Sunday Devotional: Philippians 4:8

“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)

A couple of years ago, I used this verse for a Sunday Devotional.  I was reminded of this verse again recently and how it is very much still applicable today.

Paul wrote these words finishing up a letter to a group of believers that he cared for very deeply.  He helped to plant the church in Philippi wanted to see and hear that the believers there were growing in their faith.  He wanted them to keep pursuing Christ and to continue the work there.

We as believers have that same calling.  We are to keep pursing Christ and continue the work of sharing the Gospel.  And as we do that, we are to engage life with the filter that this verse   We live in a time when we are bombarded on all sides from things that are not the things in these verses.  We must strive to separate out these things to find the things that are true, that are just, that are pure, that are worthy of praise.

This week, let us make sure that we take time to reflect on those things that honor God, those things that point us to Him.  Let us think on those things so that we can be focused on what it is He has for us to do.

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Sunday Devotional: Psalm 107:23-32

“Others went to sea in ships,
conducting trade on the vast waters.
They saw the Lord’s works,
His wonderful works in the deep.
He spoke and raised a tempest
that stirred up the waves of the sea.
Rising up to the sky, sinking down to the depths,
their courage melting away in anguish,
they reeled and staggered like drunken men,
and all their skill was useless.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and He brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a murmur,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
They rejoiced when the waves grew quiet.
Then He guided them to the harbor they longed for.
Let them give thanks to the Lord
for His faithful love
and His wonderful works for all humanity.
Let them exalt Him in the assembly of the people
and praise Him in the council of the elders.” (Psalm 107:23-32)

We all have storms we have to deal with in our lives.  They come both literally and figuratively.  We’ve seen in recent days and weeks dealing with storms such as Hurricane Harvey and Irma.  We also see it in our lives figuratively when the troubles and hardships that come our way.  Throughout it all, God is still there in the midst.  He is still in control.

Like the Psalmist writes here in Psalm 107, God is right there to hear us when we call out to him in the midst of the storm.  He knows what we’re going through.  He is able to guide us “to the harbor”.  Sometimes it’s hard in the midst of the storm to feel his presence but He is there.  If we call out to Him, He will hear us.

This week, let us pray for those that are in the midst of storms both literally and figuratively.  And let us give thanks to the Lord, for His faithfulness and His love.  Let us give thanks that He does hear us and that He will calm the storm and will guide us to the harbor.

Sunday Devotional: Luke 11:1-4

“He was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.”

He said to them, “Whenever you pray, say:

Father,
Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves also forgive everyone
in debt to us.
And do not bring us into temptation.” (Luke 11:1-4)

These verses in Luke are part of the “Model Prayer” that Jesus shared with His disciples.  The disciples asked Jesus about prayer and how they should pray.  Jesus shares with them this short prayer as a model for how they should pray.  They should acknowledge God the Father as holy.  They should ask for daily provisions.  They should ask for forgiveness and repent of their sins and to show forgiveness to others. And they should ask for help in dealing with temptation.

We all have times when we struggle to pray.  Sometimes it is hard to have those moments to sit and pray.  But the good thing is God listens to our prayers big or small.  He wants us to have those conversations with Him.  And thankfully when we’re struggling with prayer, we have this model prayer that Jesus shared to go back to and have a starting point.

This week, let us commit to prayer. No matter how big or small, let us take time to have those conversations with the Lord.

Sunday Devotional: Luke 22:39-46

“He went out and made His way as usual to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed Him.  When He reached the place, He told them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”  Then He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and began to pray,  “Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me—nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.”

Then an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him.  Being in anguish, He prayed more fervently, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground. When He got up from prayer and came to the disciples, He found them sleeping, exhausted from their grief. “Why are you sleeping?” He asked them. “Get up and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:39-46)

At this point, Jesus and His disciples had just finished eating the Passover meal and they left the upper room.  Jesus then went over to the Mount of Olives to spend some time in prayer.  While Jesus was praying, several of His closest disciples (Peter, James & John) were to keep watch.  However, they were tired and kept falling asleep.  Jesus kept waking them up and encouraging them to pray as well.

As I was recently reading over these verses again, I was struck by a phrase that I hadn’t noticed before.  It said that when Jesus checked on the disciples he found they were sleeping “exhausted from their grief.” Other translations say they were “sleeping from sorrow.”  The disciples knew something was the matter even though they didn’t know what would take place in mere hours.  But they were distraught.  And so they wanted to just sleep.

I know there have been times in my life where I was exhausted from my grief and and wanted to sleep from sorrow.  When times were hard and I was struggling and just wanted to turn my mind off and sleep.  But like the disciples, in those times we need to pray.  We need to pray for the situations that we’re struggling with at the moment.  We need to pray for those around us and the problems they are facing.  We need to pray and praise God for listening to us.  But no matter what we need to pray.

This week, whether we are exhausted from grief or things are going well, let us pray.  Let us be about prayer.  And if it something we’re struggling with, let God know.  It is a joy and privilege that we have to be able to talk to God.  Let us take advantage of that.

Sunday Devotional: Colossians 4:2-4

“Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.  At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah, for which I am in prison, so that I may reveal it as I am required to speak.” (Colossians 4:2-4)

Paul in his letter to the Colossians made a point to not only encourage them to keep on in their faith but to also remind them that they’re not alone.  Prayer is such a key part to this.  Paul knew personally of the power of prayer and wanted to encourage them to be about prayer.

Sometimes it’s hard to pray whether it’s because we don’t know what to pray for or we get discouraged by not hearing a response.  But Paul reminds them (and us) to devote ourselves to prayer and to do it with thanksgiving.  Of course when we pray for others that is a great way to remember the power of prayer and to encourage others.  Paul needed the prayers as he was continuing on his work.  There are many out there who are doing the work that could use the prayers for doing the work of Christ.  And they in turn are praying for you and your faithfulness for serving God.

This week let us all be in prayer.  Let us devote ourselves to it and may we all be growing closer to the Lord as we do.

Sunday Devotional: Luke 18:9-14

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:  “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’  But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”  (Luke 18:9-14)

Jesus loved to tell parables to help teach his disciples and the crowds that followed Him.  This was another of these parables.  The story featured two men who were praying to God.  One was a Pharisee, who was considered the holiest of Jews by fellow Jews.  The other man was a tax collector, who was considered the bottom of the holy ladder by fellow Jews.  They both had different prayers.  The Pharisee was talking about all the things that he did that made him “righteous”.  The tax collector was talking about all that made him unrighteous and begged for mercy.

Jesus told the crowds (and to us too) that the one that went away from that prayer time justified was the tax collector because the tax collector knew that righteousness does not come from works, it comes from trusting in God’s forgiveness and redemption.  We have that through Jesus’ work on the cross.  So this week, let us remember where our forgiveness and righteousness come from.  They come from Jesus.