Christian Devotions

Love Who? Forgive Who?

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)

God created man in His own image. Scripture doesn’t exactly say why God created man, but the verses in Genesis would have me believing that He created man for companionship. While it is not explicitly stated, there is the inference that God walked with Adam in the garden regularly.

Then old slewfoot entered the picture and cast doubt upon God’s word and single prohibition.

“Did God really say…?” Followed by “Well, He didn’t really mean it like that.”

Yes, He did say. And yes, He did mean just exactly that.

John 3:16 is probably the first verse a new Christian memorizes (if verse memorization is still encouraged). At least it was the first verse my contemporaries and I learned. But we didn’t learn it all, because we didn’t memorize verse 17 as well.

Most of us have heard that where it says “the world” and “whosoever” you can substitute your own name.

For God so loved ________, that he gave his only begotten Son, that __________ [believing] in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Okay, but what does this have to do with forgiveness?

Glad you asked.

See those blanks?  Now insert the name of someone who has harmed you in some way.

Yeah, the guy who cut you off in traffic or the woman who told lies about you to keep you from that promotion or anyone who has hurt you or made you angry in any manner. (For me, that includes the former son-in-law who murdered three of my grandchildren.)

When God said “the world”, he meant those people, too.

God’s love is much bigger than ours. But if God loves them, and if I’m a follower of Christ, then I must love them, also.

True love is NOT a warm, fuzzy feeling. It is a decision followed by a course of action. Love is a decision to seek the welfare of another person above your own.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

When we look at verse 17, we can take out “the world”, insert blanks again, and then write in the name of that person who has harmed or offended you.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn __________; but that __________ through him might be saved.

Oh, ouch!

Can God really forgive ____________? (Insert the name of any offense in that blank.)

Yes, he can.

Look at King David. He was called a man after God’s own heart.

And when he [God] had removed him [Saul], he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.  ~~  Acts 13:22 (KJV)

Really?

David, the man who coveted another man’s wife? David, the man who committed adultery with Bathsheba?

David, the man who tried to manipulate Uriah to cover his sin? David, the man who conspired to have Uriah killed in battle?

Yes, that David.

The saving grace was that David, imperfect and sinful as he was, did love God. He wanted to do as God willed. He simply fell far short of that mark.

In all his transgressions, David recognized his sin was against God and God’s commandments. Actually, that’s where every sin lies – against God’s commandments.

God’s capacity to forgive is much bigger than ours. But if God forgives them, and if I’m a follower of Christ, then I must forgive them, also.

Forgive – definition

transitive verb

1 : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : pardonforgive one’s enemies

2a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital (see requital sense 1) for forgive an insult

b : to grant relief from payment of forgive a debt

Forgiveness is NOT the same as reconciliation. Forgiveness is a decision followed by a course of action. Forgiveness is a decision to absolve from payment and to renounce anger and resentment against someone who has harmed you.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, … and pray for them which despitefully use you, ~~ Matthew 5:44

The only positive action you must take after that decision is to remember that person in your prayers.

Father God,

Help us to remember who we are in you. Give us the grace to see other people through your eyes of love. Empower us to be swift to forgive.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen

 

 

 

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Great Faithfulness

Remember my affliction and roaming,
The wormwood and the gall.

My soul still remembers
And sinks within me.

This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.

They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!” ~~ Lamentations 3:18-24 (NKJV)

There was a time in my life when I could have written these verses. The personal desolation of the first twenty-one verses of Chapter 3 in Lamentations describes the circumstances of the last two decades of my life. It began with the murder of a beloved family member and spiraled downward from there.

But when the grief would have overwhelmed me, could have swallowed me whole, the words of an old hymn  built upon verses twenty-two and twenty-three seemed to rise up out of the middle of my spirit. The music and theology in that hymn buoyed my spirit to survive the waves of sorrow.

In 1972, Malcolm Smith published a book entitled Turn Your Back on the Problem. The premise was that as long as you focus on the problem you will be overwhelmed. But when you quit looking at the problem and start looking toward God, you see things in a different perspective.

No matter what the circumstances are, God is the faithful rock upon which we can build our hope. He is the source of all our strength. He deals mercifully with us.

And He starts again each morning as if it were the first morning of creation.

Great is His faithfulness.

Let us begin by being faithful to Him.

Father, God,

Grant us the wisdom and strength to keep our eyes upon You in every circumstance. Help us to focus our attention on Who You are, not on what is going on with us, within us, and around us.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

What and Why

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)

Looking at these verses tells us what we are, creations in the image and likeness of God. We were created to have dominion over all the other creations of God.

And we were created in two genders. The two genders were, in my view, needed because of our human limitations. God is infinite with infinite capacities for love, tenderness, judgment and wrath.

It would be impossible to get all the qualities of God wrapped up into a single human being, unless that human form were God himself in the person of Jesus Christ.

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.

And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. ~~ Genesis 2:19-25 (KJV)

This excerpt speaks to the creation of woman out of man. She was created to be a companion equal to and fit for him. This places woman at the side of man.

The relationships in these two passages are both vertical (with God) and horizontal (with man).

Because God is our creator, we are subservient to him, to his purposes and plans. We are not capable of knowing all of those purposes and plans, but we are capable of trusting him to know them and to see them to fruition. We need only supply our obedience to him.

Because woman was created from the rib of man, they are the same flesh. She wasn’t created from his head to be dominant over him, nor from his feet to be subservient. She was created to be a companion and helper, fitted to him perfectly. Equal in all things.

This requires being respectful, submissive, kind, and loving.

We respect others because they, too, were made in God’s image.

Submission requires letting people see who we are, without pretense or mask, and letting them show us who they are the same way.

Kindness means treating each person as if they were your other self.

Loving means having their best interest at heart, equal to or even more than your own self-interest.

Those are tall orders, but possible if we remember who we are and whose we are.

Father, God,

Help us always to remember that our beginning is in you and that everyone else has that same beginning. Keep us ever faithful to tending your hurting world, mending relationships and healing wounds.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

In Memoriam

And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face,  ~~  Deuteronomy 34:10 (KJV)

The death of Moses is the end of an era for the children of Israel. Joshua has been installed as leader by the laying on of hands. But the verse we focus on today is Moses’ epitaph.

Imagine speaking face to face with God. At some point we will see Him face to face, and speak with Him one on one. But Moses did it while he was here.

We can come close to this kind of relationship with God. But it requires that we seek Him above all else, that all our desires and aspirations be laid on the altar of God’s will, that all our relationships be subject to His scrutiny, that all our actions align with His commandments.

Whew! That’s a tall order. And we are incapable of fulfilling it by ourselves. We need Him. We need His Holy Spirit to shine God’s light on our circumstances, so that we can see the world around us as He sees it.

So think about your own epitaph. Will they say of you that you knew God?

Father, God,

Help us to clear our minds and hearts of all the extraneous things that would pull our attention away from You. Grant us the singleness of mind and heart to seek You above all else.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Remembering John (Jay) Dumond and his fidelity to God and family.

Proximity

And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.

Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments:

And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.

And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.

And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.

So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan, that is, Bethel, he and all the people that were with him.

And he built there an altar, and called the place Elbethel: because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother.

But Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth.

And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him.

And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel.  ~~  Genesis 35:1-10

The rape of Dinah and the revenge of her brothers are directly related to geography. Jacob had settled in the middle of people who didn’t follow the Lord God. They were uncircumcised and had heathen practices.

Proximity to those practices has already affected Jacob’s family. The revenge exacted by Simeon and Levi makes it impossible for Jacob to stay where he is. So he moves yet again — this time to a place where reverence for the Lord is predominant.

We live in the midst of the heathen. While the United States claims to be a Christian nation, it is, in fact, a plural society. The predominant religion seems to be secular humanism. We are bombarded by advertising and entertainment that promulgate immoral behaviors. And we are criticized as narrow-minded or judgmental or intolerant when we reiterate the standards set forth in the word of God.

While we cannot move geographically into a pure country, we can rid ourselves of the “foreign gods” of humanism, consumerism, and immorality. We can purify ourselves by steeping ourselves in God’s word.

And we can move out in society, openly, honestly proclaiming God’s word. We can speak the truth that what God calls “abomination,” humanism calls “alternative lifestyle.” What society calls “choice,” God calls murder. We can speak gently, lovingly. But we must speak the truth.

Father, God,

Grant us the grace of purity of mind and heart. Give us the courage to speak boldly the truth of Your word. And keep us ever close to you.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

A Ruinous Path

These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.~~ Proverbs 6:16-19 (KJV)

This is one of the scariest passages in scripture. It enumerates things the Lord hates. And if we examine ourselves carefully, we find we have probably transgressed on at least one of these personally.

As a nation we are doubly guilty.

  • A proud look: those who have look down on those who have not.
  • A lying tongue: on air not long ago, one of the people who had been privy to the highest offices in the land said “Everyone lies.” It was said with a straight face in a matter-of-fact tone of voice. She could have been saying “It’s Monday.”
  • Hands that shed innocent blood:  we do it in the name of choice.
  • He that soweth discord among the brethren: we have racial divisions (for which there is no genetic rationale) and  political divisions and class divisions. Moreover, there are people who stir up trouble between these factions for their own reasons: power, prestige, financial gain.

Our world is full of deception and wickedness. Our nation has become party to all these evils.

We cannot believe that the Lord will just wink at these things. We have seen how He dealt with the nation of Israel when they were faithless. We must turn this nation around to follow His precepts lest similar ills befall us s well.

We, the Christians, are called upon to pray for our country and its leaders. The prayers of no one else will be sufficient.

As followers of Christ, we must examine ourselves, confess our shortcomings, and be in constant prayer for this land that we love.

Father, God,

Have mercy on our land. Help us to right the wrongs we have done as a nation. Keep us on our knees in prayer for change.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Love is…

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profits me nothing.

love suffers long, and is kind; love envies not; love vaunts not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil;

Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;

Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

love never fails: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

And now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. “

~~  I Corinthians 13:1-13 (NKJV)

Love is the key to the Christian life. But I think, sometimes, we miss the mark on our definition of love. While this chapter is frequently read at weddings, I believe it has less to do with weddings than the everyday relationships between friends, family, neighbors and co-workers.

Jesus said the first commandment was to love the Lord. But what kind of love is this? It certainly isn’t the same kind of physical desire and emotion that men and women sometimes feel for one another. It is, in fact, not a “feeling” so much as a decision and commitment. You seek the Lord and His will for your life, so that what you do pleases Him. It is His approval that you are wanting. His “well done, good and faithful servant” is your goal.

We love the Lord by loving what He created. This kind of love is committed to the well-being of the other. We are to work for the benefit of the Lord’s creation. Since man was created in the image of God, when we look at another person, we should strive to see the mark of God on him or her. It is that essence of the divine in each person that we respect and admire.

The qualities of love in Paul’s list spring from the recognition of God’s image in man. We have no clear picture of God except what of God is reflected in man. In eternity, we shall see Him face to face – no veil, no shadow, no dim mirror.

Father, God,

Prepare us to see You face to face. Create in us Your love for all mankind. Help us to hear as You hear, see as You see, and love as You love.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.