Preparing for Easter

Mary-MagdaleneIt’s been a busy time around here.  Basketball tournaments, a new puppy, getting ready for a camping trip, staging the house to sell . . . plus all the “normal” stuff of every day life.  Crazy.  But, I’m looking forward to an Easter that is peaceful—in the truest and fullest sense of the word.

I’m looking forward to contemplating my Savior’s life, death, and resurrection.  As Christians, we do this regularly in the privacy of our homes and hearts and publicly with our church family.  Yet, Easter provides us another spiritual stop sign.  Stop.  Think.  Remember.  Praise. 

I came across a wonderful devotional by Noel Piper that our family will be reading Easter week.  I thought some of you might also like to use it for yourself or with your families.  Click HERE for “Holy Week at the Pipers'” and HERE for “Lenten Lights: Eight Biblical Devotions to Prepare for Easter.”  These Word-saturated devotions can be used weekly the month before Easter or daily the week prior to Easter.

I pray this Easter season you will draw near to worship our risen Savior.  He is risen indeed!

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith . . .” (Hebrews 10:19-22).


Boundless Love

heart-cross-12673094Happy Valentine’s Day! A few months ago, I came across these thoughtful lyrics written by the Lutheran pastor and hymn writer, Paulus Gerhardt (1607-1676).  The words of “Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me” reveal a heart that desires Christ to reign without rival.  It is a prayer asking for Christ’s boundless love to possess, comfort, and control one’s heart and life.  I sense Gerhardt dearly loved his Savior and had a deep confidence in Jesus’ unshakable love for him.  On this day when we celebrate love, is this your prayer, too?


Jesus, Thy boundless love to me
No thought can reach, no tongue declare;
Unite my thankful heart with Thee
And reign without a rival there.
To Thee alone, dear Lord, I live;
Myself to Thee, dear Lord, I give.

O, grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell but Thy pure love alone!
Oh, may Thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown!
All coldness from my heart remove;
My every act, word, thought, be love.

O love, how cheering is thy ray!
All pain before thy presence flies;
Care, anguish, sorrow, melt away
Wherever thy healing beams arise.
O Jesus, nothing may I see,
Nothing desire or seek, but Thee!

Still let Thy love point out my way;
How wondrous things Thy love hath wrought!
Still lead me, lest I go astray;
Direct my word, inspire my thought;
And if I fall, soon may I hear
Thy voice, and know that love is near.

In suffering be Thy love my peace,
In weakness be Thy love my power;
And when the storms of life shall cease,
Jesus, in that important hour,
In death as life be Thou my guide,
And save me, who for me hast died.


3 Reasons Studying Scripture is an Absolute Necessity

woman-studyingMany Christian women today are searching.  I hear women say they are searching for “freedom,” “a word from God,” “purpose,” “calling,” etc.

Unfortunately, too many Christian women today are not being told they already are free and they need to live like it (Romans 6), they already have a Word from God and they need to believe and obey it (Psalm 119), and they already have a calling and they need to fulfill it (Titus 2).

Instead, women are often told by well-meaning Christian authors, bloggers, and leaders that what they need is something more or a little different than what they have already been given in God’s Word.  They need a different community or mystical experience, a different spiritual tactic, a different worship style or event, etc.  The list goes on and on; and so does the search, leaving women spiritually dissatisfied and longing for the next mountain-top experience to soothe their clamoring souls.

I believe this sad search stems from a faulty view of the Word of God:  the Bible is true, but not sufficient; it is accurate, but not authoritative.  Many Christian sisters seek and place their hopes in things such as feelings, experiences, or signs from God as means or evidence of spiritual growth in lieu of diligently studying and applying the Scriptures—the very words of their God, whom they so desperately, and rightly, desire to know.

I can only scratch the surface here about the urgent need for Christian women to grasp the sufficiency and authority of Scripture in their lives, but I do want to mention three crucial reasons why the study and knowledge of the Scriptures (above all else) is absolutely necessary for spiritual growth and life in Christ:

  1. To know the certainty of your salvation

By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the disciple John gave this reason (twice!) for his writing of Scripture.  First, he said he wrote “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).  And secondly he wrote, “I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (I John 5:13).  Are you one who struggles with knowing for certain that you are saved, forgiven of your sin, and eternally loved and received by God?  Study the Scriptures!  See who Christ is in the revealed Word of God.  Do not settle for a feeling or an experience.  Instead, settle yourself on the person and work of Christ as found in the Scriptures.  Study them so that you will have the faith to believe and the assurance of your salvation.

2.  To be equipped to do what God wants you to do

I love this verse!  It is such a strength to me!  “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16-17).  Not only do I love what God says His Word is for, I am thankful for its result!  His Word will make you able to do everything God has called you to do. Theologian Matthew Henry put it this way, “Whatever duty we have to do, whatever service is required from us, we may find enough in the Scriptures to furnish us for it.”  Do not rely upon a poetic sentiment, a “sign,” or human method to equip you for faithful obedience or to direct your path.  Do you have a trial to walk through?  Do you have a sin to overcome? Do you have a burden to bear?  Do you have a relationship to mend?  Do you have a decision to make?  Do you have a service or sacrifice to render?  Do you have mundane responsibilities to undertake?  Find out how the Scriptures address your situation and then obey in faith.  The Scriptures alone, by the power of His Spirit, will equip you and teach you in the way you should go.  

3. To know God more deeply

A gem of a verse is found in Exodus 33:13.  Interceding on behalf of the wayward Israelites in the wilderness, Moses prays to God, “If I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You . . . ”  Hmm.  Let me know your ways that I may know You. Do you want to know God more deeply?  Then know His ways.  Do you want to love God more?  Then know His ways.  Do you want to walk with Him in life-changing faith?  Then know His ways.  Where do we find the most complete display of the ways of God on this side of eternity?  Not in well-marketed Christian books and conferences.  Not in ourselves.  Not even in nature.  The perfect display of the ways of God is found in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.  There He reveals Himself to us (Hebrews. 1:1-2).  As we study the Scriptures and come to better see, understand, and believe the Lord’s ways, character, and thoughts, then our faith and love for Him grows (II Peter. 1:2-4).  If you long for a a closer relationship with the Lord, spend consistent time carefully and prayerfully studying His Word.  He is faithful and will not disappoint you, so don’t settle for gimmicks or short-cuts. Through the Scriptures you will come to intimately know and walk with Him.

Finally, I Thessalonians 2:13 says, “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.”  Are you willing to receive what God says about his own Word?  Are you willing to base your spiritual growth and life on his Word instead of your emotions and experiences?  Are you willing to accept the Scriptures as the very words of the Lord of the universe to you? Then take comfort and courage knowing that the Bible “performs its work in you who believe.”   Receive and believe God’s Word, and it will perform it’s work in you.

How do you study the Bible?  What have you found helpful in personal Bible study?  Share with others in the comment section!

Pursuing Change in 2016

Change aheadAt the beginning of the New Year, many of us are thinking of changes we would like to make in our lives. Some of those changes are rather small and insignificant, maybe even silly. Other changes may be desperately needed—a relationship needs to be mended, a destructive habit needs to be kicked, or a health or financial concern needs to be dealt with head-on.

The Bible says a lot about change: changes in nature, families, governments, etc.  The most radical change the Bible speaks of is the life-change of one who belongs to Him. One of the reasons God saves us is to change us. He sees us in our sinfulness, weakness, and foolishness, and yet God makes us as His own and doesn’t leave us the way He found us.  He loves, purifies, prunes, and refines.  What an amazing God we have!  Personal.  Powerful.  Life-penetrating.

One of my favorite verses is Philippians 1:6: “For I am confident of this very thing that He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Dear Christian, the God who saved us is the One who will change us to be like His Son—Holy.  He promises us that we will not always be as we are today, struggling with sin. When we are plagued with doubt or self-condemnation, we can rejoice knowing that God promises to finish the good work He started in our lives.  Day by day He is transforming us to overcome our sin.  Sometimes we see leaps in our growth and sometimes we barely see baby-steps, but we can be assured that the transformation He began the day He saved us will continue until we are perfected in Glory.

Our salvation (God forgiving our sin and declaring us righteous) is the work of God alone, but we are responsible to actively pursue obedience to Him.  Growing in godliness (or sanctification) is achieved by both the Holy Spirit and us working together: ” . . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).  As we pursue a life of obedience, the Lord produces godliness in our lives.  It is He who transforms our desires and life to please Him, and He calls us to participate in this transformation.

I have been reading and studying a little book that helps explain biblical change and its pursuit.  I highly recommend it if you are done with playing around the edges of sanctification and are ready to dive in to experience life-altering change.  The book is Stuart and Zondra Scott’s Killing Sin Habits: Conquering Sin with Radical Faith.  I pray that it will bless you as it has me.

Happy New Year!


Christmas is Forever

incarnation 1“Mommy, wouldn’t it be great if Christmas was every day of the year?” asked one of my twins.

I couldn’t just go with the flow in the moment, now could I?  Nope.  I just had to be Miss Reasonable and explain to my wide-eyed, cherub-faced child that what makes Christmas so special is that we celebrate it only once a year and then pack it away into deep storage.  Would’t we get tired of the Christmas tree if we left it up all year? Wouldn’t we get sick of candy canes if we ate them every day?  Wouldn’t Christmas carols lose their appeal if we listened to it all them time?  Way to go, spoiling the wonder, Mom.

Later, as I thought about it, I realized that what we celebrate at Christmas is every day of the year—and forever.  Christmas is the celebration of the  Incarnation of the Savior, and that reality never ends.  What makes Christmas so special is that the Incarnation is forever.  It is never-ending.

The second person of the Trinity, God the Son, was born of a woman, taking to himself a human nature, body, mind, soul, and experience.   He is “one who is all that God is and at the same time all that man is” (B.B. Warfield).  And He is so forever.  Wayne Grudem writes, “Jesus did not temporarily become man . . . His divine nature was permanently united to his human nature, and he lives forever not just as the eternal Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, but also as Jesus, the man who was born of Mary, and as Christ, the Messiah and Savior of his people.  Jesus will remain fully God and fully man, yet one person, forever.”

Have you ever taken a few minutes to ponder that?  Jesus not only was born, lived, and died as a human, He also resurrected and ascended to heaven as a human!  When Jesus ascended to heaven forty days after his resurrection, He did so in a glorified human body, declaring the mind-blowing reality that humanity is forever welcomed and received into the very presence of God!

Because the Incarnation is Forever, You are Forever Forgiven

Paid stampThe incarnation had a purpose.  The angel said to Joseph, ” . . . you shall call his name Jesus for He wills save His people from their sins.”  Jesus came to save us.  From what?  Sin.  You and I have broken God’s perfect, holy law in heart, thought, word, and deed.  The punishment for sin is physical, spiritual, and eternal death away from the presence of God.  We needed a Savior who could die in our place to pay the penalty of death that our sin deserves.  So, Jesus was made like us; He became human to be our substitute.  “Since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same . . . He had to be made like his brethren in all things, to that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation (payment) for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:14, 17). Now, the Father looks upon Jesus’ sacrifice for us and is completely satisfied.  “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).  Jesus bodily rose from the dead proving his victory over sin and death.  If you are in Christ by faith, that victory also belongs to you!  “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law, but thanks to to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (I Cor. 15:57).  Jesus’ payment for sin, his risen life, and his victory over sin is yours!  Because of the incarnation, you have a Savior who died for you.  And because of the ongoing incarnation of your risen Savior, you are assured that the debt for your sin is fully paid and forgiveness is complete—forever!

Because the Incarnation is Forever, You are Forever Righteous

gavelGod gives grace upon grace, blessing upon blessing, gift upon gift!  Not only does He forgive our sins, He actually does something more!  He gives us righteousness, perfect righteousness.  Righteousness is the condition of perfectly conforming to God’s law and holy character.  We lack righteousness of our own; in Adam, our righteousness was lost, but in Jesus our righteousness is found!  “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.  For as by the one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:18-19).  Adam, the first man, was our representative in the Garden (whether you like it or not!), and when he sinned he passed sin and its consequences down to us.  From Adam, we inherited both the condemnation of sin and a sin nature.  Yet, in Jesus, we find the righteousness that God requires.  As our new representative, Jesus accomplished righteousness for us through his perfect obedience to the Father throughout His incarnation.  Throughout His time on earth, Jesus obeyed for you—His every thought, action, and attitude was in complete conformity to the law and character of God.  In the Romans 5 passage just mentioned, we see that Jesus’ complete righteousness leads to our acquittal of wrongdoing, and His obedience leads to our righteousness.  On the cross, Jesus exchanged his righteousness for our sinfulness.  “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Corinthians 5:21).  How do we receive this righteousness?  By faith!  The apostle Paul explains, ” . . . that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:8-9).  By faith in Christ as your only Savior and not by your own works, God declares Jesus’ righteousness to your credit, to your account.  This is justification: by the work of Christ, God declares you forever righteous.  For all time, He sees and receives you just as if you had never sinned, and just as if you had always obeyed, for that is how He sees his Son. “For by a single offering He, has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 2:11).  And if that weren’t enough, you will then reign with Him in righteousness forever!  “There will no longer be any curse . . . and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face . . . and they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:3-5). Oh, what grace upon grace upon grace!

Because the Incarnation is Forever, You are Forever Loved

forever lovedWhat is the love of God?  God’s love means that He eternally gives of himself to bring about blessing and good for others.  Have you ever considered that the essence of God’s love is that He gives of Himself for your good and blessing?  Sometimes we struggle believing that God truly loves us, but I want you to see that God’s love for you is complete and everlasting because of your relationship with His Incarnate Son.

God Loves You by Giving to You:  “If God is for us, who is against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32).  God has lavishly loved you by giving you His Son who accomplished forgiveness and righteousness for you.  Since God has provided for your greatest need, salvation from the power and penalty of sin, then He will certainly give to meet all your lesser needs!  God is not stingy; He is infinitely generous.  He loves you enough to give you His Son, and He will not withhold anything else He knows you need. “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).  If you truly need, He promises to give.

God Loves You by Accepting You:  “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?  God is the one who justifies, who is the one who condemns?  Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:33-34).  If you are in Christ, who can condemn you to judgement for your sin?  No one . . . not even yourself.  Through faith in Jesus, you are completely received and accepted by the Father.  He does not hold you at a distance, but rather welcomes you into relationship with Him.  How can this be?  Only by the work of One—Jesus.  Jesus died the sinner’s death, Jesus resurrected to life in victory over sin, Jesus ascended to heaven, and Jesus intercedes for you today.  There is only one mediator between God and man, the God-Man Jesus Christ, and because of all this He has done on your behalf, you are fully welcomed by the Father.

God Loves You by Binding Himself to You:  “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor thins to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).  The cords of God’s love for you will never be broken.  There is no person, power, or place that can sever the infinite bond of love between you and the Father.  That bond is Jesus Christ Himself.  He has forever secured the Father’s love for you through his life and death . . . and life again!  Will you rest in that?  Will you truly believe?

We celebrate a never-ending Incarnation.  This is our Savior . . . eternal, born, obeying, suffering, dying, rising, ascending, living!  Because of Him, you are forever forgiven, forever righteous, and forever loved.

Merry, Merry Christmas.

Praying the Bible: When Gripped by Fear

20100430-scared-woman-300x205 Before the Fall there was no fear.  No shame.

When Adam and Eve rejected God’s good for them, a torrent of fear rushed into their souls. Gripped with fear, they tried to hide from God, but to no avail.  All of humanity was thrust into a shameful existence . . . fearful of the Creator, fearful of one another, and fearful of the world which was once a beautiful, welcoming garden.  But God did not leave us alone in fear.

Dear Christian, we have a loving Heavenly Father.  He who did not spare His own Son, but freely delivered him over for us all, will he not also give us all things? (Rom. 8:32).  Since your Heavenly Father has taken care of your greatest need of forgiveness for your sin, will He not also care for all your lesser needs?  Yes, He will for my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:8)  When we truly grasp His great love for us, the grip of fear in our lives is broken.

To Pray When Gripped by Fear:

Psalm 91

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.  He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find rest; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.  You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.  You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.  Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge—no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.  For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.  On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.  You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.  When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.  With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

For additional resources on Fear, see Resources for Your Walk.

Where Does Anger Come From?

dark-heart-backgrounds-61361-wallpapers-hd-61364A screaming toddler in a shopping cart.  A seething teen punching a hole in the wall.  A stewing colleague turning a cold shoulder.  A begrudging neighbor planning the perfect revenge.  An embittered mother yelling at her children.  A disgusted spouse slamming the door on the way out . . . for the last time.

Anger, anger, everywhere.  We see it in our culture and media, in our workplaces and homes, and even in ourselves.  It is often overlooked or excused.  Sometimes it is encouraged and praised.

In contrast, Scripture tells us to get rid of it.  “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31).  But, to begin, where does anger come from?

Anger Begins in Our Hearts

The “blame game” is a game we all love to play.  It is our human nature to blame relationships or circumstances for our anger.  When we become angry, the blaming begins . . .

 It’s not my fault I’m angry.  If she hadn’t __________, then I wouldn’t be angry.  I’m angry because he __________.  I can’t help it that I’m angry; you know how hot-headed we __________ (insert nationality here) can be!  I’m angry because I don’t feel well . . . I’m under a lot of pressure . . . I’m just not feeling like myself today. 

Oh, yes you are!

Jesus said, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.  All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man . . . For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.  The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good, and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil” (Mark 7:21, 12:34).

Jesus taught that sin originates in our hearts.  In our hearts is where sin (including anger and all its wicked associations) resides.  When we are hard-pressed, it comes gushing out like a filthy fountain!

We Become Angry When We Want Something Too Much

James 4:1-2 answers the question of what is going on in our hearts when we become angry:  “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.

A “passion” or “desire” we have might be a good, lawful desire or it might be a sinful desire.  Either way, when a desire has taken root in our hearts and becomes the most important thing to us, it has become an idol—meaning it has become more important to us than honoring and obeying Christ with our responses.

Question:  How do you know when a desire has become an idol?

Answer:  You know that a desire has become an idol when you are willing to sin to get it or willing to sin if you don’t get it.  (Think about that for a minute!)

When you are angry, stop and ask yourself, “What is it that I want?  What is it that I desire so much right now that I am willing to respond with sinful anger?” 

Think of anger as your personal smoke detector.  A smoke detector identifies smoke and warns you that a fire is nearby.  Similarly, anger detects a desire that is dangerously burning within you. Your anger will tell you what your idol is!

Why is it Important to Know that Anger Begins in Our Hearts?

There are two important reasons to understand that anger begins in our hearts:

  1. This truth shows us what needs to change—WE do! It’s our hearts that need to change, not our circumstances or the people around us.  Stop the blame game!
  1. This truth shows us that we need God for change! We cannot change ourselves at the deepest level to glorify Him; we are dependent upon God Himself for that.  We will only overcome our anger—not mask it, but rather put it to death—by the gracious saving work of Christ and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.  More about that next time.

Previous:  The Hulk Isn’t the Only One: Are You Angry?   Next:  Overcoming Anger

(Thank you to Jim Newheiser of for his many biblical insights reflected in this post.  For his audio & notes, see: “Anger Mismanagement: Only Grace Transforms the Heart.”)

For additional anger resources: Resources for Your Walk