Love your fellow man, or…

Here we let the Sacred Scripture do all the work. Strong. Sober. Clear.

1st Letter of John, chapter 3, verse 15.

Any one who hates  his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

Now, maybe you think this does not apply to you. But let’s just make sure, going backwards through the principles at play.

Eternal Life: Not given to murderers.
Resolution: I want eternal life, so I can not be a murderer.

Murderer: Anyone who hates his brother.
Resolution: I do not want to be accounted as a murderer, so I will not hate my brother.

Hate: It is clear from the Scriptures that ‘hate’ doesn’t simply mean “strong displeasure and hard feelings”.  Hate is when I dismiss someone, think they are not worthy of my time, prize my own plans over another, think poorly in any way.
Resolution: I do not want to hate, so I will not dismiss others, bypass them, think down upon them, or mistreat them in any way.

Brother: It is clear from the Scriptures that ‘brother’ is not only my biological brother.  It extends to all of my family members, all of my civic encounters, those in my neighborhood.  In short, every single person I encounter or am around is to be my brother.
Resolution: I do not want to miss seeing Jesus, who is present in my brother. I will look upon every single person in front of me, in my mind, or around me as my brother in the Lord.

Seeing Jesus Come to Life in People (Testimony and Song)

I simply want to share the joy  which is in my heart right now.  I am teaching in a few small groups within my church.  I am sharing with the people in these groups the story of Jesus.  I am sharing with them how messed up things got with Adam’s fall, and how all the good things which happened after that weren’t enough for us, and that we needed something more than the gift of Moses.

This week I was leading the group through many passages which underline the mess we were in and we very clearly saw that we were not able to fix this, nor was the law of Moses enough for us.  And I was able to share with them that it is only through the loving kindness of God in the work of Jesus Christ that we are lifted from the way of the wicked to the way of the just.

Having people read the Scriptures together and highlighting these very poignant passages,  then teaching about salvation in Christ, all of this brings deep deep joy to me.  It’s what I was made to do.

There is one student in particular who stands out.  There’s not a lot of church background, but a sort of familiarity with the story of Jesus.  At the end of our time together she said “I am really enjoying our time together, because I am finally understanding the Bible.”  What joy in me!  And she is really grasping the Gospel of Jesus!

Here is a song which grasps the teaching I’ve been giving in these days.  I am rejoicing while listening and praying with this song, that Jesus is bringing this reality into peoples’ lives in these days.  What precious joy!

Bible Reading Fellowship – JOIN!

Greetings in the Lord Jesus!

Are you interested in reading God’s Word on a daily basis?  Are you interested in joining others who do?  Join with me and others!

The plan is quite easy.

You send me a message and I will mail to you a pocket edition of the New Testament which has marked within it a daily reading plan, and you will then be on the same plan as a bunch of people who are prayerfully encouraging each other in the Lord!

And, if you want to get into a communal reflection email, you can see what other people think about those same Scriptures each day.

It’s great!

So, send me a message, and I will get you started.

– – – – – – –

Here’s my reflection from today’s readings:

Biblical Reading Fellowship

Mt 22: 23-33

The Sadducees use a tricky example to test Jesus about the resurrection of the dead, since they don’t believe in the resurrection.  But what they don’t know is this: Jesus Christ has dwelt in Heaven from all eternity, and He knows all about what happens up there! So it’s not that hard of a question for Him; it’s like asking Him a simple question about His House; He knows everything about it!  It is so consoling to know that whatever questions or doubts I have about Heaven, Jesus already knows all about it and will take care of me.

34-40.

It’s like a back and forth game.  The Pharisees despise the Sadducees and the Sadducees despise the Pharisees.  And they are both taking their turns to see who can silence this guy.  Since He spoke so authoritatively about Heaven and our hypotheticals, let’s test Him on the Law and absolutes.  And He nailed it.  Why did He nail it?  Because He wrote it! Jesus Christ is the Word of the Father; therefore, He is the Author of the Law and knows its perfect application.

Acts 26

Paul shares his conversion story, again!  He loves to share how he came to follow Jesus.  We should remember those different moments as well, and be excited to share them with others often.

v.23: Paul claims that the Jews were waiting for the Messiah (the Christ) and that the prophecies indicated that the Christ was 1) to suffer; 2) to rise from the dead; 3) proclaim light to the Jews (people); 4) proclaim light to the Gentiles.

v.28-29: It is clear that Paul’s goal is to win people over to become Christians.  And they saw His goal.  We ought to make our goal clear – we are trying to win people to the love of Jesus Christ.

DIGGING IN THE WORD: PHILIPPIANS 4

Philippians 4*

1: Paul returns to that heartfelt sentiment of unity which we have seen him employ earlier (2:16; 1 Thess 2:19-20), that he as leader is connected with the Christians.  They are his “joy and crown.”

2-3: An example of differing ideas is pointed out, and Paul encourages this to be resolved by finding unity in the Lord.  Paul asks others in the community to be of assistance in finding this resolution.  These people were obviously very helpful in the work of evangelization and Paul does not want these relationships to fall apart.  The ‘Book of Life’ is a symbolic image which has its origin all the way back in the book of Exodus.  This ‘book’ has the Lord’s list of the just, the holy, the saved. Psalms 69:29 has the psalmist asking that the wicked ones “be blotted from the book of life; not registered among the just!”  In fact, Our Saviour Himself teaches us that we should not rejoice over excellent works in this world, but rather “rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).  The Book of Revelation speaks of the ‘Book of Life’ repeatedly as the list of the just, those who will enjoy Heavenly bliss for all eternity with God.  In Revelation 3:5 Jesus shares the benefit of being written in the Book of Life: “The victor will thus be dressed in white, and I will never erase his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name in the presence of my Father and of his angels.”  Other references in Revelation include 13:8; 17:8; 20:12; 20:15; 21:27.

4: We have looked at the theme of joy and rejoicing in this letter multiple times, so central is the theme for Paul.  The church should be a beacon of joy, but not some anonymous joy; this joy is to be found in the Lord.

5: Christians are not only to have kind thoughts or kind wishes for others, but the manifestation of kindness should be so pronounced that all would know.

6-7: God has promised that He will care for all those who are His own, but so often we allow circumstances to unsettle us.  There is a remedy for this: the peace of God.  Our Saviour has commanded us to be at peace, and has promised to send the Holy Spirit to give us this peace.  This peace is taken away when we forget or neglect the promise of God’s providential care for us.  Our nervousness, anxiety, fear, and many other obstacles take front stage; the peace of God which comes from trust is the remedy.  Our Lord pressed this point in the Sermon on the Mount when he counsels us not to worry (Mt 6:25, 31) or be anxious (Mt 6:28), reminding us that God, who cares for all the lesser creatures, cares for us even more fully.  Saint Peter invites to “cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7), which is the best way to process our anxiety.  Many people say “don’t worry” but what good is that?  Rather, tell God of all your worries, and He will minister to you.  How can we do this but to “persevere in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2).

8: Paul directs our attention to the ideals of life, the list is worth placing all together here; whatever is: true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, any excellence, anything worthy of praise.  These grand virtues should be focused upon, sought after, pursued until acquired.

9: Once the Christian has begun his training in righteousness by adhering to the teaching of the Apostles, he should continue steadfastly on this course.  Paul even dares to counsel the Christians to imitate him, as he does in other places such as 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2: “Finally, brothers, we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us how you should conduct yourselves and please God – and as you are conducting yourselves – you do so even more.  For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.”

Peace is so central a fruit of the Spirit that it is singled out again and again as the governing factor and consoling accompaniment of a life in Christ.  Peace is seen as a central attribute of God here: “the God of peace” who will be with us.  Paul asks that the “God of peace” be with the Christians as he blesses them (Romans 15:33; also 1 Thes 5:23); the “God of peace will quickly crush Satan” under their feet (Romans 16:20); in fact, God “is not the God of disorder but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33).

10: Paul is sharing his pleasure that as he has labored greatly, so also there is a return from the people of gratitude to him.

11-13: Paul has been in many circumstances and has been able to continue his labor in the midst of all of them.  So we learn that our circumstances don’t inhibit us or determine us, but rather how we respond in the midst of them.  Paul lists some of these various circumstances, for example: “We go hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clad and roughly treated, we wander about homeless and we toil, working with our own hands” (1 Corinthians 4:11-12); he has experienced “afflictions, hardships, constraints, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, vigils, fasts” (2 Corinthians 4:4-5; also 2 Cor 11:26-27);

12: He shares the varied ways he has lived, in each of those ways finding the way forward and grasping the gift which comes from it.

13: Instead of the circumstances determining Paul’s operation, he places the secret in this: the empowerment of God which gives strength.  God had shared with Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness,” so Paul goes on to write that he “will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).  In the labor and the struggle of the ministry, Paul moves forward “in accord with the exercise of his power working within me” (Colossians 1:29).  Many people have found much comfort by memorizing this 13th verse of Philippians chapter 4.  It should be understood in this way: no matter what circumstances surround me, God will give me what grace I need to remain faithful to Him and to endure it.  It should not be taken to mean that a person can literally do anything, but the strength to endure the things God has given.

14: Paul, having finished his teaching, again shows his gratitude for the support of the people.

15: Philippi was not the first place in which Paul preached the Gospel, but the first in Europe.

16: The church of Philippi provides for Paul’s needs even when he was not with them. This teaches that we are to provide for the needs of the Church throughout the world, and not only in our local community.

17: Paul stresses that he is not the only one who receives because of their generosity, but rather that by their generosity they are growing in the Holy Spirit, building up treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).

18: Paul speaks of the support from the Philippians in language lifted from Old Testament religious rites, those ways in which the people would give of what they had to honor God.  Their giving to his needs is seen as a way to continue that sacrificial giving in the New Testament.  Noah had built an altar and offered burnt offerings to the Lord, and “the LORD smelled the sweet odor” (Genesis 8:20-21).  Moses and the people who left Egypt were instructed to “burn the entire ram on the altar, since it is a burnt offering, a sweet-smelling oblation to the LORD” (Exodus 29:18).  Our Saviour Himself has surpassed all of these offerings, as Paul writes in Ephesians 5: “Christ loved us and handed Himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.”  This giving of self is seen as normative for the Christian community, and we see it extended from the example of Our Saviour to the community in the letter to the Hebrews: Through Christ “let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.  Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have; God is pleased by sacrifices of that kind” (Hebrews 13:15-16).

19: In response to their support, Paul promises that God will continue to provide for them.

20: The letter is coming to an end, and so we see a doxology, directing all of our praise to God who is Father as well as Trinity.  This praise and glory is directed to God through Jesus Christ, as is seen in Romans 16:27: “To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

21: Final greetings are extended.

22: Paul shares that the Christians around where he is in captivity send their greetings as well.

23: Paul signs the letter with a liturgical presidential phrase.  This phrase has been preserved in the liturgy even until our own day, which shows how deeply committed the Church is to Biblical expressions in divine worship, handing on the Apostolic faith.  Paul extends the grace to their spirit, and we continue to respond in our day to our leaders: And with your spriit.

*[NOTE: This Bible exposition has not been edited, so there are misspellings, grammatical errors, and possibly verse citation errors.  Maybe one day someone will professionalize it.  I simply wanted to get the content to you. God bless!]

Prayer Workshop: Lectio Divina

For other posts concerning the Prayer Workshop, click HERE.

I frequently recommend praying with the Scriptures (aka the Bible), but I haven’t always done a good job of explain how to pray with the Scriptures. Sorry about that. Here’s an attempt to remedy this problem.

In today’s Prayer Workshop, we’re going to talk about one of the more popular ways to pray with a passage from Scripture, namely Lectio Divina, which is Latin for Divine Reading. There are many ways to pray with the Scriptures, but this is one I’ve found to be most helpful for my life of prayer. Here’s a basic outline of Lectio Divina:

  • Pick out a passage of Scripture. Something from one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) will probably be best if you haven’t prayed in this way very often in the past.
    • A great option may be the Gospel passage from Mass for the day or for the upcoming Sunday. You can find that HERE.
  • Start with a simple prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten your mind and heart during this time of prayer.
    • Example: “Come, Holy Spirit! I ask that you help me remain focused during this time of prayer. Make this passage come alive in my mind and heart. Show me whatever you want me to know. Amen.”
  • Read the passage, either out loud or silently. Rest in silence for 2-3 minutes. Meditate on the passage you just read. Is there a word or phrase that stands out to you? Let that word or phrase penetrate your mind.
  • Read the passage again. Rest in silence for 2-3 minutes again. This time, are there any images that come to your mind? Are there any particular emotions that come up? Or any ideas about what Jesus has said or how the people are responding to him?
  • Read the passage a third time. Rest in silence for 2-3 minutes again. How does the Lord want this passage to change your life? Do you sense a particular invitation from Jesus? What does he want you to do now that you’ve spent this time being refreshed by him? How is this passage of the Word of God piercing your heart?
  • Finish your time with a prayer of thanksgiving.
    • Example: “Thank you, Holy Spirit, for giving me this time to rest in the Word. Give me the grace I need to keep this Word at the front of my mind and heart. Let it penetrate everything I say and do. Amen.”

DIGGING IN THE WORD: PHILIPPIANS 3

Philippians 3*

1: It is not surprise that Paul returns to the theme of rejoicing.  No matter what has happened, is happening, or will happen, the Christians are to rejoice.

2-3: The dogs, evil workers, and mutilation have many references in scripture, and Paul may be including any or all of them here.  For sure, he is collecting their identities to clarify who the Christians are in contrast to them: The Christians are the true followers of the covenant of old (the covenant of circumcision with Abraham and the people of God), which has been superseded by the new covenant ratified in the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ.  The Jews are very careful to follow the Law to obtain righteousness. Paul is reminding the Christians that observance of the Law does not make one righteous; placing one’s claim to righteousness in the work of Jesus Christ is what must be done.  “I cannot save me; God has saved me, in Christ Jesus.”  This is the foundation of Christianity.

To return to the dogs and the evil workers, Psalm 22 includes them in a particular way.  Psalm 22 is at the height of pre-Christian prophecy of what was to occur in the life of Jesus.  A surface read proves that.  Verse 17 of that prophecy puts the dogs and evildoers together, and continues into verse 21: “Dogs surround me; a pack of evildoers closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and my feet… deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the grip of the dog.” We can remember the words of our Divine Lord Himself, when He alludes to the people not of Israel: “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (Matthew 15:27).  In the New Covenant, there are potential problems coming from any number of false ideas.  The Christians may be provoked to return to old covenant practices which negate the work of Jesus Christ; they may be influenced by Gentiles who refute the Cross of Jesus Christ; they may be tricked by false practices within Christianity, oftentimes by the spiritual elitists of the gnostic sorts.  The dangers come from any direction, but the remedy is clear: hold fast to the knowledge of the revelation from God of Jesus Christ as the author of the New Covenant, ratified in His Precious Blood.

4: Paul is now going to highlight all the things he has done so well from his former life in Judaism, so as to highlight his point that none of that matters when it comes to attaining right standing with God.  The Law is not the measure; The Cross of Jesus Christ is the measure.  Paul does this from time to time in his letters. Since the first converts to Christianity were Jews, there needed to be a teaching on how to transition from Judaism to this new way.  From time to time Paul employs a testimony to make sure that those converts who wanted to boast of their following of the Law know that their boasting has no place now.

5-6: Paul lists his Jewish pedigree.  He was circumcised on the right day, he is not a convert to the race, he knows his tribe, both parents Hebrews themselves, and he was rigorous with the Pharisees.  All of this would indicate the purity of his upbringing, and he adds his own claim of following the law carefully.

7: Paul’s pedigree has been set aside, because he is not trying to gain righteousness by who he is or what he has done.  Rather, Jesus Christ is his focus now, not himself.  Our Lord Himself spoke of this kind of change in his parables: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44).  Paul knew that to inherit this new treasure, he had to let go of what he had known or possessed up to then.

8: A most precious passage of the New Testament writings: “I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Commit Philippians 4:8 to memory and let it take root in your mind, heart, and soul.

8-11: Paul continues to inform the Jewish converts that the law no longer should be the measure for religious conduct.  Rather, he focuses on these things: faith in Jesus Christ; knowing the power of His resurrection; sharing in His sufferings.  The focus is completely on Jesus as the source and power for attaining eternal life.  The law used to be the measure; it is no longer the measure: “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, through testified to by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.  For there is no distinction; all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.  They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as an expiation…” (Romans 3:21-25).

10: Christians participate in the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, for sure by their own death they will awaken to eternal life.  But even in this life, the Christian mystically participates in the death and resurrection of Jesus. “Or are you unaware that we who are baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).  On the theme of suffering with Christ, Paul sets it up as a preparation to share in the glorification of Christ: “we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:16-17).  Paul goes so far in this identification with Christ that he says: “From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body” (Galatians 6:17).

12-13a: Paul is aware of his present relationship with Christ Jesus, but knows that he cannot presume that ‘yesterday’ is good enough.  Each day the Christian must strive to move forward.  You have heard the saying: “If you are not going forward, you are going backward.”  Something like this is at work here.  There is more, and the Christian must continue, must abide, must keep on.  We have not yet been perfected, so today is our opportunity to become more like Our Lord.  The idea of pressing forward (or else failing) is seen in many of Paul’s letters, oftentimes with the language of competition or athletic activity.  Paul writes to Timothy: “Compete well for the faith.  Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses,” and to accumulate “as treasure a good foundation for the future, so as to win the life that is true life.” (1 Timothy 6:12, 19).  Paul writes of himself: “I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing.  No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified,” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27).  Nearing the end of life, Paul concludes: “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

13b-14: It is the Christian way to release yesterday and things gone by and enter into the mercies which are new every morning.  The goal is complete configuration to Jesus and possession of Heaven, gained by daily fidelity.  The athletic theme in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 serves well here: “Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win.  Every athlete exercises disciple in every way.  They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.”

15-16: Paul is highlighting the fact that nobody is as of yet perfect, but that we all must continue forward.  If someone thinks that they are perfect, God will help them see the error of there thoughts.  They are on the right path; therefore, press on.

17: Paul was aware that his life was to become a model of this new way of life found in Christ Jesus, one which was zealous, singlehearted, pure (with regards to faith) and clearly distinguished from false teachers.  Paul says to be an imitator of him numerous times (1 Corinthians 4:16, 1 Corinthians 11:1), imitators of the leaders in other cases: “you became imitators of us and of the Lord… so that you became a model for all the believers” (1 Thessalonians 1:6,7).  Saint Peter asks the leaders the same: “Be examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3).

18-19: There are countless ways to be an enemy of the Cross of Christ.  This case seems to be those who would consider themselves Christians, but are living a very worldly and indulgent life, even sinful.  Paul warns of these ‘fleshy’ people in Romans 8:5-6: “For those who live according to the flesh are concerned with the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit with the things for the spirit.  The concern of the flesh is death, but the concern of the spirit is life and peace.” These same people can become troublemakers, establishing factions which Paul warns of: “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who create dissensions and obstacles, in opposition to the teaching that your learned; avoid them.  For such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites, and by fair and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the innocent” (Romans 16:17-18).  Others who are enemies of the Cross of Christ are Gentiles and Jews: “We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).

20-21: Earth is a valley of tears, a place of pilgrimage, a practice or dress rehearsal, an exile, a stepping stone.  Heaven is the goal.  “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved), raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7). Paul continues in Ephesians 2:19: “So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God.”  So we are to lift our thoughts, hearts, and desires to our true homeland: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).  We will be transformed into our heavenly body, free of every defect imaginable, and filled with every perfection pleasing to God.  “We groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies”; “Those he justified he also glorified”; “it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.  If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one”; “All of us, gazing with unveiled faces on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (Romans 8:23, 30; 1 Corinthians 15:44; 2 Corinthians 3:18).  Two places are not included here because they are lengthy, but worthy: 1 Corinthians 15:42-57 and 2 Corinthians 5:1-5.

*[NOTE: This Bible exposition has not been edited, so there are misspellings, grammatical errors, and possibly verse citation errors.  Maybe one day someone will professionalize it.  I simply wanted to get the content to you. God bless!]

DIGGING IN THE WORD: Philippians 1

Philippians 1*

 

1:1 Usually Paul would address himself as apostle, but here as slave.  We are to be servants of Jesus Christ, obeying Him totally as our master; this applies to all Christians, from the simplest of the faithful to the highest of the prelates.  It is becoming more and more common for various denominations to declare that each person in the church has an equal role, and that there should not be one person put over the others, but we see clearly here that already in the earliest days of the Church there is a clear regard to different roles.  Paul here writes to all the Christians, along with the ‘overseers’ and ‘ministers’, who have specific roles within the community.  Both of these words, as the Church develops, become concretized as ‘Bishop’ (overseer) and ‘Deacon’ (minister).  Thus we see the natural development of the Christian Church.

1:2 It was very common in the New Testament to refer to the Father as God and to the Son as the Lord.  It does not mean that the Father is not Lord, or that the Son is not God.  The future Creeds of the Church guide us to a clear understanding that the Son is equal to the Father: God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God.

1:3 Saint Paul gives thanks for the Christian congregation, and why? Because they are laboring with him to spread the gospel in a harmonious way.  Saint Paul does not give thanks in a generic way, even if the text could be cut up to seem so: “I give thanks to God.”  Rather, a further reading shows us that our thanks should be to God THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, and for particular reasons.  Romans 1:8 helps: “I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ;” thus we see that Saint Paul is praying by invoking the holy name of Jesus and that he is praying ‘because’ of something, in this case because of their faith, in Philippians because of their partnership for the gospel, in 1 Corinthians 1:4 for the grace God poured on them, in 1 Thessalonians 1:3 for their faith, hope, and love.  Therefore, do not simply pray “thank you God” but rather pray by giving thanks to God, invoking the holy name of Jesus our Lord, and for particular spiritual benefits given.

1:4 Saint Paul prays with joy.  Many people only pray when they are in need, therefore without joy but rather with pain or sadness or anxiety or concern.  The prayer of thanksgiving is filled with joy and should be normative in the Christian life.

1:6 We are usually unaware of the work of God, but this verse helps us to see that God is always at work on our behalf, since He is good, our Father, desiring us all to inherit eternal life.  God will continue to care for us until the day when Jesus Christ comes back again to judge the living and the dead.

1:7 Each Christian should partner with the leader of the community to defend the gospel and to confirm it.  Defense of the gospel includes absolute conviction that Jesus Christ is the sole Saviour of mankind, and any other message must therefore be false.

1:8 The leader of the community loves with the same affection as Jesus.

1:9 Growth as a Christian is constant.  If you are not growing, you are neglecting your vocation.  This growth in knowledge and discernment is necessary for us to become pure and blameless.  We are as of yet not perfectly pure, not completely blameless, so we must strive.  Romans 12:2 warns us not to be conformed to this age, but that our minds are to be renewed.  Ephesians 3:14-19 insists that we can grow in a great way, to know “the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  Colossians 1:9-10 shows Saint Paul praying for us to grow in knowledge, wisdom, understanding, worthy living, “so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God.”  Are you growing?

1:11 God the Father is glorified when we are grow in fruitfulness through Jesus Christ.  Jesus Himself testifies to this in John 15:8: “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”  And again, He says in Matthew 5:16: “Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”  This fruitfulness is not done apart from God, but through Jesus Christ, as Jesus declares in John 3:21: “But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”

1:12 Paul’s situation is that he is imprisoned.  He also refers to himself as “an ambassador in chains” in Ephesians 6:20, and he considers himself not a prisoner of any adversary, but as a prisoner of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:1).  Paul sees that he is suffering for the Gospel, “even to the point of chains, like a prisoner.  But the word of God is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:8-9).

1:14 The fact that Paul is imprisoned urges others to continue the work of proclaiming the gospel.  This shows us that God can work out His plans regardless of the situation at hand.

1:18 In any realm of society there are those who are pure and those who are impure, even in regard to the ministry of Christ.  Again, God is able to bring about fruitfulness even in spite of the motivations of man.  The theme of rejoicing is central to this letter; indeed, this is a central theme of Christianity, even in the midst of persecution.

1:20 It is not only our spirit or soul which gives glory to God, but even in our bodies and in suffering Christ can be magnified or glorified. Paul instructs us in 1 Corinthians 6 that our body is a temple of the holy Spirit, and that we have been purchased at a price.  “Therefore, glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:20), and “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1).  Saint Peter speaks likewise: “But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name” (1 Peter 4:16).

1:21 Paul knows that either of the two ultimate realities will be used by God as God sees fit; if to be alive, to live in Christ and proclaim Him; if to die, to go to be with Christ whom he proclaimed.

1:22 If Paul remains alive, he will continue to preach and win converts to Christianity.

1:23 Paul’s ultimate desire is to go to Heaven.  Notice that it is not his ultimate desire in a long, far off way, like so many who say “Of course I want to go to Heaven, but I want to stay here on earth for a long time,” as if they will accept the fact that they can’t live forever, but if they could they might choose earth.  Rather, for Paul, he wants to go there now!  It is his ultimate desire now, to be united with Jesus in Heaven.  In fact, that would be “far better.”  He says this again in 2 Corinthians 5:8: “we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.”

1:24 Paul sees that his role in building up the body of Christ is why he is alive.

1:27 Our conduct should match the dignity of those reborn in Christ, as he writes in Ephesians 4:1 “live in a manner worth of the call you have received,” “in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Colossians 1:10).  Unity is also central here: one spirit, one mind, together, the faith, the gospel.  See Ephesians 4:3-6 on the 7 unities: body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, God.

1:28 Christians are not to be influenced by the opinions of non-believers and outsiders, but rather built up together.

1:29 to suffer for Christ is seen as a gift.  He suffered for me; it is an honor for me to suffer for Him.  Jesus speaks to this in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:10-11) when he says: “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.” And why? “Your reward will be great in heaven.”  In fact, Jesus makes this willingness a condition to be one of His disciples: “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38).  He adds in Mark 8:35 that “whoever wishes to save hiss life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”  The early Apostles rejoiced “that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name” (Acts 5:41).  Saint Peter exhorts us: “Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly.”

1:30 The Christians participate in Paul’s difficulties; they may be put in chains as he has been.  Even if not, they will endure hardships for the Gospel.  Paul had been imprisoned in Phillipi, the place where he is now writing this letter, as we learn from Acts 16:19-24 as well as from 1 Thessalonians 2:2.

*[NOTE: This Bible exposition has not been edited, so there are misspellings, grammatical errors, and possibly verse citation errors.  Maybe one day someone will professionalize it.  I simply wanted to get the content to you. God bless!]

No Longer Slaves

In the book of Exodus, the Israelites encounter the miraculous parting of the Red Sea to bring them to ultimate freedom from the 400+ years of slavery they endured at the hands of the Egyptians. They were saved through water. This story prefigures our baptism, where we too are saved through water. The magnificence and drama of this story are so helpful for us because it is an even greater drama when we are baptized. But the visual effects don’t have the same theatrical, stunning quality, so we might miss it. But it is true! Our enslavement to sin is worse than the Israelites’ 430 years under the cruelty of Pharaoh.
God even allowed the ferocious army to come after the Israelites as they made their escape, so they could look their death in the face, and know without a doubt how the Mighty God had saved them. They seemed completely fenced in with death on all sides. Drown or be slaughtered. But Moses looks at them, directs them to look at the advancing army, and says,
Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. – Exodus 14:13
We are faced with the same as we approach the font of baptism. The armies of the Evil One press in on all sides and we are enslaved to sin and death. He is behind us and the waters of the font are before us. We must enter in to see the salvation of the Lord. But as we enter, we can hear the loving voice of the Father say, “This sin that weighs upon you, the wages of which is death, you shall never see again!”
Listen to this awesome song by Bethel Music and revel in the fact that you are called to be a child of God. This awesome and mighty God has split the sea so you could walk right through it, drowning all your fears in perfect love. He has rescued you!
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. – Romans 6:4

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