Friday, December 28, 2012

A Shoot from the Stump of Jesse


The tree had been felled and all hope had been dashed. The kingdom that once was had been broken in two. God’s promise to David (son of Jesse), of an heir who would reign forever, had apparently failed. But wait! What’s this? There is still life in the old stump. All is not lost and there is still hope, for a new shoot has emerged.
Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
(Isaiah 11:1 HCSB)
The tree was the kingdom of Israel, which had been divided into two, Israel and Judah, after Solomon departed the scene. Israel, the northern kingdom, was about to be carried off into captivity by Assyria. That was the prophecy of earlier chapters. However, a remnant of Israel would return from exile — but only a remnant — and would turn to the LORD in faith. Then Isaiah spoke of an “anointing” that would lift the burden of the oppressor off their shoulders and would completely destroy the yoke from off their neck (Isaiah 10:27). The power of the enemy would be broken. And then, a shoot would grow from the stump of Jesse.

A remnant and a shoot. That seems so little, so small. And yet, that is so often how God does His work. Indeed, in Zechariah 4:10, He says, “Do not despise these small beginnings” (NLT). In the book of Daniel, the prophet interprets the dream of Nebuchadnezzar and speaks of the Messiah (the “Anointed One”), who would come in like a stone but would “grow” to become a great mountain that fills the whole earth. He would break in pieces the other kingdoms and establish a kingdom that would stand forever — the kingdom of God (see Daniel 2:29-45).

This is the Lord Jesus, the “stone” that smashes all the other kingdoms and becomes a great “mountain” that fills the whole earth. He came preaching, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand,” and at the cross, He disarmed the principalities and powers, which are the demonic influences behind all the kings and cultures of the world (Colossians 2:15). He established the kingdom of heaven on earth, and it has been growing and increasing ever since. Remember how Jesus described the kingdom in the parables He taught.
  • “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.” (Mark 4:26)
  • “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.” (Luke 13:18-19)
  • “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” (Luke 13:20-21)
  • “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matthew 11:12 NIV).
The kingdom of God starts small but grows big. Even the Messiah, the Word who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), had a small beginning in the world. Born in a tiny, inconspicuous town, nestled in the insignificance of old feed trough, visited only by shepherds and star geeks. And yet, this is the one of whom the prophet says,
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever
(Isaiah 9:6-7)
Messiah came into the world as a child, an infant, a tiny shoot from an old sawed-off stump. But He is a Son, the Son of David, and He grew up to sit on the throne of David, where He will rule and reign forever. His kingdom has come, and it will keep on increasing and advancing until it fills the whole earth.



Let Earth Receive Her King
Let Earth Receive Her King
Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom of God
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Living Between the Comings

When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
And our tongue with singing.
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us,
And we are glad.

Bring back our captivity, O LORD,
As the streams in the South.
Those who sow in tears
Shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him.
(Psalm 126)
The psalm writer is thinking about when Israel first began to return from Babylonian captivity. It was a wonderful time, like a dream full of laughter and joy. It was a God thing. But he also realizes that there is still more that needs to be done — there are still others in captivity, and even those who are already free are still under the dominion of foreign kings. The psalm writer is living between the “comings,” between the first release from captivity and the final fulfillment, and that means there is still much sowing to be done and much reaping. There are still many tears to be shed but also much rejoicing, for the greater harvest is yet to come.

Like the psalm writer, we too are living between the “comings.” Between the first coming of King Jesus into the world to establish the kingdom of God, and the second coming when He will return and the kingdom of God will fill all the earth. In between, however, the kingdom increases and multiplies. Like a mustard seed that a man sows in his garden. It is a small seed, yet when it is sown it becomes a large tree where birds can nest in its branches (Luke 13:18-19). The kingdom is like leaven that a woman works into a large batch of flour. It is a small amount, yet when it is activated and released into the dough it grows and multiplies until it permeates the whole lump and changes it completely.

Jesus taught the disciples to pray to the Father, “Your kingdom, come. Your will, be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And His kingdom has come, and His will has already begun to be done on earth as it is in heaven. But it has not yet come in all its fullness, so we keep praying, and watching, and sowing.

King Jesus has ascended to the throne at the right hand of the father, the place of ruling and reigning. When He returns, there will be a great rejoicing and the harvest will be complete.

We live between the “comings.”



Let Earth Receive Her King
Let Earth Receive Her King
Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom of God
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Psalm 122 and the New Jerusalem


An Advent adaptation of Psalm 122 in light of Isaiah 2:2-5, Revelation 21 and the coming of King Jesus into the world. (See Let Us Go Up to the Mountain of the LORD)
I was light and bright and full of joy
When they came and said to me,
“Let us go up to the house of Yahweh.”
Our feet shall stand within your gates, O Jerusalem,
The city of God come down
From heaven to earth.

It is a city built together,
Joining heaven and earth as one:
Where the tribes go up,
The tribes of Yahweh,
To fulfill the testimony of Israel,
And give thanks to the name of Yahweh.

For there He will set things right among the nations.
From the throne of the house of David,
Where King Jesus, the Anointed one,
Rules and reigns forever.

Pray for the peace of the new Jerusalem:
“They shall prosper who love you.
Shalom be within your walls,
And prosperity within your palaces.
For the sake of my brothers and sisters,

For the sake of the nations,
I will say, even now, ‘Peace be with you.’
Because of the house of Yahweh our God
I will seek your good.”
Let us go up to the mountain of the LORD and walk in His light.



Let Earth Receive Her King
Let Earth Receive Her King
Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom of God
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Let Us Go Up to the Mountain of the LORD


This is the season of Advent. Advent means “coming.” In ancient Rome, the adventus was a ceremony in honor of the emperor, welcoming him into the city, often as he returned from a victorious military campaign. The Christian season of Advent is a time of waiting and preparation that focuses on the arrival of Jesus the Messiah, God’s Anointed King, into the world. This was His first coming, and we remember it as Christmas. But in this season we also have an eye toward His second coming, when He will return at the end of the age.

At His first coming, the kingdom of God entered into the world and the promises of God began to be fulfilled. At His second coming, the kingdom and all those promises will be brought to completion. In the season of Advent, we remember those promises as we prepare to celebrate the birth of King Jesus, but also as we await the return of the King.

God has much to say, through Isaiah the prophet, about those promises. Isaiah long ago prophesied what would come in the “last days.” We often think of this as the “end times,” and envision the robed and bearded man, all cartoon-like, walking the city with a sign that reads, “Repent. The end is near.” But here the “last days” are about the completion of God’s plan, the fulfillment of all He has promised His people. The first anticipation of hope Isaiah brings is found in chapter 2:
In the last days
the mountain of the LORD’s house will be established
at the top of the mountains
and will be raised above the hills.
All nations will stream to it,
and many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us about His ways
so that we may walk in His paths.”
For instruction will go out of Zion
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He will settle disputes among the nations
and provide arbitration for many peoples.
They will turn their swords into plows
and their spears into pruning knives.
Nations will not take up the sword against other nations,
and they will never again train for war.
House of Jacob, come and let us walk in the LORD’s light.
(Isaiah 2:2-5 HCSB)
This foretells a time when God will reign over all the nations of the earth, from His holy city, Zion. They will all come to His mountain, to the house of the Lord, His temple, the place where He dwells on earth. From there He will send forth His Word into all the world and disciple the nations in His ways. The Lord will judge between the nations and set everything right. There will be no more need for the implements of war — there will be no more war.

This began to be fulfilled when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The Word, who was God, became flesh and “dwelt” — literally, “tabernacled” among us (John 1:1, 14). God became present with us as a human being through Jesus the God-man, who is fully human as well as fully divine.

After the cross and resurrection, and before Jesus ascended to His throne in heaven at the right hand of the Father, Jesus gathered His disciples and declared: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Then He commissioned them to go out into the world:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)

You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
This is the instruction of the Lord going forth from Zion, His word going forth from Jerusalem to all the nations. At the end of Revelation, the end of “the Book,” and the end of the age, we see God’s holy city, Jerusalem, coming down and joining heaven to earth.
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God ...

But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it ...

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 21:9-10, 22-26; 2:1-2 )
Here is the mountain of the Lord, the Holy City and the Temple where God dwells forever with His people. It is the kingdom of God come into the world, the will of God being done on earth exactly as it is being done in heaven. Here are all the nations of the world bringing all their glory to honor King Jesus the Lamb. And here they all find their healing and restoration — the Tree of Life.

At Advent, we prepare our hearts to celebrate the coming of the Lord Jesus into the world at Bethlehem two thousand years ago, even as we live in the present reality of His Lordship and watch for His future coming — and the fulfillment of all things. Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord and walk in His light.



Let Earth Receive Her King
Let Earth Receive Her King
Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom of God
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Hold Such in High Regard

Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me. (Philippians 2:25-30)
Paul is confident that he will have a good result at his trial in Rome and will be free to come to the Jesus believers at Philippi before long. In the short-term, he plans on sending Timothy, who will minister to them in the same way Paul would. Right now, however, he is sending Epaphroditus: “My brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier.”
  • Paul and Epaphroditus are brothers in Jesus, members together in the family of God. This was no small thing for Paul. Google “brother” in his letters and you will find how important the bond of Christian brotherhood is to him. He is no loner, he always has a team with him. They are not just partners in the ministry, they are brothers in the Lord first.
  • Paul and Epaphroditus are “fellow workers.” The Greek synergos, which is where we get our English word “synergy.” They have been working together in a focused and coordinated fashion toward the common goal of preaching the good news about King Jesus. Paul identifies a number of “fellow workers” in his letters: Priscilla and Aquila, Urbane, Timothy, Apollos, Titus, Clement, Aristarchus, Mark, Justus, Philemon, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke. We can also add Barnabas, who first introduced Paul (then called Saul) to the wary believers at Jerusalem and was his first partner in apostolic ministry. And, of course, there is also Silas, who served with Paul at Philippi and did some jail time with him on the night the jailer there believed on the Lord Jesus.
  • Paul and Epaphroditus are also “fellow soldiers,” serving together on the front lines in advancing the gospel, from Paul’s house prison in Rome. Remember that, earlier, Paul spoke of the “furtherance” of the gospel, and the Greek word he used had a military connotation. Remember also that it has also been a time of growing opposition to the gospel and persecution of those who preach it. It is not an easy life and it requires a well-disciplined focus. As Paul would will later write to Timothy, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:3-4). Paul is certainly enduring hardship as a “good soldier,” and so is Epaphroditus, as we will see.
That is what Epaphroditus is to Paul. Now Paul reminds the believers at Philippi who Epaphroditus is to them. He is one of their own, a member of their fellowship sent by them to minister to Paul’s needs, supplying on their behalf what they were not able to do in person. And he has been very diligent about it, too diligent perhaps, pushing himself until his health broke. Or maybe he became sick because of the difficulty of the times and the circumstances he has endure. At any rate, he was close to death at one point, and the prospect of losing their brother would certainly have brought great sorrow to Paul and the Philippians. It is with great relief, then, that Paul now sends him back, strong and well, to rejoice with his brothers and sisters in Jesus.

“Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem,” Paul says. Welcome him, rejoice over him, show him honor — he is well worth it. Indeed, all who are like him are to be greatly admired and respected, because they are showing the same sort of faithful, humble service that the Lord Jesus came to show for all our sakes. As we like to say at my home church, Jesus looks good on them.

So, in speaking of Epaphroditus like this, Paul has not departed one bit from the purpose he started with at the beginning of Philippians 2, or from the hymn of divine humility he followed it up with: that they may be of one heart, one mind and one purpose, serving each other and watching out for each other, just as the Lord Jesus came to do for all of us — for all who belong to Jesus belong also to each other.

This is not something that is beyond their ability, for God is at work in them both to desire and to do whatever is needed. And Epaphroditus, one of their own, has very ably demonstrated it in his own self-giving service on their behalf. He has been like the Lord Jesus, who came to serve, even to die, not regarding His own life. All who follow such an example are worthy of great honor.

Focus Questions
  1. Is there someone in your life who has been an example of such self-giving service and humility as Epaphroditus, as well as Jesus, has shown?
  2. Do you believe that it really is possible for you to be such an example yourself?
  3. How do you suppose you can lay hold of God’s desire and ability to do that?



There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Like-Minded Servants, Tested by Fire

But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me. But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly. (Philippians 2:19-24)
Paul longs to be with the Jesus believers at Philippi to encourage them in their faith. However, he is currently under arrest in Rome for preaching the gospel of King Jesus. But he is confident that his trial will go well, that he will be released and will be able to come to them before long. In the meantime, he expects to be able to send Timothy, who is well-known to the Philippians, since he was part of the mission to Philippi at the very beginning. Paul had first met Timothy at Derbe and Lystra, where the believers there spoke well of him (Acts 16:1-2). Impressed with Timothy, Paul decided to bring him on the mission into Macedonia (which began at Philippi). The plan now is to send Timothy to them again — not just yet, though, but soon — with the purpose of encouraging them with news about Paul and how the ministry of the gospel is faring, but also so Paul can himself be encouraged by hearing back how they are doing.

There is no one more “like-minded” (literally, of the “same soul”) with Paul than Timothy, “who will sincerely care for your state.” We can hear in this the echo of Paul’s earlier plea, that the believers at Philippi be of one mind, one heart, one soul (Philippians 2:2). Timothy, like Paul, genuinely cares for them, without any hidden agenda or selfish ambition (compare this with Philippians 2:3). “For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus,” Paul says (compare with Philippians 2:4). Timothy is committed to the things that are dear to Jesus the Messiah and is a strong and vibrant example of everything Paul has been exhorting the Philippian believers about.

Paul is very proud of Timothy, who is “as a son with his father.” Elsewhere, Paul calls him, “my beloved and faithful son in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:17) and “a true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). Timothy has “served with me in the gospel.” They have worked well together, having the same servant heart, mind and soul for the gospel. Recall how this letter began: “Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:1). In other letters, Paul refers to Timothy as “my fellow worker” (Romans 16:21) and “our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ” (1 Thessalonians 3:2).

Timothy is a man of “proven character.” The Greek word for “proven” often refers to the refiner’s process of “proving” or purifying precious metals such as gold or silver. In other words, Timothy has been tested by fire and has shown his mettle, that he is faithful. This is important because the believers at Philippi have some rough times ahead themselves. They will be tested and tried because of their faith in the Lord Jesus, so it will be encouraging for them to have a brother like Timothy around, who has been through the fire and come out stronger and brighter.

Focus Questions
  1. Is there someone like-minded as you, to whom you could entrust the interests of those you care about?
  2. Who is a faithful servant of the things of Jesus in your life? And to whom are you a faithful servant of the things of Jesus?
  3. When you are going through a difficult time, how valuable is it to have someone with you who has been through the same and come out with a stronger faith?



There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

“All In” for Each Other

Holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:16-18)
Paul concludes the appeal he began at the beginning of Philippians 2, to the Jesus believers at Philippi, that if they bore him any affection, “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind”(Philippians 2:2). He wants to see them shining as lights in the midst of a twisted and self-absorbed generation, holding forth the good news about King Jesus as a beacon in the darkness. He wants to see that he has not “run the race” and come up a loser, that all his labors among them have not been a loss. He would much prefer to see them come to maturity in their faith, following the example of the Lord Jesus, both in His humility and in His being exalted. Then he will be able to “rejoice,” to take pride in the ministry he has been given and not be ashamed on the day He stands before King Jesus. He does not want to come up short in it (nor does he expect to), rather he desires to rejoice with them, both now and when He gives account before the Lord. It was important to him that he give good and faithful to the Lord Jesus and to His body, the church.
  • “Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation” (2 Corinthians 7:4).
  • “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).
  • “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
Paul is quite happy, then, to give everything that is in him, to be “poured out as a drink offering” for them. The image here is one of sacrifices offered to the Lord. A libation, or “drink offering” (which was usually wine), was poured out over the sacrifice, drenching it as an act of thanksgiving and consecrating it to God. To use a poker term, Paul was “all in” for their sake. Their service was their faithfulness to the Lord, their ministry to each other and bringing the message of the gospel to the world. Their sacrifice was what they endured, and would be enduring, for the sake of King Jesus and His gospel — and each other. And Paul was ready to give his life for their sake.

Paul rejoices about all of this and he wants to rejoice together with them. But he wants it to be mutual. That is, that they also see the value in it and be glad, but also that they share together with him in their rejoicing. He is “all in” for them and what he really wants is for them to be “all in” for each other. Then there will be rejoicing enough to go all around, sharing in the divine humility that leads to divine joy.

Focus Questions
  1. Can you think of a time in your life when you felt like you had run your race and labored hard to help someone else and it turned about to be all in vain? Or quite successful?
  2. Does someone have to be “all in” for you before you are willing to be “all in” for them?
  3. Who are you willing to be “all in” for?



There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Feed on the Faithfulness of the LORD


Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
(Psalm 37:3-5)
Did your candidates win? Mine didn’t. Almost very candidate and issue I voted for lost. Very disappointing, but no reason to be despondent. The psalm writer says, “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish” (Psalm 146:3-4).

Anyone who was looking to Mitt Romney to lead this country out of trouble was foolish. Likewise, anyone who is trusting in Barak Obama to lead our nation into prosperity. Foolish. Do not put your trust in princes — or in presidents. They cannot help you, not even the best of them.

What, then? We find the answer many places in Scripture. I saw it again this morning in Psalm 37. “Trust in the LORD, and do good. Dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness.” Regardless of whether you are a Democrat or Republican, or affiliated with a third party or no party, if you belong to the Lord, He has given you a place in this land. Dwell in it and feed on His faithfulness. I emphasize that it is His faithfulness because it is only His faithfulness that will see you through, regardless of whatever happens in our country or our economy or in the world.

Focus yourself on Him to whom you belong. Find your place in Him. Delight yourself in Him and He will fulfill the desires of your heart. No president or congress can guarantee that, no president or congress can prevent it, no president or congress can take it away. The blessing of the Lord, and His prosperity are far greater and they endure forever.
Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.
(Psalm 37:5-6)
Roll everything over onto Him, look to Him for your security and He will bring it to pass. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). He will set things right for you and vindicate you.
Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret — it only causes harm.
For evildoers shall be cut off;
But those who wait on the Lord,
They shall inherit the earth.
(Psalm 37:7-9)
Relax, then, and let not your heart be troubled. Wait for Him, in quietness and patience. He will not be late. Do not be agitated when those who do what is wrong prosper — it will not last.

There are many wicked in the world, and in our own country. There are foolish and deceitful politicians and government leaders enough to go around — in all the parties and non-parties. But their plans will ultimately fail, because they cannot withstand the kingdom of God forever.

However, those who depend upon the Lord receive the kingdom of heaven, and the meek inherit the earth. In the meantime, we simply dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness.

Here is a personal confession I have adapted from Psalm 37.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Lights in the Darkness

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life. (Philippians 2:14-16)
Paul wants the Jesus believers at Philippi to “work out” their salvation, that is, to let it be demonstrated among them together as a community. What he particularly has in mind here is the expression of unity, the single-hearted, single-minded love and focus that manifests the mind of Jesus the Messiah among them.

Everything is to be done without complaining and disputing. Weymouth’s New Testament in Modern Speech has it as, “Be ever on your guard against a grudging and contentious spirit.” Other versions say:
  • “without grumbling or arguing” (Contemporary English Version)
  • “without murmurings and questionings” (Context Group Version)
  • “without grumbling or questioning” (English Standard Version) – grumbling against and questioning each other.
  • “without kvetching or arguing” (Jewish New Testament)
Wuest, in The New Testament: An Expanded Translation, is a bit wordier but brings out the nature of what Paul is addressing. He renders the key terms here as, “discontented and secret mutterings and grumblings” and “discussions which carry an undertone of suspicion or doubt.” This has everything to do with how we are to relate to one another, that we must not grumble and mutter against each other, or look upon one another with suspicion and doubt, questioning each other’s faith, motives or commitment. Instead, we should become “blameless and harmless, or as Wuest puts it, “guileless in [your] simplicity.” That is, we should be open, honest and straightforward with each other — WYSIWYG, “What You See Is What You Get.”

When we are transparent and non-toxic with each other, we will become “children of God without fault.” Paul is not implying that this is how we become children of God. We already children of God by faith in the Lord Jesus, for “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). But the point here is that we need to conduct ourselves in a way that is “without fault,” a way befitting the children of God that we are, particularly because we are “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.” Paul is drawing a sharp contrast here that alludes to Deuteronomy 32:5, a prophecy Moses gave: “They have corrupted themselves; they are not His children, because of their blemish: A perverse and crooked generation.” The believers at Philippi were living in a society that was twisted and contorted and curved in upon itself, a culture that turned away from God (much as we see today). It is precisely for this reason, then, that we must be open and honest with each other. Jesus said, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Then we will “shine as lights in the world.”
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. (Ephesians 5:8)

Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. (1 John 2:8-10)
Light shines in the darkness of the world and the world cannot overcome it. The value of light is that it enables people to see. When we live open, honest and transparent lives with each other, in love and unity, the world can see the True Light, Jesus, shining through us. When light shines in the darkness, it brings hope and life. “Holding fast the word of life,” is how Paul says it (some translations have “holding forth the word of life,” which fits the context better). We become torchbearers so that others may see.

The “word of life” is the good news of the gospel, the announcement about King Jesus. George Lamsa, working from an ancient Aramaic version of the New Testament, translates this as “For you are to them the light of life” (Translation From the Aramaic Peshitta). Paul’s overall concern is that the gospel keeps advancing and that the Lord Jesus be glorified more and more.

Focus Questions
  1. Is there anyone in your circle of relationships about (or against) whom you have secretly muttered or harbored suspicions and doubts?
  2. What can the divine humility of the Lord Jesus teach us about that?
  3. What action can you take that might help to resolve such a situation?



There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Monday, November 5, 2012

God Working in You

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)
The word “therefore” that begins this section connects us back to the previous sections, about the divine humility of Jesus the God-man and how He has been exalted to the place of highest glory and honor. He is our example, whose entire being displays the attitude we should have in all things. It is part of our identity, who He is in us and who we are in Him.

Paul addresses the Jesus believers at Philippi as “my beloved.” In this we see the tender affection he has for them. He has had a very strong relationship with them ever since he first arrived in Macedonia. They have supported his ministry steadily, with prayer and provision and partnership in the gospel. Though he is now under house arrest in Rome, he has every confidence that he will be with them once again, for the increase and joy of their faith. In the meantime, he wants them to continue as if he was right there with them now, and he is confident that they will be all the more diligent because of his present circumstances. What Paul desires (keeping Philippians 2:1-4 in mind) is that they would treat each other as they would him if he were now present among them, with nothing done through selfish ambition or conceit but serving one another with the humility of the Lord Jesus.

“Therefore,” Paul tells them, “work out your own salvation.” There are a couple of things to note here. First, he is not talking about their individual personal destinies. The use of “you” and “your” here are in the plural forms. He is speaking to them as the community of believers. Second, he does not mean that they are to work for their salvation, that is, in order to get saved. Salvation is a gift of God that is at work in them. To “work out” one’s salvation, rather, is to bring forth the outer expression of what is now inherent in their inner being. Salvation is not merely a theory, it produces practical results in the life of the believer. Paul is telling them to manifest outwardly what is already an inward reality, to demonstrate the life of God and the attitude of Jesus that is already at work in them. The Contemporary English Version translates this as, “discover what it really means to be saved.”

Paul adds, “with fear and trembling.” That is a combination he uses a few times elsewhere: about when he first came to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 2:1-5), about when Paul sent Titus to the Corinthians and how they received him (2 Corinthians 7:-1316), and about how Christian bondservants should live in regard to their earthly masters (Ephesians 6:5-8). It is not about abject fear or terror but about being circumspect, careful, diligent and respectful. J. B. Phillips translates it as having “a proper sense of awe and responsibility” (The New Testament in Modern Speech).

It all comes down to dependence upon God. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” The Holman Christian Standard Bible has this as, “It is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.” We cannot even work up the desire for these things ourselves, much less fulfill them. But God comes and creates the proper desires in us Himself. The fact that we begin to desire the things of God is evidence of His saving work in us. God enables godly desire within us and along with that gives us the divine ability to do what He desires. This is exactly what He had promised centuries earlier, through the prophet Ezekiel:
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)
The Spirit of God works in us to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). This reflects the character and attitude of the Lord Jesus that Paul wants the believers at Philippi (and indeed, everywhere) to manifest. It is God’s doing through and through, His Spirit, His life, His salvation at work in us to do what we could not otherwise do. Our part is to be diligent and attentive to allow Him to bring it forth into outward expression, in faithful obedience to the Father and self-giving service toward one another.

Focus Questions
  1. What do you think are the present benefits of salvation? How do you live them out?
  2. How do you think of the fear of the Lord? As dread, or delight?
  3. How do you think of the will of God? As something you must resign yourself to, or something that releases you into His desire and pleasure?



There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Humble God-Man Exalted with the Highest Glory

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
In the previous section, Paul spoke of the humility of the Son of God who came into the world as a man and manifested the servant heart even to the point of a humiliating death on a Roman cross. Now he shows how the greatness of that divine humility has been revealed.

The world has been turned upside down, or rather, right side up. The fallen world system, under the spell of principalities and powers, delights in what it perceives to be power and greatness, yet esteems humility and love to be the exact opposite of such. But God has revealed that greatness is found in humility and power in love, and He has done this by exalting Jesus with the greatest glory. This was not in regard to His divinity, in which He has always been infinitely glorious, but in regard to His humanity, which is what God had always planned for mankind from the beginning, when He said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion” (Genesis 1:26). The exaltation of Jesus in His humanity also speaks to us about our own humanity.

Paul details this exaltation in his letter to the Jesus believers at Ephesus, where he prays that they might be given the Spirit of wisdom and revelation from God to know
what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:19-23)
All things in heaven and earth have now been placed under the dominion of Jesus the God-man. The principalities and powers, which were disarmed at the cross (Colossians 2:15), must yield to the authority of His name and all it signifies. Paul also tells us that, as believers in the Lord Jesus, we too have been raised up together with Him and seated together in the heavenlies in Him (Ephesians 2:6).

This news is for all the world, and all the nations are invited to come and participate in Him, to know Him in His humility and to glory in His greatness. Before He ascended to His throne in heaven at the right hand of the Father, He gathered the disciples together and said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

God has exalted Jesus so that “every knew should bow” and “every tongue should confess” that Jesus is Lord. This echoes the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah:
Who has declared this from ancient time?
Who has told it from that time?
Have not I, the LORD?
And there is no other God besides Me,
A just God and a Savior;
There is none besides Me.
Look to Me, and be saved,
All you ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
I have sworn by Myself;
The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness,
And shall not return,
That to Me every knee shall bow,
Every tongue shall take an oath.
(Isaiah 45:21-23)
The Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament that was used by the early church, uses the same words about every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that Paul uses in Philippians 2:10-11. What is said of the LORD in the Old Testament, Paul applies to the exalted Lord Jesus in the New.

The language of bowing the knee is not about what is done against one’s will — and it is certainly not to be confused with an enemy having his neck under the foot of his vanquisher. Bowing the knee is honor willingly offered. Likewise, confession is not what must be pulled through one’s teeth. It is freely given, and from the heart. Paul speaks two other times about the confession that Jesus is Lord. In 1 Corinthians 12:3, he tells us that no one can say “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. In Romans 10:9, he says that those who confess “Jesus is Lord,” will be saved.

In the Roman imperial cult of Paul’s day, each Caesar upon his death was considered to have ascended to take his place in the pantheon of Roman gods. This glorification of Caesar to god-like status was called apotheosis, “divinization” or “deification.” Being a Roman citizen, Paul would have known of this belief, as would the Jesus believers at Philippi (remember that Philippi was one of the chief Roman cities in Macedonia). Paul’s words, however, fly very much in the face of it. Where the Romans said, “Caesar is Lord,” Paul boldly declared, not Caesar, but Jesus is Lord. Caesar is not the one who has been exalted to the highest place, but Jesus the Messiah is. Even Caesar himself will bow down in reverence and worship the Lord Jesus. The declaration that Jesus is Lord, which is so central to the message of the gospel, rattled the Roman cages and was one reason why Christians were persecuted as subversives and why evangelism was such a dangerous venture. But it was also a reason for great joy.

Focus Questions
  1. What does the exaltation of Jesus the God-man say about humanity as God intended it?
  2. What do you suppose it means that we are seated with Jesus on His throne in the heavenlies, at the right hand of the Father? Can you see yourself there?
  3. How does the exaltation of Jesus the Son display the glory of the Father?



There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Divine Humility, Divine Greatness

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
Be “like-minded,” Paul said, and “of one mind.” But it was a particular mind he had in view — the same mindedness, the same attitude that the Messiah, Jesus, showed when He became a man and went to the cross on our behalf.

Jesus is God. He is the Word about whom John the Gospel writer said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). That is how it always was with Him, and how it always will be. Even so, there is something important that happened that changed the world forever. As John went on to say, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

In nature, essence and form, Jesus was, and is, God. But He “did not consider it robbery.” This translation does not make very clear what Paul means. Here are a few other versions that give a better understanding:
  • “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (English Standard Version)
  • “did not consider equality with God something to be robbed {or used to advantage}” (Context Group Version)
  • “did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal” (J. B. Phillips’ New Testament in Modern English)
  • “did not think that being equal with God was something to be used for his own benefit” (The Expanded Bible)
  • “did not after weighing the facts, consider it a treasure to be clutched and retained at all hazards” (Wuest, The New Testament: An Expanded Translation)
So Jesus “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant.” The Greek words literally mean that He “emptied Himself.” This does not mean that He in any way ceased to be God in essence or in attribute. It means that He did not cling to His divine prerogatives, but as Phillips says, “stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature.” Or as the Lexham English Bible puts it, He “emptied himself by taking the form of a slave, by becoming in the likeness of people.” Being God did not mean He could not be a servant, and being a servant did not take away one bit of His divinity.

He took on the form of a doulos, a bondservant, a slave. The Greek word doulos views a servant in relationship to his master. Though Jesus is equal to God in His essence, He took on the form of a doulos, to serve the Father and be obedient to Him. Jesus said, “I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30). The form He took did not make one bit of difference to the essence of His being. He was free to serve and it did not rob Him of anything.

Jesus not only took on the form of a servant, He came in the “likeness” of men. In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). In the LXX (the Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament), the word for “likeness” used there is essentially the same one Paul uses here in Philippians.

There is a beautiful symmetry at work: Man was created according to the likeness of God, and God, in the person of the Son, came in the likeness of men. The Word, who was with God in the beginning, and indeed is God, became flesh and dwelt among us. He was “found in appearance as a man,” or as Weymouth puts it, “being recognized as truly human” (New Testament in Modern Speech).

Jesus “humbled” Himself. In verse 3, Paul said, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit.” The Greek word for “conceit” is kenodoxia, literally, “empty glorying” (which is why some versions translate it as “vainglory”). Now compare that with Jesus, who “emptied” Himself (the Greek word is kenosis) and “humbled” Himself. There is no selfish ambition there, no seeking of reputation, no “empty glorying.” While some of the believers at Philippi were apparently operating in empty pride (that is, pride without cause), there was no such vanity in the Lord Jesus.

Paradoxically, by not holding onto the prerogatives of God at all costs, Jesus was actually manifesting the nature of God. Consider how Wuest translates this passage:
But himself He emptied, himself He made void, having taken the outward expression of a bondslave, which expression comes from and is truly representative of His nature [as deity], entering into a new state of existence, that of mankind. (brackets are Wuest’s)
Becoming a bondservant is not foreign to the nature of God but is representative of His true nature as deity! God is love, John tells us (1 John 4:16), and it is the nature of love to give and to serve. God so loved the world that He gave His Son; the Son so loved the world that He gave Himself. On the night of the Last Supper, Jesus revealed the secret of divine greatness to His disciples:
You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:42-45)
This is not about becoming a servant so that we may one day be promoted to greatness. No, becoming a servant is the promotion and serving one another is greatness. It is a perfect reflection of the divine nature.

Having taken the form of a bondservant (in His divinity) and humbled Himself (in His humanity) Jesus became obedient to the Father’s will, even to the point of death. Not just any death, but the most terrifying, most humiliating kind of death — death on a Roman cross. Divine greatness, not to mention divine grace, knows no bounds.

Focus Questions
  1. Does it surprise you that servanthood is greatness?
  2. Does it surprise you that servanthood is truly representative of the divine nature?
  3. How does this help you take on the attitude of being a servant for others?



There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Revealing the Fellowship of the Spirit

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4)
Paul continues his appeal for unity among the Jesus believers at Philippi. His “if” statements are rhetorical, of course. He already knows the answers and it is Yes on all four counts. God has begun a good work in them and Paul has every confidence that He will bring them on to maturity in Jesus the Messiah. So he gently reminds them of who they are in Jesus and what that means.
  • Consolation in Christ. The Greek word for “consolation” also carries the idea of encouragement and exhortation. Paul wants to encourage and exhort them “in Christ,” that is, on the basis of who they are in the Messiah. Because it is about His purpose, and His body, the church, and it will be His ability that accomplishes whatever needs to be done.
  • Comfort of love. The Greek word for “comfort” has an aspect of both gentleness and persuasiveness. Wuest calls it “tender persuasion” (The New Testament: An Expanded Translation). Paul says of his own ministry, “for the love of Christ compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14).
  • Fellowship of the Spirit. Every believer receives the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14), who works in us not just as individuals but together as the people of God. He is not many but one, so He joins us all together as one body, the body of Messiah. Paul is always eager for the church to manifest the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
  • Affection and mercy. This “affection” is not superficial. The Greek word used here literally refers to the bowels. Figuratively, and in this context, it is about deep, heart-felt emotion. The word for “mercy” speaks of compassion or sympathy. Paul’s request takes a personal turn here. “If you have any affection for me …”
Weymouth translates the four “if” statements this way: “If then I can appeal to you as the followers of Christ, if there is any persuasive power in love and any common sharing of the Spirit, or if you have any tender-heartedness and compassion …” (The New Testament in Modern Speech).

All of this is preliminary to Paul’s plea, which he now presents: “Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”

“Fulfill my joy.” Paul has already expressed the thanks he gives to God, “with joy,” because of their partnership with him in the good news about King Jesus (Philippians 1:3-5). And he rejoices that Jesus is being preached, even by those who do not do it with the best motives (Philippians 1:15-18). His joy is not yet complete, however, because they are lacking in unity.

Here, then, is the meat of Paul’s appeal, the thing that will fill his joy up to the brim: That they will live and function in such a way that will reveal the true unity that they have together in King Jesus, through the Holy Spirit. That they will be “like-minded,” or of one mind. This does not mean that there will not be any diversity of thinking or even that there will not be any disagreements. But it does mean having the same purpose and the same focus. Paul also wants them to show the same love for one another, not making distinction between those with whom they agree and those with whom they disagree, but loving all equally. He wants them to be of “one accord,” literally, of one soul, so that they share the same heartbeat, the same desire, the same motivation.

Paul further elaborates on what all this means: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Earlier, Paul mentioned some (though not by name) who were preaching the good news about King Jesus out of envy, strife, selfish ambition, and in pretense, making an outward show of it (Philippians 1:15-16). How very ironic! But Paul was thankful that, either way, “whether in pretense or in truth,” Messiah was being preached (Philippians 1:18).

Paul was being gentle then, and still is now even as he exhorts them firmly and directly. Selfish ambition, rivalry and a partisan spirit have no place among them. Nor is there any room for the outward show and empty glory of conceit. Let those be gone for good!

However, there is something that must take their place: Humility (“lowliness of mind”). Each esteeming the other better than, or ahead of, himself. Or as Paul says elsewhere with very similar words, “In honor, giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10).

Now, this does not mean beating yourself down. And it is not about becoming a doormat and allowing others to run roughshod over you. Nor does it mean that you must ignore your own needs and concerns. But it means becoming a servant, putting others first and looking out for each other as well as for yourself. This will reveal the unity and fellowship we have in the Spirit and show that King Jesus is very real in us.

Focus Questions
  1. How do you explain the “persuasive power of love”?
  2. What is the difference between humility and being humiliated?
  3. How easy, or difficult, is it for you to put others ahead of yourself? Why do you suppose that is?



There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Parameters of God’s Millennial Kingdom

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)
This passage at the end of the book of Matthew encapsulates the millennial reign of King Jesus the Messiah. At the cross, Jesus disarmed the principalities and powers, the demonic influences that pervert nations and cultures away from God (Colossians 2:15). Their power is now broken and cannot withstand the power and purpose of God in the world. At the resurrection, Jesus became the firstborn from the dead, the firstborn over God’s new creation (Colossians 1:18).

Then, after forty days of teaching His disciples about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3), He came to them and announced, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” This is the language of enthronement, the King receiving His kingdom. The next thing that was about to happen was His ascension to heaven, to His throne at the right hand of the Father,
far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:21-23)
The kingdom of God has come into the world and Jesus the Messiah, God’s Anointed King, has begun His reign. This is what all the Old Testament prophets pointed forward to, the time when God would change the world, rescue His people, Israel, and gather all the nations to know Him. It is the time figuratively represented in Revelation 20 as “a thousand years” (which is why it is called the millennial reign).

The millennial reign has already begun — it began with the ascension of King Jesus to His throne. It will reach its ultimate fulfillment when King Jesus returns at the end of the age. That is when all those who belong to Him will be resurrected, raised bodily from the grave, just as He was. Paul speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 15:
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
But what happens next? Some believe that this is when the millennial reign of King Jesus begins. Others believe the newly resurrected are carried off to heaven for seven years while there is great tribulation and terror on earth, after which the resurrected ones will return to earth with King Jesus, and then the millennial reign begins. However, Paul says none of this, and what he does say leaves no room for it. What, then, happens after the return of King Jesus and the resurrection of all those who belong to Him?
Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:24-26)
“Then comes the end.” Not seven years of tribulation. Not even the millennial reign — that will have already taken place before the resurrection. But, “the end.” At this point, the millennial kingdom will have reached its fulfillment.

What happens at the end? King Jesus delivers the kingdom to His Father. At that time, every rule and authority and power that opposes God will be completely destroyed. Even death itself will be destroyed, cast into the “lake of fire,” as Revelation 2:14 says.

But what happens in between the beginning of the millennial kingdom, when Jesus ascended to His throne in heaven, and its completion at His return? Jesus rules and reigns, bringing every enemy under His feet. How does He do this? Through His body, the church, all those who belong to Him. For God has not only put all things under His feet — given Him all authority over them — He has also given Him as head over the church, which is His body.

King Jesus has already been given all authority on earth as well as in heaven. We are His body in the world, to exercise His kingdom authority and power on earth. How do we do this? By obeying the commission He gave us: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” That is our job until the end of the age, for Jesus said, “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

These, then, are the parameters of the millennial reign of King Jesus the Messiah. It began with His ascension and all power being given to Him in heaven and on earth. It will reach its completion when He comes again. In between, we, His body, make disciples of all the nations, teaching them to follow Him in everything. When all the nations are discipled and following King Jesus, then the end of the age will come. Heaven and earth will be joined together as one (Revelation 21) and the will of God will be done on earth exactly as it is done in heaven. In the meantime, King Jesus is always with us, assuring the success of His kingdom and the commission He has given us to fulfill.

So, as a friend of mine likes to say, “Be encouraged.”

Friday, October 19, 2012

Follow the One Who Knows


On his deathbed, Mohammed confessed that he did not know where he would go or what God would do to him. On the night before He was crucified, Jesus said, “I go to My Father” and “In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

I would rather follow someone who knows where He is going than someone who does not.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Growing Presence of the Kingdom


Many Christians expect the kingdom of God to come in all at once, lickety split, full and complete. That was the expectation the Jews had in Jesus’ day. They were looking for Messiah to come as a king who would immediately triumphant over the nations, but He came as a suffering servant and was nailed to the cross. For them, a crucified Messiah was no messiah at all, just a contradiction in terms.

The disciples also appeared to initially have had the same expectation. After the resurrection, Jesus spent 40 days teaching them about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3 — that would seem to be a misplaced priority if the kingdom was not mean for this present time). Then before He ascended to His throne in heaven, they asked, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). They wanted it to be full and complete and all at once.

However, look at how Jesus answered them. He did not say Yes and He did not say No. But He said, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1:7). In other words, the timing of kingdom completion is for the Father to know, so Jesus did not answer in terms of when it would come. Instead, I believe He answered in terms of how it would come:
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
The Holy Spirit would come upon them, and when that happened they would be taking the testimony about Jesus the Messiah into all the world. The significance of the word “Messiah” is that it identifies Jesus as God’s “Anointed” King (see Psalm 2). The Holy Spirit was part of the Old Testament expectation concerning God’s coming kingdom, and this expectation was fulfilled when the Holy Spirit came upon the them at Pentecost, and He remains on the church even today. That by itself is enough to establish that the kingdom of God has come and is now present in the world.

In Matthew’s account, Jesus came to the disciples and declared, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Then He sent them out to make disciples of all nations. The fact that Jesus has already been given all authority on earth is another thing that by itself establishes that the kingdom of God has truly begun. Couple that with the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the church, and we have a very powerful combination indicating that the kingdom is now is now present in the world.

We are in the kingdom and the kingdom is in us. The kingdom is present in the world inasmuch as the Spirit-baptized church is in the world. The kingdom is now present but it has not yet come in all its fullness — that will not happen until King Jesus returns. But it has most certainly begun, and it continues to grow and advance day by day. We are presently living in between the times of its inauguration in the world (when King Jesus ascended to His throne) and its full manifestation (when King Jesus returns). That is why Paul refers to Him, even now in this present age, as Messiah and King. That is also why Peter refers to us, the Church, as a “royal” priesthood, the priests of the King.

I recently posted about the growing presence of the kingdom of God in the world, “Carrying the Kingdom.” Someone asked how I could speak of the kingdom as advancing. It did not seem to him that the kingdom is growing and things are getting better, but that things are getting worse. However, I think the world is in a much better condition since the cross, the resurrection and the ascension of King Jesus to His throne.

For example, in addition to many wonderful technical advances, which make life considerably easier for a large and growing portion of the world, there have also been tremendous advances in medicine and the healing arts — many people are living longer, healthier lives today than in the past. The world is also a much more civilized place than it was centuries ago. Though there are places where we can still find barbarity, it is not as prevalent as it used to be.

Much of this improvement has been because of the influence of Christianity, the Church and the gospel of Jesus Christ. A number of years ago, D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe wrote a book called What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? It talks about the pervasive and amazing influence the gospel has had in the world. You can preview the book a bit at Amazon. Even just perusing the chapter titles will give you an pretty good idea of how the world is a much better place because the kingdom of God has come. I also recommend a recent book by Christian sociologist Bradley R. E. Wright, Upside: Surprising GOOD NEWS About the State of Our World — the title speaks for itself.

Though there is much trouble in the Middle East with the Arab states, and has been for well over two thousand years, there have recently been hundreds of thousands of Muslims who have come to Christ there, with thousands of new churches planted in Muslim countries, many of them even in the more difficult Muslim communities. Jerry Trousdale has written a book about it called called, Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love with Jesus.

Evangelism is exploding in many parts of the world and among many different groups. It has been estimated that the church in China is growing by about 20,000 new believers each day. Plus another 20,000 new believers in Africa.

There is still much left to do, of course, but there is a lot that has already been accomplished that has changed the world for the better. I believe that the commission Jesus gave the disciples in Matthew 28:18-20 will not fail but will be fulfilled, that all the nations of the world will become disciples of King Jesus.

The kingdom of God has come into the world, is present today and continues to increase and advance. Be encouraged, Jesus is Lord over all and His kingdom is increasing everyday.

(See also The Gradual Kingdom)