Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Giver of Peace (Eph. 2:14-16)

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.
(Ephesians 2:14-16, NASB)

Jesus provides reconciliation for everyone. Everyone. He “broke down the barrier of the dividing wall” between Jew and Gentile. He brought peace to all people.

And He’s still the Giver of peace. We can call the Father, Jehovah Shalom, the Lord is peace.

One of my favorite verses about peace comes from one of my favorite books. Philippians 4:6-7 commands us to:
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.
I often speak on Jeremiah 29:11-13, and when I get to the part about God’s having a plan of peace for our lives, I say:
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 don’t need to 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.
Could you use a little peace in your life? First, you need to know the Giver of peace. And then just ask Him.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Hope in Christ (Eph. 2:11-13)

Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands—remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
(Ephesians 2:11-13, NASB)

Separate from Christ … strangers to the covenants of promise … having no hope … without God in the world …

What tragic words. Words that described each of us before we met Jesus and accepted the gift of salvation. And they describe millions of people throughout our world today.

I can’t imagine living without Jesus in my life. I don’t know how I made it through my twenty-year rebellion without him. Without the confidence that God has a purpose for my life, a purpose for the pain, a purpose for the trials, I’d be … well, I might just not be at all.

These days, my only real hope comes from my relationship with my Lord and Savior. It hurts my heart to see people I love who don’t have that hope. I wrote in my book, The Best Laid Hands:
Why in the world would I, would you, want to look forward to another day on this earth without hope that every new day would bring the peace that God promised? God does promise us a future filled with hope. A synonym for hope is “expectation.” God promised us a future full of expectation for His provision, for His comfort, for His protection, and, yes, for His peace. I often wonder how those who don’t know Jesus have hope. What is it they hope for? Is it wealth? Is it possessions? Is it a relationship? And when money or things or people let them down, then what do they hope for?
I’m ever-grateful for my Lord, who welcomed this prodigal back with open and loving arms. I’m ever-grateful that I am no longer separated from Christ, that I’m no longer a stranger to God’s covenant of promise, that I have hope, and that I am a beloved daughter of the Father.

Where are you? Are you separated from Christ, without real hope? God the Father is waiting patiently for you to open the door of your heart.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Saved Through Faith (Eph. 2:8-10)

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:8-10, NASB)

If you ask people if there’s a heaven, most will answer yes. If you ask them how you get to heaven, many will answer, “Be good” or “Do good things.” And if the good outweighs the bad, you’ll get through those pearly gates.

While doing good things is certainly important, the Bible makes it very clear: Doing good things (what Paul calls “works”) doesn’t save us. Salvation comes only through faith. God’s grace—His unmerited favor—is offered to us freely, and when we accept His gift, we are saved from our sins and we can be confident of eternal life in heaven.

Good works are still important for those of who follow Christ, however. As James wrote,
My friends, what good is it to say you have faith, when you don't do anything to show that you really do have faith? Can that kind of faith save you? If you know someone who doesn't have any clothes or food, you shouldn't just say, "I hope all goes well for you. I hope you will be warm and have plenty to eat." What good is it to say this, unless you do something to help? Faith that doesn't lead us to do good deeds is all alone and dead! (2:14-17, CEV)
But make no mistake, works alone won’t get you to heaven. They won’t save you from your sins.

So if anyone asks you how to get to heaven, tell them the truth. Tell them the good news of salvation through faith. Maybe you’ll be the one who leads them to a relationship with their Savior!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

God's Amazing Gifts (Eph. 2:4-7)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
(Ephesians 2:4-7, NASB)

Yesterday, I wrote that if we’re not following God, we’re following His enemy. We’re “dead people walking.” But when we commit our lives to Christ, we are “made alive.” And it’s because of God’s love, His mercy, His grace, and His kindness.

God loves us so very much, and He freely showers us with mercy, grace, and kindness.

Mercy … “compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one's power.”

Grace … “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.”

Kindness … “the quality or state of being kind; favor; benevolence.”

We don’t deserve any of these precious gifts. We don’t deserve being “seated with Him in the heavenly places.” We don’t deserve His love.

But He does love us:
God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die (John 3:16, CEV).
That’s how much He loves me. That’s how much He loves you.

Have you accepted God’s amazing gifts of love, mercy, grace, and kindness? He’s waiting.

(Definitions from Webster's Dictionary on-line)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dead People Walking? (Eph. 2:1-3)

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
(Ephesians 2:1-3, NASB)

I have no desire to be who I was. Although I asked Jesus into my heart when I was six years old, I allowed circumstances to take me away from my child-like faith. I made very deliberate, very poor choices, and I became a “dead woman walking.”

I reveled in what the world offered—partying, drinking, dancing ‘til dawn. I indulged the lusts and desires of my flesh. It was all about me.

As I think about it now, I realize I’d changed my alliance. Instead of serving the God of the universe, I was serving the “prince of the power of the air.” Just writing those words just about breaks my heart. It’s one thing to say I chose not to follow God’s leading; it’s quite another to say I chose to follow His enemy.

Jesus was so very right when He said we can’t serve two masters. And if we’re not serving God, we’re serving Satan.

No matter whom we are now, at one time—before we chose to follow Christ—we followed Satan. The question is, how obvious is it that we are serving God? If someone were to look at us as we’re standing in a very long line at the grocery store, would they know we’re Christians? If they read our Facebook page, would they see Christ shine through us? If they heard us joke with our friends, would they hear the love of God?

Would the world still see us as “dead people walking”? Or would they see something different. Something appealing. Something like Christ.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Jesus-Alive and Well (Eph. 1:20-23)

These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
(Ephesians 1:20-23, NASB)

Yesterday, we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And today’s verses remind us that Jesus is—without doubt—alive and well!

Jesus is “seated … at [the Father’s] right hand in the heavenly places …” And one day, those of us who follow Christ will join Him in those heavenly places. Whether it’s through the end of our earthly lives or when Jesus returns to bring us into the very presence of God, we will spend eternity in worship and service to God—Father, Son, and Spirit.

Jesus is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion …” I don’t know about you, but there are days when it seems like the “power and dominion” of this earth are winning. And yes, sometimes they’re winning the battles. This world continues to decline—more perversion, more corruption, more pain, more suffering. It can make me want to throw up my hands and cry out, “Jesus, take me now!” But we can be confident that even though some battles may be lost, our Lord and Savior has already won the war! (See John 16:33.)

Jesus is the “head over all things to the church …” We who follow Christ are part of the church, His very body. And I have to ask: Is this “body” healthy? Are we daily communing with our “Head”? Are we striving to know Him better through study and meditation of the word of God? Are we spending time with other members of the body, strengthening and challenging each other?

Jesus is definitely alive and well, and He’s ready and willing to work in the lives of those who choose to follow Him. Let’s praise Him for what He’s done for us, let’s follow the will of the Father, and let’s strive to be healthy members of Christ’s body.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

He is Risen! (Easter Sunday)

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

It was beyond comprehension. Jesus was dead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salome and Mary joined in her sobbing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the world would never be the same.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Day of Silence ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 22, 2011

Twenty-four Hours (Good Friday)

Today is Good Friday, the day we Christians solemnly recognize the sacrificial death of our Lord and Savior, and I just want to spend a few moments reflecting on what Jesus did for us. I’ve been thinking a lot of the unbelievable suffering and pain our Lord experienced—and not just physically. I’ve been thinking a lot about His last twenty-four hours …

In twenty-four hours …

Jesus washed the feet of His disciples … and then felt the agony of a spike through His own.

He celebrated Passover with twelve men who promised to follow Him no matter what … and then watched as every one of them deserted Him.

He sipped wine with His closest friends … and then vinegar from a sponge.

He reclined with the disciple He loved at His side … and then had a spear through that same side.

He prayed in the garden for deliverance from separation from His Father … and then agonized through that very separation.

Our Lord and Savior felt joy and sorrow, friendship and betrayal, comfort and suffering … all within twenty-four hours.

Just for us.

Each of us is given a certain number of twenty-four hours. Only God knows how many twenty-four hours we have. The question is, what are we going to do with each of our twenty-four hours?

He did so much for us. What are we going to do for Him?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Hope of His Calling (Eph. 1:18-19)

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.
(Ephesians 1:18-19, NASB)

God has a calling for each of His children.

Some are called to be preachers. Some are teachers. Some are encouragers.

Each of us has a place in His kingdom. Each and every one of us. No matter who you are, no matter what you can—or cannot do—God will use you.

It’s easy sometimes to think that, because we aren’t a preacher standing in front of a church, we’re just not that important. Or because we’re not a world-renowned evangelist leading hundreds and hundreds of people to know the Lord, we’re not impacting the kingdom.

But that’s not true; that’s not what the Bible tells us. The apostle Paul tells us that each gift is important—even critical—to the healthy function of the body of Christ:
But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism [division] in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. (1 Corinthians 12:24b-26)
You can have hope in knowing that God will call you to use the gifts that He’s given you.

Do you believe that God has called you to serve Him? Do you know how He’s gifted you? If you do, use those gifts to serve and glorify Him. If you don’t, ask Him to reveal your gifts.
(from Hope: Devotions for Finding Hope in Every Situation © 2007 Sauni Rinehart)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Be Spiritually Healthy (Eph. 1:15-17)

For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.
(Ephesians 1:15-17, NASB)

Without proper nutrition, we cannot grow well physically. Malnourishment affects every part of the body.

It’s the same with our spiritual growth. If we’re not properly nourished in God’s word, we remain stagnant … and sometimes even decline.

Paul prayed that the Christians in Ephesus would have a “spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.”

Proverbs 2 outlines the importance of godly wisdom. It should be a “hidden treasure” that we search for diligently, and when we find it, we will “understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God” (v. 5). Moreover:
… knowledge is pleasant to your soul,
Discretion will preserve you;
Understanding will keep you,
To deliver you from the way of evil … (vv. 10b-12)
And where do we gain knowledge? Through God’s word. Daily study and meditation is imperative.

Think of it this way: If you’re planning to be a doctor, you will be diligent in your study. You may even have to curtail other activities in order to have the time and energy to devote to learning. Right?

It’s the same as a follower of Christ. If you want to grow in Christ, if you want to have godly wisdom, if you want to truly know God, you need to spend time in the Bible. It shouldn’t be an afterthought. Rather, it should be the first priority of your day.

What are you doing that would be better spent gaining wisdom and knowledge of your Lord? Nourish yourself daily so that you will be spiritually healthy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Never Alone (Eph. 1:13-14)

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.
(Ephesians 1:13-14, NASB)

Do you ever feel lonely?

I sometimes do. With my family spread throughout the U.S., with my friends busy with their own lives … sometimes, I feel quite alone.

But then I remember, I’m never alone. Never. I’m God’s beloved daughter, “sealed … with the Holy Spirit of promise …”

My trusty commentary says:
… the Holy Spirit, which is promised to them who believe on Christ Jesus, was given to you, and thus you were ascertained to be the children of God, for God has no child who is not a partaker of the Holy Ghost, and he who has this Spirit has God's seal that he belongs to the heavenly family (The Adam Clarke Commentary).
I am part of God’s family, and the Holy Spirit is within me.

Thank You, Lord God, for the reminder that I’m never alone. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for living in me.

Monday, April 18, 2011

In Him ... (Eph. 1:7-12)

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.
(Ephesians 1:7-12 NASB)

In Him … In our Lord Jesus Christ … We have been given so much.

As we learned yesterday, God had a plan to make redemption and forgiveness available to both Jew and Gentile.

In God’s perfect plan, anyone who believes in Jesus as Lord and Savior and accepts the free gift of salvation, receives God’s grace and mercy. These verses remind us of other blessings:

We receive redemption. According to Webster’s Dictionary, Redeem means to “buy back,” to “release from blame or debt” or to “free from the consequences of sin.” Because of our Lord God’s love for us, we are “free from the consequences of sin.”

We know the “mystery of His will.” While God may not reveal all of His will to us, if we ask Him to direct our paths, if we surrender ourselves completely to Him, He will guide us.

We can be assured that He has a purpose for our lives. And sometimes, for me at least, this is the one that gets me up in the morning. If I didn’t believe God had a purpose for my pain, I’d never get out of bed. Days like today, when the pain level is almost off the charts, make me long for heaven, “... having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1:23). But I know God isn’t finished with my earthly journey yet; He still has a purpose for me.

And so I crawl out of bed, praising Him that I can do so. I praise Him for redemption. I praise Him for His will for me. I praise Him for His purpose.

He is such a good God!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

God's Grace for All People (Eph. 1:3-5)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love, He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
(Ephesians 1:3-5, NASB)

We have been blessed beyond measure as children of God. No matter what we’ve done, no matter where we’ve been, no matter how poor the choices we’ve made, we can be "holy and blameless" in the eyes of our Father.

Praise our God!

Now we come to a more controversial part of Paul’s letter. God “chose us before the foundation of the world …” and “He predestined us to adoption as sons [and daughters]” …

Some argue that this is in direct contrast to the idea of free will—that we choose to follow Christ.

One of my favorite commentaries clears this misconception up for us. Until Paul began preaching to the Gentiles, the Jews:
considered themselves an elect or chosen people, and wished to monopolize the whole of the Divine love and beneficence. The apostle here shows that God had the Gentiles as much in the contemplation of his mercy and goodness as he had the Jews; and the blessings of the Gospel, now so freely dispensed to them, were the proof that God had thus chosen them, and that his end in giving them the Gospel was the same which he had in view by giving the law to the Jews ...
So when Paul wrote about predestination, he was writing about the Gentles as a people group, and thus used that word to “point out God's fixed purpose or predetermination to bestow on the Gentiles the blessing of the adoption of sons by Jesus Christ” (from The Adam Clarke Commentary

What this means is that God’s grace and mercy is available to all people. All people. But Jesus is still waiting patiently at the door of countless hearts. We still have to open the door. (See Rev. 3:20.)

Have you opened the door? Have you invited Jesus to be Lord of your life? Then and only then will you experience the “kind intention of His will.” His loving, gracious, merciful, righteous will.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Love Letters (Eph. 1:1-2)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Ephesians 1:1-2, NASB)

Today, we begin a journey through another of my favorite books, Ephesians. I look forward to learning more about my Lord and Savior. I pray you’ll do the same.

Letter writing is a lost art. With texts and emails, FaceBook status updates and instant messaging, no one sits down to put pen to paper. And I think it’s sad.

Just think. If Paul had had access to today’s technology, he would have sent off his letters via cyberspace, and who knows where they would have ended up. Instead, he took quill and ink, and left for us his God-inspired words. Words that have impacted generation after generation.

That’s why I love to journal. Not that I expect my words to impact even one generation, but there’s something satisfying—and sometimes cathartic—about actually writing about what’s happening in my life. I journal about what God has taught me through His word. I meditate on verses that inspire me—or convict me. I write out prayers. I scribe love letters to God. And maybe someday, someone will read my “letters.” And be impacted in the smallest way.

Write a letter today. Put pen to paper. A real pen to real paper.

And pray as Paul did in his letter to the Ephesians—and to us: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Friday, April 15, 2011

Blessed Be the Lord (Ps. 72:17-19)

His name shall endure forever;
His name shall continue as long as the sun.
And men shall be blessed in Him;
All nations shall call Him blessed.
Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel,
Who only does wondrous things!
And blessed be His glorious name forever!
And let the whole earth be filled with His glory.
Amen and Amen.

(Psalm 72:17-19, NKJV)

I almost don’t need to include any commentary with these verses!

Our God is amazing, loving, gracious, merciful, good, just, and righteous.

He is the Alpha and Omega. He is all-knowing, everlasting, and with us at all times.

He is Creator, Savior, and Redeemer.

He provides. He protects. He strengthens. He heals.

He is the giver of peace, the lover of our souls, and the source of all good things.

And He is worthy of all glory, all honor, all worship, all praise.

Indeed, let the whole earth be filled with His glory.

Praise Him. Glorify Him. Worship Him.

With all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. He is worthy of nothing less.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Prayer and Praise (Ps. 72:15-16)

And He shall live;
And the gold of Sheba will be given to Him;
Prayer also will be made for Him continually,
And daily He shall be praised.
There will be an abundance of grain in the earth,
On the top of the mountains;
Its fruit shall wave like Lebanon;
And those of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.

(Psalm 72:15-16, NKJV)

The apostle Paul wrote that we’re to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). And King David wrote, “I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Ps. 34:1).

We should be praying and praising all the time … but how often do we do either? We tend to pray when we need something. We praise Him when things are going well.

But think about how different your life would be if prayer and praise were the first things you did rather than afterthoughts? What if you were that focused on God and His will?

Would your thought-life be different? Would you speak differently? Would you act differently?

What if all of us who followed Christ did the same? How would the world perceive us?

More loving? More compassionate? More servant-hearted? More joyful? More peaceful?

This morning (or tomorrow morning if you’re reading this later in the day), commit to make God your true focus today. Pray throughout the day. Just thanking Him for what He’d doing in your life. Confessing every sin. Interceding for others.

And praise Him continually. For everything and anything.

See what a difference it might make.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Poverty vs. Riches (Ps. 72:12-14)

For He will deliver the needy when he cries,
The poor also, and him who has no helper.
He will spare the poor and needy,
And will save the souls of the needy.
He will redeem their life from oppression and violence;
And precious shall be their blood in His sight.

(Psalm 72:12-14, NKJV)

I’ve never been truly poor. Even when my mom was raising my siblings and me on her own, we never wanted for anything. Oh, we may have shopped for school clothes at thrift stores, and treats like ice cream were few and far between. But we had a roof over our heads. We had clothes and enough to eat.

I was poor in another way: spiritually. I spent too many years turning away from God and trying to find my own way. Trying to find peace. Trying to find joy. Trying to find contentment.

It was only when I cried out to God from the deepest part of me when I realized how very poor I really was. And He delivered me from my spiritual poverty.

He helped me. He saved my soul. And He redeemed my life.

What about you? Are you rich in the only thing that really matters? Are your spiritual coffers full of God’s promises?

Our earthly lives are just a blip on the radar in comparison with eternity. And any earthly riches we have will one day be meaningless.

Only our riches in God—our faith and how God has used us to impact His kingdom—will remain.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Praise and Service (Ps. 72:8-11)

He shall have dominion also from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.
Those who dwell in the wilderness will bow before Him,
And His enemies will lick the dust.
The kings of Tarshish and of the isles
Will bring presents;
The kings of Sheba and Seba
Will offer gifts.
Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him;
All nations shall serve Him.

(Psalm 72:8-11, NKJV)

As I wrote a couple of days ago, this psalm describes Solomon’s rule as well as the prophecy of the Messiah’s eventual reign. And again, I see more of the latter than the former.

Only our Lord Jesus will one day “have dominion … from sea to sea.” One day, everyone—kings and peasants—will fall down before Him. One day, all nations will recognize that He alone is Lord. And all of us who have chosen to accept His gift of salvation will serve Him.

The apostle Paul wrote something similar in one of my very favorite books, Philippians.

“ … God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (2:9-11).

But we don’t have to wait until His return to fall down before Him. We can—and should—be on our knees praising and worshiping Him every day. We have the privilege of communing with Him, and we so often take that privilege for granted.

And we don’t have to wait until His return to serve Him. He invites us to participate in His plan for kingdom growth.

Do you fall to your knees daily? Do you ask the Lord to reveal how you can serve Him?

Don’t wait. Praise Him and serve Him today.

Monday, April 11, 2011

An Abundance of Peace (Ps. 72:5-7)

They shall fear You
As long as the sun and moon endure,
Throughout all generations.
He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing,
Like showers that water the earth.
In His days the righteous shall flourish,
And abundance of peace,
Until the moon is no more.

(Psalm 72:5-7, NKJV)

One day, there will be an “abundance of peace.” Sometimes that’s hard to believe even for those of us who are in relationship with the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6).

If there’s one thing I really could use more of, it’s peace. Too many times my mind gets caught up with all the junk in the world, and I feel an unsettledness in my heart.

Earthquakes. Floods. Tsunamis.

People starving. People dying.

Hate. Persecution. War.

This world feels anything but peaceful these days.

Yet, one day, all we’ll feel is peace because we’ll be in the very presence of our Lord and Savior, our Prince of Peace.

No worry. No unsettled hearts. No anger. No anxiety.

Just peace. An “abundance of peace.”

Oh, Lord Jesus … Come quickly!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Peace and Justice (Ps. 72:3-4)

The mountains will bring peace to the people,
And the little hills, by righteousness.
He will bring justice to the poor of the people;
He will save the children of the needy,
And will break in pieces the oppressor.

(Psalm 72:3-4, NKJV)

This psalm is written about an earthly king, Solomon, but it also “anticipates Messiah’s reign as the culmination of the Davidic Covenant” (note from The MacArthur Study Bible).

During Solomon’s time, I don’t believe there was the peace and justice described in this psalm, and so I also anticipate Messiah’s reign when He returns.

I can’t wait!

One day, we will live in a “new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1) where we’ll experience eternal light as God Himself will “illumine” us (Rev. 22:5). And then some of the most encouraging, hope-filled promises:

“ … He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

The oppressor of this world God will “break in pieces” and justice will finally be served.

I can’t wait!

Friday, April 08, 2011

God's Righteousness (Ps. 72:1-2)

Give the king Your judgments, O God,
And Your righteousness to the king’s Son.
He will judge Your people with righteousness,
And Your poor with justice.

(Psalm 72:1-2; NKJV)

We are not deserving of God’s grace. We are not deserving of His mercy. We are not deserving of His love.

We are deserving of His judgment. We are deserving of His justice.

He, the all-Holy, all-righteous One, the Creator of all things, has every right to judge us for our many sins.

And yet, He does love us. He does offer grace and mercy. He does forgive us if we believe in Him and accept the gift of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection.

But make no mistake. Judgment will come to those who choose not to follow God. Eternal separation from Him will occur.

Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6, NASB).

Have you chosen the one way?

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Reverent Awe for Our God (Ps. 111:10)

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
A good understanding have all those who do His commandments.
His praise endures forever.

(Psalm 111:10, NKJV)

When we truly fear God, focusing on Him with reverent awe, we want what He wants. We seek His will. We find wisdom as we read His word—and we’re eager to do so.

As we read and meditate on His word to us, we understand more the desires of His heart. We understand that we’re to love and serve Him, with everything we are (Mark 12:30). We’re to seek first Him and His kingdom (Matt. 6:33). We’re to daily take up the cross (Luke 9:23). We’re to love others (Mark 12:31).

When we know God more intimately, we become more certain of His trustworthiness and faithfulness (Deut. 7:9). We can be confident in His everlasting love (31:3). We can rest assured in His constant presence (Deut. 31:6, 8).

We can rejoice that He listens to us (Jer. 29:12). He sees us (Gen. 16:13). He provides for us (Gen. 22:14). He heals us (Ex. 15:26).

And we can praise Him for all that He has been, all that He is, and all that He will be. Forever.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

God's Redemption (Ps. 111:9)

He has sent redemption to His people;
He has commanded His covenant forever:
Holy and awesome is His name.

(Psalm 111:9, NKJV)

I’m refining a talk for a retreat I’m speaking at in May, and one of the sections is on our being redeemed. What an amazing blessing it is to know we’re “free from the consequences of sin” (Webster’s Dictionary)!

Even though Adam and Eve chose to follow their own path and thus sin entered the world, God loved His children so much, He “sent redemption” to us. He established a covenant with the people of Israel , and atonement came through annual sacrifice. Why was this sacrifice required? God is holy, and without His providing a plan of redemption, we would be forever separated from Him. But He loves us too much for that.

So throughout the Old Testament, atonement was for God’s chosen people. Oh, but then the New Covenant! In just a couple of weeks, we’re going to celebrate the culmination of God’s plan for the redemption of all mankind: the death, burial, and resurrection of God the Son, Jesus Christ.

That’s how much God loves us: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). And anyone who “calls on the name of the LORD will be saved” (Rom. 10:13).

What an amazing, awesome God we serve.

Praise Him today … and every day.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

God's Truth (Ps. 111:6-8)

He has declared to His people the power of His works,
In giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of His hands are verity and justice;
All His precepts are sure.
They stand fast forever and ever,
And are done in truth and uprightness.

(Psalm 111:6-8, NKJV)

“The works of His hands are verity …”

Verity isn’t a word we use much these days, but it has rich meaning:

“ the quality or state of being true or real ... a fundamental and inevitably true value ... the quality or state of being truthful or honest”

God is truth. He is real. He has infinite value.

“The works of His hands are … justice … “

God is just. He is holy and righteous.

And He inspired a written account of His precepts, His commandments, His assurances, His encouragements. His word, the Holy Bible, is “trust and righteousness,” and it will “stand fast forever and ever.”

Do you know this God? Do you know the one true, real, holy, righteous God? Read His word. Read the history of His people. Read about His plan of reconciliation for you. Read about His love—an everlasting love.

Just for you.

God's Truth (Ps. 111:6-8)

He has declared to His people the power of His works,
In giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of His hands are verity and justice;
All His precepts are sure.
They stand fast forever and ever,
And are done in truth and uprightness.

(Psalm 111:6-8, NKJV)

“The works of His hands are verity …”

Verity isn’t a word we use much these days, but it has rich meaning:

“ the quality or state of being true or real ... a fundamental and inevitably true value ... the quality or state of being truthful or honest”

God is truth. He is real. He has infinite value.

“The works of His hands are … justice … “

God is just. He is holy and righteous.

And He inspired a written account of His precepts, His commandments, His assurances, His encouragements. His word, the Holy Bible, is “trust and righteousness,” and it will “stand fast forever and ever.”

Do you know this God? Do you know the one true, real, holy, righteous God? Read His word. Read the history of His people. Read about His plan of reconciliation for you. Read about His love—an everlasting love.

Just for you.

Monday, April 04, 2011

God's Grace (Ps. 111:4b-5)

The LORD is gracious and full of compassion.
He has given food to those who fear Him;
He will ever be mindful of His covenant.

(Psalm 111:4b-5, NKJV)

The greatest gift we receive as children of God is grace—unmerited favor.

We deserve nothing from God. Nothing.

I take that back. We do deserve something. We are sinful, fallen, rebellious creatures who really only deserve God’s wrath and justice. We deserve punishment. We deserve hell.

What we don’t deserve is forgiveness. We don’t deserve God’s forgetting our sin. We don’t deserve His grace.

“ … God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). What an amazing grace we receive because of God’s compassion and love for us! Even knowing how sinful and rebellious I would be, Jesus still died for me.

And He did the same for you.

Have you accepted the gift of God’s grace? If you have, don’t take it for granted. Thank Him, and determine to live in humble gratitude.

It’s the least any of us can do for the most He did for us.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

God's Green Earth (Ps. 111:2-4a)

The works of the LORD are great,
Studied by all who have pleasure in them.
His work is honorable and glorious,
And His righteousness endures forever.
He has made His wonderful works to be remembered ...

(Psalm 111:2-4a, NKJV)

Yesterday as I was driving to do some errands, I was once again blessed by the sight of majestic snow-capped mountains in the distance. Later, I glanced out into my backyard and had a splash of joy from lovely flowers blooming brightly. Still later, I held an adorable, dimpled-smiling baby and my heart was touched.

I couldn’t help but be in awe of God’s creation. And I thought to myself, How can anyone truly deny the existence of—at the very least—an Intelligent Designer? To think that all of this came from some kind of big bang that led to plant life and animal life. To think humanity developed from a single cell.

It makes no sense to me, and frankly takes a lot of faith.

What does make sense is that a loving, creative, glorious God created this world and all that’s in it. And so much of what He created, He did so for our pleasure. Those flowers and snow-capped mountains and smiling babies … those things that bring us so much joy …

Just to make us smile …

I’m reminded of a line from a Point of Grace song, “God’s Green Earth”:

“On God’s Green Earth
If every color was the same
And every child had just one name
There’d be no beauty for each of us to claim …”

What an amazing, loving, creative God we serve!

Friday, April 01, 2011

Whole-hearted Praise (Ps. 111:1)

Praise the LORD!
I will praise the LORD with my whole heart,
In the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.

(Psalm 111:1, NKJV)

One of the greatest privileges we have as followers of Christ is praising our Lord. He—the Sovereign Creator of all things—wants to hear our voices. When we lift our voices in abandoned praise, He is well-pleased.

And we can praise Him at any time. As we rise in the morning. As we go through our days. As we lie down at night. Words of praise can and should fill our hearts—our whole hearts.

Praise Him for His grace, His mercy, and His love. Praise Him for His holiness, His justice, and His righteousness.

Praise Him for His attributes: He is our refuge and strength (Ps. 46:1). He is our Provider (Gen. 22:14). He is our Healer (Ex. 15:26). He is the Lord of Peace (Judges 6:24).

Praise Him through struggles, knowing He’s working everything out for good (Rom. 8:28). Praise Him for His blessings, knowing He’s taking care of you (1 Peter 5:7).

Sing songs of praise. Memorize and recite psalms that lift His name in worship. Stand in the congregation of other believers and lift your hands in reverence.

He is worthy of our praises—our whole-heart praises.