In life there has always been an us and them division. Over the years, this division has continued. Even in the most diverse gatherings, we see smaller groups and cliques that promote a lack of unity. In Philemon 1, we read in verse 6 of a “participation in the faith,” a faith that “we hold in common.” In this letter, Paul is telling Philemon he should be gracious to Onesimus because of God’s goodness towards him. He reminds him of the mutual partnership that we all have as part of the faith. Remember, we are all part of one body as believers – all connected – all part of the body of Christ. There is great diversity within the body of Christ, and yet, this diversity should never cause a lack of unity. We are all on the same team. It is through God’s creativity, through each of our separate skills, personalities, etc., that God is most glorified.
Only through love and forgiveness can there be an acceptance of our brothers and sisters. For our faith to be fruitful, it must be shared. The sharing of our faith is not simply sharing of the Gospel with Bible verses but living out the goodness of God—allowing the overflowing of God’s goodness through every good thing within us in Christ. The things we do point to Jesus. Our words, our deeds, our “participation in the faith” can only be effective if Jesus is recognized. This requires us to humble ourselves and each together let all that we say and do point to Him. It is never about us or them—it is always about Jesus.
Today as we see all the division around us, can we truly claim that we are sharing of our faith, or resources, our love? Can we see that we are together in partnership, together in unity? If someone looks at you, will the person recognize Christ? Are we effective or are we indifferent? Is God glorified or are our efforts self-boasting? Paul prays that Philemon may become effective through knowing the good things. Take some time today and ask the Spirit to remind you of the good things He has placed within you. May this reminder help motivate you to good works in Christ Jesus. May Christ be recognized in all you do and say.
“I pray that your participation in the faith may become effective through knowing every good thing that is in us for the glory of Christ.” – Philemon 1:6 [CSB]
“And I keep praying that this faith we hold in common keeps showing up in the good things we do, and that people recognize Christ in all of it.” – Philemon 1:6 [MSG]
Today’s fortune cookie is very timely: “He who throws mud loses ground.” I have seen and heard a lot of ground being tossed around lately. Look at the news or on social media. People have surely forgotten the phrase often shared by parents or grandparents – if you have nothing nice to say, do not say anything at all.
Titus mentions the importance of trying “to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (3:2 ESV). We all are God’s creation and we are all valuable in His eyes. He designed each one of us with special gifts, each one of us for a purpose. God loves everyone. God’s desire is that we honor each other—that we value each other. This means you recognize that each person is important, each person matters. Even further from this, we are to love each person – every single person.
Unfortunately, it often seems as if we throw mud instead of extending a hand and two ears. Instead of forming relationships with people that we may not agree with on some or many areas, we point out their flaws, attack them at every turn, and choke ourselves. Yes, we choke ourselves. Proverbs 1:31 speaks of eating a bitter fruit because of living our own way, and even choking on our own schemes. Remember, we always harvest what we plant (see Galatians 6:7). If you are spreading seeds that include name calling, half-truths, verbal tongue lashings, etc., you will enjoy a not-so-uplifting harvest. The question to ask today is: What am I planting? The next question to ask: Is what I’m planting today going to give me the harvest I desire?
“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” – Ephesians 4:29 [NLT]
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” – Romans 12:2 [NIV]
Today’s fortune cookie said, “It doesn’t take much to be a success. It takes everything.” I tell my kids to always give their best effort. Your best effort is everything. Perhaps it won’t earn a 100% or 1st place, but the best effort is all you can give. Today, ask yourself this: Did I give my best?
If you cannot answer yes, then you work that out with God. Remember, life is about growing, changing, becoming who you were meant to be so as to bring honor and glory to God. It’s likely you won’t always give your best—let Him work with you through the reasons. When you do give your best, trust that the fruit will come at the appointed time.
This fortune reminded me of a question I had to ask people while in college. My professor had us ask people their definition of success. Many people had responses pointing to a happy and healthy family, to financial security, to job achievements. Some thought of success a different way – in being obedient to the will of God. Today, ask yourself this: What is my definition of success?
The answer to this question will dictate your path. If you see financial security as success, that’s your end goal, and your choices will be choices to help you get there step-by-step. If success to you is honoring and glorifying God, then your life choices will be acts of love and obedience and praise and service so as to bring God glory. Asking this question will help you to consider your motives and the desires of your heart.
Whenever you are considering your best and considering success, cover it with grace. What does this mean? Your salvation is a free gift from God. It is not earned – it’s GRACE. Do not let yourself get caught up in trying to earn something. Giving your best is not about earning something– it’s all about giving. As well, not meeting the mark, not finding success in an area of your life, can be frustrating and painful – give yourself GRACE. God has an amazing way to fill in our gaps – Amazing Grace! As you ask these questions today, rest in His amazing grace.
“Whether you eat or drink, live your life in a way that glorifies and honors God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31 [TPT]
Everyone has something that they deem as precious. Parents see their children as precious. Some people are amazed by different pieces of art and would deem the pieces to be precious. We have precious items behind glass, locked up in a safe, or even placed in museums. Each person has a different opinion as to what is precious.
When something is precious it means it is valuable, important, worthy of special care. People often make sacrifices to protect and care for what is precious. In today’s verse, the Psalmist declares that he will “worship and praise.” What will he worship and praise? The name of the Lord. Why? Because it is precious.
There is power in the name of Jesus. In the Bible, we read that we will have what we ask in His name (see John 14:13). We read in healing done in the name of Jesus (see Acts 3:16). For the Psalmist, he recognized that the name of the Lord is precious. He placed God as higher, above, and worthy. In placing God in this position in his life, he was deeming His precious. Not everyone today will bow down at the name of Jesus. We each can decide if we believe He is precious, if we believe He is Lord. Yet one day, everyone will recognize that Jesus is precious. The One who poured out His precious blood that redeems, the One who lived a holy life, a sinless life, worthy to reconcile—He will return, and all will see, and everyone will bow at the name of Jesus. How precious is the name of Jesus!
“Lord, I will offer myself freely, and everything I am I give to you. I will worship and praise your name, O Lord, for it is precious to me. – Psalm 54:6 [TPT]
Consider how often you pray. Do you pray only when you are in church? Do you pray before meals? Do you pray only when you need something? Maybe you pray every morning or every evening. Consider your prayer life.
The Psalmist speaks of prayer life as just that – his life. For some, this may sound like a strange concept. Though the Bible tells us to pray continually (see 1 Thessalonians 5:17), we typically see prayer as another resort or a good habit rather than a lifestyle or life itself. This is a problem for us as long as we see prayer as words to recite or a legalistic act to fulfill.
This verse speaks of God’s love for us, a love that God has promised us. His love for us is unfailing and overwhelming and unchanging. His love for us is not impacted by anything that we do or say. When we look at prayer, we need always to remember this love—His love for us—and what a relationship with God means. As a child approaches a father, so it is with us and God. Stop focusing on the words you say in your prayers. Talk to your Father. Engage. Try to keep talking with Him all day as something comes to mind—about the small things and the big things. Be ever mindful of His presence, His love, and His desire to bless you with His goodness. As you continue to recognize your dependence on God and your desire for Him, you draw near to Him and He will draw near to you (see James 4:8). Perhaps one day, you will be able to say that your prayer to God has become your life.
“Yet all day long God’s promises of love pour over me. Through the night I sing his songs, for my prayer to God has become my life.” – Psalm 42:8 [TPT]
In Psalm 42, the Psalmist is crying out for revival. We read of a soul thirsting for God—the desire to drink deeply—and a memory of past gatherings for worship. When we look around the world, it always appears to be in need for a revival. Today, as we are experiencing life behind closed doors in isolation to heed warnings to social distance so as to help contain a pandemic, Christians are not gathering together for worship. Church buildings have closed their doors. Families are home on Sundays.
Though many churches have begun online worship, this pandemic surely can open our eyes to what spiritually is a struggle for many—even those who profess to be Christian and previously attended church weekly before this pandemic. The struggle is living before God. The Psalmist writes of singing God’s praises, and of “living before His face” which is described as his “saving grace.” Though God is ever present, we often times are not living in His presence. There is a difference. To be living before God is to acknowledge His presence, to live as He is present, to recognize Him throughout your day.
The Psalmist wants a great revival—he wants for people to draw back to God and praise Him for He alone is due praise. The Psalmist recollects a time when people gathered together to sing to God. He clings to the hope He has in God and understands that even when there is darkness all around, even when the world is so in need of a revival, that He could live in the presence of God. He could still sing praises. Why? Because God is his saving grace. Despite his flaws, despite his shortcomings, that God lifted him up through grace to save him, to allow him in His presence, to give him a taste of His goodness. The Psalmist never deserved it; you never deserve it. Yet He offers us this saving grace freely. Today may seem dark and gloomy. Today you may be sinking into despair. Keep hoping and waiting on God. Sing His praises. I pray you are living before His face. I pray He is your saving grace.
“So then, my soul, why would you be depressed? Why would you sink into despair? Just keep hoping and waiting on God, your Savior. For no matter what, I will still sing with praise, for living before his face is my saving grace!” – Psalm 42:5 [TPT]
Today’s verses discuss the importance of hearing. Note that in Mark 5:27, we read that the reason the woman sought out and touched the clothing of Jesus is because she first heard. Romans 10:14 reminds us that if we do not hear, how can we believe? The woman heard of Jesus first, and this knowing of Him and this hope she had prompted her to seek Him for healing.
Consider today who has heard this week from you about Jesus. Consider who has observed you this week as you were living life and saw Jesus. Consider who heard about the happenings in your life this week in “real life” or on social media and heard of Jesus—meaning when something happened, you glorified God. Who heard?
I am not writing to shame you on the lack of testimony happening in your life, nor to point out that we all fall short in life. Instead, I hope this encourages you to consider the “having heard” moments in life—the opportunities for you to share the goodness of God. One of the best ways to share His goodness is to embrace His goodness and let it overflow in love and grace in your life. It’s not about a program or a rigid list of things to say. Love. Have they heard?
“Having heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his clothing.” – Mark 5:27 [CSB]
“How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher?” – Romans 10:14 [CSB]