The Bible… At The Center

Psalms has been described by some as God speaking to his people and the people speaking to God. Psalms are one of the most read books of the Bible. They are quoted often in the New Testament writings and are a prominent part of church liturgy often quoted in many prayers and doctrinal statements. There are 150 psalms and they are divided into five books. We are going to go to Book 5 which includes Psalms 107 through 150. As the title above indicates we are going right to the center of the Bible. It has been said that Psalm 119 is at the very center of the Bible. There are those who dispute this, believing Psalm 118 to be that point. There is one fact about Psalm 119 that is undeniable, it is the longest psalm, 176 verses, nearly double the length of the longest psalm in the whole book and also we have to mention its curious composition. I wanted to be sure I got this right so here is an excerpt from John Gill’s commentary.

“It consists of twenty two parts, according to the number of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet; the names of which letters stand between each part; and every part consists of eight verses, all of which begin with the same letter: thus, for instance, the first eight verses begin with the letter א, “aleph”, and the second eight verses begin with the letter ב, “beth”, and so on throughout; hence the *Masorah calls this psalm the Great Alphabet. (*the collection of information and comment on the text of the traditional Hebrew Bible by the Masoretes. the Masoretic text of the Bible.) There are many reasons for this, a couple being to gain attention and the other being to help the memorizing of this psalm. Most all of the verses has something concerning the word of God as to precepts and ordinances and there are the use of words that convey that point; laws, statutes, judgements and testimonies to name a few. There is no mention of tabernacle worship or rites and ceremonies, leaving the impression that the whole design is to show the passion the psalmist had for the word of God, and to stir up the same in others. For this week we will look at the First Part verses 1-8.Psalm 119

Psalm 119    The Glories of God’s Law

Happy are those whose way is blameless,

who walk in the law of the Lord.

These are those who seek the straight and narrow way to salvation and eternal life. They walk in faith while others stumble, become prisoners of sin and turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the word of God. They value the commandants and ordinances of their God. They will be influenced by the love of God and strive to live to their God given ability to persevere enabled by His presence in their lives.

Happy are those who keep his decrees,

who seek him with their whole heart,

We should hold fast the faithful word of the Gospel, let no circumstances take it from us. We should be desirous of observing the law of God, obeying the ordinances of the Gospel, with love and faithfulness; doing so by prayer and supplication, with a true heart, and in sincerity seeking to know more of him. We must seek earnestly  our God and Christ, his kingdom and righteousness and the mercy and grace of his love for us. We must do so with our whole heart and mind.

3 who also do no wrong,

but walk in his ways.

None of us are free of sin or from the acts of sin that surround us each day. We will make mistakes from but that is not our desire or goal. We are not corrupt by nature and seek to walk in the ways of God and Christ. It is here we find good and happy people.

You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.

We sometimes overlook the fact that God did not ask this of us, he commanded that it be done. We should hold in high regard the precepts, commandments, statutes, and judgments of God because they were commanded by him. Repeat, there is no option or other choice.(Deuteronomy 6: 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.)

O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!

The steps of those of the faith are directed by the Lord. Man’s mind, affections, and direction are the results of the guidance of the Spirit and grace of God. A good man knows that he alone cannot keep the statutes and remains steadfast in the way with God and Christ in his life. (Jeremiah 10:23I know, O Lord, that the way of human beings is not in their control, that mortals as they walk cannot direct their steps.)

Then I shall not be put to shame,

having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.

I shall no longer be afraid of God, instead there shall be a wondrous awe and need to speak of Him in the presence of others. I shall not fear His coming or the judgement, for I have salvation through Him. This promise is mine and I shall guard it by steadfastly continuing in the commandments not merely in the theory, but in the practice and experience of them, always seeking God’s will in my life.

I will praise you with an upright heart,

when I learn your righteous ordinances.

Psalm 9: 1-2

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

We can add very little to these verses from Psalm 9. We should note Verse 7 mirrors verse 6 to some degree. Here in verse 7 there is notice of the need to learn the precepts, to become proficient in them and to continue to utter forth the most sincere praise and thankfulness.

We finish this first section in verse 8.

 8 I will keep thy statutes,

O forsake me not utterly

The Psalmist admits here that he alone cannot possibly keep the statutes but was desirous of observing them in the best manner he could, as assisted by the grace of God.

I encourage you to read the entire Psalm 119 and you might consider making a visit to the Psalms a regular part of you personal worship plan. Here in Psalms you will find “the biblical vision of faithful folk from all times and places, gathered, as the psalmists of old, to acknowledge God’s reign by singing a new song.” (New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 4, PG 675)

Glad to have you in the pew this week, come back, we are blessed and thankful for your presence.

Life is Good


Membership Has Its Privileges

Crude way of saying that within the Christian fellowship and The Family of God there are privileges, referred to as blessings within the faith. To lead a christian life is difficult and requires a great deal of faith and perseverance. You will at times fail and sometimes the way back is not that easy. Today’s world has many hills to climb and every now and then a mountain to climb and the pressures of this life will bring about a certain amount of anxiety, depression and can overwhelm your faith. There are many ways to comfort those who we know to be facing these things in their life, the most common being a kind word, offer of help and one that I hear often, the quoting of scripture. One of the most quoted is from Philippians.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

You might say it is a family tradition, this comfort found within the word, of which there are according to my research at least 53 relevant verses. Something about this family thing you should know. When Christ died on the cross, was resurrected and ascended to heaven to sit on the right hand of the Father, you were, on the blood of our savior adopted into the Family of God. What does that mean? To us, all of us there is the gift of salvation and all the rights and privileges of the Family of God, it is our inheritance.

Psalm 69: 29

29 But as for me, afflicted and in pain— may your salvation, God, protect me.

The Bible refers to anxiety, but the word itself may not be found all that often. In the English Standard Version, it is used 8 times. In the New International Version, it is found 7 times. The King James Version does not use the word at all. Words often used in its place are trouble, heaviness, distress, and cares. There are many causes for anxiety and the severity of which will vary from person to person. Broken relationships, guilty conscience, unfilled desires and the list goes on. One primary reason is the weight of sin. All sin separates us from God and many times we forget the way back due to the weight that anxiety puts on us. We must learn to look to our God for restoration and forgiveness, remember it is a family thing. 

Psalm 68:20  Our God is a God of salvation, and to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.

As Christians we must recognize that there are times that more than words are needed.

Acts 3 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 

Note here in this story from Acts that Petter reached out and physically took the man’s hand, assisting him to rise up. There will be times when more than just words will be needed to assist those for whom the anxieties of life have overwhelm their faith.

Matthew 6: 25-26                      NRS                            

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 

Let’s take a moment and go beyond the words. Why would you not worry about your life in general? It would seem that food and clothing would be a natural. God gave us life and it should follow that he would provide us with the lesser things in life. We should also have the faith to believe that He who gave us life would also give us food to sustain that life and garments to clothe those bodies which He created for us. Verse 26 does not imply that the birds do not work hard for what they have but rather they do so not worrying about tomorrow. They do not waste precious time worrying about accumulating stuff for the future, God will provide.

Matthew 6: 32-34

32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Anxiety destroys faith and in verse 33 we have a very specific command for living a Christian life. I will close with these verses from Philippians 4: 8,

Finally, beloved,  whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Life is Good  God is Great


Christological Hymn

As we move on into chapter 2 let’s take a moment to review the past verses. Paul has asked the Philippians to live in harmony, to put aside their differences and to remove from their behavior personal ambitions, pride, and to not seek prominence and prestige at the expense of others. They must have in their hearts a humble, selfless desire to serve which he has put forth as the very essence of the life of Christ. Starting in Verse five he sets forth the example of Jesus Christ. It is important that we understand what is being put down here in Verses five through eleven. This is Paul’s final appeal to the Philippians and as I wrote above, he points to the life of Christ, no more powerful example is available.

The word within the word is Christology, which literally means “the understanding of Christ.” Within this Christological  Hymn is the study of the person Jesus Christ and his role in salvation. In the next few verses we have a record of Jesus Christ’s humanity and divinity, and the relationship between these two aspects; and the role he plays in salvation. Here we have a summary of the life and work of Jesus Christ while he walked among us. The divine nature of Christ that even existed before the incarnation. Paul proclaims the divine nature of Christ, even though he assumed the humanness of an ordinary man and his humble obedience to the Father, even to death on the cross.  We can get into a lot of theology here but we are better off leaving that to another time. This Hymn along with Paul to points toward Jesus as being the fulfillment of OT prophecies and Jesus, being the fulfillment of the promise of salvation for all.

We all know that phrase God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. I had never thought of what I am about to share with you but it was the crux of Paul’s plea to the Philippians. Look at Verse 6: Being in the form of God; he was by nature in the very form of God. For those of us who don’t know Greek, an old timer might say there is a wonderment of information and understanding here. In the Greek there are two words for form. They are both translated as form because there is no other English word that will fit, they both mean the same thing. The Greek word morphe ̄ is the essential form that never changes. Stay with me now. The other word sche ̄ma is the outward form which changes over time or due to circumstance. Paul presents for our consideration a truth of Divine revelation. Jesus being in the form of God is morphe ̄; that is to say, his unchangeable being is divine. However his outward sche ̄ma might alter, he remained in essence divine. Jesus Christ, the Son of God came among us as a man, walked among us as God incarnate, in appearance was the same as us,  assumed the form a servant and laid aside his sonship to reveal to us the glory, love and compassion of God. Paul charges us to not always think of ourselves but of others, not of our own glory but of the glory of God. I encourage you to read and allow the wonderful words of this hymn bring you closer to your savior. (Philippians 2:5-6)

Looking at this weeks verses from a layman’s view brings a new light on the time Christ walked among us. It is Paul’s fervent belief that the divinity of Christ never was put aside to spend time among the people. Jesus Christ put aside privilege and power to become a servant of the people, a means of salvation and reconciliation between the Father and his people. There is a great gift here … we too can be a way of salvation for those around us. Paul said ‘you must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had’. I do not know if it is possible to have the mind of Christ but I do believe that if we follow his example we can  at least be of one mind. Have a great Lord’s day, hope to have you back in the pew next week.

 Life is Good / God is Good


Reference Material: Essay by Jaime Zarse.    Daily Bible Study / Barclay

Disunity….and The Church Today

This week we return to Philippians, starting in chapter 2: 1-4. Paul recognized many dangers that the church in Philippi would be facing but put the danger of disunity as a greater threat at that time. Most of us recognize disunity being brought about by disagreements among the membership which in turn is driven by egos, selfish agendas and directional desires. There is another type of disunity which in some cases can be hard to control. It can happen in a very healthy church. People on fire for the Lord, they are very protective of their beliefs, and they really matter to them. Their very enthusiasm leads to conflicts within the faith, becoming unwilling to respect the interests of others and so the seeds of disunity are spread. We start off a list of these causes with selfish ambition. We see this often in that a persons work is not directed toward the advancement of the work but toward their own advancement; this leading us to the next cause for disunity.

Recognition, the desire to be admired, respected, to have a seat at the table of decision and to have people seek our opinion. It is nice that people know your name, recognize you and on occasion offer you a flattering word. Consider this …. As with the Baptist, we must give way. Our goal should be to bring glory to the Father, our good work should elevate and glorify God. People need to see in us the wonder and goodness of our savior. It should be the Christian’s desire to focus people’s eyes on God.  To concentrate on self, when our goal in life is to be the best or do the best at the expense of others we find ourselves putting others down so that we may rise up.

Paul gives us five behaviors to consider as helping us to avoid the disunity, that fosters disharmony. When we walk with others in Christ, there can be no disunity. The very fact that we are walking with our Christian brothers and sisters keeps us in that unity of the spirit. The spirit will not walk where there is disunity. The power of Christian love should keep us in unity. God’s love for all people cannot be conquered. This love is not a matter of the heart but is result of the Spirit infused into us with the help of Jesus Christ. We must love all people, as required by our creator, it is the very essence of Christian life. We are bound by the Holy Spirit to love each other and all people. Where there is disunity the Spirit will not dwell. Compassion, sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others, gives testimony  to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Paul brings these thoughts to an end by revealing a very personal appeal. If there is disunity in the church he loves so much, then there can be no happiness for him.  There will be no happiness for us in our Christian walk if we are not unified in the faith. There is great value in these words of Paul to the Christians of Philippi for they are not shared as a threat but spoken as an appeal of love and Christ like concern.

As with the previous chapter the first few verses of Chapter 2 have much to say to the church. The one thing that I find most disturbing is the disunity brought about by social and cultural changes. Yes, the church does have to adapt and the early church did just that. I do not want to editorialize the sharing of the word. So I will leave you with this thought. The church needs work harder at changing the world through the gospel, not allowing the world to change the gospel to fit its needs and agendas. Next week we will continue in Philippians Chapter 2.

Life is Good


The Parousia … Part 2 False Prophets

There have always been false prophets and heretics, every generation will be visited by them. The Old Testament is full of stories about them and here the NT 2 Peter the second chapter we find Timothy dealing with a recurrence of such. We should be aware today church that they still appear from time to time. These people can do damage to the church and its teachings, can and have brought disaster on a nation by leading God’s people astray. These false prophets told people, what they wanted to hear, we see the same thing even today. We find in the OT in Jeremiah 6:14, Ezekiel 13:16 that even though the Lord God was saying there was no peace these false prophets were seeing visions of peace. Zedekiah because of his popularity was able to lead Jehosapht to a bad decision involving the Syrians that was a total disaster. False prophets always will tell people what they want to hear and not the truth they need to hear. We can continue to add character flaws to these false prophets but the important thing is to remember that these same things occur in the church today. They used the God’s word for personal gain, using religion as a money making thing, being desirous of others possessions, greedy and acquisitive individuals who preach and taught so to deceive and exploit people for their own ends. They were immoral in their own lives. Their lifestyles led people astray, their recklessness and total abandonment of Godly morals led people to evil ways. These false prophets more than any others drove the people away from their God and into a state of being separated from God by their sins. The characteristics of these false prophets are still the same in our world today. Isaiah relates how these false prophets smell of strong drink, they are confused by their overindulgence in wine(Isaiah 28: 7) Jeremiah said in reference to the prophets of Jerusalem whom he found to be committing adultery and lying, they have strengthened the hands of the evil doers and led the people astray. (Jeremiah 23: 14, 23:32) They presented a temptation to evil rather than an attraction to lead a holy life.  These are a few of the things that Peter finds difficult to accept. It is Peter’s thought and mission to destroy these prophets who are leading the people in the wrong direction. It is time for the church to stand in the gap, we can no longer accept such behavior because social convention deems it necessary to promote tolerance and inclusiveness, two words that have weaken the resolve of the church because the contextual meaning of such is misunderstood. Continuing in chapter 2 verse 1 Peter then addresses the actions of these false prophets. Here we add a new word to our discourse. He accuses them of subtly introducing destructive heresy into the struggle to control the message and mission of the church.

What is happening here is the confrontation of the God given truth challenging the heresy of the false prophets. There was a time when heresy was nothing more than one of the definitions of a word. The Greek word is heiress from the verb haireisthai, which means to choose, and originally it was a perfectly honorable word. I chose to keep this simple by just pointing out that as with all things, things change. Why this sudden change and opposition to other choices being offered? With the coming of Jesus, God’s truth came to the world, and people had either to accept or to reject it.  Now there was the way, the truth, the life. The certainty of Jesus Christ, the resurrection  and the promise of life after death revealed these false prophets and heretics as someone who believed what they wished to believe and not accepting the truth of God. They were a sly group as they did not assume the position of an adversary, they sold themselves as the very best and learned of available Christian thinking. They were so good that little by little and subtly Peter’s people were lured away from God’s truth and began embracing the false opinions of these prophets and heretics.

Before Christ purchased us with his death and resurrection on the cross, we were slaves to sin. Paul reminded us that we were bought with a price… 1 Corinthians 7:23. We who have accepted him as our Lord and Saviour belong to him. The cost was great and should not be marginalized by the false teachings of these people. These heretics were denying the Lord. There is so much to share here but the bottom line is that the things they taught and did were a complete denial of Him. They were teaching SIN and that would lead to their condemnation.

Parousia, Eschatology and the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and Second Petter’s defense of such against false teachers has brought us to this weeks blog. We have now met these false teachers and I hope have a better understanding of how important it is for the Church to know that the Jesus who died on the cross will be the Jesus that will preside over the completion and joy of God’s gift of salvation. Peter set out to defend the faith, we today need to be doing the same. Here in our day false prophets and heretics are still among us. They continue to believe what they wish to believe, not accepting the truth of God.

Life is Good


The Parousia …Not a Cleverly Devised Myth…..Part 1

Parousia, Eschatology and the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and Second Petter’s defense of such against false teachers are the subjects of this weeks blog. We will first look for an understanding of Parousia and how, eschatology, the study of the last things or ultimate end of creation finds common ground in 2 Timothy. Parousia a Greek word meaning “presence” or “arrival,”and is often translated as “second coming.” The parousia is thought to mean the completion of God’s gift of salvation, which occurs on Jesus’ return to earth. This will be at a future time and

judgement and evil will cease, God’s purpose for the creation will be fulfilled. In simple talk it will be the completion of God’s gift of salvation.

The next subject to keep it simple is referred to as Eschatology.Two Greek words meaning “last”and the study of ‘end things’. Whether the end of an individual life, the end of the age, the end of the world or the nature of the Kingdom of God, Christian eschatology is a major branch of study within Christian theology dealing with the “last things. Christian theology is the theology of Christian belief and practice. Such study concentrates primarily upon the texts of the Old Testament and of the New Testament, as well as on Christian tradition. Christian theologians use biblical exegesis, rational analysis and argument. (Wikipedia)

Let’s leave the library and get in the scripture. In 2 Peter verses 1:16-3:13 we read of the refutation of the accusations of the false teachers. The section we will look at is all about bringing the message concerning ‘the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’. Peter is attacking the heretics whom no longer believed in it and even the people were beginning to doubt it and think it would never happen. We will go through the end of Chapter 1 this week.

We need to go back to the first part of this chapter for some background material . I will bypass verses 1 and 2, they are a whole blog in themselves. In these following verses we see Christ as Peter saw him. Christ is power, generosity, great promises. Step away for a moment and consider this. There are those even today that believe as many did then that believing in Christ can gain forgiveness for any and every sin.  As crazy as it may sound there were those that gave no heed to sin, after all there was grace aplenty for all. That is not the way it works. With Christ in our life we can put aside our fascination with sin and the lusts of this life because of his presence in our life. There were those that believed that by the very virtue of our humanness we had a right to share in this divine nature. Life itself contradicts that. Everywhere we look we see our failures as humans. The decay of our Christian values and morals and the bitterness, crime and suffering that accompanies such behavior. If we look to John 10:10, we have an answer, ’I came’, said Jesus, ‘that they may have life, and have it abundantly’. Because of Christ we all have within us the ability to share the nature of God. The divine nature that often eludes us. Peter urges his people to equip their lives with every virtue and this letter even provides a list to add to other lists we already have. Let’s list those here.

Faith, courage, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, piety, brotherly affection, and of course Christian love.

Peter continues to encourage the people and speaks to the value of knowledge. We can understand even today how important it is to know what we are about, the more we know the more we can learn. By making these virtues he speaks of a part of our daily lives the closer we will come to knowing Christ. Should we choose not to do this we will become blind, unable to see the light; we become short-sighted and unable to follow the good way. The Methodists have a saying for this….Going on to perfection. Peter knows these false teachers will make the way difficult but with God’s help we will reach the journey’s end. Verses 12-15 Leaves us with this. We must teach God’s truth as long as we are here and we must make plans to see that we keep the truth in the minds of the people; we must lift up the name of Jesus Christ to all people.

Now in these next verses 16-18 Peter reaches the point of his message, the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Repetitive I guess, but can’t be repeated enough. Peter was on a mission to bring the people back the certainty of the second coming of Christ. The false teachers no longer believed that and the heretics said it would never happen, it had been too long. Now the detail here can be overwhelming so I will pick a few points that stand out. First of all Peter states his right to speak to this subject, defend the faith so to speak. He was with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration and that there he saw the glory and the honor which were given to him. He heard the voice of God speak to him. The importance of this revelation is that it paints a picture of the triumphant glory of the second coming. To sum this part up Peter wants to bring the people back to a living belief in the triumphant return of Jesus Christ. Peter is saying, ‘I have seen Christ in his glory and have heard the voice of God in praise of his son’. I take liberty here to paraphrase Peter as he speaks to these people. ‘You also have through the eyes of your faith seen the cross, seen him die for our sins and many have testified to his resurrection. You must return to living your faith and be made one with Jesus Christ in his death and in his risen life and power.’

I think I will wrap this up for this week by sharing this with you. There is also the defense of the Prophets in verses 19 -21. This I will address in a future blog. For now to sum it up, consider this. Scripture should not and is not about any individual’s private opinion. We in the church need to understand and respect that more. Scripture is the revelation of God, through the Spirit to all men and women. The interpretation of scripture must always be guided by prayer and the Spirit. Do not be misled, the Spirit is still very active in the church today. The sad part is many people choose to ignore it for the convenience of their agendas and lifestyles. Next week we will pick up in Chapter 2 verse 1 and explore those false Prophets that Peter is attacking.

Life is Good


*Quick Note: I use several commentaries, bibles, other web sites when researching for my blogs. For this blog I visited Wikipedia, Daily Bible Study / Barclay and Bible Gateway for sources of information used to write this blog. I am grateful for these publications and the world of information available in this digital age.

Philippians ….Priority and Purpose

As we continue our study of Philippians, in chapter 1: 3-18, we find Paul praying for these Christians with whom he shares a gospel fellowship and states his confidence of their salvation. He prays that this fellowship and the love they share will be full of the knowledge and discernment that will lead them to live holy lives. Paul recounts that he is a prisoner in chains which only seems to increase the boldness of his preaching. Although he does feel that some preaching is wrongly motivated, Paul rejoices that Jesus Christ is proclaimed. Today I will focus on the remaining verses in chapter 1, 19-30.

Paul’s priority is to serve Christ and he feels he will gain greatly when he dies, but we see here his priority is to live for Christ until such time he is called home.Verses 19 and 20 offer an interesting question for us to ponder over.

Paul speaks of his salvation. What does it mean to him? Is Paul one of those people of eternal optimism, believing the situation he is now in will end with his release. That won’t fit here because Paul goes on to say he is not sure if he will live or die.  Does it have to do with his salvation in heaven? The situation in which Paul finds himself provides an opportunity to conduct himself in such a way to be a favorable witness on Judgement Day. How we meet challenges to our faith in the present will be a witness for or against us in eternity. Just consider that maybe where Paul finds himself at that moment is exactly where God wanted him to be. We may find ourselves in situations that don’t bode well for us but would be useful to God in that present time. Our difficulties in the present will be rewarded with joy and peace in eternity. Paul also has two very powerful means of support. He has the prayers of his friends and time and time again Paul asks for those prayers of his friends. There is nothing so welcome in times of personal troubles as knowing there are others presenting our needs before the throne. Paul never felt too good or too important to forget how much he needed their prayers. There was something else which in today’s vernacular could be called Paul’s ace in the hole. Paul knows that he has the support of the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit is with us in times of difficulty and will be with us till eternity as promised by Jesus Christ. It is Paul’s mission to never be ashamed of the gospel or to be marginalized by silence or cowardice behavior. I believe that all believers should strive to be effective in the sharing of the gospel. We must strive to live a holy life, for once we have chosen Christ we must be ever mindful that others not only judge us but our behavior brings either glory or shame to Christ.

As we continue on through these verses we encounter the eternal question to live or to die. Paul then gives us these words….For living is Christ to me, and death is gain. That day on the Damascus Road was in Paul’s mind the day he truly started living, his life began on that very day. It is not hard for us to relate to this, because for all of us who have found Christ, it was the beginning of life for us also. It has been said that from the day we are born we began the journey to death. For a Christian the day our life begins in Christ we are on a journey to join him in eternity. We are weak but Christ will give us the strength for life. And we will be made perfect in our weakness. Christ is the beginning and the end, without Christ there is nothing left.

The priority of course is to preach the gospel and the purpose is to share the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ and to live lives worthy of the gospel and to strive together, standing up to persecution without fear by God’s grace. Next week we will break away from Philippians for a short time but in the future we will return for some more of this lovely letter to the  friends in Philippi. Come back next week and visit with us in the Pew.

Life is Good


Philippians…..The Untold Story

First we have to go to Acts 16 for an interesting story about Paul’s stay in Philippi. There was Lydia a wealthy merchant and possibly Paul’s first convert in Europe. The slave girl who was used by her masters to tell fortunes and the civil servant who was a Roman jailer. Three people who represent a cross section of ancient life. Lydia was from Asia, the slave girl was a native Greek and the Jailer was a Roman citizen. From all over the empire people were coming to the Christian Church. Think about this. Not long ago and it still may be so, the current “buzz” word was inclusion. All kinds of programs and encouraging articles were written about how the church needed to be more inclusive. Paul had no program or written words about the need for inclusion, the all-embracing faith which Jesus Christ brought to men and women spoke to all peoples and that was all he needed. The Holy Spirit, faith and love of all people couldn’t be constrained in written words, it was best understood in life changing actions. Read Acts 16 for a better understanding of this part of Paul’s ministry, now Philippians.

Philippians is a special letter because it is just that. You get the feeling right off that this is a letter to friends. Paul does not, as he does in other letters, feel the need to state his position or why he has the right to write to them. Paul knows they will read, listen willingly with love and respect. This is a letter from a friend to his friends. A lot of information is here in just the first two verses. Paul does make one claim for himself and Timothy, they are slaves of Jesus Christ, but interestingly enough he expands that to include the people of Philippi who belong to God because of their relationship and acceptance of Jesus Christ. He makes it very plain that he is there to serve them also in their faith walk; I am your friend because you are my friend. There is an important difference here between a servant and a slave.

-A servant could pretty much come and go but a slave was the possession of his master forever.

-He makes note of the fact that he is the absolute possession of Jesus Christ. Christ bought him and paid a price for him and he could never belong to anyone else. Just as a slave has no will of his own, he too has absolute obedience to the will of Christ in his life. To be a slave to Christ is not a matter of cowering subjection but an honor of the highest order. As Paul is known to have written and I paraphrase, to Die for Christ is to Live. “To all the saints in Christ Jesus”as found in the Revised Standard Version could be a bit misleading. The word saint is translated from the word Hagios and the Hebrew equivalent Kadosh usually translates as holy. As a layman I can easily get confused and in this case I am reading three references trying to get this right. So…to keep it simple, to a Hebrew it all washes out to mean set apart. That which is holy is different from other things. The word Holy is often affixed to the Jewish Nation. They had been called out to be different and they were different for they had a special place in God’s purpose. Paul refers to the Philippians as saints in Christ Jesus. If you live a Holy life, strive to be a saint in Christ Jesus you are to be different from other people. You are different because of your special relationship to Jesus Christ – and that is what every Christian should strive for.

PAUL’S greeting to his friends is: Grace be to you and peace, from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ

These being the normal greeting phrases of two great nations, we are reminded of the weaving, binding or could we say, inclusiveness  of the power of Christianity to bring together God’s people, Greek and Jew. Grace and Peace, Paul’s prayer for his people. The joy of knowing God, being reconciled to God and having a grace and peace in their life that can come only through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Quite a revelation for just two verses. Hope you come back next week as we look closer at Paul’s love and friendship for the Church at Philippi.

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Philippians A Closer Look….



Getting back to the gospel is always a good thing. Philippians is a book I have often wanted to look at closer. In this first segment we will introduce ourselves to the book of Philippians. I hope you will return each week to the Pew and if there is a particular section or verse we could explore together email me at

We start on a happy note, Philippians is undoubtedly an authentic letter of Paul. You can say that Paul was a man that chose his ground carefully. Always being aware of God’s will, the direction of the spirit and he looked to places that were key to the area and provided the opportunity to preach the word to as many as possible. Philippi was one of those places. It had become a great commercial center of the ancient world due to the gold and silver mines that had once been there. Philippi was founded by Philip, the city being named after him and he was the father of Alexander the Great. The city was so situated that it commanded the road from Europe to Asia. A great battle was fought there which decided the future of the Roman Empire. One result of this battle was that soon after Philippi was raised to the status of a Roman colony. There is a lot of interesting facts that give us a bigger picture of the Roman Empire, that impacted Paul’s ministry in Philippi but for now lets just look at one that stands out more than the rest because it confronted Paul the most in his daily ministries there. These colonies were like little Romes, and their pride in their Roman citizenship was their dominating characteristic. The Roman language was spoken; they wore Roman style clothing; observed Roman customs and those who ruled there did so under Roman titles. Their ceremonies and procedures were the same as those carried out in Rome. 

‘You are a colony of heaven’ (Authorized Version), Paul wrote to the Philippians church (3:20). Just as the Roman colonists never forgot in any environment that they were Romans, so the Philippians must never forget in any society that they were Christians. Nowhere were people prouder of being Roman citizens than in these colonies; and Philippi was one such colony. (DBS W. Barclay)

One result of this kind of Roman pride is best recorded in Act 16: 20-21. After Paul’s vision of the man of Macedonia (Acts 16: 6-10) he set sail from Asia Minor, landing in Europe, then made his way to Philippi. In the coming weeks we will meet Lydia, a slave girl, a Roman citizen and a member of the Roman middle class who was a jailer; the top, the bottom and the middle of society are all represented. Paul would eventually have to leave Philippi due to persecution and at one time suffering an illegal imprisonment. Paul was a proud man who boasted he had never taken anything from any individual or from any church but there was a strong bond of friendship between him and the Philippian church. He would at a later date accept a gift from them.

There would be more gifts to Paul over the years from the Philippians church.This letter we are reading is a letter of thanks to the church and written by Paul in prison in Rome. We will also be introduced to Epaphroditus whom the Philippians had sent as not only a bearer of their gift, but also to stay with Paul and help with his needs. It is also intended to be a letter of encouragement to the Philippians during the trials they are going through. This letter also is an appeal to maintain the unity of the church. Philippians is a personal letter and includes many of Paul’s thoughts about the church and the people of Philippi. There are parts that change the tone and direction of the letter as new information from Philippi arrives and gives us an insight into the things on his mind as he wrote the letter. The letter has had other titles, Epistle of Excellent Things and Epistle of Joy.

Next week we will take a closer look at this interesting letter from Paul to the church in Philippi.

Life is Good


Compassion, Love and The Authority of Scripture Pondering in The Pew

Part 2

Returning to Bishop Wilke’s article I was taken aback by this paragraph containing the words I have underlined.

So I began my own journey. I reached out to other families with homosexual members, and I listened to their stories of struggle in the church. And I began a more in-depth examination of the Scriptures that address the issue of homosexuality. You may be surprised to know I hadn’t fully done my homework here, but the truth is, if you have a big-picture grasp of the Bible as I do, then you will understand just how insignificant these few passages are. (Bishop Wilke)

As a layman my theological knowledge of scripture pales and most assuredly lacks much when compared to that of the Bishop. Throughout this whole issue, I always focused on scriptural integrity and never considered it a problem with those people. There are some things in this paragraph that deserve our attention. God created us with the best of intentions and from that day in the garden till now,  we have excelled in not living up to them. From the article I understand that his daughter is living a very productive life of service to others and the church and remains to this day in a loving and faithful relationship and they as a family have learned to live with the constraints of the church and society. In the paragraph before he seeks to address the real concern of the issue facing the church.  

I needed to reconcile my commitment to scriptural authority with loving and accepting my daughter. (Bishop Wilke)

To me scriptural authority is the one area that has been avoided as the church deals with this issue. It is for this reason that I disagree with the statement that anything of scripture in the Bible could be considered insignificant. I believe every word is of importance to the whole. My belief is shared by many people in the lay community. When it comes to the theological side of this issue I like many in the lay world find our simplistic interpretation of scripture inadequate to defend our belief. Theology is the study of religious faith, practice, and experience and the study of God and of God’s relation to the world and sometimes it does result in creating a systematic response to biblical translation as to meaning. Take note of what Bishop Wilke does here. He throws all that aside and turns to love and compassion and acknowledges the possibility that he needs to look at himself as well and then turns to scripture for direction. I have struggled with this blog, both last week and now, because of what is at stake here. There is something more important than the Methodist Church, or for that matter any denomination. Oh, how we have woven a web of confusion with the assistance of many different agendas and yet in all of this Bishop Wilke has found an important part of the Christian faith. From his article and in his words:

Again and again Jesus placed kindness and acceptance over custom and social norms. “Love one another,” he commanded, “as I have loved you.” He also emphasized hospitality: “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. And you will be blessed.”(Bishop Wilke)

So what have I learned from this journey? Bishop Wilke is right. It would be an injustice to split the church over this issue, in fact that is the easy way out. The real issue to me is that of living a holy life, as we have been commanded to do. What does living a holy life entail? While you work on that consider this. Sin separates us from God and that is not a debatable statement. There are many sins and man wrote that list through his disobedience to God. The Methodist Church welcomes everyone, OPEN DOORS, OPEN HEARTS, OPEN MINDS. I may not have them in proper order but the last one needs some work. I could continue to write about this article but it would only be redundant. From the Methodist Book of Discipline:

The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.

So is gluttony, drunkenness, adultery, cursing and a host of other things that can be found to be an abomination is God’s eye.  The fact is that all sin separates us from God, and that can’t be said enough! Like it or not we are charged to bring people to Christ, all people. How can we minister to the sins among us if we turn people away? Who among us has the mind of God and to borrow from the words of our Lord, let him be the first to judge.

In conclusion…..The Church can legislate doctrine and church law but until it can change what’s in the people’s heart, it has failed. Until the leadership of the church can discern God’s will without social and cultural pressures of the day, it has failed. What would Jesus do? Well, I don’t think he would kick the can down the road again by taking the easy way out. It might be wise to take some time to consider Compassion, Love and The Authority of Scripture.

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