Eternal Perspective

Philippians 1

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Philippians 1:10 – For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.

Perspective is everything. As a junior high school science teacher, I got to teach students about galaxies within the universe and molecules and atoms; from the macro to the micro and everything in between. And what we learned is that depending on your perspective, your observations and conclusions may vary. 

It’s very easy (at least for me) to get wrapped up in the business of each day. Which means I sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture. What I appreciate about this specific letter from Paul to the church in Philippi, is that it’s a wonderful reminder to keep the most important things at the forefront of our thinking at all times. 

When we view life with an eternal perspective, instead of a right here, right now point of view, we are able to consider what really matters. Life becomes less about grabbing drive through dinner after a long day of work and more about being pleasant to the fast food worker. It becomes more about continuing to give to your family even though you’re exhausted from making tough decisions earlier in the day. It becomes more about being grateful and expressing joy because you’re making a difference in the lives of others. 

When we live with an eternal perspective it becomes easier to give even when we don’t feel like we have much to offer. It becomes more important to meet up with your neighbor to extend assistance for a need that they have when you understand the potential impact it might bring. It becomes a joy to worship, a pleasure to study Scripture, and a relief to rest in the shadow of our Rock when we are mindful that nothing is more important than seeking Him through whom all blessings flow. 

May today be your reminder to take some time to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.

-Bethany Ligon

Application Questions

  1. What is most important to you?
  2. How does your life show what is most important to you?
  3. What situations cause you to forget your eternal perspective? How can you renew your dedication to the eternal perspective?

Take Your Stand

Ephesians 6

Friday, August 19, 2022

On several occasions, I have had the opportunity to witness the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. The precision with which this exercise takes place is practically mesmerizing. But what I find even more fascinating are the tales that are told of when those on duty face extraordinary weather events and refuse to take shelter. They hold their ground. 

Paul concludes his letter to the Ephesians with more words of wisdom and encouragement. He reminds his readers that they will face the devil’s schemes and that they better be prepared. 

Preparation for battle takes many forms: from the physical training to acquiring the best equipment. But the most important thing is to have the mindset of a warrior. What Paul is telling the Ephesian church and you and I is that we HAVE to believe that God is who He says He is. We MUST take heart and have faith that He will do what He says He will do. We CANNOT have ‘Plan B’. We NEED to remain strong and determined regardless of the circumstances. 

The enemy will do whatever it takes to try to take us off course. We’ll be faced with trials and temptations; things that challenge our fortitude and things that might distract us from our purpose. Our reputations may be questioned; our relationships threatened; our resources depleted – but we can put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, helmet of salvation, and have our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. We can pick up the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit and choose to stand and face whatever comes our way. 

You are a mighty warrior of the Most High. It’s time to hold your ground and take a stand.

-Bethany Ligon

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What is the purpose of each piece of armor described in Ephesians 6?
  2. What do the devil’s attacks and schemes look like for you right now? What attacks have you already faced victoriously?
  3. Which piece do you more often forget to put on? What is the danger of going into battle without this piece of armor?

Not as Unwise but as Wise

Ephesians 5

Thursday, August 18, 2022

A few years ago the term YOLO became popular and used as a reason to partake in some very reckless behavior. If you’re not familiar with the acronym, it is an abbreviation for You Only Live Once. It drives me bananas when I observe others taking unnecessary risks because of this attitude.

I admit that I tend to be cautious. I’m not a huge risk-taker. I prefer to know possible outcomes before making a decision. I have the mindset that it’s because I only live once (this side of God’s Kingdom) that I want to be prudicious with my choices. 

As I approach the half-way mark of life, I am even more aware of how precious my time, energy, resources and relationships really are. Knowing and respecting my priorities helps me make decisions that align with the kind of life that I believe God is calling me to live. 

As we continue through the letter to the Ephesians, Paul is instructing the new believers in the local church to evaluate their life choices. The way that they used to live is no longer in alignment with a holy lifestyle. To live carelessly and without regard to the purpose for which they were saved is a waste of time. 

We too need to be self-controlled and alert. We need to know who we are in Christ and make decisions accordingly. Living in these times requires us to use our resources of time and energy wisely so that we can make an impact and a difference for the Kingdom of God. 

Sometimes, this way of living does mean that we will take risks and might look foolish to the world’s way of thinking. But if we are obedient to God, those risks will pay huge dividends because others will have an eternal benefit. 

So as you go about your day, your week, your month, and even the rest of this year, be strategic; be careful; be wise about how you live your life in Christ.

Once again, I’ll ask:

What should you continue doing?

What should you stop doing?

What should you start doing?

-Bethany Ligon


Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Do you consider yourself to be living life wisely? What adjustments might Paul suggest to you?
  2. What should you continue doing? What should you stop doing? What should you start doing?

All New!

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Ephesians 4

One of the most important things a teacher does at the beginning of the school year is establish and practice procedures and routines. From how to enter and exit a classroom, to how to hand in paperwork, to technology expectations, and even knowing how to interact with partners and small groups – these procedures, when done with consistency and proficiency, will create a positive and inclusive classroom environment. 

One would think that a high school teacher wouldn’t have to spend time on such things, but even sixteen year olds need a reminder every now and then about when it is and when it is not an appropriate time to ask to use the restroom. 

But when these kinds of procedures are practiced throughout a school, it builds a culture of excellence. The standards for behavior and academic performance are raised and students find themselves meeting those expectations. 

As I read through Ephesians chapter four, I recognize Paul explaining to the Ephesian believers what a holy lifestyle should look like; what kind of behaviors are acceptable and the kinds of behaviors that are not – especially when it comes to their attitudes and speech. 

Being a believer in Christ should be reflected in how we think about and present ourselves. We no longer engage in unholy behaviors – that’s the old self. The new self is transformed to be righteous and holy. And this should be evident in our day-to-day interactions with others. 

Paul also explains that as a member of God’s family, we each play an important role. When we collaborate with one another amazing things take place for the sake of the Gospel. 

It is important to note that living a holy lifestyle takes intentional effort – it doesn’t just happen. We have to work at it. Much like a classroom teacher spends significant time at the beginning of the school year establishing procedures, regular reminders are key to maintaining a smooth-running classroom. Likewise, if we intend on continuing to grow up spiritually, we also need regular reminders of what a mature believer says and does. This is why the study of scripture and community fellowship is so valuable. As we associate with like-minded believers we are encouraged to continue putting on the new self and working towards becoming the person God has designed us to be, righteous and holy.

-Bethany Ligon

Application Questions

  1. Looking at Ephesians 4 again, what “old self” attitudes, actions, or mindsets does Paul tell the believers to get rid of. In your own “old self”, what have you been (or are currently, or ought to be) working on removing?
  2. Describe the “new self”.
  3. Looking at your own life, what percentage are you “New Self” – are you still walking around in “old self” socks? What will it take to boost that “new self” percentage higher?

A Super Power Story

Ephesians 3

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Ephesians 3:16 – I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being…

As a fan of superhero movies, I really like understanding the origins of how regular people acquired their superpowers. Whether it was from a spider bite or from the released energy of a crashed light-speed engine, it’s fun to see how their skills develop over time.

In the book of Ephesians, the author, the apostle Paul, is writing to a church of new Gentile believers. The origin story of these Christians most likely includes a history of idol worship and pagan rituals. Learning to believe in one true God was a new concept for them. Not only that, they were being introduced to a Messiah who made it possible to be in a personal relationship with the God of all heaven and Earth. They were learning that this personal relationship with God meant that they had a job to do: to participate in the sharing of the Gospel. And this participation would require them to rely on the power of God to accomplish all that He was calling them to do.

In my imagination, I think that the experiences of these new believers learning to lean into the power of God is a little similar to superheroes learning to use their powers. New discoveries of what might be possible; determining how and when to use these gifts and for whom; and probably failing every now and again. 

For some superheroes, the more that they use their power, the stronger they become. 

As believers in Christ, our faith also grows more powerful the more we exercise it. I sometimes wonder what might be possible if I could get out of my own way, completely, and totally rely on the power of God. I wonder if this happened if I might be more like the original disciples who healed, ministered, and preached to hundreds and thousands. 

I know that with each passing year my faith in God grows as new and different circumstances require me to lean into the power He offers. I think that is why this particular prayer that Paul prays for the Ephesians is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. In Ephesians chapter 3, verses 16 through 21, I read one of the most encouraging prayers that is offered up to believers. When I read this portion, I am strengthened in my faith and my desire to serve God grows. I want to see what God can do in and through me. I want to put on my super suit and get to work.

So how about it? Will you join me in the adventure of a lifetime?

-Bethany Ligon

Application Questions

  1. How would you tell the story of how you got your power? Where does it come from? How did you get it? What do you do with it? What could you do with it?
  2. Re-read Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21. Does this sound like your prayer list for your church, your family and yourself? What do you like best about Paul’s prayer? What could you add to your prayers?

A Gift We Don’t Deserve

Ephesians 2

Monday, August 15, 2022

Every time I study the word “grace”, I am led to two other words that are not used in everyday language: unmerited favor. My brain is naggled when I look up the definition of one word, only to be more confused by ‘fancier’ vocabulary. I want it simple. 

Another reason, I believe, that the concepts of grace and unmerited favor is sometimes a challenge to wrap my mind around is that it’s not frequently extended in practice – from others to us or even from us to others. There is so often a string attached, an expectation to meet or a limit set. But that’s not how the grace of God works.

God knows every bit of our lives: our thoughts, words, actions; the good, the bad, and the ugly – and decides to freely offer His grace – a gift that we really don’t deserve – to us so that we can be in right standing with Him.

Teachers often have “back to school” dreams where something inevitably goes very wrong. Last night I had a dream that my supervising principal kept finding mistakes in my work. And in my dream, she was getting frustrated and I developed a growing concern for my job. Thankfully, that’s not my reality. My principal is great and trusts me to do my job well. 

God isn’t a supervisor who is tracking all of your mistakes and missteps, evaluating your every move, just waiting to see if you’re good enough to keep, or if He needs to remove you from His team.

Yes, He sees our every move and He rejoices in our successes. He also continues to love us and support us as we stumble, fall, and fail. He’s the one who lifts us up, brushes the dust off our knees, wipes away our tears, and tells us that we can do hard things because we can draw our strength from Him. 

This is grace: God’s unmerited favor.

-Bethany Ligon

Application Questions

  1. How would you describe God’s grace to someone who has never heard of it before?
  2. What do you love best about God’s grace? How has He picked you up after you have stumbled.
  3. How well do you give grace to others?

A Deposit

Ephesians 1

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Living in Arizona, there is no shortage of Mexican restaurants. One of the best parts of eating at one is the delivery of warm crispy tortilla chips and moderately spicy salsa within minutes of being seated. Each restaurant’s chips and salsa are different and wonderfully delicious. You can get a hint of the caliber of your main entree by the quality of this appetizer. If the chips and salsa are especially tasty, I will fill up on that by the time my chicken chimichanga is brought to the table. 

As I read the first half of this first chapter in Ephesians, I am struck by this phrase in verse 14, “who (the Holy Spirit) is a deposit”. Wait…a DEPOSIT?!?! You mean there’s more to be expected? It’s a very crude comparison, but it’s almost like the chips and salsa…it’s so good all by itself. But I know that something even more wonderful is coming.  

I guess somewhere in my understanding, I have KNOWN that when the Kingdom is established on the earth, that it will be more than whatever it is that I can possibly imagine. But I hadn’t ever made the connection that the Holy Spirit is the deposit to my FULL inheritance in Christ.

Usually, a deposit is a fraction of the full amount in order to hold an item on your behalf. So if the Holy Spirit is a deposit to hold my spot in the Kingdom…how much more will the full experience of the Kingdom really be? 

Back in Acts 1, Jesus tells his disciples that the Holy Spirit will empower them to be witnesses. Likewise, as believers, we also are given the power of the Holy Spirit so that we can do great and mighty things for the coming Kingdom of God. This is the same power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms (Eph 1:20). 

Unlike eating chips and salsa, which I tend to not want to share, we are meant to do something for others with this deposit. We are meant to minister and serve. We are meant to teach and show hospitality. We are meant to impart compassion and discern wisdom. We are meant to pray for and encourage others. We are meant to give and sacrifice our time, energies, and resources. 

I recently wrote in my journal three questions. I’ll conclude by asking you the same as you consider this deposit of the Holy Spirit.

What should I continue doing?

What should I stop doing?

What should I start doing?

-Bethany Ligon

Application Questions

See above. 🙂

Peter was Sleeping!

Acts 12

April 30

Acts 12:6 – The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.

Have you ever been so excited about something that is scheduled for the next day that you couldn’t sleep? Or something that you were dreading that made sleep impossible?

Imagine for a moment that you were scheduled to be executed in the morning for a crime that you didn’t commit. Do you think that sleep would come easily?

I would probably not sleep a wink and yet, we read in Acts chapter twelve that this is exactly what Peter was doing. And to make the situation even more uncomfortable, he was sleeping bound with chains, to a man on his right and another man on his left. 

How was Peter able to rest so soundly the night before his scheduled death that an angel of the Lord had to strike him to wake him up?!?

This is what trusting in the Lord looks like. This is what peace that passes all understanding looks like. This is what believing in God beyond your current circumstances looks like. 

Peter had every reason to believe that he was going to be next on Herod’s list of disciples put to the sword. But Peter also had every reason to believe that the same God who rescued Daniel from the lions’ den was more than capable of rescuing him from barracks guarded by four sentries. 

The next time you are facing circumstances that appear beyond your control, remember that you serve a God who positioned a young shepherd boy to slay a giant with a slingshot, who parted the waters of the Red Sea and closed them back up again, who caused the lame to walk and the blind to see. And if God is capable of doing that…He is capable of seeing you through your trials too. 

Believe and do not doubt.

-Bethany Ligon

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1 Is there a time when you were in a super stressful situation, but you were able to experience peace beyond understanding that comes from God? Thank God for His peace and presence. How can this be a part of your testimony of God’s greatness?

2. When sleep doesn’t come and you feel anxious or worried or stressed – what would God, or Peter, suggest you fill your mind with?

3. What happened to Herod? Why?

Traveling Encouragers

Acts 11

April 29

Acts 11:23 – When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.

The second half of Acts chapter 11 emphasizes the importance of fellowship; and not just with other believers who are in our local communities, but with those who are separated by a significant distance. 

Living in Arizona, our state hosts thousands of retirees who migrate south for the winter. Being a member of Lakeshore Bible Church of God, I often see a small fraction of that migration as other members of the General Conference travel south during this season as they spend a few weeks or perhaps months escaping the brutal cold. It is always an encouragement to see them, talk with them, and of course exchange a hug or two. 

Our Conference offers multiple opportunities to gather with fellow COGgers throughout the year; Christian Workers Seminar (happening next week), to the Young Adult Getaway, Family Camp, other state and conference camps (happening in June), FUEL (in July) and the annual General Conference (in August). And I can’t forget to mention the reFUEL and Refuge events that take place in the fall and winter. 

At any one of these events, we have the opportunity to be like Barnabas and Saul, visiting out of state with one another, catching up with friends, meeting new acquaintances, studying God’s Word together, worshiping side by side, praying for and with each other, and of course…sharing meals! 😉

It is so important to invest in your local church. But just as valuable is investing your time and energy gathering with other like-minded believers who live a significant distance away. We are family and family needs one another. 

Because I live in the southwest, I do not have the opportunities to visit with you all on a regular basis, so maybe this devotional message is more for me than it is for you. But I LOVE seeing you all whenever I get the chance. YOU inspire me. YOU challenge me. YOU teach me. YOU accept me. And that is what family is all about. 

I hope that you have the chance to take advantage of one or more of our summer events this year. You WILL find yourself encouraged in the presence of fellow believers. And more than likely, you will be the smiling face that your brothers and sisters in Christ long to see.

-Bethany Ligon

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. How have you benefited from the encouragement of a brother or sister in Christ?
  2. How do you encourage others in your local church body? What connections have you made to believers beyond your local community – and how do you find ways to encourage and be the body of Christ to them?
  3. After reading Acts 11, how would you describe Barnabas? What qualities or actions of his would you like to grow in your own life? How will you work on that?

They Thought it Could Not be Done

Acts 10

April 28

Acts 10:36 – You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling them the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.

Our history books are filled with stories of people doing something that has never been done before. From Neil Armstrong taking the first steps on the Moon, to Rosalind Franklin capturing the first image of DNA, to women getting the right to vote in 1920. 

For every time that something has been done for the first time, there was a time that it was believed that it couldn’t be done. 

Have you ever been told something couldn’t be done, and then you proved your naysayers wrong? 

These are the kind of thoughts I have when I read through Acts chapter 10. Up until this point in time, followers of Jesus were predominantly converts of Judaism. Cornelius the Centurion, was “devout and God-fearing”, as was the rest of his family. He was generous and prayed daily to God. He probably thought that this was as good as it was going to get. Until God gave him a vision of something more. 

Peter, along with all of the other disciples, were most likely glad to have a Roman Centurion on their side. But they too thought that because he was a Gentile, Cornelius wouldn’t and couldn’t have a relationship to God like the Hebrews could. Until God gave him a vision of something more. 

God made it clear to both of these men that the gospel message wasn’t limited to just one group of people, but that Jesus came for us all. And this led to Cornelius, the Roman Centurion, to be the first recorded baptized Gentile in all of Scripture. 

I don’t know if I will ever be the first of anyone to do something for the first time, but I am grateful that I am one of the benefactors of someone who did. And while I may never be a trailblazer, I do know that God still gives us dreams and visions for the kind of life that He longs to bless us with. Don’t shy away from a radical notion that God places on your heart. You never know how that might turn into a blessing not only for you, but for generations after you.

-Bethany Ligon

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Who do you think was most surprised – Cornelius or Peter?
  2. How has God surprised you with how deep and wide and wonderful His plan of salvation is?
  3. Who still needs to hear it and how will you be a part of sharing it with those who need to know?
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