Devoted to Devotionals?

I’m reading two devotion books currently, Savor by Shauna Niequist is one of them; at first glance I thought it was a little simple, but what I’ve discovered as I’ve read through it the last few years is that Shauna is relational, open and authentic. (And she includes some fantastic recipes in this book!) Day by day she covers great topics, and asks good, self-reflective questions. I appreciate her voice as a part of my morning, and the truth is that simple can lead us to deeper and more complex places. (I remember my pastor, Stan Buck, once saying, “People sometimes want deeper teaching, but if I only ever preached “Love your neighbor as yourself”, we’d have all the depth we need.” — Powerful.)

My other (and all time favorite) devotion book is My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. This guy doesn’t mess around, he shoots straight, and isn’t inclined to be concerned about our feelings. He teaches and explains scripture, as well as challenges and elevates me to desire to bring my own utmost to each day. I have been reading this devotional every year for over 15 years, and it’s still fresh and challenging on the daily. He’s on a first name basis with me after all our years together!

Devotionals can be so good, they can be enriching, inspiring, challenging, and helpful; they have a place in my quiet time, BUT, they cannot take the place of the Word itself. In September of 2020 Jen Wilkin wrote an article in Christianity Today titled Your Devotional is not a Bible. Just the title of the article alone was such a word of truth and so convicting and I left that article out in the open for almost a year.

How many times have I a grabbed a devotion book instead of the bible because I was short on time, or energy or, um, devotion to God? Devotion is defined as love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person, activity, or cause. Am I as devoted to God as I am to MYself, MY time, MY energy, MY to do list?

Here’s what I know, I cannot hear the voice of God if I don’t know the Word of God. I will only know his voice if I read His Word. While it’s good to receive words of comfort from a friend or book, it’s like salve when it comes from God. It’s easier for me to yield to correction from God than from any other source. It’s in the reading of the Word, praying and listening that my spirit is closest to God – he corrects, comforts, teaches, empowers, leads, strengthens, and encourages me.

Admittedly, it’s easy to get distracted and cut it short or not even enter into that time. A recent insight I’ve discovered about myself is that the days I haven’t met with God first because I’m “so busy”, it’s like I feel I have to accomplish even more to justify pushing God aside that day. But it’s like a chasing of the wind because at the end of those days there’s still something that’s not satisfied. But when I’ve sat quietly with God my days flow more as if everything that takes place and gets done is bonus – the most important minutes have been invested wisely and my soul is much more content throughout the day.

Here’s a bonus of devoted time to God on the regular, when I hit difficult places, I’m already disciplined to be near God, so in those times I find I naturally move a little closer to him and his word. In those times what I read and have planted in my heart is drawn up and out. So you’d think devotion to God’s writing would be a no brainer, and yet I submit that it can be a struggle to keep this a priority and discipline.

The reality is that there are many voices that want to speak into us, some are so good and needed, and I’m so thankful for that. Some are simply not true, or have a perspective that might be off, so the voice I want to have the most influence on me is the Lord’s. And that will be so when I have not neglected His word for someone else’s.

The Kingdom Divided – Jeroboam & Rehoboam

Jeroboam’s background in a nutshell:
He was “a man of standing” and an official in King Solomon’s construction / building phase. Solomon put him in charge “of the whole labor force of the tribes of Joseph”. One day he was told by a prophet, who had heard from God, that the Lord was going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand and give him ten tribes…this would be done because the people had forsaken him and worshipped other Gods and not walked in obedience or done what was right in the of the eyes of the Lord. (King Solomon had allowed sin to remain, eventually corrupting him and his leadership.) Jeroboam was told he would be king over Israel and rule over everything his heart desires if he followed the commands of the Lord, walked in obedience, did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, then the Lord would be with him.

(To me, that sounds overwhelming, humbling, a great responsibility and a great promise.)

This word about Jeroboam being made king made its way back to Solomon who then tried to kill Jeroboam, so Jeroboam fled to Egypt until Solomon’s death.

Enter Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. After his dad’s death, at age 41 he was made king. Jeroboam, feeling safe now that Solomon was dead, returned from Egypt. 2 Chronicles 10 tells that he and all of Israel  (remember, he was a respected leader) went before king Rehoboam and asked him to lighten the load that Solomon had put on them, saying they would serve him if would do this.

(This makes me want to go back and focus more on this – the wisest man put a heavy burden on his people. But also the wisest king failed in many ways, especially at the end, assuring us that none of us are beyond making terrible decisions.)  

Anyway, Rehoboam asked for a few days to consider this. He consulted the elders, who told him if he would be kind to the people, and give them a favorable answer they people would always be his servants. But the king rejected that, and for advice turned to the younger friends he had grown up with (who were currently serving him). Those guys said something along the lines of, Tell the people if they thought the yoke was currently heavy, that he (Rehoboam) would make the yoke even heavier and more painful, that he was even stronger than his father. And so the new king rejected the advice of the elders, answered harshly, and the kingdom divided. U f f f f f…

The ten tribes went home to the northern part of the kingdom, but Judah and Benjamin remained under king Rehoboam. Rehobom then ordered the two tribes to go fight Israel to regain the kingdom, but the word of the Lord came to them to go home, to not fight against their brothers, the Israelites. (Still a good word for us today.) In my notes I wrote that there was continual warfare between Rehoboam and Jeroboam, so that was a significant consequence as well.

My nugget from this ~ I believe pride, fear and more can keep us from seeking wise counsel. I also believe pride is likely the main ingredient that can keep me from listening and acting on wise counsel. Rehoboam wasn’t a baby king, he was 41, but clearly not mature or wise. When I read this story I see how foolish and arrogant Rehoboam was, and I don’t really relate to him. But then I wonder if that might be foolish and arrogant of me to think. So I commit again to seeking wise counsel with a soft and humble heart, not just listen to contemporaries who might tell me how great and strong I am.

More on Jeroboam to come . . .

(for reference: 1 Kings 11:26 – 14 & 2 Chronicles 10-12)

Once Upon a Time there was a King . . .

well several, and their stories were captivating ~

Recently I’ve been spending mornings with the kings of the Old Testament, specifically the kings of Israel and Judah when after Solomon’s death Israel was split into a northern and southern kingdom. They are some interesting guys to be sure; they intrigue me with their level of love for, and obedience to, the Lord. But also astound me as they exhibit dramatic ways of turning away, violence, fear, pride and more. Then of course there’s the Lord, who reveals Himself in displays of encouragement, reward, protection, anger, also turning away, justice and even much compassion.

I’ve been taking notes on these guys for a long time. Each time I read through Kings and Chronicles I make a list of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah. I record how old each was when they began their reign, how long they reigned, if overall they were good or evil and then notes that stood out to me about them. There are lists and charts available to me, but each time I read through I create my own lists, making the same, and sometimes new, notes about them. As I do this over and over I’m understanding more and about their stories, timelines and how they fit together. (And now I’m getting more interested in the prophets and priests; how and when their lives intersected with the kings – I love how a v e r y old book can continue to be so new!)

Sometimes the kings remind me of me. They are the kings of old but they sometimes do things that I think, “I do that.” It’s a wakeup call to take a look around my own “kingdom” and see what notes I might put next to myself in a notebook.

I thought I’d write a few lines about each king here over the next few days and weeks. I’m not a bible scholar, historian or expert on the kings, so please feel free and invited to add, edit, correct, or comment on any or all of these guys. These are really just my simple observations gathered in notebooks.

stay tuned . . .