Devotional writing: Facts, context, applications

I like to read devotionals. I’m often charged and changed by them. They frequently stimulate my thought processes.

But it’s hard to find good ones. Sometimes they get basic facts wrong. Today, one devotional writer said Job had lost his wife. Really? Where does the text say that?

Other devotionals ignore the context of a verse or make problematic applications that the original writer would probably protest. Continue reading “Devotional writing: Facts, context, applications”

Create opportunities for faith

And when Jesus came to that place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, because I must stay at your house today.” Lk 19.5

They say that opportunity knocks only once. The phrase means that we have to recognize opportunity when it appears and take advantage of the moment, since we’ll not have another chance.

Jesus shows us another reality. He created his opportunities. He didn’t wait for opportunity to appear. He didn’t wait around for the moment. He by whom the world was created continued creating on earth opportunities to take the Father’s word to people. Continue reading “Create opportunities for faith”

How Small We Seem

How small we seem in God’s great scheme,
With billions of stars and drops and creatures;
The Creator knows the few he chose,
He sees our feats and fears and features.

Real freedom

God sets people free. The freedom he gives is from sin, from its guilt, from its ultimate consequence of eternal punishment. God is not interested in changing a person’s physical condition or social situation. What happens here on earth is for but a short time. His concern is to reconcile us to himself. This is what Christ accomplished on the cross. Continue reading “Real freedom”

Grace and Glory

Psalm 84.11

The Lord gives plenteous grace and glory—
His grace creates identity,
Removes us from the adversary;
His glory gives purpose we can see,
A work from which we dare not vary—
He’s sun and shield, what repertory!

The Complaint of Clay

O Lord, can clay complain to the Potter?
And say, Why did you make me this way?
Why did you treat me in this manner?
Why do I not have the shape or color
Of that beautiful, privileged pot? Why not
A better quality of clay for me?

Of course not! So why do I question
Your wisdom, smolder resentful,
And pout at my defects—‘Poor me!’
I do. You know I do. And still
You work to mold me, ungrateful vessel
That I am. In fear, I wonder:

Might you tomorrow decide to quit,
Abandon this clay, and start anew?

Be careful that it doesn’t happen to you

In the Pisidian Antioch synagogue, where Jews of the city met together, Paul and Barnabas preached Jesus and concluded with a warning:

“Watch out, then, that what is spoken about by the prophets does not happen to you:
‘Look, you scoffers; be amazed and perish!
For I am doing a work in your days,
a work you would never believe, even if someone tells you’” Acts 13.40-41

Continue reading “Be careful that it doesn’t happen to you”

What to do with weakness

Some preachers and missionaries hate to show weakness. They apparently believe it undercuts the message of God’s power in the gospel. They give the impression that they have arrived, in the spiritual sense, that they are nearly perfect, all the while using language of humility about how we are all sinners.

Perhaps they fear for their “jobs.” (Some people in full-time ministry are lackeys; some churches like lackeys.) Perhaps they fear showing vulnerability. Whatever their reasons, they do their Lord a disservice. They provide bad examples, because they put forward a false front. Continue reading “What to do with weakness”

Hard Lessons

How much we have to learn! — Hard lessons
They must be, for God returns
And again to teach them. So we pray
To be good students, saved from suffering
Repeated pains, for lack of wisdom.

God’s power in Philippians: What God starts, he finishes

The apostle Paul wrote the letter of Philippians from prison. Joy is a keynote and often considered the main point of the letter. Not so noticed in the letter is how he emphasizes the power of God.

Paul begins the letter by expressing his confidence “that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” Phil 1.6. We usually talk about what we must do to be saved. That talk is important and necessary. It must not, however, overshadow that the work of salvation is God’s. Continue reading “God’s power in Philippians: What God starts, he finishes”