Christian Devotions

Posts tagged ‘God’

Plans

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.  ~~  Jeremiah 29:11   (KJV)

God thinks about you and me. Just as you think about the people in your life, your children, your parents, your friends, your extended family. But God doesn’t wonder what you are up to. He knows. He sees.

God has plans for us, not just humankind in general, but for each and every one of us in particular. He has a vision for our lives – how we will live, what we will do, how it will all turn out.

If we can catch that vision and cooperate with it, our lives will be the best they can possibly be. Seeing God’s vision for our lives can help us to cooperate with his plans and keep us from spending time and energy questing blindly among what seem to be endless options.

It’s easy to say “catch the vision”. But exactly how do we do this?

  • Spend time with Him, quiet time. Listen as much as you talk.
  • Read the Word, letting it sink into your heart and mind.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you what He would have you know.
  • Pray for wisdom and discernment.

The more you hear His voice, the easier it will be to distinguish it from all the other voices in your life and in your head.

Father, God,

Help us to catch your vision for our lives. Grant that we may listen carefully for the promptings of your Holy Spirit and move in obedience to those promptings.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

And when Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him.

And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying,

So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him.

And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants.

And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?

But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.  ~~  Genesis 50:15-21  (KJV)

Forgiveness and reconciliation give us great difficulty. In the first place, they are not the same thing. You can have forgiveness without reconciliation. But you cannot have reconciliation without forgiveness.

Joseph’s brothers were afraid that Joseph was being kind to them only for their father’s sake. So when Jacob/Israel died, they needed to find out what Joseph’s attitude would be toward them. So they – the offenders – went to Joseph – the offended – with their apology. And Joseph forgave them and was reconciled to them.

Forgiveness is something you do for yourself. Holding a grudge takes time and energy and effort. It makes you unhappy because you dwell on the offense, not on the present joys you may have. Worst of all, however, holding a grudge puts you at odds with God. Not a pleasant place to be.

You can forgive unilaterally. The offender need not ask for forgiveness.

Reconciliation is another matter. It involves a recognition of the offense from both the offender and the offended. It requires forgiveness. And it requires a rebuilt sense of trust between the offender and the offended.

Joseph had seen the remorse of his brothers, first when they came to Egypt to purchase grain and in the intervening years between their dad’s settling in Egypt and his death seven years later. We have a tender reconciliation scene in which Joseph indicates his forgiveness of this brothers as well as his desire that they be provided for.

Can you recall an offender that you haven’t forgiven? Is there someone with whom you need to be reconciled? What steps can you take to remedy these issues?

Father, God,

You have commanded us to forgive. Give us the strength and stamina to forgive, even when there has been no apology. Grant us the faith to put our reconciliations into Your hands.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

The Awesome, Awful Truth

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.  ~~  John 8:32  (KJV)

Freedom and truth are highly prized in this day – freedom more than truth, I fear.

But without truth, there is no freedom.

So how do we know the truth? There are some clues.

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.  ~~  John 14:6 (KJV)

Jesus came as savior and redeemer to give us direct access to a Holy God Who will not look upon sin without righteous anger.

I don’t know about you, but the righteous anger of God scares the pudding out of me.

Yes, God is a God of love. Yes, He loves all His creation. We have ample evidence of that.

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)

Jesus, Himself, is the evidence of God’s love.  Look at these verses carefully. When it says the world, it means every single person in the world, no exceptions.

The daughter who takes care of frailing parents; the man who lives around the street corner under a bridge; the members of the family in the big house on the hill; the loudmouthed gossip at the coffee shop;  all of them. Each and every one of them. And not just them.

He loves the victims of crime AND the perpetrators of those crimes. The saving grace of Jesus, our Redeemer, is open to them all.

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.  Romans 3:20-26  (KJV)

In the eyes of God, the person who steals a pen from a desk is just as guilty as the one who kills people at random. There is no  degree of sin. Sin is sin, period.

We are not ever going to be “good enough” for God. There is no way for us to earn His favor. Only Jesus Christ can redeem us for eternity with Him.

I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.   ~~   Luke 13:3  (KJV

So what does it mean to repent?  Is it just being sorry we got caught in something shady? Is it just feeling bad about something we said or did?  Well, not really.  According to Merriam Webster:

Repent means — to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life.

This requires a 180 degree change in thinking and behavior.

The other part is believing, believing that Jesus is Who He says He Is; believing that He is the means of our salvation; believing that obedience to His will is paramount in our lives.

Believing that He came for love of us. He loves us – each and every one of us – as if we were His only child.

The awful and awesome truth is that we make the choice. We determine our own eternity. We choose to believe – or we choose to not believe.

Please choose now. Time is running out.

Father, God,

Help us to see ourselves truthfully. Give us the wisdom to acknowledge our sins and the grace to repent of them. Fill us with a hunger to know You and let us empty ourselves of self so that Your Holy Spirit can take full possession.

In Jesus’ most precious name,

Amen.

 

Whosoever

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)

Whosoever is the critical word in this passage. It is all encompassing. It excludes no one. It means any one at all.

That includes the child that you cannot seem to control, the co-worker who is undermining your reputation with the boss, the cranky neighbor who threatened to kill your dog if it barks one more time past 9:00 pm.

It also includes those who incite to riot, those who would destroy our society, those who plot against our nation.

For God so loved the world…

All the world, every whosoever in it, good, bad, or indifferent.

God loves them, every one individually. So if we are to be sons and daughters of God, we need to love them as well.

What?! You mean I must love this person I can’t stand to be in the same room with?  How do I do that?

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. ~~ Matthew 5:44-45 (KJV)

See also Luke 6:27-29

Things happen when a believing person prays. They may not be the things we thought would happen, but changes do come about.

The first thing that happens when we pray for someone is that we are changed.We begin to see this person with the eyes of the Father. Any anger and resentment we have against that person diminishes until it disappears.

Whether the person we pray for changes is not our business. Once we pray for that person, the results are in the hands of God.

God is a “whosoever” God. He excludes no one.  Each one excludes himself by disbelief.’

Father, God,

Help us to see all the whosoevers in this world as You see them, through Your eyes of love. Grant that we may pray for them to be wooed back into your family. Give us the grace to rejoice over the prodigal returned.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

 

Knowledge and Wisdom

Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews.
They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever.
Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image:
And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.

There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king.

Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?

Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated.
And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.
Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
Therefore because the king’s commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flames of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.

Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.

He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.

Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire.

And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.

Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.

Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.

Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.

~~ Daniel 3:8-30 (KJV)

The story of the fiery furnace has been quoted time and again. It’s told in Sunday School and in Summer Bible School frequently.

Our focus today, Nebuchadnezzar. He acknowledged the wisdom and knowledge of these Jewish slaves earlier by promoting them to positions of authority in his kingdom. But he was willing to destroy them because they would not worship him and his golden statue instead of their God.

When that failed, when they came through the fiery furnace untouched by flame or smoke, he acknowledged the power of their God.

Ah, but did he believe? Did he worship God. There is no evidence that he did.

We have knowledge of God today, but intellectual acceptance of the existence of God and His power are not enough. Daniel and his friends communed with God four times daily. They went on purpose to a quiet place where God was the only thing on their minds. The bowed in prayer and listened for His Word.

The key to heaven is a relationship with God. Not just a position in a hierarchy, but a relationship.

I have a friend that meets me for breakfast every Wednesday morning. We eat together; we pray together; we share the daily happenings in our lives.  When something good happens, we celebrate it. When something not so good happens, we pray over it. This is a relationship.

Do you meet God on a regular basis? Do you invite Him into your life every minute (even when you are scrubbing the toilet)?

Knowledge of God is a good thing, but it is not enough. A relationship with God gives you everything you will ever need.

Father, God,

Help us to understand that You are all we need. But we need You desperately. Give us the grace to acquire knowledge of you and even more grace to cultivate a relationship with you. Grant us the awareness of Your presence at every hour of our day. Let us be purposefully seeking you at all times.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

Purpose

And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.

Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:

Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. ~~ Daniel 1:5-8 (KJV)

The children of Judah were given entirely new names. Their original names referred to God.

  • Daniel – God is my judge
  • Hananiah. –  Yahweh is gracious
  • Mishael – who is like God
  • Azariah – God helps

Their new names referred to the Babylonian Gods.

  • Shadrach – command of Aku, Babylonian god of the Moon
  • Meshach – who is what Aku is
  • Abednego – servant of Nego, the Babylonian god of wisdom

The Babylonians were trying to erase all memory of their past lives in these captives.

But Daniel purposed in his heart . . .

Today, we need to emulate Daniel by purposing in our hearts. We have drifted like flotsam on the tides of culture letting them take us where they will. It is time to be decisive about what we will and won’t do, what we will and won’t  condone.

You will notice that Daniel didn’t make a fuss about his refusal to eat the king’s meat. He simply made a test bargain with the prince of the eunuchs. He went quietly about his business, never veering from his purpose. Would that we could be so purposeful.

Father, God,

Help us to be like Daniel, faithful to the last breath to You and Your commandments. Grant us the strength of will to continue, no matter what would try to distract us or defeat us. We thank You that You are our All in All.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

And the Lord Gave…

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.

And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.

~~  Daniel 1:1-2  (KJV)

While the book of Daniel is a book of prophecy, both prophecy fulfilled and prophecy yet to be fulfilled, it is also a book of history.

These opening verses are a simple statement of historical fact.

It could be a newspaper account with most of the journalistic questions being answered in two sentences.

  • When: In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah
  • Who: Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon
  • Where: Jerusalem
  • What: Siege and fall

The “why” question is not answered here.

Or maybe it is. “the Lord gave…”

It is a simple statement of the Lord being involved in the everyday activities of men and nations.

More of the why is written in Jeremiah 25 where the reasons for this judgment upon the people of Judah are spelled out clearly. Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, has spoken to the nation time after time, and the people have not heeded his words.

God is good enough to give us prophets who will help us to stay on track with His will.

We have them today.

Are we listening?

Father, God,

We sometimes forget that you are involved in the day to day affairs of men. Help us to remember that You are interested in the smallest detail of our personal and collective lives. Grant us the grace to see things from Your perspective. Give us hearts of flesh that we might love Your people as You love them. Stir in us the hunger to seek Your face above all else.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.