Christian, devotion, faith, Holy Spirit, I John, Prayer, Presbyterian Church (USA), Temptation, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace Devotion for May 1 2017

Devotional Reading: I John 1: 3: 19-4:6

Text: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (v. 4:1)

Test the spirits. Not every one of my whims is God given. Nor is every idea divine. I need to test the spirits. When the writer of the letter we call I John gave this advice he knew how easily any of us can be led astray. As Robert Bellah wrote centuries later in Habits of the Heart, we can be fooled by the cultural and non-biblical myth that everything is a matter of personal opinion, belief and preference.

The early Church knew better. They believed that an individual found wholeness only within a greater community. Charismatic leaders can too easily lead us astray (Recall Hitler or do a Google search on Jim Jones, for an example).

There is a sure-fire threefold test that can be used to “test the spirits.”

First, ask if it is biblical. Is there overwhelming evidence of it in the bible’s story of faith.

Second is it God-glorifying as opposed to Self-glorifying. We can do all kinds of mental gymnastics to convince ourselves that what we are doing is really for God. So, maybe we need to ask ourselves, “If I never got the credit, would I still want to do it?” This takes a lot of serious honest soul searching. And, it isn’t foolproof because fools can be very ingenious in fooling themselves.

Third, does the larger community of faith that I am an active part of agree that it meets the first two standards; ie. biblical and God-glorifying?

In Infinite wisdom God decides to create us in the Divine image and make us stewards–responsible for God’s Creation. We are to care not only for all things of the earth but for every living thing for all of it belongs to God. And, we are to care for one another. Not every inkling is Heaven sent. We need to test the spirits.

Lord, give me a heart of wisdom and the courage to test the spirits lest I be tossed to and fro by the fickle winds of the world around men. Amen.


Christian, Country and Western, devotion, Love, Presbyterian Church (USA), Temptation, Temptations of Jesus, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace Devotional for April 29, 2017

Devotional Reading: Luke 4:1-13

Text: Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan (His baptism) and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness  … (vs. 1)

I have always found it fascinating that Jesus was led into the wilderness of temptation by the same Spirit that descended upon Him at His baptism. My wife once pointed out to me that we are never tempted by those things that we do not desire. The temptations of Jesus are somewhat universal; satisfaction, fame, power.

There is a fine line distinction between temptation and testing, though we often translate and use them interchangeably. As with everything in life, context is important.

Temptation’s intention is to make someone succumb. Testing’s intention is to clarify. A more accurate understanding of Jesus’ experience would be that of testing. His wilderness experience clarified His ministry and purpose. It reaffirmed Mary’s “Magnificat” found earlier in this gospel. Jesus’ Kingdom was not going to be like the world’s kingdoms. His was based on agape Love; a love that respects the other, cares for the other even at our own expense, and sees in the other the face of God.

An old country and western song says that if you don’t know what you stand for, you’ll fall for anything. Jesus knew what He stood for. He challenged those who would take Him seriously to stand with Him.

Lord, give me clarity of purpose and the will to follow in the Way of Jesus. Amen.

Christian, devotion, faith, Fear, Glory, Lenten Devotion, Presbyterian Church (USA), Temptation, The Gospel of John, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace for the 34th Day of Lent, 2017

Devotional Reading: John 12: 37-50. Morning Psalm 43; Evening Psalm 31.

Text: for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God. (v. 43)

The words jumped out at me; “they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God.” No truer words were ever written or spoken. My mind immediately raced to the scene during Holy Week when Pilate, “afraid of the crowd”, ceremonially washed his hands of the events that would lead to the crucifixion of Jesus. Our politicians are too often make decisions based on poll numbers and fleeting popularity rather than on what they believe to be right. And, if we are honest with ourselves, we are no better than they are. Peer group pressure has a hold on us not matter what our age.

Human glory is an intoxicating Siren call. It speaks loudly and passionately. It demands attention. God’s voice, though, is that still small voice that we hear deep in the soul. It is the voice that Elijah heard (I Kings 19: 11-13) at the mouth of a cave. It is a voice that whispers in the stillness of the moment or the darkness of the night. It comes unexpectedly but unmistakably. As I write this I am drawn to Jesus’ words, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33)

In this season of Lent, let us remember how fickle human glory is. It waves branches in celebration one day and cries “Crucify him, crucify him” before the end of the week.

Lord, make me attentive to Your still small voice. While I must live in this world I need not be of it. Let me see You as my guiding North Star throughout life. Amen.

Christian, confession, devotion, faith, Lenten Devotion, sin, Temptation, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace for the 9th Day of Lent, 2017

Devotional Readings: Hebrews 4: 11-16;  Morning Psalm-22; Evening Psalm–130

Text: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness that  we may receive mercy for our failures and grace to help in the hour of need. (Hebrews 11:15, 16)

    To be reminded of our mistakes, short-comings, indiscretions or whatever we want to call it, is uncomfortable for most people. Like Adam and Eve trying to hide their nakedness, it seems that our default mode of operation is to deny, lie and cover up. All this does, though, is separate us more and more from God.

Each week, at the church I serve, we join together in a Prayer of Confession of Sin. From time to time someone will tell me that the Confession is depressing. Owning our sin is very counter-cultural. We often enter this part of the service by reminding worshipers of the words of  I John.  “If we say we are without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”(1: 8)  The apostle Paul wrote that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3: 23) Whether we like to hear it or not, we are sinners living in a state of sin. Period.

Today’s reading from Hebrews reminds us that sin does not have the last word, though. Like us, Jesus was tempted in every way but unlike us, Jesus did not fall. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness that  we may receive mercy for our failures and grace to help in the hour of need.  As the Incarnation of God, Jesus knows who we really are and has compassion upon us. With the confidence of a child standing before a loving parent, we can confess our sin and the part that we play in the world’s sin knowing that we will receive mercy and grace.

Lord, with David I can ask for Your forgiveness. It is against You and only You that I have sinned. Give me the courage and the wisdom to mend broken relationships without harming myself. Heal my wounds of the spirit and draw me more and more into the likeness of Christ. Amen.

Christian, devotion, faith, Lenten Devotion, Temptation, Temptations of Jesus, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace: The First Sunday in Lent, 2017

Devotional Reading: Matthew 4: 1-11

I always thought that temptations were a bad thing. At various times in my life, whenever I faced a major decision and didn’t know which way to go, I would pray, “Lord, if you do NOT want me to do a certain thing, then please don’t tempt me because I am weak and I will fail.” I truly knew what the apostle Paul was talking about when he wrote, “I do not understand my own action. For I do not do what I want, but the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7: 15-20) Like Paul, I stumble a lot.

But then, in reading today’s text, I realized that Jesus was led into the wilderness of temptation by the Spirit–the Holy Spirit. Temptations, then, are not bad. They are clarifying. They help me discover the essence of my character. As an old Country song says, “If you don’t know what you stand for, you’ll fall for anything.” Jesus’ temptations clarified for Him, the Early Church, and us today what gives our lives meaning. In life we “do not live by bread alone”. We must not “put God to the test”. And only one Being is worthy of our worship. (Matthew 4: 4,7&10, respectively).

These are basic principles by which we can live our lives. These are the principles we can use when we face temptation.

Lord, Jesus told us that when we pray we ought to pray not to be led into temptation. But when we are tempted, help us to stop and ponder Christ’s lessons–we do not live by bread alone, we must not put God to the test, and only one thing truly deserves our worship. Amen.