Encouraging Devotions Blog

“The Steadfast of Mind.”

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Isaiah 26:1–4
In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: "We have a strong city; He sets up walls and ramparts for security. "Open the gates, that the righteous nation may enter, The one that remains faithful. "The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You. "Trust in the Lord forever, For in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.

In Isaiah 26, Isaiah envisions the future Jerusalem. A song that is prophesied about being sung in victory. The beginning verses set the stage for this brilliant scene where the righteous will come together and enter into this place of perfect peace. The millennial or new Jerusalem - what an amazingly incredible time it will be when the gates are opened in this strong city. It is what we have to look forward to as Christians; we will rule and reign in this place with the righteous remnants of Israel.Unlike other cities that have been broken down and are desolate, this will be a strong city whose walls were set by God Himself. The gates will be open, and the righteous will be able to enter in together.
Revelation talks about the time when people from every tribe, tongue, and nation will bow and worship before King Jesus. There will be no social distancing in the New Jerusalem or heaven that's for sure!Here is the best news; the righteous can count on peace instead of war. They come to this place of peace because they have been faithful and continue to trust in Yahweh. Many of our battles begin with our minds. I know for me in these times, I have found my mind wandering. I have pondered what the future might look like and, at times, have forgotten to fix my gaze on Jesus.
During a pandemic, I would imagine this is a bit of a natural response. In reading these verses, I was freshly reminded that I need to have my mind renewed daily. The Bible so often talks about what our minds should be fixed on.
Romans 12:2
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

The word renewing here means “to cause something to become new.” We need to allow the Holy Spirit to wash over us and renew our minds daily so that we can continue to be focused on the fact that God is good and perfect in all things, even in the problematic situations that He allows us to go through.

In Colossians 3:2 it says:

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.

Oh, how easy it is to set our minds on the things of this earth! So what are some practical ways that we can set our minds on things above? Well, I love what Pastor John Piper said about the subject.

"First, we should give ourselves to our Bibles and the living God. We must give ourselves to setting our minds on things above by meditating upon and memorizing Scripture. Likewise, as we read the Scriptures, we ought to pray, "O Lord, open my eyes to see yourself and the wonders that you are and the wonders that you promise." These are the things of heaven. And in this way, we will become more heavenly minded because we are saturating our minds with the things of God, the words of Scripture.
It is very simple in the end. Find a time and a place where you have a season of solitude and quiet. Open your Bible and read slowly, and as you read, turn every sentence into prayer. And saturate your mind. Ask questions. Ponder. Ask how it relates to your family, your children, your singleness, your job, your leisure so that all of your life takes on a Godward focus, a Bible saturation, and an exaltation of Jesus Christ."
-John Piper

What great practical counsel, especially in today's times. Philippians also tells us how we can fix our minds on things above and what we should be thinking about even in the most challenging of circumstances.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

What I can assure you is this, if we can do this - if we can think about what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and of good repute, and anything excellent that is worthy of praise we are going to be fixing our minds on Christ Himself. Christ embodies all of these things, and these are the things we should be dwelling on. If we do this, we see this beautiful prophetic promise that we see in Isaiah 26:3 becomes truth in our lives. I love how verse three ties in our thought process with peace. I am reading out of the New American Standard Bible, where it says that we are to be steadfast of mind, but other versions talk about our thoughts being stayed on God. The idea is that our minds are firmly fixed on God Himself. When this happens, there is this emphasis in the Hebrew of what happens in our lives.
The word "perfect" is not in the Hebrew text; it is there as "peace, peace,"; which is doubled to denote the certainty of it, the enjoyment of it, and the constancy and continuance of it. We have perfect peace or "shalom shalom," when we stay our minds on God!
Perhaps today, you don't have complete peace. Maybe it's time to have your mind renewed, to stay your thoughts, and focus on the goodness of God. To be reminded that as we trust in God, we are trusting in an everlasting Rock!

The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace.

“Jesus - A Servant in Suffering.”

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If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
John 13:14-15

Jesus knew the ordeal He was about to face – the arrest, the beating, the mocking, the abandonment by His friends, the undeserved conviction, the bearing of His own cross, the agony of crucifixion, the separation from His Father.

Hours before this trial begins for Jesus, we find Him first giving thanks, and then sharing a meal with His beloved friends. And then He does something remarkable. He disrobes, takes up a towel, and washes their feet. Before He went to the garden to pray, He sang a hymn with his disciples.
This display of humility and servanthood was shocking in itself, but when laid against the backdrop of the suffering Jesus was about to endure, it is breathtaking.

In the face of the greatest act of injustice and betrayal, Jesus made encouraging and serving others His priority.

As many of us are in a season of deep trial, let us be reminded of how our Savior handled impending adversity: On the night He was betrayed He took bread, He took the cup, He washed feet, and He worshipped.

Perhaps as we end this Holy Week, we can consider how we can emulate Jesus' actions in some capacity. That will look different for each of us, but I encourage you to contemplate how you can lead as Jesus did in a time of trial.

Start by giving thanks to God. Even as Jesus faced extreme adversity, He knew there was much to be thankful for. We can absolutely find things to thank God for in this time.
Consider sharing communion with your families or friends in some capacity this weekend. Jesus told His disciples to do this in memory of Him. This simple sharing of bread and wine while we remember the sacrifice Christ made has a supernatural binding effect that we should not ignore.
If you are quarantined with others, consider some kind of foot washing act of service. This could be an actual foot-washing where you determine to serve one another humbly, or it can be some other act of service that requires humility on your part.
Sing hymns to God. Whether alone or in company, worship sets our minds above our present circumstances and aligns our hearts with the greater purposes of God.

Jesus was able to do all of these things amidst great adversity because He knew that at the end of all of his suffering. He would rise and conquer death and sin forever. In the light of the coming empty tomb, He could face the cross.

Friends, we can give thanks, commune with God and others, humbly serve those around us, and worship God in this time because the same Jesus who did these things is risen. He is risen indeed!

*For further study on the night, Jesus was betrayed, read Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 13, 1 Corinthians 11.

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