Philippians 3:1-3 (Devotional Thought)

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh- (Philippians 3:1-3 ESV)

Christians should be good, but being good isn’t what saves us. Jesus is the one who saves us. There are people who think that Christianity is all about seeing who can be the best at being good. They like rules and have made up extra rules along the way. They look at how well you can keep the rules and that determine how good of a Christian you are… Paul has a big problem with that, being a Christian isn’t about keeping rules as much as it is about loving Jesus.

You see the whole point of the gospel is that while you are unable to do anything to save yourself, Jesus willingly went to the cross as a substitute for you, died, and rose again from the dead. To be admitted into the kingdom of God by God’s grace you have to receive what Christ has done. You actively trust in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. There isn’t anything that you can point back to and say, “I’m saved because I DID THIS, I KEPT THIS RULE.” You can only look back and say, “I’m saved because JESUS died on the cross for my sin, and rose from the dead! I’m trusting HIM!”

Paul writes to remind the church at Philippi that their joy comes from the Lord. We may get a certain sense of joy from knowing that Jesus changes us. After all you can’t follow Jesus and be the same. But the focus, the joy, comes from a real relationship with Jesus, not in being good at being good.

Think of it this way. I love my wife and so I do certain things that I know she likes. I buy her flowers and small gifts from time to time. I wash dishes so she doesn’t have too. I pick her movie to watch instead of the one I want to see, etc. But what if I became obsessed with how good I was at becoming a good husband? so much so that I stopped actually loving my wife! What if I cared more about doing dishes than actually loving my wife! Something would be wrong. I would have replaced a relationship with my own set of rules.

That’s like what people were doing in Paul’s day. They were going around following the Apostle Paul where ever he went and right after he left they would swoop in and tell the new church he had started that God was all about rules, not a relationship. They insisted that for people to truly follow God that they had to follow their own prescribed set of rules. The problem was that all their talk about rules actually lead people away from JESUS and into trying to live a moral life without Jesus at the center.

Paul reminds the Philippians, “Rejoice in Jesus” (“the Lord” is another way of referring to Jesus). Don’t take your eyes off Jesus. He is where true Joy is found. Don’t be distracted by people who talk about how good they are and how good you can be. Sure when following Jesus you can’t help but become a better person, but its because of the work of God in your life… not because of all the stuff you do.

So here is the deal. You may wrestle with a habitual sin. You think. If I can just quit ____ I’ll be ok. And maybe you do need to quit whatever you struggle with, but don’t let the struggle become your focus and steal your joy. Paul says it’s no trouble for him to remind folks where the real joy is… Jesus.

James 1:22-27 (Devotional Thought)

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:22-27 ESV)

Imagine that you are dressed up in nice clothes. Nicer clothes than you have ever worn before and then a friend comes by and invites you to a food fight. You forget you are wearing nice clothes and so you go and end up staining everything. The food fight is over and so are your clothes because even with the best of cleaners your nice clothes are left in such bad shape that they now have become the clothes that you wear to paint in… all because you forgot what you were wearing.

Now it may be hard to forget what you are wearing, but James warns us that it is easy to forget who we are in Christ. When we trust in Christ the bible says that we are a “New Creation” the “old is gone and the new has come.” We are growing to be more and more like Christ. But sometimes we can hear God’s word (Which tells us who we are in Christ) and then go live like we haven’t heard it. We act just like we did before we trusted Christ. But those who “Do” God’s word are those who remember who they are in Christ. Temptation comes and they flee. The opportunity to serve others occurs and they represent Christ. They remember that they were bought with a price. They remember who they are in Jesus.

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Something from Nothing (John 6:1-14)

He took a small lunch and made it enough for everyone.  Ever wonder about that?  Ever wonder how He could multiply the fish and bread and make enough for left-overs?  I mean… what does that say?  What does that mean?

I think the implications are clear.  He is God.  He spoke the world into existence.  He made something from nothing.  So on the one hand I get it…. on the other hand I notice that here he starts with something.  He starts with five loaves and two fish.  He starts with something and somehow makes it enough for everyone.

I think that’s important.  There is enough… actually there is more than enough.  At first the supply looks pretty limited, but in Jesus’ hands it is enough for a 5,000 person fish and bread buffet.

Perhaps there is the meaning.  Perhaps this is the sign.  Just like the fish and bread was really only enough for one, he would multiply the benefit of lunch to an entire crowd of 5000 people.  While his death burial and resurection can hardly be compared to lunch, I do think it is fair to note that as one man he would take on the sins of the world…. he would eat sins demands for each one of us.

One man standing in the gap for millions.  Seemingly impossible, but very possible with the one who can serve up fish-fil-a for 5000 starving guests on the country side.  He is saying, “I will meet your needs.”  No one else on that hill could have multiplied the bread and fish that way.  Only Jesus could take not-enough and make it enough.

Application: You will never be able to come to the banquet table and feast on the riches of God until you realize that Jesus Christ has provided for you what you could not provide by yourself.

Father,

Thank you that you have brought me to yourself through the work of Christ. Thank you that I get to share in delighting to see Jesus save people from their sins.  Thank you that I get to tell others about you and how you provided for my sin debt.

Morning: Psalm 107

Mid-Day: Psalm 55

Evening: Psalm 7

“I Lift Up My Soul” by Charles Stanley (REVIEW)

I Lift Up My Soul: Devotions to Start Your Day with God by Charles Stanley is a short devotional book.   The format is basic with a Scripture passage to read, a verse, a few paragraphs of inspiration and a sentence prayer.  Each devotion fills a single page and can be read from start to finish in less than 5 minutes.

Though the devotional thoughts are short, they are not without merit.  I found each thought to be both challenging and engaging.  Many of the devotional thoughts were very inspirational and call for serious reflection.

Though I wouldn’t recommend this book to be the sum total of a believer’s daily time in God’s word, I would recommend this book for other uses where a short devotional thought is appropriate.  I could easily see this book being read by a family at the breakfast table before they scatter for the day, or an individual taking it to the office and reading the devotional thought during a quick coffee break, or even as a starter for someone who isn’t into reading (get an audio bible), but wants to start somewhere.

I recommend I Lift Up My Soul: Devotions to Start Your Day with God to anyone wanting to share a light devotional thought each day.  The retail price is $19.99 (hardcover), and is available around the web in places like Amazon.com for $13.95. I gave it four stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson as part of the BookSneeze program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”