Posts Tagged ‘Devotion’

Intimate Devotion

Intimate Devotion

I’ve take a “less is more” approach to my Lenten Season this year. I am still active in my participation and devotion, but most of my devotional practice is quiet, still, and intimate. It has taken some getting used to and there is still some awkwardness I’m having to work through, as my normal practices are heavy on “do-practices” rather than “be practices,” especially during the season of Lent. I think it is working well overall despite my occasional feelings of awkwardness.

Today is the Third Sunday in Lent. My devotions the past few weeks have been powerful, intimate, and very clear. This morning as I was meditating and praying through my Scripture readings, an uprising of gratitude and praise bubbled up out of soul, over my lips, and spilled out onto the pages of my journal.

God, I am thankful for the truths you reveal to the hearts and minds of those who seek you. But why should I be surprised? It is something you promise and we see those promises delivered again, and again, and again. We see them delivered throughout Scripture, we see them delivered through the writings of your saints through the ages and we see them delivered in the verbal-audible confessions of our spiritual brothers and sisters today. Breathlessly amazing is what it is. Life-giving assurance is what it is. The power of God unto salvation is what it is.

Thank you and praise you, O Lord my God, for rescuing me and showing yourself to me. Thank you for moments of inspired clarity that bring into focus the mysteries of the universe that are the tapestry of your eternal kingdom. To you I ascribe all glory and honor as I tremble with delight to know that I am yours, truly and eternally yours.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever, world without end. Amen.

Lent 2013: Devoted Things

Lent 2013

Devoted Things

Readings: Psalm 55 ◊ Hebrews 5:1-10  Joshua 7—17  John 4:1-26

O LORD, open my lips ~ and my mouth shall declare your praise. Blest be the LORD our God, ruler of the universe ~ Now and always for ever and ever.

Delight in the Lord’s teaching and study it night and day ~ Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.

My heart and flesh cry out for the living God! O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.

I was reading today from the Book of Joshua and had my attention grabbed by these words that follow:

“I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you… Sanctify yourselves. There are devoted things among you; you will be unable to stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” -Joshua 7:12-13 NRSV

I suppose there is a need for context here. The story that takes place in this account from Joshua is this; Israel had crossed over the Jordan River into the land of Canaan. God had instructed them to take over by force the towns and nations of the people who occupy the land. One of the instructions to Israel had been to keep the gold and silver for the treasury of God and to destroy (burn up) all other things.

The city and all that is in it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction… As for you, keep away from the things devoted to destruction, so as not to covet and take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel an object for destruction, bringing trouble upon it. But all silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are sacred to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord. -Joshua 6:17-19 NRSV

Achan, one of the fighters for Israel, kept some of the booty from the battle of Jericho.

But the Israelites broke faith in regard to the devoted things: Achan son of Carmi son of Zabdi son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things; and the anger of the Lord burned against the Israelites. –Joshua 7:1 NRSV

Now, in this case, I believe the devoted things were the items that had either been set aside for destruction or set aside for the LORD’s treasury—this is how the narrative reads. There is obvious application for us even if we stop here. God had given instruction and there was willful disobedience. Achan had been deceived by the lust of his own eyes and the greed that burned within him led him to succumb to an act that sinned against God. Achan’s sin against God had repercussions that extended beyond just himself; his sin affected the lives of his household and the lives of the people of his entire nation. And there are more applications I’m sure with a literal interpretation, but there were some ideas that came to me beyond a “first look” at Achan’s sin and this is where I started to fixate a bit on the word “devotion.”

When I started doing some exploration into the root meaning and eytomology of the word devotion, I found that it was steeped in pious or religious application. Regarding the use of the word in the original language, Hebrew, (charam) is associated with many religious uses; devotion, ban, exterminate, dedication, consecration, sacred, sanctuary, and temple are just a few of the mentioned applications (click the link for more examples).

Devoted / ha·che·rem  from  charem / (Hebrew) Strongs 2764a ::: definition—devoted thing; devotion; ban

Devotion—Etymology

devotion (n.)

Early 13c., from Old French devocion ”devotion, piety,” from Latin devotionem (nominative devotio), noun of action from pp. stem of devovere ”dedicate by a vow, sacrifice oneself, promise solemnly,” from de-“down, away” (see de-) + vovere ”to vow,” from votum ”vow” (see vow). 

In ancient Latin, “act of consecrating by a vow,” also “loyalty, fealty, allegiance;” in Church Latin, “devotion to God, piety.” This was the original sense in English; the etymological sense, including secular situations, returned 16c. via Italian and French.

Perhaps it is just the way my mind works or maybe it has to do with the way we have incorporated the word (devotion) into our language today, but I started to think about how easily we are distracted by our devotions… And, I’m not talking about those devotions where you sit down for a few minutes to pray or read a short passage of Bible verse. I am considering the other things in our lives that consume our energy and attention, the things and activities that steal our devotion from God. So much of our time, energy, resources, and attention is devoted to making money, purchasing objects, pursuing activities that steal us away from the real object of our devotion, God. We pay homage to Him; perhaps we offer Him a tithe (tenth) of our income (after tax of course) and we give Him a couple of hours on Sunday of our undivided attention (it is undivided isn’t it?), and occasionally we’ll participate in one of the annual community outreach thingies. This counts as devotion doesn’t it? By comparison, a car, house, or credit card payment gets far more devotion from us than does our God… in many case.

The question that I think I’ve been fixated on today is, “Where is my devotion or what is my devotion?” I think we can take a closer look at the first-person application with Achan’s sin and make a comparison that strikes a little closer to home for us. In the case of Achan, he took things that were supposed to be set aside for the use of God and perhaps extended to the community of God’s people. He thought only of his own selfish desire. By thinking only about himself, his actions isolated and excommunicated him from the community… ultimately to the point that it caused his death. Are we guilty of this? Maybe I haven’t stolen God’s gold… or have I? Am I enamored by the “purple robes” I see others wearing? What might those “robes” look like in our contemporary society? I think the application really isn’t as far removed from us as I might have originally thought. Perhaps my fixation is not such an extrapolation or reach after all. I wonder how much we might be devoted to ourselves instead of devoted to God.

When the sin of Achan affected the community, Joshua, as their leader, went before God and fell prostrate before Him. He began to cry out and plead for God’s assistance and mercy. God responded by telling him to “Stand up! Why have you fallen upon your face?” and instructed Joshua to tell the people to “Sanctify yourselves” (Joshua 7:6-12). Perhaps in the midst of our misguided devotions today we need to take a step back from the harried lives we lead and “set ourselves apart” by renewing and realigning our devotion. Sanctify yourselves and your devotion for you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. Devotion.

“I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you… Sanctify yourselves. There are devoted things among you; you will be unable to stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” -Joshua 7:12-13 NRSV

The only “devoted thing” that belongs in my life is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Any other “devoted thing” will cause Him to be with me no more. Sanctify yourself. Yeah. That’s what he said.

A Meditation in Personal Devotion [14NOV2010]

A Meditation in Personal Devotion [14NOV2010]

Consolations and desolations; these are the ebb and flow of the spiritual journey. These “Seasons of the Soul” are the growing pains experienced as we follow the path of growing in maturity of God’s grace and knowledge. Recognizing these seasons and learning to discern God’s shaping and leading through them is imperative to our following the path and Will of God in our life, or so I believe.

It is part of the core foundation of my faith that God speaks to us, God is always with us, God has a destiny for us (here on this earth and not only ultimate), and God wants us to be fully conformed to the image of His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Real belief in these tenets and not just lip service affirmation has significant, life-changing impact on a person; I know it has on me and my family. I have learned to trust the leading of God… and continue to be tested so I learn to trust Him even more. I have learned how to discern the “Voice” of God to me… I have learned with humility how to test my discernment and I have learned (and continue to learn) that humility is purified and further refined through the testing of our obedience to God as we learn to discern His Will for us and follow Him with complete trust.

I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. (Psalm 16:8)

The past several years have been an incredible exercise navigating the labyrinth of consolations and desolations. It seems that praise, ridicule, doubt, and faith are some of the typical mainstays of the spiritual diet through this faith maze of life. While it is not for the faint of heart, I am convinced it is the ultimate path of every true believer… at some level and measure, to forsake their safety in the security of their own making and completely abandon themselves to the ownership and leadership of their God in whom they profess to believe, follow, and obey. A large number of “believers” never do this… at least “believers” that I have known do not. At the risk of beginning a soap box rant, I’ll toss out my theory of why this is so for the people in my own backyard, the good ole USA. Many American Christians equate pursuit of the American Dream (the pursuit and right to life, liberty, and happiness on earth) with the Will of God for their lives. Personally, I believe this is a false presumption; and I’ll stop there.

No one, has a call simply to a particular place, as good as it may be. The call of God is to the Will of God. Consequently, though every institution mediates the call of God for us, every vocation transcends any particular institution. The question is always: is this group, this place calling out the best in me? Is this where I fit? Is this the place where I can most become what God created me to be? Is this the path on which I see the footsteps of God most clearly in front of me? It is not a matter of one place being better than another. It is a matter of finding our way through life with an eye for turns in the road. It is a matter of always taking the right turn when settling for less would be so much easier. It is a matter of seeing change as a creative possibility in life. –Joan Chittister; The Rule of Benedict: Insights For the Ages

It seems not many days escape me that I do not hear one or more of a number of questions spoken by God (in the Bible) to my own soul. Hearing them makes me fidgety and uncomfortable; I think they are meant to make me feel that way as I consider my truthful responses to them. The questions number more than these, but a few that I seem to hear more often follow:

  • Don’t you understand even yet? (Matthew 16:9)
  • Do you love me more than these? (John 21:15)
  • Who do you say that I am? (Matthew 16:15)

The way we respond with our words, and subsequent actions, speak volumes to these questions. Sometimes the response can lead to consolations and other times desolations. I was consoled with the words of Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest as I considered some of these this morning.

I being in the way, the Lord led me… (Genesis 24:27)

We have to be so one with God that we do not continually need to ask for guidance. Sanctification means that we are made the children of God, and the natural life of a child is obedience – until he wishes to be disobedient, then instantly there is the intuitive jar. In the spiritual domain the intuitive jar is the monition of the Spirit of God. When He gives the check, we have to stop at once and be renewed in the spirit of our mind in order to make out what God’s will is. If we are born again of the Spirit of God, it is the abortion of piety to ask God to guide us here and there. “The Lord led me,” and on looking back we see the presence of an amazing design, which, if we are born of God, we will credit to God.

We can all see God in exceptional things, but it requires the culture of spiritual discipline to see God in every detail. Never allow that the haphazard is anything less than God’s appointed order, and be ready to discover the Divine designs any where.

Beware of making a fetish of consistency to your convictions instead of being devoted to God. I shall never do that – in all probability you will have to, if you are a saint. There never was a more inconsistent Being on this earth than Our Lord, but He was never inconsistent to His Father. The one consistency of the saint is not to a principle, but to the Divine life. It is the Divine life which continually makes more and more discoveries about the Divine mind. It is easier to be a fanatic than a faithful soul, because there is something amazingly humbling, particularly to our religious conceit, in being loyal to God. –Oswald Chambers; My Utmost for His Highest

“There is a meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler…” writes Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I think this is a great thought to help us remember why it is so important to “pay attention” to how we “pay attention.” The Spirit draws and the Spirit teaches to those who have ears to hear. There is much that goes on in our life that we just breeze past and never pay attention to… many of which are whispers and nudges of the Spirit drawing us closer to His path for our life.

And finally, a few closing “one-liner thoughts” from my journal and recent Scripture reading:

Matthew 16:23-26 :::::: Beware of thinking with the mind of man… Reformation of the soul cannot come without repentance.

Nehemiah 13:1-30 :::::: Radical reformation follows repentance.

Revelation 20:1-6 :::::: There is a second death…and it is forever.

Dear Jesus… My name is Jeff and I’m a recovering sinner; I WILL FOLLOW YOU.


Desire what is right for you…

“Desiring exquisite food and clothing is like painting firewood. these things are consumables. Clothes keep you warm regardless of their color. Common foods will satisfy your hunger. Desire what is right for you.” Guigo I: Meditations

While Guigo mentions tangibles like food and clothing, somehow I think he is asking us to dig further into the heart of our thoughts when exhorting us to “desire what is right for you.” Soren Kierkegaard, in his work Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing, describes in greater detail what Guigo might be driving at. Kierkegaard writes:

“The person who wills one thing that is not the Good, he does not truly will one thing. It is a delusion, an illusion, a deception, a self-deception that he wills only one thing. For in his innermost being he is, he is bound to be, double-minded. Therefore the Apostle says, “Purify your hearts ye double-minded,” that is, purify your hearts of double-mindedness; in other words, let your heart in truth will only one thing, for therein is the heart’s purity.”

Amazingly, we can find this directive for obsession in the Words from GOD Himself:

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)
and
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)

The problem arises when we pervert what God has called us to do. We can be, and often are, double-minded and duplicitous in our worship and living “all out” for the one we say we love and adore. Perhaps Kierkegaard wasn’t far from the mark when he said; “Christ comes into the world as the prototype, constantly insisting: Follow my example. People soon turned the relation around, they preferred to worship the prototype? The divine invention is one thing, that the only kind of worship God demands is imitation. The one thing man wants is to worship the prototypes.” While Jesus is certainly worthy of our worship, I think He is most satisfied when our example of worship is by imitating His life.

What is right for me? What is right for you? What does the Lord ask of us?

My answer is magnificent obsession; magnificent obsession of Jesus and all things embraced and embodied by him. Incorporation of all things GOD in my life and living 100% in His service will be the true and only thing which indicates a pure heart. This, I think, is the desire for what is right. Amen.

I love this devotional writing From Oswald Chambers below:

“My Utmost For His Highest”
July 2, 2007
Luke 14:26-27, 33

If the closest relationships of a disciple’s life conflict with the claims of Jesus Christ, then our Lord requires instant obedience to Himself. Discipleship means personal, passionate devotion to a Person, our Lord Jesus Christ. There is a vast difference between devotion to a person and devotion to principles or to a cause. Our Lord never proclaimed a cause. He proclaimed personal devotion to Himself. To be a disciple is to be a devoted bondservant motivated by love for the Lord Jesus. Many of us who call ourselves Christians are not truly devoted to Jesus Christ. No one on earth has this passionate love for the Lord Jesus unless the Holy Spirit has given it to him. We may admire, respect, and revere Him, but we cannot love Him on our own. The only One who truly loves the Lord Jesus is the Holy Spirit, and it is He who has “poured out in our hearts” the very “love of God” (Romans 5:5). Whenever the Holy Spirit sees an opportunity to glorify Jesus through you, He will take your entire being and set you ablaze with glowing devotion to Jesus Christ.

The Christian life is a life characterized by true and spontaneous creativity. Consequently, a disciple is subject to the same charge that was leveled against Jesus Christ, namely, the charge of inconsistency. But Jesus Christ was always consistent in His relationship to God, and a Christian must be consistent in his relationship to the life of the Son of God in him, not consistent to strict, unyielding doctrines. People pour themselves into their own doctrines, and God has to blast them out of their preconceived ideas before they can become devoted to Jesus Christ.

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