Devotionals by Rev. Gary E. Crum, www.GOSPELyielded.com
New Devotional 1/15/19:
The Comforts of Benevolent Power
Psalm 23:4 KJV Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
The police officers on the street when I was a kid used to always carry a baton (some still do) – this was a big stick to keep the peace without having to resort to using a gun or calling for backup.
It was evidence of their authority, as was their police badges, and an implement of aggression: aggression to punish, and to protect the weak from the oppressors among us.
For some evildoers in the community the baton was a threat – to me it was a comfort to see. It was evidence that someone very able was around who was a benevolent and powerful warrior in case I was ever in danger.
When David wrote the famous twenty-third psalm, he spoke of the Lord as a kind shepherd of the sheep. He also pointed to the implements of the shepherd: a stiff rod to chase way predators, and a staff to pull the sheep – us -- out of the thickets and other wrong-headed ways if the sheep got too far from the shepherd’s protection.
Even under shadowy threats of death, this shepherd of David, the Lord God, has power, guidance, and all we need to persevere – we shall not want.
The Lord has the power to cast into eternal outer darkness, and he has the power to heal forever with eternal life. He holds the scepter of King of Kings, and the power to raise from the dead – first himself, then all people. With his love, he grants his followers eternal life, if they repent of their sins.
While on this earth, he guides us like a shepherd lovingly, powerfully guides his sheep. He sends us internally the Holy Spirit’s blessings – and forgives totally the contrite sinner. He teaches us to find the living waters.
What does this rod and staff bearing Good Shepherd mean for us who are truly of his fold? What eternal destiny awaits us? What good will result on earth if I faithfully take up my own cross and follow the One who gave his own life for me on the Cross of Calvary?
Since I do yield to the Good Shepherd’s love, power, and authority, what will be my lot?
Psalm 23:6 KJV Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
Amen! Let it be exactly as David wrote millennia ago! The Lord is indeed my shepherd!.
#1 The Myth of the Insignificant Moment
2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Luke 12:2-3 "For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.”
Mark 9:41 "For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.
Do you ever feel like your moments are insignificant ones tied together into an unimportant, insignificant life?
The fact is that every thought, word, and deed anyone does has eternal significance, whether done by someone famous like Elvis Presley or by someone not world-famous, like me and maybe you.
Our life’s moments are by God’s Grace building our eternal legacy as a true follower for the risen Christ, or they in a very significant sense are forever wasted moments: joys to the Devil.
Read again the verses above, and pray that what is proclaimed about you to all of resurrected humanity on the day of Judgement will be that your life was built on faith in Jesus and full of moments that will by no means be lost of their reward. Then act in accord with that prayer, knowing that for those who deny themselves and follow Christ their final day will brim with God’s recognition of eternal significance.
Yes, may you on that last day be by Jesus made more famous than Elvis ever was, and be forever blessed for the daily moments you offered to Christ right there in your own home town.
#2 Remembering God’s Beneficence
Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. Psalm 103:1,2 KJV
These verses began every Sunday service while I was growing up. They were the favorite salutation to his congregation by Rev. Stevens, who started our little church in rural Virginia near Newport News.
Rev. Stevens was a tall man, lanky, and full of faith in Jesus. He started many churches as a “church planter” back in the 50s, 60s, and 70s – and moved on from my church to start another one while I was still in High School.
He baptized me as the first male saved in that church, at age eight, and preached the Gospel to a me through my childhood, often for meager salary, but never without our profound gratitude.
The old church now is large and prosperous, and Rev. Stevens has long ago passed on to his reward.
I went on a pilgrimage of sorts this past summer – seeking out his grave in a rural North Carolina churchyard – and left a cross on the headstone in memory of his faithfulness to God. I also prayed there to God for the welfare and growing faith of all those saved souls, like me, who were still alive and blessing the Lord just as the Bible -- and as the preacher -- had admonished us to do.
Today, sitting in my office, I praise the holy name of the Lord for the many Christian congregations which prayed for and with me throughout my life: from the humble church and pastor of my faith’s beginnings, to the loving congregation currently blessing me and mine.
#3 Is there a Jonah on Your Boat?
So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. Jonah 1:15 KJV
I heard a TV preacher (I sadly do not remember his name) ask his congregation recently an interesting question, which I repeat for you now: “Is there a Jonah on your boat?”
In the Bible, the men on the boat that Jonah had boarded were facing a terrible storm, and the lots cast fell on Jonah as the culprit. Jonah confessed that he was running away from God and suggested that they throw him off the boat to escape that wrath which was really directed at him alone. The men did all they could to deny Jonah’s request, but the terrors increased, and they reluctantly threw him overboard.
The sea immediately calmed and they were out of danger – praising God for their deliverance.
Jonah’s problems, however, had only just begun, but I refer you to the Old Testament Book of Jonah for the account of how he eventually stopped his disobedience to God.
Oh, what troubles assail you and me because we have welcomed sin into our lives!?
Perhaps the Jonah in your life is a friend that constantly pulls at you to leave your faith, a relative that drains the food from your children’s mouths, or an abusive personality that feeds daily on your suffering and pain? If you find yourself overwhelmed and spiritually at-risk from such a person, remember the practice that Paul condemns in 2 Corinthians 6:14 (KJV): “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”
Humbly pray for that person and for yourself, but ask yourself if you harbor a unrepentant Jonah. Even in the church these thorny questions arise from time to time, and after much effort at reconciliation, a Jonah must sometimes be expunged, at least for a while until a reconciliation with God and man can be restored, as it was with Jonah, through repentance.
Recall this admonition of Paul from 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 (ESV): But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you."
#4 Spiritual Discernment
Spiritual discernment has been defined as follows (from website spiritualgiftstest.com): “being able to distinguish, discern, judge or appraise a person, statement, situation, or environment.”
Let’s look at two key “discernment” verses:
1 Corinthians 12:10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
Hebrews 5:13-14 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
The first bible citation says discernment of spirits is one of the manifestations of the Spirit: one of the miraculous gifts from God, in this case to allow us to see the spiritual nature/source of things.
The second verse suggests that spiritual exercise can also develop a related skill in the average believer: like to tell good from evil when we encounter it. Yes, we can indeed from the Holy Scriptures find perfect wisdom: a wisdom that will assist us to recognize spiritual error and the Devil’s wiles as we go through life.
The review of the Greek in first verse above helps us understand these matters. In it the word “discerning” is the Greek word diakrisis, which is not so much a judgmental word as it is a word meaning “distinguishing” or “categorizing.” However, once such a categorization is correctly made of something being either beneficial or harmful -- being from God or the Devil -- the judgement of its spiritual worth by the Christian will quickly follow.
For instance, one time I determined as an entomology student in college that a spider I found in the woods was very poisonous, so my plan to hold it for closer study was rapidly rejected.
Praise the Lord!, for like the police search dogs that can find a living soul buried deep within a mountain of hurricane rubble, Christians by the Grace of God can discern His truths and spiritual blessings within the most difficult of circumstances, and can thus avoid all the lurking “spider bites” of the Devil. Pray to God right now for more spiritual discernment!
#5 Painful Blessings
After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.
Acts 16:23-25 NIV
Dear friend of Christ, listen carefully. All things work together for the best, even times of pain and tears (read Romans 8:28!). Even in deep suffering there is a blessed fellowship: a uniting of hearts with Jesus and other Christians facing the Devil’s onslaughts in this cruel world. Paul and Silas knew that.
This devotional is written to help you experience more fully this difficult but joyous truth.
I ask you now to recall in your mind the most difficult and painful time to your life --- perhaps you are dwelling in that dark period even now.
I do not know what trial of the body, mind, and/or spirit you are recalling, but let me teach you how to find great joy and a blessed unity with Christ even from its bitter taste!
You see, your problem, your suffering, is like the suffering Jesus himself voluntarily accepted for YOU when he came to earth in human flesh. (Thank you, Jesus!)
Are you ill-treated and unjustly abused by your enemies? So was Jesus, even more so. Are you living in difficult circumstances? Well, so did he, even more so. Have you come in good intentions, leaving behind unfathomable comforts, power, and peace, only to be spurned by those you came to help? Are you hated without cause, slandered, beaten, condemned to death by unjust courts? Have you been stripped in public and spat upon? Have you been literally so bruised and paralyzed you cannot think clearly, breathe without pain, or move your limbs? Are you dying at the hands of cruel men, tortured and abandoned by your closest friends? Well, Jesus suffered all this to the maximum -– voluntarily, out of love -- to rescue sinful you and me forever.
Dear Heavenly Father, may I never weep for what I suffer in this life, without more deeply weeping for what your Son suffered for me!!
So, let us all gladly take up our crosses each day, enduring patiently for a season, perhaps until death, our times of suffering. Let us realize that until we are delivered by God from the burdens of such sad times (as we most surely will be delivered!) they will be a path to a more intimate fellowship with and ever-growing appreciation of the Sacrificial Lamb of God, our eternal King of Kings, Jesus.
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.
Philippians 3:10 KJV