Monthly Archives: December 2018

Philippians; If You Think It, You Can Be It

There are some motivational speakers and authors who preach the power of our thoughts. “If you think it, you can be it.”

Now, I’m not discounting the fact that our thoughts have a lot to do with how we feel, and our feelings contribute to what we do. Typically, thoughts lead to feelings, feelings lead to actions. So imagining myself CEO of the company might help me to feel confident, which will give me the courage to take on those hard projects that will get noticed by those in charge. Even the Bible tells us how important is our thought-life.

This time of year, when so much focus in put on family and friendships, can be hard for some people. The loss of a loved one still feels like a knife to the heart. The empty chair, whether through death, or anger, or neglect, seems the focal point of the whole house. Every Hallmark movie, every Christmas song on the radio, every card that comes (or doesn’t come) in the mail reminds us of what is wrong.

And we get sadder, or angrier, or lonelier than we were the day before. We remember the harsh words said in our last conversation. We replay happier times, and tell ourselves we will never be that happy again. Our thoughts can swallow us whole.

But here’s some good news. Paul tells us God offers peace. Not just in good times. Paul simply says, “And the God of peace WILL BE WITH YOU.” (4:9, emphasis mine)

How? How can I find peace when my heart is broken, when anger or regret or hurt feelings occupy 90% of my day? The answer is here in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He says think instead on these things:

“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (4:8)

Do you want peace in your heart and life? Then think about what is true. Not just about your situation, although that is certainly important. Think about what is true about God. Turn your thoughts away from yourself, and toward Him.

Think about what is noble and right. Take the high road. You might be the one who needs to swallow your pride, to reach out to that one with whom you are estranged. It’s Jesus’ example that we show love to those who are not loving toward us. It’s the right thing to do.

Think about what is pure, lovely, and admirable. Don’t let your thoughts sink to the gutter. Don’t wish someone ill. Don’t keep reminding yourself how unfair you think they’ve been. Get rid of anger, selfish ambition, jealousy, evil.

Think about things that are excellent and praiseworthy. Has God blessed you? Then think about that. Talk to Him about how thankful you are for what He has given you, without mentioning what you think He should give you. Praise Him for who He is to you.

Scripture tells us if we get a handle on our thoughts, the God of peace will be with us.

If you’re okay with feeling depressed, lonely, or angry this Christmas, then don’t change anything. But if you want to experience God’s peace, I’ll go so far as to promise His joy, then change your thoughts.

When Satan would nudge you with negativity, turn it into praise. Think instead on that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable. “If anything is excellent or praiseworthy…” think about those things instead.

If you want God’s peace, you can have it. Think about it.

Ephesians; Royal Rules

Being an American, I’m not that familiar with British Royalty. I’m not what you’d call a Royal Enthusiast, although I do like watching the weddings. So, after reading Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, I Googled Royal Rules. Here are a few that stood out to me:

  1. No one eats after the Queen is through with her meal.
  2. A Royal wedding bouquet must contain myrtle.
  3. You can’t have political views
  4. You can’t play the board game “Monopoly.”
  5. Married women don’t wear hats after 6 PM – bring on the tiaras.
  6. You can’t eat shellfish
  7. You can’t take selfies
  8. Garlic isn’t allowed in Buckingham Palace
  9. Neither are potatoes, rice, and pasta
  10. You never turn your back toward the Queen

(from “50 Strict Rules the Royal Family Has to Follow, marieclaire.com)

After reading Galatians the other day, I was reminded that I am an heir, a member of the most royal family of all – God’s Church. Today I am convicted about that very thing. Paul, in Ephesians, tells us what a Royal should look like. I’m asking myself if I’m living my life worthy of the calling:

  1. Be completely humble
  2. Be gentle, patient, loving
  3. Be a peace-maker
  4. Speak truth in love
  5. Put off falsehood
  6. Don’t sin in anger
  7. Don’t be obscene
  8. Don’t be impure
  9. Don’t be greedy
  10. Don’t be partners with those who are disobedient

There’s more. Paul goes on to describe in further detail what we who are heirs of the Promise, children of the King of Kings should look like. I encourage you to read Ephesians for yourself.

I’m thinking if those British Royals can take that much care to represent the Queen in such a manner, shouldn’t I take more care to represent my King?

Galatians; I’m An Heir!

Reading Galatians thrills my soul. As a Gentile, to hear God say through His servant Paul, that I am His child, I am heir to His Promise, and that in His eyes there is no difference between Jews and the rest of us, I am humbled and grateful.

God doesn’t say I am His step-child, or His foster child. He doesn’t say I’m His child except for this one thing. Or that I’m an heir of only some of the Promise. I read Galatians and rejoice in my position as a child of God, wholly His.

I’m an heir, not because of parentage or some ceremonial circumcision, but because of Jesus. I am a child of God because I have accepted what Jesus did for me on the cross.

I hope you’ll read this letter for yourself, and rejoice with me in the cross of Christ. Because, if you have received God’s grace through the blood of His Son, you are a new creation. And God, through Paul, says that’s the only thing that counts. (6:15)

2 Corinthians 7-12; Examine Yourselves

Do you consider yourself a Christian? On what do you base that belief? Paul tells the church in Corinth:

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.”

Sadly, the name, “Christian” is almost meaningless these days. Some people consider themselves “Christian” if they go to church occasionally, or if they were baptized as a child, or if they aren’t an atheist or Islamic. But Paul goes a bit deeper and asks if we are “in the faith.”

Maybe that is the litmus test. Have you put your faith in the person of Jesus Christ? Have you confessed your sins and accepted what Jesus did for you on the cross? And did that confession change you?

Consider where you have placed your faith. Is it in yourself? In a preacher or philosopher? If you haven’t placed your faith in Jesus, I wonder if you should be wearing His name.

Paul says, “Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless of course you fail the test.”

Here’s the test: Romans 3:23 tells us we are all sinners. Romans 6:23 says the price of our sin is death. But God sent Jesus to die for you while you were still a sinner (Romans 5:8).

That is where your forgiveness – your justification lies. (Romans 3:24) God justifies freely through the redemption that comes by Christ Jesus. Not in right living. Not in church attendance. Not in volunteering at the homeless shelter.

Unless you have a relationship with Jesus through His precious blood, you fail the test. And if you fail the test, don’t wear His name. “Christian” doesn’t apply to you.

Examine yourself whether you’ve been calling yourself a Christian or whether you’re not sure where you stand. Take the test. It’s a matter of life and death.

2 Corinthians 1-6; Comforters

Paul is so upfront about himself, his joys and sorrows, his victories and failures. I have to confess I’m not always so in touch with my own feelings, or honest about what is going on in my life.

As I read this portion of Scripture it occurs to me that Paul isn’t asking for sympathy, or a payoff from the church. I think his only motive was to share with them what he had received.

Comfort.

Isn’t it interesting that the word we use for a big old, soft and warm blanket is “comforter?” I live in southern Georgia, so while much of the country is dealing with freezing temperatures, it’s still in the mid 60’s here during the day.

The nights, however, are getting chilly. Last night got into the 30’s, and I was cold. So when I went to bed, I snuggled under the comforter instead of pushing it aside like I normally do. Ahh. It felt so good. And it wasn’t long before I was toasty warm, relaxed, and then sound asleep, even with the cold temperatures outside the warmth of that comforter.

We all go through rough patches in life. We make poor choices, or someone else does, and our lives get hard. Sometimes it feels as though we are alone in our struggle. Then someone comes along, wraps us up in strong arms, and lets us receive the comfort we need. That’s what Paul is doing here in this letter to the Corinthians.

John Henry Jowett said: “God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters.”

Have you ever been the recipient of God’s comfort through one of His children? Then pass it on to someone who needs that same comfort through you. Call them, or better yet give them a visit. Wrap your arms around them while they weep. Listen to them without trying to give solutions to their problems. Share the love of Jesus at a time when they might feel totally unloved. Let them snuggle in the comfort you have to offer, even if the problems around them aren’t going away.

We have a very real privilege to be a comforter in a world that needs comforting.

I Corinthians 11-16; But I Love Him (Her)

How do you know if you’ve found Mr. or Miss Right? I was talking to someone recently who commented on the high number of divorces happening in Christians marriages these days. Our society has screwed up the definition of “love” so much, how can anyone be sure their marriage is going to last?

If you are considering marriage (or hoping to some day) I would encourage you to use I Corinthians 13 as your rule book. Ask yourself these questions about the person you hope to spend the rest of your life with: (I’ll be using the masculine pronoun but this is not just for women loving men. Men, ask yourself these questions about that lady in your life, too)

  1. Is he patient? How does he treat the waitress when the food takes too long to get to the table? How does he treat you if you aren’t moving as fast as he wants you to? How is he when your mom has one more thing to tell you before you go?
  2. Is he kind? How does he treat your annoying niece? Does he help you carry that heavy grocery bag, or better yet help an older woman struggling with her own? What is his tone of voice when he talks to his mom?
  3. Is he jealous? How does he handle your relationship with your best friend, or parent? What do you see in him when someone else gets that promotion at work?
  4. Does he brag? Does he have the ability to turn conversations back to himself so he can share what accomplishment he’s made?
  5. Is he proud? Does he have an air of superiority? Does he flaunt his successes?
  6. Is he rude? There are people who have no problem demanding attention no matter what others are saying or doing. Is he one of them?
  7. Is he self-seeking? Is life only about him? Do you always end up doing what pleases him? Does he make choices based on what’s in it for him?
  8. How is his temper? Do you find yourself walking on eggshells for fear of an outburst? What’s his reaction when someone cuts him off in traffic?
  9. Does he tend to throw things that you’ve done in the past at you during an argument, or maybe as a way to control you?
  10. Have you watched him lie to people?
  11. Do you truly feel like he’ll always have your back?
  12. Do you trust him? Really?
  13. Would you say your relationship is one of hope for the future? Be honest. Do you see him committed to you for the rest of your life?
  14. Do you see him working on this relationship? Or are you the only one doing the work?
  15. Does he fail you? Not just the occasional disappointment. That’s being human. But are you disappointed more times than not?

I would say if you can’t answer these questions in a positive light, he’s not right for you. End it before you bind yourself to a spouse who doesn’t love you like you deserve to be loved.

Now, go back and honestly answer those same questions about yourself. Because you might not be right for him, either, if you can’t answer them in a positive light concerning your part in the relationship.

You might take this little test and realize things aren’t as they ought to be in your relationship. “But I love him (her)!

Dear one, that’s not love. It might be lust, it might be obsession, it might be the idea of love. But don’t kid yourself. God has revealed what love looks like. If yours doesn’t look like I Corinthians 13, it isn’t love.

And please don’t believe the lie that you can’t help yourself. You are a thinking, feeling, intelligent human being, not a dog in heat. Use your God-given abilities to make good choices. Because love IS a choice, and being loving takes intention.

Some of you reading this may already be married. Maybe you and your spouse might want to ask these same questions of yourselves and talk about how to improve your marriage.  Warning: you might hear some hard truths about what your spouse sees in you. Take them seriously instead of blowing them off, or starting an argument about them. Don’t do this exercise unless you are willing to do some work on yourself. You can’t change him (her). But you can change yourself. Remember, you promised to love this person until death parts you. YOU promised to love.

For those of you who are single, I pray that you will only commit yourself to a person who loves you like God describes here in I Corinthians 13. And I pray that you won’t commit yourself to anyone that you don’t love like that, too.

And to those of you who are married, I pray that you and your spouse will consider your marriage in light of God’s Word, that you’ll both be willing to make changes if  need be, and that your love for each other will grow as you love like God describes here in I Corinthians 13.

May God bless Christian marriages.