Archive for the ‘Devotional’ Category

     Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14

Paul mentions this “one thing” he does to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of him. The Amplified version tells us “that” refers to “perfection.” Perfection is why Christ took hold of Paul and why He has taken hold of us. He desires that we might be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. (See Matthew 5:48)

So what is this “one thing” Paul says that he does? “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Examining Paul’s statement more closely we see that he is really speaking of doing three things: forgetting those things which are behind, reaching forward to those things ahead, and pressing toward the goal

What does it mean to forget? The dictionary has several definitions of forgetting which carry with them a lack of intentionality. However, Paul’s statement has no such connotation. Forget in this case means to cease to think of something or someone by choice. To say it another way, he is telling us to no longer have those things in the center of our thoughts or focus.
What would Paul be thinking of that we need to forget? What are some of the things “which are behind?” Perhaps Paul was thinking of the things that he had done that offended God. Perhaps he was thinking of his own sin in persecuting the church. One had to forget one’s past–Paul knew that. Too much focus on past wrongs might cause a person to become paralyzed with guilt and/or shame.

Paul may also have been thinking of the religious life he left behind–the life of a Pharisee. He was, in his community, a man of considerable stature–his future was bright. Earlier in Philippians chapter 3, Paul describes himself as “circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” He had what many of his contemporaries would have envied. But those things he chose to forget.

We need to choose to forget both the good and the bad. Having repented, we need to forget how bad we were, our sin, our wrong conduct, our failures. We cannot focus on them or make them the center of our thoughts. We need also to choose to forget our successes–who we were in the world’s eyes, how much we had accomplished–our bright future. Forget–choose to forget. We choose to forget not because these things are not important–but rather because in comparison to the prize we are seeking there are not important.

Reaching Forward
Reaching is an action which speaks of intentionality beyond one’s current location or circumstances. It suggests there are thin–a goingt location, beyond our ability, perhaps even beyond our imagination. Thus, we must reach forward. It is a complement to the forgetting what lies behind. Reaching forward necessarily requires letting go of what was before, things that mattered in the past become less significant as we move toward what lies ahead.
So what might Paul be thinking of as he speaks of “reaching forward to those things which are ahead?” Paul might be thinking of the work for God, e.g. the next city he will visit or the next group of people to whom he will minister. He might also be thinking of spiritual progress such as a greater closeness to God, a greater freedom from sin, a greater zeal for God and bringing Him glory, or a greater sorrow over sin. But he might also be thinking of setting himself more steadfastly toward heaven and eternal life with God.

Pressing Toward the Goal
Paul tells us that he presses toward the goal–further emphasizing the forward momentum of his life. The word “press” is not passive. It speaks of determination and diligence. Paul is telling us that with great energy and desire, he moves toward the goal. He sees it, and with all the force he can muster, he explodes in that direction. But what is the goal? Paul says it’s “the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” One day we, all believers will receive a call from God–a call to come out of time and into eternity. I believe that is the prize Paul was looking to, pressing toward eternal life forever with God without suffering, sin, sorrow, tears, pain or separation.

Why does Paul consider this one thing and not three things? I believe he refers to this combination of actions as “one thing” because they must all be happening together–in concert. Reaching forward is just how the press toward the goal is initiated. The reach turns into the press as we gain momentum and neither the reaching nor the pressing can happen unless we forget the things behind, things which cling to us and threaten to hold us back, and move our focus onto what lies ahead. Once free from the past and reaching out toward what lies ahead, which will be different for every believer, we are moving, toward God. As we catch His scent or spy the train of His robe, we are energized to press toward the prize–toward what every breath has been leading to since we took our first one. Toward God.

May this one thing that Paul speaks of be the one thing you do as well!

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Handling fear is a subject that we can always study more because it continues to plague us as new circumstances arise and new seasons of life come upon us. Given the pervasive nature of fear and the number of times the Bible mentions it, we do well to consider more of what God wants to teach us about fear and fighting fear.

On the nature of fear . . .

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

The love of God for us is perfect love. When we walk in the love of God, in fellowship with Him, abiding in His word and living by His Spirit, we can experience a life free of fear. In our relationship with God, our love for Him is expressed by our trust in God and His promises to us. Therefore, in fellowship and consistent relationship with God, torment must flee and the Spirit of God brings us peace, the peace that passes understanding.

On why we shouldn’t fear . . .

Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Matthew 10:26

Sometimes we are fearful because we think the truth about us or others will not come out, and we will be judged by the lies the enemy has been spreading about us or those we love. But we don’t need to worry because God will bring truth to the forefront. Nothing will be kept hidden.

Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32 (Jesus speaking)

Often we spend our time fearful because of concerns about the future–will I have enough money, food, time? We all worry about different areas in which we might be lacking in the future, but the truth is that God loves to provide for His children. He knows what we lack, and He will provide in His perfect time according to His perfect will. Knowing and believing that will bring us freedom from fear.

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3

Without fear, it is possible to have peace. With God, we have a remedy for fear. Look to Jesus, author and finisher of our faith. Focus on what God has done, is doing and will do. Knowing and trusting God is the way to lasting peace and freedom from fear.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus . . . look full in His wonder face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.


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What does the future hold? . . . What if I get Covid-19? . . . How will I keep my house without a job? . . . What will I do if my spouse gets ill and can’t work? . . . What if my spouse leaves me? . . . What if no one loves me? . . . Who will help me when I get older? . . . How will my child make it in the world? . . . What’s that noise upstairs? . . . Who’s at the door at this time of night?

Big and small, fears are our constant companions. Fear is a universal of the human condition. We all have fears. Perhaps that is why the Bible mentions fear and commands us not to fear so many times.

We can learn some important things from the Bible about fear:

  • There is only One to fear
    In Matthew 10:28, Jesus tells us, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
  • Fear not because God is with you 
    “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Behold, all those who were incensed against you Shall be ashamed and disgraced; They shall be as nothing, And those who strive with you shall perish. You shall seek them and not find them-Those who contended with you. Those who war against you Shall be as nothing, As a nonexistent thing. For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’” Isaiah 41:10-13
  • Don’t fear because God will not leave you
    “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

Fight fear with the Word of God. It helps to be in the Bible daily, studying and meditating on what God has said. When you are afraid, remind yourself what God has said. If others around you are afraid, remind them of what God has said. Also remember that God cannot lie. What He promises, He will do! He is faithful.


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1 Halleluyah!

How happy is anyone who fears Adonai, who greatly delights in his mitzvot.

2 His descendants will be powerful on earth, a blessed generation of upright people.
3 Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness stands forever.

4 To the upright he shines like a light in the dark, merciful, compassionate and righteous.
5 Things go well with the person who is merciful and lends, who conducts his affairs with fairness;
6 for he will never be moved. The righteous will be remembered forever.

7 He will not be frightened by bad news; he remains steady, trusting in Adonai.
8 His heart is set firm, he will not be afraid, till finally he looks in triumph at his enemies.
9 He distributes freely, he gives to the poor; his righteousness stands forever. His power will be increased honorably.
10 The wicked will be angry when they see this; they will gnash their teeth and waste away,
the desires of the wicked will come to nothing. Complete Jewish Bible

Sometimes I can imagine myself just resting in the words of a psalm, basking in the beauty of what the psalmist is describing. Psalm 112, starting with a wonderful Hallelujah, is a great hammock in which to swing under the shade of a well-watered, leafy tree near a spring in a place like En Gedi or Banias. As you swing back and forth in a steady rhythm and feel the breezes blow over, you can be reminded of all the good that comes to the man or woman who fears G-d and delights in his mitzvot or commands.

  • They will be powerful and they will come into their power in ways that are honorable;
  • They will be bless and righteous in their ways;
  • They will be wealthy and successful and fair;
  • They will be generous with what they acquire, helping those in need;
  • They will be an encouragement to the others who are upright;
  • The wicked will be greatly annoyed by them, but nothing will come of their hatred, plotting or scheming.

It is a beautiful picture–what a wonder this G-d of ours! He is good, good, good! His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

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Two mountains which figure prominently in the Bible when taken together, represent the character of God. One mountain is characterized by a consuming fire. On that mountain, God displayed His judgment and His holiness. The other mountain is characterized by blood and sacrifice. On that mountain, God displayed His consuming love and mercy.

Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai is the backdrop for Israel’s receipt of the Law. Sinai is where God met Moses and is primarily characterized by fire:

  • Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. Exodus 19:18
  • The sight of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel. Exodus 24:17
  • Then you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the midst of heaven, with darkness, cloud, and thick darkness. Deuteronomy 4:11
  • The LORD talked with you face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire. Deuteronomy 5:4
  • Then the LORD delivered to me two tablets of stone written with the finger of God, and on them were all the words which the LORD had spoken to you on the mountain from the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly. Deuteronomy 9:10

Mount Zion

The other mountain is Mount Zion (found within the land given to the tribe of Judah). Mt. Zion was sometimes called The City of David, and descriptions of Mt. Zion paint a very different picture from those describing Mt. Sinai:

  • Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old, The tribe of Your inheritance, which You have redeemed-This Mount Zion where You have dwelt. Psalm 74:2
  • But chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion which He loved. Psalm 78:68
    Those who trust in the LORD Are like Mount Zion, Which cannot be moved, but abides forever. Psalm 125:1
  • And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the LORD has said, Among the remnant whom the LORD calls. Joel 2:32
  • Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads. Revelation 14:1

Paul makes the case for the two mountains in his letter to the Hebrews:

For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. . . . 

And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”)
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. Hebrews 12:18-24

It is the same God of both mountains, so we must keep both mountains in view:

Mount Sinai – where God laid down His law, a place of judgment.
Mount Zion – where God laid down His life, a perfect sacrifice, a place of love, grace, mercy and forgiveness.

Hear, Isra’el! Adonai our God, Adonai is one.

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Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Matthew 23:27.

In making the above statement, Jesus was accusing the scribes and Pharisees of appearing to be clean on the outside, but inside they were like a grave, full of the bones and carcases of dead men. Touching dead things, e.g. bones and carcases, would render a person ritually unclean–unable to enter the Temple and unable to worship G-d. It was something quite offensive to a religious Jew–the type of men Jesus was confronting.

What was Jesus on about? In the above verse and those which preceded it, He was dealing with the issue of holiness. Jesus was pointing out that holiness was not something to be measured by what could be seen on the outside, but rather it had to be found on the inside. In other words, holiness is not outward compliance with rules and regulations. Holiness is a heart transformed, desiring to go G-d’s way. For the truly holy man or woman, no outward rules are required. The genuine desire to please, obey, and maintain fellowship with G-d will keep one from evil. The Christian, in contrast to theJew, has few outward restraints on his or her conduct. The restraint evidenced in the life of a Christian is borne out of personal relationship with G-d.

May your heart be transformed so that you require no outward rules to make or keep you holy, but only a desire to please the heart of the Father, a love for the Son and the power of the Holy Spirit.

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But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King.
At His wrath the earth will tremble, and the nations will not be able to endure His indignation. Jeremiah 10:10

I see three truths in this scripture that I want to understand better:

1. Adonai is the true God
2. Adonai is the living God
3. Adonai is the everlasting King

What does it mean to be the true God?
No other God exists. Adonai (Y-H-W-H) is the only God. It is the meaning of the Shema, “Sh’ma, Yisra’el! Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad [Hear, Isra’el! Adonai our God, Adonai is one]. (Deuteronomy 6:4) The meaning of one is that God is the only of His kind–the only God. That is to say that Adonai is genuine and all other gods are counterfeit – some are elaborate counterfeits, but they are counterfeits all the same.

To say that He is the true God can be understood by thinking of direction–i.e. true north. To say God is true speaks of being unchanging, immutable, the same now and forever. That is to say God is trustworthy, can be counted on to be where He is supposed to be and do what He is supposed to do. He will do what He says He will do; He keeps His promises.

What does it mean to be the living God?
It means He is active now. He is not far off. He is not the God of past works–although He was working in the past. Living means that He can respond and is responsive to us–His children–now in the moment and in the next.

What does it mean to be the everlasting King?
First of all this description has two important parts: Everlasting + King.

As a King, He is a Sovereign–He takes care of and has responsibility for His subjects. Because His reign is everlasting it has no end. He has no successor to worry about. He can and does rule like He will be King forever.

Adonai is true, living and everlasting! Let the praise of this verse be on our lips!


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The Bike Rider

Sometimes, Lord, I imagine that you might let go and leave me alone…

     To see what is in my heart.

     To see if I will believe.

How well I remember the days when I taught my little girl how to ride a bike.  I close my eyes and it all comes back to me – I’m holding the bike front and back, balancing her, encouraging her to pedal.  At first I’m doing ninety percent of the work.

Then, she begins to pedal on her own, but I’m still holding the bike.  She’s still not as steady as she needs to be, and she turns to look at me.  Her expression tells me she’s still very much unsure of herself.

But I know it’s time for the next step.

Suddenly I’m only holding the back of the bike – and letting her do the rest.  I’m running behind her, shouting, “Good job!” – providing the slightest help with balance but nothing more.

“Don’t let go, Mom…I’m gonna fall!”  Her voice is insistent.  Fearful.

Oh, how I know that feeling – not just from learning to ride a bike, of course, but from learning to trust Him.

To trust what He’s taught me.

To trust what I’m still in the process of discovering.

In learning to ride a bike there is stress and uncertainty.  That’s because there’s a big step in the process that simply can’t be skipped – that inevitable moment of truth.

Every good teacher knows that a test must come eventually – an assessment of the student’s acquisition of her knowledge and skills, a real-world application.

And it’s in times like these that I cry out, “Abba, Abba!”  I can’t see Him and my pain threatens to overtake me.  And I’m unable to remember what He said.  How am I to make it through?

When darkness envelopes me I wonder where He is.  I start to lose my balance.  Then I start falling!

“Don’t let go! Abba, don’t let go!”

This is my cry of desperation, and hearing my own fear, I tremble.

But He who is both wise and good keeps me in the place of testing long enough to assess whether I’m getting the lesson, and He always makes sure I’m never in this place any longer than I need to be.

Looking back on these moments, I see that I have learned to trust Him and abide in Him (albeit falteringly).  But more importantly, I see that He is the one who has done everything else.

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

copyright MaryBethMullin


Young girl learning to ride a bike.


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Know that I AM God

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

           –Psalm 46:10

This familiar verse continues to yield helpful insight about God. It contains a 2-part command and two-fold promise.

Be still and know that I am God is a command. The phrase be still can be understood desist from or stop what you are doing. The command know that I am God can be understood also as a command to recognize I am God. To say it another way, give me the authority and reverence due to me. Know could also be translated understand. To understand that He is God is to know His character, His track record, all that He has done and thereby know that He is sovereign over all things–there is no other God. The LORD our God is one–the only one.

It bears noting I AM, may have been the tetragrammaton, the four-letter Hebrew name for God, Y-H-W-H. This name for God was used by God when Moses asked what name he should use in telling the Israelites about God. It emphasizes His self-existence, that He has no beginning or end which would also contribute to our understanding of His sovereignty.

The next two phrases are promises. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth! Take it to the bank. God will be exalted among the nations, in the earth if He isn’t already. This again speaks of God’s sovereignty over the whole earth–over everything and everyone.

Know God.


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Be Teachable

Another lesson that we can take from Proverbs 4:20, My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings, is to be teachable. In asking one to “give attention to my words” and “incline your ear to my sayings,” the writer of Proverbs is asking that the student maintain a teachable heart.

The heart is mentioned throughout scripture. Most often it is a weak organ which must be guarded and supervised to avoid problems. For example, we are told in Proverbs 4:23, keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”

In Matthew 15:18, Jesus taught, “those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.”

In Luke 6:45, Jesus says, “a good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

So how does one develop or maintain a teachable heart?

  • Avoid self-righteousness, the need to be important or right in your own eyes.
  • Avoid self-reliance. Learn that faith requires reliance on God rather than self, and that self-reliance and keep us from yielding fully to God.
  • Avoid arrogance. If you feel you are the smartest person in the room, you are not teachable.
  • Avoid laziness. Being unwilling to engage in what God is asking of us because of a lack of diligence make us unteachable as well.
  • Avoid compromise. Allowing compromise into our lives will give us a divided heart and make us unteachable.

The teachable heart desires more of God and less of self. Be teachable.

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