Archive for December, 2013

Verses 3-4: “We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints,”

It’s amazing what a letter of encouragement can do. Cade Foster #43, the 2013 starting placekicker for the University of Alabama football team, didn’t have a good night at Auburn in the 2013 Iron Bowl. In a tough, hard-fought game between these two intra-state rivals, Foster missed two field goals and had another attempt blocked. Auburn won the game 34-28 on a dramatic play: a field goal try that was missed by Alabama teammate Adam Griffith and returned by Auburn’s Chris Davis 109 yards for a game-winning touchdown with one second left on the clock.

All players have good games and bad games; Foster probably felt like he had lost the game for his team (which is incorrect, football is a team sport, but a lot of folks seem to forget that sometimes). Foster had been the hero before in other games. The life of a placekicker is like hot and cold water; most times, you’re either the hero or the goat. Fans for these two teams also tend to forget these players are 18-22 year old kids, and they aren’t deserving of the hate-filled wrath that gets spewed at them on social media (and this was the case for Foster here; thankfully, more level-headed fans came to his defense in the face of such unwarranted personal attacks).

In the midst of this highly-charged emotional moment, Foster received an unexpected letter of support that carried more impact than those anonymous posts; he received a note from “another 43” encouraging him…none other than the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush. Talk about a confidence booster; you can read more about this note at the following link: http://espn.go.com/blog/sec/post/_/id/76463/president-bush-sends-cade-foster-support

It’s amazing what a letter of encouragement can do. I discovered in my Bible reading and study that the church at Colosse was not one founded by Paul or visited by him. Yet he wrote them a letter from prison, and one of the first things he does is tell them how they thank God for them, for their faith in Christ and love for all the saints. Paul goes on later in this book to speak to them on other issues, but what a boost the opening comments make to that church.

Encouragement is a gift that is best shared with others; have you encouraged someone in the Lord today?

Something to think about.


Read Full Post »

Verses 13, 19: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

My grandmother, whom I dearly loved, has passed away. I miss her so much; how do I get through this?
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
I just lost my job! How am I going to find another one in this economy?
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
My relatives were killed in a car crash; how will I carry on?
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
My house was burglarized; now what do we do?
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
My back pain is more than I can stand; it’s awful. How do I get through this?
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
I am so depressed, I just want to end it all!
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I’ve personally gone through a couple of these events; I know you have possibly and probably been through more including some not even on this list. How does a person get through life’s trials? Well…you don’t get through them by yourself. You call on Someone who is all-powerful and all-knowing, and has walked a mile in your shoes. The Christian turns to Jesus, and He carries you through.

Verse 19 is a wonderful exclamation point to all this: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

Something to think about.

Read Full Post »

Verse 11: “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:”

There was an episode of SpongeBob Squarepants© called “Doing Time” in which SpongeBob©, attempting to again pass his boating exam, gets his long-suffering teacher, Mrs. Puff©, arrested after he causes an accident (after all, she was responsible for him). At first, she’s horrified at her situation when placed in her jail cell, but then she tries to look on the bright side of her predicament. She begins to voice the positives of her situation, such as not having to grade papers or give classes or teach SpongeBob. Then it clicks in her head: no more SpongeBob! She begins excitedly reciting all the things she doesn’t have to put up with, every other one being…no more SpongeBob! She contentedly settles onto her bed, actually looking forward to her future life.

Now, granted the reason Mrs. Puff could be content in jail was because she wouldn’t have to teach or interact with SpongeBob anymore; thus no matter what punishment or chores she did in jail, she was content and happy. Paul could be content when he was in jail, because he knew he was serving Christ. He still wrote letters, ministering to churches he helped to found. He witnessed to anyone AND everyone, even the Roman guards he was chained to. Even death didn’t worry him as it worries you and me, because he knew he’d be with Jesus in Heaven if he was executed!

I admit I’m a worrier; it’s one of the worst sins I do in my opinion, and I ask Jesus for forgiveness when He proves my worrying was all for naught (or when He shows He’s still there in my times of trouble). It’s a matter of trust in our Savior and Lord, when it comes to being content, and we can do no better than trusting Him always. For the Christian, that should always fill us with a sense of peace and…contentment.

Have a blessed day in the Lord!

Read Full Post »

Philippians 4:8-9

Verse 8: “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.”

It’s amazing what God shows you during a funeral. I was prepared during my grandmother’s recent funeral for the eulogies of both the Methodist and Baptist preachers who spoke, and the fond stories they shared of my grandmother. After I sang “Because He Lives”, my mother rose from the piano (she was my accompanist) and spoke…I didn’t know she was going to do this, so I was curious as to what she was going to say. She shared a concise list of some of things my grandmother did (some I knew, some I didn’t). She shared important family times when she taught her daughter, when she taught her grandchildren, and when she taught her great-grandchildren. These were the things to meditate on and to remember about my grandmother; not the sadness and pain of her last days, but all the good things she brought to her family, to her friends, and to her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. That is what I’m trying to remember during the times when grief wells up.

Likewise, Paul wanted the Philippians to focus on what was true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, especially if it was virtuous and praiseworthy…for such things can only be from God. We can’t let ourselves be distracted by the junk we see in the material world; there’s a lot we could focus on, but it would only lead us depressed or downtrodden. Keep your eye on the eternal Savior in your Christian walk. Meditate on these things.

Something to think about.

Read Full Post »

Philippians 4:1-7

Verses 6-7: “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.”

My grandmother just passed away Friday before Christmas. Through the whirlwind that is the grieving and arrangements and visitation and funeral and time with family, God has been at work in my life through this verse. Let me break it down for you here:

• “Be anxious for nothing” – my grandmother was in declining health at age 96; she had quit eating and drinking at the beginning of the week. We knew the end was near, but it still hits you hard when you get the news. Yet we knew God was in control.
• “but in everything” – every bit of the last few days from grieving time to administrative meetings for arrangements to contacting friends and family, God was in control and was there.
• “by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving” – I felt the prayers of my friends and my church family members for me and my family. We were grateful for the outpouring of love from family and friends at the visitation (which had horrible weather by the way, yet people came) and at the funeral (the old Methodist church was full). I am thankful for all who gave me a hug or handshake of comfort, or told me they were praying for me, or texted me, or called me, or were just there for me and my family. To you, thank you for being used by God to show me His love.
• “let your requests be made known to God” – my biggest concern was not me, but my mother…she was my grandmother’s only child and her principal caregiver these last few years. It was really hard on her, but God has blessed her. One of the final times we saw Mama while my grandmother was alive, she told us that Hospice had counseled her and she assured us that she would be ready to let her go when she passed…sure, she would be sad, but relieved that my grandmother would be suffering no more and be in Heaven with Jesus.
• “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” – this is the part of the verse that echoed in my head during this time…God’s peace….I can’t understand it and I can’t explain it, but I had that peace at the visitation…during family time…during the funeral when I sang “Because He Lives” (how true those lyrics!)…hearing my mother get up and share details of my grandmother’s rich life and the people she touched (I didn’t know she was going to do that); she only wavered once, but shared it just like we were having a conversation….during the graveside service in the cold wind….and Sunday morning of the visitation, as I played my traditional trombone Christmas carols in front of our church, as the storm-laden clouds rolled past…every time I played a carol to God with my grandmother on my mind, I’d look up…and God cleared the sky of clouds briefly and showed me the clear blue sky, as if to say, “I’m still here, and I’m with you.” Wow…peace that surpasses all understanding.
• “will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” – this is the promise I cling to now, early on Christmas day (12:30am). That as those waves of grief and tears wash over me, that I need to remember…Jesus will guard my heart and my mind in His love. That one day, I’ll see my Lord and Savior in Heaven…and my grandmother will be there to greet me, too. After all, she celebrating Christmas WITH Jesus!

Merry Christmas!

Read Full Post »

Verse 17: “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.”

I have the worst time cutting a straight line with a pair of scissors, especially when trying to wrap a Christmas gift. The wrapping paper seems to mock me as I fold it over after cutting it and discovering that one end is wider than the other, instead of being the perfect symmetrical shape that I need it to be in order to wrap a boxed gift. I was reminded again this week, when I was choosing from amongst several rolls of paper. But I noticed something about this double-sided paper I was using (double-sided meaning there are two patterns, one on either side, so you can have choices which side to use). I noticed a lot of side B patterns were nice symmetrical patterns…almost a perfect line from end to end. So all I had to do was follow the pattern, and voila, I had cut it evenly. Funny, isn’t it, how someone laying out the path for you to take can make life easier.

Jesus has given us the pattern to the Christian life we should live. He taught it and lived it, and the missionaries like Paul continued to show others the Way by their talk and their walk. So why be frustrated listening to the world’s distorted blueprint on how to live life? Jesus already blazed that trail for us; we just have to walk down it and not stray.

Something to think about.

Read Full Post »

Verse 12: “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.”

Sometimes, you just can’t say an analogy or thought any better than how a hymn writer said it; so without further ado, in the words that Johnson Oatman, Jr. put to pen:

Higher Ground

I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith, on heaven’s table-land,
A higher plane than I have found;
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

Something to think about.

Read Full Post »

Verses 7-8: “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ”

Greek/Roman mythology tells us the tale of King Midas, a king so infatuated with the idea of being rich that he wanted the power to turn everything he touched into gold. He was conveyed this wish by the Greek god Dionysius for the return of treating a satyr friend of Dionysius’s with kindness and respect when he was passed out on the king’s lawn. Reveling in his new-found power, Midas began turning many things to gold. However, he soon discovered that all the gold in the world was worthless, when he discovered that he couldn’t eat (the food turned to gold), he couldn’t drink (the liquid turned to gold), and worst of all, he couldn’t enjoy the love of his family (his daughter was turned to gold when he touched her!) The myth has a happy ending as Dionysius hears Midas’s imploring to take away the golden touch, and by following Dionysius’s instructions, Midas loses the touch, has his daughter restored to him, and learns what he thought was valuable was not, in comparison to what is valuable. (You can look up the story at http://www.mythweb.com/encyc/entries/midas.html ).

Now the above tale is a myth, but Paul relays that the moral is true. What we think is gain to us here on Earth….riches, fame, things….is NOTHING compared to knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Even if you lose it all materially (and Paul certainly was one of those who lost a lot in the eyes of society) as long as you gain Christ, it’s still not worth fretting about…you might as well fret about the garbage! (my son and my wife pointed out that the previous sentence also sounds like “Midas well”. :-)

Something to think about.

Read Full Post »

Verse 1: “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.”

How many parents out there like to repeat your instructions to your children? 🙂 Why do you repeat yourselves? Because you want to make sure your children hear AND understand your instructions. I’ve told my own sons before how important it is to listen to what their mother and I say…one day, it could save their lives.

I was struck by the part of this verse that stated “For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.” I consulted my copy of the Holman concordance on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, and found this statement on page 242: “Paul consciously repeated himself, knowing repetition leads to learning. What he wrote was so important he wanted to make sure they did not miss his points.”

So, once more, just to make sure you don’t miss it 🙂 : Rejoice in the Lord!

Something to think about.

Read Full Post »

Verse 30: “because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.”

Finish the job. Do your duty. Stay at your post. These are the commitments to excellence we see and hear engrained into our soldiers in the military. How many stories, both fictional in the movies and real experiences in life, have we heard of the soldier or of the public servant who selflessly was committed to finish the mission, to carry out the task, and sometimes…to give their all?

Epaphroditus was one such Christian soldier. He had come to Paul’s aid on behalf of the Philippian church. During his time ministering to Paul, he became deathly ill. Yet as bad as his health would become, he didn’t leave Paul. Paul actually had to send him back to Philippi, so great was his concern for his friend. Paul also chose to remind the Philippian church of the sacrificial humility of Epaphroditus; he certainly didn’t want it to appear that he had failed in his mission on behalf of the church to Paul; far from it! Paul told them to treat him as a hero, one who represented the church in this mission. This pleased Paul and warmed his heart.

We should always remember the sacrifices of police, fire and rescue, and our military, especially during the holidays. Always take the opportunity to thank them for their service. Likewise, thank those Christian servants who serve behind the scenes; they too are serving God, and sharing gratitude to them for their service to Him would be appreciated.

Something to think about.

Read Full Post »