Philippians 4 – Whatever is Honorable

In this last chapter of the epistle, Paul’s affection for the people of Philippi comes through clearly, calling them his “joy and my crown” in verse one. His first congregation in Europe was still strong and he was certainly proud of them, and the great hope of salvation for them surely brought him joy in his confinement. Appealing to them to “stand firm thus in the Lord,” he uses no less than four terms of endearment. Although not naming the nature of the disagreement, he addresses two women, Euodia and Syntyche, by name asking them to mend their differences. He had evidently done much work in Philippi aided by them, as well as someone named Clement. 

On Paul's Second Missionary Journey, Paul and Silas were imprisoned at Philippi. But when God freed them with an earthquake, the Philippian jailer tried to kill himself (Acts 16:16-40).

On Paul’s Second Missionary Journey, Paul and Silas were imprisoned at Philippi. But when God freed them with an earthquake, the Philippian jailer tried to kill himself (Acts 16:16-40).

The rest of this chapter contains so much wisdom and so many familiar verses that they hardly need comment at all, yet they certainly cannot be ignored here. Beginning with the words that make up the totality of a familiar hymn, he tells them to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” The intentional repetition is significant, as the words to follow are intended to encourage them to live their lives in a joyous manner that demonstrates to the world what righteous living does for those who live it – as well as how it reflects to others around them (us).

First, there is the peace that the righteous can have in their relationship with the Lord:

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.
The Lord is at hand; 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.

And he extends that further with the righteous living that will inspire and capture the hearts of wayward souls:

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.
What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things,
and the God of peace will be with you.

Paul closes the letter by thanking them for their concern, for their support, and for the gifts they sent with Epaphroditus. Seeking to put their minds at ease about him, Paul then gives the following inspiring words that we all would do well be able to honestly use to describe our own attitudes in the face of adversity:

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.
In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret
of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

That last line, most often taken out of context, is not meant to imply that we can always be on top of the world no matter what. Rather, it lets us know that with the Lord’s help, we can get through the times when life may not be going so well.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Psalm 102 – In the Day of My Distress

Hebrew Psalmist from the Brooklyn Museum

Hebrew Psalmist from the Brooklyn Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As one reads Psalm 102, there can be no doubt that it was written during the time of Babylonian captivity. Verses 13-21 particularly make it clear that this was the time and setting in which the psalmist lived. And this psalmist must have remembered Jeremiah’s prediction of 70 years in captivity (Jeremiah 25:8-11), as he says in verse 13, confident that the end of captivity is near:

You will arise and have pity on Zion;
it is the time to favor her;
the appointed time has come

Coffman describes three divisions to the psalm: “(1) Psalms 102:1-11 describes the terrible sufferings of the afflicted one. (2) Psalms 102:12-22 dwells upon the hopes for relief. (3) And Psalms 102:23-28 speaks of the unchanging God as contrasted with the changing world.”

Below are verses 25-27 containing the comforting words the psalmist with regards to that third point in relation to the oppressors:

Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
but you are the same, and your years have no end.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Psalm 94 – The Lord Will Not Forsake His People

Babylonian captivity

Babylonian captivity (Photo credit: jimforest)

This psalm appears not to have been written during a time of oppression by a foreign foe, but rather it sounds more like the sufferings due to the wickedness and oppression of Israel’s own rulers. No date or author can be reliably gleaned from the words therein, but if one had to make a guess, then a time preceding the Babylonian captivity would fit the descriptions very well. A time during the reign of Manasseh would fit very well indeed (2 Kings 21).

It describes an arrogant group of sinners that have become so secure in their evil, that they do not believe that God will punish them for such depravity. But it also describes the trust that the faithful have that God will take His vengeance with those evil-doers, and that He will remain faithful to His promises to the righteous who are suffering. Many of the comforting verses are most suitable for prayer today:

For the Lord will not forsake his people;
he will not abandon his heritage;
for justice will return to the righteous,
and all the upright in heart will follow it

When I thought, “My foot slips,”
your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
When the cares of my heart are many,
your consolations cheer my soul.
…But the Lord has become my stronghold,
and my God the rock of my refuge.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Proverbs 21 – Finding Life, Righteousness, and Honor

The truths proclaimed in the proverbs often can be found in other scriptures, sometimes worded perhaps a little differently, but with the same meaning. That’s the thing about truth – it is consistently true. What a blessing it is that we can depend on God’s word to always be so consistent for the same reasons! Consider verse 21 of this chapter in the Book of Proverbs:

Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness
will find life, righteousness, and honor

Church of the Beatitudes, located on one traditional site where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount.

Church of the Beatitudes, located on one traditional site where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount.

Sound familiar? It should. Jesus said it again a bit differently in what we call the Beatitudes – Matthew 5:6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Like the Beatitudes, The Book of Proverbs gives us wonderful truths and great instructions for how to navigate through life in a fallen world.

Notice that the verse above includes kindness with righteousness. Jesus spoke of both, but he made it clear that each of them of a necessity includes the other. We were brought into this world to serve – to serve God and to serve each other. There are many such passages that tell us so. One of them is found in Galatians 5:13: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” We are blessed in so many ways, only one of which is that we have a God – a God who knows what is best for us, and what will bring us true happiness.

When we direct our lives about the business of sowing righteousness and kindness, we will reap exactly those things. Honor comes by itself as a gift without seeking it – a further blessing for simply doing the right thing in all that we do.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Proverbs 19 – A Man of Great Wrath

When reading the Book of Proverbs, it is good to remember two useful facts. One of those is that some of the proverbs are often about the way things are – not the way that they should be. Another is that some of them should be considered a general truth, and that there can be exceptions from time to time. Could Proverbs 19:19 be an example of the latter?

A man of great wrath will pay the penalty,
for if you deliver him, you will only have to do it again

The prison, Reading Built in 1844 and immortli...

The prison, Reading Built in 1844 and immortlised by Oscar Wilde in his Ballad of Reading Gaol. He wrote De Profundis whilst incarcerated here from 1895 to 1897. Today it houses young offenders. For more information see the Wikipedia article Reading (HM Prison). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Possibly. Anyone can change. And there is no such thing as impossible where the Lord is concerned. If God is at work in the life of any man (or woman), any sort of turnaround is not only believable, but historically proven. But violent crime often results from anger that becomes outright rage; and very often, those who cannot (or will not) control themselves in one such situation are very likely to not be able to control themselves when they find themselves in that state again.

In an article for “The Telegraph” in the UK, it was reported that more than half a million crimes were committed by repeat offenders in the previous year. Separate figures showed 134 dangerous criminals were suspected of carrying out serious further offences such as murder, rape and other violence despite being monitored by the authorities (Tom Whitehead, 27 Oct 2011, Telegraph Media Group Limited). In a story reported by Samantha Donavan and Simon Lauder for ABC News “The World Today,” an expert is quoted as saying that parole is not appropriate for dangerous repeat offenders (http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2013/s3784879.htm).

Whether it is considered to be for the protection of innocent people in the future and/or for the good of the offender himself, we would do well to note that the proverb does warn us that saving someone from paying the penalty for
such rage does invite a disregard for future consequences.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Psalm 88 – My Soul Is Full of Troubles

1894 sculpture by William Wetmore Story - Angel of Grief

1894 sculpture by William Wetmore Story – Angel of Grief

As one of the lament psalms, this one is truly written by one whose condition is most pitiable. In a vote for the saddest psalm of the book, Psalm 88 could easily win. Opinions vary as to the origin of the psalm. Some believe it was written by one of the exiles to Babylon during the worst of his times. Others have postulated that it is the song of a dying leper. I read a first-hand account of a visit to a leper colony that occurred over 50 years ago, and I shall spare you the details of that account. Suffice to say that I find it very plausible that such indeed could be the source of the psalm.

One thing to note is that although the psalm begins and ends with the deepest despair and no real hope that things will get any better, the cries made by the psalmist to the Lord are accompanied by faith nevertheless. And the psalmist makes it clear that he will continue in his faith to the bitter end, fully expecting to begin each new day with his prayers to the Lord.

2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” So why is this psalm in the Bible? What teaching or training could such bleak words hold for us today? I believe Derek Kidner offers as good an explanation as I have heard (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Book 16),IVP Academic; Reprint edition (April 17, 2009)). Burton Coffman aptly summarizes Kidner’s words (which I will leave you with) as follows:

“(1) This psalm reveals the truth that Christians may sometimes be subjected to the most unrelenting and terrible misfortunes in passing through this earthly life. It happened to Job; it happened to this psalmist; and it can happen to any child of God.

What a joyful thing it is that… the Christian today has the advantage of the blessed hope of the resurrection ‘in Christ’ and the hope of eternal glory in heaven.

(2) There is the lesson of this psalm that no matter how discouraging and terrible one’s lot in life may be, he should not fail to lay the matter before the Lord in prayer. God always answers the prayers of his saints, even if their specific requests must be denied, as in the case of Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh.’

(3) Our lives upon earth are only a moment compared to the ceaseless ages of eternity; and our attitude during the very worst of experiences should be the same as that of Job, who cried, ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust him’ (Job 13:15)”

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Proverbs 17 – Laugh More!

OK, so we know that Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived (1 Kings 3:11-12).  So we should not be surprised when something he wrote (or any other scripture, for that matter) is validated by secular science, as is the case with verse 22 of this chapter (“a joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones”).

English: Watching a comedic television show he...

English: Watching a comedic television show helps provoke laughter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As far back as I can remember, my mother was a subscriber to “Reader’s Digest,” and one of my favorite parts was a joke section called “Laughter the Best Medicine.” That saying was always accepted as a general home-spun truism by most people – one of those things that “everybody knows.” But according to the Mayo Clinic (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-relief/SR00034), laughter not only relieves stress, it has positive effects on your physical health in many ways.

According to this staff article, laughter “…enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.” Other benefits include relieving one’s stress response, stimulating circulation and relaxing muscles, improving the immune system, relieving pain, and lessening depression and anxiety, I can vouch for those last two, as I have noticed the positive effects on my anxiety caused by even a single genuine laugh.

The trouble is, when we most need it the most, we often do not feel like laughing. But we should not just toss the thought aside. Next time these troubles threaten to engulf us, let’s try seeking out laughter in some way – whether it is a comedy on TV, a funny movie, a favorite companion, or even simple things like reading jokes somewhere. Give laughter a try – it’s Biblical!

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Psalm 86 – Gladden the Soul of Your Servant

David hid in one of the many caves such as this near Adullam, a city 13 miles southwest of Bethlehem (1 Samuel 22: 1-12). David was in this area when three of his mighty men risked their lives to get him a drink of water from Bethlehem (2 Samuel 23: 13-17).

David hid in one of the many caves such as this near Adullam, a city 13 miles southwest of Bethlehem (1 Samuel 22: 1-12). David was in this area when three of his mighty men risked their lives to get him a drink of water from Bethlehem (2 Samuel 23: 13-17).

Psalm 86 is one of the lament psalms written by David. It is not clear whether verse 14’s “a band of ruthless men” that seek his life are Saul’s men or from the time that he had to flee Jerusalem because of Absalom’s conspiracy (2 Samuel 15-17). David’s prayer to God is for the preservation of his life, as well as the comfort of God’s care, and the lifting of his spirits in a time of unimaginable adversity.

Be gracious to me, O Lord,
for to you do I cry all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul

The entire chapter models prayer today for God’s people when they are weary or oppressed, saddened, anxious, or depressed, And it is full of praise to God for His mercy and graciousness, steadfast love, and faithfulness (verses 5, 10, 13, and 15). David glorifies the name of God, while presenting his petitions, and thanking Him for His care. And he expresses his trust in God to do what will be best for him (verses 10 and 13).

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Turn to me and be gracious to me;
give your strength to your servant,
and save the son of your maidservant

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Proverbs 14 – The End of Joy May Be Grief

depression_anxiety_003Verse 10 says that “The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.” No matter how close we get to someone, rarely does anyone ever reach the point that we share every detail of the heart. Almost without exception it is just human nature to hold something back – at a minimum, the darkest moments are not shared. By the same token, nobody who is not close truly shares the joy that comes to us at those rare times when fortunes are at their best.

Verse 13 says “Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief.” Outward appearances can sometimes be deceptive; and we do not always know what is in another’s heart. Many times, people surround themselves with those they believe will make them happy, hoping the sorrow will go away. But often, the charade ends up leaving them still in need of support.

The answer to these enigmas is prayer. The Lord knows our needs and wants to listen to us when we are in despair. Casting our burdens on him is not simply a good thing to do – it is scriptural; and develops the trust in Him that we need.

Psalm 34:18 – The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Psalm 147:3 – He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

1 Peter 5:7 – Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Proverbs 12 – According To Good Sense

Nelson Mandela was born Rolihlahla Mandela in July of 1918 in the village of Mvezo, in Transkei, South Africa. “Rolihlahla” in the language of his country means “pulling the branch of a tree,” but more commonly translates as “troublemaker,” and it fit like a glove. Before the death of his father when he was nine years old, he was baptized into the Methodist Church. He went on to become the first in his family to attend school. After the death of his father (and probably because of the prejudice of the British ruling class educational system) he was coerced into taking the first name “Nelson.”

Nelson Mandela & Mikhail Gorbatchov

Nelson Mandela & Mikhail Gorbatchov (Photo credit: Anastasios Fakinos)

At the law firm where he clerked, Mandela befriended a member of the ANC and Communist Party, as well as Nat Bregman, a Jewish communist who became his first white friend. Attending communist talks and parties, Mandela was encouraged that whites and blacks were blending together as equals. However, he said later that he did not join the Party because its atheism conflicted with his Christian faith, and because the South African “Apartheid” struggle was racially based rather than a product of class warfare.

Becoming increasingly political, Mandela marched in support of a successful bus boycott, and continued his higher education, working on his BA at night. Deciding that armed resistance was inevitable, he was arrested for subversive activities, and served 27 years in prison before public pressure brought an end to the oppression and persecution of the South African’s he so dearly loved. After his release, he then became the first black President in the history of the nation, and quickly became the patron saint of the oppressed people of the world.

Nelson Mandela outlasted Communism, as well as the oppression and persecution of Apartheid, and his story brings to mind the wisdom of at least two of the Proverbs in chapter 12:

The wicked are overthrown and are no more,
but the house of the righteous will stand.

A man is commended according to his good sense,
but one of twisted mind is despised.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.