Category: Philippians (page 1 of 10)

$396,890 and Counting

“My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen!” ~Philippians 4:19-20

We are still riding the wave of Spirit energy and enthusiasm generated by our God’s actions with his people on Missions Sunday yesterday here at Central:

~ $396,890 was generously given to fund our local and foreign missions budget for 2020, far surpassing our set goal of $360,000

~ Amber, Tamara, and Craeceola publicly confessed Jesus as Lord and put him on in baptism

~ Jared Odhiambo, all the way from the Alara village in Kenya, inspired us with his powerful testimony and godly vision

~ Stephanie Goins and Robyn Terrill, from Downtown Women’s Center, honored us with their gracious words

~ The new west entrance, the play space, the coffee bar, Guest Central, and the Central Commons were unveiled to great acclaim with an open house and reception

All of this Sunday morning at Central — proof that our God is working in and through his people for the sake of his Kingdom; testimony to our Lord’s faithfulness to his salvation plans; evidence that the old has gone and the new has come!

As blessings pile on top of blessings, we are increasingly convinced that our Father is keeping his covenant promises to Central and to all of his creation. May he be glorified and may his Son be exalted for ever and ever. Amen!

Peace,

Allan

Get the Order Straight

March Madness begins today and there’s a scramble in the church offices as a few folks are making last-minute changes to their brackets. Vickie has scratched Syracuse because of their point guard’s suspension and Mary is still undecided on Kansas State. I’m going with Duke, Kentucky, Purdue, and Gonzaga in the Final Four with Duke beating Kentucky for the championship. Speaking of Kentucky, ACU’s coach, Joe Golding, is making headlines because of his pants. When ACU tips off tonight against John Calipari’s second-seeded squad, Golding will be wearing britches with a hole in the seat. You can get most of this aw-shucks-feel-good-underdog story by clicking here. How is it that Golding only gets a thousand dollar bonus for winning the Southland Conference title and making the NCAA dance? How is it that he won’t see that money until June? And why in the world does he only own one suit? I know it’s Abilene and I know it’s Church of Christ, but come on! Somebody plan a bake sale or something!

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“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” ~Philippians 2:3-4

This is what it looks like to prioritize the realities. This is how we live the Gospel together the way our God intends. You get the order straight. You always place others ahead of yourself. I always place others ahead of myself.

Not really. I’m not very good at this at all. For some really beautiful people I know, it seems natural. It seems really easy for them. But for me and, I would guess, most of us, this is not natural. We have to work at it. It’s difficult for us because we’ve all grown up being taught to assert our rights. That’s how we’re raised. Our culture has told us that our Creator has given all of us absolute rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And somehow we’ve bought into that. We come into church — all of us — believing that we deserve to be made happy, even at the expense of others. Where does that come from?

Not from our Lord.

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ~Mark 10:43-45

The apostle Paul didn’t make this up. This is not Pauline theology in Philippians 2. He got this from Jesus.

So, thinking the same thing and having the same love and being united in spirit and purpose is not an intellectual thing. This isn’t something you accomplish in your brain or up in your feels. This is something you do. This is about concrete expressions and physical actions. You don’t just see everybody else at your church as more important than you, you treat them that way. You don’t just understand that everybody’s needs at your church are more important than your needs, you go out of your way to meet those needs.

Paul is not saying that all Christians in the church have to come to the same beliefs and opinions on everything. That’s impossible. He’s saying, for the sake of relationships and the mission, put the beliefs and opinions of others ahead of your own.

Peace,

Allan

Prioritize the Realities

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” ~Philippians 2:1-2

The four realities Paul describes in verse one lead us as a church family to pursue the four goals in verse two or, better said, to prioritize the blessings we all have in Christ. Place great emphasis, he says, on being like-minded, on having the same love, on being one in spirit, and one in purpose. This sounds like unity, and it is. But it’s so much more than that, it’s a lot bigger than just unity. Just unity is not the goal.

You can have unity in a group of thieves or murderers or in a group of Red Sox fans. Or in a church where nothing’s happening. A stagnant church that takes no risks, that never tries new things, that doesn’t reach beyond its own walls or outside its Sunday morning worship.

Yeah, but we’re united! We’re so together!

So, what? To what end?

This whole thing — all of it — is about relationships and mission. Some of you have been at your current church for more than 30 or 40 years. I’m guessing you’re there because of relationships and the church’s mission. Some of you have only been at your current church for a month or so. But I’m guessing you’re there for the same two reasons.

That doesn’t mean we all have to agree on every single thing. That’s impossible. I’ve said before that if we all had to agree on every single thing in order to belong to the same church, Carrie-Anne would be at a different church. And then she reminds me, “No, Allan, you would be at a different church!”

The Bible calls for unity in spirit, not unity in beliefs or practices or opinions. Unity is about your attitude, your motivation. What drives you? What are you thinking about? Unity doesn’t do anybody any good if our thinking is out of line with the Gospel. So, does our thinking serve the Gospel? Does our love reflect the Gospel? Does our unity declare the Gospel? When Scripture says I want you to think the same thing, that thing is Christ Jesus and his mission to save.

That’s why we think together and love each other and unite as one in spirit and purpose: to advance the Gospel. To tear down the walls. To make the paths straight. To speak and show love and mercy and forgiveness and grace and life! We live the Gospel. That’s always the goal.

Peace,

Allan

Recognize the Realities

The conversation before and after our staff Word and Prayer time this morning centered around the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, mainly on how much of a shot Abilene Christian University has against Kentucky. We wondered aloud about the spread. Somebody joked that there’s probably not a line on the game because it’s a Church of Christ school. I replied that ACU probably thinks they’re the only ones going to the tournament.

The spread is 22 points. I’m taking ACU and the points. George is taking Kentucky.

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From the very moment each of us is born, we all demand that other people meet our personal needs. We cry until Mom feeds us or changes our diaper. We misbehave until Dad drops what he’s doing and gives us his full attention. As we get older, we demand the same privileges or better privileges than our siblings when we’re forced to share a bedroom or the backseat of the car. And when we grow up, we fight for the better position at work, we negotiate for the bigger house, we argue about driving the nicest car, and we desire to take the most luxurious vacation. We lie and cheat and steal to win an elected office, to gain a financial advantage, and to get our kids into the most prestigious university. We all spend a great deal of our lives asserting our rights and declaring our demands, sometimes even at the expense of others. And what starts out as a natural survival instinct turns into a steady expression of our fallen sinful nature. We put our desires ahead of the needs of others.

That happens a lot even in church. Maybe you already know that.

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” ~Philippians 2:1-4

Is this even possible?

Absolutely! Yes, we can all do this! All of us! Because we recognize the realities. There is nothing in this world or in the next more certain than the realities we all share in Christ. The Scriptures don’t guess at this, they don’t present this as ‘maybe’ or ‘possibly.’ This is hard-core fact. This is the unquestionable reality for everybody in your church.

We are united with Christ. We are one with the holy Son of God. We are continuously encouraged because we belong to God’s family in Christ, with Christ. We cannot be separated from him — from Jesus — or from our unity with everybody who is also in Christ. We’re not alone, we’re together right now with the eternal Messiah and everybody who calls him Lord.

We have comfort from his love. We know we are loved by God in Christ. And we know nothing can separate us from that love — not death or life, not angels or demons, not the present or the future, not any powers, not height or depth, or anything else in all creation can ever separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. He loves you. He loves me. He loves everybody in your church unconditionally. That’s the reality. It’s real.

We have fellowship with the Holy Spirit. The original Greek word here in koinonia. Communion with the Spirit; sharing, community, participation; fellowship with God’s Spirit. God lives inside each one of us by his Spirit. Don’t ask me how; I have no idea. But it’s real. He lives in us. And that bonds us to each other. We see each other as indwelled by the same Spirit of God who indwells me. And that common sharing in the Spirit holds us together. We are all baptized by the one Spirit into one body and we’re all given the same Spirit to drink.

And we all have tenderness and compassion, these natural human emotions of affection and sympathy. If you have any tenderness and compassion, Paul writes, any kindness and goodness, if you’re not a jerk. If you’re breathing, he says, if you’re feeling anything at all, if you have a heartbeat, a pulse, if you’re human…

Paul points us to the solid realities. He doesn’t give us shallow advice or superficial instructions. No, he opens our eyes to the right-now realities or who we are together in Christ. He points us to the heavenly truth that by God’s will and God’s Word and God’s work, we are one. We  are together. As Christians, this is the air we breathe, the water we swim in. This is the lens through which we look at our church family as a whole and how we see each other individually. We recognize together these realities as God’s holy will for us and make them our priority.

Peace,

Allan

Changed by the Gospel

Paul’s experience on the Road to Damascus changed him. Paul was dramatically converted that day. He went from arresting Christians and throwing them in jail and trying to stamp out the Jesus movement to preaching and teaching the very faith he was trying to destroy. It was radical. The scales on his eyes that made Paul blind to what God was doing in Jesus were removed. The veil that hid the salvation realities in Jesus was lifted. The truth of Christ was revealed to Paul and it changed everything.

Paul came to a brand new understanding of Jesus. It was revealed to Paul, as he writes in the opening lines of Romans, that Jesus is declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord! Paul understood that God is forgiving sinful people and fixing the broken world not by a hard core keeping of commands but in Christ Jesus by faith. To be grabbed by Jesus is to be dragged into a new eternal reality where our standards of success and our priorities and the ways we measure what’s valuable and important no longer apply. My education, my zip code, my bank account, my vacation plans, my entertainment options — all of that is garbage! Everything that mattered to Paul before he knew Christ is meaningless now that he’s living in the light of Christ.

“Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith!”  ~Philippians 3:7-9

And Paul’s new understanding of Christ means he has a new view of the people of God.

Paul sees these rag-tag Jesus-followers as marginal people. They don’t have the religious chops, they’re not dedicated to the Law, they’re unworthy in dozens of ways. But on the Road to Damascus, Jesus says, “Paul, why are you persecuting me?” Jesus the Lord ties himself directly to these outsiders Paul’s trying to crush. Paul realizes that the people of God are people of faith, not people of a certain birthright or ethnicity or race. The days of using the Law to separate Jews and Gentiles are over. The community of God is no longer defined by race or color or sex or economic status or politics. As Paul says in Galatians, “We are all one in Christ Jesus!”

And you say, “Yes! Of course! We know all this!”

We don’t know it well enough. We don’t.

We still use Christian words and Christian phrases and Christian Scripture and Christian churches to elevate men over women and to separate black disciples from white disciples. We are still fighting to keep up the walls our Lord Jesus  died to tear down.

Paul saw things differently because he was changed by the Gospel.

“Through the Gospel, the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” ~Ephesians 3:6

Our God is right now today continuing to convert and call. May we pay attention to it. May we be open to it. And we be completely committed to it so our lives and our churches can be an everlasting glory to God.

Peace,

Allan

Jesus’ Judgment Will Be Final

“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all people by raising him from the dead.” ~Acts 17:30-31

JesusGloryThe resurrection proves that Jesus is the promised Messiah, it vindicates him as God’s Holy Son, as God’s chosen agent in making all things right. Jesus is the one who creates order and restores what’s been destroyed. When the Son of God returns, the powers of this world will finally be overthrown by the power of God, that power that was so fully displayed at the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

Hebrews 9 says Christ Jesus will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. His first coming was in humility to bring redemption; his second coming will be in glory to bring God’s salvation purposes to their long-awaited and majestic consummation. Jesus is coming back to restore his people, to rule in righteousness, and to make all things right.

We’ve all been reminded over the past few weeks that this whole world is immersed in evil. This entire planet is motivated by selfishness and greed, this earth is captivated by violence and force.

It’s sickening, it’s unsettling, it’s scary, and terribly sad. It’s awful. But our Lord sees every bit of it. None of this goes unnoticed by our Lord. None of the madness, none of the sadness. Every single tear drop that’s shed and every single drop of blood that’s spilled will be answered for.

If our Lord were not angered by evil, if injustice and wrongdoing didn’t make him mad, what kind of God would he be? If he were just going to ignore evil or pretend like it didn’t matter, he wouldn’t be holy and righteous.

Philippians 3 tells us the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, with the trumpet call of God. He has set a day. And that day is coming.

It might not be today. It might not be tomorrow. I don’t know when it’s going to be. But God is not going to tolerate sin forever. He won’t put up with violence and injustice and unfairness forever. God overlooked all kinds of ignorance in the past, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. Wicked and evil organizations may have their way for a while. They may kill and cheat and steal for a time. And it may get worse before it gets better. But if they don’t repent, they will pay for every one of their sins.

The resurrection proves that Jesus is the Son of God. The day has been set when he will judge the world. And that judgment will be final.

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RedCrossCarrie-Anne is slowly — very, very, very, very slowly — recovering from her surgery last Wednesday. She’s still really sore, the pain medicine still keeps her somewhat nauseated and dizzy, and her face is still slightly discolored and puffy. But she’s eating more solid food now, she’s talking more, she’s actually walking around the house, and smiling.

Thank you so much to Debbie V., Donna G, Callie Lou, Karen Cooper, and Becky Nordyke for the fabulous meals you’ve delivered to our home. You are dear and cherished friends. And thank all of you for your faithful prayers for my darling wife.

Her follow up appointment is this Thursday afternoon. There’s a chance they remove the two splints from her nasal passages then. We’re hoping so. Her eyes may water for three days afterward, but getting those splints out would be a giant step toward some relief.

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RangersClassicEvery year this decade the Texas Rangers have been in contention, Jon Daniels has made a blockbuster deal or two at the trade deadline to significantly improve the team. Apparently the White Sox were asking too much for pitcher Chris Sale. So JD went out and added a ton of power to his batting order with Beltran and Lucroy, and shored up the bullpen with Jeffress. I would imagine Texas might score more than five runs per game from here on out. It’s possible.

Yes, they gave away a ton of young, talented, minor league pitchers in the deals with Milwaukee and New York, but they’re still just absolutely loaded. Profar and Gallo remain with Texas, Mazara is only 21 years old and Odor is only 22, and the farm system, even after yesterday, is still going to be rated in the top ten in all of baseball. According to Daniels, major league teams inquired about the tradeability of more than 30 Rangers minor leaguers over the past three weeks.

It seems the Rangers have positioned themselves now to capture their fourth division crown in the past seven years. And, if they’re in the same situation this time next season, it looks like they’ll have plenty of talent down on the farm to make the same kind of aggressive, headline-grabbing deals.

Let’s Go, Rangers!
Clap, Clap.
Clap, Clap, Clap.

Allan

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