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Philippians 4:1-9 [ESV]                           

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:1-9 [NLT]

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work.

Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

 

Diffusing Disharmony & Enjoying True Peace

  1. The Foundation of Love

“Whom I love” (ἀγαπητοὶ) and “my beloved” (ἀγαπητοί) are spelled the same in the Greek text. The only difference is the accent mark. Both mean “one who is loved.”

Love is _________________________________________________________________.

Love is _________________________________________________________________.

Love is _________________________________________________________________.

Love is _________________________________________________________________.

Love is _________________________________________________________________.

“Brothers” is a general term Paul used for fellow Christians (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 6:23) and co-workers in Christ’s mission (Philippians 4:21), whether male or female. When we are brought into the family of God we become children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ. As such, we are all loved by our heavenly Father and must love one another. This is our high calling and the true measure of a follower of Jesus.

Read Psalm 133 (The Watermelon Psalm) What images of unity are particularly meaningful to you?

How did you get along with your brothers and sisters growing up? If you have children, how does that impact your understanding of the importance that brothers and sisters love each other?

  1. Love in Action: Urging Euodia and Syntyche to think in harmony with the mind of Christ

Ways to deal with conflict:

Key elements to this conflict resolution:

  • Agree in the Lord
  • Use of a third party (true companion)
  • Appeal to true identity
  • Reminder of high calling

 

  1. A Call (again) to Joy
  • “Rejoice in the Lord” The present imperative is a call to continual habitual action.
  • “Rejoice in the Lord” focuses on the source and center of true joy: The Lord.
  • “Rejoice in the Lord. Again I will say…” elevates the importance of this command.

“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.”

  • Joy in the Lord
  • Sadness toward the world
  • No gnat-straining and camel swallowing (cf. Matthew 23:24)
  • “The Main Thing is to keep the Main Thing the Main Thing.”
  • “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.” – Marco Antonio de Dominis

 

  1. The Answer to anxiety: Pray
  • There’s nothing too big for God to handle
  • There’s nothing too small for God to dismiss
  • Pray about everything and anything with thanksgiving

How is that going for you these days? How often do you end up leaning on the promise of Romans 8:26?

  1. A Mind is a terrible thing to pollute!

List some things that are:

  • True
  • Honorable
  • Just
  • Pure
  • Lovely
  • Commendable
  • Anything of excellence
  • Anything worthy of praise

How do you think about those things?

Who is your example? For whom are you an example in regard to these things?

LOGO with address

 

 

 

 

Rev. Dr. David Bahn, Senior Pastor

How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 14 Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.

15 As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. 16 Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. 17 I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness. – Philippians 4:10-17

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Black-Necked Stilt | Anahuac NWR | May 2020

“Rich rewards he offers free…” Those words are from the hymn, Hark! the voice of Jesus Calling, a powerful and memory-evoking hymn. It was the unofficial hymn of the seminary I attended. When 300 men sing that hymn, it leaves a lasting impression!

In those days, it was “rich rewards he offers thee” (TLH-496). But I never gave the idea of rewards that much thought. I was swept up more by the idea that we were answering God’s call and saying, “here am I, send me send me!” I wonder, in fact, whether the change from “thee” to “free” wasn’t motivated by a desire not to claim or appear to be motivated by reward rather than by God’s love.

God’s grace in Jesus has a way in impacting hearts deeply. His grace makes it possible to face our failures and sins. His grace makes it possible for us to say, “Send me! Send me!” We are motivated by the grace and love of God: “The love of Christ controls us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). But there is the matter of reward. Paul speaks of it here.

It’s just not to be considered as a transaction: I do a good work, or I support a missionary, and I get a reward. God is not in the quid pro quo business. If he were, we’d be sunk. Everyone of us. But by his grace, God does offer rewards to his people. Jesus, himself taught this. In the Sermon on the Mount he says, “Great is your reward in heaven…”to those who are persecuted for his name’s sake (Matthew 5:12).

Somehow that reward – according to Paul’s words here – comes not only to the one who suffered loss for Jesus’ sake, but those who joined in support of his work are to receive a reward. Max Lucado’s book, The Applause of Heavenmakes this point as well. It’s stunning to think that God would reward sinners such as me. Perhaps some of the tears he will wipe from our eyes will be tears of joy and deep humility in the face of such unmerited rewards.

How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 14 Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.

15 As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. 16 Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. 17 I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness. – Philippians 4:10-17

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Killdeer | Anahuac NWR | May 2020

“Large and in charge” Do you know someone who fits that bill? They command the room whenever they walk in. Everyone knows who to look to and everyone defers to her. She owns the room, as they say. He steers the ship. Maybe there is a realm where you are that person. It might be only in your little corner of the world. It could be just in your family, or your work group. Hopefully you are at least in charge of yourself (read self-control!).

Funny thing, though, even the most powerful person in the world – Donald Trump? Vladimir Putin? Xi Jinping? – have to acquiesce to the space and time realities they cannot control. Gravity pulls them toward earth’s center just like it does everyone else. They are not exempt from storms, viruses, or political intrigue.

It is good for us to recognize and remember this from time to time. Even Paul had to learn this during his missionary travels. He had sought go up to Bithynia from Mysia. But the Spirit of Jesus would not allow it. His plans were altered by God. And for good reason: this would bring Paul and his companions into Macedonia and to establish the first church to be planted on European soil in Philippi.

And now, full circle later, the church in Philippi is providing financial (and spiritual/emotional) support to Paul from a distance. The mission of God will continue. The message of Jesus will go out. People will be brought to faith. Jesus will be honored.

That’s true in the face of whoever in our lives is large and in charge and in the way of good things we want to do or be part of. The will of God will not be thwarted. Take that Coronavirus! Take that racial prejudice! Take that violent protesters! Take that social injustice! Take that Satan!

For a time the Philippians didn’t have the opportunity to help Paul. But when they did, they did. So if something stands in the way of your good-doing, just wait. God will open the door to do the good that he has put in your heart to do – whether you’re large and in charge or not.

 

How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 14 Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.

15 As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. 16 Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. 17 I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness. – Philippians 4:10-17

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Black-Necked Stilt | Anahuac NWR | May 2020

Nobody loves me, everybody hates me. Guess I’ll go eat worms. I think that’s a real song. I know it’s a real feeling. It’s no fun to feel abandoned, forgotten, unloved, or unseen. Thankfully I’ve not felt that way very often. Maybe you have. Perhaps you’ve been hung out to dry waiting for a promotion, longing for a phone call, or anticipating a bonus that never comes. It might even be that you are dangling by a thread as rumors of company cuts swirl through your office. Or maybe you know someone else who is struggling under these burdens.

In the dark of night or the wee hours of the morning, in jail, or on the road, I’m sure Paul wondered whether anyone really cared. He was committed to the work to which God had called him. He was all in for bringing the Good News of Jesus to new places and peoples. But even the most dedicated disciple can be discouraged when she thinks no one else joins her in her work. The most devoted missionary can have moments of doubt when he thinks he’s the only one.

Enter the Philippians. Their gifts and prayers propelled Paul’s missionary efforts. He is thankful enough for their support to write this letter – inspired by the Holy Spirit, no less – expressing his thanks and instructing us even 2000 years later. Think of it: Paul’s thank you note not only survived the centuries, but inspires Jesus’ followers yet today.

Perhaps we are to be inspired to send support to a missionary. Maybe it’s just a reminder to reach out to someone who needs an encouraging word. It could be that you are being called to take more seriously how important your gifts and prayers are for your pastor and church. What’s more, your gifts and prayers not only encourage; they also make possible one more step of the Kingdom’s reach.

Notice, though, who gets the praise. It’s not the Philippians. It’s the Lord Jesus Christ. To God be the glory whenever we are able to encourage another in his or her kingdom quest.

How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 14 Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.

15 As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. 16 Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. 17 I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness. – Philippians 4:10-17

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Sandpiper | Anahuac NWR | May 2020

I have my moments. I suspect you do too. Moments of sheer frustration and anxiety. Moments of serene peace and tranquility. Moments of we’re going to make it through all this, and moments of how will this ever end?!? How about you? Moments of true contentment seem to be as elusive as a clear and mutually-agreed-on assessment of the true state of affairs in China or the US.

I doubt that Paul was dealing with the COVID-19 virus when he speaks of living on almost nothing, but we can relate if we’re seeing our personal economy being gutted. If you’ve lost your job and have no safety net, what will you do? Learn to live on almost nothing. If you’re seeing a boon in business (think grocery stores!) you’re living high. What do you do? You enjoy the blessings of plenty, and hopefully share them with others who are in need.

The secret of living with little or nothing or living with everything you possibly need is to recognize whose those resources come from and seek to be faithful in every situation. These are challenging times. There are hands out everywhere you turn. If you have the wherewithal to give, then give. If you have just enough to take care of your needs, thank God. If you don’t have enough call on God, ask for help. See how God will supply all your needs.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is a thank you letter. He’s expressing his deep appreciation to the church for their support of his ministry over the years. He’s telling them that even when their money ran out, he was OK. And when it came, he was deeply thankful.

There are two reasons to praise God. We thank and praise him when his goodness moves others to bless us. We also praise God for the Good News of his eternal love and salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Both are worthy cause for praise and thanksgiving to God.

How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 14 Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.

15 As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. 16 Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. 17 I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness. – Philippians 4:10-17

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Water Bird | Anahuac NWR | May 2020

After the most recent police shooting of a black man in Atlanta, I wonder how we can go on as a society. What hope do we have if the thin blue line gets rubbed out altogether by bad cops dealing with bad behavior and varying degrees of lawlessness. We need a means by which to maintain law and order. Whether or not this is a one-in-a-million incident, the racial tensions are already at a breaking point. How will we survive?

The answer may sound trite but is totally and deeply true. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only One who gives us strength to meet the day and navigate the challenges we face. Christ is the answer for the police forces of our nation. Christ is the answer for the black communities in our land. Christ is the answer for the privileged people, the poor people, the white people, the hispanic people.

Christ is the answer for all the nations of the world. His command to make disciples of “all nations” would better be translated today as “all people groups.” All ethnicities. All cultures. All tribes. All people of every imaginable group will find Jesus and the grace and truth he embodies to be the balm that heals our wounds and gives us peace.

We can’t do all things apart from Christ. But with him, we can do things greater than we can imagine when we live with him in every situation.

At the funeral today I shared the Bible verses Lillian had selected for her funeral service. I promised to make these available online, so (gladly) here they are. Let these enrich your soul!

Bible Verses Requested by Lillian Hill for Her Funeral June 13, 2020

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

John 14:1-6

[Jesus says,] “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Romans 8:28, 31

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

John3:16

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Matthew 6:33-34

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 11:28-30

[Jesus says,] Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

1 Peter 5:6-7

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things endures all things. Love never ends.

Proverbs 22:6

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Numbers 6:24-26

The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Colossians 3:17 (Lillian’s Confirmation Verse)

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Lillian’s memorial service was at St. John Lutheran Church in Cypress, Texas where she had been a member for many many years. I was honored to have served as the officiant for the service and to share God’s word with those present.

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and  received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:1-9

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Water Bird | Anahuac NWR | May 2020

Enough! I haven’t done it on purpose, but I’ve managed to disconnect from most social media. So if you want me to know something, don’t count on Facebook. Don’t send me a tweet. Don’t try to connect on FB Messenger. I just don’t go there. It’s one of the few bad habits I’ve managed to ditch. I’m not tethered to social media. It also allows me to keep my mind on good, honorable, lovely, and commendable things.

But funny thing: I don’t always think on those things. It’s still all too easy to go down a less godly and less edifying path. The reminder to think of good things is very apropos for me. I can still manage to think of the more seemly things even without all the hype of social media.

Having said that, I do wonder whether an inventory on social media consumption is in order. I’ve noticed that a lot of people get worked up over Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, Confederate monuments, names, and flags. I see never-Trumpers rail against the President and Trump supporters return the salvo. It’s to be expected. But it’s not good just because it’s expected.

That brings me to “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” That’s a choice we need to make consciously. That’s an intentional effort. Couple that with the rest of his thought: “What you have learned and  received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Do you have an example to look to? Is there someone who embodies peace, grace, truth, love, kindness, and joy? Might you put into practice her habits? Maybe you could follow his example. In any case, there is a promise for those who take this urging seriously: “and the God of peace will be with you.” That’s a pretty good promise.

I don’t think the God of Peace is likely to be found in a social media post. The profound nature of his being cannot be limited to 244 characters. But when we think of good things, and follow good examples, his presence is not only promised, it becomes a wonderful blessing. 

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and  received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:1-9

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Water Bird | Anahuac NWR | May 2020 (Perhaps my friends can help me identify what kind of bird this is.)

Last week, Diane and I watched the funeral of a dear friend, a pastor who preached his own funeral sermon. He had recorded it shortly before he died after a six-year battle with cancer. This week we watched the funeral of a young pastor who died very unexpectedly. They both left behind two children. Today we learned that a long-time member of St. John died. She is singing the praises of Jesus with the hosts of heaven (along with my two pastor friends). She has no more need for prayer. There are no more worries to cloud her vision. But our lives continue. And sometimes pesky little issues trouble us. Sometimes big challenges confront us.

But we have a blank check prayer offer here in these words: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Consider these four corners of this blank check

  • Anything: Don’t let anything cause your anxiety. That’s a pretty big order. After all there’s COVID-19, medical tests, job situations, unemployment realities, racial tensions, stresses at home and at work – to name just a few. None of these need cause us anxiety. God can handle it; no matter how big “it” is.
  • Everything: Perhaps you have a little niggling issue – spiritual or literal hangnail of life. It’s bugging you. It seems so trivial. But it won’t let you go. You might be tempted not to turn to God about it. But here’s that word: in everything let your requests be known to God. Everything. Nothing’s too petty for God to care. He is never put off by our trivial concerns. He may help us grow. He may help us become more patient. He also may just fix it. In any case, let the little things make their way into the throneroom of God’s grace!
  • Prayer and Supplication: Few of us would ever tell someone that they should spend energy worrying. “Just worry about it,” said no one ever. We can pray. We can ask God to supply our needs. We can call upon him. We can ask. We can petition. We can call out to God for things big or small.
  • With Thanksgiving: This may be the rub. It’s difficult to “thank God for the fleas” as Betsy Ten Boom told Corey to do. We thank God in the midst of our prayers and supplications because we know he will answer our prayers. We thank him because we have the opportunity to call on him. We thank God because he has so richly blessed us. We thank God because he commands us to do so.

There are a thousand things that cry out for our attention or unleash the cords of anxiety upon us. We can pray. About anything. God can deal with everything. We pray with thanksgiving for the ultimate victory that is ours through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and  received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:1-9

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Building his Nest | Anahuac NWR | May 2020

“Do it again, Daddy! Do it again! Again!” He was having a great time at my arms’ expense. I was tossing him into the air – this delightful little boy. And he was loving it. So was I. I was glad to do it again, and again, and again. Such is the love of a dad for his son. Such is the love of a child for a safe thrill.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice. Why this command? Why the “again”? It’s not because of the sheer glee of it. It’s not because it’s fun. In fact rejoicing in the Lord may actually be in the face of some very un-fun times and events. After all, these words were written from prison. This is not a fun time for Paul. These were not fun circumstances. Yet he urges joy.

Joy is the proper response to the presence of God. Joy is enhanced as we consider the great treasure Jesus is and offers. Joy is experienced in the deep love he has for us. Joy is expressed in a heart of praise and thanks for God’s gifts, God’s mercy, and God’s presence. It is expressed by acts of kindness and forbearance. Joy is embraced in the calm of confidence in God’s gifts and prayerful attitude. 

We need this reminder, for we live in a fallen world. COVID strikes. Friends and family members die. Tempers flare. Patience runs all too thin. Joy gets squeezed out of our hearts and in its place come frustration, worry, anxiety, hopelessness, fear, and pain.

The call to joy is a call to Jesus. He provides the reminder and the cause for true joy. He opens the door to God’s storehouse of blessing. He welcomes us in our time of need. He replaces broken hearts with a deep joy that cannot be explained only embraced.

Do it again, Jesus! Do it again! Fill our hearts with the joy of your salvation. Enliven us with the dancing that replaces mourning. Embolden us with courage born of your delight in place of the timidity of defeat. Do it again! Forgive us. Renew us. Fill our hearts with joy. Then we can sing with the Psalmist:

Restore unto me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with your free Spirit. 
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

– Psalm 51:12-13