Monday, April 30, 2012

An Empowered Life

"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:5-11 NASB
Once again, there is a key in this passage worth examining a big further. I have underlined a number of thoughts - all having to do with our Lord's way of thinking (attitude). He did not exalt Himself, even though He, of all people, had every right to do so. In the third (3rd) verse, the Spirit has urged us to do nothing out of selfishness or contentiousness, but to regard others as more important that ourselves. This way of thinking is an opportunity to begin to see how the Holy Spirit works in the Kingdom.
"For not from the east, nor from the west, nor from the desert comes exaltation; But God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another." Psalm 75:6-7  NASB
In 2 Corinthians 12:5b " . . . but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses. 
Our Lord, and His bond-servant, Paul, understood that boasting about our selves, our own accomplishments, our abilities, etc... is not the way of the Spirit, ever. Such bragging and placing of ones self in a prominent position - whatever that is (even if it is just in the eyes of another person), will not work the work of the Spirit. Only promotion by the Lord is worth anything. Such promotion only comes by a willing thought process that does not seek the limelight, but always chooses to exalt another person.

Our understanding of servant-hood in the church must find a transformation in order to truly flow in the Holy Spirit. It is not about any human being being elevated. It is about the Lord Jesus being exalted. The way that is done in our lives, is the key. First it must find a place in our time. When we begin to exalt Him and the Words He has spoken in our time for the day, then we become aware of who He truly is, and we begin to desire to lift others up, while we enjoy serving in the background.There is an awesome switch into an empowered life that awaits many of us.

Self elevation never, never, never works in the Kingdom of God. Only a life of serving others in a way that they may be seen and encouraged is worth every moment, and it is a life empowered by the Holy Spirit, for only in Him can it be real.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

He Emptied Himself

"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will blow of those who are in heaven and on earth an under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:5-11 NASB
This marvelous hymn is so rich we could spend a lot of time working with all the revelations that unfold out of its substance. We have worked in the last post with the entire passage detailing in short form for us the reality of our Lord's attitude that empowered Him to lay aside His glory to become as we are. The Kingdom of God works on this attitude, or way of thinking. As we long to see the church of our beloved Lord expand and fill the earth, we have been given this great key - a way of thinking that empowers His Kingdom. What an awesome God to share such secrets with us.

Existing with God, as God, in God from eternity - yet obedient to the will of the God-head from before the foundation of the earth, our Lord "emptied" Himself - He laid aside all His rights - and took on the form of  a bond-servant. He was God and as such was in spirit form, knowing all, seeing all and containing all power. In the emptying, He became no more than a sperm in the hand of the Holy Spirit to be implanted in the body of Mary. Now that is a lot of emptying! Some translations say "He became nothing," which is almost right - He became a form of life that is microscopic. He then in the power of the Spirit, united with Mary's egg and so became incarnate to live and die as man. Such emptying is beyond our comprehension.

It is also beyond our ability to do. Sometimes, in our zeal to be as He is and to be submissive to the will of our Father, we have a way of thinking that we, too, must empty ourselves of all we are to become as He is. Nothing could be further from the truth. First of all, we cannot do this emptying. It is simply impossible for us to become less that we are. Try as I may, I am still me and the emptying is just not possible. Second of all, that is not what He desires. In His emptying He did not become less than He is - He remained very much His own person. We to, created in His image, will always remain ourselves. He does not just want Himself. If that were the case, we would have never existed. God created mankind for fellowship with Him. He does not desire, in any way to have us be less than He has created us to be.

He desires us to live fully in Him. We do learn to lay aside our own agenda's and desires as we get to know the fullness of His provision. For His is so much more than we could ever hold, but we as unique individuals are treasured by Him, created as images of Him - it takes us all to display the fullness of His glory.

More later . . .

On a personal note, please hold the Saied Adour family in prayer today, as his wife, Esther is laid to rest. She went home to Jesus last Tuesday. Esther was one of the most godly and kind women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I will miss her deeply. The funeral is at noon today. My husband will be on the piano, Lauren on worship team, and I will be attending for the service. It is joyous, because we know she is enjoying the truth of all she was here. She loved our Jesus so much and trusted Him - always. Esther was the granddaughter of the founder of Elim Bible Institute, and founder of Willow, the women's organization of Elim Fellowship.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Attitude - Attitude - Attitude

"In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing, by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death -- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that that the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:5-11 TNIV
The emphasis in this very early Christian hymn, is on our attitude of thought. It is a very short rehearsal of the gospel and covers all of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a beautiful passage to memorize for many reasons.. I have chosen this rather free flowing translation to get the central thought highlighted for us.

It was the attitude of thought in our Lord that enabled Him to become all He has become. He had every "right" to all the elevated positions as the Son of God, to inherit all that is God's. However, His attitude of mind was not one of taking, but one of serving. The passage here, "equality with God something to be used to his own advantage," in the Greek the thought is of taking something by force. "Taking," because He had every right to do so. That is not the way the Kingdom of God works, and so the Lord, being saturated in the will and thought of His Father, knew the way He needed to think in order to accomplish what was true Kingdom leadership. He humbled Himself and became nothing. I want to write on that tomorrow, so will just mention it here.

Later in the passage we notice that after He had lived in the "under" position - totally, therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and, and, and....! We see the pattern of thought in following the Lord as a son of God as well as the pattern of thought that must be developed in us, if we are to be effective leaders.

He "took" nothing! He walked out His life in truth, joy and sorrow. He did not avoid living! He became what His mind thought - nothing. Remember when He said in John that He taught and did "nothing" that he did not receive and see from His Father? He was able to do that because He purposely set any agenda He might have had aside to listen and respond. That way He could stay "under" and accomplish what had been decided in the God-Head before the foundations of the earth were laid. Then, the Father Himself, exalted Him.  Our Lord did not take anything, only received what has been given to Him.

As we live our lives in this earth in Kingdom mode, it is essential that we understand this very principle. Because of the work of Christ, I am a son of God, but position in the Kingdom is His to give, not mine to take. Whatever we happen to "take" we will have to mis-treat others to take and then to protect. However, if we humble ourselves under Him and live as He teaches us (personally - through the Word), then when He chooses to place us in a "position," it is something we can receive and rest in Him that it has been given and therefore empowered.

May our hearts respond in "Yes, Lord." Then we are assured of His abundant anointing and empowerment.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Motives of Freedom

"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important that yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." Philippians 2:3-4 NASB
It might be helpful as we enter this verse, to read the last post. This thought is a continuation of what the Spirit is working in us as we follow the Lord in heart.

In our living in the riches of our Lord's grace that He has so lavished upon us (Ephesians 1:7-8), there are some internal workings that the Spirit longs to accomplish in us. This verse contains a major concept in those transformations. The entire modern idea of "self-esteem" must be abandoned! This verse is built on another DNA of being.
"Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God." 1 Peter 1:22-23 NASB
Our life in Jesus is out of the "seed" of God Himself. As such, we are His sons and daughters - those born from His will through His Word. Therefore, for us, life in Him is vastly different that life lived as a human being. We are able, through Him, to live His life here. We need not concern ourselves with our own matters much, for we have been told He is taking care of us. (Matthew 6) So we need not be creatures of self-centeredness, self-seeking, self-esteem or arrogance. In the the power of the Spirit through faith, we are able to regard others as more important that ourselves and live in humility with all - in heart and action.

Remember John 13:3 "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and ...." (He then washed his disciples feet). He knew who He was in God. Notice the three things that were His empowering motives:

1. He knew the Father had given all things into His hands.
2. He had come from God.
3. He was going to God.

May I suggest that we know those same things in Christ. So our own elevation is in His hands - not ours to be concerned about nor to accomplish. We are not worms nor doormats - but are servants in His Spirit. The difference is huge. A doormat simply gets walked on and holds dirt (and human ones always complain). The servant, takes a basin of water and begins to wash, refresh and clean, always allowing the dirt to go into the water of the washing only to be drained away. We have been given an awesome empowerment to live His life in our human frame!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Completed Joy!

"Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose." Philippians 2:1-2 NASB
In the last post, we worked with the emotions expressed in the first verse. The second verse begins with "make my joy complete." It may seem strange that Paul's completed joy would rest with their living in harmony, but that is what a pastor/teacher feels when the ones under their care and training are living from the inside out according to the teachings and example.  So he "underlines" this to them by giving  a few other instructions about this marvelous together life.

That is what the Christian life is all about - a life together. As we walk together in our fellowships our attitudes determine how that gets lived out in us and in others. In this passage the words used in the Greek text are difficult of translate because in that language what was felt in the body was explained in words that included those feelings within the thinking. For us in the west, our tendency is to think our emotions are one thing and our thinking is separate. That is simply not so. We are a unit and it all works together. The mind is working in harmony with the rest of the body and what is felt is in harmony with the thinking. So let's unpack this verse a bit.

The Spirit through Paul wants these dear ones to live in harmony by "being of the same mind." This could be translated "being united in soul, sharing the same identity in Christ - so mutually supporting what God reveals through faith which is His in-worked persuasion. They are to, in faith ( God's in-worked persuasion), be deeply devoted to one another in the love of Jesus as they are purposely united in spirit. As they maintain this attitude of love, they will experience an outward action of unity as their personal opinions are fleshed out into appropriate together life.

This is not the end of the thought at all. The next 16 verses are about this heart experience. So there will be much to enforce these understandings as we go through the text.

Our Lord is a God who works from the inside out. He is not interested in an outward action that does not have an inward reality. So often, in our Christian lives, we are content to do the right thing without the emotions being in agreement and a part of that action. As we wait before Him, let us expect this inward God of ours to begin to adjust our hearts and minds into the one unit they truly are in the new creation. It is a part of our coming into true wholeness. Awesome! It is His work!

Monday, April 23, 2012

If There Is Any

"Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose." Philippians 2:1-2 NASB
I have quoted the entire sentence here, but want to work only with the first verse in this post. These questions are all rhetorical. They have an obvious answer. Of course these all exist in Christ! Notice what things are mentioned: encouragement, love, fellowship, affection and compassion. These things are in Christ. They are matters of the heart and emotion - not matters of the intellect. They are the motives we begin to live out of in Christ.

I think all too often, we believe this is the way the church should treat us, and it is. But we do not realize that this is talking about things that are to be ours in Him - not just in His people. When we expect these matters to be ours from other people, we are missing a huge segment of what our life in Christ is really all about. It is about us in Him, and Him in us! These elements, encouragement (your version may have comfort here. That is because it is the same word in the Greek - so interchangeable in translation), love, fellowship (participation), affection and compassion are give to us in Christ. As we spend time in Him, privately and personally, these characteristics go deep into our being and begin to fill us in all our heart, motives and emotions.

Therefore, when we interface in our lives with others, we are not dependent upon them for any of these things. We have already received them from Christ Himself, and it is our joy to flow in them with others. One of the difficulties in our modern fellowships, is the tendency to lean on other human beings for these things. If they are being received in the prayer closet, then they can be expressed safely and in joy with others.

So I believe as we lean into our Lord for the elements listed, we are not so hard on the church and we are able to flow within the elements - regardless of what other folk do. There is just no substitute for shared time - Him and me. Sometimes in my schedule I "run" too much. First I need to receive, then I can "be." We have an amazing Lord who loves us so deeply, and has provided all for us. What joy to allow Him to be who and what He is in us. I can sense His smile. We are getting this!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Believing & Suffering

"For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me." Philippians 1:29-30 NASB
You will remember that earlier I wrote that this chapter gives us three areas of conflict in the heart and life of Paul. As he begins to thank these loved ones for their love and participation in his ministry, he unfolds his heart to them in a rare way. It is a very open and honest "heart" look into Paul. He gives them his heart and his way of thinking.

The first conflict was with people in the church who thought that by rivalry in preaching they would cause him to be harmed and alarmed. Instead, he only praised God that the gospel was being preached, whatever the motive. Then we saw that he had an inward battle about his own life here - whether to remain for the sake of the gospel, or to go home with the Lord. Now the third conflict of understanding -  it is a privilege to believe and to suffer in Christ without fear.

We dealt with the fear part in the previous post, so now I want to work with the realities of the Christian life. These two realities are belief (faith, trust in God) and suffering. We would like to be able to eliminate suffering with our faith. These two seem at odds, yet, the Holy Spirit let's us know that to have one is also to have the other. We are given the privilege of believing or having faith and trust in our Lord Jesus Christ in all areas of our being, and in that faith we find we do suffer. The types of suffering in Christ are broad, but we all experience them.

This is not the suffering we do because of our own foolishness or sin. But suffering because we have named the name of Jesus and have chosen the way of faith and the walk of faith in life. That means we do not live our lives like the world. We do not trust the world and we do not consider our circumstances as the world does. Our politics are not American ones, but Kingdom centered. We think differently, act differently, talk differently and respond differently. The world around us does not like this response to life and will eventually let us know that in ways of suffering.

These two things - belief and suffering - are matters of conflict. So we see that Paul also experienced both and as such was inwardly conflicted about them. Yet - it was to be considered a gift, an automatic blessing as the result of relationship with such a Savior. So we need not be confused when suffering occurs as a direct response to our faith. It is not a surprise - it is a privilege.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Not Frightened in Anything!

"Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God." Philippians 1:27-28  ESV
The instructions are very clear, the Christian life is to be lived as our Lord Jesus. He has made us worthy of all He is, and therefore we are empowered to live in that power and victory, not because we are able by being strong in will-power, but simply because of His abiding in us. So the instructions come by way of encouragement to walk with other people in fellowship and joined in soul. I realize this translation, and many others, use "mind," but the word is commonly used for soul, which in most of our minds includes more than just our minds. In fact, mentally or intellectually, we may differ yet still are empowered to walk as one in Him. Our tendency to boil this down to our thinking alike, has ended up in many schisms in the body's fellowship.  So in the unity He has given through the Spirit, we walk with others in peace - striving side by side for the faith of this over-the-edge good news.

As Paul is exhorting the Philippians, he wants them to understand that as they face oppositions, it is their lack of fear that is imperative.  When others oppose us, there is a natural fear that sets in. Most of us hate (strong word, but oh so true) conflict of any kind. I realize there are some who enjoy that, and as a result have the opposite problem of being too quick to encounter. However, here Paul is working with Christians who are being opposed because they are Christians. He urges them not to allow fear to diminish their faith. Standing calmly when others are accusing us, then loving through all that to bless in calmness is clearly supernatural. It is the stance of faith. Only when we have securely wrapped ourselves in His abundant love and empowerment, will we be confident enough to stand without fear of any kind.

The Spirit let's us know that our lack of fear is actually a sign to those who oppose us that declares they are in the wrong place - they cannot win this - their destruction awaits. When that is our deep, interior understanding, then we stand and love and remain in His calm response regardless of what is being said or threatened. Such is the empowerment of God in our interior.

Notice, he did not say, "don't be frightened, if you are a person who likes and can handle conflict and opposition." No, no, no. He said this for all of us whose natural tendencies are to fade and shrink from view when we are opposed in any way. Most of the training for this kind of standing is found in our families and friends. When we do not stand and make proper boundaries, due to a fear of conflict, then we must face it again and again, until in love and peace we can stand and love through that. He will train us. Learning things such as this through a book is a good thing. But the reality of it must be experienced. So back to the prayer closet to get my heart in confidence of His holding and shielding. I think this is called faith. Lord, thank you.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Different Direction

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again."
We often hear "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain" quoted is a sermon, teaching or written article. Yet, do we take the time to allow the truth of that statement become a part of us? I also hear it argued with. Isn't that just what we do when we have not yet come to understand what is being said? Let's ponder that statement a bit.

I think if I was saying it, I would put it differently. Something like, "For me to live is gain (thinking of the Kingdom, of course) and to die is Christ," for after all I am going to Him, in Him and for Him. However, the way the Holy Spirit had Paul phrase this was not that way, nor with that meaning. He said that for him to be alive on this earth, was only Christ being alive through him and for him to leave this earth was his personal gain. He so understood His identity as a son of God and co-heir of Christ, that he knew to live here meant that Christ would be here in his flesh.

Remember Galatians 2:20:
"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."

And Colossians 3:3:
"For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God."
Paul was living by faith. I believe we have this same opportunity in our life - to live as Christ in every area and arena. I think we have excused ourselves from this type of thinking because we generally do not understand our role as sons of God and co-heirs with our precious Jesus Christ. As we come to know the truth of all that the New Testament presents to us in this regard, may we enter the understanding that for us to live another hour is to be our Jesus in-flesh for that hour.

The emphasis of our lives will be massively shifted when these understandings become our base of life in Jesus - His love, His grace, His forgiveness, His provision, His inheritance and His place. Awesome!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Body - A Witness of Christ

"...according to my earnest expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ jesus through my coming to you again." Philippians 1:20-26 NASB
As we, once again read this passage, (verse 20) we see that Paul placed a very high priority on what his body did. He has written twice in the 1 Corinthian letter (chapter 3 and again in chapter 6) that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. When we begin to process the truth of His indwelling in us, many "religious thinking bondages" begin to drop away. We become aware that this body is not just some awful habitation to put up with until we are free from it. Instead, we see that we are to regard it as a temple of our God and something that is intended to be used to exalt the Lord.

Paul did not want to come up short in this area. Whether he lived or died, he wanted his physical frame to exalt the Lord. He was not interested in jus his words, but his entire person - and that included his body. He wanted the body itself to be a witness of the magnitude of his God.

Working with our Lord in the scriptures regarding the physical aspect of our existence is very important as we move forward in Him. He loves all we are and He loves the body we share. That's right, He shares this body with me and your body with you. So as we live and process His Word, let us also treasure what He treasures. May we be spurned to take care of the temple in all areas so it becomes a major factor in the exaltation of Christ in us.

I would like to write about what we allow to come from our mouths as a part of this understanding, but feel that just mentioning it is sufficient right now. May we with ears, hear what the Spirit is saying.

(If you are having trouble seeing the verse or verse in the posts that I am highlighting, my apologies. I have changed my browser to Chrome for this writing in a effort to solve the problem. Sometimes programs work best in their home environment . Since Blogger is a Google product, it make sense to work with it here).

Monday, April 16, 2012

Wanting Both

"...according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again." Philippians 1:20-26 NASB
This passage has much to say and I want to take several days to " unpack" its treasures. So I will highlight the portion I am working each day. Please read the entire printed passage for context and to know what is being shared by the Holy Spirit through Paul.

He wanted both! He wanted to be able to continue to live in the flesh (as we do in the present time), and he wanted to let it all go and be with Christ. This presents us with the second point of shared conflict in this chapter. He was having conflict with some in the church earlier, now the stress is internal. He really wants to do whatever is best, but inside he does not know which or how to choose, and he is very open about his personal feelings. He would like to just go and be with his Jesus, but sees that it would be better for the Philippians if he continues on in flesh.

As we grow in our Lord and in walking in His Spirit, we discover the same conflict. We know what it is to be conflicted and sometimes due to our legalistic teaching of the past, we become condemned in the interior stress and instead of using those stresses to move through the conflict, we simple buckle under what seems obvious. I think here we see that simply being conflicted is a bit like temptation. There is no sin in temptation, only if it is played with and encouraged. Then we "after inviting it to dinner" discover we have sinned. Likewise there is no shame in conflict. However for us, all interior conflicts must find their peace in the presence and direction of our Lord.

How do we do that? It is really quite simple, but difficult on us at the same time. The answer is always the same. The simplest way I know is to get in a still place in the Lord (doing so outwardly helps, but is not always necessary), pour out our hearts to Him, then listen and wait until peace settles. He is so faithful to relieve us of such stress. So actually the stress and conflict become motivators to take us into Him. He will always lead us with cords of a man, with bonds of love, and become to us as one who lifts the yoke from our jaws; and bend down and feed us. (adapted from Hosea 11:4 NASB) What an awesome God!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Through Your Prayers

"...for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,...." Philippians 1:19 ESV
Paul had some marvelous confidence running through his spirit! He knew that the prayers of the Philippians were working on His behalf and were being used toward his being set free. He longed to return to them and he knew their prayers were a part of that deliverance. (Some of our translations use "salvation" here instead of deliverance, and that is a also a good translation as those two English words are are contained in the same Greek word. The word deliverance, I think, fits the context better).

He knew the Lord was using the prayers of the people on his behalf. He knew that by trusting in the word of his Christ Jesus! How does God use our prayers of intercession for others? We really are not told the how of it all, just command to pray. I have read what many "think" about how God uses prayer, but really, the Word only tells us He does use them. So be encouraged as you pray for others. Trust the Lord to not only hear you but to answer. He does both. That is according to His word.

The second thing Paul is trusting in is the help (supply in some) of the Spirit of Jesus. He knew he could trust Jesus to deliver him. How did he know that? Through the Spirit of Jesus living inside him. He knew the promises and trusted in his Lord.

It all, everything, boils down to trusting (having confidence, faith) in our Lord. In Galatians 5:6 we are told that nothing counts before God except faith working through love. This is what Paul was wrapping himself in as he remained imprisoned and unable to move freely. Yet, in his spirit he knew his freedom was coming.

This is the "bridge" understanding that will enable him to explain his next point of conflict. We have seen he has conflict with some folk in the church, tomorrow we work with his second area of conflict. There are three given in this first chapter.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Escaping the Whirlwind

"It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,...." Phil. 1:15-18 NIV
I am very aware I used this same scripture in yesterday's post. I knew then I would do another post on it. There is so much to be understood in these three verses! The Word of God is so full, one could teach out of one or two verses for weeks. However, I promise not to go that far in these posts, but it would be fun to watch the Lord continue to unfold Himself out of the text. If you have not read the post from yesterday, I would urge you to do so and then come back for this one.

 Paul has begun in these statements to explain how he has conquered three battles. The first one he tackles is inside his own heart. The fact that Paul "did not bite" on his enemies' carrot to get into the competitive whirlwind is evident. Instead he turned it all to rejoicing. Now what did he know and how did he do it? What interior disposition had he submitted to that enabled this kind of response?

He knew that competition (rivalry, selfish-ambition) in its very core essence is demonic. Those are strong words, but it is what the scripture tells us.
"But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such 'wisdom' does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." James 3:14-16 NIV
As we submit to the training of grace, the Holy Spirit will allow us to leave our flesh way of thinking and release us into the glory of the mind of Christ.
"For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and wordily passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,...."Titus 2:11-12 "...But we have the mind of Christ." 1 Cor. 2:16b NIV
In this Spirit placement, which is a gift from the Lord Jesus, we cease to compare, cease to out-do, cease from always looking to see what others are or might be doing and cease to be so consumed with self and self's accomplishments that we begin to be empowered to "see" in the mind of our Beloved. Then we are released to rejoice as He does in the works of others in His Kingdom - even when we think they have it wrong in their hearts. Such is the joy of learning to live in the fullness of Spirit.

No one said this is easy stuff, but the fruit of the process is revealed here as being a wonderful release of joy and a fellowship in and with the Holy Spirt that surpasses our minds ability to do or contain. Thus, Paul's attitude does not condemn all who do not have it, but instead through his statements we can hear the Spirit's invitation to begin to "see" what has not been seen and to release into joy instead of the stress of competition inside ourselves.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Responding to Others

"It's true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. But that doesn't matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice." Phil.1:15-18 NLT
It seems there were some who wanted to get Paul fighting within himself about them. We all know how it feels to fight inwardly when someone we think should not be preaching, or teaching, or whatever - is very busy doing that and getting all the praise and attention. Our questions about why God is blessing them and not us, or why people do not see through them, or why, why, why. We are all familiar with these emotions. Paul cuts right through all that "stuff" with a Holy Spirit empowered emotional response that is born in true love in the Lord, love of His message of grace, love of His people (all of them) and the joy of the message of all messages getting heard and received. Who was preaching and why they were preaching was not Paul's concern. He recognized the problem, but did not let it upset his joy and rejoicing in any way, instead we find him gaining joy in the process.

The Holy Spirit has so trained Paul within his internal heart chambers that he could do nothing but rejoice. What they did or did not do, or what their crooked motives might be, was not at all his concern. He was just delighted that the Gospel was preached. What a clarity of mind, thought and emotion! The Spirit does this with those who seek the placement of resting in Jesus. Because our God is an impartial God, He will do this for any who willingly allow such change.

I am certain that confession and repentance are a part of that, but not the core. Our part is never the core, only the introduction into the secrets of the heart of the Lord. The transformation of our emotions is His area of expertise and we can simply trust Him to address such issues in love then in grace empower life without such inward fighting and ill-will. What an awesome Lord!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Things Are Not As They Seem

"Fellow believers, I want you to realize that my affairs have actually helped, rather than hindered, the progress of the Good News! Consequently my imprisonment for speaking about the Anointed One has become well known to the whole palace guard, and everyone else knows about it, too. Because of my imprisonment, the majority of the fellow believers, followers of the Lord, have become confident to speak the Word with excessive daring and fearlessness!" Phil. 1:12-13 The Source New Testament
Paul wanted the believers in Philippi to "see" something that was not obvious. He was empowered to "see" his circumstances through eyes that revealed goodness instead of confinement and purpose instead of ineffectiveness. He was in prison (actually house arrest during his first Roman imprisonment), and instead of touring the world preaching the gospel, he was confined to a house with a guard. People could come and go in visiting with him, but he could no longer travel.

Instead of considering himself cut off from calling, purpose and commission, he began to "see" what the Lord was doing. He he tells us that the entire palace guard and everyone else knew why he was there and the Gospel was being proclaimed to them all.

In addition to that, fellow believers who were seeing this, were becoming very bold in their lives and were speaking the Word with "excessive fearlessness." So on at least two levels, Paul saw that he was continuing in all the Lord had called him to do and that the Lord was faithful and producing fruit in the work.

Our circumstances can be seen several ways. We can cry and moan over them (and there is always enough "stuff" for that attitude to be legitimate), or we can choose in our time with Him to trust and in that faith, see with eyes that share with us what the Lord is doing in it all. May we choose trust. He is Worthy - not just of the song of our heart, but also our trust in life's circumstances - whatever they may be.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Key to Fruitfulness

"And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God." Philippians 1:9-11 KJV
 As I reread this portion this morning,  it was suddenly very clear. The "key" to all in Christ Jesus is very simple. It is love. Not the distorted understanding of love that we often have, but the pure love of and in Jesus.

When I find I am not gaining in knowledge, it is love that is my key. When I do not exercise good discernment, it is love that is my key. When I find myself insincere and easily offended or offensive to others, it is love that is my key. If the fruit of my daily life does not shout the righteousness Jesus has given to me, it is love that is my key. This love is by, through and in Jesus Christ, it is love that is my key to bringing glory and praise to my God. The key is really simple and anyone who loves the Lord Jesus can immediately tap into all He has given and come up with a heart full of love, mercy and grace. I am reminded of His gift:
"Romans 5:5, "...and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us."
The Lord Jesus, in His ample provision for us, has already made certain that the very love of God has been "gushed" (literal meaning here) through out our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We already, as born from above people, have the ability to love with His love. So we can just tap into His provision and find our lives dominated by His love for ourselves and for others.

I am aware this makes it sound very simple, and on one hand it is. On another hand, allowing the gift of someone else to be our source, is probably one of the most difficult things we do. Yet, our gracious Lord Jesus and heavenly Father through the action of our birth through the Holy Spirit has provided our ability to function in His way. I continue to stand amazed! What an awesome Savior!

Another note: my daughter, Lauren Godfrey, has begun blogging. I think you might also enjoy her posts. Today she is sharing a recent experience with a goose that ended up giving her some real insight into the Lord's love and care of her. Go to: chariskaizoe.blogspot.com and enjoy.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Developing Godly Integrity


For as God is my witness, how I long after you all in deep feelings of the compassion of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love will more and more abound in full knowledge, as in all perception, into the approving of things superb, that you might be honest and having no cause to stumble in the day of Christ,....” Phil. 1:8-10 
Paul continues sharing his heart with the church in Philippi. He wants them to know his love for them, and his expectation for the good things of God. (His prayers throughout the New Testament are a study in and of themselves. Just a hint that they are worth our time to discover).  It is his prayer and expectation ... (when we pray, for that dialogue with God to have any fruit, it must be done in faith and in a firm expectation that He hears and answers. Otherwise, it is an exercise in useless worry). 


As he prays, he expects they will continue to abound in love (both amount of love and quality of their loving) and that they will in that love develop a full knowledge (not just an intellectual knowledge, but a life experience full-knowledge) able to discern or perceive what is excellent as well as being full of integrity so they do not offend others nor be offended by them. 


The development of love in us through the Holy Spirit results in a knowledge that surpasses any intellectual understand in and of itself, and brings to us an ability to walk in discernment and integrity. When those things are lacking, it is clear evidence that time in the Word and interaction in the heart of the Lord (prayer, meditating, study) are sadly lacking. The fruit of our lives in Jesus is not just whatever ministry we might accomplish, but whether or not our inward nature is being transformed consistently by love which works through honesty and integrity. There is no shortcut in these matters. It is either in process or not. 


The beautiful thing about grace is we can always begin, always - as long as we have breath - turn from the ways of normal mankind and embrace the grace and forgiveness of our wonderful God, then begin this development in Him. He is truly awesome!


(The translation of this portion of scripture is my own).

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Deeper Koinonia

"Even as it is meet (right) for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace." Phil. 1:7


Paul continues to explain their bond in Christ. Here he gives to us what I call "the great leveler" in the Body of Christ. Whether he was in prison or active defending and confirming the good news of Jesus, they were "partakers" of his grace. In other words, they were sharing with him in whatever he was doing. He never did anything alone. No matter if it was an activity all would endorse, or simply "being" confined, they were with Him and participating in that with Him. The word "partakers" is this same word - Koinonia, which I wrote about yesterday. The prefix "sun" (here in English, but in Greek it works), tells us they were partaking together in these things.

What that means for us is the equal sharing in the fruit of the work done in the Body. Not all of us can do everything - but as we love, pray for and support those who do preach etc... we share together in the work and in the fruit of that work.

To me that is awesome! My prayer partners and supporters share in the fruit of what Psalm 19 does! We are partaking together of all God's goodness in this teaching ministry. It is never just one or two or a dozen or so. It is the entire body doing it together -- all those that love and support. So be encouraged, every person, church and ministry you pray for and financially support (we'll discover this aspect a bit later), you share in the fruit of their work. Glory! That is wonderful!

Friday, April 06, 2012

Koinonia

"Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will preform it until the day of Jesus Christ:...." Philippians 1:4-6 KJV

I am very aware that today is Good Friday. I started writing this, then remembered, and started to do another post when I felt checked. So let's go with this. The title word is the transliterated Greek word that means fellowship, communion, partaking together, walking one direction together, sharing in something together, participation etc... it is what the Lord Jesus accomplished on Good Friday (or whenever it was - not getting into that endless argument). So when we spend our time today in prayer and in remembering in thankfulness, let's remember that it was for fellowship with us (individually and corporately) that He died. He did something profoundly amazing by and through His death. He eliminated the very definition of distance between me and God. He just wiped distance out of the way - and wiped sin off the map.

I refer you to Romans 5-6 and Hebrews 9-10. He did what no other sacrifice could do, and enabled us to come unfettered with Him into the Throne of grace and glory always. It is our dwelling place. We are co-heirs with Christ. By and through His sacrifice, we have everything given and open to us in His name and by faith in Him. What a Savior!

In this passage, Paul is letting us know his reason for such joy in praying and remembering them was their  "koinonia" (fellowship, sharing etc... all the above) in the gospel with him from when they were first brought to Christ. Then he lets them know that his confidence in their ability and power to do all the Lord would call them to do was in the work of Christ - and He would complete it. Such joy, such confidence and such overwhelming goodness! Our Jesus will complete in us and for us - all. I trust your Good Friday is spent in gratitude and open hearted reception of all the goodness it purchased for you in the fellowship of God!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Remembering in Joy

"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;...." Phil. 1:3-5 KJV

This thought is continued and we will work with the total piece in another post. What the Lord stopped me with in this passage, is the phrase, "in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy..." Paul is so blessed to have them as friends and partners that he simply overflows in joy during his prayer time for them. That is a wonderful thing - to be so blessed by people we pray for that we just overflow in joy when we remember them in prayer.

I wonder if we are in that place? Somehow, the sorrow of current thinking on Intercession seems to decrease the joy of personal interaction in prayer. As Paul intercedes, he is not rehearsing their problems, nor insufficiencies, nor failures (all of which he knows I am sure). He is, instead, filled with overflowing joy that they exist, that they are in the body with him and supporting him in his work. He seems to discount whatever circumstances that might be troublesome for them (later we will encounter some of this in chapter 2), and is just exuberant in his joy for them before God.

As we pray for one another, may we catch a glimpse of this in our spirits and bubble up with great thanksgiving and joy to the Lord for allowing us to know one another and be together in the body. As we intercede, we are not giving God unknown information. It is much better to trust Him with the situations, than to rehearse them in front of Him in a way that discounts His action of goodness in those same situations. He is so able, and we would probably know that more if we bubbled overboard in joy in remembering one another. May it become so in us.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Embrace of Grace

"Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:1-2 NKJV)

We covered the first part of these two verses yesterday, but the second half of the first verse and the second one we will work with today. The Holy Spirit (through the Apostle Paul) is writing to all the "holy ones," which is what "saints" means, in Philippians along with all their leaders. Then he extends something wonderful their direction.

In the culture of the day, when letters were written, the greeting was the salvation. Today, we put that part of a letter at the end i.e.... who it is from etc. However, in the culture of Paul, all that was at the beginning. So he begins the letter with the "cordially yours."

When he writes "Grace and peace to you," it is far more than a simple "cordially yours." He is sending to them through his heart, the grace and peace of God. So often we read these words and just hurry on in order to get to more of the heart of the letter, yet this is the heart. In his address and approach to them, he places grace and peace as his pathway to their hearts.

Grace is often called unmerited favor, and it is certainly that, but so much more. Grace is the goodness, forgiveness, acceptance, love, and kindness of God flowing towards them. A friend of mine says "grace  makes up for whatever I lack before God." I think it is a very good definition. So when Paul includes this, he let them know that his entire attitude toward them is goodness, forgiveness, acceptance, love, kindness and much, much more. Then he adds peace - God's peace - His protection, provision, healing etc...to them as well. So in total love, he writes and appreciates them. (You will notice Paul begins each of his letters similarly). He shares with them the embrace of grace.

What a joy to get a letter and know that the sender holds such emotional clarity toward you! Wouldn't it be wonderful for us to begin to have this attitude toward one another. Wouldn't it be wonderful to see one another in this light, even if we had to deal with "sticky" issues? In Philippians Paul has no "sticky" issues  to work with, as this is a marvelous, heart warming thank you to them for their love and support. However, he uses this same greeting in letters where it is very tense in his dealings with the recipents. So that does not make any difference in his heart.

May we allow our Lord's grace to be the embrace we share with others - especially our Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Bondservants

Philippians 1:1 - "Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, ..." NKJV This is as far as I can go until we examine the term "bondservant." There are only a few conservative translations that hold this term for the appropriate Greek word in this passage. Most of our versions have simply "servants" or "slaves." While those common terms are basically accurate, a very important concept is lost in the rendering.

The term "bondservant" is a term from their culture of the time and its understanding is given to us in Exodus 21:2-6 (also Deuteronomy 15:12-18) From Exodus, "If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing. If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself. But if the servant plainly says, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,' then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever."

The man who choose to serve out of love for his master was called a "bondservant." It was not a forced labor, nor one of obligation, but one freely given for life. So we see Paul and Timothy call themselves, "servants-of-love" in Christ. Their lives were given because of love.

So as we look at our lives, may His love for us so overwhelm us that we understand that call to true bondservant-hood -- not just "servant" or certainly not "slave," which we often think is a forced service. In Christ, nothing is forced, but all is invited. Oh thank you Lord Jesus! We receive your empowering to love as you love and to serve as you serve. This is our heritage as your co-heirs and as your bride.