3:8-14 (KJV)

Unacknowledged and unrepented sin is fatal. When a people will not acknowledge its sins as sin and will not repent of it, they have marked themselves for destruction.

I read this verse and shuddered: “They declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.”

As a nation, we, too, parade our sins like Sodom. We parade the sin of sodomy and give it place in our world by trying to legitimize it.

We make laws that put innocence in danger and justify expediency over righteousness.

We reward those who manipulate and scheme and commit fraud and usury.

Our legal system has been skewed to favor the powerful over the just; it has overstepped its boundaries at the behest of the powerful.

As a nation, we are in terrible shape. We have committed every sin in the book. We have earned all the reprisals listed in the book.

God is just and merciful to those who acknowledge their sin and repent. But God is also righteous, and those who flout their sin proudly will not receive mercy.

As individuals, let us examine our hearts to root out and repent of our personal sins. As a nation, let us work to return our country to the righteousness of the Lord.

Father, God,

Shine the light of Your love into our hearts to show us our sins that we may repent of them. Give us the discernment to see those who would lead us astray, and let us have the courage not to elect leaders who will pull us down that path.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Can We Not Blush?

For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.

They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.

Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord.

Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.

Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken.

Therefore hear, ye nations, and know, O congregation, what is among them.

Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it.

To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me.

Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will lay stumblingblocks before this people, and the fathers and the sons together shall fall upon them; the neighbour and his friend shall perish.

~~ Jeremiah 6:13-21 (KJV)

Jeremiah’s words ring true for us today. Look at his description of the people.

Greedy for gain. People today are chasing the almighty dollar as if it could fix all their woes. We have TV programs that push consumerism and rampant greed. We purchase lottery tickets, hoping to win millions or tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars. We gamble on dogs or horses or sporting events or cards or in casinos hoping to gain money we did not earn.

Deceitful. Perhaps we are not all out and out liars, but we do seem to manage to bend the truth to fit our purposes. It’s a matter of leaving out a detail or two — or adding a bit of color that wasn’t really there. We tell people what we think they want to hear instead of the unvarnished truth. We gloss over details in order to make a thing look better.

Politicians do it. Admen do it. Employees and employers do it. Husbands tell wives only what they think the wife wants to hear. Wives tell husbands only what they cannot hide. We might as well all be fly-by-night peddlers of inferior goods.

They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly.” What can he mean here? Let’s see. The moral fiber of our nation has been lost to secular humanism, our new religion. But we try to make laws – based on the ten commandments – without referring to them or to their originator. We have rampant evil in our society.

Murder and mayhem are common, so we try to fix them with incarceration as a deterrent. There is no deterrent when there is no conscience. We have steadily educated the conscience out of our youth. We have taught them “situation ethics” instead of moral absolutes.

And we have no shame.

We no longer know how to blush.

Promiscuity, lewd behavior, grasping greed, and deceit have become our way of life, activities which are not only tolerated, but expected.

Those who don’t behave that way and call for a different standard of behavior are labeled “intolerant” — the worst epithet this current generation can apply.

The Lord prescribes the cure: to look where the ancient path is and to walk in it. He promises rest for the soul, if we will but return to His standards of behavior. Are we simply too proud or too stupid to be embarrassed?

Father, God,

Help us to see the ancient path of righteousness. Give us the grace to drop our arrogance and pride and to seek You in humility and reverence. Teach us Your ways that we may remember how to blush at our faults and learn to correct them.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.