Christian Devotions

Go Where?

 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Matthew 28:18-20  (KJV)

Well, this is pretty clear. The grammarian in me notices right away that the “go ye therefore, and teach…” is in the imperative – a direction or command. As Christians, we have one over-riding job: to teach what Jesus taught.

But what about this “all nations” thing?  Are we all to travel to foreign lands to do this teaching?  I think not. “All nations” includes the people in our workplaces, our grocery stores, the restaurants and coffee shops we haunt, and even our churches.

“All nations” means the place where we are at the moment.

“But I’m no teacher” you say.  Ah, but you are. You teach by example. The way you handle yourself in difficult situations, when you are gracious to someone who has been ungracious, the faith you exhibit in the face of tragedy and loss are lessons seen and absorbed by those around you.  If your response to unfavorable situations is sufficiently different from theirs, they will come to you with questions.

After a particularly nasty time in my life, people came to me saying things like “you’re so strong,” and “I don’t see how you do it.” That gave me the opportunity to say that I wasn’t strong, but I knew where to lean which made me look strong.

You see, our teaching others is simply an opportunity to brag on God, to tell them how wonderful He is and all the beautiful things He does for us. We need not have an educational agenda – a lesson plan, if you will.  Our job is simply to answer the questions asked and to step out of the way so the Holy Spirit can do His work of convicting and wooing and teaching.

The best teachers are facilitators. They share their knowledge and instill a thirst for more knowledge in their students. There is no way that I can wrap my finite little mind around the magnificence of our infinite God. But I can share what I know and help create a thirst in others to know more.

“Go ye therefore, and teach…”

Father, God,

Help us to exemplify all that You would have us teach others. Give us the patience to wait for the questions and the wisdom to answer just enough to start the questioner on his journey to You. Fill our mouths alternately with Your words and Your silence. Let us not fall in love with the sound of our own voices.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

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Sin on Parade

For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his glory.

The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.

Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.

Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.

As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.

The Lord standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people.

The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. ~~ Isaiah 3:8-14 (KJV)

Unacknowledged and unrepented sin is fatal. When a people will not acknowledge its sins as sin and will not repent of it, they have marked themselves for destruction.

I read this verse and shuddered: “They declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.”

As a nation, we, too, parade our sins like Sodom. We parade the sin of sodomy and give it place in our world by trying to legitimize it.

We make laws that put innocence in danger and justify expediency over righteousness.

We reward those who manipulate and scheme and commit fraud and usury.

Our legal system has been skewed to favor the powerful over the just; it has overstepped its boundaries at the behest of the powerful.

As a nation, we are in terrible shape. We have committed every sin in the book. We have earned all the reprisals listed in the book.

God is just and merciful to those who acknowledge their sin and repent. But God is also righteous, and those who flout their sin proudly will not receive mercy.

As individuals, let us examine our hearts to root out and repent of our personal sins. As a nation, let us work to return our country to the righteousness of the Lord.

Father, God,

Shine the light of Your love into our hearts to show us our sins that we may repent of them. Give us the discernment to see those who would lead us astray, and let us have the courage not to elect leaders who will pull us down that path.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Are You Weary?

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

~~ Matthew 11:28  (KJV)

Do you find yourself working harder and getting nowhere? Are you spinning your wheels to no avail? Sometimes we need to work smarter, not harder. Jesus knew that some of us would find ourselves trapped in the rat race.

Sometimes it’s because we take on more than is our true responsibility.  Some things are beyond our control. We are not responsible for them.

Some things are within our control. We are responsible for them. Our job is to learn the difference and behave accordingly.

Let’s look at the two following verses.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.       ~~       Matthew 11:28,29 KJV

Yoke is an interesting word. It is the connector between a pair of working animals to keep them in tandem. But the two animals have different functions even when yoked together.

When I was a child, my grandfather hired George, a man with a pair of horses, to plow what we lovingly called “the north 40”, a section of the city block which he owned and planted to corn and other vegetables every spring. I was fascinated watching the pair of animals, but I noticed that they did not move exactly in tandem. So I asked George what the difference was. He told me the horse on the left was the starter, but the horse on the right carried the load.

horses

At his “gee-up” the left horse moved first to overcome the inertia of the plow, but as soon as that initial inertia was diminished, the other horse pulled slightly ahead, carrying the brunt of the weight of the moving plow.

That is a picture of the relationship between us and God. God lets us make our own decisions. We can go where ever we want to. But the moment we turn to Him, our load is lightened. We have to take the first step, but He carries the load after that.

Jesus’ yoke is the word of God. Following the precepts of the word will lighten our burden. You see, our job is obedience. Then God is responsible for the results.

Father, God,

Keep us from the sin of arrogance, thinking that all depends on us, when it really depends on you. Grant us the wisdom to accept Jesus’ generous gift of salvation and peace.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

All Joy… ?

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;

Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.

A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. ~~ James 1:1-8 (KJV)

The book of James is filled with practical advice for the Christian. It was written to the tribes of Israel in diaspora and conveys practical applications of the faith for Christians today.

The opening sounds like an oxymoron. Consider it pure joy when you face trials. My first reaction is “Bah, humbug!” Who enjoys trials and persecutions and difficulties? Certainly not me!

But having been through a few of them, I can tell you that the presence of the Lord is nearest when you need him the most. When you are about to face the totally unthinkable, He will give you the exact knowledge you need precisely at the moment you need it.

The presence and nearness of the Lord will give you the strength to persevere through anything – absolutely anything – that the world and the enemy can throw at you.

When you need to know what to do next, you simply ask Him. He will tell you the next step to take. But there is a stipulation here. You need to be so familiar with His voice and His thoughts that the enemy cannot lead you astray. Those who spend time in His word will know His voice. To them it will be almost as audible as if He were speaking aloud an entire room full of people.

At times when I have been driving in the car and mulling over something that needed handling, His voice has been as audible as if He were in the seat beside me, speaking directly into my ear. Actually, for the Christian, He dwells within your heart and speaks directly to your spirit.

Our job is to be so familiar with His voice that no one can counterfeit it. Consider it all joy that you know His voice at all times and in all circumstances.

Father, God,

Draw us ever closer to You. Teach us the nuances of Your voice so that we may ever be obedient to Your word and always edified by Your presence.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Can We Not Blush?

For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.

They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.

Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord.

Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.

Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken.

Therefore hear, ye nations, and know, O congregation, what is among them.

Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it.

To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me.

Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will lay stumblingblocks before this people, and the fathers and the sons together shall fall upon them; the neighbour and his friend shall perish.

~~ Jeremiah 6:13-21 (KJV)

Jeremiah’s words ring true for us today. Look at his description of the people.

Greedy for gain. People today are chasing the almighty dollar as if it could fix all their woes. We have TV programs that push consumerism and rampant greed. We purchase lottery tickets, hoping to win millions or tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars. We gamble on dogs or horses or sporting events or cards or in casinos hoping to gain money we did not earn.

Deceitful. Perhaps we are not all out and out liars, but we do seem to manage to bend the truth to fit our purposes. It’s a matter of leaving out a detail or two — or adding a bit of color that wasn’t really there. We tell people what we think they want to hear instead of the unvarnished truth. We gloss over details in order to make a thing look better.

Politicians do it. Admen do it. Employees and employers do it. Husbands tell wives only what they think the wife wants to hear. Wives tell husbands only what they cannot hide. We might as well all be fly-by-night peddlers of inferior goods.

They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly.” What can he mean here? Let’s see. The moral fiber of our nation has been lost to secular humanism, our new religion. But we try to make laws – based on the ten commandments – without referring to them or to their originator. We have rampant evil in our society.

Murder and mayhem are common, so we try to fix them with incarceration as a deterrent. There is no deterrent when there is no conscience. We have steadily educated the conscience out of our youth. We have taught them “situation ethics” instead of moral absolutes.

And we have no shame.

We no longer know how to blush.

Promiscuity, lewd behavior, grasping greed, and deceit have become our way of life, activities which are not only tolerated, but expected.

Those who don’t behave that way and call for a different standard of behavior are labeled “intolerant” — the worst epithet this current generation can apply.

The Lord prescribes the cure: to look where the ancient path is and to walk in it. He promises rest for the soul, if we will but return to His standards of behavior. Are we simply too proud or too stupid to be embarrassed?

Father, God,

Help us to see the ancient path of righteousness. Give us the grace to drop our arrogance and pride and to seek You in humility and reverence. Teach us Your ways that we may remember how to blush at our faults and learn to correct them.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

 

Turn from Wicked Ways

If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. ~~ II Chronicles 7:14 (KJV)

Time and again we see in scripture where the king followed God for a while and then turned to the idols of the country he just vanquished.

When that happens, the Lord sends a conquering invader to rebuke the wandering children of Israel. Then in captivity or distress, they begin to return to the Lord and ask Him to get them out of the straits they brought upon themselves.

Our country is in distress. In 2009, we heard our president say to an international audience that the United States does not consider itself a Christian nation. Anyone with a smattering of historical knowledge knows that the nation was founded by men who were primarily Christian. Some have argued that certain of the founding fathers were deists, not Christians, but that is sort of begging the question.

In fact, the favor of the Lord on the United States will be withdrawn if those of us who bear His name do not fall on our knees and turn our nation from its wicked ways.

If my people, who are called by my name,

shall humble themselves, and pray,

and seek my face,

and turn from their wicked ways;

then will I hear from heaven,

and will forgive their sin,

and will heal their land.

This is our challenge, to fall to our knees, to turn this society from its wicked ways and to seek the face of God.

Father, God,

Grant us the special favor of hearts hungry for You. Keep us on our knees, seeking Your face for the sake of our country. Keep us on our feet, working to turn our society from its wicked ways.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Majesty

And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;

Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever. ~~ Revelations 5:11-14 (KJV)

We have come close to God. We ask for a closer walk with Him. But we dare not forget His majesty. This picture from the vision of John gives us a glimpse of God’s throne.

We will pass over the study of the four living creatures for the moment. If you wish to read more explanation, you’ll find some of it here.

But these four creatures begin the praise with “holy, holy, holy.” And the elders around the throne kneel and bow down. When these elders kneel, it is not like when we kneel in church, torso upright. This is the kowtow, the kneeling and bowing low so that the forehead touches the floor or the ground.

This throne is also a judgment seat, like a judges bench only more so. From this throne the pronouncements of God proceed. His judgments, affirmations, condemnations, all are here in the presence of these witnesses.

But for Christ, we cannot know these judgments. It is He who will break the seals on the scroll of judgment. It is through Christ that we can know God without panic. That doesn’t mean we don’t fear God. It simply means that we accept the sacrifice of the Lamb. We still kneel in awe around the throne of God.

Father, God,

Still the trembling in our hearts. Allow us to love You, adore You, obey You at all times and in all places. Grant us an awareness of Your majesty and our dependence.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.