Friday, December 31, 2010

Whom Will You Serve ... Eternally (Ps. 63:11)

But the king will rejoice in God;
Everyone who swears by Him will glory,
For the mouths of those who speak lies will be stopped.

(Psalm 63:11, NASB)

One day, the war will be won, and the enemy will be forever vanquished. Only God knows the time, but it will happen!

I can’t wait!

We’ll all—every single one of us, past, present, and future—bow down at the feet of our Lord God and worship Him (Phil. 2:9-11). But not all of us will experience the joy of worshiping and serving our Lord for all eternity. Some, because they’ve believed and spoken the lies of the enemy, because they’ve refused to follow the one true God, will spend eternity separated from Him (Matt. 7:20-22; 25:31-33).

As this year winds down, I believe that day is coming ever sooner. It could be today. It could be tomorrow. It could be years. But it will happen.

If Jesus returns soon, do you know where you’ll spend eternity? You will bow down at the feet of the Savior and worship Him. The Bible makes that very clear. But it’s your decision regarding where you’ll spend the remainder of eternity: with God or separated from Him.

If you haven’t made the decision to give your life to the God who loves you abundantly and offers you grace, then do so now. Start 2011 in a relationship with Jesus. Know Him … and know where you’ll spend eternity.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

You're Not Alone (Ps. 63:9-10)

But those who seek my life to destroy it,
Will go into the depths of the earth.
They will be delivered over to the power of the sword;
They will be a prey for foxes.

(Psalm 63:9-10, NASB)

I believe God protects His children. I believe nothing happens to us that isn’t filtered through His love. That’s not to say bad things won’t happen to us, or we won’t go through times of crises. But even through the “shadow of the valley of death,” God never leaves us alone.

You may have lost a loved one or are struggling with ill health. You may have a wayward child. Or you’ve been abused—or worse.

You truly feel there are those who are trying to destroy you. And sometimes, you wonder where God is. Where is His protective hand?

I don’t know what particular battle you’re fighting right now. I don’t know what you’re struggling with in the deepest part of your soul. But I do know this—and I believe it with all my heart.

Your heavenly Father has not forgotten you. He has not deserted you. He has not left your side to fight your battles alone.

If you don’t feel His presence, He’s there. And even if you’ve turned from Him in your confusion or pain, He’s still there.

He’s fighting alongside you—and He will win the war.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Lord, My Help (Ps. 63:6-8)

When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches,
For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me.

(Psalm 63:6-8, NASB)

On Monday, I wrote that I desire to hunger after the Lord. I wrote that I should think of Him when I wake and just as I fall asleep.

Today’s verses speak to the very same thing. And I love that I’m given permission to lie in bed as I meditate on God and His word! In fact, I’m lying in bed as I write these words!

But why should I remember Him? Why should my thoughts be filled with Him?

Oh, for so many reasons, but right now, at this moment, I remember my Lord because He has been and will be my help. He gathers me under the shadow of His wing and protects me from the powers of this world. Just as a baby bird joyfully chirps under the safety of her mother’s wing, so I can joyfully sing praises to my Abba.

And as my own soul clings to my Lord, I can rest in the confidence that He’ll hold me through whatever today brings.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Praising God With Gratitude (Ps. 63:3-5)

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips will praise You.
So I will bless You as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.

(Psalm 63:3-5, NASB)

God loves you so very much. Do you really know this? He loves you so much He sent His Son—a part of Himself—to pay the penalty for your sins. He loves you so much He wants you with Him for eternity.

If you know this—really know this—what are you doing to thank Him? What are you doing to show your love for Him?

I love the psalms for their words of praise. I especially love the words of today’s psalms.

God’s love is better than life. His kindness to me, His grace and mercy, His protection and provision—they all remind me of His love for me.

I can’t begin to love Him as He loves me. But I can, in some small way, show Him how grateful I am for Him. I can give Him even a fraction of the love He has for me.

With my praises. I can determine to praise Him every day. I can bless His name and strive to glorify Him in my words, thoughts, and actions. I can sing songs of praise, lifting my hands to Him and my eyes to the heavens.

I can joyfully and gratefully praise Him for His mercy, His grace, and His abundant love.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Seek God Earnestly (Ps. 63:1-2)

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.

(Psalm 63:1-2, NASB)

I can’t believe 2010 is almost over. This year truly has flown!

I’m finishing out this year with another of my favorite psalms, the 63rd.

Oh how I desire to seek after my God earnestly. I want to thirst after Him, yearn for Him. I want to see His power and glory in all places and at all times.

But sometimes I don’t. I don’t seek after Him. I don’t thirst for Him. I don’t yearn for Him.

I so often get caught up in my own day-to-day “stuff.” Housework. Ministry tasks. Home business to-do’s. Busy work. Necessary, yet, on the grand scheme of things, worthless.

I do so much that seems important now, yet when I look toward eternity, it doesn’t have much value. Not that I shouldn’t take care of what God’s loaned me on earth. It’s just that I need to focus on what’s really important.

My heart should always be God-focused. I should miss Him if I don’t spend time with Him every day. He should be my first thought upon waking and my last before falling asleep. His word should be daily soul-sustenance.

As we enter another year, I pray my heart will yearn even more for my God. And I pray the same for you.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Boxing Day!

Citizens of the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and some other commonwealths are celebrating Boxing Day today. For most, it’s a banking or public holiday. From my research, “its origins are found in a long-ago practice of giving cash or durable goods to those of the lower classes” ( Wikipedia adds that gifts were also given to those who provided service.

What a lovely practice!

What if we do something similar? Give a little financially to those less fortunate than we are.

Or even better, give a little kindness to those who serve us. Today, say a heartfelt “thank you” to those who serve in your church. If you go out to lunch or dinner, recognize the hard work of your server. If you go to a store, give the clerk a sincere smile and let him know how you appreciate his help.

Let today be one of thankfulness and sincere giving in love. And let tomorrow—and all the days after—be the same.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Love Letter for Christmas

Dear Jesus,

Words truly cannot express my gratitude for Your willingness to leave heaven and come to earth. You chose to …

Put on flesh.

Be born to a poor carpenter and a teenage bride.

Experience scraped knees and stomach aches.

Grow into awkward adolescence.

Sweat sawing and sanding wood.

Be tempted by the enemy—Your enemy.

Be ridiculed as You started Your ministry.

Be betrayed … arrested … denied … beaten … spat upon … scourged.

You chose to carry a cross.

You chose to die …

And You chose to forgive.

Words cannot truly express my gratitude. For Your love and grace and mercy.

But I do thank You.

Happy birthday, Jesus.

Your grateful child

Friday, December 24, 2010

Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6)

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

(Isaiah 9:6, NASB)

If Jesus’ being our Eternal Father is a comfort to me, this last attribute given our Savior brings me the most … well, peace. For He is, indeed, the Prince of Peace.

But for some of us, peace is the last thing we feel. Even as you’re celebrating our Savior’s birth, maybe you’re struggling with finances or your health, or maybe you’re struggling with a relationship.

I wrote a book a few years back based on Jeremiah 29:11-13, where God says His plans are for peace, not for evil. Regarding finding peace in spite of our circumstances, I wrote:
I promise you this: If you’re truly willing to give your life, your plans, your dreams to God, He will keep His promise. You will have peace. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but if you trust Him, you will have peace.

Don’t believe me? Will you believe God? There are quite a few references to peace in the Bible. Let me share one of my favorites. Read these words, hear them with your heart, and listen to what God has promised you:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4: 6, 7).

Do you know what this verse says to me? When I’m focusing on God, when I’m asking in His name, when I’m praying for His will, I can be assured of two things: I need not be anxious for anything, and I will have peace—a peace that surpasses anything I could experience without God in my life, a peace that surpasses anything that I could get from my earthly relationships, from my job, from my church, from my family . . . from anything else.

Isn’t that what you’re looking for? A peace that surpasses anything you’ve ever experienced? Ask Him. Ask Him now. Give your plans, your timelines, your dreams to Him. Trust Him to bring about that perfect will in your life. Then, and only then, will you have that peace. You will have that peace. I promise. More importantly, He promises.
[excerpted from The Best Laid Plans © Sauni Rinehart 2005]
If you’re seeking that heavenly peace we sing about this time of year, go to the Prince of Peace. He’ll cover you with a peace that truly surpasses our understanding.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Eternal Father (Is. 9:6)

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

(Isaiah 9:6, NASB)

Of the four descriptions Isaiah uses of Jesus, this one is the most comforting to me. Jesus is our Eternal Father.

Frankly, it’s a mystery beyond our human understanding: The God we Christians worship is three-in-one. He is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. One God manifested in three persons.

And each shares the attributes of the others. I don’t fully understand, but I believe this to be true.

So even though we describe Jesus Christ as the Son of God, He is still, in fact, God the Son. And just as God the Father is eternal, so is Jesus the Eternal Father.

He is eternal—or what the New King James Version calls Everlasting. Jesus Christ has always been and will always be. He existed before time as we know it began, and He will exist when time as we know it ends.

He is our Father. He loves us with an unconditional love. There is nothing we can do or say or think that keeps Him from loving us. And He loves us whether we choose to love Him or not.

And if we choose to love Him, if we choose to believe in Him as our Savior and accept His gift of eternal life, He invites us to be in relationship with Him.

A relationship for now and for all eternity.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mighty God (Is. 9:6)

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

(Isaiah 9:6, NASB)

Do you feel weak? Out of control?

Do you feel powerless as you hear of friends with cancer, read of starving children, watch news reports of terrorist alerts?

Do you look at this world and wonder who’s winning the battle?

I hate to be the bearer of even more bad news, but you are weak. You are out of control. You are powerless. And sometimes the enemy does win some battles.

But the good news? Or should I say the great news? Our Lord Jesus is our Mighty God. And we know that “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

He is indeed mighty, powerful, omnipotent. Just resonate with some of these assurances of our Savior’s might:
“Who is the King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle” (Psalm 24:8).

“For who in the skies is comparable to the LORD? Who among the sons of the mighty is like the LORD”? (Psalm 89:6).

“More than the sounds of many waters, Than the mighty breakers of the sea, The LORD on high is mighty” (Psalm 93:4).

"How great are His signs And how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom And His dominion is from generation to generation.” (Daniel 4:3).
If you’re struggling, feeling as if the weight of the world is on your shoulders, remember your Mighty God. Your Savior will help you carry your burden (Matt. 11:30). His shoulders are more than strong enough.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wonderful Counselor (Is. 9:6)

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

(Isaiah 9:6, NASB)

In these few days leading to the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, I’m going to focus on four attributes of our Savior as described by the prophet Isaiah.

Today, we read about our Wonderful Counselor.

If you read the King James or New King James versions, the words “Wonderful” and “Counselor” are separated by a comma as if they’re two separate attributes of our Savior. But, while He is certainly wonderful, I believe the New International and New American Standard translations are more accurate: Our Lord Jesus is a Wonderful Counselor.

But I wonder. Of all the attributes of our Savior Isaiah could have chosen, why begin with this one?

I can’t say for sure, but I wonder if it’s because we have a need to know that our Lord and Savior truly understands. Even though He is fully God, which we’ll talk about tomorrow, when He came to earth, He was fully human. And in being so, He experienced the same pain and temptation and weariness we do.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, NASB).

He can provide counsel, comfort, and peace to us.

I don’t know about you, but this attribute gives me great joy—and lifts my burdens. For I can kneel at the feet of my Lord Jesus and share whatever is on my heart and mind. And my Wonderful Counselor will listen and, through the Word of the Father, will sooth my soul.

Join me tomorrow as we look at the next of Jesus’ attributes: Mighty God.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Be On Guard (1 Tim. 6:20-21)

O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called "knowledge"—which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Grace be with you.
(1 Timothy 6:20-21, NASB)

We must be on alert at all times. The enemy of our souls “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NASB). He’s out there just waiting to win a battle or two, and one of his tactics is to entice believers with “worldly and empty chatter.” While he is not omniscient or all-powerful or omnipresent, he does have a legion of demons just ready to do his bidding. And if he can use the lusts of the flesh against us, he will.

And he’s even infiltrated the church. People stand at pulpits each Sunday spouting false knowledge. Jesus wasn’t without sin. There are many ways to God. Pick and choose what you want from the Bible because, after all, it’s really not God’s inerrant word.

Indeed, many have “gone astray from the faith.”

The only way to combat the lies of the enemy is to be on guard. We must daily put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17). We must stand on the firm foundation of God’s inspired, inerrant word.

Are you armed and ready? Is your guard up? Or are you vulnerable to the arrows the enemy is firing your way?

Oh my friend, be prepared. For the battle will only grow more intense as we draw nearer to the end of the war—and we know who the Victor of that will be!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Riches and Generosity (1 Tim. 6:17-19)

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.
(1 Timothy 6:17-19, NASB)

A few days ago, we read Paul’s warning that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” Today’s verses are a reminder that riches themselves aren’t evil. It’s what we do with them that can be.

If you have monetary wealth, you are blessed—as long as you keep your focus on the Supplier of your wealth. Any riches you have aren’t yours. I know you may like to think otherwise, but everything you have, including your money, is on loan to you from God. He wants you to enjoy what He’s given you, but He also expects you to bless others as you have been blessed.

I read somewhere (where and when I can’t remember) that if Christians in the United States who are in the top ten percent of earners would really tithe to ministry-minded churches, we could wipe out poverty in the U.S. And if they gave twenty percent, it would take care of the world.

I mean, really. How much do you really need? And where is your money going?

Remember, you can’t take it with you, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to stand in front of God one day and show Him my financial portfolio. And I’m positive He wouldn’t care anyway. What I want is to be able to talk about the missionaries my tithing supported or the children who were raised in the Sunday school program that my church invested in.

Certainly, enjoy whatever riches you’ve been blessed with. But make certain you’re pleasing the Father by doing as Paul instructed: “do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.”

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Be Encouraged (1 Tim. 6:13-16)

I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.
(1 Timothy 6:13-16, NASB)

I am so encouraged by today’s verses! Yes, there is exhortation: Timothy is charged to keep the commandment to be Christ-like. But look at the hope in Paul’s words.

Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, will return! Only the Father knows the “proper time,” but the Son will return one day!

Jesus, our Overcomer (John 16:33), our Victor, our Redeemer, will return! And as I watch this world continue its downward spiral, I can’t help but think it’s going to be soon—or so I pray.

And so, with this confidence, I can join Paul in his words of praise.
Our Lord Jesus is the “blessed and only Sovereign.”

He is the “King of kings and Lord of lords.”

He is immortal, omnipresent, omniscient, all-loving.

He is “light and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
Oh, I hope these words encourage you as they’ve encouraged me. As we keep His commandments while on earth, we can do so with the confidence that we’ll be spending eternity with our Lord and Savior, with our Abba Father.

And with Paul, I give Him praise and honor. Won’t you join us?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fight the Good Fight (1 Tim. 6:12)

Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
(1 Timothy 6:12, NASB)

It’s not by chance that Paul used the term “fight” when he wrote of the faith journey. We indeed fight a daily spiritual battle, but not against the government or our neighbor—or our spouse. No, as Paul wrote to the Ephesians:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (6:12, NKJV).
We fight, battle, and wrestle each day to grow in faith, to be Christ-like, to reach the lost. And our reward for that fight? Eternity with our Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s not easy, but then again, we were never promised it would be. The enemy of our hearts would like nothing more than to win a few battles now and again. And sometimes he does. As this world winds down, it seems he’s winning more and more.

Oh, but sincere, true followers of Christ know Who wins the war! Jesus assures us:
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33, NKJV).
Yes, we’re in a daily battle, but we’re not in it alone. And one day, we’ll stand triumphantly with the Victor!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Two Exhortations (1 Tim. 6:11)

But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.
(1 Timothy 6:11, NASB)

Paul began to wrap up his first letter to Timothy with two exhortations.

The first is a plea: “… flee from these things …” Yesterday, we talked about pursuing riches and the love of money, and these are what Timothy is to flee from—and we need to flee from them as well.

Instead, Paul exhorted Timothy—and us—to “pursue” some specific things (Webster Dictionary definitions):

Righteousness: being in “accord with divine or moral law and free from guilt or sin”

Godliness: being “pious” and “devout”

Faith: “belief and trust in and loyalty to God”

Love: “unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another”

Perseverance: “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition”

Gentleness: being “honorable” and “kind”

Oh, my … Paul’s not asking for much, is he? (Too bad you can’t hear the sarcasm in my writing!) Seriously, don’t you read lists like this and think, “How in the world can I even begin to be righteous or godly or gentle?” You wonder, “I have faith, but sometimes it’s hard to persevere.”

Well, you’re right. You won’t be able to fully flee the love of money and pursue the items on that list on your own. The good news? You’re not on your own!

The Holy Spirit is in with you—within you. If you seek His strength and guidance, He’ll help you to pursue those things that will make you more and more like Christ and let Him shine through you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Love of Money (1 Tim. 6:9-10)

But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
(1 Timothy 6:9-10, NASB)

First, let me say that I don’t think the Bible is against the rich. If God has blessed someone with wealth, and that person is generous to those in need and holds his riches loosely, I believe God is pleased.

However, our “more is better” society can truly “snare” people. In order to amass greater wealth, we’ve turned into workaholics, sometimes neglecting our marriages or our children. We live and breathe by the stock market. Our financial statements dictate whether we’re happy or miserable.

We begin to read the Wall Street Journal more often than we do our Bible.

I have to admit, I’ve fallen into the “snare” myself. Eight years ago, my husband and I got caught up with the “McMansion” hype, and sold our perfectly adequate 1200 square foot home for a totally unnecessary 3071 square foot home. Now I will say it served us well when we brought my mother-in-law in to heal after a couple of falls and a couple of surgeries. And we’ve watched God bless others as they’ve been able to stay here.

But now, we realize that bigger isn’t really better. After the blessing of my being laid off in February, we’ve begun to do without. We’re trying to simplify, and it’s been time-consuming and somewhat difficult as we sort through all the “stuff.” We’re beginning to see how much we have that’s unnecessary, and we’re even talking about down-sizing. We’ve learned that money can indeed be a trap, and we’re fighting our way out of that trap.

So ask yourself. Have you gotten caught up in the “more is better” mentality? Have you become consumed with having “stuff”? A bigger house? A nicer car? A fatter portfolio?

Confess to the Lord your preoccupation with the “mighty dollar,” and ask Him what you can do to make Him the priority of your life.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Basic Contentment (1 Tim. 6:7-8)

For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.
(1 Timothy 6:7-8, NASB)

This is so very true … When we leave this world, we leave everything behind. When my husband and I were getting my mother-in-law’s house ready for sale after her death, we found some treasures, but mostly, we found a lot of clutter. Much of it was thrown into a dumpster.

That may sound heartless, but really, think about your own home? Is there anything of lasting value? Now there may be a few items of sentimental value for those you leave behind, but for you … will any of it matter?

Not at all.

What we have on earth is temporary. We might find temporary pleasure in our “stuff,” but none of it matters in eternity.

So, we must hold all our earthly possessions loosely. We can be thankful for anything God blesses us with, but we can also be content with next to nothing at all.

That’s true contentment. If you can sincerely be thankful for having your basic needs met—which God promises to do—then the rest is icing.

In fact, try this: Walk through your home and start “purging” it of those unnecessary things. Start decluttering and simplifying your home … and your life. Learn to live more simply. Then not only will you learn to be content with less, you’ll also leave less for your heirs to sort through!

This is a challenge for you—and for me, as well.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Finding Contentment (1 Tim. 6:6)

But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.
(1 Timothy 6:6, NASB)

Oh … contentment. Such a difficult concept for many of us, especially we who live in the United States. Our society is saturated with “bigger is better” and “supersize me” (although I understand if you saw the movie with the latter’s name, you’d never think the former, at least when it comes to food!).

We have a perfectly serviceable car, and then our neighbor gets a brand-new, bright, and shiny auto. And we want one too.

Our home is lovely and more than adequate … but then we visit a friend’s new house. It’s bigger. It has granite countertops and hardwood floors. And suddenly, our little home just doesn’t seem … enough.

And sadly, the spouse we’ve been married to for ten years one day does something that irritates us—again—and that new coworker, who treats us with respect, looks suddenly much more interesting.

Contentment—being satisfied with what we have—can be really hard to grasp.

I struggled with it for years. Even after I recommitted my life to the Lord over 17 years ago, I still couldn’t seem to be truly content. And I’d often make myself miserable.

Then, finally, a few years ago, I surrendered everything to God. I was really struggling with my health, and it shadowed everything else in my life. And so nothing seemed to bring me any joy. And when I finally said, “Take it all, Lord. Take my job, my home, my relationships, my stuff. It’s all Yours anyway.”

Ah, that's the key ... it's all God's anyway!

Now, I do sometimes wish for something else … but I find, I actually wish for less, not more. I want to simplify, declutter, value what’s really important. And even when things aren’t exactly what I’d hoped for, I can honestly say I’m usually content.

And in being so, I find joy, even in the difficult times. I still live with daily pain, and some days it’s really hard to find that contentment. But when I surrender again, God gives me peace … and contentment.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Loving Our Opposers (1 Tim. 6:3-5)

If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.
(1 Timothy 6:3-5, NASB)

Wow. Paul didn’t pull any punches, did he? Look at some of the words he used to describe those who “advocate a different doctrine.”

They are envious, cause strife, use abusive language … have depraved minds. They cause “constant friction” with those who they think use “godliness [as] a means of gain.”

When you read these words, can you think of anyone who is an illustration of this kind of person? I think of the “new atheist” movement, and how they actually renounce God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They accuse Christ-followers of being manipulative of others, brainwashing them to our way of thinking.

I once watched a debate between two of these “new atheists” and two evangelicals, and it just about broke my heart. In all honesty, neither side won. But the anger that spewed from the atheists was heartbreaking. I can only imagine how lost they must feel. It’s one thing to say, “I don’t know if there’s a God or not, but I really don’t feel it’s relevant to me.” It’s quite another to say, “There absolutely is no God. But if there is, and He’s the God you describe, then I’d rather be in hell then spend eternity with Him.” The pain that causes words like that … I can’t imagine.

Instead of condemning those who “advocate different doctrines” or who debate “controversial” topics, what if we showed them love and grace? What if we treated them with compassion? What if we quietly and gently were Christ to them?

Maybe—just maybe—we could influence even those farthest from God to see His truth.

It’s worth a try.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Respect in the Workplace (1 Tim. 6:1-2)

All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against. Those who have believers as their masters must not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but must serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved. Teach and preach these principles.
(1 Timothy 6:1-2, NASB)

According to Webster’s Dictionary, respect means to hold someone in "high or special regard." Any of us who work for someone else should show them respect, whether they deserve it or not. As believers, we can be Christ’s light to our employers, as we honor them in every situation.

Think about it: You work for an unbeliever and she sees you handle difficult situations with grace or watches you make tough decisions based on biblical values. She feels your respect for her even when she very well knows she doesn’t always deserve it.

How might that influence her?

And if your employer is also a believer? Then you ought to “serve [him] all the more.” Not only is he your boss, but he’s your brother in Christ.

On the flipside, if you’re an employer, you can model respectful behavior to those who work for you. You also should respect those in authority over you, and—I know Paul doesn’t say this, but I believe it to be true—show that high or special regard for your employees.

Just imagine how your workplace would be if mutual respect existed between employer and employee? It would be rather wonderful, wouldn’t it?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Good Deeds (1 Tim. 5:17-18)

The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after. Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed.
(1 Timothy 5:17-18, NASB)

Some people think that one day they’ll stand before God, and He’ll have this big scale. On one side, He’ll put all the sins they committed, and on the other side, the good they did. Then, as long as the good outweighs the bad, they’ll get into heaven.

Of course, if you study the Bible, you know this is patently untrue. Praise God, our entrance into heaven isn’t based on what good we do. It’s solely based on God’s grace (see Eph. 2:8-9).

But even if the good we do on earth doesn’t save us or get us into heaven, we’re still to do good deeds. We’re to serve God by serving others. Volunteering at the local soup kitchen. Going on short-term missions. Spending time reading to the elderly. Helping out at community outreach events. Lending an ear and a shoulder to the hurting.

Serving God in these ways strengthens our faith and pleases our Father. And it also allows the world to see Jesus Christ in the flesh. People are attracted by selfless service, and our doing good deeds goes a long way to help convince the world of Christ’s love for them.

What are you doing to serve others? How are you being Jesus Christ in the flesh to your community?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Loving With Impartiality (1 Tim. 5:21-22)

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality. Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.
(1 Timothy 5:21-22, NASB)

As much as we’d like to say we’re impartial, reality can be far different. Most of us just naturally gravitate to people with whom we have more in common. And we can tend to be biased against those who are different than we are.

We can especially be biased against those who practice sin, whether or not they are believers. We point fingers. We gossip behind backs. We self-righteously look at those pesky specks (see yesterday’s devotional).

When we do, we’re sinning just as much as they are. And although I believe sin is sin in God’s eyes, in a way, we’re worse than they are. Because we know we’re sinning.

In today’s culture, so many aren’t being taught truth, even within churches. Congregations listen to sermons about how God wants them to be prosperous. They hear how God loves them and wants them to be happy, so they can do pretty much whatever they want—as long as it’s not illegal and it doesn’t hurt anyone.

No one is encouraged to delve into the truth of the Bible … which itself is open to “interpretation.” They’re told it’s okay to take what makes sense to them from God’s word and leave the rest behind.

Rather than judge others, wouldn’t it be better to love them and pray for them? Wouldn’t we be examples of Jesus Christ if we went to where they are and served them and shared truth from God’s word?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Loving Rebuke (1 Tim. 5:19-20)

Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.
(1 Timothy 5:19-20, NASB)

Sometimes the Bible seems to contradict itself. We’re told to “judge not” (Matt. 7:1), yet here Paul tells Timothy to “rebuke” the brethren “who continue in sin.”

How do we reconcile this apparent inconsistency?

I believe—and again, I’m no Bible scholar—it’s a matter of the heart. It’s one thing to self-righteously point out the speck in someone’s eye while overlooking the log in our own. (See Matt. 7:2-4.) It’s something altogether different if we’re lovingly attempting to guide a brother or sister away from habitual sin.

There’s another key in Paul’s exhortation: We’re not to “receive an accusation” without corroboration. In other words, if one person accuses someone of a sin, it may or may not be true. But if two or three—or more—make the same accusation, then we can be certain the accusation is sound.

However, I must interject here. I don’t believe Paul is talking about crime. If someone is raped or robbed or abused, and there is evidence to prove it, then that one person’s testimony is sufficient.

Paul’s heart in these verses is redemption and reconciliation. And that should be ours as well. We should desire that all our brothers and sisters live in relationship with our Lord, not letting any habitual sin prevent them from being all He’s created them to be.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Honoring Pastors (1 Tim. 5:17-18)

The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, "YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING," and "The laborer is worthy of his wages."
(1 Timothy 5:17-18, NASB)

I believe one of the hardest jobs today is being a Bible-teaching, Christ-following preacher. Oh, the things they deal with … Counseling. Managing. Studying. Sermon-preparing.

They’re responsible for overseeing their local church and staff. They need to develop weekly sermons that will instruct their often-apathetic congregations. They visit shut-ins. They perform weddings … and funerals.

And if these weren’t enough, they must protect their marriages and nurture their families.

Being a pastor is, in reality, a 24/7 job. And what thanks do they get? Probably very little. Like many other service-oriented professions, pastors are just expected to do everything, and do it well. Often they’re over-worked and underpaid. They’re relatively ignored when things are going well, but if anything goes awry, fingers are pointed to them.

So why would anyone choose to be a pastor? Well, most would probably say they didn’t necessarily choose being a pastor. Most would say it chose them. In other words, they were called and anointed by God.

And even with little affirmation, they still diligently do what God’s called them to do.

What should we do? We should show our appreciation for their hard work. We should encourage them to stand firm. We should really listen to what God says through them.

At the very least, we should say “thank you” a lot more often than we do.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Care for Your Own (1 Tim. 5:3-4, 8)

Honor widows who are widows indeed; but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God … But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
(1 Timothy 5:3-4, 8, NASB)

The breakdown of family in our culture is one of our greatest tragedies. The disrespect children have for parents, parents’ neglect of children, the lack of care for the elderly … Is it any wonder that our society is spiraling downward?

Although the first two of today’s verses concern widows, the last verse deals with the entire family. We need to care for each other, provide for each other’s needs. And this doesn’t just mean financially.

We’re to love them. We’re to support them emotionally and spiritually. We’re to provide guidance and wisdom.

Are we emotionally “available” for those we love? Do we truly listen when they share their hearts with us? Do we represent Christ to them and encourage them to grow in their own relationships with Him?

Family should be our most important earthly relationship. And if we don’t put a priority on caring for them, we’re displeasing our heavenly Father.

What can you do today to show your family members how much you love them?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Love Your "Family" (1 Tim. 5:1-2)

Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.
(1 Timothy 5:1-2, NASB)

If you’re a follower of Christ, you’re part of a world-wide family. Anywhere you go, you can find a Bible-believing church, and immediately, you’re with brothers and sisters.

I’m blessed to speak for women’s events and retreats, and it never fails to bless my heart. This past Friday, I spoke at a church over 100 miles from my home. I’d never been there, and the only contact I’d had was by phone and email with the head of the planning committee. But when I arrived, I was embraced by sisters I’d never met. And then the worship leader, the sound man, and two of the planning committee prayed before the event … and I was with family.

We are blessed to be a part of God’s family, and we should cherish and honor our relationships with our brothers and sisters. There is no place for gossip or maligning in our family. No pride. No dissension. No resentment. No jealousy.

Rather, we should genuinely love, support, and celebrate each other. Because we should, and because doing so delights our Father’s heart.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Don't Neglect Your Gift (1 Tim. 4:13-16)

Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
(1 Timothy 4:13-16, NASB)

When we accept the gift of salvation and surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, God bestows spiritual gifts upon us. Some of us are gifted preachers or teachers. Others have the gift of hospitality or administration. Still others are encouragers or are merciful.

And each gift is critical to complete the body of Christ. In God’s economy, the volunteer who faithfully folds the bulletin each week is as important as the most renowned preacher. Therefore, we cannot “neglect the spiritual gift” God has given. Each of us is just important to God as our fellow brothers and sisters.

If you’ve been given the gift of hospitality, open your home for a neighborhood Bible study. If you’re an encourager, write notes of affirmation to your child’s teacher or to your pastor. If you teach, be certain you diligently study God’s word so you speak only words of truth.

You can be certain of this: God will use you and your spiritual gift. But you need to be prepared to do as He asks. You need to be willing to use your gift to glorify God, not yourself.

Don’t “neglect” your spiritual gift. Instead, joyfully use it to serve God and others, knowing He will one day say, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.”

Friday, December 03, 2010

Children of My Heart (1 Tim. 4:12)

Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.
(1 Timothy 4:12, NASB)

I am so very blessed to have some amazing young people in my life. My nieces and nephews make me so proud. And I have a whole “family” of “children of my heart” at a small faith-based theater of which I’m privileged to be a part.

And some of these “kids” have such a strong and bold faith. I listen to them pray or read their Facebook postings, and I’m in awe. They love the Lord and aren’t ashamed to tell the world.

Then I look back at my own youth, and I’m a bit saddened. Oh, I know God forgave me for my twenty-year rebellion. I know He loves me and uses me today in ways I never expected. But I sometimes wonder where I’d be had I had the abiding and unwavering faith of so many of these wonderful young people.

Even with the world’s enticements, they remain faithful to the Lord. I admire them so much, and I learn from them.

If you’re one of those “children of my heart”—and you know who you are—know that I love you, and I’m so proud of you.

And I pray for you regularly. That you’ll remain focused on God and His plan for you. That you’ll resist the wiles of the enemy. That you’ll grow in faith. And that you’ll continue to be all that God created you to be.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Fixing Your Hope (1 Tim. 4:9-11)

It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. Prescribe and teach these things.
(1 Timothy 4:9-11, NASB)

Where have you “fixed [your] hope”? On your job? On your relationships? On your portfolio?

How’s that going for you?

Five years ago, I wrote these words in my book, The Best Laid Plans. They seem very appropriate for today’s devotional:
God does promise us a future filled with hope. A synonym for hope is “expectation.” God promised us a future full of expectation for His provision, for His comfort, for His protection, and, yes, for His peace.

I often wonder how those who don’t know Jesus have hope. What is it they hope for? Is it wealth? Is it possessions? Is it a relationship? And when money or things or people let them down, then what do they hope for?

The only place we can put our hope is in our Lord God. It is only He who is completely faithful and worthy of our trust. It is only He who walks alongside us through good times and bad. It is only He who carries us when we can’t walk.

When we fix our hope on Him, we can be confident He’ll never let us down. Never.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Spend Daily Time With God (1 Tim. 4:6-8)

In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
(1 Timothy 4:6-8, NASB)

When I recommitted my life to the Lord over 17 years ago, I was quite sporadic in my Bible study. And I’d go days without really spending time in prayer. After a few years of this, I found myself neglecting my relationship with my Lord more and more … and falling back into old habits.

I recognized—very clearly—that I needed to spend daily time with God. That I needed to be disciplined. And for me, that meant I needed to set an appointment with God. Every day.

Now, 12 or so years later, I still make a daily appointment with the Lord. Every day. I literally have it on my calendar. It’s the most important part of my day. It’s my daily nourishment, and I miss it if, for some reason, I’m not able to meet with Him.

I know it’s hard sometimes to carve out quality time with God. We’re all so very busy. But I also know, for me at least, if I don’t, I’m much more easily distracted by the world’s enticements. And I desire, more than anything, to grow in faith and draw closer to my Abba Father

I can’t emphasize it enough: If you want to grow in godliness, if you want that “promise [that is] for the present life and also for the life to come,” you need to spend time with God.

Every day.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

God's Good Creation (1 Tim. 4:4-5)

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.
(1 Timothy 4:4-5, NASB)

We’ve had some high winds over the last couple of days, and although I don’t like them at all, they’ve made the sky a crystal-clear blue. They’ve also given me a wonderful view of the snow-topped mountains standing majestically in the distance.

And then I read verses like these, and I’m reminded—yet again—that “everything created by God is good …” Even those things that may not be my favorites—like high wind—I can accept with gratitude.

This also ties in well with one of the best-known and oft-quoted verses in the New Testament: Romans 8:28. God really does work all things for good. All things.

I read a quote lately (I can’t recall where) that said something like, “God causes all things or allows all things.” We live in an ongoing and an escalating battle with the enemy, and our world becomes darker each day.

Yet even so, we can be confident that God is in control, and He will work through all circumstances. If we trust Him, if we know the promises in His word, if we pray to Him at all times, then we can live with the knowledge that all things created by Him will work out for our good.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Falling Away (1 Tim. 4:1-3)

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.
(1 Timothy 4:1-3, NASB)

I know how easy it is to believe things contrary to God’s word.

I made some really unwise decisions when I was young, decisions that allowed me to “fall away from the faith.” I listened to the lies of the enemy, and spent twenty years on a journey that led me, as I titled a book I wrote, away from and back to the arms of the Father.

I see this same “falling away” in many people today. Young people raised to know God are making choices to follow the world. Older people, disillusioned because of loss or difficulty, claim God is unfair—or because of their pain—doesn’t exist at all.

A large part of the problem is that many Christians don’t really know why they believe what they believe. They go to church on Sunday, and then never touch their Bibles or talk to God the other six days and 22 hours of the week. And since they really don’t know truth, it’s very, very easy for them to believe the lies whispered in their ears.

That’s why I pray regularly for my brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray they’ll ground themselves in God’s word. Study it. Meditate on it. Investigate its truths. I pray they’ll spend time talking with and listening to God. I pray they’ll be protected by the Spirit.

And I pray that those who have “fallen away” will repent and recommit their lives to God. Just as I did.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.
(1 Timothy 2:8-10, NASB)

I’m going to take some literary license with these verses. Forgive me, those of you who are Bible scholars, but I’m not going back to the original language and interpret “men” and “women.” Rather, I’m going to look at these three verses as being instructions to all children of God. And yes, there is a method to my madness.

Taking out the gender-specific nouns, I see four things that all followers of Christ can obey.

Lift up holy hands. We are made to worship our Lord God. And whether or not we literally lift our hands, our hearts and minds should have a worship mindset at all times.

Avoid wrath and dissension. Anger is a poison that can destroy one’s soul, and the Bible calls it a deed of the flesh (Galatians 5:19). The light of love and the darkness of hate cannot abide together. We are called to love each other, so we must put all anger out of our hearts.

Adorn properly. These verses speak of women’s dressing modestly, but I see this pertaining to proper dress for everyone. And I don’t just mean the clothes we wear. Does our behavior mirror Christ? Or do both our external and our internal selves distract people from seeing God’s truth in us?

Do good works. Each of us as a child of God should strive to serve Him and others at all times. You’ve probably heard the saying, “People don’t care what you say until they see that you care” (or something like that). If we sincerely and faithfully serve others—our neighbors, our community—people will see godliness in action. And they will be attracted to the One who works through us.

Sometimes it’s good to read God’s word and ask, “What can I learn?” No matter my age, my gender, my background. Pray for the Spirit to speak to you through all of the Bible.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

One God (1 Tim. 2:5-7)

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
(1 Timothy 2:5-7, NASB)

Believe in the God of the Bible or don’t. You have a choice. But if you say you believe in the God of the Bible, Yahweh of the Old Testament’s people of Israel, the Christ of Christianity, then you must, by definition, believe He is the only God.

Paul, inspired by the very Spirit of God, wrote there is one God, and one alone. You cannot believe in the God of the Bible and say that other gods may be valid. It isn’t possible.

And not only is there one God, but there is also only one way to Him. Jesus Himself said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 4:16).

Jesus is our mediator, and our acceptance of His payment of our penalty allows us to be in relationship with our Father.

Make your choice.

Friday, November 26, 2010

God's Desire (1 Tim. 2:3-4)

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
(1 Timothy 2:3-4, NASB)

On Wednesday, we talked about how we, as children of God, should pray for everyone, including our leaders. Today, Paul reminds us of why: because doing so is “good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” Doing so pleases our Lord God.

But I want to focus on the second of today’s verses. God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

I’m part of a small group at my church of women who are “spiritually mismatched.” Our husbands are either unbelievers or are not on the same faith journey as we are (e.g., they’re of another faith or new Christians or backslidden). We’re going through a study the Lord inspired me to write that has us meditate on verses to encourage or convict women in our situation.

We recently meditated on 2 Peter 3:9, which is very much like the above verse. God’s heart is for all men to come into relationship with Him.

So why are there comparatively so few who choose to follow Him? If it’s God’s desire for all to be saved, why do we have so many friends and family members who aren’t?

Because our loving Father gave us the choice to follow Him. Some don’t want to give up control of their lives. Some are too enamored with the world’s temptations. And some have never really heard the truth.

What can we do? Well, we can certainly pray as we’re commanded. But we can also be Christ’s light to those around us. We can share God’s truth to everyone in our circle of influence. And some of us can even answer God’s call to go out into the world to minister to others.

Just as it is our Father’s heart that all should come to salvation, so should our hearts desire the same.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

What are you grateful for?

Take some quiet time today to thank God for everything ... the good, the bad, the ugly.

Because everything you've experienced, every relationship, every heartache, every blessing ... they've all refined you and molded you into who you are ...

An adored son or daughter of the Most High King!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pray for All Men (1 Tim. 2:1-2)

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
(1 Timothy 2:1-2, NASB)

We complain—a lot—about our world. The immorality. The lack of caring and compassion. The selfishness.

And even more so, we in the U.S. tend to whine—a lot—about our leadership. The corruption. The poor decisions. The seemingly all-about-me mentality.

I have to wonder. How much is this our fault?

Do we do what we’re called to do? Pray for “all men, for kings and all who are in authority”? I wonder.

In the Old Testament, God made an if-then promise to His people. He said, “If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:13-15).

If we experience difficult situations and still humble ourselves, if we pray and seek His face, and if we turn from our wicked ways, then He’ll hear us and forgive us … and He’ll heal our land.

He promises the same thing through the words of Paul. If we pray for “all men, for kings and all who are in authority,” then we’ll “lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”

But do we? Do we, as a nation, do any of these? No.

Do we, as Christians? Certainly not like we should. And if we’re not keeping our end of the bargain, why should we expect God to keep His?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Good Counsel (1 Tim. 1:18-19)

This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. (1 Timothy 1:18-19, NASB)

Paul gave good counsel to Timothy—counsel we should heed ourselves.

We need to fight the good fight. And whom are we fighting? In another letter, Paul wrote that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12, NASB). We’re fighting against the devil and his forces, and in order to combat them, we need to daily put on our “armor.” (See Eph. 6:16-17.)

We need to keep the faith. As we deepen our relationships with God, our faith grows stronger and less vulnerable to the lies of the enemy. We need to spend time with God every day. Reading, studying, and meditating on the Bible. Praying. Spending time in quiet solitude, just listening to His voice. Learning about Him through corporate worship.

We need to keep a good conscience. If we seek God’s will and do what He’s called us to do, we will grow more and more like Christ. Sin will be abhorrent to us, and we will strive to live righteously.

If we live for God, if we keep Him the priority of our lives, we won’t reject our faith and “suffer shipwreck.”

Monday, November 22, 2010

All Glory and Honor (1 Tim. 1:17)

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
(1 Timothy 1:17, NASB)

In one short verse, Paul exalts his God with highly descriptive adjectives. His words offer praise and worship. And a clear love and devotion.

God is eternal. He has always been and will always be. It’s difficult for our human minds to grasp this. We are bound by time, and the idea of timelessness is beyond our comprehension.

God is immortal. He is infinite, unchanging. He doesn’t sleep or hunger. He doesn’t need shelter or clothing. He is always on alert, hearing our prayers, meeting our needs.

God is invisible. He is not bound by a tangible form, and as such, He is omnipresent—everywhere at once. He is with me when I’m in pain, and He’s with you when you’re grieving. We can’t go anywhere in heaven or on earth where our God is not.

God is the only God. False gods are everywhere. Whether personified like those of ancient Rome or modern Hinduism, or self-made like fame or money, they are rampant. Some even say we can be our own gods. But there is only one God. One Creator. One Redeemer. One Savior.

And to this God, to the one true God, we should give all honor, all glory, all praise.

Forever and ever.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Abundant Mercy (1 Tim. 1:15-16)

It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
(1 Timothy 1:15-16, NASB)

Yesterday, we talked about how we can find forgiveness and mercy and grace in a relationship with our heavenly Father.

Today, Paul tells us how: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

We’ll soon be entering into the advent season (although stores would say we’re already there …). In just over a month, we’ll be celebrating the birth of our Savior. He came to this world for one reason only: to offer redemption to mankind and a way back into fellowship with God.

He came to grant mercy and grace. He came so that we might joyfully anticipate eternity with Him

Jesus can redeem the heart of the lowest of the low. There is nothing you have done that cannot be wiped away by our Savior’s blood. You can be cleansed of every sin you ever committed.

It just takes admitting you’re a sinner and that you need a Savior. It just takes belief in Jesus as that Savior and acceptance of His sacrifice. And then it takes surrender to God the Father’s will.

You cannot save yourself. You cannot hope that the good you do somehow outweighs the bad. You can’t give more money or more time or more effort to good causes.

Only one way to salvation and eternal life with God—Father, Son, and Spirit—is available to you. Believe in Jesus. Accept the gift of His payment for your sin. Give your life completely over to Him

And accept His amazing grace and abundant mercy.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Abundant Grace (1 Tim. 1:12-14)

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.
(1Timothy 1:12-14 NASB)

Have you thought that your past was too sinful, too rebellious, too awful to ever be in a relationship with God? Do you think you’ve done too many bad things that God would ever forgive you?

In tomorrow’s verses, Paul will describe himself as the “foremost” of sinners. And in today’s, he spelled out some of his worst sins, including his persecution of Christ-followers.

Yet he experience God’s grace and forgiveness of sins. He was shown mercy even when he had deliberately chased down and arrested Christians. He was used by God after having approved the execution of Stephen.

When he met Jesus on the Damascus road, all of his past was wiped away. He was forgiven. He was showered with God’s grace and mercy.

And that’s how God forgives us. That’s how He gives grace and mercy. That’s how He uses us.

In spite of our pasts. Our rebellion. Our ignorance. Our sin.

If we come to Him and surrender our lives to Him, the past no longer matters. We can be pure and righteous in our Father’s eyes. And we can gladly, joyfully, and gratefully follow Him. And serve Him with all our hearts.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Purpose of the Law (1 Tim. 1:8-11)

But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane … according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.
(1 Timothy 1:8-11, NASB)

The law was written to guide us, to let us know how God wants us to live. When we study and meditate on God’s word, we learn to live rightly. Loving others. Serving God. Being kind and good. Gentle and patient.

And we learn how He does not want us to live. Don’t be wrathful or immoral. Or jealous. Or cause disputes. Or be drunk or carouse.

So why is there so much immorality? And jealousy? And fighting? And anger? And war? Because the majority of the world doesn’t know God’s word. They’ve never even heard God’s commands. They have no idea of how God desires they live.

The only way we can instruct others is to live out God’s commands. If we serve our community with joy, if we are kind and gentle, if we refuse to respond in anger, the world will be attracted to us. And then we can share God’s truth.

On the other hand, if we judge and point fingers and yell at our children and cheat on our tax, the world will, at best, think we’re just like them so why should they change. And at worst, their suspicions—that Christians are just hypocrites—will be confirmed.

Yes, the law was written to let the sinner know he sins. But it was also written so that, when we follow it, the sinner will see a difference in us. And will want that difference for himself.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fruitful, Not Fruitless (1 Tim. 1:6-7)

For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.
(1 Timothy 1:6-7, NASB)

Oh my goodness … I read these verses, and I thought, “Yes! This is so true!” So much “fruitless discussion” takes place in religious circles because so many “do not understand what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.”

They’ve heard someone say sometime that, for example, there’s a verse in the Bible that says “God helps those who help themselves.” Well, we are definitely called to do the work God has called us to do, but there is no such verse.

Or they argue about traditions that aren’t spelled out clearly in the Bible, but they’re sure they’re right. Sprinkling versus immersion. Bread and wine versus crackers and juice. My way is right, and yours is not … although I’m not quite sure why.

Again, it comes down to one key thing: Do you know God’s word through diligent study and meditation, or are you just repeating what you’ve heard—or what you’d like to be true? When someone asks you about what you believe, are you able to answer with biblical support? And if you don’t know the answer to a question, do you stop to find it? Or confidently assert something about which you know little?

Think of it this way: You wouldn’t teach French if you didn’t speak it. You wouldn’t teach biology if you didn’t have a firm foundation in the science. You wouldn’t teach math if you hadn’t learned math from the very basics to calculus.

So why would you instruct others in biblical faith if you weren’t fully grounded in God’s word? Only then can you truly be confident in your assertions and have fruitful discussions.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Instruct in Love (1 Tim. 1:5)

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
(1 Timothy 1:5, NASB)

It’s not just preachers and teachers who instruct. Anyone who has committed his life to God—Father, Son, and Spirit—often has opportunities to instruct others in the gospel. And we need to instruct in love.

We cannot force our beliefs on others. We cannot guilt them into believing. We cannot save them ourselves.

Rather, we must have a pure heart, one that desires more than anything that others find the peace and joy that comes with a relationship with Jesus. No other motive exists except wanting their salvation.

We must have a good conscience. I interpret this as we need to be cleansed of our own sins. In order to be an instructor of the gospel, we must confess any sins we commit, and we must strive to live as sinless as we possibly can. If we don’t, how can we expect others to be attracted to Christ?

We must have a sincere faith. We can’t put on a show; others will see right through. We can’t say one thing and do another; others will rightly claim our hypocrisy. We must be so in love with Jesus that our faith shines brightly.

Whom can you instruct? Your children? Your neighbor? Your fellow committee member? Your colleagues?

Have a pure heart with right motives. Keep your conscience clean. And grow in your own faith through prayer and study of God’s word.

And instruct in love.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Strange Doctrines (1 Tim. 1:3-4)

As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.
(1 Timothy 1:3-4, NASB)

“… strange doctrines … myths and endless genealogies … speculation …”

Any of these words sound familiar when you think of our “spiritual” world? The pure truth of the Bible has been distorted and watered down and misinterpreted for so long, people seem to believe just about anything.

And since so many so-called Christians don’t read and study God’s word themselves, they’re easily convinced by false teaching. They’ve become so much a part of the world that they have created a sort of Christianity that allows them to live pretty much however they choose.

I’ve written in other devotionals how some who call themselves Christians don’t believe that Jesus lived a sinless life. They don’t believe the Bible is God’s inspired word. They don’t believe in absolute truth.

They’ve bought into the “pick and choose your religion” hype. Why? Because it allows them to think their eternity is set, but while here on earth, anything goes.

They look at those of us who believe in the inerrancy of God’s word as naïve. When we assert that Jesus—God the Son—came to earth, lived a sinless life, died to pay the penalty for our sin, and then rose again …well, we’re childish. And worst of all, when we call out sin, we’re intolerant or judgmental.

All because so many have been instructed in “strange doctrines” and have “speculated” about truth.

And how God’s heart must break.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Jesus Is Our Hope (1 Tim. 1:1-2)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope, to Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
(1 Timothy 1:1-2, NASB)

“Jesus Christ, who is our hope …”

Webster’s Dictionary defines hope as a “desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment.” When we think of Jesus as being our “hope,” what expectation do we have? What do we believe in? What fulfillment do we desire?

I can only answer for myself, but my hope in Jesus is what makes me get out of bed each morning. If I didn’t have hope in Him, I’d simply give up.

My hope in Jesus reminds me that God has a purpose for my life. When I accepted Jesus’ gift of salvation and invited Him into my life, I became a child of the Father. And my Father loves me and has a plan for my life, one that gives me a “future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11).

I believe in God’s purpose for my life here on earth, and I live in expectation of eternity in His presence. I desire to be exactly who He’s created me to be now, and I desire even more the time when I'll praise Him and serve Him forever.

Without this hope, my life would be meaningless. There would be no purpose for my pain. No value for my ministry. No significance for my relationships.

Ah, but I do have hope. I know beyond doubt that God does have a plan for my life. I believe with all my heart that His plan is good (Rom. 8:28).

And that hope gives me a reason to push back my covers and, with Jesus holding my hand, face another day.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Father's Heartbreak (Ps. 53:2-3)

God looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
Every one of them has turned aside;
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one.

(Psalm 53:2-3, NKJV)

I imagine God, sitting upon His throne looking down on earth. I imagine Him, longing to see His created children seeking Him. I imagine Him, heartbreaking as He watches His beloved choosing to follow their own ways.

We’re breaking His heart. Because we have “turned aside.” We have “become corrupt.” We don’t do “good.”

None of us.

On our own, each of us is destined to eternal separation from our heavenly Father. We can’t do anything to save ourselves from the corruption that permeates our very beings.

On our own, we choose to allow our flesh to rule. We choose to break the heart of our Creator, our sovereign Lord.

But even when He knew the choices His created children would make, He had a plan of redemption. Sacrifice of a perfect lamb. Then the ultimate sacrifice of the perfect Lamb.

When He looks down upon those who’ve chosen life in Christ, He doesn’t see corruption. He sees righteousness.

However, I believe His heart still breaks—even for those who’ve committed their lives to Him. Because we still allow our flesh to rule sometimes. We still make choices to sin.

Do you know Creator God? Have you given your life to Him? Have you accepted the gift of the ultimate sacrifice? Do you know where you’re spending eternity?

Then don’t break your Father’s heart. Surrender your life and your will to Him each day. Strive to bring joy to Him as you do His work.

And if there’s any sin in your life? Ask Him to help you conquer whatever you do that still breaks His heart.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Fool and His Heart (Ps. 53:1)

The fool has said in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity;
There is none who does good.

(Psalm 53:1, NKJV)

So many people today say there is no God. They cite science or the “fact” of evolution. They point to pain and suffering throughout the world. They decry natural disasters. If there is a God, they say, He certainly isn’t a God of love and compassion. So there must not be a God.

And if there isn’t a God, well then, anything goes. I can live exactly how I choose. Do exactly what I want. Eat, drink, and be merry. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Whatever. Whenever. With whomever.

Such a description of our world today. As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, it’s okay. As long as I don’t get caught, it’s okay. Even worse, as long as it doesn’t hurt me, it’s okay.

No absolute truth exists. Moral ambiguity abounds. No black and white.

And where has “there is no God’ brought us? Babies murdered in the womb. Children abused and neglected and abandoned. Teens cutting and purging and starving. Families disintegrating.

Corrupt politicians. Deceitful leaders. Self-serving. Selfish.


Friday, November 12, 2010

The Lord Blesses with Peace (Ps. 29:11)

The Lord will give strength to His people;
the Lord will bless His people with peace.

(Psalm 29:11, NKJV)

Often, I feel very, very weak—emotionally, mentally, spiritually. The world seems to be closing in, and I can’t seem to dodge the boulders being tossed at me, right and left.

Often, I try to take on the world and its challenges on my own, and I feel the weight crushing me, pushing me down until I lie prostrate on the ground.

I can’t do this, I think.

And I’m right. I can’t do this—on my own, that is.

We humans are fleshly, fallen, frail creatures, and we don’t have the strength to combat what this world throws at us. We truly are incapable.

But we do have Someone who can give us all the strength we need: our heavenly Father. He promises strength to us. In fact, as the apostle Paul wrote, we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens” us. (Philippians 4:13)

And along with that strength, He promises peace. He will bless us with peace.

Yes, we may be incapable, but He is more than capable. We can trust in His strength; we can trust in His peace.

(Peace: Devotions to Lead to God’s Peace © 2006 Sauni Rinehart. All rights reserved.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Brand-Marks of Jesus (Gal. 6:17-18)

From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.
(Galatians 6:17-18, NASB)

As we end our journey in Galatians today, let’s focus on Paul’s last words to his fellow believers.

First, he states that he has the “brand-marks of Jesus” on his body. We know of the physical suffering Paul withstood for preaching. He was whipped and beaten several times, and he certainly would have scars. Scars he proudly wore as “brand-marks of Jesus.”

When I think of brand-marks, my thoughts go to cattle (not very romantic, but that’s the vision …). When calves are branded, they’re branded for life. Paul’s brand-marks were evident to any who saw him.

What “brand-marks” do you have? Do I have? Perhaps our brand-marks are physical, as Paul’s were. But perhaps they’re emotional or spiritual. Perhaps we’ve been “branded” as a troublemaker at work because of our faith. Or a friend has turned her back. Or fellow students have ridiculed us.

Can we wear them as proudly as Paul did his?

Second, Paul prays that the grace of the Lord Jesus be with the spirits of his readers. As we wrap up this book, with all its God-inspired wisdom, I pray the same for you.

May you experience abundant grace and love from our Savior and Redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Boast in the Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 6:11-16)

Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh. But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
(Galatians 6:11-16, NASB)

Some of us boast in our accomplishments. “Look at what I did,” we say. We take pride in the number of committees we’re on or the ministries we belong to. We love that our plate is full of the things we do for God.

Others boast in relationships. We’re proud of the number of friends we have or who we know. We love to tell others how we’ve encouraged our friends or helped them in times of need.

Still others boast in how well we follow God’s word. We memorize scriptures and diligently study God’s word—and make sure others know we do.

Doing good things for God, nurturing our relationships, or spending time in God’s word aren’t wrong. In fact, they’re wonderful—if done with a right heart.

However, we cannot boast in anything we do or are. We can only boast in the “cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, everything we do should point to our Lord. Never should we desire the eyes of others to be on us. They should gaze directly on the face of our Savior.

He is the only one about whom we can boast. For He is the only one who truly deserves our praise.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Do Good to All ... (Gal. 6:9-10)

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.
(Galatians 6:9-10, NASB)

“… do good to all people …”

We try, really try, to do as Paul commands. But sometimes it’s easy to lose heart. We smile and wish a good morning to that cranky checker, and she sneers. We write a nice note to our child’s teacher, and all we get is a “can’t you keep your child under control” call in return.

We cook our spouse’s favorite dinner, the one that takes hours to prepare, and he wolfs it down before plopping down to watch the game—not a “thank you” to be heard. We patiently listen to our parent’s weekly tirade, and then even more patiently listen to her complaints about us.

Or we volunteer to work on that church committee, and the first twenty minutes of the weekly meeting is spent sharing the latest gossip.

Oh, yes, it’s easy to lose heart and grow weary.

When I was a child, my mom would always tell me that if I didn’t let people’s meanness or selfishness get to me, often they’d stop what they were doing—at least to me. It took me a while, but I finally got that old adage: It’s easier to attract flies with honey than with vinegar.

Kindness—doing good—really does impact people. And I'm not saying we're to play the martyr or sigh in self-pity. If we genuinely strive to do good to all people, sometimes they’ll be influenced to do good to us.

Eventually, that checker might smile back. That teacher may say, “Thank you.” That spouse may cook for us. That parent may say, “I’m proud of you.”

But even if they don’t, we can be assured of one thing: Our heavenly Father is smiling—and He’s very proud.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Reap What You Sow (Gal. 6:7-8)

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
(Galatians 6:7-8, NASB)

Sometimes, we know some Scriptures so well, they become clichés rather than truths. How often do we say or hear “You reap what you sow”? Sometimes we even joke about it.

But this is no joking matter.

“God is not mocked,” Paul asserts. What we do on earth has eternal repercussions. We can’t do our own thing and satisfy the flesh, and then expect to show up in heaven. Yet that’s exactly what the world thinks.

You ask the average American if they believe in God and heaven, and some 80 percent will say they do. You ask them how to get to heaven, and most will say, “Be a good person.”

And what defines “good”? Most would say if the good things they do outweigh the bad.

That is not what God says. He demands and deserves our total surrender to Him. We cannot receive eternal life with Him just by trying to do good things or be a good person. We are to “sow to the Spirit.”

But what does that really mean? Sow to the Spirit?

When we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, when we accept His sacrificial death for our sins, and when serve Him as our living Savior, we are part of God’s family. We have the Spirit residing in us. And we begin to live according to the Spirit’s leading and the Father’s will.

Then we sow to the Spirit. We manifest His fruit. We strive to do, not just “good” things, but godly things. We love our neighbor as ourselves. We become burden-bearers. We use our God-given gifts to serve our heavenly Father.

And we’ll reap eternal life with God—Father, Son, and Spirit!

If we’re only living for ourselves and hoping that our good outweighs our bad, we’re actually sowing to our flesh. And what will we reap? Corruption. And eternal life separated from God—Father, Son, and Spirit.

What are you sowing? And, even more, what will you reap?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Share All Good Things (Gal. 6:6)

The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.
(Galatians 6:6, NASB)

I had to really meditate on today’s verse to understand its true meaning. At first, I thought Paul was saying that those of us who have been taught the word are to share the word with others.

Then I read it again, and that’s not what this verse says. Of course, we are to share the good news of salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection with others, but read this particular verse again.

It’s telling us that we’re to be sharing “all good things with the one who teaches” us.

Paul’s telling us that we’re to share what we have with our pastors, our teachers, our priests. I believe this means we’re to support those who instruct us. And that means through our treasures and our time.

When you put your tithe in the offering basket, do you do so joyfully knowing that part of your gift supports the basic living needs of your pastor and his family? Have you ever invited your pastor and his family for a summer bbq? Or offered to babysit his kids so he and his wife could have a much-needed evening alone?

Those who teach us have devoted their lives to learn about the Bible, about faith, about God. And they work hard. They study. They write. They counsel. They visit the infirm.

And they deserve our support—financially and otherwise.

Do you share all good things with your pastor/teacher? Your prayers. Your time. Your money. Your gratitude.

Something to think about.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Examine Your Work (Gal. 6:3-5)

For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load.
(Galatians 6:3-5, NASB)

Have you ever done something or said something that made you stop and think to yourself, “I’m pretty talented or smart or clever”? Your chest expands with pride. You stand just a little taller. You may even compare yourself to others and think, “I’m better than they are.”

That’s pride. When we think we can do something great, we’re being prideful. In fact, we are nothing without the gifts and talents God has blessed us with. We are nothing even when we think we’re something. And we’re deceiving ourselves.

Each of us has been given work to do by our Father, and we must focus on completing that work. At the beginning of each day (and I so often fail to do this), we should ask God to use us, just that day. We should strive do to His assigned work. Then at the end of each day, we can look over that day’s work and be content with what He’s done through us.

Not comparing ourselves to others. Not preening about what we have done.

Rather, delighting in the knowledge that we’ve followed His will, done His work, helped to build His kingdom.

We aren’t responsible for anyone else’s load. We are only to complete the tasks He’s given us, and complete them with joyful hearts.

And be thankful He’s chosen to use us at all.

Then we can boast in our heavenly Father and what He’s done through us—not what we think we’ve done on our own.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Burden-bearers (Gal. 6:2)

Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
(Galatians 6:2, NASB)

How grateful I am for the burden-bearers in my life. Those people who pray for me, who care for me, who love me. If it weren’t for them, I sometimes wonder how I’d survive. Oh, I know my strength comes from my heavenly Father, and I know it’s His grace that covers me.

But sometimes we need to see Jesus “in the flesh.” Know what I mean? Sometimes we need a hug or a shoulder or an ear. We need to be embraced, not only by the love of our Father, but also by arms of flesh.

And I’m so blessed to have people in my life who, just with a request, pray for me and support me. Most of all, my wonderful husband, who isn’t a follower of Christ … He is my greatest burden-bearer. His love and care and support are irreplaceable—and I am so very grateful for him.

Not only do I have my own burden-bearers, but I’ve also been blessed to bear a few burdens for my friends. And that too is such a blessing.

I pray you have burden-bearers in your life. And I pray you’re a burden-bearer for someone else.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Restoring the Brethren (Gal. 6:1)

Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
(Galatians 6:1, NASB)

We Christians tend to be judgmental. Sorry to be so blunt, but it’s true.

We love to point out that speck in someone else’s eye, and we feel somehow superior when someone is “caught in any trespass.”

That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. We should grieve when a brother or sister sins, and we should seek their restoration.

Rather than point fingers or—even worse—gossip about someone’s failings, we should quietly and gently walk alongside her to bring her back to a right relationship with the Lord. And as we do, we need to be extra alert so we aren’t tempted to fall into the same sin.

Righteousness, not sinfulness.

Gentleness, not ridicule.

Restoration, not condemnation.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Living the Fruit (Gal. 5:26)

Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.
(Galatians 5:26, NASB)

Yesterday, we were reminded of the fruit of the Spirit—those attributes that demonstrate the difference we in Christ should manifest.

And perhaps, to attract believers to our Lord and Savior, we do show love and kindness and patience to the world. And yet, with those we should love most—our family, our friends … our brothers and sisters in Christ—we aren’t so loving or gentle.

Instead of humbly following God’s call, we boast about what God’s doing in us.

Instead of praying for and supporting our leadership, we challenge them to do things our way.

Instead of celebrating the gifts and talents of others, we envy them when they’re doing what we want.

Oh, if only we really loved that way, served that way. With humility. Genuinely supporting one another. Rejoicing with each other.

Just think about how our local churches could serve the community—if we positively focused on others instead of ourselves.

Just think about it …