Posts Tagged devotion

Devoted

Matthew 8: 20

And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

I really admire Catholics. The Catholic faith has taken some hard knocks and folks can be vociferous in their criticism. I don’t think any of us have the perfect theology yet but, as much as one may criticized Catholicism, there are things to appreciate and learn from too. One of those is the devotion of many Catholics. All around the world people are sincerely devoted to their God and to service. There are those who may not be able to espouse great theological theories, but they show up; they attend mass, they give to the church and they honor their God. I could wish for more of that in the rest of the church.

I believe we have lost too much honest devotion to our churches, our faith, our God and our pastors. When I was young, many preachers/pastors were called Reverend. Can you see the root word in that title? It, essentially, means revered one. Pastors were honored and revered. Now we call our pastors by their first name. I don’t know that this is wrong, but it is certainly a change. You will have to decide where we draw lines.

Additionally, churches were sacred, even to non-believers for there was an overall sense of holiness and respect. Church doors were often left unlocked. You certainly don’t do that now. Life has changed but what bothers me is the attitude of the faithful. I have noticed it in my preaching as well, so I must counsel myself and consider where I lead those who look to me for guidance.

All too often I see what could probably be titled the “What Have You Done for me Lately” faith. This is the denomination of believers who want to hear what living to God can do for them. Basically, “What is in it for me, God?” As I said, I have fallen for this modern theology myself. Let me say first that I am not suggesting abandoning this perspective. I am, however, questioning our devotion to our God.

The way this has presented itself in my teachings is that I spend a great number of my messages showing and explaining what a life in Christ means for right here and right now. I am absolutely dedicated to believers understanding that they should be living above the fray right now on earth. Your life is meant to be one of abundance in Christ Jesus. You have been anointed and blessed with the substance of God’s very being. All of that is true and it is a central, perhaps the central tenet, of my teaching. The second part of my message is that we must learn to live “in Christ” so that we are able to experience all that he won for us. To live below the grace line is an insult to his sacrifice. It grieves me to see Christians suffering when Jesus is the answer. However noble these two messages, they really should be evangelical. By that I mean that these are the messages we should be preaching to the unsaved. Life is good in Christ. Tell them the good news. So few Christians are actually living within the anointing, though, that we need to continually feed their appetites so that they will draw closer to God in order to have more life; i.e. more money, health, success, peace, liberty, etc. Enter into a third key part of my messages – Seek God with all your heart, mind and understanding.

Of the 2800 Words of the Day I have written, roughly 1000 of them include the word seek. Why do I feel compelled to implore Christians to seek God? You will likely concur that is an interesting question. I dare not articulate my speculative answer for fear of its veracity and import.

Here is where my heart is responsive to the faithful. There are seriously devoted people of every denomination and it is to those people that I speak my appreciation today. Culturally we have lost our lifestyle of devotion to God, so those people who have found the strength and heart within them to live before God in worship have my respect. I pray the Father make me more like them. I, like many of you, find myself busying my day with so many things that I don’t spend my life before my God as I think I should. Where is He when I awaken? Where is He when I am abed? Ah, but He is there, crying out to my heart, to my hardened, unresponsive heart.

Oh my God, forgive this sinner and through my repentance, Lord, turn the heart of your people back to you. Give us a passion for you, a desire for your presence. Tune our ears to your voice and our hearts to the beating of yours. Let us be known, O Lord, as a people after your heart. Let our lives be beacons, not of works Father, but of service from a heart of love. Save us, precious Jesus, from our works of the flesh and the ego which drives them. In great humility, teach us to honor you, to give into your works joyfully, to kneel at your throne in subject adoration even as we call you Father and know you as our best friend. Lend us your strength daily through a thorough and complete intertwining with your Spirit. And Father, cause that holiness which comes through the joining with the Spirit, to saturate our bones. Teach us to be a people unto you, Lord. Give us sight. Let us look upon your glory and praise you. Lead us, dear Spirit, into being a people of devotion, honoring our God and Father with all that is within us, all that we are and with all we have. Let our homes shout, “The Lord is King!” Father, with all that we have and all that we do and say, be lifted up. In your greatness, show us to be a people devoted to honoring you and serving you. Pour out your grace upon us Father. Though we are unworthy, because of our beloved Christ, shine your love upon us and let us be signposts that all the world might know that you are God.

Lovers of God

2 Timothy 3: 1 – 5

For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.

This is the second half of yesterday’s scripture. The unholy truth of this passage is that Paul wrote to Timothy about believers. He wrote specifically about people who were supposed to be, even professed to be, lovers of God yet they loved pleasure more than they loved God. Sound familiar? Again, we are living in these days. We want all the creature comforts. There is no problem with that, but we are to love God more and seek Him rather than seeking the comforts. That is where we sometimes fail.

We know and believe that our God makes us prosperous (Deuteronomy 8: 18). We have believed and because we do, we ask God to give us the new car, new phone, etc. We follow the patriarchs who were rich, but we have missed one bit of their success. Their prosperity was embedded in their seeking out of God. We have loved the goods more than we love the one who is good. Our hearts seem to have grown cold. Our zeal for God has waned. However, Christ is alive and we can stir up that devotion and adoration for the Father, Son and Spirit.

Then there are those who “hold to a form of godliness” though they deny the power which should accompany all who believe. To my great chagrin, that statement describes the modern church. We have lost our passion for God and we have begun to live a weak form of Christianity though I stumble over the word for is it true that we are even living a Christian lifestyle when there is no faith, no power and no passion for God? Who are we? If we are as Paul describes, then I mourn for us and for the church. Paul told Timothy to avoid people like that?

Why do believers deny the power of God? Are we afraid, lazy, content? Do we worship at the altar of “being busy” so that we do not have to expend the energy to learn faith and to walk in it? When was the last faith project we stood for? In denying the power of God, do we not deny God Himself?

The sinful behaviors are problematic only because we have lost our zeal for God. Those who would serve God with all their hearts are saved from the passions of their flesh. They are raised up in the glory and power of the Holy Spirit to a life of love for the Lord. We have become a people who don’t know how to give worthy praise to our Father because we have lost our passion. We make deals and contracts with the Father as if we have something worthy of a bargain. We hear less about serving a benevolent Father than perhaps we should, but pastors know well that we want to hear about what God will do for us. Sermons about what we should do for the Father are not popular.

None the less, I cry out to the Father, who is King and the great architect, to revive our souls. Stir up our passion, O Lord, so that we become a people who gratefully serve you and for whom the appetites of today’s scriptural passage hold no sway. Give us a heart of deep desire for you. Mold us into true believers, and Father, honor those who are serving you with all their heart. Lead the rest of us, Holy Spirit, into a passion filled life in Christ Jesus. Amen!

Holy Heathen

Acts 10: 4

Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God.”

This is from the story of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion. It is a story of faith and devotion. Cornelius garnered God’s attention, which is remarkable in that he was a Gentile. This soldier, though, is responsible for a major change in the church.

The Messiah was the promise of the Jews. There was a great debate in the first century church about Gentiles becoming members of the fold. It was a radical idea, to say the least. For all time, there was great separation between the Jews and everyone else. The Jews were set apart as God’s chosen. Most of the Old Testament is the chronicle of God’s people opposing and be opposed by the Gentile nations. God led the Israelites out of Egypt to the land of promise clearing out the nations before them. At times, He even gave Israel explicit instructions to slay every person, even women and children. He not only condoned, but in specific situations, ordered genocide. You will understand, then, how opposed the Jews were to share the Messiah and salvation through him with Gentiles.

As if that is not enough incentive for the Jews to exclude Gentiles, consider also that the Romans were an occupying army. They were rulers over Israel, military oppressors. The Jews were under Roman rule as defeated foes and Rome exerted great control over the Jewish nation. In most meaningful ways, Israel was again captive to a foreign power. Imagine, then, when some of these Gentiles began clamoring to join the church of Jesus. Cornelius was worse than the garden variety Gentile. He was an officer of the oppressor army. He was part of the power structure which allowed the Jews Messiah to die a horrible death on a cross. Could anyone be more vile to a Jew?

None the less, God heard this Gentile officer. Cornelius’ gifts of money and his devotion to prayer ascended to the throne room of God. Cornelius moved God through his faith and devotion. God was so moved that He summoned the Apostle Peter and sent him to Cornelius.

Peter was one of those who argued for the sanctity of the Jewish elect. In this bold move, though, God gave Peter a vision that forever changed the complexion of the Christian church. Upon his arrival at the home of Cornelius, Peter broached this very subject saying, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him,” (Acts 10: 28). None the less, there he was, standing in this heathen’s home. Why? It could not have been easy for him to depart from cultural norms and laws.

Gentiles are now welcomed members of God’s holy family but it began with one man’s devotion to prayer and the giving of alms. His prayers and his giving caught the attention of heaven. God sent an angel to him and a vision to Peter. God roused the leader of the church and sent him to the home of a Gentile so that salvation could come upon Cornelius’ household.

What will God do for those who are already of the household of faith when we emulate Cornelius by dedicating ourselves to prayers and to giving alms? How would you like the report about your prayer life and gifts to God ascending to the throne room? We need to understand that from our position here on earth, we can cause a stir in heaven. Perhaps God will send an angel to you or stir a prophet to visit you. Cornelius was as unlikely a candidate for divine intervention as one could imagine and yet because he was faithful, God literally moved heaven and earth for him. What a splendid testimony!

This is a call for us all to dedicate ourselves to greater devotion. It is early in the year; still a good time to make a New Year’s resolution. What would life look like, what would the church look like if we all resolve to be known, by heaven, as people of prayer? What if we each set a personal goal to distinguish ourselves through our giving?

Post your thoughts below in the comment section or visit our site at www.iveyministries.org. What does this story tell us and how might it impact our lives as well as the church?

Busy, Busy Bee

Psalm 46: 10

Cease striving and know that I am God. 

Well, I’ve done it again. I’ve allowed myself to get busy. Now to some of you that might sound good. Well, I do like to be busy and to have a lot on my plate. I like having a lot going on. But here is the thing, sometimes I get out of balance and get so busy that in the end I find myself not very effective, certainly not efficient. Always I look around and find that I am trying to do everything in my own strength again. Then, as now, I have to stop and put the pieces back in place. For me that means pulling out my calendar and scheduling my time. It means analyzing my work time to determine what I am doing with my time and it almost always means I have to clean up my diet and workout schedule too.

In the United States these days we wear our busyness like a badge of honor. Well, not me, not any longer anyway. In my life, “busyness” invariably means I have stopped living in grace in favor of living in effort. In fact, being “busy” has become a bit of a profanity to me because our Father has already corrected me in this and loudly. When I find I am beginning to feel the stress of too much to do and not enough time, then I know it is time for a checkup. You see, it always means that I have stopped leaning on Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit to be the work horses in my life and have put all of that heavy load back onto my shoulders. 

What did I find this time? My devotional life is nowhere as strong as it was, my Bible time is weak, prayer time limited, my workouts have fallen to almost nothing and my diet stinks. I have more and more to do so I am drawing further and further into myself instead of reaching out to the source of all strength, power and helpfulness. I am no longer yoked with Jesus. Heck, I am not even including Him in the emails. What?! I am working hard at getting little done. So, I repent – turn and go in a different direction.

I have personally experienced and also witnessed in others that we can actually get more done when we first connect with God. So instead of going straight to my computer, I must first go to my Bible. Time with the trinity must supersede work if I wish to be as effective as possible. Jesus really will do the heavy lifting if I will let him. Let’s make “busy” a bad word by devoting our hearts and time first and foremost to our Lord and savior. Let’s put the entirety of our lives in his loving hands, even our work, even our busyness. When we begin to tell people that we are busy, when we begin to think it and when we first begin to feel the stress of too much to do and not enough time, let us run, not walk, to the throne room of God and lay down our heavy burdens in humble repentance. Let’s turn our busyness into worship instead of it being a source of pride. Let’s get more done in less time while spending all of that time with the Lord. Now that sounds good, doesn’t it?

Great Love

Psalm 89: 1 – 2              NIV

I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself.

In today’s devotional I am doing exactly what David wrote in these two verses, declaring with my
mouth the great love of God, shouting about his faithfulness and proclaiming that the love of God stands firm always and against every fiery missile of the evil one.

Love is the most powerful force in the universe. God is love. There is no challenge which is greater than our God; therefore there is no obstacle that love cannot overcome. I love in verse one that David sings of God’s great love. Is that a measure of quantity or quality? Perhaps it is both. God does not just love a little but His love is as big and as glorious as the entire universe. If you know that you are loved by a love that great how does that knowledge reflect in your life? What changes in your world when you come to know the fullness of love that God is and that He has towards you?

And god is faithful. That is no surprise. Love is faithful. You can count on the people that love you. You can count on God’s faithfulness every day. Faithfulness means that He is steady and reliable. He is not wishy-washy. Whatever He tells you, or has ever told you, He will do. He stands beside you and with you even on your bad days. Even when you do not deserve His lovingkindness He is right there with you confessing His great love for you.  

There is no one who loves you more than God. There is no one more faithful. David’s life sure proved that. God is constant. Even when David messed up really badly, God was there to pick him up. God loved him with an unfailing love even through the rough times and even when David did not deserve it. No wonder David testifies so loudly to God’s uncompromising love and faithfulness.

Do you have a need today? Is there something that has you down or perplexed? Look up. God has an answer for you and loving arms to soothe you. You are His delight and the joy of His heart. Wrap yourself in the assurance of His devotion and faithfulness towards you. Let His love penetrate those hardened layers and rest in His peace.