Weeping for Enemies of the Cross (Philippians)

Philippians 3:17-18 ESV Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. (18) For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.

Several years ago I was cutting the grass. When suddenly my wife came in the backyard and took a picture of me. I thought it was weird that she was in such a hurry to snap a picture until I turned around and saw my little son pushing a toy lawn mower behind me. He was walking in my footsteps. He wanted to be like his dad.

Paul reinforces and encourages the church at Philippi to imitate him and those like him. Growing in Christ often looks like taking steps behind those the Lord has put in our life as examples of godly living. It’s one thing to be told that you should have a personal quiet time every morning. It’s another to be on a retreat and have an older friend in the Lord invite you in to see how they begin their day in the scriptures.

Paul also was crying as he wrote this. He was crying because there were folks he knew that had come in and were preaching a gospel of works. They were examples to many people, some perhaps had even left the church to follow after these teachers. Paul reminds us that not everyone who has a platform is worth following. There were some false teachers who weren’t worth following. The folks at Philippi needed to be careful about whom they imitated. Yet even in sharing his sorrow, Paul demonstrates a godly reaction to those who had made themselves enemies of the cross by teaching a system of works… tears.

Father, thank you for the gospel. Thank you for mature believers in Christ who can demonstrate the practical application of your scriptures and who exhibit godly lifestyles. May there be many who walk in their footsteps towards a mature faith in Christ. I confess I haven’t wept enough for those who have made themselves enemies of the cross. Thank you for the reminder today that while they may persecute us, they are not ultimately our enemies, they have made themselves your enemies. I pray for grace that they may have a Damascus road type conversion for your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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I wrote a expository devotional all the way through Philippians. You can find it on the devotional page.

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Every Body Needs Coaching (Ephesians 4-6)

Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, (12) to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (13) until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, (14) so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (15) Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, (16) from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Every good team needs coach. The coach is the one who puts all the players into perspective. He/ she evaluates players different skill sets, teaches the fundamentals, keeps the team in shape, and works the team through practicing the plays. Then on game day the coaches determine who plays, when they play, and what plays to run in a given situation. If coaches do there job well, the entire team does well.

The Lord has given us coaches within the body of Christ who are there to help us develop and coordinate our individual gifts for the sake of the whole body. The goal is to bring God’s people to maturity both individually and corporately. Pastors/ teachers are not there to simply educate or inform us, but to equip us for the work of ministry.

Sometimes a congregation can expect one or two individuals to do everything. They imagine that they pay the pastor(s) to do all the work. That would be like paying a coach to play the game while the rest of the team sits on the sidelines and criticizes him/her. That’s not a healthy team and it’s not healthy when a church operates that way. It’s healthy when you and I exercise our gifts in relation to one another for the glory of God. Some encourage, others serve, still others figure out administration, others teach, and others still offer hospitality, etc. and the pastor encourages and equips so that nothing is missing from the people of God. We are all well trained, well loved, well encouraged, and we mature and help others mature in the faith.

Father, thank you for the grace of one another. Thank you that Christianity isn’t an individual event, but that you have called us together and placed us with in the context of one another to form your church. I pray that we would know and exercise our gifts in relationship to one another in such a way that everyone is encouraged, strengthened, and growing in the Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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(Ephesians 1-3)

Ephesians 1:22-23 ESV And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 2:20-22 ESV built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Paul uses three different metaphors for the church in the book of Ephesians (the Body of Christ, the Building/temple of God, and the Bride of Christ). He uses two here in just the first few chapters. He is demonstrating who the church is and how it relates to the Lord.

In the first metaphor the church is the body of Christ. This understanding is fleshed out further some of Paul’s other writings. They key takeaway is that the head of the church/ body of Christ is Christ himself. The whole church answers to Jesus Christ as the head.

The second metaphor relates the church as a living building/temple. Jesus Christ is the cornerstone. The cornerstone was the most important stone in the building. Every other stone would line up in relation to the cornerstone.

The point of both of these metaphors is that Jesus Christ is a big deal. The church exist by him and for him. We all line up together according to His purpose and will. We are united in our relationship to Him.

If we aren’t careful we’ll get off track. We’ll anticipate that the church is something else entirely. We need to be reminded that Jesus, not the pastor, not the deacons, not the Sunday school teachers, is the head of the church. It’s not my church or your church as much as we are His church.

Father, thank you for the grace of one another day. Thank you for your church and how you use us to minister to one another. Thank you that we don’t line up to each other, but that we all line up to you. Show us what You would have us to do today. May we all be humbly submitted before you this day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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We Reap What We Sow (Galatians 4-6)

Galatians 6:7-10 NKJV Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Several years ago I set up a small garden in our back yard. I read up on gardening. I built a raised bed, purchased good soil, worked in compost, and even let a few night crawlers go that were left over from a fishing trip. Yet all of that study and preparation didn’t produce any tomatoes. It wasn’t until I planted tomatoes that some time later saw tomatoes growing in my garden. What get’s planted is what get’s harvested. I could have done all that preparation and planted something different. I could have left it to the birds and wind to plant and I’d have a garden bed full of weeds.

The Apostle Paul reminds us that what we sow into our lives is eventually what we will reap. There can be a lot of waiting between sowing and reaping. We are reminded that everything that we intentionally place into our lives or do for the glory of God will produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

This should encourage us in three ways. One is to sow to the Spirit. We should do the things that please and honor God knowing that this will produce the fruit of the Spirit. Second, we should continue to sow to the Spirit with patience. Just as a farmer waits for the crop to germinate, push through the soil, and finally produce fruit, we often reap the greatest fruit long after a seed has been planted. There are verses of scripture that I memorized as a child or teenager that are still being called to mind and producing fruit in my life today. Third, we need to be diligent to take every thought captive, knowing that even small seeds sown to the flesh will produce a harvest and create chaos in the garden of our lives.

Father, thank you for you Word. I rejoice that we have freedom in Christ to take every thought captive and ask that you give me grace to filter can catch anything I would be sowing to my flesh. I also rejoice that what we sow to the Spirit produces real and lasting fruit in our lives. I pray that I would live a Spirit filled and empowered life where the fruit of the spirit is evident in my life. IIn Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Playing With Wrong Motives (Galatians 1-3)

Galatians 2:11-14 ESV But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Growing up I used to love to play basketball. I would always go to the park and play pick-up games with whoever was there. Normally I was a really good team player. I’d set picks, pass the ball to my teammates, played an aggressive defense, and took good shots. Yet, whenever the girls would come to watch some of us play, my game changed. I didn’t pass the ball as much and I took way too many bad shots. The reason was simple. I wasn’t playing to win anymore, I was playing to impress the ladies. I was playing with the wrong motives.

Cephas was a leader in the church who was acting hypocritically. Even though he was from a Jewish background, he was visiting and eating in the homes of the gentiles on a regular basis (A great thing for pastors to do.) It was a very real demonstration of how we are saved by faith in Christ and not the rituals that we keep. Yet when the Jewish folks came from headquarters, Cephas began playing a different game and no longer went to eat/ visit with the gentiles. So much so, that other folks who were looking to Cephas as an example stopped hanging out with the gentiles as well. This was a problem because it also communicated that the faith of the gentiles was inferior because they weren’t born into a Jewish family and they didn’t keep all the religious customs of the Jews.

Paul knew better, he’d fought many battles with folks who’d antagonized him on this issue, been to the first ever church council to clarify a major doctrine, and had seen many gentile believers firmly established in the faith. Yet now he encountered a church leader who had changed the way he was doing ministry and it was hurting the church. Paul called him out on it publicly because it was a public issue that affected the entire church. Public sins should be dealt with in public, private sins should be addressed in private.

This isn’t just an issue for church leaders though. Each day we have an opportunity to live a clear gospel witness. Indeed through the great commission we are called to take the gospel to the whole world. We may encounter some situations where we find ourselves hiding or muddying the waters on the gospel in order to fit in with the crowd. In such instances we may be playing to an audience rather than running the race the Lord has put before us.

Father, thank you for the grace. Thank you for friends and ministers like Paul in our lives who will call us out in our sin for the sake of the gospel. I pray that you give us wisdom and courage to live a clear gospel witness in whatever we do. Give us wisdom in living out a clear gospel witness today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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The God of Peace (2 Corinthians 13)

2Corinthians 13:11 ESV Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

I dislocated my shoulder when I was a teenager. At first we weren’t exactly sure what had happened, so I attempted to throw something and the pain was more than I could handle. I ended up at the hospital and everything was put back right. The pain didn’t immediately disappear but after a few weeks of physical therapy I was pretty much pain free again.

Sometimes there are folks who get “out of joint” with the body of Christ. They have sinned and the church needs to practice church discipline (such as Paul addresses in 1 Cor. 5) or they grieve one another with their conduct (such as suing one another, bragging about spiritual gifts, eating meat sacrificed to idols in front of a weaker brother, or the other incidents mentioned in 1 Corinthians). When a brother or sister is out of alignment with the body in these ways it is painful, tender to the touch, and no real spiritual work gets done. What needs to happen is reconciliation and restoration.

Paul reminds the church that if we are to ever really experience the peace of God, we always need to aim for restoration. This is how the body of Christ heals when we experiences damage in our relationships with one another. We can’t just bury it, hide it, or go on as if nothing happened. We need to be comforting one another, agreeing with one another, and seeking peace. After all, God is a God of love and peace.

The questions we can ask ourselves in reflection today is this: Is there anything I’m doing that might cause the body of Christ to be out of joint? Are there molehills that I’ve turned into mountains? Are there things I’ve done to cause my brother to stumble? Is there blatant sin in the camp that needs to be addressed? Is there someone who is seeking reconciliation that I need to forgive?

Father, thank you that you are a God of peace. Thank you for the peace that was made with us through Jesus Christ. Thank you that you have put us together with other believers to be the body of Christ. I pray that when we find ourselves at odds with one another that we do everything with in our power to seek reconciliation. I ask that we always practice church discipline with an aim towards restoration. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Glorifying God in our Weaknesses (2 Corinthians 10-12)

2Corinthians 12:9 NKJV And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

We had a tough conversation at the little league ball park the other night. The coach had shared that we had a record number of boys sign up and we ended up with 16 kids on the roster. That means that some games, some kids won’t play. Everyone wants to see their kid play and no one wants to invite relatives to a game where their kids doesn’t play. It is a less than ideal situation.

After the parent meeting I shared with the coach that whatever decisions he had to make that affected our boy, we were behind him 100%. I shared that we were there to learn team work and sportsmanship and sometimes that meant sitting out so someone else could have a chance to step up. Even if we don’t get to don a batting helmet or glove in a game, we’ll still be cheering on and boasting in the accomplishments of the team.

I sat my son down and told him that he had a bigger role on his team this year than he has ever had. In the games where he plays a lot as well as games where he shows up, dressed to play, but gets little to no game time, he is to be the number one encourager for his team. Instead of reliving the outs and at bats that he got, he will get to help the team remember all of their successes. If he can do that, playing the bench may actually be creating room for a bigger purpose in his life.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not an ideal situation. I’d rather all the boys play all the time, but sometimes we need to recognize our obstacles as opportunities. The Lord is sovereign. He does what He pleases. Sometimes He allows setbacks, challenges, and even tragedies to shape our character. He hasn’t left us alone though. He has promised He will never leave nor forsake us. Paul points out that even though he struggles in weakness, God is strong, God’s Grace is sufficient, and Paul’s weakness gives him an opportunity to boast in the Lord even more.

Sometimes we imagine the Christian life will be pain and problem free. The truth is that it is filled with challenges. What is unique is how we can face those challenges by trusting in Jesus through them. When we face setbacks, health issues, financial issues, relational issues, etc., we can rejoice in the fact that God’s grace is more than enough for whatever we face.

Father, thank you for your grace that is enough. Thank you that even when we struggle with weakness, infirmities, set backs, and losses that you are more than enough. Thank you that we can call on you and you are an ever present help in a time of trouble. Thank you that when we are stripped of pride in our own accomplishments that we can still boast in YOU. Give us grace to trust you in the good times as well as the bad. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Godly Sorrow (2 Corinthians 7-9)

2Corinthians 7:10 ESV For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

I went to see the doctor for a check up a few weeks ago. We had a great conversation until he told me that I was fat. To be honest, it stung a little to hear. I knew that it was true, but I didn’t like him saying it. He was encouraging me to lose weight and so he told me all the negative side effects of being fat and how it was effecting my health and could effect my health years down the road.

I was grieved coming out of the doctors office. I had a choice to make. I could either be upset that he was so blunt and choose to get angry and tell all my friends what a terrible doctor he is, or I could take his word to heart and start changing my lifestyle. So far I have been consistently choosing the second option. His harsh word that caused me grief produced a positive change and attitude in me.

This is how it should work when we are confronted about sin in our lives. We don’t need to get mad at the messenger. That doesn’t deal with the sin. We need to come to the Lord in confession and repentance. The basis for the verse above is that Paul had grieved the Corinthians by being so direct and pointing out the issues in the church that needed to be addressed. Rather than let that grief fester into bitterness at Paul, they had moved to action and it produced repentance.

We should be asking ourselves how do we handle it when someone addresses sin in our life? Certainly there is grief. No one likes to be told about their sins, even if they are true. We have a choice we can become bitter at the messenger or we can repent and turn to the LORD. Grief about sin can be godly when it produces repentance.

Father, thank you for placing people in our lives that love us enough to point out the obvious. Thank you for the grace of being confronted and warned about sin. Thank you that when we find ourselves grieved over our sin we can repent of our sin and turn to you. I pray that my heart would never allow sorrow over sin to turn to bitterness at a messenger, but that it would always produce repentance. Thank you again so much for your grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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(2 Corinthians 4-6)

2Corinthians 5:8 NKJV We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

It has been a difficult start to the year. We’ve had several funerals for local folks that have been well known and loved. It’s almost like being at the ocean on a red flag day and wading out into the tide. You get knocked down, before you ever really get up, another wave comes and knocks you down again. It’s been frustrating, emotionally exhausting, and difficult to mourn one loss for the sake of another.

One of the comforts is that many of the folks I’ve had to say goodbye to in 2021 have had a strong testimony and legacy of trusting in the LORD. As I read these words today I couldn’t help but be comforted and encouraged. While we struggle here on earth, they have a much better body in a much better place.

I’ve shared before at funerals that those who have gone on wouldn’t want to come back (to this earth before Christ’s return). I’m reminded that this is doubly true in the sense that many have who have passed away have left frail bodies for us to bury here on earth. They are experiencing bodies with out the aches and pains that they had grown accustomed to in this life. No more bad knees, aching joints, coughing spells, no more fatigue. Then there is the better joy of being in the presence of the Lord!

Father, thank you that to be absent from the body is to be present with you! Though I mourn the loss of those who have passed away this year, I rejoice that they are enjoying new heavenly bodies. I rejoice that they are in your presence. I look forward to the day when we will all be together again without the limits of this earthly body and fully in your presence. Thank you for comforting and encouraging us through your Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Forgiveness in Discipline (2 Corinthians 1-3)

It can be a painful thing for the church to have to practice church discipline. Yet, when someone claiming the name of Christ lives in open contradiction to the gospel of Jesus Christ it is time to interviene. The goal of Church discipline is never to kick anyone out, but to restore fellowship.

In 2 Corinthians chapter two, Paul deals vaguely with someone who was under church discipline at Corinth. Paul wisely doesn’t record their name. Instead, he deals with the issue in such a way that the originally intended readers will know who he’s talking about but other readers won’t. Some issues call for discretion. We can guess that perhaps he was addressing the one who was living an immoral lifestyle in 1 Corinthians 5, or perhaps someone who had personally slandered Paul? Whatever the case, it was evident that the church discipline had worked and Paul urged the church to welcome them back in to the fellowship.

What a beautiful thing when a church forgives and embraces a former member who has repented of grievous sin. This is what is supposed to happen. The one who has sinned and repented is welcomed back. The church acknowledges the sin and they also acknowledge the repentance. Through Christ the member is reconciled.

Father, What a beautiful thing it is to forgive those who have sinned against us. We are grateful that even in your discipline there is grace and mercy. We need only to come home and we will find you running while we are a long way off. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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