Thursday, September 30, 2010

Know the Bible (Gal.1:11-12)

For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
(Galatians 1:11-12, NASB)

As I wrote on Tuesday, there is one gospel and one alone. The Bible is God’s revelation to us through the pens of men, and it is that gospel we who follow Christ believe.

Some of the so-called gospels being preached today aren’t found anywhere in the Bible—or are found only in part. The “name it and claim it” gospel, for example, is partially biblical. The Bible certainly includes verses such as Mark 11:24 (“whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them”) or Matthew 7:7, 8 (“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened”). These seem to support the idea that “I ask, and I get.”

However, if Mark 11:24 is read in context, we learn so much about how we’re to pray, how we’re to ask. First, we need to, as the New King James Version states, “Have faith in God.” If we have faith in God, we will desire to do His will, and if we desire to do His will, then indeed, we will be able to ask for anything. And He will do it—within His will. The second thing that stands out is that we can’t pray for God’s will if we harbor unforgiveness in our hearts. (Partial excerpt from my book, The Best Laid Plans.)

Jesus Himself prayed within God’s will (see Matthew 26:39).

We must be very careful when we listen to men. And we must also know the Bible well. Then and only then can we be assured that the gospel we follow is God’s revealed word.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Striving to Please (Gal. 1:10)

For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
(Galatians 1:10, NASB)

Such conviction in a single verse … and with such a simple question: Whom am I “striving to please”?

If I’m a true Christ-follower, the obvious answer is “God.” But when I look into the deepest part of my heart, is that the real answer?

Do I worry about how others will see me more than how God sees me?

Do I stress about how I’ll be seen as a speaker or a singer or an actor? Do I do these things for the accolades of man?

Or do I joyfully and gratefully do what God’s called me to do no matter what others might think?

Of course, I want to serve my God with excellence, but if I’m really, truly serving an “audience of One,” it won’t matter if I mess up. It won’t matter if I blow a line or my voice cracks. If my heart is focused on God, He’ll be pleased. And if man ridicules me or persecutes me or laughs at me? It won’t matter.

Because my God will be smiling, pleased with my heart.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Beware of Contrary Gospels (Gal. 1:6-9)

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
(Galatians 1:6-9, NASB)

The gospel is this: Jesus Christ—God the Son—came to earth and put on flesh. He preached about God the Father’s love, grace, and mercy. He took the sin of all mankind on Himself when He offered His own life as a sacrifice. Then He conquered death itself when He rose from the grave. He lives today, and salvation comes through the acceptance of His sacrifice and the commitment of our lives to the will of the Father.

So many so-called Christian churches are preaching a different gospel. If you’re good enough (whatever that means), you’ll make it to heaven. If you just believe that God exists (or some “higher power”), you’re going to be okay. If you make it to the occasional church service, you can check off your list that you did your “Christian duty.”

Paul made his feelings about those who are “preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received.” They aren’t just wrong; they’re “accursed.”

This is serious, folks. And I believe one of the reasons he was so adamant about this, is that those who preach a contrary gospel aren’t just wrong for themselves. No, they’re guilty of dragging others away from God’s truth.

It’s heartbreaking to see the gospel—a beautiful story of God’s grace and redemption—so distorted. It’s even more heartbreaking to think of souls that have been lost by contrary gospels.

What can we do? We can share God’s plan of salvation—the true story—with as many people as God brings across our paths. We can lovingly guide those who’ve heard those contrary gospels.

We can make certain we always speak truth.

Monday, September 27, 2010

God's Wisdom Through Paul's Pen (Gal. 1:1-5)

Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me, to the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.
(Galatians 1:1-5, NASB)

Oh, I do love Paul’s epistles, and I’m excited to begin this journey through his letter to the Christ-followers in Galatia.

And just five verses into the book, we’re already encouraged.

First, Paul reminds his reader that Jesus Christ lives. We indeed serve a risen Savior, who walks with us every day.

Second, God gives us grace and peace. These are ours just because God loves us.

Third, our salvation through the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior protects us from the evil one. We live in very dark times, and this world is rapidly de-evolving into something rather ugly. But we have a rescuer. We’re not in this alone.

Finally, God does have a plan for each of us. And His will through us will give all glory to Him.

Whew. So much in just five short verses. I pray you’ll continue this journey with me as we learn more of God’s wisdom through Paul’s pen.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

God Answers When We Call (Ps. 20:9)

Save, O LORD;
May the King answer us in the day we call.

(Psalm 20:9, NASB)

I know I’ve written about this before, but I have to write again … the Lord of the universe, the Sovereign Creator, the Alpha and Omega listens to us! And He answers us when we call out to Him!

Even though we so often fail Him, even though we let our focus drift from Him, He still lovingly hears our cries. He hears our prayers for intercession or healing or provision. And He always—always—answers.

A couple of days ago, I wrote how God answers prayers—yes, no, and wait. There’s never a time when He ignores us. There’s never a moment when He says, “I don’t think I’ll listen to [insert your name] today.”

It’s another mystery to think that God hears millions of voices simultaneously, but He does. And your voice is just as precious to Him as any other crying out to Him.

Call out to Him today, this very moment. Tell Him what’s on your heart. Lay it all at the foot of His throne. Know—beyond doubt—that He’s listening. Know—beyond doubt—that He’ll answer your call.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

In What Are You Boasting? (Ps. 20:7-8)

Some boast in chariots and some in horses,
But we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God.
They have bowed down and fallen,
But we have risen and stood upright.

(Psalm 20:7-8, NASB)

So many people believe that everything they’ve done—everything they will do—is of their own power. And everything they have is because of their work, their smarts, their abilities. And so they boast.

“I have the best house, car, career, marriage, children,” they say.

“Look what I have done,” they exclaim.

“How wonderful am I that I’ve done all this, that I have all this,” they preen.

And then, the stock market drops, and they lose half their investments. Or the housing market dips, and they’re suddenly upside down. Or their children go off to make their own lives, and they never hear from them.

What then? In what can they boast?

There is only one thing worth boasting in. One thing that will never fail, that will never desert, that will never forsake.

God and He alone is worth boasting about. His grace. His mercy. His righteousness. His justice. His guidance.

His love.

In what are you boasting? In what have you put your faith?

Join the psalmist and always “boast in the name of the LORD, our God.”

Friday, September 24, 2010

God Answers Our Prayers! (Ps. 20:6)

Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed;
He will answer him from His holy heaven
With the saving strength of His right hand.

(Psalm 20:6, NASB)

Oh, how I love the confidence we can have knowing that our Lord hears our prayers! And He always answers.

You’ve probably heard this before, but God always answers our prayers with either a “yes,” a “no,” or a “wait.” And if we pray within His will, we can be certain that His answer is perfect for us.

After I recommitted my life to Christ over 17 years ago, I prayed for months for a baby. And it seemed—to me, at least—God was saying “wait.” Well, that’s what my heart wanted to believe. It was only when I changed my prayer to “Lord, please give me a child or give me peace” that God answered with a decided “yes.” He gave me peace about remaining childless.

Since then, I’ve prayed for many things: healing, provision, my husband’s salvation.

Sometimes, God has answered “yes.” Right now, my husband and I are experiencing blessed provision, in spite of our now being a one-income family.

Sometimes, God has answered “no.” I’ve written before that I suffer from several chronic health issues. It’s become clear to me over the years that God chooses not to heal me. But there’s also a “yes” because I daily experience the “saving strength of His right hand.”

And sometimes, God has answered “wait.” This is the answer I truly, deep-in-my-heart believe about my husband’s salvation. I believe he’s seeking truth, and I believe he’ll one day come to know the joy of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Yes, God indeed “answers from His holy heaven.” And what a wonderful assurance it is to know how very true that is.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sing for Joy (Ps. 20:5)

We will sing for joy over your victory,
And in the name of our God we will set up our banners
May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.

(Psalm 20:5, NASB)

One of my favorite ways to praise and worship my Lord is through song. Sometimes the words of a favorite praise chorus or hymn say so much more than my own words ever could. And I love when songwriters put the scriptures to music. Old standards such as “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and newer songs like “Unchanging” by Chris Tomlin. Both take that wonderful verse from Lamentations ([His compassions] are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 3:23) and put it to music.

Someday, all of God’s children will raise their voices as one to praise and worship our God—face-to-face. We will joyfully sing of His victory over the enemy and sin. We will lift our hands or fall to our knees in utter awe of His greatness.

Can you imagine it? Millions and millions of love-filled voices. And I believe that each of us will have heaven-touched vocal chords. This certainly isn’t found anywhere in scripture, but I like the idea that even those who were only able to “make a joyful shout” (Ps. 66:1) on earth will be endowed with perfect pitch and crystal clear tone. And why not? After all, we know there will be no pain in heaven (Rev. 21:4)!

So while we linger, let’s continue to praise and worship in song, knowing that this is just the rehearsal for a mighty choir!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Our Heart's Desire (Ps. 20:3-4)

May He remember all your meal offerings
And find your burnt offering acceptable! Selah.
May He grant you your heart's desire
And fulfill all your counsel!

(Psalm 20:3-4, NASB)

The Bible references this idea of God’s giving us our “heart’s desire” many times. And this can be taken either too lightly—God is the cosmic gumball machine where I can get anything I want—or without complete understanding. I took the following excerpt from my book, The Best Laid Plans. It seems quite appropriate today.

Many people point to certain verses they claim state that God will answer every prayer exactly the way they desire. They recite verses like Mark 11:24 where Jesus says, “whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” They memorize Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:7, 8 and state, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

Yes, people read and memorize and recite these words, and then, when they don’t get the answer they wanted, they claim that God isn’t who He says He is. This is very dangerous territory. Yes, these verses and others do speak to asking and receiving, but it is so important, even crucial, that every prayer be uttered with the words, “Your will be done, Lord.”

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

An Answer in the Day of Trouble (Ps. 20:1-2)

May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob set you securely on high!
May He send you help from the sanctuary
And support you from Zion!

(Psalm 20:1-2, NASB)

“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.
Nobody knows my sorrow.
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.
Glory hallelujah.”

The words from this old spiritual seem contradictory. Nobody knew the writer’s trouble and sorrow, but he could still sing “glory hallelujah.”

Why? How?

Perhaps he was familiar with psalms such as the 20th. Perhaps he knew his God would answer in the “day of trouble” and would hold him “securely on high.”

I’m so grateful to know that my God hears my prayers and cries for help in the days of trouble. When I’m in pain, He holds my hand … and sometimes He carries me. When my last ounce of energy is depleted, He gives me supernatural strength. And when I grieve, He wipes my tears.

The old spiritual may be right. Maybe nobody does know your trouble, your sorrow. Nobody on earth, that is.

But I kind of like the alternate lyrics:

“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.
Nobody knows but Jesus.
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.
Glory hallelujah.”

Monday, September 20, 2010

Made for Relationships (3 John 1:13-14)

I had many things to write, but I do not wish to write to you with pen and ink; but I hope to see you shortly, and we shall speak face to face. Peace to you. Our friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.
(3 John 1:13-14, NKJV)

We are created for relationship. God put something deep in our hearts that needs to connect with others. And as I wrote in earlier devotional, it’s not enough to merely connect via all the technology available to us.

I had the great privilege to speak to a wonderful group of women this weekend. And in the just over 48 hours we were together, we built relationships. We laughed. We cried. We worshipped. We hugged.

It was beautiful!

There’s something that satisfies the heart when we meet face-to-face with those we care about. In our mobile society, sometimes that’s hard, I know. All of my family live far from my Southern California home, so phone calls and texting are the only way I can regularly connect with them. But there’s nothing—nothing—like those times when I can look into my mom’s eyes or bear-hug my sister or my nieces and nephews.

Make time for your friends and family. Schedule a coffee date with a dear friend. Plan a family reunion. Do something to connect—face-to-face.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Testimonies ... Our Stories (3 John 1:11-12)

Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God. Demetrius has a good testimony from all, and from the truth itself. And we also bear witness, and you know that our testimony is true.
(3 John 1:9-10, NKJV)

I’m often inspired by the stories of other people of faith.

When I’m struggling with pain, I read testimonies of people like Joni Earekson Tada. When I’m fearful, I remember how Queen Esther faithfully and courageously entered into the king’s presence, risking her very life. When I’m impatient, I recall my grandfather’s amazing ability to remain calm during times of crises.

I so admire people who live what they believe. They imitate Christ and strive to do good. And I’m challenged to the same.

Are you feeling a shakiness in your faith? Read the stories of God’s people from the Old or New Testament. Are you questioning God’s plan? Find words of wisdom from whose who’ve walked before you.

And remember: Someone maybe watching you, and your testimony may encourage and inspire her. Live as Christ would. Walk the path the Father has designed just for you. And then be ready to tell your story.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Weekend Away

To my faithful readers,

I'm speaking at a retreat this weekend, and there is no internet for my computer. Soooo...I won't be posting Saturday, and Sunday's devotional will be posted later in the day.

I pray you have a blessed Saturday!


Recieving Other Believers (3 John 1:9-10)

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.
(3 John 1:9-10, NKJV)

One of the most beautiful aspects of being a child of God is that we’re part of a family. Wherever you go, when you meet another Christian, you have an immediate connection. In fact, my husband observed once, if we one day move out of Southern California, I would immediately find a new support group with a new family.

And so reading about this ancient man who was part of the early church hurts my heart. He wanted “preeminence”—the top dog. He refused to receive fellow believers and spoke maliciously. Not only did he not receive believers himself, but he also forbade others to do so—going so far as forcing those who did to leave the church.

How very sad.

We’re supposed to be a family, supporting each other. Praying for each other. Loving each other. When someone new enters our church, what will they experience? Will they be warmly welcomed? Will they feel an immediate connection? Will they feel like they’ve come home?

Or will they sit alone as everyone huddles together in cliques? Will they feel out of place? Will they not feel received?

Think about it. And this next Sunday? Keep your eyes open for a new face, and warmly welcome a new brother or sister.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fellow Workers in Truth (3 John 1:5-8)

Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well, because they went forth for His name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth.
(3 John 1:5-8, NKJV)

Jesus said that the second greatest commandment was that we love our neighbors as ourselves. Providing hospitality to fellow Christians is one way we can show love to others. We should both “receive” and “send out” our brothers and sisters (whether they’re part of our local congregation or “strangers”) with generous support.

This could mean financial support of missionaries. Or providing a place to stay for a traveling praise team. Or bringing dinner to a convalescing church member.

It also means praying for others. Diligently. Persistently. Consistently. And as I write these words, I’m convicted yet again. I try to pray for my “fellow workers” regularly, but I’m not as consistent with this intervention as I should be. I’m not “faithfully” doing what I ought.

I need to be—you need to be—ready to provide whatever I can to support my brothers and sisters. I need to be open to whatever God asks of me.

And doing so, I’m fulfilling that second greatest commandment. I’m being faithful. I’m showing God’s love. I’m a “fellow worker for the truth.”

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Walk in Truth (3 John 1:1-4)

The Elder, to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth: Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.
(3 John 1:1-4, NKJV)

We’ve journeyed through John’s first two epistles. Now we’ll study God’s wisdom that flowed out of John’s pen in his third and final letter.

A couple of things stand out to me in these verses.

First, John prayed that his recipient “may prosper in all things and be in health …” We hear a lot these days about a prosperity gospel that says God wants all His children to prosper (i.e., be rich). Since we’re not all rich, does that mean we aren’t children of God? I don’t think so. John adds a caveat: he prays that they prosper “just as your soul prospers.”

And how does our soul prosper? By meditating on God’s word. By communing with Him in prayer and solitude. By glorifying Him. By surrendering everything to Him.

God may indeed bless us with financial wealth, but He would rather see our souls “prosperous” than our having huge bank accounts.

Second, John gave a most beautiful commendation of the faith of his recipient: “For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth.” His heart burst with godly pride as he saw his spiritual children share truth, so much that others “testified” of their faith.

And so I’m convicted. Would others “testify” of my faith? Would my spiritual “parents” be filled with joy as they heard of how I served God and others?

I pray so. And I want to make certain those who led and mentored me in my faith would be delighted in how I live for God. How I walk in truth.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

God Blesses Us (Ps. 67:6-7)

The earth has yielded its produce;
God, our God, blesses us.
God blesses us,
That all the ends of the earth may fear Him.

(Psalm 67:6-7, NASB)

Sometimes I feel so overwhelmingly blessed. I’m in a wonderful season right now, and I am grateful. No, things aren’t perfect. Physically, I’m experiencing quite a bit of pain. But in every other way, I just feel amazingly blessed. God has been answering prayers in very specific ways, and it’s been so uplifting to my heart and soul to see Him work—sometimes in very unexpected ways.

But even if I didn’t feel showered with blessings, I never forget how blessed I am just by being His child. I live in a country where I can worship freely. Even though I’m not working and we’ve had to cut back on our spending, Russ and I are still able to pay our bills. I have friends and family who pray for me and support me with their love.

God does bless us. He blesses us with His presence. He blesses us with the beauty of His creation. He blesses us by meeting our daily needs.

And why? Because He loves us. Because He wants to show the world how following Him brings joy and peace and contentment.

I think I’m going to try something, starting today. When someone asks me how I am, I’m going to say, “I’m blessed.” Because even when I may not be “fine” or “well,” I’m always blessed.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Worldwide Worship (Ps. 67:3-5)

Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy;
For You will judge the peoples with uprightness
And guide the nations on the earth. Selah.
Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.

(Psalm 67:3-5 NASB)

Can you imagine a worldwide worship service, with everyone praising and glorifying God? Think of the most inspiring, heart-touching worship experience you’ve ever had and multiply it a thousand-fold.

Can you imagine?

Yesterday, my brothers and sisters at Chino Valley Community Church enjoyed a wonderful time of praise and worship, including one of my all-time favorites, “The Revelation Song.” You know the one: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain. Holy, Holy is He …”

Songs like that never fail to instill a sense of awe and wonder.

And one day, the whole world will praise Him. Can you imagine?

That’s exactly what we’ll enjoy. Paul wrote that, one day, “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” (Phil. 2:10, NKJV).

I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait. Seriously. Cannot wait. I long for the day when I stand beside millions and millions of Christ-followers and lift my voice alongside theirs in praise and worship, giving all glory to the one true God.

One day. May it be soon!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Our Gracious God (Ps. 67:1-2)

God be gracious to us and bless us,
And cause His face to shine upon us—Selah.
That Your way may be known on the earth,
Your salvation among all nations.

(Psalm 67:1-2, NASB)

I just love the idea of grace—unmerited favor. Our loving, sovereign Father loves us so very much that He had a plan for our salvation based on grace. There’s nothing we can do to work for or strive for salvation. It’s only through the gracious gift of the Son’s death for all our sins that we’re in communion with the Father.

What a truly amazingly gracious God!

God continues to be gracious to His children. He blesses us as He meets our daily needs. (Not wants, mind you. Needs.) Sometimes His grace showers us with overwhelming blessing—the birth of a child, a perfect job. Sometimes He may send a splash of grace—the sun sending streams of light through the clouds or a phone call from a friend at just the right time.

And what are we to do in return? Serve Him, certainly. Show our gratitude through prayer and worship. But even more, we are to make certain His “way may be known on the earth.” It is our privilege to share the truth of God’s grace. We cannot hoard this truth and keep it to ourselves. And why would we want to? Living under God’s grace, feeling His hand of blessing. We should want nothing more than to help others to find this amazing grace.

Jesus said we cannot hide our light under a basket (Matt. 5:14-15). We are the light of Christ as God’s grace flows through us. May we shine for the world to see.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Face-to-Face (2 John 1:12-13)

Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. The children of your elect sister greet you. Amen.
(2 John 1:12-13, NKJV)

We live in a world that allows for intimate relationships without ever meeting face-to-face. Through social networks, pen pal sites, online dating, and more, you can meet someone and establish a real friendship, never having met in person.

I guess there are “pros” to this. Shut-ins or disabled people have an opportunity to interact with others. Others learn of other cultures through correspondence with people from foreign lands.

But there are also many “cons.” The main one, for me, is online relationships are, at best, two dimensional. Yes, you can share secrets. You can laugh with each other. And with applications like Skype, you can even see one another.

You can’t, however, touch. I’m a “toucher.” I love to squeeze a hand or rub a shoulder. And there’s nothing quite so wonderful as a big, ol’ bear hug. And even though you might be able to see someone online, actually looking deeply into someone’s eyes is very different.

I think that’s why both John and Paul often wrote in their letters how they longed to see—in person—their letters’ recipients.

If cyberspace is your only way to maintain a relationship, then by all means, use whatever resources you can. But nothing really takes the place of being able to sit side-by-side, heart-to-heart. As often as you can.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Foundational Doctrine (1 John 1:9-11)

Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.
(2 John 1:9-11 NKJV)

Seemingly countless denominations and sects abound in our world, each claiming to be “Christian.” It’s sometimes difficult to determine who’s following truth. In my opinion, it comes down to a few not-to-be-compromised pieces of doctrine. The following is from my statement of faith.

~ I believe in the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One God manifested in three.
~ I believe that God the Father created heavens and earth and all that’s in them; that God the Son—Jesus—died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin and rose three days later; and that God the Holy Spirit dwells within each one who accepts the free gift of salvation and eternal life.
~ I believe that salvation comes only through the belief in and acceptance of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
~ I believe the Bible is God’s word given to us through the pens of men. It is inerrant in its original text and is God’s truth.
~ I believe that those who choose to follow Jesus will spend eternity with Him in heaven, and those who do not will spend eternal life separated from Him in hell.

Other things—baptism, taking of the Lord’s Supper, appropriate worship music—aren’t critical to faith. But if someone claims to be a Christian and doesn’t adhere to a few pieces of foundational doctrine … well, only God knows the heart.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Don't Be Deceived (2 John 1:7-8)

For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.
(2 John 1:7-8, NKJV)

John addressed this issue in his first letter, but just as he reiterated how we should love and obey God, he also wanted to make certain his readers understood how critical it was they were aware of the antichrists that infiltrate the world.

And it’s just as critical today. If you were with me in our journey through 1 John, you may remember a key point: Whoever is not for Christ is anti-Christ. And we believers need to be hyper-aware of their presence.

While we may not be able to prevent their existence—or even quiet their voices—we can and must “look to [our]selves” so those who are against our Lord and Savior do not influence us. It’s so sad to hear about so-called Christians who question Jesus’ divinity or His sinlessness. They’ve bought into the lie that Jesus wasn’t really God the Son in the flesh.

That’s what the antichrists would have us believe. But if we can withstand their lies and cling to the truth of God’s word, we will not “lose the things we worked for”—how we’ve served God and others on earth. And one day, we’ll “receive a full reward” as we stand before God’s throne.

Be aware. Be diligent. And know truth. Then you’ll never be deceived.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Demonstrate Your Love for God (2 John 1:4-6)

I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father. And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another. This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.
(2 John 1:4-6, NKJV)

If you’ve read 1 John (or journeyed through that book with me last month), these words may sound very familiar. John had a central theme in both books: truth and love.

God’s word is truth. The gospel is truth. We need to embrace God’s truth and live according to His commandments.

And we’re to love. Love God and love others.

How do we demonstrate love for God? We “walk according to His commandments.”

This idea of showing our love for God by following His commandments is so very important. It was important enough for John to write two letters about it. And it’s important enough for us to read two letters about it.

I’ve written this before: We cannot say we love God and then disregard His commandments. It’s mutually exclusive. When we truly love someone, we want to please him. We want to make him happy. We want to give him the desires of his heart. Right?

And the desire of God’s heart is that we obey Him. That we serve Him. That we follow His commandments.

He is Almighty God, and He deserves nothing less than our complete surrender.

Love Him, yes. And demonstrate that love by following Him and all He commands.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Truth Abiding in Us (2 John 1:1-3)

To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth, because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
(2 John 1:1-3, NKJV)

John addresses this short letter to “the elect lady and her children.” I reviewed several commentaries to determine who this “lady” was, and the consensus seems to be … they don’t know. It could have been an actual woman or it could have been a particular church. Or it even could have been the church at Jerusalem.

I suppose it doesn’t matter to whom he addressed it especially since we can glean wisdom for ourselves today. So let’s imagine that John was indeed writing to us as “those who have known the truth.”

The truth is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The truth is God’s word. And that truth “abides in us and will be with us forever.” We’re gifted with grace, mercy, and peace of God.

God’s grace provides for our salvation. His mercy showers us with His favor. And His peace envelops us through every circumstance.

Praise our Lord Jesus Christ and our Father God.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Sacrifices of Righteousness (Ps. 51:18-19)

Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion;
Build the walls of Jerusalem.
Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness,
With burnt offering and whole burnt offering;
Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.

(Psalm 51:18-19, NKJV)

Yesterday, we talked about how God was much more pleased with our broken and contrite hearts rather than sacrifices.

Today’s verses seem to contradict that. Not really. Sometimes, we need to meditate on verses remembering the context and the time in which they were written. When David wrote these words, the Christ hadn’t come to earth yet. And the only way to demonstrate contrition was through burnt offerings.

For reasons beyond our understanding, God requires the spilling of blood for atonement. And before the Son came to earth and became our once-for-all sacrifice, that blood was offered on the altar of the tabernacle.

But there’s a key word in these verses. A mere sacrifice wasn’t sufficient. It needed to be a sacrifice of righteousness. Just as we now need to come to God with broken and contrite hearts seeking His forgiveness, God was pleased with only those sacrifices that came from sincere hearts seeking redemption.

And as we saw yesterday, God desires completely surrendered hearts. He did then. And He does now.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

A Broken Heart (Ps. 51:14-17)

Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
The God of my salvation,
And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.

(Psalm 51:14-17, NKJV)

Prior to Jesus Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice on the cross, God’s people found atonement through sacrifice. Once a year, the high priest would enter the holy of holies and sacrifice a perfect, unblemished lamb.

But even then, it wasn’t the sacrifice itself that pleased God. It was the state of man’s heart. God’s delight wasn’t in the act of burning a lamb. No, it was the broken heart that said, “I know I’ve sinned against you, Holy God. Please forgive me.”

And it’s the same today. God isn’t looking for our “sacrifice.” He doesn’t desire our hard work or service if we’re doing so with a selfish heart or as an act of compulsion. He wants our “broken and contrite heart.” He wants our total surrender.

It really doesn’t matter what we do. It matters why we do it. A story from the New Testament is a good example. Jesus observed how people gave financially to the work of God. Some gave liberally, but clearly with wrong motives. Then one widowed woman gave a couple of cents. She gave from a heart broken for God. She gave because she knew anything she had was God’s anyway.

What’s the state of your heart? Are you serving God because you think it will get you more “points”? Are you giving “sacrificially” but with a proud or even resentful heart? God doesn’t really care about what you’re “burning” on the altar. He only cares that your heart is fully His.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Restore the Joy (Ps. 51:12-13)

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.

(Psalm 51:12-13, NKJV)

If you’ve been a Christ-follower a while, you may have fallen into a spiritual rut. You have your quiet time. You go to a Bible study each week. You serve at your church. It’s all good, but you feel a bit … stagnant.

Ever felt that way? I certainly have. It’s not a lack of faith; it’s just, well, like any relationship. You sometimes take that other person for granted, or you let the worries of the world take your focus.

If you haven’t felt like this yet, you likely will in the future. And when you do, verse 12 is a great gem to keep in mind.

You can pray, “Lord God, please ‘restore to me the joy of Your salvation.’ Remind me of the awe I felt when I first met You. Help me to feel the overwhelming wonder of knowing that the God of all creation is my Father.”

He’ll abundantly overflow your heart with His love. And when He does, you’ll want to share your joy with others.

Don’t get stuck in a rut. Don’t take God for granted. Instead, pray for restoration of heart. And then spread the joy.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Never Alone (Ps. 51:11)

Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

(Psalm 51:11, NKJV)

One of the attributes of our God is His omnipresence. He’s everywhere. All at once. This is a mystery to our earthly minds. How can God be with me right this very moment, yet be with millions of others as well? I really have no idea, but what a blessing it is to my heart to know it’s true.

Not only is God always with me, but I know He’ll always be with me. He’ll never leave me. Nor will He ever “cast me away from [His] presence.” When I was saved by grace, I truly became His daughter—His dearly loved daughter.

And just as a loving father delights in his children, my heavenly Father delights in me. He wants to be with me. And what a privilege it is to be able to spend time with Him!

I’m never alone. Jesus promised His disciples that the “Helper,” God the Holy Spirit, would indwell each of God the Father’s children. And the Spirit will never leave us. God the Father will never take the Spirit from us.

I find great comfort in knowing, even when people on earth may desert me, I’m never truly alone. And I’ll never be alone.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A Daily Prayer (Ps. 51:10)

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

(Psalm 51:10, NKJV)

As I meditated on today’s scripture, it struck me that I should pray this verse every day.

Create in me a clean heart.

This is a confession of sin. It’s a request for the Lord to thoroughly wash away the junk and reveal the righteousness that is ours through Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection.

I need to pray every day for a renewed cleansing because, every day, I mess up. A prideful thought may enter my mind. An angry outburst at another driver may be uttered. A feeling of discontent may rest on my heart.

So every day, I need to ask God to “create in me a clean heart."

And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

I looked up “steadfast,” and it’s defined as “firmly fixed in place; not subject to change” and a “firm belief, determination or adherence.” That’s what my faith needs to be: firmly fixed in place. I cannot waver. If I believe what I say I do, I must do so with a strength of conviction that nothing can sway.

This doesn’t mean I don’t question how God works. Or that I sometimes may still doubt. Or that I may not completely understand why things happen the way they do.

But through the questioning, the doubt, the lack of understanding, my faith remains strong. It will not change.

I pray for many things every day. My husband. My family. My friends. God’s will for my life. I usually pray for forgiveness. And now I want to pray for a steadfastness of spirit, for a firmly-fixed belief.

This is a request I know God will answer “yes.”

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Blessings for God's Children (Ps. 51:5-9)

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me hear joy and gladness,
That the bones You have broken may rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins,
And blot out all my iniquities.

(Psalm 51:5-9, NKJV)

The psalmist continues to express sorrow over his sin. But there’s also hope in these verses.

First, look at the little gem in verse six: “in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.” When we’re in relationship with God, the Holy Spirit is in us to illuminate the Bible. We learn how to make wise choices when we meditate on and follow His word.

Second, we are sinful creatures. Dirty. Soiled. But with God’s cleansing, we are “whiter than snow” in His eyes. I love that illustration. Have you ever seen a fresh snowfall? I really believe there’s nothing quite so white and bright. And that’s how God sees us!

Finally, in verse eight, the psalmist knows he’ll “hear joy and gladness” and that even through the pain and trials, he’ll “rejoice.” We too can find joy because we’re children of God. Even when we suffer, even when we’re uncertain, we can be joyful. Because joy isn’t an emotion, believe it or not. Joy is a state of mind in which we choose to rejoice no matter the circumstance.

Yes, we sin. Yes, we’re imperfect beings, but as children of God, we know He sees us as His beloved children. You are His son or daughter.

And in God, you are wise. In Him, you are whiter than snow. In Him, you can rejoice at all times.