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Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.

Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!

I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! – Philippians 3:1-11

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Red Rose | Brenham, Texas | April 2020

I’ve never really had to give up anything of real significance in order to know or follow Christ. I left the church of my youth, but not the faith of my childhood. I left my home state and families, but not in order to embrace Jesus as Savior and Lord, but to serve him in his kingdom.

I’m not sure I have much basis to compare myself to Paul. I don’t have a strong religious pedigree. I don’t have a litany of suffering. I don’t have a wake of losses to disavow in order to know Christ.

But I do have one thing very much in common with Paul. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and I even want to suffer like him (in unwavering faith) and to experience the resurrection of the dead. 

Suffering like Christ may mean a harsh and unjust experience of martyrdom – like missionaries or Christians in Libya or China. But it can also mean any suffering that presses us against a belief that God is good and faithful. When we face suffering while holding to God’s goodness, love, and promises, and seeking his mercy, strength, and vindication we are suffering like Jesus. 

We don’t earn God’s favor by doing this. We express the gift of God’s righteousness to us in such an attitude of suffering. I want to know that and experience the salvation of God…just like Paul.

Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.

Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!

I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! – Philippians 3:1-11

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Yellow Rose | Brenham, Texas | April 2020

I remember my first experience of a national church convention. I knew it would not be anything like the conventions my parents attended years ago as motel owners, or the gatherings of doctors, mechanics, or restaurateurs. But I did not expect that it would be an experience of what I thought to be ungracious and manipulative behavior. I never want to think that Jesus words are actually true, that “the members of our own household will be our enemies” (Matthew 10:36).

I don’t want to believe that people actually do not want the mission of God to move forward – especially those who are in the church! But there are those who come from within who want to undercut the message of the Gospel and the mission of God. Whether from selfish motives (loss of control or influence) or ignorance (do we really need to grow?), people will oppose what God has commissioned us to do.

This is what Paul is facing as he writes to the Philippian believers. He is concerned that a group was having an ever-greater impact in the church, requiring people to be circumcised in order to be a fully-devoted and faithful worshiper of God.

The issue, however is deeper than mere circumcision. The issue is Jesus. His message is a two-edged sword as the One crucified for our sins, and the Risen One, having been raised from the dead. This is foolish to the world: You actually believe Jesus of Nazareth came back from the dead? It is a stumbling block to the religious: Did Jesus really have to die? Was his death really a sacrificial atonement for my sins?

But this is what is always at stake. We need a Savior. That Savior is Jesus. He was wounded for our transgressions and raised from the dead for our justification. I wish it were not so that people resist this truth for themselves and others. I am thankful, however, that our dismissal or failure to fully comprehend his gift and his mission does not set it aside. We have a Savior. He is risen from the dead. He reigns above all powers. We are his. I thank God that that is so.

Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.

Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!

I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! – Philippians 3:1-11

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Yellow Rose #6 | Brenham, Texas | April 2020

Sadly, I’ve known some wannabes in my life. Sadder still, I’ve been a wannabe. Saddest of all, it was in the context of the church that I have experienced and expressed this character flaw. A wannabe is one who wants to be something he or she is not, who aspires to a level of acknowledged power and prestige. A wannabe is a sad person to be. He doesn’t realize he’s the best him he could be. She doesn’t realize that there is no one like her and that her uniqueness is a gift from God for her to give to others.

Wannabes want the glory without the guts. They want the privilege without paying the price. They aspire to the power without producing their bonafides. In fact most wannabes aspire to something that is either not real or not worthy. They are frustrated people – always wishing they were someone else.

Paul was definitely not a wannabe. He had paid the price for his status in the church. He had shown he had the guts to stick it out through some very difficult situations in order to serve the Lord Jesus. He had great influence and power because he had been through the crucible of suffering and trials.

People generally don’t listen to wannabes. But people listened to Paul. They recognized that he had important things to say. They realized that his experiences coupled with his calling made his message a must-hear message.

It doesn’t seem to me that Paul was bragging or trying to make himself something when he goes through the litany of his trials and credentials in this section of this letter. But he is definitely defending his right to speak into the Philippians’ world. His words were tested. His message was purified. His mission was undergirded with his identity and his experiences.

The most interesting story of wannabes is found in Acts 19:11-20. These pretenders got their comeuppance at the hands of a group of demons. Don’t be a wannabe. Be who you are. Your bonafides are found in Jesus’ sacrifice for you, your identity as a son or daughter of the King. There may come a time when you can point to a list of travails as Paul does here. But in the meantime, let it be enough that you are who you are, and as such uniquely shaped to serve God where you as as you are.

Bible Study on Philippians 2:19-30
May 24, 2020 | Online Bible Class | St. John Lutheran Church

For a formatted document of this study, click here.

Philippians 2:19-30 [ESV]

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel23 I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, 24 and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.

25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.

Hope in the Lord Jesus

1.      Bolstered by partners in mission

Timothy

  • Acts 14:6-7

[Paul and Barnabas]…fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, and there they continued to preach the gospel.

  • Acts 16:1-5

Paul went first to Derbe and then to Lystra, where there was a young disciple named Timothy. His mother was a Jewish believer, but his father was a Greek. Timothy was well thought of by the believers[a] in Lystra and Iconium, so Paul wanted him to join them on their journey. In deference to the Jews of the area, he arranged for Timothy to be circumcised before they left, for everyone knew that his father was a Greek. Then they went from town to town, instructing the believers to follow the decisions made by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day.

  • 2 Timothy 1:5

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.

  • Acts 15:19-20; 16:4

Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.

Epaphroditus

  • Brother and fellow soldier
  • Minister to Paul’s need
  • Risked his life
  • Worthy of honor
  • Bearer of gifts from the Philippians (4:18)

At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God.

Interestingly, Epaphroditus’s name is of pagan origin. It means “belonging to Aphrodite”—the name of the goddess is actually incorporated into the name Epaphroditus. Such is the power of the gospel that a man is set free from dead paganism to serve the living God. When Epaphroditus received the gospel, he was “belonging to Jesus,” and the idol had no more claim on him, regardless of his name. The new birth trumped the birth name.

Questions for Discussion/Consideration

  • What is your mission? Do you have a partner in mission?
  • What characteristics do you look for in a partner for mission?
  • If you have a partner in mission, does he or she know about it? Tell her or him!
  • Do you know someone who needs a partner in mission? How could you be that partner (or are you already that person)?

2.      Lived out in acts of unselfishness and encouragement

Philippians 2:1-5

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus

Paul is doing what he urged the Philippians to do in the first part of this chapter.

Paul is commissioning Timothy and Epaphroditus and providing the opportunity for them to live out this.

For Reflection & Discussion

  • Jesus sent his disciples out two by two. There’s a lesson here: Don’t try to do God’s mission alone! We need mission partners! What action do you need to take in light of this?
  • Paul tells the Philippians to honor such men who have risked their lives for the sake of the gospel. How best do we do this?
  • Who are your heroes of mission and faith? Who inspires you to faithfulness? What is the outcome of such inspiration?
  • What is your state of hope these days? How is that connected with what your mission is?
  • Your mission shapes your yearnings, and God’s promises anchor your hopes. How is God’s mission shaping your hope?

Interesting facts about Timothy

(From https://disciplr.com/timothy-facts-lessons)

  1. Timothy’s name means “honoring God” or “precious to God.” These two designations proved to be true in the life of this disciple.
  2. From an early age, Timothy put his faith in the Lord (Acts 16:1; 2 Tim. 1:5). Timothy saw this sincere trust in God first modeled by his grandmother, Lois. In turn, she imparted that faith to her daughter, Eunice, who then passed it on to her son, Timothy.
  3. Timothy may have heard about the Savior during Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 14:6). If so, the Lord used Paul’s proclamation of the gospel to bring Timothy to a saving knowledge of the truth. In this case, the young man’s mother and grandmother also became disciples of Jesus due to the ministry of Paul.
  4. Despite Timothy’s mixed racial background, he eagerly identified himself as a follower of the Messiah (16:1). Indeed, in the time between Paul’s first and second missionary journeys, Timothy had won the admiration of the Christians in his hometown of Lystra and in the larger city of Iconium nearby to the north (vs. 2).
  5. Timothy grew up in an environment that was distinctively character forming. It proved to be ideal for someone who was to be one of Paul’s troubleshooters among the largely Gentile congregations of Greece and Asia Minor. By the time Paul made a return trip to Lystra, Timothy had developed sufficient leadership potential. For this reason, the apostle added Timothy to the team to help strengthen the house churches that already peppered Asia Minor.
  6. Paul was impressed by several character qualities in Timothy. This included his knowledge of Judaism and the Hebrew Scriptures, his Gentile connections through his Greek father, and Timothy’s reputation as a devout Christian.
  7. Paul was convinced that it was worth his time and effort to mentor Timothy. Perhaps, as well, the apostle had seen the advantages of the Barnabas-Paul-Mark trio and had been looking for someone to complete another trio involving himself and Silas.
  8. Paul decided to have Timothy circumcised (vs. 3). When Paul traveled to Derbe and Lystra, the controversy over circumcision was still alive. So, to avoid unnecessarily hindering Timothy’s acceptance, Paul had him go through the religious rite. Such an act, the apostle hoped, would stop the mouths of those for whom circumcision was a major issue. What was at stake, after all, was not Timothy’s salvation but a petty controversy.
  9. In contrast to Timothy, Paul thought a Greek disciple named Titus should not be circumcised (Gal. 2:3). The reason for this differing outcome is that Timothy’s mother was Jewish. According to Jewish law, children were to embrace the religion of their mother. So, the Jews would expect that Timothy was raised a Jew and circumcised. With respect to Titus, some Jews were attempting to make circumcision necessary for his salvation.
  10. Timothy had come a long way in the year or two since his conversion to Christ. Nonetheless, Timothy had more to learn as he left Lystra and Iconium and headed west with Paul and Silas to evangelize the lost.
  11. Timothy was an active, faithful member of the missionary team. As the trio ventured from one city to another, Timothy joined Paul and Silas in telling Jesus’ followers what the apostles and other leaders in Jerusalem had decided at the recent conference (Acts 15:19-20; 16:4). The missionaries urged their fellow Christians to follow these instructions. As a result of the witness Paul, Silas, and Timothy gave, the churches grew stronger in their faith. Each day, more people trusted in Jesus for salvation (16:5).
  12. In the years that followed, Timothy became one of Paul’s trusted partners in addressing congregational problems, including those occurring in Corinth. When the apostle wrote 1 Corinthians, he had already begun his three-year mission to Ephesus (near the beginning of his third missionary journey). By now, Timothy had been associated with Paul for about seven years and was one of the apostle’s leading troubleshooters.
  13. Paul dispatched Timothy to Corinth to help the members of the local church follow Paul’s Christlike example (4:15-16). Paul was confident that Timothy, who was a faithful disciple of Jesus, would follow the apostle’s instructions. After all, Timothy had worked with Paul as a diligent, conscientious apprentice in spreading the gospel.
  14. While at Corinth, Timothy reminded his fellow believers there about Paul’s godly lifestyle. Timothy also reiterated to them the same spiritual truths the apostle taught to all the churches he established and visited on his various missionary journeys (vs. 17).
  15. During Paul’s first Roman imprisonment, he planned to send Timothy to Philippi (Phil. 2:19). At this time, he was with the apostle (1:1). Timothy would report on Paul’s status in Rome (as he awaited his trial before Caesar) and bring back news about the church to the apostle. In this way, Paul would be encouraged by the information he received about them.
  16. Timothy’s heart for ministry put him in an honored position among Paul’s coworkers (2:20-21). No other person shared the apostle’s deep love for the Philippians and was so devoted to serve the church in an unselfish manner. Paul’s glowing report about Timothy reminded the disciples of his unsullied character and faithfulness.
  17. Paul regarded Timothy as the apostle’s “son” (vs. 22) in the faith. The Greek noun could also be rendered “child” and denotes Paul’s strong personal affection for Timothy (2 Tim. 1:2). Indeed, the apostle cared for Timothy as godly parents would love their own children.
  18. The beginning of 1 Timothy indicates that Paul traveled to Ephesus with Timothy. This was likely after the apostle was released from prison (1:2). Perhaps within a relatively short period of time, the apostle left Timothy at the Ephesian church because a serious threat to sound doctrine had arisen there. When Paul directed his attention to the churches in Macedonia, he knew he could trust Timothy to deal with the situation in Ephesus (vs. 3).
  19. Paul granted Timothy written authorization to carry out his pastoral work in Ephesus. Even though the apostle’s letter to his younger coworker was personal, Paul intended the epistle’s content to be read to the entire congregation. In this regard, Paul asserted his apostolic authority both for the sake of Timothy and to empower him in confronting the false teachers who had infiltrated the church (vss. 4-7).
  20. Paul gave Timothy a sacred trust to keep the gospel pure from contamination. This pastoral mandate corresponded with earlier “prophecies” (vs. 18) made about Timothy. These probably occurred in an assembly of Christians where the Spirit spoke through believers to designate Timothy for his special ministry. This may have been the time referred to in 4:14 when Timothy was ordained to the ministry.
  21. Timothy dealt with a series of conflicts involving the opponents of the gospel (1:18). Against this sobering backdrop, he attended to his inner spiritual condition by holding firmly to his Christian faith and keeping his conscience clear. Because the religious frauds had neglected these areas, they had fallen into serious error. In contrast, Timothy paid close attention to these matters, particularly as he contended for the faith and sought to teach others the truth (vs. 19).
  22. Timothy’s spiritual life and ministry were his continual concern. This is why Paul wanted his protégé to give undivided attention to the pastoral issues at hand (4:15). The apostle’s directive suggests that Timothy undertook his ministerial responsibilities carefully and absorbed himself in them. As a result of giving himself wholeheartedly to the Savior and His work, others recognized Timothy’s progress in the faith.
  23. Timothy was careful about how he lived and what he taught. This included being persistent in attending to his pastoral duties (vs. 16). The apostle had given Timothy sound instruction, and now it was up to him to remain loyal to the truth in both his life and ministry. As someone called upon to uphold the gospel in the midst of false teaching, it was crucial for Timothy to guard his thoughts and feelings. A failure would hurt both him and the cause of Christ in the churches around Ephesus.
  24. In seeking to set a good example, Timothy abstained from wine (5:23). Paul, however, let Timothy know that keeping pure did not include jeopardizing his health, and so encouraged him to drink a little wine for his stomach. Luke, a physician and Paul’s traveling companion, may have advised the apostle in this matter. Pure drinking water was not readily available in those days. Wine would have been safer to drink, especially for someone who was sick.
  25. As a “man of God” (6:11), Timothy was owned by and yielded to the Lord. For this reason, Paul urged Timothy to shun all enticements to seize worldly riches and power. Instead, he was to diligently fight the battle for the Christian faith against the false teachers at Ephesus (vs. 12). Timothy was also to affirm through his actions the vow of allegiance to the Savior he had made in the presence of many witnesses either at his baptism or at his ordination.
  26. Timothy dealt forthrightly with the spiritual charlatans at Ephesus (vs. 20). This included guarding the sound doctrine of the gospel that Paul entrusted to him. At the same time, Timothy shunned godless and useless chatter, along with contradictory statements being flaunted as spiritual knowledge.
  27. Paul prayed for Timothy night and day (2 Tim. 1:3). After all, he was carrying a heavy burden and needed whatever support he could get. Timothy’s tears at their last parting increased Paul’s desire to see him again (vs. 4).
  28. Paul hoped to improve Timothy’s ministry effectiveness. The apostle admonished the younger pastor to make full use of the spiritual gift God had given him. At Timothy’s ordination, in which Paul had played a part, Timothy received a special endowment for ministry (vs. 6).
  29. Paul wanted Timothy to be fearless in Christian service, as well as confident of God’s power and love (vs. 7). The apostle also wanted his spiritual son to follow God’s call through to the end. Paul knew that Timothy’s commitment to serve had been severely tested by false teachers. They especially challenged his role as a leader in the church. The apostle also knew that Timothy would face ongoing adversity as he sought to fulfill his pastoral responsibilities.
  30. Paul exhorted Timothy not to be ashamed to speak for the Savior. Likewise, Timothy was not to be ashamed of Paul, who was imprisoned a second time for his proclamation of the gospel (vs. 8). In the face of antagonism, Timothy was to join with Paul in suffering for the sake of the good news.
  31. Timothy trusted God to give him the strength to do what was right. This was the same Lord who had redeemed him from sin and judgment. God had also summoned Timothy to become part of His holy people, and to live a morally pure manner (vs. 9).
  32. Timothy had a wonderful spiritual heritage and many opportunities to boldly declare the message of truth. So, Paul directed Timothy to remain faithful to the gospel and its proclamation. He could do so by holding fast to the standard, or pattern, of sound teaching he had received from the apostle (vs. 13).
  33. Timothy was to proclaim the good news in faith and love. Timothy was also to obey the gospel and safeguard it against attack. He was to do so through the power of the Spirit (vs. 14).
  34. Timothy had a hesitant, reserved personality. Paul, realizing this, directed Timothy to be spiritually strong in the grace of the Father that was available to all who believed in the Son (2:1).
  35. Timothy was to entrust the truths of the faith to dependable believers (vs. 2). This pointed to the central role of discipleship in Timothy’s ongoing pastoral ministry. Paul’s exhortation to his spiritual child was prompted by the fact that false teachers were trying to distort the apostolic doctrines of the faith.
  36. God was Timothy’s witness as he solemnly warned troublemakers not to argue about useless philosophical matters. Indeed, those who listened to the frauds were spiritually harmed by what was said (vs. 14). Timothy effectively carried out his pastoral responsibilities by diligently studying and accurately expounding God’s Word. In turn, this enabled Jesus’ disciples to know sound doctrine (vs. 15).
  37. Over the years of their collaboration together, Paul had taught Timothy many truths. In the face of stiff opposition, the apostle urged Timothy to remain faithful to those truths. Since these teachings had come from such a trustworthy minister as Paul, Timothy had the utmost confidence in their reliability (3:14).
  38. During Timothy’s childhood, his mother and grandmother taught him God’s Word (vs. 15). So, Timothy instinctively knew that the message Paul proclaimed was consistent with the Holy Scriptures. In fact, the latter had given Timothy the wisdom that eventually led him to salvation through faith in the Redeemer.
  39. Timothy’s primary responsibility was to herald the gospel (4:1-2). He was to be ready and willing at all times to use God’s Word to correct and censure the transgressor and to exhort and encourage the wayward. Moreover, in his pastoral role, Timothy was to exercise great patience, especially as he carefully taught others the truths of righteousness.
  40. Paul instructed Timothy to remain calm and patiently endure affliction (vs. 5). He was also to focus on his calling, namely, to herald the gospel and lead the unsaved to faith in the Son. As long as Timothy did the work of an evangelist, he would fulfill his God-given duties.
  41. Timothy’s enduring legacy was that of faithful Christian service. On the one hand, his background in Judaism and Hellenistic paganism made him a useful emissary of Paul in places such as Thessalonica (1 Thess. 3:2). On the other hand, Timothy spent time with Paul on his numerous preaching excursions (Rom. 16:21; 2 Cor. 1:19). Timothy even accompanied Paul and several other associates to Jerusalem with a love offering to ease their impoverished situation (Acts 20:4).
  42. Throughout the remainder of Timothy’s life, he never wavered as a disciple of Jesus. Even when Timothy was imprisoned for a time (possibly at Rome), he remained true to his pastoral calling (Heb. 13:23). According to the Acts of Timothy (possibly written in the fifth century), Timothy was martyred for his faith in d. 97, when a mob of irate unbelievers stoned the aged church leader to death for opposing their veneration of the pagan goddess, Diana (or Artemis).

If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon for a visit. Then he can cheer me up by telling me how you are getting along. 20 I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. 21 All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. 22 But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News. 23 I hope to send him to you just as soon as I find out what is going to happen to me here. 24 And I have confidence from the Lord that I myself will come to see you soon.

25 Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need. 26 I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill. 27 And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another.

28 So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you. 29 Welcome him in the Lord’s love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve. 30 For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away.

Philippians 2:19-30
Yellow Rose # 5 | Brenham, Texas | April 2020

The first time I led a worship service my knees were shaking like nobody’s business. I was consciously incompetent. Funny thing: I thought I had chosen something I could do better than preach the sermon that Sunday. My friend and I were offered the opportunity to hold “Reading Services” for a small church in Kennett, Missouri.

This church had lost their pastor and wanted to be able to worship. So Jerry, my partner in all manner of life from our high school and college years, and I were given the opportunity to serve them. One would lead the service. The other would “preach.” By preaching would mean we would functionally memorize a sermon from a book of sermons that was provided to us, and then deliver it with little reference to the book or written pages.

I thought preaching would be more difficult than leading the service. But as soon as I got up to lead that first Sunday, I realized how wrong I was. You have to know when to stand up, when to sit down, when to face the altar and when to face the people. And you had to be confident enough to direct the people of the congregation to do that as well!

I had been unconsciously incompetent until I stepped in front of the congregation. Then I learned just how incompetent I was. Thankfully I’ve learned a bit since then.

I’ve preached and led worship for more than 40 years. That gives me some degree of confidence. But more important than all the years of practice is the substance of what I preach and the confidence I have in the word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Give me a struggling preacher with great confidence in the truth of God’s word and the power of the Holy Spirit before a silver tongued preacher with great eloquence and no reliance on the Holy Spirit any day.

In other words, give me Paul. Some say Paul had a speech impediment. He even alludes to that in 2 Corinthians 11:6. But Paul had a great confidence in God, in Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. He shows that when he says, “And I have confidence from the Lord that I myself will come to see you soon.”

Paul had much to boast about. He provides a list of his bona fides in 2 Corinthians 11:21-23. But that is not where his confidence lies. True confidence lies in the love of Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the goodness of the Father. That was good enough for Paul. It’s good enough for me.

If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon for a visit. Then he can cheer me up by telling me how you are getting along. 20 I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. 21 All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. 22 But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News. 23 I hope to send him to you just as soon as I find out what is going to happen to me here. 24 And I have confidence from the Lord that I myself will come to see you soon.

25 Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need. 26 I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill. 27 And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another.

28 So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you. 29 Welcome him in the Lord’s love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve. 30 For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away. – Philippians 2:19-30

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Yellow Rose #4 | Brenham, Texas | April 2020

“I know God works all things for good, but I could sure use some good right now.” Do you ever feel that way? There’s no gain without pain, but I would sure enjoy some gain right now; enough pain! Is that your refrain? I’m thankful that God won’t give us more than we can bear. I just wish he didn’t have such a high opinion of me. Maybe you’re singing that song.

Paul indicates that Epaphroditus has experienced significant trouble. He had been ill, and near death. Paul himself was uncertain about his future. He was in prison. He had suffered greatly for the sake of the Gospel. He was concerned for both Timothy and Epaphroditus. He was experiencing trouble on every side. It reminds me of two things.

First Paul’s litany of trouble in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28:

…far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

This litany, and his situation now in prison as he writes to the church in Philippi remind me of Jesus’ words to Ananias regarding Paul, “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:16). Paul was living out the promise of suffering, as an extraordinary servant, but in faith seeing God’s faithfulness amidst it all.

We may think that we deserve special treatment as servants of Christ, or sincere believers, or dedicated followers. Some would be tempted to brag, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” (Matthew 7:22).

It won’t work. We have no magic umbrella to exempt us from bad things. We do have the promise of God’s goodness and love that will see us through to the end of time, and which we can hold to for the sake of the Gospel during those times of challenge. And when we see the goodness of God in our days we can give thanks for a foretaste of the perfect expression of goodness in the life of the world to come.

If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon for a visit. Then he can cheer me up by telling me how you are getting along. 20 I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. 21 All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. 22 But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News. 23 I hope to send him to you just as soon as I find out what is going to happen to me here. 24 And I have confidence from the Lord that I myself will come to see you soon.

25 Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need. 26 I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill. 27 And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another.

28 So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you. 29 Welcome him in the Lord’s love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve. 30 For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away. – Philippians 2:19-30

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Another Yellow Rose of Texas | Brenham, Texas | April 2020

I was standing in the hallway of the church I had served for 11 years. I had announced my decision to the congregation that I was leaving to take a new responsibility at the church I currently serve. One of the members there said, “When we call a new pastor here, I don’t think we should call a PLI guy. They just leave when they get the chance.”

I could hardly believe my ears. PLI is an excellent missional training experience. I may be a bit biased because of my experience in PLI and my continuing involvement in leading and coaching pastors through PLI; not to mention that Diane works for PLI. his attitude struck me as selfish. I suppose now – these many years later it might have been hurt or disappointment at my leaving. But still…I urged him to think of it as a kingdom investment – having provided the opportunity for both Diane and I to attend.

My involvement with PLI has offered some interesting insights into the thinking of church members and leaders. On the other end of the spectrum you have people like one of our members who said of the pastor we would call at St. John upon my retirement as senior pastor next January: “He has to be a PLI pastor.”

Whether or not one is a PLI pastor or church leader, there are times we must consider kingdom investments above our personal desires and benefits. Paul is sending Timothy as a kingdom investment. He realizes that Timothy can further the rule and reign of Jesus more if he would go to Philippi than if he were to stay with Paul.

He was saying nearly the same about Epaphroditus. Urging the church in Philippi to receive Epaphroditus graciously when he returned to his people in Philippi. They had sent him to be with Paul out of concern for Paul’s wellbeing. This was another kingdom investment. Now their investment would be returned to them. Paul will send him away so that he can return to the ones he left and loved. 

Sometimes kingdom investments are kingdom gifts. There is no return in like manner this side of eternity. But any investment in the rule and reign of God will yield a return of “all things” according to Jesus: Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).

PLI was begin in 1999 as a training institute for pastors (Pastoral Leadership Institute) to prepare them to serve larger congregations. Since that time, however, it has gone through three or four major iterations – responding to new and ever-changing needs. Although it is still called PLI, their reach is far beyond pastors and their wives. DCE’s Teachers, church leaders, administrators, and dedicated followers of Jesus are enrolled in one of their three major learning communities: Leadership Essentials (which Diane and I are most involved in), Senior Leader, Discipleship to Missional Community (D2MC), as well as PLI International iterations of each of those. It is far less an institute these days as it is a life-changing learning experience. For more information visit PLILeadership.org.