Tag: Devotion

NICE PEOPLE

How many nice people do you know? Let me be a little more specific: How many people do you know who you feel at ease with; who are genuine and real; who are warm and thoughtful; who you know care sincerely and consistently about you; who you trust, and who are committed to companionship with you for life?

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Perhaps you’re fortunate enough to know a lot of such people. I’ll have to admit, reluctantly, that I could probably count the number of such people I know on one hand, and have a finger or two to spare. If I look back over my life so far, I may be able to employ all my fingers and toes in the count.

I’m not saying this to have a dig at human nature, as easy as that would be. After all, I’m human too (surprise surprise) and I suffer from the same weaknesses and faults that everyone else does. We can all be hurtful at times, or aloof or busy and inconsiderate. Just how do those few “nice people” manage it? How are they nice? What makes them kind, considerate, warm, forgiving, and all those other special endearing qualities which I am deficient in?

If I focus more closely still on what turns me on, socially speaking, I think I would have to single out that amazing ability a very few people have to make you feel welcome, wanted, loved, and appreciated, every time you meet them, even when you know you’re a nobody, and even when you have nothing to offer them in terms of this world’s perks. I can picture a few shining faces, always fixed on mine, so glad were they to see me and let me know so. They were(and are) the people who have made me feel like life was worth living, that there is a loving God, and that the world really is a beautiful place after all.

My next point is unavoidable. As I’ve considered these people prayerfully, I’ve had to ask my God why I’m not like them. Why am I not a nice person? I wish I were. I wish I could have that effect on people. I wish I could be warm, polite, kind and welcoming as a normal standard of being, rather than having to stretch to a minute or two of pleasantness before I lapse back into my normal modus operandi: being distant and preoccupied.  And as many professing Christians as I’ve met over the years, I must confess that the bulk of them have been, like me, in various stages of brokenness, selfishness, business, worldliness, and yes, sinfulness. We go to church (in normal times) in the hope of meeting people who are going to reflect the love of Jesus Christ, not realizing that everyone else is doing the same thing.

How many of us rise to the occasion?

The answer must lie in genuinely becoming Christ-like. I don’t mean a fleshly spirituality in which we think we’re just like Peter and Paul and can do all their magic tricks: I mean loving, selfless, warm, patient, faithful, godly behaviour as a way of life.

The few who achieve that level of walk with God in this life will be the ones to shine like stars for ever and ever.

MEDITATION FOR THE CHRISTIAN

Millions of people around the world meditate-why don’t Christians? My guess is that, apart from the sheer business of our existence, many Christians consider meditation to be an occultic, suspicious practice reserved for those wrapped up in Eastern religions: something the good Christian should steer well away from.

The truth is that meditation is something we can and most definitely should engage in, with great benefits to our physical, mental and spiritual well-being, and at the same time honoring God and doing exactly what He wants us to do! But what exactly is meditation?David, a “man after God’s own heart”, wrote in the Psalms about meditating on God (example Psalm 63). The word “meditate” is translated “think” in the NIV:

On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night (verse 6).

The meaning of the word includes, according to Strongs, “The act of thoughtful deliberation with the implication of speaking to oneself-meditate”.

Jesus Christ said that we are to love God with our whole being, including our minds (Luke 10:27). God tells his people to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

We’re all busy trying to further our lives, and working to make things happen, and we forget that Christ…God…is not only in our life but is our life (Colossians 3:4). Without our God there is no life. Isn’t it a good idea, then, to think about Him?

In Eastern meditation the goal is generally (I confess I am no expert) to lose oneself, and to abandon your individual self and your connection with the world around you. I can see physical and emotional benefit in this. However, God instructs us to love Him with our minds, and as in the case of David, the goal and the focus is not to forget self, but to seek God, to know Him, and to consider deeply who and what He is and who we are in relation to Him.

At least once a day, get comfortable, get quiet, turn the TV and the phone off, and think about God. It’s not about what we want Him to do for us (although He cares). It’s not about us being “spiritual” or babbling to Him. It’s not even really, as some say, about us “listening” to hear what God has to say, except through His written Word. It’s about us knowing that He is there, that He is amazing beyond our comprehension, that He is our creator and sustainer, and that our life is entirely His.

IS IT REALLY “ALL GOD”?

Jesus Christ said that without him we can do nothing (John 15:5). Clearly he was speaking of things we may do for the kingdom of God. Without Jesus we are powerless to achieve anything for him or which is pleasing to the Father. But is it really the case, as some insist, that he does it all: that everything we do is only his doing and not ours?

I’ve heard this phrase many times in my Christian life: “It’s all God”. I’ll willingly agree that without Him we can do nothing, and that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. That really is “all God”. My only qualification there would be that we have to respond to the gospel. Calvinists insist that we can’t even do that, because, they say, that would be “works”. We’ll save that issue for another day. Today we’re asking if we as believers can do nothing whatsoever for God because it’s all God’s doing.

Salvation is by faith, and then the Spirit of God works within us to want to do what’s right, and empowers us to do what’s right. Anything done by or in the flesh or for our own gain is unacceptable to God-it has to be inspired by the Spirit in us and for His glory. However, the Christian life is teamwork. If we make no effort in it, we remain as spiritual babies. We negate the work of the Spirit. We fail to produce spiritual fruit, and we bury our talent so that nothing is gained by it. That’s the fact of the matter. If it were really “all God”, we would be robots and would have no mind of our own. We would not be choosing to follow Christ or choosing to do what’s right: we would be driven to do it by the Lord.

If we as believers fail to help the one in need, or fail to worship the Lord, or fail to turn away from sin, whose fault is it? God’s? Are we failing because God isn’t doing what He should be doing in us? No, it’s our own fault for not walking in the Spirit, for not learning to walk in His ways, and for not making the effort to do what we  should do. Believers who have been told that it’s “all God” are more likely to not appreciate their role in the Christian walk.

There are so many ways in which this subject could be approached scripturally. But it seems to me pretty obvious that when Paul told his flock to “walk in the Spirit”, the word “walk” requires some sort of effort on our part. Scripture is full of guidance, advise and commandments to us concerning what we should and should not be doing to live out our Christian faith. If there were no effort required from our own will there would be no need for all those things. Didn’t James say that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-26)?

With that in mind, I bring your attention to the words of Peter, who made the matter crystal clear for us:

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3-11).

 

HOW AMAZING IS GOD?

How amazing is God? Nobody this side of heaven knows for sure. But one thing we can know is that no created entity is more amazing than its creator…

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I halted the business of my day yesterday for just a few minutes-just long enough to look into the stunning blue sky, where brilliant cumulus clouds were suspended over the hillsides. Tall grasses and wild flowers of all colors swayed gently in the breeze. One or two birds, living life to the utmost of their ability, sang their vibrant, jubilant little song. And it struck me that what I was looking at, in all its overwhelming glory, just represented a fraction of its creator’s glory, beauty, power and imagination.

If you want to get a glimpse of how great God is, look at what he has made, and know that He is even greater.

GETTING A GRIP

One of the hazards to faith, peace and confidence can be the impression that God’s justice is not apparent in the world around us. Those who have no thought for God and who hate truth and justice sometimes seem to be doing very well for themselves, while the rest of us, those who love God and his ways, are not getting a fair shake on life…

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If we start to think God isn’t doing his job, or that he treats us unfairly, or that others are getting a much better deal in life even though they despise what is good, we can easily and quickly sink into bitterness and faithlessness. However, if we really know our God and our Scriptures-the ones on which our faith and hope are built-we should also know the truth of the situation.

David was one who similarly felt, for a time, that the darkness in humanity was triumphing over the righteous. Psalm 73 is an incredible view of David’s fear and bitterness that his enemies and those that hated the ways of God were running the world and getting their way:

From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
    their evil imaginations have no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
    with arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
    and their tongues take possession of the earth (Psalm 73:7-9).

David confessed to us and to God that observing the prosperity of the wicked had almost destroyed his faith, because it seemed like they, and not God, were in control of things:

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
    I had nearly lost my foothold.
 For I envied the arrogant
    when I saw the prosperity of the wicked (verses 2 and 3)

This is a lie which any one of us can fall for if we aren’t on our guard, and if we aren’t seeking our God and his word. In the country I am originally from you might be said to be “losing your grip” if you don’t have your mind or certain aspects of your life under control. David almost lost his grip, and I’ve almost lost mine. If you’re honest, you’ll probably admit that you too have almost lost yours:

Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure...(verse 13)

But lets’s settle the matter in our hearts, just as David did. Let’s get a grip by recognizing that all things… all things… are ultimately under the control of our God, who is both perfectly patient and perfectly just:

When I tried to understand all this it troubled me deeply,

till I entered the sanctuary of God, then I understood their final destiny.

Surely you place them on slippery ground:you cast them down to ruin (verse 16-17).

David’s conclusion was that God is just and faithful:

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart,

and my portion forever (verse 23-25).