Being Late, Yet Still On Time!

SCRIPTURE – JOHN 11:1-40

Please, if you have the time, watch this YouTube Video of a scene from the movie Son of God.  This four-minute plus scene sets up my Bible study in John 11.

BEING LATE IS A BAD THING!

I’m a person who always believes in being punctual.  Being late is a bad thing.  My dad was the same way: “Better an hour early than 5 minutes late” he used to say.

TRAINS and PLANES leave at appointed times and connecting flights are dependant on the earlier flights being on time.  Delays or cancellations can cause big problems for people.

But by far the most punctual person in the universe is God!  He set up the galaxies and our solar system like giant timepieces, run with precision.  The timing of the sunrise–a thousand years from now–can be calculated to a millisecond.

So, how strange it is then, to find God being late!  God–all-knowing and all-powerful–how can He not be on time?

And yet, we find God being so late to heal a man that he even missed his funeral by 4 days!  We’ll look together at the Scripture in this blog-study and find out, how God “Being Late, Yet Still On Time!” will give some perspective and understanding.

SCRIPTURE – John 11:1-7, 11-15, 39-40 (New International Version)

(Verses 1-7)

[1] Now a man named Lazarus was sick.  He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  [2] (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and washed his feet with her hair.)  [3] So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”  [4] When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death.  No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”  [5] Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,  [6] So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,  [7] and said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

(Verses 11-15)

(Verses 39-40)

[39]  “Take away the stone,” he said.  “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

[40]  Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

“Lord, the one you love is sick”  (11:3)

Note that Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary, didn’t say, “Lord, the one who loves You, but the one You love.”

(1 John 4:10)

“This is LOVE: not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Our LOVE to Him is not worth speaking of but His to us can never be enough spoken of.

Jesus has the POWER to alter the forces of nature; calm the winds and waves; to suspend the movement of the universe in answer to the prayer of one man.  Jesus did miracles with many elements–He made arms grow out, made bread and fish multiply, turned water into wine.  He didn’t have to be present to work a miracle.  He told the Centurion “Go your way, your servant will be made whole.”  Another long-distance healing was the Syro-Phoenician woman’s daughter.

No circumstances could stop Him.

No limit of time was a factor.

QUESTION:  Then, why does Jesus wait until a man, who He dearly loves, is dead, before setting out to help him?

Even the disciples knew there was a special bond between Lazarus and Jesus.  Imagine if you will, you or I call our best friend and say, “I think I’m going to die!”  And our friends’ response, “Well, I’m pretty busy right now.  It’s Sunday, I’m in church, I’ll try to make it by Friday.  Do you think you can hang on that long?”

Doug Greenwold, with Lamb & Lion Ministries, gives us a deeper look into the events that occurred:

“A messenger is commanded to go and find Jesus, to tell Him that Lazarus was about to die.  The messenger traveled by foot for two days, then faithfully informed Jesus about Lazarus’ condition.”

Here’s what I found fascinating.  When Jesus heard the message, He replied (verse 4), “This sickness will not end in death.  No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”  Notice the very first thing that Jesus did.  He gave the messenger a PROMISE.  Jesus often does this when He’s going to stretch our FAITH.

He provides a PROMISE, and then He gives the reason why what’s about to happen was going to happen.

Lazarus’ sickness was not to end in death, rather it would be used for God’s GLORY so that God’s Son would be glorified through it!

Jesus stayed two more days.

Jesus didn’t leave right away.  So something puzzling was going on there.  We’re talking about God incarnate here, so everything Jesus does here is strategic and for a reason.

In Mr. Greenwold”s article, he points out something I never knew before, so I wanted to share this in the blog-study:

“The Hebrew view of death believed that when a person died during the first three days their NEPHESH, which is the Hebrew word for soul, hovered over their body.  In fact, by the beginning of the fourth day, the body would already be fallen into such a rapid state of decomposition, it would stink to high heavens, and then the NEPHESH flees.”

The upshot is for the first three days you’re just dead, but from the fourth day on, you’re totally dead-dead.

Why does this matter in the grand scheme of things?

Because the rabbis and the religious leaders had been teaching when the Messiah finally arrived, he would be able to achieve something so amazing they would easily know he was the prophesied one.  It’s so impossible to bring someone back from the dead.  Only the Messiah or his prophets could bring people back from death.

From the Religious Leaders’ Point of View –

If Jesus was really the Messiah as some had claimed, then the religious leaders, in order to keep their positions of wealth and power, would have to kill him.  They’d attempt creating some uncertainty.  They’d claim that bringing a person back from the dead during the FIRST DAY didn’t count.  The nephesh (the SOUL) hadn’t left yet.  Doesn’t count!  For Jesus to truly be THE MESSIAH, in the people’s eyes, Jesus needed to overcome this obstacle.

A Sign Of A Much Greater Love –

By Jesus delaying to answer the sister’s prayer and letting the situation to become seemingly hopeless and impossible…He showed more LOVE than anyone else!

NOTE:  GOD’S GREATEST INTENTIONS MAY BE SIGNALED BY HIS LONGEST DELAYS!

Look at the words found in Ezekiel 37:11, 13 (AMP)

[11]  Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.  Behold, they say, Our bones are dried up and our hope is lost; we are completely cut off.”

[13]  And you shall know that I am the Lord [your Sovereign Ruler],  when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, O My people.

Jesus’ DECISION was for His Disciples too!

VERSE 15 says,  “…and for your sake, I am glad I was not there. so that you may believe.  But let us go to him.”

God may be delaying because DELAYING is good for us!  He may be testing our faith or developing perseverance in us.  It may actually be dangerous to give us something at the moment we first ask.

Another idea is that God is setting up an impossible situation, in order that He may perform a MIRACLE or an even bigger miracle!

So the question may come up in your mind, “How long will God wait?”

And the answer?  TILL IT STINKS!

Sometimes Jesus waits until the situation you find yourself in really “stinks”.  When it “stinks,” God will get complete GLORY!

Another REASON God Waits So Long…RESURRECTION LIFE is not for the living, it’s for the dead!

You don’t get resurrected while you’re alive, you get resurrected when you’re dead!

THE PRINCIPLE IS LIFE OUT OF DEATH!

We must grow in our handling a bumper crop –

You don’t see a young apple tree bearing 150 apples; if it did, it would collapse under the weight.  Over time, God strengthens and prepares the tree so it can handle the weight for what it can bear in maturity.

It’s the same way with us.  We want everything NOW!  But God knows we can’t bear it, so He only gives us an apple or two until we grow stronger.

Jesus said to Martha,  “I AM the resurrection…”  That’s present tense.

PATIENCE!

The word “patience,” doesn’t occur in the Old Testament, but we have “patiently” in Psalm 40:1; meaning to “wait,”to expect,” or waiting on God.

In the New Testament, the Greek word “hypomone” carries in it the ideas of endurance, continuance (Luke 8:15; 21:19; Romans 5:3-4).  [Bible Study Tools – International Standard Bible Encycolopedia]

PATIENCE is often hard to give and maintain, but in Romans 15:5, God is called “the God of Patience” (ARV – “steadfastness”) as being able to grant that GRACE to those who look to Him and depend on Him for it.

NEVER CLOSE THE BOOK OF YOUR LIFE WHEN GOD HASN’T FINISHED WRITING YOUR STORY!

Hebrews 10:35-36 (NIV Bible) –

[35]  So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

[36]  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.

Never hang up–throw in the towel–when God is still on the line with you.  Hang in there!  God is still working in your life!!

God wants us to know that even if we don’t see Him, He’s always there and He will be on time!

THE CALL!

Many teachers have asked the question and attempted to explain why JESUS WEPT.

Jesus knew at the time that in a matter of minutes He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, yet He still wept, because He felt the hurt of Mary & Martha’s pain so deeply that He grieved for their hurt.  HE WEPT!

Jesus is touched by feelings of our own infirmities, our pain, our grief. 

Let us then turn EVERYTHING over to Him in prayer.

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~CREDITS~

Movie Clip:  YouTube video – Lazarus Raised scene from The Son Of God movie.

IMAGES:  Google Image Search – Advance settings.

Bible Translations used:  New International Version (NIV); American Revised Version (ARV); Amplified Bible (AMP), or where noted.

Credit and courtesy of LAMB & LION MINISTRIES Deeper Insights Into the Resurrection of Lazarus by Doug Greenwold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LIVING In An Anti-Christian Culture

VERSES 1 thru 8 –

[1]  I lift up my eyes to the mountains–where does my help come from?

[2]  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

[3]  He will not let your foot slip–He who watches over you will not slumber; [4] indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

[5]  The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand;  [6] the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

[7]  The LORD will keep you from all harm–He will watch over your life;

[8] the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.                    (The NIV Translation).

We live in scary times, to say the least.  During my lifetime I remember a time when America was what might be called “Christianized.”  When Evangelism was prominent in churches and ‘going out to witness’, beginning the conversation with statements like, “You believe in the Bible, don’t you?” or “Where have you been going to church?”

Then in the 80’s and 90’s our country moved in the direction of being “Post-Christian.”  No longer could you assume that people accepted the BIBLE was inspired or that they believed in God or were familiar with the basic teachings of Christianity.

Now that we’ve moved into the 21st century, I’ve seen our country become increasingly “Anti-Christian”.

In “The Supreme Court With Hobby Lobby, But Your Neighbor Probably Doesn’t” book, Trevin Wax writes, “A generation ago, a person’s religious observance was a public matter, a defining characteristic of one’s identity, while a person’s sexual activity was something private.  Today, the situation is reversed.”  [See footnote [i].]

According to research done recently in our country by a group called the First Amendment Center, 1 in 3 Americans says the first amendment to the Constitution (which guarantees freedom of religion and freedom of speech) goes too far.  Additionally, their research shows the group most likely to believe that the First Amendment goes too far are Americans under 30 years of age.

All this points to difficult days ahead for God’s people in the United States.  But we shouldn’t be surprised.  Jesus said, “In this world, you will have tribulation.”  But He also said, “Take heart!  I have overcome the world”  (John 16:33).

Psalm 121 begins with: “Where does my help come from?”  – (Vs. 1)

But the Psalmist expands upon the answer in verses 3-8, as he tells us about the kind of help God gives to enable His children…that’s us, born-again believers, living victoriously in this SCARY WORLD.

A Description – verses. 3-8

The Psalmist describes the help God makes available to us.

He will help me with the problem of WEARINESS – (vs. 3-4).

In an anti-Christian culture, sometimes it’s difficult to “not become weary in doing good.” (Gal. 6:9)

Admittedly, I do grow weary in my walk through this world with all the barricades, bombshells exploding all around my ministry.

God never does!

He’s watchful over His children.

He will help me with the problem of WEAKNESS – (vs. 5-6).

[5]  “The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand [the side not carrying a shield]”  (Amplified Bible).

Referring to our susceptibility to faint, dropping our sword of God’s Word to shield our eyes. 

The Psalmist speaks of God’s help with our weaknesses in battling in a godless culture.

God will provide the help we need to compensate for our weakness.  In fact, God tells us with His Word that “My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

He will help me with the problem of WICKEDNESS – (vs. 7).

This is a wicked world we live in, ruled by a wicked adversary (1 Peter 5:8-9).

The devil roams around like a lion, seeking our downfall.  But God promises His help so that we might overcome and not be overwhelmed in our doing (1 John 4:4).

He will help me with the problem of WANDERING – (vs. 8).  [Read Proverbs 2:8; 3:6]

If we are not careful in our “going out and coming in,” we can have said of us what Paul said of Demas: “because he loved this world, has deserted me…” (2 Timothy 4:10).

Today, devout Jews keep a metal cylinder fixed to the right-hand doorpost of their homes.  The cylinder contains a parchment inscribed with the words of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-20.  As they go in and out of the house, they touch the cylinder and recite the last verse of Psalm 121.  Through this, they seek to lift up the prayer to God that they might be kept from wandering from Him.

Obviously, this ritual hasn’t produced the desired results, for the Jewish people of today have wandered from God in their rejection of Christ.

So how do we, as the children of God, take advantage of the help God offers?

A PRESCRIPTION – verses 1-2  “A Psalm of ascents” Psalm 121

I must look to the LORD – vs. 1 (a).

One of 14 “psalms 0f ascents” (Psalm 120-134),  is a PSALM recited by pilgrims journeying to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem where the temple of God was, where the ark of the COVENANT was a symbol of God’s presence.

In other words, in SEEKING GOD’S HELP, I must SEEK His presence and preeminence.

“SEEK”:  “to try to obtain; to go to; to ask for; to ‘plea’.

“PREEMINENCE”:  “excellence”; “to be first place”…“That in all things, He (Christ) might have preeminence” (Colossians 1:18).

If I DESIRE to see God’s hand, I must SEEK His face if I’m concerned about saving my face!

As John, the Baptist declared, “He must increase and I must decrease!” (John 3:30)

In seeking God’s help for us, we must focus our lives on Him!

I must learn to lean on the Lord (vs. 2).

An old gospel song from the past that I used to love to sing in a men’s trio was Learning to Lean On Jesus.  Here is the music and lyrics to the song that illustrates the process of “leaning” on the LORD:

The One who offers to help us deal with life in this world is the creator of the universe.

Knowing this absolutely, I must trust in His POWER & PROVISION.

Depending on our influence or resources leads to discouragement, BUT TRUSTING in the POWER and PROVISION of our creator God brings VICTORY!  When we try to work things out on our own, we are helpless and foolish.

Instead, let’s TRUST in the POWER &PROVISION of the One who made it all.  And as we do, we’ll be able to testify with the Apostle Paul, who said:

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in your weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecution, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong. –                          [2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ] – (NIV).

I must LIVE for the Lord – (verse 2)

[2]  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

God has a PURPOSE for all creation including you and me!  And as the Maker of heaven and earth, God is providentially at work.

What does that mean, “providentially at work”?

He is keeping the universe in motion.  In other words, God has a definite PURPOSE and PLAN in each of our lives for attaining that end.

He’s also providentially at work on our behalf to fulfill His purpose in our lives.

Therefore, I must surrender to His purpose and providence.  This is really important, as we think about this day we’re living in.  To remember that God’s PURPOSE is not to provide for our comfort, but to develop our character to use us to bring others to Christ Jesus.

In an article that appeared in the Christian Post, written by Delores Liesner, “Growing Intolerance For Christianity in the U.S.” [see footnote [ii]], the writer conducts an interview with Brannon Howse, author, anfounder of Worldview Weekend.

Mr. Howse speaks in the interview how American Christians have largely been sheltered from persecution.  Consequently, he says, “too many are only committed to a cotton candy Christianity, and that many American (believers) are wimps who don’t want to suffer and don’t want to be uncomfortable, while elsewhere in the world during the 20th century, 45.5 million Christians were martyred for their faith.  “Our CULTURE,” he says, “is doing what Scripture said – getting worse and worse.  The books of James and 1 Peter tells us not to be surprised at fiery ordeals [when they come – not if] as though some strange (or foreign) thing were happening to you.  Suffering, intolerance and persecution are building us.”  It’s though having our FAITH refined and we get our PRIORITIES straight to make sure our WITNESS draws others to Christ.

I, like others, personally believe God is allowing things to change in our country so that His CHURCH might be moved to embrace the same kind of PRIORITIES and give the same kind of response to the opposition as did the early church (read Acts 2:23-31).

One thing is for sure, we cannot do anything effectively without the LORD’S help.  So for our sake, for our church’s sake, let’s look to the LORD in our coming in and going; LEAN on the Lord, and let’s LIVE for the LORD!

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FOOTNOTES & CREDITS

Footnote [i]:  Trevin Wax (June 30, 2014) https://www.thegospelcoalition.or/…/trevin-wax/the-supremecourt-agrees-with-hobby…

Footnote [ii]: Article by Delores Liesner, Christian Post:  https://www.christianpost.com/news/growing-indifference-for-christianity-in-us-49588/

Dictionary:  Bible Study Tools; PROVIDENCE.

Video:  Youtube, Learning to Lean, by the Nightingales

Photos:  Google Image search

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), or where noted in the text.

 

 

It All Begins With A Thought

A Bible Study in Philippians 4:4-9

I’m going to wrap up a four-part walk-through in Philippians in this final study and we’ll look together at replacing ANXIETY with PEACE.

We are an anxious nation.

Alarmingly, I found out that 1 in 6 Americans takes a psychiatric drug [Scientific American magazine article].  Anxiety meds are second only to depression meds.  That said, I do believe meds that are used carefully are a gift of God.

But what if we turn too quickly to the pill bottle and too slowly to the Lord?

Mark Twain joked, “I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes in my life.  Most of them never happened.”

In this presented scripture for this study, I want to point out some suggestions that the apostle Paul gives us to advance through our ANXIETIES.  And if you are thinking, “I’m not anxious about anything,” perhaps a bible study on self-denial might be appropriate later.

FIRST, we need to have right thinking.

Paul says in VERSE 4 to REJOICE.  And to make sure we don’t miss it, he says it twice:  “Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, gladden yourselves in Him]; again I say, Rejoice!”  (AMP)

Philippians is all about JOY; Paul uses the word some 16 times!

When he says here to rejoice “always,” he suggests JOY is more than an emotion, since you can’t command an emotion.  You can’t force someone to be happy; they either are or they aren’t.  But Paul tells us to rejoice always.

JOY, then, must be a decision, a choice.

I once heard someone say, “Happiness comes from happenings, but joy comes from Jesus.”

Actually, JOY is an act of faith.  It supposes that regardless of how things look at the time, God is still on the throne; God loves me, God is for me, even though my circumstances seem bleak, God will see me through.

That’s why James could write, “Reckon it nothing but JOY, my brethren, whenever you find yourselves hedged in by various trials”  (James 1:2 ~ Weymouth New Testament).

James knew that God can use our TRIALS for good and to build our CHARACTER.

And that’s why Daniel’s three friends could defy King Nebuchadnezzar with confident JOY: (See Dan. 3:17-18)  

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.”

RIGHT THINKING begins with choosing JOY!

The church at Philippi knew Paul lived this out.  When he visited their city, he had cast out a demon and inadvertently thwarted a money-making scheme, disgruntled businessmen falsely charged, beaten and thrown into prison, along with his buddy Silas.  You can read the whole story in Acts 16.

Sitting in their jail cell that night, they could have had a grand pity party.  Instead. they chose a worship service!

  • Wounded and behind bars, they sang hymns!
  • And God sent an earthquake unlocking every cell door without hurting anyone.

That same night the jailer and his family were all SAVED and the next day Paul and Silas were released.

All because they CHOSE JOY…despite of their circumstance.  They CHOSE to think right!

I don’t know about you, but when listening to the teaching from “experts” or pastors/teachers. scholars. I like to hear their examples to help enlighten the message.  I believe Paul felt the same way.

He gives us examples of what to think about in VERSE 8:

Paul says to turn our mind toward the POSITIVE, to FOCUS on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable, to think about things that are excellent or praiseworthy.

WE ARE WHAT WE THINK!

While every SIN begins with a thought, so does every act of obedience!

Various people have been attributed to writing this poem:

Sow a thought, reap a word.

Sow a word, reap an action.

Sow an action, reap a habit.

Sow a habit, reap a character.

And sow a character, reap a destiny.

It all begins with a thought.

What if, when you wake up in the morning, instead of turning on the news, you read a short devotion out of “Our Daily Bread”?  I have it sent to me every morning to my Email address to read.  When you do this first thing in your day, you’re training your mind to think more positively.

Secondly, we need to PRAY right!

Verses 6 and 7 in the New Living Translation (NLT) sums this up with,

[6] Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done!

[7] Then you will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

We are all good at worrying, but sometimes we feel ill-prepared to PRAY.

Yet, if you know how to WORRY, you should know how to pray!

  • Worrying is talking to yourself about things outside of your control.
  • Praying is talking to God about the things outside of your control.

When the ANXIETY level starts rising in your daily activities, talk to God about it.  Paul gives some hints as to how to pray right.

The word “pray” here, denotes a worshipful approach.

You come to God humbly, submitting your will to His.  You shouldn’t approach God like some heavenly slot machine hoping to hit the jackpot. You approach God with awe and respect by asking Him for what you need–and that’s called petition or supplication: the process of shifting your burden from you to God!

IT’S OKAY TO ASK.

Do you notice that in our asking, Paul says to do so “with thanksgiving”?  There’s nothing worse than a spoiled child who always says, “Gimme, gimme, gimme!”

We need to be grateful for what we already have, and we also need to be grateful for, however, God may choose to respond.

GRATEFULNESS in advance is another sign of FAITH.

We can be grateful because God cares for us.  Whether God says, “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait,” God is still a good God–all the time!

God wants us to PRAY with THANKSGIVING, regardless of the circumstances.

When you find yourself growing anxious, give it to God, and don’t take it back!  Follow the advice of 1 Peter 5:7.

Trust that God cares for you and is at work in your situation.  And begin to act on FAITH that God will direct your steps moving forward.

Someone once said, “If your knees are buckling, kneel on them.”

Instead of worrying, why not try praying.

The “START” Bible says, “If you have a BIG God, then you have a relatively small problem.  But if you have a BIG problem, then maybe you have a small god.”  (see footnote [i].)

The giant Goliath looked at the shepherd boy David and saw a small problem.  But David looked at Goliath and saw a large God along with a target too big to miss!

Look what God promises when we give our ANXIETY over to Him:  Verse 7 says “And the PEACE of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Have you ever taken your family to an unfamiliar beach or a community swimming pool and see the signs posted, “Life Guard On Duty?  And when you see the posted signs, how much confidence and security that comes to mind when entering the water.

A God who is on GUARD DUTY over your hearts and minds.

God’s Word found in your bibles says God never slumbers or sleeps (Psalm 121:4).  He’s always on guard duty, 24/7.  God will bring HIS PEACE to our entire being: body, soul, and spirit in a way beyond our understanding.

THINK RIGHT, PRAY RIGHT, and lastly,

LIVE RIGHT!

This is like the Nike principle: “JUST DO IT!”  Put your THOUGHTS and PRAYERS into ACTION.

Verse 5 gives us a description of how we should live as Christian believers–with “gentleness” (NIV), or “unselfishness” in the Amplified Bible.  The idea is to LIVE with graciousness out of a humble spirit.  You don’t always have to get your way!  That means you become willing to yield your rights to another.  And that’s especially good marital advice!!

That’s a hard principle to act on for some of us.  Why would anyone want to yield their rights to another?  The rest of verse 5 tells us why:

The LORD is near.

The Christian believer has the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, within them always.  Wherever we go, Jesus goes with us.

You are never alone, the Lord is near!!

But there is also an end-times application here:  Jesus is coming soon!  His return draws nearer every day.  So, LIVE the way He wants you to live now.

In Verse 9, Paul urges the Church to follow his example, not only what he says, but what he does.  Now there’s something that most of us wouldn’t advertise in our Christian community.  “Follow my example”.  

I learned early on that my kids would follow my ACTIONS a lot faster than they would my words as they grew older.  Despite what I said, it was what I did that counted.  WORDS are cheap.  ACTION matters!

So, put it into practice!  PRAY RIGHT.  And LIVE RIGHT.

And Paul promises us, “With the peace of God to guard us and the God of peace to guide us–Why worry?”

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FOOTNOTES & CREDITS

Footnote [i] :  NKJV, Start: The Bible for New Believers, Thomas Nelson, 1227

Video:  YouTube – Mix Give Thanks, Don Moen

Images:  Google Image Search

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); Exceptions noted in the text.

 

 

 

“Yesterday Is History, Tomorrow Is A Mystery, But Today Is A Gift…”

A Study in Philippians 3:10-14 

I’ve heard about an odd phenomenon in the military.  When people were drawing close to retirement or their discharge date, their whole demeanor changed.  They started dragging to the formation.  Their PT efforts became lackluster.  Their work grew sub-par or average at best.  Now to be fair, it most likely wasn’t their fault.  They had an STD, which in this case stands for “short-timers’ disease.”

Do you ever feel like you’ve short timers’ disease in life?

Do you ever feel like, why even make the effort?

Maybe you’re just going through the motions.

Just maybe the Scripture cited in this blog will give you a new attitude:  about your past, present, and future.

First, Paul’s words advise us to…RELEASE THE PAST

In verse 13, Paul uses the phrase, “Forgetting what is behind”.

Is he asking us to suppress those troublesome memories we’ve accumulated over time?  I don’t think so.  Paul is talking about letting go of things that still have a hold on us.

Not releasing the past, two things will get us into trouble:

  • Past Failures
  • Past Successes

Past failures have the tendency to make us think we’re a failure.

Paul could certainly recall his failures:  He supervised the death of the first martyr of the Church, Stephen.  He could have carried a lot of GUILT for his persecution of Christians before his salvation.  But he didn’t.

He said we need to release all of that to God.

God can forgive your GUILT if you give it to Him.

God can FORGIVE ALL the woulda/coulda/shoulda decisions you’ve analyzed to death!

1 John 1:9 (AMP)

[9] IF we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].

We need to forget our FAILURES, and by the way, our SUCCESSES too.

If we concentrate on them too much, we’ll rest on our laurels and never want to do more.

One thing I learned over the years I was in business, the biggest threat to future success is past success.  That’s why companies keep reinventing themselves.

In marriage seminars, it’s often said, “Being married is like riding a bike: It takes some work, some peddling.  If you’re coasting, you’re always going downhill.”

In the first part of the chapter, Paul mentions the successes that were under his belt.

He listed his pedigree as a learned Jewish scholar and Pharisee, trained by the best.  Yet, he said, compared to knowing Christ all of his Ivy League know-how was garbage (verse 8).  The actual word there is “DUNG” (Strong’s Greek; 4657), or “manure pile”- Luke 13:8; 14:35.

ALL OF OUR EARTHLY EFFORTS AMOUNT TO NOTHING COMPARED TO KNOWING CHRIST.

The image of poop is a vivid reminder not to let those past success go to your head!

I’m not saying the past isn’t important.  We need to learn from the past.

But I find life is like driving a car:  Most of the time you want to look out that large front windshield; every now and then you need to glance back through the tiny rear view mirror.  Too much looking back will get you into trouble.

LEARN from the past.

Make PEACE with the past.

CELEBRATE the past.

And LET GO of the past so that you can be…

Reaching toward the FUTURE.

Paul says in verses 13 and 14,  “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.     [In other words, “I haven’t arrived yet!”].  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Straining to cross the finish line!

Paul pictures here the sprinter straining forward to cross the finish line.  You can’t worry about what’s behind you.  You need to lean into the run and give it all you got, keeping your eyes fixed on the finish.

And what a finish it will be!

What is our goal? What is the prize?

It’s the heavenward calling of God in Christ Jesus!

A couple of weeks ago now, I began this study in Philippians [STUFF Happens In Life, So What’s Next?].

In the introduction, we looked together at Paul’s life mission when he said, For me to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).  

He pointed out that the STUFF–the things we face in life is temporary.  We have one foot in eternity and one foot on earth.  Earth is our temporary home.  We’re just passing through.

And in God’s perfect timing, He will bring us home to our glorious future.

When we can remember that, we can press forward in the race of life, running every day in serving God, leaving our worries in the past.

Romans 8:31 (NIV) says “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift…”

I borrowed that quote for my blog-title from Master Oogway from the movie Kung Fu Panda.  Actually, the author is unknown yet many claim it.  And to be accurate, I left out of the title an important finishing line: “That’s why it’s called the ‘present’ “.

As we yield our past and our future to God, we’re left with the PRESENT.

We run the race, a race that’s never over until it’s over.  As long as we have breath, we need to PRESS ON!  Stay with it!

Follow Christ, love Christ and know Christ Jesus.

That, my friends, is what we do now:  We release the PAST, we reach toward our FUTURE, and we grow closer to Jesus every day.

Paul says, over and over in this chapter, his number one ambition is to know Christ. 

The word “KNOW” doesn’t refer to head knowledge.  He doesn’t want to know more about Jesus.  It’s the word used to describe how a parent and child know each other, or how a husband and wife know each other.  It means to KNOW in the context of RELATIONSHIP, to know more intimately, to grow closer and closer.

This is Paul’s goal; every day, to know Christ more!  Paul said, “I want to know Him in two ways.”  

In verses 10 and 11, Paul said,  [10]  “[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly]. and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope]  [11] That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body].”  (Amplified Bible)

Paul starts by saying, to KNOW CHRIST means to know “the power outflowing from His resurrection.”

Think about the POWER found in our greatest atomic bombs or our largest hydroelectric plants.

RESURRECTION POWER is so much more!

How much POWER does it take to reverse death and decay?

All the blood loss and tissue damage done to Jesus’ body, all the muscles ripped apart by spears and whips and nails, and the weight of hanging on the cross–

God reversed all of that, restoring Jesus not only to a healthy human body, but to the very first resurrection body, and a body that would never age again!

We could use that kind of POWER in our world today.

When the cruel words cut into our hearts, when our mood darkens, when the prognosis isn’t good, when tragedy strikes, when the loss is devastating…WE NEED THE RESURRECTION POWER OF CHRIST!

And we have it as we get to know Jesus better and better!

Paul talks about having that POWER now, in his first phrase (verse 10).

Paul also talks about how that RESURRECTION POWER and the participation in His sufferings arrives completed in the FUTURE…

Becoming like Him in His death, and so “somehow…” (“if possible” – AMP.) “attain to the resurrection out from the dead.”

I like the words, “if possible”.  

Some have wondered, does this mean Paul had doubts about this?  I don’t think so.  Paul doesn’t strike me as a guy who was unsure what he believed.

I think, with the words “if possible”, or “somehow”, Paul was implying to the mystery of the final resurrection.  The Bible describes how the dead in Christ will rise first, followed by believers that are still alive, as we join Jesus in the air, (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17)

But what a mystery!  Our minds cannot conceive it.  It’s simply too great to imagine!!

But Paul wasn’t content to know only the power of Christ’s resurrection.  He also wanted to participate “in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.”

I don’t know about you, but I would rather have His resurrection power than want His sufferings.

But Paul did!

Paul knew that if you were to know Christ Jesus, you were to know suffering.  And Paul suffered!

  • He was arrested on false charges
  • He was beaten on several occasions
  • He was run out of cities
  • He was slandered
  • He was shipwrecked

I don’t have to tell you there’s a lot of SUFFERING in this world.  Ask the citizens of Las Vegas.  It seems the news headlines are non-stop lately, from one hurricane to another, from earthquakes to mass murders.  And here around us, in our own backyards, many are suffering in various ways that don’t capture the news’ headlines–physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

When you suffer (Not “IF”, but “WHEN”), draw closer to Jesus in His sufferings.

He knows what it’s like to SUFFER, so He knows what you’re going through right now.  None of us have suffered to His extent, but He knows our situation quite well.  And He promised us in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace.  In this world, you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

Jesus can and will bring perspective and meaning to your suffering if you’ll let Him.

C.S. Lewis, the Christian writer, suffered several losses throughout his life.  He wrote a book called, “The Problem of Pain”.  There he said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Let your suffering bring you closer to Christ in His sufferings.

Release your past to Christ, all the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Reach toward your glorious future, living with one foot in eternity, as you remember where you’re heading in glory.

And then, every day, seek to grow closer to Jesus.  Make it your daily ambition to get to know Christ more and more.

____________________________________________________________________

~CREDITS~

Epository Dictionary Of Bible Words by Stephen D. Renn

The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

Images:  Google Image Search; Settings–advance search.

Video:  The Resurrection of Jesus -The Passion of Christ – YouTube

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Bible (NIV) unless noted.

 

The Actions Needed In Keeping Things In Balance

A Study in Philippians 2:12-18

One of the most difficult things I found in life over the years is maintaining to keep ALL things where they are ALL supposed to be at ALL times.

It’s called BALANCE.

Sometimes we feel like the man portrayed in the above image.  He starts at one end, starts them spinning, works his way down to the last one but as soon as he gets there looks back and the first one is failing so he rushes back down the line to restart one and goes through the sequence again and sometimes he doesn’t make it and the plat crashes.

BALANCE is critical in the Christian life (Luke 2:52)

“Jesus grew both in body and in wisdom, gaining favor with God and people”  (GNT).

This verse follows the story of when Jesus was lost or separated from Mary and Joseph for three days.  Can you imagine losing your children in a shopping mall…for three days!

When they finally located him, Jesus was in the Temple sitting among some of the great teachers of the day, asking questions.  And they were asking him questions as well and they were amazed at his understanding, after all, he was only 12 years old at the time.

The Bible is silent for about the next 18 years of Jesus’ life and we don’t know exactly what happened during that time but we do have this one verse as a summary of those years:

  • he grew in wisdom…Intellectually
  • he grew in stature…Physically
  • he grew in favor with God…Spiritually
  • he grew in favor with man…Socially

And if we are going to live as Jesus did, we have to learn to do the same.

Because of they all matter and when our life is in BALANCE we are happier.  When it’s out of balance we’re miserable!

And I find it is one of the most difficult and challenging things in life to maintain.

So the apostle Paul reminds us the areas where we must maintain balance.

There must be a BALANCE between purpose and power (Philippians 2:12-13)

To understand what he is saying needs to first understand what he’s NOT saying.

The phrase “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” is greatly misunderstood.  Paul’s NOT telling us we must do something to earn salvation.  He’s NOT telling us that we have to work to be saved.

So to understand what Paul’s saying here, we must recognize he’s writing to the CHURCH, to believers so his words have nothing to do with how to come to Christ.  These people were in the church; they already knew Christ.

The word for “work out” in the Greek NT is the potential of freedom from strife and vainglory [*See footnote [i] ].  

So here’s a few questions we all must ask ourselves at various places in life:

  • Am I reaching for my full potential as a Christian in life or am I just settling for mediocrity?

What’s my obedience to Christ?

I feel once we acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives that becomes our PURPOSE in life–to OBEY Him in absolutely everything!

Now when Paul speaks of God “working in you” in v. 13, the word there is the English word energizing.

What came to my mind here almost immediately was the Energizing Bunny in the commercials.  He keeps going and going and going!

There’s a positive and a negative side to every battery we use.  Even when it’s in the package we buy it in, it’s still working.  We just can’t see it.

But when they are placed in a device it needs to be hooked up to an electrical circuit and the electrons build up and the result is POWER!  OK, maybe I oversimplified the process but you get the idea.

So there’s POWER stored up whether we turn it on or not.

Look around the room you’re in right now.

POWER is available in every outlet.  But they’re not ALL being used for something.  Some of the outlets are empty.

So it becomes our job to plug into this POWER to allow God to use us.  That’s “Wonder Working Power”!

But too often we just choose to sit and watch everyone else plugin.

Someone has said there are THREE TYPES of people in this world.

  1. Those who made things happen
  2. Those who sit and watch things happen
  3. Those who wonder what’s happening

God wants us to be in the first group.

God is at work in us to do His good purpose.  As He pours into us we do the things that bring Him good pleasure!

Now I believe that Paul wants us to see something here:

  • It’s His pleasure (not ours)
  • It’s His will (not ours)
  • It’s His glory (not ours)

There’s a potential conflict in all this I think.  Most of us prefer to have things go our way and that’s because of our attitude.

So Paul tells us there’s a second area where we need BALANCE.

The must be a BALANCE of Attitude and Action (Verses 14-16).

For BALANCE to happen in our busy lives Paul gives us a negative and a positive response because that’s how we find balance.

On the negative side, Paul says to all of us…You need to watch your ATTITUDE.

Oh, how I need to be reminded of this daily, oh Lord!

There are TWO things Paul mentions that show our bad attitudes:

  1. Usually, one of these we do is when we’re alone grumbling.  

GRUMBLING isn’t usually loud.  It’s a low tone, negative, complaining, whining, and one thing it will do is to steal your JOY!  It just seems to come naturally for some of us.  We try to resist but we just pass it around to others.

GRUMBLING can find something wrong with everything at once and when they find it, that’s what they focus on.

I was pruning my ROSE TREE the other day as I do every year at this time.  As you might imagine, it can be a ‘thorny’ experience because the tree is covered with THORNS.  In fact, all I could see was the THORNS to the point I couldn’t remember how beautiful the tree was when it was in FLOWER.

The reason is perspective.  It’s ATTITUDE!

Paul said that you and I as believers need to prove that we are different by OUR ACTIONS.

He said to prove that you are blameless and innocent; that you are a child of God and in the midst of a dark world with plenty of thorns, you and I are told to bring LIGHT to the situation.

Paul calls us STARS.

There are no small STARS!

The smallest star in our universe is basically the same size as the planet Saturn.

The word here means luminaries (Gk. phosteres).  LUMINARIES are surrounded by darkness and that’s why they stand out.

Jesus told us to let your light shine so that people can see your good works and through that, GLORY will be given to God, the Father.

There’s no need to shout or scream, no need for drama, JUST SHINE!

The NEGATIVE that Paul gives us here–DON’T GRUMBLE.

The POSITIVE–JUST SHINE!

Get our ATTITUDE and ACTIONS in BALANCE.

Next, there must be a BALANCE between being serious and being joyful (verses 17-18).

Philippians 2:17-18 (NIV)

“But even I (Paul) am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith.  I am glad and rejoice with all of you.  So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.”

Paul goes on to describe a THIRD area we need to balance.

I thought this is an amazing word picture here.  Paul says we are “being poured out as a drink offering.”

Unbelievers, pagans had a practice in that day before and after every meal to take 2 cups of wine–they would pour one out on the ground before every meal and then would eat–then they would pour another one out after every meal in honor of the god they worshiped.  The purpose was to gain the favor of the gods.

Paul speaks of the possibility of being poured out as a drink offering.  Now that’s a serious thought.

He’s saying. I may never get out of the situation I’m in alive–remember he’s in prison facing execution at any moment.

But even if I don’t make it out…he says it will all be worth it.

You can think some really serious thoughts if you have ever faced the possibility of your own death–Paul was imagining here that he might be living his final days, and the single most serious thought a person can have and yet he was still able to REJOICE.

He refused to focus on the DARK SIDE.

He refused to let even the possibility of his immediate death steal his JOY.

Then he says to us that you need to REJOICE in the same way.

Every day we need to find something to be happy about; every day find something you can laugh about.  Take a day off, take a long walk, watch a movie, go fishing, do something that takes you away from all the seriousness of life.  Give yourself permission to enjoy the day.

The Flying Wallendas…

The Wallendas are known as perhaps the greatest group of tight wire walkers in history.

Karl Wallenda had the amazing ability to keep his focus, to concentrate and to, of course, keep his balance.  He did it for decades until that night he fell to his death.  He was crossing a tight wire strung between two sets of high-rise apartments in San Juan Puerto Rico.  Later his wife said that for as long as she had known him, he always focussed walking the tightrope but on that night she said for some reason he kept his focus on the possibility of falling.  Even to the point that he supervised the installing of the guide wires which he had never done before.  And on that night he fell to his death.

Often the difference in success and failure is losing your BALANCE and looking in the wrong direction.

Scripture tells us that we are to keep our eyes–our minds, our spirits focussed on JESUS, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

“Work out your own salvation” (Philippians 2:12)

I love the way the Amplified Bible phrases verse 12:

Therefore, my dear ones, as you have always obeyed [my suggestions], so now, not only [with enthusiasm you would show] in my presence but much more because I am absent WORK OUT (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ).

Paul doesn’t leave us there.  He goes on to tell us that we can’t work our salvation by our own efforts–our own strength or we will lose our focus and fall from the tightrope of life.

Verse 13 (AMP):

[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight.

_____________________________________________________________________

~FOOTNOTES & CREDITS~

Footnote [i] :  Vines Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old and New Testament Words – “work out”; page 684, verb #2.

The Interlinear Bible of the Old Testament and New Testament; Greek and Hebrew.

Bible Translations:  Good News Translation (GNT); New International Version (NIV); Amplified (AMP), or where noted in the text.

Images used:  Google Image Search.

 

 

 

 

 

STUFF Happens In Life, So What’s Next?

I’m sure that many of you reading this already know that “stuff” happens in our lives.  You also understand those difficult things, unimaginable things, seem to come out of nowhere.

Now I’ve heard over the years people’s interesting answers to the “Why’s”, the “What for’s”.  And you know, there’s some really bad information floating around in the halls of religion to why stuff happens.  Here are but a few answers I’ve noticed and embraced by so-called “TV preachers and preacherettes”.

They say things like the reason things (STUFF) is happening to you right now is your fault, you don’t have enough FAITH or you have some SIN of unbelief in your life.  Their cure for your problem usually comes from some “power of positive thinking” message or “name it and claim it” sermon.  Most of this has no legitimate place in the church.

I can give you many examples and biblical reasons why stuff happens, even to “good people.”  And this brings me to illustrate my point using the life of the Apostle Paul and his own words–

We are the sum of all our experiences both good and bad!

Paul’s Recognition that Stuff Happens In Life…prior to becoming a ‘born again’ believer begins in Acts 26.

There have been many important events in history and obviously, the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ are at the top of the list but beyond that, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus ranks with the most important and influential events ever!

He describes his conversion to Christianity in Acts 26:12-18 in his defense before King Agrippa.

Paul’s life after his commission –

Paul describes many of the things (the “stuff”) that happened to him after his commission in his 2nd Letter to the church at Corinth:

2 Corinthians 11:21-28 (NIV)

[21] To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!  Whatever anyone else dares to boast about–I am speaking as a fool–I also dare to boast about.  [22] Are they speaking Hebrews?  So am I.  Are they Israelites?  So am I.  [23] Are they servants of Christ?  (I am out of my mind to talk like this) I am more.  I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.  [24] Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  [25] Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked.  I spent a night and a day in the open sea.  [26] I have been constantly on the move.  I have been in danger from rivers, in danger of bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and in danger from false believers.  [27] I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep.  I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food.  I have been cold and naked.  [28]  who is weak, and I do not feel weak?  Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

PHILIPPIANS is one of Paul’s Prison Letters…

And in VERSE 13, he speaks of his “chains”:  

Philippians 1:13 (NIV)

“As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.”

According to what most scholars believe, Paul was under house arrest in Rome.  He would later finish his “race” when he was re-arrested and imprisoned in the Maritime jail.  Church history generally looks to Paul’s martyrdom outside the city of Rome at the hands of his Roman captors and it’s from this second imprisonment we have the 2nd letter to Timothy, considered Paul’s “last will and testament” (2 Timothy 4:6-18).

Paul’s Realization When STUFF Happens – 

Most of us want to view the STUFF of life through a microscope whereas Paul looked at life through a telescope!  He envisioned things that had happened to him as a teaching moment.

Contemporary wisdom would say that what had happened to Paul was a BAD THING…BAD STUFF! And that’s true, it was.

But Paul saw everything through the lens of the providential arrangement of God–GOD’S PROVIDENCE–GOD’S IN CONTROL!  

The English Standard Version translates verse 12 in this way:

Philippians 1:12 (ESV)

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”

Paul declares that his “…CHAINS in Christ…” revealed to the Imperial Guard and everyone else in the palace that he was imprisoned for Christ’s sake.

The news spread from guard to guard, to the families of the guards, and then to the front doorsteps of Caesar’s household.

This very sight had to give great comfort and joy to the brethren at Phillipi.

Second, Paul ended the Philippians letter by saying,

Philippians 4:22 (AMP) – “All the saints (God’s consecrated ones here) wish to be remembered to you, especially those of Caesar’s household.”

It’s important to understand rightly the phrase Paul uses here.  That’s what Word Detectives do!

“Caesar’s household” doesn’t mean Caesar’s kiss in kin.  

Caesar’s household was the regular phrase for what we would call the Imperial Civil Service; it had members all over the known world.  The palace officials, the secretaries, the people who were in charge of the Imperial revenues, those who were responsible for the day-to-day administration of the EMPIRE, all these were known as “Caesar’s household”.  [See Footnote [1] ].

Look at what Paul says next in VERSE 14:

He says that most of the “…brethren…” were emboldened by his chains and they preached the Word without fear.

This is important and a great lesson for believers today.

When we SHARE our faith it serves to give encouragement to those around us.

And Paul’s Response When STUFF Happens… (Philippians 1:18-19) –

“Happiness depends on happenings, but JOY depends on Jesus!”

The overwhelming THEME of Philippians is JOY.

16 times Paul uses the word JOY or REJOICE.

He’s THANKFUL in the midst of his STUFF…

#1.  Christ is proclaimed.

Paul acknowledges that some preach Christ because they’re jealous and quarrelsome, but others do so from genuine goodwill.  They do so from love and because they know that God has given me, Paul, the work of defending the GOSPEL.

The others don’t proclaim Christ sincerely but instead, from a spirit of selfish ambition; they think that they will make more trouble for me while I’m in prison.

IT DOESN’T MATTER!

I’m happy about it–just so long as Christ is preached in every way possible, right or wrong.  And I will continue to be happy!

#2.  Christ is honored – Philippians 1:20-21 (NKJ)

Many who are reading this, or know of someone who is struggling with some STUFF that has happened or happening in life have questions but no answers to the circumstances faced.

Maybe I can give you a few things that might help you and others understand the “stuff” that happens.

FIRST, and this is important, you’ll never understand what’s going on without a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

NOTHING WILL MAKE SENSE APART FROM THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.

Proverbs 3:1-6 (NIV)

[1] My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart,  [2] for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.  [3] Let love and faithfulness never leave you, bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.  [4] Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.  [5] Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  [6] In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Ask Him to help you see LIFE the way He does.  I know that’s hard but that’s where TRUST comes in to play.

Remember what He said…

Isaiah 55:8-9 (AMP)

[8] For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord.  [9] For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.

James 1:5 (NIV)

[5] If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

James 3:17 (NIV)

[17] But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

God Will Make A Way in a Tragedy…

In other words, as we depend on the Lord in difficult circumstances–in the STUFF that can surround us at times, when we persevere in doing what’s right even when it’s hard.

Several years ago, Don Moen was awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call.  His mother-in-law called to tell him that a tragic car accident involving his wife’s sister and her husband, and their four small boys on a road trip when the tragedy occurred.  The oldest, who was eight, was killed instantly.  The others in the car were seriously injured.

As Don and his wife grieved and poured out their hearts to the Lord, Don felt helpless at communicating hope and grace to his wife’s sister and brother-in-law.

Don recalls how God helped him through the tragedy:

“It was as if the Lord gave me these words”

__________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Media:  YouTube Video – Don Moen, God Will Make A Way, 1990; Integrity’s Hosanna Music/ASCAP.

Photos:  Google Image Search, subject to copyright.

Footnote [i]:  William Barclay, The Letters to The Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); other versions used are noted in the text.

 

Finding Flowers Among The Thorns

Amos 9:1-15 ~

After studying God’s Word in the book of Amos over the past few weeks, I finally arrived at the last chapter.  It’s been a long haul meditating on the many verses, taking notes, underlining certain phrases.  I shook my head at times, thinking “Is there any good news in this at all?”  It seemed that the MESSAGE is only about death and destruction.

So many ways Amos tried to get his message across to the Israelites–the talk, the sermons, and finally the personal visions he had.

In all this, Israel wouldn’t listen.

They had wandered so far away from God’s Truth that they couldn’t find their way back.

And they further deceived themselves thinking that because they were God’s people and so blessed, that God would threaten JUDGMENT…BUT not carry through the threat.  Sound like any nation you might know today?

They forgot that one of the recurring themes of the book, the Sovereignty of God.

That concerns me today about the churches in America more than anything else.  With a loss of REVERENCE to God’s POWER, comes a loss of dependency on Him.  We think we can do it all on our own.

JUDGMENT ISN’T JUST AN OLD TESTAMENT CONCLUSION –

If the people of Israel were to see JUDGMENT for their transgressions, their SINS, how can the Church today fail to expect that same JUDGMENT?

But doesn’t the New Testament SAY…God is LOVE?

And it absolutely does!  [Matthew 6:33; 1 Cor. 11:31; 1 John 4:8]

God’s Word in the New Testament also points out that the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God is synonymous with His JUSTICE.

So how then can we take so much negativity laid in front of our eyes and find the flowers among the thorns of JUDGMENT and PUNISHMENT?

Judgment and Punishment have traditionally been seen as negative words.  We want people NOT to do a certain activity and so we punish them if they do.  That’s JUSTICE.

Children may recognize that we LOVE them when we punish them, but their view of PUNISHMENT is still not to do a certain thing.

There’s an element of RESTORATION that happens as the result of punishment or judgment.

Just as parents, God disciplines or judges His people to bring them back to a good relationship with Him.

That’s what LOVE can do.  RESTORES RELATIONSHIP!

In AMOS, Chapter 9, I found three things that can develop RESTORATION.

When I’m studying the Scriptures I like to break down the chapters when I can into categories:

AMOS CHAPTER NINE –

  1.  The Sovereignty of God (Amos 9:1-10).
  2.   The PROMISE of restoration (Amos 9:11-15).
  3.   The AGENT of the restoration (Amos 9:11-15).

God’s Sovereignty –

Amos knows why God’s JUDGMENT is coming.  In a vision, God shows Amos the extent of the Judgment: the very foundations of Israel are to be destroyed.

ALL of the people are involved.  Their land, their buildings, ALL were involved and destroyed.

WHY?

One reason is that it establishes the SOVEREIGNTY of God.

It’s just as a child in testing a parent to find out who’s the boss.  The child challenges the parent’s AUTHORITY.

If the parent doesn’t answer the challenge by responding to discipline, then the child doesn’t fear the AUTHORITY of the parent.  How that parent exercises that discipline can affect the challenge.

With my oldest daughter, a good strong word from my wife and I or a time-out on a chair would be good enough.  With my other two children, that would do no good at all.

For some, nothing short of a spanking would do.

For DISCIPLINE to be effective it must present the parent in a sovereign position of authority over the child, not visa versa. 

The same is true of God.  He doesn’t send JUDGMENT just for the sake of judgment.  He sends it to exert His SOVEREIGNTY on a people who have challenged it, or no longer believes in it.

He allows us to know who is really in control of the world, creator, not the created.

AMOS begins this chapter by establishing God’s SOVEREIGNTY.

He shows this in a VISION of God’s judgment in the first four verses.

God is pictured by the altar with a sword in His hands.

There’s no defensive armor mentioned because He wouldn’t need a defense!

He was to attack as if the SWORD is the only offensive weapon.

After He destroys the temple, God then continues His judgment with the survivors.

They couldn’t hide in the mountains nor hide in the depths of the sea.  The Sovereign God would find them wherever they hide.

AMOS continues to describe the SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD (Verse 5, Amplified Bible) –

[5]  The Lord God of hosts, it is He Who touches the earth and it melts, and all who dwell in it mourn; it shall rise like the [river] Nile, all of it, and it shall sink again like the Nile of Egypt.

He identifies God as the LORD, the Lord Almighty.

God who can control the actions of the earth and the water:  Noah and the Flood; Moses and the Red Sea.

Having established His SOVEREIGNTY through the elements, look to VERSE 7:

[7]  “Are not you Israelites the same to Me as the Cushites?” declares the LORD.  “Did I not bring Israel up from Egypt, the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir?”  (NIV)

In this verse, God establishes the fact that He considers ISRAEL to be the same as the Cushites.  God has in the past delivered that which were not His chosen people out of captivity.  They wouldn’t recognize it, but Amos does here.

But in VERSE 8, the first glimmer of HOPE appears–finding the flower among the thorns.

[8]  Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom [of Israel’s ten tribes] and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground…EXCEPT that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, says the Lord.  (Amplified)

God’s SOVEREIGNTY establishes His righteous JUDGMENT, but in His destruction, God makes a PROMISE not to totally destroy Israel or the house of Jacob.

In fact, the only time we can speak JUDGMENT without RESTORATION is the Great White Throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).  

It is here we begin to see the budding of the flower start to develop.

THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL:

God has PROMISED (verse 8) that He will NOT destroy the house of Jacob.

Knowing what we know from verses 1-4, not all the Israelites will be destroyed.

This leads to two interesting questions: Who will be destroyed and who will be the remnant?  And why?

After the death of Solomon, a series of successive kings didn’t look to God for leadership, trusting rather their own power to lead Israel.

This is the foundation of the division of the 12 Tribes into countries.

  • The Northern Kingdom of Israel.
  • The Southern Kingdom of Judah.

Jeroboam, the king of the northern country, Israel, wanted to make it absolutely clear that the two countries stay divided.  To do this, he introduced IDOL WORSHIP to Israel, and the people wouldn’t go to Jerusalem to make SACRIFICE to God.

They went downhill after that began.

It’s also at this time they developed a false sense of independence.  Their WORSHIP became mechanical, not authentic.

They would go back and forth–they would make sacrifices to God, then turn to worshipping idols.

So EVIL had infested all aspects of Israel for literally hundreds of years.

God wouldn’t stay His JUDGMENTS forever in light of this.

It’s also important to realize that not ALL the Israelites bowed down to Baal.  They would ALL be part of the JUDGMENT but God would protect them.  That was a PROMISE!

God also left a gate of opportunity for individual REPENTANCE, even though the country would be JUDGED.

So with all this BACKGROUND in mind, we know who’s to be JUDGED:

  1. the religious leaders for their allowing IDOLATRY.
  2. to the political leaders whom wouldn’t look to God.
  3. to the wealthy for how they abused the poor.
  4. to the judicial leaders for abusing the system of justice.
  5. to the people who followed these leaders.

And the REMNANT?

  1. Those who REPENT of their wicked ways or have not turned their backs on God.
  2.  Those born while in captivity, although they go through the fire of JUDGMENT…they will be the REMNANT.

Verse Eleven and Twelve tells us that God will RESTORE the fallen tent of David and more!

“Raise, Repair, Rebuild”

God will REPAIR the broken pieces and RESTORE its ruins.

He will bring about a NEW NATION that’s stronger and more powerful than it was before.

This is a NEW DAY of the Lord.

One that’s brought forth JUDGMENT but in liberation.

Look at VERSE 13 and 14:

All the previous talk of JUDGMENT as now turned to RESTORATION and HOPE!!!

I find this next point invaluable on how this RESTORATION takes place.

THE AGENT OF RESTORATION:  Amos 9:11-15

It’s not enough to KNOW that restoration was to take place.  We must also know how.

Israel’s restoration would come in two ways.

One is immediate:

This would be their return from captivity under Nehemiah and Ezra.

The other is a future restoration when Christ comes back.

Let’s deal first with the immediate restoration:

What happened during Israel’s CAPTIVITY was several things.

  1. ALL OF THE BUILDINGS WERE DESTROYED.

This is important!

With the destruction of ALL THINGS…the places where IDOL WORSHIP was also destroyed.  Any place that could bring back any memory at all of any infection of their idol worship was gone.

Also with total destruction, any ill-gotten gains made by the rich were destroyed.

There would be a NEW START for God’s people with a NEW RELATIONSHIP with God.

Sacrifices and worship would be authentic and re-established under the Law.

But the FUTURE restoration God brought about was even more reconstructive than just the return to an existing form of WORSHIP.  The form of worship had to change, for, throughout Israel’s history, the people showed repeatedly that they turned AWAY from God under the Law.  They couldn’t keep ALL the Law, therefore, they could keep none of it!

For Israel’s RESTORATION to be complete, they would have to have a NEW WAY to worship.

The NEW WAY of worship would come with Christ. 

He came to COMPLETE the Law.

With Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, God completed the RESTORATION of the Law with the Doctrine of Grace!

And that DOCTRINE OF GRACE wrestled the control of religion from the hands of mere mortals and placed God in control.  It was no longer a system, a bunch of rules and regulations that man could try to adhere to, like directions on a roadmap.

SALVATION was now a GIFT that was open to everyone!

It was based on what God can do for a man, a GIFT that only God could give!!

With Christ Jesus, the RESTORATION was complete.

CHRISTIANITY was to become the NEW ISRAEL.

One day, as believers in JESUS CHRIST we will never again be uprooted as we join Him in glory.

What a great day that will be for those who are a part of the RESTORED KINGDOM!

Years ago, John Peterson and Don Wyrtzen wrote together I LOVE AMERICA that was sung by many choirs in the land during Memorial Day.  Yes, it was a patriotic musical, but for me personally, it was even more.

It was A CALLING to us all!

“Oh, the voice we could hear…”

 

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CREDITS –

Media:  You Tube video – Jesus Is Calling America.

Blog’s IMAGES:  Google Image Search – Settings, advanced.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Version (NIV), except where noted.

Bible Commentary:  BibleStudyTools.com