Monday, October 31, 2011

Chosen by God (1 Thess. 2:13-14)

But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, NASB)

God is omniscient. He knows all. He is omnipresent, everywhere at once. He always has been and will always be. And since He is without time as we know it, He knows every decision we’ll ever make—including our decision to follow Him.

And so verses like today’s where we’re told He “has chosen you from the beginning” make complete sense to me. Some people say this contradicts the idea of free will, but it doesn’t really. God knows who His followers will be, so He has chosen us for salvation from our sins and ongoing sanctification.

It’s such a joy knowing that I’ve been in God’s heart and mind always. He knows me intimately, and He loves me deeply. I am His chosen daughter, and I am blessed.

So very blessed.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

End Times (2 Thess. 2:5-12)

Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.
(2 Thessalonians 2:5-12, NASB)

The Bible holds so much mystery, so much we just can’t understand in our humanity. I really don’t understand fully what will happen in the end times. I don’t fully understand why God will allow the Antichrist to take control of the world or why so many will be deluded by him.

All I do know is that Christ will rapture His church. The Antichrist—controlled by Satan—will rule the world and deceive millions. Then Christ will return to set up His kingdom and His enemies will be thrown into the lake of fire—forever.

And I know the only way to be assured of eternity with God—Father, Son, and Spirit—is to accept the gift of salvation through belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And then to follow, serve, and love the Lord your God—heart, soul, mind, and strength.

That’s the only thing I understand. Really understand.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Apostasy (2 Thess. 2:3-4)

Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.
(2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, NASB)

Paul now talks about something he calls “the apostasy,” during which the “man of lawlessness” will be revealed. From my studies of end times, I understand this man will be the Antichrist, a human being who will be controlled by Satan himself.

What is this apostasy? According to one of my study Bibles:
Paul is referring to the very act of ultimate apostasy which reveals the final Antichrist and sets the course for the events that usher in the Day of the Lord. Apparently, he will be seen as supportive of religion so that God and Christ will not appear as his enemies until the apostasy. He exalts himself and opposes God by moving into the temple, the place for worship of God, declaring himself to be God and demanding the worship of the world. In this act of Satanic self-deification, he commits the great apostasy in defiance of God. (The MacArthur Study Bible, © 1997, Word Publishing)
I’m a pre-trib believer, and I believe this person will appear prior to the Rapture, but he won’t come to power until Christ removes His followers before the Great Tribulation.

But whether you’re pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib, the important thing to remember is that Christ will return. He will take His followers away from earth. The Great Tribulation will occur. And one day, Christ will return in full and complete triumph to set up the new heaven and the new earth.

Are you ready?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Be Ready (2 Thess. 2:1-2)

Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
(2 Thessalonians 2:1-2, NASB)

Since the day Jesus ascended to the heavens, people of have been predicting His return. They give specific dates, and then when those dates pass without Jesus’ coming, many just change the date again.

Jesus was very clear: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is” (Mark 13:32-33).

Only the Father knows. And He’s always known. Yes, the Bible does give some hints, and we’ll look at a few of those in the next few days. But Christ could return today—or one hundred years from now.

So what should we do? We should do as my grandma used to say: Plan as though Christ won’t return in your lifetime; live as though He will return in the next moment.

Meditate on God’s word. Pray without ceasing. Serve Him and others. Focus on the fruit of the Spirit. Seek His will for as long as you’re on earth.

And be ready—for He will return.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

You Are Worthy! (2 Thess. 1:11-12)

To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, NASB)

I love to talk about God’s faithfulness and grace. I love to remind believers that they are sons and daughters of the Most High King of kings.

And because of His grace and mercy, even though we are not worthy, God sees worth in us.

When we do what He’s called us to do, when we work to do His will, He looks upon each of us with fatherly pride. And I believe He longs to say, “Well done, My child,” even more than we long to hear it.

Doesn’t that just amaze you? That He sees you as His beloved child? That He, who deserves all glory, is glorified in you?

I think we forget just how truly amazing it is. The God of the universe, the One who put the stars in place, the One who created all things … This same God knows you by name. He has a plan for you that is unique (Jer. 29:11). He has given you gifts and talents that (usually) you enjoy using, but more importantly, that He uses to grow His kingdom and serve others.

I often say, God doesn’t need us. Not at all. In fact, I think He’d probably do a lot better without us. But that’s not how He works. He’s not a far-off, impersonal god. He’s personal, and He wants to work with us to complete His plan.

And, in His eyes, we are worthy enough to accomplish exactly what He’s designed.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Our Lost Loves (2 Thess. 1:9-10)

These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.
(2 Thessalonians 1:9-10, NASB)

Each of us who follow Jesus Christ has someone very special in her life who doesn’t yet know the Lord. In my case, the most important is my husband. And when I read verses like this, my heart breaks for him.

For you, it may also be a spouse. Or a child. Or a parent. Or a sibling. Or a best friend. If our special people continue to refuse to give their lives to the Lord, they “will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”


I’m sure you, as I do, sometimes get discouraged. When will they find the truth, we ask ourselves. We pray every for them every day. We keep the lines of communication open.

And we cling to verses like 2 Peter 3:9, reminding ourselves that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” Or like Matthew 18:14, “Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” Or even Ezekiel 33:11: “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.’” (All verses are from NKJV.)

And above all, we can be assured that God loves our loved ones more than we ever could.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Oh, Glorious Day! (2 Thess. 1:6-8)

For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
(2 Thessalonians 1:6-8, NASB)

One of my favorite groups is Casting Crowns, and a new favorite is their rendition of “Glorious Day.” I remember singing the original hymn growing up, and the words haven’t lost their impact.

In the original version, five stanzas take us from Jesus’ coming to earth as a baby to His ascent up Calvary to His burial to His resurrection to His second coming. The chorus sums it up:
Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me;
Buried, He carried my sins far away;
Rising, He justified freely forever:
One day He's coming—O glorious day!
My favorite stanza is the final one:
One day the trumpet will sound for His coming,
One day the skies with His glory will shine;
Wonderful day, my beloved ones bringing;
Glorious Savior, this Jesus is mine!
I really can’t wait!

There’s a difference between the Casting Crown version and the original in this final stanza. Casting Crown’s version says, “Wonderful day, my Beloved One bringing …” (At least the lyrics I found on line have it written that way.) I kind of like the original. One day, Jesus is going to bring all those who followed Him together. My beloved ones will be there. My friends and family who chose to follow Him. Yes, what a glorious day it will be!

But with all the anticipation of that glorious day, that day when we will receive relief from our afflictions, we need to remember how critical it is to share God’s truth with our friends and family who haven’t chosen Him yet. Because on that same day, Jesus will “dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”

Those of us who know Him need to do all we can do to make that a glorious day for everyone!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Worthy of the Kingdom (2 Thess. 1:5)

This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.
(2 Thessalonians 1:5, NASB)

Sometimes I feel so very unworthy of God’s grace. Although I know God truly has used even my most grievous mistakes for good, I still sometimes wish I’d made different choices.

And it would be enough that God saved me, that He welcomed me back in spite of the years of heartache I caused Him. But somehow He sees worth in me. He chooses to use me to help grow His kingdom. He allows me to impact lives.

So how can I complain about suffering? Suffering is part of this fallen world. And though I don’t look at my daily pain as punishment for choices I made, I shouldn’t be surprised by it. Pain and suffering are everywhere. I am not immune.

But if I can look at my pain as part of God’s plan for me, knowing that it keeps me more focused on Him and that others are encouraged when they see my faith through pain, then I can accept it and trust God through it.

I believe God has a purpose for all things. I believe He will work all things for good.

Even my pain.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What Would Paul Say? (2 Thess. 1:1-4)

Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.
(2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, NASB)

Today, we begin a journey through Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica. As was his habit, he begins by greeting the church and praying for God’s grace and peace to cover them. Then he gives specific thanks for their “enlarged” faith and love for one another.

Finally, he, just like a proud father, commends them for their withstanding “persecutions and affliction” with great faith and endurance.

Often when I read one of Paul’s letters, I ask myself, “If Paul were to write to me, would he say the same things about my faith?”

I certainly hope so.

My faith has grown over the years, and I do try to love my brothers and sisters more. And I do endure my daily afflictions. But I know I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without the grace I receive from my Lord and Savior.

As you meditate on today’s verses, ask yourself the same question: What would Paul write to you?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Bless the Lord (Ps. 103:20-22)

Bless the LORD, you His angels,
Who excel in strength, who do His word,
Heeding the voice of His word.
Bless the LORD, all you His hosts,
You ministers of His, who do His pleasure.
Bless the LORD, all His works,
In all places of His dominion.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!

(Psalm 103:20-22, NKJV)

Today’s verses offer praise to the only One who really deserves it. The psalmist calls to the angels and to God’s ministers to bless the Lord.

And he calls to us to do the same.

To bless means “to hallow or consecrate by religious rite or word.” We use that same word “hallow” when we recite what we call the Lord’s Prayer—at least that’s the word we use if we memorized it in the King James Version. Hallow means “to make holy or set apart for holy use” or “to respect greatly.”

Our God is holy. He is worthy of our utmost respect and honor.

To bless also means giving praise. And that’s what we are privileged to do. Praising the Lord. When we awake in the morning. When we go through our day. When we lie down at night. We should praise Him and bless His holy name.

Psalm 34:1 reminds us of how we should bless the Lord: “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

Continually. Constantly. At all times. I fail so often with this. He truly deserves all my honor, all my worship, all my praise.

Lord God, forgive me when I neglect to bless Your name. Forgive me when I neglect to praise You continually. For You alone deserve all the glory. May all praise, honor, glory, and blessing be Yours. Amen.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

God's Eternal Kingdom (Ps. 103:19)

The LORD has established His throne in heaven,
And His kingdom rules over all.

(Psalm 103:19, NKJV)

I have never been more ready for Christ’s return. I am so very tired of living in this perverted, corrupt world. Immorality. Greed. Selfishness. Utter disregard for truth.

More often than I can say, I’ve figuratively thrown my hands up and cried, “Lord Jesus, come quickly.” And the only thing I find hope in is knowing that one day, my God will fully reign.

I truly don’t understand the mind of God. And that’s as it should be. But I wonder how He can stand it. If I get so sick of this world, I can only imagine how He must feel. And yet He waits. With infinite patience. And love.

The only reason He waits is because He wants everyone to come to Him. He wants everyone to hear about Him. And accept His gift of salvation. Peter wrote, “Dear friends, don't forget that for the Lord one day is the same as a thousand years, and a thousand years is the same as one day. The Lord isn't slow about keeping his promises, as some people think he is. In fact, God is patient, because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost” (2 Peter 3:8-9, CEV).

One day, when He knows it’s time, He’ll return and set up His eternal kingdom. And “… He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and 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. 21:3b-4, NASB).

My only hope … and again I pray, Lord Jesus, come quickly.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Our Covenant God (Ps. 103:17-18)

But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,
To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember His commandments to do them.

(Psalm 103:17-18, NKJV)

Our God is a covenant God. This may not seem like much, but that’s only if you don’t really understand covenant. Covenant by definition comes “From the Hebrew berith, it is translated ‘will,’ ‘covenant,’ and ‘testament,’ and comes from the word translated ‘to cut’” ( Further definition includes: “A covenant in the strict biblical sense is not a joint obligation but rather a commitment one makes to another. A covenant is a relationship wherein the party making the covenant binds himself to fulfill certain conditions” (

So why is this important for us as believers? Because God, the God of the universe, chose to be in relationship with us. He chose to commit to us whether or not commit to Him. That is so significant.

God made covenant with Abraham, Noah, Moses … and with us. Covenant from the Old Testament was a promise of salvation and redemption. Abraham would be the father of an entire people—the chosen people of God. Noah and his family were the only people saved when God covered the earth with a flood. And God covenanted with Noah to never destroy the world in the same way. Moses led God’s chosen people to the land promised to them.

We, however, are blessed with an even greater covenant: We are redeemed through the shedding of Jesus Christ’s blood. God “cut covenant” with us through that blood, and we are saved. We are in relationship with Him.

It’s not about us and what we can do. It’s about Him and what He has already done.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Leaving a Legacy (Ps. 103:15-16)

As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.

(Psalm 103:15-16, NKJV)

I don’t mean to be morbid, but we’re all going to die. And in a couple of generations, no one is going to remember us—or our stuff. Nothing we own now will matter. The jobs we hold. The hobbies we love. The vacations we take.

It’s just not going to matter. Indeed, “the wind passes over it, and it is gone …”

I’m blessed to have strong memories of all four of my grandparents. I even have some memories of my great-grandmother (my maternal grandmother’s mother). But further back than that? I couldn’t even tell you their names.

So if no one is going to remember us in a generation or two, is there anything we can do to leave some kind of legacy? Yes, but perhaps not the legacy about which you’re thinking.

The only legacy we can leave is sharing the truth of the gospel. Every time you talk about your faith, you plant a seed. You may also have the privilege of watering those seeds—and maybe even reaping. But much of the time, you may never see the reaping.

Even if you don’t reap all the seeds you sow, you can be confident you’re leaving a legacy that "neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal" (Matt. 6:20).

And for every seed you sow, you’ll probably never know how many other seeds will be scattered.

You can leave a legacy. You can have an eternal impact. And maybe no one will know your name in one hundred years, but your influence will be felt for generations.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Our Loving Father (Ps. 103:13-14)

As a father pities his children,
So the LORD pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.

(Psalm 103:13-14, NKJV)

Like many of you, my definition of “father” was a bit skewed. My own left our family when I was seven, and I honestly don’t have many memories of him from my childhood. The best definition I had was “distant.”

Because of that, knowing I had a heavenly Father didn’t mean much to me. Now, however, it means the world. I love knowing I have an Abba Father who loves me more than I can imagine.

One on whose lap I can figuratively crawl onto for comfort. One who gives me strength when I have none of my own.

One who knows every hair on my head, who knew me before I was born (Ps. 139:13-16).

It doesn’t matter what your earthly father was like. Whether he was a constant presence or nonexistent. Whether he cheered you on or belittled you. Whether he watched over you or abused you.

Your heavenly Father, the Lord God, loves you with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3). He will never leave your side (Heb. 13:5).

He loves you so much He was willing to send part of Himself to die for you (John 3:16).

So if you’re needing your Abba, He’s there. Crawl up on His lap. His arms are ready to hold you tightly.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Great Is His Mercy (Ps. 103:11-12)

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

(Psalm 103:11-12, NKJV)

I love these verses. They offer so much to encourage my heart.

My God is merciful beyond my comprehension. We’ve been studying the book of Jonah in my church’s weekly Bible study, and the author of the study talks about how we can look at life’s interruptions as God’s interventions. Each of us in our small group has been telling our story, and I’m preparing to tell mine this week.

I’ve been privileged to tell my story many, many times, but I haven’t looked at my life as a series of interruptions … or rather, God’s interventions. It was an interesting exercise to look at my life this way.

What I saw—yet again—is how very merciful God has been throughout my life. How forgiving He is. I’ve experienced some really bad things: abuse, infertility, chronic pain. I’ve made some really bad choices, the worst being turning from God for two decades. These have certainly interrupted my life. But I know, beyond doubt, that everything has had a purpose. Everything has been used by God to grow and refine me.

I’ve also experienced some good “interruptions.” Starting a speaking ministry wasn’t in my plan, and I certainly didn’t feel I deserved to be used in that way. But God, in His mercy, gave me this privilege. I also never expected to be back in theater, but God brought me to a faith-based theater, working with young people … It’s been amazing.

God is merciful. As high as the heavens. And when we accept His gift of salvation, He no longer sees our sin. No. He removes them far from us—and—in His mercy—sees us as righteous.

Thank You, Lord God, for Your unfathomable mercy. Thank You for taking my broken, sinful self and making something beautiful. Thank You for removing my sin. Your mercy, grace, and love humble me. Thank You. Amen.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Our Merciful and Gracious God (Ps. 103:8-10)

The LORD is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.

(Psalm 103:8-10, NKJV)

God is holy and righteous. He is perfect. He is all-good. He created the heavens and the earth, and they too were perfect. Even the first man and woman were created without sin.

But where there is capacity for good, there is capacity for evil. And when Satan, who himself had fallen from perfection, tempted Adam and Eve, man chose evil. Sin entered the created world.

And God cannot abide sin. When man rebels against the goodness of God, he chooses a life apart from his Creator. And God has every right to judge and to punish.

Yet, because He is merciful and gracious, He offers salvation. He gives each and every one of us the opportunity to repent of our sins and come back to Him, to choose to follow Him. And when we do, He forgives us and offers us grace. He does not “punish us according to our iniquities.”

Praise God that He is “slow to anger.” Because if He weren’t so patient with us—so loving, so gracious, so merciful—each of us would receive what we deserve: judgment. Instead, each of us can receive salvation. Each of us can be in relationship with our loving, merciful, gracious God.

Friday, October 14, 2011

God Speaks to Us (Psalm 103:6-7)

The LORD executes righteousness
And justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the children of Israel.

(Psalm 103:6-7, NKJV)

During my Bible study on Tuesday, one of the ladies asked about modern-day prophets, those who say they prophesy specifically. Things like, “So and so will be in an accident on October 30.”

That led to a interesting discussion about why God used prophets. The consensus was that God used prophets in the Old Testament to speak to His people. He communicated directly to men He chose to be His voice.

God “made known His ways” through men like Moses, Isaiah, and Micah.

But how does God reveal His ways today? Through His word, the written, inspired account of His-story. We are so blessed to have something His people never had. We can read about how He’s worked. We can learn of fulfilled prophecy.

And even better? We have the Holy Spirit living in us. He is there to speak the words of the Father to each of us. We don’t need to have someone tell us what God is saying.

Yet another benefit to knowing and being in relationship with God!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Abundantly Blessed (Ps. 103:1-5)

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

(Psalm 103:1-5, NKJV)

It would be quite enough if the only “benefit” we received from knowing God was the forgiveness of sins. If after we accepted the gift of salvation, He just took us to heaven.

But He—gracious and loving God that He is—chooses us to bless us abundantly here on earth.

He heals our diseases. Some might say, “Wait a minute. I’m not healed.” I don’t think healing always comes with the alleviation of the ailment—physical healing. In my case, healing is emotional and spiritual. Yes, I live in constant pain, but it’s through pain that my heart and soul are healed. What I mean is that my pain keeps me in contact with Christ—all the time. I sincerely believe that my pain has drawn me closer to Him, and I know I can’t handle life without Him.

He redeems our lives from destruction. Those of us who know Christ are often supernaturally protected. This doesn’t mean no Christians ever face disaster. Christians die in earthquakes and tsunamis just as non-Christians do. But if we do lose our earthly life, we gain so much more—being in the presence of our Lord and Savior!

He crowns us with lovingkindness and tender mercies. This one is so very true for me. He is so merciful to me. He covers me with His love and tenderness. When I just don’t think I can take another step, He’s there to pick me up. When even the simplest movement causes pain, He wraps His arms around me.

He satisfies our mouths with good things … and it’s not just food. Yes, most of us who live in the United States are blessed with plenty of food. Really good food. But we Christians are blessed with His word, and we can feast on it. We are renewed by it. We are encouraged by it. We are affirmed—and often convicted—by it. It is the very bread that sustains us.

Oh, yes! We are so very, very blessed. So how can we help but joining with the psalmist:

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:25-28)

Brethren, pray for us. Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:25-28, NASB)

Grace. It’s the greatest gift we receive from our Lord God. Unmerited favor. Receiving something amazing even though we don’t deserve it—at all.

I feel so tremendously blessed that God’s grace covers all my sin—past, present, and future.

His grace covered me when I deliberately turned my back on Him, when I went my own way over and over again.

It covers me now when I falter. And I do falter because no matter how I strive to live as Jesus would want, I still sin.

As much as I’d like to think I won’t sin in the future, I know that probably ain’t gonna happen … (Forgive my poor grammar, but it just seems to fit!)

Yet, God’s grace covers it all. It’s a gift I don’t take lightly. I do my very, very best to honor His gift by surrendering my life to Him daily. By doing what He’s called me to do. By serving Him and others. By offering grace to others.

It’s the least I can do.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Our Faithful God (1 Thess. 5:24)

Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.
(1 Thessalonians 5:24, NASB)

God is faithful. Ultimately faithful. Always faithful.

I know this because He’s been ultimately and always faithful in my life. Even through decades of my rebellion, He has always been faithful.

I look back over my forty-plus years on this earth, and I see tangible, very real evidence of God’s faithfulness. When I was a young teen and young adult, I made many choices that put me in sometimes precarious situations. Too many times, I should have been harmed—or worse—and yet I was kept safe.

I believe with all I am that when I gave my heart to the Lord as a six year old, He walked with me even when I rejected Him. And He faithfully protected me through all the valleys.

And since I’ve seen evidence of His faithfulness in the past, I know He’ll faithfully guide me in the future. I know that whatever He calls me to do, He’ll work with and through me to “bring to pass.”

I’ve been able to trust Him in the past. And I can trust Him in the future.

And so can you.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Giver of Peace (1 Thess. 5:23)

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Thessalonians 5:23, NASB)

The God of peace … I wrote about peace in my book, The Best Laid Plans:

Peace . . . what a wonderful word. Peace . . . what a wonderful feeling. As you’re reading these words, do you feel peace? Or are you reading this at the end of a stressful day? Perhaps you’re going through some crisis—you’re struggling with your health, with your finances, with your relationships. You feel nothing even close to peace.

Maybe you’ve bought into what the world defines as peace: having the stuff, having the home, having the hot-shot career. Maybe you’ve married that person you thought would bring you peace, but now you’d just like him to leave you in peace. You’ve done it all. You’ve tried it all. And yet, as you read these words, your heart is tight with tension.

So, now what? I know what you’re thinking: If this life I’m living is a plan of peace, somebody read the wrong dictionary. This is not peace …

What I’ve discovered is that I don’t have peace—never had, never will—when I’m trying to take control of my life. Now, it’s easy to say I’ve given up my will, my plans, to God, but there are many times when I just take a little piece back, or times when I try to do things according to my timeline, not God’s. And those are the times when I face crises, when I struggle with circumstances, when I don’t feel peace.

Be honest right now, right this minute. No one else is listening—well, no one but God. Think of your plans, your dreams, your goals. What are you holding onto? What are you certain you can do better, more efficiently, sooner, than God can? …

You feel the uncertainty in your heart, but you move forward anyway. Could it be, just maybe, that your uncertain heart is God’s voice telling you “no” or “wait”? Could it be that the lack of peace you feel is because you’re not following God’s plan? …

I promise you this: If you’re truly willing to give your life, your plans, your dreams to God, He will keep His promise. You will have peace. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but if you trust Him, you will have peace.

Don’t believe me? Will you believe God? There are quite a few references to peace in the Bible. Let me share one of my favorites. Read these words, hear them with your heart, and listen to what God has promised you:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 6,7 emphasis mine)
Do you know what this verse says to me? When I’m focusing on God, when I’m asking in His name, when I’m praying for His will, I can be assured of two things: I need not be anxious for anything, and I will have peace—a peace that surpasses anything I could experience without God in my life, a peace that surpasses anything that I could get from my earthly relationships, from my job, from my church, from my family . . . from anything else.

Isn’t that what you’re looking for? A peace that surpasses anything you’ve ever experienced? Ask Him. Ask Him now. Give your plans, your timelines, your dreams to Him. Trust Him to bring about that perfect will in your life. Then, and only then, will you have that peace. You will have that peace. I promise. More importantly, He promises.

(Excerpted from The Best Laid Plans © 2005 Sauni Rinehart)

Sunday, October 09, 2011

What Would Jesus Do? (1 Thess. 5:19-22)

Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.
(1 Thessalonians 5:19-22, NASB)

I’ve heard sin defined as “missing the mark” or “falling short.” I’ve also heard it defined as anything that takes our focus off of God.

This world is full of things to entice us. And when we neglect to “hold fast to that which is good”—those things of God—we can easily get sucked into sin. God desires our hearts to dwell on things that are pleasing to Him. Paul wrote, “… 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. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:8-9, NASB).

Practice these things.

A while ago, WWJD was a big thing. What would Jesus do? While it became almost a joke, in and outside of the Christian community, it’s still a valid question. Are we really focusing on what Jesus would do in every situation? Do we ask ourselves if God would be pleased with our thoughts or actions?

If we really sought God’s will in all things and “examine[d] everything carefully,” we might live very differently than we do.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Rejoice. Pray. Give Thanks (1 Thess. 5:16-18)

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NASB)

Many Christians have memorized these verses and recite them regularly. However, have they stopped and really thought about what Paul is exhorting us to do?

Rejoice always. Always. It’s easy to rejoice when things are going well. But what about during dark times? A broken marriage. A terminal illness. A wayward child. Can we really rejoice? I mean, really, sincerely rejoice?

It’s certainly not easy. And I don’t think Paul meant we’re supposed to rejoice in the circumstances; rather, we’re to rejoice in spite of them. The rejoicing comes from knowing God is working His plan even through the pain, trials, or suffering (see Jer. 29:11 and Rom. 8:28). I live with chronic pain. Not a moment goes by when I don’t feel some kind of pain, and sometimes the pain is severe. I’m in that kind of season right now. I don’t rejoice in the pain; in fact, if I had my way, the pain would go away completely. But I know God will carry me through this season just as He has in the past. And I know He has a purpose for my pain, and I can rejoice knowing He’ll use it for His glory.

Pray without ceasing. I don’t think Paul meant we’re supposed to be on our knees every moment of every day. It’s not practical when we’re also called to work as unto the Lord and care for others. I think pray without ceasing is a mind-set. It’s keeping our Lord God first and foremost at all times. So when something happens—good or bad—our very first thought is to go to the Lord. Talk with Him. Listen to Him.

In everything give thanks. This ties the other two together, I think. If we’re rejoicing in all things and if we’re focusing on God, we’ll be thankful for everything. We’ll be thankful for His blessings—and we’ll tell Him so. We’ll be thankful for the hard times, knowing He’s using them to refine us and for His glory—and we’ll tell Him so.

It comes down to this: If we believe God is sovereign and that He has a loving plan for our lives, we’ll trust Him at all times. We’ll keep our eyes and hearts focused on Him, and we’ll rejoice and be grateful for all He does in and through us.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Heaven on Earth (1 Thess. 5:13b-15)

Live in peace with one another. We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.
(1 Thessalonians 5:13b-15, NASB)

If only … if only we all lived at peace with one another. If we encouraged each other. If we helped those weaker than we are.

If only …

If only we were patient with everyone. If we all sought after the good for everyone.

If only …

Think of what this world would be like.

But because of sin, our world is full of hate. War. Greed. Anger. Immorality. Selfishness. And it’s not going to get better until Christ’s return.

Then and only then will we experience peace—true peace. Until then, we who follow Christ need to strive to be peaceful and encouraging. We need to serve those less fortunate than we are. We need to be patient.

And maybe we’ll influence those around us … so our little corner of the world will be as heaven-on-earth as possible.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Appreciate Those Who Instruct (1 Thess. 5:12-13a)

But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work.
(1 Thessalonians 5:12-13a, NASB)

Being a pastor is often a thankless job. Most men and women who have been called to teach or preach God’s word on a regular basis work very hard—harder than we who sit in pews each week know.

They study God’s word diligently. They research. They write sermons. They practice and practice in order to seamlessly share the words God has given them.

They visit the housebound or those in hospitals. They counsel. They attend committee meetings. They supervise staff.

Oh, and they usually strive to maintain strong marriages and to raise their children to know and follow God.

And the same is true of those who teach Sunday school, or lead our youth or our children. Or those who are called to speak at events.

Yet how often do we who are the recipients of their dedicated work thank them? I know I usually just take the efforts of my pastor for granted. I do the same for the teaching leader of my women’s Bible study. I do pray for those in Christian leadership regularly. But a personal “thanks for what you do”?

Now I believe that most of preachers and teachers aren't looking for accolades—not at all. They’re doing what God has called them to do. But a “thank you” or “God spoke to me through you” goes a long way.

I think I’m going to send a message of encouragement to these servants of God. Why don’t you do the same for those who “labor among you” and “give you instruction”?

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Our God of Love (1 Thess. 5:9-11)

For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
(1 Thessalonians 5:9-11, NASB)

Many have argued that the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath while the God of the New Testament is a God of love.

But really? The God of the Bible is both love and justice. Throughout the Bible, God shows justice to those who fail to follow His commandments; He is holy, so He cannot abide with sin. And He rightfully punishes that sin. But also throughout the Bible, God shows love and compassion for those who follow Him. Seriously, read the book of Judges to see how God loves and forgives His people when they turn from Him … continually.

And the prophets remind us over and over again of how God will lovingly embrace those who repent and turn back to Him. Jeremiah wrote, “For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them up and not overthrow them, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart” (Jer. 24:6-7).

Isaiah prophesied about the coming Messiah who would be our once-for-always sacrifice and salvation from sin. And that prophecy came to fruition in the New Testament. The loving and just God who embraced His repentant people throughout the Old Testament lovingly embraces us now.

Indeed, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). And we will live forever with Him.

So, be encouraged.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Light Through the Darkness (1 Thess. 5:4-8)

But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.
(1 Thessalonians 5:4-8, NASB)

As children, many of us were afraid of the dark. Perhaps some of us still are. Darkness can be oppressive. Overwhelming. Sometimes terrifying.

We live in a very dark world. It too can be oppressive. Overwhelming. Sometimes terrifying.

But we who know Christ don’t have to be afraid of the dark because the One whom we follow is light, “and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). He illuminates the darkest path. He shines through the darkest night. He holds our hands and leads us when we can’t see the way ourselves.

When this world’s darkness seems to be crowding out the light of truth, be assured: The light of Christ will never dim. It will continue to shine brightly through those who have committed their lives to serving Him. It will burn through the darkness by those who are willing to give their lives for Him.

And one day, His light will be all we need: In the new Jerusalem, “And the city did not need the sun or the moon. The glory of God was shining on it, and the Lamb was its light” (Rev. 21:23, CEV).

Monday, October 03, 2011

Be On Alert for Christ's Return (1 Thess. 5:1-3)

Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.
(1 Thessalonians 5:1-3, NASB)

No one knows when Christ will return—except for the Father Himself. Yet we really don’t need to know.

Instead, we need to be prepared at all times for He will return “just like a thief in the night.” A burglar doesn’t announce when he’s going to rob you. Neither will our Lord announce His return.

But Paul uses another analogy: He’s going to come “suddenly like labor pains upon a woman …” While a woman may not know exactly when her labor will start, she usually has a hint or two. Braxton Hicks pains. Nesting instincts. And so we have some indication of Christ’s imminent return.

Jesus said
“See to it that no one misleads you. Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. or nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.” (Mark 13:5-8)
Although we cannot know the day and time, it feels very much like we’re experiencing those labor pains, so we need to, as my grandfather used to say, live as though Jesus is returning today and plan as though He won’t return in our lifetimes.

Or as Jesus said,
“But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!” (Mark 13:32-37)
Because He will return. And I say, “Lord Jesus, come quickly.”

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Grieving with Hope (1 Thess. 4:13-18)

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, NASB)

Ahhh … some of the more comforting verses in God’s word to us.

Most of us, if not all, have lost a loved one to death—earthly death. And we grieve for them, just as we should. We grieve because they’re not with us any longer.

But we who follow Christ know that earthly death isn’t the end. One day—in the not so distant future, I pray—Christ will return to gather those who have accepted the gift of salvation to Himself.

The glorified bodies of those who have died will rise to meet their Savior followed by those who still live at Christ’s coming.

And all of us will join together, “so we shall always be with the Lord.” Always and forever.

That’s where our comfort comes from. We know we will see our Christian loved ones again.

But there’s also a caution in these verses. Do any of those we dearly love not yet know the Lord? We need to diligently and consistently share His truth with them. We need to do everything we can to help them understand the gift of salvation. So they too can join in the celebration when Christ returns.

Amen and amen.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

A Simple Lives (1 Thess. 4:10b-12)

But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.
(1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12, NASB)

These verses give us some very good advice.

Think about it: If we all led quiet lives, attending to our own business, we wouldn’t get all caught up with what others are doing. We wouldn’t worry about those things about which we have no control. We wouldn’t covet what our neighbors have.

A simple life … That’s what I’m striving for. Decluttered. Quieter.

Paul goes on. We’re to work with our hands, making a living so we can take care of others and so we ourselves won’t be in any need. It’s a tough time, and employment is hard to find. I know this personally. But there is work, if one looks for it. And even if a person isn’t able to find the kind of work she’s used to, she can cut back on extras and still take care of her needs.

When I left full-time work twenty months ago, my husband and I made a decision to cut back on eating out and other unnecessary wants. Even though I work part time at three jobs, we aren’t enjoying the same income we used to. We continue to live more simply.

And frankly, we’re happier and more content than we’ve ever been.