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A Passage and A Prayer 2/15/19

29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have (Philippians 1:29-30).
 
“We’re in this together!”

These are comforting words when we find ourselves in crisis situations.  It’s not necessarily that “misery likes company.”  The comfort is found in that others care for us and support us in times or trouble.

This is what Paul conveys to the Christians in Philippi.  He pulls no punches.  He comes right out and promises that they will face opposition in their Christian walk.  But, Paul reminds them that they are in this together. 

The word, “compassion,” comes from two Latin words, cum and passio.  Placed together, this meaning is “to suffer together.”  St. Peter reminds us that “even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed(I Peter 3:14). The blessing comes in the fact that we still live in the forgiveness of sins; we still live with the Lord’s promise to use all things to draw us closer to Him; we still have the care and compassion of fellow Christians; we still have the promise of heaven.

Because we are in this together—we need to be together!

  • Spouses need to pray together, asking the Lord to provide the love and care for their marriage.
  • Families need to be engaged in devotions so children can be nurtured in the Christian faith.
  • We all need to be in a REACHGroup, where fellow Christians gather to study the Word, to care for one another and to reach out to others.
  • Worship must be a priority each and every week so we, together, can be fed by God’s Word and His Sacrament.

What a joy it is to be part of the family of faith in this world as we await the eternal family in heaven to come.

O Holy Spirit, fill me with the compassion to care for my fellow brothers and sisters in the faith.  Give to me the desire to meet together in Your Word that we may grow in the grace and knowledge of Your love and forgiveness.  I ask this in the name of Jesus.  Amen.


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A Passage and A Prayer 2/13/19

21 For to me to live is Christ (Philippians 1:21a).
 
“To live is Christ?”

What does this mean?

What do you live for?  Everyone must live for something.  Everyone must complete this sentence, “For me, to live is ______________.”  Everyone must fill in the blank.

Understand this—whatever you put in the blank is your god.  Some people live for their job.  Some live for more money.  Some live for their homes and furnishings.  Some live for their retirement portfolio.  Whatever you live for is your god.

The challenge comes when the things of the world no longer hold the promise they once offered.  How helpful is our job when we are laid-off?  How helpful is our home when we grow older and can no longer manage the upkeep?  How helpful is the retirement portfolio when the economy takes a downward turn?  The things of the world are transitory and passing. 

Paul realized that the One thing that is sure and certain is the love of Christ.  In His love, He left His heavenly throne to come and live the perfect life for us.  In love, He carried the guilt of our sin to the cross to pay for the sins of the world.  In His love, He shares with all who live and believe in Him, everlasting life.

“To live is Christ,” means:

  • We live through Christ.  Our lives are based on the fact that the Lord intentionally created us and then redeemed us.   We live in the conviction that the Lord is with us and uses all things for good in our lives.
  • We live for Christ.  When we fill in the blank with Jesus, we place our lives into proper priority.  With Christ as the center and the foundation of our lives we can better use our talents and abilities in our relationship with those around us.  We become better spouses, parents, children, employers, employees, friends, community members and members of the church.

They say, when it comes to the things of the world, “you can’t take it with you.”  And they are right.

But Jesus says, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10b).

That’s why, “For me, to live is Christ.”

Blessed Jesus, protect us from the temptation to believe that our worth is based on our wealth.  Grant to us such a faith that we would treasure the gifts You freely give us—faith and forgiveness, life and salvation.  Assist us in keeping a faith in You as the center and foundation of our lives, and our homes.  We ask this in Your name and to Your glory.  Amen.


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A Passage and A Prayer 2/11/19

19 For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 
 (Philippians 1:19-20)

Paul sits in prison.  He waits.  He is in prison for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, claiming Him to be the One and only God.  And now, Paul waits.  He is waiting to see if his appeal to Caesar will result in his release from incarceration or if he will be sentenced to death.

Paul doesn’t mention Caesar.  Paul doesn’t hang his hopes on appearing before the emperor on a good day when the Roman leader’s spirits are high and his attitude is good.

Instead, Paul is placing all his hopes on the Holy Spirit.  In other words, he is putting his life in the hands of the Lord who created him, redeemed him and called him into a lively faith.  It is this trust in the Lord that moves Paul to a confidence that he will be delivered.  But what does it mean to be “delivered?”  Paul can use the word to mean he will be leased from all charges and be freed to return to his daily activities with no legal repercussions.  Or, Paul could mean that he would lose his life at the hands of the Roman government, yet the Lord would take him to heaven where he would be delivered from the imperfections of this world and into the beauty and joy of heaven.

Paul figures that either way he wins.  He will either go to heaven and be with Jesus or he will be released and go back to see his friends in Philippi.

This should be our attitude in the midst of crisis.  I remember visiting someone in the hospital who was confronted with a serious diagnosis.  “I’ll be just fine,” the person told me, going on to explain, “either I will be cured and return to my family or I’ll die and go to heaven.  Either way, I win!”

This is the attitude of faith that carries us through the crises of life.  This is the truth that Christians claim as they cling to the cross of Jesus.  This is the peace that passes all understanding.  This is life!

Gracious Jesus, thank You for Your life, death and resurrection, which give me the confidence to face the challenges of life without fear, knowing and trusting that Your will is always for our good.  Give me Your Holy Spirit that this may be my confidence today and every day.  Amen.


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A Passage and A Prayer 2/8/19

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant. (Philippians 2:5-7).

“Empty.”  It’s not a word we like to hear.  “The gas gauge is on empty!”  “The milk carton is empty!”  “My wallet is empty!”  Empty often indicates loss.

Jesus “emptied” Himself.  He is the God of the universe, who was the active agent in the creation of all things out of nothing.  Without Him there would be nothing.  He is above all things.

Yet, He set aside His rightful place in the glories of heaven to be our Savior.  He was still fully God, but He set aside His majesty and entered our sin-stained world in the form of a servant.  He had no reason to come into this world, except to save us.  He came on our behalf.  He came to do the things we cannot accomplish for our salvation.  He kept the Law perfectly—for us.  He died on the cross—for us.  He rose from the grave and opened, to all who believe in Him, eternal life.

He summed up His mission with these words, For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).

And now we are called to be servants.  We are called to “empty” ourselves.  We call this an “attitude of humility.”  Paul encourages this attitude when he writes,  So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:1-5).

This isn’t about becoming a doormat for the world.  It’s about becoming a welcome mat for those who are hungry, those who are lonely, those who are troubled by sin and fearful of death.  Jesus said, As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me (Matthew 25:39).

O Holy Spirit, guide me in such a way that I would be a welcoming presence in the lives of others.  Teach me to be caring and compassionate, that I may be the hands and feet of the Savior to those in need.  I pray in Jesus’ powerful name.  Amen.


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A Passage and A Prayer 2/6/19

21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. (Philippians 1:21-26).

When we find ourselves in a challenging situation, we look for the quickest way out.  It’s the natural thing to do.  We relieve pain.  We remove stress.  We avoid conflict.  We seek the situations that are more comfortable.  We strive toward the relationships that are more friendly.  Who wouldn’t?

Paul didn’t.  Paul was an enemy of the Christian Church.  He persecuted the followers of Jesus, imprisoning them and even calling for their death.  Things changed the day he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus.  Jesus presented Himself to Paul, proving that He is the Messiah—the crucified and risen Savior. 

Paul became a missionary, taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ into towns and homes and hearts of people throughout Asia Minor.  Through many and great hardships Paul endeavored to share the Good News of faith and forgiveness in Jesus.  It was because of this mission work that Paul found himself imprisoned with the possibility of being executed.

Paul was not really threatened by the thought of being put to death.  He knew his mission was good and right.  He also knew that Jesus would take him to heaven.  As Paul thought about it, he wrote to the Christians in the City of Philippi, that he longed to be with Jesus in the perfections and the joys of heaven.  But, he also felt called by the Lord to continue his work among believers and unbelievers.

The true sacrifice for Paul was to remain in this world that opposed his message.

We are called to that exact same sacrificial life.  It is not always easy to live our faith in the daily world, but we are called to do just that.  While we journey through this imperfect world, we are called to let the light of Christ shine in each of our relationships.  We are called to make a difference in the lives of others by simply living our God-given faith.

I can’t wait to go to heaven and be with Jesus and my fellow brothers and sisters in the faith.  But, until that time the Lord has ordained for me, I continue to live for Him.

Gracious Jesus, You know that challenges of this world.  You know the difficulty of living the faith in a world that rejects You.  Give to me such a faith that I would find it a pleasure to live my faith in each of my relationships.  I pray this in Your name and to Your glory.  Amen.


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