Devotions or People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 160

05/31/15 – 160

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light

Well, aren’t you special! Can you fully grasp that, out of the entire human race, God has claimed you as His own? Think of the significance of this verse: You are:

  1. Chosen – God picked YOU because you chose to let Him.
  2. Royal – a member of the family of the King
  3. Holy – set apart solely for God’s purpose
  4. God’s possession – you belong to Him. He can use you, love you, keep you or reject you as He chooses. In fact, you are twice His: first because He created you, second because He bought you back out of slavery with His own blood.

Think about that today as you worship – and truly “proclaim (loudly) the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”!

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 159

05/30/15 – 159

1 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

We’ve learned a hard truth in the past few days – that God does indeed hate some. It’s important to remember who and why. It’s only directed at those who completely and willfully reject Him as Lord, and it’s only after giving many opportunities to change. God even gave up on His own children (10 of the 12 tribes of Israel), but only after hundreds of years of discipline, direction, forgiveness and direction.

Oh, but now we have Jesus, right? Doesn’t this means that God loves every one of us ‘whether we go to church or not’? This seems to be the common response by those who profess to believe but don’t necessarily practice their faith. Instead of being transformational, faith is simply equated to church attendance. Then the final declaration that justifies everything – ‘God’s forgiveness is unconditional’!

In one aspect, I’d agree that God loves us all, enough that He sent Jesus to die for us so that everyone one earth could have the chance to be forgiven, and be with Him forever. That love is unconditional, the way a parent loves a rebellious child. Forgiveness, however, is very conditional.

Luke 13:3 (Jesus speaking) “But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

So, we need to understand that God does not choose to hate or give up on us. This happens by our doing, not His. Here’s something to think about. If not for God’s hate, His love would be meaningless. In other words, if we were all going to end up in heaven no matter what we do or believe, or how we live, it literally doesn’t make a difference how God feels!

We’ll start examining God’s love on Monday. Because of this love, you and I have the hope of salvation – spending eternity with Him. Remember it’s a hope, not a guarantee. If we don’t give Him our lives in this life, He won’t accept them in the next.

Let’s pray today a prayer for understanding of what we have studied this week – who God hates and why. Let’s also thank Him that He truly is “slow to anger” and hate, and ask Him to help us to surrender to Him completely, so that we can live our lives in the light of His love instead.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 158

05/29/15 – 158

Psalm 5:4-6 For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;

    with you, evil people are not welcome.

The arrogant cannot stand

    in your presence.

   You hate all who do wrong;

you destroy those who tell lies.

The bloodthirsty and deceitful

    you, Lord, detest.

The question we left unanswered yesterday was this: if God hates those who choose to live in a state of separation from Him (sin), how can we say that even people like Hitler or Saddam Hussein could find forgiveness and salvation if they accepted Jesus? This isn’t an easy concept for most of us to accept. We think of people like these as ‘the worst of the worst’ – and in that we may be right. The problem (for us) lies in the comparison itself, not in the people. By using them as a measure, we can make ourselves look great!

Please understand, pretty much any time we start comparing ourselves to other people we get into trouble. Most of us are taught from a very early age to do just that. It’s OK if Jimmy didn’t clean his dinner plate as long as he ate more than his sister. It’s OK if you got a C in math (even though you’re capable of doing better) because there were many others who got D’s. It’s fine to produce 100 widgets a day at work (even though you could make 500) because most people only make 80. Get the point? We’re comparing ourselves to the wrong standard.

The standard by which we are to compare ourselves is simple:

Matthew 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

In other words, the only valid measure for us is not whether we are better than others, but whether we have died to ourselves and become like Christ. It’s a great thing, too, if you think about it. How happy would you be if you got to judgment and found that God graded us on a curve – and you were just under the cutoff?!

Notice that there is no expiration date, no minimum time that we must follow Jesus in order to be saved. Can you imagine Jesus telling you “Sorry, you only accepted me 6 months before you died, and there’s a 1 year minimum”? So, we must believe that if I can be forgiven, it is possible for anyone else as well – even ‘the worst of the worst’. Why? Because when we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we are no longer who we were before – we are transformed. Read one more verse of Psalm 5 for the rest of the story:

Psalm 5:7 But I, by your great love,

    can come into your house;

 

 Let’s just pray today a prayer of gratitude for that great love, and offer a prayer of surrender to Him. Don’t pray it if you don’t mean it!

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 157

05/28/15

Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him:

17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,

18   a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil,

19  a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

The dictionary defines hate as ‘intense or passionate dislike’. It makes perfect sense, then, that God should hate those things that are sinful or would cause someone to reject Him. ‘Haughty eyes’, for example, would be a sign of pride. Ever had someone ‘look down on you’? What makes us uncomfortable is that it also says that God hates certain people. Verse 19 does not say He hates lies, but the liar. He hates “the person” who stirs up conflict. Yesterday we read that God Himself said “…Esau have I hated…” Mal 1:3. There are a number of other passages as well – read Ps 5:5, 11:5, Lev 20:23, Hos 9:15 if you’re ambitious.

Our conflict is that many of us in the Christian community have been taught to hate the sin, but love the sinner. We are taught that God loves everyone equally. I myself have preached that if Adolf Hitler or Saddam Hussein had come to Jesus before they died, they could and would have found redemption and forgiveness. Am I wrong? How do we reconcile this love-hate relationship with God?

It’s pretty simple, actually. Those people that God hates can all be placed into one broad category – they are living in a state of sin. They are doing so intentionally, and embracing it with all their hearts. For instance, the person in verse 3 is not the husband who says “No, you’re perfect” to his wife when she asks “Does this dress make me look fat?” even though it’s not strictly the truth (although I’m not sure if that’s considered a lie or just self-preservation). It’s the person “who pours out lies”.

So the bottom line is that these people have rejected God and His laws, and have chosen to live in a way that separates them from Him. Many of these will testify to their love for Him, They will call themselves Christians. Notice that God’s passionate dislike (hatred) of them has nothing to do with what they claim to be. It has only to do with who they are.

Tomorrow we’ll answer the other apparent conflict about people like Hitler or Hussein. For today, I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of the all-powerful, all-knowing God of the universe even if my only motivation was fear or pragmatism. But I want (and He wants) more than our fear. He wants our love – and I want to love Him.

Let’s pray today that God would give you just such a heart, and just such love.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 156

05/27/15 – 156

God loves everyone, right? That’s a wonderful and comforting thought. People today seem to use that phrase as a rallying cry, an excuse to justify anything they desire to be. Some won’t accept anything less, as in ‘I can’t believe in a god that doesn’t love everyone’ – so they deny His very existence. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly biblical.

Psalm 11:5 The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.

 Malachi 1:2-3  “I have loved you,” says the Lord. “But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’ “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.”

Hate and love are probably the 2 strongest emotions we have, and from the numerous other scriptures dealing with these, it appears that they are the same for God. They evoke the strongest reactions. They ‘make’ us do things we would never normally do. They can even keep us from seeing things rationally. After all, ‘love is blind’, and we can be ‘blind with rage (hatred)’. That’s one difference between God and us – I don’t believe God is ever that filled with hatred that He can’t see or control His actions. If that were true, the earth would have ceased to exist many years ago.

We’ll look at God’s love next, but we need to understand His hatred first. Who (if anyone) or what does He hate right now? Why? What does He do because of that? What should we be doing to help alleviate the situation? Is that even possible? It may sound strange to say that we need to understand His hatred, but I believe that when we misunderstand what scripture tells us about the things & people God hates, we get into trouble.

One example is the pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida who drew worldwide attention by burning copies of the Koran outside his church a few years ago. His decision to become the instrument of God’s hatred put untold numbers of lives at risk, and could easily have sparked a wave of terrorism inside the US that would make 9-11 look like a cakewalk.

Let’s continue to pray for a deeper understanding of the truth. Pray that you would know not only what God hates, but what He is calling His followers to do with that emotion. Pray that love (His and yours) would be always stronger than hate.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 155

05/26/15 – 155

Yesterday we left with the question, ‘is it a sin to feel jealousy’? The example I gave was of someone flirting with your spouse. To answer, I’d have to say no, it’s not a sin, but with a caveat.

In the covenant relationship of marriage, we make a commitment to intimacy with no one other than our covenant partner – our spouse. When someone tries to insert himself into that relationship by approaching one of the partners in a way that should be reserved for the other only, we should feel appropriate jealousy. This means that we should feel protective of something that is rightfully ours. In the same way, we have this wonderful covenant relationship with God! So, naturally, He feels jealous when we begin to worship other things, false gods etc. It’s like having your spouse invite an unwanted 3rd person into your lives. This is what God said to His people:

Hosea 2:19 I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion.

Sounds like a marriage, no? The point is that God’s jealousy is appropriate, and His actions are also. This is what He says after punishing the Israelites for making and worshipping the golden calf:

Exodus 34:6-7 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

By the way, did you know that most of the time the Bible (especially the Old Testament) talks about adultery, it’s not talking about sexual sin as we think of it, but of unfaithfulness to the covenant with God? When people began to allow false gods into their lives, God called them ‘adulterous’ people. Something to think about there.

According to the examples set for us, we should feel jealous – for the right reasons. The emotion should drive us to take appropriate action. Here is an example from Paul, sent when the church in Corinth was allowing false teachers to distort God’s Word:

2 Corinthians 11:2 I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.

Are you jealous of someone right now? If so, is it for the right reasons? Are your actions giving someone else rightful cause to be jealous?Today let’s pray a prayer of self-examination. Ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to search your heart and cleanse you from any feelings caused by sinful motives, or that would lead you into sin.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 154

05/25/15 – 154

Exodus 5:20 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,

Jealousy is an emotion that most of us find extremely distasteful – especially when we see it in others. The very word brings to mind images of angry, manipulative lovers or over-controlling spouses. Maybe you see something as simple as toddlers fighting over a toy that one has and the other wants. Maybe a coworker undermining your work or your good name because they think the boss likes you more. Jealousy goes along with envy or coveting – wanting something that someone else has, badly enough that you’re willing to sin in order to gain it for yourself.

The verse above comes straight out of the Ten Commandments. It is a direct quote from God about Himself, so there is no argument as to its truth. But are those images we mentioned really a description of God? In fact, we have to ask if it’s even possible, considering that the Bible also tells us that jealousy is a sin.

Galatians 5:19-21 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 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.

The difference here is similar to what we discussed about anger. One can be angry out of selfishness, for example, or angry without a good reason. We can be disproportionately angry – get extremely mad about some small issue. Then again, we can be righteously angry – mad at something that we should be mad about. Let’s say that someone is flirting with your spouse. Is it a sin to feel jealousy?

We’ll talk about that tomorrow. For today, let’s ask God to give us a clear understanding of this issue. Even though it may appear as a conflict, we trust that God’s Word is true. Tell Him today how much you love and trust Him.

 

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 153

05/24/2015 – 153

Psalm 42:11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?

Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God,

for I will yet praise him,

my Savior and my God.

 This week we’ve been studying some of God’s emotions, including grief and regret. In other words, God gets down sometimes, so He understands perfectly when we do the same. If you’re like most people, there are times when you feel depressed , but don’t even know why. Maybe it’s a deep-seated sense that something is wrong, or maybe it’s just last night’s 5-alarm chili dinner. The point is not that the cause doesn’t matter – it does. If we don’t know what’s wrong we can’t take steps to improve the situation, or to even know specifically how to pray.

The point is that even in those times when we feel low, and can’t explain it, God knows how to take care of us. No matter what the situation, He can comfort and strengthen us, provide whatever help we need according to His will, and bring us through. Do you really trust Him no matter what? Then praise Him, just as the psalm says.

As you prepare for worship today, make this a day of exaltation – no matter what.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 152

05/23/2015 – 152

Nehemiah 8:10 “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

This week we’ve examined some of God strongest negative emotions, like grief, regret and anger. So, I thought it would be good to prepare for worship tomorrow and end the week on a positive note. God does have some negative emotions, including one we have yet to look at. However, I believe that a complete read of the Bible, along with a good look at His creation (including the world around you as well as His people) will show us that He is much more a positive being than negative. Most of the time He is joyful, and He is always loving, compassionate and merciful.

His example for us stands (as always) as the very best to show us how to live, think, and adjust our attitudes. For example, you may be depressed or angry about something right now. You have 2 choices. You can focus on whatever the problem is, wallow in it, let it grow and swell inside you like a tumor until it consumes your thought, your time and your energy. You can hold it in until it destroys you like a poison, or you can let it explode. Of course, not too many things end up repaired after an explosion – usually there’s just a lot more damage.

The other choice is to focus on other things, positive things. Actively look for blessings for which you can praise God. Little things, big things. Doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you’re rewiring your attitude, putting the problem in perspective where you might actually be able to find resolution. You are opening the door for joy to return to your heart. Where does that joy come from? It’s a gift from your Father.

John 15:11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

God shows us His joy in us, so that we can find our joy in Him. No matter what the circumstances, there is nothing on this earth that can take His joy away from you – unless you allow it!

We live in a temporary world, with a lot of serious but temporary troubles. Outside of your relationship with Jesus Christ, there is nothing here of eternal consequence. Look at the big picture. Look at His joy.

Let’s pray today a prayer of pure praise, and thanks for a joyful God.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 151

05/22/2015 – 151

Isaiah 54:7-8 “For a brief moment I abandoned you but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord your Redeemer.

I think we need to talk just a bit more about the Lord’s anger. As humans, we tend to feel slighted or threatened when someone shows anger towards us. This is often justifiable, even reasonable. The anger that people display to others is very often unfair or disproportionate. It’s really just natural that we should feel the same way when we read about (or experience) God’s anger.

As I said yesterday, God does not change. This means the same things that made Him mad in the Old Testament make Him mad in the New. What are those things? People that reject Him, persecute His children, disobey His laws are among those ‘triggers’. Now, in my mind, especially remembering Who it is we’re talking about, these things are all reasonable. What kind of God would He be if He created all this (all of us) then allowed His creation to run rampant? He is God, He deserves our respect, our obedience, our worship. We belong to Him.

As we learn from scripture about all the times God became angry and caused horrible things to happen to people, we also have to notice a couple of things. First, the context – why was He angry? Second, the process – how long did it take? What corrective actions did He try before the drastic one? I think we’d learn quickly that in most cases, it took years – sometimes generations – of His trying to get the people on the right track. Drastic action was taken only when the people refused to turn back to Him.

The Bible also tells us clearly that He takes no pleasure in these circumstances. He doesn’t want to discipline any of us. He does it when we leave Him no other options.

Ezekiel 33:11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’

The bottom line is this – God gets angry with us because He loves us! He created us to be happy, to love Him. Yet we rebel, refuse even to acknowledge Him, or acknowledge Him – then refuse to have a relationship with Him. It must hurt. And, I believe, that just like us – God gets hurt, and His anger grows out of that.

Today would be a great day to actually get on our knees and reaffirm our love for Him, and ask forgiveness for any pain we have caused Him. Don’t you think?

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 150

05/21/2015 – 150

Psalm 7:11 God is a righteous judge, a God who displays his wrath every day

 Deuteronomy 9:22 You also made the Lord angry at Taberah, at Massah and at Kibroth Hattaavah

Romans 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness,

One of the most criticized aspects of the God of the Bible is His anger. In this He is often identified as ‘the God of the Old Testament’, whereas the ‘New Testament God’ is buffered by Jesus, so that He is purely loving and forgiving no matter what we do. There are several problems with this theology, the main one being that God does not (and has not) change(d).

Exodus 3:14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.

 Another is that Jesus didn’t just come along in the New Testament.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The points are that 1) God gets mad and 2) the same things that caused His anger in the Old Testament still cause Him anger in the New. Which means that any changes must take place in us – not Him. He didn’t have to take some heavenly anger management program so we could get to heaven. It’s up to us to allow Him to transform us into what He wants us to be. We do that, and we will never have to worry about provoking His anger.

Just so I don’t come through as believing that He is some kind of hard-nosed, unreasonable God, I do believe that if we boil down the reasons for God’s displays of anger they are much like ours. Anger is usually not the first emotion for most of us. I believe that for most of us, anger follows an emotional injury. First we hurt, then we get mad. In the Bible, we see God get angry when His children reject Him, either by blatant disobedience or by turning to other gods. Yesterday we talked about rebellious children. Does it hurt? Of course. Does it make us angry? Absolutely. Does it take away our desire and ability to forgive, and love them anyway? Absolutely not!

Let’s thank God today that He has chosen to use His anger as an avenue through which He can discipline and teach us how to live, to know Him more deeply, and to be more like Him. Let’s also thank Him for being a God who allows His love for us to overcome His righteous anger when we fail to be the people He created us to be.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 149

05/20/2015 – 149

Genesis 6:6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.

1 Samuel 15:35 Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.

 In these 2 verses, we are told plainly that God felt regret, defined as ‘a feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over something that has happened or been done’. But if this is true, it opens up a lot of questions. For instance, does this mean that God makes mistakes (implying imperfection), or changes His mind? Why would an all-knowing God do things that He knows He will be sorry He did?

First off, I don’t believe that regretting something means that it was a mistake. Sometimes we do what we must, and the outcome causes us sadness even though we did the right thing. It may be something as big as an officer sending soldiers into battle knowing that some won’t come back. It may be as ‘small’ as being honest about something, and that results in a broken relationship. I think we must remember that often our options are limited by what others do. By giving us the freedom to choose our own actions, God voluntarily limited His control over us. So when Saul chose to be disobedient, I can understand why God might feel sad or disappointed.

As far as God’s omniscience (all-knowing), the best I can do is to liken it to parenting human beings who have their own will. Ever have a rebellious child/teen? Ever been one? Given a certain situation, did you pretty much know what they were going to do, even though you hoped that they would act differently? When they did what you thought they would, did you not experience sadness – even though you ‘knew’ – even though you were right?

The Bible also tells us clearly that God changes His mind – as a result of prayer. Example:

Exodus 32:14 So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.

Aren’t you glad He does? Let’s pray today that the Holy Spirit would help us to live so that God will never feel regret or disappointment in us, and thank Him that our prayers are so important to Him that He might actually change His mind as a result. Let’s also thank Him for modeling us after Himself, so that we can better know Him.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 148

05/19/2015 – 148

As we begin our section on people being made in the image of God from the aspects of emotion and intellect, we first need to define the terms. Let’s take ‘emotion’ first. One dictionary defines it as “a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others”. Natural and instinctive mean this is something with which we are born, and the rest means that emotions are affected by both internal and external factors. It also says that emotion is “distinctive from reasoning or knowledge”. In other words – emotions don’t always make sense!

I think that few Christians would argue that God has no emotions at all. After all, “’God is love’, right? We also talk a lot about the ‘angry God’ of the Old Testament, always going around smiting people! But it seems to me we tend to limit Him to these two extremes. What about other emotions? Does God ever get depressed, does He have regrets? Does He feel sorrow or joy, contentment or shame, pity or jealousy?

The truth is that throughout the Bible, we are told of God as an emotional being, experiencing the same types of emotion as do we. Obviously, there must be differences. For instance, we often feel afraid because of uncertainty – we fear the unknown. If God is omniscient (all-knowing) that couldn’t be a factor.

Another point is that we read of His emotions from 3 perspectives – God the Father, Jesus the human Son, and the Holy Spirit. Let’s look at a few verses that describe an ‘emotional’ God.

Jeremiah 31:3 The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.

Psalm 11:5 The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.

Genesis 6:6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.

Something to think about, no? Let’s simply pray today that God would give us insight as we seek to know His very heart in this study. After all, isn’t that what deep, intimate relationship is about – knowing the heart of the other person and loving them anyway?

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 147

05/18/2015 – 147

Hopefully by now we all have a good idea of what the Bible means by the word ‘faith’. We’ve also seen that even those people who had the strongest faith in God had their moments of doubt and fear that often kept them from being obedient to God. What makes them our ‘heroes’ is that they overcame their fears and doubts, and followed God’s will in the end. That’s what defines a hero, really. It’s not someone who has no fear, but one who overcomes that fear to do what has to be done.

Proverbs 15:13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.

 This leads us to another question – why would God make us such fearful, doubtful creatures? Why give us negative emotions at all? Wouldn’t it be much easier, safer and pleasant if He had just left those out? Of course it would. But then, we would be incomplete creations. What do I mean by ‘incomplete’?

Most of us who have heard anything about the creation story have heard that we are made in the image of God.

Genesis 1:27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

In my experience, most of us believe that we are made in the general physical image of God. General because obviously we don’t all look alike, so God much have the same general appearance. But to me, this doesn’t make a lot of sense. I do believe that God can and does take on whatever physical forms He needs to reach us or carry out His will – the most obvious being here as Jesus in a human body. However, I believe that even more than us having the physical image of God, He made us in His emotional and intellectual image. In other words, we have the same emotions He does – both positive and negative. Our minds can think and reason in much the same way as His – albeit with human limitations.

This is what I’d like to explore with you next. Maybe if we can understand and see ourselves for the creations that God designed us to be – we will be able to understand ourselves better, God better, and better ascertain His will for us. Let’s pray today for illumination and understanding as we begin this next adventure.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 146

05/17/2015 – 146

Ephesians 2:19-22 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Once again we hear from the apostle Paul that once we are Christians, we are no longer alone. We are members of a new family, a new body – the church. Not just any church, but the church of Jesus Christ, bearing his name, and built with Him as its cornerstone.

This means that our priorities and allegiances may (and probably will) change. It means that the way we interact with the world outside the church is different than it was when we were a part of that world. It also means that our relationships with other Christians must change as well. In the church, it’s time to put aside our differences and petty squabbles and focus on our common purpose – to live for Christ.

We must forgive, even when we can’t forget. We must love (treat others with love) even when we’re not feeling it. We must put others ahead of ourselves. And above all, we must worship our Savior, and make Him our Lord also. Today as you worship, look around the room. Is there anyone with whom you need to make amends? Anyone you should know better? Anyone who needs your help, your love?

Worship well today.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 145

05/16/2015 – 145

Hebrews 11: 32-38 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;[e] they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

 This is really the ‘wrap-up’ of the Bible’s story of our faith ‘heroes’. We’ve seen in the past week or so that each one of these people was really like us – human. Some had more valleys than mountains in their lives. But at some point, every one of them became aware of something God was calling them to do. Another common thread was that none of the things God asked of them turned out to be insignificant. In fact, many literally changed the world! Another common thread is that most of them had no idea what was really God’s ‘big picture’ plan.

Verses 33-34 above tell of great things that happened to these once they trusted God and allowed Him to use them as He wished. The rest of the passage tells of some horrendous things that happened as well – walking in obedience to God is not always easy. But it’s always worth it! Here’s one last commonality in the final 2 verses of Chapter 11:

 39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Get it? They did what they did even though they never saw the results of their acts. They acted in faith, because God called them. They didn’t need to see the whole plan, they didn’t demand to know His reasons. Does any of this sound familiar?

I guess that’s what faith is – recognizing that God is calling you to do something, no matter how insignificant it may seem, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense. Then being obedient to that call, just because you know Who He is, you trust that He knows much more than you and has your best interests at heart. Faith is trustin enough to follow, just because you believe in the One who is calling you.

Pray today for that kind of trust. Ask for and listen to His call and direction. Then be obedient – even though. . . .

Just because.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 144

05/15/2015 – 144

Hebrews 11:31  By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

 Rahab’s story begins after the death of Moses. Joshua had taken his place as leader of the Israelites. He sent spies into the Promised Land to check it out, and find out what kind of opposition they would be facing. Rahab was not Hebrew. She was an Amorite woman – a prostitute/innkeeper, in fact – living in the city of Jericho. But somehow, God still spoke to her and used her for His purposes.

When the king came looking for the 2 spies that were staying at her inn (to kill them), she hid them on her roof. In doing this she was committing a capital crime, treason against her own people! In return, they promised to spare her family when they took over the city. This was a huge deal, as the people of Jericho were among the worst of the worst Amorites, and Joshua was commanded by God to kill everyone in it. Her sacrificial act in saving the spies paved the way for the Israelites to enter the Promised Land for the first time!

God spared Rahab, I think, because of His very special plans for her. Matthew begins with the genealogy (family line) of Jesus. From it we take this excerpt:

Matthew 1:5-6 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,

Obed the father of Jesse,

and Jesse the father of King David.

So Rahab, not even a Hebrew by birth, married into the family of God. By this we can be pretty certain that she also became a follower of Jehovah instead of the pagan gods she grew up with. Her son Boaz married Ruth (another foreigner), their great-great grandson was David, who killed Goliath and became king of Israel. If you keep reading the genealogy, you’ll find that Jesus Himself was also a direct descendant of Rahab!

Sometimes God uses us to do great things. Sometimes we are merely a link in the chain. Sometimes – if we listen and obey in faith – He can use us for both, as He did Rahab. Let’s pray today that we would always hear God’s voice clearly, and obey joyfully. Who can guess what a difference He will make through us if we do?

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 143

05/14/2015 – 143

This is where we left the conversation between Moses & God yesterday:

Exodus 4:13 But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”

 (Continuing v14-17) 14 Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. 15 You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. 16 He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. 17 But take this staff in your hand so you can perform the signs with it.”

 I notice a couple of things about this passage right away. First, God was mad at Moses. He had told Moses exactly what he was to do, in so many words (how many of us get that?). Yet Moses argued and whined. The second thing is that God already knew and was taking steps to give Moses the help he needed “(Aaron) is already on his way”!

You know, God knows us just as well as He did Moses. Also, just because He knows we will balk, and sometimes doubt doesn’t mean it doesn’t bother or anger Him. How angry was God at Moses? Because he refused to obey, God was going to kill his firstborn son Gershom! Moses’ wife intervened, and God spared him (read verses 21-26). Then, He still used Moses to carry out His will. Remember – He will always enable and empower us to do the things He wants us to do.

Somewhere along the way Moses got it. Maybe it was watching God perform miracles through him. Maybe it was realizing that God really did love him, and wanted to fulfill the covenant He had made with the Israelites centuries earlier. But eventually, Moses became the one who got angry when the Hebrews questioned and turned away from God on their journey through the desert. A trip that should have taken 11 days took 40 years – and Moses never got to enter the Promised Land. Yet He is, and always will be, one of our ‘heroes of the faith’. Maybe it’s just because he was so much like us – yet obeyed God anyway.

Let’s pray today that we can also be like Moses, in that no matter what doubts or fears we have, God will still use us to carry out His will. Then obey. After all, isn’t that what ‘faith’ is?

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 142

05/13/2015 – 142

Hebrews 11:24-28 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

How often do we today place blame on our parents for a lack of faith? Statements like ‘I wasn’t brought up as a Christian’, or ‘My parents never took me to church’ have become a rallying cry for people who – as adults – have chosen not to even explore the possibility that Christianity might be true – that Jesus is real.

We often forget that Moses, being raised in Pharoah’s household would have meant that he was brought up as a polytheist, believing in the Egyptian gods! He did have the benefit of having his birth mother (a Hebrew) present to tell him about Jehovah, her ability to teach him properly would have been limited by her slave status. I believe that after Moses found out that he was born Hebrew, he was still acting as an Egyptian royal when he committed murder. This act basically cut him off from Pharoah and he was all Hebrew, like it or not. He then spent years in hiding until he ran into God in the form of a voice from a burning bush.

God told Moses clearly what He wanted him to do, and promised to be with Him. He was shown other miracles. Yet still, he argued with God. Have you ever done that? He had every excuse in the book.

Exodus 3:11  But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

Exodus 4:1 Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”

Exodus 4:10-13 Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

13 But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”

 Tomorrow we’ll look at Moses’ life when he finally followed God’s commands. Today, let’s think about those times when we made excuses for not following God’s will for us, stop using any that are ongoing, and ask forgiveness for the rest.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 141

05/12/2015 – 141

Hebrews 11:22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.

 When the writer of Hebrews spoke about the faith of Joseph, the one thing he mentioned refers to what Joseph said just before he died.

Genesis 50:24-26 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” 25 And Joseph made the Israelites swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.” 26 So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.

Simply put, he referred to the covenant God had made with his forefathers. Because he held fast to his faith that the promises God had made in it would someday be fulfilled, he made the Israelites swear an oath that they would return his bones to the Promised Land with them. Remember they were in Egypt at the time, although not yet slaves.

I think there are 2 main things that make this statement (and Joseph’s faith) remarkable. First, he knew his family history. He knew God’s promise had been passed from great grandpa Abraham on down, but had not yet come to fruition. How many of us would have long since given up? Sadly, we often think that God hasn’t heard our prayers if things don’t go the way we want immediately, let alone after 3 generations!

The other reason I find Joseph’s faith remarkable is that, unlike others we have studied whose faith failed at some point, Joseph actually lived his faith through hardship that most of us can’t even imagine. He was hated by his brothers – they actually sold him into slavery. As a slave, he was falsely accused of assaulting a woman who tried to seduce him and failed, then thrown in prison. The one person who could have gotten him released forgot about him!

Let’s pray today that no matter what happens (past or future), the Holy Spirit would fill us so richly that our faith would be as firm as Joseph’s. Let us hold onto the promises He has made through Jesus Christ. Joseph was truly a ‘hero’ of faith.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 140

05/11/2015 – 140

Hebrews 11:20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

When Jacob was young, he really wanted to receive the best of God’s promise, which would be given through the blessing of his father, Isaac. His problem was similar to dear old Dad’s, in that he wasn’t the oldest. His twin brother Esau had been born first. So, he tried to get the edge in all the wrong ways. First, he tried to buy it for a bowl of stew. Then he posed as Esau to trick his near-blind father into giving it. The results were not good. Even though God’s plan was for the covenant to continue through Jacob’s bloodline, God’s plan never requires us to sin in order to carry it out.

Esau took the loss of his birthright poorly, to say the least. He vowed to kill his brother, and rebelled against his father by marrying a Caananite woman who was technically a cousin, but in the line of Ishmael (son of Abraham & Hagar). Marrying within the family was OK then, marrying on the wrong side of the line was not.

The good thing we see is that as Jacob grew older, he learned from his mistakes. He married a cousin also (2 sisters actually, Leah and Rachel), but from the right branch of the family tree. He made his own covenant with God, and lived a life of obedience. God honored that, blessed him richly and gave him 12 sons, who would become the fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel. In fact, Jacob’s name was changed to Israel after making his covenant with God. He made peace with his brother as well.

At the end of his life, he blessed every one of his sons, I think knowing the roles they would take in God’s promise to make of them a great nation.

Genesis 49:28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.

Every one of us has sinned. We may have lied or cheated for personal gain, we may have been deceitful, whatever. The most wonderful thing about being a Christian is that no matter what we do – forgiveness is available to us. The ‘catch’ is, in order to be forgiven; we must turn to Jesus (He’s the reason we can even hope for forgiveness), confess our sins and repent. I’ll let you think about that, and about how you need to pray today.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 139

05/10/2015 – 139

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

There are (and have always been, I think) way too many who believe in Christ, but don’t think it necessary to attend church. I was one myself for a while, many years ago. I thought I could worship just as well by taking a walk through the woods, appreciating God’s creation and praying. This approach might be OK, if it was all about me. But it’s not. It’s about us. It’s about God, it’s about Jesus Christ. It’s about His body here on earth, of which I am only one tiny part. If we don’t work together with the rest of the body, we are useless.

There are many, many reasons to attend church, but the verses above tell us one of the most important. We are to encourage one another to live like Christ (love and good deeds). If you have ever been discouraged, you should be able to realize the importance of this. Also, note the urgency – “all the more as you see the Day approaching”. That capital ‘D’ refers the the Day of the Lord – the day Jesus will return.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Don’t just attend church today. Go, truly worship, and encourage someone – in Jesus’ name.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 138

05/09/2015 – 138

Hebrews 11:9-10 By faith he (Abraham) made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

If we compare the lives of Isaac (son of Abraham) and his son Jacob, we can find some interesting similarities. Yesterday we noted that Isaac was the second son born to Abraham, while Jacob was the second son born to Isaac. This is important, because in that culture the greatest blessing should have gone to the firstborn. Yet in both cases God worked it so that His covenant with Abraham (to make him the father of many nations) would be passed down through these two men instead of their older brothers.

The story of Isaac also bears some similarity to his own father’s (Abraham). When there was a famine in the land where they were living (which was under Philistine rule at the time), he was ready to take his family to Egypt. However, God spoke to him, renewing the covenant He had made with Abraham and telling Isaac to stay put. But, when asked about his wife Rebekah, he did the same thing his father had done – lied and said she was his sister because he was afraid he would be killed because of her beauty – that someone might want to get rid of him so they could have here as a wife. But in this case, they got caught before it was too late, and the king gave them his protection.

Afterward, the crops Isaac planted yielded a hundred times what they should have – during a time of famine! God also brought them to a place where they found plenty of water, and blessed Jacob with twin boys – Jacob & Esau. Again we see the pattern of ‘ups and downs’ in Isaac’s life as far as his faith. Even though he had God’s promise of becoming the father of many descendants, he did not live to see it. But that’s what makes his faith special.

Hebrews 11:13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.

What is it that God has promised you? Have you become disheartened, maybe even allowed your faith to waver because it hasn’t happened yet? Pray today that God would send you His strength and assurance that He will never fail to keep His promises.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 137

05/08/2015 – 137

Genesis 12:1 God told Abram: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you.

The writer of Hebrews next mentions Abraham & Sarah as examples of people of great faith. We’ll examine them together, not only because they were married, but in being husband and wife, they shared each other’s strengths as well as weaknesses. While still Abram and Sarai, they pulled up stakes, took their family and everything they owned because God had spoken to Abram. They didn’t even know where they were going or why – but they were sure it was God’s will – at least Abram was. Can you imagine your spouse telling you that God had spoken to him/her, and that you needed to sell your house and move – somewhere? I think most of us would be signing papers for involuntary psychiatric treatment! This took a vast amount of faith. They were doing pretty well where they were.

Even more amazing was that later in the story, scripture says that God ‘tested’ Abraham by telling him to do something even more wild:

Genesis 22:2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

God stopped him just as Abraham’s knife was poised to strike his son on the altar. These were both examples of enormous faith and obedience. Yet, it was between these two instances that we see the human weakness of both people. After they left their home initially, they went to Egypt. Out of fear for his own safety, Abram had Sarai (a very pretty woman) lie and say they were brother and sister. When Pharoah began having a relationship with her, God punished his household with sickness.

In chapter 15 we read of God’s formal covenant with Abram, and His promise to make his descendants into a great nation. Yet the couple was still childless – and getting pretty old. So, in chapter 16, we learn what happened when they tired of waiting and took matters into their own hands. Abraham had a son (Ishmael) with Sarah’s servant Hagar. He would become the father of today’s Muslim nation. Some13 years later Sarah actually laughed when they were told that it was time for the promise of a son to be fulfilled (Genesis 18:10-12).

Apparently, God didn’t make them special, perfect people who would never falter. He made them just like you and me. In fact, it is only through the failures that we can learn and grow in faith. We see the results of those, and of the victories. We learn to hear God’s voice, and trust it.

Basketball great Michael Jordan said this: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.”

The key is to never stop trying. Pray today that God would walk you through every failure, every victory so that you would never give up on Him.