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.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Exodus 3&4 "Moses and the Burning Excuses"

In Exodus chapters 3 and 4 we find Moses in the desert tending sheep.  He stumbles across a burning bush -which, as it turns out, was simply God trying to get Moses' attention.  Once He had Moses' attention, God had a job, an assignment, for Moses to do.

You might remember that 40 years earlier Moses had killed an Egyptian and had fled to the desert to escape punishment.  Now, 40 years later, God was asking Moses to go back to Egypt and deliver the Hebrews from slavery.  Moses, afraid, feeling inadequate, believing himself to be a failure, made several excuses.  God, of course had answers for every excuse.  In this exchange between God and Moses, we might catch a glimpse of what God thinks of our own failures, inadequacies and fears.

Let's look at Moses' excuses and God's responses.

First, Moses said: “Who Am I to do such a thing? Who am I?”
Here’s what he meant by that:"I’m a failure, remember –I’ve already blown it –it’s too late for me." And here is God’s response: “I’ll be with you-and you’ll be aware of my presence.”
Here’s what that means to us: God promises to do the same for us. He doesn’t make plans for us, and then send us out on our own –He’s with us. Sure we failed in the past –but now God is with us. That changes everything.

Then Moses said:They won’t believe me.”
Here’s what he meant: "I’m a failure, remember? Who would listen to what I say?”
Here’s how God responded: “Use my name –speak with my authority.”
Here’s what that means to us: What God asks us to do, He gives us the authority to do. We are never asked to do anything for the kingdom without God giving His authority to accomplish whatever He is asking to be done.

Then Moses said, “Nobody will do what I tell them.”
Here’s what he meant by that: “I’m a failure, remember? Why would anybody respond to me?” Here’s how God responded: “Perform this sign.”
Here’s what that means to us: God not only gives us the authority to accomplish His plans –He gives us the ability. He doesn’t ask us to do the impossible –even when it seems impossible. It’s not impossible because God is with us, He gives us the authority, and He gives us the ability. It doesn’t come from us –it comes from Him.

Then Moses said: “I’m not a good speaker.”
Here’s what he meant by that: “I don’t have the skills to do what You’re asking.”
Here’s how God responded: “I made your mouth –I’ll give you the right words.”
Here’s what that means to us: God doesn’t require us to be skillful or talented or smart or rich –He can take care of all of that –all God requires is that we be willing.

Which brings us to Moses’ last excuse: “Please send somebody else.”
Here’s what he meant by that: “The bottom line is that I just don’t want to do it.”
Here’s how God responded: “I’ll send Aaron, your brother to help you.”
Here’s what that means to us: God is willing to work with us –He even takes into account our fears and anxieties –but the bottom line for us is that if we want to follow God, we have no excuse to tell Him “no.” And if we tell Him “no” He will find another way –He always does –but we miss out on what could have been.

So, what about you? Has God asked you to do something significant for His Kingdom? Has He gifted you to impact the lives of others? Has He prepared you to do accomplish great things?

I don’t know the specific answer to those questions –but I know the general answer –It’s Yes. Yes –God has asked you to do something significant for His Kingdom. Yes –God has given you the right gifts to be able to do it (or He will give you the right gifts at the right time). And Yes- God has prepared you and will continue to prepare you to accomplish great things. And Yes, God will give you both the authority and the ability to do whatever He asks. I know those things for certain.

What I don’t know is whether you will make excuses or follow God’s leading. Only you can answer that.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dueteronomy 33:25 "Strength For This Moment"

 In Dueteronomy 33:25, God says, "your strength will equal your days."   There is no strength for Monday on Sunday.  Monday will get here soon enough.  Use the strength God gives you for today, today.  Trust that God will, indeed, give you strength for tomorrow, tomorrow.  When we run ahead of our strength, we run out of strength.  God will provide what we need when we need it, and He will provide exactly the right amount to meet the need.  That's the way He works.

Now, I don't want to seem trite or simplistic, but I believe this plan holds true for every situation that threatens to undo us.  Maybe you are in a situation right now that seems overwhelming.  An overload of responsibility… stressful deadlines… an impending medical problem…  an addiction… trying to raise your children… trying to keep your marriage together… trying to dig out of a financial pit…  Or maybe you are overwhelmed by the spiritual things in your life.  You desire to follow Jesus but you worry about sustaining a life-long commitment.  Maybe you are wondering if you will ever beat some ongoing, plaguing sin or habit.  Here is the plan.  It's God's plan for handling the overwhelming.    Give yourself to Jesus moment by moment, hour by hour, and day by day; He will make a victorious life out of it. 

 Don't worry about the future; focus instead on the moment.  Sometimes when we try to look too far ahead, it’s too much for us.  An alcoholic thinking about the probablility of never having another drink, might despair –he might think it can’t be done.  But you see, if he doesn’t worry about an imaginary drink years in the future, but just makes the decision to not have a drink right at this moment, that’s not overwhelming.  So, whatever your struggle, whatever your worry, whatever your fear, give Jesus this moment.  The victorious life is the sum of thousands of little victories won a moment at a time.  Moment by Moment and little by little.  That’s God’s plan. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

2 Corinthians 5:14 "Compelled, Constrained & Controlled"

2 Corinthians 5:14
For the love of Christ *compels us...
*(controls, constrains, guides)

What the Greek word translated into English as "controls" literally means is to hem in or create boundaries. So what Paul says is the motivating factor in his own life and ministry, and what should be the motivating factor in our lives is the love of Christ –the love of Christ places boundaries in our lives that channel our efforts and energies into a specific direction. If we take away the boundaries, we begin to drift –to lose focus –to lose direction. 

A good illustration of this is the Yangtze River in China. This river has two distinct phases. It starts in the mountains, and then it moves across the wide open plains. In the mountains, this river is narrow and deep as it cuts through gorges and ravines. In this phase the river is incredibly powerful and fast. Later on in plains, the river spreads out over several miles wide and is so slow moving that it has almost no current. The difference is that up in the mountains it has the rocks and ravines that hem it in and create boundaries. All that water is channeled through a narrow pass, making it powerful. Later on, where there are no boundaries, where it can go anywhere at all, it spreads out into a shallow, sluggish river.

Paul says that his life has some boundaries placed on it that help him to focus his time and energy and efforts into the places where they are the most productive. Paul suggests, then, that we need similar boundaries in our lives so that we can be productive. The boundaries in Paul’s life are put in place by the realization of Christ’s love.

When we grasp the truth and the implications of Christ’s love, we are compelled to respond. When Christ’s love compels us, we can no longer sit back and be casual, uncaring Christians. When we begin to grasp how incredibly much God loves us, we can no longer just "kind of" believe –we can no longer acknowledge God in our heads without worshiping Him in our hearts.

The spiritually trendy thing to do today is the "spiritual buffet” approach to life.  People like to look at all the different religions as if in a restaurant looking over the menu.  We want to pick and choose –I’ll have a little of this one, and a smidgeon of that –and I’ll take a nice size portion of the things I like, and skip the things I don’t.

And that approach to God is a very good approach –that’s a very nice, open-minded, desirable approach –assuming there actually is no God. That’s a good approach –assuming that God does not love us. That’s a great approach –assuming that Jesus did not take onto himself our guilt and shame.

But if God’s love is real –then we are compelled. If God’s love is real, then we have boundaries that should determine the direction our daily lives take.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

1 John 2:15-17 "Earth Stuff and Kingdom Stuff"

-->In 1 John 2:15-17, we are told, "Do not love the world or anything that belongs to the world. If you love the world, you do not love the Father. Everything that belongs to the world -what the sinful self desires, what people see and want, and everything in this world that people are so proud of -none of this comes from the Father; it all comes from the world. The world and everything in it that people desire is passing away; but he who does the will of God lives forever."

Imagine that we are making two columns and at the top of the first column we write Stuff That Lasts Forever, and at the top of the other column we write Stuff That Doesn't Last. Under the first column, the one titled Stuff that Lasts Forever, let's make a list. It's a very short list because, frankly, there's not a whole lot of stuff that lasts forever. In fact, there's only one item in this list: God's Kingdom. Under the other column, the Stuff That Doesn't Last, let's also make a list. Now this list would end up being extremely long because there's a lot of stuff that doesn't last forever. So, to simplify things we are going to shorten the list by simply writing Everything Else. And I think that about covers it. Kingdom stuff lasts forever, earth stuff doesn't.

That's why we are told, "Do not love the world or anything in the world." It's all earth stuff and its passing away. Jesus said, "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness." You see, that's eternal stuff; stuff that won't pass away. Even though we are surrounded by people who are entirely consumed with earth stuff -with getting promotions and accumulating possessions, and achieving prosperity, and grasping prestige and power, that's all earth stuff and we, as Christians, need to hold these kinds of things very lightly.

There are two basic problems with taking earth stuff too seriously. First, if we care too much about earth stuff, we forget our true priorities. The other problem we have if we take our earth stuff too seriously is that the things we think we own end up owning us.

If we treasure our possession's or our careers, or our prestige or any of that other earth stuff, we not only must put a whole lot of time into accumulating and achieving that stuff to start with, but then we must put a lot of time and money and energy into keeping it once we have it. It's hard to keep that stuff, because by nature, you see, it is fleeting, it is passing away, it's stuff that doesn't last. As we become preoccupied with getting and keeping this temporary stuff, it gradually becomes our whole existence. All of our resources are spent on our temporary stuff. By temporary stuff, again I mean everything that's not Kingdom stuff. If we exist for temporary stuff, in effect, our stuff owns us.

Clearly, this demonstrates a problem with our priorities. The reason our priorities should be focused on the Kingdom of God instead of this world is that 1.) Kingdom stuff lasts forever, and earth stuff doesn't. And 2.) when we put our trust in Jesus for salvation -when through faith we accepted the death of Jesus as the source of forgiveness for the sins we had committed, the Bible tells us that we became not just believers in God, but children of God. We were adopted as God's literal children. That means this world is no longer our home, it is in reality a very short stop over. As Children of God, the Kingdom of God is now our home. We no longer belong to the temporary, now we belong to the eternal.  The temporary is no longer our inheritance.

You've all heard the expression, "It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there." That is what our attitude toward earth stuff should be. While we live here, there is nothing wrong with owning some earth stuff -in fact, it can't be avoided. For now, this is where we live. But understand that this is a temporary arrangement. This world and everything in it is passing away. There is nothing wrong with temporarily owning temporary stuff. In the mean time, do whatever it takes to ensure that the temporary stuff you temporarily own doesn't own you.