DEVOTIONS

Westney Heights Baptist Church – Men’s Breakfast

November 16, 2013

Study Guide

 

Devotions are for many Christians a kind of spiritual No-Man’s-Land. Neither a sermon nor a greeting card, devotions are often seen as a grey area where we neither study deeply nor view broadly, a place where we get our spiritual fix for the day and then move on to what really needs doing. But devotions must be a time of prayerful conversation with God and submission to God or they are of no more value than if we were to make self-help books our guide instead of the Bible. The short list below show some of what devotions are that we will be discussing this morning:

 

         Personally, devotions are the most important thing you will ever do

         Devotions are not the act of a moment but the duty of a lifetime

         Regardless of your surroundings, you are meeting with God!

         Take God seriously, He takes you seriously

         The focus of devotions should be on your personal responsibility to God

 

By way of example, I would like to make a brief study of a critical moment in the life of Joshua. the leader of the nation of Israel following Moses’ death. Joshua was a man of forty at the time when Moses and Aaron led Israel out of Egypt. Joshua would have seen the plagues; he would have taken part in the first Passover and he would have personally experienced the frantic haste with which the Egyptians sent Israel flying from their land. Joshua crossed the Red Sea and it was Joshua that led Israel in battle against the Amalekites. And finally, it was Joshua who accompanied Moses on Mt. Sinai to receive the law from God, who alone with Caleb brought back a favourable report of the land of Canaan and who stood by Moses as his assistant during the years of wandering in the wilderness. Joshua is now the leader of Israel and at this moment, just as the nation is about to cross the Jordan River to claim the land of Canaan, God comes to Joshua to encourage him:

 

Joshua 1:1 After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, 2 "Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."

 

Personally, devotions are the most important thing you will ever do

 

Joshua 1:6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.

 

Other than your salvation, a time of devotions, where you regularly meet and speak with God, will be the most personally important event of your life. Loving your wife: raising your children; being a faithful friend, all these are critically important and must not be minimized but to be good at anything else you first need to be good with God. One of the items mentioned in every pre-flight safety lecture regards the “unlikely loss of cabin pressure,” in which case we are told that an oxygen mask will fall from the ceiling which we must first put over our mouth and nose before assisting anyone else with theirs. The reason being that in order for us to be able to help others live we have first got to stay alive ourselves.

 

Looking at the example of Joshua we see that the Book of the Law was not to depart from his mouth. As with Moses, Joshua was expected to know God well enough to be able to be an effective guide to God for the people he would lead. Nothing was to be more important to Joshua than his time with God, his concentration on and study of the word of God (the portion of the Bible that we now know as Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy).

 

In all the instruction given to Joshua, never once do we see any guidance as to how he is to lead Israel other than that he is to “spend time in the word.” It was of critical importance that Israel have a Godly leader as they journeyed into Canaan, the land that God would destroy because of its idolatry and sinful practice. Israel needed a leader who could keep them on track and so Joshua was expected to know God well so that he could lead God’s people well. The recurring phrase in Judges “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” indicates how important it was that a man like Joshua lead the nation.

 

Our own world is little better than Canaan. Our families inhabit a land “flowing with milk and honey” and every luxury we could imagine or want. Our children are growing up amidst practices as disgusting and reprehensible as those that led to Canaan’s destruction. Our families need Godly leadership that can guide them through the immorality that surrounds us. Only by “spending time in the word” can we be the Godly leaders our families need.

 

Devotions are not the duty of a moment but the habit of a lifetime

 

Joshua 1:8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

 

There is this idea that we can spend a moment or two with God, as time allows and our routine permits. We can read a chapter of the Bible, or a Psalm, utter a brief prayer and say we’re done, we’ve spent time with God now on with our day. Think of this for a moment: We can only spare the Creator of the universe a moment between waking and breakfast; or some time during lunch or on the drive home, or in our bed before going to sleep. How would our friends react if we treated them the same way? How would we feel if they treated us this way?

 

Devotions are not something we do and then we’re done. Returning to Joshua we see that we are never done: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” Joshua wasn’t expected to merely “spend time in the word,” he was commanded to bask in it, to “meditate on it day and night” and “be careful to do according to all that is written in it.”

 

The moments we can read the Bible in the morning, or whenever we can do so, are good but they are more of a beginning of the journey than the journey itself. Our personal devotions can include a brief Bible reading and some moments of prayer with the idea that these are the beginning of a practice that will continue throughout the day. The fall of a leaf can call us back to God; speaking with a co-worker may remind us of our mutual stewardship of creation; eating our food can be a cause for rejoicing in God’s continued blessing. All that is good comes from the hand of God and we can meditate on God all day by letting these things remind us of Him.

 

Regardless of your surroundings, you are meeting with God!

 

Joshua 1:3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory.

 

No matter where we are when we do devotions, we will not be able to take God by surprise. No part of our lives is closed to God and unless we are in a place of sin there is no place we can be where we can be any more offensive to God than we are here this morning. We are creatures of mud, steeped in sin from our birth and reluctant inheritors of salvation. Salvation is not something we obtained for ourselves, it is a gift of God. Were it not for God we would not be saved, being a child of God was the very last thing we wanted until He adopted us. There is nothing we can do that will surprise God. With that in mind remember that you can talk to God anywhere: In traffic; while washing dishes; being athletic; going out with our buddies; even loving your wife or playing with your children. There is no part of our lives where we can be apart from God. So talk to Him. If you hadn’t time to do a “proper” devotional that morning then talk to God wherever you can and whenever you are able. Just remember to treat Him with respect. He is our Creator, our Saviour, our God. Let’s not treat Him as a casual acquaintance but as He really is: The One without Whom we would not have life.

 

Several days after God’s encouragement of Joshua, after the Israelites had crossed the Jordan, had scouted out Jericho and met Rahab. Joshua had another encounter with God; this time, I believe, with God in the person of the pre-incarnate Christ. They had this rather remarkable exchange of words:

 

Joshua 5:13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, "Are you for us, or for our adversaries?" 14 And he said, "No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, "What does my lord say to his servant?" 15 And the commander of the LORD's army said to Joshua, "Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.

 

Here, God is indicating that He is not for Israel or for Joshua, He is for Himself and is using Israel to accomplish His purpose. What is telling here is that the ground where Joshua met with God was holy, for no other reason but that God was there. Wherever you are when you meet with God, but to a much lesser degree, the place where you are is holy. Enjoy the presence of God in that place, wherever it is; the presence of God is a blessing given to very few.

 

Take God seriously, He takes you seriously

 

Joshua 1:5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.

 

God takes us so seriously that He is willing to die in our place so that He could reclaim us and cause us to return to Him. Joshua was one of the spies originally sent into Canaan to spy out the land. It was Joshua who, alone with Caleb, told the Israelites that they could conquer the Canaanites, despite their great power, not with God’s help but because the Israelites were God’s people and God would defeat the Canaanites for them. Joshua stood almost alone among several million rebellious Israelites telling them that God would give them victory. He took God seriously in His ability to give Canaan to Israel and he took God seriously in his continued stand for God despite national rebellion. Forty years later, when God told Joshua to conquer Jericho … by marching silently around it for a week … he did it without question.

 

When we do our devotions we must take God seriously. There is nothing that God cannot do, there is no power to which He must defer. God is not some idea of which we might be ashamed and who must be defended to those who would defame Him. God is God and can handle any problem this world can throw at Him. When we speak to Him we speak to the One who has all the power and who is utterly holy and who will judge all who live when Jesus returns. If we fail to take Him seriously we do so at our peril. For our children’s sake, we need to show them that God is our life and there is nothing more important to us than Him. That even they are not more important to us than God.

 

Some of you may have met my dad, George Rhebergen; I believe God blessed me beyond reason to give me this man as my father. If you met him, you would have met man disabled by illness and age and coming to the end of his life. You could not have seen him at a moment of glory thirty years ago. His business was failing. His wife was seriously ill. A job he had hoped and dreamed for had been given to a junior co-worker. One of his sons was rejecting all that he had taught and headed toward a life of delinquency. I saw all of this but did not understand at the time what was happening. Why? Because for our family nothing changed. All I knew was that dad continued to lead his family in daily devotions at mealtimes; he faithfully fulfilled his duties to the church; he never once said a bad word about God or questioned the love of God for him. This is the father I grew up with, a man who took God seriously. A man to whom God was IT!

 

The focus of devotions should be on your personal responsibility to God

 

Joshua 24:15 “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

 

Which leads me to my final point. Regardless of what you do with your family for devotions; whether you meet at mealtime to read the Bible and pray or set an hour aside in the evening to worship God as family. Whatever you do, if you do it honestly and as an homage to God you are doing it right. But none of this can happen if you yourself are not already meeting with God. It may be that you will be seen by your children as a silent but rock steady man of God. It may be that you are vocal and actively involved in their own practice of meeting God. God is not calling you to be Joshua, or Moses, or David, or my dad or your dad. God is calling you to be you. He gave you to your family because you are what your family needs and it is in part through your position as father, husband or friend that God will be glorified in the lives of those around you.

 

In order for you to be the best you that you can be you need to know God as best you can. it is your responsibility as a husband, father or friend to meet with God as often as possible, as well as possible so that you can be as much a man of God as possible.

 

You may find your best devotion is spending hours in the Bible. You may find your best devotion is doing yard work. You may find that your best devotion is to involve yourself in the lives of your family or friends. You may find that your best devotion is to write, or sing, or paint or just sit quietly in the rain. But whatever you do, do it to the glory of God. Praise Him day in and day out. Ceaselessly. Endlessly. Every moment of every day consider God and worship Him. I’ve been in some pretty strange places and have learned that there is no place where I can go that God is not. I am a sinful man, there is nothing in my life that will disgust God more than my sin and He has already forgiven it! In the words of another great man of God:

 

Rom 8:38-39For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

If we go through our lives knowing that God loves us and will never stop loving us, and if we respond to that love then we too will be able to say at the end of our days words such as Joshua spoke at the end of his days, seventy years after we first meet him:

 

Joshua 24:15 “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

 

Or perhaps something like the final words of a man I loved dearly; who lived his entire life for his God and could sing hymns on his deathbed: “I can see Jesus! He is coming to take me home!”

 

Practice communion with God wherever and whenever you are. He will never let you down.