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]
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]
Today’s passage is a great reminder of the thoughts we have as we look at others who seem to have things going their way. We all get jealous. We have longing for things that other people own, or relationships other people are involved with, positions people hold, etc. It is so easy to look at people and declare the people “have it made.” Look at them. They have “no pain, no problems.” Look at them, they have been “indulging in whatever they wanted.”
We turn green with envy. We covet what we do not have. We start to take for granted our own blessings. We complain. We miss the truth. We succumb to our jealousy of others and miss out on the enjoyment from the great plan God has for our lives.
The verses today speak of someone who is focused on what he or she wants, who is without care, living “as though life would never end.” Why do we want to be living focused on wants, when we were made to glorify God… when the wants are temporary and will rust and rot? Why do we want to live a life that is not mindful of the brevity of life and the importance of our Savior and a life with Him? Sometimes our focus is skewed—remember, they only seemed to have it made. Do not be deceived by the only seems of this world. God has so much more for you!
“Indulging in whatever they wanted, going where they wanted, doing what they wanted, and with no care in the world.No pain, no problems, they seemed to have it made. They lived as though life would never end.” – Psalm 73:4-5 [TPT]
I love a good shortcut. Almost every day as I drive to work, I take a shortcut. Yet there are times in life when shortcuts are not best—when the easy way isn’t the best way.
When we dream about something we desire for the future, we want a shortcut to reach the dream. We want the money, but we do not want to do all the work. We want the title, but we don’t want to start from the bottom. We want the stuff, when we do not yet have the money to pay for it. We want the relationship, yet we do not want to make the investment.
In today’s passage, we read of the Israelites leaving Egypt, and of how God did not lead the people to take the shorter route. It’s true—sometimes shortcuts are great. Yet in life, we oftentimes have something to learn on the journey that we can only learn by travelling for a longer length of time. Suffering less is desirable, yet in suffering we often grow in our dependence on God, and our faith flourishes. Next time you have the opportunity to choose a path to take, instead of immediately jumping at the quick results, ask God what will bring you closer to Him.
“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’” – Exodus 13:17 [NIV]
Today’s verse speaks of who truly honors God – “whoever offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving” (NASB). The Message translation calls this living the “praising life.” The Bible says that we were created to glorify God (see Isaiah 43:7). Psalm 50:23 makes it clear that we are living out our purpose to glorify God when we live “in the gratitude of grace.” The real question is how well are we bringing God glory with our gratitude of grace?
If we are honest about this question, if we are honest about the thanksgiving we have lived out today, it is likely the thankfulness is not very evident. We spend so much of our time thinking we have earned what we have, that we are entitled to certain things. We overlook our daily blessings because we do not spend time considering life without them. When something good comes our way, our initial response usually isn’t to thank God for provision, for blessings, for protection, etc. Though God is alive and active, and very much moving in the world today, we oftentimes allow God to be boxed up, whereas we only need interact or thank Him when we have a grand request. Everything is separate. Everything else we can handle in our own strength.
Without our life lived in the gratitude of grace, our testimony of the Gospel is silenced. If we do not spend time praising Him, pointing to Him, honoring Him, etc., what does everyone see? When we aren’t pointing to God, our fingers are always pointing elsewhere—to ourselves, to others, etc.
How can we truly live in the gratitude of grace? We can devote more time listing reasons we are thankful, spending each day trying to find more reasons God deserves all praise and glory. We can receive the Gospel daily to remind us of the free gift of God’s grace. We can pour out that freshly received grace to others as we go about our day. We can pause to breathe in God’s grace and meditate on His goodness. What are you thankful for today?
“The life that pleases me is a life lived in the gratitude of grace, always choosing to walk with me in what is right. This is the sacrifice I desire from you. If you do this, more of my salvation will unfold for you.” – Psalm 50:23 [TPT]
The Psalmist states in today’s verse that trusting in a person is worthless or useless; the Psalmist declares a person cannot rescue another. This thinking is contrary to what the world exclaims. I remember growing up with the hope of being rescued. Remember the stories of a knight on a white horse? Today, our entertainment includes superheroes, and even underdog heroes. Lots of stories about people saving the day, rescuing people, getting the win—and these are the stories we cling to and celebrate. These stories do not simply entertain; the stories invade our thinking. We begin to think a person could help our situation and a person could even rescue us.
Yes, it is true. A person could help you. People help people daily. A person could rescue you. People rescue people every day. But the hope of man—the hope of man—it is in God alone. Here’s where we get caught up, where we all get caught up. When we are around a certain person, we feel happy and we begin to think that the person is the reason for our joy. When we are bailed out by someone from a financial hardship, we begin to think the person will help the next time. When our neighbor rescues us every time we have car trouble, we start to expect it. But people let people down. We are not strong enough to carry another. We can barely carry ourselves. Even though we have moments where we can be used to bless, to help, to rescue—we cannot carry another completely. Most importantly, we cannot offer a person hope. We cannot offer a person salvation.
We can point to hope. We can point to salvation. We can point to Jesus. We can lend a hand. We can speak life. We can be there to listen. We can be the hands and feet of Christ. Remember though, only God saves. Jesus is our only hope. Don’t put everything on another person’s shoulders. You have a Savior who already carried your burden and paid the price a million times over. An empty hope is no hope at all. Thank God for Christ Jesus!
“Give us a father’s help when we face our enemies. For to trust in any man is an empty hope.” – Psalm 60:11 [TPT]