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.

SOAPing the New Testament–1 Peter 3

Scripture:

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit

Observation:

This verse is a distillation of the Gospel. It conveys the reality that Jesus’ mission was to come and set right the division between God and humanity. Peter reminds us that this was an extraordinary thing that Jesus did in that Jesus was righteous and undeserving of God’s punishment yet he suffered to remove the penalty of sin from those who deserved it, the unrighteous, us. He also eludes to the new life in the Spirit that was established in Jesus.

Application:

For me this verse challenges me to be mindful of where I came from and to honor what Jesus did to reconcile me to God. I think often times I rest in the fact that I am saved and I neglect to honor the Lord and the work He has done for humanity. I feel like I need to work on continually submitting to the Spirit and allow Him to guide me more.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son to take my penalty on Himself so that I may reconciled back to you. Forgive me where I have failed to show appreciation and honor for that sacrifice. Lord Jesus, thank you for your earthly ministry and your human incarnation. Thank you for modeling what it means to live and to sacrifice for the sake of others. I pray that I would follow your example today. I offer you praise. In your name, Amen.

SOAPing the New Testament – 1 Peter 2

Scripture:

23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

Observation:

This scripture lays out a key concept for the Christian life that I struggle with the most. The idea is that we should never return evil for evil or even hurt for hurt. Peter is teaching us that we should trust God to right the wrongs we experience. It’s a call to dependency on the Father that we have seen all through the life and ministry of Jesus.

Application:

For me I think verses like these remind me that no matter what happens God has my back. My priority is to be as good and honorable and Holy as possible and let God sort out the rest. My first obligation should never be to establish justice or equity between myself and another but instead should be a dependency on God, knowing that He perfectly executes justice and equity according to His nature and will. I have to be reminded often but the reality is I just need to love and serve and let the Father take care of me. It’s a struggle.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you God for your protection and your justice. Forgive me where I have returned evil for evil and hurt for hurt. Forgive me where I have tried to be self-dependent rather than dependent on you. I pray for your peace and protection today. In Jesus name. Amen.

SOAPing the New Testament–1 Peter 1

Scripture:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Observation:

Theses verses are an awesome reminder of our condition as Christians. Peter describes the reality that God has caused us to be born again into relationship with Him through the resurrection of Jesus. He also points out that this relationship entitles us to the inheritance of the eternal Kingdom that unlike everything we know on this earth will never diminish or perish. The final thing Peter reminds us of is that God is active in keeping this inheritance ready and prepared for us.

Application:

For me these verses challenge me to remember that this life is just a stop on my way to the eternal Kingdom. The reality is that Heaven is my destination. As I seek Heaven and focus more on Kingdom activities the more my current life with be conformed to the eternal life to come.

Prayer:

Father, thank you for adopting me into the eternal Kingdom. Please help these words by your servant Peter be a reminder to me of where my inheritance lies. Help me be more focused on your plans today and less on my own desires. Thank you Jesus. Amen.

SOAPing the New Testament–James 4

Scripture:

1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

Observation:

These verses really make an interesting observation about the human condition. James is teaching here that much of the strife we face in this life is do to discontentment that arises from pursing the “stuff” of this world. His contention is that our passions and desires for earthly things create in us covetousness and we end up looking at others as people who have the stuff we don’t or as people who are beneath us because of they lack the stuff we have. James also points out that even though the Father is poised to give us everything we ask for we fail to ask Him or we ask Him with motives that are selfish or tied to our own earthly desires, therefore we do not receive.

Application:

For me these verses are a renewed call to battle the flesh and the sinful earthly desires that it generates. We live in a culture that measures success by what we can obtain and possess, but the Scripture never endorses this type of life style. The Scriptures teach us that God alone is our inheritance and reconciliation and relationship with Him is the goal. For us saved by Jesus, the challenge is to find contentment in that reality, not worrying about money, food, or clothing because our relationship with God promises peace in provision in all circumstances.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I pray for your peace and for freedom from chasing after stuff or status. Forgive me where my own desires have muddled the contentment and peace that you have provided me. Help me rest better in that  reality today. In Jesus name. Amen.

Is God In Your 5 Year Plan?

Have you made plans for the weekend yet? Do you kind of have in mind what you are going to be doing over the summer? I think it common for most folks to think about the future and make some plans for what they want to be doing. Check out these verses from James 4.

James 4:13-17 (ESV)

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—

14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

What is interesting about these verses is that James is teaching us that it is wrong to make plans without consulting the Lord first. It is arrogant to go around saying we will do this or that when we really don’t know what tomorrow brings. I guess one could dispute this warning by saying that everything we plan to do is always based on “Lord willing”, but I think this misses the point. As disciples, people who have been adopted into the family of God, we have to remember that we were not just forgiven so that we could meet and fellowship with God in Heaven some day. We were forgiven so that we could meet and fellowship with God now. We should be in awe of God. I think this passage is a warning about going through life with God as a secondary, bolt-on addition to our lives where in reality God is our lives. We would know no life without His sustaining power. If we fail to think of God as we plan out our days and our lives we have dishonored the fact that He chose us to be His people. The right response is to heed James’ teaching and submit our plans to God.

So, do you have plans for today? This weekend? Five years from now? I would challenge you this and each morning to thank the Lord for your waking and submit your plans to His will. I would encourage you to live for today because it is uncertain if you will have tomorrow.

Grace and Peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Tony

SOAPing the New Testament–James 3

Scripture:

7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

Observation:

James is making a pretty strong case about how the tongue even though small can be our undoing. He points out that with our tongue we can praise God and then turn around and curse those He created. It speaks to the duality of man and the constant battle we face against the flesh.

Application:

For me these verses really drive home the idea that I have to be very careful what I say. I would hate to sully my proclamation of God by using my tongue to praise God and also to verbally tear someone down. I know there have been times that I have said things to folks that completely tarnished my witness about Jesus. I need to work hard to keep my tongue in check.

Prayer:

Father, I pray that my tongue would be an instrument of praise to you and an instrument of life and encouragement to others. Forgive me where I have used words to discourage and tear others down in the past. I pray that going forward my words would testify of the Gospel and reveal your goodness. Amen.