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Posts Tagged ‘Paul’

Maturing in Christ

Paul, a man whose life story can be defined as “all in for Christ”, was very serious about what his life was about. He was a man of accomplishment. He was revered in some circles and mostly faultless in much of his life. However, with all his accomplishments and accolades and badges, he couldn’t stand the thought that any of those would be worth more to him than a life found in Christ. He speaks of this in his letter to the church in Philippi. The words that he uses like strain and pressing on, gives us an affirmation that his journey is not a easy one, but one that he works for. It’s a journey full of self sacrifice.

Spiritually speaking, Paul is far along in years. Not one of us would say that he is drinking milk as a baby would, nor would we say he is a teenager in his outlook. We would all say that he is mature. We would say that Paul has some things figured out. What is it about his life that makes him so special?

Paul had it figured out. His relationship with Christ was not just lip service, but it was something that was tangible. It was something people saw in him. In fact, I’d say, if you passed Paul on the street, you’d see more of Christ than you would of Paul. It was something he pressed forward with. While fighting against anything that would hold him down or keep him away from realizing Christ’s power in his life, he pressed on. He did not stop. It didn’t matter what people said about him, his life was found in Christ. It was Christ alone that mattered to him.

What would it take for us to take such views? What would it take for us to engage in this type of lifestyle? Sure, the more we stand up for Christ the more the world rejects us, but along the way we are planting seeds that have more power than anything we can come up.

Take a look at this passage from Philippians 3, but pay special attention to verses 15…

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 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 on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

I ask, what is the mature way of living? The mature way of living is forgetting what is behind, putting your focus on Christ and moving toward him. No more living as a baby or as immature, its time to step up and take hold of which Christ has called you to.

A Good Conversation

Last Sunday morning, my men’s group arrived at Ephesians 5. We’ve been working our way through Paul’s letters and I would say that this week was some of the best conversation we had. Why? I am not really sure, beyond that I believe it gets close to what we as followers of Christ have been called to. It was a great conversation thought and I wanted to bring you in on it.

The title of Ephesians 5 is “Be Imitators of God”. I think its important to start with this because this will be our challenge. It’s not an easy task, nor one to take lightly, but its one to aspire to daily.

Paul opens his letter with this:

1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them.

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.

It’s a challenging passage. However, its one that as a follower of Christ I am called to live this out. There are a lot of negative influences around us and by succumbing to any of those, we put ourselves in danger of withdrawing into the darkness as opposed to living in the light.

I do want to draw the attention to a very small verse in this passage. It’s one that caught my eye after reading through this a second time on Sunday morning. It’s verse 10, “and find out what pleases the Lord.”

What does please the Lord? If he were to look at my life, all parts of it, would it be pleasing to the Lord? If not, how do I find out what is pleasing to Him? Where do I look for such things? Well, the first place I know not to look would be in the darkness. I feel Paul is clear about staying away from there. I need to be looking at the illuminated things. One comment that was made was, “If you need to ask if something pleases God, then it probably doesn’t”. I think this is wise. Too often we try to stretch out what God means for our own benefit and guilty pleasure. But I believe this verse is a bit more cut and dry than that. I believe it should be clear what pleases God. We need to continue to look at His word and we need to be in tune with what He says through it.

When we shape and bend the rules, we are opening ourselves to be deceived. I have seen it many times. Too many people fall because the sin in their life leads them to believe its more about them then it is about God. It’s a lie. When I read verse 10 it leaves me with a good feeling. I don’t feel as if this is something I will be searching for forever, but its something that is clear, something that I can find.

Have you been searching for what pleases the Lord? What have you found? Have you left the darkness or are you still sitting on the edge dangling your feet in it? If you haven’t left it, now is the time.

A boxing match of Biblical proportion

February 9, 2011 Leave a comment

A few weeks ago, my Sunday morning men’s group began reading through the book of Galatians. Honestly for as short as it is, I haven’t spent a whole lot of time with it. I typically will be drawn to the other Epistles.  As we opened up, I realized I was missing a real treasure.

I have never been too much of a boxing fan, but when I came across Galatians 2:11-21, I couldn’t help myself. Images started flashing in my mind…The Title Round. In the Blue corner, weighing in at 165lbs, hailing from Rome…Paul!!! In the Red corner, weighing in at 190lbs, hailing from the Province of Galilee…Peter!

Can you see it? Just look at the 12 rounds that they go through.  Verse 11 says, Paul opposed him face to face, because he was clearly wrong! It’s a grudge match! Paul was calling Peter out. He didn’t leave anything back. In verse 14 Paul asks, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?”

Peter is feeling the heat. How will he last this beating? Paul continues in verse 15, almost mocking him, “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.”

Can you believe that Peter is still trying to get away with teaching the law. Paul is outraged. He goes in for one final blow saying in verse 19, “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me…I do not set aside the grace of God, for is righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.”

We have a clear winner. Paul has called out Peter. Paul takes the Title, clearly not for himself, but for Christ.

It’s passages like this that really do make me feel better about where the church is at today. It’s too easy to think that ministry is clean and everyone is happy and agreeable. This shows us it is clearly not. These two giant men of faith go head to head and battle. Not for themselves, but to show that Christ is Lord.

I think the most amazing thing about this is that they didn’t throw in the towel. They didn’t quit and decide this faith thing isn’t for them. It made them stronger and bolder. Both these men would be defined by their ministry, and would be remembered for a very long time for the impact they had on this world.

Are you climbing?

November 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Mountains. They are beautiful, majestic, rugged, and simply amazing. They are full of misleading ends. Here is what I mean by that. A misleading end is the place that you see in the very short distance that you feel is the end of your climb. You reach the spot only to find that you’ve only reached a small plateau. There is still much to climb. Just recently I was in the mountains and I am sure I came across at least 4 or 5 of these. Just when I thought the burn was done, I still had quite a climb ahead of me.

Press On

I also see it as people are climbing to Christ. They reach that same plateau and think that they are done. Not true. This is a climb or a journey we all must take and will last our who life. Are you still climbing? Or have you stopped? Maybe you are telling yourself, “I just need to sit down for a while and catch my breath.” Unfortunately, many who say these words end up sitting for years.

Our relationship with Christ does not function well with plateaus. We’re either moving up or down. Where are you? Maybe you’ve placed your faith in Christ, you’ve been baptized, you’ve repented but you thought to yourself, “that’s enough for now.” You’re only lying to yourself. If you’ve made it that far, you have only begun. All you’ve done is put your pack on. You haven’t even started the climb yet. I wonder how many people are actually standing around at the bottom with their packs on thinking about all they’ve accomplished so far.

If you’re in that group, I challenge you to start your climb. I promise you God will not let you down. Yes, it’s going to be hard, but it will be worth it. Look at the encouragement we recieve from Paul as he has begun his climb in his letter to the Philippians.

4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Bold/Italics added for emphasis)

Paul sees that he is far from his journey’s end. He presses on. We should too.

Praying for Vision and Clarity

October 19, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s always tough when you aren’t sure of what your next move is. It’s like your playing a game of chess. You know your first step, but your opponent throws you off with a move you aren’t expecting. What now? Where do I move? Do I move a pawn, my knight, my rook? What’s it going to be?

I feel like this is how it is in the church sometimes. There are moves we need to make and we are unsure of what they are. My men’s group has been reading through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. The last couple of weeks our conversation has centered on a discussion of spiritual gifts and being used by God. I know God wants to use us, but how? And the biggest question to ask, am I willing to be used? Have you seen God move in such a way in your life that His next move for you was one that was a big step in faith? I find it happens more and more. I have learned one undeniable truth: If I want to grow in Christ, I need to submit to His game plan.

He’s holding the playbook and calling the shots. I just need to look to the sidelines, receive the play and make it happen. I think it’s very appropirate that my men’s group will hit 1 Corinthians 15 next week. The opening verses of the chapter go like this:

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saves, if you hold firmly to the work I preached to you. Other, you have believed in vain.

The gospel is a message that saves. The gospel is a message that was not meant to be hoarded. It was meant to go out in to the world and transform lives, as it did mine.

As our church takes the next steps and determines what play Christ is calling for us to engage in, pray with us for clarity of vision and willingness to be used. Also, I pray for you. Are seeking God for the next move? Are you submitting to His game plan? Are you willing to be used by Him no matter what? Ask your self these questions. If you answer yes, hold on tight, its going to be an adventure! If you are answering no, ask why? What is holding you back from allowing God to use you? What are you afraid of?

all boxed up..

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment

If you haven’t ever read through 1 Corinthians, I encourage you to do so. I will challenge your socks off! That is, if you were socks. Last week, our guys group read through chapters 8 & 9. I’d like to talk a little about chapter 9 today. The title is “The Rights of an Apostle”. First, who is the apostle? Paul’s letter is to the church in Corinth. The church was made up of many small group churches that met in homes and underground for their own protection. In fact, this letter would have been read at one group meeting, then delivered to another group, and another, until all had read it. The letter saw many homes.

The the word apostle is derived from apostolos, which means one who is sent with a message. Look carefully at this word. Can you think another word that might  come from this? Think postal, like postal carrier. One who delivers messages or mail.  So the apostle has a message that needs delivered. It’s almost as if the job is not done unless its delivered. This is the purpose of this chapter from Paul. He speaks of a farmer of who is most effective when he shares his crop. Imagine if a farmer hoarded all he produced. Would he be an effective farmer? Not at all.

Paul writes in 9:10-12, “10Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?”

Do you see what he is saying? Paul is telling his readers that they have been brought up to share this message. “Spiritual seeds have been sown..” He is asking, are they hoarding what is reaped? To be an apostle means that we are sharing a message.

Paul is painting a picture for the church in Corinth that this message is not something to be sat on and forgotten about. People have died getting this message out, why are we hindering the spreading of the gospel? Further down in verse 16 he says, “Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel.” What are your thoughts when Paul says, I am compelled to preach?

He is saying that there is something about this message that needs to go out. If you had just discovered sliced bread, you probably wouldn’t keep it to yourself, you’d spread the message about it. How much more important is a saving relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ? Paul understands that there is danger and hardship when it comes to spreading this message. He says at the end of the chapter, comparing apostles to an athlete, similar to one that would have competed in the Olympics, “Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone goes into strict training…I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

Take it from Paul, don’t box this message up. Be the apostle you were called to be. Take the message out, and like and athlete run like you are running for the prize!

Signs & Minds

Yesterday, I began meeting with some men from church. We are starting through 1 Corinthians. It was great! One of the things I enjoy most about meeting with a group like this is that scripture comes alive! When I am sitting at home or in my office reading my Bible, I am reading to retain and learn. However, when I am discussing truths and application with others, I find that God’s Word become alive and becomes very real!

I love the passage from chapter 1:18-31. Paul is talking about the confusion that is brought in by these people who are demanding of miraculous signs and wisdom for the mind. These people are everywhere! They are looking so hard for something that is just not there. Paul says, Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? …but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…for the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

I find it funny that while the world is so hung up on finding the small, minute details to unlock the secrets of the world, they have missed whats right in front of them…Christ crucified. Listening to the other guys talk about how they see this play out in their own lives was great! They talked about how real Christ is in their lives. We chatted about how we make it real to others.

One of the goals of this group is to determine what part scripture and truth plays in our “Circle of Influence”. We all have a circle of influence, but not all of us utilize it as best we could.  I think Paul gives a great challenge to us and others reading his words, “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.””

This week, determine who is in your circle of influence, and let them know who you get your wisdom from!