Category: Philippians (Page 2 of 10)

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.



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.


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.


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.


Vision Statement: Part Two

The second half of our new vision statement at Central is about Christian ministry. This is what God is doing through us. As we become like Christ, as we are shaped more into his image, the natural outcome will be ministry. This is God’s great purpose and will for his people: to call and save and change people so they can sacrifice and serve the world. As we act more like Jesus, as we increasingly think and behave like our Lord, we’ll sacrifice and serve like him. We’ll notice that God is working in us and through us for the benefit of others. Just like Jesus.

“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

Paul is saying we know how Jesus lived. We know what Jesus was all about. In his own words, Jesus said he did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life. And Scripture says if you’re going to claim to follow him, you’ve got to live like him.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.” ~Philippians 2:5-7

Admittedly, this is a hard truth to hear. So we all have to work on it together. But, as God’s children and devout followers of his Son, it’s not about us. It’s always ultimately about God using us, transforming us and using us to benefit others.

So… the blank. Yeah, we’ve got probably the first ever fill-in-the-blank vision statement in the history of vision statements. But we left it open-ended like that for several reasons.

Ownership – We want each member at Central to see herself or himself in this statement, to own it, to consider how they and God together are going to complete the sentence. What goes in the blank? This statement is both what God is doing in you and what God is doing through you. But we’re not going to fill in the blank for you. That’s for you to discern. You take it and wrestle with it. This is about your ministry. We want everybody in the church to have that kind of focus: What is God doing through me? Who is God impacting through me? And you fill in the blank. Everybody’s blank will be different; and they ought to be. You fill it in yourself. We don’t want to place any limits on our God on box in your imagination about God’s possibilities to do incredible things through you, things that are beyond anything you could ever ask or imagine.

Opportunity – I think this blank is intriguing to outsiders, maybe even provocative. I think the blank might lead to questions and conversations with others. People at work, people at school, maybe your mailman comes up to you: “Hey, you go to Central. What’s up with that blank?” And, you’re ready. Because you own this thing. And you launch! “Here’s how Jesus is changing me. Here’s how God is growing my faith. And here’s what he’s doing through me.” Bang! All of a sudden, you’re sharing the Gospel. You never would have approached this person to have that kind of conversation, but they approached you. And you started sharing the good news: Here’s what God is doing in me and here’s what God is doing through me. Because you own it.

Flexibility – The blank can change depending on the way life happens for each of us, depending on the different circumstances God puts in front of us and the life stages that bring their own set of transitions.

Fit – It just makes sense. It works really well with our increased focus on the narrative nature of Scripture and finding our own places and roles in the ongoing story of God.

And, finally, this last caution: This is not your blank, it’s God’s blank. You don’t just fill this in for yourself based on what you want to do. It’s not “Becoming like Christ for the sake of making my sales numbers” or “for the sake of losing 30 pounds” or “for the sake of not killing the kids this week.” The idea is to discern with God and our community of faith at Central your purpose in God’s plans. The whole statement should be engaged as “God’s Spirit is changing me for his purposes; now what is that purpose and how do I enter into it with everything I’ve got?”

Discipleship and Mission go together. Transformation and Ministry go hand-in-hand. Following Jesus and serving others are inseparable realities. The life of our Lord and the witness of Scripture are clear: you don’t really have one without the other.

This is who we are at Central. This is our identity and our vision. The statement is not a strategy — the formation zones are not a program or a plan. It’s a commitment to fostering an environment that places transformation and ministry above all else.



The Superman Verse

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” ~Philippians 4:13

This might be one of the most popular verses in the whole Bible. I’m sure you’ve seen this verse printed on inspirational posters and gifts, silk screened on T-shirts and hoodies, emblazoned on coffee mugs and bumper stickers. You might have a Philippians 4:13 tattoo. We are very familiar with this verse. Seemingly everybody knows this verse. And it’s used, mainly, for personal motivation. Tim Tebow wore this verse on his face while he quarterbacked the University of Florida. Boxer Evander Holyfield was decked out from head to toe in this verse when he fought Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis. This is primarily how the verse is used.

“I can do all my pushups through him who gives me strength.”
“I can win my baseball game through Christ who strengthens me.”
“I can complete the marathon through him who gives me strength.”
“I can be strong through Christ who gives me strength.”

This verse has become for a lot of people our Superman verse. “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” So that if I say it enough and believe it enough, I’ll be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound; I can go where no man has gone before. And in our overly individualized western culture with its overly emphasized focus on personal achievement and individual success, this thing has turned in to, first, “I can do all things…” or “I can do everything…” or I’ve even seen it as “I can do anything…” and, secondly, “my faith in Christ is going to get me there.” So we jump out of the phone booth with the big “S” on our chests and “Phil.4:13” on our capes, appealing mainly to our reliance on positive thinking and will power, ready to conquer the world!

“I can get that new job!”
“I can have the perfect marriage!”
“I can get that college scholarship!”
“I can beat this cancer!”
“I can dominate the defensive lineman on the other side of the ball or the lady in the office who stands between me and the bonus!”

There’s nothing wrong with positive thinking and there’s nothing wrong with hard work and doing your best. I’m all for that and I believe our Lord is, too. But this passage is not “I can do anything I want if I set my mind to it and just believe.” It’s not “I can accomplish any goal by my faith.” This is not about making the sales numbers or passing the semester exam or winning the golf tournament or losing 20 pounds. This verse is here not to tell you that you can be rich, but to tell you that you are already rich, even if you don’t have a penny. It’s not here to tell you that you can be powerful and strong, but to tell you that you’re already powerful and strong, even if you’ve never worked out in a gym.

Notice, the apostle Paul is not concerned at all in this passage with what he himself wants. He doesn’t write, “I can get out of jail, I can beat this rap, I can escape death through Christ who gives me strength.” He doesn’t say, “I can find a steady job, I can get married and settle down, I can stay off of those ships through him who strengthens me.” When Paul proclaims he can do everything through God in Christ, he talking about doing everything God’s called him to do. He’s talking about serving others in humility and sacrifice, regardless of his own personal circumstances. Whether he’s in need or whether he has plenty, well fed or hungry, living in plenty or in want, either way, I can do what God is calling me to do. I can put the needs of others ahead of my own, I can consider others better than myself, I can look to the interests of others, no matter my own personal situation. Paul is saying, “Whatever I happen to be going through, good or bad, has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not I’m living the Gospel and extending God’s love and mercy to others.”

Can you imagine? Patiently listening to the grumbling neighbor, serving my grumpy neighbor, when I’m not sure how I’m going to pay my bills this month? Taking a cake or writing a card to the sick lady from my Bible class when I’ve got tons of reports stacking up at work? Forgiving my cousin when what she said about me has wounded me so deeply? Visiting and loving and encouraging others when the Multiple Sclerosis is wracking my body with so much pain I can barely walk? Flying to Africa to serve orphaned children when my husband was just killed in a motorcycle accident last month? Does anybody really live like that? If so, how?

Certainly not with their own strength. That’s impossible.

We are not in charge. We are not the masters of our destiny. We are not the captains of our lives. God didn’t die and make you boss. If we are Christians, Christ Jesus is our Lord. We are not our own; we are bought with a price. It’s not about our dreams, our goals, our agendas, and then getting God to help us with them. It’s about Christians like Paul, Christians like the brothers and sisters in Philippi, Christians like you and the people at your church, doing God’s will, working out God’s salvation, persevering in God’s mission in God’s way, no matter our circumstances.



Prayer and Peace: Part 3

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4:6-7

I’ve suggested this week that Paul is telling the Christians in Philippi that giving everything to God in prayer will result in the Lord’s blessings of heavenly peace ONLY in the context of a relationship with Jesus based on the things he had already written leading up to this point in the letter. Giving everything to God in prayer must be accompanied by giving all of your everything to God. Period.

Paul assumes that disciples of Jesus are still awed and grateful for their salvation (Tuesday), still confident of God’s love and care (yesterday), and identified in the Lord.

Timothy Keller gives us a couple of cinematic illustrations at the beginning of his powerful chapter ten (“The Problem of Sin”) in The Reason for God. He points out that Sylvester Stallone’s character in the movie Rocky is determined to go the distance in his fight because, as Rocky declares, “If I go the distance, then I’ll know I’m not a bum.” Similarly, one of the main characters in Chariots of Fire describes his motivation for training for the one hundred yard dash this way: “At the beginning of every race, I have ten lonely seconds to justify my existence.”

Both of these men were looking to athletic achievement as the defining force that gave meaning to their lives. I’m an athlete. As long as I excel in athletics, then I matter. I’m important. I’m a somebody. I have a purpose. But if I fail. I’m a nobody. I don’t matter. Because I’m athlete. That’s a pretty tough thing to live up to.

But we’re all looking for that same significance. Every one of us needs to matter. We all need to have worthy. And if we’re looking to anything other than Christ for that identity, we’ll never have peace.

Think about it for a second. Where is your identity? Who are you? I’m a successful doctor. I’m a business owner. I’m a great mother. I’m a proud American. I’m an elite runner. I’m a loyal Republican. I’m a popular teacher.

If that’s your absolute value, if everything in your life revolves around that identity, that’s a problem. If that’s actually who you are, you’re going to devote a lot of time and energy to it; you’re going to devote a lot of passion and intensity to it. This thing that is central to your significance, your purpose, your happiness — it becomes your god. It’s your savior. It’s where you put all your resources. It’s where you find your emotional well being. And it’s shaky, at best.

I’m a great mother. Well, what happens if something goes wrong with your children? Or your parenting? Now you’re a loser?
I’m a successful doctor. Fine, but what happens if you lose a patient? What happens if technology passes you by? Now you’re a nobody?
I’m a proud American. OK, but what happens if the country starts to go downhill?
I’m an elite runner. Great, but what happens if you get a disease? Or you get old?
I’m a loyal Republican. Well, what happens if the Democrats are in charge?
I’m a popular teacher. Fine, but what happens if people stop coming to your classes?

If anything threatens your identity, you’ll become anxious. Maybe even paralyzed with fear. If my daughter goes down the drain, then my whole life is a failure! If I can’t teach anymore, then my life will have no purpose! If I get that disease, my whole life will be ruined! If they legalize gay marriage in Texas, then we will have lost everything!

Some parents are probably a little too wrapped up in the accomplishments of their children. We all might need to evaluate how much we’re tied in to our jobs. And I think the unrest in the world and the increased secularization of the United States is causing God’s children more anxiety and stress than it should.

Your identity as a person is everything. So, if you lose your identity because somebody messes up or somebody fails, you’ll be resentful, maybe even locked up in bitterness. If you lose your identity through your own mistakes or shortcomings, you might despise yourself or see yourself as a failure your whole life. Either way, these things don’t hold up. There’s no peace.

That’s why Paul reminds these Philippians throughout this whole letter that their identity is in Christ. He addresses it to the saints in Christ Jesus (1:1). I am in chains, he says, for Christ (1:13). You are preaching in the Lord (1:14). We rejoice in the Lord (3:1, 4:4). I’m hoping in the Lord (2:19). I am confident in the Lord (2:24). Euodia and Syntyche, agree with each other in the Lord (3:2). We worship by the Spirit of God, Paul says, and we glory in Christ Jesus and we put no confidence in the flesh (3:3).

“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.” ~Philippians 3:7-9

If your identity is in Christ, if your true self is in Jesus, you’ll never be threatened. He is Lord. What’s going to take him down? If everything about you is based on Jesus — your self worth, your security, your future, who you are, your significance, your identity — if all that rests in Christ, you can’t lose it. You can’t mess it up. Nobody else can mess it up for you. If Jesus is your center, nothing can upset that.

Of course, placing your all in Christ is the hard part.

C. S. Lewis, in an essay entitled “Is Christianity Hard or Easy?” summed it up:

“The almost impossibly hard thing is to hand over your whole self to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead.”



Prayer and Peace: Part 2

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4:6-7

I suggested yesterday that Paul is telling the Christians in Philippi that giving everything to God in prayer will result in an experience of divine peace ONLY in the context of a prayerful life lived according to the things Paul had already written in the letter up to this point. Prayer is not a technology or a technique in which we try to get God to give us what we want. It’s not a matter of saying the right words or setting the proper mood or how many times you pray or how many people you get to pray with you or for you. Prayer, to Paul, is an attitude. It’s a manner of living. It’s a way of looking at God and the world that’s based on a real relationship with Christ Jesus.

So, yes, prayer results in peace, assuming you are still shocked by your salvation (yesterday) and confident of God’s care (today).

At the very beginning of the letter, Paul says he is confident that this good thing God has started in you, he will finish. He will see it through (1:6). God is working in you, he says, he’s working through you to make sure it happens (2:13). Paul’s in chains, but that’s causing more and more people to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly (1:14). Whatever’s happening to me, Paul writes, will turn out in the end to be for my deliverance (1:19). I am confident, Paul asserts, that I myself will be able to see you soon (2:24).

This isn’t a superficial obliviousness that ignores reality. Paul’s not whistling past the graveyard. He really does trust in the love of God that saves him and the love of God that is taking care of him and protecting him. All of Paul’s circumstances are in God’s hands. God is fully sovereign and totally in control of everything that’s happening to Paul. And Paul’s great with that because he knows that God loves him.

Of course, Paul got this from the example of Jesus.

Peter had the same idea. “When they hurled their insults at Christ Jesus, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to God” (1 Peter 2:23).

Peter’s got it. And Paul’s got it. And they both got it from Jesus.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7) sounds a lot like “Do not be anxious about anything… present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6).

I would encourage you today to give to God in prayer that one thing that’s eating you up. It’s keeping you awake at night and distracting you during the day and totally stressing you out all the time. It’s that thing that’s just hanging over you. Give it to God in prayer right now. Don’t ask God to fix it. Don’t ask him to make it better or solve it or make it go away. Just give it to God and tell him you trust him. Tell him you know he’s in control and you’re good with that. Because you’re confident that he loves you and that he cares for you.



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