It’s within reach …

As I peck on the keyboard for this post it is raining and thundering. Rain pattering on the roof is a calming sound. It always makes me smile. If you listen closely, rain never sounds quite the same way twice. It is a wonder each time.

Reading through Philippians is new each time as well. With each read, and re-read, there is something new to discover and apply. God’s Word is that way. It is a living and active Word (Hebrews 4:12). In Philippians chapter four you will find that truth re-affirmed.

In the final chapter of Philippians you will be encouraged, helped, and offered hope. See if you can spot where each those elements emerge. To aid you, here is an outline that divides the chapter into its main parts:

Each Christian should be:

  • Seeking unity in Christ: verses 1-5
  • Knowing peace in Christ: verses 6-9
  • Growing in strength in Christ: verses 10-13
  • Receiving provision from Christ: verses 14-20

This chapter has top-notch memory verses that offer blue-ribbon insight for daily living. Among them are:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

As you stroll trough the aisles of chapter four you will discover an abundance of truths ready to be taken in, pored over, and acted upon.

In the post on Tuesday, we will unpack some key verses in the chapter and begin applying what this great chapter shows us.

On a different note, as this is the last chapter in Philippians, and a new month begins soon, do you have suggestions as to what we might study together in March? We can study another short book in March, or spread a longer one over March and April. Please post your thoughts in the comment section and let’s find another book to walk through together.

I’m going to log off and listen to the rain now …

Shedding the past, pursuing the future …

We are at the midpoint of the book. The road we are on makes a sharp right, and uphill. Chapters one and two offered generic instruction and admonition. Chapters three and four shifts to specifics. The first word in chapter three, “finally,” begins that transition and cranks the steering wheel firmly to the right onto and by creating a higher road toward more specific principles for believers to grasp and grow in. For an exploration of this higher territory, we will use our outline for a map:

Believers should be:

Rejoicing: verse 1

We are to rejoice “in the Lord,” not in fleeting things such as ourselves, our stuff, or our situation. It is important to note that the Bible almost never mentions happiness. When it does it refers to a “blessedness,” or “blessed happiness,” that comes from knowing God and His Word, not from easy and fun times. Instead, the Bible focuses on joy and contentment. Both of those are rooted in Christ, trusting His promises, and walking with Him. Both of them endure, and they overcome circumstances.

Counting accurately: verses 2-11

  • Don’t count on yourself – 2-6

Paul describes for us that even through he was well-qualified to look inward for help or stability; he did not trust in his heritage, reputation, or himself. He counted on Christ. Before becoming a Christian Paul had an impeccable and impressive reputation as a zealous Pharisee and religious leader of his day, but apart from Christ it meant nothing. We cannot trust our religious heritage, or religious traditions, we must trust Christ. Do you have a religious tradition or experience that you hold onto more firmly than to Christ?

  • Do count on Christ – 7-11

There are some fascinating terms in these verses used to illustrate what Paul is saying in this section. While not present in English translations, the original language that Paul wrote in (Greek) uses accounting terms in verses 7. The term in verse seven for “gain” refers to a sizable profit by a businessman, and “loss” refers to a business that lost it profits, or ruin.

Paul knew that his reputation and religion apart from Christ equaled zero on the God’s spiritual ledger.

Paul could count his losses as gain because he saw what he had lost as something that could have been a barrier to knowing Christ and walking with him more intimately. The term for “knowing Christ” in verse 8 means more than having knowledge of (head knowledge), it means a relationship with experiential, intimate knowledge.

The word for rubbish is very specific, but not palpable term. It means manure or human waste. So, Paul was saying that he counted all that he left and lost as crap. Literally. He removed “crap” from his life so that he could know Christ better.

In verses 8 and 9 we see that we have more that forgiveness in Christ, we also have righteousness from and in Christ. The great news is that the righteousness of Christ is attributed to all who are in HIm by faith. This imputed righteousness is not one that we can attain or earn, it is granted to us in Christ by God’s grace. So, when God views you, He sees you as forgiven because of Jesus and clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. That demonstrates why we can have an eternal relationship and standing with God in Christ — it is all because of Who Jesus is and what He has done on our behalf!

Pressing on: verses 12-16

In these verses Paul uses specific Greek terms to make his point. He paints the picture of a sprinter exerting great effort and doing his best to reach the finish line. The word used by Paul for “pressing on,” has the idea of running hard and then stretching for the finish line.

In verse 13 he reminds us again not to rely upon ourselves, but to rely upon Christ and His Spirit for our growth.

One key to becoming more like Christ is outlined in verses 13. It has a two parts. First, we must forget the past. Those in Christ who are chained by their past are so because they choose to be (that sounds harsh, but it is biblical accurate). Christ sets us free completely from our past. To say that He does not is to say that He cannot. He offers forgiveness for and freedom from our past, all of it! Second, we must press on, which takes daily effort. Effort that is focused on reading His Word, praying, and living out what He teaches and directs us toward.

Watching: verses 17-19

Paul was an example, though he would admit, an imperfect one. We sometimes look to Christ who is perfect and can grow frustrated by our lack of growth. On the other hand, we can be encouraged to press on by the growth of a fellow flaw-ridden follower of Christ. We are to watch and learn from both.

Waiting: verses 20-21

All of this is possible because our Lord and Savior has made us children of God and citizens of His Kingdom. We look forward to the day when forgetting the past and pressing on toward growth in Him is no longer needed because we are with Him. As the old hymn says, “what a day that will be!”

Does this Bible verse make my butt look fat?

Has your spouse, or a friend, ever asked you this question: “Do these pants make my butt look … ?” Now, the correct answer to that question is, “the pants are a neutral party in this situation and innocent of all charges, they cannot make your butt look bigger than it is, or smaller than it is.” At least, that is the logical answer.

What do you say when someone you are close to asks a question that seeks an unvarnished answer? Unless you are both committed — and, you might want this in writing — to being absolutely truthful with each other, you will soon find yourself in a snare. Although the person appears to be after an honest answer, he/she will likely get mad if given one. Let’s peer into Proverbs 27 and see what says about this.

In Proverbs 27 the Bible outlines two things that a true friend does: a true friend wants the truth from you and will share the truth with you, even when it is arduous. This teaching swims upstream against how modern thought portrays what friendship, or a deep relationship, is like. We have been trained to think that we should always be encouraging, supportive, and uplifting to our friends. Those things are mostly true, most of the time.

However, a biblical friendship balances two elements on the fulcrum of God’s Word. Let’s examine those two elements:


“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” Ephesians 4:15

In this verse we learn that our growth in Christ is dependent upon two conditions: loving one another and speaking/teaching the truth to one another. Full stop here. This is critical. Love alone will not do it; speaking the truth alone won’t either. It demands both. For you and I to grow in Christ others must love us enough to teach us hard things, correct us, and hold us accountable (all functions of the truth).

Loving others and teaching/telling the truth to the might seem like two separate component, but they are not, they are intertwined. Ephesians 4:15 states them in a way that shows them working together. We are to speak/teach the truth lovingly, and love truthfully. We see this demonstrated over and over in the character, work, and teachings of Jesus:


“And the Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

John exclaims he saw the glory of God manifested in the Son of God. What did that glory look like: full of grace and truth. Both. Both balanced and fused in all that Jesus did and said. With Jesus it was not grace or truth. It was both, all the time.

That is a wordy intro, I know. But, it prepares us for what Proverbs 27 will teach us about the nitty-gritty of true friendship. Here are three verses in this chapter that instruct us on this:


“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Proverbs 27:5-6

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

These verses teach us vital truths about true friendship. They are contrary to today’s ideas of accepting and affirming each other as we are. These verses teach us that at times friendship invovles teeth-clenching and gut-churning actions. These verses teach us that genuine friendship requires pointed honesty, correction, and rebuke. If we do not care for each other enough to do those things then we are avoiding the kind of friendship that the Bible prescribes.

The reason type of friendship is necessary for Christians is because we cannot become more Christ-like through affirmation and encouragement alone. It requires the sort of sharpening described in verse 17. If you have ever sharpened a knife you know that the knife must be pressed against the file, or sharpening stone, for a sharp edge to be formed, then honed. It demands pressure and friction. Healthy friendships require the same, and welcome it.

In summary, for us to grow in Christ and aid others in doing so we must offer and receive honest and loving accountability, correction, and rebuke. The entire process of sharing the truth must be done so in love. These two elements enable us to help one another toward Christ-likeness.

By the way, there are other solid truths to lay hold of in chapter 27. Here are some of them, briefly stated:

  • Verse 1: Remember, we are to walk in humble faith because we are not in control.
  • Verse 2: We all want good things said about us, but let others say them.
  • Verse 4: Some reactions (anger, frustration) fade with time; the embers of jealousy glow redder every day.
  • Verse 19: What we think and plan on the inside is who we actually are. A handsome veneer can only cover an cracked board for so long.
  • Verse 22: You cannot beat wisdom into a fool, or grind it into him over time. So, don’t try to.
  • Verses 23-27: Pay attention, do you work, be content.

As you exit chapter 27 please be sure and pick up one, or all, of the three great memory verses found in it:

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Proverbs 27:6

“The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” Proverbs 27:12

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

As you can tell, chapter 27 contains more truths that we can cover in one blog post. Please go back and review the chapter several times. It will be worth your time.

And yes, those pants do make you look … just right, for your size.

Small salads and gluten free muffins — Proverbs 15 (sort of)


If you are up-to-date through today — and Bravo if you are — you will get a break. Yesterday’s post was a long one. This one will be more succinct. Today, we will zoom in on two topics that are emphasized in Proverbs 15.


But first, a memory verse alert! Here is a nice one to tuck into your noggin:

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1


Now, let’s revisit the format from yesterday that highlights a verse and attempts to summarize and apply it in one sentence (“Brevity is the soul of wit,” said ole Billy Shakespeare).



  • Verse 6 –  How you earn it is more than important than how much you earn. The ungodly might make a killing, but it might feel like a killing, too. What the ungodly gain can often be tiresome and troublesome.
  • Verse 16 – Having Christ can bring contentment in little; having much can result in much trouble. In fact, with more wealth comes more worries.
  • Verse 17 – It’s better have a small salad with loved ones than a high class meal with the hateful.



  • Verse 12 – Scoffers have no taste for correction, and avoid the wise like gluten-free muffins. Scoffers harbor disdain for the ones who correct and advise them, and will walk a long way around the wise. Why? You know, it’s pride, again. They cannot bear being wrong or found out as foolish. You might want to skip ahead and read Proverbs 16:18. It will cast a 400 lumen LED light on this idea.
  • Verse 22 – Godly counsel helps avoid missteps and misfortune.
  • Verse 28 – The wise have deliberate, principled responses; the ungodly are a gushing fountain of foolishness. 


It should come as no surprise that this chapter pairs up possessions/contentment and growth. They are joined at the heart, your heart. If you are content with God’s allotment in your life, you will be better equipped to grow closer to Him. If you are discontent, expect distance between you and Him.

As contentment increases, so does your joy in Christ. As your joy in Christ grows, your contentment will as well. You see how it works. It turns the other way too. Be careful. You can have possessions and gain, but do not let them have you.


Small verse, big changes…


Autumn brings spectacular change. Falling temperatures remind us to open our windows and invite the cool air inside. Hay bales and mums decorate porches. And, of course, the leaves begin to display their fine autumnal hues. The change in the colors of the leaves is a complex bio-chemical process that boggles the mind. Thankfully, not all beautiful change is complex. In fact, deep and dynamic personal change can take place through a simple process; it is outlined in Jeremiah 26:13:

“Now therefore, amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God…”


In Jeremiah’s admonition to God’s people he described how God-honoring change takes place. Let’s take a look at it together.


First, God-honoring change requires us take a hard look at ourselves. None of us enjoys this, but it is the intial step toward lasting change. Before we can “amend our ways and doings,” you and I must compare ourselves to the standard of God’s Word. We are to not compare ourselves to others (that’s self-justification) or compare ourselves to a standard that we have no intention of keeping (that’s hypocrisy). We must compare ourselves to God’s standards. Ouch! Hold on, there is good news. The gap that exists between your everyday life and God’s eternal standards is bridged by His grace to you in Christ. So, with courage, and encouragement, go ahead and take the floodlight of God’s Word and shine it onto your thoughts, motives, and attitudes knowing that His grace covers failures and forges change.


Second, the truth about ourselves produces a desire to change our ways.  “What needs to change?” you ask. According to Jeremiah 26:13 it’s our “ways and doings.” We are to amend our ways — the way that we think and live. Once we dial in on correcting our ways we will then see a change in our deeds. To attempt to change your actions apart from changing your ways is to ignore the inner problem of our sinful nature. The Pharisees were experts at this. If you intently focus God’s Word on your mind and heart long enough your ways will begin to change, then, so will your doings.


Third, continue to focus on and follow God’s Word. That sounds easy. It’s not. Your responsibilities at work and home, activities with kids, stresses and frustrations, and tight schedule can crowd out your consistent time in God’s Word. Busyness can create an un-focused and un-still mind that is dulled to what God is doing through His Word.  Beware, unless time and attention are devoted to God’s Word each day you won’t sense His direction and walk in His “ways.” You know what becomes of your “doings” if you aren’t walking in His “ways.” We’ve all been there before.


To summarize, take an excuse-free look at yourself through the lens of the Bible, make difficult changes in your ways and doings as God points them out, and thank Him for His grace that forgives our sins and forges our change.


Thankfully, oaks and hickories do not demand to hold on to summer’s greenery. If they could, and did, we would be robbed of autumn’s splendor. Is there some of God’s splendor that you do without by holding on to your old “ways” and “doings?” It’s worth looking into…


The sign says


There are events that happen every now and then that seize my attention. And, they demand that I respond rightly. By rightly, I mean that I should take the time necessary to halt, soak in the event, and process it in a manner worthy of its presentation.

Here’s the story. We were on a pre-Christmas trip to Branson, Missouri. We were driving to the Branson Landing to do some shopping. Then, it caught my eye (for the record trees, rocks, the clouds, a hawk, anything of that sort tends to catch my eye). It was a tree that was strangely out of place. It wasn’t growing out of the ground; it wasn’t growing on top of a rock ledge; it was growing out of the rock ledge about 12 feet off of the ground!

So, I slowed the car, pulled off in an awkward location that would irritate other drivers, grabbed my camera, and bounded off toward the tree. I zig-zagged along the grassy roadside to the spot, and with cars whizzing by, and my family worrying about my safety and sanity, I took several photographs of it.

It appeared to be a red oak, and as I approached it, and positioned myself slightly under it, I was awestruck. It was grand. I hadn’t seen anything like this before. In the middle of a busy roadway, in a tourist town, grew an oak that was defying the rules. It was a small dose of wildness among sterile domestication; it was visually poetic.





As I backed away from the tree and took several more photos something unexpected crept into the viewfinder–a road sign.




The sign was telling drivers — and a nut like me (though I prefer the term “acorn” instead of “nut”) — not to go this way. Ironically, the red oak stood as a striking contrast to the sign’s message: “WRONG WAY.” The tree was growing the “wrong way” according to common sense and the usual practice of nature. It should have been growing on the ground where its roots could anchor and spread, or in a pasture, or anywhere other than out of a crevasse in a rock ledge.

I have no idea how the acorn that became this daring oak arrived in the gash in the rock ledge. Perhaps a suicidal squirrel dropped it there as it pondered leaping off the ledge. Who knows? I do know this: the acorn did what it was supposed to do in the location that it was placed in. Hmmm. This lesson needs little, if any, elaboration.

Psalm 1:3 states that the godly man (or woman) “is like a tree planted” by streams of water, bears fruit in his/her season, has non-withering leaves, and propers. Note the verb “planted.” The trees (godly men or women) in this verse are planted. You are where you are by design.

This rock ledge-defying tree was not planted alongside a calm stream of water. We usually aren’t either. Like this tree, we are to grow where we are planted. We often have to do it against the “rules” or the expectations of those around us. But we do it. We hold on, grow, drink in the water that God gives, and by His power we bear fruit, resist withering, and prosper. Even on a ledge.