Come Ye Apart devotionals

For your daily devotions: These two weeks of devotional thoughts appeared in past issues of Come Ye Apart, devotional quarterly now titled Reflecting God.

For Monday
Scripture Reading — Matthew 5:1-12

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God" (Matthew 5:8, NIV).

A design for life

     Three months after arriving in Italy, I attended an interdenominational missionary conference in Florence. My dinner companions one evening included a veteran missionary from a mission board with Calvinistic theological leanings. There, in our hotel dining room on the bank of the Arno River, I was enjoying my spaghetti and trying to explain something to the man about holiness theology. Suddenly, he looked up from his plate and said, "And I hope you're not going to impose that on the Italians."
     Here in the Beatitudes, Jesus himself says quite clearly that holiness — including a pure heart — is the design for life in the Kingdom of God. Holy living is the life-style for which Americans and Italians were both created. I had not gone to Italy to "impose" the attainment of holy living on anyone, but rather to proclaim that it as a possibility.
     Heart purity is synonymous with a tightly-focused concentration of the whole self upon God. The lifestyle which Jesus outlines here (and which some dispute as being attainable) can spring only out of a pure heart. The Master's words clearly indicate that one can live in this present world with a pure heart. I believe that includes both Americans and Italians!
    — Howard Culbertson

Worship in Song, no. 298:

Come to my soul, blessed Jesus.
Hear me, 0 Saviour divine!
Open the fountain and cleanse me;
Give me a heart like Thine.

    — "A Heart like Thine" by Judson W. Van Deventer

For Tuesday December 30
Scripture Reading — Matthew 5:13-16

"Don't hide your light! Let it shine for all; let your good deeds glow for all to see, so that they will praise your heavenly Father" (Matthew 5:16, TLB).

The Christian influence

     Her name was Carol. In her late twenties, this south Texas girl had encountered the transforming power of the gospel. Formerly a prostitute who had dabbled on the edges of the drug subculture, she now wanted desperately to win her sinner friends to the Lord. But she had trouble "shining clearly." Her spiritual life was a roller coaster whose erratic ups and downs kept her from having a life that was plainly the work of her spiritual Father. As a result, her attempts as a verbal witness were merely laughed at.
     You see, spiritual concepts do not stalk alone through the world, Jesus does not say we are to bring light or to give salt. He said we are light and are salt. The gospel is not an abstract philosophy to be debated. God has chosen to send the Good News into the marketplace clothed with vivid concreteness in the lives of men and women.
     We must be continually careful that the Source of our life is obvious. Gary Sivewright tells of a recurring dream of the Judgment Day. As he remembers his high school of 2,000 students, Gary confesses that he was neither salt nor light. In that recurring Judgment Day dream, Gary recoils with horror and shame as many of his 1,999 classmates point at him crying, "All along you knew . . . you knew . . . and you didn't do or say anything."
    — Howard Culbertson

Worship in Song, no. 318:

. . . but for love that claimeth
Lives for whom He died.
He whom Jesus nameth
Must be on His side.

     — "Who Is on the Lord's Side?" by Frances R. Havergal

For Wednesday
Scripture Reading — Matthew 5:17-26

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Matthew 5:17, NIV).

God's unfolding plan

     The Incarnation was a continuing part of God's unfolding plan to deliver man from the consequences of his own rebellion. Emmanuel — "God with us"— came to expose the truest and deepest meaning of the law.
     One Christmas I gave my two-year-old son, Matthew, a toy music box. As he tore the last bit of wrapping paper off, I could see he did not know what it was. Looking it over, he finally decided its function was similar to that of a hammer. So he began banging away with it on everything in sight. I crawled across the room on my hands and knees to him. I showed him how to wind it up, and we sat enthralled by the music. Now, you see, I was the same person who both gave my son a gift he did not at first fully comprehend and then who showed him the full meaning of it. I did not throw away the music box because he had initially misunderstood the purpose it was supposed to serve.
     It was the same God who gave Moses the law and who spoke through the prophets who, 2,000 years later, was "in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself' (2 Corinthians 5:19). Jesus' attitude towards the law demonstrates that God does not act capriciously. He is the Eternal, Unchanging One. In a world filled with uncertainties and seemingly devoid of absolutes, I can be certain that God will be true to His Word and that both His commands and His promises remain bedrock firm.
    — Howard Culbertson

Worship in Song, no. 133:

It will never lose its pow'r.
The Blood that cleanses from all sin
Will never lose its pow'r.

     — "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power" by Civilla D. Martin

For Thursday
Scripture Reading — Matthew 5:27-37

"But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28, NIV).

Sin's seat — the heart

     God does not totally legislate every possible act of our lives, cause He knows that purity in actions grows only out of purity heart. Moral righteousness will never produce a pure heart. But a pure heart will produce moral righteousness.
     Jesus points out that sin lies not only in committing an act, in the heart motive behind that action. A man may wish to come an evil, but he cannot because God puts time, place, or opportunity out of his power. However, in graphic illustrations, Jesus points out that the man is still fully chargeable with the iniquity of the action.
     While we were in Italy I spent one Sunday afternoon walking through old Pompeii, that city near Naples that was buried the volcano Vesuvius nearly 2,000 years ago. In several of the home pornographic wall murals are still intact. Pompeii was a wicked city, certainly in thought and heart, if not in deeds. As we walked, our Italian guide muttered, "No wonder God allowed the volcano to destroy it."
     Today, let us pray the Psalmist's prayer: "Wash me thorough from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. . . Create in a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalm 5:10).
    — Howard Culbertson

Worship in Song, no. 34:

My soul, be on thy guard;
Ten thousand foes arise.

     — "My Soul, Be on Thy Guard" by George Heath

For Friday
Scripture Reading — Matthew 6:1-4, 16-18

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven" (Matthew 6:1, NIV).

Practicing your piety

     Jesus never attacks the law of Moses; He only attacks the way in which it was being interpreted (or misinterpreted). He does not forbid public almsgiving or prayer and fasting. He simply censures those vain and hypocritical persons who do these things publicly to enhance their saintly reputations.
     Rev. Charles Merrill Smith has written a delightful book attacking ecclesiastical hypocrisy. In his satirical volume called How to Become a Bishop Without Being Religious, this Methodist minister amplifies Jesus' distinction between being truly religious and just looking pious. Tongue in cheek, he writes, "You don't really have to be religious to succeed in the ministry — you just have to look that way!"
     Men have often tried to take shortcuts to get their spiritual rewards. Often, they have mistakenly looked for those rewards from their fellowmen. As a result, the focus of their spiritual life was on outward actions, not on the inner life. God is under no obligation to this kind of person. He does nothing with an eye to God's glory, and from Him this person can expect no recompense.
    — Howard Culbertson

Worship in Song, no. 72:

Blessed be the name of Jesus!
I'm so glad He took me in.
He's forgiven my transgressions;
He has cleansed my heart from sin.

     — "I Will Praise Him" by Margaret J. Harris

For Saturday
Scripture Reading — Matthew 6:5-15

"Do not be like the hypocrites; they love to say their prayers . . . for everyone to see them. . . But when you pray ... pray to your Father" (Matthew 6:5-6, NEB).

And when you pray

     I met him in a tiny hotel off Piazza Independenzia, a block from Rome's main railroad station. He was a young American tourist, a student at a Nazarene college. "I guess I'm not a Christian," he said slowly; "I don't even know how to pray."
     I almost cried for him. For prayer is not a ceremonial rite. Unfortunately, this young college student is not alone in his misconception of prayer. Others have said to me, "Pastor, say a prayer for me." The New English Bible renders it well: Hypocrites say prayers; true Christians pray.
     The disciples had not been with Jesus very long before the realized the important part prayer played in His life. Strict performance of private prayer can be one of the surest marks of genuine piety and Christian sincerity.
     Some time ago a photographer assembled a photo study of elderly brothers and sisters along with their marriage partners. Amazingly, the husbands and wives more closely resembled each other in their facial features than did the brothers and sisters. Their living together over the years, facing the same trials and same joys, had molded them into a likeness of each other.
     R. A. Torrey says a close prayer relationship will do the same thing with us. He writes, "Our growth into the likeness of Jesus will be in exact proportion to the time and heart we put into prayer."
    — Howard Culbertson

Worship in Song, no. 473:

Blessed hour of prayer!
What a balm for the weary!
Oh, how sweet to be there!

     — "Blessed Hour of Prayer" by Fanny J. Crosby

For Sunday
Scripture Reading — Romans 7:1-6

We have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code" (Romans 7:6, NIV).

Serving in a new way

     In south Texas, I have some "Jesus people" friends who feel the main theme of a Christian's life is not "service to the King," but "freedom in the Spirit." They define this as meaning there are few, if any, moral restraints on their lives. They have neglected to see that man is created to serve God.
     Paul reminds us that, though we now live under grace, we are still to serve God. Believers have been freed from the curse of the law. But because of that, they are now able to obey God from love, with spontaneity and gladness of heart. The law — though spiritual, just, holy, and good — was insufficient for freeing people from the power of inbred sin. Thus, human beings could not, under the law alone, really serve God in the way they were created to.
     Our joy in the Christian life comes not because we have been released from the law. Rather, our joy springs from the fact that now we can "serve in the new way of the Spirit."
     Our service to God now is no less demanding than it was under the law. But now the Spirit makes power for service available to us. The secret of victory in the Christian life? It is serving "in the new way of the Spirit."
    — Howard Culbertson

Worship in Song no. 398:

Jesus is the Joy of Living;
He's the King of Life to me.

     — "Jesus Is the Joy of Living" by Alfred H. Ackley

For Monday
Scripture Reading — Acts 10:17-23

"Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them" (Acts 10:20).

A vision of universal grace

     Peter's rooftop vision was a painful one for him. It meant a renunciation of his racial pride and prejudice. It meant repentance from his narrow Jewish parochialism. But he did not draw back from letting his attitude and motivations be altered by the Holy Spirit.
     That did not solve the problem for all mankind, however. Racial pride and prejudice (anti-black and anti-white, anti-Jewish, and anti-Arab, as well as other expressions of racism), political imperialism, cultural insensitivity, sexual oppression, and indifference to the plight of the needy and powerless have continued to mar the church's testimony to the universality of God's grace.
     So I may need my eyes opened, too. Whatever "us-them" lines keep me from witnessing across racial, social, political, or economic boundaries must be swept away. The only dividing line that really counts is the one between those in Christ and those not in Him. All other divisions can easily be used by Satan to block the gates of the Kingdom.
     Equality: everywhere else it may often be only a hollow dream; but in the kingdom of God it is a reality! May my life and attitudes ever be a testimony to that truth!
    — Howard Culbertson

Worship in Song, no. 337:

Hark, 'tis the Shepherd's voice I hear,
Out in the desert dark and dear,
Calling the sheep who've gone astray,
Far from the Shepherd's fold away.

     — "Bring Them In" by Alexcenah Thomas

For Tuesday
Scripture Reading — Acts 16:6-10

"We got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel unto them" (Acts 16:10, NIV).

A vision of enlarged ministry

     A dozen years ago the Holy Spirit laid before Denver First Church a vision of enlarged ministry. They responded and became a potent spiritual force in that city as well as the largest Nazarene church in North America. In 1975, a group of "dare-saints" under Paul Moore moved into New York's Times Square with a Holy Spirit-inspired vision bigger than their pocketbooks. The Oregon Pacific District of the Church of the Nazarene entered the 1980s with the aim of planting more than a dozen new congregations every year. A vision of enlarged ministry has pushed Los Angeles First Church into becoming a mosaic of linguistic, ethnic, and cultural groups.
     This list could go on and on. Not of man-made dreams, but of Holy-Spirit-given visions of ministry. Paul's vision at Troas was an example of how the Holy Spirit will lead both churches and individual Christians.
     It is never a mistake for God's servants to follow His leadings. As we follow Him, we will discover like Paul did, that to follow the Holy Spirit is to find ourselves involved in an ever-enlarging ministry. God will call. He will lead. Will we follow?
    — Howard Culbertson

Worship in Song, no. 356:

Proclaim to ev'ry people, tongue, and nation
That God, in whom they live and move, is love.
Tell how He stooped to save His lost creation,
And died on earth that man might live above.

     — "0 Zion, Haste" by Mary Ann Thomson

For Wednesday
Scripture Reading — Hebrews 12:5-11

"The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son" (Hebrews 12:6, NIV).

Disciplined for servanthood

     "I was really sailing along good, and then this happened . . ."
     Maybe that is the wrong reaction when we hit a bump in the road of life. What may appear to be unnecessary trouble may actually be part of God's discipline for you. True, it may be a bitter medicine at times. But do not forget it is our Father's hand of love that measures out the dosage and compels us to drink it.
     If we are honest, we will admit that at times we all need to be disciplined. God's gracious and firm discipline will improve us as believers. Divine discipline, which is perfect in every way, aims to make us sharers in the very holiness of God himself. While the suffering occasioned by divine discipline will not save us, it will produce in us more holiness.
     Let us never lightly dismiss God's disciplinary efforts nor allow such rigors to discourage us. God's discipline shows us clearly that we are His children, loved by Him and received by Him as sons. May the correction efforts of our Heavenly Father produce in us the ever-growing peace (shalom) of a righteous life!
    — Howard Culbertson

Worship in Song, no. 279:

Deeper, deeper! tho' it cost hard trials,
Deeper let me go!
Rooted in the holy love of Jesus,
Let me fruitful grow.

     — "Deeper, Deeper" by Charles P. Jones

For Thursday
Scripture Reading — Acts 16:23-34

"And [the jailer] took [Paul and Silas] the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway" (Acts 16:33).

Bleeding to bless

     Disorders. Floggings. Earthquake. Those were the headlines out of Philippi. The morning dawned brighter, though. Third-century preacher John Chrysostom — himself no stranger to persecution — sums it up this way: "The jailer washed them from their stripes, and was himself washed from his sins."
     The jailer and his family may not have been the only converts that night. Maybe even some of the other prisoners were to become part of that congregation to whom Paul would later write a letter we know as his Epistle to the Philippians.
     What could have been interpreted as just the calamities of life was actually God's way of leading someone to hope and to salvation. Thus the good news is that God is sometimes — if not often — in the trouble. Through the painful experiences of Paul and Silas the Spirit of the living and loving God was at work to bless other people.
     Are you hurting in some way? Even in what may seem to be useless wounds, let's look for the hand of God at work. Let's pray that He'll use our bleeding to bless someone else.
    — Howard Culbertson

Worship in Song, no. 349:

Rescue the perishing; care for the dying;
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave.
Weep o'er the erring one; lift up the fallen;
Tell them of Jesus, the Mighty to Save.

     — "Rescue the Perishing" by Fanny J. Crosby

For Friday
Scripture Reading — Mark 14:32-42

"Sit ye here, while I shall pray" (Mark 14:32).

Thrice he prayed, too

     Prolonged anxiety often seems to turn the heart to stone. A spiritual life fed only by prayers of habit withers in the face of soul anguish and one finds himself the victim of the sin of prayerlessness.
     I wasn't in the full-time ministry very long before I had already discovered that when many weary souls called for the pastor, they were not wanting their prayer life revitalized. More often than not, they're looking for temporary psychological props.
     Jesus' response to heartbreak was radically different. The Son of Man, on the night of deep agony of spirit, turned again and again to prayer. He knew that prayer was the quickest and surest way of recovering spiritual equilibrium.
     Jesus came from that hour of repeated praying and submission with a sense of power and poise. As He prayed, His words reflected a growing perfectness of submission to the Father. This ought to be our pattern to follow.
     Life's buffetings and long-prolonged struggles should not be allowed to exhaust us emotionally and spiritually. Rather, they should drive us to desire ever more intensely the intimate fellowship of prayer.
    — Howard Culbertson

Worship in Song, no. 479:

Oh, how praying rests the weary!
Prayer will change the night to day.

     — "Did You Think to Pray?" by Mrs. M. A. Kidder

For Saturday
Scripture Reading — Job 1:6-12

"All that [Job] hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand" (Job 1:12).

So far — no farther!

     Numerous buildings in Florence, Italy, have little plaques marking the height of floodwaters on November 4, 1966. On that day the Arno river overflowed its banks and came swirling into buildings, depositing debris, mud, and oil everywhere. In some places the water rose as high as 20 feet, damaging and destroying businesses, homes, and art treasures.
     Those little marble markers serve a tourist function. But I like to think they also say: Yes, the river invaded us. All the way up to here. It did its worst. But it had a limit. And we survived.
     That's what Job's story tells us about Satan's demonic powers. Satan has his limits. And he can go no farther than God will permit. We too are a part of the cosmic battle which involved Job and Satan. Sometimes we feel like pawns in a battle between equal superpowers, but we need not succumb to pessimism and lose sight of the triumphant theme of the gospel.
     Job's life teaches us that nothing can touch us except with our Father's knowledge and by His permission. Alleluia! We are ultimately in God's hand. God's power is being revealed even as Satan's limits are being uncovered.
    — Howard Culbertson

Worship in Song, no. 431:

In the midst of battle be thou not dismayed,
Tho' the pow'rs of darkness 'gainst thee are arrayed.
God, thy Strength, is with thee, causing thee to stand;
Heaven's allied armies wait at thy command.

     — "Victory All the Time" by Lelia N. Morris

For Sunday
Scripture Reading — Ephesians 3:14-21

"That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man" (Ephesians 3:16).

Enabled for every circumstance

     Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?
     Got any mountains you can't tunnel through?

     Remember that classic little chorus? It echoes the last part of Ephesians 3. Here in the middle of a letter whose main subject is the Church, Paul breaks forth in a prayer for victorious strength in Christ. He seems fired to an incandescent glow by the thought that there is limitless power available to achieve God's goals for us.
     Paul's prayer for believers battling in the thick of the fray reminds us that we do not have to be despondent stragglers in the rear. Like Paul, we can be happy passengers in the chariot of God, calling out to others with an infectious enthusiasm: "Come up and ride with us!"
     In these days when shadows of human error and apostasy hang dark on the world, let us live intoxicated by the thought that we can be divinely enabled to be victorious in every circumstance. There is no limit to God's power! Only our words and thoughts about it are limited.
    — Howard Culbertson

Worship in Song, no. 362:

Trials many will beset my pathway,
And temptations I shall surely meet;
But my Saviour promised grace to help me
Till I lay my trophies at His feet.

     — "My Soul Is Filled with Glory" by J. M. Harris

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