Saturday, 31 May 2014

All the fullness

And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, – Colossians 1.18-19

When I get stuck in my own problems and affairs and things I don’t know how to deal with I can get overwhelmed. I am always trying to figure out what I am going to do and how I am going to do it and if it is really going to work.

I think we really miss out when we do that. We forget that it is not really up to us. We are not alone in dealing with us. In fact, Christ lives in us and the life we live we are to live by our faith in Him.

That means that I have more available to be than I can hope to comprehend. Because Christ indwells my life I have available to me:

The fullness of God’s love
The fullness of God’s mercy
The fullness of God’s strength
The fullness of God’s wisdom
The fullness of God’s faithfulness
The fullness of God’s presence

When I see all of that it is hard to understand why I have so much trouble trusting Him to sort things out for me.  I am not in this fight alone.

The battle is not mine – it is the Lord’s and all His fullness dwells in Christ who dwells in me. Indeed, greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world. 

Friday, 30 May 2014

The pre-eminence

And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, – Colossians 1.18-19

Everyone likes a little bit of pre-eminence. Sadly some of us like it more than others and some of us like it far too much. This has always been an issue and a problem in the church. In 3 John we read about a man who thought pretty highly of himself - 'I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the pre-eminence among them, does not receive us.'

Diotrophes caused all kinds of problems because of his love to be known. He wouldn't receive Paul because he was jealous. Not only that, he was 'prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.'

This is what happens with misplaced pre-eminence. There is division and hatred and all sorts of problems.

This all happens when we forget that Jesus is the true head of the church. He is the only one who deserves pre-eminence. The rest of us are flawed men who are no better than the other.

So the key to us all getting along is the give Jesus the pre-eminence, because when we focus on Him we don’t have time to focus on each other. 

Thursday, 29 May 2014

By Him and in Him

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. – Colossians 1.16-17

Sometimes I forget who is in charge. When I worry about the past, or the present, or the future I seem to forget who is really in charge. When I do that this passage should come to mind. It makes the point, as clear as can be, that never has been up to me, it isn't me, and it never will be me.

When I read this I think about Job. After all of his complaining and worrying and fretting and wondering about what was going on in his life and why it was going on God came to him and spoke to him.

'Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: "Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?'

God’s questions and clear, direct, and to the point.

When we complain and whinge about our poor lot in life we do it because we think we have it all figured out.

But we don't have it figured out. I don't know how God made the animals. I don’t know how He designed the molecules. When I look at His creation I don’t have a clue how it all works.

I don’t know how He holds it all together and keeps it all running.

But He does.

And if He can do all that doesn’t it make sense that He can take care of me and my needs and situations? 

Wednesday, 28 May 2014


He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, - Colossians 1.13

Paul uses a lot of word pictures to illustrate salvation. The two words here are 'delivered' and 'conveyed.' 

'Delivered' just what it sounds like. We have been carried from one kingdom to another.

"Conveyed' or 'translated' is to be transferred or removed. 

I hope this is not an cheapening of the meaning. I certainly don't intend that, but please bear with me. 

Mary and I are watching Star Trek together. We started out with the series 'Enterprise' and watched "The Original Series' and now we are on season 4 of 'The Next Generation.' 

One of my favourite things are the transporters. In just a second you can be transported from the Enterprise to a planet or another ship, or even someplace else on the Enterprise. I think of all the Star Trek devices the one I would like the most is the transporter, though the food replicator sounds pretty nice as well. 

But we digress. 

A lot of times we find the crew in big trouble on a planet or another ship. Then, just in the nick of time, the Enterprise will beam them out of the trouble and back on to the ship. In just an instant the crew were transported from danger to deliverance.

And that is the point here. When Christ delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of light He transported us from sure destruction to sure and eternal safety. We are now in His kingdom. From the clutches of Satan we have been transported to the arms of Jesus. 

When I think about where I was and where I am...well, its more than I could have hoped for when I called on Him. 

Praise God for His deliverance! 

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Four things to pray for

that you worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; - Colossians 1.10

Paul had a simply prayer for his dear friends in Colosse. The things he prayed for are the kind of things that we should think about ourselves and ought to pray for each other. They are similar to several other introductions to the epistles. The very fact that Paul prayed for these churches and let them know what he prayed is a lesson in how important the traits he prays for are.

There are four specific things Paul desired for his friends. 

That they would walk worthy of the Lord
That they would be fully pleasing to Him
That they would be fruitful in every good work
That they would be increasing in the knowledge of God

This is a pretty simple list, but each point would assist us in our daily walk for the Lord. It is one of those lists that we would do well to use as a self-examination  of daily living. 

The first goal is one we have heard before - to walk worthy of the Lord. We looked at this back in Ephesians, but it is good to examine our daily walk to see if it is worthy of the One who saved us. Are my attitudes and behaviour worthy examples of my Saviour's impact on me?

As I strive to walk a worthy life does my life please Him? Too often I strive to please me instead of Him. When I do that I always hurt the cause of Christ. 

Am I fruitful? Does my life reflect the fruit of the spirit to those around me. Am I loving and joyful and peaceful and patient and all the rest? 

And am I increasing in the knowledge of the Lord? None of us are going to be perfect. We are all going to fail at times. But I have to look at my life and ask myself if my daily life reflects a growing knowledge of God and what He wants me to be. 

While we pray these things for each other. lets pray that God would do the same work in our own lives. 

Monday, 26 May 2014

Fixin' to burst

Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4.18-19

These three words are probably the greatest I can think of the describe what it means to really truly be content, 'I am full.'

I know the feeling. I love a good meal - a lot. When I think of a big meal I think of an Irish fry. Eggs, sausages, rashers, beans, mushrooms, black and white pudding, grilled tomatoes, served up with tea and toast are just an amazing breakfast. When I finish off one of those bad boys I am certainly full. I can't take any more.

That is the word Paul used here for 'full.' He was stuffed, crammed full, and satisfied. As we might have said in Alabama he was 'fixing to burst.'

But Paul’s fullness was not about having food or any kind of physical fullness. He was fixing to burst spiritually because of what the Philippians had done in caring for him. What they did was not just a blessing to Paul, but it pleased God as a ‘sweet smelling savour and an acceptable sacrifice.’

And even the givers benefited.  Paul told them that because of their giving God would provide all their needs according to all of His riches in glory.

So when they gave, and when we give, three things are done.

The recipient is blessed by our giving
God is pleased
God will meet all of our needs

How can we go wrong by giving? Everyone wins. It is a win-win-win situation. May God help each of us to learn the blessings of giving for everyone involved. 

Sunday, 25 May 2014

To your account

Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. – Philippians 4.14-17

We get to read a lot about the Philippians. They must have been a really special church. They certainly had a knack for helping others. From the very start of his ministry no one had cared for them like they did. Over and over throughout his journeys they sent help to meet his needs. 

But Paul saw beyond just the reality of the gifts. He saw something special for them. He sought to see fruit borne in his minisitry so that it could be laid up to the account of the Philippians. 

This is a real picture of the importance of team work in God's work. When we use our resources to support missionaries or other Christian workers it becomes a joint effort. They are the front line soldiers and we keep the supply lines going. A lot of our foreign workers need our support because they can't work at paying jobs where they live. Some ministries just don't have the funds to provide for their workers. So somebody else needs to step in and help. 

That's the kind of ministry Paul had. A few times he stopped to make tents to [ay his way, but most of the time he stayed so busy that somebody had to send money for food and the other necessities. 

The point Paul has is that his supporters at Philippi shared in whatever fruit he bore. It was a team effort and all who took part would share in the fruit of Paul's ministry. 

It ought to excite us that we get to take part in the fruit for those Christian workers we support. We can't go everywhere and we can't be activel involved in every ministry - but we can take part and we can bear fruit through our giving. 

Saturday, 24 May 2014

I can do all things

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4.13

I think most of us are pretty accustomed to the feeling of inability and weakness. I know that our ministry has often had me feeling like there isn't a whole lot I can do when time after time everything we try seems to have little immediate visible results. I long ago lost any idea that I could do much of anything.

We all have the same problem. As the hymn writer put it 'if we in our own strength confide our striving would be losing.' We are incapable of doing anything of real meaning on our own because we face an enemy who is out to destroy us and he knows our weaknesses.

Instead of getting down and discouraged however we ought to take hope for there is One for whom nothing is impossible.

Everything is possible in the strength of the One for whom nothing is impossible.

While our strength is always going to let us done God's strength never will.

What impossible situation are you facing today? You can do it – not in your own strength – but in the strength of the One for which nothing is impossible. 

Friday, 23 May 2014

To be content

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. - Philippians 4.11-12

As Paul wrote to the church about their prayer for him he mentioned that there was a time when the were not able to send support like they normally did. He understand that and did not blame them because he knew they cared.

But there was a deeper reason why it did not matter. He had learned a blessed lesson that would change our lives if we would ever learn to adopt it.

Paul knew how to be content. He knew how to be content when he was abased. He knew how to be content when he was abounding. He knew how to be content everywhere. He knew how to he content in all things. He knew how to be content when he was full. He knew how to be content when he was hungry. He knew how to be content when he suffered need.

Contentment may not seem like a major character trait, but the Bible talks about it a lot.

Godliness with contentment is great gain
Be content with the things you have, for the Lord has said I will never leave you or forsake you
Having food and clothing, be content

We are also told that the opposite of contentment, covetousness, is like idolatry.

So what makes this such a big deal? It is a big deal because a lack of contentment indicates that we are not happy with where God has us or what He has given us. We think we know better than He does what we need.

Contentment is probably the greatest test of our faith. When we are not content we say that we know better than God. We say that our wishes and desires are more important to us than what God wants. When there is no contentment there can never be any peace. 

May I learn to have the heart of Paul when it comes to contentment. 

Thursday, 22 May 2014


 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. - Philippians 4.10

The Philippians were lovely people. It is obvious that Paul was really close to the Christians there. He had known them for a long time. He had led several of them to the Lord.  Whenever they had the chance they took the opportunity to take care of Paul and that caused Paul to rejoice. Paul wrote to them that nobody had supported him like they had. He said that anything accomplished in his ministry would be laid up to their heavenly account.

But there was a time when they had lacked opportunity to give and Paul knew that it bothered them.

I think its interesting that Paul says of them that even when they lacked the opportunity to give, they still cared.

One of the great blessings of friends is that even when it seems like nobody else cares they do.

Normally true caring is accompanied by giving, but sometimes there is nothing we can actually do. Sometimes all we can do is to care and show our concern and compassion.

There have been times when all I have wanted to know was that someone cared. Almost without exception there will be a card or an email or a Facebook message or some other gentle word of caring.

Lord, help me to be the kind of person who is not so focused on me that I forget to care about others. 

Wednesday, 21 May 2014


The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. - Philippians 4.9

I often think about the notion that there is no 'doing' in Christian living. Some folks say that all we have to do is hand it all over to God and sit back for the victorious ride through life.

But here it is as plan as can be - 'the things you have learned and heard and seen in me - do!'

When it comes to salvation there is certainly a 'done.' When it comes to our eternity being secure there is also definitely a 'done.' There is nothing we can do to add to either of these.

But there is still a doing to be done. All the things, Paul says, that you have received and heard and seen in me - do. And the peace of God will be with.

Don't worry
Prayer with thanksgiving
Rejoice no matter what
Think the right thoughts

Do this and you will know the peace of God. It is great to hear it and learn it, but how do we do when it comes to the doing? James says that we are to be doers of the word and not just hearers because if we are only hearers we are just fooling ourselves.

All of the things we have read about the last few days and great. They are all the right things. But its not enough to just think about them - now it is time we do it. Until we do do it we can't really know the peace of God. 

Are we involved in the doing so we can know the peace? 

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Think on these things

 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. - Philippians 4.8

I am so glad that God doesn't just tell us to live for Him, and then leave us to our own devices.

I think it is obvious that there is a battle going on inside our minds. For me it is a never ending battle. It never seems to stop. It goes on day after day and even worse it goes on night after night. Our minds are fertile soil for all the wrong things and it is those wrong things that seem to grow there best.

Paul's words on thinking are right in line with everything else he says in this section. Rejoice, don't worry, be thankful. All of these are attitudes and they are attitudes that we can choose to contemplate.

Here Paul offers more things to think about. We says that we are to think about things that are:

Of a good report

These are things that should dominate our thinking.

I don't know about anyone else - but that list does not describe my meditation naturally. These aren't the things I tend to contemplate and meditate on and mull over. I find my mind battling with thinking that is not nearly so attractive.

It would be wonderful if I could just wave some kind of spiritual magical wand to sort out my thinking. 'Poof! and my thoughts are all God honouring.

But here Paul tells me that I need to choose to meditate on these things. The fact that I have to be told to do it lets me know that it is not the natural thing.

We could go through the whole list here - but I think what we have is pretty self explanatory.  The last two words serve to summarise the rest.

'If there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy think in these things.'

How contrary these things are to the kind of thing that normally grabs our attention. Those things are not the norm in our films, out TV shows, our blogs and websites, or our social media feeds. Much of what we find there is anything but virtuous or praiseworthy.

Of course we can't dismiss those areas out of hand. They are a reality of modern life. But we can and should ensure that what we see there and the places where we spend our time have some virtue and are worthy of some praise. We should never fill our minds in the places that are the opposite.

I meditate on the things I fill my mind with. What am I using to give myself food for meditation? 

Monday, 19 May 2014

Be care-ful for nothing

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 understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4.6-7

I know this verse well because it is one that I find myself constantly needing to apply to my life. It is one that after 40 years of salvation I still find a challange.

'Be careful for nothing' the King James translated this verse. This is one of those places where I wish we English speakers had held on to an old word. The newer translations have things like 'be anxious for nothing' or 'don't worry about anything' but I really like the old meaning of 'careful.' When I use it down I usually hyphenate it this way - 'be care-ful for nothing.' It simply means don't be full of cares.

That seems like a pretty basic lesson. The Bible says elsewhere that we should cast all our cares upon Christ because He is already caring about us and He is a lot more careful carer that I am. Jesus tells us to cast our burdens on Him. 

So why am I full of cares?

This verse seems to say that I am care-ful because I am not thankful. When I am thankful I am acknowledging the great God who meets my needs and I am trusting Him with the results.

So the key to not being care-ful is praying in faith and submission and doing so with a thankful spirit.

And what is the result when we commit our cares to him and pray with thanksgiving?

The peace of God that passes all human understanding will guard our hearts and minds. That peace is so precious and it is so available. All I really have to do is get myself out of the way and stop trying to think that I can sort these things out on my own.

God is love and He loves us. He wants our worries and cares and burdens. Why do we persist in carrying them around with us? 

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Why rejoice?

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. – Philippians 4.4-5

Rejoice in the Lord always. Now that can be a tough challenge, can't it? I don't always feel like rejoicing. In fact, for several weeks now I have been battling a real spiritual funk.  Its not wrecking or debilitating or anything like that. I just things are not quite right. I find that when this happens it is because instead of choosing to rejoice I choose to focus on the negative and discouraging and the petty things around me.

When on those rare occasions I am able to rejoice in hard times it does something. The moderate or gentle or even handed way I deal with good times and bad shows the world around me that I really am in fellowship with my God. My constant rejoicing, no matter what comes my way, is the best testimony that my God is real and that I trust Him.

When I read passages like this I get so convicted because my rejoicing in far too often based not on who God is, but on how I feel or what I see. I tell people that I am trusting God for my eternity.What does it say then when I can't trust Him day by day by day in this world?

Lord, help me to 'rejoice in the Lord always' no matter what so that other will know that You are at hand, 

Saturday, 17 May 2014

A personal note

Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.  – Philippians 4.1-3

One thing I like about Paul's letters is that they are just that - letters. These are communications with local churches and the people in those churches. The letters have been preserved for us because people don't really change and the problems and issues we face today are nothing new. Because people are people we can learn lessons from nearly 2000 years ago.

Euodia and Syntyche were ladies in the church in Philippi. (I realise there is a debate about whether or not they were ladies, but that's what I think so we are going to go with that.)

These two ladies had a problem. Something, who knows what, had arisen and it caused them to be at odds with each other. It is so important that Paul mentions them by name and 2000 years on we still know Euodia and Syntyche as the Philippian ladies who had a quarrel. Paul said to tell them to 'be of one mind' and to help them sort things out. 

I think the lesson for us is clear. It is not only major church divisions that need to be dealt with. Even little personal spats need correction. Huge fights and divisions and even church splits normally start with two people who have an issue they don’t deal with.

If any of us are involved in a situation like Euodia and Syntyche now is the day to deal with it. We need to be of the same mind as each brother and sister in Christ. Let’s be sure that we don’t let the little divisions slip in. By God’s grace may we be of one mind with our own Euodia or Syntyche. 

Friday, 16 May 2014

We eagerly wait

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ,who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. – Philippians 3.20-21

Our citizenship is indeed in heaven. And as citizens of heaven we are anxiously waiting for the return of our true King and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

At the moment the world seems very unsubdueable. It doesn't seem like anything or any one could possibly bring this mess under control.

But we wait - we wait eagerly because one day our King is going to return and His kingdom will be real and visible. Our weak little fleshly bodies will be changed and conformed to Him. This robe of flesh we'll drop and rise to seize the everlasting prize. Our day is coming - we just have to wait.

And look at what happens when King Jesus does come. He is able to subdue all things to Himself.

Folks, we just need to hold on. One day all this wickedness and distress and pain and sorrow will be over. Jesus will bring all things under His control.

What a day that will be. 

Thursday, 15 May 2014


For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ,  - Philippians 3.20

It is easy to get caught up with our earthly citizenship. In some countries waving a flag and singing patriotic songs is almost required to be seen as a good Christian. Churches in some countries have patriotic Sundays where flags are waved and stirring nationalistic songs are incorporated into the service. Everybody feels good and tears are shed and all the nation's ills and sins are laid aside as the church invokes God's blessing on this or that country.

It is true that Christians ought to be grateful for the land where God has placed them. We ought to be glad that God has given us a chance to serve Him. We ought to obey the law and honour and pray for our leaders. We ought to be good citizens and vote and where we have to opportunity to we ought to take part in choosing those leaders.

The issue comes though when our nationalism or our patriotism gets in the way of our service for Christ.

We are all earthly citizens of some place. I am fortunate enough to have two earthly citizenships. I love both countries and am glad I am a citizen of both. I try to take my responsibility of citizenship seriously.

But my ultimate citizenship is in heaven.

And that is all that really matters. Our heavenly citizenship transcends all the rest.

Once we learn to grasp this our national differences lose their significance. Our citizenship of the Kingdom of Heaven takes priority over all the rest. That means that we are willing to go where God wants us to go and do what He wants us to do. It means we don't get caught up in national or cultural differences. We realise that our true countrymen are our fellow citizens of heaven.

That means that my primary goals are to honour my King, to serve my fellow citizens, and to strive to draw others into the kingdom. 

Where is my focus?

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Pressing on

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3.13-14

I hope that none of us are foolish enough to ever think that we have arrived spiritually. If we ever get to the point where we think we have arrived it is sure evidence that we have failed.

I am glad to know that even the great apostle Paul never got there. He was never where he wanted to be. He always fell short of the mark.

I certainly know that is true in my life. In fact I can get prety discouraged sometimes that I fall so far short of the mark. I can even feel like I am going backward instead of forward. I certainly am not there - no where close in fact.

But Paul was wise enough to not give up.

He chose to forget all the things of the past
He chose to reach forward to the things ahead
He chose to keep pressing on towar the goal to achieve the prize of the call of God

That's the key attitude. Even when we feel like we are slipping back we just keep reaching out and pressing on. We all have a race to run. As we run our race we reach out and press on and we keep looking unto Jesus, the Author and the Finisher of our faith.

It is not always going to be easy. We are going to lose sight of the goal at times. We are going to want to quit.

But our task is simply to press on, reach out to the prize, and look to the One waiting for us at the finish line

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

That I may know Him

That I may know Him

that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, - Philippians 3.10
(Php 3:10)

Virtually everyone knows something about Jesus. They know that He was a great teacher. The know that He walked on water. They know that He healed the sick. They know that He died on the cross. And they know that He rose from the dead.

A lot of Christians know about Jesus. They know that He is the only hope of salvation. They know that He is God incarnate.

That's great. It is good when people know about Christ for it is in knowing about Christ that people can come to know Him.

Paul explains the difference between knowing about Christ. Knowing about Christ means that we know the facts and the teaching.

To know Him is to know the power of His resurrection. It is to know the fellowship of His sufferings. It is to be conformed to His death.

I would like to think I know a little about the power of the resurrection in my life. I hope I am living in the newness of life that that knowledge brings. I trust that something of the resurrection is seen in me.

But I have to ask myself if I really know Him. Do I know the fellowship of His sufferings? Am I conformed to His death?

Paul was willing to do whatever it took to truly know Christ. We are told several times in the Epistles that part of knowing Christ and having fellowship with Him is to suffer for His sake. We can't expect the world to understand us if we are well and truly following Christ. They hated the Light that Jesus brought so we have to expect that they are going to hate us as well. 

Suffering is nothing for us to fear – it is our chance to get to know Jesus even better. I don’t think we should go out of our way to suffer, but we should never be afraid of it. 

Monday, 12 May 2014

In Him

and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; - Philippians 3.9

There is a little phrase in here that makes all the difference in the world. It comes after Paul talks about the emptiness of all our best efforts and before a statement about the futility of our righteousness.

How could our righteousness be any good? All of our righteousness is nothing more than filthy stinking rags. There is no one righteous, no, not a single one.

So what are these vital words?

'Being found in Him. Who is 'Him?' The previous verse tells us - 'that I may gain Christ.'

Our only hope for eternity is that we be found in Him and His righteousness and that we not be found in ourselves. Being found in ourselves would spell disaster. There would be no hope for eternity. We would be doomed.

But being found in Christ changes everything. His righteousness is imputed to me when I am found in Christ. Being found in Him means that I am a joint heir with Him for the blessings of eternity.

Being found in me is nothing of eternal import. Being found in Him is everything. 

Being found in me is nothing of eternal import. Being found in Him is everything. 

Sunday, 11 May 2014


though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ – Philippians 3.4-8

There are plenty of folks who think that if we do all the right things and don't do all the wrong things they are somehow going to make God happy and make themselves right with Him.

If anybody could have ever done that it would be Paul and here he addresses that. He puts it in words that anybody could understand.

'If anybody could have confidence in their fleshly works it would be me. I was circumcised on the eighth day, just like the Law said. I was as Jewish as Jewish can be. I was a Jew's Jew. I knew the Law to the point that I became a Pharisee. I was so zealous that tried to protect the nation of Israel that I did my dead level best to wipe out the Christians. I kept the Law to the point I could be called blameless.'

Now that sounds pretty good.

But what does Paul say about it?

All the things I counted as gain I now consider as loss
I count all those things as rubbish

Now the word translated as 'rubbish' is a powerful word. 'Rubbish' doesn't really nail it. The KJV used the word 'dung' here. That seems to be a little better translation. I am weak in Greek but from what I can see it would be hard to overdo it when trying to describe how gross the rubbish this word describes is.

There is nothing good about our own works. They stink, no matter how great they seem to us.

My only work for God is only what He does in me as I yield to Him. There is no good I could muster up that would be anything better than rubbish (or worse) apart from Him. 

Saturday, 10 May 2014


Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! For we are the circumcision, who we worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, - Philippians 3.1-3

There are a lot of things that Paul could warn us about. He could warn us about opposition. He could warn us about persecution. He could warn us about governments. He could warn us about conflict. He could warn us about any number of things.

But here he chooses to warn us against something we might not normally think about being a problem.

Beware of dogs
Beware of evil workers
Beware of the flesh cutters

Early in the church, as we know, there was a big problem. The saved Jews wanted the saved Gentiles to get circumcised. Some even thought it should be a requirement for salvation. Others just thought it was something Christians had to do. Since they were circumcised they thought everyone should have to be.

So they tried to push their agenda. It is these people that Paul warns about here. He uses some very harsh names. He calls them ‘dogs’ which was a common insult for Gentiles. He calls them evil workers. He refuses even to refer to them by ‘the circumcision’ which is a name they would like. He calls them the ‘concision,’ which means the 'mutilators' or 'flesh cutters'.

Paul had little time for those who tried to rob God’s grace by the works of the flesh. There are still those who do that today. Those who maybe don’t tell us that we have to ‘do’ to be saved, but tell us that Christians still must ‘believe and do.’

Those kinds of folks are still around, they may not be flesh cutters any more, but many still have the idea that ‘do this don’t do that’ makes one spiritual.

But real worship is not this. Real worship puts no confidence in the flesh. Real worship accepts and lives a God honouring life by the grace of God – not to fill out the tick list of does and don’ts.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Not regarding his life

because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me. – Philippians 2.30

Life is precious. It is something most of us don't want to part with. I watched a special on euthanasia a few months ago. One of the stories was about a woman who thought that she knew for sure that she would opt for 'assisted death' and even went so far to travel to a place where she could get it done, she made contact with the right people, but at the end she couldn't do it. She felt like as long as she was alive there was hope.

That is only natural. Very few people really want to die when it comes right down to it.

But there are many times when God's people are called to give up their lives for the cause of Christ. Stephen was the first martyr in the early days of the church. Peter was martyred. Paul died in his service for Christ. Countless saints through the centuries have gone to their death for the gospel. Even today in the more forgotten parts of the world believers are dying in Jesus' name.

Epaphroditus seems to be a guy like that. He really didn't care much about what happened to him as long as the Philippians were lacking. He was willing to risk his health and even his life because he didn't regard his life as important.

Life isn’t cheap. It is a precious gift from God. While we have it we ought to take care of it and maintain it for God’s glory. But it is nothing to be  regarded when compared to what Christ did for us. 

Thursday, 8 May 2014

The spirit of Epaphroditus

Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.  – Philippians 2.25-27

Epaphroditus was another member of Paul’s team. He was another dedicated believer. I like this little passage because it gives us insight into a real heart for God and concern for other.

This first thing to note is the description of Epaphroditus –

My brother
My fellow worker
My fellow soldier
You messenger
The one who ministered to my needs

And then we see his concern. Though he was deathly ill he was more concerned that the Philippian Christians were worried about him. I know when I am sick the only I really care about is me and my illness. I want people to worry about me, but Epaphroditus didn't want them to fret and he really wanted to go see the Philippian believers.

That’s the kind of believer I want to be – a brother, a soldier, a worker, a caregiver, and someone who is focused.

The church could sure use a few more Epaphrodituses – a Roger could use a good dose of Epaphroditus. 

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

The testimony of Timothy

The testimony of Timothy

But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.  – Philippians 2.19-22

Paul was blessed to have a few good men on his team. Two of them, Timothy and Epaphroditus are mentioned here. These men acted in several capacities. They took care of Paul. The preached. They did physical work. And sometimes they acted as Paul's eyes and ears to check on the churches.

Timothy was special to Paul. He was Paul's son in the faith. They worked side by side in the Lord's work.

We need to remember that Paul's letters, when he wrote them, we teaching letters, but they were also personal correspondence. Paul was concerned about the Philippians, so he was going to send Timothy to see how they were doing.

Paul knew there was no one better to send than Timothy.

No one was more 'like-minded' than Timothy
Timothy sincerely cared about how the Philippians were doing
Timothy had proven his character
Timothy had served with Paul like a father-son team

But I think part of this is sad. "All seek their own, not the things which are of Jesus Christ.' It is sad that men like Timothy were, and are, so rare.

May God give us the courage and strength and even when it seems like everybody else ‘seeks their own’ we would have the ability to be the Timothy and do something for Christ and for others. 

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Rejoice in my suffering

Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me. – Philippians 2.17-18

Paul knew what it was like to live a life of trials and suffering. He was certainly no stranger to a hard life. He had  seem jail and beatings and whippings and shipwreck and opposition and riots. If anyone had a right to gripe it was Paul and his missions team. He knew that he might very well be on his way to a death sentence for the cause of Christ.

And yet, instead of cowering in fear at what might happen he was full of joy. He saw it as joy to be able to suffer for Christ.

We western Christians have not had to deal with this for a long, long time. We have been kind of coasting along, many of us with a 'most favoured religion' status. Laws have gone our way. Politicians have sought our support and speak in our churches in some countries.

But trials could always be just around the corner. We need to ask ourselves what we are going to do when they come. If the pattern is being established now it looks like there is going to be a lot of crying and complaining. So far we don't handle the little opposition we face very well.

But Paul knew how to rejoice in his trials. He was happy to be 'poured out' for Christ and for the Philippian believers. He didn't ask for their pity and sympathy. He wanted them to rejoice with him because his sufferings were working out for the cause of Christ and that is all that really mattered.

Rejoice in my trials was Paul’s message because I am overjoyed. What a challenge to my weak faith with opposition way out on the horizon.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Holding fast

holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or laboured in vain. - Philippians 2.16

Today's verse picks right up where yesterday's left off, but it deserves a look of its own.

We are indeed to be lights shining in this dark old world and this verse tells us how to do it.

'Holding forth the word of life…'

The light we shine and hold forth for the entire world to see is the word of life. Of course there are two ways to look at this. The first way is that we shine our light by holding for the Light of the World, Jesus, because He is the living word of life. We can't hold forth our lives as an example, because we are going to fail. We can’t hold forth our churches as examples because they will fail. We can’t hold forth our leaders as examples because they too will fail.

But we can present of Saviour to the world as our light and our source of life.

The writer of Hebrews tells that we have a race to run in this world. We need to lay aside the weights and sins that so easily trouble us. But the key is that we look to the Jesus, the word of life, as the author and the completer of our faith.

But the word of life can also refer to the gospel as recorded in the Bible. While we hold forth the living word of God for the world to see we hold forth the written word of God as a guide and map and compass and light in this present dark world. We use it to find our way.

What are we holding out to this world? what are we holding onto in this world? Unless it is the word of life we are doomed to directionlessness and misery. 

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Shining as lights

that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, - Philippians 2.15

There can be no doubt that we live in a dark world. Paul refers to that world here as a 'crooked and perverse' generation. It is clear that the world is moving farther and farther from any distinction of right and wrong and truth and lies and good and bad and moral and immoral. All things are relative and unless our own personal sensitivities are touched the world says 'to each their own.' Don't be judgemental, unless I think it is bad. Everyone has their own standards of right and wrong. 

It only makes sense, because if we leave God out who sets the universal standards of right and wrong.

And we live right in the middle of it as children of God who try to live right and do right and care for others.

Paul says that in this dark world the children of God need to shine as lights in the darkness.

And he even tells us how to do it.

Be blameless
Be harmless
Be without fault

We have an opportunity to be a light, but we can't do that if we are walking along in the darkness and never allowing the light of Christ to shine in our lives. When we act and walk and behave like the world no one can see the difference.

Jesus told us that we are the light of the world. He told us not to hide our light away. Our words are vital. No one is going to be saved apart from our witness, but we must also be that shining light in a world of darkness.

Is our little light going to shine?

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Quit complaining

Do all things without complaining and disputing, - Philippians 2.14

This may sound like a strange comment to make. Is complaining really that big of a deal?

When we examine the context it seems like it is a big deal. Our lives are to be lived in such a way that Christ is being lived out in us. That may not, and probably will not, be comfortable. We might be tempted to gripe or complain or whinge about how tough we have it. Or, more likely, it is how tough we perceive our circumstances.

Life doesn't always go the way we want it. We do get inconvenienced. We have to do things we don't like. The hard thing is that this is just part of the way it is.

Griping and complaining does no good. It makes us feel worse and it impacts others. There is no problem with sharing our needs and challenges that we face, but a complaining attitude is infectious. It spreads like a cancer.

It sounds a bit simplistic, but sometimes we just need to quit complaining, suck it up, and get busy. 

Friday, 2 May 2014

God working in you

God works in you

for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. - Philippians 2.13

Yesterday we saw that each of us has a responsibility to 'work out our won salvation with fear and trembling.' That is our part - we have a work to do. We can't just coast along.

But there is more to it than that. It is not just us. It is not even primarily us. We don’t work out our salvation in our own power.

And that is a good thing because if we did I think most of us would be in big trouble.

‘It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.’

Every day I make a choice, many of them actually. Am I going to seek to gratify my flesh by acting in my flesh or am I going to please God by acting in His power?

Far too often I choose the former – despite the fact that I have the omnipotent creator of the universe working in me.

It is no more I that lives, but Christ lives in me.
The life that I now live I live by faith in the Son of God.
It is God that works in me.
Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you?

The wonderful truth is that while I fight the good fight and while I endure hardness as a good soldier I do so by the power of God who is working in my life.

Can you imagine the mess we would make of things if we tried to do it alone? 

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Work out your salvation

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; - Philippians 2.12

The way this passage is worded in a few English translations is a little unfortunate. At first glance it might look like our salvation might be contingent on our own works when we are told to ‘work out your own salvation…’

But a careful look will let us know that is not the case. It is also based on the verse we are going to see tomorrow.

Paul is not saying that it is up to us to work out our salvation by own effort and our own works.

What he is saying is that we are to work in such a way that our salvation is played out before others. Those who say that we don't have a part to play are missing something. When we are truly saved it will be seen in the outworking of our salvation.

It is to be done with 'fear and trembling' because it is an awesome task.  It is an awesome responsibility. We can't keep our salvation private. It is not between us and God alone. As we live our Christian lives is Christ seen in us a we outwork our salvation for all to see?

God ordained that His true church would do good works. Is that truth seen in our lives?