devotions written by Deborah Galyen
I John 4
“We love because He first loved us” (v19). John declared that those who are “born of God” share two things: they believe that Jesus Christ came “in the flesh” (2), and they embrace God’s definition of love. Love may be a common word, but only God “is love” (v8). He demonstrated perfect love by sending His own Son to die for us, that “we might live through Him” (v8-9).
All of Christian faith and practice begins with the truth that God first loved us. As His love pushes out insecurity, self-centeredness, and fear, “we also ought to love one another” (v11,18).
“How shall we sing the LORD's song in a foreign land?” (v4). In exile in Babylon, the Jews mourned the loss of their home, their Temple, and their independence. Their Babylonian captors mocked them, wanting them to sing “songs of Zion” for entertainment, but they refused. What they had neglected and undervalued back in Israel – the worship of the One God – was now precious to them. Suddenly, the privilege of being God’s people and knowing Him became their “highest joy” (v5-6).
In distress and difficulty, we remember God. Worship is no longer ritual or entertainment, but the awesome privilege of calling on our Creator.
“Salvation belongs to the LORD!” (v9). Jonah’s terrible experience in the belly of the fish taught him a powerful lesson about God’s mercy. Jonah knew he was drowning as a result of his own rebellion, yet instead of condemnation, “You brought up my life from the pit” (v6). God commanded, and the prophet ran away, yet God did not turn His back on His servant. “I called out to the Lord … and He answered me” (1).
“When my life was fainting away …” (v7). When we are guilty, and lost, and desperate for help, God’s mercy far surpasses all our expectations.
“I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land” (v9). Jonah’s first action in the story is to disobey God’s direct, personal command (to go to Nineveh and preach). Therefore, his words provoke a question: how can he fear God and yet disobey Him? The pagan sailors on Jonah’s boat don’t claim to know God, but they respect His power (v14) and don’t want to kill Jonah (v13).
Rather than letting Jonah drown, God used a fish to rescue him (v17). God’s desire is not to punish, but to save us and shape us into men and women of integrity.
“But in Mount Zion there shall be those who escape, and it shall be holy, and the house of Jacob shall possess their own possessions” (v17). The prophet Obadiah spoke words of warning and judgment over the land of Edom, the near neighbor of Israel. Edomites were said to be descendents of Esau, yet they turned their backs on their cousins the Israelites in their time of need (v11). Obadiah said that the fire of judgment would reveal what could be saved (v18).
Those who escape judgment, according to Obadiah, are not the strong or the winners; they are vulnerable exiles - the weak and needy who recognize their Savior (v20-21).
I John 3
“And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another” (v23). Jesus came to “destroy the works of the devil” (v8), freeing us from our slavery to sin and giving us power to love and live as He did. As God’s “seed” of the Spirit takes root in us (v9), our lives begin to look more like Christ, though we await our total transformation at His return (v2).
We are called to love one another. And if we stumble and our hearts condemn us, God reminds us that Jesus is our advocate and the covering for our sin (2:1).
I John 2
“Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness” (v9). John gave the early believers some guidance as they discerned which spiritual leaders were “antichrist” (v18) and which were true servants of Jesus. John’s rules are simple: followers of Christ walk in love (v3-11), though they are not perfect (v1), and they confess that Jesus is God’s Son, who takes away our sins (v2, 22-23).
“And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments” (v3). As we know Jesus more, His Spirit dwells in us, and the inevitable result is the transformation of our lives.
“He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing” (v1). The Proverbs warn us that we cannot resist God’s ways indefinitely; we are His creation, and if we continue to ignore His voice, our lives will end in brokenness. On the global scale, rulers who steal from their people ruin their nation (v4), and within the family, the way we nurture our children and treat one another has life-long results (v17).
We may not see the instant result of our choices, but over a lifetime, surrendering to God leads to His glory and our own joy (v6).
“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever” (v1). This psalm (song) leads God’s people in repeating this phrase as part of our worship, and the psalm itself explains why the words are true. God’s goodness and love are evident through what He does: He made our beautiful world, the sky and planets and earth (v1-9), and He personally rescued Israel from their enemies (v10-22).
God remembers us in our human weakness (v23). Our own experiences affirm what the psalm says: He never stops reaching out to us with mercy, love, and provision. His steadfast love endures forever.
“I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine …” (9:14). Amos was mainly a prophet of warning, yet his book ends with a powerful message of restoration. Israel would indeed fall to the Assyrians and its people be scattered, yet Amos saw beyond that to the day when “the booth of David” would be restored (v11) and God’s good promises fulfilled by the Messiah.
The good news for Israel and for all the world is that salvation is initiated and accomplished by God. God Himself “rebuilds ruined cities” and gives us a new future.
“Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches …” (6:4). Amos had a special warning for those who were “at ease in Zion, and those who feel secure” (6:1). They would be the first to go into exile when God allowed the Assyrians to conquer Israel (v7). The wealthy, the privileged, the leaders of society – they could have led the people in righteousness and modeled godly behavior, but instead they kept their profits to themselves, oppressed the poor, took bribes, and practiced immorality.
Sometimes our earthly comfort can blind us to spiritual truth. Israel’s leaders had “gained the world” but had lost the things that matter.
“Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate …” (v15). Amos told the people of Israel that God was offended by their Temple sacrifices and ceremonies (v21-22); their society had become so unjust that worship of God was simply a mockery. They made money off the taxation of poor people, their leaders accepted bribes, and they turned away the needy instead of acting with compassion. For all this, God refused to accept their worship.
“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (v24). God doesn’t want empty sacrifices; He wants us to honor Him by treating others with compassion, generosity, and fairness.
I John 1
“That which was from the beginning … the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life” (v1-2). John started his message with this firm declaration: the gospel is not an idea, but rather the good news about a real Person who lived, died, and rose again. John saw Jesus “made manifest,” displayed clearly, so that men and women could see Him and touch Him.
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another” (v7). When we walk in the light, Jesus continues to shine in the world through us.
II Peter 3
“But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace” (v13-14). Peter encouraged believers to hold on to the hope that God’s kingdom would one day reign fully on the earth, and he explained that Christ was delaying His return so that more people would repent (v9,15). God is not willing that any should perish (v9).
God’s coming kingdom breaks into this world now, by the Spirit, wherever believers proclaim Jesus, worship Him together, and live by His teachings.
October 15: I John 3 (10/15/2014)
October 14: I John 2 (10/14/2014)
October 13: Proverbs 29 (10/13/2014)
October 12: Psalm 136 (10/12/2014)
October 11: Amos 8-9 (10/11/2014)
October 10: Amos 6-7 (10/10/2014)
October 9: Amos 5 (10/09/2014)
October 8: I John 1 (10/08/2014)
October 7: II Peter 3 (10/07/2014)
October 6: II Peter 2 (10/06/2014)
October 5: Psalm 135 (10/05/2014)
October 4: Psalm 134 (10/04/2014)
October 3: Amos 3-4 (10/03/2014)
October 2: Amos 1-2 (10/02/2014)
October 1: II Peter 1 (10/01/2014)
September 30: I Peter 5 (09/30/2014)
September 29: I Peter 4 (09/29/2014)
September 28: Psalm 133 (09/28/2014)
September 27: Joel 3 (09/27/2014)
September 26: Joel 2 (09/26/2014)