Pastor John’s Devotion’s – Bible Stories For Grown-ups: Samson – 217

07/31/15 – 217

The question here is where to start – which story from scripture should we look at first? I’ve looked at a number of children’s books, online and paper, got sidetracked by finding a horrendous Time magazine article when I searched for ‘Bible stories’ that was as blatant an attack on the Bible as I’ve ever seen, all the while claiming not to be. Ah, rabbit trails.

Let’s just start with the one that God seems to keep nudging me toward, and go from there. If you have a favorite, just let me know and we’ll work on that next, OK?

The story of Samson is found in Judges 13-16. You can read a children’s version here. It will be very helpful to you to read through that or another version of the story as we begin.

This is a story that left me scratching my head many times as an adult. I wondered if we were even talking about the same person – this Samson, a hero of the Bible, ‘God’s Strong Man’ whose life was committed to God, and who innocently fell into a trap set by the wily Delilah. This was, in my mind, a man who had made a terrible mistake and suffered greatly, came back to God and gave his life to fight and win the big battle against the Philistines (who everyone knows were the bad guys – I’m sure they all wore black turbans and spit a lot). As an adult, it still leaves me scratching my head a bit sometimes – this is one I’ve really needed a LOT of guidance from the Spirit to understand.

Samson’s story begins like a few others in scripture, before he was born, when his mom-to-be was visited by a messenger from God.

Judges 13:1-5 1 Once again the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord handed them over to the Philistines for 40 years.
2 A certain man from Zorah was named Manoah. He was from the tribe of Dan. Manoah had a wife who wasn’t able to have children.
3 The angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife. He said, “You are not able to have children. But you are going to become pregnant. You will have a baby boy. 4 Make sure you do not drink any kind of wine. Also make sure you do not eat anything that is ‘unclean.’
5 “You will become pregnant. You will have a son. He must not use a razor on his head. He must not cut his hair. That is because the boy will be a Nazirite. He will be set apart to God from the day he is born. He will begin to save Israel from the power of the Philistines.”

Tomorrow this passage will lay the foundation for this study, and hopefully give you some new tidbits of knowledge about the Bible in general as well. For today, let’s all pray that God will send His teacher – the Holy Spirit – to guide and direct our study, and bring us to full, deep understanding of whatever it is He is really trying to teach us in these chapters of His Word.

Pastor John’s Devotion’s – Bible Stories For Grown-ups – 216

07/29/15 – 216

New Name Day Part Deux! Let’s try this one – Thanks for the feedback on the ‘Not Yer Mmfff’s’ (mumble, mumble) and, I really would appreciate feedback, ideas etc on this one, or suggestions for others. The idea is to find something that will catch someone’s eye as they Google around, and hopefully interest them enough to read some.

So, let’s get down to business.

Job 21:13-15 They spend their years in prosperity  and go down to the grave in peace.

14 Yet they say to God, ‘Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways.

15 Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him? What would we gain by praying to him?’

The premise is that although it’s really not uncommon nowadays for people never to have heard what us old-timers consider the basic Bible stories that we learned as children. It’s not surprising if you consider that it’s become socially acceptable not to attend church, and let’s face it – that’s where most of us learned that stuff. Another sad but true fact is that even among regular church attenders, talking about Christ, teaching children about the Bible at home is now a rarity.

The other part of the problem is that even for those who were taught those basic stories (like Noah’s Ark, Samson, Abraham and Isaac etc) we were never really told the whole stories. They were, by and large, very simplified and sanitized for little ears or to avoid controversial subjects. We wanted our heroes to be HEROES!

The reality is that they were people, like you and I, with flaws and problems just like us. And you know what? I think God included those stories in His Word, the way He did, so that we could learn some very real lessons from them – not just so we could have cute skits to do with the kids (who incidentally, figure out at some point that either these people weren’t human, or there’s something wrong with the stories). At that point, many will simply lose trust in the Word, and their faith simply erodes. They decide Christianity is indeed based on nothing but a bunch of ‘fairy tales’ that we call the Bible.

Then of course, we have the other group that thinks because they know the stories as they learned them as children; they’re good to go. They don’t need to dig any deeper, study more, or whatever. In fact, digging too much may be a sign of doubt, which of course means you’re faith is weak and/or you are sinful. So we accept no matter how much or little sense things make, and defend our ‘knowledge’ to anyone willing to let us rant. Also not good.

In this new study, we’re going to take some deep, and often disturbing looks at some of the old familiar (or not so familiar) stories. We’re going to try to discern what God has to teach us through them – but we can only hope to do this by looking at reality. We’ll coax some of our heroes off of their pedestals and examine them – warts and all. And as we do, let’s pray that the things we learn from every one will bring us closer to our magnificent God – our covenant partner.

Not Yer Momma’s Devotions – 215

07/28/15 – 215

Before we start, let me apologize for skipping a day. I really didn’t, just forgot to hit the ‘Publish’ button when I was through writing yesterday’s devotion. Details, details. . . .

(No wonder I didn’t get any feedback on the new name. Hmmm.)

The Calvinists define sin as “anything that is contrary to the law or will of God”. Wesley defined sin as “an actual voluntary transgression of the law’ of the revealed, written law of God; of any commandment of God”.

So, where one would define even an errant thought, an unintentional expletive when you hit your thumb with a hammer as sin, the other would not. The Wesleyan does not believe these things are OK, but that they come out of our sin nature and can be purified and taken away – cleansed – by the Holy Spirit. Sin, therefore, is intentional, and if it’s intentional, it’s a choice. Calvinists, in their doctrine of ‘Total Depravity’, say that man in his fallen state is incapable of doing good – period. Any good he does is actually done only by allowing the Holy Spirit to work through him.

The Calvinist will agree that we don’t have to sin intentionally, but say that ‘we all make mistakes – we’re none of us perfect’. The Wesleyan will agree but say that a mistake is a mistake, not sin. He will also say that Christian perfection doesn’t mean we are without flaws (we most certainly are not), but has to do with perfect motives, perfect intent, and perfect selfless love. You know, what Christ taught us and we are commanded to do in the second greatest commandment.

Is this achievable? I sure hope so, otherwise God gave us a commandment that everything else depends upon.

John 15:12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.

I find that a lot of the ‘we can’t help it’ things we do really can be avoided, but only through complete surrender that brings transformation (being born again), complete surrender of that new life to God to be used only for His glory and purpose (holiness), and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

John 14:15-18 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

 Jesus knew we wouldn’t be able to do it on our own. That’s why He didn’t leave us that way – alone. He returned to us in a form that could literally live inside of us, to encourage, teach and remind us every moment how to live and love the way He did.

Tomorrow we’ll begin a new leg on our devotional journey together. I call it Bible Stories For Grown-ups. It will be a new and different look at some of the stories you heard as children, or maybe that you have never heard. But it will be open, honest and complete; looking at the way God can use any one of us – ‘warts & all’. For today let’s pray that we would truly allow the Holy Spirit to have complete control in our lives, today and always.

It’s New Name Day!!!! – Not Yer Momma’s Devotions – 214

07/27/15 – 214

Since we’re starting on a new series, I thought it would be a good time to kick off the new name for these devotions. Since we usually go much deeper than the average 1-2 minute devotional, I just thought the new title was more appropriate. Opinions and feedback are always welcome.

Before we move on to our next big topic, I wanted to take a day or two to answer a few questions that came up during a recent luncheon with a couple of you lovely subscribers. As we discussed the differences between Calvinism and Wesleyanism, and came up with ideas to fix all the problems in the church (we saved the problems of the world for a dinner date), these questions came up:

  1. Why do some Christians say it’s impossible to live a holy life, that because we’re human, we have to sin every day ‘in thought, word, and deed’ – we can’t help it!
  2. What does it mean to be holy? To be perfect? How can we be like Jesus when we know we aren’t perfect?
  3. What is sin?

John Calvin was a French lawyer turned theologian during the 1500s, the father of Calvinism. Roughly put, any Protestant churches that call themselves ‘Reformed’ or embrace that doctrine (including Baptist) would be considered Calvinistic churches. John Wesley came along about 200 years later, disagreed with some of Calvins’ basic doctrines like predestination (some are chosen to go to heaven, some are not, and nothing we can do can change it), holiness and sin. He founded the Methodist movement. Generally speaking, the doctrine of most mainstream Christian churches can be traced to one of these men or the other.

Both doctrines are in agreement in the basics – that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He came to earth and died on the cross, was resurrected for the atonement of our sin, that the Bible is the Word of God, and so on.

I have discovered that a lot of the differences really aren’t that different at all. To me, they seem to be more differences in semantics (word meaning and usage) than anything. Let’s start with sin. Calvinists say we can’t help but sin, every day. We are human; we are not perfect, etc. Wesleyans say that if we cannot live a sinless life like Jesus did, then why did He call us so often to do it? “Be Holy, as I am holy”

1 Peter 1:14-16 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Well, I believe the answer lies in your definition of sin. And for that, you’ll have to wait till tomorrow. For today, let’s just praise God that he loves us no matter whether we choose to follow Him through Wesley or Calvin – as long as our eyes are not on them, but on Him.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 213

07/26/15 – 213

We have talked about this question several times in passing, but on this Sunday, why not get right to the core? Many, many people who consider and identify themselves as Christians either do not attend church, or attend only on rare occasions. The reasons they give are many and varied. I found a great article on the 10 most common reasons here. If you boil it all down, though, I think it’s a matter of priorities. We simply don’t put God first anymore. When we teach our children that being on the soccer team is more important than their spiritual well being, neither will they.

The rationalizations are interesting too. These are different than excuses. Excuses are the reasons we don’t go; rationalizations are why we think it’s OK.

“I can worship God by walking in the woods and contemplating a flower.” (Yes, you can, but that doesn’t make you a Christian – or an obedient one)

“The church is full of hypocrites.” (Yes, yes it is. And if you came, maybe we could all help each other grow out of that.))

“The pastors just want your money.” (#1 – Sorry, it does take money to pay the bills, and pastors have bills to pay as well. #2 That’s quite a sweeping generalization, there actually are many pastors who work a second job to pay the bills, and monies taken in go to help the church and other people.

“All they want is to suck you into being a Sunday School teacher or something.” (Would you rather they use all that money and hire from outside, or what?)

“I can watch my favorite preacher on TV. (You can, but are you worshipping?)

And so on.
But the big question is this – is it a Biblical requirement to attend church?

Matthew 12:30 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. (underline mine)

1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. (underline mine. ‘each other’ here refers specifically to other Christians)

Add to this the fact that there is absolutely not even the idea of solitary Christianity in scripture, and Jesus’ prayer in John 17 that all Christians be unified, and I think you get the idea.

The solutions are simple to know, maybe hard to implement in your life. But, if they are important enough to you, you will.

  1. Put Christ first. If this means your kid can’t join that sports team because they demand Sunday practices, oh well. There are other teams that don’t. Make sure he understands why, and make sure that the trade-off is the joy of Christ in his life rather than a legalistic ‘you can’t go because the church says no’. This may also mean turning down some overtime, or even a job. The question is, do you trust Jesus enough to know that if you honor Him according to your covenant, He will honor you?
  2. Forget about finding the perfect church. If there was such a thing, they probably wouldn’t let you in anyway. Instead, find the church where God wants you to serve rather than the church that can serve you the best. Then get involved, and work to make it better.
  3. Yes, give money. But be a good steward. If your church isn’t using its money wisely and for godly purposes, maybe you’re not in the right place. For instance, I probably wouldn’t be tithing to a church that was buying a private jet for the pastor.
  4. Keep growing spiritually yourself, and disciple others in your church.
  5. As far as the TV preacher – if you’re learning and growing by watching – have at it! But don’t mistake that for true worship, which is to assign a value to someone or something. When we worship God, we are showing Him how much we value Him. Think really hard about that. When you think about actually going to a service, singing a song, whatever – getting outside your comfort zone – ask yourself, is He worth it?

Have a great worship today.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 212

07/25/15 – 212

Today we’re going to try to sum up everything we’ve been working on for the last month or so. We began with the premise that we have been made in the image of God, and this image encompasses much more than the physical, but the spiritual, emotional and intellectual images as well. We compared our own emotions with those of God spoken about in the Old Testament, and with those we saw in Jesus in the New. Why was this so important? Simply because Jesus was the walking example of God’s emotions – God in the flesh. We are called to be like Him, which we cannot do if we don’t know Him.

1 John 2:6  the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

We talked about the intellectual aspects – broken down into the intellect itself, knowledge, and finally wisdom. Why? Because we are responsible for learning to be like Christ, and for teaching others to do the same. For those who say we can’t know how God thinks:

1 Corinthians 2:15-16 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.

Not only is it possible, but it sounds to me like we’re supposed to! Now, does this mean we’ll always understand why God does what He does? No, He has a LOT more information than we do. But when it comes to knowing how to lead our lives or make decisions, we can know what is in His will, if we know Him well enough to know what kind of person He is.

Would He want me to move in with my girlfriend/boyfriend or get married? Would He want me to ‘enhance’ my resume to get that job? Things like that.

The bottom line is, God has given us some pretty great ways to get to know Him. The Bible, Jesus, and ourselves (being made in His image). Put them together and you have a pretty good picture. But, knowing all 3 parts is essential to having the complete picture. Assuming you know God by knowing only yourself makes you a god. Only taking the parts you like (usually the gentle, loving Jesus in the pictures surrounded by lambs and children) leaves out some pretty important information about who God is and what He wants of us. Knowing the Bible without applying it through Christ into your life usually comes through as inflexible, radical or even dangerous fundamentalism.

My prayer for you today, and I hope yours for yourself, is that Jesus would continue to work in you through God’s Word, and through practical application in your own life to refine and make you more like Him – every day.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 211

07/24/15 – 211

The question for today was this – how does a wise person use that godly wisdom to find fulfillment? If Solomon couldn’t do it, how can we possibly expect to be able to do it ourselves? The first part of the answer is simple – learn from his mistakes. We have not only Solomon’s story, but also so many others’, and Jesus’ own words to teach us. Learn and live them. I can’t think of a single instance in the Bible – or in life – in which a person’s spiritual destruction didn’t follow their willful separation from God. Remember your covenant, and keep it no matter what the cost.

Realize that fulfillment can only be found in being the person you were created to be – nothing else, and nothing less. Finding that purpose means knowing yourself as well as knowing God, and developing yourself and the gifts He gave you to the fullest potential. Don’t be lazy about it. There’s a reason that one person can work until he’s 85 and be happy as a clam, while another retires to an island paradise and is miserable after a month. One is finding fulfillment, the other only emptiness.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.

 The more complex part is that this is still about balance. Wisdom comes with spiritual growth, but it doesn’t come alone any more than any other fruit of the Spirit. If you continue to work on your intentional spiritual growth, including self-discipline regarding reading and studying God’s Word and prayer, you will also grow in wisdom. You have my personal guarantee – and God’s too! Again, don’t just do this on your own, learn from anyone who is willing or able to teach and/or disciple you. Read books, listen to sermons online or wherever. If you hear what sounds like a conflict between what two pastors are saying – great! Take your pastor out to lunch and talk about it! Call your study partner, or mentor. Someone. Don’t give up until you are at peace with the answer.

Proverbs 9:9-12 Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser,

Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,

And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

11 For by me your days will be multiplied,

And years of life will be added to you.

12 If you are wise, you are wise for yourself,

And if you scoff, you alone will bear it.

 When I went to paramedic school, I was obsessive about learning everything perfectly, because I knew that if I made a mistake it could cost someone’s life. The Word is no less a life-or-death matter – only this time it’s for eternity. Let’s pray today that we all learn well.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 210

07/23/15 – 210

King Solomon is widely accepted as the wealthiest man who ever lived. By today’s standards, he would have been worth an estimated 2.1 trillion dollars. I know we throw big numbers around all the time now, but to be clear, a trillion is a million times a million. 12 zeroes. In this case, a little more than doubled. He had 700 wives, yet died miserable and lonely, unable to find meaning in any of it.

Ecclesiastes 2:1-2 The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”

    says the Teacher.

“Utterly meaningless!

    Everything is meaningless.”

John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil and another of the richest men who ever lived, was once asked ‘How much money is enough money?” His famous reply was “Just a little bit more”.

Both of these men, one of whom was (at one time) the wisest man in the world, looked for meaning and fulfillment in material wealth, and did not find it. I think Solomon was so miserable because he knew what he was looking for, and realized that he had wasted his life searching in the wrong place. The really sad part, to me, is that the ‘right place’ – God – was right in from of him from the start, clearly speaking to him, blessing him and working through him to bless the people of Israel. He had all of his father David’s instruction, which I’m sure was substantial. He could have repented and turned back to Jehovah at any time, but instead gave up and walked away into the darkness.

How many of you have ever had the thought ‘if I could only win the lottery’ or something similar. Maybe you don’t gamble, but a shirttail relative you never knew died a millionaire at the age of 99 and you’re the only heir or something. Do you think we might be fooling ourselves? Ironically, Solomon himself wrote this:

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Did you know that in scripture, especially in Proverbs, the word ‘fool’ often means ‘unspiritual’? So, if ‘fear’ of the Lord is reverent love, and a fool is an unspiritual person who does not fear God, the sentence takes on a different meaning, doesn’t it? Let’s read it that way – Reverent love for the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but the unspiritual person despises wisdom and instruction. Hey, maybe that’s why so many simply don’t want to hear the Word, or attend church, or open a Bible. Sadly some of those ‘fools’ are in our churches. They are there for appearance’s sake, I think, but that seems to be where it ends.

So, lest you think we’re off track, the question for tomorrow is – how does a wise person (according to Jesus example of wisdom) use that wisdom to find fulfillment? Let’s pray again as we prepare to finish this topic of God’s emotional and intellectual make-up as compared to our own.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 209

07/22/15 – 209

Ecclesiastes 1:16-18 I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.

18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.

Have you ever heard the saying ‘ignorance is bliss’? I think that’s what Solomon was thinking about when he wrote this. In many ways, I can feel his pain. Here’s an example. As a paramedic and emergency nurse, I was always the most medically knowledgeable in my family. So, when something bad happened (like my sister being killed in a car accident) I ended up being the ‘go-to’ person for explanations and answers that people had. It felt like my own grief had to be set aside to help others understand, when all I wanted was for them to comfort me!

Over the years in public service I also learned (to some extent) how things work in back-room politics, and the news media. Let’s just say that a lot of heroes came crashing down from their pedestals over that time. But that’s where Solomon and I disagree. For me, the sorrow that came with growing knowledge and wisdom was in seeing people with all their human imperfections – ‘bumps and all’. And yes, that could be a crippling despair if that was all you saw in the people you loved, let alone everyone else.

But for me, there is joy as well, because the same light that reveals those blemishes reveals the hope that is inherent in all of us that were created in His image (for the record, that’s all of us). For every bruise, there is a healing offered. For every scar, there can be restoration. Now why didn’t Solomon see that?

I believe it was simply because when he began to worship other gods, marry women who worshipped other gods and allow them to bring their idols into his home, when he began to use his gift for selfish gain rather than for the purposes for which it was given him, he effectively turned his gaze away from the light of God and looked instead into the shadows. Where there was hope, he saw only darkness. Where there was good, it was eclipsed by the bad. What’s more, he did it on such a grand scale that I’m sure it seemed that there was no way out.

Let’s pray today for that wisdom, but that it always, always is illuminated in His light. May we never lose the hope we have in Him.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 208

07/21/15 – 208

So where does wisdom come from? Do we simply pray for it and wait? Can we start with ‘Wisdom 101’ at our local college? Oh, if it were only that simple. Some say that it automatically comes with age. In the book of Job, after He was struck with horrendous tragedy for no apparent reason, his ‘friends’ came and bestowed upon him some very unsolicited, unwanted, and unhelpful advice. This is part of his answer to them:

Job 12:12-13 “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” 13 “To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.”

In other words, Job is telling them that they aren’t wise just because they’ve lived some years – wisdom must come from God and God alone.

If there is any truth in that wisdom is found among the aged, it is not so much because of the years (I know some older folks who do some very unwise things), but because of their life experience. Yet even experience in and of itself does not bring wisdom. There’s a tongue-in-cheek definition of experience that says ‘experience is that which enables us to recognize our mistakes when we make them again’. We had a saying in the fire service that some people have 30 years experience; some people have 1 year’s experience 30 times.

It kind of works that way spiritually also. Have you graduated from spiritual Kindergarten 20 or 30 times? Or have you taken those experiences, added them to the knowledge gained using your intellect and, through prayer, turned them into wisdom – practical ways to apply them to your life and to teach them to others. Practical ways to live out God’s purposes in this world. If you have – you are a truly wise person.

If in all your experience you haven’t yet put all this together, here’s the good news – it’s not too late! Although it’s usually better for us to learn our lessons immediately, we can go back in our memories (sometimes with a little help) and do some ‘what if….ing’

If I had handled this differently, how might it have turned out?

If I were advising my son or daughter in the same situation, what would I say?

That sort of thing. I’m not saying you can go back and make everything right – although in some cases you may be able to. What I’m saying is that you can learn from past mistakes, and become wiser for the future.

Let’s thank God today that He has given us the ability to learn from our mistakes, that He is willing to share His wisdom with those who want it for the best and simplest of purposes – to be like Him.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 207

07/20/15 – 207

Most of us are familiar with the story of the ‘wisest’ man that ever lived (except for Jesus, of course, but He had inside connections). Solomon was the son of King David. When he came to the throne of Israel, God came to him in a dream and told him to ask for whatever he wanted. He asked for wisdom so that he could rule the people well.

God was so pleased that Solomon had asked for this, He gave Solomon more wisdom than anyone could have imagined, but also gave him riches and other material things beyond compare. We don’t have the time to go into the story of Solomon in detail, but it’s interesting and sad to note that all that wisdom did nothing for anyone once he began letting other gods into His life and being disobedient to God. Many years later, the apostle James would write:

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Think about that. How does it feel to know that you have the same opportunity for wisdom as Solomon did? This seems like a guaranteed prayer as well, doesn’t it? He will give “generously”without finding fault”!!!! In other words, your past won’t be held against you. Why? I think it’s because God wants us to be wise. Wisdom (lived out) leads us to be better people. Wisdom (lived out) leads us to Christ. But there’s another consideration.

Proverbs 19:20 Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

That’s Solomon telling us that gaining wisdom must be a process, not a ‘magical’ endowment. Just as knowledge is built up over time, physical strength is built by increasing exercise over time, and spiritual maturity is developed by constant spiritual ‘exercise’ (learning about God and applying it to life), so must wisdom be.

Solomon destroyed his life when he drifted away from God and began using his great gift for himself. He also ruined the lives of many others. We hear of his great wealth, we don’t often hear that it was built by making his people basically a nation of slaves. We read about his first great love in Song of Songs, and then learn he had 1000 other women. How wise is that? Maybe the real lesson here is that when God gives us a gift, we should enjoy it, but we should remember where it came from and always, always use it to glorify Him – not for our own selfish reasons.

Let’s pray that God would give us that wisdom He has promised, that He would fill our lives with those who would give us wise advice and discipline, to help us grow and strengthen in our walk with Him.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 206

07/19/15 – 206

A man named Bobby Jamieson, in a journal for pastors called 9Marks, wrote this:

“One of the most striking things about corporate worship in the new covenant is the persistent focus on building up the whole body. Paul writes, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another with all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16). We teach and admonish one another as we sing to the Lord. As we praise God, we build each other up. Paul goes so far as to say that everything in the gathered assembly should be done with a view to building up the body in Christ (1 Cor. 14:26).”

I can’t help but wonder how different church would look if everything we did there were done with a view to building up the body as a whole, as opposed to looking for things to be the way we like them. Here’s how I like to look at it. I think of church as my base, as though I were a soldier. A soldier can’t choose his assignment, but his army is there to make sure that wherever he’s based, he can go there for training, rest, supplies, nourishment, support, resources, etc. He depends on those who know more about the ‘big picture’ to send him to the right base. So, when deciding on a church to attend, that’s the question. It’s not whether I like the preaching style or the music. It’s whether this is where God wants me to be based. Maybe the problems I see are the precise reason He needs me there!

No matter what, we have to make sure that all we do is done as Paul said – with a view to building up the body in Christ. Let’s all try that for a month and see what God can do! Have a great Sunday!

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 205

07/18/15 – 205

OK, we said that intelligence is the way your brain processes information – your ability to learn. We’re all born with limits, but most of us never even use what we have to its full potential. Before you say “Not me!”, think back to your school days and ask yourself if you were ever satisfied with a B or C grade, when in your heart you knew that if you had only worked a little harder, you could have done better. Uh huh. Jesus obviously had an extremely high intelligence (IQ) in human terms, and (also obviously) had maximized his potential by learning as much as possible about the scriptures and life. Remember, when He came to earth, He wasn’t born with that knowledge.

Knowledge is the information we acquire, formal and informal. It takes time, effort and discipline to acquire knowledge in a useful way, that’s why formal school curricula exist. The problem again is that many of us today are lazy about it, and just want to do enough to get by. What do they call the last in his class in med school? Doctor.

One of the things the Bible teaches is that knowledge of the scriptures is essential for the Christian.

Hebrews 2:1 We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.

Matthew 4:4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

 Today we begin the last of our look at the mind of God (as compared to ours) in the area of wisdom. Remember wisdom is the way in which we use our intelligence to apply our knowledge to life. Some might call it ‘common sense’, but I disagree. In the first place, I think that sense (the ability to see/do things in a way that makes sense) is a component of wisdom, but it leaves out God, and secondly I haven’t found it to be all that common.

A week or 2 ago I quoted Joel Osteen as saying “Oh, I don’t think you need all that fancy book learnin’ just to say what the Holy Spirit wants you to say” when he was questioned on his credentials. Unfortunately, this is a pretty common attitude – especially among people who have little or no knowledge but want to be seen as wise. Please don’t misunderstand – I believe that one can be very wise with little formal education, but these are people who have educated themselves in a different way. I picture a wise old grandfather, who never got to go to school, but spent his life studying people and could look at a plant and tell you how to get a better yield from your farmland. He may read at a first-grade level, but he could quote more Bible from memory than most of us have read in 5 years – and he lives it. What was your grandpa or grandma like? Take a few moments to remember them, or someone like them. Get a picture in your mind of what a wise person looks like – someone who seems to know how to live as one of God’s children. Pray that you would be that picture for someone else.Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 205

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 204

07/17/15 – 204

2 John 2:8-11  Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. 11 Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.

Yesterday we talked about false teachers like televangelists out for profit or for their own agendas, but I think possibly even more often today we see our false (or poor) teachers in the form of books, articles in magazines or on the internet, or in the media. These especially are often disguised as documentaries, which we usually accept as factual from the beginning. How naïve we can be, no? How easily fooled.

But because we are not infallible, we need to widen our base. Read books, use commentaries, bible dictionaries etc. Get recommendations from your reliable sources. Find books that you know are theologically sound and that you can understand at your own reading level. Keep it with your Bible! I have shelves full of books – many of which I’ve started and couldn’t finish. I figure anyone can make a mistake, or have a different view on a theological point. But when I see the Bible being ignored or twisted, and it’s happening more and more often, the red flags go up.

I’ve just been reading such a book (it was a gift!) called Killing Jesus, recently aired as a TV movie. Billed as an accurate historical account of documented events of Jesus’ life and death, almost without exception supernatural events are not even mentioned. There is a detailed account of His baptism – but no mention of the voice or dove from heaven. His arrest is described, and the fact that Peter cut off the servant’s ear was mentioned, but not the part where Jesus replaced and healed it. The authors say in the introduction that they do not address Jesus as the Messiah but only as a man, yet they use the gospels as one of their main references. Kind of like writing a biography of the Pope and forgetting to mention that he’s Catholic. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

A few years ago a preacher named Rod Bell wrote a book called Love Wins. I read it and found it very thought provoking and sound. Yet he was vilified in the media and by reviewers weeks before even the review copy was released – as a universalist (one who believes everyone will go to heaven). This scathing reviews were based on a You-Tube ad for the book in which Bell merely asked a series of questions like ‘Could it be possible….?”

I guess my point is – make your own judgments, and/or take advice from people you know you can trust. God will give you the discretion if you truly want to know Him more deeply. Let’s pray again for that today.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 203

07/16/15 – 203

2 Peter 2:1-3 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

Admittedly, this passage is more of a reassurance that those who teach false doctrine, or twist the Word of God for their own purposes will be punished than it is a ‘how to avoid them’ instruction. But it’s also a clear warning that they are out there to use you (“exploit you”). Finally, check out verse 2 – they “will bring the way of truth into disrepute”. Do you wonder why it’s becoming so unpopular to be a Christian these days? What do you suppose the ‘way of truth’ is? Just another name for Christianity.

So, how do we know what sources are reliable? I’ve found a few practical things that seem to work. No, I’m actually not going so say make sure your material or go-to person is Bible-based – I think that’s a given – but the best liars will be as well as the most reliable. Every sermon, every book, every article, every organization (store, radio station etc) has human roots. Find them. Examine them. You usually don’t have to go very deep to find that someone’s lifestyle doesn’t match what he preaches, or business practices are not Biblical.

I think I’ve heard all the rationalizations, but no one has yet convinced me that a man of God needs to preach in a $10,000 suit. I don’t recall Jesus ever preaching in a ‘crystal cathedral’, or staying in $25K/night royal suites like Benny Hinn. Jesus didn’t refuse to talk about sin or its consequences like Joel Osteen. He didn’t change His name because it wasn’t politically correct.

Find resources like John Ortberg, who gave his house back to his church to help buy the church back from the denomination when it split over the homosexuality issue, or Rick Warren, lives a comfortable but modest lifestyle, but who won’t take a salary from his church, instead routing that money and book profits to people in need. Find local pastor(s) and especially a discipler (not necessarily the same thing) who does his/her best to live according to the example Jesus set, and stick with them.

Remember, you have to know the truth in order to recognize falsehood – but also remember not to rely on your own knowledge alone. DON”T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS! We all need go-to people that we can ask when we need more explanation.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about books and other resources. For today, let’s continue to pray that God would give us that discretion – just a check in the spirit when we are listening to a deceitful or unreliable person teaching wrongly about Him.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 202

07/15/15 – 202

2 Timothy 4:3  For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

Have you noticed a lot of people scratching their ears lately? It seems as though every day there’s a new book out a social hot topic like homosexuality or abortion, living out of wedlock, whatever. Many of these are written specifically to rationalize non-biblical behavior or doctrine by distorting or misinterpreting the Bible, so that it appears to say what we want to hear. It may be as simple as taking a few words out of context – it often is. It may be byusing a modern definition of a loose English translation of a word that was originally written in Hebrew or Greek a people who lived in an entirely different culture.

So, how do you know if a reference or work is reliable? Like the commercial said “They can’t put anything on the internet that isn’t true.”, right? I hope we all know the answer to that one. In fact, if there are any rules, they are that anyone can post anything based on nothing (except their opinion) as long as it doesn’t offend anyone (except Christians). How about letting someone else do your vetting for you, i.e. buy all your books in the Christian bookstore, or only listen to ‘family-friendly radio?

First, look carefully. Like many things that used to identify themselves as ‘Christian’, many of these are now ‘Family’ stores. That tells me something. Second, what’s their primary purpose – ministry or sales? They may not sell R-rated movies, but they may often sell controversial books and materials that are not soundly based in scripture, or based on a theology that is very far off from your own.

How about the popularity of the author/speaker? That many people can’t be wrong, they can? Sadly, they can. Why? (My opinion here) I think in many cases because we are just too lazy to do our own homework when it comes to learning about God, so we content ourselves just to go to church or turn on a TV preacher we like and let them talk to us for a while each week. This would be an easy way to heaven – if there were supposed to be such a thing. Jesus said this:

Matthew 7:14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.

You see, our salvation is not based on hearing about God a little each week, or even more often. It’s all about a personal relationship with God, through Jesus Christ. As far as that many people being wrong – just Google news stories about televangelists who have been caught in huge moral failures – who still have people sending them large amounts of money. So, with all this uncertainty, how can we possibly know what’s true, what to believe?

Consider that today as you pray for discernment.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 201

07/14/15 – 201

2 Peter 1:3-8 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (emphasis added)

Yesterday we talked about the importance of learning and knowledge. Remember this is about what you know, not how intelligent you are (how you think) or even about how wise you are (how you apply what you know to life). If you doubt me, try to think of someone you know who has aavery high-level college education but can’t seem to think his/her way out of any problem that doesn’t fit exactly into the ‘box’, so they get rid of it.

We sometimes call these folks ‘doctor’, and getting rid of those problems is called ‘referral’. And we pay them a lot of money to do it! Yet I’d bet most of us can think of at least one person with little formal education but a lot of self-learned knowledge, and a lot of wisdom.

The passage above emphasizes 2 things. The first is the importance of knowledge – specifically knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember we need to know what’s true so we can recognize what’s false. For instance, what will you say when someone asks you about all those books that were ‘banned from the Bible’? Would you know which were discredited as obvious frauds, or if not, why they weren’t included in the canon? Just sayin’.

The second thing is that knowledge does NOT stand on its own. It is only a part (albeit an essential part) of healthy spiritual growth. In fact, we must be careful not to become prideful as we gain knowledge. I love the way Paul says it:

1 Corinthians 8:1-3 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.

Knowledge takes work, that’s for sure. Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit would help guide us through the mountains of information and resources that are out there, to help us gain the most. Tomorrow we’ll spend one more day talking about how to do just that.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 200

07/13/15 – 200

John 7:16-17 Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. 17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.

Mark 6:34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

Welcome to another landmark devotion – number 200! Saturday we were discussing intelligence, and that this is the way in which your brain processes information. Although we are all born with limitations, we can all develop our learning skills to their fullest potential. In our culture, we have relegated learning to something that is almost despised in many cases. It’s only for geeks who don’t have a social life. Schools have done away with giving honors to recognize outstanding performance in academics because ‘it may hurt someone else’s self-esteem’. But I have yet to see one cancel the competitive sports programs or stop giving trophies for those!

Jesus seemed to think learning was important, because He spent so much of His time in teaching. He let His family leave Him behind in Jerusalem when He was only 12, because He was busy teaching the teachers in the temple (Luke 2:41-48). We read of several instances in which He got frustrated with the 12 disciples because they just weren’t getting what He was trying to teach them.

Matthew 15:15-16 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”16“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them.

Why so uncharacteristically harsh? Maybe because He knew how critical it was that they learn. Maybe because He knew how little time they had in which to learn it – and apply it to their lives – and teach it to others (disciple someone else).

In the John 7 passage above, Jesus tells us how to know if a teaching is from God, or if we are hearing from a false teacher. So tell me – if you wanted to control someone (or a lot of ‘someones’) how would you do it? Probably by telling them that they “don’t need all that fancy book-learnin” (Joel Osteen) – they just need to listen to you. Keep ‘dumbing down’ academic learning for all but a select few until only those few can really see what is happening. (There’s a reason Hitler burned all those books.) Make reading and fact checking a thing to be ridiculed – instead give the stamp of truth to whatever pops up on Wikipedia or your favorite celebrity says. Before we realize it, we’ve lost all knowledge – we don’t know what’s true or false. And so, we have no foundation for wisdom.

Let’s pray today that God would not allow that to happen in our lives, that the Holy Spirit would keep our eyes and ears open and minds sharp as the propaganda seems to fly thicker and faster around us to distort God’s truth.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 199

07/12/15 – 199

James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

As we go to worship today, a part of why we go (hopefully not the only reason) is to ‘get fed’ – to hear and learn about God from His Word. So, although that doesn’t mean we just want someone to stand in front and read the Bible to us for an hour (I think today is Leviticus), we do have to be sure that what is being preached and taught is soundly based in the Word of God. I think that most of us believe that about our churches and pastors. When I ask what people like most about their church, the most common answer seems to be that ‘they preach the Bible!’

But how often, I wonder, do people go to a church that truly does preach the Word – may even get convicted now and then, but (whew!) are able to shake it off before they leave the parking lot so they can go home and finish that argument with the spouse, or get done ‘stretching’ this year’s tax refund, or whatever. Maybe (just guessing here) many more are not overtly doing bad, they just aren’t doing good things either. They aren’t serving anyone but themselves. They haven’t grown spiritually since they got saved decades ago. They don’t pray, they don’t read the Bible except when it shows up on the screen during the sermon. Yet somehow, they’ve become convinced that just showing up is good enough. But, read this again.

James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Tell me. If you were really listening, could you really think that just being there is acceptable in the eyes of Jesus? What if Jesus had come to earth, heard the scriptures as He did, and just shown up at synagogue every week until He died of old age? What if He didn’t even sit all the way in the back? Would that have brought us salvation, do you think? You know, He had a choice just like you and me.

Why not take some notes today? Listen specifically for what God wants you to do – then go out and actually do it! Let’s pray that He would not only speak to you this morning, but also enable and energize you through His Word.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 198

07/11/15 – 198

Proverbs 18:15 The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.

OK, lets get back on track! Thanks for being patient with me while I was being a patient during the last few days. In our last installment we talked about the difference between intellect, knowledge and wisdom, remember? We said:

Intelligence is the way your mind works – your capacity to learn.

Knowledge is what you’ve learned.

Wisdom is being able to apply what you’ve learned to life in the right way.

Intelligence is the part that you’re born with – it has to do with the way your brain processes information. Think of it like the differences between types of car engines. Some are more efficient; some are faster than others. It’s difficult and expensive to change an engine, but with a little care and effort you can learn to use it to it’s full potential. Although you can’t really change you’re main thinking engine (brain), most of us could learn to use ours a bit better. Study and reading skills, for example, can be learned – if we want to.

Of course, this ‘learning to learn’ only becomes important if we really want to acquire knowledge, as the verse above advises us to do. There are even stronger warnings in the scripture. Here’s just one example:

Hosea 4:6-7 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.

Because you have rejected knowledge,

I also will reject you from being My priest.

Since you have forgotten the law of your God,

I also will forget your children.

The more they multiplied, the more they sinned against Me;

I will change their glory into shame.

 What happened? In short, the people got haughty – they thought they didn’t need to learn or study any more – especially the scriptures! So they stopped reading and learning, they started listening to false teachers who told them they could worship any god they wanted. After all, if you can find someone to tell you what you want to hear, it’s so much easier than actually having to learn what’s true or not! Sound familiar?

How many ‘Christians’ do you know today who never open their Bibles? How many never bother to even look up a word they don’t understand, read an outside source – or check on the credibility of the self-proclaimed ‘experts’ who are constantly attacking our faith? They’ll listen to Oprah but assume Billy Graham must be one of those old-fashioned ‘bible-thumpers’ who was wrong about everything – even though they’ve never heard him speak. They can tell you the Bible is wrong, but they can’t tell you why.

Let’s pray a ‘selfish’ prayer today – that the Holy Spirit would give us a hunger and thirst for knowledge about God such as we’ve never had, and that He would give us the means to feed it constantly. Let’s also pray that He would protect that knowledge, as the world seems bent on hiding and distorting the truth.

Sorry For The ‘Hiccup’

I have to apologize for missing the last few days of devotions – I was in the hospital to have a cardiac procedure that turned out to be way  harder on me than I anticipated. But everything went well, I’m just recovering slowly,, as I usually do. Hey, you can’t rush quality, right?

I truly meant to get a few days ahead before I went in, but we had a spate of other people landing in the local hospital in the 2 days before I went in, so I end up doing a number of visitations. The bottom line is, I just ran out of time. I promise to get back on track today, if you’ll be patient and give me till later – I’m still moving slowly. Thanks, and blessings to all of you.

Pastor John

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 197

07/07/15 – 197

When we began our study on God’s emotions (exactly 50 devotions ago), it was on the basis that we were made in the image of God from the aspects of emotion and intellect. We defined emotion as “a natural instinctive state of mind” that is “distinctive from reasoning or knowledge”. In other words – emotions don’t always make sense! I hope that our study has shown that God really does have the same emotions that we do, that Jesus was in large part those Godly emotions in human form, and that we can really use that model to be more like Him. But we haven’t got to the ‘intellect’ part – yet.

I know you’ve all been waiting with bated breath! Well, today’s the day! Exciting, huh? Let’s start as we did before, by defining the word ‘intellect’. Dictionary.com says it is “the power or faculty of the mind by which one knows or understands”. It’s extremely important to understand that although we often use the words interchangeably, intellect (intelligence), wisdom, and knowledge are NOT the same. The way I would define the difference is this:

 

Intelligence is the way your mind works – your capacity to learn.

Knowledge is what you’ve learned.

Wisdom is being able to apply what you’ve learned to life in the right way.

 

The Bible warns against intelligence without wisdom:

Proverbs 3:5-7 Trust in the Lord with all your heart

    and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to him,

    and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;

    fear the Lord and shun evil.

 When I read this passage there are 2 modern-day atheist champions who immediately spring to mind, well-known authors Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking. Both men are known for their extremely high IQs, yet in reading their arguments against the existence of God, I can find no logic. No wisdom. They are smart. They have a lot of knowledge. But, I think they’ve forgotten to do one thing.

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

 Let’s not make the same mistake. Let’s make our prayer today for God’s wisdom rather than leaning on our own knowledge – and keep praying that until you see that come to fruition in your life.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 196

07/06/15 – 196

Matthew 25:34-40  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Well, I think we’ve found some good ways to put into practice Jesus’ positive emotions, and balance all of His emotions (which are the same ones that we have) in our own lives. I know we have covered a lot of details, but remember; you most likely won’t need to do all of them. In fact, many of you have already found ways to show Christ-like love to others that I haven’t even thought of, or didn’t have space to write about! These are meant for understanding, and to give you starting points where needed.

Speaking of needs, the last point we need to discuss about Jesus’ love is the way He saw and responded to the needs of people. I should probably put that in the present tense, because He still does respond to our needs, but in a different way. Here we’re talking about how He worked when He was here in human form. The scripture above lays it out pretty clearly.

When Jesus saw a leper or a blind person, He healed them. When He saw a hungry congregation of 5000, He fed them. Yes, I realize this is not something we normally do or are able to do. However, can’t we at least stop and pray for or with that person – let them know someone cares? Can we not ask God whether we should give to a cause toward feeding thousands – say disaster victims – and how much?

God never asked us to do everything. But He does expect us to do something. What better way to show your love for others than by seeing their needs – and helping to meet them? And you know, there’s a funny thing about love. The blessings always come back, because love is the only thing that gets bigger the more you give it away.

Let’s pray today that the Holy Spirit within would enable us to freely love, with a glad heart.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 195

07/05/15 – 195

1 Timothy 3:14-15 Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.

This passage was taken from Paul’s letter to Timothy in which he outlined the qualifications for church leaders. But you may notice that he also emphasizes a difference in how we are to act in church, calling it “God’s household”, and “the pillar and foundation of the truth”. What is that truth? It is Jesus Himself!

John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Now go on and read the final verse of Paul’s letter to Timothy.

1 Timothy 3:16 Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:

He appeared in the flesh,

    was vindicated by the Spirit,

was seen by angels,

    was preached among the nations,

was believed on in the world,

    was taken up in glory.

 This morning, when you enter the doors of your church, stop for a moment. Look around, and think about what you’ve just read. How are you going to conduct yourself? How are you going to teach your children and grandchildren to conduct themselves in church – as though it were just a good social gathering, or “God’s household”?

Let’s pray that God would open the eyes of every worshipper today, so that they could really see the truth – Jesus Christ – in His church.

 

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 194

07/04/15 – 194

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us

Ruth 1:16-17 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

These are two of the greatest examples of loyalty in the scriptures. One of the ways we studied in which Jesus demonstrated His love was by being loyal to others – to God the Father, to His disciples, even to those who rejected Him. Why? I believe there were two reasons. First, because He loved. Second, because in that love, He had made a commitment – a covenant. A promise.

As simple as it might sound, one of the best ways that we can show someone we love them is to do the same – keep our promises to them. Just ask a child whose parent doesn’t, or the wife of an unfaithful husband. We have talked many times about the importance of covenant, but here I’m just saying that if you love someone as Jesus did, keep your commitments!

We seem to have somehow moved to a place where commitments don’t matter. We make appointments and don’t keep them, never giving a thought to the other person. We sign up to help with a project at church, and then don’t show. We promise to do something for our spouse or our children, then we’re just ‘too tired’. Or something else comes up that sounds more attractive or fun. Or whatever.

The point is… your word counts. Even if you don’t say the words ‘I promise’. Even if something else comes along that you’d rather do. If you love someone, you keep your word to them. Even if….especially if….it becomes difficult or inconvenient. In fact, that will be the true test of your character – and of your Christ-like love. Not when it’s easy, but when it’s tough.

Let’s pray today that the Holy Spirit would strengthen you in every way to help you keep the commitments and promises you make no matter what, that you may show your love for others through your loyalty to them.