Welcome To Daily In Christ Devotionals

Psalm 119:10-11 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not
wander from your commandments! I have stored up your
word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

What If... There Was Nothing In Second Place?

Exo 20:3 "You shall have no other gods before me.

You have seen it on television or maybe even experienced it in real life. Someone says, "You need to dress nicely when you go before the judge." The reason I make this comment is to highlight a word in the verse from the book of Exodus. That word is - before.

I know that this verse might sound like it means ahead of, but the word -before- in this verse means in the presence of. "You shall not have any gods in the presence of the Almighty!" That is my paraphrase of it.

What if I did this? What if I placed God in the top spot? And not only did I lay everything else below him, but completely abstained from my earthly gods? What if God was number one and there was no number two? What if...

We, in our civilized American culture, generally don't dabble with statues and images of gods. However, I think this verse applies quite well since what is being spoke of here is simply "idolatry." Sometimes it is beneficial to go to our old trusted resource Webster to give us a clearer understanding of a word.

Idolatry: 1. The worship of idols, images, or any thing made by hands, or which is not God. Idolatry is of two kinds; the worship of images, statues, pictures, made by hands; and the worship of the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon and stars, or of demons, angels, men and animals. 2. Excessive attachment or veneration for any thing, or that which borders on adoration.

What this verse is saying to me is this... "Hey, nothing can come into the presence of God that will take away from my adoration of Him."
  • What if... I shut off the television and gave my time to Him?
  • What if... I found my pleasure in God rather than the praise of men?
  • What if... I decided to pursue God as hard as I pursue my business deals?
  • What if... I boasted over the things of God and not my accomplishments?
  • What if... I adored God rather than idolize my favorite sports figure?
  • What if... God took first place in my marriage and family?
  • What if... The things that consumed me were the things of God?
  • What if... I placed nothing else before serving God?
What would my life look like if I lived like this?

What If...

Friday, March 11, 2011

What If... I Loved My Neighbor?

Mar 12:31 The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

Jesus tells us that next to Loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength is to love our neighbor as ourselves. What a command. What if I did that? What would it look like in my life if I loved my neighbor as myself? And what does that mean really?

Is Jesus saying here that if my neighbor asks to borrow a lawn tool that I should give it to him because one day I may need to borrow one of his? Is he saying I am to treat him with respect because I desire that he too treat me with respect? But what happens if you can't get anything good from your neighbor? Let's say he or she is a jerk and you would rather not even see them let alone love them. Or maybe you live in the country and have no neighbors. Was Jesus talking about the guy who lives next door??? So many questions!

I think for me to understand this verse to its fullest I need to do two things. First, define neighbor. And second, what is meant by "love?" For me, I believe that Jesus is not just talking about a person in close proximity to you and your home. A neighbor is any man or woman in which we come into contact with regardless of place of origin, religion, or gender. A fine example of this would be the story out of Luke of the Good Samaritan.

If we are to count all people as our neighbor, that begins to change how we may relate to them. If the obnoxious guy in the grocery store now becomes our neighbor, I suppose this verse calls us to love him. If the homeless crack head woman on the corner becomes our neighbor then we need to love her. If the crazy Jr higher at church is our neighbor... well, you get the point.

Everyone we come into contact with, according to Jesus, is our neighbor. And if that is the case, what if we choose to love them as our self? What if...

So what is this love we are called to have for our neighbor? I can say I love someone, but often my actions are far from it. And how do I love someone I can't stand? That's a tricky one...

I think there are several aspects of love we are to have for our neighbor.
  • What if... a Christian shows love for his neighbor by having compassion?
  • What if... a Christian shows love for his neighbor by sharing the Gospel?
  • What if... a Christian shows love for his neighbor by meeting needs?
  • What if... a Christian shows love for his neighbor by not condemning?
  • What if... a Christian shows love for his neighbor by not seeing race or gender?
  • What if... a Christian shows love for his neighbor by caring for children?
  • What if... a Christian shows love for his neighbor by forgiving?
What if I loved my neighbors like this?

What if...

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

What If... I Loved Her Well?

What if I loved my wife well?

I went to the website of Barnes & Noble and did a word search. I typed in the word "marriage" and the search results gave me 44,360 results. Then I typed in the word "husband" and 5412 results appeared from my search. As I browsed the available titles I began to realize that there is an enormous amount of resources available to me regarding my marriage and my role as a husband.

After wading through the overwhelming titles I decided to refine my search a bit. I typed in the words "Christian husband." My results were now limited to only 87 choices. There were books about being a role model, how to find the perfect husband, and the benefit of prayer as a husband. I found titles that will help me in the area of sex and romance, how to understand my wife's mind, and what wives wished I knew about them...

So, after perusing many titles I came to one thought. What about the Bible? In all the searches I did, whether Christian marriage, husbands, wives, etc... the one book I never saw as an option was God's Holy Word. Sure there are many excellent books on Christian marriage and my role as a husband. I even recommend some on this blog from time to time. But today I am encouraged by the Words that were transcribed two thousand years ago by a guy wearing rags in a filthy prison somewhere in Rome .

Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Verse 28 also states: In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

What does it mean to love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. I am sure many of you have heard this next verse several times from the book of John.

Joh 15:12-13 "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

What does this kind of love look like in the context of marriage. We all think it is noble to say, "Oh ya, I would lay my life down for my wife... if some guy came into our house in the middle of the night I would be the first one out of bed and I would lay my life down to protect my loved ones..."

And good for you. YOU SHOULD! You are the man...It's your job. If you are the kind of man that sits on the edge of the bed when the garbage can rattles in the middle of the night and you let your wife walk out back, then you may want to check yourself. It doesn't matter if she is a black belt in karate and you are a white belt. If it takes you getting your butt kicked before she takes down the intruder then that is the way it goes. At least you can say you tried to protect her...

How do we display this unselfish love in our everyday walk? Why should we love our wives like Christ loves the church?

Let me give you just a couple of thoughts:

First: Look at Eph 5:26-27. When you married your wife you set her apart from the rest of the world. In so doing you, as the head, made a covenant (which you may not have known...) to sanctify her. This means that you are going to help her to become all that God designed her to be. When we understand marriage in this way we are able to look differently at our spouse. Rather than expecting to get something from her, we are willing to give to her so that she can be all God created her to be. For Him. Not for us. Not to meet our needs and desires. (Though you just might find that to be the case when you love her like this)

Here are not some reasons why you are loving your wife... Did that make sense?

  • You aren't loving her so she can be happy, though she probably will be if you love her like Christ loves the church.
  • You aren't loving her so she will be nice to you, though she will be if you love her like Christ loves the church.
  • You aren't loving her so she will fulfill you sexual desires, though she probably will if you love her like Christ loves the church.
So why should we love her like Christ loves the church?

  • You are loving her like Christ loves the church so that you can present her blameless before the Lord. The goal behind this kind of love is to build her up and allow God's purposes to be fulfilled in her.
So how do we love our wives like this. Well, first of all we need to have the love of Christ in us. Spend time at the tree. The best resource I have found to being able to attempt to love my wife in this way is to be in Christ every day. It is hard to be impatient with her, unkind to her, unloving toward her, or angry at her when you are connected to the tree.

Also, when we discover that we will never have the feelings of excitement for our wife the way we did early on in our marriage we discover new things about love. Certainly love can cause us to have a rush of emotion... and that can be good. But it is really far more than that. It is a commitment that even when the emotions settle down and the thrill is gone you will always be there for your wife. No matter what.

C. S. Lewis puts it this way in his book "Mere Christianity." (A bit of a lengthy quote but worth the read)

The idea that "being in love" is the only reason for remaining married really leaves no room for marriage as a contract or promise at all. If love is the whole thing, then the promise can add nothing; and if it adds nothing, then it should not be made. The curious thing is that lovers themselves, while they remain really in love, know this better than those who talk about love. As Chesterton pointed out, those who are in love have a natural inclination to bind themselves by promises. Love songs all over the world are full of vows of eternal constancy. The Christian law is not forcing upon the passion of love something which is foreign to that passion's own nature: it is demanding that lovers should take seriously something which their passion of itself impels them to do.

And, of course, the promise, made when I am in love and because I am in love, to be true to the beloved as long as I live, commits one to being true even if I cease to be in love. A promise must be about things that I can do, about actions: no one can promise to go on feeling in a certain way. He might as well promise never to have a headache or always to feel hungry.

But what, it may be asked, is the use of keeping two people together if they are no longer in love? There are several sound, social reasons; to provide a home for their children, to protect the woman (who has probably sacrificed or damaged her own career by getting married) from being dropped whenever the man is tired of her. But there is also another reason of which I am very sure, though I find it a little hard to explain.

It is hard because so many people cannot be brought to realize that when B is better than C, A may be even better than B. They like thinking in terms of good and bad, not of good, better, and best, or bad, worse and worst. They want to know whether you think patriotism a good thing: if you reply that it is, of course, far better than individual selfishness, but that it is inferior to universal charity and should always give way to universal charity when the two conflict, they think you are being evasive.

They ask what you think of dueling. If you reply that it is far better to forgive a man than to fight a duel with him, but that even a duel might be better than a lifelong enmity which expresses itself in secret efforts to "do the man down," they go away complaining that you would not give them a straight answer. I hope no one will make this mistake about what I am now going to say.

What we call "being in love" is a glorious state, and, in several ways, good for us. It helps to make us generous and courageous, it opens our eyes not only to the beauty of the beloved but to all beauty, and it subordinates (especially at first) our merely animal sexuality; in that sense, love is the great conqueror of lust.

No one in his senses would deny that being in love is far better than either common sensuality or cold self-centredness. But, as I said before, "the most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of our own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs." Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life.

It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called "being in love" usually does not last.

So men, I implore you to love your wives as Christ loved the church. Go to the source for your strength. Be in the Word. Treat her with tenderness and compassion. Build her up to become all God created her to be... What If I loved my wife like that?

What if...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What If... I Seek Him

Psa 27:8 You have said, "Seek my face." My heart says to you, "Your face, LORD, do I seek."

What if I spent my life seeking after the face of God? Not just settling in for the table scraps that fall from the King's table. The crumbs on the floor. But delighting in the feast. Eating the finest bread. Drinking the finest drink. Savoring the most tender morsels.

Settling for the paltry pleasures this life has to offer is an utter compromise. To dive into a kiddie pool rather than freely swim in the depths of the sea. Shall we not experience all the beauty and majesty the Kingdom offers us?

I have been carefully considering what it means to be wholly devoted to Jesus. Not just going to church once a week. Not just being a believer to my church friends and then a man of the world to others. But really being zealous to discover the ways of God.

What if I sought hard after God? What if my devotion was to him continually? What if God was as important to me as everything else?

What if...

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Screwtape Letters - Quite Curious...

I just finished reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. What an amazing piece of work. It took me a bit before I could wrap my mind around the writings, but after about the third or fourth letter I was in deep... If you haven't read these I highly recommend it to any reader. The way they are laid out in letter form makes it easy to pick up or stop at any time.

As I was reading through each letter my mind would travel down various paths. One letter is about Screwtape trying to convince his unworthy nephew Wormwood, an apprentice demon, to try to trip up his "patient" by lulling him into complacency. After he becomes complacent he will be of no use to the enemy (God).

It really got me to think about how easy it is to name the name of Christ and have absolutely no change in my heart. Going around feeling satisfied merely about my decision to follow God. Then doing very little following and a whole lot of leading. "Hey God, come this way with me or be with me in this area of my life." Telling rather than asking... all the while not considering that my heart is far from him and my motives are purely selfish. God desires us to not be complacent. We should be active in filling our heart with Him and becoming more like Christ every day. Complacency isn't just about not doing this or that and still being satisfied, it is also about not filling our heart with the things of God and being satisfied...

1Ki 11:4 For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.

Even a man like Solomon turned his heart to other gods. God doesn't just request that we devote our heart fully to him, he requires it. When we confess with our mouth that He is Lord there should be some evidence in our heart of a transformation.

1Ch 28:9 "And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.

Today is a new day. I encourage you to not be satisfied with where you are currently in your walk with Christ, but to stretch yourself beyond your wildest imagination. Pray big, bless others richly, and look to Jesus to fill your heart more and more with himself.

Blessings today as you are satisfied only in Him.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Taking A Break - A New Creation...

I have been unable to write each day recently due to my overloaded work schedule. Unfortunately for me, that creates quite a hole since I really enjoy my time reading and meditating over God's Word. However, right now I have a 30 minute window to sit, pray, read, and write.

Earlier this week I encountered an individual from my workplace who has been known to not be a follower of God. He has similar struggles as many men of the world. Foul language, lust in the heart, independent spirit. You know the type. Many of us were there too. But this time I worked with him I noticed a change...

A few months back he was fired for a period of time. Now my work isn't like most. When a guy gets fired he gets paid job insurance and then comes back to work in just a few weeks or so. So during his time off he began to think about his actions and the events of his life that led up to his dismissal. In the time he was off he informed me that he has been renewed. He sees God for who he is and is now actively following Him and living for Him.

I was excited to get the opportunity for our many hours together to communicate what I understand to be true about Jesus and the gospel. We talked about marriage, struggles, joys, and blessings. Inside of this guy whom I actually tried to avoid previously, I saw a changed heart.

2Co 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2Cor 5:17 tells us that if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. I experienced this firsthand this week. Sure, he still steps outside to fire up a smoke every hour or so and several f-bombs slipped out of his mouth, but I see a transformation in his heart that can only come from Christ.

Here is the lesson I learned from this week.

No matter how impossible it may seem for God to transform a persons heart, all things are possible with God.

This week I encourage you to be open about your faith with others. Had I not mentioned the name of Jesus in a conversation I am sure we would have not talked about his transformed life and I would have missed out on an opportunity to be blessed by seeing God's hand working.

Enjoy your week...


As for the weekly devotionals... Hopefully next week is the beginning of a little normalcy and I will be back on track.