Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hypocrisy and the Christian...

Today we will look at Romans 2:17-29. Yesterday, Paul was speaking against those who we would consider "Moralists," meaning they lived as "good" people, doing what was moral, but never giving their lives over to God as Christ Followers. In today's passage, Paul was speaking against the Jewish believer who thought that their "Jewishness" (not a real theological term) made them "better" than the Gentile believers (those like you and I who are not of Jewish descent, though very welcome into a relationship with God through Jesus). Paul tells them that they are nothing more than a hypocrite!

Let me share with you that the excuse I hear more often than any other for why people are not ready to become Christ Followers (a Christian) is because they view all professing Christians as hypocrites. Because someone who either was a Christian or even claimed to be one treated them terribly, folks are ready to write off what a true Christian is forever. Man does that really get me fired up! If I were to develop this same attitude (I pray I NEVER do!), then I would need to just stop showing up to the church building every morning...especially on Sundays, because I "feel" let down all the time by people. If you are basing your perception of what a Christian should or should not be on anything other than God's Word and the example given us through Jesus' earthly living, YOU WILL BE DISAPPOINTED! Maybe not right away, maybe not next month, but eventually, humans will be humans, we will sin, and you will be let down. If you're foolish enough to believe that the born again believer never sins, you will quickly learn otherwise...not because I say so, but because it's what God's Word tells us, too.

One of Paul's lessons through this passage, I believe, is that it's not about saying the right thing, but then doing whatever else you want to do. It's not about doing the right thing, while, at the same time, saying what ever you choose about or judging others. Being a true Christian means living for Christ inwardly, walking the walk outwardly, and seeking praise not from men, but instead from God. If you need to be reminded about some of what we shouldn't be involved in, check Monday's passage, especially 1:28-32.

Are you walking with Christ today? Are you plugged in to a Bible believing, Bible teaching local church? If not, why...I can tell you it is absolutely God's desire that you be plugged in, learning more about Him, sharing life together with those who share the same love of God. If you need help finding a strong church, drop me a note and let me know, I'd be glad to do some research for you and your family.

Meet you here tomorrow!
In Christ,

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The "Moral" Life...

Today we're looking at Romans 2:1-16, and again, it's a hard-hitting lesson from Paul. He continues with another "therefore," picking up from the end of chapter 1 (remember, when Paul wrote this, it was a letter without chapter and verse breaks), and nailing us with the fact that we have no excuse to pass judgement on one another. Paul is saying that there are certainly those people who are blatantly living in obvious sin and openly defying God's Word and not caring at all. But there are also people who like to pass judgement on others when we are in need of dealing with other types of sin in our own lives. Luke 6:41 comes to mind: "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"

Now, is Paul, or am I, suggesting that whatever anyone wants to do is their prerogative? That the sin in another person's life is none of my business? Well, yes and no. It's not my job as a Pastor, or yours as a Christ follower, to be the "Sin Police," but at the same time, it is my job to share with as many as possible what God's Word says about sin. The job of a physician is to diagnose illness, to offer cures/treatment, and to also share with their patients how to stay healthy to begin with. As Christians, we have the same spiritual responsibilities. Paul is sharing in this passage that there are many "illnesses" that we are all struggling with, and he is also sharing the cure, that is to follow Jesus and His Word.

There are many folks that I come in contact with during the week, even many in the church on Sunday morning, who are very "moral" people. We are not called by God, however, to simply live a moral life. We are called to live a holy life, meaning we are to strive to live the life that Christ demonstrated for us. Does this mean that after we give control of our life to Christ that we will stop sinning? NO! But it does mean that as we allow Him to control our life, He will direct us away from many things that may currently be in our lives. He will re-direct our paths, He will show us many areas of life in a new light...His light. This is not a fun, comfortable position to put yourself in, as the world sees it. But, when we allow Him to control our life, and we truly seek His ways over our own, what the world sees as uncomfortable and puzzling is instead realized by the Christian to be complete comfort and security.

What part are you playing today? Jury...Judge...or are you a Witness? Have you ever given control of your life over to Jesus Christ, allowing Him to be Lord of your life? Is there a "missing link" in your life? Talk to God today...acknowledge that you are a sinner, that you desire to turn away from those sins, and that you are trusting Jesus today with your life. Give Jesus control of your heart and trust in His death as payment for your sins. Anyone reading this who ever wants to talk more, please contact me anytime!

Until tomorrow, have a blessed day!
In Christ,

Monday, October 27, 2008

Back on Track...

WOW...finally, I think I'm getting back on track after being out of town for several days (had a GREAT time at my 20th H.S. Reunion!) and coming back for a crazy (in a good way) week in the office. So, today we will look at Romans 1:24-32.

This passage begins with a "therefore," which means we need to look back and see, within the context, what it is "there for." Paul has just finished explaining how people know that there is a God down deep inside. He can be seen in creation by "His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, [which] have been clearly seen..." But, he continues, "they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, ...and their foolish heart was darkened." Then, "therefore," He said "fine, if you really want to live to just please yourself, that is, your flesh, then I will allow you to choose to do so." This choice led (and still leads to today) to men and women treating their bodies, physically and emotionally, in ways that God did not intend for them to be treated.

As a parent, it's very hard to allow your child to do something that you know is not the right thing to let them follow through with a decision that you already know the outcome of, one which is certain to cause them pain. But, there comes a point when we have to let them "learn the hard way." A self-professing "hard head," I have been party to many of these decisions myself, and it's only by God's grace that I am still around today to even be sharing this with you. But, I know many of you who are reading this, also, and that you have made a few of these decisions as well, and are still around today for a reason. As difficult as it is for me as a parent, I can only imagine how this felt to a Holy, loving God, who allowed Himself to step back and let His creation utilize their free will.

Read through verses 28-31, and pray about which of those specific sins may be in your life and need to be dealt with. This passage is most often quoted in regards of what God has said about homosexuality in verses 26-27, but the entire passage should be a sobering wake-up call to all of us to deal with sin, no matter what it is, in our own lives.

Have a blessed week, and I'll meet you here tomorrow!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Non-Warm & Fuzzy Day 2...

Today's passage is Romans 1:20-23.

In my 38 years of "life experience," I have had many opportunities to experience getting busted. Thankfully, the bulk of these experiences are well in the past, but the memories and lessons learned live on even today. I can remember sooo many times, getting caught in a lie or situation that I knew was not acceptable to my parents, where I tried to plead ignorance (or stupidity) as my defense. So many of us are walking through life, living in whatever way we "feel" to be right, doing things on our own, and then we get "busted." Something goes wrong, a situation comes up that we (knowing that we shouldn't have been involved) put ourselves in some bad way. Maybe we've made poor choices with jobs, finances, relationships...whatever your situation is. And now, we get to the end of the rope. We find ourselves at that place of feeling out of options. What worked before, doing everything in our own power, just continues to make things worse. Here we are, before God, and we find ourselves trying to plead ignorance or stupidity before Him.

Paul picks up from yesterday's discussion and continues on that we are "without excuse" when it comes to not acknowledging God for who He is. Believe it or not, just about every painful situation you have ever found yourself in, or are finding yourself in right now, can be directly linked back to not acknowledging God for who He is and seeking His righteousness instead of our own desires. I know, this is a very bold, "churchy" feeling response, but God's Word says that it's true!

I love verse 22, as Paul shares that the recipients of his letter (and of those of us reading it today), found themselves "professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures." The "Pastor Joey" paraphrase also adds that "they traded for an image in the form of a large house (nicer than their neighbor's), a new car (more expensive than they can afford), and bigger toys (that their kids don't even play with) than all the other kids on the block!

Here is today's challenge: We know that we are without excuse in acknowledging God's power and nature today, so have you done it? Are you through trying to do things on your own? Are you ready to live in a truly wise manner by following the incorruptible God? Are there "corruptible" things or desires that you need to give up today?

Have a blessed day!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dad's Wrath...

Today we're looking at only two verses, Romans 1:18-19, and bracing for the weeks (and months, maybe) to come. This verse, along with the ones coming up, are not what we would consider "warm fuzzy" verses, and today's verse, especially, hits us with the thought of God's wrath.

I can think back to many times in my early life when I considered the thought of a "wrath." My dad was very loving to me when I was a child, and he did a pretty good job of keeping his cool. But, I must say that I found many ways to push him to that know, that point of having to face the wrath of your parent. My mom was at home with my brother, sister and I during the summers as she worked at a school, and there were times (probably daily) when we would really aggravate her and she would get mad. This was not good, but when I drove my dad to the point of him wanting to pour out his wrath on me...that was REALLY not good! Now, as a dad, my parents wishes have come true...that wish where I end up with a child just like myself. I can definitely see many of the same tendencies in Brian that I possessed as a child, and there are times when I am moved beyond being upset, past being mad, and I'm ready to allow my loving son to experience my wrath!

The Greek for "wrath" really refers to "a settled, determined indignation, not to the momentary, emotional, and often uncontrolled anger to which human beings are prone." So, as much as I didn't like it when I drove my dad to the brink, and as much as I don't like being driven to the brink, this is nothing compared to the wrath of God. What makes these times so hard is the fact that most of the time, I aggravated situations even though I knew the rules and I knew that dad was not going to be happy. In the same way, the human race has known from the very beginning what the rules were with God. He created Adam and Eve, and He spent time with them daily, sharing with them. They, just as we frequently do, chose to go against the Creator's wishes and did their own thing, thus bringing condemnation upon themselves.

Verse 19 goes on to share that they (and we) knew better because "God made it evident to them." This "General Revelation" is what gets us realize that there is a God to begin with, and then to search out more about Him.

So, not a "warm and fuzzy" day, but a day to again evaluate how we are living before Him. John MacArthur shares this: "A disease has to be recognized and identified before seeking a cure means anything. In the same way and for the same reason, Scripture reveals the bad news before the good news. God’s righteous judgment against sin is proclaimed before His gracious forgiveness of sin is offered. A person has no reason to seek salvation from sin if he does not know he is condemned by it. He has no reason to want spiritual life unless he realizes he is spiritually dead." Today, we see a sense of the "bad" news, but greater days are coming!

Be reading through Romans chapter 1.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Lessons in the Waiting...

Well, first things first...I received the results of the CT Scan from last week, and it turns out that we are thanking the Lord for infections!!! I know, it sounds strange, but of all the possible outcomes, a lymph node being swollen due to an infection is a sweet sounding result. I will have some follow-up blood work done in the next week for good measure, but today we thank Him for the blessing of infections.

Over the past several days, as we awaited these results, Annette and I did share some rich times of learning to be patient. Neither of us like learning these lessons, but God knows when and how we will learn best, and He continues to give us ample opportunities through which to learn (THANKS!!). Thanks you for your prayers (even for those "Ramen Noodle" prayers!)...God is good.

Today, I'm focusing on Romans 1:16-17, which is a very familiar passage to many of you. Paul's proclamation here is a great reminder to me every time I read it that we are not to be ashamed of the Gospel. You know, as a "man of the cloth" (as many "church" people consider me), it's amazing how often someone's tone or speech can change when they find out that I'm a pastor. Annette and I stopped by a roadside flower vendor a few months ago and began talking with the lady running the stand. She found out first that we were from Virginia, and then got all excited, while she shared about stopping at the Charles Town Race Track and Casino when she's going home to southern Virginia. Then, she asks what brought us to York, and I shared that I was a pastor. This lady then changed her demeanor and tone, and began a 3-minute rant about God, the church, this great preacher she used to know, and went on and on about how she wasn't in church and knew she needed to get back involved. Annette and I both just listened as she basically hammered on herself for "getting away from God." We gently encouraged her to get her relationship with God where it needs to be, paid for the plants, and were off. Her attitude was that of being ashamed.

Paul shares that he's not ashamed, which is big, but he continues with the reason why he's not ashamed...that "it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes," and that's HUGE!

How about you today? Are you ashamed of the Gospel? Have you been "ashamed" of your faith recently when co-workers or friends began criticizing the church or "so called" Christians? Purpose in your heart today to "live by faith" (verse 17) and to not be ashamed of the Gospel, no matter what!

In Christ, PJ

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ramen Noodle Prayers...

I'm beginning today on what promises to be a lengthy journey, spiritually speaking, as I endeavor to study my way through the book of Romans. This letter, found in the New Testament, was written by Paul, one of the people I can't wait to sit and talk with when we meet in heaven. I am looking at the verses 1-17 today (and possibly tomorrow!).

As I read through the beginning of this incredible writing, along with some notes about the book, I find myself really hit with a few things right away. First of all, Warren Wiersbe (an incredible man of God and noted Theologian) shares the following: "Imagine! You and I can read and study the same inspired letter that brought life and power to [Martin] Luther and [John] Wesley! And the same Holy Spirit who taught them can teach us! You and I can experience revival in our hearts, homes, and churches if the message of this letter grips us as it has gripped men of faith in centuries past." WOW! God's Word is never changing and it saved these men who helped shape modern Christianity just like it has the saving power to save you and I today.

Verse 9 has also jumped off the pages at me today. Paul says: "For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you..." The thought that passes through my mind is often do we come in contact with someone who shares a struggle or situation they are facing, and we throw out the ever famous Christian tag line: "I'll be praying for you." I know that I am guilty of this very thing many, many times. Guilty, you ask? Yes, guilty of serving up some really cheap lip service which never gets followed through on! I'm talking about Ramen Noodle (Brian's favorite lunch), 10 cents a pack cheap! What has occurred to me today (man, I'm glad I've got this pretty, fancy degree hanging on my wall) is that, what if God was called as a witness about my prayer faithfulness (or lack thereof)?!?

Paul is bold enough to use God as a witness of his prayers! I added the note in my Bible: "to be able to call God as a witness to our prayers is an awesome thought--and an awesome warning that God would not lie for me. How often do I say I'll pray for others but then don't follow through?" Not that I intentionally don't or refuse to pray for others...I mean I've got important life stuff happening that takes up a lot of time. I've got a new episode of "The Biggest Loser" or "Monk" to watch...they could be life changing!

This past week has been (and is being) another lesson in life for Annette and I. Last week, I had an MRI on my neck and shoulder that have been bothering me for a while, and I went to the doctor on Thursday to talk about the results. The MRI showed the discs are fine and my pain is most likely just muscular. The doctor went on to say that the MRI did show an enlarged lymph node in my neck, and that I should have a CT Scan with the dye to find out why it is enlarged. I had the CT Scan on Friday morning, and we're still waiting for the results of that scan. The range of emotions has been incredible, but trust in God and His plan for my life has not been questioned once. Outcomes could range from a simple infection to who knows we wait. We've shared this with many folks at church and some family, asking for prayer as we seek God's will to be done. And now, as I study Paul's writing today, I realize that many who I've spoken with over the past few days are serving up the same "Ramen Noodle" prayer offerings that I have been often guilty of.

Now, I trust you will not completely write me off as a phony, thinking that I never spend time in prayer with my Father, because that is not the case. But, for those times that I have forgotten, gotten too busy, or have just dropped the ball in lifting up requests...I apologize and I WILL PRAY FOR REPENTANCE!!

Pray for those you've offered to pray for right now, before life crowds out the opportunity, and spend some time reading over the first part of Romans as we will dig deeper tomorrow. Have a blessed day!


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Longing for Closeness...

Today I'm reading through Psalm 42, and thinking about many people I've met with, counseled, and encountered lately. God has really put many situations on my heart, and this Psalm is speaking to me this morning. Be sure to read through it first before reading on.

The Psalmist is going through a time where he knows he is not close to God...have you been there? When we are in those moments, the weight of the world feels like its going to destroy us. We decide that we need to "help" God with things in our lives, that we know best what needs to happen and when, and we end up trying to accomplish God-sized things in our life using human-sized abilities...every time it will end up in frustration, depression, and coldness towards God.

The Psalmist says that he is longing for God like a deer panting for water, water that it hasn't had in quite a while. The Psalmist has finally gotten to that point of giving up on his own efforts (a good place to be), he is ready to approach God and share what he's feeling. He remembers how he used to be the one leading the charge for God, how he was helping others in their worship of Him...but now he finds himself wondering where God is. WOW!

There are so many people that I've encountered lately who are either talking about how they used to be involved in the church and following God, or they are "appear" to be walking with Him, though their lives show no fruit whatsoever. The Psalmist has found himself distant from God, beaten down by all that is happening in his life, abused by his enemies, ridiculed for the faith he once shared with them. Is it dark in here or is it just me?!?!

Then we find verse 11...a great reminder to all who may find themselves today separated from God for one reason or another. The Psalmist ends with these words: "Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God." Nighttime is a dark place, but when we see that first glimpse of sunrise, it can change our whole countenance. Another Psalmist, David, shared it like this in Psalm 30:5: "His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning." That's good stuff!

Where are you in your walk with Christ today, honestly? Are you in a dark valley, feeling as though you're walking alone? Are you constantly frustrated by failures in life that seem to be self-imposed? Is there any spiritual fruit being produced in your life (see Galatians 5:22-23)? Seek Him and keep your eyes on Him..."hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him."

Have a blessed day!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Do You Have Peace In Your Circumstances?

Philippians 4:10-23 is our text for today, as we finish looking at Paul's letter to the church at Philppi. Still praying about where to go tomorrow.

I don't think I could have planned out a better sequence of Study for "such a time as this (Bailouts, Stock Market fluctuation, Foreclosures, Mergers, etc.)," as we look at what Paul is sharing through today's passage. His words in verse 11, I'm sure, are a lesson we all can use more work on today: "Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am." He goes on to share that he's lived in prosperity, in humble means, he's been "full," and he's gone hungry. The secret to living through whatever circumstance we are facing today is the truth that comes in verse 13 (a truth that is often taken out of context), as he says he "can do all things [those times he just shared in the previous verses] through Him who strengthens me." That is awesome! Now, I'm not trying to give the impression that my focus is always the same as Paul's is here, but I can truly say that God has broken me in many areas of my life in this sense. Do I still want certain materialistic things? YES (any plasma screen tv donations will be accepted)! But, He has shown me over and over that if I am really trying to live a life that is Christ focused, there are certainly many things that I can (and for me, SHOULD) do without...things that will only remove my focus from Him.

I have been blessed tremendously by God. Our family has lived with more stuff at some times than at others. Annette and I often reminisce about our time when we lived in Lynchburg as I attended Seminary (GO FLAMES!! 5-0, #16 this week!). We had less, materially, than we've ever had before, but the 1-1/2 years we were there were just incredible times for our family. Now, I'm not saying that the less you have the happier you will be, but no matter how much you have, if your focus is not on Christ and His plan for your life, you will NOT be satisfied!

Paul closes his letter by thanking the church at Philippi for all the support they have given him over the years. Paul shares that there were times when he was glad to receive a gift from them, but for their good, as the gift given to him in the name of Christ would be "profit which increased their account." He indeed was glad for the support given, and as they gave sacrificially, he knew that "God would supply all their needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus."

Our challenge today: Am I living contently with what I have? Are there things in my life that are causing me to lose my focus of Christ that need to go? Am I giving as Christ is leading me to give (time, talents, treasures)?

Let me know if you have any feedback.
Serving Him,

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Are You Anxious?

Chapter 4 of Philippians, as we will see over the next few days, has some rich words of encouragement for those who are Christ followers. Today we look at Verses 1-9.

The staff here at MDBC have been reading through an incredible book entitled "With Christ in the School of Prayer" by Andrew Murray. The book was written in 1895, but let me tell you, Murray is still being used by God today, as it has really touched the hearts of all of the staff and challenged us in our prayer lives. Murray would concur with Paul's words in today's passage, as they are simple and to the point, though, like so much of Scripture, difficult to consistently put into practice.

Verse 4 alone is one of those difficult statements to live by: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice!" In a time when folks are seeing financial troubles, families are stressed, and relationships seem especially strained by the world's problems, it is very easy to lose sight of "rejoicing in the Lord." Paul continues by sharing how we need not be anxious about anything, but instead we should be praying about such things. I know, it sounds very "churchy," but this is what we, as Christ followers, are precisely to do! Even more than that, as we are walking with Christ, spending time with Him, getting to know His Word better and better, there will be no other thing that we will choose to rely on than taking our requests and concerns to God through prayer...but are we doing this?

What will be the result of taking these things to Him in prayer? Just that "...the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." That's all, just the peace of God in the midst of all the craziness of life!

Paul then shares that another thing to do as we turn life over to Christ through prayer, and as we strive to get beyond the anxiousness of our lives, is that we need to change our focus. We are all being pulled in so many different directions in life that most of the time we simply have no clue what to really focus on. Paul gives us some direction here, saying that "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." Let's face it...ALL of us waste a lot of valuable time "dwelling" on things that are not profitable to our lives, especially in the life of one who seeks to live for Christ. It's time we get some of this junk out of our lives, that we change the focus of much of what we do, seeking FIRST His Kingdom. Much of what we fill our minds with, much of what we don't want to give up because it's comfortable to us...much of this needs to go if we are to live a truly Christ centered life.

What are we to dwell on then? In verse 9, Paul says that we can learn from him, "the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." WOW! Our challenge for today is this: Can I truly say that I am dwelling on the things that Christ would have me dwell? Are there areas of my life that are not God honoring? Are there things in my life, whether self-imposed or not, that I am anxious in? How is my prayer life today?

I don't know about you, but the Lord has shown me MUCH to consider in my life today!

Until tomorrow...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Encouraging Others Is Not Always Encouraging..

Today I'm finishing up Philippians Chapter 3, looking specifically at verses 15-21. Paul states that we who are "perfect/mature/or grown in Christ should have "this attitude." What attitude? That which he mentioned in verses 12-14. It's living life in such a way that we are consistently striving for the "prize," that fullness in Christ or the life lived so that God will say to us when we meet Him, "well done, good and faithful servant."

If we say that we are in Christ, that we are Christ followers, and we have a "different attitude (than what He would want us to have)," Paul says that God will reveal that to us, also. This requires that we are consistently spending time with Him so that we can best sense His leading...even though, just like Paul, we have not obtained (or even really gotten close to) perfection, we are to live up to what we know. Do you get that? We are all at different places Spiritually. Some are new believers, having just started following Christ, and some of us are further along on our journeys. Paul instructs us here, saying that we are to live up to what we know.

We have a guest speaker here at Mason Dixon Baptist Church, Scott Smith (SNS Ministries), who is an incredible, effective man of God. Last night he challenged the church with what it means to be fully surrendered to the Lordship of Christ. He shared about how it all comes down to following Christ in every facet of our lives, that we are to hear what Jesus says and then we are to do it. This is what Paul is sharing with us, also. We are grow in Christ, spend time with Him, learn what the Word says, and then we are to DO IT! It's hard (almost always!), it takes sacrifice, it will usually go against what we "want" to do, but we are to DO IT.

Paul tells the Philippians that they should follow his example, and we too should find others who are walking the walk and "observe" or follow the example of their lives. Paul shares, though, that there are many who claim to walk, though they are really enemies of the Cross...WOW! Yes, there are many who "say" they are Christians, who show up at church week after week, who serve in positions in churches, whose names are on church membership rolls...but it's one thing to say it, but quite another to LIVE IT!

Our challenge today is this: are we more concerned with the now of life (stocks, houses, those things that feel good in the now) than with pleasing God? Are we drawing near to Him NO MATTER THE COST? Paul shares in verse 20 that if we are indeed Christ followers, "our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ..."

Have a blessed week!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Counting It All As Loss...

Today we're hitting Philippians Chapter 3, and I just can't find a good way to split the first 14 verses up, so, since this is my blog, I will share some thoughts from Phil. 3:1-14, using the NASB.

As a Youth Pastor, it's always great (especially with Junior High boys) when verses talking about circumcision come up, and I love to draw them pictures...just kidding! Sometimes it's a bit of a challenge to get them to take their focus off of it to look at the big picture. The big picture here is that Paul is warning the believers at Philippi to beware of those "legalists," those who like to attach conditions onto our Salvation for it to be "real." Legalism through the years has been seen in forms such as ladies having to wear dresses to church, insisting on a particular version of the Bible for legitimate conversion/growth in Christ, having to be a member of a particular church (church membership and attendance is very important in the growth of a believer and it is desired of you by Christ, though not necessary for salvation). I have very little tolerance for legalism, and instead would desire to put my energy into sharing with individuals how the Bible teaches us to live while having freedom in Christ.

Paul goes on to share that if these legalists think that they are qualified to require certain elements for believer, he is even more qualified if he so chose (verses 4-6). But Paul didn't have the time nor patience to mess around "proving" his qualifications, stating instead in verse 7 that "...whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ." He also shares that he counts "all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord...," in verse 8.

This week has certainly caused us all to consider our "stuff" as we've heard more about "bailouts" than I'm sure any of us care to hear. Paul's lesson here can really help us gain a proper perspective of what we have or don't have, and to also consider how much we worry about decisions we've made in the past and how they are affecting our lives now. Paul's words in verses 13-14 are some of the most powerful in Scripture, I believe, as he shares: " thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." WOW! Do I have regrets about past decisions? YES! But, I don't let the past control my future...I am striving toward that prize of the call of God in Christ Jesus.

Today, there may be consequences you're living with that are directly caused by past decisions. Don't let Satan convince you that those decisions are "who you are." If (yes, IF) you have given your life to Christ, His blood has covered the stupidest (actual Youth Pastor word) of decisions, and He will take any consequences from your past and work them out for His good purposes. If anyone would ever like to discuss what salvation or "giving your life to Christ" means, please contact me, as I would love to share with you what the Bible says about these most important things mean.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Do You Care?

Today's passage is Philippians 2:25-30, the end of chapter 2. As I study Paul's words about his fellow worker Epaphroditus (there's a name for your next child!), I am challenged to consider my feelings for the "church."

These verses (and as we've seen over the past several days, and throughout this chapter) share some neat things about how much Paul cared for the church. Now when I speak of the church, I (like Paul) am not just speaking of a specific building, or even one specific local body of believers. Yes, Paul's letter here is to the church at Philippi, but his writings collectively are always sharing truth, correction, encouragement and a true love for the Church overall...that is, for all the followers of Jesus Christ.

Paul and Epaphroditus both have such a love for the believers at Philippi, and Paul says that Epaphroditus had become very sick, and that they had heard about how this news distressed the church. Because the church was distressed, this distressed Paul and Epaphroditus...when is the last time I (or you) were so "distressed" about the condition of a fellow believer that it almost caused you to feel sick? In this super-busy world that we live in, it seems very difficult to find time to care about the physical needs of those close to us, much less the spiritual needs of so many around us. Those we call "loved ones," family, or much do we really care about where they are spiritually? How are we living our lives out in front of others? Do we live one way in front of the "spiritual crowd," and then a much different life in front of our "not so spiritual friends?"

May we be challenged today to consider what our lives are saying to others...but first, may we be challenged to consider what our lives are saying to God about the place He has (or doesn't have) in our lives. On a scaled of 1-10 (1 being the lowest), where is your life in Christ today? Is your relationship with Christ important to you? If so, would those you interact with today, or those who you will spend the weekend with be surprised to find out how you feel about your relationship with Him?

Have a blessed day...