Philippians 1 Part 3–To Live is Christ and to Die is Gain

As Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians, He was in prison in Rome. He lived chained between two guards. The one-time world traveler now was awaiting his final fate from Rome. In the midst of the hopeless situation he faced, Paul was able to continue to preach the Gospel through his letters. What’s more, others were preaching the Gospel loudly and spreading the message even beyond where Paul had reached. But, at the end of the day, Paul knew that life on earth was not comparable to eternity in Heaven.   As he languished in prison;  beaten, broken and blind—Paul longed to be home with Lord.  Amazingly, it was that longing that drove Paul to preach the Gospel all day every day.
 
Paul, more than most, understood the deception of a rules-based religion. As a Jew of Jews, Paul learned from the best and performed religion as well as anyone. But, when he had his encounter with Christ, It changed Him. He realized he would never be worthy in his own power. He also learned that God’s grace was sufficient to meet his needs. From there, God brought him to a place that made him a true ambassador for God and showed him that Christ alone was all anyone needed to have a relationship with God.  Paul was driven to get that message out to everyone. So until God brought him home, Paul would spread that message to all who would listen and all who would read the letters he drafted.  Paul Had come to a place that valued Christ above all. So wherever he was Christ was the most important thing.
 
In our lives we have to come to a place where we also can say to live is Christ and to die is gain. Each of us faces trials of various types. In those trials, we can become distracted from what is important and what is not.  If we can move forward with a grateful heart and follow His leading, then no matter the circumstances we face our response can remain grateful and hopeful. Only with a grateful heart is this life bearable. Otherwise, we become like the Israelites in the desert;  complaining when God is in their presence literally dropping food from heaven each day.  Treasure the joys of our life here–but, know to live is Christ and to die is gain.
 
God Bless You

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,[b] that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard[c] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this, I rejoice.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.[d] 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Ephesians 3 Part 2–Getting the Right Perspective About God

​Paul wanted to remind the people in Ephesus that the secret to living by faith is to focus on the author of that faith and not on these present circumstances.  Paul encouraged the Ephesians to approach God freely and with confidence. They did not have to perform any rituals or have a secret code. God remains present and ready to hear prayers and prepare, protect and provide for His own in any and all circumstances.
 
Next, Paul reminded these people that this was not about him (Paul). He prayed for the well being of the Ephesians.  Paul was in prison, in Rome and facing martyrdom–but he prayed for these people.  He prayed for their well being, but more importantly, he prayed that the Ephesians would grasp the volume, the depth, and the vastness of God’s love for them. This God that could do exceedingly, abundantly and immeasurably more than men can imagine stood ready to minister to His chosen.
 
That same God stands arms held open wide for us today.   He is still God, He is still great, and he can still do immeasurably more than we can imagine. If we could grasp the volume, the depth and the vastness of God’s love for us; then, we would come before the Lord with confidence and lay our lives, our concerns, and our sin on the altar for the Lord to take. We would walk by faith and trust God to do as He has promised, never forgetting that He alone is God! If we will grasp that truth; we will be able to walk in peace and confidence, knowing that God has got this.
 
God Bless You

 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

A Prayer for the Ephesians

14 For this reason, I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

2 Corinthians 10 Part 1–Spiritual Warfare

Paul was defending his ministry. Specifically, He was defending his approach to ministry.  His letters were and are packed with power. But, as Paul was sending the messages by letter many argued he was only bold from a distance. I am sure that there were days when Paul thought, “I gave up my life and role as a Jewish leader–for this???”  But Paul made clear that we are in a spiritual war. It is a battle that requires spiritual weapons.  We use those weapons for tearing down the strongholds in our, lives so that we can follow God closely. Paul faced the battle daily, he attacked it with prayer, study and continued faith in the God that brought him across the known world to bring Christ to the Gentiles.
 
In our lives, the formula remains the same trust God, follow Him read His word, pray–and remember our battles are spiritual ones.  We can never give up, give in or simply ignore the daily battles we face.  We have to attack them with the faith that God is with us and will assist in tearing down the strongholds in our lives.  We, as His children, can fully rely upon God to carry us through the battles we face.  We simply have to trust and follow him–no matter where that takes us.
 
God Bless You

By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

You are judging by appearances.[a] If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do. So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it. I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. 10 For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” 11 Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.

I Corinthians 15 Part 2–The Ressurection

As in the Jewish community, there were factions among the church regarding the resurrection.  Paul was not going to let that faction remain.  Paul was quick to remind the Corinthians that without the resurrection, the entire idea of Christ and salvation was a useless one.  Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was a sacrifice to restore the relationship between God and men.  To simply have died and not risen would have done nothing to restore the relationship between God and men.  It would have been a beautiful act of martyrdom, but of little use for restoration of a fallen world. 
 
So Paul made clear that not only did Christ pay the ultimate price for our sin, but He beat death, rose again and lives to intercede on our behalf.  We cannot forget the sacrifice Christ made for us, but we have to cling to the resurrection as our means to be in relationship with God. We must live lives that are eternal in perspective, not lives that indicate that this life is all we have.  We look forward to the day of Christ’s return where we will be new creations in a new kingdom forgiven, restored and living eternally with our Lord!
 
God Bless You

 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope[b] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

I Samuel 20 Part 1–Great Friends

In the midst of Saul’s mission to kill his son-in-law, David, Jonathan, Saul’s son and heir to his throne, still was David’s best friend. Jonathan had no idea of his father’s hatred of David.  David had been loyal to the kingdom and to his father.  So when David approached Jonathan to ask the reason for Saul’s wrath, Jonathan was truly surprised and skeptical.  Saul and Jonathan were close. They shared everything. Saul was preparing the kingdom for Jonathan and would never make a move like that without letting Jonathan know…would he?
 
Saul knew Jonathan and David were dear friends. Saul did not want to tell his son of the plan. Saul knew what he was doing was wrong, and he knew Jonathan would side with David rather than with Saul–and Saul did not want to face that. What Saul did not know was that God established the covenant between Jonathan and David. No matter what Saul had in mind, God would not allow Jonathan to be a part of it.  The consequence of Saul’s rejection of God would not harm the covenant between these great friends.
 
God kindly puts great friends in our lives.  We pour our hearts and lives into those friends. Those are the folks that see us at our best and worst but love us just the same.  It is those friends we look to and draw upon when we are seeking honest feedback, heartfelt prayer, and continued life support. It is those friends to whom we are available 24/7-365. We would never question their need, we would never give up on them.  I thank my dear friends for their years of loyalty. I would be long dead if not for you. I hope that I have been a Jonathan in your lives; as you certainly been so in mine.  Friendship is a precious treasure. David knew it and so do we.  Let us never take for granted those friends God has supplied.
 
God Bless You

Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan and asked, “What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to kill me?”

“Never!” Jonathan replied. “You are not going to die! Look, my father doesn’t do anything, great or small, without letting me know. Why would he hide this from me? It isn’t so!”

But David took an oath and said, “Your father knows very well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said to himself, ‘Jonathan must not know this or he will be grieved.’ Yet as surely as the Lord lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death.”

Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you.”

So David said, “Look, tomorrow is the New Moon feast, and I am supposed to dine with the king; but let me go and hide in the field until the evening of the day after tomorrow. If your father misses me at all, tell him, ‘David earnestly asked my permission to hurry to Bethlehem,his hometown, because an annual sacrifice is being made there for his whole clan.’ If he says, ‘Very well,’ then your servant is safe. But if he loses his temper, you can be sure that he is determined to harm me. As for you, show kindness to your servant, for you have brought him into a covenant with you before the Lord. If I am guilty, then kill me yourself! Why hand me over to your father?”

“Never!” Jonathan said. “If I had the least inkling that my father was determined to harm you, wouldn’t I tell you?”

10 David asked, “Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?”

Excruciating Friendship-I Samuel 20 part 2

Sometimes a true friend can only listen and grieve.  It is great to be a friend when things are easy—more difficult to be a friend when things are dire.  Jonathan could only ache as he watched his father mark his friend for death.  He could still deliver him.  He could still be committed to him—but he could not affect the outcome in any way.  In those times, a friends very inability to change the outcome is also the lovely act that shows commitment.  Jonathan never backed away, abandoned or betrayed his commitment to David.  That commitment would stay with David all the days of his life.

 In our lives, we are faced many times with situations where all we can do is listen, grieve and pray for our friends.  Our temptation is to want to withdraw, because it literally hurts not to be able to help.  In other times we simply wear out and no longer desire to remain in the messy lives of others.  But, the true friends roll up their sleeves and stay in the lives of their friends in need.  Often times, when they do, they feel hopeless and inadequate—NOT TRUE.  It is in those times, as with David, that we have the greatest impact on those we love.  Our steadfast prayer, continued encouragement and small gifts are the very lifelines that keep our friends from giving up. 

 If I were to list all of you that have profoundly changed my life, I fear this devotion would extend for pages.  Suffice it to say, that You will only find out in Glory how much you truly did to save the Smith household and how eternally grateful I am and we are! To each of you I can only humbly say thank you for never backing away. 

God Bless You

 28 Jonathan answered, “David earnestly asked me for permission to go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, ‘Let me go, because our family is observing a sacrifice in the town and my brother has ordered me to be there. If I have found favor in your eyes, let me get away to see my brothers.’ That is why he has not come to the king’s table.”

30 Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? 31 As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send someone to bring him to me, for he must die!”

32 “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” Jonathan asked his father. 33 But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David.

34 Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the feast he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David.

35 In the morning Jonathan went out to the field for his meeting with David. He had a small boy with him, 36 and he said to the boy, “Run and find the arrows I shoot.” As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. 37 When the boy came to the place where Jonathan’s arrow had fallen, Jonathan called out after him, “Isn’t the arrow beyond you?” 38 Then he shouted, “Hurry! Go quickly! Don’t stop!” The boy picked up the arrow and returned to his master. 39 (The boy knew nothing about all this; only Jonathan and David knew.) 40 Then Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and said, “Go, carry them back to town.”