Sunday, February 28, 2010

Winning the Battle

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.
(1 Peter 5:8-9, NASB)

You do know you’re in a battle, right? If you follow Jesus, then the enemy of our souls, the devil, wants nothing more than to hinder your walk. He’s going to try to win a battle or two. He’s going to try to keep you from doing what God has created you to do.

He’ll whisper lies in your ear. He’ll send his minions to put roadblocks in your way. He’ll use your own areas of weakness to bring you down.

But guess what, my friend. We can resist him. We can bind him in the name of Jesus.

The key? We must be alert. We must be prepared to combat his lies with the truth of God’s Word. Just as our Lord Jesus did, when the enemy comes and tells us those lies, we can use the words of the Scriptures to counter them. That’s why it’s so very, very important that we know the Bible.

I know I’ve written about this many, many times, but it’s only because I know from personal experience just how critical it is to spend time every single day with the Lord. I can’t encourage you enough to make time to read, study, and meditate on God’s word—every single day. Pray without ceasing. Spend time of quiet solitude, just listening to God’s voice.

Every single day.

And then you’ll be ready to fight the battle.

Oh, and remember one last very important thing: Yes, the devil is doing his best to win battles—and he may indeed win sometimes. But we know, beyond doubt, Who wins the war.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Choosing Gratitude

I'm taking a break from my focus on 1 Peter to spend some time in gratitude. This has been one of those "best of times, worst of times" weeks. (Okay, certainly not the worst of times, but it hasn't been easy!)

I'm privileged to be part of a wonderful cast of a new stage performance of The Cross and the Switchblade, the amazing story of David Wilkerson's call to give hope to the lost teens of New York City in the 1950s. This has been tech week, and we've had rehearsals for 4-6 hours for the last five nights. My role has me climbing up and down a fire escape several times, and it's taken its toll on my body.

My fibro and chronic back pain are flaring ... my knees look like I've been beat up by a small child ... I feel an almost overwhelming fatigue.

But I'm so very grateful. God is going to work through this production to touch lives. I believe that with all my heart. He's going to lift me above the pain and carry me through tonight's opening. He's going to walk alongside me during the five weekends of performances.

He allows me to be a part of His plan. He uses flawed, weak me to fulfill His will.

So even though there's a part of me that wants to stay wrapped up in blankets in the fetal position, I know God is with me. And so I choose gratitude.

What are you facing today? What pain? What sorrow? What discouragement? Can you (and I know it sounds cliched) choose to see the silver lining? Can you choose gratitude?

I pray you can, my friend.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Live for the Will of God

Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.
(1 Peter 4:1-6, NASB)

A couple of days ago, I wrote that we should expect persecution because of our faith. Today’s verses return to that thought. We will suffer, but if we are “armed” with the purpose of sharing the truth of the gospel, we’ll be in God’s will

These verses also give us an assurance that those who persecute us on earth will receive judgment. God is well aware of what we face, what we endure as His children. And I believe His heart breaks as He sees our pain and suffering, whatever the cause.

Now, I do want to caution us all: We shouldn’t hope for that judgment. What I mean is, we should continually pray for our “enemies,” for those who hurt us. We should pray they’ll find salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for all—even for those who hurt us.

Our hope should be that everyone comes to know Jesus. We can, however, be confident that God is in loving control. He will judge or reward according to the choices we make. And really, when it comes down to it, our focus should always be on what we’re doing for God’s Kingdom—not on what others may be doing to us.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Once for All

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.
(1 Peter 3:18-22, NASB)

Peter’s two short epistles contain a lot of richness and incredible wisdom. Today’s verses are no exception, but I want to focus this morning on the true gospel message in verse 18.

Jesus “died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God.” I spoke at a luncheon yesterday, and as always, I was privileged to share the amazing truth that Jesus, God the Son, paid our penalty for sin. We do not in any way deserve God’s grace and mercy, but we get it anyway. All we have to do is except God’s free gift.

It’s available to anyone. Everyone. No matter what you’ve done. No matter where you come from. No matter what. If you accept Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf—on your behalf—you will be brought to God the Father.

Throughout history—and even today—many people have believed that what they do brings salvation. If they do that certain ritual or keep a particular tradition, they’ll be saved. If they live a good life, they’ll go to heaven.

But it has nothing to do with us. It’s only because of God’s love for us. His grace. His mercy.

Have you accepted that gift? Have you stopped trying to make it on your own? If you haven’t, send me an email (, and I’ll share with you how you can meet Jesus. Today.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Be Ready

Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.
(1 Peter 3:13-17, NASB)

Doesn’t it seem that everything is protected these days? Sexual orientation. Race. Gender. Religion … oh, unless you’re a Christian. Then all bets are off.

Stand up comics regularly denounce Christians. Politicians lambast us. Celebrities complain about our narrow-mindedness. And don’t get me started about the media.

But we shouldn’t be surprised. The apostle Peter warned us two millennia ago. We will likely “suffer for the sake of righteousness.” We can expect “intimidation.” We may even be “slandered” and people may “revile [our] good behavior in Christ.

So what are we to do when we face persecution because of our faith?

First, we’re to “sanctify Christ as Lord in [our] heart[s].” Sanctify means “to set apart.” We need to keep Christ fully in our hearts.

Second, we need to boldly—and gently—proclaim what we believe and why. And this means we need to know what we believe and why. We need to study God’s word, meditate on it, live by it (see Joshua 1:8).

If we stand up for our faith, we will be blessed. When we face the revilers, the jokesters, and the slanderers with intelligence and kindness, we will be blessed.

So “be ready to make a defense” of your faith. Because, sooner or later, you’ll need to stand firm.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Summing Up

To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For,

(1 Peter 3:8-12, NASB)

Like a great attorney summing up his case, Peter recaps much of his previous exhortations. And what a recap it is. And far from easy. Read through the list of things we’re commanded to do. And then read it again.

We’re to be “harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit.” Now sometimes, this is very easy. I can live in harmony with the nice guys, with my good friends. But this verse doesn’t say “only with those you like.” In fact, Peter makes it pretty clear. We’re not to be “returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead …”

Not easy at all. It’s really hard to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39; Luke 6:29). That’s what we’re commanded to do, however. Why? Well, first, because we’re commanded … But God, our good Father, loves to bless His children. And He’ll bless us for “keeping our tongue from evil,” which includes saying nasty things about others. He’ll bless us for seeking and pursuing peace.

Peace. All of us, at all times, with all people.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Equal Opportunity

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
(1 Peter 3:7, NASB)

Yesterday, I addressed Peter’s exhortation for wives. Today, Peter talks to husbands. Now I know some take issue with the “someone weaker,” but that’s not what I want to focus on. There are a couple of key commands that may, for some of you wives out there, make submission a bit easier.

Husbands are commanded to live with their wives “in an understanding way …” One of the definitions for “understanding” is “friendly or harmonious relationship” according to Webster’s dictionary. Husbands are to live in harmony with their wives. Harmony speaks of unity, tranquility, smoothness.

Then comes a very important commandment: Husbands are to “show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life.” Two things here: honor equals esteem, but more importantly, we wives are “fellow heirs” of God’s grace. God doesn’t look at gender (Galatians 3:28). We are equal in His eyes as we’re covered by His grace and mercy.

Therefore, as wives show respect to their husbands, husbands are to honor their wives as they recognize our equality in God.

This is what makes marriage work: mutual love, mutual respect. Does this describe your marriage? If not, get on your knees.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Even More Controversy

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external--braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.
(1 Peter 3:1-6, NASB)

I thought yesterday was controversial … I almost want to skip today’s verses because someone’s going to take issue with what I’m going to say. I can guarantee it. But if I’m going to go through 1 Peter verse by verse, I need to meditate on every verse, even those that are uncomfortable for me or for others.

So here we go.

Submission—biblical submission—has quite a negative rap these days. I believe it’s not as bad as people make it out to be. I’m writing a Bible study for women in unequally yoked marriages, and I address this:

Submissive: Being willing to be subject to something

Did you catch that? To submit is an issue of willingness. I read recently that a wife-to-husband relationship is similar to a vice president-to-president relationship. Certainly a vice president is able to do as much (or perhaps more) than the president. They work together, often make decisions together. However, he willingly submits to the authority of the president because there needs to be one leader. In the same way, we as wives contribute and have a voice, but there does have to be a final authority. Submission does not mean we’re to accept bullying or abuse.
Excerpted from You’re Not Alone © 2010 Sauni Rinehart

I believe there does need to be one leader in a marriage, one final decision maker. But I also believe in a healthy marriage, husbands and wives want the best for each other. So they’ll cooperate. They’ll discuss. They’ll compromise. So submission isn’t so difficult.

You may disagree, but I challenge you. If you’re in a Christian marriage, pray for God to work in your heart. Pray for that “imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit.”

Not a doormat. Not a whipping post. Rather, a woman of God who desires to be precious in the sight of her God.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Controversial Subject ...

Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.
|(1 Peter 2:14-20, NASB)

Oh, today’s verses can be really controversial. Submission to “every human institution.” That can be hard. Really hard. But that’s what we’re commanded to do; it is the “will of God.” And why? Because by honoring and submitting to authority, we represent Christ.

And then we’re commanded to “be submissive to [our] masters.” Peter used terms that would have been familiar to his immediate audience, but we who are working for someone else need to respect and submit to them, even if our employer is “unreasonable.” Ah, this is convicting. Peter knew what we’d be thinking centuries later: Sure, I can submit and respect my boss if he’s good to me, but when he’s unreasonable? Not a chance.

We’re not given that “out.” We need to honor our employers no matter what. And why? Not only do we represent Christ by “patiently enduring” harsh or unfair treatment, but we also please our Father. Our behavior “finds favor with God.”

It’s not easy. We live in a society of fallen heroes, corrupt politicians, uncaring bosses. We work hard and try to live as Christ would, and then we see evil win out—or so it seems.

Just remember:
• Work as unto God, not men (Col. 3:23).
• Our ultimate Authority has already won the war (John 16:33).

Friday, February 19, 2010

Our Merciful God

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.
(1 Peter 2:9-10, NASB)

I love these verses. I really, truly do. There’s so much hope, so much goodness, so much grace. I’m not even sure where to start …

Read these words again and again. We’re chosen, royal, holy. We’re God’s precious possession. He’s “called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light." Don’t you love it?

Oh, but don’t stop there. We are the people of God. We have received mercy.

Mercy. Not receiving what we deserve.

And what are we to do in return? “… proclaim the excellencies of Him.” Praise and worship our great God. And why wouldn’t we? We are chosen, my friends. We are holy in God’s eyes.

I hope you love these verses as much as I do. Mark them.

And when you feel unworthy, remember them.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

An Offense to Unbelievers

This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve,
for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

(1 Peter 2:7-8, NASB)

Yesterday’s verses encouraged those who follow Jesus Christ. Today’s should encourage us as well, but in a very different way.

Jesus, the precious Cornerstone for us, is a “rock of offense” to those who don’t believe. And because of their unbelief, they are doomed.

So, how is this in any way encouraging, you ask? Verses like these encourage me to be bolder in sharing my faith. They encourage me to be salt and light to those who are blinded to God’s truth.

We all have people in our lives who don’t know Jesus, who are offended by our faith. And they need redemption. They need the peace and joy that comes from a relationship with our Savior.

They need to see Jesus in us. Are you a shining light for Him? Are you willing to be His advocate so unbelievers will come to know Him, so they can be obedient to His word and thus avoid eternal doom?

I’m encouraged—and convicted—today. I pray you are too.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Living Stones

And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED."
(1 Peter 2:4-6, NASB)

Peter quotes the prophet Isaiah in these verses, the same Isaiah who prophesied of Jesus’ birth (9:6) and death (53:3-5). Prophecies fulfilled, by the way.

Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone, precious in God’s sight. As it should be. But we’re a part of the story. We’re “living stones,” part of God’s “spiritual house.”

Think about it: God chooses to use us. He allows us to participate in His plan. When we serve Him, when we follow His call on our lives, we’re offering “spiritual sacrifices.” I find it astounding that the God of the universe, the Sovereign Lord of all things, gives us the privilege of being stones to build His temple on earth.

He doesn’t need us. In fact, I often say things would be a lot easier without us! But He loves us so much He wants to bring us joy as we serve Him and others.

And I’m not disappointed. Are you?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Longing for God's Word

Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
(1 Peter 2:1-3, NASB)

I asked Jesus to come into my heart when I was six, and as a child, I loved God’s Word. While I’m not sure I’d describe myself as “longing” for His Word, I remember reading and memorizing scriptures with joy.

Then came my twenty-year rebellion. As my path meandered, times when I wanted nothing to do with God intersected with moments I desired nothing more than to find Him again.

I recommitted my life to Jesus in September of 1993, and for a while, I was content just knowing I was back in the fold. Praise God, that contentment didn’t last. About five years into my renewed relationship, I realized I needed more. If I was going to become the woman God desired me to be, if I was going to “grow in respect to salvation,” I needed really know God’s Word. I needed to meditate and study and respond.

I needed to long for it.

In the last sixteen plus years, I still experienced seasons where that longing was suppressed—usually by my own selfishness or pride. But for several years now, I seek to spend time in God’s Word daily. And I find myself missing that time when I neglect it. I recognize such weakness in me that if I don’t take this crucial time, I tend to falter.

I’ve “tasted the kindness of the Lord,” and the least I can do is make time for Him, in prayer and enjoying the “pure milk” of the gift of my Father’s Word.

I pray for you, my friend. Long for the Word of your Father. Grow in Him. Be grateful to Him.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Fervent and Sincere Love

Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For,
And this is the word which was preached to you.

(1 Peter 1:22-25, NASB)

I love how Peter describes our eternal salvation. We are born again imperishably “through the living and enduring word of God.” The apostle John described our Savior Jesus Christ as the living Word, and we are saved through His death and resurrection.

Because of that gift, we can be assured of eternity with God.

But these verses command us to do something while we remain on earth. We are to have a “sincere love of the brethren.” We are to “fervently love one another from the heart.”

I don’t know about you, but this pierces my heart a bit. I rejoice in the thought of being imperishably born again. I long for the day when I’ll discard this weak, fleshly body—especially on days like today when all four of my chronic health issues are flaring—and spend eternity praising and worshiping my Lord.

But do I sincerely and fervently love my brothers and sisters? Do I, as the apostle Paul wrote, think more highly of them than I do of myself? (Phil. 2:3, my paraphrase) I know I want to. I pray I do.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hope in God-Father, Son, and Spirit

For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
(1 Peter 1:20-21, NASB)

One of the hardest concepts for nonbelievers to grasp is that of what we Christ-followers call the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Many accuse us of worshiping three gods. Or they argue that it’s impossible for there to be a three-in-one being.

It is difficult to grasp and continues to be one of those mysteries we probably won’t fully understand this side of heaven. However, it’s clear throughout the Bible that our Sovereign God manifests Himself as God the Father—Creator, Sustainer, Provider—God the Son—Redeemer, Savior—and God the Spirit—Helper, Encourager, Convicter.

Today’s verses tell us that Jesus was foreknown before the foundation of the world. And in Genesis, we read that God created man in “Our" image. In the gospels, when Jesus—God the Son—was baptized, God the Father spoke and God the Holy Spirit descended like a dove.

In God’s perfect plan, humankind would need a Redeemer, a perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sin. God the Son appeared on earth “for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God.” Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have hope and faith in God the Father.

Are you feeling hopeful? Or hopeless? Remember that the only real hope we have is in Christ. When all else fails, our triune God—Father, Son, and Spirit—will never fail. Never.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Unworthy ... But of Worth

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.
(1 Peter 1:17-19, NASB)

Have you ever felt unworthy? And I don’t mean that put-yourself-down “I’m pond scum” kind of unworthy. I mean, have you ever pondered on what Jesus did for you? And then recognized how very unworthy you are?

I’ve been in a season of change the last few weeks. God has blessed me so abundantly by giving me an opportunity to pursue my passion full time. And every single day for the last two and one half weeks, I’ve been shaking my head, wondering how He could possibly love this flawed, weak woman as much as He does.

I am unworthy of His blessings. Oh, but He—in His unimaginable grace—sees worth in me. So much so, He trusts me to help fulfill His mission. Amazing grace, indeed.

Then I read verses like this, and I’m humbled again. And convicted.

Humbled because I am redeemed by the “precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” God the Father saw enough worth in me, He sent His beloved Son to pay the price for my sin. (John 3:16) I resonate with the words of the psalmist: “Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way?” (8:4, The Message)

Convicted because I have to ask myself, do I really “conduct [myself] with fear [with reverent awe] during the time of [my] stay on earth”? I pray I do. I know I want to. It’s my heart’s desire to somehow, in some small way, give back to God even a fraction of what He’s given me.

To somehow let Him know how grateful I am He sees worth in this cracked, unworthy vessel.

Amazing grace. Indeed.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Be Holy?

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY."
(1 Peter 1:13-16, NASB)

As I’ve heard many pastors say, when you see a “therefore” in the Bible, you need ask yourself what it’s “there for.”

Yesterday’s passage spoke of prophets serving us and preaching the “gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.” Today’s verses now put the focus on us. If indeed the prophets spoke truth about the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, what are we to do to continue to proclaim the gospel—the good news?

We have a pretty concise “to do” list here:
• Prepare our minds for action
• Keep sober in spirit
• Fix our hope completely (did you get that? completely) on grace
• Do not be conformed to former lusts

And finally:
• Be holy

Wow. I don’t know about you, but this list is pretty daunting. In fact the “easiest” of these tasks (for me, at least) is fixing my hope on grace. I am so very, very grateful that, forty years ago, God adopted me as His beloved daughter. I’m equally grateful that, almost seventeen years ago, He brought this prodigal back to Himself. I understand grace.

I can even handle being prepared for action, keeping sober in spirit, and not being conformed to former lust—that’s where grace comes in.

But that last? Be holy? Me? With all my flaws and weaknesses and brokenness? Are you kidding me?

I’m far from holy. You may be thinking the same about yourself.

Ah, but it’s not about us. It’s not about me. I’m holy because the One to whom I belong is holy. When I gave my life completely and irrevocably to God, I was washed clean. I was made righteous in His eyes.

And in gratitude, I strive to live as closely to how Christ lived as I can. I desire my Lord’s will. I want to follow His plan.

And I, with His grace, am becoming more and more like my Savior.

Thank You, Abba, for seeing the worth in me. Thank Your for looking past my rebellion, my deliberate sin. Thank You for making me holy in your eyes. Amen.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

An Amazing Gift

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.
(1 Peter 1:10-12, NASB)

One thing I love about the Bible—among many—is the fact of already fulfilled prophecies. Old Testament prophecies about the birth and death of Christ. New Testament prophecies about the destruction of the temple.

I feel so blessed to know that because some prophecies have already been fulfilled, others will one day be also.

In these verses, Peter reminds his readers—that’s us, by the way—that the prophets of old predicted Christ’s suffering and His glory to come. Jesus did suffer, and one day, those who know Him will bask in His glory.

But there’s more in these verses. In fact, in a very real way, these verses define the reason God inspired men to write His words: to serve us. Have you thought of that? God didn’t have to leave a written account of His work. He could have just left it to general revelation through creation. Or He could have let us figure it out on our own (like that would happen!).

No. He loves us so much He left the gift of written word. Words inspired by Him, flowing through chosen men. Men who dedicated their lives to accurately scribe God’s inspiration.

Have you thought of what an amazing gift your Bible is? Have you praised God for speaking to you through its words? Don’t take it for granted, my friend. Read it. Meditate on it.

And thank God for it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

More Precious Than Gold

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.
(1 Peter 1:6-9, NASB)

I find it very interesting that some followers of Christ are surprised when trials come. Somehow they think that becoming a Christian means rainbows, cotton candy, and puppy dogs.

They haven’t read their Bible apparently.

I’ve written before about being refined as gold, and I love today’s scripture. Not the being “distressed by various trials” part. Frankly, I’d rather avoid trials. Suffering isn’t on my top ten favorite things to do. If God chose to grow me and mature my faith in any other way, I’d say, “Bring it on.”

But that’s not how God works. He knows we’re fickle and frail and fleshly. He knows we (or maybe it’s just me) tend to be self-sufficient when the skies are clear and the waves calm. It’s when the storms hit—when we face the fiery furnace—that we reach our hands up and plead for His presence.

So no, I’d rather not have the trials, but since I know I’m who I am today because of the difficult times and how they’ve shaped me, I can rejoice as Peter exhorted.

I can praise and glorify and honor my Lord. I can love Him through the trials.

I can find hope, knowing that my trials are for “a little while.” And I can be confident God will use those trials to make me precious like gold.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

A Living Hope!

… according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
(1 Peter 1:2-5, NASB)

I just finished an inductive study of 1 Peter, and there are so many rich truths—I can’t resist sharing some of them with you. So for the next few weeks, join me as I remind myself of God’s voice through the apostle Peter.

And may I pray, as Peter prayed: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure!

The last few days, I focused on a psalm that often felt bleak, but ended with hope. Today, I start our review of 1 Peter with hope—a living hope. We who follow Christ, who have personal relationships with Him, have been offered a great mercy from our Lord God.

We are promised an inheritance—imperishable and undefiled—in heaven.

We are promised protection—by the power of God through faith—here on earth.

When I read verses like this, I get homesick. I completely resonate with Paul’s words to the Philippians: “For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” (Phil. 1:23, NKJV)

It gives me a hope I can live with on earth to know one day the cares and sufferings I experience now won’t even be a memory. I’ll be in the presence of the triune God!

Now, that’s a hope I can live with!

Monday, February 08, 2010

The King Reigns!

The LORD is King forever and ever;
The nations have perished out of His land.
LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble;
You will prepare their heart;
You will cause Your ear to hear,
To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
That the man of the earth may oppress no more.

(Psalm 10:16-18, NKJV)

Yes. It seems the bad guys are winning battle after battle. Corruption. Perversion. Immorality. It can make even the most faithful hang her head in despair.

Ah. But we know Who wins the war.

Read the first line of today’s scripture again. The Lord, our Lord, is King forever and ever. He has heard—and will hear—the desire of the humble. He has heard—and will hear—our cries.

And He will one day do justice. One day, we will all stand before His throne, and those of us who follow Him will receive rewards according to how we’ve served Him.

One day, those who chose not to follow Him will receive judgment. Those who have oppressed, those who have lived thumbing their noses at God, those who have flagrantly lived in ungodliness will be judged.

Now read the last line of this psalm. I’m no theologian, and again, this psalm seems to be more about man than Satan, but wouldn’t you agree that the enemy could be described as “the man of the earth”? And if so, one day, he will oppress no more.

Find hope in these words today, my friend. Be encouraged, knowing that one day, all the pain and suffering you’re facing today will be over. We will be face-to-face with our King—forever and ever.


Sunday, February 07, 2010

A Cry to God

Arise, O LORD!
O God, lift up Your hand!
Do not forget the humble.
Why do the wicked renounce God?
He has said in his heart,
“You will not require an account.”

But You have seen, for You observe trouble and grief,
To repay it by Your hand.
The helpless commits himself to You;
You are the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked and the evil man;
Seek out his wickedness until You find none.

(Psalm 10:12-15, NKJV)

Have you ever felt forgotten? Have you ever suffered through a season and felt alone? The last few days have focused on the wicked’s pride and arrogance, and how they seem to be winning. They say God has forgotten.

Today is where hope begins. I said yesterday our God never forgets us, and I believe that with all my heart. Even when I “forgot” Him, He never forgot me. He never forgets you.

All we have to do is cry out to Him.

I’ve always found real comfort reading the psalms. So often the writers cry out to God for intervention, for protection, for salvation. And they did so with the assurance that God listened. Always.

We too can cry out to God. We can plea that He not forget the humble. We can ask for His help, knowing He will help us.

He really will. In His time. According to His plan.


Saturday, February 06, 2010

Has God Forgotten Me?

He sits in the lurking places of the villages;
In the secret places he murders the innocent;
His eyes are secretly fixed on the helpless.
He lies in wait secretly, as a lion in his den;
He lies in wait to catch the poor;
He catches the poor when he draws him into his net.
So he crouches, he lies low,
That the helpless may fall by his strength.
He has said in his heart,
“God has forgotten;
He hides His face;
He will never see.”

(Psalm 10:8-11, NKJV)

Yesterday I wrote that sometimes it seems like the enemy is winning. Psalm 10 continues that thought. According to the New American Standard Bible, this is a psalm praying for the overthrow of the wicked, and I agree. But I also see it as how the enemy of our souls behaves. The enemy—prideful, arrogant, a liar, a murderer—seems to be described quite well in today’s verses.

Lurking. Murders the innocent. Lies in wait secretly.

God has forgotten …

And sometimes it seems like God really has forgotten us. When the pain is unrelenting. When the checking account is empty and rent is due. When the doctor says, “I’m so sorry.” When that prodigal is far from home.

God—at times—seems so far away. Prayers—at times—go no further than the ceiling. What do we do then?

I often speak of the gift of hindsight. I’ve experienced a lot in my four and a half decades on this earth. Abuse. Infertility. Chronic pain. And many, many times, God seemed to have forgotten me. But with that gift of hindsight, I can see He never, ever did. Even through twenty years of rebellion, He never, ever did.

And everything that’s happened—even those things my enemies did for evil—God used for good. Everything.

Be strong through whatever season you’re going through, my friend. And know one thing: God never forgets you. Never.

Friday, February 05, 2010

When My Enemy Seems to be Winning

Why do You stand afar off, O LORD?
Why do You hide in times of trouble?
The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor;
Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised.
For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire;
He blesses the greedy and renounces the LORD.
The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God;
God is in none of his thoughts.
His ways are always prospering;
Your judgments are far above, out of his sight;
As for all his enemies, he sneers at them.
He has said in his heart, “I shall not be moved;
I shall never be in adversity.”
His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppression;
Under his tongue is trouble and iniquity.

(Psalm 10:1-7, NKJV)

Sometimes, I watch the news or read the headlines (online, of course), and it seems like the bad guys are winning … a lot.

The writer of this psalm described our world really, really well. It’s full of people who are prospering and prideful. Even more, countless deny the existence of the one true God.

Deceit. Cursing. Renouncing the Lord. Sound familiar?

It’s almost painful when it seems like those of us who follow Jesus are losing—jobs, health, relationships—when the “wicked” are thriving. And we cry the words of the psalmist,

“Why do You stand afar off, O LORD?”

I’ve asked the same question. Days when I have to drag myself from bed because the pain is so intense. Days when politicians are caught in lies—but “spin” their way out. Days when people die in catastrophic earthquakes while celebrities talk of their triple-digit car purchase.

“Why do You hide in times of trouble?”

Yes, sometimes it seems like God is far away, hiding in times of trouble. Sometimes it feels like the enemy is indeed winning. And it’s really hard.

During these times, my hope comes from a favorite verse. I pray as you face your own enemy, these words will give you hope too.

"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."
(John 16:33, NASB)

Our enemies may be winning a battle or two, but our Lord Jesus Christ has already won the war.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Lord, My Salvation

I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the LORD sustained me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me all around.
Arise, O LORD;
Save me, O my God!

Salvation belongs to the LORD.
Your blessing is upon Your people.

(Psalm 3:5-8, NKJV)

Not only is the Lord our shield, as we learned yesterday, He’s our salvation from enemies and circumstances—and sleepless nights.

I like the beginning of verse 5. I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I face uncertainty, one of the first things that goes is sleep. Tossing and turning. Worrying and fretting. In times like these, I’ve learned if I talk to God just before I go to sleep and then again when I wake, He will sustain me. He will give me the strength I need to get through each moment, each day.

These verses also remind me I don’t have to fear. I really, really don’t. He’s in control, and He’ll save me. I may—no, let’s be honest here—I will face trials. I will face temptations. I may even face an enemy full-on. But He’ll carry me through.

God’s word promises salvation from our enemies. But let’s not forget, it also promises eternal salvation. So even if today seems rough, even if there’s not even a glimmer of light at the end of that proverbial tunnel, we who know Jesus Christ can be assured that this temporary life will one day be not even a memory. We’ll be face-to-face with our Lord and Savior.


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Lord, My Shield

LORD, how they have increased who trouble me!
Many are they who rise up against me.
Many are they who say of me,
“There is no help for him in God.”
But You, O LORD, are a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
I cried to the LORD with my voice,
And He heard me from His holy hill.

(Psalm 3:1-4, NKJV)

I think I’ll stay in the Psalms for a while.

This one spoke to my soul this morning as my heart continues to hurt for many of my friends who are facing job hunts in this uncertain economy. It has to be a little scary, even for those who have a strong faith in our loving, Sovereign God.

They’re facing troubles, and there are some who may very well say, “You have no help.” Moments may come when even those who trust the Lord may wonder when help will come.

The writer of this Psalm certainly understood trouble from those “who rise up against” him. But he knew the One who held him. He knew he could cry out to his Lord, and he would be heard.

We can do the same. No matter our trouble, no matter our pain, no matter our distress, we can cry out to our Lord. We can have confidence that He is our shield. He is the one who lifts our heads.

Life isn’t easy. And we’ve never been promised it would be. But we do have a protector, a shield against the troubles this world—and its “prince”—may bring.

Cry out to Him. If you’re feeling troubled, unsure, weary, worried … Cry out to Him. He will listen. He will shield you.

Trust Him.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Giving Thanks

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the LORD is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

(Psalm 100:4-5, NKJV)

Yesterday, I wrote about finding joy simply because I’m God’s daughter (or as I like to say when I speak, I’m a much-loved daughter of the King!). Today’s verses complete that thought.

Because I’m God’s, because He loves me, I can be joyful. Even more, I can be grateful for everything. Everything. Good and bad.

I can be grateful for the daily pain that requires a reliance on Him. I can be grateful for times of trial that strengthen me. I can be grateful for difficult relationships that cause me to be compassionate.

Mostly, I can be grateful that the God who loves me is good. He’s merciful.

I know it sounds trite, but it’s true. God will use all things for His ultimate good (Romans 8:28). It may not seem that way today, but as I wrote in my book, The Best Laid Plans:

• God loves you.
• God is beside you every moment, in every circumstance.
• God will use the pain you’re experiencing today to strengthen you.
• And, one day, you will see how your yesterday will bless your today and give you hope for tomorrow.

I’m not white-washing pain, my friends. Believe me. I understand pain more than some, not as much as others. But I do know that if I can be genuinely thankful, blessing and praising God, I see His goodness.

I pray you’ll see that same goodness, no matter what you’re going through. And that you, too, will give thanks.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Finding Joy

Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands!
Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the LORD, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

(Psalm 100:1-3, NKJV)

Some of my dearest friends are finding it hard to be joyful these days. It’s been a tough week for some. For others, it’s been a tough year or more.

Fractured relationships. Fragile finances. Failing health.

Many seem to be surrounded by very dark clouds. Where’s the rainbow? Or the silver lining? Will the sun ever shine through?

It’s hard sometimes to see any light through the shadows, but when I read these verses, I remember something very, very important. My joy doesn’t come from circumstances. It doesn’t come from sunny skies. It doesn’t come from my stuff. It doesn’t come from a paycheck. It doesn’t even come from my relationships.

My joy comes from one place, and one place only. The assurance that I am God’s. I am His daughter. And He loves me.

And while I may not know exactly what’s around the corner, I can joyfully shout. I can serve Him with gladness. I can praise Him with singing.

Because I know that He is God.