Jesus Strengthens Our Balance

Man Balancing on the Rope

“Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” ~Philippians 2:14-15 (NLT)

Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) had many quotes about Christianity to include this infamous one. “If Christ were here now there is one thing He would not be—a Christian.” Then in his later years he would make this statement, “if our Maker is all-powerful for good or evil, He is not in His right mind.” I think one of the things that made our beloved writer of Tom Sawyer a bit off-base with YHVH was he was a Freemason. That may have knocked him off balance every once in a while. Maybe so much so that he even said, “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” That’s kinda harsh but let’s face it if someone is better at something you need to be it kinda gets under your skin…don’t it?

I think I’ll rest in what my boy Matt Henry said about the matter, “The children of God should differ from the sons of men. The more perverse others are, the more careful we should be to keep ourselves blameless and harmless.” And when we understand that Christ is our example we have to understand that if things aren’t balanced just right we may set up ourselves for failure. We have got three areas in our lives that Charles Swindoll (in his book “Laugh Again”) says are challenging areas that need to be kept in balance through Christ’s strength.

1. Balancing Purpose and Power: This has to do with our obedience to God. In Phil 2:12-13 we are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. But that doesn’t mean work hard to earn it, that is not the Apostle Paul is saying. What he is saying is by walking in obedience, as Christ did, you will build on the gift of eternal life that God has already given us. “And as we work out our salvation in this way, God will work in us, giving us the power to accomplish His will.”

2. Balancing Attitude and Action: This will put one thing to one side and the other thing to the other side. There is a sign that hangs in the Colony kitchen that simply reads, “Complaining is a sin.” To say this point blank…Jesus never did it. Keep that “‘tude” Christ-like (with a twist of humor to round it out) We need to be blameless, displaying a character that is free from defect. (Easy to write, I’ll admit, harder to display at times) We need to be inexperienced with evil or at best no longer involved with it. Then we need to be above reproach or at least no longer with fault. And don’t go hiding in a cave to keep this a sanitized

list in your life…you’re to be a light in the world, not a flickering amber in a cave.

3. Balancing Seriousness and Joy: There is nothing more serious to keep in mind than this, “Holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may have cause to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.” (Phil 2:16) No one likes wasted effort and Paul was no different. His hope was that his life’s example contributed to the Philippians service to God, even if it meant his death. But in his seriousness he asks for joy, “And you too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.” (Phil 2:18) To quote Swindoll on the matter, “One of life’s pleasures is meeting godly people like Paul who enjoy living, who can be involved in the most serious of earthly tasks, yet maintain a sense of humor, a ready smile, and a contagious joy.”

I guess the thing that makes following Christs example difficult is “SELF”. My “SELF” likes to take charge and credit for all that good stuff I do (even being a Freedom Fighter writer) but I have to keep this in the fore front of my mind at all times, “For I myself was also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating others.” (Titus 3:3). Yes, I juggled a few words around but I need to take this personally. Jesus saved me from the punishment that comes with all this stuff, He didn’t have to either…He wanted to. It wasn’t that I need to be saved as much as it is about to be able to see Him in all the graces He provides in everyday life. In that there’s balance…Amen?

Chris Hughes_FF 2016Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married with two adult children and serves on the Deacon Board at Trinity Alliance Church in Cologne NJ

 

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 14; Proverbs 15

Daily Quote: “Some attempt to follow Christ’s lofty example by faking it. They simply lip-sync the great virtues and doctrines of the Christian faith, focusing on image rather than substance. Others, perhaps most, frustrate themselves by intensifying their efforts and try harder to do life exactly as Christ did.”—Charles Swindoll

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

11 He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young. ~Isaiah 40:11

The Jesus Attitude

ocean wave

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” `~Philippians 2:3-5 (NLT)

I got this saying that I swiped from a song written by Alice Cooper sometime back in the 80’s. The title of the song is “You’re a Movie” and line goes like this… “Move aside mere drop of water, let the ocean pass.” I say it (kinda sarcastically…kinda) when I run into someone who is so full of attitude you can smell it coming and you need to get outta their way quickly. I think it while I hear them speak and, at times, have been accused of this same attitude myself (absurd I tell you, completely and utterly absurd). It is a terrible attitude to have and takes a lot of grace for others to handle it and it takes a lot of mercy by God to be stripped of it. It is the attitude of Conceit.

Now before I go any further let me say this out loud because I need to hear it as well…CONCEIT HAS NO KINGDOM VALUE AT ALL!!! Okay with that outta the way onward with this Freedom Fighter.

Almost 2,000 years ago our world witnessed the greatest act of unselfishness ever done and many missed its lesson. But for 3+ years prior to that event Jesus went around preaching to all those around Him that the Kingdom of God was at hand. Only those with ears heard that message and even in our present day that hasn’t changed much. Sad…but true. Secularland has a way of selling the “It’s all about me” theology while unselfishness and Christlikeness are being removed from the book shelf. Again, sad but true. But for those of us who strive for the goal that calls us heaven bound we have encouragement from the Apostle Paul.

The second chapter of Philippians starts off like this, “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” (Phil 2:1-2) And that one mind isn’t the universal one, it’s the mind of Christ. The mindset that say’s “I will put myself aside for the sake of others.” We need to remember that Jesus Christ, though The Son, is still God. And if God was able to say to His three parts, “We’re gonna make atonement for their sins because they know not what they do.” (that’s implied…don’t stone me) then we shouldn’t dismiss that kind of unity amongst ourselves.

In his book, “Laugh Again” Charles Swindoll makes this statement, “As Christians, when we pursue the goal of exalting Christ and putting others before ourselves, we

tend to forget all the self-serving, petty differences that normally separate us.” I like how he puts it but how is it accomplished? Well Paul gives us these three practical tips.

1. Never let selfishness or conceit be your motive.

2. Regard others as more important than yourself.

3. Don’t limit your attention to your own personal interests—include others.

And remember, this isn’t self-hate advice but rather self-forgetfulness. Love yourself as you are to love others. Hard stuff ain’t it?

But keep this in mind, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)

So for all you who feel like “mere drops of water” remember what is key today… CONCEIT HAS NO KINGDOM VALUE AT ALL!!! But unity does and through the reconciliation of what was done for us on The Cross we can gather ourselves together and become an ocean that envelops the communities around us for the sake of Jesus Christ. It ain’t gonna get any better out there in Secularland but we called to give water to those who thirst. Let’s give them an ocean wave of it. Amen?

Chris Hughes_FF 2016Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married with two adult children and serves on the Deacon Board at Trinity Alliance Church in Cologne NJ

 

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 5; Proverbs 7

Daily Quote: “The great question facing us today, this moment, is whether or not we will voluntarily humble ourselves before the Lord Jesus or wait until we’re forced to do so. If we act now, we will be saved. If we refuse to confess Jesus Christ as Lord while we’re on the earth, we will surely concede it one day under the earth. But by then it will be too late for that declaration to change our eternal destiny” —Charles Swindoll

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

11 He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young. ~Isaiah 40:11

Examples and Warnings

warning“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.” ~Hebrews 12:28-29 (NKJV)

Every so often I have it brought to my mind those times when I grew up in South Philly and went to church. I was raised within the Roman Catholic Church and saw some stuff that I now can call the apostasy of people. It set me up for a decision that I’ll make by the age of 16 and have a deep impact on my life until the age of 40 when Jesus Christ will say “Enough is enough…come to Me you are heavy laden”. I can’t put it all down as waste because there was a lesson to be learned from it, “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.” (Psalm 118:8) Had I known this sooner…ah who I am kidding? There is no woulda, shoulda, coulda excuse to give. Anyway…

During a recent sit down with friend and Pastor, John Mol, I heard something that gave me that “AH-HA” finger to the air, there it is, moment. Pastor John talked about how God has given us examples and warnings in our churches in the forms of actual people. He told us of few those stories of people in his life who have been examples and warnings to him. And since we have people in the Bible to talk about let’s see a different take on two of them.

Mark 5…After Jesus calms a storm and lands on the shores of Gerasa, He is approached by a man who was tortured by an evil spirit named Legion. This dude ran around a cemetery, charged through the wilderness and did some serious damage to himself. But his encounter with Jesus changed all that. Jesus sends out the thousands of demons within our friend and leaves him a free man. This man is so grateful for what Jesus has done that all he wants to be is with Jesus but he is given a different assignment and was sent off into Decapolis to share what was done for him through Jesus. So…off he went to spread the Good News of Jesus!! People were left amazed!!

John 5…For 38 years a man lived with a disability…he can’t walk too well. It’s a sunny day by the pool of Bethesda and everyone who needs a healing touch is waiting for the bubbles of the pool to start. These waters are said to heal by the magical intercession of a heavenly messenger who stirs the waters. Jesus sees this man from a distance and approaches him. “Are you here in this place hoping to be healed” asks Jesus. Then the disabled man goes about no one is interested in helping him be first to get into pool so he can be healed. Well Jesus took care of that and he was immediately challenged by those wacky Pharisees. But even after he tells them Jesus heals him we don’t see him go anywhere to anyone else to tell them anything. POOF!!! This dude is gone. People were left annoyed.

So what is to be gleaned here? Just like those of us who needed Jesus’ healing touch in our lives we are excited we’re even healed like these two guys but ya gotta notice what they did with what Jesus did for them. One goes out to share his joy with others and one keeps it to himself. One did everything he could for Jesus and one did nothing. One walks into a city and one just walk away. One is set as an example and one is set as a warning.

This is still happening in our churches today. We have folks that are so overjoyed by what Jesus has done for them they can’t singing His praises and we have those that barely lift a whisper to be heard. What I hope I am conveying to you today is that if Jesus has touched you deeply He needs to be shared by you deeply. If all you have in your heart is “Jesus saved me” and not “Jesus saved me and He can save you too” then you’ve missed the boat. Make this day the day you go out among the people and share what was done for you by the healing touch of Jesus Christ. Amen?

Chris Hughes_FF 2016Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married with two adult children and serves on the Deacon Board at Trinity Alliance Church in Cologne NJ

 

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 149; Proverbs 31

Daily Quote: “We humans “do what we are.” It is a statement that cannot be refuted. In other words, if we let ourselves go, giving up all outward pretensions, and live just from the desires within us, what we really are will come out. Basically, what we are is revealed by what we do, and what we do reveals what we are within.” ~A.W. Tozer

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

3 You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
Trust in the Lord forever,
For in YAH, the Lord, is everlasting strength. ~Isaiah 26:3-4

Pioneering Dilemmas

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 “Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God Himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for Him.” ~Philippians 1:28-29 (NLT)
 
The last time I was with you I was all keyed up on a new phrase I learned—“Gospel Pioneer”. Gotta tell ya, I think it’s a really cool title to have because it says that you are for The Gospel and you’re willing to do some suffering for it…right? Because in the life of any good pioneer comes dilemmas. I mean our Bibles are printed in black and white until we get to Jesus and those red letters. When I see those red letters coming up in the four Gospels (a splash can be found in Acts and Revelation) I see the confrontation of a dilemma or two…or three…or four…just depends on what chapter of the Gospel you read. Even though dilemmas can suck the joy right outta us, if they are handled like Jesus much can be gleaned for the side of truth. This was something the Apostle Paul understood as well.
 
Now for any of you that are scratching your head wondering what dilemmas are they are like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. So what’s the prescription for you when you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place? (If any of you say “More Cowbell” we need to talk) Well I guess we start at this verse since this was Paul’s own personal dilemma…For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” (Phil 1:21) As in all dilemmas there are benefits and liabilities so we’ll look at this from Chuck Swindoll’s perspective
 
We have option 1: To Depart. “dying is even better” I could go into how Swindoll talked about the freedom from chains, imprisonments and stoning Paul would be free from as one of the benefits but we can see what he would experience being in God’s hands in Psalm 16:11: “You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of Your presence and the pleasures of living with You forever.” The liability in this was this infant church would lose its pioneer and we’re not too sure who would have remained to champion it for the future. Let’s not forget those Romans guards either…the word of God had begun to pierce the hearts of these men.
 
Now we have option 2: To Remain. “living means living for Christ” By sticking around Paul could keep his writing ministry going. After all we do get alot of Christ-like application from his writings in the New Testament. Paul could also help nurture that infant church so that as they grew they would gain the security and hope for its future. But the liability was to stay chained to those Roman guards possibly not being released from his imprisonment. However, in both cases Paul’s joy was Jesus Christ and the sufferings that came with Him. “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.” (Phil 3:7) Mighty fine attitude to have for those of us that have experienced imprisonment of one kind or another huh?
 
So how are we to respond when we find ourselves between that rock and hard place dilemma? Do we really ask for more cowbell or do we put on a set of Biblical bifocals so we can properly see what’s in front of us affecting our today and what the ripple effect will be when it effects our tomorrow? Well since I already wear these fancy transition style bifocals that get dark in the sunlight I’d say my prescription is clear. Go back to those red letters, see how Jesus handled things (I believe He covered a lot of life’s dilemmas) and reconsider just how important it is for me to have Christ in my life.
 
Paul assured the Philippians there was no reason to be shy or hesitant when dilemmas occurred. They weren’t alone, Christ was for them. The victory was theirs, Christ won it for them. They were not alarmed by their opponents, Christ has them on the right path…it’s cool. Maintain hope and be encouraged, and know that you’re not alone in the battle to ensure that Gospel pioneering goes forward. AND GUESS WHAT? All four of these viewpoints for them are for you too. All you gotta do is allow it to work its way into your walk and when others see the joy of suffering for Jesus on your face they’re gonna know you’re different. Amen?
  
Chris Hughes_FF 2016Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married with two adult children and serves on the Deacon Board at Trinity Alliance Church in Cologne NJ

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 143; Proverbs 25

Daily Quote: “The presence of opposition, Paul assures them (The Philippians), shows that they are on the right path in their active gospel witness. It is a token of salvation to them, as it is a token of perdition for the opponents: “they will lose and …you will win” God is the author of the Gospel: those who defend it may therefore expect deliverance and victory from Him as surely as those who resist it may expect to incur His judgement.”  ~F.F. Bruce

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

25 I have been young, and now am old,
    yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
    or his children begging for bread. ~Psalm 37:25

Gospel Pioneer

Walking in forest

“For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” ~Philippians 1:20-21 (NLT)

So let’s start this off with a question that can have many layers to it…What are the characteristics of a mature witness for Christ? Now I’m sure you have a list of things that you believe makes a mature witness and I just may not give a rebuttal to it just for this simple reason, I may not know it completely myself. My reasoning in this is pretty much based in something that we seem to do and that is we spend time making the list with characteristics that aren’t signs of a mature witness.

Now I realize that being an axe-wielding homicidal maniac may not a good characteristic and it’s something NOT to be BUT it doesn’t deserve to be on the list. As we scroll the list… “Oh here it is, #13. Thou art doth not to be an axe-wielding homicidal maniac if thou art doth to be a mature witness.” It should go without saying and you may be rolling your eyes right now over it but it is something that we do, it’s probably just less severe but you get my gist.

However we bring what not to be into the conversation of what to be all the time. And let’s think this one through, if you were chained to a Roman guard 24-7, like the Apostle Paul was, would you spend that time telling that guard what’s wrong with him “Dudeious Maximumius you’re a poor witness because you’re nothing but an axe-wielding homicidal manic” or would you use that time telling him what he could be if he was resting in Christ Jesus? “Dudeious Maximumius have you ever considered being a Gospel Pioneer?” “Gospel Pioneer you say…hmmm, now there’s a thought.”

The term Gospel Pioneer comes from Gregory Brown’s study on Paul’s Epistle to The Philippians (Philippians: Pursuing Spiritual Maturity). The characteristics of a Gospel pioneer are cool things like being fearless, being courageous, having boldness and can encourage those around him to do likewise. After all we have been called to spread the Gospel to places where it hasn’t been heard and yes that means in our own backyard.

Too often we let circumstances that have no eternal Kingdom value dictate the characteristics we take on as a witness. If we’ve been addicted to one thing or another, it there has been divorce, imprisonment, rejection, financial loss or abuse of some sort, it’s these things that we allow to shape the character of our witness. If we’ve saved and redeemed all we need to do is start our list from that point and choose joy to guide where we glean our traits of character.

Charles Swindoll (in his book “Laugh Again”) makes this really cool statement, “It’s not enough, however, to simply say, “I choose to be joyful.” To choose joy means that we set our minds on the kinds of things specifically listed in Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.” Think of the mind as a bank that regularly receives deposits. By depositing the kinds of thoughts mentioned above, we build up and draw on a rich account that will constantly yield a high dividend called joy.”

As I keep digging into the second half of the first chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians I am hoping to discover that joy Paul found within himself to give such a great report on how his brand of Gospel pioneering allowed him to turn prison chains into a pulpit but until then let’s think upon this; despite the circumstances that surrounded the Apostle Paul (being falsely accused, beaten, wrongfully arrested and imprisoned) he chose to continuing moving forward with spreading the Gospel Good News even if his audience was only the Praetorian Guard. Could we make such a choice under those kinda circumstances? It’s a stretch I realize but if we take what Christ endured on His way to The Cross as the baseline for Gospel Pioneering there is much we need to check in at the door when we approach the Throne Room. Amen?

Chris Hughes_FF 2016

 

Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married with two adult children and serves on the Deacon Board at Trinity Alliance Church in Cologne NJ

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 135; Proverbs 17

Daily Quote: “Our inner peace will be tossed back and forth according to the whim of events beyond our control. But if we exercise our “right” to choose our attitude—the one basic freedom that can’t be taken away from us—we can choose joy even in the midst of the cruelest circumstances.” ~Charles Swindoll

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.
24 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
    for the Lord holds them by the hand.

 ~Psalm 37:23-24

 

Maintain A Joyful Attitude

teenage boy under rain in the city

“Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” ~Philippians 1:4-6 (NLT)

Attitude. When we say the word “attitude” among folks today there seems to be something uncomfy about it. I guess it’s because we are waiting for a negative adjective to be attached to it. To say one has a bad attitude seems the norm today and then to say that at all seems to be the only time we bring someone’s attitude. Maybe it’s not like this in your circles of life but in mine it is an everyday thing to overhear. A worker that doesn’t do a particular task (because they weren’t hired to do this task) displays their attitude as anti-team and therefore they maintain a bad attitude towards the job.

I think if there was anyone in Scripture who could’ve had and maintained a bad attitude it would have been the apostle Paul. Well I think he had one when he was a “Pharisee of Pharisees” but Jesus Christ changed that attitude over to one that found joy in affliction. In 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 we get a long list of things that Paul endured during his missionary travels. One time with getting 39 lashes is enough to send me into a “This ain’t happenin’ no more” attitude but Paul was different because Jesus made it different for him.

There was something Paul understood and that he had to have an attitude of joy. None the matter of people, possessions or circumstances when your confidence is in God joy is the resulting attitude. It didn’t matter the difficulty of the paths he walked or how much of beating he took walking those paths, Paul’s choice he to put his confidence in God. As Chuck Swindoll wrote in “Laugh Again”, Paul’s confidence in God guided him like an inner compass, always keeping him on joy’s course regardless of the gales that blew.”

So here in lies this question: Do you have that same inner confidence in God guiding you? If you think not, then maybe we should examine this confidence of Paul’s…

Paul’s time Philippi church planting didn’t go wasted. Because they were consistent, alive and actively participating in the Gospel on our their own. He states that quite clear in his opening lines of his letter to them. It’s in verse 6 that you can feel the firm confidence that Paul has that: “For 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.” and it’s in this that three reasons of Paul’s confidence appear. That God was at work, in control and His plan for His glory was being followed in the Philippian church.

The thing that kept all of this influx is having a “keen discernment.” The church went Gods way because the people of God of choose to go God’s way. For any church to be able to grow in the grace of God is having God’s people, individually make the conscience effort to have a full and complete knowledge of truth on one side and a keen sense of right and wrong on the other. And I believe this comes from people who choose to maintain a joyful attitude by placing their confidence in God.

As a contributor to these Freedom Fighter blogs you gotta be asking…Do I do this myself? My answer to that goes like this…He who BEGAN a good work in me WILL PERFECT it until the day He comes back or chooses to take me home. I have confidence in this because it is a promise of God. Do I express this joy and confidence at all things at all times? Well I need to that better but I am pretty sure I’m alone in this either (not that this excuses me for my falling short).

To finish up for today let me borrow from Chuck Swindoll and say there are three principles we need to glean before we set sail into our day. First, confidence brings joy when you focus on the things for which you’re thankful. Second, confidence brings joy when you let God be God. Third, confidence brings joy when you keep love within proper limits. Giving thanks to our God is becoming a lost art. Today lets band together to regain our joy in the LORD by giving Him thanks in all things…even if His answer to somethings are “NO”. Amen?

Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married with two adult children (you may remember them from summer staff) and serves on the Deacon Board at Trinity Alliance Church in Cologne NJ.

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 123; Proverbs 5

Daily Quote: “It’s easy to understand why the world doesn’t see much joy reflected in Christianity today. We’ve quit practicing the art of thanksgiving, and without it, joy will remain a very scarce commodity.” ~Charles Swindoll

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him,
And saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them. ~Psalm 34:6-7

More Writing From Chris Hughes:

Face Value

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“But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains were unfastened.” ~Acts 16:26-27 (NASB)

The original reason for founding the town of Philippi was to control the gold mines that were nearby and to establish a military garrison under the rule of King Philip II of Macedon. Later on down the historical line some dudes named Mark Antony and Octavian confronted the assassins of Julius Caesar on a plain west of the city. After Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus were defeated the city was reorganized into a Roman colony. When Octavian became Emperor and the Roman Senate gave him the title “Augustus”, the Praetorian Guard became part of the citizenry and a “Miniature Rome” was established. This miniature Rome was left abandoned by the Ottoman Empire sometime in the 14th century and it ain’t nuttin’ but ruins now.

Perfect back drop for one of the most infamous sayings ever to be found in the Bible, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved.” (Acts 16:30) Then comes another infamous saying, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31) A whole lotta stuff happened in Philippi while Paul and Silas were there. We meet a woman named Lydia. She is wealthy, owns a home and after her conversion turns that home into a meeting place of this first church plant in Macedonia. Lydia also becomes the patroness of Gospel messengers while they are in Philippi.

We also meet a slave girl who has a “Python spirit” that Paul casts out from her. This action ticks off those who have profit from her divination and these same people seize Paul and Silas and have them tossed into prison. The Charges? “The whole city is in an uproar because of these Jews!” they shouted to the city officials. They are teaching customs that are illegal for us Romans to practice.” (Acts 16:20-21) “Nough said!! They were stripped down, beaten with rods and thrown into the inner most of a Roman jail with their feet in stocks. So I guess after a while one gets in the mood to sing hymns of praise to God? Eh…why not?

This place musta been real heavy on Paul’s heart while he was in a prison in Rome because he writes them a letter that does nothing but pour out outrageous joy and encouragement. I can almost see the smile that Paul has on his face as this letter is being written, remembering them as babes in Christ, ink flowing. Kinda makes me wonder what has happened over the centuries to us believers, followers and doers of Christ. Are we smiling when we claim Jesus Christ as Savior? Are we smiling when we share Jesus as Savior? Are we smiling at all at the name of Jesus? Or are we like the Grinch who stole Christmas before he actually stole Christmas?

Well over the next moments of time (as long as it takes me I guess) I’ll be sharing with some insights I got from this really cool Bible Study I ran into by Charles Swindoll titled, “Maybe it’s time to Laugh Again: Experience Outrageous Joy”. It’s a study of Philippians and I’ll tell ya as of right now it’s kinda convicting. Just like there being 4 chapters in Philippians there are 4 embedded principles of joy we should be aware of:

1. Joy in living—Chapter 1

2. Joy in serving—Chapter 2

3. Joy in sharing—Chapter 3

4. Joy in resting—Chapter 4

So I hope you’ll be joining me as I dig into this study. Maybe you could get the study for yourself ($8.99 Kindle, $10.58 paperback from Amazon) and you could e-mail me your thoughts. (I might use them in my writing with your kind permission, of course). If ya can’t get the book but have a Bible e-mail your thoughts on joy right from the Scripture. Brothers I know that we get all crazy with saying “Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess” but until then how about we put a smile on our face and increase its value because it shines for Jesus? After all, we should count it all a joy…Amen?

E-mail me at cphughes515@verizon.net

Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married with two adult children (you may remember them from summer staff) and serves on the Deacon Board at Trinity Alliance Church in Cologne NJ

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 119; Proverbs 28

Daily Quote: “Joy. You don’t see it very often nowadays. It’s certainly not in the newspapers or nightly news. It’s not even in many churches. Have you noticed the looks on the average Sunday morning crowd? One word comes to mind—grim. Rows of overcast faces forecast dreary to mildly depressing days, with little or no chance of any laughter.” ~Charles R. Swindoll

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

 We wait in hope for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
    for we trust in his holy name. ~Psalm 33:20-21

Prodigal Humility IV

father and son_FF 
“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.” ~Luke 15:20-21 (NLT)
 
Today I finish up where I left with humility found in the story of the lost son and would like to answer the question that I left off in my last Freedom Fighter, “So why is this a cool parable?” Well I think the biggest thing I get outta of it is the forgiveness given to the prodigal. You can heap all the ugliness you want on the shoulders of the prodigal but it all comes off with his father’s forgiveness. But it is very easy to maintain a certain animosity towards the prodigal son, after all, he wasted his inheritance and he ain’t getting that back any time soon. We all get a bit aggravated when someone wastes what we earned to give them…don’t we?
 
However, the father made the decision to give his son his share and in this day and age that just might go down as the “norm” but back in the 1stcentury it was wasteful. The society surrounding this family would have been appalled to see the father running down the road to love on his son. No matter how much he missed him this boy still squandered his father’s earnings. And that society was so steeped in what The Law said, how The Pharisees interrupted it, that it would not see the forest for the trees in what was going on. If they would have just remembered what went on back in The Garden, when their originals parents were “naked and ashamed” maybe, just maybe, they would have seen humiliation being flipped into humility. But they were too busy being…offended.
 
Ya see the moment the son comes back into the picture the father can now speak to his son. I’m sure that before the “prodigal living” actually took place the idea of it had been nicely harbored in the heart of the son. Ever been so stubborn over something that you couldn’t be reasoned with it going a different direction? (Tell me no…go on…I dare you!!) Well this is where I see the younger son. Having been a prodigal myself I know that once my mind was made up to do this act of “riotous living”, the coals were thrown into the furnace and the train kept-a-rollin’ all night long (sometimes into the wee hours of the morning) and when I woke up from this little adventure regret was on the back burner. Until spiritual famine got the better of me and a need to have faith kicked in.
 
Andrew Murray put it like this, “Humility and faith are more nearly allied in Scripture than many know. See it in the life of Christ. There are two cases in which He spoke of a great faith. In the first instance, the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home.” At this humility, Jesus marveled and replied, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!” (Matt 8:8,10) In the second case, the mother humbly spoke,“That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their master’s table.” And the Lord answered her, “Dear woman, your faith is great.” (Matt 15:27-28) It is humility that brings a soul to be nothing before God that also removes every hindrance to faith.”
 
And this is what really makes the parable of the prodigal so cool. It shows how it is gonna take a complete empting of self to bring one to feel humility (and NOT humiliation), to find the faith within ourselves to ask for forgiveness and to receive grace and mercy. Simply put in YHVH’s Word…” Trustin the LORD and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you your heart’s desires.” (Psalm 37:3-4) Yes sometimes one has to travel through the wilderness to find the end of their self but it is good having the promises of YHVH make themselves worth the journey? Today take a moment and understand what you have been saved from by making Jesus Christ LORD and SAVIOR. Faith and Humility can make this walk well worth the journey. Amen?
 
Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married with two adult children (you may remember them from summer staff) and serves on the Deacon Board at Trinity Alliance Church in Cologne NJ.

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 112; Proverbs 21

Daily Quote: “Humility makes the soul fear that it would dishonor Him by not trusting Him wholly.” ~Andrew Murray

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You
In a time when You may be found;
Surely in a flood of great waters
They shall not come near him.
You are my hiding place;
You shall preserve me from trouble;
You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.  Psalms 32:6-7

Read past entries in Chris’s “Prodigal Humility” series:

Prodigal Humility III

Prodigal Humility II

Prodigal Humility I

It’s 5:55 A.M.

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“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed.” ~Mark 1:35 (ESV)

Did you know that when lion’s go to kill their prey they do so by clamping their huge jaws down on the mouth of their victim? Now whether it’s instinct or watched behavior, lions use cooperative tactics to take down and silence their prey. It is no wonder that Peter would pen this warning to us, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Now think this through. If a lion has got his jaws around your mouth what can’t you do? If you said cry out for help you are correct!

The apostle Paul also gives his advice on being alert, so much so that he instructs you to put on the full armor of God before you even go into the battle of the day but he gives this keen bit of insight… “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” (Ephesians 6:18) Believe it or not, prayer is a weapon that your adversary fears you using the most and he will do what he has to to clamp down on your spiritual jaws so you can’t cry out to YHVH for help. So what can we do about it? Well it’s 5:55 a.m. and it is time to suit up and PRAY!!

In the very same way that we say we need to tithe the first fruits we should give God the first hour. You can try and say you aren’t all that together until you have had your coffee or glass of O.J. but I’m gonna tell ya that if you don’t give God that first hour the rest of your day is up for grabs. If you aren’t getting that armor on as soon as those feet hit the floor you are setting yourself up for the Pinscher maneuver that the Germans used in WWII to defeat weaker nations that weren’t ready for this kinda warfare. Remember it may not be a tangible warfare we are in but we are engaged in spiritual warfare.

Here are three things that you can hit your knees running with…

1. Pray the Armor of God on every morning: There is an unending struggle and to pray the armor on will help protect our minds from the distractions we encounter from our adversary.

2. Pray for forgiveness and repentance: God isn’t gonna pretend everything’s okay when you approach the throne of grace. Unconfessed sin will dull God’s ear to us. “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, He has turned away and will not listen anymore.” (Isaiah 59:2)

3. Pray for a fresh refill of the Holy Spirit: We have no problems walking up to those soda machines with them Super-sized cups. It is like what Jesus said, “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.” (Luke 11:13)

If an Almighty God can turn to a Pharaoh and say, “I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying My power in you and to spread My fame throughout the earth.” (Romans 9:17) what more can it be to us to petition the Throne of God’s Grace to pour out on us first thing in the morning.

The hunt is on brethren and when it comes to those things out there in Secularland we are the prey but the armor we are to wear is built to face adversity not run from it. God’s Word makes it clear that He wants to hear us ask for His help. If we have to scream for it out loud then so be it. But YHVH will not hear the muffled cries of His people if we are being devoured by the adversary. Remember…like a lion seeking to devour. It’ll take a warrior to take a stand, wield a sword and say a prayer. Amen?

Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married with two adult children (you may remember them from summer staff) and serves on the Deacon Board at Trinity Alliance Church in Cologne NJ

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 104Proverbs 13

Click Here to Download our 2016 Daily Bible Reading Plan

Daily Quote: “Remember, NOT ONE OF US is without sin. Not your pastor, not your earthly father, not your mentor, not even the Pope is without sin. Let’s face up, let’s get serious; we were born of sin and our minds are not pure. But I believe a Godly man is the man that strives to be righteous on a daily basis, a man that fights it with all his heart, and when he falls back into sin, he gets back up, repents and gives it another shot.” ~Mark W. Koch

This Week’s Verse to Memorize: 

The Lord is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song I will praise Him. ~Psalm 28:7

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Prodigal Humility III

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And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.” ~Luke 15:13 (NKJV)
Today I am picking up where I left off with humility. If you remember I had found some notes on my desk that I got some time ago concerning humility in the life of the prodigal son. Now within these notes is the term Colony 101. For any of you who know Chaplin Jim Freed, the parable of the prodigal son is one of his strong suits and he uses this parable to help us Colony guys get our heads around The Fathers forgiveness for us when we repent and turn 180* to Jesus and seek to live an exchanged life. Over the years I myself have seen the layers that is in this parable so I think this would definitely be Colony 101 stuff.
Now previously I suggested that this young man may have practiced some sorta pseudo-humility by asking for his inheritance before his father passed on. After all, just walking up to dad and saying, “Dude, I can’t wait for you to die so can I have my stuff now?” fly’s…right? Well in the 1st century dem’s was fightin’ words and this guy would have gotten his tail kicked in or at the very least got nuttin’ when dad died (however in the 21st century kids really do have the brass to ask for this thing to actually happen, just sayin’). But for the sake of illustration Jesus chooses to begin this parable with someone who is obviously morally wrong and this would have gotten their attention. (ya think?)
So there is no doubt that the prodigal was seeking instant gratification and from what I see in these notes I got there is this statement… “He was the Dead Sea of all his intentions”. Hmmm…that’s like saying he swims in “Lake Loser” right? But do you realize that there are contemporary counterparts to the prodigal and maybe you see them in your everyday? Those folks who are down on their luck riding the bus or the train, walking down the road with all their possessions in plastic Walmart bags, locked up in jail, on television running for president (oops let that one slip, sorry) or maybe they are like 40 totally different men at the Colony of Mercy. You could say that these people had their chance in life—like everyone else—but they threw their chance away. Maybe, in a way, they deserve to feel humiliated…
Well, when you look into Luke 15:15-16 you can see a movement to justify that statement. We tend to focus in what is going on to the prodigal but I see a fine display of attitude from people as well. I see man’s ability to humiliate in verse 15, I see man’s ability to exploit in verse 16 and what I don’t see is man’s ability to show grace and mercy. It’s at this moment in the parable that Jesus will flip the script on what should happen to us when we are in that spiritual “famine in the land” moment. It’s this moment in the life of the prodigal where humiliation becomes humility.
Now just because the prodigal finally comes to his senses, realizes that he has sinned against heaven, his father and isn’t worthy to be called a son doesn’t mean he got the whole idea of humility down. OH NO, because what it took was the father’s response to the very sight of him. Running down the road in a robe and sandals ain’t no easy task but for the “pater familias” to do this is unthinkable in the 1st century…well in any century. If I do this, I feel that I’m falling flat on my face no matter overjoyed I would be seeing my son CHOOSING to come home. Choosing to come home is the humbling action that has the father showering his wayward son with love and grace. Putting better clothes on him, shoes and a ring on him is the father showering him with mercy.
So why is this a cool parable? Well I guess I’ll just have to take my shot at answering that the next time I am with you. But until then think about the audience that is hearing this parable…those wacky Pharisees. All the way up to this point everything that Jesus has spoken to has gotta be seething in the hearts of those men, after all, they have the ability to humiliate and to exploit just like those that done so to the prodigal when he became in need. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they hadn’t already done so to those people that YHVH Himself handpicked to bring into the Promised Land. Now does this stuff still happen in the 21st century? You better believe it…Amen?
Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married with two adult children (you may remember them from summer staff) and serves on the Deacon Board at Trinity Alliance Church in Cologne NJ

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 96; Proverbs 5

Click Here to Download our 2016 Daily Bible Reading Plan

Daily Quote: “Let us, from the beginning, admit that there is nothing so natural to man, nothing so insidious and hidden from our sight, nothing so difficult and dangerous, as pride. Let us feel that nothing but a very determined and persevering waiting on God and Christ will disclose how lacking we are in the grace of humility, and how weak we are to obtain what we seek.” ~Andrew Murray

This Week’s Verse to Memorize: 

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid? ~Psalm 27:1

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