Philippians 3 Part 1–Bragging Rights

Paul was the super pharisee.  If one wanted a poster child for how to “do religion” Paul was easily that guy. He was circumcised, Part of the tribe of Benjamin, trained by Gamaliel the ultimate Rabbi.  He knew all the traditions, all the law and exactly what to do.  He attacked the Christians with zeal and complete abandon. Any Jewish leader would be proud of Paul’s record.  Paul, however, realized that it was not his knowledge or performance that made him righteous.  Paul went as far as to say that stuff was bio-waste compared to the surpassing greatness of Christ,  Paul no longer needed to flaunt a resume–He simply needed to trust God and allow God to transform him into the image of Christ.
 
We are the same.  We are not a product of our accomplishments.  We can never “DO” Christianity to a level that our actions bring us justification.  In fact, as Paul so elegantly articulated it, our efforts to earn salvation look, smell and feel like bio-waste! We need to know Christ! As we get to know him we quickly see that it is His grace and His mercy, not our background or performance that brings us salvation. If we will simply trust and follow His lead–He will restore our relationship with God, and he will prepare us for the journey that lies ahead.  In addition, the Lord will change our hearts and our desires to conform to His image.  There is simply no greater gift than the salvation we receive by trusting Christ alone.
 
God Bless You
 

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

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.

2 Corinthians 1 Part 1–God of Comfort

Make no mistake, God is never surprised.  Often the church finds itself in times of difficulty, distress and even persecution by the enemy and the world.  Some that seek Him with their hearts are literally fighting daily for their lives and existence.  Even in normal times, Christians experience trials of various kinds of health, career, financial and relationship issues that are at best a distraction and often debilitating. Paul started his second letter to the Corinthians with the reminder that God is there to comfort and to care for His own.  Paul made no promise as to avoiding trouble, trials, and difficulties–he simply reminded the Corinthians that those struggles would not have to be faced alone.
 
Our Lord does love and care for us like none other.  He provides peace in the midst of chaos; meets needs that seem unquenchable and provides hope and direction in a life that would be otherwise hopeless and aimless.  As His chosen, We have to stand firm.  We must cling to the faith and hope that God will, in fact, provide all our needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:19. We cannot focus on what the world is doing, what others are doing and even what the church is doing.  We must focus our eyes on the eternal truth that We are loved, and protected and being prepared for by our Father.  We must start each day in His word and on our knees seeking him first and foremost.  If we will, He will, in fact, comfort us and come alongside He is a God that comforts and protects His own.  
 
God Bless You

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,[a] about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On Him, we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

2 Samuel 12–You are That Man

David thought he away with his adultery and murder.  I am sure he felt bad about it, but, he had to keep up his image–right? God saw it all and exposed it immediately. He confronted David with a parable. The parable tracked David’s behavior and David was furious that someone would do such an evil thing–then, like a lightning bolt Nathan pronounced, “You are that man!” David was stricken immediately with the gravity of his sin.  Unlike Saul, however, David repented of his sin. He took responsibility and stood ready to accept whatever punishment that God wanted to assess.  God Forgave David. God pronounced judgment and as David would face in his reign that judgment was awful.  But, in the end, God forgave His King and still blessed Israel–all because of David’s heart.
 
We all sin. We become selfish and say and do things not honoring to God. In 1st John 1:9, God promises us that if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.  That is what David did.  That is what God calls us to do as well.  Help me Lord to be clear and repentant with you!
 
God Bless You

 The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives,the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes?

2 Samuel 2 Part 2–Civil War Stinks!

Now that Saul and Jonathan were gone, there still remained a sharp division between Saul’s people and David’s people.  What started out to be a discussion of an amicable solution, ended in a bloody civil war that cost the lives of over 400 soldiers. While the great majority were of Saul’s house, it was still a sad state of affairs.  Finally, when Joab’s brother was killed, both sides said enough.
 
The anger, the resentment, and the division had not ended–but the futility of killing each other became apparent. Both sides turned and went their separate ways. 
 
In our lives, we are put in positions that cause hurt and bitterness.  In that, if not dealt with reasonably, things can escalate to civil war in families.  Lives are damaged, relationships ended and families destroyed. Sadly, by the time all realize the devastation, it is often too late.  As a church, we have to exercise grace. None of us are perfect and all of us can forgive as we have been forgiven.  If we will, we can avoid life-changing civil wars and relationship killing altercations.  As God showed David, vengeance is God’s, and the Lord will repay evil against His chosen–so let Him!
 
God Bless You 

Then Abner said to Joab, “Let’s have some of the young men get up and fight hand to hand in front of us.”

“All right, let them do it,” Joab said.

15 So they stood up and were counted off—twelve men for Benjamin and Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, and twelve for David. 16 Then each man grabbed his opponent by the head and thrust his dagger into his opponent’s side, and they fell down together. So that place in Gibeon was called Helkath Hazzurim.[a]

17 The battle that day was very fierce, and Abner and the Israelites were defeated by David’s men.

18 The three sons of Zeruiah were there: Joab, Abishai and Asahel. Now Asahel was as fleet-footed as a wild gazelle. 19 He chased Abner, turning neither to the right nor to the left as he pursued him. 20 Abner looked behind him and asked, “Is that you, Asahel?”

“It is,” he answered.

21 Then Abner said to him, “Turn aside to the right or to the left; take on one of the young men and strip him of his weapons.” But Asahel would not stop chasing him.

22 Again Abner warned Asahel, “Stop chasing me! Why should I strike you down? How could I look your brother Joab in the face?”

23 But Asahel refused to give up the pursuit; so Abner thrust the butt of his spear into Asahel’s stomach, and the spear came out through his back. He fell there and died on the spot. And every man stopped when he came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died.

24 But Joab and Abishai pursued Abner, and as the sun was setting, they came to the hill of Ammah, near Giah on the way to the wasteland of Gibeon. 25 Then the men of Benjamin rallied behind Abner. They formed themselves into a group and took their stand on top of a hill.

26 Abner called out to Joab, “Must the sword devour forever? Don’t you realize that this will end in bitterness? How long before you order your men to stop pursuing their fellow Israelites?”

27 Joab answered, “As surely as God lives, if you had not spoken, the men would have continued pursuing them until morning.”

28 So Joab blew the trumpet, and all the troops came to a halt; they no longer pursued Israel, nor did they fight anymore.

1 Samuel 25 Part 3–Vengeance is Mine

After Abagail repaired the relationship with David and his men, she went home and prepared to tell her husband what transpired. Sadly, he and his buddies were drunk and could not comprehend the gravity of what Nabal had done. So Abagail waited until the next morning after Nabal was sober.  Then she told him the whole story.  The reality of his stupidity hit him like a train. He had a heart attack and died 10 days later.  David was avenged, Abagail was free from her awful husband and David–who had his wife Michal taken away by the king–now made this superhero woman his wife.  It was a great day for the fugitive king and for Abagail.
 
Life is funny. Often things happen in the normal course of events that vindicate those that follow God.  It seems strange, but they are blessed without having to raise a finger in anger or protest.  The Lord has told us throughout his word that if we will trust in Him, follow Him and depend upon him–then He will avenge and He will repay.  He also promises to make our paths straight. He will always be our greatest advocate and most avid support.  In Romans, Paul tells us that whatever our trials are, they do not compare to the rewards that await us. Romans 8:18.  We, like David, can always cling to the ultimate truth that our Father loves us and will be our advocate, protector and if need be, our avenger! What an amazing thing to know!!!
 
God Bless You

Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request.”

36 When Abigail went to Nabal, he was in the house holding a banquet like that of a king. He was in high spirits and very drunk. So she told him nothing at all until daybreak. 37 Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him and he became like a stone. 38 About ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died.

39 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise be to the Lord, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.”

Then David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife. 40 His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, “David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.”

41 She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, “I am your servant and am ready to serve you and wash the feet of my lord’s servants.” 42 Abigail quickly got on a donkey and, attended by her five female servants, went with David’s messengers and became his wife.43 David had also married Ahinoam of Jezreel, and they both were his wives. 44 But Saul had given his daughter Michal, David’s wife, to Paltiel[d] son of Laish, who was from Gallim.

I Samuel 25 Part 2–Abagail, A True Superhero

There are few stories more amazing than the story of Abagail. She was the wife of a selfish man. Nabal, while wealthy, was mean and short-sighted. He insulted David and his men after they had protected his workers and their sheep.  David was angry and was ready to wipe the man out. When Nabal’s wife heard what had happened–she dived in and literally saved the day.  She made provisions for David and his men’s efforts, she made an apology for her husband’s behavior and she made peace with the future King of Israel.  She was not directed to do so by her husband–in fact, she did all this despite him.

 

David was amazed and accepted the gift and apology. He forgave Nabal even though Nabal had not changed one bit. David was a gracious man and saw that despite Nabal’s idiocy, he had at least married a great woman that should not be punished because of him. She was a superhero.

 

In my life and many lives of men I know, we would be lost without the great wives God gave us.  They work tirelessly to make our houses homes. They raise our kids to be ladies and gentlemen and to have lives that matter and are great. They make sure we look and act our best and prepare meals, holidays, vacations and life events. The most amazing part is that they do this for little or no recognition. They perform a labor of love that truly leaves a legacy of greatness many generations after they are gone.  Thanks, Lord, for giving me and my children a superhero mom. 

 

God Bless You

 

 Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs[b] of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. 19 Then she told her servants, “Go on ahead; I’ll follow you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal.

20 As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her, and she met them. 21 David had just said, “It’s been useless—all my watching over this fellow’s property in the wilderness so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good. 22 May God deal with David,[c] be it ever so severely if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belongs to him!”

23 When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. 24 She fell at his feet and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. 25 Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent. 26 And now, my lord, as surely as the Lord your God lives and as you live, since the Lord has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal. 27 And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you.

28 “Please forgive your servant’s presumption. The Lord your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord because you fight the Lord’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. 29 Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. 30 When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel, 31 my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.”

32 David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. 33 May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. 34 Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.”

35 Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request.”