SOAP | Philippians 1:23-24

SCRIPTURE

23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.

OBSERVATION

These scriptures for me have always depicted the basic struggle of those that have faith in Christ. Once our eyes are open to the reality that we have been reconciled to God through Jesus how could we not want to be with Him in eternity?  Paul himself recognized that it would be far better to be in Heaven than dealing the broken state of this physical world. I know that I feel like this from time to time, especially when times are challenging or difficult.

So why go on? Paul states it simply. We should go on because of others. There is such a undercurrent in the culture today that motivates us to live for ourselves. Most messages we are bombarded with encourage us to find the thing that fulfills us on a personal level. Its funny if you asked most people if they are striving to be selfish most would say they are not, but I would argue that most of us are. We are trying to do whatever we can to find personal peace and comfort in our daily existence. The powerful thing about the Gospel and faith in Christ is that we are fulfilled. There is nothing that will bring us greater satisfaction than resting in the peace of Jesus and His atoning work on the cross. Yet, we still try to fill ourselves we other things because we are still here in the flesh. Paul reminds in these verses that we remain here to encourage others. Love and service flows from the lives of those who no longer need anything because they abide in Christ.
 

APPLICATION

For me the application of these verses are 2 fold. 1) I need to remind myself of my position in Christ. I need to spend time in prayer and meditation connecting with the Father and stripping away the noise that keeps me from remembering that I am completely fulfilled in Jesus and 2) I need to quit focusing on myself and focus on the needs of others. I need to be a conduit for the love of Christ looking for opportunities to encourage fellow believers in the Lord and opportunities to share the Gospel with those who do not know it.
 

PRAYER

Father, thank you for your abiding word. Thank you that you love me and speak to me through your Spirit. Forgive my sin and cleanse me from unrighteousness. Father, help me rest in the reality of your peace and love. Purge from me the desire to seek comfort in the things of world. Help me be better at loving and pouring myself out for others. I love you Father and I offer you praise. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Life is hard.

James 1:12

12Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Life is hard. It seems like a mystery when we face troubles. We wonder how things could happen to us and how things could end up the way they do, but life is hard.

I think it is cool that God promises us a blessing for coming through hardship. The blessing is eternal life. Because it is eternal life, I can only assume that our whole earthly existence will be relatively hard. I’m sure it is due to our separation from God and living in a fallen world opposed to the perfection that was originally intended.

Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. Poor in spirit is not referring to those who don’t have the Spirit of God in them but rather it refers to those who are bummed out and struggling in a hard life.

Just tonight I was alerted to a couple folks struggling with hard times. Additionally, I can think of few others that have been having a hard time for awhile now. Father, you know who these folks are. I pray that your promises from James and from the mouth of Jesus would give comfort to their tired and troubled souls. Remind them of the blessing that awaits them at the end of this life. Thank you for your love and blessings. Amen.

Christian, God’s not mad at you.

I run into so many Christians who are convinced God is mad at them. They will say “oh this happening because I did this and God is punishing me”, or “I haven’t been walking with the Lord and my life is a mess”. Admittedly, I have had similar thoughts. I have worried that I haven’t attended church enough or read my Bible enough or prayed enough or served enough and on and on. The reality is God loves us. God created us with a desire to have relationship with us. God sacrificed His own son so that the relationship between Him and us would be full and unencumbered. Think about it, would God really do all that He has done to reconcile mankind to Him so that He could be mad at them. It doesn’t make sense.

But don’t take my word for it, here’s His.

Romans 8:1-2
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

What the Apostle Paul is explaining to us is that those who are followers of Jesus have a transformed relationship with God. We are no longer on the outside of God’s grace, we are no longer the objects of God’s wrath or anger. Simply, God is not mad at us.

I think the challenge for most of us is to let go of the way we understand how relationships work. For many of us we think that we have to act a certain way and do certain things to be accepted in relationships. We are keenly aware of what to do and what not to do to make sure those we are relating to are happy with us or not mad at us. We can’t apply this formula to God. We have to look at all He has done out of love for us and learn to rest in the fact that there was nothing we did, good or bad, to cause Him act that way.

Finally, if I am powerless to cause God to love me, how could I somehow have the power to cause Him to be angry with me? Like I said before. It doesn’t make sense. Christian, God is not mad at you.

Father, thank you so much for your love and grace. Thank you Lord Jesus for your work of reconciliation and your example. Help me rest in the reality of your love and peace. In Jesus name, Amen.

American Christians are Soft and Weak

I had a history professor named Thomas Code. Professor Code was what I considered a hard man with a stern disposition. I took two classes from him in the early 1990s and I still think about a couple things he said. The first was that he challenged us as students to realize that college was one of the few things we paid more for and hope to get less out of. He used as an example how most folks were quite excited for classes to let out early. Another thing he said concerned the state of the American culture. He said we had all gotten soft and lost “the fire in the belly” we once had. Essentially, he was saying that in our current comfort and affluence we had become apathetic and complacent, more apt to obsess over our stuff and our status than champion a cause.

We had a guest speaker in church yesterday. He is a missionary that our fellowship has sent to work in Azerbaijan. He gave a great talk about what it means to be on the front line for the Gospel and He reminded us that there is a spiritual battle waging daily in the world. He used the Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi to challenge us to unity and to demonstrate how as Christians we are all soldiers with a mission to accomplish in God’s eternal plan. As I listened to the man challenge us I could hear Professor Code. We are soft. I am more concerned with my my job, my stuff, and what my next great tasting meal is going be than taking a stand for God’s advancing Kingdom. The missionary broke down at one point, sobbing over a lost opportunity to share the Gospel with a neighbor who suddenly died. It was foreign to me.

I know this post makes a blanket statement about American Christianity. I recognize that there are American Christians that are fully engaged in the battle, so forgive me if I have offended, but from my experience there are more folks filling the pews giving lip service to their commitment to Jesus and his Kingdom than actual warriors standing firm and taking a stand for the Gospel. I recognize them because I am one.

So what do we do? Do we even care?

 

 

 

Daily Devotional – Christians Love Politics More than Jesus

Psalms 7:11 (ESV)

11 God is a righteous judge,

and a God who feels indignation every day.

It seems like the social media sites are blowing up with indignation over the current state of affairs in American politics. Even though the volleys are short tweets or status updates you can feel the emotion behind the impassioned pleas of their authors for justice and equity in the political realm. Sadly, I rarely see or demonstrate this kind of passion for God. I don’t know if we are so corrupted by sin or we just don’t believe what we say we believe, but it seems most Christians I know can go on and on about politics, sports, entertainment, gossip and so many other things but rarely show the same enthusiasm for the Lord. It makes me question my faith honestly. Look at today’s verse. God feels indignation every day. Every day. I wonder if that indignation springs from the passionless apathy of those who profess to follow Him demonstrate. Obviously, I am thankful for grace, but should grace excuse me from a vibrant passionate pursuing and making much of God? Shouldn’t I at least be somewhat mindful and declarative of God and what He has done for me. I’m feeling convicted. It is easy to rant, yet hard to do something about it. I think we should try.

Father, thank you for your love and grace. Thank you Lord Jesus that by your sacrifice you have given us a way to be reconciled to God. Forgive us our passionless pursuit of you Father, while we passionately pursue other things. Help us. In Jesus name, Amen.

7/23 – bits and pieces

Solomon’s Porch – My friend and pastor, Jeremy Mack, has launched a new blog. Check out his initial post on spiritual leadership.

Why I am/not a charismatic – This is a series I stumbled on at the Pen and Parchment blog. It is a conversation between two friends who live on opposite sides of this issue. Engaging discussion so far.

Free Audio Book – The month is almost over so don’t forget to get the free audio book from Christian audio. This month they are giving away The Millennials by Thom and Jess Rainer.

Father and Son – I stumbled across this link on Tim Challies blog. It is a really neat picture of a father and son who attended the first space shuttle launch and also the last one. They staged a picture at the last one to mimic a picture from the first one. It’s pretty cool.

 

Daily Devotional – Know Peace

Colossians 1:19-20

19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and
through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in
heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

I used to have a t-shirt in the 90s that read “NO JESUS, NO PEACE,
KNOW JESUS, KNOW PEACE”. It was and is a suble reminder that true
peace only comes from being in relationship with God through Jesus.
Peace is a word that is bandied around a lot, but for the Christian
peace really should be one of the key ideas to meditate and think on.
The story of our faith is a story of a great conflict that exists
between God and man. We and God are two opposing forces unreconciled.
Ironically, one side of this conflict has the ability to crush the
other side out of existence. Even more ironic is the weaker side
thinks they have have the ability to deny that the greater side even
exists. Yet, in all this irony, there is peace. There is peace because
God our great Father chose to reconcile us back to himself. He did it
through sacrifice. He did it by offering up the life of His son Jesus
so that God himself would no longer have to view man in conflict.

How do you view God? Do you see God as a great enemy of man? Do you
see Him as an eternal punisher who will bust you down if you do wrong?
If so, you don’t see Him through Jesus, and until you do see Him
through Jesus, you will never know peace.

Father, our great God in Heaven! Thank you that you do not war
against us. Thank you for forgiving our arrogance and our self-pride
and making peace through the offering of your Son. Father help us
understand your love and empower us to be peacemakers in the way you
are. Thank you Lord Jesus for your sacrifice and love. We offer you
praise. Amen.