How to Flourish

“The Lord remembers us and will bless us:
He will bless his people Israel,
he will bless the house of Aaron,
he will bless those who fear the Lord—
small and great alike.

May the Lord cause you to flourish,
both you and your children.
May you be blessed by the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Psalm 115:12-15

Can you sing this Psalm with confidence or was it written for someone else? Is your life flourishing for both you and your loved ones? Do you feel small or great?

Right now I feel like I’m fighting to flourish and I’m watching my children and loved ones endure many struggles. I believe God but feel like an imposter singing someone else’s song.

What we see with our natural eyes and what we feel with our very real emotions doesn’t change this truth that the Maker of heaven and earth is the source of increase and blessings for all who fear Him, small and great alike.

At the root of all my prayers this season is one desire, to live a fruitful life. I want my life and the lives of those entrusted to me to flourish in a way that there is only one explanation: God.

Is this a selfish desire? No. Jesus’ words are clear in John 15:8 “This is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Thankfully He also proved the how-to in the previous passage (v.5): “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit because you can do nothing without me.”

When I feel cut off from the flourishing life God offers and desires it’s time to go back to the root of “the vine”. My favorite prophesy of the Messiah is found in Isaiah 11:1, “Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” At the root of the stump of Jesse is where we find the only way to experience fruit that remains. When all appeared cut off like a stump of what was once a strong, powerful tree, the Nation of Israel and the house of Aaron, a root came up and fulfilled all of God’s promises in Jesus Christ.

What has been cut off or pruned away from your life? What losses have you experienced, disappointment without explanation, fading of friendship, plans failed, finances stopped, health eroded, dreams crushed?  What is your stump?

Watch for your shoot and you remain deeply rooted in Christ because we can do nothing without him.

God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, thank you for remembering me and blessing me and my children.  Thank you that I am of the Nation of Israel and the house of Aaron through the blood of Christ.  When I am in great faith, remind me to sing Psalm 115 to you, my Great Supplier.  When I feel small and defeated, help me to remain in your love and make this Psalm my song of expectation.  Thank you for causing my life to flourish in a way that points directly to you.

-Brandi

 

Praise the Lord, Oh my Soul!

“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s… The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love.”

Psalm 103:1-5, 8

Psalm 103 is the passionate culmination of all the author knows of God’s work and character. He can hardly contain himself with thoughts of the goodness of God! I invite you into this passionate praise where your whole soul is engaged in adoring the Lord. It is one of the most life giving things we can do! 

On a note card or in your journal, walk with me through these first few verses by writing down what is in bold, then filling in where you have seen God move. Let your heart be filled with wonder. 

Who forgives all your sins…. Praise the Lord because he forgives all our rebellion against him. His perfect love casts out the fear of not being forgiven. If you need forgiveness today praise the Lord because he has freely forgiven you! With all of who I am thank you for never wiping your hands of me, Lord! Thank you for forgiving me for harboring jealousy and bitterness in my heart! 

And heals all your diseases…. Praise the Lord because he heals all our physical, emotional, spiritual diseases when we call on his name. We have seen so much healing out of the pure goodness of the Lord’s heart. Sometimes it might not be in our timing, but the Lord surely will bring ultimate healing when he comes again. Lord, thank you for healing my paralyzing stomach pain two years ago; thank you for healing me from my anger in high school. Lord, thank you for the healing I have seen in my friends and family! 

Who redeems your life from the pit… Praise the Lord because we are no longer in the pit of despair! I have to remind myself of this often. Psalm 18:16,18 so beautifully describe his redemption power: “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; . . .he rescued me because he delighted in me.” Thank you, Lord, for never leaving me in my times of depression and anxiety. No matter how low, you brought your piercing light of redemption and pulled me out of darkness. Thank you for delighting in me even when I am my worst self!!  

And crowns you with love and compassion… Praise the Lord because we are children of God, crowned with dignity, love, and compassion. In Christ, we are the most audacious rags-to-riches story because he took us from the lowest position and brought us into his High Courts. Lord, thank you that you banner over me is constantly of love, even when shame, guilt, and fear tell me otherwise! 

Who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed… Praise the Lord because he is our Father who knows our every need and satisfies them with what he knows is best, like a father knows the desires of a young child. Lord, thank you for knowing my every need and my longings. Thank you for your unending kindness when I desire the things of this earth, like wealth and popularity. Lord, you alone can satisfy! 

The psalmist not only praises God for what he has done, but for who he forever will be:

 “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love.” 

Who is like the Lord, our God! None can compare with his character and might! None can compare with his unending love and compassion towards us! This is the way he looks at you and me every single day. Wow! Enjoy the Lord with me today as we walk in thanksgiving for all he has done and all he will do. 

Lord, at the top of our lungs we praise you with all we are! With arms held high in surrender we stand in awe of the One who gave it all for us, and give everything back to you! We receive your love and affection over us today, and walk confidently as beloved children of God.

~Emma Abernathy

Chasing Away Fear and Shame

“I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” Psalm 34:4-5

I grew up with ugly monsters in my closet named fear and shame. They had been fed all my life, hurling messages of insecurity, leaving me feeling unworthy and unlovable. I feared disappointing people, being rejected or poked fun at, not being accepted by my peers, being hurt with stinging words, and not being able to control the out of control people and situations in my life. I never felt good enough. I felt weak, unheard, and unknown. By the time I was in high school my burden of shame was so heavy I had a hard time looking someone in the eye when they talked to me.

I knew when I entered college, I had a lot of pain and needed Someone or Something outside of me to heal my inside; and when Jesus came for me my freshman year, I knew He was the One. Psalm 34 became one of my favorite Psalms I clung to as a new believer. A dear friend taught me to take bites of baby food from the Scripture, nourishing my new appetite. Jesus began to cancel the accusations of fear and shame by feeding His Spirit within me.

I wish I could say I have lived fearless the rest of my days. I still struggle with disappointing people and the fear of not belonging and not having a voice. I remain in bondage at times to feelings of not measuring up. Other women’s ministries can thrive, but Sacred Story doesn’t have what it takes because I don’t measure up. Other women can enjoy marriages, but my singleness is partially attributed to the reality that I am damaged in some way and not like others. I am not saying these messages are correct or even that I subscribe to them; however, there are moments and days when my heart and emotions tell me they are true.

I am grateful for the healing and victory God applies to my life over the years and yet it is a lifelong journey of the “now and not yet” of the Christian faith. I will battle the monsters of fear and shame the rest of my life, even though they appear less threatening because Jesus teaches me how to feed upon His Spirit. He gives me new thoughts, inclinations, and windows into my heart and His. He calls me the Apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8); He laughs with me and delights in our conversations. He is ever ready to reach out His nail scarred hand to me in each situation and sometimes just to dance with Him.

Psalm 34 beckons me to bring my fears and shame to Jesus, name them, and lay them before Him as I would pieces of paper. Fear of financial devastation, fear of not saying the right or perfect thing, fear of not being good enough, and more. Then I turn each one over and discovered the same message: Delivered, Delivered, Delivered. Like a child running from monsters in the closet, I run to Jesus, jump in His lap, and hear Him say, “Child, turn your face toward Me. Be radiant because that’s how I see you. I am here. I am able.”

Lord, I look to You when my fears and shame rise up and want to claim my thoughts and emotions. Thank You for being my Deliverer and the One who makes my face radiant. 

~ Laura

Trusting As the Waters Rise

Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him.  You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.  Many are the woes of the wicked, but the LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.  Psalm 32:6,7,10

The Key Word Study Bible introduces the Psalms as “powerfully conveying the feelings common to believers of all ages . . . from deep despair to ecstatic delight . . . from earnest pleading with God for protection to jubilant praise for His deliverance.”  This summer I began reading through the Psalms for my morning devotions as they help me connect emotionally and spiritually to God.  As I read I have been searching for the word trust, which is the word God led me to focus on this year. I have found in my search that the psalmist often declares and reaffirms his trust in God after pleading for deliverance out of a fearful circumstance. I can totally relate to the emotion of fear!  In my pursuit of greater trust the Lord has shown me that my fear is preventing me from fully trusting God.

This summer, while on vacation in Charleston, South Carolina, I had landed on Psalm 32 for my daily devotional. I read, “Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found.  Surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him.”  Little did I know later that day, the mayor of Charleston would give orders to evacuate due to a hurricane approaching the city.  As the order was given fear rose within me and I cried out for God to protect us and lead us out of the storm. We prayed and God delivered us from the impending flood.  I praised God for being our hiding place, protecting us in the midst of this storm.  However, that wasn’t the end of my lesson on trust versus fear.

This past week we received a call from my son asking us to pick up our granddaughter from her school because it was flooding due to tropical storm Imelda.  My husband and I set out on a treacherous journey to rescue our granddaughter.  As the water rose up around our vehicle fear also rose up in me, engulfing me, and revealing my miniscule faith. All I could do was call out one word, one name, “Jesus!” Fear was overwhelming me and I hate to admit it but I became hysterical. My husband looked at me and said, “Don’t you trust me?”  All I could honestly say was, “No, but I do trust the Lord.”  I then closed my eyes and prayed to God, who I believe with all my heart, was there with me in that vehicle.  Calm came over me in that moment as I heard my husband say, “Yes, we just need calm.” I began to hear the Lord’s songs of deliverance. In that moment I knew God was teaching me the only way to face my fear was to trust in His unfailing love.

One of the most important words in the Old Testament is hesed, or unfailing love, which is central to God’s character. In fact His unfailing love is constant even when we prove unfaithful.  We can trust God because His love for us has never and will never change! He surrounded me that day with songs of deliverance and with His unfailing love and He will do the same for you.

What fear is rising up around you today? Take Him at His Word and pray:

Lord, you are my hiding place and you surround me with songs of deliverance. Teach me to trust you as I face my fears today, believing that you will surround me with you unfailing, never changing, delivering love.  Amen

Trust Him,  Nancy

P.S. My husband, miraculously, drove my granddaughter and me through the floodwaters and delivered us unharmed to the safety of our home!

Your Purpose Stands Firm

“By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” Psalms 33:6-11 NIV

Close your eyes and get a vision of the breath of God creating the stars, then commanding them to take their their assigned places. They stand firm until receiving the next command.

Like that stars, we listen to our Father’s voice. We eagerly take our assigned places and wait for the next command. At the beginning we go forth with great zeal, with great confidence, with great significance. We stand firm, eager to hear the next command. For a season we are richly satisfied, strong, bold, immovable. Over time our zeal can be challenged, questioned and even mocked by the noise of this world.

During ancient civilization stars were carefully studied and provided guidance that was crucial to the expansion of humankind across continents. How much do we rely on them today?

Advancements in science have neatly packaged sophisticated mapping solutions. What should still be mind-blowing is reduced to frustrating when Waze sends us the wrong way.

Man has created so much from creation.  It’s celebrated daily.  How much of our attention do we give it? Have we have forgotten about the Creator?

When the stars were created the earth was quiet and everything pointed to the Creator. The same is true with your purpose on this earth in this hour.  Your purpose points to the Creator.  It can’t always be rationalized by man and we have a tendency to reject what we don’t understand.  It’s easier to dismiss the power of God than to surrender our own strength and make room for the “impossible”.  Many would call this irrational.

Don’t waste any more time worrying about the noise in the world.  The most horrifying plans of mankind will be thwarted, destroyed, result in nothing.  God’s plans prevail, and your purpose is in the center of it.

Stand firm in what you last heard from your Creator.  If you are not clear about your purpose, chase the heart of God.  Start by reading the Bible.  Open up to John Chapter 1, read and ask for God to speak specifically to you.  Take comfort in knowing “the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”

Lord, I pray that you speak directly to me or help me remember what you last spoke to my heart.  Give me your strength to stand firm. Peace be still to the noise around me.  Thank you that your purpose stands firm.

Brandi

You are Loved and Not Alone

“But I pray to you, Lord, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation.” (Psalm 69:13)

What a privilege it is for me to kick off a series of devotionals from the book of Psalm.  Psalm is one of my favorite books because it is full of vulnerability and emotions which, as a licensed counselor, are my world.  Psalm 69 is especially deep to my heart because the themes of sorrow and joy, abandon and rescue, injustice and judgment, sin and forgiveness and shame and honor are all juxtaposed to reveal the majesty of God who rescues us from the misery of this world. 

When I prayed about what to write, I sensed a burden in my heart for those of you who may feel like you are drowning in your circumstances (Ps. 69:1-3).  Some of the circumstances you may be struggling with are similar to David’s: dealing with abuse and feeling hated (69:4), feeling like no matter what you do it is never good enough, feeling shame, dealing with the burdens of your sins and begging for justice over wrongdoings done to you (Ps. 69:22-28). These are just a few themes in one mere chapter of Psalm.

You are not alone.  And you are deeply loved.  My prayer during your time in Psalms is you will know those truths so deeply they will be an anchor to your faith no matter what life brings you. God never promised us life would be easy on earth.  However, from the beginning of time He promised He would never leave us nor forsake us (Deut. 31:6).  He also demonstrated His love toward us by sacrificing His own son on the cross so we may experience eternal life and peace (Jn 3:16).

Earth is not our home.  Heaven is our home. Through Jesus Christ, we have the promise of eternal life which is the greatest security and assurance anyone can have.  We also have the promise that His lovingkindness is good (69:16), His compassion abounds, His forgiveness extends, His deliverance is near, His justice prevails, His salvation rescues, and His redemption heals (Ps 69:22-28). 

I will never forget the pain of feeling betrayed deeply by someone I cared about.  I remember the nights I could not sleep and the days I could not eat.  I remember the days I lay sprawled on the floor crying out for God to deliver me.  The pain was so deep.  One day as I was crying out to God, I felt His compassion and His grief with me.  I felt His presence so deeply all the ‘why’ questions that were left unanswered didn’t matter anymore.  I knew He was with me.  And that was enough.

Oh how sweet and pivotal that moment was for me.  I knew I was not alone and I was deeply loved.  That was one of the greatest healing moments for me….His presence.  My dear friends, can I encourage you to be real, raw and vulnerable with God about your pain?  They do not fall on deaf ears.  For Jesus, in His humanity, experienced suffering and so understands yours (Heb 4:15). 

Lord, I pray I will experience Your love and presence as I hear from You through the book of Psalm. Thank You that I am loved and not alone. 

Edna Lee

Final Week: Philippians 4:14-23

Warm up for the Hike 

Consider sharing a memory you have of a time someone gave you an amazing gift. For me, it was a Pink Puppy Bike my parents gave me one Christmas morning when I was young. You know, the pink sparkly one with puppy stickers on the side and rainbow streamers coming out the handles? I smiled all day long! 

Introduction 

In college I had the joy of guiding high school kids from across the nation on week-long backpacking trips through the Colorado mountains. For almost every kid the last day of the trip was one of the best days. After a week of sleeping outside, hiking rigorous terrain, and deep spiritual growth, everyone was ready for a shower and a nap. Back in base camp as campers arrived after a long week, everyone would gather for the greatest celebration we could possibly produce. As the campers left that night on buses to go back to their home states, the base camp staff would stay up late relishing the joy of a trip well done. 

I hope in a small way this is how you feel after hiking with us this summer through Philippians. While there was probably less dirt between the toes and less gear to clean, I hope you tasted the deep spiritual gift of God washing away the grit and grime of our flesh and restoring us with graciousness and joy. I hope your spirit was strengthened as muscles are strengthened when hiking under the weight of a heavy pack, especially if this summer emotionally felt like an uphill battle. This week as we wrap up our study, I pray you feel the satisfaction of a trip where you gave it all you had, saw the glory, and are coming down the mountain to tell others about the beauty you saw; maybe even one day to hike back up the same trial with them so they might have the chance to experience what changed you. 

Let’s dive into the end of Philippians and the joy of giving and supporting brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Scripture

14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need.17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 

21 Greet all God’s people in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me send greetings. 22 All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. 

Observation- What did the passage say? 

  • While Paul is content in every circumstance, he is thankful that the Philippians generously financially support him. (v 14)
  • Right after Paul had helped plant the church at Philippi, he left to help plant other churches. During this time the Philippians sent him their first gift- and they were the only church plant to do so. (v 15) 
  • The Philippians have a history of being financial partners with Paul. (v 16)
  • Paul emphasizes the eternal rewards of the Philippians’ earthly investments in his ministry. He thinks they are a beautiful sacrifice to God. (v 17-18)
  • Paul believes God will meet all of the Philippians’ needs. (v 19) 

Interpretation- what does the passage mean? 

Verses 14-23 act as an epilogue to the book of Philippians. In this section Paul is letting the church know he received the gift and also to thank them for it. At that time it was possible for gifts such as the one being discussed to be lost or stolen quite easily, so this part of the book is practically very important for the contemporary audience. It is clear the church at Philippi deeply cared for Paul because of their willingness and consistency in generosity. We see Paul graciously receive their gifts, feeling loved and cared for as a family member of this church. 

Dr. Constable makes an interesting assertion that the Philippians are giving as a sacrifice of worship, knowing God will meet their most pressing needs, as Paul states in verse 19. In this passage we get an insight into the love and generosity shared between the church at Philippi and Paul; it is clear the emphasis is not on the amount of their gift or the purpose of the gift, but the message of love, trust, and with-ness behind the gift. It is as if the church at Philippi has consistently said to Paul, “we love you, trust you and believe in the work God is doing through you- we are on your team!” by financially supporting him. What an incredible gift to someone in ministry! 

Application- how does meaning of this passage apply to me? 

Giving and receiving are gifts when both parties are focused on the mission of the Kingdom of God creates breathtaking ministry. Maybe you have felt the sting of a gift given to you with a hidden agenda or strings attached- this clearly not the way demonstrated by Paul and the church at Philippi. They give and receive joyfully because of relationships filled with trust, graciousness, and love.

Let us be women who chose to be friends and givers that help meet the needs we see in our spheres of influence because we know that we serve a God who sees and meets our greatest needs. This is Kingdom relationships defined by freedom and joy found in the book of Philippians, James 1:17, and Matthew 7:11. We have a Father who is so close to us he knows our every need, and has promised to meet what he knows is our greatest needs. Knowledge of this draws us to worship at his feet and give him back what he has given us because we rest in him.

Is there someone in your life in ministry that you could prayerfully consider financially supporting? If you currently financially support someone or give to your church, take the time today to text a short, “I believe in you and am on your team” or maybe “I believe God is using you to accomplish the work he has given you to do today, even if it is hard to see. I am praying for you” to that person or your pastor. Just like the passage we memorized together this summer, let’s be humble and vulnerable enough to spur one another on in love and good deeds. Join me in being sisters who support one another in the work God has given. All it takes is a simple text!

~Emma

Week 12: Philippians 4:8-13

 

Warm Up Before the Hike

Share with your friend(s) an area where you struggle to find contentment or an area where you’ve learned to live in contentment.

Introduction

It’s hard to believe we are on the last legs of our hike through Philippians. I enjoyed an amazing hike near Basalt, CO with my sister Lynnette a few weeks ago. As you can see, the sign showed “2 miles to Fryingpan Overlook” when we launched out and as it turns out, it was actually 2.5 miles. Now a half mile may not seem like a lot, but as you may know, trekking up a mountain is not for the faint hearted! When we realized the hike was longer and harder, we were tempted to turn around before reaching the top. What an amazing view we would have missed if we gave in to fatigue.

I think about how chapter 4 brings Paul’s letter to an end as we receive an amazing view of how to apply God’s Word. Stay with us through the next week of the study even if it feels hard and your schedules are filling up. You will not want to miss the beauty of the final words of this moving letter written by an imprisoned Paul. Nancy encouraged us last week about embracing God’s peace. The benefit of doing so means our hearts are guarded (4:6). I love her insight, “Guard is a military term and indicates God is defending us and shielding us from the disability that worry and anxiety can bring.” This week we look at how to direct our thoughts and where to find our satisfaction.

Scripture

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:8-13

Observation – what does the passage say?

“Finally” gives indication that Paul is wrapping up his thoughts (vs. 8)

Comparison – adjectives about what things to think about: true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good report, virtue, praiseworthy (vs. 8)

Cause and Effect – internalizing and doing the things Paul modeled as a follower of Christ will cause God’s peace to dwell within a person (vs. 9)

Contrast – the Philippians didn’t have opportunity to show their support of Paul due to distance compared to now when they were able to give to his needs through Epaphroditus’ visit (vs. 10)

Cause and Effect – their generosity for kingdom purposes brings Paul joy (vs. 10)

Contrast – Paul doesn’t speak out of a place of need, instead he’s learned to find contentment no matter what situation he is in; abased vs. abound, full vs. hungry, abound vs. suffer need (vss. 11-12)

Cause and Effect – Paul is able to be sustained and live above his circumstances because Jesus gives him strength (vs. 13)

Interpretation – what does the passage mean?

Paul highlights what to think about so that God’s peace and unity prevail. He knows there is a human tendency to focus on what’s not going right, ruminate on the “why” of a situation, and grumble about people. To make his point, he elaborates on 6 different adjectives. Below are the definitions from Sonic Light which lend more insight:

True – Valid, honest, and reliable

Noble – Worthy of respect

Just – What is just and upright

Pure – Cleanness and denotes moral purity

Lovely – Amiable, agreeable, or pleasing

Good Report – Admirable, what is praiseworthy because it measures up to the highest standard

Dr. Constable in Sonic Light continues to share a powerful quote about the battle for one’s thoughts:

“On the authority of the Word of God, I submit to you that the greatest conflict being waged is not international, not political, not economic, and not social. The greatest conflict taking place in the world today is the battle for control of our minds.”

Paul then reminds the believers that he wants them to follow the things he taught them and lived before them. He is not saying that he is without fault or weakness, he is reminding them that the things God asks of believers are not too difficult if he can depend on Him to be Christ-like in actions and attitudes. We all need people and mentors to learn from and model for us what it means to live out the Christian faith daily.

Finally, Paul expresses his gratitude for the Philippians financial gift. He is not primarily concerned about his needs since he has had many years to see God come through for him while living in undesirable and desirable situations. This is not the first occasion Paul has seen the walls of a prison, having been treated harshly numerous times for his faith. He learned contentment over time which tells us that contentment is something we all can make progress toward in any situation because we have access to the strength of Jesus within us.

Sonic Light sums up Paul’s thoughts:

“Paul did not want the Philippians to misunderstand him. He was not rejoicing primarily because their gift had met his need, but because their gift expressed their love and concern for him. Paul had “learned to be content,” and to rejoice regardless of his physical “circumstances.” Such contentment is not a natural gift.”

Application – how does the meaning of the passage apply to me?

How many of your thoughts center around worry, complaining, comparing, and thinking about what’s wrong with a situation or person? While there’s room for evaluation and processing disappointment, we can only control so much. Consider how your thoughts can be directed toward the things Paul urges believers to “major on.”

Whom are your models for living the Christian faith? This may be a person(s) you know firsthand or someone who speaks to you via their heart and teaching through studies, online, podcasts, etc. It’s important to seek out mentors who are a few steps ahead in their spiritual life including someone we feel comfortable asking our questions. It is also vital to become a mentor to others. By the way, we often think of a mentor as someone older, but this is not always the case.

Think about what you shared during the warm up. What area are you wanting God to fill you with contentment? What is the next thing you can do as you learn to be content?

Homework and Scripture Memory

Work through the process of observation, interpretation, and application for the remainder of Philippians, 4:14-23, this week. The final post for this study will be next week. I’m sad it’s ending! Continue memorizing Philippians 2:1-13. I personally have gotten behind BUT I am taking Nancy’s encouragement to heart, and not just giving up this week as it will be profitable as I hang in there. Keep working at memorizing, meditating on, and applying God’s Word.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below about how our hike through Philippians is encouraging you as we think about ways to help each other live our stories in light of God’s Word. YOU are loved sister~ Laura

Week 11: Philippians 4:1-7

Warm Up before the Hike

Share within your small group or if not in a group, share with a trusted friend the thing that causes you the most worry or stress. Then share how you usually deal with anxiety.

Introduction

In last week’s lesson, Edna reminded us that we, like Paul, must strive to become like Christ in our journey of faith.  Paul has encouraged the believers to stand firm in their faith through unity and perseverance. Now Paul takes those two themes and gives us practical steps to live out this journey of faith individually and in community.  I have often said that it would be easy to be Christ-like if I lived alone on a deserted island.  But Christ-likeness is only lived out in community. Let’s dig deep into this passage to glean insight and guidance in living this faith walk with greater joy and unexplainable peace!

Scripture

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.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. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus

Observation- What does the passage say?

“Therefore” signals the conclusion to his letter and his final encouragement of standing firm with unity. (V.1)

Paul describes the believers he is addressing as “my brothers,” “my joy and crown,” and “my beloved.”

“Brothers” come from the Greek word literally meaning “from the same womb.”

“Crown” refers to an honor in which one may glory. (See 1 Thessalonians 2:19)

Paul’s glory was found in the people he poured love and life into.

“In the Lord” is repeated several times in this passage (v.1,2,4,7) emphasizing the importance that all be done out of a common faith in, and commitment to Christ.

“Plead with” (NIV) or “entreat” (ESV) (used two times) means to come to the aid of, help, comfort, encourage. (V.2)

Paul encouraged each woman to do her part to reconcile with the other.

“Agree in the Lord” (ESV) “be of the same mind . . . in the Lord” (NIV) is to have the same mind-set as the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 2:2)

Paul asked fellow workers to help with the reconciliation of these women who had ministered with him.  (v.3) (Galatians 6:1)

“Book of life” refers to God’s record of those who belong to Him.

“Rejoice” is repeated in this one verse and is found throughout Paul’s letter. Paul focuses their attention on the common blessings of walking with and serving Christ rather than on their petty differences. (V.4)

Let others see gentleness in your speech and actions. (v.5) (Philippians 2:15)

Gentleness is the attitude of spirit by which we accept God’s dealings with us as good and do not dispute or resist. It is balance born in strength of character.

The Lord is near. How comforting to know that the Lord is near enough to see and hear us when conflict arises.

Prayer with thanksgiving controls anxiety and brings the peace of God. (V.6)

Do not worry about anything, but pray about everything.

Pray about everything with all kinds of prayers (general) and petitions (specific requests). (Ephesians 6:18)

Let your needs be known to the Lord.  (1 Peter 5:7)

“Peace” means a state of untroubled, undisturbed well being. (V7)

“Peace of God”  – not the same as “peace with God.”  When we are reconciled to God through faith in Christ we have “peace with God” that we shall never lose. The “peace of God” is granted to us as we give over our anxiety to Him and it guards are heart and mind. (Isaiah 26:3)

Understanding – is the Greek word for mind, understanding, discernment and intellect. The peace of God is beyond our understanding. Man is not to lean or rely on his own understanding which produces worry and anxiety, but to trust God with every detail of his life. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Guard is a military term and indicates God is defending us and shielding us from the disability that worry and anxiety can bring.

Interpretation – What does the passage mean?

Sonic Light sums up this last chapter in this way: “The final chapter of the epistle to the Philippians is one of the great discourses on the doctrine of peace, such as Psalm 23 in the Old Testament and John 14 in the New Testament.”

This is the beginning of Paul’s long conclusion to his letter with his final instructions before sending the letter to them. He once again communicates to the beloved believers and fellow servants of Christ that because of his love and commitment to them his greatest desire is for their steadfastness in faith and their unity within the community of faith.  He leaves them with specific ways they are to apply what he has instructed them in the first three chapters.

Application- How does the meaning of the passage apply to me?

The church in Philippi needed to restore unity and be encouraged to persevere in their faith. Sonic Light includes Howard Hendricks’ “five part recipe for conflict resolution” taken from verses 2-6 which provides practical ways for us to apply these truths to our own relationships:

(1) ‘Rejoice in the Lord,’ that is, get beyond yourselves and look to the Lord. (2) ‘Let your gentleness be evident to all.’ In other words speak with kindness to each other. (3) ‘Do not be anxious.’ Relax, and give it all to God. (4) ‘Be thankful.’ The simple act of expressing gratitude for our blessings takes the heat out of infection. (5) Present your requests to God. Prayer realigns us and restores peace …”

 My challenge to you is to begin applying each of these ingredients to a relationship or to a stressful situation today, tomorrow, and the next and the next . . . until you experience God’s unexplainable peace. He is near!

HOMEWORK: Read through and engage daily with Philippians 4:8 – 13 using the inductive Bible study method of observation, interpretation and application in preparation for next week.

 SCRIPTURE MEMORY: Continue reviewing Philippians 2:1-10 and begin memorizing Philippians 2:11. If you haven’t been as consistent as you like, remember not to take on the “all or nothing” attitude that can derail your scripture memory journey. Taking one verse a week with the goal of not only quoting the verse from memory, but also asking God to show you how to prove it true in your life. When I started memorizing scripture 20 years ago, Philippians 2 was one of the first passages I tackled. I still am able to recall and recite it simply because I not only memorized it, but I prayed it, shared it, and applied it to my life circumstances. I am praying as you hide His Word deep in your mind and heart it will bring you great joy and delight! (Jeremiah 15:16)

Nancy Taylor

Sacred Story is honored to have Nancy Taylor as a guest contributor. Nancy loves the Word of God and has been hiding it in her heart for over 15 years. In her book, “Taking the Word to Heart,” Nancy shares her journey of scripture memory and practical ways to get a firm grip on God’s Word. She loves to encourage women in their walk with Christ through writing, teaching and mentoring. She and her husband William live in Houston, TX and enjoy spending time with their two adult children, their spouses and their grandchildren.

 

Week 9: Philippians 3:1-11

Warm-Up Before the Hike:

Consider sharing something about your life that is a beautiful surprise and something challenging you never expected.

Introduction:

Have you ever stopped to consider how your life speaks to others about Christ?  Last week, Kaitlyn invited us to “slow down and gaze upon the beautiful examples of Timothy and Epaphroditus. Like these faithful men, may we each desire to walk humbly, serving those around us with genuine love in a way that honors Christ.”  I am excited to continue our journey this week as we observe, interpret, and draw application from Philippians 3:1-11 where Paul makes it abundantly clear that Christ alone is the source of salvation. All former works in the flesh are garbage in comparison to knowing Christ.

Scripture – Philippians 3:1-11

1 Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh– 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

10 I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Observation – What does the passage say?

  • Paul exhorts the church in Philippi to “Rejoice in the Lord!” [1]
  • He reminds them that it is no hassle for him to remind them again because this truth will protect them from “dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.”[1-2]
  • Contrast – Paul explains that believers in Christ are the true circumcision by the Spirit as opposed to the Judaizers who place their confidence in circumcision in the flesh [3]
  • If confidence in the flesh was worth anything, Paul was an overachiever:
    – circumcised on the eighth day
    -of the people of Israel
    -of the tribe of Benjamin
    -a Hebrew of Hebrews
    -in regard to the law, a Pharisee
    -as for zeal, persecuting the church
    -as for righteousness based on the law, faultless [4-5]
  • Contrast – all of those accomplishments in the flesh are worthless in comparison to knowing Christ. [7-8]
  • Righteousness comes through faith in Christ, not the law [9]
  • Paul wants to know Christ in his power and his sufferings to experience the miracle of resurrection from the dead [10-11]

Interpretation – What does the passage mean?

It’s important to understand who Paul is warning the church about. Sonic light provides great insight:

“The Jews habitually referred to Gentiles contemptuously as “dogs” (cf. Matt. 15:21-28). In ancient times, many dogs were unclean, wild, and vicious animals that threatened the safety of everyone. Paul now hurls this term of contempt back ‘on the heads of its authors’ …, for to Paul the Jews were the real pariahs that defile the holy community, the Christian church, with their erroneous teaching.” The Judaizers emphasized circumcision because it was the rite that brought a person into Judaism, which they viewed as a prerequisite to justification (cf. Acts 15:1). “False circumcision” refers to circumcision for the wrong reasons, namely, circumcision contrary to the revelation of God in Scripture. The Philippians and Paul, and all true believers belong to a different camp, that of the “true circumcision.” Paul was referring to the circumcision of the heart that happens when a person trusts in Jesus Christ. The alternative is trusting in oneself and or in rite-keeping for salvation. So Paul says: “You Jews think that you are circumcised, but really you are only mutilated.”

Paul makes it very clear that salvation comes only from knowing Christ. None of the physical acts, conformance with the Jewish law and birthrights are enough. In fact, there is nothing in our nature, even our God-honoring accomplishments, that make us acceptable to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Knowing Christ is the singular focus and Paul is eager to write as many times as needed to warn the people against falling away from the truth.

We can’t forget that Paul is writing from prison. Even there he’s encouraging others to “Rejoice in the Lord.”

Application – How does the meaning of the passage apply to me?

After his Damascus road experience, Paul poured out his entire life spreading the gospel to those he formerly persecuted. Ironically, the man who did great harm to early Christians authored most of the New Testament. His impact carries on 2000 years later. It’s eternal.

Paul experienced God’s protection and deliverance many times as he spread the gospel across dangerous regions, yet he is chained in prison. Why would the Lord allow this to happen? Paul was preaching about The Great Deliverer, yet he wasn’t delivered. Have you ever experienced this in your own life?

As a believer who has walked with the Lord since childhood, I want to believe my story will be different from Paul’s. I never persecuted the church, so my prosperity gospel should come with a fairy tale ending, right? The truth is, my faith is being tested because things aren’t working out as I planned. I didn’t mind the world watching when great things happened but what do I say of my Deliverer when my heart is crying “Lord, are you kidding me?”

What do you do when life doesn’t go as you planned, when circumstances don’t match the Christian story you wrote?

Like me, do you struggle to achieve more good to dilute the bad? Sometimes there is no Christian effort that can change the circumstances. Sometimes we’re given the opportunity to shine for Christ from our personal prison cells. Perhaps it’s only then that we come to truly know the overwhelming, more than sufficient love of Christ. It is more valuable than all that is lost in the process.

Paul tells us clearly that all the things he formerly valued are “loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” The goal is to know Christ.  Christ alone.  It’s not to know Christ, so that…he can fix what I don’t like about my story.

My friend, Anita Carmen, provides a beautiful perspective.

“There are times in life when the star disappears. We were following, following and then there is silence. It is during those times that we must return to when we last heard Him. He hasn’t changed. His mission hasn’t changed. When we anchor ourselves to God the person we flow with Him into new circumstances. He is no longer a rule book or a tablet of Ten Commandments. He is the living, breathing, resurrected Christ who will lead us. I pray that we will follow Jesus one day at a time. Father forgive us for the times we wanted to see the plan. Teach us to live holding on to you as our living plan! We get to say, “What’s next, Lord?” and we learn to fly blindfolded with your Spirit as our navigator! We’re in for the adventure of our lives.”

Scripture Memory and Homework

Continue memorizing Philippians 2:1-10.  Consider writing the verses on note cards and take them with you on a walk.  Ask the Lord to speak specifically to your heart through each verse. For next week work through the rhythm of observation, interpretation, and application for 3:12-21.

As you hike through the days again, go blindfolded with the Spirit into the adventure of your life!

In His Unfailing Love,

Brandi