Christian Devotions

Posts tagged ‘Jesus Christ’

Making Things Right

Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord.
Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the Lord.
And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.
And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the Lord.
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.
In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness. ~~ Jeremiah 23:1-6

Reading this passage, I am struck by its similarity to our times.  We have preachers and teachers who dilute the scriptures and preach a social gospel which is not the word of God. Many of our traditional congregations are dwindling because our church leaders want to be popular in order to garner the gifts of the congregation.

Other congregations are springing up – some of which are true to the Word and others are true to the quest for money.

When we water down the words of God, we are feeding the flock plastic Easter grass, not the nourishing fresh green shoots of a verdant pasture. The Lord promises to let us reap the consequences of our actions. “…behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the Lord.

There are multiple adages that echo this truth. “What goes around comes around.” “You reap what you sow, more than you sow, and later than you sow.” “Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.” “Every action carries within itself the seed of its own reward or punishment.”

We know this truth, but we behave as if it weren’t so.

Do not despair. God has promised a faithful remnant. We may have to endure many faithless shepherds and dedicated charlatans, but there is a Redeemer.  We know Him as Jesus Christ. We just celebrated His victory over death and destruction. We have the benefit of the Paraclete that He has sent to dwell with us personally.

If we listen to the whispers of that Comforter, examine everything in the light of God’s word, and obey His directions from the Scriptures, we can be sure that we are in God’s will, doing His work, and reaping His rewards for the faithful.

The word “righteousness” as used in our text for today carries the meanings of justice, virtue and prosperity. Can we be surprised that justice and virtue lead to prosperity?  I think not.

God is clear in His directions. In His world there are no shades of gray. It’s yes or no, right or wrong. Our choice is also clear. But it is our choice to make. Will we be part of His faithful remnant?

Father, God,

Even as You give us clear choices, help us to make the right decisions. We would hear Your voice only. Grant that we may filter out the din and cacophony of this world and enter into your quiet place where we can hear Your words distinctly.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen

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Faithfulness 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)

Faithfulness is a quality I tend to take for granted.  During my formative years, faithfulness was a common expectation within the household. Being unfaithful would not have been tolerated. Since that time, my family and friends have been unfailingly faithful.  (With one notable exception.)

Not everyone has been so blessed. Some people live with others who lie to them, who betray them on many levels, who violate their trust with other abuses.  We live in a dog-eat-dog society where business acquaintances take advantage of others; a culture where morality is relative, with too many shades of gray.

Ah, but there is always one who can live up to the standard of faithfulness.

Definition – 1  obsolete :  full of faith
God has faith in you. He designed you to be exactly who you are and who you can become as your best self. He didn’t make you a reflection of someone else or a duplicate of a parent or grandparent. He made you totally unique – all of a piece – one of a kind – priceless.
Definition – 2:  steadfast in affection or allegiance :  loyal
No one in this world has your best interest at heart as thoroughly as God.  He will never forget you or the plans he has made for your life.
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Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. (Isaiah 45:15-16 KJV)

 Definition -3: firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty : conscientious
Whatever God says is what He will do. He doesn’t make empty promises like people do. Sometimes we make a promise with every intention of carrying it out, but something intervenes and makes it impossible.  We are finite, and sometimes unable to do what we say, despite our best intentions.  God has no such limitations. He is all powerful and can accomplish everything He says.
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So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.  (Isaiah 55:11 KJV)
Definition – 4:  given with strong assurance :  binding <a faithful promise>
We write contracts to be able to rely on the promise of others to do what they say they will do or to enforce compliance and/or exact penalties for breach of promise. We need no such remedy when we have dealings with God. He created a covenant with us. Remember the story of Noah. God made a promise then and has kept it ever since.
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I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. (Genesis 9:13 KJV)
Definition – 5:  true to the facts, to a standard, or to an original <a faithful copy>
This is the part of the definition that we need to take to heart.  God doesn’t fit here. He is the standard, the original, the basic fact. It is up to us to be true to Him. We have been given Jesus Christ as the model for our humanity. Our job is to exemplify his standards, to become so transparent that people do not see us, but the reflection of God in us.
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Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.  (Romans 13:8   KJV)
Father, God,
Thank you for the model you gave us in Jesus during His time on earth. It is a daunting example to live up to. Thank you for filling us with your Holy Spirit to be our guide and comforter, to strengthen us for the tasks of fidelity. Help us to hear, to discern, to obey, and to love.
In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Keep On Keeping On

Focus verses: II Timothy 2:10-13

Enduring is an unpopular occupation, but we have been given the grace through Christ to do just that. Enduring hardship serves to strengthen our resolve and make us less soft or brittle. It works much like annealing steel or glass.

My daughter does glass lamp work. She heats a rod or small length of glass til it is molten in the flame. She works with it and shapes it into the form desired. Then she puts it into an annealing oven so that it does not cool quickly, but slowly, over a period of many hours. This process makes the glass much stronger and less breakable.

It seems that God does that with some of our lives. We endure hardship of many kinds until we have been shaped into what God wants us to be. And even then, He does not turn off the heat. We sit in the annealing oven for an extended period so that we come out more serviceable than ever.

We can endure all this by focusing on Jesus Christ.

11Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
12if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
13if we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.

He is the source of our life and hope. He is the reason for our faithfulness. He is our all in all. So we can keep on keeping on.

Father, God,

When life gets very daily and the going gets tough, reassure us that all things work together for good to those who are called to Your purpose. Help us to keep the faith, doing all that You have commanded, so that we may remain faithful, just as Jesus is faithful.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

That Which Is Needful

Focus verses: Acts 15:1-29

Some of the first century Messianic Jews had followed the Mosaic law all their lives. They could not conceive of anyone being chosen by God who did not follow those laws. Therefore they began to insist that the gentile believers be circumcised and follow all the dietary laws of Moses.

But Paul had seen gentiles converted by the Holy Spirit’s falling upon them. The conversion of the heart came despite the outward appearances of the person. He recognized that people unaccustomed to the Jewish regulations would be hindered by these laws. What was important was the heart of the person being brought to Christ.

What is needed for the believer is a faithful heart, a heart hungry for the Good News.

Notice that the letter to the gentiles from this first church conference deals with the appetites. It asks them to follow certain dietary laws: abstaining from food offered to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.

These regulations are not only spiritually healthy, they have consequences for physical health as well.

When food has been offered to an idol, you have no idea what it has been exposed to, what salmonella or trichinosis or other disease it may be carrying. Often food contamination has to do with the dripping juices from raw meat (ie. blood). Blood is the ideal incubator for bacteria, especially at room temperatures. When an animal is strangled, the blood suffuses throughout the tissue – still an ideal incubator for bacteria. While there may be over-riding moral grounds for following the proscriptions, there are valid physical health reasons as well.

How interesting that sexual immorality is lumped together with these food proscriptions. I can’t help wondering if the health reasons are not a large part of this proscription as well.

The thing most needed is a heart for God. When one desires only to please God, these “regulations” will not be onerous. They are simply a way of conveying one’s gratitude to the Lord for all He has done for us.

Father, God,

Create in us grateful hearts, that we may follow Your edicts willingly, not grudgingly. Help us to recognize that what we gain is far more and better than what we eschew.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen

Good News

Focus verses: Isaiah 52:7-10

In the old movie “Yours, Mine and Ours,” there is a scene of Christmas morning. Six-year-old Phillip comes down the stairs to see that Santa Claus has been there. He turns around and rushes back up the stairs to tell everyone “Santa Claus been here!” And fifteen more sets of feet come pounding down the stairs.

Excitement, chaos, glee, laughter, joy, song all have a part in this scene. I mean this was very good news to all those children.

That same kind of joy and abandon floods our hearts when we hear our good news. Our God reigns. He is sovereign. It will be made obvious to the whole earth.

From Handel’s “Messiah” the chorus booms “And all flesh shall see it together.”

The good news is that God is Sovereign and all of earth and heaven and hell will someday acknowledge His sovereignty. For every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

But there is a special joy for those who confess not that He is Lord, but that He is my Lord. Our lives are purposeful and useful and eternal only when He is not the Lord of something distant or nebulous, but He is the Lord of our lives.

The bumper sticker that says “God is my copilot” is all wrong. God is the pilot; we just fasten our seat belts and come along for the ride. Oh, sometimes we are the flight attendants serving the other passengers, but make no mistake, God is piloting this craft.

That’s the best news of all. Not only is He sovereign, he is immediately involved in our daily lives.

Father, God,

Thank You for caring about each and every one of us to the point that you know the number of hairs on each of our heads. Help us to be daily, hourly, moment-by-moment conscious of Your presence in our lives.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.