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Posts Tagged ‘Philippians 4:8’

English poet, William Blake (1757-1827) penned those words of the title.

We don’t have to look far to see that he was right:

 

 

  • Children pick up mannerisms, inflections, even body language from their parents.
  • Couples who have been married a long time often begin to look alike (1).
  • Transplants to another part of the country frequently pick up the accent of that region.

In addition, modern neurological research has proven Mr. Blake’s statement in ways even he never imagined.

Here’s what scientists have discovered: Thoughts travel along specific pathways to various destinations in our brains. As we consider the same thought frequently, the pathway for that thought becomes more deeply entrenched. The final result? The more often we contemplate something, the more it will affect our thought patterns, how we feel, and how we behave (2).

No wonder God inspired Paul to write:

 

 

According to that research mentioned above, to behold (observe and take in) such things as Paul lists will lead us to become honorable, pure, admirable, etc. In fact, we’ll gradually begin to resemble Jesus.

 

 

But how do we contemplate the Lord’s glory on a day-to-day basis? How do we train our thoughts to etch worthwhile pathways in our brains, so we’re thinking, feeling, and behaving in Jesus-like ways?

To begin, we might check the stimuli for our thoughts:

  • the book(s), magazines, and websites we read
  • the programs and movies we watch
  • the music and podcasts we listen to
  • the kind of entertainment we choose
  • the conversations we participate in—in person and on social media

 

 

Can we describe these activities with the adjectives Paul used in Philippians 4:8? Is our reading material pure? Our entertainment admirable? Our conversations worthy of praise?

 

O God,

 

 

 

Second, we set-aside a quiet time with God each day.

It is surely one of the loveliest and most excellent activities for beholding him, as we immerse ourselves in truth for life from his Word, revel in his glorious attributes, and talk to him about the concerns on our hearts.

 

 

“Look up into his lovely face and as you behold him,

he will transform you into his likeness.

You do the beholding—he does the transforming.”

—Alan Redpath

 

Third, we infuse the hours of each day with praise.

All those descriptors in Philippians 4:8 apply to Jesus. Day in and day out we can enjoy the uplift of praise, celebrating that he is:

  • the epitome of truth (John 14:6).
  • honorable and worthy of all tribute, because he lived a sinless life and sacrificed himself on the cross for us (Revelation 5:12).
  • right in all he does (Jeremiah 23:5).
  • pure in all he is (1 Peter 2:22).
  • lovely, as the radiance of God’s glory (Hebrews 1:3).
  • admirable, as the only man tempted in every way and yet never sinned (Hebrews 4:15).
  • excellent in all ways, including his servitude, humility, and obedience (Philippians 2:6-8).
  • praiseworthy, as ruler of all things (Matthew 28:18).

 

 

In addition, Jesus was a man of peace, joy, wisdom, kindness, courage and more (3).

And God wants us to be the same, to become like his Son (Philippians 1:6).

Can you think of any greater aspiration?

 

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Notes:

  1. One theory to explain this phenomenon: We unconsciously mimic the facial expressions of our spouses, as we empathize with their experiences and emotions. Over time, repeated expressions shape our faces in similar ways.
  2. https://www.maxanders.com/we-become-what-we-behold.
  3. John 14:27; John 15:11; Luke 2:40; Matthew 9:36; Philippians 2:8.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com.

 

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In a list of meaningful but “minor impressions,” beloved columnist/author, Joe Bayly, wrote the following for Saturday, July 28, 1962:

“Rode the merry-go-round tonight with happy David and worried Nathan, while Mary Lou looked on and waved each time we passed. Timmy kept up with us, running, for three times around”(1).

 

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And then Joe included this familiar scripture:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17–NIV, emphasis added).

That means everything good in this world comes from God—even a delightful ride on a merry-go-round.

Sometimes, however, the goodness of God’s gifts isn’t immediately recognizable.

Scripture offers a number of examples, such as Paul’s thorn in the flesh. The exact nature of the problem was never revealed, but we do know it was chronic and debilitating. Who would call that a good and perfect gift?

Paul did.

“At first I didn’t think of it as a gift,” he said.

Then God told him, “My grace is enough; it’s all you need.”

 

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“Once I heard that,” Paul explained, “I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift.” (vs. 7-10, The Message).

I, for one, have never had to deal with a long-term thorn in the flesh. But difficult, shorter-term circumstances have turned into tremendous blessings. For example:

  • A particularly exhausting week of teaching, family responsibilities, and other pressing matters was followed up by a weekend music retreat at church. How could I muster the energy to attend and complete a long must-do-by-Monday list? While visions of PJs and pillows danced in my head, I dragged myself to church. But through the funny and inspiring retreat leader, the uplifting music, and the invigorating camaraderie of music ministry friends, I left Friday evening highly rejuvenated, looking forward to more blessings come Saturday and Sunday.
  • Our son was not accepted into his first choices of graduate schools, and we wondered what God was doing. Was Eric proceeding in the right direction? Those trying days, however, turned into lessons of trust and spiritual maturity for him, which he humbly took to heart. As for the university that did accept him? That’s where Eric met his wife.
  • Into every life a few challenging people must fall, right? And with them often come discouragement, stress, and hurt. Where’s the blessing in all that? For starters, God uses such relationships to train us in turning our thoughts to the positive (Philippians 4:8), so we can experience renewal and peace. We also develop perseverance and maturity (James 1:2-4)—traits that lead to a calm and steady life anchored on Jesus.

God gives only good and perfect gifts. Sometimes they come as small but delightful surprises—like a perfect merry-go-round moment.

Sometimes they come wrapped inside trying circumstances.

But those are some of his best gifts–when negative is transformed into positive.

Because that’s downright miraculous.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Have you ever received a good and perfect gift out of difficult circumstances?  Tell us your story in the comments below.

 

(1) Joe Bayly, Out of My Mind:  The Best of Joe Bayly, Zondervan, 1993, p. 41.

 

(Photo credit:  www.elcivics.com, http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

 

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Scripture is full of promises that speak of precious gifts God is willing to give us:

  • Unstoppable love (Romans 8:38-39)
  • Overflowing hope (Romans 15:13)
  • Wise guidance (Psalm 32:8)
  • Courageous confidence (Psalm 56:3-4)
  • Compassionate comfort (Psalm 34:18)
  • Peaceful rest (Matthew 11:28-29)

And that’s not a complete list by any means. The question is: Are we willing to receive all these blessings?

Or, are our minds full of:

  • Doubt?

“God may love me in a general sense, but personally? I doubt it. After disappointing him so many times, I don’t deserve his gifts.”

  • Negativity?

“Look at all these challenges in my life. I’m not seeing very many blessings.” 

  • Timidity? 

“That promise can’t be for me, can it?” 

These kinds of thoughts originate with Satan, the father of lies, who’s delighted when we don’t embrace God’s blessings.

For most of us, accepting gifts—even from God–can be more difficult than giving them. Gracious receiving is an art.

So how do we develop the art of receiving? 

  1. Reject those lies of the devil.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can take such thoughts captive and cast them out of our minds (2 Corinthians 10:5). The next step is to…

  1. Fill our minds with uplifting thinking.

“Whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

Such glorious categories on which to focus! And undoubtedly our hearts will fill with gratitude as we contemplate God’s magnificent gifts.

  1. Practice. 

Any art form—music, writing, painting, etc.—requires practice. So does the art of receiving. God has not chosen to instantaneously transform our attitudes for us. He almost always takes a gradual approach, providing numerous opportunities for practice.

The art of receiving is no different, developing over time through faith and self-discipline. We affirm that God loves and blesses his children—despite our feelings–and discipline our minds to counter doubt, negativity, and fear with trust-statements from his Word.

  1. Spend time in God’s Word. 

The more time we spend reading the Bible, the more scripture-gems we discover that speak of God’s gracious character, his promises, and blessings. And the more we learn, the more we respond, “Thank you, Father, for all the blessings of the abundant, God-enhanced life with you!”

  1. Receive graciously, even enthusiastically, from others. 

Too often, we’re uncomfortable at the receiving end.  We feel embarrassed or unworthy and worry about repaying the favor.

We need to remind ourselves: gracious, enthusiastic receiving is in itself a gift of: 

Affirmation.  Every gift bestowed with good intention is meaningful—whether it’s a compliment, a favor, or an object. Granted, we may feel awkward when complimented, we may not need the favor or desire the object, but the thoughtfulness can be affirmed just the same.

Pleasure.  God has engineered us so that when the receiver expresses pleasure, the giver also experiences pleasure—usually more so.

Gratitude.  Thoughtful gratitude shows honor and esteem for the giver.

So let’s grit our teeth and be gracious receivers!

No, gritting won’t be necessary if we remember: All gifts originate in the heart of our Heavenly Father (James 1:17). He is the One bestowing the blessings, frequently using people as his agents.

Our highest privilege is to bestow pleasure and honor upon God, by passing the praise and gratitude on to him

In doing so, the art of receiving comes full circle.

(Photo credit:  www.familyconnect.org.)

 

 

 

 

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The story of Cinderella always was my favorite fairy tale. The rags-to-riches, wrong-to-right, happily-ever-after story never grew old.

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And that ball gown! How the illustrators of the various editions must have enjoyed creating the glory and splendor of that dress!

Rarely, if ever, are we common damsels provided opportunity to wear such grand finery. And I doubt many guys out there in the blogosphere have donned gold-braided jackets spangled with brightly colored medals. Such ostentation is almost exclusively reserved for royalty.

Ah! But whether we’re CEOs of the home front (stay-at-home parents) or CEOs of corporations, plumbers or painters, teachers or taxi drivers, we are priests of the Lord King of the universe.   And that designation makes us a royal priesthood:

 

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(“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood,

a holy nation, a people belonging to God,

that you may declare the praises of him

who called you out of darkness

into his wonderful light.”

–1 Peter 2:9)

Because we are his royal priesthood, God has provided a glorious new wardrobe for each of us, including:

  • Rich garments of salvation, replacing the sin-stained rags of our self-centeredness (1).
  • A robe of righteousness, radiant with the perfections of Jesus (2).
  • A belt of truth, studded with gems from God’s Word that inspire, instruct, encourage, and comfort (3).
  • Garments of praise, because he continually manifests his glorious attributes and showers us with blessings (4).
  • Ornaments of strength and joy (5).
  • A crown of beauty, as we allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds and turn our thoughts to the positive (6).
  • Beautiful shoes of peace, equipping us to tread gently and share the peace of Jesus with others (7).

Note: None of this is earned, like the medals on Prince Charming’s uniform. Every radiant item has been magnanimously bestowed by our King.

Why would that be, we wonder. Is his purpose simply to display his generosity?

Surely that’s part of the answer. But the last half of 1 Peter 2:9 (above) reveals more: Now that we’re dressed in his garments of radiant splendor, we are commissioned to proclaim his excellency everywhere we go.

 

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Sometimes we proclaim with words (Mark 16:15), as simple as “God is so good,” while sharing a story with a coworker.

Sometimes we proclaim with loving action (John 13:34-35), serving as a channel of blessing between God and others. That extra-generous tip to a waitress, for example, may pay eternal dividends  especially if she saw us praying before we ate, and we engaged her in friendly, upbeat conversation (about her).

Sometimes we proclaim with our attitudes—simply reflecting the radiance of Jesus’ peace and joy on our faces (2 Corinthians 3:18)—especially in difficult circumstances. Someone may very well ask, “I don’t know how you do it,” giving you opportunity to proclaim God’s excellencies and the blessings of living in his wonderful light—just as that verse in First Peter suggests.

 

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If our new wardrobe is on full display, people will notice.

 

“Let us put on the vestments of holiness

and minister before the Lord all day long.”

–Charles Spurgeon

Photo credits:  www.pinterest.com (2), http://www.icould.com; http://www.kingdomcalling.com.)

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  1. Zechariah 3:4; Isaiah 61:10
  2. Isaiah 61:10
  3. Ephesians 6:14; 2 Timothy 3:16
  4. Isaiah 61:3
  5. Isaiah 49:18
  6. Isaiah 61:3; Romans 8:5; Philippians 4:8
  7. Isaiah 52:7; Ephesians 6:15; John 14:27

 

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“Be careful what you think,

because your thoughts run your life.”

–Proverbs 4:23, NCV

 

That would explain why worrisome thoughts can turn into paralyzing fear, pessimism into debilitating discouragement, and sadness into utter hopelessness.

No one wants to dwell in such misery.

But if a person is facing difficult circumstances, and she allows her thoughts to run amok on auto-pilot, she’s likely to slide downward into hyper negativity.  Climbing out is difficult.

“Snap out of it!” someone will say. Not very helpful.

“Look for the silver lining,” advises another. Easier said than done when tragedy strikes–and lingers.

“Spend some time in reflection.” That’s what one web site recommends, offering sixteen questions for a person to consider. Most of us don’t have time for that much introspection, nor the inclination, when we’re hurting.

So, how can we climb out of a miserable pit of despair?

By replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts, especially scripture.

You see, our brains cannot focus on two things at once. Prove it to yourself by counting to ten and reciting John 3:16 at the same time. You’ll find you’re either counting or reciting, not both simultaneously.

We can apply the same strategy to negative thinking. At the first moment we realize our thoughts are headed in the wrong direction, we can confess it and ask God to help us renew our minds:

“Lord, I don’t want to think about this anymore.  I know it’s counter productive and does absolutely no good. Help me to refocus on what is noble and right, pure and lovely (Philippians 4:8).”                            

Then we start singing a favorite praise song, listing all the reasons we can trust God in this situation, or reciting an uplifting scripture.

For a start, the bulleted quotes below highlight some common threads of negative thinking.  Following each is a positive scripture as rebuttal:

  • “There is no way this situation is going to work out.”

 Oh? “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, italics added).

  • “I can’t stand another day of this.”

Oh, yes, I can stand. I can put on the full armor of God, so that in this day of trouble, I may be able to stand my ground” (Ephesians 6:13).

 Restoration will come. “Though you, [God], have made me see troubles…you will restore my life again…you will again bring me up” (Psalm 71:20).

  • “I am never going to succeed.”  

Not true.  God says [He] will accomplish all [his] purposes (Isaiah 46:10b, italics added).  What greater success could there be than to accomplish the purpose of Almighty God?

  • “I have no idea how to proceed. Maybe I should just quit. This is just too hard.”

 I can pray as the author of Hebrews did: “May the God of peace…equip me with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in me what is pleasing to him” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

  • “Sometimes I can’t seem to do anything right. How can God use me?” 

I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which he prepared in advance for me to do (Ephesians 2:10).

If the bulleted comments in bold print are our focus, our lives will surely head in a downward direction toward discouragement and hopelessness.

If, on the other hand, we focus on the promises and positive affirmations of scripture, we head in an upward direction toward wholeness, productivity, and joy.

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“He enables [us] to go on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:19)–above the doubts and uncertainties.

Focus determines direction.

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What scripture promise or affirmation lifts you up when circumstances try to pull you down?  Add your favorites in the Comments below!

(Photo credits:  www.facebook.com/wonwithoutaword; http://www.zazzle.com.)

 

 

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 (Photo from http://www.trulia.com.)

“There it is, Mom, “ Steve remarked, as he pointed to a little white house in the middle of a city block. “That’s where we lived when I was growing up.”

“Oh, yes,” she replied. But did Mom really remember?

We were on an excursion through Columbus, Ohio, taking Steve’s mother past the landmarks of her life. Alzheimer’s disease had already stolen away much of her vibrancy and warmth, and, of course, her memory.

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Steve drove by West High School and continued his commentary. “That’s where we all went to school, you, Dad, Karen, and me. You were the very first homecoming queen.  How about that?  No wonder Dad asked you out.”

She murmured assent to Steve’s comments, but added nothing of her own.

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We drove past the brick ranch they built out in the country in 1966. Horses used to reside beyond the back fence. Just a few houses had dotted the area back then. By this time, however, they had been swallowed up by dozens more. The saplings Mom and Dad had planted were now tall shade trees.  And the glorious flower beds and window boxes that Mom had tended were gone. She registered no recollection.

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But when we approached her childhood home, a white Dutch Colonial on a quiet street, all of a sudden she perked up.  Pointing to a second-story window, Mom stated firmly, “That was my room, right up there.”

In the midst of the fog that is Alzheimer’s, one memory–one glimmer of light–shone through that morning. Steve and I almost gasped at the wonder of the moment. Mom remembered!

And the rarity of her memories pointed to the preciousness of this ability. Memory is a gift to be treasured. The older I grow, the more I appreciate the miraculous power of the brain to store millions of memories—with astounding detail–and yet access a particular one in a mille-second.

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Not only do sights trigger memories, but also smells. Researchers say this sense is the most powerful memory-inducer. For me, the aroma of fresh-baked bread always takes me back to my grandmother’s kitchen.

Sounds trigger memories as well—particularly music. Tastes and textures work the same phenomenon.

But surely God had more purpose in mind for giving us memory than the pleasant pastime of reminiscing.

Indeed.

Memories foster gratitude, as we contemplate God’s goodness to us in the past:

  • His countless blessings (even when we haven’t been a blessing to him).
  • Those times he led us through the shadow of death, so that we might experience more completely the glory of his light.
  • Moments when we almost gave up hope, and God surprised us with his creative, abundant provision.
  • Leaving behind what we once were and celebrating what we have become, solely because of his Son, Jesus.

Memories foster faith, as we remember how God has met our needs in the past. See if each phrase from Psalm 103 doesn’t trigger a memory in your mind, and a song of praise in your heart:

“Oh, my soul, bless God,

Don’t forget a single blessing!

He forgives your sins—every one.

He heals your diseases—every one.

He redeems you from hell—saves your life!

He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.

He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal…

…God makes everything come out right.

He puts victims back on their feet…

…God is sheer mercy and grace;

Not easily angered, he’s rich in love.

He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve,

Nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.

(Psalm 103:2-10, The Message)

Memories inform the present and provide hope for the future. As we meditate on all those times God has wrapped us in his goodness (v. 5), we are strengthened for what we face today. As we consider the many times he made everything come out right (v. 6), we can trust he will continue to make our paths straight.

Of course, there are some memories we would like to erase—those that generate sadness, hurt, or regret. How do we deal with those? Here are a few suggestions I’ve collected over the years:

  1. We must resist self-pity—even in our thought life. Nowhere in scripture do we read that rehashing the negative is therapeutic. God’s way is to focus on the positive (Philippians 4:8).

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  1. We can follow Paul’s example. He forgot what was in his past and pressed on to what lay ahead (Philippians 3:13). Not that amnesia had set in. Paul simply did not allow past failures to cripple his relationship with God and his service for God. God had forgiven and forgotten; Paul did too. No doubt he applied Philippians 4:8, not only to self-pity, but also to guilt. 
  1. We can leave the past in God’s hands. Oswald Chambers said it so well:

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(“Leave the irreparable Past in His hands, and step out into the Irresistible Future with Him”

–My Utmost for His Highest, Dec. 31.)

 

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Father, I do thank you for the gift of memories—the ability to remember with joy and appreciation the people, places, and experiences of the past. I even thank you for the not-so-good memories, knowing that you use every difficult situation for the development of my maturity (James 1:2-3). And may I take advantage of the wisdom gained in the past to guide me in the present, and lead me into the Irresistible Future with you.

 

Art & Photo credits:  www.trulia.com; http://www.westhighalumni.com; Steve’s photo collection; http://www.allrecipes.com; http://www.god.com; http://www.pinterest.com.

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Paul told his beloved friends in Philippi:  “You’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse” (Philippians 4:8, The Message).

As a meditative exercise, I decided to choose one event, object, or truth which embodied adjectives from this verse.  Which examples below are similar to choices you would make?  What might you select that would be different?

One important truth:

“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

That one was rather obvious, wasn’t it.  The veracity and certainty of eternal life colors every moment of life with peace and joy.   How incredibly splendorous!

One supreme example of nobility:

First, a definition.  Nobility includes qualities of high moral character such as honor, generosity, and courage.

I have been blessed and influenced by many noble people.  Any one of them would be worthy to contemplate and hold up as an example:  family members, pastors, Sunday School teachers, youth group leaders, missionaries, colleagues, friends.

So if I stick my hand into an imaginary hat filled with their names on slips of paper, I might pull out…M. and L.

M. lost his job unfairly and in a hurtful way.  But they persevered through that dark time with honor and courage.  These two are also known for generosity and hospitality, in their church community and beyond.

 One person of good repute: 

 Again, I have to put my hand into that hat and pull out…

…Rachel Asherman, my grandmother.  To this day her grandchildren arise and call her blessed (Proverbs 31:28), because of her kind, gracious ways. Everyone loved Grandma Rachel.

One example of holy authenticity:

The Bible.  How grateful I am for the reliability of God’s Word—filled with wisdom, promises, and encouragement.  The more I learn of archaeology, prophecy, history, and creation science, the more astounded I am by the great volume of proof upholding its authenticity.

One item that demands compelling attention:

An impossible choice!  As I contemplate towering mountains and tiny snowflakes, colorful flowers and majestic trees, soaring birds and fluttering butterflies, radiant rainbows and ethereal sunbeams, crashing waves and delicate seashells…my heart is filled with wonder and appreciation.  And yet there is so much more!

God created such astounding beauty to display his attributes to us.  With  his power he carved out ocean beds.  In wisdom he designed the evaporation cycle.  With creative genius he splashed color over the earth–even out into the galaxies.  His engineering prowess is highlighted in a honeycomb, and his artistry in a rose.

“The whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3)!

So where might that glory be most evident?  Perhaps at the birth of a baby, when the little one takes that first breath of life and greets everyone with a wobbly cry.  And surely there is glory in that moment when the parents first glimpse this new little person who will forever be entwined around their hearts.

Who is not compelled to give attention to that wonder?  “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4)!

One example of graciousness: 

A dear friend, Dixie, died of a brain tumor a number of years ago.  Her treasure of life stories included great heartache, but you wouldn’t have known that to look at her.  Dixie seemed to live in a cloud of contentment and peace, never showing anger, never gossiping, never complaining.  Her example is still an encouragement to me today.

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Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the bounty of beautiful things and inspiring people you have brought into my life.  Meditation on all your blessings can keep me happily occupied for hours!

But you have ordained greater purpose in the exercise, because there is power generated by our thoughts.  “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart,” Jesus said, “…for out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).”

 That means the more I meditate on your goodness, the more goodness will come out of my mouth.  And the more goodness that comes out of my mouth, the more will be evident in my life, because a man [woman] reaps what [s]he sows (Galatians 6:7).

May I make choices, moment by moment, that will demonstrate the overflow of your Spirit.  

Top choices.

(photo credits:  www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.breathofhopeinc.com; http://www.learnthefaith.wordpress.com; http://free-hdwallpapers.com; http://www.babycentre.co.uk; http://www.hcfwomen.com.)

 

 

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