WRITING A DEVOTIONAL
WRITING A DEVOTIONAL
Back in 2003 after having spent the year before reading Sarah Ban Breathnach's book "Simple Abundance" I took her suggestion to heart and wrote my own daily devotional. Each day I took a line or two from one of the various spiritual authors from the last three centuries I was reading and wrote my own thoughts on the subject. I then looked for a scripture that illustrated the truth that had been revealed to me. What follows is the result.
"Our greatest bondage is to have our own way; our greatest freedom is to let God have His way." Warren Wiersbe
Saturday, December 31, 2011
“The soul that ‘mounts up with wings’ (Isaiah 40:31) looks at everything from the divine standpoint not from the human. In forming a judgment about any matter everything depends on our point of view. Things appear very different when looked down on from above than when viewed on their own level. What seems like an impassable wall on its own level, becomes an insignificant line to the eyes that sees it from the top of a mountain. The faults in others which assume such immense proportions while we look at them on the earthly plane, become insignifant little motes in the sunshine when the soul has mounted on wings to the heavenly place above them.” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 12/10
So, I come to the end of this fantastic journey this year and can say I now know what it means to have freedom in Christ. This journey has brought me through some trying times and I did not always feel so good in the midst of them. But I can honestly say I never felt as though God had left me bereft. In the moment I finally cried out to Him I received His comfort. Now He has brought me up to His mountaintop and shown me His world from His viewpoint and I understand. Like the eagle who trusts his life to the wind, I spread my wings and trust that God will sustain me as I am lifted from the ledge and soar with God. Lord, make me a blessing today.
“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31
Friday, December 30, 2011
“You may not realize it, but your life has the potential to bless everyone you encounter. Are others strengthened and encouraged in their faith because of their relationship with you?” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 12/17
There is just one prayer we could pray each day that would encompass all prayers: Lord, make me a blessing today. In that one prayer we are acknowledging that God is our Lord and we want to serve Him. We are giving Him permission to do what He needs to do in order that we will be a blessing. We are asking for the necessary resources whether it be talent, time, or money. We are acknowledging our need to come before God each new day. We are also declaring God’s glory in that He is able to make us a blessing by all that He knows and does. In addition, we are making ourselves aware of those around us. When we have an encounter with another person or when a thought drops into our minds of someone’s needs, whether within our circle or out in the world, we will be ready. Most of the time I suspect we have our minds on ourselves and don’t notice what is happening around us. By praying, “Make me a blessing,” we are relinquishing our self-serving attitude and taking up God’s agenda. And you know, I am confident that God will bring someone across my path when He wants to use me to bless them and in the process I shall be blessed, too!
“Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing.” Matthew 24:44-46
Thursday, December 29, 2011
“Jesus said that a man who takes the words of God and builds them into his life is like a wise man who builds his house on a rock.....There are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity. Maturity comes only through hard work and obedience to what God says. The next time you hear Jesus speaking, begin immediately to firmly build His truth into your life, so that no storm can unsettle you.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 12/16
My parents weren’t available to me when I was a child because they were so caught up in their own problems. I felt as though I raised myself. Consequently, when the storms came into my life I discovered my house was built on sand and not rock. It’s only been since I began reading my Bible and listening to others preach on the scriptures that I’ve begun to laboriously build my house on the Rock--Jesus Christ. As my foundation He is providing me the stability that I never had as a child. He also teaches me things I need to know and holds my hand while I’m learning them. Wisdom can only come from actually living what we’ve learned because until you experience it you really don’t know if you’ve learned it or not. It’s in either living out the truth or learning from the mistakes that we gain the wisdom that enables us to weather the most fiercest of storms.
“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. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” Psalm 18:1-3
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
“Jesus walked so intimately with His Father that He was always aware of what the Father was doing around him (John 5:19, 20). Jesus said that if our eyes are pure, they will see God and recognize His activity (Matthew 6:22). If we are not seeing God’s activity, the problem is not a lack of revelation. The problem is that our sin prevents us from noticing it.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 12/13
We never have to ask God to reveal His will to us. He is constantly revealing it to us, but as Blackaby points out we are just not seeing it. I know in my own life I have been amazed time and again how God provides in advance of when I need something. But you know, it just might be that I’d been needing it all along but hadn’t yet noticed it. Those times in particular that seem like miracles are from God’s point of view quite ordinary. The miracle is that we showed up and were aware of His activity. This should make us stop and contemplate a little bit more about our place in this universe. I think we either overrate it or underrate it. We either think it’s all about us, or we figure we’re so insignificant that God hardly notices us. To see things from God’s point of view would open our eyes and shine His light right into them, down into our very soul. It is there that He is revealed to us. It is there we will find His will.
“But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him’ God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:9-11
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
“It would be of no use to inherit a fortune if you did not know it was yours. Likewise, it is of no benefit to inherit everything necessary to become like Christ if you do not claim it...The key to all that God has made available to us is our faith.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 12/10
I think a lot of people exercise faith, but because they don’t know about their inheritance their faith is in the wrong thing. Usually, it’s in themselves. Sometimes it’s in the “system”. Fortunately, they will be let down eventually; otherwise, if these other ways succeeded, they’d never search elsewhere to place their faith. Then there are those who place their faith in God, but aren’t aware of their inheritance. They never read their Bible and therefore are ignorant of all God wants to give them. They walk around all the good things God has for them on their way to what they, with their limited imaginations, think is good for them. But there is a third type of person. They are the ones who exercise their faith in God and know what He desires to give them but refuse to take it, thinking they are being humble. These people have been so absorbed into what the world thinks is humility that they can’t see past themselves. They may say outwardly that they do not deserve all of God’s gifts, but what they are really doing is rejecting God. Let us not be guilty of this effrontery to God. We must walk in the way He has prepared for us, believing all His promises so that we won’t grow weary.
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.” 2 Peter 1:3, 4
Monday, December 26, 2011
“We can be deceived into assuming God is more interested in our activity for Him than He is in the condition of our hearts. God has consistently made it clear that He will not be pacified by even the most generous offerings and zealous service if our hearts are not right with Him (Micah 6:6-8).” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 12/6
This is when living by example is not such a good thing. We come into a church a “baby” Christian, see the good works of others, and are either solicited to join in the good works or choose to on our own so that we’ll fit in. If that is the order in which we do things we’ll have missed the whole point of being a Christian! Our good works must be an outgrowth of our relationship with God. It reminds me of the story I once heard about a woman who would cut off the end of her roast before placing it in the pan to bake it. One day her daughter asked her why she did that. Her reply was “My mother always did it,” but she didn’t know why either. So together they went to the grandmother and asked her why. She replied, “Because it wouldn’t fit in the pan otherwise.” Too often we do things just because others are doing them and in the process do them for the wrong reason. Our duty as mature Christians is to teach the new Christians. They must be taught about the Holy Spirit’s role in their lives and what God expects from them. If we don’t do that, they are in danger of making assumptions that are wrong and will lead them away from God rather than closer.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in our hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16
Sunday, December 25, 2011
“There is no sinful habit or past hurt that is beyond the healing touch of our Lord. Have you gone year after year without receiving spiritual healing? God is capable of freeing you, but you may have become comfortable in your sin. You may not want to be healed. If you really want to receive spiritual health, God can give it today. He wants you to ask Him.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 12/3
Why do we become comfortable with our sins? One author I’ve read suggests the original sin was actually laziness. Because Adam and Eve were too lazy to go to God to ask Him about what Satan had said, they did what they felt like doing. When their sin caught up with them, their pride is what tried to cover it up. Perhaps some would argue that it is our pride that causes us to be lazy and that very well may be so for us. But for Adam and Eve, who had not yet sinned, it makes sense to me that their laziness led them to commit that first sin. Whatever the truth might be, we mustn’t let ourselves be deceived into thinking our laziness now is part of the human nature like the need for sleep. We really must see it as sin. I’m not talking about being too tired to do something--but even then, perhaps it was sin that caused us to become tired. When I speak of laziness I’m speaking of shirking responsibilities. Even in our tiredness we don’t have to be irresponsible. It is my responsibility to get up every morning and place my life into God’s Hands seeking His direction and help. This takes work.
“But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 2 Peter 3:13, 14
Saturday, December 24, 2011
“We are so incapable of judging with regard to our own happiness, or that of others, that it should lead us to a patient acquiescence in the Divine will; a resignation which would not only enable us to say, ‘Thy will be done,’ but to feel that submission of mind which would preserve us in calm composure. Things which appear to our present unhappiness and disadvantage have frequently at a future period proved a benefit, and we have been led to acknowledge that the Lord only knows what is best for us.” Margaret Woods, 1777, Quaker Readings, 12/16
That must be at the root of our problem....we must think we’re capable of “judging with regard to our own happiness”. That’s what egotism is, though, isn’t it? We want what we want when we want it because we think we know best so we "stand up for our rights". The thing is we come into this world with that belief. A two-year-old’s tantrum is a classic example. So how is it we grow up continuing to believe that we know what’s best. I’m sure it has something to do with the poor example adults set for children and our inability to discipline properly. In addition, we’re told we need to help our children become independent--we’re to give them some space to do a little rebelling so that they can separate from us. That’s all well and good, as they say, but we mustn’t take them from depending on us to depending on themselves. It’s God we must be teaching them to depend on. How do we do that? By example and through discipline.
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind.” James 4:7, 8
Friday, December 23, 2011
“Self-examination is sometimes extolled among Christians as a most commendable and necessary duty; but in my view it is often a great evil. It leads either to self-justification and self-commiseration, or else to discouragement and despair.....The soul that looks away from self, and examines the Lord instead, finds its mouth filled with his name, and his praises, and his glorious power.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 12/14
My first thought when I read the first sentence was how would I know, then, when I needed to confess a sin? But as I read on it became clear. Once I give my life to Christ and receive the Holy Spirit I can trust that He will bring these sins to mind--I don’t need to continue with the self-examination as I had been accustomed to doing before. I spent my 20’s in this intense self-examination because I was a perfectionist. I needed to be one step ahead of others in finding fault with myself so I could correct it before someone else pointed it out to me. I did not know about the Holy Spirit, even though I was saved at age eight. In my early 30’s I discovered that the Holy Spirit, whom I’d received those many years ago was just waiting for me to let Him have control. Now in my early 50’s I’m finally waking up to the ways my old habits have continued to get in the way of the Holy Spirit doing His job. I’m finally coming to understand that I must keep my eyes on the solution and not the problem. When I focus on the problem (myself) I get sucked back into the ways of the flesh. Being freed from this self-examination is part of Freedom in Christ.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” Psalm 139:23, 24
Thursday, December 22, 2011
“That which all the reproaches and accusations of [Job’s] friends had failed to do, one sight of God accomplished in a moment...He saw the Lord, but he also saw himself, as he was in the Lord’s presence, and all his self-righteousness turned into filthy rags in an instant.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 12/13
We can spend our whole lives examining ourselves and finding our faults and never change. Likewise, we can spend our whole lives seeking to know God and never change. Now I understand just what it means to come into God’s presence. It’s not just finding out about Him. It’s not even desiring to know Him. And just confessing our sins does not put us in God’s presence. Far too often we confess our sins and claim to be sorry about them for the wrong reason. What we want is for God to “make us look good.” It looks humble enough on the outside, but that is what self-righteousness is all about--looking good. It has nothing to do with being good. Only the humble or humbled can stand in God’s presence. When Jesus admonished the rich, young ruler to sell all he possessed this is what He was requiring. As long as we depend on anything other than God Himself, our motive will be to glorify self. To come into God’s presence means we must come empty-handed. We must! Or else our hands are not free to pick up His righteousness and all that He desires to give us through it.
“He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.” Luke 1:51-53
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
“Lives that we are apt to call wasted, which have ended in sorrow and humiliation, are not really wasted, but are simply being stripped of that which separated them from the Lord and from a perfect conformity to his likeness. That man is happy who goes into the next world emptied of self, no matter how painful the humbling may have been.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 12/11
I believe this was the purpose of my mother’s illness. She spoke the words of a believer, but her rebellion against God was just under the surface. I could see it from time to time. It was subtle, but it was there. It wasn’t until she came to live with me so I could take care of her that it became more obvious. As she resisted having to let go of her former life, what she really believed began to show to the point that one day she railed that she wasn’t interested in “sitting on the grass in heaven singing hymns all day!” It shocked me on two fronts--that she felt that way about God after espousing His praises for years and that she had that view of heaven. As the months wore on and she was near the end of her life I had a friend who cared enough to give of her time to my mother. One day while she was visiting her and I was in the kitchen preparing supper, this friend prayed with my mother. It wasn’t until after her death two weeks later that my friend wrote me a letter telling me about that prayer. In it my mother had humbled herself and accepted what was happening to her. No wonder, as I stood by her bed that last morning and told her Jesus was waiting for her, she breathed one last breath and let go.
“And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” John 14:3
Tuesday, December 20, 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 life is all that could be desired; and it needs sometimes a very sharp discipline to uproot them. In this fact lies hidden the secret of much that is mysterious in the dealings of the Lord with the souls of his servants. He loves us too much to permit any evil to linger undiscovered and uncured in our natures. This is not severity, but mercy. For the great object of all the discipline of life here is character-building.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 12/9
If we think we are so good that we should never be troubled in this life, we’ve revealed a character flaw right there. If we do not claim to be so good, but feel we do not deserve our troubles, we’ve also revealed our character flaw. I’ve heard people claim they’ve done everything they know to do to rectify their situation, yet find no peace. This tells me they have not yet reached the point of accepting God’s will for them. Instead of focusing on the situation I think it is time for them (and me) to focus on what the Lord may be doing to build our character and leaving the solving of the situation to God. When we get caught up in trying to help God do the work that only He can do we neglect what is within our power. God has given us free will so that we can make choices for ourselves. He does not dictate the details of our lives, but He does expect us to leave the outcome to Him. It comes down to whether or not you believe there is a reason for everything that happens. For me, this is God--the reason behind everything.
“But Jesus, aware of this, said, ‘O men of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive?” Matthew 16:8, 9a (KJV)
Monday, December 19, 2011
“He was willing just to be another member of the human race again, doing what everyone else did and requiring no more special attention.” Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 12/7
Eugenia is talking about the lame man who wanted to be healed. We wonder, “Why wouldn’t someone want to be able to get around freely?” Eugenia, I believe, has rightly pointed out he wanted to be healed because he no longer desired special attention. How often do we hang onto an illness or even a sin because it gives us special attention just like a child who misbehaves when they feel neglected? Perhaps anything we justify by the fact that it’s due to a weakness is actually an attempt to feel special. Even if we do not receive attention--as so many homeless people can attest to--perhaps the reason we do not accept God’s help is because we would then be just like everyone else. This should give me pause the next time I complain about anything. Have I not received what I desire because I do not ask? And do I not ask because then I will no longer be special? We’ve become a society who makes it our business to seek attention. The reality programming on TV, I think, proves this. It seems half the nation wants their 15 minutes of fame. Our children are being raised to desire the limelight. We must be very careful, then, that the example we set does not further this desire. In fact, we should go even further and tell our children what they should desire and that is to seek to be humble.
“Therefore we must pay the closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For if the message declared by angels was valid and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” Hebrews 2:1, 3a
Sunday, December 18, 2011
“Don’t be afraid to face the truth about your present spiritual condition; and don’t admit the thought that you have been carried captive too far and too long for restoration to be possible. For in the swift transitions of our spiritual life, the very time that reveals a failure may reveal the remedy also, and at once that remedy may be applied and the soul delivered. That which took years for the children of Israel may be accomplished for you in a divine moment.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 12/8
The difference is we have the Holy Spirit. I struggle with an unresolved issue in my life for which Hannah’s words are a soothing balm. In my attempt to be obedient in this matter I have found myself taking two steps backwards. It would seem it better for me to do nothing rather than do something and end up sinning further. She says that the “very time that reveals a failure may reveal the remedy also.” It is clear to me that what has been happening is that I’ve attempted to be obedient in my own strength. What I must do instead is to call upon the Holy Spirit at that moment--confessing my weakness and asking for His help to do what is right. This also means, though, I must capture any thought that precedes this that may cause me not to seek out the Holy Spirit. These thoughts generally keep me preoccupied with my “rights”. Thomas Chalkley (1675-1741) says, “Mercy will lessen, and not magnify weakness.” Having mercy on the person I perceive to be stepping on my rights will lessen my own weakness in being obedient. In fact, my obedience may even require that I confront that person, but by my obedience to mercy I will also have the required love.
“But love your enemies, and do good....Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:35, 36
Saturday, December 17, 2011
“Suppose a friend should commit something to our keeping, receiving from us every assurance that we would keep it safe, and then go away and worry over it as we worry over the things we commit to God....Would we not finally be inclined to hand the thing back to our friend and say, ‘Since it is very plain that you do not trust me, had you not better take care of your things yourself?’” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 12/4
How many times did we have to stand by and let our toddlers handle things themselves because they insisted even though we knew they would not succeed? Often times this is the only way they could learn, but we were never far away, ready to lend a hand or rescue them from their little adventure. But Hannah is talking about the things only God can handle by Himself--things we have no control over. We have no choice but to trust Him, yet we continue to worry about them. This worry then always gets in the way. It will either cause us to interfere, or at the very least distract us from being useful to God. I believe those times that we feel the most lost and abandoned may very well be those times God has said, “Since it is very plain that you do not trust me, had you not better take care of your things yourself?” Perhaps this is a wake-up call for us to examine our own actions. Has our worry led us into the pit we’ve found ourselves? Has our attempt to wrestle control out of God’s Hand put us in this fix? Let us then, be very careful in prayer so that we leave the matter with God.
“Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the wicked shall be cut off; but those who wait for the LORD shall possess the land.” Psalm 37:8, 9
Friday, December 16, 2011
“...I [did not] see one wrinkle of annoyance or rebellion in my friend...this was not natural for [her], but it was for the One who had come to live His life in hers. Patience and self-control are both fruits of the Spirit. They are ‘natural’ only to God.” Eugenia Price, S.P.S., 12/4
As I read Eugenia’s account of her friend’s reaction to her car being smashed into and the subsequent delay in opening her business for the day I got a picture of what it would feel like if I was able to behave this way. I immediately wanted to take the credit. No wonder those moments of bearing the Spirit’s fruit never last for long! My pride has horned in on the glory, which, of course, causes the Holy Spirit to have to step back into the shadows. I’m beginning to understand now that it is indeed “natural” for me to be self-centered, impatient, unloving....all the things I try not to be. If I would just realize that I can never expect to be any different, perhaps I will quit trying to be so in my own right. Instead, I must focus on what Christ can and does do in my life, if I will just let Him. He can be all the things I want to be in my life. He can be all the self-control, all the patience, all the love I need in order for my life to exhibit these qualities. Without Him, no matter how much I’ve practiced it, it cannot be there for me. It’s in those crisis moments I most often discover who has really been living my life for me.
“In him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28a
Thursday, December 15, 2011
“It is a simple fact that we see what we look at and cannot see what we look away from. We cannot look to Jesus while we are looking at ourselves.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 12/4
I’ve been thinking about what it means to be “in” a relationship with people. Too often we just have a relationship “with” people. To me, it’s like having a relationship with my desk. I depend on it to hold my computer. In return I will dust it every now and then--but we are definitely NOT “in” a relationship. In this kind of relationship we are looking only at ourselves and our needs. I’ve come to realize how much my physical actions can add to or subtract from a relationship. It’s very hard to have a long-distance relationship for this reason. But it also applies to the people you live with. I tend not to look at people when I’m talking to them. This probably started as a child because I was so shy. Later it was because I was so busy. I realize now that I often miss important cues when I don’t look at people--their body language will often help me interpret what is really being said or let me know if I’m being understood. Hannah, though, brings another element into my need to look at people when I’m talking or listening to them and that is I’m really looking at God. Because we are made in God’s image and Jesus and God are One we are in essence looking into the heart of Jesus if that person is a Christian and if they are not we are looking at someone who needs Jesus. This will keep my focus off myself.
“But as for me, I will look to the LORD, I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.” Micah 7:7
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
“However things may look, we always know that God must give the best because He is God and can do no other.” Hannah Whitall Smith, God is Enough, 12/1
This statement in itself should be enough to stab me in the heart. There in my wound I see my own willfulness--my refusal to lay hold of God. Any want I have is my own doing and is the direct result of my pride....I’m trying to train my youngest son to close the door on his bathroom cabinet. I decided the only way he’s going to learn is for me to require him to leave whatever he’s doing and go close it because my friendly reminders have not taught him to close the door before he leaves the room. After a week and countless trips to close the door after the fact I found the door open after he left for school. I’m not surprised. He’s just like his mother! God has given me plenty of opportunities to hear his teaching and to obey it. He’s given me experiences in which to practice these lessons, yet I still do not do what I know I should do. But all is not lost. God’s grace is larger than my sin and He has provided a way for me to be restored to Him. When my son comes home from school today I will put my arms around him and tell him how much I love him. Hopefully, his pride won’t be so overblown that when he sees the door he left open, he will quietly close it and resolve to remember next time.
“Or do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Romans 2:4
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
“...consider what the angel declared to the disciples on the Mount of Olives, while they looked toward the heavens where a cloud had just received their Lord out of their sight: ‘This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’.....It is striking to notice that the Lord’s exhortations to holiness of life are always based, not on the fear of death, but on the hope of his return and its unexpectedness.” Hannah Whitall Smith, Daily Secrets, 11/29
I’ve only known one Christian who lived this way and she just recently went to be with the Lord. She often spoke of Jesus’ return and her longing to be with Him. When her time came she did not go immediately, but I think this was for her family. This thought has brought to mind a clearer focus on how we should be living our lives. Not only should I be looking forward to Jesus’ return and be living as though it could be in this next moment, but I also should be ready to leave unexpectedly. Have I left anything undone? There are the practical issues like where to find important papers or making sure I have not left a mess of things for someone to sort through. But more importantly did they know I loved them and had I done everything to be a witness of God’s love to them? I may not be given a chance to correct these oversights. If I’m living my life in the hope of Jesus’ unexpected return, I can be at peace about my unexpected leave-taking! May I grasp this in my heart so that I may live it.
“Lo, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is he who is awake, keeping his garments that he may not go naked and be seen exposed!” Revelations 16:15
Monday, December 12, 2011
“Christianity is not moral platitudes, lofty intentions, and noble thoughts. The fundamental characteristic of God’s kingdom is power....If you only have the appearance of godliness without any corresponding spiritual power (2 Timothy 3:5), ask God to cleanse you of your sin and to fill you with His spirit so that your life is characterized by power.” H. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day, 11/24
If I were to sum up in one word the power that 2 Timothy 3:5 is speaking of I’d have to say it is Love. To be cleansed of our rebellion against God fills us with His Spirit, but if we continue to sin we block the power of Love from being released through us. I think it would be helpful if we substituted the word “sin” with the word “fear”, for fear is the opposite of Love. Whenever we do not love someone we are in essence saying that we fear them. Our behavior toward them will be to protect ourselves. If every time I have a negative thought I were to attribute it to fear, I would realize that the only solution is Love since Love casts out fear (1 John 4:18) and covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). This is why we must give the Holy Spirit complete reign in our life. It is only by His Power in us that we are enabled not to be afraid (trust) and thereby to love (obey).
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8