That's what I find myself taking more and more.
You know the kind of breaths that other people hear and then ask, 'Are you ok?' That's the kind I'm talking about. Sometimes they're breaths of frustration when I'm dealing with a moody daughter. Other times they're breaths of anxiety when I feel my things-to-do list overtaking the hours in my days.
And then there are the other breaths.
Those deep breaths of grief that overcome me when I have a flashback of a specific moment with Nick and the images are more than I can bear.
Surely God knows that these breaths have some sort of healing power or He wouldn't have made them a part of who we are. He breathed life into us, and I just have to believe that He Who knows us most intimately gave us the ability to take deep breaths "as needed."
I'm thankful even in my deepest breaths for the breath He gave us.
But more than that, I am thankful that He didn't just write a book for us to read. I am thankful that He breathed His Word into existence and left us with a Book that is ALIVE and ACTIVE.
I love to touch my Bible and know that it is made from God's deep breaths. It's as if God exhales the words and as we read them we inhale them into our body.
As we breathe these words in, the Bible says they are able to "penetrate even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow" and "it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12) When I think of this, I read His Words differently. My eyes scan each letter with a certain level of fear and a great deal of respect. He Who spoke the world into existence is the same One who breathed your Bible into existence. As you read the first chapter of Philippians, I am praying that you will be prepared for both moments of encouragement and seasons of conviction as you inhale God's breath into your deepest places.
Philippians was written to the church in Philippi while Paul was under house arrest in Rome. The church had sent Epaphroditus to deliver a gift to Paul. Ind In return Paul sent them this thank-you letter.
My first thought as I read the history of this book was this:
God blesses those who bless others. What can I do today to be a blessing to someone else? What have I done in response to blessings I have received from others? Help me, Lord, to be responsive.
My second thought was this:
God can use something as simple as a thank-you note to change the lives of people. When is the last time I wrote a thank-you note? How much time did I put into the words I wrote? Help me, Lord, to be an encourager through both actions and words.
From what I could gather in some research (Click HERE for some interesting charts), Paul had already completed his three missionary journeys by the time he wrote Philippians. Over 20 years have passed since Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus. I am sure that at this point in his life, Paul is tired and feeling the effects of the shipwrecks and persecutions he has endured throughout his ministry. In spite of the certain pain and agony his body has undergone, Paul does not spend time lamenting his troubles as he writes. He doesn't complain. He doesn't ask for sympathy. He begins with a joyful greeting and words of thanksgiving.
As I read chapter one, several verses popped out to me. Too many to discuss in one post.
For today, I'll touch on just a few:
I love in verse 4 when Paul says that he "prays with joy" when he is praying for the church in Philippi. I want to have a joy that is so deep that even in my darkest moments I will turn to God and pray with joy for others. I remember a portion of a poem that my first college roommate had on our mirror in the dorm. I'll never forget the words even though it has been over 20 years since I saw them in writing,
Lord, let me live from day to day
In such a self-forgetful way,
That even when I kneel to pray,
My prayer will be for others.
Verses 9-11 really jumped out at me too.
"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ-to the glory and praise of God."
Paul wasn't praying that they would feel more love. So often I think of love as a feeling, and my moods are affected by the amount of love I feel towards others and from others. How often do I think of my love abounding in knowledge and depth of insight? If I learn more about others, isn't it easier to love them more deeply? When I learn more about the qualities of God and the character of God, doesn't my love grow deeper? Not just because of a feeling but more because of a KNOWING. I love the song, "I want to know you. I want to see your face. I want to know you more."
I'd never really thought about why we sing those words. Why do we want to know God more? I think the reason is in the verses above, "so that we may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ."
If we KNOW God, our love will grow deeper (abound more and more) and we will begin to make better choices, we will become discerning (wise).
And eventually FILLED with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ!
Now, I don't know about you, but I am already more excited!
Paul, a prisoner for Jesus Christ, sat in a cold, dark prison cell and penned a thank-you note to a group of Christians and by making this decision, he allowed all of us to be encouraged, strengthened, and motivated to a deeper level of love towards God and towards one another.
This weekend, I want to:
Choose someone to love more deeply. Maybe someone I do not know very well. Choose to grow in knowledge and depth of insight about that brother or sister and choose to grow in knowledge and depth of insight about God. See if God begins to reveal to me a deeper level of discernment. See if I find myself being called to a purer life.
I hope you'll challenge yourself too.
Let's keep reading chapter one until we have made our way through each lesson we can uncover.
If anything spoke to you as you were reading, please share your comments here by clicking on the words "precious comments." I would love to hear your thoughts.
God bless you all,