Friday, March 14, 2014

Who are YOU pecking on today?

The Secure Mind - - or - - Worry Robs Your Joy

Philippians 4:3-7
"And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.  Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.  Let your moderation be known to all men.  The Lord is at hand.  Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

To "intreat" is to earnestly ask something.  Paul just finished pointing out two women, by name, who were behaving in such a way as to shift the focus away from the work and onto themselves.  Now he opens up his instructions to include some others who need some instruction.  When he was "scolding" these two women he carefully pointed out what they were doing wrong, directed their attention back to being on the Lord, and then moved on.  Sometimes we get stuck on the first step and go from correcting someone for their benefit, to hammering away at them for the sake of feeling better about ourselves.  Paul didn't really even have to name exactly what they were doing. It certainly seems that he felt they were mature enough to know what they were doing that was wrong, and he told them to "get your focus back on the Lord" and then he moved on.  Sometimes when we see another Christian getting off track we tend to step forward in an honest effort to get them back on track but we ourselves become sidelined with "pecking them to death like a duck!"  We want to be sure they understand just how wrong they are and never back off to let them make amends or adjustments to their behavior.  Paul named these two women and told them to get along better in an open letter to their church but then he moved on to address "thee also, my true yokefellow."

Yokefellow are people who are working together side by side.  Paul begged the women to get their focus back where it needed to be, and then said "and the rest of you help these two women who have worked hard with me."  They weren't just some gals that dropped in from nowhere.  And they weren't just being singled out to be ostracized.  He really wanted them to succeed and wanted the rest of their fellow Christians to help them.  When eagles are molting they are very vulnerable because they cannot fly.  Groups of eagles will get together during the molting time and make a circle around the most vulnerable one to protect it.  The work together to ward of anything that might try to attack the weakest one.  Then when that eagle is getting through the process and has more feathers back, they switch places so another more vulnerable one can go to the middle of the circle.  How safe and secure that molting eagle must feel having all those others standing guard around him while he is at his lowest, literally, because he can't even fly.  Not us humans!  No sir-ee, we see somebody down, hurting and vulnerable and we swarm in there on attack to make sure they don't miss one single old feather.  We say we want to be sure they don't miss anything and that we are helping them out.  In fact, we often reach right in and do damage ourselves by "helping" them be thorough.  We attack our weakest, most vulnerable.

Paul does point out that these women "which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other fellow labourers" had been doing the right thing before.  He knew it because they had worked with him!  We don't have any information about who Clement was but obviously the church did.  He referred to someone specific that they had worked with and also "other" people they had helped.  We need to address problems, we need to confront sin, but we do not need to throw the baby out with the bath water.  Stop and remember how the person you want to peck to death has served in the past.  Remind them how they have served and been successful in the past.  Rest secure in the process of correction that God has laid out and don't worry about destroying someone who has offended.

Right smack in the middle of this exhortation Paul says, "Rejoice in the Lord!"  God forgives and forgets our sin.  Sometimes we get hung up and don't move on after the molting has finished.  How frustrating to the mighty eagle to be protected by others but then also kept down on the ground unable to soar again.  We need to rejoice when someone confesses something and changes their actions.  We can't use their past sins as a net to keep them grounded, never fully serving God again.  We need to rejoice in the change God can bring about in their hearts and help them catch the wind again.  Rejoice . . . don't recharge for another attack.

In verse 5 the word "moderation" means your gentleness.  I'd have to say that American Christians have a reputation for shooting their wounded while still in battle.  We can turn on each other soooo quickly.  How many of us ever over-scolded a child for something they did.  We made such a big deal out of it they didn't stand a chance at lifting their eyes for days.  Imagine if these folks had not moved on and forgiven Paul but had kept reminding him about his past deeds.  They could have handicapped this great missionary and kept him from accomplishing what God had planned for him!

I don't know exactly what Paul meant when he wrote, "The Lord is at hand" but I try to remind myself that it means to let God be God in situations.  I don't need to lord over someone making  sure they get every last detail confessed and changed.  God is still right at hand and available to help them.  I am to correct others but I don't need to overshadow them and be in God's way.  Let God do HIS work and be secure in the fact that He WILL!

When Paul says, "Be careful for nothing" he doesn't mean be reckless.  He means don't be so micro-focused that we don't fret or get hung up on something. Allow yourself to be secure in the fact that He really is in charge and will do His part of things.

I once heard the story of a little old lady who kept a little tin on top of her stove.  Whenever she cooked or baked for her family she would reach in the little tin and take out the tiniest pinch of something and sprinkle it on the food while muttering to herself.  One day her little granddaughter asked her what she was doing.  The lady replied, "Why, I'm praying to the good Lord that this will all turn out well and nourish everyone who eats it.  I'm praying."  "But what's in the box" pushed the little girl.  "Oh, that's just some love I like to sprinkle on things."  We should be praying for others, be thankful for others, and make request to God for them.

Verse 7 says that when we do this correctly we will no longer worry about those issues.  There is great peace to be found at the feet of Jesus.  There is peace for sinners and peace for the saved as well.  And God's peace is remarkable!  It isn't flimsy or intermittent.  It is straight from God's heart and it will feel like nothing else we've ever known!  I have made some big blunders in my life.  I have had to be singled out and "scolded" or made away of my shortcomings.  Sometimes there have been an awful lot of people around me who knew about what was going on.  It's a very polarizing time as other Christians step away from you and stand around in their little circle looking in.  "But the peace of God!"  It's so wonderful I can't explain it.  I can't even understand it!  It is beyond understanding by ANYone!  And that exact peace will keep my heart (emotions) and my mind safe through Christ Jesus.  Even if everyone around me is facing inward, pecking at me, I can have peace because of Christ.  I can be forgiven . . . actually I already am!  I can be free from all fear of being vulnerable.  And I can also be assured that I will correct others correctly if I am in Christ Jesus.

I know a man who made a life changing, even life shattering, choice.  What he did was very wrong. But when he was down and his life was falling apart around him, not too many people circled the wagons around him.  A lot of people "flew off" leaving him exposed to further attacks by Satan. Others bit and pecked and made sure every single detail was made public and that he was shamed until he was almost helpless.  For a time he was paralyzed by shame and fear.  But when some Christians who knew better, got around him and supported him and watched out for him, he was able to properly make amends and turn around his life to live a great testimony to the Lord. Pecking the downed eagle did not make him better.  It wounded him more deeply.  When we are secure in our handling of others we can help bring them joy!  God has already forgiven their sin and because He can do it, so should we (with His help).

Who are you pecking on today?

Friday, March 7, 2014

How would your name be listed in the Bible?

Philippians 4  --  SECURE MIND  or  WORRY ROBS JOY

Philippians 4:2
"I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord."

Imagine what it might have been like to meet the Apostle Paul!  There are men and women in the ministry that I have great respect for and I am always excited to hear them preach or sing or maybe just to be in the same room with them.  And then imagine having your name in the Bible!  The genealogies are thought to be dry by most readers, but imagine being able to open to a certain page and say "that's ME the Apostle Paul was writing about!"

Then.............imagine if your name was in the Bible because you weren't getting along with someone.  Yikes!  Euodias and Syntyche are named in the Book of Joy as examples of not getting along with each other.  These two women will be known forever as the two women at Philippi that weren't getting along and got scolded by the Apostle Paul!

We do not know what the issue was that these two ladies were fussing over.  It could have been something they had asked him to pray with them about.  It could have been something that was causing division in the church.  We aren't given the details and don't really need to know the details to learn from them.  There are a couple of things to consider about these two women.  First, Paul knew them.  And he knew about their disagreement.  It was a pretty serious thing to get a letter from the Apostle let alone to be mentioned in a letter addressed to the whole church.  Paul sprinkles the names of individuals throughout his letters, usually to illustrate a point.  Here he has just begun the chapter expressing such warm affections to these folks and then he brings up the tiff between these two ladies and names them by name as an example of the opposite of what he wants us all to be doing.  Imagine the embarrassment and the shame to be named as an example of what NOT to do in a letter about joy.  They were from that moment on known as "those women Paul scolded."  We have all had troubles getting along with someone on some level.  And for all we know they heeded this reproof and solved their problem and got along ever after.  But they were always known for their fuss.  "Oh.  You're that Eudious" or "Hmmmm, you mean Syntyche the one who was named for causing strife in the Book of Joy?"  What a reputation to live down.

Notice too, that Paul uses the word beseech to address these two ladies.  This wasn't some sort of little unnoticed squabble they were having. "Beseech" means to implore or beg.  I don't think Paul ever thought about his letters to these churches being a part of Scripture.  That wasn't his style. But just the fact that he knew who both of these women were and that he called them by name in a letter addressed to the entire church would be humiliating under these circumstances.  Imagine if Pastor Bill wrote a letter to be read from the pulpit and said, "Oh, by the way, I am begging Missi and Nancy to get along about the offertories."  Just know that I would die and probably never be able to play an instrument again.  I never ever ever want to be the one that is named by name for being a problem.

The Bible also says "Great peace have they that love thy law and nothing shall offend them."  I don't know what "nothing" means in the Greek, but I completely understand that in the English it means NOTHING!  No thing that people say to me, no thing that people imply about me, no thing that people say about my family, NO THING shall offend me.  Our pastor in Rawlins, Wyoming is Pastor Steve Monroe.  He said "The devil cannot take your joy; you have to hand it to him."  Let that sink in a little bit.  We blame Satan for an awful lot of things and yet sometimes it is not what he is doing to us but what he is accepting from us.  We hand over our joy when we are worrying about other people's opinions of us, or when we are focused on what they are doing.  Sometimes I worry about the situation if find myself in and pretty much gift wrap my joy and deliver it to Satan himself.  If we worry, he gets the upper hand so quickly.  We must be secure in what God has us doing in our own lives at this point in time and stop looking around at others or looking down the road to our perceptions of how things should be happening to us.  If our minds are SECURELY focused on Heaven, then we will not be handing Satan our joy!  Be careful of what you are known for!