Tag Archives: Philippians

Learning to Count It All Joy

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Learning to Count It All Joy

One month after my husband graduated seminary, I got the worst phone call of my life… my brother, my only sibling, had committed suicide. I quickly hopped on a plane to Florida to be with my sister in law and the four young children he left behind.

So many questions ran through my mind…and I turned to God for strength. I knew I couldn’t change the situation but I asked God… what can I do to glorify you in this awful mess? God reminded me to be the light of Christ, and no matter what, He was there to be with our family. The last two years since that day, I have tried to show my family that no matter what we face in life, God wants us to always remember that all things work together for His good, to those that love Him, and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

As I have looked back on that part of my journey, I know why God had me rooted in the book of Philippians at the time… God wanted to remind me how to count all trials and tribulations in my life as pure joy. The book of Philippians helped me to understand that having the joy of the Lord is so important and vital to our faith walk because God’s Joy is our strength and power.

Both the Apostle Paul and James tell us when we are enduring trials count it all as joy… because when our faith is tested, our endurance grows, and when it fully develops we will be strong in the Lord and ready for the things life throws at us. The pursuit of deepening our relationship with God is continual because our world and our surroundings are constantly changing and little by little we increase the reflection of Christ in our lives.

Living a life of joy is a choice. You want to know the truth of how I got through… two important factors…

…with the help of some awesome ladies whose husbands were also in seminary with us… ladies who became my friends, ladies who are my sisters in Christ.

…and because deep down in my heart I have chosen to wholeheartedly trust that God’s promises are true…He loves me, He died for me, he doesn’t want me to be perfect but to be faithful and obedient, he wants me to share His love with the people I encounter, he wants the joy of the Lord to be my strength, and he wants me to always focus on Him. Sometimes it is hard to count your life as joy, I still struggle with it, and that is when I cling to God even more… so he can help me to find joy in the suffering.

I cling to Philippians 1: 9-11… “I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation- the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ- for this will bring much glory and praise to God”.

God says that he has set before us both life and death. I say choose life. Live your life as God intended, counting it all as joy. Listen to His voice and hold fast to Him.

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

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Agree in the Lord

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“I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.  Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”  Philippians 4:2-3

This brief message is given near the end of the book of Philippians.  Evidentially there has been a serious quarrel between two members of the congregation, leaders who have worked with Paul to advance the gospel.  This pains him, and he begs them to work out their differences.

Disagreements like this still happen, and they create a tense and unhappy atmosphere in the church.  Notice that Paul does not take sides, probably because when a relationship is broken, both people have contributed to the problem.  Both must be willing to work toward reconciliation and peace.  Paul also asks a third party, his “true companion” (possibly Epaphroditus who delivered the letter) to help them resolve things.  He asks the women to “agree in the Lord.”  That doesn’t mean they have to agree in every detail, they don’t have to become best friends, just be willing to set aside personal grievances for the sake of Christ and the good works they can continue to do together.

Have you ever felt upset with a fellow member?  What did you do?  Blow up and tell them off?  Run to another member and start gossip about their bad behavior?  Complain to the Pastor and expect him to take your side?  All of these actions will only magnify the problem.  In the book of Matthew we find the correct first step toward a solution:

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”  Matthew 18:15

Sometimes you will find the person did not mean to offend you at all; sometimes you will reach a compromise;  sometimes you will just realize how important it is to forgive and set aside differences for the good of Jesus and the gospel.  After all, what kind of witnesses are we, if we can’t even get along with each other?

I’d like to hear some stories from others.  Have you been in this situation?  How have you handled it?  Maybe I’ll tell you one of my own experiences tomorrow.

God loves you and so do I!

 

The Mind of Christ

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“….complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord of one mind.”  2 Philippians 2:2

In this letter to the church in Philippi, a church Paul obviously loves, he tells them that nothing would please him more than knowing they are in agreement, or having the same mind.  Then he goes on to tell them exactly whose mind they are to have– not their own but Christ’s!

“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.”  Philippians 2:5-8

The mind of Christ means having a humble spirit, willing to sacrifice for others.  Paul explains further that being of one mind with Christ means they will:

“Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit” Philippians 2:3

“look…to the interests of others.”  Philippians 2:4

“in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  Philippians 2:3

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we were all in our right mind (Christ’s)?

Image result for images of the mind of christ

 

Spend Time Being Positive

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A while back Leslie posted about how we should spend some time remembering our past, in order to learn from it, but we should be careful not to dwell on the past–especially past pain, slights and hurts.  Dwelling on negative experiences can cause anger, depression, shame, anxiety and other unhealthy emotions.  In his letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul tells us what we should dwell on:

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

Have you heard the expression, “garbage in, garbage out”?  The original meaning is if we put inaccurate data into our computer, or equation, the answer we get will be equally wrong.  In the same way, if we spend time feeding our minds with regret over our own past mistakes, annoyance with the bad behavior of others, and anger about the things we don’t have that we deserve, what we get out of life will be equally unpleasant.  Nobody will enjoy being around us, and we’ll be unable to recognize the gifts that we have. On the other hand, if we focus on the positive aspects of our own personality, if we build others up instead of tearing them down, and are thankful for the many blessings we receive daily, we’ll soon develop an “attitude of gratitude.” We’ll appreciate ourselves and others and be thankful to God. Wouldn’t you rather focus on the positive?

 

A Sacrificial Change

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“…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.”  Philippians 2:5-6

We think of the sacrifice Jesus made by dying on the cross, but do we even remember His first sacrifice?  God Himself gave up the glory of heaven to be incarnated as a helpless human baby.  What a humiliating change!  You might compare it to one of us becoming an ant, or a worm.  Yet He made that change for us. It reminds me of this beautiful hymn:

What Wondrous Love Is This
By: American Folk Hymn

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down
Beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb,
Who is the great I AM,
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free
I’ll sing His love for me,
And through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And through eternity I’ll sing on.

Remember the resurrection could not have happened without the incarnation.  They are chapters of the same story — the story that changed us from being dead in our sins to alive in Christ.

Running Faster

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“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize?  So run that you may obtain it.” 1 Corinthians 9:24

In my previous post, I talked about what we Christians are to pursue or run after.  That made me think about how in a number of places, the Bible describes the Christian life as a race.  In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul gives some advice on how to run that race.  First he mentions the need for discipline:

“Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.” 1 Corinthians 9:25

We can all testify to this.  It takes self-control to follow  God’s rules when sin is our default position.

Paul goes on to say that as Christians we have a goal, better than any worldly prize.  We do not run aimlessly, but with purpose.

“They (athletes) do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

Even with an eternal reward in mind we can get tired, lose focus, or feel like giving up.  Here are some words of wisdom from the author of Hebrews:

“…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith …”Hebrews 12:1-2

On our own, we can never win the prize, but

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it on my own.  But one thing I do:  forgetting what is behind and straining forward to what lies ahead I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14

Run with discipline.

Run with a goal.

Run with perseverance..

Run toward Jesus.

 

A Model of Obedience

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“Do nothing out of rivalry or 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.”  Philippians 2:3-8

Often we know what God asks of us, we just don’t want to do it.  It may be difficult.  It may cost us something.  We may have to give up something we like, even if it isn’t good for us. It may hurt our ego to admit God’s plans are better than ours.

 When I feel this way, I need to look at Jesus, who in Hebrews is called “the author and perfecter”  of our faith. Jesus was willing to obey God, even when it meant giving up for a time the splendor of His godhead.  He was willing to obey even when it cost Him his human life.  He was willing to obey even when it meant dying the humiliating death of a criminal.  The author of the book of Hebrews tells us:

“In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”  Hebrews 12:4

No matter what obedience to God costs us, it cost Jesus more.  He obeyed out of love for us.  Surely we can obey out of love for God and others.  In the end, obedience to God is for our own good.

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”  Hebrews 12:11

The Theme of Joy in Philippians

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Philippians has been called the epistle of joy. I thought this blog by Greg Wilson was appropriate for this month’s theme. Try reading through Philippians when you want to feel joyful!

Soul Care Blog

Joy is a central theme in the book of Philippians. There are 15 explicit references to some form of either the noun “joy” (chara in Greek) or the verb “rejoice” (chairo) in this short letter.

  1. Paul prays for the Philippian believers with joy (chara) because of their partnership with him in the gospel. (1:4-5)
  2. He rejoices (chairo) that Christ is proclaimed – even when Christ is proclaimed with impure motives. (1:18)
  3. He rejoices (chairo) that his current hardship will turn out for his deliverance, through the prayers of the believers and the help of the Spirit. (1:18-1:19)
  4. Paul is convinced that the continuation of his ministry to the Philippians will contribute to their “progress and joy (chara) in the faith”. (1:25)
  5. Paul has joy (chara) when the believers are unified and single-minded. (2:2)
  6. Paul would be glad…

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Thankful for my Church Family

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“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 am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, …”  Philippians 1:3-7

The people in my church family are not perfect.  Sometimes they gossip;  sometimes they complain;  they can be stubborn and stiff-necked;  resistant to change, ungrateful, insensitive, and more. Sometimes members of the family annoy, irritate or upset me because of the things they do, or fail to do.  At times they disappoint me.

On the other hand, I love every one of them.  They have taught me many important lessons:  how to live through tough times;  how to stay married (happily) for 50+ years;  how to make a joyful noise unto the Lord;  how to work hard and persevere, how to be a servant to others.  These kinds of things can be best learned by example and I find many positive examples of Christian living here at St. Paul’s.

You are probably asking if I have just described two different groups of people, and the answer is no.  The truth of the matter is, we all fall into both groups.  I’m sure that sometimes my church friends find me encouraging, helpful and fun to be around; and yet at other times I’m thoughtless, unappreciative, ungenerous or fail to pitch in and do my share.

So whenever I’m feeling cranky about my “family,”  I try to remember that I let them down sometimes, too, and the great thing about church is (as a friend once told me) –they’ll always forgive you.  I think about their positive qualities, and the many times we have worked together as ‘partners is the gospel.’  I think about how God called each of us here to this place, as gifts to one another.  And I give thanks.

 

Forgiveness in the Body of Christ

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Nothing is more wrenching than conflicts within the body of Christ, the church.  The theme verse for the WMF (Women’s Missionary Federation) here at the AFLC conference is “knit together in love through Christ”( Colossians 2:2).  It was also pointed out that the word  “knit” is again used to describe how God created us in our mother’s womb(Psalm 139).  We are meant to be joined with other believers in the same close relationship as the parts of our body come together to make a living organism.  When parts of our physical body, or our church body are not working well together the result is pain.  Listen to what Paul says about a situation like this in the book of Philippians:

“I entreat Eudoia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.  Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers …”

So, if we are to be knit together in love, and as Michele told us her recent post love=forgiveness, then the answer to this kind of situation is simple.  We need to forgive.  That brother or sister in Christ who has hurt us, criticized us, annoyed us, is part of us. Not only that, they’re part of Christ!  We are in the same body.  And what does the Bible say?

For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church. (Ephesians 5:29)

and from Colossians 3:12-14:

Put on the, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other;  as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

Who do you need to forgive today?