Thursday, May 17, 2018

Philippians 4

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:6-7

We often think of Philippians chapter four as a chapter on joy.  In this chapter we also learn how we can have peace, a sense of security in Christ, and how we can "stand firm in the Lord" (Philippians 4:1b).  We are commanded in Philippians 4:4 to "Rejoice in the Lord always."  This verse is not only telling us we are able to have joy in Christ, but that we must rejoice in the Lord.  We are not to rejoice only on the days when everything is going smoothly, but we must also rejoice on the days which are difficult and full of trouble and challenges. True joy in the Lord does not depend on our circumstances but comes from the Lord.  Paul wrote the book of Philippians in prison.  He rejoiced in the Lord in spite of his trials and unpleasant circumstances.  He had joy because of His relationship with the Lord.  That must be our source of joy also.

Joy is first found in right praying.  Joy and peace are not found in counterproductive worry.  Worry accomplishes nothing except for depressing our spirit and in some cases causing physical ailments in our bodies.  When we begin to worry we need to immediately cast our worries and anxieties on the Lord in prayer.  We need to commit all our concerns to the Lord, and then leave them with the Lord.

It is so easy to pray to the Lord, and then walk away from prayer still worrying.  God commands us not to do that, but instead we are to leave all our worries in His hands.  Worry and trust do not go together.  When we bring our worries to the Lord we must also approach Him with a thankful heart.  We must not forget to thank Him for all His past and present blessings.  If we do that Philippians 4:7 says that "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Joy and peace come from right praying, and they also come from right thinking.  In verse eight of chapter four of Philippians we are told to think of things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.  Joy and peace further comes from right practice.  Philippians 4:9 says, "Whatever you have learned or received---put it into practice.  And the God or peace will be with you."  Obedience to God's Word always produces joy and peace.

Joy and peace come from right praying, right thinking, right acting, and finally from contentment in all circumstances.  We need to be content whatever our circumstances, and we need to be content wherever God has placed us in this life.  Paul was in in prison when he wrote the book of Philippians.  In spite of this fact, Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11b, "I have learned to be content  whatever the circumstances."  Can we say the same?

Surrendering to God's will and resting in Him is the only way to true joy and and peace.  We might think that this is easier said than done.  The truth is we can do nothing in ourselves.  Paul says in Philippians 4:13, however, "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."  The Lord gives us the strength to rest all our worries in Him.  He gives us the strength to face all of life's problems.  Finally, the Lord promises to be with us and meet our needs.  Philippians 4:19 says, "And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus."  He has promised to meet all and not just some of our needs.  He has promised to meet all our needs out of His glorious and limitless riches.  What joy!  What peace!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Philippians 3

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him."  Philippians 3:7-9

Businesses have to consider their profits and losses, if they are going to be able to stay in business.  Even families and individuals have to mange their finances.  Consideration of profits and losses is even more crucial in our spiritual lives, however.  We need to ask ourselves what or whom is most important to us in our lives and what is worth little or nothing.

In verses four through six of Philippians chapter three the apostle Paul listed all the things that were important to him in the past.  These were things that were important to Paul before he knew the Lord Jesus as His Savior, Lord, and friend.  What Paul had considered important in the past, however, Paul now considered worthless.  Paul concluded that there is no joy outside of knowing and serving the Lord.  Paul said in Philippians 3:7-9, "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him."  Paul went on to say in Philippians 3:10, "I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection."

So often we foolishly place value on the things of this world.  We each need to ask ourselves, "What is more important to me?  Is it money?  Is it possessions?  Is it pleasure?  Is it my career?"  There is nothing that this world has to offer that can begin to compare to the joy of knowing the Lord.  In comparison to knowing the Lord Jesus everything else in our lives is pure "rubbish."  Philippians 3:9 reminds us that  absolutely nothing can compare to the joy of gaining our Lord Jesus Christ and being "found in Him"  Absolutely nothing is more important than knowing "Christ and the power of His resurrection." (Philippians 3:10)  Our supreme goal in life must be to grow in our love relationship with the Lord.  Our supreme gaol in life must be to grow in our understanding of the wonders of His person.

There is no true joy outside of the Lord.  In Philippians 3:1 Paul says, "Rejoice in the Lord!"  Paul did not say to rejoice in people and possessions, but he said, "Rejoice in the Lord!"  The Lord is all that really matters for time and for eternity.  The Lord Jesus is the only source of salvation.  Depending on our own resources and works will never earn us salvation.  Our salvation is completely of grace and a gift of God.  The Lord and a relationship with Him is also the only thing that gives purpose and joy in life.  Knowing the Lord and living for Him is the only thing that is really important.

We must passionately desire to know and serve our Lord better every day.  We must put everything out of our lives that would detract us from that goal.  Paul said in Philippians 3:12, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me."  Our past with all its successes and failures and even joys and sorrows must be our main focus. Rather, we must focus on our growing relationship with the Lord.  We must focus on growing in holiness and on growing in our service to the Lord.  Paul said in Philippians 3:13b-14, "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."   May nothing detract us from our relationship with the Lord and from living for Him.  May Christ and His glory be our consuming passion and goal!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Philippians 2:9-18

Jesus Christ is worthy of all our praise and honor.  The Lord Jesus is worthy of our praise and honor, because He is God.  Jesus Christ is worthy or our praise and honor, because He humbled Himself and left His home in glory to come to this world of sin.  The Lord then lived a perfect life for us that we could not live, and He died to pay for the punishment of our sins.  As a result Philippians 2:9-11 tells us that God, the Father, "exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Someday every knee will bow before the Lord.  Someday every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of Lords and is worthy of praise and honor.  Even those who reject Christ now will someday acknowledge Him as Lord.  When the Lord returns to this earth every knee will bow to Him, but then it will be too late for those who have previously rejected our Lord.  Therefore, it is God's will and design that we passionately pursue our love relationship with the Lord now.  It is God's will and design that we seek to bring praise and glory to the Lord Jesus now with our lives.  It is God's will and design that the purpose of our lives be centered in the Lord Jesus and that we seek to serve and worship Him in all we do and say.

The Lord Jesus has given us an incomparable and awesome example of obedience and loving servanthood through His life.  In fact, He laid down His very life for us!  We now belong to the Lord.  Therefore, we need to live our lives in continual praise to the Lord Jesus for His salvation.  We need to live our lives for His glory.  Philippians 2:12b-13 says, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose."

This passage is not talking about some kind of works salvation or righteousness.  We are sinful and can do nothing to earn or add to our salvation.  Our salvation is all of grace and a gift of God.  Because the Lord Jesus has purchased our salvation by His blood and the Holy Spirit now lives in our hearts, however, we need to show that we are children of God by our lives.  We need to "work out" in our lives what the Holy Spirit has worked into our hearts.  As redeemed children of God we need to live for God's glory.  This must become our passion and purpose for living.

As we cannot earn or contribute to our salvation by any merit on our part, so we even now can not live for the Lord without the Holy Spirit's help.  We must choose to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in our hearts, however.  We must choose to avail ourselves of His strength and must seek to live holy lives.  We must choose with the Holy Spirit's help to express glory to our Lord through our lives and to grow in spiritual maturity.  This takes effort and maturity on our parts, but we must seek our Lord's glory out of our thankful response to His grace.

We must do all we can to live our lives in gratitude for what the Lord has done for us in making us His children.  We must always seek to live for the Lord's glory and must seek to live in the center of His will.  We must not ever be discontented with God's will for our lives or compare it with the life circumstances of others.  Instead Philippians 2:15 says our lives  must be "blameless and pure" before the Lord.  We must truly live as "children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation."  In fact we must "shine like stars in the universe."

Our lives must demonstrate unmixed and wholehearted devotion for the glory and praise of God and for doing God's will.  Our lives as children of God must be in sharp contrast to the people of the world around us.  We must be like bright stars shinning in the darkness of this world for God's glory!  May Christ's glory and praise be our passion and purpose for living!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Philippians 2:1-8

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 2:4-5

Humility and thinking of others before oneself are rare commodities in today's world.  Most of the world's philosophy and life style is geared toward self-fulfillment and self-advancement.  The Lord, however, asks us to live lives of humility, love, and selflessness.  Philippians 2:1-4 says, "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others."

The Lord has showered us, His children, with His spiritual blessings.  The Lord gave us His salvation from sin's power and penalty through His precious blood on the cross.  He also daily gives us His encouragement, comfort, love, and fellowship.  The Lord daily lavishes on us His compassion and tenderness.  In light of God's blessings to us we need to show the same love to others.  We need to especially show that love to our fellow believers.

We must show Christ-like love to others.  We must seek to be united and "one in spirit and purpose" with our fellow believers in Christ (Philippians 2:2b).  This does not mean we will have perfect uniformity of thought at all times, but there should be a common working together among believers for the glory of God.  There should also be a loving and humble servant attitude towards fellow Christians.  We must not act out in selfish motives or to stroke our own egos, but with a humble spirit we must consider other's needs and feelings before ourselves.

This does not mean that everyone else is superior to us or more gifted than us.  It simply means that we must follow Christ's example and give others preferential treatment.  It means that we consider other's needs equally to our own needs.  Romans 12:15-16 says, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another."  We need to experience joy and not jealousy in our fellow believers' accomplishments, honors received, and joyful experiences.  We also need to mourn and sympathize with those who are going through difficult times.

We must show the same Christ-like love to others that Christ showed to us.  Philippians 2:5 tells us, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus."  We are to demonstrate Christ's attitude of self-sacrificing love and humility in our lives.  Christ Jesus, who is God Himself, left His perfect place of glory with God, the Father, in heaven.   Philippians 2:7b  says the He came to this world of sin and took "the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness."

What is even more amazing Philippians 2:8b reminds us that "He humbled Himself and became obedient to death-even death on the cross!"  Jesus left the glories of heaven and came to this earth to live a perfect life for us that we could not live.  Jesus then suffered the horrors of hell itself on the cross for us.  What love!  What humility!  What sacrifice! Should we not show that same humility, selfless love, and servant attitude to others?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Philippians 1

Our Lord loves us and places great value on our lives.  He loved us enough to give His very life as a sacrifice to pay for our sins.  The Lord does not want to just stop there, however.  The Lord wants to perfect us, so we can better live holy lives for Him.  The Lord wants to perfect us, so we can better reflect the Lord's character in our lives.  Philippians 1:6 tells us that we can be confident "that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

God's work in His children 's lives can not be stopped.  The Lord will continue to work in our lives to make us into increasingly more beautiful reflections of His beauty and grace.  The Lord does this through His Holy Word and through the conviction of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Especially in difficult times we often lean more heavily on the Lord.  Consequently, we grow in our love relationship with the Lord and in our ability to better reflect Jesus in our lives.  The Lord Jesus will continue the work of perfecting us in our lives throughout our entire lives or until the day when Jesus returns to this earth.

While we live our lives on earth our constant prayer for ourselves and for our fellow believers must be that our "love may bound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight (Philippians 1:9b."  Real love for God and others requires growth and maturity.  It requires a growing knowledge of and insight into God's Word.  This knowledge and insight must not just be a possession of facts, however, but must be diligently applied to our lives in Godly living.  This growing knowledge and insight into God's Holy Word must result in our love for God and for others.

It must also result in our lives becoming more holy before our Lord. According to Philippians 1:10-11 our prayer for ourselves and others must be that we will grow in the Lord's knowledge and insight, so that we "may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ-to the glory and praise of God."   May it be our constant prayer that we and our fellow believers will become more and more like Jesus in our character, thoughts, and actions.  May we be growing in holiness our entire lives or until Jesus returns some day.  May our consuming and growing passion be that God's name will be glorified in everything we do and think.  In this way, God's will for our lives will be truly perfected in us by His Holy Spirit.

Jesus Christ and living for His glory must be our consuming passion.  We must grow in our passion and desire to reflect the Lord Jesus in our lives.  Running after the things of this world such as money and pleasure is a mere "chasing after the wind" according to Ecclesiastes 4:4b. The Lord must come first in our lives.  He must be more important to us than even our careers and families.  If we do not place the Lord first in our lives and make Him the reason for our lives, we miss the whole purpose for living.

Paul said in Philippians 1:21, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."  Paul was in prison for his faith when he wrote the book of Philippians.  Paul's current circumstances did no matter to Paul, however.  All that mattered to Paul was that he was living for the Lord and for His glory.  Paul knew that living for the Lord was the secret to joy even in the difficult times in His life.  This is because Paul found his meaning and purpose for living in the Lord.  May it also be our consuming passion to grow in our desire to bring glory to the Lord and better reflect Jesus in our lives!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Psalm 55

"But I call to God, and the Lord saves me.  Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and He hears my voice."  Psalm 55:16-17

There is no greater emotional pain than the rejection of someone who at what time was a good friend.  David was going through exactly such a turmoil in his life.  David was being threatened by a powerful conspiracy against himself.  This conspiracy against David was being led by a former friend.  David said in Psalm 55:12-14, "If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me. I could hide from him.  But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God."

David was deeply troubled in his spirit that his former friend would seek to hurt him.  David said to to God in prayer in Psalm 55:2b, "My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught."  David went on to say in Psalm 55:4, "My heart is in anguish within me."  David was so overcome with grief at this situation in his life that he longed to escape the situation in any way possible.  David said in Psalm 55:6-8, "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest-I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm."

You and I may have experienced similar feelings at some point in our lives.  When we are in the midst of a relational hurt or some other trial in our lives we may also wish that we could possess wings like a dove.  We may wish that we could "fly away and be at rest."  Rest and peace of heart can only be found in the Lord, however.  Rest and peace cannot be found by running away from our bad situations.  We might be able to leave some situations, but we can not get away from ourselves and our troubled thoughts and emotions.  That kind of peace is found only in the Lord.  Instead of seeking to "fly away" from our circumstances we need to fly to the Lord for His protection, peace, and rest.  We need to rest our problems in the Lord's hands, and then we can soar in the current of His perfect will.

This kind of peace can only be found through prayer and dependence on the Lord.  David said in Psalm 55:16-17, "But I call to God, and the Lord saves me.  Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and He hears my voice."  David had made prayer a regular part of his life.  David did not just wait until a crisis arose in his life to pray.  Hence, David knew the strength and peace that instant access to God's holy presence could provide.

We too can experience this kind of peace in times of trial.  We may be suffering from a painful relationship like David was experiencing.  We also may be struggling with another kind of trial in our life.  No matter what the crisis or trial in our lives God's Word says in Psalm 55:22, "Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the the righteousness fall."

God does not promise to necessarily eliminate all of life's burdens, emotional hurts, or problems; but He will go through these problems with us.  We need to take our burdens to the Lord and leave them there.  We must trust that the Lord is in control of all life's situations.  If we leave our burdens with the Lord, He will strengthen us and sustain us in the midst of the difficult situations in our lives.  He will be our comfort and peace.  All the experiences in our lives, even the difficult experiences can be used by the Lord to draw us closer to Him.  This can only happen, however, if we are resting and trusting in Him; and if we are submissive to His will for our lives.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Ephesians 6:10-20

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes."  Ephesians 6:10-11

We live in a society which emphasizes self-worth and self-effort.  Our passage today, however, says that we need to live not in self-reliance but in God-reliance.  We need to live our lives not in our own perceived strength but in the Lord's strength.  Ephesians 6:10 tells us that we need to "be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power."  Our self-effort is inadequate and will fail, but the Lord's strength will never fail us!

In Ephesians 6:11 we are told to "put on the full armor of God."  Roman soldiers in Biblical times put on a full armor before they went out to battle.  They wore a belt to hold up their long flowing robes, so their robes would not get in their way in fighting their battles.  They also wore breastplates and helmets.  Soldiers had their feet protected with supportive and proper footwear.  They further held shields and carried swords.  We as children of God are to be soldiers in God's army.  Ephesians 6:11b instructs us that we are to put on God's armor of protection, so we can take our "stand against the devil's schemes."

The Christian life is a warfare.  God promises us His unlimited resources of power in the battle, however!  The Lord desires for you and me to be strong and empowered by Him!  Only in the Lord is there strength to meet the demands of the Christian life!  You and I do not have sufficient strength in ourselves.  We need to be strong in the Lord alone.

Ephesians 6:12 tells us that we are not just fighting against human strength but against the devil himself and his schemes!  We are inadequate to do that in our own puny strength.  We need the Lord's strength and power!  We need His armor of protection, and then we need to stand against the devil and his schemes.  We need to be prayerfully dependent on the Lord alone.  We must listen to the Lord's battle plan and go forth in His strength.  We must put on His full armor so that we can stand our ground against the devil.  If we truly do this; we will live in freedom and joy instead of apprehension, guilt, and doubt.  This is because we are living our lives in the Lord's strength.

Ephesians 6:14 tells us that the first piece of armor we must put on is the Lord's "belt of truth," so we are prepared for action.  We must at all times be prepared for what the Lord wants us to do and for where He wants us to be.  Ephesians 6:14 goes on to say that we also need the Lord's "breastplate of righteousness in place."  As His children we have Christ's righteousness given to us because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross.  We must also seek to show practical righteousness in our day to day lives.  Then we we must have our feet ready for anything necessary for the cause of the Lord and for fighting the devil.  We can do this because of our confidence in the Lord's love for us.  The Lord grants you and me His peace.

Ephesians 6:16 instructs us that the Lord further desires that His children take "the shield of faith" with which we can "extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one."  We need practical day to day trust and faith in the Lord.  We need to fight against Satan's "flaming arrows," the temptations in our lives.  Next, we need to take "the helmet" of His salvation (Ephesians 6:17).  Satan wants to attack our minds and thoughts, so we become discouraged and want to give up.  Therefore, we need the Lord's "helmet" for the assurance of our salvation!  We need a mind truly controlled by the Lord.

Finally, Ephesians 6:17b reminds us that we must not neglect "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God."  This is so important, because we are fighting a spiritual battle.  This spiritual battle must be fought in the Lord's strength and not in our own strength.  We must depend on prayer and on the Lord's promises and commands in His Holy Word.  In our own strength we will fail.  In God's strength we are victorious!