Friday, April 30, 2010

You're Never Alone (Ps. 139:7-10)

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.

(Psalm 139:7-10, NASB)

A couple of days ago, I asked if the thought of God’s being with you all the time was comforting or scary. And when you’re in close relationship with God, it should be comforting. Then yesterday, I wrote of the wonder of knowing God surrounds us and lays His hand on us.

With comfort and wonder in our minds, today’s verses should bring joy. There is nowhere we can go without God’s being with us. Nowhere. He’s with us no matter what, no matter where. He’s with us in the battle against the enemy. He’s with us through the pain, through the joy, through the struggles, through the celebration.

And then there’s verse 10. No matter where we are, God will lead us. No matter what we’re experiencing, His hand lays hold of us.

I pray you’re filled with confidence when you read these words. I pray you’re filled with peace when you remember your loving Father is always with you, leading you, wrapping His arms of strength and protection around you.

You’re never alone. Never.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

God Surrounds Me (Ps. 139:5-6)

You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

(Psalm 139:5-6, NASB)

My heart overflows with gratitude when I read these words.

God encloses me. He surrounds me.

He envelops me with His love. He showers me with His grace. He embraces me with His grace and mercy. He wraps His strength around me.

I feel quite weary and aching this morning. The last few weeks have been unusually busy and hectic, and today’s the first day in a while when I can just rest. I can give my body a day to refresh and heal.

On days like today, it’s such a comfort to know God’s hand is on me. I know I can crawl onto my Abba’s lap, and He’ll surround me.

Do you need a loving hand to guide you? Do you need to feel Someone’s love today? Reach out your hand … His is already reaching out to you.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

God's Intimate Presence (Ps. 139:1-4)

O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O LORD, You know it all.

(Psalm 139:1-4, NASB)

God is with us. At all times. In all circumstances. Always.

How does that make you feel? For some, it’s a tremendous comfort. We’re never alone on our journeys. God is with us to guide us, to protect us, to provide for us, to strengthen us. No matter the curveballs life throws our way, our Lord God walks alongside us.


For some, however, these verses bring fear or trepidation. God knows me that intimately? they ask. He knows my inner thoughts? He knows my words before I say them? I do nothing in secret? Yes, yes, yes, and no.

When I yell at another driver on the road, it’s not just me in the car. When you access that certain website, it’s not just you at the computer. When she thinks about her boss with true hate, her thoughts aren’t just her own.

Scary? Or comforting?

If your relationship with God is constant and intimate, you may feel remorse or regret when you act or think in a way that doesn’t honor Him, but you quickly repent and immediately regain the intimacy. You love that He’s with you at all times.

However, if you’re distant from God and you’re doing things or thinking things you know displease Him, you would rather He not know every little detail of your life. You want to keep some things in hiding. But you can’t. Not at all.

Where are you today? If it warms your heart to know God is intimately involved in your life, thank Him. Rejoice. For the others of you? Confess your sins. Seek His will. Be grateful that He’s with you to protect, provide, comfort, strengthen, and, yes, convict you.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Exhoration and Encouragement (Philemon vv. 20-22)

Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord. Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you.
(Philemon vv.20-22, NKJV)

Paul ends this short letter with such encouragement for Philemon. He found joy and refreshment in just having Philemon as his brother in Christ. He had confidence that Philemon would follow his exhortations because he knew the latter desired to serve God.

And finally, he planned a face-to-face visit.

We’ve been studying the book of Acts at church for a while now, and our pastor often pulls shows a map when he talks about Paul’s journeys. We forget how arduous travel was for Paul and other early missionaries. It wasn’t just getting in a car and driving several hundred miles in just a few hours. Or on a plane and traveling several thousands of miles in the in the same few hours.

Paul probably mostly traveled by foot. It would take days to journey just tens of miles. Yet he made the effort to get to his spiritual children. What encouragement.

And especially for Philemon. This letter wasn’t necessarily an easy read, yet he was left with the affirmation he’d been a blessing for Paul. And he’d have the added blessing of seeing Paul again.

As Philemon was both exhorted and affirmed, so am I. I pray I see every brother and sister equally, no matter their background, race, socio-economic status. I pray I’m a blessing and joy to others as Jesus shines through me.

It is, after all, the second greatest commandment according to our Lord Jesus: Love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27).

Monday, April 26, 2010

Paying Others' Debts (Philemon vv.17-19)

If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account. I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides.
(Philemon vv.17-19, NKJV)

Often Paul wrote explicit commands to his readers. But at other times, he led by example. In today’s verses, the latter is true.

Throughout our journey through this short book, we read of Paul’s exhortation to Philemon to receive Onesimus as a true brother. And to make certain both men’s needs were met, Paul offered to cover any loss Philemon might have experienced. He would pay Onesimus’ debts.

Would we be willing to do the same? If we’re blessed to share the gospel and lead others to the foot of the cross, would we be willing to go even farther and pay their debts? To make certain they had no barriers to completely serve God?

I wonder.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Brothers and Sisters (Philemon vv. 14-15)

But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary. For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
(Philemon vv. 14-15, NKJV)

Yesterday, we learned how Paul exhorted Philemon to receive Onesimus as Paul’s own son, as Philemon’s own brother. Today’s verses make it even clearer. Philemon was to receive him forever as a beloved brother.

We are all equal in God’s eyes. Each and every one of us. It doesn’t matter where we come from, what our family tree looks like, how much money we have. It doesn’t matter what language we speak, if we went to college, where we work. When we submit our lives to Jesus Christ, accept the gift of salvation through His death and resurrection, and strive to live Christ-like lives, God looks at us with delight and love. We are His dearly-loved sons and daughters.

Do you know that? Do you really believe it? As I wrote in a previous blog, two of my life verses are Philippians 3:13b-14. We can forget about our past, what we’ve done, what we have—or don’t have—and look forward to a future with God’s loving hand leading us.

Because we’re His sons and daughters. And so, we’re also brothers and sisters. Let’s receive each other with love, just as Paul exhorted Philemon.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Brother in Love (Philemon vv. 8-13)

Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ—I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me. I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel.
(Philemon vv. 8-13, NKJV)

This tiny 22 verse book tells a fascinating story. Onesimus was a slave of Philemon’s, yet somehow, he ended up serving Paul. He became a son to Paul. In today’s verses, Paul wrote he was sending Onesimus back to Philemon, with a very pointed request—a command really. Philemon must receive Onesimus with love, with gratitude for his service to Paul.

We in the U.S. have a specific impression of slavery because of a devastating history. Things were different during the time of Paul. Slaves were more like indentured servants and not viewed as property. However, they were still servants—certainly not family.

I imagine Paul was thinking about words he’d written to the church at Galatia: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (3:28)

Receive our brother, Paul was writing. Our brother in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Share Your Story (Philemon vv. 4-7)

I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.
(Philemon vv. 4-7, NKJV)

I love to talk about ways we can keep our faith fresh. Meditating on God’s word. Singing songs of worship. Keeping a journal.

And one of my favorites is hearing how the Lord is working through other believers. When I hear of a miraculous healing, my faith is strengthened. When I hear of changed lives in China or Greece, my faith grows. When I hear of young Christians who feel called to the mission field—here or abroad—my faith is refreshed.

Do you share stories of God’s work in your life with others? Do you let them know how He’s carried you through valleys and met you on the mountaintop? Do you let your children see how faithful God is in your life?

As I’ve written a couple of times, we are a family. And as a family, we need to encourage and affirm each other, and one of the ways we can do both is story-telling.

To whom have you told your story lately?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Beloved (Philemon vv. 1-3)

Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Philemon vv. 1-3, NKJV)

I wrote a few days ago about what a blessing it is to be part of the family of God. We have an immediate affinity with our brothers and sisters, and we share a sincere love for one another.

I love how Paul opens his letters, but I especially love his greeting at the beginning of the tiny book of Philemon. He mentions three special brothers by name and then greets a specific house church.

The clear and evident love Paul displays should be an example to all of us. Do we greet one another with love? Do we pray for God’s grace and peace to flow over our brothers and sisters? Do we pray for them at all?

I encourage all of us—myself included—to regularly pray for each other. Let’s greet each other with the genuine love Paul had for his brothers and sisters.

And so, my beloved, I echo Paul’s words that God’s grace and peace will abundantly cover you this day.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Be Still (Ps. 46:10-11)

"Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

(Psalm 46:10-11, NASB)

The psalmist nicely wraps up with today’s verses, but he starts with a very important command: “Cease striving and know that I am God.” Other translations say, “Be still …” Or as the Contemporary English Version says, “Calm down, and learn that I am God!”

I just spent an amazing weekend with some wonderful women. I spoke on God’s plans for our lives, and spent some time on how we hear God’s voice. I used verse 10 of this psalm as an important guideline. We must be still. We must cease striving to do things on our own. That’s how we begin to hear the voice of our Lord.

Being still is hard for some of us, myself included. But I can tell you from experience, when I sit silently before God’s throne and pray for all distractions to leave my heart and mind, it’s then when I feel God’s presence most intimately. It’s then when I hear His voice speaking softly to my heart.

It’s hard to cease striving or be still or calm down in our crazy, hectic world. But may I encourage you? Take a moment today to just be still in the presence of your Father. It’ll change your life. I guarantee it!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Wars Will Cease (Ps. 46:8-9)

Come, behold the works of the LORD,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.

(Psalm 46:8-9, NASB)

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth …
God is all powerful, and everything we enjoy on this earth is from His hand. We can behold His works. We can wonder at the beauty of His creation. That’s what the psalmist tells us in the first part of today’s passage.

But then he writes of God’s making “wars to cease.” Wars to cease? That certainly doesn’t sound like something He’s doing today, does it? Wars and rumors of war (Matthew 24:6; Mark 13:7) abound in our world. Nothing seems to be close to ceasing.

I believe these are prophetic words. One day (in the not too distant future, I pray!) wars will cease. Joy will abound. Peace will reign.

One day, when God builds His new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1), there will be no more war. There will be no more need for bows and spears and chariots.

One day. And I pray, Lord Jesus, come quickly.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

God, Our Stronghold (Ps. 46:6-7)

The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

(Psalm 46:6-7, NASB)

This Psalm just keeps getting better. Yesterday, we learned God is in the midst of our lives. He will help us.

Today, we’re reminded again that the “Lord of hosts is with us.” But even more, He’s our stronghold. A synonym for stronghold is “vice-like grip.”

We can hold onto God with a grip nothing can shake. And as the apostle Paul wrote, nothing, absolutely nothing can separate us from God’s love (see Romans 8:38-39).

He is our stronghold, in our vice-like grip. What a wonderful blessing we have to know God is with us. The Sovereign Creator and Lord of all is with us.

And nothing can pull Him from us. Nothing.

Amen and amen.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

God in Our Midst (Ps. 46:4-5)

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.

(Psalm 46:4-5, NASB)

Someday, I’m going to take a class on the Old Testament. There’s so much in it that I think I understand, but I’m probably wrong. Take today’s verses. I think they’re prophetic, talking about the new heaven and new earth John describes in Revelation. But even if that’s true, there’s a nugget we can take away now, I believe.

If God is “in the midst” of things, we too “will not be moved.” God will help us when morning dawns. I absolutely love the fact of God’s omnipresence. He’s with me at all times. He’s here to protect me, provide for me, strengthen me. He’s “in the midst” of my life, always.

Mornings like this one, God is with me. I’m speaking at a retreat this weekend, and last night’s opening session was wonderful. This is a great group of ladies, and I’m excited about getting to know some of them better.

But it’s 3:30 a.m., and I awoke in more-than-usual pain. It would be easy to fret about this: How will I handle today’s two sessions? Well, here’s the deal: I won’t. God has carried me through times like this in the past, and “when morning dawns,” I have confidence He’ll help me again.

Thank You, Abba Father, that You’re in the midst of our lives. Be glorified this day. Amen.

Friday, April 16, 2010

God, Our Refuge and Strength (Ps. 46:1-3)

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.

(Psalm 46:1-3, NASB)

For the next few days, we’re going to spend some time in one of my favorite psalms. And it starts with verses I’ve committed to memory, that have brought me comfort many, many times:

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear …

I love these words. So many times I need a refuge, and God is there. So many mornings, I wake up weak and aching, and God is my strength. Every moment of every day, He is my present help. My present help.

So I never have to fear. Through earthquakes and floods, I don’t have to fear.

I don’t know about you, but these words bring me such peace, such hope. On days like today when I have a full schedule preparing to speak at a weekend retreat, yet I feel less than well, I know God will be my refuge and strength. He’ll be my shelter, my help.

And so I can move forward with confidence, without fear. So can you.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Our Family (Phil. 4:21-22)

Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar’s household. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
(Philippians 4:21-22, NKJV)

We enjoy so many blessings as children of Jehovah God. He’s our refuge (Ps. 46:1-2). He provides for our needs (see yesterday’s blog). He’s our Shepherd, who walks beside us in the valleys (Ps. 23). God the Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior. We are redeemed and justified through His death and resurrection.

So many blessings.

There’s another wonderful blessing that I particularly love. We are part of a family. Haven’t you been on vacation or traveling for business, and you sit next to a stranger. As you chat, you find out she knows our Lord. Suddenly, you’re no longer strangers. Or you move across town—or across the country—and you find a new church home. Immediately, you’re part of a family.

I love it!

And so today, I leave you, my family, with Paul’s benediction: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Supplying Our Needs (Phil. 4:17-20)

Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
(Philippians 4:17-20, NKJV)

When you stop to think about it, we have very few needs. We need water and food to sustain our bodies. We need shelter to protect us from the elements. We need relationships. And in our society, we need some method of financial trade.

That’s about it.

We don’t need big, fancy houses. We don’t need the latest car or gadget. We don’t need trendy clothes. We don’t need jewels or filet mignon.

And God promises to supply all our needs, not our wants. The amazing thing? Sometimes He also provides our wants as well. It’s okay to pray for our wants. When my husband and I wanted to buy a larger home, I prayed about it. I wanted God’s will in that purchase, and He worked it out beautifully.

Our God, like a loving father, desires good things for His children, and He will care for us. He will supply our needs. And sometimes our wants, as well.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Church Family (Phil. 4:14-16)

Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.
(Philippians 4:14-16, NKJV)

Members of the early church were a family, in the truest sense of the word. They ate together, worshipped together, supported each other, gave freely to those in need (see Acts 2:41-47). Paul was the recipient of gifts from the church in Philippi, as they desired to meet his needs.

I read these words and have to ask myself, “Is the church of today anything like this?”

In some ways, the answer is yes. We do worship together. We do fellowship together. But not in the almost constant way of the early church.

I fear, for the most part, the answer is no. Let’s be honest. Would we be willing to sell all we own and give it to those in need? Would we be willing to get together with other believers every day—even several times each day—for worship and fellowship?

Yes, we have busy schedules. Yes, we have work or school commitments. Yes, we live miles away from our church homes. It’s not as easy as it was when everyone lived within walking distance.

But could we do more to emulate the early church? I ask this of myself as well. I think we could do more to be a true family. And I pray that somehow we will be.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Contentment (Phil. 4:10-13)

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
(Philippians 4:10-13, NKJV)

Paul understood “contentment” better than anyone. He knew he could be content at all times, no matter the circumstances, because Christ would give him strength.

It’s taken me a long time to learn contentment. Oh, I still get anxious or frustrated at times. I often dream of that Victorian cottage on the banks of a quiet river (maybe someday?). I sometimes wish I didn’t have health issues.

But, most of the time, I’m content with the life God has planned for me. And I anticipate—without fear or worry—my future because I know my Lord God, my Abba, will give me exactly what I need. My Savior will give me strength to accomplish what I’m supposed to do. The Holy Spirit will guide, encourage, and convict me.

I highly recommend contentment. It makes living this very hectic, stressful, uncertain life a little bit easier. Seriously.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Meditate on the Right Things (Phil. 4:8-9)

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:8-9, NKJV)

If only we could really live by Paul’s exhortation in these verses. If only we could really meditate only on those things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. If only we could really focus only on things of virtue, praiseworthy things.

Could you imagine how amazing life would be? All of us truthful. All of us speaking words of justice and nobility. All of us sharing pure and lovely thoughts.


Yet—and I can speak only for myself—too often my thoughts aren’t lovely. Too often, instead of words of praise, I utter words of reproach. I want to think pure thoughts. I want to speak words of truth. But too often, I fail.

Praise our Lord God, I can come to Him and ask for forgiveness when I do fail. I can ask for His help in keeping my thoughts pure and noble, and my words just and lovely. After all, I am that work in progress we talked about a while ago (Phil. 1:6).

And praise God for that!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

All-surpassing Peace (Phil 4:6-7)

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

Ah. Two of my very favorite verses. I can’t count how many times the Lord has brought these verses to mind when I’ve faced challenges or trials. In fact, my “trademark” talk is called “Peace—It’s not just another sign,” and I refer to this verse more than once.

I’ve sought peace all my life. As a child, asking Jesus to come into my heart. Through rough teen and early-twenty years, when I rebelled. During my struggle with infertility. And now as I deal with chronic health issues.

I seek peace. Contentment. Even joy.

And I’ve learned over the years, I don’t have peace—won’t have peace—unless I submit to the Giver of peace. My Lord God, Sovereign of all creation, loves me with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3), and He desires joy and peace for me.

Today’s verses give great guidelines for receiving God’s peace:

• Don’t be anxious.
• Be thankful.
• Request from God.

Then, that wonderful peace of God that surpasses anything we can find on earth will guard our hearts and minds. It will flow through us. It will let us handle each and every situation we encounter. Every time.

Friday, April 09, 2010

The Lord is At Hand (Phil. 4:5)

Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
(Philippians 4:5, NKJV)

The Lord is at hand. I love these words. So often in His word, our Lord reminds us that He is here with us at all times. Joshua heard the words, “… for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (1:9). The psalmist wrote, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” (139:7). His conclusion? Nowhere.

And we can know He loves us with an “everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3) and His covenant is equally everlasting (Jeremiah 32:40).

Jesus Himself promised to be with us always … always (Matthew 28:20).

Some might see God’s constant presence as “Big Brother” watching our every move, ready to pounce on us should we displease Him. Not me. I’m comforted beyond measure that He is with me, every moment of every day.

He walks alongside me, rejoicing with me in the good times, weeping with me in the times of pain. He holds my hand, guiding me. He carries my daily burden (Psalm 68:19).

The Lord is at hand. Thank You, Abba!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Rejoice Always (Phil. 4:4)

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
(Philippians 4:4, NKJV)

We Christians quote this verse … a lot. But it’s not as easy as it sounds, is it?

Oh, when the sun is shining, the pantry is full, the bills are paid, the children are home and safe, the husband empties the dishwasher without being asked … then it’s easy to rejoice. We sing praise songs. We thank the Lord for His blessings.

But rejoice always? When the storms hit? When past due notices pile up? When yet another interview ends with “You’re not quite the right fit”? When your teenager comes home reeking of alcohol? When your wife says she just doesn’t love you anymore? When the pain is unrelenting?


That’s what Paul wrote. Rejoice always. Not just in the good times. Not just when the sun shines. Always.

How can we do this? It all comes down to a choice. You choose to rejoice. You choose to trust God’s faithfulness. You choose to believe Romans 8:28.

It’s okay to ask God “why” when things are hard or painful or confusing. But even when we don’t understand, we can remember God’s blessings, His past provision, His loving-kindness.

And we can rejoice.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Godly Women (Phil. 3:2-3)

I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.
(Philippians 3:2-3, NKJV)

We sometimes forget how women were involved in the start of the early church. In Luke’s account of the early church, he wrote specifically that women were praying alongside the men (Acts 1:14) and believing women “were added to their number” (5:14). Later in his book, Luke wrote of a time when, in a “place of prayer," he spoke to the “women assembled there” (16:13). And women of prominence were involved in the early church (17:4, 12).

There’s a wonderful story of a godly couple who intervened when Apollos was preaching a partial gospel: “Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26). Notice whose name is first.

And I love Paul’s introduction in his second letter to Timothy. He wrote in glowing terms of his protégé’s faith, one that the younger man witnessed in his grandmother, Lois, and mother, Eunice (1:5).

Women were and are crucial to the faith. We too must “labor in the gospel” and be “fellow workers” in support of the body of Christ.

For we too have our “names in the Book of Life.”

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Stand Fast (Phil. 4:1)

Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.
(Philippians 4:1, NKJV)

Yesterday, we were reminded that those of us who follow Christ are far from home. But one day our Savior will transform and conform us. One day we will be with Him for eternity.

So while we’re here on this rapidly-declining earth, we can “stand fast.” We can live in hope. We can trust our heavenly Father to work His perfect plan in and through us. We can be assured of His faithfulness.

And although Paul wrote these words almost two millennia ago to the believers in Philippi, we can know—beyond doubt—we are beloved of God. We are longed-for. We are His joy and crown.

Stand fast, my friends. Stand fast.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Homesick (Phil 3:20-21)

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
(Philippians 3:20-21, NKJV)

Are you homesick? Maybe you’re away at school, and you miss home-cooked meals. Or you’re serving as a missionary, and you long for a face-to-face conversation with your mom. Or you’re in the military, and you would give anything to hold your toddler.

I remember a time when I felt homesick. I’d spent the summer traveling with a Christian musical group, and then because of some difficult choices, I decided to move temporarily to the mid-west. It was hard being away from friends and family. And when my sister-in-law announced she was pregnant, I packed my car and moved back home.

Yes, I’ve been homesick. But I’ve never been as homesick as I am now. But it’s not for this physical home God’s blessed me with. It’s not missing family or living on memories. I’m homesick for my real home.

There’s an old gospel song, “This world is not my home. I’m just a’passin’ through.” And that’s exactly how I feel. I reside in a temporary home, and my heart longs more and more for the place of my true citizenship. One day, Jesus will take me home, whether through death or through His triumphant return.

One day, I’ll be home. And I’ll never be homesick again.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

A Morning of Joy

The women rose early that Sunday morning—those who could sleep at all. Yesterday, they’d gathered together to mourn the terrible loss. They’d embraced, holding each other in desperate grief.

It was beyond comprehension. Jesus was dead.

Mary Magdalene, who owed her very life to the Master, assembled the various herbs and oils they’d need to anoint the body. The body of Jesus …

Salome, who’d followed Jesus for months, folded clean linens that would replace Friday evening’s hastily applied wrappings.

Mary, the mother of James, assured Jesus’ own mother they’d take great care of her Son. “Just rest today, Mary. We will come back to you as soon as we can. Just rest.”

They met outside Salome’s home, and quietly made their way to the tomb. Speaking softly. Weeping quietly. Mary Magdalene wondered out loud, “Who will move the stone? Certainly the guards will not help us.”

Around the last bend to the burial site. Bracing themselves to view the body of their Master.

What was this? The stone already rolled away? Who had already been to the grave so early this Sunday morning?

Mary Magdalene stooped to look, and then wailed, “He is gone! Someone has stolen His body.”

Salome and Mary joined in her sobbing.

Then a voice: "Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.” (Mark 16:6-6)

The women fled, trembling, and rushed back to where Christ’s intimates had gathered. They told Peter and the others what they had been told. Peter and John ran to the tomb, followed closely by Mary Magdalene. As the two men entered the tomb, Mary stood outside weeping. Even with the words she’d heard, she still didn’t understand.

Then a voice just behind her asked, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

She assumed it was the gardener and cried, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him … if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away." (John 20:14-15)

Then a miracle. The voice, one she finally recognized, said just one word, “Mary!”

She turned. It was the Master! Alive! Just as He’d said.

A night of sorrow and a day of silence, immediately became a morning of joy! The Master lived!

And the world would never be the same.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

A Day of Silence

Saturday morning. Those who had followed Jesus woke to silence.

John remembered standing at the foot of the cross, his arm around Mary. Jesus had asked him to look after her as a son would. In silence, he wept as Jesus took His last breath. In silence, he watched as they lowered His broken body. In silence, he followed Joseph of Arimathea, who took Jesus’ body to a tomb. In silence, he watched them roll the stone. In silence, he led the grieving mother back to his own home. And this morning, in silence, he grieved.

Peter remembered Jesus’ prophecy. He would deny his master. How prideful he’d been as he boasted, “Never, Lord! Never will I deny you.” In silence, he now wept bitter tears. In silence, he prayed to Yahweh, begging for forgiveness. In silence, he wished for another chance to unashamedly claim allegiance to Jesus. And this morning, in silence, he grieved.

Thomas remembered Jesus telling them He was going to prepare a place for them, but he didn’t understand what He meant. He thought Jesus would be setting up a kingdom on earth. Now He was dead. In silence, he wondered what would become of him. In silence, he listened for the gait of soldiers coming to arrest him as well. In silence, he questioned all he’d learned. And this morning, in silence, he grieved.

The others—Philip, James, Nathanael, Andrew, Matthew, Bartholomew, Judas [son of James], Simon—each remembered the words of Jesus. In silence, they recalled His miracles. In silence, they feared for their own lives. And this morning, in silence, they grieved.

The hours between Jesus’ death on Friday and Sunday morning are silent for us as well. The Bible doesn’t give even a hint of where His followers went, what they said, what they thought. But we can imagine. We can imagine their thoughts, their fears, their confusion. But the one things we don’t have to imagine?

In silence, that Saturday, they grieved. Because they didn’t know Sunday morning was coming.

Friday, April 02, 2010

A Night of Sorrow

They really didn’t understand. The Master had told them time and time again that He must die. But somehow they thought He would live forever. Teach forever. Heal forever. Always be with them.

Last night, the Master had washed their feet. He had broken bread with them and told them it was as though they were eating His very body. And then He passed the wine. It was as His blood, He said. As they supped together, He told them one of them—one of His own—would betray Him. Judas Iscariot left abruptly, but they didn’t realize why.

Supper over, they accompanied Him to the garden where He often went to pray. It was quiet, peaceful. And then all hell broke out. Judas Iscariot led a detachment of soldiers, and they arrested Jesus! Jesus. The Master.

How could this be?

They all ran in fear, but they heard of the trumped up charges. The false witnesses. The beatings. The ridicule.

When they saw Him again, He was carrying His own method of execution. And they barely recognized Him.

Bloodied. Beaten. Eyes swollen almost shut. Skin flayed. Such suffering. Such agony.

How could this be?

From a distance, many followed the parade of jeering people. The fingers pointing. The cruel laughter.

And finally, Golgotha. Nails pounded through flesh. Cross lifted and then dropped. Moans. Cries of pain. Struggled breathing.

“My God! My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

A mother’s heartbreak. A beloved friend’s tears. Enemies’ mocking voices, “If You’re really the King of the Jews, get down from there!”

A quiet voice, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” An answer, “You will be with Me this very day.”

“It is finished!”

Earthquakes. Darkness. Silence.

The Master, Jesus, was … dead.

How could this be?

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Walk With the Godly (Phil. 3:17-19)

Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.
(Philippians 3:17-19, NKJV)

Paul’s heart broke when he thought of the lost. He didn’t look down on them or take on a “holier than thou” attitude. He didn’t ridicule them. He didn’t ignore them.

He wept over them. He foresaw their destruction—eternal separation from God. And he desired that his spiritual children would not follow in their steps. Paul exhorted the Christians in Philippi to follow the example of godly men and women, to walk as they walked. I know he’d pray the same for us today.

Do you have an example of strong faith that you can emulate? Do you have a mentor who exemplifies a godly walk? Maybe it’s your parents. Or a church leader. Or someone whom you’ve never met, but who inspires you.

If you don’t, please find one. Read the works of C.H. Spurgeon or Oswald Chambers. Ask your Bible study teacher if she would recommend a mentor. Look around you. There’s someone who would be honored and privileged to walk with you on your path to stronger faith.

And if you’ve been walking with the Lord for a while now, be an example to those younger in their faith. Help them to avoid any pitfalls of following the world. And for those who don't know Christ? Be salt and light to them. Weep over them. Let your heart break so your desire is to help them find truth.

We're on this journey together, brothers and sisters. Let's do all we can to help others know Christ more and more deeply.