Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Philippians 2:4-7

2:4 - What does it mean to look to the interests of others? It means that you put others before yourself. It means that you care as much about what is going on in the lives of other people as you care about the things that are going on in your life. To be able to live like live like this, you have to know the hearts of the people around you. You need to know what they need so that you can serve them in an effective manner. It is vital that you listen...really know their heart - know where they are coming from. It is vital that we get to know people so that we can serve them in a God honoring fashion.

2:5 - What does it mean to have the mind of Christ? What do you think that looks like? What does it look like for you and me to take on the attitude of Christ? Think about it...think about what that would change about the way that you live your life.

Paul tells us exactly what that looks like int he next two verses...

2:6-7 - Jesus, who was and is God, denied his God-nature when he was on earth and humbled himself before....Himself (I know, it is really hard to comprehend). Jesus , the God/man, humbled himself before God the Father (Another part of Himself). Jesus did not lead through power, authority, glory or majesty. He did not use his infinite knowledge to bend people to his will. He did not use his power to make the multitudes cower before him. He led through humble service. He touched lepers. Treated women with respect. Spent time with children. Hung out with sinners. Washed feet. Allowed himself to be crucified in our place. He turned the world upside down and showed us exactly what it looks like to "look to the interests of others." He did not just die on the cross...he lived the cross-life. Do you? Do you make yourself "nothing" for the sake of others as Jesus did? Do you take up your cross and follow him?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Psalm 14

14:1 - Only fools say there is no God. Look around! Where did it all come from? There has to be a beginning...there has to be an origin story. There has to be something outside of "survival" driving us to create and love and serve and see beauty...there has to be...these things do not exist in a world with no God. We are walking reflections of God's existence (Albeit very dull reflections most of the time). It is foolishness to deny that God is real.

14:2 - Interesting that the word "understanding" here can be replaced by "acting wisely." True understanding is synonymous with right actions to the psalmist. If you truly understand what is going on with existence...if you see the big picture - you will seek will will acknowledging the glaring truth. That is the only true response for understanding. If you have understanding, you definitely do not run and hide behind foolish/arrogant lies and denial.

14:3-5 - This section describes the fallout of doubting God...of running scared from the truth. Doesn't it look familiar? People all around us live like this (We probably live like this from time to time)! Corruption. Non-good. Self-focus. Evil. Taking advantage of others. Fear. Terror. Hiding behind lies. Mocking others. These are the traits of those who deny God's existence.

14:6 - Read the verse. Do you do this? Would you? Would you shame the poor? Would you take advantage? Would you mock the faithful? God is a refuge - a place of safety, rest and peace - for those who trust in Him. God, let me take refuge in You? Every day. Every moment. God let me ignore the doubts that assail me...the tempting lies of the world that seek to corrupt. God make my heart a place of refuge where you dwell.

14:7 - The salvation that the psalmist talks about did come. That salvation lived as a man. Lived out perfection - showed us what true humanity looks like. That salvation died for the sins of the godless...the doubters...the sinful...the corrupt...the oppressors...the HUMAN RACE! And through that death He restored us...restored our relationship with God...showed us truth. Truth that we will celebrate this weekend on Easter. Jesus is alive! God is real! Life has meaning! There is HOPE! 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Philippians 2:1-3

2:1 - What is the encouragement you get from Jesus? Seriously...think about it. How does his life...his teaching...his sacrifice bring you encouragement? Do you receive comfort from the love of God? Have you experienced the affection of God? Seen Him move in your life? Received strength from the Lord? Have you seen God at work in your life and in the lives of those around you? I bet you have...I know I have! And if we are Christians who have received any of those blessings from God, then...

2:2 - ...we need to be unified in heart and mind with other believers. We are not all that different. We like to think that nobody else can understand what we are going through. We like to believe that we have it worse than many other people...that others cannot relate to us. And while it is true that no one has ever lived YOUR exact life...all Christians have shared experiences to call on. Every one of us has been delivered by Christ. Every one of us is a sinner and a screw up who has been redeemed. Every one of us is a broken person who is being remade. Christians share an unbreakable bond with one another and we should live like it. The blessings we receive from God should drive us towards unity. The world should know immediately that we are Christians by the way we love one another and by the way we love the world!

2:3 - Why do we do it? Huh? Why? Why do we constantly try to compare ourselves to others? Try to put other people down so we will look better? Try to be acknowledged as the "best?" Try to show how "important" we are? Why do we do these things...why is every interaction with other people a constant internal comparison game where we rank ourselves along with everyone else in the room? We do this because we forget about who we are in God's eyes. We forget about the encouragement that comes from Jesus. We forget about the value we have as uniquely created sons and daughters of God. We do. We forget He loves us. We forget He has a plan for us. And all that forgetfulness leaves this gaping hole of emptiness within us. A black hole that can only be filled by God, yet we endlessly try to fill that emptiness by trying to make ourselves more valuable to the world.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Psalm 24

Verses 1 and 2 - Everything is God's. It really is that simple. He made it all...He sustains it all. I know that we allow ourselves to believe that we are self-made...that what we have is ours...that our intelligence and hard work provided the things we have, but everything in all of creation is God's. Do you believe that? Do you live like that? Do you honor that truth? What would change about the way that you live your life right now if you actually lived like you believed that everything is God's?

Verses 3 and 4 - Who can approach the majesty of God. David tells us in this psalm. Those who can stand in the presence of God are those who: have clean hands (Meaning they are sinless), have pure hearts, have no deceit of falsehood within them. Those are the ones who can approach God on their own. Unfortunately when I look at that list, it appears that no one can approach God! My hands are not clean. My heart is not always pure. I have allowed falsehood and deceit to corrupt my mind from time to time. What about you? Who then can approach the Lord? Keep reading...

Verses 5 and 6 - When we receive salvation and the blessing of righteousness from God...then we can approach Him. We received this salvation, once for all time, through the death of Jesus on the cross. His death makes my hands clean, because he took away my sin. Has crucifixion makes my heart pure because he offered himself as a pure sacrifice. His sacrifice enables us to enter into the presence of fact, his sacrifice makes it so that we can become vessels for the Spirit of God! Seek His His way...accept the mercy of Jesus and you will be connected to God.

Verses 7 - 10 - I want to encourage you to open the gates of your heart and your mind. So many times we try to shut God out from shaping out inner selves. God could destroy our walls...our defenses...and force His way in, but that is not the way of love. The great and mighty King waits patiently outside the gates wanting you to let Him in. Open your gates! His is a mighty warrior - let Him destroy the inner demons that torment you. He is the glorious King - allow Him to show you your true value! 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Philippians 1:27-30

We discussed this passage in my "manly group of manliness" today (A group of men I meet with for prayer on study on Wednesdays). We had a great discussion based on these few verses...

v. 27 - This should be the driving force of your life - living in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So often we try to live for other things: success, pride, money, satisfaction, pleasure, honor, etc...but we all know that these things let us down and the pursuit of them actually works to destroy our faith. If the sole focus of our lives is living in a manner worthy of the Gospel, then we will be better workers, husbands, fathers, friends, a natural result of living to honor God. Imagine what a marriage would be like if the husband and wife did not see themselves as caretakers of a house, or child raisers, or bill payers...but as two people sharing on mind and one spirit and striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel!

v. 28 - Do not fear what the people in the world are going to think of you...all that matters is that you honor God with your life. One of the reasons that people so often react angrily against Christianity is because in living as Christ, we are holding up a mirror to them in which they see the emptiness of their own lives. For some, this makes them want to explore Christianity...for others, it makes them want to reject it outright because they don't like to think about the destruction inherent in their worldly way of living.

v. 29-30 - Paul looks at suffering so differently than we usually do, doesn't he? He says that it has been "granted" to us...given to us, as if speaking of a gift. When we believe in the good news about Jesus, we are proclaiming the Gospel to the world. And when we suffer alongside Christ for our faith...when we suffer in joy and strength...we also proclaim the Gospel to the world. The "gift" of suffering allows Christians to show the world what true, God-given strength looks like. We know that this world is not our home...we know that living in a manner worthy of Christ is what defines our existence...we know that everything will be made right in the end. So we can suffer as Christ suffered and remain steadfast in the faith.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Psalm 99

v. 1-3 - God is set apart and holy. He is OTHER. I love the way the strength and the majesty of our Lord is described in this passage. There are so many times that I allow myself to forget about His true nature. I allow myself to ignore God - IGNORE the ruler and sustainer of all!!! How is that possible? I often treat God like he is my "good buddy." His presence makes the earth tremble! He knowledge is infinite. He is so much more than a good buddy! I even sometimes treat God as if He is my servant, and I expect Him to do what I want Him to do. Every moment of my existence is held together by His could I ever be arrogant enough to think that God needs to get with my program!? He is the sustainer. He is the master. He is the giver of life. Do not forget that! Allow the truth of His nature to drive you towards deeper worship.

v. 4 - The king has been given his place of power so that he might establish justice and bring peace in his kingdom. He is placed in a seat of power, not for his own glorification, but so that the name of the Lord might be glorified through his reign. Far too often, people use the power they have been given to oppress and bring harm. That is the opposite of the way of God...that is a declaration of war against God and the way that He wants power used in His creation. Think about the power that you have and how you use parent, boss, teacher, leader, friend, family you bring glory to the name of God through your use of power? Or do you choose the other?

v. 6-7 - As Christians, we are all a part of the priesthood. The blood of Jesus Christ has given us the freedom to cal on the name of the Lord, just like the ancient priests. Every one of us can call upon Him and can be directly in relationship with Him...such a wondrous gift! We know for certain that when we call on the name of the Lord...we will be answered. I experienced this truth firsthand this week. For months I have been praying about a huge decision a committee I am on at church was trying to make, and I cried out to God asking for clarity and vision. When we got together this Monday to meet and share our thoughts...every single one of us was on the same page. I almost started weeping from the sheer joy of seeing God's answer so clearly before me.