Thursday, February 28, 2013

Random Thoughts

Some thoughts culled from my random file. Some have occurred to me moments of quiet reflection, some in discussion with others, and a couple highlighted by readers of some of my books. For your edification, inspiration and/or amusement.
  • The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are conspiring together on your behalf.
  • Faithfulness is trusting God in all things. Because He is faithful and will always lead you to what is right.
  • Some say that “money talks,” but I think it merely amplifies what is already in the heart.
  • Though there is great evil in the world, the greater nature of the world is love — because that is the nature of the One who made it. Live in that expectation.
  • If you’re gonna pray for rain, take an umbrella.
  • Faith is an understanding. Faith is a decision one continually makes. Faith is a commitment. Christian faith is enabled by God: Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, and no one can confess, apart from the Holy Spirit, that Jesus is Lord. Because of the divine element involved, faith is more than merely a preference. Faith is more than personal, because it affects every area of one’s life, private and public.
  • The gifts of the Spirit and the fruits of the Spirit are not in competition. One does not invalidate the other or render the other unnecessary. God has given both to the Church. Neither is to be marginalized or denigrated.
  • The practice of the gifts of the Spirit is not necessarily “at will,” but rather, “as needed.” What is the most important gift? Whichever one is needed at the time. For example, when someone is sick, what they need is healing. It is the same with the word of knowledge or word of wisdom, or some other miracle. The gift is not the particular manifestation itself — the gift is the Holy Spirit, and He brings forth what is needed. The only matter of the will is the decision of whether we are going to believe God and His Word.
  • Faith is being confident about what God has promised; presumption is being confident about my own speculations. God obligates Himself by His word, but He is not in any way obligated by my speculations.
  • There is very much about God that is a mystery to us. His love, grace and mercy are a mystery. So also His holiness and justice. That does not mean that we can’t know anything about them, only that we can’t know everything about them. God is infinite; we are not.
  • What does it mean to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness? The kingdom of God is His rule and reign, His will being done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). Here, the righteousness of God, as the Amplified Bible notes, is “His way of doing and being right.” Seeking is about giving ourselves totally over to God, looking for His rule and reign in everything, and obeying it. It is doing things God’s way, which is the right way and will always bring the right results. — Three Kindle users highlighted this quote from my book, The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.
  • “Who is this life all about? Those who think it is all about themselves walk in fear of every problem and situation that is bigger than them, and they will perish in the wilderness. Those who know it is all about God walk in faith, knowing that God is much bigger than any and every problem. They go on to enjoy victory in the Promised Land.” — Five Kindle users highlighted this quote from my book, God’s Word in Your Mouth.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Gospel of His Name

The gospel is the good news about the kingdom of God and how Jesus of Nazareth fulfills the story of Israel. The name “Jesus” and the terms “Lord” and “Christ” (or rather, “Messiah”) are loaded with gospel significance.
  • He is called “Jesus,” or “Yeshua” (His name in Hebrew), because “He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21) and yeshuah is the Hebrew word for salvation. So there is connection to the story of Israel in that.
  • He is also called “Messiah”, because He is the “anointed one” God promised to Israel, the one anointed to be King.
  • He is called “Lord,” which speaks of His divinity and His authority as King.
When the Philippian jailer, who was not of Israel, fell on his knees before Paul and begged, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved, and your house” (Acts 16:31). I don’t take that merely as the “plan of salvation.” I see in it a super-condensed proclamation of the gospel: He is savior, He is God’s promised and Anointed King over Israel and the world, and He is divine. If that is not how Paul actually condensed it that sudden moment, it is at least how Luke condensed it in the telling.

Of course, this verse often gets used as nothing more than a personal plan of salvation — about us and how we get saved. Was it important for the Philippian jailer? Sure. That is how the jailer — and each one of us — gets to participate in the bigger story of the kingdom of God. But Paul was also declaring something important about the identify of Jesus and what that means in the history of the world and the purpose of God.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,
First Corinthians 15 presents us with a solid outline of the gospel. It is the apostolic tradition handed down to Paul, then faithfully handed down from Paul, and received as such by the Jesus believers at Corinth and by the Church at large. It is the message that we are called to believe, the message by which we are redeemed.

There is the crucifixion, the burial, the resurrection. “According to the scriptures” alludes to the Hebrew “backstory,” so these things did not happen in a historical vacuum but speaks of the fulfillment of God’s age-old promise and plan.

Paul then speaks at length concerning the resurrection of King Jesus bodily from the dead. It not just about Jesus, however, but also about us. Because Jesus the firstfruits from the dead, that guarantees our own bodily resurrection as well: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (v. 20).

There also is the coming again of the King, which is just as much a part of the good news: “But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (v. 23). And after that, the Consummation, when everything in heaven and on earth comes together as one. “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” (v. 24).

When I was in Bible college, we stopped at the Cross, then on to the Resurrection, but then shot ahead to the Parousia (the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus). It was not until a number of years later that I began to understand the significance of the Ascension — King Jesus rising to His throne. At the right hand of the Father. In Matthew 28, we jumped to the Great Commission, in verses 19 and 20, but paid scant attention to verse 18, where Jesus declared, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” But that is a stunning declaration He made, and tremendously good news. It means that the reign of King Jesus has already begun. Not just in heaven but on earth as well.

In other words, the kingdom of God is here and now. By faith in Jesus, the King, we participate in His kingdom here and now. However, though it has already begun, it is not yet completely done. That will not happen until Jesus comes again. Then we will experience it forever when our bodies are transformed or resurrected, and incorruptible (1 Corinthians 15:50-54). In the meantime, all things are currently in the process of being placed under His feet. “For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25).

In view of all this, Paul concludes, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Like the old gospel song says, “Ain’t that good news?”

Monday, February 25, 2013

God and Prepositions — and Me

I understand my life to be a fellowship “with” God, a partnership in a “father and son” way. There is a saying, attributed to John Wesley, that God does not do anything in the world except in answer to prayer. I believe that is true. I see prayer as a very real partnership with God.

I am “from” God — He is the source of my being, the source of my supply, the source of every good thing in my life.

And I am “for” God. Not driven, but led at His pleasure. I have given up the idea of doing “great things” for God — I don’t trust my judgment anymore about what is “great.” I am learning to be content with doing what God leads me to do. He knows what He wants me to do, and I believe that will actually end up being the greatest thing I can do, whether or not it appears that way to me at the start. After years of ministry, I have learned that it is often the small things, things I don’t even remember doing or saying, that have the greatest effect.

Jesus did only those things that pleased the Father, did only what He saw the Father doing, and said only what He heard the Father saying. That is what I seek, and that is how I would understand “under” God.

“Over” God sounds manipulative and presumptuous.

Along with being “in” God, there is also God “in” me. Both are important realizations. Sounds a bit more intimate than just “with.”

In John 1:1, we have “and the Word was with God.” The Greek word for “with” here is pros, which can mean “toward.” I think of Jesus and the Father pressed toward each other, conspiring with each other about what was to take place, and a plan was conceived. I think of prayer in a similar way, as God and me plotting something together.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Following Jesus

Following Jesus is not just something we make room for in our lives, as if we work it into our busy schedule. It is a complete reorientation of our lives. Not just something we do in our lives, but a new way of living out our lives. It is a new way of life, and indeed, a new life. We view everything in life through a new focus — who Jesus is and what He is doing in the world, in us and through us.

It is not merely the priority, the first item on our list that we check off and can then move on to the next item. Jesus is all-encompassing of everything in our life. Everything is prioritized according to His priorities, everything evaluated through the lens of following Him.

There is no doing it by halves; it is an all or nothing proposition. Years ago, my father asked Jesus to come into his life. He says he heard the Lord say, “I would not touch your life with a ten-foot pole. But I will come and be your life.” And that makes all the difference.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Enemies of the Cross

For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame — who set their mind on earthly things. (Philippians 3:18-19)
Paul has spoken of good patterns for living the life of faith in Jesus the Messiah, a life lived with and for others. The Lord Jesus is the prime example, but Paul also offers himself, as well as Timothy and Epaphroditus and others, as worth imitating.

However, Paul also knows of a different sort whose example leads in exactly the wrong direction. He calls them enemies of the cross of Messiah. They work against what the Lord Jesus came to do. Not so much by their doctrine (though that may be part of it) as by their manner of life — their “walk.”

“Enemies of the cross” is Paul’s assessment of how they live. Then he describes them in a way that seems to work back to front, from their end to their beginning.
  • Their path leads to destruction.
  • Their belly is their god.
  • They glory in behavior they should be ashamed of.
  • They set their mind on earthly things.
But who are these people Paul describes? Some think they are the Jewish legalists, the “dogs,” “evil workers” and “mutilators” he warned about earlier. Perhaps that is so, although the language he uses would need to be stretched quite a bit to fit legalists. However, the ones he warns about here seem to go in the other direction, into licentiousness. Either way, they are ultimately focused on themselves. Paul has dealt with such before, as in his letter to the believers at Rome.
Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. (Romans 16:17-18)
They do not come as pagans or as those who are outside the Church — the Philippian believers would have already known to beware of those — but they present themselves as believers in Jesus. However, something important is missing, something is very wrong about them. They set their mind on earthly things. That is where the problem begins: their mindset, their attitude, their focus. They see no further than their own short lives, so that is all that really matters to them. They live for their own pleasures, no matter how base or shameful. They are focused on themselves and what they can get out of it all.

It begins with being fixated on earthly things and it leads ultimately to ruin. Perhaps that is one reason why Paul works back from their end to their beginning, as a caution to the believers at Philippi about beginning down the same road by doing things out of “selfish ambition or conceit,” or looking out only for their own interests and not also the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).

The antidote to a mind set on earthly things is to have the mind of Christ, who teaches us to see beyond ourselves and this present life to a greater time and a greater glory. If we let Him work in us, He will lead us into humble servanthood, to share in the fellowship of His suffering as well as the power of His resurrection — and that is a very good ending.

Focus Questions
  1. What is the relationship between what you believe and how you live?
  2. How does a self-focused life work against the cross of Jesus?
  3. How does a self-focused life lead to destruction?

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, February 12, 2013

Learning Together

Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. (Philippians 3:17)
Paul has described the attitude that Jesus believers need to develop. It is the mindset of Jesus Himself that Paul set before them so richly in chapter 2, a portrait of divine humility and divine greatness. It is the path Paul himself is following, and now he calls the believers at Philippi to come follow his example. “Become followers together of me,” is how Young’s Literal Translation puts it. “Followers together” is one word in Greek, symmimetes, a compound of sym, which means “with” or “together” and mimetes, from a verb that means to imitate. That has been Paul’s concern throughout his letter, that believers would learn to walk together, with a common focus and of one heart and soul — that of the Lord Jesus.

Follow “my” example, be imitators together of “me,” Paul says. Does that seem arrogant? He has given them the example of the Lord Jesus. What could be better than that? Yet, he offers himself as an example of how that gets lived out. In his letter to the believers at Corinth, he said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Jesus practiced it perfectly, but Paul — not so much. Yet they had never actually seen Jesus as He walked this walk. But they did see how Paul did it, and they could do it the way he did it. Jesus was the perfect example, but Paul was a pretty good one.

They also saw how Timothy and Epaphroditus lived out the faith. Timothy was with Paul from the beginning of his ministry there, and Epaphroditus was one of them. Paul has already mentioned their example. Timothy is one who is of “like mind” with Paul, a man of proven character and a servant heart (Philippians 2:19-22). Paul called Epaphroditus, “my brother, fellow worker, fellow soldier,” and told of how Epaphroditus pushed himself, though perhaps too hard, for their sake (Philippians 2:25-30). “Hold such in high regard,” Paul said of these men, and of all who are like them. They are worthy of honor.

Now he says, “Note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.” Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus provide a good pattern, but there are others at Philippi who follow the same manner of life. “Note” them. The Greek word means to look at, observe, contemplate. In other words, study them, watch how they do it, learn from them — then do the same.

There is a simple teaching method that could apply here: “Watch one, do one, teach one.” Or to put it another way: Observe how others do it, practice their pattern yourself, then become a good pattern for others to follow.

Focus Questions
  1. Who are those you look to as examples for your own walk with others?
  2. Do you have to be perfect to be a good example yourself?
  3. Who are those who look to you for an example and pattern of how to walk?

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, February 9, 2013

Thanks to You!

THANK YOU for visiting The Faith Log and for your interest in our ministry. If you have been helped, encouraged or otherwise blessed by our tweets, posts, articles, books or music, and you would like to have a part in the work of this ministry, we have added a new page to our site (see the navigation tabs at top) with some simple ways you can help. It is called Thanks to You.

First, we would count it a great blessing if you remembered us in your prayers. Also, if there is anything in particular in our writings that you have found helpful, we would love to hear from you about it.

Here are quicklinks to some other simple and easy ways:
FOR WHATEVER WAYS you would like to help Walking Barefoot Ministries, we would like to say Thanks!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Walking the Path Together

Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. (Philippians 3:15-16)
Phillips translates it this way: “All of us who are spiritually adult should set ourselves this sort of ambition, and if at present you cannot see this, yet you will find that this is the attitude which God is leading you to adopt. It is important that we go forward in the light of such truth as we have ourselves attained to” (J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English).

Paul speaks again of being “mature” (Greek, teleios). We saw it earlier in verse 12, where it was translated as “perfected” (teleioo). There, it was about being made fully mature and complete, and Paul made it clear that he has not yet reached that goal. But here in verse 15, he speaks of maturity in a relative way. In a community of believers such as at Philippi, we will find believers with various levels of spiritual maturity. There are those who are new to the faith and still have much to learn. There are others who have been walking with the Lord for a longer time and have grown up in the faith. Some have grown more, and some have grown faster, than others. No one has arrived at the finish line, but each is somewhere along the way.

Paul makes his appeal, then, to those who have come to some measure of maturity. “Have this mind,” he says. That is, have the mindset or attitude he has been speaking about since the beginning of chapter 2, where he exhorted them to be “like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (v. 2). It is an attitude of humility (“lowliness of mind”), not of self-seeking ambition or conceit. It is putting others ahead of ourselves, watching out for their interests as well as our own (vv. 3-4). It is taking the role of the servant, which is glory in disguise, and Jesus is the perfect example of this. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” Paul said (v. 5). The Lord Jesus humbled Himself and became a servant, even to the point of death on the cross, giving His life for our sake. Because of this, God has exalted Him to the highest place.

It is this mindset that Paul pursues in Philippians 3:10, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” To know the Lord Jesus well is to know Him in the fellowship of His sufferings — to pour out one’s life for others — as well as in the power of His resurrection life. All these go together, and Jesus is glorified in the midst of them.

So now Paul says to as many as are mature, “Have this mind.” It is the mark of maturity. “And if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.” If there are any who think themselves spiritually grown up but who do not have the attitude Paul speaks of, it will soon become apparent — God will reveal it to them. Everything about the Christian life points us toward it, and it is what being a follower of Jesus is about. When persecution looms, as for these believers at Philippi, such revelation is likely to come sooner rather than later — and the sooner we learn this lesson, the better off we will be.

Not everyone has reached the same level of maturity, but however far along we have progressed and to whatever degree we have grown up in the Lord Jesus, we are to “walk by the same rule.” The Greek word for “walk” pictures an orderly procession, everyone keeping in step with each other. We walk this path together, always pressing, like Paul, toward the goal, so that everyone may cross the finish line and lay hold of that for which the Lord Jesus has laid hold of us.

Focus Questions
  1. This mindset Paul wants all of us to have — do you think it is a good indicator of spiritual maturity? Why, or why not?
  2. What are some ways God exposes improper attitudes and teaches us appropriate ones?
  3. Why is it important that we keep in step with each other along this path?

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, February 1, 2013

Pursuing a Jesus-Shaped Life

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
Paul has one goal and he pursues it with single-minded passion. He does not claim to have reached it, or that he is full and complete in his knowledge of the Lord Jesus. He knows has not. But he continues to press toward it, pursuing it with everything that is in him.

In former days, he had zealously pursued Jesus believers in order to persecute them, thinking he was doing God a service. Now he focuses all his zeal on the true prize: knowing Jesus, his Messiah and Lord, in everything.

This is the reason for which the Jesus has laid hold of him — and of us: That we may know Him in all things and fellowship with Him in the power of His resurrection, a power so great that it transforms suffering and persecution into an opportunity not only to honor Him but also to know Him more.

Paul still has in mind the example of the Lord Jesus that he began with in chapter 2: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Jesus laid hold of us so that we could lay hold of Him. He became like us so we could become like Him. He humbled Himself so that we might be lifted up, to share in His name and participate in His glory.

As Paul notes elsewhere, God has “predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). That is what Paul desires more than anything else: to be conformed to the image of the Son — to know Him in the power of His resurrection and in the fellowship of His suffering, to be conformed to His likeness, even if that means death. Paul wants to be a part of what Jesus came to do. In other words, he is pursuing a Jesus-shaped life.

He has one purpose, one focus, one goal, and all his energies and efforts are committed toward that. He is like an Olympic runner going after the prize. He is not looking back to see what is behind, he is looking along the track and focused on the victory that lay ahead. There is still much ground to cover before his race is done, and he is pouring himself out that he may cross the finish line a winner. He is running the race set before him, as the author Hebrews has said so well:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
And at the end of his life, Paul was able to say without regret but with great joy:
I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 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 4:6-8)
The prize, the “upward call” of God in Jesus the Messiah, lay ahead him — the day of resurrection, when he would know the Lord Jesus so perfectly that the life of Jesus would transform him completely. We will see more about that at the end of Philippians 3.

Focus Questions
  1. How would you describe where you are in your own “race”?
  2. Are there things in your past that trouble or distract you?
  3. Is the prize you seek worthy of pouring yourself out?

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.