Category Archives: Devotionals & Meditations

The Fruitfulness of Faith

“He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.” – Isaiah 58:11

A watered garden produces abundant fruit. But note that every formulation for our success starts with God:

“You ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.’” – James 4:15

“Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4

“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33

We do well when we recognize the preeminence of God. We will be fruitful as He fulfills the gifts and talents appropriate to our calling. He will orchestrate circumstances of opportunities we never imagined.

Our fruitfulness is a result of faith in God:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding.” – Proverbs 3:5

And His ways are better than ours:

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:9

Our fruitfulness comes as we release control. We are pragmatic but that is a product of the Fall, when Adam and Eve were put out of the Garden of Eden. Once separated from God’s abundant provision, Adam had to toil to provide for himself.

But now we are encouraged in hearing:

“God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19

Jesus Christ has re-opened the closed way to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:24) that we might “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. – Genesis 1:28

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Settling for an Insufficient God

I suggest we should not settle for an insufficient God, or relationship with God. It is easy to do and given our natural leaning toward laziness,… uh, efficiency, we too often do.

God is God. Dr. Marva Dawn, a professor at Regent College in Vancouver captured it well: “God wouldn’t be God if we could always understand Him.” Allow God to be mysterious. Let the Bible leave you a little baffled sometimes. It is okay not knowing everything.

That attitude forces us to accept our own limitations, and the limitations of others. If you assembled all the knowledge of God from all those who have known Him through all history, it would still be like a single grain of sand amidst the Arabian deserts. God is infinite. Trying to understand Him and his ways can be complex, time-consuming, and sometimes downright confounding.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God and the second is like it: to love our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:27). In fact, He said that sums up the ethical demands of our faith.

When we decide we have things figured out, we make law. Jesus said living by the letter of law is the wrong way. We are to live by the Spirit in a dynamic, moment-by-moment walk with God. When we think we know something, we become proud. God resists the proud (James 4:6), so we actually know far less than the little we thought we knew.

When we make law, we reduce God to our understanding. We put Him in a box that we can control. We make Him a lesser, insufficient God. We need to let God be God, in many ways beyond our grasp and reasoning. Otherwise, He is no god at all.

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Healer of My Soul

Psalm 147:3 says the Lord “heals the brokenhearted, And binds up their wounds.” The term translated as brokenhearted means simply broken. The term for wounds includes emotional pain: to grieve, to become tired or weary, to be bitter or despairing, to be troubled.

In Matthew 8:16, the term for healing is therapeuo, where we get therapy, which we typically think of not so much as healing but restoring physical or mental health. Jesus was going about…healing every kind of disease and sickness… (Matthew 4:23). That seems redundant but sickness here is malakia (the origin of malady) which means softness or weakness. Jesus offers restorative therapy for grief, weariness, bitterness, despair, and worry. He repairs softness and weakness.

Jesus healed us spiritually by displacing our guilt before God by paying the penalty for sin at the Cross. We are healed as we displace our guilt, shame, worry, and weakness by placing our confidence in Christ.

Jesus made a way for us to become different than we have been. The Bible makes a lot of promises and Jesus invites us, by faith, to believe every one. His invitation includes the gift of eternal life. That means our physical afflictions are temporary.

But Jesus’ invitation also includes the opportunity to live in a new perspective…His. The quest to find His perspective helps us focus on something greater than ourselves. We can learn to stop worrying about offenses we have inflicted on others (finding forgiveness) and put to rest the offenses we have received (by forgiving others).

Above all, Jesus gives us the opportunity to be in right relationships…with God and with everyone we have ever known or ever will. Relationships made right…that is the meat of healing the soul.

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(A) Musing: Psychotherapy vs. Christian Discipleship

I found several chapter headings using language applicable to Christian discipleship in the table of contents of Psychotherapy Relationships that Work (Norcross, 2011). The whole world is desperate for Truth! (Chapter titles are italicized and in bold.)

Alliance ­– God coming along side us in our journey of faith. “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:23).

Cohesion in Group Therapy – Healing amidst fellowship. “Jesus was going about…healing (therapeuo) every kind of disease and sickness…” (Matthew 4:23).

Empathy – Jesus “emptied himself…being born in human likeness” (Philippians 2:7). He faced our same temptations (Luke 4:13).

Goal Consensus and Collaboration – In John 17, Jesus asked His Father to make the Church of one mind, as He was with His Heavenly Father (v. 21), that unity would bear witness to the world of God’s love (v. 23).

Positive Regard and Affirmation – Paul calls Christ-followers saints (hagios) which means a most holy thing (Ephesians 1:1). That’s you and me in Christ!

States of Change – “We…are being transformed into the image [of Christ] from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Preferences – It is all about choices: “choose…whom you will serve…we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).

Culture“You are the salt of the earth [and] the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14). We are a counter-culture movement.

Coping Style “Be anxious for nothing, but…by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Sadly, the godless do not have a prayer.

Expectations“‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘…to prosper you… not to harm you, [but] to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11).

 

‘Nuff said.

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Praying for Our Nation(s)

“If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and [if] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Now My eyes shall be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place.” – 2 Chronicles 7:13-15 (emphases mine)

How often do we pray for our nation(s) without first humbling ourselves, without seeking God’s face, and without turning from our own wicked ways? It appears from this passage that the reason our land is not healed and remains ungodly is because God’s own people are not humble, not seeking His face, and not turning from their own wicked ways.

How often do we pray against someone else whom we have judged? Perhaps we believe our leaders (in government or at work) are ungodly and pray that God’s righteousness would come upon them. But we are commanded – “Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7: 1–2).

Lord, heal me first before I ask you to heal others. Let the pride of my heart be revealed to me to compel my own repentance such that I, like Christ, can intercede in righteousness according to your Holy Spirit. Father, our land does need your healing touch. Convict Your people today that we are humbled and become the salt and light of the world. In Jesus name, Amen.

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The Mystery of Walking in the Spirit

We tend to fixate on material reality: where will I live, what will I eat, where will I work? But even when we are unaware, our walk on earth is simultaneously a walk in the heavenlies.

God has equipped us with His Spirit. That has far deeper meaning than we can understand. Jesus performed miracles and we often think “Yeah, but He was God.” But Peter and Paul and others performed miracles. Do we see miracles in our own lives?

Our walk with God is shrouded in mystery and the busyness of life is noisy, overwhelming God’s “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). We have to quiet our spirit to hear His Spirit. That is why Jesus went to the desert and into the Garden at Gethsemane to pray, alone, in a quiet place.

It is a challenge to find that space amidst the scurry of our world but God is speaking to each of us every day. Can you hear Him? What is He saying? Many times it may be nothing more than “I love you” but all His words are eternal. Everything He has ever said to us, He is still saying and will always say.

God is always speaking, leading, comforting, reassuring, healing: “This is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21b). Galatians 5:25 says that “if we live by the Spirit,” focusing on God and drawing direction from Him, “let us walk by the Spirit,” motivated by divine character.

When spiritual and earthly realities align, we see the glory of God, even if the miraculous is only in the fundamentals: the changing of our perspectives, values, and actions.

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Step-by-Step

We live in a culture that most mornings would prefer to microwave its instant coffee. We want everything done at least by right now and preferably the day before. We rush to complete projects, race to meetings and activities, and exhaust ourselves choosing between too many priorities. This flies in the face of “entering into rest” (Matthew 11:28–29) and creates undue anxiety (Matthew 6:25–34). God was explicit: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a).

But taking life step-by-step is designed into creation and evident in God’s pattern in His mission in the world. We race right past God when we try to take too much control over a process now more than 4,000 years old. Abram became Abraham and through him the Christ would come. Many generations have passed and the world has inched its way toward God’s ultimate goal of the redemption of all creation.

The “stepping” process is also characteristic of our growth in Christ. We get anxious when we stumble, not living up to the holy standard. We strive after acceptance by our performance. But our flesh fights us along the way. “But we all . . . are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18, emphasis mine).

And perhaps a bit at a time we come to understand the depth and breadth and the width of God’s love for us as He forgives and encourages us onward. Take a time-out today . . . just to rest, commune with God, or hang out with friends or family. We are all on the way. God will get us to where we are going (Philippians 2:13) in His way and in His time, step-by-step.

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