Christian Devotions

Archive for the ‘Wisdom’ Category

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.

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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.

 

 

Are You Weary?

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

~~ Matthew 11:28  (KJV)

Do you find yourself working harder and getting nowhere? Are you spinning your wheels to no avail? Sometimes we need to work smarter, not harder. Jesus knew that some of us would find ourselves trapped in the rat race.

Sometimes it’s because we take on more than is our true responsibility.  Some things are beyond our control. We are not responsible for them.

Some things are within our control. We are responsible for them. Our job is to learn the difference and behave accordingly.

Let’s look at the two following verses.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.       ~~       Matthew 11:28,29 KJV

Yoke is an interesting word. It is the connector between a pair of working animals to keep them in tandem. But the two animals have different functions even when yoked together.

When I was a child, my grandfather hired George, a man with a pair of horses, to plow what we lovingly called “the north 40”, a section of the city block which he owned and planted to corn and other vegetables every spring. I was fascinated watching the pair of animals, but I noticed that they did not move exactly in tandem. So I asked George what the difference was. He told me the horse on the left was the starter, but the horse on the right carried the load.

horses

At his “gee-up” the left horse moved first to overcome the inertia of the plow, but as soon as that initial inertia was diminished, the other horse pulled slightly ahead, carrying the brunt of the weight of the moving plow.

That is a picture of the relationship between us and God. God lets us make our own decisions. We can go where ever we want to. But the moment we turn to Him, our load is lightened. We have to take the first step, but He carries the load after that.

Jesus’ yoke is the word of God. Following the precepts of the word will lighten our burden. You see, our job is obedience. Then God is responsible for the results.

Father, God,

Keep us from the sin of arrogance, thinking that all depends on us, when it really depends on you. Grant us the wisdom to accept Jesus’ generous gift of salvation and peace.

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.

Grief and Hope

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

~~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (KJV)

Grief comes to all of us from time to time. The loss of a friend or family member, loss of a job or precious possession, or wayward children can grieve us. Somehow, I seem always to have known that such grief is temporary – a reflection of our personal emotions at a specific moment in time – not a permanent condition.

It might have been Doctor G. who quoted the phrase “grieve not as them who have no hope.” I was absolutely certain that it came from this passage of scripture. But I could not find those exact words in any of the translations on biblegateway.com. That quote might just have been a paraphrase rather than a quote. At any rate, the sense is certainly from this passage.

Doctor G. stood as godfather at my baptism in the Lutheran church. He was a rock-solid foundation in my life. A spiritually wise man, he taught me many things. But more than that, he infected me with the joy of the Lord and an educated faith in Jesus.

He was a Bible scholar, a student of the word, and a poet. On my twelfth birthday, he gave me a scrapbook which he had put together with his own hands. And he wrote this poem about him and me and heaven. It’s long, so I’ll just quote the pertinent verses here.

You are twelve years old today, dear,
And I’m past seventy-three.
With back to back we’re dreaming,
But it’s different things we see.

You look AT the golden sunrise,
See dream castle in the mist:
It’s the road ahead for you, dear –
Life at its borning best.
___

I look THROUGH the golden sunset,
With its beckoning promise bright
To a day without a sundown,
Where it’s always day – not night.
___

And when you have passed the Sunset
To the day without Sundown,
When Life’s pilgrimage is over,
And you’ve won your victor’s crown;

I’ll be at the gate of heaven,
With glad heart to see you come;
Glad to welcome you, my daughter,
Into our Eternal Home.

~~ HWG

His knowledge of the word and my faith in his always telling me the exact truth – pleasant or unpleasant – gave me the assurance that this life is not all there is. I can grieve a loss, but it doesn’t decimate me.

My friend was the sister in a family with two brothers. She lost first one and then the other. At the funeral of the second brother, I went to hug her. Her grief was not only obvious, but it was painful to see. There was an element of hopelessness in it that I had never seen before. She could not be comforted.

Paul doesn’t say here that we don’t grieve. We simply do not grieve as those people who have no hope of Christ and the resurrection – no hope of heaven.

Father, God,

Grant that we may always keep our eyes upon You, not on the attractions of this world. Let us see with the eternal perspective the ultimate good in Your will, no matter how it looks from an earthly perspective.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Time Out

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. ~~ Genesis 2:2-3 (KJV)

We seem to live in a hurried and harried kind of world. If we are not doing something constructive, we are absorbing inanities from the media world. But we never seem to give ourselves, or anyone else, time simply to sit and think.

God worked for six days on creation and sat down to rest on the seventh. I don’t believe it was because he needed to rest, for God is untiring. I think he did it more as an example to us. We need time to think, to ruminate, simply to be, and to be in his presence.

Without time for contemplation and meditation, we lose sight of God and our position with him and our purpose in his plans.

It is a management principle that you can expect 85% efficiency from your staff about 85% of the time. The other 15% is just “wasted?” No, the other 15% is that sabbatical that God ordained at the time of creation.

If you expect 100% effectiveness 100% of the time, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and failure. You need that sabbatical that God set aside for you.

Take your sabbath rest. Revel in God’s presence. Let him speak to you. Listen for him. Simply be. You will be amazed at how much more productive your 85% will become.

Father, God,

Help us to prioritize our lives to include a healthy dose of quiet time with You. Stir a longing in our hearts for regular Sabbath moments in our lives. Remind us that we have been set apart for Your purposes, and grant us the wisdom and fidelity and strength to carry them through.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen

Look Deeper

And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.

And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,

Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains:

Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.

And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.

But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,

And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.

For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.

And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.

And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country.

Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding.

And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.

And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.

And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done.

And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.

And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine.

And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts.

And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him.

Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.

And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.  ~~  Mark 5:1-20

In our modern and “enlightened” age, we tend not to think in terms of spirits. Anything which has to do with aberrant behavior must be some form of psychosis or chemical unbalance that we can treat with counseling or medication.

But if the Bible is true, it is all true. That includes this story about the Gerasene. The man was not psychotic or chemically unbalanced. He was demon-possessed.

There are such things as demons. There is spiritual warfare. We need to be aware that we have a spiritual enemy who seeks our eternal destruction.

If we believe in God, we must believe that the devil exists. We see him in conversation with Eve in Genesis 3.

We are told of his fall in Isaiah 14.

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.  ~~  Isaiah 14:12-15

There are multiple references to Satan in the New Testament. And the entire Book of Job is a chronicle of spiritual warfare.

It is part of Satan’s first lie in the Garden of Eden, that mankind can know all things, find answers comprehensible to the finite mind for all questions, discover cures to all diseases and maladies.

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. ~~ Genesis 3:1-7

When we buy into this arrogance of the intellect, we fall directly into the enemy’s hands.

Not everything is part of our physical, tangible world. There is a spiritual plane of which we know far too little. But all we need to know of it is contained in the Bible. We’ll not find it in psychology texts. Nor will we find beneficial information in books of new age spirituality.

Our hope and our confidence comes from the fact that God is Lord of the spiritual realm, just as He is Creator and Lord of this world. When we serve Him, when we rely solely on Him, He will preserve us from the wiles of the enemy.

Father, God,

Stop our ears from hearing the enticements of the enemy. Shield our eyes from the lust to which he would tempt us – whatever form it may take. Fill our eyes and ears and hearts with Your Holy Spirit so that there is no room for anything else.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.