A Personal Devotional Journal

I invite you to journey with me. Sometimes we will look at short passages of Scripture and I will give my first thoughts and impressions. Other times, I will just share my thinking about spiritual issues. Always, you are welcome to comment and add your thoughts. Together, we could learn something.

Friday, March 9, 2018

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 "Comforting Others"

Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! The Father is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort. He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share that same comfort with others in trouble.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

True spiritual qualities are not natural to us. By nature we are not compassionate and merciful and loving and kind and patient or any of that. And the only way that we can become more patient with others is if someone invests some patience into us –because you can’t give what you don’t have.

The only way we can be more compassionate is if someone shows compassion to us. The only way we can be more forgiving is if someone forgives us. The only way we can be more loving is if someone loves us.

I liken this to a spiritual bank account –a checking account. Before we can write any checks on this account, somebody has to make some deposits into it. And Jesus is the one who makes the deposits.

Jesus has all of those characteristics –and if we have accepted His love, He has invested into us and we now have love to share with others. If we have received His mercy, we now can be merciful. If we have trusted Him for the forgiveness of our sins, we now can forgive others.

Once those deposits have been made into our lives, not only can we turn around and give them to others, but the Bible says that if we are going to follow Jesus, it’s not optional –we must invest what Jesus has given to us into the lives of others.

Spiritually the flip side of you can’t give what you don’t have is that you must give what you do have.

#by-his-stripes.com #ByHisStripes

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

1 Kings 19:1-21 "Hearing God In The Normal"

After the prophet Elijah confronted and bested the prophets of Baal, Queen Jezebel vowed revenge. And Elijah, who had been fearless before the false prophets, became afraid and he ran and hid.

At this point, Elijah is terribly depressed. He does not even want to go on living. And apparently, he is also a little angry with God. He is feeling sorry for himself. 

I think I understand how he was feeling. He was thinking to himself that he had been faithful, that he had done what God had commanded, that he had even been vindicated by God before the nation. God had used him in a mighty way. And yet, instead of being rewarded for his faithfulness, his life was still in jeopardy. He was being hunted. 

If I'm honest, I sometimes feel like that. I sometimes want God to reward me right here and now for the times I am faithful. Sometimes I even begin to think that I deserve better treatment. More recognition. A little honor, perhaps?

But God simply said to Elijah, "What are you doing up here hiding, feeling sorry for yourself? The job's not done yet. There is still much to do." 

Then God told Elijah to prepare himself, because He was going to speak. You might remember the story. There was a mighty wind -a tornado or a hurricane. It was a massive display of power and force; but God didn't speak in the wind.

Then there was an earthquake. The mountain shook and rocks split. Again, it was a massive display of power and force; but God didn't speak in the earthquake.

Next came a raging fire. It was intense. Whole trees were consumed. But God didn't speak in the fire.

Believe me, Elijah was listening for God in the mighty wind. He was watching for God in the earthquake. He was certain he would find God in the raging fire. But when God spoke, it was unexpectedly in the gentlest of whispers. Why? Why did God send these spectacular catastrophic events? Then, why did He choose to communicate in the still small voice?

I think God sent the spectacular, the powerful, and the catastrophic to remind Elijah who was in control. God can use any means He chooses to accomplish His will. If He desires, all nature is at His command.

But Elijah (and maybe me) needed to be reminded that the lasting, enduring work of God is usually accomplished in the small things -in the quiet places of our hearts even when we are lonely or nervous or fearful or anxious.

The big events are great and many times God uses mountaintop experiences in our lives to grow us and encourage us. But too often we seek God in the spectacular and the extraordinary and the loud and the big -while God is waiting for us in the quiet and the ordinary.

It is not our place to question God's methods. He will use the spectacular when He sees fit for His own purposes, and His own honor, and His own glory. Occasionally God will communicate with us through the spectacular, but it is often our place to be still and listen for the gentle whisper of God in the quiet, intimate moments of the normal.

Monday, August 28, 2017

1 Samuel 16:7 "The Way Things Appear"

Church is the one place in all the world where we ought to be able to be honest, where we should be able to be real. But this clearly is not the case.

In fact, religious people might be the worst people in the world when it comes to being honest about our true feelings and what is going on inside.

Unfortunately, almost every religious person I have ever met has bought into the lie that “real Christians never struggle with sin; real Christians don’t get scared or confused; real Christians don’t stumble; real Christians don’t get discouraged; real Christians don’t doubt. And if Christians ever actually do any of those things, they don’t show it.” 

We choose to believe that it is more spiritual to hide our fears and doubts and sins and anxieties and worries than to express them and expose them and deal with them. We will not allow anyone else to know that we have problems because they might think less of us spiritually. And we don’t want people to think less of us spiritually, so we buy the lie and bury the truth.

And if we do this, you see, we invariably end up leading a life that is focused on outward appearances instead of internal realities. It can’t work both ways. If how things appear, if how they look is what matters most to us, then how things really are cannot matter much. That’s what religion without relationship does. It seeks the approval of man.

1 Samuel 16:7  "The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

#by-his-stripes.com #ByHisStripes

Friday, August 11, 2017

Luke 11:46, Matthew 23:25 "Hard Life Harder"

“And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them." (Luke 11:46)

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence!"  (Matthew 23:25)

Religion is, of course, not necessarily a bad thing. Religion is believing in God. Religion is tradition and ceremony. Religion is learning the difference between right and wrong. Religion is praying and celebrating religious holidays and reading the Scripture and coming to church and giving our tithes and offerings.

Those are all things that I affirm and have made a part of my life. Religion is not a bad thing –unless we simply practice religion instead of entering into the relationship that God wants to have with us.
Jesus told one of the most religious men of His day that unless a person is “born again,” he will never see the Kingdom of God. Unless I allow Jesus to transform my heart and mind, it really doesn’t matter in the big picture if I know how to act religious.

Religion might change my behavior, but only Jesus can change my heart. Why is this important? Because acting religious doesn’t forgive my sin. Being religious doesn’t take away the emptiness in my soul. Being religious doesn’t take away my sense of guilt and shame. Religion without relationship only treats the symptom, it doesn’t cure the disease.

It seems to me that religion often makes a hard life even harder.  Because religion cannot change the heart, it tries to control people with laws and expectations.  Religion is good at describing high standards of right behavior –but only a right relationship gives hope and mercy to those who realize they don’t measure up.

When we finally get to the end of ourselves and begin to understand that we hurt, that we are empty inside, that we have deep spiritual needs that we can’t meet ourselves, that there has to be more to life than we are experiencing –when we finally admit that we have made a mess of things and we need divine help, if we turn to religion, we only get the added burden of additional laws that in our hearts we know we can never keep.

Religion makes a hard life harder. But a relationship with God through Jesus gives mercy and hope.

#by-his-stripes.com #ByHisStripes

Saturday, August 5, 2017

James 3:15, James 4:4 "God's Enemies"

 James 3:15 Such wisdom does not come down from heaven; it belongs to the world, it is unspiritual and demonic.
 James 4:4 Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.

None of us would intentionally declare ourselves to be God’s enemies. Yet, when we choose our own way instead of God’s ways –when we choose the world’s wisdom over God’s wisdom –when we choose to side with the world instead of siding with God, that’s exactly what we are doing.

The world’s values are carnal and unspiritual; they are, in fact, influenced by the devil. So, when we choose these values over God’s values, we are quite literally choosing the evil one over God. 

Whether we have thought this decision through or not, the result is the same: when we side with the world, we declare ourselves to be God’s enemies. And just to make sure we understand, James says it clearly again: “anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” 

It is not an option that God leaves open to us for us to be vaguely religious. We cannot be “kind of” Christian.

When it comes to spiritual things, God wants us to be fully surrendered to Him, living our lives in His Spirit, choosing His ways over our own ways. Clearly, there is a choice here that we must make.

#by-his-stripes.com #ByHisStripes

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Genesis 1:27 "In God's Image"

Have you ever wondered why universally women all want to be beautiful and men want to be strong and courageous? In every culture on the face of the earth for as far back as we have recorded history, women have wanted to be beautiful and men have wanted to be strong and courageous.

I know that evolutionists would say it’s because of how we evolved so that the human race could survive. But I think a better answer is found in the verse , Genesis 1:27, “God created people in His own image; God patterned them after Himself; male and female He created them.” 

Courage and strength and beauty are all characteristics of God –and we were created in His image. We were created with and for God’s glory.

Satan would love to destroy God’s glory –in fact, to destroy God -but that isn’t possible, so he has made it his mission to destroy those created in God’s image. What difference do we make to Satan? None. The only reason he cares about us is because God cares about us.

#by-his-stripes.com #ByHisStripes

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

John 10:10, Isaiah 61:1 "Matters Of The Heart"

I think that we forget the importance of our hearts. We forget that Jesus told us the greatest commandment is to love God with all of or hearts. We forget that we are to hide the Word of God in our hearts. We forget that God’s commandments and promises are to be written on our hearts. We forget that although man looks on outward appearances, God looks at our hearts. We forget that it is out of our hearts that authentic praise and worship flows. We forget that our hearts are the very wellspring of life. We forget how central the heart is, but our enemy hasn't.

Our enemy knows how important our hearts are –and that’s why he is so intent on destroying them –that’s why he is intent on breaking our hearts –on twisting our hearts –on deadening our hearts. If the enemy can break our hearts, he has broken us. 

The enemy twists our hearts and deadens our hearts and breaks our hearts –but listen to this prophecy from Isaiah chapter 61:1 that Jesus claimed as His own mission statement: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for prisoners."

Here, then, is the situation. The enemy (according to John 10:10) robs and kills and destroys, but Jesus gives life, binds up the broken-hearted, and proclaims freedom and release to those in bondage. He came to take away our damaged, unresponsive, broken hearts –and replace them with new hearts –hearts fully capable of loving God. Jesus came to give us back our hearts.

#by-his-stripes.com #ByHisStripes