We generally think, “In control = good”, and “out of control = very bad”!

Who really likes to feel that people and circumstances are out of our control.

Yet, life not only is out of our control, it is rather important for us to recognize this fact.

When we think we “are in control” or if we live trying to “be in control”, that is actually a bad place to be.

One of those bad things is that we mix up the role that belongs to us with the role that belongs to God. We are terrible at trying to be God (despite the fact that we work at it rather frequently).

My friend, Ricky Alcantar from Cross of Grace Church in El Paso, Texas wrote this article on facing the reality of it being good to know life is out of our control, “Fear Not, The Universe Is Wildly Out of Your Control”.

This is a healthy and restful lesson to learn.


“Contentment is in Christ”


Philippians 4:10-13

Although grateful for financial support from the Philippian Church, Paul wants them to know he remains content regardless of help sent to him


1.  Paul is not bringing up a new subject as much as a new application

Throughout this letter Paul has exalted the surpassing value of life in Christ (1:21, 2:3, 2:14, 2:17, 3:8, 4:2, 4:4-6)

The common principle in these passages is that what we have in Christ is always a greater reality than our circumstances and struggles

2.  Paul applies our having Christ to our having contentment

Paul seems to be saying he didn’t need their financial help (v11a).

He does not mean he didn’t have good use for it

He wants to share a profound truth – that he is content regardless of need

We may have shortages in the things we would like and can use, but our soul should be filled to satisfaction by Jesus

Paul says this satisfaction can sustain us in “any and every circumstance” (v12)

Being content while still having legitimate needs doesn’t mean we are indifferent or unaffected

It means what we have in Christ is always of far greater value

To say it another way Christ and his gospel are always enough

Paul indicates contentment even applies when we have plenty.

Why does he need to say that?

Prosperity is a dangerous condition, because it easily becomes addictive

It breeds entitlement (I should have this) and discontent (I want something better)

Contentment in plenty means we are thankful, satisfied and recognize God’s right to what we have

3.  Contentment this pervasive, needs to be learned (vs 11-12)

How do we learn contentment in “any and every circumstance”?

Paul knows how to be content from what he knows about Christ!

Throughout this letter Christ is the reason for Paul’s perspectives (1:6, 2:10, 3:10, 3:12, 3:14, 3:20-21, 4:5-6)

These passages magnify: Who Christ is . . What he has done . . What he is doing . . What he has waiting for us

All this can be summed up by 3:8

“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ”

4.  Let’s dig into “contentment in Christ” more deeply

Christ saves us to make us complete so we can spend eternity with him

            We will become like Jesus in his perfect humanity (1 John 3:2)

            And even now, we are gradually being transformed to be more like him (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Both passages describe seeing Christ as part of this process

This is not simply physical sight, it is a work of the Holy Spirit who enables our heart to see Christ

The more clearly our heart sees Christ “as he is”, the more like him we become  

This ‘seeing’ will not be perfect until we shed our sinful nature, then when our heart fully sees him, everything in us will want to be like him

Do you want to be content (satisfied) in Christ?

Then look at Christ more!

Read his word, talk to him, talk with others about him, praise him, and meditate on him

5.  We can do this through Christ! (v13)

We can “do all things” that he asks of us

This is not a blank check for us to use how we want

“This and every declaration in the Bible can only be understood by making them God-centered. Meaning all things are meant to serve him” (Matt Chandler)

 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” is God’s commitment to fully enable us to live for him – including our being content!


5 year old Levi has Down’s Syndrome. And that is the easiest of his physical difficulties. His adversities include four open heart surgeries (and counting).

This testimony by his dad, a student at Bethlehem Seminary, is powerful, perspective correcting, and encouraging!

“Drinking Deeply of the Tenderness of Christ” from Bethlehem College & Seminary on Vimeo.


“Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking (Jesus) down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.”  Mark 15:46

When that large stone sealed off Jesus tomb, it added a sense of finality to his death.  For those who loved Jesus, he was gone!  For those who followed him, it appeared that his ministry and their hope was now over.

What had Jesus’ disciples done while Jesus was taken from them?  Not much.  After Jesus’ arrest, Peter followed “at a distance” and then denied knowing him.  The women who ministered to Jesus, watched the crucifixion “at a distance”.

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who belonged to the council that condemned Jesus could not stop what took place.  Afterward Joseph gave Jesus a proper burial, as some might say, it was too little too late.

Jesus’ followers meant well, and a few tried to do something, but they could not stop those events.  I think we can relate to them.  It does not take much to reveal the true extent of our limitations.  Even our best efforts don’t look like much and at times we wonder if our lives actually make a difference.

It is true that God always expects us to respond to each situation in a way that honors him; but God never expects us to be the answer or the solution.  

What needed to take place behind the stone that closed Jesus’ tomb was all of God.  Mankind had absolutely nothing to do with these great events God was accomplishing. 

What a relief!  Jesus disciples did not have to come through in the end, and they did not have to figure out how to make it work.  That was God’s job.

Behind that stone where Jesus body lay in death, God was still being perfect, God was completely in charge. He was still glorious and almighty! 

For behind that stone, sin – Satan – and death would suffer an eternal defeat.  Behind that stone, the hope for humanity came to life.  What took place behind that stone was beyond human reason, beyond our experience and beyond any expectation.

Yet for all the wonder of that moment, God was not being more of what He had always been.  He is perfect, glorious and almighty at all times. 

If you are in Christ, He is always being glorious with you, for you are forever saved. He is always being perfect toward you, for he loves you in the same measure that he loves Christ.  And God’s plan is always prevailing for you, for the day keeps drawing nearer when you will be glorified.

Now that the stone has been rolled away giving us an open display of God’s glory, how does it affect the way we live?  Do we live wholly dependent upon Christ? 

We answer that question by looking to see if there are any areas in which we are still trying to be in charge. If there are, then we are not wholly dependent on Him.

Do we live trusting that Christ has accomplished everything we need?  He will not accomplish everything we want, because that would diminish his always being perfect toward us; since much of what we want is not best. 

How do we know if we are trusting that God has accomplished all we need?  The answer is in our contentment when God does not do what we want.  If we are not content with God’s way of responding, then we really don’t trust that He is accomplishing everything we need.

Let us be freshly committed to live as if God really did know what He was doing behind that stone – and everywhere else.




by Debbie Huber

Every year the Washington Post publishes a What’s In/Out list for the coming year.

It is a prediction of what the author of the article thinks will be “going out” and trends that will be “coming in”.

Most of this year’s list meant little to me in the in or out category which probably means that my interests were on the out list years ago!

Our culture places great value on the latest trends, fashions, beauty secrets, music style, political point of view, “keeping up with the Kardashians”, etc. New ideas and methods are presented for a “happier you” or “a more fulfilling relationship”.

But as the Washington Post list demonstrates, these things go out of style very quickly. Keeping up becomes like chasing after the wind and is an empty pursuit.

But God’s wisdom never changes. His word is the foundation for our lives that will never erode.

The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8.

He is the same Yesterday:

He loved us even before we were born, dying in our place for our sins. We know He demonstrated that He has power over sin and death. What we read about Jesus in the Bible is still true today.

He is the same Today:

Because He is the same Jesus today, we can live in confidence that He made us His own, that the sins we commit today have been paid for by Him, that His power is at work in our lives and we can cling to Him at every moment. As much as He loved us when He died for us He still loves us today.

He is the same Forever:

The love that He had for us before we were even born, that sustains us now, and He has for us forever. The God that would not let you go yesterday and today will hold you and keep you in Him through eternity and we will be with Him worshiping Him for who He has always been.



‘Life is about what Christ is doing’


Philippians 1:12-18

When we are in a place of hardship, limitations or uncertainty, our impulse is that we NEED to get out, because nothing good can happen here. However, when we serve what Christ is doing, every situation becomes fruitful


Paul Describes His Imprisonment (vs 12-14)

We can imagine the concern and interest of the Philippian Church

Yet, the only details Paul is interested in sharing are about gospel mission

The central issues for Paul are how he is serving the gospel, and how the gospel is “advancing”

Paul’s tone is not just positive, it’s victorious

We are not to have a ‘success model’ that is separate from Christ’s kingdom: our success and his kingdom success should be the same concern and joy for us

“But what if my life is in a bad place?” How are you defining ‘bad’?

  • A bad place is when we are in sin and pushing God away
  • We may be in unpleasant place, but can still be a Christ advancing place

In Paul’s hardship, limitations and uncertainty, gospel mission is advancing in two ways

(1) The gospel was advancing to unbelievers

The Imperial Guard was an elite force, and Paul was a mere prisoner, yet he has gotten the attention of this “whole” group

From 4:22 we know the gospel had advanced into Caesar’s household

(2) The gospel mission was advancing in believers (v14)

The church could have slunk back in fear, but Paul’s example led them in the opposite of “boldness”

Paul was limited, but the Holy Spirit was not, because God is all powerful, ever active and fully sovereign

Until the “day of Christ” arrives, the gospel will not stop advancing, because God has people to save

The gospel was not advancing despite hardship, it was advancing through it!

The Philippians may have wondered if their continuing support was being wasted

In v12 Paul lets them know that that the opposite is happening

No effort for Christ and his kingdom is wasted because He reigns


Sadder Than Paul’s Chains, Were the Actions of Some Believers (vs 15-18)

First, we need to piece together what is taking place

  • They are among the “the brothers” mentioned in v14
  • They are not false teachers, because Paul always confronts and condemns them
  • These are believers preaching out of envy (v15) and selfish ambition (v17)

It seems that they are Christians who want to be known for having bigger ministries than the famous Paul

Once again, for Paul this situation is seen through the eyes of gospel mission

He didn’t approve of the heart in these believers, but he approves of the gospel being declared

There are churches we may not want to attend, because we disagree with their approach to ministry

But if they are clear with the gospel, we should take joy in that reality (v18)

Last week, we saw Paul’s joy was rooted in the progress of the gospel rather than circumstances

We never lose our reason for joy, when our reason is the reign of Christ

If your reason for joy is in other things, then your joy will come and GO


Paul Wants the Church to Be Encouraged

His circumstances included chains, but his words include “advance, confident, bold, without fear and rejoice”

This is because the key phrase in Paul’s heart is “for Christ”(v13)

In vs 1-18, Paul refers to Christ twelve times, God four times, and the gospel four times

As Christians, we need to grasp that everything is meant to be about Christ!

v21 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain”

  • He is worthy of this being true for us
  • It is wise and good when this is true for us
  • God is serious about this being true for us

As a Church family, we want to show grace toward one another as we struggle to grow, but we also want to be zealous to grow

None of us live for Christ in everything and at all times.

But we all can be moving in that direction

1. Live by God’s word; it incessantly points us to Christ

2. Pour your life into gospel mission “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21)

3. Be a worshipper! Your love for Christ and your interest in his kingdom will increase


Some time ago I clipped these lines from an article by Ronnie Martin on the Gospel Coalition blog.

Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s lowly employee, had a joy that transcended his earthly circumstances, which included a sick child, intolerable working conditions, and a salary that barely afforded him the essential provisions to feed his family. But it was Cratchit’s joy that led him to hope for his son, feel charity toward his boss, and celebrate Christmas with an overflowing heart. Bob Cratchit had a joy that could not be contained.

Christmas cannot be contained, because the gospel can never be silenced. The world cannot shut out the light of Christ shining in the hearts of his children.

Let us rejoice in the Scrooges of our world that “come to their senses”

May we seek to be the Bob Cratchits who keep their eyes on the wondrous Savior no matter what circumstances the world throws at us! For if we are in Christ, then God has blessed us – every one!


Phil 2,14

by Debbie Huber


For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vainPhilippians 2:13-16a

My growth group recently dealt with the question, “Is it feasible to be able to never grumble?” We all chuckled and quickly answered, “No!” Sure does not feel like it is possible, at least in our own strength. We all realize that we can grumble about so many little things we do not even think twice about. Things like the weather, the slow person in the grocery line ahead of you, the service at a restaurant, the coworker who doesn’t seem to be pulling her weight, and the list goes on.

But Paul in Philippians instructs us to do ALL things without grumbling. Then he goes on to say, “that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation”. How can we be blameless and innocent in this area? It is not in our own strength. The Bible tells us it is God who works in us to accomplish this for His good pleasure. He supernaturally enables us to refrain from grumbling. “Holding fast to the word of life” keeps us focused on Christ and not how we are affected by circumstances.

Why does it matter if we grumble a little? Everyone complains about the weather, the traffic, etc. Is there a day that goes by where you do not hear anyone grumbling about anything? It is probably rare.

If we live a “grumble-free” life, we will shine a light in a dark world filled with lots of grumbling. It is not so the crooked and twisted world will think that we are great but that they will know that Christ is great.





Why does a man with a beautiful wife, pursue other women?

Why does the person with 2 billion dollars, want 3 billion?

Why does a king who rules over a vast empire still desire more land?

Why does a coach or athlete never have enough championships?

Why do the wealthy who live in beautiful mansions need still more homes in new places?

Why does the woman with closets stuffed with more fashion than she could ever wear, keep shopping for more?

Why does the celebrity who receives praise, awards and adulation, never get enough of it?

Why are we never fully satisfied?

Imagine an eternity filled with beauty, endless joys and wonderful experiences. Further imagine that this eternity had no pain, no worries, no troubles, no enemies and no sorrows. We would still end up dissatisfied and unhappy – if there was no Christ.

For we have been created by him, to know him and dwell in communion with him. We can only find true, full and lasting contentment when we are with Christ.

Hell, among other sorrows, will contain the endless gnawing pain of never being satisfied.

And so Heaven itself would become an eternal burden of emptiness without Christ being the center of it. All its glories would eventually become jaded and wearisome

The joy and glory of the Heavenly realm is the presence of Christ with us.

The presence we have now

The relationship we can grow in now

The Christ who loves us now

The Christ we can rest in now

If heaven would be empty without our Jesus, how absurd, foolish and wasteful it is to ignore him as we walk through this bruising world.



“The Realities of God Are Greater”

Psalm 4

The Psalms were written as a songbook for God’s people

They present an honest look at the human condition in all our struggles, as we intersect with the realities of God

Psalms are worship that instruct. In this way they are a great example of preaching the gospel to ourselves


This Psalm Begins With a Cry to God

It appears from v2 that David is being slandered

It hurt and he was helpless as some lied about him and others received it

Both giving and receiving slander are unloving and sinful (Romans 1 mixes slanderers and gossips with murderers and haters of God)

It takes careful attention to be gossip and murmur free

David turns to God in his hurt and frustration (v1)

He does this because God had proven himself in the past

Why should we be content to entrust our burdens to God?

Because he is almighty

Because he is faithful

The cross proves God’s faithfulness

The gospel tells the fullness of that faithfulness

What is God’s role to you? Is he “the man upstairs” or is he the full extent of your hope?


God Gives David Grace For Those Who Hurt Him

David gives counsel to those who misused him

1. God takes care of those who trust in him (v3)

Those who oppose God’s people are wasting their efforts

This is also a warning, letting them know they were raising their arm against God

2. Fear God and examine your hearts before him (v4)

The phrase “Be angry” literally means “tremble” in either anger or dread. The context seems to be tremble in fear of God

Rather than slander others, they should examine their hearts and consider God’s role over them

3. Submit to God and worship him (v5)

He exhorts them to be worshipers who entrust themselves to God

David’s heart was wounded, but it had not been poisoned

The grace God provided was greater than the sin he endured

If our grace is always greater than our burdens, then grace should always rule

This means we are to stay in the agenda of the gospel toward people – including those who misuse us

This is where David’s heart remained, because God remained present and faithful

Since God never stops his agenda for us, we should not stop serving his agenda

This is not a disadvantaged way to live

This is freeing – because the sin of others doesn’t determine how we live

This is powerful – because it places attention on the glorious realities of God


David Then Declares His Confidence (vs 6-8)

He introduces his confidence by making a contrast

David begins with a common question,

“Who will show us some good?

In other words, who or what will make us happy?

Most people don’t have a clear or dependable answer, so they look everywhere

And the truth is – without Christ, people don’t even know what is good for them

There is often a touch of cynicism, with people doubting if anything really works

All this leads to pragmatism which has no moral rooting: Do whatever makes you happy

The result is “all about me” behavior which is manifested by a culture that encourages abortion, affairs, cheating and common rudeness

In contrast for the believer, there is no searching or ambiguity:

“Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!” (v6)

If we have the presence of God, we have goodness

There are three implications in this declaration

#1. Engagement with the “face” of God (his personal presence) will meet our deepest needs

#2. The presence of God shines “light” on our life. The truths of God make life clear

#3. If you want goodness in your life, submit fully to the ways of God

David shares a couple wonderful results of entrusting our life to God

1. God puts “joy” in our heart (v7)

This joy is greater and deeper than simply having circumstances go well

It consists of a heart overflowing with the abundant riches of Christ in us

A joyful heart can be touched by pain and sadness, but it will not be drowned by them

2. God brings “peace” to us (v8)

God who is sovereign over everything, is committed to our eternal good

We can “lie down and sleep”, meaning we can rest


Let us work on the presence of God and our rest in God