Above All–Philippians 1 Final

What a way to summarize a point–Above all, live like you are citizens of Heaven!  If we focused on being the ambassadors from our home, heaven, we would avoid a great number of concerns we have each day.  Think about your reaction to news of other lands–Spain, Ukraine, Germany or Australia.  Their worries and issues while interesting do not shape your emotional day.  That is the point–sure, we live here for now, but the issues we should concern ourselves with are the ones from home…Heaven.  Our eternal perspective, our heavenly leaning should carry us through the trials of everyday life.

While we cannot help but be affected by the culture, we have to decide–Not–to adopt it as our culture.  We need to live in a manner that shows off our culture, specifically, we need to look and act differently than the world. How we live, talk, love and worship must reflect where we are headed, not where we are! As we watched the Olympics this month, remember how we all focused upon America’s issues.  Speed skaters uniforms, Figure skaters, hockey players, snowboarders–we always focused on our folks, listened for the Star-Spangled Banner.  Though there were many countries represented, we all focused on ours.  Above All–Live like you are citizens of Heaven.

God Bless You

27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 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 struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.

Living is Better–Philippans 1part 4

Paul is very open and transparent.  He says what many in Christ are thinking–I want to go HOME! There is so much about life that is great. Marriage, children, friends, experiences and seeing lives changed all bring a great joy.  Conversely, our best day on earth in no way can compare to any day with the Lord in heaven. So Paul addresses the elephant in the center of the room–WHY BOTHER!!! Why do I continue to slug it out day after day in this world when I could be in Heaven with the Lord?

It comes down to this–Living means living for Christ! The one that gave us eternal life–wants for us to complete the journey he has laid out.  We will not know until we are  home with the Lord what we have done to impact others.  Simply, we will not know the amazing influence we have had or will have this side of heaven. So to honor him and to influence others, we live each day for him. When he is ready, he will lead us home. Then the celebration that lasts forever, will truly begin.  In the meantime–Remember what he promised in John 10:10, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy–BUT, I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly!”

God Bless You

20 For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.

25 Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. 26 And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me.

It is not What Happens that Matters–Philippians 1part 3

What happens to us in our lives often is not as important as our response to what happens to us.  Life is full of highs and lows it is full of trials and tribulation.  It has moments that are treasures and others that are grievous. In those times, we are watched by family, friends and the world at large.  Paul was clearly being watched. He lived each day chained between two guards.  Blind, persecuted and waiting to die—Paul spent his days rejoicing and leading the palace guard to a relationship with God.  Paul knew his response was under the scrutiny of many that wanted Christianity to fade away.  He knew he had an impact—simply by staying focused upon the mission.

We have the same duty—Our current culture is always looking for ways to marginalize Christianity—anti church legislation, media trashing, high profile leaders falling in sin all are ammunition for the world to use against the Lord and his church—We therefore, must be a positive force for the cause.  So what happens to us can further the cause of Christ.  Not the events, but the response to the events.  If we conduct our daily lives in a manner that is worthy of the Gospel we preach, then the world will be unable to destroy our mission and we will have the peace of knowing we are furthering the cause of Christ. Like Joshua said in Joshua 24:15—“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!”

God Bless You

And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters,[c] that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. 13 For everyone here, including the whole palace guard,[d] knows that I am in chains because of Christ. 14 And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers[e] here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message[f] without fear.

15 It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. 16 They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. 17 Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. 18 But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice. 19 For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance.

The Master Will Complete His Work–Philippians 1 Part 2

The great thing about following Christ is knowing that it is forever.  Romans 8 says it best—there is NOW NO condemnation for those who love God, for those that are called according to his purpose.  Then later he said NOTHING Shall separate us from the Love of God…point being, God is committed.  That is why it is a great encouragement on the bad days to know that God is still at work and will continue to work until we are finished at the finish.

The hardest paradigm shift for humans involves the change from a perspective to an eternal one.  It is the idea that we are simply on the journey to heaven not there yet. Once we get there we will be ready to meet him and spend eternity with God.  The bold work is difficult—we will be shaped and molded and until the end, there will always be corners to smooth, texture to finish and humanity to shape.  But, he is willing to stick all the way!  Thank you Lord for never giving up

God Bless You

Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.

7-8 It’s not at all fanciful for me to think this way about you. My prayers and hopes have deep roots in reality. You have, after all, stuck with me all the way from the time I was thrown in jail, put on trial, and came out of it in one piece. All along you have experienced with me the most generous help from God. He knows how much I love and miss you these days. Sometimes I think I feel as strongly about you as Christ does!

Philippians 1 part 1–Partnering in the Gospel

There is something amazing about partnering in the Gospel.  It transforms a person to eternal perspective and it allows us to tap into the vast family of God to attack and meet each day’s challenges.  Paul had a deep love for the Philippians’ Church.  They understood him.  They supported him and they sent folks to care for him during his plight in prison. They truly partnered with Paul to spread the Gospel across the world. Like Paul, however, they also experienced persecution for following the Lord. So Paul made sure he encouraged them, as they had encouraged him.

Our function as the church is the same.  We are to partner up in the Gospel. We are to walk along side each other—celebrating victories, mourning losses and recognizing and meeting needs.  We see each other as equals and work to help each other grow and persevere.  Our circumstances become secondary to the needs of our partners—They then know we are true partners.  We encourage and build each other up.  We see this as a journey for life and we make sure we are traveling together.

God Bless You

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

 

Prepare for War–Ephesians 6

Each day of our journey we are subjected to battle.  It is easy to forget that while we exist in a physical world–the battle is spiritual.  When we consider the pains we take to prepare for our physical day–getting ready, checking mail, paying bills, locking doors, fixing lunches…it seems a little short sighted that we often blunder into spiritual battle unprepared and unarmed.  Make no mistake–the enemy prefers that! But God has given us the tools and the support to face each day’s battle and be victorious.

First, we need to embrace the notion that we are at war.  That will help us focus on what is important.  Second, we need to put on the armor of God–that armor will guard our mind and our heart as well as prepare us to go to battle and arm us so that we can win. Finally, we need to stay focused in his word and be diligent in prayer.  Only then can we remain connected and focused. His word tells us that he who calls us is faithful–and he will do it. (I Thes 5:24)–but for that to happen we must be prepared, engaged and surrendered to his leadership.  COMPANY– ATTENTION!

God Bless You

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Marraige–Ephesians 5 part 2

Having officiated at several weddings, I have realized there are few verses more helpful to couples than the passage in Ephesians 5.  The bottom line–Submit to God and to one another.  Marriage is an amazing and mystical covenant that transforms 2 perfectly good human beings into one.  But, to accomplish such a miracle, both need to submit to God and each other. The world would have it go the other way–no submission.  Equal rights and self-protection are pillars of  the current world view.

That is why God calls us to be different.  If we continue to live differently according to God’s will, then we replace the world’s illusion of independence with God’s gift of freedom.  Marriage is God’s picture of his desire for the covenant he has with us. In every relationship based upon love, the desire is to see the one we love freed from anything that would entrap or entangle them.  God says–to be free in marriage, don’t take the throne, take the knee.  Be great–by submitting and sacrificing for each other.  As you seek to promote one another, two perfectly good human beings transform into one awesome married couple.  One awesome married couple is the best picture of all the attributes of God wrapped into one. That is why when you are with a couple that lives a life of mutual submission, you never want to leave.

God Bless You

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

Loving the Father’s Way–Ephesians 5 part 1(MSG)

Love like God loves, that is a tall order—When we walk with the Lord, he delivers a clear picture of how to love and how to live.  It is not awful or weird; it is a careful model of navigating through a treacherous terrain in order to avoid traps and danger. When we walk as he walks, we do not get sidetracked by the pedestrian foolishness of the world. We do not become greedy, lecherous or selfish. Instead, we release the hold we have on the world, and trust God to free us from the hold it has on us.

The picture is simple—the words we say edify those we say them to.  The actions we take are helpful and give glory to God–not acclaim for us. Our friends see Christ in our lives and are drawn to it—not some caricature of religion that repulses them from God.  And our mind is focused on what is eternal; not drawn to the dangerous and shallow crud that seems so sparkly to many. It is simply a better life—the one thing every parent wants for his or her child.

God Bless You

1-2 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

3-4 Don’t allow love to turn into lust, setting off a downhill slide into sexual promiscuity, filthy practices, or bullying greed. Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, those who follow Jesus have better uses for language than that. Don’t talk dirty or silly. That kind of talk doesn’t fit our style. Thanksgiving is our dialect.

You can be sure that using people or religion or things just for what you can get out of them—the usual variations on idolatry—will get you nowhere, and certainly nowhere near the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of God.

Behave Yourself–Ephesians 4 Final

Behave Yourself! This is the message from Paul. He has focused on God’s grace, the gifts and strengths of the family, the importance of unity and diversity in the body and the loving grace of our Father.  But in the midst of the awesome message of Grace, Paul is adamant about making sure the church has a clear message regarding their actions–Make your Dad proud!

It is not a prerequisite to salvation, but it is a reasonable response to the incredible gift of redemption.  We are no longer self-driven, godless people.  We are transformed ambassadors of God!  God never expected us to be perfect, but he certainly longs for us to be different. Our mouths, our hearts, our attitudes and our diligence should all reflect the grace of God.  We walk humbly, follow closely, pray intensely and trust implicitly.  It is not a checklist–it is simply taking each aspect of our lives and laying them on his alter and making him the one true Lord of our lives.  Help me, Lord to Behave!

God Bless You 

That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”[d]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Maturity and Unity–Ephesians 4 part 2

The issue of diversity in the Body of Christ is as relevant today as it was in the very time of the apostles.  God never intended to leave a pack of cookie cutter clones.  He intentionally picked 12 of the most different men anyone had ever seen. Fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, thieves, intellectuals and plain guys made up the cast we call Apostles. Then in the early church, the theme continued–we are different folk, with different gifts brought together to function as a community that encourages, provides and protects the family we call believers.

The enemy tries as he will to divide us because of our differences–but, God clearly pulled us together because of those differences. The Romans 12 illustration of one body with many parts makes it plain.  As a body we cannot all be mouths, or hands, or eyes.  Some have to be shoulders, others ears and a few backs to assure all the work gets done.  Praise God for the laps that hold our kids. Praise God for the shoulders that bear the weight of a crying friend.  Praise God for the ears that listen to the otherwise ignored.  Praise God for the mouths that sing and the knees that become blistered during prayer. As a community–the more we embrace our different gifting, the more mature of a body we become! Help us to Grow up!!!

God Bless You

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.