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Living the Bible

Author: David Murray

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A short daily podcast for learning, loving, and living the Bible. Grow your faith in five minutes a day.
400 Episodes
Which is harder? Contentment when poor or contentment when rich? Most of us would say it’s much harder to be content when poor. “If only the Lord would give me this income, this house, this car, this retirement, then I would find it really easy to be content.” In Philippians 4:10-13, the Apostle Paul suprises us by saying that we have to learn how to be content whether we are rich or poor. Contentment does not rise or fall with our incomes and mutual funds. It rises and falls based upon our spiritual condition. How can I learn contentment?
Scientists estimate that for every hundred pieces of information that enter our brains, ninety-nine end up in the spam folder. Noticing only one thing out of every hundred is a good thing. As many suffering autistic people will tell you, if you don’t have a good mental spam filter, you can be overwhelmed with useless and harmful data.The problem is, many of us have spam filters that are fantastic at letting in only the negative things and filtering out the positive. With such a grim input of one-sided data, is it any wonder that we experience so much stress, demotivation, and relational breakdown? How do we develop a better SPAM filter? In Philippians 4:8-9, Paul retrains our brains and SPAM filters so that we Scan for Positive and Affirming Messages. 
Causes cure. What do I mean by that? The first step to curing a problem is discovering the cause of the problem. For example, I get flare-ups of arthritis. I can take painkillers to tamp down the symptoms. But because I haven’t addressed the cause of my arthritis, as soon as I stop the Ibuprofen, it flares up again. Without knowing the cause, I don’t really have a cure.  Most of the time, the cause is too much stress and too little sleep. When I admit that, and trace my pain to that, then I’m identifying the cause and only then can I work towards a cure. In that sense, causes cure.Same goes for anxiety. We can take meds to reduce the symptoms of anxiety, but it will almost always return when meds are stopped. So how do we cure anxiety? First identify the causes. That’s what Paul does in Philippians 4:1-7.
Are you a copycat or a copy-Christ?When I was young kid, it was an insult to be called a copycat. We used it to mock someone who copied someone’s clothes, or actions, or words. But being a copycat isn’t just something we see in children. Whether we like to admit it or not, we all copy someone to some degree. Whether we’re aware of it or not, we are copying others, following their example, influenced by them. They are our models and we are their mimics. That’s fine when they are good examples but disastrous when they’re bad examples.Paul saw this danger in Philippi. But instead of simply saying “Stop copying others,” he said, “Choose better models.” Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us (17). He sets himself up as a good model and warns about bad models. Paul’s asking the Philippians and us, “Who is your model?” 
Forty years ago, I went on a mountain climbing camp with my church. On the first day we tried to climb one of the highest mountains in the Scottish Highlands. It was especially tough because most of the city-kids had ever climbed a mountain before. After hours of agonizing ascent, I still remember getting to what I thought was the peak only to realize that it was a plateau before the real peak, which was probably another hour of even harder climbing. Most of us decided enough was enough and decided that the flat plateau would be our peak. But there were a few kids, mostly farm boys, who used the plateau as an opportunity to rest and renew before pressing on to the real summit. In every area of life, most people plateau, while a few press on to the summit. Most just settle for mediocrity, but others refuse to settle and press on to peaks of excellence. It’s the same in the spiritual life. There are plateau Christians and there peak Christians. How can we make sure we are peak Christians rather than plateau Christians? Let’s join the Apostle Paul on his climb to the summit in Philippians 3:12-16.
The number one reason people do not become Christians is the fear of what they will lose. I remember going through that calculation myself when the Lord was calling me to Christ in my early twenties. “But I’ll lose my job, my friends, my reputation, and my Sundays. Above all, I’ll lose my sins, my sinful pleasures and habits.” No matter how many times I tried to add it up, and get a different answer, it always came out the same: too much to lose and too little to gain. So, I resisted and resisted. Thankfully, God helped me recalculate my losses, just as he did with the Apostle Paul. Paul puts this better than I can in Philippians 3:8-11, so let’s see his working on the problem of “What will I lose if I become a Christian?”
At family devotions, Shona will sometimes say, “David I don’t think Scot knows what that word means.” Usually, it’s something I think is really basic and just assume that Scot knows. Shona’s usually right and therefore I have to try and explain this basic word or concept. The strange thing is that I usually learn in the process! There’s something about trying to answer basic questions that’s helpful for everyone.In Philippians 3:2-8, Paul has to answer the most basic question for the Philippians: What is a Christian? How do I know if I’m a Christian? Let’s learn together with the Philippians as Paul goes back to basics.
I once wrote a book called The Happy Christian. Many of my Christian friends and colleagues in the ministry viewed me as suspect when they heard about it. They thought I’d “gone all Joel Osteen,” as one of them put it. Another narrowed his eyes and asked, “What are you trying to do, David?” “Make Christians happy!” I answered. You’d have thought I’d denied the resurrection. “How can I be happy?” is the most fundamental human question. It’s what drives every human being. God allows as to answer it in a Christian way. In fact, he provides the Christian answer in Philippians 3:1. 
Where do you find satisfaction? What fills you? What gives you pleasure and fulfillment? What makes you feel ‘in the zone’? You’ve tried many things haven’t you? So have I. I’ve ended up where you may be today. Having tried multiple ways to find satisfaction, I always ended up empty rather than filled. How can I find satisfaction? In Philippians 2:17-30, Paul stuns us with a surprising answer. The way to satisfaction is to satisfy others. The way to filling is emptying self to fill others. At first glance, these verses don’t look too important. They seem to cover some personnel matters, with Paul arranging some substitutes for himself while he’s in prison. But if instead of skipping over them, we pause to dig into them, we realize that Paul is using even these staffing adjustments to teach the Philippians unity and service. 
We’re living through the last dying breaths of the war in Afghanistan. American forces are retreating as we hand this poor country over to the tender mercies of the Taliban. Most agree the war was necessary to rid the country of Al-Qaeda. Most also agree that the war went on too long, with many terrible consequences, not least the humanitarian disaster that is unfolding before our eyes. Although these horrific and horrifying scenes are imprinted on our minds forever, that’s a good thing, because we need to see the full consequences of war now if we are to avoid unnecessary wars in the future. Although not intended, the pictures and sounds of the suffering at the airport, have helped answer the question many have asked through the centuries: “How do we stop war?” Show the catastrophic consequences. Similarly, in Philippians 2:14-16, the Apostle Paul uses the horrendous results of war and the happy results of peace to answer the question, “How do we stop church fights?” 
“My work out isn’t working out.” A few months ago, one of my friends started working out again. He really went hard at it, working out at the gym five days a week. Lots of effort, pain, sweat, blood, and tears. But, two months in, his weight had hardly dropped, and his muscles had hardly grown. He was discouraged. “All that work and nothing to show for it,” he moaned. I tried to encourage him, that if he kept working at it, he would eventually see some change. But, I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure. Some people just can’t seem to lose weight. Others can’t seem to put on muscle, (I’m one of them). Sometimes we feel the same about holiness. We’re working hard at putting off bad habits and putting on new habits, but we still don’t seem to be making any progress. “All that work and nothing to show for it. How do we keep working on holiness, when holiness isn’t working? When it comes to holiness, we can be sure our work will pay off, because God’s Word is sure in Philippians 2:12-13.
We’re living in days of disunity, Christian disunity. It’s not just the historic inter-church disunity that flows from denominational divisions and splits.  It’s the present inner-church disunity being caused by COVID-19. Christians are painfully divided over politics, masks, vaccines, social distancing, Dr Fauci, and so on. We will probably never agree on these matters. So do we just give up and accept the disunity. How can Christians unite while disagreeing about COVID-19? Is that possible? Yes, if we can find something far more important to agree on, that will vaporize these squabbles. That will make That’s what Paul does in Philippians 2:9-11. 
Think about the humblest person you’ve ever known. Don’t you want to be like that? While the world boasts about pride, the Christian glories in humility. Humility is so beautiful. Pride is so ugly. But how do I get humility? Thankfully Paul answers that for us in Philippians 2:6-8. Paul has called First Church of Philippi to unity through humility. Their next question though is, How do I get humility? Paul’s points the Philippians to Christ’s mind. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus (5). Think like Jesus did. A Jesus outlook would produce a Jesus outcome, a Jesus attitude would result in Jesus actions. A Jesus mind would be seen in Jesus manners. So, what did Jesus think about all the time? Look at Philippians 2:6-8.
I lived through a terrible church split in Scotland. My historic presbyterian denomination was gradually torn apart over a period of ten years until it ruptured completely in the January 2000 over theological and moral issues. It was a terrible time with disastrous consequences that continued to devastate individual lives, marriages, families, and churches for years to come. I remember visiting with a counselor a few years after the split, who told me that his practice had been overwhelmed with depressed and anxious Christians from both sides of the divide. Sometimes church division is inevitable, but, I’m sure you’ll agree, unity is preferable if possible. So, how can we promote church unity? The Apostle’s Paul’s one word answer is ‘humility.’ Unity is sourced in humility and humility serves unity. But he used more than one word to persuade First Church of Philippi of this in Philippians 2:1-4.
When I opened Facebook this morning, I came across a message from a UK family whose parents have been missionaries in Afghanistan for the last ten years and are presently hiding for their lives. The family wrote: “They have led countless people to Jesus. Most of whom will meet him in the coming days.”“Just Facetimed with my parents” wrote one of the family members. “They are hiding, surrounded by gunfire and bombs. Everyone is hiding in their homes. The Taliban are taking women, and slaughtering anyone who resists them. They will kill all foreigners and anyone who has worked with foreigners over the past 20 years. Yet my mum and dad are full of peace and joy.”What? Full of peace and joy while surrounded by bombs and bullets? Full of peace and joy, knowing that they are about to be killed?How were they suffering for Christ without fear? How can I suffer for Christ without fear? Philippians 1:28-30 explains how. It starts with not frightened in anything by your opponents (29). How’s that possible? Paul reframes suffering to remove fear.
COVID-19 has infected churches as well as people. Arguments over masks and vaxes have turned many friends into enemies, and divided more churches than any worship wars ever have. By the time it’s finished, COVID may well kill more churches than people. If it does, then the spiritual death toll will be far greater than the most horrifying CDC statistics. Although COVID-19 is a deadly disease that we must take seriously, there’s no question that powerful people are using COVID-19 to undermine our hard-won national liberty. But the devil is also using COVID-19 to undermine our hard-won church unity. What have we gained if we win national liberty but lose church unity? So, while we must fight for our national liberty, we must also fight for church unity. Before we get involved in another mask or vax fight, let’s ask ourselves, How hard should I fight for church unity? Then remember Paul’s answer in Philippians 1:27-20. 
James longs for heaven and often expresses the wish to die young so that he can get there early. Susan loves life and doesn’t like thinking about heaven too much because there’s so much kingdom work to be done on earth.Most of us are varying mixtures of James and Susan, which creates a confusing and painful tension at times. Sometimes we feel guilty about how little we long for heaven, other times we feel guilty that our desire for heaven is merely escapism from this world’s troubles. How do I balance my longing for eternal life with my longing for a useful life?The Apostle Paul was a James-Susan mix, and, in Philippians 1:22-26, models the answer for us.
Have you ever viewed death as a deliverance rather than a defeat? That’s what Paul does in Philippians 1:19-21. He’s in jail and his beloved First Church of Philippi is in trouble. Rival pastors were fighting each other (1:15-18), the believers were fighting each other (1:27), and external opponents were fighting them all (1:28-29). How will God get me out of this? the Philippians asked each other. Paul answers with a surprising view of deliverance, that we do well to embrace.
“My favorite preacher has fallen, what now?” How many times has that happened to you? It seems like almost every few weeks, another well-known preacher bites the dust. Mark Driscoll, Tullian Tchividjan, James McDonald, Ravi Zacharias, Bill Hybels, and on and on it goes. It’s perplexing and confusing isn’t it? They preached sound sermons and wrote good books. Do I now discount and deny all the benefit I got from them over the years? Do I stop listening to their sermons and reading their books? Can I separate their words from the one who spoke or wrote them?Maybe it’s not that our favorite preacher has fallen, but they are falling in our estimation. We’re beginning to see things that concern us. Maybe it’s their lifestyle, their wealth, their vanity, their ambition, their self-promotion. Or perhaps it’s their competitiveness and their love of controversy. They seem to enjoy putting down other preachers and pointing out all their faults, which usually makes themselves look far superior. We’re uneasy and concerned but they seem to preach Christ still and are faithful expositors of God’s Word. What do we do with that? How do we relate to fallen (or falling) preachers? Let’s see how Paul answered that question in Philippians 1:15-18.
“Invite failure in, embrace it, then pick its pocket.” So says the Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams,  In his bestselling semi-biographical book, How to fail at almost everything and still win big. His point is that failure comes with big pockets full of value if we would welcome it, embrace it, and pick its pockets. That’s what the Apostle Paul did 2000 years ago when his Gospel mission “failed” and he ended up jailed. Let’s see what Paul finds in failures pockets as he helps us answer the question, how should I deal with personal setbacks?