Showing posts with label Relationships. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Relationships. Show all posts

Monday, February 13, 2023

Philippians: Timothy and Epaphroditus


STOP — Philippians 2:19-30


Paul was in prison, but he still wanted to maintain contact with the churches he helped start. He told the Philippians that he wanted to send Timothy to them to let them know how Paul was getting along. Paul commends Timothy for his faithfulness to the Gospel and his commitment to Paul. The plan was to send Timothy to them after the decision about Paul was made, and Paul was hopeful that he could travel and see the Philippians after he was released.

Since it could be a while before those visits could happen, Paul decided to send Epaphroditus back to Philippi. Epaphroditus carried the letter and care package to Paul from the Philippians. He had been a great help to Paul in prison, even risking his life since he got sick in the process. Paul wanted the Philippians to receive him back with the knowledge that he accomplished his task and then some.


Faithfulness and commitment are essential to the life of a disciple.


  1. Paul knew that the Philippians were interested in how things were going with him, so he had the plan to send Timothy to them. It is important that we do what we can to keep the lines of communication open.
  2. Timothy set himself apart from other people because of his commitment to the Gospel. In Philippians 2:1-4 Paul wrote about the importance of not looking after your own interests, but also to consider the interests of others. Here, Paul commends Timothy for having that type of attitude.
  3. Face to face time is crucial to relationships. Paul desired to go and see the Philippians again, and he was confident that God would allow that to happen.
  4. Epaphroditus was the letter carrier from the Philippians to Paul. He did more than just carried the letter, he joined in Paul’s work when he arrived. He proved to be a great help to Paul.
  5. In his decision to carry the letter and help Paul, Epaphroditus put his life on the line when he got sick. We don’t know the risks that lay ahead of us, all we can do, like Epaphroditus, is to be faithful in the calling that is right before us.
  6. Paul saw that it was God’s mercy that heal Epaphroditus of his illness and kept Paul and the Philippians from experiencing the distress of his death.
  7. We should honor those people who put their lives on the line for the Gospel.


Lord God, help me to follow the example of Timothy and Epaphroditus, who were faithful to the Gospel and committed to their friend Paul.

Tomorrow: Philippians 3:1-6

Monday, February 6, 2023

Philippians: Continued Prayers

STOP — Philippians 1:7-11

Paul continued to explain to the Philippians why he is grateful for them and why he has so much affection towards them. They have partnered with him through out his ministry, including his imprisonment. Paul let them know that his pray for them is for their love will grow through the wisdom and discernment that God gives. They need this so they can be spiritually mature and ready for the return of Jesus.

It is crucial we continue on with spiritual formation so we can be ready for the return of Jesus.

  1. Relationships are very important. Apparently, Paul was held in high regard in Philippi and they had helped him throughout his ministry. Paul was touched by there care and generosity and he admired their faith in proclaiming the Gospel. Both Paul and the Philippians valued the relationship they had with each other.
  2. The Philippians responded to the Gospel, not only by receiving Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but also dedicating their lives to proclaiming the Gospel. Part of the dedication is seen in their support of Paul and his ministry.
  3. Paul not only prayed for the Philippians, but he let them know what his prayer was for them. He prayed that they would experience spiritual formation as their love grew. This growth was due to an increased wisdom, understanding, and discernment about who God is and His will for their lives.
  4. The way we can be filled with righteousness is to have our love for God and people grow. We cannot grow in righteousness if we are not growing in love.
Heavenly Father, may Paul’s prayer for the Philippians be true for me. I want my love to grow as the result of having a better understanding of your truth.

Tomorrow: Philippians 1:12-20

Friday, January 6, 2023

Spirit-Guided Sexuality

 Yesterday I listened to episode 1038 of Theology in the Raw: Good Sex, Bad Sex, and Marriage with Dr. Juli SlatteryThe discussion Preston Sprinkle had with Dr. Slattery reminded me of a post I had written back in 2010. I thought this would be a good excuse to update it and repost it.

According to the Bible there are two ways we can live our lives. We can let our lives be guided by the flesh or we can let our lives be guided by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). 

In this passage we notice that the Apostle Paul made it clear that when our flesh is in control then sexual immorality will be a result. On the other hand, when the Holy Spirit is our guide, he will help us keep sex a scared part of our lives.

When the Bible talks about flesh, it is not just talking about our physical desires. Flesh is bigger than our bodies. It also encompasses the entire corrupted world system that we live under. This helps explain why sex seems to be everywhere, and this constant exposure to sex causes us to forget God’s intended sacred place for sex in our lives. 

Sex, the way God designed it, is a wonderful blessing that brings intimacy and love into the covenant of marriage. When sex is brought outside of God’s design it becomes a source of complication and pain.

The writer of Hebrews wrote: Marriage is to be honored by all and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers (Hebrews 13:4; CSB). 

If we are going to hold marriage in honor then we need to renew our thoughts and desires surrounding marriage and sex. This requires that we break from the accepted cultural standards of sex and return to God’s standards. 

We cannot allow our flesh to guide our sexuality.

Our flesh firmly roots our lives into the things of this world. It causes us to crave things that are sensual, things that can be experienced by our five senses, and things that are self-centered. 

Since the flesh is selfish, it will distort the cravings we have for the good things God has given. This leads to developing an unhealthy desire for God’s blessings. I think sex and food are two blessings God where we see this clearly happen. Our flesh gives us this selfish desire to consume and when we consume there are negative consequences to our bodies and souls.

The problem for you and me, even though we follow Jesus, is that we live in a world gone wrong, which means we are faced with the reality of a flesh dominated world system when it comes to sex. 

It is impossible to live in the world and not be effected by this reality. Things as innocent as love songs, chick flicks, and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue to culturally accepted things like 50 Shades of Grey, steamy movies, homosexuality, and pornography to disturbing things like child pornography, bestiality, and sadism declare the terrible truth that the sexuality of our culture has gone terribly wrong. When left unchecked our flesh will take us to places we never intended to go. 

This is why we can’t allow the flesh to lead any part of our lives, including our sexuality.

How do we break free from being led by the flesh?

The simple answer is that the Spirit must guide our lives. The apostle Paul wrote; I say, then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. (Galatians 5:16, 17; CSB). Paul is clear that if we don’t want to gratify the cravings of our flesh, then we need to let the Spirit guide our lives.

It is easy to say, “We need to let the Holy Spirit guide our lives,” but it is another thing to actually do it. Especially when we are unsure of what it takes to let the Spirit guide our lives.

When we read on in Galatians 5 we don’t find an explanation on how to be Spirit led. We do get two pictures.  In verses 19-21 Paul gives us a description of what it looks like to be lead by the flesh and in verses 22-23 Paul provides the image of what it looks like to be guided by the Spirit.

Since this is the case, let me offer three thoughts I have when it comes to being led by the Spirit.  

First, it requires that we offer our lives to God.  In Romans 12:1-2 we read; Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (CSB).  Through the act of sacrifice we acknowledge that our lives belong to God, and therefore they are to be lived by His will.  We reject what our flesh desires and seek to do what God wills.  We have to intentionally move away from the influences of the world and soak our minds and hearts in God’s Word.  If we don’t make this break we allow this world to give strength to our flesh.  

On the other hand, when we truly offer our lives to God and let our minds be renewed by Scripture we are able to resist the pull of the world’s philosophies and teachings. Even though we stand in the midst of the world, God will give us a discerning heart to know right from wrong and truth from deception. 

Not only do we need to give our lives to God, we also need to invite the Spirit into our hearts.  Colossians 1:9-10 has become a favorite passage for me.  The apostle Paul wrote; For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God (CSB).  Here we find Paul praying that the Colossians will by led by spiritual wisdom and understanding. I think Christian leaders should pray this prayer for the people we lead. On the personal level, it is important that we ask God to fill us with knowledge, wisdom, and understanding needed to live lives that honor Christ Jesus.  A life that honors Jesus is one that submits to God’s will in every area of our lives, including our sexuality.

Third, we need to love people.  Remember I said that the flesh is selfish.  It wants to consume and do what feels good.  To combat selfishness we choose to love people.  We ask God to give us eyes of compassion instead of eyes of lust and we choose to extend a helping hand rather than a groping hand. This is the way we discover that a meaningful life is greater than simply fulfilling our desires.  Love helps us move past the idea that others exist for our enjoyment to understanding that others exist to honor God.  It is this type of serving unconditional love that only comes from the work of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22).

Sexuality is too precious of a gift to allow our flesh to be our guide, because in its pursuit to consume pleasure the flesh ends up destroying the gift.  The Spirit leads us to place sex in a place of honor in our lives, and when sex is in its proper place we experience the enjoyment of sex the way God intended for us from the beginning.  

This won’t happen magically and it won’t happen just because we get married. Experiencing sex as a blessing requires that we intentionally surrender our lives to Jesus by sacrificing our lives to God, by inviting the Spirit to be our guide, and by committing ourselves to love people. Great sex happens, not because advice offered in some magazine, but because we live a Spirit-guided life.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

More than a Personal Relationship

God deals with people through the use of covenants. 

Carl Ketcherside in his book The Death of the Custodian wrote:
The fact is that God has chosen to relate to man on the basis of covenants. He is a covenant-making God. No one who ignores this fact will ever grasp God’s plan and purpose in any age. (p. 15)
I want to throw this idea out to you: We have a covenant relationship with God and not just a personal relationship with God. 
Yes, I understand that marriage is a covenant relationship, and you can't get a more personal relationship than marriage. 

Just like marriage, the covenant God established with us through Jesus creates a personal relationship. At the same time it sets apart a covenant people for Him. 
1 Peter 2:9 reminds us:
But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God’s holy nation, his own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light (NLT).
Christians are a chosen people, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. 

We have a personal relationship with God, but that personal relationship is lived out in the context of community. We are in this together. Which means we have a responsibility to and for each other. None of us should try to walk the journey of faith alone. It is crucial that we help each other as much as possible because our lives are linked through Jesus.

I bring this up because I think our focus on a “personal” relationship with God sidetracks us from what God has really called us to be—a covenant people. 

Leon Morris in The Atonement wrote:
It mattered intensely to Old Testament Israel that the nation was in covenant relationship with the one and only God. All its thinking and living revolved around this fact. (p. 22)
Israel is not a great example of covenant faithfulness, but I still wonder what the church would be like if our thinking and living revolved around the reality that we are in a covenant relationship with God. 

Knowing that we are in a covenant relationship with God, that extends beyond our personal relationship with Him, leads us to consider other people. We become responsible for helping, encouraging, forgiving, and teaching one another, because that is God expectation for His people.

Galatians 6:1-3 (NLT):
Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.
Let this be the description of our lives as we live in a covenant relationship with God that is both personal and communal. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Assume the Best

Why is it that we want to believe the worst about other people?

It seems like humans have a tendency to attribute bad motives to the things people do and to believe the negative things we hear about people.

I think one reason is why we do this is because it is an easy way to feel better about ourselves.  

All of us have our own issues that we struggle with, those things that we would like to change about ourselves. When we hear about a person making a positive change or impact we become envious of their success. Rather than celebrating their success, we look for ways to tear them down (even if we would never verbally say anything).

This means when we hear something negative about someone else we secretly feel better about our situation, because we tell ourselves that they are not as good as they seem. 

Believing the worst about people helps us feel superior to them.

This is a terrible thing to do.

One reason it is terrible is because life is not a competition. Someone else’s success doesn’t diminish who I am one bit. We should be able to rejoice with those who achieve success and experience good things in life. 

The opposite is also true, someone else’s struggle doesn’t make us any better of a person. We should be able to empathize with people who are struggling because we have our own set of struggles.
Matthew 7:12 (NIV)
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Another great reason why we should assume the best about other people is because that is how we would like to be treated. When we stumble and fall we don’t want people thinking the worst about us. Rather, we want people to be sympathetic to our situation.

Remember, our failures aren’t always the result of sin on our part. 

Sometimes our failure is due to life circumstances. We fail to keep a promise because we had some sort of an emergency that prevented us for doing what we said we would do. 

There are other times when we are in the midst of making progress in overcoming some bad habit, and we have a moment of weakness and slip into our old behavior. Focusing on the failure overlooks the progress we have made.

There is one more reason why we should be generous and assume the best about other people: people are mean.

It could be that what we hear about another person isn’t even true, that it was made up be someone to discredit our friend.  If we cannot verify whether or not the story is true, we should trust our friend’s character.

Divisions happen in families, teams, organizations, and churches because people tend to believe the negative about each other. As followers of Jesus we should break that tendency and assume the best about one another. 

All of us are in the process of becoming better people and what we need is encouragement, rather than condemnation, along the way.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Discipleship Happens in Community

Change is hard.

We grow comfortable with the way things are, so when our circumstances or our environment changes it can be hard to accept.

Change is also hard when we want to make changes.

We convince ourselves that we are in control, but when we seek to make a change in our lives, we discover that we have engrained habits that are hard to break.

This raises two important questions:

What is the process of change?
How can I become the person I desire to be?

I have tried to change but it seems I have made little progress. It seems that the same sins and struggles that plagued my life five years ago still haunt me today. I have tried writing out a plan, enlisting the help of others, and just gritting my teeth as I try to "white knuckle" it through. 

Nothing seems to work.

When we feel like we are making little progress presents a huge problem for the Christians. 

Why is it a problem for a Christian? 

It is a problem because a lack of progress leads to discouragement, and discouragement leads to people giving up.

One of the keys to change is to know all our effort is making a difference. When we are able to see progress we begin to feel like there is hope for transformation after all.

Hope is crucial for the success of change.

There is nothing more discouraging in our journey of faith than feeling like we faking the whole thing. 

We compare our lives to the Christians we know and it seems like they have thing together, and so we come to believe that we are doing something wrong. While these people are the real deal, we are just imperfect copies.

How do we help people to change?

I believe part of the solution, especially when it comes to spiritual formation, is discipleship. 

Discipleship is not about adding another class or series of classes that explain church doctrine or what is expected from church membership. It is also not about handing people a list of "spiritual" disciplines that they need to add to their lives (though disciplines do play part in discipleship).

Discipleship requires community. We need to have a group of people who model Jesus’ love for one another, encourage each other, and help one another. While change is ultimately is a personal decision, it has a better chance of success when other people are involved.

One of the failings of the Western church has been a lack of discipleship. 

There are many reasons for this, but at the top of the list focus on the Sunday worship event. A lot of time and money are put into producing a large event that hopefully draws a crowd, but there is little intentionality that is put on making disciples. The one answer churches continue to come back to is that discipleship happens in small groups.

As wonderful as Sunday morning worship and a once a week small group are, they are not enough to bring transformation to the lives of people. This is one of those places where the values of the culture are going to go against the values of the Kingdom.

Americans tend to fill every waking moment with activity, but for Christians we need to slow down and work into our lives time to spend with people. 

I know that this is not easy to do. As a pastor I know people need a spiritual community that is integrated into their way of life. This cannot be programmed to fit into their schedules. It needs to be an organic thing that emerges from the desire to be in fellowship with God and people. We are talk about real relationships that encourages faith, that challenges beliefs, and provides opportunities to love others.

The bottomline is that change is next to impossible because we try to go it alone. We need the encouragement that comes from a loving community for transformation to become a reality.

Discipleship is the key to change, and discipleship happens within the context community.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Be a Praying Boyfriend

In our culture the way we find a marriage partner is through dating. This whole ritual of boyfriends
and girlfriends is littered with potential pitfalls, which means that very few people escape the process unscathed. Many of us carry the scars and broken hearts of dating relationships gone bad. Some of those wounds we received while dating will be with us the rest of our lives.

Because dating is so dangerous it is essential for Christian guys to approach dating with wisdom, guidance, and love. Guys, please remember that you are not out on a great hunt trying to find meat for supper, but you are in pursuit of a life partner who you can love, cherish, and lead. Dating, as exciting as it is, is also a huge responsibility.

As you date you need to keep in mind that the girlfriends that you have are, first and foremost, daughters of God. If you are a Christian, this means you have the responsibility to help her mature in faith, to encourage her to use her talents in ministry, and not to become an obstacle as she follows Jesus.

In other words you need to hold her life as a sacred trust for as long as she is a part of your life. Her life is not yours to use however you want or to destroy. You are responsible for protecting her as long as she is in your care.

As a Christian, your dating experiences cannot be all about fun, but they also need to be about mutual encouragement as both of you grow in faith. I believe that it is the man who is to lead the relationship in this aspect. If you are not leading your girlfriend spiritually it is your responsibility to stop dating until you are spiritually mature enough to lead.

How do you go about leading your girlfriend spiritually? You begin to lead your girlfriend though prayer. I don’t mean some wimpy little prayer that many people like to pray: “God, I would just like to ask that You will just be with my girlfriend and just grow her spiritually…”

I am afraid that such a prayer isn’t going to do too much. You see prayer doesn’t start with the words you say during prayer, but it starts with your motivation for praying. For your prayers to be effective you have to believe that God hears your prayers, and that He has your best interests at heart. Prayer also has to become important enough to you that you set aside time to pray each and every day. If you are just praying to mark “prayer” off our religious to do list, well then your prayers aren’t going to accomplish much.

When it comes to praying for your girlfriends you have to answer the question: “Do I want my girlfriend to grow in her relationship with God?”

Don’t be so quick to answer that question. The quick Sunday School answer is, “Yes, I do!”

I think you need to stop and consider some of the potential consequences of your girlfriend maturing in her faith.
  • What if God shows her that the next step in her journey of faith is to break up with you? Would you be okay with that?
  • What if God uses her to bring up issues in your life that you would rather remain hidden? Would you be okay with that?
Your prayers will be more effective when you can honestly say, “God whatever Your will is I surrender my life to it.” Remember your will is not always the same as God’s will, that is why one of the purposes of prayer is to help people align their wills with God’s will.

When it comes to praying for your girlfriend, I think it is important to remember that you need to pray for them with them. You need to pray for her during your quiet time of prayer, but you also need to hold her hand and ask God to bless and guide her. She needs to hear this because she needs to know that you want God’s will for her no matter what happens in your relationship. Make sure you set aside time on your dates to pray with her and for her.

I want to offer a word of caution. Do not do this in the early stages of your relationship. It could freak her out because she might think you rushing things. It could also create a false sense of intimacy that your relationship has not yet reached. Wait for the right time to start praying together, just as you would with holding hands and kissing.

With that being said I want to give you a few practical prayers that you need to pray for your girlfriend if you are going to help her grow spiritually.
  1. Pray that God will keep both of you on the same page. This has proved essential to me in the last three relationships that I had before getting married. In the two cases where the relationship ended, God revealed that truth to both of us. While there was sadness that accompanied the end of the relationship, we both knew that God wanted us to go our separate ways, and we were able to part on good terms. There is no way to avoid the pain of a break up, but with God’s wisdom and guidance we can make it sting a little less.
  2. Pray for the knowledge of God’s will. The apostle Paul at the beginning of his letter to the Colossians reveals his prayer for them; And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:9-10; ESV). Ask God to fill your girlfriend with a knowledge of His will that comes through spiritual wisdom and understanding. Remember the important thing in her life isn’t that she will become your wife, but that she will live a life that is worthy of Christ Jesus. This is such an important prayer for you to pray, not only for your girlfriend, but for everyone you pray for, because everyone is in need of God’s wisdom.
  3. Ask for her to be clothed in the Armor of God. The Armor of God is found in Ephesians 6:13-17. The apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6 that we are in a battle, a spiritual battle, and that means your girlfriend is out in the middle of battle field. Daily you need to ask God to put His armor on her. To do this you need to take time to walk through this passage and mention each specific piece of armor. The reason you need to pray this prayer is to help her to have the ability to stand firm in the face of the enemy’s attacks. This is also a prayer that I use for myself each day, I need to be clothed in God armor otherwise I will fall.
  4. Ask for God’s Kingdom to come into her life. This comes from the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:10). The way I use this prayer is to focus on God’s Kingdom and ask that she will be a part of it, and for His will to be done for her as it is in heaven. The best life that you can live is lived in accordance to God’s will, and so you want your girlfriend to know God’s will, and receive the strength and courage she needs in living out His will for her life.
  5. Thank God for the opportunity. Each relationship is a gift from God. This is especially true with romantic relationships. Thank God for bringing such a beautiful woman into your life. Because you are thankful, ask God to give you the wisdom and guidance you need to be an encouragement to her. A relationship with a beautiful Christian woman is a great blessing, so you need to thank God for that wonderful blessing. Like all blessings there is also responsibility, and that responsibility is to lead and encourage her in her walk with Jesus. In order to do that effectively you need God’s wisdom, and as James wrote (James 1:5) if you lack wisdom you need to ask God for the wisdom you need to spiritually lead the woman you call your girlfriend.
Dating is dangerous and it leads to a lot of wounds. That is why the wise Christian man will take the time to pray and invite God into the dating relationship that he is in. As single Christian man, you want to make the dating relationship a positive and encouraging experience that will help both of you to grow in your relationships with God. So if you are really serious about being a Christian boyfriend, you will be a boyfriend who prays.

The Spiritually Mature Life: Having the Fruit

On Sunday, April 7, 2024, I started a new sermon series at Bethlehem Church called A Spiritually Mature Life. This sermon series is focused ...