Paul’s 3rd Condition for Peace: Thinking About?

May 12, 2017

“…think on these things…”  (Philippians 4:8)

Paul and Jesus agree that we should think our way to peace (after praying!) Jesus challenged us: The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness.” (Matthew 6:22-23) Jesus was talking about how we think and look at things – our mindset and outlook.

Paul gives us the same counsel in his third condition for peace: we can decide how we are going to think, and how we are not going to think. He challenges us to think about things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and good news. How much time do we spend thinking about things that are untrue, dishonorable, unjust, impure, ugly, and bad news?

Isaiah wrote, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on You, because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3) Paul and Isaiah agree that if the trust is always, the peace is perfect and perpetual. If the trust is up and down, the peace is up and down. If there is no trust, there is no peace, because we must keep our minds continuously fixed on God, trusting.

What does it mean to keep our minds fixed on God? For starters, we should think about Who God really is, and the attributes of God…

When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he was in prison chained between two soldiers 24/7. Guards changed every 4 hours, which means he never had a moment of privacy, (yet through his witness many of those soldiers came to Christ in a “chain reaction.” 🙂 ) He had to practice this condition for peace continually: “Fix your minds on whatever is true and honorable and just and pure and lovely and praiseworthy,” then, “the peace of God, which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.” (Just like these soldiers who were guarding Paul.)

In the context of our own experiences of terrifying stress, like combat, being violated by a crime, a terrible accident, surgery, prison, the news that we have a malignancy, or the final stages of an illness, this prescription can give us peace.

“Think on these things…”

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace

 


Applied Resurrection

March 29, 2013

“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” (1 Corinthians 15:19 NKJV)

A mother of small twin daughters realized her bone marrow transplants were not going to work.  In beautiful handwriting she wrote out The Living Bible Paraphrase of three chapters written by Paul about resurrection.  When she gave them to me she asked me to explain them at her memorial service simply so her daughters would understand them.

The first was the great resurrection chapter of the Bible, the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians.  The other two were the fourth and fifth chapters of Second Corinthians.  I call these last two chapters: “Applied Resurrection.”

The first application of the resurrection of Christ is that just as Jesus was buried and raised from the dead, we are buried in the hope of our own resurrection.  If that is not going to happen we should be pitied because we suffered for Christ in this life.

If you want to have a personal Easter I challenge you to read these three chapters slowly and devotionally in a good translation or paraphrase you can understand like The Living Bible Paraphrase or The Message.

C.S. Lewis told us the clergy are people who have been set aside to remind us that we are creatures who are going to live forever.  They are also to teach us that life is a school in which we are to learn eternal values.

Applied Resurrection teaches us that though our outward man is perishing, it is possible for our inward man to be renewed every day while we’re learning to appreciate the difference between the visible and the invisible, the temporal and eternal values.

May your Easter be a time of reflection on eternal resurrection values.


Why Are You Here?

March 12, 2013

“What are you doing here, Elijah?”  (1 Kings 19: 9)

I find great meaning in the questions God asks people in the Bible.  On our journeys of faith our loving God sometimes needs to ask us this question He asked Elijah.  Where we place the emphasis in a statement can sometimes completely change its meaning.  For example, we can say, “A woman, without her, man is lost!”  Or we can say, “A woman without her man is lost!  Using the very same words we can communicate two very different meanings.

God’s question to Elijah might have been “What are you doing here Elijah?” Or the question could simply have been “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

A very godly saint was named Bernard.  A dog was named after him and so we usually think of a dog when we hear his name.  He wrote this question on the inside of the door that led from his tiny cell out into the world: “What are you doing here, Bernard?”

It would be a good idea for us to have that thought engraved on the inside of our door so that every time we leave our home we would be confronted with our vision statement.  It would be a good question to have engraved where we would see it as we leave our churches every time we worship or are inspired by great preaching and teaching.

It would also be a good question to ask and answer as we enter our places of business.  Our workplace is where God has strategically placed us to be and have an impact for Christ in this world.  We should, therefore, begin every day there with this question:

“What are you doing here?”


Why Marvel?

January 29, 2013

  “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’”  (John 3:7)

When Jesus declared that we should not marvel because He told us we must be born again, He meant that we should not marvel as if the new birth were unnecessary. Jesus explained that flesh gives birth to flesh and only the Spirit gives birth to spiritual people.  When the Bible uses the word, “flesh,” it means “Human nature unaided by God.” History tells us human nature unaided by God is a monster.  So, Jesus said we should marvel not as if the new birth were unnecessary.

Jesus also told us we should not marvel as if the new birth were impossible.  God can work a miracle of creation in the life of a human being.  David prayed: “Create in me a pure heart, O God…” (Psalm 51:10).  The apostles refer to the new birth as if it were the answer to David’s prayer (2 Corinthians 5:17).

We should not marvel as if the new birth were incomprehensible.  We do not see electricity.  But we believe in electricity because we see the effects of electricity.  When we see trees bending and objects flying we say, “Look at that wind!” But we do not see the wind.  We only see the effects of the wind. It is that way with the new birth.  We cannot see the Spirit.  We only see the effects of the Spirit in the life of someone who is being born again.  But as we believe in other things we cannot see – like the wind and electricity – we can believe in the new birth.

And finally, Jesus meant you should not marvel as if the new birth could not happen to you.

Believe Jesus and it will happen to you!


A Fellowship in the Gospel

May 4, 2012

“… your fellowship in the Gospel…”  (Philippians 1:5)

When you read the first words of Paul’s letter to his favorite church they show you the passion of Paul and the heart of this church he loved.  The bonds that made them so remarkably one in heart are expressed in the repetition of one word: “Gospel.”  Paul writes that the things he has experienced have fallen out to the furtherance of the Gospel.  And that he has them in his heart because in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel they all are partakers of God’s grace.

As Paul continues to repeat the word “Gospel” he expresses his heart’s passion when he describes what he calls “the faith of the Gospel.”  He precedes that with the concept of behavior that becomes the Gospel.  Paul is describing the purpose and function of a church when he calls their church “a fellowship of the Gospel.” The context in which the Gospel is to be believed is that fellowship of the Gospel.

Paul is in prison when he writes these words and he doesn’t know if he will be released.  In verse 27 he writes his ideal for his ideal church.  His great Gospel prescription is: “I want to hear that every member of your church is a Christian; every Christian is Christian and Christians are Christian together in a way that results in other people believing the Gospel!”

Paul’s plan for filling this prescription for his ideal spiritual community is to “Stand fast in one Spirit with one mind, striving together for the faith of the Gospel!” (1:27) That Church in Philippi is to act as if they have one mind among them because in fact because they do.

It is the mind of Christ.


A Salty Disciple

March 21, 2012

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness…It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.”  (Matthew 5:13 NIV/NLT)

When Jesus told His disciples that they were the salt of the earth there are several ways to interpret and apply this metaphor.  We find a clue to my favorite interpretation when we realize that our word “salary” is made up of the two root words “salt money.”

Twenty centuries ago the Roman Empire wanted to control the population of the world.  They knew that no human being can live without salt. So, they controlled the salt of the world. They actually paid their slaves in cubes of salt.  This is where we get the expression that a person is not worth their salt.

This means Jesus was teaching that secular people do not have life.  His disciples have life and they are the way the secular people of this world can find that life.

Years ago a missionary statesman said that when missionaries live in a compound in a foreign country with a fortress mentality they are like manure: they stink!  It’s only when God spreads them around that they do a little good.  Similarly, when the followers of Jesus meet together they are like salt in a saltshaker.  The only way they can have a salt influence is to come out of that saltshaker.

One way our Lord brings us out of the saltshaker is that we must make a living.  Be challenged by the reality that your workplace can be God’s way of placing you next to secular people who need life.  Realize that you are not only there to make a living…

You are there because they need the salty impact of your life.