Category: Devotional

Embracing Correction

As a Little League coach, I teach kids the fundamentals of baseball. One day, while playing catch with my own son, I noticed that some of the harder thrown balls that came near his head caused him to flinch and close his eyes. I always ask him, “Will the ball still hit you if your eyes are closed?” He would say, “Yes,” and I would reply, “Then don’t close them!” This is critical because closing his eyes puts him at greater risk of danger, not less.

This simple lesson from baseball parallels the spiritual lesson in Micah 2:6-11. The Israelites were told not to prophesy about the hard truths, preferring to avoid the discomfort of God’s correction. Much like my son closing his eyes when a ball comes near, they wanted to close their ears to the rebuke and correction that was necessary for their safety and growth.

Why is it that we often want to avoid bad news, especially when it comes to correction or rebuke? It’s natural to prefer comfort and affirmation over discomfort and challenge. Hearing that we are on the wrong path, that our actions are leading to consequences, can be painful and humbling. The prophets in Micah’s time faced resistance because the people did not want to hear about their impending disgrace.

However, avoiding the truth doesn’t change the reality. Just as closing my son’s eyes won’t stop the ball from hitting him, ignoring God’s warnings won’t shield us from the consequences of our actions. In fact, it often places us in greater danger, as we remain blind to the necessary changes we need to make.

Avoiding correction is not just unwise; it’s dangerous. God’s rebuke, though hard to hear, is an expression of His love and desire for our well-being. Hebrews 12:6 tells us, “The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Ignoring His correction means rejecting His love and guidance.

Furthermore, embracing correction leads to growth and righteousness. Proverbs 12:1 states, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.” It is through acknowledging our faults and making necessary changes that we become more aligned with God’s will and receive His blessings.

Reflect on the areas of your life where you might be avoiding God’s correction. Are there truths you are reluctant to face because they are uncomfortable? Take time to pray and ask God to open your eyes to His guidance. Embrace His correction, knowing that it is for your ultimate good and growth. Remember: even if you close your eyes, the ball will still hit you!

Are Your Plans Aligned with God’s Will?

As I read Isaiah 30:1-5 this morning, I was struck by the gravity of making plans without consulting God. The passage vividly describes such actions as sinful and rebellious. In these verses, the Israelites sought alliances with Egypt instead of seeking God’s guidance. This decision, made without divine consultation, led to their downfall.

The concept here is clear: when we exclude God from our decision-making process, we are essentially fighting against His will. This rebellion is not merely a mistake but a sin that compounds other sins, leading us further away from His path.

To fully grasp the weight of this message, it helps to understand the historical context. The Israelites, facing the threat of Assyrian invasion, sought the powerful nation of Egypt for protection. This seemed a logical and strategic move from a worldly perspective. However, it was a direct contradiction of God’s command to rely solely on Him for deliverance and guidance.

How often do we find ourselves making plans and forming alliances based on our understanding and wisdom without first seeking God’s counsel? Whether it’s career decisions, relationships, or daily choices, the temptation to lean on our own understanding is strong. Yet, Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

When we take matters into our own hands, we not only risk failure but also miss the opportunity to experience God’s best for us. His plans are always superior to ours, filled with purpose and aligned with His perfect will. By seeking His guidance, we align ourselves with His divine plan, ensuring that our steps are ordered and blessed.

Take a moment today to reflect on areas of your life where you might be making decisions without consulting God. Are you relying on your own understanding, or are you seeking His wisdom and guidance? Commit to bringing every plan before Him in prayer, asking for His direction and trusting in His perfect will.

The Surprising Hope Hidden in Isaiah’s Doom and Gloom

Isaiah 24-27, often called the “Apocalypse of Isaiah,” delivers a stern message of global judgment. Nations are brought low, the earth is laid waste, and its inhabitants scattered. This grim portrayal continues into chapter 29, where Jerusalem faces severe consequences for their rebellion. However, nestled within these chapters of destruction are profound messages of hope and redemption.

Isaiah 24 starts with a vision of the earth in chaos: “The earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered. The Lord has spoken this word” (Isaiah 24:3). The ensuing verses describe a world reeling under divine judgment. Yet, amidst this, Isaiah 25 presents a sudden shift: “Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago” (Isaiah 25:1).

Here, Isaiah acknowledges God’s sovereignty and His faithful plans, even in judgment. He foretells a future where God will “swallow up death forever” and “wipe away the tears from all faces” (Isaiah 25:8). This profound promise points to a time of ultimate redemption, offering hope amid despair.

Isaiah 26 continues with a song of trust: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3). Despite the trials, those who trust in God are promised perfect peace. This peace is not the absence of trouble but the presence of God in the midst of it.

Isaiah 27 brings the promise of restoration: “In days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and fill all the world with fruit” (Isaiah 27:6). This prophecy speaks of a restored Israel, flourishing and fruitful. It is a reminder that God’s judgment is not an end but a means to bring about repentance and renewal.

Isaiah 29 returns to the theme of judgment, focusing on Jerusalem. The city faces severe consequences for their hypocrisy and spiritual blindness. “The Lord has brought over you a deep sleep: He has sealed your eyes (the prophets); he has covered your heads (the seers)” (Isaiah 29:10). Yet, even here, God promises a future transformation: “Once more the humble will rejoice in the Lord; the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 29:19).

God’s discipline is always paired with His grace. The call to awaken from spiritual complacency is a call to return to God, who is ever ready to restore and bless.

How often do we find ourselves overwhelmed by the chaos in our lives? Like the nations in Isaiah’s prophecy, we might face situations that seem insurmountable. But these chapters remind us that God is in control. His plans, though sometimes involving discipline, are ultimately for our good.

When we are in the midst of life’s storms, it is easy to focus on the immediate chaos rather than the overarching sovereignty of God. Isaiah invites us to lift our eyes from our troubles to the One who holds our future.

Personal Reflection:

  • Are you currently facing a situation that feels overwhelming?
  • How can you shift your focus from the problem to the promise of God’s presence and peace?
  • In what ways can you cultivate a trust in God’s plan, even when it involves discipline?

Remember, God’s judgment is never devoid of His mercy. He disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:6), and His ultimate aim is our restoration and flourishing.

The Shocking Truth About Why We’re Struggling—And the One Thing We Keep Overlooking!

Isaiah 18-23 predicts doom and gloom for many nations including Egypt, Ethiopia, Edom, Arabia, and even Jerusalem. What I found interesting is how all these nations have nowhere to run and nowhere to hide… except Jerusalem. They are the chosen nation of the Most High God, the God who is bringing the calamity, and yet they do not turn to Him. What?? You have access to the greatest trump card anyone could ever draw and yet you leave it on the table?

How often do we end up in a bind, and instead of looking UP to God, we look IN to ourselves? When the chips are really down, why do we try to go it alone? My God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, so why would I go to someone else for the things that really matter? He has every resource we need!

So if you’re facing financial difficulties, struggling with health issues, dealing with relationship problems, or feeling overwhelmed by work or school, then lift your eyes to the mountains, where your help comes from (Psalm 121:1-2). Trust in the Lord, for He is our ever-present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1).

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition

The battle-cry of Chaplain Lt H. M. Forgy aboard the USS New Orleans during the attack on Pearl Harbour in WWII. Just the thought of it today causes Christians to recoil in horror. Imagine! Associating God with war?? Crazytownbananapants!

Ot is it? I think Christians write-large would also recoil in horror at the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 149:6-9, who writes:

Let the praises of God be in their mouths, and a sharp sword in their hands— to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with shackles and their leaders with iron chains, to execute the judgment written against them. This is the glorious privilege of his faithful ones. Praise the Lord!

A sword? Vengeance!? Execute!?!

We read these words and run to the New Testament to say that our fight is NOT against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, this is a metaphorical battle! This is only imagery! David Guzik in his Enduring Word commentary writes:

They bear a two-edged sword in their hand, demonstrating both the use of practical weapons and means, and in a spiritual sense, reliance upon God’s word, which is described as a two-edged sword (Revelation 19:15) as even sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), and as the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17).”

I don’t think so, Dave. That is NOT the context the author of Psalms is writing in. He’s not in a post-Resurrection world. Christianity does not yet exist. And the writings of John, Paul, and the author of Hebrews are hundreds of years away. Which begs the question: what is the context of the Psalmist?

  • Exodus 32:25-28 – The Golden Calf Incident: After the Israelites create and worship a golden calf, Moses calls for those who are loyal to the Lord to come to him. The Levites respond, and Moses commands them to go through the camp and kill those who participated in the idolatry. About 3,000 people are killed as a result.
  • Numbers 25:1-9 – The Sin of Peor: The Israelites engage in idolatry and sexual immorality with Moabite women. God commands Moses to execute the leaders involved. Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, takes a spear and kills an Israelite man and a Midianite woman, stopping a plague that had killed 24,000 people.
  • Joshua 6 – The Battle of Jericho: God commands Joshua to lead the Israelites in the conquest of Jericho. They march around the city for seven days, and on the seventh day, they blow trumpets and shout, causing the walls to collapse. They then destroy every living thing in the city as an act of divine judgment.
  • Joshua 7 – The Sin of Achan: After the Israelites are defeated at Ai, God reveals that Achan has taken forbidden items. Joshua identifies Achan, who confesses, and he and his family are stoned and burned as a punishment, restoring God’s favor to Israel.
  • 1 Samuel 15 – The Amalekites: God commands Saul, the first king of Israel, to completely destroy the Amalekites, including all their people and livestock. Saul partially obeys, sparing King Agag and the best of the livestock, which leads to his rejection as king.
  • 2 Kings 9-10 – The Judgment on Ahab’s House: God anoints Jehu as king of Israel and commands him to execute judgment on the house of Ahab. Jehu kills Joram, Ahaziah, Jezebel, and the seventy sons of Ahab, fulfilling Elijah’s prophecy.
  • Judges 7 – Gideon’s Battle Against the Midianites: God uses Gideon and a small army of 300 men to defeat the Midianites, delivering Israel from oppression. This victory is seen as God’s judgment against the Midianites for their actions against Israel.

This is far from an exhaustive list. We just need to accept the fact that God uses human agents to carry out His will. And — yes — His will includes judgement from time to time. And if that bothers you, I have a quite sincere question: Do you have an issue with any of these incidences?

  • The Great Flood: God caused the flood to wipe out all humanity except Noah and his family (Genesis 6-8).
  • Sodom and Gomorrah: God destroyed these cities with fire and brimstone due to their wickedness (Genesis 19).
  • Nadab and Abihu: They were consumed by fire from the Lord for offering unauthorized fire before Him (Leviticus 10:1-2).
  • Uzzah: He died when he touched the ark of the covenant inappropriately (2 Samuel 6:6-7).

Because it seems to me that most people who object to how God is doing a thing, but rather than He is doing it at all. This comes back to the same thing I’ve talked about before; when my opinion differs from God’s, I’m wrong. And if I don’t like it, I need to better understand God’s grace or holiness, or some other attribute of His better. Don’t forget that God is all-knowing. He knows everything that was, is, and will be. He has a level of both knowledge and understanding that we could never HOPE to attain. And any attempt to massage, mold, or adapt God to better fit OUR desires is nothing more than an idol. An idol that demonstrates a profound lack of trust in our God.

We Become What We Worship

I was floored reading Psalm 135 this morning. Particularly verses 15-18. For the sake of completeness of understanding, here are those verses (in the New Living Translation):

The idols of the nations are merely things of silver and gold, shaped by human hands. They have mouths but cannot speak, and eyes but cannot see. They have ears but cannot hear, and mouths but cannot breathe. And those who make idols are just like them, as are all who trust in them.

Look at how the idol is described. It has a mouth that cannot speak. Ears that cannot hear. Eyes that cannot see. And its worshippers are ‘just like them’. Wow. It’s so simple and yet so deeply profound! How have I never seen it before!? We become what we worship. Not that we turn into an idol, or money, or status, but we begin to adopt the traits of those things! Think about it…

Money & wealth promise happiness and contentment, but cannot actually deliver on those things. And we see that the people who idolize money can appear successful and even draw envy, but they lack contentment and purpose. Money never leads to satisfaction. If you aren’t satisfied with a small amount of money, you could never be happy with a tremendous amount of money.

Celebrity & fame promise a glamorous and enviable life, but it has just as many downsides as upside. Followers of celebrities may adopt a glamorous exterior but struggle with their own identity and sense of worth, becoming superficial and disconnected from authentic relationships and deeper values. Jim Carrey famously said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”

Power & influence command attention and authority but can be quickly corrupted and become tyrannical. Those who seek power often become authoritarian and manipulative, losing their moral compass and becoming isolated, much like the corrupt nature of the power they idolize.

Technology & gadgets promise connectivity and convenience but often leads to distraction and detachment. People obsessed with technology may become highly connected online but disconnected in real life, leading to shallow interactions and a lack of meaningful relationships, mirroring the superficial connectivity of their devices.

Physical appearance focuses on outward beauty and strength but neglects spiritual health and well-being. Individuals who idolize physical appearance may achieve outward attractiveness but suffer from internal insecurities and even health issues, mirroring the superficial focus on looks rather than overall wellness.Success & achievements promise recognition and fulfillment but can lead to burnout and emptiness. Those who chase success may achieve high status and accolades but often feel exhausted and unfulfilled, as their worth becomes tied to achievements rather than their status as children of God.

Pleasure and Entertainment offer immediate gratification but lack lasting satisfaction and depth. Individuals who seek constant pleasure may enjoy temporary highs but feel a deep sense of emptiness and lack of purpose, mirroring the fleeting and shallow nature of their pursuits. There is a reason this is called “escapism”.

New Age Spirituality & Self-Help promise enlightenment and self-improvement but lacks a foundation of truth. Followers may feel enlightened and empowered but often remain spiritually ungrounded and confused, reflecting the elusive and inconsistent nature of these practices. Talk about being blown about by the wind!

Political Ideologies and Leaders present solutions and direction but can lead to division and extremism. Those who idolize political ideologies may become polarized and intolerant, losing sight of unity and compassion, mirroring the divisive and rigid nature of their political beliefs and neglecting the Biblical call to love even our enemies!

Nature and the Environment worship is seen as pure and life-giving but is often indifferent and harsh. People who idolize nature may become overly critical of humanity and disconnected from progress, reflecting the sometimes indifferent and unforgiving aspects of the natural world.

Contrast this with how Christians who follow the God revealed in the Bible come to embody His traits in their daily lives. Just as God is characterized by unconditional love, Christians learn to love others selflessly, showing compassion, forgiveness, and kindness, as emphasized in 1 John 4:8 and John 3:16. This love is not conditional or based on merit but flows from a heart transformed by God’s own love.

Holiness is another key attribute of God that Christians strive to emulate. As God is holy and set apart from sin (1 Peter 1:15-16), believers seek to live lives that are morally and spiritually pure, avoiding behaviours and thoughts that dishonour God and lead to worse outcomes for themselves! This pursuit of holiness is a reflection of their desire to be like the God they worship, dedicating themselves to His service and glory.

Faithfulness and trustworthiness are also central to God’s nature (Deuteronomy 7:9), and Christians aim to be reliable and steadfast in their commitments, both to God and to others. This faithfulness is demonstrated through consistent trust in God’s promises and a steadfast adherence to His Word, even in challenging circumstances.

Mercy and grace, seen in God’s dealings with humanity (Ephesians 2:4-5), are mirrored in the lives of Christians as they forgive those who wrong them and extend kindness, even to those who may not deserve it. This reflection of God’s mercy helps Christians build communities marked by forgiveness and reconciliation.

In embodying these attributes—love, holiness, faithfulness, mercy, and grace—Christians reflect the character of God, standing in contrast to those who idolize and become like the empty, unfulfilling pursuits described in Psalm 135. Their transformation is a testimony to the profound impact of worshiping a living and active God, rather than lifeless idols.

The Need for Christian Leadership

Psalm 125:3 (NLT) says, “The wicked will not rule the land of the godly, for then the godly might be tempted to do wrong.” This verse highlights a profound truth about the influence of leadership on the moral and spiritual health of a community. The importance of Christian leaders in today’s world cannot be overstated. Their presence is crucial for guiding people toward righteousness, providing moral stability, and fostering an environment where godliness can flourish.

The Influence of Leadership

Leaders have a significant impact on the behavior and values of those they lead. Studies in social psychology, such as the famous Milgram experiment, demonstrate that people often look to authority figures for cues on how to behave, sometimes even overriding their own moral judgments. In the context of Christian leadership, this means that godly leaders can inspire and guide others to live out their faith in meaningful ways. Their influence can help prevent moral decay and encourage a community to adhere to biblical principles.

Moral Stability in a Shifting Culture

We live in a time of rapid cultural change, where moral relativism often prevails. According to a study by the Barna Group, only 35% of American adults believe in absolute moral truth. This fluidity in moral standards can lead to confusion and ethical ambiguity. Christian leaders play a vital role in providing a steady moral compass amidst this shifting landscape. They remind their communities of timeless biblical truths that stand firm regardless of societal changes.

For instance, in workplaces where ethical leadership is emphasized, employees are more likely to engage in ethical behavior. A study published in the Journal of Business Ethics found that ethical leadership significantly reduces unethical practices among employees. Similarly, Christian leaders who uphold and teach biblical ethics can create an environment where godliness is the norm, rather than the exception.

Guiding Through Challenges

Life is filled with challenges, and people often look to their leaders for guidance and support during tough times. Christian leaders, grounded in their faith, can offer unique perspectives and solutions based on biblical wisdom. They provide not only practical advice but also spiritual encouragement, helping individuals navigate their problems with faith and resilience.

For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people turned to their faith leaders for comfort and direction. Churches and Christian organizations played a pivotal role in supporting communities, offering not just material assistance but also hope and a sense of purpose. This highlights the importance of having leaders who can guide people through crises with both compassion and conviction.

Fostering Community and Unity

Christian leaders are instrumental in fostering a sense of community and unity among believers. They organize gatherings, encourage fellowship, and build a supportive network where individuals can grow in their faith together. Research shows that strong community bonds contribute to overall well-being and resilience. A study by Harvard’s Human Flourishing Program found that regular participation in religious community activities is associated with greater happiness and lower rates of depression.

In a divided world, Christian leaders can be peacemakers, promoting reconciliation and understanding. They can bridge gaps between different groups, emphasizing common faith and shared values. This unity is essential for a healthy and vibrant Christian community.

Role Models for the Next Generation

The impact of Christian leaders extends to the younger generation. Young people today face numerous challenges, including identity crises, peer pressure, and a barrage of conflicting worldviews. Christian leaders serve as role models, demonstrating what it means to live a life of faith and integrity. According to a report by Springtide Research Institute, young people who have mentors are more likely to thrive in various aspects of life, including their spiritual journeys.

By investing in youth, Christian leaders ensure that the next generation is equipped with the tools and knowledge to navigate life’s complexities with a strong foundation in their faith. They inspire young people to pursue godliness, encouraging them to become future leaders who will continue to uphold and spread Christian values.

Conclusion

In light of Psalm 125:3, the need for Christian leaders is clear. Their presence and influence are crucial for guiding individuals and communities toward righteousness. In a world where moral standards are increasingly fluid, they provide the stability, guidance, and inspiration needed to foster a Godly environment. By serving as role models, supporting their communities, and upholding biblical principles, Christian leaders play an indispensable role in ensuring that the “land of the godly” remains a place where righteousness prevails. Their leadership not only shapes the present but also secures a hopeful future grounded in faith and integrity.

Lying to Ourselves

First of all… take some time and read Psalm 119. It is wonderful. And I say this as someone who is rather ambivalent about poetry generally speaking. But I took over a page and a half of notes during today’s reading. So good.

Anyway, the fourth section — verse 29 — has this gem: “Keep me from lying to myself”. The context is a man who is overcome with grief and is looking for solace and encouragement. It would be easy to find such solace in tv, drugs, movies, food, pornography, alcohol, or some other activity that lies somewhere on the spectrum of USELESS<->DESTRUCTIVE. But despite having other options available to him then (and many more today), he wants God to protect him from lying to himself. He recognizes that while these things might provide a temporary distraction, whatever source of grief that is causing the problem will still exist after the distraction is gone.

No, what we need — as the author goes on to say — is the privilege of knowing God’s instructions. Because the JOY of the LORD is our strength. He will sustain us. Indeed, in verse 143 the Psalmist says as much when he states, “as pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.”

So if you have been tempted to lie to yourself about the usefulness of temporary solutions, know that there is lasting joy in the knowledge of the Lord which can sustain your through anything.

Glory & Pride

Glory and pride. One is God’s and the other comes before the fall. What are we to do with our successes and achievements? Is self-loathing the answer?

Years ago I was approached by a woman after I had led worship (I think) and she praised the work I had done. I was very bad at accepting compliments and must have looked like Neo from the Matrix films ducking and dodging her attempts to pat me on the back. Eventually, in a fit of frustration she looked at me sternly and sniped, “Just say ‘thank you’ and take the compliment!” That was rather embarrassing.

I’ve since learned to receive praise much more graciously.

But how do we keep from getting a fat head in circumstances like this? Because this is basically what happened to the nation of Israel throughout the books of the Kings; they mistook the wind of God in their sails as their own expert seamanship and got the fat head. Then God took away His help and Israel fell and fell and eventually end up in captivity. You don’t want to end up in captivity do you??

The good news is that I don’t think it’s all that hard to navigate this issue. Pride is something I think we can take in our work and even in our outcomes, so long as we are sure this pride is relative to ourselves and not others. If we get to the point where we are better than person X or Y then there is a problem! But we we are enjoying meeting our own standards or setting a personal best for output or outcome, then I think we can do that safely. But it’s still important to recognize that we are working as unto the Lord by stewarding the gifts and talents He has given us. Glory is even simpler. Don’t take it. Re-direct it to the Lord. Someone want to lavish praise on you? Receive it graciously, but say something like, “All glory to God!” or, “Praise the Lord for using me.” Now, I’m not advocating for false humility! If you cannot say these things sincerely and give God His due glory and praise, there’s a deeper issue there that you need to seek the Lord about!

In summary: all glory is God’s, but you can take pride in your work… so long as you do it with humility.

Foiling God’s Plan

Psalm 114 is an interesting one. It describes the flight from Egypt by the nation of Israel and describes the earth in some unique terms. The sea “flees”, the river “turns back”, the mountains and hills “leap”. The language is curious and worth thinking about because the author then asks what has prompted this behaviour. Finally the author states that the earth trembles before the God who turned stone to water.

As I thought about this kind of weird Psalm, I couldn’t shake the thought that God’s plan is unstoppable. Even the rivers and seas and mountains and hills cannot stand in His way. Think about that. These objects of nature would flee, turn back, and leap out of the way than make some feeble attempt to thwart God’s purposes.

And I guess that’s the crux of this thing, gang. Nothing can stop my God. He WILL have His way. His plans will come to pass and there is nothing we can do about it. We really only have two options when it comes to God’s will. Hop on the train or stand on the tracks. I’m going with the former. If you want to try the latter… it was nice knowing you.