June 27, 2023
I learned this lesson early … the hard way. As a college pastor in my first church, I knew that if I was going to reach anyone in our community, I had to go to them. So I put on my double-knit polyester pants (it was 1971) and my Converse All-Star hightops and started walking through a rural part of my church field, going house to house.
I saw the junkyard dog in the yard, but he paid me no attention. I thought I was good right up to the point where he snuck behind me and attached his mouth to the back of my thigh. The old farmer I was talking to gave a spit of his chewing tobacco and dryly proclaimed, “She’s had all her shots,” as he ambled back into the house.
A VETERAN’S CAUTION
Paul was writing to the church at Phillipi from a prison cell. He’d been persecuted many times and was a ministry veteran. Notice the juxtaposition of two critical admonitions in one paragraph as he writes to the believers in Phillipi.
Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision. (Philippians 3:1-2)
“Rejoice … beware”. These seemingly contradictory words came out of his mouth in a breath. The presence of enemies didn’t bother him. He understood the battle he was in and the enemies he faced. He would later remind the Ephesian Christians that our battle as believers is not against flesh and blood, but against “the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12).
But although there are enemies in our lifelong battle, if we’re in Christ and armed with His resources, we can still be joyful and rejoicing.
But we must also be mindful. The word “beware” means to be cautious, watchful, and alert to danger. Don’t be caught off guard. Don’t walk into a situation naively thinking there are no enemies. Don’t think you’re waltzing through a field of clover when, in reality, it is a potential minefield.
I was talking with some folks recently who have been in the enemy's crosshairs in a major way. What seemed like a simple legal battle that could be easily disposed of became a vicious attack that could be explained no other way but the work of the demons of hell.
We live in a world where we see frontal attacks by the great Enemy of Christ. It’s not merely different viewpoints and opinions. We are confronted with battle lines that have existed from the beginning of time, and yet Satan is more direct now because the moral and spiritual walls are down. As Nehemiah said, “The gates are burned with fire.” Satan is in an all-out battle to abort the work of God and if you are a true follower, you are his greatest threat.
We can expect spiritual warfare. And, as Paul says, we must be prepared. The armor is available, and our greatest weapon is prayer (see Ephesians 6). But we must be ready at all times. That means every day.
But here’s an encouraging reminder from Paul. Keep rejoicing! It’s the great theme of the letter to the Philippians, and it carries great credibility because it was penned in a prison cell.
We must maintain our joy in the middle of our warfare. Your rejoicing is the greatest enigma to the Enemy and most profound witness to a watching world. The Acts believers were persecuted, yet they taught us this balance well …
They flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (Acts 5:40-42)
September 20, 2023
September 19, 2023
When you’re lifted up in pride or bowed down in discouragement, look at the stars. Every bright light reminds us that He is God and there is no other. The One who made the stars and knows them by name, made you. And you are of infinite worth to our Sovereign Creator.
“He made the stars also.”
August 31, 2023