The bold church speaks the Word

The four accounts of the Great Commission, as well as passages like Hebreus 5.12, have often been used, properly, to show the necessity of the mission of God being fulfilled by the whole people of God. The whole church to the whole world, so to speak. Another text not so widely recognized that buttresses the task of proclaiming the gospel to all by all the saints is in Paul’s letter to the Philippians: Continue reading “The bold church speaks the Word”

The sovereignty of God and the preposition of peace

At every turn of events in history, and in the midst of every disaster that falls upon mankind, and, as well, when personal tragedy knocks our feet out from under us, we need assurance that God is sovereign, that he is in control, that he is guiding our lives toward his benevolent outcome.

Not only when hurts and surprises happen, but every moment we need the knowledge that God rules the universe and moves the world.

God’s servant, James, mentions God’s rule and will early in his letter, writing to an oppressed people of God. He first disavows the idea that God is out to get us, James 1.13. Then he asserts that everything that is generous and good comes from God, James 1.17. Immediately thereafter, James makes a pronouncement of God’s great plan as he takes in all creation: Continue reading “The sovereignty of God and the preposition of peace”

Pressures from without & stresses from within

While our current crisis differs in details, the letter of Philippians contains a message enabling us to navigate our own troubled waters. If we listen closely Philippians depicts an ancient church caught between a rock and a hard place. Yet what comes first to our minds when we think about Philippians? Is it not joy and rejoicing?

Let’s take a closer look at their problem. For if we agree points of commonality exist between our situation and theirs, then Paul’s message could lead us to rejoice in the midst of our adversity.

Continue reading “Pressures from without & stresses from within”

Shattered dreams … yet joy lives?

As young people we might have envisioned how our lives would unfold. We looked forward to achieving a college education followed by a successful career. Or maybe as adults we anticipated how the potential we saw within our children or grandchildren would blossom in marvelous ways as they reached adulthood. Still yet, there might have been the expectation for just a normal healthy life filled with a long marriage and children.

Then the unexpected occurred. The dream was ripped from our hands. Neither the specific details how this happened nor the details of our dreams matter. What is significant is that a hammer shattered our aspirations and hope for what would be. Perhaps disbelief turned into bitterness. Can joy ever thrive again? Continue reading “Shattered dreams … yet joy lives?”

A life of joy

One of the words we often hear as Christmas approaches is “joy.” We sing “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!” We wish each other “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” when we greet them – even people we don’t know. Yet many people aren’t living lives of merriment, happiness, and joy.

What exactly is “joy”? The dictionary defines it as: “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness” (Oxford Dictionary of English). The Greek word we find used in the writings of the apostles is “charas” and refers to gladness and often the people that are the cause of one being glad. Continue reading “A life of joy”

Journal from jail

I thank my God every time I remember you, in all my prayers for all of you I always pray with joy” (Philippians 1:3,4).

The book of Philippians is usually used as a devotional book. One liners and sweet thought-for-the-day type writings abound on this book. Fourteen times in its four chapters the word “joy” or its cognate “rejoice” is used in this letter. Is Philippians really the “Vanna White” of Paul’s epistles? Is it merely the lightweight amongst heavyweights such as Romans and Galatians? Or are those wonderful devotional thoughts such as “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) or “for me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21) simply skimming the cream off the top? Are there depths rarely plumbed in this book? Continue reading “Journal from jail”

No Matter What Happens

Humans tend to justify their lack of faith in Christ or their obedience to God by blaming unfavorable circumstances. Sometimes, people may blame God himself. The one-talent man blamed his master for being hard and inflexible. Adam blamed Eve, whom God gave to him, and Eve blamed the serpent.

The mind works expertly to find reasons why faith isn’t viable or why obedience is too hard, complicated, or impossible.

The apostle Paul heads off this tendency when writing to the Philippians. He knows, like most good missionaries, that his absence might provide an excuse for the converts to let up on efforts to serve God. Continue reading “No Matter What Happens”

Whether through difficulty or ease

Some scriptures tend to be more popular than others. Often these verses are memorized and are characterized by offering us hope and relief. Among these popular texts, Paul’s letter from prison to the Philippians contains a number of texts that stand tall offering comfort and inspiration.

In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing. I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:12,13).

Paul’s secret can be ours. A deep satisfying contentment can be ours. Real freedom from crushing situational distress exists. They need not rule our lives nor how we evaluate our lives. However, all of this comes at a price.  Continue reading “Whether through difficulty or ease”

Shining lights

How can those professing Christ impact a culture that marginalizes them or fights against Christian ways? A survey of history as well as current world events reveals this is a familiar question. Writing to a church in the midst of suffering, Paul’s words suggest at least three ways for moving forward.

Continue reading “Shining lights”

When spiritual maturity and excellence meet

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by Richard Mansel

Most Christians seem to have a vague concept of what it means to mature spiritually. The Lord’s Church needs more teaching on the subject so brethren can have a goal to attain.

When we mature spiritually, we are banishing darkness and filling the holes with light (1 John 1:5). We are being re-trained by God’s Word to think spiritually instead of in a human, fleshly sense.

Walking in Christ requires that we learn a completely new way to live, talk, think and see the world. Paul calls it “transformation,” where we go from a chrysalis to the wing (Romans 12:1-2). We remain on earth, but our home and heart is moved to heaven (Philippians 3:20).

In Philippians, Paul is incarcerated but he is consumed with love, joy and prayer. His unbridled passion for Christ transcends time and place.

He longs for heaven but he is shackled to earth (Philippians 1:21-25). Nevertheless, he will remain busy with the spreading of the gospel (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Paul tells the Philippians that he is praying for them that they will grow in love, knowledge and discernment. By his life, he makes it clear that we can add prayer to that list (Romans 1:9; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Ephesians 1:16; Colossians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 5:17; 2 Timothy 1:3).

Paul’s message is that we are to be maturing spiritually. Paul overcame his imprisonment by relying completely on the tools of faith (Ephesians 6:10-17).

Spiritual excellence is not a concept we hear much about, but it is Biblical (Philippians 1:10). Walking in Christ, we strive to be the best we can by the grace and mercy of God (Ephesians 4:1; 2:8-9). We never settle for weakness and failure again (Ephesians 4:17-19).

Excellence must be applied to everything. We seek excellence in love, joy, knowledge and discernment, as Paul has made clear. Accordingly, we make better spiritual decisions because knowledge and discernment have taught us a better way (cf. Galatians 1:6-9).

Moreover, as we mature spiritually, we must allow excellence to touch our prayers, as well.

  • As we grow in faith and knowledge, have our prayers followed?
  • Do we still pray as a child?
  • Should our prayers not reflect the maturity of our faith?

Maybe we have never given that any thought. My prayer is that we will do so and that in our conversations with God, we will never stop growing. Excellence must have a place in our prayer life, as well.