Friday, April 23, 2010

Philippians 4:19 – Budget and Sacrifice

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
--Philippians 4:19 NASB

At first glance this verse would appear to be a general statement about the provision of God. But while we acknowledge that God is able to provide for us and sustain us through whatever we may face, this particular verse has a more specific meaning.

The primary reason for the Apostle Paul's letter to the church at Philippi was to thank the believers for their support of his work through the gifts brought to Paul by Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25; 4:18). Philippi was not a wealthy church, but its members gave sacrificially out of what they did have to support Paul who, though imprisoned, was still preaching and teaching. The “and” at the beginning of verse nine indicates that what followed was an outcome of the Philippians' their sacrificial giving.

Paul is telling the Philippians that because they allowed themselves to be used by God to meet the needs of His servant Paul, God would meet their needs in returned. The Greek word used for supply is transliterated pléroó (pronounced “play-RO-o”). It means to make full, to complete; to accomplish. In other words, God would not repay in half measures, but fully and completely. And God would not supply only their temporal, physical needs, but their spiritual needs as well.

God would provide out of what Paul describes with the Greek word ploutos (“PLOO-tos”), meaning wealth or riches. God's abundance is a supply far greater than ours. Paul even adds a descriptor, the Greek doxa (“DOX-ah”), meaning good opinion, praise, honor, glory. A few suggestions have been made on applying this reference of glory in the passage. Some suggest that it is a reference to God's riches, as in "His glorious riches." Others suggest that the riches and the glory should be flipped, as in "the richness of His glory." And still others suggest that the glory should be applied to the channel by which the supply is made possible--Jesus Christ--as in "His riches in the glory of Christ Jesus." Whatever the case, all of these would seem to be quite valid--God's riches are indeed glorious, God's glory is indeed rich, and Christ Jesus is indeed glorious.

The most important thing we should understand about this passage is that it does not promote the concept of “health and wealth,” where those who give extraordinarily are blessed by God with greater riches. Rather, the point here is that if we give sacrificially to the work of God, God will in turn meet our needs, not our wants, in His way and on His schedule.

Also, giving sacrificially does not necessarily mean that we should go without essential needs. The Philippians did give out of their poverty, which constitutes sacrificial giving, but they also met the needs of their families. Other Bible passages warn us of not meeting the needs of our families. This presumes the principle of careful money management. And our sacrificial giving must come out of that principle.

Father, this verse is such a challenge--to live within my means and to also give sacrificially for Your kingdom. Please keep me ever mindful of my fiscal responsibilities and Your spiritual requirements. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Philippians 4:12-13 – Learn the Secret

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.
--Philippians 4:12-13 NASB

The Apostle Paul had become very familiar with extremes. He was one of the best educated and well respected Jews of his day (Philippians 3:4-6), yet it is his conversion by Christ (Acts 9.3-9; Acts 22.6-11) and his ministry in the cause of Christ that we remember.

Paul had once sought out and persecuted Christians on orders from Jerusalem, even playing a supporting role in the stoning to death of Stephen (Acts 7:54–8:1). Yet in the end, as a follower of Jesus, Paul was persecuted, imprisoned and eventually executed.

But at this end of Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi the extremes of his life are not the focus of his words. Rather, it is the great secret of dealing with these extremes. The Greek word in verse 12 is transliterated mueó (pronounced “moo-EH-o”). It means to be initiated into mysteries, to be instructed. Paul had become a disciple of this secret.

The secret also allowed Paul to enjoy much. The Greek word used is perisseuó (“per-is-SYOO-o”), to abound; to have great abundance.

The secret enabled Paul to eat well. The Greek word is chortazó (“khor-TAD-zo”), to eat well, to be fattened, to be satisfied.

But Paul was not only familiar with the front of the line. He also knew very well the back of the line.

This secret supported Paul through his times of humility. The Greek word is tapeinoó (“tap-i-NO-o”), meaning to be made low or humble.

The secret also enabled Paul to cope with hunger. The Greek word is peinaó (“pi-NAH-o”), to be hungry or famished, to crave.

The secret even enabled Paul to cope with, as we would say, “not being able to make ends meet.” The Greek word is hustereó (“hoos-ter-EH-o”), which means to come late, to be behind, to come short, to lack.

What was Paul’s great secret to being content in all things? It is the same secret that is available to us today, if we will only accept it--Jesus Christ. The Greek word used is endunamoó (“en-doo-nam-O-o”), meaning to empower, to enable, to increase, to strengthen. Christ can enable us to get through everything that is thrown at us. And when it comes down to it, the secret is not so much the strength and support that Christ offers us. The real secret is learning to lean on Him, to ask for and to accept His enabling power. Our world may crumble around us, as it often does, but He will never leave us or forsake us.

Father, thank You for loving me so much that You sent Your Son to die in my place and thereby enable my personal relationship with You. Forgive me when I do not avail myself of the support that is offered to me moment by moment. Regardless of my circumstances, good or bad, remind to lean on the strength that You offer through Your Son. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What We Should Think and Be

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
--Philippians 4:8-9 NASB

You have probably heard the computer expression “garbage in, garbage out.” Basically, it means you get out what you put in. This principal is quite appropriate for people as well as computers. What goes into us is what comes out of us. Since God made us, He knows this all too well. God also knows that if we do not keep the right things within us, we are likely to drift away from Him, thereby becoming useless to God, to others and to ourselves. To avoid this, the Apostle Paul gives us some advice that will help us keep to the right path.

Paul tells us what we should think about. The referenced Greek word is transliterated as logizomai (pronounced "log-ID-zom-ahee"), meaning to recon or consider; to take into account. We should always keep these things in our mind and heart, for they will impact what we think, what we do, how we live. We should dwell on these things. But what are they?

Paul lists several qualities that help us identify the things that should occupy our mind and heart. Many Bible translations quantify these things with the word “whatever,” but the referenced Greek word, transliterated hosos ("HOS-os"), can also be translated as “as many as there are," or "all of these things.” In other words, Paul wants us to consider any and every thing that bears these qualities. After all, if we spend our time trying to think about all of the things that we should, we will have no time to think about the things we should not. Let us review Paul’s list of qualities.

First, there is the quality referenced by the Greek word aléthés ("al-ay-THACE"), which is that of being true. This is something that without question is the truth. There is no gray area or doubt. When all else fails around us we can hang on to these things because we know in our heart of hearts that they are true.

The second quality is referenced by the Greek word semnos ("sem-NOS"). This describes something revered, something venerable or serious, even something grave. We often translate this word as honorable. These are things are so important, things that we hold in such high regard and respect that we cannot, or at least should not, bring shame or disrespect to them.

The third quality is referenced by the Greek word dikaios ("DIK-ah-yos"), meaning correct, just, righteous, and by implication innocent. These are things which are in right alignment with God. God has no problem with these things because they are aligned or in agreement with His Word.

The fourth quality is referenced by the Greek word hagnos ("hag-NOS"), which is something clean, undefiled, or chaste; something holy or sacred. This word is often translated as pure.

The fifth quality is referenced by the Greek word prosphilés ("pros-fee-LACE"). These things have the quality of being pleasing or agreeable. Many people could look at something with this quality and they would agree that it is pleasing to them. This word is often translated as lovely.

The sixth quality is referenced by the Greek word euphémos ("YOO-fay-mos"). This is something that people report well of, or something that is commendable; something that is praiseworthy.

Paul reinforces the praiseworthy aspect of these things with the use of the Greek word epainos ("EP-ahee-nos")--praise. These things should cause us to bring forth praise and edification rather than smart remarks and criticisms.

Paul finishes by saying that he has taught these qualities and he also done his best to embody them. As followers of Christ, we are to do the same.

Father, I praise You for Your greatness and I thank You for Your love and forgiveness. I ask You to help me to dwell on these worthy things, and by extension, to help me embody them. Direct me to the things that are true, that are honorable, that are righteous, that are pure, that are lovely, and that are worthy of praise. In Jesus' name, amen.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Anxiety Helps No One

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
--Philippians 4:6-7 NASB

When we are anxious about something, whether it is something really good or something really bad, we desire a resolution of that something to the point of distraction of everything else in our lives. Anxiety is very powerful in that way, affecting us mentally, emotionally and physically. Mentally, we tend to focus all our resources on that object, whether they can have an affect or not. Emotionally, we hang all our current and future joys and sorrows on that object. And physically, our bodies take the toll by going along on the highly charged ride that our minds and emotions have created.

Anxiety is different from the mechanism of fear. Fear occurs in the presence of an observed threat, and that fear can trigger specific behaviors of escape and avoidance in order for us to resolve that fear. In contrast, anxiety can often occur without an identifiable trigger and therefore without any possible steps of resolution. Without a plan of action we just sit and spin, and spin, and spin.

Anxiety makes us useless to God. He cannot get our attention because we are simply not listening. When we are calm, when we are at peace, when we are focused on Him rather than ourselves, then He can comfort us and we can be His instruments. Often, the focus of our anxiety is resolved in the process of reconnecting with God. If it is not, we can bring our problems to Him through prayer and thank Him for taking care of us. And if our problem still does not goes away, that’s Okay, too, because God has promised to always be with us and support us.

Father, forgive me when I focus on concerns so intensely that I am completely distracted from You. I realize that You are always waiting to receive all of my concerns if I will but bring them to You. I also realize that whatever comes, You will always be with me. Thank You for Your unfailing love and care. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Being Gentile is Hard

Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
--Philippians 4:5 NASB

This verse may seem easy enough, but it can be a real toughie in execution. Let's break it down a bit by looking a three key words.

The first word is the Greek epieikés ("ep-ee-I-KACE"), which means seemly, equitable, or yielding. In other words, open to give and take. Of course, no one can truly know this about anything except by their experience with it, or by its reputation. In other words, you have tried it yourself and know it to be yielding, or you have heard from sources so reliable that you accept it as true.

The second word is the Greek ginóskó ("ghin-OCE-ko"), which means to come to know, recognize, or perceive. Basically, to be exposed to something so much that you can recognize it instantly. And rather than seeing something once or twice, recognition usually requires a lot of repetition.

The third word is the Greek eggus ("eng-GOOS"), which means to be near. This same nearness can not only apply with respect to physical proximity, but also with respect to time, as in an upcoming appointment on the calendar.

Having looked at these three words, let's use them together with the rest. Here is an amplified translation of the same verse.

"Let all mankind come to recognize on sight the gentle, seemly, equitable, or yielding aspect of you. The Lord is nearby and is coming soon."

Are you able to be tried? Can others perceive your yielding aspect just by trying your--by pushing and pulling you?

Are you faithful to presenting your yielding spirit to all? Are you prepared for the repetitive trying of you by others so they can come to recognize on sight your gentleness?

Does the nearness of the Lord give you the strength to continue? Does His soon coming add a sense of urgency to your effort?

Father, forgive me when my rough and ridged exterior prevents others from seeing You. Give me the willingness to give and yield to others--to turn the other cheek--so that You may be glorified. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Remember to Always Rejoice

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
--Philippians 4:4 NASB

The Greek word, transliterated chairó, ("KHAH-ee-ro") means to be glad with the same intensity that we would have greeting a friend or loved one who has been away, or who is about to go away. At those times of meeting and parting we seem to cook down all of the joys, sorrows and experiences of that relationship into those fleeting moments. Like a well-made sauce that a chef has slowly, carefully and lovingly reduced down from its basic ingredients, the flavors are real and intense. You don't need to guess at what is there--you know. And those around you can also tell what is there just by the expression on your face. There is no hiding it because it is genuine. That moment, that instant of time, is how we are suppose to express our relationship with our Lord--not just for a moment, but all of the time.

We are not to walk around with a big plastic grin on our face, but rather we are to wear the best of our heart right out there on our sleeve for all to recognize. This rejoicing is good for us in that it helps to bring the Lord into every instant of our life. But our rejoicing is also good for those around us to see. The believers will be reminded that they, too, need to be rejoicing in the Lord. The nonbelievers will wonder about what you have. And some may just ask you how to get it.

God's command to rejoice is so important for us. The Apostle Paul knew just how important because he said it twice--rejoice!

Father, forgive me when I get so bogged down in the details of my life that I forget to make You a part of every one of them. After all, You are. Remind me always to rejoice. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Alonso Theatre Department Does Great!

Hey, friends.

I'm taking time out to promote another blog. The Arts Council of Hillsborough County posted an article on the fantastic achievement of the Alonso High School Theatre Department, in the selection of their One-Act competition piece to represent the state of Florida in the 2010 International Thespian Festival in June. Please check out today's blog and spread the word!


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Whatever Our State, We Must Give Glory

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD."
--Job 1:20-21 NASB

These were the words of Job upon hearing of the loss of all his children and property. The Book of Job wrestles with an age-old question: If God is a God of love and mercy, why do the righteous suffer? In the book, Job's three friends gave essentially the same answer: all suffering was due to sin. Though one friend, Elihu, put a spin on this in that he declared that suffering was often the means of purifying the righteous. Elihu therefore reasoned that God's purpose was to strip away all of Job's self-righteousness in order to bring him to the place of complete trust in God.

We cannot deny that an absence of material goods and concerns does allow us greater opportunity to focus on God. However, that truth is an aside to the book's true purpose.

The Book of Job clearly teaches the sovereignty of God and the need for us to acknowledge such. Job recognized God's hands in his affairs and demonstrated a proper attitude toward his possessions. They were a gracious gift from God, not things he had earned and therefore had a right to keep.

Our suffering must be seen in the light of the ongoing cosmic struggle between God and Satan. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, we participate daily in events that have eternal significance for those around us. While it is true that God can choose to bless us, those blessings cannot distract us. Our gain or lost is secondary to our command to glorify God in all that we say and do. For through His glory, all are drawn to Him.

Father, I thank You for my blessings. Please forgive me for taking some for granted and for holding on to others too tightly. When they come, help me to give glory to You. And when they go, as one day they all will, help me also to give proper glory to You. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.


Friday, April 2, 2010

The Servant Suffered for Us

Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
--Isaiah 53:4-5 NASB

Isaiah 52:13 through 53:12 is one of the most treasured and important Scripture passages in the Old Testament. These verses present God’s Servant suffering vicariously for the sins of mankind. Traditional Jewish interpretation understood this passage to be speaking of the Messiah and Christianity recognizes this to be Jesus, the Christ.

The passage of Isaiah 53:4-6 expresses the passion of the Servant. He was innocent of guilt, but God allowed the Servant to suffer for the sins of others. In verse 5, the expression of being “pierced through” is quite appropriate imagery for the crucifixion death that Jesus suffered.

Some would look to this passage as an indication of God’s promise of physical healing because of Christ’s suffering. We will not debate that opinion here, except to say that all Scripture should be considered and applied relative to the context in which it is presented. This passage aside, we should remember Christ’s promise to us as believers that we will receive what we ask of God in the name of Jesus.

It is not just through Christ’s suffering, but His physical death that our sins are paid and the rift between ourselves and God is healed. Christ’s death and resurrection are the very foundation of faith for the Christian. Without these we are just marking time until our end. As the Prophet Isaiah stated and as the Apostle Paul quoted, we might also say, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we may die.” (Isaiah 22:13 / 1 Corinthians 15:32 NASB). Make no mistake. The fact of Christ’s resurrection gives us the assurance of our own, as well as for all those who also believe.

Father, I thank You that You loved me so much that You gave your Son, Jesus, to die in my place. I ask Your help to share the Good News of Your saving love with others. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

We Need to Abide

"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
--John 15:1-11 NASB

The Apostle John wins the prize or reminding us the most times to stay focused on God, Jesus and God's Word. Through his Gospel and two of his letters, John reminds us no less than 26 times:

John 3:36; John 6:56; John 14:17; John 15:4; John 15:5; John 15:6; John 15:7; John 15:9; John 15:10; 1 John 2:6; 1 John 2:10; 1 John 2:14; 1 John 2:24; 1 John 2:27; 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:6; 1 John 3:9; 1 John 3:14; 1 John 3:17; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:12; 1 John 4:13; 1 John 4:15; 1 John 4:16; 2 John 1:2; 2 John 1:9.

In every Scripture passage John uses the Greek verb menó (pronounced “MEN-o”). The word means to stay, to remain, to abide. John must have realized how much we are shaped and directed by our surroundings. Just like the computer adage “garbage in, garbage out,” what comes out of us—what we say and do—is a direct reflection of what we put into us.

John passion for abiding may have come from sensing the importance of Jesus’ parable of the vine and the branches. When we abide we bear fruit, and the more we abide the more God can prune us so that we bear even more fruit. When we abide our prayers are more powerful because our heart is more in line with our Father’s heart, and we better know what to ask for and how to ask it. We are not abiding we are basically good for nothing, at least as far as our usefulness to God is concerned. The important parts of us become as dry and brittle as kindling. For God’s sake and for ours, we really need to abide.

Father, I thank You for wanting to be with me every moment of the day—to influence all that I think, say and do. I ask Your forgiveness for not always wanting the same for myself. I rededicate myself to abide in You. Help me to grow, to bear much fruit, and not to wander from You. For apart from You, I can do nothing. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.