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
Sunday, July 31, 2011
“The same God who gave them victory over seemingly invincible enemies, who provided for them when their own resources were insufficient, and who guided them in their decisions, is prepared to work as powerfully in your life today.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 7/31
Blackaby is speaking of the men and women of faith in the Bible. I think because we read their stories over and over we forget they were real people. Just because they lived at a different time doesn’t make them fictional. I’ve been working on my family history for several years now. I’ve taken my grandfather’s diaries from 1905 to 1916 and made an outline of his disjointed entries. What has resulted is a picture of a young man that I never knew. I only have memories of my grandfather’s last six years of life when he was in his 70’s and that was from a child’s perspective. He was made “more real” to me as I plotted out the events of his life in relation to one another and within the time period and setting. Because he was my ancestor--the father of my own father--his life was connected to mine. I got a better understanding of why my father may have been the way he was and therefore the effect it had on my life. I think we must do this with the “characters” in the Bible. They were real people who laid the groundwork for our own faith. They are our spiritual ancestors who can help shape our lives by their example.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” 2 Corinthians 12:9a
Saturday, July 30, 2011
“The freeing of the self to love God, I believe, is typical of what took place on the Day of Pentecost when the disciples were ‘all filled with the Holy Ghost’ (Acts 2:4)." Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 7/30
Hannah says this is what happens now when people experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We all, who trust Christ for our salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, but not all of us experience this filling that comes only when we die to self. This is good to understand. Too often people think they aren’t “saved” because they continue to struggle with sin in their lives. They are so focused on that and are continually running “back to the altar” to receive Christ that they are distracted from taking care of the real problem--freeing themselves from self so that they can love God fully. We can only love God to the extent that our hearts are turned toward Him. We cannot love two masters we are told. If our flesh is still in the equation we will find ourselves vacillating between the two and never fully experience the baptism of the Spirit--the freeing of oneself from all the worldly cares so that we can find rest in Christ.
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:21
Friday, July 29, 2011
“The tragedy now is not the Cross of Christ. That has become victory. The tragedy now is that those of us who receive this peace He made there, walk away from the Cross and forget it. We forget we have no right to resent...to be bitter...to be afraid. We have no rights if we follow Christ. This is the freedom.” Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 7/29
I’ve always known that we have no rights if we follow Christ, but I’d never thought of it in terms of “no right to resent...to be bitter...to be afraid.” Put that way it sounds as though they are things I should want! But now that I take a step back and look at it I can understand what Eugenia is saying. How often do I demand “my right” to be respected and cared for. And how often when I don’t receive that “right” do I feel justified in being resentful and bitter? And when I take a risk of any kind, whether it be financially or in personal relationships, do I feel it’s my "right" to have things go my way and when they don’t I become afraid I’m going to lose something? Am I not demanding my “right” to be afraid? To be free in Christ means, in a sense, I have no expectations other than to be loved by God. God’s love gives me everything I need--I have no need of “rights” anymore. When we have “rights” we must protect them. By having no “rights” we are set free from this impossible task.
“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36
Thursday, July 28, 2011
“The command of our Lord to us as Christians is that we should drive out every enemy from our hearts and lives. If we refuse to do this and seek merely to make them tribute to us, we will find ourselves continually enslaved and oppressed by those very enemies whom we have allowed to remain.” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 7/28
I had a dream last night that didn’t make very much sense until I began to interpret it. The fact that I was being driven around in a cab was pretty obvious--I was expressing how I felt about my life. It was easy from there, then, based on the other people in the cab, to come to the conclusion that God was showing me I had an attitude problem. With Hannah’s words I began to understand how my negative attitude was like an enemy and as long as I kept it, it would continue to wreak havoc in my life. Once I saw all this I began to see how God had been bringing this to my attention for some time. I recalled a verse in the Song of Solomon (2:15) that a preacher had used in a sermon more that 15 years ago: “Catch us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.” Then I remembered the little fox that had run through my back yard on two different occasions and how I haven’t seen it since I saw a dead fox in the road near our house. I feel God is showing me that I can act loving all I want to, but if my attitude toward that person is wrong, it’s like having little foxes running through my vineyard devouring my grapes before I can pick them. The strain of battling this enemy will cause me to falter in my love which in turn leads me into defensiveness and pride. That’s why I must drive out this enemy altogether!
“Catch us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.” Song of Solomon 2:15
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
“Continually we find the Lord calling upon the people not to profane his name, that is, not to live and act and talk in such a way as to give others a false idea of his character and his works.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 7/27
The third commandment says we are not to take the Lord’s name in vain. Today we feel we’ve kept that one as long as we don’t use a swear word in conjunction with God’s name. But the spirit of the law--which Jesus came to fulfill--is much broader. We are continually breaking that commandment every time we do not live as though we believe God. Hannah says that “God’s namings always mean character” and this includes Himself. We are calling God a liar every time we act in a fearful way. I believe we are even calling Him a liar when we ask Him to be with someone since He has already promised to do so. Instead we should be expressing our thanks and if we feel any anxiety, I feel our prayer instead should be one of confession! Do you trust the Lord?! “Then, why, oh my soul, are you downcast?” is a question we should be asking ourselves. Thank you, Father, for being Who You say You are. Forgive me for not believing You. I confess my unbelief and thank You for the help You’ve promised me to put my trust in You.
“The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy, they are established for ever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and [awe-inspiring] is his name!” Psalm 111:7-9
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
“I had found in the Lord Jesus a deliverer from the guilt of sin, but I wanted to find in Him a deliverer from the power of sin, and I did not know how to set about it.” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 7/25
Hannah went to a Christian teacher that she felt must know how. He told her that she could never expect to be delivered from the power of sin while here on earth. This was very discouraging to her and for years she, too, was like the Israelite spies that had brought back a bad report from the Promised Land that their enemy was too strong for them. She said she caused many people to wander with her in the wilderness for many years. But then she discovered in God’s word that she could be delivered from the power of sin and all she had to do was claim it. Like any gift, until we take possession of it, it is not ours yet. So, I ask myself, “What gifts are still sitting on the shelf, unwrapped?” Actually, I think I have some in a trunk, out of sight. If I really want to be honest, though, I have to admit there are plenty sitting in plain sight, already unwrapped, but not being used. It’s like all the musical instruments we have but do not play. We’ve become collectors. I know this is not what God intended and He has clearly stated that He expects us to invest what He’s already given us if we want more. It’s time I started putting to good use all that God has already given me.
“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do; sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:3, 4
Monday, July 25, 2011
“I am afraid a great many people are so taken up with Christian doctrines and dogmas, and are so convinced that their salvation is secured because their “views” are sound and orthodox, that they have never yet come to a personal acquaintance with Christ himself.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 7/25
This is the difference between being a real Christian and a pretend Christian. Most of us can act a certain way once we find out what is expected of us. It becomes a matter of whether or not we want to act that way or not that determines how well we can pull it off. If we get a lot of positive feedback and are made to feel good about ourselves, we are encouraged even more so to act in a certain way. That’s why we care so much about whom our children hang out with. They are impressionable and their behavior, with our help, has pretty much been fashioned by reward and punishment! But Christianity has nothing to do with rewards and punishments because the punishment has already been carried out on another--Jesus Christ. Only reward is waiting for us if.....and it’s a big IF....we have a relationship with God through Jesus. It’s this personal acquaintance with Christ himself that makes us one with the Father. It’s there that we are truly changed--not on the outside for others to see, but on the inside where the new life begins and then grows outward for all to witness and whereby God is made known, too.
“No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” John 1:28
Sunday, July 24, 2011
“One of the Christian’s greatest deterrents from sin is the life of another Christian. Some Christians maintain that it is none of their business....They are convinced that they are being judgmental....but the inaction prevents them from being an effective intercessor.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 7/24
If all Christians believed this, the Church would be a lot healthier! But not for the reason you may think. There are plenty of churches that do “police” their congregants. They set up all sorts of rules and regulations. They may even have as a regular part of their service a time of confession or a time of confronting for those who will not confess! This is not what God had in mind when He told us to hold other believers accountable. I believe the emphasis is on the rest of the verse.....we are to confront others with love. God knows that we will quite naturally tell others their faults sooner or later. We may let the sins of others go for a time, but just wait until their sin begins to affect us! No one needs to tell us to confront the sinner then! However, those who do not want to get involved are just as unloving because they prevent God from bringing grace into the sinner’s life. So we must confront, but we must be careful to confront others with love lest we, too, fall into sins such as resentment and impatience or covetousness and self-centeredness. The health of our churches depends on each of us examining our own lives.
“My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” James 5:19, 20
Saturday, July 23, 2011
“Salvation is not an event; it is a process. Salvation is God’s gift, for there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. Yet with salvation comes the responsibility to work out our salvation. Once we have been saved, we must claim all that has become ours.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 7/23
Today Eugenia Price gave an example of this when she said we go on complaining about our weaknesses without realizing that it is we who “trodden down strength” by refusing to act as though we really believe Jesus Christ. I had an example of this last night when my son did not show up when I had expected him to. I found that if I began thinking about all the unpleasant possibilities I felt more distraught and more helpless. But when I directed my attention to God’s faithfulness and trusted that He would work things out according to His plan, I rested easily and was able to fall asleep. How many other times do I trodden down the strength that God makes available to me? I can safely say that every time I feel anxious, lost, or confused it is I who is not claiming God’s victory. It is I who is not believing all that God has shown me about Himself. But what about the times I feel unloved, persecuted, misunderstood, or in any way hurt? Are these not due, also, to my forgetting or refusing to claim all that God has for me?
“Blessed are the men whose strength is in thee, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the valley of [weeping] they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion.” Psalm 84:5-7
Friday, July 22, 2011
“Few people realize the effect of thought upon the condition of the soul, that it is in fact its food, the substance from which it evolves its strength, health, and beauty, or upon which it may become weak, unhealthy, and deformed. The things we think about are the things we feed upon.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 7/22
This is a good way to look at thoughts--as food. Behind every action that is not involuntary is a thought, but we often are not even aware of this. We claim ignorance to why we do some of the things we do. But how can this be? Only breathing and other bodily functions can take place without thinking. Everything else is something we decide to do whether or not we’re conscious of it or not. This is why I was very careful about what my children saw when they were young. But it never occurred to me to be concerned about what they saw “second hand”. Just the TV news was enough to traumatize them without my realizing it. Somewhere along the way one of my sons developed an intense fear of sharks, and we don’t even live near the ocean! This is why the things we see and hear are important. We must make a point to think on what is lovely and good, keeping our eyes upon the Lord, because He is the bread of life--not just for our salvation, but for our souls to feed upon and find nourishment in this life.
“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, July 21, 2011
“The ‘anger of God’ is only another name for the inevitable results of our own bad actions.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 7/21
Hannah says God’s anger is not an arbitrary condition of God’s mind but the necessary result of our breaking His laws. She likens it to the inevitable indigestion that comes from unhealthy eating. If people understood this, I think they’d quit blaming God altogether for the things that happen to us. It makes me think of the parenting book I read when my boys were little. It stressed the need for natural consequences to their misbehavior so that they could eventually discipline themselves. If I were always setting up contrived consequences they would become dependent on my being there to police them all the time. If they learned that their behavior caused their unpleasant consequences they’d be more likely to adjust their behavior in the future. Unfortunately, this did not work for my strong-willed child. And just like my strong-willed child I too am finding myself to be so strong-willed that I continue to stay in my prison while the door is flung wide open. I’m beginning to conclude that the only way out is to be carried out! So while I can be glad that I know God won’t leave me there, I am very sad about the fact that I just might waste the rest of my life in a prison. Lord, it is my heart’s desire to walk out of that prison on my own accord.
“For with God nothing will be impossible.” Luke 1: 37
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
“All doubts are a ‘speaking against God’. A great many of my readers will start at this and exclaim, ‘Oh, no, that is a mistake. Doubts often arise from humility.....It is not that we doubt Him, but we doubt ourselves.’” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 7/20
I’ve been guilty of declaring this very thing--claiming that I believed God but doubted myself! In Eugenia Price’s devotional for today she says the door to our self-made prisons have been open all the time--waiting for us to leave on our own accord. Jesus declares Himself to be the door. We have no excuse. However, if we believe ourselves to be the obstacle that prevents us from leaving our prisons and call it humility, we’ll never leave! Let us give up our doubts, claim our freedom, and believe God. The way to do this is to let love have it’s way with us. By that I mean we must accept God’s love for us--both the sweet and the tough, knowing that everything that happens to us is toward that end. Then we must not hoard it. We must give it away before it spoils us. It’s this living stream of God’s love that flows through our hearts that makes us alive to Him and to others, filling us up and spilling out.
“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;” Isaiah 35:5, 6
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
“There is no freedom without love and no love without freedom....Making love our aim is quite simply, giving God the freedom to act as He would act.” Eugenia Price, Make Love Your Aim, Preface
I’ve been exploring for sometime what freedom in Christ is all about. Eugenia has pointed out that freedom and love are “two sides of the same coin”. I had come to this conclusion just before I found her book “waiting” for me on a sidewalk bookcase in front of the used book store I frequent, but instead of “love” I called it by another name--giving. On the way to the bookstore I was listening to a Christian radio program on gift ideas. It pricked my heart. I realized that while I give of my money I give nothing of myself outside of my family anymore. After seeing Eugenia’s book (all the books were just $1.74!) I decided to keep looking for more bargains. I found another Eugenia Price book! Now I was really encouraged so I continued browsing through the other racks. There I found a book entitled “Giving Yourself Away” waiting for me. I immediately realized that God had answered an unformed prayer---He’d given me the desire of my heart, which was to break it open and give of myself. He’d caught my attention with the name of a favorite author so that I would find this other book to help me start the process of giving. Giving and loving are one and the same just as loving and freedom can’t be separated. You can never fully experience freedom from self unless you are able to give self away.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Monday, July 18, 2011
“The law-abiding citizen who has no thought of breaking the laws of his country is as free from those laws as though there were none. The law is dead as far as he is concerned because it demands only that which he himself thinks is best and right, and which, therefore, he wants to give, and for him in effect there is no law.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 7/18
This is what scripture is talking about when we are told we are freed from the law in Christ Jesus. Because we’ve been forgiven of our sins and Christ is our substitute for the penalty of sin, we have been reconciled with God. And because we’ve been reconciled God is able now to provide all that we need if we will just trust Him to do so. The only reason we sin in the first place is so we can get our needs met ourselves. This “freedom in Christ” is what is so elusive to many Christians. It seems too simple. But it is simple, just not easy. It’s not easy because we must contend with our flesh which is continually tempting us to be lazy and go with the flow--the old comfortable rut we lived in for so long. On the one hand, coming to Christ at a young age helps to reduce the depth of that rut, but at the same time, an adult who has been saved out of a life of degradation may be more appreciative of what Jesus has done for them. In both cases, though, we must continue to be diligent in our worship of God so that we never lose sight of Who we belong to!
“Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Galatians 6:7, 8
Sunday, July 17, 2011
“He has blessed us, ‘with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ’ (Eph. 1:3), and it only remains for us to go up by faith and possess them. If we do not, it will not be because of our weakness or the strength of our enemies but because of unbelief. It will be because we measure our enemies with ourselves instead of measuring them with the Lord.” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 7/18
How often do we buy gifts for friends and family because WE like the item. If you have impeccable taste, then perhaps that’s not a problem. But if you don’t, chances are the gift receiver may not find your selection to their liking especially if your lifestyle is different than theirs. We too often measure things by our own likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. We assume far too much about other people. Hannah says we do this with God as well. If we don’t have a right understanding of God we will make assumptions that will cause us much pain and suffering. Sometimes in a physical way, but always in an emotional way--God doesn’t live up to OUR expectations. When Hannah speaks of unbelief I feel she’s not just referring to whether or not we believe God. I think she also means, do we really know God? It doesn’t matter how much we believe if what we believe is wrong! God reveals Himself to anyone who desires to know Him, but He has some requirements. Let’s make sure we know what those requirements are and then let’s make sure what we believe about God is true.
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
Saturday, July 16, 2011
“For this I can say, I never since played the coward, but joyfully entered prisons as palaces, telling mine enemies to hold me there as long as they could: and in the prisonhouse I sung praises to my God, and esteemed the bolts and locks put upon me as jewels, and in the Name of the Eternal God I always got the victory, for they could keep me there no longer than the determined time of my God.” William Dewsbury, 1688, Daily Readings from Quaker Writings, 7/16
All of my readings for today pointed in some way to the prisons we are in. Every Christian is in a sense in a prison--the world that we live in. We may not be in a physical prison as William Dewsbury was, but we may face some form of persecution or loss of liberty because we profess Christ. How wonderful it is if we can see these “bolts and locks” as jewels. But Eugenia Price has been writing about our personal prisons these past few days. These are the ones we often do not see. Their bars are so far apart we can see right past them, but they still do their job of holding us. As I examined my own self-made prisons I realized I have several, but I can put them all under the category of unbelief for it is here that the others find their nutrition. My prisons of selfishness and need to be right feed on the unbelief that still exists in my mind. It is this unbelief that allows old fears to gain a foothold in my life, blinding me to the fact that I am now a child of God. Scripture tells me that if I will honor God--show respect to Him--He will honor me (1 Samuel 2:30). It is in the act of humbling myself before God that my prison doors shall be flung open.
“The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility goes before honor.” Proverbs 15:33
Friday, July 15, 2011
“What does it mean to set the Lord always before you? It means that you choose to relate everything you encounter to your trust in God.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 7/15
I’ve always known that I need to see things through “God’s eyes”--that is, from His perspective. I’ve also known I need to keep my focus on Christ--who He is and what He did. But to “relate everything [I] encounter to [my] trust in God” is new to me. Blackaby has brought me to the nitty gritty of my relationship with God: Trust. Trust is an interesting word. It means “confidence in a person or thing because of the qualities one perceives.” Both parties are involved. I must have confidence, but the other person must have the qualities that warrant my confidence. However, I have an additional responsibility. I must perceive the other’s trustworthiness in order for the transaction to be completed. To perceive is to become aware of. This is why our ability to trust God hinges on our knowledge of Him. We must be diligent in becoming aware of who He is. We must seek to know Him fully. But then we must act on that knowledge. Everything that happens to us must be seen in light of this information. Then we need to exercise the faith God has given us by choosing to place our confidence in the God who created us and loves us to no end.
“Through [Christ] you have confidence in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” 1 Peter 1: 21
Thursday, July 14, 2011
“Hope in the Christian’s life is not wishful thinking. It is confident expectation.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 7/11
I was thinking today about the hopelessness I feel sometimes. There are situations or relationships that I feel will never change. At my age I’ve just about given up on trying to change the way some things are and am learning to accept them. I always go through a hopelessness about them, though. But because God does not give up on anything I often feel I must resurrect my concern over the matter. This morning, though, I realized a difference between hoping about something and putting my hope in Christ Himself. To hope that the world situation will get better or that a relationship will improve puts my focus in a realm where I have very little control. While I may be able to contribute something toward world peace or personal peace, I do not have total control. But God does. By placing my hope only in Him will I ever experience hope. My confident expectation is that God is in control and no matter the outcome, in the end it is what God, the creator of all, has deemed fit.
“I love thee, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:1, 2
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
“When a troubled, frightened child tells his mother of his wrong doings and asks for her sympathy and help, how ready in the mother’s ear to listen and her heart to devise ways to help. Suppose the trouble has been all the child’s fault; none the less is the mother willing and eager to help him.” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 7/12
Hannah often uses mother-child illustrations to give us a picture of God’s love. It’s made me think about my own adult sons. When they were little I was able to teach them many things and I found great gratification in that. But then they entered their teenage years. Anyone who has raised children knows what I’m referring to--the know-it all years. Now that they are young adults I am finding they come to me often for my advice. I am once again a teacher in their lives. This is a wonderful example of what it like with God. I never wanted to stop teaching my children. It was they who did not want to be taught. God waits, with even more patience, for us to return to Him and draw upon His love and grace and wisdom. He even allows us to stretch our wings and try independence for a while until we see how much better it is to depend on Him. While we don’t want our grown children to be dependent on us, we do want them to be able to depend on our love for them. God wants us to depend on His love, too.
“I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not keep with you.” Psalm 32: 8, 9
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
“Humanity held captive by its own rebellion at being set free!...We are not asking God to let us out of prison just so we can praise His name. We are merely facing the fact that until we have been willing to come out, we cannot praise Him...You feel you are a victim.” Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 7/12
In thinking about why we rebel at being set free, I think it must be, as Eugenia points out, that we feel we are victims. The whole point of being a “victim” is to insist on your utter helplessness--not the kind of helpless that God calls us to so that He can give us what we need, but the kind that seems to gloat in it because of all the attention it garners. Yes, we are only victims so that we can get attention. I’ve watched formerly unknown people be interviewed on national television because the news media thought their victim story was news worthy and vowed I’d never consent to an interview if I were in their situation. It would serve no good purpose. It would either cause people to feel sorry for me or reinforce my own temptation to feel sorry for myself. I’m sure many people receive letters or money from the strangers that hear their story, but this only serves to identify them as victims even more so. How much better for us if we would accept God’s keys to the prison we place ourselves in when we refuse His comfort and supply. The only way we can do this is to give Him the praise in all things and thereby refuse the victim status.
“But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and every one’s fetters were unfastened.” Acts 16:25, 26
Monday, July 11, 2011
“But the subtle forms of self-life that would ruin us if left undiscovered and unchecked are often most vigorous in those whose outward walk is all that could be desired, and it sometimes takes sharp discipline to uproot them....He loves us too much to permit any evil to linger undiscovered and uncured in our natures, and He will probe us sharply before He will allow our hurt to be healed.” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 7/11
I have felt this probing that Hannah refers to. Just when I think my wound has healed the scab is ripped off and a festering infection is revealed. I never thought of it as God’s doing. But I can see now that He wants my wound to heal from the inside out. Too often I apply rationalization to “clean up” my wound, bandage myself up, and go on my way without ever having turned the hurt over to the Lord. Later when the bitterness that has grown just under the surface begins to trouble me, I find myself applying more rationalization and more bandaging. It’s a wonder I don’t have this huge bump on my heart from all my attempts to heal. Unfortunately, I do have a bump but it’s grown inward and constricts the “life-giving flow of blood”, making me even more miserable. This is why God must probe and use his sharp instruments of discipline to help me heal. I’ll have to remember this the next time I question what God’s doing in my life.
“My wounds grow foul and fester because of my foolishness, I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning. For my loins are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am utterly spent and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart.” Psalm 38:5-9
Sunday, July 10, 2011
“If those who profess to know and trust Him dread His will, we cannot wonder that the world looks on the will of God as something to be feared and resisted more than anything else, and we need not question why they are driven away from Him.” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 7/10
Our view of God is all-important. If we see God as a tyrant we will resist Him. So why don’t we view God as the benevolent God that He is? I’m sure it’s because the spoiled child in each of us wants her or his own way. We never really grow up it seems. Outwardly, we’ve learned how to behave in our society so that we can get along for the most part. We mind our manners so that we won’t be ostracized or in some way make things worse for ourselves. This is something to keep in mind as we raise our children. Are we teaching them how to fit into society, or are we helping them mature? This is what God does for us. He allows things into our lives that will help grow us up--to mature us. To the extent that we cooperate will we be become who God created us to be.
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11
Saturday, July 9, 2011
“This is a far more vital point than might appear at first, for wrong views of the love of God lie, I am convinced, at the root of most of our spiritual difficulties. We take the worst elements in our own characters...as the key to interpret God, instead of taking our best elements of love....as the key.” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 7/9
Hannah is saying that we measure God’s love for us by how much love we have for Him, and if it’s small, then we’ll never experience how great a love God has for us. This got me to thinking about my view of God in general. Are there other ways I “limit” God? Do I bring Him down to my level? The first thing I realized is every time I am fearful I am in a sense handcuffing God. I remember the time my kitten got its mouth caught on the scrollwork of a metal chair leg. It was terrified and therefore fought every effort I was making to free it. Thankfully, I kept my cool and was able to hold her little body with one hand while I opened her mouth to release her grip on the ironwork with the other. And thankfully, God keeps His cool while He helps us untangle ourselves from the predicaments we get ourselves into. I realize now my God is a great God. He does according to what I believe about Him. If I think He is small, then He can only do small things for me for I will only humble myself a little. The bigger my God, the more humbled I will be, and the more grace He can give.
“But may all who seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee; may those who love thy salvation say continually, ‘Great is the LORD!’ As for me, I am poor and needy; but the Lord takes thought for me.” Psalm 40:16, 17a
Friday, July 8, 2011
“It has been said that we never really love anyone until we can do without them for their good. Measured by this test, how few there are who really love.” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 7/8
At first I did not understand how “doing without someone” could be for their own good until I thought about my children. In doing so I thought about how my own mother got hysterical when I told her I wanted to move out. Even though I was going to leave home in six months to get married I felt I needed to be on my own. I couldn’t understand her reaction especially since I’d be gone in a few months anyway. Being the obedient daughter that I was I stayed. Now that I have grown sons I need to remind myself of this episode so that I don’t make the same mistake. It’s such a fine line between loving selfishly and loving someone for their good. Encouraging my boys to step out on their own even if it means I will no longer have their company is genuinely loving them. To encourage them to follow God’s leading in their careers even though it means their living across the country or even across the world is genuinely loving them. I think any relationship we have needs to be examined. Are we demanding too much of that person’s attention? Everyone needs room to explore and to grow outside of their immediate environment.
“Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Thursday, July 7, 2011
“Christ is the end of all our self-efforts after righteousness, not ‘at the end’, as I used to think, but the actual ending of them....the life of Christ in our souls makes righteousness take possession of us. We are controlled from within and not from without.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 7/5
I don’t think people realize how important it is to understand this. I didn’t for years even though I knew it is by the Holy Spirit that we are changed and not by self-effort. What I didn’t understand was that I am made righteous instantly. Yes, my behavior may continue to look sinful because of the choices I make that cater to the “old man”. However, because of Christ in me, I am now already perfect in God’s eyes. It’s this knowledge that should spur me to stop grieving the Holy Spirit and choose instead to be true to the “new creature” in me. Because I believed perfection was something I was supposed to work toward until I got to heaven I continued to strive to be perfect. This fed my need to please people so they would confirm for me that I was “looking good” on the outside at least. If I didn’t get this confirmation, however, after all my effort, it would lead me into sin in my heart towards people. It also kept my focus on my self constantly. Now, when this need to please presents itself I am reminded that God is the only One I should be pleasing. I am already made perfect so I don’t need to depend on others for my self-worth.
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust...You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:44,45,48
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
“Why is it that some Christians seem to go so much deeper in their walk with God than others?....Why has God chosen to anoint the words of some so that, when they speak or pray or preach, it is obvious that their words are consecrated by God? It is because these individuals have committed themselves to pursue God until His presence is powerfully real in their lives....and He has honored their desire.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 7/6
As I read this I found myself asking God why....why have I not experienced this “anointing of my words”. I’ve pursued God diligently for years! I’ve even had other people comment they’ve never known anyone pursue God as I have. I’ve been faithful in my daily devotionals rising early in the morning, have served in the churches I’ve attended not only in servant capacities but also in leadership positions, and have even read the whole Bible through. Now I’m writing this daily devotional. But in that instant when I poured out my heart to God I immediately received His answer: “You have pursued the results of a relationship with Me---not the relationship itself.” I stood convicted. This is what so many of us do in our human relationships, too. We have this “idea” in our heads of what the relationship should be and we pursue that when in reality it’s the relationship itself we must pursue. It’s the day in and day out “good with the bad”. It’s the tough times and the easy times--the lovely times and the not so lovely times. With God, though, we can depend on it always working out for good.
“...you have no need that any one should teach you; as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him.” 1 John 2:27b
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
“Faith is the law of spiritual righteousness, and righteousness is to be attained in no other way. No amount of works, however religious, can bring about true holiness....the essential difference between the righteousness of faith and the righteousness of works. The last is a righteousness put on from the outside; the first springs up from within. The one is works; the other is fruit.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 7/5
Righteousness is all it takes for us to be saved and Christ imputes it to us. So what’s our problem, then, with works? Why do we persist in works? I really don’t think Christians try to work for their salvation like those who are not saved. There are groups who do not believe in the assurance of salvation and therefore rely on their works to finish getting them into heaven. I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about the Christians who feel they have to look like a Christian by what they do. These are the very people who often are the least loving because they’re so busy working. They have no time to notice the lonely elderly widow or the neglected child because they are busy “working for the Lord”. Or they may be putting in long hours on the job, to the neglect of their family, so their offerings are large every Sunday for “the Lord’s work”. Hannah has reminded us that the works we do should be the fruit of our faith. It is our faith that is counted as righteousness. First, it is our faith in Christ’s work on the Cross, but then it is our faith that God is at work in our lives--making us righteous. Our gratefulness for all that God is doing in our lives should be producing the fruit that shows we belong to Him.
“But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;” Galatians 5:22, 23a
Monday, July 4, 2011
“...we must be convinced that Jesus Christ is a redeemer of our every circumstance as well as our sin. Whatever He touches He changes and makes new. Whatever He touches He redeems and makes useful. Nothing is ever wasted in the presence of Jesus Christ.” Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 7/4
Being a person who does not like to waste anything this is comforting to me. I think we do forget that Jesus is more than just a Redeemer for our sin--He continues to redeem our sins as well as mistakes. The mistakes may not even be our own. We may suffer at the hand of another’s mistakes or sins. Jesus can redeem these as well. I like the imagery someone else has used of the hand in the glove when it comes to our part in the process. As the glove we must do our part by being relaxed. If the fingers of the glove are knotted up, Jesus, the Hand, can’t fit into the glove’s fingers. He doesn’t have full use of us in order to do what He has to do to redeem the situation. Then in our stubborn way we will blame God for our seemingly hopeless situation. We mustn’t get stuck there for Jesus continues to be our Redeemer even then. It’s never too late. We just need to relax, be grateful, and enjoy what God has provided. Then, let God have His way.
“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalm 103:2-5