• zmi1-squished
  • zmi2-squished
  • zmi3-squished
shadow

Despite Your Circumstances

“And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News.”
Philippians 1:12 NLT

As we sat around the tables in Bible study class sharing prayer requests, it was almost depressing. Health issues resulting from disease, trauma, or unknown reasons; loved ones who needed Jesus in their lives; job and financial woes; relationship issues; a need for more affordable housing; personal struggles; ministry opportunities. The needs were real and sobering.

The apostle Paul was certainly a man who understood the hard stuff of life. Imprisoned for his faith in God, many scholars believe Paul was literally chained to a guard 24/7. Despite his chains, his letter to the Philippian church was filled with encouragement and joy; it revealed his great love and constant prayers for the believers.

While in confinement, Paul is not found whining and complaining about his bonds. Instead, his letter records him giving thanks to God because people are hearing about Jesus. Even the new believers were finding courage to speak out about Christ because of Paul’s example while in prison.

As Jesus followers, we are never promised a life of ease. We certainly see that all through the Bible and specifically in Paul’s life. Hardships are going to come sooner or later. Like Paul, will we use those circumstances to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ?

As we learn from the examples of others in the Scriptures, we should ask ourselves, “What are others learning through my example?” Are they seeing the love, peace, hope, and deep joy of Jesus regardless of my difficulty, or are they seeing worry, fear, anger, and anxiety instead? Our lives and situations influence others one way or the other depending on our actions and reactions to adversity. Only with God’s help can our lives bring support and encouragement to others.

May the following prayer be a source of strength during the tough times as we seek to proclaim the message of Christ despite our circumstances.

            “I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in             knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you             may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with     the fruit of your salvation – the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ – for       this will bring much glory and praise to God.” Philippians 1:9-11 NLT

[Digging deeper – Philippians 1:12-30]

Proclaiming Him in all things,

Beverly <><

 

 

Photo Credit: http://thebiblerevival.com/clipart69.htm;

Love Much?

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” 
John 13:35, NIV

Several months after my mother died, I found on the bush beneath her bedroom window the winter beauties pictured here. I brought them home and placed them in a bowl that had belonged to her mother. Among all of our Christmas decorations that year, there was none more beautiful than the “Empress of Winter.” Chinese tradition conveys that a camellia’s perfectly symmetrical form symbolizes the expression of long-lasting devotion.

Shortly after my mother’s death, someone asked me what one word I would use to describe her. “Devoted” immediately came to mind. Her children and grandchildren were her focus, and she always signed her cards to me …

Finding the camellias a few months after my mother’s death not only served as a timely reminder of her life-long devotion to her family, but they reminded me of my Heavenly Father’s eternal love.

Scripture tells us that because God loved us, “he gave.” He gave what was most dear to him—his only Son, Jesus (John 3:16). There was no price too great to pay as a ransom for our souls. He gave his all.

We find one of the most beautiful stories of devotion in Luke 7—the account of the sinful woman who washed Jesus’s feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, then kissed and anointed them with expensive perfume. She expressed her worship in the presence of self-righteous Pharisees who thought her unworthy of giving such an extravagant gift. To them, the gift held far more value than the woman who gave it. They saw the breaking of the flask and the spilling of the precious oil as wasteful, but Jesus saw her heart—a heart broken and emptied—one filled with repentance for a wasted life. Jesus defended the woman and forgave her sins because “she loved much.” She had given him her all.

Jesus taught that the secret of devotion is to love much. In the United States, we see much love expressed on Valentine’s Day. Even before the last of ole St. Nick is packed away, all things “love” pop up on store shelves. This heart-shaped frenzy results in the exchange of 1 billion cards in the United States alone, 50 million roses sent, 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolates sold, and enough candy hearts made to stretch from Valentine, Arizona to Rome, Italy and back again. Now that’s a whole lot of love but not the “much” of which Jesus spoke.

Who are we devoted too? We’ll find our answers laced with actions. The more devoted we are to someone, the more we’ll give of ourselves in ways beyond disposable tokens given on holidays alone. We’ll empty our hearts. We’ll give our all every day of the year.

May it be said of us, “Because God loved, they loved much. They gave.”

Starr Ayers

The House on the Rock

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”
Matthew 7:24-25 NIV

My husband is active duty Army, and we have lived in many places. In 2004 we moved to Okinawa Japan, which was one of the most memorable. Okinawa is a tropical island where farmers grow sugar cane and pineapples; there are beautiful parks with flowers, and beaches where the ocean is turquoise and filled with reefs. However, the cities are made up of square concrete buildings as far as the eye can see. These buildings were such a contrast to the beautiful nature that we were surrounded by, that it made us wonder why houses would be built like this. When we finally received our assigned address and drove into the military post housing, we noticed that our house was the same square concrete. Even the shed in the back was concrete.

We discovered the answer to this mystery the first time there was a typhoon (the western Pacific is the most active area for tropical cyclones in the world). The island uses a colored flag system to let everyone know how close a storm is, and when the flags turn black, everyone goes into their homes. There is no panic, no evacuations, and not even any debris because everything outside goes into those backyard sheds. Even the trees are tied down. Everyone already has their groceries because the flag system told them to prepare, and and no one goes outside. During a typhoon I was able to relax with my coffee and play with my young children in the living room because even though the storm was raging outside (the wind roared like a train around the house), I knew that my concrete walls would stand strong.

Those wise people of Okinawa know how to build a solid house that will withstand a storm. In Matthew 7:24-25 Jesus said that “everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” If we put our trust in God and do his will, we will keep standing no matter how strong the storms of this world are, because our foundation is on the rock.

Standing with you on God’s promises,

Erin Tabor

 

 

 

Photo Credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/aSmLcO3-dbk