Archive for the month “November, 2011”

Pondering the Passages: Philippians 4:4-9

This Week’s Passage and Memory Verse (in red)4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

If I were to outline this passage I would have 2 main points: 1) How to know the peace of God (vs 4-7) and 2) How to know the God of peace vs 8-9). Let’s look at each of these.

1) How to know the peace of God: We tend to find joy in a lot of things that have nothing to do with God. Our favorite sports team. Food. Another person. Our children. A good book or movie. Nothing wrong with these at all. And it is evident by the way that we talk about these things that they bring us much joy. The problem is that all of these things are temporal and most of them at one time or another will seriously disappoint us which will wreck any sense of peace that we might have concerning them.

That is why Paul stresses that our joy is to be first and foremost IN THE LORD! He will never disappoint us. This is a great starting point for experiencing the peace of God. Make sure that He is your joy above all other things. And then never ever forget that “the Lord is near.” Sometimes the pressure and the pain of life makes us feel like God is nowhere to be found when in fact He is as close as a prayer.

Prayer is not supposed to be a last resort that we utilize to get rid of our worries and anxieties. Our prayer life should be such that we have been praying about EVERYTHING, thanking God for EVERYTHING. And by so doing we are building up a fortress of protection around our lives so that when the difficult days come our hearts are safeguarded against the evil one who wants to destroy our peace.

2) How to know the God of peace: Thesis – We will never know the peace of God until we know the God of peace! Paul makes an incredibly bold statement that few of us would ever make. He basically says “If you want to know God then watch what I do, listen to what I say, and you do the same.”

Here’s my take on what he means by this. Paul was a man who lived, breathed, and ultimately died for the gospel. He was passionate about knowing Christ (see Phil 3:8-11) and equally passionate about making Christ known (see Phil 3: 12-18).

So Paul is saying in effect that if you want to know the God of peace then consume yourself with the gospel. Consume yourself with the life, crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, and exaltation of Christ. If you live the gospel the gospel will live in you and you WILL know the God of peace – and then as a bonus you will know the peace of God.

I’m just sayin’!

(Happy Thanksgiving! I’m grateful to all of you who take the time to read my ponderings and have encouraged me along the way to keep it up. It has been a very good exercise and discipline for me.)

Next Week’s Passage: John 1:14-18
Next Week’s Memory Verse: John 1:14

Pondering the Passages: Ephesians 5:15-20

This Week’s Passage and Memory Verse (in red):  15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Great passage. Lots to ponder. Here’s what jumped out at me. First a few words…

v.15  “very” – It’s as if Paul knows something that we haven’t quite grasped yet. If he had said “be careful” it would be like me telling my son not to get too close to the fire – something that should be obvious. “Be very careful” is more like stay  far far away from the fire because of the the poisonous gases that are being emitted – something not obvious to the naked eye. It sounds like a plea to the Ephesian believers because Paul has watched so many fall by the spiritual wayside because they were not careful enough.

v.15 “then” – This is one of those words that is looking backwards. Backwards to what? Back to verses 13-14. Paul is reminding us that all our dark and dirty secrets are one day going to be exposed by the Light. If that were to happen TODAY what would be exposed in your life? Would there be shame? Would there be regret? Or do you have nothing to hide. Paul wants us to live with nothing to hide because one day nothing will be hidden. So “be very careful how you live.”

v.16 “every” – I get the feeling here that Paul has witnessed countless wasted opportunities. He wants the church, God’s people, to recognize that God is placing people right in front of their eyes every day – people who are needy, and discouraged, and harassed, and confused. People who need people who have the Lord. That’s you and me. We don’t need to go looking for opportunities; rather we need to take advantage of the opportunities that we already have.

And now one phrase that caught my attention…

v.17 “understand what the Lord’s will is” – Paul doesn’t leave us hanging here. We tend to spend a lot of time trying to figure out what God’s will is when He has spelled much of it out to us very clearly. The subsequent verses (all the way to the end of the book) are a case in point.

These verses explain that God’s will for believers include: being filled with His Spirit, being thankful, submitting to one another, being loving husbands, being obedient children, being fathers who train up their children, being obedient slaves, being non-threatening masters, being prepared for spiritual battle, and praying for the advance of the gospel. The point is that God’s will is not hard to discern if we are willing to read and obey God’s Word.

Funny story: A middle-aged farmer who had been desiring for years to be an evangelist was out working in the field one day when he decided to rest under a tree. As he looked into the sky he saw that the clouds seemed to form into the letters P and C. Immediately he hopped up, sold his farm, and went out to P-reach C-hrist, which he felt was God’s leading. Unfortunately, he was a horrible preacher. After one of his sermons a neighbor came forward and whispered in his ear, “Are you sure God wasn’t just trying to tell you to P-lant C-orn.”

God’s will is written in the Word – not in the sky or in the stars. (And yes, that is a hint about what I think about astrology).

So read the Word. Ponder the Word. Obey the Word. And you will be right dab in the middle of God’s will.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: Philippians 4:4-8
Next Week’s Memory Verse: Philippians 4:6

Pondering the Passages: 1 Peter 2:9-12

This Week’s Passage and Memory Verse (in red)9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

This week I want to make a few brief comments about our passage, share a famous quote with you, and then wrap it up.

There are a lot of graphic phrases in this passage which describe believers that merit pondering. The one that most captures my attention is “royal priesthood.” It seems to be a mixing of two metaphors – political and religious. But in doing so it gives a succinct portrayal of who we are in Christ.

1) We are royalty – We are heirs of the King. The King of Kings is our Dad. As such, we have a special place reserved for us in Heaven. We have wealth beyond compare. We have an angelic army fighting on our behalf. We have been elevated not just from dead to alive but from peasants to prince/princesses.

2) We are priests – We are not royal despots we are royal servants. It is part of our responsibility to mediate between God and man. We are ambassadors of reconciliation. We have been given a royal position so that we can help others to know God by displaying His glory as we serve the needy and supply hope for the helpless.

The other phrase that sticks out to me is “which war against your soul.” I am being continually reminded these days that we are at war. As I was thinking about this the following WWII story popped into my mind. It is one of Sir Winston Churchill’s most famous speeches and has as many spiritual implications for today as it did 70 years ago for the war…

Upon his very first entrance into the House of Commons as Britain’s new Prime Minister on Monday, May 13, 1940, Winston Churchill only received a lukewarm reception from the assembly, while at his side, outgoing Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was heartily cheered. Churchill then made this brief statement, which has become one of the finest call-to-arms yet uttered. It came at the beginning of World War II when the armies of Adolf Hitler were roaring across Europe, seemingly unstoppable, conquering country after country for Nazi Germany, and when the survival of Great Britain itself appeared rather uncertain.

“…We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory; victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival….”

These indeed are perilous times for believers and for the Church. We are being assaulted and assailed. Damaged and derailed. And yet we march on because we have the sure confidence that victory will be ours. It has already been won for us at the cross. D-Day has come. The enemy is doomed and defeated – he just doesn’t know it yet. So the war continues to rage around us and within us until V-Day – until the great and glorious day of our Savior’s appearing and the  victory is complete.

So never forget that we are at war – the battle is for your soul and the glory of God is at stake.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: Ephesians 5:15-20
Next Week’s Memory Verse: Ephesians 5:15-16

Pondering the Passages: 1 John 2:15-17

This Week’s Passage and Memory Verse (in red): 15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

The first question that comes to my mind is this: What does loving the world look like in real life? In other words, how can I tell if I love the world – especially in the culture in which we live where materialism is prized so much more that spirituality and a relationship with God.

I’m having a difficult time with this question. It would be easy for me to come up with a nice answer that sounds spiritual and that justifies my lifestyle. Our lifestyle. I mean let’s face it – I love the world that I live in. I love the fact that I was born in America and not in Haiti. I love my house with all its bedrooms, it’s garage, and big yard. I love my big screen TV. I love the fact that at the push of a button I have electricity and running water. I love air conditioning. I love my comfy bed and my refrigerator which is full of food that I can get to any time that I want. I have a smart phone, an ipod, 2 computers, and a kindle. I am amazingly wealthy – probably among the top 1% of the world’s population. Do I love the world? Of course I love the world. Would I care if I lost it all? Of course I would care.

So here are the questions that I am left to grapple with:

Do I CRAVE worldly things? (v 16)

Do I LUST for more stuff? (v 16)

Do I BOAST in my possessions? (v 16)

Does all the stuff hinder me from doing the will of God? (v 17)

It is that last question that stumps me. If I did not have all that I have would I GO overseas and take the gospel to an unreached people. Would I be willing to GO and live in Haiti among the poorest of the poor to serve among “the least of these?” Instead of finding security and safety by everything that I own am I actually being crippled by it.

I’m not sure that there is a right answer across the board for all of us who are as rich as we are. I mean let’s face it, if you are reading this then you also are one of the wealthiest people in the world. So much of the answer has to do with attitude and desires of the heart. And I can’t speak for you. I can only speak for me.

I do love how the Apostle John does not mince words – especially as he closes out his letter at the end of chapter 5. Instead of saying “Hope to see you soon,” or “May God be with you,” or some other nice way to close out his letter – he simply says… “Keep yourself from idols!”

As I continue to ponder this passage this seems like a good place to start and a great way to begin praying.

“Father, would you root out the idols of my heart that cause me to love the things of this world more than I love you. And would you plant in their place a passion for the glory of Your Name and a hunger for your great and astonishing Word”

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: 1 Peter 2:9-12
Next Week’s Memory Verse: 1 Peter 2:9

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