Summer Study: Philippians 3

Before I share my thoughts about this chapter, I wanted to say that my heart is with those in Charlottesville, Virginia. And I pray that God’s love and mercy extinguish the flames of hate and fear throughout our country. I denounce the words and actions of white supremacy and racism that were on display this weekend. We are a broken people of a brokenhearted God.

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Paul continues his letter to the Gentiles about circumcision. This is a topic that permeates through most of his letters. There were groups of Jewish Christians who insisted that Gentiles must get circumcised in order to be truly saved (which was no small task), and Paul, again and again, refutes this.

What stood out to me the most in this chapter was how Paul makes the case that on paper, he’s pretty much perfect. He was a Pharisee. He was a Hebrew of Hebrews. Circumcised. Legalistically Righteous (following the letter of the law).

And yet, he would throw it all away, consider it rubbish, to chase after Jesus. Because the words on his resume are finite. Jesus is eternal.

The same could be said about us. We strive and pursue and pull up by our bootstraps and achieve. There is so much importance on the outer perceptions of our world, just like back then. But Christ is so much more interested in the inward – the putting to death of our old self to be renewed in him.

It’s easy to put to death my brokenness and my sin, but would I put to death my competence? Not just use my gifts for God, but consider those gifts temporary and finite. Those gifts, my abilities are not going to save me. Only Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and his victory over death save me in the end.

This year, I’ve been working on my people pleasing attitude. It is almost an addiction to receive attention, respect, admiration, and acceptance from others. And I have freely given my time and energy and abilities in the hope that I will receive these things from others that I so desperately desire. Would I consider these things I’ve been addicted to for so long rubbish in comparison the Jesus Christ?

Paul makes it clear that those who are focused on these earthly things are on a path to destruction. But we are destined for so much more in Christ. We will be transformed into his likeness. We can leave the past behind (even the accolades and good stuff) and strain towards the future with God. And through that vision of what is to come, we can see the reality of what is today. This world is not our home.

Paul even admitted, for all the knowledge he had obtained in his lifetime, he still didn’t have it all figured out. He was continually growing and maturing upon the foundation that Christ had built. And he encouraged the church in Philippi to do the same. Never give up. Keep the faith and keep going.

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Summer Study: Philippians 2

If you didn’t read last week’s start to this particular study, you can find that here.

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I am reminded, as I read these chapters just how much I love Philippians and how much it challenges me.  If I were to put a theme to chapter 2, it would be “It’s not about you.”

Paul starts by challenging the Philippians to unify in love, spirit, and purpose.  To put each other first.  To leave behind selfish ambition and vain conceit.  To be like Christ.

Because Christ was equal to God, but he didn’t come to the earth to teach us how to be equal to God.  Instead, he came to teach us humility and obedience.  To take on a servant’s role.  And it was through subservience that God exalted him in heaven.  Because you know God loves to turn societal definitions and expectations on their head.

And here’s my motto for the week:

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It makes me want to sing that “Shine Bright Like a Diamond” song.  But as I was humming the tune, I realized how different God’s shine might be from the world.

Jesus, of course, attracted people to him.  His words, his actions, the miracles, the kindness, and forgiveness.  He definitely shined.  Even experienced a bit of a celeb status at times, but it wasn’t something he was chasing after.  He wasn’t trying to shine for the world to see him.  He was shining on the world to let them know that God saw them.  That God saw their pain and their hurt, and Jesus was sent to give them rest, to extend to them forgiveness and healing, to die so that they may be saved.

And here, Paul is saying the same thing.  Don’t do things out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Don’t seek the attention, the acceptance, the praise of men.  Seek to submit to the will of God.  God will see you shine, even if men remain blind.  Complaining comes with a sense of entitlement, but we see reality.  We are chosen by God, true, and we are precious in His sight.  But we have done nothing to deserve that status.  We are not actually entitled to any of it.  But it’s given to us anyway.

So whatever it is that God wants me to do to further his Kingdom, I will try to submit and obey and remember the example of Jesus.  To not complain but encourage.  To not argue but submit.  To do nothing in selfishness or vanity, but instead, seek out the overlooked and ignored and isolated, and share the love of God with them.

May we all shine this week.

Summer Study: Philippians 1

I completed the Ephesians study last week, so the plan is to finish the summer with a study in Philippians.  So, here’s what I learned from Chapter 1.

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I’ve always loved Philippians.  Finding joy in the direst of circumstances.  Plus, the love that is shared between Paul and this church.  It’s just something awesome.  Philippi was the place the Paul met Lydia, cast out the demon possessed, fortune-telling girl, and stayed put in a prison earthquake which led to the conversion of the jailer.  I can imagine that in verse 13 when he mentions the fact that the whole palace guard is aware that he is in chains for Christ, that the same jailer connected with that.

But the verse that really stood out for me, or verses, 12-18.

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What has happened to me.  This unfortunate situation has brought about great fortune.  Because of where he is, what he has experienced, doors are opening for Paul.  He speaks into the lives of those around him.  He makes a difference.  It gives purpose to his suffering.  That’s something that I realized when I wrote Scars after my first daughter died.  

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But the next few verses are really what threw me.

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It’s something that I have been learning recently, not just in my writing, but in all kinds of communication.  I have no control over how anything I say or write or do is received by others.  So much energy is used to try to edit and cultivate a message in order to control the outcome.  But the reality is I can try to be kind, try to keep in mind the feelings of others when I communicate, but in the end, they decide how to receive it and how they share it.  That is their right.

Everything I say will be filtered through other’s emotions, motives, and experiences.  If they are set on thinking I’m hateful, then what I say will be hateful.  If they were having a bad day, or if something I said was said in a way that has been hurtful to them in the past, it might not be taken well.  But if I know my motivations are true, and that I’m doing everything I can to honor God with my words, then I have to let go of the message and trust that God will work through it.

And in verse 18, Paul says, “What does it matter?  The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.  And because of this, I rejoice.”  He knew that this wasn’t about him, that people were going to do what they were going to do, but he trusted the message.  The truth will always win in the end.  God is already on the throne.  And if I seek after Him, I cannot go astray.