Reading: Philemon 1:1-7
I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers… Philemon 1:4 NIV
Paul is such a tender-hearted bloke towards his children in the Lord. I've never noticed it before, but in the majority of his letters, once formal greetings are out of the way, he just can't help himself from telling them how thankful he is — for them, and for what God is doing in their lives. Just listen to him…
Philemon 1:4-5 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.
Romans 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.
1 Corinthians 1:4-5 I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus…
Ephesians 1:15-16 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
Philippians 1:3-6 I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel…
Colossians 1:3-4 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints…
1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers.
2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.
2 Timothy 1:3 I thank God … as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.
Paul is just like a proud parent brimming with joy as he sees his children growing in their faith. They're not all perfect, of course. The “foolish Galatians” are not doing so well when Paul writes (see Galatians 1:6). Nonetheless they are all in his thoughts and prayers.
I suspect too that Paul is feeling that same excitement that a gardener feels when the seed he has planted sprouts up through the soil and begins to grow. He is intensely interested and concerned for that seed. But although he did the planting, he knows it is God who brings the growth. Which is perhaps why Paul feels so much delight when he sees growth happening.
And who shares that delight with him? All of heaven. Together, heaven and earth celebrate in the wonder of new life.
This week, I had the privilege of helping someone invite Jesus into their life — someone I had been praying for. It was such a wonderful occasion, and I was so thankful! I couldn't stop myself from thanking God over and over. Since then, I have had the double joy of seeing the same thankfulness welling up in the man who was saved.
I can so relate to Paul when he says, “I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers…” It just wells up. I feel as though the great celebration that happens in heaven for every soul saved has somehow spilled out of heaven and enveloped me, and I want more of it!
Thank you so much Lord for the privilege of this experience — to be able to bring someone into your family. I offer myself to you as a planter of seeds, a tiller of soil, and nurturer of new life. I want to be your agent of blessing, bringing many more into your kingdom. May I? Holy Spirit, just give me the word!
Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth… Joshua 1:8a NIV
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 NIV
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17 NIV
God's Word is made up of words! The Holy Spirit wields those words as I read and invite him to speak into my life.
But I too can wield those words, by speaking them out. They are a sword in my mouth, to attack and defend. They have power to counter the discouragement and lies of the evil one, and to action things in the spiritual realm. Along with my other armour, they allow me to stand firm.
One thing is certain: For the Word of God to become my sword, its words need to get out of the Book and into my mouth! I need to speak them! Out loud! Which means I have to know them. Or at least know of them and be able to find them.
New Christians need a few key Bible verses from Day 1 to establish their faith and deal with the inevitable attack of the enemy.
Those who receive healing, whether emotional or physical, need to be given scriptures they can speak out in order to keep what they have received. The enemy is all too happy to steal our healing back. Let's fend him off!
We all need Scripture in our mouths as we pray, so that we truly pray in the authority God has given us. Let's not be ineffectual in our prayers.
And whenever we read the Word, speaking it out helps us to action it. In good times and in hard times.
I recall a friend telling me of a dark time in her life, when all her foundations seemed to be falling away. During that time, God gave her the 23rd Psalm. It became her lifeline. She read it over and over. It was in her heart and in her mouth, and in time she passed through that dark valley to once again enjoy the light.
God's word can't stay in the Book. It needs to get into our hearts, and out through our mouths. Only then can it truly change our lives, and those of others.
Praise be to you, O Lord; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Psalm 119:12-16 NIV
For some great ideas about how to get the best from your time in the Bible, you might like to check out The Bible: Where Do I Start? and What is SOAP? Or perhaps you have some great tips yourself you'd like to share. Why not share them on one of these pages!
Reading: Lamentations 1 – 5
I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:19-24 NIV
It is often said that talking to yourself is the first sign of madness! But here in Lamentations, in the midst of difficulty and affliction, Jeremiah is doing just that – talking to himself.
It's as if the part of him that speaks and directs is able somehow to separate itself from the circumstances of his physical body and then, from that removed position, encourage and direct the rest of his being.
Like “time out” in a sports match, Jeremiah gathers himself to recall, to remind, to refocus, and ultimately to rekindle his faith in God's unchanging love. He knows what is true so he speaks it out, to himself.
That voice that God has given me – the one I use to talk to myself – it has power! Just as Jeremiah and the psalmists and numerous other Bible characters talked themselves through doubt and difficulty, so I can keep myself on track by speaking to myself truth and self-encouragement.
Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death…” So when it comes to speaking to myself, I need to speak life!
I can make declarations based on Scripture, and statements born from faith. I can instruct myself according to what I know from the Bible.
In Ephesians 4:29, Paul says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” It hasn't occurred to me before, but this principle applies just as much to the way I talk to myself as it does to the way I talk to others!
Negative self-talk should never cross my lips. It only gives the devil a foothold to accuse and discourage me. Nor should feelings or circumstances determine how I talk to myself, since they so easily change. Truth, on the other hand, is solid and unchanging. What do I know about God? What does God say about me? These things I can declare.
All this serves to remind me how vital it is that I read my Bible and declare it with my mouth, and keep on declaring it. As I speak and declare to myself the truths in God's Word, my faith will grow, my confidence will rise, and with God's help I will achieve all the plans and purposes that he has for my life.
Lord God, you are so good. Everything you do is perfect. Thank you for your written Word, and for the voice of your ever-present Holy Spirit. I offer to you now my own voice, and pray that just as you purified Isaiah's lips with a coal from your alter, you will purify mine. May they always only ever speak life, both to me and to others.
“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.” Psalm 103:1 NIV
Reading: Joshua 23:1 – Judges 3:6
Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel. Joshua 24:31 (NIV)
After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord… Judges 2:10-11 (NIV)
Head knowledge will always be trumped by personal experience. Though stories be a powerful influence and storytelling vital to sharing and passing on my faith, being IN the story takes it to a whole new level. To walk on the bed of the sea with water heaped up on either side, to feel the heat and the power of God manifested in a pillar of fire, to see water spontaneously gush from a dry rock, and to collect bread from heaven every morning – these are experiences that no handed-down story can match.
In the days of Joshua, these and many other encounters with God influenced the heart of the entire nation. They knew God not just because they had heard the stories, but because they were in them. But as these encounters with God became past history, even by just one generation, the faith of the nation began to crumble.
It's not enough just to share stories handed down from others. I need my own stories. I need my own first hand experience of the power and presence of God. I need to have been on the receiving end of his goodness. I need to have been healed. I need to have prayed in faith and seen miraculous answers to my prayers. These things form the basis of my personal testimony.
Not only that, but others need to be able to see God at work in me and through me. Why would people be drawn to my faith if the substance of it was simply the stories of others? How much weight would that carry? No, I need my own stories.
It's not that my own faith depends on it. But the faith of others just might. Jesus himself expected that some would believe in him because of his miracles: “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” (John 14:11)
And in the very next sentence, he reveals his expectation that some would believe in him because of miracles happening in and through me: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these…” (John 14:12).
These things aren't for my benefit. They're for those who don't yet know him, because just as it was in the days of Joshua, so it is in this day: To see God at work first hand, and even more, to experience him – to be IN the story – that is the stuff that turns hearts and generations to God.
Lord Jesus, I so want to be a generation changer! To be salt and light in this world and to see your hand at work, to be a testimony to all whose hearts would turn to you. Please break the power of low expectation that has defined my generation, and release in us faith to move mountains and to do the work you have commissioned for us, that through us your love and glory might be clearly revealed, in our generation.