Friday, May 2, 2014

Wrapping it up

Philippians 4:9-23


Verse 9 really goes with the thought of verse 8 and caps off the list of things we re to be thinking of.  Paul, through the Holy Spirit, knows hat we need to have examples of what to do.  So he gave us verse 8 that tells us what things to think about.  And if we follow that advice "the peace of God will be on us.

Verse 10 Paul is telling this church that he appreciates their care of him as a missionary.  They have been taking care of him and praying for him.  They had another gift for him because they had been very careful and saved another gift of money for him.  It was a new idea, this being a missionary! They believed in what he was doing and wanted so badly to help him.  But they didn't have FedEx or UPS so the gift they had saved up for him took a long time to coordinate getting to him.

He is careful to point out that he is thanking them, not because he has been lacking in anything, but because he gets it all of the time!  He has learned . . . LEARNED. . . in whatsoever state he is in to be content.  There have actually been times in my life where God was teaching me to be content somewhere I did not want to in an actual state I didn't like!  When we were newlyweds and lived in Pensacola, Florida my husband worked full time and went to school full time.  I sat at home not knowing anyone in town, not having a car to go anywhere, and not knowing even one of my neighbors.  I was so lonely.  I learned to be content through that.   Later, when we moved to West Virginia and lived my in-law's for a few months I was so out of place.  I didn't feel like I belonged there and it was never God's plan to have two women under one roof like that.  I wanted to go "home."  But I also learned to love my husband in a different way and depend on him in many ways I had never imagined were possible in our fairy tale.

Verse 12 tells us that Paul knew how to be happy when he was having a feast or having a famine.  He could be comfortable in a crowd of wealthy people just the same as he could be comfortable with a beggar on the street.  We need to be able to relate to ALL people and to feel comfortable talking about the Lord to anyone we meet.  And we must do it through Christ Who strengthens us.  I cannot do alot of the things that are "expected" of me very well.  But when I ask Christ to be my strength and when I follow His lead I can accomplish ANYthing!

The next few verses Paul is describing to them that he was the very first "missionary" and what that new idea meant for them.  And this little church was the only church that sent him "support."

Verse 17 tells us to be clear of one thing . . . Paul is not writing about money because he wants any more, but because he wants to teach them the right way to operate so they can receive God's wonderful blessings.  God is keeping a record in Heaven of things we do for His honor and glory.  When we help a missionary who lives far away in a place we do not understand, we are actually helping God spread the message.  And God makes a little "deposit" into our account of things not wasted in Heaven.

Epaphraditus was a helper to Paul. Many believe he was the one who actually wrote this letter on behalf of Paul as a scribe.  He traveled to Paul and brought things from this church.  Remember they had no post office in those days!  Paul doesn't tell us what he brought or how much it was worth or what percent of each person's wealth he was receiving.  He wanted them to know that whatever it was, it was a sweet smell to God's nose that they gave to him.  You know how a sweet smell can just change the feeling of a room or an occasion?  Our prayers and gifts to God smell sweet to Him.  What I do for Christ is noticed in Heaven with a wonderful smell better than any candle or potpourri on earth!

Then Paul wraps up this letter with some personal messages.  He tells them of Christians in the household of Caeasar, the king who persecuted him so much!  He sends greetings and messages back and forth . . . it is a very personal and "private" part of this letter, yet God includes it for us.  It is heartwarming and shows us a level of personal relationships that is important throughout the Bible.  Our relationships with God and with each other are so very important to Him!

And then he closes.  I wish for you the same thing he wised for these people . . . that the matchless grace of Jesus Christ our Lord be with all of them.  This is my wish for you as well.  I pray that you learn to have the real joy Christ has made available for you.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Keep On The Sunny Side!

Philippians -- the Book of Joy

Philippians 4:8  "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report: if there be an virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

I have been anxiously awaiting getting to this verse in our study!  This is one of my favorite verses in Philippians and perhaps the whole Bible.  It might look like just another list of do's and don't's but it is RICH!

Paul has been talking about how to have this secure mind.  He besought his yokefellow to "help" others. Then he made a very clear point of telling them to rejoice...always.  His instructions not to fret about things came with the redirection to pray.  He described not just any prayer but a prayer of supplication (really begging God and mentioning it over and over) and being thankful.  We are to be thankful for whatever comes about, whatever answer we receive.  He does instruct us to "let our requests be made known unto God" which has the idea of asking Him for exactly what it is we want.

God has preserved every word in the Bible.  He inspired the writers and He guided the translators. Every word matters and is used for a specific purpose.  So let's look at this list carefully and glean everything we can from it.  His final instruction about how to have a secure mind is a progressive list. It starts with a broad term and gets progressively more specific.  We MUST govern our thoughts and this is a formula, if you will, for us to follow.  Start at the top and if your thoughts meet the first qualification, move to the next one.  If you have a thought that can pass every part of this list or test then you may think on it.  When you find a description that your thoughts cannot "pass" you will understand how to change your thoughts and maintain your secure mind.

Whatsoever things are . . .

True -- the first thing we should check is whether a thing is truthful or not.  The most direct way to discern if your thoughts meet this checkpoint is to weed out the parts you know for a fact from the parts you assume, or "guess", or just heard.  You cannot say "Well, Suzie Q said..." or "then I heard...."  The very first step is to stop and figure out exactly what you know for a fact.  Things are either truth or not truth and details you don't know for sure have to go into the not truth category for now.

Honest -- look a little closer and determine if there is any part of your thought or issue that is honest.  This is where you strip away opinions.  Do not let your opinion of someone lead your thoughts. You cannot assume or connect the dots here.  You can see that we are whittling alot away from most of our thoughts just in these first two steps.

Just -- Justice is "according to the law."  God's law is the highest so use that as your measuring mark at this step.  Let's say the situation you are fretting over involves something like "she didn't speak to me." Consider "was she required by any verse in the Bible to do so?  There are many things that we should do or that we would like others to do, but ask yourself if any rules have been broken.

Pure -- Is the situation without prejudgment?  Are you looking at things with a certain bent?  Are you demanding your own personal expectations be met or some personal "script" of what you think others should say and do be followed?  Another way to hold the lens of purity in our thoughts is to discern "would Christ approve of this thought?"  Sometimes we let our minds wander and we don't realize how crooked and naughty we are being.

Lovely -- Does your thought look pretty?  Or is this a dark thought that you would be ashamed to have Jesus repeat out loud?  Are you looking for the loveliness in others or just waiting to point out their sins.  Is is something that everyone would want to look at or is it ugly?

Are of Good Report -- Do you want to hear the bad things about people?  Do you ever dwell on the failures of others.  There is an old quartet song "Keep On The Sunny Side" and it makes me think of choosing to look for the positive side of everything.  We all know people who are like Eoyore and "live in the gloomy place."  We all remember Tigger, too, right?  When my daughter was little and I woke her up for the day I would ask her if she wanted to be Tigger or Eoyore.  She learned to choose Tigger much more often because it is the good choice.

So, how is your little thought doing?  Is it passing the test?  Is it ok to keep your mind going in this direction?  Many times our thoughts will fail the first or second test.  And if we are honest in our hearts, the things that cause us to worry and fret almost never make it through this whole list of tests.  So, now what?  If you have examined your thought from every angle listed above then what?

Here comes another IF / THEN section!  IF there be . . .

Any Virtue -- Look at your situation or thought and determine if there what is the good part of it.  Virtues are the good character traits we have.  It's definitely not about your feelings anymore.  It's about deciding if there are things that will build you up and make you stronger.  It's about godly character.  At this point, focus yourself on the uprightness.  Choose to think about how this person or situation follows the pattern of Christ.

Any PRAISE -- Simple.  The thought or situation should not be anything that drags your heart down.  Disappointing this do not have praise as a part of them.  The words of others toward you may be meant as hurtful but you can find a way to turn them around and see the good side of it. Think about the part that deserves to be applauded.

It's all a choice.  Having a secure mind is a choice.  You either choose to worry and fret or you choose to rest in the Lord.  Use this list as a filtration system to sift through your thoughts and get the imaginary ghosts out.  When you get your thoughts broken down to the real issue you will have much more peace.  Things won't disturb you and gnaw at you anymore.  But we must CHOOSE to use this formula each and every time.

People ask me "How are you?" as a greeting all day long.  I usually answer them "Fabulous!"  When I get that quizzical look I just let them know "I choose."  I get caught in the snare of worry and fret and trying to figure out other people.  But I choose to catch myself and pick the sunny side.  "Great peace have they that love Thy law, and NOTHING shall offend them."  You must allow things to get you down.  Remember "The Devil cannot steal your joy . . . you have to hand it to him."  The joy of the Lord is my strength!

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!

Friday, February 28, 2014

The two sides of everything

THE SECURE MIND -- or Worry Robs Joy

Philippians 4

"Therefore my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved."

What's the "therefore" there for?  It is often the wrapping up of a thought in previous verses.  Paul has just wrapped up a section of his letter talking about having a spiritual mind and keeping our focus on Heaven.  He has just been writing with many comparisons:  Paul had so many things to feel good and confident about yet he counted them as wasteful (vs 2-7), he had put off the righteousness he had earned through the Law and turned to righteousness through faith (vs 8-9), he knew that no matter how hard he tried or how much he grew spiritually he would never be everything that God wanted him to be (vs 10-), and he reminded the church that some who say they are followers of God are really focused on the wrong things (vs 17-19).  In verses 20-21 he gives a clear contrast about how we will be changed into the image of God when we are with Him.

So....because of all those things, he tells them to stand fast in the Lord.  The Lord God never ever changes.  We can count on Him being the same yesterday, today and forever.  In chapter 3, Paul is going back and forth showing the one side of things and then the other.  He wants to clearly show what is undesirable compared to what is spiritual.  Showing the opposite extremes is a very effective method of teaching.  It helps us figure out what must be separated out in order to have the spiritual mind we are desiring.  It helps us create a mental picture of what the negative side "looks like" and what the desirable side "looks like."  Now that he has made it crystal clear to us what a spiritual mind looks like, he is going to give us further instruction on how to become that.

Also notice that Paul refers to the church in Philippi two times in the same verse as "my dearly beloved."  This reinforces how well he knew this group of people.  He wasn't just randomly writing a lesson, but he was personally giving instruction in a manner that he knew these specific people would understand and relate to. Christian love is very unique!  And he says he longs for them.  That gives me the impression that he did not just miss them and think about them, but that his heart thought about them all the time and felt incomplete without them.  To say "longed for" gives the ideal of a very deep, aching desire.  He calls them his joy and his crown.  Think back to the beginning of this church.  Paul must have told everyone how this church was begun with a prison sentence (a horrible negative picture) but had become an entire church serving God (a wonderful spiritual picture).  Like the feeling a new mother gets when she is telling the story about how awful her labor was and then shows off her beautiful new baby.  It is a very deep emotion.  "His crown" refers to the church as his greatest accomplishment.  We know Paul did not have pride in a sinful way, but he has this one very clear example of how ugly and miserable things were and then a "look at them now" sort of illustration!

"Stand fast" is a military term.  Picture the old hand-to-hand combat of early times.  I imagine a  row of soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder with their armor all polished and their shield held tightly together in an impenetrable wall of defense.  They are strong.  They are ready.  They are united.  They are undefeatable!  Knowing that we are soldiers in the Lord's army should give us security!  It should give us confidence to move forward and fight with all our might because we KNOW we will be triumphant.  This is the difference between a little band of rag-tag farmers with pitchforks and hammers coming out to do battle compared to the well organized and well trained forces stepping up to the battle lines in their shining coats of armour and all of their various weapons at the ready to slaughter the enemy.  In my mental picture, the army KNOWS it is going to overcome the band of farmers and fights with reckless abandon and confidence.  The unprepared farmers are fighting with all their might but in desperation.

We are like that polished army.  They enemy knows we have many different kinds of weapons at our disposal. He comes at us from every different angle and yet, no matter what he tries, we just pull out another sword or another axe and drive right across the battlefield.

In the movies you see the little group of fighting farmers trying to muster up their courage and then move forward in a defensive position.  But the mighty army has all confidence in themselves and in their brothers, so they are able to stride forward in the attack and hack their way to victory.  While they both have the same goal in mind, the well-trained, well-equipped, well-organized army most likely to succeed!

Having our minds completely set in God will give us the confidence we need to face the battles of this world.  Sometimes it is just one vicious attack after another all day long from the Enemy.  Other days I get exhausted from straining to be ready for his sneaky attacks.  But either way, I can be confident that I will be standing with the Overcomer when it is over.  Fight non, my dear ones, fight on!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Keep the focus where it belongs

Philippians 3:16-21


"Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.  Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.  (for many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:  Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)  for our conversation is in Heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:  Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able  even to subdue all things unto Himself." 

In the verses just before our passage today, Paul was making it clear that he is still chasing after or desperately seeking spiritual perfection and maturity.  No matter how much people praised him and built him up, he kept his focus on becoming more and more like Christ.  He did not stop and rest in his spiritual development, but kept learning, kept seeking God's guidance, kept bringing others along beside him.  As much as he could have bragged about his "accomplishments" and prestige before his salvation, he could have been focused on how much he had given up and how much he had changed and how spiritual he was now.  He had spent three years ALONE with God being taught by the very Master of the whole plan!  And yet, he always recognized the others with him and in the churches who were mature and who were following Christ correctly.  He shared the "spotlight."

And verse 15 is so very important.  He puts the theme of this whole chapter into that verse by saying, "let all of us that are mature keep this common focus as our goal; and if you have a different goal, God Himself will show you that this is the right way to think."

Verse 16 says, "whereto we have already attained..."  This is not contradicting the verses that come before it.  Remember that attained is referring to the level of maturity that has been reached by the people he is writing to.  Some of them were deacons, teachers, and pastors who had grown by instruction.  Some of them were tent makers, merchants, and women who had grown by receiving instruction at church from hearing the Word of God preached and taught.  They were all the same to him when he referred to their spiritual maturity.  It didn't matter HOW they had learned and grown but it mattered THAT they had learned and grown.  Each one of us has come from a different place and traveled a different path, but if we have the same goal (being more and more and more like Christ) then we are all the same.  We must understand that we all have much more to learn and so much more to accomplish for God!  We will have unity in this way only.

Verse 17 encourages the church to mark the people that are examples of this like-mindedness and follow them.  First of all, that means we have to understand where we are headed and what the spiritual mind looks like.  Then we are to notice those who are living this way.  We are clearly being told here to judge and evaluate others with the intention of qualifying them.  We have all had that special someone come across our paths who we could clearly recognize was following God with a pure heart and have wanted to be like them.  Following someone's example is not the same as "worshiping" them.  We need to look for examples.

There are false teachers and fake leaders out there.  It saddens me to tell you this just like it saddened Paul to remind the church of this.  There are people who just serve themselves.  They are driven by "their belly" or the benefits they can get.  Sometimes pastor's (and their wives) can get off focus and think they need to have the very nicest house and cars and clothes "because they are leading God's children and should set the example."  There are those "whose glory is their shame" meaning they brag and tell about how awful they were without ever shifting the focus to how God has changed them.  Have you ever heard someone who just told over and over what a rotten, vile sinner they were and got people's attention by shocking them with descriptions of their "old life."  I've heard of evangelists who were attached to the mob and had killed people and went to prison where they found the Lord.  If all they focus on is how terrible a sinner they were and do not talk about the new creature they have become, they are just getting famous for things they should be ashamed of.  Some Christians have a gruesome tale about where God saved them from, but the story should never focus on that.  It should focus on the change the Savior has brought them.  They mind, or are focused on, earthly things not the spiritual things.

In verse 20 the word "conversation" really means citizenship.  "This world is not my home / I'm just a-passinng through . . . and I can't feel at home / in this world anymore."  Have you ever met someone who was not born in the US but has come here to live?  Usually their dress is different, their speech is different, the terms and words they use are different, and the way they look at everything is different from those of us who have grown up American.  As Christians we should be different from the world because this is not our natural home.  We don't need to draw extra attention because we are so weird that no one wants to be near us, but we should be unique.  There is a limit to how low of a neckline I will wear and the ladies I work with at the dress shop learned that right away.  I would try on a dress, and sure, it was very flattering, but the neckline was too low for me and I would refuse to buy it.  At first this confused them, but now they understand it is my personal rule because I am a Christian and I just will not make exceptions.  Our lifestyle should be different.  We don't have to be "old fashioned fuddey-duddies" but we should be different.  Dressing modestly does not have to mean it cannot be fashionable or up-to-date.  Having a popular hairstyle is not wrong.  Living very nicely in a beautiful home and having an expensive car are not sins.  But there should still be "something" about us that is just different enough for the world to notice.

Verse 21 talks about the greatest reward for having this spiritual mind.  Christ Jesus will change our vile old bodies and make us like His glorious body.  He will take away our diseases, our hurts, our weaknesses, our imperfections and make us just like Him!  And He is the One who is able to do it!  He has proven He is able by subduing all things to Himself.  Would you like to step outside and stop the wind today?  He could do that.  He is the only One who can make us whole, so we must keep our mind on Him and His plan in order to keep the things of this world from robbing our joy.

Friday, February 14, 2014


Happy Valentine's Day!  The day of roses, chocolate, cards, candlelight dinners and LOVE.  If you know me at all, you know that my husband and I have been married 27 years and are very much in love. I have friends who don't have sweethearts and pretty much dread this day.  Every single one of us has a very special Sweetheart, though, and I'd like to focus on Him today.

I Corinthians 13 is called the Love Chapter.  Song of Solomon is very descriptive about a bridegroom and his bride on their wedding night.  The historical books of the Old Testament are full of accounts that tell of romance, love, and marriage. The prophetic books and many of the illustrations used in the New Testament present Christ as a bridegroom and the church as His bride anxiously awaiting their wedding day.  As Christians, or "little Christs," we look to His example of loving the sinner but hating the sin as we interact with the wold in our day-to-day lives.  We're going to look at the traditional Love Chapter today, but let's not focus on who we are loving or even the romantic relationships we have.  Let's just examine the Scripture and let it speak to our hearts about how we are loving others in every relationship we have.  Let's look at the chapter and I will share some of my thoughts on how to apply these verses to our hearts.

I Corinthians 13

          "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity,                                 I am become as a sounding brass of a tinkling cymbal."  

Even if I am able to impress you with the eloquent words I can speak or the spiritual sound of my talk, if I do not have love in my heart I will sound like a non-stop, clanging dinner bell or a continuous little Teacher Bell......both of which have a purpose but will begin to get on your nerves and drive you crazy with their emptiness.

          "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and 
            all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I can remove mountains,
            and have not charity, I am nothing."  

Even if I have great discernment and can teach others and help them understand things, and though I have so much faith that others think I can surely perform miracles, but have not charity what good does any of that do me.  I am empty.

          "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my
            body to be burned and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."   

No matter how much I sacrifice and serve others, no matter if I work myself to death for others, if I do not have real charity, it does me absolutely no good and I am not going to be rewarded.

Charity . . .   

--suffereth long                      will suffer for a long time without complaining
--and is kind                           do we treat the ones we love with the same kindness we                                                              give to strangers?
--envieth not                          is not concerned with what others have now or get
--vaunteth not itself                 does not put itself ahead of others, cocky
--is not puffed up                    is not proud or vain

--doth not behave itself unseemly      is not drawing attention to itself, rude
--seeketh not her own              is not seeking benefit for self, selfish
--is not easily provoked            is not easily angered
--thinketh no evil                     does not jump to negative conclusions

--rejoiceth not in iniquity          is not happy to see others fail or sin
--rejoiceth in the truth              is happy and content with the facts

--beareth all things                   does not consider itself a martyr
--believeth all things                 does not create drama
--hopeth all things                    looks for the "sunny side"
--endureth all things                 takes things as they come for as long as needed

--charity never faileth               never gives up

          "Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they
             shall cease, whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away."

When I look at this short list I see the things of man being temporary.  Prophecies can mean teachings, tongues can mean languages, knowledge can mean knowledge.  So as time goes by, or even just as we get older, we start to see the discoveries of man being surpassed.  We see languages disappear and the use of a "universal language" so communication is easier.  We see people forgetting what they what they know, whether by age related conditions or by choice.

            "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is
              perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away."

We only know as much as our human brains can handle at a time.  Once we get used to some new technology THEN something new is developed and becomes available.  We can understand only so much about the Bible, about other people, about anything;  but when Christ comes back for us we will have full knowledge.  There will be complete understanding of all the "why's" and of all the things God has been trying to teach us.

             "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I 
                thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish

Children "think" they are so smart.  But children talk like children, and perceive things as a child, and go about things in a childish way.  But when someone starts to mature or has a more intelligent grasp on things, they leave the old things behind and reach forward to better themselves.

               "For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now 
                 I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."

We do not have all the facts here on earth; the whole picture is not clear to us.  But when we are with God we have a full understanding and others will have a full understanding of me!

                "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the 
                  greatest of these is charity."

In this life we have our faith in God, we can always hope for tomorrow, and we will always find love.  But the very greatest thing of all is LOVE!  Love conquers all!  If you really love someone you spiritual faith will not always help you act right toward them.  You can always be looking off to tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. But the greatest thing about love is that it is the greatest thing. It can endure and stand the tests and will prove itself over and over again!

Friday, January 24, 2014

We are back!

Philippians -- The Book of Joy

(Welcome back!  We took some time off for the holidays, but we are back in the swing of things again.)

Philippians chapter one was titled "The Single Mind" or "Circumstances Can Rob Your Joy."  When we began this study we talked quite a bit about who this man Paul was and who this church at Philippi was.  Paul was an apostle . . . converted and then taken aside and taught by Christ Himself before being sent out to minister.  He had a frightening reputation before his conversion.  He was the poster child for being the perfect zealous Jewish soldier fighting against this new system of worship called Christianity. But once he gave his life to God, he completely changed!  His new life in Christ was so opposite of his life before that he had to choose one or the other.  He could not ride the fence and go back and forth between the two.  He had to pick one.  None of us has control over our circumstances and that makes circumstances the biggest distractor in our lives.  We can have everything in order and be toodling right along serving God and POW!!!! something out of our control jumps up and lands right in the path of our good intentions.  Paul began this letter to his beloved church by encouraging them to keep their eyes on Christ and on the prize so that circumstances don't get us off track.

He taught them that discernment . . . being able to see through things for what they really are . . . is a mark of maturity.  When something out of our control plops itself in our path we have to look at it and decide how important it is, how much energy is deserves, and how long we're going to stand there before walking around it.  Keep your eyes on the prize.  Paul told the church that every hard and bad thing that had happened to him had happened for the furtherance of the gospel.  Prison?  Losing friends?  Losing his job?  Losing his status?  Yes.  If he focused on any one of these circumstances he would surely have lost his motivation and his zeal for spreading the gospel.  Our circumstances can rob out joy if we do not keep a Single Mind about what our life is really all about.

Chapter two was titled "The Submissive Mind" or "People Can Rob Your Joy."  If we substitute the word humility for submissive we get a really clear picture of what Paul was teaching here.  He had status and reputation and power and fame and all that goes along with it before.  Now he had taken on the spread of the gospel as his one ambition in life.  Paul no longer sought attention based on his status.  He no longer took credit for what his accomplishments.  He no longer worked at being the biggest personality in the room.  He had humility and a different focus.  He had submitted his life to Christ and taken on the purpose of spreading the gospel.  Christ was all that mattered to him.  He didn't need recognition or praise.  He had changed his outlook from being "it's all about me" to "it's all about Christ."  If Christ, the Prince of Heaven, loved us so much to give up His throne and power and position in order to become a servant of lowly fishermen turned evangelists, then who was Paul . . . or ANY of us . . . that he should seek any glory for himself?  People probably threw his past up into his face all the time.  Others probably lauded him and tried to make him a celebrity.  He did not let people rob his joy.  He had pure joy from keeping Christ in the place of honor and considering himself the lowliest servant.

Chapter three teaches us to have a Spiritual Mind.  The opposite of spiritual is earthly.  It is not hard to understand that shifting your focus away from the spiritual things will settle them on earthly things.  Earthly things break and crumble and disappear.  The Jewish people were learning to shift their focus away from the Law and the tedious manner of life they were used to and shift it to Grace where there is freedom.  They were so used to being conscious of every little thing in their day to day lives . . . how far they walked on certain days, who they spoke to, which food they ate on certain days.  There were over 800 laws that they had to be conscientious of or be GUILTY of the whole Law.  The penalties in those days could be as severe as stoning for some offenses!  Talk about pressure!  Some of these people were old and had lived their entire lives being that tedious in their every action.  That must have been hard for them to let go of.  But if they did not change their focus and concentrate on the spiritual things, all kinds of earthly things could get them frustrated and discouraged.  Just like them we need to keep in the very front of our minds exactly what we are striving for in Christ.

So, we are done with the holidays.  We are back on track with our Bible study. It brings joy to my heart to be doing this study and I pray that it encourages you as well!