Category: Philippians (Page 1 of 10)

From Death to Life

“I AM the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will never die.” ~John 11:25-26

There’s a scene about a third of the way through the Temple of Doom movie in which Indiana Jones and his little sidekick, Short Round, are trapped in a room inside an evil castle. Short Round accidentally trips a lever and the walls start closing in. The four walls are coming in and the ceiling is coming down and long, pointed, metal spikes are coming up out of the floor and down from the ceiling. Indy and his little buddy are going to be crushed to death! The walls are coming closer and Indiana Jones is freaking out. He’s yelling at Kate Capshaw on the other side of the wall: Pull that lever! Stick your hand in there and pull that lever! But there are bugs and snakes in the wall and she just can’t do it. The spikes are coming down and the desperation builds and they zoom the camera in tight on Indiana Jones’ face. One spike comes up against his face. Another spike comes down and presses his hat against his temple. And he looks directly into the camera and says, “We. Are. Going. To. Die.”

No, you’re not. We know you’re not. Indiana Jones will never die.

He’s lowered into a pit of boiling lava, he’s walking on the outside of an airplane at 30,000 feet, he’s captured by Nazis, he’s strapped to a rotting suspension bridge a mile above a canyon floor, he’s brainwashed by murderous witch doctors – but he never dies. He keeps rescuing the children and saving the village and restoring the sacred stones and he always gets the girl and he never loses his hat.

Indiana Jones can live that way, recklessly doing what few will dare to do, because he knows he’ll never die. Why? Because he has an arrangement with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. They’ve already determined that Indiana Jones will never die.

“Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:10

Jesus Christ is the Lord of Life, the eternal author of life, the giver of all life. He came that we may have life and have it to the full. In his death and resurrection, a new age has dawned for those of us who believe. Death has nothing on you. Neither does sin. We are living right now in the new era of his resurrection. God’s Holy Spirit lives inside us. That exact same Spirit who brought Lazarus out of the grave and rolled the stone away on that third day and sat on it – that same Spirit lives inside you!

You’ve got the resurrection inside you! You’re dangerous! You’re invincible! You can’t be stopped!

And the call is still on. It’s still on.

So we don’t cower, we don’t hesitate, we don’t slow down or back off or ever walk away. Our attitude is: You can kill me, but you can’t hurt me! We know how the story ends and that impacts how we play our part.

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection!” ~ Philippians 3:10

So we love unconditionally and we forgive unflinchingly. We heal the sick and we feed the poor and we stand with the marginalized and the oppressed. We give and we serve uncompromisingly. We protect and provide for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger in the gate. We fight racism no matter the cost. We tear down walls no matter the opposition. And we deny ourselves and take up our crosses and unashamedly follow the one who laid down his life for the whole world!

No matter what chaos and confusion is out there, no matter what uncertainty surrounds you, sin and death do not have the final word. They do not have the final say. Our risen and reigning Lord Jesus is the author of life and he always writes the last line. And it’s good to have an arrangement with the writer.

Peace,

Allan

Do Everything

Immediately following the beautiful Christ Hymn in Philippians 2:6-11, the ancient Gospel song that describes the coming of Jesus and his death and resurrection for the salvation of the world, the apostle Paul commands us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling because God is at work in us according to his good purpose. So how do we do that? Any suggestions, Paul?

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the Word of life.” ~Philippians 2:14-16

This is not really what I would expect out of Paul. Maybe Peter or James, but not Paul. With Paul, I’m looking for some deep theology, some complicated insight. Where’s the rich and layered rhetoric? Where’s the complex argument? Instead, he gives us this very simple, very practical, very specific command: “Do everything without complaining or arguing.”

God’s purpose for you, what God is working in you, what transforms you into a blameless and pure child of God, what allows you to shine like a star, which is God’s will for you – it all begins with “Do everything without complaining or arguing.”

Everything. All things. The Greek word here is”panta.” It means total and complete. Every kind of. All of it. No matter how you translate it, there’s not a part of your life not covered here. Now, most of us are pretty good at doing most things without complaining or arguing. We’re pretty good most of the time. Some of us – let’s face it – don’t hardly do anything without complaining or arguing. Some of us aren’t happy unless we’re complaining or arguing.

At the restaurant, the customer service counter, the bank, or the post office – what happens if the people you’re complaining about or arguing with show up at your church the next Sunday? What will you say to them? You’ll have nothing to say to them! And it won’t matter because they won’t be listening anyway! Not anymore! Your Christian witness is hindered, if not completely destroyed. You don’t have any credibility.

You claim to be a child of the Almighty Creator of the Universe. You claim to belong to the eternal Lord who defeated sin and death and Satan and reigns forever at God’s right hand. You claim to be a citizen of of heaven, to belong to the everlasting Kingdom that cannot be shaken. You claim to belong to a Father who always provides and protects. But when you’re complaining and arguing, you’re telling the people around you that you don’t believe a word of it! Your behavior contradicts your beliefs. You live like your beliefs don’t really matter, they have no impact on your life.

How does your belief system and your faith, how does your allegiance to Christ and to his Kingdom, work for all the really big questions in life and solve all the planet-wide sin and suffering and death if it won’t even work at Whataburger? Or the grocery store?

We’ve got to take complaining and arguing as seriously as Paul does. Holding out the very Word of life is at stake. Shining as pure and uncontaminated light-givers in a dark world. Becoming children of God without fault, especially as the world sees us. Living free from anything blame-worthy. Beyond reproach, credible lights in a world that so desperately needs our Savior.

Peace,

Allan

$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

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