Thursday, December 31, 2015

Resolutions ...

I used to make resolutions.

I don’t any more … Too many resolutions were broken (many before they were even started).

A few years ago, I decided instead to choose a “word for the year.” These words helped to “put first things first,” to give me a guideline of how I wanted to live that year. Words like focus, integrity, purposeful … Words that would make me think a bit differently, behave a bit differently.

As I prayerfully reflected on a word, the Lord would also give me a verse to go along with it. For example, the word for 2015 was purposeful. The verse associated with it was Colossians 1:29. I wanted to be purposeful to do God’s will and to touch lives for Him.

What I found is this “word for the year” encompassed everything in my life: my work, my relationships, my ministry. It brought things down to the basics: how do I want to live my life? With focus, with integrity, with purpose … all for the glory of God.

I don’t know how you look forward to each year, but may I invite you to try finding your “word for the year.” Pray about it. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Reflections ...

For the next three days, I’m veering from our journey through Paul’s epistles. As this year winds down, it just seems appropriate to reflect a bit.

2015 has been an amazing year, full of many ups (our move from California to Tennessee being the biggest) and downs (right now, my heart is burdened by the impending loss of a dear friend …). Through it all, as in years gone by, the Lord has been ever-faithful.

A favorite verse of mine (and yes, I do have many favorites!) comes to mind this morning:
Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken. (NASB, Psalm 55:22)
No matter the circumstance, I know the Lord sustains me. He walks alongside me and rejoices with me during the good times. He carries me and wipes my tears during the times of pain and sorrow.

He provides and protects, giving me exactly what I need to get through each day. That has been so very true this last year. As I continue to deal with ill health, as I develop new friendships, as I seek God’s will … He faithfully and graciously cares for me.

May I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on your 2015? Then, spend a moment (or two or three) thanking our Lord for sustaining you?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

It's All In the Words (Ephesians 6:21-24)

Today's scriptures: Ephesians 6:21-24

Some of my favorite words are in these verses. Faithful. Comfort. Peace. Love. Grace.

And as children of God, we experience all of these from God 

God is faithful. Utterly, completely faithful. He is unchanging and constant. He has always been and will always be. He will complete His work in His time.

He offers comfort. He promises to never leave nor forsake us. He is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble. When we hurt, He carries us.

He offers peace. We know we don’t need to worry or be afraid. Even in the midst of the storm, He’ll reach out a hand to pull us from the waves. And when we come to Him with our anxious thoughts, He’ll fill our hearts with that pace that surpasses human understanding.

He offers love. He loves us with an everlasting love. He loves us so very much that He sent His Son, part of Himself to save us from our sins, and to bring us back into relationship with Him.

He offers grace. Salvation isn’t about what I do. It’s about what He has already done. Because of His love for me, He grants me unmerited favor. He gives me something I don’t deserve: Eternity with Him.

All because He’s faithful, loving, gracious, and the Giver of peace and comfort.

He’s so very, very good!!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Pray ... At All Times (Ephesians 6:18-20)

Today's scriptures: Ephesians 6:18-20

We know we need to put on the armor of God to be ready to meet the enemy head-on. But the armor needs just one more thing … one very important thing: Prayer.

We need to cover ourselves, those we love, and the entire church of Christ in prayer. More than once, Paul wrote of praying “at all times” or “without ceasing” (Thessalonians 5:17). We should be praying for provision, protection, and peace. We should be praying for firm and grounded faith. We should be praying for boldness to share the truth of the gospel of Christ.

And we should pray for the softening of hearts of those who have yet to come to faith.

We should also pray for those who have been called into ministry: pastors, missionaries, mission leaders, ministry leaders. Not everyone has the gift of preaching or teaching or evangelizing. And those of us who’ve been gifted in other ways need to offer prayerful support.

Just as Paul asked for the prayers of the Christians at Ephesus, so should we pray for those who are boldly and regularly proclaiming God’s truth.

Make it a habit—one of the better habits—to pray for others. At all times. Without ceasing.

Friday, December 25, 2015

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.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)

Today's scripture: Isaiah 9:6

If Jesus’ being our Eternal Father is a comfort to me, this last attribute given our Savior brings me the most … well, peace. For He is, indeed, the Prince of Peace.

But for some of us, peace is the last thing we feel. Even as you’re celebrating our Savior’s birth, maybe you’re struggling with finances or your health, or maybe you’re struggling with a relationship.

I wrote a book a few years back based on Jeremiah 19:11-13, where God says His plans are for peace, not for evil. Regarding finding peace in spite of our circumstances, I wrote:

"I promise you this: If you’re truly willing to give your life, your plans, your dreams to God, He will keep His promise. You will have peace. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but if you trust Him, you will have peace.
"Don’t believe me? Will you believe God? There are quite a few references to peace in the Bible. Let me share one of my favorites. Read these words, hear them with your heart, and listen to what God has promised you:
"'Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus' (Philippians 4: 6, 7).
"Do you know what this verse says to me? When I’m focusing on God, when I’m asking in His name, when I’m praying for His will, I can be assured of two things: I need not be anxious for anything, and I will have peace—a peace that surpasses anything I could experience without God in my life, a peace that surpasses anything that I could get from my earthly relationships, from my job, from my church, from my family . . . from anything else.
"Isn’t that what you’re looking for? A peace that surpasses anything you’ve ever experienced? Ask Him. Ask Him now. Give your plans, your timelines, your dreams to Him. Trust Him to bring about that perfect will in your life. Then, and only then, will you have that peace. You will have that peace. I promise. More importantly, He promises." [excerpted from The Best Laid Plans © Sauni Rinehart 2005]
If you’re seeking that heavenly peace we sing about this time of year, go to the Prince of Peace. He’ll cover you with a peace that truly surpasses our understanding.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Eternal Father (Isaiah 9:6)

Today's scripture: Isaiah 9:6

Of the four descriptions Isaiah uses of Jesus, this one is the most comforting to me. Jesus is our Eternal Father.

Frankly, it’s a mystery beyond our human understanding: The God we Christians worship is three-in-one. He is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. One God manifested in three persons.

And each shares the attributes of the others. I don’t fully understand, but I believe this to be true.

So even though we describe Jesus Christ as the Son of God, He is still, in fact, God the Son. And just as God the Father is eternal, so is Jesus the Eternal Father.

He is eternal—or what the New King James Version calls Everlasting. Jesus Christ has always been and will always be. He existed before time as we know it began, and He will exist when time as we know it ends.

He is our Father. He loves us with an unconditional love. There is nothing we can do or say or think that keeps Him from loving us. And He loves us whether we choose to love Him or not.

And if we choose to love Him, if we choose to believe in Him as our Savior and accept His gift of eternal life, He invites us to be in relationship with Him.

A relationship for now and for all eternity.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Mighty God (Isaiah 6:9)

Today's scripture: Isaiah 9:6

Do you feel weak? Out of control?

Do you feel powerless as you hear of friends with cancer, read of starving children, watch news reports of terrorist attacks?

Do you look at this world and wonder who’s winning the battle?

I hate to be the bearer of even more bad news, but you are weak. You are out of control. You are powerless. And sometimes the enemy does win some battles.

But the good news? Or should I say the great news? Our Lord Jesus is our Mighty God. And we know that “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

He is indeed mighty, powerful, omnipotent. Just resonate with some of these assurances of our Savior’s might:

“Who is the King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle” (
Psalm 24:8).

“For who in the skies is comparable to the LORD? Who among the sons of the mighty is like the LORD”? (
Psalm 89:6).

“More than the sounds of many waters, Than the mighty breakers of the sea, The LORD on high is mighty” (
Psalm 93:4).

"How great are His signs And how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom And His dominion is from generation to generation.” (
Daniel 4:3).

If you’re struggling, feeling as if the weight of the world is on your shoulders, remember your Mighty God. Your Savior will help you carry your burden (Matthew 11:30). His shoulders are more than strong enough. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6)

Today's scripture: Isaiah 9:6

As I've done for the last few years, in these few days leading to the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, I’m going to focus on four attributes of our Savior as described by the prophet Isaiah.

Today, we read about our Wonderful Counselor.

If you read the King James or New King James versions, the words “Wonderful” and “Counselor” are separated by a comma as if they’re two separate attributes of our Savior. But, while He is certainly wonderful, I believe the New International Version and New American Standard translations are more accurate: Our Lord Jesus is a Wonderful Counselor.

But I wonder. Of all the attributes of our Savior Isaiah could have chosen, why begin with this one?

I can’t say for sure, but I wonder if it’s because we have a need to know that our Lord and Savior truly understands. Even though He is fully God, which we’ll talk about Monday, when He came to earth, He was fully human. And in being so, He experienced the same pain and temptation and weariness we do.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

So He can provide counsel, comfort, and peace to us.

I don’t know about you, but this attribute gives me great joy—and lifts my burdens. For I can kneel at the feet of my Lord Jesus and share whatever is on my heart and mind. And my Wonderful Counselor will listen and, through the Word of the Father, will sooth my soul.

Join me Monday as we look at the next of Jesus’ attributes: Mighty God.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Suit Up! (Ephesians 6:13-17)

Today's scriptures: Ephesians 6:13-17

Yes, we’re in a battle. You don’t need a gun or a tank or a bomb to fight this battle, but you definitely need to be equipped.

I was encouraged several years ago to pray these verses every morning to prepare to meet that day’s battles, and although I sometimes neglect to do so, when I do, it makes a world of difference. I speak about this in one of my retreat messages:

“The first piece of our armor is the belt of truth. God is the only real truth, and when we put on what Paul calls the ‘belt of truth,’ it means we’re going to strive to be truth-tellers—tellers of God’s truth.

Then we’re to put on the breastplate of righteousness. We aren’t righteous on our own. In fact, without Christ, we are fallen, frail, sinful creatures. Yet when we accept the gift of salvation and the forgiveness of our sins, God sees us as righteous, as cleansed, as pure.

In a suit of Roman armor (don’t think about those big metal suits from medieval times!), the breastplate covered from the throat to the hipbones. While arms and legs would remain vulnerable, the vital organs—heart, lungs, stomach—were protected. When we think about putting on the breastplate of righteousness, we are protecting our most vulnerable parts—our emotions. We protect our hearts from the enemy’s lies and the world’s influences.

And as we do, we remain clean before our Lord.

Then it’s the shoes that prepare us with the gospel of peace. And where does our peace come from? From the gospel. The ‘peace that surpasses understanding’ as Paul describes in Philippians 4:7, is ours because we know the Giver of peace. We can go out throughout our day and choose peace, no matter the circumstance.

We’re then to take up the shield of faith. While the breastplate covered the most vulnerable parts of a Roman soldier, the shield covered all of him. We’re not talking about a small handheld shield here. We’re talking about a huge, hide-covered barrier that a soldier could crouch behind and find protection.

Our shield is our very faith. And we must continue to grow in that faith. The Message translation of Hebrews 11:1, says it like this: Faith is “the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s the handle on what we can’t see.” Faith is trusting God in everything, being confident that He has a perfect plan for each of us. And the Bible tells us that “… without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).      

Then the helmet of salvation. The helmet protects the head, the center of what makes us human. We must be ever-careful of what we put in our heads. The Bible tells us how to keep our minds focused on the right things: “… whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

And finally, we hold tightly to the sword of the Spirit—the very word of God. I can’t begin to tell you how very important this piece of weapon is for keeping the enemy at bay. If we know His word, if we meditate on His words, we begin to recognize His will, especially those things that are not His will.

We need to meditate, actually feast on His word. God’s word to us should be like bread for our bodies. We should delight in His word (Psalm 1:1-2)

And as you meditate on God’s word, you’ll begin to take some words to heart. Memorizing God’s word is a great way to wield that sword.”

So I have to ask … are you equipped for today’s battle?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

It's a Battle (Ephesians 6:10-12)

Today's scriptures: Ephesians 6:10-12

We’re in a battle, folks. A big old, ugly, bloody battle. And it’s not in a foreign land. It’s right on your street. At your work. At your school. Maybe even in your own home.

We have a pretty powerful enemy. And he doesn’t fight fair. Sometimes he sneaks in under the cover of darkness. Sometimes he launches a full-frontal attack. He and his minions are wandering the world, scheming and planning. Trying to take out as many as they can. Sometimes it seems like they’re winning. And perhaps they are ... a battle or two, at least.

But those of us who follow Christ know Who wins the war. Jesus Himself said, “
In the world you may have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Not I will, but I have. He’s already won the war! And we’re on the winning side!

What we have to do is be prepared for the battle, and tomorrow, we’ll see how to arm ourselves.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Who's the Boss? (Ephesians 6:9)

Today's scriptures: Ephesians 6:9

This verse should be written on a sticky note and placed on the desktops of everyone who manages others. Every one.

The verses before commanded those who work for others to work for the Lord, showing good will to others. Bosses should do the very same. They too are working for God, and they too have been placed exactly where they are.

Even more, bosses shouldn’t threaten their employees in any way. They should lead by example and treat their staff members with care and respect. They should show no partiality, but should treat each person equally.

God doesn’t see titles or organizational hierarchy. He doesn’t care if you’re a CEO or a file clerk. You could have a six-figure salary or earn minimum age. You’re all the same to Him.

And so if you’ve been given the privilege of managing others, don’t just manage. Lead. Influence your employees to be all they can be. So they too can serve God in their work.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Workin' for a Livin' (Ephesians 6:5-8)

Today's scriptures: Ephesians 6:5-8

We in the United States, praise God, no longer adhere to any use of slaves (except for the tragic reality of young women that are brought as sexual slaves, but that’s an entirely different situation and in no way applies here).

However, most of us at one time or another will work for someone else. Unless we’re fortunate to be in business for ourselves, we will rely on someone else for our livelihood. And unfortunately, not all of us will love our jobs. I’ve been blessed to hold some great jobs at great companies, but I have to honestly say, it wasn’t until I started teaching that I really loved what I did … and there have been seasons when I really disliked what I did.

Once when I was living through one of those seasons, I found this verse, and it helped to change my attitude—usually. Paul wrote, “With good will, render service, as to the Lord …” As long as I remembered that God placed me in each working situation, I could have “good will” … and a good attitude.

If you’re working in less-than-ideal circumstances, if you have an inconsiderate—or even tyrannical—boss, if your co-workers stab you in the back even as they smile to your face, remember that God may have put you exactly where you are so you can shine Jesus.

It may not make your situation any easier, but it may just make your life easier.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Bringing Up Godly Children (Ephesians 6:4)

Today's scriptures: Ephesians 6:4

Yes, as we learned yesterday, children are to obey and honor their parents. But parents have their own commandments.

Paul was writing to fathers, but I think it’s safe to substitute “parents” here. Parents aren’t to “provoke [their] children to anger.” They’re not to mistreat or abuse them. They’re not to neglect them. They’re not to do anything that may cause their children to lash out in anger. They aren’t to instill bitterness.

Instead, they are to instruct them in God’s word, teaching them its truths. They are to model godly behavior. They are to encourage them to spend daily time in God’s word and in prayer, helping them to grow in faith.

Imagine a world where all parents inspired and encouraged their children, and where all children respected and honored their parents. Not only because they’re commanded to do so, but because they genuinely love each other.

Wouldn’t that be peace on earth?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Obey Parents (Ephesians 6:1-3)

Today's scriptures: Ephesians 6:1-3

God didn’t bless my husband and me with children, and He’s given me incredible peace about remaining childless. And I have to be honest … sometimes I’m a bit relieved I’m not raising a teenager these days.

It seems like many young people today aren’t familiar with this commandment to obey and honor parents. I see disrespect, disobedience, and outright rebellion—even in those who have been raised in Christian homes.

I pray regularly for teens and their parents. I pray they’ll grow strong in faith. That they’ll dwell on things that are pure and true (Philippians 4:8). That they’ll seek God’s will in all things.

And I’ll add that they will obey and honor their parents.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Godly Marriages (Ephesians 5:31-33)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 5:31-33

Marriage is far from a sacred covenant these days. Many people enter the “state of holy matrimony” with the thought that if it doesn’t work out, then we’ll just end marriage A and move on to marriage B. In fact, I read not too long ago about “starter marriages.” Kind of like a starter home.

This was never, ever God’s intent. Marriage is a covenant relationship, a “usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement.” It is not meant to be broken. When a man and a woman join together, they become “one flesh.” One flesh. A former pastor of mine used to illustrate this by gluing two pieces of paper together. Yes, you could separate the two, but not without seriously damaging each page.

Even more importantly, marriage on earth represents Christ’s relationship with His church. Nothing can separate those of us who follow Him from our Lord and Savior (Romans 8:37-39).

And just as nothing can separate Christ from His bride, nothing should separate a married couple. The Bible only gives two “reasons” for divorce: infidelity (Matthew 5:32; 19:9) or if a believer’s unbelieving spouse chooses to leave the marriage (1 Corinthians 7:11-15). And this is just my opinion, but I would add an implied third reason: domestic abuse. Physical, emotional, and mental abuse doesn’t equate with respecting one’s spouse or loving as Christ loves His church.

We Christians need to get back to God’s word regarding marriage, with husbands loving their wives and wives respecting (and loving too!) their husbands.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Love as Jesus Does (Ephesians 5:25-30)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 5:25-30

Yesterday, I resurrected my comments about wives being subject to husband. I wrote, “… in a healthy marriage, husbands and wives want the best for each other.”

Paul takes this a step further … for husbands, at least. Husbands are commanded to love their wives “as Christ also loved the church.”

Christ experienced overwhelming pain and suffering for His church. He faced betrayal, ridicule, and denial. He was rejected. He was brutally killed. For His church.

And that’s how husbands are to love their wives.

Further, they are to love their wives as they love themselves. They are to “nourish and cherish” their wives.

That means husbands are to “promote the growth of,” and I think that means providing for their wives physically, but also to encourage them emotionally and spiritually. Husbands are also to “feel or show affection for” their wives and to “keep or cultivate with care and affection.”

Husbands are not to belittle their wives or verbally abuse them. And they certainly are not to physically abuse them.

Rather, they are to be, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13, kind and patient, not jealous or arrogant (vv. 4-7).

Or as he wrote to the church in Ephesus: to love as Jesus does.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Biblical Submission (Ephesians 5:22-24)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 5:22-24

A year or so ago, I meditated on 1 Peter for this devotional. And when I got to 1 Peter 3:1-6, I wrote the following (and since today’s verses deal with the same, I’m going to use these words again):

I almost want to skip today’s verses because someone’s going to take issue with what I’m going to say. I can guarantee it. But if I’m going to go through 1 Peter verse by verse, I need to meditate on every verse, even those that are uncomfortable for me or for others.

So here we go.

Submission—biblical submission—has quite a negative rap these days. I believe it’s not as bad as people make it out to be. I wrote a Bible study for women in unequally yoked marriages, and I address this:

“Submissive: Being willing to be subject to something

Did you catch that? To submit is an issue of willingness. I read recently that a wife-to-husband relationship is similar to a vice president-to-president relationship. Certainly a vice president is able to do as much (or perhaps more) than the president. They work together, often make decisions together. However, he willingly submits to the authority of the president because there needs to be one leader. In the same way, we as wives contribute and have a voice, but there does have to be a final authority. Submission does not mean we’re to accept bullying or abuse.”
Excerpted from You’re Not Alone © 2010 Sauni Rinehart

I believe there does need to be one leader in a marriage, one final decision maker. But I also believe in a healthy marriage, husbands and wives want the best for each other. So they’ll cooperate. They’ll discuss. They’ll compromise. So submission isn’t so difficult.

You may disagree, but I challenge you. If you’re in a Christian marriage, pray for God to work in your heart. Pray for that “imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit.”

Not a doormat. Not a whipping post. Rather, a woman of God who desires to be precious in the sight of her God.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Be Filled With the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-21)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 5:18-21

I have no problem with a glass of wine here and there—I don’t think there’s anything in the Bible that says it’s wrong—but God’s word is very clear about one thing: We’re not to get drunk. Instead, we should be filled with the Holy Spirit and His fruit: love, joy, patience, self-control and so on (Galatians 5:22-23).

And who needs to drink when we can praise God with songs and psalms? I love music. I love everything about it. I love harmonies and melodies. I love well-written, meaningful lyrics. I often feel closest to the Lord when I’m singing words of praise, and I feel joy when I’m “making melody with [my] heart to the Lord …” More joy than I feel at pretty much any other time.

When I sing words like “Amazing Grace” or “How Great Thou Art,” I am filled with … well, feelings I just can’t fully explain. Gratitude. Humility. Awe.

And I’m so thankful for what God has done in my life. His faithfulness. His grace and mercy. His love.

Yep. Who needs wine when we can life our voices with song?

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Be Careful How You Walk (Ephesians 5:15-16)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 5:15-16

When Paul wrote, “… the days are evil …” he could well have been written about our world today. No question.

So just as the Christians in Ephesus were cautioned, we should also take Paul’s words to heart. We too should be “careful how [we] walk.” We must be wise, not foolish.

We are to make “most of [our] time.” What might that mean? For me, that means I should be focused on things of the Lord. Always. I should be concerned with serving Him and others. I should love as Jesus loves. I should strive to use our time in kingdom-building efforts. Sharing the gospel. Encouraging others in faith. Strengthening our own faith through study of God’s word.

And finally, we’re to “understand what the will of the Lord is.” And we know God’s will through prayer, through His word, and—sometimes—through godly counsel from friends and family.

Yes, we live in evil days, yet we must not allow the evil of this world steal our focus from what’s really important: doing God’s will and keeping our eyes on the prize—eternity with our Lord and Savior.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Let Jesus Shine! (Ephesians 5:11-14)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 5:11-14

I wrote yesterday that dark and light cannot coexist. When light is extinguished, dark wins. But when the tiniest flame is lit in a pitch-black room, it illuminates even the darkest corner.

We live in a dark world—a very dark world. Sin is rampant. Greed and corruption destroy. Lust and sensuality abounds. The enemy of our souls and his minions are waging warfare. As Paul wrote:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
Yes. A very dark world.

We can live with hope, however. If we truly believe in the grace of God, if we believe Jesus came to earth to save lost souls, if we desire to be salt and light, Jesus will shine on and through us. He’ll cast out darkness. He’ll conquer our enemies.

Because “He who is in [us] is greater than he who is in the world …” (1 John 4:4). And we already know Who wins the war: Jesus Himself said, “…in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

So let Him shine in and through you. 

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Take These Words to Heart (Ephesians 5:5-10)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 5:5-10

Paul gives several exhortations in these few verses … and we should take them to heart.

"Let no one deceive you with empty words." This world is full of promises—for success, for prosperity, even for salvation. Living according to the world’s standards is beyond foolish. It’s risking “inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”

“… do not be partakers …” with those who are immoral, impure, covetous … those who worship other idols. We just cannot, cannot, live like the world. We must live as God’s word commands us, dwelling on those things that are pure and true and lovely (see Philippians 4:8).

“… walk as children of Light …” Our Lord and Savior is Light (John 1:6-10) and He Himself called us to be “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Light and darkness cannot co-exist. Light casts out all darkness, and our light—the Light—should shine through us to cast out the darkness of this world.

“… learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” And how do we do that? By reading His word. By meditating on its truths. By surrendering ourselves to Him every day. By seeking His will in all things.

Strong exhortations … will you take them to heart?