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.

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Romans 5:20 "Fall Down, Get Back Up"

But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.  Romans 5:20

There is nothing good about sin. But it is the nature of God to be redeeming, and because God is a God of grace and mercy, He has found a way to make even our struggles and our failures into valuable, redemptive life-lessons.

The very cycle of falling down and getting back up is what creates in us the perseverance it takes to eventually overcome. It is not the falling down that is good; it is the getting back up. It is turning back to God when we realize that we have sinned, again. 

If we continue to fall down because we are trying to overcome sin on or own, through our own strength, through our own will power, through our own efforts, we will eventually realize that whenever we try on our own, we I fail.

We are not strong enough. We don’t have enough will power. We are too weak. But, then, that is the point where God wants us.

For those who truly love God, the very cycle of falling down and getting back up eventually brings us to full surrender to Christ. Out of our weakness, God’s strength is shown.

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

John 13:34-35 "If You Love"

"And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.”  John 13:34-35

Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples –if you love one another.”

Think about the incredible implications of that statement. The world will not know the truth just because we hold correct doctrine, or because we go to the right church, or because we are knowledgeable in Scripture, or because we use our talents and abilities and spiritual gifts for the Kingdom, or because we are faithful to tithe, or because we follow the rules, or because we know a lot of religious jargon. 

Most of these things are good things –they are positive things –they are even things that usually accompany a right relationship with God. But none of these things are authorized by Christ to be the trademark for Christians.

The one and only identifier that is endorsed and authorized by Jesus is that the Body of Christ exhibits true love.

If the Body of Christ can truly love, the world will believe; if we cannot truly love, the world will never believe.

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