Dear Father in heaven, let our thoughts be filled with all that is honorable, just, pure, gracious, good, and praiseworthy. We want to await your Spirit, not giving way to anxiety, but showing ourselves worthy to be your children. We want to be your children, who can rise above even the most difficult conditions and maintain a quiet trust, to the glory of your Spirit within us. Protect us now and always in your divine peace. Amen.
To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. –Philippians 1:21
If police officers arrested you tomorrow and threw you in prison because you went to church last Sunday, what would your first letter to your friends and family sound like? Sitting on a concrete bench, staring at thick steel bars, wondering how long you will be held, you’ve been given a piece of paper and a pencil. How would you tell your family what happened? What would you say about the law, and your rights, and the officers who arrested you? How would you describe what you were feeling?
What you or I would write in that letter — from the bottom of our hearts — reveals something about how much (or little) we really trust Jesus. In one sense, we would have every right to protest and complain — it would be wrong for them to throw us in jail. But if Jesus is real, we never have a good reason to grumble or despair. If being falsely accused and wrongly incarcerated ruins our hope and joy and confidence, we have not yet discovered real hope and joy and confidence.
Never settle for a God who cannot satisfy you in a prison cell.
When the apostle Paul said, “To me to live is Christ,” he was sitting in jail. Many of us sing and recite lines like that from the comfort and security of freedom — freedom to believe, freedom to worship, freedom even to share our faith with others. We could walk our neighborhoods rehearsing our hope in Jesus at the top of our lungs, and perhaps never receive worse than a curious stare or awkward conversation. Not Paul — and not Christians in many places around the world today.
When Paul said, “To me to live is Christ,” he wrote it from incarceration. He didn’t harm anyone or commit any crime. He simply refused to remain quiet about his greatest love. And sitting there lonely, uncomfortable, abandoned, and humiliated, he still refused to remain quiet about his greatest love. He worshiped. He didn’t write to the other believers to complain about how he had been treated, or to plead with them to petition for his release, or to wallow in self-pity as a prisoner. No, he wrote to tell them to rejoice in Jesus — to remember and proclaim his name.
He says later in his letter, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4) — from prison. Do not waste your heart worrying about me or pitying me. Enjoy Jesus with me.
What does it mean when Paul says, “To live is Christ”? When we look at the verses before and after, we see that it means at least two things. In the verse before, he says, “It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20). “To live is Christ” means to live for Christ — to honor him with the life he has given us.
In the following verses, he says, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith” (Philippians 1:23–25). “To live is Christ” means to spend yourself for others’ faith in Christ — to work and sacrifice and plead for them to believe and enjoy him.
As we live, and rejoice in Christ even when the worst happens, striving to honor him in what he has called us to do while we are here, we are doing whatever we can to bring others to him.
But up until now we’ve only sung half of Philippians 1:21: “To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Christ will never be truly sweet to us while we’re alive here on earth unless we believe that life will get better with him after we die. Again, Paul says, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” If we try to live for Christ now without wanting to be with Christ, we’re probably not really living for Christ. We’re probably living for ourselves.
The key to living for Jesus, even alone behind bars, is to anchor our brief life here in our joy in him. If we can begin now, by faith, to taste the better waiting for us in eternity, we will be better equipped and motivated to make the most of our circumstances today — whether they are good or bad, hard or happy, expected or unexpected, whether we are free or in prison.
Some of you don’t need to be told to run to Jesus if you get thrown in prison. In fact, you only cry out to him when you’re in trouble. But this is a name for trials and victories, for abandonment and acclaim, for the lowest moments and the highest ones. Paul says in the same letter from prison, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Philippians 4:12).
What is the secret of joy and contentment in the face of whatever life brings? It’s centering and anchoring our joy and contentment in Christ, rather than in our circumstances. John Piper says, “When we have little and have lost much, Christ comes and reveals himself as more valuable than what we have lost. And when we have much and are overflowing in abundance, Christ comes and he shows that he is far superior to everything we have.”
Lord our God! What can separate us from your love? Can trouble or fear or persecution or hunger or nakedness or peril or the sword? In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Dear Father in heaven, we long for courage. You will answer our prayers and again and again grant us strength, the power of your Spirit, the only power that can strengthen us. We thank you for all you have done for us. Help us onward from victory to victory until everything on earth is won for the good, to your honor among all humankind. Amen.
In the famous lace shops of Brussels, Belgium, certain rooms are dedicated to the spinning of the finest lace with the most delicate of patterns. These rooms are completely dark except for a shaft of natural light from a solitary window. Only one spinner sits in the room and the light falls on the pattern while the worker remains in the dark.
Has God permitted a time of darkness in your world? You look but you cannot see him. You see only the fabric of circumstances woven and interlaced. You might question the purpose behind this thread or that. But be assured, God has a pattern. He has a plan. The Bible says in Romans 8:28, “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” He is not finished. But when he is, the lace will be beautiful!
By Max Lucado
The passenger of the Aeroméxico plane who recorded a viral video of the accident credits Jesus for saving all 103 people on board.
Ramin Parsa was recording the takeoff out his window when the plane descended and then crashed. The video shows the plane speeding down the runway when the weather becomes more menacing, with heavy rain and then hail. As the plane crashes, Parsa can be heard praying to Jesus.
“People are screaming, and I was praying – I was praying to de nombre Jesus, de nombre Jesus, so Jesus saved our lives,” Parsa told NBC News.
Parsa wrote on Twitter, “Jesus Christ is alive. He saved me from a plane crash. Forever I’m grateful to Him.” His Twitter bio describes him as “An ex-Muslim whose life the Lord Jesus has changed. I Serve Christ to make His Love known.” He is an author, speaker and evangelist.
The plane was traveling from Durango, Mexico, to Mexico City. No one was killed, and many walked from the plane unharmed before it was engulfed in flames.
An Illinois priest, Father Esequiel Sanchez of Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe church in Des Plaines, Ill., was on the plane. He was celebrating his birthday with friends.
“Yes, I do think it was a miracle,” Sanchez, who suffered multiple arm fractures, told NBC News. “If the plane was traveling a little faster before it hit the embankment or flew a little higher, I don’t think we would have walked out.”
Alberto Herrera, another passenger on the plane, told NBC News that the “cabin just started filling with black smoke.”
“At that point, what we wanted to do is you wanted to find the nearest exit,” Herrera said.
Michael Bublé’s entire life changed in an instant when doctors gave his son Noah a grim diagnosis. But after a 3-year break, the popular crooner is in Dublin, Ireland kicking off his new tour. And while he was there, Michael Bublé spoke about his son’s cancer battle and how God used it for good.
In 2016, Michael and his wife, Luisana, received the kind of news every parent dreads. Doctors diagnosed their oldest son Noah with liver cancer at just 3 years old. Without hesitation, both Michael and Luisana put their careers on hold so Noah could start treatment right away.
“There is no decision to be made. You just do what you have to do for the family,” Michael recalls.
They broke the news on Facebook and the pair wrote in their post,
“We have always been very vocal about the importance of family and the love we have for our children. Luisana and I have put our careers on hold in order to devote all our time and attention to helping Noah get well.”
The couple also asked all of their friends, family, and fans to pray for little Noah. And the outpouring of love that followed was bigger than anyone could’ve ever imagined!
Michael’s fans rallied around the singer, overwhelming him and his family with all the love and support they needed. The family put their faith in God and the most amazing thing happened next.
Noah’s cancer was gone! He was able to undergo surgery where doctors were able to remove the tumor completely.
Now, as Michael Bublé talks about his son’s cancer, he’s thanking his fans for standing by his side throughout the difficult time.
God used Noah’s health battle to give the star a brand new lease on life. He now recognizes what truly matters in life.
“The day that we got the diagnosis, it all came in one snap. My whole life changed and my perspective on life. . . and what matters. . . in one snap, changed,” Michael recalls. “And that’s a good thing. Because I’m thankful — I’m thankful for the grace. I’m thankful for the faith.”
And now, Michael treasures every moment with his loved ones. And he wants to use his own story to encourage others to fully rely on faith to see them through.
“I want other parents to know there’s hope,” he says. “And even when there’s not, somehow it’s going to be ok.”
And after a 3-year break from his career, the crooner is returning to the stage, hoping to give his fans the best music and concerts they’ve seen from him yet.
“People can say it isn’t a comeback, but man — I was gone,” Michael admits. “And I didn’t know if I would ever, ever come back.”
This is such an incredible story of faith, family, and miracles. I’ll definitely be a fan of Michael Bublé from now on.
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons