Philippians Study (Part 17)

I make it my purpose to let my nephews and nieces know that I love them. Even though I don’t get the opportunities to see them, as I would like, I feel it is important to stay in some form of contact with them so they know whom I am. In these next few passages, Paul will mention a few people. I think one of the reasons Paul mentions them specifically, is because he wants the people of Philippi to find joy in their mention. We also learn a few things about these individuals that give us a deep perspective into Paul’s thoughts into a couple of individuals that accompanied him in prison. With that, we will begin.

The Text:

“I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of your. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”

First Observations:

Paul wants to send Timothy on a reporting mission to Philippi.

Paul has full confidence that he will receive great news.

Paul has a deep love for Timothy and his heart for loving others.

Other people seek their own interests.

Digging Deeper:

Since Paul is prison, he would send other people to see how the churches were doing. Titus, Timothy, Luke, and others would go and spend a period of time within the community, collect an offering, pray over leaders, commission new leaders, and return to Paul and report on how things were going. I find it quite interesting that Timothy and the others were so willing to make these trips. It isn’t like Timothy and the others got paid for their efforts. Timothy was devoted to the work of an overseer and took the responsibility seriously. Paul even says that he has no one like Timothy that cares as much about them as he does. So Timothy was sent to check up on the church Paul had established there.

It is interesting how people generally only care about themselves. I am talking about myself at times. What is important to understand however is selfish ambitions are not God’s ambitions for our lives. If we have godly ambitions, it is impossible for us to seek our desires. We must then place our weight in the desires of Christ and give up our own ambitions because His ways are better and bring joy.

Conclusion:

There really isn’t much to comment on in these three verses. As I have already mentioned, we get a small glimpse into Paul’s personal world. We are beginning to see how he feels about individuals who are in close with him. Maybe after we have established a few individuals, we will be able to draw out some thoughts about Paul’s comments about their lifestyles, their character qualities, and their motives. For now, I will encourage you to continue reading with me through the book of Philippians. It is a great book we all can enjoy. God bless.

Philippians Study (Part 16)

Tonight, I was a part of a group that discussed the matter of trust. Who do we trust? What do we trust? Can we really trust? If God is truth, shouldn’t we trust Him? What if we didn’t trust God? Could we be a Christian and not trust God? How can we trust when we have had our trust taken for granted? These are all great questions to ask and explore. What I took away from the night – and I ask you to test it out for yourselves – is that trust is something that can only happen when a relationship is established through continual and intentional community. It can only happen in an environment where we are able to be most like ourselves and not like we normally are in new situations. Finally, trust can only happen when we are willing to abandon our will and place ourselves in another. With respects to our faith, I have come to recognize the importance of trusting God. With other relationships, I trust those I have known for many years – my close friends. When I think about Paul, I can only imagine how strong his trust was in God to maintain a positive attitude in his circumstance. Lord knows it would not be easy. Paul’s trust in God is worth considering when we read his letters. You can almost feel it as you read the words off the pages.

The Text
:

“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 vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice wit you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.”

First Observations
:

Paul understands that holding on to the Word will result in not laboring or running in vain.

Paul likens himself to a drink offering from Numbers 28:7 – it is a sacrifice that he is happy to offer.

Paul calls us to be glad and rejoice with him.

Digging Deeper
:

I think sometimes the reason we don’t read the Word of God as much as we could or should is because we don’t realize how it will affect us when we read it. It has the ability to change us from the inside out and to create in us a pure heart. It has the ability to shape us and mold us into the kind of people we were made to be in Christ. If we really understood the importance of reading the Word, we would do it more and see the benefits more often in our day-in/day-out lives.

Anytime I build a tower of blocks with my 1-year-old nephew, he comes over and knocks it down. It doesn’t matter how many times I do it he will knock it down again and again. That is what kids do at that age. What if you were building something bigger though that costs more time, effort, sweat, blood, and tears and someone knocked it down? I am sure you would be upset, as I would be. Paul doesn’t want to labor in vain or run in vain. He is working hard for a purpose. If there is no fruit to his work, it is no different than a man who built a tower out of play blocks and his nephew knocked them down a moment later.

Even if these things were to be knocked down like block tower, Paul is okay with that. Cause it is God who built it and has a right to knock it down. Paul then says that he would rejoice. We should rejoice with him because God is in control of our circumstances. That is what makes God different than us.

Conclusion:

I am learning to be more thankful for all that God does in my life. I hope that my walk with Christ produces good fruit and that I too have not labored in vain. Am I willing to be a drink offering for someone else’s faith? I am not there yet, but I am working on it. It is probably something we all could work on from time to time. For God’s sake, let us continue to become more like Him in Word and in deed. God bless.

Philippians Study (Part 15)

If any of you have ever read Velvet Elvis, you would know that there is this section in the very beginning where Rob Bell, in my own words, says that we should be willing to test the doctrines we have deemed as important. We should be willing to discuss them and test them. We are never in a position to throw them away. He likens doctrines to the springs that hold a trampoline pad to the frame. You can test the springs by jumping on it, but you cannot remove the springs. If you were to do that, the pad – your religion – would fall to the ground, because it has no support or structure. The only reason I mention this aspect of “Trampoline Theology” concerns the very reason we are doing this study. As we read these verses, I encourage you to challenge the Scriptures. Test them. Invite others to jump with you on the trampoline and jump away.

The Text:

“For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the mist of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”

First Observations
:

God somehow works in us

God has a will

The result of God’s working in us produces pleasure

We are to do things with out grumbling or questioning

We are to be a blameless, innocent child – unlike the twisted generation of the world

We shine among the world because of who we are.

Digging Deeper:

When I think about work, I think abut sweating. I think about doing a task that has a beginning and an end. When I begin the task, there seems to be a lot to do. When it is all done though, I can stand back and see what I have accomplished. I can take pride in my work, because I spent the time and effort to complete the task at hand. It could have been something simple like cleaning my room or something more difficult like doing a tune-up on a car. It doesn’t matter what the task is. This is how I picture it.

God has a task in us, or so it seems that way. Somehow God works in us. I don’t know how that happens. I don’t feel God “working” in me I don’t feel God doing much in me at all, if I am totally honest. I don’t get little tingly sparks when I read the Bible or have grand epiphanies. I am who I am. Have there been significant changes in my life? Absolutely! What I am getting at though is that it happens in ways I cannot explain or “feel.” It seems to happen in very small ways, yet ends up being significant when I lest expect it.

The crazy thing about this, as Paul states, is that God isn’t doing this work for us, but for Himself. This work isn’t so we can be prideful in what “we” have done, but is done because God takes pleasure in us and desires to use us for His will. So He works in us somehow. I don’t know how to explain it, but He does. If anyone actually understands how God “works in us,” let me know, because I think it is something we are not meant to understand.

I like to complain a lot. I am sure I am not alone in that either. I complain about my joy, my finances, my car, my relationship status, and several other things in my life. The problem is, when I complain, I usually bring other people into the equation. Instead of seeing a person who loves life and is encouraged by God, they see a complaining idiot. How on earth are they supposed to get excited about God or the Gospel when I am giving such a bad example for them to see? That is something I have to work on a lot.

Conclusion:

We are called to be lights in this world. We shine and the darkness cannot overcome us. We are to shine brightly for Christ in every aspect of our lives, because He has spent His sovereign time working on us for His good pleasure. So let us attempt to do things without complaining and present ourselves as perfect, clean, unblemished sacrifices for the work of Christ. When we do that, we will surely shine and the world will come to see the truth of the Gospel and want to know why we are so different from the darkness. Test it. Probe it. Give it a try. Allow God to show you it is trustworthy and invite others to jump along with you.

Philippians Study (Part 14)

I stayed home today and spent some time with my family. I don’t get opportunities to do that much, so I thought I would. It was nice sitting around the table with the TV off and soft classical music in the background. With lots of laughs and plenty of food to eat, it was a nice change from the hustle and bustle. I don’t know the next time I will have the opportunity to spend time at home with the family, but I do know that it was worth it. I hope you all get the opportunity as well to put aside the busyness of life and sit at home and enjoy a great dinner around the table. I know for me, it was a lot of fun. As I think about Philippians, I think family is a key ingredient to the picture Paul paints. We are family and family should spend time together in fellowship and worship. For our family tonight, it was a meal. Maybe for you all, it is something else. Whatever it is, I hope you will agree that family is essential in living. With that, we will continue our study.

The Text:

“So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

First Observations:

There is something about the name of Jesus.

The name of Jesus causes people to get on their knees and confess He is Lord

Jesus is Lord = the Gospel. This is the good news Paul speaks about.

We are called to work out our salvation in humility.

Digging Deeper:

When I think about people in my life-when I say their name, I get a picture of their face in my mind.  As I see their picture, I usually smile, because I think about all the good times we had. For me, one of those names or persons would be my grandfather. He passed away about five years ago. I remember so much of him that when I think about him, I smile. The name of Jesus should do something to us as well. In fact, Paul says that the name of Jesus brings us to our knees and causes us to confess that He is Lord. It is important to understand is that the confession of Jesus as Lord is the Gospel the Bible speaks about.

Some people have considered the Gospel to be what Jesus did. They give a whole speech, as it was to what Christ did and call that the Gospel. The Gospel though actually means an “announcement.” The announcement is that Jesus is Lord. How does that change things? A lot. Caesar is not Lord, though he gave himself that title. Only Jesus can be and is Lord. No one else has that title.

Therefore, Paul calls the people to work out their salvation in fear and trembling. It does not mean that we should sit in the corner and be fearful of God. It means, because His name causes us to kneel and confess Him as Lord, that we should consider that every day in humility. This is one of the biggest struggles we have as believers in Jesus. We forget to be thankful or consider Christ each and every day. Paul calls the people of Philippi to “continue to work out their salvation.” It isn’t a one-time deal. It shouldn’t be that way for us either.

Conclusion:

I think we would be wise to remember Christ in our daily lives. We should work out our salvation in fear and trembling. His name is great. It causes us to kneel and confess the good news that Jesus Christ is Lord. It should cause us to react. This is what Paul calls the Philippians to do and, as I have already stated, something we should be doing in our daily lives as well.

Philippians Study (Part 13)

I am sorry that it has been a couple of days since I have last posted. I haven’t forgotten. The past couple of days have been difficult with school, work and other things that have been bogging me down. Things are looking better now that I have gotten a little ahead of where I need to be. We are working through chapter 2 of Philippians. This is a fun study for me because it gives me the opportunity to ask questions I normally don’t ask and challenge myself in ways I normally don’t challenge myself. I am glad you are all on this road with me. Together, we will go through the book and hopefully learn a lot through it. With that, we will begin.

The Text:

“But made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.”

First Observations:

God made Himself nothing.

Compared to God’s glory, humanity is nothing.

The Creator became a servant.

He was obedient – even to the point of death.

The Father raised His name above every other name.

Digging Deeper:

I like to play with clay every once in a while. I can fashion it and make animals or abnormal creations. I can only make what my mind allows me to perceive and make. If it is outside of my mind, I am unable to form it or fashion it. Can you imagine what it was like for Jesus, in glory, making yourself nothing and taking on the form of a servant? Can you imagine what it would be like to be in glory one minute and the next you are in the likeness of man – in the flesh? No matter how hard I try, my mind cannot understand that process. I guess it would be like having a pitcher of water then emptying the pitcher of water into something else. I think that is the closest I can get to understand what Jesus did for us.

This whole humbling thing is something we take for granted about Jesus all the time. If Jesus were born in a palace, it wouldn’t have been good enough for Him. It would have been trash compared to glory. He went beyond trash to filth. He was born in a smelly cave in a no name town with no-name people as parents and He did it because He loved us so much.

He was then crucified – the worst type of punishment anyone could have received. The Romans had perfected crucifixion over the past 250 years. It would be a lot less painful to be stoned outside of the city. Jesus was obedient though. He didn’t complain or get upset. He knew that was why God had brought Him to earth. He knew the Father’s intentions.

When Christ was resurrected from the dead, he was exalted. His name was raised about every other name ever. No other name would be worthy to receive what Jesus received. Salvation – for both the Jew and for the Gentile – was made possible through Jesus.

Conclusion:

I think we take for granted the cost Jesus paid for our sins. I think we oftentimes forget what Jesus left behind so that you and I can live with Him and the Father forever. I think we need to get on our knees more often and thank Him for what He has done for us. Maybe I just think a lot though. I hope I don’t. I can only think that I am wrong. When we learn to be more grateful for what Christ has done, He does things through us that are significant and exciting. I think our lives would be a lot better off though if we just learned to be thankful. That’s what I am learning anyway.

Philippians Study (Part 12)

It is so easy to be selfish. My grandfather always used to say, “If you are more concerned about how someone would react to the message of the Gospel more than their eternal salvation, you need to get the focus off yourself and put it back on God.” I think my grandfather was right – right about a lot of things – but especially this. We seem to have no problem sharing the Gospel with people across the world in countries we will only visit for a short period of time. When we come home however, we seem to hide our faith from those we know well. I think my grandfather’s words are valuable. The reason I share this is because his words seem to fall in line with Paul’s.

The Text:

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.”

First Observations:

Other people’s interests should be worthy of our interests. There should be a balance.

We are given this mind through Christ.

Jesus was in the form of God.

We can’t grasp God in His form.

Digging Deeper:

As I have already stated, it is so easy to think about our own interests. We do it everyday. We are naturally selfish and need to learn to care about other people. No one cares about others before themselves automatically. Even when we are born, we grow up selfish. We need people to do everything for us. Think about babies. They cry when they need to be burped, when they need to be changed, when they are hungry – the list goes on. When children move from babies to toddlers, one phrase that seems to be universal is “mine!” You could be playing with a truck on the other side of the room and the toddler will come over, grab your toy and say, “Mine!” Paul is reminding us that it is our natural tendency to be selfish but to care about others just as much as we care about ourselves. There needs to be a worthy balance of how much we look out for ourselves and now much we look out for others.

What is amazing to me is that God gives us the ability to care about others as much as we care about ourselves. He knows it is difficult. He gives us a mind though to make positive decisions to care about others. We do not always need to care about ourselves. Sometimes, we will be put in situations where we have to care about others 100 percent and ourselves 0. That happens sometimes. With the mind of Christ, we are able to make those decisions with joy. It isn’t always easy but we have been given that mind to think that way. We simply need to choose the right mind to have. Thank goodness for God’s grace and mercy.

Before Christ came to earth, God was in the form of God. That might not be too deep or seem significant, but it is. God’s form is not our form. He is distinct from anything and everything we have ever seen. His shape is unknown. So, when Paul states, “Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,” we need to understand that we are unable to understand God’s form. We would not be able to touch God in His Godly form. We would not be able to look at God in His Godly form. We would die. Our imperfections, because of sin, would cause us to die – literally. The only way for us to know God then would be for God to do something significantly radical. Tomorrow, we will see what radical thing Jesus does so that we are able to grasp Jesus – at least in some small degree.

Conclusion:

The reason I picked the book of Philippians to study this way is because it has always been a challenge for me to read some of the statements Philippians shares. I have never memorized a whole book of the Bible before, but I think if I were to try, I would attempt Philippians because so much of this is familiar to my upbringing and yet continually challenges me to live a life worthy of the Gospel. I am learning, and I hope we are learning together. Please feel free to share any thoughts you might have. Remember: A friend’s salvation is more important than their initial reaction to the message of Jesus. Share and pray often. Let your life live out what you share and the Holy Spirit will do the rest. God bless.

Philippians Study (Part 11)

We are now beginning chapter two of Philippians. Going through the first chapter was awesome. We cannot stop there however. We must continue on and continue to ask questions, challenge the text and learn what God has for us through Paul’s missionary letter. We will continue at the same pace we have been going at – three verses or so at a time. With that, we will begin.

The Text:

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy be being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

First Observations
:

This is Paul’s climax in his letter. This is where everything draws.

Paul is calling the community to be in agreement with his thought patterns here.

He wants his joy to be complete – be one – be the body of Christ together.

It is important to consider others more important than oneself.

Digging Deeper:

What we need to understand first and foremost is this “if” clause Paul writes. In Greek, there are three different types of “if” clauses. They are important because they have three significantly different meanings that can be confusing if not read in the right manner. This if clause is called the “first case conditional.” It is the most popular if clause in the Bible. The first case conditional ultimately assumes that the “if” is actually true. Paul is basically saying; “If there is any encouragement in Christ – and we know that there is,” then complete my joy. If we were to take each phrase and put, “and we know there is” after it, we get the full meaning of what Paul is writing here in this text. To some, it might be a small thing, but it is important to understand. If we do not read it in the right light, then we might assume that these things are not happening or that Paul is pleading for these things to be true. They are true and Paul knows it.

“Complete my joy” is an interesting phrase. Paul is a master of words and phrases. Realize that Paul didn’t write, “Give me joy” or any other phrase with regards to his joy. He is asking the people of Philippi to complete it. Paul’s joy comes not from the people, but from Christ, who gave him the ability to bring the good news to them. If the people were to follow Paul’s commands for the church, they would be completing his joy, because all that Paul had worked for would come full circle. Paul’s joy then is something that cannot be established by the people of Philippi or given. They can only complete it.

The final thoughts here are probably one of the most counter-cultural things you and I can do as believers. If we were to live in such a way that our humility shined brighter than our conceit or haughtiness, I think the Gospel would be received more. We always strive to be noticed and well liked. We are willing to pursue things that give us the competitive edge or make us more noticeable. When was the last time I have put other people before me for the sake of humility? When was the last time you have been challenged with such a challenge to live in that kind of way? I think we see glimpses of it from time to time, but never live it out like we can or should. I guess we just have a lot to work on.

Conclusion:

I think one thing we have to grasp here is community. The community heals the brake or fragmentation it experiences. For the context of the passage, the break or fragmentation derives from Jew and Gentile. For us, our break could be denominational or religious. It could be racial or ethical. It could be the outcast or the disenfranchised. Whatever your break or fragmentation might be, complete Paul’s joy and be of the same mind. Imitate love for others to follow and live in such a way that glorifies Christ and leaves a lasting impression for the sake of the Gospel. Then we can see what true beauty looks like – the good news. God bless.

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