Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Best Kind of Overwhelmed

 If you are a mother, I’m sure you have moments when you wonder how you could love your child your child so much. Tonight, I had a long strand of those moments as I was cradling Riley Grace in my arms while she slept. I was overwhelmed with just how much I love her and how I would do anything for her. I was overwhelmed with why in the world God entrusted her to Patrick and me. I was overwhelmed with how much God has used her to bless us, change us, and challenge us. I was overwhelmed with thankfulness that God planned her to be a part of our family even when we thought it wasn’t our plan! Our poor baby has been sick all week with a cold and fever, and she is miserable. Today after work, all she wanted to do was nap on me until bedtime. Although I hate for her to be sick, I was relishing the sweet moments of cuddling because, if you know Riley Grace, you know that she rarely wants to cuddle because she’s always on the go! As she was laying on me with a cool rag on her neck to hopefully reduce the fever and give her some relief, I began praying for her to be healed and be able to rest. As I was praying and feeling so in love, I began thinking that the love I have for her as a mother is nothing compared to the love the Father has for us. The familiar song, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” popped into my head as I was looking at her sweet face. Read it prayerfully, and be reminded and overwhelmed of what the Father did because He loves YOU.

How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure that He should give His only Son to make a wretch his treasure?

How great the pain of searing loss! The Father turns His face away as wounds which mar the chosen One bring many sons to glory.

Behold the Man upon a cross, my sin upon His shoulders. Ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers.

It was my sin that left Him there until it was accomplished.
His dying breath has brought me life; I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything, no gifts, no power, no wisdom, but I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection.

Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer. But this I know with all my heart: His wounds have paid my ransom.

Wow! This song is a precious reminder of how deeply the Father loves us. Can you imagine allowing your child to experience pain on purpose? Can you imagine your child asking for you to take away the pain, and you deciding not to take it away because you had a purpose for it? I would never desire for Riley Grace to have to go through a painful experience. It hurts my heart to see her in pain. God allowed and ordained for Jesus to go through pain. Why? For us. And who are we? We are the “wretch” that the song is talking about! We are the sinners whose sins held Christ on the cross. And we are the ones who gained from the Father’s love and Jesus’ obedience. Why was all of it necessary? Because God’s wrath upon our sin had to be appeased, and rather than punishing us, He made a way for us to be reconciled to Him that involved placing the punishment on HIS SON. He allowed Jesus to endure so much humiliation and shame, even when Jesus asked if there was another way. The Father answered that there was no other way, and so Jesus was obedient to death on a cross. Why? Because He treasures each one of us! Jesus felt extreme pain, but the Father also endured pain as he allowed Jesus to endure all of the pain. Think about how much the Lord must love us in order for all of the pain to be worth it. To God, we were (and are) worth the pain and suffering.

As we go about our day wrapped up in all of our daily tasks, it’s easy to forget the magnitude of the love of God. The devil loves for us to be too busy to notice God. Busyness (even busy with good things) keeps our focus on the tasks at hand instead of on having an eternal perspective. When we’re busy, we don’t stop to stand in awe of God’s creation. When we’ve heard the story of the cross a million times, we may not be overwhelmed by it anymore. BUT if we will take the vital time to stop and think about His great love, it can take our breath away. Hopefully, it overwhelms us and brings us to our knees in worship and adoration.

THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE LOVES YOU! Don’t brush past that as a Sunday School statement that you’ve heard a million times! It’s true, and it’s crazy! As my own worst critic, I know that there are many unlovable things about me. I’m sure you could say the same thing about yourself. But God loves you! You were worth the pain of the cross! You were worth the pain of the Father having to watch his Son endure the cross! Don’t waste your days and thoughts on busyness and the worries and cares of this world without remembering to praise the One who loves you so deeply. Have you experienced His love? Do you know that Jesus’ death on the cross was so that you could have true life? Do you believe in the One who died to rescue you? I hope that you do!

1 John 3:1 “See with what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Monday, September 8, 2014

Philippians - A List of Important "Whatevers"


“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. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

         Normally, when we hear the word, "Whatever!', we may think of a teen girl rolling her eyes at some seemingly ridiculous (to her, at least!) statement her mother made. I know none of you ever did that; I know I didn't!...  :-)  (Side note: As I have become an adult, I can definitely see where my mom was coming from when I had a tendency to roll my eyes, and I'll probably be the same way toward Riley Grace. :-) ) Ok, back to the real point. "Whatever" usually means that someone is meaningless to the hearer. "Whatever! I don't care!" Even though this may be how we commonly use the term, don't think that way when you read Philippians 4:8-9. Paul says "whatever" 6 times in one verse, and his "whatevers" are really important! Pray and ask the Lord to teach you something big and personal as we wrap up our study of Philippians 4!
         Philippians 4:8-9 are so encouraging! Paul uses the word “finally” as he enters into some final remarks about godly living. Many of the things we discussed, such as rejoicing, praying, being thankful, and not being anxious, have to do with our attitude and our perspective. As women and really just as human beings, we may have lots of trouble being joyful or winning the battle against anxiety in our day-to-day life. I can let a tiff with my husband steal my joy. I can allow a glance at the latest news story to create an anxious mind and heart as I think about the world Riley Grace will grow up in. I can cease to be thankful if something is not going as I expected. And all of these examples are of me focusing on myself. Not a good idea, but so easy to do! If we are focusing on the Lord, then we will realize all of the reasons we have to be rejoice, pray, be thankful, and reject worry regardless of our circumstances. If we are focusing on others, our circumstances, or ourselves, then we may end up seeing very little reason for living obediently according to the commands in Philippians 4.
         These verses are no different than the rest of what we’ve studied in Philippians; they are also about our thought lives, which eventually overflow into what we say and how we practice (or do not practice) what we know the Word tells us to do. Let’s take a look at this list:  

§  Whatever is TRUE As believers, we have to avoid the temptation to cling to false gods and false teachings. While Paul visited Philippi, he discovered that many people worshipped idols and false gods. Although we may not have graven images that we bow down to, people today still worship things that are false. We may worship success, perfectionism, money, power, and positionultimately ourselves. We may be bombarded with many false teachings of self-sufficiency and self-worship. We wouldn’t want to say outright that we worship ourselves, but our lives may reflect self-worship. Let’s guard against the worship of anything other than the Lord!

§  Whatever is HONORABLE Is thinking thoughts of worry, doubt, and anxiety honoring to the Lord?  Is thinking critical and judgmental thoughts of others honoring to the Lord. That’s an easy answer No. Examine your thought life to see if any of these patterns characterize your thoughts, and ask the Lord to replace those thoughts with ones that honor Him. Although it may seem that we are the only ones affected by our thoughts because other people cannot know them unless we speak them out, other people really can be affected by our thoughts because the way we think affects what we say and how we live. Guard your mind!   

§  Whatever is JUST God is righteous, and we should also value and pursue righteousness.

§  Whatever is PURE In a world where any and all promiscuous and vulgar thoughts, words, images, and actions are elevated and on display for all to see (regardless of if you go looking for it.), it is very difficult to live a life that remains pure in all aspects. Turning on the television or radio or skimming through a magazine is evidence of such impurity. As believers and as women of God who have been called to serve the people around us, whether it’s friends, our husband, children, church members, co-workers, etc., we are called to live with personal integrity. The Bible is not short on verses about purity. Do not allow for small areas of impurity because it seems culturally acceptable, even in today’s Christian culture. All the devil needs is a foothold; don’t let him have one!

§  Whatever is LOVELY (pleasing) Live a life pleasing to the Lord. That statement is short and seemingly simple, but it also filled with much depth. One of my favorite verses is Philippians 1:27 in which Paul says: “Live in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.” What a short but loaded statement! How in the world can we live lives that are worthy of what Christ has done for us? Search the Word for the answers and the means! Are you living a life worthy of the Lord Jesus? Do you desire to live that way? Is pleasing the Lord constantly on your mind?

§  Whatever is COMMENDABLE Commendable is simply another word for praiseworthy. We should live lives that cause others to praise the Lord because of the purity, sincerity, and godliness in our actions. We should choose to think, speak, and act in a ways that are worthy of praise, not ways that would bring shame to the name of Christ. 

§  EXCELLENT and PRAISE-WORTHY Paul states that “if anything” is these things, then think on them. We should test the things that we choose to think, say, and do in order to see if they are excellent and praise-worthy. If they aren’t, then they will in no way bring us closer to having the attitude of Christ (2:5) and therefore would be a waste of our time. 

TRUTH #1: God wants believers to only think of things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praise-worthy.

TRUTH #2: Believers should allow these thought patterns to inform how they live.

TRUTH #3: The life of a believer should be so closely knit to the life of Christ that other believers can be encouraged to imitate their life. 

TRUTH #4: God is not only the giver of peace, but He is the source of peace. “The God of peace will be with you!” What a comfort!

APPLICATION: Are you a joyful woman? Do you desire to be a joyful woman? How is your attitude? How is our perspective (or outlook) on life?  What do you spend your time thinking about? After completing this study, what lessons have hit you the hardest? What lessons have encouraged you the most? Write a commitment to the Lord about all He has shown you and taught you. Ask Him to empower you to be an obedient woman as you seek to obey the truths found in the few short verse that we have studied. 

FURTHER STUDY: Take some time to pray about the women that the Lord may want you to encourage and challenge with this study of Philippians 4. Read over Philippians 4:1-9 to remind yourself of the significant truths that we have discussed. Post a copy on your bathroom mirror. Write it on some notecards, and keep them in your purse. One of the best ways to remember what you have learned is to share it with someone else! How can you take what you have learned and share it with other women?