Category Archives: Philippians

Second Chance: Philippians 2

√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken

Philippians 2 [NIV]
– 1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…

– 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

– 14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God 15 without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. 

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Paul has written the perfect word picture of God’s “good purpose” for us.  This portion of his story begins with the encouragement of renewal and ends with the promise of results.  Renewal and results are the bookends that span the timeless truth of v13.

Renewal is God reaching out to us with “encouragement from being united with Christ,” the “comfort from his love” and the “common sharing in the Spirit with “tenderness and compassion.”

“It is God who works in you to will and to act
in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

Results are God reaching into us with the fulfillment of His “good purpose.” He continues to work through our renewal to create in us the desire “to will and to act” with “the same mindset as Christ Jesus… “as [we] hold firmly to the word of life.”

The Firsts: Philippians 1 – Practice

[NLT] Philippians 1:27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.

Scripture is particularly surprising when ancient words create a bridge to everyday life.  I came across one particular old Greek word in reading what John Piper had to say about Philippians 1: politeuomai.  It’s an action word.
1. to be a citizen
2. to administer civil affairs, manage the state
3. to make or create a citizen
It wasn’t much of a stretch to see in “politeuomai” another more modern-day word…”polit-ics” and that became the bridge of thought for me.  God does have a purpose for our daily life in this world.  He’s created a place for us to practice living as “citizens of heaven, conducting [ourselves] in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.”  Paul reminds us that’s the very reason we have to stand “together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News…We are in this struggle together…” 

Practice can be fumbling, imperfect and often unpleasant BUT remember these two things: 1. everything depends on what we’re practicing AND 2. practice makes perfect.  God has given us this world to practice being citizens.  We have the “privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him” as we struggle with one another to perfect our desire to “live as citizens of heaven” in the midst of an imperfect reality.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a man of faith who lived and died for these words he wrote: ”I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith.”

New Year’s Questions

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I lay awake as an early morning thunderstorm crashed over us thinking and praying about the presence of God in all circumstances and choices without being anxious.  I found myself stumbling over my own words of prayer.  It was sort of the “digital” version of prayer where I had to keep backspacing and editing because it’s such a mysterious thing that the Sovereign God is always present in the thoughts, actions, emotions and choices of the believer. 

I swear I believe that but then I find myself asking for “something more.”  Some  “sign” that will be confirmation my heart, mind, emotions and choices are right because there aren’t enough details to guarantee that.  That insecurity belies what I swear.  I don’t really have a good track record with New Year’s Resolutions so here’s my alternative: Three New Year’s Questions to read and ponder throughout 2019.

• What if the presence of the Holy Spirit really does dwell within us as part of every thought, action, emotion and choice?
• What if it were possible to quit struggling to figure out all the details and be assured the relationship the Spirit has created between God and us through Jesus is enough for “every situation”?
• What if questions are a purposeful part of how God works to take captive our thoughts, actions, emotions and choices guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to give us access to “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding…”?

“God is always speaking to us, but it requires spiritual discernment to hear God’s voice, see what God sees, and read the signs in daily life.”  Henri Nouwen from Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life

The Firsts – My First…Again

For the “first” time since I began this blog in 2015 and settled into two posts a week I missed my post this Sunday.  Oh, I have a list of reasons but when I ticked them off to myself I didn’t find much justification in any of them.  I just don’t always get it right.  In keeping with my recent theme of “Firsts” I’m reposting an updated version of my very first post.  The reality is I need to remember what inspired me to begin this blog in the “first” place.   Consistency is of great value in a blog but it doesn’t compare to God’s consistency.  “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6

Hello world! – Edited “First” Post from June 5, 2015
I began what I call a timid, limited slog through the Old Testament.  It’s timid because I’m not a scholar, limited because what I read is often far less than a whole chapter and slog because sometimes reading to find faith in my daily life feels like trying to run in a dream.  I wanted to explore the human identity of some of the main characters of the Old Testament that I pretty much skip over to get to Jesus.  They often seem so remote to me but they’ve become heroic examples of what faith looked like in the “good old days;” days that were so much closer to God’s miraculous intervention in the lives of those real people.  

I wanted to look at them as people who didn’t always get it right the first time and see what happened in their lives.  Some stayed faithful and learned from their mistakes and some just let their worry or anger destroy them.  You know, people just like us.   People knowing and believing God but held back from becoming what God created them to be by flaws, or maybe just indifference.  This is exactly where many of us find ourselves.  This word journey is my attempt to see how God moved them, and still can move us, from being satisfied with being not Godless, but not Godly either.

I am absolutely convinced there is a process God has designed for the purpose of revealing himself to those who care to look and listen.  It involves his Word, the Holy Spirit and time.  I read many versions of Scripture online and watch for the mental “stop sign” in those words that says “notice me.”  These are the methods of the digital age.  I copy and paste them into my iPad journal.  Yes, I’m a geek.  I type, I think, I backspace [a lot] and then I think and type some more until there seems to be a completion of the thoughts I believe the Holy Spirit has brought to my mind.  Sometimes I need to be reminded what makes my thoughts important is where they come from and my ability to hear what God is trying to tell me.  That’s where I am today.

It brings a smile to my face to imagine that God might use that oft repeated cell phone phrase of the digital age, “can you hear me now” as an object lesson for me.  I want to listen, I want to hear, but sometimes I just have to quit moving and stay in one place long enough to get good reception.  One thing is absolute though, God is faithfully consistent to ask the question over and over, “can you hear me now?”

Lord,  “yes.”  Amen.

The Next Episode

Genesis 4:8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.”  While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.  9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”  “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” 

What began in the garden of all creation became a soap opera story of the loss of promise along with the privilege and perfection of that first couple.  They both had the chance to stand face to face with God and admit what they’d done but Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent.  What they’d done just couldn’t be undone.  There was blame with lasting consequences and inestimable loss.

That first fruit had taken root and reproduced itself in a  deadly way in their second son.  Cain murdered his brother Abel.  Then he chose to disavow his guilt with the same technique the serpent had used to defy God and deceive his parents…deflection…the fruit of deceit. The simple use of one question to deflect another – “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The fruit of deceit would be the identifying mark on Cain for the rest of his life.  That identifying mark has lasted and the soap opera continues.

We are living in the next episode.  Life is our test of how we deal with real lies and real guilt in real lives.  We are the broken descendants of that first family but we do not have to be marked by that rotten fruit.  We can choose to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”  [Philippians 1:11 NIV]

Assurance –

Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

That phrase “continue to work our your salvation with fear and trembling” always catches me when I read it because of that other phrase “as you have always obeyed.”  Long before we even had a conscious awareness of our salvation we were learning there were times we could be disobedient and get away with it. Paul is challenging us to consider situational ethics and our faith. God has swept away old boundaries and brought new freedom to our lives. We have our doctrines, we have our statements of belief, we have God’s truth…but we still have our options.

I try not to be a “canned” Christian but it’s so easy to spout the truth you know as if you’ve really figured out how to live it. That’s the challenge of situational ethics. This last year our Pastor quoted someone-or-other with this [paraphrased] statement: “We judge others by their behavior and ourselves by our intent.”  Our freedom in Christ has faced us with options and our situational ethics. That’s why we need to “continue to work out [our accomplished] salvation with fear and trembling.” You don’t think God misses those times when you still get away with misusing your freedom do you? Not a chance! That’s the “fear and trembling” part but we have these words of assurance from Paul.  In the midst of working through matching up our situational ethics with our freedom we don’t have to rely on our doctrines or our statements of belief or our own will. This is God’s truth…”it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”  You can’t do it alone.

Whatever

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

My idea of “whatever” has changed in these four chapters. What began as more or less an acceptance of a negative circumstance has become a new idea.

“Whatever” happens in life, Jesus is the core of the faith God has given each of us. He is the “faith OF the gospel.” He IS the Word [Logos] that builds truth from a trusted book into a structure of personal faith, divine reason and creative order for daily life.

Philippians 4:8 is all I need to remind me to think about “whatever ” in a new and much bigger way.