Monday, February 29, 2016

Not Even a Toehold ... (Colossians 1:21-23

Today's scripture: Colossians 1:21-23

Friday, we praised God because those of us who have accepted the gift of salvation through God's grace are reconciled to Him.

Today's verses remind us of two things:

First, because are indeed reconciled to our God, we are "holy and blameless and beyond reproach" in our Father's eyes. I don't know about you, but there are days when I feel far from holy and blameless and beyond reproach." Those days when I'm selfish or let pride rear its ugly head. Those days when I get mad at other drivers or frustrated with a student. Those days when the pain makes me grumpy, and I snap at my husband.

But because I know I've been reconciled to God, I know I can confess each sin, and He will look on me through eyes of love and grace.

Second, we who follow Christ must "continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not [be] moved from the hope of the gospel ..." The enemy of our souls would like nothing more than to lure us away from a daily, focused walk with the Lord. He is not all-powerful, so he certainly isn't in control of a whole lot (although I'm sure he thinks he is). And he can never, ever take our salvation from us.

But he knows if he can whisper lies that draw our focus from God, he may be able to win a battle or two. He may keep us from seeking God. He may keep us from sharing God's truth.

We need to stand firm in faith, and the only way to do that is to spend time in God's word and in prayer. If you've been reading these devotionals for a while, I might sound like a broken record, but I believe this so deeply. Just as we must work to nurture our earthly relationships, we must work to nurture the most important relationship of all.

We must know our God—really, really know Him. And when we do, our faith grows, and the enemy can't get even a toehold.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Reconciled ... (Colossians 1:15-20)

Today's scripture: Colossians 1:15-20

The God of the Bible, the one True God is creator of all things. He is the owner of all things.

Nothing we have, nothing we are is of ourselves. Our houses. Our cars. Our clothes. Our "stuff." Our relationships. None of them belong to us. No, they are gifts to us from our loving Father. Because none of what we have is ours, we must carefully steward what He's placed in our care.

More than the "stuff" we've been given, however, is the most important gift: reconciliation. We are born into sin, and without our being reconciled to God, we are forever separated from Him. But God loves us so much that He offered His own Son, an actual part of Himself, to bridge the gap between Him and us (John 3:16). And it was His "good pleasure" to do so.

Through the shed blood of Christ, we are reconciled with God. We can live in peace knowing that He, the Creator of all things, is in control.

And we can look forward, with confidence, to the day when we meet Him face-to-face.


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Look Up! (Colossians 1:13-14)

Today's scripture: Colossians 1:13-14

I read today's verses, and I am so grateful ... and so humbled.

I understand being "rescued ... from the domain of darkness ..." I've shared bits and pieces of my story over the last several years, so I may have mentioned that I was raised in a Christian home. I learned about Jesus and how He died for my sins, and when I was six years old, I asked Jesus to come into my heart.

That could have been the "happily ever after" to my story, but I allowed years of sexual abuse to take me away from my faith. I made a deliberate choice to walk into the "domain of darkness." For many years, I lived my own life, totally disregarding the faith of my childhood.

It wasn't until I hit the lowest point of my journey–depression, infertility–that I finally looked up ... and found my Rescuer, just waiting to welcome me back. His arms were opened wide, and He embraced me, forgave my sins, and offered the gift of redemption.

I now know beyond doubt that my home is in His kingdom. I'm no longer in that darkness, but I am covered by His light.

If you're in darkness, if your life seems out of control, if you're hurting from the choices you've made, then look up. Look into the face of the God who loves you more than you could possibly know. Look into His eyes brimming with grace and mercy.

He is waiting to rescue you from the "domain of darkness." He is waiting to welcome you into the "kingdom of His beloved Son ..." The Son who died for your sins.

Look up.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

My Prayer for You (Colossians 1:9-12)

Today's scripture: Colossians 1:9-12

I love these verses. In fact, I pray them nearly every day for me, for my family, for my friends. I pray them for those for whom I've spoken or whom I've taught. I pray them for my "kids."

And if you know the Lord, because you're reading this devotional, I pray them for you as well.

I pray that we "may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding ..." I pray we'll take time to focus on His word today and learn its truth so that we might become more and more wise with God's wisdom.

I pray that we will "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects ..." We are truly not worthy of grace and mercy, but God sees worth in each and every one of us. To honor Him, we should desire to live according to His commandments, which pleases Him. I pray we focus on Him today and live to please Him.

I pray we will "bear fruit in every good work ..." What can we do this very day to bring glory and honor to Him? How can we serve Him and others? I pray we look for those opportunities to bless others today.

I pray we will "increase in the knowledge of God ..." He desires to reveal Himself to His children. He wants us to know Him intimately by spending time in conversation with Him, speaking to Him and listening to His voice. I pray we'll take that time with Him today.

I pray we'll be "strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might ..." Paul wrote in another letter that he "could do all things through Christ who strengthens" him. I pray we find our strength in Christ, and Him alone.

Finally, I pray we "joyously give thanks to the Lord ..." He has blessed us abundantly with grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, strength, healing, help, refuge ... and the list goes on and on and on. How can we help but joyously thank Him? I pray we give Him all thanks, glory, honor, and praise today.

I pray these over you today ... and will continue to do so every day.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Hope ... (Colossians 1:3-8)

Today's scripture: Colossians 1:3-8

As I read through these verses, several phrases "pop":
"... we heard of your faith in Jesus Christ and the love you have for all the saints ... the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing ... your love in the Spirit ..."
What wonderful words of affirmation! The recipients of Paul's letter must have been encouraged when they read these words. Wouldn't you love it if these words were spoken about you? That you were a faithful servant, loving your brothers and sisters in Christ? That because you were spreading the gospel, God was bearing fruit through you?

I know I want to live in a way that others would see God's faithfulness and love through me. I pray I'm bearing fruit to grow God's kingdom.

But do you know which words most touch my heart today? "... the hope laid up in heaven ..."

The older I get and the longer I reside on this rapidly-declining earth, the more I hope for heaven. And my hope is two-fold. I hope for the shedding of this earthly flesh and spending eternity with my Lord. And I hope for the time when I can see how God has borne fruit through me. I don't know how many lives God has touched through me, but I look forward to the day when I stand in heaven and someone–and maybe it's just one–comes up to me and says, "Thank you for being faithful to God's call on your life. It's because of you that I'm here today."

Are you fulfilling God's call on your life? Are you seeking His will so that you too can be called faithful and loving on earth, and one day, you'll too see the fruit of your earthly labors?

Monday, February 22, 2016

You're a Saint! (Colossians 1:1-2)

Today's scripture: Colossians 1:1-2

We’ve been journeying through many of the apostle Paul's letters over the last year plus, and each of them has blessed me abundantly. Today, we begin meditating on his letter to the Christians at Colossae. I pray the Lord will speak through me, and that you will be as blessed as I know I will be.

As always, Paul begins this letter by greeting his brothers and sisters, those he calls "saints" and "faithful." Sometimes we think of saints as being those people who have done amazing and wonderful things for God's kingdom, but according God's word, anyone who has committed his or her life to Christ is a saint. Just read through the New Testament, and you'll see that every reference to "saint" is about men and women who follow Christ. No one is singled out as somehow better than others.

If you are a follower of Christ, you are a saint. You are sanctified in the eyes of God Almighty (1 Corinthians 6:11; Hebrews 10:10). You have been created to do God's work to build His kingdom (Ephesians 2:10).

What a blessing to know God loves us so much and sees us as saints!

The question I have to ask myself–and perhaps you need to ask yourself–is: Am I faithful? Yes, I am a child of God's because I accepted His gift of salvation through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. But am I faithful to Him? Do I live to please Him? Do I use the gifts and talents He's given me to serve and bring glory to Him?

Will I one day stand in His presence and hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant"?

I believe if I daily commit my life to Him, if I seek His will at all times, if I commune with Him through prayer and study, then yes. I will hear those wonderful, humbling words.

Will you?

Friday, February 19, 2016

A Benediction (Philippians 4:21-22)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 4:21-22

We enjoy so many blessings as children of Jehovah God. He’s our refuge (Psalm 46:1-2). He provides for our needs (see yesterday’s blog). He’s our Shepherd, who walks beside us in the valleys (Psalm 23). God the Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior. We are redeemed and justified through His death and resurrection.

So many blessings.

There’s another wonderful blessing that I particularly love. We are part of a family. Have you ever been on vacation or traveling for business, and you sit next to a stranger? As you chat, you find out she knows our Lord. Suddenly, you’re no longer strangers. Or you move across town—or across the country—and you find a new church home. Immediately, you’re part of a family.

I love it!

And so today, I leave you, my family, with Paul’s benediction: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Needs vs. Wants ... but God often provides both (Philippians 4:17-20)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 4:17-20

When you stop to think about it, we have very few needs. We need water and food to sustain our bodies. We need shelter to protect us from the elements. We need relationships. And in our society, we need some method of financial trade.

That’s about it.

We don’t need big, fancy houses. We don’t need the latest car or gadget. We don’t need trendy clothes. We don’t need jewels or filet mignon.

And God promises to supply all our needs, not our wants. The amazing thing? Sometimes He also provides our wants as well. It’s okay to pray for our wants. Over a decade ago, when my husband and I wanted to buy a larger home for specific reasons, I prayed about it. I wanted God’s will in that purchase, and He worked it out beautifully.

More recently, our move from Southern California to East Tennessee was a series of open doors as God answered a long-held prayer of mine to live in the South.

Our God, like a loving father, desires good things for His children, and He will care for us. He will supply our needs. And sometimes our wants, as well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Church Family? (Philippians 4:14-16)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 4:14-16

Members of the early church were a family, in the truest sense of the word. They ate together, worshipped together, supported each other, gave freely to those in need (see Acts 2:41-47). Paul was the recipient of gifts from the church in Philippi, as they desired to meet his needs.

I read these words and have to ask myself, “Is the church of today anything like this?”

In some ways, the answer is yes. We do worship together. We do fellowship together. But not in the almost constant way of the early church.

I fear, for the most part, the answer is no. Let’s be honest. Would we be willing to sell all we own and give it to those in need? Would we be willing to get together with other believers every day—even several times each day—for worship and fellowship?

Yes, we have busy schedules. Yes, we have work or school commitments. Yes, we live miles away from our church homes. It’s not as easy as it was when everyone lived within walking distance.

But could we do more to emulate the early church? I ask this of myself as well. I think we could do more to be a true family. And I pray that somehow we will be.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Recommendation (Philippians 4:10-13)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 4:10-13

Paul understood “contentment” better than anyone. He knew he could be content at all times, no matter the circumstances, because Christ would give him strength.

It’s taken me a long time to learn contentment. Oh, I still get anxious or frustrated at times. I often dream of that Victorian cottage on the banks of a quiet river … although my quaint, cozy Tennessee home surrounded by woods is pretty close! I sometimes wish I didn’t have health issues.

But, most of the time, I’m content with the life God has planned for me. And I anticipate—without fear or worry—my future because I know my Lord God, my Abba, will give me exactly what I need. My Savior will give me strength to accomplish what I’m supposed to do. The Holy Spirit will guide, encourage, and convict me.

I highly recommend contentment. It makes living this very hectic, stressful, uncertain life a little bit easier. Seriously.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Litmus Test (Philippians 4:8-9)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 4:8-9

If only we could really live by Paul’s exhortation in these verses. If only we could really meditate only on those things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. If only we could really focus only on things of virtue, praiseworthy things.

Could you imagine how amazing life would be? All of us truthful. All of us speaking words of justice and nobility. All of us sharing pure and lovely thoughts.


Yet—and I can speak only for myself—too often my thoughts aren’t lovely. Too often, instead of words of praise, I utter words of reproach. I want to think pure thoughts. I want to speak words of truth. But too often, I fail.

Praise our Lord God, I can come to Him and ask for forgiveness when I do fail. I can ask for His help in keeping my thoughts pure and noble, and my words just and lovely. After all, I am that work in progress we talked about a while ago (Philippians 1:6).

And praise God for that!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Ah ... Peace ... (Philippians 4:6-7)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 4:6-7

Ah. Two of my very favorite verses. I can’t count how many times the Lord has brought these verses to mind when I’ve faced challenges or trials. In fact, my “trademark” talk is called “Peace—It’s not just another sign,” and I refer to this verse more than once.

I’ve sought peace all my life. As a child, asking Jesus to come into my heart. Through rough teen and early-twenty years, when I rebelled. During my struggle with infertility. And now as I deal with chronic health issues.

I seek peace. Contentment. Even joy.

And I’ve learned over the years, I don’t have peace—won’t have peace—unless I submit to the Giver of peace. My Lord God, Sovereign of all creation, loves me with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3), and He desires joy and peace for me.

Today’s verses give great guidelines for receiving God’s peace:

     ·       Don’t be anxious.
·       Be thankful.
·       Request from God.

Then, that wonderful peace of God that surpasses anything we can find on earth will guard our hearts and minds. It will flow through us. It will let us handle each and every situation we encounter. Every time.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

"The Lord Is at Hand" (Philippians 4:5)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 4:5

The Lord is at hand. I love these words. So often in His word, our Lord reminds us that He is here with us at all times. Joshua heard the words, “… for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (1:9). The psalmist wrote, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” (139:7). His conclusion? Nowhere.

And we can know He loves us with an “everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3) and His covenant is equally everlasting (Jeremiah 32:40).

Jesus Himself promised to be with us always … always (Matthew 28:20).

Some might see God’s constant presence as “Big Brother” watching our every move, ready to pounce on us should we displease Him. Not me. I’m comforted beyond measure that He is with me, every moment of every day.

He walks alongside me, rejoicing with me in the good times, weeping with me in the times of pain. He holds my hand, guiding me. He carries my daily burden (Psalm 68:19).

The Lord is at hand. Thank You, Abba!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Rejoice ... Always? (Philippians 4:4)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 4:4

We Christians quote this verse … a lot. But it’s not as easy as it sounds, is it?

Oh, when the sun is shining, the pantry is full, the bills are paid, the children are home and safe, the husband empties the dishwasher without being asked … then it’s easy to rejoice. We sing praise songs. We thank the Lord for His blessings.

But rejoice always? When the storms hit? When past due notices pile up? When yet another interview ends with “You’re not quite the right fit”? When your teenager comes home reeking of alcohol? When your wife says she just doesn’t love you anymore? When the pain is unrelenting?


That’s what Paul wrote. Rejoice always. Not just in the good times. Not just when the sun shines. Always.

How can we do this? It all comes down to a choice. You choose to rejoice. You choose to trust God’s faithfulness. You choose to believe Romans 8:28.

It’s okay to ask God “why” when things are hard or painful or confusing. But even when we don’t understand, we can remember God’s blessings, His past provision, His loving-kindness.

And we can rejoice.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Girl Power! (Philippians 4:2-3)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 4:2-3

We sometimes forget how women were involved in the start of the early church. In Luke’s account of the early church, he wrote specifically that women were praying alongside the men (Acts 1:14) and believing women “were added to their number” (5:14). Later in his book, Luke wrote of a time when spoke to a “place of prayer” and spoke to the “women assemble there” (16:13). And there were women of prominence involved in the early church (17:4, 12).

There’s a wonderful story of a godly couple who intervened when Apollos was preaching a partial gospel: "When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26).

And I love Paul’s introduction in his second letter to Timothy. He wrote in glowing terms of his protégé’s faith, one that the younger man witnessed in his grandmother, Lois, and mother, Eunice (1:5).

Women were and are crucial to the faith. We too must “labor in the gospel” and be “fellow workers” in support of the body of Christ.

For we too have our “names in the Book of Life.”

Monday, February 08, 2016

Stand Fast (Philippians 4:1)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 4:1

On Friday, we were reminded that those of us who follow Christ are far from home. But one day our Savior will transform and conform us. One day we will be with Him for eternity.

So while we’re here on this rapidly-declining earth, we can “stand fast.” We can live in hope. We can trust our heavenly Father to work His perfect plan in and through us. We can be assured of His faithfulness. We can share His truth with others. We can do what He calls us to do.

And although Paul wrote these words two millennia ago to the believers in Philippi, we can know—beyond doubt—we are beloved of God. We are longed-for. We are His joy and crown.

Stand fast, my friends. Stand fast.

Friday, February 05, 2016

I'm Just A'Passin' Through (Philippians 3:20-21)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 3:20-21

Are you homesick? Maybe you’re away at school, and you miss home-cooked meals. Or you’re serving as a missionary, and you long for a face-to-face conversation with your mom. Or you’re in the military, and you would give anything to hold your toddler.

I remember a time when I felt homesick. I’d spent the summer traveling with a Christian musical group, and then because of some difficult choice, I decided to move temporarily to the mid-west. It was hard being away from friends and family. And when my sister-in-law announced she was pregnant, I packed my car and moved back home.

Yes, I’ve been homesick. But I’ve never been as homesick as I am now. But it’s not for this physical home God’s blessed me with. It’s not missing family or living on memories. I’m homesick for my real home.

There’s an old gospel song, “This world is not my home. I’m just a’passin’ through.” And that’s exactly how I feel. I reside in a temporary home, and my heart longs more and more for the place of my true citizenship. One day, Jesus will take me home, whether through death or through His triumphant return.

One day, I’ll be home. And I’ll never be homesick again.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Learning ... and Teaching ... (Philippians 3:17-19)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 3:17-19

Paul’s heart broke when he thought of the lost. He didn’t look down on them or take on a “holier than thou” attitude. He didn’t ridicule them. He didn’t ignore them.

He wept over them. He foresaw their destruction—eternal separation from God. And he desired that his spiritual children would not follow in their steps. Paul exhorted the Christians in Philippi to follow the example of godly men and women, to walk as they walked. I know he’d pray the same for us today.

Do you have an example of strong faith that you can emulate? Do you have a mentor who exemplifies a godly walk? Maybe it’s your parents. Or a church leader. Or someone whom you’ve never met, but who inspires you.

If you don’t, please find one. Read the works of C.H. Spurgeon or Oswald Chambers or C.S. Lewis. Ask your Bible study teacher if she would recommend a mentor. Look around you. There’s someone who would be honored and privileged to walk with you on your path to stronger faith.

And if you’ve been walking with the Lord for a while now, be an example to those younger in their faith. Help them to avoid any pitfalls of following the world.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Be a Grown-up (Philippians 3:15-16)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 3:15-16

Just as we mature and grow physically, we mature and grow spiritually. And we require the same things: food to nourish; relationships to develop emotionally; study and learning to stimulate mentally.

If a child isn’t fed regularly and nutritionally, her growth is stunted. If she doesn’t have regular, positive interaction with others, she becomes socially inept. If she is never given the opportunity to read or learn, she stays childlike in her thinking.

The same is true for believers. We must be nourished by God’s word—studying it, meditating on it—every day. We must spend time with God in prayer and solitude, listening to His voice. We must also spend time with other believers to learn from them and fellowship with them. We must stimulate our minds by reading books that make us question, that strengthen our beliefs, that challenge us.

Some seem to think that being a Christian means praying a prayer and then just going merrily on our way.  While accepting God’s gift of salvation is key to forgiveness and eternity with our Lord, it’s not the end. It’s the beginning. Let us not be content with where we are today. Rather, let us have a true desire to be more, grow more, develop more. So we can indeed be mature Christ-followers.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Forget the Past (Philippians 3:12-14)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 3:12-14

When I recommitted my life to the Lord over 22 years ago, I adopted Philippians 3:13-14 as my life verses. Short story: Although I’d asked Jesus to come into my heart when I was six years old, I’d allowed some painful situations to take me away from my child-like faith. For twenty years, I walked a deliberate path, one that was far from my Lord, and I made some really poor choices.

For a time after I found my way back to the arms of the Father, I’d beat myself up with regret over those twenty lost years. If only I’d been stronger. If only I’d clung more tightly to Jesus. If only …

Then God blessed me with these verses. I don’t have to live in the past. I don’t have to continually berate myself for former choices. When I asked Jesus to take over my life—completely—and forgive me for all the things I’d done that were wrong and selfish and rebellious, He forgave me. He washed me clean. He removed my sin as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

I didn’t have to look at what had been. Rather, I could look forward to what God had planned for my future. I could anticipate being used for His glory, to serve others. I could delight in knowing that, one day, I’ll receive the prize of eternity with Christ Jesus.

These verses have been a comfort and have encouraged me countless times. And I praise God for the assurance I have that He has truly forgiven me. That He continues to work in and through me. That the story isn’t quite complete.

I can press on, knowing He’s beside me all the way.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Oh, Rubbish! (Philippians 3:7-11)

Today’s scripture: Philippians 3:7-11

How often do we put our trust in things? Or circumstances? Or people? How often do we think, if I only had this job? Or if I were married to so and so? Or if I lived there?

Then life would be perfect.

But that’s a lie. Things are temporary. Circumstances come and go. What we think is so important today means nothing tomorrow. Nothing has real meaning in this world. Nothing except our faith, that is. What the world sees as “gain” is “rubbish.” It’s trash. It belongs in a landfill.

When I speak, I often use this illustration: I hold out both hands facing up, and say, "It's all Yours, Lord." Then, I close one fist and say, "Well, except for ..." I complete the illustration by opening that fist again and saying, "We have to hold everything loosely and trust God to fulfill His purpose."

God has blessed us with so many things, but they're just things. So we can and should hold things loosely. We should gladly give up everything for Lord and Savior. We should be willing to lose what the world so highly cherishes, being assured that, if we do, we will attain what lasts: resurrection from the dead. Eternity with Christ.

Nothing else matters.