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.”

#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