How can I find Peace?

In 1973 Nick Lowe wrote a song which was originally meant as a joke but by the time he finished it he knew it was speaking a message which would impact generations to come. It was sung by Elvis Costello in 1979 and Curtis Stigers in 1992 for the film The Bodyguard and Bill Murray’s film Lost in Translation in 2003.

He wrote it from the angle of an old hippie who in the early 70’s saw people leaving that lifestyle to a more cynical one scorning his world that he was desperately holding on to.

As I walk through this wicked world
Searchin’ for light in the darkness of insanity
I ask myself, “Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred and misery?”

And each time I feel like this inside
There’s one thing I wanna know
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding?
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding?

The point being there isn’t anything funny about it.

It’s strange how my mind thinks of such songs early in the morning!

I mention the song because of the following words of the Apostle:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 4-7)

Why did I think of the song?

  • You can find contentment in a cynical world.

Isn’t it bizarre that we are told to Rejoice? Twice!

It’s the last thing we want to hear right now isn’t it? 2020 has been a horrible year. How can we rejoice in the pandemic? We have lost so much this year. Wherever we turn we hear voices of despair. The voices of hope are challenged instantly, wrestled to the ground and stifled for the world loves bad news and laughs at those who sing about peace, love and understanding.

However, the person who challenges us to rejoice is the Apostle who is in prison not knowing if he will be released or beheaded. What did he mean?

The word is also used in the gospels when the soldiers mocked Jesus ‘Hail King of the Jews’ (Mark 15:18). Caesar was ‘celebrated’ (the Message uses this word) as the ‘son of god’ who brought peace to the Empire. It could well be that Paul is telling the Philippians to hail, celebrate Christ and not Caesar.

Even if your whole world is looking negatively in a certain direction make sure you are focusing on Christ. Choose to celebrate Christ, rejoice in Him and hail Him.

  • You don’t have to waste energy on entitlement

The NIV uses the word gentle. The ESV ‘reasonableness’ and the ISV ‘your gracious attitude’. The word means ‘gentle, mild, forbearing, fair, reasonable, moderate.’ It is to be satisfied with what is less than what is rightfully yours. We live in a world where people are chasing their dreams and their rights and who look down on those who are singing about peace, love and understanding. The spirit of entitlement is prevalent in the Church as much as out. We came out of the womb hands clenched demanding what is ours and we gradually go into the grave doing the same. Where do you want to put your energy? Do you need to win every fight? Do you need to stand up for yourself? Really?

  • You can find a way from your weariness.

How much time do we spend thinking on how to get through our difficulties?

Paul says your best thought is never enough. He encourages us to pray with thanksgiving. Usually intercessors are singing about peace, love and understanding and it is they who have it.

So let’s not waste energy but find contentment through taking everything to God in prayer.

So where are the strong and who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony, sweet harmony?

‘Cause each time I feel it slippin’ away
Just makes me wanna cry
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding?

Who are you arguing with today?

I knew these 2 family members for all the years that they disliked one another. But as a friend and a Pastor I managed to bring them together in unity and there was a public display of peace and reconciliation within a church service and it was indeed very powerful. But it didn’t last very long, maybe a couple of years if that. Then it all unravelled and that was 20 years ago and today they don’t speak to one another at all. Neither of them attend church now. Their hurt and anger ate away at them.

These stories are sadly all too prevalent in any community but even more so when we see it in the Church.

Why can’t people just get on?

Well the Apostle had similar problems with his Churches.

“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.” (Philippians 4: 1-3)

So we come to the second reason why Paul wrote to the Church in Philippi.

He has thanked them for their love, support and their partnership with his chains of suffering and now this: 2 women who must have been creating quite a stink for news has reached him and he is writing to get it sorted out.

They are arguing probably not about theology but personal things.

The argument is not just affecting them they are distracting the Church.

He is calling them to agree and to agree will mean they will need to humble themselves.

How can they react negatively to this request after Paul has just written about the humility of Jesus?

What we know is these women needed help but no one was stepping in. They just let it continue.

Who was the companion? An individual? Or was Paul meaning the community of people who just stood by and did nothing to help? By-standers of the feud?

These women’s past have gospel stories and were used by God. But there’s not much of that going on now. It is amazing what we will let go of for being in the right.

Who are you arguing with today? Stop it!

Heaven

Recently a teacher, a rubbish collector, and a lawyer wound up together at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter informed them that in order to get into Heaven, they would each have to answer one question.

St. Peter addressed the teacher and asked, “What was the name of the ship that crashed into the iceberg? They made a movie about it.” The teacher answered quickly, “That would be the Titanic.” St. Peter let him through the gate. St. Peter turned to the garbage man and, figuring Heaven didn’t *really* need all the odours that this guy would bring with him, decided to make the question a little harder: “How many people died on the ship?” Fortunately for him, the garbage man had just seen the movie. “1,228,” he answered. “That’s right! You may enter.” St. Peter turned to the lawyer. “Name them.” (from http://www.ahajokes.com/hea15.html)

Forgive me if you are a lawyer today! But I wanted to start the devotion with a joke to brighten our day!

These next verses of the Apostle centre our thoughts on heaven:

“Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3: 17-21)

For every one of us there will come a day when we will close our eyes on this earth.

The trials and temptations will be over. We will no longer focus on things like destinies and desires, gains and losses, our bodies and material things that bring sparkle to our lives. All that matters won’t matter anymore. It will be gone. Are we ready for that?

Paul says:

You are a model

Yesterday I conducted the funeral service of a lady who I really didn’t know very well at all. Her adult children gave the eulogies and by the end I wished I had! They brought her back to life in their descriptions with tears and humour and each one spoke of her faith and how she modelled how to do life for them. In fact they all said how their lives have their mother running right through them.

Obviously the modelling came out of a family experience. This is why we are in church and connected to community. Discipleship cannot be done outside community it is never a solo effort.

Who do you model yourself after? Who’s the hero in prayer? The use of the Bible? Generosity? Witnessing?

You are a citizen

During the funeral I read Psalm 84 which is a travellers Psalm for the pilgrims heading to Jerusalem each year. The highlight was the destination not the journey for that was difficult. It was known as the Valley of Baca or Tears. This valley wilderness was tough, painful and dangerous but the pilgrims are fuelled by knowing they don’t belong there they are heading to the city of worship.

Friends, this earth is a travelling through place. It is a valley of tears at times, full of difficulties with many trials. But we are citizens not of this valley but of the city of heaven.

Paul uses the word citizenship purposefully. Philippi became a Roman colony in 42 BC and by the time of him writing to the Church it was an impressive Roman city. Paul is making a point that being in Christ is far better than being in Rome. “We have a better citizenship. A Roman one is good but heaven is better!”

You are a shadow

As a child I was always told that I would be recognised in heaven because my shirt will be hanging out (apparently I wasn’t very good at tucking it into my high pants!)

Look in the mirror, what do you see? What would you change about what you see? A lift here and a tuck there perhaps?!

Everything about you that needs changing will be changed. This is not plastic surgery but transformational surgery.

In the funeral I read the words, “no more pain no more death …”about what life will be like after death.

Will we be recognisable? I really believe so! Our resurrected bodies will reflect the old earthly bodies that were just a shadow of the real. But all pain gone, all wrinkles gone, all blemishes gone, all shame gone, all sorrow gone.

Don’t give up.

We are over half-way and perhaps you are thinking the Apostle Paul is perfect. You look at your own circumstance and think how will I ever apply anything of what I read in the Bible into my life? It is too difficult. I make too many errors.

Thankfully for us Paul is a realist. He wasn’t perfect and he knew the Philippian Church wasn’t either. So he encourages them by telling them that he gets it wrong at times. He fails and stumbles and he still has a way to go. Just like us. But he simply tells us not to go backwards. To live our lives that reflect where we have come so far. Here are the verses of Philippians 3: 12-16: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”

Paul encourages us:

To PURSUE Jesus.

He says it twice, he presses on.

Are you passionately pursuing Him?

Are you panting as a deer pants for the water?

Are you settling for the faith instead of following the Master?

Are you stuck in second gear in the middle lane of the motorway?

Yesterday I had a walk by the river. It is usually fast flowing but it was still. There was no movement. I read recently how the rivers in the world are slowing down they are no fast flowing as they used to be. Dammed up, drained and dredged of sediment there seems to be a slowing down of the river. One of the heartbreaks in Africa is to see the many dried channels where rivers used to flow freely.

There is another river and another stagnation. The Spirit and God’s people.

The Apostle knew more than we know. He discovered truths that we are so grateful for. He had revelations that we could never dream or see. Yet he never stopped chasing after Him who had captured his heart on that Damascus Road. There were new sunsets and sunrises to see, there were aspects of God to dwell on for days and weeks, there were long stretches of prayer and fasting where Christ was all he could focus on, there was more power for the gospel to receive. There was more because Christ is more!

To PART with the weight.

I don’t run the distances I used to run these days. Maybe I will again. The one deciding factor on that will be if I shift some more weight. If I run when a stone heavier than I am, which I have been at many times in my life, I will struggle. If I run a stone less than I am carrying right now then I will run faster. It makes sense doesn’t it? We move quicker when we are lighter.

So we need to shift the weight. What weight? Paul says forget what is behind you.

This is not to erase from your memory all that has happened for that would be impossible. You may have had a traumatic past and who can forget some of those things? You might have been a victim or like Paul you may have even been a perpetrator of other people’s pain, he was a persecutor of Christians and he never forgot it.

So whether or not you failed or you were hurt, Paul is saying let it go. Don’t let it hold you back. It is too heavy for you and it will weigh you down. If you need forgiveness then get it from Jesus if you need to forgive then ask Him to help you. But never let doubt, guilt, condemnation, hurt and pain slow you down from pursuing Christ.

I recently spoke with someone who I hadn’t come across for years and years. I couldn’t believe it the conversation though had different circumstances was exactly the same: the world is against me. I was thanking God that I had moved away from that person but pitied them because they had not moved away from being a victim.

For the PRIZE is Christ

In 1972 the musical Godspell had the lyrics to a song:

Three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly
Day by day

If anyone saw the Formula 1 race yesterday then you will still be reeling from the shock of witnessing a horrible crash. The Bahrain Grand Prix was stopped after Grosjean escaped with minor injuries but the crash was horrific as his car struck a barrier and caught fire.

There will be some who in their race that Paul earlier describes don’t make it, they self-destruct. The circumstances of life eat away at them. They suffer crashes that they never recover from. But for those who pursue and forget the past and continue they will get the prize.

The prize is Christ; knowing Him more; loving Him more; following Him closer; it is Jesus. Of course the prize is the end of the race. Today I will conduct the funeral of a lady who finished her race here on earth and who will join her son in heaven who finished it earlier this year.

We are not perfect, we do fail, we get things wrong time and again. But we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and we go again.

Go again today. Pursue Christ, lose the weight that slows you down for the prize is Christ!

My credentials are dog-dung in comparison to …

Well, of course they’re not are they? Your ‘credentials’ whatever kind they are, perhaps a qualification, a title, a trophy of achievement reveal that you have done something worthy with your life. You worked hard and sacrificed and you received your just reward.

However, the Apostle says: “If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3: 4-11)

The Apostle Paul had achieved much in his life. He had lots he could boast about. Nothing compares to this set of credentials:

circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel – Paul bore the mark and was not from a family of Gentiles who became Jews, he was a pure breed.

of the tribe of Benjamin – Paul could take pride in that he was a Benjamite, the only tribe to stay true to King David when the other tribes rebelled.

a Hebrew of Hebrews –Paul regarded himself not only a Jew because of his birth but because of his belief he was an original Hebrew loyal to the Hebrew faith.

in regard to the law, a Pharisee – Paul was a traditionalist holding to the Scriptures in one hand and the man-made rules handed down throughout the generations to help to understand the law of God.

as for zeal, persecuting the church – Paul had entered a religious and justifiable war against the new sect called Christians. He was eliminating them because he felt that is what God wanted him to do.

as for righteousness based on the law, faultless –Paul knew that outwardly no one could touch him for Jewish behaviours. Inwardly was a different matter but when people saw Paul they saw him without fault according to the Jewish law.

Since finding Jesus as his Lord how does his credentials now compare? The NIV uses the word ‘garbage’ or ‘rubbish’ but actually the Message has it right: “Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, first hand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung.” He doesn’t mince his words does he?

For Paul, he now only has one aim and that is to know Christ and that through experiencing his suffering and resurrection.

What stirred the Apostle Paul after all he had seen and discovered of God to say: I want to know Christ? Did he not already know Christ?

Whenever God reveals Himself He reveals His name, this is not only an aspect of His character but that of His intention. So, foretelling of the coming Messiah Jeremiah says “A king will reign wisely and do what is just and right, he will be called The Lord Our Righteousness” 23:5-6.

“This is who I am Jehovah Tsidkenu, but this is also what I intend to do.”

Exodus 6:1-3 I appeared as El Shaddai God Almighty but my name Lord/I AM/Yahweh I did not make known.

God said to Moses: “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have never known this name but I am revealing it to you. I am God the redeemer.”

Is it possible that you have carried around in your life a picture of God, a revelation of His nature and intention that has not changed since it was first revealed to you?

It is possible for a whole church to be locked into one aspect of God’s nature eg. The judge. Judgment of sin occupies their preaching, their prayers and principles for ministry. But because of a lack of revelation of God they do not grow in grace, love and mercy.

As revelation changes so does our prayer life. We pray differently, expect differently, we step out in faith to do what we would never have done. We talk about God in ways that use a whole new vocabulary. And our world changes, our home, work or personal lives change. This is because God has given revelation of who He is and what He intends to do.

Two things will be needed to know Christ? Power and Participation.

The resurrection of Jesus is not a past event. It is a continual explosive power that is available to be experienced today so that you can walk in victory. The Spirit brings that power into our lives and it enables us to make great decisions and act like Christ.

The second way we get to know Christ is through participation in His suffering. Bad days are not empty pointless days. They are days when we have the opportunity to identify with the suffering of Christ. The suffering shapes us into his image, others see Christ in us, the hope of glory. Suffering creates the place for intimacy with our Lord.

So whatever you have accomplished is rubbish compared to what is of importance and that is to know Christ. In fact if you have no credentials and don’t feel qualified for anything then you are not in a more disadvantaged position than those who have every trophy you can think of.

All of us need to know Christ.

Credentials for being a good Christian

A young Pastor spoke to me this week about her struggle in preaching a message that she hadn’t herself perfected in practice. She felt disqualified to speak the message. Where did the thought come from that she had to be perfect in order to be used of God? Comparison has been the key disqualifying voice of the first part of my life. I compared myself with what I saw and what I heard in others. As I got older and came closer to those heroic figures I soon realised that they had the same character flaws as myself and some had worse ones! Superstars are usually people we don’t really know.

Today you can walk into any situation and have confidence no matter who is in the room. You have every right to be there. You may be dwarfed by educational qualification, beauty, wealth and experience yet still feel this is the place where you should be. You belong here. It is not because of your own ability, title or prestige but because of Jesus and your confidence to be anywhere is always found in Him.

Let’s see what the Apostle Paul has to say on the matter.

In what appears to be a whole new chapter in his letter (and we have made it so) Paul launches into something that disturbs him greatly. It is the age-old problem that still exists today: religious people making ordinary believers think they are disqualified.

“Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.” (Philippians 3: 1-6)

Paul’s language becomes angry. He uses despicable words that we cannot fully appreciate. Dogs, evildoers, mutilators of the flesh. These were offensive words and he chooses them carefully. He is referring to those who say in order to be in right standing before God you have to be in right standing before men. They use Scripture to prove it. Circumcision was an ordinance in the Word of God. If you want to become a true child of God then you must be circumcised. Legalists are found in every generation and they force the outward performance upon those who are trying to be the best they can be and blind them to the spiritual truth of that symbol. Can you imagine the person who having circumcision forced upon him so that he would be accepted before God then found out it didn’t need to happen?! Can you imagine the upset knowing God wasn’t in the slightest bothered whether he was circumcised or not?!!

Paul lays down the challenge to any Jew who thinks performance religion is the right road to go down. He teases them to compare themselves with what the Message translates are his ‘impressive credentials’. Today I will be attending an ordination service where the ordinands will be given their credentials of ministry. A piece of card, a certificate and the title ‘Reverend’ signals a wonderful moment of succeeding in their training but should this make them feel they are a better person now, not at all. We don’t despise these credentials at all but we don’t glorify in them. We will look tomorrow at Paul’s credentials and see what he thinks of them.

Rejoice in the Lord! That’s Paul’s opener to this subject.

Don’t let anyone take your joy away. Even yourself if you are a perfectionist.

How? Here are the 4 things we should know:

  1. We are the circumcision. Meaning we have seen the cut of the flesh in Christ’s death on the cross. The flesh has been judged as being incapable of keeping the law of God that makes us acceptable to Him. So we have laid down the performance.
  2. We serve God by His Spirit. We partner with the Holy Spirit in our lives who does the work of God through us. We do not. He does. The fruit of righteousness is not ours it is His fruit.
  3. We boast in Christ Jesus. We talk about Him, what He has done, not who we are. If some people stopped talking about themselves they would have nothing to say.
  4. We put no confidence in the flesh. A Christian’s performance is no more powerful than an unbeliever’s. Our ability is nothing. It cannot transform anything. So we don’t gain confidence from it.

To any young Pastor I say don’t wait until you are more perfect get on with it today.

To all of us let us ask for the Holy Spirit to work through us and let us be committed to speak about Christ today more than we did yesterday.

Above all, be happy, don’t let the joy-stealers come anywhere near your door.

Christ in Epaphroditus

One of my all-time favourite bed-time stories is ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury.

We’re going on a bear hunt; we’re going to catch a big one.

What a beautiful day! We’re not scared.

Uh-uh! Grass! Long wavy grass. We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. Oh no! We’ve got to go through it!

The book is exciting because it is so risky. They get through the grass, but then face the scary river, mud, forest and even a snowstorm until they actually do get to the bear! Facing the bear they are scared to the core so they run all the way through the scary terrain they have crossed until they:-

Get to our front door; Open the door; Up the stairs; Oh no!

We forgot to shut the door; Back downstairs; Shut the door; Back upstairs; into the bedroom; into bed; under the covers.

We’re not going on a bear hunt again.

Some people will not want to come out from under the covers today. I understand that. Perhaps they are grieving and maybe staying there is right for now. But some won’t want to face their day because they are afraid of what is ahead. It’s not a bear hunt they are on but the risk is ever before them.

These next verses in Paul’s letter he reveals an extraordinary man.

“But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honour people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.” (Philippians 2: 25-30)

In the year 252AD a plague started in modern-day Tunisia which spread across the Roman Empire. The description of that plague was a horrid, destructive virus which man was powerless to defeat. Many thought it was the end of the world. At one point there were 5,000 people dying every day just in Rome alone. It lasted for 20 years. The Bishop of Tunis as it is known today (Carthage originally) wrote about the plague and that is why we know so much about it. In a rallying cry to God’s people he called for them to rise as front-line workers:

He wrote; “What a grandeur of spirit it is to struggle with all the powers of an unshaken mind against so many onsets of devastation and death! what sublimity, to stand erect amid the desolation of the human race, and not to lie prostrate with those who have no hope in God; but rather to rejoice, and to embrace the benefit of the occasion; that in thus bravely showing forth our faith, and by suffering endured, going forward to Christ by the narrow way that Christ trod, we may receive the reward of His life and faith according to His own judgment!”

The Christians stayed in the city to tend to the sick, care for the abandoned and bury the dead. They risked their own lives and many did die for their sacrifice. Their work cut the death rate with estimates saying by half. They became known as the gamblers.

There is one interesting detail to the story. Two years previously a persecution had broken out and the Bishop had fled the city which he was accused of cowardice. It was perhaps that learned experience which caused him to begin to risk his life for others.

The ‘parabolani’ (meaning gamblers) caused the gospel to spread even further during that plague. Their name is very interesting.

The Apostle who enjoyed playing with words as we found in Philemon with the name of Onesimus now does the same with a loved man, Epaphroditus. The name is taken from the goddess of gambling, Aphrodite. Paul knew well that when the gambler won the game they would shout ‘Epaphrodite!’ which means ‘Aphrodite has favoured me!’
And so Paul invents a new Greek word to describe how Epaphroditus “gambled” with his own life – parabouleusamenos.

We have seen every day this year our frontline workers leave their homes and risk their lives in helping those in dire need. They will do it again next year and even when we are through this pandemic.

Our prayer is that the Church will also rise to risk their lives with the gospel. To get out from underneath the covers and to knock on someone’s door and ask if they are okay; to share their faith; to give generously; to be bothered about the challenges of their city and town; to reach out to those who are unreachable. It is happening and there are great stories emerging but we need to encourage all of us to do more.

Christ in Timothy

After the intensity of Paul opening the windows of heaven to show us the beauty of Christology we come to a section that at first glance we may want to skip over as unimportant. But if we do we miss the example of two men that Paul wants to demonstrate who are walking out this theology of Christ.

“I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.” (Philippians 2: 19-24)

How was Christ seen in Timothy?

  • Timothy wasn’t in it for himself. He wasn’t there for his own personal gain whether that be money or status.
  • Timothy wasn’t just going through the motions. He was genuine.
  • Timothy wasn’t just a people-pleaser. It was Jesus first and then others second. If we are going to be what is needed then we have to do what Jesus wants not what people demand.
  • Timothy has proven himself to Paul so much so that as a son he serves alongside his father.
  • Timothy proved himself not because of some gifting and ability but out of testing and trial he demonstrated Christ.

May Christ be seen in us today. 

What is God’s purpose for your life?

That’s quite a question isn’t it?

Yesterday was spent interviewing people for ordination in 2021 and this Saturday will be spent ordaining the 2020 ministers by zoom!

It is so moving to see people who have completed a ministerial training programme and embark on the next chapter of their life. They have and will probably continue to ask about God’s purpose for their life over the coming years. As do we all, whether a minister or a member of a Church, we want to know what is the purpose of God for my life.

If we take the attention away from what we do (our jobs, relationships, the stuff we possess) and focus more on who we are then we will be getting nearer to the answer.

The Apostle has told the Philippians to have the same attitude as Christ who demonstrated perfect obedience and self-sacrifice and now he goes on to explain how to apply that model to our lives:

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2: 12-18)

So here is what I think God’s purpose for our life is according to the Apostle:

Be the same person.

In this year of zoom I have been confined to our small bedroom. I had an office when I worked from my headquarters but since changing my job my office has been on my computer/phone/car, until lockdown. Now the thing is this bedroom still has a bed propped up in the corner and the rest of the space is a fold up table (my desk) and lots of files and some books scattered around the rest of the room. I have to position my computer camera so that when my colleagues are zooming in with their beautiful backgrounds of bookshelves and office type furniture they don’t see my mess. One day maybe I will have an office again. Until then no one will know (unless they read this blog!) that on zoom I am not the same person as I am if you walked into my ‘unconventional office’.

My first preach many months ago in lockdown given to the camera was taken in the conservatory. I had a beautiful shirt on and the sermon went quite well. I sent it off to the church to be edited and then broadcast. All was fine except my son texted me to let me know that the reflection from the conservatory doors revealed that though my shirt was indeed lovely that I was also wearing shorts!

Paul compliments then and encourages them to continue to be the same person whether he is there with them or as he is now away from them in prison.

God’s purpose for our life is to be the same person whether on show or not.

Co-operate with the work of God within us.

We become like Christ: the working out of your salvation is not us but Him who works it out in all circumstances, even the bad, see Romans 8:28-30.

We bow to His presence: create awe again in your life. God is not our buddy. He is our GOD. The Jews wouldn’t even write His name because of their fear and trembling of His presence.

We remain positive: How we all like to grumble. If we delete all social media feeds that are negative, complaining and grumbling about something then there would be hardly anything on there. Some days we just have to put social media down because the negativity invades our mind. Stop it. Be positive.

Submitting to the work of God in our lives is His purpose for us.

Be examples of order.

Stars show us a plan of created order: Paul tells them to shine to the world brightly telling a message that even in a disorderly circumstance God is in total control. All things are well. You are created and ordered to be here right now.

Stars show us a plan of strategic order: Further to this, you are going forward. The stars were the guidance for so many being directed from one place to another. You are not aimlessly journeying. He is taking you forward. There is a plan. A strategy. Sometimes we have to trust Him when we don’t see the way but we shine to a world that even in the darkness there is a plan and everything will be alright for you.

The world needs to see our ordered lives and that is the purpose of God.

Be joyful in the worst of times.

Yesterday a retired minister died after a long struggle in hospital. I lost touch with him over the years but I remember how he took me from Bible College and gave me a church plant to pastor in 1992. I wrote on the social media feed yesterday 2 simple words, ‘sad news’. I was sad. But I reflected on that later and realised again that actually it was sad for his wife and those who loved him but actually it was ‘happy news’ for him.

Paul says basically if you hear I have died do not be sad but rejoice because I am in my eternal home.

In the worst of times be joyful is the purpose of God for our life.

May we live our lives in the purpose of God today.

The Other Side of the Coin

Our fascination with the Royal family has continued throughout the generations. Since The Crown started showing on Netflix in 2016, 73 million households have watched it. Every year countless books have become best sellers as we avidly want to know the people behind the throne. In 2019 such a book was published called, “The Other Side of the Coin” by Angela Kelly who as the exalted title of Personal Advisor to Her Majesty (jewellery, insignias, and wardrobe). Of course if you are looking for some sordid gossip it won’t be found in this book as I presume Kelly likes her job. Unlike Marion Crawford the Scottish governess of the Queen and her sister Margaret who moved from confidante to villain, losing everything, because she was too frank in her descriptions of life behind the throne. Sadly after her article and book ‘Little Princesses’ published in 1950 her life was never the same. She tried to commit suicide twice and died in as nursing home in 1988. A Channel 4 documentary of her story was told in 2000 titled, The Nanny Who Wouldn’t Keep Mum. A sad ending to someone who tried to tell the other side of the coin.

Let’s go to someone way beyond the Queen and the Royal Family. Let’s go to Jesus. The Apostle continues this ultimate and supreme mission of our Royal Divine King:

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2: 9-11`)

Therefore.

The Amplified helps us if we happened not to have read the verses before, “For this reason also [because He obeyed and so completely humbled Himself], “

This side of the coin is:

The highest place.

The name above every other name.

Every knee from every place will bow before Him.

Every tongue will acknowledge Him as Lord.

This is the glory of God the Father.

But it is only so because of what is on the other side of the coin. God doesn’t shield that from us. We know what is there. We know what happened.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! (v8)

This side of the coin we see:

A man.

In humility.

In death.

A criminal’s death not a hero’s.

The other side of the coin.

It applies to our lives too.

Today may be hardship. You may have grief and struggle. Pain may be all around you. For you, life may be one of experiencing failure in the eyes of others. But turn the coin over and you will see Christ wins. Turn the coin over and you will see what He has done for you meaning that you win also. This life isn’t all there is. This world will end and the new world will begin. Our life as we know it will close but our real life will begin. It’s time to flip the coin. In a year quite like no other. When you have perhaps been sick, lost your job, grieved over loved ones, known a despair like never before, you must remind yourselves it is just one side of the coin.
A humble man/woman obedient throughout their life to the path of God who dies even in a pathetic state, if they die in God, they rise with Christ. It will be worth it. Don’t remain fixated on one side of the coin. Keep flipping it. The other side of the coin is important.