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November 4, 2019, 4:14 PM

Idols? What idols?

I John 5:21 says: "Little children, keep yourselves from idols."

Generally, when we think of idols, images of wooden or stone gods come to mind. Right?  Or we think of it as a descriptor of someone lifted up as a model to follow. "She idolizes that pop star." When I was in the third grade, my family went to Hawaii for a vacation. To remember our time there, my mom bought a variety of souveneirs, one of which was a pair of little Tiki gods. These two Tiki gods were made out of volcanic rock with ruby eyes, tongues sticking out and bloated bellies. And both came with a label describing who they were and what they could provide. I was a kid. Not very bright. I read the label of "Happy" and rubbed his belly so that I could be happy. It did nothing for that lifeless rock; neither did it do a thing for me. 

Now, if we are honest, we have idols in our heart and life that we cherish. If we satisfy this god, then there will be some payback. And usually the payback is our temporary happiness and a sense of security. Our idols might not be made of volcanic rock with ruby eyes and a fat belly. Rather, our idols are a reflection of what we desire. It could be the security of a relationship, the approval of others, success, collecting trophies of achievements, the nearness of family, the keeping of traditions, financial independence, the latest toy or gadget, or a supportive social media group.

Whatever consumes your time, energy and money often reflects what you truly worship. And you were made to worship. God created you with this unique capacity to find your joy and identity in worshiping Him and Him alone. If not, you'll give yourself to worship people, possessions or events that momentarlly give you pleasure, but it is temporary and demands more to fix your satisfaction level. Our idols cannot help us. They cannot give us what our heart truly craves. Our gods are puny, but demanding tyrants that exact more than they provide in return.

But the God who created us is different. God is all powerful, ever present and all knowing. The One who made you knows you best. God knows what your heart truly needs. And that is God Himself. That is why Jesus said the greatest of all God's commandments is this: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." Matthew 22:37-38. God will allow no room for idols. He is a jealous God. He will not share His glory with another. 

Let me ask you: "What do you desire more than God?" Whatever consumes your thoughts, desires, time, energy and finances -- if it is not the Lord Jesus, then it is an idol. Reflect on this. Confess: agree with God that you have idols. And come to Christ!  Jesus is a Savior, a Redeemer, who breaks chains and smashed idols. When Jesus is all you seek, idols have no power over you. Come to Jesus!

October 24, 2019, 12:00 AM

Choose what Jesus chose!

Philippians 2:1-11 gives this awesome description of Jesus - the Son of God - laying aside His robes of majesty and His throne in heaven to come to earth and be born as a human baby and to grow up to love and serve others so that He might redeem many. You don't have to be a theological scholar to appreciate the significance of this passage.

In the previous chapter, Paul wanted the Philippi church to stand together firm in the faith against those who would attack their hope in Jesus from outside the church. However, in this chapter, Paul addressed their need for unity to withstand divisions and factions within the church. Apparently, the church was experiencing conflicts. Philippians 2:14-15 and Philippians 4:2-3 refer to internal strife in this church.

So Paul encouraged the Philippian believers to make three deliberate choices:

1. Choose love and unity. Since God is love, shouldn't the church reflect the love chapter of I Corinthians 13. Read I Corinthians 13:4-7. If we genuinely love God and each other, we will be more concerned about serving others than winning an argument. Jesus said: "Greater love has not one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends." John 15:13. And not only should we choose love, we should select unity as our modus operendi!  Without unity, the church cannot function and carry out her assignment: to go and tell the gospel and disciple people. It's hard to concentrate on our mission if we spend our time pursuing personal agendas. In the New Testament the church is frequently described as the body of Christ. There is one body with many members and Christ is the head of the church. Consider the human body for a moment: every part of the body is diverse with each having its own unique function and purpose. Whatever the body does, it acts in unison: head, eyes, ears, hands, legs, heart, lungs, stomach, kidneys . . . you get the idea. If the different parts of your body started feuding against each other, your body would shut down - or break down. The church should function like a healthy human body with each member working in unison together. 

Not only should we choose love and unity, we should also choose humility.

2. Choose humility. The Bible tells us that God honors and exalts those who are humble, but resists the proud. How would you like to box God? Are your arms really long enough to get in a good punch? When we are proud, that is the way we behave towards God. Humility submits to God and says: "Whatever you want to do, God, is okay by me. Have your way. And I'll obey." C.S. Lewis in "Mere Christianity" said: "The essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or less of myself, it is thinking of myself less."  Humility involves having an accurate assessment of who God is and who you are as His creation. Humility doesn't mean a denial of your talents and abilities, but rather acknowledging that this is how God made you. To deny these would be like Tom Brady saying: "Yeah, I am New England's quarterback, but I'm not very good." Nor is it boastful. Instead, it is having an accurate assessment of yourself as God's created handiwork and the abilities and gifts He has given you.

And as we choose humility, we adopt Jesus' mindset of humility and servanthood.

3. Choose Jesus' mindset of humility and servanthood. Jesus said: "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Mark 10:45. Jesus laid aside the glory of heaven to come and live as a servant among men. That's humility! And Jesus submitted HImself in obedience to God the Father -- even on the cross, by His wilingness to die for our sins. And God exalts the humble. That is exactly what God did with Jesus. 

"Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:9-11. 

In the local body of believers - the church - we should choose love, unity, humility and Christ's mindset of servanthood. If we do, we'll shine like light-bearers in this corrupt and perverse age. The world is watching us. How will we respond?

October 21, 2019, 4:22 PM

When you die . . . ?

"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."  Philippians 1:21

Have you given much thought about death? 

Many people have prearranged their funerals. They purchased their burial plots, selected their caskets and the inscription for their headstone. And there is thoughtfulness in doing this as it saves family and friends from having to make those decisions during their bereavement. 

But the foremost concern should be: "What happens when I die?" "Where will my soul go?" "Where will I spend eternity?" "On the day of judgment, how will I stand before God the Judge when the books are open and I must give an accounting for my life?" These are the questions that we need to ponder and answer.

The Apostle Paul was confident of where he would be. Paul was imprisoned in Rome for preaching the good news of Jesus. The government had little tolerance for the exlusive claims that Jesus is both God and Lord over all and King above all other earthly kings. Paul knew that his trial would either result in his release or execution. Paul viewed both options as win-win. If Paul were to be released, he would continue to minister to the Philippi church and continue to strengthen their faith in Christ. Philippians 1:19-30. 

Yet Paul also longed to depart with Christ. Paul did not fear death; he was ready to embrace in order to be with Jesus! Either way - life or death - was a win-win for Paul.

What about you?  Do you dread the thought of death?  Where will you spend eternity?

When we die, we will either spend eternity with God or eternity in hell. There will be a judgment. The books will be open and every person who ever lived will give an account for every thought, word and deed. "And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." Revelation 20:15

Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin and rebellion against God. Jesus took our place and suffered the punishment we deserved. And Jesus did that so we could be forgiven and accepted by God. Those who believe Jesus is the Son of God - and believe that Jesus died and rose again so that he might bring us to God - will receive God's free gift of unmerited favor: eternal life with God. 

Have you trusted in Jesus as your Savior and Lord?  If not, call out to Jesus and believe that Jesus died for your sins and was raised from the dead so that you could be forgiven and made right with God!

If you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, live worthy of the salvation He purchased for you with His own blood. Live in obedience to Jesus so that -- whether you die or Jesus returns -- you will not shrink back in embarrassment, but rather run to embrace and enjoy spending all eternity with Him. 

October 11, 2019, 5:00 PM

Prayer for Spiritual Growth

When it comes to praying for others, we are often at a loss as to what we should ask God to do. We often offer up a "Bless them, Lord!" a generic request to cover anything that person might need. 

But when we observe intercessory prayer in the Bible, the intercessors were actually quite direct and explicit in their requests. Consider the Apostle Paul for example. In his letter to the Philippians, we read that Paul was very specific in his prayers for the Philippi church.

First, Paul prayed that these believers would abound in love. Philippians 1:9. That they would grow in abundant love for God and each other. And this is a love marked by knowledge and discernment, not an ooey, gooey sentimental feeling. Love is evidence of the Holy Spirit's fruit in the life of a believer and church. Love performs a lot of actions. See I Corinthians 13:4-7. In praying for the church and believers, asking that they grow in abundant, overflowing love is a good way to start.

Second, Paul prayed that these believers would aim for what is excellent. Philippians 1:10. It is important that believers exercise their minds and select what is worthy of time and energy. We need to discriminate in our decisions of what we do with our time, our minds, our money and our bodies. There are good things out there, but are they the best things? By learning to exercise wise discretion, purity and godliness in Christ will become our lifestyle. Pray that believers and churches will pursue what is best and excellent in all areas of life.

Third, Paul prayed that the Philippian believers would be filled with the fruit of righteousness. Philippians 1:11. This righteousness is not something we can produce. We can't; we aren't able because of our old fallen nature. Rather, this is a righteousness provided for us by Christ Himself when He took our sins upon Himself on the cross -- and in exchange -- we received Christ's perfect righteousness. Because of Jesus' sacrificial atonement, we are able to stand before God dressed in Christ's righteousness. And the fruit of righteousness in our lives -- the evidence of holiness and becoming more like Jesus -- comes from our dependence (our abiding, resting in) on Jesus. John 15:5. Apart from Christ we can do nothing. 

So you want to know what to pray for a fellow believer or for a church?  Pray what Paul prayed for the Philippi church in Philippians 1:9-11.

Pray that believers and churches will: 1) Abound in love with knowledge and discernment, 2) Aim for what is best and excellent as God's people, 3) Abide daily in Christ to be fruitful and holy in every area of life.

September 23, 2019, 4:08 PM

God's work in personal evangelism

The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.  Acts 16:10

The Apostle Paul and his mission team came to Philippi after Paul had been denied entry into the province of Asia by the Holy Spirit and had seen a vision of a man from Macedonia pleading for him to come and help. Paul's mission strategy was simply to enter a town or city and attend the local synagogue where he could proclaim that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ (the Messiah, God's promised redeemer) and that Jesus fulfilled the Jewish scriptures of the Law and the Prophets that the Christ had to suffer, die and be raised to life for the forgiveness of sin and man's reconciliation with God to those who believe. 

However, Philippi did not have a synagogue. To have a synagogue requires at least ten men. In Philippi, ten Jewish men could not be found. So Paul and his team learned that Jews met by the riveer outside the city to pray.  So on the Sabbath, they go to the place of prayer and spoke to the women who were gathered there. And Paul told the women about Jesus. 

Among this group of women was Lydia. Lydia was a God-fearing Gentile who participated in these prayer meetings. All we know of Lydia is that she was from the city of Thyatira and had her own business: selling purple cloths. And as Paul spoke, the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to the message. And she believed. And so did her household; Lydia along with her household was baptized.

There is a lesson here for us. It is the Lord who opens hearts to hear and receive the gospel! Jesus told his disciples in John 16 that the Holy Spirit will convict people of sin, righteousness and judgment; the Holy Spirit will work in a person's heart when we tell people about Jesus and why Christ came and how they can be saved by trusting in Christ for salvation because Jesus paid the penalty that our sins deserve. 

We need to pray. We need to tell people about Jesus. We need to explain that our sin separates from a holy God and that there is judgment and wrath to be faced for our rebellion and sin. And we must tell people that Christ came to pay the penalty for our sin and to take away our sin by His death on the cross so that - by faith - we can receive God's forgiveness and be reconciled to God for all eternity. 

And if we clearly tell people the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, then we can trust God to work in that person's heart. The results belong to God! So when we witness, pray that the Lord will open the person's heart to hear, receive and believe the good news about Jesus!

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