Dealing With ‘SEESAW’ Christianity

SCRIPTURE STUDY: Philippians 2:12-18

Before we open our Bibles in the study, let me first give you definitions of the word SEESAW:

One of the most difficult things in life is to maintain and to keep all things where they are all supposed to be at all times.  It’s called BALANCE.

I remember going to elementary school way back when and riding a teeter-totter with my best friend and trying to keep all our feet off the ground in perfect balance.  It took a lot of our focus, many times finding ourselves up in the air or flat on the ground.

BALANCE IS CRITICAL IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

What has guided and given me direction and purpose in life are the words found in Luke 2:52.  This Bible verse follows the story when Jesus was lost or separated from Mary and Joseph for three days in the big city of Jerusalem.  When they finally located him, Jesus was in the Temple sitting among some of the greatest teachers of the day, asking questions.  And they were asking him questions as well.  And the Scripture says that the teachers were amazed by his understanding.  After all, he was only 12 years of age at the time.  The Bible is silent for about the next 18 years of his life.  We don’t know exactly what happened during those years but we do have this one verse as a summary of those years and it simply says…

...JESUS increased with wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.

So what we know is that life should be filled with BALANCE:

  • He grew in wisdom…Intellectually.
  • He grew in stature…Physically.
  • He grew in favor with God…Spiritually.
  • He grew in favor with man…Socially.

And if we want to live as Jesus did, we need to learn to do the same.  Because, they all matter and when our life is in BALANCE, we’re happier.  And when we’re out of BALANCE, we’re miserable.  Balance is one of the most difficult things in life to maintain.

So the apostle Paul reminds us of three areas where we must maintain balance:

Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV)

[12]  Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  [13] for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

To understand what Paul is saying here we need to understand what he’s NOT saying.  This phrase “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is greatly misunderstood.  He’s not telling us that we have to work to be saved.  It was Paul who wrote to the church in Ephesus and said…

We cannot be SAVED by works.  In fact, Paul says it is NOT by works.

So to understand what Paul is saying here, you must bear in mind that he is writing to the CHURCH, to believers, so his words have nothing to do with how to come to Christ.  These people already knew Jesus!

So this phrase “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is referring to how we live out our faith.

According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, “work out” in the Greek N.T. means “to work to full completion.”  It refers to working in a mine or in a field where you’re constantly digging and cultivating until that mine or garden reaches its full potential.

So here’s a question all of us must stop and ask ourselves at various places in life:  Am I reaching for my full potential in life or am I just settling for average?  What is my level of obedience to Christ Jesus?

Once we acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, that becomes our PURPOSE in life to OBEY Him in absolutely everything.

When we get sick and go to the doctor he diagnoses our condition and tells us what we need to do.  He hands us a small slip of paper where he’s written the correct prescription on.  We then take that slip of paper to the pharmacist who fills the prescription and gives us the medication.  Now up to that point, everything has been done for us.  A diagnosis…A prescription…We have received the medication.  Now it’s our responsibility to do something and here it is–follow the doctor’s orders.  Work out the process and if we do, we will recover.

This is also true on a spiritual level.

And here should be our goal.  Paul tells us in verse 13 that God works in us to fulfill His good purpose.  And he describes that PURPOSE as being good.

Whether we know it or not, God wants us to find happiness and contentment not only in the next life eternal but also in this one.  You see there won’t be anything to work out in the next life–it will all be taken care of, but in this one there is.  There are things to be worked out.

Someone has said there are three types of people in the world…

  • Those who make things happen
  • Those who sit and watch things happen
  • Those who wonder what’s happening

God wants us to be in the first group.

God is at work in us to do His good purpose.  This is a balance of power and purpose.  He pours His power into us, we do the things that bring Him pleasure.

Now Paul wants us to see something here.

  • It is His pleasure (not ours)
  • It is His will (not ours)
  • It is His glory (not ours)

This is what makes our lives meaningful.

But there’s a potential conflict right there since most of us prefer to have things go our way.  It’s our attitude.

So Paul tells us the second area where we need BALANCE.

There must be a balance of attitude and action.

To accomplish what Paul is saying here, he gives us a negative and a positive.  Because this is how we get BALANCE.

On the negative side here, Paul says to all of us–you need to watch your attitude.  There are two things Paul mentions here that shows our bad attitude:

  1. Are you a grumbler?  Boy, I’ve been here too many times in my life.  Grumbling is not usually loud.  Its low tone, negative complaining, whining, and one thing it will do for you is that it will steal your JOY!  And unfortunately, it just comes naturally for some of us.  We try to resist but we just pass it around,  Grumblers can find something wrong with everything at once and when they find it…that’s what they focus on.

BOUGAINVILLEA – 

 

I was born and raised in Southern California where the sun shines most of the year–a Mediterranean climate.  Certain plant species especially do well there and my parents loved colorful plants around their home.  We lived high above the street level, so mom and dad decided to plant Bougainvillea on the hillside to cover it with beautiful flowers.  It took several years to blanket the front of their home, but oh, how I remember the beauty that hillside was in full bloom.  Now each year you would find mom and dad crawling over the Bougainvillea to prune them and make them tidy.  The unfortunate undertaking was always a loud outburst by my dad while standing in the middle of the flora–“I hate these thorns!  Let’s pull them all out!”  All dad saw was the THORNS.  He couldn’t enjoy the flower.  The reason is perspective.  It’s an attitude.

Paul said that you and I as believers need to prove to be different by our actions.

He said to prove that you are a blameless and innocent child of God and in the midst of a very dark world, you and I are told to bring LIGHT to the situation.  We should brighten up the place.

Remember that little song we used to sing with our parents and then taught ut to our kids?  “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.”  But we are not just “little lights” to the world.

Paul refers to us as stars…

These are no small stars!  The smallest star in our universe is basically the size of the planet Saturn,  The word here means luminous.  Luminaries are surrounded by darkness and that’s why they stand out.

Jesus told us, let your light shine so the people can see your good works and through that glory will be given to God the Father.  [Matthew 5:16 – ESV]

There’s no need to shout, stomp your feet, or scream.  No need for drama.

  • JUST SHINE!

The negative Paul gives us here–don’t grumble.  The positive–just shine!

Get your attitudes and actions in BALANCE.

Then Paul describes a third area we need to balance: There must be a BALANCE at being serious and being joyful.  (verses 17-18)

Reading these two verses gave me an amazing word picture worth looking closely at.  Paul says we are “being poured out as a drink offering.”  Unbelievers had a practice in that day before and after every meal to take 2 cups of wine–would pour one out on the ground before every meal, then eat–then pour another one out after every meal in honor of the god they worshipped.  The PURPOSE was to gain the favor of the gods.

Paul is speaking of the possibility of being poured out as a drink offering.  This has a very serious connotation here.  He’s saying, I may never get out of the situation alive.  Remember he is in prison and facing execution at any moment.  But even if I don’t make it out…it will be worth it!

If you have ever faced the possibility of your own death–it makes you think really serious thoughts.  Paul was imagining that he might be living his final days, the single most serious thought a person can have and yet he was still able to REJOICE.  He refused to FOCUS on the dark side.  He refused to let even the possibility of his immediate death and steal his JOY.

Then he says to us–you need to REJOICE in the same way.

Paul’s words have encouraged me every day after reading his thoughts through in study.  To find something during my last days; finding something to be continually happy about, something to laugh about, to take a day off from writing, to take a walk around the block with my dog, to watch a movie, to work out in the garden, to do something that can take you away from all the seriousness of life.  Give yourself permission to enjoy each and every day.

Karl Wallenda, of the Flying Wallendas, perhaps the greatest group of tight wire walkers in the world, had the amazing ability to keep his focus; to concentrate and keep his balance.  But one night in Puerto Rico, he fell to his death while up on the wire.  Later his wife said that for as long as she had known him he always focused walking the tight rope, but on that given night for some reason, he kept focussing on the possibility of falling.

Often the difference in our success and failure is losing one’s balance and looking in the wrong direction.  The Scripture tells us to keep our eyes focused on Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Solomon says, don’t look to the left or right, just keep your eyes on the heavenly Father (Proverbs 4:25-27).

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CREDITS:

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.

The Interlinear Bible

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); English Standard Version (ESV); New King James Version (NKJV).

It All Begins With A Thought

A Bible Study in Philippians 4:4-9

I’m going to wrap up a four-part walk-through in Philippians in this final study and we’ll look together at replacing ANXIETY with PEACE.

We are an anxious nation.

Alarmingly, I found out that 1 in 6 Americans takes a psychiatric drug [Scientific American magazine article].  Anxiety meds are second only to depression meds.  That said, I do believe meds that are used carefully are a gift of God.

But what if we turn too quickly to the pill bottle and too slowly to the Lord?

Mark Twain joked, “I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes in my life.  Most of them never happened.”

In this presented scripture for this study, I want to point out some suggestions that the apostle Paul gives us to advance through our ANXIETIES.  And if you are thinking, “I’m not anxious about anything,” perhaps a bible study on self-denial might be appropriate later.

FIRST, we need to have right thinking.

Paul says in VERSE 4 to REJOICE.  And to make sure we don’t miss it, he says it twice:  “Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, gladden yourselves in Him]; again I say, Rejoice!”  (AMP)

Philippians is all about JOY; Paul uses the word some 16 times!

When he says here to rejoice “always,” he suggests JOY is more than an emotion, since you can’t command an emotion.  You can’t force someone to be happy; they either are or they aren’t.  But Paul tells us to rejoice always.

JOY, then, must be a decision, a choice.

I once heard someone say, “Happiness comes from happenings, but joy comes from Jesus.”

Actually, JOY is an act of faith.  It supposes that regardless of how things look at the time, God is still on the throne; God loves me, God is for me, even though my circumstances seem bleak, God will see me through.

That’s why James could write, “Reckon it nothing but JOY, my brethren, whenever you find yourselves hedged in by various trials”  (James 1:2 ~ Weymouth New Testament).

James knew that God can use our TRIALS for good and to build our CHARACTER.

And that’s why Daniel’s three friends could defy King Nebuchadnezzar with confident JOY: (See Dan. 3:17-18)  

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.”

RIGHT THINKING begins with choosing JOY!

The church at Philippi knew Paul lived this out.  When he visited their city, he had cast out a demon and inadvertently thwarted a money-making scheme, disgruntled businessmen falsely charged, beaten and thrown into prison, along with his buddy Silas.  You can read the whole story in Acts 16.

Sitting in their jail cell that night, they could have had a grand pity party.  Instead. they chose a worship service!

  • Wounded and behind bars, they sang hymns!
  • And God sent an earthquake unlocking every cell door without hurting anyone.

That same night the jailer and his family were all SAVED and the next day Paul and Silas were released.

All because they CHOSE JOY…despite of their circumstance.  They CHOSE to think right!

I don’t know about you, but when listening to the teaching from “experts” or pastors/teachers. scholars. I like to hear their examples to help enlighten the message.  I believe Paul felt the same way.

He gives us examples of what to think about in VERSE 8:

Paul says to turn our mind toward the POSITIVE, to FOCUS on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable, to think about things that are excellent or praiseworthy.

WE ARE WHAT WE THINK!

While every SIN begins with a thought, so does every act of obedience!

Various people have been attributed to writing this poem:

Sow a thought, reap a word.

Sow a word, reap an action.

Sow an action, reap a habit.

Sow a habit, reap a character.

And sow a character, reap a destiny.

It all begins with a thought.

What if, when you wake up in the morning, instead of turning on the news, you read a short devotion out of “Our Daily Bread”?  I have it sent to me every morning to my Email address to read.  When you do this first thing in your day, you’re training your mind to think more positively.

Secondly, we need to PRAY right!

Verses 6 and 7 in the New Living Translation (NLT) sums this up with,

[6] Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done!

[7] Then you will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

We are all good at worrying, but sometimes we feel ill-prepared to PRAY.

Yet, if you know how to WORRY, you should know how to pray!

  • Worrying is talking to yourself about things outside of your control.
  • Praying is talking to God about the things outside of your control.

When the ANXIETY level starts rising in your daily activities, talk to God about it.  Paul gives some hints as to how to pray right.

The word “pray” here, denotes a worshipful approach.

You come to God humbly, submitting your will to His.  You shouldn’t approach God like some heavenly slot machine hoping to hit the jackpot. You approach God with awe and respect by asking Him for what you need–and that’s called petition or supplication: the process of shifting your burden from you to God!

IT’S OKAY TO ASK.

Do you notice that in our asking, Paul says to do so “with thanksgiving”?  There’s nothing worse than a spoiled child who always says, “Gimme, gimme, gimme!”

We need to be grateful for what we already have, and we also need to be grateful for, however, God may choose to respond.

GRATEFULNESS in advance is another sign of FAITH.

We can be grateful because God cares for us.  Whether God says, “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait,” God is still a good God–all the time!

God wants us to PRAY with THANKSGIVING, regardless of the circumstances.

When you find yourself growing anxious, give it to God, and don’t take it back!  Follow the advice of 1 Peter 5:7.

Trust that God cares for you and is at work in your situation.  And begin to act on FAITH that God will direct your steps moving forward.

Someone once said, “If your knees are buckling, kneel on them.”

Instead of worrying, why not try praying.

The “START” Bible says, “If you have a BIG God, then you have a relatively small problem.  But if you have a BIG problem, then maybe you have a small god.”  (see footnote [i].)

The giant Goliath looked at the shepherd boy David and saw a small problem.  But David looked at Goliath and saw a large God along with a target too big to miss!

Look what God promises when we give our ANXIETY over to Him:  Verse 7 says “And the PEACE of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Have you ever taken your family to an unfamiliar beach or a community swimming pool and see the signs posted, “Life Guard On Duty?  And when you see the posted signs, how much confidence and security that comes to mind when entering the water.

A God who is on GUARD DUTY over your hearts and minds.

God’s Word found in your bibles says God never slumbers or sleeps (Psalm 121:4).  He’s always on guard duty, 24/7.  God will bring HIS PEACE to our entire being: body, soul, and spirit in a way beyond our understanding.

THINK RIGHT, PRAY RIGHT, and lastly,

LIVE RIGHT!

This is like the Nike principle: “JUST DO IT!”  Put your THOUGHTS and PRAYERS into ACTION.

Verse 5 gives us a description of how we should live as Christian believers–with “gentleness” (NIV), or “unselfishness” in the Amplified Bible.  The idea is to LIVE with graciousness out of a humble spirit.  You don’t always have to get your way!  That means you become willing to yield your rights to another.  And that’s especially good marital advice!!

That’s a hard principle to act on for some of us.  Why would anyone want to yield their rights to another?  The rest of verse 5 tells us why:

The LORD is near.

The Christian believer has the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, within them always.  Wherever we go, Jesus goes with us.

You are never alone, the Lord is near!!

But there is also an end-times application here:  Jesus is coming soon!  His return draws nearer every day.  So, LIVE the way He wants you to live now.

In Verse 9, Paul urges the Church to follow his example, not only what he says, but what he does.  Now there’s something that most of us wouldn’t advertise in our Christian community.  “Follow my example”.  

I learned early on that my kids would follow my ACTIONS a lot faster than they would my words as they grew older.  Despite what I said, it was what I did that counted.  WORDS are cheap.  ACTION matters!

So, put it into practice!  PRAY RIGHT.  And LIVE RIGHT.

And Paul promises us, “With the peace of God to guard us and the God of peace to guide us–Why worry?”

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FOOTNOTES & CREDITS

Footnote [i] :  NKJV, Start: The Bible for New Believers, Thomas Nelson, 1227

Video:  YouTube – Mix Give Thanks, Don Moen

Images:  Google Image Search

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); Exceptions noted in the text.

 

 

 

The Actions Needed In Keeping Things In Balance

A Study in Philippians 2:12-18

One of the most difficult things I found in life over the years is maintaining to keep ALL things where they are ALL supposed to be at ALL times.

It’s called BALANCE.

Sometimes we feel like the man portrayed in the above image.  He starts at one end, starts them spinning, works his way down to the last one but as soon as he gets there looks back and the first one is failing so he rushes back down the line to restart one and goes through the sequence again and sometimes he doesn’t make it and the plat crashes.

BALANCE is critical in the Christian life (Luke 2:52)

“Jesus grew both in body and in wisdom, gaining favor with God and people”  (GNT).

This verse follows the story of when Jesus was lost or separated from Mary and Joseph for three days.  Can you imagine losing your children in a shopping mall…for three days!

When they finally located him, Jesus was in the Temple sitting among some of the great teachers of the day, asking questions.  And they were asking him questions as well and they were amazed at his understanding, after all, he was only 12 years old at the time.

The Bible is silent for about the next 18 years of Jesus’ life and we don’t know exactly what happened during that time but we do have this one verse as a summary of those years:

  • he grew in wisdom…Intellectually
  • he grew in stature…Physically
  • he grew in favor with God…Spiritually
  • he grew in favor with man…Socially

And if we are going to live as Jesus did, we have to learn to do the same.

Because of they all matter and when our life is in BALANCE we are happier.  When it’s out of balance we’re miserable!

And I find it is one of the most difficult and challenging things in life to maintain.

So the apostle Paul reminds us the areas where we must maintain balance.

There must be a BALANCE between purpose and power (Philippians 2:12-13)

To understand what he is saying needs to first understand what he’s NOT saying.

The phrase “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” is greatly misunderstood.  Paul’s NOT telling us we must do something to earn salvation.  He’s NOT telling us that we have to work to be saved.

So to understand what Paul’s saying here, we must recognize he’s writing to the CHURCH, to believers so his words have nothing to do with how to come to Christ.  These people were in the church; they already knew Christ.

The word for “work out” in the Greek NT is the potential of freedom from strife and vainglory [*See footnote [i] ].  

So here’s a few questions we all must ask ourselves at various places in life:

  • Am I reaching for my full potential as a Christian in life or am I just settling for mediocrity?

What’s my obedience to Christ?

I feel once we acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives that becomes our PURPOSE in life–to OBEY Him in absolutely everything!

Now when Paul speaks of God “working in you” in v. 13, the word there is the English word energizing.

What came to my mind here almost immediately was the Energizing Bunny in the commercials.  He keeps going and going and going!

There’s a positive and a negative side to every battery we use.  Even when it’s in the package we buy it in, it’s still working.  We just can’t see it.

But when they are placed in a device it needs to be hooked up to an electrical circuit and the electrons build up and the result is POWER!  OK, maybe I oversimplified the process but you get the idea.

So there’s POWER stored up whether we turn it on or not.

Look around the room you’re in right now.

POWER is available in every outlet.  But they’re not ALL being used for something.  Some of the outlets are empty.

So it becomes our job to plug into this POWER to allow God to use us.  That’s “Wonder Working Power”!

But too often we just choose to sit and watch everyone else plugin.

Someone has said there are THREE TYPES of people in this world.

  1. Those who made things happen
  2. Those who sit and watch things happen
  3. Those who wonder what’s happening

God wants us to be in the first group.

God is at work in us to do His good purpose.  As He pours into us we do the things that bring Him good pleasure!

Now I believe that Paul wants us to see something here:

  • It’s His pleasure (not ours)
  • It’s His will (not ours)
  • It’s His glory (not ours)

There’s a potential conflict in all this I think.  Most of us prefer to have things go our way and that’s because of our attitude.

So Paul tells us there’s a second area where we need BALANCE.

The must be a BALANCE of Attitude and Action (Verses 14-16).

For BALANCE to happen in our busy lives Paul gives us a negative and a positive response because that’s how we find balance.

On the negative side, Paul says to all of us…You need to watch your ATTITUDE.

Oh, how I need to be reminded of this daily, oh Lord!

There are TWO things Paul mentions that show our bad attitudes:

  1. Usually, one of these we do is when we’re alone grumbling.  

GRUMBLING isn’t usually loud.  It’s a low tone, negative, complaining, whining, and one thing it will do is to steal your JOY!  It just seems to come naturally for some of us.  We try to resist but we just pass it around to others.

GRUMBLING can find something wrong with everything at once and when they find it, that’s what they focus on.

I was pruning my ROSE TREE the other day as I do every year at this time.  As you might imagine, it can be a ‘thorny’ experience because the tree is covered with THORNS.  In fact, all I could see was the THORNS to the point I couldn’t remember how beautiful the tree was when it was in FLOWER.

The reason is perspective.  It’s ATTITUDE!

Paul said that you and I as believers need to prove that we are different by OUR ACTIONS.

He said to prove that you are blameless and innocent; that you are a child of God and in the midst of a dark world with plenty of thorns, you and I are told to bring LIGHT to the situation.

Paul calls us STARS.

There are no small STARS!

The smallest star in our universe is basically the same size as the planet Saturn.

The word here means luminaries (Gk. phosteres).  LUMINARIES are surrounded by darkness and that’s why they stand out.

Jesus told us to let your light shine so that people can see your good works and through that, GLORY will be given to God, the Father.

There’s no need to shout or scream, no need for drama, JUST SHINE!

The NEGATIVE that Paul gives us here–DON’T GRUMBLE.

The POSITIVE–JUST SHINE!

Get our ATTITUDE and ACTIONS in BALANCE.

Next, there must be a BALANCE between being serious and being joyful (verses 17-18).

Philippians 2:17-18 (NIV)

“But even I (Paul) am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith.  I am glad and rejoice with all of you.  So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.”

Paul goes on to describe a THIRD area we need to balance.

I thought this is an amazing word picture here.  Paul says we are “being poured out as a drink offering.”

Unbelievers, pagans had a practice in that day before and after every meal to take 2 cups of wine–they would pour one out on the ground before every meal and then would eat–then they would pour another one out after every meal in honor of the god they worshiped.  The purpose was to gain the favor of the gods.

Paul speaks of the possibility of being poured out as a drink offering.  Now that’s a serious thought.

He’s saying. I may never get out of the situation I’m in alive–remember he’s in prison facing execution at any moment.

But even if I don’t make it out…he says it will all be worth it.

You can think some really serious thoughts if you have ever faced the possibility of your own death–Paul was imagining here that he might be living his final days, and the single most serious thought a person can have and yet he was still able to REJOICE.

He refused to focus on the DARK SIDE.

He refused to let even the possibility of his immediate death steal his JOY.

Then he says to us that you need to REJOICE in the same way.

Every day we need to find something to be happy about; every day find something you can laugh about.  Take a day off, take a long walk, watch a movie, go fishing, do something that takes you away from all the seriousness of life.  Give yourself permission to enjoy the day.

The Flying Wallendas…

The Wallendas are known as perhaps the greatest group of tight wire walkers in history.

Karl Wallenda had the amazing ability to keep his focus, to concentrate and to, of course, keep his balance.  He did it for decades until that night he fell to his death.  He was crossing a tight wire strung between two sets of high-rise apartments in San Juan Puerto Rico.  Later his wife said that for as long as she had known him, he always focussed walking the tightrope but on that night she said for some reason he kept his focus on the possibility of falling.  Even to the point that he supervised the installing of the guide wires which he had never done before.  And on that night he fell to his death.

Often the difference in success and failure is losing your BALANCE and looking in the wrong direction.

Scripture tells us that we are to keep our eyes–our minds, our spirits focussed on JESUS, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

“Work out your own salvation” (Philippians 2:12)

I love the way the Amplified Bible phrases verse 12:

Therefore, my dear ones, as you have always obeyed [my suggestions], so now, not only [with enthusiasm you would show] in my presence but much more because I am absent WORK OUT (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ).

Paul doesn’t leave us there.  He goes on to tell us that we can’t work our salvation by our own efforts–our own strength or we will lose our focus and fall from the tightrope of life.

Verse 13 (AMP):

[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight.

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~FOOTNOTES & CREDITS~

Footnote [i] :  Vines Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old and New Testament Words – “work out”; page 684, verb #2.

The Interlinear Bible of the Old Testament and New Testament; Greek and Hebrew.

Bible Translations:  Good News Translation (GNT); New International Version (NIV); Amplified (AMP), or where noted in the text.

Images used:  Google Image Search.

 

 

 

 

 

STUFF Happens In Life, So What’s Next?

I’m sure that many of you reading this already know that “stuff” happens in our lives.  You also understand those difficult things, unimaginable things, seem to come out of nowhere.

Now I’ve heard over the years people’s interesting answers to the “Why’s”, the “What for’s”.  And you know, there’s some really bad information floating around in the halls of religion to why stuff happens.  Here are but a few answers I’ve noticed and embraced by so-called “TV preachers and preacherettes”.

They say things like the reason things (STUFF) is happening to you right now is your fault, you don’t have enough FAITH or you have some SIN of unbelief in your life.  Their cure for your problem usually comes from some “power of positive thinking” message or “name it and claim it” sermon.  Most of this has no legitimate place in the church.

I can give you many examples and biblical reasons why stuff happens, even to “good people.”  And this brings me to illustrate my point using the life of the Apostle Paul and his own words–

We are the sum of all our experiences both good and bad!

Paul’s Recognition that Stuff Happens In Life…prior to becoming a ‘born again’ believer begins in Acts 26.

There have been many important events in history and obviously, the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ are at the top of the list but beyond that, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus ranks with the most important and influential events ever!

He describes his conversion to Christianity in Acts 26:12-18 in his defense before King Agrippa.

Paul’s life after his commission –

Paul describes many of the things (the “stuff”) that happened to him after his commission in his 2nd Letter to the church at Corinth:

2 Corinthians 11:21-28 (NIV)

[21] To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!  Whatever anyone else dares to boast about–I am speaking as a fool–I also dare to boast about.  [22] Are they speaking Hebrews?  So am I.  Are they Israelites?  So am I.  [23] Are they servants of Christ?  (I am out of my mind to talk like this) I am more.  I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.  [24] Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  [25] Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked.  I spent a night and a day in the open sea.  [26] I have been constantly on the move.  I have been in danger from rivers, in danger of bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and in danger from false believers.  [27] I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep.  I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food.  I have been cold and naked.  [28]  who is weak, and I do not feel weak?  Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

PHILIPPIANS is one of Paul’s Prison Letters…

And in VERSE 13, he speaks of his “chains”:  

Philippians 1:13 (NIV)

“As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.”

According to what most scholars believe, Paul was under house arrest in Rome.  He would later finish his “race” when he was re-arrested and imprisoned in the Maritime jail.  Church history generally looks to Paul’s martyrdom outside the city of Rome at the hands of his Roman captors and it’s from this second imprisonment we have the 2nd letter to Timothy, considered Paul’s “last will and testament” (2 Timothy 4:6-18).

Paul’s Realization When STUFF Happens – 

Most of us want to view the STUFF of life through a microscope whereas Paul looked at life through a telescope!  He envisioned things that had happened to him as a teaching moment.

Contemporary wisdom would say that what had happened to Paul was a BAD THING…BAD STUFF! And that’s true, it was.

But Paul saw everything through the lens of the providential arrangement of God–GOD’S PROVIDENCE–GOD’S IN CONTROL!  

The English Standard Version translates verse 12 in this way:

Philippians 1:12 (ESV)

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”

Paul declares that his “…CHAINS in Christ…” revealed to the Imperial Guard and everyone else in the palace that he was imprisoned for Christ’s sake.

The news spread from guard to guard, to the families of the guards, and then to the front doorsteps of Caesar’s household.

This very sight had to give great comfort and joy to the brethren at Phillipi.

Second, Paul ended the Philippians letter by saying,

Philippians 4:22 (AMP) – “All the saints (God’s consecrated ones here) wish to be remembered to you, especially those of Caesar’s household.”

It’s important to understand rightly the phrase Paul uses here.  That’s what Word Detectives do!

“Caesar’s household” doesn’t mean Caesar’s kiss in kin.  

Caesar’s household was the regular phrase for what we would call the Imperial Civil Service; it had members all over the known world.  The palace officials, the secretaries, the people who were in charge of the Imperial revenues, those who were responsible for the day-to-day administration of the EMPIRE, all these were known as “Caesar’s household”.  [See Footnote [1] ].

Look at what Paul says next in VERSE 14:

He says that most of the “…brethren…” were emboldened by his chains and they preached the Word without fear.

This is important and a great lesson for believers today.

When we SHARE our faith it serves to give encouragement to those around us.

And Paul’s Response When STUFF Happens… (Philippians 1:18-19) –

“Happiness depends on happenings, but JOY depends on Jesus!”

The overwhelming THEME of Philippians is JOY.

16 times Paul uses the word JOY or REJOICE.

He’s THANKFUL in the midst of his STUFF…

#1.  Christ is proclaimed.

Paul acknowledges that some preach Christ because they’re jealous and quarrelsome, but others do so from genuine goodwill.  They do so from love and because they know that God has given me, Paul, the work of defending the GOSPEL.

The others don’t proclaim Christ sincerely but instead, from a spirit of selfish ambition; they think that they will make more trouble for me while I’m in prison.

IT DOESN’T MATTER!

I’m happy about it–just so long as Christ is preached in every way possible, right or wrong.  And I will continue to be happy!

#2.  Christ is honored – Philippians 1:20-21 (NKJ)

Many who are reading this, or know of someone who is struggling with some STUFF that has happened or happening in life have questions but no answers to the circumstances faced.

Maybe I can give you a few things that might help you and others understand the “stuff” that happens.

FIRST, and this is important, you’ll never understand what’s going on without a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

NOTHING WILL MAKE SENSE APART FROM THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.

Proverbs 3:1-6 (NIV)

[1] My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart,  [2] for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.  [3] Let love and faithfulness never leave you, bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.  [4] Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.  [5] Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  [6] In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Ask Him to help you see LIFE the way He does.  I know that’s hard but that’s where TRUST comes in to play.

Remember what He said…

Isaiah 55:8-9 (AMP)

[8] For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord.  [9] For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.

James 1:5 (NIV)

[5] If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

James 3:17 (NIV)

[17] But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

God Will Make A Way in a Tragedy…

In other words, as we depend on the Lord in difficult circumstances–in the STUFF that can surround us at times, when we persevere in doing what’s right even when it’s hard.

Several years ago, Don Moen was awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call.  His mother-in-law called to tell him that a tragic car accident involving his wife’s sister and her husband, and their four small boys on a road trip when the tragedy occurred.  The oldest, who was eight, was killed instantly.  The others in the car were seriously injured.

As Don and his wife grieved and poured out their hearts to the Lord, Don felt helpless at communicating hope and grace to his wife’s sister and brother-in-law.

Don recalls how God helped him through the tragedy:

“It was as if the Lord gave me these words”

__________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Media:  YouTube Video – Don Moen, God Will Make A Way, 1990; Integrity’s Hosanna Music/ASCAP.

Photos:  Google Image Search, subject to copyright.

Footnote [i]:  William Barclay, The Letters to The Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); other versions used are noted in the text.

 

“This Isn’t Another MESSAGE On ‘GIVING’ Is It?”

1 Chronicles 29:9 (KJV):

“Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the LORD; and David the king also rejoiced with great joy.”

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ONE MOTHER’S TEACHING ON GIVING–

It was officially Mother’s Day on May 10th, 2015 and I thought, what better way of starting the conversation, but from a story regarding a mother’s teaching on GIVING:

A mother wanted to teach her daughter a moral lesson.  She gave the little girl a quarter and a dollar for church.

“Put whichever one you want in the offering basket and keep the other yourself,” she told the little girl.

When leaving thee church that morning, the mother asked her daughter which amount she had given.

“Well,” said the little girl, “I was going to give the dollar, but just before the offering, the mn in the pulpit said, we should all be cheerful givers.  I knew I’d be a lot more cheerful if I gave the quarter…so I did.”

The mother may not have agreed with her daughter’s reasoning, but at the heart of the matter is the fact–the daughter gave in the way she believed.

True of all Christians–we give as we believe. 

In 1 Chronicles 29, DAVID led the people to BELIEVE in what they are given to.

David believed God deserved a TEMPLE.  At first, God would not let him build it because as 1 Chronicles 28:2-3 tells us,

DAVID wasn’t the type of man God wanted to have building the Temple.  BUT DAVID still believed the Temple for God needed building.

And so, in 1 Chronicles 29:2, David dedicated his own wealth to the project.

DAVID’S VISION IS INFECTIOUS (verse 6):

The leaders of the assembly dedicated money for the Temple.  And then (vs. 9), “the people rejoiced because these had given willingly, for with a whole and blameless heart they had offered freely to the Lord.  King David also rejoiced greatly.”

“the people REJOICED because”…

The Hebrew word here for “rejoice” or “rejoiced” is ‘samach’ [Strong’s Concordance #8055]: “Samach usually refers to a spontaneous emotion or extreme happiness which is expressed in some visible and/or external manner. It does not normally represent an abiding state of well-being or feeling.”  (See Footnote [i] ).

WOW! Rejoicing after giving.  What a concept and one that I surely need to give more attention to.  Remember, the people giving their offerings in 1 Chronicles 29 are giving willingly with a “whole and blameless heart.”

And they gave and they built because they believed in a VISION.

 The “What’s Happening Now Church?”

Flip Wilson was a popular comedian several years ago and one of his characters was a Preacher.  Flip did a skit once that I watched on television, where he told about this preacher.  He’d shout out:

“IF THIS CHURCH IS GOING TO SERVE GO IT’S GOT TO GET DOWN ON IT’S KNEES AND CRAWL!!!

And the audience yelled back,  “Make it crawl preacher, male it crawl!”

“AND ONCE THIS CHURCH HAS LEARNED TO CRAWL, IT’S GOT TO GET UP ON IT’S FEET AND WALK!!!”

“Make it walk preacher, make it walk,”  the audience moaned.

“AND ONCE THIS CHURCH HAS LEARNED TO WALK, ITS GOT TO BEGIN TO LEARN TO RUN!!!”

“Make it run, preacher, make it run!”

“AND IN ORDER TO RUN, ITS GOT YO REACH DOWN INTO POCKETS AND LEARN TO GIVE!!!”

(pause)  “Make it crawl preacher, make it crawl.”

A CHURCH CAN’T GROW IF IT DOESN’T GIVE.

And if our churches don’t give…it’ll crawl.

Inspiring People to Give–

Now when DAVID wanted to inspire people in their giving–he set the example.  He said–this is what I’m giving.  Then the leaders in the congregation stood up and set the EXAMPLE, the pattern for GIVING.

“TITHING” versus “FREE WILL OFFERING”:

In setting up the scene in 1 Chronicles 29, overlooking the “free will offering” principles would be detrimental to the whole MESSAGE on stewardship today.

Is there a difference between TITHING and OFFERINGS?

TITHING is giving GOD the first tenth of ALL your increase.  

In the Old Testament, most tithes were given from produce or herd.  But in modern times we tithe with MONEY since most of our increase is financial.

In the O.T. there were different types of tithes and different types of offerings.  TITHES were required giving according to the Mosaic Law, where OFFERINGS were voluntary.

Here in 1 Chronicles 29, the free will offerings given didn’t replace their tithes.  Their giving was above and beyond the Law of “10%”.

God trusted us with what is His in the first place:

He trusts us with an INCREASE–lets us have 90% of it–but places a 10%–the “sacred portion” aside (Deuteronomy 26:13; Numbers 18:28) which we are to tithe back to Him.  

This “sacred portion” is entrusted to us and we return it to Him.

TITHING TEACHES US Redemption–

The TITHE is the first tenth, the FIRST FRUIT of our increase.

Christ was God’s FIRST FRUIT.

When God gave to us His only Son to die on the cross for our sin, He REDEEMED us from the curse of the Law.  And when we give our TITHE, we are worshipping God by recognizing His REDEMPTION.

So then, we should recognize that through JESUS, we are redeemed and in turn God redeems and blesses the 90% that is our portion.

I remember after my wife and I were saved, our preacher gave a sermon on TITHING as many preachers try to fit in once a year, at least.  Afterwords, we both admitted to one another that “tithing” was out of the question.  We were overwhelmed at the time with debt and other obligations of a young family; we could tithe 10%!  But then, the Spiritual Light Bulb came on! God’s Word had penetrated our spirit, and we decided to be faithful and to trust God for the results.  We’ve been BLESSED ever since.

Is today’s Church suppose to adhere to the “giving principles” of the Old Testament?

Many people believe that today’s church should not follow the practice of TITHING–it was in the Old Testament–not mentioned in the New Testament except for reference.

But I say the LAW was given to help us see our need for redemption every time we tithe in honor and recognize our need for God and the amazing way He has blessed us and provided for us.

I think that many use the Gospel of Grace to free themselves from OBEDIENCE instead of discovering the GRACE OF GOD enables us to follow Him more passionately.

SO WHAT IS AN “OFFERING”, or generous giving?

1 Chronicles 29:6-8 (NASB):

[6] Then the rulers of the fathers’ households, and the princes of the tribes of Israel, and the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, with the overseers over the king’s work, offered willingly;

[7] and for the service for the house of God they gave 5,000 talents and 10,000 darics of gold, and 10,000 talents of silver, and 18,000 talents of brass, and 100,000 talents of iron.

[8] And whoever possessed precious stones gave them to the treasury of the house of the Lord, in care of Jehiel the Gershonite.

[9] Then the people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly, for they made their offering to the LORD with a whole heart, and King David also rejoiced greatly.

OFFERINGS are something that you search your heart for (not your wallet), deciding to give beyond the tithe BUT NOT IN PLACE OF THE TITHE.

TITHES go to the local church but offerings are free for you to decide what to do with.  

Many people give OFFERINGS to their place of fellowship because they’re excited about what God is doing there and they know there’s a need.

Others use their OFFERINGS to support missions, a favorite radio or television preacher, maybe a local Christian para-church ministry.  ALL are great options as an OFFERING or GENEROUS GIVING.

Christian Maturity–

Christians mature (grow spiritually) as their FAITH grows in fiscal responsibility; in giving more and more generously to God’s kingdom through offerings that are over and above the TITHE.

Looking at a great verse where the Apostle Paul talks about offerings in his second letter to the church in Corinth:

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (AMP):

[6]  [Remember] this:  he who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and he who sows generously  [that blessings may come to someone]  will also reap generously and with blessings.

[7]  Let each one [give] as he has made up his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joyous, “prompt to do it”) giver [whose heart is in his giving].

[8]  And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation].

“GIVING” FOR A REASON:

Now hopefully, we don’t give to the “building project,” and we don’t give to the Pastor.  And as we see in 1 Chronicles 29, the people gave to God, to GLORIFY HIM, to build up His Kingdom.

If the attitude out there is “Yeah, sure we do”, then reread 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 one more time, or as many times as it takes, to give with a “blameless heart.”

Hopefully, you can give with a VISION; that God is going to do something special with your offerings because of your faithfulness.

It’s about BELIEF…

In 1 Chronicles 29, David says something about our believing (vss. 10-17).

IN DAVID’S PRAYER…HE PRAYED acknowledging that they were giving to the building of the Temple because… the believed God would supply.  The funds all came from God’s hands in the first place.  They were only using His bounty to build a place of worship for Him.

Other passages of the Bible speaks of this kind of BELIEF (1 Corinthians 9:6-11; Malachi 3:10-11).  

This is all in agreement with the powerful message given to us in Hebrews 11:6:  

“But without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] BELIEVE that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out].”

And so FAITH is important in all aspects of our Christian walk in Christ Jesus.  Especially in our giving.

TITHES & OFFERINGS:

Both our tithes and offerings (generous giving) should be a part of our lives as Believers–Christians. SO…

–GIVE “JOYFULLY” (1 CHRONICLES 29:9),

–GIVE THANKFULLY (1 CHRONICLES 29:10),

–AND EXCEL IN THE GRACE OF GIVING,

BUT NEVER FEEL PRESSURED TO GIVE!

It is NEVER about the amount you give, but about the JOY in your heart to give.

A song that almost every parent with small children have heard a million times and know the words by heart, is from the Disney movie, FROZEN – “LET IT GO”

Let me give you the words in the music lyrics that I thought might fit in perfectly to the message in our giving of tithes and offerings:

It’s time to see what I can do

To test the limits and break through

No right, no wrong, no rules for me

I’m free

[TO GIVE]

set-it-free

 

 


 

Footnotes, Credits, and Commentaries:

Footnote [i]:  Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.

Photos:

Google Search in 1 Chronicles 29 Images.

Bible References:

Amplified Bible except where Noted.

Commentaries:

ABC’s of Giving by Jeff Strite

Tithes vs Offerings by Patrick McCue