Christian Devotions

We Begin Again

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. ~~ Genesis 1:1-2 (KJV)

In the original language, the phrase “without form, and void” can be interpreted as desolate and chaotic. Gratefully I remember this formless void when my world seems too chaotic to bear.

Hope is born of the prospect that even in chaos, God sees order. Therefore, He can help me to bring order and serenity into my life. How?

The indwelling Holy Spirit can enlighten me. In some circles this is known as “discernment.” It is the result of being sensitive to the presence of God in our everyday mundanities. While we are washing the dishes or scrubbing the toilet, God is as near as our next breath. As much as if we were in meditation and prayer.

If we maintain a sense of His presence, we can be “walking with God,” as the scripture says.

Whatever happens in the world around us, God is the source of our order and serenity. Staying close to Him brings us peace. Let us resolve to stay close in this new year.

Father, God,

Help me to silence the cacophony of the everyday in order to listen to the blessed serenity of your eternity.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen

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The Word

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.  ~~  John 1:1-3 (KJV)

In most cases, it’s better to begin at the beginning.  So we start at the beginning of the Gospel of John. We start with the Word. In this case, the Word refers to Jesus.

Jesus was in the beginning with God the Father. Equal with the Father in creative power, there was never a time when He didn’t exist.  As we anticipate the celebration of His incarnation, we need to remember that Jesus is more than the baby in the manger. He is eternal. There was never a time when he didn’t exist.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.  And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.  ~~ Genesis 1:1-3

The Word, the Word of God, the Bible, Scripture. This is our point of contact  with Jesus. We have His words. As we study them, meditate on them, commit them to memory, we come closer to the mind of Christ.

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; ~~ 2 Corinthians 10:5

As we line up our thoughts and actions with the mind of Christ, we find a peace that defies circumstance. In a world of violence, we can rest in God’s sovereignty. Nothing happens without His knowledge. Nor without His provision.

Our sight is generally limited to this temporal world. He sees things in the eternal. There is no tragedy in this life that He cannot redeem in the eternal. We may not see that redemption this side of heaven, but it’s there none-the-less.  And it can be a comfort if we let it.

Father, God,

Help us to study Your Word in order to understand Your thoughts. Grant us the vision to see and the hearts to accept what You would teach us of patience and eternity.  Help us to focus on the Word as we anticipate celebrating the incarnation of Jesus.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

PS: If you want an example of the difference Christ can make in your life, I would direct you to Doc Lynch’s post for today as well. You can find it here.

PPS: I wish you all the joys of the season, the joy of

  • knowing Jesus as your Savior
  • furthering an intimacy with God as you read His word
  • serving the temporal body of Christ in this world
  • resting in His love and provision
  • His salvation

May this Christmas season be your best ever.

And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:

But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;

From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.

For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before,

This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;

And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. ~~~ Hebrews 10:11-18 (KJV)

During the season of advent the world focuses on the coming of the Christ-child as an infant in a manger. But our reading from Hebrews shows Him in all His power and majesty as our high priest forever.

He is the propitiation for our sins. He is our ransom from the world, the flesh and the devil. He is powerful beyond all imagining. He sits at the right hand of God waiting for all His enemies to be made His footstool.

His work is done. When from the cross he said “It is finished” that was exactly what He meant. It is finished, completed, done, all over.

…because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy (v. 14 NIV).

There seems to be a contradiction in this subordinate clause. How can we be already completed as perfect and still undergoing the process of being made holy?

We are perfect in the eyes of God the Father because He sees us through the lens of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. We are “complete” in Him. But we are continually being set apart from the world for the kingdom of God. We are growing in His grace and under His guidance through the Holy Spirit.

My grandmother used to say “It’s a wasted day if you haven’t learned anything new.” Each day, let our goal be to learn more and more about Him and His ways, to walk closer and closer in His footsteps.

Father, God,

Although You see us as perfect through Jesus, our earthly lives are filled with stumbles and shortcomings. Grant that we may walk closer and closer in the footsteps of Christ with the guidance of Your Holy Spirit.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

God With Us

And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.

And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.

And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;

And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.

And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.

And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.

And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,

So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God:

And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.  ~~  Genesis 28:10-22

AARRGGHH!! Don’t we ever learn?

The verses leading up to this passage are full of egos, self-seeking and deceptions. Deceit has had serious consequences in the past and will again in this instance.

However – and this is a big however — when Jacob obeys his father’s directive to go to Paddan Aram to seek a wife, he sets his feet on a righteous path once again. And he is rewarded by this dream and promise from God.

“Surely the Lord is in this place.”

Whether we are aware of it or not, God is with us. Day in and day out, He stands with us. It is our disobedience that builds a wall between Him and us. It’s our wall. It is built brick by brick of little rejections of His call upon our lives.

Do you notice? God’s promise to Jacob is not predicated upon his apology for his deceptions. It carries no contingencies. It is full, complete, absolute.

God knows and we are learning that every action carries within itself the seed of its own reward or punishment. That is called consequences.

But our God is omnipresent – present everywhere at once. With us, beside us, within us if we let Him be.

We are into the season of advent. We will be singing “O come, O come, Immanuel.” It’s a nice song and one of my personal favorites. But it’s redundant. He has already come. He is with us. Let us rejoice in His presence.

Father, God,
Help us to be ever mindful of Your presence with us. Teach us to rely on You and only You at every moment.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen

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.

A Righteous King

Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign.

Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also was Abi, the daughter of Zachariah.

And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did.

He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.

He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.

For he clave to the Lord, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses.

And the Lord was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not. ~~ II Kings 18:1-7 (KJV)

After all the prophecies of doom and gloom, both against the children of Israel and against their enemies, we have a moment’s respite.

Hezekiah, king of Judah, trusted the Lord and did what was right in His eyes. He removed the high places of worship to idols and cut down the Asherah poles. He took anything that could have been called an idol and destroyed it. And the Lord prospered all that he did.

In the middle of all the corruption and evil, one king brought Judah back to the worship of the true God. There are consequences for righteousness as well as consequences for sin.

The consequences of Hezekiah’s faithfulness are just what you would expect. Everything he undertook was successful.

God has given us a blueprint for success and prosperity. He handed it to Moses on Mount Sinai. We are not able to follow that blueprint precisely because we are a fallen people, but God has even given us His Son to cover our shortcomings. God looks at our hearts, not just our actions.

Because we are children of Adam and Eve, we will never be able to keep the law completely. But that shouldn’t keep us from striving to keep it all. Nor should it give us an excuse for not trying.

If we are faithful to Him, God will prosper the work of our hands. That doesn’t mean we will all be millionaires. It does mean that our efforts will be rewarded in one fashion or another.

That reward, however, should not be our goal. Our goal is complete fidelity to the Lord. We may fall short, but we can always pick ourselves up and start again. The more we seek to follow, the better we will get at it.

Father, God,

Save us from being deluded by the lures of this world. Keep us faithful, single-minded on serving You alone.

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.