Wednesday, November 30, 2011

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

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

(Psalm 42:2-3, CEV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thirsting for God (Ps. 42:1)

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

(Psalm 42:1, CEV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 28, 2011

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

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

(Psalm 84:11-12, NKJV)

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

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

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

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

He is glorious, magnificent in all He is.

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

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

Saturday, November 26, 2011

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

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

(Psalm 84:10, NKJV)

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

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

Oh my word.

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

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

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

And there’s no place I’d rather be.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Love of God (Ps. 84:9)

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

(Psalm 84:9, NKJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

(Psalm 92:1-2, NKJV)

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

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

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

(Psalm 84:8, NKJV)

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

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

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


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

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

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

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

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

(Psalm 84:5-7, NKJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 21, 2011

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

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

(Psalm 84:3-4, NKJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I’m very blessed.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

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

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

(Psalm 84:1-2, NKJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen. And amen.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

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

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

(Psalm 3:7-8, NASB)

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, November 18, 2011

Sleep Well (Ps. 3:5-6)

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

(Psalm 3:5-6, NASB)

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

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

They can just sleep. Peacefully sleep.

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Our Shield (Ps. 3:3-4)

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

(Psalm 3:3-4, NASB)

I love these verses. Truly!

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

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

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

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

And neither are you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Our Deliverer (Ps. 3:1-2)

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

(Psalm 3:1-2, NASB)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

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

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

(Psalm 90:15-17, NASB)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 14, 2011

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

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

(Psalm 90:13-14, NASB)

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

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

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

It’s pretty nasty.

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 13, 2011

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

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

(Psalm 90:9-12, NASB)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 12, 2011

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

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

(Psalm 90:7-8, NASB)

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

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

And rightfully so.

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

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

Because He does love His children.

Friday, November 11, 2011

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

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

(Psalm 90:3-6, NASB)

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

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

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

Thursday, November 10, 2011

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

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

(Psalm 90:1-2, NASB)

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

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

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

Without time, we’d have chaos.

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

God bless you!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 07, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 06, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Shouldn’t they be able to seek assistance?

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

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

Saturday, November 05, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 04, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If only …

Thursday, November 03, 2011

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

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

We who follow Christ should daily pray along with Paul:

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

I’m never alone. Never.

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

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

And He does.

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

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Open the Gift (2 Thess. 2:15)

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

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

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

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

What a beautiful, beautiful gift.

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

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

The Bible truly is the gift that keeps on giving!