Thursday, August 22, 2013

What Should I Personally Expect

I awoke from a dream at 4:06 am this morning. In all honesty, I can't even begin to articulate in words what I saw. A story cannot be written for what I beheld and no other human would be able to understand or grasp it because the meaning was for me.

The basic message was that as I seek to enter into the mission among indigenous people groups hoping to be a Bible translator and teacher, I am going to find myself in continual embarrassment. So often my pride is giving me this false idea that I am going to be some sort of hero for the mission, yet in all reality that is probably the farthest thing from the truth.

There will be things happen to me that I have never expected nor have I prepared for. Discomfort and confusion are mine for the taking. God will beat on my pride and continue to break me in many areas.

There were many horrible things in which I was shown that I can see would truly have opportunity to destroy me. There will be times when I just break down and cry and everyone around me will wonder why I don't just go back to the states. The people that God sent me to reach will think I am worthless, thus they will discourage me and make it evident that I need to leave.

On top of not being wanted by the tribe, the missionaries who are with me will be in hearty agreement with the people. They will see my weaknesses, which are many, and think that I am foolish for staying. Yet even in this I will stay in order that I may win them to Christ.

I do not plan on going into missions seeking a comfortable life, because it isn't there to be found. The life of one who desires to serve and be used by God involves persecution, suffering, and death. Jesus said that if we truly want to follow Him, then we will be hated. We will be martyred. We will be persecuted, put on trial, and earn the right to die. In the world's eyes there is no good that can come out of following Christ, however, God sees it as the best thing you must do!

I will go, not to find comfort, but to glorify God because Jesus Christ is worthy! All worship belongs to Him alone and it is His desire that has been placed in my heart to see every tribe, and tongue, and nation worshipping God Most High around the throne.

I will stay because that is where He has me. The enemy will try and play god by telling me a false will for my life. It is possible that Satan will use even the missionaries on my team to discourage me and tell me to leave. It will seem to be clear evidence that I should go, however, by God's grace, I will not be ignorant of the Devil's schemes.

I will pray more than ever because overseas God will be my only friend and my only true source of encouragement. It is true that there will be individuals praying for me everyday, yet they will still be 7,000 miles away.

Me in missions is and always will be foolishness to everyone who knows me, yet this I know, that His grace is sufficient for me, for His power is perfected and magnified in my weakness. In the end God will show that my life in Him was truly an indispensable part of the body of Christ and on that great and glorious day I will stand unashamed and hear those precious words, "Well done, My good and faithful servant!"

I am not saying that my life will turn out exactly this way, but this was the dream I had. So in all of this, what should I personally expect? I expect and trust that God will be faithful as always no matter what comes about!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Philippians 1:1

"Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons:"

Most of us will consider the apostle Paul to be the greatest missionary to have ever lived. Being the writer of half the New Testament, taught directly by Jesus Christ, established more churches than anyone else on record and as far as we know suffered more than any other person in history for the sake of Christ. In fact, God used Paul to even lead Timothy to the Lord Jesus.

Timothy became highly involved in Paul's ministry and was also leading a church, yet both of these great men still recognized one thing: servant-hood. Nowhere in this epistle will you find either one of them boasting in what they have accomplished because they do not put their trust in themselves, but in the Lord Jesus Christ. From the very first verse, this epistle makes that emphatically clear by declaring that they are themselves, bond-servants of Christ Jesus.

According to man's terms these two individuals have a reason to boast, but not before God. So they do not exalt themselves, but they lift up their God. Notice these two very different individuals:

1.       Paul was quite a bit older than Timothy and was a Jew. He attended a Jewish based Old Testament strong school thus being founded in Jewish thought. Paul was also an apostle and had the gospel directly taught to him by the Lord Jesus Himself.

2.       Timothy was younger than Paul and was a Greek. Thus his background would have placed him growing up through a Greek school obtaining a difference in thinking. He was not taught directly by the Lord Jesus and it is likely that Timothy never even saw the Lord Jesus throughout any portion of his life. Timothy was not an apostle, but an evangelist.

Thus we have two people who are completely different, yet they are tied together by one thing: Christ Jesus! This word for "bond-servant" is a type of voluntary surrender. It is surrender of volition; of choice. They don't just "know" that Christ is their Master; they understand and obey Him living the life proving that He is their Master. Jesus has the authority over all of who they are. Every word, every thought and every action is all expressed in their obedience to Christ.

Notice that this was a past tense decision. Also notice that it is a continual present tense decision as well. They did not and they do not give Christ a portion of their lives nor do they give Christ a place in their hearts, but they willingly surrender the entirety of their being. They made this choice to follow Christ long ago, yet every day is a new day to voluntarily submit to Christ as your authority.

This word for servant also describes more than just a new believer; it is more even than a growing Christian; it is referring to a disciple of the one true God. Not just a disciple, however, but the implications go much further than even a disciple maker. They are disciples of Christ who are in turn making disciples of Christ who in turn will and are making disciples of Christ. It describes a very mature level, yet as we can see they are still not done. There is and always will be room for growth.

1.      Have I willingly surrendered all of me to all of Him?

2.      Every day am I continually submitting myself to His authority and making Him Pre-eminent over my life?

3.      In everything that I say, what do I talk about the most? Do I speak of Christ more than anything else? If not, then what is wrong?

4.      Am I continually embracing His life?

Notice it is at the very beginning of the letter that Christ is made Pre-eminent! From reading the verse you can easily tell that these guys are excited to speak about Christ and it is obvious that His name overjoys them.

From this verse alone we learn the answers to these three questions:

1.       Who wrote the letter? Answer: Paul

2.       Who is with Paul as he is writing the letter? Answer: Timothy

3.       Who was this letter directly written to? Answer: All the saints in Philippi

We must be careful to not just quickly assume that Timothy brought the letter to the saints in Philippi. As we survey this book verse by verse it can kind of seem like that at first glance, but when we reach chapter two we will find that Epaphroditus is actually the carrier of this letter and is the one who delivered it to the Philippian believers (2:19-30). Notice in those verses Timothy hasn't been sent yet at the time these saints would be reading the epistle, but Epaphroditus has.

Notice that he is writing to all the saints who are in Philippi. The word "saint" means "holy one". He doesn't say "to the church" thus making it singular, but he says, "to all the saints" likely meaning there are many believers in Philippi by this time and Paul is being very careful with his words and making sure he is all-inclusive.

The number of believers could very well be a lot more than can fit into one house, thus showing the spread of the gospel throughout the city. There may even be several new believers who will be reading this and Paul wants to meet everybody where they are at so he continues by saying, "to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons:"

Paul does not say to all the leaders (overseers and deacons) and every believer in Christ. Paul does this for four reasons:

1.       He wants both new believers and old believers, children in the faith and mature Christians to realize that no matter what position they are in, whether in leadership or not, they are saints of the one true God.

2.       The second reason he does this is because he doesn't want anyone thinking that those on leadership deserve to be first in anything. The leaders in the church were appointed to that office by God, but in no way does that mean that God loves them more or that they somehow earned the right because they are all that. They don't deserve to lead someone just as much as you don't deserve to lead someone, but it is purely by the grace of God that He has sovereignly placed every individual in Christ to be in a specific role and perform a specific function in the body that no one else could perform.

3.       The third reason is showing that Paul wants each individual believer to have a copy of this letter. Paul recognizes that this is divinely inspired and he doesn't just want the leadership to read it and regurgitate it to the rest of the believers, but he wants every believer to know God's Word and what God says about them on a personal level of being not just a convert, but a saint.

4.       The fourth and final reason why Paul puts so much emphasis in them being saints is to guard them from any wrong thinking or doctrinal attack that could possibly hinder their walk. He isn't going to hide anything from them, but instead he wants to tell them exactly who they are in Christ and who God sees them to be now and Paul wants them to stand their ground on the solid Word of God trusting and banking on these precious truths.

What we learn from this is that whatever position the Lord has placed you in is the highest and most satisfying position that you could be involved in. We need to trust that God has a specific purpose for our lives and we should never get the idea that something is wrong if you are not in a leadership position or if the group you are leading is very small. God has a plan to use each one of our lives in a very strategic way and we need to be willing servants in that plan and allow Him the right that He has to do with us as He pleases. I guarantee that no matter who you are in the body, whether you are a pastor of a 4,000 member church or a 32 year old man teaching a Bible study of six people, God calls us to be faithful in the place that He has us to be in and to trust that He is working all things out for good.

Paul doesn't want his readers to just think that he is talking to the leadership, but please don't get the impression that he is downplaying or in some sense talking against being on leadership or aiming to be on leadership because that is not what he is doing. He has merely listed them second in this order so that his audience may acknowledge and understand that just because they have the title does not mean they are anything special.

Catholicism does not believe that all believers are saints. They have to do certain rituals and sacraments and live a certain way and be a certain person before they can ever even be considered for the possibility of entering into sainthood. Obviously they have never read the book of Philippians because if they had then they would have read the first verse, literally the eleventh word, and they would not be catholic anymore. I urge you, therefore brethren, believe the Bible, God's Holy Word.

The verse goes on to say, "In Christ Jesus." This is one of Paul's favorite sayings. This profound statement so captured Paul's thinking and truly transformed his entire way of life that it made it's way into almost every if not all of his writings, but what does "in Christ" even mean? How can I be in God? The term "in Christ" means that there is a human side to the salvation equation. Christ Jesus the man is seated at the right hand of God and that is exactly where I am at positionally. Paul was excited to have this amazing truth revealed to him. I guarantee that he was overjoyed to be the messenger in telling others these marvelous mysteries as well.

Paul reveals to us that the word "all" gives emphatic stress on the doctrine of unity. Every believer in Christ is unified together as one body. Paul excluded no one! A saint being in Christ is an objective fact about every Christian. A Christian is not defined by how he acts but by his identity in Christ. "In Christ" is a union that views an unholy person as holy and views a sinner as a saint.

Try reading the verse without the words "in Christ Jesus." What happens? It all falls apart. You see if you take out the words "in Christ Jesus", then the words "all the saints" must be taken out as well because there is no such thing as a saint apart from Christ Jesus. Christ is our linchpin. It is because of Christ that we can even be named saints. He is the source of our saintliness and anything holy and good and pure that can ever come out of this broken and weak vessel is wholly a work of God and His grace upon us.  One thing that we must never forget is that our position is not based on our experience.

So what we see in the latter part of the verse is that Paul and Timothy are also servants of the church. Servants in the church are made up of overseers and deacons but what is the difference?

An overseer was an authoritative position. This term can be used of all supervisors, not just in the church.

A deacon was a non-authority position. There was probably money that was being collected to be sent to Paul and their needed to be people (deacons) to handle that.

Hebrews 13:7, 17 shows us the parameters of leadership. They are not to be arbitrarily commanding, which means they are not to exercise any type of absolute authority that is marked by unrestrained and/or tyrannical power.

NOTE: In my experience I have often times seen that leaders as a whole correct when you’re wrong, but fail to commend when you’re right. Be the leader that God has made you to be and shine forth Christ in all things.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Case for One God

Who says there is only one God? What if there is more than one supreme deity? What if Greek mythology is right by claiming the existence of many gods inhabiting Mount Olympus? What if Mormonism is correct in stating that each one of us will eventually become gods someday? How do we answer Hinduism which believes that there are literally millions of gods indwelling every known thing held in this universe?

Let me ask you, is God one or many? There are only two reasons in this entire universe given that answer these questions:
  1. God declares to us in His Word that He Himself is the only God.
  2. Having more than one God is a logical impossibility.
"Come now, and let us reason together." - Isaiah 1:18

Now, I understand that the verse above is not written in the context of the subject that I am writing about. However, what we can draw from this and many other passages in Scripture is that God is very logical. He is pro-logic and has made us to function coherently as well. He did not give us a brain to waste, but He desires us to use this three pound instrument to think. We were made to reason. Look at the verses below:

"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!" - Deuteronomy 6:4
"...there is no God besides Me." - Isaiah 44:6
Deuteronomy 32:39; 2 Samuel 7:22; 1 Kings 8:60; 1 Chronicles 17:20; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 86:10; Isaiah 43:10-11; John 17:3; Galatians 3:20; 1 Timothy 2:5.
There is no question on the fact that Scripture is clear by declaring that God is one and there is none besides Him! Now that we have established this truth from God's Word, there should be absolutely no question on the fact that God is one. So then why is it logically absurd to say there is more than one All-Supreme Being?

As I stated above, Scripture is clear on God's oneness and supreme authority.  However, if one were to reason the logical fundamentals, then you would discover that the very definition of God means to be of the highest essence. Thus it is impossible to have two highest entities.

God, by defining nature, is higher than everything and every person. If you think about it, the only possible way there could even be a god is if He were at an infinite level above all the rest. If God was not infinite, then God would not be God. Therefore, He is bigger and higher than everyone and everything, thus there can be no room for seconds.

God is not fighting someone for sovereign control. Whether you like it or not, Jesus is God and all authority is in the palm of His hands. Again, I want to emphasize that GOD by very definition proclaims that He is the Author, Founder, and Creator of all things and all peoples.

The likelihood of there being multiple gods is not improbable, it's impossible! No angel, nor principality, nor rulers, nor powers, nor world forces, nor any other created thing, would be capable of existing apart from the one God giving it life and setting it in motion.

NOTE: If GOD is infinitely, inconceivably, and incomparably above all persons and all things, then there can be no equal; And if you are not equal, you are not GOD!