Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Firmly Planted (Psalm 1:3)

Today's scripture: Psalm 1:3

We learned on Monday that people blessed by God don’t spend time with those who ridicule God. Then we learned yesterday that they do spend time delighting in God’s word. Today, we learn that 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 week-day 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.

Even more, 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.

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.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Delight in God's Word (Psalm 1:2)

Today's scripture: Psalm 1:2

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.

We should "delight ... 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” (Mirriam-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.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Principles to Live By (Psalm 1:1)

Today's scripture: Psalm 1:1

I'm taking a one-week break from John to meditate again on one of my favorite psalms.

Although I usually use the New American Standard translation 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.

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.

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 to be 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!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Not-of-the-World Peace (John 14:24-31)

Today's scripture: John 14:24-31

Several years ago, I wrote a small devotional that focused on verses of peace. The following is from that devotional:

The world offers peace—on its terms.

Watch television or read the latest magazine. The world would tell you that peace comes from driving the best car or wearing the trendiest clothes. Peace comes from having a great sex life or a lucrative career. Peace comes from fame or fortune.

That’s what the world would tell you. But the world would be wrong.

I tried for years to find the world’s peace. I was college-educated, happily married, well-employed. We owned our home, our cars, our stuff. We enjoyed our vacations and partied with friends.

I had it all, or so the world would say.

But I had nothing, really. I was miserable.

It wasn’t until I recommitted my life to the Lord that I realized that Jesus was right: He gives a peace that the world can’t begin to compete with. His peace is all-encompassing, and it saturates down to your very soul. It’s a peace that illuminates the peace of the world for what it really is: shallow, empty, sad.

Have you bought into the world’s definition of peace? And do you feel a hole in your heart and soul? Talk to Jesus now about His peace. Have confidence that you don’t have to be troubled; He will give you peace.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

How to Love Jesus (John 14:18-24)

Today's scripture: John 14:18-24

How do you show you love someone? Bring them gifts? Compliment them? Want to be with them? Say the words?

How do you know someone loves you?

Jesus tells us how He knows we love Him: If we love Him, we will keep His commandments. What exactly did Jesus command?

Commandments abound throughout the Old Testament. We certainly know the Ten Commandments: we're to love our God, not have idols, not take His name in vain; we're not to murder or commit adultery or covet (see Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:1-21). The book of Leviticus is full of commandments, and other Old Testament books (Joshua, Judges, the prophets) all tell us of God's expectations for His children.

The New Testament also tells us how we're supposed to behave as children of God. Letters from Paul, Peter, and John offer a plethora of commandments.

I'm certain Jesus wanted His followers to follow biblical commandments, but what did He command? He seemed to focus on those commandments that require love and service. When asked what the greatest commandment was, He answered clearly and concisely: Love God; love others (Mark12:29-31). When Peter said he loved Jesus, Jesus' said Peter could show love by caring for others (John 21:15-17). Jesus Himself demonstrated His love by serving, especially when He washed His disciples' feet. What was His command then? His disciples were to serve as He did (John 13:14); we who follow Him should serve this way as well.

So ... Jesus said that whoever loves Him keeps His commandments. This is a litmus test for us. Do we faithfully keep the Ten Commandments, but malign our neighbor? Do we keep the letter of the law, but neglect the needs of others?

If we truly love Jesus, we will do as He did. We will love God with all we are, and we will love those around us. We will serve however we're needed. We will help the "least of these" (Matthew 25:31-46). We will be the light of Jesus in a very dark world.

Is that how you love Him?