Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Studying Philippians, Final Day

Philippians 4:14-23

"Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 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; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. 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. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To Our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (4:14-20)  There is no doubt in my mind that the people in the church of Philipi had servant hearts. They saw the Paul's need and met it. No questions asked. No fame. No glory. They were serving from a grateful and concerned heart for Paul. What is amazing to me is they gave, "again and again." We hear in church, "...a one time gift offering." It's easier for us to give once and forget. To be asked to give again and again would require too much time, effort and money, but not for the Philippians. They gave and gave. They didn't forget that Paul was in need. And what's amazing is that they didn't expect anything back. Paul sees their heart and blesses them, " And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To Our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (4:20)  When we give, when we hear God leading us to give, we will be blessed.

Final Greetings
"Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send greetings. All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar's household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen." (4:22-23) 

I've learned so much and been reminded of much since reading the Book of Philippians. My take-away is: Be a SERVANT, 'Do everything without complaining or arguing,' Think on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable and praisewotthy, Be CONTENT. Rejoice always and remember, "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

Today's Prayer:
Father, thank you for your Word. Thank you that you have preserved it all these years for me to read and know you. Thank you for all the lessons I have learned. Help me to never forget them. Keep working in my heart and make me more like you. I love you, Lord Jesus. Amen. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Studying Philippians Day 15

Philippians 4: 10-13

Thanks for the Gifts

"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. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." (4:10-11) My Bible commentary explains the first part of the verse saying that the Philippians had concern, but that perhaps there was no messenger to send their gifts. But while Paul was waiting in the jail, day after day, possibly week after week, for something to come in the mail from the Philippians he didn't learn to be frustrated, angry, bitter, or have horrible thoughts about them, no, he, "...learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Paul completely astounds me. Life couldn't be any worse for Paul- he's in jail! But on top of that he wasn't receiving any care packages from those he gave his time and love to. Instead of being angry and bitter towards them he allowed God to teach him contentment. When I read passages like this I realize what an infant I am in Christ. I get inpatient so easily and when I feel 'forgotten,' like Paul, I go into self-pity, not contentment. I'm truly pathetic. If I would only trust the Lord for the outcome and surrender my thoughts to be true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable I would find contentment and peace.

"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. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (4:12-13) He's amazing. I too know what it is to be in need... I was homeless when I was twenty-one years old. I had nothing and no one. My family had disowned me. I also know what it is to have plenty...I have a beautiful home and all the food I could ask for. I have clothes on my back and a warm bed to sleep in every night. On top of that, I now have a family. I have not suffered as Paul has suffered, but I know the extremes of want and plenty and yet I have not learned contentment. Paul wrote, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation..." (4:12) Okay, the challenge for today (and for life) is being content in any and every situation. If we believe that God is in control, that God knows us when we sit and when we stand, that He cares for us and wants the best for us, than why can't be we content even when things go wrong? Won't He care for us? Won't He have a plan to set us free? Do we only trust Him when things are going well? Where is our faith when things take a turn for the worse? We, I, must learn to be content because I know my God.

"I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (4:13) I don't think I ever connected this verse with the previous verses with contentment. I always read it alone. The difference is that I would think of big things like parenting, homeschooling my children, leading a VBS, being a speaker, author as, "I can do everything..." I never thought about the heart issues, like contentment as being able to do 'everything.' The things of the heart is what the Lord sees. I can do everything through Christ, like forgive all those who have hurt me, have patience with those who don't do things the way I'd like, love the unlovable, be content. I claim it now in Jesus' name that I can do EVERYTHING, big and small, heart issue or worldly, through Christ who gives me strength.

Today's Prayer:

Jesus, I must be one of your silly children. You must look at me and say, "When will Ellie trust me in any and all circumstances?" Forgive me, Lord. You have carried me through a life time of hardships. I do know you. I do know that you love me and want the best for me. I do know that you are gentle and kind, and full of blessings. Help me today, and always, to be content no matter what comes my way because you are my peace. I love you with all my heart and want to grow into contentment. In Jesus' Name. Amen. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

Studying Philippians Day 14

Philippians 4: 8-9

"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. (4:8) Let me start with sharing what the Bible commentary says- it's spot on, "Paul understood the influence of one's thoughts on one's life. What people occupy their minds will sooner or later determine their speech and action." It's so true, isn't it? If we think about how miserable life is or how much we hate our jobs, doesn't that effect our motivation and desire to fight to make things better or do our jobs with joy?

In Paul's list on what to think about I love that he put, 'whatever is true' first. So many times I find myself with vain imaginings. I start thinking about the 'what if's?' scenarios and honestly, my 'what if's' thoughts are usually horrible thoughts! I'll think, 'What if she tells me she hates me?' or 'What if they won't help me if I need help' and stuff like that. I'm not thinking on what's true, I'm allowing my fears to rule my thoughts. I allow my insecurities to take over. It's so easy to follow any train of thought or emotion down a rabbit trail. Often I get a thought telling me that I'm a horrible mom and many times after I've had the thought I sit with it and eventually convince myself that I am! I know the enemy is constantly trying to trick me or lie to me to keep me from all the joy and peace that God has for me, but there are times I totally fall for his lies. I need to do better at identifying the lie, shut it down and think on what is true. I need to fight for the truth to reign in my thoughts. Paul is basically saying that what we think about is a choice we make- so think on what's true.

After encouraging us to think on what is true there is more! We should also think on what is:
noble, (possessing outstanding qualities)
right, (being in accordance with what is just, good, or proper) 
pure, (unmixed with any other matter) 
lovely, (delightful for beauty, harmony, or grace) 
admirable, (deserving the highest esteem) 
excellent  (very good of its kind eminently good) and
praiseworthy (worthy of praise).

If I am to be completely honest here, I'd have to say that I have a tendency to think about and talk about all the things that went wrong in my day. Is it attention getting? Is it more exciting?  Is it gossip? I don't know why exactly, but I do know that I'm too old for this nonsense to still be going on in my brain and it needs to stop. To fill my head and my day thinking on all that is lovely would actually be wonderful, instead of all the worry and anxiety that fills it right now.

So, why does Paul encourage us to think on all these magnificent things? Because, "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put into practice. AND THE GOD OF PEACE WILL BE WITH YOU." Yes! I want the God of peace to be with me. All my thoughts are anxious thoughts- 'how will this turn out?' 'Will we have enough money?' 'Are my kids making right choices?' 'How am I ever going to loose this weight!?' If I think on what is true and noble and right and pure and lovely, and admirable and excellent and praiseworthy, I'm essentially thinking God thoughts and then He, the God of peace, will be with me. We have to choose: do we want anxiety or peace? I choose peace. It's a choice. With each day I will surrender my thoughts to God and ask Him how to turn my thoughts to what is true.

Today's Prayer:
Jesus, I know, and you know how my thoughts can rule my day or a moment of my day. Once I believe the lie I fall fast into negativity, stress and anxiety. Forgive me Lord. Help me to capture my thoughts, the lies and see the truth. Help me to fight against the lies that come into my head. I want to think on what is true, right, noble, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy so I may know your peace. Help me to make right choices with my thought life. I love you. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Studying Philippians Day 13

Philippians 4:1-7

"Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!" (4:1) When Paul wrote, 'that is how you should stand firm in the Lord" he was referring to Philippians 3:20-21. "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies to that they will be like his glorious body." He is reminding them and us to keep our minds on heavenly things. It's crazy to me how I can start my day reading the Word of God, have heavenly thoughts, be encouraged and on fire for God, but slowly as the day wears on and the slightest bad news comes to me, my eyes are taken off the Lord and onto this earth. It happens so easily and so quickly. Paul is urging us, and reminding us to stay focused on God and His Word. I need this reminder every day.

"I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life." (4;2-3) My Bible commentary explains this well. "The disagreement between Euodia and Syntyche is serious enough to be mentioned in a letter to be read publicly, but Paul seems confident that 'these women' will be reconciled. His handling of the situation is a model of tact- he does not take sides but encourages others closer to the situation to promote reconciliation."

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (4:4) Just a reminder: Paul is writing this while in jail. If he can rejoice in the Lord in jail, than I think I need to rejoice every minute of every day no matter what happens to me. I can't imagine rejoicing while in jail, but if Paul can do it, then I certainly can do it! "Rejoice!" It's a choice.

"Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (4:5-7)  I can read this verse over and over again. "Do not be anxious about anything" Why? because, "in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God," then what happens??? "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Perfect! When we pray and give God all of our anxiety we need to trust who He is- God, and receive His peace that is like nothing here on earth. Sadly, I am like a yo-yo. There are times when I'm up, praying, believing, rejoicing and at peace with the anxiety in my life and other times I am low, sad, worried, and over-eating in my anxiety! I've been praying for a long time now to be steady, and at peace when anxiety comes. I am believing that one day I will be. It's ridiculous how easy I fall into worry.

Today's Prayer:
Lord, thank you for your Word. Thank you for your truth that sets me free. Forgive me for not keeping my eyes on you each and every day. Forgive me for allowing my worry to be bigger than you. Forgive me for over-eating- eating my emotions. Help me Lord to rejoice in all things, all the time. When my eyes are on you, I have many reasons to rejoice! I love you, my Lord and Savior. In Jesus' Name. Amen. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Studying Philippians Day 12

Philippians 3:15-21

"All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained." (3:15-16) In the previous verses Paul was encouraging the Philippians and us to, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize, for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (3:13-14) There are some who are on board with Paul, they agree and accept his words, and some who are not, but Paul is confident that, 'God will make it clear to you.' I love that Paul isn't worried. I find I get anxious the moment I realize that those I am closest to do not agree with me Biblically. I'll restate my thoughts trying to make things clearer. I'll argue until I've made my point clear and hopefully won them over. It's so hard for me, when I see the freedom in Christ and someone else does not. I can't let it go easily. But Paul was confident that the Lord will reveal His wisdom and freedom to the people and was able to let it go. He was at peace knowing that they all would get it.

"Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." Paul calls us to follow his example of following Christ- a life of serving others. First of all, I wish I could say to anyone, even my children, "follow my example." That is an amazing statement to make. I am not living a life that I would want anyone to follow! I'm trying, but not walking in a way that others should follow =(  One day, I hope! So, Paul is really a changed man and following Christ as He should. Lord, make me a leader. 

"...many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things." I know this statement is true. My own family members live their lives as enemies of the cross of Christ. Last year my mentally disabled brother was diagnosed with cancer. My parents and sisters chose to let him die rather than heeding the doctors advice of proton therapy and life for five more years or even more. My other brother and I fought and fought them, but they would not listen. Their, 'mind was on earthly things.' They didn't want to deal with my brothers fears of radiation, his sickness, his weakness. They only thought and only cared about themselves. Their selfishness was unbearable to watch. They wanted his death and so within one year he died. My family has lived a life of selfishness and destruction, but they are not the only ones. I feel like every few years I bump into a 'Christian' who claims they love the Lord and yet their love of money, and success, or even fame, over take their walk and lead others to destruction. I can see why many Christians walk away from the church. You think you are safe until you meet someone like who Paul describes. But Paul doesn't leave us with this thought, he goes on to say, "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." (3:20-21) Even though there are, what I call 'crazy Christians' out there, stay focused on the truth of Christ who 'brings everything under his control.' Be at peace, God is in control.

Today's Prayer:
Father, I desire to be a mature Christian. I desire to be your servant with a pure servant's heart. I desire to say, 'follow me as I follow Christ.' Make me more like you. Lord, too many times I have feared those who are 'enemies of the cross.' Help me to forgive them and trust that you are in control. Help me to follow you all the days of my life no matter what evil comes across my path. I love you with all my heart. In Jesus' name, Amen. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Studying Philippians Day 11

Philippians 3:12-16

Pressing on Toward the Goal

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." (3:12) When Paul writes, "Not hat I have already obtained all this..." he is referring to the words he wrote in the previous verses, "...that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ- the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." (Philippians 3:9) I love that Paul is not perfect and admits it. He seems perfect, but he had not been made perfect, and none of us will be, until we are in heaven. But that doesn't stop Paul, "I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold me." The commentary puts it very simply, "Paul's goal is Christ's goal for him, and Christ supplies the resources for him to "press on toward the goal."

 "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (3:12-16) I do not believe that Paul somehow had forgotten his past and how he persecuted Christians before his own salvation, but that he did not dwell on his past sins. "Not losing all memory of his sinful past but leaving it behind him as done with and settled." (Bible Commentary) Our sin is covered by the blood of Jesus. Jesus Himself said on the cross, "It is finished." (John 19:30) Our sin no longer has a hold on us under the blood. We are free. We are a new creation. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17) It is Satan that wants to remind us of our sin and hold us back, not Jesus. Jesus wants us free and able to walk in His glorious plan for our lives.

I remember when I was twenty-four years old I met a wonderful man, but knew that I had so much past baggage that I feared that I would never marry him. What past baggage? I was raised in an abusive home and at the age of twenty-one my family followed cult leaders in their instruction to murder me. I was beaten for hours, rejected, thrown out and became homeless.  (My testimony is in my blog). Yes, I had A LOT of emotional baggage and I knew it. How could I ever be whole enough to be a good wife or mother? Why would anyone want to marry me? But in my heart I wanted to be married. I wanted children. So, through my tears I cried out to God and prayed, 'Lord, I know I am a mess, but I want to be married. I promise that I will follow you all my days and seek healing, but please do not withhold my husband from me until I am made perfect.' I was so afraid that God would say that I would have to go through years and years of counseling before sending me my husband. I am happy to report that our God doesn't see the junk and sin in us, He sees His Son's finished work in us and pours down the blessings. I was married to my hubby less than two years later and we have six beautiful children. Am I perfect now? Have I overcome all that nonsense and pain from my past- most of it. God used the Word of God, journaling and when I hit a road block I sought out a Spirit-filled, Christian psychologist, but my focus has been not the healing, my focus is JESUS. I don't search out inner healing, I search Jesus, to know Him. To know His love and as He calls me to remember something and forgive it, I do. "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (3:13-14)

Today's Prayer:
Thank you Jesus that you never ask us to be perfect. Thank you that when we believe in your death and resurrection that your blood covers our sin. Thank you that you see us as new creations, set free from our past, and as your beautiful children. Thank you that we can trust you to lead us into healing and you will heal us. Thank you that I do not need to be afraid of my past, and it's strongholds. You have won the battle for me. In Jesus' Name, Amen. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Studying Philippians Chapter 3

Philippians 3: 1- 11

"Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you." (3:1)  Paul is reminding us to 'rejoice in the Lord' when he himself is in jail! And James writes in the Book of James, "Consider it pure joy my brothers when you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." (James 1:2)  How? How do we rejoice when things are not going well? We don't rejoice in the situation, or the trial, but in the Lord. We rejoice in who God is. We rejoice that our God is the God of the universe! We rejoice because our God holds us in the palm of His hands! We rejoice for we know that God is in control. We rejoice because we know that He is the Good Shepherd. We rejoice because He loves us and wants the best for us. We rejoice because we can rest in His plan for our lives. Paul has told them this before, but he says it's a 'safeguard for you.' It's something we always need to hear repeated.

"Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh-though I myself have reasons for such confidence." (3:2-4) Paul is talking about those who are preaching Christ, but have misunderstood the reason for circumcision. They are false teachers and have turned circumcision into nothing more than 'cutting the body.' These teachers were boasting about their 'works,' their circumcision- Paul is clearly upset with this false teaching because they are not teaching the truth of the Gospel of Christ.

"If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrew; in regard to the law, a pharisee, as for zeal persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless." (3:5-6) Paul looks at what these men are boasting about as far as their 'works,' but Paul shows them that if anyone has a 'right' to boast it is him who has accomplished so much for God in his own strength. Paul has done it all. He was "faultless," - you can't do any better than that! and yet, Paul writes in the very next verse, "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose same I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings , becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." (3:7-11) Paul is nullifying the need for works to win God's love. I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church where, for me, works was the only way to win God's love and approval. I worked so hard at being good, but failed time and time again. When I was in high school I decided to walk away from the church because I knew I couldn't please God. I could never be good enough. I knew I couldn't be perfect all the time. It was too hard. If I had read this Scripture, what freedom I would have known! It is not by works. It is not my righteousness. It is, "...knowing Christ Jesus my Lord...through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God is by faith." Paul is declaring our freedom from works! He is setting us free from the bondage of 'being good' in our own strength! There is freedom in Jesus Christ! Rest from your striving, and know Jesus.

Today's Prayer:

Father, forgive me for trying to win your approval. Forgive me for striving and working in my own strength to be good and do everything right. I lay down my 'works' and surrender my striving to you. Help me to rest in the fact that you have done in all, you have died on the cross for my sins and my righteousness comes through faith. Thank you for the freedom of trying to please you. Thank you that I am accepted as I am. Thank you that you love me and you call me your own. Thank you that I can rests in your love for me. Thank you that I can also rejoice in all things knowing you are in control. I love you and give my life to you! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Studying Philippians Day 9

Philippians 2: 19-30

"I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest n your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I  am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon." (2:19-24)  This part of Scriptures reminds me that this was an actual letter to the people of Philipi. Paul was actually in jail writing to the those he loved. It always makes me pause when I read this part of the book of Philippians because up until this point it was profound, and convicting Scripture and it still is, but it was also an actual letter to actual friends. The take away for me is: 1. Paul's close relationship with Timothy, " a son with his father." These two served together and loved each other like family. 2. Timothy is young and yet he, "...has proved himself..." in that there is, "... no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare." Timothy was dedicated to the spreading of the Gospel and being a servant as was Paul. 3. Paul is real. He sees and knows that not everyone does the work of Christ with the right motive or heart. "For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ." He doesn't wear rose-colored glasses. He sees things as they really are and yet can love and serve as Christ. I, on the other hand, sadly, can see the selfishness in someone and then have a hard time loving and serving them. 4. Paul is really in jail while writing this letter and he's not loving it. He might be content, but wants to be set free and go about doing what he was doing before the arrest- which was sharing the Gospel and seeing his friends. Paul was a real guy with real human emotions. He didn't want to be in jail forever and was hoping and praying for his own release.

"But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill and almost died. But God has mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me." Again, Paul is writing the Philippians not just to encourage them or teach them something, but to communicate about their mutual friends. Here, Paul talks about Epaphroditus. He was: 1. Paul's 'brother', 2. fellow worker, 3. fellow soldier 4. messenger 5. nurse ('took care of my needs') 6. almost a martyr. The Philippians sent Epaphroditus to be a help to Paul. I love that they cared enough for Paul to send someone to care for him and stay with him during his imprisonment.

I know Paul spoke about Epaphroditus’ illness and near death and that may mean nothing to us, but I love that Paul wrote, “But God has mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.” God was not only merciful to heal his dear friend for his friends sake, but merciful to Paul to spare him, "sorrow upon sorrow." Paul was really suffering in jail and suffered watching his friend so sick. In his sorrow he wrote about God's goodness. He wrote about joy! He knew and did not forget how good God is in his own trail.

Today's Prayer:
Father, help me to serve you with joy no matter what my circumstance. Help me love others as you love them. I love you and say, "Yes!" to all you have for me today. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Studying Philippians Day 8

Philippians 2:12-18

"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed - not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." (2:12-13) Just a few verses earlier, Paul tell us that Jesus was 'obedient unto death-even death on a cross' (Philippians 2:8) Now, he is not only encouraging them for their obedience but reminding them of their obedience which they will need to use 'work out their salvation.' The commentary says it perfectly, "Work it out to the finish; not a reference to the attempt to earn one's salvation by works, but to the expression of one's salvation in spiritual growth and development. Salvation is not merely a gift received once for all; it expresses itself in an ongoing process in which the believer is strenuously involved. the process of perseverance, humble service, spiritual growth and maturation." To work out your salvation isn't to earn or work for it in any way, it is so complete what God has begun.
I have changed so much since I prayed the prayer of salvation thirty-two years ago. In desiring to be more like Christ I have been committed to reading the Word or Bible to know more of who He is and in doing so, I have been changed. I have grown in my trust and faith and have overcome many fears. One of my fears is change. It's easier for me and safer for me to do everything the same way so that no feathers are ruffled and life is predictable, but God has called me time and time again to accept change and trust Him. The most comforting part of these verses is, "...for it is GOD who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." (2:13) I have found God to be incredibly gentle in His 'working in me.' I remember one day God brought up a hurtful situation for me to deal with and as I remembered it, all I could do was cry. I cried that it took me, in my faith, five years to face the situation, surrender it and forgive it. I thought, 'Wow, had I been more mature in my faith God could have worked in my heart forgiveness years ago!' Then I cried because of His kindness, gentleness and patience. He knew five years earlier it would have been too hard to face it all.

"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like the stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life- in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing." (2:14-16)  'Do everything without complaining or arguing.' Wow! Is that even possible?!? I feel like I complain A lot! But here is a good reason not to: "Being discontented with God's will is an expression of unbelief that prevents one from doing what pleases God." (Bible Commentary) God has called me to be a stay-at-home mom and with that calling there is great potential for being frustrated and complaining, but being convicted by this verse I can see how complaining and being 'discontented' go hand-in-hand with unbelief and 'prevents me to please God.' Lord, forgive me for not being content with cleaning up after my kids, frustrated with laundry, and even all the work required to menu plan and cook. Please give me a servant's heart to serve my family with joy. Amen.
I love the encouraging words of Paul when he says, " which you shine like the stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life-" My prayer it day with the kids is that we are light to those around us, but how can we be a light if we are faithless? Lord, I want to be a light of joy and peace to those around me. Help me to trust you more and love as you love.

"But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me." (2:17-18) Paul is in jail, which may end in martyrdom, as he writes this letter to the Philippians. He has sacrificed his life to spread the Gospel and to share it with the Philippians, but he tells them to rejoice for the salvation of their souls has been one! He is rejoices and is content that it was worth jail time to see them saved and to see the Word of God moving out to the nations.

Today's Prayer:
Lord, every day since I have started reading the book of Philippians I have been convicted to have your heart of a servant. But to be a servant is to surrender and trust you more. Lord, work in my heart a greater faith and a servant's heart. I love you, Lord, and want to be just like you! In Jesus' name, Amen. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Studying Philippians Day 7

Philippians 2: 5-11
"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the very nature God,
did not consider equality with
God something to be 
but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a 
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a 
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death-
even death on a cross!
Therefor God exalted him to the 
highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee
should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under
the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus
Christ is Lord, 
to the glory of God the Father."

This for me is among the most powerful and holy Scriptures in the Bible. I have not much to say about it because Paul wrote it out so clearly.

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:" (2:5) I love the way my Bible commentary explains this verse: "Your attitude...the same as...Christ. In spite of all that is unique and radically different about the person and work of Christ, Christians are to have his attitude of self-sacrificing humility and love for others." I talk several times a week about 'attitude.' It sounds something like this: "Watch your attitude!" "Apologize for your attitude." "Didn't you hear your own attitude when you said that?!?" Yep, I know a lot about 'attitude.' My isn't much better. I'm pretty sure my children have learned much of their 'attitude' from watching mine. I know well what an attitude shouldn't be: negative, sassy, rude, resentful, etc. But a Godly attitude is submitting to Christ in surrender and ready to be a servant.  Christians are called to have a servant's heart, the lowest form of servant's heart, 'sacrificing humility and love for others.' I know I still have a long way to go to be all that I'm called to be. I have been convicted by these verses every time I read them.

"Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross!" (2:6-8) "Who, being in the very nature God," (2:6) My commentary points out, "Affirming that Jesus is fully God." Jesus, who is God, made himself nothing by: 1. became a servant, 2. made human, 3. humbled Himself and 4. "became obedient to death- even death on a cross!" The commentary says,"He did this, not by giving up deity, but by laying aside his glory and submitting to the humiliation of becoming human. Another view is that he emptied himself, not of deity itself, but of its prerogatives- his position and glory of deity. Emphasizes the full reality of his servant identity. As a servant, he was always submissive to the will of the Father...How Jesus humbled himself.  'servant' obeys. to death. Stresses both the totality and the climax of Jesus' obedience. on a cross. Heightens Jesus' humiliation; he died as someone cursed. Crucifixion was the most degrading kind of execution that could be inflicted on a person."

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." The commentary also states, "God's design is that all people everywhere should worship and serve Jesus as Lord. Ultimately all will acknowledge him as Lord, whether willingly or not." That may be hard to read for some, as we try to be so 'open minded' and liberal these days, but the fact remains and it is here to remind us hat there is only one God, one Lord and His name is Jesus Christ.

Today's Prayer:
Thank you Jesus for all you have sacrificed for me. Thank you that you loved me so much that you left heaven, became human-a servant, and died on the cross. Thank you for the forgiveness of my sins and the gift of eternal life. I give you my life. Form me as clay in your hands to be all you want me to be. I love you. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Studying Philippians Day 6 : Chapter 2

Philippians 2: 1-4

Imitating Christ's Humility
"Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and and purpose. (2:1-2) In knowing Christ, Paul lists four things that every Christian should experience from being in relationship with Jesus: 1. encouragement, 2. comfort from His love, 3. friendship with Holy Spirit, and 4. tenderness and compassion. It's true. I have experienced all four of the things Paul mentioned since I've known Jesus. Jesus is always encouraging me, comforting me, speaking to me and always, always tender and compassionate with me. Okay, so yes, Paul, I have received those amazing gifts from Jesus. Now what? Wait, what? " like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose."??? Is he serious? Are Christians suppose to do that??!!! Yes, I'm being facetious, I'm sorry. But honestly, are we like-minded in the church? I don't even mean the church as a whole, I mean like-minded within our own personal church that we attend on Sunday. Let's see, in the churches I've attended I've heard critical words like, "There's no one here prettier than me." (And yes, that was said to me- I guess she thought I was uglier than her! lol!) I've been told, "You're too perfect." "Gosh, Ellen, why do you always dress your kids in matching outfits." (Not spoken as a question, but in a demeaning way). "How do you do it all? Just looking at you makes me tired." (Not so much as a question, but more like 'you're crazy.') When announcing, with joy, the pregnancy of my sixth child the response from one of my friends, in front of a group of people, was, "Don't you own a television?" Everyone laughed and thought it was soooo funny, but then no one congratulated us. So, there's that. I've been rejected and cast aside in the past churches I've attended, not by everyone in the church, but enough to make me feel unwanted and unloved. And I will admit that I am not a saint. I have been critical, and sarcastic too. So, let's go back to the four things we need to experience from Jesus so we can be: ", having the same love, being one in spirit and and purpose." 1. encouraged, 2. comforted by his love, 3. friendship with Holy Spirit and 4. tenderness and compassion. Yes, Jesus you have done all that for me, help me to give it away to others. Help me to just love everyone and if I can't, help me to hold my tongue. Help me to be an encouragement, filled with tenderness and compassion, giving words directly from Holy Spirit. Help me to be sincere in my love. Forgive me for the times I have hurt others and help those I have hurt to forgive me now. I forgive those who have hurt me, rejected me and treated me like an outcast. I love them now with the love of the Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen.

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." (2:2)  I can sum up this whole verse in one word- servant. Paul is calling us to be a servant to others.
A servant should not have: 1. selfish ambition, 2. vain conceit, or 3. looking to your own interests.
A servant should: 1. have humility, 2. value others above yourselves, and 3. look to the interests of others. It's one verse, but it sure spells it out for us.

It's interesting that as I read this verse, it shouts out to me, "be a servant!" On Friday night I went to a quaint little church where I had the honor of listening to my precious friends, the Joyner family, share their testimony of their recent trip to India. I heard how they served the people, even those who lived in the slums. It didn't matter to them what their rank was or how they dressed. They served everyone with the gladdest of heart and with a joy in knowing they were doing what God had called them to do. While I was there, their Indian interpreter spoke too. He shared that there are three types of servants: 1) The first and highest form of servant manages the affairs and money of their master. 2) The second and lower form of servant manages the house and the 3) the lowest servant is one who cleans the house, mops the floors, and washes the feet of those who enter the home of the master. He reminded us that Jesus washed the feet of the apostles. Jesus told them not only to serve others, but to allow yourself to be the lowest of the lowly servants. God is calling us not only to be a servant to all, but to be the lowest of lowly servants to all. "But in humility consider others better than yourselves." (2:3b)

Today's Prayer:
Jesus, you have lavished me with encouragement, comfort, friendship with Holy Spirit, tenderness and compassion. Forgive me for the times I have been selfish in my love of others. Forgive me for putting up walls to people and rejecting them. Help me to do nothing out of selfish ambition, vain conceit or looking to my own interests. Help me to be your servant: humble, valuing others above myself and looking to the interests of others. If you, oh Lord, who sits on the throne in heaven, the KING of kings, can wash the feet of others, give me your heart of humility. I love you. In Jesus' Name. Amen. 

Friday, June 7, 2019

Studying Philippians: Day 5

It has taken me five days to read and study one chapter! Are you still with me? lol! But seriously, if this is ministering to you or you feel like God has spoken to you through this study, please leave me a comment. I would love to hear from you!

Philippians 1:27-30

"Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you." (1:27-28) Christians at the time of Paul's letter were being persecuted, IE: Paul is in jail for the Gospel. He is encouraging them to stand together and to stand firm in what they believe. Two words of advice: 1. No matter what happens- be Christ like in your response to the circumstance. 2. Do not be frightened by those who oppose you. I know I am not being persecuted by my faith compared to those at the time of Paul or those around the world today, at all, but I was cut-off by my family for my faith, and I have been misunderstood and horribly mistreated because of my faith. And in both situations I cannot say that I was able to 'conduct myself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ,' and not only that, I was completely frightened by those who opposed me! I moaned and groaned. I cried and cried. I talked about it endlessly. I muttered the words like I hate them, I held onto bitterness, I wanted revenge and I allowed confusion and fear to be a part of my daily life. In essence I was a complete and total mess until God healed my heart. But Paul writes these words and knows that it is possible to to go through a trial "in a manner worthy of gospel of Christ' and not to be afraid because he himself was living it. It is possible. It may not seem possible, but he assures us it is. Lord, I pray that I will go through my next trial 'worthy of the gospel of Christ.' Help me hold my tongue. Help me to have self-control. Help me to have joy in the midst of my trial for I know that you will be with me and see me through, Amen.

"This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved-and that by God.  (1:28b)  Paul, in verses 27-28, encourages the believers to not be afraid and "stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel" for if they do it'll be, "a sign to them that they, (their persecutors) will be destroyed, but that you will be saved-and that by God." (1:28b) By standing together amidst persecution, not running away, not becoming divided, not leaving the faith, but actually being strong together in the faith, they will be a witness and testimony to the unbelievers who will be condemned for their unbelief.

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have." (1:29-30) The commentary says, " suffer" Given as a gift or privilege. Christian suffering, as well as faith, is a blessing." As Christ suffered, we suffer. We should look on suffering for the gospel as a privilege and blessing. It should not be something feared. It's amazing to me how far my thoughts are from God's thoughts. I look at my trials and think, 'That's scary- let me run and hide. They hurt me, let me protect my heart. I will never trust again.' But God says, "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)

Today's Prayer:
I am not strong.
I am not brave.
I am fearful.
I am insecure.
I am worried of being hurt again.
BUT I know that you can change all that. I want to stand firm in my faith of who I know you are and not run. I want to be at peace that you will protect my heart. I want to be at peace in who you have made me. Trial or no trail, I want to be ready and faithful. Change my heart, oh God, and make me new. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Studying Philippians Day 4


Philippians 1:15-

"It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice." (1:15-18)

As I read this I couldn't understand how someone who is sharing the gospel, a missionary, could be preaching out of 'envy and rivalry.' If you are sharing the LOVE, MERCY, GRACE, and FORGIVING POWER of Jesus Christ, how can you do it with hatred, malice or resentment? It doesn't make sense, but then I read the commentary. "Those who preach with wrong, insincere motives do so out of a sense of competition with Paul and so think they are making his imprisonment more difficult to bear,..." Then I looked up this verse in, The One Volume Bible Commentary, by J.R. Dummellow. "they were jealous of St. Paul's ascendancy, and regarded him as an interloper...(ascendancy means governing or controlling influence and interloper means a person who encroaches on the rights of others, Merriam-Webster). Basically, they were jealous of Paul's leadership and influence over the church. They were jealous of Paul's calling. God specially called Paul to, "Go! This is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." (Acts 9:15-16) Not only were they jealous they were also looking and hoping that in some way they would make his time in prison even harder. What kind of Christians are these? Make his imprisonment more difficult?! seriously! This is what I call, 'Lost Christians.' People who call themselves Christians and yet plot your demise. Their jealousy makes them blinded to God's love. They are out for their own glory and praise no matter how much it destroys others. I have actually met 'Christians' like these men. And I will say, it has been a struggle to love them and to see the good that they are doing in Christ's name. But Paul didn't! "The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice." (1:18) Paul focused on the goal- the Gospel being preached, and not on how they were so cruel. He focused on 'Christ is preached' and with that rejoiced! Oh! How I would have stewed in prison! I would have told the other inmates about the two types of Christians and how they don't know the true love of Christ. I would have gossiped and moaned and groaned. (I do not say this with any pride). Paul is my role- model. How was he not offended? Hurt? bitter? He truly understood what it is to keep our eyes on Jesus. To love and forgive freely. I have a lot to learn.

Okay, so remember that this is a letter that Paul wrote to be read to the church of the Philippians. Why is this important? Well, it's not like this is an account of what one person heard Paul say, this is actually what Paul wrote to the whole church to hear. Why does that matter? Well, he is teaching them not to hate. Not to separate from the other brothers. He is teaching them that though the other missionaries are preaching out of false motives, not to focus on that, but focus on the fact that God is still using them to see the lost set free. He himself is rejoicing, so they can rejoice. He didn't write a letter out of self-pity. Remember that Paul was human. Not perfect. He could have written: 'Oh, I am being persecuted by our very own brothers, but don't worry about me - you rejoice and keep on preaching the Good News!' (That would have been the kind of letter I would have written- shameful). He could have been so discouraged about being in jail and being persecuted by the brothers in Christ that he could have written a letter saying, 'My time is over. I have run the race. I will rot here in this prison, but you go on. Pick up the baton I dropped and keep going." (How depressing). No, Paul deflects his own persecution and rejoices, which in turn helps the church to do the same. Paul is powerfully living for Christ even in jail.

"Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or death." (1:18b-20) Can you see why I love this Book so much?! To rejoice in all circumstances! To live in hope! To live with an expectant heart that God will see us through and we will be victorious in Jesus' Name. To rely on each other to pray and lift each other up.

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." (1:21) I used to be so afraid of dying. Before I knew Christ and even into the first few year of salvation. I remember the first time I read this verse I had to read it over and over. 'to die is gain!' Not possible! I couldn't imagine thinking that to die was greater than living here on earth. But now, I see. Heaven is wonderful. To be in the presence of Jesus every day, magnificent. To never cry again. Never get hurt again. To never see evil again. How precious that will be. So, Paul says the choice is: to live for Christ. To seek Him and His will and do it here on earth or die, and be with Jesus, which is far better. Well, I'm here on earth- I can't say that I'm doing a great job living for Christ, but that should be my number one or only goal while on this earth.

"If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this I know that I will remain and I will continue, with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me." (1:22-26) Paul knew that he would not die in prison because God wanted to use him to carry on the faith. Paul also knew or wanted to continue to share his "joy in the faith" and "so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me." His joy astounds me. No matter what he is going through he has joy. The Lord is his joy. And that is where is focus is- Jesus, who is joy.

Today's Prayer:
Father, people have come into my life throughout the years and have hurt me deeply. I remember as they thought they were, figuratively, backing me up into a corner how afraid I was and then at just the right moment that 'corner' opened up and I was able to walk away. Not only did I walk away, but you have lead me down some glorious paths. Through the trial I did not have joy. I could not see joy. I could not see a way out, but then you did it. Father, my heart's desire is to trust you and have joy in you no matter who or what comes my way. Teach me to not be offended, as Paul wasn't. Teach me to keep my eyes on you and not the circumstances. I love you, Lord. Be my joy. Amen

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Studying Philippians Day 3

Philippians 1: 12-14
Please read the verses first and allow the Lord to speak to you. Share with me what you have heard!

Paul's Chains Advance the Gospel

"Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. " (1:12) 

Paul, in chains, recognizes that God is using his own time in prison to bring the Good News of salvation even further. While Paul is sitting still, the Gospel is going forth! Nothing- absolutely nothing will thwart God's plan for furthering the Gospel and seeing the lost set free!

My other thought on this verse is how precious is God in His love for Paul. I can only assume that Paul was frustrated or even angry at first in being captured and made to stay put. His calling was to spread the Gospel, not sit in a jail cell. But God, in His kindness, knew Paul's heart and knew that jail time was hard enough without thinking that the Gospel was now being hindered to reach the people. So, God moved on the hearts of certain men to go and move in their calling to share the Good News. Paul could now sit and be still with no worry for the Gospel. His work was getting done by others.

God knows our hearts. He knows the plan for our lives. We need to trust Him, when it looks like our life is taking detour. He will either use the detour to continue the plan or that He will bring us back on the right road again. Peace is trusting God. (I need to write this up in big letters in my home!)

"As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ." (1:13) Okay, this has got to be the coolest verse! The commentary reads: "It has become apparent to all who know of Paul's situation that he is imprisoned, not because he is guilty of some crime, but on account of his stand for the gospel. 'whole palace guard' A contingent of soldiers, numbering several thousand  many of whom would have had personal contact with Paul or would have been assigned individually to guard him during the course of his imprisonment." Not only has God raised up other men to be missionaries to replace Paul, but He is using Paul's detainment to bring 'several thousand' Roman soldiers to Himself!!!! Paul would not have been given an audience of Roman soldiers to hear the Gospel if he were free! "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:20) How excited Paul must have been to know that his very presence in jail was doing more to advance the Gospel than when he was free! God is so good to us and gentle.

The verse from Ephesians 3:20 is especially close to my heart. It was seventeen years ago this past February that my daughter was born with a lung disease. She was rushed by ambulance to the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughter at one day old. We followed by car. Upon her x-rays and examination the doctor's said that there was nothing they could do for her that night and that we should go home. HOME? I asked to stay with her, to sleep in the waiting room, but they said no. She was in the NICU and all visitors had to go home. That night was excruciating for me. I just sat there. Sat and waited for a phone call from the hospital. The next day they understood better what she had, CCAM, and she was going to be prepped for surgery. Day three of her life the surgeon told us to say goodbye to our only daughter. He said that she may not make it through surgery, but without surgery she would certainly die. She made it through a very long surgery. Ninety percent of her left lung was removed. The doctors said that without that lung she will have a life filled with surgeries up into her teenage years, she will never be able to run or do sports, she will have scoliosis, and many other medical problems. That's when we all began to pray. My mother-in-law declared Ephesians 3;20 over my daughters life and told everyone to pray and believe. We did. At my daughter's six month check up her x-ray defied the doctor's reports. My daughter had two full and viable lungs! At the end of that appointment the doctor said to forget everything he had told us about our daughter's future health problems and that we would never need to see him again! "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:20)  My daughter is a dancer! She plays the piano and sings worship songs to God. Whatever you are going through offer it up to God and ask Him to do 'immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine!' Believe that God is GOD. Believe that He is all He says He is. Believe that He cares for you that much. Believe and trust and have peace that God is in control.

Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly." (1:14) That has to be a God thing. I'm sorry, but if I had heard that our fearless leader was in jail, not because he did something wrong, but because he shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I would have been filled with fear. My immediate thought would have been, "I can't do this anymore-I don't want to go to jail!" But God poured into the brothers in Christ an excitement and strength to pick up where Paul left off. Like with soldiers in war, if one brother falls, the others are even more empowered to fight! 

Prayer for Today:
Lord, give me courage to share my love of you with others. Give me your eyes to see the lost and broken. Give me your heart of compassion and boldness to give away what you have freely given me.
Lord, help me to not get discouraged when my plans don't go the way I want them to. Help me not to worry and fret that I am off the path I thought I was suppose to be on. Help me to trust that you will use detours in my life to make me trust you more. Thank you that you're always planning to do 'exceedingly more than we could ever think or imagine!' Thank you that you are my peace and I do not need to be afraid. I surrender my fears to you. All the hurt and pain that causes me to fear are in your hands. Help me to be at peace in trusting you. I love you with all my heart and desire to be ever closer to you. Amen.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Studying Philippians: Day 2

Today's reading: Philippians 1:3-11
Please read the verses first and allow the Lord to speak to you. Share with me what you have heard!

Thanksgiving and Prayer:

"I thank my God every time I remember you."(1:3) I remember years ago, I received a letter in the mail from my childhood best friend. On the back of the envelope she had written this verse. I remember reading it over and over again and I standing there amazed and touched that she was grateful for me. I was by no means a perfect best friend. I teased her, fought with her, loved her, and basically did life with her. For all my faults, which are bigger to me than my kindnesses, she was grateful for me. She loved me despite my failures. Paul wrote this verse to the Philippians. I am sure they weren't perfect either, none of us are, but he was grateful for their devotion to God and their faithfulness to him.

Lord, I pray for a heart of thanksgiving for all those you have put in my life, past and present. Help me to be grateful for those who have treated with kindness and even those who have hurt me. The kindnesses allowed me to open up and be more free, and the hurtful ones allowed me to draw closer to you. There is no waste in your economy. Lord, help me to thank you every time I remember them.

"In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (1:4-6)  Paul prays, "with joy" for the Philippians. They received the Word, were saved, and walking with Jesus. These people gave him joy. Joy in the midst of his imprisonment. They loved the Lord, prayed for him and supported his ministry. How I hope I am a joy to others as I follow Christ.

And here is the famous verse, of which I LOVE: "...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." The commentaries explain, "Paul is confident not only "for" what God has done for the readers in forgiving their sins, but also of what he has done "in" them. "Work" refers to God's activity saving them. His return, when their salvation will be brought to completion." I have been walking with the Lord for over thirty years and you may read that number and think, "Wow, she must be a great Christian!" but I'm not, and many days I'm a mess. I still struggle with many of the same insecurities that I had many years ago. And there are many, many, many days when I get down on myself for not being wiser, free-er, more loving, more forgiving. But on those days, I read this Scripture: He who began a good work in you WILL carry it on to COMPLETION until the day of Christ Jesus. I WILL be healed. I WILL be changed. I WILL be more like Jesus. I WILL. And so will you.

"It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus" (1:7-8)  I read that Paul is in chains for preaching the gospel- in chains. He sacrificed his life for Christ to bring God's Word to us and he writes "all of you share in God's grace with me." I don't know, it stirs in me that sense of hierarchy or justice. Isn't Paul a 'better' Christian than me? How do I share in God's grace with Paul? Shouldn't I deserve or get less than him? I should get 1/1,000,000 of the grace Paul got. But, No! God loves us all equally. His grace, unmerited favor, is just that- unmerited. His grace is for all of us- equal. And I'm so glad. I need His grace- abundantly! in overflowing amounts! My heart finds peace in being reminded that His grace is on me.

Let's actually pray Paul's prayer from 1:9-11  together:
Today's Prayer: "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ-to the glory and praise of God." Amen.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Studying Philippians: Day 1

This is my first official day of summer and what better way to start the summer than waking up and studying the Word. To be honest, last summer I was being so crushed by life's hardships that blogging never entered my mind, let alone daily reading the Bible. 2018 was a horrible, torturous year. It is amazing, as I look back on it, that I was able to home school, create birthday parties for my children and keep up with the daily activities of life. God held me close even when I didn't always strive to stay close to Him. He is so good.

So, with the first day of summer, I feel completely liberated from 2018 and the 2019 school year that was attached to it. It's behind me now and I cannot wait to begin anew. The Bible for me is my source of peace, revelation, revival of my heart, joy, hope, refreshing, and a place where I can swim in the love of the Lord. I miss it dearly. So, let's begin! I don't know what the Lord will reveal or what I will learn, but for me, that's the exciting part! I hope you will crack open your Bible and read along with me each day. Discover what the Lord is saying to you and share it with me.

I am venturing to share the Book of Philippians, which is one of my favorite books, with you as I read and study it. I am not a Bible scholar. I do not profess to have all the answers to all the Biblical questions that may arise. I don't. I just love reading the Word of God and sharing, with my readers, what I believe God is saying through His Word. I may get it right, I may get it wrong, but that is all a part of walking this road together.

Introduction to the Book of Philippians:

As I read the preface, I was informed that the Book of Philippians was written in 61 AD. It hit me, I am reading a letter that Paul wrote thousands of years ago! An artifact. I am sitting here on my bed, in my home and reading a letter that should be behind glass in a dark room in a museum. How wild is that! The Word of God has made it from Paul's imprisonment, to the town of Philipi, to me! It reminds me of the Scripture: "For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." (Matthew 5:18)
The Word of God is holy.
God breathed.
And it's for us.
God made sure that the letter that He inspired, Paul penned, would make it to me, Ellie, and you, hundreds of years later. God's plan cannot be thwarted. "I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted." (Job 42:2) God knew as Paul was using ink and parchment paper to write this Book, that one day I would be reading that very same letter and blogging about it. As Paul's letter was sent out to the people by mail carrier, I will send out his letter via the Internet that can reach thousands of people across the world. I may not be in prison like Paul, but as he could not travel to share the Good News, neither can I. His Word, this very letter, is going out again, 'mailed' out, e-mailed out, this time to many across the world who need to hear it.  (How cool is that!)

Chapter 1:

"Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus," (verse 1)  I love Jesus more than I can say, but I have never thought of myself as a "servant of Christ Jesus." The definition of the word servant is: 'one that serves others.' (Webster's Dictionary) I desire to have the heart of a servant, to serve with a pure heart to bless and care for someone without an ulterior motive or personal gain.  And, I will say, there are times when I serve with a pure servant's heart, but honestly, there are probably just as many times that I serve out of obligation or for a selfish reason. I am lazy and selfish. I'm also fearful. I'm afraid of serving someone and in return getting hurt or taken advantage of. There are days where I can feel the battle raging inside me to risk my heart and serve. Fear usually wins. That sounds  pretty horrible, I know. but have no fear God's been working on me for a loooong time and HE will change this heart yet! =)   Why am I telling you all this? Well, the opening line to the Book of Philippians is Paul declaring himself a servant of Christ Jesus- it's convicting. It stopped me in my tracks. It hit me in the gut. I have been walking with Jesus for thirty-two years and I cannot call myself a servant of Christ. I wish I could. I pray one day I will.

"To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons." (verse 1b) Convicted again. "To all the saints..." I did some research to find out what was truly meant by Paul's meaning of the word 'saints.' "The basic idea of the Greek for this word is "holiness." All Christians are saints in that they are positionally "set apart" to God and are experientially being made increasingly "holy" by the Holy Spirit. (Commentary, page 1746 of the NIV Study Bible) What a declaration! What an encouragement! We are saints- set apart by God to be holy! I am a saint! You are a saint! God has set us apart from the world. He has chosen us. He makes us holy. With all my faults and sins I am still a saint in the eyes of God and am made holy daily by His love and forgiveness. Truly, I've been so down on myself lately- actually for at least a year now. I feel, most times, like a failure in so many areas of my life. To hear that I am God's saint washes away the doubt of who I am. I feel in my spirit that I can hold my head a little higher today. I am set apart, I am holy, because of all God has done for me. Declare it! You are a saint of God!

"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (verse 2)  Grace: God's unmerited favor that comes to us through Christ's sacrifice on the cross and Peace: the total well-being and security that only God can provide. How amazing to me that Paul can write these words as he himself was in chains. He could write it because he lived it. Even in prison (house arrest) he knew and felt God's grace and peace on his life. I desire God's grace and peace on my life. For all the worries I hold in my heart and mind, I speak grace and peace. I speak God's grace over my life, my hubby and my children. I speak God's peace over our lives and our home in Jesus' mighty name.

I didn't get very far in my reading, but when the Lord convicts me, I stop and soak it in. It might take me a month to read six pages, but it's worth it if I come through a newer creation!

Prayer for today:
Lord Jesus thank you for your Word. Thank you that you preserved it for me to read all these many of hundreds of years later and be convicted by it. Thank you that your Word is alive and powerful and heart changing! My prayer is that you change my heart. Change this heart of fear and selfishness to one of a servant's heart. I want to serve in your name with confidence. I desire to be more like you.  Father, I want to be your 'saint.' To be set apart and holy for you and for those you have put in my life. Help me go forth in your grace and peace today. I surrender my anxiety to you and choose to receive your grace and peace.  I love you.
Love, Your daughter,