Friday, November 30, 2012

Advent Eve- 12/1/12

The generous will themselves be blessed,    for they share their food with the poor. (Prov. 22:9)

41 But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you. (Jesus' words- Matthew 11:41)

(Policeman giving shoes to homeless man in NYC).  

Thoughts: On advent eve, perhaps it is good to think about helping the needy. Today at our church there is a toy drive in memory of Justin Pepper, a young 11 year old who died in a car wreck five years ago.  Justin gave his birthday presents to the needy children of Thornwell Home for Children.  Now hundreds of people bring toys for the needy kids.
    There are so many needs in our world today.  It takes faith to believe that when we are generous to others we will be blessed by God.  

Prayer: Help me to be kind to others as you have been kind to me.  

11/30/12- Advent and Waiting

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  14 Wait for the Lordbe strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Thoughts: In our culture, waiting and resting are bad things.  Yet they are reminders that we are not there yet.  As we prepare for advent (Sunday), we need to remember that one of the themes of advent is waiting on God to come- as Mary did, as the whole world did, as we do.
    In heaven there will not be lines- only circles.  In heaven there will not be lack of patience, because we do not run out of time, and we see (finally clearly) that all time and eternity is in God's hands.  

    Here our bodies are forced to rest- to sleep as a sign of our finitude, and a bit of humility to our pride.  Sabbath is broken in a rebellion against our ability to wait, to rest, to spend time with family and God.  In heaven we see Sabbath is much more important than our idea of work and productivity- which apart from God's glory- has no eternal importance.  
    So wait on the Lord.  When you are going through the trials, pains, and griefs of life-- wait on Him.  

Prayer: Help me to wait on you, O Lord.  Give me confidence to wait on you. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

11/30/12- Temptation

12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10)

(Temptation- Sandro Botticelli)

Thoughts: The old saying is "Pride comes before the fall."  This passage tells us to beware of spiritual pride and at the same time to not think that evil is so strong that we must bend to it.
   Temptation is common- so we should not think that we are in an unbearable, unique situation.  Others have been there before us.  So, sexual immorality is not something new- and while technology makes certain sins more available, they are not new sins.  

    Then Paul changes the focus to God.  He is faithful.  He doesn't abandon us to our temptation without some help.  He limits the temptations we face by giving us strength to resist and also providing an escape hatch out of temptation.  When we are tempted, we too should put our focus on the Lord. 
There is a joy and peace that comes when we overcome temptation.  God does not put us in impossible situations, but ones in which it is possible to shine for His glory.   

Prayer: Today, Lord, help me to resist temptation as you did.  Help me to not give into my weakness, but to rely on your strength for your glory.  

WSC Q. 106- What do we pray for in the sixth request?
A: In the sixth request, which is "and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." we pray that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin, or support and delivers us when we are tempted.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

11/28/12- 1 Corinthians 10:6-10

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

Thoughts: The Old Testament is a history book of the faith of a people.  We can learn, Paul says, from their mistakes and their successes- warnings and examples.  We do not do a very good job of listening.
   Paul gives four examples here: 

1) Idolatry- the making of the golden calf (Ex. 32) and the accompanied sexual immorality.  Today, we make things- the buying, selling, producing, our God.  If you don't believe me, try to talk about Sabbath (rest)- even on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day and people will look at you as if you are a relic.  We justify the destruction of rest and family by saying that sales were good on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  In other words- people want it- so it is okay.  People in Moses' day also wanted the golden calf- and no doubt it was beautiful.  But can someone ask, what would God want? 
2) Sexual Immorality (Nbrs. 25) - Today we have made this an art.  I woke up at 6:00 this morning, and turned on the television to a major news station.  To greet me in the morning was a girl strutting around in her underwear.  How much more advanced we are than the Muslim's with their veils!  In our culture it is very, very hard to get away from immodesty- we have lost our sense of shame.  Pornography is an art and multi-billion business today.  A survey done of our young people found that for the first time in our history the majority of our young people believe there is nothing wrong with sleeping with someone before they are married (from Presbyterian Outlook this week).  There are lawsuits today saying that to even counsel a gay person inviting them to change is illegal- as if it is impossible (contrary to Exit International and thousands of testimonies).  Even in the face of the epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases, and the plethora of hurt souls from the use of another human being sexually- we cannot learn and refuse to listen to scripture.
3) They tested the Lord (Numbers 21:5-6) when they were led out of Egypt's slavery into the desert and yelled at God for leading them that way.  They refused to believe that God would provide daily bread for them- and let fear take over their lives because they thought they had more in secular slavery than in following God.  So many today worry and would rather not trust God- and are turning from Him because He has disappointed their expectations. But they will find that abandoning their God- their hope and purpose has its own punishment. 

4) They grumbled (Nbrs. 14, 16)- You might think that people who had been delivered out of slavery and had seen the plagues, and the sea part would not be grumblers. 

Prayer: Help me Lord to be holy, learning from those in the past.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

11/27/12- Between Memory and Hope

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” (Rev. 22:16)

(Morning star rising)

Thoughts: We are approaching advent.  Some are advent purists, others don't know what advent is all about, and some, like me, are more flexible in how we celebrate it.  Advent is a wonderful tool to think and spend time waiting on God.  The word means "coming."  We live between the first advent (Christmas) and Christ's coming again at the end of the world- or coming to us (face to face) at the end of our lives.  There is a book on advent with an excellent title- "Between Memory and Hope."  It is not that Christ has not come- we do not, I believe, receive much benefit from artificially saying He has not.  Christmas hymns (contrary to what some say) can really be sung any time.  We can celebrate Christmas every day- for He comes into our hearts to make our home.  But advent is a blessing if used in the right way.  It is a season of putting our focus back on God- even if just for 4 weeks.  Today, we are even more busy in advent.  We have completely lost the idea of Sabbath in our culture- and now busy-ness even encroaches more upon us- as people are forced to work on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve or Day (believe it or not, many stores when I was young used to close on Christmas Eve).
Perhaps the best image of advent is like the sun's rising- or the morning star coming up.  When the morning star came, it was a sign to those without clocks that the darkness was about to end.  It did this every day.  So we could anticipate the coming of the morning star cycle based not only on math, but usually on simple past experience.  So advent and Christmas come as both memory and hope.  Christ is the morning star that brings light to our darkness.   He does that each day- each day He offers to come if we will look at Him.  As the morning star came long, long ago first at creation- so Christ came long, long ago at Christmas- but also comes every day.  As the morning star promises a time of brighter light and hope fulfilled- so Christmas is a promise of brighter light for us.   

Prayer: Light up my heart once again, O Lord.  I wait on you in hope because of the past, because of the promises, because of your great love.  

Monday, November 26, 2012

11/26/12- The Weaker Brother

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. (1 Corinthians 8:9)

(Family Thanksgiving picture- families can be divided over teams or even games)

Thoughts: Paul was addressing differing opinions about a secondary issue- eating meat sacrificed to idols.  To some, who could only afford meat that had been discounted because it had been sacrificed to idols, this was a seemingly primary issue.  Some said that anything offered at a pagan offered was tainted or polluted with evil.  Others said that since pagan gods weren't real, it really didn't matter.  Paul saw that such secondary things could split the church apart- both sides claiming a scriptural basis for their actions. 
     Paul was saying the church was more valuable than getting your own way affirmed.  There have always been various idealists and various purists in the church who put their ideals or their concept of the purity of the church ahead of the church itself.  So, instead of having a big umbrella (I hesitate to use the words "big tent"), over a variety of people, we kick people out into the rain or cold wanting only one viewpoint.  Too many times people in power in the church are not sensitive to those with differing viewpoints- and force their viewpoints down the throats of others.  So we try to separate the wheat and tares now (Mt. 13).  A small majority has no right to claim a mandate- whether  that is in the political arena or the church political arena.  To do so diminishes the church.
    So Paul is saying that even if you know you have a God-given-right, you should exercise that right carefully with a mind toward your brother or sister who think differently. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to put other believers ahead of my own ideals.  Give me grace to speak the truth, but speak it in love today.  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

11/25/12- Christ the king

 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,“Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

(Palm Sunday procession- Tissot)

Thoughts: Today is Christ the king Sunday.  it is a reminder that He is King and we are not.  In the American revolution many pulpits resounded with the cry (taken from Samuel Rutherford) "We have no king but Jesus."  But if He is our King, we owe Him our allegiance, put our hope and trust in Him to provide for us and protect us.  

Prayer: Hosanna to you, O Lord.  You are our King and our hope.  We put our allegiance and trust in you. 

11/24.12- We Won

54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”55 “Where, O death, is your victory?     Where, O death, is your sting?”56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:54-58)

for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.(1 John 5:4)

(football fan crying)

Thoughts: Today is "Rivalry Week" on college football and millions of Americans will be pulling extra hard for "their team" (including me).  Half of these millions will be disappointed.  Some will go into a hissy fit or mild depression, and we must be reminded "It is only a game."  If the winners brag too much, if the losers complain too much- the world will not end or begin.  Earlier this month we had some divisive presidential elections, in which some said the world was beginning again and others that the world was ending.  But there is only One who begins and ends- the Alpha and the Omega.
     The passage above says, "Stand firm let nothing move you."  Why?  Because we have hope, and we have a God who has won.  Our Lord Jesus has overcome the world, death, and the very worst human beings can do.  By faith we are a part of his team- his family, and plug into and take part in His victory.  So, no matter what happens on the football field today- a little perspective please... "we won!"  We win over death.  We win over the problems of this life.  The greatest human triumph cannot compare, and the greatest human tragedy is overcome.  

Prayer: Today I thank you Lord for giving me the victory in you.  

Great music piece from Handel: "Thanks be to God Who Giveth us the Victory"

Friday, November 23, 2012

11/23/12- The Day After Thanksgiving

Praise the Lord, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6 The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel

Thoughts: The day after Thanksgiving- some go shopping, many are travelling back- or getting ready to,  some have the day off, some still meet with other family groups- the in-laws or outlaws.   Some are still taking their after-turkey naps (fueled by tryptophan).
I think back on Psalm 103:5 which could be translated "He has filled you mouth with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles."  For many super busy people, Thanksgiving is more than just a food refueling- but a spiritual refueling.  We refuel our relationships and renew our family ties. We refuel our hearts with a spirit of thanks.  The day after thanksgiving could be a time to give thanks and bask a bit in the refueling- digesting and appreciating it. 

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for a day of food, family, and faith.  We remember those who do not have enough food, whose families are going through stress, and whose faith is on the edge.  As we sit comfortably, we remember those who are travelling far, and those hurt by Hurricane Sandy or other disasters whose homes are no more.  Be our home.  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

11/22/12- Give Thanks to the Lord

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100)

(The pilgrims give thanks)

Thoughts: Thanksgiving is important and encouraged here.  In fact, this is almost a cheerleader Psalm revving us up to praise God.  Here we see a main purpose in worship- it is because we are thankful and that God is worthy of our praise and thanks.  This Psalm gives us a few main reasons why we should worship and be thankful:
1) He made us- 
2) We are His own children. 
3) God is good
4) God's love doesn't fade but lasts. 
5) God is faithful in each time to each generation. 

We are not alone- He is the shepherd whose eye is on the sheep.  God is the faithful shepherd who will not fail us, but provides for us, leads us, guides us, heals us, protects us.  He is worthy of our thanks and praise.
We do not speak only to ourselves.  We give thanks not simply to each other- but ultimately to the One who made all we see, and cares for us. 

Prayer: This thanksgiving- this day- I praise you, O Lord.  You are worthy of my thanks- not just for health, family, and food, but because of who you are.  Thanks be to you, O Lord!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

11/21/12- Giving Thanks Before the Turkey

11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.( John 6:11)

30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?  31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:30-31)

Thoughts: So this Thanksgiving 40 million people will travel over 50 miles to see a relative.  Many, even secular people, will stop and say a prayer of thanksgiving over their turkey.  For many it will be a leftover habit from a previous generation.  But for Christians, it is an opportunity to give thanks for blessings.  We see an example of Jesus blessing the food before he multiplied it for the 5,000.  We also see Paul blessing food (Acts 27:35) in the midst of a terrible storm believing he needed God's strength to survive.  In the passage above- the question was about eating certain kinds of food (meat that had been offered to pagan idols).  Paul's response was basically "if you thank God for it (bless it) it will not displease God if you eat it." 
     Saying "grace" is thanking God for the grace or gifts we have received.  It is also a "blessing" in that we are asking God to bless us with good food and strength that we might serve Him.  It is not a bad thing to remember the needy when we say grace.  

(Norman Rockwell, boy saying grace)

     Below are some blessings: 
[Short ones could be written out and said together]:
1. We praise you, my Lord God, King of the universe, for bringing forth bread from the earth.  (Jewish)

2. Lord, make us thankful for these and all your many blessings, in Christ's name.  

3. Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blest.  

4. Lord, make us thankful for these and all your many blessings. Bless this food to our use and us to your service.  Help us to be mindful of the needs of others, and forgive us of our sins. In Christ's name, Amen. 

5. Some have meat and cannot eat; some no meat at all.  We have meat and we can eat so the Lord be thanked. (Scottish)

6. All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above.  So thank the Lord, yes thank the Lord for all His love.  

7. Another option is to go around the table and have each person say one thing they are thankful to God for.  Then pray, "We remember, Lord Christ, that everything we have is a gift from you.  Help us to remember those who do not have enough and be both grateful and generous in your name."  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

11-20-12 Thanksgiving for deliverance

But as for me, afflicted and in pain—    may your salvation, God, protect me. 30 I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.31 This will please the Lord more than an ox,    more than a bull with its horns and hooves.32 The poor will see and be glad—  you who seek God, may your hearts live! 33 The Lord hears the needy  and does not despise his captive people.  34 Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and all that move in them, 35  for God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah. Then people will settle there and possess it; 36  the children of his servants will inherit it, and those who love his name will dwell there. (Psalm 69:29-35)

Thoughts: The rest of this week, we will look at some reasons scripture says to be thankful.  Psalm 69 is about a person in pain trusting God, and how his pain turned him to God, and how he reacts.  He was trusting in God to deliver Him- that the kingdom of God would be rebuilt, that the children of another generation would keep the faith, and that the poor would also be blessed through him.  He was not talking about giving money (or ox or bull) in response to God's deliverance, but giving praise, song, and thanksgiving- which is even more important than money.  If you are afflicted, focus on God and His help for you.  If you can, give praise, thanks, and sing to Him. 

Prayer:  When you deliver me, the poor, the church, the next generation is helped because I will praise you, O Lord.  

Deborah Norville in her book, "Thank you Power" speaks of a study by Robert Emmons (UC-Davis) who found that people who focused on being grateful had less colds, less headaches, more energy (and exercise), were less anxious and were seen as more compassionate and kind.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

11-19-12- Thanking God for each other

I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge

Thoughts:  Paul often begins his letter with thanksgiving.  He says that he can always thank God for them.  Thanksgiving does not depend on merit or circumstance.  Rather, it depends on God's grace, and that God is working in us.  God works in us in bad circumstances and good circumstances.  But that God is at work is always cause for thanksgiving. He enriches us- which is cause for thanks.  This thanksgiving thank God for those around you- what He has done, what He is doing, and what He may do in the future. 

Prayer:  Help me, Lord, to be thankful for what you are doing both in me and in others.  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

11/18/12- God the Supplier

19 And my God will supply all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

(Quartermaster dropping supplies)

Thoughts:  Does God supply our needs? Or is it all up to us? Or is it some combination where we do our part and God does His?  God is the one who gives us life in the first place.  God is the one who gives us the health and ability for wealth (Dt. 8).  Without the minds, hands, feet that God has given us, it would be difficult to go forward.  But more than that, God also is concerned about those without hands, feet and minds- and asks the Church to be concerned too.  When we are looking for jobs, we no doubt pray as if God is the one who supplies our needs.  But when God blesses us- do we forget His power and help?  One wise theologian said, "Work as if it is all up to you; Pray as if it is all up to God."  Practical advice- for God works through our work, and God listens to our prayers.  Our work, our supplication are gifts from Him that we are meant to reflect back to Him.  God is the Creator AND the Quartermaster.

Prayer: Supply my needs, O Lord. Help my thanksgiving and generosity reflect my belief that you do this.  

Friday, November 16, 2012

11/16/12- Philippians 4- Basis for Stewardship

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Thoughts: The church of Philippi was in a dangerous spot.  There were divisions in the church, the people were looked down on by their neighbors and anxious, and they were brought down by the burdens of life.  This is not too far from the church today in the West.
But Paul's solution is to focus on God.  The divided were urged to be "like-minded"- putting their minds on Christ, their mission/work, and that in heaven-their goal- they will be together (Names in the heaven-book).  
   The whole church was told again and again to "rejoice in the Lord."  Not that all was going well (Paul was writing this from prison).  But the joy of God does not depend on our circumstances. So celebrating Thanksgiving does not depend on how much we have.  We all can be grateful if we wish to  be. 
    They were urged to replace their anxiety with prayers and supplications with thanksgiving.  It is only when we are thankful that we can obtain the peace of Christ. 
    They were also called to focus their thoughts- not on the black dots on the white board- but on the white board.
    The rest of chapter 4 is about stewardship- God makes us content (4:10), gives us strength (4:13), and supplies our need (4:19).  But we cannot have stewardship without- 1) agreement in serving God together; 2) replacing anxiety with thanksgiving; 3) changing our thought life to focus on what God has done. 

Prayer: Today help me to agree, to be thankful to you- Lord, and to focus on the good you are doing. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

11/15/12- Removing Anxiety

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6,7 NIV)

6-7 Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Phil. 4:6,7 Message)

(Eric Enstrom- old man praying)

Thoughts: In anxious times, what do you do?  When your future is uncertain, where do you turn?  All times, every second has the potential to be an uncertain anxious time.  Paul, writing from prison, tells the secret of overcoming anxiety.  It is with thankful prayer.  Paul would pray- and pray with thanksgiving.  This is a great thanksgiving verse.  Part of the blessing of having faith is seeing God's purpose and plan.  When we are grateful for what we have in Christ, then we can have a sense of peace- shalom- wholeness.  

Prayer: Dear Father, thank you for your great blessings.  Help me to understand my life is in your loving hands.  Grant me your peace that I might honor you well. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

11/14/12- Gentle rejoicing

 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

Thoughts: For some, rejoicing and gentleness have nothing to do with each other.  Yet Paul juxtaposes them here.  There is an old Christian song that says, "Now I'm happy, happy, happy all the time."  But the constant joy Paul talks about is not simply a "happiness" for that would depend on "happenstance" or our circumstances.  It is not that we are dancing or shouting all the time, lest our feet grow weary and our voices grow hoarse.  Rather, this is a constant, continual joy that no circumstance can take away.  Remember Paul was in prison writing this- and he even sang and worshiped in prison.  It is not an ignoring of our circumstances.  But there is a gentle, steadfast, continual joy that comes from knowing no circumstance can take our God and our faith away.  The cross- the worst the world could do- could not keep our Lord down.  This is not a forcing of joy on others either.  We are called to be gentle and kind even with our joy.  We know, no matter what God is near us.  He will never leave us nor forsake us here.  Eventually, and relatively soon in the face of eternity, we will all see Him face to face- either by death or by His coming.  Our joy is found not in our circumstances, but in the presence and hope of our Lord. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to have a continual, gentle joy.  Help me to trust in you in the midst of tough times.  Help me also to be gentle, kind, compassionate in how I share my joy with others.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

11/13/12- Learning to Agree

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!
2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Philippians 4)

(Eudoia and Syntyche disagreed with each other)

Thoughts: In the early church, there were many different opinions.  In the current church there are many different opinions.  It is too easy to skim over this passage and think how silly Euodia and Syntyche were to disagree.  Yet we disagree all the time.  Paul's point was that they need to stand firm, and to realize that both of them have their names in the Book of Life (that is they were both going to heaven- so they may as well learn to be patient, kind, and agreeable now).  There will not be a separate room for EPC, ARP, OPC, BPC, PCA, ECOP, PCUSA, KPC (these presbyterians are called from the outside- "the split Ps").  We could also add the different types of Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist groups.  The sin of schism is still a sin.  It often involves calling names, demonizing/criminalizing the other side, and making a secondary issue a primary issue in order to "preserve the true church," and a ton of egos.   The Presbyterian church is half of what it used to be, and is shrinking rapidly because of a lack of evangelism, a lack of biblical respect, and the sin of schism.  In America's individualistic, entrepreneurial, and consumer-driven culture- if we don't like something or someone, we just go out and start our own.  Paul's plea was for them to agree.  Jesus' prayer was that the church would be one.  Paul would also say, "Do everything to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace."  Even today, many church plants die out because people cannot learn to agree to disagree for the good of the church and the glory of God.  It is a human thing- not just a church thing.  Rotary clubs, garden clubs, VFWs split for similar reasons.  The same kind of spirit shows in our epidemic of divorce in America.  There are casualties- kids, the next generation of the church, and people who get disillusioned because of infighting.  Paul pled, Jesus prayed, we should respond with herculean efforts to agree with those whom we disagree. If we want to be biblical about doctrine, we need to listen to these multitude of biblical passages about the church too.  Part of "standing firm" in the Lord is learning to agree with each other. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to be a better, more agreeable person.  Help me to see that love is even more powerful than faith and hope.