Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bearing Fruit (Psalm 1:3)

Today's scripture: Psalm 1:3

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 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. I pray you're blessed as well.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Meditate ... Day and Night (Psaln 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.

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” (Webster’s 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.

So 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, December 29, 2014

The Righteous and the Wicked (Psalm 1:1)

Today's scripture: Psalm 1:1

2014 was the year of the Psalms ... As expected, we didn't visit all 150, but I do hope your heart has been blessed by the ones we were able to look at.

We started with Psalm 1, and it seems appropriate to spend these last three days of 2014  with the first three verses of that psalm:

I usually use the New American Standard translation as my study Bible (and the link above is, indeed, that translation), but 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.

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 being 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!

Friday, December 26, 2014

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.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

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.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Twas the Day Before Christmas

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, 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 how 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.
© 2012 Sauni Rinehart