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
Monday, February 28, 2011
“A mark of spiritual maturity is a willingness to sacrifice personal comfort in order to strengthen other believers. Paul urges Christians to pursue only activities that promote peace and behavior that builds up others.”
H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 2/29
In yesterday’s reading Eugenia spoke about losing awareness of those around us because we’re so wrapped up in ourselves. Today Blackaby is showing me why it matters so much that I deal with my guilt. I’ve always known that guilt is a killer. I know this first hand because it’s why my father took his own life. The truth is anyone who still holds onto their guilt is taking their own life, albeit slowly. This erosion of our worth only serves to poison those around us as well because it severely “limits the Holy One of Israel” as Eugenia points out. We are called to be salt and light in this world--reconcilers and encouragers. If we are so focused on ourselves, we never see the pain of others nor are we available to be used by God. May we never neglect this responsibility! But glory be unto God, it is by the grace of God we are enabled to be a blessing to others through the power of our resurrected Lord.
“For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light.” Ephesians 5:8
“If we are holding onto old guilts and pretending to ourselves and others that we are just so ‘low’ that we feel God can’t forgive us for ‘this one,’ we had better stop provoking Him......We don’t mean to turn in upon ourselves. But when we carry unnecessary guilt, we do. We are so painfully aware of us that we lose our awareness of those around us....We ‘limit the Holy One of Israel’ (Psalm 78:41) when we clutch our old thought patterns.....” Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 2/28
As I read Eugenia’s words I thought, “I’m really more guilty of the opposite--holding unforgiveness in my heart against others.” But I found myself being drawn back to Eugenia’s words and rereading them several times and came to realize that unforgiveness against others was the same as unforgiveness against myself. My unforgiveness towards others was because I hadn’t totally claimed God’s cleansing for myself. I say this because if I really saw myself as ‘perfect’ (for this is how God sees me in Christ) how others treated me would not matter. If their behavior towards me did not affect my self-worth, there would be no need for forgiveness. I would see their behavior as due to something within themselves that caused it. I may not like the affect it has on my life, but if I am “hid in Christ” I would trust that God is using it to my benefit and again have no cause to have any unforgiveness toward that person. It really does just come down to pride--my inability to let God love me.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.....He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:16, 18
Sunday, February 27, 2011
“As a child of God you are never alone! Your Shepherd is with you at all times. You never have to call him into your situation.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 2/27
God illustrated this to me in yesterday’s happenings. When I went to my car in the parking garage to get my snow boots before walking over to the court house for the jury duty selection I found myself feeling quite anxious. My boots weren’t cooperating by going on easily while I was standing on one foot struggling to get my foot in AND maintain my balance. I had to be there by a certain time and I wasn’t exactly sure where the building was, especially since I always lose my sense of direction in big cities. Once I finally arrived (after getting lost for awhile) we ended up having to wait for so long that they put a movie on for us to watch--Runaway Bride. God used this movie to illustrate what had happened to cause my anxiety. In the movie the bride, who had left her husbands-to-be at the altar three times before, was once again walking up the aisle, but this time she was maintaining eye contact with the awaiting groom--that is, until a flash from a camera caused the groom to blink. At that point, the bride lost eye contact and bolted, again. God was showing me I had lost eye contact with Him. I succumbed to my fears and anxiety overtook me. Before I even left the comfort of my hotel room I needed to have claimed God’s victory over any fear or threatening situation that might have lain before me so that in the midst of it I need only remind myself that I was not alone. By waiting until I was in the fearful situation to ask for help I had to deal with the anxiety that was overwhelming me--the anxiety of my own making. In a sense I was already losing the battle because it was one I had started by not relying on God to begin with. This self-sufficiency problem we have is so subtle we really must plan on it causing us a problem and subject it to God’s revealing light so that it doesn’t sneak up on us!
“It is the LORD who goes before you; he will be with you, he will not fail you or forsake you; do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8
Saturday, February 26, 2011
“God does not deal with the sinner according to the fervor of his wrestlings or pleadings but according to his faith....if this is God’s rule with regard to the poor awakened sinner, how much more must it be the rule regarding His own family who have been born of the Spirit and upon whom He has bestowed all the riches that are in Christ.” Hannah W. Smith, Walking in the Light, p. 35
I’ve already written about the fact that without faith we cannot please God, but that had been sparked by the word “please” and how our faith affects God. Now the word “faith” is what is illuminating itself because I’m finally understanding that faith is what freedom in Christ is all about. We put our faith in all sorts of things every day. It’s as automatic as putting our feet down on the floor when we get out of bed, trusting our slippers are right where we left them, to flipping on the light switch and trusting we’ll be able to see our way through the dark. Yet we have trouble trusting that He who has saved us will not forsake us. This shows just how powerful Satan is. If it mattered to Satan that our feet were warm and that we could see through the dark I’d guess we’d have trouble trusting those things, too. But, of course, it doesn’t matter. Satan only cares whether we trust God or not. So let us be aware of any doubt and discouragement lurking in the shadows of our minds waiting to pounce because it’s our faith in our loving Savior to keep us that will protect us from this doubt and discouragement, which serves only to bind the power of God here on earth.
“According to your faith be it done to you.” Matthew 9:29
Friday, February 25, 2011
“To deny anything means that you do not recognize its existence. To deny ourselves, therefore, does not mean to keep self alive and let it be made miserable by forcing it to do God’s will; but it means to deny the very existence of self and to live only in that part of our nature that loves God’s will and delights to do it.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets of the Christian Life, 2/25
This makes perfect sense to me now. I liken it to this jury duty I’ve been called to. The Court not only included a notice in the summons that warned me not to read any newspaper articles on federal trials the days before the trial, they also called my house with a recorded message telling me not to read any articles lest I impede the jury selection process. They have to know they’ve merely peaked my curiosity that much more. This is human nature! It is the same with my ego self. You tell it it’s not allowed to do something, it will want to do it all the more. Hannah has it so right. The only way to deal with ego is to treat it as though it doesn’t exist. Instead I focus on the life I now live in Christ--He in me and I in Him.
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God...Put to death, therefore what is earthly in you...” Colossians 3:1-3, 5
Thursday, February 24, 2011
“Life’s heartbreaks and tragedies can put an end to our resilience, our endurance, our nerve, and bring us to our knees. But if we put our hope in the Lord and rely on Him, He renews our strength. The key to our endurance lies in the exchange of our limited resources for God’s limitless strength.” David Roper, Our Daily Bread, 2/24
Our Daily Bread’s scripture today is on the Isaiah 40 passage Hannah Whitall Smith wrote about yesterday. David Roper uses “hope” and “rely” as conditions to renewing our strength. This has given me a new way to look at surrender. To trust God is obviously to rely on Him. Perhaps Mr. Roper was being redundant when he wrote, “put our hope in the Lord” for that sounds like another way to say “rely on”. But if that wasn’t his intention, then I must dig a little deeper to understand what this “putting my hope in the Lord” is all about. “Surrender,” interestingly enough, does not appear in the King James Version of scripture. The dictionary definition means to give up to an adversary. So why would Hannah use the word “surrender” when referring to this Isaiah 40 passage? God is not our adversary. As I ask this question I suddenly understand. We are to give up fighting the adversary ourselves. Nowhere in the New Testament are we told to fight evil. Instead, we are to flee to God, taking refuge in Him because the battle has already been won for us who are hid in Christ. We are merely to flee and to trust. But we must first surrender the battle to Him by accepting Christ as our Victory!
“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1 John 5:4, 5
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
“...if we will only surrender ourselves utterly to the Lord, and will trust Him perfectly, we shall find our souls ‘mounting up with wings as eagles’ (Isaiah 40:30) to the ‘heavenly places’ in Christ Jesus, where earthly annoyances or sorrows have no power to disturb us.” Hannah Whitall Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, p. 240
Hannah, in her usual practicality, points out that the wings of the eagle that carries him to the heavenly places are Surrender and Trust. What’s more, it takes both wings to fly. I know in my own life that the times I’ve surrendered my will to God’s Will have not always been coupled with trust. And the times I have trusted God I’ve not done so fully surrendered. Understanding now the necessity of both surrendering and trusting simultaneously explains an awful lot to me about why my Christian walk has seemed so ineffective. All the ingredients have been there, but I haven’t followed the recipe! I was just discussing with my son the necessity of following a recipe exactly if you want the dish to turn out right. You may be able to fudge a little on some of the seasonings, but the main ingredients like liquids, leavenings, and flour, if you’re making bread, have to be followed exactly or else you’re not going to end up with the planned product. God’s recipe for a life well lived requires both surrender and trust. This is the life hid in Christ.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
“The Lord Jesus treads softly when He is near the hearts of those who do not yet know Him!” Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 2/22
“(Jesus gave His disciples) His authority to minister to people, yet they became so self-centered that they lost the power to do the work of God.....Jesus’ response to His disciples included some of the harshest words ever to come from His mouth. He called His own disciples “unbelieving” and “perverse” and questioned how much longer He had to endure them!” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 2/22
It’s always interesting to me when more than one devotional book I’m reading has the same theme on the same day. It causes me to sit up and take notice that this is a very important piece of information God has for me. In this case it was something I already knew and agreed with. So I must take an even closer look at it because I must have missed something. I know that God is merciful to sinners. He forgives them immediately and tells them to go and sin no more. Those who are grateful for His forgiveness will be granted eternal life. It was also obvious that He would not tolerate the Pharisees or anyone who felt they could work their way to righteousness. But what I’m grasping now is that because I am trusting Christ’s work on the cross for my salvation I’ve felt “safe” while totally blocking out God’s expectations for me as one of his disciples. And what’s more, I have His Holy Spirit to enable me to follow Him whereas the Disciples had not yet received the Holy Spirit. Lord, may I be careful to never presume upon your grace and instead trust You in all things.
“Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your (unbelief). For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” Matthew 17:19, 20
Monday, February 21, 2011
“All the dealings of God with the soul of the believer are in order to bring it into oneness with Himself, that the prayer of our Lord may be fulfilled; ‘That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us. ...’” Hannah Whitall Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, p. 219
I was having a conversation with a friend this morning about how women marry men hoping they will change, but they don’t, and men marry women hoping they won’t change, but they do. That led into a conversation about the times we women don’t like change. It was only later that I realized why sometimes we are eager for change and other times not. It has every thing to do with whether or not we have control over what and when something changes. As I think about Hannah’s words concerning God’s dealings with us I’m struck by the single-mindedness of this task. Whereas we run around trying to grasp the meaning of this or that event in our lives or attempting to make sense of things that perplex and vex us, Christ says His prayer for us is that we all may be one--with one another and with God. I should think Christ will get what He prays for! Grasping this makes my need to be in control of the events in my life rather pointless. In fact, trying to be in control more than not interferes with God’s plan for me to become one with Him and others because only He can see the whole picture. So I think I should just relax and see what He’s got planned for the day.
“I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.” John 17:23
Sunday, February 20, 2011
“Will you think it hard that He reveals to you more of His mind than He does to others, and that He will not allow you to be happy in anything that separates you from Himself? Do you want to go where He cannot go with you, or to have pursuits which He cannot share?” Hannah Whitall Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, p. 214
Well, Hannah, if you put it THAT way! She is making her case for the joy of obedience. So why doesn’t it feel joyful sometimes when I’m faced with choosing what I know God would have me do and what I feel like I want to do? Hannah is right in pointing out that I really don’t want to go where He cannot go with me. So why do I? There can be no answer other than I’m not thinking very clearly for if I was I’d gladly do God’s bidding. I’m no fool! Lord, is that why I’m so hard on people who don’t use common sense and end up in some sort of quandary?! The old adage, “it takes one to know one,” is ringing in my ears right now. I need to take the log out of my own eye. The common sense thing to do is choose God’s way over what my feelings may be desiring for me. With that log out now maybe I CAN think more clearly.
“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:5
Saturday, February 19, 2011
“Following Jesus requires absolute obedience. He does not seek our counsel about which direction we think is suitable....At times it will be easy to follow Jesus. At other times, you will be tempted to abandon Him. Following Jesus can mean going through a storm or standing on a mountaintop.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 2/19
More than 20 years ago I saw a painting in a Christian bookstore in Florida that I’ve regretted not buying because it haunts me to this day--so much so, that I feel certain I will stumble across it in some secondhand shop one day. It was a long, narrow picture of a gaggle of geese following someone (this detail I can no longer remember) with Psalm 27:11 printed along the bottom: “Teach me thy way, O LORD; and lead me on a plain path....” I was really just at the beginning of my Christian walk and I was looking for some easy path to get on and get in line with others as we all followed the leader. Unfortunately, I’ve had my eyes on the other geese so much that I’ve forgotten who I was following. Maybe that’s why I don’t remember who was leading those geese and why I can’t get that picture out of my head. God is showing me what my idea of following has looked like. It’s been to have my eyes on other Christians. But all this has done is either puff me up or tear me down as I compared myself to others. Psalm 27:11 exhorts God to teach me His way--not the ways of his followers. Lord, it would seem I’ve finally found that picture after all!
“When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him for they know his voice.” John 10:4
Friday, February 18, 2011
“We are made to find our joy in the Lord, and we cannot find rest short of it. All God’s dealings with us, therefore, are shaped to this end; and he is often obliged to deprive us of all joy in everything else in order to force us to find our joy only in him.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets of the Christian Life, 2/18
This is one of those quotes I need to put on my bathroom mirror so that I will be sure to see it every day. Hannah points out that it is the Promiser, not the promises, that we are to rejoice in. How quickly we have gratitude for the gift and then lose sight of the giver. I think of all the times I had to threaten my children to get them to write a thank-you note. They were always excited to receive the gift, but their enthusiasm did not extend to expressing it to the giver. I’m sitting here with a better understanding of thank-you notes. I write thank-you notes because they let the giver know the gift was received and was appreciated. When I receive thank-you notes I feel appreciated. While God doesn’t need any of these assurances we need to express them. Moreover, we need to express our gratitude to God in all things because it is in this that we will be kept from looking at His gifts as the blessing. God promises to be in all things. Therefore, if we’ve set our minds and hearts to be thankful for the Giver we will be able to rejoice always.
“Though the fig tree do not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:17,18
Thursday, February 17, 2011
“God is not interested in receiving secondhand glory from our activity. God receives glory from His activity through our lives....Resist the temptation to pursue your own goals, asking God to bless them. Rather, deny yourself and join the activity of God as He reveals it to you.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 2/17
We are in the middle of a blizzard here in Maryland. I think there is about three feet of snow outside my window. Even though my cupboards are well-stocked and I had no place I needed to be I still found myself feeling anxious when I awoke this morning. I think it must be part of that syndrome of wanting something just because you’ve been told you can’t have it. In this case, it’s the freedom to go where and when I want to--if I should decide I wanted or needed to go somewhere. Blackaby’s admonition to resist the temptation to pursue my own goals is being illustrated to me by this snow storm. I have no choice but to give up my plans or any plans I may have wanted to make and instead join in God’s plans for me the next few days. My focus will be on getting dug out and making myself available to my neighbors if they should need help. The Lord has set my agenda for the next several days. Now, if I can keep this mindset after I’ve regained my freedom to come and go as I please......
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain’; whereas you do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” James 4:13-15
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
“Our great slogan today is self-expression, and in the right sense of the word it is a genuine aim. But it is useless to talk about self-expression until we have got a self to express and we are all the time confronted by the question, which of our thousand possible selves shall we express?.....The primary issue after all is how to get a rightly fashioned life that is truly worth expressing.” Rufus Jones, 1933, Daily Readings from Quaker Writings, 2/16
I was in my 30’s before I realized that I didn’t have a self to express. My self was so tied up in what others wanted me to be that to surrender my self to God felt impossible since I didn’t even possess it. I eventually cut all those strings attached to my self and found who I really was. But it did not bring automatic surrendering of that self. I found that I liked her and to give her up just as I’d found her seemed unnatural. So God had to do what He always does: show me just how insufficient my self is. Rufus Jones is correct in saying that the only self worth expressing is the rightly fashioned one. This is what I finally woke up to. It’s the life of Christ in me that is worth expressing. This is my new, redeemed self. The self that is worthy of being expressed. The self that will bring me pleasure instead of heart ache. The self that can be loved without being led into pride or self-centeredness. The self that gladly expresses the life of the rightly fashioned One.
“For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
“God is love. His very nature is perfect love, but because of sin love does not always come freely and naturally to His children....Are you struggling to love someone?” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 2/15
The more I only go to God for my love needs the more I understand why I struggle to love others at times. It is so amazingly simple I don’t understand why it’s not abundantly clear to everyone (including me). It must be the power of sin that keeps this knowledge from us. For what I’ve discovered is I cannot love another as long as I’m expecting something in return. I think a major problem in marriages is that we confuse “relationship” and “love”. In order to have a good relationship there are things that must take place on both sides. It’s like any partnership. The very nature of a partnership is that each person in it has responsibilities that must be carried out in order for it to work properly. Separate from all of this, however, is love. Carrying out your responsibilities has nothing to do with love, but the first thing a woman will do is equate her husband’s timeliness in doing his chores with how much he loves her. A husband, on the other hand, probably equates his wife’s carrying out of her “conjugal responsibilities” with how much she loves him. We wouldn’t do this if we only sought to get love from God. Our partner, then, becomes the benefactor of our love relationship with God. There is no longer any effort needed to love others because the way they treat us is no longer a factor. Just like a new mother doesn’t need anything from her newborn infant to love it with her whole heart--even when it’s getting her up twice a night--we don’t need anything from others in order to love them and care for them. But that doesn’t mean we don’t work out a schedule for that child that will allow us to get some sleep. In a marriage it means each partner needs to be responsible for their end of the relationship and things may need to be negotiated to make that happen. Love should never become an issue. If it is, we must look at our relationship with God and see what’s wrong there.
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory He may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19
Monday, February 14, 2011
“I noticed that the emptied trash cans left out front too long by the neighbors who were my friends didn’t bother me like the ones left out by neighbors I didn’t know.” Me, 2/13/03
Something I read this morning by Thomas Kelly (a Quaker writer of the 1900’s) triggered in my mind what I’d written yesterday. He wrote in 1941 how men and women in Germany, Italy, and Russia had joyfully committed their all to the State because they saw the State as “noble, glorious, and ideal.” This brought to my mind how each of us must be careful NOT to make friends with things/ideas/situations, whatever, that aren’t of God because my analogy works both ways. My own bad habits, shortcomings, and failings should never be “made friends with.” Otherwise, I will begin to tolerate them, perhaps even love them after awhile. I must always be careful. A bad habit may not be a sin at first, but there’s no denying it can become so if we harbor it by giving it a safe haven within us--accepting it as “just who I am.” God is willing and able to free us from these types of strongholds but we must no longer befriend them.
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Luke 12:34
Sunday, February 13, 2011
“Do those close to you know that they can fail and do foolish things, yet you will not falter in your love for them? Are others assured that, even when they hurt you, you still love them, holding nothing against them?” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 2/13
Blackaby asks these questions in his devotional entitled “Love Assumes the Best.” I first experienced this Truth for myself more than 25 years ago when I lived in a townhouse community. I noticed that the emptied trash cans left out front too long by the neighbors who were my friends didn’t bother me like the ones left out by neighbors I didn’t know. I often think of that example when I find myself feeling irritated by something I have no control over. I remind myself I must “make friends” with the people involved. But I must confess I’ve not always applied this Truth to those closest to me. I know I’m not alone in this because others have not always loved me in this unconditional way. As I write, I can see God looking down from above at His pitiful children standing their ground--insisting on their right to be loved unconditionally first before they'll love. God is shaking His Head, mourning the fact that we still don’t get it--not even His Children. He loves us unto death, literally, yet all we do is take, take, take. He came to earth in the form of a man, suffered a painful death on the cross for us, inviting us to die to ourselves with Him by taking up His cross as our cross, so that we might have His Life in exchange--enabling us to love others as He loves us. Each time we fail to love someone unconditionally we are denying this.
“Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
Saturday, February 12, 2011
“It is a dangerous thing to live your life without a spiritual “plumb line,” or standard, by which you determine right from wrong. God’s Word is that plumb line. Spiritual laws, like physical laws, are meant to protect you, not restrict you.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 2/12
Trying to live life without God’s “plumb line” is like trying to hang wallpaper in a crooked room. “Eyeballing” it just doesn’t get the job done if what you’re comparing it to is out of whack.
I don’t think anyone would say our world is “in whack”, would you? Yet, most of us continue to compare our lives to how the world is doing and feel we’re not doing half bad--so that’s good enough. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that if you calculate the first measurement wrong by just a fraction and continue to calculate the next thing in a “close enough” manner by the time you get down the line the calculation is going to be way off. Yet we humans continue to live life this way! We were created by a masterful God who knows us like we can never know ourselves. I’d much rather live by my Designer’s instructions than by any I may make up for myself.
“For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! Thou knowest me right well;” Psalm 139:13, 14
Friday, February 11, 2011
“Obedience without love is legalism. Obedience for its own sake can be nothing more than perfectionism, which leads to pride.....God looks beyond godly habits, beyond your moral lifestyle, and beyond your church involvement and focuses His penetrating gaze upon your heart.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 2/11
I’ve always put those “gazing balls” you see in many gardens in the same category as pink flamingos: gauche. In recent years, however, they’ve become quite popular and therefore totally mainstream. Blackaby’s word picture of God gazing into my heart puts me into His Garden. I can see myself amongst all the flowers and shrubbery, happily enjoying all the delightful fragrances and beautiful colors and enchanting textures. I can only imagine what it was like for Adam and Eve in God’s first garden. Everything was natural and flowed from God’s heart directly to his Creation. But God knew that in order to purify our hearts He would need to give us the freedom to love Him back. He did not want us to obey him just for the sake of obedience. He knew the dangers of this and we have proven Him right when we lose sight of His love and attempt to make up for our lack of love with obedience. We are told time and again that God wants a love relationship with us. Perhaps I’ll get one of those gazing balls for my garden this Spring and place it amongst my flowers and shrubbery. It’ll be my reminder that God is constantly gazing into my heart to see if it belongs to Him because He loves me and wants me to love Him back.
“We love, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
Thursday, February 10, 2011
“Remember, then, that the real thing in your experience is what your will decides, and not the verdict of our emotions; and that you are far more in danger of hypocrisy and untruth in yielding to the assertions of your feelings, than in holding fast to the decision of your will.” Hannah Whitall Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life
Hannah is the second author I’ve read in the past month who has spoken to me about my “hypocrisy fear.” Because my emotions have always ruled me I felt it was hypocritical to act happy if I didn’t feel happy. And I wouldn’t allow myself to feel happy if I didn’t believe the circumstances called for me to be happy. What I’ve been woken up to is that I’ve given my emotions far too much power over me. Emotions are merely indicators of what we are thinking. If we are thinking fearful thoughts we will feel afraid. If we are thinking loving thoughts, we will feel loving. Emotions are merely after effects. They are like shadows that lie in front of us because the sun is behind us. We are not our shadows. We are our wills and the sun is our thoughts. Will our thoughts come down from above so that no shadow is cast? Or will they come from behind us in the recesses of our minds, controlling us, making us think that the shadow before us is who we really are?
“At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining round me and those who journeyed with me.” Acts 26:13
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
“Our Lord does not come to us to discover what we would like to accomplish for Him. He encounters us in order to reveal His activity and invite us to become involved in His work........Are you prepared to meet God today? Don’t seek to hear from God unless you are ready to ask, as Paul did, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 2/9
Wouldn’t the world change if every professing Christian were to ask each day, “What shall I do, Lord?” When I first read Blackaby’s thoughts on this subject last summer--that God invites us to join Him in the work He is already doing--it radically changed the way I viewed all my activities. No longer would I decide there was a need for something, and I should be the one to fill it like I’d always done in the past. Invariably, it never seemed to make much of a difference in the long run. If it was some program started at church for instance, attendance was never that good, or I burnt out after a while. I can see now how my own effort to start and maintain something that God wasn’t in would not succeed for long. But to join God in something He’s already doing...and to ask “What shall I do, Lord?” guarantees results. In addition, I wouldn’t feel the burden of the responsibility like I would if I’d thought it up.
To join God in His work is something anybody can do no matter their position or material resources. Some days it may not extend outside your own home for He might be working to bring someone close to you to Him. Other days it may be across the world by sending a check to meet the needs of a missionary whom God has called to bear witness to Him in a foreign land. It doesn’t matter what it is, only that we make ourselves available.
“Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord,” And the Lord said to him “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul; for behold, he is praying, and he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” Acts 9:10-12
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
“To examine self is to be like a man who should spend his time in examining his empty larder instead of going to the market for a supply to fill it. No wonder such Christians seem to be starving to death in the midst of all the fullness there is for them in Christ. They never see that fullness, for they never look at it; and again I repeat that the thing we look at is the thing we see.” Hannah Whitall Smith, “The God of All Comfort” p. 142
It was the middle of the night and my head was hurting so bad from the flu that I didn’t want to move. All I could focus on was the pain. But then Hannah’s words came to mind and I turned my thoughts to Christ. The Lord is my Shepherd. The Lord is my Comforter. I fell quickly back to sleep. I awoke again an hour or so later, still in pain. Again I tore my thoughts away from the pain and put them on Christ and again I fell asleep. When I awoke a third time in even more pain because I’d been clenching my teeth I found myself feeling forsaken. Again I put my thoughts on Christ, praising him for His care even though my body was in pain. In times past I would have never been able to separate my self (the flesh) from my true self (the spirit). This would have led me into discouragement, which is really just unbelief in disguise. Hannah had been speaking about the fallacy of examining self as a means of spiritual growth because when we look at self we can’t be looking at Christ at the same time. But as I discovered, this also applies to all of life. How much better it is to examine the Lord, and let Him fill our larder!
“For we are the true circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God, and glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh.” Philippians 3:3
Monday, February 7, 2011
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him.” Hebrews 11:6a
Henry Blackaby writes, “We appeal for help from everyone around us when we have a need; then we explain: ‘I know God can provide for my needs, but I think I should do everything I can, just in case.’ God calls this faithlessness.” I wish Hebrews 11:6 were translated with a better word than “please”. “Please” is a word fraught with bad feelings. It pushes that button in my flesh that makes me feel like a child who has done everything in her power to please her parents, but they still aren’t happy. In my case, my parents' unhappiness wasn’t because of me, but in my little child’s mind I believed that if I totally cooperated they would be happy and the trouble in their lives would go away. Therefore, when I read that I cannot please God without faith but I know that trying to please someone doesn’t make them happy, no wonder I don’t believe faith will make a difference! As Blackaby rightfully asserts, I quote the scripture because I believe the Bible is the word of God, but I do everything I can, “just in case.”
So, I’ve gone to the concordance to check out this troublesome word, “please”! Interestingly, the “please” of Hebrews 11:6 is only used in that one verse and means “to gratify entirely” while all the other times in the New Testament “please” means “to be agreeable.” Hebrews 11:6 is not telling me I must “be agreeable” as I was translating it based on my childhood experience. What Hebrews 11:6 is really saying to me is God is entirely gratified when I am faithful. In other words, this verse is not so much a reflection on me as it is about God. God is entirely gratified when I, His creation, trust Him. He gives us the faith we need to trust Him, but it’s in obeying that faith--that is, to put our trust in Him--that He is gratified.
“You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works,” James 2:22
Sunday, February 6, 2011
“We have been slaves where we ought to have been kings. We have found our reigning to be “much less” rather than “much more.” Why is this?...We have let unbelief cheat us out of our rightful possessions.” Hannah Whitall Smith, “God of All Comfort”, p. 130
Hannah contrasts the “much more” scriptures with how we live and confidently states that once we grasp the full meaning of these “much more” verses we can never be uncomfortable or miserable again! I sit here even now trying to absorb all that “much more” means. I’m having my life flash before my eyes, like a dying person, seeing all the times I did not avail myself to all that God was offering me. All the times I acted as though He was a “much less” God. I think I’m beginning to understand what true humility is. Perhaps true humility is a verb and not a noun. Could it be in the actual taking God up on His promises because we admit our utter helplessness? It’s not a positional thing where I place Him on the throne because He made me and I am just his subject. This implies I have some power to place Him there. God is God no matter what I do or think. Humility comes in living as though my life depends on taking God up on His promises. Suddenly humility takes on a whole new definition for me and it seems it would come quite naturally if I’m living the faith God has given me.
“He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8
Saturday, February 5, 2011
“I am sure for myself that I would be far more grieved if my child should mistrust me, and should feel her interests were unsafe in my care, than if in a moment of temptation she should disobey me. And I am convinced that none of us have appreciated how deeply it wounds the loving heart of our Lord, when He finds that His people do not feel safe in His care.” Hannah Whitall Smith, “The God of All Comfort”, p. 114
Hannah went on to say since God is our dwelling place nothing we commit to His care can come to any harm. She then admonished me for continuing to worry about my children--that I must bring them with me into God’s strong tower--worrying about them is leaving them outside! Anything that is dear to us, who have taken refuge in God, is dear to God. It is with these words that I went to sleep last night. I was awakened around 4:30 and remembered what I’d read, so I prayed for my children. When it was time for my 15-year-old to get up for school I found that he had come down with the flu. This was a test. Had I brought him into God’s strong tower with me? Yes! The anxiety I usually felt whenever any of my children became ill with the simplest cold was not there. An abiding trust instead gave me assurance that my child is in God’s healing hands. My role is to be his comforter and even then I can be assured that it is The Comforter who will be doing the comforting. This gives me great comfort!
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3,4
Friday, February 4, 2011
“....and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20b (KJV)
Words are so inadequate at times! The difference between OF and IN can change the entire meaning in a sentence. The Revised Standard Version says “I live by the faith IN the Son of God”. Eugenia Price used the King James Version of Galatians 2:20 which says “I live by the faith OF the Son of God” to show me that God not only gives me the faith to believe in Him to begin with but He also gives me the faith for my daily living. Just as Christ died on the cross for me to save me from my sins, He continues to save me daily from my flesh. Could this be what He means when He says I must take up MY cross and follow Him? His cross has become my cross as well and it is in realizing it--that I was crucified with Him--that I am enabled to follow Him because it is His faith that I now possess. This changes everything for me.
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in (of) the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
Thursday, February 3, 2011
“Spiritual forces cannot work while earthly forces are active....To keep hands off in spiritual matters is as hard for us as it is for the drowning man to keep hands off the one who is trying to rescue him.” Hannah Whitall Smith, “The God of All Comfort”, p. 83
The reason Hannah’s writing speaks so personally to me is l) she speaks the Truth and 2) she uses illustrations I can identify with. I was feeling overwhelmed by my emotions. I was struggling to keep from drowning. My rescuer, knowing I would struggle too greatly with Him, threw me a life preserver--a clear command to pick up Hannah’s book and start reading. I soon found myself afloat as I was reminded once again I cannot fight my emotions with any kind of force. Instead it is the “good fight of faith.” It is not the fight of effort, but of trusting---to reach out for the life preserver when it is thrown to me. This life preserver--the armor of God that will protect me--is the shield of faith. Hannah also pointed out to me that it was God who had wrestled with Jacob--not the other way around. God was only able to prevail against Jacob after He had made Jacob weak by putting his thigh out of joint. It was at this point He was able to bless Jacob and through this blessing Jacob prevailed.
“For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” Genesis 32:30b
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
“The ‘nevertheless I live’ rings glad bells in your heart, however, if you have begun to experience His life within you. You know now that He did come to bring abundant life, not to squelch you. As you watch Him untangle you and those around you, you know this in a way I could never express.” Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 2/2
By the time I read this quote this morning I was ready to receive it. I’d started the morning by reading some verses on suffering. I wrote about how I was suffering because of slipping back into feeling sorry for myself and how I desired to draw upon God. It became abundantly clear that my wants pale in comparison to what God wants to give me. The way God showed me this was not with my own situation but with another’s. This person I thought of was basing their whole happiness on another’s ability to give them what they wanted. I then realized that even if that other person was able to fulfill my friend’s love needs, my friend would still end up bereft if that other person were to die. I then could see my own situation in that light and realized I did not desire that for myself at all, yet this is what I was mourning. Instead, I shall mourn for this person and their misplaced wants--reminding myself only Christ can fulfill my true need. I am feeling a little more untangled! This is, indeed, the abundant life.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?......No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:35,37
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
“It is possible to spend your whole life knowing about the truths of God and never experiencing any of them. Simply knowing about the truths of God does not mean that they have become part of your life...Some people allow themselves to come under the influence of ungodly thinking to the point that God’s Word makes no difference to them.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-By-Day, 2/1
“Standing on the Promises of God” is the song going through my mind as I sit here wondering what it is I’m to write today. I’m also marveling how everything has changed for me since I’ve been writing these devotionals--the books God has put into my hands to change my thinking; the opening up of His scriptures to me; the experiences He’s provided and the truth I’ve heard in each one of them; and now, the way in which I view scripture. Blackaby has expressed what God has been showing me--that I’d allowed myself to come under the influence of ungodly thinking to the point that God’s Word made no difference to me. Just like my father came under the influence of alcohol and in doing so all that he’d learned when he was saved made no difference to him. Because I’d seen all this in my father’s life I was determined not to come under the influence of alcohol. But little did I understand that I also needed to make sure I didn’t allow myself to come under the influence of something else--for instance, needing the good opinion of others! If it hadn’t been that, however, I’m sure it would have been something else. That is why rather than even try to fight the battle with the enemy, we must let God fight it. In my attempt to fight it I set all sorts of rules and regulations for myself to keep so that I wouldn’t fall, when all I needed was to stay hidden in Christ and let Him fight the battles.
Now I understand! Now I know it is in reading scripture so that I can get to know God and then believing His promises for me that gives me access, by faith in the goodness of God, to His help in every need so that I don’t fall.
“Now these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” 1 Corinthians 10:11,12