Think About...

Always be filled with joy in the Lord.
I will say it again.
Be filled with joy.

Let everyone see that you are gentle and kind.
The Lord is coming soon.

Never worry about anything.
But in every situation let God know what you need
in prayers and requests while giving thanks.

Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus,
God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand.
And this peace will control the way you think and feel (CEV)
and will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus. (GNB)

Brothers and sisters, continue to
think about what is good and worthy of praise.
Think about what is true and honorable
and right and pure
and beautiful and respected.
(Philippians 4:4-8 ERV, GW)

A couple weeks ago I put together this passage to leave open on my computer screen so I could revisit it easily. Over the past few months God has been increasingly convicting me about my need to turn away from the dark things of life and fill my mind and heart with more awareness of His goodness, His blessings, His benefits so graciously poured into my life but that too often go unnoticed and unappreciated.

This morning I woke up very early with a sense that my heart is again becoming dulled and too insensitive toward the love and goodness of God. Exposure to other's negative comments and attitudes, conflict with people opposed to the work of God in our lives, dark pictures of God that permeate nearly everything in the world around me and even my own resistance to promptings of the Holy Spirit in various ways – all of these things over time tend to reduce my ability to listen with an open spirit to the promptings of His Spirit and dampen my praise.

I realized that I was again hearing an invitation from the Spirit to spend a bit more time in His presence to just let Him mold me back into someone more reflective of what God intends for me, to receive more intentional exposure to the glory of God. If I desire my life to be reflective of the glory of God, it can only happen if I make sure my heart connects with the Source of that glory enough to have it transform my own soul. The effects of the opposite of God's glory have had too much effect on my heart lately and it is vital that I take steps to have my heart more saturated with His true presence that only can give me proper perspective and enable me to react to negative situations in the Spirit of Jesus.

One thing I have noticed recently is the lack of positive spiritual music playing in my head. I am a musician at heart and there is pretty much always some song running in the background inside my head. Sometimes it is caused by whatever I have heard recently including cell phone ring-tones which usually are not all that inspiring, but my ear picks them up and replays them applying different arrangements along the way. I know this may sound bizarre to some but it is just how my brain works. At other times I suddenly notice hearing some spiritual song circulating in my mind that I have not heard for many years and sense that very likely God planted it there for me. In those times I thank Him for putting it there and choose to enjoy the inspiration that He intends for that song to bring me.

But lately it seems that many of the songs I hear internally are ones from the practices I attend with the Barbershop chorus or other music that is not necessarily that uplifting. Since I spend very little if any time playing music at home compared to years ago when we often had music on in the house, my heart has little opportunity to resonate with music that could be used to alter the direction of my spirit. This morning I felt prompted to put on some headphones and turn on a playlist of worship songs I assembled years ago on my computer to fill my mind while I meditate and write. Even now I am listening to inspiring renditions of worship songs filling my mind and heart with new thoughts, new feelings and memories of how God has used this music in the past to deliver me from fear, from discouragement and to lift me into His light and presence.

Even the morning devotional today was prearranged by God just for this moment in my life. The last two paragraphs were a reminder to me of the vital importance of intentionally keeping my heart tuned to the atmosphere of heaven and to guard it from the effects of the ever-present influences of the darkness of the world around me.

The contemplation of the love of God manifested in the gift of His Son for the salvation of fallen men will stir the heart and arouse the powers of the soul as nothing else will. The work of redemption is a marvelous work; it is a mystery in the universe of God. But how indifferent are the objects of such matchless grace! . . .
If our senses had not been blunted by sin and by contemplation of the dark pictures that Satan is constantly presenting before us, a fervent and continuous flow of gratitude would go out from our hearts toward Him who daily loads us with benefits of which we are wholly undeserving. The everlasting song of the redeemed will be praise to Him who hath loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood; and if we ever sing that song before the throne of God we must learn it here. {TMK 168}

There is so much in the passage above from Philippians that has been impressing me recently. Each time I ponder on this passage I am impressed with how much is contained in these few words that my heart needs to absorb and practice.

One thing that really jumped out at me recently was the significance of the phrase, the Lord is coming soon. I have usually been confused when reading this passage as to why this seemed to be dropped into the middle of this section because it seemed so out of context with the surrounding verses. Then when I read it in this translation it suddenly occurred to me what Paul was really saying. The effective way to prepare for the coming of Jesus is to allow Him to make me a gentle and kind person, especially toward those who normally elicit the opposite response from me. This is the preparation I need for His coming because this is how His character will be revealed to a world living in ignorance about the truth about Him. Religion too often presents such confused notions of God that the world has little interest in Him. The only way God can get out the truth about Himself effectively is to find individuals willing to let Him transform them from the inside to respond with the same gentleness and kindness that marked the life of Jesus when He was here on earth.

Another insight that exploded in my mind just a day or two ago was the phrase, peace that passes all understanding. It is worded differently in this version, but I have often puzzled over that phrase and wondered just what it really means. This week as we listened to a sermon at home the speaker explained what this meant and it really clicked for me for the first time.

I now can see that it particularly applies to situations that we struggle to reconcile what we profess to know about God in times when we are forced to cry out “why God, why is this happening to me?” Our heart longs for understanding and our head can make no sense out of our circumstances, yet God says that He can give us peace even when nothing around us seems to make sense. This peace of God seems to be in spite of what we understand and comes before we have any understanding of what is happening to us or others.

This is a very important breakthrough in my thinking for I now see how important it is to accept God's peace before I understand the reasons for things. Yes, God often allows me sooner or later to see why things happen the way they do, but whether or not I ever know this side of heaven why bad things happen in my life, God wants me to accept that deep peace that can give me stability and faith and hope in spite of my inability to make sense out of what is happening. This kind of peace is aligned with faith that cannot yet see the evidence but anchors itself in a belief that God is good no matter what surrounding circumstances may imply. And this peace in spite of circumstances is a powerful testimony to attract others to want to know this God who can bring such peace in the life when all they have known in such circumstances is frustration, anger, fear or despair.

My heart naturally wants to know why things happen, to make sense out of circumstances because I think that is necessary in order to experience peace. But God says that I need the peace first which means that this peace is based on faith in Him and is rooted in a firm conviction of the goodness and kindness of God separate from explanations that make sense to me. Furthermore this passage tells me that when I choose to accept this peace from God that it will in turn regulate my thoughts and feelings instead of the negative circumstances of my life controlling my emotions. Now that is a real miracle and one that I want to experience in my life all the time.

The last part of this passage clarifies what I can do to help this take place. It is my part to make choices about what thoughts are allowed to circulate in my mind. When I find myself reacting in a spirit of fault-finding and criticism toward others, I need to listen to the check of the Holy Spirit and dispense with that thought and then ask for God's perspective and attitude. When I am exposed to influences that encourage wrong ideas about God from the world around me I need to actively resist and to limit the input of such influences. And they are very pervasive from more sources around us than most of us even consider. The music in stores, the chatter of people nearby, the billboards, television, advertisements and any number of other things are all influences that can distort our view of reality and confuse us about how God feels about us in one way or another.

It is my responsibility to take time, particularly at the beginning of each day, to fortify my mind with more accurate pictures of God and to allow Him time to fill me with His attitudes, His disposition, His mind and Spirit so that I can be protected against all the inevitable exposures to opposing messages I will encounter the rest of the day. I need to pick and choose, based on these verses, the kind of mental food my mind will dwell on if I want to become the kind of person whom Jesus will say that He knows and is safe to live with Him for eternity.

The last song on my playlist really caught my attention with conviction. It is my prayer for God's intervention today, to speak into the places of my heart that often reacts in a wrong spirit toward others.

Speak Into the Moments

Love arrives when kind words are spoken
Kindness is the doorway to the heart
The way we speak can keep our love unbroken
And the way we speak
can demand that love depart.

So when harsh tones find a welcome
In my heart, in my home, in my head
When I throw stones in place of arms around you
I will pray to God to speak for me instead.

Speak into the moments of my day
Speak into the corners of my night.
Open my ears to listen, my heart to hear
Speak into the moments of my life.

Some say hate is all about our anger
Others say it's all about control
I, for one, am guilty of both charges
It happens when I don't take time alone.

So when I can't find the quiet
When still is the place that I can't be
I will pray for just a little silence
And for the tender words of God to be in me.

Your words give me light
so that I can find my way
To the place where I speak tenderly
Your voice makes the difference
in the way my voice is heard
So speak to me, speak through me.

Speak into the moments of my day
Speak into the corners of my night
Open my ears to listen, my heart to hear
Speak into the moments of my life.

(by David Kauffman)

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