Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Be Mature (Phil. 3:15-16)

Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.
(Philippians 3:15-16, NKJV)

Just as we mature and grow physically, we mature and grow spiritually. And we require the same things: food to nourish; relationships to develop emotionally; study and learning to stimulate mentally.

If a child isn’t fed regularly and nutritionally, her growth is stunted. If she doesn’t have regular, positive interaction with others, she becomes socially inept. If she is never given the opportunity to read or learn, she stays childlike in her thinking.

The same is true for believers. We must be nourished by God’s word—studying it, meditating on it—every day. We must spend time with God in prayer and solitude, listening to His voice. We must also spend time with other believers to learn from them and fellowship with them. We must stimulate our minds by reading books that make us question, that strengthen our beliefs, that challenge us.

Some seem to think that being a Christian means praying a prayer and then just going merrily on our way. While accepting God’s gift of salvation is key to forgiveness and eternity with our Lord, it’s not the end. It’s the beginning. Let us not be content with where we are today. Rather, let us have a true desire to be more, grow more, develop more. So we can indeed be mature Christ-followers.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Leaving the Past Behind (Phil. 3:12-14)

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:12-14, NKJV)

When I recommitted my life to the Lord over sixteen years ago, I adopted Philippians 3:13-14 as my life verses. Short story: Although I’d asked Jesus to come into my heart when I was six years old, I’d allowed some painful situations to take me away from my child-like faith. For twenty years, I walked a deliberate path, one far from my Lord, and I made some really poor choices.

For a time after I found my way back to the arms of the Father, I’d beat myself up with regret over those twenty lost years. If only I’d been stronger. If only I’d clung more tightly to Jesus. If only …

Then God blessed me with these verses. I don’t have to live in the past. I don’t have to continually berate myself for former choices. When I asked Jesus to take over my life—completely—and forgive me for all the things I’d done that were wrong and selfish and rebellious, He forgave me. He washed me clean. He removed my sin as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

I didn’t have to look at what had been. Rather, I could look forward to what God had planned for my future. I could anticipate being used for His glory, to serve others. I could delight in knowing that, one day, I’ll receive the prize of eternity with Christ Jesus.

These verses have been a comfort and have encouraged me countless times. And I praise God for the assurance I have that He has truly forgiven me, that He continues to work in and through me. That the story isn’t quite complete.

I can press on, leaving the past behind, knowing He’s beside me all the way.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Gain Versus Loss (Phil. 3:7-11)

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
(Philippians 3:7-11, NKJV)

How often do we put our trust in things? Or circumstances? Or people? How often do we think, if I only had this job? Or if I were married to so and so? Or if I lived there?

Then life would be perfect.

But that’s a lie. Things are temporary. Circumstances come and go. What we think is so important today means nothing tomorrow. Nothing has real meaning in this world. Nothing except our faith, that is. What the world sees as “gain” is “rubbish.” It’s trash. It belongs in a landfill.

So we can and should hold things loosely. We should gladly give up everything for our Lord and Savior. We should be willing to lose what the world so highly cherishes, being assured that, if we do, we will attain what lasts: resurrection from the dead. Eternity with Christ.

Nothing else matters.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Nothing We Do (Phil. 3:3-6)

For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
(Philippians 3:3-6, NKJV)

Saul was the most religious of the religious. Before meeting Jesus on the Damascus road, he was a letter-perfect Pharisee. He traced his family tree back to Benjamin, the son of Jacob. He followed the law with precision. He was, in the eyes of man, “blameless.”

How often do we rely on our “pedigree” to save us? Even today, with Christianity so reviled in the press, polls are taken in which a very high percentage of respondents claim to be Christians.

I went to church as a kid, they say. I was raised in a Christian home, they say. I’m an American, so I’m a Christian, they say. (Although the latter seems to be said less and less these days …) I follow the Ten Commandments, so I’m good, they say.

Saul—now Paul—thought he had everything under control. He thought he knew it all. Then he met Jesus Christ, God the Son. And he recognized that nothing he was, nothing he’d done, brought salvation. He met the true Messiah, the Savior, the Redeemer.

And his life changed forever.

It’s not our heritage that brings salvation. It’s not our hard work. It’s not who we know or where we come from. No. It’s a meeting with God. It’s the realization that we cannot do anything to receive the blessing of forgiveness and eternal life with God—Father, Son, and Spirit.

Have you met Jesus? If not, you can meet Him today. Just admit you’re incapable on your own and ask Jesus to forgive you and to take over your life. Then get a Bible and read the book of John. Find a church that teaches truth from the word of God.

And your life will be changed forever.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 3:1)

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.
(Philippians 3:1, NKJV)

It all comes down to this: Rejoice in the Lord. Through good times and bad times. On mountaintops and in valleys. At the wedding altar and at the graveside. When the doctor says “you’re cured” and when the words are “I’m so sorry.”

Rejoice in the Lord.

It’s not always easy. I admit there are many, many times I fail in this. When I don’t feel well. When the future looks so uncertain. When a friend turns from me. How do I rejoice in these times?

I just do. It’s a deliberate decision to find joy in all circumstances. A choice. I can choose to wallow and whine, or I can choose to give praise and glory to my Lord. And the latter is certainly better than the former.

Rejoice in the Lord. Remember His abundant love. Revel in His overwhelming blessings. Reach out your hand to Him and thank Him for being your Lord and Savior.

And rejoice.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Encourage Leaders (Phil. 2:25-30)

Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need … Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.
(Philippians 2:25-30, NKJV)

I’m taking a bit of license with today’s devotional, but I feel led to write …

God has called some men and women to be His spokespeople. People like Billy Graham or Beth Moore have been placed on platforms throughout the world to proclaim God’s truth. The pastors of our churches likewise have a great responsibility to spread the gospel.

Yet sometimes, rather than “holding them in esteem,” we criticize. We judge. We disparage. Or at the very least, we take them for granted. This isn’t to say we should look at them as if they were Christian “pop stars.” They’re being used of God as He sees fit, but our roles in the body of Christ are no less important.

However, I wonder sometimes if we “receive with all gladness” those who are God’s messengers. Do we offer words of encouragement to our pastors and church leaders? Do we thank our small group or Bible study leaders for the preparation they do for our studies? Do we show gratitude to our children’s Sunday School teachers?

While we’re all called to serve—and gifted to do so—some of our body are in positions of leadership or are more visible than others. Let’s esteem those brothers and sisters. Let’s encourage them. Let’s thank them for their service.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Proven Character (Phil. 2:19-24)

But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me. But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly.
(Philippians 2:19-24, NKJV)

One of the many things I love about Paul’s epistles is how real they are. Just as any letter we would write, he includes little bits of personal business. These verses don’t have any real exhortation or teaching. They just state what Paul plans to do. He’s going to send Timothy to the Philippian Christians to care for them and report back to Paul how they’re doing. And he himself hopes to come to them soon.

In the middle of this information-giving, Paul drops a little nugget: He’s sending Timothy in particular because of his “proven character.” This young protégé of Paul’s served with his father and has already proven himself to be a man of character who loves the gospel. Paul is certain the younger man will care deeply for the people—just as Paul himself would.

Isn’t that how you want to be described? A person of proven character who sincerely cares for fellow believers? A person who serves God and shares the gospel?

I know I do. I have a long way to go (and thankfully I’m still that work in progress here on earth!), but I pray God will continue to refine my character and draw me more closely to Him. And I know He will.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Drink Offering (Phil. 2:17-18)

Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.
(Philippians 2:17-18 NKJV)

Sometimes, the Holy Spirit clearly illuminates scriptures. And other times? Not so much.

I’ve read today’s verses many times, and I’ve never been quite sure exactly what Paul meant by “being poured out as a drink offering.” So I’m very grateful for commentaries by those much wiser than I. (A wonderful site for on-line commentaries:

One commentary (New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible) interprets these words as Paul’s anticipating his eventual death, which would be like wine or oil poured over a sacrifice. Because he was the church at Philippi’s spiritual father, he was certain his death—likely martyrdom—would be as an offering to God on their behalf. And he rejoiced to be such an offering.

Wow. Could I even begin to say these words? I get the rejoicing together part. I love rejoicing with my spiritual family. However, while I’m willing to give up my own life (I really do believe “to live is Christ and to die is gain”), could I really rejoice in the sacrificial death of a beloved brother or sister in Christ?

That would be difficult. Paul was able to do it. He rejoiced at the expectation of his own death for the cause of Christ, and he expected the same rejoicing from his fellow believers.

I usually try to end my blogs with an encouraging words … today, though, I think I’ll just leave you to muse over Paul’s words …

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Breath of Fresh Air (Phil. 2:14-16)

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
(Philippians 2:14-16, NKJV)

Again, today’s verses both convict and encourage …

This morning, I woke up feeling pretty lousy. I’m in a play that requires some “physicality,” and my body isn’t terribly happy with me. I really want to whine and complain, but even before I meditated on today’s verses, I just went to the Lord in prayer, thanking Him for the strength I know He’ll give me to accomplish what needs to be done today.

And then I read Paul’s words. I’m to do all things—all things—without complaining. If I believe God is in loving control, I should be able to accept everything without question. If I trust Him to work all things for good (Rom. 8:28), I should rejoice in all things.

But there’s more to these verses. If I really can rejoice in all things without complaining, then God will use me as a light in this “crooked and perverse generation.” (And, by the way, don’t you love how relevant the Bible is today? Paul could easily have been writing about the US in 2010.)

I love The Message’s paraphrase of verse 15:

Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night …

Don’t you want to be a “breath of fresh air”? Don’t you want to “provide … a glimpse of good living and of the living God”?

We can be that light in this world. I know sometimes it seems things are too corrupt, too perverse, too squalid and polluted. But if we praise God through the difficult times, if we strive to love each other—and the people in this world—He will work through us.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Work Out Your Salvation (Phil. 2:12-13)

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
(Philippians 2:12-13, NKJV)

As I was praying over today’s blog, I wanted to make certain I wrote truth, especially the part about “work out your own salvation.” Some read these words and interpret them to say we can save ourselves. I don’t believe that’s what Paul meant at all. I reviewed some on-line commentaries, and one wrote:

While Christ is our Savior, and the author of our salvation, we must accept him and work together with him. Hence the Holy Spirit says, "Save yourselves" (Acts 2:40), and "work out your own salvation.” (

It goes on to define “With fear and trembling”: With constant anxiety not to fail.

Our desire should be to obey God’s commands and do His will, being confident He’s working in us according to His plan. And when we do His will, when we strive to be Christ-like in our thoughts, words, and actions, God is pleased.

I pray this will be my heart’s desire. And I pray the same for you.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Every Knee Shall Bow (Phil. 2:9-11)

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:9-11, NKJV)

One day, every single human being—past, present, future—will kneel at the feet of Jesus. Everyone will confess that He is Lord.

For some of us, that will be a joyful day of celebration! I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait. For others, though, they will finally recognize that Jesus is the Lord they rejected. The Bible describes a people who will wail, weep, and gnash their teeth (see Matt. 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28). These people will know only an eternity separated from their God.

This day will come. So what are we to do?

First, I believe we believers need to constantly and continually exalt Jesus now. Worship Him. Praise Him. We need to spend time with our Father and know Him more deeply by reading His word.

Second, we need to share Christ with our nonbelieving friends and family. We need to seek opportunities to tell others about the joy of knowing Christ, the freedom that comes from serving Him.

Don’t you want to know you influenced others to follow Christ, so they can bow a knee and confess their love for our Savior? I know I do.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Humility of Jesus (Phil. 2:5-8)

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
(Philippians 2:5-8, NKJV)

I read these verses and am humbled. Yesterday I wrote about pride, and how sometimes we can get caught up in what “we” can do.

Then I remember that God the Son chose to humble Himself—really humble Himself. He left the Father’s side and took on flesh. He became a human being, subject to weariness, temptation, pain, denial, and betrayal. And even more, He humbled Himself and hung on a cross to pay the penalty for my sin.

How can I think highly of myself when I know what Jesus did for me? Again, everything I am, everything I have, everything I can do is a gift from God. I do nothing without His leading, His guidance, His will.

Lord Jesus, please forgive me when I think too highly of myself, when I feel ungodly pride. Help me to be humble, to remember Your humility. I pray that all I do will bring glory to You. Amen.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Lowliness of Mind (Phil. 2:3-4)

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
(Philippians 2:3-4, NKJV)

Pride. It’s something many of us struggle with, and it’s something that God abhors (see Prov. 8:13; 16:18; Mark 7:22). We look at “our” gifts and talents, or what “we’ve” achieved, and we think, “Good for me!” Even more, we sometimes look at what others do, and think, “I could do better.”

We forget—often—that anything we have and anything we can do comes from God. So to be prideful about what we do is kind of an oxymoron. Instead, we’re called to be humble, to do all things with “lowliness of mind.” Not selfish. Not conceited. Rather, we should honor others.

Now this doesn’t mean we’re supposed to be doormats and let people walk all over us. We can certainly look out for our “own interests.” We can—and should—do our best in all things. We should “do all in the name of the Lord” (Col. 3:17). But we also need to make certain we’re supporting our brothers and sisters.

Imagine your life if you could sincerely “esteem others better.” If you could genuinely celebrate the gifts and talents God has given everyone. If you trusted God to use each of us according to His will. If you truly believed none of us is better than another.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Be Life-minded (Phil. 2:1-2)

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
(Philippians 2:1-2, NKJV)

Chapter 1 ends with Paul’s assertion that we will suffer, but then he begins chapter 2 with great hope. Yes, we will suffer, but we will be consoled and comforted as we fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We’re exhorted to be “like-minded.” Oh, if this were only true in the body of Christ. Think about it. If every single Christ-follower followed the Bible, truly loved others, was merciful, was mindful … what an example the Church would be to the world.

Instead, the world hears of dissension, disagreements, finger-pointing. My way of doing this ritual is better than yours. You should be doing this instead of that.

How can we expect the consolation and comfort of love that comes through fellowship with others when we are so caught up in our differences instead of what draws us together: the gospel of Christ.

Let’s “fulfill [Paul’s] joy” even 2000 years later. Let’s be of one accord. Let’s have the same love. Genuine Christ-honoring love.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Suffering for His Sake (Phil. 1:29-30)

For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.
(Philippians 1:29-30, NKJV)

Okay. Today’s verses aren’t the most uplifting we’ve read lately. While we are thrilled we’ve been granted the right to believe in Christ, we still would prefer not to have to suffer. However, as I’ve written many times, suffering, trials, and tribulations will come. Not only do we live in a fallen world that’s becoming more and more corrupt each day it seems, but we also are smack-dab in the middle of a spiritual battle (Eph. 6:12).

I think the key here is “for His sake.” When we suffer for Christ, for our faith, and we are able to respond with joy, God is glorified. When we can use our suffering to encourage and comfort others, they may see Christ in us (2 Cor. 1:3-7). And God often uses our suffering to draw us closer to Him as we realize our own weakness (2 Cor. 7-10).

The world uses suffering as a case against a loving God, but we who know Him understand that He loves us through suffering. He guides us through the trials. He carries us through the tribulations. And He holds us tightly through the pain.

As much as I’d love to be free from my daily pain, I quite honestly wouldn’t trade the lessons I’ve learned, the encouragement I’ve been blessed to offer, and the intimacy I have with my Lord for anything. Even a healthy, strong body.

What trial are you facing today? What pain are you experiencing? Draw close to your Abba Father, and crawl into His lap. Let Him help you through the suffering, even if He chooses not to remove it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Worthy Conduct (Phil. 1:27-28)

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.
(Philippians 1:27-28, NKJV)

“… let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ …”

Today’s verses start with a huge dose of conviction for me—and perhaps for you as well. Is my conduct worthy of the gospel? If someone I know “absent” from me hears of me, would she know I’m a follower of Christ? Would someone know the same of you?

Or even more convicting, do nonbelievers see us and see a body of believers who are united? Who are “striving together for the faith of the gospel”? Do they see boldness? Unabashed joy and desire to share God’s word?

Instead, do they see a group of people who are so focused on our adversaries we’re timid? Afraid to tell others of our hope of salvation?

A quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi says, “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”

I pray for all of us that we not only “talk our talk,” but we always “walk our walk.” May our conduct reflect our Lord—always.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hard-Pressed (Phil. 1:23-26)

For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.
(Philippians 1:23-26, NKJV)

The farther I go down life’s journey, the more I resonate with the opening words of today’s scripture. I truly am “hard-pressed” between a deep-in-the-heart desire to be with Jesus and remaining here in this temporary body.

Now, I’m not certain my “remaining in the flesh is more needful for you,” but I do know God has a purpose for every moment I live. As He does for you.

Do you know God’s purpose for your life? Have you determined your unique mission? If you haven’t, may I encourage you to do so?

You have been gifted to serve God and others in a way only you can. God will speak through you, through the stories He’s given you, to touch lives. And I can tell you, once you understand what God has called you to do, your life will be richer and more blessed than you can imagine. Knowing you’re following God’s plan is liberating because then you can pray for His will in all you do. His desires become your desires. And for as long as you retain your earthly residence, you can be confident God will do those “needful” things through you. And when you finally “depart to be with Christ,” you’ll hear “good and faithful servant.”

I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine anything better.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Be Encouraged, Affirmed, Convicted (Phil. 1:19-22)

For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell.
(Philippians 1:19-22, NKJV)

I do so love this book! So many great messages of affirmation, conviction, encouragement.

Today’s verses do all at the same time for me.

First, I’m encouraged when I remember how God uses the prayers of my brothers and sisters to “deliver me.” And I know when I pray for them, God delivers them as well—maybe not out of the pain, but through the pain.

Second, I’m convicted. I ask myself, how boldly do I share the good news of Christ’s gift of salvation? Are there times when I’m ashamed? I wish I could say, I speak with great confidence, never ashamed. But that wouldn’t be truth. I pray that each of us who follows Christ will boldly proclaim the truth of the Gospel.

Finally, I’m affirmed when I remember that living for Christ in this world brings God glory.

And then one last thing: That verse that says “to live is Christ … to die is gain”? I couldn’t agree more! I long for the day when I leave this frail, weak body and stand before my Lord and Savior. But I do know—and I’ve said this before—every day God wakes me out of bed is a day He can use me to serve Himself and others.

So although there are many days I’d choose being with Christ, I can live with confidence that I’m still supposed to live on in the flesh.

May I encourage you today? Live each and every day with a full-heart desire to serve God, knowing that you’re being lifted by my prayers and the prayers of your brothers and sisters.

Enjoy this Lord’s day!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Christ is Preached (Phil. 1:15-18)

Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.
(Philippians 1:15-18, NKJV)

I don’t think it’s a surprise to hear our world is full of “preachers and teachers” spouting their own version of the gospel. They call themselves born-again Christians and yet tell their congregations that the Bible isn’t God’s final truth. That there are many ways to get to heaven. That Jesus didn’t live a sinless, perfect life. Oh, how the enemy must be clasping his hands with glee.

False teachers. False prophets. Just as Paul and Peter and John wrote about.

It’s hard knowing such skewed teaching is being sent through the airwaves, but we can have confidence that God is in this. He’s in control. And somehow, I pray that those who listen to those false teachers—those who really seek truth—will be able to see beyond the words. That they’ll read and study the Bible for themselves. That they’ll seek men and women of faith who are teaching and preaching the true gospel message.

And as I’ve written many times, it may seem the enemy is winning battle after battle, but we know Who wins the war.

Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Reason for Pain (Phil. 1:12-14)

But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
(Philippians 1:12-14, NKJV)

I in no way compare myself with the apostle Paul, but I do kind of relate to these verses. As I look back over my life, I can see how God has used the difficult times to encourage others. When I speak, I often talk about my experiences with abuse, infertility, and living with chronic pain. And invariably, several women come to me to tell me how they were encouraged by my story.

I’m sure it’s the same for you. If you’re a cancer survivor, you’re uniquely gifted to lend a shoulder to cancer patients, If you’ve lost a loved one, you can empathize with the grieving in a way that many of us could not. If you’ve prayed a wayward teen back to the arms of God, you can encourage other parents.

No, the “things that happen” to us aren’t always pleasant or joyful or peaceful. We will walk through valleys. But God will—if we let Him—use even the most painful times for good (Romans 8:28). Or as I wrote in my book, The Best Laid Plans:

… many times we can’t see God’s plan until we have the perspective of hindsight. I know from my own experience that what seemed so awful, so painful, so heartbreaking at the time, always resulted in growth, in maturity. I know that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the times of challenge.
She couldn’t possibly know what I’ve been through, you’re thinking. I’ve experienced real evil, and she’s telling me that God promised plans without evil. Sounds contradictory at best—and a lie at worst.
… You’re right. I don’t know your life. I don’t know your pain. I don’t know what you’ve cried out for from the deepest part of your heart. This is what I do know: There is always a reason for pain. Really. And it’s not because God is trying to punish you. It’s not because He enjoys watching you suffer. It’s not that God is reaping evil upon you. It’s not. Really.
Let me assure you of one very important thing. God loves you. He loves you. He loves you so much that He was willing to die for you…

Be assured: God is with you through the valleys just as He is on the mountaintops. And what a joy it is to know He’ll use our pain to encourage others and—maybe—even grow His kingdom.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Abundant Love (Phil. 1:9-11)

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
(Philippians 1:9-11, NKJV)

Paul’s prayer for the Philippians continues with some words of instruction, words that we, too, can take to heart. He calls his readers to love abundantly, learn continually, seek wisdom, choose the excellent things of God’s word, and live righteously.

My goodness. Quite a list, isn’t it? Makes me feel really inadequate.

Loving abundantly
… This should be relatively “easy” for followers of Christ. After all, the second greatest commandment is that we’re to love others as ourselves.

Learning continually … I’ve written about this many, many times. We must study and meditate on God’s word. It’s the only way to gain knowledge.

Seeking wisdom … Obtaining God’s wisdom also comes from spending time in His word.

Choosing the excellent things
… And what are the excellent things? We’ll delve more deeply into this idea when we get to the fourth chapter, but they’re those things that edify us and help us to be more like Christ.

Living righteously … In order to do this, we need to strive to live as Christ would. We need to follow God’s commandments, focusing on His will.

Paul’s not asking for much, is he? (You can’t hear my mild sarcasm …) The good news? We’re those works in progress we talked about yesterday. We need to ask for God’s help every day to become what He’s called us to be.

With His help, we can follow Paul’s instructions. And maybe one day, we’ll actually live them.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Good Work (Phil. 1:3-8)

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.
(Philippians 1:3-8, NKJV)

I love this book! Every verse has some nugget to encourage or to affirm or to convict. And today’s verses are no exception. I’m not sure even where to start!

Oh, yes I do. I begin by echoing Paul’s prayer. I do “thank my God upon every remembrance” of my friends, my family, my brothers and sisters in Christ. I do pray that you continue to “fellowship in the gospel.”

But I want to focus today on verse 6: “… being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ …”

I’ve written in previous blogs that we are all works in progress. We are being refined as silver. We will one day be as pure gold. It’s so comforting to remember: I’m not complete yet. God is still at work in me. As I often say, every day God wakes me out of bed is a day to serve His purpose. And one day, I pray I’ll stand before my Lord and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I pray for each of you: Give yourself completely to your loving, gracious, merciful Father. Your Abba. Let Him complete His work in you, so one day, you too can hear those wonderful words.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Grace and Peace (Phil. 1:1-3)

Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Philippians 1:1-3, NKJV)

I begin this tour through Philippians by praying Paul’s words for each of you. May you experience God’s grace and peace this day and every day.

We followers of Christ have received amazing grace. We’ve received forgiveness. We’ve received mercy. Through valleys and atop mountains, God is with us. Jesus holds our hands as we travel the journey He’s designed.

What a blessing!

Later in our tour, we’ll be reminded of a peace that surpasses understanding, but for today, I pray for God’s enveloping peace for all of us. No matter what happens in our lives, we can be assured God will give us peace and grace to handle—everything.

Thank You, Lord, for Your promised grace and peace. Be glorified this day.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Again, Stand Firm!

After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen. Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it! She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark. Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace be to you all who are in Christ.
(1 Peter 5:10-14, NASB)

How sad … We leave 1 Peter today. I don’t know about you, but this little book has been encouraging, affirming, convicting … sometimes all at once!

What an appropriate closing, though. Yes, we will suffer “for a little while” as we inhabit these earthly bodies during our temporary stay on earth. While we’re here, God will “perfect, strengthen, and establish” us. Every day we’re on earth, we must strive to be more like Christ, knowing our ultimate reward is spending eternity with our Lord.

So as Peter wrote two thousand years ago: “… this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!”

Tomorrow I’ll start in my favorite book, Philippians, but for now, I echo Peter’s words: “Peace be to you all who are in Christ.”

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Overpowering a Roaring Lion

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 in 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, March 06, 2010

Cast Your Cares

You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
(1 Peter 5:5-7, NASB)

These verses begin with Peter’s exhortation to younger men respecting elders, but the real truth is mutual humility. As children of God, we should always “esteem others better than” ourselves (Philippians 2:3, NKJV). None of us is greater than another in the eyes of God. Some may have more notoriety or fame in the world’s eyes, but to God, we’re each one of His precious children.

God loves humble hearts because, with humility, we take our focus off of ourselves and on to Him, the Sovereign Creator, the Almighty God.

Then Peter throws in this little gem. In our humility, we can trust God. Where does it say that, you ask? Read the very last part: We can confidently cast every anxiety (the NKJV says “care”) at the foot of the throne. And why? Because God cares for us. He loves us unconditionally with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3, NASB). We can trust Him with every single circumstance, good or bad.

I’ll leave you this morning with The Message paraphrase of verse 7: “Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.”

Be blessed this day!

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Good News of Growing Older

Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
(1 Peter 5:1-4, NASB)

We live in a society that worships youth. And we spend a lot of money trying to look as young as possible. We’re bombarded with ads about miracle lotions that tighten skin, makeup that erases wrinkles, dyes that cover gray … And don’t get me started about plastic surgery. Have you heard about the young starlet who’s already had several surgeries—and she’s only 23 or so? It’s nuts!

I have to admit, I use some products that supposedly camouflage some signs of aging, and I did try to hide the gray for a while. I mean, we all should want to care for our earthly "temples," right? (Why does that sound like I'm trying to justify the creams and potions in my medicine cabinet?!)

Of course, some aspects of growing older kind of … well, suck! Aches and pains. Short-term memory problems. Keeping reading glasses throughout my house so I can see …

But the Bible reminds us that being older is a blessing. We who are older should be eager examples to those younger than we are. God has given us stories to tell, wisdom to share, shoulders to offer.

We’re given the privilege of mentoring, teaching, modeling. But that privilege requires our being true examples of our Lord. As I’ve written many times, we need to be grounded in faith. We need to know God’s word.

Then we can be “shepherds” to those younger than we—either in age or in faith. Are you prepared to shepherd well?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Salt and Light

For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER? Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.
(1 Peter 4:17-19, NASB)

Today’s verses hurt my heart. Peter asks, “… what will become of the godless man and the sinner?” The answer is, he’ll be eternally separated from God.

We all know people who aren’t followers of Christ, and verses like these should urge us to share the wonderful truth of salvation with them, as lovingly as we can. They will face judgment. They will spend eternity apart from Creator God.

We also need to pray for softened hearts—every day. We need to reflect Christ by being loving, patient, peaceful, gentle, kind. We need to remember that we could very well be the only example of Christ they see.

Wow. I don’t know about you, but that makes the preceding verses even more convicting. We need to obey God. We need to live according to His commandments. We need to consistently spend time with Him, learning more, becoming more whom He created us to be.

Yes, the bottom line is it’s between our unbelieving friends and God. We cannot save them. But we can be salt and light to a dark world, especially to those closest to us.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Overtaken By God's Blessings

If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.
(1 Peter 4:14-16, NASB)

It’s pretty simple. Obey God, and be blessed. Disobey God, and be cursed. I was reading Deuteronomy this morning, and I was struck by verses 1 and 2 in chapter 28. God tells the people of Israel, if they “diligently obeyed” Him and were“careful to do all His commandments,” He promised overly-abundant blessings, which will “come upon … and overtake” them.

Can you imagine being “overtaken” by God’s blessings? How awesome is that?!

Now not everything that was written in the books of the law pertains to us. Many of the commandments were for a specific time and place. But I do know this: Obeying God is for all times and all places.

If I love God, if I want to follow Him, I’ll obey His commandments. That’s what I learn over and over in the Old Testament. Then I learn something more in the New Testament: Many won’t like my following God’s commandments. Many will revile me or persecute me because of my faith.

I can expect this, but I can also know God will bless me as I obey Him. I don’t have to be—I must not be—ashamed if I “suffer as a Christian.” Instead, I can—and must—glorify my Lord God and know He’ll bless me as I do.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Joyful Suffering

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.
(1 Peter 4:12-13, NASB)

I’ve written about this before, and I’m sure I’ll write about it again. We should expect trials. We should expect suffering. Christ Himself told us we’d suffer as He suffered. We’d be persecuted as He was persecuted.

Why is it then so many of us complain or whine when we face adversity? I’m not saying we can’t cry out to God in our suffering. The psalmists certainly did. I’m not saying we can’t ask “why?” Job certainly did.

We don’t have to understand. We don’t even have to like it. But we shouldn’t be surprised.

Instead, we should rejoice. I know it’s an oxymoron: Joyful suffering. But in Christ, we can rejoice even through trials and tribulations. We can know, with certainty, God will use every situation—good and bad—for His ultimate good. And we can give glory to God … at all times and in all ways.

Monday, March 01, 2010

An Invitation to Serve

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
(1 Peter 4:10-11, NASB)

God is so good. He is loving and gracious and merciful. He provides and protects. He blesses us so far beyond our expectations.

And He invites us to work with Him to fulfill His plans. That just blows my mind.

The Sovereign Creator, the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God of the universe invites us—you and me—to help fulfill His plans. I often say He could certainly do it better without me, but He chooses to bless me by allowing me to participate. He’s given His children gifts to use to serve Him and others. And everything we do with those gifts must be done for His glory, and His glory alone.

God has given me the gift of encouragement, and He uses that gift as I speak, write, sing, act or provide a shoulder to a hurting friend. And I pray every time I’m blessed to use my God-given gift that I do give glory to Him. I remind myself regularly that anything I’m able to do—everything I’m able to do—is only because of God’s amazing love and grace for me.

You’re gifted as well. Do you know how God has gifted you? If you don’t, find out. And then joyfully use your gift to serve others and glorify God.