Philippians Study (Reflection 1)

We have finished the first chapter of Philippians in ten days. I am so thankful for the opportunity to go through these verses at a much slower pace and really enjoy them, struggle with them, and ask questions. I think all too often, we rush to find an answer so that we don’t have to struggle with the passages we face. For me, I can think of at least five or six one-word answers I used to give to some of the most difficult questions about being a Christian. There finally came a point through were I had to grow up and ask the same questions over again without giving one-word answers. It was a lot harder this time around.

So far, the book of Philippians has been overwhelmingly encouraging to me. I am learning that it is important to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel (1:27) and how important it really is to pray every time I think about a friend or a family member (1:3). Some of the challenges for me have been to grasp Paul’s thought process of being in this body for the benefit of others. There is no doubt that being in heaven with Christ would be far better as Paul says, but I am learning that my purpose here is to glorify God with the time I have  – a small amount of time – on this earth (1:24).

The following post will start chapter two of Philippians. We will continue in the same fashion we have gone through chapter one. With thirty verses in chapter two, like chapter one, we will take three verses at a time and see what God has for us each day.

On a final note, I just want to thank those who have been reading along with me. It is never fun to go on a journey alone. It is a joy and I am honored to have to accompany me through the verses of Paul’s missionary letter to the Philippians. God bless.

Philippians Study (Part 10)

I think sometimes we buy into the commercialism of Christianity too easily. If it has a “Christian” message or looks cool for that matter, it seems most of us are quick to buy it or give free advertising through word of mouth before actually understanding or reading up on some of the stuff we endorse. WWJD? Bracelets are not bad. They can be a way to strike up conversations with individuals who has never seen one before. When I think about Paul though, he only had his ministry and his integrity. He didn’t use tracts or shirts with Christian messages. He sent letters that spoke of encouragement, trials, love, and difficulties. It seems as though the message of the Gospel was a lot more pure in Paul’s day then the message we give others in our culture. Paul let his life display the message of Christ. Maybe we could put away the Christian tee shirts and paraphernalia for while and work on living in a manner worthy of the Gospel. Paul thought it was a good idea and I agree. Though I don’t always get it right – I rarely do – that doesn’t mean I have a right to give up. I have a lot of work to do. Paul’s message challenges me in that way. In the last three verses of the first chapter of Philippians, Paul concludes some thoughts about what he has previously written.

The Text:

“And not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”

First Observations:

We aren’t to fear opposition.

Destruction and Salvation come from God alone.

We are called to believe in Christ and also suffer for His sake.

Paul reminds the people that he has been an example to them in this suffering – both in person and in prison.

Digging Deeper:

I have said this before, but I find it interesting how frightened we can be when we experience any form of resistance to the Gospel. I am almost blown away of how quickly we can run from it. We have the good news to share with others and we seem to be more concerned about how people will receive it than their salvation. We are more concerned about their response to our words rather than their eternal state separated from God. Though it might be scary and uncomfortable, we must be willing to remain bold for His name. We must walk in boldness and joy. This is what we are called to as believers.

God is judge of destruction and salvation. It isn’t ours. We cannot judge someone in a manner that only God can judge. We can perceive and see the fruit of people, but that doesn’t mean we are able to cast eternal judgment on an individual. That also means that we should remain a solid in our faith and walk with Christ. We should never become lax in our walk with Christ. We are called to love, to pray, to hope, and to trust in God’s never ending love for His Creation.

Being a believer in Christ doesn’t just believe in Christ. As Christians, we will suffer – some situations will be easier to go through while others will be more difficult. If we walk with Christ and walk according to His ways, people will not be happy campers. Since we are to walk against the worldly grain, people will notice who we are and respond in a manner that the world usually responds to believers. We must strive to continue in our pursuit of living for Christ. We must never let down our guard. It will be difficult. Paul shows us in example that he knows what it is like to suffer for Christ. With his knowledge, Paul encourages us to remain sold out for Christ. The suffering will only last for a period of time and then it will end. For some it will be longer than some, but it will end. So – my encouragement (and Paul’s) – is to continue to grow in our faith and walk according to His Word to the best of our abilities. God will see our efforts and our heart and reward us according to how we live this life here on earth.

Conclusion:

We have finished now the first chapter of Philippians in ten days. I have learned a lot so far about my responsibility as a believer in Christ. The next post will summarize the first chapter of Philippians and finial thoughts on the chapter will be given. If you are just joining these posts, I encourage you to go back to day one and read through what we have gone through together. It is never fun being out of the loop. Thank you in advance for being a part of these readings and responses. For me, I am greatly encouraged by the Word of God and His daily love and support. Without Him, I would not be the person I am today. For that, I am so thankful. God bless.

Philippians Study (Part 9)

I have been challenged today to think about the Bible in a missional perspective. For the past six years, I have been attempting to understand the Bible in this fashion. It has taken me almost six years to get to a point where I can visibly see how God the Father, wanting a relationship with His creation, sent His Son to the earth to reconcile creation to the Father. In John 20:21, Jesus states, “As the Father has sent me, and so I send you…” This sparked the disciples who had followed Jesus for a period of about three years to go out and do what Jesus has taught them. In other words, the disciples are to the Church what Jesus was to the disciples. Jesus also used a man named Paul, who would change the world and write a large portion of the New Testament. As we read these three verses of Philippians, I hope you will see the missional aspect of Paul’s message here. With that, we will begin.

The Text:

Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”

First Observations:

Paul has come to grips with his current state of being. He will remain in the flesh and continue to serve Christ.

He so desperately wants to see the people of Philippi. He knows that they will be filled with joy to see him again.

Paul exhorts them to be worthy of the gospel.

No matter if Paul is able to be with them or not, he wants to know that they have remained strong in their faith.

Unity of the body of Christ is really important to Paul.

Digging Deeper:

We talked about this yesterday, but I feel it can be said again. Paul is content to remain on earth and serve God here. His “new found” understanding does not upset him. Though I am sure Paul would rather be in heaven with Christ – in glory – Paul understands the importance of being here and serving God. Life here on earth – compared to eternity with Christ – is short. On average, a human will live 77.2 years here on earth. What we do with that time is important. For Paul, the life expectancy wasn’t that long – perhaps about 50. His time was shorter than the average human lives today. As we think about Paul’s life, think about all he did in the amount of time he did it. No matter what you might think about Paul, you have to at least admit that he accomplished a lot of work in a short amount of time he had left on this earth before the Lord took him home. What would be another ten years to Paul? I am guessing – not much.

When I read letters from friends who are on the mission field, I am excited to read their updates. When they come home and spend time with friends and family, I am really excited. Paul was in prison for a period of time. Could you imagine the kind of homecoming procession the people would have had if Paul, after being in prison for so long – had received if he had shown up unannounced? It would have been a wild party to say the least.

Being worthy of the Gospel is an interesting phrase. To be worthy – in the Greek sense – means to be balanced. It is to be weighed and measured well. It is like taking a balance scale and the weight on one side is equal to the weight on the other. Paul is essentially saying then, “Only let your manner of life be equally balanced and weighed. I wonder if we are balanced and weighed in our manner of life in relationship to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I can only speak for myself and say that it isn’t always where it should be. Being balanced is essential for living out the Christian life well. I can only hope that I can reach a point in my life where I am worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ – at least to some degree.

Finally, there is this aspect of unity we oftentimes overlook in the Bible. Paul is all about being one unit – one body – one incarnation of the Gospel. When we are gathered as one, we are stronger. When we are one, we build one another up. When we are one, there really is nothing we cannot accomplish for the gospel of Jesus. Paul loves unity. Maybe that is a great place for the Church to be challenged in our culture.

Conclusion:

We – as the body of Christ – have this one mission that comes from Jesus, which came from the Father who is in heaven. It is a serious task in which we must all agree upon and strive to complete. It isn’t easy but we have one another to help us through it. We are called to live a life worthy of the Gospel – to be balanced and weighed. Paul’s challenges to you and me are the same challenges he faced as an apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ. In one of his letters, Paul said that he finished his fight well. I can only hope that we attain the same satisfaction as well through Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Philippians Study (Part 8)

Today’s service was quite interesting for me. It was a familiar passage (Ephesians 6) I know I have heard at least ten times. Putting on the armor of God is not always easy. It takes practice and know-how. I think we often only look at this passage from an individualistic standpoint and not as a communal body responsibility. When we wear the armor together, as the body of Christ, we fight together through the power of the Holy Spirit. No man is left alone to fight. As I consider Paul’s words here in Philippians 1: 22-25, I get the same feeling that Paul sees his mission as our mission. This is what we are aiming to attain. As we read these next three verses, I want us to put ourselves in Paul’s position and attempt to get a sense of his rationale for us. With that, we will begin.

The Text:

“If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”

First Observations:

Paul sees his work here on earth as fruitful labor. Even when he is in prison, he remains focus on the fruit that the Gospel produces.

Paul is visibly torn between being here on earth and being with Christ in glory.

He can’t wait to be with Christ – it’s better than living here on earth.

He finally agrees that he has a lot of work that God has called him to do.

Digging Deeper:

You can’t blame Paul for being visibly conflicted between his work on earth and being with Christ in heaven. On the one hand, Paul has been used to do a lot of great things through the Holy Spirit and has seen a lot of fruit produced through hi efforts. On the other hand, Paul wants to be in the presence of God. He knows that there is no pain, hurt, sin, or hate in heaven. Things are literal perfect.

Paul comes to a conclusion though I think most of us would not come to. He puts his own individualistic desires aside for the work of Christ and to the Church. He sacrifices his desires for the body of Christ rather than enjoying his individualistic gratifications. There is something to be said about that. It is a beautiful picture of loving the body of Christ. The Church needs Paul to lead and establish leaders. He has the will-how and knowledge to do it. With a shaky start, the church might not survive if Paul left. Paul takes responsibility for those the Lord loves and asserts that he must stay in the flesh for now because he knows he is needed.

Conclusion:

I think we can learn something about community from these three verses. Being in community with others means not thinking about yourself and your individualistic tendencies. Being in community means that we put our own thoughts aside and work hard to build up the body and protect the body. We never go at it solo. We have one another to rely on and to help us out when we need it. Perhaps that is one area we could work to attain in the local church. If we could learn to love the community more than ourselves, maybe we could end up changing the world for Christ – one group at a time. God bless.

Philippians Study (Part 7)

Well we have entered day seven of our Philippians Study and have made it to verses 19-21 of chapter 1. I feel as though I have been challenged so far through this study to slow down and enjoy Scripture. I think so often we are so rushed to get through a few verses of the Bible in the name of “quiet times,” we miss out on a lot the Words of God have for us to enjoy. When we slow down and consider a few verses in light of a much larger context, we must ask the Holy Spirit to give us His understanding and guidance so that we can learn to be Christ-like. With that, we will begin once again.

The Text:

“For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

First Observations
:

Prayers are valuable to Paul.

He has a big reliance on the Holy Spirit for his deliverance.

Paul never loses hope, despite his imprisonment. He truly believes that God will vindicate him from his prison life.

He really wants to make sure that his witness reflects Christ in every way.

For Paul – to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Digging Deeper:

I think oftentimes, our perception of prayer is not strong in that God hears our prayers and that He answers them, according to His will. There are so many verses in the Bible about prayer; I won’t attempt to exhaust them. What I will say is that God hears the prayers of a humble person. He loves when people have real conversations with Him. Our prayers should not always be “Lord, give me this – Lord, give me that.” Our prayers should be that of worship and joy as well as sorrow and need. In Paul’s cases, he knows that there are people praying for him that are asking for God to release him from prison. He can sense it. He is thankful for it.

The Holy Spirit binds us when we are in need. There is a famous line that goes something like this: “It’s like the wind – I can’t see it – but I can feel it.” I think Paul is experiencing this moment in prison. As he writes to the people of Philippi, Paul feels the Holy Spirit and is strengthened by its overwhelming presence.

Not being ashamed is difficult at times. Sometimes, it is easy to cower in our circumstance and not stand boldly for the Gospel. We are more concerned about how someone would react to our Christian lifestyle rather than their need for salvation. In our concern, we back down and rarely allow our Christian lives to be known to others. Paul wants the people of Philippi to know that in prison or in their presence, he is not ashamed of Christ.

Honoring Christ with our bodies does not necessarily mean sexually – though it does imply it as a part of what Paul is saying. Since our bodies a temple, for the Holy Spirit, we must do our best to maintain it and keep it in good order. Paul goes beyond that though and puts himself front and center. Essentially, Paul is stating that he has nothing to hide from God. He wants to believe that God will be honored by his life. While in the body, Paul wants to be a vessel the Lord uses. This is something we should all want.

To live is Christ – how true that is. Without Christ, we are dead. We are dead in our sin and dead in the flesh. We ultimately have no hope without Christ. It is because of Christ, we can breathe. We are a new Creation – like the first Adam – when God breathed into his nostrils and gave him life. So we too are like Adam – through Christ.

To die is gain – another awesome statement by Paul. This is where some might be confused. So I hope to make this a lot easier to understand. The reason this statement is true has everything to deal with heaven and God. In heaven, there is no sin. There is no hate. There is no division, pain, crying, or lust. Everything is perfect – in every sense of the word. We are given new bodies, given new names, given a dwelling place to live with Christ, and given an unbreakable relationship bond with Christ. Until then, we remain here on earth. We have to deal with the pain and the hurt and the tears. We have to deal with sin, lust, anger, and hate. For Paul – death is gain. To put it another way: Paul can’t wait to be with Christ for eternity because that is so much greater than dealing with all this crap on earth.

Conclusion:

No matter how we slice it, prayer is essential and important to every day life. It is one of the biggest ways we grow in relationship with God. It is not a crutch to get us through life but it is a means of communicating with God that we often never use. We need to honor God with our life. It isn’t easy but God requires it of us. Christ is life and being with God for eternity is far better than dealing with this world. We will see next time though how Paul contemplates all of this. And we will see how he resolves his thoughts for now. Until then, be blessed.

Philippians Study (Part 6)

Tonight I had a friend go off to seminary. What I like about him the most is that he lives out his faith so others can see it without being obnoxious. He isn’t perfect but he is a great example of putting flesh on the Gospel. In some respect, as we read these next three verses, I think about how my friend would react to Paul’s message. I think about how I would react to these verses. I think about how we should all react to these verses and allow them to transform our minds and hearts for Christ. With that, we will begin.

The Text:

“The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,”

First Observations:

Paul sees two people. People who do things out of love while others do it out of rivalry.

To Paul, all that matters is that the Gospel is proclaimed.

The message of Christ is more important than how it comes across in Paul’s mind.

Paul likes the word, “rejoice.”

Digging Deeper:

As Paul sits in prison, there are lots of people going around talking about him. He is the brunt of the gossip train and knows that some are being more positive about it than others. There are some people who mock him. They say things like, “Can you believe that Paul would hold to the gospel of some guy claiming to be the Messiah – the promised Messiah? Isn’t that crazy? He is in jail for this gospel message!” There are others though who see why Paul is the way he is and rejoices with him. They would say things like, “Praise God Paul didn’t back down from the gospel message. We need to continue to pray for him and his abilities to share the gospel even as he is in prison.” What we see is two groups of people. One mocks while the other is more encouraging. To Paul, it doesn’t matter how the message comes about. He could care less about those who mock him. He knows that they will have to share the message with others. The Holy Spirit could use even those who mock him as a tool for others to know Christ. Paul thus rejoices in that.

As Paul rejoices, he hopes others will too. Throughout the rest of these chapters, we will see the word ‘rejoice’ pop up here and there. Rejoicing is a word that reflects worship, admiration, happiness, and excitement. Paul knows that the gospel is the most important aspect of all he is going through. So he rejoices and wants us to rejoice with him. To worship, have admiration, be happy, and be excited for the work the Holy Spirit is going to do through Paul’s imprisonment. Paul can hardly contain himself.

Conclusion:

As I sit and think about my life, do I see the opportunities that perhaps are not the most exciting as Paul does? Do I rejoice in my “imprisonments” I seem to face? I wish I could say that I always do, but I often don’t. I think this is an area we can all work on. We can all learn to rejoice more and be thankful through all circumstances. As long as we are living our lives sold out for Christ, the message will go out and God’s will, will be accomplished.

Philippians Study (Part 5)

As I sit and think about the Word of God, I am reminded about how much we are called to know it. And, though it doesn’t happen over night, it is essential in living this Christian walk out well. The Bible is not like the stock market. It doesn’t go up and down, changing by the votes of people. It remains God’s unyielding, unmoving Word that is firm and reliant. What we learn from the Bible then can and should be applied to our personal and communal lives. The more we know it, the more we can be sure in its promises to us and live a more sold out lifestyle in the world. With that, we will continue our study through Philippians, looking at the next three verses.

The Text:

“… So that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are bolder to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will.”

First Observations:

The Gospel has created quite a stir. Even people in the imperial guard have come to know Christ, through Paul, in his imprisonment.

There is a confidence in knowing that someone is willing to go to jail in order to preach the Word of God.

There are two different types of people: Those who preach with a positive spin in their lives and walk and those who don’t.

Digging Deeper:

One of the things that bother me about this passage is how the Gospel seems to only spread as it does when Paul is in prison. Don’t get me wrong. I understand why Paul seems to be happy about his situation. I just wonder if there would have been other ways for this to be accomplished. It seems at the very bleakest moments of our walk with Christ – when we have entered into our own prisons – the Gospel is given feet to spread.

I think it is cool that the imperial guards got to hear the Gospel of Jesus. I am sure Paul spared no expense to share the Gospel with them. Since Paul was most likely chained to a guard, allowed to write letters to friends and churches, Paul must have seen it as an opportunity to embrace the moment and share the Gospel with whoever was chained to him. We will never know for sure, but I can only imagine how many people came to know Jesus through his imprisonment.

There is something about knowing your leader is in prison that evokes certain boldness and attitude that goes beyond what normally is thought to be possible. As Paul is in prison, his followers are out in the trenches sharing the Gospel and they are doing it well. There seems to be no fear in their eyes or in their speech. They are determined to push the Gospel forward.

This last part kind of bothers me too. Some people preach Christ from envy and rivalry. Who are these people? What’s their beef with Christ or with Paul? Where have they missed it? I think people who preach in ignorance are the people who turn people away from God and not to Him. Paul recognizes their downfalls but also states that there are those who are doing it well. I guess there will always be a dualistic tendency of how things ought to be done. Sharing the Gospel is no different or above the acceptation.

Conclusion:

When we see Paul in prison, it would be very easy to look at the worst of circumstances. Does Paul though? No. In fact, Paul sees it as a unique opportunity to spread the Gospel to the imperial guards and encourage and strengthen the Church. Paul’s missionary letter is not like any letter I have ever received from any missionary. It breathes determination and assurance. The more I read Philippians, the more I am convinced that there is so much we can learn from this book. We can be challenged and convicted by its words. That is what I hope we are seeing and experiencing as we go through this book together.