James 1:18 on My Mind

NewOMM“Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” –James 1:18, ESV

I’m memorizing this week’s verse along with my Protestant Women of the Chapel Bible study class. We’re working our way through the book of James. I find this particular verse quite intriguing and look forward to learning more about this passage with the group next time we meet.

In the meantime, here’s what I’ve discovered about this verse that can help you and me commit it to memory:

In the first phrase, James, writing specifically to Christians, tells us that we have been brought forth—or born again—by God’s will, by His Word. God wanted us to be born again. (He wants all people to be born again!) He made it possible for all people to be born again by His Son, Jesus Christ—the Word of Truth. Those of us who have repented of our sins and invited Jesus into our lives as Lord are assuredly born again. God is always faithful to His Word—both in Scripture and in His Son.

In the second phrase, James calls us a “kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” In the Old Testament, the firstfruits of anything belonged to God: first harvest of any food-bearing plant, firstborn of any womb. Firstborn sons of the Israelite people had to be redeemed by sacrifice, according to what the parents could afford.

James 1-18When James calls us the firstfruits, he is saying that Christians are to be fully dedicated to God, set apart for His service, devoted to His will. This isn’t unlike Paul’s petition in Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Paul urges us to be living sacrifices. James says this is what God intends for us to be. As the book continues, James teaches believers what exactly this means.

As always, I invite you to meditate on or memorize this verse along with me. And, if you have time, I recommend you read the book of James: just five short chapters, but packed full of spiritual meat.

Father, thank You for sending Jesus that we could be born again. We’re your children now, heirs with Christ, all thanks to Him. Help us to remember that we are “a kind of firstfruits of Your creatures”—set apart for service to You, devoted to Your will. Teach us Your ways, Lord. We exist for You. Amen.


Hebrews 10:23 on My Mind

NewOMM“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” –Hebrews 10:23, NLT

Though we can’t always understand God’s ways or His timing, one thing we can always know is that God will keep His promises. We can trust Him completely to do everything He has promised to do.

Therefore, whenever we’re called to pray about something long-term, no end in sight, we can encourage ourselves to hang in there and keep on praying by seeking out promises that we can cling to, by carefully studying God’s Word.

In Hebrews 10, the author is doing just that. The people are becoming discouraged as they suffer under great persecution. The author reminds them that God has promised them a great reward for their patient endurance (v. 35-36). Christ, who died for their salvation, is coming back to take faithful believers to their future home (v. 34, 39). The author of Hebrews quotes promises from Deuteronomy and Habakkuk in order to give the people solid hope to cling to.

None of those believers lived long enough on earth to see those promises fulfilled, but those who hung in there, as the author encouraged them to, will see it all happen someday, just as we will, in God’s perfect timing. Hebrews 10:23 assures us all will be well. God keeps His promises.

And His Word is full of them! To encourage us all through this life. To give us something to hold tightly as we prepare to journey into Eternity with Christ.

This doesn’t mean we can take the Bible’s promises out of context and twist their meaning in order to manipulate God into giving in to something we want Him to do for us now. He wouldn’t fall for that kind of thing anyway. Yet we can carefully study what the Bible has to say, pray over passages that give us hope and build our confidence, and trust God to do everything He plans to just perfectly.

When life tempts us to give up or give in, let’s choose to hold tightly to hope by seeking to understand all that God has promised in the Bible, His Word.

Father, lead us to the verses we need to see. Use Your written word to speak truth to us each day. Help us to understand Your teaching that we’ll come to know and fully trust You. The Bible says You keep Your promises. I’ll believe this, Lord, as I continue to wait and pray. In Jesus’ name, amen.


Ephesians 3:12 on My Mind

NewOMM“Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.” –Ephesians 3:12, NLT

It distresses me that some people, even Christians, are afraid or don’t know how to talk to God. This is what He created us for! He loves us. He wants us to love Him back. And, as in all other relationships, communication is the tool we use to get to know one another, to understand each other, to resolve conflict, to grow close.

God invites us to grow closer to Him each day.

In the beginning, Adam and Eve enjoyed walking and talking in the garden with God. They enjoyed a closer relationship with Him than any of us have ever yet known.

But sin built a barrier between them and God. Sin gives people a reason to fear His Presence, a reason to cower in the dark.

That’s why we need Jesus. Because of His sacrifice on our behalf and if we’ve placed our faith in Him as our Savior, that barrier of sin is gone. We can enter God’s Presence boldly and with confidence.

Eph3-12When I was in junior high school, my mom and I were baking one day. The vanilla smelled so good, I asked my mom if I could taste it. She told me no, telling me that I wouldn’t like the taste.

Later that day, she left to run some errands. I remembered the vanilla in the pantry and decided to try it for myself. I guess I didn’t believe my mom. But I should have! It tasted so bad that I spit it back out—and got it all over my clothes.

Not wanting my mom to know what I’d done, I changed, washed the strong smell of vanilla out of my clothes, and put them in the dryer. They finished drying just in time for me to change back into them before my mom came home.

I’d gotten away with it! But I still felt badly about what I’d done. I avoided my mom for most of the afternoon until I couldn’t stand it anymore and made a tearful and fearful confession.

She laughed! I was so confused—and relieved. Our relationship was restored.

In the same way, if ever we do wrong, thanks to Jesus, we can confess this wrong to God, knowing He will always forgive. The wall of sin between us will come down, so we can boldly and confidently enter His Presence again.

Father, thank You for creating us for fellowship with You. And thank You for Your Son, Jesus, Who died on the cross and rose again, that we can enjoy this fellowship—now and through eternity. We love You, Lord. Draw us into Your Presence often. This is where we long to dwell, forever with You, growing closer each day. In Jesus’ name, amen.


Freedom’s Door

“Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and cruel bondage. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his country.’” –Exodus 6:9-11

The Israelites had been in bondage for years. You would think they’d throw a party to celebrate and run to pack their bags on hearing Moses’ report that God was preparing to set them free. They didn’t, though. They were so discouraged and beaten down by bondage that they completely ignored the messenger and refused to believe the good news.

At this point, God could have said, “Well, fine. If you aren’t interested in being rescued, I’ll just leave you there.” But He didn’t. He loved his people too much for that; He wanted the best for them. So He went to work doing just what He’d said He would, showing His power and putting Pharaoh in his place. It was the beginning of the second greatest rescue of all time!

Second greatest? Yes! The Israelites were in bondage to Pharaoh and the Egyptians. But all of humankind is in bondage to Satan and this world. Some people are so discouraged and beaten down by this bondage that, like the Israelites, they can’t hear or understand the good news. God has opened the Door to their freedom anyway! Captives discouraged by sin don’t stop Him from putting His plans into action.

The plan? God sent His only Son, Jesus, to die for our sins and rise again that all people can be free. We’ve just celebrated that coming, and now, as a church, we’re contemplating Jesus’ growing up years and His ministry in anticipation of Easter’s celebration: God’s rescue plan fulfilled in Christ. As I consider Exodus 6:9-11, I’m so thankful God sets His plans in motion, even for people who can’t see the path out through their pain.

But it still comes down to personal choice. It always has. The Israelites didn’t have to leave Egypt. They could have said, “Thanks, but no thanks. You’ve opened the door, but we’re not walking through it. We’ll stay here and suffer rather than follow You to that so-called Promised Land.” They didn’t say that, though—well, they did, but that was later when they were on their way and discovered that the path to the Promised Land wasn’t a cakewalk. But that’s another story about another spiritual issue. What matters today is that the Israelites chose to follow God out of bondage, to begin their journey to the Promised Land. That choice is now available to all humankind: to follow Jesus out of bondage to sin and to begin the Christian’s journey to our eternal Promised Land.

Remembering the story of the Israelite response to Moses’ good news, let’s pray for today’s discouraged, burden-laden captives. Whenever we encounter people who can’t hear the good news over the screams of the captor bent on their abuse and destruction, let’s pray that God will speak a little louder and that He’ll make the door frame a little brighter and that He’ll show His power in miraculous ways so that the captives will see and believe and let Him set them free! Our all-powerful God is more than capable—people just have to follow Him out of sin’s prison door.

For more thoughts based on God’s Word this weekend, visit The Weekend Brew and Spiritual Sundays.


Psalm 25:4-5 on My Mind

NewOMM“Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” –Psalm 25:4-5

As we enter 2014, these verses are the perfect ones to have on our minds. Each day, we walk into the great unknown—even if we think we know what’s up ahead. Each day is full of surprises: some big, some little, some joyful, some sad. Some are completely life-changing; I’m thankful these are rare.

In any case, as we boldly step into our future, whether it’s the next second or the next year, let’s remember that God is our Guide and ask Him often to:

Show us His ways.

Teach us His paths.

Guide us in His Truth.

Teach us.

After all, He is our God—our Creator and King. He is our Savior—the One Who has rescued us from sin, Who does rescue us from trouble and temptation each day (insofar as we cooperate), and Who will rescue us from this world when He takes us to New Earth* some future day. This is what makes Him our Hope for every day, and the only One Who deserves to take the lead in our lives.

Jesus, please guide us step by step through every day of 2014 and for the rest of our lives. We’ll trust Your way as You reveal it. Amen.

*Randy Alcorn’s term for Heaven—I like it!


Psalm 73:25 on My Mind

NewOMM“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” –Psalm 73:25, NIV

I don’t know about you, but I can remember some pretty greedy Christmas moments from my childhood. I remember one in particular. I must have been four, maybe five. I’d asked Santa for a baby doll that year. But not just any baby doll. I wanted a very particular baby doll. And when that very particular baby doll did not show up under my family’s Christmas tree on Christmas morning, I was pretty angry with Santa for letting me down. In fact, while holding the new baby doll I’d received that wasn’t the particular baby doll I’d wanted, I pouted all the way to Grandma’s house and all through the first few hours of our extended-family Christmas celebration.

Imagine my surprise to learn, as we started the gift-opening portion of the day, that Santa had indeed brought that doll for me. As my grandma explained it, she’d wanted to see me receive it, and so, had asked Santa to bring it to her house instead of mine.

In hindsight, I think I should have caught on to the Santa scam that day. Instead, I felt sorry for being so angry with Santa for not bringing the baby doll I’d wanted when, in fact, he’d brought the one I’d wanted plus one more. I learned to be more patient in future years.

Such can be the drama of Christmas morning. Thankfully, I’ve outgrown those days. At least, I hope I have! I’m sure that you have, too. Now the joy of Christmas morning comes as we watch others open gifts we’ve carefully chosen for them: some they have requested, others meant to surprise and delight.

Why is it that brings us joy?

Because, in Christ, we have everything we need. His Presence fills every longing and promises so much more! For eternity! We celebrate this fullness by letting it flow over into others, generously, as God leads.

The tangible gifts are just a symbol of this, of course. The real celebration is the coming of Christ Who permanently meets the needs and desires of all the world. As we give and receive gifts this Christmas, let’s remember this verse—and be thankful indeed.

Jesus, thank You! You are the reason we celebrate, the reason we look forward to Heaven someday. Earth has nothing for us compared to the joy of being loved by You. Amen.


Colossians 2:6-7 on My Mind

NewOMM“As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so continue to live in him. Keep your roots deep in him and have your lives built on him. Be strong in the faith, just as you were taught, and always be thankful.” –Colossians 2:6-7, NCV

I love these two verses from Colossians because they so simply and clearly state what matters most in a Christian’s life: being rooted and growing in Christ. They also tell us how:

Continue to live in him. Paul, the author of Colossians, wants his readers to know that being saved (by receiving Christ) is only the beginning. Rather than check the block and wait for eternal life to begin “in Heaven someday,” we are blessed to be able to live that life right now. As soon as we receive Christ into our hearts, we can begin to live in Him.

Keep your roots deep in him. We live in Christ by growing in Him. Henri Nouwen said, “Think of yourself as a little seed planted in rich soil.”* In Christ, the conditions for growth are perfect. We do our part by resting comfortably in His Presence, allowing Him to nurture us, talking with Him about everything that’s on our minds, studying His Word and His world to learn more about Him each day, and by meeting regularly with others who are doing the same.

Have your lives built on him. We do this by remembering that Jesus Christ is our foundation. When everything we do is for the good of His growing Kingdom and the honor of His name, we are faithfully building on Him. Remembering this, that Christ is our foundation, will help us make wise choices about how to spend our time each day.

Be strong in the faith. As our roots grow deep and we build our lives on Christ, our faith will grow proportionately. We’ll see God’s work in and through us which will give us an ever-greater understanding of and confidence in what He is able and willing to do.

Always be thankful. Once we have Christ, we have everything we need for all eternity. Anything else He blesses us with is just gravy on the potatoes of life. Therefore, as we draw closer to Jesus, we always have something to be thankful for. Notice His faithful work and His generous gifts and express your gratitude.

Father, please help us to get these words of Yours firmly stuck on our minds through meditation and memory. May Your Spirit use them often to remind us of the one priority that matters most to our lives: living and growing in Christ. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

*In Joyful Hope, Meditations for Advent, p. 24


Luke 2:7 on My Mind

NewOMM“She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.” –Luke 2:7, NLT

Yesterday morning, we sang a hymn in church that I haven’t heard in so long it was almost new to me. My husband and I both struggled to follow the words while singing the right notes. More amazing, it’s a Christmas carol! I guess it’s one that’s sliding into obscurity, but I enjoyed the visit yesterday.

The name of the carol is Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne. The words ponder how it was possible that God’s own Son, King of Kings and Lord of Lords Himself, could have left the splendor of Heaven where He was celebrated by angels only to find no room on earth: no room in the inn, no place to lay His head, no acceptance by His own people, only their scorn and a crown of thorns.

In the words of the chorus, the grieving lyricist does her part to set things right with this invitation: O come to my heart, Lord Jesus; There is room in my heart for Thee. Then, after the final verse, she looks to her future in Heaven: My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus, When Thou comest and callest for me.

So many aspects of Christianity have a past, present, future element to them. The first Sunday of Advent, celebrated yesterday, is one beautiful example of this. It’s a day of anticipation and expectation: we remember how God’s people were waiting for the first coming of their Messiah, our Lord, Jesus Christ. We celebrate that historical coming as we thank Jesus for it through this present season. Yet we also look forward with hope to the expected and much anticipated second coming of Christ to occur on some future day. (Or maybe even today!)

We see the same in Luke 2:7 combined with the words from this almost forgotten hymn. We remember there was no room available for Jesus when He first came—and we grieve the tragedy of that. We thank Him for preparing a place in Heaven for us someday, for making it possible for us to find room with Him. Finally, we examine our own hearts to be sure that right now in this moment, nothing is trying to push Him out of His rightful place. If we’ve invited Jesus to live in our hearts, to be Lord of our lives, we don’t want Him to have to compete with any other person, place, or thing.

Jesus, I’m sorry there was no lodging available when You came to earth as a baby so long ago. Thank You for not holding that against us, though. Thank You for completing Your mission, for fulfilling Your purpose, that You could offer us the promise of eternity in Your home. Please search our hearts now and point out anything You find there that may be crowding You. That space is Yours, Lord Jesus. Our hearts are Yours. Amen.


Hebrews 12:28 on My Mind

NewOMM“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” –Hebrews 12:28

This week, this whole month, I’ve been seeing so many Thanksgiving lists posted all over the place. Thanks to Thanksgiving, we’re all taking time to stop and reflect on what God’s given us, on what He means to us, on what He’s done for us, on all the big and little things we most appreciate.

It’s a beautiful thing: everyone offering hearts full of gratitude and praise to God. Let’s keep it up! Let’s try to keep it up all year.

I say try, though, because sometimes it’s hard. As life ebbs and flows, we sometimes find ourselves in dark places where it’s hard to find much to be thankful for. At these times, I’m so thankful we have ultimate gifts to be thankful for. Thanks to Jesus, we are receiving a Kingdom that cannot be shaken. God is preparing us for that Kingdom and that Kingdom for us right now. We’re growing together as Jesus gets ready to return. In Him, we have great hope!

No matter what’s going on in our lives, God’s eternal Kingdom will stand firm—and, if we’ve received Christ as our Savior, we’re a part of it. So let’s be sure to add our reflections on that to our Thanksgiving lists this week. Then God will be faithful to bring these thoughts back to our minds when we most need them.

I’m thankful for that, too!

Father, thank You for the ultimate gifts: salvation, life in Your Presence now, life in Your eternal Kingdom forever, hope in all circumstances, Your faithful love and care. I thank You now as I celebrate Thanksgiving. Help me thank You always. Amen.


Revelation 22:17 on My Mind

NewOMM“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.” –Revelation 22:17

I think this must be one of the happiest verses in the Bible. Can’t you feel the excitement? The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” It’s a party invitation. And this party includes free water of life for all who are thirsty. Life. Joy. Everything we need.

A key part of this verse, though, can be found in the first few words. Look who’s doing the inviting: the Spirit and the bride. The Spirit, of course, is God’s Holy Spirit, the One Who draws people to Christ, the Source of the free gift of water in this verse. (See John 4:10-13.) The bride, though, is us! If we’ve received this living water and are on our way to the party (eternal life in Heaven with our Lord), we’re not to be silent about it. We’re to yell, “Come!” As we travel, we tell everyone we meet where we’re going and that they’re invited, too. Just picture yourself walking, or maybe even running, toward the great feast in God’s Kingdom that you’ve been invited to. As you go, you reach out toward everyone you see along the way, eagerly taking their hands, looking in their eyes, and urging them to come with you.

“Come!” you say.

“Come!” the Spirit says.

Those who recognize what they are thirsty for will be happy to go with you.

I’ve written this verse on an index card and placed it where I’ll see it often this week. I invite you to do the same. As we meditate on these words, perhaps even coming to memorize them, let’s remember where we’re going and ask God to help us invite thirsty people to come along. In our prayer time, our thoughts on this verse will help us remember to pray that God will cause all people to recognize their thirst and to realize the truth: Jesus is the living water Who can satisfy their needs for all eternity.

Father, thank You for these joyous words. Help us to think of them often this week. Remind us, as we face whatever comes our way, that we’re on our way to eternity with You. Show us how and when to invite other people to come along. We’re looking forward to that future, happy day. We love You, Lord. Amen.