Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 27 February 2020

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.  Philippians 3:20-21 (EHV).

You’re part of eternity now even if you don’t think so.   There’s a spot for you waiting in heaven beyond this life, yet it’s guaranteed to you now.   It’s like Jesus put His credit card on deposit at the best hotel anywhere.   More than that, the king of a distant land came to you and I and gave us the keys to His Kingdom.   He invited us to live well here and then join Him when we’re done where we are.

More than that, we’ll be in a glorious body.   Last time I looked in the mirror, a middle aged fat man looked back at me and reminded me that I’d be in better shape if that reflection shed about fifty pounds or more.   Come heaven, this chubby self I now call “me” won’t be chubby (or maybe it will be).   It will be made perfect, in whatever for Jesus has deigned it will be.

Maybe that’s happening right now.   Maybe Jesus is using these days we’re living in right now to refine us here on the fallen Third Rock.  He’s already forgiven our sins.   He’s already purchased eternity for us.   He’s already sent His Spirit into our lives to re-shape us and motivate us.  Maybe part of this Spiritual transformation actually is showing itself in physical ways.

Maybe, actually, is true.   If you don’t believe me, think about reflecting Christ’s kindness to others.   That’s a physical manifestation of a spiritual lesson.   Think about wanting to take better care of yourself; perhaps you’ve heard of the biblical concept that our bodies are God’s temple.  Consider turning away from destructive behaviors to better your place in life…some in the church call that “repentance.”

You see:   it’s true.  It’s true because Jesus spoke only truth.   Yes, He spoke the truth about damnation for those who refuse to know Him.   There’s no denying that.   Yet it’s also undeniably true that He spoke more of love and of our place in His Father’s Kingdom.   Of how He was preparing places for us there.  Of how He has the power to forgive sins and change hearts.   That means transforming our bodies, both through hard work here and glorious miracles in the time to come.   That means living in eternal ways on a mortal earth because eternity matters most.   And that means trusting that Jesus has everything under control, always, even when the world seems to be careening out of bounds.  Even if I’m chubby.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 6:19, Ephesians 2:19, Colossians 3:1, Philippians 3:21.

Lord Jesus, everything is indeed under Your control.   Transform me now, I pray, to serve You best here.   Then welcome me into my glorious being in Your paradise after this life.

Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 26 February 2020

Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.  Philippians 3:19 (EHV).

There’s an ugly truth that we need to talk about:  not everyone will end up in heaven.   It’s true.   It’s not Dave Terry saying it:   it’s the Bible.   Jesus talked about hell, damnation, and eternal punishment over sixty times in the Gospels.   Later on, in verses like verse 19, Paul expands on it.

Yet Jesus talked so much more about heaven, the kingdom of heaven, and the love of.   Indeed, if you read Christ’s words about hell in their context, you see they were said as teachable points; as lessons that contrasted the mercy of God.   It’s not a “do this or else” proposition:   it’s “God loves you so much more so why choose any other way?”

Yet now that we’ve gotten past the “Jeopardy” part of our reading (where we can pass around trivia), we can’t gloss over an important fact:   Jesus means what He says.   He means that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and that nobody goes to the Father except through believing in Him.   He didn’t say things just for effect or to hear Himself talk:   He meant them.

That means He meant the part about eternal punishment for rejecting Him.  It’s uncomfortable for us to acknowledge, but it’s true.   I’m in a men’s Bible study by David Platt about how something has to change.   We have to find ways to get the Gospel out to the world because the world desperately needs it.   Because if we don’t, then many, many billions of people may be damned to hell.   He who died to live to prove He is enough for us also wants those unknowing billions to live with Him, too.   They matter.

“But but but,” you may think, “God wouldn’t condemn someone who doesn’t know Him, would He?”   Yes, He may very well.   A friend of mine (who is a pastor) told me that he wouldn’t be surprised if God didn’t find a way to rescue even those who were never introduced to Christ in this life.   That’s most of humanity.   I believe that now, too; at least I’m hopeful it’s true.   Yet if it isn’t, if He insists on what He said about being the only path to a heavenly eternity, then we’re wasting time debating this point of trivia as well.

If Jesus means it – and we have every reason to believe He does – then we had better get crackin soon.  There’s no time to waste in sharing that Jesus loves us.   That He forgave everything.   That anything except Him isn’t of Him.  There’s no time to lose in sharing the truth that eternity doesn’t have to be hell.  Because Jesus means it.

For further reading:  Ephesians 2:19, Colossians 3:1, Hebrews 12:22, Philippians 3:20.

Lord Jesus, You mean Your words.  They are truth.   Let me share You with someone today.

Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 25 February 2020

For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Philippians 3:18 (EHV).

This is a verse that gives me pause, makes me stop and think “am I genuine?”  The promise from Jesus of eternal salvation is unbreakable by anyone but us.   He guarantees us a place with Him forever when we say we believe.   NOTHING can separate us from the love of God.  Yet the devil sows doubt in us, exploiting our sins to try to turn us away from Christ.  “Did God really say?” is a quote as old as Eden but it still works on us today.   The devil wants us to repudiate our salvation.

Have my thoughts, words, or actions compromised my faith so that Jesus would turn away from me and say, “you broke your promise to me?”  I’ve often mentioned the story of Billy Graham where an interviewer asked him if he would hear Jesus say “well done good and faithful servant” when he died.   Graham’s response: “I’d like to, but I don’t think I will.”  Was that self-effacing humility or genuine doubt?   Maybe it was a little of both.  But, to be honest, it’s a question we each probably worry about.   Have we been faithful enough?   Was our belief in Jesus real enough?   Am I good enough?   Have I done enough?

You know the answer.   On your own, no, no, no, and no.

There is no “enough.”   “Enough” happened on that cross.   Enough was what Jesus paid so that you and I don’t have to think about “enough.”  Our works, our good thoughts, our best of intentions aren’t enough to purchase a ticket to eternity with Jesus.   That’s not how it works.

How it works is that we believe in Jesus and He’s enough.  Everything to make that belief mean something was already done by Him.  The ONLY thing we bring into the equation is ourselves.   But that’s how He designed things; that’s how He wanted them and arranged them.   Have we done enough?   Am I genuine?   The better question is, “why bother asking?”

To Jesus we are enough.   The same Jesus who is the Alpha and Omega and the center of all things in the universe touches our hearts by saying, “I’m all you’ll ever need.”   Sure, Satan will try to lead us astray; he works through people who may not even realize they’re working for the dark one.  Yet the light of the world overcame that darkness thousands of years ago.   He’s still shining today.

Did God really say He is enough?   Yes, He actually did.   And that’s where the questioning ends.

For further reading:  Acts 20:31, Romans 8:39, Galatians 6:12, Philippians 3:19.

Lord Jesus, YOU are enough.   You are all I could ever want or need or hope for.   Only in You are light and life.

Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 24 February 2020

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.  Philippians 3:17 (EHV).

Let’s imitate Paul in how we think, live, and worship.  More than that, let’s imitate Jesus in how we think, love, and live.

And let’s admit it (again):  we stink at modeling Jesus (and Paul).   Jesus is upright and moral; I’m not, even as I know I’m forgiven.   Jesus judges against His standard of loving justice; I’m just ‘judgy.’   Jesus is kind; I’ve been a jerk.  Jesus forgives EVERY sin, even the little ones I’ve forgotten (because, news flash:   there really is no such thing as a little sin.   Sin is sin.   It’s all rebellion against the Lord).   Jesus loves perfectly; I love conditionally, even the people I love most.

So when someone (like me) asks me to follow Jesus better and join together in living better for Christ, I immediately know I have a lot of work to do.   I’m convicted by it; I see my own sins of the past and want to do better now.  Just yesterday, I found out that a long-time friend on Facebook (and in my personal circle as well) had de-friended me.   This is someone I have known for years.   Whether it was an accident or on purpose I don’t know but it made me wonder:   did they see me or harsh things I’ve said online or things that are un-Christian and decide they’d had enough?   Would I want to see myself from that person’s point of view and, if I did, would I like who I saw?   Would I maybe not want to be friends with me, either?

Let’s be real:   being de-friended online isn’t a big deal.   But since all things serve Jesus, maybe this incident is a good thing.  Another news flash:   those sins of the past and my failures or unkind words?   They’re in the past.     Jesus has forgiven them.  Who knows what hostile effect, what harm I’ve done, that I can’t undo?  What should define me now is Christ alone.   In order to cleave better to Him, I (and maybe we) need to do a better job on keeping my eye on Him, on those who model His behavior.   That doesn’t mean compromising who we are (unless who we are compromises our faith).   And that doesn’t mean not taking a stand (unless that stand makes you stand between Jesus and someone else).   But it does mean watching Him and those who live out His behaviors and then changing how I think and act in response.   It means real repentance.   It means honest change and patience and caring.

Maybe it’s a bigger deal than it seems.

For further reading:   1 Corinthians 4:16, 1 Timothy 4:12, Philippians 3:17.

Lord Jesus, teach me today to better model my thoughts and actions after Yours and those of Your devout followers.   And help me to see myself through someone else’s eyes.

Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 20 February 2020

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. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.  Philippians 3:15-16 (EHV).

Love differently because, when we mature, we get to and we can.   We get to love differently because God ‘has our backs,’ and because He has made it possible to already be part of eternity.   We get to do this because He blesses us with lives in which we experience His grace in a multitude of ways.

I’m 53 and I don’t think about matters of faith the way I used to.   I guess that means I’m getting old (and, no, I won’t use the phrase “back in the day”) because I’m seeing things differently.   The older I get the easier it becomes to acknowledge that God is God and I’m not, that I don’t have all the answers, that while most of my life is probably behind me the best parts of it are still to come.   I’m content and know I’ve been richly blessed, even in small things, in ways I just don’t deserve on my own.

Enough about me; what about you?   Where are you in how you view your faith?  Has life made you look at things differently, rely on Christ more or less?   Has experience illuminated some things about your belief in Jesus that you hadn’t considered before?   Or are you wandering?

Wanna know a secret?   It’s great for us to acknowledge what we believe, but what we believe is tiny compared to God’s grace, His mercy, and His revelation.  It’s helpful for us to know more about the Christian faith:  the inter-connected meanings in the New and Old Testaments, the authenticity of the life of Christ, how science and archaeology and philosophy and human history all point to the truth of God in nearly everything we are and have here on the Third Rock.   That’s all fine; that’s all good.

Yet what’s greater is that God puts it all in perspective.   That viewing everything about our world through the lens of God’s word helps us take a new view of things we know so well.   What’s greater is simply being in praise and awe of Him.   Simple thanks, simple repentance, simple honesty with Him: these things Jesus asks for and builds in us the longer we live through Him.  He could smite us instead.   The same touchy-feely Jesus proclaimed in so many churches today is actually the same war-eagle Jesus who smote the Egyptians and wiped out Israel’s enemies.   We deserve that too, but, instead, He grants us a better way.  The older I get, the more I see this is so.

For further reading:   1 Corinthians 2:6, Galatians 5:10, Ephesians 1:17, 1 Thessalonians 4:9, Philippians 3:17.

Mighty, loving Lord, thank You for letting me live longer in You.

Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 19 February 2020

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. 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, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:12-14 (EHV).

We’re each still pressing on to take hold of heaven, to win the prize for which God Himself in Jesus Christ called us.   And that’s tough.   We get to be part of eternity the second we accept Christ’s gift.   When we believe, we’re sealed as part of it now.   Only we can recant of it; only we can lock ourselves into hell by rejecting it after.   As far as Jesus is concerned, our eternity with Him is guaranteed.

And yet we still strain.  And yet we still try to hammer in differences between pressing on to grasp forever and the fact that we win that prize of heaven because He already won it for us.   That He’s running with us in our life-race, straining toward the finish line of this mortal life.   That while He’s in us in our race, He’s actually WITH us every step, every strain, every moment.

Even the awful ones.  He was with Ryan Newman the other night when Newman lost control of his car at Daytona.   Thankful, Mr. Newman will live to fight another day.   He knows that, in any race, there are many competitors but only one winner.   Even when Jesus goes with every racer, how we run each race matters.  That’s a good thing because this life is never easy.   In fact, Jesus tells us we WILL strain, we will struggle; that nobody who clings to this world is fit to serve His Kingdom.

And some days truly are harder than others.  Ask Ryan Newman.   Ask my co-worker who is in hospice up in Washington state.   Ask anyone who has ever lost their belongings in a fire, storm, or bankruptcy.   Some days of struggling make it hard for us to forget the world and press forward, no matter what, towards a heavenward goal.   Satan thrives on that, thriving on dividing us from Christ, from His promises.   The evil one wants us to consider that this world is as good as it gets, that anything we can have here right now is so much better than what we may get at some future, undetermined date.

Don’t believe it.   Keep racing.  Let’s keep our eyes on Christ and His resurrection because He guarantees that we’ve already won even as the race helps us improve.   That it’s a goal to keep pressing for.

For further reading:   Luke 9:62, 1 Corinthians 9:24, Hebrews 6:1, Philippians 3:13.

Lord Jesus, run my race with me, and strengthen me to press onward for You.

Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 18 February 2020

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.  Philippians 3:12 (EHV).

If you’re reading this, you’re still alive here on the Third Rock; duh.   You and I:   we are still pressing on to take hold of eternal life.   Paul has already entered there; he’s in heaven.   That’s the reason Jesus came to him and remade his life.   It’s the reason why Jesus did the same thing to you and me.

Yet we need to work to maintain our grip on our faith in Him when we’re tempted and laid low in this fallen world.   Have you ever considered that, when you feel beaten down because you’re been attacked over and over again, you’re being attacked precisely because your faith is stronger?   Satan has to work even harder to get you.   Some people roll over easily; they’re an easy conquest.   Yet others require more effort.   If you’re being attacked again and again, perhaps you aren’t one of those easy conquests.

Perhaps you believe more in this goal for which Christ Jesus took hold of you.   Perhaps you struggle harder, fight tougher, beat back the evil one more precisely because you ARE tougher for him to overcome.

Paul understood that.  For decades after his conversion on that Syrian pathway he struggled against attacks from the physical and spiritual realms.   Yet he learned quickly that the only way he could continue to press forward – to really work for eternity – was to submit himself to Jesus.   To double down in his faith.   To come to Jesus when he had prayers of both anguish and thanksgiving; when he had anything at all to say.   As long as he lived here on good old terra firma, Paul pressed forward with one eye on where he was and the other on the road forward.

He did it for the same reason we should:   eternity matters most.   Jesus came here to make eternity with Him possible for us, knowing full-well that we would be challenged, tempted, burdened, stressed-out, and attacked every day by the unseen world that was hostile to His love.  Jesus pushed all that to the side when He pushed aside the rock in the garden and walked out of His tomb.  He knew we would be savaged every day, so He wanted to give us something worth fighting for, worth struggling over, worth pressing on towards.

That was then.   This is now.   Here and now, we’re still alive, and since we woke up today, we GET TO fight the good fight again.   To ask forgiveness for yesterday’s sins while giving praise for a new day today.   Then we get up, look forward, and press on.

For further reading:   1 Corinthians 13:10, 1 Timothy 6:12, Philippians 3:13.

Lord I need you and struggle for You.   Abide with me, strengthen me, forgive me, and teach me again today Your better ways.