WRITING A DEVOTIONAL
WRITING A DEVOTIONAL
Back in 2003 after having spent the year before reading Sarah Ban Breathnach's book "Simple Abundance" I took her suggestion to heart and wrote my own daily devotional. Each day I took a line or two from one of the various spiritual authors from the last three centuries I was reading and wrote my own thoughts on the subject. I then looked for a scripture that illustrated the truth that had been revealed to me. What follows is the result.
"Our greatest bondage is to have our own way; our greatest freedom is to let God have His way." Warren Wiersbe
Saturday, April 30, 2011
“It would be impossible to love as God loves us without His being constantly aware of us. Dr. Albert Day says we can think of our moment of most intense concentration upon the one we love above all others in the world, multiply this by infinity, and still not realize how acutely God is aware of each of us every minute of our lives!” Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 4/30
I know what Eugenia is talking about--this aspect of love....aware of the one you love. Isn’t that what women thrive on in a relationship, and men as well, especially when they’re dating--the fact that the other person notices everything about them? We women can feel unloved if our man doesn’t notice we’ve changed our hair in some way or have bought a new dress or tried a new recipe. Men will feel unloved if we women haven’t noticed something they’ve done like a chore around the house or the extra muscle they’ve built after diligent exercise. But these sorts of things can easily become lost in the day-to-day reality of life after the newness of the relationship has worn off. How wonderful it is to know that God never stops being aware of us! He notices every little nuance of our lives and cares. He promises to always be there for us. Of course, it’s nice to be noticed by the people you love because you then feel loved back, but in the scheme of things, knowing that God loves me and always notices me is far grander. It also makes me realize how God must really love it when I’m aware of Him. What a wonderful way for me to express my love for Him!
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31
Friday, April 29, 2011
“Discipleship is personally transferring the full dimensions of your relationship with Christ to the person you are walking with. It is not the imparting of spiritual disciplines as much as it is acquainting another with a Person you love.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-By-Day, 4/29
This is what a church is to be. Actually, it begins in the family--this living out Christ’s life in your relationships. You have to be in a close relationship in order for this to happen. So, if this is what a church is to be also, then those in the church must have opportunities to “live” together. This can’t happen on Sunday mornings. It can only happen in small group settings--regular and ongoing gatherings. To try to have an intimate relationship with others requires the same ingredients you find in a family: team work, respect, acceptance, caring and concern, and it goes without saying, love. Church is more than just a place to be taught spiritual disciplines. It is a place to practice them in the confines of community. It is only in community that we can see if we’ve learned those disciplines. And it is in community that we experience God’s love for us.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24, 25
Thursday, April 28, 2011
“As Christians, we talk about God ‘opening doors’ to us as a means of His revealing His will. What we are asking God to do is engineer our circumstances to match what we think would be best.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-By-Day, 4/28
It was hard to choose which devotional to write about concerning God’s will. Hannah Whitall Smith’s concerned not relying on your emotions as an indication of whether or not you were doing God’s will. Another spoke indirectly concerning it by stating the two conditions that must be fulfilled in order to have an intimate and blessed communion with God: everything is to be taken as His language and to be willing to face all pain as His discipline. Blackaby’s “door” example, though, spoke to my heart not only because it’s scriptural (Jesus said He is the door) but also because doors are a very practical means to get from where you are to where you want to go. When I was a child I loved to lie on the floor and look up at the ceiling and pretend it was the floor. In those rooms I always had to mentally step over the threshold because the doorways never came down to the “floor”. I think I liked to do this because it gave me a different perspective on my world. Perhaps that’s what we need in our daily world. We’ve become so accustomed to moving freely through all the doorways of our lives we take everything for granted. We need to see Jesus as our doorway to life. Perhaps if every door we encountered required us to stop in order to step over the threshold we’d be much more conscious of which doors we walked through, and choose Jesus.
“I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” John 10:9
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
“Most of us would be glad to be ‘filled with God,’ if God could just come in and ‘fill up’ the places left over from our own self-occupation. But He is a holy God and He must have a holy place to dwell. And He must have all of it. If you feel you simply cannot give Him everything, at least you can begin to expose yourself to His love.” Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 4/27
This “giving up the right to ourselves” is what keeps most of us from experiencing freedom in Christ. This is why it usually doesn’t come until we are so disgusted with ourselves that we no longer care to have any “rights” to it. Can you imagine how much grief we would save ourselves if we’d “just do it”? Just give all of ourselves to God from the very beginning! I know that part of my struggle has been to understand just what that means. It’s been easier to state it in a negative way: what not to do as opposed to what to do. For me to say, “I trust you, Lord,” leaves too many questions as to what that means. Instead I feel the only way to understand is to say, “Lord, I won’t insist on my own way,” or “I won’t allow myself to do this or that because it might pull me away from keeping my focus on You.” This is what legality is all about--a set of do’s and don’ts. To just totally rest in God’s love and let Him fill me doesn’t seem right--it’s too simple. Therein lies our human condition--our need to earn everything and then imposing that belief on others. No wonder we have such a stress-filled world. No wonder, Lord, You had to turn the world upside-down. But I no longer need wonder at all that You love me for I’ve seen Your Son. Like the morning’s sun He has risen in my heart.
“And to know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge, that you maybe filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:19
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
“Our world promotes dissatisfaction with our lives. We are constantly bombarded with newer and better things that will make our lives more complete if only we would obtain them!...Discontent stems from the sin of ingratitude and a lack of faith that God loves you enough to provide for all that you need.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-By-Day, 4/26
When I read Blackaby’s words this morning I knew I would write about it today. In the meantime I went to one of the better furniture stores in town--one I usually avoid because of the prices but wanted to check it out just in case they had what I was looking for in their marked-down area. As I wound my way through the displays of beautifully-crafted pieces I found myself coveting. I had to make a conscious effort to picture the furniture I had at home and acknowledge that it was nice, too, and met my needs. In fact, it was far nicer than I’d ever hoped to have. Once I left the store I felt the dissatisfaction subside and was glad to be out of there. But as I reread Blackaby’s devotional I realized that there’s more to discontent than just physical possessions. I could live totally isolated from the world and still be discontented with my life. It could be the weather, my natural abilities, or the people around me. This sin of ingratitude lies waiting to pounce on us in our least suspecting moments. It is constant. This is why our only hope is to give our wills to God because it is only then we can be freed from this self-centered, green-eyed monster called discontent.
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High; and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Psalm 50:14, 15
Monday, April 25, 2011
“Perhaps some may ask why it is, if all things are indeed God’s servants sent to bring us some message or some gift, that they themselves never seem to get these gifts or messages. The answer is simply this, that because these gifts and messages have come to them wrapped in coarse and ugly packages, they have refused to receive and open them.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 4/25
Today’s Daily Secrets is again reminding me that all things are God’s servants and that some of His blessings come wrapped in coarse packages. I had this thought pop up yesterday about the old poems I’d received this week in the mail from a cousin. The poems were written by our great-grandmother around 1880, and I was feeling discouraged about how difficult they are to read because of the deterioration of the paper and ink. In addition, I’d hoped there would be some letters in the bunch since the poems could be based on fiction rather than fact and therefore give me no more information about their lives than I already had, which isn’t much. As I mulled over my discontent I was reminded that I hadn’t actually read all the poems yet. Perhaps, hidden within the faded pages--or yet to come from my cousin or some yet unknown source--are pieces of the puzzle that will shed light on all the clues I already have. I must carefully examine what I do have so that I’ll be able to see what’s yet to come. This is what she means when she says some of our blessings are wrapped in coarse and ugly packages!
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
Sunday, April 24, 2011
“Jesus said if we believe in Him, we will never be spiritually hungry....We say, ‘Yes, but I remember a time when I was spiritually hungry.’....Could it be that we relied so heavily upon friends and the experiences of others that we have never learned how to go to Christ for our own spiritual food?” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 4/24
Yes. I would suspect that this is the first reason we feel spiritually malnourished. We are too busy looking at our neighbors instead of helping them. We scrutinize them, compare ourselves, or in some way try to emulate them. We’re supposed to be looking at Jesus so that we will know that we are living the life of Christ in us. Why is this so hard for us? I believe it’s because we see ourselves as flesh first and then spirits. If we were to realize that we are spirits in earth suits we just might see everything differently. First, we’d not see death as the end of ourselves but instead a change of venue. Then we’d value relationships much more than creature comforts because our spirits don’t need any of the comforts that our bodies crave. I would even suspect that we’d view pain differently as well. When we confuse our bodies with our spirits--as though they were one entity--we are tempted to take pain personally in a way that not only hurts physically but emotionally. Jesus is the Bread of Life. Let us feast on Him instead!
“How lovely is thy dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yea, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.” Psalm 84:1, 2
Saturday, April 23, 2011
“There were very different instruments employed in bringing these misfortunes to pass, and yet all of them.....all were God’s ways of accomplishing his blessed purpose of maturing the fruits of meekness, patience, submission, and trust in the heart of Job, and of bringing him into greater nearness and communion with himself at last.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 4/23
I was just going into 5th grade when my parents moved to Greenwood, Mississippi. I’d only known Greenville as my home so it was a traumatic move for me. It was only years later that I found out it had been traumatic for my Dad as well. The reason for the move was he’d lost his business in Greenville and had been forced to work for someone else. My Mother, years later, told me he’d asked her to read the book of Job to him that summer. Little did we know that he only had 17 years left of his life. A few months before he took his life he told me that alcohol was no longer his “friend”. It could no longer keep the pain away from his life--he could no longer hide in it because it was destroying his body. I believe this is why he took matters into his own hands. He obviously did not learn from the reading of Job’s trials. Job saw all the disasters that had befallen him as coming from the Lord and in acknowledging that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, all that he’d lost was given back to him several times over. Lord, it is obvious we must do more than just hear your Word, we must heed it as well, if we are to receive the blessing you intend.
“Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth, and reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” 1 John 3:18-20
Friday, April 22, 2011
“A trial comes, or a disappointment, and instead of recognizing it as God’s servant, sent to bring us some blessing from his hand, we bow down to it as our tyrannical master and let it crush us into darkness and despair.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 4/22
Once again Hannah has turned my perspective 180 degrees! A trial or disappointment a servant of God? A servant. I must think on this for a while. A servant does his master’s bidding. If he doesn’t he’s removed from his position or punished severely, depending on the disposition of the master. A servant also only does what his master instructs--nothing more, nothing less. This is very comforting to me. I have come to believe this to be true for trials--that they are allowed into my life for my ultimate good. But I’d not thought about this in regard to my disappointments. Were my expectations from God? Or me? I’ve often wondered why I’d have such high expectations only to suffer disappointment. Now I don’t even have to ask that question because it doesn’t matter. What matters is that the disappointment is God’s servant, and it will do God’s bidding in my life. It will either bring me to some knowledge of God or myself or to a place that is necessary for my future blessing.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12, 13
Thursday, April 21, 2011
“Obedience may be said to be simply a matter of self-interest. It is not a demand made of us, but a privilege offered. Like yielding and trusting, it is simply a way of bringing divine wisdom and power to bear upon our affairs.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 4/21
A privilege? Why is it we never think of obedience in this light? Why is it thought to be something against what we want? I’m far more obedient than I realize, though. I just don’t label the things I do as “obedience”. To me they are things I want to do. Some things I’ve learned to “want” to do because of the unpleasant consequences if I don’t, but others are because I like the sense of security they bring. I think this reveals why we often have a hard time “delighting to do God’s will”. We haven’t come to realize that God is our security. We’ve relied too much on the world’s definition of security and when our reality doesn’t match the world’s definition we question God’s provision for us. If we do not fully trust Him we are not going to obey Him. As a parent I learned this early on. If my children didn’t trust that my request was for their own good they would not comply. They had radar about anything that smacked of self-interest on my part. Of course, sometimes they could not understand why a nap was in their best interest and would resist. Likewise, we do not always trust God because we are ignorant of the consequences of getting our way. But as we mature as children of God, like children do who are held responsible for their behavior, we begin to trust our Father’s judgment because He’s shown Himself to be trustworthy.
“I delight to do they will, O my God; thy law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:8
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
“No safe teacher of the life of faith ever says that it becomes impossible to sin; he only insists that sin ceases to be a necessity and, therefore, continual victory is available to us.” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 4/20
This is one of those truths I espoused for years yet have not lived. What does this say about me? Am I just all talk? Am I of the “do as I say not as I do” generation? This bears looking into, I’d say. Do I merely take pride in what I know? I can see why God would put me into the background these past few years--I was like a loose cannon with no plan for going into the bombed territory with help to rebuild. How can I expect to help people rebuild their lives after I’ve “exposed” their weakness if I am not an example myself of the victorious life in Christ? Thank you, Lord, for putting me here, despite my protests. I shall learn not only how to be a good example of a person who no longer needs to sin, but I shall also learn contentment.
“I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12, 13
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
“ ‘Oh, Mother, I do not see how you can love such a naughty little girl as I am,’ And I replied, ‘Ah, darling, you cannot understand. I do not love you for what you are, but I love you for what I am. I am your mother, and I love you because of my mother-heart of love.’ ” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 4/18
I chose this to write about today because I feel it holds a secret that needs to be discovered by me. I know that God loves me because He is love and can’t help but love me. This is why Hannah used this conversation with her daughter to illustrate how God loves us despite our failings. But I feel there’s something in this concerning my ability to love other people. Like Hannah, I too can’t help but love my children because I am their mother. But I’m not everybody’s mother and therefore can’t rely on my “mother’s heart” to love them. Perhaps this is another way to understand that apart from Christ I am nothing. I can’t love other people because I’m not their mother. I can’t love other people because I’m not God. I can’t even love myself! So, I really must leave it to God to love them and me. When the Bible says to love your neighbor as yourself I feel it is saying the love I receive from God because He first loved me is the love I’m to share with my neighbor. It’s not that I love myself. It’s that I am loved and therefore become a conduit of Love Itself--God.
“We love, because he first loved us. If any one says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother who he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him that he who loves God should love his brother also.” 1 John 4:19-21
Monday, April 18, 2011
“Whatever overflows you with its waves and billows, He can cause it to flee. He can drive back your ‘Jordan’ and turn the ‘flint’ into a veritable 'fountain of waters'.” Eugenia Price, S.P.S. 4/18
A burst pipe decided to “overflow” with its “waves and billows”. This on the morning we were planning to leave on vacation. I had not planned on having to spend three hours--before my first cup of coffee, no less--carting furniture out to the garage and vacuuming water out of my basement before I left on a three-day vacation! Nor did I realize God was about to speak to me in an awesome way. Moments before the discovery of our awaiting “waves and billows” I had been complaining to my husband about my feelings of “not mattering”. I’d been brooding on it for several days and was officially depressed about it. As I waded barefoot into the ankle-deep, icy cold water removing everything I could easily pick up it suddenly hit me that we would not have been home if we’d left on our vacation as originally planned. The school system had taken back two days from Spring Vacation because of too many snow days. I’d had to change the day we were to leave. This “Jordan” could have continued unchecked for at least another eight hours when the neighbor boy was scheduled to feed the cat. I began praising God for this, and just as suddenly as God had driven back the Israelites’ Jordan, my "Jordan" of overwhelming feelings I’d been experiencing earlier were driven back. In praising God in the midst of the overflowing water I was delivered from my self-pity and set on dry ground.
“For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.” Hebrews 2:18
Sunday, April 17, 2011
“Do not your doubts come trooping to your door like a company of sympathizing friends who appreciate your hard case and have come to console you? Is it no luxury to sit down with them, entertain them, listen to their arguments, and join in with their condolences?” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 4/17
Hannah is making the point that we encourage our doubts rather than shutting the door to them. She says it produces “an interesting sort of wretchedness that you cannot easily give up.” Then she really nails me when she says, “Things have gone wrong with you in your experience.” It was then I realized how subtle my doubts are. I don’t rail against God or accuse Him of being unloving. Instead I’m “just” discontented. I’m getting a picture of myself lying on a chaise lounge with the back of my hand to my forehead bemoaning “woe is me” with one eye open to see if God is feeling guilty yet. I’m seeing God in Heaven looking down with a chuckle at just how overly dramatic his little children can be, yet reaching down and patting us on the head with a “there, there....you’ll see....my will for you is perfect.” God’s patience is beyond me! But He has also warned us that the time will come when it will be too late to repent. Let us heed this warning!
“For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.” Hebrews 12:17
Saturday, April 16, 2011
“...when we choose to leave “Egypt” behind and go on with God, we need His power every minute to look to Him....It keeps us constantly dependent upon Him and this increases our union with Him and therefore our joy and our strength.” Eugenia Price, S.P.S. 4/16
Eugenia cautions us not to look back longingly at “Egypt”. Egypt is where we came from--the old life--the life without Christ--the place where we were enslaved to sin. I don’t have to look back very far. Even though I was officially delivered from sin when I was a child, I didn’t know I was no longer a slave so I continued to act like one. In fact, just yesterday I acted like a slave to sin. I’m trying to understand why in the world I would want to be a slave again! Is it because it feels so familiar and, therefore, comfortable? Is it a choice I make? Yes and no. It’s not that I choose to be a slave, but rather that I do not choose to keep my eyes on God. Once I take my eyes off Him my choices become either them or me and, of course, I choose me. If my choice is Him, them, or me I’m going to choose Him every time. But for some reason I forget He is one of my choices! This is the power of sin over me that I’m beginning to understand. Hannah W. Smith talks about the “I” religion versus the “Not I” religion. She says, “We do not consider how our heavenly Father loves us, and longs for us, and grieves over our wandering, and will rejoice at our return.” I think it’s time I start living the “Not I” religion.
“And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Matthew 26:39
Friday, April 15, 2011
“The highway of holiness is not a place but a way....We may for a moment turn aside from a path, but the path is not obliterated by our wandering and can be instantly regained.” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 4/15
I’m beginning to see this path of sanctification much more clearly, and as I do, it’s beginning to fade because I no longer see it as an actual road that one can find plotted out on a map. Instead, this path is a person--Jesus Christ in me, guiding me through life. There is no path laid out for me that I can see. It’s there, in the sense that God sees it, but there’s nary a footprint on my path because I haven’t made it yet. Before, I saw a path in front of me, and I tried to walk in it only to discover I’d been distracted from it. Or, I was so intent on what lay ahead that I missed everything along the way that I was suppose to be enjoying. Now, I realize, my path lies hidden from me. God knows the way, and it is Him that I listen to for my next step. Eventually, I hope I won’t even have to listen with my ears for if I can learn to listen with my heart, I will be able to pay attention even more so to my surroundings. I will be able to see all the people laying along side the path that God wants me to minister to for Him. And I’ll be able to feel the wind in my hair and the Son on my face.
“Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also, henceforth you know him and have seen him.” John 14:5, 6
Thursday, April 14, 2011
“One of the great heart-cries of men and women everywhere and under all circumstances is for “confidence”......Some “insecurity” shows itself in cringing and shyness. Some in egotism and boasting.” Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 4/14
Lack of confidence has been one of my struggles. I’ve exhibited it in both arenas: cringing and egotism. I usually start off holding back. This is easy to label “insecurity”. It feels comfortable because I at least feel as though no one has noticed. But once I find my voice and step out of the shadow I usually find myself past confidence into egotism. Why do I have such a hard time with this? It’s obvious that what I’m calling confidence is not the right kind of confidence. As long as “self” is attached to it it can never be enough. Self is rightfully insecure because it knows it is standing on shaky ground. Whether I’m acting shy or am boasting, my need for confidence can never be satisfied. Both are just cover-ups for my insecurity. Only the confidence that comes from God stands on firm ground--the Rock, Himself. In Him only can I find security.
“No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his own Spirit.” 1 John 4:12, 13
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
“There is a subtle temptation that encourages Christians to be “practical”. That is, they try to do God’s work in man’s way. 'Getting results' becomes the primary focus.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 4/13
This was illustrated in two other devotionals I read today. Hannah W. Smith uses a seed to illustrate that the life force in it allows the plant to push through all sorts of obstacles to reach the surface: “It is life, more life that we want, not more effort.” This problem with effort, according to Richard K. Ullmann in 1963, often presents itself in the life of a Christian peacemaker. We can become frustrated by a lack of result and resort to lobbying or mass demonstrations. He said, “The reconciler’s interest should be directed not toward policies but towards people.” To all these points I must add one brought out in a movie I watched last night that dealt with one man’s defection from Communist Cuba in 1991. One of the characters, in talking about Castro’s revolution, said it was the “idea” that people believed in that enabled Castro to take control of Cuba with only a handful of soldiers. No one bothered to look at the man behind the idea to see if he was good or not. All these examples point to the fact that our belief in Jesus Christ must rest on the fact that He was God Himself. If we point to what He did or what He preached we are dealing in ideas. Ideas can be misinterpreted and misused. Ideas have no power in and of themselves. They are catalyst. The life can only be found in the life giver--God. We must always keep our focus there. Jesus Christ IS the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
“Truth is a Person, not a concept. Jesus said He was the Truth (John 14:6).” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 4/12
Today there seems to be more than one Truth, at least this is what the world would have you to believe. To accept anything as an absolute raises people’s hackles and the "perpetrator" is labeled prejudiced or bigoted. This is why what Christ stands for isn’t what we need to be preaching because in the minds of the lost that is arguable. Instead we must “preach” Christ, Himself. Nothing can stand against Christ. All arguments, all doubts must fall before Him for He has already won the victory. And how do we preach Christ? The only way is by our own lives. His power, His strength, His love is what the world must see in us. It must be clear that it is not I, but Him. This Truth they cannot resist. So, if you’re having a difficult time reaching someone, make sure you aren’t blocking their view of Christ.
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” John 14:6
Monday, April 11, 2011
“There are four ways God reveals His will to us--through the Scriptures, through providential circumstances, through the convictions of our own higher judgment and through the inward impressions of the Holy Spirit on our minds. Where these four harmonize, God speaks.” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 4/10
Hannah’s comment about the four ways harmonizing was good for me to hear. I’ve looked to these four ways to discern God’s will, but often have been left confused by one thing or another and not been able to put my finger on it. I knew that God would never violate His word in Scripture, but had never stopped to think how my “intuition”, which is my convictions of my own higher judgment, should harmonize both with God’s providential circumstances and the inward impressions of the Holy Spirit. I usually have two out of the three and am left with a vague feeling of confusion. Now I will consider each aspect of God’s method of speaking to me to see which one isn’t harmonizing. Breaking it down in this way should be very helpful. God’s word + circumstances + convictions + Holy Spirit = knowing God’s will.
But I’m not done. I must add one more thing to the equation: x obedience = Joy.
“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:10, 11
Sunday, April 10, 2011
“A living plant always bears fruit. It is the law of its life that it should do so; and it is equally a law that this fruit should come, not by effort, but spontaneous growth.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 4/10
Over 100 years ago Hannah said, “There is a vast amount of effort among Christians to hang fruit onto their branches by some outside performances.” This is still true today. I suppose it will always be for those who do not understand this spiritual law. And it will continue as long as people feel they have to add anything to the work of Christ in order to be counted “good” Christians. Sometimes I even wonder if we’re delaying Christ’s return because of so much effort on our part. How much do we get in the way of God's power and glory being exhibited? For one thing, we give the world the impression that Christianity is only about good works especially if it’s done from a distance and they do not see us loving one another, but instead see us finding fault with each other--not very appealing to those who feel down and out themselves. How can they possibly live up to the standard set for them when they have nothing to contribute and are in need of love themselves? They do not see Christ--they see "do-gooders". Imagine what the world would think of us if all they could see were our genuine love for one another and for them?
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But if any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word of speech, but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth, and reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God;” 1 John 3:16-21
Saturday, April 9, 2011
“Jesus did not say He would show us a better way of life. He is not “way-shower” as the modern cult would have us believe. He Himself is the way. He Himself is the life.” Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 4/9
This is a very important point that Christians do seem to overlook. However, it’s not just in modern times. I’ve investigated several sects of Christianity: Quakerism, Methodism, Brethren, Amish, Missionary and Alliance. I’ve read history books about their founders, or the writings of the founders themselves. Each one of them seemed to hold a truth that their society wasn’t preaching, let alone living. But when I examine those sects today I see nothing that comes close to what they taught in their beginnings. Why is this? I believe that people began to follow the leader and not the originator. The leaders had a direct contact with God Himself. They were living Christ’s life. Their followers, however, were merely imitating the life of the leader. Subsequent generations became distant relatives. I suppose this is human nature, but we must stop it if we’re ever to raise up a generation that God can use to bring about his Kingdom here on Earth. Lord, help us to see the fallacy in putting our hope in anyone other than the person of Jesus Christ. Amen
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me;” Galatians 2:20a
Friday, April 8, 2011
“And this is the strong point on which I have founded myself: God did not die for us merely to appease himself, but to appease our consciences and to make us know His love. I believe the atonement means at-one-ment.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Safe Within Your Love, pg. 156
This appeasing of our consciences is something people seem to overlook in my estimation. I think that when our emotions have overrun us it’s because they are coming directly from our consciences bypassing the reasoning part of our brains altogether. We aren’t aware of this at the time, of course, and often later do not care to “revisit” the event because we don’t want to “revisit” the emotional turmoil. The cycle then becomes a way of life that then gets labeled “normal”. But Christ said He came to save us from our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. This cleansing begins in our consciences. It is there we are made right so that we can now do right. If our consciences continue to condemn us, we are still lost because we have yet to trust Christ with our whole being and He cannot do His work in us.
“For Christ also died for sins once for all....that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit;.....in the days of Noah...were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.” 1 Peter 3:18-22
Thursday, April 7, 2011
“The divine seed within us is being quickened by the Holy Spirit whenever we feel inward stirrings and longings after holiness. This is the begetting of God. Then comes our responsibility. We cannot create life, but we can let life live.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 4/7
I just heard a sermon on the radio that asked the question, "What comes between you and Jesus to block your trusting him?" The preacher suggested things like our idolizing people or possessions, but I have another one to add: being right but not having your advice heeded. I can get so caught up sometimes in being right about something that I cannot see what Christ is doing in the other person. My motive is to protect them from making a mistake. Sometimes there may be selfishness attached because their mistake may affect me, but other times I have no personal interest at stake, but still I feel the need to make them "see the light". Ultimately, all I can do is make a suggestion. People respond better to “have you considered doing this” because it makes it easier for them to change their minds. So why do I feel so desperate that they take my advice? Lord, forgive me for not trusting You in whatever you are working out of or into their lives and mine. May I let Your Life live in me.
“Other seeds fell on good soil .....As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” Matthew 13:8a, 23
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
“Fenelon says that ‘pure religion resides in the will alone.’ By this he means that as the will is the governing power in the man’s nature, if the will is set right, all the rest of the nature must come into harmony.” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 4/6
Hannah says the will is the deciding power, “the king to which all that is in the man must yield obedience.” I understand why I’ve struggled so to be obedient to God’s law of love. My flesh cannot obey, only the Spirit of Christ in me can obey God’s law. Even if I am able to discipline myself to the point of overcoming my flesh, the motive for my obedience will still be to glorify my flesh. I will be able to say, “Look what I’ve done!” God tells us in Micah 6:6-8 that He does not desire our sacrifices, but instead desires that we do justice, love kindness and to walk humbly with Him. Flesh cannot humble itself. It is humbled by something. Flesh can love kindness but only to the point it receives kindness. And as far as doing justice....flesh and doing justice are incompatible. Flesh can mete out justice and receive justice, but it cannot do justice. The Christian life has to be lived by Christ Himself and He can only do that in those who no longer answer to the flesh. Our flesh--our will--must submit itself to Christ. It is from there our obedience will spring.
“Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired, but a body hast thou prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings thou hast taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God,’ as it is written of me in the roll of the book.”” Hebrews 10:5-7
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
“You must put your will into your believing....You may have to believe against every seeming.....We are told that all things are possible to God (Matt. 19:26) and that all things are possible also to him who believes (Mark 9:23).” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 4/5
Hannah also reminds us that if we are a child of God we have “at least as much faith as a grain of mustard seed.” So what is our excuse for not believing God? I believe it’s simply a matter of our flesh diluting our faith. It reminds me of the grape juice I make from concentrate. It is so strong tasting that I add an extra can of water to weaken it. This also stretches how long it will last! In the same way when we try to stretch our resources by adding our own fleshly resources to God’s resource we water down our faith. Perhaps, we secretly desire to water down God’s power within us because it can be scary to be “all-powerful”. With this power comes responsibilities. Also, we risk losing friends who feel threatened by our ability to accept life’s challenges so easily. There are all sorts of reasons why we may be afraid of the power of the Holy Spirit that is available to us. As I think about this I hear the words of the angels when they announced Jesus’ birth, “Do not be afraid.” The shepherds were frightened by the “glory of the Lord” that shone around the angels. We mustn’t be afraid of the glory of the Lord within us.
“He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’ When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” Matthew 17:5-7
Monday, April 4, 2011
"I believe the real question that ought to be put to the soul is not ‘Do you love God?’ but ‘Do you believe God is lovable?’” Hannah Whitall Smith, Safe Within Your Love, pg. 144
Yes, this IS the real question we need to have settled. We can say we love God because we want Him to love us back. I’m sure this is what some people do, just like they will throw out an “I love you” to someone hoping to elicit a return “I love you, too.” 1 John 4:19 tells us that we love because God first loved us. So if we love God it’s BECAUSE He loves us. Even knowing that God loves us doesn’t settle the real question. How many of us have someone we know who loves us but it doesn’t change how we feel about them? So the question, like Hannah says, isn’t whether we love God, but do we believe God is lovable. Throughout scripture we are told God is love, but until we believe it for ourselves we will not trust Him. And if we don’t trust Him then where are we left? Alone and lost. No wonder so many professing Christians have put their trust in their flesh. That has become their only hope. So, dear friend, please ask yourself this question: Do YOU believe God is lovable? If not, it may be the only question you need to have settled.
“Through him you have confidence in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.*” 1 Peter 1:21
*Harper Study Bible, RSV [so that your faith is hope in God]
Sunday, April 3, 2011
“In reality, however, faith is the simplest and plainest thing in the world, the easiest of exercises: It is simply believing God.....Your salvation comes, not because your faith saves you, but because it links you to the Savior who saves; and your believing is really nothing but the link.” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 4/3
This is why we only need faith as small as a mustard seed. God gives us the ability to believe Him by faith, but we need to quit our rebellion in order to use it. Then we need to make sure we have a right idea of who God is and what He does. He is love and does justice. It’s all pretty simple....on paper. It’s the condition I mentioned that is our hang up--WE have to quit our rebellion. We must give Him our wills. The only way we can do this is to totally die to our rebellious Self. We can’t just knock it out, drug it to sleep, or pretend it’s not there. We must lay it down and let it starve to death. If we pick it up for any reason we are feeding it and bringing it back to life, sometimes with a vengeance. How much better just to give it to God. Soon it will surrender itself to the overwhelming love of God and become one with Him. Hannah says it beautifully in a poem: Take it, oh Father, ere my courage fail; and merge it so in thine own will, that e’en if in some desperate hour my cries prevail, and thou give back my gift, it may have been so changed, so purified, so fair have grown, so one with thee, so filled with peace divine, I may not know or feel it as mine own, but, gaining back my will, may find it thine.
“And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever.” 1 John 2:27
Saturday, April 2, 2011
“One of the greatest obstacles to an unwavering experience in the spiritual life is the difficulty of seeing God in everything. People say, ‘I can easily submit to things that I know come from God--but I cannot submit to man, and most of my troubles come through other men and women!’ ” Hannah Whitall Smith, Safe Within Your Love, pg. 135
God’s not going to let me leave this subject I see! Hannah went on to say what is needed is to see God in everything and to receive everything directly from His hands. After writing yesterday’s devotion I found myself struggling once again with those things not within my control. So I was up early reading my Bible and was led to the passage in Mark 2:22 where Jesus said you wouldn’t put new wine into old wineskins because it would cause them to break. This made sense, but then I read the same passage in Luke 5:39 that adds, “And no one after drinking old wine desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’ ” I know enough about wine to know old does taste better. But if the new wine represents Christ and the new wineskin is our redeemed lives, what could this “old wine is better” mean? And how did this relate to what Hannah was showing me? Our "old skin”, the old man, will always want the old wine so we can’t pour the new wine into the old wineskin. Therefore, as new creatures in Christ, everything that is poured into our lives will be this “new wine”, Christ Himself--and yes, it may taste bitter at first because it hasn’t aged yet--but this is the work of faith, to make it sweet.
“How sweet are thy words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119:103
Friday, April 1, 2011
“My Tender Father, show me the others in my world as you see them. Show me if I’ve been irritable, or critical, just because I don’t understand your dealings in their lives. And let me come over to your side, in how I treat them today.” David Hazard’s Prayer, Hannah Whitall Smith, Safe Within Your Love, pg. 129
I woke up feeling irritable this morning. I didn’t need to be shown why. I knew full well. As I wrote it all down in my journal I felt overwhelmed by my failure to live the life of Christ in me. I asked God to deliver me from this failure but could see no deliverance awaiting me. I read through several of the morning’s devotions looking for the key that would unlock Self’s grip on me. Later, when I returned to finish my devotional reading I noticed I was feeling better just because I’d been distracted from Self for awhile because of my motherly duties. Then the key was handed to me in David Hazard’s prayer at the end of Hannah’s devotion on the exchanged life. I had come to realize that while I could accept whatever God had for me directly from His Hand, I was having a great difficulty accepting “second causes” as Hannah calls them. These trials and sufferings, when brought to me by human hands, seemed more than I could bear. As soon as I admitted this, God showed me that not all “second causes” were for me. Sometimes because others are not trusting their lives to God their behavior will affect my life. It’s in those times that God is teaching ME to trust Him even more.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.” Proverbs 3:5