Our Blog

Do you #trust in the unquestionable #deliverance of #God?

Philippians 1:19 “(Yes, and I will rejoice), for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance.”

Joy can sometimes be so slippery in this life, can’t it? It slides down slopes of pain and heartache and loss, and then it shoots like a meteor when all is favorable and good. This sort of language and reality would have been nonsensical to the Apostle Paul, for his joy was consistent, no matter his circumstances, because it was founded on the Word of God. As long as “Christ is proclaimed” (v. 18), Paul says that he will rejoice. How? He does and will continue to be full of joy because he trusts God’s Word as well as knowing it. When he says that he knows that the prayers of the saints and Jesus Christ will invariably bring about his deliverance, he is quoting directly from Job 13:36. This is when Job prayed that he be delivered, or “saved,” from the horrors he was facing because he knew the faithfulness of God. Whether Paul meant “saved” as in from prison or accusation or life, the point is that Paul trusted God’s Word as well as knowing it. He rejoiced in knowing that his present trials and troubles were only temporary. Job was a righteous man, and the bible declares that God will deliver the righteous. (Job 36:7; Psalm 5:12, 34:15, 17) Paul knew that he had by imputation received the righteousness of Christ, and so he could be confident in his deliverance no matter the circumstance. We should know and trust in this too, for this is the place of joy. This confidence and trust in our Father is the steady ground upon which we rejoice.

Study/Meditation: Using a concordance, do a word search of the word “righteous,” looking for all of the places where God’s Word declares that He will deliver the righteous. Use this list in your study time every day as trials hit, taking comfort from and trust in God’s promises to deliver His children.

*Father, thank You for giving me the gift of Jesus’ righteousness, which results in receiving Your deliverance. Amen.

Fully Saturated with Christ

What does it mean to be fully saturated with #Christ?

 

Philippians 1:18 “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, I will rejoice.”

 

Paul had just told the Philippians that he was aware of the different men who were preaching the gospel while he was in chains. He knew that some of them did so out of love for Christ and that some did so out of vanity or rivalry with him. What was Paul’s response? He literally asked, “So what?” He quite literally was so Christ-saturated and Christ-centered that his only concern was whether or not the gospel was being preached. Slander and false intentions could not deter him in his single minded goal of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ to everyone possible. Furthermore, his response wasn’t ambivalence to the cruel intentions and slander thrown his way. He wrote that as long as Christ was being preached, “In that I rejoice.” His joy was a direct result of the proclamation of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice. He said he rejoiced then, and that seeing and knowing that Jesus is preached will determine his joy in the future: “Yes, I will rejoice.” Do we have that kind of dedication to the Great Commission? Can we look past the sometimes cruel actions and intentions of others and how those things make us feel and live only in terms of Christ glorified? Let us come to the Throne of Grace over and over as we strive to be more like Paul, fully dedicated only to our Lord, with self securely out of frame.

 

Study/Meditation: Why do you think Paul could dismiss those who were preaching with wrong motives? How can you apply that to your life today?

 

*Father, help me each day to look beyond my own feelings toward the only true purpose, which is to glorify You. Amen.

 

The Battle Against Self

Our #battle as #believers is against self as much as it is against Satan.

 

Philippians 1:15-17 “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.”

 

Paul’s imprisonment was leading many to Christ, and it was emboldening some to preach the gospel more fearlessly. Unfortunately, some of that fearlessness was prideful and self-seeking. Some felt a boldness to preach now that Paul was out of the way, seeing it more as an opportunity to get in on what they saw as his influence or even his fame. One of the saddest realities about humanity is its propensity toward self-exaltation. We are creatures of self. Without constant diligence, everything we do and think and say will be about our own comfort, happiness, and advancement. It is who we are naturally. Only by way of sanctification in Christ can we move out of our own way and place Him at the center of our lives and of our motivations in our lives. Many apparently struggled with that during Paul’s day. Many of us struggle with that today. As we move through our lives now, let us be aware of our propensity toward self-centeredness, while at the same time offering grace to our fellow brethren who struggle with the same things.

 

Study/Meditation: In what ways might you preach the gospel out of selfish ambition rather than to show the perfect glory and grace of God? What should your response be to such things?

 

*Father, forgive me for my selfishness. Thank You for giving me the Holy Spirit’s influence in my life so that I have the avenue by which I can see beyond myself to You. Amen.

 

Living Examples

Our lives as #Christians should be examples to believers and unbelievers alike.

 

Philippians 1:14 “And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”

 

The Roman Christians were truly persecuted. They were scoffed at, ridiculed, and disrespected at every turn, and even more than that, their lives were in danger because of their Christian beliefs. They found themselves discouraged and fearful, often remaining quiet in the face of such peril. However, Paul once again demonstrated the clear and correct attitude after which we are to seek in our Christian walks, which is one of selfless endeavors toward proclaiming the glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul was in prison, and there he was continually speaking of salvation and the changing power of the blood of his Savior. As a result, not only were many of the prison guards coming to know the Lord, but his brothers and sisters in Rome who were witnessing his bold confidence while in chains were becoming more confident themselves. Consequently, they too were benefiting from Paul’s unrelenting dedication to preaching the gospel. Yes, unbelievers watch our lives. They will many times take their cues about Christianity from the way that we behave and the things that we say, and then we praise God when some of them come to know Him through those things. What we must remember is that our fellow believers are also watching, and when we persevere selflessly and in joy, looking ever forward to the eternity that awaits us, often they gain courage and strength from our lives. The Christ-centered life of a believer is an influential one, and it is in this that we remain ever diligent.

 

Study/Meditation: Read Colossians 3:12-17. (http://www.esvbible.org/Colossians+3/) How does this directive from Paul to the Colossian church help us present good examples in our lives for our fellow brothers and sisters?

 

*Father, thank You for Your saving grace. Help me to know better how I can display Your majesty, glory, and love to all those around me. Amen.

 

headshotBy: Doris Carlson

“By the time I was twenty three years old, I was a mother of three children, ranging from 9 months to 5 years old. I found myself living 1,800 miles from family, with a husband who traveled 5 days a week.”

As I look back now, I can see that I was really a ‘needy’ person… pretty much from the ‘get-go’. I did well in school, but I used lying, deceit and “illness” to get the attention that I craved.

My dad was a successful Kansas dairy farmer. My mom worked very hard to keep up with farm chores and babies, especially after her mother and her mother-in-law died of illnesses. Life on a farm during the Second World War was, indeed, challenging (ration cards, no indoor plumbing, no electricity, gas lights, and an “ice box” for a refrigerator.) Mom and Dad were good parents and also strong Christians.

I was the youngest of three kids born in 3½ years. The day before I was born, my mom cooked for 12 harvesters. No wonder my mom would say that my birth put her in ‘overload’! While she didn’t mean any harm, she would reflect on those circumstances, when chatting with friends in my presence. As a result, I came to believe that I was a big mistake! To make matters worse, my eyes were ‘crossed’ necessitating surgery when I was 5.

Then, when I was 12 years old, my family had to relocate to Tucson, for health reasons. I went from a class of 6 farm-kids to a school with 400 city-kids… just in 8th grade! That was a sort of cultural shock. I didn’t feel very ‘cool’.

As for my relationship with God, I had answered an ‘alter call’ and was baptized at the age of 5. While I believed in Jesus as my personal Savior, there was no fruit or power in my life. Church was mostly a social event.

Later on, I met my husband, Dave, at church. I started dating him when I was 14 and he was 17. We married when I was 16. I became a mom at 17. We were immature and under enormous pressure. Can you imagine that our life did not resemble marital bliss?

By the time I was twenty three years old, I was a mother of three children, ranging from 9 months to 5 years old. I found myself living 1,800 miles from family, with a husband who traveled 5 days a week. He was absorbed in his work-reports on the weekends. I was lonely and angry… and Dave was pre-occupied with his job. Quarreling was a way of life for us.

After a particularly bad argument on a Sunday morning, I picked up my kids and headed for church while Dave stayed behind. On the way to church I cried out to God. I said “God, you have to do something!” I had in mind something to “straighten out” my husband. God heard my plea, but to my surprise, His work was to be in me, not my husband.

I dropped the oldest two children in Sunday school and the baby in the nursery. I walked into the service while the congregation was singing the Doxology. I suddenly found myself reciting the first verse of 1Corintians 13 in my head. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” I had memorized that verse in VBS when I was 12, but had rarely thought about it since. I also had a vision of a tongue of fire simultaneously as I was quoting the scripture. I uttered out loud “Oh, God, you mean love, that’s what’s wrong, it’s me”! I was so overwhelmed I walked out of the service and went home.

Dave had left a note that he had gone fishing. I took my Bible, and on my knees with the help of a concordance, I looked up and read every reference I could find on love. In the next hour, God infused every cell of my body with His love! When I got off my knees to go back to church for the kids, all of my neediness had vanished and I was for the first time in my life satisfied! I was a completely new creation!

I waited for Dave to come home so I could share my experience with him. He was glad I was happy, but a bit puzzled about how to deal with me. Suddenly, sermons were spell-binding and the Bible was all I wanted to read! The smile on my face was impossible to wipe off. I was, in fact, NEW!

I have thought about how God has brought newness to my life. First, I’m sure our marriage of 46+ years would have failed before year ten. Second, my children would have not been exposed to God’s redemptive love from their mom. You simply can’t give what you don’t have. Third, God provided the power to cope with the new challenges just around the corner. God taught me to trust Him and rely on Him when I was REALLY lonely!

Rather than make things easy for me, God ‘upped the ante’ by giving me some real culture shock! Just two years after my extraordinary experience with Him. Dave was transferred to Madrid, Spain with his company. When he was traveling, I was left alone with our four children, ranging from 6 months to 8 years, without the benefit of even being able to make myself understood. I spoke no Spanish. There was no English-speaking church. I had no idea what I was doing in the European culture. (Remember, I was a Kansas farm kid!)

While this was a very hard, exciting, scary time… it was also a sweet time of fellowship with God. He was all I had to rely on! All of the normal props had been pulled out from under me.

Simply put, His love sustained me.

Five years later, we returned to Tucson where Dave returned to school for a graduate degree and I went to work for the first time in my life. Once again, there were many challenges; juggling family and work time, and intense financial stress as Dave struggled with starting a new business. I held onto the knowledge that God loved and cared for me and my family. I remembered how He had met me in my most desperate times of need, when I was hopeless. He didn’t choose to make the burden lighter; instead He gave me His strength to carry it!!

Our children are all married with big families (twenty grandchildren to date). All have found that the God who was faithful to their parents… is also faithful to them. They now share His love with their children and bless many others with their lives.

My prayer is that you, too, will find a need so great that you cry out to Him, so He can make you NEW!

A Life that Advances the Gospel

Does your life serve to advance the #gospel?

 

Philippians 1:12 “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”

 

The Philippians were concerned about Paul’s well-being. They had not heard from him in almost two years, and then they got word that he had been imprisoned. They sent Epaphroditus to check on him and see how they might help. In reality, Paul was in prison. As a matter of fact, he was chained to a Roman guard 24 hours a day, but Paul’s only concern in his corresponding letter to the Philippian church was that they rest in knowing that the gospel was being advanced. Paul demonstrates what so many cannot fathom: The Christian life is not about a life concerned with self, about what will bring us fulfillment or the most pleasure. The Christian life is one of self-sacrifice where we continually say no to self and yes to those things that proclaim God’s glory. Paul writes to reassure the Philippian church that what was most important—that the gospel was being proclaimed—was happening because of his imprisonment, so he and they were to rejoice in that. His reaction was not, “What is happening to me?” but “What is happening to the gospel?” As James Boyce puts it, “In one deft sentence Paul shifts the legitimate interests of the Philippians from himself to the great undeterred purposes of God in history.” (Philippians: An Expositional Commentary [Zondervan], p. 60) In all of our lives, let us focus not on the comforts of self and determine our joy from that, but let us take our example from Paul and make everything we do and the measure of the joy in those things dependent solely on the advancement of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

 

Study/Meditation: In what ways can you improve your attitude when it comes to finding joy not in your circumstances but in the work of God in your life?

 

 

*Father, forgive me for losing focus sometimes. Help me remember that all I do and all the measure of what I do is about You. Amen.