God Works It In, You Work It Out

Today, my focus is on two interesting, insightful, and forceful verses located in Philippians 2:12&13, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

“Therefore” connects the reader to what Paul the Apostle is going to say to what he just said.  So, let’s take a look at what he just said.  In verse 5, Paul states for each of us to “have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” and follows that in verses 6-8 by telling us what Jesus’ mindset is.  “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

  • Being equal to God, Jesus “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”
  • Furthermore, “being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

This is the amazing story of the gospel.  Jesus humbled Himself before God and as sinless man died for us on the cross.

In verses 9-11, we read God the Father’s proudful reaction to the graceful and merciful obedience of His Son, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

God the Father placed in Jesus the desperate need for man to be saved.  There was only one harsh, lonely, ultra-painful path…the trail that led to the cross.  Jesus worked out what God had worked in by His humbled obedience.  The result was His “salvation”, His eternal purpose fulfilled, and the adoration of His Father…” God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.”

Notice in verse 12, Paul stated “as you have always obeyed.”  He gives us the very path that Jesus took to work out what God had worked in, “obedience”. 

God’s love language is O-B-E-D-I-E-N-C-E.  Sometimes this path is harsh, always humbling, most assuredly unpopular in the eyes of the world, even physically painful; however, if you are willing to walk that trail, God will lift you up!  So, “deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Him” (Luke 9:23)…fulfillment, purpose, and eternal joy will be the end result. 

God works it in, you work it out!

Anger Torpedoes Relationships

Christ stated on multiple occasions that His teaching could be summed up with two things.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, and your mind, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.  It is all about relationships.

Anger disrupts our purpose as Christians because it torpedoes relationships.  James 1:19&20 admonishes us, “19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”  Notice the first two parts of James’ admonishment focuses us on others by being a listener not trying to get the first word in, winning the argument, nor over-powering a person.  Jesus wants us to show compassion and concern for the other person.  We honor Christ when we do.  Then, James cuts us to the core when he declares, be “slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  Anger leads to destruction, hurts, bitterness, and violence stunting growth and creating the same tendencies in others.   Proverbs 18:13 speaks to this, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”

Proverb 15:1 explains it this way, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  Anger begats anger!

Ephesians 5: 26&27 says, “do not let the sun go down on your angerand give no opportunity to the devil.”  Don’t stew on angry thoughts.  Passive aggressive people be careful.  Angry thoughts internalized are like tumbling bullets that tear the person apart.  Get rid of these thoughts.  They are cancerous and spread emotional cancer to others

I recognize that many of us grew up in anger ridden households.  Start today getting rid of this stuff.  It won’t be easy.  Anger is a part of your being.  Let Jesus know today that you humbly want to change. 

  • Get into His word, memorize it, and meditate on it.  When you meditate on His Word, you are cycling healing thoughts that will clean up your being.  Do this at home, in your car, while waiting on a client, at the Doctor’s office, etc.  Make this a habit.  There are some wonderful apps on you mobile phone like Bible Gateway.
  • Pray honestly, truthfully, candidly often. 
  • If you are being overpowered by anger, get in a recovery group like Re:Gen or Celebrate Recovery.  There are others like you who are fighting through the same battle. 
  • At least, find a trusted, mature Christian friend(s) who will walk through the journey of healing with you.  James 5:16 states, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” 

Take time to be made whole.  Be authentic and patient with the cleanup of rubble caused to others by torpedoes fired from your anger.  Do what needs to be done to restore broken relationships allowing victims time to work things out according to their pace not yours.

Create in me a pure heart

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin. Psalm 51:1-2

I find myself reading the above verse and crying out, “YES!” Not going to lie, I have been in quite a funk lately! I am not sure if it’s the groundhog day effect of working from home still, not getting enough sleep or what, but I’ve just been out of sorts. Plus that was a great worship song back in the day! (inserted below)

The above verse and many others in that VERY rich chapter in Psalms just resonated with me this morning. It goes on to talk about being cleansed with hyssop and being “whiter than snow!” Verse eight says, “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.”

As I read through the rest of the chapter, a few things stood out. It wasn’t earth-shattering or even a lightbulb, aha moment, but more of a gentle comfort! I have read these verses numerous times and even have them highlighted in my Bible app, but today, as God so often does, they seemed new and fresh.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me (v10). It is only God who can renew your heart or spirit, but when He does, they will be pure and steadfast!

Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me (v11). We have to remain in God’s presence to receive from Him what we need. Just as God shows us in John 15:5 where he teaches us that, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” We do that by staying in His Word … not to check off one of the items on your to-do list for the day, but to receive from Him our “daily bread”!

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me (v12) God is the only one who can restore us to Himself … and He WILL!!! This also speaks to the fact that our spirit isn’t always a willing participant and is often contrary to things of God, but that we can go to Him, and He will sustain or uphold us with a willing spirit.

It is ALL about Him! I got to focused on me and my woes! It is time to be recreated and restored! Thank God for His provision in this!

Blue Collar Takes on Blue Blood

There was a great article in the Dallas Morning News Sports Page yesterday entitled, “Blue Collar Takes on Blue Blood.”  The sub-title was “The Ramshackle Heat find motivation in test versus choice Celtics.”  “The Miami Heat are to become the lowest seeded team in the NBA finals since 1999.”  For the Boston Celtics basketball team there’s talent on demand out of the draft.  For Miami, there’s endless hours of development.  There is pedigree against blood, sweat, and tears.  On paper there is no contest.  Yet, last night, the Miami Heat rallied time and again to beat the Boston Celtics 117-114.

In Acts 4, a match up occurred that was way more uneven than the Heat vs. Celtic contest.  Two uneducated fishermen from Galilee were pitted in debate against the ultra-educated, pedigreed Sanhedrin, each member being an expert in the law.  Let’s see what happened letting the Bible speak to this episode, “On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set (Peter, John and a crippled man healed the prior day) in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” 13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened.”

Two unlearned fishermen accompanied by a healed cripple were dragged in front of this body of powerful, supreme court, the-buck-stops-here-men.  The Sanhedrin’s purpose for the meeting was to absolutely intimidate these poor men and put a screeching halt to their preaching and activities; H-O-W-E-V-E-R, they didn’t factor in something that totally turned the table in favor of these two uneducated men.  These two Galileans were full of the Spirit of the Almighty God and spoke with power and clarity, and the name of Jesus filled up every crevice of that large room.  These scholars and elite leaders realized this and “were astonished and recognized that they had been with Jesus.”  When you think about it, the Sanhedrin was no match for Peter and John who were filled with the Holy Spirit.

In Ephesians 5:18, Paul the Apostle tells us to “to be filled with the Holy Spirit”….the very same Holy Spirit that empowered Peter and John.  Why did they have such charisma, power, and boldness?  “They had been with Jesus.”  We need to spend more time with Jesus.  Don’t click off yet.  Bow your head right now, surrender your heart to Him, start setting aside time to meet with Him, and meditate on His Word through out the day.  If you do, your spouse, your kids, your friends, your associates, and your enemies will see evidence in your life that “you had been with Jesus.”

Why Your Path Is Not Straight

Being a student athlete at Georgia Tech overpowered me, and I became full of discouragement and fear of failure and rejection.  Once, while visiting my Mom and Dad’s home, I picked up one of her old Christian books called the Calvary Road.  This book introduced me to two verses that grew to be my life verses, Proverbs 3:5&6.  They began to be my daily “go to” verses and gave me strength and direction through many twists and turns while at Tech and even to this very day. 

Proverbs 3:5&6 states, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  Trust implies a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, and strength of God.  Adhering to these verses means that we choose to trust and lean on Him and His understanding rather than our own.  As a result of my acknowledgement of Him, in all my ways…He (made my) paths straight.”  Living life on a straight path is so much more refreshing, productive, and rewarding allowing you to enjoy an abundant life as well as being a blessing to others.

So, what gets in our way living out these verses?  Verse 7a tells us, Be not wise in your own eyes.”  We start thinking of ourselves rather than God, living life on our own terms. Life is lived according to our understanding, desires, and priorities not God’s.  The last part of this verse, warns and challenges us to not do this.  The Bible commands to “fear the Lord and turn away from evil.  “Fear the Lord” means to have a reverential awe of our God.  We are exhorted to worship and place Him, His understanding, and His desires first in our life and turn away from the evil encountered daily.

Verse 8 explains and gives encouragement why we should fear God and turn from evil. “It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”

  • Psalm 34:9 states, “Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.
  •  Proverbs 23:7 declares, “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.”

Living life on a straight or crooked path comes down to one word…choice.  It has been that way since the beginning of mankind.  Daily, we choose to either acknowledge God or live life on our own terms.  Only one of these choices really makes sense.  Acknowledging God leads to healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

I’m an old, retired man who has been married forty-six years to a woman whom I adore and usually gives me a daily chuckle watching her live out life.  It wasn’t always that way.  For years, we daily were at each other’s throat struggling to get through the grind of life.  I was on the road or planes that flew me all over the world when I should have been home supporting Pam as we raised two strong willed young ladies.  Keeping peace was a chore.  Every day, something was going on that sapped my emotions as well as my wife and kids.  Paying bills often living beyond our means was very frustrating and emotionally draining.  Yet, we lived in hypocrisy giving a front to others that all is well.  Strife was frequent.  I can remember the days of being sick and tired of being sick and tired. 

You may be daily experiencing this yourself and wondering if there will ever be any relief.  How can I find peace in the daily churn of life?  Is there a solution?  It took me quite a while to get there but finally, I did.  How?  After much anguish, I began to understand how approachable, understanding, wise, patient, forgiving, and safe is the Christian God and the price paid by His Son to know me intimately on a moment-by-moment daily basis.  Outside of telling us to love others as He loved us, only once that I know of did Jesus talk about Himself and who He was at the core of His being.  His testimony is found in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Jesus testified that He is “gentle and humble in heart.”  I don’t know about you guys, but as over-powering life had become, I realized I needed a big dose of gentleness and humility from a loving God.  So, I came to Jesus weary and burdened.”  I did find rest for my soul and discovered walking life out with Him became much easier and meaningful.  Don’t get me wrong.  As emotionally strung out as I was, I kept taking my life back to run alone.  Finally, lock, stock, and barrel I turned my life over to Him.  What a relief having Him direct my life.

You may be saying to yourself as you read this blog, “but I am so weak and have so much to deal with.  Life is overwhelming.”  This was exactly my response too.  Paul the Apostle however gave me a verse that rocked me to the core, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  Christ’s power perfected itself in my weakness and “rested on me.”  No matter what life threw at me, He became my strength. 

Sick and tired of being sick and tired? Jesus can take over and transform your life making it new and dynamic.  You will find rest and power for your soul.

Do We Limit God?

As I meditate on God’s word this morning, I notice the Vitex tree growing outside my office window. I never planted this tree, it came with the house, and has continued to give me wonderful shade in the summer as I work in my office. From the past rains, this tree has just taken off, growing unlike it has all summer. I am caught up in the thought of what this tree is good for other than to give me shade. I think that it is like a lot of us believers, who have a purpose on this earth, and even though what we think our purpose is, God may have different ideas. For instance, I think this tree gives me shade, but it also provides nectar for the hummingbirds when it blossoms. The pollination process is going on all spring as the bees are totally busy within it. How many times, I am cheered on in the morning by a Wren or a Redbird, or a sparrow, watching me work at my desk from its branches. It’s like they have come to encourage me. How often have my chickens sought comfort under the spreading of its branches, from the weather, and from the hawks.  Come to think of it, God uses this tree for many more things than I can even imagine. Just its beauty alone, is worth reflecting on. So I’m reading this morning from Colossians: “For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom  of the Son He loves. We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in Him.” Colossians 1:9-14  We often ask the Lord to show us His will, and wonder how He can possibly use us, since in our minds, we don’t possess any skills that could be of benefit to Him. And like our tree we think we have one purpose in life, yet God reveals in His glorious knowledge to those who honestly seek His will, the walk He wants us to walk, and in doing so, will He not use that walk for many more things than even we believe we are doing?  He wants us to bear fruit in EVERY good work as we grow in knowledge of Him. Yet how many times do we think we know the work that He has for us, and don’t deviate outside of that box. We often limit God’s perspective with us, because we don’t bother to see things like He sees them. But why can’t we? Why can’t we seek His understanding instead or ours? Why can’t we seek His will without trying to limit His perspective in us, by our own denial that we are even capable of doing anything else.  Think of my tree, your tree, and all the uses you can find for it, then remember that you are much more than a tree, useful to the Lord for HIS will not yours. It’s only when we surrender our will to Him that He can then grow us into fruit producers that He desires. Pastor Andy

Have You Lost Your First Love?

I remember as a thirteen year old boy responding to the call of Christ.  I say “called” to Christ because the verse that stimulated me to become a Christian was “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).  A sweetness, freshness, and peacefulness permeated my relationship with Jesus during those first days of my Christian life.  I remember revival meetings at our church, youth group meetings full of singing and praise and personal testimonies.  I read my Bible daily and climbed out of my bed each night when I thought my brother had fallen asleep to pray on my knees.  My love for Jesus changed my life and who I was as a person.  Yet, I allowed some stupid things to impact my life resulting in deep complicating fears.  Subsequently, I lost my first love.

The same thing happened to the Ephesian Christians in the first century.  In Revelations 2, the Apostle John wrote this about them, You have left your first love. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.  

I read in the book of Acts mighty, wonderful things happened to the Ephesians.

  • Acts 19 19 A number (of Ephesians) who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.”  Amazing, exhilarating testimonies occurred within the Ephesian Christians!
  • Paul the Apostle himself spent three years with them.  Notice the intimacy that the Ephesians experienced with Paul recorded in Acts, 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. 32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified…36 When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him.”  What intimacy was experienced within the relationship of Paul the Apostle and Ephesians for three years!
  • Paul saluted the Ephesians in the last two verses in his letter to them, Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.   

So, what happened?  Ephesians were much like us.  They got caught up in the things of the world and the deceptions of the devil losing the sweetness and freshness of fellowship with Jesus.  They went back to their old fleshly ways no longer placing Jesus first in their lives. 

Never forget that Revelations 3:20 is a call to Christians who have “lost their first love”, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”  Go back to what you did when you first became a believer.  Open the door of your heart inviting Jesus to come back in as your Lord and Savior starting a fresh new journey with Him.  Place Him first, live in obedience, enjoy fellowship with Him, and your life will change. 

Are You Adopted?

Last week, my son-in-law lost his granddad, “Papaw”, who has had a huge impact on his life.  If you ask Ryan who’s been the biggest influence on his life, he will quickly tell you that it is two men, Papaw and his dad.  Did Papaw go around quoting verses out of the Bible?  No, but he along with Ryan’s dad demonstrated what hard, honest work looks like.  Ryan tells a funny story about Papaw paying him in “cold hard cash” when he did work for him.  Papaw would put the cash owed in the freezer paying Ryan in “cold hard cash.” Papaw spoke straightforwardly never “beating around the bush.”  Most importantly, Papaw loved and cherished his wife and family.  Ryan has been blessed and challenged by Papaw’s life.

I hesitate to talk about the impact of men in our lives.  Many (male and female), have not had a similar experience as Ryan in our lives.  In fact, it has moved from “many” to “most” who have not had a positive role model from neither a dad nor a grandfather.  When asked about the male influence in their lives, often people speak in a harsh, cold, hurtful way.  Gigantic holes are left in our lives in the resulting rubble.  Enormous self-image issues, lack of direction, unforgiveness, and bitterness are left behind.  A vacuum remains in lives that is frequently being filled in ungodly, hurtful, unhealthy ways. 

There is wonderful, good news that can transform deep wounds into wholeness.  Our Heavenly Father has made it possible through His Son to adopt us and minister to us personally into the deepest wounds of our mind and hearts making us whole. Read what Paul the Apostle says about this in Romans 8, “14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”  “Abba, Father” is accurately translated as “Daddy.”  God wants to be “Dad” to us and love us as His own children. 

In the 1st century Roman world, a natural child could be discarded by their parents. An adopted child however became a lifelong commitment from their parents.  They willfully adopted the child and were bound to be parents and caregivers to the child.  The adopted child had a secure place in the family.  Likewise, you have an eternal standing once adopted by God.  You are his kid.

Cry out to God today.  He can help, heal, fill, and make you whole in intimate, deep ways.  Many of us know God but have not allowed him to be “Dad”.  We have stiff-armed Him and not enjoyed His healing fellowship.  Do you need to be made whole?  I have some great news.  He is standing at the door of your heart right now waiting to be invited in.  Being a loving Father, He will not force His way into your heart.  Revelation 3:20 says it this way, Here I am! I stand at the door (of your heart) and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

What god Keeps You from God?

Whether it be a politician, a celebrity, an athlete or whoever has status, I enjoy “wiki-ing” them reading about their upbringing, where they are from, how old they are, what’s their marital status, how many kids and a list of all their accomplishments.  I especially like knowing their origins, where they were born, if they were born with a “silver spoon in their mouth”, or did they have to work for everything they accomplished.  Were they from small town or big city?  I enjoy reading about people.

One man who encountered Jesus would have intrigued me.  I would have “wiki-ed” him.  This guy had a zest for life, full of accomplishments, good deeds, would have had high stature in his community, hardworking, and most likely well known.  He was a very wealthy man.  Mark 10:17-22 records his experience with the Lord, 17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” 20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad because he had great wealth.”  Jesus recognized that in the eyes of the world, this guy was very accomplished and worked hard to keep a good reputation being a man of character.  But our incisive Lord knew he had a problem.  “Jesus looked at him and loved him.”  Christ looked right in this prosperous man’s eyes with love and said, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”  Ouch, that seemed to be so unfair.  But was it?  Jesus wanted this man to inherit eternal life.  What on earth would have more value than life without end in the presence of God!  This man of means had a “god”, his wealth, what he owned, and worshipped his things more than God.  Notice what Jesus asked of this man emanated from a heart of “love.”  Christ “loved him.”  What seemed like a harsh request was not harsh at all.  He had to let go of his god (small “g”) to get to know God (big “G”).

Matthew 16:25-26 states it this way, “25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”

Do you have a god that is keeping you from knowing God?  You can either walk “away sad” like the man above or give it over to God experiencing His abundant life eternally. Your choice.