Tag Archives: Faith

The Firsts: Philippians 1 – Practice

[NLT] Philippians 1:27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.

Scripture is particularly surprising when ancient words create a bridge to everyday life.  I came across one particular old Greek word in reading what John Piper had to say about Philippians 1: politeuomai.  It’s an action word.
1. to be a citizen
2. to administer civil affairs, manage the state
3. to make or create a citizen
It wasn’t much of a stretch to see in “politeuomai” another more modern-day word…”polit-ics” and that became the bridge of thought for me.  God does have a purpose for our daily life in this world.  He’s created a place for us to practice living as “citizens of heaven, conducting [ourselves] in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.”  Paul reminds us that’s the very reason we have to stand “together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News…We are in this struggle together…” 

Practice can be fumbling, imperfect and often unpleasant BUT remember these two things: 1. everything depends on what we’re practicing AND 2. practice makes perfect.  God has given us this world to practice being citizens.  We have the “privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him” as we struggle with one another to perfect our desire to “live as citizens of heaven” in the midst of an imperfect reality.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a man of faith who lived and died for these words he wrote: ”I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith.”

The Firsts: Ephesians 1 – Destiny

“Predestined” is an attention getting word. The dictionary definition of predestined is “an outcome or course of events determined in advance by divine will or fate.”  I’ve heard the “elevator” explanation of predestination: when you step into an elevator you trust it’s going to take you where you want to go.  The “airplane” explanation is similar; you get on the plane trusting the pilot will get you safely to the planned destination. Those explanations make some sense to me. They’re based on faith not fate. Nobody gets on an elevator or in a plane saying “whatever will be, will be.” 

What doesn’t make sense to me is that the God who sacrificed his own Son to remove sin’s power to destroy us would then turn around and pick and choose those who would be saved.  The phrase “turn around” became my catalyst to turn these eight verses around and read them in reverse changing only the punctuation at the end of verse 14 because that’s a question I could answer.

V14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory[?]
V13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 
V12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 
V11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 
V10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. 
V9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 
V8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding,  
V7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace,

I turned around those verses and as I read I found myself caring less about my understanding of how “predestined” relates to personal choice and more about the question I could answer.  “Who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory[?]  Predestination is still an elusive concept but I do know the answer to V14 is where destiny begins.  The big turn around ends at the right destination too; “in him [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.  

Personality

James 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”  Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds… 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

Endurance √
Need √
Mercy √
Personality √

The big debate about his book has always been verse 24: “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.”  James has taken a lot of flack for those words.  The very human temptation is to make faith and deeds a competition of either/or but here’s how I fit that debate into my √ list of traits for the followers of Christ.  I think James is addressing personality.  

Personality is the fabric of our lives.  The weaving of that fabric is the key here for me.  The process of weaving is always the same: two distinct sets of yarns or threads [like faith and deeds] are laced together at right angles to form the strength of the cloth.  It’s Christ’s righteousness, not ours, that turns those threads into something more than a loose pile of strings when he weaves both faith and deeds into the fabric of a unique personality of one of his beloved. 

“Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

Thanks for Sharing Lord!

Isaiah 12;1 In that day you will say:
“I will praise you, Lord.  Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me.  2 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.”  3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

Today I will praise you Lord:
You are faithful even when I deserve anger:
Faithful to intervene because of need
Faithful to love even before obedience
Faithful to teach that need can lead to obedience
You are the Comforter:
When I am uncomfortable
When I am sorrowful
And finally when I am repentant
You are Salvation:
From life with no purpose
Or purpose with no life
You are the reality of  life and purpose
You are the power and defender of my salvation:
You make known what seems unknowable
You defend the faith you’ve given
You draw life-giving water up from the deep wells of salvation so we can drink together.
You have become my Salvation for the sake of your own joy:
Your joy has become my shared joy.
Thanks for sharing Lord!

This Then…Lead Us

Matthew 6:9 “This, then, is how you should pray:…13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Here’s my question for today. Do you believe God uses temptation to see what you’re made of?  My immediate answer was “no.”  I think that’s the right answer but temptation and evil are real and Jesus prayer recognizes that.  I want my answer to be real too, not just a gut reaction.

My observations:
Sometimes our focus is more on praying the devil out of our life than praying the Triune God into it to change us.  That seems like giving that evil one more power than we should.  Sometimes the devil is a convenient excuse for the bad behavior of broken people in a broken world doing awful things. 

The Santa Claus Theology: Job 1:9 “Satan replied, Would Job worship you if he got nothing out of it?”  Temptation is Satan’s power to destroy faith by convincing us God’s blessing is only a bribe for good behavior.

The Need Theology: James 1:13 “When tempted, no one should say, God is tempting me.  For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.”  God doesn’t waste his power tempting us.  He’s focused on building faith first, then behavior. That faith has the power over temptation to reveal our broken desires to US so when we pray “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” we’ll finally understand  “desire” for the Triune God IS the blessing and gift.

Assurance –

Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

That phrase “continue to work our your salvation with fear and trembling” always catches me when I read it because of that other phrase “as you have always obeyed.”  Long before we even had a conscious awareness of our salvation we were learning there were times we could be disobedient and get away with it. Paul is challenging us to consider situational ethics and our faith. God has swept away old boundaries and brought new freedom to our lives. We have our doctrines, we have our statements of belief, we have God’s truth…but we still have our options.

I try not to be a “canned” Christian but it’s so easy to spout the truth you know as if you’ve really figured out how to live it. That’s the challenge of situational ethics. This last year our Pastor quoted someone-or-other with this [paraphrased] statement: “We judge others by their behavior and ourselves by our intent.”  Our freedom in Christ has faced us with options and our situational ethics. That’s why we need to “continue to work out [our accomplished] salvation with fear and trembling.” You don’t think God misses those times when you still get away with misusing your freedom do you? Not a chance! That’s the “fear and trembling” part but we have these words of assurance from Paul.  In the midst of working through matching up our situational ethics with our freedom we don’t have to rely on our doctrines or our statements of belief or our own will. This is God’s truth…”it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”  You can’t do it alone.

The Red Thread – An Issue of Maintenance

Mark 9 The Red Thread
16 “What are you arguing with them about?
19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”…“You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
29… This kind can come out only by prayer.”

Here are the characters of the story:
• Religious leaders hassling the disciples for being ineffective
• The frustrated disciples because they’re ineffective
• A devoted father unable to get help for his son
• A frustrated Jesus

It seems studying a red letter version of Mark requires going through the book more slowly to experience how the little parts tucked in along with the big deal parts are tied together with that same red thread of Jesus’s words.

Chapter 9 seems to be about recognizing the challenge that faith is greater than what you currently comprehend. That certainly happened to Peter, James and John on the mountain with Jesus. That challenge continues with the words of the devoted father, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” and even the disciples own frustrated words “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

Faith wasn’t the issue. It was an issue of maintenance that frustrated Jesus enough to confront them with this truth. It’s prayer that maintains the connection of faith to the power of God…”only by prayer.”