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What Profit Is There in Reading a Devotional Written by Another?

The title and core ideas are from an article I wrote on a prior blog.

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What profit is there in reading a devotional written by someone else?

Short answer: not much. Long answer: when used correctly, lots. Let me explain.

The whole Bible is about people becoming established in right relationship with God. Genesis opens with God’s account of creation, followed immediately by his account of how humanity lost its intimate relationship with Him. Christ’s life on earth, His atonement for our sin, His resurrection, and His future second coming will finally reestablish and secure what was lost. However, no person will ever be brought back to close communion with God solely because they are a member of the human race. Each person must come to God’s saving grace individually and personally.

God is Spirit. Because Christ has been revealed and the Holy Spirit has come, as Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must all be born from above.” (NET  John 3:7)

Being “born from above” means that something happens between the Spirit of God and a person’s heart. A life giving transaction occurs.

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him (NET).

It follows that reading a devotional written by someone else, assuming that it has its basis in truth, will do a person no good, unless the person has a like interaction with God. A devotional is useful as a sign pointing to a meeting place with God. A devotional provides a location from which the view of God is good. The goal of all devotionals should be to lead the reader to his or her own private audience with God.

I think of driving a car through a mountainous landscape. On mountainous roads, travelers often come across a sign announcing an area set aside for vehicles to pull off and park, so they may enjoy a spectacular viewpoint. This is why, for example, I write my thoughts on Psalms. Because the viewpoint I present is not well known, I want to stand with a sign pointing others to vistas of great opportunity, namely, reading the psalms with an ear toward hearing the invitation by Father and Son for the reader to join them in a dialogue of life giving fellowship.

A devotional is like a crib sheet that helps someone get started in a certain direction. For example, many years ago when I was just beginning my Christian walk, I read C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I read it without guidance. A short while later, I told a Christian friend that I had just finished the book. He asked me if I had seen the allegory of the life of Jesus Christ in it. Astounded, I told him that I hadn’t. I rushed back to the book and urgently read it again from this new vantage. What an entirely different reading experience I had as the book came to life for me under the guidance of that bit of information my friend had given!

Reading a devotional can have a similar effect to what I described above. Imagine that you are a hiker walking through forests, meadows, and brush. I or someone else crosses your path as you hike. We stop to talk. “Did you know,” I say, “that God is sitting in that clearing just over there? If you go to him now, right down this little path,” and I point to where I mean, “you’ll be able to meet with him yourself. As soon as you leave me, go down this path here, and see if you don’t find God waiting for you just over there.”

This is why I write about Psalms.

Rules Or Relationship?

Photo by Christina Wilson

 

What Is “Salvation” Anyway?

 

Quick Peek: Salvation is not automatic by our meeting a certain set of requirements. God does not say, “Do this, this, that, and the other, and I’ll stamp you saved,” but he does say, “Come to my Son, and my Son will save you.”

Galatians 3:11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” (NIV)

 

Body: The law, the Ten Commandments, is a thing. It’s a set of rules. It’s non-living, not a person, not a sentient being; it’s non-interactive. It has no soul nor mind, no receptors. The Ten Commandments have no awareness of anyone’s reading and obeying or not reading and obeying. There is no consciousness. The Ten Commandments have no power to save or not save. They make no choices.

But God is Person. God is sentient. He is personal being. God as creator judges his creation. A righteous man or woman is declared so, and is saved and lives, because God says so, since he is the only one with whom anyone must deal. God makes alive, God declares. The law can do nothing.

I am saved by God’s relationship with me, my relationship with him. Salvation is relational by means of faith. Through faith is how I relate to the person of God. This is by God’s choice. He chose faith as the vehicle for people to relate to him.

Do I have faith in God? Have I put my hope and trust in God? Have I turned to God and begun speaking with Him? Has God spoken into my heart? Do I have an ongoing, active relationship of trust and love with Jesus Christ, God’s Son, his Mediator between himself and humanity? If so, then I am saved.

John 20:31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (ESV)

Further Verses: Romans 8:1-17

This post is a rewrite of an earlier post by the same author at Berean Digs

God’s Sliding Scale of Grace in Christ

No Virtue Will Get You In--No Defect Will Keep You Out

No Virtue Will Get You In!  No Defect Will Keep You Out!

 

Link: The New Birth–Its Necessity and Its Joy

Link: Concrete to Spiritual: How Jesus Changes the Old Testament to the New

Jesus and the Big Bang: Prologue John 1:1-18

jesus-is-gods-big-bang

Jesus Christ is the Full Expression of God:

Jesus Is God the Word — John 1:1, 14

Jesus Is God the Creator — John 1:3-4, 10

Jesus Is Life and Light — John 1:4-5, 9

Jesus Is God the Savior — John 1:12, 17

Jesus Is the BIG BANG of God ! Without Jesus, God would not be known — John 1:18

On the Eve of Elections…Psalm 146

Psalm 146_3098 copy

Paul’s Passion for Prayer: Colossians 4:2

(NIV)  Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer…

Bull Dog

 

Sometimes–not always, but sometimes–a word study is a fruitful way to dig meaning from a verse. I believe this to be the case with Colossians 4:2.

“Devote yourselves” to prayer is used by the NIV, NAU, and NET, as opposed to the “continue steadfastly” of the older KJV and newer ESV. The NKJV approaches the NIV and NET with “continue earnestly.”

Why do I prefer “devote yourselves” over “continue steadfastly”?

I believe this translation better captures the author Paul, a passionate, loving Christian who does nothing halfway.

1. Devotion speaks of passionate love.

  • a lover for his or her mate
  • an artist for their art
  • an athlete who endures much suffering for their sport or skill (dancers, gymnasts, mountain bikers, long distance hikers and so on)
  • a father or mother for their child
  • some children for their parents
  • a writer for their writing
  • a photographer for their photography
  • a pastor for his flock
  • a missionary for his sheep
  • Christ for His church
  • Father God for the world

2. Grammar: “Devote yourselves” already implies the present active imperative (an ongoing command) form of the Greek verb.

  • One cannot practice devotion without ongoing (steadfast) endurance.
  • The ESV on the other hand must pack into “continue steadfastly” the full force of the main verb (for which see below), leaving out all the beautiful connotations of devotion.

3. While steadfastness is a virtue, the connotations of “continue steadfastly” do not capture Paul’s passionate intent of eager, energetic enthusiasm, but rather–

  • an endurance of duty not necessarily accompanied by joy and faith of fulfillment
  • it leaves out many of the positive connotations of “devote yourselves”

4. The meaning and other biblical uses of the Greek word itself.

A Look at the Greek Behind “devote yourselves”

The Greek form of the English “devote yourselves” is προσκαρτερεῖτε (pros-kar-te-ree-tay). Grammatically it is a command for ongoing action. There is a prefix προσ (pros), and the command form built from the base word καρτερέω (kar-te-ray-oh), which comes from an adjective meaning “strong,” which in turn comes from the noun κράτος  (kra-tohss), meaning strength.

κράτος  (kra-tohss) appears in Greek (the Septuagint translation) Old Testament verses which speak of  strength or might.

Psalm 62:11 …power belongs to God…

(Septuagint) Job 12:16 With him are strength and power: he has knowledge and understanding.

(Septuagint)  Isaiah 22:21 and I will put on him thy robe, and I will grant him thy crown with power

We see this word κράτος  (kra-tohss) in the New Testament in verses such as:

(ESV) Luke 1:51 He has shown strength with his arm…

(ESV) Colossians 1:11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,

(NET)  1 Timothy 6:16 He alone possesses immortality and lives in unapproachable light, whom no human has ever seen or is able to see. To him be honor and eternal power!

(NET)  Revelation 5:13 Then I heard every creature– in heaven, on earth, under the earth, in the sea, and all that is in them– singing: “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be praise, honor, glory, and ruling power forever and ever!”

The prefix προσ (pros) generally means a motion toward someone or something. It can also mean attachment to something in space or time. It can further mean a reference to something, where the thing is the verb that follows it. The concept of “continuing,” in some of the English translations (KJV, NKJV, and ESV), while certainly in agreement with the present imperative (ongoing command) form of the verb, derives more from the prefix προσ (pros) than the verb tense.

So, an expanded translation of Τῇ προσευχῇ προσκαρτερεῖτε (tee pros-ev-khee pros-kar-te-ree-tay), in addition to 1) devote yourselves to prayer (NIV) , 2) continue earnestly in prayer (NKJV), and 3) continue steadfastly in prayer (ESV), might be the following:

1) apply your strength fixedly in prayer, 2) always apply your full strength mightily and powerfully in prayer.

Paul says the Colossians should always stand ready to give themselves fully and powerfully to prayer. They should never hold any part of themselves back when they are praying. They should give prayer all they’ve got. He asks that while they are doing this to include himself and his ministry in their prayers, so that God would open doors for him and his friends to tell others the good news of Jesus Christ.

What about me? Do I pray for God’s Kingdom according to Paul’s command to the Colossians?

 

 

 

 

Exodus 15:26–How Could a Loving God Put Disease on ANYONE?

NET  Exodus 15:26 He said, “If you will diligently obey the LORD your God, and do what is right in his sight, and pay attention to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, then all the diseases that I brought on the Egyptians I will not bring on you, for I, the LORD, am your healer.”

At Bible study last evening, a young Christian asked the sincere question in the title of this blog. I, for my part, before I became a Christian, for many years nurtured anger against God because he killed the Egyptian babies.*

 

NET  Exodus 12:29 It happened at midnight– the LORD attacked all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the prison, and all the firstborn of the cattle. 30 Pharaoh got up in the night, along with all his servants and all Egypt, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no house in which there was not someone dead.

After I became a Christian, a better knowledge of God and his loving ways, especially as revealed in the Old Testament, brought me to peace with this difficult portion of Scripture. The key was to see the story of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt through God’s eyes, not through my own.

In beginning a small study to help my friend untangle her knot about God’s love and the Egyptian plagues of disease, I came across the following Bible study done by Robert L. (Bob)Deffinbaugh and published at Bible.org on May 13, 2004. I think it does a good and complete job of laying out the facts as presented in Scripture. The Holy Spirit needs to work it into a believer’s heart, as He did in mine, by resolving the underlying issues there. For me, it was a matter of accepting the fact and gravity of sin, especially my own. Indeed, before I became a Christian, I was one of these biblical “Egyptians.” Here is the link:

The Passover and the Plague of the Firstborn (Exodus 11:1-13:16)

* I was not a careful listener in those years. God actually killed all the firstborn; many of whom were undoubtedly adults at the time.

Don’t Sabotage Your Own Blessing

“Why is this blessing happening to Me?”

Who Me_2When life goes well–peaceful, happy, prosperous, successful–for a long period of time, and then great calamity strikes, a common response is, “Lord, why me?”

And for some on the other end of the spectrum, those who have always lived under pain, bearing up under sorrows of sadness and affliction, when joy comes, when God answers the prayers, when the river turns around and runs in the other direction, when blessing arrives, when the ship laden to overflowing docks in the harbor, when promises are delivered, rewards distributed, do some also cry out, “No, Lord, not me?” Often–yes.

Change of any sort is hard.

Those who live happy and successful lives find the change to hardship difficult, and those who live difficult lives of sorrow and trial find the change to joy and blessing hard to receive.

Challenge: I want to challenge and encourage you today–if you are one who has learned to live a life of strong faith, inner fortitude, and grace under trial–when the end of the road of travail arrives and the promised blessing comes, receive it with as much faith in God’s goodness as you learned when things were tough. Who MeDon’t feel you are not worthy. Don’t feel destined to disappointment. Not one of us is worthy. It’s God who is good. Don’t sabotage your own blessing because you are used to suffering. Receive the reward of your faithfulness with belief, trust in God’s trustworthiness, rejoice, and keep on giving thanks. Yes! This blessing is for you. Your day has come, and Christ is distributing his reward. Hallelujia!

Matthew 25:23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

 

The Son of His Father’s Love

Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,

Mt McCoy Cross Rose_Text

Christ Jesus: Son of His Father’s Love

Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love (NKJ)

Many children are born from the physical expression of love between their parents, often planned, and perhaps as often, not planned. The Bible teaches in Colossians 1:13 that Jesus Christ is the Son of his Father’s love. God in his love planned his Son from all eternity past, since they both co-exist eternally, along with the Holy Spirit:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.Mt McCoy Cross Rose JPG

Colossians 1:15-17 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

God’s love for Christ his Son and for the humanity he created in the world surrounds and lives within the incarnation of Christ. Both the Father’s love for his Son, his beloved Son, and his love for people are the fountainhead, the source, the driving motivation of the incarnation, the divine humanity of Christ on earth. Christ is the full expression of his Father’s love. The love of the Father birthed the Son, and Christ is “the Son of his [the Father’s] love,” both in eternity past and in the incarnation.

Scripture

First, Christ is the outspoken word which reveals the Father’s nature and character of love.

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave

his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Romans 8:39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Hebrews 1:3a He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,

Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love

Second, Christ is the beloved Son, the one whom his Father loves.

Matthew 3:17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Mark 9:7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Where Does This Leave Us?

Believers are in Christ, in the Beloved.

1 John 4:16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

John 17:23 I in them and you in me– that they may be completely one, so that the world will know that you sent me, and you have loved them just as you have loved me.

Ephesians 1:4 For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love.

Everything concerning us is motivated and dominated by God’s love.

Romans 5:5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 8:38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

Ephesians 3:19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,

What difference does this make?

The difference is that we once lived under the authority of the darkness, and God transferred us into a different kingdom, a different realm of reality, a kingdom of light in which Christ rules, that very Christ who is the Son of the Father’s love. Chains are broken, bondages are collapsed, the prisoners are free. We no longer owe allegiance to what causes our own destruction, and we have one fighting for us who is greater than death and darkness itself. God is love! And he is our God.

Love rules for us, within us, and through us. Love has become the new expression and protection of our being. We are safe at last. We no longer need to worry, nor to plan out our own futures. Jesus Christ reigns in our hearts and lives. Love rules our day. The one who is stronger than everything else in the universe claims us as his own. We are his. We can live our lives without fear. We can turn and face our enemies and in the name of Jesus Christ the King command them to leave. And at the end of the day, a great big no matter what, we are loved in Christ.

 

 

 

 

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