Monday, December 31, 2012

Prepared for Battle (1 John 5:19-21)

Today's scripture: 1 John 5:19-21

John concludes his first letter by reminding his readers of the daily battle we face: children of God versus the enemy of this world.

And we can’t prepare for battle if we don’t have the proper garb and weaponry. For a long while, I’d pray the armor of God every morning. I’ve fallen out of that habit, and I feel convicted this morning. I need to start again, and I invite you to join me. In Ephesians 6:10-17, Paul described our protective gear: the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the shoes shod with peace, and the shield of faith. He ended with our one offensive weapon: the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Every morning, we should pray that the Lord will prepare us for the day. We should pray that He’ll help us guard our thoughts. Our emotions. Our words. And when the enemy attacks, we’ll be able to defend ourselves with the strength of our faith. And we’ll be able to cut down his lies with the very words of God.

How prepared are you for the battle? Are you ready to guard yourself from the wiles and lies of the enemy? Is your armor on today? And are you armed with God’s word?

You’ve been given what you need. Just take what God has given you, and arm yourself. And be prepared.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Beyond Understanding ... (1 John 5:16-18)

Today's scripture: 1 John 5:16-18

Prayer is a privilege. The very idea of being able to talk with our Creator, to commune with Him, to request of Him … it’s an amazing thought.

We can praise Him, thank Him, intercede for others, ask for needs to be met … and He listens to us.

Another aspect of prayer is praying for our brothers and sisters who are caught in the trap of sin. It’s not our responsibility to save them, but we can pray for them. We can pray that their hearts will be convicted and that they’ll repent of their sin.

Now I want to address verse 18. This seems to contradict many other words of scripture. Paul wrote many times of fighting sin. And yet, John wrote that “no one who is born of God sins.” He went on to say that “the evil one does not touch him.”

Yet Jesus Himself told Peter that Satan had made a request to “sift him like wheat” (Luke 22:31). And of course, God allowed Satan to more than touch Job. So who’s right? Do children of God sin or not? Well, yes. Since we all sin, are we not children of God?

As I’ve said before, I’m no theologian. I’m just someone who loves God and loves His word. I pray that the Holy Spirit will illuminate God’s word and reveal truth to me. I sometimes “get it,” and other times, I’m still perplexed at the mystery.

However, this is what I believe. I believe that we can accept the gift of salvation, and when we do, we are cleansed of our sin and we look forward to eternity with God—Father, Son, and Spirit. But while we’re on earth, we still battle our flesh. There are times the flesh—however briefly—wins. But as we grow in faith, as our relationship with God becomes stronger and more intimate, we recognize our sin more quickly and immediately confess it.

And pain and suffering? Crises and tragedies? Are they from God or from the enemy? I’m not sure. But this I know. God knows everything. He sees things we don’t. He knows what we need in order to be stronger in faith. And if He sometimes allows the enemy to touch us, it’s because He knows it will eventually turn out for our good (Romans 8:28).

No, I don’t know all the answers, and honestly? I pray I never do this side of heaven. But I trust God. I know what He’s done—and continues to do—in my life. So even when I don’t quite understand, I’ll believe Him. Because He’s God, and I’m not.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ask In His Will (1 John 5:14-5)

Today's scripture: 1 John 5:14-15

So many people look to verses like Matthew 7:7-9 and say they’ll get anything they ask for, and then when the answer is “no,” they claim God isn’t who the Bible says He is.

And then there’s the “name it and claim it” gospel. People name what they want, claiming it’ll happen. Again, when the answer is “no,” many turn away from God because they don’t get the answer to prayer they want.

If only they’d read verses like today’s. John is very, very clear that we need to ask “according to His will.” We are not God (I know, that surprises some of you!). We don’t see the whole picture. Only He knows how everything works together.

So when we pray, we need to always—always—ask for His will. And the beauty of it is, we can ask for anything. Absolutely anything. He will hear us in “whatever we ask.” But when we ask in His will, “we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”

When we’re walking intimately with our Father and Lord, we begin to seek His plan, His will. And as we do so, our prayers begin to echo His desires for us.

That’s why it’s impossible to be in true relationship with God and live in habitual sin. Because living in sin is not God’s will for us. Instead, we become more and more aware of our sinful behavior. And when we do fall into our sinful habits, we confess much more quickly.

Because we want to be in His will. And we want Him to only do those things in us and through us that are His will.

And when we do ask? We can be confident that whatever He answers is right and good.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy Boxing Day!

Citizens of the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and some other commonwealths are celebrating Boxing Day today. For most, it’s a banking or public holiday. From my research, “its origins are found in a long-ago practice of giving cash or durable goods to those of the lower classes” ( Wikipedia adds that gifts were also given to those who provided service.

What a lovely practice!

What if we do something similar? Give a little financially to those less fortunate than we.

Or even better, give a little kindness to those who serve us. Today, say a heartfelt “thank you” to those who serve in your church. If you go out to lunch or dinner, recognize the hard work of your server. If you go to a store, give the clerk a sincere smile and let him know how you appreciate his help.

Let today be one of thankfulness and sincere giving in love. And let tomorrow—and all the days after—be the same.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Dear Jesus,

Words truly cannot express my gratitude for Your willingness to leave heaven and come to earth. You chose to …

Put on flesh.

Be born to a poor carpenter and a teenage bride.

Experience scraped knees and stomach aches.

Grow into awkward adolescence.

Sweat sawing and sanding wood.

Be tempted by the enemy—Your enemy.

Be ridiculed as You started Your ministry.

Be betrayed … arrested … denied … beaten … spat upon … scourged.

You chose to carry a cross.

You chose to die …

And You chose to forgive.

Words cannot truly express my gratitude. For Your love and grace and mercy.

But I do thank You.

Happy birthday, Jesus.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas Eve Poem

Twas the day before Christmas and all through the land
All the creatures were shopping–a bit out of hand.
Vying for parking spots and cutting in line,
A theme was recurring, "It's mine, mine, MINE!"

On Santa's lap, the children did sit.
"I want a doll." "I want a mitt."
"An x-Box, an iPad, oh yes, and a Wii.
"Now that I think of it, give me all three!"
The grown-ups, too, they all wanted their own.
More jewelry, more gadgets to fill up their home.

In all of the rushing, one thing we forgot.
The one thing, the main thing, that we should have not.
Tomorrow is Christmas, a day most important
To honor the birth of our Savior God sent.

It's not about presents or music or lights;
No, none of that matters on this night of nights.
Jesus, the Messiah, came with a free gift for us
We must remember in the midst of the fuss.

The gift of salvation from sin us does save;
It's that greatest gift He so lovingly gave.
From manger to hilltop to cross He did go
All because of the way that He still loves us so.

As you revel in the fun and the sights and the sounds,
Remember, dear friends, this thought so profound:
Your Savior, your Lord, came to give you His light,
So have a truly Merry Christmas and a most blessed night.

(c) 2012, Sauni Rinehart