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Devoted to Him Who Is Devoted to Us

Do you remember the crush you had in high school on someone who didn’t like you back in quite the same way? The girl I liked fancied a few guys and eventually chose one, but I was not even on her list. Unrequited love; teenage heartbreak. “Let’s just be friends.” (Sigh.) “OK.” (By the way, golf is like this, too, for some of us—though we love it, it merely likes us in return. But let’s not digress.)

Jesus taught the gathered crowd, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”1 It was a warning to choose wisely that in which we invest ourselves and place our affections: we can “store up for [ourselves] treasures on earth . . . [or] treasures in heaven.”2 And just to be clear, Jesus added, “You cannot serve both God and money”3—we must choose the object of our devotion. Sometimes, like the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable4, we prefer the Father’s blessings over the Father himself, for the allure of self-indulgence can be as overpowering as it is deceitful. God or things, things or God—which will we love, and which will we use?

But as to God’s devotion to us, there is no dilemma, there is no equivocating. Speaking through His prophet Joel to those who oppressed Israel, God declared the worth of His admittedly rebellious people: “For you took my silver and my gold and carried off my finest treasures to your temples. You sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem . . . ”5 Did you catch it? God’s people are His silver and gold. We are His finest treasures. He has chosen us as His own, and where His treasure is, there His heart will be also—with us.

Then may His steadfast love for us draw us in an unshakable love for Him, that He would be our finest treasure, as well. If we have esteemed earthly riches over the richness of God, or if we have tried impossibly to “serve both,” then let this be the turning point at which we redirect our devotion entirely to Him who is completely devoted to us. Like the prodigal son who “came to his senses”6 and returned home, we will discover our Father’s love for us to be far richer—and far more satisfying—than any worldly wealth without Him.

Father, grant me wisdom to seek You and only You. Your blessings will be there as You choose—I know this full well, for such is Your character and Your devotion toward Your people. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 Matthew 6:21
2 Matthew 6:19-20
3 Matthew 6:24
4 See the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32.
5 Joel 3:5-6
6 Luke 15:17

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How To Handle Personal Praise

What parents in their right minds would let their college freshman spend Spring Break in New Orleans? (“Let’s talk about this!”) Yet our son Matthew and his friends were not going there to party, but to help clean up after Hurricane Katrina—more than six months after its devastating landfall. Matthew couldn’t begin to describe the damage, exacerbated by months of rotting and infestation of vermin, but the most revolting thing they encountered were the insides of refrigerators left untouched for over half a year, and with no power source to cool and preserve even the most imperishable of contents. Can we even begin to imagine? These common kitchen appliances are not meant to be the end point of the cycle from harvest to consumption, but a brief stop along the way. Like streams of water or electrical circuitry, they are means of movement.

In a way, we, too, are designed to be conduits—God fashioned us to be conduits of praise, not its endpoint. “Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness,”1 celebrated the psalmist. He understood the temptation to accept from others glory that is not rightfully ours—to let personal praise stagnate in our soul instead of flowing through us to God, where it belongs. “The crucible for silver, and the furnace for gold, but a man is tested by the praise he receives,”2 wrote Solomon. He understood, as well, our tendency to let praise spoil into pride. For as Paul says, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”3

Then how do we resist the temptation to harbor praise that ultimately belongs to God who blesses us in the first place? How do we keep pride from rotting and spoiling inside? Paul, again: “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”4 We are called to good works,5 yes, but not for our own praise, rather as Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”6 We were created for God’s glory7; it is in Him that all praise rightfully resides. Then “let the one who boasts boast in the Lord”8 —may we humbly and gladly pass along to Him the glory He deserves.

Father, may I never accept glory that belongs to You, but forever be a conduit through whom praise flows to its rightful place—Your throne. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 Psalm 115:1
2 Proverbs 27:21
3 1 Corinthians 4:7
4 1 Corinthians 10:31
5 Ephesians 2:10
6 Matthew 5:16
7 Isaiah 43:6-7
8 1 Corinthians 1:31

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Invisible Weapons and Incredible Warriors

“Oh, no, you don’t!” protested our neighbor as she wrested our lawnmower from the grip of a would-be thief. My wife Peggy had walked up the street and, knowing she would return in just a matter of minutes, left our garage door open. He may have been watching, for in that slender sliver of time a man backed up our driveway, strolled into our garage and proceeded to load our mower onto his truck bed. Watching this unfold, our neighbor Janice1 confronted the man. “What are you doing?” she demanded. “They said I could borrow it,” the man replied. Not satisfied, Janice countered wisely, “Who said you could borrow it?” The man had no reply, obviously exposed, so acting on our behalf Janice took authority over him who had none. Armed only with truth and conviction, she seized our mower and wheeled it back to our garage. The man jumped into his truck and sped away.

Jesus taught that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”2 He spoke of the evil one, of course, our “enemy the devil [who] prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”3 He would rob us of understanding, faith, joy, and ultimately life itself. Like the man in the truck, he waits for “an opportune time,”4 yet also like the man in the truck, he has no authority over what is not his. For it is Christ who sits at the right hand of the Father, “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion.”5 And “[we] belong to Christ.”6 Living in Him—and He in us—we have “authority to . . . overcome all the power of the enemy.”7 We are heirs with Christ, so it is crucial that we “know . . . his great power for us who believe.”8

Then we live in His authority to serve His purposes. Grounded in Him, we “stand against the devil’s schemes” and “struggle against the rulers, authorities and powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”9 “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world,” wrote Paul, “On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”10 For we wield truth, righteousness, faith, salvation, the Word of God, and prayer.11 Armed with these weapons and empowered by the authority of Christ, we stand immovably before the evil one and proclaim confidently to this would-be thief, “Oh, no, you don’t!”

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. —James 4:7

Father, You have put us in Christ, and in Him, we are made strong. Embolden us to pick up Your Kingdom weapons and stand confidently against our enemy. In the name of Christ and in the power of the Spirit we pray. Amen.

1 Name has been changed for this post.
2 John 10:10
3 1 Peter 5:8
4 Luke 4:13
5 Ephesians 1:21
6 1 Corinthians 3:23 NASB
7 Luke 10:19
8 Ephesians 1:18-19
9 Ephesians 6:11
10 2 Corinthians 10:4
11 Ephesians 6:14-18