Devotions

Watching the World Olympics is invigorating. Being an “armchair athlete” can be almost as exciting as participating, minus the gold medal. This may sound like a stretch, but you understand my point if ever you have ever watched a sporting event either in person or on television. Every sport has an end goal – finish well.

Staying the course is not easy for an athlete in competition, nor is it easy for followers of Jesus Christ when living out one’s faith in this world. Paul stated perseverance well when he wrote to his protégé, Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). No one understood endurance through strife more than Paul, yet he never gave up in finishing his calling given to him by Jesus Christ.

Friend, I have a confession. More than anything else, I too have the desire to “finish well” the calling Jesus commissioned upon my life many years ago as one of His followers; however, some days I wonder if have the strength, or the will to finish. I am tempted to pray for God to take me out of the race and simply bring me home. Being a quitter has never been my style in sports or in life, but as this world approaches the time of Christ’s return (and it is), evil and lawlessness are increasing to an astounding level that is testing the resolve of every believer. My prayer for all of us who trust in and anticipate the coming of Jesus Christ is to plant ourselves in the Word of God, pray unceasingly for a pouring out of God’s Holy Spirit power within us, and to never, ever give up hope; but even if I (we) fail, God will not fail, because He is faithful!

God is the Author of “the story,” and He will write the ending in His good timing…

For deeper understanding: read 2 Timothy 4.

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:9-10, NKJV.

The story line about having a poor sense of direction is nothing new in my writing, as I have shared this personal deficiency many times. As the saying goes, “It doesn’t make me a bad person.” (Ha Ha). However, having a poor sense of direction does require my full and complete attention when driving in new territory and sometimes, even driving in places where I am very familiar. Now, let us get personal—perhaps many of you also have a less than stellar built-in direction finder?

One advantage aging provides is possessing an eye-witness account of history without needing to rely on hearsay or written data to verify. Throughout history, Bible believing Christians have relied on the Holy Scriptures for direction, when various cultures have otherwise lost their way; this is why in our current culture of 2024, Bible believing Christians must continue looking to God’s Word for direction. Unfortunately, like religious leaders of old, many religious church leaders and total denominations today are redefining God’s Word to fit the preferred lifestyles of followers, rather than sticking to what has been tested repeatedly and proven to be true, and good.

Solomon is the author of the Book of Proverbs. As king over Israel following the death of his father, King David, God granted Solomon wisdom when leading his people. The directive is not to trust in yourself or follow the masses with loudest voices. Solomon does not make a “suggestion” to keep up with the times and the “enlightened” culture. No! With God-given wisdom, Solomon states, “Trust in the LORD…lean not on your own understanding…acknowledge Him, and [then] He shall direct your paths” (emphasis mine).

Friend, using one’s imagination is not necessary today to know what happens when, “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own [path]…” (Isaiah 53:6, NLT). A pastor and dear friend once said to me, “I would rather go to heaven alone, than to hell with a crowd!” This statement resonated and has stayed with me as profound wisdom.

What about you? Whose voice is leading you?

For deeper understanding, read 2 Thessalonians 2.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6, NKJV

Previously published on Sweet Monday

Someone asked me, “When you pray or think of God, what image comes into your mind?” I must admit, the question made me scratch my head as I have never thought about my personal image of God. However, with the thought clearly planted in my mind, strangely, I realize that I do not have any image of God. Fast forward to a few days ago, when reading The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer. He wrote,

When we try to imagine what God is like we must of necessity use that-which-is-not-God as the raw material for our minds to work on; hence whatever we visualize God to be, He is not, for we have constructed our image out of that which He has made and what He has made is not God. If we insist upon trying to imagine Him, we end with an idol, made not with hands but with thoughts, and an idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hand.

The Trinity, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit represent the Godhead, Three in One. Because Jesus became fully man, while remaining fully God, and since images of Jesus have been put on paper and human actors have portrayed earthly Jesus throughout time, we understandably have our personal images of what we think His physical appearance might look like. Lest anyone feel chastised by Tozer’s explanation of “imagining what God is like,” the point remains, that while trying to imagine God is totally understandable as part of our human curiosity, we must be careful not to reduce God by making Him fit where there is not enough room for His presence. God allowed Isaiah to “[see] the Lord…” and just His robe alone, “filled the temple.”

Job said it this way, “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens above…They are deeper than the depths below…Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea” (11:7-9, NIV).

How amazing that we have such a BIG God, who desires a personal relationship with each one of us. Thank You, Holy Father!

For deeper understanding, read Psalm 8.

(Tozer, A. W., The Knowledge of the Holy, HarperCollins Publishers, 1961.)

 

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple.” Isaiah 6:1, NKJV.

Previously published on Sweet Monday

On a recent trip to the eye doctor, the news is I am ready for cataract surgery. When my parents went through the process of having their cataracts removed, I could not relate to their dilemma. However, today I understand all too well how they felt frustrated with not being able to see clearly. No longer does it help putting on glasses because my vision is always blurred. Imagine always feeling as though you have “socks” on your eyeballs. Yes, I said socks! The above Scripture passage comes to mind as I consider my current visual state, “seeing through a glass, darkly…”

Most people are familiar with 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, especially the earlier verses, which are often recited at weddings: “Love is patient; love is kind…” (vs. 4). Oh, the depth of significance this short biblical chapter holds. Whether trying to capture the deeper meaning of love as couples embark on a covenant marriage relationship, or trying to understand the deeper meaning of life, as we live through the daily challenges of this world, sometimes emotional clarity is shrouded, like cataracts blur one’s physical vision.

Some things about humanity will remain a mystery on this side of heaven. Physical diseases threaten the body and spiritual diseases threaten a peaceful co-existence between God and humankind, and humans to humans. How wonderful it would be if a simple procedure could fix all physical and spiritual maladies like I am told cataract surgery fixes eye vision. While it was not so simple, God has provided a remedy that helps bring clarity to otherwise difficult situations we may experience. Jesus Christ, God’s only Son died for you and me so that one day we will “see face to face…” what we presently only “know in part.” All the smudges left behind by sin will be wiped away. Thank you, thank you, Jesus!

For deeper understanding, read 1 Corinthians 13.

 

“For now, we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV (emphasis mine).

Previously published on Sweet Monday

The neighborhood in which I live is marketed as “55 and ‘Better.’” When I moved in a little over a year ago, the immediate realization hit me that my new community is one of active seniors who enjoy being on the move. Every morning as the sun begins to rise, men, women, and dogs are out walking up and down the sidewalks in winter, spring, summer, and fall. The activities list for owners is long and varied from bocce ball to pickleball. Whew…in my younger days, I might have been vying for a place on “the team,” but today I am only a spectator and cheerleader for those with more energy.

Even my computer sends messages now suggesting a way I might be able to “get more done” in a day. Frank Sinatra sang about New York as “the city that never sleeps.” The fact is, we live in an ever-moving world, that never sleeps. With the ability to communicate twenty-four hours a day on a “smart device” that has become an extension of our fingertips, making time to be still is hard to do. As a side note, sleep deprivation is said to be a leading culprit in the growing number of dementia cases. So, what is one to do?

Every person has the same twenty-four hours available; what we do with those hours is up to us. God, the Giver of time, instructs us to “Be still…” Prayer is one way to refocus our attention away from the “tyranny of the urgent.” Leave your phone and other devices in another room, otherwise, you will be tempted to let these things reign supreme instead of the Lord, who seeks the very best for His creation. You might be surprised if you submit to God instead of the algorithms, how much better and more peaceful life becomes. Jesus, who never had access to technology, has left His legacy for well over 2000 years, and He always found time to “be still” in the presence of His Father. I submit that Jesus has more “followers” than anyone else on planet earth!

For deeper understanding, read Psalm 46 and be blessed.

 

“Be still, and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10, NKJV

“O LORD, You are my God. I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, for You have done wonderful things…” Isaiah 25:1, NKJV.

In the month of April, when “life” begins waking up all around us, praising the Creator comes as natural as breathing in oxygen. Seeing God’s beauty in the colors of springtime reminds us that if He cares so much about the flowers and trees, how much more does He care for you and me? In the Book of Genesis during the creation process, after all other life existed, God did the most amazing thing—He created humankind in His image. How awesome was that moment in time, as God chose to reveal His likeness in humans solely for “His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13)?

We read that not long after creating the man, Adam, and the woman, Eve, God gave them the most beautiful garden of all time in which to live, the “Garden of Eden” (Genesis 3). But Adam and Eve, exercising the gift from God of freewill succumbed to temptation, and according to God’s forewarned judgment were expelled from the garden to face the natural consequences that would follow.

Fast-forward to the year, 2024. Friend, you, and I inherited the same gift of freewill as our ancestor’s, Adam, and Eve, and we also carry their DNA making us vulnerable to temptation. Despite our oftentimes errant choices, God is patient with us. Since my flowers this spring are already breathtaking, only in my wildest imagination can I produce an image of what the Garden of Eden must have looked like before humans sinned.

Another garden comes to mind, where Jesus, the Son of God chose to turn over His life to Roman soldiers to be crucified for the sins of the world, the result of our freewill choices. On this side of Resurrection Sunday, the gift of salvation from Jesus keeps on giving to all who would receive it. As April turns into May and the earth continues to explode with color, and when you experience the beauty, remember how much you are loved and be thankful. God is worthy of our praise!

For deeper understanding, read John 17 to see what Jesus prayed right before His arrest; He had you in mind.

“So, you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.”
Luke 21:31, NKJV

Imagine being isolated on a deserted island with no watch to tell time, no smartphone (heaven forbid!), and nothing but nature to guide you. The sun, moon, stars, and tides of the ocean would, in fact, lend much information to help you navigate the situation. Okay, you may come off “the island” now. You may also have your watch and smartphone back. (Whew!)

In the introductory Scripture verse written by Luke, Jesus was talking to His disciples about “The signs of the times and the end of the age.” No man-made twenty-first century smart device can predict what God alone knows, but Jesus said, long before technology was even a word, that there will be visible and tangible signs—signs of which all people should take note. “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom…” changes in the weather patterns, “great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences: and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven” (Luke 21:10-11).

The month of April is the beginning of spring; how do we know this? Signs, like the budding of trees and flowers, new life sprouting up all around us. Even on the proverbial deserted island without any technology, one would recognize “changes” taking place, compliments of God. So, Jesus warned His followers then, and He warns us today, not to be caught off guard, rather, know the “signs” of His imminent return. Friend, I pray with intention, that you will open your Bible and read God’s manifest regarding His categorical plans for planet Earth, because they deeply concern you and me. Whether Jesus comes back today or not for another thousand years, you and I must be ready. Be motivated, not by fear and anxiety, but with awe and expectation in seeing Jesus, face to face.

Come Lord Jesus, come!

For deeper understanding, read Luke 21.

Friend, if you do not know Jesus Christ as your LORD and Savior, today, invite Him into your heart. Jesus will not force His way into your life; you must “open [that] door” to let Him in. God loves you beyond your wildest imagination, but you will never know just how much until you make the decision to give Him access. God is waiting, and He is faithful!

Previously published on Sweet Monday

Last Friday, the day Christians acknowledged as “Good Friday,” Jesus was remembered for having been beaten, tortured, crucified on a cross, died and then buried. Resurrection Sunday was yesterday. Christians all around the world for twenty-four hours celebrated the empty tomb, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In the Bible, after the women encountered the risen Jesus on Sunday morning, they ran to tell the disciples that their dearest friend, Jesus, was not dead but alive; they must have been breathless from running and excited to share the amazing, good news. Banging hard on the upper room door and after identifying themselves, the door was opened only long enough for the women to enter before being slammed shut again. Inside, the men, including Peter who had all betrayed and denied knowing Jesus on Friday were hiding out in fear of being discovered by the officials as followers of Jesus. These once mighty men were now trying to put the pieces together of what happened just a few days ago. Nothing made sense. But when the women told the men about having seen and talked to Jesus, “their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.” But Peter, curious, ran to the tomb and found the burial cloths “lying by themselves” (Luke 24:12).

Where were you on Resurrection Sunday? Maybe, like the disciples, you are not sure if the story of the living Christ is simply an “idle tale.” And even if the story is true, you might think it cannot be true for you for whatever reason. Friend do not let doubt stand in your way. Be like Peter and be curious enough to check out the story for yourself. He loved you enough to endure the cross in your place, and He is alive to prove victory over any reason that might hold you back from accepting His gift.

Today is Monday. The festivities have all ended but the promise is everlasting. Take the first step to eternal life. Do not walk. Run to Jesus! He stands with outstretched nail-scarred hands and feet to receive you.

And Peter walked away from the empty tomb, “marveling to himself at what had happened” (24:12).

For deeper understanding, read Luke 24.

 

“And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.” Luke 24:11, NKJV

Previously published on Sweet Monday