Have this mind

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
(Philippians 2:4-5)

Hey everyone, thanks to those who have been writing for me lately. I really appreciate it. Right now my family is pretty heavily involved in care-giving. Mom has Alzheimer’s. We ask for your continued prayers as we go through this journey with her. It certainly takes a big team to help with care-giving. Please pray for my dad, this is very hard to watch your wife of 50 years go through this. Please pray for my brother and me and our families as we work together to find the best solutions for mom.

I know there are many others reading this who have been through this or are going through it right now. You understand.

The above passage from Philippians hits home even more as we think about all working together as a team to care for someone. Mindset is everything.

If anyone spent two minutes with our mom, they would know right away that this mindset from Philippians 2 is what defines her life. May this mindset be in us, too as we care for her.

One Word To Improve Your Marriage

It is one of the great blessings one can enjoy: marriage.  Yes, marriage is a good thing.  Marriage is from God, Genesis 2:23-24.  Marriage is a great blessing, Proverbs 5:15-19;  Ecclesiastes 9:9.   Marriage is to be a life long commitment, Matthew 19:4-6.

Sadly, there are those who are married who would not describe their marriage as a blessing, but instead as a curse.  Unfortunately, many marriages (even in the church) will end up in divorce.  That shouldn’t be.  How can our marriages be the way God wants them to be?  If you had one word to tell a new couple to remember as they begin their marriage, what word would you want them to remember?  Maybe words like “love” or “selfless” or even “forgiveness” come to mind.  Those are all great words and should be a part of every marriage.  But there’s another one I want us to consider: ETERNITY.  Have you thought about how thinking more about eternity will have an impact on our marriages?  As we think about our marriages, we need to be thinking about eternity.  Specifically, we need to remember the following:

Your spouse is made in the image of God.  They too were made in the image of God, Genesis 1:26.  Therefore, they are unique and important in the eyes of God.  This may feel like a “Duh” kind of point, but I think in the process of time we can fail to view our spouses correctly.  We can begin to see our spouses more superficially and fail to focus on the fact that they have a soul.  Remember they are made in God’s image.  Treat them right, Matthew 7:12.

God wants us to help our spouse go to heaven.  A husband and wife should be so concerned about the other because they are made in the image of God, that they will do hard things because they want their spouse to go to heaven, 1 Peter 3:1-7.  The sad reality, however, is that I’ve seen couples not help but rather hinder each other.  How often do you think a husband or wife is thinking about eternity as they contemplate committing adultery, forsaking the assembly, or are filled with bitterness?  Let’s do all we can to help our spouse to go to heaven.

God wants us to be in heaven too.  How we treat our spouses will have spiritual consequences for us, 1 Peter 3:7.  Let’s be wise and remember what’s at stake.  I realize we can’t control our spouses.  We can’t force them to do anything.  A person’s spouse may not do right.  But we can control ourselves.  Even if they aren’t thinking about eternity, we can!  What does God see when He looks at our marriages?  Let’s be sure He sees love, mercy, forgiveness, and us thinking about eternity.

Their First Love

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
(Revelation 2:4)

Ephesus would have been considered by most of us as a “sound church.” From the outside they were doing all the right things. They were facing persecution and standing firm against the devil. The congregation would not tolerate false doctrine and were testing any teacher to make sure the things said were directly from God. They were patiently enduring for Christ, but Christ said that they were about to lose their fellowship with Him. He was going to remove their lampstand from its place. They were in need of repentance!

Why? Because they had left their first love. Maybe if we were in Ephesus we would be shocked to hear these words from Jesus. We are doing all the right things, why would Jesus tell us to repent? They were doing works, indeed, but Jesus said they were not doing the “first works.” Whatever they were like before, they were not like that now. On the outside all appearances looked like this was a strong, Bible-teaching congregation. But to Jesus, He saw a congregation that was now going through the motions. The love they had at first was not there anymore.

This is true in churches, organizations, marriages, sports teams, etc. At first the fire is there. We know our “why.” A young couple is just full of energy, love, passion and all things are new! But after time, years, struggles, pain, stress, busy-ness, etc., the couple just starts going through the motions. That couple may even seem to many others like they have a great marriage, but to each other they know the “first love” is not there anymore. What happens in marriages, teams, businesses, and churches is that we forget where we came from and how we were when we got started.

We have to get back to those beginnings! Jesus told the church at Ephesus to “repent.” But how is that done? He told them to, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” Remember. Do the first works.

For a married couple it may mean going out on dates again. Getting out the wedding videos and watching them. Do you have those old love letters in a box somewhere? Read them. Remember when?

For Ephesus, they could do the same thing. They could get out the old love letters and read them again. There was this great letter called “Ephesians” sent to them by Paul decades before. It’s time to get that letter out and dust it off. Read the first half of Ephesians and you will rekindle the old flames once again. Remember what it was like when Jesus saved you from your sins and covered you in His grace and His blood. Remember where you came from. Think of the newness, fire and zeal you had when you were a new Christian. It’s time to get back to the beginning, back to the basics. Read the old love letters and rekindle the fire.

Are We Like Shem and Japheth?

Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.” He also said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.” After the flood Noah lived 350 years.
(Genesis 9:20-28)

I listened to a sermon recently where the preacher was talking about covering one another in grace and love. The speaker referred to the above passage from Genesis when Shem and Japheth “covered” their father. Look at the lengths to which those two sons went to cover their father. They took a blanket, walked backward into the tent, and covered their father so that they would not see his nakedness. The other son, Ham, exposed his father’s shame, but the other sons tried to cover it.

How eager are we to “cover” one another in grace, love, mercy and forgiveness? Or on the flip side, are we like Ham in the tent mocking and spreading the word about another’s shame?

Here are some other passages for our meditation today. May we have the spirit of Shem and Japheth.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
(1 Peter 4:8)

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.
(Proverbs 10:12)

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
(Proverbs 17:9)

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
(James 5:19-20)

Remember When?

Today, I would like for us to consider two passages of Scripture where God calls us to our former days. Remember When? This is a great exercise for a church, for individuals and for married couples. It’s time to revisit how we used to be, what we used to feel like, and what our perspective was back then.

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.
(Hebrews 10:32-36)

These Christians were about to give up and go back to Judaism in order to avoid the persecutions they were facing. They were just done, and they were tired and discouraged. Sadly, some just wanted to quit. This is a very real situation for many Christians, many churches and many marriages. What does the Hebrew writer ask them to do? Remember what it was like when you first became a Christian? Do you recall what you felt like? How did you feel about living for Jesus, even when you were being persecuted for it? What happened to that fire and that enthusiasm? It’s time to go back to the beginning like you were on the honeymoon with Jesus.

Here’s another passage in which Jesus is speaking to the church of Ephesus. They were “doing” everything right, but they were about to lose their fellowship with Jesus. Why? The love they had at first was gone. As one writer said, “They were gun barrel straight on doctrine but without any gun powder in the bullets.” What does Jesus say is the remedy? Go back to the beginning. Get back to your roots. Remember what it was like when you first became a Christian?

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
(Revelation 2:1-7)

I think those of us who are older should spend more time just listening and observing those who are younger. Instead of constantly being in teacher mode, maybe we as the teachers need to be the students. Those young Christians have a lot of zeal and idealism, and we would do well by remembering what it was like when we were that on fire for Jesus. Instead of accusing them of being young, arrogant and idealistic, maybe we could get stirred up again by working with them.

It might be that we observe a young married couple that is just gushing with love for one another. We can gag at that and make fun of it, or we can say to ourselves, “Remember when?” Maybe our romance, and idealism, and fire is gone and we need to do some rekindling. Instead of making fun of that young couple by telling them the “reality” of what’s coming, maybe we can rejoice with them and help bring our fire back once again.

Request. Response. Resolution.

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. 21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?“  She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”  22 But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with”  They said to Him, “We are able.”  23 So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”  24 And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said…   (Matt 20:20-25; NKJV)

Right after Jesus reveals His betrayal and death to the disciples, He is asked that seats of honor would be granted to two of them when Jesus comes into His kingdom.  As I said earlier, I don’t want to be too hard on these guys as we all find ourselves putting our foot in our mouths when we start thinking of ourselves first.  They were asking for the “chief seats” and I think we can get into this trap too.  It is not hard to understand why.  They see what it looks like with Roman and Jewish leadership…what the trappings of power look like.  They have been on the wrong end of things for their entire lives and now they have an opportunity to be on top.  So, through their own selfish lens, they (or should I say their mother) asks for what they want.  It is selfish and it is misguided but it is what they “wanted”.  We can make the same mistake.

Jesus responds by qualifying what they are asking.  Per the previous statement, He asks if they can endure the cup (signifying God’s wrath) and baptism He will have.  Of course, they are certain they can…though they don’t really know what they are saying.  Jesus knows and He tells them what will come to pass in the future as a result of their faithfulness but right now they can’t see past the “chief seats”.  James will drink the cup of martyrdom (Acts 12:2) and we know that many disciples of Jesus suffered a lot (even death) because of their faith.  In the moment, however, the brothers can’t see that and only want to be in a place of honor with the King…even if they don’t yet fully understand it.

The result within the immediate family (of the 12) was the other 10 becoming very displeased with the brothers.  I don’t know if they are upset because they didn’t think to ask first, because they understood what Jesus was saying of betrayal and death and were hurt these two would be so selfish or what exactly got under their skin.  The bottom line is, the brothers’ selfish behavior created division within the group and it is starting to boil over.  This is not uncommon even today.  If there is a brother who is acting selfishly or in a way that is not unifying the group, we can get upset and then we can start talking among ourselves and then we can let it boil over and great division takes place.  What we should do, however, is do what Jesus does.

This is one of my favorite images in the Bible.  As this disagreement begins to take place within the 12, what does Jesus do?  He calls them to Himself.  I picture a huddle and maybe even a group hug eventually.  But here, Jesus calls them together and He teaches for them all to learn.  That is the case with us…we all need to learn from our own and from others shortfalls and mistakes.  None of us are perfect and when another hurts us or wrongs us due to their selfish behavior…call them near and bring Jesus with you.  Talk about it, pray about it, love one another.  We all get off track and take our eye off the ball.  This will hurt when the consequence of this is against us.  But it will hurt a whole lot more if we lose a brother and we have a great example in our Savior of how to call each other close, learn from each other and love one another…God is glorified in that!

There is a lot going on in these verses but the visual in my mind from God’s word of Jesus putting His arms around His disciples, pulling them near and teaching them…redeeming them…loving them is one that brings joy, hope and peace to my heart today.  I hope it does the same for you and if you need to repent and draw someone close that you might have pushed away…do that today.  Ask for someone to help in that.  Jesus is waiting and will go too.

Let This Mind Be In You

This week scratched the surface on our growth towards shepherding and I hope it gave you some things to meditate on and pray about.

We are all a work in progress.  Growing up to being qualified to shepherd God’s flock is a lifetime investment and walk with Jesus.  What a blessing to have that opportunity.  To know Jesus and have Him as our example and to examine ourselves against His standard.

In 2012, South Macomb Church of Christ has a theme titled “Let This Mind Be In You” (Philippians 2:5).  The theme examined different mindsets to include Knowing Christ, Humble Service, Purpose, Like-mindedness, Citizenship, Contentment & Rejoicing, and Influence.  The bottom line in all of this was having a mind for loving and saving souls.

Take what we have talked about this week, what you have thought about and consider Jesus talking about Himself in the context of shepherding:

7 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.  11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10: 7-16)

Shepherds recognize that sheep are easily scattered when there are not shepherds to watch out for them.  We should have a heart for the souls of others that we do not want to do anything that would cause the sheep to be scattered.  Therefore, our actions will have concern to not harm the faith of the sheep.

To move your life toward being a shepherd means you are going to be a leader and make decisions for the good of the flock. You can and will have to do this now…no matter age.

Shepherding is not a passive work but a difficult work.

But your love for the flock and desire for the flock to not be scattered and injured will lead you to want to do this important work even though it is difficult.  Shepherding is not a title.  It is a work and a very important work.  The work you do today is important and taking time to reflect on your life and on your actions through the lens of Jesus bears fruit today and will bear fruit in the future.  Abide in Jesus and your life will come to reflect Him and you will be found qualified when called for service and shepherding of the flock.

If you are interested in hearing sermons from the 2012 Let This Mind Be In You, please visit this site: https://www.southmacombchurchofchrist.org/sermons/online-lessons?title=&y=2012&se=13&sv=0&sp=0

Hospitality

Hospitality is a word and concept we studied this morning in Bible class.  The Greek word for hospitality is “philoxenos” which means love (philos) strangers (xenos).  We considered many things during class in regards to what hospitality is, what our motivation should be towards hospitality, what prohibits us (or we allow to prohibit us) from being hospitable, who we mean when we say “strangers”, and several other shared thoughts and examples.  To cover all of it in this post would not be possible.  With that said, take time and read Romans 12 and Hebrews 13:2 and meditate on this idea of loving strangers.  Think about who a stranger is in your life…not just those in the world but who do you need to get to know better and show love towards within your church family?

For the remainder of this post, let’s look at 1 Peter 4:9 where we find the word philoxenos.  In chapter four of this book, Peter continues teaching Christians how to live in knowing that the end of all things is near and more specifically how to live “the rest of their time” …not in the flesh but in the will of God.  Peter first commands them to keep their minds clear and alert and be prayerful.  Next Peter tells them to have fervent love for each other noting that “love will cover a multitude of sins” (Proverb 10:12).

In verse nine, Peter directs Christians to demonstrate love by offering hospitality without grumbling, or begrudgingly or in a selfish manner.  In class, we discussed the different ways this might take place and even though we might think it is limited to what we might see as the standard today in terms of having people in our homes, visiting others, serving those in the community, etc.  But God is saying here through Peter is that we should be prepared to love and we should love with the gifts that God has given each individual.  That is the awesome part of the body…that its parts are different but put together are powerful.  Well, in this case, if the individual takes their gift and uses it in finding ways to and then loving a stranger…that is powerful too…and that is hospitality.

In Peter’s day, Christian hospitality in great need of and could be a great burden.  Many Christians were forced to flee in persecution which often meant traveling without much to take care of themselves.  These refugees relied on brothers/sisters in Christ to share their homes, goods, food, etc. while hosting them as they traveled through to their destination.  This kind of hospitality could be risky.  It could have been that those sharing didn’t have much to begin with putting the host’s family at risk of running out themselves.  Those hosting could be taken advantage of if the stranger(s) they were inviting in were not who they thought they were.

Still, Peter reminds his readers—and us—that is how family loves each other. It’s part of our purpose as God’s set-apart people. We should embrace the opportunity to give that kind of sacrificial love, instead of offering such hospitality reluctantly.

We could spend a week or two thinking about all the different ideas we covered today in class and maybe we will in the future.  But for today, take 1 Peter 4:9, Romans 12, and Hebrews 13:2 and read them, pray about them.  Take stock of what you are already doing and more, ask God to help move you out of your comfort zone, identify even more opportunity to love strangers, look within your brethren first, and love.  God loved us first when we were strangers to Him because of sin.  There is our example and motivation.  Loving like Him will encourage, reflect the gospel, and provide opportunity for growth in you and in others.

Stand Still–Stand Firm

David writes in Psalm 18 about the words he sang on the day God delivered him from all his enemies and the hand of Saul.  David writes:

1 I will love You, O Lord, my strength.  2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold3 I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.  (Psalm 18:1-3; NKJV)

Peter, after being arrested for preaching the gospel and speaking to the Sanhedrin says of Jesus… 11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12; NKJV)

I thought of these verses in thinking about what kind of husband and father to my daughter I want to be.  There are a lot of different challenges to being a good Godly husband and father.  One of the most challenging for me is to know what the right thing is to do for my wife or my daughter at any given time.  What I want to do is rescue them from whatever is troubling them.  I want to be the knight in shining armor, the fixer, the “man”.  But I will tell you, this approach often has unforeseen consequences and the disappointment I feel when I get it wrong is crushing at times…and if nothing else confusing and can lower my confidence in myself and what God wants me to do.  In the worst case, I get angry and blame my wife or my daughter for not getting me or appreciating me…me, me, me.

What I think about in this context about these verses is this.  If I believe that God is my rock, my fortress, my stronghold and His Son Jesus is the chief cornerstone of my salvation, then I need to stand upon that Rock and be strong for my wife and my daughter.  If I holdfast to God and receive from Him the love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, longsuffering, strength, peace…if I get all these spiritual blessings and more from Him and know that He is with me and will not forsake me…then I am free to just stand there or said another way I am free to just “be there”.  As I stand solidly on my faith and demonstrate the firm ground under my feet in Jesus, my wife and my daughter will take notice.

Standing on solid ground, I can be there for them to lean on when they need me.

Standing on the Rock of Jesus, I can stand firm if they need to climb up, lay down, and rest or just get a hug or a warm touch.

Standing firm in God, I can be an example they can look to or point to in difficult times and be encouraged.

If I am standing with Jesus, I will be what God wants me to be for my wife and my daughter.  It isn’t about what I am getting from my wife or my daughter, but what I get from my Abba Father and Elder Brother that matters.  When I get that spiritual strength through faith and abiding in Jesus, I then can give of myself in a way that is most beneficial to my wife, my daughter and my family.

Sounds crazy, but give it a try.  The next time things are going crazy, the house is hectic, there is more to be done than hands to do it…just stand still with Jesus and holdfast to Him as you hold onto her and that will make an eternal difference.

Friendship

The relationship between David and Jonathan is one of the great friendships in the bible. I Samuel 20 provides some of the clearest insight into the nature and depth of their relationship. Verse 17 says, “Jonathon made David vow again because of his love for him, because he loved him as he loved his own life.”

In chapter 20, David fears for his life and is hiding from King Saul. Jonathan sets out to verify that Saul indeed wants to kill David and they establish a code so that David will know whether he needs to run or if he can return to the city. Jonathan goes out for target practice and tells the lad that the arrows are “beyond you” signaling to David that he needs to run and hide.

In order to truly appreciate the next scene, we have to consider David’s life to this point. He was the youngest brother, relegated to watching sheep. He was told he would be the next king of Israel but there was no clear timing to when this would take place. David had a mighty victory over Goliath and was propelled to national fame. He was brought into the King’s court, only to be looked at with suspicion and envy. King Saul jerked David around with marriage proposals, eventually giving him his daughter Michal, with one condition. David had to bring 100 foreskins of the Philistines, a plan designed to get him killed. Saul continued to try and kill David resulting in a nighttime escape, leaving his bride behind him. During all this it seems that David behaved honorably, trying to serve God and trying to serve the king.

This brings us to I Samuel 20 when Jonathan, David’s best friend, confirms that his father wants to kill David. Verse 41 says, “When the lad was gone, David rose from the south side and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed three times. And they kissed each other and wept together, but David the more.” The chapter ends with “Then he rose and departed, while Jonathan went into the city.” This scene breaks my heart.

As far as I can tell, the only other interaction we have between Jonathan and David is in chapter 23 when David is hiding in Horesh and Jonathan comes to him and says, “Do not be afraid, because the hand of Saul my father will not find you, and you will be king over Israel and I will be next to you; and Saul my father knows that also.” Tragically, Jonathan never has the opportunity to serve beside King David.

There are a lot of lessons we can learn from this friendship but what is on my heart is very simple. What is the significance of a best friend? Do you have a Jonathan or a David in your life? Are you actively pursuing this kind of a relationship? What barriers do we put up to prevent this kind of relationship?

Jess MacArthur

Jason Dukes

Aaron Kemple

I’m blessed to have three men in my life that are developing into Jonathan/David relationships. We have history, we have trust, we have love. They are not afraid to tell me when I’m messing up. They are not afraid to hold me accountable. They are always there to encourage me, strengthen me, and lift me up. And no matter how much time goes by between conversations, we pick right back up where we left off. What is the key to developing these relationships?

It is not a common love of football or movies. It is not similar career interests or family connections. In I Samuel 20 verse 42, Jonathan says to David, “Go in safety, inasmuch as we have sworn to each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord will be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants forever.” The Lord is between us. We all share a love for the Lord and have an unspoken oath to help each other in His service. I thank God daily for putting these men in my life.

My encouragement for today is to embrace the relationships around us. We need to let our guard down and let people in. If you have a Jonathan/David, let them know how much you appreciate them. Be brave, reach out to someone and tell them you desire this kind of relationship. Life is hard, Satan is real, and God has designed us to work together.

For an extended study on David please listen to this excellent lesson from Andy Cantrell. He makes a different and powerful application.

https://www.lakeviewchurchofchrist.org/player/509