ENJOYING GOD PHILIPPIANS REmix

FOREWORD:

This is not inspired Scripture.  It is a condensed (and sometimes amplified) paraphrase of Paul’s biblical letter to the Philippians.  It is a humble attempt to stimulate a fresh discovery of the intriguing personality and plan of the God who created us to enjoy Him.  As you read, let your imagination hear the excitement in His voice as He explains what He has in mind for you.

 

 

This letter is a message to you from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.  We, Paul and Timothy, have the privilege of serving Them by conveying to you Their incredible goodness and peace..

You are so precious to me and as I recall how fully you partnered with us in those early days in Philippi I can see how the One who began the work in you is faithfully completing what He started.  And I pray that your love for Him and each other will be richer, fuller, and deeper as Jesus Himself empowers you.  As that happens, your lives will be increasingly authentic and honoring to Him right up to the Day we join Him in Glory.

Don’t be troubled by my imprisonment, it’s only widening the reach of this marvelous Message!  Prison guards and a steady stream of visitors are hearing the good news daily.  Sure, some people are jealous of how God is using me so they try to outdo me in “preaching the Gospel.”  No matter.  At least the news is getting out far and wide –and I’m good with that!

My goal in life is to be a living example of how Christ can live through us no matter the circumstances.  If I end up dying because of the Message –all the better!  Through your prayers and the encouragement of Jesus in my spirit I find myself thoroughly content.  And, I fully expect that He’s not finished with me here on earth.  I ‘m quite sure we’ll see each other and I’ll get to help you grow in joyful trust.

No matter what happens to me I look forward to hearing great reports of how well you’re working together in spreading the Message.  Don’t be distracted by those who oppose you –thank God that you, like me, are counted worthy not only to know the Truth but to suffer for Jesus as we engage in this battle for precious souls.

Again I say, it is vital that you work together in harmony with each other.  Christ lives in you to encourage this kind of compassion.  His Spirit interacts with you to stimulate deep partnership with others who enjoy His witness in their spirits.  With that organic unity as a reality you won’t be motivated by pride or jealousy.  Instead you’ll genuinely care more about other’s well-being than your own.  You’ll value their point-of-view!

Christ has certainly shown us how this works!  He, who was God by nature

  • didn’t cling to all the privileges that go along with being God
  • gladly took on the nature of a low slave
  • reduced Himself to becoming a mortal human
  • devoted Himself to obeying Another even to the point of dying
  • died a humiliating death as a criminal

To show that this is the attitude and lifestyle God approves, He rewarded Christ with the highest honors possible.   Since Jesus didn’t live for Himself, someday every human who has ever lived will recognize Him for who He is and give Him the honor He deserves.

You can do this!   Because God is working inside you -giving you the desire and the opportunities to live out His great salvation (He’s in the process of saving you from your old self, you know). 

Look at you!  As your lives demonstrate more wholesomeness and less complaining you stand out like bright lights to show the way in a dark, diseased world.  You’ve got the very life-giving words in your hands!  Even if it costs me everything I’m indescribably happy to have been able to introduce you to this Message –and you should be even happier!

I do hope to send Timothy to you soon.  That way he can give me a first-hand report about your progress.  He’s a perfect example of the attitude I’ve been writing about.  I don’t know anyone more interested in others.  It seems most are too wrapped up in their own affairs and haven’t grasped what it means to know and serve Jesus Christ.  Timothy, on the other hand, as you know, has tirelessly worked with me like a son with his father. 

I, too, hope to come to you myself but for now I’m sending Epaphroditus back to you –another fellow-worker, fellow-soldier, and dear brother.  He wants you to see that God has had mercy on him (and all of us for that matter) by healing him.  He was extremely ill, having risked his life to do for me in person what you couldn’t do.  Do show men like this the utmost respect!

So much to be thankful for!  So many reasons to rejoice in the Lord!  I don’t mind repeating myself –if for no other reason than to reinforce the Truth in you.

Stay on the alert against those who pervert the Truth!  They are all about externals and keeping rules.  As you know, our gospel is internal –our worship is from the inside, out.  We aren’t relying on our own performance but are instead joyfully connected to Christ Jesus.

If this Message was about measuring up, I’d be way ahead of those deceivers anyway! 

  • I was born an insider (a Jew)
  • I was circumcised on the eighth day
  • I belonged to the tribe of Benjamin
  • I kept the law like a Pharisee
  • and I set out to destroy anyone who thought otherwise
  • I challenge anyone to show me where I didn’t measure up to their standard

But, the good news isn’t about measuring up!  Not only does all of that not impress God, it is gross rubbish.  Think of it

  • I personally know Jesus Christ
  • my wholeness is not something I produced; God planted Jesus “wholeness” in me

Is it any wonder that I’m consumed with

  • knowing Jesus more deeply
  • personally experiencing resurrection life like He did
  • suffering for Truth as He did
  • one day “arriving” safely on the Other Side

No, I haven’t “arrived.”  I’m in the process of getting a better handle on why Christ took hold of me.  But I’m not looking back!  Everything I am is about hearing and being ready for that final upward call –entering into the fullness of what it means to be in Christ.

You may not feel as strongly about this yet but you will!  All that matters is that each of us use what He’s already given us to press on!  Follow my lead!  Follow anyone who’s running this way!

Don’t admire or envy those whose lives are consumed with the pleasures and perversions of this world!  They abhor the message of the cross. Self-destruction is their destiny.

We, on the other hand, have already transferred our citizenship to Heaven.  We’re on tip-toes watching for Jesus to call us Home.  We’re dying to shed these wretched bodies in exchange for glory-built ones like He has.  That will just be one part of His powerful re-shaping all things into His perfection.

Keep this perspective and you’ll stand strong!  Know that I love you and ache to be with you again!

A few words in closing:

Euodius and Syntache, work out your differences in the spirit of humility I described above.  All of you who worked so hard with me when I was there (Clement included) have your names written in the “book of life.”  Help each other “get on the same page!”

  • Find your deepest pleasure in the Lord and what He enjoys
  • Gain a reputation for being gentle in spirit
  • Live conscious of how near the Lord is (and how imminent is His return)
  • Don’t let worry define you –pour out your concerns to God in earnest and thankful prayer
  • Let God’s transcendent peace control your hearts and minds as you rest in His loving providence
  • Meditate on Truth, virtuous and pure things, beautiful and praiseworthy realities
  • Stay on course with all that I’ve taught and modeled for you

And the God of peace will be with you.

Your thoughtfulness and generosity toward me are a deep source of joy.  I know you’ve been looking for ways to express your concern and only now had the means to do so.  As I said earlier, I enjoy a deep and thorough inner-contentment in spite of circumstances!  Whether I am prospering or poverty-stricken matters little –after all, I do what I do through the strength of the One who lives in me.

Mind you, I’m not discounting the importance of your financial support!  Over and over you’ve been the most diligent about seeing that my needs were met.  My joy, however, isn’t in the money I receive but in the reward you are going to receive for your selfless sacrifice.

My needs are met!  The support you sent with Epaphroditus is like a rich perfume ascending to the Throne of God –and He loves it! 

Every good thing we have is from Him and He’ll never run short!  He will surely supply everything you need out of the rich “treasure-trove” that is Christ Jesus and we’ll never tire of blessing Him for being the generous, gracious, selfless God that He is.

Greet all the “Christ-ians”* there for me!  Indeed, the saints here (especially the ones who belong to the emperor’s household) send their best wishes!

May the very grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

*”Christ ians” was originally a derogatory name assigned Christ-followers by mocking world-lovers.  It means “little-Christs.”  Believers soon took it on as a valued identity badge!

Enjoying God -Ephesians REmix

FOREWORD:

This is not inspired Scripture.  It is a condensed (and sometimes amplified) paraphrase of Paul’s biblical letter to the Ephesians.  It is a humble attempt to stimulate a fresh discovery of the intriguing personality and plan of the God who created us to enjoy Him.  As you read, let your imagination hear the excitement in His voice as He explains what He has in mind for you.

This letter is a message to you from Jesus Christ.  I, Paul, was picked by God to write down His words and to extend His incredible goodness, kindness, and peace to you.

And what can I possibly say to bless this wonderful God who has, because it’s just the way He is, worked out in advance (long before He said, “Let there be light!”) a phenomenal plan all for our benefit?  He didn’t leave anything out, right down to officially adopting us so that we are, in reality, His own children, loved, thought of, and cared for by Him every bit as much as is the second person of the Trinity (His son, Jesus).  He wanted us to be forever convinced of and resting in His generous attitude toward us.

This complex plan He has kept mostly secret until now is no fairy tale.  To make it happen cost His Son everything.  It was His blood that rescued us from ourselves and, through forgiveness changed us completely.

And the plan isn’t just for us but someday everything in history will come together and find its place in relation to the Son.  EVERYTHING!  Then, as if rescuing us isn’t enough, He writes us –yes, you and me, into the story as co-heirs of it all along with the Son.   Co-heirs!  What’s His is ours!

Let me remind you, He is the only One in the universe who can plan, promise, and prepare something this staggering and make every detail turn out just the way He intended.  And They had such a great time planning all this for us!

All you and I did was hear the message and trust that it was true.  He’s done everything else.  He gets all the credit for the outcome –He’s amazing!  And, to make sure we know He’ll keep His word, He’s put His very SPIRIT into each of us who believed –a deposit guaranteeing the full deal in that coming day when everything “comes to a head.”

I’ve been thanking God and praying for you ever since I heard that you had embraced this message.  Here’s what I keep asking:

  • that our amazing God who loves to reveal Himself will do just that –giving you more and more insights into spiritual realities and His wonderful heart.
  • that His Spirit will open your “inner-eyes” to what He has in store for you by way of inheritance so that your hope will soar.
  • that you’ll begin to live in the incredible power He’s poured into you –the resurrection power used not only to raise Christ from death but, in fact, to put Him in charge of everything everywhere forever.

We’ve got to realize that Christ is so far beyond any so-called authority in this world and He has created a new organism through which He can express Himself –the Church, His “body” localized on earth even though He fills the whole universe.

What a change!  All of us were

  • completely disconnected from God in the core of our being (spirit)
  • pulled along by a world-system that was disconnected from God
  • actually under the influence of evil spirits we couldn’t see
  • living like animals controlled by our selfish impulses and desires
  • helplessly destined to an endless future estranged from our Maker.

but God who

  • loves to show extravagant mercy
  • is driven by love that always does what is best for the object of His love regardless of the cost to Himself
  • wanted us to experience His kind of compassion that wasn’t based on our good performance.

gave us (yes, as a free gift we couldn’t possibly have earned)

  • new life from the inside out –resurrection life just like He gave Christ
  • adoption into the Royal Family right alongside His Son that will go on forever
  • projects and opportunities to be extensions of His love to others while we are here on earth

Don’t forget, we have nothing to be proud of in and of ourselves!  Everything we are and have we owe to God’s generous heart.  All He asks of us is that we trust Him –living as though everything He says and does is good.

———–

For generations God had revealed Himself primarily to a particular group of people –the Jews.  They had a special relationship with Him.  The rest of mankind was “on the outside” and it was as if there was a wall between the two.

But, in this new era, made possible by what Christ accomplished on the cross, God has invited one and all to come to Him humbly, through the cross –not through a system of rules and regulations like the old covenant had.

In this new arrangement

  • all of us (Jew or Gentile) are on equal footing
  • we all have the same kind of access to God Himself because we all have the same Spirit
  • God considers us all to be His children – we really are one big happy family
  • in some mysterious way as we fit into each other’s lives we become a unique “temple” for God to fill with Himself

Even though God had this in mind all along it’s been hidden ever since creation.  So I’m sure you can imagine how honored (and humbled) I am to get to be the one to share this “secret” with all of you!  It’s a privilege I’m more than willing to suffer for –including this prison!  The idea that all mankind can be equal partners in God’s promises and have access to and enjoy confident friendship with Him is so mind-boggling even the angels stand in awe of the complex wisdom of God.  I’m speaking, of course of the ultimate mystery –the Church- where it all comes together.

What a God!  What a “father’s heart!”  Approaching a God like that I pray specifically for you . . .

  • that each and every one of you will feel the presence and power of His Spirit deep inside your souls –strengthening, encouraging, revealing
  • that the more you trust Him the more you’ll sense Him (Christ Himself) living in you
  • that the more you (in happy fellowship with your Christian brothers and sisters) discover and live in His inexhaustible love the more you will experience yourselves being filled to overflowing with God Himself.

How can this possibly happen?  Only by Him who by His power within us is able to do far more than we ever dare to ask or imagine.  As this great plan for Jesus and the Church comes together all creation will stand in awe and wonder at God’s glorious perfection.   For ever and ever, amen!

———–

Alright, so with all that in mind, let me tell you what God wants to do with your life.  Remember, I am in prison because of this message.  It does affect your lifestyle!  And it should!!  Imagine the honor and privilege of being personally related to the Supreme Being of the universe!  What a calling!  So . . .

1. Accept life with humility and patience, making allowances for each other because you love each other.

2. Believe that you share the same Spirit together with all who believe and you will inevitably be at peace with one another.

This kind of unity isn’t something you have to make happen.  Look at everything we have in common:

    • as I just mentioned, we all belong to one “body,” indwelt by one Spirit,
    • we all experienced the same calling to the exact same hope.
    • we have only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, one Father of us all, who is the one over all, the one working through all and the one living in all.

True, there are differences among us –God has gifted different ones to do unique tasks.  But all the “gifts” come from the same Person and are for the single purpose of helping the whole Church develop into a healthy unit –a “body” doing everything the “head” wants it to do (coordinated and functional).  This body grows only as the relationships (joints) between the “body parts” are strong and faithfully supplying what each other needs.

  3. Remember how bad the “old life” was

    • cut off from the life of God
    • desensitized in your conscience
    • constantly looking for new ways to find pleasure no matter how perverted

   4.  Since you’ve heard Christ’s voice and He has helped you understand the Truth

    • think of the old life like a filthy set of work-clothes you’ve taken off and thrown away
    • see yourself wearing a perfectly clean outfit –made of the same material as Christ
    • now you’re free from any need to deceive or lie –we’re all in this together
    • you can let anger go instead of allowing the devil to stir things up
    • you’ll be working hard to have money to give away rather than stealing
    • your conversations can be peppered with encouragement instead of foolish, cutting remarks
    • you cooperate with the Spirit who was given to you
    • no more resentment, violence, bursts of anger, slander or malicious remarks  -now you can be kind, gracious, and as forgiving toward others as God has been to you through Christ
    • not sure what to do in some situation?  imitate God the way children copy their fathers
    • live out the generous, sacrificial love Christ extends to you in all your relationships
    • you don’t have to be seduced by sexual immorality of any kind
    • you no longer are obsessed with wishing you had what others had
    • nastiness, silliness or flippancy are gone because you live with a sense of all you owe to God for His goodness to you

Don’t be fooled by the people around you who live “in the dark.”  They think they’ve got the good life –immoral, dirty-minded and covetous all the while missing out on the truly good life.  They are proud of getting away with things but their lives are empty and aimless.  Instead of getting in on the glorious inheritance God planned they face eternity away from everything good.  Don’t have anything to do with them or their darkness.

As you “live in the light” your lives will expose the emptiness of the old way of life.  And, you’ll experience God’s pleasure as you live this way.  God may even use your life as a wake-up call for those poor folks “sleeping in the dark.”

    • now that you know why God made you, live purposefully
    • use every minute wisely even when the going gets tough
    • don’t drift, do what you know God wants done
    • you’ve seen drunk people under the influence of alcohol, drink deeply of the Spirit so you’re under His influence
    • sing for joy because of all God has done  -make up songs just for God –sing them to Him!
    • gratitude should define you
    • fit in to one another –a healthy, mutual submission to each other

5.  Wives, for you this new way of life means that you graciously take your place “under” your husbands the way the Church fits “under” Christ, looking for His direction.  He’s responsible before God for your well-being so honor him in that role.

6.  Husbands, that means you play the role of Christ –sacrificing yourself for your wife, devoted to her well-being, protecting, providing and enhancing her beauty –because that’s what Christ is doing right now for us, His “bride.”  Love, true love, should govern your attitude toward your wife.

7.  Children, you’ll demonstrate the new life by quickly and gladly obeying your parents.  As you do this you show that you really believe the promise God made in the Ten Commandments:  ‘Honor your father and your mother, that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth.’

8.  Fathers, be careful as you train your children that you don’t over-correct them or confuse them with double standards.  Carefully think through what they need to learn and faithfully explain God’s ways to them.

9.  Employees, obey your bosses sincerely with a proper sense of respect and responsibility.  Picture yourself working for Christ and work hard not so that you’ll be noticed by people around you but because you fully expect God to reward you.

10. Employers, be as conscientious and responsible towards those who serve you as you expect them to be towards you, neither misusing the power over others that has been put in your hands, nor forgetting that you are responsible yourselves to a heavenly Employer who makes no distinction between master and man.

                                                             ———–

A few more words as I conclude this short letter:

Learn how to get your inner strength right from the Lord.

This is vital because we are in a fierce war, not just coasting into Heaven.  We have a vicious enemy who is organized and determined to undermine every good thing God has planned.  Yes, even though we can’t see them they are running much of what goes on in our world from their evil headquarters.

God has provided everything you need to take your stand against this unseen power.  Check this list and don’t skip over any piece.  Wear them like bullet-proof armor.

    • Integrity –governed by honesty in all your words and actions
    • Right living –doing the right thing even when no one is watching
    • Peace –extending peace/reconciliation wherever you go, living out of the inner peace He gives you
    • Trust –leaning fully on the promise of God’s salvation and all that comes with it
    • Scripture –immerse yourself in His Word so you’ve got His ideas and His authority
    • Trust –quenching the enemy’s taunts with your confidence that God is good
    • Prayer –alert and persistent in lifting up all who are in this battle.

In closing I ask that you pray for me.  I want to be fearless and faithful in sharing the good news even while I’m in chains.

BENEDICTION:

God the Father and the Lord Jesus send their peace and love.

God’s amazing grace flows in all those who sincerely love our Lord Jesus Christ*.

 

 

*this is, in fact, the ultimate reason God created the universe and put this marvelous plan together –to give us the pleasure of participating in the “love-community” that was the Godhead from all eternity.