Peace of God

The hustle and bustle of the Christmas season will bring even the best of us to out wits end. We hear the story of Christ being born; yet we go about our busy lives as if nothing has changed. There are so many things to worry about. The media doesn’t help. God is with us and yet we still get frustrated, angry, sad, depressed, irritated, etc.

The letter to the Philippians is a great book to read, especially in this time of year. The Apostle Paul wrote this short letter. In it, he proclaims the simple message of finding joy and peace in God through Jesus Christ.

Click here to read Philippians 4:4-7.

There are many things we worry about; but do we really have to? Lifting up our concerns, our anxiousness, our worry, etc. doesn’t change our circumstances; but it does change our perspective. This is so much more than just changing our attitude. This is about complete trust in God through Jesus Christ.

When we share our burdens with Him, is it He who makes our load light. We do not have to carry it, because He carries our burdens for us and with us.

God coming down to earth as Jesus Christ tangibly shows God is with us and understands our lives. This year, allow peace to enter fully in our hearts, a peace beyond understanding, to make Christmas really come alive.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Suffering & Singing

James 5:13 “If any of you are suffering, they should pray. If any of you are happy, they should sing.”

This week we are entering into the final week of our series on James. We’ll be focusing this week on prayer and it’s power.

“Are any of you suffering?” This is the first thing we come to is the idea of suffering. I find that we tend to over think suffering and try to make this as something really bad. This is one of the reasons, I believe, many people avoid praying because our “problems” or “issues” may not seem big enough to “bother” God with our “little lives.”

Suffering is defined as, “pain that is caused by injury, illness, loss, etc. : physical, mental, or emotional pain sufferings : feelings of pain.” So, with this definition, we all suffer on some level.

One thing I would like to take care of first is reminding us that, no matter how small or insignificant we think our problems or issues are, God loves when we communicate our “sufferings.”

The Apostle Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:6, “Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks.” Anything we go through or have on our minds or hearts, we can bring up to God and express our thoughts and our feelings. We don’t not have to be in a place where we think our problems are big enough for God. We have a God who wants us to bring to Him any and every part of our life.

Praying is a sense of release of the burdens we carry on our hearts. This means that we have a chance to experience joy. Through joy, we can sing our praises. Singing expresses joy in our hearts. This joy is then expressed throughout our actions and our relationships.

What is it you need to pray about today (big or small) to release it off your heart and allow God to fill your spirit with joy and happiness?

The best part is that it doesn’t require any special words or phrases. Simply talk with God as you would another person.

: pain that is caused by injury, illness, loss, etc. : physical, mental, or emotional pain

sufferings : feelings of pain

God is Near

James 4:7-10 “Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you. Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded. Cry out in sorrow, mourn, and weep! Let your laughter become mourning and your joy become sadness. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

Do you ever have those days where the scripture seems to beat you down? We can personalize scripture and, if we’re not careful, we’ll make it all about us and feel like it’s telling us what a bad person we are. Even throughout the Old Testament, I read grace. Specifically grace from God.

There is always hope. God has not abandoned. Jesus will not forsake. The Holy Spirit is with us and guiding us. This is where we are today with the passage. All week long, there have been times in the scripture (James 3:13-4:6) where it can seem like we have to have our lives perfect. Arrogance, pride, jealousy, selfish ambition, etc have all been talked about and discussed. I pray this is not where you are left, dwelling on any negative aspect you may view about yourself.

Today, we see something amazing. God is saying, “come near.” This doesn’t mean that God is far off and He is wanting us to go up to Him to be in His presence. God is already near to us. There are times when we feel like we are distant from God or that God is distant from us. God’s proximity to us is always the same. Our proximity to God is always the same. We will still feel distant because of a number of reasons: we know we sinned, how much sleep we got, how hungry we are, having a rough day or a rough week.

These are all reasons we feel distant from God, and I’m sure there are more. God says “come near.” When we realize He is already present among us, all we have to do is acknowledge His presence.

I invite you right now to pause, close your eyes, and thank God for His presence with you at this moment.

It is through these times when we realize we can still come close to God, even though we messed up, even though we feel low, that we can experience and live into the grace He gives. We have this opportunity to confess, repent, and allow God to purify us.

God will “lift you up.” I don’t take this to mean that He will automatically make everything better, or that He will wipe away consequences from our actions. He does make His presence known, and somehow gives us the strength and the power to endure the situation and allow Him to shine through us.

Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” What an incredible verse in scripture! The Apostle Paul is showing that he can handle and still live joyfully in every situation. He wasn’t saying that he can do anything he wants because Jesus said he could. Paul is saying that because of the power of Jesus Christ working through him, he is able to handle what comes his way.

I believe God does the same for you and for me. So, draw near to God, confess, repent, purify, humble yourself and see how God is working in you and through you.

We all need the power of Jesus Christ in our lives. It is through grace that we are able to be lifted up and brought to a place of knowing who and whose we are.

Lord God, you are close to us. Help us see you and experience your presence. We confess the ways We have gone against you….We pray for the strength to handle the situations in life and for your power and grace to shine through us. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

Even in the Storm

Most important, live together in a manner worthy of Christ’s gospel. Do this, whether I come and see you or I’m absent and hear about you. Do this so that you stand firm, united in one spirit and mind as you struggle together to remain faithful to the gospel. That way, you won’t be afraid of anything your enemies do. Your faithfulness and courage are a sign of their coming destruction and your salvation, which is from God. God has generously granted you the privilege, not only of believing in Christ but also of suffering for Christ’s sake. You are having the same struggle that you saw me face and now hear that I’m still facing. (‭Philippians‬ ‭1‬:‭27-30‬ CEB)

“Live together in a manner worthy of Christ’s gospel.” When you think of this phrase, what does it mean to you? At first when we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we may have the idea that life will be easy and that all of our problems and issues will go away. We can easily forget how Christ suffered, and he was God in flesh!

The gospel of Jesus Christ does not guarantee there will be no suffering or struggles. The gospel tells us the God is with us and we do not live this life alone. We will feel alone at times because we can choose to go through our struggles alone; but the gospel message is that we are never alone and God has experienced life as we do and knows how hard life can be. 

We have the opportunity to share life with others who are struggling also. Since we know that we are not alone, we have the privilege to show others that, even in the storms of life, they are not alone either. We can be a tangible, physical reminder of God’s presence to them. 

People will say all kinds of things about you and about me. We stand firm in our faith because Christ is with us and is guiding us and walking with us; so we don’t have to be afraid or fearful in any way. Paul is a great reminder of this. He kept his joy and peace because he leaned on his faith in Christ to allow him to endure any situation. Paul had people care for him and you and I have people that care for us. 

So, “live together in a manner worthy of Christ’s gospel.”

#BeJoyful

Encouragers of the Faith

It is my expectation and hope that I won’t be put to shame in anything. Rather, I hope with daring courage that Christ’s greatness will be seen in my body, now as always, whether I live or die. Because for me, living serves Christ and dying is even better. If I continue to live in this world, I get results from my work. But I don’t know what I prefer. I’m torn between the two because I want to leave this life and be with Christ, which is far better. However, it’s more important for me to stay in this world for your sake. I’m sure of this: I will stay alive and remain with all of you to help your progress and the joy of your faith, and to increase your pride in Christ Jesus through my presence when I visit you again. (Philippians 1:20-26 CEB) 

What is it you hope to do in your life? Where has this dream come from? Do you have people who support you? Will you be willing to do what God is calling you to do unashamedly? I believe Paul has wrestled with those kinds of questions in his mind and has come to a deep understanding of who he is and what his mission is. Paul knows he has deep intimacy with God through Jesus Christ, so he will not do anything that goes against his calling.

There have been countless times in my life where I feel like I do not want to do what I know I need to do. Sometimes the life that God calls us to do is more challenging and more upfront than we are comfortable with. But, we can remember that Christ is with us and we do not live this life alone. Imagine how Paul was feeling. He was in house arrest, surrounded by guards all the time; yet he praised God for his situation. Paul’s personality was probably such that he didn’t mind talking with anyone and everyone. After his conversion experience (Jesus meeting him personally on the road to Damascus in Acts 9), Paul had a spiritual fire ignited in him and he did not allow it to be extinguished. John Wesley once said, “I set myself on fire and people come for miles just to watch me burn.”

The life that we are invited to live in by the grace of God does come with opposing thoughts at times. What I mean is this: we want to be with Jesus Christ always, and we want to be with people to walk with them in their life journey. Paul knows he wants to be with Christ in heaven. We can also experience this kind of life here on earth because God is with us and has never and will never leave nor forsake us, even when we try to turn from Him. Paul also knows he is called to walk with his congregation through their faith and be a source of encouragement for them. We are also called to be encouragers to people so they can be reminded of God’s presence in and around them and that they do not live this life alone.

We are not put on this earth to abandon people. We are here to be in community with others and be a source of strength and support when life gets rough. Paul knows this and tells his people that he loves being on this earth so he can encourage them. Paul knows who he is and he knows who his people are: children of God. He doesn’t say he wants to stay with them because he feels he is the only one who can provide this encouragement. That would be done out of pride. We should be careful of this attitude as well. Paul is saying that God is working through him so the people are strengthened and encouraged. It is God who is doing the work through Paul (look again at Ephesians 2:8-9).

Our challenge for today is to see who God has placed in our lives to encourage and find ways to walk with them through life to either find Christ, or to live life with the confidence Christ is working in and through them. Someone is doing that for you and I right now. 🙂

#BeEncouragersInTheFaith

Motives

As we take this time to journey through the book of Philippians, we can see Paul’s joy even though he’s been locked up. I’m sure there are people that are mocking him and saying all kinds of things about him; even possibly saying that others are better preachers than him just trying to get him upset. 

I know there are better speakers, listeners, writers, readers than I am. I could easily sit back and say they are not doing their job right, they’re making me look bad, their hearts are not in the right place, etc. Have you felt this way about any person, any job, any church, any friend, any enemy? I believe this is something we all should look closely at, especially me. 

How often we can succumb to the pride of thinking that we are the only ones who can do the job, we are the ones who know the right way to do the task. Paul is reminding us of something important: look at the results of the work. I will say we need to keep this in mind, especially with the church. 

We will not always agree with each other on every point. There are those who enter ministry with selfish motives to go toward fame and recognition and prestige. And, there are those who have the most incredible spirits about them that do not want or desire any recognition or honors. What does any of this matter?

Paul is saying that thanksgiving should be given to all of those who are preaching Jesus, whether or not we think their motives are correct. It is pride that can keep us from celebrating with the body of Christ, if we are not careful, because we may be the one who want to be recognized. Paul wasn’t this way. He simply wanted Jesus Christ preached. 

People come and go, but the message of Jesus is eternal and can pierce even the hardest of hearts even if it’s not done the way we want. 

As I am writing this, I am giving thanks for all of those people, all of those ministries, all of those organizations, all of those churches who work tirelessly to proclaim Christ and the life we were meant to live. I give thanks for you!

Be motivated out of love and trust that God is working.

#BeJoyful

Brothers and sisters, I want you to know that the things that have happened to me have actually advanced the gospel. The whole Praetorian Guard and everyone else knows that I’m in prison for Christ. Most of the brothers and sisters have had more confidence through the Lord to speak the word boldly and bravely because of my jail time. Some certainly preach Christ with jealous and competitive motives, but others preach with good motives. They are motivated by love, because they know that I’m put here to give a defense of the gospel; the others preach Christ because of their selfish ambition. They are insincere, hoping to cause me more pain while I’m in prison. What do I think about this? Just this: since Christ is proclaimed in every possible way, whether from dishonest or true motives, I’m glad and I’ll continue to be glad. I’m glad because I know that this will result in my release through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. (‭Philippians‬ ‭1‬:‭12-19‬ CEB)

Prayers for Love & Fruit

This is my prayer: that your love might become even more and more rich with knowledge and all kinds of insight. I pray this so that you will be able to decide what really matters and so you will be sincere and blameless on the day of Christ. I pray that you will then be filled with the fruit of righteousness, which comes from Jesus Christ, in order to give glory and praise to God. (‭Philippians‬ ‭1‬:‭9-11‬ CEB)

I love this letter that Paul writes. After he gives thanks for the people and their faith and devotion, he flat out tells them what he’s praying for. This is convicting to me because I don’t always pray for these qualities in people. 

So often, I believe, we pray for physical needs and health, as we should; but we can also neglect the spiritual needs and health. I have come to the understanding that we should focus on the spirit of people just as intensely as we focus on physical health and healing. 

Paul is praying for their love to be developed in such a way that his congregation, and us, become even more rich in knowledge and insight (wisdom). Our love grows more rich when we take time to abide (remain) in Christ and allow His Spirit to fill us and transform us. 

God freely gives wisdom and understanding to all who seek it. We can find this in many ways. God can choose to give wisdom through people, reading, praying, visions, dreams, directly to our minds and spirits. Truthfully, God is not confined to any method. Paul is praying for his people to be open to this; and this is my prayer for you and I today. 

When our love grows, the fruit God produces in us grows even more abundantly. What is this fruit? When we allow God to live in and through us, the fruit we see growing is the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, self-control. Imagine how the world would be if we lived in this manner and really allowed these qualities to blossom in our hearts and be manifested in our lives. 

Jesus Christ came so we could know life and live abundantly. I pray, as Paul prays, that your love grows strong. That you will see great fruit in your life. 

Today, I encourage you to read John 15:1-16. Read it and reflect on it to see what it looks like to remain in Christ. I also invite you to journal what you think about and talk with another person what God revealed to you. 

#LifeIsSoMuchMoreWithChrist

First Things First

From Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus. To all those in Philippi who are God’s people in Christ Jesus, along with your supervisors and servants. May the grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. I thank my God every time I mention you in my prayers. I’m thankful for all of you every time I pray, and it’s always a prayer full of joy. I’m glad because of the way you have been my partners in the ministry of the gospel from the time you first believed it until now. I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus. I have good reason to think this way about all of you because I keep you in my heart. You are all my partners in God’s grace, both during my time in prison and in the defense and support of the gospel. God is my witness that I feel affection for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. (‭Philippians‬ ‭1‬:‭1-8‬ CEB)

This has been an interesting couple of weeks for me. It seems as if everything happens all at once. Then I get to read the letter to the Philippians that Paul wrote while he was in prison and things have been put into better perspective. 

Paul is writing this letter in prison and he starts it off, like most of his letters, by offering God’s grace to the recipients. Then, he opens the letter with a statement of his prayer of thanks and praise for the people he is writing to. 

So many things happen in our lives that I sometimes wonder how things would be different if we began every situation with a prayer of thanks and praise to God. How much our mindset would change and better equip us to handle each situation. 

Life is not easy but God is with us and there are people praying for and supporting us even when we don’t know. Our situation may not feel like we can make it; but the love we have from other people can help us go through anything because it’s a great reminder God is with us. 

Paul is being very encouraging and supportive of his congregation and this is encouraging to me also. So, I will end this post similar to Paul:

I thank God for you. I praise God for how He is working in your life. Be encouraged that God is with you and is working through you and in you. There is a great work He wants to do through you. I hope and pray you let God’s power and Spirit work and move in you so everyone around you will be able to see and experience the light of Christ through you. 

#GiveThanksInEverything