We Are Gospel Lights!

-Forgiveness Or Plotting Revenge?

So, what were fights like growing up in your home? When my sisters and I got into a fight, as long as there was no blood & everyone still had all their appendages attached, we were usually just made to hug each other and say we were sorry! That was pretty much what negotiating peace looked like in our family. But, as I meditate on it, that method had some pretty serious flaws because it never got to the heart of the issue behind the conflict. We were usually saying “I’m sorry” through gritted teeth at the same time we were plotting our revenge. We hadn’t truly forgiven each other. We just went through the motions so we could get our parents off our backs.

-What A Church Family Ought To Look Like!

If you’ll open your Bibles with me to Philippians chapter 2, let me remind you that it’s imperative to always consider the context of every Scripture in order to come to a correct interpretation. This is a letter, written by the Apostle Paul, to the Church of Philippi. So, his audience is a specific local church community. Just flip back to chapter 1, verse 1, where it says Paul was writing “…to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the Elders and the Deacons…” So, we need to keep in mind that all his references to “you” are meant to include the church family of Philippi as a whole. This is what a church family should look like, Paul says. This is how you work through conflicts.

-The Way You Do Church Matters!

Here’s why the way you do church matters both inside the church and outside. Because it impacts & affects our ability to make disciples in our city.  Let’s remember that the New Testament begins with the announcement that the Messiah had come! That Jesus was His name; and, for 33 1/2 years He lived a perfect, sinless life; and then willingly died as God’s sacrificial lamb to pay for the sin of the world. On the 3rd day He rose from the dead; and, before ascending back to the Father, He commissioned His followers to make disciples & to establish local churches everywhere they went. And, for the most part, the rest of the New Testament is all about life and community within the local church body.

-Church Behavior Impacts The World!

There is a consistent sub-theme that weaves its way through all the Epistles & letters of the New Testament. And, this is it— how the church lives, on the inside, has a direct bearing on how many people, on the outside, come to know Jesus! We are not an island; nor do we live our lives in a vacuum. If our city rejects Jesus, we are part of the problem. Sioux City, Iowa has been my home for the last 19 years & Jesus uses the transformed lives of our church to convict Sioux City of their need for a Savior. That’s the message that Paul shares in Philippians, and it’s the persistent message in the New Testament.

-An Attitude That Mirrors Jesus Christ!

As we look into this small; but dynamic book, that’s what we see. Paul is challenging this Church to live their lives in a way that adorns the Gospel. And, that happens only as we take on the mind of Christ, Paul says. “Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead, He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross. For this reason, God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow… and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (2:5-11). It’s a command; an imperative to the church to have the attitude Jesus had!

Learning To Be Wise!

-The Wise Live Proactively!

The wise live their lives proactively! They read from the Scriptures, what God— the Creator & Master Designer— has written, as laws, into His Creation; and, they make course corrections BEFORE they step on life’s landmines & blow up their domain! The Old Testament book of Proverbs offers that kind of wisdom!  For example, wisdom, according to Proverbs, teaches us to be open to loving rebuke. When you choose the right kind of friends— those walking with God— they may offer you some loving rebuke at times. Especially, if they see you moving in the wrong direction! That what good friends do according to the book of Proverbs. “The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive” (ch. 27:6)

-Who Can You Trust?

You can trust a friend. They will gently tell you the truth; even, when they know it may cause you pain to hear it. But, it’s for your good! But, if you’re the friend offering a rebuke, don’t be the kind of “friend” who approached her pastor after he preached a message on the spiritual gifts & announced that she had the gift of criticism. The wise pastor asked her if she remembered, from Jesus’ parable, what the man, with the one talent, had done with his talent. “Why, yes,” she said, “he went out and buried it.” And, with a smile, the pastor said, “Go and do likewise.”

-The 2 Sides Of A Rebuke!

There are always 2 sides to the rebuke— the one receiving it & the one offering it. If you’re the friend offering it, be careful! Ask yourself what motivates you to counsel or rebuke this person? Are you motivated by a desire to help the other person? Do you plan to face them honestly, but with gentleness? Are you doing this out of concern for God’s kingdom; or, because you enjoy being critical? If you’re on the receiving end of a gentle rebuke, how do you receive it? If you don’t listen to the wisdom, of a wise friend, you’re just being stupid! I’m not saying that! Scripture says that! “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but one who hates correction is stupid” (Proverbs 12:1). Don’t be that guy! Don’t be that gal!

-Don’t Be Stupid!

Oh, and don’t be that kid that hates correction from their parents! Don’t be stupid! “A fool despises his father’s discipline, but a person who accepts correction is sensible” (Proverbs 15:5). That’s because wisdom teaches us to be respectful and a blessing to our parents. If you have friends that counter the counsel of your parents you’ve not chosen your friends wisely! Don’t be stupid! Don’t be a fool! Again, I’m not calling you stupid! I’m not calling you a fool! God is calling you out! If you choose to disregard the wisdom of your parents & choose the foolishness of a bad friend’s counsel, you’re going to mess up your life! “A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son, heartache to his mother” (Proverbs 10:1). Don’t be that son! Don’t be that daughter!

-Be A Peacemaker!

There’s another theme that repeats itself throughout Proverbs— wisdom teaches us to be a peacemaker! Let me just make a general observation! If your life is full of drama, you’re probably not a peacemaker! You’re a pot-stirrer! Does drama surround you at home? Does drama follow you to work? Is there drama between you & the members of your family? Or, you and your neighbors? If you’re the constant component, in all the drama, you need the biblical wisdom of a peacemaker! “It is honorable for a man to resolve a dispute, but any fool can get himself into a quarrel” (20:3). “Don’t say, ‘I will avenge this evil!’ Wait on the Lord, and He will rescue you” (20:22 ). The fool is always in a fight! The fool is always out to make the wrongs (that they perceive) right! Wisdom waits on God to right all wrongs! More wisdom next week!

God’s Plan Is Good!

-He Uses Evil Men!

When evil men set their will against God, He will use them & their evil plans for His Sovereign purposes! We’ve been talking about God’s Sovereignty the last couple weeks; and, Scripture tells us that God actually raised up Egypt’s Pharaoh to accomplish His Sovereign purpose:  “The Scripture tells Pharaoh: I raised you up for this reason so that I may display My power in you and that My name may be proclaimed in all the earth” Romans 9:17.  God, in His Sovereignty, turns Pharaoh’s evil plans, for Israel, against him & sets Israel free, from their slavery to Pharaoh, to the praise of His Glory!

-God’s Eternal Plans!

In addition, to His Sovereignty, there is another thread that weaves its way through Scripture; and, it’s closely related to His Sovereignty. I’m referring to God’s eternal plans for His creation! He has a divine plan for all of His Sovereign work in the world & in our lives. One of my most favorite Scriptures, in all the bible, is an acknowledgment that Joseph makes in Genesis chapter 50. After their father Jacob’s death, Joseph’s brothers fear that he will take revenge on them for selling him into slavery many years earlier. But, look at Joseph’s response:  “You planned evil against me; but, God PLANNED it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people” Genesis 50:20.

-Confidence In God’s Plans!

Joseph had become so confident, in God’s Sovereignty & His plan for Joseph’s life, that he even trusted God with the evil plans others had against him.  He didn’t separate his “church life” from the “rest of life.” There was no secular for Joseph! Everything, in life, was part of God’s sacred plan! God used Joseph’s negative life incidents to grow him! To sanctify & mature him! To set him free from the bondage & slavery of sin! We also see that God’s plan was to use famine to bring Jacob’s family to Egypt; where, He promised that, in 400 years, He would lead them out of Egypt to a “promised land” that flowed with milk & honey.

-There Are No Coincidences!

In this way, God orchestrated all those “circumstances” to raise up Moses to lead Israel, in their Exodus, out of Egypt.  The world would say it was just a set of “coincidences”! But, we know better! It just “so happened” that Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses, in a basket, among the bulrushes. And, because she “Just happened” to be Pharaoh’s daughter, she had the power to save his life, though Pharaoh had determined to kill all Israelite males! It just “so happened” that Moses’ own birth mother was selected, by Pharaoh’s daughter, to wean him & train him; so, he could grow in the things of Yahweh!

-God’s Never Surprised!

In fact, Moses’ mother was actually paid, by Pharaoh’s daughter, to raise him (Exodus 2:9). Later, God informed Moses that it was “His plan” to send him to Pharaoh & demand, of him, that Egypt would let Israel, God’s people, go! God always has a plan! The Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, says that Jesus was, “…the LAMB slain from the foundation of the world…” Rev. 13:8.  From before creation, God had already planned that Jesus, His Son, would come to earth as a man; and, die on the cross to deliver us from sin! What a great God! He’s never taken by surprise! So, even when the world is surprised by a world-wide virus like COVID-19, God had planned, from eternity past, to use it to bring Glory to Himself!