Devotional Thoughts for Today
“If you return, O Israel, declares the Lord, to me you should return. If you remove your detestable things from my presence, and do not waver, 2 and if you swear, ‘As the Lord lives,’ in truth, in justice, and in righteousness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.”
There was a period in my life, probably around 12 or 13 years of age, when I used to go to a strategy gaming club every Sunday. To say that I loved turn-based strategy games would be an understatement. It was my Sunday ritual—my “church” before I started going to church. As an adult, I still love these games but have also come to see that they can be a time drain and can get in the way of getting other important things done. This became all the more so when some of my favorite games appeared in online form; now there was no need to look for someone to play with—the worldwide online community was available 24/7. This tension came to a climax in my early twenties, when I felt like my love for strategy games was competing with my commitment to God. I felt the need for change but stopped short of actually doing anything about it. I would acknowledge that my hobby was getting out of hand, that I was probably even addicted, and even pray about it, confessing my poor stewardship of time to God—yet nothing changed. The reason for this was simple: I felt bad, but not bad enough to actually remove the source of the addiction.
In today’s passage, God gives us a lesson on what real repentance is: “If you return” means you also have to “remove your detestable things from my presence.” Israel’s failure time and again to “remove the high places,” that is, the places of idol worship on the hilltops and mountaintops, would lead to them being ensnared in worship of false gods again and again. Their revival might have seemed genuine at the time, but it was only a matter of time before the cancer on the high places spread back down to village life. This is why Hezekiah is remembered as such an important reformer—not only did he remove the idols from the Temple complex, but he even removed those pesky high places.
If there are “high places” in your life, chances are you know what they are. True change comes from not only admitting them but taking decisive action to remove the source of temptation from your life. For this, accountability is key. Invite a trusted brother or sister or two to journey to your high places with you and start smashing some sacred stones.
Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to get rid of whatever is tripping me up in my relationship with You. Convict my heart that nothing is worth getting in the way of our relationship. Help me to make tough decisions and bring people into my life who can help me remove the high places. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Hebrews 12
Lunch Break Study
Read Mark 10:17-22: And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Questions to Consider
- If the rich young man was so good at keeping commandments, why didn’t he think that he was worthy of eternal life?
- Does Jesus’ command to the young man mean that we also need to give away everything we have? How does this apply to us?
- What was Jesus’ attitude towards the young man when He commanded him to sell everything? How should this encourage us?
- There was another god in his life: money. And he could feel it weighing on his soul.
- Whatever it is that we are not willing to give away is what Jesus would have us give away.
- He loved him. Whatever it is that God is asking you to surrender, you can do so in faith because you know that His motivation towards you is love.
Take a moment to reflect upon your day. What were the moments of tension or conflict that you experienced in your heart? Do you notice a pattern that might reveal something that has mastery over your heart?