Friday, May 29, 2015

The Journey Continues ...

On April 1, I wrote about a new journey Russ and I have embarked upon. We've been in East Tennessee for almost two months now, and we love it. We love the green trees, the frequent rain, the gracious people. We love the many day trips we've been able to take.

And we love being together! It is such a blessing!

Today, we close escrow on our Tennessee home, and we couldn't be more excited to make it ours.

As this journey continues, I ask again for your prayers for patience, for grace, and for humble hearts as we begin the process of moving in. As many of you know, it can be a bit stressful!

As I ponder on the last two months and anticipate the coming days, a verse that resonates is Philippians 4:19 (by the way, I hope to get to this book, one of my favorites, later in the year, so stay tuned!). I memorized the New King James Version of this verse years ago, but The Living Bible seems to "hit the mark" for me today:

And it is he who will supply all your needs from his riches in glory because of what Christ Jesus has done for us.

God will always supply our needs ... and sometimes He just abundantly blesses us by making our dreams come true!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

In God We Trust (2 Corinthians 1:15-19)

Today's scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:15-19

Sometimes I read several verses, and I see all kinds of application. Words that affirm. Phrases that convict. Other times, just one or two words jump out at me, and I spend time meditating on just those few words.

Such is the case today. Paul makes a good point about not vacillating when moving forward with God’s plan, but the words that speak the most to me today?

God is faithful.

It seems like there is so little in this world in which we can put our faith. People let us down. Governments crumble. Things fall apart. Stock markets crash.

Nothing or no one is worthy of our trust, and so we just don’t trust anyone or anything. Then we won’t be hurt.

But that’s no way to live ... and that’s not how we were created to live. God created us for relationship with Him and with others. And yet, if people and things let us down, if they prove to be unfaithful, in whom or in what can we put our trust? Who will be faithful, no matter what?

Our God will be. Always.

He will love us everlastingly. He will never, ever leave us alone. He will be by our sides through the good and will carry us through the bad.

He is faithful, when no one or nothing else is.

In God we really can trust!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Proud Confidence (2 Corinthians 1:12-14)

Today's scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:12-14

Sometimes it seems that there is nothing in which we can put our confidence—nothing and no one.

An up and down economy. Social unrest. Persecuted believers. Wars—and rumors of wars.

Corrupt politicians. Immoral clergy. Depraved celebrities.

It’s enough to make you want to crawl into a whole and hibernate. A “Calgon moment” for sure. Or perhaps a “Calgon lifetime”?

It seems hopeless. And in many ways, it is indeed hopeless. If we put our confidence in another person or in the things of this world, we are destined for disappointment.

The only thing we can—and should—put our hope in is the grace of God. In His wisdom. In His teachings. In His plan. In His will.

If we put our confidence in Him, we will never truly be disappointed. If we trust that He does work all things out for good as Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, we can have confidence that, even in the most difficult times, God will prevail. His word will stand firm.

And there’s one more thing in which we can have confidence: the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, as this world continues its downward spiral, we can be confident that His return is ever closer.

I’m confident about that!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Mystery of Prayer (2 Corinthians 1:8-11)

Today's scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:8-11

Prayer is, for me at least, a great mystery. If God is omniscient, knowing all things, than He already knows what I’m going to pray before I even pray it. So why do we pray?

I think it’s because it keeps our focus on God and His will. We pray for healing or provision or strength, and we seek God’s will in each situation. We trust that He’ll do exactly what is right as He sees right. We hope in His sovereignty, knowing that all things will work out for His glory and our good (Romans 8:28).

Another reason we should pray is because when we’re praying for others, we think of them rather than ourselves. And it often puts things into perspective. When I pray for a friend with cancer, I realize how blessed I am, even with my daily aches and pains. When I’m reminded of a need for financial provision, I remember that God has given ample funds to take care of my daily needs.

Prayer is still a mystery to me, but I pray. I pray for God’s will in all things. I pray that my friends and family will find peace, will be provided for, and will be protected.

I pray for those who serve God full time. I pray for those who don’t yet know my Lord. I pray for our government, for our nation … for our world.

And I pray for you.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Comfort ... A Reason for Suffering (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)

Today's scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

I would give a lot to live without constant pain and fatigue. I would love to wake up one morning and feel well. It would be a pretty amazing thing …

But that doesn’t seem to be God’s plan. Oh, I’ve prayed for healing. Others have as well. And I believe with all my heart that God could take my pain away, but for reasons known only to Himself, He does not.

So, since He hasn’t healed my earthly pain, I’ve had to make a choice: wallow in the pain or see a greater purpose in it. And I choose the latter.

That’s why I love verses like today’s. There is a purpose in pain. For me, one purpose is that it keeps me focused on God. I know I can’t handle it on my own. Those mornings when I wake up and it’s all I can do to even get out of bed? I immediately ask the Lord for strength, just to get through that day. And He does.

The other purpose is that I’m able to comfort others who deal with health issues. I can offer a shoulder or a hug. I can give advice based on my own experience. I can pray with them and for them.

There’s nothing quite like having someone who’s experienced something similar to what you’re going through. While my wonderful husband loves me and wants to help me, he really doesn’t “get it.” And I’m glad he doesn’t because I wouldn’t want him to live with the pain I do.

So when I need a bit of comfort myself, I tend to gravitate to others who can empathize. To those who say—and mean it—“I know what you’re going through.” Not a pity party, mind you … just a feeling that I’m not on this journey alone.

Yes, I’d love to be pain-free. But since I’m not, I can feel blessed because I know God is using my pain.

It’s not just about physical pain. Whatever you’ve experienced—abuse, infertility, divorce, addiction—God can use that experience to help and comfort others. You can directly impact the lives of those who are on similar paths to your own.

And that’s one of the greatest blessings.

God's Promises (2 Corinthians 1:20-22)

Today's scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:20-22

Last Thursday, I wrote of God’s faithfulness. Today continues that theme. God faithfully keeps all His promises. His yes is always yes. And what does He promise us?

He promises to provide for our needs—not our wants, mind you, but our needs (Philippians 4:19).

He promises to love us with an “everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

He promises to never leave us (Hebrews 13:5).

He will provide for us, care for us, heal us (Genesis 22:14; Psalm 23; Psalm 30:2).

He will be our refuge, our strength, our help (Psalm 46:1-2).

He will forgive us, cleanse us, make us righteous in His eyes (1 John 1:9).

When we commit our lives to Him by accepting the gift of salvation and eternal live through the death, burial, and resurrection of God the Son, Jesus Christ, we become sons and daughters of God the Father. And just like any other loving father, our Heavenly Father always keeps His promises.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Grace to You ... (2 Corinthians 1:1-2)

Today's scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:1-2

Thank you for keeping up with our journey through 1 Corinthians. Without losing any momentum, today begins a several-weeks journey through Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth.

As always, he starts by greeting his brothers and sisters.

I’m sure I’ve written this before, but letter-writing—true pen to paper letter-writing—is a lost art. I’m as guilty as the next person … I rarely sit down and actually hand write a letter to friends and family.

Certainly, I text and message and email, but taking out a piece of lovely stationery and pen? Not so much. It’s kind of sad. I still have many of the handwritten notes my husband wrote when we were dating. He’d often leave one on my car or slip one in a silly card. Those notes document a part of our history together.  Now he’ll text a silly comment or two, but I don’t keep those.

Yep. Kind of sad.

But I guess, even if we don’t handwrite any more, one of the most important things is keeping in touch. And even more important? Praying that our friends and family experience the grace and peace that comes only through relationship with Jesus.

And so, as we head down this path through 2 Corinthians, I pray the same for you: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Thursday, May 21, 2015

You Have Blessed Me (1 Corinthians 16:19-24)

Today's scripture: 1 Corinthians 16:19-24

I just love how God made us for relationship. With Him. With others.

Paul certainly understood the importance of relationships. In all his letters, he began by greeting his brothers and sisters in Christ with joy and love. He so desired they grow in faith, and it’s clear he dearly loved them. He mentioned friends by name, like Aquila and Prisca, and he continually prayed for them.

I too dearly love the people with whom God has blessed me. I have a wonderful family, and I know they’re just a phone call away (and now, some of them are within a reasonable distance for a visit!). I have faithful friends who pray for me and support me. I’ve mentioned before that, although God chose not to give my husband and me children, He’s blessed me abundantly with “children of my heart.” I have “daughters” who actually call me “mama.”

Then there’s my wonderful husband. We are in a new chapter of our lives, and for the first time, we actually have abundant time together. I am continually blessed by his presence.

If you’re reading this devotional, it’s because you are part of my life in some way. And so, I pray along with Paul: “Maranatha [Come, O Lord!]. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Supply What Is Lacking (1 Corinthians 16:14-18)

Today's scripture: 1 Corinthians 16:14-18

It bears repeating: We Christians are all part of one Body, and we’ve been created to serve our God in whatever capacity He’s designed. We all have gifts that “supply what is lacking” in others.

I cannot do what you can do in the exact way you do it. You cannot do what I can do in the exact way I do it. Together, however, we all do exactly what God calls us to do.

That’s one of the greatest things about being a child of God: We’re not on this journey alone. Not only do we have our never-leaving, never-forsaking God (Hebrews 13:5), not only does He love us everlastingly (Jeremiah 31:3), but we also have our brothers and sisters to walk alongside us. Paul certainly did.

So we need to support one another. Acknowledge each other.

Celebrate each other.

Show gratitude to each other. Submit to each other.

Love each other.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Words to Live By (1 Corinthians 16:13)

Today's scripture: 1 Corinthians 16:13

Paul is winding down his lengthy letter to the Corinthian. He has a few last greetings, which we’ll see in the next couple of days, but today, we’ll look at his last admonitions. Before we do so, I want to take a quick look at a couple of versions of this verse.

The New American Standard Bible, the version I’ve been using throughout this study on 1 Corinthians, says, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”

The Message paraphrases, “
Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions, give it all you've got, be resolute, and love without stopping.”

And the Contemporary English Version interprets, “Keep alert. Be firm in your faith. Stay brave and strong.”

So let’s look at these last instructions from this letter:

Be on the alert. In another letter, Paul wrote, “
Be on your guard and stay awake. Your enemy, the devil, is like a roaring lion, sneaking around to find someone to attack.” We are in a battle every day, and we need to stay awake, stay alert, be aware of the wiles and lies of the enemy.

Stand firm in faith. I did a quick search of the New American Standard Bible, and Paul uses the phrase “stand firm” 13 times. I particularly like how The Message puts it: we need to “… hold tight to [our] convictions.” We need to understand and stand on our faith in Jesus Christ.

Act like men, be strong. This doesn’t mean we should all be men. It means we need be strong and brave to withstand the attack of the enemy.

Let all that you do be done in love. This is the bottom line … we need to love each other. We need to go back to chapter 13 frequently. We need to be patient, kind, non-judgmental. We need to love as Christ loves. Unconditionally. Without fail.

No one ever said it was easy to be a Christian. But if we meditate on God’s word, and if we strive to live according to God’s commandments and admonitions in it, then we’ll become more and more the people God created us to be.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Do the Lord's Work (1 Corinthians 16:10-12)

Today's scripture: 1 Corinthians 16:10-12

Doing the Lord’s work …

We have been created for a purpose: to love our Lord—heart, soul, mind, and strength—and to love others (see Mark 12:30-31). How we demonstrate that love may be different as we use our God-given gifts to serve Him and others.

Some of us may preach or teach. Some of us may open our homes to encourage others. Some of us may offer mercy to the hurting. Some of us may pray without ceasing, interceding for those in need.

I’ve probably written this before, but I find it absolutely amazing—and overwhelmingly humbling—that God chooses us to do His work. We, who are weak, fleshly, flawed, are a critical part of His kingdom-building.


Yet, so often, we take this sacred responsibility for granted. We serve Him when it’s convenient for us. We help others when we have nothing better to do.

If it doesn’t interfere with our social lives, our television watching, our sports … well, then we can serve God, then we can do the work He’s called us to do.

The greatest commandment, according to Jesus Himself, is to love God. And the second is to love others. To show our love for Him, we must do what He calls us to do. We must do His work.

No hesitation. No “I will when I have time.” No “I will if there’s nothing better to do.”

If we all did what God’s called us to do, if we truly loved Him, if we strove to serve others with love … how different might this world be?

Let’s do the Lord’s work. Joyfully. Diligently. Humbly. And maybe we’ll change the world.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Seasons With Friends (1 Corinthians 16:5-9)

Today's scripture: 1 Corinthians 16:5-9

Sometimes we forget that Paul’s letters are exactly that: letters. And I love how he includes personal notes that remind us of his human need for relationship.

Here, he writes how he hopes to stay with the Corinthian Christians not “just in passing.” Rather he wants to spend the winter with them. An entire season. “For some time.”

We too are made for relationship. We need people around us to support us, to encourage us, and to love us. Even the most introverted among us need a friend or two. We need interaction with others, conversations, touch, hugs.

We’re made that way. Think of it this way: We’re created in the image of God, right? And our God is a God of relationships. In His trinity, He is in relationship—Father, Son, and Spirit. He created man to be in relationship with Himself.

And so we’re to be in relationship with others.

Find friends with whom you want to spend time … not just in passing, but for seasons upon seasons.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Put Aside ... and Give (1 Corinthians 16:1-4)

Today's scripture: 1 Corinthians 16:1-4

Just think if those of us who profess faith in Christ would automatically “put aside and save” a portion of our income and gave it to furthering the gospel? Supporting missionaries. Providing for the needs of pastors and other ministry workers.

I’ve read statistics that if all believers gave just a tiny percentage of their income—significantly less than ten percent—worldwide hunger could be alleviated and every person could have clean, healthy drinking water.

And yet, missionaries often struggle to raise support. Ministers have to get second—or third—jobs in order to pay their bills.

Children starve. People die of dehydration.

Are you giving back to God from what He’s given you? Are you doing your part to help support those who have been called to serve Him?

Why not “put aside and save” a portion of God’s blessings to help build His kingdom.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Your Toil Is Not in Vain (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Today's scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:58

There is only one real purpose for those who follow Christ: serving Him and doing the will of the Father. Because one day, when we stand before His throne, the only thing that will matter will be what we did for Him.

Everything else will pass away: “
The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).

We must, therefore, be steadfast in our faith. We need to keep our minds and hearts focused on God and His word, studying it. Meditating on it. Memorizing it.

We need to be immovable in what we believe, not “carried away by the error of unprincipled men” (2 Peter 3:17).

Nothing else truly matters. Not riches. Not fame. Not material goods. Nothing.

Only what we do for our Lord is of worth. And nothing we do for Him is in vain.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Victory Over Death (1 Corinthians 15:50-57)

Today's scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:50-57

What’s that old saying? “Nothing is sure but death and taxes.”

And yes, death is inevitable … Unless Christ returns, we’ll all die one day. And for some people, death is frightening.

But for those of us who know the Lord, death is merely a graduation. It has no power. It has no victory.

Certainly, when those of us who have accepted the gift of salvation through the death, burial, and resurrection die, we will cease to inhabit our temporary, earthly bodies. But we will not cease exist. Death will not swallow our souls—the essence of who we are.

We will live in heaven with our God—Father, Son, and Spirit. We will serve Him and praise Him throughout eternity.

No. Death is no victor. We serve the One who is stronger than anything—including death.

Praise Him!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Gloriously Changed (1 Corinthians 15:42-49)

Today's scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:42-49

I wrote on Friday that I look forward to having a glorified body, one without pain or fatigue. And I seriously can’t wait.

The concept of earthly versus heavenly, natural versus spiritual, continues in today’s verses:

Such is the established order of Providence. We must have weak, frail, mortal bodies by descent from the first Adam, before we can have lively, spiritual, and immortal ones by the quickening power of the second. We must die before we can live to die no more. Yet if we are Christ's, true believers in him (for this whole discourse relates to the resurrection of the saints), it is as certain that we shall have spiritual bodies as it is now that we have natural or animal ones. By these we are as the first Adam, earthy, we bear his image; by those we shall be as the second Adam, have bodies like his own, heavenly, and so bear him image. And we are as certainly intended to bear the one as we have borne the other. As surely therefore as we have had natural bodies, we shall have spiritual ones. The dead in Christ shall not only rise, but shall rise thus gloriously changed. (Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible)
Gloriously changed. Bearing the image of Christ.

One day. One day soon, I pray.

Friday, May 08, 2015

A Glorified Body ... (1 Corinthians 15:35-41)

Today's scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:35-41

I may be going way off-track of what Paul might have meant by heavenly and earthly bodies, but these verses remind me that this earthly body I inhabit now is temporary. One day, I’ll have a glorified body in which I’ll spend eternity.

This earthly body is frail. Weak. Flawed. It is in constant pain. It is chronically fatigued. It lacks energy. Yes, God gives it enough strength to do what He calls it to do, but I tire of it. Often.

So many days, I want to shed this earthly skin and take on a new body that is strong and pain-free. Days like today. My joints are stiff. My hips and knees throb. My muscles spasm.

It makes me long all the more for the day when I feel no pain and have energy in abundance to praise and serve God. One day, in the mansion He’s designed just for me, I’ll live—I’ll thrive—in that glorified body. That heavenly body.

And that day can’t come soon enough!

Thursday, May 07, 2015

A Greater Purpose (1 Corinthians 15:29-34)

Today's scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:29-34

If Jesus Christ didn’t rise from the grave, then everything is futile. There is no purpose, no meaning. If, as some people say, when we die, we die and become worm food, then why bother?

If I didn’t believe there was a purpose to my life, a God-designed purpose, I wouldn’t want to live. Seriously. I watch this world get more and more corrupt. I see the selfishness in its people. I hear the hate and anger. It’s so often not a very pleasant place to be.

And when I wake up in the morning, and the pain is overwhelming, if I didn’t know God would give me the strength to make it through each moment and if I didn’t know He’d use the pain for His glory … well, again, I wouldn’t want to live.

But I do believe Christ rose from the dead. I do believe He lives today. I do believe God has a great purpose for all things.

So I do get up every morning. I do trust in His strength. I do believe in His purpose and plan.

And I look forward to the day of Christ’s return.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

The War Is Won! (1 Corinthians 15:20-28)

Today's scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Adam’s choice in the Garden of Eden brought sin into the world—the sin of pride, of wanting to not just be like God, but to be God.

And Adam’s sin infiltrated the hearts and souls of all of his descendents. We are all sinful. Or as Paul wrote in another of his epistles: “All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23).

We can in no way solve the problem of sin—on our own, that is. But there is One far greater than any sin we could possibly commit. There is One through whom we can “all be made alive.”

Sometimes it seems like the enemy is winning. Sin is rampant. Corruption prevails. Perversion triumphs. Satan is licking his chops in glee as he sees the downward spiral of this earth.

Ah, but we know the end of the story. We know that Jesus “has put all His enemies under His feet … He has put all things in subjection under His feet.”

Yes, through one man sin entered the world. But through the Son of Man, the “last enemy that will be abolished is death.”  Right will overcome wrong. Life will vanquish death.

And those of us who have chosen to follow Christ will spend eternity with our God—Father, Son, and Spirit. Everything else will fall away.

So I say, “Lord Jesus, come quickly!”

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

If Not ... Then ... (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

Today's scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

The gospel—the good news of salvation—hinges on the resurrection. If Christ had merely died and buried, then there would be no good news. We would still be lost.

One of my favorite commentaries investigates these verses:
Having shown that Christ was risen, the apostle answers those who said there would be no resurrection. There had been no justification, or salvation, if Christ had not risen. And must not faith in Christ be vain, and of no use, if he is still among the dead? The proof of the resurrection of the body is the resurrection of our Lord. Even those who died in the faith, had perished in their sins, if Christ had not risen. All who believe in Christ, have hope in him, as a Redeemer; hope for redemption and salvation by him; but if there is no resurrection, or future recompence, their hope in him can only be as to this life. And they must be in a worse condition than the rest of mankind, especially at the time, and under the circumstances, in which the apostles wrote; for then Christians were hated and persecuted by all men. But it is not so; they, of all men, enjoy solid comforts amidst all their difficulties and trials, even in the times of the sharpest persecution. (Matthew Henry Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible)
We would have no real hope if Jesus had remained in the grave.

But He didn’t. Eyewitness report proves that He rose from the grave. He lives. And so shall we who follow Him.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Grace for the Least (1 Corinthians 15:9-11)

Today's scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:9-11

We are all the “least of the apostles.” None of us deserves God’s grace. None of us.

Yet that’s exactly what God offers to us. Grace. Unmerited favor. Getting what we don’t deserve.

Most of us didn’t persecute the church of God, but we sinned. Each and every one of us. Some of us “worse” than others, certainly. But each of us has sinned. Each of has broken the heart of our Lord and Savior. Each of us deserves eternal separation from Him.

Yet, if we receive the gift of salvation by receiving Christ as our Savior, we are covered by God’s grace. We receive eternity with our Lord and Savior.

We receive so much of what we don’t deserve. Even those of us who have been the worst of sinners.

Grace is ours … We just have to ask.

Friday, May 01, 2015

99 Words (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

Today's scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:3-8

Yesterday, Paul wrote of how the gospel needs to be received and then stood by and held fast. Today’s verses are the gospel in a “nutshell.”

You may have heard of the “elevator speech”? It’s when you’re able to describe or illustrate something in the time it takes to ride an elevator up a high-rise building. In just 99 words, Paul defines “gospel,” which could definitely be said in less than a minute. We Christians should memorize these verses so that we’re prepared to quickly and succinctly share the truth.

So many of us are intimated when we think of sharing the gospel. We’re content to let preachers and teacher do the work for us. Yet we’re all called to share God’s truth. In fact, we’re commanded to do so. Jesus’ final words to His disciples apply to us as well: “
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15).

Yet it’s not easy.
We’re not quite sure what to say, and we’re afraid we might be asked something we can’t answer. Perhaps having just 99 words that completely encapsulate the truth would help: Jesus died for our sins and was buried and was resurrected according to the scripture. And we know this to be true because He appeared to many—many—before He ascended to heaven.

Share the truth. Share the gospel. Share the 99 words.