Christian Devotions

Decisions

“But as for you who forsake the Lord
and forget my holy mountain,
who spread a table for Fortune
and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny,

I will destine you for the sword,
and all of you will fall in the slaughter;
for I called but you did not answer,
I spoke but you did not listen.
You did evil in my sight
and chose what displeases me.”

Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“My servants will eat,
but you will go hungry;
my servants will drink,
but you will go thirsty;
my servants will rejoice,
but you will be put to shame.

My servants will sing
out of the joy of their hearts,
but you will cry out
from anguish of heart
and wail in brokenness of spirit.

You will leave your name
for my chosen ones to use in their curses;
the Sovereign Lord will put you to death,
but to his servants he will give another name.

Whoever invokes a blessing in the land
will do so by the one true God;
whoever takes an oath in the land
will swear by the one true God.
For the past troubles will be forgotten
and hidden from my eyes.

~~ Isaiah 65:11-16 (NIV)

In today’s world we talk about a God of love. And God is that. He surely is love. But He is also a God of wrath.

As you read these verses, you can’t help feeling sorry for those who forsake the Lord. And it seems a terribly harsh ending.

Look at it carefully, however. God gave man a free will. Man can choose whether he wants God as a part of his life or not. If he chooses to have God in his life, God will honor that. As man repents his wrongdoings, God is merciful and loving and swift to forgive. Like a doting parent, He spoils us and gives us what we want.

The people to whom God is speaking here are those who decided they wanted no part of God in their lives. And again, like a doting parent, God is letting them have their own way. He will not inflict Himself on them in life. Nor will He presume the keep them in His presence after death.

There are only two places to live in this universe. One is in the presence of God and the other is away from God. One is heaven, the other is hell. We choose. And God honors our choice because he gave man a free will.

If we choose to live in the presence of God, we can have a piece of heaven on earth. If we choose the other, well….

Father, God,

Help us to choose wisely. Keep us ever mindful of Your presence and Your will. Grant that we may always be obedient to Your promptings and swift to obey. Deliver us from waywardness.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

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Fidelity

 

And I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites pots full of wine, and cups, and I said unto them, Drink ye wine.

But they said, We will drink no wine: for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever:

Neither shall ye build house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard, nor have any: but all your days ye shall dwell in tents; that ye may live many days in the land where ye be strangers.

Thus have we obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab our father in all that he hath charged us, to drink no wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, nor our daughters;

Nor to build houses for us to dwell in: neither have we vineyard, nor field, nor seed:

But we have dwelt in tents, and have obeyed, and done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us.  ~~  Jeremiah 35:5-10 (KJV)

The nation of Israel has been faithless time and again. But there is one example of fidelity in the group. The sons of Rechab have done as their forefather, Jonadab, commanded – for generations. They have remained true to the instruction of a man. The nation of Israel has not remained true to the edicts of the Lord God Almighty.

Jonadab told his descendants that they were not to live in houses or plant fields. And they were never to drink wine. So they lived a nomadic life, in tents, and always sober. Things had gone well for them.

When wine was set before them, they refused it.

How often do we accept the things set before us without judging whether it is what the Lord would have us partake of or not?

We live in a world where we are bombarded with images. Some of them are most unwholesome. Nudity, violence, and greed are displayed as desirable. In the original garden it was a fruit.

When we see things, we are tempted to want them. If we see them often enough and want them badly enough, we figure a way to get them. And we do this even when they are things the Lord has told us to avoid.

The only way to remain faithful to the Lord is to keep our eyes on Him – at all times – in all circumstances.

Father, God,

Grant that we may always keep our eyes on You, remaining faithful to Your precepts to the end of our days.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Not Good

And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;

And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.  ~~  Genesis 2:15-24 (KJV)

Relationships with other people are important. During all of creation, God said “it is good.” This is the only instance where He said “it is not good.”

Look carefully. Adam was in the Garden of Eden. He had authority over all living creatures. He was to tend the garden. He needed nothing. But he was alone. That was the only thing that was not good.

While the rest of the passage speaks to marriage most obviously, some other inferences can be drawn. Every human being needs companionship.

At one point, I worked in a nursing home. Most of the residents were alone in one way or another. They had lost themselves in dementia, or they had no close family to tend them. Others had physical limitations that didn’t allow them to stay in their own homes alone. Those that did the best were people who had family or friends visiting regularly. Or they cultivated relationships with those around them, both staff and residents.

For the others, we tried to encourage friendships among the residents. We planned social events: teas, games, meals, entertainment, and outings — feeble substitutes for relationships.

This week, I’m taking stock of my relationships. There is, of course, my husband – the primary relationship – and my children/grandchildren/great-grandchildren. But there are also friends. When you come to my age (well past retirement), many of your friends are of similar age with the concomitant health problems and frailties. You never know how long they will be with you.

Reared as an only child, I longed for sisters. During my lifetime God has given me several. Della and Sandy have gone home and left me here to miss them. Delores and Sally and Geni are still with me. They are listed in order of proximity.

I’ve known Delores for about forty years. We see each other regularly – generally once a week – and can share anything without fear of rejection. She knows most of my warts and loves me anyway.

Sally and I were in grade school together (much more than thirty years ago). She lives in Texas, so we see each other rarely. But when we can get together, we pick up in the middle of the paragraph. Although our branches extend in different directions, our roots are intertwined, like side by side grape vines with trunks twisted together and tendrils escaping all around.

Geni is a much newer friend. And my largest regret is that I have never hugged her. We met on line when she and her husband were in China. We struck up a conversation and discovered we were sisters at heart. She prays for me and my other friends, family and causes, and I pray for her and hers. We rejoice, share, complain, chat, and love one another. The only thing missing is the hug because I have never met her in person. She lives on the west coast (closer than China but still too far for coffee and conversation).

Three perfect jewels in my life, each a different color, size and shape. One is an emerald, another an opal, and finally a pearl (listed in alphabetical order, not respectively). What a treasure chest!

This week, take stock of the treasures in your relationships. What can you do to enhance them? Can you cultivate new ones?

Father, God,

You placed us all in specific positions in your world, not capriciously, but purposefully. Show us Your purposes in our relationships. Make us sensitive to new ones and help us to cultivate them to Your glory.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Words, Words, Words

A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

~~ Proverbs 18:20-21 (KJV)

These verses are all about speech, appropriate speech and inappropriate speech. The tongue is a small member of the body, but it has great power.

My son, if your heart is wise,
then my heart will be glad,
my inmost being will rejoice
when your lips speak what is right.  ~~  Proverbs 23:15-16 (NIV)

Your lips can speak foolishness bringing all kinds of adverse consequences. If you speak wickedness many ills can befall you including the destruction of the city.

Flattery, slander, gossip, hurtful talk, quarreling, lying, all are condemned in today’s reading. How many of us have said something in the heat of a moment that we wished we could “un-say.”

It doesn’t happen. Once a word is spoken and heard, it is forever in the memory of the hearer.

The closing verse for today says:

The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.  ~~  Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)

My grandmother used to say: “Let your words be sweet and tender; you never know when you may have to eat them.”

Father, God,

Grant us the wisdom to speak only those things which are healing, uplifting, beautiful, profitable, honorable, and reverent. Help us to tame the wild tongue.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

 

 

The Accounting

But among these there was not a man of them whom Moses and Aaron the priest numbered, when they numbered the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai.

For the Lord had said of them, They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.

~~ Numbers 26:64-65 (KJV)

After forty years of wandering, the Israelites prepare to enter the Promised Land. God orders a census, a final accounting of the numbers of the men of Israel. This census will be the basis of the distribution of the lands.

Some of the tribes have increased; some have decreased. But the total number of Israelites is smaller. They have been diminished by their faithlessness and rebellions during these forty years.

Korah, the Levite who rebelled, was swallowed up, but God preserved a remnant of his line for entry into the promised land. God always preserves a remnant of the faithful.

Of all the men who followed Moses into the desert, only Joshua and Caleb are alive. The rest have died of one cause or another because the Lord told them they would die in the desert.

But why? Their sin was one of disbelief. God had told them He was giving them the land, but when they went to look at it, they became fearful of the inhabitants. And they believed their own eyes rather than God’s promise.

There is always a day of reckoning. Every action carries within itself the seed of its own reward or punishment. The faithlessness of those men of Israel resulted in their being denied entrance to the Promised Land. Conversely, the faithful report from Caleb and Joshua is rewarded by their being allowed to enter the Promised Land.

How will we stack up at the day of accounting? Have we been faithful to believe all that the Lord has told us? Have we been rebellious? Have we been lukewarm in our ardor to know Him better?

I’m so glad that our salvation doesn’t rely on our personal accounting. It relies, instead, on our belief in Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross. Only Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient to cover all our shortcomings — past, present and future.

Father, God,

We thank You for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Keep our hearts faithful to you that we may not be found wanting in the day of accounting.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

 

Tepid

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

~~  Revelations 3:14-22 (KJV)

To the church at Laodicea, he writes the most scathing admonition imaginable:

“Because you are lukewarm I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

Can you imagine being rejected by God?

Horrors!

But that is what happens to the apathetic, to the fence straddlers, to the indecisive. God doesn’t want namby-pamby, unconvinced and unconvicted do-nothings.

He wants people on fire for Christ and the church.

People who have just enough Churchianity to have become inoculated to the spirit of Christ are of no use to Him.

But they are certainly of good use to the enemy. Think about that for a moment.

Let us be on fire for Christ,

  • sharing His love to all around us,
  • taking care of the social needs of people as an extension of that love,
  • guarding against theological heresy and sexual immorality,
  • remaining faithful and ardent in that first love of Christ which drew us to Him originally.

Rekindle the flame.

Then hold it high.

Father, God,

Restore to us the first joy of our salvation. Remind us of that original zeal and excitement. Let us never be satisfied with less. Keep us faithful to You in all things. Rekindle our fire.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

 

Calling

Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Then said I, Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.

But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.

Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord. ~~ Jeremiah 1:4-8 (KJV)

The story of Jeremiah’s call to be a prophet is a comfort to me because there are three truths in it.

First – God says to Jeremiah that He knew him before He formed him in his mother’s womb. What was true of Jeremiah is true of every person ever born.

God knew you and me before we were born. He knew what we would look like, how we would respond to challenges, whether we would be easily obedient or difficult to discipline. He knew all about us.

And He loved us.

Still loves us!

Second – He says to Jeremiah that He set him apart for a particular calling. This is also true of you and me.

God has a particular calling in mind for each person. There is an appointed time and place for us in His universe. Our highest achievement is to be faithful to that calling.

Third – He promises Jeremiah that He will never leave him. As Jeremiah goes where God tells him and says what God commands him to say, the Lord will be with him and will rescue him from whatever comes against him.

This promise is also true for you and me. When we are doing God’s work, He will be our shield and protector.

Just consider these facts:

  • God had you in mind when He spoke the words “Let there be light.”
  • God has a purpose for your life – one designed just for you alone.
  • God will never leave you.

If we believe these three statements to be true, what can stop us from being the ambassadors God wants to send to His hurting world? Of what need we be afraid?

I love the saying “The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you.” Let us resolve to stay in the will of God.

Father, God,

Thank You for Your promises to us. We are grateful that You choose to be involved in our lives to the smallest details. Help us to be faithful to You, listening closely for Your will, obeying Your calling instantaneously.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.