Invincibility: Life or Death… I’m Good

Paul went from persecuting the church to being a persecuted apostle of the church. After his arrest in Jerusalem, during his first imprisonment, he wrote a letter to the Philippians in which he boldly declared this short but profound line…

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (1:21)

In other words… “If I live, I get to be all about Christ. If I die, I get to be with Christ, so either way, I’m good.” Here’s the thought that hit me – Paul was pretty much invincible at this point. Kill him and he’s with Jesus. Let him live and he’ll just live for Jesus. You can’t really hurt Paul.

I can think of plenty of things that could hurt me. Take away all my money, my time, or worse yet, take away my family and I’d be hurting. But I’d only hurt temporarily, or physically, or emotionally. Eternally? I’m good. We’re good. I won’t take money home with me and my family will meet me there.

Let me ask you an extremely important question… if someone took your life, would they be hurting you? If they let you live, would that cause pain for you too? Or are you firmly grounded and settled in an eternally secure relationship with Jesus?

As far as eternity is concerned, I’m invincible. Seems like I’ve always wanted that special power!

Rekindle the Flame of Love by Paying Attention Again

We don’t fall out of love. We stop choosing to do things that are loving. So the way back to love is to do the loving things we did early in our relationship. And that often starts with the simple step of paying attention again. Paul challenged the believers in Philippi, Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” (Philippians 2:3-4 NLT)

We usually measure the value of things in money, but for most of us there is one commodity even more precious than money. It’s our time. When we give our time, we never get it back, but it’s a worthy investment. When it comes to your spouse, your kids, your friends and family, nothing is more precious a gift than the time we are willing to spend in conversation, listening, sharing, and staying tuned in.

Giving our time and attention may seem simple, but it’s complicated by living in the age of distractions. The way we consume media, network with others, and allow our lives to revolve around mobile devices all affect our attention spans and how easily we are diverted to something seemingly more urgent, or at least more stimulating. Paying attention requires us to block out distractions and spend time focusing on the needs and lives of other people.

Thankfully, God is able in His infinite power and wisdom to tune into the lives of every single human being on the planet. How He does this is beyond our understanding, but He cares so deeply about you that He pays attention to every detail of your life. He knows every pain, every frustration, and every highlight too. You’ve got God’s attention. Does He have yours today?

Why I Believe in Positive Thinking

Shine On

I’m not a fan of what’s often called a “positive thinking” or “possibility thinking” theology That is, to say that we’re all basically good and just need to realize the power of the good within us could be referred to with the theological term, baloney. We’re depraved and sinful and desperately wicked. We need a Redeemer and a Savior, found only in the person of Jesus Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection.

Having said all of that, I do believe in the power of positive thinking to make a difference in our lives and the lives of others for a very simple reason, rooted in good common sense best spoken by Zig Ziglar…

Positive thinking won’t let you do anything, but it will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.

Now that makes sense. I also like the way Paul put it in Philippians 4:8:

Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (NLT)

I like positive thinking. The alternative kinda stinks.

photo credit: Marianone

When God Takes A City

We’re walking with the apostle Paul on Wednesday evenings and we’ve just received our call to Macedonia (modern-day Greece). We parted ways with Barnabas, taking Silas instead, and we picked up Timothy and Luke on the trip. In Philippi, God took the city for Himself! How did it happen?

On Saturday, one business woman named Lydia, a “seller of purple” came to faith in Christ along with her house. Then Paul caused a riot over God’s power to rescue a girl being used by adult men for monetary purposes. A jailer got saved and a bunch of prisoners’ lives were changed forever. In Thessalonica, another riot.

As I watch Paul through the eyes of Luke (the writer of Acts), I get the feeling that the gospel was influential and divisive wherever it was taken. People reacted with warm embrace or heated rejection, but nobody was neutral, and everyone took notice. Riots usually ensued.

Out of this wild and crazy second missionary journey of the apostle Paul comes these three realizations of what it looks like when God takes a city for Himself, such as Philippi…

Continue reading When God Takes A City

Striving for Holiness

I’ll just try harder. That’s the mentality of most people who are trying to be good Christians. “Well, I tried and I blew it, so I’ll just try harder.” The problem is that God resists the proud, so the more you think you can handle sin and temptation on your own, the less God will help. But He gives grace to the humble, so when you admit your helplessness, God comes to the rescue and gives grace, which provides strength.

Continue reading Striving for Holiness

What A Wonderful World

At our wedding, Angie and I chose to have Louie Armstrong’s song played… What a Wonderful World. In light of yesterday’s shootings, and so many other monumental tragedies in recent years, is it really a wonderful world? We were driving to Fort Smith yesterday for the annual meeting of the BMA of America and were reflecting on some of the tragedies that have taken place at this same time of the year such as the Oklahoma City bombing (April, 1995), the Waco compound burning (April, 1993), and Columbine (April, 1999). Each of these tragedies evoked emotions of fear and trepidation about living in this present world.

Our daughter begins kindergarten this fall. She’s nearly five years old and we’re already speculating about the nature of the world in which she will grow up and go through school. The news media tackles subjects like campus security and the psychological reasons behind such an awful rampage. But the secular media can never fully comprehend the nature of human depravity. Evil men will do evil things, no matter our level of security. If not on a campus, then in a restaurant, an airport, or a World Trade Center. Is this really a wonderful world?

There are natural and supernatural factors that can only be seen through a God-centered world view. The depravity of man runs deep in the heart. Evil abounds in humankind and murder, war, and bloodshed will continue as long as lost mankind has some dominion over this present realm. Further, Satan is labeled in Scripture as the “prince of the power of the air… the god of this world.” We who live on earth, live in a time and place where darkness has dominion. Is it really a wonderful world?

My answer, surprisingly, is yes. Why? Because it is in this present realm that God is actively working to extend His saving and healing grace to a lost and depraved people. It is here that God moves. It was into this humanity that Jesus, the light, came into the world. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God’s glory was put on display through the life of Jesus Christ, through His atoning death, and through His miraculous resurrection. Do we live in a wonderful world? Only insomuch as Jesus makes the difference.

Last night, we were ministered to by a wonderful gospel singer who performed the old song Beulah Land. I love the lines… “Beulah land, I’m longing for thee, and someday on thee I’ll stand…” Our world, inundated with pain and loss and suffering, is merely a waiting room, a practice run, an incubation chamber for eternity. For those who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, heaven is our real home. Hell awaits those who reject His free offer of grace.

Amazingly, we cannot forget that it is this world which will someday be renovated by fire. This world will be redeemed. It currently groans with birth pains, waiting to be delivered from its depraved lostness. It’s a wonderful world, plagued by the inherent sinfulness of humankind. It’s wracked with pain and evil. Yet everything on God’s time line is moving toward a great and triumphant finality. Jesus will rule and reign.

Our hearts are gripped, in times like this, with uncertainty and fear. Then Scripture speaks on behalf of its divine author… “For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) “Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) “Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Is this world your home, or do you seek a city to come, a home not made with human hands preserved in the eternities for you? Jesus Christ came to be the light and hope of a lost and dark world. He came to offer you peace, pardon, and eternal life if you’ll only trust fully in Him, even in the world’s darkest moments. More is to come. Scripture foretells that times will wax worse and worse. Yet Jesus’ hand is always extended toward you. Embrace Him who is ready to embrace you, and enjoy the unspeakable peace and confidence of God.

No Man Like-Minded

“But I trust the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. For I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state.” -Philippians 2:19-20

Paul knew of noone else in the world who would be as others-focused as Timothy. He qualified his recommendation of Timothy with these words, “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” Timothy was in a class by himself. The whole world seems to put self first, but Timothy was willing to be Christ-centered. His thoughts ran to Jesus and to others before himself, what a rare gem!

It should really be our desire to be a gem so rare as Timothy, a diamond in the rough. Our motive should not be such that men will praise us, but rather that in all things Jesus may get the glory and people may be cared for. Timothy simply lived the great kingdom virtue that Jesus had spoken of in the Sermon on the Mount when he said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto thee.”

When we put God’s kingdom first in our thoughts, all other thoughts seem to become secondary. Life takes care of itself when the kingdom is our focus. What is your first focus today? Could Paul say of you that you’re one of only a few people in this world who doesn’t put self first? Let Jesus know you want Him to come first for you today.