Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Highly exalted

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2.9-11

The last few verses have all been about Jesus' humbling and submission and obedience. They have been a great reminder about all that Jesus did for us. My heart has been challenged and touched by all that he did for me. If we look at the cross as the finish it would look like this was in vain.

But that wasn't the end. All of this happened for the ultimate purpose that one day He will be lifted up, not just for His people but before the whole world. We will be acknowledging Christ as Lord in glory and adulation and those who have never come to Him will see Him as Lord in judgement.  

On that day we will join in the chorus and we will realise that it really has been worth it all. Jesus went through all we have seen so that He can be lifted us up and lift us up with Him for all eternity,

I am so looking forward to that wonderful day when He finally gets all the glory that He is due. Since we will all one day be confessing Him as Lord let’s live lives that confess His as Lord today. Let’s pray and share so that our friends and loved ones can confess Him as Saviour and not as Judge.

The Jesus we worship may be mocked and ridiculed and doubted and blasphemed today, but rejoice that one day He will be lifted up before all. 

Tuesday, 29 April 2014


And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. – Philippians 2.8

It is hard to even imagine a scenario that involves God Himself becoming obedient. How can God, the ruler of all, become obedient to anything or anyone? I don't think I can figure out how this is possible.

But it is. The Bible said that Jesus took on the appearance of a man. Then he humbled Himself to the point that he came to point where was obedient all the way to the point of going to the cross.

When Jesus came to earth He voluntarily veiled His authority. He became obedient to all the physical laws of the world. He became obedient to hunger and thirst and weariness and pain.

He became obedient to human laws. He became obedient to his earthly parents. Except for a few miracles he became obedient to weather patterns and seeing people suffer with illness and lameness and the like.

And ultimately Jesus became obedient to all the way to the point of death.

And not just any old death.

He became obedient to death on the cross.

Though Christians decorate their homes and churches and adorn their own bodies with images of the cross is an ugly and grotesque form of death. I am not going to go into depth here. All you have to do is google 'crucifixion' to get an idea of what it is all about.

And still he submitted even the shameful and painful death on the cross.

How can I ever refuse to obey, when so much less is asked of me? 

Monday, 28 April 2014

No reputation

who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. – Philippians 2.6-7

All of us are at least a little concerned about our reputations. In a way that is good. Our Christian reputation backs up our witness to draw men to Christ. But this is not the kind of reputation Paul is talking about. This is a reputation which is built on making me look good. And sadly that is the reputation we worry about.

I like to be important. I like people to think well about me. I like to have a good reputation before people. But all of that is about me looking good.

Of course we are not talking about maintaining a good testimony, but having a reputation that glorifies self.

Jesus had all the glory of heaven. He lived in all the splendour. He sat with God. He was God. But He didn't think that was something to hold on to. He gave it all up. He took on the appearance of a man. Not only that He left the splendour of heaven and the throne of God to become a slave.

And all the while I miss chances to serve my Saviour because I might 'look bad' or be laughed at or be ridiculed. My reputation means more to me than honouring my God.

It's a shame, when I consider what He gave up for me. 

Sunday, 27 April 2014

The mind of Christ

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, - Philippians 2.5

This idea of having a mind that puts other first is not the norm for us, but this challenge is even more difficult. I am going to look tomorrow at what it means – but just want to pause today with the notion that we are to have the mind of Christ.

What is this mind of Christ and how do we get it?

To answer that we need only to look at the life Jesus lived and the death He died.

Christ's mind is a mind of love
Christ's mind is a mind of sacrifice
Christ's mind is a mind focused on others
Christ's mind is a humble mind
Christ's mind is a holy mind

I am afraid that my mind is not a whole lot like that normally. I am glad that nobody else can see the kind of junk and nonsense that goes on in my mind. My natural mind does not lean toward love and sacrifice and humility and holiness and others. My natural mind needs training and instruction.

My natural mind needs Christ, not just at salvation or for church or for spiritual activities, but every single moment of every single day. It comes as I seek to follow the Spirit instead of my flesh. It comes when I set my affection on things above. It comes when I bring every though into captivity. It comes as I look to the invisible instead of the visible. It comes as I think on the pure and just and lovely and so forth. It comes as I focus on the cross.

May I seek the mind of Christ, not only on this Lord’s Day – but every moment of every day of my life. 

Saturday, 26 April 2014


Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.  – Philippians 2.3-4

Here is another challenge for us that goes totally against the way of things as they are in the world today. So much of the world has to do with ‘it’s all about me.’

But what if we took these simple guidelines and applied them to our lives?

Don't do anything through your selfish ambition
Don't be guided by conceit
Let lowliness of mind dominate your thinking
See others as more important than yourself
Don't only worry about your own interests
Think about the interests of others

This is hard because

I tend to be selfish
I tend to conceit
I tend to haughtiness
I tend to see myself as the most important one around
I tend to be more concerned about my own things than others

When I act this way I choose the desires and wants and yearnings of my flesh over the direction and leading of the Holy Spirit. I should be walking after the Spirit and not after the flesh. When I look at that list three things stand out - self, self, and self.

If we are going to really serve kind with a united mind of Christ we must be willing to sacrifice self for Christ and for others. 

Life is not all about us. 

Friday, 25 April 2014

The same love

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfil my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. – Philippians 2.1-2

Unity is the theme of this chapter, and indeed it is important through the rest of the book. At the very beginning when the church was small and weak and its enemies many it may have felt like they would never survive. The church needed to be unified to survive the great opposition.

So Paul puts it like this – ‘if you truly love Christ, if you find comfort in His love, if you say you fellowship in the Spirit, if you have affection and mercy there is something you need to do – be like minded.
Have the same love – have one accord – have one mind.’

That is a timeless message. It is one we need today just as much as our ancestors needed it then. Despite instructions like this the church has wandered far from what Paul writes about here. Rather than being like-minded, sharing in love, being of one accord, and having one mind the church seems determined to split and divide over any kind of issue. Instead of looking for reasons to unify we seem to look for reasons to divide.

We don’t have to agree on all the finer points of doctrine to have on purpose. We don’t need to do things exactly the same way in order to love each other. We don’t have to sing the same songs to have the same mind.

But we do have to have a common love for each other. I am quite sure that the persecuted church is a lot less picky about the finer points of who they do and don’t fellowship with. Even here in Ireland we don’t have the ‘luxury’ of finding Christians just exactly like us.

If the church is going to survive against admittedly growing opposition we need to make sure that we present one common front. If we keep picking each other off we are going to make the job a lot easy for the enemy. 

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Don't be afraid

and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,  - Philippians 1.28-29

The future is always just a little scary. I may not come across like it – but I hate the unknown. I know that I should have faith and be able to trust God for everything that comes my way, but sometimes I get afraid about what is coming next.

I don’t like adversaries or opposition. Though we don’t have to worry about it mush here in the west much of the church is severely opposed and oppressed. And the worrisome thing is we can all expect to suffer for Christ.

I can’t speak for the suffering church first person. I do know that they are facing things that we may never see. These folks face arrest, imprisonment, torture, rape, and brutality just for accepting Christ. All I can do is to encourage them based on the word of God that what they are going through is the cost of being a believer since the founding of the church and God will be glorified through their struggles. 

So far we in the west haven’t a clue about what it really means to suffer for the cause of Christ. We get afraid because someone calls us a name or denies us a special tax status or because laws change to make our culture less moral or our ‘free speech’ is somehow being restricted or the wrong politicians are in power  or – in some cultures – because Christians may not get to own assault rifles.

The day may come when things really do get scary for us. We can’t rule that out. So if it comes we need to realise that it is nothing new. It is what is to be expected.

And if it does come, like it has to so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to have the confidence that though the enemies of God have planned destruction God has planned deliverance. Suffering for Christ is part of being saved. The things that western Christians fear the most is the thing that best shows the reality of our faith to a lost world. Fear seems to be at the top of the agenda for the western church. All kinds of fearmongering and sensationalism are the norm.

Our focus should not be on the fear, but on the One who has the power to carry us through and prove Himself mighty through our lives.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Worthy conduct

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, - Philippians 1.27

'Let you conduct be worthy of the gospel.' 

Just reading that is an incredible test. How can I conduct myself in such a way that is anywhere near worth of what Christ has done for me? What can I do to show myself worthy? I can't imagine what I could do compared to what He did for me. 

Here are two things we can do. 

Stand fast in the Spirit
Strive together for the faith of the gospel. 

Standing and striving in unity are things we can do to conduct ourselves properly. I don't know that we can ever do anything that is worthy of Christ. He gave His all for me. He made a sacrifice that I can't make. I am going to fall short at times. I am going to fail, but do I generally live a worthy life? 

Both of the things Paul talks about here require effort. Both require a putting away of self for the cause of Christ. The gospel required sacrifice so walking worthy requires sacrifice on my part. That means that I stand and stirve with others even when the there is a cost. 

May my conduct today and everyday reflect what the gospel means to me. 

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

I will remain

And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again. - Philippians 1.25-26

Paul pretty much had it figured out that he was going to stay, at least for a while. It wasn’t time for him to ‘go home.’ 

So while he was here he knew what he had to do. He couldn’t quit. He couldn’t roll over and play dead. He couldn’t just hang around and take it easy while he waited on Christ to take him home. 

‘I will remain and continue with you.’ 

Isn’t that a wonderful testimony? Can’t we see the kind of confidence and hope it gave to the Philippians? 

What a blessing. 

Paul was going to stick with them and that they continued to progress in their faith and that they would live joyful and abundant lives.  

I realise that this may not be the most important part of this passage but something speaks to me here. 

I really appreciate Paul's faithfulness and devotion to the church. I like the phrase 'I will remain and continue with you.' It expresses, to me at least, a character trait that we should all emulate.

As long as God would allow Paul to live he was not going to give up on these people or his ministry. "I will remain and continue' is a mark of faithfulness and faithfulness is the one thing that God expects from his servants. That does not necessarily mean that our place or type of service is not going to change, just that we remain faithful to serve. 

Monday, 21 April 2014

A strait betwixt two

In a strait betwixt the two

But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard- pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.- Philippians 1.22-24

Paul didn’t know quite what to want. He said he was in a ‘strait betwixt two’ but it was a sort of win-win strait to be in – at least from his perspective.

He thought that he might very well die as a result of his imprisonment and court hearing. That was okay; in fact he was looking forward to dying and going to be with Christ. That was the better thing. And I can certainly understand that. Sometimes I can wish that the day was here and Jesus would just let me come on home.

On the other hand Paul might not die. He might me left to live and serve and minister has he had been. He knew that that was best for the believers.

Can you imagine the frustration his accusers must have had in dealing with him? They had no power over him. Whether he lived or died he would win.

I wish I could have that kind of attitude toward life. Paul was literally facing a life or death situation – bur he still know that he was going to win either way. May I strive for that kind of spirit in my life. 

Sunday, 20 April 2014

For me to live is?

For me to live is Christ

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. – Philippians 1.21

I know a lot of folks are ‘anti-Easter’ or ‘anti-Resurrection Sunday’ or anti anything special about today. But I like it because at least once a year I am drawn to what I should be drawn to at least every Sunday, but probably every day – the glorious resurrection of our Saviour. I am not bothered by the fact that we take a Sunday for that to be our focus.

Saying that I do hate all the junk that goes with a modern church Easter. Churches have Easter Egg hunts and Easter bunnies and bouncy castles and festivals and such. People use this day to dress up in their finery with brand new spring outfits bought for the occasion – then go to church so everyone can see them and talk about their nice clothes (good application of James 2 isn’t it?) and everyone who can’t afford new outfits for their kids feels embarrassed for their kids. Everybody opens their Easter baskets and gets stuffed on sweets and candy and after the cursory visit to church has a big Easter dinner. Seems like we are not too far from the celebrations of Ishtar. No wonder there are anti-Easter believers.

But this is a perfect verse to ‘coincidently’ show up on this Resurrection Sunday! 'For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.'

'For me to live is Christ.' What does that mean?

'For me to live is Christ' runs totally contrary to the popular notion that 'for me to live is me!' It says 'my life is all about Christ.' instead of 'life is all about me.' 'For me to live is Christ' means that all I strive to do is for Him and that there is no hope in me apart from Him. It means He is in control and He is the focus.

Let's buck the trend and make sure that this Resurrection Sunday is centred on 'for me to live is Christ' and not on 'look at me.'

I love the old Christian song that goes with this verse:

For me to live is Christ, to die is gain
to hold His hand and walk His narrow way
there is no peace, no joy, no thrill, Like walking in His will
For me to live is Christ, to die is gain

Now once my heart was full of sin and shame
Till someone told me Jesus came to save
When He said "Come home to me"
He set my poor heart free
For me to live is Christ, to die is gain

Now there are things that I still do not know
But of this one thing I'm completely sure
He who called me on that day
Washed all my sin away

For me to live is Christ, to die is gain 

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Christ will be magnified

according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. – Philippians 1.20

Paul had a great confidence that let him not care so much about his current situation. It is an attitude I wish we all could adopt.

Paul had an expectation and a hope that would allow him to be unashamed no matter what was going to happen. Whatever happened to Paul didn’t matter – only one thing did. All that mattered was that Christ would be magnified – and it would happen whether Paul lived or died.

It is this kind of disregard for self that challenges me. I get disturbed with anything that breaks my groove or puts me out or discommodes me. I rarely think of how Christ might me magnified through the situation.

Shame on me – Paul boldly lived his life and did what Christ wanted him to do because he knew that no matter what Christ would be magnified.

Oh for a Christ centred heart like Paul had! 

Friday, 18 April 2014

Christ is preached

Christ is preached – and I rejoice

What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. – Philippians 1.18

Paul had a lot of opponents. Not every preacher liked him. There were already preachers around who were more interested in their own fame and fortune that in doing right. Some of these guys were attacking Paul and his work.

I can understand why not. Paul didn't fit the mould.

Some of the preachers he knew preached out of goodwill and love. What a blessing and encouragement they must have been to Paul.

However not everyone was so kind. Some of the preachers preached Christ even 'from envy and strife...from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains;'

I would assume that Paul would praise God for one group and call God's wrath down on the other, right? That is certainly what most of us would do.

But Paul was different. 'So what' he said, 'Christ is preached and in this is will rejoice - yes I will rejoice.'

It is to tell what was really important to Paul. Of course, in other places he attacks false teachers, but here he only says that it doesn’t really matter what other preachers are saying about him. As long as they are preaching Christ Paul is going to rejoice.

I think we far too often spend so much time picking at the nits of other ministries that we forget to rejoice that Christ is being preached. We attack their worship style or their music or their dress or the way they observe this day or that and we forget that most of them are truly preaching Christ and doing a work for Him. Our pettiness can hurt the cause of Christ.

I am thankful for my brethren who preach Christ on this island. They don’t all do it the way I do. We may differ on the finer points of doctrine. They may pastor churches that I would not choose to attend. Some of them may not even like me and be critical of me. But still, Christ is preached and in that I should be able to rejoice. 

Thursday, 17 April 2014

For the furtherance of the gospel

But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. – Philippians 1.12-14

Things were tough in the early days of the church. The same religious leaders who had plotted and schemed and lied and deceived to have Jesus crucified were now determined to wipe out those of 'The Way.' And there was no greater target then their old compatriot Paul, the man they knew as Saul.

Not all the preachers liked Paul either, but more on that later.

Paul had been threatened and beaten and opposed and oppressed and lied about and arrested and imprisoned. Even as he wrote this letter he found himself bound in chains.

Now, if Paul were like most of us he might have very well had a little pity party pit. 'Poor little me. I am out doing all this preaching and serving and now I am under arrest. What good am I doing now? Why am I always in trouble and why am I always getting arrested?" True, he is 'only' house arrest, but it is still being bound.

But Paul didn't gripe and complain. He didn't feel worry for himself.

'All the things that have happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.'

Then he tells us what has happened.

The palace guard, and all the rest of the guard, now know that he was in chains because of His witness for Christ. His imprisonment had given the other believers the confidence thy needed and now they were preaching the word with boldness.

What might have been seen as a disaster was turning out for good! If only we could take that same perspective when things don’t seem to go ‘our way.’ 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014


And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ,  - Philippians 1.9-10

Whenever we read Paul's letters to the churches we see a challenge for them to keep on growing. Our Christian lives are not meant to be stagnant. When we don't grow it sadly indicates that there is really no life, or perhaps there is something seriously wrong.

Here there are several things Paul prays for regarding the believers at Philippi. He prays that:

Their love would abound (more and more)
They would grow on knowledge
They would grow in discernment
They would know how to test for excellence
They would be sincere and without offence

I think these are goals that we should all keep on our radar. They are things that I know I need to be reminded about.

Is my love abounding the way it should - more and more and more and more?
Is my love more than just some touchy feely emotion? It must be based on a deeper knowledge of God and His word.
Is my discernment about right an wrong and the things I choose to do and not do improving and refining?
Do I know how to test the situations I find myself in to make sure that they are not just 'okay,' but the excellent thing to do? Okay should never be good enough for me.
Is my life one of sincerity that never causes offence to the cause of Christ?The question is not 'am I there?' but 'am I moving in the right direction?' 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Partakers of grace

just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. – Philippians 1.7

There are a lot of descriptions of what it means to be a Christian. I like the pictures. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are joint heirs. We are members of Christ's body. We are part of the household of God. And there are a few others.

This is one of my favourites. We have already seen our precious the Philippian believers are to Paul. We see another indication of that here when Paul writes 'I have you in my heart.' He knows that they are with him even while he is in bonds. They are with him as he confirms and defends the gospel. Even though they are not with him in body he knows they are with him in spirit - because they are 'partakers with him of grace.'

Even today we are still partakers of the same grace. The super abounding grace of God has not run out over the 2000 years of the history of the church. As Paul and the believers were partakers of the same grace we too are partakers of the same grace with them. As we all must partake of the same grace it reminds of that we all need the same grace. Rich or poor, male or female, black or white or yellow or brown, upper crust or bottom of the barrel, dirty or clean, American or Irish or English or French or Chinese or Congolese or Korean or whatever ever without the grace of God we would all be without hope and without help.

As the old saying goes 'the ground is level at the foot of the cross.' No one is any greater a partaker of the grace of God than anyone else. No man is any lesser a partaker of God's grace than anyone else.

We all share equally in the grace of our God - and praise God for allowed us to partake of His amazing grace,

Monday, 14 April 2014


being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; - Philippians 1.6

As the years have gone by I have learned there are certainly not a lot of things I can put my confidence in. I have learned I cannot put my confidence in my own abilities. I have learned that I need to be careful about putting confidence in men. I can't have confidence in my bank account or in my possessions. I certainly have no confidence in my government leaders. I don't have confidence in the world economy. I know I can't trust the few possessions I have.

Nearly twenty years of service in a slow and struggling ministry have taught me that I certainly have no confidence in my ability to be a great church planter or pastor or soul-winner or missionary.

In fact I know that there is very little I can have confidence in.

But I can have confidence in this - He who started a good work in me will perform and complete until the day of Christ.

While this can't excuse a lazy indolent attitude it does give me confidence that it is not about me and it is not up to me. When I got saved Christ began to do a good work in my life - and He is not about to give up on me and quit. He will keep on with me to do His good work in and through me until the day of His return.

Praise God that if I just stay faithful to my Lord and the work He has called me to do He will continue to perform His work, complete me as the man He wants me to be, and be waiting at the finish line as the author and the completer of my faith. 

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Every time I think about you

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy  - Philippians 1.3-4

Paul opens his amazing letter to the Philippian church with his traditional greetings. The church at Philippi was a special church to him. He was there when the church was founded. He stayed in regular contact with them. They gave sacrificially to meet his needs. He truly loved these people and his love shines though.

I am pretty sure he remembered with fondness that day when they met Lydia praying at the river. He would have remembered being in jail and being freed by an earthquake. Then we would remember the salvation of the jailer and his family and their baptisms. This was a special place with special memories for a special preacher.

It is Paul's loving spirit here that challenges me. You can almost hear the love in his writing.

Every time I remember you I thank God for you.
Every day when I pray I pray for you with joy.

I just think that is sweet. It reminds me that praying for those I care about should be sheer joy and not a burden. If I truly love people it should excite me to remember them as I pray.

Lord, give me a heart of love like Paul had that was full of joy every time I get to pray for my friends. Help me be the kind of person who causes joy when people pray for me. 

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Love with faith

Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. – Ephesians 6.23

As Paul closes his letter to his friends in Ephesus he prays for peace. Then he prays for ‘love with peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’

I am not sure what to make of this 'love with faith' idea, but I think there is clearly a connection between the two. 

The connection, as I see it, is that love produces faith in that we trust those we love. For example I love my wife, so I trust her to do what is right. I love her so I believe what she says. 

I see the same truth here. If I love God and know that He loves me I know that I can trust Him. My faith leads me to love Him and love leads be to have faith in Him. It seems to be a wonderful cycle of faith and love that can only be good for our growth and our walk with God. 

Friday, 11 April 2014


and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. – Ephesians 6.19-20

I will admit something straight off the bat that when it comes to sharing my faith I am a coward. I am so ready to share and so desirous to share and know it is important and know it is what I should do and all that - but when is comes time to do it I am always scared to death. Now I realise that the problem is my own stinking pride and fear of looking bad or being rejected, but sadly that is how it is.

So when Paul shares this prayer request I really get it. I mean I REALLY get it. I don't have that natural boldness that some people have so when I ask people to pray I often ask them to pray for boldness to pen my mouth and share the mysteries of the gospel and that I might do it boldly (notice Paul uses the same word twice) because that is what I ought to do.

I don't really want to conjecture too much, but I have to wonder why Paul himself had to ask for boldness. Sure, chances are that no one is going to throw me in prison for my witness so I don't have that excuse - but I wonder if Paul was ever afraid to boldly share his faith. After all, who could blame him when we remember all that he went through.

I find some comfort in the fact that Paul asked prayer for boldness. It lets me know that I am not the only one who has to deal with a lack of such boldness. Paul surely had much more reason to lack boldness - but we share in the fact that we both want prayer for it.

So maybe those reading today would pray that utterance may be given men that I may open my both boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel and that I may speak boldly, like I should speak. 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Praying always

praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints – Ephesians 6.18

Though not listed as a part of the armour there is one more vital piece that we need to know about. We need to also be thinking about our fellow soldiers.

The weapon we use to watch out for each other is prayer.

Pray always
Prayer with prayer and supplication
Pray with the help of the Holy Spirit
Pray with watchfulness
Pray with perseverance
Pray for all the saints
Pray with boldness

I want to leave the last one for tomorrow, but the importance of prayer is pretty obvious here. Prayer is simply asking and supplication is doing so with the knowledge that we are totally reliant on the One we pray to.

There are a few instructions about prayer. Our prayer must be consistent. There is no room for praying for a while and then stopping. Our lives should be ever and always lives of talking to our God and letting Him talk to us. When we ask with supplication we accede to His will.  We pray depending on the Holy Spirit. Watchfulness means that we are always watching out for the needs of others and always willing to pray with and for them.

And we persevere. We stick with it. We never stop because we don't see a response. We keep trusting and keep praying and keep relying on the One who knows best.

Then we pray for all the saints.

With instructions so clear why is this an area where so many of us fall short?

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The sword of the Spirit

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; - Ephesians 6.17

The last piece of armour is not really armour at all - but a weapon. However it is a close range weapon and may be used on the offensive or on the defensive.

And that is a fitting description of the sword of the Spirit – the word of God.

In another place the word of God is described as sharper than a double edged sword and it is powerful and sharp enough and that it piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Our sword of the Spirit will protect us when needed and it will let us go on the offensive when we need it.

My problem is that I too often set out to battle with my puny little wooden sword instead of the sharp and powerful sword of the Spirit. Or I am like Mickey Mouse in 'The Brave Little Tailor' setting out to fight the giant with a sewing needle.

I am not equipped for the spiritual warfare with my own little feeble weapons. I am useless when it comes to the fight. Too many times I have relied on my own wisdom and words and worth and too often I have failed. Why do I keep going to war with my own foolish weapons when I have the most mighty weapon of all at my disposal? 

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

The helmet

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;  - Ephesians 6.17

No matter what happens we are going to be involved in a battle that affects our minds. Everything around vies for our hearts and our affections. Our minds are the great battlefield of our being. It is there that so many battles are fought. 

I know myself that all kinds of stuff goes on in my head. All kinds of thoughts go by all mixed up and confused and convoluted. It seems like just the time I decide and determine to focus on spiritual thoughts and prayer and meditation all other kinds of thoughts flood my mind. It seems like while I am out walking along a dwelling on some things about church or family or whatever weird and wacky things come across my mind. 

An author once wrote a book called 'The Battle for the Mind' and I think that is an apt description for what goes on in our head. The 'things above' vie with the 'things beneath' and it is up to us to decide where we  set our thoughts. 

This is where our helmet comes in. God has given us a helmet of salvation. When we get saved we have a change of mind and heart. Our salvation provides the Holy Spirit who gives us the ability to see things from God's perspective. 

So I need my helmet of salvation to protect my thinking and keep my perspective right. Thank God He provides Holy Spirit protection for my head. 

Monday, 7 April 2014

My shield

above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. – Ephesians 6.16

Despite our efforts at peace it is not going to be easy. The enemy doesn’t want peace. He wants to destroy us so he is constantly taking shots at us. Anyone who has been saved any amount of time know exactly what 'the fiery darts of the wicked one' are. It doesn't need any explanation.

So The Lord provides us with a shield. The shield is a primary defensive weapon. Shields have certainly changed and adapted and morphed through the centuries. From my limited knowledge of 1st century Roman armour understand that these shields were tough leather shield perhaps studded with metal. Shields have been made put of all kinds of material. Some have been made of wood or various metals or plastics or carbon fibres But no matter what they are made of their purpose is to protect from weapons or from projectiles.

Here Paul talks about protection from projectiles, specifically from the fiery darts of the wicked one. Just yesterday, despite the fact that we had a good day at church and were blessed and challenged by a missionary presentation on Mongolia by the time church was over I was in was what could best be described as a spiritual funk which lasted most of the day. I allowed a fiery dart to sneak through my armour because my shield of faith was not properly in place.

If my faith shield is not in place I am always open to those kinds of attacks and more. It might be a dart of discouragement. It might be a dart of lust. It might be a dart of selfishness or a dart of pride or a dart of fear. It may even be, as I found out yesterday, a dart of funkiness.

When I get in this kind of state part of the reason why is because I am not using the shield of faith that God has provided. Fear comes in when faith is absent.

Father, thank you for my shield – by your grace may I learn to exercise it always. 

Sunday, 6 April 2014

The gospel of peace

and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; - Ephesians 6.15

The shoes for the battle don't sound much like they would be for a battle- having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.

Our feet must be protected with the gospel of peace because that is our very foundation. As we stand on our feet we stand on the gospel. It is our footing, if we don't get that right we are going to slip and fall.

We must have solid footing if we are going to survive. Our footing must be the pure and unadulterated gospel of Christ.

It is the gospel alone that motivates us to get up and get going in our service for our Saviour. As we go we need to remember that we are going out as peace ambassadors. The world is striving for peace. The world desires peace. But it finds, as the scripture declares, there is no peace.

And because of this lack of peace there is conflict. There is physical, emotional, and spiritual conflict. We enter the fray as ambassadors of peace.

When the angels announced the birth of Christ they said, ‘peace on earth, goodwill toward men.’ Jesus said ‘my peace I leave with you.’ We are told to ‘follow peace with all men, and holiness.’ We have the ‘peace of God that passes all understanding.’

Are we prepared with the gospel of peace, or are we going out to pick a fight?

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Truth and righteousness

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, - Ephesians 6.14

The first two pieces of armour that Paul addresses are the belt, on which all the rest of the armour hangs, and the breastplate. Since our battle is spiritual it only makes sense that our armour will be spiritual as well because 'for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;'

Our belt is truth and our breastplate is righteousness. These are two concepts virtually unknown by the world.

When we put the armour on we must connect it all with truth. Truth underpins the rest of the armour. While the post-modern world tells us that we have moved beyond truth the Bible says that truth still exist and that Jesus is the source of truth. 

As the years have gone by I find that fewer and fewer people will acknowledge that there even is such a thing as truth. And of course if there is no truth everything else crumbles and there are no boundaries, no right, and no wrong. 

If we don't remember the truth of God's word and the truth found in Christ we are sure to fail. 

And then we have our bodies protected by the righteousness of Christ. It is a good thing it is not my righteousness because if it was I would surely be doomed. Only when we are 'dressed in His righteousness alone' can we be found 'faultless to stand before the throne.' In this wicked world my own righteousness will let me down. But in the inputed righteousness of Christ I can stand in victory. 

If I go out into this world confused about the truth and depending on my own righteousness I will not be able to stand even the shortest time. I must dress myself in His armour to suit me for the battle. 

Friday, 4 April 2014

Who are we fighting?

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6.12

I think sometimes we get confused about who we are supposed to be fighting. There seems to be a tendency today to concentrate our efforts on a whole lot of flesh and blood battles. We take up arms against this or that government policy or this or that political party or this or that social agenda. We concentrate our focus  on the things we can see.

This attitude seems to have worsened in recent year. Christians in many parts of the west seem more concerned with fixing the ill of society that we forget about the needs of the lost and our really spiritual battles. In the US Christian are on the warpath against taxation and gun control and homosexuals and the president and this and that and that and this. We are fighting the people and not the problem.We are fighting the symptoms instead of the illness. 

But that isn't where our battle is supposed to be. Our battle is not against flesh and blood. Our battle is spiritual. Our fight is far above this world.

Our main enemies are spiritual enemies. We fight all kinds of wickedness and evils - instead too many of us fight the people trapped in their sin. The various agencies addressed are all kinds of evil spiritual powers all around us.

Instead of fighting people and trying to bring about social change we need to focus our efforts on the spiritual battles with prayer and sharing our faith with those around. We can't fix society, but we can work for change in the hearts of men.

Let’s stop with the battle against flesh blood and focus on the battle that really counts. 

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Able to stand

Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil…Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
– Ephesians 6.11,13

A few years ago we bought a trampoline. It has been a lot of fun for Eoin and his friends and now it is primarily a lot of fun for the grandchildren (though Eoin and friends still use it, and even Grampy has made an appearance or two J ).

The kids always like to walk or run around the trampoline. Its instability makes it a lot of fun as the bounce and fall in fits of laughter.

It makes for fun on the trampoline, but instability makes for disaster in life. If we can't stand in unstable days then we are doomed to fall.

But we have a way to stand - God provides a full suit of armour for His soldiers so that they can stand up to the opposition. The next few verses will describe that armour, but these verses stress why it is so important.

Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand...that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.

Stand...withstand...stand. Saying it three times makes it pretty important.

We live in an evil day. We live in a day when the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking those whom he might devour to wile us from what God has for us and to crush us in the battle.

'Stand up, stand up for Jesus' is a great old gospel song that reminds us of the vital importance of standing firm and standing true.

May God give each of us the strength to stand in His power in these evil days. 

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Be strong

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. – Ephesians 6.10

I often don't feel very strong. In fact, I know I am not strong. I often slip up and fail in my attitudes or actions or words. After 40 years of salvation one would think that I would be strong, but I am indeed weak. If my walk depended on me I would always fail - always - every time - in every instance - I would fall short.

But the wonderful truth is that the Lord is my strength and my song - He has become my salvation.

That is an amazing truth and a great daily reminder. The Bible tells us things like 'be strong and of good courage' because there is a measure where we need to find out our strengths and our weaknesses. We need to use all the strength that we can. We can't afford to just give up when it gets tough. We need to be strong.

But there is a source of strength - we are to be strong in the Lord and we are to find our strength in the power of His might.

It is a wonderful truth that we have access to that kind of power. It is the power that spoke the worlds into existence. It is the power that parted the Red Sea. It is the power that healed the sick and raised the dead and fed 5000.

It is the power that crushed death to death on Calvary.

That is the source of my strength.

If I choose to trust Him.

But I get in the way.

I think I am stronger.

I forget that ‘if we in our own strength confide our striving would be losing.

I trust Me instead of Him.

Not too smart for a guy saved 40 years, huh? 

Tuesday, 1 April 2014


And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him. – Ephesians 6.9

God's instructions are not only for the workers. He also lays down some plans for the bosses. When we look at the whole picture we see the early admonition to submit to each other. That principle also applies to Christian bosses.

We can often treat what we call 'secular' matters differently that 'spiritual' things. We can have a church us and a business us.

But we cannot divorce the so called secular from the so called spiritual. Christian employers and bosses and such have a guideline. It is based on the basic principle of being in submission to each other.

Christian owners or bosses or managers or supervisors or in authority have a responsibility.

That is not the place for threatening or basic meanness. 'Doing the same to them' means that those in authority need to treat their employees just as if Jesus were working for them and remembering that they are not the ultimate 'boss.' They also have a Boss in heaven and He doesn't see bosses any better than the workers.

We can't expect the world to practice our standards, but we can show others what it means to be a Christian in every area of life.