Thursday, July 25, 2013

Drama can rob your joy...

The Book of JOY is a letter written by the Apostle Paul while he was in prison awaiting trial for preaching the gospel.  One possible outcome of this trial could be his being sentenced to death.  He opens the letter with loving words about the church at Philippi and how he is thankful for them every single time he thinks of them.

Philippians 1     ***The Single Mind*** or ***Circumstances Rob Joy***

Philippians 1:9-11 "And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God."

Judgment = discernment.  Discernment is the ability to see things for what they are. Do you remember the old saying "She can't see the forest for the trees"?  Some people can only see the drama around them.  Others can see through the drama and realize what the real issues are. Discernment is the opposite of drama!  Discernment is a mark of maturity; drama is a mark of childishness.  A child can be mislead much more easily than an adult simply because of maturity.

Paul wanted the Philippians to be able to discern the things that are excellent.  He wanted them, and us, to be able to tell the difference between the important things and the distractions.  He didn't want them to get sidetracked with things that really didn't matter.  It was more important to him WHY he was in prison than the fact THAT he was in  prison.  Instead of focusing on the horrible situation he was in, he wanted to redirect their attention to spreading the gospel of Christ.

Verses 10 and 11 also talk about being sincere and without offense and having the fruits of righteousness.  When you think of a drama queen exaggerating and being the victim and straining to outdo everyone around her . . . or him . . . you do not think of words like pure or blameless.  I certainly do not think of the word righteousness.  Being a drama queen is about being selfish and focused on how YOUR situation impacts YOU.  Being a drama queen is about steering everyone's attention back around to you.  Being pure and blameless and righteous is about keeping the focus on the most important Person.

If we can keep our mind singly on the gospel of Christ, even the worst of circumstances will not be able to rob our joy!

Song:  Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Friday, July 19, 2013

Philippians . . . the book of JOY!

Philippians is an epistle written by the Apostle Paul.  It is often called the Book of Joy.  As we begin this study it is important to understand a little about the church it was written to and about Paul's connection with that church.

What?  An epistle is a letter. Travel took much longer in the time this book was written.  There were no phones to pick up and make a quick call to check in with someone.  There was no email that instantly sends your words to another person.  Paul wrote this letter and then had to find someone who was going toward Philippi and ask them to deliver it.  People didn't waste time with frivolity in letters; they had a very definite purpose.

When?  The Apostle Paul wrote this letter roughly 50 AD so about 50 years after the Lord had ascended back to Heaven.  The traditional Jewish worship system was being replaced by the new "church".

Why?  The church was also being persecuted.  Remember that Paul used to be named Saul and was dedicated to destroying this new system before he was converted.  It would have been hard to be bold when there was always a threat to the followers of Christ.

How?  How did Paul care so much for this church?  When he came to Philippi a few years before he had cast out a demon from a slave girl who was telling the future and making money for her master.  When Paul destroyed the man's income, the man was very angry and this all resulted in Paul and his companion Silas being thrown into jail.  Remember that story?


Philippians 1:1-6 is Paul's greeting to this church.

vs 3 "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you."  These people were dear to his heart.  Of all people the Apostle Paul probably understood the threats and persecution they were facing. What circumstance in your life is completely out of your control?  If you get focused on that situation, can it overwhelm you and discourage you?  Paul knew what would distract this church and he prayed for them all the time because of it.

vs 6 "Being confident of this very thing, that HE which hath begun a good work in you WILL perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:"  Paul was reminding these people to keep their eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ.  God had started something in each and every life and He was not about to drop the ball.  Our overwhelming situations sometimes make us feel like God has saved us and been with us, but then we sometimes feel like He has forgotten us or not taken notice of us lately.

vs 7 "Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart..."  Paul knew who he was talking to.  He knew that they remembered the miracle of the earthquake and the salvation of the jailer.  He knew that they had been established in their faith even before that!  He also knew that it was very possible to be distracted by the circumstances around them whenever the miracles weren't happening.  The normalcy and predictability of life can make us feel like we are coasting.

This church in Philippi had bishops and deacons and faithful believers.  Paul knew their hearts so well because he had visited them before and ended up depending on them to help care for him while he was in prison.  There was a kinship with each of these believers.  He prayed for them because he knew them so well, and he was happy to do it.  They had fellowship in the gospel because they had a common work to accomplish and they had labored together in their city before.
The Apostle Paul was reassuring these ordinary folks during the ordinary days when they were facing terrible persecution to keep their eyes focused on God!  He could say to them "I thank my God for you because I KNOW He is going to complete what he started in you."  In the days of drudgery and pain and loneliness we need to keep our eyes off of our circumstances and have a single-minded heart.  F - Fixing  O - Our  C - Course  U - Until  S - Straight.......get your focus where it needs to be.  If you get distracted, fix the situation so you can keep your joy!

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Rocks, The Island and The Spiderweb

The Lord had me thinking about the word independent this week.  I am a self-proclaimed word geek so of course I started thinking about the parts of the word. The two basic parts are the root word dependent and the prefix in-.

Dependent:   shows a relationship or link that will fall if any part is moved or removed

Independent:   not affiliated or associated with a larger entity

But there is another word in the dependent family, and that is interdependent.

Interdependent:   is a relationship in which each member is mutually dependent on the others. Participants may be morally reliant on and responsible to each other. An interdependent relationship can arise between two or more cooperative autonomous participants (e.g. a co-op).  (definitions found in Wikipedia)

Independent means not depending upon an outside entity.  Our church is an independent church. We exist apart from any other church.  We govern ourselves, we choose our own pastor, we appoint our own teachers, and we select our own schedule and ministries.

Within our church we are all interdependent because we are all accountable to each other.  Anything that happens to one part affects the other parts.  When one of us is hurting, we all feel it.  When one of us is missing, we all notice.  When one of us is removed, we all sense the gap.

Galations 6:2  "Bear ye one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ."  We come together to study God's Word, to praise Him, and to encourage one another.  When we share with others about a situation that we are praying about and ask others to pray with us, we are leaning on them to help us and letting them know how they can minister to us.  We are to be open with each other about struggles and pains and we are to come together and support each other.

Mark 12:29-31 "And Jesus answered him (one of the scribes), 'The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength; this is the first commandment.  And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  There is none other commandment greater than these.' "  Sometimes we apply this love to our spouse or to strangers.  We must not forget to apply it to ourselves within the church!

If we are dependent on someone it is like a tower of rocks.  If any one slips or falls down, the others will automatically fall.  If we are independent we separate ourselves from everyone else and try to be an island is the very big sea of life.  If we are interdependent we are connected like a spiderweb.  If one section falls it may put more pressure on another section but it does not automatically tear the whole web apart.  The stronger relationship is the interdependent one!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

How to NOT be in bondage

Bondage is being under the control of something . . . or someone.  People with addictions often use this terminology the most in our modern culture.  Think about not liking where you are but not having the strength or power to overcome the situation.  Bondage is the opposite of freedom.

If someone refuses to accept a FACT, we consider them to be ridiculous and proud.  They put themselves in bondage to the limited facts that they will accept and cannot grow beyond that point.

If someone in our military refuses to accept the authority of their superior we consider them to be wrong and deserving of punishment.  This is not a situation that advances their career.

If a king had rule over a country but one of his subjects refused to follow the laws the king put into place, that person could be put into bondage . . . and we would say "he brought it on himself."

--God is in control   Genesis 1:1  "In the beginning God created the Heavens and the earth."
--God does not want any of us to be in bondage   II Peter 3:9  "The LORD is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
--God will lead us to victory
--God will lead us to victory IF we choose to follow Him   "The first step toward freedom is choosing to let our Lord be the Leader of our life."  ("My Prince Will Come" by Sheri Rose Shepherd).
--If we refuse to follow Him we put ourselves into bondage 
--He is a worthy Leader and we have no reason not to submit to Him and trust Him    Deuteronomy 31:8  "And the LORD, He it is that doth go before thee, HE WILL NOT FAIL THEE, neither forsake thee; fear not neither be dismayed.

We can follow the One Who is worthy to be followed and have true freedom or we can be defeated and in bondage because we insist on doing things our own way.  Freedom or is a choice that I make for myself.