No vague dream of perfection

You say you want to be like Christ. You ask Him to print His own image on your heart. Here, then is the image! It is no vague dream of perfection that we are to think of–when we ask to be made like Christ. The Catholic monks thought that they were becoming like Christ–when they went into the wilderness, away from men, to live in cold cells. But that is not what this picture suggests. “To serve“–that is the Christlike thing! Instead of fleeing away from the world–we are to live among men, to serve them, to seek to bless them, to do them good, to give our life for them! —J.R. Miller

Focus question: Who can I serve today? What can I do to serve someone? Can I ask someone else what I can I do to serve them?

God above who came below, show me a need that cries for fulfillment, a person who is not being served, that I might be that servant.

A white handkerchief

It is told of General Gordon, that each morning, during his journey in the Soudan country, for half an hour there lay outside his tent a white handkerchief. The whole camp knew well what it meant, and looked upon the little signal with the utmost respect; no foot dared cross the threshold of that tent while the little guard lay there. No message, however pressing, was to be delivered. Matters of life and death must wait until the white signal was taken away. Everybody in the camp knew that God and Gordon were communing together.

J.R. Miller

In the sight of God

A devotional using Lk 1.6 as base, says in part:

One of the old artists was chiselling with great pains on the back part of his marble. “Why do you carve so carefully the tresses on the head of your statue?” asked one; “it will stand high in its niche against the wall, and no one will ever see its back.” “The gods will see it,” was the reply.

We should learn a lesson from the old heathen artist. We should do our work just as honestly where it will be covered up and never seen by human eyes, as where it is to be open to the scrutiny of the world. For God will see it. We should live just as purely and beautifully in secret as in the glare of the world’s noon. There really is no such thing as secrecy in this world.

Focus question: Do I live and act for God to see, or for man to approve?

Be at peace

A devotional by F.B. Meyer, in bold what caught my eye:

A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven – John 3:27

After six months of marvellous ministry, in which the Baptist had seen the whole land at his feet, had gathered a band of disciples, and introduced the Messiah to the Jewish people, he found the crowds dwindling. His disciples viewed with feelings of chagrin the transference of popular interest from their master to Him of whom he had borne witness.

What John the Baptist meant by it. – He realized that the crowds, the hushed attention, the swift response, the power of speech, the message, the deep repentance, the office of morning star heralding the Dayspring from on high, had been the gift of God. He had nothing which he had not received; he would have received nothing, except God had given it to him. Whether these things went or came was a matter altogether beyond his control. His part was to receive and use what God gave; and then return to Him, at His bidding, the saved talent. This forbade alike pride and despondency.

What we may learn by it. – Humility and peace. Humility. Is this the time of your prosperity? Crowds wait on your words; mighty movements circle around you; glorious results follow on your plans! Do not be puffed up. Boast not yourself. “Who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? but if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” Peace. If it is not due to your lethargy or sloth that the crowds have ebbed away, and that the tide of conversions has dropped below its former level, be at peace. These are things which the Holy Spirit worketh, dividing to each one severally even as He will.

Originally published here.

No reason to be discouraged

There are times when we question this truth. We speak the word. The effort seems vain. It appears useless. But God “knows the end from the beginning,” Isaiah 46:10. His word will achieve what He sent it to do. We have no reason to be discouraged.

In Plow New Ground, this is Ed Mathews’s last paragraph, not counting the prayer, in his last devotional based on Isa 55.11. It has been a blessing to read this year. I recommend it.

How to separate your work in the kingdom from expected immediate results?

Being with God a lifelong quest

The steps for getting there are equally clear. The tempter must be resisted, Ephesians 4:26,27; 6:11; I Peter 5:8,9. Sin must be abandoned, laid aside, and left alone, John 8:11b. And, above all, being with God must become a commitment, an obsession, a lifelong quest, Psalms 73:28; Hebrews 10:19-22.

This is our goal, to draw near to God. Ed Mathews’s devotional describes it beautifully, with Jas 4.8 as base text today.

Doubt dooms the doubter

Isaiah 7.9 is the main text for today’s devotional.

The way of doubt. King Ahaz hesitated. He was overwhelmed by his predicament. When Isaiah prompted him “to ask the Lord…for a sign,” Ahaz refused, Isaiah 7:11,12. Doubt dooms the doubter. It kept the people of God out of the Promised Land, Hebrews 3:16-19. It is the cleverest ploy of the devil, Genesis 3:1. A lack of faith is like a fox in a chicken coop worrying about having enough to eat. The Lord expects more from us than that, Isaiah 7:9b; James 1:5-8.

Focus question: What situations cause us to feel overwhelmed and begin doubting?

He wanted to protect Jesus

With Mt 16.23, Ed Mathews starts today’s devotional:

Meaning of the rebuke. Peter surely meant well. Nevertheless, he was not acting in the best interest of mankind. Had the Messiah listened to him, humanity would still be lost, Hebrews 9:22b; cf. Romans 3:22-26. Peter spoke out of love—albeit a misguided love. He wanted to protect Jesus (like a parent dissuading his child from being a missionary). Christ had to carry His cross. We must carry ours, Matthew 16:24-26.

Focus question: What misguided words do I speak to Jesus?

Idolatry an obsession with created things

Nature of idolatry. Idolatry is an obsession with created things (in lieu of devotion to the Creator), Ephesians 5:5; Philippians 3:19; Colossians 3:5. Idols are made by humans. They are mere pieces of wood and stone, Deuteronomy 27:15. Idols cannot “see or hear or eat or smell,” Deuteronomy 4:2; Psalms 115:2-7. They are “like a scarecrow in a melon patch,” Jeremiah 10:5. Idols have no value (for bonding the worshipper to God), Habakkuk 2:18,19.

Ed Mathews

Jesus was not a tourist

Ed Mathews uses John 9.3 and the story of the blind man as a wonderful explanation of evil in the world. Here’s how he starts:

While in Jerusalem, Jesus saw a blind man, John 9:1. As a visitor in the capital city, one might assume the Lord would be enamored with the beautiful buildings. His disciples were, Matthew 24:1. But Jesus was not a tourist. He came to rescue the perishing.

Focus question: Does the pain and suffering in the world make me question God or glorify him?