Category Archives: devotional

The Abandoned Savior

   The thing that makes grace so glorious is the guilt that makes it so necessary.    Junior Hill

   One of the most haunting phrases in the Bible was uttered by Jesus on the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani,” that is to say, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”

   As I pondered this statement recently, I wondered at the fact that God would forsake His Son. When I think of the love that I feel toward my own sons, I don’t believe there is anything they could do to make me despise them. If there is such a thing, it would be so heinous and awful that I cannot imagine what it would be.

   If I, with a flawed capacity to love, can love my sons that much, how much does God, who can love perfectly, love His own Son? I cannot imagine how awful Jesus must have become in the sight of God as He hung on the cross.

   We know, of course, that it was the bearing of our sins that caused God to forsake His only begotten Son.

   Imagine, all of the offense, pain, destruction, disease, brokeness, horror, injustice and death that sin has ever caused, or ever will cause, was concentrated in the person of Jesus Christ in one moment of time.

   Imagine, the wrath of God that is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness, the same wrath that flooded Creation, poured fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah, visited the plagues upon Egypt and all of the other judicial actions of God’s holiness was poured upon one man, in one moment of time.

   In the midst of violent injustice, excruciating pain, horrible shame and the abandonment of His friends, the thing that caused Him the most grief was the knowledge that His Father had turned His back on Him.

   God declared Him guilty, as guilty as sin. My guilt. My sin. My shame. My cross. My death.

   Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.

   He was wounded so that I could be healed.

   He was rejected so that I could be accepted.

   He was hated so that I could be loved.

   He was declared guilty so that I could be justified.

   He died so that I could live.

   He became what I was so that I can become what He is.

   Thank God for His wonderful, matchless, amazing grace.

   May my life be lived to the praise of the glory of that grace.

Search Me

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

We are masters of disguise, are we not? We are adept at hiding our innermost feelings from those around us. We can place the most villainous or depraved thoughts deep in the recesses of our mind and feel confident that no one will ever know–maybe they won’t. With a certainty, though, we can say that God knows.

David’s prayer in these verses is not so that God will search us so that HE may know what is in our heart. The entire psalm is about God’s knowledge of what is going on in the “secret” parts of our life. I believe that David was asking God to search him and then reveal to him the things about his life that were displeasing to God.

The word “search”, as used here, literally means, “to penetrate”. David has described the things that he is doing externally in his effort to please God, but he wants God to look beneath the veneer of activity into the substance of the soul. David realized that man has the potential for bitterness, anger, lust, murder, pride…any of the sinful desires of the flesh, and he knew that sometimes these impulses and imaginations could be compartmentalized and buried within us. Often these sins can be so deeply ingrained in our persona that we do not realize they are there. At other times we may have forgotten about unrepented-of sins in our past.

Are we willing to ask God to penetrate our heart, looking past the vain facades of denial, apathy and self-confidence? Are we able to place the entire evaluation of thoughts, motives and imaginations in His hands, asking Him to point out to us the areas of our life that displease Him?

What if He does start identifying trouble spots in our life? How will we respond? Will we meekly acquiesce to His verdict or will we become “spiritual lawyers” who look for loopholes or extenuating circumstances? Even worse, will we harden our heart to the conviction of His Spirit?

What we must never forget is that God already knowswhat is in our heart. This prayer is simply a matter of humbling ourselves before God and responding to His word, “lead me in the way everlasting”.

Blessed Quietness

“I just wish I could have some peace and quiet!”

How many times have we thought, or even in a moment of exasperation given voice to that sentiment. The desire for quiet solitude often reaches its zenith in times of stress or noise (or pretty much every day).

I recently attended a seminar in which the instructor asked us to find a place where we could be alone and just sit quietly for 30 minutes. We were not to complete any activities, we were not supposed to write, read or recite anything. We were just to sit quietly for 30 minutes and contemplate God.

You would not believe (or maybe you would) how difficult that was to do. We have become so programmed to activity and noise that quietness may actually be a distraction to some. Most of the time, the only time when quietness becomes a priority is when it is time to sleep. Even then, some require soft music, the TV or electronic noise machines to allow them to go to sleep.

One thing I appreciate about my wife is her understanding of my need for quietness. As strange as it may sound coming from a pastor, there are times when I just get tired of talking. From the beginning of our relationship, she has understood that I am not mad, I do not want her to go away, I just want to sit quietly with her. I can honestly say that some of the times that I enjoy the most with her is when we have the opportunity to just sit quietly in each others company. To me, this is genuine “qualiy time” with my wife. (Just in case you were wondering, there are times when we communicate as well 🙂 )

I wonder if we can’t share the same quality time with God? Can we not just sit quietly in His presence, enjoying His nearness and yet not say anything? Do we ever make doing this a priority?

Perhaps we cannot do it every day. But I am convinced that quality time with God trumps quantity time any day of the week. I believe that if we were to make the effort, soon the beauty of this time would so enthrall us that we would be driven to seek it even more.

What impact would this have on our living? Might not our stress level decrease? Is it possible that we would find a growing reservoir of peace within us that gives us strength to deal with life in better ways than before?

The Bible teaches us that God speaks in many ways. Some of these are very apparent and easily discerned, even among the babble of life. But if we are going to hear Him when He speaks in His “still, small voice”, we are going to have to learn to be quiet.

Be still and know that He is God.

Be still and know.

Be still.

A Gift Fit For A King: Myrrh

The third gift brought by the wise men to Jesus was myrrh. This was an ointment that was used in preparing a body for burial. This gift obviously was a gift that foreshadowed the sacrificial death of Christ.

 Just before He died, another person brought a gift that anointed Jesus for His burial. One of His devoted followers broke an alabaster box containing an ointment an poured it upon Him. This was pleasing to Jesus.

While we can honor Christ with our possessions (gold) and our worship (frankincense), there is no need for us to anoint Him for His burial. He will never be crucified again, never die again.

How then can we honor the death of our Lord?

We can show our thanks for His sacrifice by living a life that demonstrates the transformation of the resurrection in us. Those who are in Christ have passed from death unto life. When we live in such a way as to reflect that life, it exalts the love seen in His death, the power seen in His resurrection, and the glory seen in His ascension.

In the words of Frances Havergal:

Take my life and let it be,

consecrated, Lord, for thee.

Take my moments and my days,

let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Merry Christmas, Lord. All that I have, all that I am, all of my worship belongs to you.

A Gift Fit For a King: Frankincense

A second gift of the magi to the Savior was frankincense. Used in worship, it was placed by the priest upon the altar to offer up a sweet-smelling savor to God.

The wise men gave this to Jesus as a way of foreshadowing the work of the high priest that He would one day do. He has truly become our “great high priest that is passed into the heavens”.

We cannot give Him the gift of frankincense, physically. We can, though, as a kingdom of priests continually offer up our worship to Him. As we love Him with all that we are, we give to Him a spiritual gift of frankincense.

As we bow before the King this Christmas season, may our worship not be a seasonal gift, but may it be the pledge of our unwavering devotion to Him. May our very life become an altar of incense unto the Lord.

I cannot help but believe that as Christ inhales the savor of our worship, that it brings a warm smile to His face.

A Gift Fit For A King: Gold

An integral part of the Christmas story is the magi, or “wise men” as they are commonly known. Those intrepid followers of a star who traveled from regions in the east came and brought lavish gifts as an act of worship. They refused to be turned back by the hazards of the journey. King Herod’s deceitful intrigue did not hinder them. Neither were they disallusioned to find the king they sought in circumstances that were less than those befitting royalty.

 When they found Jesus, they brought to Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. During this Christmas season, I want to examine each of these gifts and how we can give similar gifts to the King ourselves. While each gift has its own significance, the most important factor in this part of the Christmas story is the Lordship of Christ.

As we think of gold, obviously this speaks of wealth. A king is one who is worthy of riches. These men recognized that fact and paid Him tribute accordingly.

Is Christ the Lord of our wealth? Do we honor Him with our giving? How about with our investments and spending?

We should be willing to submit all of our possessions and wealth to the sovereignty of our King, realizing that they are but a trust from Him.

A good way to honor the Lord with our wealth during this season is to give a special gift beyond  what we would normally give. Missions, special ministry projects, charity, etc., are all excellent opportunities to bestow a “birthday gift” in the name of our Savior.

I hope that your Christmas will be blessed with the joy that comes from knowing the King.

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Be sure to give thanks and don’t eat too much turkey. Those tryptophan comas can sure lay you out!

 In honor of the holiday, let me share with you this recitation that George Younce of the Cathedral Quartet used to quote.

Today upon a bus, I saw a lovely girl

with golden hair.

I envied her, she seemed so happy

and I wished that I were as fair.

When suddenly she rose to leave

and I saw her hobble down the aisle.

She had one leg and wore a crutch,

but as she passed, she smiled.

Oh, God, forgive me when I whine.

I have two legs, and the world is mine.

Later on the way to work I stopped to buy some sweets.

The lad who sold them had such charm,

I stayed and talked with him a while.

If I were late, ‘twould do no harm.

As I left, he said, “Thank sir, you’ve been so kind.

It’s nice to talk to folks like you.”

“You see,” he said, “I’m blind”.

Oh God, forgive me when I whine.

I have two eyes, and the world is mine.

Later in the street I saw a child with eyes of blue.

He stood and watched the others play,

it seemed he didn’t know what to do.

So I said, “Why don’t you join the others dear?”

But he just looked straight ahead without a word,

and then I knew, he couldn’t hear.

Oh God, forgive me when I whine.

I have two ears, and the world is mine.

With legs to take me where I’d go,

With eyes to see the sunsets glow,

With ears to hear what I would know,

I’m blessed indeed, and the world is mine.

Thank you, Lord!

The Demonstration of Love

Hereby  perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.  I John 3:16-18

How do we show the love of God? Is it enough to simply go around saying, “God loves you and so do I”? Just as faith without works is dead, so love that is not shown is vain also.

 The first step in demonstrating love is having a full understanding of the love of God to begin with. We must observe and experience the love of God in our own life, and then focus upon that love as the benchmark for how we are to love others.

We are then to mimic that love in our relationship with the brethren. This is my commandment, that ye love one another as Ihave loved you. Our life should become one of service and sacrifice as we minister to the needs of others. I believe it was George Mueller who said, “Love is not measured in how much you give, but in how little you keep back for yourself.”

Love is not demonstrated as much in word as it is in deed. True love is compassionate toward the needs of others. It has no agenda and is given with no strings attached.

In short, we are to love the brethren according to the model of I Corinthians 13. Anything less is not loving one another as Christ has loved us.

The Dimension of Love

In this the children of God are manifest,and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore,slew he him? Because his own works were evil,and his brother’s righteous. Marvel not,my brethren,if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life,because we love the brethren.He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no, murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.  I John 3:10-15

As Christians, we are to identify with the love of Christ. Jesus declared this to be the defining mark of discipleship. This text would lead us to understand that righteousness and love are connected. Someone who does not love their brother is not righteous.

From the very beginning, it has been God’s desire that those who are created in His image love one another. Man was made with a capacity to love that no other creature possesses and yet, we often make ourselves the focus of that love rather than others. The only thing that will ever keep me from loving God and others as I should is self-love. Self-love that is ambitious, selfish, proud, defensive and easily offended, will always prevent us from obeying God’s commands to love others.

In these verses, hatred is identified with death. This world that is in the process of dying as we speak hates us just as it hated Christ. However, the transformation from death unto life that all believers experience awakens within us the ability to love.

There are times when a person can have such an absence of love in their heart, that they can have murderous feelings toward their brother. This is an indication that the person does not have a relationship with God. No murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

Love can only be found in the dimension of eternal life. It is not passive in our lives. It cannot remain sealed up in our hearts, but is shed abroad by the Holy Spirit.

If love is in us, it will be demonstrated.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

In this post we will be drawing from I John 3:4-9 the conclusion that God wants us to be fruitful. A comparision with John 15 will reveal a fairly strong correlation in the themes of abiding in Christ so that righteousness may be produced in us.

Whosoever  committeth sin transgresseth also the law:  for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of  God doth not commit sin; for his  seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of  God.

1.  The Standard of Fruifulness

Verse four warns us that we transgress the law when we sin. Some would argue, “Hasn’t the law been abolished?” In the words of John Phillips, “The law has been abolished as a system, but it remains the standard of holiness for believers”.

Holiness is the fruit that God desires for us to bear. Knowing that we are incapable of being holy on our own, God sent a perfect Savior into the world to take away our sins. We are liberated from the bondage of sin, set free to bring forth fruits of righteousness that please our Father.

2.  The Source of Fruitfulness

Rightousness is given as a way of identifying those who have been made righteous. This righteousness is a result of our abiding (fellowship) in Christ. The phrase “commiteth sin” that is found in these verse refers to an ongoing, habitual practice of sin that is coupled with an unrepentant heart. Fellowship with Christ precludes this practice, allowing Christ the vine-dresser to purge and prune us to make us more fruitful.

On the other hand, those who commit sin in such an habitual, rebellious manner are neither in fellowship nor relationship with Christ.

Righteousness defines those who are in fellowship with Christ. This is not self- or pseudo-righteousness, but is the genuine manifestation of the righteousness of Christ. This righteousness is not produced by the believer, but is seen in  the life of that believer as a product of the fellowship with Christ.

By the same token, those who do wickedness (again, an ongoing, habitual, unrepentant practice) are identified with the devil.

3.  The Seed of Fruitfulness

A believer is born of God. This is referring to the soul of man that is dead in trespasses and sins before salvation, yet is regenerated by faith and sealed by the Spirit of God. The incorruptible seed of the Word of God is planted within each believer. While the sinful nature of the flesh is still capable of committing sin, the soul is rendered incapable of doing so. This assures us of the eternal life that is found in Jesus.

Fruitfulness can only be produced by faithfulness in our fellowship with Jesus. How does your garden grow?