Other Days Are Better (Job 17:1,15 & 16)

April 6, 2010 by

Devotional Passage: read Job 17

Text for Consideration: verses 1, 15 & 16

“My spirit is broken, my days are extinct, the grave is ready for me. . . . where then is my hope?  Who will see my hope?  Will it go down to the bars of Sheol?  Shall we descend together into the dust?” NRSV

Reflection:

Questions.  Questions and no answers.  There are some days when I’m sure I know exactly how this man is feeling.  Other days are better.  I am watching a younger generation move beyond what I had dreamed of accomplishing.  Job, I agree:  my days, too, are past; my plans are broken off—the desires of my heart.  “Where then is my hope?”

Initiative/Choice:

I choose to trust in the God of all hope, him who has hope for the hopeless—for those who, like Abraham, hope beyond hope.  I will believe in hope when I see none.  Today I rejoice because God reigns in a world I cannot see and I expect him to work out his perfect will in the world I can see.

Prayer:

Dear Father of my fathers, work today in my world as you did in theirs.  Give me hope when I see no reason to believe it should exist.  Open my eyes to your world and help me believe in the power of your promises.  I lay down my plans today and only ask that I may inhabit yours.  May your Spirit purify my desires so that I may truly long for your will above all else—even if it is that my time has come to descend into the dust.  Until that moment arrives, make my life productive for good, an honor to your name, and a force (however small) for your Kingdom.  I ask all these things in Jesus’ holy name.  Amen.

With all my heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:36, 37)

March 14, 2010 by

Devotional passage:  Read Matthew 22

Text for consideration:  verses 36, 37

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

Reflection:

I hear Jesus telling me that the most important thing I can do in life is to love God with everything I am, everything I have, everything I want to be.  As I consider my life, I can see many times and ways in which this has not been true for me—times when I have loved myself more than God, times when I have put my desires above His, times when I have followed my will instead of His.  But I do know that I want to love God with everything I am and everything.  That desire comes from Him alone, and He has put that in my heart.  I am grateful for that.  It shows me He is an active part of life and is constantly drawing my to Himself.

Initiative/Choice:

Today I embrace the new spirit and new heart that God has put within me.  The heart which longs to obey His law (Hebrews 8:10), that is cleansed from my impurities and is moved by His Spirit (Ezekiel 36:25-27).  Today I choose to starve the carnal heart that still resides within me by not feeding it the food it craves.  I choose to starve it of the lustful thoughts and images, of the selfish actions that make it grow stronger.

Prayer:

Thank you Lord Jesus that you have compassion on my weakness, that instead of taking offense at my failures, you do the miracle of placing within me the very thing which can transform me—the new heart from you.  Today, Lord, may that new heart grow in strength.  May my old carnal heart shrivel and shrink.  May you give me the presence of mind to starve my carnal heart and feed my spiritual heart through making right and godly choices.  Amen.

Satan can speak through people—even through the Pope (Matthew 16:23)

March 8, 2010 by

Devotional passage:  Read Matthew 16

Text for consideration: verse 23

“Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’” Matthew 16:23, NIV.

Reflection:

Jesus had just recently given Peter, “the keys of the kingdom”.  But when Peter told Jesus that he would not let Jesus go to Jerusalem and suffer, Jesus rebuked Satan (not Peter).  In essence, Jesus was saying that Satan was speaking directly through Peter without Peter knowing it. There is no doubt in my mind that Peter was completely unaware that Satan was the one prompting his thoughts and words to Jesus.  This is spiritual warfare.  On a complete side note–if Satan could speak through Peter without Peter realizing, he can certainly also do so through any of us–including the Pope (since Peter is arguably greater than the Pope).

How many times are the impure thoughts that go through my head actually planted by Satan? How many times are the powerfully driven sexual feelings I experience, being generated not by me but by Satan?  I’m not naive–I know that I have the full capacity to generate those things from my sinful self without any external help.  But it is clear from this story that Satan or his evil angels can also plant thoughts and feelings in me.

Recognizing this gives me a whole new level of motivation to resist impure thoughts urges.  I don’t want to be a pawn in the hands of an evil force.  I don’t want my mind and heart to be the play ground of Satan’s minions.  It’s not OK for me to act on my own impure urges.  But it’s even worse to feel manipulated by demons.

There is at least one time when I know without a doubt that this happened to me.

Initiative/Choice:

In Luke 10:19, Jesus tells me that He has given me authority to overcome all the power of the enemy.  Today I choose to use this power whenever I feel tempted by impure thoughts or impulses.  I refuse to be manipulated by the enemy of my soul, or controlled by my carnal nature.  Today I choose the mind of the Spirit instead of the mind of death.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, today I choose to accept and receive the power you give me over the enemy.  Today I choose not to be a slave to sin, but instead be a slave of righteousness.  Pierce my ear against the doorpost of your temple and make me your slave forever. [see Exodus 21:5, 6]


Unclean (Matthew 15:11)

March 7, 2010 by

Devotional Reading:  Matthew 15

Text for consideration: verses 11, 18, 19

“What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean’, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean’… But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”

Reflection:

The Pharisees were hung up on forms and traditions.  Jesus cut right to the point and told them their traditions were useless—they were missing the real point.  In fact, their traditions were contradicting the Word and will of God.  Being “unclean” was not about breaking their traditions.  It was about the desires, motives, content of the heart and soul.

I have been unclean.  I have felt  thoughts of adultery and sexual immorality coming from my heart.   I have acted on those thoughts.  I have been unclean.  This battle is not new or unexpected.  It faces every child of the human family, each in different ways.  Sometimes in the same ways.

Galatians 5:17 says, “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”

I have often felt powerless to do the right thing that I want to do and resist the unclean things that come out of my heart.

But Galatians 5:16 tells me, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

Initiative/Choice:

Today, I choose to live by the Spirit and not by the flesh.  I choose to reject the uncleanness in my heart and choose instead to listen to, and follow, the Spirit of the new man that God has put inside me to rise up and overcome my natural uncleanness.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, today please make my choice a reality.  I claim the promise in Galatians 5:17 of power and victory to live in the Spirit and not gratify the uncleanness in my heart.  Thank you for making me stand.

The King Who Was Not Free

March 6, 2010 by

Devotional Passage: read Matthew 14

Text for Consideration: verses 5 & 9

Though Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd . . . The king was grieved, yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he commanded it . . . NRSV

Reflection:

Poor pathetic Herod! It appears that after originally wishing to eliminate the Baptist, perhaps the prophet “grew” on him. For whatever reason, when the opportunity turned into the moment of execution (literally) Herod was horrified at the choice before him—and “grieved” in anticipation of the death of John. How could he have come to this moment? He could not escape the trap of the young seductress; for how would he appear were he to leave unfulfilled his awful promise? If nothing else, he had to be a man of his word! Cursing his own weakness, the order was given and, in time, the lifeless head was delivered.

How horrid it would be to live a life of reactionary fear. Herod feared John, so locked him away. He feared the people, so kept John alive. Then he feared the ridicule of his supporters, and had the prophet killed. It appears he never did what he really wanted. A man unable to stand by conviction, the guiding principle of his life seemed only to be a primal instinct of scheming calculating self-preservation. And this only brought him into constant conflict with inconvenient things like truth and honesty, justice and mercy.

Initiative/Choice:

Today I choose to follow your word over my wishes, your will over the way that “seemeth right” to my first glance.

Prayer:

Dear Father in Heaven, let “principle” reign in my life today. Let my choices be informed by heavenly wisdom. Bring my heart into union with your heart. And where a divide may remain, scars left of my own rebellious choices, give me the strength to “will and to do” your good pleasure. This I ask in the name of my Savior, Jesus. Amen.

A Healer in Town (Matthew 13:58)

March 5, 2010 by

Devotional Passage: read Matthew 13

Text for Consideration: verse 58

And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief. NRSV

Reflection:

In this passage, miracles are not performed primarily to inspire faith (though they certainly would!).  They are done in accordance with evident faith and, as demonstrated in this reading, to benefit needy people—the blind, the lame, the deaf, mute and possessed.  I fear my spiritual health is not robust.  I limp along a narrow path and the scales on my eyes make the signposts appear fuzzy.  I do not hear the voice of my Guide as clearly as I would wish.  But I do believe in the power of the Miracle-worker of Galilee.  And I offer him the Keys of my hometown this morning.

Initiative/Choice:

I choose to believe there is One who can heal what ails my soul.  I am convinced, as well, that he desires to do so and has taken the initiative to inspire hope for that change in my heart.

Prayer:

Dear Father in heaven, send Jesus my way.  I do believe in your power to heal and save.  Be active on my behalf this morning.  And give me the Extended Release, the Long Acting cure I so desire.  Thank you for listening one more time.  Thank you for speaking this morning again.  I praise you, Lord, for “Great is Thy Faithfulness!”  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

Joining the Family (Matthew 12:49, 50)

March 4, 2010 by

Devotional Passage: read Matthew 12

Text for Consideration: verse 49 & 50

And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” NRSV

Reflection:

Relationship to Jesus—being a real part of his family—is possible!  Predicated only on obedience, Jesus pronounces his brotherhood open to all humanity.  And it happens when God’s will becomes mine.  When I choose to love as he loves, when I treat those around me as my brothers and sisters, I become a little brother of the Son of God—a God whom I can now call my Father as well

Initiative/Choice:

This morning I choose obedience.  To the extent I know it, I make (by choice) the will of God my own.  And I rejoice, praising my Father who lives for making me (by choice) his own!

Prayer:

Dear God in heaven—my Father, show me today the simplicity of your will.  Forgive me for having followed my bent toward sinning.  I choose to follow you, to obey you, right now.  Free me from the shackles of past rebellions.  Don’t let me become overwhelmed by temptation or confused by the weakness of my flesh.  Help me not to complicate life by private duplicity, but to learn how to walk with joy in your way of unselfish love.  May I make a difference in the life of someone who is hurting today as Jesus ministers through me by the Spirit you have promised.  I approach you through the merits of the blood and in the name of Jesus Christ alone.  Amen.

The Easy Burden (Matthew 11:30)

March 3, 2010 by

Devotional Passage: read Matthew 11

Text for Consideration: verse 30

“ . . . my burden is light.” NRSV

Reflection:

Sometimes life is going well.  I don’t feel so tired and my step is quite light.  And Jesus still calls, “Come.”  But do I really want to shoulder his burden when it seems I have none of my own?  What if the only burden he asks me to carry at this time is the yoke of obedience?  If I desire simply my own pleasure why would I surrender my freedom for the confinements of his harness?  These questions cannot be offered seriously unless one is unaware of the intense heaviness of repetitive sin and the unavoidable weariness it brings to the soul.  And the supposed freedom of the libertine ends up bringing the sinner nothing more than the option of designing his own personal shackles and finding a new way to die.  Designer addictions—what a concept!

Initiative/Choice:

Today I choose the light burden of obedience.

Prayer:

Dear Father in Heaven, this morning I seek the freedom of the yoke of Christ.  I really am weary of my life of sin.  I long to know the lightness of the burden of obedience—obedience to the way of Jesus.  I am here to respond to his call.  I am willing, now, to accept his rest.  Teach me how to receive it.  And stay in it.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

The Myth of Secrecy (Matthew 10:26)

March 2, 2010 by

Devotional Passage: read Matthew 10

Text for Consideration: verse 26

“ . . . nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.” NRSV

Reflection:

We live in a world that has bought into the myth of secrecy.  We believe in the safety of anonymity.  We do things, because “no one will ever know,” that we would otherwise “not be caught dead” doing (—our belief is so engrained and common that we even have a phrase to fit the situation!).  Lawbreakers seek the (supposed) safety of darkness.  But the eyes of God are always open.  For now, he often remains a silent witness.  Silent, but not inactive.  His Spirit is ever wooing our wayward souls, drawing us home and encouraging us to make wise choices.  And here Jesus simply reminds us to consider the window always open, the door ajar, the lamp lit and the neighbors awake.  For in the end, there really are no secrets.  God created a universe of openness and light.  Truth and right have nothing to fear from exposure.  And a day of universal judgment is coming soon where each life will be an open book “known and read by all men.”  How comforting it will be to enter that day already with nothing left to hide—with sins confessed, forgiven and forsaken.

Initiative/Choice:

Today I open the doors of my heart and invite the searching eyes of Jesus.  I desire no thing to remain hidden.  I cling to no secret love.  I choose to be his alone.  I will live in openness and not seek false privacy or the deceptive veil of darkness.  Hidden only in him, I will welcome the Day of Judgment.

Prayer:

Dear Father in heaven, I’m sorry for having hidden from the sound of your voice.  Like Adam in the garden you created, I have wished you would walk another way and leave me alone in the shadows.  I’m so sorry that I have chosen sin, that I have valued the pleasures of this physical world over the treasure of knowing and hanging out with you.  Please forgive my selfish choices.  Teach me how to “walk in the Spirit” where I may not fulfill the desires of the flesh.  Thank you for your commitment to openness.  And thank you for not surprising us at the last moment but for reminding us here and now how fully known and seen we are by you.  I choose to live today in your reality.  Walk with me now I pray, as always, in the name of your precious Son, Jesus.  Amen.

A Compassionate Shepherd (Matthew 9:16)

March 1, 2010 by

Devotional Passage: read Matthew 9

Text for Consideration: verse 16

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. NRSV

Reflection:

Harassed and helpless—how often has that described the condition of my heart!  A paralytic on a stretcher whose greatest need is forgiveness, a desperate woman hemorrhaging her way to pauper’s grave, a lifeless child silent in her own bed, a blind beggar who has lost all sense of personal pride, a mute man possessed by demons—all apparently hopeless cases.  And I belong in every story.  And yet I am just one of the crowd, one of the wandering flock, lost and in need of direction, healing, forgiveness, life.  I need the Spirit’s touch to open my eyes.  I am in need of a voice with which to cry out for help; even as I fear being overtaken by another spirit that would make me unable to call for help when I need it most.

Initiative/Choice:

Today I will come to the only one who can raise the dead, the only one who can heal my heart.  He knows my need even if I lack the insight to properly acknowledge how far I have fallen.  He reaches out to restore though I have no voice to beg of him the mercy my failures require.

Prayer:

Dear Healing Father, restore to me life—and with that “the joy of Thy salvation” as well.  You know the where I am.  And only you can safely lead me to where I should be.  Be my Pastor, my Shepherd.  I am ready to join the safety of your fold.  I submit to “thy rod and thy staff.”  I am here to follow you.  And I long to dwell in your presence forever.  May your Spirit breathe life into that desire that it may motivate me beyond this moment.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.