Sunday, July 31, 2011

Exalt the Lord ... Every Day (Ps. 99:9)

Exalt the LORD our God
And worship at His holy hill,
For holy is the LORD our God.

(Psalm 99:9, NASB)

How appropriate to end this psalm with words of praise on this Lord’s day!!

Depending upon where you live, you’ve already attended a worship service, you’re praising God right now, or you will be enjoying fellowship with other believers soon.

No matter where or when you might be gathering with other “family” members, your praise and worship doesn’t have to stop there. In fact, it shouldn’t.

Today—and every day—should be spent in exaltation of the holy Lord. We can praise Him when we get up in the morning. When we eat breakfast. When we take our morning shower. When we drive to school or work. When we exercise. When we sit at a desk or play with our friends. When we have dinner with our family. When we lie down to sleep.

Words of praise and worship should continually be flowing through our hearts and minds.

That’s why I love music so very much. I can praise God throughout my day by singing my favorite hymns and praise songs. And that’s why I try to memorize parts of scripture. I can praise God with words of exaltation as I’m reminded of His attributes.

So today, on this day many of us set aside to attend worship services, don’t just praise Him as you sit in a pew. Praise Him all day. Today and every day.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Call Upon the Lord (Ps. 99:6-8)

Moses and Aaron were among His priests,
And Samuel was among those who called on His name;
They called upon the LORD and He answered them.
He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud;
They kept His testimonies
And the statute that He gave them.
O LORD our God, You answered them;
You were a forgiving God to them,
And yet an avenger of their evil deeds.

(Psalm 99:6-8, NASB)

Jehovah God never changes. He is the same as He was in the days of Moses, Aaron and Samuel. When they called upon Him, He answered them. He does the same today.

That’s what prayer is all about: Calling on God and listening to His answer.

Sometimes, though, we can get caught up in the calling and forget about the listening. Or am I the only one who does this?

I love to intercede for my friends and family. I love praying for their needs, for provision, for peace and comfort.

And doing this is a very good thing.

But all too often, I’m so busy doing that very good thing that I neglect to just sit quietly and listen to God’s voice. I wrote this in my book The Best Laid Plans:
The most important thing about listening for God’s voice is that, in order for Him to be heard, you must be silent. God doesn’t want to compete with the world’s noise, nor should He. We know God, we hear His voice, in the stillness, in the quiet. God tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) King David said with confidence that “the Lord has set apart for Himself him who is godly; the Lord will hear when I call to Him . . . Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still” (Psalm 4:3,4). (© 2005 Sauni Rinehart)
God promises to answer when we call out to Him, when we listen quietly for His voice.

Just as He did with Moses, Aaron, and Samuel

Friday, July 29, 2011

Exalt the Lord (Ps. 99:4-5)

The strength of the King loves justice;
You have established equity;
You have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.
Exalt the LORD our God
And worship at His footstool;
Holy is He.

(Psalm 99:4-5, NASB)

The Lord is holy and righteous. He is just. He is equitable as He offers salvation and forgiveness of sin to all people.

If only they seek Him.

Anyone who exalts God and worships at His footstool, seeking His forgiveness through faith in His Son, will be cleansed from his or her sins.

And here on earth, we can praise Him, worship Him, and exalt Him. We can honor Him with our actions, thoughts, and words. And we have the privilege of speaking directly to Him in prayer and reading His word to us.

Our holy God demands—and deserves—our total surrender. For some, that seems too much. They don’t want to give up control. But honestly? I’ve found that when I surrender my life, my plans, my relationships to Him, He does amazingly beyond my expectations. And even those times when I didn’t get what I wanted, even those times when I suffered—when I still suffer—I see how God works everything for good (Rom. 8:28).

And He is worthy—more than worthy—of all my praise and exaltations.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The One and Only God (Ps. 99:2-3)

The LORD is great in Zion,
And He is exalted above all the peoples.
Let them praise Your great and awesome name;
Holy is He.

(Psalm 99:2-3, NASB)

One of the saddest commentaries of current culture is the idea that there are many gods—even that we can be gods ourselves.

There is only one God. Only one.

And one day, every person who ever lived or will live will recognize this truth. (See Phil. 2:9-11.)

Those of us who know Him and have committed our lives to Him will praise His great and awesome name. We will stand in His presence in reverent awe, rejoicing that we will spend eternity with Him.

But the millions who have denied His existence will stand before Him and experience His final judgment. They will know—for certain—that He is the one and only God. And then they will be separated from their Creator forever.

I don’t know about you, but this makes it all the more urgent to gently and lovingly share Christ. We need to be Christ’s light to a dark world. We need to love as Christ loves—with patience and kindness and gentleness.

We need to help those who say “there may be a god” or “there is no god” see that there is. There is a God … the one and only God. The God who loves them. The God who wants to spend eternity with them (2 Peter 3:9).

The one great God.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Lord Reigns (Ps. 99:1)

The LORD reigns, let the peoples tremble;
He is enthroned above the cherubim, let the earth shake!

(Psalm 99:1, NASB)

The Lord God reigns! He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving. He is just and holy and righteous. He is good and full of compassion.

We should tremble in His presence—perhaps not literally, but certainly figuratively. We should be so in awe of Him that our hearts shake with humility. Yet how often do we—do I—take Him for granted.

I’m especially convicted as I write these words this morning. On Monday, I had what I call a mini-retreat. It’s extended time I take every three or four months to just sit and commune with the Lord. And as I meditated on God’s word and prayed for a couple of hours, I recognized how often I treat my daily time with the Lord as just another task to complete.

Instead of anticipating this time with joy, humility, and gratitude, I rush through it, just to get it done. I’m certainly not trembling in awe.

The fact that I can come to the sovereign, reigning Lord and spend time with Him is amazing. The God of the universe wants to listen to my voice and speak to my heart. And He wants to do the same with you.

Oh, Lord, forgive me for taking You for granted, for not trembling in Your presence. Help me, Holy Spirit, to come to the foot of the throne without distractions—every day.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cease Striving (Ps. 46:10-11)

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

(Psalm 46:10-11, NASB)

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

I often speak about God’s plans for our lives, and I talk about how we can hear God’s voice. I use this verse as an important guideline. We must be still. We must cease striving to do things on our own. That’s how we begin to hear the voice of our Lord.

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

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

Monday, July 25, 2011

One Day ... (Ps. 46:8-9)

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

(Psalm 46:8-9, NASB)

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Vice-Grip (Ps. 46:6-7)

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

(Psalm 46:6-7, NASB)

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

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

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

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

And nothing can pull Him from us. Nothing.

Amen and amen.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

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

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

(Psalm 46:4-5, NASB)

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

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

This has been one of those “best of times, worst of times” weeks.

I started out Monday morning feeling great, full of energy. For three days, I volunteered at my church’s VBS, teaching a group of sweet second-graders. Monday evening, I demonstrated a Dove tasting party. Tuesday evening, I had a rehearsal for a play I’m in. So much fun!

Then Thursday morning, I awoke in much-more-than-usual pain. It became very clear that I’d overdone it. And I spent the last two days in bed. It would be easy to fret about this: How will I handle today’s Dove tasting party and all the other things I have to do this weekend? Well, here’s the deal: I won’t. God has carried me through times like this in the past, and “when morning dawns,” I have confidence He’ll help me again.

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

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Refuge and Strength (Ps. 46:1-3)

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

(Psalm 46:1-3, NASB)

For the next few days, we’re going to spend some time in one of my favorite psalms. And it starts with verses I’ve committed to memory, that have brought me comfort many, many times:
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear …
I love these words. So many times I need a refuge, and God is there. So many mornings, I wake up weak and aching, and God is my strength. Every moment of every day, He is my present help. My present help.

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

I don’t know about you, but these words bring me such peace, such hope. On days like today when, physically, I have absolutely no strength, when the pain is unrelenting, I know God will be my refuge and strength. He’ll be my shelter, my help.

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

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Lord, My Salvation (Ps. 3:5-8)

I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the LORD sustained me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me all around.
Arise, O LORD;
Save me, O my God!

Salvation belongs to the LORD.
Your blessing is upon Your people.

(Psalm 3:5-8, NKJV)

Not only is the Lord our shield, as we learned yesterday, but He’s also our salvation from enemies and circumstances—and sleepless nights.

I like the beginning of verse 5. I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I face uncertainty, one of the first things that goes is sleep. Tossing and turning. Worrying and fretting. In times like these, I’ve learned if I talk to God just before I go to sleep and then again when I wake, He will sustain me. He will give me the strength I need to get through each moment, each day.

These verses also remind me I don’t have to fear. I really, really don’t. He’s in control, and He’ll save me. I may—no, let’s be honest here—I will face trials. I will face temptations. I may even face an enemy full-on. But He’ll carry me through.

God’s word promises salvation from our enemies. But let’s not forget, it also promises eternal salvation. So even if today seems rough, even if there’s not even a glimmer of light at the end of that proverbial tunnel, we who know Jesus Christ can be assured that this temporary life will one day be not even a memory. We’ll be face-to-face with our Lord and Savior.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Lord, My Shield (Ps. 3:1-4)

LORD, how they have increased who trouble me!
Many are they who rise up against me.
Many are they who say of me,
“There is no help for him in God.”
But You, O LORD, are a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
I cried to the LORD with my voice,
And He heard me from His holy hill.

(Psalm 3:1-4, NKJV)

This psalm spoke to my soul this morning as my heart continues to hurt for many of my friends who are struggling: still unemployed (or underemployed); facing health issues; dealing with relationship problems. It has to be a little scary, even for those who have a strong faith in our loving, Sovereign God.

They’re facing troubles, and there are some who may very well say, “You have no help.” Moments may come when even those who trust the Lord may wonder when help will come.

The writer of this psalm certainly understood trouble from those “who rise up against” him. But he knew the One who held him. He knew he could cry out to his Lord, and he would be heard.

We can do the same. No matter our trouble, no matter our pain, no matter our distress, we can cry out to our Lord. We can have confidence that He is our shield. He is the one who lifts our heads.

Life isn’t easy. And we’ve never been promised it would be. But we do have a protector, a shield against the troubles this world—and its “prince”—may bring.

Cry out to Him. If you’re feeling troubled, unsure, weary, worried … Cry out to Him. He will listen. He will shield you.

Trust Him.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Greet Each Other in Christ (Phil. 4:21-22)

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

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

So many blessings.

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

I love it!

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

Monday, July 18, 2011

God Supplies All Our Needs (Phil. 4:17-20)

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

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

That’s about it.

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

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

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

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Serving Each Other (Phil. 4:14-16)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Learning Contentment (Phil. 4:10-13)

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 15, 2011

Meditate On These Things (Phil. 4:8-9)

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

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

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


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

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

And praise God for that!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Surpassing Peace (Phil. 4:6-7)

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

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

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

I seek peace. Contentment. Even joy.

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Lord Is at Hand (Phil. 4:5)

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lord is at hand. Thank You, Abba!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rejoice Always (Phil. 4:4)

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

And we can rejoice.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Women in the Church (Phil. 3:2-3)

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

We sometimes forget how women were involved in the start of the early church. Yes, in verse 2, Paul is encouraging unity between two women, but it's clear he saw the importance of women in the early church.

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Stand Fast (Phil. 4:1)

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

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

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

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

Stand fast, my friends. Stand fast.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Homesick ... (Phil. 3:20-21)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 08, 2011

Godly Examples (Phil. 3:17-19)

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

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

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

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

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

And if you’ve been walking with the Lord for a while now, be an example to those younger in their faith. Help them to avoid any pitfalls of following the world.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Growing More Mature (Phil. 3:15-16)

Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.
(Philippians 3:15-16, NKJV)

Just as we mature and grow physically, we mature and grow spiritually. And we require the same things: food to nourish; relationships to develop emotionally; study and learning to stimulate mentally.

If a child isn’t fed regularly and nutritionally, her growth is stunted. If she doesn’t have regular, positive interaction with others, she becomes socially inept. If she is never given the opportunity to read or learn, she stays childlike in her thinking.

The same is true for believers. We must be nourished by God’s word—studying it, meditating on it—every day. We must spend time with God in prayer and solitude, listening to His voice. We must also spend time with other believers to learn from them and fellowship with them. We must stimulate our minds by reading books that make us question, that strengthen our beliefs, that challenge us.

Some seem to think that being a Christian means praying a prayer and then just going merrily on our way. While accepting God’s gift of salvation is key to forgiveness and eternity with our Lord, it’s not the end. It’s the beginning. Let us not be content with where we are today. Rather, let us have a true desire to be more, grow more, develop more. So we can indeed be mature Christ-followers.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Pressing On (Phil. 3:12-13)

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:12-14, NKJV)

When I recommitted my life to the Lord [almost eighteen] years ago, I adopted Philippians 3:13-14 as my two of my life verses. Short story: Although I’d asked Jesus to come into my heart when I was six years old, I’d allowed some painful situations to take me away from my child-like faith. For twenty years, I walked a deliberate path, one that was far from my Lord, and I made some really poor choices.

For a time after I found my way back to the arms of the Father, I’d beat myself up with regret over those twenty lost years. If only I’d been stronger. If only I’d clung more tightly to Jesus. If only …

Then God blessed me with these verses. I don’t have to live in the past. I don’t have to continually berate myself for former choices. When I asked Jesus to take over my life—completely—and forgive me for all the things I’d done that were wrong and selfish and rebellious, He forgave me. He washed me clean. He removed my sin as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

I didn’t have to look at what had been. Rather, I could look forward to what God had planned for my future. I could anticipate being used for His glory, to serve others. I could delight in knowing that, one day, I’ll receive the prize of eternity with Christ Jesus.

These verses have been a comfort and have encouraged me countless times. And I praise God for the assurance I have that He has truly forgiven me. That He continues to work in and through me. That the story isn’t quite complete.

I can press on, knowing He’s beside me all the way.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

What Really Matters (Phil. 3:7-11)

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
(Philippians 3:7-11, NKJV)

How often do we put our trust in things? Or circumstances? Or people? How often do we think, if I only had this job? Or if I were married to so and so? Or if I lived there?

Then life would be perfect.

But that’s a lie. Things are temporary. Circumstances come and go. What we think is so important today means nothing tomorrow. Nothing has real meaning in this world. Nothing except our faith, that is. What the world sees as “gain” is “rubbish.” It’s trash. It belongs in a landfill.

So we can and should hold things loosely. We should gladly give up everything for Lord and Savior. We should be willing to lose what the world so highly cherishes, being assured that if we do, we will attain what lasts: eternity with Christ.

Nothing else matters.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Life Forever Changed (Phil. 3:3-6)

For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
(Philippians 3:3-6, NKJV)

Saul was the most religious of the religious. Before meeting Jesus on the Damascus road, he was a letter-perfect Pharisee. He traced his family tree back to Benjamin, the son of Jacob. He followed the law with precision. He was, in the eyes of man, “blameless.”

How often do we rely on our “pedigree” to save us? Even today, with Christianity so reviled in the press, polls are taken in which a very high percentage of respondents claim to be Christians.

I went to church as a kid, they say. I was raised in a Christian home, they say. I’m an American, so I’m a Christian, they say. (Although the latter seems to be said less and less these days …) I follow the Ten Commandments, so I’m good, they say.

Saul—the one we now know as Paul—thought he had everything under control. He thought he knew it all. Then he met Jesus Christ, God the Son. And he recognized that nothing he was, nothing he’d done, brought salvation. He met the true Messiah, the Savior, the Redeemer.

And his life changed forever.

It’s not our heritage that brings salvation. It’s not our hard work. It’s not who we know or where we come from. No. It’s a meeting with God. It’s the realization that we cannot do anything to receive the blessing of forgiveness and eternal life with God—Father, Son, and Spirit.

Have you met Jesus? If not, you can meet Him today. Just admit you’re incapable on your own and ask Jesus to forgive you and to take over your life. Then get a Bible and read the book of John. Find a church that teaches truth from the word of God.

And your life will be changed forever.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 3:1)

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.
(Philippians 3:1, NKJV)

It all comes down to this: Rejoice in the Lord. Through good times and bad times. On mountaintops and in valleys. At the wedding altar and at the graveside. When the doctor says “you’re cured” and when the words are “I’m so sorry.”

Rejoice in the Lord.

It’s not always easy. I admit there are many, many times I fail in this. When I don’t feel well. When the future looks so uncertain. When a friend turns from me. How do I rejoice in these times?

I just do. It’s a deliberate decision to find joy in all circumstances. A choice. I can choose to wallow and whine, or I can choose to give praise and glory to my Lord. And the latter is certainly better than the former.

Rejoice in the Lord. Remember His abundant love. Revel in His overwhelming blessings. Reach out your hand to Him and thank Him for being your Lord and Savior.

And rejoice.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Fellow Workers and Soldiers (Phil. 2:25-30)

Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need … Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.
(Philippians 2:25-30, NKJV)

I’m taking a bit of license with today’s devotional, but I feel led to share some thoughts …

God has called some men and women to be His spokespeople. People like Billy Graham or Beth Moore have been placed on platforms throughout the world to proclaim God’s truth. The pastors of our churches likewise have a great responsibility to spread the gospel.

Yet sometimes, rather than “holding them in esteem,” we criticize. We judge. We disparage. Or at the very least, we take them for granted. This isn’t to say we should look at them as if they were Christian “pop stars.” They’re being used of God as He sees fit, but our roles in the body of Christ are no less important.

However, I wonder sometimes if we “receive with all gladness” those who are God’s messengers. Do we offer words of encouragement to our pastors and church leaders? Do we thank our small group or Bible study leaders for the preparation they do for our studies? Do we show gratitude to our children’s Sunday School teachers?

While we’re all called to serve—and are gifted to do so—some of our body are in positions of leadership or are more visible than others. Let’s esteem those brothers and sisters. Let’s encourage them. Let’s thank them for their service.