Tuesday, July 31, 2012

His Image

"The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him." Colossians 1:15-16 TNIV
When we need a good dose of just who this Jesus is we love and adore, we need to turn to Colossians and begin to read. These first three chapters are full of who and what He is. Getting these passages very solid in our spirit will help us as we face the challenges of life because they anchor us in Him and in the truth about Him.

Here we begin to understand the Trinity. There is no separation between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They are One. The Son is the agent of all the Father does through the power and action of the Holy Spirit. We often struggle with this, but if we will take a good look at a human being made in this image, it will become much clearer. We are tri-part in our very being. We have a spirit, a soul and a body. These parts are not the same in structure or  purpose, but if we are a human - all three are in place. The three interact and what is true of one is true of the other, but yet there are three parts. So it is with the God-Head. Three in One - making One.

Christ Jesus as Son is the image of the invisible, or unseen, God. We often quote John 4:24 "God is spirit..." as beginning to understand that there is no image of Him. Yet, here we are told that Jesus Christ is the image of God. The image is a human image. The form is like us. When we desire to know what God is like, then we begin to understand that the created man and woman is like Him. Look around, we are not God, but we have been created in that image. Now I am aware the image has been severely tainted with sin, yet, the image remains. My natural born children look like my husband and me. No matter what they do or think or say - they still look like us. So it is with the Lord - we look like Him.

Then the passage continues to say that all (and all means all) things were created in Him - even heaven itself - everything! The invisible things, the visible things, the thrones, powers, rulers or authorities - all created by Him and for Him (or in Him). He knows what He is doing. He has created everything. So as we begin to allow this Lord of ours to be seen in our hearts, may we begin to identify ourselves in Him - not some separate creation.

As believers, He not only lives within us (as we are the temple of the Holy Spirit), but He is also imaged in us.
"Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." Colossians 3:9-10 TNIV
We will work further with these verses when we get to the third chapter, but we need to receive this verse here as well.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Giving Joyful Thanks

"...So that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his people in the kingdom of light....." Colossians 1:10-12 TNIV
All this "full-knowledge" of God, so that.... and now we find that it enables and empowers us in "giving joyful thanks." I am amazed at how often the giving of thanks, being thankful and being filled with thanksgiving occurs in the New Testament. Over and over again, it is stated that either we are to be thankful people, or certain actions cause others to be thankful, or we have instructions to be primarily thankful in every situation, and on and on. 

Thankfulness or a heart filled with gratitude to our God is primary in being able to apprehend the goodness He continually pours into and over our lives. He is good and He loves to pour Himself over and in. As we fellowship deeper and deeper in Him, and as we embrace more and more of Him then we become filled with gratitude for Him. 

We often limit our gratitude to the things He does. But in this huge step of fellowship in relationship gratitude for His person, presence and love becomes an overflowing factor in the life. We are, of course, very thankful for all He does, but relationship always goes further than that. 

As an illustration: I am grateful for all the provision my husband has made for me and for our family through the years. He worked very hard at his position for over 39 years. He was a public school teacher. He taught classical choirs, musicals, etc.... He loved the kids, and was loved by them. Now, retired, he works with me in Psalm 19 as well as in his local church - in music and for Psalm 19 in the production of our TV show, etc.... I love and appreciate all he has done through-out the years, but I love him, his presence, his love, his "always there for me person" more than I love what he does for me. 

So it is in our fellowship in the Lord. We learn to love and thank Him, mainly for Him. So as we grow in gratitude, let's also remember - that too is a gift in and of relationship. The fullness of the relationship in His power and provision enables and empowers us to flow and enjoy such gratitude. Awesome!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Great Endurance and Patience

"...So that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, ...." Colossians 1:10-11 TNIV
As we study through this passage, continue to notice the "so" every so often. It is like an unfolding rose, one petal unfolding leads to something precious inside etc.... However, in this unfolding, there is no end to the discoveries of things precious. All the power is given to those who come into a full-experiential, continually revealing, knowledge of God Himself for great purpose - that we may have great endurance and patience.

We have been tempted to think that living in Jesus would mean basically that we would be exempt from life itself. We have, of course, found that not to be true. The reality of all the Lord gives us is not seen best in a life that has nothing ever being wrong and messed up. Instead, it is seen best in a back-drop of regular living, dying, heart-ache and opportunity for sin and distress. Here, in the "hot-bed of life itself" is the grace, love and glory of God best seen.

We learn best by contrasts. We know what light is because we experience darkness. This was first demonstrated for God's people at the creation in Genesis 1. First there was darkness (where did that come from since God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all - all attempts to explain fail); with the back drop of darkness, God said, "Light be, and light was."

So His glory, love, grace, hope and on and on - all are best seen as we live life and experience its fullness. So all this power is now given to those who walk deeper and deeper in Him so they will stick to Him even more completely in patience. This patience is the ability to wait and trust in Him. It is long-suffering, long tempered, which is also a fruit of the Holy Spirit. This is not an attribute the human being can possess if they do not walk deeply with God. It is a by-product of that relationship, for it is an attribute of God Himself.

So we see, if we sincerely desire to allow the glory of God to be seen in our lives, we will lean, trust and expect from our God as we live life, always getting to know Him more and more and more and more and more... "great endurance and patience."

Friday, July 27, 2012

Strengthened With All Power

"...So that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, ...." Colossians 1:10-11 TNIV
We are in the middle of this long sentence, but  I want us to be able to glean at least a small portion of the riches that are here. Paul is so caught up in the glories of all the Lord has provided for us, that he just goes on and on. Praise God he did. Now we can begin to allow all these jewels to unfold in us. They are not just words, but concepts and goodness that the Lord has purchased and provided for us all.

This is still a part of Paul's prayer for these Christians. You will remember (previous posts) he is praying for people he has never met. He is not praying for them to have what they already possess and live in. He is praying for them things he knows are available in Jesus that are accessible to all who claim Him as Lord. Yet, these are not automatic things like redemption, forgiveness etc... so he is praying for them to enter into the riches of the Father.

In living this life in the Lord Jesus, we have here strength. He prays, "...being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might..." As we grow in this full-experiential knowledge of the Lord through His word and through our lives being lived in His heart, we are given strength - he says "all power according to His glorious might..."  There are actually three words here in the Greek that designate strength or power. The one translated "strengthened" is a form of the same word translated "power." That one is the one we are most familiar with "dunamis." It means power, might, strength. It means inherent power - the power of begin able to reproduce itself. So this kind of strength goes from strength to strength in an unending flow.

The second word translated "might" (as His glorious might) is "kratros." It is also strength and might, but has the added meaning of power being exerted effectively. So as we trust Him and lean into all He has provided for us, we, in the full-knowledge of our God, are able to continually increase in strength, and power that is effective in the Kingdom.

There is a lot of work we do, which is not done in His strength and we run out of both strength and power. However, when He becomes the author of our strength - we can go just as long as He does and it is effective in the Kingdom - not just "busy-work." This kind of energy and strength is not produced through programs, nor adrenaline, both of which are often mistaken for moves of God.

The Lord can use and does use all things, but there is no substitute for this involvement in us of the full-experiential knowledge of Him as we move and do what is before us. In the Spirit, life cannot be faked. We might be able to work for a little while on our charisma, or knowledge, or adrenaline rush. But eventually we will come up empty. The answer is here. I encourage you to join me in reading this entire prayer as we ponder these wonders.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

There's Always More!

"We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,... ." Colossians 1:9c-10 TNIV
The apostle continues to unfold his thinking and reason for his prayer for these dear Christians. He sees that being filled with the "knowledge" (Gk Epignosis or full, experiential knowledge) of God through the wisdom and understanding in the Holy Spirit will enable and empower them to live holy lives worthy of the Lord and pleasing in every way; bearing fruit in every good work,.... Notice that the expectation of fruit, the fruit of doing or the fruit of action within the enabling of God, is expected to be empowered by the continual increase of the full knowledge of God.

Many of us, to our shame, think that once we are "saved" and safe in the Kingdom, and since we now have the Holy Spirit living inside, then we have all that God ever intends to give us and now we are pretty much on our own to make things work for Him. This attitude and doctrine leads to legalism and a self-help concept of Christianity. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In this passage, it is clear that we are to be continually growing in this "knowledge" of God. It is not a thing that ever ends or ceases. Our fillings continue in Him and our enablement and empowerment continue to rise in good works accomplished - not in self-effort, but being carried in Him. As we purposely embrace His Word and allow the Spirit to give us wisdom - then our understanding in knowledge grows and enlarges. Nothing remains just facts, but everything speaks life and wholeness and goodness to and in us.

We begin to interface in all expectation of more and more and more. After all, our God is infinity itself - never beginning - never ending - always alive - always giving - always revealing - always gifting! We have a resource in us that unfolds in power and empowerment for a holy and fruitful life that speaks! Our God is limitless in every way. Let's begin to embrace Him and His Word in a fuller way and allow this life to overtake us in hope and love.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pleasing in Every Way

"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, ...." Colossians 1:9--10
There is purpose to all this "knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives," we now come to the "so that...". I think it would be quite sufficient, just to know deeply and fully the will of our Lord Jesus in the wisdom and understanding from the Spirit. However, in our Lord, all things are dimensional and build into something beyond themselves. In other words, every thing has a purpose to accomplish in our lives. Grace teaching us to live holy lives (Titus 2:11-12) has great purpose in us and in the Kingdom. Everything God does simply expands exponentially into life in all directions - in us and in the Kingdom.

So here the purpose of empowering a life like His - a worthy life that pleases the Lord at every turn. We please the Lord because we live in Him. We are His and pleasing because we are. However, there is a dimension (there is that word again) of pleasing Him that is born in and because of relationship. When I married my husband (nearly 51 years ago) I was very pleasing to him. Within that relationship of marriage, I have learned what really pleases him. He loves my home cooked meals, but is exceedingly pleased with a cherry pie to top it off. It doesn't matter than neither of us need to eat such, but you get the point.

In Christ, we begin from a point of favor, being pleasing. Then we move within that acceptance and love - to discover more of Him and therefore in this full knowledge, wisdom and understanding we are able to please Him in ways we never dreamed before. Our lives began to be marked with "worthy," not because of our innate worth, but because of His movement in and through us. This favor brings much more favor. Grace upon grace upon grace upon grace upon grace! Awesome!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Spirit Wisdom & Understanding

"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,...." Colossians 1:9-11 TNIV
Paul is once again writing in very long sentences. So we will take just this much of the thoughts presented to us, and then go on to the remaining in days to come, Lord willing. He is including Timothy in this letter, so he uses "we." They have not stopped praying for these dear believers, even though Paul has never met them, nor visited their fellowship. He however, has learned of their faith, love and hope expressed to and by others, so he is very diligent in his prayers for them.

However, these prayers are not just for their well-being (although Paul probably included that) these are prayers for them to enter into a dimension of relationship in the Lord that they did not already have. Notice he said, "We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the spirit gives,..." . The word used here for "knowledge" is full-experiential knowledge. It is a knowledge gained by continual fellowship in the God-Head. It is not just the knowledge of His will in written form nor just what they have been taught by others. This word indicates that Paul is praying for them to enter into such an intimate relationship in the Lord that they possess a full "understanding of His will through all the wisdom and understanding the Spirit gives."

This is a relationship in Spirit that intertwines their lives in the fellowship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Notice that wisdom is given first. If we trace all examples of where these two words are used together in Scripture, we will find that most of the time "wisdom" is mentioned first. That is because true Spirit "wisdom" is given before knowledge and understanding and those latter two are based on a reception of the wisdom of God. It is given in fellowship, then comes knowledge and understanding. In our worldly understanding wisdom is always the last thing. In the Spirit, it is the first thing. I refer you to Proverbs 2 as a beginning place to notice the order of these things.

Wisdom is God's gift to us and is a gift in relationship to those who seek, it is essential to truly know and understand anything the Lord says. Often in our learning, we expect to learn then understand, then maybe, come to wisdom. This is the world's way. However, in the Spirit (Biblically) the last is first in this case. We all know (or maybe were ourselves at one time) people who read, study and pray, but never seem to come to wisdom through the knowledge possessed. They do not bear much personal fruit in Kingdom ways.

One of the possible reasons is this very order which comes when we seek Him first and foremost. When the Lord is our reason for life, not just the author of it. As we worship, adore and allow that to translate into relationship shared, we begin to enter another dimension in Him. By the way, there are always more dimensions to be experienced and possessed. We never run out - He is infinity itself.

As Paul prays for this, then we know it has not yet been seen among them. This is not one of the "automatics" in Christ. Much, much is automatic, but this dimension of relationship is not. So as we continue our study let's allow a new dimension to enter our hearts and begin to seek and expect these matters to illuminate us in His nature.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Love in the Spirit

"We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all his people -- the faith and love that springs from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true word of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world -- just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God's grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit." Colossians 1:3-8 TNIV
I have put the paragraph (according to this version) here for us to consider at least part of it. However, I am always aware of the need to put a verse or a thought in a context. It has been said that "A text without a context is just a pretext." I have found that to be true many times. So in order to work in truth, let's keep our thoughts regarding a passage in its context. There are many dimensions of meanings in most Biblical texts, but the context still retains its importance and will give us the primary scope of the passage.

This particular section of Scripture (1:3-14) is one sentence in the Greek, so it is difficult to divide it - even into separate thoughts. It is often the way Paul expresses himself and the Holy Spirit. It is almost as if he understood that each thought leads into another, then another, then another in the Holy Spirit. This is true. When we begin to "think with" Him, we find our thoughts enlarging to include this then more, that leads to more etc.... So as we learn to hear more completely there is more and more about our daily lives that the Lord is able to address. Many of you who read here will understand this. If it is new to you, then I encourage you to expand your concept of prayer into your thought life. It is an amazing thing "to think with" instead of all alone. We can still choose to think our own thoughts, or we can choose to "think with." The later is so much more exciting and life giving.  Now back to the passage.

"In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world -- just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God's grace. " Paul begins to address the result of their faith, hope and love. The last post dealt with these three, once again interlaced. Now he speaks of the result of their participation in the faith. They have chosen to trust and love and as a result they have hope stored for themselves in heaven. Now the result of those things interacting in them is fruit. Fruit is a by-product of a healthy plant, tree, bush, etc.... When a plant is watered and nurtured then the fruit is produced - automatically. Here Paul is saying that the fruit of this good news of forgiveness, grace, love and acceptance (gospel) is now changing people's lives all over the world - everywhere it goes.

My thoughts go to the fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. Those characteristics are all included in the fruit of fellowship in the Holy Spirit. There is no short-cut to bearing healthy fruit. It is an automatic by-product of health. So as we ponder this today - let us not concentrate so hard on what we do not yet seem to be, but let's concentrate on our Lord and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. As we learn to do this more and more, Spirit fruit is produced. This is what is meant by the phrase "...your love in the Spirit," at the end of the passage listed above. The fruit of their fellowship was the "love in the Spirit." Oh yes! Lord thank you!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Springing from Hope

"We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all his people -- the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true word of the gospel that has come to you." Colossians 1:3-5b TNIV
We ended our last post considering the thankfulness of Paul for these believers. In this section, we begin to discover the "why" he is so thankful for them.

His thankfulness springs from their action and inter-action with other believers. He has heard of their faith in Christ Jesus and the love they demonstrate to all believers. This is the first thing to notice. It is one thing to be acknowledged by others that we are believers, it is quite another matter for our faith to be mentioned as a reason for some to be thankful for us. Evidentially they were such a people of trust in Jesus that it was known. As we grow in trusting Him, the core of our being begins to expand in ways that are demonstratively different than they have ever been before. This is a marked difference in our actions. A person who trusts in Jesus, will not be known for manipulating others, taking undo advantage of others etc.... A person of faith - of trust in Jesus - will freely love without "hooks" or "strings" attached. This is vastly different from the way the world lives.

The next item Paul mentions is his thankfulness for the fact that they love all believers this way. Many in the church will love those they know this way, but for some reason it never manages to get beyond the four walls of their own fellowship and association. All believers, known or unknown, are to be loved in this trust in Jesus. These folk evidentially did this very well.

Then Paul tells us all the secret behind their faith and love, " -- the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true word of the gospel that has come to you." Their behavior was trained and empowered by the true word of the hope of the gospel.

Hope is a very important thing. Biblical "hope" is not what most of use think of when we use the word. It means "firm expectation." These believers were able to maintain notable faith and generosity in loving others because they expected what Jesus had promised them. In this passage, those items are stored up for them in heaven. WOW! In this passage, it is not the return they are expecting in the here and now - but what is being stored with Jesus Christ in heaven. This is why these believers are empowered in faith and in love - because they have such wonderful hope.

The gospel is such good news! It is not about rules and regulations and such. It is about righteousness, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit. It is about trusting our Lord for all He is and all He has promised and for loving others in His holy love. It is the truth of being accepted in Jesus, forgiven, set free, and empowered for our lives here. These truths give hope to our hearts. Therefore we can trust Him and love others. Oh Jesus! What awesome truth you give us!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

States of Heart

"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to God's holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ; Grace and peace to you from God our Father. We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you...." Colossians 1:1-3 TNIV
Paul, once again, begins his letter to these " people of God" by telling them who is writing and who is sharing in his letter to them. Timothy, his son in the faith, is with him. So what Paul relates to them is to be taken as from Timothy as well. We know how that goes. Many wives write letters and sign them with their name and the name of their husband and the other way around as well. Paul wanted the people to accept Timothy as his companion. The Kingdom is not about being or having "a star." It is about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit - therefore all with him are included and received. This is a state of heart that is developed as we journey in the Holy Spirit.

Notice that Paul extends grace and peace to them all. He begins all his letters this way. (In the letters to Timothy, Paul also includes mercy in the statement). He approaches them with the grace, favor and well-intention of the Lord. He does not approach them in reference to what might be wrong or out-of-place, but instead in grace, with grace, extending grace. Also he includes peace. He does not come in an attitude of "fight" or "argument" but rather of peace. This word "peace" stands for all that is needed in the human frame - what we identify with peace, healing, prosperity - all included. He is greeting them in the wrapping of the heart of God.

Then he begins by telling them he always thanks God for them when he prays. The structure in Greek from verses 3-14 is one sentence I believe. However, we will take it in small bites. Just understand that each statement is important in and of it self, even when it is woven with others. Paul's attitude of thankfulness is throughout all his letters. It is an element of great importance at the Throne. An attitude of thankfulness in all things is essential to begin to apprehend the ways of our Father, Lord Jesus and Holy Spirit. All through the old covenant, the attitude of thankfulness was expected. The people of those older times almost always missed this essential element in being God's people. Paul is very thankful for them as he prays.

We will find out in 2:1 that he has never met these folk. So he does not know them like he knows the Philippians - yet he greets them the in same manner. Hummmm much to learn here I think.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Place of Welcome

"Greet  all God's people in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me send greetings. All the Lord's people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar's household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen." Philippians 4:21-23 TNIV
I find it interesting that Paul closes this letter by telling us to always be people who welcome others. He, of course, is writing to believers in the Lord Jesus. But we can stretch it a bit to include all, because truthfully, if we are open to all believers, then we will become open to all people who need a welcome.

In these closing statements of the book, as Paul is "signing off" in this letter, he is emphasizing something exceedingly important. If we, as people, are not welcoming others, if we are only open to those "in our circle" and hold our selves separate from others, then we will never be effective in the Kingdom of God.

Our fellowships must always be a place of welcome, because that is what we as people are. Once we begin to see the vision of what the Lord has in mind in the Kingdom of God, then we begin to become that place of welcome. Just because someone is always a drain, does not mean they should not be welcome. We can learn to love in the Lord's love where all are always welcome. That doesn't mean we allow ourselves to be continually drained by the same needs of others. There are people appointed for others for just such times, but all of us in His love become welcoming to all - regardless of dress, age, or anything else.

Then Paul ends the letter with the greeting of all greeting and the prayer of all prayers: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen." What more could be said? The all sufficient grace of our Lord once again spoken into being over us and into our spirit! What a way to close a letter! Nothing more can really be said. So we close this book of joy in the joy of embracing all He is and all He gives in His grace. Thank you Lord Jesus for Philippians.

Tomorrow, Lord willing, we begin to study the book of Colossians. So join me and let's allow the love embrace of our Jesus to continue to extend to us as we open to what is written.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Our God and Father

"Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever, Amen. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit." Philippians 4:20-23 NASB
 These are Paul's closing remarks in this delightful and life-changing book. There are several items to notice.

His entire thought process proceeds to the Throne of glory. His eyes remain fixed on His God and Father. I do not believe he used these terms in a rote or automatic way. They meant something very deep in him. Paul has presented to these people the thought process of his life. He always returned his gaze to his God - and his Father.

It is one thing to be "God-minded." It is yet another step into the understanding that He is our Father. Paul basked in that relationship. He knew deep within the resources of his being that his God was also his true Father. He came from Him and was returning to Him.

We all, so often, only count on our human identity. We often do not allow the Spirit to embrace us sufficiently to imprint into our beings the fact that we are first and foremost - a child of Almighty God. We have His Spiritual DNA and we are birthed as John 1:13 says, "... not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."  Our Father is the reason we exist.

This thinking completely transforms our loyalty and ability to belong. We belong together and have the same Spirit. Unity is not a question, nor is it our action. It is a reality of the new birth that we are called to preserve. (Ephesians 4:3) In this dimension of life, we often seek to "belong" somewhere. When we truly have the mind-set of the Spirit, all those questions are answered. We always belong in Him and therefore with one another. It is an emotionally settling reality, eliminating the entire concept of "belonging" in other ways.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Faith's Participation

"But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:18-19 NASB
Paul has graciously received all they have sent through their messenger, Epaphroditus. He likens their gift(s) to the sacrifices of the Old Covenant as being a fragrant aroma and an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. Such is our giving. All the sacrifices of the Old Covenant were symbols and pictures of what Christ would do. (And had done before the foundation of the world - in the mind of our marvelous God). The sacrifices themselves, never were redemptive. (Hebrews 10:1-4) So when Paul calls these "pleasing sacrifices," it gives us another insight about the symbolism of our giving.

Our God is a giving God. This terminology in this place, reveals to us just how God views our willingness to give and to help others. He regards our giving as sacrifices - much like He did in the Old. The Old sacrifices were "a faith participation" by the worshippers - trusting God to cleanse them. In the New, we know He has cleansed us by the blood of the spotless Lamb of God - our Lord Jesus Christ! So our "faith participation" in His nature and being, is to
become giving people.

To put it clearly - our giving is "a faith participation" in the giving nature of God imparted to us in Christ Jesus. We apprehend what is ours through our participation in faith -- His very nature.

In 2 Peter 1:3 we are told that He has given us all things for life and godliness. It is apparent that we do not presently possess in our hands these all things. However, by faith we apprehend them by trusting we have them and living in that revelation. This giving revelation is no different. We apprehend what has been given to us, by participating in giving in faith.

Therefore, he can say with all confidence concerning them, "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." Based on their already received gifts, Paul knows that God will in turn, supply all their needs. But notice this supplying by God is not according to their needs. It is according to His riches. The word "riches" is the Greek word for "wealth." So their gifts to Paul have opened the storehouse of God Himself; their needs are supplied, not according to their need, but according to God's wealth.

Such is at least a part of the wealth of this awesome passage.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Increasing Our Accounts

"You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:15-20 NASB
Paul is very appreciative of this church and their continual support of the call of God on his life. He acknowledges their support from the beginning of his ministry among them. (Acts 16) They have endeared themselves to him because of their faithful support. Hence, the occasion of this letter - to thank them.

Notice that Paul says he does not seek their gift. Instead he seeks what their giving will produce for them. He says, "Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account." These are accounting terms. He is sharing with them what matters to him is not that he has received, but that they have gained by giving. When we as God's people, enter into an attitude of giving for the benefit of others, especially as it relates to His Kingdom, then that is added to our account in Him. I do not understand how all this operates, but I know it does. Our giving and our attitudes of generosity in giving are all very profitable in the Kingdom for Kingdom work, but they add up in our account somehow. The amounts or types of giving is not in view here. It is simply giving. This may seem like a simplistic explanation, but I see it very clearly in this passage. Paul wants them to know that beyond his gratitude, he is grateful that their accounts have increased.

If we could begin to comprehend this, it would revolutionize our attitudes toward giving to the Lord's work and to those who need some help at the present moment. When we learn to love giving more than we love spending, the Kingdom will become much more productive in our world. These are attitudes we can have which automatically evangelize Him. May we allow these "seeds" to take root and grow in our hearts into attitudes of blessing, blessing, blessing!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

To Share

"I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction" Philippians 4:10-14 NASB
One more thought in this passage. It echo's Philippians 3:10, "...that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;...." These folk, by sending Paul help , are sharing in his affliction. This is another step in "co-participation" or "fellowship" or co-laborer."

In this letter, Paul gives us three ways to share in life together.  The first is simply by being a part of one another's heart. (1:7) He considered these people co-labors in grace in all he did in the name of Jesus. This is a great "leveler" among us. When we understand this, then we no longer have a tendency to elevate those whose obligations in the Kingdom include being in front of people or having authority in the Kingdom. We begin to recognize that all who pray, all who financially support and all who encourage are included in the same reward system for the work accomplished in and by the Spirit.

Second we begin to see that when we help (by giving) a minister then we are sharing in whatever suffering they are enduring. This goes far beyond a mutual support system. It becomes a part of the fiber of our being in such a way as to actually count the suffering as our own as we pray and encourage the one enduring the pain.

Third when we participate with another by bringing them help then we once again enter with them in the pressure or trouble when it comes against them. Paul saw all three of these elements in his life as shared - never just his.

The Greek word to describe this type of participation is called "koinonia." It means participation, sharing, co-laboring, etc.... It has the meaning of co-investing and mutual participation. It is what spiritually is mirrored in communion, in worship and in corporate belonging. I think this is reaching far beyond most of our comfort levels. This is the understanding that stems from the word "covenant" when it is rightly understood.

Monday, July 09, 2012

A New Interior Atmosphere

"But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction" Philippians 4:10-14 NASB
Paul is delighted that the folk in Philippi have, once again, sent him help. What form that help took, we are not privy to. It might have been simply the sending of people to help, or food, or financial help. Whatever it was, it came at a good time and Paul is grateful. This entire letter to this group of people was prompted through this gift to him. According to verse 15 this group has supported him ever since he founded the church in Philippi. (Acts 16:11-40) 

So now he uses these facts to do a "teaching moment" from his heart. "Not that I speak from want,..." or "Not that I speak from need..." depending upon your translation. This passage is often used to teach us that we "need" to learn contentment. While that is here, that understanding will miss the point of the passage and we will forever be failing at trying to be content. Most of us have really worked at that in the past, quite unsuccessfully. There is a reason it has not succeeded. You see, contentment is a bi-product.

As we study Scripture, one of the things we learn to do is to determine "which is a cause of what." There are some things, like the fruit of the Spirit, that are simply by-products of something else. As long as we "work" to produce the bi-product, it will feel (and is) an impossible task. However, when we see the Word rightly, then this is not hard at all but rather a way of being that empowers contentment - always.

Paul says he has no needs, or wants. The reason he is content is that he doesn't not need anything. How can this be? As he explains through the Holy Spirit, he has learned that no matter what his circumstances are - because he has the Lord Jesus, he has no need of anything. It is a way of "seeing" circumstances.

He continues to say that he knows how to be poor, rich, filled, hungry, in abundance and suffering need - yet in all this - he has no need because he has Jesus who gives him strength. His God is sufficient.

The very beginning understanding of our God is that he is sufficient. He not only moves in our circumstances to change them, he also creates an interior atmosphere within us that is content even when circumstances are contrary to comfort or are painful. We use "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me," for all matters of things, and that is alright I suppose. However, Paul used it specifically to deal with his attitude and feelings about his circumstances. This is not a passive approach, but rather a deeply spiritual inner condition.

Our Lord is sufficient for all things. He hears all our prayers for change and relief, and moves, many times, miraculously to change them. Yet whether or not change comes immediately or not, we can in the Holy Spirit, be very content in what is and move as blessings within the circumstances. This is our empowerment in Him.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Atmosphere of Life

"Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be know to all men. The Master is near. Do not worry at all, but in every matter, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to Elohim. And the peace of Elohim, which surpasses all understanding, shall guard your hearts and minds through Messiah Jesus. For the rest, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is righteous, whatever is clean, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good report, if there is any uprightness and if there is any praise -- think on these. And what you have learned and received and heard and saw in me, practice these, and the Elohim of peace shall be with you." Philippians 4:4-9 The Scriptures
I have chosen to use another translation today and to put the entire passage here for us to consider. We will concentrate on the last verse.

Once again, the emphasis is to follow the course of action and not try to find a "short-cut" to by-pass the elements involved. I am like most people, I would like a quick and easy way to get things done in me. However, the only quick avenue is when we receive Jesus. That is usually a quick work and a work that very effectually changes us in every aspect. However, as we learn to co-operate in Him, we find there are processes for our change. The human heart does turn and change, but the Lord knows best how to do that without damage. So it is often slowly accomplished. In this "how-to" the work may seem slow, but if we apply our hearts here, our thought patterns and our immediate thoughts begin to change into those that bring life. This is what we are after - for ourselves and for those we know.

So after we have followed and are thinking in "life," the peace we so desperately long for, that peace which allows us to rest and receive, that peace -- is given. It comes as we follow the examples of being life and producing life given to us in the Word. This, like the "peace of God" given in verse 7, is a supernatural placement that is given - not acquired - given. But it is given as a result of following and allowing ourselves to be placed in an atmosphere of life flow.

At first this seems like a contradiction - we must follow first, but then something is given. They are connected. Our "following" or obedience is our co-operative action with and in the empowerment of the Lord. As I choose to follow - He empowers such and that unlocks for us the placement into peace. It  is all the results of inter-action -- not one's own efforts. This brings me much comfort for I know humanly speaking my "following" is flawed, but in Jesus it is not flawed, it is empowered and that brings me and others into the placement of grace and all the goodness of a marvelous God!

Friday, July 06, 2012

Thoughts of Life

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things." Philippians 4:8 NIV
This is the verse we try to do. Yet without "entering" into the preceding verses, we end up frustrated and ineffective in our ability to think like this.

Rejoice in the Lord.
Relax into gentleness because the Lord is near.
Pour out our heart to Him about everything, in great thanksgiving.
Allow the peace of God to guard our hearts and minds.

Now we can begin to think thoughts that are full of life and that bring life. So much of our existence is not only directed by our thoughts, but our thoughts actually pave the way for our life to flow.  As we choose His way, His life and His goodness begins to fill our hearts with encouragement and blessing. We then have the ability to flow in that stream to encourage and bless others through-out our day.

What we read, what we watch on TV, what we listen to from others -- all these influence our way of thinking. So I am reminded of our Lord's word's in Mark 4:24 “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more." 

Our thoughts also completely govern our words. Whatever comes from our mouths, comes as a result of our thinking. So once again, we have our thoughts at the center of our lives. 

As we learn to think with the Lord Jesus, we bring life, healing and encouragement to ourselves and all those around us. It is not about being real, it is about being truthful. The truth is in Him and these good items of thought lift us into that truth. 

This entire passage is a key in beginning of taking our thoughts captive and releasing ourselves into all that the Kingdom is and has for its citizens. It is impossible to worry and think the thoughts commanded here. So as we choose (this is always the key) to think these matters, we discover the goodness of our Lord at every turn. 

What an awesome God! 

Thursday, July 05, 2012

A Divine Invitation

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7 NIV
We have begun to rejoice in the Lord, and to remember to "chill out" (as my children used to say). Now it is time to enter another dimension of release. In order to relax and enter into faith with all that comes our way, we have the awesome joy of releasing matters into the hands of the One Who was, Who is, and Who is to come - the One who knows all and is able to handle all of me and everything in the world. So now we enter.

This verse presumes an attitude of heart that trusts the Lord. In the Word, the word "faith" is synonymous with trust or confidence. So these "steps" in Philippians are the way of faith. The trust in our Lord for all He is and for the truth of His promises in the middle of our obvious need, is essential. As we begin rejoicing in Him, our faith rises to empower the relaxed, gentle approach that is able to release into His hands, all that concerns us.

Notice that it is not in a panic mode that this is done. There is a gentle relaxing because He is near. Now we can release every thing into His care. All anxiousness begins to cease as our trust in Him rises. We begin to dialogue with Him and let Him know our honest feelings and thoughts as our awareness of His love and care begin to rise. As we release all to Him, knowing He is taking care of it, then something absolutely magnificent occurs. The peace of God, which is beyond any understanding of the human mind, rises as a shield to guard the heart (emotions+) and mind as we rest all in the Lord Jesus.

It is beyond all understanding or ability of the mind to comprehend. It just is. This is not something we reason away or look at things logically and then begin to feel better. No, not at all! It is a supernatural interface with Almighty God as we trust Him with all that concerns us.

The very ability to rest is empowered! WOW! Thank God it is not up to me to find rest, or create trust. Instead, it is empowered as we willingly follow the rejoicing pathway, releasing our cares into the hands of One who can handle them. Our lives in Christ Jesus are to be marked with this interchange. Again, we have an awesome God and His love for us and provision for us is boundless!

This truth changes the lives of all who enter and choose the interaction. This truth is never intended to cause guilt or a sense of "shoulda - oughta" in us. Rather it is a precious invitation from our Lord to enter and live. He just waits and allows us to make the choice. Remember Romans 8:1 - "There is no condemnation to those....". So He is inviting us to let Him take care of things.

It is much like the discipline I have observed in some of my young friends' action with their 3-5 year old. They would call her name, then say "you need to make a better choice," when her behavior needed adjusting in public. Sometimes she did, sometimes she didn't. But either way they embraced her heart and guided her ways. That's like our Lord - just the invitation to make the choice of life in Him instead of stress and worry. He waits and empowers.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

It Is For Freedom

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1 NIV
Today is Independence Day for these United States. I thank our Lord for her and for our freedoms the Lord has secured. I am thankful for the willing sacrifice of many young lives through the years to obtain and protect family and home. 

But  most of all I am thankful to our Lord Jesus for the sacrifice he made for all people for all time. I am thankful to Him for the blood that continually cleanses  from all unrighteousness and releases into the joy of the inheritance of light. As we in the US celebrate and are mindful of those fallen for country and family, may we remember that our Lord has forever set us free in our hearts and released us into eternal life through His sacrifice. 

May we not succumb to the idol worship of any nation, but rather in gratitude realize we have been born or placed in our particular country as a missionary for the Lord Jesus and the Kingdom of God. May we remember that our state, commonwealth, government and citizenship are in heaven and as ambassadors of reconciliation, may we in thankfulness and graciousness love and send forth the message of forgiveness, inclusion and the gift of righteousness to all - everywhere.  It is for freedom that we have been set free! May the freedom our Lord Jesus purchased and gives to us not go unnoticed or be unfruitful. Even in our celebration of the day!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Gentleness-A Lifestyle

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7 NIV
It is a journey in the middle of crisis or distress to simply begin to rejoice in the Lord. However, once it is begun then several other items begin to unfold.

A side-note: in Spiritual matters, often only one instruction is given without any other steps following. When that is begun, then other instructions unfold that were hidden by step one. In this case, the entire process is outlined for us, but only be empowered as each portion is begun. Many times we try to begin in verse 8 - "think on these things," but find it impossible to move the mind to those things. This is because there is a process involved in moving the thought processes at any time, especially when in distress, crisis or a barrage of negative and unproductive thoughts. We find ourselves at times in the middle of these things afloat on a sea of doubt and fear. The answer is to begin to rejoice in Him!

Now back to our present passage. "Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near." The attitude shift that occurs in the rejoicing in His person, produces an awareness that gentleness is a way of life and developed in relationship in Jesus. The word "gentleness" in this translation (and many others) has a myriad of means in the Greek. It can mean gentle, mild, forbearing, fair, reasonable, moderate or several similar words. The overall thought is one of a lack of stubbornness and instead, an open willing heart toward the Lord and toward others. This is not a lack of firmness, nor a lack of conviction, but simply a pliable heart in serving others. This is to be our heart's life-style.

Then the encouragement to remember that the Lord is near. This can mean either He is always present with us, for He is. Or it can have the future idea - He will come soon. Either meaning is appropriate. It is just a calling into remembrance His person and a purposeful interaction in His heart. Again the mind is turned to Him.

As in all things related to the Lord Jesus, each simple matter begins to reveal a host of more complex matters, but as we obediently follow - each matter is empowered and a movement in us that is supernatural begins to occur. We have an awesome God who embraces us in His own heart. What love and what knowledge of the ways of humanity He reveals. We can trust Him with us.

Monday, July 02, 2012

A Simple Interaction

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7 NIV 
Today we begin a passage of scripture that actually continues in thought and execution through verse 9. However, we will take it piece by piece and let it unfold for us.

The passage is one of the very few I have found in scripture that actually contain a "how-to" in 1, 2, 3 form. We have 5 points of action, one follows another in sequence -- to think in ways that bring healing to the heart, health to the body and progress in and to the Kingdom. I think I have mentioned before that a good title for the entire book of Philippians is "How to Stay Sane in An Insane Word." Paul certainly did have his challenges as he lived the Lord's Word - thrown out of most churches and cities where he had gone in obedience to the Lord, forsaken by most friends and co-workers, misunderstood by many churches he founded and on and on it goes. He had his challenges and struggles to keep his mind and heart where the Lord could use him and to keep himself positive in his approach to people.

These verses are his "how-to." So we will follow them in that way and see what we can glean. His first point is to "Rejoice in the Lord always" and then he says it again. What is remarkable here is the reason for our rejoicing. It is a person. Rejoice in the Lord! He is enough reason and excitement to rejoice 24/7. He does not instruct us to rejoice because of something the Lord will do or has done. No, not at all. We are to simply rejoice in Him.

Sometimes I just want to ask Paul, what he understood here. Then the Holy Spirit gently reminds me that I do not need Paul's explanation because as I begin to rejoice in the Lord I discover for myself that He is sufficient. That is all that needs to be said. He is sufficient.

This action immediately raises our thinking into heaven's view where our Lord Jesus is the point. Our thoughts are removed from ourselves and from our immediate circumstances into a place of vision and reception. What wonders are there to be seen! What joy to behold and embrace - we have such a Lord and such a King! Such a simple statement: Rejoice in the Lord. What an awesome lifting of everything we are. This simple interaction of relationship is fantastic.