Praying in the Tension

A little while ago we spoke about Fight Time. It is the idea that there comes a time when the bell rings and its go time. We spoke about how we fight from a place of victory in Christ and being sealed with the Holy Spirit. We also mentioned how the fight is a fight and it can be hard. Today I think we should pick back up on that idea of tension. Specifically, I think we should look at praying in the tension.

When the bell rings there is this initial excitement where we are ready to go and have the faith to move mountains. We are ready for whatever the world, the enemy, or our flesh throws at us. Like He-man we proclaim, “I have the power!” but the problem is that same excitement and proclamation of power does not last. Maybe after a week, two weeks, three weeks, or four weeks we start to get tired. We wonder why the victory is not yet won. We start to question what God said. We start to wonder if we missed something. Surely if God was speaking, He would have wrapped this up by now. Surely if God was in this it would be easier right?

Well no, not necessarily. The tension we feel between what God said and what we see could be part of the plan. It could be that God is using this tension for a purpose. Honestly, I don’t want to list possible reasons why because I don’t want you to limit God, but He can use the tension for His glory and purposes.

The Apostle Paul has some words of encouragement for us. Writing to the church in Philippi from prison he says, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (Phil 1:12). Paul was in jail for doing exactly what God told him to do. He was following the path placed before him and it got him locked up. I am guessing that Paul had his moments of wrestling with the tension of following God’s call and being in jail. A few verses later after talking about how people are trying to make it worse for him, he says, “yes, and I will rejoice” (1:18b). There is tension there, but Paul was praying through and telling us to pray through the tension.

It is not easy, and I am going through it right now, but we have to keep coming back to the place of praying through the tension between what God has said and what we see. One the first Bible verses I ever learned was Numbers 23:19 which says “God is not a man that He should lie nor a son of man that He should repent. Has He not said, and will He not do, or has He not spoken, and will He not make it good?” the verse has always come back to me as a reminder that God is God and I am not. I cannot understand His ways, but I can trust Him.

I believe that one of the reasons God allows the tension is so that we will keep coming back to Him. The tension is hard, but it is necessary. For me, I can see part of the reason is for humility. It is humbling to ask for help. It is humbling to ask for support. It is humbling to not be able to accomplish the task on my own. So, I accept the tension. I don’t really want it but I accept it because I trust that God is good. If we are going to fight then we have to accept that God is good because He is the one leading the battle, and He is the source of strength. So, the tension is real but so is God. Pray in the tension. Pray to the God of peace. Use the tension to draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

Just a thought,

Mike

Kenosis – Fancy Word but Important

Today I want to look at Philippians 2:1-11 which is called the self-emptying or kenosis of Christ. This one gets a little wild but I promise you I won’t waste your time. Just push through to the end with me.

Philippians 2:1-11

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any conciliation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on the goal. Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility considers others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not for his own interest, but also the interest of others.

Make your own attitude that of Jesus,

Who existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage.

Instead, He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men.

And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death – even to death on a cross.

For this reason, God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow- of those who are in heaven and on earth and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

What does Christ emptying of Himself mean?

This is called the kenosis or self-emptying of Christ. This was the cause of many heresies. Heresies are great because sometimes to help understand what something is we have to know what it is not.

Docetism – (dokeo seem or appear) this is a late first-century heresy that said Jesus only appeared to be a man.

Rebukes:

1 John 4:2 Every Spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.

1 John 1:1 That which is from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim to you.

John 20:27 Then He said to Thomas, “put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Ebionism – 2nd century heresy that says Jesus was adopted by God at His baptism. Also known as adoptionism.

Rebukes:

The seven I Am statements of Jesus which are Jesus claiming divinity.

The recording of the Virgin Birth.

John 10:30 – Jesus says He and the Father are One.

John 14:16 – Jesus says the Holy Spirit is another helper. This implies Jesus and the Holy Spirit are of the same essence or homoousios (same substance) as opposed to the same homoiosios (similar substance).

John 10:33 The attempted stoning of Jesus because He claimed to make Himself equal with God.

Isaiah 42:8 – I, the LORD, am one, and I won’t give my name and glory to another, nor my praise to idols.

God does not share glory. To say that Jesus was adopted as God’s Son would be to say that God does share His glory because Jesus says in John 17:5 that He has and had God’s glory. 1 Peter 1:21 says that God glorified Jesus.

Arianism – Jesus was the first created being of God. This is also modern-day Jehovah’s Witnesses. Somewhat like Mormonism that says that Jesus and Lucifer are brothers in the sense that they deny the trinity and the Godhead.

Rebukes:

Colossians 1:15-16 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the first board over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.

Arians and JWs argue that right here it says that Jesus was the first born but that is a legal term indicating rights of inheritance. The image reference means exact representation something along the lines of looking in a mirror.

John 14:9 – Jesus says “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.

Also, as we already looked at God does not share His glory.

There are other heresies we could look at, but these are still some pretty popular ones. But again, the point at looking at these is to get an idea of what the Kenosis is not. So, what is the Kenosis of Jesus?

First, we have to understand that Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. He is not a divided or mixed man but fully God and fully man. The Kenosis of Jesus then was His laying aside His divine power and rights in order to sympathize, save, redeem, and live forevermore as a High Priest King.

Jesus in taking on humanity made it possible for Him to die as a man taking the weight and wrath of sin upon Himself. As a man who is now raised to live never to die again He is able to live forever as priest and king.

In setting aside, His deity He was able to live like you and me. He did not stop being God He stopped using His powers so that, in part, He might demonstrate dependence on the Father and the Spirit. Jesus showed us what it means to live obedience to the Father. Jesus rarely used His own divine power while on earth. He chose to humble Himself and we can now live in that same way.

What do we do with this?

The next question we should ask is what do we do with this? I have already spoken somewhat on this (here) but Paul says that we are to serve one another and we can do this by looking to the example of Christ. Jesus had the rightful place to rule from where He was (in heaven) but He chose to come and save us. He chose not to use His divinity but instead humbled Himself. He chose to be weak so that we might become strong (in Him). He chose to serve. We can see this when He washed the disciple’s feet. He had the right to demand and instead He took served. He had the right to command and instead took request. He had the right to judge and instead took the judgment.

Jesus could do this for a few reasons. First, He was secure in who He was. Jesus is God. He knew this before He took on the form of man and He understood this during His earthly ministry (I Am statements). He could serve and be humble because He knew who He was. When we understand who we are (children of God indwelt with the Holy Spirit) we can be confident and when we are confident we can be humble.

Second, Jesus was aware of and sought the Fathers glory. Jesus said I and the Father are one I only do what I see Him doing. When we understand that God is good and that He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called by His name we are able to see others because we want to see our Father glorified.

Third, Jesus trusted in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew the Spirit was on Him. He was aware of the leading and power of the Spirit and He trusted the Spirit to do His work. When we trust the leading and power of the Holy Spirit we can be humble and serve others because we know that the Holy Spirit is working in or on them.

The purpose of all of this is to serve others in Jesus name. We are called to love and build up others. In our understanding of who we are, who God is, and the power of the Holy Spirit we can build each other up. We must do this even if it costs us. Jesus left us no other option.

Just a thought,

Mike

Just Keep Swinging

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One of my all-time favorite stats come from Hank Aaron and while you might think that it is his home run record of 755 it is not. It is also not his hits, doubles, triples, or RBIs. All of those are impressive but his at-bats are what really get me. Hank Aaron had 12,364 at-bats. Think about that for a second, it took 12,364 at-bats to get his record 755 home runs. That means he was more likely to not get a home run than to get one. Now in all fairness, his slugging percentage is .555 which means there was a good chance he was going to hit something but we don’t typically think about those we just want the home run.

When I think about this I think about Philippians 3:12-14 where Paul basically says “I am not fully mature yet but I keep swinging.” Paul is talking to the Philippians about unity, humility, and perseverance and those are things I know I need to be reminded of in my own life. The point is we are not done yet and we need to keep swinging. My goal is to get to heaven and hear my God say “well done good and faithful servant.” That is what I want more than anything. When I wake up in the morning my prayer is that God will reveal to me His will and ways. Now when I go to bed I evaluate and if I hit it then I rejoice, and if I miss the mark then I pray for strength for tomorrow. I pray that I can keep swinging.

I want to hit home runs at every bat and I want you to hit home runs at every bat. I want you to succeed and that the things God has called you to. I want to shine like stars in the darkness but that will only happen if I keep swinging and it will only happen in your like if you keep swinging. You will not hit every pitch no one ever does. You will strike out more than you hit but you have to swing, you have to keep trying, and you have to wake up every morning and say “Thank you, Lord, for another at-bat.”

There is a new year right around the corner and it will be hard at times and amazing at times but only if you keep pressing forward to the goal promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.

Just a thought,

Mike

Peace Beyond Understanding

Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

God’s Peace comes through

  1. Rejoicing always and in all things
  2. Letting your gentleness be evident to all
  3. Not being anxious but laying all things down before the King

“Rejoice in the Lord always again I say rejoice” Philippians 4:4. This is the first step as it were in receiving the promised peace. The first thing Paul tells us is to do is rejoice, and rejoice. How do we rejoice when everything seems to be falling apart? How do we rejoice when it seems like all hope is lost? How are we to rejoice when there does not seem to be anything to rejoice about? It starts by understanding why we are rejoicing. We are not rejoicing because of what God does for us. We do not rejoice because circumstances are favorable to us. We do not rejoice because of any material thing. We rejoice because God is on the throne, and we rejoice because Christ came and gave His life as a ransom to redeem us from sin. We rejoice because Jesus Christ is Lord. That is the reason we rejoice.  If we can only rejoice because of things in the material world then we will lose heart and not be able to rejoice. We must look past the circumstantial, past what our eyes can see and say I will rejoice because I am in Christ, I will rejoice because God saved a sinner such as me and if I lose all I will still rejoice, and I will rejoice in Christ my comfort and hope. We do not praise God because of what He can do, instead, we praise God because He is God and He is worthy of praise. Praise and rejoicing go hand in hand as they are inseparably one and the same. We must get to the same place that Paul was in when he said: “whether in want or plenty I have learned to be content.” We must be ok with whatever God sees fit to give us. We must be able to say as Job did “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.” I cannot look at my present situation and look for reasons to rejoice or praise I must look past them and say by faith it is well with my soul. Rejoicing alone is not enough, however, it is only part of the answer.

The second part is to let others see in us what Christ has done in you“Let your gentleness be evident to all” as Philippians 4:5 says. You might be tempted as I was to say what does this have to do with receiving God’s promised peace. How is letting others see how Christ changed me bring in Gods promised peace? This gentleness is our patience in life, our gentle spirit, and our forbearance with others. We must show how we have been changed into a new creation, and are not the same old man. This is the fruit of the work the Spirit has done in us. How are we to expect to receive God’s promised peace if we are not being gentle with others as He commanded us (1 Cor 13:4 love is patient). It is a matter of obeying Him. The absence of patience brings in strife and where there is strife and quarreling there can be no peace. If we want Gods promised peace then we must also allow an atmosphere where peace can flourish or we would never know it was there. But rejoicing and showing my gentleness still are not enough to bring in the fullness of God’s promised peace.

The final part of this is to trust in God for all things “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God” Philippians 4:6. Jesus says what man by worrying can add one cubit to his life. We have a saying in my house when someone is fretting and being anxious about something they cannot control “are you going to get any taller” and “whose hands” ok so we have two sayings. What do I gain by being anxious? The simple answer is nothing, the slightly longer answer is I actually lose things by being anxious. Anxiety steals any peace that is there, it robs you of any good thing you have. It is only a negative there is no positive side to this. If I am anxious what I am saying is this problem, this thing is too big for me and too big for God. He who made the universe and all that is in it by His Word, my problem, is just too much for Him. There is nothing that He cannot do and nothing that cannot be brought to Him.  

In everything by prayer and petition make your request known unto God. We must bring everything and I mean everything to God. We are children of the King we have access to the throne of grace and we can and must come boldly to it. God of the universe, maker of heaven and earth the King of kings and Lord or lords says to us come to me with all your problems. He wants us to bring everything to Him there is nothing that will be too big or small to bring to Him. 

Just a quick word on how you can bring the big things to God without hesitation; bring the small stuff.  If you are not trusting God with the small things in your life how can you expect Him to handle the big stuff? We must start by coming to Him and saying, Father, I have a headache please help. Or Lord I can’t sleep please help. I have heard of and have myself prayed for things that may seem absolutely absurd to you and others but those things have strengthened my faith in a way that I cannot explain. We must get in the pattern of bringing all things to Him who sits on heaven’s throne. We must train ourselves to rejoice in all situations, to let our gentleness show before men, and to not be anxious but to give our concerns to the Lord. 

What does this look like when we are able to do this? What does it look like when we are able to live a life that is grounded in those principles? In 1873 the hymn ‘It is well with my soul’ was written. It was written after the greatest tragedy in Horatio Spafford’s life. His four daughters had recently perished at sea and passing the place they died he wrote these words

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,

It is well, with my soul,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

 

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

 

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!

My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

 

For me, be it, Christ, be it Christ hence to live:

If Jordan above me shall roll,

No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,

Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

 

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,

The sky, not the grave, is our goal;

Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!

Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

 

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,

Even so, it is well with my soul.

Reading the words we can see that he lived a life that understood what the Bible taught about rejoicing, patience, and casting our cares on the Lord. These things have a real practical application and a real practical result when they are followed through on. We have to be able to understand that the things God calls us to do are for our benefit. The precepts He has laid down work for our good as those who love Him. If we love God we do the things He asks us to do and we can rejoice in Him, we can show or gentleness to others, and if we love God then we will cast our cares on Him and receive His promised peace.

Philippians 3:10

10 My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death

This is a hard verse because it starts off “pleasant” with the idea of knowing the power of His resurrection and then moves into the “unpleasant” notion of having fellowship with His sufferings and being conformed to His death. The problem is we think in terms of pleasant and unpleasant but Paul does not separate the ideas mentioned. Instead, Paul put these things together and says they are his goal. Fellowship with Christ’s sufferings and conformity to His death are not bad things because they mean we are becoming more like Him which is not to say we are becoming divine but becoming selfless and understanding that sin has been defeated and we are alive to it no longer (reckoning ourselves dead to sin but alive to God (Romans 6:11)). We have to remember that Paul says the idea to become more like Christ and to know Him more which he launched in chapter 2 verses 5-11. It cannot be helped that the more we know Jesus the more we want to be like Him.

Just a thought,

Mike

Bible Study Method

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I get questions from time to time on how to study the Bible. There are a variety of methods and techniques that one could use, but one of my favorites is the example below. I enjoy this method because it can be used as devotional and study. I have a few points first and then the example from Philippians 2:10-18 after that.

Points to Consider:

First, pray. This is the first step because it is the Holy Spirit who will bring the Word to life. If you skip this step then go back to it. Actually, it is not the first step it is the continual step. As you read and study keep praying. One of my most prayed prayers is “Lord help.”

Read a section continual section of Scripture. It does not have to be an entire book or chapter (although that is awesome)  but it should be a large enough section of Scripture that you can see how a section of verses tie together. I always suggest for those starting out that you take a verse that challenges you and then add 5 or so verses on both sides. This way you get a better idea of the context.

Next is if you do not have a Bible commentary on that book, a whole Bible commentary, or a Bible with study notes then use a website like Bible.org or alternatively you can Google a verse and look for commentaries on that verse. You do not need to agree with every commentary you read nor should you but it is a good idea to see what the different interpretations of a verse are. If you can check multiple translations as well.

Lastly, use the cross-references in your Bible. If you are reading your Bible and a verse has a little letter or number with another book/chapter/verse then look that up in your Bible. I have learned a lot just using that.

Now just grab a pen and paper or your keyboard and write down the verse and what you observe through your reading, praying and studying. Don’t worry about being profound or deep or even amazing just study the Bible. The goal is to grow closer to God personally. If you get something worth sharing then share but that should not be the goal. Most of what I write stays between me and God. Actually what is below is from my own personal time but for your sake, I share so you have an example.

10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow— of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth

Jesus’s rule is over all of heaven and earth. He is Lord over all He created.

11  and every tongue should confess that Jesus  Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Today not everyone confesses Jesus as Lord, but there will come a day when Jesus returns that everyone will say that Jesus is Lord. To confess Jesus as Lord gives the Father glory. When as a human father I hear someone brag on my kids I am not only pleased but I am honored because someone else loves what is closest to my heart.

12 So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

Working our your salvation does not mean to earn your salvation because Paul expressly says in other places like Romans 8:3 that we cannot earn salvation. Instead what we are working out is our place in Christ (Colossians 3:3), the effects of our salvation (Romans 6:8-11; Galatians 2:20), and our new nature (Colossians 3:12).

13  For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.

God called us (John 15:16) and has prepared works for us to do.  He has placed the desire in us to do good according to Jeremiah 31:31-34.

14  Do everything without grumbling and arguing,

God is not opposed to you bringing your frustrations to Him. In fact, He tells us to cast our cares on Him because He cares (1 Peter 5:7), but grumbling is different. Grumbling is what children do when they are asked to do something and instead of just doing it they complain. Grumbling is what the people did in the desert. Grumbling says after crossing the red sea “this is hard let’s go back.”

15 so that you may be blameless and pure children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.

By not complaining you show how you are different and that you belong to God. If everyone around you complains about everything and you just keep moving and trusting God you show you are different. Having faith that His ways are right makes you stand out.

16 Hold firmly to the message of life. Then I can boast in the day of Christ that I didn’t run or labor for nothing.

In a world that has shifting and ever changing ideas and loyalties, we are called to hold firm to the words of life.

17  But even if I am poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.

Trials come. There should be no question about that. Hard times are inevitable and we need to expect that. Sometimes hard times come because we make foolish choices, sometimes hard times come because other people make bad choices, and sometimes it is just because we live in a fallen and sinful world. Jesus said that He has overcome the world (John 16:33) and we should never forget that. Yes, hard times come in this world but Jesus has overcome the world.

18 In the same way you should also be glad and rejoice with me.

The hardest thing to do when faced with difficulty is to rejoice. When we are being pressed like grapes for our faith how do we rejoice? Where do we find the strength to rejoice in the midst of suffering? We find it in Christ. Jesus has promised to never leave us or forsake us. He is our ever-present help in time of need (Psalm 46:1).

 

Just a thought,

Mike

I wish I was smarter

I reached back all the way to 07 for this one.  I am re-reading some old stuff to check on growth and such. still growing check, was not completely off base mostly check.

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So I wish I smarter!!

That is not my primary wish but that is on a long list of things I call my almost impossible wish list. There is a laundry list of things I wish I could change about myself.

  • Smarter
  • Taller
  • Sing
  • Play an instrument
  • Memorize scripture better
  • Fly

While there is a list of things I wish I could change I know that some of these things will not change. I know I will ever be able to fly or get taller and quite possibly never be able to sing but there are things I know can change. That is where I have to start; in the things that can change. I have to come to the point where I can say and believe “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13. I have to get to the point where I believe that and I understand it.

Too many times I have heard that or read it and thought I can do “all things”. But it is not saying I can do all things in the normal worldly sense not it is saying I can do all things God wants me to do. I like to think that it would be nice to be able to say “God I want this and I want that” but He is not my spiritual wishing well. If you noticed I said “I like to think” I say that because I know that it is not true, I know that is not how it works and most of me is glad about this. It is nice knowing that I have my limitations and boundaries because that helps me grow and growth is a goal I can achieve (not on my own strength of course). I like knowing that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and I like knowing that it is according to His Divine plan and not my selfish ambitions.

Just a thought,

Mike