Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Scripture Memorization Week Three {Philippians 4:8-9}

“Finally brothers and sisters, 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. 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”

So this is the last part of the little three part memorization on some of Philippians 4. I’m unfortunately already a week  two weeks behind. I have been all over the place lately, with some changes in my husband’s work schedule! Anyways, I’ve learned a lot from these six verses. I’m excited that I have picked them all apart and can now piece them all together in a way that make sense. I can see the bigger picture of what Paul really meant in part of his letter to his friends, the Philippians. And the best part about all of this is that it’s so applicable to our lives today.

If you look up several versions of these verses, you’ll see that from 4:2-9, these verses are under “Final Exhortations”. The definition for exhortation is “an address or communication emphatically urging someone to do something”. In my Bible it’s grouped together with Thanks and Conclusion. These are some of Paul’s final words in his letter to his friends in which he aims to “exhort” or urge them to understand fully what it means to live like he did, a life that is lived for God, and to communicate to them how immensely blessed they’ll be because of it.

Focusing on Truth

Paul says “Finally…”, meaning, this is the last thing I want you to hear “brothers and sisters”, mediate and think of all things true. It seems kind of odd that he starts out with the word “true”. If we’re thinking from worldly standards here, there is no objective meaning of the word truth. It’s based on what each individual person believes is truth. Plus, Paul follows up the word truth with other more pleasing adjectives: lovely, admirable, etc. So why not just say whatever is lovely, to think about those things? But here’s the thing, I think Paul starts out with truth, because as Christians, we only know one meaning of truth. How do we as Christians recognize the one truth that I’m talking about? We can recognize truth by knowing God’s word. That’s why I’m so excited to be on this journey because by knowing his word, all of my thoughts will first go through this filter that will be built up in my mind from knowing God’s Word.  The rest describes what the Bible says is truth: things that are noble, reputable, authentic, lovely, admirable- “anything excellent or praiseworthy”- think about such things. If anyone is in a place to give this advice, it’s Paul. Paul has been the ultimate example for these people of what it’s like to lead a life focusing on God’s truth. And that truth is one that he preached about and taught wherever he went. Preaching about a crucified Messiah, whosedeath on a cross served both to redeem us and to reveal the character of Godinto which we are continually being transformed”. By doing that, he was blessed immensely by Christ’s peace, that peace that transcends all understanding that I talked about in the last post.

An Exhort for Intentional Positive Thinking

In Proverbs 23:7, I love that Solomon wrote “as a man thinks in his heart so he is”. On a daily basis, I am a glass-half-empty kinda gal. I see the bad in people, situations, and myself. What I think in my heart, has made me what I am. Don’t get me wrong, I yearn to be a positive thinker, but I’m just a Negative Nancy. I am. But if I am to call myself a Christian, I can claim boldly that I understand truth, and by understanding truth, by God’s grace, can I be a glass-half-full gal. God’s grace allows me daily to be able to see the true, noble, reputable, lovely, and admirable things all around me, which will in turn free up so many opportunities for me.  Essentially, what I have concluded is that from Paul’s exhortation to his friends, he is encouraging them to daily intentional positive thinking: focusing on Biblical truth and the good things in our daily lives as Christians. It’s a call to focus our attention on things that are noble, things that are right, things that are pure, basically anything worthy of praise in the eyes of our Father. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says that we demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. The connection between verses 5-7 and 8-9 is clear: 6 and 7 are Paul’s advice on how to communicate with God, 8 and 9 are Paul’s pleas to communicate with ourselves in a way that is influenced by the Lord in order to receive his amazing peace.

The God of Peace Will Be with You

I like the message’s version of these two verses. I like them because of the end of verse 9, where it says this:
Do that, and God, whomakes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
Paul would know first hand what it is to experience having things work out into God’s most excellent harmonies. He says “do that”, do all these things that I told you, and that you learned from me and saw me do, and I promise you, God will work you into His most excellent harmonies, He’ll richly bless you, He will bring with Him His peace into your life. This is not the first time Paul wrote to the Philippians about this very thing: the God of peace will be with you. Verses 4:4-9 talk about how when we rejoice in Him for he is near {verse 4-5}, trust in His Sovereignty in our lives {6-7}, and changing our thinking {8-9}, He will do some amazing things in our life. I love this. Paul’s story is such a powerful testament to how shifting our thoughts to focusing on truth and embracing what is good in the eyes of the Lord, we will be blessed immensely. I love this quote by Ella Wheeler Wilcox:

'Tis the set of the sail that decides the goal, and not thestorm of life.

What a difference it will make in our lives if we choose to find the beauty in life and shift our thinking just a little to the truth that is the Word.

So what are your thoughts on verses 8-9? 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Scripture Memorization Week Two {Philippians 4:6-7}

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I have had a lot of changes in the past couple of months. I got married, I moved my son and I from the comforts of my parents’ home {probably to their delight} and moved to the city where I know only a couple of people, and have recently started sending my son twice a week to a Mother’s Day Out program {that he currently hates}.

I have so much anxiety it’s insane.

I can honestly say that anxiety has been the biggest thief of joy in my life presently. The anxiety I have as a mother is twofold to what it was before becoming a mother. I know you other mothers {and fathers} can relate. It’s about everything, y’all. It’s relentless. Am I spending enough time with him? Am I spending too much time with him? Am I teaching him enough about God? What will his relationship be like with his biological father? Will he hate me as a result of said relationship? Have I not talked to him enough? Why isn’t his speech where it “should” be? I don’t want to leave him because I might die. Who would take care of him? AHHHHH

I have trouble going to sleep at night. I tell everyone everything that is troubling me and giving me anxiety. It’s funny how I feel so comfortable complaining to people the things that worry me, when in reality, they can’t do anything about it

In summary: It is absolutely overwhelming relying on my own strengths & the advice of others and it not being enough. 

“The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith,and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.”
- George Mueller
I really love that quote, don’t you? I ought to put it on sticky notes to put all around the house. As soon as I let anxiety seep in, it means I’m not having faith that it’s being taken care of. I’m not trusting God. By relying on my own strengths, and the strengths of others, I’m not showing that I have faith in the Lord to take care of my needs. And honestly, I do give my worries to God most of the time when I smarten up and realize I can’t do it alone, but when it comes down to it, I just don’t have faith in His sovereignty. Anyone else have that problem?

Verse 6 says in every situation by prayer and petition present your requests to God. In some versions it says in supplication, meaning to humbly present yourself to God {signifying his Power}. I strongly believe that by making it a pattern to give every single anxious thought to the Lord, believing in his sovereignty to take it all away and handle it will We’re not just commanded to do this just to show the Lord we trust in Him, we do this because he cares for us. {1 Peter 5:7} I can present my worries to Him and tell him all day every day and He can fill that hole that anxiety has brought into my life because he loves and cares for me. God is on my side so I will have no fear, the people that once gave me anxiety will just be mere mortals {Psalm 118:6}. I am given freedom from all anxious thoughts, fears, and concerns.

Right after saying “with prayer and petition” I love how it doesn’t just go on from there.  I says with thanksgiving present your requests to God. This seems like classic Paul, right? As previously discussed {in last week’s post} the guy didn’t exactly have the best life at that moment. Nothing seemed to be going his way, to outsiders, but here he is telling us to give our worries to God, and to do so with thankful hearts. He had no anxiety, despite all of his misfortunes because he trusted in the Lord with a thankful attitude, and told the Philippians to do so as well. Perhaps we are asked to be thankful in our petitions and prayers to God in order to be reminded of the things that He has provided us with. Starting out our prayers to God with thankful hearts, listing off all God has done for us, might make our current anxieties seem pretty puny.

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus"

Talk about freedom! Verse 7 is my mantra on anxious days. If you have ever experienced the peace that only God can provide, the peace that transcends all understanding, then you know what I’m talking about when I say freedom. To put this into context I want to share what J. Oswald Sanders said:

"Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of God." 

God’s mere presence when called upon gives you a peace that transcends all understanding. It’s a joy that you can’t understand! It’s a joy and calming feeling that you don’t know how or why it should be there. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.{Psalm 94:19} YOU SIMPLY CANNOT UNDERSTAND IT. Meaning that it’s unfathomable how there could be trouble or anxiety, and at the same time, have a peace. I’m sitting her typing with a smile on my face, having experience that peace that God has given me that transcends all understanding. It’s such peace that it guards our hearts {which are susceptible to anxious feelings} and our minds {which are susceptible to anxious thoughts}. All this through Christ Jesus. I can’t tell you how powerful it is to experience that.

Just typing out is such a reminder to me that with the Lord, you and I can have peace. We do not have to be anxious because he loves us. He cares for us. He wants us to imagine a peace that transcends all understanding. We can cast our cares on Him.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. – 2 Timothy 1:7

Have you ever experienced the peace that only comes from the Lord?