Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A brief departure ...

Your calendar says it's September 30, but I'm writing this a bit ahead. I'm having a minor out-patient procedure on the 30th, and since I have to be at the hospital at 7 a.m. after 24 hours of "prep," I don't know that I'm going to feel up to focusing on Paul's words to the Ephesians!

So ... I thought I would share one of my favorite verses that I lean on when I'm struggling ... perhaps you need to read these words today.

The psalmist writes, "The Lord is my refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble; therefore, I shall not fear" (Psalm 34:1-2b). I memorized these words years ago, and I come back to them time and time again.

Days when my physical strength has run out.

Days when my spiritual strength is tested.

Days when my emotional strength is hanging by a thread.

I know during times of difficulty and trouble, I can run to my Abba, climb on His lap, and feel His arms around me.

Giving me a place of refuge, strengthening my weakness, taking my fear.

If you're struggling, if you're fearful, if you're weak, run to your Abba.

He's waiting with open arms.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Loving Our Siblings in Christ (Galatians 5:26)

Today's scriptures: Galatians 5:26

Yesterday, we were reminded of the fruit of the Spirit—those attributes that demonstrate the difference we in Christ should manifest.

And perhaps, to attract believers to our Lord and Savior, we do show love and kindness and patience to the world. And yet, with those we should love most—our family, our friends … our brothers and sisters in Christ—we aren’t so loving or gentle.

Instead of humbly following God’s call, we boast about what God’s doing in us.

Instead of praying for and supporting our leadership, we challenge them to do things our way.

Instead of celebrating the gifts and talents of others, we envy them when they’re doing what we want.

Oh, if only we really loved that way, served that way. With humility. Genuinely supporting one another. Rejoicing with each other.

Just think about how our local churches could serve the community—if we positively focused on others instead of ourselves.

Just think about it …

Monday, September 28, 2015

Live AND Walk By the Spirit (Galatians 5:24-25)

Today's scriptures: Galatians 5:24-25

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Talk the talk AND walk the walk.” As followers of Christ, this should be how we choose to live.

We should know God’s word well so we can tell people about Him. We should have scripture memorized so we can share the hope that comes in knowing God (1 Peter 3:15). We should hide God’s word in our hearts to combat the lies of the enemy, just as Jesus Himself did (see Matthew 4:1-11).

But knowing God’s word isn’t enough. We can speak about God all we want—talk the talk—but if we don’t walk the walk, no one is going to listen to us. In fact, we’ll repel them.

How often has the cause of Christ suffered because of a professed Christian who publicly falls? The pastor who embezzles. The priest who abuses. The church leader who has an affair.

Believe me, the world is watching us. Unbelievers are looking at us to see if we live as we speak.

I think many unbelievers are seeking the peace and hope that comes from knowing Christ. I really do. And they want to see a difference in us. They want to see Christ in us.

The only way they’ll do so is if we walk according to God’s word and His will.

They need to hear us share God’s word, certainly. But they also need to see us being gentle and kind, joyful and patient, loving and peaceful.

They need to see us talking the talk AND walking the walk.

Then they’ll be attracted to the hope in us.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)

Today's scriptures: Galatians 5:22-23

How I long to be an illustration of the fruit of the Spirit! I so want to be loving and joyful and peaceful. Oh, to be patient and kind and good. And how wonderful it would be to be faithful and gentle and have self-control. All the time. To everyone.

Now I do pretty well with some of these. I do have God-given peace. And I’m fiercely faithful to my God and those I love. And I strive to find joy in every circumstance, as James taught (1:2).

But patience? I’ve struggled with that for years. As much as I surrender my life to God, I still want what I want when I want it … And self-control? I know I need to exercise. It’s a key component for keeping my chronic conditions somewhat under control. I know I need to eat well for the same reason. But do I exercise every day as I should? Do I diligently watch what I eat? No. Not always.

And then I have to ask myself: When others watch me, do they see anything different in me? Anything that attracts them to my Lord?

I pray that I’ll more and more be a shining light to others, that they’ll see the fruit of the Spirit in me. I pray God will give me patience and self-control. That I’ll be kind and good. And faithful. Always faithful to my heavenly Father.

And I pray the same for you.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Walk By the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-21)

Today's scriptures: Galatians 5:16-21

Why do so many who call themselves Christians live in habitual sin? It seems there are two reasons: Either they’re ignorant of what the Bible says are “deeds of the flesh” or they’re not being led by the Spirit.

Many people who have accepted God’s gift of salvation through belief in and acceptance of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection just haven’t spent much time in God’s word. They have a sincere faith, but they’re still “baby Christians.” In other words, they just don’t know any better.

However, once they grow in faith and study and meditate on God’s word, they begin to see how their behavior is contrary to God’s will for their lives. They seek to behave in ways that please their heavenly Father.

On the other hand, some who once made an “altar call decision” to follow Christ didn’t really commit their lives to Him. Oh, they may still go to church on Sunday and say grace before meals. They may carry their Bible and say “amen” in the appropriate places. They may serve on committees and volunteer their time to help others.

But in the privacy of their homes, they “practice” sin. They live in habitual sin—and they know it.

Only God knows the heart, but one has to wonder: If I knowingly sin, if I deliberately do something the Bible clearly says is wrong, if I ignore the prompting of the Spirit … am I really a follower of Christ? Are you?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Love Your Neighbor ... Really (Galatians 5:14-15)

Today's scriptures: Galatians 5:14-15

Imagine what this world would be like if we all followed this simple commandment.

No thefts. No rapes. No murders. No arguments over property lines. No one cutting off another in traffic. No cheating. No lying. No backstabbing.

Instead, people would share with one another. Care for one another. Marriages would remain intact. Families would thrive.

But no. We don’t love each other as we love ourselves. We “bite and devour one another,” and in doing so, we “consume” each other.

We hurt those we say we love. We let petty differences destroy. We look at that “greener grass,” and think nothing of breaking hearts.

We step on others in our never-ending climb up the corporate ladder.

And maybe this behavior can be accepted in the world. But those of us who claim to follow Christ? May it never be, as Paul would say. We need to be the example of Christ’s love to a hurting world. We need to love one another even more than we love ourselves.

Imagine how your world would be if you did.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

True Freedom (Galatians 5:1-13)

Today's scriptures: Galatians 5:1-13

True freedom comes through Christ. Before salvation, we were slaves to sin. We were slaves to our flesh and its desires.

But when we came to faith in Christ, we were freed from the yoke of slavery to sin. We no longer have to do what the world says to do. We don’t have to listen to the lies our flesh tells.

We are free.

But Paul makes it very clear.  Yes, we are free from sin’s grip through salvation in Christ, but we still have to be alert. We have to stand firm … and keep on doing so.

It’s a constant battle between the flesh and the spirit. And freedom in Christ does not give us license to sin as we please and then go back to Him for forgiveness. Instead, we need to focus on God’s commandments and His will so we can experience true freedom.

We can serve Christ and use the freedom we have in Him to serve Him and others.

That’s what true freedom looks like: living to glorify our Savior, doing the will of the heavenly Father.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Our Abba ... Daddy ... (Galatians 4:6-7)

Today's scriptures: Galatians 4:6-7

Oh how I love the reminder that I can call my heavenly Father, “Abba”! I can crawl up on His lap and call Him “Daddy”!

I absolutely love that!!

Those of us who didn’t have the greatest of fatherly influences sometimes don’t understand what it means to have a daddy. A man you can trust. A man who has your back. A man who will love and cherish and protect you.

And that is exactly what our heavenly Father is for His children.

He is our protector, our provider, our refuge. He is our strength, our healer, the lover of our soul.

He loves us with an everlasting love. He will never leave us or forsake us.

He is faithful and trustworthy.

He is, indeed, our Daddy … in every sense of the word.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Adopted by God (Galatians 4:1-5)

Today's scriptures: Galatians 4:1-5

Before Jesus Christ came to fulfill the Law, believers in Jehovah God needed guidance—“guardians and managers.” And that guidance came through the Law. Without the Law, God’s people would have behaved like children, easily influenced by the “elemental things of the world.”

Think of the attention span of most young children. One moment watching cartoons. The next coloring. And then chasing the dog.

But then we grow up—hopefully. We make wise decisions and choices.

And the wisest decision we can make is to follow Jesus Christ. God the Father sent His Son to provide redemption for His children. We are adopted into God’s family, and as His children, we are guided directly by the Holy Spirit.

We can ask the Spirit to help us choose well, to help us follow the Father’s will.

Our Father’s will.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

All One in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28-29)

Today’s scripture: Galatians 3:28-29

We are “all one in Christ Jesus.”

Read the first verse again. There is no distinction between individuals in God the Father’s eyes. As long as we’re followers of God the Son, Jesus Christ, we are one.

We can—and must—look beyond race, gender, socio-economic background, and see the hearts of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our faith should transcend everything else that makes us difference.

Think about it. How often have you met a stranger and then, when you found she was a fellow believer, you instantly connected? Wherever we go, we can instantly find kindred spirits in a Bible-believing church.

I just love that!

And then in the next verse, we’re reminded that we’re heirs to God’s promise. And what is that promise? Redeemed hearts and eternity with Him.

We aren’t outcasts. We aren’t distant relatives. We aren’t afterthoughts. We are heirs of God. We are His dearly-loved children.

Take a moment and thank God for His promises. And for His Fatherly love.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Sons and Daughters of God! (Galatians 3:25-27)

Today’s scripture: Galatians 3:25-27

I love, love, LOVE these verses!!!

The Law provided guidelines by which God’s people needed to live to obtain atonement from sins. His people needed a tutor. We don’t need a tutor any longer.

We are sons and daughters of the Father through our faith in Christ. We can enter directly into the Father’s presence because of Jesus’ intercession for us!!

And not only are we sons and daughters of our heavenly Father, but we are also “clothed” with Christ. We take on His godly attributes when we are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We can take off the influences of the flesh and put on the fruit of the Spirit

That’s what faith in Jesus Christ, our Messiah, does for us. And even though we don’t need tutoring by the Law, our faith in Christ gives us the desire to serve the Father and follow His commandments.

It delights Him when we choose to follow Him and His commands—not out of compulsion, but with willing hearts. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Custody Under the Law (Galatians 3:22-24)

Today’s scripture: Galatians 3:22-24

Everyone sins. Everyone. Try as you might not to, you still sin. A burst of anger at another driver. A lustful thought. A momentary envy.

Everyone sins.

And before “faith came,” that is, faith in Jesus Christ, mankind was “kept in custody under the law.” Think of that word, custody. Being under the “immediate charge and control” (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary). If a person wanted to be righteous, he had to give himself entirely to the Law.

In addition, the Law was the “tutor,” by which people learned what to do—and what not to do—to find atonement. In other words, the Law told mankind how to behave in order to find favor with Creator God.

Can you imagine? Having to watch every single thing you said and did. Every thought. Wondering if you missed something. Did something. Thought something. Anything that might make you lose God’s favor.

What a sad, difficult way to live. And without a once-for-all sacrifice, that’s how we would live.

But stay tuned, tomorrow, we’ll see yet again that there’s another way!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Our Mediator (Galatians 3:20-21)

Today’s scripture: Galatians 3:20-21

Jesus mediates between us and God. It was His sacrificial death and victorious resurrection that paid our sin debt. And now He sits at the Father’s right hand and intercedes on our behalf.

As we’ve said several times through our studies, the Son fulfilled the Law. He was not contrary to it. The Law itself could not save us from our sins. It could not “impart life.” Only the sacrifice of a perfect Lamb could do this.

I don’t know about you, but this gives me tremendous assurance and encouragement. I know I couldn’t become righteous on my own. Even though I’ve been walking with the Lord for a long time, and even though I do my best to follow His commandments, I fall … more often than I’d like. If I had to rely on my own abilities to be “good,” I’d be destined for eternal separation from God.

But I’m not. I am confident I’ll spend eternity with my Father. I know my sins are forgiven, and I know I’m righteous in my Father’s eyes.

Because I accepted the Son’s gift of payment for my sin. I committed my life to God—Father, Son, and Spirit.

And He has given me life. Eternal life.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Seed of Promise (Galatians 3:19)

Today’s scripture: Galatians 3:19

If God the Father always had a plan for our salvation through the death and resurrection of His Son, why the Law?

Because we humans are fleshly and sinful. And without a system of law, we’d run amok. Think of our world without laws. Without traffic law or civil law or criminal law. Frightening? Indeed.

So the Father instigated a system of Law so we’d know how to behave. We learn we shouldn’t take things that don’t belong to us. We shouldn’t hurt others. We should tell the truth.

Love God. Love others.

But the Law doesn’t save us.

Salvation comes only through the “promise” of the “seed.” Jesus, the one “seed” from Abraham. The promised Messiah. The once-for-all sacrifice. The fulfillment of the Law.

Our Mediator.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Promise (Galatians 3:15-18)

Today’s scripture: Galatians 3:15-18

God always had a plan to reconcile us with Him. He knew the choice Adam and Eve would make to follow their own path, so He instigated a temporary way of atonement through animal sacrifice—the spilling of blood.

But when He cut covenant with Abraham, God promised fulfillment through a “seed” of Abraham’s. One seed. Christ.

And Christ—God the Son come to earth—fulfilled God’s promise of redemption and reconciliation. We can claim God’s promise when we accept Jesus’ gift of salvation, when we commit ourselves to serving Him.

God always keeps His promises. Always. We can be confident as we pray for His will, if He speaks to our hearts, He will do as He promised.


Wednesday, September 09, 2015

No Curse! (Galatians 3:13-14)

Today’s scripture: Galatians 3:13-14

Today’s devotion is short, but (I hope) sweet. A balm for your soul.

We who follow Christ believe He took the sins of mankind on Himself when He died on the cross. But did you think of His “having become a curse for us”? He, the perfect Son of God, chose curse over perfection.

For us.

Jesus died for us. He took on our sin. He chose having His Father turn from Him—even for a moment.

For us.

We have received “the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Our Lord Jesus Christ’s taking on our curse makes us righteous in the eyes of our Father. He redeemed us. He saved us.

That’s how much He loves me. How much He loves you.

Have you thanked your Lord lately for His sacrifice? 

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Live By Faith (Galatians 3:11-12)

Today’s scripture: Galatians 3:11-12

The Webster-
Webster’s Dictionary defines faith as “allegiance to duty or a person” or “belief and trust in and loyalty to God” or “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.”

The first definition is relatively easy. I can be faithful to my husband because I see him and talk with him. I know his history of loyalty and integrity. I have friends I share my secrets with because they’ve proven themselves to be trustworthy.  

That last definition of faith can be difficult. We can’t touch Jesus with our hands or see Him with our eyes. No definite, absolute, tangible proof exists that God exists. Yet countless people have faith in Him.

And countless others don’t believe in God because they want every “I” dotted and every “T” crossed. They say they can’t believe in Him unless He appears in their very presence. They want to know everything about Him.

But a god that can be fully known by our human, finite minds isn’t much of a god at all. I believe in the God who remains a mystery. I’ve seen the results of His work in creation. I’ve experienced His intervention and His miracles.

And even though I’ve never seen Him or touched Him or audibly heard His voice, I know He is. I know He loves me and blesses me and walks alongside me. He heals. He provides. He gives peace.

I have faith in “something for which there is no proof”—for my mind, at least. But my heart trusts completely.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Broke the Law Lately? (Galatians 3:10)

Today’s scripture: Galatians 3:10

Can you imagine if we didn’t live under God’s grace? If, in order to be forgiven and therefore righteous in God’s eyes, we had to follow the Law—completely?

It would be impossible. None of us would make it. Have you read Leviticus lately? It truly would be impossible for anyone to “abide by all things written in the book of the law.” And if we can’t do so? We are cursed.

What if you had to somehow make up for any broken law? You burst out in anger at your children. Some unwholesome word pops out (see Ephesians 4:29). You tell a “white lie” to your spouse. You neglect some ritualistic cleansing.

You break the Law.

Maybe just one tiny part of the Law. Maybe something seemingly insignificant. According to the Bible, breaking of one law is breaking them all.

And it really is impossible for anyone to keep every single law.

It would seem we’re doomed … ah, but wait until tomorrow! We’ll see the hope we who follow Christ have! 

Friday, September 04, 2015

Blessed ... and Blessed Again (Galatians 3:6-9)

Today’s scripture: Galatians 3:6-9

Followers of Jesus Christ are blessed by God because we are His children.

Foremost, we are blessed with the promise of eternal life with our Lord and Savior, and I, for one, am looking forward to that.

But think of all the ways God blesses us each day. Or perhaps I should speak for myself.

I’m blessed with a supportive, loving husband. I’m blessed with caring, praying family and friends. I’m blessed with a roof over my head, food to eat, clothes to wear. I’m blessed with a job that allows needed flexibility and a vocation that encourages others.

And even through the difficult parts of my life, I’m blessed. I suffer from ill health, yet I’m blessed with the confidence that Jesus carries me through those days when I can’t carry myself. I don’t have children of my body, yet I’m blessed with many children of my heart.

Blessings through sunny days and mountaintop experiences. Blessings through storms and deep valleys.

All because I’m a daughter of the King.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Foolishness ... (Galatians 3:1-4)

Today’s scripture: Galatians 3:1-4

I’ve probably written this before, but I love how Paul gets to the heart of the matter … and doesn’t mince words.

The Christians in Galatia had been “bewitched.” Many of them had actually seen Jesus crucified, yet they’d fallen prey to false teaching. Works, they were told, “perfected” their faith. They were taught that they received the Spirit through works, not faith. And Paul called them “foolish.”

And rightfully so. Jesus Himself made it clear. Eternal salvation comes through the His own sacrificial death (John 3:16). The Father, part of the triune God, gives each of His followers the Spirit—also part of the triune God (Luke11:13), and it is through the Spirit we are reborn (John 3:6).The Spirit gives life (John 6:63) and dwells in us (John 14:17). He teaches us truth (John 14:26).

Jesus didn’t even mention “works.” But somehow, some in the early church decided that what Christians did was more important than who they were in Christ. Works were more important than faith.

It was foolish then. And it’s foolish now. 

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

The Law Fulfilled (Galatians 2:19-21)

Today’s scripture: Galatians 2:19-21

These are familiar verses to many of us, and sometimes, when we’ve heard something over and over, we tend to overlook the importance of words.

Jesus fulfilled the Law. Before His death and resurrection, redemption came through adherence to the Law and a blood sacrifice. But Jesus’ payment of the penalty for our sin made certain aspects of the Law unnecessary. Ritual cleanliness. Circumcision. A perfect lamb’s spilled blood.

No longer does our righteousness come through the Law. We die to our sin. We die to the Law. And we live to God. But remember: It’s not we who live. It’s Christ living in us. Our faith in God gives us a heart to serve Him. Not because we’re trying to keep a bunch of rules and regulations. But because we want to please Him. We want to delight Him.

But don’t pass over that last verse. Sometimes we still feel we have to tow the line. If we give our tithe, if we serve at the homeless shelter, if we help our neighbor, we’ll sometimes be more righteous in the Father’s eyes. If that were the case, however, “then Christ died needlessly.”

Oh, my friend. What a tragic thought. Jesus suffered excruciating pain and torment needlessly? He died an agonizing death needlessly?

No. On the contrary, His suffering and death gave us a way to the Father apart from the Law. And when we strive to be righteous by what we do, we’re negating our Messiah’s sacrifice.

In the words of Paul, may it never be!

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Justified (Galatians 2:15-18)

Today’s scripture: Galatians 2:15-18

We are justified by faith in Jesus Christ. And it’s more than just believing that Jesus lived. It’s believing that He’s part of the triune God, that He came to earth and took on flesh, and that He died to pay the penalty for sin.

When we have that faith, that confidence in God’s grace, then we are justified.

There’s nothing we can do to gain salvation on our own. We can’t do enough good things. We can’t memorize enough scriptures. We can’t serve in enough soup kitchens.

It is only by grace—God’s unmerited favor—that we can be assured of salvation and of our spending eternity with our Lord God.

And when we’re justified, when we’re saved by God’s grace, we will seek to live as sinless as we possibility can. For Jesus is not a “minister of sin. In fact, even in flesh, He remained without sin. And it’s because of His perfection that He could pay the penalty for our sin.

That’s grace. That’s justification. And it’s ours if we sincerely accept Jesus Christ’s gift of salvation and commit our lives to Him.