Rejoice in the Lord, Always

Philippians 4 – Friday 

“TGIF”. Most people in our culture seem to only be happy when they are NOT working, when their weekend has started, or it is their day off. They long for the precious moments where they are not bound to the clock. It’s in our pop culture. Whether it is some teen-idol that is singing about what happened last Friday or whether we are all working for the weekend, many people think happiness is a 3-day-a-week affair. As Christians, maybe we think life is pretty dull until Sunday rolls around. That is the day where I get to be happy. 

However, that’s not what Paul wants for the Philippians. He says “Rejoice in the Lord, always!” It is a command. “REJOICE!” Maybe we think it’s a little strange for Paul to give a command to rejoice. “You better rejoice or else!” But that is not his point at all. Paul knows that if we truly understand the gospel we would see it for what it is… good news! 

Look at what is said in the following verses. 

The Lord is near.(4:5) Christ is coming soon to reward those whom he has saved. That is cause to rejoice!

God hears your prayers and supplications. (4:6) God is near and cares for our needs. That is cause to rejoice!

God will give us peace to protect our hearts and mind in the middle of trouble. (4:7) That is cause to rejoice!

The peace of God will be with us because the God of peace will be with us (4:9). That is cause to rejoice!

When you focus on the true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, reputably good, excellent, and praiseworthy, you are dwelling on good things that come from a good God. Every one of them is a cause to rejoice!

God is not a God of sorrow and somberness at all times. It is true he is a serious God. We should never take him flippantly or lightly, and he calls sins out when and where he sees them. But he is a God of joy, gladness, drinking deeply in the good things of this world. He rests in a world that he called very good. (Genesis 1). Therefore, God wants his creatures to rejoice to the praise of his glory. 

May this shorter devotion push you to praise God today, my brothers and sisters. 

May you focus on the true and good things, and may they cause you to rejoice. 

May you rejoice in the God of peace. 

May you rejoice that the Lord is near. 

May you rejoice, always. Again I will say it, rejoice!

-Jake Ballard

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 15-16 and Colossians 1 (Devotions are focusing on joy/Philippians this week, but charge on with your reading.)

The Overwhelming Compassions of God

Nehemiah 9-10

Everyone needs compassion. Our gracious God, the ultimate source of love and mercy, readily extends compassion to us when we face the great challenges in our life.  But it doesn’t stop there.  God is not “deservingly” showing compassion to us because we have made sacrifices for his namesake.  He overwhelms us with compassion when we deserve it the least.  When our ears have been deaf to his calling, when our back has been turned, when our eyes are glistening with selfish pride, that is when he is most compassionate.  It is pretty simple:  life is best lived in and by the design of God.  Anything else is to be pitied.  But we do not serve a God of overwhelming pity.  He doesn’t stop at, “man, that stinks, wish you would have made some better choices there, bud.” He picks us up in our filth, gives us the full concentration of his blessings, and turns our feet back on the path that leads to him.  Over and over again. Undeservedly. In today’s reading, we get a quick lesson in the history of compassion of Israel from Abraham to Nehemiah.  Draw some (rather easy) parallels to your own life as your study this account of the rich mercies of God.

“But they, our ancestors, were arrogant;  bullheaded, they wouldn’t obey your commands. They turned a deaf ear, they refused to remember the miracles you had done for them;…And you, a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, Incredibly patient, with tons of love – you didn’t dump them.” – Nehemiah 9:16 MSG

  1. God still has compassion for you, even after you have been arrogant.  You can attempt to go it alone.  God doesn’t give up that easily.  When the miracles no longer come, when the blessing subside, and you decide to turn back, he doesn’t merely say, “told you so.” He says “turn around, I’m still here.”

“Yes, even when they cast a sculpted calf and said, “This is your god Who brought you out of Egypt,” and continued from bad to worse,  You in your amazing compassion didn’t walk off and leave them in the desert.”  – Nehemiah 9:18 MSG

  1. God still has compassion for you, even when you don’t give him credit.  Oh, how we like to take credit. How scorned are we when we don’t get the little credit due to us?  And we haven’t really done anything.  It would be simple enough to say, “Good luck in the desert by yourself,” yet God hears the cries of his people and comes rushing in to, again, fight the battles.

But then they mutinied, rebelled against you, threw out your laws and killed your prophets, the very prophets who tried to get them back on your side— and then things went from bad to worse.  And in keeping with your bottomless compassion you gave them saviors: saviors who saved them from the cruel abuse of their enemies.  – Nehemiah 9:27

  1. God still has compassion for you, even when you stab him in the back.  That’s right, literal stabbing of prophets delivering the word of God.  Maybe you are not guilty of such a crime, but openly denying the word of God delivered to you in your life is an equal abuse of the Word of God.  That’s pretty much what sin is.  But guess what?  Those who openly and defiantly deny the gospel, receive sanctification and redemption through Jesus Christ if they make him the Lord and Savior of their life.  Your confession is never rejected, if done so from the heart.

But as soon as they had it easy again they were right back at it—more evil. So you turned away and left them again to their fate, to the enemies who came right back. They cried out to you again; in your great compassion you heard and helped them again.

This went on over and over and over. They turned their backs on you and didn’t listen. – Nehemiah 9: 28, 29 MSG

  1. God still has compassion for you when you return right back to your sin.  That’s right, we are almost cartoonish in our behavior sometimes.  Do the sin.  Ask for forgiveness. <5 min later> Do the sin.  Ask forgiveness.  Thankfully, we have a God of infinite mercies, BUT as Paul says our goal is not to exhaust the grace of God.  If you haven’t figured it out, somewhere in our sinful nature is the habit to turn back to sin, but we must try to actively stop or flee from it.  God is unfatigued with extending his compassions if we truly seek him through repentance.

You put up with them year after year and warned them by your spirit through your prophets; But when they refused to listen you abandoned them to foreigners. Still, because of your great compassion, you didn’t make a total end to them. You didn’t walk out and leave them for good; yes, you are a God of grace and compassion.  – Nehemiah 9:30,31 MSG

  1. If you’re reading this, God still has compassion for you.  You are not abandoned.  It may feel foreign because you have pitched a tent outside the wall, but there is NOTHING that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  Maybe you’re seemingly satisfied to be out there for now.  Man, that’s awful.  You will not receive even the pity of men if this is where you stand.  But God looks compassionately upon you, and leaves the gate open, giving every opportunity to be a part of his grace, love, forgiveness and hope.  There is a time limit though, an end game. Once you stop breathing, it’s over.  There are no guarantees when this will be.  An even more compelling argument than “no guarantees” is every moment you are not living in the presence of God, you walk around heavily burdened with sin, guilt, doubt, and shame because you don’t know His compassion.  He will take it all from you and cast it as far as the east is from the west.  Stop. Turn. Cry. Listen. Let go. It is time to let His compassion overwhelm you.

–Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway – Nehemiah 9-10 NIV or – from The Message Nehemiah 9-10 and 1 Corinthians 11

The Most Needed Ministry

Matthew 26 & Mark 14

In the closing moments of Jesus’ life after the last supper he took his three closest disciples and prayed. Jesus was a man of prayer and it is fitting that in the final moments before he is handed over he prays to his Father. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of prayer. Many of us are guilty of not praying as we ought to. Look at the degree to which Jesus expected his three closest disciples to pray. In Matthew 26.36-41 and Mark 14.32-38 he asks them to remain and watch while Jesus went off and prayed. Watch and pray are synonymous words. To watch is to pray and to pray is to watch. 

When Jesus comes back the first time he questions Peter, James, and John and says, ”You couldn’t keep watch for an hour?” Jesus expected his disciples to pray for a whole hour! Many of us can only last a few minutes let alone an hour. If prayer was important to Jesus and his ministry and his relationship with God CERTAINLY it must be a priority for us. I would venture to say prayer is one of the most neglected and undervalued ministries. Jesus never believed prayer was expendable, neither should we. 

Do you want to grow with God? Do you want to grow in spirituality? Do you want deeper intimacy in your relationship with God and other believers? Do you want to combat spiritual darkness? Do you want to see people saved? Pray. Pray. Pray. 

If we will give ourselves over to the ministry of prayer and intercession God will grow and mature us. Prayer is too valuable to discard, it’s too precious to pass over, and it’s too powerful to be ignored.

Lord Jesus stir in our hearts a desire and hunger for prayer! Raise up men and women who will pray! Amen!

-Jacob Rohrer

Today’s Bible passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 26 & Mark 14

Tomorrow we will read Luke 22 & John 13.

God Hears

Revelation 8

Revelation 8 4 NIV (1)

 

The book of Revelation is a dramatic masterpiece that I would love to see in a comic book one day. The author, John, uses tremendous action, suspense, plot twists, and so much more! When we finally come to chapter eight, there is a great tension that is set up by the author. We have seen that the Lamb at God’s right side has finally broken all seven of the seals that bind this important Scroll from chapter five, and we are anxiously awaiting to see what it contains.

 

Unfortunately for the reader, we will have to wait a little while longer before we learn what this Scroll says, as John builds our anticipation even more with the introduction of the seven trumpets that bring about God’s judgment. John is looking to whet our appetite even more for the contents of the Scroll, as we see what God is going to do to those who have persecuted and killed His people.

 

Back in chapter six, when the fifth seal of the Scroll was broken (6:9-11), we were introduced to these Christian martyrs who had been killed for their faithful preaching of the gospel. They cried out to God, begging Him to vindicate them and enact judgment on those who had killed them. It is these prayers for vindication that God is responding to with the seven trumpets that are introduced in this chapter. In 8:3-5, an angel is going to take these prayers that are rising up to God and throw them down on those who were responsible for these Christian martyrs’ deaths. What happens after, through these trumpets, are poetic images of God’s judgment raining down on those who have tormented and persecuted God’s people, similar to what happened in the Exodus story with Pharaoh.

 

While this letter wasn’t written directly to us in 21st century America, we can learn much from John’s address to the seven churches in Asia Minor. The key point that I have learned from this chapter is that no prayer goes unheard by God. He is going to respond to His people’s cries to Him, even if it may take some time. God is not unjust and will vindicate His people when they are being persecuted for being faithful to Him. So be encouraged today! God hears your prayers! He will vindicate you from the persecution that you face for being faithful.

 

Talon Paul