Monday, September 30, 2013

Make the Lord Your Trust (Psalm 40:4)

Today's scripture: Psalm 40:4

Since the fall in the Garden of Eden, mankind has had idols. Some idols have been of wood or gold or bronze. Others have been of flesh.

We still have our idols today. We hoard our stuff. We pay homage to our credit cards. We revere celebrities or sports icons. We respect the successful in business. We spend more time worshipping at the altar of television or the Internet than we do at the foot of God's throne.

We don't trust God; we trust our things or other people.

Then we wonder why we're so discontent.

Last week, I spoke at a "MomsNext" group about "Joy Stealers," those thing that are lurking about every corner that want to steal our God-given joy. One of those "thieves" is discontent. No matter how much we have, we find ourselves wanting just a little bit more. We envy those with a bigger house, a better car, or a more prestigious career. I told those moms that there are a couple of ways to "arrest" discontentment.

The first is to spend time with those less fortunate than we are. For example, it's difficult to be discontent with our more-than-adequate houses when we volunteer at a homeless shelter.

The second is to trust God. If we believe His word and trust that He has a plan for our lives (see Jeremiah 29:11, AMP)—and we surrender our lives to that plan—then we can rest in the knowledge that whatever we have, whatever we do, is part of that plan.

We really are blessed when we "make the Lord [our] trust." He is faithful and will never let us down. Never.

Friday, September 27, 2013

A New Song (Psalm 40:3)

Today's scripture: Psalm 40:3

One of my favorite ways to worship and praise the Lord is through song. Old hymns. Contemporary praise. Scripture put to music. My heart seems somehow closer to Him when I sing.

Sometimes, I'll read a verse, and a unique melody will flow. It truly is "a new song in my mouth ..." I feel such peace and joy in music that I just can't feel blue or stressed when I'm singing praises to the Lord.

There are times, though, when I get caught up in "life" and the song begins to dim, and for me, at least, my faith dims ... just the tiniest bit.

And so I crank up my favorite playlist, and whether it's the smooth harmony of the Gaither Vocal Band (who happens to be singing an a cappella version of "Gentle Shepherd" as I'm writing) or an upbeat MercyMe tune or the profound words of Chris Tomlin, I'm drawn closer to my Lord.

The renewed joy I feel permeates my heart and soul ... and it shows.

I think that's what the psalmist meant when he wrote, "Many will see it and fear/And will trust in the
Lord." Music is a barrier-breaker, a bridge-crosser. It speaks an international language. When we're full of music that honors and glorifies God, people can see our joy, and they might just find themselves attracted to the music ... and to the One who gives the music to us.

So sing a new song—or an old favorite—in praise to our Lord. Your heart will be full, and you may just touch someone else's life too!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Out of the Pit ... and On Solid Rock (Psalm 40:1-2)

Today's scripture: Psalm 40:1-2

In the "perfect storm" that is my current life, I need to spend some time in the Psalms. I invite you to spend some time with me as I meditate on a couple of my favorites. For the next few days, let's look at Psalm 40.

I feel so tremendously blessed that we Christ-followers serve a personal God. Unlike other belief systems where the god or gods they serve are out "there" somewhere, our God is with us, and He hears us when we call to Him. He hears our cries.

When we feel like we've descended to the bottom of a "horrible pit," He lifts us up and sets us on a solid "rock," the rock of faith and grace and strength that comes from our Lord Jesus Christ.

I mentioned the "perfect storm" I'm in, and yesterday, I felt rather "pit-ish." Stress and an over-loaded plate made me more emotional than usual, and even the smallest things set me off. I grumbled and complained ... if only to myself.

Then I recognized something very, very important: I hadn't spent time with the Lord. While I had meditated on the last verses of John for the morning's devotional, I hadn't had my quiet time, just sitting at the feet of my Lord. So I stopped what I was doing and rested in His presence for a while. In those moments, He reminded me how blessed I am, how I am able to do something I love, and how this "perfect storm" is temporary.

He lifted me out of that "horrible pit" of stress and frustration, and set me on the solid rock of His faithfulness.

What pit are you in today? Cry out to God, lift up your hands, and let Him set you on His solid rock.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

An Eyewitness Report (John 21:24-25)

Today's scripture: John 21:24-25

I tell my writing students that there are two kinds of sources: primary and secondary. Primary sources include autobiographies and eyewitness testimonies; secondary sources include biographies and analyses or interpretations. As often as possible, I tell them, use primary sources.

John was an eyewitness to Jesus' tenure on earth. He walked with the Master for three years and was part of His most intimate inner circle. His is definitely a primary source.

He and Jesus ate together, laughed together, cried together.

John saw miracle after miracle: the blind given sight; the deaf hearing for the first time; the lame walking on newly-strong legs ... the dead breathing again.

So when he ended his gospel with the words "we know that His testimony is true," John meant what he said. Everything about which he wrote was true ... because he witnessed it firsthand.

John's gospel is a primary resource, and we can trust his words. And what's amazing about his very last sentence? Even though he wrote a thorough, detailed account of Jesus and His earthly ministry, he didn't capture it all. If he had attempted to do so, "even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written."

I'll admit: I'm sure John was using a literary device we call hyperbole. He was certainly exaggerating, but his point is clear. Mere words cannot contain the wonder of Jesus.

I have to say, however, John did an amazing work. Many people claim that his gospel is a beautiful illustration of Jesus' love for us ... and I agree. We learn more about Jesus' heart and passion for God's children than in any other book in His word.

I pray this journey through the book of John has blessed your heart. It's certainly blessed mine!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Do You Love Me? (John 21:15-23)

Today's scripture: John 21:15-23

"Do you love Me?" Jesus asks Peter ... three times. Commentators have debated Jesus' purpose in doing so. As I researched the various theories, I found the following:

Jesus used this opportunity to encourage and exhort Peter about his upcoming responsibilities and even prophesies the manner in which Peter will die. By asking Peter “do you love me?” three times, Jesus was emphasizing the importance of Peter’s love and unswerving obedience to his Lord as necessary for his future ministry.

Jesus begins by questioning Peter about His love for Him, and each time Peter answers in the affirmative, Jesus follows up with the command for Peter to feed His sheep. His meaning is that if Peter truly loves his Master, he is to shepherd and care for those who belong to Christ.

It is possible that by His repeated question Jesus is subtly reminding Peter of his three denials ... It wasn’t lost on Peter that Jesus repeated His question to him three times, just as Peter previously denied Him three times.

Whatever the reason for the three-fold “do you love me?” question, Jesus was impressing on Peter how important his new role of tending the flock of Christ’s followers would be. When someone repeats instructions to us over and over, we quickly understand that it’s extremely important for us to heed them. Jesus wanted to make sure Peter understood this vital charge He was tasking him with and the ultimate reason for it, to follow Him and glorify God (John 21:19). (
Our greatest takeaway? Jesus asks us the same question, "Do you love Me?" "Do you love Me enough to give up everything and follow Me?"

What's your answer?