Starting your devotional time with someone else’s thoughts is always an experience in the unknown or unexpected. Either what the individual has to share might hit a home run with you or it might strike out. These thoughts might be a line drive right to your heart, or they might even wind up outside the base lines. I could say they went afoul, but that would not be true. It is with those ones that wind up outside the base lines where I wind up asking what do I do with this, often leading to a richer time with God on my new rabbit trail (switching metaphors – oops). Devotionals are a tool which God can and often richly uses in aiding us in a regular time with Him, and the goal of the writers of the most legitimate ones is that they would do exactly that.
I have really enjoyed using one particular devotional over the past year, but in doing that I have striven not to let the words of one individual be the sole shaper of my understanding of God, to replace the leading of His Spirit, or even to replace His Word.
All of my older boys have been given a particular study Bible, as well as have some other young people I’ve had the privilege of working with. In the cover of the study Bibles I wrote a word of encouragement to each of them about studying God’s Word and hiding it in their hearts and letting it shape their lives as they sought after God with their whole hearts. Along with those words I included some passages of Scripture that I felt most appropriate, but in most of them, if not all, I included Proverbs 3:5-6 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17. And along with the encouragement and the meaningful passages from God’s Word, I also included a warning, and that warning is knowing the difference between what lies above the lines in a study Bible which is the very Word of God, and what lies below the lines which are the thoughts of individuals who have tried to accurately understand the Word and share it with others. This is the same approach I have striven to use with devotional writings.
And I must say, that in using this particular devotional, “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young, I have found the author to speak honestly and accurately as she brought her own struggles before God and His Word to print in order to encourage others from what she has learned. And as I have used her devotional I have purposed to take the extra time before God and ask Him what He would have me learn, and in particular if there were any thoughts outside the lines of the devotional which were more appropriate or important for me and my time with Him, what I know of Him, and how I follow Him. It is my hope that even as I have shared some of these thoughts with you through my blogging that you would also do likewise.
Today Sarah writes about letting God’s love stream through us. I can honestly say that I have seen God’s love shine through her writings, and I also know that I have benefitted from sharing in her love for God. Today as I read from “Jesus Calling” the ball went outside the lines, and I started a study of what Scripture has to say about being “strong and courageous.” This was sparked in part by a verse she cites today (Deuteronomy 31:6) and my own reading from yesterday in John, and in particular John 16:33 where Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
Then when I arrived at church today a friend of mine gave me a copy of a chapter in a book by David Roper. There is a lot in this chapter that I want to reflect on, but the leading thought I took away is being content with the Giver [God] alone. And in the preliminary work on my side study, the overriding principle behind our being able to be strong and courageous is not because of any innate ability we might have or any overwhelming sense of optimism in our own skills, but because of who our God is and His faithfulness. David wrote,
“God’s gifts are of no value to us or to anyone else until we lose them. When we come to the place that God means more to us than anything else, when we love Him with all our strength and soul and mind and spirit and heart, when we give up the very gift God has given us, then in resurrection power that gift will bring blessing to everyone it touches.”
As the Spirit ties these things together in my heart I find the strength to wait and trust.
Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.
Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (6/23)
Let My love stream through you, washing away fear and distrust. A trusting response includes Me in your thoughts as you consider strategies to deal with a situation. My continual Presence is a promise, guaranteeing that you never have to face anything alone. My children teethe on the truth that I am always with them, yet they stumble around in a stupor, unaware of My loving Presence all around them. How that grieves Me!
When you walk through a day in trusting dependence on Me, My aching heart is soothed. Gently bring your attention back to Me whenever it wanders away. I look for persistence – rather than perfection – in your walk with Me.
But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. Psalm 52:8
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30