Friday, January 29, 2016

Changed Forever (Philippians 3:3-6)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 3:3-6

Saul was the most religious of the religious. Before meeting Jesus on the Damascus road, he was a letter-perfect Pharisee. He traced his family tree back to Benjamin, the son of Jacob. He followed the law with precision. He was, in the eyes of man, “blameless.”

How often do we rely on our “pedigree” to save us? Even today, with Christianity so reviled in the press, polls are taken in which a very high percentage of respondents claim to be Christians.

I went to church as a kid, they say. I was raised in a Christian home, they say. I’m an American, so I’m a Christian, they say. (Although the latter seems to be said less and less these days …) I follow the Ten Commandments, so I’m good, they say.

Saul—now Paul—thought he had everything under control. He thought he knew it all. Then he met Jesus Christ, God the Son. And he recognized that nothing he was, nothing he’d done, brought salvation. He met the true Messiah, the Savior, the Redeemer.

And his life changed forever.

It’s not our heritage that brings salvation. It’s not our hard work. It’s not who we know or where we come from. No. It’s a meeting with God. It’s the realization that we cannot do anything to receive the blessing of forgiveness and eternal life with God—Father, Son, and Spirit.

Have you met Jesus? If not, you can meet Him today. Just admit you’re incapable on your own and ask Jesus to forgive you and to take over your life. Then get a Bible and read the book of John. Find a church that teaches truth from the word of God.

And your life will be changed forever.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Rejoice! (Philippians 3:1)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 3:1

It all comes down to this: Rejoice in the Lord. Through good times and bad times. On mountaintops and in valleys. At the wedding altar and at the graveside. When the doctor says “you’re cured” and when the words are “I’m so sorry.”

Rejoice in the Lord.

It’s not always easy. I admit there are many, many times I fail in this. When I don’t feel well. When the future looks so uncertain. When a friend turns from me. How do I rejoice in these times?

I just do. It’s a deliberate decision to find joy in all circumstances. A choice. I can choose to wallow and whine, or I can choose to give praise and glory to my Lord. And the latter is certainly better than the former.

Rejoice in the Lord. Remember His abundant love. Revel in His overwhelming blessings. Reach out your hand to Him and thank Him for being your Lord and Savior.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Leaders ... (Philippians 2:25-30)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 2:25-30

I’m taking a bit of license with today’s devotional, but I feel led to write …

God has called some men and women to be His spokespeople. People like Billy Graham or Beth Moore have been placed on platforms throughout the world to proclaim God’s truth. The pastors of our churches likewise have a great responsibility to spread the gospel.

Yet sometimes, rather than “holding them in esteem,” we criticize. We judge. We disparage. Or at the very least, we take them for granted. This isn’t to say we should look at them as if they were Christian “pop stars.” They’re being used of God as He sees fit, and our roles in the body of Christ are no less important.

However, I wonder sometimes if we “receive with all gladness” those who are God’s messengers. Do we offer words of encouragement to our pastors and church leaders? Do we thank our small group or Bible study leaders for the preparation they do for our studies? Do we show gratitude to our children’s Sunday School teachers?

While we’re all called to serve—and gifted to do so—some of our body are in positions of leadership or are more visible than others. Let’s esteem those brothers and sisters. Let’s encourage them. Let’s thank them for their service.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Person of Character (Philippians 2:19-24)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 2:19-24

One of the many things I love about Paul’s epistles is how real they are. Just as any letter we would write, he includes little bits of personal business. These verses don’t have any real exhortation or teaching. They just state what Paul plans to do. He’s going to send Timothy to the Philippian Christians to care for them and report back to Paul how they’re doing. And he himself hopes to come to them soon.

In the middle of this information-giving, Paul drops a little nugget: He’s sending Timothy in particular because of his “proven character.” This young protégé of Paul’s served with his own father and has already proven himself to be a man of character who loves the gospel. Paul is certain the younger man will care deeply for the people—just as Paul himself would.

Isn’t that how you want to be described? A person of proven character who sincerely cares for fellow believers? A person who serves God and shares the gospel?

I know I do. I have a long way to go (and thankfully I’m still that work in progress here on earth!), but I pray God will continue to refine my character and draw me more closely to Him. And I know He will.

Monday, January 25, 2016

A Drink Offering ... (Philippians 2:17-18)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 2:17-18

Sometimes, the Holy Spirit clearly illuminates scriptures. And other times? Not so much.

I’ve read today’s verses many times, and I’ve never been quite sure exactly what Paul meant by “being poured out as a drink offering.” So I’m very grateful for commentaries by those much wiser than I. (A wonderful site for on-line commentaries:

One commentary (New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible) interprets these words as Paul’s anticipating his eventual death, which would be like wine or oil poured over a sacrifice. Because he was the church at Philippi’s spiritual father, he was certain his death—likely martyrdom—would be as an offering to God on their behalf. And he rejoiced to be such an offering and wanted his spiritual siblings to rejoice as well.

Wow. Could I even begin to say these words? I get the rejoicing together part. I love rejoicing with my spiritual family. However, while I’m willing to give up my own life (I really do believe “to live is Christ and to die is gain”), could I rejoice in the sacrificial death of a beloved brother or sister in Christ?

That would be difficult. Paul was able to do it. He rejoiced at the expectation of his own death for the cause of Christ, and he expected the same rejoicing from his fellow believers.

I usually try to end my blogs with an encouraging words … today, though, I think I’ll just leave you to muse over Paul’s words … 

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Breath of Fresh Air (Philippians 2:14-16)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 2:14-16

Again, today’s verses both convict and encourage …

Many mornings, I wake up feeling pretty lousy. If you’ve read my blogs for a while, you know I deal with several health issues. On bad days, I really want to whine and complain, but usually, I just go to the Lord in prayer, thanking Him for the strength I know He’ll give me to accomplish what needs to be done each day.

And then I read God’s word. Verses like today’s. I’m to do all things—all things—without complaining. If I believe God is in loving control, I should be able to accept everything without question. If I trust Him to work all things for good (Rom. 8:28), I should rejoice in all things.

But there’s more to these verses. If I really can rejoice in all things without complaining, then God will use me as a light in this “crooked and perverse generation.” (And, by the way, don’t you love how relevant the Bible is today? Paul could easily have been writing about the United States in 2016.)

I love The Message’s paraphrase of verse 15: "Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night …"

Don’t you want to be a “breath of fresh air”? Don’t you want to “provide … a glimpse of good living and of the living God”?

We can be that light in this world. I know sometimes it seems things are too corrupt, too perverse, too squalid and polluted. But if we praise God through the difficult times, if we strive to love each other—and this world—He will work through us.  

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Working Together with Christ (Philippians 2:12-13)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 2:12-13

As I was praying over today’s blog, I wanted to make certain I wrote truth, especially the part about “work out your own salvation.” Some read these words and interpret them to say we can save ourselves. I don’t believe that’s what Paul meant at all. I reviewed some on-line commentaries, and one wrote:

"While Christ is our Savior, and the author of our salvation, we must accept him and work together with him. Hence the Holy Spirit says, 'Save yourselves' (
Acts 2:40), and 'work out your own salvation'" (

It goes on to define “With fear and trembling”: With constant anxiety not to fail.

Our desire should be to obey God’s commands and do His will, being confident He’s working in us according to His plan. And when we do His will, when we strive to be Christ-like in our thoughts, words, and actions, God is pleased.

I pray this will be my heart’s desire. And I pray the same for you.  

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Every Knee Will Bow (Philippians 2:9-11)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 2:9-11

One day, every single human being—past, present, future—will kneel at the feet of Jesus. Everyone will confess that He is Lord.

For some of us, that will be a joyful day of celebration! I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait. For others, though, they will finally recognize that Jesus is the Lord they rejected. The Bible describes a people who will wail, weep, and gnash their teeth (see Matt. 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28). These people will know only an eternity separated from their God.

This day will come. So what are we to do?

First, I believe we believers need to constantly and continually exalt Jesus now. Worship Him. Praise Him. We need to spend time with our Father and know Him more deeply by reading His word.

Second, we need to share Christ with our non-believing friends and family. We need to seek opportunities to tell others about the joy of knowing Christ, the freedom that comes from serving Him.

Don’t you want to know you influenced others to follow Christ, so they can bow a knee and confess their love for our Savior? I know I do.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

True Humility (Philippians 2:5-8)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 2:5-8

I read these verses and am humbled. Yesterday, I wrote about pride and how sometimes we can get caught up in what “we” can do.

Then I remember that God the Son chose to humble Himself—really humble Himself. He left the Father’s side and took on flesh. He became a human being, subject to weariness, temptation, pain, denial, and betrayal. And even more, He humbled Himself and hung on a cross to pay the penalty for my sin.

How can I think highly of myself when I know what Jesus did for me? Again, everything I am, everything I have, everything I can do is a gift from God. I do nothing without His leading, His guidance, His will.

Lord Jesus, please forgive me when I think too highly of myself, when I feel ungodly pride. Help me to be humble, to remember Your humility. I pray that all I do will bring glory to You. Amen.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Pride ... Oh, So Ugly ... (Philippians 2:3-4)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 2:3-4

Pride. It’s something many of us struggle with, and it’s something that God abhors (see Prov. 8:13; 16:18; Mark 7:22). We look at “our” gifts and talents, or what “we’ve” achieved, and we think, “Good for me!” Even more, we sometimes look at what others do, and think, “I could do that better.”

We forget—often—that anything we have and anything we can do comes from God. So to be prideful about what we do is ironic. Instead, we’re called to be humble, to do all things with “lowliness of mind.” Not selfish. Not conceited. Rather, we should honor others.

Now this doesn’t mean we’re supposed to be doormats and let people walk all over us. We can look out for our “own interests.” We can—and should—do our best in all things. We should “do all in the name of the Lord” (Col. 3:17). But we also need to make certain we’re supporting our brothers and sisters.

Imagine your life if you could sincerely “esteem others better.” If you could genuinely celebrate the gifts and talents God has given everyone. If you trusted God to use each of us according to His will. If you truly believed none of us is better than another.


Friday, January 15, 2016

Can't We All Just Get Along?! (Philippians 2:1-2)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 2:1-2

Chapter 1 ends with Paul’s assertion that we will suffer, but then he begins chapter 2 with great hope. Yes, we will suffer, but we will be consoled and comforted as we fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We’re exhorted to be “like-minded.” Oh, if this were only true in the body of Christ. Think about it. If every single Christ-follower followed the Bible, truly loved others, was merciful, was mindful … what an example the Church would be to the world.

Instead, the world hears of dissension, disagreements, finger-pointing. My way of doing this ritual is better than yours. You should be doing this instead of that.

How can we expect the consolation and comfort of love that comes through fellowship with others when we are so caught up in our differences instead of what draws us together: the gospel of Christ.

Let’s “fulfill [Paul’s] joy” even 2000 years later. Let’s be of one accord. Let’s have the same love. Genuine Christ-honoring love.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Hope Through Suffering (Philippians 1:29-30)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 1:29-30

Okay. Today’s verses aren’t the most uplifting we’ve read lately. While we are thrilled we’ve been granted the right to believe in Christ, we still would prefer not to have to suffer. However, as I’ve written many times, suffering, trials, and tribulations will come. Not only do we live in a fallen world that’s becoming more and more corrupt each day it seems, but we also are smack-dab in the middle of a spiritual battle (Eph. 6:12).

I think the key here is “for His sake.” When we suffer for Christ and for our faith, and we are able to respond with joy, God is glorified. When we can use our suffering to encourage and comfort others, they may see Christ in us (2 Cor. 1:3-7). And God often uses our suffering to draw us closer to Him as we realize our own weakness (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

The world uses suffering as a case against a loving God, but we who know Him understand that He loves us through suffering. He guides us through the trials. He carries us through the tribulations. And He holds us tightly through the pain.

As much as I’d love to be free from my daily pain, I quite honestly wouldn’t trade the lessons I’ve learned, the encouragement I’ve been blessed to offer, and the intimacy I have with my Lord for anything. Even a healthy strong body.

What trial are you facing today? What pain are you experiencing? Draw close to your Abba Father, and crawl into His lap. Let Him help you through the suffering, even if He chooses not to remove it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Walkin' AND Talkin' (Philippians 1:27-28)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 1:27-28

“… let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ …”

Today’s verses start with a huge dose of conviction for me—and perhaps for you as well. Is my conduct worthy of the gospel? If someone I know “absent” from me hears of me, would she know I’m a follower of Christ?

Or even more convicting, do nonbelievers see us and see a body of believers who are united? Who are “striving together for the faith of the gospel”? Do they see boldness? Unabashed joy and desire to share God’s word?

Instead, do they see a group of people who are so focused on our adversaries we’re timid? Afraid to tell others of our hope of salvation?

A quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi says, “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”

I pray for all of us that we not only “talk our talk,” but we always “walk our walk.” May our conduct reflect our Lord—always. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

What's Your Mission? (Philippians 1:23-26)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 1:23-26

The farther I go down life’s journey, the more I resonate with the opening words of today’s scripture. I truly am “hard-pressed” between a deep-in-the-heart desire to be with Jesus and remaining here in this temporary body.

Now, I’m not certain my “remaining in the flesh is more needful for you,” but I do know God has a purpose for every moment I live. As He does for you.

Do you know God’s purpose for your life? Have you determined your unique mission? If you haven’t, may I encourage you to do so?

You have been gifted to serve God and others in a way only you can. God will speak through you, through the stories He’s given you, to touch lives. And I can tell you, once you understand what God has called you to do, your life will be richer and more blessed than you can imagine. Knowing you’re following God’s plan is liberating because then you can pray for His will in all you do. His desires become your desires. And for as long as you retain your earthly residence, you can be confident God will do those “needful” things through you. And when you finally “depart to be with Christ,” you’ll hear “good and faithful servant.”

I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine anything better.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Affirmation ... Conviction ... Encouragement (Philippians 1:19-22)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 1:19-22

I do so love this book! So many great messages of affirmation, conviction, encouragement.

Today’s verses do all at the same time for me.

First, I’m encouraged when I remember how God uses the prayers of my brothers and sisters to “deliver me.” And I know when I pray for them, God delivers them as well—maybe not out of the pain, but through the pain.

Second, I’m convicted. I ask myself, how boldly do I share the good news of Christ’s gift of salvation? Are there times when I’m ashamed? I wish I could say, I speak with great confidence, never ashamed. But that wouldn’t be truth. I pray that each of us who follows Christ will boldly proclaim the truth of the Gospel.

Finally, I’m affirmed when I remember that living for Christ in this world brings God glory.

And then one last thing: That verse that says “to live is Christ … to die is gain”? I couldn’t agree more! I long for the day when I leave this frail, weak body and stand before my Lord and Savior. But I do know—and I’ve said this before—every day God wakes me out of bed is a day He can use me to serve Himself and others.

So although there are many days I’d choose being with Christ, I can live with confidence that I’m still supposed to live on in the flesh.

May I encourage you today? Live each and every day with a full-heart desire to serve God, knowing that you’re being lifted by my prayers and the prayers of your brothers and sisters.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Truth Wins! (Philippians 1:15-18)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 1:15-18

I don’t think it’s a surprise to hear our world is full of “preachers and teachers” spouting their own version of the gospel. They call themselves born-again Christians and yet tell their congregations that the Bible isn’t God’s final truth. That there are many ways to get to heaven. That Jesus didn’t live a sinless, perfect life. Oh, how the enemy must be clasping his hands with glee.

False teachers. False prophets. Just as Paul and Peter and John wrote about.

It’s hard to know such skewed teaching is being sent through the airwaves, but we can have confidence that God is in this. He’s in control. And somehow, I pray that those who listen to those false teachers—those who really seek truth—will be able to see beyond the words. That they’ll read and study the Bible for themselves. That they’ll seek men and women of faith who are preaching the true gospel message.

And as I’ve written many times, it may seem the enemy is winning battle after battle, but we know Who wins the war.

Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Valleys and Mountaintops (Philippians 1:12-14)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 1:12-14

I in no way compare myself with the apostle Paul, but I do kind of relate to these verses. As I look back over my life, I can see how God has used the difficult times to encourage others. When I speak, I often talk about my experiences with abuse, infertility, and living with chronic pain. And invariably, several women come to me to tell me how they were encouraged by my story.

I’m sure it’s the same for you. If you’re a cancer survivor, you’re uniquely gifted to lend a shoulder to cancer patients. If you’ve lost a loved one, you can empathize with the grieving in a way that many of us could not. If you’ve prayed a wayward teen back to the arms of God, you can encourage other parents.

No, the “things that happen” to us aren’t always pleasant or joyful or peaceful. We will walk through valleys. But God will—if we let Him—use even the most painful times for good (Romans 8:28). Or as I wrote in my book, The Best Laid Plans:

… many times we can’t see God’s plan until we have the perspective of hindsight. I know from my own experience that what seemed so awful, so painful, so heartbreaking at the time, always resulted in growth, in maturity. I know that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the times of challenge.

She couldn’t possibly know what I’ve been through, you’re thinking. I’ve experienced real evil, and she’s telling me that God promised plans without evil. Sounds contradictory at best—and a lie at worst.

… You’re right. I don’t know your life. I don’t know your pain. I don’t know what you’ve cried out for from the deepest part of your heart. This is what I do know: There is always a reason for pain. Really. And it’s not because God is trying to punish you. It’s not because He enjoys watching you suffer. It’s not that God is reaping evil upon you. It’s not. Really.

Let me assure you of one very important thing. God loves you. He loves you. He loves you so much that He was willing to die for you…
Be assured: God is with you through the valleys just as He is on the mountaintops. And what a joy it is to know He’ll use our pain to encourage others and—maybe—even grow His kingdom.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

A Daily To-Do List (Philippians 1:9-11)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 1:9-11

Paul’s prayer for the Philippians continues with some words of instruction, words that we, too, can take to heart. He calls his readers to love abundantly, learn continually, seek wisdom, choose the excellent things of God’s word, and live righteously.

My goodness. Quite a list, isn’t it? Makes me feel really inadequate.

Loving abundantly … This should be relatively “easy” for followers of Christ. After all, the second greatest commandment is that we’re to love others as ourselves.

Learning continually … I’ve written about this many, many times. We must study and meditate on God’s word. It’s the only way to gain knowledge.

Seeking wisdom … Obtaining God’s wisdom also comes from spending time in His word.
Choosing the excellent things … And what are the excellent things? We’ll delve more deeply into this idea when we get to the fourth chapter, but they’re those things that edify us and help us to be more like Christ.

Living righteously … In order to do this, we need to strive to live as Christ would. We need to follow God’s commandments, focusing on His will.

Paul’s not asking for much, is he? (You can’t hear my mild sarcasm …) The good news? We’re those works in progress we talked about yesterday. We need to ask for God’s help every day to become what He’s called us to be.

With His help, we can follow Paul’s instructions. And maybe one day, we’ll actually live them.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Work In Progress (Philippians 1:3-8)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 1:3-8

I love this book! Every verse has some nugget to encourage or to affirm or to convict. And today’s verses are no exception. I’m not sure even where to start!

Oh, wait a minute; yes I do. I begin by echoing Paul’s prayer. I do “thank my God upon every remembrance” of my friend, my family, my brothers and sisters in Christ. I do pray that you continue to “fellowship in the gospel.”

But I want to focus today on verse 6: “… being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ …”

I’ve written in previous blogs that we are all works in progress. We are being refined as silver. We will one day be as pure gold. It’s so comforting to remember: I’m not complete yet. God is still at work in me. As I often say, every day God wakes me out of bed is a day to serve His purpose. And one day, I pray I’ll stand before my Lord and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I pray for each of you: Give yourself completely to your loving, gracious, merciful Father. Your Abba. Let Him complete His work in you, so one day, you too can hear those wonderful words.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Grace and Peace (Philippians 1:1-2)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 1:1-2

I begin this tour through Philippians by praying Paul’s words for each of you. May you experience God’s grace and peace this day and every day.

We followers of Christ have received amazing grace. We’ve received forgiveness. We’ve received mercy. Through valleys and atop mountains, God is with us. Jesus holds our hands as we travel the journey He’s designed.

What a blessing!

Later in our tour, we’ll be reminded of a peace that surpasses understanding, but for today, I pray for God’s enveloping peace for all of us. No matter what happens in our lives, we can be assured God will give us peace and grace to handle—everything.

Thank You, Lord, for Your promised grace and peace. Be glorified this day.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Happy New Year!

It’s a new year … 2016 …

I know it’s clichéd, but how in the world can it be? Wasn’t it just yesterday we were preparing for Y2K? (For my younger readers, Google it!)

Anyway, I enjoy each new year. I enjoy starting a new calendar and planning new events. There’s something about a brand new calendar that makes me happy. It’s like starting a new journal … bright new pages to be filled with brand new memories.

Mostly, a new year brings anticipation of what God may do in it. As I prayerfully seek His will, I know I will be guided through new doors and down new paths. I know that He will carry me through tragedy and celebrate with me through times of joy.

I know there will be days when I cling to verses like Psalm 46:1 or Isaiah 41:10, and there will be times when I praise with verses like Psalm 150:1-6.

It’s a new year. I pray that your 2016 will be exactly what you hope it will be.