***Today, if you are a regular reader of Bless Your Heart, I hope you will read through to the very end and notice the activity. If you could send a card or two (or more), it would be a blessing to some struggling brothers and sisters and children in Vermont!
My husband, Glenn, is sharing these daily lessons from Philippians 4:8 for our West Huntsville family as we are necessarily (because of the virus) spending less time physically together in worship, study and fellowship. We may be “socially distanced,” but we’re a close-knit family and we want to keep it that way! One way to stay on track together, spiritually, is to think about a common passage and make applications for our lives together even when we are unable to assemble as frequently. I’m sharing these daily family lessons here for those in other places, whose families (or even congregations) might benefit from a common study in these uncommon days of semi-quarantine. Blessings.
Week 2 –Monday — “Of good report”
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you (Phil. 4:8-9).
According to Strong’s, the word praiseworthy means well spoken of, i.e. reputable; of good report…sounding well; uttering words of good omen, speaking auspiciously.
Paul means we should meditate on things that good people would admire. Consider three illustrations from Scripture:
1)Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil 1:27). Paul is urging them to reflect well on the gospel in their community by the way that they live.
2)The qualifications of men we need for our church elders include, “…he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:7).
3)Jesus taught us to live our lives so that, in general, people will admire His Father because of the lives we live serving Him, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mt. 5:16).
Perhaps the application of this principle fluctuates with cultures, but the meaning is this: Generally speaking, there are things which good people in any society approve and appreciate. These are the better things in us. Perhaps it is less true in America today—we’re in a time when political assemblies can erupt into crowds booing when the name of God is mentioned in a positive way—but the general recognition of good exists, nevertheless, and arguably, still among the majority of people in our country. Think for a moment about praiseworthy ideals: to honor one’s parents, to possess good manners, to show respect toward the elderly, to protect women and children when they’re in trouble, to be honest even when our dishonesty might go unpunished, to obey the law as a matter of conscience (Rom. 13:1-5), to respect other people’s property, to respect God’s laws about sexuality (avoiding adultery, homosexuality, rape, lasciviousness, etc… [1 Cor. 6:9-11]), to be kind to people who are kind to us and even to those who are not. These are things that are respected by the communities in which most Christians live and work.
There are still many in this old world who appreciate these things. Paul exhorts us to meditate on them. To do so contributes to our spiritual health and to preventing impediments to our successful evangelism.
Tonight’s Story Time:
Today, during the day, read Genesis 42 so you’ll be well prepared to tell the details to your children in a way they can grasp and from which they can learn.
- The famine prophesied by Joseph had reached to Jacob and his family. Jacob, the father of this large family, was doing what every husband and father should do. He was providing for his family (42:1-4). He instructed ten of his sons (Benjamin wasn’t sent because Jacob was afraid of harm coming to him.) to go to Egypt where food could be bought. God was working His plan to bring the family together with Joseph and save a people—soon to be called Israel—through which the Christ would eventually come. Your children may not be old enough yet to understand all of this, but they will understand that God uses our lives to make things work out the way He has planned.
2. God provides for His children. We call that providence, yet sometimes it may be years before I can understand just how God has worked something out for my good. When Joseph, dressed like the Egyptians and talking like them, saw his brothers, he did not tell them who he was. He had a “secret identity.” (Do your children know of anyone who has a secret identity?) In his heart, he remembered those dreams he had when he was 17, in which his brothers bowed down before him (42:5-9). Now they really were bowing down before him. Now he understood why God made him dream all those things when he was a boy.
Tell your children that, throughout their lives, during good times and bad, they must trust that God’s working in their lives. Have them think of some good things that are coming even from all the sickness in our world today.
3. Beginning here, Joseph started a lengthy and complicated test to learn if his brothers had changed. Were they still mean and wicked? Did they hate Joseph’s little brother, Benjamin, just like they had hated him?
It must have been hard for Joseph to not immediately tell them who he was. Ask your children if they think this was wise or if they’d have done it differently. Discuss.
4. Now talk about how that sometimes it is very hard when God’s people are separated from the people they love. Talk about how hard it must have been for Joseph all those years. It is hard for people today to serve God when there are not a lot of other Christians around them. Talk about how sad it is even for us when we cannot gather together with our Christian family.
Special Activity: This week, Cindy (my wife) has heard from a faithful Christian preacher’s wife in Vermont. Her name is Sarah Floyd. The Christians in Vermont are very few and they are struggling. They are not getting to meet together very much right now and many of them live far from each other. They don’t get to have lots of activities like many of us do. They don’t have KidSing or Lads to Leaders or Youth devotionals or even lots of Bible classes. These Christians and children would LOVE to get cards or pictures from your family. Just a picture or a verse or a photograph from your printer; a little spring flower from a coloring book or a handmade bookmark…anything would brighten their days, make them feel less isolated, and encourage them to be faithful. Make as many of these in the next five days as you can. Put each one into a separate envelope with the following first names on them. Then stuff them all into a larger envelope and mail them to the address at the bottom. If you could do a couple each night this week, then by next weekend, you’d have a little stash to send. (But even if your children are very small and you just make one, that’s still a blessing to one person!…And it’ll bless your child, too!)
Be sure to put one first name (or two or more names if it’s obviously a couple or family) on each card you make. Then put all the cards made by your family in one big envelope and mail to: Bennington church of Christ, 524 South St., Bennington, VT 05201.
Here’s the list (this seems like a good number, but I believe they have about 15 -20 on a usual Sunday):
Widows/widowers/single older people: Joyce, Doug, Lin, Mitt, Ruth, Nancy
Older couples: Bob and Carol (elder and wife), Ken and June (elder and wife), David and Joyce
Lady who lives alone because her husband works overseas: Mary
Only teenager in the church: Teen Mary
Her 10-year-old sister: Rachel
Parents of Mary and Rachel: Doug and Wendy
Newer Christian: Tina
Newer Christian family: Nate, Amanda, Haylee, William
Needs encouragement: Alan and Jen
Pray together and especially pray tonight that we will soon be able to get together and hug and worship with our church family. Pray for the people in Vermont who are struggling to be faithful to our Father.
For those of you who are Bless Your Heart readers and want to send cards to Vermont, I wanted to include a little of Sarah’s note (to show you the need). Sarah Floyd has been a friend for several years, is a devoted preacher’s wife in a difficult place, a great wife and mom, and an author of fiction. (I haven’t read her first book in an upcoming series yet, but I plan to read it! It’s Finding Joy and it’s on Amazon.) I was looking forward to being in her area (four hours from where she lives, but she was coming) this very weekend, before the ladies day in Biddeford, Maine was canceled. Here are some of her thoughts that tugged at my heart. Sometimes we take the family-ness of our congregations, brimming with faithful people, for granted. We have so many activities and so much time together that we may even complain, at times. I feel for these sisters and brothers who feel the isolation all of the time; not just when a pandemic or short separation arises. I’m committed to sending a card a day until I’ve encouraged every one of them. Could you? The list and address are above in the Family Bible Time activity.
Here’s a part of what Sarah wrote:
Please pray for New England Christians right now, sisters.
There aren’t many of us at all.
There are only about 300 members of the church of Christ here in Vermont. Yes, in the entire state.
We meet in very small congregations.
We meet in congregations mostly filled with elderly people on fixed incomes.
We meet in congregations that are just a few weeks of missed contributions away from having to close the doors of the church building.
We don’t have many Christian family members, as a rule, to support us spiritually in this frightening time, or if we do, most of them live far away.
Our congregations are an hour or more apart.
We often work for years to establish relationships with people to influence them for Christ, because door knockers are often cursed at or turned in to the police around here, and we are afraid of losing those relationships the longer we are in quarantine.
We are also terrified that our “fringe” members…the ones who only come once in a while or just to Sunday morning worship…will get in the habit of just not coming at all…and for some of our congregations, most of our members are “fringe” members.
We have too many elderly members and too few young members to have a buddy system in place, so those of us who are still young and healthy are trying to keep up with everyone.
We fight tooth and nail to even be able to hold area-wide events like singings and ladies days (so little manpower available), and they’ve been canceled. Most of them will not be rescheduled this year.
And, finally, many of us already felt SO lonely and SO isolated from other like-minded people, that this enforced seclusion is utterly depleting our emotional strength. Our social cups were already almost empty before, and there’s nothing left to pour. This is where I am, as a SAHM of a special needs child (and a 3 yr old). I am thankful for technology and the ability to worship and communicate online, but it doesn’t take the place of the ladies retreat I was going to attend without.my.children.
Never underestimate the negative power of isolation and loneliness, and please, once we are free to live as we choose again, remember your brethren up here will still be pretty isolated. Please consider visiting us, sending your teens here on a mission trip, forming a team and serving up here long-term, etc. Most of all, please pray for us. Often. Fervently.
Thank you if you got to the end of this. Love in Christ to all of you!