Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Life-Long Learning (1 Cor. 4:1-2)

I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.
(1 Corinthians 4:1-2, NASB)

We need to be taught. None of us learns by osmosis. We’re taught by our parents to speak, to behave properly, to understand values (or so we hope). Then we go to school, and we’re taught math, history, and science.

We go off to work, and we’re taught the essential duties of our jobs.

And if we’re really, really fortunate, we have good teachers who have hearts for helping us learn what we need to learn.

It’s the same with our faith. We need good, godly teachers to help us understand what it means to be followers of Christ. We need people who have spent countless hours studying God’s word, investigating it, looking at each word’s meaning in Greek or Hebrew. We need men and women whose passion is to teach believers about God, about faith.

And we learn from each other as well. That’s one of the things I love best about group Bible studies: learning from each other. The Holy Spirit speaks to each of us as we prayerfully study God’s word. And oftentimes, He’ll give me an insight that differs slightly from the insight He’s given you—and we can both be inspired.

Learning should be life-long, and this is even more so for followers of Christ. We’ll never learn, this side of heaven, all the Bible offers: encouragement, affirmation, exhortation, conviction. But as long as we’re on this earth, we should seek out godly men and women who love God’s word and learn from them.

And then, perhaps one day, we can teach others.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Overcoming Adversity (1 Cor. 4:8-13)

You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you. For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.
(1 Corinthians 4:8-13, NASB)

I am continually amazed at Paul’s deep love for Christ and his unwavering faith. Many places in his epistles, he wrote of the suffering he endured as a follower of Christ. But he faithfully followed his Lord anyway.

In today’s verses, he wrote of being a fool for Christ, about his weaknesses, and about being dishonored.

He was hungry, thirsty, poorly clothed. He was “roughly treated … homeless.”

And yet, he didn’t complain. He continued to follow God’s call on his life.

Look at how he handled adversity:

~ He blessed those who reviled him.

~ He endured when he was persecuted.

~ He attempted reconciliation when others slandered him.

Do we handle things in the same way? Frankly? I’ve never been hungry or thirsty or poorly clothed. I’ve always had a home. I’ve never really been mistreated because of my faith.

I don’t know if God will ever ask me to live through such adversity, such suffering, such pain, but I pray that, if He does, I will be just like Paul.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Everything Is From God (1 Cor. 4:6-7)

Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
(1 Corinthians 4:6-7, NASB)

A couple of days ago, I quoted Psalm 24:1, which says that “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.” Everything belongs to our Creator God.

So why do we struggle with pride or arrogance? Why do we look at all the stuff around us and think, “Look at what I have. Look at what I’ve done.” Or at the things we can do and think, "Look at how great I am."

We owe our very lives to God, and if He’s chosen to bless us with earthly treasures, then we should be grateful, not arrogant.

And it’s the same with any spiritual gifts with which He’s chosen to bless us. I have to admit, this is an area I used to struggle with a lot. I’m immensely privileged to often speak and/or sing for women’s events, and for many years, I served on worship teams. It was often all too easy for me to think about those gifts as mine. And when I thought of those gifts as mine, rather than something from God I should steward, I’d think, “I can do that better than she can.”

It’s only when I finally recognized how weak and incapable I am without God’s work in my life—and that everything I have and am is His—that I was able to give whatever gifts He’s given me back to Him. If He chooses to use me to speak or sing, then it’s a blessing. If He chooses not to, then it’s still a blessing. Because He’ll use me in another way.

We can’t take credit for anything. We’ve received everything from God, and it is for His glory that all we have—our time, our talents, and our treasures—should be used.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Motives of the Heart (1 Cor. 4:3-5)

But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.
(1 Corinthians 4:3-5, NASB)

We Christians like to quote another verse about judgment a lot: “Judge not, and you shall not be judged” (Luke 6:37, NKJV). But I like today’s verse even better: “… do not go on passing judgment [because] the Lord … will bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts …”

We have no idea what’s in a person’s heart. We can point fingers all we want, but God is the ultimate judge. And because we cannot know what goes on between a person and God, we must not judge.

God examines … not us.

There’s something in human nature that wants to be judge and jury. We love it when someone else seems to stumble. Our flesh likes to think we’re somehow better than someone else. But we all have sin of some kind in our lives. And we all have things we do to build God’s kingdom.

And I’m going out on a limb here, but I think God judges the person who does “good” with a wrong motive just as He does someone who practices sin. What I mean is if I’m using a gift He’s given me, but with a prideful heart, I’m sinning. Pride is a sin. Just like anger. Or gossip. Or covetousness. Or murder. Or adultery.

Or what about when I follow God’s will for my life, but I do it grudgingly, whining and complaining all the way? God will judge that as well because He also looks at my heart’s motives. It’s like the parable Jesus told about the two sons:
"Tell me what you think of this story: A man had two sons. He went up to the first and said, 'Son, go out for the day and work in the vineyard.' The son answered, 'I don't want to.' Later on he thought better of it and went. The father gave the same command to the second son. He answered, 'Sure, glad to.' But he never went. Which of the two sons did what the father asked?" They said, "The first" (Matthew 21:28-32, MSG).
It’s a tall order: We need to live as sinless as we possibly can, and we need to serve with right motives.

But praise God, we’re not in this alone. We have the Holy Spirit within us to encourage us when we’re struggling and to convict us when we veer from God’s path. And when we serve God with right hearts, He will reward us and bless us.

So the bottom line is, we need to watch out for ourselves. We need to focus on our own own relationships with God.

We need to leave all judgment to the only One who has the right to judge … and it’s not us!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Service and Stewardship (1 Cor. 4:1-2)

Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.
(1 Corinthians 4:1-2, NASB)

Followers of Christ should have both servants’ hearts and stewardship mentality.

Christ Himself illustrated a servant’s heart through the well known story of His washing the feet of His disciples (John 13:5-14). He told them—and He tells us—“If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Paul wrote, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4, NKJV).

It’s not necessarily our natural inclination to be so selfless. We tend to think about what we want, what we need, what will fulfill our desires. But if our Savior was willing to take on flesh to provide for our salvation, can we do anything less than humble ourselves to serve others? In the same letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (vv. 5-8).

We’re also to have a stewardship mentality. And, in reality, this should be easier for us than having a servant’s heart. Why, you ask? Because nothing we have, nothing we are, is ours. Nothing.

The Bible tells us that God is the owner of everything. Psalm 24:1 says that “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.” In other words, there is nothing on this earth, including us and our “stuff” that isn’t the Lord’s. It’s all His.

And if this is true—and it is—we’re merely managers or stewards of God’s stuff. Think of it this way: You’re an employee for someone. How do you treat the property, equipment, and materials of that employee? Do you break things? Overspend the budget? Disregard the rules and regulations? Or do you take care of the equipment you’ve been given? Stay within budget? Honor the rules and regulations?

I hope it’s the latter.

We’re blessed with so much, and we need to be good stewards of what God has given us.

And we need to treat others with servants’ hearts.

It’s the least we can do.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The "Wisdom" of this World ... (1 Cor. 3:18-23)

Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS”; and again, “THE LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS.” So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.
(1 Corinthians 3:18-23, NASB)

My goodness … I’m not sure where to start with these verses. Paul was able to put so much truth in just a few words, and I’m not even close to being as articulate as he was!

But I’ll try. With the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, I’ll try.

First, Paul writes that the “wisdom of this world is foolishness.” I’d have to agree. We live in a world of instant information. If you want to know something about anything, you just have to Google it. You’ll have more information than you could ever possibly want … or need.

There’s just one problem: You can never be absolutely sure that the information you’re getting is accurate. This is something I tell my students all the time. Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s right. And just because something is in print doesn’t mean it’s right either. We have to discern truth.

This is even more critical when we’re dealing with life and death matters such as faith. Religions and belief systems abound. So many in our world want to believe in something. So they pray to the universe or to plants or to a god of their own making. They believe they’re wise, but they’re really quite foolish.

Real wisdom comes from God, and He reveals Himself and His will through His word. That’s where we find truth. That’s where we find wisdom.

After all this talk about wisdom and foolishness, Paul throws in a wonderful assurance: “you belong to Christ …” When we believe in the God of the Bible, when we’ve accepted His gift of grace, we become part of His family. We are part of the body of Christ.

Reminders such as this make my day!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16-17)

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.
(1 Corinthians 3:16-17, NASB)

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are a temple of God. You are the very dwelling place of Christ and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. God Himself resides in you.

Have you ever stopped to think—really think—about what this means? That God Himself chooses to make a home in you?

I don’t know about you, but I feel overwhelmingly grateful that God sees me as worthy of His living in me. In spite of the choices I made, in spite of the years of rebellion, in spite of my current failings, God sees me as worthy.

I wrote yesterday about how my husband and I watched our house being built, but before that, we looked at model home after model home in order to find just the right house for us. One that was “worthy” enough for us to live in. And that’s such a minor comparison to the Lord of the universe finding me worthy.

But I don’t just feel grateful, I feel tremendously convicted. If my body is the temple of God, then what am I doing to “maintain” it? Am I keeping it pristine and pure? Am I making sure it’s healthy and strong? And what about my mind? Am I filling it with things that edify and strengthen?

Or am I failing to keep my body strong by not exercising or eating poorly? Am I dwelling on things that “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” (Phil. 4:8), or am I focusing on the things of this world?

If Christ were coming to visit your home today, what would you do to prepare for Him? You should do the same for your body, the very temple of God.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Building a Spiritual House (1 Cor. 3:10-15)

According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
(1 Corinthians 3:10-15, NASB)

When my husband and I bought our current home, we had the privilege of watching it be built from the ground up. Every weekend or so, we’d drive out from Anaheim to Corona to see what was new and different.

And of course, the first thing the builders did was to lay the foundation. They poured the slab, and then it took a while before they began to frame the house. They had to make certain the foundation was sound in order to make certain the house would be sound.

Once the foundation was as solid as a rock, they framed the house, using the right materials and making careful measurements. Bit by bit, a house was built. And it stands, solid and strong, almost ten years later. And it will likely continue to stand long after I’ve left this earth.

It’s the same with our Christian lives. First, we have to make certain our foundation is sound, and for believers, our foundation is our faith in Jesus Christ. But even with a sound foundation, our “houses” may not be as solidly built as they might be.

If we’re building our faith with regular time in God’s word, prayer, and fellowship with other believers, then our faith grows strong and vibrant. If, however, we’re just live our lives, never opening the Bible, never spending time in prayer, never learning more about, then we don't really build our faith, and it stagnates. And while we can never lose a sincerely-sought salvation, we may miss out on what God truly desires to do in and through us.

So first, what’s your foundation? Have you sincerely committed your life to Christ?

Second, how are you “building” your spiritual “house”? Serving God? Serving others? Meditating on His word?

Lay the right foundation, and build a solid house. One that will live on and will leave a legacy.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fellow Workers (1 Cor. 3:4-9)

For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
(1 Corinthians 3:4-9, NASB)

I consider myself a seed planter. I speak quite often, and every time I speak, I talk about the good news of salvation through belief in and acceptance of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. I talk about living to serve God and grow in faith. And I usually give those attending the opportunity to accept Christ.

However, I don’t always see results. In other words, I don’t always see someone come to faith every time I speak. When I first started my ministry, I have to admit, I felt like I was doing something wrong. Was I not eloquent enough? Did I not share the gospel clearly? Was my own faith lacking?

I’d go to other events, and when the speaker gave the “altar call,” there always seemed to be someone—or many someones—who accepted Christ.

Then I found these verses. Some people plan the seeds, and some water. Some even get a chance to “reap.” But no matter what, God is the One who provides salvation. He is the One who offers grace and mercy.

I am merely a “fellow worker” with others, and I must do my part.

Occasionally someone comes to faith the very first time they hear the gospel message. More often though, it takes hearing the truth repeated many times. So who’s to say that someone who makes a decision to follow Christ tomorrow didn’t hear God’s words through me months ago. And that’s the seed that grew so one of my “fellow workers” could reap.

We’re all in this together, and God uses each of us as He sees fit.

And again, the only thing I must do is do what He’s called me to do. And you must do the same.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Do Not Walk as Mere Men (1 Cor. 3:1-3)

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?
(1 Corinthians 3:1-3, NASB)

Just as we start life with milk as our sustenance and then grow to eating solid food, we start our spiritual lives with biblical “milk” and then grow in maturity by “eating” more solid biblical truth. At first, we need to be taught by godly men and women, but then we should get to the point where we prayerfully meditate on and study the Bible for ourselves, spending time thinking through and applying what we study.

If we never get to this place, we continue to live as spiritual infants, and that’s tragic.

Unfortunately, I think this is where so many Christ followers are in their spiritual journeys. And ever more unfortunately, this is why they so easily succumb to the lies of the enemy. Because they don’t study God’s word for themselves, prayerfully considering what God is telling them, they can’t discern what truth really is.

Believers are always at war with the flesh, but immature believers allow the flesh to win out more often than not. Paul seems to be saying that they’re content to be Christians by name, but fleshly by nature. They’re living, as one commentary put it, “like ordinary, unconverted men” (Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament).

If we’re truly followers of Christ, there should be a distinct difference in how we live in comparison to nonbelievers. We should desire to grow in faith. We should strive to live as Jesus did, demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). We should be the light of Christ to a dark world (Philippians 2:15).

And if we’re not? If we’re just going through the motions? It would be better to not call ourselves Christians at all—and at least live honestly as “mere men.”

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:14-16)

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ.
(1 Corinthians 2:14-16, NASB)

Sometimes—oftentimes—I look at what’s happening in this world, and I think Christ’s return must be imminent. How can God linger a whole lot longer?

So much corruption. So much perversion. So much selfishness.

Everyone is out for himself, and it doesn’t matter who gets hurt as long as he gets what he wants. Yes, there’s all kinds of talk about tolerance, but it seems like most people only tolerate those who are just like them.

No one wants to listen to a truth that requires sacrifice or service. No one wants to “accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him …” And those of us who do accept such things are fools, in the world’s eyes.

My heart breaks when I hear such disregard for faith and truth. And if I “have the mind of Christ” because of my faith in Him, then what must He feel? How His heart must break even more than mine does.

I don’t know how long it will be until Christ returns to finally put an end to sin and its destruction, but I pray it will be soon.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Spiritual Revelation (1 Cor. 2:10-13)

For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
(1 Corinthians 2:10-13, NASB)

When I started my ministry seven years ago, I wrote the following statement of faith:

~I believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—one God in three Persons.
~I believe that God the Father created heavens and earth and all that’s in them; that God the Son—Jesus—died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin and rose three days later; and that God the Holy Spirit dwells within each one who accepts the free gift of salvation and eternal life.
~I believe that salvation comes only through the belief in and acceptance of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
~I believe the Bible is God’s word given to us through the pens of men. It is inerrant in its original text and is God’s truth.
~I believe that those who choose to follow Jesus will spend eternity with Him in heaven, and those who do not will spend eternal life separated from Him.
~I believe we are to grow in our faith through continued study and meditation on God’s word.
~I believe that God has uniquely gifted each of His children, and that we are to use those gifts to serve and glorify Him, serve each other, and ultimately grow His kingdom.

The very first statement deals with a concept called the “Trinity,” and one Person of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit who indwells each of us who has accepted the gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God the Son.

It is the Holy Spirit who illuminates the Scriptures for us. It is the Holy Spirit who helps us to understand biblical truth. And it is the Holy Spirit who reveals the wisdom of God, “combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.”

If you want to understand the Bible and its truths, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal that truth to you. Ask, as Samuel did, centuries ago, “Speak, Lord, for Thy servant is listening …” (1 Samuel 3:10).

Friday, February 17, 2012

The God I Know (1 Cor. 2: 6-9)

Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written,

(1 Corinthians 2:6-9, NASB)

So much mystery surrounds faith. Indeed, “Eye has not seen and ear has not heard” the face of God or His voice. In fact, that’s one of the things skeptics struggle with: belief in an unseen God.

But those of us who truly know God have seen Him in many ways. And we have heard His voice.

I see God in the magnificent snow-covered mountains viewed from my office window. I see Him in the faces of my precious great-nephews. I see Him in the roar of the ocean. I see Him in the hummingbird fluttering just outside my window. I see Him in vibrantly-colored flowers and green grass and towering trees. I've seen Him in the pristine wilderness of Alaska and the crystal clear waters in Fiji. I see Him in the diversity of nature ... and of the people I'm blessed to know.

Or as Paul wrote, “God's eternal power and character cannot be seen. But from the beginning of creation, God has shown what these are like by all he has made ...” (Romans 1:20, CEV).

And I hear God’s voice in the silence as He speaks to my heart. I hear Him through the words of the Bible. I hear Him in the prayer of a friend. I hear Him in the laughter of a child. I hear Him through the melody of a praise song or an old hymn.

Our God is not some distant being whom we cannot know. Not at all. I know my God. I know Him intimately. And I have no doubt He is with me, guiding me, carrying me, protecting me, providing for me …

Yes, there is much I don’t know. There is much I won’t know this side of heaven. But that’s as it should be. I want to serve a God who is so much greater than I could ever be.

As God Himself said through His servant, Isaiah:
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts."
(55:8-9, NKJV)
Although much of God remains a mystery—and rightfully so—He will reveal Himself to a truly seeking heart.

If you don’t know this God who dearly loves you, if you’re still skeptical, do this. Just say, “God, if you truly exist, reveal Yourself to me.”

And He will.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified (1 Cor. 2:1-5)

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
(1 Corinthians 2:1-5, NASB)

The foundation of our faith is the cross. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). We who follow the God of the Bible believe in a triune God—Father, Son, and Spirit. One God. Three Persons.

When Adam and Eve decided to disobey God’s command to not eat of one single tree in the garden (Genesis 2:16-17), sin entered the world, and man was separated from God. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and “the wages of sin is death”—eternal separation from God (Romans 3:23; 6:23). The Son came to earth to pay that penalty, and it is through His death and resurrection that we find salvation.

It’s that simple. And that complex.

So many so-called preachers stand at pulpits speaking with eloquence and “persuasive words of wisdom,” yet their words are empty. They speak of how we can feel good. How we can prosper. How we can be successful.

Yet they fail to share the most important thing: “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

Measure the words of those who claim to be preachers of the gospel. What are they really saying? Are they proclaiming truth? That one thing?

If not, keep looking until you find someone who is.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Boast in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:26-31)

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”
(1 Corinthians 1:26-31, NASB)

There really is nothing worth boasting about in this world. Nothing we have, nothing we are is of our own making.

We may think we can boast in our wealth … and the stock market crashes. We may think we can boast in our stuff … and then a fire destroys our home and everything in it. We may think we can boast in our career … and then the pink slip comes.

We may even think we can boast in our very lives … and then the doctor says, "I'm so sorry."

Life is short, fleeting.

Truly the only thing worth boasting about it what Christ has done for us. Salvation. Redemption. Grace. Mercy.

Eternity with Him.

And so let’s boast in our Lord. Let’s share His goodness and mercy and love with others.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Cross ... Foolishness or Truth? (1 Cor. 1:20-25)

Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
(1 Corinthians 1:20-25, NASB)

The cross. It’s the foundation of our faith.

To some, though, it’s just something to tattoo or wear as jewelry. It doesn’t mean anything to them.

Paul knew this well. During his years of ministry, he witnessed the “wisdom of the world” that denied the truth of the cross. It was a “stumbling block” to some and “foolishness” to others.

Not much has changed. The idea of someone having to die to save them is abhorrent to some. It’s a stumbling block, something “which causes [them] to err or to stray from the truth” ( And some think it’s just plain “foolishness.” If, indeed, there is a God, they say, He’s going to judge them on their good deeds. They certainly don’t need to trust someone who was executed.

And they think we who do believe are foolish as well. We’re narrow-minded. We’re not too bright. We don’t know real truth.

But we can be assured of two things, and Paul makes them very clear: “… the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Our God, the God of the Bible, is Truth. For reasons we can’t fully understand, He put a plan of salvation in place that culminated in the death of our Savior—on a cross.

And for us, it’s the “power of God and the wisdom of God.”

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Word of the Cross (1 Cor. 1:18-19)

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.”
(1 Corinthians 1:18-19, NASB)

We live in an age of instant information. Immediate intelligence. We can Google anything and everything. However, just because we have all this information at our fingertips doesn’t mean that what we access is accurate. Anyone can create his or her own website and write about anything, so we need to be cautious about what we find. It may or may not be truth.

There is one place we can go, however, where we can be assured of truth: the Bible, God’s word to us. From the first verse in Genesis to the final words of Revelation, God inspired men across the years to weave a scarlet thread of salvation.

Everything leads to the gospel message of the cross. Jesus Christ, God the Son, came to earth to pay the penalty for our sins, and to “us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” It is through the cross that we are reconciled to our Father.

Yet there are many who think the cross is “foolishness.” They don’t believe in the power of God. Rather, they believe in their own abilities, and they create their own gods. They revel in their intelligence that says, “The God of the Bible doesn’t exist.” They think themselves wise and clever.

One day, however, they will stand before the very One they denied. And He will reveal their foolishness. And tragically, He will “set [them] aside.” For eternity.

I believe this world is winding down. I believe Jesus Christ is returning soon. I don’t know the day or the hour, but I do believe it’s soon. Maybe not in my lifetime. Or maybe today.

We who follow Christ should feel an urgency to lovingly share the “word of the cross” with those around us. We need to help them find the wisdom of the truth of the Bible so they too can spend eternity with God—Father, Son, and Spirit.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

No Divisions Among You (1 Cor. 1:10-17)

Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.
(1 Corinthians 1:10-17, NASB)

Division among Christians has been an issue since the beginning of the church, and it’s heart-breaking. We who follow Christ should be examples of unity and harmony, love and compassion.

Instead, we fight over non-essentials like real wine or grape juice, or sprinkling or immersion. Even worse, just like in Paul’s time, we get caught up in whose pastor is better or more eloquent, or which church is bigger.


And how it must break the heart of our Lord as well. Jesus came to bring life and truth (John 14:6). He came to heal the brokenhearted (Luke 4:18). He came to save us from our sins and bring eternal life (John 3:16).

We who have received such amazing gifts should be grateful and strive to live as Christ did. And that would not include divisiveness. We need to love each other. We need to help and serve each other. We need to be brothers and sisters, living only to bring glory to our Lord God.

So why isn’t this how we live?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lacking in Nothing (1 Cor. 1:4-9)

I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
(1 Corinthians 1:4-9, NASB)

Sometimes—oftentimes—I read through passages of the Bible, and I’m overwhelmed with how much is in just a few words. Today’s verses are no exception.

We learn that we are “enriched in” Christ. He gives us the ability to speak on His behalf as we gain knowledge of His truth. We can be “certain that everything [Paul] told [us] about our Lord Christ Jesus is true” (v. 5, CEV).

We can “eagerly await the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,” knowing that we’re works in progress, learning more and more about what it means to live as He would live (see Phil. 1:6).

We can be confident that Jesus will “confirm [us] to the end” and one day, we will stand before the throne of the Most High God and He will see us as “blameless,” righteous, and holy.

Finally, we can be assured that our God is faithful. He never wavers, never changes. He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. And He has called us as partners in the building of His kingdom.

We are blessed, beyond anything we could ever imagine.

Just sit and meditate on what God has done for you. And be grateful!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Grace and Peace to You (1 Cor. 1:1-3)

Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 1:1-3)

Today begins what will likely be a long journey through two of Paul’s letters. As always, I look forward to learning more about God’s word written through the pen of His faithful servant. I pray you’ll be blessed as I share what He lays upon my heart.

We start with a similar greeting as we’ve seen with Paul’s other letters. Paul’s heart for the saints in Corinth is clear by his opening words. I imagine his recipients reading these words and being blessed. And even in these few verses, we too can be blessed.

I forget sometimes that we who follow Christ are saints because we have been sanctified in Christ Jesus. We have been set apart and have been called to serve Him.

Because of our calling, we experience God’s grace and peace. He showered us with “unmerited favor” as we received the free gift of salvation through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ (see Romans 6:23). And He continues to shower us with “every good thing” as we follow His will for our lives (see James 1:17).

In addition, we can experience a peace that surpasses our human understanding as we rely on our loving Father to care for us, protect us, provide for us, and comfort us.

I pray as we embark on this journey that you’ll experience God’s grace and peace. Just as Paul prayed centuries ago.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Way of the Righteous (Ps. 1:6)

For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.

(Psalm 1:6, NASB)

I love verses like this … the first part, at least.

“For the LORD knows the way of the righteous.” I speak often about how God has a plan for each of us. And when we seek His will, He’ll reveal that plan.

Knowing that God has a plan founded on His love, grace, and mercy, I’m confident that He’ll do His perfect will through me.

But God’s “knowing the way” means a bit more. As I’ve written before, I like to look at other versions and translations of the Bible to give me a bit more insight into how God speaks to us. One paraphrase I like interprets today’s verse as:
The LORD protects everyone
who follows him,
but the wicked follow a road
that leads to ruin. (CEV)
I love knowing God protects me and guides me.

Then we move to the second part of the verse. And I actually prefer the CEV version: “… the wicked follow a road that leads to ruin.” The Bible talks about a “narrow gate” (see Matthew 7:13-14). The road that leads to salvation is narrow and often costly, so many will choose the broad path that seems to provide more … here on earth, that is. But that road truly leads to ruin: the outer darkness I wrote about yesterday.

So what can we learn from today’s verse?

First, we who follow Christ have a wonderful Heavenly Father who guides and protects us. When we prayerfully seek His will, He’ll lead us on a path that glorifies Him and makes us more like Christ.

Second, those who don’t follow Christ will one day experience eternal separation from God.

What’s the bottom line? We need to do whatever we can to help those who don’t know truth to find it. We need to help the “wicked” to find salvation through Christ so that they too can know God’s will on earth—and that they too can know they’ll spend eternity with God.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Fate of the Wicked (Ps. 1:4-5)

The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

(Psalm 1:4-5, NASB)

We who follow Christ are abundantly blessed in so many ways. Even if we are going through difficult times, we are still blessed with grace, with mercy, with provision.

Yet, sometimes it seems the wicked are blessed as well. We see those who flagrantly sin revel in wealth and all their “stuff.” We see them prosper … according to the world’s definition. Flashy cars. Sparkling jewels. Designer clothes.

It’s true. Many people who ignore God’s truth or blatantly oppose it are very fortunate in what they have here on earth.

But one day, they’ll stand in front of God’s throne, and just “like the chaff which the wind drives away,” they’ll be “cast into the outer darkness” (Matthew 8:12), eternally separated from God. They won’t join those of us who have committed our lives to Him. They won’t spend eternity “in the assembly of the righteous.”

Like most of us, sometimes I wish I had more of the “stuff” others have. Sometimes it looks like the sinners are winning. But then I remember what I have to look forward to, and I don’t want their “blessings,” in any way, shape, or form.

I’ll take the blessings I do have, and I’ll eagerly anticipate the blessings to come.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

A Tree Firmly Planted (Ps. 1:3)

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.

(Psalm 1:3, NASB)

People blessed by God don’t spend time with those who ridicule God. They do spend time delighting in God’s word.

And when they focus on God, he “firmly plants” them. He nurtures and helps them grow into people He can use.

When we focus on God and His will for us, He uses us in ways we cannot even imagine.

I never expected to speak for Him. I never expected to be able to mentor young women. I never expected to write a daily devotional.

Yet, because I’ve learned to keep my focus on Him, because I’ve learned to delight in His word, He’s chosen to allow me to do things I absolutely love in service to Him.

And He’s allowed me to see some fruit from my efforts. I won’t know everything He’s done through me this side of heaven, but I’ve seen enough. Comments made. Tears of joy shared. Lives changed.

By Him. Through me.

And as I’ve watched Him work, I’ve seen the areas of ministry He’s given me prosper. No, not prosper financially, as some would define that word. But prosper spiritually. Emotionally.

And I am blessed.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Delight in the Law of the Lord (Ps. 1:2)

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

(Psalm 1:2, NASB)

Yesterday, we looked at what the man (or woman) who is blessed by God shouldn’t do. Today, we look at what we should do.

Our delight should be in the law of the Lord. One’s delight is what “brings a high degree of gratification or extreme satisfaction.” It is “something that gives great pleasure” (Miriam-Webster Dictionary). When we delight in God’s word, we “take great pleasure” in His commandments and promises. We revel in those scriptures that encourage and affirm, and we strive to live by those passages that convict and exhort.

And how do we find great pleasure in God’s word? We study it. We learn from it. Indeed, we meditate on it “day and night.”

You know what “day and night” means to me? And even as I write these words, I’m feeling very convicted. It’s certainly more than reading a verse now and again. It’s even more than reading a bit of scripture every day.

“Day and night” means something more. It means regularly and consistently spending time interacting with the words God inspired. It means studying them, pondering them. Praying over them.

I believe with all my heart that God wants to speak to His children, and one of the ways He does so is through His written word. He longs to bless us, but to receive the blessing of hearing His voice through the Bible, we must spend time in it.

Delighting in it. Day and night.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Being Blessed (Ps. 1:1)

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

(Psalm 1:1, NASB)

Although I usually use the New American Standard version as my study Bible, I often look at other versions or paraphrases when I’m meditating on God’s word. I truly believe that, just as the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the original manuscripts eons ago, He has inspired those who have prayerfully translated or paraphrased the words through the centuries.

And so, when I’m looking at verses I find so familiar—like today’s—I love to see how others have been inspired.

One paraphrase I really like is the Contemporary English Version, and it renders today’s verse this way:
God blesses those people
who refuse evil advice
and won't follow sinners
or join in sneering at God.
When I read these words, I see some principles to live by.

First, God blesses those who “refuse evil advice.” We’re surrounded by those who give us advice about how we should live. We watch movies or television shows, or read magazines that tell us we should be prosperous, no matter what it takes. We should be sexually free, not worrying about commitment or intimacy. We should do whatever we need to in order to get ahead, even if that means we have to step on a few people to get there.

If we want God's blessing, we must “refuse” that advice because it goes against God’s word. Instead, we need to be so saturated with truth that we follow God’s ways and His advice.

Second, God blesses those who “won’t follow sinners.” I see this as a warning about being careful about those with whom we associate. We’ll always have to be around nonbelievers—unless we join a monastery.

However, we cannot let them influence us to sin. Instead, we need to be the light of Christ to them.

Finally, God blesses those who don’t “join in sneering at God.” It honestly breaks my heart when I hear people take God’s name in vain, using it as just another word. They don’t reverence Him or speak His name with awe. Others willfully and rebelliously speak of God maliciously and hatefully.

We need to speak words of praise and seek to glorify God with everything we say.

Then God will bless us. And I don’t know about you, but I really desire His blessing!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

In the House of the Lord Forever! (Ps. 23:6)

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
(Psalm 23:6, KJV)

While we’re here on this rapidly-decaying earth, we who are followers of Christ can be certain of one thing: Our Shepherd will shower us with His goodness and mercy as long as we walk on this soil.

Our God is so very good, loving each and every one of His children and desiring nothing more than each one come to know Him personally. He wants to see each and every human being to be saved (see 2 Peter 3:9).

And He is so very merciful. We don’t deserve grace. We don’t deserve mercy. But He, in His goodness, offers mercy—not punishing us as we do deserve. What an amazing gift!

Ah, but then we get my favorite part of this entire psalm: One day, “I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever”!

If you’ve read these devotions for a while, you’ve likely read that I can’t wait to spend eternity with my Lord. I suffer from several health issues, and I would love nothing more than to shed this flawed body and stand in the presence of my Lord. Pain-free. Whole. Healthy.

I can’t wait for the day I can praise my Lord and serve Him—forever!

Friday, February 03, 2012

My Cup Runneth Over (Ps. 23:5)

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
(Psalm 23:5, KJV)

No matter how kind we are, no matter how much we love others, we will have enemies. Some people just won’t like us. In fact, some people may want to bring us down. We hear that someone has maligned us or gossiped about us. Or a rumor—blatantly untrue—comes to our attention.

Yet, even if we’re surrounded by enemies, we’re not alone. Our Shepherd is with us, protecting us and reminding us of how loved we are, how beautiful we are in His sight.

And when we’re hurting, He pours oil over us. In ancient times, shepherds would pour oil on the wounds of their sheep. Our Shepherd does the same for us. He soothes our pain with His grace and mercy.

And because of all He does for us—protecting us, providing for us, healing us—our “cups” of joy overflow.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Valley as Dark as Death (Ps. 23:4)

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
(Psalm 23:4, KJV)

The valley of the shadow of death … “valleys as dark as death” according to the Contemporary English Version. I don’t want to sound melodramatic, but I’ve been there. When I experienced abuse. When I lived through the pain of infertility. As I live through chronic pain.

Valleys as dark as death.

I’ve lived through them. And when I wasn’t in relationship with the Lord, when I tried to make it though those valleys by myself, I was fearful … even clinically depressed.

But now? After recommitting my life to Jesus over 18 years ago, I still experienced—I still experience—days in the valley. However, now I know I’m not alone. Never.

When I’m suffering, when I just can’t make it another moment, I know God is with me. I know He’ll never leave me (Heb. 13:5). Never

Even more, He’ll protect me from the wiles of the enemy. Knowing His word and His promises, I can resist my adversary (1 Peter 5:8-9).

And even more, He’ll comfort me when I’m in those valleys. I know I can climb on my Abba’s lap, and He’ll wrap His arms around me and comfort me in my pain.

So I know I can walk through those valleys, knowing my Shepherd is beside me. And when I need it, He’ll carry me through.

If you're in a valley, remember this: Your Shepherd is beside you too. He's walking with you ... and carrying you when you can't even crawl.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

He Restores My Soul (Ps. 23:3)

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
(Psalm 23:3, KJV)

So often I feel weary—to-the-bone weary. My daily pain is beyond my ability to handle. I have no strength. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to make it through the day.

I’m in need of restoration. In need of strength.

And so I pray for the strength that comes only from my Shepherd. And He restores me.

Even though I, like Paul, would like the “thorn” of pain and weariness to go away, I believe—just as Paul did—the words of Jesus: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” And so I can echo Paul’s words, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (1 Cor. 12:9-10).

Not only does my Shepherd restore my soul, but He helps me to grow more righteous. One definition of righteous is “free from guilt or sin.”

Because of God’s love for me, He sent His Son—part of Himself—to pay the penalty for my sin. And because I’ve been cleansed from that sin, because I’m “whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7), in His eyes, I am righteous. I’m free from guilt or sin.

And that thought alone restores my soul!