Saturday, December 31, 2011

Living for Christ's Return (1 Peter 4:7-9)

The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint.
(1 Peter 4:7-9, NASB)

A couple of millennia ago, Peter wrote that the “end of all things is near.” Two thousand years later, we’re still waiting for that end, waiting for Christ’s return. And frankly, I echo the words of John after he heard Jesus say, “Surely I am coming quickly”: “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20, NKJV).

But for reasons we can’t understand, Jesus delays. Perhaps it’s because He’s still waiting for those He loves to choose to follow Him because, as Peter wrote in his second epistle, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (3:9, NASB).

In any case, while we’re on this earth, we need to represent Christ well, and Peter gives us some great exhortation:

We’re to be of sound judgment
. Are we thinking about how our actions might appear to an unbeliever? Do they see something different in us? Are we making wise choices?

We’re to be of sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. This doesn’t mean we’re to be doom and gloom “Eeyores.” No. God loves to see His children joyful. What this does mean is we’re to take prayer very seriously. We’re not to treat prayer as a last-ditch effort or something we do just before meals. We’re to come to God’s throne humbly—remembering how undeserving we are—and gratefully—remembering everything God has done for us.

We’re to fervently love one another
. Webster’s Dictionary defines fervent as “exhibiting or marked by great intensity of feeling.” Love is a verb, not a noun. It is an action. What do you do to love others? Do you know what’s really important to them? Do you treat them with respect and dignity?

Finally, we’re to be hospitable to one another without complaint. Going back to Webster’s, hospitable means “given to generous and cordial reception of guests.” We’re to be willing to open our homes and our hearts to serve others. But did you notice that last little command? Without complaint? Everything Peter calls us to do should be done with full and sincere hearts.

As we head into a new year, what if all of us who follow Christ did these things? Maybe the world would finally see the light of Christ in us? And maybe many would come to know Him in a personal way?

And maybe, the “end of all things” would come … quickly?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Suffering in the Flesh (1 Peter 4:1-6)

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

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

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

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

Our hope should be that everyone comes to know Jesus. We can, however, be confident that God is in loving control. He will judge or reward according to the choices we make.

And really, when it comes down to it, our focus should always be on what we’re doing for God’s Kingdom—not on what others may be doing to us.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Salvation Through Christ's Once-for-all Sacrifice (1 Peter 3:18-22)

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

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

Jesus “died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God.” Whenever I speak at retreats and other events, I'm privileged to share the amazing truth that Jesus, God the Son, paid our penalty for sin. We do not in any way deserve God’s grace and mercy, but we get it anyway. All we have to do is accept God’s free gift.

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Be Ready to Make a Defense (1 Peter 3:13-17)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Seek and Pursue Peace (1 Peter 3:8-12)

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

(1 Peter 3:8-12, NASB)

After a season of singing about heavenly peace, we return to Peter's first letter. And these verses are a great follow-up to our celebration of our Savior's birth.

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Boxing Day!

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

What a lovely practice!

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

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

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

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Love Letter to Jesus

Dear Jesus,

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

Put on flesh. Be born to a poor carpenter and a teenage bride. Experience scraped knees and stomach aches. Grow into awkward adolescence. Sweat sawing and sanding wood.

Be tempted by the enemy—Your enemy. Be ridiculed as You started Your ministry.

Be betrayed … arrested … denied … beaten … spat upon … scourged. Experience pain beyond my comprehension.

You chose to carry a cross. You chose to die … And You chose to forgive.

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

But I do thank You.

Happy birthday, Jesus.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6, NASB)

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

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

I wrote a book a few years back based on Jeremiah 19:11-13, where God says His plans are for peace, not for evil. Regarding finding peace in spite of our circumstances, I wrote:
I promise you this: If you’re truly willing to give your life, your plans, your dreams to God, He will keep His promise. You will have peace. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but if you trust Him, you will have peace.

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 23, 2011

Eternal Father (Isaiah 9:6)

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6, NASB)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A relationship for now and for all eternity.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mighty God (Isaiah 9:6)

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6, NASB)

Do you feel weak? Out of control?

Do you feel powerless as you hear of friends with cancer, read of starving children, watch news reports of earthquakes, hurricanes, or tornadoes?

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

We live in a fallen, rapidly-declining world, and we are indeed in a battle. Sometimes it does seem as if the enemy is winning.

But the good news? Or should I say the great news? Our Lord Jesus is our Mighty God. We know that “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). And He Himself reminds us that the war has already been won (John 16:33).

He is indeed mighty, powerful, omnipotent. Just resonate with some of these assurances of our Savior’s might:

“Who is the King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle” (Psalm 24:8).

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

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

"How great are His signs and how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and His dominion is from generation to generation.” (Daniel 4:3).

If you’re struggling, feeling as if the weight of the world is on your shoulders, remember your Mighty God. Your Savior will help you carry your burden (Matt. 11:30). His shoulders are more than strong enough.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6)

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

(Isaiah 9:6, NASB)

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

Today, we read about our Wonderful Counselor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Commandments for Husbands (1 Peter 3:7)

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

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

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

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

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

This is what makes marriage work: mutual love, mutual respect.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Bit More Controversy (1 Peter 3:1-6)

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

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

So here we go.

Submission—biblical submission—has quite a negative rap these days. I believe it’s not as bad as people make it out to be. I led a Bible study for women in unequally yoked marriages. I wrote a Bible study, and one of the chapters addressed this:

“Submissive: Being willing to be subject to something.

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

I believe there does need to be one leader in a marriage, one final decision maker. But I also believe in a healthy marriage, husbands and wives want the best for each other. So they’ll cooperate. They’ll discuss. They’ll compromise. So submission isn’t so difficult.
You may disagree, but I challenge you. If you’re in a Christian marriage, pray for God to work in your heart. Pray for that “imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit.” And if you're unequally yoked? Do the same because you may very well "win [your husband] without a word by [your] behavior."

No, you're not a doormat. Not a whipping post. Rather, be a woman of God who desires to be precious in the sight of her God.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Bit of Controversy ... (1 Peter 2:14-20)

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

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

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

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

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

Just remember:
• We're to work as unto God, not men (Col. 3:23).
• And most importantly, our ultimate Authority has already won the war (John 16:33).

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Excellent Behavior (1 Peter 2:11-12)

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.
(1 Peter 2:11-12, NASB)

I’ve been listening to podcasts of sermons by Andy Stanley. And he’s been speaking of how the church of Christ should be an excellent example to the world.

And so we should be. We should be so generous to help the “least of these” that the world takes notice (Matt. 25:31-46). We should live honestly and morally. We should show love to all people, neighbors and enemies alike (Mark 12:31; Matt. 5:44). We should speak only those things that are good and true and pure (Phil. 4:8).

Even if someone isn't sure about the whole Christianity thing, they should be impressed or inspired or intrigued by our actions.

They shouldn’t, as they often do, think that we’re hypocrites. That we say one thing (like loving neighbors and enemies) and do the opposite (like hating a particular group because of their race). Or condemning a particular group because of their lifestyle.

We really need to be looking at the logs in our own eyes instead of the specks in the eyes of others (Matt: 7:4-5). We really do need to look out for the needs of others. I’ve heard Andy say this before: If all of us who call themselves Christ-followers gave just the ten percent that’s mentioned in the Bible, we could wipe out world hunger and many diseases. (See Gen. 14:19-20; Heb. 7:2-6.) And if we gave generously from our abundant blessings, we could wipe out poverty.

Instead, we hoard what we have. We buy McMansions and the latest automobile. We upgrade our electronics even though what we already have works well. We throw tons of food away. And we totally freak out when the stock market tanks.

I’m as guilty as the next guy … And I’m feeling particularly convicted.

What do I do—what do you do—that looks “excellent” to unbelievers? What do I do—what do you do—that makes unbelievers wonder: What is different about her—in a very good way?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Our Merciful God (1 Peter 2:9-10)

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

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

Read these words again and again. We’re chosen, royal, holy. We’re God’s precious possession. He’s “called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

Don’t you love it?

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

Mercy. Not receiving what we do deserve.

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

I hope you love these verses as much as I do. Mark them. And when you feel unworthy, remember them.

And praise God.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:7-8)

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

(1 Peter 2:7-8, NASB)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Living Stones (1 Peter 2:4-6)

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

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

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

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

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

And I’m not disappointed. Are you?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Longing for God's Word (1 Peter 2:1-3)

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

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

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

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

I needed to long for it.

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

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

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

Monday, December 12, 2011

Fervent and Sincere Love (1 Peter 1:22-25)

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

(1 Peter 1:22-25, NASB)

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Faith and Hope in God (1 Peter 1:20-21)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Redeemed With Christ's Precious Blood (1 Peter 1:17-19)

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

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

I’ve been in a season of change the last couple of years. God has blessed me so abundantly by giving me an opportunity to do so many things about which I'm passionate. And so often, I shaken my head, wondering how He could possibly love this flawed, weak woman as much as He does. And why would He bless me so abundantly.

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

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

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

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

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

Amazing grace. Indeed.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Be Holy (1 Peter 1:13-16)

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

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

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

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

And finally:
• Be holy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Prophecy Fulfilled (1 Peter 1:10-12)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And thank God for it.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

More Precious Than Gold (1 Peter 1:6-9)

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

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

Apparently, they haven’t read their Bible.

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

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

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

I can praise and glorify and honor my Lord. I can love Him through the trials. I can find hope, knowing that my trials are for “a little while.” And I can be confident God will use those trials to make me precious like gold.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A Living Hope (1 Peter 1:1-5)

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

I'm beginning an "encore presentation" of devotionals I wrote from 1 Peter almost two years ago. There are so many rich truths—I can’t resist going through them again. So for the next few weeks, join me as I remind myself of God’s voice through the apostle Peter.

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

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

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

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

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

Now, that’s a hope I can live with!

Monday, December 05, 2011

You Are My God! (Ps. 42:11)

Why am I discouraged?
Why am I restless?
I trust you!
And I will praise you again
because you help me,
and you are my God.

(Psalm 42:11, CEV)

Discouragement is the lack of courage. Restlessness is the lack of restfulness.

And because of my relationship with Jesus, I have courage. He is my courage. He is my strength. I find my rest in Him. I can “Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him” (Ps. 37:7). Jesus invites me—He invites you—to “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS” (Matt. 11:28-29, NASB).

God has proven Himself to be faithful and trustworthy throughout my life. He has protected me and sustained me. He has carried me through the valleys. He has blessed me beyond my expectations—beyond what I deserve.

He has helped me when I haven’t been able to help myself.

Why? Because He is my God. My banner. My strength. My healer. My provider. My Savior.

And I praise Him.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Where Is My God? (Ps. 42:9-10)

You are my mighty rock.
Why have you forgotten me?
Why must enemies mistreat me
and make me sad?
Even my bones are in pain,
while all day long
my enemies sneer and ask,
"Where is your God?"

(Psalm 42:9-10, CEV)

I’ve decided to call this the schizophrenic psalm. Back and forth it goes. Despair to praise. Sorrow to trust.

Today, even these two verses have a bit of contrariness to them. Then first sentence is full of power and strength. The psalmist asserts that God is his rock, his strength. Yet, he immediately questions, “Why have you forgotten me?”

Even though he knows that God is the all-powerful One, he still feels forgotten. He is overwhelmed by the mistreatment from his enemies. He is sad. He is in pain.

And when his enemies see his pain, they sneer at him for his trust in a God who seems non-existent.

I wonder sometimes if my “enemies” sneer at me. By enemies, in this case, I think of those I know who don’t believe in my God. When they see me suffer, when they see the constant pain I endure, I wonder if they sarcastically say, “Where is that God you believe in? Why would He allow such pain if He’s so good and strong?”

I don’t know why God has allowed me to feel such pain. But I do know He’s here with me. I know He hasn’t forgotten me.

Not now. Not ever.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

He is Kind (Ps. 42:8)

Every day, you are kind,
and at night
you give me a song
as my prayer to you,
the living LORD God.

(Psalm 42:8, CEV)

Oh, how I needed today’s verse after yesterday’s! Yesterday, the waves were crashing and discouragement was rampant.

And today? I remember that God is always kind—every day and night. I am never, ever alone, even walking through the darkest of valleys. Even if I walk through the “shadow of the valley of death” (Ps. 23:4), I don’t need to fear anything because He promises to never leave me, going with me wherever I am (Deut. 31:6).

Maybe to some it sounds contradictory: Why does a loving, kind God allow the valleys in the first place? It’s because of the tragic choice of the first man and woman. Does it seem unfair that we experience pain and crisis and suffering because of their choice? Perhaps, according to human standards. But when sin entered the world, all the junk that comes with it entered too. And even we believers sometimes get hurt by sin’s touch.

Ah, but that’s where God’s kindness comes in. I believe His heart breaks when He sees His children suffer. And when we do, He gathers us in His arms and listens to our cries. It’s just like an earthly parent. Things are going to happen to our children, things that hurt them. And yes, we’d like to take the hurt away, but sometimes all we can do is love and comfort them.

Just as our heavenly Father loves and comforts us.

Friday, December 02, 2011

So Deeply Discouraged (Ps. 42:6b-7)

I am deeply discouraged
as I think about you
from where the Jordan begins
at Mount Hermon
and from Mount Mizar.
Your vicious waves
have swept over me
like an angry ocean
or a roaring waterfall.

(Psalm 42:6b-7, CEV)

So far, Psalm 42 has been more encouraging than not. Today, however, there’s a distinct change with today’s verses.

And that’s one of the things I love most about God’s word. Its many authors have no problem expressing the darker side of life.

I’ve felt deeply discouraged, just as the psalmist wrote. Deeply discouraged. During the darkest days when the pain is unrelenting, I’ve wondered why God keeps me here on earth. I don’t see any purpose for my pain.

I’ve felt the waves crash over me just like an angry ocean. I remember once at the beach—I must have been nine or ten—and I was caught under a wave. I honestly had a moment of great fear as I lost complete control. I wondered if I’d make it. It was momentary, but I still remember that feeling of complete helplessness.

And when I’m in the deepest valley, I’ve felt that same helplessness.

Today’s verse seem to offer no hope. The only hope I find is that I can cry out. Just as the psalmist did.

And maybe God will listen.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Praise and Sorrow (Ps. 42:4-6a)

Sorrow floods my heart,
when I remember
leading the worshipers
to your house.
I can still hear them shout
their joyful praises.
Why am I discouraged?
Why am I restless?
I trust you!
And I will praise you again
because you help me,
and you are my God.

(Psalm 42:4-6a, CEV)

I love to sing, and I’ve been privileged to be on worship teams for years. Lifting my voice and my hands in praise and worship is one of my favorite ways to commune with the Lord.

But I confess: There have been times when I led worship with less than a joyful heart. Times when it was more about me than about Him. And sorrow fills my heart.

Praise God, He forgives … and even when my heart hasn’t been right, His always is.

Worship and sorrow are mutually exclusive. If my heart is focused on Him and lifting His name in praise, I can’t be sorrowful.

Yet sometimes I am discouraged. Sometimes I am restless. Just this past Sunday, I went to church in more-than-usual pain. I knew I needed to be there. It’s so important for me to worship with other believers. But I did feel discouraged, and as I sat trying to find a comfortable position, I was restless.

What do I do when I feel discouraged and restless … and I still want to praise? I have to remember that God will help me. If I ask Him, He’ll cover the pain … for the moment, at least.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thirsty for the Living God (Ps. 42:2-3)

In my heart, I am thirsty
for you, the living God.
When will I see your face?
Day and night my tears
are my only food,
as everyone keeps asking,
"Where is your God?"

(Psalm 42:2-3, CEV)

Yesterday, I wrote of praise because God quenches our spiritual thirst. And yes, He does do this. Today’s verses are a cry for God’s presence.

And I echo these words. I am thirsty for my God. I do long to see His face.

Too often, I feel like tears really are my only food. I get so discouraged sometimes. Living with chronic pain can do that. As I get older, and just the pain of aging adds to my suffering, I wonder if I’m alone on my journey.

And those who don’t follow Christ may very well ask,” Where is your God?”

I do sometimes feel alone. I do sometimes wonder why I must suffer as I do. And yes, sometimes I feel so overwhelmed by just getting through the day.

When I do, I cry out to God. I pray I’ll see His face. I pray He’ll carry me each moment.

And I have to trust He’ll do just that. Even through the tears.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thirsting for God (Ps. 42:1)

As a deer gets thirsty
for streams of water,
I truly am thirsty
for you, my God.

(Psalm 42:1, CEV)

A while ago, a popular praise song interpreted this psalm:
As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after Thee.
You alone are my heart's desire,
And I long to worship Thee.
I remember singing these words and wanting so much for them to be true in my life.

To be so thirsty for Him that nothing else matters. And yet, so often I find myself spiritually parched because I haven’t sought after Him that fervently.

I’ve heard that a human being can go up to six weeks without food, but he can only survive mere days without water. If you’ve ever worked out hard or taken a long hike without drinking sufficient water, you know what being thirsty means.

God is the thirst-quencher of our souls, and when we go just a few days without spending time with Him in His word or through prayer, we begin to get thirsty.

Do you know what happens when your body doesn't get adequate water? Dehydration. And severe dehydration can lead to death.

Now if you are a true follower of Christ, and you have accepted the gift of salvation through His death and resurrection, you’ll never experience spiritual death—eternal separation from God. But you can be spiritually dehydrated.

One of the possible effects of physical dehydration is becoming comatose. And you can fall into a spiritual coma. Not caring about others. Not serving as you’ve been called. Skipping church. Not praying.

If you find yourself spiritually dehydrated, go to the thirst-quencher. Saturate yourself in His word. Spend time with Him in prayer.

And let the chorus of the praise song mentioned above permeate your heart and soul:
You alone are my strength, my shield.
To You alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my heart's desire,
And I long to worship Thee.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Our Amazing God (Ps. 84:11-12)

For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
The LORD gives grace and glory;
No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
O LORD of hosts,
How blessed is the man who trusts in You!

(Psalm 84:11-12, NKJV)

Our God is so amazing! He is compassionate and righteous, just and holy. He loves us in spite of ourselves, and He provides for His children.

He is our sun, lighting the way through the darkness. When clouds cover, He is that ray of sunshine bursting through.

He is our shield, protecting us from the enemy’s projectiles.

He is gracious, giving us pardon for our sin when we deserve judgment.

He is glorious, magnificent in all He is.

And He wants to give us the desires of our hearts. When our hearts align with His, we will want His will, and He will give us those good things.

Oh, yes! We who trust in God are so very, very blessed.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

One Day in Your Courts (Ps. 84:10)

For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

(Psalm 84:10, NKJV)

I’ve written this many, many times, but I’m really ready to be in the presence of my Lord. Seriously. Any time.

This world offers nothing that entices me and makes me long to stay. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. In fact, as I watched the news yesterday, all I could think of is how perverse this world is. And it’s getting worse daily. I mean really … Pepper spray and shootings during Black Friday shopping?

Oh my word.

Today’s verses resonate so deeply in my heart: “I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” So true.

I guess this is a good place to be in my journey. So many of my young friends are still seeking “fame and fortune,” and they think this world has something worthwhile to offer. They’re still hoping to get the “stuff.” Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a nice home or driving a reliable car. And it’s certainly not wrong to pursue your passion.

But we have to remember how fleeting this life is. The most important thing—the only real thing—is knowing we’ll one day be in God's courts. And not just for one day, but for all eternity.

And there’s no place I’d rather be.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Love of God (Ps. 84:9)

Behold our shield, O God,
And look upon the face of Your anointed.

(Psalm 84:9, NKJV)

Our heavenly Father loves us. So very much. Verse after verse expresses His love for us.

He shields us from our enemies. He looks upon our faces and sees us wherever we are (Gen. 16:13). He provides for our needs (Gen. 22:14). He heals us (Ex. 15:26).

He provides a refuge and gives us strength (Ps. 46:1). He is the Giver of peace (Judges 6:24). He shines light through the darkness (1 John 1:5).

He overwhelms us with grace (Eph. 2:8-9). He is merciful (Eph. 2:4) and faithful (Ps. 36:5).

And He is love (1 John 4:16).

Some of us don’t have an earthly example of such love. And even those of us who have had such examples don’t really comprehend the love of God. Earthly love is usually conditional—even if we say we love unconditionally, there’s usually an “if” or an “unless.” I’ll love you if you do this or that. I’ll love you unless you do such and such.

But God’s love is truly without condition. He loves each and every one of us—no matter what we do. He loves us so much He was willing to send His Son—a very part of Himself—to pay the penalty for our sins (John 3:16).

As much as He unconditionally loves us, though, there is one condition for salvation: believing in God—Father, Son, and Spirit—and accepting the gift of forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

And when we do just that, we experience the daily love and provision and strength from our Father.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;
To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning,
And Your faithfulness every night ...

(Psalm 92:1-2, NKJV)

As I sit here on this early Thanksgiving morning, I'm reminded of how very blessed I am. And so I give thanks for:

~ The God I serve (He has been so gracious and loving over the last several months, and He reminds me daily of how much I need Him.)
~ My loving and supportive husband (After 23 years of marriage, he's still my most favorite person on earth!)
~ My family (And this year, I'm especially thankful that I'll get to see my mom, both my siblings, and their entire families within a month's time!!)
~ My friends (Even if I'm only able to keep in touch via FaceBook!)
~ My teaching jobs (What a blessing to be able to do what I love in a way that let's me be flexible and care for my health!)
~ My vocations (I still get to speak at least once a month, and I love being back on the stage!)
~ The few but faithful "followers" of this devotional blog (I'd write my blog without you because I love spending time meditating on God's word, but I'm blessed to know you're encouraged as well!)
~ My health (Yes, even with my daily pain and weariness, I'm still grateful because my weakness keeps me focused on God's strength.)

So this Thanksgiving Day, take a moment to voice gratitude for how God has blessed you! And have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lord, Hear My Prayer (Ps. 84:8)

O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah.

(Psalm 84:8, NKJV)

Prayer is one of those “mysteries” I don’t fully understand. Our God is all-knowing and all-powerful, so how can our prayers make a difference? I’m not exactly sure. But I know they do.

I know we’re commanded to pray. Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians that we’re to, “Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus” (5:17-18). And in his second letter to Timothy, he wrote that we should “pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath or doubting” (2:8).

But it’s not just about what we’re supposed to do. It’s also a privilege for God’s children. It’s an amazing thought to know the Creator of the universe wants to hear my voice; He wants to hear your voice. In fact, “the prayer of the upright is His delight” (Prov. 15:8b). Have you ever thought about it? That your voice delights God?


And when we pray, we put our focus exactly where it should be: on the Lord. We seek His will for our lives and the lives of those we love. We offer words of praise and worship. We confess those things we’ve done that break His heart.

I don’t know why we’re commanded to pray. Not really. But I do know it’s something we shouldn’t take for granted.

In fact, we really should pray without ceasing—just as Paul said we should.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Blessings in God's Strength (Ps. 84:5-7)

How blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
In whose heart are the highways to Zion!
Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring;
The early rain also covers it with blessings.
They go from strength to strength,
Every one of them appears before God in Zion.

(Psalm 84:5-7, NKJV)

If blessing comes from finding strength in the Lord, then I am blessed indeed! These days, that’s the only place I can find my strength!

Whenever I’ve passed through the “valley of Baca,” which is translated “valley of mourning,” I’ve found my strength in Him.

And when the spring comes? I still find my strength in Him.

And I think relying on God for all strength is the best place to be although, to many, that may sound counterintuitive. Shouldn’t we be able to take care of things on our own? And in fact, that’s why many don’t want to commit their lives to God: because they don’t want to give up control.

In reality, though, how much control do we really have? Can we control the weather? That other driver? Our children? Our spouses? Do we have anything to do with the economy? Or the housing market?

When you can get to the place where you rely on the Creator of all things, the one who has a plan for your life (see Jer. 29:11), then you find your strength in the all-powerful One. You find Him worthy of your trust because He is faithful to complete His perfect will in you (see Phil. 1:6).

When you’re weak, find your “strength to strength” in Him. And when you think you’re strong? He’s still so much stronger than you’ll ever be.

Monday, November 21, 2011

God's House (Ps. 84:3-4)

The bird also has found a house,
And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young,
Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
My King and my God.
How blessed are those who dwell in Your house!
They are ever praising You. Selah.

(Psalm 84:3-4, NKJV)

I started writing this devotional early this morning, and I just couldn’t seem to find the words. A few hours later, and at first, I still didn’t know what to write.

But then I read the verses again … And I landed on the word “house.” God’s house. And not what we often call the local church or His throne in heaven.

God’s house is anywhere He is. His house is this world He created. And His house is the universe—far beyond what we can see. And because He is everywhere, I can never be outside of His presence. I’m never alone.

There are days when I feel so very lonely. Often my days are spent alone, and there doesn’t seem to be anyone around. When I need prayer or to talk with someone, sometimes I don’t even know whom to call.

Then I remember: My God is with me. I dwell in His house. I'm never, ever alone.

Just as the birds have a home, I have a home in the arms of my Father.

And I’m very blessed.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

God's Dwelling Places (Ps. 84:1-2)

How lovely are Your dwelling places,
O LORD of hosts!
My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD;
My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.

(Psalm 84:1-2, NKJV)

As we draw close to the day we Americans have set aside to show gratitude, I chose this psalm to meditate on for the next few days … and the few days beyond.

I’m so very grateful that God had a plan to reconcile me to Him. Even when I deliberately turned my back on Him for so many years, He waited patiently and lovingly for me to return to His arms.

And now my heart truly yearns to be with Him. For always.

So when I read verses like this, about the dwelling places of my Lord God, I can’t help but long to be in His courts. The Bible gives us a few hints of what those dwelling places are like. Jesus calls our future dwelling places as “mansions” He’s preparing for each of us (John 14:2). And the description of heaven John wrote about in Revelation? It’s beyond human description.

I do so desire to be there. To be with my Lord and Savior. To shed this earthly skin and leave this decaying body.

To be in the dwelling places of the one true and living God.

Amen. And amen.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Salvation Belongs to the Lord (Ps. 3:7-8)

Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God!
For You have smitten all my enemies on the cheek;
You have shattered the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the LORD;
Your blessing be upon Your people! Selah.

(Psalm 3:7-8, NASB)

Although I’ve never had a true flesh-and-blood enemy, I’ve felt overwhelmed by circumstances, oppressed by abusers, overcome by pain. And many times I’ve cried out, “Save me, O my God!”

Just within the last few days, I’ve felt so much pain and so little energy that, if I didn’t know God would “save” me, I’m not sure how I’d survive. It’s only because I’m confident God has a purpose for everything—even my pain—that I can go on.

I feel extremely blessed that I serve the true God who saves and blesses His people. And I am blessed. I have a lovely home, a reliable car, gadgets that make life a bit easier. I have a loving, supportive husband, two sweet dogs, friends, and family. And I get to teach and act and write and speak … things I love to do.

Yet none of it would really matter if I didn’t have the ultimate blessing of knowing I’m saved from my sins. That I have a relationship with my Lord and Savior. That He walks beside each and every moment. That He carries me through the valleys.

So I can cry out for salvation from the pain. And I can praise Him for His many blessings.

You can do the same. Cry out for salvation from whatever you’re facing today. And praise Him for His continued blessings.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Sleep Well (Ps. 3:5-6)

I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the LORD sustains me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me round about.

(Psalm 3:5-6, NASB)

Have you ever watched a baby sleep? It’s one of the most precious sights! Cheeks rosily flushed. Lips pursed. Impossibly long lashes fanned.

Sleeping babies are the perfect illustration of trust. They know mommy and daddy will care for them. They have no worries. No concerns. No doubts. They’re not thinking about what’s next on the calendar or what tasks they have to finish.

They can just sleep. Peacefully sleep.

Then they grow up. And sleep doesn’t come so easily.

What would it be like if we trusted our heavenly Father like a baby trusts his parents?

At the beginning of this psalm, the psalmist wrote about how his adversaries had increased. He was surrounded by enemies, in fear for his very life. But in spite of this dire situation, he could sleep. Because he knew his Father would sustain him. God would protect and carry him through the battle.

Are you surrounded by enemies? Are you in an impossible—by human standards—situation? Remember who your Father is. And how trustworthy and faithful He has been—and will be.

Cry out to Him, and then lie down, knowing your Father will sustain you. And you needn’t fear.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Our Shield (Ps. 3:3-4)

But You, O LORD, are a shield about me,
My glory, and the One who lifts my head.
I was crying to the LORD with my voice,
And He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah.

(Psalm 3:3-4, NASB)

I love these verses. Truly!

Not only will my God never leave me, but He’ll always protect me. He is a shield surrounding me on all sides. In the midst of the battle, I might be wounded from a stray arrow, but no one can fully destroy me.

When I’m weary—bone-weary—and all I can do is drag through another day, God lifts my head to see His glory, and I remember His faithfulness. I know He’ll give me the strength to accomplish whatever He has planned for me.

When I think I can’t take just one more moment of pain, I can cry out to Him. And I so often do. My cries usually sound something like, “I can’t do this anymore, Lord. I can’t live another day like this. Help me!” It’s then when I hear His answer, not in audible words, but in a feeling of peace that envelops me.

He tells me, “Hold tightly to My hand, daughter. I’m here beside you through every moment. You’re not alone.”

And neither are you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Our Deliverer (Ps. 3:1-2)

O LORD, how my adversaries have increased!
Many are rising up against me.
Many are saying of my soul,
“There is no deliverance for him in God.” Selah.

(Psalm 3:1-2, NASB)

Have you felt surrounded by “adversaries”? Have you wondered if you would have “deliverance” from those adversaries? Have you ever cried out from the depths of your soul to God?

While I don’t have flesh-and-blood enemies who surround me, there have certainly been times in my life when the enemy of this world seems to have encamped. Too many times, I’ve listened to his whispers and felt abandoned by God. When I suffered at the hands of three abusers. When I endured the pain of infertility. Even now—every once in a while—when I sit alone in church or have a particularly bad pain day.

Have you heard the enemy’s sly lies when you’ve gone through difficult valleys? “Where’s your God now,” he taunts. “If God really loved you, you wouldn’t be experiencing [fill in the blank]. He won’t deliver you, so you’d better take care of things yourself.”

If I have learned nothing else over the years, I have learned this: God never abandons His children. There will never be a time when He won’t deliver us—eventually. He may not deliver us as quickly as we’d like, but He will always deliver. And our deliverance may not look like what we’d hoped, but He'll always deliver.

When I was trying to get pregnant, at first I prayed for just that: Lord, let me get pregnant. But then I changed my prayer: Lord, let me get pregnant or give me peace. And He delivered me from that painful situation by giving me peace.

Know this: God will never leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:5). And He will always deliver us from our adversaries—always (Col. 1:13-14).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Glory in His Glory (Ps. 90:15-17)

Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us,
The years in which we have seen evil.
Let Your work appear to Your servants,
And Your glory to their children.
And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us,
And establish the work of our hands for us;
Yes, establish the work of our hands.

(Psalm 90:15-17, NASB)

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I take words for granted. What I mean is that I may use a word over and over, and in its overuse, forget what it actually means.

We Christ-followers talk a lot about worship and praise. We say we want to glorify the Lord. We sing about wanting to see God’s glory. And we read verses that talk about, as today’s does, God’s letting His glory appear to His children.

So what is glory? Webster’s Dictionary gives several definitions, but the one that I believe the psalmist is writing about is: “a state of great … exaltation” or “great beauty and splendor.” God’s glory is beyond our imagination. But He shows us some of how beautiful and full of splendor He is through His works, through His creation.

Who looks at the magnificence of the Grand Canyon or a towering redwood or the vast ocean, and doesn’t stand in awe? Even nonbelievers sense something beyond themselves when they look at creation.

Or who doesn’t hold a newborn baby in her arms, and see beauty and splendor? We’re made in the image of God, and if we see that kind of beauty in each other, imagine the beauty of God.

And because He is so full of glory, He deserves another definition of the same word: “worshipful praise, honor, and thanksgiving.”

Have you looked upon God’s glory recently? And then given Him the glory He deserves? If not, take some time today to worship Him with praise, honor, and thanksgiving.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Compassion and Mercy (Ps. 90:13-14)

Return, O LORD!
How long?
And have compassion on Your servants.
Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy,
That we may rejoice and be glad all our days!

(Psalm 90:13-14, NASB)

Oh, how my heart cries the same words as the psalmist: Return , O Lord!

I want so much to shed this earthly skin and see my Savior face to face. Nothing on this rapidly-declining world entices me to want to stay any longer than I have to. Absolutely nothing.

In fact, most of what I see happening in our world makes me want to leave this world even sooner. Depravity. Disregard for others. Blatant sin. Arrogance.

It’s pretty nasty.

But you know something? The psalmist cried out for God’s compassion and mercy. It seems like he hadn’t seen either. Yet we who know God, we who follow His Son, already experience both.

He showers us with compassion regularly. I certainly feel it. I feel it when He carries me through the difficult days. When He holds me tightly in the daily pain. When challenges seem to overwhelm.

And He show mercy when He forgives us. So often, I fail to do what I know He wants me to do. I neglect Him. I lose focus. I let other things take priority over my relationship with Him. Yet, He is so very merciful.

So while we’re on earth, He shows undeserving compassion and mercy. And one day—soon, I hope—He will return.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Number Your Days (Ps. 90:9-12)

For all our days have passed away in Your wrath;
We finish our years like a sigh.
The days of our lives are seventy years;
And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,
Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow;
For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
Who knows the power of Your anger?
For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.
So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

(Psalm 90:9-12, NASB)

Our time on this globe is fleeting. While we might live 70 or even 80 years, it’s just a blip on the radar of eternity. And sad to say, in a generation or two, most of us will have been forgotten. So why do we work so hard to gain on earth? To earn money? To buy stuff?

It’s all going to be heaped in a landfill some day.

I don’t know about you, but I truly want to use my time on things that matter—but I’m not always good at it. I want to spend time with the Lord in prayer and the study of His word—but I so often lose focus and waste that precious time. I want to serve Him—but instead I serve myself.

Then I ask myself: If I live to that 70 years, I have 23 years left. Twenty-three years to do what? Sit around and watch TV?

Or will I spend that time doing those things that really matter? And especially, will I take time to share God's truth?

What about you? How many days can you number? And what will you do with your time?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Wrath vs. Love (Ps. 90:7-8)

For we have been consumed by Your anger,
And by Your wrath we are terrified.
You have set our iniquities before You,
Our secret sins in the light of Your countenance.

(Psalm 90:7-8, NASB)

Verses like these are why some nonbelievers look at God a god of wrath rather than a god of love. They focus on verse seven without reading verse eight.

God’s wrath is for sin, not for us. He loves us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3), so much so that He sent His Son to die for us (John 3:16). But He is holy and righteous, perfect and without sin. He cannot abide with sin, and thus His wrath consumes the unrepentant. Even Christ-followers who fall into sin.

And rightfully so.

Dark cannot exist with darkness. And sin cannot exist with righteousness.

Just as a loving parent hates when his child falls into sin and hates what that sin does to his child, so God hates sin and what it does to His children.

Because He does love His children.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Thousand Years ... (Ps. 90:3-6)

You turn man to destruction,
And say, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it is past,
And like a watch in the night.
You carry them away like a flood;
They are like a sleep.
In the morning they are like grass which grows up:
In the morning it flourishes and grows up;
In the evening it is cut down and withers.

(Psalm 90:3-6, NASB)

Sometimes—oftentimes—I read verses, and I think I understand them … but I’m not quite sure. I’m certainly not a theologian, and I’ve never been to seminary. That’s why I love having access to commentaries. One of my favorites is the Matthew Henry Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible. When reviewing today’s verses, Henry wrote:
When God, by sickness, or other afflictions, turns men to destruction, he thereby calls men to return unto him to repent of their sins, and live a new life. A thousand years are nothing to God's eternity: between a minute and a million of years there is some proportion; between time and eternity there is none. All the events of a thousand years, whether past or to come, are more present to the Eternal Mind, than what was done in the last hour is to us. And in the resurrection, the body and soul shall both return and be united again. Time passes unobserved by us, as with men asleep; and when it is past, it is as nothing. It is a short and quickly-passing life, as the waters of a flood. Man does but flourish as the grass, which, when the winter of old age comes, will wither; but he may be mown down by disease or disaster.
So what does this mean to me? Or to you?

We serve a wonderful God. He is beyond time. And He woos us to Him, and He offers redemption.

We also learn that time is fleeting, and what we do on earth quickly passes. It’s only those things we do for eternity that really matter.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Our Everlasting God (Ps. 90:1-2)

Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

(Psalm 90:1-2, NASB)

Of God’s many attributes, one that I love the most is His eternality. He has always been. And He always will be.

It’s beyond the scope of our human understanding, but God is outside of time. We’re so dependent upon our timepieces. Rightfully so. Our lives would be impossible if we didn’t have time constraints.

Students need to be at class at a certain time. Employees need to arrive at work at a certain time. Church-goers need to be in the pew at a certain time.

Without time, we’d have chaos.

Can you imagine? People just showing up whenever they chose? I teach a class at a local community college, and I have two hours twice a week to help my students learn about writing. If they didn’t know they had to be in class by 8:00 a.m., then I’d be on campus all day trying to say the same things over and over. It gives me a headache just to think about it!

We need our timepieces. We need to know when events or work or class starts.

But God, who gave us time, isn’t so constrained. He is “everlasting to everlasting.” He sees through all eternity. He knows the number of our days. He knows what tragedies are in our future—and what happiness is ours to one day enjoy.

And we can be certain He’ll be with us through whatever comes our way. Because, “everlasting to everlasting, [He is] God.”

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Peace and Grace (2 Thess. 3:16-18)

Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all! I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
(2 Thessalonians 3:16-18, NASB)

As we finish our journey through Paul’s second letter to the church at Thessalonica, I leave you with the same words he wrote to them: “… may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance.”

No matter what happens, we can experience God’s peace. It’s a supernatural peace that doesn’t make sense to our human minds. How can we have peace through the pain? Through sorrow? Through times of hopelessness? By trusting God in all things and at all times. By taking our needs to Him. In another letter, this one to the church at Philippi, Paul wrote:
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (4:6-7, NKJV)
Then the final words of Paul to the Thessalonian Christians: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

God’s grace … unmerited favor. Getting what we don’t deserve. It’s available to everyone who seeks it. And it covers us at all times.

God bless you!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Admonishing a Brother (2 Thess. 3:14-15)

If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
(2 Thessalonians 3:14-15, NASB)

Paul makes a great distinction in these verses. If a brother—a fellow Christ-follower—doesn’t follow the Bible’s commandments, then we need to not associate with him. There’s a risk we take when we are intimate friends with a backslidden or disobedient Christian, and Paul exhorts us to avoid that intimacy.

However, we’re not to shun him or “regard him as an enemy.” We certainly shouldn’t gossip or point fingers. Again, we’re not to judge him (Matthew 7:1-3). Instead, we should “admonish him as a brother.”

Jesus Himself gave instructions with how to deal with a brother (or sister) who has strayed:
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17, NKJV)
We need to do everything we can to bring a prodigal brother (or sister) back to the fold while making certain we ourselves aren’t pulled away.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Working for God (2 Thess. 3:11-13)

For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.
(2 Thessalonians 3:11-13, NASB)

Paul wrote to the Christians in Colossae, “… whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” He also wrote in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica, “to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands …”

If we’re able to do so, we should be working for our own bread. And in fact, we should be so busy doing our work, we won’t have time to be “undisciplined” or act as “busybodies.”

It’s true. If we’re focused on doing what God has called us to do, whether occupational or vocational, we truly won’t have time to get caught up in other people’s business. We won’t have time to gossip about what everyone else is doing. We certainly won't be sitting around eating bon-bons and watching inane television.

Instead, we’ll be serving God and others. We’ll being doing kingdom-building work.

And that’s something we shouldn’t grow weary of doing.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Don't Be a Burden (2 Thess. 3:7-10)

For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.
(2 Thessalonians 3:7-10, NASB)

These verses are rather difficult to read … especially in today’s economy. Most Christians would agree that we’re not to be burdens on anyone else; rather, we are to pay our own way. We know we’re to work to earn a paycheck and pay our bills, buy our own food, and care for our families.

And yes, we would agree that if someone is lazy and just wants to sit around twiddling his thumbs, waiting for someone else to care for him, he shouldn’t get any handouts.

However, what about those who are truly struggling? Those who have been out of work for months—maybe even a year or two—and have been diligently looking for work? They’ve taken odd jobs here and there, but they just haven’t been able to find anything. Or those with true disabilities who can’t work.

Shouldn’t they be able to seek assistance?

Now, I’m not talking about the “professional panhandler,” those people who have learned they can make good money standing on street corners with a sign “Will work for food.” I’m talking about those who really, truly want to work, but can’t seem to find a job.

I think Paul is talking to those of us who can work and don’t. If we can work, and we have access to work, then we should work. Otherwise, we’re being slothful … and that’s a sin.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Be Cautious ... (2 Thess. 3:6)

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.
(2 Thessalonians 3:6, NASB)

We Christ-followers know we should avoid intimate interactions with non-believers. We shouldn’t be “unequally yoked” (2 Cor. 6:14), and though that often refers to marriage, we need to be very cautious about even close friendships with those who don’t share our faith. Oftentimes, instead of our leading them to Christ, they lead us away.

But this verse is talking about our “brothers,” and this seems to be referring to fellow believers. We are to “keep away” from Christians who aren’t living according to the Bible’s teachings.

Our world abounds with preachers who are skewing the truth, taking verses out of context or picking and choosing which parts of the Bible they want to believe—and rejecting those that don’t fit with their objectives.

And many people who sincerely love Jesus and want to serve God are being deceived. Because of what they’ve been taught—or not taught, as the case may be—they’re living contrary to biblical commandments.

We need to be cautious with those friendships as well. It’s easy to begin to compromise our own faith when we see others who call themselves by the name of Christ compromise theirs. Our plumb line must always be what God’s word tells us to be true.

So, watch your friendships closely. And nurture those relationships that build your faith, rather than tear it down.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Doing What God Commands (2 Thess. 3:4-5)

We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.
(2 Thessalonians 3:4-5, NASB)

We who follow Christ are commanded to do two things, and those two things should guide everything we do, think, and say.

Jesus Himself told us what are those commandments: Love our God—heart, soul, mind, and strength—and love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). “There is no other commandment greater than these,” He said.

If we love God with everything we are, we’ll want to serve Him. We’ll spend time in His word, learning more about Him and His heart. We’ll talk with Him and listen to His voice. We’ll strive to seek and follow His will. We’ll want nothing more than to please Him in all we do.

Our desires will be His desires. Our hearts will be His heart.

And if we love others as we love ourselves, we’ll want the best for those around us. We’ll treat them with respect. We’ll be kind, patient, and gentle. We’ll serve them with humility. We won’t lash out in anger or do anything hurtful.

If only Christ-followers would truly follow these greatest commandments. If only we surrendered ourselves daily to God’s will. If only we put others ahead of ourselves.

If only …

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Pray for Each Other (2 Thess. 3:1-3)

Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.
(2 Thessalonians 3:1-3, NASB)

We who follow Christ should daily pray along with Paul:

We should “pray … that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified.” We really need to be praying for a revival in the hearts of all who call themselves Christians. We should pray that each and every one of us become true followers of Christ, surrendering our entire lives to Him. We should pray that God’s word will spread throughout the world.

We should pray “that we will [all] be rescued from perverse and evil men.” Our world is so evil. So tragically evil. I avoid the news these days because I get so heart-sick when I read or hear of the rampant immorality and blatant disregard for the well-being of others. And the world is so seductive that I believe we need to pray for protection from the wiles of the evil one—even the most faithful of us is vulnerable if we don’t remain vigilant.

And we need to thank God for His faithfulness as we pray that “He will strengthen and protect [us] from the evil one.” And He will because, as we know, “Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Let’s pray for a strengthening of our own faith. And let’s commit to pray for each other.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Great Comforter (2 Thess. 2:16-17)

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.
(2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, NASB)

So many times I need comfort. Either I’m in pain or I’m lonely or I’m uncertain. And I just need someone to give me a hug.

And sometimes—oftentimes—I feel very weak. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. And I just need a bit more strength.

Guess what? I have the great Comforter as my Abba. I have the Giver of strength as my Savior.

I’m never alone. Never.

When I hurt, I can crawl into my Abba’s lap, and He’ll comfort me. When I’m lonely, I can cry out to Him, and He’ll wrap His arms around me. And when I’m uncertain, I can pray for His guidance, and He’ll lead me.

And when I just can’t get out of bed because my body is so very weak, I can lift my hand to Him, and ask, “Lord Jesus, please hold my hand just a little more tightly today.”

And He does.

If you're looking for comfort, cry out to your Abba. He's waiting.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Open the Gift (2 Thess. 2:15)

So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.
(2 Thessalonians 2:15, NASB)

We who follow the one true God have been so very blessed to have His words in written form. We have the history of the people of Israel, the foundation of our faith. We have the psalms, with songs of praise and cries for help. We have words of prophecy, some of which have already been fulfilled.

We have eye-witness accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. And we have His very words of encouragement and exhortation.

And we have letters that guide us and help us to live as Christ would live.

What a beautiful, beautiful gift.

But you know something? You have to open the gift to enjoy it. Think about it: It’s your birthday, and you’re surrounded by gifts from your friends and family. They’re creatively wrapped, quite lovely. It’s not the lovely wrapping that has value, though. You need to open the gift.

It’s the same with God’s word. You need to open the Bible to get at its value. And because He encourages, affirms, convicts, and exhorts us through its words, we should open it regularly—daily, in fact.

The Bible truly is the gift that keeps on giving!