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Posts Tagged ‘Philippians 1:6’

 

 

Wingstem waltzes at woodland edge,

Gilt buckeye leaves tumble and twirl.

Creation sighs a cool breeze of relief

As summer wanes and fall approaches.

 

 

Squirrels scamper over tree-branch highways,

A hummingbird breakfasts on day lilies,

Mums turn round faces to bask in the sun–

A bustle of activity, but not a sound.

 

 

Much is accomplished in the quiet.

Trees stretch skyward, adding rings of growth,

Dew crystals bring moisture to petal and leaf,

Butterflies pollinate flower after flower.

 

 

God orchestrates harmony, even in stillness,

But not for self-flattering fanfare.

His efforts provide undeniable evidence

Of who he is—proof of his glory.

 

 

Note his artistry on sunset dahlias,

His genius in the strength of spider silk,

His wisdom in the female finch’s cloak,

His faithfulness in the circle of seasons.

 

 

God also desires to work within us,

Applying his artistry, genius, and wisdom—

Fostering change, fulfilling purpose—

Quietly, faithfully, day by day.

 

 

Within the silence of God’s holy presence,

We find strength and serenity of soul.

All we need do is accept his welcome

Into the quiet discovery of HIM.

 

 

(Romans 1:20; Psalm 104:24; Job 12:7-10; Philippians 1:6; Psalm 28:7, 29: 11, & 46:10.)

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com (2).

 

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What do you consider the greatest of all your blessings? Surely at the top of the list would be a personal relationship with Jesus and (hopefully!) your family.

But according to French author, Francois de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680):

 

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(“A true friend is the greatest of blessings.”)

 

Some time ago, a group of people decided that friends were such a blessed part of life, they wanted a day set aside specifically to celebrate these relationships. In 1935, Congress proclaimed National Friendship Day. The observation occurs on the first Sunday of August. That’s this Sunday, the seventh.

Friends do fill our lives with delightful blessings: the beauty of companionship, the joy of sharing experiences and like interests, the warmth of heart-to-heart communication, and the grace of acceptance in spite of faults.

Those friends who share our faith in Jesus provide even more benefits.

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They push us nearer to God by their example, their encouragement, and their prayers for us. When trouble assaults, they remind us of scriptural truth, God’s attributes, and his provision in the past.

 

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Christian friends are “Jesus with skin on.” (That phrase in quotes comes from a pastor in our past who used it frequently.) Isn’t that a delightful way to describe our ministry to one another? His Spirit works through us providing the encouragement, help, and care we all need.

I also appreciate a Native American translation of the word, friend: “the one who carries my sorrows on his back.” That’s a true friend—the one who comes alongside to empathize, assist, and pray.

My heart is warmed as I remember such friends (and family members who were and are like friends), each of whom have played various roles in my life: companion, listener, encourager, advisor, confidence-builder, mentor, role model of behavior, wisdom-bestower, heartache-easer, prayer warrior. These special people have contributed invaluably to my life story and who I am.

 

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Some of my dear friends (including those with family ties) are reading these words right now. And “I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:6), not just on Friendship Day.

You are the charming gardeners who have made my soul blossom (Marcel Proust). I am so very grateful for the abundant happiness and joy you all have brought into my life.

But these friendships of faith would not be possible without our most precious Friend of all: Jesus (John 15:15).

 

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Because of his love poured out in our hearts, we can love each other.

Because he is our refuge, joy, and hope, we can offer the same.

As we allow his influence to transform us, we are able to reflect that same influence into the lives of our friends. His attributes such as wisdom, understanding, patience, kindness, and goodness, become part of our responses with others.

 

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Best of all, because of our friendship with Jesus, our human “friendships begun in this world will be taken up again, never to be broken off” (Francis de Sales).

How glorious is that?!
 
 
(Art & photo credits:  www.dgreetings.com; http://www.quotesgram.com; http://www.ladycarehealth.com; http://www.brainyquote.com; http://www.bible.knowing-jesus.com; http://www.biblegodquotes.com.)

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(Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati, Ohio)

 

One benefit of living in an older city is the interesting architecture to enjoy. Our hometown for two years now, Cincinnati, includes an impressive collection of historic buildings, in a large variety of styles. Below are six examples.

  • Federal:

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(Taft Museum of Art, built 1820)

  • Greek Revival: 

 

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(Cincinnati Observatory Center, built 1873)

  • Venetian Gothic: 

 

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(Cincinnati Music Hall, built 1878)

 

  • Romanesque: 

 

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(City Hall, built 1893)

 

  • Beaux Arts Classical: 

 

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(Lincoln National Bank Building, built 1903)

  • Art Deco: 

 

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(Union Terminal, now Cincinnati Museum Center, built 1933)

I, for one, am grateful to enjoy such artistic workmanship and beauty, created by architects and craftsmen long ago.

That’s one of the tenets author and artist, John Ruskin (1819-1900), promoted in his work The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1):

 

Buildings should be beautiful.

 

Ruskin’s seven “lamps,” intended as guidelines for architects, included:

  •  Sacrifice.  Buildings should reflect careful thought and strong effort.  No doubt he would agree:  “Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well” (2).
  • Truth.  Ruskin disapproved of faux finishes and trompe l’oiel. Worse yet was shoddy workmanship hidden behind fancy facades. “A building should be honest,” he said.

 

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(Ruskin probably wouldn’t approve of this trompe l’oeil

on a flat building in Cincinnati, at Central Parkway and Vine.)

 

  • Power.  Public buildings should exude strength and permanence. One surprising element to manifest strength: shadow— achieved with towering walls and deep recesses.  Smooth surfaces bathed in light do not achieve the same effect.
  • Beauty.  Ornamentation was important to Ruskin, distinguishing architecture from a simple building. No “voiceless buildings” devoid of expressiveness, he wrote.
  • Life.  Ruskin also said, “The life of the builder must be in the building.” He was “against mass production and any innovation that decreased the skill content” (3).
  • Memory.  Buildings ought to reflect the culture, its history and heritage. They should be built to last. As an architect sets about his work, he must take into consideration not only its current use but its use by future descendants.
  • Obedience.  Ruskin believed each nation should have a distinct style. And in much of the historical architecture of Europe, that’s exactly what we see. English Gothic, French Provincial, and Italianate are examples.

 

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(Italianate, above, as well as other European styles also seen in Cincinnati.

This is the John Hauck House built 1870).

Perhaps you’re noticing that the categories of Ruskin’s lamps illumine more than architecture. They enlighten our Christian experience as well. I wonder if you made similar connections to mine as you read about these seven components:

  • Sacrifice.  “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23). Such sacrifice is a joy, though, as we “serve the Lord with gladness” out of gratitude for all he has done for us.
  • Truth.  Just as Ruskin believed in honest buildings, so we desire to be people of integrity that reflect Jesus.
  • Power.  We also have available to us God’s strength, especially important in the valley of the shadow of death.

 

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  • Beauty.  Ruskin thought buildings should reflect creation, because the most beautiful shapes came from nature.  For example, columns resemble plant stems; pointed arches resemble leaves. Our inner “beauty” of spirit should reflect our Creator.
  • Life. “The life of the builder must be in the building,” Ruskin asserted. Doesn’t that perfectly mirror Paul’s words, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20)? 
  • Memory.  Buildings should be constructed to last, useful now and for future generations. Likewise, we should strive to leave a worthy legacy to our descendants.
  • Obedience.  Just as Ruskin wanted each nationality to have its own set of architectural guidelines, we Christians have a set of guidelines from our Heavenly Father—to avail ourselves of a strong foundation (his powerful, attentive presence), and strong walls of scriptural truth for keeping out the elements–like fear, depression, and stress.

Praise the Architect of Heaven!

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Thank you, Architect of Heaven, for exercising your creative and miraculous genius in my life. Sometimes, though, I resemble a big box store or factory—not reflecting your beauty at all. I do not rely fully on you–my Builder, nor follow your guidelines. But, oh how I praise you for never giving up on me! Day by day you are building me into a better version of myself, and you will bring your artistry to a flourishing finish when Jesus returns (Philippians 1:6, MSG). Glory!

 

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  1. Written in 1849. Another author, Ralph W. Sockman, mentioned this work in his book, The Higher Happiness (Abingdon Press, 1950), which I read recently. My curiosity sent me to the internet to learn about these seven lamps!
  2. Philip Stanhope, British statesman, b. 1694, d. 1773.
  3. Joffre Essley @ house-design-coffee.com
  4. However, here in America, with so many nationalities and climate zones , such strict adherence doesn’t seem as important. The wonderful variety in Cincinnati is a case in point.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.wikipedia.org; http://www.taftmuseum.org; http://www.observatoriesofohio.org; http://www.wikipedia.org (2); http://www.wikimapia.org; http://www.cincymuseum.org; http://www.pinterest.com (3); http://www.youtube.com.)

 

 

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Some years ago I started keeping prayer cards instead of a prayer list. A 3x 5 gives plenty of room to record updates and answers. Another benefit: It’s easy to rotate through the stack, praying for six to ten people/organizations per day.

One card in the stack trips me up. At the top is written the name of “a difficult person.” He’s arrogant, dishonest, and unreliable.

I know I need to include him in my prayers, but I hardly know where to begin, except for “God, help this man!”

So I finally did some reading on the subject of difficult people, to find out how to pray for such individuals. Below are several suggestions I found helpful. If you have challenging folks in your life, perhaps you’ll find these thoughts useful also.

First, I need to begin with repentance. Before I pray about the faults and shortcomings of others, I need to address my own (Matthew 7:1-5). In addition, before I look at the person to be forgiven, I must look to God for the power to forgive (1).

 

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Second, I can ask God to:

  1. Open the heart of this person to the error(s) of his ways.
  1. Reveal the truth of the gospel to him—that Jesus is the only Way to salvation.
  1. Grant the person self-awareness so he’ll see how his choices and behavior negatively impact others.
  1. Curtail his influence so that innocent people might be protected.
  1. Bring godly people into his sphere, to exemplify the God-enhanced life.
  1. Cause circumstances that draw his attention to God.
  1. Reveal the difference to him between godly wisdom and human foolishness.

 

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Third, I can praise God that:

  • He is sovereign over all—even difficult people.
  • He can cause positive outcomes—in spite of erroneous judgments.
  • “Mistakes” on their part can actually produce God-ordained benefits.

 

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And just how might such a prayer unfold? Perhaps something like this:

 

Oh, God, as I pray for those who

cause great frustration and even suffering for others,

it’s easy to lose sight of my own sinfulness.

I have not lived free of pride, dishonesty or unreliability either.

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Forgive me, Father, for the many ways

I fall short of your desires for me.

Thank you for your grace and love that

prompt you to accept my confession and

prod me toward greater reliance upon you,

to become a better version of myself.

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Because I fall short

(even though I know you as my Savior and Master),

it is with deep humility I pray for Mr. X.

I am no better than he is.

 

First, may he recognize the truth of your Word

and the reality of salvation through your Son, Jesus.

I pray Mr. X will seek the Light of your wisdom to guide his way.

May your Holy Spirit shed Light on the choices he’s already made,

and reveal to him the full, true consequences of his behavior.

Guide him to change course to your ways.

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I thank you, Lord, that every day you are

sending Christians into Mr. X’s life as bearers of your Light,

to draw him to you.

You are engineering circumstances that highlight your power,

and using that sovereign power to curtail his influence.

I thank you for your ability

to produce positive outcomes even through difficult people.

The story of Joseph is one example.

In addition, even mistakes on the part of Mr. X

can actually produce just and righteous benefits.

 

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Oh, how I praise you, Almighty God,

that you have established your throne in heaven,

and your kingdom rules over all—

even over difficult people.

 

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(Psalm 51:1-5; Romans 3:23; Romans 7:18; Ecclesiastes 2:13; John 16:13; Psalm 119:130; Matthew 5:16; Romans 1:20; Psalm 37:17; Proverbs 19:21; Psalm 103:19)

  1. Ralph Sockman,The Higher Happiness, Pierce & Smith, 1950, p. 107.

 

How do you pray for difficult people?  Please share your insights in the Comments section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.fotosearch.com; http://www.pinterest.com (5), http://www.ourdailyblossom.com; http://www.pinterest (2).

 

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Many people these days hire personal trainers to help them achieve their fitness goals. The benefits they site include:

  • Motivation and encouragement
  • A personalized routine, designed to produce maximum benefit for the time and effort invested
  • Injury prevention
  • Up-to-date information on health, nutrition, and fitness

Actually I have a Personal Trainer (you do, too) but for a far more important aspect of life than physical fitness. God is at work to “enlarge my heart.”

Pressing-toward-the-goal 

“I shall run the way of your commandments,

for you will enlarge my heart.”

Psalm 119:32, HCSB

In other words, God is working in me (Philippians 1:6) and with me (Psalm 23:4a) to develop my faith and mold my character into his likeness.

I do need his help to “run the way of [his] commandments,” just as the psalmist wrote eons ago (quoted above). Too often I’m side tracked onto self-chosen paths.

But how does God enlarge my heart to run his way?

First he initiates a change of heart.

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“For it is God who is working in you,

enabling you both to desire and to work out

His good purpose.”

Philippians 2:13, HCSB

And one day he will complete the process. We will be like Jesus (1 John 3:2). Can you imagine? One day we’ll finally become the holy and perfect people we’ve always wanted to be!

In between initiation and final transformation, we run:

The Christian life involves effort on our part, much as physical fitness requires effort. Just hiring a personal trainer won’t get us healthy and strong; we must take responsibility to follow the trainer’s instructions.

Similarly, while being responsible to exercise diligence and discipline in order to become spiritually mature, we also depend completely on what God supplies.

“We must work out what God has worked in.”

–John MacArthur

And what has God worked in? Everything we need for life and godliness:

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Yes, even our faith comes from him (Hebrews 12:2).

Now perhaps you’re one of those who have experienced the euphoria of being in “the zone,” during your workout. Once your heart rate is up, the blood is pumping, and your muscles are executing every move with precision, you experience a surge of energy and great pleasure in the activity.

I have never experienced that zone. My daily workouts involve uncomfortable huffing and puffing, aching muscles that beg me to “Stop with the push-ups already!” and downright boredom. (After decades of jumping jacks, they’re getting a bit old.)

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But it’s the results we’re after, isn’t it, including better heart health.

The function of our spiritual hearts is also improved by the application of exercise in the form of difficulties, hurt, illness, discouragement, and more.

Wait a minute! How does hardship improve spiritual heart health?

God uses such circumstances to produce such results as fully developed maturity.

“When troubles of any kind come your way,

consider it an opportunity for great joy.

For you know that when your faith is tested,

your endurance has a chance to grow.

So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed,

you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

James 1:2-4, NLT

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I may never experience the euphoria of the zone during physical exercise, but James’ assurance here promises a zone of joy as I allow God to enlarge my heart and choose to persevere through the challenges of life his way.

Talk about perfect results!

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Heavenly Father, I praise you for working into my life everything I need in order to become “perfect, complete, and needing nothing.” With your gracious provision, may I pursue the way of your commandments, and experience your euphoric joy!

(Art & photo credits:  www.tampabayathletics.com; http://www.successandfailure.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.knowing-jesus.com; http://www.321delish.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

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“Who has known the mind of the Lord?” Paul asked (1 Corinthians 2:16).

That’s an easy question to answer: Nobody! His intellect and wisdom are far beyond our human ability to comprehend.

After all…

God has worked out the complexities of every living cell–with perfect precision.

 

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(X-ray microscopy combine to picture interior of living cell)

 

He has engineered a staggering number of specialized plants and creatures, carefully interrelated in a web of reliance upon one another.

 

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He has created the unfathomable reaches of the universe filled with countless heavenly bodies of immeasurable proportions.

 

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(Spiral Galaxy M74)

 

Such intellect and wisdom to accomplish these feats is incredible.

Yet, at the end of that same verse above, Paul makes a statement even more astounding. In fact, at first glance it seems ludicrous.

 

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 “We have the mind of Christ.”

 

What? How is that possible? His knowledge and wisdom are infinite; ours is markedly limited.

But Paul makes clear:  we have the mind of Christ because he lives within us (Galatians 2:20).

 

Galatians-21

 

Not that we can know everything and respond with pure wisdom in all situations. Our perfection is a process that won’t be completed until Jesus returns (Philippians 1:6).

But my heart beats a little bit faster to realize that, each day and for all my tomorrows, I might think more like Jesus, understand more like Jesus, and react more like Jesus.

One particular action will encourage progress: spending time with him, especially in his Word.

 

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Here’s an analogy, though far from perfect. Steve and I have been married a very long time—forty-four years.  At this point, we can finish each other’s sentences, supply missing information or words in a conversation, and sometimes even know what the other is thinking.

It’s as if we’ve acquired a bit of the other person’s mind. And it’s happened bit by bit, over time.

So I repeat: We will have the mind of Christ as we spend time with him day by day– especially in his Word.

And how will we know that his way of thinking is becoming our way of thinking? After all, there’s no measuring stick for spiritual growth.

 

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Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost for His Highest, posed an excellent question that can help us determine our progress:

“Are other people beginning to see God in my life more and more (p. 78)?” Because a person with the mind of Christ will demonstrate Christ-like behavior.

Perhaps we could take an occasional inventory, based on the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The attributes listed in these two verses characterize a person with the mind of Christ–someone who is loving, joyful, peace-filled, patient, kind, good, and so on.  We could ask ourselves, how have I demonstrated these attributes this week?

And what will be the result of cultivating the mind of Christ? “The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

 

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Life that is characterized by vitality and purpose.

Peace that includes inner-contentment, freedom from guilt, and security for eternity.

That sounds awfully good to me.

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Heavenly Father, we praise you for taking us into the high places of blessing in Jesus. That includes this gift: the mind of Christ. And day by day you are transforming us into his likeness, with ever-increasing glory. May I seize this day and its opportunities to think like you, understand like you, and react like you.  

(Ephesians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 3:18)

 

Art and photo credits:  www.lbl.gov; http://www.chesapeakebay.net; http://www.hubblesite.org; http://www.crosspointenwa.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.changingthefaceof christianity.com; http://www.footsoldier4christ.com; http://www.motivationalquotes.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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No doubt we would all agree:  Christmas is much more than carols, cookies, and cards.  The heart of this holiday goes even deeper than the love we express with presents.  It is a celebration of God’s inexpressible gift (2 Corinthians 9:15).

And those of us who accept God’s gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus, ought to live our lives with overflowing gratitude.  The motivation behind our words and deeds should be the same sacrificial love which motivated Jesus.

Henry van Dyke (1852-1933)

Henry van Dyke (1852-1933, photo credit: Wikipedia)

What might that look like in everyday life?  Henry van Dyke* made several suggestions through these thought-provoking questions:

“Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you;

To ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world;

To put your rights in the background, and your duties in the foreground;

To own that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life;

To close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness—

Are you willing to do these things even for a day?

Then you can keep Christmas.”

Ouch.  If God made these stipulations into law, and only law-abiders were allowed to celebrate Christmas, I’d be left out.  My thoughts and motivations are not always pure.  I do not consistently put others’ needs before my own.  My focus is not always on what I can give.

But Rev. van Dyke’s essay does not end on that hopeless note.  He adds one more glorious line.

“But you can never keep it alone.”

Of course not!  “We are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us” (Romans 3:23, The Message).

However.  God does not expect instantaneous perfection, the minute we invite Jesus into our lives.  “God who began the good work within [us] will keep right on helping [us] grow in his grace until his task within [us] is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns” (Philippians 1:6, The Living Bible).

Hallelujah!

(Photo credit:  www.worshipkids.com)

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,

God of glory, Lord of love;

Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,

Opening to the sun above.

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness,

Drive the dark of doubt away;

Giver of immortal gladness,

Fill us with the light of day.

(also by Henry van Dyke)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

*Henry van Dyke (1852-1933) was an author, educator, and clergyman.  His lengthy list of accomplishments included professor of English literature at Princeton, minister to the Netherlands and Luxembourg (by appointment of President Wilson), and author of many poems, stories, and essays. “The Other Wise Man” and “The First Christmas Tree.” are among his most popular works.  He also wrote the lyrics for a number of hymns, including “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.”  The first verse is quoted above.

 

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