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
Thursday, March 31, 2011
“Just as you believed at first that He delivered you from the guilt of sin because He said it so, now believe that He delivers you from the power of sin because He says it.” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 3/31
Today I am still dealing with the repercussions of the sin I spoke of yesterday--that of having taken on a burden that God had not placed on me. I am discovering, after much soul searching, just what this bad feeling is that I’m still experiencing toward this person. At first I called it “protection from being hurt”--a defense mechanism I learned early in life. But this violates the law of love, which is to love even my enemy--not from behind a wall, but, instead, to minister to them. Once I acknowledged this as sin and asked God to deliver me from it, what was uncovered was another sin--retaliation. Like a stain in the carpet that went unnoticed until the clutter was picked up off the floor, my sin of revenge, long-hidden, acting as a diversionary tactic, was causing me to cling to my seemingly innocent need to protect myself. No wonder I was having trouble trusting God to protect me. That was not what I was truly seeking. It was revenge I desired. That is what I really need to be delivered from.
“Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:17-21
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
“...they could have had no power at all against him unless God had permitted it, so I am able to look entirely away from “second causes” and to receive all that has come to us from the hands of God, and to say continually ‘Thy will be done.’” Hannah Whitall Smith, Safe Within Your Love, pg. 120
I found myself struggling with something beyond my control and realizing I’d stopped trusting it to God’s care. I spoke to the person involved and felt some release from my anxiety but I knew in my heart that this feeling of peace was temporary. I knew I would take the matter back into my own hands--into my own heart--if this person did this thing again. And then I read Hannah’s words she’d written in a letter in 1876 following her husband’s fall from public grace due to scandalous charges. He was to never recover and died in 1898 a broken man. Yet Hannah continued to write of God’s comfort and perfect will until her death in 1911. This is what I was neglecting to see in my circumstance--that by thinking I must turn something over to the Lord I was denying the fact that God had permitted this thing in the first place and therefore it was never mine to begin with. The burden I was feeling was one I’d taken upon myself. My sin wasn’t in my inability to let it go, but in thinking it was mine at all.
“Cast your burden (what he has given you*) on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” Psalm 55:22
*footnote in Harper Study Bible, RSV
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
“Faith is an absolutely necessary element in the reception of any gift...Love may be lavished on us by another without measure, but until we believe that we are loved, it never really becomes ours.” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 3/29
This, I believe, is why there are so many professing Christians who are not saved. They believe Jesus died for their sins, but they have not received the forgiveness for themselves because they do not believe they are loveable since they still feel imperfect. In receiving the gift of forgiveness they are asking for the Holy Spirit to take up abode in them. This is what reconciliation with God is all about. Then it is the Holy Spirit--the Christ life in them--that “works out their salvation” bringing them into total submission. As redeemed creatures we become clay in the Potter’s hands as He makes us fit for His use. Evidence of this is the Fruit of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5:22: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. So it is by faith that we believe we are forgiven and are no longer condemned to eternal separation from God.
“Yet, O LORD, thou art our Father we are the clay, and thou art our potter; we are all the work of thy hand.” Isaiah 64:8
Monday, March 28, 2011
I use the below prayer each morning to ask God to help me live one day at a time in His Care. It can be copied and pasted onto another page, then printed and laminated and used as a bookmark for your Bible or devotional book where you will see it each morning and be reminded you belong to God.
Father, I surrender
yesterday and give
it up to You. I give
You my failures, my
regrets, and my
I have no more use
for them. Make me
now a new person,
forgetting what lies
behind and pressing
on toward that
which lies ahead of
me. I give You all my
hopes and dreams
for the future.
Purify them by Your
Spirit so that my
will shall truly
reflect Your will
for me. As I stand
on the threshold of
encourage me by my
successes of the
past, challenge me
by the power of
your Word, and
guide me by the
presence of Your
-Our Daily Bread
“To almost everyone the greatest person in the world is himself. Our whole lives are made up of endless variations of the word me.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Safe Within Your Love, pg. 111
The greatest enemy to the Christian life is Self because it has the capability of being camouflaged. I can declare that I have died to Self, yet at the end of the day look back and see where Self has run the show. It’s easy for me to identify Self when something happens to make me feel offended. I can be sure I’ve allowed Self to be resurrected. If I find myself defending something I’ve done, I can be sure it is indeed my Self that is speaking. But what about sadness? How can I discern the type of sadness God feels for his lost sheep from my own feeling sorry for myself? How does human grief fit in with the Life of Christ in me? Jesus wept when he was told his friend Lazarus had died, but it could not have been because he died since Jesus knew he would bring him back to life. So why did he cry? His sorrow was over Lazarus’ sisters’ and friends’ grief because scripture says he was “moved in spirit and troubled.” I see now that even sadness is from Self if it is over some personal loss. Only the sadness we feel when someone is not trusting the Lord for their salvation and life itself--only that kind of grieving is born out of the life of Christ within us. So we must be careful not to linger in our fleshly grief. We must recover quickly so that Self will not regain its foothold on us and deceive us into thinking that God does not care.
“But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep [dead], that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope." 1 Thessalonians 4:13
Sunday, March 27, 2011
“Conversion is the beginning not the end of a process. When inward peace disappears it is a sign that the next stage of growth is at hand and peace can only be reached if that growth takes place.” Howard H. Brinton, 1948, "Daily Readings from Quaker Writings" 3/27
Quakers believe there is “that which is of God” in every man which they refer to as the Light Within. This is why they do not believe it is right to kill even in war. Others would argue for the total depravity of man and therefore the killing of non-Christians is excusable for a higher cause. This is how I would explain what I believe: Because we are made in the image of God we do indeed carry within us that Light. I would liken it to the pilot light on a gas stove. This is the seed of faith that every man is given that enables him to believe in God. This pilot light--at our conversion--is ignited and begins to burn brightly on top of the stove. Then our bodily lives--the pots and pans--are filled with the power and strength of God the Holy Spirit in order to prepare the feast to feed the hungry world. However, there are some whose pilot lights never ignite because they refuse to respond to the ignition process. When God turns the knob on the stove they resist. Eventually some strong wind comes and blows out the pilot light and their chance to ever be lit is lost.
“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Colossians 3:9, 10
Saturday, March 26, 2011
“What are the chief characteristics of the life hid with Christ in God......Its chief characteristics are an entire surrender to the Lord and a perfect trust in Him.....it causes us to let the Lord carry our burdens and manage our affairs for us, instead of trying to do it ourselves. In laying off your burdens, therefore, the first one you must get rid of is yourself.” Hannah Whithall Smith, God is Enough, 3/26
This is what I wrote about a couple days ago, and in the meantime God has given me several opportunities to do just this--let him carry the burden I am to myself. This has presented itself in the form of my relationships and the temptation to judge myself based on another’s actions. I’ve watched myself get in a bad mood, justify my actions, condemn theirs, deny I felt hurt, and just become generally preoccupied with myself because of all the thoughts swirling around inside my head over the matter. But then last night something different happened when I could have been thrown into a great upset. I was reading Hannah’s chapter on the Will in her book “The Common Sense Teaching of the Bible”. It was where I needed to be when I was tempted to follow my emotions--to be reminded that my victory was dependent on what my Will would choose. Would I choose God’s Will or my flesh’s? It was a “no-brainer”, as it is commonly referred to. In fact, my ability to put my thoughts on God instead of what my brain (Self) was thinking was why I experienced victory. I chose from my Heart--the place where my Will now resides--hid with Christ in 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. Colossians 3:3
Friday, March 25, 2011
Learning to Dance in the Rain Movie: "It almost sounds too simple to feel important, but one word... gratitude, can change your attitude, and thus your life, forever. Sarah Breathnach said it best... When we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that's present... We experience heaven on earth."
“In the divine order, God’s working depends on our cooperation. During His earthly ministry, Jesus could do no mighty works in at least one city because of the people’s unbelief. It was not that He would not, but that He could not. We often think that God will not, when in reality He cannot because of our unbelief.” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 3/25
I think people don’t like to hear that God cannot do something while at the same time they question why He did not stop some bad thing from happening. He is all-powerful and all-knowing, isn’t He? We don’t want God to interfere with our plans, yet we blame Him when things don’t go the way we want them to. I look back over my years and think about all my different ideas of God and how He had to shake me to the core to get me to let go of my man-made opinions. Then I was sifted and the result is a pure, unadulterated belief that God is Love. With that at my core I can now see the way in which God works and just why I must die to Self. Now I don’t mind doing that. In fact, I relish the thought of being freed of Self because now I can live His life instead--a life of faith free of anxiety. So I am surprised when I find my message of Freedom in Christ is met with resistance, even hostility. But then the Lord reminds me of my former state, and I am kept from self-righteousness and instead filled with compassion. Is this what it means to love your enemy?
“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” Philippians 3:18, 19
Thursday, March 24, 2011
“What circumstances make it hard to wait for the Lord?” Mart De Haan II, Our Daily Bread, 3/24
That was the question at the end of the devotional about Noah, Abraham and David having to wait for God’s timing. As I examined myself to see if there was anything I was waiting for, I found that I wasn’t--not because I had everything I wanted, but because I’d given up on expecting the circumstances that had come to mind to ever change. Was this a holy-giving-up or bury-it-giving-up? This is what I discovered: I had indeed given up on the people in my life ever changing and that, instead, what I was waiting for was my ability to love them unconditionally. I could then see that this was the way to die to Self. Self needed these people to change so that they would give me more attention and be more considerate of me--my Self. I realized that for me to focus on being considerate rather than on whether or not they were being considerate was really what this was all about. I’ve always thought myself to be a considerate person, but it was for the wrong reason because I was expecting consideration in return. But now, the Lord is telling me I’m to be considerate for His sake, not my own, or even for the other person’s sake. This will free me from the burden of having to make sure Self gets all the attention it demands--my true enemy--and instead only concern myself with trusting the Lord to work in and through me.
“To thee, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, thee I trust, let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.” Psalm 25:1, 2
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
“Who can know the depth and intensity of the heart of God?....If you will remain alert in prayer, Jesus will share his heart with you.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 3/23
I think because we dwell so much on the fact that God came to earth as the man Jesus in order to take on our sin, we neglect to realize He is also the God who came to earth to allow us to see Him face to face for the first time. Before then man could not look upon God without being blinded or struck dead. His great love for us is not only shown in His dying on the cross for our sin, but in the fact that He wants us to understand Him so that we can love Him back--not just fear Him. I used to be turned off by the people who seemed all mushy about Jesus. I felt they focused too much on Jesus the man and not enough on God our heavenly Father. I felt this was a form of idol worship. But now I believe God “allows” this, if our hearts are truly given to Him. Very few people can love the ethereal. Throughout history only those we came to call Mystics could do this. The rest of mankind needs the flesh and blood of Jesus in order to lay hold of God. In doing so, He can share what is in His heart and we will be His emissaries of loving care.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
“Many souls who have access to God do not have communion. They come full of themselves and their own needs, and all they have to say is about their feelings, their sins, or their trials. It is all self, self, self. But communion means to dwell upon and delight in that which God dwells upon and delights in.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 3/22
This is a distinction I’ve never stopped to ponder--the difference between communication and communion. To communicate means to make known, but to have communion is to mutually share. Looking back at my Christian walk I’d have to say I merely "communicated" to God for years. I told Him how I felt or what I wanted. It wasn’t until we had a financial crisis that I discovered prayer wasn’t just talking to God for the purpose of venting. I can still remember where I was sitting when I felt God’s presence as I prayed and then have Him begin answering my prayers in ways I hadn’t “figured out” for Him. This was when I realized prayer was a two-way communication. In the ensuing years I have used my journal writing as a means to ask for and receive His guidance. By the time I’d formulated my concern into a coherent sentence an answer usually flowed through the pen to the page. But now I realize I did not experience this state of communion that Hannah speaks of. I was asking God to enter into my will. Now I know I must seek to enter into His will for me. This is true communion.
“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.” Psalm 37:4, 5
Monday, March 21, 2011
“When Pharaoh found that he could not induce Moses to remain in the land, he gave up that point, but he added cunningly, ‘You must not go very far.’ (Exodus 8:28)” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 3/21
Hannah says Satan tries to persuade us to “dwell in the border land” in the same way by convincing us that the church and the world need not be separated by any great distance. Our sin separates us from God, but Christ has taken care of that separation. We are one with God through Christ. But we are guilty of dwelling in the borderland when we maintain our ties to our old identity because it is here that Satan can attack us. This may involve the prejudices we’ve grown up with, but also it may involve the accoutrements of our lifestyles if we are weak and are easily caused to stumble. This is why the church must be so careful and is told to consider the weaker brother.
Ultimately it is a matter of the heart. Who are you trusting? Is it God who now resides in you or is it the things of the world? Who do you love more? Is it yourself and thereby the things the world offers? Or is it Christ? Once this question is settled separation from the world will be complete.
“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than than these?”....And after this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’” John 21:15, 19b
Sunday, March 20, 2011
“On the day that the tabernacle was finished the Lord entered in. This coming of the Lord’s presence, to fill the place prepared for him by his people, is to me a blessed foreshadowing of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, promised by the Lord Jesus to every believer, given first on the day of Pentecost to the waiting disciples whose hearts were prepared for his coming.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 3/20
When I first became involved with churches more than 20 years ago I discovered there was a dispute between the mainline churches and the Pentecostal churches concerning this baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Pentecostal churches believed it was something that took place after your initial trusting Christ for your salvation. I stayed away from the fray because the Pentecostal insisted that the evidence of this baptism was the ability to speak in tongues. If they had not insisted on this I may have come to agreement with them much sooner than I have. For now I agree that there is a separate filling of the Holy Spirit that comes only after you’ve been prepared. Christ’s death on the cross and our identifying with that act is what prepares us, but it may take awhile for it to get from our heads to our hearts where the Holy Spirit will reside. Once we believe, God sets about preparing our hearts to ask Him to live in us. For me, this has meant being brought to the end of my self-sufficiency, coming to the understanding that I am a new creature, and gaining understanding of the power of sin.
“And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.......the heavenly Father [will] give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:9, 13b
Saturday, March 19, 2011
“We were obliged to hold a ‘Convention for the Promotion of Holiness.’.....There was no enthusiasm on my part. Our own words were, to me, a bore....God’s power and His blessings came, despite our feelings. There was every sign of the continual presence of the Spirit.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Safe Within Your Love, p. 68
Obedience is a struggle for us from the get-go. As children we definitely do not like someone getting in the way of our getting what we want. One of the things I learned in parenting three boys was that it would go much easier for me if I could get them to want to do what I wanted. You do this by giving them a choice within the choices that are acceptable to you. It gives them the freedom to be responsible because it is no longer a contest of wills and they receive an immediate reward for being obedient by getting what they think they want. In the same vein we must first become one of God’s children by being born as a new creature. We receive this new identity by asking for His Holy Spirit. In doing so, we will want what God wants and obedience will not be a struggle for us. When Christ lives in us we have no other choice but to do His Holy Will because to do anything else would not be true to ourselves--our new selves. This is why throughout her writings Hannah exhorts the absolute necessity of ignoring the old self. The old self has been crucified with Christ, but the power of sin makes us think self is still alive and in need of attention. It isn’t and it doesn’t, it only seems like it is and does.
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,....chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ...” 1 Peter 1:1a, 2a
Friday, March 18, 2011
“The feeding with manna described in Exodus 16 is typical of the soul of the believer feeding on Christ.....And to feed on him, and not on [our frames, nor feelings, nor experiences], requires that we should turn away from them wholly and not dwell on them, examine them, or even think about them...” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets of the Christian Life, 3/18
This morning I woke up almost two hours before I needed to and lay there thinking about all the things that could go wrong for our son if he buys a house....what if he gets sick before his health insurance takes affect....what if he gets sick and can’t work.....what if the neighborhood deteriorates and he can’t sell when he wants to.....and on and on. When I start to rerun my thoughts I know it’s time to get up, turn on the light, and start writing in my journal and reading my Bible. But before I even got to these things God’s thoughts came to the forefront of my mind, and I began to “feed” on Christ and what I heard instead was: “This (fill in the blank) only SEEMS bad.” What God was telling me is that no matter what worst-case scenario we might dream up, it could only seem bad, because the truth is, for us who love God, everything comes through Him and ultimately will be for our good.
“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” John 6:35
Thursday, March 17, 2011
“We can choose to be kept from yielding to any temptation which plagues us. But, if we choose to yield to the temptation, one thing inevitably results--we become rebellious!.....I see now I have no more alibis left. He has already led my ‘captivity captive.’ I need not yield to the temptation.” Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 3/17
Eugenia said she would yield to temptation because she feared she’d be smothered if she did not give in to it. I’ve never given much thought to why I give into temptations when they come. Sometimes it happens so quickly I’m not at all aware of my thought process. But there must be some thoughts going on that I’m not aware of that allows me to say yes when I know I should say no. I’ve never been happy with my decision to say yes to temptation afterwards, which would in turn lead me further into temptations to rebel as I tried to dig myself out of my pit. Now that I understand I’m a new creature and that it’s Christ’s life in me that I am now living, I’m getting better at understanding the power of sin. The only way I can now sin is to obey my flesh. Recently I was on the phone with someone I love. I was confronting this person with something they did not want to hear and they retaliated. Tears came to my eyes, but I noticed my voice did not change. It remained steady and sure of what it was saying to this person that they needed to hear. I realized at that point their remark had punctured my flesh, but not my heart. It was God’s voice speaking through me, and God cannot be injured. My flesh wound did not deter me from continuing to speak the Truth in Love.
“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
“Our Lord could say with the psalmist David, ‘I delight to do thy will, O my God’ (Ps. 40:8), because he was dead to everything that was contrary to His Father’s will. Until our affections are similarly so set on the will of God as to delight in it, we have not ‘taken up the cross’ (Matt. 16:24) in the Scripture sense at all.” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 3/16
Hannah illustrates this with how a child becomes “dead” to the things of her childhood and no longer finds pleasure in them. I can attest to this. I was eager to grow up and take on adult responsibilities. But why do some young adults drag their feet into adulthood? Why do they set their affections on things in the past instead of what lies ahead? Becoming an adult brings greater responsibilities but it also brings greater freedoms. Perhaps this is what I really longed for--the freedom. I did not have a comfortable childhood like so many of today’s children have, so I looked forward to the day that I would be free from being under the control of parents who could not even manage their own lives properly. This is why when I still did not find the freedom I longed for I was diligent in my spiritual search when I learned that true freedom was only found in Christ. I can see now why children should not be given freedom without responsibilities. They will never want to grow up--not in the worldly sense nor in the spiritual sense. Freedom in Christ brings the responsibility of never leaving God’s will.
“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’.” Galatians 5:13, 14
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
“Those who have abundant possessions, are accustomed to such things by education, may make better use of them without extravagance or waste than those who are unaccustomed to them or who do not have the capacity to utilize them.” Robert Barclay (1648-1690) Daily Readings from Quaker Writings, 3/15
As I read Barclay’s dissertation on what is lawful and not lawful for a Christian to possess I realized that I’d been looking at the end result of living debt free instead of the means. I’ve always known that living beyond one’s means left you with a debt you may not be able to pay off. This produces stress and is often the crisis that breaks up a marriage. But now I’m seeing beyond all that and realizing that if you do not first earn the means and then live the lifestyle, you are in danger of believing you are entitled to these things. The truth is, as Barclay points out, you will not have the capacity to utilize this new lifestyle you’ve created for yourself. It’s in doing the work that prepares us to be able to handle the wealth. If we live as though we are wealthy before we actually have earned the wealth, we will have a sense of entitlement that will only dig us deeper into our hole. We will not be able to deprive ourselves of anything that our flesh desires. I can now fully appreciate what Paul meant when he said the love of money is the root of all evils.
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.”
1 Timothy 6:9, 10
Monday, March 14, 2011
"Always remember the best description of fear is "False Evidence Appearing Real." Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance, 3/14
I’ve been sitting here with today’s quote and finding myself unable to say it any better than Sarah has. So I will address why false evidence can appear real to us. The key word is “evidence”. The criteria we use to decide whether or not something is evidence, then, would be what we should look at to get a better understanding of how we judge what is real and what is not. So much goes into those criteria: what we were taught as children, whether it was intentional or just a by-product of neglect. To that we then add our life experience up to the present and not only how we reacted to it, but also how others reacted to our life experiences. Now it’s really getting complicated. How do we even begin to sort out what is real and what is not?! This, all by itself, should state God’s case for laying aside our wills for His. By accepting the Christ life as our own, God’s criteria will be what we base our evidence on. And from there everything that isn’t real will show itself for what it is--a lie. In this we can rest and find peace.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
Sunday, March 13, 2011
“We know what it is to have set ourselves to the work of our own reformation....And we remember.....the final and hopeless disappointment when we discovered, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we were utterly helpless, and then the joy that came, when in our helplessness we threw ourselves upon the mercy of God and found in Christ the redemption our souls had so long sought in vain.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 3/13
Now that I’m on the other side of that struggle I can see just how lost I was and want to hold the lantern for everyone I find groping around in the dark. This morning I may have been too confronting with a friend. I really won’t know until something changes. Does she finally see where she’s going and make changes in her course, or will she just stay away from me and my lantern? The only thing I can be sure of is that something will change because I spoke the Truth. In doing so I was doing my own reality check. Were my words spoken out of experience or did they ring hollow to me because I needed a dose of my own medicine? I can see why sharing the Gospel is not negotiable when it comes to doing God’s will. He has commissioned each one of us to go and bear witness to His redeeming Love. The more we do it, the more we are shown the condition of our own hearts and if our hearts do not condemn us we have confidence before God that He will take care of us no matter what.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Matthew 28:19, 20
Saturday, March 12, 2011
“Never am I so sure of my money as when I have transferred it out of my unsafe pockets into the safe custody of a trustworthy bank; and the same thing is true as regards the abandonment of all I possess into the custody of God.” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 3/12
Our oldest son has an appointment at his bank today to see about getting a mortgage for the house we’re going to be looking at afterwards. He is taking a very big step in “transferring his money” into the hands of his mortgage holder in order to buy this house. He is committing the next several years to living in this neighborhood. It is a financial obligation that can’t be gotten out of without some effort. In addition, we may be helping him by loaning him the down payment and cosigning the loan. Now that the day has come that he may be signing some contracts reality has set in. Suddenly some of the things that made the house such a great find are being questioned. We’ve discovered there were two murders in the neighborhood last month. So maybe this isn’t where he’s suppose to buy, if he’s to buy at all. As all these thoughts ran through my head I felt God telling me to stand back and let things happen as they are meant to happen. As I abandon all my carefully laid plans into God’s custody and become an observer I will be available to receive God’s direction for my part in what he’s doing in our son’s life. I will pray that he will do the same.
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established.” Proverbs 19:21
Friday, March 11, 2011
“Too often we settle for much less than what God wants to do through us. We read in Jeremiah 32:27, ‘I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for Me?’ and we answer, ‘No, Lord.’ Yet when we face difficult situations we begin to qualify our belief in God and lower our expectations of what God will do.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 3/11
Before God does anything “through” us He does something “in” us, and that, I believe, is where our problem lies. Our resistance to letting God work IN us to make us into vessels for His use is why we end up having lower expectations of what God will do. How do we resist? When we don’t live up to our potential because of laziness or fear of failure or even fear of success; or when we don’t exercise the faith we’ve been given because of laziness or fear; or when we’re disobedient due to laziness or fear. As I think about these traits--laziness and fear--I feel this need to look behind them. My laziness might be due to fear. But why am I afraid? Is it because deep within I know, without a doubt, that without God I am lost. If I know I am lost without God, but refuse to depend on Him because it might require me to submit to Him totally, I am left with rebellion as the root of why I settle for less. My rebellion is totally within my own power to lay down. If I would just quit rebelling, God would come in like a man-made dam that has been broken and can no longer hold back the water. The water will flow into the dry valley and bring life to all living things.
“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom;...For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;” Isaiah 35:1, 6b
Thursday, March 10, 2011
“When our hands are full of our own things, we cannot possibly get possession of the things of God. Only empty hands can grasp a gift, only empty vessels can receive the filling, and only the heart that is emptied of all its own things can receive the things of God.” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 3/10
One of my sons is in a praise band at his church. Last night he told me one of their drummers, a young man in his 30’s with a wife and two children, took his life the day before. This young man’s heart obviously was not emptied of all its own things. We mustn’t let his suicide, because of its shock value, keep us from seeing this truth. It would be too easy for those close to him to fall prey to guilt or even anger at him for being so “selfish” and not thinking of his family or the rest of the church. The truth is, very few of us have hearts that are emptied of our own things, but because we are able to juggle all our problems in our own strength, no one is the wiser. Except God, that is. This young man’s problems were meant to bring Him closer to God. What happened to send him in the other direction? What can we learn from this about ourselves? Let’s not point fingers at others or even ourselves. Instead, we need to empty our hearts and stand before God and receive what he has for us.
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-10
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
“To be perfect [see Matthew 5:44-48] is to love your enemies for only by loving your enemies can you remove an inner source of conflict which prevents inner peace.....No man hates others without a sense of guilt, for in hating others he projects on them a secret unknown hatred for himself.” Howard H. Brinton (1948), Daily Readings from Quaker Writings, 3/9
As I contemplate Howard Brinton’s words I gain understanding of my human fleshly mind vs. my spiritual mind--the redeemed self. I have always found myself drawn to the passages in scripture that speak of removing guilt or cleansing our conscience. I believe man often is not aware of just how deeply seated his sense of guilt is. He does everything he can to avoid experiencing this guilt, sometimes with great bravado. These people are quite obvious. But what about the rest of us who fall into the temptation of being self-righteous. It is often so subtle we honestly believe our actions are not our attempt to “be OK” outside of God’s redeeming Love but rather our attempt to explain ourselves. I am writing these words to myself. I was supposed to write this devotional yesterday. If I had, I would not have written it from this point of view because my self-righteous episode would not have happened yet. God even uses my own procrastination to my benefit when I am willing to come to Him with an open heart. Thank you Lord, for that assurance.
“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; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.” 1 John 3: 19-22
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Posted by Cathy at 6:32 AM
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace....I will make the place of my feet glorious.” Isaiah 52:7a, 60:13b
Eugenia Price writes: “No matter how many mountains our feet cross, no matter how beautifully we couch the “good tidings” nor how magnificently we ‘publish peace’, we can leave behind only the footprints of our ‘busy selves’, unless Christ is dwelling fully within us.” It is His footprints that are left behind. This reminds me of a story I heard on the radio this week of the father who was a pastor and wanted to give his young children an illustration of what it meant to walk with God. He took them out into the snow-covered yard and took huge steps in the deep snow. Then told them to follow in his footsteps. They were not able to match his stride and fell on their faces. Then he placed the youngest child’s feet on his feet and holding her hands he retraced his steps. The child saw that she could only walk in her father’s footsteps if she stood on HIS feet. This is a wonderful picture for us to keep in our minds as we so often try to follow behind in Jesus footsteps when we should be standing on His feet. It is HIS footprints that are left when we quit doing things in our own strength and rely totally on Him for all things--not only when the snow is deep.
“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
Monday, March 7, 2011
“It isn’t that [God] was just there in the beginning. He is the beginning. ‘I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.” Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 3/7
“The moment you are born again you receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the gift. God doesn’t give you some thing, He gives you Himself.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 3/7
Reading both Eugenia’s and Blackaby’s devotionals on the same day puts an emphasis on who I am in a way I’d never stopped to fully realize. Eugenia’s highlighting of the fact that God wasn’t just IN the beginning but that He WAS the beginning adds even more of a powerful imagery to Blackaby’s point that God has given HIMSELF to us. The God who IS the beginning and the end lives in US. This ought to sober us up if we are at all feeling lost and confused. I keep getting this imagery of a woman carrying a child within her as she awaits the impending birth. The child preexisted in the form of her egg and the father’s sperm. The union of the egg and sperm started the formation of this child within her. God preexisted, but in sending His Son into the world he joined His creation with Himself and we, His children, are awaiting our birth into His kingdom in Heaven. We are in utero, growing and developing into completed beings. If we could just see our time here as limited and for a purpose, how much more we would look forward to our real birth experience when we finally emerge into God’s Spiritual Kingdom.
“...but Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’ And he laid his hands on them.....” Matthew 19:14, 15a
Sunday, March 6, 2011
“When you see the unusual in the midst of the mundane, don’t continue business as usual. It may be that God has ordained that moment to be a life-changing time for you and those around you.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 3/6
Blackaby illustrated this with Moses’ noticing the bush was burning. It was an ordinary thing, but then Moses noticed it wasn’t being consumed--not an ordinary thing. It was in that moment that God chose to speak to him. This made me think about our winter. This is the first time I can remember that we’ve had snow almost continuously on the ground. Usually our snowfalls are gone within a week. So one day as I was walking down the driveway to get the mail I noticed scores of animal tracks in the snow--all shapes and sizes. The deer tracks weren’t a surprise for I see the deer all the time--the same with dog and cat tracks. But I also noticed tracks that could have been from a raccoon. Bird tracks, squirrel tracks, and who knows what else crisscrossed the yard. This morning I saw a mouse run across the snow-covered yard because it stood out on the white background. What I’ve come to realize is that this place is like Grand Central Station every night, but I just couldn’t see it before. This must be what God’s Hand is like in my life. It’s always there guiding, protecting, ready to comfort, but I just don’t notice it because I haven’t stopped to notice. I’m too much into myself and my plans to see God working before the dawn. I think now, even after the snow has melted, I’ll continue to “see” all the animals that visit my yard every night.
“...and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white as snow...” Mark 9:2b, 3a
Saturday, March 5, 2011
“To refine something does not mean to punish it, but only to purify it, to get rid of all its dross and rubbish and bring out its full beauty and worth....Instead of its being something God demands of us, it really is something we ought to demand of God....He created us, and we have a right to demand that He make us the best He can. It is His duty to burn up our dross and bring out our full beauty and worth. Love demands that He should.” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 3/5
This certainly causes me to look at my “sufferings”, as I’ve been wont to call them, in a different light. I’m familiar with the verses in Scripture that speak of being refined as a good thing, but I never thought I should demand to be refined. It always felt like something I had to go through against my will even though I knew in the end it would be good for me.
I’m writing my grandfather’s life story for my Family History narrative and have made an outline of his diaries. One of his first diary entries in 1905 concerns how much he hated the idea of being at college for the next nine months because it was all work and no fun. However, he added, it was for his good. How much better if we would look at life’s lessons as something to desire so that we will become all that we were created to be.
“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ....More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.” Romans 5: 1, 3-5
Friday, March 4, 2011
“The all-pervading presence of God with us is the one absolutely certain and unchangeable thing amid all that is so doubtful and changeable in this world of ours. Yet very few people realize this. Even Christians will cry out for the Lord to ‘come’ to them, as though he had gone off on a journey or was in the remote realms of space.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets of the Christian Life, 3/4
Oh, but I do think they “realize” that God’s presence is all pervading. It’s just that they won’t admit it because if they did they’d have to change their behavior. So many are “in denial”, as the popular term goes today, about the reality of God’s right to their lives. Why else would there be such battle over abortion rights that hinge on when life begins and creation vs. evolution. Even the homosexual debate is rooted in whether God created our bodies. The fact that our bodies are made specifically for man and woman union in order to procreate is ignored. When will mankind open its eyes and see its foolishness? I know the answer to that already: It won’t! Not on its own. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit can mankind be awakened to the Truth. That is why it’s so important that those who profess Christ are fully abandoned to God so that they can become instruments of His Truth. God wants none to be lost to their foolishness.
“For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.....In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:9-10, 13-14
Thursday, March 3, 2011
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Posted by Cathy at 4:36 PM
“Every machine of man’s making is intended to operate by some definite sort of power: manpower, water power, or some other method....We are made to go by Holy Spirit power, and we cannot go right without it. If we try to work ourselves by our own power, we will utterly fail, for we have no natural powers that can control spiritual forces.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets of the Christian Life, 3/3
This is one of those Truths we human-powered beings must be reminded of constantly. We can start out on Holy Spirit power, but as soon as our “bike” gets rolling we automatically, without thinking, start pedaling in our own strength. Herein lies our problem: without thinking. Because we live in a human-powered world it is easy to forget from where we receive our power so we must always have our minds geared to Whose we are. This may require “shifting into the proper gear” so that we aren’t using our muscle power to propel the bike up the incline. Instead, our feet merely keep the momentum going as the pedal responds to the gears. Yes, our muscles will be used, but they aren’t carrying the full burden. In our spiritual life we may be called to shift into a higher gear of prayer to see us through an uphill climb or into a lower gear of resting in His care as the road dips downward. Through it all, we must never forget our Source of power.
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;” Acts 1:8a
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
“Any time we are fully present in the moment we are meditating.” Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance, 3/2
Sarah writes, “There are compelling physiological, psychological, and spiritual reasons why we should engage in regular meditation. It is the mortar that holds mind, body, and Spirit together.” Meditation is “intentional concentration on one thing.” By intentionally concentrating on what is happening at this very moment I will be fully present. Therefore, “to live every day” is really an attempt to be fully present in every moment of my life. When my last child was born I thought if I just stared at him enough I could somehow slow down the present and he wouldn’t grow up as fast as his brothers had. But his babyhood went by just as fast. Instead, I need to give my full attention to what is happening at any given moment. I mustn’t mourn its ending before it’s even over, wish it away, or be thinking about the next thing. What I should be doing is enjoying it. And if it’s not something pleasant, I should be focusing on what God has for me in it. In other words, if I will concentrate on God, my Father, Savior, and Shepherd, and all that means, I can be fully present in all the moments of life--whether enjoyable or uncomfortable. My life will make sense to me and therefore have a purpose. I can look back over the days, months, and years and see where God has taken me and know that where I’m going is in His Hands. What I am seeing is that to be fully present means to be fully accepting of whatever my life is at this moment. This is a good place to start.
“My soul is feasted as with marrow and fat, and my mouth praises thee with joyful lips, when I think of thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the watches of the night; for thou hast been my help, and in the shadow of thy wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to thee; thy right hand upholds me.” Psalm 63:5-8
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
“Isaiah was a godly man before Uzziah’s death. But so great a human being was Uzziah, that even Isaiah could not see God clearly. So when Uzziah died, Isaiah began to see. Who has to die before you can begin to see God as he is--high and lifted up? Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 3/1
The answer to Eugenia’s question, of course, is Self. Self has to die first. We may think it’s another person in our lives that is coming between us and God, but ultimately, it’s Self. Women will often put their children between themselves and God. Men put their work. And husbands and wives will put each other there. But the only reason we do this is because Self is trying to be exalted--high and lifted up. This is why Hannah Whitall Smith said we must deny Self’s existence because it is much too strong to do battle with. We must keep our eyes fixed on Christ and His redeeming love, for this is where all our needs are met. Self is no longer needed--nor desired--for it only separates us further from God. Let us encourage one another in this endeavor, for surely, this is the purpose of the Church. And in doing so, we will be strengthened and made available for God’s redeeming love to go forth and touch the lives of all those who hear and recognize their lostness.
“He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13, 14