Archive for April, 2008

Global Kingdom Building – Philippians 4

The forth chapter of the book of Philippians is one of my favorites. In this short chapter, you’ll find several often-quoted passages, including “rejoice in the Lord always”, “be anxious about nothing” and “what ever is true…”. All GREAT verses to memorize and hide in your heart.

In reading Philippians chapter four today, I was drawn to the way in which the Philippian church took care of Paul. In the second half of this chapter, Paul is thanking the church at Philippians for their generosity and praising God for the provisions they supplied:

10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. 14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. 17 Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

I noticed how that even when Paul was in another region, the church there did not seem to provide aid, but the church at Phillipi did – even from far away. It struck me that this church gets it. They are concerned about what’s important in the big picture. They recognize that Paul is spreading the gospel and that God is with him. They want to further God’s Kingdom, even though they might not see a direct, or immediate, return. They are willing to invest in what God’s doing, not just what God’s doing for them.

I want to have more of a “global” concern when it comes to Kingdom building. I want to invest in what God’s doing, where ever He is doing it. And, I love what Paul says about the results of their generosity: “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.”

Lord, show me how I can be involved in building Your Kingdom – where ever you choose to use me.

grace & peace,
e

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Everything rubbish compared to knowing Christ Jesus – Phil 3

Junk Pile Everything Rubbish Compared to Knowing Christ Jesus - Phil 3I love the way this chapter starts:

1 Whatever happens, dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord give you joy…

Powerful stuff…

…where Paul expresses his confidence in himself as a Jew among Jews, and then says:

7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

That says alot.

Then, I thought to myself, what about those who are not confident in themselves or their religious background. It’s easy for Paul to go on about his. But, then I thought – this is for everyone. If Paul, who had great reason to be confident and proud of his religious heritage and the things he’s done for the Jewish religion, can count it all worthless, how much more those with little confidence or religious pedigree can rejoice in what Christ has done. I think that’s the point Paul is making.

So, if you’ve just become a Christian and are weak and have lots of questions, or if you’ve done much for the Kingdom of God, no matter – what Jesus Christ did is the only thing that makes us right with God and is the only thing that will save us.

So, draw strength from that. Rest – quit working so hard to impress God. Quit working so hard to impress others. Juse is saying. He will tell you what it is you should be doing. Ask – He will tell you. (this message is for me today)

grace & peace,
e

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Stop Complaining! – Philippians 2

Stop Complaining - Philippians 2I’m a bit convicted by this chapter. It’s amazing how God’s Word gives us what we need when we need it. I have been given things today that let me know that God is aware of my situation and He is in control.

For example, look at verse 4:

4 Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing.

I have been so tied up in things that are going on in my life recently. I have done little to reach out to others to see how they’re doing. Even in my conversations.

And, look at verses 14 & 15:

14 In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can speak a word of blame against you.

Well, enough said there. I must try to stop complaining. Did you catch that part in verse 15? Hmmm…

I have SO MUCH to be thankful for. God has blessed me with wonderful daughters, my health, my parents,  my job, and so much more. What do I have to complain about? If you know me, please forgive me for my complaining.

Lord, thank You again for Your Word and how It ministers to me in a living, powerful way each time I read it. Thank You for my brothers and the encouragement to stay accountable to each other in the reading of Your Word. I confess my selfishness and complaining as of late. I am thankful for the good things You have given me and for the trials. I rejoice today, O God, because You have saved me from my sin!

grace & peace,
e

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Torn Between Two Desires – Philippians 1

Man Praying - Torn Between Two Desires - Philippians 1The more time I spend on this planet as a displaced resident waiting to go home, the more I long for His return. Don’t get me wrong – I love my kids and my friends. There are so many things to love about life. Yet, I think I’ve gotten to the place where I can pretty much say I’ve checked off all the things I want to do before I die, with the exception of seeing my daughters get married and, of course, grandchildren.

Whoa – wasn’t ready to go there…

Okay, I’m back now. Where was I? Oh, yes, Philippians…

Anyway, reading today in the first chapter of Philippians really caused me to think. I love what Paul says in verses 21 – 24:

21 For to me, living is for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 Yet if I live, that means fruitful service for Christ. I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: Sometimes I want to live, and sometimes I long to go and be with Christ. That would be far better for me, 24 but it is better for you that I live.

Reading this in the NLT gave more meaning to me somehow. Maybe it’s what I’ve been through, but I could really resonate to this passage today. I’m weary, but I want to continue serving Him as long as He sees fit to use me.

And, check this out:

29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this fight together. You have seen me suffer for him in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of this great struggle.

It’s a privilege to trust Christ, but it’s also a privilege to suffer for Him.

Once again,I’m amazed at how this text, written so long ago, relates to much to my life today. I can’t wait to meet Paul and talk with him on my back porch. I’ve got so many questions to ask…

Thank you, Lord, for this specific encouragement today. Deliver me, Lord. Hear my cry. Send help, God. Use me here, Lord, to bring glory to Your Kingdom through all of my brothers today. Your love is amazing. Come soon…

grace & peace,
e

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Becoming perfect by our own human effort? – Galatians 3

judge gavel - becoming perfect by our own efforts - Galatians 3It was as perplexing back then as it seems to be today. I’ve talked with several people who have this mindset of the Galatians – that you must obey the law for your salvation. Although we’re not talking circmucision today, as in the day, there are still laws that people try to measure themselves against for their salvation. “Have I done more bad things today than good?” This is an age-old trick of the enemy. Get people focused on “doing” rather than “being.”

Paul makes it clear, in no uncertain terms, that this is the farthest from the truth.

The law condemns. It shows us our sins. It was designed to last only until the coming of Christ. No one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law.

2 Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by keeping the law? Of course not, for the Holy Spirit came upon you only after you believed the message you heard about Christ. 3 Have you lost your senses? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? 4 You have suffered so much for the Good News. Surely it was not in vain, was it? Are you now going to just throw it all away? 5 I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law of Moses? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.

It is through faith that we have life. We receive God’s promise of freedom ony by believing in Jesus Christ.

This seems so clear. Yet, why do we punish ourselves when we sin? Why do we live like prisoners to our sins? Why do we see people fall away from the church because they feel they can’t live up to the standard? True: we must confess our sins and repent. But, this is separate from our position in the Kingdom.

Why is it difficult to see? Why is this freedom just out of reach for many? For those that have heard the truth and believed, how can sin continue to strangle us?

Could it be that there are so many among us that do not have faith in Jesus Christ? Are there still those that have not heard and understood that faith in Jesus Christ is what saves us?

grace & peace,
e

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Turning to a different gospel – Galatians 1

fire and brimstone preacher - turning to a different gospel - Galatians 1Today I started reading in the book of Galatians, a letter to the church at Galatia written by the apostle Paul. Here’s some background info I found interesting:

Jewish Christians accused Paul of diluting Christianity to make it more appealing to Gentiles (i.e. no need for circumcision). They even followed Paul into Galatia (present-day Turkey) and started telling Gentiles they had to first become Jewish in order to become Christians. This letter to the church in Galatia is Paul’s response to that threat.

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

I do not believe that I have personally experienced people deliberately perverting the Gospel – but I’ve heard things that raised red flags in my spirit. But, what about cults? Do people turn away from God to follow “a different way?” What about scientology or mormonism or Jehovah’s witnesses? These “religions” are considered opposed to Christianity. Did someone invent these “deliberately” to pervert the Gospel or did they see opportunity in a “religion” for profit or some other selfish motive?

I also noted Pauls’ message in verses 23 & 24:

23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.

The change in Paul’s life made people take notice. How could a man that used to persecute the church now preach the very faith he tried to destroy? People praised God because of this. Do people notice a change in me – enough to praise God because of it?

grace & peace,
e

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The Believer’s Experience – Psalms 118

Today, I read Psalms 119. Contrary to the past few Psalms, this one is quite lengthy, weighing in at a whopping 176 verses! It is similar in style to many previous Psalms.

ten commandments - god\'s law - the believer\'s experience - Psalms 119

However, one thing kept jumping out at me as I read. I seems to me that the writer of this Psalm keeps going back and forth between a statement of his keeping of God’s commands, and a desire to keep them. Take a look…

1 Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. 2 Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. 3 They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways.

In verses 1 – 3, the thesis is established: if you keep God’s statutes, you will be blessed. Now, look at the next three verses:

4 You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. 5 Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! 6 Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands.

Precepts? Decrees? Commands? Which is it? What is the writer talking about here? As a matter of fact there are ten terms by which the writer refers to God’s law:

  1. God’s law
  2. His decrees
  3. His testimonies
  4. His commandments
  5. His precepts
  6. His word, or saying
  7. His judgments
  8. His righteousness
  9. His statutes
  10. His truth or faithfulness

I love what Matthew Henry’s Commentary has to say about this chapter. Mr. Henry uses some big words, but if you can make it through this paragraph, you’ll be glad you did:

This psalm may be considered as the statement of a believer’s experience. As far as our views, desires, and affections agree with what is here expressed, they come from the influences of the Holy Spirit, and no further. The pardoning mercy of God in Christ, is the only source of a sinner’s happiness. And those are most happy, who are preserved most free from the defilement of sin, who simply believe God’s testimonies, and depend on his promises. If the heart be divided between him and the world, it is evil. But the saints carefully avoid all sin; they are conscious of much evil that clogs them in the ways of God, but not of that wickedness which draws them out of those ways. The tempter would make men think they are at them out of those ways. The tempter would make men think they are at liberty to follow the word of God or not, as they please. But the desire and prayer of a good man agree with the will and command of God. If a man expects by obedience in one thing to purchase indulgence for disobedience in others, his hypocrisy will be detected; if he is not ashamed in this world, everlasting shame will be his portion. The psalmist coveted to learn the laws of God, to give God the glory. And believers see that if God forsakes them, the temper will be too hard for them.

Lord, I recognize the need to follow your laws. I also know that the reason you gave “the Law” is for us to realize that we could never be good enough on our own. Your laws point us to You, for without You, we are lost. Keep me from evil – teach me Your ways, Lord. Thank You for Law.

grace & peace,
e

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Triumph “in the name of the Lord” – Psalms 118

accordion trophy - Triumph \"in the name of the Lord\" - Psalms 118I read Psalms 118 today and it struck me how the writer gives all credit (glory) to God. He gives glory to God for his triumph over his enemies, for rescue from anguish, for success in life.

What have you accomplished lately? Do you see God’s hand in everything you have done? Do you give Him credit for your accomplishments? Do you thank Him for what He has done?

Take a look at a few of the verses that jumped out at me in Psalms 118 (you might recognize some as lyrics to familiar worship songs):

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

5 In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.
6 The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
7 The LORD is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies.
8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.
9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.
10 All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the LORD I cut them off.
11 They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the LORD I cut them off.
12 They swarmed around me like bees, but they died out as quickly as burning thorns; in the name of the LORD I cut them off.
13 I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me.
14 The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.

21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.

24 This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 O Lord, save us; O Lord, grant us success.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the LORD we bless you.

28 You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you.
29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

See it? The writer of this Pslam gives back any glory for himself right back to God.

Perhaps you’re wondering why you should give God credit for things you accomplish. Had God really helped you get that promotion, win that race, write that award-winning song, get that job interview? Perhaps you have very little communication with God – or none at all. Perhaps you’ve never called upon the name of the Lord to save you.

I wonder, too, how much supernatural intervention I enjoy without really knowing it. How much of my effort is mine and how much has God arranged for certain things to happen.

All I know is this: I prefer to live under the shadow of His wings, trusting Him to provide the jobs, the friends, the wisdom I need. I’ve lived trying to rely on my own talent, intelligence and charm (?) and the anxiety was killing me.

(and yes, you CAN win a trophy for playing accordion!)

Thank You, Lord, for your providence which is very evident in my life. Praise You for hearing my cries and crashing through the wall to save me every time.

grace & peace,

e

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Short ‘n’ Sweet – Psalms 117

Child eating cake and ice cream - Short \'n\' Sweet - Psalms 117Those of you who have trouble reading complicated Bible intricacies (like me) will appreciate today’s reading. Here is Psalms 117 (NIV) in its intirety:

1 Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples.
2 For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the Lord.

Notice the use of the word “all” in verse one above. This means you!

Praise the Lord today!

grace & peace,
e

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Simplehearted. – Psalms 116

Heart of a child - Simplehearted. - Psalms 116Once again, as I read a chapter in the book of Psalms, I wonder what the writer was going through at the time. I wonder how it sounded to music.

Today, I read Psalms 116. As far as recent Psalms I’ve read go, it’s very similar, full of praise for a faithful Father and thanks for His provision and protection.

However, there was one word that sort of stuck out as I read it. It’s a word you don’t often hear today, and it made me curious. See if you can spot it:

6 The LORD protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me.

Simplehearted.

What does that word make you think of? What does that mean?

I looked it up online and here’s one of the definitions I found that I really like: “free of deceit; artless; sincere.”

This led me to another word I had to look up: artless. Here’s the definition I found: “free from deceit, cunning, or craftiness; ingenuous: an artless child.”

Now, put it all together and you get “God protects those with hearts that are free from deceit, not cunning, like an innocent child.”

Thank You for Your protection, Lord. Protect my family and my brothers and their families. Keep my heart simple, free from deceit.

grace & peace,
e

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