Sunday, October 26, 2014

Philippians 2:1-11 - The Ultimate Example

I am really enjoying typing out my thoughts on Philippians! I also find that it really helps me to focus as I'm reading each passage. Instead of just reading it and moving on, I'm reflecting and trying to organize my thoughts. There is so much we can learn from God's Word. If I did this study 3 more times, I'm sure I could pick out at least that many more topics to write about! And then a year from now, I would probably see completely new things. The Bible truly is alive and powerful!

This passage is definitely one of my favorites. I am just so blown away by what Christ has done for us all. And I love the mental picture I get when I think of seeing "every knee bow" in worship of our great Savior!

In Chapter 1, Paul talked about how there were some who were preaching the gospel out of rivalry, and not out of the right motivation. He went on to say that he wants the Philippians to be "standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel" (1:27).

In Chapter 2, he tells them how they can achieve this unity in spirit: through following Christ's example of humility--

"Do nothing from rivalry of conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 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, 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." (vs. 3-8)

I have always had a longing deep within me to be a part of something bigger than myself. I believe that this is something most people desire, and that God wired us to want to be part of a community. We need each other! However, too often I have allowed myself to build walls, to remain distant, to just be an "island" and not be truly unified with my brothers and sisters in Christ. The reason? Pride. Exactly the opposite of what Jesus has done. Instead of counting others more significant than myself, I have put my own needs and wants first. Because of that, when those requirements were not being met, I decided that being part of a body of believers was not worth my time and energy. I nursed my wounds and hid in the corner, playing the victim and blaming others for my loneliness. The reality is, I wasn't willing to obey God's Word in this area. I didn't want to put others first. I wanted everyone to put me first! The thing is, we can't read God's Word in order to fix everyone else. James says that it acts like a mirror, by which we can see our own reflection. It is not our job to make sure everyone else measures up, but that we ourselves are obeying and following! This is why obeying requires TRUST. Because we must do as He asks, and recognize that His way is always best, whether things turn out the way we would like or not.

Hmmm, that may have been a bit of a tangent.

Anyway, my point is, I needed an attitude adjustment (and still do, from time to time!). And on a daily basis, I need a reminder to put others before myself. To look at their interests and needs as more important as my own. How do I achieve this? This is not easy, because as humans, we are naturally very selfish. The answer? Jesus. It's always Jesus. His example is so incredible. He IS GOD. That is not something to be taken lightly! He gave up position in heaven to become a lowly human on earth. And, that kind of humility is just unthinkable...but it doesn't stop there. No, he didn't just walk the earth for a few decades, being subjected to sickness, grief, hunger, thirst, and exhaustion. It goes far, far beyond that. You see, He allowed Himself to be put to death by us. The same people who He counted as more significant than Himself. The ones who He came to rescue. We crucified Him and He still did not fight back, because His death is what would save us, and He was putting us before Himself.

So, if you are desiring to be truly connected with the body of Christ, follow His example. And in those times when it seems like you're on the outside looking in, take a look at how you're viewing others. Are you seeing their needs? Are you truly reaching out, asking people how they are doing, and praying for others on a regular basis? Are you inviting people into your home, participating in times of study and prayer? I promise you, if you are doing these things, you will be unified with other believers. It will just happen naturally. And, in the process, you will think less of yourself and more of others, just like Jesus has done when He came to live on this earth. And the next time you struggle to sacrifice yourself for others, think of all He gave up for us. It may change your perspective.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Philippians 1:19-30 -- What would YOU choose?

While reading through this last section of Philippians 1, I was struck by the way that Paul wrote as if he truly had a choice whether or not he would live or die. I don't think God was leaving it up to him, but I think he was really trying to share openly and honestly about how he was feeling as he faced certain death (and, come to think of it, we ALL face certain death, it's only a matter of when). Verse 21 sums up his thoughts well.

 "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

I've actually reflected on this verse many times in my life. How can dying be greater than living? Well, because of Christ. He has turned death into a thing of victory and joy, if we belong to Him. But life has its perks, too. We are placed here for a purpose. Bringing glory to God is the only way to have fulfillment. It's the only thing that satisfies. That's why he says that to live IS Christ. And, Christ IS life. There is not one without the other. But, Paul was honest when he said,

"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."

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Philippians 1:12-18 - the Gospel is all that Matters

Today has been less interesting. And I am ok with that! It is a gorgeous, warm, summery day smack dab in the middle of October, though! Such a tease, because I know it's going to just get colder from here on out. We are enjoying it while it lasts, with some extra time out in the yard playing this morning before lunch. Gotta make the most of these kind of days!

My thoughts on this passage are brief. But I love this section. I love Paul's willingness to just be laid out as a sacrifice as long as the Gospel goes forth. He actually seems to write with excitement as he proclaims,

"I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ." (vs. 12-13)

We've been studying the book of Acts in our mom's group Bible study, and have been reminded of all that Paul went through. It would be easy for him to say, "It stinks that so many horrible things have happened to me, and I am tired of being falsely accused and imprisoned for no reason at all. I give up!" (OK, I'll admit, this is probably what I would have said.) But, because Paul sought to glorify God with his life, he didn't look at it selfishly. Instead, he saw the big picture. He saw that the truth of the gospel was being brought forth and that was something to celebrate.

He even goes on to talk about some others who were preaching the gospel, but with the wrong motives. They were driven by "envy and rivalry" (v. 15) and not by love. Paul could have taken offense by this. He could have been humiliated and hurt and angered by their selfishness. But instead, he was just full of joy that the gospel was being preached.

I think this is important to keep in mind. We should not focus on who is teaching it or what their motives are. As long as the true Gospel is being taught, that should be all we need to concern ourselves with. Maybe someone has a method of evangelism that you do not agree with, or vice versa. For me personally, I am not a big fan of street preaching. I have no problem with others doing it, and I know that people do hear the message and come to faith in Christ. But, do I see myself standing there with a megaphone and a handful of tracts? Not really...nope. I'm just too shy and nervous for that! I get so embarrassed and stumble over my words would just be disastrous. But do I see myself teaching the Bible to a room full of children? Or sitting down to study with a friend? YES. Absolutely. Our methods may be different, but the message is the same. And that is truly all that matters. There is no greater cause for rejoicing than seeing His truth proclaimed to all who hear!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Philippians 1:1-11----Finding the Joy in it All

As it turns out, this week is a perfect time to start a study on being joyful. I have a lot swirling around in my head and my soul is just longing to stop and enjoy God's presence. So that is what I'm doing today, with this blog post. As I just read through Phil. 1:1-11, a few things stood out to me. This isn't going to be an exhaustive study, but just an overview of what struck me as I read. So bear with me if it's not a perfect "exegesis" (Bible College word) of the text. :)

Verse 3 is where my eyes first land:
"I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I'm sure of this, that he who began  good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."

Did you ever notice how easy it is to find the negative? Why is that? I could be having a perfectly fine day, and yet I will still take the time to notice the things that went wrong, and recount those events to anyone who will listen. God is really doing a work in my heart and showing me that this needs to change. In this passage, I think of Paul, who was imprisoned, without much hope of ever being released. As he reflected on his relationship with the church at Philippi, what was he thinking about? He was focused on all that had been accomplished for the sake of the gospel through these believers. Every time he remembered them, he thought of them and prayed for them with joy and thankfulness. It would have been easy for me to sit there and worry about them. "Oh no, what if they forget what I've taught them, what if they are led astray by false teaching, what if they get into petty arguments and cause divisions in the body?" Or I would start remembering all of the negative things that had happened in the church and hope and pray that these things don't ever happen again. But Paul didn't waste his time on all that. Instead, he focused on the work that the Holy Spirit is doing in each one of them, and as a church collectively. He, I'm sure, remembered the rough patches, and the person or two that he'd had a disagreement with over the years. But it wasn't his focus. His focus was praising God for them, longing for them, and confidently assuring them that God is working in and through them.

His desire is for them to continue to grow and bring God more glory. That is what all of us should want, both for ourselves and for the believers around us! Now, back to the present. God sure picked a good day for me to really dig in and rely on Him more as my joy, my strength, and my comfort! Today has been a doozy. Is that a word? Because I've heard it many times, but I have no idea how to spell it. haha! Anyway. It was harder than most, but not impossible. It started off a little rocky when Chloe's tummy decided to send breakfast back up. I don't remember if I prayed initially or not, but I was able to find the calm place long enough to think to strap Elijah into his high chair so I could tend to her. This usually results in a screaming baby, but God gave that little boy a desire to play quietly for about 15 minutes, long enough for me to do all I needed to do. A coincidence? I think not! :)

Right after that, Elijah got his hand caught in the bathroom door. Still not sure how that one happened. But I felt SO guilty for not catching him before that happened! As I sat with him, Chloe came over and kissed his hand. Then, while I was crying my eyes out (because I really did feel like it was my fault), Elijah looked up at me and started giggling. He was laughing at my "ugly cry" face, I'm sure. But it was enough for me to find the joy, yet again.

A few minutes later, I was sitting on the floor, both kids clinging to me. I said, "We need to pray, guys." So that's what we did. Chloe prayed her little 2-year-old prayer and I prayed a short, desperate-sounding one for strength. When we said "Amen", Elijah stopped clinging to me and crawled off to play happily. I think he felt the peace that had just washed over me.

In the midst of all this, a friend brought some clothes to our house for Chloe. We found some things that she really is needing for winter! Also, there was a plastic shopping bag full of those little "ball pit" balls. We went out on the porch and Chloe was beginning to fuss for lunch, which I hadn't had a chance to make yet (she doesn't have a tummy bug, thankfully, another thing to be joyful about!). I grabbed that bag, ripped it open, and instantly there were smiles and laughter all around! More joy.

AND, I'm so thankful my husband has a job close by that allows him to come home at lunch time if I really need him to! He came and helped me fix lunch and get the kids all settled before heading off back to work. That is easy to be thankful about!

This may seem like little stuff. And really, it is. In the grand scheme of life, these are the details. But God is in the details of my life, just as He is in yours. There aren't compartments of life for God. He doesn't exist only in those parts of life where we go to Church, or when we have a Bible study, or sing worship songs. He is there for every part. When I'm sitting at home folding laundry, reading, doing dishes, playing with the kids, or just resting...He is in those places, too. the end of the day, if you ask me how my day was, what am I going to focus on? The lows, the failures, the stress? Or am I going to remember how God was there in those moments, giving me peace, calm, and yes, even JOY? Let's remember Paul's example. When reflecting, he could have recounted the things that bothered him, but instead, he just thanked God and prayed that these believers would be "filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." (v.11)

Your turn...what are your thoughts on this passage? Did something else stand out to you as you read? Do you struggle (like I do) to find joy in the craziness of life?
Please share!

Monday, October 13, 2014

New Blogging "Series" - A Study through the Book of Philippians!

Yesterday, our church studied I Thessalonians 5:12-18. As we were being challenged to "Rejoice always and pray without ceasing" (vs. 16-17), I was reminded of my own personal conviction I've been experiencing lately to spend more time focusing on God throughout my daily activities. As a mom of young children, I don't often have time to sit down and open my Bible for study (though I often desperately want to). However, I do not need to do this in order to spend time with Him consistently each and every day. Our pastor then encouraged us to do two things:

1) To remember that we are always in God's presence as believers, because we have the Holy Spirit. And to really make a conscious effort to just BE in His presence throughout daily life.

2) To keep a journal to help us remember all that God has done and is doing, and to use this to give us the opportunity to take time to truly rejoice in Him.

I really loved the journal idea. I used to journal all the time in my teen years, and in college. But after that and now as a busy mom, I just struggle to find the time to write out my thoughts by hand. (And maybe I'm also just a little bit too lazy to write it all out....hmm thanks, technology!) Well, I decided that since this blog is dedicated to many different subjects, why not study a book of the Bible and write out my thoughts on here? I really love just reading through and seeing what jumps out to me. I love how God's Word works like that! Alive and powerful. I need this study time to bring some things into focus and if you do, too, I invite you to join me. Read through the passage I read, and tell me what jumps out at you. Or just do your own journaling! I chose Philippians because there is a lot in there about having joy in the Christian life. And it was also written by Paul, at a time in his life when there wasn't much to be joyful about by worldly standards. He was imprisoned and facing imminent execution. This would have been a perfectly understandable time for him to be extremely discouraged. Yet, he sent this letter to encourage other believers. I think we have a lot to learn from this book (and every other book of the Bible, too ;) )!

I'll start out by reading Philippians 1:1-11. I plan to write my thoughts out on this passage tonight or tomorrow afternoon. So stay tuned. And if you get a chance, read it too and give me your thoughts either on the Growing Together FB page or on the blog! The more people to study with, the better. I love getting others' perspectives!