Thursday, June 30, 2011

Proven Character (Phil. 2:19-24)

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

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

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

Again, today’s verses both convict and encourage …

This morning, I woke up feeling pretty lousy. If you’ve read my blogs for a while, you know I deal with several health issues. I really want to whine and complain, but even before I meditated on today’s verses, I just went to the Lord in prayer, thanking Him for the strength I know He’ll give me to accomplish what needs to be done today.

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

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

I love The Message’s paraphrase of verse 15:
Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night …
Don’t you want to be a “breath of fresh air”? Don’t you want to “provide … a glimpse of good living and of the living God”?

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

[Note: When I originally wrote this devotional last year, I woke up feeling lousy … Interestingly enough, the day I post the very same devotional, I wake up feeling lousy, so I didn’t even have to edit!]

Monday, June 27, 2011

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

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

As I was praying over today’s blog, I wanted to make certain I wrote truth, especially the part about “work out your own salvation.” Some read these words and interpret them to say we can save ourselves. I don’t believe that’s what Paul meant at all. I reviewed some on-line commentaries, and one wrote:
While Christ is our Savior, and the author of our salvation, we must accept him and work together with him. Hence the Holy Spirit says, "Save yourselves" (Acts 2:40), and "work out your own salvation.” (
It goes on to define “With fear and trembling”: With constant anxiety not to fail.

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

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

Sunday, June 26, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 25, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 24, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Be Like-Minded (Phil. 2:1-2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Worthy Conduct (Phil. 1:27-28)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 20, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May your week be blessed!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy this Lord’s day!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

And as I’ve written many times, it may seem the enemy is winning battle after battle, but we know Who wins the war (John 16:33).

Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.

Friday, June 17, 2011

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

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

I in no way compare myself with the apostle Paul, but I do kind of relate to these verses.

As I look back over my life, I can see how God has used the difficult times to encourage others. When I speak, I often talk about my experiences with abuse, infertility, and living with chronic pain. And invariably, several women come to me to tell me how they were encouraged by my story.

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

No, the “things that happen” to us aren’t always pleasant or joyful or peaceful. We will walk through valleys. But God will—if we let Him—use even the most painful times for good (Romans 8:28). Or as I wrote in my book, The Best Laid Plans:
… many times we can’t see God’s plan until we have the perspective of hindsight. I know from my own experience that what seemed so awful, so painful, so heartbreaking at the time, always resulted in growth, in maturity. I know that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the times of challenge.

She couldn’t possibly know what I’ve been through,
you’re thinking. I’ve experienced real evil, and she’s telling me that God promised plans without evil. Sounds contradictory at best—and a lie at worst.

… You’re right. I don’t know your life. I don’t know your pain. I don’t know what you’ve cried out for from the deepest part of your heart. This is what I do know: There is always a reason for pain. Really. And it’s not because God is trying to punish you. It’s not because He enjoys watching you suffer. It’s not that God is reaping evil upon you. It’s not. Really.

Let me assure you of one very important thing. God loves you. He loves you. He loves you so much that He was willing to die for you…
Be assured: God is with you through the valleys just as He is on the mountaintops. And what a joy it is to know He’ll use our pain to encourage others and—maybe—even grow His kingdom.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Abundant Love (Phil. 1:9-11)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

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

[For the next few weeks, we’ll be revisiting a journey through Philippians originally traveled in March, 2010.]

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

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

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

What a blessing!

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

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

Monday, June 13, 2011

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

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

(Psalm 67:6-7, NASB)

We started this Psalm two days looking at how God blessed His people. And we’ll end this psalm by remembering yet again how He continues to bless us.

Did you wake up in a bed today? You are blessed. Many sleep on the ground.

Did you eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner? You are blessed. Many don’t know where they’ll get their next meal.

Did you put on clothes that are clean and relatively new? You are blessed. Many wear rags.

Did you go to a job? You are blessed. Many are out of work … and have been for a while.

If you have a roof over your head, you are blessed. If you have family nearby, you are blessed. If you have supportive friends, you are blessed.

And if you have accepted the gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of God the Son, you are indescribably blessed.

Have you thanked God for your many, many blessings? Thank Him today … and every day.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Better Than a Hallelujah (Ps. 67:3-5)

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

(Psalm 67:3-5, NASB)

Praising God. I love lifting heart and voice and hand in worship and praise. And for those of us who are musicians, when we think of praise, we automatically go to music.

But we can praise Him in so many other ways. We can praise Him by using the gifts He’s blessed us with. We can praise Him by serving others. We can praise Him by meditating on His word.

Do you know you praise God when you tuck your little one in at night and breath a prayer for her? Do you know you praise God when you volunteer at a soup kitchen? Do you know you praise God when you choose to stand firm rather than listen to the lies of the world?

There’s an Amy Grant song I’ve come to love “Better Than a Hallelujah." The lyrics remind me that it's not just songs of praise that reach our Father's heart:
God loves a lullaby
In a mother's tears in the dead of night
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes

God loves the drunkard's cry
The soldier's plea not to let him die
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

The woman holding on for life
The dying man giving up the fight
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes

The tears of shame for what's been done
The silence when the words won't come
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes
(song writers: Sarah Hart and Chapin Hartford)
Praise God by honoring Him. Glorifying Him. Surrendering to Him. Loving Him.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

God's Blessing of Grace (Ps. 67:1-2)

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

(Psalm 67:1-2, NASB)

We just finished a wonderful time in the book of Ephesians (at least, I thought it was wonderful!). For the next few days, I want to spend time in a couple of my favorite—and I have a lot of favorites—psalms.

One of the last things I wrote about in Ephesians was God’s grace. And receiving what we don’t deserve is certainly not a New Testament phenomenon.

God has offered grace and blessings to His people for centuries. He blessed the people of Israel as He ushered them out of Egypt. As He provided manna in the wilderness. As He sent prophets to guide them and judges to protect them.

He offered atonement through the sacrifice of a flawless lamb and cast their sins as far as the east is from the west.

And His grace flows through us so that others will know His ways and want to experience that same grace.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Our Good God (Eph. 6:21-24)

But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts. Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.
(Ephesians 6:21-24, NASB)

Some of my favorite words are in these verses. Faithful. Comfort. Peace. Love. Grace.

And as children of God, we experience all of these from our Father.

God is faithful. Utterly, completely faithful. He is unchanging and constant. He has always been and will always be. He will complete His work in His time.

He offers comfort. He promises to never leave nor forsake us (Deut. 31:6, NKJV). He is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble (Ps. 46:1). When we hurt, He carries us.

He offers peace. We know we don’t need to worry or be afraid. Even in the midst of the storm, He’ll reach out a hand to pull us from the waves. And when we come to Him with our anxious thoughts, He’ll fill our hearts with that peace that surpasses human understanding (Phil. 4:7).

He offers love. He loves us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3). He loves us so very much that He sent His Son, part of Himself to save us from our sins, and to bring us back into relationship with Him (John 3:16).

He offers grace. Salvation isn’t about what I do. It’s about what He has already done. Because of His love for me, He grants me unmerited favor. He gives me something I don’t deserve: Eternity with Him.

All because He’s faithful, loving, gracious, and the Giver of peace and comfort.

He’s so very, very good!!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Pray At All Times (Eph. 6:18-20)

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
(Ephesians 6:18-20, NASB)

We know we need to put on the armor of God to be ready to meet the enemy head-on. But the armor needs just one more thing … one very important thing: Prayer.

We need to cover ourselves, those we love, and the entire church of Christ in prayer. More than once, Paul wrote of praying “at all times” or “without ceasing” (1 Thess. 4:17). We should be praying for provision, protection, and peace. We should be praying for firm and grounded faith. We should be praying for boldness to share the truth of the gospel of Christ.

And we should pray for the softening of hearts of those who have yet to come to faith.

We should also pray for those who have been called into ministry: pastors, missionaries, mission leaders, ministry leaders. Not everyone has the gift of preaching or teaching or evangelizing. And those of us who’ve been gifted in other ways need to offer prayerful support.

Just as Paul asked for the prayers of the Christians at Ephesus, so should we pray for those who are boldly and regularly proclaiming God’s truth.

Make it a habit—one of the better habits—to pray for others. At all times. Without ceasing.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Full Armor (Eph. 6:13-17)

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
(Ephesians 6:13-17, NASB)

Yes, we’re in a battle. You don’t need a gun or a tank or a bomb to fight this battle, but you definitely need to be equipped.

I was encouraged several years ago to pray these verses every morning to prepare to meet that day’s battles, and although I sometimes neglect to do so, when I do, it makes a world of difference. I recently spoke at a retreat, and I talked about this very subject:

“The first piece of our armor is the belt of truth. God is the only real truth, and when we put on what Paul calls the ‘belt of truth,’ it means we’re going to strive to be tellers of God’s truth.

Then we’re to put on the breastplate of righteousness. We aren’t righteous on our own. In fact, without Christ, we are fallen, frail, sinful creatures. Yet when we accept the gift of salvation and the forgiveness of our sins, God sees us as righteous, as cleansed, as pure. In a suit of Roman armor (don’t think about those big metal suits from medieval times!), the breastplate covered from the throat to the hipbones. While arms and legs would remain vulnerable, the vital organs—heart, lungs, stomach—were protected. When we think about putting on the breastplate of righteousness, we are protecting our most vulnerable parts—our emotions. We protect our hearts from the enemy’s lies and the world’s influences.

And as we do, we remain clean before our Lord.

Then it’s the shoes that prepare us with the gospel of peace. And where does our peace come from? From the gospel. The ‘peace that surpasses understanding’ as Paul describes in Philippians 4:7, is ours because we know the Giver of peace. We can go out throughout our day and choose peace, no matter the circumstance.

We’re then to take up the shield of faith. While the breastplate covered the most vulnerable parts of a Roman soldier, the shield covered all of him. We’re not talking about a small handheld shield here. We’re talking about a huge, hide-covered barrier that a soldier could crouch behind and find protection. Our shield is our very faith. And we must continue to grow in that faith. The Message translation of Hebrews 11:1, says it like this: Faith is 'the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s the handle on what we can’t see.' Faith is trusting God in everything, being confident that He has a perfect plan for each of us. And the Bible tells us that '… without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him' (Heb. 11:6).

Then we take the helmet of salvation. The helmet protects the head, the center of what makes us human. We must be ever-careful of what we put in our heads. The Bible tells us how to keep our minds focused on the right things: '… whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things' (Phil. 4:8).

And finally, we hold tightly to the sword of the Spirit—the very word of God. I can’t begin to tell you how very important this piece of weapon is for keeping the enemy at bay. If we know scripture, if we meditate on God's words, we begin to recognize His will. We need to meditate, actually feast on His word. God’s word to us should be like bread for our bodies. We should delight in His word (Psalm 1:1, 2). And as we meditate on God’s word, we begin to take His words to heart, memorizing them. Then we can use scripture to expose the enemy's lies to light.”

We can combat the enemy's attacks only if we're fully prepared. So I have to ask … are you equipped for today’s battles?

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Battle (Eph. 6:10-12)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
(Ephesians 6:10-12, NASB)

We’re in a battle folks. A big old, ugly, bloody battle. And it’s not in a foreign land. It’s right on your street. At your work. At your school. Maybe even in your own home.

And we have a pretty powerful enemy. And he doesn’t fight fair. Sometimes he sneaks in under the cover of darkness. Sometimes he launches a full-frontal attack. He and his minions are wandering the world, scheming and planning. Trying to take out as many as they can. And sometimes it seems like they’re winning. And perhaps they are ... at least a battle or two.

But those of us who follow Christ know Who wins the war. Jesus Himself said, “In the world you may have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”(John 16:33). Not I will, but I have. He’s already won the war! And we’re on the winning side.

What we have to do is be prepared for the battle, and tomorrow, we’ll see how to arm ourselves.

Monday, June 06, 2011

A Good Boss (Eph. 6:9)

And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him. (Ephesians 6:9, NASB)

This verse should be written on a sticky note and placed on the desktops of everyone who manages others. Every one.

The verses before commanded those who work for others to work for the Lord, showing good will to others. Bosses should do the very same. They too are working for God, and they too have been placed exactly where they are.

Even more, bosses shouldn’t threaten their employees in any way. They should lead by example and treat their staff members with care and respect. They should show no partiality, but should treat each person equally.

God doesn’t see titles or organizational hierarchy. He doesn’t care if you’re a CEO or a file clerk. You could have a six-figure salary or earn minimum age. You’re all the same to Him.

And so if you’ve been given the privilege of managing others, don’t just manage. Lead. Influence your employees to be all they can be. So they too can serve God in their work.

God's Beautiful Creation

I'm on vacation with my sweet husband. We're in Park City, UT, and it's just lovely. Such a beautiful representation of God's creation. With the good,though, comes a slight difficulty: I can't seem to get my computer to connect to the internet (I'm writing this on my phone). So I haven't been able to post my regular devotions.

I hope to be back on line later today when we head south.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Work Unto the Lord (Eph. 6:5-8)

Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.
(Ephesians 6:5-8, NASB)

We in the United States, praise God, no longer adhere to any use of slaves (except for the tragic reality of young women that are brought as sexual slaves, but that’s an entirely different situation and in no way applies here).

However, most of us at one time or another will work for someone else. Unless we’re fortunate to be in business for ourselves, we will rely on someone else for our livelihood. And unfortunately, not all of us will love our jobs. I’ve been blessed to hold some great jobs at great companies, but I have to honestly say, I haven’t really ever loved my job. And there have been seasons when I really disliked what I did.

Once when I was living through one of those seasons, I found this verse, and it helped to change my attitude—usually. Paul wrote, “With good will, render service, as to the Lord …” As long as I remembered that God placed me in each working situation, I could have “good will” … and a good attitude.

If you’re working in less-than-ideal circumstances, if you have an inconsiderate—or even tyrannical—boss, if your co-workers stab you in the back even as they smile to your face, remember that God may have put you exactly where you are so you can shine Jesus.

It may not make your situation any easier, but it may just make your life easier.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Commands for Parents (Eph. 6:4)

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
(Ephesians 6:4, NASB)

Yes, as we learned yesterday, children are to obey and honor their parents. But parents have their own commandments.

Paul was writing to fathers, but I think it’s safe to substitute “parents” here. Parents aren’t to “provoke [their] children to anger.” They’re not to mistreat or abuse them. They’re not to neglect them. They’re not to do anything that may cause their children to lash out in anger. They aren’t to instill bitterness.

Instead, they are to instruct them in God’s word, teaching them its truths. They are to model godly behavior. They are to encourage them to spend daily time in God’s word and in prayer, helping them to grow in faith.

Imagine a world where all parents inspired and encouraged their children, and where all children respected and honored their parents. Not only because they’re commanded to do so, but because they genuinely love each other.

Wouldn’t that be peace on earth?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Commands for Children (Eph. 6:1-3)

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH.
(Ephesians 6:1-3, NASB)

God didn’t bless my husband and me with children, and He’s given me incredible peace about remaining childless. And I have to be honest … sometimes I’m a bit relieved I’m not raising a teenager these days.

It seems like many young people today aren’t familiar with this commandment to obey and honor parents. I see disrespect, disobedience, and outright rebellion—even in those who have been raised in Christian homes.

I pray regularly for teens and their parents. I pray they’ll grow strong in faith. That they’ll dwell on things that are pure and true (Phil. 4:8). That they’ll seek God’s will in all things.

And I’ll add that they will obey and honor their parents.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

A Sacred Covenant (Eph. 5:31-33)

FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.
(Ephesians 5:31-33, NASB)

Marriage is far from a sacred covenant these days. Many people enter the “state of holy matrimony” with the thought that if it doesn’t work out, then we’ll just end marriage A and move on to marriage B. In fact, I read not too long ago about “starter marriages.” Kind of like a starter home.

This was never, ever God’s intent. Marriage is a covenant relationship, a “usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement.” It is not meant to be broken. When a man and a woman join together, they become “one flesh.” One flesh. A former pastor of mine used to illustrate this by gluing two pieces of paper together. Yes, you could separate the two, but not without seriously damaging each page.

Even more importantly, marriage on earth represents Christ’s relationship with His church. Nothing can separate those of us who follow Him from our Lord and Savior (Rom. 8:37-39).

And just as nothing can separate Christ from His bride, nothing should separate a married couple. The Bible only gives two “reasons” for divorce: infidelity (Matt. 5:32; 19:9) or if a believer’s unbelieving spouse chooses to leave the marriage (1 Cor. 7:11-15). And this is just my opinion, but I would add an implied third reason: domestic abuse. Physical, emotional, and mental abuse doesn’t equate with loving one’s spouse as Christ loves His church.

Yet, couples are divorcing for "irreconcilable differences" or "I just don't love him any more." Or "the passion's gone." To the first, I argue, except for the above-named issues, there is no such thing. And even with infidelity or abuse, reconciliation can happen. I have a dear friend whose husband was unfaithful multiple times. Yet she persevered, and now they have a growing-stronger, God-centered marriage. And regarding the "I just don't love him"? Let me remind you that love is a verb. It is an action. It is a choice. And when the passion dims, just wait ... It will brighten again because passion can ebb and flow.

We Christians need to get back to God’s word regarding marriage, with husbands loving their wives and wives respecting (and loving too!) their husbands.