Monday, September 20, 2021
Today, I want to talk to you about the most famous verse in Philippians, the most well known verse, the most popular verse in the whole book of Philippians.
Monday, September 20, 2021
Neither does it say I can do all things, and Jesus will help me do all things. That's another myth. It's not that YOU can do all things. Neither is it that you can do ALL things. You can't do everything. You have to do all things through Christ, which means that not everything that you want to do is something you are going to do, unless it is through Christ. So that's the balance. And here's what I want to say: I'm really joyful, that I can do all things through Christ, who gives me the strength. I'm really glad I can't do all things through myself, because then I'd work a steadfastly independent life of God. I wouldn't want that. And I'm sure glad it's not "I can do all things by using Christ to do anything I want," because some of the stuff I really want, I don't really need. The beautiful balance is this: you can do all things through Christ. This means two things. Number one, I can do all things only through Jesus Christ. Number two, since it comes through Jesus Christ, he only strengthens us for what is good for us. I find joy in that. Aren't you glad for that?
Friday, September 10, 2021
You can't always be happy... but you can always be joyful. Joy is a choice.
Friday, September 10, 2021
I want to look at a passage of scripture from the book of Philippians. Philippians is the letter of joy, and I want to read a blunt statement in Philippians 4:4 and unpack it because it seems like it's impossible. It says, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Why does he say it again? Because I don't think we believe him. Sometimes we don't believe what God says. Even though we know it's intellectually true, sometimes it needs to soak into our total being so that we live it out. So, I think he repeats it, "I say it again: rejoice," so that we remember it. But the key word, the word that we struggle with in that verse is "always." It's not rejoice in the Lord when you're at church on Sunday morning, or when you read the Bible, or when you pray, but rejoice in the Lord always. It doesn't mean you rejoice in your problems, but you rejoice in the Lord always.
You say, "Vince, that's impossible. I can't always be happy." I would agree, you can't always be happy... but you can always be joyful. Joy is a choice. Happiness is conditioned upon your emotions. Whatever your emotions are feeling like, that's usually what will dictate your level of happiness. But when you have joy, it's unshakable and impossible to take away. But how do you have joy always? Well, joy isn't based on circumstances. Happiness is. well okay, But then, how do you find joy? Paul said, "Rejoice in the Lord." You have to be in the Lord. Not necessarily in church, though that's helpful. Not necessarily in Bible reading. That's very helpful. Not necessarily in prayer. That's also very helpful. All three of those are very helpful. But you have to be in the Lord. You could be in the Lord at work, you can be in the Lord in your car, you could be in the Lord in your golf game - although if you've seen my golf game, I'm not in the Lord in terms of performance all the time. The point is, it's focusing on the Lord and saying, "I don't like this situation., but I'm in the Lord. God, you're in control of it. I don't like what's happening in my family, but I'm in the Lord, I'm going to do my best to contribute to making it right. I can't stand what's happening at work, but I'm in the Lord and I'm going to continue to focus on God, and, and work hard as unto the Lord, not of the people."
Here's the point. You can always be joyful, but you have to do it in the Lord. If you try to find your joy in circumstances, they'll come and go. If you try to find your joy in other people, that'll be great, but they can't always deliver. You can always find your joy in the Lord, in the Lord's goodness, in the Lord's grace, in the Lord's control of all the events that you're experiencing, in the Lord's love for you, in the Lord's promises during your tough, difficult trials. You can rejoice in the Lord. Rejoice, always. You can't always be happy, but you can always be joyful. You must make the choice to rejoice. And how do you make the choice to rejoice? You must rejoice in the Lord. Find something about the Lord to give you the joy you need. If nothing else, the joy that you're forgiven, the joy that you're going to heaven.
Father, this life will rob our joy. People can rob our joy, circumstances can rob our joy if we let them. But they never have to, because if we rejoice in you always, we can have joy no matter what. We may not be happy, but we can be joyful. Inspire somebody today who needs a pick-me-up, who needs joy in their life, who needs to see life from a different perspective, from your perspective, to find this joy that Paul encourages us to pursue. We ask this in Jesus' name, amen.
Friday, August 27, 2021
I don't know about you, but whenever it comes to getting better at something, I'll read the Bible, and I'll seek the Bible, but the Bible even says there is something else that is helpful.
Friday, August 27, 2021
I don't know about you, but whenever it comes to getting better at something, I'll read the Bible, and I'll seek the Bible, but the Bible even says there is something else that is helpful. While the Bible is essential to grow, God also says that in addition you want to see people who model the Bible. If I want to get better at something I need models. So, I can have somebody say, "Well, if you want to get better at golf, do this," and I can try to do that, but I have to watch them do it. I have this guy named Lenny. He's a really nice friend. I just met him earlier this year, and he has taken a liking to me and he's giving me golf lessons. We played golf earlier this week, and I played as good as I ever have. I mean, I'm hitting the ball with this new lag technique to get more clubhead speed. My short game is getting better, and Lenny has just modeled it for me. He's giving me lessons, we've played together, I've watched him swing and do his thing, and it's a model for me. When it comes to parenting, I've looked to others to help me. With marriage, models have helped me. When it comes to the Christian life, some discipline of the Christian life, models have helped me. When I'm around people that are living a successful Christian life, I'm trying to learn something so they can be a model.
The apostle Paul says that you should do the same thing. Look at Philippians 3:17, where the Apostle Paul says this, "Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you." Paul said, "I should be a model for you." He wasn't saying that braggadociously. He is saying that confidently because of Christ's work in him, and Paul was a godly man. Then he tells the Philippians to live according to the pattern he gave them. What is that? It's the Bible. Take note of people who are living out the Bible. It's not that the Bible isn't enough, the Bible is enough. But you want people living out the Bible - models - and you want to look to them. It's not that you need more than the truth of the Bible, but we are learning to express it and live it out. The practical aspect of living that out, that is seen in models. In fact, Paul even says, "Imitate me as I imitate Christ." And the word imitate is the word mimetes in Greek. Guess what English word we get from that. Mimic. You have to find people to mimic. They don't have to be one person in every area of life. You might say, "I'm going to follow your model for what a patient person you are." To someone else, "I'm going to follow your model because you're really good in how you live out the 80/10/10 plan. Give 10% to God and His Church, 10% to a retirement plan, 80% is what I live on." To someone else, "I'm going to follow your model because you're a really good husband, or parent, or because you're very faithful and you you whatever you say you do."
You must find models in your life, and you must read the Bible to know what models to find. Then, find them in your life and have some models. It's one of the great reasons why we have church, you get to see hundreds of people every week. You get to connect with some of them in small groups, or at Midweek Bible Study where we have, X number of people here. It's a lot smaller than Sunday, and you get to meet people, and then you get to say, "Man, how can you be a mentor or model to me in this area, that area, or another area?" Some of you you have the truth, but you're just learning how to live it out. A model will help you. Do you have a model? Like the Apostle Paul, do you have a model? Like Timothy, do you have a model in your life? It'll help you live out the Christian life. We'll help you to have models here. You have to come here regularly. Get to know people because I can't tell you who should be your model in every area of life. But I can tell you some great people in my life We have a ton of great people at Lakeshore Community Church that will love you. You never know who could be your model. But here's the point, Paul says to look for models in your life, who live out the Christian life, the biblical truth of Christianity effectively in a way that inspires you. It will help you have a lot of joy in your life.
Father, I pray that all of us will have our models and maybe 2, 3, 4, or even 10 people that inspire us to find joy in living out the biblical truth of Christianity. Help us all to find models. It may take days, it may take weeks, it may take months. But if we're determined, we'll find them and they'll bring us joy as we live out our lives more effectively for your pleasure and your purposes. We ask this in Jesus' name, amen.
Wednesday, August 25, 2021
When life gets hard you have to press on. Sometimes you have to put one foot ahead of the next, can't worry about one mile down the road, three blocks down the road, all you can worry about is your next step.
Wednesday, August 25, 2021
Sometimes life gets hard, and sometimes you just have to remind yourself to press on. When life gets hard you have to press on. Sometimes you have to put one foot ahead of the next, can't worry about one mile down the road, three blocks down the road, all you can worry about is your next step. You ask, "What's God going to do? This is so hard. How am I ever going to get out of this?" And sometimes you just have to say, "You know what, I'm just going to take the next step." I get that from a very powerful passage that the Apostle Paul shares in Philippians 3:12-14. Paul says, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
Let me break that down. The "all this" that Paul has not yet obtained is knowing Jesus Christ perfectly. He also says he has not yet been made perfect, which is pretty obvious for all of us, and if it's true of the Apostle Paul, it'll always be true of us, too. He continues, "but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." In other words, he says, "Things get up, things get down, things get high, things get low, but I'm pressing on to take hold of the prize that Christ took a hold of me for." What he's saying is when you became a Christian Christ took a hold of you. He took a hold of you so that you will want to take a hold of the prize, which is knowing Jesus Christ perfectly. That is only going to happen in heaven, but we want to get as close as possible to that here during our days on earth.
Paul goes on to say, "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize, for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." See that? That's the goal. God took a hold of you so you'll take hold of the prize of getting to heaven and acting like it. How do you do it? He says you have to forget what is behind. You have to stop thinking about the negative things of your past. Learn from it, grow from it, forget it. Then, you have to have a vision for the future. Press on toward the goal. Then, you have to do it by taking one step at a time. See how he covers the past, (forget about it), the future (have a vision for heaven), and the present (perservere, press on)? Sometimes, when the past is so painful you have to focus on the future, which is so glorious, to help you in the present, which is taking one step at a time. Have you had a bad day, had a bad month, had a bad year, had a bad 18 months with COVID and everything else going on in our world? Sometimes, you have to focus on the vision of heaven. And you just have to put one step ahead of the other. Sometimes, when I don't like what has happened in the past days, I have to think about what's going to happen in future days. That will help me in present days to press on.
What is it in your past that's holding you back that you need to forget? What is it in your future that you forgot is in your future, if you're a Christian? Like going to heaven, like having no more problems, like being in the presence of Jesus Christ nonstop, forever in his house, his glorious mansion, heaven. Press on with those thoughts. Forget about this, focus on that. And right now, today, take the next step. What do I mean by that, take the next step? Do what you're supposed to do, step by step. Do what God wants. Read the Bible, serve other people, come to church, get involved in a ministry, get in a small group, be a witness to your friends, invite people to church, do the kinds of things to help you press on. Press on today. You can do it through Christ who gives you the strength.
Let's pray. Father, I don't know who I'm speaking to and I don't know where they're at. But I know all of us need this exhortation, some maybe more than others, to press on. Help us to press on, God. Help us forget what's behind. Let us remember our glorious future, if we have a relationship with you by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, and to persevere because of that. Help anybody who's discouraged to be encouraged to press on in you. Give them that courage. I know you will if they seek it with a whole heart, and a honest, true, seeking, open heart. We ask this in Jesus' name, amen.
Monday, August 23, 2021
If you're always going to wait to get to the destination to experience joy, you're going to have a lot of dry seasons of joy.
Monday, August 23, 2021
There's an old saying, and I believe it's true, that there's just as much joy in the journey as in the destination. This is true if you will pay attention to the journey, you know, smelling the roses along the way. It's not just the kill, but it's the chase that brings excitement, right? The getting there is just as much fun as arriving. There's a lot of truth to that. So many times we're waiting to get to a destination to find joy and not experiencing joy in the journey. I want to tell you that if you're always going to wait to get to the destination to experience joy, you're going to have a lot of dry seasons of joy. You have to learn to enjoy the journey, enjoy the process, enjoy the getting to wherever you want to go. If it's building a house, the joy of making the selections; if it's rising in your career, the joy of working where you're at right now; if it's making a friendship or a dating relationship, the joy of working toward where that relationship is going. And if it's a closer walk with Jesus Christ, which we'll never get to the destination of until we're in heaven, you have to find joy in striving to get closer to Jesus Christ.
I get that from Philippians 3:10-11, Paul's letter of joy. Look at what he says, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." What does he mean by "the power of his resurrection"? The Bible says that the same Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead dwells in every Christian. Like Paul, I want to know those great, powerful moments where God works, and I want to know the fellowship of his suffering. When Jesus Christ suffered, which he suffered so much in his life, not only on the cross which was the ultimate sacrifice, but during all 33 to 35 years, whatever it was, of Christ's life putting up with us. He suffered. And the Apostle Paul said he wants to know the resurrection-power moments of Christ, and he wants to know Christ through the suffering.
What's he saying? He's saying, "I want to know Christ through the ups and the downs." What is life? It's a series of ups and downs. Life is the journey of the ups and downs. And guess what? God wants you to get closer to him through the ups just as much as he wants you to get closer to him through the downs. Look again at what he says in verse 11, "becoming like him in his death, and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead." The Apostle Paul was not questioning whether he's going to make it to the end. Once you're a Christian, you're always a Christian. What he was saying is, "I will make it and the question is, what will that journey be, or what will the ups and the downs be?" So, he's not questioning if he'll rise from the dead because every true Christian will. He's questioning the journey. No matter what the ups and downs are, somehow through this journey of ups and downs, he'll rise from the dead. Here's what I want to say: Jesus Christ and the journey with Jesus Christ must be enjoyed every day. Not, "Well I had a good day so I can enjoy Jesus," or, "I had a bad day, he didn't do what I want and I'm not going to enjoy him today." Good luck with that life. That's called a yo-yo life, and you're never going to make it. You're going to be up and down. You're going to be bipolar, a spiritually bipolar person. Don't do that. Enjoy the journey. One person said, "Wherever God leads me, I will follow. Whatever God feeds me, I will swallow." All I want to say is that God has you on a journey, a custom made journey for you, and the whole purpose is to draw you closer to him on this spiritual journey. Will you find joy no matter what? Will you find joy in the ups when it's easy? And in the downs when it's hard?
It's up to you. Do you want to live a joyful life all the time? Or do you want to live a joyful life only when everything lines up? Joy has nothing to do with your circumstances. Joy has everything to do with your spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ. If you're close to Jesus Christ, you will feel joy no matter what. But you have to enjoy the journey as much as the destination, the chase as much as the kill. Let's pray. Father, help us to enjoy the journey you have us on. Every one of us are on a different journey. right at this moment, every one of us is at a different place. And I pray, Almighty God, that we will see joy in our circumstances, whether it's the ups, the downs, the Midlands, whatever it is. Help us to see joy because we are on a journey you've created for our life. And we ask this in Jesus' name, amen.
Wednesday, August 18, 2021
This is going to seem like a little bit of a cliche for those of you who are church attenders or regulars at church, but regardless, it'll be a reminder to you. And for those of you who are somewhat new, I want to say this...
Wednesday, August 18, 2021
This is going to seem like a little bit of a cliche for those of you who are church attenders or regulars at church, but regardless, it'll be a reminder to you. And for those of you who are somewhat new, I want to say this: the only place of reliable joy is in the Lord. The only place you'll find joy in a consistent, reliable, never-ending way is to find joy in the Lord. I get that because in Philippians 3:1 the apostle Paul says, by way of reminder, which tells us we all need this reminder, "Finally, my brothers rejoice in the Lord. It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you."
If we break that down, he says, "Rejoice in the Lord. It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again," which means that he said this again and again. If he keeps repeating this, it means that chances are, like the Philippians, we need that constant reminder. We have to find our joy in the Lord. Then, he says a second thing: "...and it is a safeguard for you." In other words, it is so you don't get taken in. If you read later in Philippians, it talks about being taken in by false teaching or by other things that glitter. Not all that glitters is gold. Not everything that you think is going to provide joy is going to provide joy. In fact, I'm here to tell you that things that might provide joy will only bring conditional joy or temporary joy. The greatest, undeniable, never-let-you-down joy is joy in the Lord.
Are you finding your joy in the Lord? I find a lot of joy in my wife - I married up so high I got a nosebleed. I love my children, I love my grandson, I love my staff, I love the elders, I love the trustees, I love the people of Lakeshore, I love my friends, I love my golfing buddies, I love my neighbors. I love so many people, but they cannot bring me unconditional, never-changing joy like Jesus Christ can. If I expect that of my wife, of my children, or my grandson, I'm going to be disappointed. My ultimate joy is in Jesus Christ. You say, "Vince, how do you find your joy in Jesus Christ?" Ultimately, it's when you look to him for everything. "God, what do I do? God, what do I say? God, How can I know you love me? God, should I make this purchase? God, should I go this way or that way? God help me." God wants us to have a dynamic relationship with Him. And when you have a dynamic relationship with him and you are taking your cues from him, you will find joy. The best way to have joy in the Lord is to facilitate a continual relationship with him. If I like golf, but I never go to the golf course, I really don't like golf. If I say I find joy in being with John, and I never hang out with John, that's really not my source of joy. The way you're going to know that Jesus is the joy of your life is when you want to be with him. People say, "Well, I'm a Christian and I love Jesus, but I don't go to church." Well, you don't love him as much as you think because Jesus said, "I'll build my church," and Jesus said through the Apostle Paul, "Don't forsake going to church." So, it's the same thing. Here's what I want to say: find your joy in Jesus Christ. When you make a decision, find your approval from him, even if not everybody agrees. When you find a need in your life that is so desperate, turn to Jesus Christ. He can give you joy, and you can have joy in the middle of a trial when he is your source.
Wednesday, August 9, 2021
Sometimes you can feel like God is far off, like he's just way away from you. Sometimes the sky seems to be hard, our prayers seem to bounce off the clouds, and he just doesn't seem to be there. Well, there's good news if you have ever felt either one of those situations were true of your life and that God was distant.
Wednesday, August 9, 2021
1 Corinthians 6:17
Sometimes you can feel like God is far off, like he's just way away from you. A lot of times this can be because we get involved in the activities of our day, and we don't give God a second thought. We're so preoccupied with what we have to do or what needs to be done, that he just seems like he's far away. At other times, we could be longing for an answer from God, we're longing for direction, we're looking for something from God, and he just seems to be far off. The sky seems to be hard, our prayers seem to bounce off the clouds, and he just doesn't seem to be there. Well, there's good news if you have ever felt either one of those situations were true of your life and that God was distant.
1 Corinthians 6:17 says this, "But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit." If you have given your life to the Lord, asked him to forgive your sin, believe that He died for you on the cross and that he was raised from the dead, then you have been baptized in him. If you belong to Jesus Christ, then you are one in spirit with him. The implications of this are just huge. It means that wherever you go, the Holy Spirit of God lives in you. The Lord Himself is with you. It means that those things that describe him - ex. righteousness and holiness - those are all yours, because he's one with you, and you with him. This is cause for great celebration and great joy because no matter what you're going through, you are one with the Lord. If you're suffering today, the Lord Jesus is with you, one with you in spirit, and he's suffering with you. If you're rejoicing today, he's one with you and rejoicing with you. Jesus Christ is with you today. And that is cause for great, great joy.
Monday, August, 9 2021
It's easy in this world to feel like you are nothing at all. We look at our lives and most of us aren't very influential when it comes to the things of this world.
Monday, August, 9 2021
1 Corinthians 1:30
It's easy in this world to feel like you are nothing at all. We look at our lives and most of us aren't very influential when it comes to the things of this world. Most of us don't have a notable or noble birth to point to, to make us stand out in the crowd. So many times we can just feel like we're a nothing we're a nobody, and as far as the wisdom of this world goes, we're just kind of here. And yet, that is not what God says about those who have put their faith in Christ Jesus. Read his words from 1 Corinthians 1:30, "It is because of God that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption."
You might feel like you're a nobody. But what God is saying here is that by his choice, and by his power, and by his will, some translations would say, because it's a gift of God, your life is now in Christ Jesus. You're in him, he's with you, in you. Because of that, Christ Jesus has become your wisdom from God. You might not be wise in the ways of this world, but in Christ Jesus he has become your wisdom, and he is the fullness of the wisdom of God. He has become your righteousness. What this is saying is not that he's making you righteous, it's saying that he already has, and that in Christ Jesus you are the righteousness of God in Christ. It's not saying that he's making you holy. That's true, but what this is saying is that he has already made you holy because you are in Christ Jesus, and he is the holiness of God. Therefore, you are the holiness of God. It's saying that Christ Jesus is your redemption. You have been purchased, you were bought, you were paid for, and that deal is sealed. It's done. Because of this, you are the wisdom of God, simply because you're in Christ Jesus. And that, friends, makes you somebody. That makes you important, because you are important to God.
Friday, July 30, 2021
Today, I want to talk to you about a third joy killer: selfishness. If you want to kill your joy, just think about yourself.
Friday, July 30, 2021
The Apostle Paul talks about being selfless in his letter of joy, Philippians, which we have been using for these devotionals on joy. I get this idea from Philippians 2:19-21, where Paul talks about Timothy and his relationship with Timothy. Timothy was his young brother in Christ. Paul built so much into Timothy, and talks about Timothy in this passage and in other places of Scripture. He talks to Timothy in the epistles to Timothy, called First and Second Timothy. This was when Timothy was the pastor of the church at Ephesus. Paul just loved Timothy, and look at the joy he gets from Timothy when he describes him in verses 19 to 21. He says this to the Philippians, "I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive good news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone else looks out for their own interest, not those of Jesus Christ."
That's why Paul loved him. Paul found so much joy in Timothy because he built into other people, so he wanted to send him. If you read later, he talks about another faithful servant named Epaphroditus, which was the same thing. Paul had so much joy because he saw Epaphroditus as someone he helped build into to help the Philippians. Here's the point: Paul was not selfish, he was selfless. Because he was selfless, he built in to others such as Timothy and Epaphroditus. Because of that, Timothy and Epaphroditus were going to build into the Philippians. This was a chain of selflessness. And what did it do? Paul said it brought him cheer. What's that? Joy. Paul had joy. Timothy had joy. Epaphroditus nearly died, and he was still willing to do the work. Why? Because he found joy in it.
Here's what I want to say: Sometimes, you and me can lose joy because we're too selfish. We have to be selfless. Life is not about us, it's about God and other people. In fact, I've said this before, the acrostic "JOY" is when you put Jesus first Others second. Yourself third. You say,"wow, Vince, if I put myself last I'm going to be terrible." I have found that when you put Jesus first, others second, and yourself third, you'll find more joy when you're in that third arrangement than if you said YOJ. It's not really a word, but it's yourself, then others, then Jesus, which would be the exact opposite. Do you want to find joy? Stop thinking about yourself - that's what we call narcissism - and be selfless. Sure, if you need a little help? I'm glad to do it. Need a little money, glad to give it. Need a little love, glad to provide it. Need to talk, glad to listen. But if you want to find joy, stop being selfish. I know people, friends, family who are so selfish. All they ever do is make decisions for themselves, and you know what? They're not joyful. Not even close.
Mother Teresa was filled with joy. She gave her life away. You don't have to be Mother Teresa, but you do have to learn to give your life away. Jesus said "if you lose your life, you'll find it" (Matthew 10:39). And when you find it, you'll have outrageous joy. So avoid that joy killer selfishness. How? By being selfless. Father, help us to be less selfish, more selfless, like Paul, like Timothy, like Epaphroditus. Most importantly, like Jesus Christ, who gave his life for us. Help us to trust that when we're selfless you'll fill us with so much joy we won't know any other way to live. Thank you for this in Jesus' name, amen.
Monday, July 26, 2021
How many have ever had joy, maybe you found joy in Christ and what he's doing in your life, and somebody or something came along, and killed your joy. It was a joy killer.
Monday, July 26, 2021
I get this because Paul gives us that admonition in Philippians 2:14-15. Philippians is Paul's letter of joy. He wrote it from prison, the last place you'd expect somebody to have joy, but joy is not happiness. You can be unhappy in prison and still filled with joy like Paul was. So while he's in prison, still filled with joy, he says this to the Philippians, "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, 'children of God without fault and a crooked and depraved generation,' in which you shine like stars in the universe."
First, he says "Do everything without complaining or arguing." What's arguing? It can be a form of complaining sometimes. "I want this, I want that. I want this. I want that." James says it's competing battle of wills. Paul goes on and says if you do everything without complaining and arguing, then what happens is you shine like stars, you're filled with joy. If you don't, then you are like the crooked and depraved generation around us. How many know the crooked and depraved generation around us, which describes our generation, they're always complaining. They say, "I'm offended. I'm offended that you said that. I'm offended that you did that. I'm offended." Sometimes I just want to say "I'm offended that you're offended." Or people say, "My rights have been trampled." And unfortunately there's a lot of truth to that, but but sometimes their rights are actually their selfish needs. People are always complaining about something. And I'm telling you, I have never seen somebody that complains a lot filled with joy. Have you?
The problem is sometimes we look in the mirror and we find somebody who's doing a lot of complaining. Stop complaining. Accept it. Voice your concern, say something's wrong, challenge it, wish it were better, but don't camp out in complaining land. It'll rob your joy. Do less complaining and more contemplating. What does God want to do in your situation? Then, you will not be like the crooked and depraved generation around us, but you'll be, as Paul says, like shining stars. I think of that song by Earth Wind and Fire, "Got to be a shining star." Paul says, be a shining star. What does that mean? When you're a shining star you're filled with joy. So you get the choice: complain or joy? It's like two rabbits. You can't chase two rabbits at once. Get rid of complaining and chase down joy. Father, forgive us for being complainers. I am one who at times struggles with complaining. Help me to choose joy over complaining. Help people listening to choose joy over complaining, and we'll find more joy as a result. We ask you this in Jesus' name. Amen.