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 2–God’s Refining Process

One of the great gifts of being a child of God is his ongoing transformation of our lives. Paul tells the Philippians that God does not simply provide an escape hatch from Hell, He works to transform us into His image.  Paul says in vs. 6, “He that has begun a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” When we understand that God’s gift of salvation not only justifies us from eternal death but, it also sanctifies us during our walk through this life; then we can treasure the trials and temptations we face daily in our walks with the Lord. 
In our current culture, we have come to expect instant gratification.  We do not want to wait, we simply want all things done now. We live as if we are happy to be saved, but, if the truth was known, we do not want to go through the sanctification process. It is like refining a precious metal. It is hot, hard and slow in coming. We have to face many things we would rather not. In the end, however, we will become the new creations God has promised and we will have a life of peace and purpose.  We must never regret the process of being refined.  We need to expect it to continue until the Lord calls us home. We need to accept the refining and understand that the end of the process produces a life that will be amazing.
God Bless You

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons[a]:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

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.

Ephesians 5 Final–Submitting in Marriage

Paul next addresses marriage.  Paul said it best, In marriage, we must submit to one another.  God calls husbands to love their wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.  To grasp the enormity of that, one needs to remember that Jesus was God. He did not have to do anything or achieve anything to become God. But, because of His love for us, Jesus emptied Himself of all of His Godly vestiges, became human. While in Human form He suffered greatly and died a humiliating and brutal death simply to redeem us. Phil 2:5-8.  As Husbands, we have to become like Jesus. We must be willing to completely empty ourselves of all self-interest and be willing to sacrifice ourselves for our wives.  That is no small task.
Wives must submit to their husband’s leadership. Like the president of a company, wives must follow the leading of the CEO. The president runs the day to day operations, and all that are employed follow the president’s direction (including the CEO). But if there is a decision to be made and the CEO makes it–the president honors the decision humbly and graciously.  Wives are to be the same. Few would argue that wives are masters of day to day survival.  They make their husband and kids a family and turn their houses into HOMES. They have to master all aspects of survival and social grace with little or no support from those they serve.  Wives are critical to the look and life of their families, and, if they are willing to submit to the leadership of a servant-leader husband, they will build an amazing legacy, no matter what circumstance befalls them.  Husbands and wives that are willing to submit to each others leadership and live sacrificial lives –will have the kind of marriage that most can only dream about.
God Bless You

 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. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body.31 “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

2 Samuel 13 Part 1–When the Unforgivable Happens

There is no good news in this story.  God promised David that because of his great sin that his own house would always be in turmoil. So was the case with Amnon and Tamar.  Amnon simply disregarded all rule of propriety and raped his sister. He should have been immediately killed and Tamar cared for. Neither happened. David was furious, Tamar’s Brother Absolom crushed and bitter–but nothing was either said or done to Amnon.
Sometimes things get so horrible that all are left in wonder of how to proceed.  In this case, David should have taken quick and extreme action.  Here David sat with his own guilt and shame and did not respond.  We cannot simply do nothing when such evil is committed.  A wise man said once, “Evil thrives when good men do nothing!” Had David taken action immediately, so much pain would have been healed and his kingdom would not have suffered so intensely.  Still, even in the present day, we often choose to do nothing, rather than take the tough stand and make the unpopular decision to do what is right. It is that behavior that has allowed crime to soar, suicide to skyrocket and evil to reign in the world. 
God’s people need to hit their knees and pray–then, we need to take a stand and call evil–EVIL. Not a bad choice, not a poor decision–EVIL. We need to train our kids and ourselves to take responsibility for our lives and our actions.  Help me Lord to do that very thing!
God Bless You

In the course of time, Amnon the son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom the son of David.

Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.

Now Amnon had an adviser named Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother. Jonadab was a very shrewd man. He asked Amnon, “Why do you, the king’s son, look so haggard morning after morning? Won’t you tell me?”

Amnon said to him, “I’m in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.”

“Go to bed and pretend to be ill,” Jonadab said. “When your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I may watch her and then eat it from her hand.’”

So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. When the king came to see him, Amnon said to him, “I would like my sister Tamar to come and make some special bread in my sight, so I may eat from her hand.”

David sent word to Tamar at the palace: “Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare some food for him.” So Tamar went to the house of her brother Amnon, who was lying down. She took some dough, kneaded it, made the bread in his sight and baked it.Then she took the pan and served him the bread, but he refused to eat.

“Send everyone out of here,” Amnon said. So everyone left him. 10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food here into my bedroom so I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom. 11 But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, “Come to bed with me, my sister.”

12 “No, my brother!” she said to him. “Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. 13 What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.” 14 But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.

15 Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”

1 Samuel 1 Part 3–The Follow Through

New Year’s resolutions…That event where we promise to make changes in our lives; and those changes last days, weeks and rarely months–if we are lucky.  Funny thing is, no resolutions are required for continuing on our journey. 
Hannah made a resolution. She told the Lord, that if He would grant her the ability to have a child; that child would be His. So, when young Samuel was born, Hannah weaned him and then dedicated him to the LORD.  She did more than promise Samuel’s service to God, She literally brought Samuel to the chief priest, Eli and left him.  Samuel was put into a life of service to the Lord and His priest.  I am sure that Eli had no expectation that he would be gaining a ward, but Hannah’s follow through was both sincere and complete.
In our lives, God seeks to bless us.  He asks that we trust and follow Him.  He promises that if we confess with our mouth that He is Lord, and believe God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved.  Beyond that, there are no requirements to be saved.  It is critical, however, to follow through. We must trust and follow the Lord daily. When we do,God sanctifies us, and prepares us for an eternity with Him.  Speaking the words or simply praying a prayer is only the commitment. It is the life of faith and submission; that becomes the follow through. The follow through is the sanctification process. Sanctification is what prepares us to be like God and it is what brings hope and blessing.
We must not be afraid to continue to seek God’s leadership daily. Diving into His word, seeking Him in prayer and following God’s lead–will give us a life of purpose and meaning.  We  simply need to be like Hannah and follow through with our commitment to God.  If we will, we will have an Amazing Journey!
God Bless You

When her husband Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow, 22 Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always.”[c]

23 “Do what seems best to you,” her husband Elkanah told her. “Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the Lord make good his[d] word.” So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she had weaned him.

24 After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull,[e] an ephah[f] of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. 25 When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, 26 and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. 27 I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.

Matthew 1 Part 2–How to Make an Entrance

esus was obviously unique. God chose Mary as the mother of Jesus; but he also chose Joseph to raise the Savior. It must have been a mixture of heart rending emotion as Mary was to learn that God chose her for such an important mission. She knew it would be amazing, but, also terrifying to expose her betrothed to such scorn. Then, young Joseph–having to deal with the feeling of betrayal; followed by the gravity of raising someone else’s–GOD’S son. Sure, he was was of noble lineage–as was Mary; but, to parent the Messiah! Really!

These two young people were about to embark upon a journey to change the world. God chose carefully and as always, perfectly, to place  His son in the world with the right folks, at the right time, to carry out the most important mission of all. Jesus came to reintroduce God to men, and to make a way for them to reconnect with God, and personally join him for eternity.

God rarely does things as we would. If it was my son, I am sure there would have been one heck of a celebration. CNN, Fox News, angelic banners and big old celebrations–announcing Jesus entrance, and making sure people knew and followed him! But, that was the point–God wanted His chosen to follow Jesus willingly and without fanfare. The Father wanted people to be in relationship–simply because they saw the need and desired the life.

God truly demonstrated His love for us–In that while we were sinners–he did this…sent his son to live and die in an ordinary way, as an ordinary guy, with ordinary parents in an ordinary place.  He came to be one of us–the obvious best of us, but, still just one of us! That really is true love!

God Bless You

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet  did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[g] (which means “God with us”).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Psalm 6–The Prayer of a Contrite King

David was a great servant of God and a great king.  Throughout his life, he was known as “a Man after God’s own heart.” Still, there were points in David’s life when sin caused him great sorrow. His seduction of Bathsheba, the murder of Uriah, the counting of his troops, and his troubles with Absalom–were times when David failed and failed large.

Still, in the midst of the failure, he was not spared the cost of his sin. He lost his baby, he almost lost his kingdom to Absalom, and he saw a devastating plague as a result of the counting of his troops. Still, in the midst of the horrific trials–David still repented and sought God.  He did not turn away from God, nor seek the world’s relief; no, instead–he repented and sought God’s mercy and God’s healing.  He was confident, that God would hear his prayer and heal and restore his life–He was right.

When we fail, we need to have the heart of David.  We need not try to hide our sin–we need to repent and move forward. It may be awful, and God may allow consequence; but, he does forgive and will continue to walk with us through the most difficult of circumstances. We must never be afraid to open our hearts and cry out to God–our Heavenly Father. We can confess our sin, and he will forgive us of that sin and cleanse us of all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).

God wants our heart. He will faithfully stand by us in all circumstance.  He simply seeks our devotion and our desire to follow him.

God Bless You

Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger,
Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure.
Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak;
Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled;
But You, O Lord—how long?

Return, O Lord, deliver me!
Oh, save me for Your mercies’ sake!
For in death there is no remembrance of You;
In the grave who will give You thanks?

I am weary with my groaning;
All night I make my bed swim;
I drench my couch with my tears.
My eye wastes away because of grief;
It grows old because of all my enemies.

Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity;
For the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my supplication;
The Lord will receive my prayer.
10 Let all my enemies be ashamed and greatly troubled;
Let them turn back and be ashamed suddenly.