“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.
“Escort me along the way; take me by the hand and teach me. For You are the God of my increasing salvation; I have wrapped my heart into Yours!” David (Psalm 25:5 TPT)
“…Lead me into Your truth… I wait…” (NASB)
The Passion Translation threw me here, so I dug in to find how waiting was translated into wrapping my heart into God’s. Language is one of my favorite things, and what a delicious treat I found! By search and discovery in the Hebrew Lexicon, the root word in the Bible for waiting is ‘qavah’, meaning to twist or bind like a rope. So where does waiting tie in? (Pun intended!) Reading further into this rich word I found clarity and insight. To wait involves strength to endure. And to ‘qavah’ is to bind, be strong, hold fast to the hope of God, and to wait on Him. With Him. Bound to His heart.
God has used one simple word to blow my mind this morning. I am learning more by trying to understand less. Lofty concepts built on simple truths are inspiring, and I am reading several books with great insight and wisdom. I appreciate the wonderful lessons learned by others that are shared in black and white. But where God is taking me is foundational. If I bind myself to God first, I have the strength I need to endure. My story can inspire others. Yet true peace and wisdom comes from each unique journey taken by a heart bound to God’s. My strength lies in the simple yet profound and life changing act of binding my heart to His and letting Him escort me through life. I am never alone, and He will not change. Attaching myself to anything or anyone else must come second. People and circumstances will change or fail me, But God never will.
Lord, Unwrap my heart from unholy things. Forgive my carelessness with my soul. I bind myself wholly to You and seek to grow in strength while I wait for my future to unfold. Help me to live with integrity and yet not push others away. Let others be drawn to Your heart through me and lead me away from anything that separates me from You. Protect my life with Your covering and let the blood of Jesus purify my heart. In His name, amen.
“When you continue to embrace all that I teach, you prove that you are My true followers. For if you embrace the truth, it will release more freedom into your lives.” Jesus (John 8:31-32)
Jesus is speaking to new believers here. Just before, in verse 30, “many came to believe” in Him as He was speaking in response to the question “Who are you?”. These people wondered how Jesus could speak with such authority. Their spirits were stirred at the realization that this “Father” who sent Him was in fact, God. They accepted Jesus at His word because their hearts discerned truth as they listened, and they were given the gift of understanding. And then Jesus lays out the path to freedom. To simply continue in His word. To abide, dwell, endure, remain, stand, and not depart from the living voice of Jesus.
Belief in Jesus is a beautiful and profound first step. I remember the desperate desire for light in my darkness when I had come to the end of myself. My heart was ready and the utter relief of salvation lit up my soul. My entire being felt seen, known, and loved. I felt washed and clean. And for a time, I followed hard after God. I wanted to continue in my newfound freedom. But I did not remain there. For many years I teetered on the precarious cliff between living and embracing sin in my life, while my heart still yearned for Jesus. I wrestled with the cycle of wanting to do right, doing wrong anyway, and then being enslaved by shame and guilt. Unhealthy choices and selfish pride were my own undoing. I allowed my life to be ruled by the unrelenting current of being unintentional and just letting my life unwind without the disciplines of Jesus.
I do not regret the years leading to my latter, more recent ones because the struggles have given me the sort of pain that produces humility and compassion. Jesus wanted me to abide in His word and experience the freedom from sin He promised, because He loves me. But I made other choices, or failed to choose at all while languishing in indecision that brought much despair. Love wants the best for someone. God is love and Jesus is His tangible attempt to prove how true that is. He did not leave us to stumble around on our own. We have a well defined road map leading us to freedom and peace. All we have to do is follow the true Leader who will take us where our pure hearts’ desire wants to be. He will use our detours and wrong turns for His good, and we have the choice to decide how long we are to remain lost. Once we ask for directions, the right way is made clear.
Lord, I am grateful for this journey. Thank you for the grace to let me take the messy way. Your unchanging truth always leads me back to You. Help me to continue in Your word. May Your truth set and keep me free to love and share Your way with others. I am grateful for the community of believers You have surrounded me with. Help me to love the way you do. Help me to live in obedience and follow where You lead. In Jesus’ name Amen.
“Put on God’s complete set of armor provided for us, so that you will be protected as you fight against the evil strategies of the accuser.” (Ephesians 6:11)
We don’t have to search around to find this armor Paul speaks of. God gives it to us. He provides His own battle gear for us to put on. We need to be fully armed and protected every day. The word “devil” means false accuser or slanderer. There are physical battles yes, but the ones we face spiritually with the enemy of our souls are much more dangerous. When we let the lies of the devil sway us to believe falsely, we give him a foothold in our life. He has a strategy to thwart God’s plan for our life, but we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37) with the protection of God’s love!
When I let my guard down, the arrows of the enemy pierce me. Sometimes they hurt, and sometimes they are masked as pleasure. When I let the lies entertain me as truth, I begin to turn away from God. I look to the things Satan uses to draw me away. I begin to worry, or feel entitled. I spin negative thoughts in my mind or nurse the painful wounds. I begin to doubt God’s promises or take for granted all that He has blessed me with in my life. My struggle is not with the people, flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness that move in the world. “Your hand-to-hand combat is not with human beings, but with the highest principalities and authorities operating in rebellion under the heavenly realms. For they are a powerful class of demon-gods and evil spirits that hold this dark world in bondage.” (Ephesians 6:12) No matter how crazy that sounds to the ears of the world, I know that it is true. And God has given me all that I need to fight back. And fight well.
Lord, Your word is amazing, alive, and full of truth. Just reading these scriptures today empowered and equipped me to stand stronger and recognize the subtle ways of the devil trying to take me out. I put on Your full armor and stand in the light of Your truth. Help me to stay alert and pray in the gap for others. In Jesus’ name amen.
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4 NIV
“If your faith remains strong, even while surrounded by life’s difficulties, you will continue to experience the untold blessings of God! True happiness comes as you pass the test with faith, and receive the victorious crown of life promised to every lover of God!” v. 12 TPT
Trials reveal the strength of our faith. This entire chapter of James 1 is a plumb line for testing our faith. Failure is not where we give up, but rather a place to grow and become stronger. Trials will refine our faith, or it will reveal a shallow belief. When we pass through with tried and true faith, God promises a greater joy.
Sometimes my faith hasn’t passed the test. It’s hard to “count it all joy” when someone I love betrays me. It was hard to find the joy when my father died leaving so many things left unsaid. So much life still undone, and many questions unanswered. Hard to find joy, yes of course. It isn’t the crushing and breaking of my heart that is joyful. But while I was plunged deep into pain, God was there. I turned to Him with all the faith I could muster. He was there with me. He went with me as far as the darkness seemed to take me. My faith has been tested beyond what I thought I could handle. And yet, as I have persevered, the spiritual reality of joy as a result of God’s faithfulness has in turn strengthened my own. Being grounded and tethered to God’s mysterious ways is profound, and the unexplanable joy that comes is real and true.
Lord, Forgive me when I have turned away from You. Thank You for Your faithfulness. Strengthen my faith in whatever way You choose. Have Your way with me. I trust You with my heart and my life. Test me and refine me. I want more of the joy I experience with You. “Make me whatever You want me to be. Bring new wine out of me.*” In Jesus’ name, amen.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV
Paul puts into words so beautifully why we do not lose heart. We- meaning those who have surrendered our lives and hearts completely to Jesus. He speaks of being afflicted, crushed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down, and then points to the miracle of being renewed day by day. This is the opposite of what makes sense in the face of so much hardship. A full surrender to the eternal hope of God’s care is the key that unlocks the chains of trouble in the physical world. There is an eternal glory without end on the other side of this world, and our current troubles can be viewed as light and fleeting when we believe this truth, and let our faith guide and guard our hearts.
I find myself struggling to communicate the depth of my hope sometimes. To say I have surrendered my heart fully to Jesus seems to fall with flippancy on the hearts of those in the midst of despair. I feel the need to explain my own pain I have walked through to justify my hope journey and faith walk now. I was gently reminded this morning that my first commitment is to God. My own disciplines and cultivation of the intimacy and relationship with Jesus is where my hope springs from. I must tend to this and let God tend to the ways He uses me in the lives of others. I can’t save the world on my own, but I can live my life as a testimony of God’s saving grace. I can love and I can speak of the wonder of God’s power in my life. I can stand in the gap, lifting prayer as the bridge for those who so desperately seek answers to their pain and hardship. It is only when you choose to surrender fully to God that freedom will come. This is a personal choice, and one I have to make day after day.
Lord, thank You for the hope You have planted deep in my heart. Let the harvest come. Thank You for the renewing power of Your love. Let the harvest come. Help me to guard my own heart and cultivate the tenderness of compassion and humility while serving the needs of others. Let the harvest come. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“But you are God’s chosen treasure—priests who are kings, a spiritual “nation” set apart as God’s devoted ones. He called you out of darkness to experience his marvelous light, and now he claims you as his very own. He did this so that you would broadcast his glorious wonders throughout the world. For at one time you were not God’s people, but now you are. At one time you knew nothing of God’s mercy, because you hadn’t received it yet, but now you are drenched with it!” 1 Peter 2:9-10
These two verses are sandwiched in between becoming new in the salvation of Jesus as our living stone, a spiritual house built just for us, and how we are to live in the “new nation”. We have a new identity, we belong, we are a treasure. In Christ all racial barriers and exclusions are erased, we became one in Him, and we are chosen royals in God’s Kingdom. Jesus is the foundational stone of our new home and all are welcome.
A sense of belonging adds to my identity. I belong to God. He brought me out of darkness and into His marvelous light. The fear of rejection or feeling as if I don’t fit in is not true in God’s love. When I slip into the shadows, His light is still there. I need to widen my gaze. Just as on a dark and stormy day when there is no end to the rain in sight, I can’t see the sunlight at all. But, I know the sun has not moved. Some of my favorite plane rides have been on cloudy days. As we fly higher off the ground and pierce through the clouds, darkness is instantly gone, and everything is bathed in light. Such a beautiful reminder every time. Darkness is real, but so is the light. And God’s light never moves or leaves us, we just have to rise up and lift our hearts to Him to see.
Lord, I am deeply grateful to belong to You. Forgive me when I act as if I don’t. Thank You for Your marvelous light. When I am weak, You are strong. You are my foundational stone, and in You I always fit in. Help me to live well as Your chosen one. Shine Your light in the shadowy places. Dispel lies with Your truth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“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.