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July/August 2017 Archives

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This month's theme:
 
7 Steps toMaintain
Inner Peace  
(Philippians 4:4-13)

 
1. Rejoice in the Lord
The first and foremost step for peace, in which all else builds on, is to rejoice in the Lord.  

The foundation of peace is to rejoice in the Lord. The next six steps to maintaining peace will be built on the foundation of understanding and appreciating what it means to be in the Lord. 

Do we find joy in being in the body of Christ... being a part of Christ's spirit - having His blessings of salvation, strength and hope - does it bring us joy to know who the Lord is and that by answering His call, we now sit in heavenly places; our spirit in communion with the Creator?! Rejoicing in the knowledge of the Lord and our relationship with the God of spirits will bring peace - it is the source that pours out gentleness, prayerfulness, good thinking, caring attitude, contentment, and a reliance on Christ's strength. Without a true joy in the Lord, our lives can not maintain the peace that passes understanding.

"Too Amazing to Comprehend" 
 Richard Chinnis

“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”Romans‬ ‭8:16-17 This is one of those passages that's too amazing to comprehend. Heirs of God? Fellow heirs with Christ? Our imagination will never expand to encompass that glory until He's revealed.

 

But I think there is a purpose to knowing things that are too amazing to comprehend. There are days when that weight has its effect - days when you don't feel like an heir of God. Some days you just feel like an engineer who can't get all your work done. Some days you feel like a son who can't figure out how to be that. Or a parent, likewise. Some days you just feel frail: physically, spiritually.

 

Those days are when you feel the weight of truths like "heir of God" and "fellow heirs with Christ" even without comprehending them. Everything God has prepared from eternity to give to you is ready to be inherited. The circumstances that define Jesus' existence in eternity, He waits to share with you. And the contrast between those blessings and your life here overwhelms you.

 

This seems related to Paul's prayer in Eph 3 where he prays for them to "know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge." Why pray for such a paradox? Because it's those days when your own knowledge fails you so spectacularly that you come closest to grasping "love which surpasses knowledge;" or when your body fails, you get a peek at love which surpasses physical life; or when you fail, you appreciate all the more love which surpasses and conquers sin. 

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2. Be Gentle 
(Moderate, Reasonable, Forebearing, Equitable) 
 

Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. (Philippians 4:5)

Moderation - Sense of self-restraint. Is not selfish, does not insist eagerly on his own rights, but will give way to others, will be gentle and kind.  It is the spirit that enables a man to bear injuries with patience and not to demand all that is rightly his due, for the sake of peace. The apostle corrected the litigios spirit of the Corinthians by asking them, "Why do ye not rather take wrong?" (1 Corinthians 6:7.) Forbearance is reasonableness (to which the derivation points) on its gentle side. It is the opposite of rigorism. It is "considerateness for others, not urging one's own rights to the uttermost, but waiving a part, and thereby rectifying the injustice of justice.

This attitude promotes peace without, thereby produces peace within. It glorifies Christ as it immulates His character (2 Cor. 10:1) -Pulpit Commentary

Notice Paul tells the saints to let their gentleness be known. It doesn't say to act gentle towards others, although that certainly would be what we should do. What it does say is to let their gentle inner nature to rule their outer behavior. We are not to live hypocritically by keeping quiet or being agreeable outwardly, but inside we are seething with anger or discontent. To live in peace within ourselves and with others we must develop a heart that lives daily in moderation, in gentleness, and willingness to yield to others, and an ability to be wronged without an attitude of protest and vengeance. 

 

Let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. (1Peter 3:4)

 

 
In the Aristotelian' Ethics' moderation stands for the temper which contents itself with less than its due, and shrinks from insisting on its strict rights. There is no joy in a narrow selfishness; joy involves an open heart, a generous love. Joy in the Lord tends to make men gentle and mild to others. -Pulpit Commentary

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Mat 11:29)


 
Which are You?
 
I watched them tear a building down;
A gang of men in a busy town.
With a mighy heave and a lusty yell,
They swung a boom and a side wall fell.
 
I said to the foreman, "Are these men skilled
As the men you'd hire if you had to build?"
He gave me a laugh and said, "No indeed!
Just a common laborer is all I need.
 
And I can wreck in a day or two
What it took the builder a year to do."
And I thought to myself as I went my way,
"Just which of these roles have I tried to play?
 
Am I a builder who works with care
Measuring life by the rule and square,
Or am I a wrecker as I walk the town
Content with the labor of tearing down?"
 
                       by Charles Benvegar 

"The Lord is at hand."
 
Why live in gentleness/moderation? Because the Lord is at hand or we may say because the Lord is near. If Jesus was standing by us in the flesh would we insist we have our own way when others disagree with us? Would we be pushy and demanding? Would we be aggitated with others and be impatient with them? Outwardly, we probably wouldn't. We would act kind and perhaps would keep quiet as we'd be afraid of saying the wrong thing in front of the Lord. 
 
The reality, we tend to forget, is that the Lord is always near us; He sees and observes our flesh and our spirit. He know how we are acting towards others. He knows how we are thinking about others. He knows if we have a tender heart, willing to yield to another. He knows if we have vengeance in our hearts. Paul warns the saints that the Lord's people must live with a humble, peaceful spirit, as the Lord is near to us, observing us. Who are we to insist on having our way?
 
When confronted with opposition, it is a comfort to know the Lord is at hand, if we are willing to allow our spiritual man to rule in our lives.  He is also helping and strengthening us in our weakness and temptation to think and act in a fleshly manner. 
 
The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. (Psa 145:18)
 
God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. (Psa 46:1)
 
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: "WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH"; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness--by whose stripes you were healed. (1Pe 2:21-24)

The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. (Jas 3:17)

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 3. Replace Anxiety With Prayer
 
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7)

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Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: "Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Matthew 13:3-8)
 

Anxiety is Distracting Care  
 
...being so anxious about  things of this world that it distracts from our spiritual thoughts, our holiness, and our trusting faith.
 
The parable of the sower is a good example how cares of this world can distract from spiritual focus which, in turn, diminishes our peace and our relationship with God.

Hear then the parable of the sower (Mat 13:18-23):
 
1. Birds - distracted with Satan's temptations: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.
2. Stony ground - distracted due to persecutions: As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.
3. Thorns - distracted due to the cares of the world and riches: As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
4. Good soil - Not being distracted by the flesh, there is a continual focus, on God, His word, and service due to understanding it, not just hearing it: As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty." 
 
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Brent Kercheville adds an important point I didn't cover in this issue - we need to settle our disagreements with others in order to have inward and outward peace.

 

Philippians 4:2-7, Defeat Anxiety

by Brent Kercheville 

It seems that there is so much to be anxious for in life. Work brings anxiety. Life choices bring anxiety. Family brings anxiety. ISIS and terrorism brings anxiety. The world is full of anxiety. Yet the scriptures are going to teach us how we can overcome and defeat anxiety. The apostle Paul is going to show us that the Christian life is a life that knows how to handle and defeat anxiety.

Settle Your Disagreements (4:2-3)

First, Paul addresses a problem between two women in the church at Philippi. I want you to imagine what this sounded like in the gathering of these Christians as this letter was read before the whole assembly. “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.” Both are called upon to work this out and they are called upon by name. Personal conflicts must be resolved. We must live in harmony with one another. We must settle our disagreements and issues that we may have with each other. Remember that Paul has taught us to live humble, self-denying, self-sacrificing lives. Therefore we must work together and solve any dispute.

Further, the apostle calls for the others in the church to help bring resolution. Others are to be peacemakers in this process. The “true companion,” whoever he or she is, was called upon by Paul to help these women. Notice what everyone was to focus upon. Do not focus on the disagreement. Focus on that you are laborers side by side for the gospel, fellow workers, and your names are written in the book of life. We are not going to be on separate sides of heaven with a dividing wall raised from the people we could not get along with on earth. Personal conflicts must be solved and cannot be allowed to drag out, which will cause problems in faith and disturbance and division in the church. One simple way we can defeat anxiety is to simply deal with our issues with others in a self-sacrificing way. Be peacemakers. Look to get along with each other. Do not look to be right. Do not look to win the argument. Do not wait for an apology. Sacrifice yourself and humble yourself to restore the relationship.

Rejoice in the Lord Always (4:4)

Joy always. Now remember where Paul is when he writes these words. Paul is imprisoned awaiting a trial, the outcome of which may bring his release or bring his death. Yet Paul commands joy always. In fact, if we doubted the command, Paul says it twice. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” Whatever you are going through, put your focus on Christ and have joy there. Paul is not saying that life will be enjoyable at all times. But the joy of the Lord is our strength and stabilizes our lives. Focus on your joy in Christ! Do not forget all that God has done for you in Christ. If you have lost a loved one, you can have joy knowing that your loved one stands before a loving, gracious, and just God. You can have joy in any occasion because you know that God is always available to you. Joy is the description of God’s people. There is always joy in reflecting on what the Lord has done.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me. (Psalm 13:5–6 ESV)

Be Gentle and Gracious (4:5)

Paul continues by teaching that our reasonableness (ESV) must be known to all. Most translations read “gentleness.” Our gentleness and our graciousness is to be known to all people. The BDAG lexicon suggests the translation, “forbearing spirit.” The Greek word is defined as not insisting on every right of letter of law or custom. All of these words help us get an idea of what we are supposed to look like in the Lord. Be gracious. Be gentle. Be reasonable. Be forbearing. We cannot be thinking about ourselves for this to happen.

Do Not Be Anxious About Anything (4:6)

Since the Lord is near, do not be anxious about anything. It is not that the Lord is coming soon. We should not take “at hand” or “near” in terms of time. Rather, we should read this as the nearness of the Lord. The Lord is with you. The Lord is near you. The Lord is the first help for anxiety.

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. (Psalm 145:18 ESV)

God is near. God is at work. God is not asleep. God is sovereign. This is why we do not have to be anxious about anything. The Lord is near. God will help. We are trusting that God is in control. Now think about what Paul said. There is not anything to be anxious about. I do not think that Paul is saying that you can never feel anxious or that you will never feel worry. Rather, these are the instructions on what to do to defeat anxiety. Here are the steps you need to take when that worry and anxiety come upon you. Do not be anxious about anything means that we can use these instructions given to us by God any situation and circumstance. So what are we to do.

In every situation talk to God. “But in everything by prayer and supplications with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Talk to God. How often we will talk to others about our worries but not talk to God! But talking to others is not a solution. God is the solution for he is the one who is able to help. In every circumstance talk to God. Why would we be anxious? How could we be anxious? God just said to tell him what you want! We do not use the word “supplication” in our conversations much. But it is a request or a petition. Ask of God is what Paul is telling us. Is this not mind blowing? Do not be anxious about anything. God is near. Tell him! Pray about everything. Do not be a crisis prayer. Pray for everything!

Notice that our prayers and requests are mixed with thanksgiving. This is our attitude when we come to God in prayer. We are not coming to God complaining, but with gratitude as we ask our God about something else in our lives. Joe Thorn made this beautiful point about suffering well:

“God does not promise to rid your life of affliction and difficulty. He does, however, offer to give you the grace needed to suffer well, and through grace to discover the riches and beauty of the gospel. It isn’t wrong to ask God to relieve you of your pain, but it is more important that in the midst of the pain you rely on the promise of God to work such experiences for his glory and your good — to use these times as a means of perfecting your faith, strengthening your spirit, and transforming your life in such a way that you are becoming more like Jesus.”

Paul had everything to be anxious about as he sits in prison not knowing his future. But Paul did exactly what he is instructs these Christians to do. Go back to Philippians 1:18-19.

Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. (Philippians 1:18–20 ESV)

Prayer with thanksgiving is how to defeat worry and anxious when those feelings strike our hearts. Prayer is the water that extinguishes the fire of anxiety. God is telling us to use our anxieties to drive us to prayer, not to panic. We will attack anxiety with humble, thankful, “help me” prayers. Then, if you are still anxious, pray again. Then pray again and pray again.

Result: the Peace of God Will Guard Your Hearts (4:7)

This is where your peace of mind and peace in heart will come. There is no other response that is going to be bring the peace of God to your life. Notice the peace of God is set in contrast to being anxious. Our trust in God’s flawless wisdom and infinite power allows us to be calm in life’s storms. God gives a tranquility of life in the midst of your darkest and hardest days. Peace comes from prayerful trust.

Our culture has a saying right now to “keep calm” and then do something like play volleyball or something like that. I saw one that said “Keep calm and trust Jesus.” But this is not accurate. Paul is saying, “Trust Jesus and then you will be calm.” We do not approach him calmly and then trust him. We run to him with our worries and fears and find the peace of God after we have turned to him.

Now the next thing we want to do is to try to explain how we have the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds. This is why Paul immediately tells us not to do this. The peace of God surpasses all understanding. This is not something that you are going to be able to explain in a step by step formula. This is not about trying to explain how this works. It is just a statement of fact. It is a promise made to those who trust in the Lord.

Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. (Isaiah 26:2–4 ESV)

Conclusion

The real challenge of Christian living is not to eliminate every uncomfortable circumstance in life but to trust in our wise, sovereign, good, and powerful God in every situation. Sometimes it is said that anxiety is the result of too much thinking. But we should realize that anxiety comes from too little thinking in the direction toward God. Faith is not wishful thinking but a reasoned response to God’s revealed promises. God gives us the hope and confidence we need to carry on with joy even when burdens are heavy. Anxiety can be defeated. The problem is not that we have those feelings but what will we do when we feel anxiety. Will we trust in ourselves? Will we trust in other people? Will we panic? Let us turn to the Lord in prayer and tell him who can give us the peace we need to sustain us through whatever difficulty we are facing.

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Don't be anxious?!
 
What this doesn't mean:
 
  • It doesn't mean it's wrong to be sad.
  • It doesn't mean it's wrong to be concerned with the known future. 
  • It doesn't mean we aren't going to feel pain.
  • It doesn't mean we can't be concerned with someone else's troubles.
  • It doesn't mean it's wrong to feel depressed at times.
 
What it does mean:
 
  • We aren't to try and handle life's concerns, sorrows, and pain alone.
  • We are to go to our Father in prayer about anything and everything that is a concern to us.
  • We are to trust that Almighty God hears our prayers, loves us, and is concerned about us.
  • We are to believe, with all our hearts, that God has power to do anything and wisdom to do the best thing.
  • We are not to be overwhelmed with worry, concern, and sorrow to where our flesh rules our spiritual man. 
  • We can have peace and assurance that God is with us and working for good in our lives, even if our physical eyes can't see and understand how He is helping us.
  • We should never be overcome with doubt, disbelief, and worry where it affects our faith and the faith of others. 

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1Pe 5:6-11)

Cast your burden on the LORD, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved. (Psa 55:22)

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Instead of asking, "Why?,"  we should be asking, "What," (do You want me to learn and to do?) 

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa 55:8-9)
                                       

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 4. Control Thoughts
 
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things.  (Phil. 4:8)

 Thoughts Affect Actions
 
Thoughts react powerfully on the character. A sinful thought, brought again and again before the mind, strengthens the natural tendency of the will to evil and leads to the sinful deed. Therefore the thoughts must be disciplined and brought into captivity to the law of Christ. "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." Here is the hardest battle of the Christian life; to govern the thoughts there is need of constant watchfulness and persevering prayer.  -selected

Actions Affect Thought

Jacob is a good example of actions affecting thinking - after living for many years with deceiving others and being deceived, it had an impact on Jacob's thinking.

  • Instead of sharing his stew with his hungry brother, Jacob tempts Esau, in his weakness, to barter stew for his birthright. 
  • Jacob steals Esau's blessing by deception.
  • Jacob was deceived by Laban and received Leah for a wife instead of Rachel.
  • Jacob worked hard to get all he could from Laban, as Laban had deceived him for years.
  • Rachel stole Laban's household idols when they left his home. 

As Jacob went back to his father's land, how did his past experience with deception affect his thinking in regards to meeting Esau again? 

  • Then the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, "We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him." So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies. And he said, "If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the other company which is left will escape." (Gen 32:6-8)
  • But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. (Gen 33:4)

Even faithful servants of God can fall into patterns of bad habits and sin. If we don't change our thinking, our bad habits and quick judgments of others will continue. If we think bad of others, we will believe they think bad of us. If we mistreat others, we will always be on guard for mistreatment. If we deceive others, we will always believe we are being deceived.

On the other hand, if we think good about others and treat them fairly, we won't worry about what they are thinking about us. If we are positive and grateful, we will have peace inwardly and display it outwardly in kindness. 

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God hates evil thoughts against others: These are the things you shall do: Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace; Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; And do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate,' Says the LORD." (Zec 8:16-17)

Guard your thoughts: Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. (Pro 4:23-27)

Thinking on the Lord's instruction brings peace: The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are futile. Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord, And teach out of Your law, that You may give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit is dug for the wicked. (Psa 94:11-13)
 
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How are we training our children to think? Your thinking will become their thinking. Are you careful about the food they eat but not so much the thoughts that they are being fed and how much time they spend on these thoughts? They watch you and learn. A great amount of time spent on empty thoughts, thoughts on self, and stressful thinking will not train them to be at peace with themselves or with others.
 
 

In our children's daily living with entertainment, home life, friendships, social interactions, and their own view of self, let's make sure we are directing their thinking to things that are noble - to whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, to virtuous thinking and praiseworthy thoughts. Let's teach our children to be peaceful people, outwardly and inwardly.

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5. Care for Others 
 
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity... Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. (Philippians 4:10;14-18)
 

 
Caring for others gets our mind off of self. There is joy and fulfillment in helping others and knowing we are serving our Lord in this. Caring for others teaches us to let go of self and the vain things in this world that have no lasting value. Peace of mind is the outcome.

 
 
Spiritual Connections in Giving 
 
A spiritual connection to Christ: Paul said he rejoiced in the Lord for the care he received from them. There is a connection between the Lord and giving. When we give we become as Christ - the One who gave the most precious gift of Himself. Everything we have physically and spiritually is because of Him. He "emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Php 2:7-8) Through Jesus, we learn to empty ourselves and fill ourselves up again with love.  
 
A spiritual connection to the one in need: The receiver looks beyond the physical help - he/she is encouraged with the love that is displayed in the gift. The money, food, help, friendship etc. uplifts the broken spirit
 
A spiritual connection to God - giving is a spiritual sacrifice offered to God in which He is well pleased.  

Giving Comes in Many Forms
 
Let's count the ways we can give to others:
 
But 1 love your enemies, 2 do good, and 3 lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore 4 be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. 5 Judge not, and you shall not be judged. 6 Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. 7 Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 8 Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you." (Luke 6:35-38) 

Empty self.
Give yourself to the Lord.
A genuine care for others will follow.
Peace and happiness will be the outcome. 
 
And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God. (2 Corinthians 8:5)    

 
 
"The Wise Woman's Stone" 
 
A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation. The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime. But a few days later he came back to return the stone to the wise woman.

"I've been thinking," he said, "I know how valuable the stone is, but I give it back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious. Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me the stone."  

“You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.”   

 
"Once and Again"
 
"For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities." The Philippians were not "weary in well doing." There are some people, through no fault of their own, need to be helped several times, or even on-going. It may or may not be due to financial difficulty, but perhaps their bad health or emotional circumstance is causing ongoing problems. Rather than it turning into "compassion fatigue," the Philippians understood the need for continual support.

Benefit to giver: "Fruit abounds to your account." "God shall supply all your needs." The fulfillment of our needs may not be as we expect it -  God knows the real needs of our lives and not one true need will He ultimately leave unsatisfied.

 

 

GIVE 

Live, and thou shalt receive. Give thoughts of cheer,
Of courage and success, to friend and stranger.
And from a thousand sources, far and near,
Strength will be sent thee in thy hour of danger.

Give words of comfort, of defence, and hope,
To mortals crushed by sorrow and by error.
And though thy feet through shadowy paths may grope,
Thou shalt not walk in loneliness or terror.

Give of thy gold, though small thy portion be.
Gold rusts and shrivels in the hand that keeps it.
It grows in one that opens wide and free.
Who sows his harvest is the one who reaps it.

Give of thy love, nor wait to know the worth
Of what thou lovest; and ask no returning.
And wheresoe'er thy pathway leads on earth,
There thou shalt find the lamp of love-light burning.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox 

 

 

Glory in Giving

(But, whose glory?) 

Read this familiar passage but, this time, pay attention to what I've highlighted. Giving is an amazing spiritual act, but who should get the glory? Is giving something we should boast in or is it something we should praise God, in that we have the ability to give and that, through Christ, we learned to give? 

"For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack--that there may be equality. As it is written, "HE WHO GATHERED MUCH HAD NOTHING LEFT OVER, AND HE WHO GATHERED LITTLE HAD NO LACK." But thanks be to God who puts the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus. For he not only accepted the exhortation, but being more diligent, he went to you of his own accord. And we have sent with him the brother whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches, and not only that, but who was also chosen by the churches to travel with us with this gift, which is administered by us to the glory of the Lord Himself and to show your ready mind, avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us." (2Co 8:12-20)

"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 6. Be Content
 
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Php 4:11-13)

Give me neither poverty nor riches -
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, "Who is the Lord?"
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God.
                      (Proverbs 30:8-9)

I Will Learn to Be Content 

I will be confident in God's care and wisdom.

I will understand and remember my purpose on this earth.

I will be independent from circumstances.

I will recognize even the smallest blessing that comes into my life.

I will be grateful to God and to others.

I will learn to let go of things - I will make myself give when it hurts until I give without pain. 

I will compare every loss to what Christ gave up for me.

I will acknowledge my gains are gifts from God, not rewards from Him, and out of gratitude, I will share. 

I will seek those things above and get my priorities right.

I will allow my spirit to rule over my flesh. 

I will not allow situations to guide my thinking. 

I will understand my "thorns" are messengers of Satan and I will be content with God's grace. 

I will pray for the strength found in Christ when I'm tempted with discontentment.

I will keep Christ in my mind throughout the day and find strength in Him to endure my abasement and to be humble when I abound. 

________________________________________ 
 
In order to be content, we must learn gratitude and train ourselves to
recognize blessings and express thanksgiving.

 
 
The Importance of Gratitude 
 
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
(Philippians 4:6)

Choose to Be Grateful 

Make a conscious effort to become a thankful soul. 

Pray with thanksgiving. Thank God for the blessings of the day - be specific. 

Don't forget small things. Observe the tiniest of creation. See those little acts of kindness that so often go unnoticed. 

Be aware. Begin a daily list of blessings or put up a chalkboard and write down a daily blessing.

Walking out the door and see a blue sky? Silently, thank God. Did you see rain drops glistening on grass as you rushed to your destination? Silently, thank God.

Did someone do something nice? Tell them you appreciate what they did. Learn to verbalize thanksgiving. Thank God for that act of kindness. 

Are you constantly thinking about something you wish you had but can't obtain, or shouldn't obtain? Direct your thinking to what you have and be thankful. Learn to be content. 

_________________________________________________________________________ 

 
 
Give us day by day our daily bread. Luke 11:3 
 
  • Asking for "daily" bread teaches us to recognize all we have comes from the Lord. In times of abundance we may forget that.
  • Asking for "daily" bread teaches us contentment and to desire what we need to get through the day, rather than storing up abundance.
  • Asking for "daily" bread teaches us to share if we go beyond our daily need. 

_________________________________________________________________________ 

Be content when you abound! 
 
When we abound we can be tempted with living for this world, wanting more, not wanting to share, not setting priorties right, ingratitude, and pride. Give God the the glory and be thankful. 
  

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. (1Ti 6:3-11)

 

 
CONTENTMENT
by Eugene Field 
 
Once on a time an old red hen
    Went strutting 'round with pompous clucks,
    For she had little babies ten,
    A part of which were tiny ducks.
    "'Tis very rare that hens," said she,
    "Have baby ducks as well as chicks--
    But I possess, as you can see,
    Of chickens four and ducklings six!"

    A season later, this old hen
    Appeared, still cackling of her luck,
    For, though she boasted babies ten,
    Not one among them was a duck!
    "'Tis well," she murmured, brooding o'er
    The little chicks of fleecy down--
    "My babies now will stay ashore,
    And, consequently, cannot drown!"

    The following spring the old red hen
    Clucked just as proudly as of yore--
    But lo! her babes were ducklings ten,
    Instead of chickens, as before!
    "'Tis better," said the old red hen,
    As she surveyed her waddling brood;
    "A little water now and then
    Will surely do my darlings good!"

    But oh! alas, how very sad!
    When gentle spring rolled round again
    The eggs eventuated bad,
    And childless was the old red hen!
    Yet patiently she bore her woe,
    And still she wore a cheerful air,
    And said: "'Tis best these things are so,
    For babies are a dreadful care!"

    I half suspect that many men,
    And many, many women, too,
    Could learn a lesson from the hen
    With foliage of vermilion hue;
    She ne'er presumed to take offence
    At any fate that might befall,
    But meekly bowed to Providence--
    She was contented--that was all!

 

We need to find contentment to find peace and happiness. Gratitude and looking on the bright side of life and situations will bring contentment.

 

PRECIOUS GIFTS

Yesterday a butterfly 
Came floating gently through the sky.
He soared up through the atmosphere
Then drifted close enough to hear.

I said, "I'd love to fly with you
And sail around the way you do.
It looks like it would be such fun
To fly up toward the summer sun.

But I have not your graceful charm.
I haven't wings, just these two arms.
I've been designed to walk around.
My human feet must touch the ground.

Then magically he spoke to me
and told me what his wish would be.

He said, "What I'd love most to do
Is walk upon God's Earth with you,
To squish its mud between my toes
Or touch my finger to my nose.

I'd love just once to walk around
With human feet to touch the ground,
But I have not two legs that swing,
I haven't arms, just these two wings."

And so we went our separate ways
In wonder and surprise.
For we'd both seen God's precious gifts
Through someone else's eyes.
 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood." (Mark 12:42-44)

We speak of the widow's faith, trust in God, and unselfishness by giving all she had. But let's add one more quality - her contentment. She was content in her relationship with God. She didn't need to hold on to those two coins - she was content with belong to God, and in her gratitude, she knew she would be cared for. May our contentment lay in Christ, not in this world.

"Some murmur when their sky is clear

And wholly bright to view,

If one small speck of dark appear

In their great heaven of blue.

And some with thankful love are filled,

If but one streak of light,

One ray of God's great mercy, gild

The darkness of their night."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

7. Know God Supplies

All of Our Needs

 
And my God shall supply all your need according to
His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19) 
 

?  How can we maintain peace in our spirit if we don't trust God? 
? How can we find contentment if we don't understand that God gives us everything we need ?
? How will we feel sufficient in Christ if we allow our flesh to dictate our needs and what will make us happy and at peace in this world? 

The answer to those questions is, "We can't." Self-sufficiency blinds us. We allow our flesh to tell us what we deserve and we demand justice!  We don't trust God to help us with decisions or strengthen us in trials. We don't check our thoughts during times of boredom, or intense emotions, or stress to make sure they are in line with purity.  We don't spend time or emotions on others. We have become people of the flesh and have quenched the Spirit within us. It's no wonder we are miserable and full of anxiety!

 

Sufficiency in Christ

He gives us salvation. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us--baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him. (1Pe 3:18-22)
 

He teaches us true joy. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. (Joh 15:10-11)

He is the example of gentleness/moderation. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Mat 11:28-29)

He tells us the right things to think aboutBlessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. (Mat 5:8)

He teaches us to depend on the Father for strength and comfort when we are feeling anxious and concerned. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luk 22:44)

Christ teaches us to give. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Php 2:4-8)

He teaches us to be content. And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. (Luk 12:29-31)

He gives us something to look forward to. Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1-2)

 

 

A WOMAN IN HOSPITAL 

I know it all . . . I know.
For I am God. I am Jehovah, He
Who made you what you are; and I can see
The tears that wet your pillow night by night,
When nurse has lowered that too-brilliant light;
When the talk ceases, and the ward grows still,
And you have doffed your will:
I know the anguish and the helplessness.
I know the fears that toss you to and fro.
And how you wrestle, weariful,
With hosts of little strings that pull
About your heart, and tear it so.
I know.

Lord, do You know
I had no time to put clean curtains up;
No time to finish darning all the socks;
Nor sew clean frilling in the children's frocks?
And do You know about my Baby's cold?
And how things are with my sweet three- year-old?
Will Jane remember right
Their cough mixture at night?
And will she ever think
To brush the kitchen flues, or scrub the sink?
And then, there's John! Poor tired lonely John!
No one will run to put his slippers on.
And not a soul but me
Knows just exactly how he likes his tea.
It rends my heart to think I cannot go
And minister to him. . . .

I know. I know.

Then, there are other things,
Dear Lord . . . more little strings
That pull my heart. Now Baby feels her feet
She loves to run outside into the street
And Jane's hands are so full, she'll never see. . . .
And I'm quite sure the clean clothes won't be aired --
At least, not properly.
And, oh, I can't, I really can't be spared --
My little house calls so!

I know.
And I am waiting here to help and bless.
Lay down your head. Lay down your hopelessness
And let Me speak.
You are so weary, child, you are so weak.
But let us reason out
The darkness and the doubt;
This torturing fear that tosses you about.
I hold the universe. I count the stars.
And out of shortened lives I build the ages. . . .

But, Lord, while such high things Thy thought engages,
I fear - forgive me - lest
Amid those limitless eternal spaces
Thou shouldest, in the high and heavenly places,
Pass over my affairs as things of nought.
There are so many houses just like mine.
And I so earth-bound, and Thyself Divine.
It seems impossible that Thou shouldst care
Just what my babies wear;
And what John gets to eat . . . and can it be
A circumstance of great concern to Thee
Whether I live or die?

Have you forgotten then, My child, that I,
The Infinite, the Limitless, laid down
The method of existence that I knew,
And took on Me a nature just like you?
I laboured day by day
In the same dogged way
That you have tackled household tasks. And then,
Remember, child, remember once again
Your own beloveds . . . did you really think --
(Those days you toiled to get their meat and drink,
And made their clothes, and tried to understand
Their little ailments) - did you think your hand,
Your feeble hand, was keeping them from ill?
I gave them life, and life is more than meat;
Those little limbs, so comely and so sweet.
You can make raiment for them, and are glad,
But can you add
One cubit to their stature? Yet they grow!
Oh, child, hands off! Hands off! And leave them so.
I guarded hitherto, I guard them still.

I have let go at last. I have let go.
And, oh, the rest it is, dear God, to know
My dear ones are so safe, for Thou wilt keep.
Hands off, at last! Now, I can go to sleep.

by Faye Inchfawn  

 

 

 

 WE THANK THEE

For flowers that bloom about our feet,
For tender grass so fresh and sweet,
For the song of bird and hum of bee,
For all things fair we hear or see,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee.

For blue of stream and blue of sky,
For pleasant shade of branches high,
For fragrant air and cooling breeze,
For beauty of the blooming trees,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee.

For this new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Don't replace the Bible with Facebook feel-good stories, with self-help books off the sale rack, with friend's advise, with philosophers, counselors, doctors, and even your own reasoning. Nothing will make us complete, separate from Christ. He is the only one who can complete us and bring us peace.  

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (Col 2:8-10)
 

Our Father desires to provide for His children.
Are we allowing doubt to prevent that?
 
Listen to the Holy Spirit and have confidence in the Father's love, power, and compassion:
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, Blessed is the man who trusts in You! (Psa 84:11-12)

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Mat 7:11)
  
Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? (Luke 12:24)
 
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O LORD. (Psa 36:6)
 

As God supplies our needs, we can become the means by which God supplies to others. Let's share our gifts of provision.
 
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies--in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1Pe 4:10-11)
 
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2Co 1:3-4)
 
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. (Act 2:44-45)

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September/October 2017