Not just Liked, Valued

Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
Proverbs 31:10‭-‬12 NLT

Men let’s grasp this firmly within our minds — before we seek to grasp that daughter of the King gently in our arms. Don’t just lust after the ripe looking fruit hanging on the tree easily within your grasp to satisfy your immediate cravings. Don’t run from tree to tree making yourself sick on fruit that isn’t even ripe or good for you. Learn the high value of investing in a good wife — instead of the high cost of a free whore. Amen.

When I Think of You

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.
Philippians 1:3 NLT

How sweet it is to think of a person or people and immediately thank God for them! How full of sight and love and grace and peace to see Christ in them and not focus our eyes upon their shortcomings and failures!

If this is a rare occurrence for us — might it be a convicting revelation to us that it may be more about the eyes with which we are using to examine others rather than something wrong with God’s perfect plan and timing playing out around us?

Are we setting our thoughts and mind upon the things of God and preaching the Word of God and carrying along with us the presence of God that moved even through Peter’s shadow as he walked by to bring healing and restoration to all within reach. If we are not seeing evidence of life around us, what are we carrying with us — what seed are we sowing — is it love? Is it Christ? Is it truth? Or have we been counterfeit and self serving, even in our outward religious appearances?

It is true that some we cannot look at who are loveless and religious and selfish and proud and who are clearly lost and imprisoned and sowing the seed of the enemy — and while we may not see God in such people who are enemies of God and seek to oppose ther children of God, we can surely see the opportunity for God to move mightily upon even those who hate and seek to murder Christians — like He did with Paul at the Damascus road.

Without vision, the people perish. Can you see such things, you who seek to lead others? Or have you been a blind guide as well?

Lord, teach us to look at each other and praise God. Amen.

Grace and Peace

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:2 ESV

Grace and peace… both gifts from God. So instead of measuring and judging whether or not the apoptosis measure is in others — or acting as the manners police — shouldn’t we be pursuing more fervently that God pours out grace and peace to His people?

And doesn’t grace come in the face of adversity and trial and temptation? Is it “graceful” to be kind to a benefactor or isn’t that just normal human nature that even the godless understand? It is graceful to be kind to someone who is acting like an enemy in the middle of that oppression and persecution. And Godly peace is not just the absence of conflict — we see that the peace that comes from God is the firm foundation that sees the house still standing after the waves and winds have come and gone.

So will we pray for peace and grace to come in abundance upon the body of Christ — even in the midst of a pouring out of great trials and challenges and sufferings around us so that God’s abiding presence in us and through us is a shocking and compelling testimony to the lost?

Do we want to know grace and peace deep and wide and tall and far reaching? Do we want to see grace and peace abound in the body of Christ even as judgement and wrath is poured out upon the enemies of God as a declaration to Satan through the body of Christ, “Let my people go so they can serve God!” Just as Moses and Aaron declared to Pharoah in the days of the Old Testament.

Isn’t abounding grace and peace a deliverance from the cries of the flesh and whisperings of the enemy to a restored walking in the garden with the Lord, even as the flames in this world would appear to surely be about to consume us. Do we trust God enough to pray for such things for the body of Christ?

Do we fear that those we love most might not endure because Christ may not be in them — but we would rather cuddle them in their death than seek and knock and stand as a mediator on their behalf like Moses did when God sought to destroy the nation of Israel for their great wickedness and idolatry?

God Gives

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
Philippians 1:2 NLT

God grants grace and peace. Need more? Ask!

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.
James 4:1‭-‬3 NLT

Lord, forgive us our many shortcomings. Grant us your grave and peace. Don’t lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil — even through the fiery, refining trials that prove what appeared to be for evil was actually for good. Help us to be willing to ask you when we don’t understand. Amen.

Then Moses went back to the Lord and protested, “Why have you brought all this trouble on your own people, Lord? Why did you send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!”
Exodus 5:22‭-‬23 NLT

Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials —one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground. Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus.
Matthew 17:4‭-‬8 NLT

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Hebrews 4:16 NLT

God’s perfect plans will overshadow our own questions and doubts and wrong ideas about how we think that things “ought to be”. Our perspective is so limited and restricted (like tunnel vision), while He knows the height and width and length and depths. So it is good for us to ask Him questions, but we must also understand that how He answers our questions might be a drastically, fearfully, shockingly different response than we expected. He is God and we are not, after all!

Thank you, Lord, that you know better than us and that you will not destroy us for coming to you with our questions. In fact, you already know that we don’t understand your ways that are higher than ours, and that the trials and the unexpected prove to be a vehicle of opportunity to bring us close enough to inquire and receive your answers. Grant us faith to know you and trust you with our questions, and to receive your answers well. Amen.

God’s Holy People

Second part of verse 1 —

I am writing to all of God’s holy people in Philippi who belong to Christ Jesus, including the church leaders and deacons.
Philippians 1:1b NLT

So last hour, I made it through the from (the sender), and now we move on to the to (the recipient). And Paul and Timothy aren’t casting their pearls to the swine, they are writing this to a specific audience — to “God’s holy people in Philipi…” so let’s stop right there.

If Brannon were to start out a sermon with a parable about the Kingdom of God, then offer the gospel to all who might receive it — then before preaching on the book of Philippians, fearfully and respectfully communicate in the same way Paul and Timothy identified their intended recipients as “God’s holy people here at The Well”, I wonder how shocked (and maybe even offended) some might be to understand that this message is written to a particular people — a holy and set apart people — that not everyone who came into contact with this letter might be a recipient.

What a delusion and complacency shattering stone the gospel can be when we are willing to let it shine its light upon us.

Are we coming into the sanctuary prepared in faith and covered in grace, and confessed and forgiven of our sins with no burdens still upon our shoulders and no chains still upon our members and no stains upon or garments so that when we hear a servant of the most high God proclaim, “I am a messenger from God, with a message for His holy people” that wr can come boldly into the throne room of grace to rightly receive and carry on this flaming fire to the ends of the earth, never letting the fire go out?

Shouldn’t we contemplate such things when we look at the FROM and the TO and be fully assured that this letter is indeed ours to receive? What if we hear it, but cannot receive it because wr don’t even truly believe it is for us — it might be better that we not even hear it if it isn’t for us! Imagine if a man dying from cancer received the doctor’s advice meant for a healthy man, and the healthy man received the doctor’s advice meant for the mam with cancer. Couldn’t the “keep on with what you are doing” lead to the death of the mam with cancer just as much as radical chemotherapy might lead to the death of the healthy man!

Are we “God’s holy people in Philipi”? Not if you are in Landrum. So we can acknowledge there may be some context specific to Philipi in this letter that we should be mindful of.

Now what about the question, Are you “God’s holy people”?

We can see that there are going to be common points in this book that all of “God’s holy people” can glean from — but what of those that aren’t “God’s holy people”?

What about those vessels created for wrath and destruction? What about those who are not God’s called and chosen elect? What about those in which Christ is not abiding? If you are in that group, I encourage you to stop right now and read the gospel books instead, and determine whether or not you are called to be a slave to Christ and “God’s holy people”. If you are not, it is because you will not believe, repent, and submit to the authority and love and mercy of God. And if that is the case, this book to “God’s holy people” is closed to you. Even though you may read it, and analyze it, and formulate your own ideas about it, it will not bear the fruit of Christ in your life until you are rooted in Him.

Ready to continue?

Maybe I can make it through verse 2 in less than 2 hours. 🙂

Slaves

This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:1a NLT

There is so much in this first sentence, but the word that jumps out in the NLT translation is “slaves”. And you will find various translations as servants, bond-servants, slaves, bondsmen — all of which come with an understanding of a relationship where one party is in authority over another.

The word here is Strong’s G1401 – δοῦλος
Transliterated as
doulos

Outline of Biblical Usage:
a slave, bondman, man of servile condition
a slave
metaph., one who gives himself up to another’s will those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men
devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests
a servant, attendant

My favorite coach, Dabo Swinney, might have started a similar stirring speech to his team with the description of “being all-in”. It speaks of dedication and submission.

Some great cross references to consider —
Mar 13:34; Jhn 12:26; Tit 1:1; Jas 1:1; 2Pe 1:1; Jde 1:1

What does Mark share with us about the Kingdom of God:

“The coming of the Son of Man can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. When he left home, he gave each of his slaves instructions about the work they were to do, and he told the gatekeeper to watch for his return. You, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know when the master of the household will return—in the evening, at midnight, before dawn, or at daybreak. Don’t let him find you sleeping when he arrives without warning. I say to you what I say to everyone: Watch for him!”
Mark 13:34‭-‬37 NLT

And John on this topic of being servants:

Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.
John 12:25‭-‬26 NLT

And isn’t it wonderful to see Paul again professing this title in his letter to Titus:

This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives.
Titus 1:1 NLT

And James following suit in his letter to the Jewish believers:

This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to the “twelve tribes”—Jewish believers scattered abroad. Greetings!
James 1:1 NLT

And Peter

This letter is from Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:1a NLT

And Jude:

This letter is from Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.
Jude 1:1a NLT

It seems that we too should be living lives worthy of beginning our letters with “Harold Ballinger, a slave of Christ” and it not be a joke and a farce that anyone might laugh at such a statement and stop their reading right there without going any further!

Shouldn’t we examine ourselves and find out the truth about who it is we are a slave to?

Whether or is our desires that rule over us, or if it really is true that Christ is our Lord and master and that we are not just “make believe slaves of righteousnes” who are really adherents and servants of darkness — but we are slaves to righteousness — slaves to Christ — slaves to God in all His holiness, mercy, glory and honor.

Yes, we know that we cannot serve two masters. And as much as pride might tempt us with whispers that “nothing is my master” — yes, that satanic mantra of “do as you wish” has always sounded suspiciously like it leaves room for a man to be lord and ruler of his own life — but like the unscrupulous loan officer and the witless man signing away decades of his life away in trade — you will never win trading the only thing of any lasting value for something that fades away and will not even be worth a hand full of dirt in the end.

Are you a slave?

Yes you are!

Either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness.

Either a slave to your father the father of lies — or you are a slave to God the Father Almighty.

Who were you a slave to today?

Was it to anxiety, or your job, or your grumblings, or your hangups, or your addictions, or to your desires, or to your pride, or to your seeking honour in the eyes of others, or to laziness and complacency, or to arguing and causing division and strife?

Or are you a slave to Christ?

Don’t put it down on paper if it isn’t true — God knows the truth and the truth will come out. Might as well admit your shortcomings and fall into His grace and beg Him for His Lordship truly over your whole life now rather than pretend for appearances sake just to harden your heart and march off further into the darkness. It is the humble and contrite spirit that He desires and it is the proud that He resists.

Slave! Who is your master?

Have we asked God Why?

Then Moses went back to the Lord and protested, “Why have you brought all this trouble on your own people, Lord? Why did you send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!”
Exodus 5:22‭-‬23 NLT

Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials —one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground. Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus.
Matthew 17:4‭-‬8 NLT

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Hebrews 4:16 NLT

God’s perfect plans will overshadow our own questions and doubts and wrong ideas about how we think that things “ought to be”. Our perspective is so limited and restricted (like tunnel vision), while He knows the height and width and length and depths. So it is good for us to ask Him questions, but we must also understand that how He answers our questions might be a drastically, fearfully, shockingly different response than we expected. He is God and we are not, after all!

Thank you, Lord, that you know better than us and that you will not destroy us for coming to you with our questions. In fact, you already know that we don’t understand your ways that are higher than ours, and that the trials and the unexpected prove to be a vehicle of opportunity to bring us close enough to inquire and receive your answers. Grant us faith to know you and trust you with our questions, and to receive your answers well. Amen.

Ignore the Hypocrites

Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?” Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.”
Matthew 15:12‭-‬14 NLT

I read this and laugh.

Men of flesh and blood, sitting in the presence of “God come in the flesh” and they ask Him, “Do you realize…”

And we could stop right there and chuckle, knowing from our vantage point today that there is no happenstance or mistakes or luck with God, but that He is all knowing and every word and action fulfills a perfect plan and purpose.

So yes, He realizes. In fact, it was His full intention for it to play out exactly the way that it did.

Yes, the Pharisees were offended that the appearance of personal holiness they had been painting of themselves in front of others was not covering up the stench of death and sin and darkness underneath the surface when Jesus spoke plainly and clearly in front of everyone on an equal level. These Pharisees did not like being under the same scrutiny that they regularly subjected others to — and they were not humbled and repentant in the face of Truth, but they were pridefully resistant.

This is true of all who are perishing: They hear the parts of the Word of God that shine light on how their own lives don’t line up with God’s will and ignore it — while trying to find things instead that they can use to grumble about others.

I’ll say it again for agonizing who missed it —

This is true of all who are perishing: They hear the parts of the Word of God that shine light on how their own lives don’t line up with God’s will and ignore it — while trying to find things instead that they can use to grumble about others.

Christ was not offended or surprised by what the Pharisees said, and He didn’t react in offense to what they were accusing His disciples of.

And the Pharisees weren’t even saying this of Him, but of His disciples!

Christ simply explained the truth of this principal to them with an authority they did not have and were not familiar with — the light was shining in the darkness and the darkness could not comprehend it.

So Christ, the one truly in authority — demonstrated to them that if they used the law to pour out judgement and condemnation upon the people, that they could only expect the Lord to measure unto them the same judgement and condemnation for their own failure to meet the requirements of the law.

But Christ didn’t even stop there and instead demonstrated the true height of the bar of God’s righteous requirement — which wasn’t just ceremony and tradition and rote practices, but was true holiness that was beyond their grasp.

He reminded them of the types of things that are “filthy” and “nasty” in the eyes of God — which has to do with a man’s soul and not with certain particles of God’s creation upon a man’s hands or passing through his body. Defilement or sanctification of a man’s soul has eternal consequences, while what passes through the digestive tract is quickly proved to no longer be a part of the man.

They knew that washing their hands alone did not purify a priest so that he might enter into the holy of holiest, but even more importantly, his sin must be covered. This should have been a clear warning and call for repentance and awe and fear of God, but these Pharisees were more interested in how they looked before men than how they were going to stand before God.

He quoted the very verse about hypocrisy from Isaiah on this topic that we can see now speaks clearly through the OT prophets of this NT covenant principal — that demonstrates clearly that it is not only about outward appearances, but has always been about being in partnership and relationship with God (or being in opposition to Him):

‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”
Matthew 15:8‭-‬9 NKJV
https://bible.com/bible/114/mat.15.8-9.NKJV

This comes from a passage in Isaiah about those Lord has made blind and illiterate to the things of God and who have said to themselves and others very foolish things about God:

Pause and wonder! Blind yourselves and be blind! They are drunk, but not with wine; They stagger, but not with intoxicating drink. For the Lord has poured out on you The spirit of deep sleep, And has closed your eyes, namely, the prophets; And He has covered your heads, namely, the seers. The whole vision has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one who is literate, saying, “Read this, please.” And he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” Then the book is delivered to one who is illiterate, saying, “Read this, please.” And he says, “I am not literate.” Therefore the Lord said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work Among this people, A marvelous work and a wonder; For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.” Woe to those who seek deep to hide their counsel far from the Lord , And their works are in the dark; They say, “Who sees us?” and, “Who knows us?” Surely you have things turned around! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; For shall the thing made say of him who made it, “He did not make me”? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?
Isaiah 29:9‭-‬16 NKJV
https://bible.com/bible/114/isa.29.9-16.NKJV

All of this might also bring to mind verses on hypocrisy such as this from Amos:

Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord ! For what good is the day of the Lord to you? It will be darkness, and not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion, And a bear met him! Or as though he went into the house, Leaned his hand on the wall, And a serpent bit him! Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light? Is it not very dark, with no brightness in it? “I hate, I despise your feast days, And I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream.
Amos 5:18‭-‬24 NKJV
https://bible.com/bible/114/amo.5.18-24.NKJV

I wonder how often we hear the Word of God and find ourselves offended instead of humbled? I wonder how many times we have denied our own consciences and sought after what wr knew was not holy in the eyes of God Almighty?

I wonder how often we have longed to have our ears tickled with whatever fits or own comfortable understanding that doesn’t require any pruning or growth or sacrifice or self- control or dying to ourselves — instead of longing for sound, bold preaching that would have us fearfully in awe of God Almighty, wondering “how powerful and wide and all encompassing His grace must be to save a sinner such as me!”

Lord, forgive us. Grant us repentance. Do not let us remain offended and hard hearted like the Pharisees we have been in the past. And cleanse our hearts from all unrighteousness and teach us to walk upright in your path — with you closer than a friend. Amen.

Win, Don’t Keep Score

In a football game, is it the score keeper that wins the game, or the team that executes their own plan and purpose mostly excellently, efficiently, and forcefully?

“Christian” –

If I even dare use that term instead of beginning with “Get the behind me satan!”

**Wow, that escalated quickly**

What is it to you that someone doesn’t love you back in the way that you would expect them to — doesn’t reach out to you first, doesn’t like your posts on Facebook? Is it all about you?!! Or is it supposed to be all about you showing the love of Christ to an undeserving world that will hate you just like it hated Him?

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.
1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬5 NLT

“Minister”, “Leader”, “Disciple” –

Again, if I even dare use those terms instead of beginning with “Get the behind me satan!”

What is it to you what the Lord chooses to (or chooses not to) do in and through another?

I see prideful, so called “spiritual people of God” quick to keep score and grumble of what “other church people around me are or aren’t doing”. Yes, I see you in the mirror as well, Harold Ballinger, you are not exempt from the Lord’s discipline and the need that He grant you repentance in this area either!

And it should be a horrible shame to those complacent, worldly “Christian by name only” folks to be a such a stumbling block to the actual laborers, the actual disciples, the actual children in the image of their heavenly Father.

But what danger it poses to keep score of such things such as those who are either dead trees sitting in ornamental pots inside the church to never bear fruit because they are not alive — or they may be alive but are so wild and undisciplined and unpruned that it is a wonder if they will not be empty of any fruit when the Lord comes like the fig tree He found barren and touched and it withered and died immediately. How much of a dangerous distraction it can be for the people of God to seek to number and measure and count one another like David’s sin in numbering Israel?

Better to remember the warning to Peter, “What is it to you?”

Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved—the one who had leaned over to Jesus during supper and asked, “Lord, who will betray you?” Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?” Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” So the rumor spread among the community of believers that this disciple wouldn’t die. But that isn’t what Jesus said at all. He only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”
John 21:20‭-‬23 NLT
https://bible.com/bible/116/jhn.21.20-23.NLT

Fearfully Blessed

Suggested Reading:

Genesis 42

Genesis 43

Matthew 14:22-36

How often does the blessing come through something that appears fearfully dangerous?

Whether it was Joseph’s brothers casting him in the pit and selling him off, Joseph being falsely accused and imprisoned, a famine coming upon the land and forcing Joseph’s brothers to travel to Egypt for food, Joseph’s brothers being accused of being spies, a scary sight of something approaching upon the water that the disciples could not yet recognize, or the waves and wind around Peter as he was walking upon the waves — without going through these unexpected and even “fearful” circumstances — that seemed unfortunate and uncomfortable and may have even stirred up whispers from the enemy that this is “unfair” to sow seeds of doubt in each instance — the real blessing within the trial would not have been received.

It is easy to think of blessings in the form of things you can touch — because it is a thing clearly tangible and present. And even those unseen things that trigger taste, seeing, hearing and smelling, we learn at an early age are not just figments of our imagination. But are these things that will rot and rust and one day no longer exist more, or are the actually less substantial and real and eternal than the things of our soul?

What about those received blessings of wisdom, faith, and repentance — those gifts from God that mold and shape our very character and nature and desires? Aren’t these the greatest treasures of the Kingdom of God, even above comfort, health, honour among men, or a fattened belly?

Isn’t the treasure of being conformed to the image of Christ worth going through the flame? And hasn’t He brought us through every time before? What an amazing way He takes those whi walk with Him — along the treacherous valleys and the awe inspiring mountaintops! Too few times do we keep our eyes upon Him instead of looking at the circumstances and sink like Peter, but how wonderful His grace and mercy is displayed in our weaknesses. Yes, that Christ be glorified and not ourselves. Amen!