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Archive for February, 2013

… He was not worried about claiming His rights …

Philippians 2:6

 

Jack Webb was a no nonsense TV detective on Dragnet.  I do not remember a single episode from the series (I was too young), but I do remember these words:

“You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say or do may be used against you in a court of law.  You have the right to consult an attorney.”

 

These words form the core of what is know as your Miranda Rights, which since 1966 every police officer must recite before interrogating anyone.

 

Personal Rights have become an overarching issue in American society.  We talk about civil rights, the right to life, consumer rights, gun rights, the right to free speech, the right to the free exercise of religion etc.  

 

The Bill of Rights, which forms the first 10 Amendments of the  US Constitution were written to protect the natural rights of liberty and personal freedom in America.  

 

If someone seeks to limit or take away our rights, we become feisty and angry.  We might go so far as to hire a lawyer, file a lawsuit, and contact the media.   

 

What rights are you willing to give up for the benefit of others?  Before you answer, reconsider Philippians 2:6.

 

Jesus gave up His rights as God, comfortably enthroned in heaven with the freedom to demand that we worship, serve, and obey Him!

 

Why did Jesus give up His rights? 

… to live and die for the forgiveness of your sins.

 

What did Jesus gain in giving up His rights?

… rejection, ridicule, humiliation, whipping, suffering, and a public crucifixion.

 

Jesus knew what He was getting Himself into when He gave up His rights, but this did not stop Him.  Absolutely not.  In John 15:13 Jesus said: 

“There is no greater love than to give up your life for the ones you love!” 

 

And Paul tells us to think like Jesus.

 

I wonder what our world would be like, if we all thought and lived like Jesus?

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… have the mind of Christ …

Philippians 2:5

 

Your mind is as valuable to God as your heart because you make decisions about how you will actually live with your mind.  

 

While your heart determines how it want to live, it is your mind which sends impulses and messages to all the parts of your body, generating action.  

 

We know many people who say, “They would love to ….”, but at the end of the day, they act differently.

 

In Romans 12:2, Paul encourages us, “To be transformed by the renewal of our minds so we might do what pleases God.”

 

If you read further in Philippians 2, particularly verses 6-8, you will see how Jesus’ mind worked.  His only thought was to suffer because He loved us.  A perfect melding of the mind and the heart.

 

The mind of Christ is developed through 5 particular activities: worship, prayer, Bible Study, Christian fellowship, and compassionate care.

 

Many Christians fail to develop the mind of Christ because they are self-absorbed and focused on so many different activities.  

 

We frequently hear and say, ”If you put your mind to it, you can ….”!  

 

Individuals have mastered physics, business management, shooting free throws, home decorating, how to make friends, and auto mechanics by simply putting their mind to it.

 

Yet, many of the same people will tell me that developing the mind of Christ is too much work.  Phooey! 

 

Developing the mind of Christ is no harder than developing any other skill-set or body of knowledge.

 

The heart that desires to develop the mind of Christ can, if it puts it mind to it.

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… consider the interests of others …

Philippians 2:4

 

This morning I heard a commentator talk about how America is doomed to deteriorate from the stalemate in Washington DC, because we “love politics.”

 

He would have been more accurate if he had said, “Our nation is in decline because Americans have learned to think only of themselves.”

 

Community rights and the rights of others have become frivolous concepts in America’s judicial system and emphasis on political correctness.  It’s all about individual rights … my rights!

 

The current American mantra is, 

“I have my rights and they trump yours!  You only have your rights if they do not limit mine!”

 

Our political system simply accentuates this selfishness.

 

Anyone with a successful marriage knows that their marriage will fail if both husband and wife do not consider the interests and needs of their spouse.  

 

This is one reason many Christians have failed marriages.  We have failed to consider the interests and needs of our spouse.

 

The Westminster Confession of Faith writes: 

“Marriage is designed for the mutual help of husband and wife.”  

 

This affirmation is built upon God’s declaration in Genesis 2:18:

“It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit just for for him.”

 

If your marriage is on shaky ground, Paul’s counsel in Philippians 2:4 is one of the great secrets for having a great marriage. 

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… in humility consider yourself less important than others …

Philippians 2:3

In her recent book Quiet, Susan Cain reports that to survive in the MBA program at Harvard Business School you have to be an outgoing, aggressive, and vocal student.  The quiet and demurring student will be crushed in class and is likely to receive poor grades.

Studies in group dynamics and decision-making find that groups follow vocal and aggressive leaders.  Furthermore, this research  has found that these groups frequently make bad decisions, because wise quiet souls never had a chance to speak.

The lack of humility on campus and at the office can be traced to bad decisions that cause  a multitude of problems for all of us.

Humility is under-rated in America.

In the eyes of God and children, humility may be your best attribute, particularly when combined with genuine love.

Betty never served in a leadership role at church.  She declined invitations to serve on committees.  She was rarely in worship.  Yet many young adults in her church were asked, “Who in the church had the greatest impact upon your life?”

Betty was consistently named by more people than anyone else.

Betty took up the one task that is so hard to fill in the church.  She served as the congregation’s pre-school teacher for more than 50 years.  She never complained about missing worship, not hearing the choir’s special music, and not having a break from teaching.

Betty quietly made a significant impact upon others.

Humble souls do not depreciate their significance, rather they let others toot their own  horns, while they quietly change the world in humility.

Would our world be a better place if we let the humble lead?

God does.

… with humility and gentleness love others 

and submit to them out of reverence for Jesus …

Ephesians 4:2 and 5:21

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 … do nothing out of self-centeredness or out of pride …

 Philippians 2:3a

 

This morning after clearing 5 inches of snow off my driveway and sidewalk, I did the same for my neighbor.  Before you give me a Gold Star for Community Service, I need to come clean.  In a few weeks I will be flying to Florida and I am hoping that if it snows while I am away, my neighbor will clear my driveway and sidewalk for my wife.

 

My act of kindness was more savvy than it was self-less service to others.

 

Would Paul, will Jesus, applaud my kindness or see through the veneer of my sweetness?

 

Since I told you about my generous act of kindness, then it is clear that I have failed the pride test.

 

It has been feared that if Congress drops the charitable tax deduction non-profit service focused charities and churches will be hurt.  I pray that a change in the laws will not affect my giving.  

 

I’d like to believe that most of my charitable giving and service to others is not tainted by selfish ambition and conceit.  

 

How do you discern the difference between self-less service and selfish service?  

 

My measuring stick is simple:   

If I hope that my service will yield either a benefit or positive attention for me, 

then it is not self-less service.

 

The key is in my intent, my reason for serving.  

 

If my neighbor stops and asks if I am the one who cleared his driveway and sidewalk, should I remain mute? 

 

 God would be pleased with that.

 

I can tell my neighbor about my travels later.

 

Dang, there I go again ….

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… be of one and the same mind, 

have the same love, be in full accord …

 

You may be tempted to credit Oprah, Dr. Phil, Dr Oz, or one of a host of contemporary pop psychologists for this kernel of wisdom, necessary for building a strong marriage, family, or community. 

 

Pop psychologists love to borrow freely from scripture.  This nugget of wisdom is from Philippians 2:2. 

 

God’s desire is that His people get along.  Unfortunately, the church today is a hothouse of division and conflict.  Go into any church in America today and you’ll find a divided house.  

 

Congregations are divided over:

Dress codes for worship

The style of music used in worship

Use of videos and projectors

Times for worship

Coffee, thermostats, sound systems, and volume

 

None of these are burning biblical or theological issues.  They are all issues of personal preference.  

 

Somewhere along the way Christians have convinced themselves that the 1976 Burger King commercial, “Have it your way.” is a quote from scripture.  It’s not!

 

It’s easy for us to point the finger at others who want to have it their way.  But God’s desire is that we look within at ourselves.  

 

Are you looking for a Burger King Church?  If you are angry at your Pastor or the leadership board of your church; if you have stopped going to worship; if you frequently change churches, all because worship and community life does not suit your personal preferences, God has a Word for you.

 

My wife admires those older couples in the congregation who never complain when we sing contemporary praise music.  She equally admires younger members who are agreeable when we sing hymns from the 1800’s.  

 

God smiles on these saints because they get it.  They understand Philippians 2:2.  They have learned to put others ahead of themselves.

 

What about you?

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… make my joy for you complete …

Philippians 2:2

 

It has been a good week for me as a parent.  Both of my sons texted me with good news.  One has landed a few new clients for his business and the other has been placed in a leadership role which he has sought at work.  

 

I want the very best for my two sons. While my sons are married and live far away, nothing gives    me more joy than to hear them rejoice.  

 

God wants the very best for us.  In Jeremiah 29:11, God proclaims:

I have plans for you, for your good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

 

In John 15:11, Jesus tells us His dreams for us:

I want my joy to be in you so that your joy may be complete.

 

Throughout scripture God calls us His children.  It is a term of affection and endearment which communicates His deep parental love and hopes for us.  

 

God wants you, His precious child to experience the depths of His joy for you. He dreams of your happiness.  

 

God’s desire for us to experience this joy is so deep that He tells us how to find it and to keep it through out the teachings of scripture.  God has shown us The Way to have complete joy.  

 

If you will simply follow and trust God’s Word, you will have His complete joy.  If you don’t you never will.

 

I know this from personal experience.  

 

When I live life my way, I may experience temporal pleasure, but not joy.  When I live life my way, I may boast in my freedom, until I find myself lodged in a mess.  

 

It’s amazing how we so easily exchange God’s gold for the world’s shiny brass. We loss so much in life polishing our brass idols, rather than seeking God’s gold.  

 

God wants the very best for you … His complete joy.  

 

It’s yours for the following.

 

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