"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


A really bad comedic movie from the 80s featured a couple of hapless guys who fawned over their hero, chanting, “I’m not worthy. I’m not worthy.” When it comes to being worthy of the love of God, of our place in his family and service in his Kingdom, let’s face it. We could all be chanting, “I’m not worthy!” Paul, the Apostle of grace, nevertheless encouraged the Philippians to conduct themselves in a worthy manner:

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened by those who oppose you. Philippians 1:27-28a

The “whatever happens” phrase carries life and death import for Paul. He has just described the two possible paths he is facing: to live (opportunity to serve God and others); to die (to be with Jesus face to face). So his encouragement to the Philippians says something about its dearness to his heart.  His legacy, the torch he would pass, is their unity for the sake of the faith (trust in) the gospel. To Paul, of course, the gospel is not a set of homilies or rules to live by in order to be good enough for God—the gospel according to Paul is acknowledging that none of us is good enough, repenting of our old way of life, accepting the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, resulting in walking in newness of life. By his own example, this gospel is worth dying for. Everything else is trivia.

It is so easy for us to turn on one another when we are meant, as fellow believers and brothers and sisters in Christ, to have one another’s backs. Your fellow believer is not the enemy, though you will certainly differ in many preferences and probably even some doctrines. Jesus said the defining characteristic of his followers should be love. It is true that abounding love finds its roots in deep knowledge of the Word (and God’s heart). But knowledge without love is like a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal—so much noise.

Believers united in purpose (in spite of millions of less important differences) are an unstoppable force. Jesus said of such a church, that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. When the enemy can lob a grenade into the church and get us to throw one another onto it, he walks away smiling. When we love one another as Christ loves us, he quakes in his proverbial boots.

Come what may, let’s conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Let others know that we stand firm on one spirit, contending fearlessly as one man for the faith of the gospel.  In so doing we will be salt and light in a dark and tasteless world.  And Christ will be honored. Isn't that a worthy cause?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Infectious Joy

When was the last time you caused someone’s joy to overflow? Having just laid out the spectrum of possibilities (as the ultimate win-win situation) by the declaration that for him “to live is Christ; to die is gain,” Paul now assures the Philippian church that he expects to be with them for a while…for this very purpose:

Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.  (Philippians 1:25-26)

Whatever attitudes we carry with us, whatever qualities we clothe ourselves in (Colossians 3), we infect others with them, for better or for worse. We are social by nature, and in our interactions with others we cause some kind of a ripple effect. We can stir waves of discontent and dissention, or we can cause ripples of joy—overflowing joy—in the lives of others.

Sometimes the thought of a joyous person conjures images of a beaming face, always smiling from ear to ear, exuding positive affirmations morning to night. Somehow, this image does not match up with serious minded Paul. He was rooted in truths, even the uncomfortable ones, and he apparently had no trouble speaking these truths (in love). And yet, he could comfortably say that he expected his presence to cause their joy to overflow! This causes us some confusion because of our misunderstandings about joy. It is not necessarily always an emotional state (as is happiness). Like love, joy is not always a feeling, but finds its firm foundation in what we truly believe. And here is where Paul excelled. He was (and is) the master of reminding us of the true source of enduring, overflowing joy.

By keeping a God’s eye view of things, even uncomfortable circumstances and disappointing interpersonal encounters, he was able to hold steady. By sharing this perspective with others, he was able to infect them with this joy—to overflowing. Paul knew, and wanted the Philippians to know, that in Christ, we are secure. There are no bad outcomes. Whether we are in prison or free, rich or poor, hungry or fed, live or die, Jesus has our backs. We are his and he is ours. God loves us with an everlasting love. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Our present sufferings are less than a blip on the radar screen of eternity, if we are united to Christ by faith. Such perspectives are reality. Our current circumstances, whether good or bad, are only temporary. What lasts is the mansion just over the hilltop, an abode that overflows with joy and happiness—forever.

Our attitudes and perspectives affect the way we feel about, and deal with, the things and people we encounter in our lives. They also affect those around us. As you go out into the world, as you deal with those in your own household or church, how about considering ways to infect them with joy?


Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:1-3)


Friday, October 12, 2012


Countless hours in my counseling office involve hearing couples out as they engage in the importance of winning. Initially, each is convinced he or she is “right” and invest their energies in proving their case. Like two attorneys before a judge, they present their cases and await a verdict. At some point, I pose the question: are they competing opponents or a team, equally yoked and motivated to win together? Winning together as a couple presents the “new” dynamic of the win-win.  If they can let go of being right, if they can see the other’s point of view, if they can compromise and give a little so that the needs of their partner are met, they both win.

Many times, individuals come into my office, frozen with indecision. If they have been depressed and or anxious for a while, they gaze at two paths, immobilized by fear of what appear to be inevitably dark outcomes. After they feel heard and understood, the question is presented: what if the situations really offer a win-win potential?  What good can come from the decision options? Sometimes this shift in perspective unfreezes people and they are able to move forward with hope.

The Apostle Paul, in the first chapter of Philippians, presents another kind of win-win scenario, in the extreme! He looks at the possibilities before him, life and death, and sees their win-win potential:

For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is s more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (Philippians 1:21-24)

Once again, the Spirit-transformed heart of Paul pours forth wisdom rooted in agape love. On the one hand, his love for Christ draws him in the direction of yearning to die and go to be with him. On the other hand, he sees the need of those in the church at Philippi and is motivated to see them through to maturity. While he clearly prefers to be with Jesus face to face, his love for Jesus and for the Philippians motivates him equally to stay in the world in order to minister to them. Die and be with Jesus, or live and engage in fruitful labor—a fairly ultimate win-win scenario.

By contrast we focus on winning our arguments with one another  and beating one another out in business or even ministry. We see winning as a selfish motivator: I want to win. When we grow to see through our Father’s eyes, when we serve with the hands of the Son, when we share the yearnings of the Holy Spirit, we will be motivated to finish strong, yes, but not alone. We will bring others with us to cross the finish line together. When we do, we will win together. And that’s a win-win outcome!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

New Book Release: Milestones: On the Road Home, Steve Warner

For those of you who follow "grace and truth" but not my facebook, twitter or author accounts, I want to be sure you know that my book, Milestones: On the Road Home is now available in online stores worldwide, and through your local bookstore. You can find out more about Milestones by clicking on the picture of it in the column to the right. Here are a couple of helpful links to check out prices:




It is available in e-books of all kinds, paperback and softcover. Prices range from under $4 (e-books) to around $15 (paperback) to about $25 (hardcover with dust jacket.) Some stores offer free shipping as well. Your local bookstore can order it as another option.

Thanks for your loyal readership since 2010. Already the book is opening up some of the most beloved messages of "grace and truth" to a whole new audience. Savor the journey and bring someone along!

Saturday, October 6, 2012


How often do we pray for deliverance, thinking that God will resolve our problem, somehow making it go away, or vindicating us before our enemies? When I am in a tight place, that is exactly what I want.  However, when Paul wrote to the Philippian church about his confidence of deliverance from prison, he had some other possibilities in mind:

Yes, I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. (Philippians 1:18b-20)

This is not a popular view of deliverance. Like the boy who finds himself locked in the hot garden shed, we want to be set free so that we can frolic in the shade with our friends. We want to be comfortable again, and the restoration of our own comfort is the motive for our prayers. Paul, in contrast to our current views on comfort, has one priority in mind: the exaltation of Christ. How this happens, (whether by life or by death), is up to God. Only the ultimate result matters.

While I generally agree with teachings about praying specifically so that God can show his might in our lives, I think there is humility in not counseling God to do our will. What if our prayers were that we could know his will, accepting and even facilitating it, no matter what? Jesus in Gethsemane showed us the bridge between these two views of prayer. He prayed repeatedly that “this cup,” (the crucifixion and temporary separation from God the Father and God the Spirit), would be taken from him. Ultimately, he submitted to God the Father, praying that the Father’s will be done even in this most extreme of circumstances.  Frankly, some today would consider this waffling, asserting that we should not be double-minded in our prayers, leaving room for doubt. There is a difference between double-mindedness and remembering who is God.

Such a biblical view of deliverance is a “win-win” view of life’s circumstances. There is no bad outcome as long as Christ is glorified. We can unclench our minds and let go of the circumstantial outcomes. If our focus in on Christ alone, he will have our backs, causing all things to work for our (eternal) good. Let’s ask God to deliver us—from our selfish motivations to restore our own comfort—as we love him and others above ourselves.