April 14 – Church and State – Heavenly Citizenship

Read Philippians 3:17-21

American missionary friends of ours have given birth to children in other countries. Some of these children were afforded the option of dual citizenship. A few of them, then, became citizens of the United States and of the country where they were born. As a result, they had twin loyalties.

As Paul wrote to the Philippians in the first century, he reminded them of a citizenship reality we too must keep in mind. Although these believers were residents on earth, they were not to forget that they were also citizens of heaven. As believers, we function day to day as dual citizens in what Augustine described as the “City of God” and the “City of Man.”

What biblical principles guide our citizenship in our home country? Paul wrote elsewhere to first-century followers of Jesus who were citizens and subjects in the Roman Empire. His words describe how we are to live as well. We are to submit to government (Rom. 13:1). Our Father expects us to honor government leaders (1 Pet. 3:17) and pray for them (1 Tim. 2:1-8).

Still, today’s reading reminds us that our ultimate citizenship and loyalty lies in heaven. What should that look like? These words remind us to not become too settled in this world. We must remember that our loyalty is first and foremost to King Jesus. We are to anticipate His kingdom and even pray for its advent (Matt. 6:10).

But today’s reading also helps us to establish appropriate expectations of our earthly citizenship. Paul describes the propensity of other earthly citizens in graphic terms. “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame” (Phil. 3:19).

Although we demonstrate and champion righteous living in this world, we must, at the same time, have a realistic perspective. We will not bring Christ’s kingdom to the earth. Only He will do that at His return. Only Jesus can “put an end to sin…” and “bring in everlasting righteousness…” (Dan. 9:24). When we live as citizens of heaven, we rein in any expectations of experiencing heaven on earth. That will only happen when the Lord of heaven comes.

Steve Kern

February 14 – Meet the Team – Patricia Arnold

Read Philippians 4:13

My name is Patricia Arnold.  I was named after a singer who my Dad admired back in the 50’s named Patty Paige.  So, you could say my life from the beginning was based on music.

I was the youngest of 5 children so, I‘ll admit it, I was spoiled.  My grandma spoiled me, my mom spoiled me, my aunt spoiled me and even my big sister spoiled me! However, being the “baby of the family,” I was teased a lot by my siblings too so it kind of balanced out.

My grandmother played a big part in my upbringing since my dad died when I was 9 years old, leaving my mom, who was only 40 at the time, to take care of all of us on her own. We lived with Grandma and Grandpa from time to time to help with expenses. Grandma also babysat me while mom was at work.   Grandma was one of those people who, if the church doors were open, she was there.  So much of my connection to church came from her.

I met my husband quite unexpectantly while working at a fast food restaurant.  As of this month we have been married for 50 years! We have 2 children and 5 grandchildren.  I am a retired kindergarten teacher; my husband is a retired Jr High custodian. Our daughter and her husband are both teachers and our son in Florida is a pastor and an adjunct professor at a college.  Our grandson is studying to be a history teacher and his sister is thinking about going into education also.  At one point, even our dog was in obedience school!  So, you might say school is our life!

My favorite verse from the Bible is Phil 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Looking back at my life, I know without a doubt that Christ has been with me and has given me strength and wisdom to face the crazy and sometimes scary things of life. Like the time I found myself suddenly all alone in the ICU at the hospital paralyzed from head to toe on a respirator due to a reaction to a medication.  I repeated that verse over and over to keep myself calm and to not panic!  He was with me when we faced raging flood waters in our tiny car out in the middle of nowhere, and again when we had to go tell our daughter that her boyfriend at the time had been killed in a terrible car wreck in the middle of the night.  Christ has given me strength to do and face what seemed to be the impossible. Things I know I could not have done on my own strength.

Remember YOU can do all things through Christ who strengthens YOU, too, if you will let Him. What are you facing?  What looks impossible to you?   Lay it at the foot of the cross and trust in Him to give you the knowledge and strength to come out on the other side stronger, wiser and, best of all, closer to Him!

Pat Arnold

February 10 – Faithfulness – He Meets All of Our Needs

Read Philippians 4:19

I love being a grandma.  It is the best job, other than raising my own kids, that I ever had.   I admit I spoil them, as much as I can, especially when it comes to birthdays.  But isn’t that what grandmas are for? Now that 4 out of the 5 are teenagers, it is getting harder to pick out the perfect gift.  I often find myself asking, “What do you want for your birthday?”  More and more, I get the reply of “I don’t need anything!”

Then my reply is always, “I didn’t ask what you NEED, I asked what do you WANT?”

Needs and wants. That is a hard concept for kids to grasp and even some adults. Not knowing the difference can trick one into treating God, not as the Loving Father, but more like a heavenly ATM.

“The Bible says God will supply all my needs, then why can’t I have a big house or a fancy car?” How many people have driven down the road to ruin, thinking, “If I just pray to God, He will let me get the big promotion with a big raise!” Or they think that, if they just pray hard enough, God will give them an A+ on an exam.  Then they take it out on God if it doesn’t happen.

In our verse today, it says God will supply all of our NEEDS.  It doesn’t say He will supply all of our wants.  Like any good Father, He knows what we need often way before we know it ourselves. But, also like a Loving Father, He knows what things will harm us, and eventually become our “God” in place of Him!

When my husband Jon and I first got married, we started out on the low end economically.  It was a scary thing to be newly married and out on our own.  I only had a part time job and Jon had just gotten at job at a factory.  Unbeknownst to me, Jon prayed to God that he would protect us and that he would give us the wisdom to manage our money so we had enough of it to pay our bills each month.  Fifty years later I can testify that Jon’s prayers were answered in the affirmative.  I am not saying we didn’t have set backs like when Jon finally went back to his job after being laid off, only to learn that they were going out on strike! God didn’t pull us miraculously out of the trouble but lead us in the direction of where we could find help, where Jon could pick up a few dollars shoveling manure and driving a little blind lady around town.  Just enough to get us through the crisis at the time.

Are you facing insecurity? Are you at the point where you don’t know which way to turn for help?  Why not have a little talk with your Heavenly Father?  Maybe your priorities need a little bit of adjusting. He knows what you NEED!  He won’t let you down!

Pat Arnold

January 23 – Think About Such Things – Whatever Is Praiseworthy

Read Philippians 4:8

I can hear my mom’s words echo in my mind. “You can’t keep the birds from flying around your head, but you can keep them from making a nest in your hair.” She was a wise, godly woman who prayed earnestly for my deliverance. As a teenager I was a prisoner to irrational, fearful thoughts. Captivating every thought to the obedience of Christ, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians, was my ticket to freedom. The battle of the mind is powerful. I believe that’s the reason scripture commands us to renew our mind. Part of the renewal process requires us to destroy speculations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. (2 Corinthians 10:5) But that’s only the first step. Paul’s writing in Philippians 4 shows us step 2. To renew our mind, we must not only remove the old, sinful thoughts but we must replace our mind with new, godly thoughts. Fill the void with praise.

Recently I have been memorizing and focusing on Psalm 71. The chapter is filled with commands to praise God. “My praise is continually of You. My mouth is filled with Your praise and with Your glory all day long. But as for me, I will hope continually and will praise You yet more and more.” (Psalm 71: 6,8,14) Continually, all day long, more and more – those are challenging words. How do we praise God like that? It starts with the attitude of our heart and where we set our mind. Jesus said that the mouth speaks from that which fills the heart. (Luke 6:45) Our mind and thoughts must be set on Him who is worthy of all praise so that our mouth will tell of His righteousness and His salvation all day long. (Psalm 71: 15) When a hurtful, negative, sinful thought enters, we must captivate that thought and replace it with praise.

When my mind wants to default to fearful thoughts, quoting scripture is my rescue. God’s Word, the Sword of the Spirit, is the best weapon for the battle that rages in our mind. What can be more praiseworthy than the Word of God? It’s living, active and divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. Tap into the power of praise and shoo those birds away. Our mind is not a nest or a resting place for negative thoughts. We were created to soar-even on bad hair days.

Charline Engle

January 22 – Think About Such Things – Whatever Is Admirable

Read Philippians 4:8

I have always admired Bart Starr, the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers who won Super Bowl I and II. He was a gentleman and a Christian and I admired the way he lived his life.

The Athletes in Action/Bart Starr Award is given annually at the Super Bowl Breakfast to a National Football League (NFL) player who “best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field, and in the community.” The award, bearing the name of the Hall of Fame quarterback, honors his lifelong commitment to serving as a positive role model to his family, teammates, and community.

To admire means to regard with pleasure, wonder, and approval. It is to have a high opinion of and to respect. Have you considered what you admire?

What we decide to put into our minds is important. It comes back out in our words and actions. You know – TV, internet, conversation, books, magazines and movies. Make sure it is admirable. Would your spouse or other good friend be OK with what you think about?

Replace impure thoughts with the admirable and wholesome. This is a big challenge and something to work on every day.

Most importantly, read God‘s word and pray about this subject as well as for the needs of others every day.

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”  (Colossians 3:2)

Focus on God’s good gifts so your life can be exemplary (which means deserving imitation, commendable, to deserve imitation because of excellence).

Do you have a role model – someone you hold in high regard and respect? Are you serving as a model? You can be a blessing to people with your life. By living an exemplary life, you can turn other people’s lives around by example. Be a model of positive influence. That can start by thinking about and focusing on what is admirable.

People can be a model of negative influence. Ask yourself:  what kind of life am I living? Is it a life that will cause people to be negative?

To live an exemplary life, it is important to try to do the right thing. Can you do that without Jesus Christ? I do not think so. He must be the driver in your life. When that happens, people notice! Jesus will help you live an exemplary life. This may involve letting go of some things, but Jesus said that “with God, all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26b).

Embrace hard work and excellence. Focus on what is admirable and pure.

What are you doing in your life that helps you think about what is admirable? Is someone holding you accountable?

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17 NIV)

The biblical model in 1 Timothy is to have a mentor and be a mentor.

The only person to truly admire is Jesus Christ. He is perfect and He is the son of God. The challenge is to emulate what He did when He was here on earth and live the way He said to live.

What did Jesus admire?

Tom Weckesser

January 21 – Think About Such Things – Whatever Is Lovely

Read Philippians 4:8

“Whatever is lovely—think about such things.”

Glamor has been a goal of some women for years.  In older films, there often was a chorus line of beautiful women dressed in flowing gowns.  Their hair was all pulled back close to their heads and sometimes they wore giant headdresses.  They usually had sparkling jewelry dangling from their ears, necks and wrists.  This was supposed to be the standard for being “lovely.”  Something every woman should aspire to.

But is that really lovely?

What do you think of as lovely?  Is it a butterfly, a baby’s laugh, beautiful flowers, a snow-covered tree or a cuddly puppy?  God has given us these things to think about in times of trouble, when we think we are at our wits end, after a long tiring day of coping with life. We can think on these things, smile, and see God.

When I think of lovely, I think of a young lady I met about 50 years ago while working at a home for handicapped children.  Her name was Renee.   I worked with about 20 different children but Renee is the one I think of when I think of lovely.   She was far from what the Hollywood elite would think of as “lovely.”   She was overweight.   Her legs and arms were all twisted, making her wheelchair bound.   Her oversized teeth made it impossible for her to close her mouth completely and so she often drooled when trying to talk.  She couldn’t speak clearly so it was really hard to understand what she was trying to say.    But, there was a sparkle in her eyes, a gentleness in her crooked smile that showed a true “loveliness.”  She may not have had jewels hanging from her body but she had a heart of gold. When she and I would have a private chat, she intently listened and, although she couldn’t verbally respond, she let me know she understood by her genuine belly laughs that almost threw her out of her wheelchair.  Although her body was twisted, she had a sharp mind that I am sure most people missed because they couldn’t get past the way she looked on the outside.  That is a real shame because they missed out on a chat with a lovely lady.

I don’t know whatever happened to Renee but, when I read the verse about thinking on things that are lovely, I think of her and smile. I truly think that God put Renee and me together, even for a short time, to let me know to look beyond the outside of people, beyond the skin color, beyond the circumstances into the loveliness inside and see the heart of God!

Think back on your life and see if you might have crossed paths with your own “Renee.”

Someone who makes you smile just thinking about them, not because of what they looked like but because of who they were!  If you still have contact with them, why not jot a note to them or give them a call to tell them how very special they are to you and how you thank God that you met.

In what way can you have the same effect on others?

Pat Arnold

January 20 – Think About Such Things – Whatever Is Pure

Read Philippians 4:8

To be pure.

What do you think of? Water from a spring, an adolescent child, snow even? When researching “What does it mean to be pure?” to try and gain an understanding of the perspective of our culture, the main things that came up were “Purity of heart” or other articles regarding a movement of purity that is widely controversial.

However, when Paul was encouraging the Philippians to stand firm in the Lord, in Philippians 4 especially, he was trying to remind them of the things that root us in a strong foundation. Purity, of course, in the first century was one that was foreign to most because you had pagan cultures deprived of God surrounding you. The church was the minority.

Sound familiar?

Here is Paul reminding them to think of whatever is pure. Which, principally speaking, also pertains to what they do, see, think and walk in. In order to have a pure life, you need to have a pure heart. Pure living follows purity of the heart but also purity of the mind.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “what you put in is what will come out?” I think I first heard this in youth group, while in middle school. Like every hormonal teenager, I rolled my eyes only thinking, “I know some things are wrong but I’ll be okay…”.

Turns out, I wasn’t and I wish I had asked more questions about what that actually meant. It wasn’t until I was in my early 20’s that the Lord showed me exactly how my choices in what I did, saw, watched and thought affected my walk with Him.

I think James says it best in the first chapter of his writings. Sin produces death. Now, does James mean physical death? No. However, he speaks of the death of our spiritual life. The more we give into the things that are not of God, the more we die spiritually.

When standing firm in Jesus and our walk with Him on this earth, we are going to be challenged by many things of this world; temptations, discontentment, greed, fear…etc. However, the Lord is with us. He provides the strength to stand firm in choosing that which is holy, choosing that which is set apart from the world and what culture is telling us is good or beautiful or right.

When I think of purity, I am challenged to think about what I watch, listen to, read, do… and compare that to the holiness of God. Would He approve? Does it cause me to glorify Him in my choices or satisfy what I want? I am challenged to evaluate my life. How do I spend my time? Is it pure of heart? Is it holy? Does it help my spiritual life grow or die?

Stand firm in the Lord… think of whatever is pure.

Kelly Lawson

January 19 – Think About Such Things – Whatever Is Right

Read Philippians 4:8

“It is never wrong to do the right thing.”

This was the saying on one of my favorite bulletin boards at school. The message is clear – do the right thing. How do you always do the right thing? The answer to that is, you don’t. The simple truth of the matter is that we don’t always do the right thing. We may not even know the right thing to do.

Doing the right thing begins with thinking the right thing. We have to train our brains to dwell on what is right. It takes a conscious effort sometimes to not dwell on the wrong things. It is easy to dwell on our hurt feelings when we are on the receiving end of harsh words. Or we replay our own words over and over that were unkind towards our spouse or kids. We can get stuck thinking of ways to get revenge for a wrong we’ve endured. These are not helpful and definitely not where our mind needs to focus in order to think about things that are right.

So just what is right to think about?

It is right to think about God’s love for us. We can do this by thinking of how He loves us unconditionally. Think about His gift of forgiveness and grace. Think about His desire for us to be in a relationship with Him.

It is right to think about loving others. Think of ways to be kind and generous towards others. Think of ways to demonstrate love to someone who seems unlovable. Praying for people turns our thoughts towards God and loving others.

It is right to think about the spiritual fruit our lives bear. We should evaluate ourselves in terms of the patience we show ourselves and others; the peace we obtain and establish in our lives; the joy we feel and share with others; even the self-control we maintain in the heat of the moment.

We all know people who think they are always right. It can be a bit frustrating and annoying. Our goal in thinking about things that are right is not to have a sense of pride or arrogance. Our aim should be to obtain truth. It is not about being rigid and legalistic; it is about being full of grace.

In today’s society, we don’t often think of things in terms of right and wrong, or black and white. We like there to be a little gray area. We want a little wiggle room. Some would even claim that what is right for some, is not right for all.  It is as if the standard is different from person to person. So, how do we know what is right? God says only His way is right (John 14:6). He sets the standard for right and wrong. Early on in the Bible, God gives the Israelites the Ten Commandments. These were parameters for the Israelites to follow in order to be right with God and their fellow man. In the New Testament, Jesus tells the believers to love God and to love others. (Matthew 22:37-39) We can’t do this if we aren’t focused on doing what is right. Right thinking produces right actions. We reap what we sow. When we put time and effort into focusing on what God wants us to do, we are more likely to do the right thing.

Today, take some time to focus your thoughts on what is right. Ask God to show you what is right. Remember, it is never wrong to do the right thing.

Tammy Finney

January 18 – Think About Such Things – Whatever Is Noble

Read Philippians 4:8

During my career as a high school basketball coach, I worked with some young men and young women who could confidently focus on the positive. They believed they were going to make the next shot. The successful players were able to envision the ball going through the net.

You know – swish.

They knew from experience that negative thoughts ruin their efforts. Some of the players would get in “foul trouble” and have to spend time on the bench. Each had a different technique to help maintain focus until the crucial moment when I would insert them back into the game. Some would talk about other things with teammates. Others would sit by themselves at the end of the bench. Still others would sit next to me and stay focused on the game.

Eventually these players do what the apostle Paul suggests we do in whatever situation we find ourselves: focus on the positive – focus our thoughts on things that are noble, pure, good and right. On the basketball court, in our homes or at work, when we think of our spouses, our children, friends, or coworkers, we should fix our thoughts on what is noble and positive. We should think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Adopting a positive attitude, even when you’re under pressure or the odds seem to be stacked against you, can really help assure a positive outcome. Thinking of people in a positive light changes how you treat them.

So, thinking about what is noble is part of the teaching of this verse.

A definition of noble is having personal qualities that people admire – such as honesty, generosity and courage.

A part of being noble means to be honest – in every part of life. Honesty is to know, do and say what is right. It is how you act and live. It is to be genuine and not deceptive. Are you all-in?

When you are asked a question, what is needed is a thoughtful, compassionate answer.

“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

Matthew 5:37

Another part of being noble means to be generous. “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (Prov 11:25) What are some ways that you can be generous to others?

In my view, to be noble means outstanding character all of the time. Not just some of the time. Exemplary character!

You apply this by thinking about it and trying to live like Jesus. This is how He wants us to live. It’s something to think about every day.

Do you think about what is noble?

Tom Weckesser

January 17 – Think About Such Things – Whatever Is True

Read Philippians 4:4-9

Most Jesus followers I know have had opportunity to practice the invitation of verses 6 and 7 from today’s reading. Through grateful prayer, they have surrendered their anxiety to God in exchange for His unexplainable peace. Is that a regular part of your life? Is there a worry you are carrying now that you should yield to your Father?

In your familiarity with those two verses and their encouragement, don’t lose sight of verse 8 that addresses the focus of your thoughts. How can the peace of Christ guard your heart and mind, if you allow your thoughts to roam freely into some treacherous or even unseemly areas? This current devotional series addresses areas of healthy thought. Over the next few days we will portion out the individual ideas of verse 8. We have titled the series after the apostle’s words: “Think on These Things.”

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Phil. 4:8)

First of all, we are encouraged to think about “whatever is true.” While that may sound pretty elementary, keep in mind the challenges we face.

  • The news we hear or read includes fake news designed to raise our eyebrows and influence our thinking. Some of it is written with a political party slant that may not offer a balanced perspective. Sorting through all of that to “fact check” and discover reality is no simple task. Still, think on “whatever is true.”
  • In addition, there is the commentary from others about ourselves that we hear. The accolades of others can lead you to a prideful perspective of yourself. The truth is, you are a sinner, saved by the grace of God. But the commentary of others at times also implies that you are a loser or failure. That is not true either! You are a deeply loved child of God (1 Jn. 3:1), who is valued and useful for His purposes (Eph. 2:10).
  • And then there are the things we tell ourselves…our self-talk. With truth, we must regularly remind ourselves that Christ is enough. We don’t need other crutches and escapes in life in order to function. He alone satisfies our longings (Jer. 2:13; Jn. 4:1-18).

Think on “whatever is true!”

Steve Kern