Beauty and Truth- Thoughts on Philippians 4:8

“Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy.” (Philippians 4:8 The Voice)

Here is a final attempt to show the Philippians (and us) the way to experience peace. The battles of perplexity and anxiousness are won first in our thoughts. If we can fill our minds with the light of truth, all things will be seen more clearly. If we find our way to the beauty, and behold what is lovely, good, and right, our hearts will settle. Even when faced with the most difficult situation, or a person causing us to despair. We have no control over how or where they stand. Where I stand matters more than anyone or anything else. And what I choose to let my mind be filled with will determine my response. My actions are what others see. My words are what they will hear. What flows from my heart into the world will tell of the well it draws from.

My mind is the engine which generates judgement or love. Since God is the judge, I must generate love. Loving God should fuel loving others the way He loves me. I want to generate this love. So I must determine my steps by filling my mind with beauty and truth. What I let my heart feed on is the fuel for my life. Because my heart is the wellspring of life, I want to filter and protect its contents. Just like my water filter at home. I go to the best source of water I have, and then let the filter clean what I cannot see. Instead of judging others based on what I see, I want to let love and God’s truth be the filter. So much in our world seems dark, and yet I have seen light in otherwise dark places. Situations that seem to be lost causes, or stories of terrible events at the hands of people have moved me to look for the heart of the matter. Not to excuse but to look for redemption, the way God redeemed me. God loves with an unconditional love, and this is the way I am to love. It is a difficult thing sometimes, yet each day is a chance to judge less and love more. When I ponder judgement, my pride takes a shadowy stance on my heart. When I ponder how to bring forth God’s love and fill my mind with how He sees, there is light and peace.

Heavenly Father, You are a good and gracious God. Out of Your Heavenly Kingdom flows life and redemption. Thank You for sending Your Son Jesus to us as a human just like me. I am moved to tears when I think of this love. You did not reign down judgement, but sacrificial mercy and grace. Yes, there are consequences for sin, but I leave this judgement to You. Help me to see with Your eyes, and love with Your heart wrapped with mine. Let my hands and feet be in sync with Your plan and will for me. Fill my mind with Your goodness and truth. In Jesus’ name amen.

Called- Thoughts on Isaiah 43

“Everyone who is called by my name, and whom I have created for my glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made.” Isaiah 43:7

This chapter of Isaiah begins with the beauty of comfort only God can give. “Fear not… you are Mine… I have redeemed you.” It is a command not to fear, not a suggestion- followed by a promise. We will never be abandoned by God. When we answer the call of His name, our souls are safe even if our bodies are in danger. There is victory in the battlefield of the mind when God fills us and we allow Him access to our fears. This is where the peace that transcends all understanding resides.

“Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ. So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. Follow the example of all that we have imparted to you and the God of peace will be with you in all things.” Philippians 4:6-9

I’ve seen and experienced how fear can shackle and bind, yet I have also seen and experienced how God frees. Jesus came to set us free from sin and death. Fear kills everything in it’s path when we let it have it’s way in us. Isaiah 43 is a reminder that no matter what scatters us, God will gather us. No matter what binds us, Jesus holds the keys to free us. Fear creeps in, yes, but we are held by the almighty Creator of the universe. His Kingdom holds a place for each of us at His table. The reservation is good for life. No matter how dark, His light makes me see the way to Him because I was created by Him and for His glory. Keeping my thoughts fixed on what is true of God, true of me, and the beauty I find around me has given me access to real peace.

Lord, I am aware of what unhealthy fear can do. I have known intense fear and I know others who struggle with anxiety. Pierce through the fears that entangle and imprison our minds and let us feel Your presence and safety in Your arms. Fill our minds with Your truth and beauty. Thank You for Your promises to never leave us. Thank you for the strength to endure and thrive in the face of evil. Let freedom reign in our lives so that we can glorify You through good works and serving others for Your Kingdom. I am Yours, and You are mine. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Lead me

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:4-5 NASB

“Become intimate with Him in whatever you do and He will lead you wherever you go.” v. 5 TPT

When walking a dog, you shorten the lead when you want to gain more control. The longer the lead, the more freedom for the dog to do whatever he wants. The freedom of a longer lead seems like the desired choice. More freedom is what the world says we deserve. But, I know all too well when my freedom to choose has landed me in a bad spot.

I love verse 6 of this scripture from The Passion Translation. Being intimate with God is a close and knowing posture. There is pure love there and not restriction in a negative sense. But rather, by trusting God completely I know His best for me will supercede anything I could come up with or desire. I have known the joy that comes from a powerful dog in complete obedience to my command. I wanted the best for my dog. I wanted his mind at ease and not in chaos with all the stimulants of sight and smell. I wanted a peaceful and enjoyable walk with him. Such strength and safety came out of that companionship. This is a beautiful picture of the kind of strength and companionship I desire with God.

Lord, Thank you for the path of humility you have led me on. The more control I give you, the more peace I have. I trust you Lord. Guide me and strengthen me as I lean on your wisdom and plan for my life. Bring me in closer to your heart. In Jesus’ name, amen.

No Rust: Study Notes on James 5:1-3

Listen all you who are rich, for it’s time to weep and howl over the misery that will overtake you! Your riches lie rotting, your fine clothing eaten by moths, and your gold and silver are corroded as a witness against you. You have hoarded up treasure for the last days but it will become a fire to burn your flesh. James 5:1-3 TPT

This is a stark warning to those who put wealth above God. There is a certain harmony that must accompany possessions and money. Spiritual disciplines like worship and tithing to God and His Kingdom will bring balance. The more I have, the more care that is required. Rust and rot are evidences of neglect. Caring for and sharing the wealth God gives will bring peace and blessing.

Overabundance can become too heavy and burdensome. But when abundance meets a heart devoted to God much beauty pours forth. I have fallen short in being a good steward with the gifts I have been given. There have been seasons when I have experienced the peace of living with margin. I know that being faithful in tithes and offerings is pleasing to God. Why am I so interrupted in church when tithing is mentioned? There is a glimmer of pride and selfishness there. I get caught up in the worldly cycle of consumerism, and I spend too much. Margin is squelched, and life feels like it’s squeezing me. I must rise from the fog and temptation of acquiring new things so I can better care for what I have and give more to those in need.

Lord, Thank You for this warning about money and possessions. I want my heart to be full of good and sparkling things, not rotten and rusted things. Remove envy from my heart. Fill me with the contentment I desire that can only come from You. Give me strength to bear the discipline to live a more balanced life of margin and giving. Help me to slow down and care for the things You have blessed me with: my beautiful life, my gifts, and my people. In Jesus’ name amen.

Study Notes on James 3:17-18

“But the wisdom from above is always pure, filled with peace, considerate and teachable. It is filled with love and never displays prejudice or hypocrisy in any form and it always bears the beautiful harvest of righteousness! Good seeds of wisdom’s fruit will be planted with peaceful acts by those who cherish making peace.” James 3:17-18 TPT

Godly wisdom promotes life and love. Its ways are pure because God is pure. Sowing seeds from a peaceful grounding in this wisdom will bring settledness. Drawing direction from above allows a natural pause that must go past my initial emotions to reach the unwavering plumb line of God. There is peace in the pausing that fosters a better chance of sowing good seeds in response, rather than the unintended hypocrisy of selfish words spoken from prideful reactions based on initial assumptions.

Blowing off steam never brings resolution. Sure, I may feel better when I spit out all the ways someone has done me wrong, but what are the effects? An ego boost when someone validates me? Is that what I am really after? No. I want peace. Truly. I feel better when I am peaceful. Life feels more solid and my existence seems more one with creation. I want more harmony with the people in my world. I am faced with opportunities every day to be more of a peacemaker. And to be honest, I haven’t sown enough peace in the seeds I am tossing around. I get caught up in the actions of others and how they affect my day. I know there is a wiser way to seek solutions, for justice, and to bring light where there is darkness. I must be careful not to fuel the darkness, but cover the opposition with more gentle kindness. If I am called to clear the temple of the money changers, I will be ready. In the meantime, I need to heed the call to sow for growing more peace.

Lord, I want to be a peacemaker. Help me to be an unwavering picture of Your wisdom in my life. Forgive me for sowing discontent and not peace. I am grateful for opportunities to try again. Help me remember to draw from Your wisdom above and not myself. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Deeper Still

There is hope in the aftermath

Grace in the fury

Letting go and letting God

Freedom from worry

Pain pulls my heart to Him

Quiet mystery

Unrequited beckoning

Let Him capture me

Deep calls to deeper still

Soul always longing

Made to want a lovers touch

Held in belonging

Discarded for another’s shine

Won’t dull my light

Glowing joy will fuel my smile

Settled heart tonight

Prayers lift for healing sleep

Breathe in for peace

Eyes closed in knowing trust

Sweet sleep released.

Study Notes on James 3:8-10

…but the tongue is not able to be tamed. It’s a fickle, unrestrained evil that spews out words full of toxic poison! We use our tongue to praise God our Father and then turn around and curse a person who was made in his very image! Out of the same mouth we pour out words of praise one minute and curses the next. My brothers and sister, this should never be! James 3:8-10 TPT

The tongue is a sure sign of what is in our heart. There is no remedy offered here to tame the tongue, but rather a fact that it cannot be tamed. Blessing and cursing come from the same mouth. My mouth. Oh so true. So what do we do with this devastating fact?

We try to do better. We pay attention to our words. We draw close to God and let the Holy Spirit guide us. When my heart is unsettled it is usually due to the bitterness I have allowed to take root there. Tiny seeds of sadness can grow big defensive roots. Seeds of aggravation can grow a crop full of angry weeds. I need to take an active role in tending to my heart. Be aware of the bitterness that begins to grow and root it out. When I cultivate gratitude and kindness in my heart, my tongue will reflect the same. I believe God allows our tongue to be a barometer in our life, an indicator of how we are using the free will we possess. It is an instrument that measures the pressure in our heart. And like a barometer, our words can forecast our future, whether blessed or cursed. We should also pay attention to other’s words. When bitterness is spoken, I need to remember this is a clear sign of the pressure of life in their hearts as well. When I look at it this way, I have a better chance of offering grace rather than defensiveness. Kindness and patience offered in the face of bitterness will be a sure sign of God’s power in my life.

Lord, Reveal the bitterness in my heart and show me where it is rooted. Tend to my heart with Your loving hands and remind me to care for my soul. Help me to rid myself of malice and anger. Do not let me hide the pain I feel and bury it as a seed that grows the bitterness I want out of my life. Give me courage to honestly deal with it, letting Your light heal and soothe. Settle my heart so my words come out sweet rather than bitter. And help me to recognize words as the true indicators of other people’s hearts, and show me where I can step in for You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Study Notes on James 1:19-21

My dearest brothers and sisters, take this to heart: Be quick to listen, but slow to speak. And be slow to become angry, for human anger is never a legitimate tool to promote God’s righteous purpose. So this is why we abandon everything morally impure and all forms of wicked conduct. Instead, with a sensitive spirit we absorb God’s Word, which has been implanted within our nature, for the Word of Life has power to continually deliver us. (Jas 1:19-21 Passion)

When I looked at the order of these verses in reverse, the Word of Life is the key to slowing in the moments where anger and wrath threaten to be released from the depths of my heart. Anger expressed in reactionary mode is a wrecking ball rather than a tool to build life from the brokenness around me. “With a sensitive spirit, absorb God’s Word”. His power of self control and peace is already in us, we just need to slow down enough to access it. When we have self control and awareness in slowing, we abandon temptation and wickedness in order live in a more pure way.

Some days are harder than others. This very morning as I sat down to study, there was a wall between my head and my heart. When I am faced with hard things, my mind takes over and self protects. But when I am self protecting, I cannot allow God to penetrate into my heart, and therefore I notice I am colder and more lifeless inside. This posture makes me a prime target for being quick to speak and react to the inevitable conflict ahead of me in my day. By being sensitive to what Jesus teaches and how He lived, I am convicted in my spirit. To restore sensitivity and an open heart, I had to kneel before God in prayer, ask Him to build the bridge between my head and my heart, and soothe the wounded places. This soothing takes my pride down and lifts my awareness up so that I can listen with Holy ears, and respond with Holy love. And this is the deliverance or saving verse 21 speaks of. I am delivered in the moments that threaten to destroy peace and life, and ultimately saved for eternity. The moments in life are where peace or wrath happens. I want more peace.

Lord, I lay down my pride to You. Keep me safe yet sensitive to Your heart and the hearts of those in my path today. Help me to listen with Your ears, be slow to speak, and slow to become angry. Sink this lesson deep in my heart and help me remember. Teach me the difference between justifiable anger and pride and show me how to live with more peace in the daily moments no matter what comes. I know you’ve got me, help me to live better in that assurance. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Filling

To be filled with goodness

There must be space

Pour out the heavy

Let filling await

Bask in the feeling

Lighter and free

Stand still in the moment

To breathe and just be

Allow awe and wonder

Guide your next move

Awake to your dreams

You’ve go nothing to prove

Unshackle your heart

From the coldness of fear

Re-ponder your purpose

Once vision is cleared

Time may tick slowly

While standing in place

But peaceful in knowing

I am filling with grace.