Christian Devotions

Archive for the ‘Wisdom’ Category

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.

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

The Lamp of the Lord

The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly.  ~~  Proverbs 20:27 (KJV)

In Genesis, the opening of creation is God’s “let there be light.” it is not only the beginning of creation, it is the beginning of our understanding of ourselves.

When we allow God to shine the light of His love into the dark corners of our hearts, we learn what we’ve hidden there. Sometimes we find our sins – of omission or commission – that we’ve left un-repented. And seeing them, we are given the opportunity to repent and set things right.

Sometimes we find the dregs of discouragement or disillusionment. In the light of God’s love we can see them for what they are – temporary setbacks designed to grow our faith and patience muscles.

Occasionally we find the scars of hurts and injuries we’ve suffered in the past. Perhaps they are inflamed and swollen because we’ve not completely forgiven the offender, but simply stuffed the emotions. God’s light can help us to see the offender through His eyes – as a beloved child who has strayed.

When we cooperate with God’s investigation of our spirit, we are enriched. He doesn’t search our hearts to be informed. He searches our hearts to inform us.

Father, God,

Shine the light of Your love in my heart today. Help me to see those things that You would have me see and to correct those things You would have me correct.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

First Published 19 May 2009 in Garment of Praise.

Firmly Established

And king Solomon shall be blessed, and the throne of David shall be established before the Lord for ever. I Kings 2:45

Solomon’s kingdom was firmly established.

Solomon was a wise man by nature. There were factors in the kingdom that he had to eliminate. There were other things that he had to embrace.

This is true of those who would follow Jesus as well. When we become Christians, there are things we need to cut out of our lives. We break some habits that are counterproductive. We leave off socializing with people who would draw us away from our fidelity to Christ.

By the same token, there are new things that we need to add to our lives. There will be mentors and friends from this new way of living. We need to be open to the changes that God will make in our lives.

When something new comes along, we need to evaluate it in light of our relationship with Christ. If it helps us to stay true to our faith in Christ, it is something we need to adopt. If it draws us away from our faith in Christ, we need to cut it from our lives, lest we be drawn away from the faith we profess.

Father, God,

Grant us the wisdom to see what is beneficial and what is detrimental to our faith. Give us the courage to embrace the beneficial, and help us to rid our lives of the detrimental.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Purpose

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;

Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:

Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.

For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.  ~~ 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15  (KJV)

In Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica, he warned them against idleness. What he referred to was the idleness of not earning your way in the world. Not doing the work of the Lord with the purpose He had in mind for your life.

He points to himself as the example of working while teaching. This was not because his teaching was not worthy of payment, but because he wanted to show them the industriousness that needs to accompany the teacher. It is not enough to sit idly by and just think in an ivory tower. One needs to have the experience of the work at hand to base one’s theories upon.

I don’t believe it is any accident that this warning immediately follows Paul’s dissertation on the second coming of Christ. Early church fathers knew and accepted the principle that our time is short (in light of eternity) and that we must be busy about the Lord’s work.

The book of Proverbs was well known in Paul’s time. I memorized Proverbs 29:18 in the KJV when I was a child.

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

Sometimes it is a struggle to see the vision God has for your life. When the world seems to cave in upon you, when everything you thought you had is ripped away, when tragedy and destruction mark your path, you have great difficulty seeing a vision of your purpose in God’s world.Those minutes and hours, once spent, are irredeemable.

Our purpose is to serve the Lord and His church. For that we need all the time eternity can offer.

Father, God,

Teach us to number our days so that we may give a good account of them when Your Son returns. Grant that we may be useful in Your kingdom. Help us to see the vision You have for our lives.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Love?

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.  ~~  Matthew 5:44-48 (KJV)

Most Christians are familiar with this scripture, even though we seldom practice it. We give ourselves all kinds of excuses not to follow through with these actions.  Yes actions.

  • Love – Love is not just a warm fuzzy feeling. Love is action – working for the best interest of the beloved.
  • Bless – Speak well of and speak encouragement to this person.
  • Do good – In other words, serve. Bring the coffee; shovel the snow; promote his business…
  • Pray – Bring this person before the throne and thank God that He is sovereign in all things.

I enjoy a subscription to Mikey’s Funnies. Subscribed after my younger cousin began sending me snippets from her subscription. In honor of Valentines Day, he published a list of things youngsters said define love. This little girl has it down pat – from our scripture today scripture.

“If you want to learn to love better,

you should start with a friend who you hate.”

Nikka – age 6

Art Linkletter said it best: “Kids say the darnedest things.”  Some of them put the rest of us to shame.

Father, God,

We ask that You make us a little children, eager to learn and quick to comprehend Your teaching. Give us hearts softened to love those who are not necessarily nice to us. Grant that we may serve You by serving them. Help us to see their needs and work to fulfill them.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

Sanctuary – God With Us

And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. ~~  Exodus 25:8 (KJV)

God is particular about the temple. Even if it is just a “tent of meeting” there are many details to be attended to. He gives specific instructions about the garb of the priests and the furnishings of the tent. Why is that?

A sanctuary is not just a place. It is a holy place, set apart. For the people of Moses, the tent of meeting was that place.

For the Christian, however, that sanctuary is to be his heart. We have been promised that God will dwell with us. But he won’t dwell in a hovel or a pigsty.

So how do we furnish this new tabernacle for the Lord?

We begin with an attitude of gratitude, being mindful of all the God has done for us. We move to obedience to His promptings as our response to His grace and generosity. And at the end, we find that we have a close fellowship with Him – the ultimate blessing.

In the interim, we clean house of all that would be offensive. We turn our backs on temptation. We squelch the spirit of envy or jealousy. We follow, to the best of our ability, the rules that came down from the mount. And we keep them locked into the very center of our of our hearts as the key to all that we do, or say, or think.

Father, God,

Help us to clean house. Shine the light of your word into the dark places of our hearts so that we may see our offenses and rid ourselves of them. Help us to make a sanctuary in our hearts for You.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.