The Key in Philippians 2:5-8

Phil 2:5-8 BOGV
5 Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even the death of the cross.

This passage is a key to Jesus’ divinity. Jesus is the very eternal God a single member of the Triune Godhead. It is a passage which has been disputed as verse six is rather vague in both the Greek (which is the same in the NU, Majority, and Textus Receptus: “ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων, οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἴναι ἴσα θεῷ,”). Paul, here, is not being vague, however. He is rather clearly stating Jesus innate deity.

The first thing to notice is in verse six Jesus in His preexistence was in the form of God. Now this God is one member of the Trinity, God the Father. Typically, in the Bible (and specifically the New Testament) the word God refers to God the Father. Jesus in His preexistence was in the form of God. It is important to see this verse as Jesus’ preexistence as He has not been incarnated. If we continue to read on we see Jesus has not yet been made in the likeness of men (the end of verse 7 and beginning of verse 8).

So, before Jesus existed on the Earth as a man He existed in the form of God (that is the Father), but – and this is a big stopping point – He didn’t consider equality with God as a thing to be grasped. This is where a little of the debate happens. “a thing to be grasped” is hard to interpret. There are two main ways this is interpreted:

1. Something Jesus did not have but was reaching for
– or –
2. Something Jesus did have but not holding on to

Well, this doesn’t really make the debate easier, it merely shows the two sides. Was Jesus God and wasn’t worried about holding onto His godhood? or, Was Jesus merely a man who didn’t consider it right to reach for godhood? If this text ended there or Paul changed the subject at this point we could debate each other round and round without really giving a statement other than what lines up with our own doctrines. Thankfully, however, Paul didn’t stop there! The sentence continues in verse seven and we are given the linchpin which opens the whole statement and it really only allows this statement to be interpreted one way: “but emptied himself” (Greek “ἀλλ’ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν”).

If we interpreted the previous phrase the first way above, then what did Jesus have to empty Himself of? How could Jesus possibly empty Himself? He is merely a man and equality with God is not something He is going to reach for anyway. However, if we interpret it the second way then emptying Himself makes sense. First, Jesus has something to empty Himself of. Second, He has the ability (or power if you will) to empty Himself. This is the key which the whole argument stands on. Both sides must reckon with.

This one little logical flow then can open our eyes in this passage to who Jesus is. We have part of the passage speaking on Jesus’ preexistence, another part speaking on his existence and in the middle a wonderful section which tells us what happened in the incarnation of God the Son.


Note: This is the first in a series around the Doctrine of the Trinity. You will be seeing more writings coming out over the next year. If you have any questions, concerns, or comments feel free to get in touch, via e-mail. Thank you!

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Thoughts on Relationships – 2018

Well, here I am, again, speaking (or writing as the case may be) on relationships. If you haven’t figured it out, yet, I feel relationships are vastly important. This is the whole point behind Believe Better Ministries: To help you – our reader – to come into a full relationship with the Triune God. I want all my readers to move past the religiousness which tears us down and start Believing in Something Better.

So, with this in mind I’ve been meditating on relationships recently. I love verses like 1 John 2:10-11, because they really do show the great importance placed on relationships. Think about what the Lord Jesus Christ said about the greatest commandment, or His stating of a new commandment. Both statements come back to relationships. If I were to condense the Christian life into a phrase it would be a paraphrase of our Lord:

“Have a full, complete relationship with God, and have a relationship with the people around you, especially your fellow believers.”

This is the essence! (While I know without definitions these words do not totally capture the full Christian life, however for the sake of brevity let us lay aside the arguments for the time being.) The Lord brought a verse to me while I was listening to a sermon on the radio, recently. You will soon (hopefully) see a much longer paper on the subject of this verse and its ramifications upon this ministry, but being immersed in my study I wanted to prime the pump, so to speak. This verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:14 “We urge you, brothers, admonish the disorderly, encourage the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient toward all” (BOGV). These are the simple directions for our relationships with fellow believers.

This is all about helping those in need, and if there is not a visible need (or there may be a difference of doctrine) being patient. Paul intended this verse (and the whole section of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22) to be applied to the believers and their relationships with each other. I want to go a step further and apply this to the relationships we have with unbelievers, for we are called to evangelize to them. Now, I am a shy person. I have always had a hard time speaking to people on difficult subjects. The Lord, however, is growing me and conforming me to the image of His Son.

Recently, God has placed a call on my heart to share the Good News (the Gospel). This is the relationship which is scariest to me. It is the relationship which God wants me to cultivate. We need to be speaking the Gospel, His Gospel. This Gospel is a message of free, limitless grace. This Gospel presents a God who loves us so much He personally came to Earth in the form of a man so He could sacrifice Himself for us and bridge the gap (the chasm, really) between Him and us. It is a Gospel of total forgiveness from everything and anything we have ever done. Finally, it is a Gospel which brings us into a full, beautiful relationship with God, no strings attached.

This Gospel does not preach a religion, but a relationship! We need to preach the Gospel tenderly and with great care to everyone who will listen. With gentleness, then we bring order to the disordered, encouragement to the discouraged, support to the weak, and are patient with everyone. This will be an effective witness, and a breath of fresh air to those who have been turned off by the arguments they are shown in the media. Having a tender attitude will bring forth a softer response.

Go forth, build relationships with those around you. Have a full, wonderful relationship with our glorious God. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Thoughts on Death

A dear brother just recently passed – as did Billy Graham. So, I have been pondering death – the first death that is – recently. If you follow me on my personal blog then you know I suffer from seasonal depression. (Please Note: I am not complaining, I am just stating this for it pertains to my thoughts on this subject.) Now being Christian, and having a Christian upbringing, I have heard the statements about how we are supposed to feel and what we are supposed to see when we see a brother or sister pass away. I have heard people say all of the “He is in a better place now” and so on. But it is one memorial service I was at about a decade ago which really affected my outlook.

When we lose someone, it is absolutely okay to be sad! Don’t let what anyone says make you feel guilt over feeling. The man I consider my pastor, John Z., was giving the eulogy at a dear brother’s service during my senior year of high school. Someone else, who was also rather close to me, told me to rejoice in this brother’s passing. He had had an awesome life, full of service to the Lord, and full of many amazing things, but my pastor, John, was standing at podium and he was quiet for a moment as he was overcome with his sorrow. John looked out at us and through his own emotion he said, “We are sad today, not because we mourn for our brother. He is standing face to face with Christ, no longer feeling pain or problems. We are sad, for our own loss.” We can be sad! In fact I might say we are supposed to be sad. In fact Solomon in Ecclesiastes tells us there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;” (Eccl 3:4).

This affected me so greatly! It is so freeing!

I will tell you right now, I am sad! I am trying to stay in the right frame of mind, however, and not let this sadness take over my thoughts. I am praying and keeping Him first in my life. I am trying to listen to the promises God gives us in his word. Things where Jesus says (all ESV):

And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” ~ Luke 23:43

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,” ~ John 11:25

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” ~ John 14:1-3

But I think the greatest promise about this is what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (ESV)

Just as Jesus told the thief on the cross he would be the Lord that very day in paradise, so we know when the Lord returns He will bring those with Him. These verses won’t drive away the sadness, but they do bring assurance to us. We need this assurance other wise we will grieve as those who have no hope. We have a blessed hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For God loved the world so much he sent the Lord Jesus and gave him for us that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life with Him.

Please lift up all those who have recently lost family! Pray for them. Pray their passing could be a great witness to for the Lord in this time.

Thoughts on Choices

Choices are hard!

There’s nothing which makes them easier. We stress out over the choice, the results, what other will think. (So often, though, when we finally make a decision we feel free, our stress melts away.) We pray over the choice, we pray over the results, we look left and lean right, we look right and lean left. Our stress stems from chaotic unknowns, from feeling as though we are out of control.

But the problem in our lack of control is something which goes unnoticed in our daily lives until circumstances rub our noses in it. The fact is we are not in control, God is in control. We worry so much about time, about decisions, about control yet our illusion of control once released will free us to see God’s will in our lives. This is not an easy principal.

To move my point home, I want to bring a verse to your mind. This verse comes from the book of wisdom in the Bible: Proverbs. “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9. This verse gives me my whole view point on how our lives work. We make plans, we decide to do things, and the Lord works through what happens in our lives to accomplish His will. So, what does this mean to us about our choices? Does it mean they’re worthless, or does it mean they make no difference in the end?

I would make the argument of our choices still being important. Our choices shape who we are, allow us to grow, turn us into the people we are today, and effect who we ill be tomorrow. God above all things wants a relationship with us. This means allowing us to grow and become fully mature beings. So, what about making choices? That’s where this whole thing started. Everything I’ve written doesn’t make it easier to choose between one option and another.

We pray over our choices. We pray for wisdom. Ask our pastors, elders, and counselors for insight. Even then, we still struggle to choose. I want to inject some peace into your life. (This is not my insight and I don’t have considered myself to have mastered it, yet.) If we ask God for something is He not faithful to give us an answer? We act as if He doesn’t. We ask for wisdom then act like God won’t give it. James, the brother of our Lord Jesus, didn’t agree. He wrote: “But if any of your lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who give to all generously and without reproach, and it will be give to him.” (James 1:5)

If we have this promise from God, about giving us wisdom in His word can we not trust it? If God says He will give us wisdom then He will. Choices, then, become easier: Pray for wisdom, make a choice knowing God is faithful. That’s it! If you’re feeling stressed remind yourself God is in control.

These are my two verses on making choices. God takes care of us and ultimately works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). Remember this and calm your stressed life down. Find wisdom in your life, from counselors – may they be elders, pastors, parents, or others – but also ask God for it.

Good Luck!


Note: I wrote a personal thought on choices back in 2016 on my personal blog and planned at the time to write one for Believe Better Ministries. I did not accomplish this at the time and 2017 slipped away without the thought having been written. I apologize for all who were waiting for this since I posted I was going to write it. I pray this brings you some peace in making choices.

A Conversation with a Martyr

Download the Story A Conversation with a Martyr here →

OK, that could be a very misleading title!

I want to make it clear I have not personally contacted a martyr for the faith. Rather this is a work of fiction. I have always been – at least when it comes to writing – a fiction writer. I love to write fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy. You in fact can read my fiction online as it is currently being serialized. Well I was sitting in my chair reading Voice of the Martyrs and the Lord smacked me on the head with an idea I just couldn’t shake. Well… I think it was the Lord anyway. As I said I just couldn’t shake it I had a visceral need to write it and finish it.

I thought I’d give you all a chance to read it. I’ve been holding it back as it is different from anything else I’ve ever written. The idea is I’ve been praying to God about being the kind of person who is willing to lay their life down for Him. I’ve never thought I was this person. I want to be this person, but never felt like I had the courage to be. This part is not fiction, this part is absolutely true. I have prayed this question many times in my life. Wondered for many years if a great persecution happened here in the USA would I be the person hiding his beliefs to get by or would I stand up and shout God’s good news from the roof tops?

The story is essentially God giving me an answer. Whether this answer is real or fake, I cannot tell. I’ve pondered it and handed the story to wiser men than I. I have nothing more really to say about the story.

I hope you enjoy it.

Download the Story A Conversation with a Martyr here →

Thoughts on Actions – 2017

Well, I’ve been trying over the past several years to write an article for Believe Better Ministries on the subject of Actions. I feel as though I’ve been blocked. I don’t know if I have the words to bring this subject to bare. I’ve prayed over it and still do not feel led to write a full paper on the subject. So, I’m going to give my thoughts and leave it at that. (Quick side note: I think the reason I’ve been stopped from writing is due to it being very, very hard not to become legalistic when putting forth this subject. So I pray for a grace filled message.)

My main thought, when I’ve written things down about actions, is we’re not meant to be stagnant, passive followers, sitting in pews. We are meant for so much more! So many believers think the meeting of the Church involves going to a building, sitting in a pew (or chair), singing some songs, listening to a message, drinking a little grape juice and eating a cracker, giving a little money, and then going home. This is NOT the meeting of the Believers! If this was the way our meetings were to be conducted in this day and age why do I even need to go? Can I not accomplish all of this from my sofa? My couch is way more comfortable to sit in than any pew (or for that matter any chair) I’ve ever sat in in any Church Meeting Hall, I can easily buy grape juice (or wine if I wanted) and crackers, I can listen to KLove or some other Christian music network (heck I could pull it up on Pandora if I wanted), I can watch any of a number of different speakers on TV or listen on radio for a message, I can give money over the phone or straight through the internet, and in the end I’ve accomplished about the same thing.

Are either of these a true form of a meeting of the Church? No! Again, I say no! We are called to service. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus, gave us an example (John 13:12-17). Jesus was among us as a servant and said the greatest in His Church (the believers) would be the one who served (Luke 22:24-27). We are to be ready to act! I like how the ESV translates the first half of Luke 12:35: “Stay dressed for action”! We are to be ready. The type of readiness is the same as a soldier.

The literal translation of the phrase is “gird up your loins”. This girding of the loins was what a soldier would do before putting on his chest plate. He would take a strip of tough cloth and tightly wrap it around his waist preparing himself for action, for combat. This is what the Lord Jesus was saying. Let alone His brother, James, who gave us “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26b) Why? Does this mean we need to follow the legalist? No! It simply means this: You can see the fruit!

As those who follow Christ, we have invited God into our hearts and He is faithful and indwells us. So, since we have the Holy Spirit living in us – conforming us to the image of the Son (see Romans 8), helping us to put off the old self and to put on the new self (see Colossians) – there should be fruit. Now, here is where this topic gets sticky and this is where my words fail me. I would never tell you to judge someone else, lest we forget what the Lord Jesus said about removing the log from our own eye before removing the speck from our brother’s eye.

I am not saying we need to apply these principles to others. I am saying we need to do these ourselves and let the Lord deal with everyone else. Remember this Christian life is all about a relationship with the Almighty. He teaches His children what they need when they need it. You may not see fruit in someone else’s life, but you also don’t know about the rocks their roots have been fighting with.

I think I should leave it at that. We need to be more active in our faith. The things we say we need to do. Having said this I also want to remind you, take this to heart for yourself, don’t push it on others or judge others for what you don’t really know. The lord is working in their lives just as He is in yours and in mine.

Episode 0 – Believe Something Better Podcast

Click Here to download this Episode of the Believe Something Better Podcast

This is a simultaneous release of this episode in audio and video. If you would like to watch this episode please feel free to click here.

This is the first episode of the Believe Something Better Podcast. It is an introduction to myself (Ray “RB” May IV) and my beliefs. It is also an introduction to the show itself. You can read the thought on relationships here.

We also look forward to hearing from you! If you would like to get in touch with us you can send us an e-mail here. Thank you for listening!

If you would like more information about the Willamette Bible Chapel click here.
More info on the Plymouth Brethren here.
More info on the Open Brethren here.

Just a side note it’s fitting this first episode is posted on my (RB’s) birthday.

Thoughts on Friendship – 2017

Willamette Bible Chapel just had their annual Men’s Retreat. I attended and was truly blessed. The subject this year was friendship. I really appreciated this subject as relationships are a strong call in my life. I think everyone has a huge call in their lives toward relationships. I personally feel they are the most important thing in our lives. Jesus said the greatest commandments are to “Love the Lord your God” and “Love your neighbor”. This tells us, even from the time of the law, relationships were primary in the heart of God.

Relationships are our primary view and shining forth of God. John states in his first epistle that we cannot say we love God and hate our brother (fellow believer whether man or woman). So, it is our relationships in which we show how much we love God. Through loving our brothers and sisters (fellow believers) and our other neighbors (those who are not believers as well) we show how much we love God. Through this – loving the people around us (believers or not), and loving God – we fulfill the whole law.

One of my other thoughts on relationships, well friendships really, is our intimate friendships affect our views, attitudes, and everyday choices. If I make intimate friends with a non-believer I need to be careful with this friendship so it does not drag me away from God. Rather, I need to shine the light of God into their lives. If I allow it to pull me away from God, I allow, also, my witness for God to be torn down. So, I need to guard my heart from such things. I need to strive toward God and shine His light.

I’m not trying to say we should cut ties with the world, and those who are unsaved. This would not be loving our neighbor as our own selves. Cutting ties with those who are unsaved, also, tears down our witness. For to whom are we witnessing? Ourselves? No, we are witnessing to non-believers! So, it would be terribly inappropriate to cut ties with the unsaved. Did Jesus do this? No, of course not, He was a friend to sinners.

The difference is Christ is God, perfect, omnipotent; able to not let the world tear Him down and destroy His witness. We are impotent and must depend on the LORD for our strength. So, through all our friendships we need to cleave into God. Our intimate friendships should, however, be with believers. This is because our intimate friendships when with other believers, shall build us up in the Lord. Have friendships, evangelize, shine the light of the Lord as a city on a hill! Relationships are one of the greatest ways to evangelize. Be honest, be loving, be Christ to everyone.

Thoughts on the Election

With the election over people on both side are feeling lost, disenfranchised, and even scared. I’ve personally read social media messages by those on both sides of this political season filled with anger hate, and discrimination. Some of these posts were written by friends of mine whom I know Christians. Now before we go any further I am not one of those people who thinks Christians are any better than non-believers. I had this whole argument lined out about redeemed vs. perfected, but I’m going to skip it. Suffice it to say Paul (who wrote almost half of the New Testament) called himself the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) and said “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19 ESV). So, yes, all Christians are sinners.

But as I was praying the last night (the 8th) before I went to bed and before I knew the outcome of the election. I prayed a specific prayer:

“Lord Jesus, my sovereign Master and King, as the people of my country choose their next leader, I lift up to You the decision. You are king of all and in control, Lord, lead the decision. But, also, help us to know You are in control over this situation. With a political season which has been so divisive in not just our country, but in Your body, help us to come together unified in love and our common faith. Lord Jesus, You are our head, You are our Savior. Help us to turn our eyes away from petty man-made doctrines and institutions and turn our faces back to You.

I love You, Lord!

—Amen.”

We need to be healing the wounds! We need to be coming together unifying. Christians are not called to do what they are doing. We are called to live quiet lives (1Thes 4:11; 1Tim 2:2), be subject to all authorities and human institutions – including paying taxes (1Pet 2:13-17; Rom 13:1-7; Titus 3:1;), and pray for our leaders (1Tim 2:1-2). These things leave no room for us to be making snide remarks or posting angry things on social media. Christians should be those who are gracious enough to be empathetic, for we have a God who knows what we feel, who shared humanity and gives us grace freely.

Finally I will close with my prayer today when I found out the results the election:

Lord Jesus, my Master and my God, with Trump becoming president lead us and how we should go. Lord God, You are the one who really is in control, You direct the steps of all mankind. I will put my trust in you, not in the institutions of this world.

Jesus, You You are my King!

I love You, Lord!

—Amen.”

Pray for his leading in your life, but more than that, go be a sibling, parent, cousin, aunt/uncle, husband/wife, or just a friend, love someone and help them when they need it.

Thoughts on Making Choices

I wrote an blog post for my personal blog about making decisions. As I read it more and more I have come to realize it is on a subject on which I was planning on writing a Thought. So you can go read the post on decision making and get a look at some of the ideas I am working into a Thought for the future. I hope you enjoy it.