Be Strong In The Lord

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

The only place we should be strong is in the Lord.  Yet we try so hard to be strong in ourselves.  Many look to their physical bodies for strength.  They work hard to get toned and muscular so they have the strength of an ox.  The find it fulfilling to see those muscles bulge as they workout.  There is noting at all wrong with keeping our physical bodies in shape, but that is not where our true strength comes from.

Then there are those who exercise their minds.  They read and send hours researching and pondering various truths and ideas.  The become bastions of knowledge, able to comment and carry on a conversation about anything someone might ask them about.  People see them as experts, maybe trivia buffs, very intelligent.  But that is not the kind  of strength that will get you through the toughest battles.

The toughest battles you will face can only be doe with the strength of the Lord inside of you.  When I was diagnosed wit Cancer last March, I had a peace about it.  I was not afraid, I was not upset, I was not worried.  How can this be, you might ask.  Because I had the strength of the Lord o my side, and I knew it would be OK.  he was in charge, and I could rely on His wisdom to see me through.  I knew I could not do it alone, and I also knew that with all the friends and support I got, it still would not be enough without the strength of the Lord and the power of His might on my side.  I’ll never understand how someone could go through this without Him by their side.

11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

You don’t have to put on armor unless you’re going to go through a battle.  So what Paul is saying here is that we are going into battle regularly against the wily old devil.  he will be constantly attacking you at various points of your life where he sees that you are vulnerable.  That is why we need the whole armor of God, which we will be talking about soon.  We do not want to leave any part exposed so the devil can sneak in and do us harm.  And believe me, he knows where you are vulnerable.

Let’s take a simple thing.  A diet.  Isn’t it funny how when you are on a diet, you crave the very foods you are not supposed to eat?  That is not coincidence, my friend.  The enemy lurks in mysterious places.  If he cam get you to trip up in one place, and put guilt on you, then he can come in and get you there.  He is very wily.  So prepare yourself accordingly with the whole armor of God, not just parts of it.

12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

And here’s the reason we need the armor of God in the first place. we cannot fight the battles that will come our way and win without God on our side.  These battles are not of this world – so they cannot be won by using the tactics of this world.  Right now in our country, there is literally a war going on in government.  Our president is doing things and people are reacting with outrage.  It is obvious he is not doing things the way they have always been done, and he is a little sloppy on somethings, but all of these things need doing.

The enemy comes against us, our city, our  country all the time. there is only one weapon that will defeat him, and that is prayer.  we need to suit up with the armor, and start to pray for our country, more now than ever.  The intolerance, disobedience, dissatisfaction, disharmony and dismay everyone is feeling is not going to go away until the Christians fall on their knees before an almighty God and really start to exercise 2 Cr 7:14.  If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.  

Even with the whole armor of God on, without this key element, it won’t be enough. The church needs to take these steps to bring this nation, which was founded based on a reliance on God.  It’s really up to us – putting on the armor individually and fulfilling the call of 2 Chr 7:14 corporately.  We have a lot of work to do!

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Humility and Confidence

Ephesians 3:8-12

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;

And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

We see here the humility of Paul. I really doubt God could have used Paul if He hadn’t humbled him first on the road to Damascus. When Paul was hunting down Christians, he was very proud and pompous about the fact that the Pharisees had selected him to do that task. But when he got knocked off his horse and Jesus talked to him, he was indeed humbled. And the humility that he displays here by saying he’s less than the least of all saints should let us know how important humility is. To me, humility is one of the most important attributes we can have as Christians because it makes us teachable and pliable in God’s hands. If we have any pride within us, we will have too many places to do it our own way going to make our own decisions instead of listening to what the Lord wants. If you’re having trouble fulfilling the call of God on your life then I would take a serious look at the level of pride that you still have. Allow God to Humble you.

Paul then relates that he has been given the grace to preach to the Gentiles. This would take a great amount of grace. The Jewish people automatically looked down on the Gentiles as inferior. Paul had to take a whole new attitude in order to make the trips that he did. He also had to convince all of those in Jerusalem that it was the right thing to do. That was not an easy task. But the grace that was upon Paul was so strong and so evident that God could use him in ministering to the Gentiles. He was able to make all men see the fellowship that is in Christ Jesus.
Paul mentions that from the very beginning of the world, God hid this fellowship from everyone else. From the very beginning God intended to save the Gentiles right along with the Jews. He was not about to give up His Son for just the Jewish people. He gave his Son for all mankind. That whosoever believes in Him shall be saved. Jesus Christ is the one who all things were created from. We see in John chapter 1 that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  Everything that was made was made by the Word. In Genesis we see that God spoke and the world came into existence. He spoke the Word and the Word is Jesus Christ. Let us never forget that the one who hung on the cross is the same one by whom all things were created!

10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:

The intent of Paul’s preaching is that the church might know about the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. As we get further into Ephesians we will see Paul talk about these principalities and powers that we battle against on a regular basis. Most of the battles that we face as Christians are on a spiritual level, not a carnal level. When we approach these battles trying to win them by our own strength, then we are defeated already, because in our own strength we can’t beat those principalities and powers that come against us. But when we rely on God’s strength, then we have his almighty power in the heavenly places on our side. This is why a combination of prayer and praise on a regular basis is so vital to our existence. If we are not allowing the Holy Spirit to reign in our body we are in trouble when we get into a battle
This has been the eternal purpose of God: To bring along a people who are rooted and grounded in Him and who have accepted His Son Jesus Christ as their sacrifice and Lord so that they will understand how to fight the battles. These people will rely on the principalities and powers that are in the heavens.   God purposed this in Jesus Christ long before you and I were born

12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.

In Christ we have boldness and access with confidence by faith in him. How confident are you in Christ? He talks about two ways that we should be confident. The first way is with our boldness. We should be confident in our testimony. We should never back away from what God has done for us, and we should take every opportunity to witness that we can find. The world is plenty bold with their stories of despair and heartache and grief. They’re very bold in there swearing and using the Lord’s name in vain. We should be bold in talking about the love of Jesus Christ to the world. And we should be confident in that boldness,  not running away or backing down.
The second way we should be confident is in the access that we have to God through Jesus Christ. We have been given a highway to heaven you might say. We should with confidence  to tell people that we will pray for them, and stop what we’re doing right there and pray for them right now,  not say I’ll pray when I get home. If your prone to forget you should make a note so you remember to pray for them. Make it right in front of them so they know that you’re serious about your prayer life and that you’re confident because you have access to the very throne of God. You’re confident that He will hear your prayer. You’re confident that God will answer your prayer. Your confidence there will be a testimony that will come out of that prayer. Confidence in your access is a great thing. Never forget that you are able to walk into the holy of holies and ask the God of the universe your request because of what Jesus did for you

Putting Myself Aside

Philippians 2:8

” And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself,

and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

 

After He left the glory of His place in heaven, after He took on human characteristics instead of His Godly previous life, after he took on the form of a servant, he humbled himself further.  He was a man in body, feeling all the emotions, fears, worries and doubts that any of us would feel if we were faced with what was coming for Him.  He knew the cross awaited.  He knew he beating would come, the ridicule, the crown of thorns, the pierced side.  He knew all of it was ahead.  The Garden of Gethsemane was the one chance He had to change His mind.  No one would pray with Him.  Left alone with the Father, He humbled himself completely to the Fathers will, submitting His body to the worst form of torture.

I cringe at the thought of a little pain.  Maybe I have to get a shot at the doctor’s office.  I hate the thought of that needle going in.  Right now, during recovery from my cancer treatments, I have a little pain and discomfort no matter what I do.  Sometimes I don’t want to get up out of my chair because I know it will cause me discomfort.  But I have to get up – I have to get that shot.  Sometimes pain is necessary to make me feel better.

But Jesus was not doing this for himself.  He had nothing to gain from this self-sacrifice.  He could not possibly be granted a higher position than He already had!  He did this for you and I!  He shed His blood for my sin.  He took the stripes for my healing.  He died for my salvation.  It was the most unselfish act in all of history.

So what should me response be?  First, I realize that he paid that price, and I accept Him as my Savior.  Second, I spend the rest of my life thanking Him for the price He paid for me, for all He did for me on that cross, and for the fact that He is always with me.  It doesn’t matter if I am at the lowest point in my life – He still deserves my praise.  Third, and most important, I should give all that I am to Him.  Everything.  Everyday.

That means I have to humble myself.  Put aside my selfish ego and my desire to be someone important in this world.  All that really matters is what I do for Him.  All that will last forever is what I do for Him.  To be His disciple is the highest calling I can attain.

 

I want to be a better witness for you, Lord.  I fear people though.  I am afraid of rejection, ridicule and even persecution.  But you went through all that for me, and didn’t blink an eye.  You gave your all for me -I want to give my all for you.  Give me boldness Lord, but more than that, give me the humility to put myself aside and walk only in your Spirit.

Take All My Pride, Lord

Philippians 2:7

” But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant,

and was made in the likeness of men:”

If you missed yesterday’s post, I highly recommend that you go back and read that before proceeding with this one to get the proper perspective on exactly what is going on here.

He made himself of no reputation – I think that’s an understatement.  Here is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, being born in a lowly manger because the innkeeper had no room for his parents.  It’s hard for me to believe that any innkeeper would turn away a woman as obviously pregnant as Mary must have been.  So Jesus was born in a stable filled with hay, and simple swaddling clothes were wrapped around Him.  Lowly shepherds came to greet Him first, then later wise men brought Him gifts – the only indication that royalty was born.

Compare that to a birth in a high profile family now.  If the Prince of England has a baby, the press is all over it.  The best treatment in the best hospitals, gifts galore and pictures a plenty.

The baby has a reputation before he is even born.  Jesus came with no reputation despite the credentials He carried in heaven.  And he stayed that way throughout his youth, outside of one isolated incident when He was 12.  He was just another kid working in his dad’s carpentry shop, nothing more.

Add to that the fact He became like a servant.  As we look at His life during His ministry, He was always looking out for the needs of others first.  He taught them healed them, fed them and delivered them.  Very rarely do we so Him doing anything that would suggest He was the King of Kings.  I think of the overturning of the tables in the temple (Matt 21:12) and the scathing rebuke of the Pharisees and scribes (Matt 23:13-39). Other than that, Jesus served the people, not the other way around.­

Besides the fact that He was followed by throngs of people everywhere He went, He was looked like any other man.  He would blend in with a crowd as well as you or I would.  He put aside all His royal garb and became like me.  He had no problem being meek and lowly – in fact, that is what He desires from all of us.  Jesus had no pride to begin with, and if anyone had reason to be proud it was Him.  But He knows the way to God’s heart is through meekness and humility.  All of us need to look at this example and see if we can put aside any pride we have.  There is no place for it in God’s kingdom.

 

Lord, you have done a marvelous work in me when it comes to pride.  I am so thankful for those lessons you have taught me.  But I still struggle with it from time to tie.  I thank you for my wife, who is so good at spotting when my pride is rising up, and brings it to my attention.  Help me to be more keenly aware of this pride when it creeps back into my life.

You First

Philippians 2:3

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves”

In his desire to see the church grow and truly become the loving church Christ had come to establish, Paul gives a teaching that rocks us all back on our heels.  I would say that if I could fulfill this one verse, I would be doing very well in serving Christ.  This verse is the essence of the golden rule, but it is taken one step further.

First, nothing should be done out of strife.  How many times have you done something just because someone pestered you so bad you finally gave in?  If that’s never happened to you, you’re a better person than I am.  Especially in my marriage, my wife often has to ask several times for some things she sees as important that I just don’t see the same need for.  Now maybe she hasn’t done a good enough job explaining why it is so necessary, or maybe I’m just too thick skilled to pay for what she wants (probably the latter).  By the time I end saying yes, there is strife, and she wonders why I just didn’t listen in the first place.

This happens in the church as well.  We hear of someone not happy about something, and we know this person just likes to complain, so we ignore it.  Before long, we find out there are several people who are not happy about the same thing, and now they are coming to us, and there is strife and anxiety about it.  It should never get this far.  It is up to me to make sure I am not causing people to get upset by ignoring their requests.  They deserve an answer.

The second one is a little easier I think.  Don’t do things out of vain glory.  I hope most who are reading this post understand that God deserves all the glory, and we should never seek to take t away from Him.   There is no place for self-promotion in the church.  Now, if you do something for the church, and people thank you, it’s OK to receive their thanks.  Just don’t let it go to your head.  It is important that God always receive the glory.  Any glory we receive is just vanity and will feed our pride, which is never a good thing.  I have been guilty of basking in vain glory before – I never want to do that again.

The last part is the hardest one.  Esteem others better than self.  Put others before yourself, put their needs before yours, put their lives in higher regard than your own.  Now Paul is not saying that we ignore ourselves – not at all.  He is merely saying we have an obligation to help others, and if that inconveniences us, too bad.

I like to think of myself as a giving person.  I try to help people out if they need a helping hand.   But I can’t say I have ever gone out on a limb and helped someone with my last dime, when I hadn’t eaten yet.  I haven’t given up my car to someone else could get to an important appointment when I needed to get some grocery shopping done.  Putting others first is a little foreign to me, and is an area of my life that needs a lot of work.  It is the essence of humility, and the opposite of pride.  That is why it is so critical for us to do – it will crush any pride in us (unless we go and boast about al we have done – vain glory).  We will explore this further tomorrow.

 

Lord, you know struggle with pride all the time.  Help me to be more cognizant of the needs of others, and put aside my thinking that I have to take care of my needs first.  You ask me to help others out before I help myself.  Teach me Lord, how to do that and speak to me clearly when it is time for me to do something for someone else.

Philippians 1:28

without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved–and that by God.

The transition to Christianity would not be easy for the Philippians.  Their neighbors, family and friends would ridicule them, threaten them and mock them if they were not taking the journey with them.  These new converts would have to be strong and faithful, and hopefully Paul left behind good men and women to work with them in the church.  Paul tells them here not to be afraid of them.  This was a message to them that they would be destroyed in the end, but you will be saved by God.  They might not believe that, but it’s the truth anyway!

My Christian witness is identified by the way I live, and by the words I speak.  So I must conduct myself with the utmost regard for how it reflects on my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  At my workplace, do II give my all, as if I’m working for the Lord? Colossians 3:23 tells me “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,”  Do I accept the assignments given to me, and carry them out?  Colossians 3:22 tells me ”Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God”:

Several years ago, I had a great position with a company I had been with for 20 years.  They implicitly trusted me with keys to all their locations, and I floated between these locations, plus worked on the road with my sales staff.  I thought I was above the law.  But I abused my position and did things that I knew could get anyone else fired on the spot if it was found out.  One day, I was called into the office by my supervisor, and was told about a situation in one of the stores.  Not wanting to put any of the employees in jeopardy I confessed my transgression, and was immediately terminated.  This brought great dishonor to God, and caused me to take a deep look inside.  It ended up with me taking an 8-month sabbatical to a place in the hills of Kentucky to reevaluate where I was with God.  It was a life changing that I look back on and thank God for.

My Christian witness must be lived out everywhere, every day, in my actions and in my words.  I must not dishonor Him in anything.  This is my calling and my duty.  I have failed several times, and God has had mercy on me.  He is a wonderful God.  How is your conversation today?

 

Lord, you know how many times I have failed you, yet you continue to love me and have mercy on me.  I am so humbled by your awesome mercy.  Help me to move forward and walk as Christ would have walked.  Help me have His compassion, His boldness, His humility, and His desire to serve.  Help me to do the things in all areas that honor you, because that is the desire of my heart.

Philippians 1:26

” That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ

for me by my coming to you again.”

The last 7 verses have all been about Paul’s desire to see the gospel of Jesus Christ preached, no matter what happens to him.  He was ready for anything.  But as he closes this portion, we see him talking about going free and coming to see them.  What dedication!

Even as he was thinking this, he wanted to make sure that all his readers and the churches did not get into a position of lifting him up, but he wanted them to rejoice in Christ for the blessing of sending him.  I love the humility of this man!  He did not want to receive any glory – to Christ be all the glory.

I get invitations to revivals all the time from various ministries.  Many of them I love to receive because I recognize the preachers that are going to be present there, and know they truly have a love for the Lord, and are humble servants.  Two of those people are Bob Newton with Powerhouse Ministries and Sean Strong of Standing Strong ministries.  Both take their tent crusades all over the country, and are full Pentecostal revival preachers.  And both are humble men of God.  I know when they put on a revival, Jesus Christ will be glorified.

But sometimes it seems the speakers at these conventions and revivals just want to be heard, and they want to be lifted up.  It’s just the way the poster or invitation is worded or pictured that gives this impression.  If I ever sense that when looking at these things, no matter who the speaker is, I would never attend.

Our goal as Christians or as preachers is to lift Jesus Christ up.  He said if He is lifted up, He will draw men to himself (John 12:32).  Our place is to lift Him up, not to save them.  He will call them, and they will hear His voice in their hearts.  Just lift Jesus up!

 

I need to do a better job at lifting up your name, Jesus.  I like to teach the word, and I put together my messages very methodically and thoughtfully.  But I don’t always lift you up in every message, and that has to change.  You must be the centerpiece of every message.  Help me never to neglect that altar call at the end, allowing people to make a choice to accept you as lord and Savior of their lives.  Help me to always lift you up!

Philippians 1:24

 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.”

make-disciplesI would call this one of the biggest understatements in the whole bible.  Paul was the founder of the church, he disciple the believers, he taught pastors to take over those churches, and now he was encouraging them with his letters.  If he should pass away, the churches would see it as a great loss. The primary person in the whole church would be gone.  You might liken it to the Pope dying, and the loss the Catholic church feels in those moments.  Only I believe the impact of Paul’s death would be greater than that.

But we all know that Paul eventually passed away, and the church just kept on growing.  Tremendous persecution came on the church in the coming years.  They were crucified, burned at the stake, imprisoned, thrown in the arena to fight hungry lions and gladiator games.  Not until Constatine came around and stopped this persecution in 313 AD did they find peace for their group.  But through all this persecution the church kept growing.  Their mentor, Paul, must have done a tremendous job for this to happen.

Are you discipling someone?  Have you taken someone under your wing and helped them navigate through their growth in Christ?  I have several, and will share about one.  I met Rich at Pure Life Ministries in 2008.  We both had tremendous pride problems, and that is the main focus of this exceptional ministry – helping people realize and deal with their pride.  I had been there 6 months when Rich arrived, and we bonded instantly.  We prayed together often, and shared our lives.

I left the ranch in December, and Rich got in touch with me when he got home in June.  His family was in shambles because of his sin, and he was devastated.  I helped him to see ways to drop the pride and work humility into his life, and slowly he began to hold onto those principles.  And his family started to notice.  Today, two of his children have moved closer to him with their families and they have a great relationship.  The other two children also have renewed their relationship with him, and his wife is more loving than she has ever been.  It’s a true miracle, and I am humbled that God would use me in such a way.

I say all that not to boast, but to help you see how much we can affect someone else’s life.  Paul affected many, and God calls us to do the same.  We are supposed to make disciples, not just get people saved.  When we make disciples, they will carry on when we are gone.  Jesus told us this was our duty in Matthew 28:19:

 

 

Lord, make me a fisher of men, and once I have brought them to you, help me to mentor them and disciple them so they can be vessels of honor.  Bring to me those who are hungry for the gospel, hungry to grow in the faith, and hungry to reach others for your glory.  Give me wisdom to teach them right, and fill them with your wisdom. ­

Philippians 1:16b

“supposing to add affliction to my bonds”

Have you ever added affliction to those who are already afflicted?  Now think carefully before you answer that question.  I think all of us would just love to say “No, I would never do something like that”, but when we really look hard at our actions or thoughts, we find that we too are guilty.

Let’s look at some ways we can add affliction to those in affliction.

  • Telling them that if they just have faith, God will see them through. So, do we think they have no faith?  Or that their faith is lacking?  This is one of our enemy’s top weapons – for us to see others with little or no faith.  How do we know how much faith a person has?  Only God knows the answer to that question.  We, including me, tend to judge by what we see and hear, but God judges by their heart.  It is our job to encourage then!
  • Gossiping behind their back, speculating what might be wrong.  This is wrong on every level.  God hates gossip (Prov 6:19).  He calls it backbiting, or corrupt communication, or sowing discord among the brethren.  Whatever you call it, it’s wrong.  To sit around, or whisper in church or in the market, or to get on the phone and speculate – it’s all wrong.  Let’s rid ourselves of this evil and walk away from it when it comes our way.
  • Being judgmental of someone’s appearance or social standing.  Oh, have I been guilty of this one!  I hate to admit it, but it’s true.  I see someone walk into your church in scraggly clothes with missing teeth and unkempt hair, and I think to myself what kind of faith can they really have?

I have done this in business as well.  I remember one particular business where the owner was a farmer.  It was a farm implement dealer way out on a gravel road, and they had a very good business.  I saw him one day in his coveralls, dirty and disheveled, and made a judgment on his business capabilities.  Thought I had an easy sale.  But when I started talking to him, I realized I was in way over my head.  This guy had a keener sense of business than anyone I had ever met, suitcoat or not.  I gained a new appreciation for farmers that day!

The truth is, we judge by what we see and what we hear, but God judges the heart (I Samuel 16:7).  It’s time we learn to accept everyone and try to help them grown in Christ.  Hat is our purpose!

 

Lord, help me to see people’s hearts as you do.  Help me to have compassion on everyone, and never judge by what I see or hear.  There is a reason they are where they are, and only you can help me understand that and teach me how to minister to them right where they are today.  Make me humble enough to put myself in their shoes, walk where they walk, and speak to them as you would have me speak.  I am your, Lord!

Philippians 1:15b

“but others out of goodwill.”

This should always be my attitude – always.  I am not called to preach the gospel to make a living, or to receive an offering, or to make a name for myself, or any type of vain glory.  It is for His glory we are called, and only that.

I hate to admit this, but there are times that I have looked at evangelism as an opportunity to make a little more money.  I have looked at being a worship leader at tent meeting, or singing at a gospel sing, as a way to introduce my songs to a new audience and maybe gain some fame.  I have been in the position to advance my own cause.  I was dead wrong, and I have asked God’s forgiveness for my sinful ways.

I must never seek to gain glory for preaching or singing what He has given me to sing or preach.  All the glory must go to Him.  Every time, all the time.  I must go into these opportunities out of an attitude of goodwill.  Goodwill to those who will hear, that they might be blessed and give God the glory.  That they might draw closer to God through the ministry He has given me, not closer to me.  That their life in Christ will be deeper and purer through the words that I share.

Just remember, it’s all for their good and for His glory.  I am just a vessel.

 

I have done things so wrong so often.  I have taken you glory for myself.  I have ministered just for my own gain.  Forgive me Lord.  Help me to seek out your purpose in every opportunity you bring my way.  Help me to go in an attitude that you will receive the glory, not me.  Help me to be a vessel of honor to you, not to myself.  I want bring you glory, God:15b