No Earthly Good

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-3)

The actual logic of Paul’s argumentation here would suggest that this passage begin with “SINCE you have been raised…”

Nonetheless, there is a sequential conditional element present here that must be considered: We died, we were raised, act like it.

I am still trying to learn what it means to “seek the things which are above;” to “seek first the kingdom of God…” (Matt. 6:33)

How do I “set my mind on things above” without coming across as a flake, or ‘super-spiritual?’ I have not been able to straddle the middle road that keeps me from being “so heavenly-minded that I am no earthly good.”

After years of trying–and discovering to my chagrin that I had become so earthly-minded that I was no heavenly good–I am about ready to give up trying. The only way I can be of any good to this realm is by way of the heavenly.

I see a world crushed under the weight of its current problems–economic, health, mental, social, and spiritual–and I see a Church poorly equipped to speak to these problems. I am a part of that Church.

My mind is on the things of the earth–poverty, sickness, disease, corruption, wickedness in every place. I see the devastation in Haiti, and am ashamed of the untimely and insensitive remarks of some of our church leaders.

“Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored?” (Jeremiah 8:22)

I have failed in this. Maybe it is because I have not learned what it means to “put off…put on”, as Paul admonishes us in this chapter. I am to put off the deeds of the flesh, the things that I had no problem doing before I knew the Lord (or rather was known by Him). Thought I had done that. And then some ugly thing rears its head to let me know how far from His perfection I am.

I am to put on a compassionate heart, kindness and humility, meekness and patience (v.12). Thought I had done that. And then I find myself entertaining some judgmental thought toward someone when I have no idea the burdens they might be bearing, and I realize how far from His perfection I am.

The only reality I am left with is that “I have died, and my life is hidden with Christ in God.” When that fully penetrates my mind, maybe I will become a little more earthly good.

NOTE: This is the third in a weekly posting on the Epistle to the Colossians. I am not the only one who is writing on this book. There are others who will be posting something on their blog each day of the week. We are each bringing something that the Lord gives us from chapter three of the epistle. You will be greatly blessed and encouraged, and your heart will be filled if you will take the time to read each day’s posting from one of the other saints involved in this collective effort. Put the following link in your “favorites” or on your link bar at the top of your browser: http://www.philter48.com/bbs/ and make it a point to visit everyday.

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Will Hell Replace Heaven?

Colossians 2:3 (Christ), in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

How far we have strayed from this simple truth. The Church continues to buy into much of the philosophy of this world and is not even aware of it.

DISCLAIMER: As I sit here and ‘throw stones’ please be aware that not too long ago, I was one of those who had been completely deceived by the philosophies of the modern age.

It is easy to hear something that sounds plausible, and then find a verse to support the idea.

For instance, “The Secret”, a New York Times bestseller for the past three years, says that you can have anything in life that you want, if you just know the secret to getting it. That “secret” is in the “Law of Attraction.” Focus your energy and your thoughts on what it is that you want, and the Law of Attraction will go to work for you, bringing you your desired outcome.

How is that different from Joel Osteen’s faith message, filled with sound bites, which is affecting thousands of Christians daily.

Or, how about the Buddhist influence into the Church, as saints seek ‘no mind,’ which is claimed to be at the root of most of our troubles? Or, the Hindu goal of enlightenment? Enlightenment is the experience of “knowing” and not being hindered by dualistic thinking.

Why is it that we cannot see “The LIE” in all this? It is the same lie Eve succumbed to in the garden–“you shall be as gods”–and that is very tantalizing.

Now we are being told by many that we are the ruler of our own ‘universe.’ That is, WE are the ones who control our destiny; WE are the ones who make decisions without regard for anything outside ourselves (except for the caveat of “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.”)

NO!! It is only in Christ that we have any life at all. (John 15:5)

And, there are some who would pervert even that truth by saying “Christ means ‘anointed’, and when you understand that you are ‘God’s anointed’, then you have risen to that which God has prepared for you.”

Why does all this continue to happen?

Because we have gotten away from the truth of God’s Word. We have allowed philosophy to overtake our pulpits, rather than the plain teaching and exposition of the Word. And the people do not know any better, because they spend so little time in the Bible themselves.

A one or two-hour fix each week is not enough to prepare yourself for the battle that lies at our door! Especially when that ‘fix’ is tainted with enough poison to put us to sleep.

Well did Karl Marx say that “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”

We have allowed religion to replace spirituality. We have allowed ‘relevance’ to replace reality. We have allowed sound bites to replace sermons. We have allowed experience to replace exposition. We have allowed problems, and challenges, and issues, and disorders to replace sin. We have allowed therapy to replace repentance.

If we do not turn it around soon, we will discover that we have allowed hell to replace heaven.

NOTE: This is the second in a weekly posting on the Epistle to the Colossians. I am not the only one who is writing on this book. There are others who will be posting something on their blog each day of the week. We are each bringing something that the Lord gives us from chapter two of the epistle. You will be greatly blessed and encouraged, and your heart will be filled if you will take the time to read each day’s posting from one of the other saints involved in this collective effort. Put the following link in your “favorites” or on your link bar at the top of your browser: http://www.philter48.com/bbs/ and make it a point to visit everyday.

The Purpose of Our Ministry

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Col. 1:28-29 ESV)

Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32) signifying what kind of death he would die.

We have also given this the somewhat spiritual interpretation of meaning that we should only preach Jesus and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2)–an interpretation that I am not against using. (Maybe it would be more accurate to call this an application, rather than an interpretation.) Anyway, the point is–Him we proclaim.

After 40 years of ministry, teaching the Bible to any who will listen, I am only beginning to understand what this means. I have not failed to preach Jesus and him crucified. I am still moved to tears anytime I talk of the wondrous work of the cross on my behalf. But I am just now coming to understand the fulness of what this means in my ministry and for my daily life.

I am beginning to sense an urgency in the Body of Christ, and I hear many preachers taking on a new tone of warning. This is something that has been lacking for the last two decades as we were lulled into a stupor with our eyes fixed on this world’s goods, listening to those who would sell us and tell us what we thought we wanted to hear.

Now, the emptiness of a self-centered, self-serving life is beginning to take its toll in the lives of many. They have achieved much, but gained little, and are beginning to realize the ledger is not balanced.

If you have any kind of a ministry at all–blogging, writing, talking on the phone, sharing on the street, speaking from the pulpit, whatever–I encourage you to “look on the fields, for they are white to harvest” (John 4:35). Seize every opportunity to speak the truth, to share what the Lord has done in your life, to warn those who are going astray, to encourage those who falling behind. (for an interesting and unique way to quickly encourage others, click here.)

Paul says here that he warns and teaches with all wisdom. I take that verse personally, and believe that I should be teaching and warning with wisdom. But, such is so often not the case. More often than not, I come on like gangbusters, sure that I have the answer for the situation, only to see someone hurt by my good intentions. As a result, I have learned to be quiet, waiting until I “know that I know that I know” that what I have is from the Lord. And I still make mistakes.

But, it’s not about me. It’s about the Lord, and when I can fully learn that lesson and live in its fulness, then I will be more able to see His wisdom as He flows through me in grace towards His people.

I gained an insight just last night while preparing this morning’s message from Phil. 2:13–I can’t get it wrong when serving the Lord. That is liberating for me.

My only goal in all that I do in ministry is “to present everyone mature in Christ.” Hopefully, something you read here will help you in your walk with the Master.

NOTE: This is the first in a weekly posting on the Epistle to the Colossians. I am not the only one who is writing on this book. There are others who will be posting something on their blog each day of the week. We are each bringing something that the Lord gives us from chapter one of the epistle. You will be greatly blessed and encouraged, and your heart will be filled if you will take the time to read each day’s posting from one of the other saints involved in this collective effort. Put the following link in your “favorites” or on your link bar at the top of your browser: http://www.philter48.com/bbs/ and make it a point to visit everyday.

Imitation is More Than Flattery

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own…Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. (Philippians 3:12, 17 ESV)

In today’s self-centered, narcissistic society, this statement would be viewed as incredibly arrogant. Who are you to say that we should follow your example?!!?

The prevailing philosophy is that I am the center of my own universe. I control my own universe. I am the best for my universe.

Simply because someone has had an experience from which I might benefit, is no indication that I should consider their results.

There was a series of jokes going around when I was in high school that always ended with, “Mother, please! I’d rather do it myself.”

It is no longer a joke. Rather, it is the reality.

Sadly, this worldly way of thinking has infiltrated the Church.

However, I am not as concerned about it being in the pew as much as I am about it being in the pulpit.

There are few godly men and women who are willing to say, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

That is a scary place to be. It is a scary place to put oneself–especially with all the dire warnings against being placed on a pedestal. Why would anyone place themselves high enough to be emulated?

We’ve all seen many toppled from a high and lofty place in ministry. Now we avoid it.

In this age of calling many by the term “hero” who are not, could it be that the world is actually bereft of any real heroes to imitate?

Rather than shrink from the calling, stand up, go forward, and allow yourself to be a standard to which others will want to look. And do not be reluctant to say so.

And find someone to whom you can look for imitation.

NOTE: This is the third in a weekly posting on the Epistle to the Philippians. I am not the only one who is writing on this book. There are others who will be posting something on their blog each day of the week. We are each bringing something that the Lord gives us from chapter three of the epistle. You will be greatly blessed and encouraged, and your heart will be filled if you will take the time to read each day’s posting from one of the other saints involved in this collective effort. Put the following link in your “favorites” or on your link bar at the top of your browser: http://www.philter48.com/bbs/ and make it a point to visit everyday.

The Death of The Church

Phil 2:19-21 (ESV) – I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. They all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

This passage always causes me grief–almost in the same way I grieve when I consider the necessity of the cross on my behalf.

Here Paul is making a statement–it seems almost as if in passing–about the condition of the ministry around him.

I have found this to often be true in today’s ministry.

Years ago, I sat in the office of a well-known pastor of a large denominational church. In answer to a question about his practices, he said, “No question about it, Dale. I am out to build me a kingdom.” Sadly, he was dead less than two years later.

But, his sentiment, though not as plainly stated by most, is still manifest today.

I’ve had other ministers tell me that they do not agree with some fundamental aspect of their particular denomination, but, “We go along to get along.” Where is their interest?

What does Paul mean when he says, “…not those [interests] of Jesus Christ”?

What are the interests of Jesus Christ?

Should we not try to make those our focal point?

He says this after qualifying it with ministry who only seek their own interests, and this is set in juxtaposition with Timothy being concerned for the Philippians’ welfare.

Those of us in the ministry should make the welfare of the church our priority–even down to the wandering little sheep. That is our charge.

Isa 57:1 ESV – The righteous man perishes, and no one lays it to heart; devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from calamity;

 I know this verse speaks to the death of the righteous in order to remove them from the coming calamity, but it also speaks to the back-door revivals that many churches experience–some even now. People leave one-by-one, and in groups all at once, and no one lays it to heart as to what is happening or why.

1 John 2:19 is often quoted in defense: They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would [no doubt] have continued with us: but [they went out], that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

Sometimes, however, (probably more often than we like to think) people leave because they can smell the odor of death beginning to creep in. They see the calamity coming, and they make a quiet exit.

“Leaders Leave” is an oft-quoted reality that we would do well to consider whenever we see influential people exiting our churches.

Why does this occur? Most often it is because, though they are not in the forefront of ministry, they can see that the leaders are taking the people down a dangerous path of no return. That is the only direction possible when “they seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”

NOTE: This is the second in a weekly posting on the Epistle to the Philippians. I am not the only one who is writing on this book. There are others who will be posting something on their blog each day of the week. We are each bringing something that the Lord gives us from chapter two of the epistle. You will be greatly blessed and encouraged, and your heart will be filled if you will take the time to read each day’s posting from one of the other saints involved in this collective effort. Put the following link in your “favorites” or on your link bar at the top of your browser: http://www.philter48.com/bbs/ and make it a point to visit everyday.

Bars or Stars? What Do You see?

What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Phil. 1:18 (ESV)

Paul was obviously trying to encourage the Philippian believers about his imprisonment. They may have been upset, or had become disheartened by the apostle’s situation.

But, Paul was a man who had tremendous difficulty trying to see the bad side of things.

No matter how hard he looked, he always seemed to see the bright side of everything.

A Pollyanna-ish type of faith? I don’t think so. He always admitted to what was happening, admitted to the difficulties the circumstances might be causing; but he always knew that “God causes all things to work together for good for them that love God, who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

Unlike me, or most folks I have dealt with, Paul wasn’t thinking that verse about the future. No. He found the good right NOW.

Notice the verse we are dealing with. He didn’t say something like, “Well, even though they have got it all wrong, at least somebody might get saved through their ministry.”

No.

He said, “Christ is being preached.” This is what he saw and heard.

[Was he saying that about the Judaizers? Probably not, because they were preaching “another gospel.” (Gal. 1:8-9)]

Are there people out there who preach the Gospel differently than you? Of course. Does that make them wrong? Of course, not.

Please be able to make the distinction between preaching the Gospel differently and preaching a different gospel.

The Gospel is that Jesus died for our sins and was raised for our justification.

Everything else is addenda:

  • How I came to the Lord–free will or election.
  • When I was baptized–infant or believer’s baptism.
  • How I was baptized–sprinkled, dunked, or plunked.
  • Backsliding–secure or unsecure.
  • Jesus’ return–rapture or rupture.

We may base our ability to have fellowship on these things (it is still a character weakness to make these a basis of fellowship), but one can hold to a different opinion and still preach a pure Gospel.

I believe that is what Paul saw.

Even though there were impure motives for their preaching, it didn’t matter, because Christ was being preached.

But, this goes to the heart of Paul’s character. It was his depth of character that allowed him to do this, to see things in this light.

Apparently, he had forgotten how to take his eyes off Jesus. (Heb. 12:2)

As we go through this letter to the Philippians, we will encounter this more than once.

Paul is the one who is in dire circumstances, but he is the one who is doing the encouraging. Have you ever visited the sick and dying to be an encouragement, and you end up coming away encouraged by them?

Paul was in prison, but he looked through the bars and saw the stars.

What are you looking at? What do you see?

NOTE: This is the first in a weekly posting on the Epistle to the Philippians. I am not the only one who is writing on this book. There are others who will be posting something on their blog each day of the week. We are each bringing something that the Lord gives us from chapter one of the epistle. You will be greatly blessed and encouraged, and your heart will be filled if you will take the time to read each day’s posting from one of the other saints involved in this collective effort. Put the following link in your “favorites” or on your link bar at the top of your browser: http://www.philter48.com/bbs/ and make it a point to visit everyday.

Pleasing The Lord

Eph 5:10 ESV – and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

KJV – Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

NKJV – finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.

NLT – Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord

NIV – and find out what pleases the Lord.

NASB – trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

 Paul tells us in this verse that we are to spend time trying to learn something; spend time trying to discern something.

We are to discover what it is that pleases the Lord.

Do you know what that is?

Surely you have at least an inkling of an idea. Surely you have discovered some things in your walk with the Lord that are pleasing to Him.

We know that it is to the one who is humble and contrite in spirit and who trembles at His word that the Lord looks (Isa. 66:2). Those things are pleasing to God: humility, contriteness, and respect for His Word.

We also know that the one who can stand in the Holy Place with the Lord must have clean hands and a pure heart (Ps. 24:4). 

So…why does Paul urge us to “try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord”?

Within the context of this exhortation, he has been talking about everyday life as it was for the Ephesians. The Ephesian believers were to live a life different from that to which they had been accustomed. They are now living a new life, a life completely foreign to their experience.

Whereas once it was expected to go into a prostitute to worship their god, now that is not to occur.

Fortunately, we don’t have that particular habit to overcome. However, the same principle applies. We have come to the Lord from various backgrounds and experiences. Many of us have recently made a newer, firmer, deeper commitment to walk more closely with Him.

In that place we are still learning what it means to please the Lord. Actually, we should ever be learning this.

Please allow me a weak, but hopefully effective, illustration: we tend to think it is cute when a baby goes streaking across the room in nothing but its birthday suit. It is not cute when that is done by a 40-year-old.

I think that the Lord views us much the same way. There are some things we did in our early days of service that He may have thought sort of “cute,” but now that we have been around awhile, they are not so cute–not pleasing.

The point is–we are ever growing, ever learning, ever maturing.

Never stop trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Make it your ambition to always be found pleasing in His sight.

May He then say to you: This is my beloved one in whom I am well-pleased.

NOTE: This is the fifth in a weekly posting on the Epistle to the Ephesians. I am not the only one who is writing on this book. There are others who will be posting something on their blog each day of the week. We are each bringing something that the Lord gives us from chapter five of the epistle. You will be greatly blessed and encouraged, and your heart will be filled if you will take the time to read each day’s posting from one of the other saints involved in this collective effort. Put the following link in your “favorites” or on your link bar at the top of your browser: http://www.philter48.com/bbs/ and make it a point to visit everyday.