Devotions to Inspire Your Week
Do you start your day with devotions? Do you at least begin by reading some scripture? I believe that for everyone who wants to grow in Christ, scripture, Bible study and reflection are key elements. On this page, you'll see a growing number of devotional readings meant to help you with your time of personal reflection. I pray they will encourage you to grow in Christ and soar like an Eagle to become all that He created you to be.
Here are the titles you'll find below:
- The Story of Job . . . The Story of the World
- Cancel the Egyptian Vacation
- I'm Too Weak for That
- Let Us Never Forget
- But I Put it Away
The Story of Job . . .
The Story of the World
I love meeting with others to study scripture. Even when I’m leading the group, I learn so much, and often I hear Christ in a new way. This week, my study group looked at the book of Job. I smiled as some in the group were inspired by Job’s story, while even more would prefer to never read the book again.
Most of us shared similar concerns about Job’s story. We don’t really like it that God gave Satan permission to attack this righteous man, and it’s always troubling to know he lost all of his children. The three would-be friends are a constant source of inspiration for “what not to do” when a friend is going through rough times, and God’s response in the final chapters doesn’t really seem to answer Job’s questions. We all agreed on the common lessons we find in Job, but there’s one thing we always ask in my group when we’re reading the Old Testament, and it’s this question that spoke to me.
As we read those first 39 books of the Bible, we always ask, “Where can we see Jesus?” This is the question that has brought the Old Testament to life for me, and as I contemplated the book of Job during our study time, God revealed a bit of truth to me. In addition to the beautiful word pictures we see of the Almighty and the lessons that Job has taught us about faith, I saw the story of salvation from the moment of creation through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
You see, Job is a beautiful foreshadowing of all that Christ would come to do. Much like Job, each of us was born with the potential of righteousness, created in the image of God. This picture of a faultless human is a reminder of Adam and Eve as they walked in the garden with their Creator. In that time before they ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, this couple lived in the beauty of complete and perfect righteousness.
Unfortunately, Adam and Eve weren’t like Job. When the enemy came to them, and they were tempted to forego their trust in the Almighty, the mother and father of humanity gave in to temptation and introduced sin to the world. And Job’s story demonstrates the devastation brought about by their folly.
It’s the first few chapters of Job that show us the enemy bringing ruin to the righteous. Those long discourses by Job and his less than encouraging friends mirror the world after the fall. Because of the fall, even though we are created in the image of God, we have nothing. Original sin forfeits our rights as sons and daughters of God and steals every ounce of joy and prosperity we may have. The words of humans become hollow and useless. Life is meaningless.
Completely meaningless . . . until, like Job, we experience restoration. From the creation of man in the image of the Righteous God, the entrance of sin, destruction and loss, to the promise and potential of full restoration, Job is a beautiful illustration of the story of the world. You see, no matter what we’ve lost because of the sin that we find on the earth, Jesus can restore. Regardless of our feeling that we can’t possibly be created in God’s image, we know that Jesus was sent to this earth to restore us to His Father, to restore us to perfection and righteousness, to give to you and I, the opportunity to find, like Job, that a life lived in faith and trust in the sovereignty of the One who gave us life can bring us the blessing of full and lovely restoration.
Cancel the Egyptian Vacation
1 Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses,
who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord.
2 Yet he too is wise and can bring disaster; he does not take back his words.
He will rise up against that wicked nation, against those who help evildoers.
3 But the Egyptians are mere mortals and not God; their horses are flesh and not spirit.
When the Lord stretches out his hand, those who help will stumble,
those who are helped will fall; all will perish together.
Every time I read this passage, I ask myself, “Who is my Egypt?” I’d really prefer to think that I trust completely in Christ and never falter from believing that He has my back. I prefer to think that I never dream longingly of “Egypt,” but then I remember I have a credit card.
Fortunately, over the years, I’ve learned to use that card somewhat responsibly. I generally get it out only for hotel reservations and to purchase things online, and I try to make sure I pay it off immediately. However, even this doesn’t stop me from counting down the days until payday from time to time.
It seems that no matter how hard I try to trust only in Christ, I find myself running to Egypt for help every now and then. When the engine blows in the car or the house needs something unexpectedly. Or worse yet, when I just want to have some fun and don’t plan for it properly, or I neglect to consult my heavenly Father to see if it is something He thinks I should do. In each of these situations, I find myself planning a metaphorical vacation in Egypt.
Egypt . . . it’s that place that looks safe when life’s circumstances make you feel like you want to run away. It’s the other side of the fence where the grass is so much greener. Egypt is the land that will lend you money when you’re running low, whether you can afford to pay it back or not. It’s the food that brings you comfort as well as pounds and inches. For some people Egypt is in a bottle and for others it’s a friend from a former life. Egypt is that thing that boasts of being able to give us something better, bigger and more beautiful, but produces pain, poverty and empty promises. Egypt often gives quick relief with long lasting bitter consequences.
As Christians, it’s vital we are aware of Egypt. So often it looks harmless. Why wouldn’t we go there for at least a little vacation? But every time we put our trust in something other than Jesus Christ, we find ourselves in danger of “falling” and “perishing” with Egypt.
Yes, we need to be aware of the “Egypts” in our life. We need to know which direction it lies so we can avoid going there. We must learn to recognize Egyptians and say “no thanks” to her horsemen, even when it looks like it would make the journey so much easier to just take a short ride. And we need to remember to always look to the “Holy One of Israel” and never go to Egypt for “vacation.”
I'm Too Weak For That
2 Corinthians 11:19-21
If you begin at the top of chapter 11, you'll see Paul is worried that the Christians in Corinth may be easily drawn away from the truth of Jesus Christ. There were men in his time (as in ours) who had "exchanged the truth of God for a lie" (Romans 1:25) and were attempting to convince other believers to do the same. It would appear from Paul's rants that they were having some measure of success. Paul's words here in Second Corinthians almost seem to have been written for the 21st century instead of the first.
Recently as I read this section of scripture, however, I discovered this short message in the midst of Paul's worry for his fellow believers. Obviously in Paul's time Christians struggled with many of the same things that cause us conflict today. These few verses reflect a tendency to believe that Christians should be doormats. So often as Christians we allow people to walk on us and bully us. We've been taught this is the Christian thing to do. In an attempt to mirror Christ's walk to the cross, we forget that He also overturned money tables.
I nearly laugh when Paul tells his readers that he is "too weak" to "put up with anyone who enslaves, exploits or takes advantage" of him. Our modern faith conveys the message that it's actually noble to allow someone to expoit us. Where do we read that Christ allowed himself to be taken advantage of or exploited? He did go to the cross without a fight, but that's because the Roman government was actually a pawn in the bigger plan of God. They weren't exploiting Him, He CHOSE the road to the cross. His submission only exemplified His complete control of the situation.
Many non-Christians think that Christians are weak. It's primarily because a lot of followers of Jesus Christ won't stand up for themselves. For some reason they believe that Paul's statement in 2 Corinthians 12:10 "when I am weak, then I am strong" means they are required to be slaves, to bend and bow to everyone else's whims.
Paul chose to not exert his strength. He opted to serve those who were trying to discover who they were in Christ. However, he would not allow someone to rule over him or exploit him. Even in prison, Paul was in control. His actions caused those over him to give him respect.
Likewise, we never see Jesus being ruled by the Pharisees or Saducees. He showed them respect, but never backed down when they challenged Him. Yet, He consistently served and showed kindness, mercy and love to those who were looking for the truth in the gospel.
As leaders in the body of Christ, our attitude should be that of Christ (see Philippians 2). We should encourage those seeking to grow in Christ and serve the congregation where our Savior has planted us. All the while, we must not allow anyone or anything to enslave, exploit or take advantage of us. We must remember we are children of the King, a loving, caring peace bringing King, but nonetheless, a King.
Let Us Never Forget
This weekend I had the opportunity to witness two examples of things remembered. The first was a gift of two mugs, one for Steve and one for me, momentos to help us remember the way God touched our lives at a retreat where I was privileged to lead worship. The presenter mentioned a professor he'd had in seminary who'd taught him to cherish those physical reminders of "God moments." During the hard times, years after the event when it all seems surreal and during those times when we doubt if we were really touched by God, these objects can be for us like the stones the Israelites set up on the west side of the Jordan River. They can give us something to touch and see, something that will take our minds back to a day when God moved and changed our lives forever.
The facility where the retreat was held is not far from the 9-11 Flight 93 Crash Site near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. So on our way home, we made it a point to stop. We went about 30 minutes out of our way and walked in the rain to look out over a park that isn't open yet. From our vantage point, we couldn't see very much. The memorial is scheduled to open in time for the 10th anniversary of that fateful day in history, so today visitors can only see the "temporary memorial" and look through a fence about ½ mile away from the actual crash site. Regardless, I had an ominous feeling as we drove to and then looked over the place where 40 innocent people lost their lives at the hands of terrorists. We stayed only a few minutes because of the rain and the fact we couldn't get close enough to see much.
These two types of memorials sat in direct contrast on one another in my mind. On more than one occasion, the Israelites were commanded to have physical signs and days of remembrance to constantly bring to their minds the times God had intervened for them. They were to remember God saving their firstborns from the angel of death. Each of their holidays was reminder of a time when God had worked on behalf of the nation of Israel. All through scripture God set up dates, places, objects and events as reminders to His people.
As I considered these thoughts, and compared our first and second "memorials" of the day, I wondered if we, as a nation, have it all backwards. Don't get me wrong, I am glad that we remember these 40 heroes and heroines. We should never take for granted what they did to save countless lives in Washington, DC. However, I had this overwhelming feeling that God doesn't want us to remember the tragedies more than we remember the times He blessed us.
We have a Vietnam Memorial to honor those who lost their lives in that war and another to remember the Marines who died in World War II. Town after town has set up war memorials, statues, stones, markers and whole parks to honor and remember those who have served in war, and while there is nothing inherently wrong with these monuments, my question remains, "If we are remembering these horrific events with such magnificent structures and elaborate expense, what are we doing to remind ourselves of the utterly spectacular God gives us on a daily basis?"
This week we will be often reminded of that tragedy 10 years ago, it's not my goal to minimize the heroic acts of those on Flight 93. However, I believe if we set up as many "memorials" in our own lives, physical reminders of those days we saw the hand of God move, felt His touch or heard Him speak to our hearts, our lives would be forever changed. Like the Israelites, we would have more stories to tell our children and our appreciation of what God does, how He moves and how He loves would grow deeper and stronger each and every day.
So the next time God speaks to you, moves in your life or blesses you, grab hold of some physical "memorial" of the day. Use something solid, something you can touch, to remind you of the goodness, the might, the power and the love of our Creator.
But I Put it Away
1 Samuel 7:2-4
 It was a long time, twenty years in all, that the ark remained at Kiriath Jearim, and all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the LORD.  And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, "If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines."  So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the LORD only.
Most of us who've been in the church for any amount of time know the story of Israel. There was a definite cycle the nation followed. Over and over again they served God for a time, then followed false gods. After several years of worshiping other gods, the going got tough, so they cried out to the One and only True God, and He rescued them. Because of their gratitude, the Israelites turned back to Him, but it wasn't more than a generation or two later that the cycle of unfaithfulness would begin again.
As I read these verses in Samuel, I wonder if there are a few words here that give us a clue to Israel's problem. For twenty years the Ark of the Covenant, God's presence as far as the Israelites were concerned, was at Kiriath Jearim. The entire time it was there, the people of Israel followed God. It must have looked to Samuel like they were finally sincere in their desire to worship their Creator, because Samuel challenged them to get rid of their foreign gods. He told them that if they really wanted to completely return to God, they should "rid themselves" of the idols and gods of their enemies.
At first read, it looks like verse 4 tells us the people of Israel did just as Samuel commanded; however if we look just a bit closer, we see that they only half obeyed. The text says, "the Israelites put away" the false gods. That's not exactly the same as "getting rid" of them.
When I think of "get rid of," I imagine a garbage can or a fire. On the other hand "putting away" brings to mind a closet. The Israelites didn't dispose of them forever, they put them on a shelf in case they needed them again, and as we know from history, it wasn't long before that day came. Once again God's chosen turned their back on the One who delivered them time after time after time. The people of God turned instead to the powerless statues and idols of wood and stone.
This realization caused me to stop and think, "are there 'idols' in my life that I've put high on a shelf but haven't completely rid my life of?" And can I "commit myself to the Lord and serve Him only" if I have these hidden treasures to fall back on. Perhaps I've even forgotten they're there, but the fact is, if we don't completely get rid of them, at some point we'll feel compelled to clean out that closet and find those gods that keep tripping us up.
I'm not sure why they are so attractive. After all, we've seen, we KNOW, the power of the Almighty God. We really WANT to follow Him, but much like the Israelites, we find ourselves giving our devotion to those idols instead of our Father. The gods of scheduling, jobs and time management demand that we shorten the moments we spend with Christ. The gods of entertainment and leisure know how much we enjoy television, computers, video games and the like. These gods promise fun and even deliver to a point. Much like the Israelites, it's easy to get sucked into these vices without even realizing we're turning our back on the One God who actually cares about us.
Similarly the gods of money, family and things can blind us to our need to spend time with the Omnipotent One. Most of these idols seem innocent and good. Stop and think about it. Back hundreds of years ago, I'm sure it made sense to worship the sun and the rain. After all, humankind learned early that these two resources were necessary to grow food. Now that we're aware these are just creations of the same God who created us, it seems foolish to bow to solar, wind or water power. However, when we spend more time at our jobs than with our family and more time with our family than with the One who gave us these gifts, we run the risk of being as foolish as those who worship the sun god.
Let's consider for a moment the gods we've followed in our lives. Have we truly rid ourselves of them? Or are they in a closet, up on a shelf behind our Bibles, just waiting until we feel as though we need them again?
How Often Do You Lead Devotions
© 2014 Lynne Modranski