Christian Devotions

Posts tagged ‘Gift’

Braggarts

Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:

But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.    ~~  Jeremiah 9:23-24 (KJV)

People are natural braggarts.

They love to brag about their accomplishments, their possessions, their skills, their powers. But these are not things to brag about. There will always be someone who has accomplished more in less time. Someone will possess more. Someone else will have greater skill in the same field. Another person will be more powerful.

All these things are vain and empty.

God asks us to be proud of only one thing: that we know Him.

So exactly Who is He?

He is the Creator of all things. He is compassionate and gracious. He is slow to anger. He is loving and faithful. His love is shown by His willingness to forgive. He is righteous. He punishes the guilty. He is just.

It is only when we have a close relationship with Him and understand His ways that we have anything to boast about.

If we have accomplished anything, it’s only because we’ve had His favor. Anything we have acquired to possess has been a gift from Him, because He has made it possible for us to acquire it.

Any skills we have are the gift of God for the natural talents He has given us. Without that innate ability we could not have acquired these skills.

Any power we may have is through His grace. Physical strength is His gift from our birth. Political strength is His gift of favor. Financial strength is His blessing.

None of the things people boast about are theirs to brag about. They are all gifts from God. He is the only thing worth bragging about.

Father, God,

Let our mouths be full of Your praise always. Let our speech reflect Your power and might and majesty. Help us to speak of You, not our selves, that we may draw all men unto You.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

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Wise Men

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. ~~  Matthew 2:11 (KJV)

In many traditions, we’re coming up on the feast of Epiphany, the visit of the Magi to the Christ-child. These men had been looking for the star that indicated His coming. They traveled far and came bearing gifts.

Gold was a gift for royalty; frankincense was a gift for a priest; myrrh was a gift for a funeral.

These wise men had studied the prophecies and knew what had been foretold about the Messiah that the Jews were expecting. So they came to acknowledge Him.

Wise men and women still seek the Lord. But the wisest do more than acknowledge Him. They invite Him into their lives. They open the doors of their hearts and minds to receive Him as their savior and lord.

Father, God,

Grant us the wisdom to seek Your face and the grace to offer ourselves to You as our ultimate gift. Help us to remember that Jesus is our royal priest who died that we might live, not just a babe in a cradle.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

 

 

Saviour and Lord

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

~~ Luke 2:10-11 (KJV)

This season is filled with activity, hustle, bustle, last minute shopping, cooking, package wrapping and stress. For many people it is not a season of good news, but one of disappointment and feelings of inadequacy.

We seem to have lost sight of the reason for the season.

So why do we celebrate?  Is this just an occasion for a day off work? An excuse to party? A competition to see who can spend the most on  gifts of dubious value?

Someone needs to save us from ourselves.

Someone has come to save us – from ourselves and from every other ill in this world.

A Savior – Christ the Lord.

Savior: one that saves from danger or destruction – one who brings salvation

Christ: anointed

Lord: one having power and authority over others

This Sunday, we are pointed to a babe in a stable. This babe had and still has the power and authority to save us from ourselves and all that would seek to destroy us.

If we recognize His Lordship over our lives – the security net He provides us, we need also to recognize His Lordship over our thoughts and actions. He has done all the heavy lifting.

Our job is simply to hear Him and to obey Him. All that follows our obedience is in His hands, not ours.

Today, give yourself a gift – a gift of time to ponder what this Christmas day means – both universally and personally. Take time to kneel at the stable and see the cross on the horizon.

Father, God,

We thank You for Your provision for our lives and our eternity. Give us the grace to recognize our dependence on Your favor. Help us to find time to cultivate a real relationship with You.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

Faith and 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.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.   

Ephesians  2:8-10 ~~ (KJV)

Most people work to earn a living. In our capitalistic society, you gain money by providing either goods or services to someone who is willing to pay for them. It works fairly well in a free market.

Many religions – even some Christian sects – focus on works as a means of earning heaven. Were that so, one would be putting God under an obligation to pay for some service. Wait a minute!

What does God need – NEED – from us?

Absolutely nothing. There is no service we can do for God which He cannot accomplish without us. There is no physical thing we can provide which He does not already own. So how do we earn our place in heaven?

We don’t!

Our place in heaven is a gift from Jesus. He gave it because He loves us. He satisfied our debt and freed us to live without blood-guilt.

The only thing that can keep us from this blessed gift is us. We need to accept by faith that He has paid the price. That there is nothing we can do to earn a place in heaven.

By the same token, we need to serve God – not because He needs our service, but because we need to serve. Only by serving His purposes can we express our gratitude for what He has done for us.

What we do is the evidence of our faith, more evidence than what we say.

The point is that love and faith lead to behavior. If we love God, we behave in loving ways. If we love the world, we behave in selfish, thoughtless ways. Actions are evidence not origins, effects not causes.

Eternal Life is a gift, not a payment.

Father, God,

Give us the grace to accept Your gift of life by faith in You. Grant that we may be truly grateful for the sacrifice of Your Son and evidence the same by our daily walk. Help us to reflect the light of Your love in this world.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

 

Peace Fruit

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  (Galatians 5: 19-23 – NIV)

In our harried and hectic world, peace seems to be in short supply.

There are

  • wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:4-14),
  • terrorist activities,
  • factions,
  • demonstrations, and
  • miscellaneous unrest.

So just what peace are we talking about?

Back to the dictionary:

1:  a state of tranquillity or quiet: as
a :  freedom from civil disturbance
b :  a state of security or order within a community
provided for by law or custom <a breach of
the peace>
2:  freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions
3:  harmony in personal relations
4
a :  a state or period of mutual concord between
governments
b :  a pact or agreement to end hostilities between
those who have been at war or in a state of
enmity
5           —used interjectionally to ask for silence or calm or as a greeting or farewell
— at peace
:  in a state of concord or tranquillity

Aha!  peace is “a state of being”.  A state of our being.
We have little or no control over the events of the world or the circumstances that surround us. But God is sovereign, and he does have control. Nothing that happens surprises him.
I have never taken something to God in prayer and had him reply “Oh, really?  I didn’t know that.” Whatever is going on in our lives is something for which he has made provision. He knew about it in advance.

Therefore, our peace lies in our relationship to the Lord. When we rely on him, disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions have no power over us because we know God is in control.

When we move in obedience to him, he is responsible for the consequences of our actions. He will never ask us to do something not according to his will and his plans for our lives.
 His plan is for us to love one another, so we will have harmony with interpersonal relationships.
Peace.
Father, God,
Thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit. Thank you that you have made plans for our lives, that nothing happens without your permission and provision. Help us to learn to lean quietly on you, no matter the circumstances around us. Help us to hear clearly and obey swiftly the promptings of your Holy Spirit. Thank you for your peace.
In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Wages And Consequences

Focus verses: Romans 6:5-23

Most people work to earn a living. In our capitalistic society, you gain money by providing either goods or services to someone who is willing to pay for them. It works fairly well in a free market.

Many religions – even some Christian sects – focus on works as a means of earning heaven. Were that so, one would be putting God under an obligation to pay for some service. Wait a minute!

What does God need – NEED – from us? Absolutely nothing. There is no service we can do for God which He cannot accomplish without us. There is no physical thing we can provide which He does not already own. So how do we earn our place in heaven?

We don’t!

Our place in heaven is a gift from Jesus. He gave it because He loves us. He satisfied our debt and freed us to live without blood-guilt.

The only thing that can keep us from this blessed gift is us. We need to accept by faith that He has paid the price. That there is nothing we can do to earn a place in heaven.

By the same token, we need to serve God – not because He needs our service, but be cause we need to serve. Only by serving His purposes can we express our gratitude for what He has done for us.

What we do is the evidence of our faith, more evidence than what we say.

My grandmother use to mis-quote this poem as follows:

“I love you, Mother, said little Nell,
“I love you more than tongue can tell.”
Then she teased and pouted the live-long day.
Till her mother rejoiced when she went to play.

I love you, Mother,” said little Nan,
“To-day I’ll help you all that I can;
Busy and happy all day was she;
Helpful and happy as a child could be.

How do you think that mother guessed
Which of them really loved her best?

My memory is what I was taught all those years ago. It isn’t the way the verse is written in the references, but that happens frequently with truisms. The sense is the same, even if the wording and details are different. You can imagine my surprise to learn that the second girl’s name was “Fan” not “Nan” in the original.

The point is that love and faith lead to behavior. If we love God, we behave in loving ways. If we love the world, we behave in selfish, thoughtless ways. Actions are evidence not origins.

We earn the wages of sin by our actions — but we need only accept the gift of Eternal Life
.

Father, God,

Give us the grace to accept Your gift of life by faith in You. Grant that we may be truly grateful for the sacrifice of Your Son and evidence the same by our daily walk. Help us to reflect the light of Your love in this world.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

A Simple Story Bears Repeating

Focus verses: Acts 13:14-52

Today’s reading details the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas. These verses recount the first recorded sermon of Paul. You will notice that it closely parallels the first sermon of Peter from the second chapter of Acts.

God’s faithfulness to His people is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. The story of our redemption never changes.

Evangelizing is not hard. One simply tells the truth. You will notice that both sermons relate the history of God with the nation of Israel. Both quote Jewish scriptures prophetic of Jesus. Both sermons are laid out in a simple order. Both culminate in proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah.

But evangelizing is sometimes unpopular with the established religious institutions. Peter was taken before the Sanhedrin and cautioned to quit teaching about Jesus. Paul was expelled from the region where he was preaching because he shared the good news with the Gentiles since the Jews rejected the inclusiveness of his teaching.

Institutions seem to prefer indoctrination to evangelization.

Indoctrination says “this is what we do and this is why we do it. It’s always been this way.”

Evangelization says “this is what Jesus did for us. We can do nothing to add to His sacrifice. We can only believe.”

Notice the difference in emphasis. Indoctrination is all about us and what we do. Evangelization is all about Jesus and what He has done.

The simple truth is that Jesus paid it all. He paid the ransom for all of us – each one of us individually. From the most innocent child to the most heinous criminal, each of us has an advocate with the Father. He doesn’t try to claim our innocence because we are guilty. He simply says “I paid the price.”

Nothing we can do will earn us heaven. Jesus bought it for us and gave it to us as a gift. We need only to receive Him and that gift into our lives by faith. That is the simple story we can tell others.

Father, God,

So fill our hearts with this simple story that we cannot remain silent about Your magnificent gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. Give us the wisdom to speak gently, but firmly, when others are ready to hear.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.