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March_14

SHARING BREAD

21 Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send greetings. 22 All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.

23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

Phil 4:21-23 (NIV)

Paul begins and ends his letter “to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi” with grace. How appropriate. From Genesis to Revelation, God permeates His love letter to us with grace as well. It is impossible to doubt the sincerity of God’s love as His Son’s blood is stamped upon every gift of mercy He bestows. He is not stingy with His gifts of grace rather He continually sends forth “showers of blessings” upon His children. Lavish grace giving way to lavish grace. As believers, we can live confidently for Him because of the surpassing grace of the Lord Jesus Christ which ever accompanies us. Grace – such a wonder. The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible – New Testament Lexical Aids defines “Charis” – the Greek word translated “Grace” – in the following way:

“To rejoice; Grace, from its root, this word denotes that which causes joy, pleasure, that which creates delight in the recipient or observer. Hence, it is used with some latitude to mean gratification, thankfulness, gratitude or appreciation for a kindness granted or desired; a benefit, favor, or gift; acceptance, approval, generosity, open-heartedness, or magnanimity. It was used especially to describe favors done without expectation of return. In reference to God we might understand it as the absolutely free expression of His loving-kindness to men, finding its only motive in His bounty and benevolence as the Giver: His unearned and unmerited favor…. Strictly speaking, grace is the favorable disposition of God toward sinners on account of Christ.”

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians:

8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Cor 9:8 (NIV)

“It is well to be poor, when the knowledge of our poverty serves but to unfold to us the exhaustless riches of divine grace. That grace can never suffer any one to go away empty. It can never tell anyone that he is too poor. It can meet the very deepest human need; and not only so, but it is glorified in meeting it. This holds good in every case. It is true of every individual sinner…Grace is the grand and only resource for us all. It is the basis of our salvation; the basis of a life of practical godliness; and the basis of those imperishable hopes which animate us amid the trials and conflicts of this sin-stricken world. May we cherish a deeper sense of grace, and more ardent desire for glory! C H MacIntosh

“Storm the throne of grace and persevere therein, and mercy will come down.” John Wesley

Our world is hungry for the grace and reconciliation that God alone offers. A story is told of a father in Spain named Juan who was estranged from his son Paco. Desiring for reconciliation, the father places an ad in the Madrid paper which read: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon on Saturday. You are forgiven. I love you, Your Father.” Saturday eight hundred Pacos showed up seeking forgiveness and love from their fathers. Indeed, the world is hungry for the full and complete reconciliation that God offers. God’s grace brings contentment and peace to our souls. The presence of God is the only salve for our wounds. Christ is precious to His own. Humans desire the broken to be made whole, the soiled to again be made clean. As the prophet Isaiah states:

18 “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; 20 but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. Isaiah 1:18-20 (NIV)

“God hath in Himself all power to defend you, all wisdom to direct you, all mercy to pardon you, all grace to enrich you, all righteousness to clothe you, all goodness to supply you, and all happiness to crown you.” Thomas Brooks

Paul urges his readers not to receive God’s grace in vain. In the greatest act every done on mankind’s behalf:

21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Cor 5:21 (NIV)

Indeed, Paul states that God’s grace to him was not without effect – it was not empty, vain or useless in his life and neither should it be in ours as modern day believers in Jesus. God’s grace changes a life and it is to be evident for the world to see. We do not remain the same and this treasure we have received in our jars of clay is to be used for His glory and our ultimate good. This points the lost to Christ and the wayward back to Him. I read a story about Dr. Livingstone this morning – a missionary who plunged deep into the heart of Africa in the late 1800’s. His exploits were passionately followed by the world and his foray’s widely discussed. In the early 1870’s news from him went quite. The world held its breath in wonder at what had become of him. The New York Herald made a decision to send Henry Stanley to discover what had happened to the famed Livingston. Dead or alive they desired the story and spared no expense in procuring it. Interestingly, Livingstone was a loving grace filled follower of Jesus and Stanley an adventure seeking journalist and an infidel who viewed Christianity with considerable cynicism. Finally locating Livingstone near Lake Tanganyika Stanley uttered the now famous words: “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.” Stanley arrived just in time to aid the old missionary with medicine and supplies and news from home. Yet, Livingstone gave Stanley far more. Curious as to what would motivate and inspire a man to leave all; Stanley desired to dig further still. Through Livingstone’s grace filled life, little by little observing his piety, his gentleness, his passionate zeal and love for the Lord, Stanley was converted by him. Livingstone’s grace filled life was not without effect. Indeed, God’s all surpassing grace to us is not to be without effect either.

“God is able to recover this image through grace as we are conformed to Christ.” Alister McGrath

What I glean from this:

• God’s Word is permeated with grace.
• God’s grace is His unearned, unmerited favor toward me.
• Our world is hungry for the grace and reconciliation that God alone offers.

March_12

SHARING BREAD

18 I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

20 To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Phil 4:18-20 (NIV)

Paul begins our verses for today by expressing appreciation for the gifts received from the Philippian believers. To him, their kind offering supplied his needs yet to God, their generosity demonstrated much more – the fruit of grace flowing from their lives. The actions manifested in their bodies glorified God. This sacrifice on their part the Father commended and accepted as both well pleasing and fragrant in His sight. Believers are to develop Godly habits which express God’s glorious grace. This points others to Jesus. Paul encourages these sweet souls that God would also provide for them as they sought to follow Him in faithful obedience. Whatever needs they had, God would and could meet them, having both the desire and the power. I am reminded of the prophet Isaiah’s words:

18 Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! Isaiah 30:18 (NIV)

Paul also writes in Romans:

31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:31-32 (NIV)

God desires to provide for His faithful followers today as well. He meets our needs – not necessarily our wants – according to His perfect timing and inexhaustible riches. The psalmist declared:

11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. 12 O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you. Psalms 84:11-12 (NIV)

God loves to give to His children just as we love to give to ours. Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount:

11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matt 7:11 (NIV)

“God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.” Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Indeed, King David beautifully writes in Psalm 23:

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. Psalms 23:1 (NIV)

Admittedly, some of us need to have our “wanters” readjusted. We often wrongly mistake our wants for needs. Paul writes of God’s sufficiency regarding our needs in 2 Corinthians:

6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Cor 9:6-8 (NIV)

When we trust in the Lord, we will act as in the Philippian believer’s case. They believed God and responded in giving selflessly and sacrificially. God credited this to them as a righteous act, not a filthy rag. Trust is a prerequisite for receiving God’s richest blessings. We live what we believe. Ultimately, Christians can dispense only what they have received be it materially or spiritually and their good work is accomplished motivated by love of the Master and through the Holy Spirit’s enabling power.

“Ultimately the man who comes to obey God will love Him first…Let us therefore learn that the love of God is the beginning of religion, for God will not have the forced obedience of men, but wishes their service to be free and spontaneous…Lastly we learn that God does not linger over the outward sign of achievement but chiefly searches the inner disposition (motive), that from a good root good fruit may grow.” John Calvin

Interestingly, on the reverse side of the coin, anything merely done in the flesh motivated by pride or works and apart from the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling, prompting and producing, will be burned up – it is not eternal and does not redeem our time. Jesus tells us in John:

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” John 15:5-6 (NIV)

“God does not honor men and women and their deeds or their books or their organizations. The Father in heaven delights to honor His Son. It is only the Life of the Lord Jesus – His activity, clothed with you and displayed through you – that ultimately will find the approval of God.” Major Ian Thomas

What I glean from this:

• God longs to be gracious to me and rises to show me compassion.
• My actions are to be motivated by love for the Master.
• I can do nothing eternal apart from the Holy Spirit’s power.

March_10

SHARING BREAD

14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. 17 Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account.

Phil 4:14-17 (NIV)

The Apostle Paul never desired to be a burden on anyone. He sought neither praise nor help from men longing rather to encourage, comfort and urge others to live a life worthy of God. He writes in 2 Thessalonians:

6 We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, 7 but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. 8 We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. 9 Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 1 Thess 2:6-9 (NIV)

Yet, giving is a grace that is to be evident in every believer’s life. Paul writes in our verses for today his commendation to the Philippian Church for their gracious and selfless gifts of giving. Scripture encourages our generosity both for our good and the good of others. It is to be a mark of a true believer in Jesus. Our Lord states in Luke:

38 “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38 (NIV)

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

God is also well pleased when His children are generous and rightly so as He is the Giver of every good and perfect gift:

17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. James 1:17-18 (NIV)

“Being generous with your money is a personal quality of someone that the grace of God has gripped. Why? Because the essence of the Gospel of grace is generosity. Jesus Christ gave up the Greatest Treasure in the world. He gave away his treasure when he left the most affluent gated community in the universe, heaven and all its glory, became poor, so that we might become rich. He gave up Ultimate wealth—Himself, for you. ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’, he said and lived. He also said you cannot serve God and money, it’s impossible. You have to choose. Only by the power of the Gospel of grace can you begin to be generous”. Tom Wood

Indeed, God so loved the world that He gave. The very familiar John 3:16 readily comes to mind:

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NIV)

Believers are never more like our Maker and our Savior than when we are giving. Giving is not only about money but it is also about our time and our abilities, even our very selves. It is living a life worthy of God and God is pleased by it. Caring and giving are to reflect in the life of those who love the Lord Jesus.

“To sacrifice something is to make it holy by giving it away for love.” Frederick Buechner

“Jesus is the great teacher of lowliness of heart. Witness the Master taking a towel and washing His disciples’ feet! Isn’t it true to say that on earth He was always stripping off first one robe of honor and then another until, naked, He was fastened to the cross and emptied Himself, pouring out His lifeblood, giving it up for all of us, until they laid Him penniless in a borrowed grave?” C. H. Spurgeon

16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Heb 13:16 (NIV)

What I glean from this:

• Paul longed to encourage others to live a life worthy of the Lord Jesus.
• Giving is a grace that should be evident in every believer’s life.
• I cannot love without giving.

March_07

SHARING BREAD

10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Phil 4:10-13 (NIV)

In our verses for today Paul shows us that contentment is no natural propensity of man – it is a learned secret (ugh!). Being covetous, grumbling and griping are as natural to man as weeds are to the spring soil. We don’t need to work at producing them in our lives (go figure….all the things that come so easily for me!!!) I don’t need a tutor to teach me to complain, in fact, I could be the tutor! While the weeds of a complaining spirit grow rampantly if not diligently plucked out, the precious graces such as contentment must be carefully cultivated. If we desire pretty flowers in our garden we must give forth the care. Contentment is one of the grandest flowers in God’s garden obtained through the new nature alone. Even in our new nature however, we must be especially careful to maintain and cultivate this grace turning from discontentment as soon as it begins to rear its ugly head. Surely it cost Paul pain to attain the mystery of this great Truth and it will cost us as well. We can’t simply learn it from a book we must learn it through the practice of discipline in our experiences. It is in our choosing of gratitude over grumbling which waters the flower of contentment in our hearts.

“This is a special act of grace, to accommodate ourselves to every condition of life. To accommodate ourselves to an afflicted condition – to know how to be in need. To a prosperous condition – to know how to have plenty, how to be full, so as not to be proud, or self-confident. And this is as hard a lesson as the other; for the temptations of fullness and prosperity are not less than those of affliction and need.” Matthew Henry

God desires for His children to be satisfied with His portion for us. We can rest assured that it is the fittest for us – our crosses and burdens being best suited for our shoulders. Infinite and unerring wisdom has ordained our lots and has lovingly chosen the very best and safest for each of us. If there had been any better condition for us than the one in which we are in, divine love would have put us there. If we were left to choose our own lots we would indeed pierce ourselves with many sorrows – just ask Eve. Yet, the Lord orders all things for our good and His glory. God’s provision satisfied the apostle Paul who learned to remain content in all circumstances. Complaining is an affront to God and a rejection of His loving intent for us. Jeremiah tells us:

11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jer 29:11 (NIV)

King David writes:

5 Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare. Psalms 40:5 (NIV)

“A ship of large tonnage is to be brought up the river; now, in one part of the stream there is a sandbank; should some one ask, ‘Why does the captain steer through the deep part of the channel and deviate so much from a straight line?’ His answer would be, ‘Because I should not get my vessel into harbor at all if I did not keep to the deep channel.’ So, it may be, you would run aground and suffer shipwreck, if your divine Captain did not steer you into the depths of affliction where waves of trouble follow each other in quick succession. Some plants die if they have too much sunshine. It may be that you are planted where you get but little, you are put there by the loving Husbandman, because only in that situation will you bring forth fruit unto perfection. Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.” Charles H. Spurgeon

“The best way to show my gratitude to God is to accept everything, even my problems, with joy.” Mother Teresa

“Gratitude is not only a response to God in good times — it’s ultimately the very will of God in hard times. Gratitude isn’t only a celebration when good things happen. It’s a declaration that God is good no matter what happens.” Ann Voskamp

Lastly, Paul teaches us he can do everything through Jesus who gives him strength. Guess what? As believers, we can as well (believe it or not). We need only His strength to empower us to be content in any and every situation. It is not merely through human resolve or discipline – alone they will ultimately fail us – but by turning it over to Him day by day. It is by seeking His constant and renewed strength and Presence that we are enabled to be content in all circumstances. I am reminded of our Lord’s Words to Paul when the apostle prayed for the removal of his thorn:

8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor 12:8-10 (NIV)

What I glean from this:

• Contentment does not come naturally to me – it must be learned.
• God’s plan for me is good – to give me a hope and a future.
• I must rely on the power of the Spirit to be content in my weaknesses.

March_05

SHARING BREAD

9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Phil 4:9 (NIV)

In our verse for today Paul urges the Philippian believers to follow his consistent lead. He not only truthfully taught them, shared with them and gave of himself but they were also privileged to see the Truth fleshed out in him. He sought to walk as Jesus did and could therefore rightfully say: “Follow me”, as he faithfully followed in the steps of the Master:

1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 1 Cor 11:1 (NIV)

16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 1 Cor 4:16 (NIV)

“A holy life will produce the deepest impression. Lighthouses blow no horns; they only shine.” D. L. Moody

18 The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. Prov 4:18 (NIV)

“Already we have within us the life of heaven.” George Eldon Ladd

Sometimes we just need to see the Word with some skin on it, if you know what I mean. It is abundantly easy to find those who espouse Truth yet far more difficult to discover one who diligently seeks to model it with their lives. If you are fortunate enough to have such an example worthy of following in your spheres, by all means, follow. The world is woefully short of role models – men and women who are not perfect but who consistently desire to fully follow the Lord Jesus. Scripture tells us:

6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. 1 John 2:6 (NIV)

“We may think God wants actions of a certain kind, but God wants people of a certain kind.” C. S. Lewis

Contrast to those who foolishly follow the unwise. The influence of good and bad associations is a common theme in the Book of Proverbs:

20 He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. Prov 13:20 (NIV)

Paul desired for the Philippian believer’s faith to be fruitful not useless, empty and ineffective. He modeled this faith commending it to them for their good and God’s glory never wanting anyone to stumble by his example. Obedience will always lead to peace and Paul was fully aware of this. It also gives a great force to our words when what we say matches what the hearers see fleshed out in our lives. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians his way of life which earned his right to set him forth as a role model:

3 We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. 4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8 through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. 2 Cor 6:3-10 (NIV)

Great peace is the result for those who love God’s law and walk in His ways. Our mere exposure to God’s Word is not enough; it must lead to obedience which ultimately leads to peace. Scripture tells us:

65 Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. Psalms 119:165 (NIV)

3 You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27 (NIV)

“Cheered by the presence of God, I will do at each moment, without anxiety, according to the strength which He shall give me, the work that His Providence assigns me. I will leave the rest without concern; it is not my affair. I ought to consider the duty to which I am called each day, as the work that God has given me to do, and to apply myself to it in a manner worthy of His glory, that is to say, in exactness and peace.” Fenelon

“All the commandments of God are commandments of love tending to our real good and great happiness; far from being grievous to those who have faith and love, the practice thereof is life and peace. The world may think it a grievous burden; but this is a great mistake indeed. Sin is grievous. In hatred, envy, anger, revenge, pride, there is nothing but torment and slavery; but in love there is a sweet rest and pleasure. Thus a sinner always punishes himself, and is robbed of great peace and blessing, by transgressing the commandments of God.” K. H. Von Bogatzky

What I glean from this:

• A holy life produces the deepest impression.
• It is foolish to walk with the unwise.
• Peace flows from obedience to God’s ways.

March_03

SHARING BREAD

8 Finally, brothers, 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.

Phil 4:8 (NIV)

In our verse for today Paul mentions several items which are to serve as sieves or filters for our thoughts as well as for our words. What we put into our mind – what we continually dwell on – will come out in our actions and words. This list of attributes is given for our benefit, equipping us to have both a wholesome thought life and a wholesome word life. To “think” means “to put together with one’s mind, to count; to occupy oneself with reckonings or calculations; to reason”. (Hebrew Greek Key Word Study Bible – New Testament Lexical Aids.) We are to dwell on things above or as Paul states here, the excellent and praiseworthy. All of our thinking is to be put into the context of God’s standards.

“Whatever happens, abide steadfast in a determination to cling simply to God……Maintain a holy simplicity of mind, and do not smother yourself with a host of cares, wishes, or longings, under any pretext.” St. Francis de Sales

God places a high priority on our thoughts and our words as “whatsoever a man thinketh in his heart, so is he”. Our mental wanderings often reflect our highest priorities as well as our deepest worries and our words will reflect what is stored in our hearts. Out of the overflow of a man’s heart his mouth speaks. God is keenly aware of our innermost thoughts and motives – even those that we perhaps are able to mask from others. Scripture tells us the Lord searches and examines our hearts and minds. The motives behind our actions being very important to Him:

10 “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” Jer 17:10 (NIV)

“You might not be what you think you are, but what you think, you are.” Anonymous

Jesus also tells us the greatest commandment is to love the Lord God with all our heart, soul and mind. If this be the greatest command, it stands to reason that our thoughts should be as He instructs:

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.” Matt 22:36-38 (NIV)

“All love…casts the mind into the mold of the thing beloved.” John Owen

Proverbs also tells us:

29 A wicked man puts up a bold front, but an upright man gives thought to his ways. Prov 21:29 (NIV)

23 He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity. Prov 21:23 (NIV)

“Sanctification is the mind coming more and more under the Holy Spirit’s control.” David Jackman

We are to watch the input – what goes into our minds – what we place before our eyes, what we listen to with our ears, we can often control. This greatly affects our thinking. How frequently we allow our world to control our thoughts and desires getting us nowhere fast. And God says to us – “Dwell on Me”, “Think about things above not on earthly things”, Dwell on whatever is sincere and authentic; whatever is awe-inspiring and attractive; whatever is just and upright; whatever is uncontaminated, virtuous and innocent; whatever is pleasing and beautiful; whatever is appealing and wooing; whatever is outstanding in moral goodness and excellence of character – highly esteemed by others; and whatever is commendable. This is possible through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit for every believer in Jesus.

2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 2 Cor 4:2 (NIV)

“Belief is truth held in the mind; faith is fire in the heart.” John Henry Newman

“A Christian, being only a traveler through the world, must expect a traveller’s fare; bad roads sometimes, bad weather, and bad accommodations; but since his journey’s end and city are in heaven, all his actions, sufferings, prayers, trade, and conversation turn that way. O Lord, grant that mine eyes may always be fixed upon this mark, so as to regulate all my designs and doings accordingly; asking myself in everything, whether it be fit for heaven, and agreeable to the mind of the heavenly Bridegroom, and to the manners of the heavenly citizens.” K. H. Von Bogatzky

What I glean from this:

• I am to dwell on things above not earthly things.
• What I allow my mind to think on affects my actions and words.
• I am to give thought to my ways and to guard my mouth.

February_28

SHARING BREAD

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Phil 4:6-7 (NIV)

In our verses for today, Paul warns believers against yielding to disturbing and perplexing worries and anxieties over our needs and difficulties this life continually presents. He issues the great antidote to worry – prayer permeated with petitions and thanksgiving. This keeps our minds steadfastly focused – in perfect peace – trusting and leaning upon the One who has control over all circumstances. Isaiah states:

3 You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

Those who trust in the Lord enjoy a complete and genuine peace – not the paste gem variety which the world offers. This inner tranquility encourages believers to continue to trust in the Lord – even through trying circumstances – whereas worry robs us of peace and leaves us anxious, fearful and distraught. The more we focus on the problem or on the crisis the greater and all-consuming the issue becomes. The magnifying effect it has on our attentions cannot be overstated – the problems often seeming much larger than reality – particularly when we are facing them in our own weak strength. We begin to sink in the mire and the deep pits of our troubles and despair or fall into a sinful spiral in choosing the wrong paths. Jesus speaks towards the fruitlessness of worry in the Sermon on the Mount:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Matt 6:25-30 (NIV)

Worry is a form of atheism, for it betrays a lack of faith and trust in God.” Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

At the very essence of our anxious thoughts is wrongly imagining that we are wiser than God and we thrust ourselves in His place reckoning to do for Him which He has undertaken to do for us. It is great presumption in intruding upon His providence and it is sinful. We work as unto the Lord and calmly leave our affairs in His hands. He is in charge of the results of our labors. It’s as if we believe we are ultimately responsible for the outcome or we are fearful that God won’t give us the results we desire. It is a lack of trust in the fact that God always has our best interest at heart and if we receive a “No” in our petitions it is for a far greater “Yes”.

18 Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! Isaiah 30:18 (NIV)

“All worry is a desperate wanting of my own way.” Ann Voskamp

Our focus in times when we are tempted to wring our hands over all the worries of this fallen world is to have a dramatic shift of focus – our eyes and hearts need to be off the problem and on the Provider. We are to turn our full attention and trust to the all-sufficient One in prayer and in gratitude. His hand is not too short to save and He is ever compassionate and willing to be our great defender still. It is not only important for us to seek His limitless supplies of good but to recall His past mercies as well – acknowledging them in constant thanksgiving.

18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess 5:18 (NIV)

“Cultivating a grateful heart is not just an add-on nicety, a civil tip of the hat to God as we steamroll through our day. A posture of purposeful, perpetual thanks to God is absolutely central to Christian character. It gives glory to Him. It is the key defense against Satan’s temptations to despair, distrust, dysfunction. It protects us from sin and self. It is the hallmark of heaven. It does not exist in hell.” Ellen Vaughn

The effect of gratitude brings true peace to our hearts. This is no ordinary tranquility rather a peace which passes all human understanding that garrisons our hearts and minds. Jesus tells us in John:

27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 (NIV)

What I glean from this:

• I am not to be anxious or worried about anything.
• I am to pray about everything.
• I am to cultivate a grateful heart – it is not something that flows naturally.

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