Archive for Devotional with Hymn

Guaranteed!

Isaiah 9:1-7

Whenever you receive a guarantee, remember that it is only as reliable as the one offering it.

Consider Isaiah 9:1-7, one of my favorite passages about the coming Messiah.

What magnificent promises it gives about Him! It says He will be:

  • light in our deepest darkness;
  • joy greater, richer, and wilder than anything we can imagine;
  • complete freedom from everything that binds us;
  • an eternal ruler who is Himself: wisdom (“Wonderful Counselor”), unlimited power (“Mighty God”), unfailing love (“Everlasting Father”), and complete peace and well-being (“Prince of Peace”)

God then closes all His magnificent promises about His Messiah with this guarantee: “The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this” (v.7b). Look carefully at that guarantee.

Zeal is a strong emotion, sometimes translated “love”, sometimes “jealousy”. It is that deep, burning, unquenchable fire of love that burns in the heart of God toward us, His children. Realize that love is as weak or as strong as its source. Despite our passionate promises, human love is at times selfish, shallow, and wavering. It is as weak as we are. Since we are flawed and inconsistent, so is our love. But God’s love is as intense, powerful, and unchanging as He is. Who can imagine the eternal, unquenchable fire of love burning in the heart of Almighty God!

The next term in the guarantee is the word LORD; in the original Hebrew, “Yahweh”. The scriptures give us many “names” for God, many descriptions of Who He is and what He is like. “Yahweh” is God’s name for Himself. It’s related to the name He uses in Exodus 3, in the story of the burning bush. He has just called Moses to an awesome task. He is sending him to the Israelites to promise that their God is about to free them from the most powerful ruler on earth. Moses is apprehensive about the assignment, so he says, “The people will ask who sent me. How should I answer them?” God responds to Moses with a form of the name “Yahweh”. He tells Moses, “If they want a name for me, if they want to summarize me with a label, give them this one: ‘I AM WHO I AM’” (v.14).

The next word, Almighty, is actually the Hebrew word “sabaoth”. It sounds similar to the word “sabbath”, but there’s no relation. We hear the word in verse 2 of Martin Luther’s stirring hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”:

Lord Sabaoth, His name;
From age to age the same;
And He must win the battle.

“Sabaoth” means “hosts” or “armies”. So “Lord Sabaoth” is “Lord of hosts”, or “Lord of all the heavenly armies”. Imagine that. Picture the mightiest army on earth, spread out in vast array, complete with all its weaponry. Then try to picture “the Lord of all the heavenly armies”. See Him standing there, with all the unimaginable powers of heaven behind Him, waiting at His command!

So our guarantee can be read this way: “The deep, burning, unquenchable, unchangeable love of I AM WHO I AM, Lord of all the heavenly armies will accomplish this.” Now that’s a guarantee!

Remember, guarantees are as reliable as the one offering them. Regarding human beings, Isaiah 2:22 says,

Stop trusting in man,
who has but a breath in his nostrils.
Of what account is he?

Psalm 146:3-4 says,

Do not trust…in mortal men, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.

Don’t rely on human beings for anything permanent. We and all our plans and best intentions are always just one breath from extinction.

But with God, His mightiest works show us only the fringes of His robe. The vastness of the universe gives us but a faint whisper of Him (Job 26:14). Who can fathom the rock-solid certainty of a guarantee signed by the unchanging love of Yahweh, I AM WHO I AM, Lord of all the heavenly armies!

God has promised you that Jesus will be light, joy, and freedom beyond your wildest dreams. You can trust Him!

He says that Jesus will bring you all the wisdom, power, love, and peace of God. You can trust Him!

He calls you to seek only Jesus Christ and make His love your only treasure. You can trust Him!

He assures you that Jesus is the pearl of great price and urges you to eagerly turn loose of everything else to gain Him. You can trust Him!

You can grasp the promises of Almighty God and know that they will always be absolutely true. You can hold to them and live by them in the face of everything that life and death brings.

“All God’s promises are YES! in Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:20, para.).

Our Brother is Lord of all things in
this world and
the next,
all things seen and unseen,
in heaven and earth.
We are secure and
eternally,
extravagantly blessed in Him.

Hymn: All We Need

Wisdom in Our Ignorance

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out! (Romans 11:33, NIV)

We human beings are inherently ignorant. Physically we live a fraction of a second on a grain of sand in a universe that is ancient and vast beyond all imagining. Our perspective and objectivity are minuscule. Our view of truth is highly tainted by our personal prejudices and selfish desires. To claim that we understand reality, or that our minds and limited senses are an accurate gauge of reality, is laughable. Ignorance is common to each and every one of us.

God in His greatness has chosen to reveal Himself to us. And by degree He graciously helps us understand reality as we understand Him. He has given us His own Spirit to enlighten and guide us.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4:7, NIV). As we trust His revealed Truth and faithfully speak the Truth and live the Truth, we need to remember our limitations and the weakness of the vessel in which we hold His treasure. Our understanding of our great and boundless God is always only partial.

Yet God’s promise to us is this:

  • God, who through the millennia has spoken to us in many different ways, has spoken fully and finally in Jesus Christ, His own Son (Hebrews 1:1-2).
  • In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ (Colossians 2:9-10a, NIV).

All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ (Colossians 2:3). If you desire wisdom, if you want understanding, seek Him.

In Jesus Christ
we have infinite room to
discover,
grow, and
become.

Hymn: The Truth of God Is Greater Far

Resting in You

There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.
(Hebrews 4:9, NASB)

Father, You are wisdom.
Your working is deeper,
higher, and
more far-reaching than I can imagine.

You are absolute power.
You do what pleases You.
No one challenges Your mighty arm.
Nothing stops Your purpose.

Father, You are love.
Nothing exhausts Your gentle compassion.
Nothing strains Your joyful self-giving.

So when You whisper, I will listen.
When You lead, I will follow wherever You go.
When Your will brings me
delay or
sorrow or
sacrifice,
I will love You and
trust You and
rest in the rightness of all You do.

The best place to be is
where God has put you.
Do not look beyond it, and
be content there
moment by moment.
(paraphrased from Francois Fenelon)

Hymn: Peace in Christ

Do You Hear Him?

I will listen to what God the Lord will say,
for He promises peace to His people.

When we suffer,
God speaks to us in the midst of our trouble.
He wants to draw us out of our distress
into deliverance,
into a spacious place that is wide open and free.
He wants to lead us to a banquet table
filled with all the best food.
(Psalm 85:5; Job 36:15-16; para.)

Creation is God’s song about Himself.
Are you listening?

He speaks in the thunder.
Do you tremble at His majesty?

He speaks in a small whisper.
Don’t let your desires drown out His voice.

He speaks in the silence.
Are you resting in Him?

He speaks through pain and distress.
Do you still trust His tender love?

He speaks through a thousand daily pleasures,
calling you to find constant joy in Him.

Your Father is always speaking.
As you trust Him,
you will hear Him.

Father, help me to
hear and obey
every word You speak to me,
for each word is
loving and
wise and
for the best.

Hymn: Voice of God

I Come Seeking You

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
(Psalm 119:105, NIV)

It’s easy to read the Bible merely out of habit, without any thought of why we’re reading or what we’re looking for.

God has prompted me to pray briefly before reading, in order to center my thoughts, my search, and my need on Him.

As I read, I look to Him for understanding. I need Him to meet me and speak to me.

More than specific information, I need to gain His mind, His perspective on my life. I need to know Him.

Jesus, as I read,
I come seeking You.

All-seeing God,
You see our reality more
deeply,
broadly, and
truly than we.
Show us the truth by
Your Spirit and
Your Word.
Give us listening ears and
seeing hearts.

Hymn: We Come Seeking You

Embracing Our Ignorance

As the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
(Isaiah 55:9, NASB)

I treasure God’s Word and have spent much of my life reading and studying it. Thus I have strong opinions on some theological issues.

At one point I had just finished studying an important section of scripture and came away with the conviction, more powerful than ever, that those who disagreed with me on the interpretation of that scripture were wrong, and dangerously wrong. I prayed and asked God what He wanted me to do about their “serious error”. He told me, “Do what I trained you to do: write a clear and practical hymn based on that passage.” I did, and when finished, I felt good about the hymn and the accuracy of its message.

But as I looked at the completed hymn, I realized that it was just as acceptable and meaningful to my “theological opponents” as it was to me.

Perhaps that was because hymns are best when they are heartfelt and life-centered.

And while believers often disagree about theology on a theoretical level, they rarely disagree about the way we all should live and long to live. For the most part, we are one in that living faith.

I’ve often experienced a strange silence from God about theological positions I consider erroneous. I’ve sensed that somehow, He was more tolerant than I. I kept expecting Him to send me out against the misguided with my sword drawn. He never has.

God gradually helped me realize that He hadn’t called me to straighten out all that is false in the world and in His Church. He has called me to lift up Jesus Christ so that all may find the truth in Him.

Let’s face it. Ignorance is something we all have in common. We are small, short-lived, often self-centered creatures. We are tiny specks in a sea of time, space, and spiritual reality. Our ignorance, at least in this life, is inherent and inescapable. If God couldn’t put up with our ignorance, He would have nothing to do with us.

I pray that God keeps me conscious of my own ignorance and patient with everyone else’s. At the same time, I want my life to boldly, unfailingly proclaim the beautiful, living truth that is in Jesus Christ alone.

Father,
we try to bind You with the ropes of our own
ignorance and
weakness.
But You are beyond all
our limitations,
our control,
our understanding, and
our imagination.
You are the I AM.

Hymn: I Have the Truth

Humility

From Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever. (Romans 11:36, NASB)

Humility is seeing God.
Humility is worshiping Him.
Humility is loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Humility is loving others fully and joyfully.

Humility is truth.
It is seeing the world and ourselves as we really are.

Humility is sweet freedom from life’s
most constant and most crushing burden:
the burden of self-concern.
Humility is the freedom to release selfish anxiety and
embrace Christ for all He is.

Father, humility is knowing You.
It is one of the gifts of knowing You are with me.
Thank You, my Lord!

Don’t despise your own
weakness and smallness.
They glorify God.
He uses them to display
His power and greatness.

Hymn: Meekness

Pride

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. (Philippians 2:3, NIV)

Pride focuses thought, energy, and attention on me –
a poor,
pitiable,
helpless creature –
rather than on our
magnificent,
loving,
eternal Father.

Pride steals glory and praise from God.
It distracts those He would draw to himself.

Pride is a lie.
It cloaks me in
darkness and
self-delusion
rather than in
light,
love, and
truth.

Pride focuses inward rather than
upward and
outward.
It makes my world smaller.

Pride perverts,
binds,
blinds, and
destroys.

Merciful Jesus, save me from the foolishness of pride.

Father, since You are who You are and
I am who I am,
help me to starve my gluttonous ego,
not feed it.

Hymn: I Fix My Thoughts on You

The Truth

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32, NIV)

Truth is reality.
Truth is the way things really are.
It flows from You,
the source of all being and
the center of reality.

Thus living in You, Lord God, is
living in the truth.
It is living in line with reality.
It is natural, harmonious living.
Living in You is
living in peace.

Anything not in line with You is unnatural,
out of harmony with reality.
It is a lie,
doomed to cause unhappiness and
ultimately to pass away.

Humility is truth.
Pride is a lie.

Your glory is truth.
Any other glory is a lie.
Oneness with You and with other believers is truth.
Self-exaltation is a lie.

Lord Jesus, purify my heart and mind and life.
Help me think and live in You.

All that you see is temporary and passing.
Your relationship with the living God will
always be the focus of reality for you.
Set your heart on Him alone.

Hymn: Beyond Imagination

What a Priceless Treasure!

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. (John 14:6, NASB)

Father, without You, my physical life is
brief and
riddled with trouble and sorrow.
But You are peace.
You are forever.

Without You, I cannot be who I ought to be or
do what I ought to do.
But You are good and
right and
gloriously perfect in
all You are and
all You do.

Without You, I live in the darkness.
But You are the Light.

Without You, I am
false in my thinking,
false in my speaking,
false in my doing.
But You are Truth,
beautiful and
complete.

In You, Father,
as I trust in You,
I live in the Truth,
I walk in the Light, and
I am fully pleasing to You.
I am pure and lovely in You.

Father, what a priceless treasure is our
living relationship!
Daily,
moment by moment,
keep me in You!

We enjoy a well-being that
flows all around us and
goes before us,
a well-being that is
deeper and more permanent than
our temporary troublesome circumstances.
It is the peace and presence,
the power and unfailing goodness of
our Father Creator.

Hymn: Think, Speak, and Live the Truth