Tag Archives: Devotionals

Withdraw in Prayer

“But whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.” (Proverbs 1:33 NIV)

I found the above verse in yesterday’s devotion for dieters. Since the verse was taken out of context, I decided to read the entire chapter. Proverbs is in the Old Testament, which to me, who knows very little about the Bible, mostly means it’s based in fear. Before Jesus, people were taught to fear the Lord, and those who did so were seen as wise. That’s also what this chapter seems to say.

However, this particular verse is quite positive. The author of the devotional uses it to make the point that, when we are troubled, we can and should turn to the Lord in prayer.

As I wrote in an old reflection, Jesus himself suffered human temptation. There were, like the author of the devotion for dieters says, also many times when he was persecuted. He didn’t answer in destructive ways, either by attacking the people who persecuted him or by giving in to temptation. Rather, he withdrew and prayed.

The people of the Old Testament may have had a hard time turning to God, because God hadn’t forgiven humanity yet. At least, if I lived in the time of Proverbs 1, I’d not be led to turn to God for guidance that easily, despite what is written in the last verse. However, through Jesus, we can be assured that a loving God will guide us and help us overcome the pressures of life and our human temptation. Jesus knows what it’s like to be under pressure and he also knows what it is like to resist temptation – successfully. By turning to our Lord and Heavenly Father when under stress, he set an example.

Willpower, as I said last month, is the will to turn over the reigns of our life to God. We don’t have to do this thing called life alone.

I have been doing okay’ish in the eating disorder and self-harm departments lately, despite having been under a lot of pressure. In part, this is because I’ve been withdrawing from the pressures of daily life more. That still doesn’t mean I’ve turned myself over to God. I withdraw into ordinary things, like books, writing, pampering myself with body care products, etc. I don’t say this is wrong, but it isn’t doing anything but temporarily distracting me from the pressures of life.

God can help us truly overcome our suffering. He teaches us to pray and, as is written in Proverbs 1:33, listen. If we listen for God’s guidance, we may realize that He will take care of us. I’m not there yet. I’m working on it, praying about it though.

Could God Be Disciplining Us?

“Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:9-11 NIV)

These words from Scripture do not show God as a gentle God, as a forgiving God, as a God who loves man. Or do they? I just read today’s Girlfriends in God devotional, in which Sharon Jaynes reflects on the above Bible verses. She recounts several examples from the Bible in which God punished His own people, as well as an example from her own life.

Now I for one would never choose to use corporal punishment on my child if I had one. Then again, Sharon’s son chose the paddle rather than a wee without his Nintendo. The important message in this text is not that children deserve corporal punishment, however – people vary in their opinions on this. The message is that the child should 1. suffer consequences for their wrongdoing, 2. know why they are being punished and possibly 3. choose their own consequences within reasonable limits.

After all, Sharon’s husband gave their son a choice between five paddlings or a week without his Nintendo. In the Bible, too, many times God gives the people who disobey him choices of consequences. This sort of control over the consequences of one’s wrongdoing is advocated in many parenting books, including those by authors who would never advocate corporal punishment. The message is that the child understands what they’re doing wrong, that they’re being punished and why, and that they have control over their actions and thereby have control over the consequences of these actions. This taches children not just righteousness, but also self-control and flexibility.

Does this too mean that God allows suffering as punishment? Sometimes, yes. People often say that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, and this is true, but He sometimes tries to drive us back towards Him.

God is, as Sharon says in the devotional, a great parent – the best parent we can imagine. We may not always understand His actions as they happen, or even as we read about them in the Bible. Ultimately, however, we will understand, and even if we won’t, these actions will shape us to become the best us we can be.

Women With Intention

We Are All Acceptable in God’s Eyes

Our society is extremely achievement-oriented. We are taught that we are acceptable because of what we have to offer the world. I am no exception. Though the people around me now accept that I have come out as I have, in the sense that they no longer deny it, I used to be taught that I somehow had to prove myself. Having no job, no college degree, no children and being dependent on benefits and long-term care, I often feel like I have failed as a human being.

Today, I read the book Real Families, Real Stories: Celebrating Life with Down Syndrome by Stephanie Sumulong. It is filled with short stories by parents and the occasional sibling of children and adults with Down Syndrome. What struck a chord with me is that each of these family members says their child is amazing. They don’t say so because their children’s achievements are magnificient in society’s eyes, but because as human beings these people are valued for who they are. I cringed soometimes at the umpteenth exclamation of how these people are gifts from God and have so much to offer. Then again, I realize that this is because I doubt my own worth.

Then I read a devotional which sends a conflicting message. It tells us how none of us are truly good enough in God’s eyes from the start, due to Adam and Eve’s original sin. Then it goes on to tell us that, if we accept Jesus as our savior, we are in fact all good enough. The devotion doesn’t go into what we need to achieve to be good enough in Jesus’ eyes. It doesn’t list any rites of passage to the Godly family. I realize that the author of the devotional may believe that certain morals are required to be saved, or that only certain people are predestined to be saved. I won’t go into this. For now, the author just states that, if you accept Jesus in your life, you are good enough in God’s eyes.

It is weird, but I find it comforting to know that all people are judged equal before the Lord. We all have a wickedness to us, whether we make big money or have three Ph.D.’s and five children or not. God recognizes this, but He also recognizes the good in everyone and He sent his son to make peace with us. As I said, people often believe that certain morals make us good enough in God’s eyes. I am not too conservative and therefore I don’t believe that we need to be something or achieve something to be accepted by God. Others might disagree. The point is, we all have some wickedness to us but it doesn’t matter to Jesus.

Equipping Godly Women

The Righteous Live by Faith

Today, I’ve been feeling a desire to invest in my faith. I hope this is not just for today, but for many days to come, but for now, I’ll just make use of it. I usually invest in my faith by prayer, reading the Bible and reflecting on it. Therefore, I decided to look at some Bible passages and write about one that appeals to me.

“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.'” (Romans 1:17 NIV)

The first thing I came across when looking for devotionals on this verse, was Ron Moore’s devotional with the provocative title “Hello, My Name Is… God”. In it, Moore starts by explaining righteousness. To be righteous means to be blameless, and no human being can be blamelss. The good news is that God through Jesus cleanses us of our blame. Amazing, huh? In a way, it is, but it sits a bit uneasy with me that Christians may view themselves as above and beyond blame, as if they can do as they please as long as they have faith.

Moore explains that we who believe in Jesus are accredited with blamelessness. This connotes a kind of responsibility. As believers, we need to make a conscious effort, with the help of God, to remain righteous.

Here is where the second part of this passage comes in: living by faith. I mean, I am generally a pretty well-behaved person, but I am not perfect. Nobody is perfect. It is through our faith in God that we become righteous.

Living by faith is an area in which I could definitely improve. I don’t read the Bible nearly everyday, haven’t been to church in months, and struggle to keep my language in check – even as I have to write this blog post for the second time all over again because my computer decided to act up. Faith is not somethign you do every once in a while when it suits you. It is something you focus on on a continuing basis. I pray that God helps me keep focused on Him.

Linking up with Saturday Soiree.

He Is Trustworthy

Yesterday, I talked to Shannon from Chosen Families. Shannon is the mother of a disabled child and her site aims to be a ministry to special needs families. Her most recent post is titled He Is Reliable. In this post, Shannon reflects on John 8:26, which in the Bible version she uses reads in part “he is reliable”. In the NIV, it reads “he is trustworthy”, which speaks to me in a similar way.

He is trustworthy. Why do I struggle with this idea? Shannon names just a few circumstances which special needs families can be faced with, and I have faced many of them myself. Yet He is trustworthy. I have a hard time trusting God, because, after all, why did He put me through what I’ve been throguh if He is trustworthy?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

This. I searched for “trust” on Bible Gateway and this was the first suggested result. “Lean not on your own understanding.” This. Why would I be able to judge God’s reliability if I do not understand His ways? Skeptics could say that God exists to serve man, but according to the Bible, this isn’t so. Would He, therefore, serve me by putting me through what I’ve been through? Maybe, indirectly, but maybe not. Maybe my experiences serve some entirely different purpose, which I may not be able t understand.

It is tempting to think that as humans, we can control our own life experiences. If we do good, Karma or some Christian variation of it will give us happiness. This isn’t so. Of course, we have free will too and therefore have some level of control over our lives, but ultimately, part of what we will endure is in God’s hands. “In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” He is trustworthy, after all.

Be Joyful, Be Patient, Be Faithful

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12 NIV)

Often when I turn to the Bible, to devotionals, or to other Christian writings or even music, I find myself drawn to verses that give hope, let me know that I’m not alone if I have faith in God. I do not turn to the Bible to dictate the morals I need to live by day-to-day, because I personally believe the Bible was inspired too much by the culture of its time for this. Rather, I look to the Bible for guidance in my spirutal life and my relationship with God. This verse speaks to this relationship and to how we as humans need to invest in it.

Be joyful in hope. Often, I find myself taking up the Bible and generally investing in my relationship with God only when I’m suffering. This verse calls upon us to also share in God as we have hope, and to be thankful to God for the works He does. This does not mean we need to praise God for every ounce of food we eat. In fact, praying for food has too much of a ritualistic connotation for me, as I was required to participate in it in school as a non-religious child. Rather, we need to be appreciative in our hearts, which God knows.

Be patient in affliction. Many people often wonder when their suffering will finally pass. This verse asks us to be patient while God meets our needs eventually. Often I and many others find ourselves falling into the trap of demanding instant gratification. However, other people are not required to fulfill our every wish, and, while God may possess some kind of magic wand, He is certainly not supposed to wave it whenever we think we need Him to.

Be faithful in prayer. God knows our needs, and He cares. Remember, needs are not wants, and we need to be patient for God to meet our true needs eventually. Being faithful in prayer means trusting God to take care of us when we’re having a hard time, and also being thankful for His caring when we’re doing well.

This verse, exept for the words on prayer, actually also speaks to non-Christians. If you believe in some other deity or spiritual figure, or even if you’re an atheist, you still need to be appreciative of what you have when you’re faring well, and patient for time to pass when you’re not.

Let God Make Something of Your Life

I just read this devotional on following Jesus in a world that expects leadership. We need to let Jesus make something of our lives and to follow His example.

At first, I was a bit annoyed at the presumption that we do not need to make something of our lives, but let Jesus do so. Are we going back to blaming God for our choices and everything that happens to us? But then I read on and saw what following means: accepting Jesus as our leader and following His example. Of course, the author of this devotional includes all the worthwhile things Jesus did. Some atheists around me are going to point out that Jesus set a poor example if we have to believe every word of the Bible literally. I don’t take the Bible literally, and I believe Jesus was a great leader in His time. Being both human and God, He lived a life on Earth influenced by the times. He did things we disapprove of too during His human life, and the authors of the Bible (FYI: I do not believe God wrote the Bible, He just inspired it) made their own interpretatios of His actions. Those of us, includign myself, who understand God to be loving and graceful, need to extent the same to other humans. We take Jesus as an example, not in every little thing He did, but in the greater values that He promoted. That’s where I disagree with the “follow the leader” analogy.

We also must keep in contact with God thorugh Jesus, and let Him make something of our lives. As I said, this is not a passive waiting process. It is active: God has a purpose for us but we need to let Him work in us and follow what we learn that way to make this happen. We need to actively accept the gift of God, not passively assume it will unfold itself someday.