“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:4-7
Rejoice. Be thankful. Gratitude means I give thanks. Paul used the word gratitude 46 times in his letters. Why is gratitude so important? Scientific studies have shown that gratitude improves your health! Really! Practicing gratitude improves your mental health and physical health. Wow! What if you are feeling like a victim of your circumstances? Be thankful! What if you don’t feel well? Be thankful! What if you are bored? Be thankful!
Let’s practice being grateful – let’s list things to be thankful for – thank God for your life, your salvation, the roof over your head, that you have shoes to wear, your Cedar Hills community, that you have a job, that your car started this morning, that there is food in your refrigerator, your friends, your kids, your spouse, or that you are single! Paul tells us to be grateful (thankful) in every situation – “in every situation by prayer and petition, with THANKSGIVING present your requests to God.”
Help me to be grateful for all You have given me and continue to provide. Show me how to give thanks in all situations, good and bad, and I trust You to provide Your peace. May my life show Your gentleness and gratefulness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
“I don’t say that I have already achieved these things or that I have reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.” Phil. 3:12
What were those things Paul had not yet achieved? He was putting his life on the line each time he preached Jesus. My gracious, he was sitting in prison as he wrote this. There is more. He wanted to know Christ and the mighty power that raised Him from the dead. He wanted to share in His death. That hadn’t happened for Paul yet. Who in their right mind would want to experience those things?
Then he goes on to say that he has not reached perfection. I thought about that and said, if I am honest, I have to confess I haven’t reached perfection. I look at Paul’s life after he met Jesus and to me it seems he was as close to perfect as a person could get on this side of heaven. What more was he seeking that he didn’t have?
I believe, he desired to know Christ in a very real, vibrant way. He wanted to be so close to the mind of Christ that his life was automatically lived as Christ would live it. He wouldn’t have to think about “what would Christ do,” but he would be so attuned to Christ that the Spirit would lead him easily to his next task, thought, and prayer.
This ambition caused Paul to press on with determination and diligence. How can I see such an example and refuse to be encouraged to live my life pressing on to know Jesus?
I see the reality of who I am 24/7. I read Paul’s words and Lord, I cherish the idea of such a close attachment to You. Help me, Lord, to look closely into Your words as Paul wrote them guided by Your Spirit. As I see Paul’s determination to follow his desire, help me to press on also so that You may be glorified in me. Amen.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Phil. 4:6
Do not be anxious about ANYTHING….This might be impossible for humans!!
We’ve heard this verse so many times, and every time we hear/read/study it, we vow to take everything to God in prayer, and not try to “fix it” ourselves. But then the next “mini crisis” happens in our life, and we immediately try to take control of the situation, instead of taking it to God, asking Him for His divine help. We often remember to pray during hardship and tragedy, but sometimes forget that He wants to help us with everything that worries us.
Here Paul suggests that we turn every problem into a prayer. God loves us and only wants what is best for us. The Bible tells us that if we would just trust Him and invite Him into every aspect of our lives, sharing our day-to-day challenges and frustrations, He will abundantly bless us. God wants us to pray and ask Him for His guidance, and He will answer our prayers.
When we find ourselves worrying, about things small or large, use it as an opportunity to take it to our heavenly Father in prayer, thanking Him for the opportunity. We can rejoice knowing that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is also available to us!
Whenever you start to worry…STOP and PRAY!
Forgive us for not trusting You and thinking we can handle our own problems. Help us to stop worrying and turn our lives over to You in prayer. In your name we pray, Amen.
“So David went to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them. He said, “As waters break out, the Lord has broken out against my enemies before me.” So that place was called Baal Perazim.” 2 Samuel 5:20
Water can be peaceful or powerful. Some of my most precious quiet moments have been while watching the sunrise over a glassy, still lake. My soul has been stirred by the trickling sound of water running through a creek in the woods on an otherwise noiseless winter day. Moving water however can be dangerous and powerful! I remember the sound of waves breaking on the rocks as I gazed across the ocean. The relentless power of water has created the Grand Canyon. Maybe you can recall images of destruction caused by a flash flood or tsunami.
King David uses this powerful imagery to describe our God. In fact, David even names the town after this wonderful truth about God’s character. We worship Baal Parazim, the Lord of the breakthrough! God broke through David’s enemies like a flash flood tearing across the countryside. This is one of my favorite names for God because it challenges me to grow my faith in God and trust Him for a breakthrough in my own life.
Let us claim this truth about our God as we celebrate 60 years of growth at Cedar Hills. Let us not settle for normal life, when God has called us to abundant life! What is a breakthrough you need to ask God for in your personal life? What would it look like for God to breakthrough in your family? How will the Corridor be transformed if God accomplished awesome breakthroughs in our church, and “breaks out” of these walls?
Thank You for giving David, and Your people Israel, victory through Your breakthrough power! Help us grow our faith today and we ask for great breakthroughs here at Cedar Hills, in our families and community. Amen.
“Work hard to show the results of your salvation… For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him… Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in the world full of crooked and perverse people.” Phil. 2:15-16 (NLT)
Have you ever been in a night-time situation where you urgently needed a flashlight only to discover that the batteries were dead? Our world is in dire need of some light these days, don’t you agree? Is the Church prepared to give it?
The Christian life should be different from the non-Christian life, as different as night and day! We live in a dark, oppressive, self-seeking world. But God is working in us to produce humility, compassion, generosity, and forgiveness—qualities that shine brightly in the gloom of greed and hatred.
God’s forgiveness is an absolutely free gift; we don’t do anything to earn or deserve it. We are saved by grace, apart from any effort on our part. But God is working to transform us from the inside out, to give us “brilliant” lives that bring honor to him.
Let’s become people who look like Jesus, a community of love that brings light to the dark corners of this world.
We honor You as the Light of the World. Help us to be that light today. Allow Your light to shine through us that others may see You. Please put someone in my path today and help me to light up their way for You. Amen.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Phil. 4:6
Do not be anxious—that statement is laughable! In my nearly four decades on this earth, I have yet to find a week in my life that I’m not anxious about something! Is it just me?
When I get anxious about a situation, task — I go into overdrive. What else can I do to prepare? How else can I practice before the upcoming event or encounter? Do I have my to-do lists detailed enough to not forget anything? Do I have my calendar organized for optimal achievement?
Notice anything missing in my statements above? None of my immediate go-to behaviors or actions follow Phil. 4:6: “…present your requests to God!” Why does presenting our anxiety-ridden requests to God seem to be our last, desperate attempt for help? Why do we think our humanly skills and abilities are greater than God’s? Why don’t I first present my anxiety to God and let Him guide me on how to prepare, what to organize, what to prioritize! Honestly, that thought immediately sounds stress relieving!
As a church, we need to remember that God has been faithful to us for 60 years, and He knows we get anxious. We have expenses, we need renovations, and we need commitment. Let’s make our requests known to God and have faith that He will provide.
I am an anxious person, I try to battle the world on my own. I often think my skills and abilities are sufficient to fight each battle without bothering You for help. I think it’s time for a change in behavior. It’s time to take all my anxieties to You first. I need to thank You for the opportunity to discern Your will and listen and watch for Your guidance, versus relying on my limited human abilities. Thank You for allowing me to bring my anxieties to You. You are a good God. Amen.
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you not only look to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Phil. 2:3-4
I was walking Dozer, my dog, one evening and a young woman rode past us on her bicycle. As she was passing, her cell phone leapt off its rest and fell to the ground close to us. Dozer enthusiastically ran over and jumped on her, tongue out, joyful that someone had stopped to pay him attention. We laughed and she petted him while tears welled up in her eyes. I asked her if she wanted to talk and her story came rushing out. She had been staying in a homeless shelter and the women there were bullying her. They took her clothes and pushed her around, so she collected everything and ran. Prior to that she had been in an abusive situation and had run from that too, living under a bridge for a while. She didn’t know where she would be sleeping that night, but had another shelter in mind and was hurrying to get there before they closed. I prayed with her for safety and her future. Her name is Rose. I haven’t seen Rose since. I have seen other Roses – in the shelters, walking past the house, delighting in receiving a hand knit hat at Halloween just before winter. For the efforts, I’ve received smiles and laughter and a “Thank You” written on the back of a random piece of paper, left at my door last winter.
There have been many times when my running and confusion from life’s unfairness has been the focus of all I had. I had nothing to give. I was empty. I didn’t think at the time I had much to be grateful for. Then someone gave me a car, so I could go to work and take care of my family and that, I realize now, was a turning point in realizing I am so fully blessed. Years later, God planted me in my home. It has everything I prayed for except a little pasture and barn. He put me dead center of where He needed the light to shine for the Roses that He had gifts for.
Father, I love You. Thank You for the insight. Thank You for the challenges. Thank You for always providing exactly what I needed if not everything I wanted. Walking through the valleys have made the mountains sweeter. In Jesus name, Amen.
“I will rejoice even if lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want you to share that joy.” Phil. 2:17
Both Jews and pagans alike poured out wine on sacrifices or at the base of the altar in honor of the deity. After Paul met Christ, his entire life became an offering to God. As he ministered the good news of the gospel, he was beaten, put in prison, stoned, shipwrecked, and whipped. It reminded me of a Gaither song about Mary anointing Jesus with precious oil from an alabaster jar. “Broken and spilled out and laid at Your feet. In sweet abandon, let me be broken and spilled out for Thee.” Each time Paul faced cruelty and trauma, I think he had this same attitude that Mary had as she anointed Jesus.
He sacrificed the claim on his own life to faithfully introduce sinners to the love of God expressed through the death of Jesus. He did not count the cost as insignificant. This was the liquid poured out on the altar. As Jesus was sacrificed as the Passover lamb to take away the sin Satan introduced into God’ perfect garden, Paul realized his freedom from sin as he claimed this truth. He poured out his life so that others held in the bondage of sin could be freed to be part of God’ family. God gave him the desire and the power to be a sacrifice.
As converts saw Paul faithfully live out this truth, they had the courage, strength, and power to also become living sacrifices. Know what is so amazing? As they lived their lives being faithful and as they served, they experienced the same joy Paul talked about in the verse.
How loving and faithful You are. Forgive me for the times I am such a slow learner. You have spelled out Your plan and purpose, and then provided stories of people that chose to follow You. I can look into their lives and service and understand the joy in serving and being a living sacrifice. Provide me the courage and wisdom to serve. Amen.
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” Phil. 2:13
Paul understands and states an important principle here, that God must do His work in our lives before He can work through us, and that this is not often a quick process. For example, God was at work in Joseph’s life during the years in which he was in prison (through no fault of his own) before He raised Joseph up to a position of leadership as the second most powerful person in Egypt.
In a like manner, God was at work in the life of Moses during the forty years he was tending sheep on the backside of a mountain before Moses was ready to lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea.
God often uses the quiet times in our lives, times when we may be set aside, to prepare us for what He has ahead. We often need to wait quietly before the Lord and be patient for His timing so that He can prepare us for what is ahead.
As we celebrate the past sixty years as a community of believers at Cedar Hills, we prayerfully look forward to what God wants to do in us and through us in the years ahead.
Gracious Heavenly Father,
Thank You for Your presence and work in my life even when I am not aware of it. Help me to trust You in all of life’s experiences and to understand that all things work together for the good of those who love You according to Your purposes. I want to submit myself to You so that You can work in and through me today. In Jesus name, Amen.
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” Phil. 1:27-28
Paul speaks specifically about integrity in verses 27 and 28. Some may argue it’s easier to be good, faithful, law-abiding, and helpful when in the company of others. Whereas, if you find yourself alone in the same situations, you may act differently, take a shortcut, bend the truth or look the other way!
Whether your mom claims she has eyes on the back of her head, or you grew up in a small town like me (where people reported back my whereabouts before I could make it home) — someone is always watching!
Instead of potentially being paranoid or frustrated by this reality, I propose we rest in comfort knowing that our Lord is watching our every move, is cheering us on from afar, and “has our back.” This thought then becomes comforting, providing us strength to stand up to opposition and do the right thing — whether or not anyone is there to see!
You are right. Sometimes I am frightened by those who are different from me and want to sway me away from Your will. Help me to be strong and follow Your will in every situation I’m faced with, whether I feel Your spirit with me or not.
Help me to remain eternally pleasing to You and not be tempted by earthly matters. For Your strength I pray. Amen.