Paul gave wonderful guidelines for how the Christians in Philippi should direct their thoughts:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ~~Philippians 4:8 (ESV)
As I considered writing this article, I couldn’t help picturing that scene from The Sound of Music when Julie Andrews comforts the children by singing about her favorite things. She teaches them that simply remembering her favorite things keeps her from being overwhelmed by negative circumstances. And, to an extent, her philosophy actually does resemble the principle in Philippians 4:8, doesn’t it?
If we look carefully at Paul’s list of what we need to think about, however, raindrops on roses seem pretty trivial. Should we distill this beautiful verse of Scripture down to a mere slogan for positive thinking that Oprah Winfrey would embrace?
As I explained two weeks ago, this Bible Study series on Colossians got interrupted in February when I had a compound fracture in my back. In order to bring everyone up to speed, I’ve decided to repeat the installments I’d written before continuing on. I may add a few comments that I overlooked when I first wrote them.
“Oh DebbieLynne, no!” you’re saying. “Paul’s opening verses in Colossians don’t really talk about discernment. Can’t you just skip them?”
To be truthful, sisters, I seriously considered skipping these introductory remarks Paul made. Like you, I’m eager to get into the meat of the epistle! But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that even these verses possess nuggets of doctrine that can help us discern sound teaching. Remember — true discernment comes through right doctrine.
All of us would probably like a refund for the year 2020. To the naked eye, there’s little reason to praise the Lord. The anger and frustration swells both because of COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd, not to mention the anarchy generated by demands to defund and/or abolish the police.
It’s a sad, heartbreaking time.
Yet God hasn’t abandoned His creation. He may be judging it by giving us over to our rebellion against His Word — indeed, I personally believe that to be the case. It may be difficult to adopt the so-called new normal that government leaders will impose on us. But all the negativity we currently experience has no power to stand against the goodness and sovereignty of our God and King.
A day approaches when Christ will return to establish His kingdom. At that time, He will eradicate every disease and will govern the entire world in perfect righteousness and justice. Christians long for that day!
The wonderful news is that He reigns even now. The chaos we see lies in His control as He uses it to accomplish purposes that we neither see nor understand. One glorious day, all creatures of our God and King will praise Him. filling the new heavens and earth with alleluias. Thankfully, Christians don’t need to wait for that day.
Al and I became friends about a year before I became a Christian. Early in the friendship he joined the military and was stationed in another state. Right away we began a correspondence that lasted a little over seven years.
Once Jesus had taken over my life, my letters to Al centered mostly around my efforts to evangelize him. Between letters (particularly in the first year), I prayed passionately for his salvation and begged my Christian friends to add their prayers. Each time he visited home, I shared the Gospel with him, imploring him to give his life to Jesus.
After I graduated from college, I came to understand that my obsession with Al was unhealthy. Rightly or wrongly, I wrote a final letter explaining that I had made him into an idol and that I had to let go of him. Since mailing that letter, I’ve only prayed for him a handful of times.
I’ve been thinking about Al lately. To be more specific, I’ve been thinking about my consuming desire to bring him to Jesus.
Monday night, Justin Peters put up a short devotional video exploring the common notion of God’s intervention in human affairs. His commentary on the topic surprised me, challenging assumptions that I’ve held for decades. As I listened to Justin’s argument, however, I found myself agreeing with him. Watch for yourselves, and let me know what you think.
Isn’t it easy to make ourselves responsible for procuring and maintaining our salvation? Something in us insists on taking at least a small portion of credit for our acceptance into heaven. Certainly, I spent years figuring out theological systems that allowed me to view myself as a contributor to my standing before God.
Thankfully, the Lord used His Word to convince me that He both initiated my salvation and will carry it to completion. He alone deserves all the glory.
This realization humbles us, which explains why so many of us fight against it. Surely, there must be some little way we cooperate with the Holy Spirit! Just a little? But no, Christ claims all the glory. His mercy takes us from start to finish.
Precisely because everything about our salvation emanates from His mercy and grace, we enjoy absolute security. Nothing can rob us of the security that He has bought us with His blood and therefore He will keep us for Himself. He will not permit anything — including ourselves — to interfere with His eternal purpose for us. We can rest secure in His grace.
Yesterday our pastor preached the second sermon in a three-part series on the Lord’s Prayer. As he expounded on the clause, “Give us this day our daily bread,” he made the distinction between needs and wants that most preachers make when preaching on this clause. I expected no less from him.
I love the hymn that I have selected to post this week. I love the way it exalts Jesus as Son of God and Son of man. I love its bold declaration that He rules over all creation. And I love the way it describes how much fairer He is than even the most beautiful aspects of His creation.
But right now, it encourages me to remember that He also shines brighter than all the trouble that this current pandemic has caused. As easy as it is to be distracted by all the ramifications of the crisis, we need to turn our attention to Him, seeing that He outshines all the hardship, sorrow and frustration that threatens our peace. What a beautiful Savor!
To say that we live in difficult times would be stating the obvious. And even strong Christians battle with anxiety as supermarket shelves grow bare, jobs dwindle and infectious rise. Intellectually, we know God is sovereign, but we can’t seem to resist the temptation to worry.
I plead guilty. I suspect you do too, if you’re honest.
All of us need to shift our focus back to the Lord, especially in this time of uncertainty and fear. As dire as the situation is, He hasn’t lost control. In fact, He is accomplishing His purposes in this global trial. Therefore we must choose between dwelling on whatever effects COVID-19 has imposed on us and filling our minds with thoughts of Him. Will we cave in to anxiety, dear sisters, or will our minds stay on Him?
Okay, folks– I guess the title of this post sums up why I haven’t been blogging these past few weeks. The “pulled muscle” ended up being a compression fracture in my lumbar region, meaning that the advice to sit in my wheelchair that I received from my February 28th visit to the Emergency Room was exactly opposite of what I needed to be doing.
On March 8th I got out of bed and tried to sit on the toilet. As I was screaming in pain, John called 911 and the Randolph Fire Department escorted me back to Milton Hospital. This time they did a CAT scan, which showed the fracture at the L2 level. So I’ve been lying in bed eating Tylinol and Motrin as I’ve had Lidocane patches on my back.
Just to complicate matters, my evening PCA has been out for three weeks with a fractured arm, so John’s been having to scare up people to help in her absence. Now with the Covid19 virus, we’ve had to ask his PCA to take a leave of absence (he works in a grocery store and is therefore exposed to a large number of people) so we’re having to find people to help him get up. This is the first time since I was diagnosed with the fracture that John has been able to type a blog post for me.
Please pray for both of us. I am improving, and hope to work on the blog post I started writing on March 7th. I expect to be doing a little typing by the end of next week, but I don’t think I should write that whole post in one sitting. And pray for John as he balances all of his obligations with helping me. I miss blogging. I miss my readers. May God protect all of us during this trying time, reminding us of His sovereignty and love.