Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Who Are You "Likeminded" With?

Yes, I realize that the title for today's blog is grammatically incorrect...oh well! The question, though, is one that we all need to consider, and today's passage, Philippians 2:19-24, gives us some great food for thought.

A few things pop into my mind as I read through the passage, the first being an overwhelming sense that Paul continually cared more about others than himself. Just knowing about all the trials Paul faced for the cause of spreading the Gospel of Christ shows that he cared about others...especially the spiritual state of others. He was shipwrecked, stoned and left for dead, bitten by vipers, and arrested over and over...all for his faith in Jesus Christ! How often do we get depressed or upset because someone even says something that makes us "feel" bad or embarrassed about our faith? Paul never lost the focus, or the "why," of what he did. Even as he sat in chains here in Philippians 2:19, awaiting the verdict of his trial, he says that he trusts in the Lord that he will be able to send Timothy to them soon to tell of his verdict, but that he, Paul, may be encouraged when he know their state. He's concerned for the church over himself.

He shares in the next few verses about how "there is no one likeminded who will care for your (the church's) state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus." NKJV This resonates with my spirit today as I am as frustrated as everyone else about the state of our country, especially over the "bailout" news of the past days. I get so tired of hearing people go on and on about the country's woes, the financial turmoil, the bickering between parties and so on. I get even more frustrated when Christians allow their life's focus and worries to be consumed by these fleeting things, while there seems to be such a lack of true concern over things of Christ! I know, I'm a preacher, I'm "supposed" to be worried about souls...but the last time I checked the never-changing Word of God, we, as Christians, are ALL ministers of the Gospel!

Paul's emphasis throughout this passage is more of a positive message, attesting to Timothy's strong character and willingness to serve Christ. I'm not trying to change the text to fit my "agenda," but God's Word speaks to us, I'm convinced, at different times and stages of our lives. His Word has been speaking to me lately in a way that has challenged me to keep my focus "not on things of this earth, but on things above," as Paul wrote in Colossians 3:2.

May we all consider today whom we are "likeminded" with. Not that we shouldn't care about things happening in our world right now, but may we all strive to be most likeminded with Christ. There is a Contemporary Christian song out right now by Brandon Heath called "Give Me Your Eyes," and the chorus says:
"Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the broken hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me your heart for the once forgotten"

A great challenge for us today...to see as the Apostle Paul saw, and even moreso as our Lord Jesus Christ sees.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Substitute Teachers and Sacrifices

Today I'm going through Philippians 2:12-18, and am reminded of a situation Annette (my beautiful bride of nearly 15 years) ran into a few days ago. It really took me back, too, to the "good ole days" of being in school. Annette, as many of you may know, is a substitute teacher here in our area. She enjoys doing this, especially, since she can pretty much pick what days she wants to or can work. Scheduling wise, it works out great, and she also doesn't have the everyday stresses such as Lesson Planning to worry about. The downside, as any of us who remember having subs in school can attest to, is that some days, the kids see a substitute and it's like a switch is flicked and all mayhem ensues.

You can observe a child on a regular day with their regular teacher and think that they are an absolute angel, but when the sub is in the house...you get the point. Paul, here in verse 12, offers some encouragement to the Philippian church, reminding them that while he was with them they "have always obeyed." But he goes on to instruct them that they need to step up and live their obedience to Christ "now much more in my absence." I remember on some occasions as the teacher would let us know ahead of time that they would be gone the following day, and that they expected us to behave very well for the substitute. Paul is trying to get the church to continue to spread their wings and fly, even (or especially) in his absence. Obeying is easy in the presence of those we respect (or at least have a healthy fear of), but it's a challenge to maintain that obedience when left to ourselves many times.

Paul next shares that believers need to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" NASB...a statement that has been many times since its writing. Paul is not telling us to work for our salvation, but rather, to work it out for the church and the world to see. By so doing this, we will be the light he speaks of in verse 15.

Verse 14 offers us one of those key verses that we love to throw around (especially if you have children or work with youth as I do), as he says to "do all things without grumbling or disputing (complaining)." NASB I just read a little story yesterday where a dad offered to help his son with his paper route, as long as the son didn't complain. But if the son complained, he was on his own. Over time, the little boy came to appreciate and even thank the Lord for his bundle of papers that he would find in the driveway each afternoon. How often do I complain about something in my life, only to find that God teaches me an incredible lesson through the trial soon thereafter?

Paul ends this passage by encouraging the Believers to hold tight to the word of life, to realize that if we are running in Christ, we are surely not running in vain. He continues that we need to rejoice even as we may be being used as a sacrifice, our sacrifice and service may be used to benefit the Body.

I take from this today that I need to remember that my salvation story is a process, that it is God who is at work in me, that I need not complain or grumble, and that my sacrifice or pain may very well be a thing that carries another believer along in their journey.

Please be praying for our family as we complete our Adoption Training tomorrow and will soon be actively searching for the child/children that God wants to be part of our family.

Have a blessed weekend!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Attitude, Obedience, Name and Action

Philippians 2:5-11...in my Ryrie, New American Standard Bible (NASB), this passage is entitled "The Epitome of Humility." The title of today's blog points out 4 key words that I encounter as I study the passage.

First, there's an Attitude. I love football, and this past Sunday I spent my birthday watching the entire Redskins game (2-1!!!), enjoying the overall aspect of the game. But more and more, I find myself fed up with the pathetic attitudes of these incredible athletes (and college isn't much better!). These guys are pushed and puffed up by coaches, scouts, media, and the fans to a point where it is nearly impossible for them to carry an attitude of humility. But Jesus, God in human form, "did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men...He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" Philippians 2:6-8 NASB. I need to model Christ Himself much more in my life, and I need to model the lives of "manly men" less, striving to be humble.

Secondly, there is the point of Obedience. Looking back over my life, there is a pattern that was formed in my childhood of my dad trying to teach me to be obedient. Now, physically, I have always been slow (those who know me may also say mentally), but when it came time to learn lessons from dad, I was usually even slower! But, over time (and with some "encouragement" from dad), I did indeed learn to be obedient. Spiritually speaking, I can look back over my life in Christ and see the same pattern. But, over time (and with some "encouragement" from Dad) I can learn to be obedient. What an example we've been given as He was obedient to the Father, obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross!

Thirdly, there is a Name. Not just any name, but the "name which is above every name" NASB. A name is something that many people take very seriously. Right now, there are a few people close to us who are expecting, and its neat to hear them explain why they choose the names they do for their babies. As for Annette and I, since we have chosen adoption, we haven't had to do that, but I've always loved that I was named after my two grandfathers. Here, in verses 9-10, we are told that the name of Jesus is part of to process for everyone knowing who He is eventually. "That at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth."

His name will be called out, every knee will bow, and then, lastly, the Action of "every tongue confessing" that Jesus Christ is Lord will take place. Now, not just acknowledging that Jesus Christ is Lord will save "everyone." Martin Luther said that "Anyone can say that Jesus Christ is Lord, but not everyone can say 'Jesus Christ is my Lord."

Today, let's check our Attitude, making it the humble attitude of Christ. Let's be sure we are being Obedient to His Word. Let's share the Name of Christ in word and deed with those we come in contact with. And let's have the Action required by Him, to not just acknowledge He is Christ, but to acknowledge and share that He is my (our your) Christ.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Early Bird...

This morning was indeed an early morning, but it is one of my favorite days of the year. See You At The Pole, a national event that encourages students to meet around their schools' flagpole to pray, is today. I, along with our Senior Pastor, Terry, were at one of the local high schools at 6:50 am praying with about 15 students and 10 or so adults. The sunrise was beautiful, and as we stood there singing Holy Is The Lord (by Chris Tomlin), it was truly a joy.

As a Youth Pastor, one of the things that "makes my joy complete" (Philippians 2:2) is seeing glimpses of students who claim to be Christians actually step up in public and take a stand for Him. I remind our Students often that they can fool me, they can fool their parents, and they can fool their friends, but they will NEVER be able to fool God, especially when it comes to their relationship with Him.

Every Sunday morning, as I have the privilege of leading our Praise & Worship time, I look out at the faces and wonder how many even have a clue as to what they are doing. I find that with our Youth (and Adults) there are many who want to appear to look a certain way in front of their "church" associates, but when there is an opportunity to see them in their true element, their walk does not match their talk. That is, they are very different people in their "real lives" than they are in their "church" lives. There are times when I meet someone who is a co-worker of one of our members/attenders, and there's always that moment of anxiety when they say "oh yeah, I work with someone from your church." You never know what the next sentence about that person is going to be, but that next statement can tell you a LOT about the church goer's life outside of the church.

Today, the challenge to myself (and to you, the reader) is to evaluate my (or your) life in every area. To do a self-check and see if I am of the "same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose" as Paul speaks of in Philippians 2:1-4.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Spider Webs and Christians

I'm posting from home today, in between dozing off and watching some decent classic t.v. (In The Heat of The Night circa 1988 just went off) after my surgery yesterday. Everything went well, and expect to be two-hand typing by the week's end! For now, though, the right hand has it, and I'm finishing up Philippians 1.

For the past week or so, we keep finding small spider webs in our van. No spiders yet, but just one or two small webs each day...we're going to vacuum and spray tomorrow. If you know Annette, and her immense dislike of spiders, it should tell you that this really isn't a big deal, the webs are more an annoyance than anything else. We've all walked into webs at some point and know how nasty and annoying they can be, but if you study a bit about how the spiders use their webs, it's pretty neat.

There's an Ethiopian Proverb that says: "When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion." Paul, here at the end of Chapter 1, is encouraging the church to work in unity in the same way that a spider web works. The annoying small webs found in our van are not strong enough to capture or maintain anything larger than a common fly. But, if many spider webs are built together and used in conjunction to capture one main objective, then they have some real strength! Paul is telling the church at Philippi to work together, to unite their strength and work together in order to be a strong testimony for Christ. He states that he wants their conduct to be worthy of the Gospel of Christ, and to bind them together with "one mind."

Paul, and the early believers, faced the difficult task of spreading the Gospel to people who didn't really want to listen...sound familiar? We, as the Church today, face the same task that he faced 2,000 years ago, and we must work together as believers to stand strong, to be that testimony of the Gospel to those we are trying to reach. We must unite our webs in order to bind the lion!


Monday, September 22, 2008

Carpal Tunnel, and "What If?"

Today I am still going through this same passage, Philippians 19-26. For several days now I have been reading these verses over and over, and still, Paul's statements continue to speak to me, which I'm sure he would think is a good thing.

This morning, I am sitting at home having just a cup of coffee, waiting for 10:00 am to get here. Today is the day I am having Carpal Tunnel surgery done on my left hand (had the right one done in January), and I'm not really anxious or worried about the procedure, having been through it just months ago. I'm not, however, looking forward to the next few days of having to use my right hand to do everything...I'm a lefty! So, Annette and Brian may come up with some pretty amusing phone pics to post of me trying to eat with my right hand (I think Annette is planning for spaghetti this evening). The remainder of today and tomorrow, when I'm just laying around, chillin', ringing my "service bell" to ask Annette to wait on me hand and foot (she thinks that is normal...ha ha), I will have some extra "thinking" time on my hands, or "hand." With this extra time, combined with all the added wisdom I've picked up since turning 38 yesterday, and some pretty good pain medicine, I'm looking forward to writing some very philosophical thoughts down! Really, though, as I remember back to this same procedure in January, I recall the admin folks at the Ortho Center reading over all of the "possible" things that could happen...loss of use of limb, loss of limb, incontinence (just seeing if you're reading!), or even death. Now I'm not a nervous wreck over going this morning, but a few thoughts have raced through my mind, the "what ifs," if you will.

I absolutely love living, I love my wife and son, I'm looking forward to seeing what child/children God sees fit to add to our family through adoption, and I love serving Him at MDBC. So, do I want to leave? I can relate to Paul's thought process here, as he shares that he is torn between dieing and going to spend eternity with Christ in Heaven starting right now, which is "far better," and remaining here to continue living this earthly life, having a part in seeing others come to know and grow in Him.

So, like Paul, I can say this morning that if the Lord sees to have me remain, I will continue to serve Him, and I will strive to help those whom I Shepherd progress in their walks with Him. Thanks in advance for your prayers for me this morning (and for Annette having to deal with me post-op...she's and AWESOME nurse!).


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Can I Really Say This?

Today's passage is partially another glance at Thursdays. Philippians 1:19-26 is one of the most poignant passages that I find in all of Scripture. Paul shares that he knows that rejoicing in Christ for using the sharing of the Gospel by whoever may share it will certainly "turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. (NKJV)"

Paul goes on to share that he has an "earnest expectation and hope" (NKJV) that he will not be ashamed because of how he shares this Gospel, but that instead, Christ will be magnified in his life or in his death. WOW!! As if the fact that he so desperately wanted God to use him whether it be while he lived or in his death, he continues with one of the most powerful statements I can imagine being said: "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (NKJV) Did we catch that? Paul was so focused on what he was doing to further the Gospel that he no longer held the life he lived in this world in a higher regard than the eternal life he knew was to come.

Herein lies the challenge for me today...can I really say (and MEAN it) that for me to live, as I am living, my entire life's focus is Christ? And can I say (and MEAN it) that to die is to truly live? At least I know about me, that it is easy some days to verbally proclaim that I am okay with whether or not God decides to make today my last on this earth. BUT (everybody say "that's a big 'ole but!"), as I closely consider where I am in Christ, I am challenged with how my life has affected the furtherance of the Gospel, and also, how my death might do the same.

These thoughts from Paul help to motivate me every time I read them. To constantly review my life, every aspect, and change those things that need to be brought in line with where Christ is calling me to live. He is in control, He knows the number of days appointed for me, and He is the One who draws me and keeps me in Him. May we all be challenged today to have this attitude in regards to this day: "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (NKJV)


Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Greater Good

Today I'm reading over Philippians 1:12-21, which has always been a passage that interests me. Specifically, the idea that peaks my interest (and down deep inside, my confusion) is Paul sharing about how some "are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will," and then in verse 18 he shares, "What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice. NASB"

This idea of the "greater good" principle, found in verse 12, confuses and frustrates me often times on a personal, honest level. As I enjoy listening, watching and studying other Preachers, I find it hard, on one hand, to understand how God is so open to His name being preached that men and women who are found out to be involved in things that are blatently against all that He is are still used to further the Gospel. Though, even as I type this, I am round-house kicked to the head by the Spirit pointing out that in my life, there are many times when I am leading Worship or teaching when my daily walk is not where it should be. OUCH! There is great accountability on both hands, and this serves as a great warning and reminder to me as I strive to be used by God.

May I (and we, for those reading this who are Christ followers) desire to be those of whom Paul speaks in verse 16, who preach Christ "out of love."


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Philippians 1 and Facebook...

I am beginning my "blog life" today, September 17, and will be trying to blog about my quiet time each morning. This should serve as a kind of "techno accountability" for me, which I can definitely use! So, if you are extremely bored and decide to check up on me daily, PLEASE feel free to drop a note about what you read or if I miss days, ask "WHAT UP PJ (this is what the Youth call me)?!?! I have chosen to go through the book of Philippians first, commenting on each passage.

Today I'm looking at Chapter 1:1-11. Paul and Timothy are sharing about remembering, praying and rejoicing for the church in Philppi, a church that they had helped begin. As I read what they are saying, and the emotion behind it, I think I can catch at least a glimpse of what they are feeling. Now I've never started a church, but I have had the privilege of serving in a church that has grown beyond what it was while I served there. I have been part of Student Ministries that have (dare I use the term) evolved beyond what they were while I was the Shepherd.

So what does this bit of babbling have to do with the passage? I'm glad you asked. Over the past month or so I have begun using Facebook (wow, I'm so "hip and in touch!"). I've even gotten Annette to start using it...okay, so I set her page up and then told her she was on Facebook! She begrudgingly started "peeking" at it here and there, and just last night was really starting to get into it pretty well (though she will probably not admit to it!). Anywho...it has been neat to re-connect to friends from high school, college and especially friends in Christ from our stops over the past eight years. There is a feeling of anxiety that comes over me as I check out someone's Facebook from the past, especially one of our former students. The anxiety has to do with catching a glimpse of who these young people have grown up to be so far in their lives. Some are disappointing as there are obvious lacks of morals discovered by just reading their posts/responses. But more often than not, the anxiety turns to a feeling of encouragement as I find former youth who are now living Godly lives. These are times that I "bank" in my "why am I doing this ministry thing?" (other than the whole calling thing, that is!).

Those times of encouragement, I think, bring about the same emotions that Paul & Timothy are discussing here in Philippians 1:1-11. A feeling of remembering, praying and rejoicing for our friend from yesterday and years ago. Don't mistake what I'm saying...I (we, Annette & I) still pray, especially, for those who we fear are not walking with Christ, but our encouragement is built as we remember, pray for and rejoice for those who we know are trying to live a Godly life. God has allowed us to be a part of some great ministries and to invest in many people's lives.

My prayer is the same as that of Paul's when he shared in verses 9-11: "And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. NASB"