Category Archives: Daily devotions

May 15; Building The Church

I Chronicles 23-24, 6:16-30

I’ve shared that my church is in the middle of a building project. We are excited about moving forward, to laying a foundation now that the land is cleared, to see walls go up, and to eventually move to the north end of the island. The drawings of our future home are beautiful. Not ornate. But you’ll definitely be able to identify it as a church, unlike the remodeled garage we worship in today. It’s so exciting.

David was excited about his building project, too. We saw yesterday how he did the prep-work, buying materials and hiring skilled workers. David even went one step further, an unimaginable step, when he made Solomon king in his place. A king just didn’t do that. Death was the only thing that removed a king from a throne, or maybe an enemy victory. Never a willing abdication in favor of a son.

I imagine David was hoping he’d live long enough to at least see the temple built, even if God had told him Solomon was going to be the builder.

But, and here’s what spoke to me today, David wasn’t only concerned about the physical building of the temple. Oh, he wanted it done right, with the best materials. He wanted it to be the most beautiful building in the world. But David was not satisfied with a  beautiful structure. What use would it be if there wasn’t ministry happening there?

So, even before the foundation of the building was laid, he assigned people to be gatekeepers, musicians, officials, judges, bakers, dish washers, as well as priests. David doesn’t seem to be satisfied with the outward appearance, and not with what was to happen inside.

It’s nice to worship in a beautiful building with state-of-the-art technology, comfortable chairs and air-conditioning. But if there isn’t ministry happening in there, what good is it? The size or appearance of our churches are meaningless if God isn’t finding willing workers inside.

There are vital, beautiful churches that meet huddled together in someone’s living room, or in buildings with holes in the roof, and dirt floors. There are amazing churches meeting in store fronts, in tents, or barns where people are gathering together to worship, and grow, and then getting out there and making disciples.

Sometimes I think we put too much emphasis on the physical, how our churches look, from the size of a steeple to the look of a stage, from how the landscaping looks to how the worship service looks, we neglect the ministry opportunities and responsibilities.

Let’s take care of our buildings, make sure the bills are paid and the lawn is mowed and the toilets flush. But let’s also remember why we have those buildings in the first place. Are we using them during the week for ministry, or only on Sunday for a couple hours? Are we who meet on Sundays sharing the Gospel when we leave those four walls, or are we only there for an experience?

You know the Church is not a building. It’s important to take care of our meeting places, but the Church is you. It’s me. Building God’s Church doesn’t involve hammers and nails, but men and women who are out there serving, ministering, people who are involved in the lives of other people, and leading them to their Savior.

I pray that we will have the same singular focus on growing the Church as David had in seeing that temple built. Let’s build the Church one redeemed soul at a time.

 

May 15; A Bucket List

2 Samuel 20; I Chronicles 22; Psalms 30 & 140

It’s a popular concept these days to have a “Bucket List.” It sounds fun, fulfilling, to check off all the things you’ve always wanted to do before you die. Skydiving? Check. River Cruise in Europe? Check. Broadway play? Check. Meeting a famous person? Check. Whatever you’ve dreamed about doing, do it before it’s too late.

Having a Bucket List is especially appealing to people who believe this life is all there is. Enjoy it before you turn into nothingness. It also seems to appeal to people who are their own priority. Me first, you know.

David had a different kind of Bucket List. We read that David wanted to build a temple for God. It was a longing, a passion of his to create a place worthy of God’s Presence. But God told him, “No.” Solomon would be the one to built the temple.

So David got busy. He drew up plans, hired workers, purchased materials, mentored Solomon. David’s Bucket List was full of ways to assure that temple would be built, even if his name wasn’t going to be on it. David’s Bucket List was about furthering God’s work.

I don’t read where he took even one trip to Disney. David’s Bucket List was all about God.

So I’m asking myself what it is I want to do before I die? Do I want my final push to be about me? Or do I want a Bucket List that looks like David’s, one that is full of things I can do for God before I meet Him?

I’d like my Bucket List to include the names of people I’ve influenced toward having a relationship with God through Jesus, rather than a lot of things I did for myself. I want my Bucket List to include things that glorify God – not me.

If I have the means to travel Europe on a luxury cruise ship, I have the means to take the Gospel to children in Haiti, or to build a well in Africa in Jesus’ name, or buy Bibles for Chinese Christians, or support a missionary in Romania, or give school supplies to kids in poverty in my home town. If I can put effort into meeting my sports hero or music icon, I can put effort into sharing Jesus with a homeless person, or my neighbor.

Now, please. I am not condemning anyone who goes on a European river cruise. I’d love to do that myself. And I’m not telling anyone how they should be spending their money. I’m just suggesting we take a look at our priorities and find out how God can be honored in our lives while we still are able.

Having a Bucket List might be a good thing. I think what is in our Bucket Lists are between us and God. Whatever we do, let’s do it to the glory of God while we still have time.

 

May 13; The Truth Hurts

Psalms 64, 70, 84, 141, 143; 2 Samuel 18:19-19:43

Absalom is dead. The son who did everything in his power to steal the throne from his father, David, was killed in a battle he was fighting with the intent to destroy David. David wished he’d been the one to have died instead.

Now, I dealt with a lot of middle school parents who thought their precious children could do no wrong, even when presented with evidence to the contrary. But David takes the cake.

David went into a very public, very agonized mourning over the death of his son. I’m not saying he was wrong to be sad. He was a father. But David’s mourning went to the point his own soldiers – those who had been loyal to him when his own son betrayed him – were ashamed to have fought the battle. The solders went into mourning.

So Joab, the leader of the army, went to the king and shook some sense into him. We, of course, can’t hear Joab’s tone of voice. But we can read his words. And it doesn’t appear that he was joking. These are some harsh words. Truthful words. But Joab doesn’t seem to be worried about hurting the king’s feelings.

David was wrong. David acted badly. And he had to be told in no uncertain terms.

I’m not a very good Joab. Confrontation is not my strong suit. Oh, I can write a script in my head. I can imagine what I would say to someone I think needs to hear the truth. But actually saying those words out loud is not something I do.

God is convicting me about that today.

Joab realized that what David was doing was hurting other people, and jeopardizing David’s kingship. I can watch a loved one making similar choices, choices that perhaps hurt others, or worse – jeopardize their relationship with God and eternity.

David needed Joab’s firm honesty. My loved ones need mine. I don’t want to hurt anyone. But sometimes the truth hurts. I don’t want to lose a relationship with them by making them upset with me. But God is asking me if their liking me in this lifetime is worth their eternity without Him?

Man! I do NOT like what God is saying to me today. But He speaks the truth.

And the truth hurts.

May 12; You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty

Psalms 55, 58, 61-63; 2 Samuel 17:24-18:18; I Chronicles 2:17

I’m going to be honest. Mother’s Day is not my favorite holiday. My own mother has lived with Jesus since 1996, and I miss her. I am glad that after all these years of only memories of her, those memories no longer hurt. In fact, I take great joy in remembering this sweet, gentle spirit who I was blessed to call, “Mom.”

I will admit to a hint of jealousy toward those of you who are able to hug your mother today, even those of you whose moms can’t remember who you are. I’d love to wrap my arms around my mother today.

Mother’s Day is also a reminder to me that I’m not one. I’ve never been, “Mom,” to anyone, and most days I’ve come to grips with it.  But ever since Mom died, I chose to make this one day a year my personal pity part. I did not go to church on the second Sunday in May for decades. I reserved this holiday as one day to feel the hurt and disappointment, and to wallow in my sadness. (Poor me.)

Now I have responsibilities at church that make playing hooky difficult. So I’ll go to church today, a bit reluctantly. And wait until I get home to feel sorry for myself. Or maybe I’ll decide to not feel sorry for myself at all.

I know that many women hurt worse than me on Mother’s Day. I’ve never buried a child. I don’t have a child living with addiction, or running from God. I don’t have a child in jail, or refusing to speak to me. Those situations must magnify the hurt of being a mother whose heart is broken on a day when motherhood is celebrated.

It might be easy for those of us who hurt to be resentful of those of you who have your children around you today. But let me say this:

Happy Mother’s Day!

This day is not about “womanhood.” This is a day to celebrate you who have the blessing and responsibility to raise babies to adults, to nurture and care, to discipline and hold children who God knit together inside you. It’s also for you women who love and raise children not your own, step moms, grandmas, adoptive moms.

We celebrate you. Don’t think you have to throw out how important we childless women are. This day is not about us. And don’t feel guilty if some of us can’t hide our disappointment, and sadness. You are certainly not responsible for how we feel.

You are being honored today for your position as Mother, as you should be. Enjoy it. Celebrate it. You are blessed. And not allowing yourself to celebrate for fear of hurting someone’s feelings might be diminishing what God has done for you. Don’t worry about us. Most of us can say we are blessed in so many other ways.

David says this in Psalm 62:

One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard; that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.

Today is a day to celebrate Moms. And you will be rewarded accordingly for loving and raising the children God gave you. What an honor! What an awesome reason to celebrate!

The rest of us will be rewarded according to what we do, too. May God find us faithful.

So, again I say, Happy Mothers’ Day, Moms! Enjoy your day to feel pampered, spoiled, appreciated, loved. May God bless you and make you a blessing to those who call you “Mom.”

May 11; Is Quitting An Option?

2 Samuel 16:16-7:23; Psalms 28, 39, 41-43

Remember David, while ignoring Absalom’s sin, welcomed his murderous son back home with open arms? We’re reading today what occurred as a result. Dad’s acceptance, love, positive parenting resulted in the son’s takeover and attempt to kill his father. Absalom moved into the palace, and had sex with David’s concubines in a very public way.

Now David is running for his life. Running from the son he had neglected to discipline. Absalom showed no fear, no respect, only contempt for his indulgent father.

I believe this is something all parents need to hear. Yes, I know not all indulgent parents are disrespected and held in contempt by their children. But as a middle school counselor, I saw way too many that were. I’m praying for parents today.

There is something else in this story that got my attention. A man named Ahithophel was in Absalom’s inner circle. In fact, he was the one who advised Absalom to have sex with David’s concubines as a show of power. Absalom took that advice. Must have made Ahithophel feel pretty powerful himself.

But not for long. He gives Absalom another bit of advice. This time Absalom goes another route, rejecting Ahithophel’s advice. Ahithophel’s reaction to this rejection is drastic. He goes home, writes his will, and kills himself.

Have you ever had an idea, then come to find out you were the only person that thought it was a good idea? Have you ever wanted your family, or your workplace, or your church to do something, only to have them go another direction? Most of us have been disappointed, frustrated, maybe even angry when things don’t go like we think they should, especially when we know ours was the “right” way.

What do you do? Do you quit, pack up your things and hit the road? Or do you put your efforts into the plan and help it succeed, believing the goal is more important than your ego? “It’s the principle of the thing,” often masks an “I’ll show them,” mentality. Because if they crash and burn, someone might recognize how superior your way would have been. People might think yours was the right plan after all. Told you so!

I’ve heard of people walking away from family over how an inheritance was spent, others who bounce from job to job because they can’t work with “idiots” who don’t listen to their ideas. I’ve heard of people leaving their churches over silly things like carpet selection. “I want green. They chose blue. See ya.”

God is asking me to look at my commitment. Is my service to Him based on feelings, motivated by what I gain? If I always make everything about me, I’ll continue to be disappointed, frustrated, and angry.

If serving God is the most important thing, if my focus is truly on Jesus, what does it matter if Johnny spends his inheritance on fancy cars instead of investing it like I told him to? Isn’t Johnny more important than my advice?

Maybe that project at work really needed that other person’s suggestion, and maybe your support of it will be noticed by your bosses much more than if you’d gotten your way. Or not. But if the project is a success, isn’t that good for the company and your job, too? Why would you want it to fail?

If I am serving God out of a grateful heart for what He has done for me, why should the color of the church carpet be a deal breaker? Is the church serving me or God? Besides, if I’m looking down at the carpet, can I be looking toward heaven, too? Where are my priorities?

Ahithophel quit. His pride prevented him from serving after his suggestion was rejected. Seems he over-reacted. But so have I sometimes. Not, of course, to the extent Ahithophel went. But there have been times I’ve let my pride get in the way of my service. God forgive me.

Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus. Let’s understand that our opinions are opinions that others might not share. But let’s not quit just because we get our feelings hurt. Instead, let’s dive in and work shoulder to shoulder with others who share the same goal – serving God.

Is quitting an option? I hope not.

May 10; One Thing I Ask Of The Lord

Psalms 9, 10, 27, 37; 2 Samuel 15:37, 16:15

I read a few of these psalms a couple of times this morning because I found myself thinking about the state of the world instead of the condition of my heart. I found myself identifying the “wicked” as those who are fighting against the Truth, people who are killing Christians, others who blatantly sin and then condemn those of us who speak against it.

Yes, there are evil people in the world. And yes, God wants His Church to defeat Satan in the worst of them. But I’m reminded God can’t change the world until He changes my heart.

The “wicked” David wrote about were flesh and blood people to him. To me, the “wicked” is Satan, my own inclination to sin, anything that keeps me from having the best relationship with God. David says this is Psalm 37:4:

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

He continues to tell us what that looks like; Commit your way to the Lord. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Refrain from anger and turn away from wrath. In Psalm 9 David tells us to praise the Lord with all our hearts, to be glad, rejoice, and sing praises.

Warning: if you think Psalm 37:4 is the magic formula to getting something you want, think again. This verse is absolutely not saying that if you do this, this, and this you can rub the magic genie lamp and have that windfall show up on your doorstep. I have little patience with people, including preachers, who say if you praise the Lord, raise your hands, shout your praises it will somehow result in you getting a material blessing.

For me, the key is found in Psalm 27:4:

“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

Notice David doesn’t say, “One thing I ask of the Lord is that my enemies drop dead around my feet.” Or “that I will win the lottery, or beat a physical illness, or that my political party controls the nation.”

David says to God, “The only think I want is just to be with You, to gaze upon Your beauty, to seek You in Truth.”

Is that the one thing I ask of God? Is that the desire of my heart? Is that the thing that is my focus, my goal, my joy – just to have God near me? Why wouldn’t it be? There is love in His Presence. There is strength, comfort, rest, protection, joy, peace. No material blessing, no amount of money can buy what God can – and wants – to give His people who are delighting in Him, to those who are His through the blood of Jesus.

And it is from there that God and I can change the world – one redeemed soul at a time.

May 9; Parenting For Heaven

Psalm 3, 4, 11, 12, 23, 26, 36; 2 Samuel 16:1-14

Recently I read an article about how we need to be raising our children – and especially our daughters – to be “empowered.” It said we should be telling them they are strong, special, perfect, capable, and beautiful every day. On the surface that sounds right. We certainly shouldn’t be telling them they are ugly, worthless, and useless, right?

But is training our children to be self-aggrandizing how God wants us to train them? Psalm 12 starts out by saying there are no godly people out there. The faithful, David says, have vanished. Everyone lies. Everyone flatters. They say, “We will triumph with our tongues; we own our lips – who is our master?”

Empowerment.

Psalm 36 continues with this thought concerning the “sinfulness of the wicked.” They do not fear God. And then verse 2:

“For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his own sin.”

Is that how we are teaching our children? Parents and Grandparents, you have got to raise your children to understand their sin problem. And they all have a sin problem. Let’s face it, even your child is not “all that.” There are times even your child disobeys you. Your child has lied to you, kicked the dog or bitten the neighbor kid. And sometimes the tantrums your child throws drives you up a wall. Be honest.

I believe it is at those moments your children need to know who really has the power.

If we don’t teach our children to be sorry for – ashamed of – disobedience, or selfishness, or meanness, we are teaching them they don’t need to detect or hate their own sin. If they don’t fear you, how do you think they are going to realize their need to fear God?

It saddens me when I hear Christian parents say they don’t spank their children, or raise their voices to their children, or show anger toward their children. I want to tell those well-meaning parents to put down the psycho-babble and open their Bibles. Do you think Dr. Spock and the “positive parenting” gurus have a better handle on child-rearing than God?

Ask yourself how your child’s Heavenly Father reacts to disobedience. I’ll tell you right now, when the Jewish people obeyed God, they obeyed because they were afraid not to. Can your children say they obey you for the same reason? They should. Fear is not the opposite of love. Fear is a good thing. Fear is the loving thing. It’s Scriptural.

The Bible tell us God hates sin. Hates it. He considers sinners His enemy. But He died for those enemies, He died for your child. But your child will have to make a decision to repent of sin, to ask for forgiveness, to accept what Jesus died to give him or her while they were yet sinners. How do you expect them to do that if they don’t even recognize sin in themselves? It’s your responsibility as a parent to teach them what that means.

And that means teaching them that their disobedience is sin, that dumping the food on the floor is a sin, that taking a toy another child has is a sin, that slapping you is a sin. That there are consequences for sin. It means teaching them that there is forgiveness for sin when they ask for it, and not before. It also means that they can count on your love, and that your love is why you discipline.

Please raise your children to recognize their need of God. Help them to understand they are vile sinners before a Holy God. Raise your children to want to ask God for forgiveness as soon as they understand they are sinners. Raise your children to go to heaven. The alternative is unthinkable.