Christian Devotions

And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:

But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;

From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.

For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before,

This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;

And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. ~~~ Hebrews 10:11-18 (KJV)

During the season of advent the world focuses on the coming of the Christ-child as an infant in a manger. But our reading from Hebrews shows Him in all His power and majesty as our high priest forever.

He is the propitiation for our sins. He is our ransom from the world, the flesh and the devil. He is powerful beyond all imagining. He sits at the right hand of God waiting for all His enemies to be made His footstool.

His work is done. When from the cross he said “It is finished” that was exactly what He meant. It is finished, completed, done, all over.

…because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy (v. 14 NIV).

There seems to be a contradiction in this subordinate clause. How can we be already completed as perfect and still undergoing the process of being made holy?

We are perfect in the eyes of God the Father because He sees us through the lens of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. We are “complete” in Him. But we are continually being set apart from the world for the kingdom of God. We are growing in His grace and under His guidance through the Holy Spirit.

My grandmother used to say “It’s a wasted day if you haven’t learned anything new.” Each day, let our goal be to learn more and more about Him and His ways, to walk closer and closer in His footsteps.

Father, God,

Although You see us as perfect through Jesus, our earthly lives are filled with stumbles and shortcomings. Grant that we may walk closer and closer in the footsteps of Christ with the guidance of Your Holy Spirit.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

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God With Us

And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.

And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.

And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;

And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.

And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.

And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.

And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,

So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God:

And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.  ~~  Genesis 28:10-22

AARRGGHH!! Don’t we ever learn?

The verses leading up to this passage are full of egos, self-seeking and deceptions. Deceit has had serious consequences in the past and will again in this instance.

However – and this is a big however — when Jacob obeys his father’s directive to go to Paddan Aram to seek a wife, he sets his feet on a righteous path once again. And he is rewarded by this dream and promise from God.

“Surely the Lord is in this place.”

Whether we are aware of it or not, God is with us. Day in and day out, He stands with us. It is our disobedience that builds a wall between Him and us. It’s our wall. It is built brick by brick of little rejections of His call upon our lives.

Do you notice? God’s promise to Jacob is not predicated upon his apology for his deceptions. It carries no contingencies. It is full, complete, absolute.

God knows and we are learning that every action carries within itself the seed of its own reward or punishment. That is called consequences.

But our God is omnipresent – present everywhere at once. With us, beside us, within us if we let Him be.

We are into the season of advent. We will be singing “O come, O come, Immanuel.” It’s a nice song and one of my personal favorites. But it’s redundant. He has already come. He is with us. Let us rejoice in His presence.

Father, God,
Help us to be ever mindful of Your presence with us. Teach us to rely on You and only You at every moment.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen

Relationship

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:

Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:

But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. ~~~ Jeremiah 31:31-34

Today’s reading is full of promise – and personal accountability. After the diaspora,  God is going to restore Israel and Judah to the land of Canaan where He planted them in the first place.

This is to be a new covenant, not the same one He made with Abraham, nor the one He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt.

This covenant is no longer about ritual and sacrifice. It is about knowing Him. Each person is to have a personal relationship with Him.

They will all know me from the least of them to the greatest.

And He promises forgiveness, no longer remembering their sins. The descendants of Israel will only cease to be a nation in the eyes of the Lord if all the other things He created vanish from His sight. This means He has decreed Israel to be a nation in perpetuity.

The rest of us are wild shoots, grafted onto the cultivated plant. In effect, we are part of Israel and Judah – by God’s grace. Let us never forget the root that nourishes us. Let us remember to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Father, God,

We thank You for the grace with which you bestow Your blessings upon all those who believe in You. We are grateful for Your sending us Your Son that we might be reconciled to You. And we thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit through Whom we can know You better, more intimately.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

A Righteous King

Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign.

Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also was Abi, the daughter of Zachariah.

And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did.

He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.

He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.

For he clave to the Lord, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses.

And the Lord was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not. ~~ II Kings 18:1-7 (KJV)

After all the prophecies of doom and gloom, both against the children of Israel and against their enemies, we have a moment’s respite.

Hezekiah, king of Judah, trusted the Lord and did what was right in His eyes. He removed the high places of worship to idols and cut down the Asherah poles. He took anything that could have been called an idol and destroyed it. And the Lord prospered all that he did.

In the middle of all the corruption and evil, one king brought Judah back to the worship of the true God. There are consequences for righteousness as well as consequences for sin.

The consequences of Hezekiah’s faithfulness are just what you would expect. Everything he undertook was successful.

God has given us a blueprint for success and prosperity. He handed it to Moses on Mount Sinai. We are not able to follow that blueprint precisely because we are a fallen people, but God has even given us His Son to cover our shortcomings. God looks at our hearts, not just our actions.

Because we are children of Adam and Eve, we will never be able to keep the law completely. But that shouldn’t keep us from striving to keep it all. Nor should it give us an excuse for not trying.

If we are faithful to Him, God will prosper the work of our hands. That doesn’t mean we will all be millionaires. It does mean that our efforts will be rewarded in one fashion or another.

That reward, however, should not be our goal. Our goal is complete fidelity to the Lord. We may fall short, but we can always pick ourselves up and start again. The more we seek to follow, the better we will get at it.

Father, God,

Save us from being deluded by the lures of this world. Keep us faithful, single-minded on serving You alone.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

The Crux of the Matter

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.

For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.

They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

~~ Psalm 22:14-18 (KJV)

These five verses seem to bring us to the foot of the cross of Jesus. “I am poured out like water.+ He has become our drink offering, poured out for our sins.

We are taken through the physical traumas that the Lord experienced on the cross, through the throngs of evil men around Him, clear to the casting of lots for his garments.

God gave David a vision, the words of this psalm. A picture of our salvation.

Our salvation was sealed at the foot of the cross of Christ. Without it, we have no offering to God. Jesus became our sin offering so that we could come to God without any other mediator.

It is through Jesus, and Jesus only, that we can come to the Father with the assurance that He sees us only through the saving blood of Christ.

Father, God,

Help us to remember the price of our redemption. Make us mindful of the enormity of Your love for us and the sacrifice of Jesus. Keep us humble and unassuming when we come to You with our prayers.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

First published 9 May 2009 in Garment of Praise.

Time Out

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. ~~ Genesis 2:2-3 (KJV)

We seem to live in a hurried and harried kind of world. If we are not doing something constructive, we are absorbing inanities from the media world. But we never seem to give ourselves, or anyone else, time simply to sit and think.

God worked for six days on creation and sat down to rest on the seventh. I don’t believe it was because he needed to rest, for God is untiring. I think he did it more as an example to us. We need time to think, to ruminate, simply to be, and to be in his presence.

Without time for contemplation and meditation, we lose sight of God and our position with him and our purpose in his plans.

It is a management principle that you can expect 85% efficiency from your staff about 85% of the time. The other 15% is just “wasted?” No, the other 15% is that sabbatical that God ordained at the time of creation.

If you expect 100% effectiveness 100% of the time, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and failure. You need that sabbatical that God set aside for you.

Take your sabbath rest. Revel in God’s presence. Let him speak to you. Listen for him. Simply be. You will be amazed at how much more productive your 85% will become.

Father, God,

Help us to prioritize our lives to include a healthy dose of quiet time with You. Stir a longing in our hearts for regular Sabbath moments in our lives. Remind us that we have been set apart for Your purposes, and grant us the wisdom and fidelity and strength to carry them through.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen

Look Deeper

And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.

And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,

Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains:

Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.

And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.

But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,

And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.

For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.

And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.

And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country.

Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding.

And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.

And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.

And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done.

And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.

And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine.

And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts.

And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him.

Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.

And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.  ~~  Mark 5:1-20

In our modern and “enlightened” age, we tend not to think in terms of spirits. Anything which has to do with aberrant behavior must be some form of psychosis or chemical unbalance that we can treat with counseling or medication.

But if the Bible is true, it is all true. That includes this story about the Gerasene. The man was not psychotic or chemically unbalanced. He was demon-possessed.

There are such things as demons. There is spiritual warfare. We need to be aware that we have a spiritual enemy who seeks our eternal destruction.

If we believe in God, we must believe that the devil exists. We see him in conversation with Eve in Genesis 3.

We are told of his fall in Isaiah 14.

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.  ~~  Isaiah 14:12-15

There are multiple references to Satan in the New Testament. And the entire Book of Job is a chronicle of spiritual warfare.

It is part of Satan’s first lie in the Garden of Eden, that mankind can know all things, find answers comprehensible to the finite mind for all questions, discover cures to all diseases and maladies.

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. ~~ Genesis 3:1-7

When we buy into this arrogance of the intellect, we fall directly into the enemy’s hands.

Not everything is part of our physical, tangible world. There is a spiritual plane of which we know far too little. But all we need to know of it is contained in the Bible. We’ll not find it in psychology texts. Nor will we find beneficial information in books of new age spirituality.

Our hope and our confidence comes from the fact that God is Lord of the spiritual realm, just as He is Creator and Lord of this world. When we serve Him, when we rely solely on Him, He will preserve us from the wiles of the enemy.

Father, God,

Stop our ears from hearing the enticements of the enemy. Shield our eyes from the lust to which he would tempt us – whatever form it may take. Fill our eyes and ears and hearts with Your Holy Spirit so that there is no room for anything else.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.