Devotions from the Old Testament
The Old Testament is full of lessons for us today
One of the most wonderful things about the Bible is that it is never out of date. Even the verses written thousands of years ago can teach us lessons if we're willing to learn.Below you'll find ten devotions inspired by the men and women of the Old Testament (I'm working my way toward ten, don't panic if you don't find that many just yet!) These are morsels that my Heavenly Father has used to teach me lessons over the years.Feel free to use these for your Small Group, Board Meeting or your individual devotion time, and don't forget to check out the other pages I've created with even more ways that God has given me "aha' moments throughout the years.
In the Beginning
Genesis 1 & 2
There are a lot of lessons we can learn from the first few chapters of Genesis. We can talk about God's relationship with humans, the power of the Word of God, original sin and Satan's role in the fall. But I think there are two lessons in particular that we can learn that will be most helpful to those who are leaders in the church.
First, if we pay attention, we realize that God is a God of order. God had an ultimate end in mind, and He took six days to carefully put things in place to accomplish His goal. It appears as though God might like it when we take time to carefully plan, prioritize and work toward a goal. So many times we just haphazardly put things together. Too often we begin a project and expect God to finish it. Or perhaps we don't plan anything at all and wonder why nothing happens.Because we are mere humans, we always have to make sure that God is in the midst of all our plans. Proverbs 16:3 tells us to "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." But as a familiar phrase states, "Failing to plan is planning to fail." As leaders in God's family, we owe it to our Father to set a goal, create a plan, be flexible enough to change when God redirects our steps and see it through.
Lesson 2: People are most important to Christ. Everything God did was for the benefit of the humans He would eventually create. The day and night, vegetation and animals, even the day of rest was basically for the good of humans. Our Creator knew our needs and worked to make sure they were met. As we plan it's vital that we keep in mind the people we serve. It's easy to get so caught up in the "what" that we forget the "why." Everything we do in ministry is ultimately to help someone develop a relationship with Jesus Christ. There is an endless supply of ways to meet this goal. As we try to be creative and innovative, it can be tempting to focus on the plan rather than the people.In the beginning . . . God set His standards of operation back at the very beginning. He gives us a good example to follow as we step into fresh ministry. Whether it's a new program, small group, outreach or perhaps the beginning of a New Year, each "new" gives us the opportunity to evaluate what we're about to embarq on and make sure that we have a plan in place and that plan puts people first.
- More Devotional Readings from the Old Testament
The Old Testament offers so many rich lessons. Here are five more!
- Devotional Readings from the New Testament
How often do you spend time considering your relationship with Jesus Christ? How many times a week do you listen for His voice and consider His plan for you? In the hectic day to day often it's difficult. We get up, rush to work, hurry home, get a...
What Is Up With That Tree?
Just one rule. That's it. God gave Adam just one little bit of responsibility, then He gave the man a wife to help him with it. And together they blew it, forcing all humans for the rest of time to deal with the curse of original sin.I've been asked on more than one occasion why God put the tree there in the first place. After all, if there were no "Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil," there'd have been no opportunity to ruin the perfect world God had created. But giving Adam and Even no opportunity to disobey, also meant giving them no chance to follow their Creator's will.
It's much like us with our own children. Sometimes we'd like to be able to keep them in a totally sterile environment with nothing around to hurt them, nothing for them to break, no way for them to ever learn the "Knowledge of Evil." The problem with this utopia is that it also creates an environment that stunts growth. Without a few germs to build up their immune system and a temptation or two on the coffee table to help them learn boundaries, our children can never mature or learn to make wise decisions.
When God created man and woman, He wanted more than dolls or toys or even infants. God wanted friendship with the only thing on the earth with the potential to be like Him, the one thing He had created in His image, humans.
My children are all adults now with families of their own, and one thing I praise God for everyday is their friendship. I'm obviously still their mother, they ask my advice and I help them out from time to time, but most of the time I am their friend, someone they spend time with, laugh with, confide in and rely on. Although as they grew we always gave them opportunities to learn, either from their obedience or their mistakes, my girls learned their lessons well and don't need my boundaries anymore. And even though they received from me the consequences of their actions when they were young, and those consequences have brought them to a place of maturity and integrity, they aren't in need of my discipline anymore.
I think that when God put that tree in the garden, He knew that children who have no boundaries and face no consequences never really grow up. They never mature, in fact, they often become greedy and reckless, the kind of adult it's difficult to be friends with.
God desired, and still desires, friendship with us, His ultimate creation. He knew that a true, deep relationship would require a mature humankind, the kind of maturity that comes through temptation and testing. It may have been a more attractive option to shield us from the "Knowledge of Evil," after all, that's what we try to do for our own children. But that alternative doesn't make room for maturity, integrity and most of all . . . friendship!
Life Isn't Fair
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD,"plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.Jeremiah 29:11
Today we flew from Pittsburgh to New York via Baltimore. At the Baltimore airport, when those not going on to La Guardia disembarked, there were only three left on the plane, Steve and me and one other person. The flight crew allowed us to sit anywhere we wanted, so we moved to the front row where there's more leg room. It looked like it was going to be a nice half hour to New York.
But just before we were scheduled to take off, the steward asked Steve and I if we'd mind moving. A family with two children in wheelchairs were about to board, and the stewards had only saved two seats up front instead of four. We're still not sure why he didn't ask the two young women on the other side in the front row to move, but it didn't matter. We lost our comfy seats. It didn't seem fair. Had they saved enough seats to begin with, we'd have been there on that front row, or we'd have taken the seats in the emergency exit row. Instead we ended up about six rows from the back in the middle and aisle seats. Did I mention we'd had a window in the front row, too?
Unfortunately, life often isn't fair. Joseph's story is proof again that we can't always control the events in our life. These couple of chapters from Genesis occurred right after Joseph found himself sold into slavery by his own brothers. He worked hard to climb up the slave ladder. But just when life got bearable, he finds himself in prison courtesy of a lie he has no power to refute.After a years in prison, Joseph begins to see some a way out. But even a promise from someone he helps in prison can't rescue him. And so the 17 year old boy becomes a man in slavery and prison.Life wasn't fair 2000 years before Christ and it's not fair 2000 years after. I recently read something that reminded me the devil and his armies hate God but can't touch Him.
Nevertheless, this evil can reek havoc in the lives of those who were created in God's image. The prince of darkness will do everything he can to take down the children of the Living God.
It's not easy to get back up after life knocks us down. But if we pay attention to Joseph's story, we'll see that God has more for us. Joseph shows us that it is possible to keep the faith even when it looks like God is nowhere near us. At every turn, Joseph gave God honor. Each time life sent Joseph backwards, Joseph pushed forward doing his best and giving all the glory to his Creator. As a slave Joseph insisted he couldn't take what wasn't his. While in prison he let his fellow prisoners know that God was the one who deserved credit for his abilities.
And finally, when it seemed as though everyone had forgotten him, God raised Joseph to the 2nd highest position in all Egypt. God wants to bless us, prosper us, too. The trick is to learn to be patient like Joseph, to give God glory and honor Him even when things get tough, to never give up hope in the midst of the darkness and to trust that God has everything under control even when life isn't fair.
Do You Trust God Enough?
Leviticus 25:1-12 & 18-22
I grew up on a small farm. Daddy worked in the local mill, but the farm provided just about all of our meat and vegetables. On our monthly trip to the grocery store, we always had a couple of buggy fulls, but only paper products, cleaners, snacks and a few other necessities. For a time we even bought milk and eggs from a full time farmer about a mile away and later we had our own chickens and took the evening milking from our next door neighbor. (next door there merely meant within a 1/4 mile). During that period we even made our own butter!
My growing up experience really causes me to look at these verses from Leviticus carefully. I don't live on a farm anymore. In fact, our yard isn't as big as my dad's garden! However, as I read these verses, I wonder if I'd have enough faith to truly give the land the Sabbath God calls for. I've heard of farmers rotating crops and leaving a field unplanted for a year to allow it to recover some, but farmers rotate those plots of land so they are still harvesting every year.
It makes me wonder, "Would I have had enough faith to allow an entire nation to give the land a Sabbath?" Do I trust God enough to believe that He can keep His promise to make the sixth year more bountiful, making sure we have enough to eat during the Sabbath year? I can imagine one out of every 7 farms giving their land a Sabbath each year. But the entire country?.Think about it. What if all the farms in America didn't plant anything for an entire year? According to the International Grain Council, In 2007 the United States produced 53.6 million metric ton of wheat alone. That's what this country needs to sustain itself in JUST WHEAT! That doesn't doesn't take into consideration the corn, tomatoes, lettuce, beans, barley, oats, soy and more! How could we ever recoup from a year of no planting?
I really can't imagine a scenario of an entire nation stopping production for the year. It's just too big and vast for me to absorb. But it puts into perspective the small thing that God has asked his people to do. Once every seven days, he asks us to take a Sabbath. And obviously, God expected His people to do slightly less work for an entire year every seven years too. God knows we need rest. We need a day to focus on His love and care. Our bodies were created for a Sabbath. In Mark 2:27, Jesus tells us that man was not made for the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made for man. God doesn't want our lives to be all work and no rest.What if we each took the Sabbath more seriously? How would our lives change if we focused on taking a day to simply rest and worship? What if we limited our term for each committee we served on to seven years and then took a year off? Have you ever considered that truly taking a Sabbath was an act of faith? Do we trust God enough to believe that He can provide us enough time to do all that He's called us to do? When will you enjoy your next Sabbath?
I Would Never Follow Another God
"If a prophet . . . announces a miraculous sign or wonder . . . and it takes place, and he says 'Let us follow other gods,' you must not listen to him."Wouldn't it be handy if the things that cause us to fall away from Christ just announced to us "Let us follow other gods"? I've never had any person or thing tempt me to live outside of what I know is Christ-like in that way. No, the things that tempt me are much more sly. I'm assuming that over the thousands of years since God announced this warning to Israel, the enemy has discovered there are better ways to get the children of God to turn their backs on him, even if only for a few moments.God told Israel He would allow these prophets and dreamers to come and offer their "miracles and signs" to test them, to see if their hearts really were completely dedicated to following the one true and sovereign Lord. And in the 21st century since the birth of His Son, we find ourselves facing the same temptations with much more deceptive tactics.
Almost no one says to us, "Come follow other gods." Instead we hear things like, "Your children deserve to . . ." or "You need the money," "You deserve nice things," "Everyone is doing it," and best of all "God wants you to have it." Christians all over creation give up worshipping their creator to be slaves of the created. We miss church or skip a quiet time with God each day because we 'don't have time.'
We have time for television, but not time for scripture. We have time for yard work, after all we are supposed to care for God's creation, but we don't have time to give Him the Sabbath He asked for at the very beginning. For years the world said 'Sunday is my only day to sleep in' and after it convinced us that was the reason we didn't worship, it began to schedule sporting events, even for the kids, too early to be in church AND make the game. Work has become a priority; because not only must we eat and have a simple roof over our heads, it is now necessary to have gaming systems, expensive vacations, the best car or whatever other toy our friends or co-workers have convinced us is the biggest and best.
I think it would be easier, if 50 years ago, someone had just said, "We don't really have to observe God's commands, let's keep the stores open on Sundays." Most shop owners would have balked at that, even non-Christians. But instead, the false prophets said, "You could make more money, and besides people NEED you to be open on Sunday; this will be such a convenience for them."
Either way, the Sabbath began to be destroyed because someone didn't pass that test of Deuteronomy 12:3 & 4.Over and over in our lives we are offered opportunities to follow Christ or follow the world. The world's reasoning changes depending on our circumstances or the culture, but Christ's always remain the same, "If you love me, you will follow my commands." "It is the Lord your God you must follow, and Him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey Him; serve Him and hold fast to Him."
Believe me, I know how difficult it is to tell the difference between a real prophet and a false one. I've followed the "road of good intentions" many times only to find out it wasn't the "Way of Truth." But in my life I want to follow Christ more each day, and I believe when we do that, follow Him a bit better every day of our lives, on most days we will be able to say with Joshua, "Show me this day whom you will serve . . . as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15)