Archive for the ‘Devotions’ Category
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The Incredible Disappearing Evangelist – Smithsonian magazine tells an interesting story from days gone by. “Aimee Semple McPherson, evangelist, faith-healer, founder of the Foursquare Gospel Church and builder of the Angelus Temple, was believed to have disappeared during a swim on May 18, 1926. In the hours that followed, rescuers were sparing no effort to find her.”
My Dad’s Challenge – I enjoyed reading of the challenge Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ father gave her many years ago. “The scene is indelibly etched in my memory. I was 19 years old. My family was on a mission trip in Haiti—my parents’ (and my) favorite type of family ‘vacation.’ We were worshiping in a small Haitian church, sitting on hard wood benches. In the middle of the service, my dad leaned over to me and whispered…”
Excommunicating the Why – Marvin Olasky writes about Eli Reimer and how the best parts of his story got left on the cutting room floor.
When Body and Soul Must Part – Here are some poignant reflections on the reality that at some point every body and soul must part.
The Church Hurt Me – Thabiti Anyabwile (I always feel the dilemma of whether I really need to include his last name; it’s not like there are tons of other Thabiti’s out there in the Christian blogosphere) writes to and about those people who say, “The church hurt me.”
The only thing of our very own which we contribute to our salvation is the sin which makes it necessary. —William Temple
Be merciful, even as your Father also is merciful…!
Getting hurt or being disappointed …
… happens easily and often!
However because of the negative spiritual force behind it …
Jesus warns us to not let it affect us …
… but to immediately stand against it by being merciful and compassionate
Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not,
and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
— Luke 6:36-37
Why is this so important?
… Because …
a hard heart totally stops God’s blessings and provision!
… whereas …
a merciful, compassionate heart opens the door to God’s abundance!
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down,
and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.
For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
— Luke 6:38
As you forgive, and start giving into problem situations …
… whatever the need may be …
Simple forgiveness, love, mercy, compassion,
Or even spiritual warfare as Jesus showed us!
Satan, by killing John the Baptist, had tried to get to Jesus …
… thereby trying to stop His ministry!
Yes, Jesus was hurt and wanted to be alone, but the people followed Him!
… and instead of rejecting their untimely demands …
And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude,
and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.
— Matt. 14:14
Jesus turned a potentially deep hurt in His life …
… through compassion, through mercy …
… into an attack directed at the one behind the attack against Him …
… not the person, but the devil!
Look beyond that hurt, those cutting words, that disappointment …
… and see who is behind that attack against you!
… then …
… be compassionate to the person who did it …
… and in the Spirit take care of the one behind it!
Compassion, a spiritual force that the devil cannot withstand!
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
— Matt. 5:7
I really don’t like to be criticized. A criticism can make my entire day gloomy. I have to wonder how someone so thin-skinned ended up in the position where I am today. Still, when it’s all said and done, I have to say that I have benefited in many ways from criticisms. Indeed, part of my training to be a better leader comes from dealing with critics. Let me share with you seven lessons I have learned from them.
Not all personal criticisms are personal. I know. My statement sounds contradictory. But many personal attacks take place because the critic is having his or her own problems. I once spoke with a vociferous critic on the phone who said some pretty terrible things to me and about me. Though I was restrained, I hung up the phone pretty mad. For some reason, I called him back just a few minutes later. I told him that I should have prayed for him, and that I wanted to apologize for being insensitive. He began to weep, telling me that his adult daughter was killed in an auto accident just two weeks earlier. Everyone has needs and problems, even our critics. Maybe sometimes we really need to listen to them.
A quick, emotional response usually backfires. I do better to say less than more. When I speak quickly to the critic, it usually is an emotional response that I regret later. I’m learning to keep quiet. It’s tough.
Criticism helps me to become a better person and a better leader. Sometimes the remarks make me look in the mirror, and I don’t always like what I see. I have also learned that I’m not helped at all if everyone agrees with me on all that I say and do. Critics help refine me as a leader. They help me to be a better person, though the process is always painful.
Criticism helps me to think twice before I criticize others. I know the pain of criticism. I know the hurt that comes when a critic comes after me with an unfounded accusation. If I don’t like that pain, why should I inflict it on others? I recently spoke with a pastor who was lamenting the level of criticism he receives. But this pastor has a blog that is inevitably critical of someone almost every time he writes. He does not see the inconsistency in his behavior and the way he would like to be treated.
“Consider the source” is a good guideline. I have learned that some people are just negative. They seem stuck in that one disposition. They skip the reading of Philippians 4 because the text mandates we “rejoice in the Lord.” Some critics should be heard. Many should not.
Criticism can lead us to greater depths of prayer. I wish I were the man of prayer that I should be. But I fall short, very short of where I need to be. Criticism hurts me. Sometimes the pain is more than I can handle, so I turn it over to my Lord to handle it for me. I wish I did that all the time. Sometimes the criticism is extremely painful and just what I needed. It drives me to pray even more fervently.
Sometimes the critic is right. Yes, it’s painful to be criticized. But on more occasions than I’m comfortable admitting, I’ve had the additional pain of learning that I indeed needed correction. The Bible can be pretty straightforward about it: “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but one who hates correction is stupid” (Proverbs 12:1, HCSB). Call me stupid. Criticism hurts. But it can be for our benefit. The critic can be right. God, give me the discernment to know when to listen to my critic so that I might truly learn and change. I have a long way to go.
Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility.
Destruction or honor is a choice. Pride guarantees destruction, and humility brings honor. This is not human musing about negative aspects of arrogance and conceit. This is inspired wisdom of certain consequences of not humbling yourself before God and men.
The law here is more certain than gravity. If you think highly of yourself, you are going down (Pr 16:18). If you think lowly of yourself, you will be raised up (Pr 15:33). There is only one Being with the right to exalt Himself, and you are not Him, so humble yourself.
How strong do you think you are? God resists the proud, which means He fights against you, if you are haughty. Can you overthrow Him and succeed anyway? You are a fool. Read the Bible about what God did to Pharaoh, Sennacherib, and Nebuchadnezzar.
How strong is God? He helps the humble, which means He fights for you against things holding you back! Tell God you cannot do it yourself or that you do not know what to do; He will do it for you. Read the Bible about Jehoshaphat’s great victory (II Chr 20:12)!
There are three forces at work to guarantee this two-sided law. First, there is the divine force of God’s jealousy and justice. The LORD Jehovah will not allow a man to think too highly of himself. He hates pride (Pr 6:16-17). And He especially hates pride in sinful men. He will supernaturally bring a proud man down, or He will lift a humble man up.
Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go” (Ex 5:2). Of course, those were his famous last words, as God destroyed his nation, assets, firstborn, chariot, and then him! God irresistibly imposed His sovereign will on that man and brought him down to destruction.
But consider another king. Solomon said, “And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in” (I Kgs 3:7). Here is great humility, as the young king freely admitted his ignorance. God gave him wisdom, riches, peace, and long life for this humble prayer!
Second, there is the human force of man’s judgment. Even natural men cannot stand an arrogant, haughty, or proud man. They will do what they can to avoid him, reject him, or take him down. They resent his pompous and superior attitude and cocky spirit. But they are often quite happy to promote and reward a man who humbly confesses he is nothing.
Even kings will befriend humble men that have gracious speech from pure hearts (Pr 22:11). It is impossible to speak graciously, if you have any thoughts of haughty superiority in your heart or mind. David was such a man, and King Saul, Prince Jonathan, and the whole nation loved him for his humility in heart, word, and deed. Though he had killed Goliath, it never altered his correct low view of himself before God and men.
Third, there is the personal destructive force of self-deceit. A haughty man cannot see clearly. His excessive confidence causes him to make bad decisions. He rushes ahead in hasty zeal only to find that his pride caused him to miss a serious danger. But a humble man, not trusting himself nearly as much, will analyze matters thoroughly before acting.
Consider Haman’s pride that caused him to rush forward in his plan for extermination of the Jews in the Persian Empire. If he had done a little research, he would have discovered that Esther, Ahasuerus’s new queen, was a Jewess! He could have rethought his arrogant conspiracy. Instead, it was his pride overlooking this fact that cost him everything.
Consider the arrogance of the owners and captain of the Titanic, as it raced near top speed through the iceberg-filled waters of the North Atlantic on April 15, 1912. Though warned thoroughly by other ships of the danger lurking in the dark, this “unsinkable” ship took only two hours and forty minutes to sink with the loss of over 1,500 lives.
Pride was the sin of the devil (I Tim 3:6). Because of his pride, God reserved the lowest place in the universe for him – the depths of hell! He will suffer eternal destruction and the most frightful torments forever. Humility was the glorious character of Jesus of Nazareth, Whom God has highly exalted above every creature forever (Phil 2:5-11).
Consider it! Satan was the highest of God’s angels, well above any man in intelligence, power, and glory. Jesus was born to a poor carpenter’s wife, birthed in a stable, and swaddled in a manger. But the most stupendous reversal took place! Jesus of Nazareth now rules the universe at God’s right hand far above Satan and his angels. If Almighty God did this for Jesus against the devil, He can certainly raise you up over obstacles.
You know braggarts are arrogant and conceited by their loud, long, pompous, and self-loving speech. You can recognize body language and treatment of others that indicate haughtiness, pride, or self-righteousness. Hopefully you are not guilty of any of these obvious sins. But God sees deeper. He sees into your heart, so this proverb was written to warn you of haughtiness in your heart. You must humble your feelings and thoughts!
The world teaches the arrogance and ignorance of self-love, self-esteem, and self-confidence. This heresy contradicts God’s wisdom taught in the Bible and in this proverb. Your love should be of God first, others second, and yourself last. Your esteem should be of God first, His word second, others third, and you last. Your confidence should be only of what God can do through you, with you, or for you, not in yourself (Ps 127:1-2).
Examine yourself! Hate any lofty thought! Tell the Lord and any who will hear that you are nothing and less than nothing, and do it sincerely. Tell the Lord you are a little child needing His help for the simplest tasks. Get off your high horse and get down with those the world despises as lower class (Rom 12:16). Stop protecting yourself and sheltering yourself. Go down, and God will raise you up. Lift yourself up, and God will crush you.
Hear the inspired advice of the apostle Peter: “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (I Pet 5:5-6). God’s resistance or His grace, which do you prefer? Which would benefit your life the most? Let His mighty hand exalt you in due time.
As we were eating lunch one afternoon after church, I asked one of my boys about what he’d learned in Sunday School. “I will trust God.” he proudly answered. “Oh, you will?” I asked him. “And what does that mean?”
He thought for a minute and then replied. His air of confidence seemed to indicate He thought he was about to impress me; “When I am afraid, I will trust God.”
“Why?” I asked him.
His eyebrow raised and he looked at me with confusion. “Why do we trust God when we are afraid?” I asked again. He had no answer. My two older children jumped at the opportunity to help him out. “Because he is Holy!” one answered. The other shouted out in a somewhat questioning tone, “Because he created us?”
“Nope.” I replied. Of course, God is Holy and He did create us, but this wasn’t what I was getting at, it wasn’t why I wanted them to know they should trust Him. Out of all their Sunday School “God and Jesus” answers, they waited for the answer I’d been looking for.
More Than Memorization
Memorization is a fabulous starting place. But, I want them to know that repeating the words “When I am afraid, I trust God” are only a starting place. Choosing faith, and not fear means relying on more than words to guard their faith from the enemy’s attacks.They need more than memory work, they need heart work, which only the Holy Spirit can provide.
They need strong walls of faith that only God can build.
I explained to my kids that afternoon that we can trust God when we are afraid because God is faithful to uphold his promises to us. We know God has always loved us and provided for us because we’ve seen him keep his promises throughout history. Because of His faithfulness in the past, we can trust him to be faithful in our future too. Knowing God’s faithfulness gives me the confidence I need to choose faith, not fear; to trust Him when I am afraid.
Our Refuge & Strength
In Psalm 46:1-3 the psalmist cries “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”
Why does the Psalmist know God is His refuge and strength? Because he’s seen the Lord’s helping hand in the midst of his own trouble. He has touched and tasted God’s goodness enough times, to choose faithfulness over any fears that rise up against him.
If I am in Christ, then Jesus demonstrated His faithfulness to me when He washed me clean from the stains of my sin and redeemed me from death and hell. This radical salvation, the gracious intervention of God bringing me from death into life, should stir faith inside my soul. This true faith, the one proven and tested through trials, is able to crush any and all of my fears.
Building Walls of Faith
Early in my relationship with the Lord, I wanted to confess my trust in the Lord like the Psalmist, but I couldn’t. My words were only memorized words because my faith had no meat. God has used my ongoing battle with fear over the years (money worries, health scares, relational turmoil) to test my faith and reveal weakness in how I trust his promises. Through this struggle with fear, I am learning the importance of asking the Lord to build walls of faith around my own heart. The awareness of my neediness is God’s grace. He is taking my fears and using them to point me to faith.
Hebrews 10:39 says: “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”
If you are in the midst of a frightening season or situation and you feel you are bouncing from one fear to the next, you too may be living as those who “shrink back and are destroyed.” God desires for you to find peace and rest in Him through a relationship with His Son and the help of His Spirit, through the study of His word.
During the summer I am hosting a Bible Study in my home on the subject of fear and faith. We will study the “Hall of Faith” from chapter 11 of Hebrews, inductively examining the men and women whose lives God called “faithful.” Through this study, I pray the current state of your faith would be examined, built up, and fortified through the Word and the Holy Spirit.
If you are in the Houston area and would like to join, send me a private message and I’d be happy to provide you with the exact location and meeting times. If you’d like to participate virtually, you can catch the study here on Worship Rejoices every Wednesday.
“So we can confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?””