Parterning with God and Each Other – To Fulfill Our Potential (Reprint from September 2020)

May 26, 2020

Philippians 2:12-30  In these verses, we are called to partner with God to flesh out our salvation. Salvation is not only a point in time when you place your faith in Jesus, but it is also an ongoing process of growing into Jesus’ likeness. The power for this growth comes from God, but we have to allow Him to work in us.

 

In Christ, we have a purpose and potential, to show God’s glory in our lives and church. Moving toward that potential       involves growing in a way that there is an ever-increasing contrast between us and the people of the world who do not know Christ. The words in these verses refer to things like being un-alloyed with impurities, being an acceptable sacrifice, etc. When we allow ourselves to be less than Christ-like, showing the same error as the lost world (actions and attitudes that   demonstrate impurity and open us to blame) we fail to appear in contrast in the night sky of hurt and depravity around us. You know, once in a great while, I fly somewhere, and I really like flying at night when the lights of the cities shine out in the darkness – like diamonds spread out on black velvet. When we repent of all that contradicts the heart of God and decidedly partner with Him to let Him shape our desires and lives, we glorify Him and show Jesus to the world. They get exposed to the message of Jesus through us. If you have slacked off, would you take the salvation process of your growth in Jesus seriously once again and re-engage actively so God’s good purpose is fulfilled in you and our church?

 



Partnering with God and Each Other Surrendered to God and Serving Each Other (Reprint from September 2010)

May 19, 2020

 

Philippians 2:1-11  What would it look like if we were constantly cooperating with God and each other to accomplish the work of Jesus? This kind of partnership happens as we surrender to God and serve each other.

 

Surrendered service has everything to do with life in Jesus. Paul starts off reminding us of the blessings of being in Jesus. Not only that, but partnering with God and each other is about more than our individual walk with Christ. There is a call for common thought, love, and spirit. Beyond this, partnering with God and each other means taking care of each other. This happens as we overcoming self-centered pride with other-centered humility. It also happens as we get beyond and outside of self. Sometimes, we do not care for each other not simply because of pride but simply because we are so wrapped up in self. Finally, partnering with God and each other involves taking on the attitude of Jesus. Jesus, in His coming here to show us God and God-intended humanity, had an attitude of willing partnership with God the Father, the same attitude we are called to. He also had an attitude of humble obedience. And, he trusted God the Father and was rewarded. We are called to the same.

 

The most basic part of cooperating with God is surrender to the   Lordship of Jesus. Then, as we experience the life of Jesus, our call is to place God’s work in and for others as a higher priority than our own concerns and cooperate to see God’s hand move in others’ lives.

 



Partnering With God and Each Other in Difficult Circumstances (Reprinted from September 2010)

May 13, 2020

Philippians 1:12-30  Not one of us is a stranger to difficult circumstances, but in Paul’s testimony and encouragement here, we hear a call to partner with God and each other in the work of Jesus even in the discouragement and distraction of hard times.

 

As we listen to vv. 12-18a, we basically are asked how our    partnership with God in His work is going. We discover that, wherever we are is our ministry opportunity, and just like Paul could have gotten thrown off by his imprisonment, we can either be thrown off by our  circumstances or can continue faithfully to cooperate in God’s work. Jesus must be our focus.

 

As we continue through vv. 18b-26, we find a three-way partnership between Paul’s God-honoring desire, the interceding prayers of God’s people, and the empowering Holy Spirit.  Also, Paul was so centered on Jesus that he could say that for him, to live was Christ. Now that’s being full of Jesus! Finally, Paul’s faithfulness and God’s glory were not dependent on God changing the circumstances.

 

In vv. 27-30, we are reminded to always live weighty enough lives to be equal to our new identity and calling in Jesus. We also are called to stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith. The picture is that of a crewing team rowing in perfect unison. When we are together like this, it alleviates the fear that might be cause by those who try to oppose God’s work in and through us.

 

Partnering with God in the work of Jesus in single-minded devotion was the source of Paul’s joy, the center of Paul’s focus, and the goal of Paul’s work. I believe it is to be ours also.

 



Looking to Jesus: His Resurrection

April 14, 2020

1 Corinthians 15:3-8

 
(Reprint from April 2019)
 
Over the couple of weeks before Easter, we put the cross in the context of Jesus’ life, ministry, and teaching, as well as       contemplating its meaning through the picture of the Lord’s Super. Now we celebrate His resurrection.

 

  • Resurrection’s Provision – The resurrection provides the completion of the cross’ work, a future resurrection for those in Christ, and an eternal inheritance for us. When we say Jesus died on a cross for our sin, we must follow it with, “and rose from the dead.” It is a package. The confidence of Christian faith is not in a crucified-only savior but in a crucified and risen savior.  And, coming to Jesus lets us share in His resurrection victory and promises.

 

  • Resurrection’s Call – The resurrection calls us to new life in Jesus – not just future life but a move from spiritual deadness to spiritual life. We also are called to a new mindset of Godly priorities and pursuits, as well as a Godly lifestyle that answers to being God’s people.

 

  • Resurrection’s Power – We might wonder how to live uprightly, and the Bible speaks of God’s resurrection power enabling us to do just that. Now, that is power for serving and for growing in Christ, not power for achieving fleshly goals. It is power for God’s purpose and glory in and through our lives.

 

As we reflect on the cross of Jesus’ sacrifice and the empty tomb of His victory, we are invited to receive it and rejoice in it. And, I believe there is a call to live in resurrection’s power so lost people see lives that are actually changed instead of just hearing us claim we are right with God because of what we believe, whether or not is changes us. Lord, grant us this power.

 



Hand-in-Hand With God

March 10, 2020

Psalm 37:23-31  There are times when walking well is harder than others – we are very young,  getting older, weakened in some way, or the ground is treacherous. Do you recall, as a child, having a caring adult walking with you and holding you by the hand? Or, maybe you can think of times when you walked with a child or grandchild holding them by the hand so they wouldn’t fall if they stumbled. These verses speak to us about three major areas of concern – dignity, permanence, and approval. There is the dignity of not falling hard figuratively speaking, the permanence of the Lord’s provision, and God’s approval in Christ. We are invited to walk with God in His present provision and toward His perfect future along a path of Godly righteousness in Jesus. As I think about walking the path of righteousness with God, I think of four types of people. There is the person who is walking with God and has experienced the steadying work of His grace in your life under His provision and care. You know times when, if not for His grace, things would have been much worse. There is the person who is in Christ, but you are considering pulling your hand back from the Lord’s close fellowship because of the draw of what the world offers. There is the person who is in Christ but has pulled your hand back and is trying to do it on your own because you have been hurt or disappointed in your walk or have strayed into sin. Then, there is the person not in Christ but considering the possibility of walking with God. Each of us is invited to place our hand in God’s through repentance of sin and faith in Jesus so we can walk in His provision, toward His promise, in His path.

 



Trust God and Take the Long View

March 10, 2020

 
Psalm 37:1-40  What do you make of it when wicked people prosper and those with no use for God seem to have it better than those in Christ? Does their success and your struggle get you worked up?
  • Delight in Lord and Stay Calm (vv. 1-8) – Sometimes, the wicked get ahead because they play the world’s game by its rules. However, we are called to enjoy the Lord and His provision as we cultivate faithfulness to Him. The ways of the wicked might be successful, but they are temporary, so don’t fret, envy, or get angry.
  • Knowing End of the Wicked (vv. 9-15) – What opposition are you going through that you need to know your anger and fretting will only lead to evil and not achieve God’s purpose? Do you need the perspective of eventual peace for those in Christ as opposed to the end of the wicked?
  • Walking Toward Your Permanent Inheritance (vv. 16-22) – Having little as a righteous person is a real possibility, particularly when it takes being wicked get ahead, but that is still better. You may know this place of having little but enjoying God’s provision. How does it guard you from evil and compromise to trust God’s provision and sustaining grace?
  • On a Sure Path (vv. 23-31) – There is a type of person who delights in the Lord, walking in the Lord’s way in Jesus, so the Lord delights in that person’s way. Even this person will have stumbles, but the Lord keeps it from being catastrophic.
  • Taking Refuge in the Lord (vv. 32-40) – Sometimes, wicked people plot destruction against God’s people, and Satan definitely works against them, but God is their refuge. The call is to walk in the Lord’s way and find in Him the care and confidence to walk around or through whatever comes.

 



The Flesh and the Spirit

February 25, 2020

2 Corinthians 4:18  The New Testament contrasts flesh and spirit. The flesh can mean tangible things, our humanity, or the sinful nature / that which is opposed to God. The spirit / spiritual can mean simply non-material realities, our spirit, Godliness, or the Holy Spirit and His work.

 

  • Seen vs. Unseen (i.e. 2 Cor. 4:16-17) – Practical needs, the world’s values and priorities, and our sinful desires make loud demands. However, we are to set our eyes on God’s glory, the Gospel, and God’s purposes.
  • Opposed to God vs. Honoring God (i.e. Rom. 8:5-14 & Gal. 5:16-25) – There is, on one hand, that which is good and God-honoring and, on the other, that which is evil and opposed to God. Our call is to honor God, and God’s Spirit is how we do that.
  • Efforts to Honor God (i.e. Gal. 5:16, Rom. 8:5-14, John 14:16-17, Col. 1:9, 2 Cor. 10:4) – If we are born again, we will want to honor God, and the Holy Spirit helps us. Our responsibility is to cultivate dependence on Him and to live in Him so that He produces Christ-likeness in us.
  • Coming to God (i.e. John 3: 5-8 & 6:63) – In John 3, Jesus spoke of the need to be born again by the Spirit. In John 6, Jesus spoke of ongoing faith in Himself and feeding on Him in a spiritual sense.

 

We can serve the flesh or pursue the things of God. We can follow the desires of the sinful flesh or crucify it and let the Holy Spirit enliven us for Godliness. We can try to serve the Lord in our weakness and come up short or rely on His enabling. Those who are not in Christ can do the best they know in the flesh and come up short or be born again by God’s Spirit through repentance and faith in Jesus.

 



Two Great Levelers

February 25, 2020

Psalm 49:1-20  What really matters in life? How might God speak to our priorities and pursuits, and how might that adjust things. In the first four verses, the Psalmist basically says, “Listen up, no matter who you are, because I have some wisdom you need to hear.”

 

  • The First Great Leveler (vv. 5-12) – What I hear in the Psalmist’s words is, however significant or accomplished or wealthy people think they are and however untouchable they seem, there is a great leveler all face – death. You may have seen those whose main pursuit is wealth of whatever form – you may have been that person. But, what happens when death strips each of us of everything, and how does that influence our perspective?
  • The Perspective (vv. 13-20) – We are reminded there are folks with a view of self, life, others, and God that says, “I am sufficient,” and there are those who listen to that and try to feel sufficient themselves. But, the Psalmist reminds us of the peril of wealth (I believe applying to any form of wealth) without understanding.
  • The Second Great Leveler (the Cross) – If we had room here, we could explore Luke 12:5-21 and Luke 18:9-14, which caution us against putting all our emphasis on wealth and on trusting in our own “wealth” of religious goodness respectively. We could look at 1 Timothy 6:9-10, 17, as well as Jesus question as to what it profit someone to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul.

 

Among the questions of life, there are the issues of life priorities, values, and central pursuits. There is the issue of our relationship to God and the great levelers of death that strips us of all we have and achieve and the cross that invites us to God in Christ on level ground with everyone else.

 



Two Great Levelers

February 11, 2020

Psalm 49:1-20  What really matters in life? How might God speak to our priorities and pursuits, and how might that adjust things. In the first four verses, the Psalmist basically says, “Listen up, no matter who you are, because I have some wisdom you need to hear.”

  • The First Great Leveler (vv. 5-12) – What I hear in the Psalmist’s words is, however significant or accomplished or wealthy people think they are and however untouchable they seem, there is a great leveler all face – death. You may have seen those whose main pursuit is wealth of whatever form – you may have been that person. But, what happens when death strips each of us of everything, and how does that influence our perspective?
  • The Perspective (vv. 13-20) – We are reminded there are folks with a view of self, life, others, and God that says, “I am sufficient,” and there are those who listen to that and try to feel sufficient themselves. But, the Psalmist reminds us of the peril of wealth (I believe applying to any form of wealth) without understanding.
  • The Second Great Leveler (the Cross) – If we had room here, we could explore Luke 12:5-21 and Luke 18:9-14, which caution us against putting all our emphasis on wealth and on trusting in our own “wealth” of religious goodness respectively. We could look at 1 Timothy 6:9-10, 17, as well as Jesus question as to what it profit someone to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul.

Among the questions of life, there are the issues of life priorities, values, and central pursuits. There is the issue of our relationship to God and the great levelers of death that strips us of all we have and achieve and the cross that invites us to God in Christ on level ground with everyone else.

 



Even When I Am Old

February 11, 2020

Psalm 71:1-24  What is God’s purpose for your life? What challenges affect your sense of purpose and ability to carry it out? How might you draw on the Lord in the face of that situation?

  • Turning to God in Trying Times (1-4) – The Psalmist calls out to the Lord in the face of opposition that threatens to undo him. You might need the same kind of approach as challenges threaten your purpose.
  • The Context of Ongoing Walk (5-12) – Notice the Psalmist does not keep God on the shelf until trouble, but this call is from an ongoing walk, and he is committed to continue praising and worshipping the Lord. Your walk with the Lord may be short or long, but the habit of praise, worship, and right relationship prepares us for times of challenge.
  • Confidence, Commitment, and Concern (13-18) – Basically, I we hear, “Lord, in spite of difficulty, my hope in you remains, and praise of you and to you will continue and will increase. In spite of circumstances and difficulties, I will worship. Lord, I have a purpose and role – just because I am old, don’t abandon your use of me or support of me until I finish the race and  future generations know you.” May this truly be our heart!
  • Putting it in Perspective (19-20) – The Psalmist’s example calls us to be honest about life challenges, yet remain grounded in who God is and the “other side” of trials.
  • Praise on the Other Side (21-24) – We could call out today with the Psalmist for God’s guarding in our struggles and pledge our praise as He delivers us and allows us to continue serving Him.

You may be facing challenge, discouragement, or distraction that is working against praise of God and His purpose for you. May He be your strength and deliverer!