Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pride-full Paul?

Paul debates with himself in his Philippian letter regarding leaving this world or remaining. (1:21-24) “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. . . . But I am hard pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.” Wait! That sounds a bit arrogant. He is saying that it would be better for him to go to glory, but it would be better for the Christians at Philippi if he kept on working. Is he thinking too highly of himself? Is he a little full of himself? It seems like he is placing high value on his contribution to the Christian community and low expectation on their survival without him. Does Paul pen with self-centered pride when he bellows how badly his readers require him?

We should take the comment in question in the context of Paul’s entire letter. In the earlier part of chapter one Paul declares, (1:6) “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Paul’s confidence was not in his work but in the work of Christ. In chapter two he exhorts, (2:3) “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” I believe Paul was effective in his mission work partly because people knew him as one who practiced what he preached. 

Perhaps in his musing about which was the better choice  - to live or die – Paul could identify with the humility of Christ which he describes in chapter two. On the one hand, Christ (2:6-7) “existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant.” On the other hand, Paul’s personal preference to forego entering into his eternity with Christ in order to remain on earth a bond-servant of Christ was a similar act of humility.

Paul courageously writes this letter from a prison cell to encourage and assure his fellow believers that his desire was to continue to serve them and disciple them. His words: “to remain on in the flesh is necessary for your sake,” are spoken as a shepherd who assures his flock he will not abandon them. He confesses that they are more important to him than his own eternal ecstasy. Nevertheless, he cannot escape thinking about that future joy. He adds to his dialogue, (3:20-21) “our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory,”

Friday, May 11, 2012

Casket? Ask it!

Do pride and humility come in to play with casket selection? When walking into the casket room at the funeral home all sorts of thoughts and feelings begin to stir. My first thought was, “what am I doing here?” Of course, decisions have to be made whether in preparation for the future inevitability of our own death or the current reality of the death of someone close.

So, we begin to reason about considerations, and there are lots of things to consider. What will people think about me if I choose this casket for myself or whoever? Wait! Maybe I am mistaken. There is only this one thing to consider, isn’t there? What message am I giving? What will people conclude? What will they say? We can’t choose a casket without thinking of who will be present at the funeral. Who will see? What evil thoughts will float about the room? “It’s obvious he didn’t love her enough to give her the best.” “His family must be spending their inheritance on themselves.” “Poor man, he deserved more honor than his family could afford to give.” “I would never be caught dead in that!”

Pride pushes us to make decisions, which we can’t afford, to protect us from our fear of what others may believe about us. If we push back the pride and let humility guide, we can consider many other more appropriate questions. What are my total financial obligations? What is too extravagant for a humble Christian? Do I want to impress or exercise discipline and humility? Should I care about what others might think or the biblical principles I live by? When choices are made, will God be pleased?
Choosing a casket involves more than just how long will it preserve the body from decay. A casket is another illustration of things that moths and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:19). A life driven by pride lays up worthless treasure. The humble life knows where true treasure lies.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Story Bout A Man Named Joe

Come and listen to a story bout a man named Joe
A poor son of Abe whose betrothed began to show
And then while asleep an angel told him what was done
Your wife the virgin Mary will deliver you a son
     Jesus, that is, Immanuel, God with us.

Well the first thing you know ole Joe's a little scared
A census will be taken Caesar Augustus declared
So Joe said, I gotta go to register my fam
So he loaded up his donkey and they moved to Bethlehem
     of Judea, that is, cattle stalls, shining stars.

Well now it's time to say bye to this merry Christmas scene
The church would like to thank some folks for kindly droppin' in
You're all invited back next year to this locality
But we wish you'd give your heart to Christ and join our family
     believers, that is, in Christ the Lord, be born again.

He's coming back now, ya hear?