Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Philippians 4:4-9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
4 Rejoice[a] in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.[b] 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, beloved,[c] whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about[d] these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
What’s on your mind? What are you thinking about? When you’re not thinking about anything in particular, what do you find yourself thinking about? When you’re imagination runs wild, where does it take you?
When Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians, he was in prison. Perhaps that is why Paul is so focused on the interior life — the head and the heart. Paul challenged the Philippians of his day and challenges us in our day to pay attention to our thought life.
There are probably a lot of reasons why Paul advises this deep inner focus. For one thing, what we think about really that shapes who we are.
Gil Hodges, the manager of the so-called miracle Mets of 1969, told his team, “You tend to become what you think about.”
What does that mean for us in practical terms? It means that we need to pay attention to our thought life: what we think, what we dream, what we imagine.
I wear a Fitbit. It tracks the number of steps, the number of flights of stairs I take, the number of active minutes, and the calories burned each day. At any given moment, I can also check my heart rate. It also tracks the amount and quality of my sleep. I can pay attention and track a lot about my life. I have an app for entering the food I eat and recording my weight. But, I don’t have an app for tracking what I think about, what I dream about, or what I imagine.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, started keeping track of his thought life when he was a student at Oxford University. He kept a diary where he recorded the resolutions he had kept or broken and what he called his “temper of devotion.” He started out doing this daily, but then progressed until he did this hourly. It was, frankly, a bit compulsive. I have a mixture of awe and horror at the thought! Why would he do such a thing? I think it is because you tend to become what you think about.
Our thoughts do make a difference; our dreams make a difference; and perhaps most important of all, what we imagine makes a difference. In the second chapter of Philippians, Paul says, “Have the same mind in you that was in Christ Jesus.”
When we think with the mind of Christ, when we imagine what he is calling us to do and who God is calling us to be, then we can see the great possibilities God has in store. Thinking with the mind of Christ also makes it much easier to see God at work around us, in us, and through us.
In that light, Paul calls us to think about these things: “whatever is True, whatever is Honorable, whatever is Just, whatever is Pure, whatever is Pleasing, whatever is Commendable, if there is any Excellence and if there is anything Worthy of praise, think about these things.”
What an important word! Thoughts affect our relationships with others. What we think affects how we view other people and how they view us. Thoughts affect our relationship with God. Thoughts affect our mental, physical and spiritual health. Thoughts Precede Actions—what we imagine also makes a difference because what we imagine precedes what we do.
So, what would it be like if you said, “Today, I will pay attention to my thinking. Today I will monitor what I’m thinking about and
I will replace false thoughts with thoughts that are true,
I will replace dishonorable thoughts with thoughts that are honorable,
I will replace thoughts of injustice with thoughts that are just,
I will replace impure thoughts with thoughts that are pure,
I will replace disturbing thoughts with thoughts that are pleasing,
I will replace despicable thoughts with thoughts that are commendable,
I will strive for excellence in my thoughts and
I will concentrate on that which is really worthy of praise.
What a difference it will make in our lives if we think about those things and about God’s action in our lives and in our world. Just think of it!
There is a lot of theology woven into hymns. To enhance today’s reading, I recommend listening to “Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart”.
Rejoice, O pure in heart,
rejoice, give thanks, and sing;
your festal banner wave on high,
the cross of Christ your King.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, give thanks, and sing!
Bright youth and snow-crowned age,
both men and women, raise
on high your free, exulting song,
declare God’s wondrous praise. [Refrain]
Still lift your standard high,
still chanting as you go,
from youth to age, by night and day,
in gladness and in woe. [Refrain]
At last the march shall end;
the wearied ones shall rest,
the pilgrims reach their home at last,
Jerusalem the blest. [Refrain]
Praise God, who reigns on high,
the Lord whom we adore:
the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
one God forevermore. [Refrain]
I hope you will take a few moments to let the words of this message and the emotion that always connects us to music connect with your soul. I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster