Christian Devotions

Posts tagged ‘Love’

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.

 

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Comfort

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

~~  2 Corinthians: 1:3-4 (KJV)

“Who comforts us in all our troubles…”  This particular passage seems to expect that we will all have troubles in our lives. It states troubles as a foregone conclusion, not just a remote possibility.

So often we ask why. Why did this happen? What use are we to make of it? This verse tells us exactly why. We go through troubles in order to comfort others who are going through troubles.

Our God is a God of compassion – not pity – compassion. The root of compassion is patio, meaning to bear or suffer and the prefix com meaning together or with.

The current definition is:  sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

Yesterday, I visited the local funeral home to grieve with and offer comfort to a family who had lost an infant.

We do not understand why we lose infants and children. It matters not whether the immediate cause was disease, accident or murder. The loss of a child is the loss of a future, the loss of a hope.

There will forever be a blank, open, hurting space in our hearts. We do not “get over” this kind of loss. We simply learn to live in an altered universe.

The one constant in our universe is God. No matter the trouble, the hurt, the grief, He is always ready to hold us near to His heart. When bad things happen, we can always turn to Him. He is always there, loving us, bearing with us through everything.

Father, God,

Help us to remember that nothing happens to us without Your foreknowledge, that You are never surprised by circumstance. Remind us that You are our refuge and our strength at all times, no matter what happens to us and around us. Grant us the wisdom to turn to You, not trying to fix things by ourselves. Help us to understand Your love so that we can extend that same kind of love to others.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

 

Love?

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.

For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.  ~~  Matthew 5:44-48 (KJV)

Most Christians are familiar with this scripture, even though we seldom practice it. We give ourselves all kinds of excuses not to follow through with these actions.  Yes actions.

  • Love – Love is not just a warm fuzzy feeling. Love is action – working for the best interest of the beloved.
  • Bless – Speak well of and speak encouragement to this person.
  • Do good – In other words, serve. Bring the coffee; shovel the snow; promote his business…
  • Pray – Bring this person before the throne and thank God that He is sovereign in all things.

I enjoy a subscription to Mikey’s Funnies. Subscribed after my younger cousin began sending me snippets from her subscription. In honor of Valentines Day, he published a list of things youngsters said define love. This little girl has it down pat – from our scripture today scripture.

“If you want to learn to love better,

you should start with a friend who you hate.”

Nikka – age 6

Art Linkletter said it best: “Kids say the darnedest things.”  Some of them put the rest of us to shame.

Father, God,

We ask that You make us a little children, eager to learn and quick to comprehend Your teaching. Give us hearts softened to love those who are not necessarily nice to us. Grant that we may serve You by serving them. Help us to see their needs and work to fulfill them.

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.

 

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.

 

What Makes You Special?

Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.  ~~  Exodus 31:13  [Emphasis mine]

Christians are both different and alike. We are like everyone else in that the same things that happen to others happen to us. We have illness, financial reverses, tragedy, death, loss, success, health and wealth by turns. Life is cyclic. We all know that old saw: what goes around comes around.

One of the things that makes us different, set apart, is how we go through the things that life hands us. When bad things happen, we are not destroyed. When good things happen, we don’t get all puffed up with self-importance.

Why is that? It is because the Lord is sanctifying us – setting us apart for His purposes.

Looking at the word “sanctify” we find this:

    1 :  to set apart to a sacred purpose or to religious use :  consecrate
    2 :  to free from sin :  purify
    3 a :  to impart or impute sacredness, inviolability, or respect to
       b :  to give moral or social sanction to
    4 :  to make productive of holiness or piety <observe the day of the sabbath, to sanctify it — Deuteronomy 5:12 (Douay Version)>

Today is the day we remember how God arranged to sanctify us. Our freedom from sin, our purification, was purchased at a price. The price was the death of Jesus.  But not just His death.

Look at what God did. He voluntarily took a part of Himself, Jesus – the second person of the Trinity, and limited Himself to the shape and capabilities of any man.  Then He offered that part of Himself as the sacrifice to clean up our sins.

He was reviled, rejected, scorned, spit upon, scourged, and finally crucified and buried. He allowed all this to bring us to Himself – to set us apart as His children. That’s how much God loves each and every one of us.

While we remember His sacrifice, let us set this day apart for humble gratitude for His generosity and His love.

Father, God,

Keep us ever mindful of Your love for us. Help us always to know that we’ve been set apart for Your purposes. Give us the grace to remain faithful in all things.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

The Lord Will Provide

And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? 

And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. ~~ Genesis 22:7-8 (KJV)

God not only sees everything, but He also provides. He provides what we need, not necessarily what we want.

So what do we need?  We need food and clothing and shelter and health in order to live as we want. But there are some of us who go without one or another of these things. Some people go hungry. Some barely have rags to cover themselves. Others live on the streets or in cars or in homeless shelters. Still others are in poor health for one reason or another.

Does this mean that God doesn’t provide? No.

He provided the ram for Abraham’s offering. He provided water for Hagar in the wilderness. And He will provide for us as well.

Most importantly, He provided the blood of Jesus for our salvation. He sent the Holy Spirit for our sanctification. And He provides His love which surrounds us eternally.

These are free gifts to us from His love for us – His love for each of us individually.

And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen. ~~ Genesis 22:13-14

Jehovah Jireh, the Lord will provide. You will notice that Abraham went about his business, expecting the Lord to provide the sacrifice. The Lord had given him Isaac. If the Lord wanted Isaac back, Abraham was going to obey God.

But God had promised Abraham that He would make Isaac a great nation. If Isaac were dead, that could not be. Abraham didn’t know how God would keep the promise, but he knew God cannot lie.

He believed that God would provide, and God did provide. He didn’t need to know how God would provide. He simply believed and spoke his belief to his son.

In the face of evidence to the contrary, can we believe that God keeps His promises? How strong is our faith in God’s love for us? How strong is our love for God? How hungry is our heart for His presence?

The only thing we need is God’s presence in our lives. All else will follow.

Paul has it right:

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. ~~ Philippians 4:10-12

Whether life is bountiful or parsimonious, we have the riches of God’s presence. That is all we really need. All else is superfluous.

Father, God,

Help us to know the generosity of Your presence at all times. Keep our hearts and minds focused on You, not on the trappings of this world. Grant us a greater sensitivity to Your presence and Your provision for our lives.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen