Week 7: Philippians 2:12-18

Warm up for the Hike 

Consider sharing highs and lows from this week. After this, consider sharing with one another what you are thankful for. 


I hope you all have been enjoying the renewing of our hearts and minds as we walk through the book of Philippians this summer. Last week Laura shared with us Christ’s humility in the incarnation. A quote she referenced by Timothy Keller  particularly speaks to me: “the essence of gospel- humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself; it is thinking of myself less.” I am praying that this would become true in our lives as we seek to abide in Jesus together. This week we will dive into  Philippians 2:12-18 as we let the Holy Spirit transform us from complaining to rejoicing. 


12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[a] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

Observation – What does the passage say? 

  • Paul uses the word “therefore” to connect the previous passage about Christ’s work of humility to his encouragement of the believers to continue to obey as an appropriate response to what Christ has done (v 12). 
  • It is God who works in us to transform our lives for his purposes (v13). 
  • Paul contrasts grumbling and arguing to being pure and blameless (v 14-15). 
  • Paul quotes Deuteronomy 32:5 in order to convey the importance of the way God’s people should act (v 15). 
  • Paul sees his success as the believers living in joy and gratitude, not bitterness and anger (v 16). 

Interpretation- what does the passage mean? 

After Paul teaches the believers about the humility necessary for Christ to dwell among us and die for our debt, he transitions to talking about what this means for the believers’ lives. It is almost as if he is doing a small bible study with the audience by walking through observation, interpretation, and application, with verse 12-18 being part of the application. In light of Christ’s work on the cross and through the resurrection, which he did out of great humility, we as God’s children are to live lives of freedom and joy in all circumstances as we walk in obedience to God’s will for our lives. It is very striking to me that Paul sees his success in the believers’ “shining among them like stars as you hold firmly to the word of life” Paul clearly sees that from a firm understanding of what Christ laid down in order to come near to us, we are to lay down our fleshly desires to blame others, complain about our circumstances, and live in bitterness and anger. If we lay these down, we have room to pick up joy and gladness, that come from clinging to the Word of Life. 

Application – how does the meaning of the passage apply to me? What does the passage teach me about God?

This week, let’s take some time to rejoice and be glad in what God has done. He has freed us from our bondage to sin and brought into a living hope that will never fade away. In Romans 8:1 we read that there is “no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set your free from the law of sin and death.” This means he has taken away all shame and guilt and replaced it with an ever flowing river of rejoicing in our hearts. In Galatians 5:1 we read that “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” This week, stand firm against our temptation to let our hearts and mind go wild with discontentment. Resist being burdened again by the negative thoughts that so often cloud of mind. Cling to these verses from Philippians, Romans, and Galatians, and let God transform your heart, that you may shine among this world like stars in the night sky. Jesus promises in Matthew 11 that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Our burden is not heavy but light! 


Set a goal to reflect upon Philippians 2:19-30 for 15 minutes every day this week while moving through the spiritual rhythm of observation, interpretation, and application. Read it many times in one sitting as you let the words soak into your soul. Also, practice turning from bitterness and anger to rejoicing and gladness by writing down five things you are thankful for every day. 

Scripture Memory 

Continue memorizing Philippians 2:1-8. Adding on two new verses may seem intimidating at first, but memorizing sentences can be much easier than memorizing fragmented clauses. I personally have never been good at memorizing off of note cards, so I like to read the passage I am memorizing over and over and over again, and day by day it begins to be written on my heart. It is amazing how quickly Scripture integrates into part of your thought life and flows into heart language. I pray that those of you who share my similar restraint to memorization will find this method encouraging and successful!

This week let’s dwell in God’s love and freedom together- we are fully loved by our Creator even on our worst days. After all, this is what the book of Philippians is all about!

– Emma

Week 6: Philippians 2:5-11

Warm Up Before the Hike

Share with your friend(s) one of your most embarrassing or humiliating moments.


Last week Edna pointed to the unity we have as believers through union with Jesus in Philippians 2:1-4 while challenging us to think about how we contribute to disunity. She highlighted the reality that unity thrives where there’s a spirit of concern and care for others as opposed to pride and self-promotion. I can become self-absorbed about my daily to do’s and how I come across to others while forgetting to think through their needs. I am grateful for God’s Spirit reminding me to seek His mind. This week we will look at the next 6 verses in Paul’s letter which elaborate on the mind of Christ.


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 emptied himself, by 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. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Observation: What does the passage say?

Cause/Effect – being in Christ Jesus means the believers can exercise His mind (vs. 5)

Contrast – Jesus existed in the form of God but did not hold onto His rights but instead emptied Himself to become a human (vss. 6-7)

Cause/Effect – being born as a man caused Jesus to assume the role of servant and become obedient to death on a cross (vs. 7)

Similar ideas/terms – born in the likeness of men and found in human form (vs. 7-8), highly exalted and bestowed on Him (vs. 9), every knee bow and every tongue confess (vs.9)

Cause/Effect – Jesus’ obedience gave Him a name above every name which results in every person eventually acknowledging He is Lord which brings God glory (vs. 9)

Interpretation: What does the passage mean?

Jesus exemplified humility in the way He thought about His divine nature. He didn’t hang on to His rights to remain in heaven as an equal to God. Instead He exchanged His immense privilege as the all-knowing, all-powerful Son of God in heaven to become God incarnate and take on the form of a human body. He was willing to limit himself to becoming a baby who was rocked, a child who played, a young man who was trained in carpentry, and the homeless Son of Man who faced a ministry of being misunderstood, rejected, and tortured on a cross. His sacrifice was great and yet the reward for His obedience is beyond measure. Like a trophy, the Father gave Jesus the name above any other name which will move those He created to acknowledge He is Lord while bowing their knees at the unfathomable realization of His majesty and authority.

It is mind blowing to try to understand the incarnation of Jesus as a man. Scholars throughout the centuries attempt to explain how Jesus became a person and maintained His divinity. Below is an explanation offered in Sonic Light:

“. . .Taking humanity imposed certain restrictions on Jesus Christ, including those involved in possessing a physical body and a human, though not a sinful, nature. He laid aside the glory and freedom that His former manner of existence afforded Him when He became a man (cf. John 17:5). He became dependent on the Father in a different sense than had been true formerly. He gave up “His rights as God the Son.”

Jesus received a reward for His obedience so believers can expect to be rewarded for their obedience. Sonic Light explains,

“The exaltation of Jesus Christ is as much a motivation for the Christian to live a life of submissive humility as is His incarnation. God will reward a life of self-denial now and in the future. That is the obvious implication of Paul’s illustration. Is it not selfish to serve the Lord for a reward? Was it selfish for Jesus to endure what He did because He knew He would receive a reward? Motivation is the key. If we submit to God and to one another for the glory of God, as Jesus did, rather than for selfish glory, our motivation is correct.”

Application – how does the meaning of the passage apply to my life?

Unity flourishes where there is an attitude of humility and servitude. As believers, we can access the mind of Christ so that we think about others and ourselves in a way that reflects the humility Jesus demonstrated.

*Meditate on the amazing reality of Jesus coming to earth in human form. Look at the phrases which describe Jesus’ mindset and spend some time in prayer together, praising Him.

*To paraphrase pastor and theologian Timothy Keller, “the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself; it is thinking of myself less.” Pray for yourself along these lines.

*A humble attitude shows itself in humble behavior. Dr. Constable in Sonic Light makes the following statements about a servant:

A servant serves others even when it is inconvenient.

A servant serves even people that he or she dislikes.

A servant serves even when he or she dislikes the work.

A servant serves even when he or she receives no personal satisfaction.

A servant serves with an attitude of enabling another.

Who can you serve this week? How do you plan on doing so?

Scripture Memory and Homework

Continuing memorizing this beautiful passage in 2:1-6. I find it helpful to say the Scripture out loud. When I asked my friend if I could practice saying it her, she heartily agreed, and as I did so, it showed me my gaps. For next week work through the rhythm of observation, interpretation, and application for 2:12-18.

We talked about how the apostle Paul is literally confined in prison as he writes to the believers at Philippi. In spite of his hardships, Paul served others through his words, behavior, and heart. He must have drawn much comfort from meditating on Jesus’ “confinement” to a human body. You and I may feel “confined” in some way to a prison of circumstances. I pray we experience joy this week through serving others as we draw strength from the Spirit of Jesus living in us.



Week 5: Philippians 2:1-4

Warm Up Before the Hike

The photo above was submitted by Lori who lives in San Antonio while on a hike in Tennessee. She is participating in the hike through Philippians along with friends from her ministry, She Praise. To warm up this week with your group, share a place where you experienced rest and relaxation, whether close by home or far away. We’d love to receive your summer pics of scenery and/or your group. Send to us via instagram, @sacredstoryministries, or email at contact@sacredstoryministries.org!


The church in Philippi was a strong, loving, generous, prayerful and theologically sound church.  However, even the strongest church must guard itself against disunity.  Paul had just encouraged the church to…”let your manner of life be worthy[a] of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27).

In just four verses, Paul gives one of the strongest teachings on unity.  He identifies three crucial elements that will build unity: the right motives, the right marks, and the right means.


Christ’s Example of Humility:

1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Observation – What does the passage say?

Philippians 2:1:

“Participation in the Spirit” also means believers’ fellowship with each other is threaded together by the common hope of eternal life given by the grace of Jesus Christ.  Believers’ humility and gratefulness for the Gospel should be the springboard for unity in the body of Christ.

Philippians 2:2:

“complete my joy” – Paul’s joy was tied to the unity of believers

“having the same love” – means one-soul, having the same passions, ambitions and desires

“one mind” – to think the same way

Philippians 2:3:

“selfish ambition” – strife; people’s pride can push others away creating strife and disunity

“conceit” – pursuit of one’s own glory

Paul encourages believers to “count others more significant than yourselves” which is the ultimate definition of humility

Philippians 2:4:

Paul encourages believers to look beyond themselves and onto others

Interpretation – What does the passage mean?

Paul encourages believers to remember what they all have in common: saved by the grace of Jesus Christ.  He exhorts the believers to let the Gospel be the basis of their unity.  He gives four practical ways to build unity.  First, he encourages them to humble themselves by acknowledging Jesus Christ saved all members, not just one.  Second, he encourages believers to think the same way (one mind) and serve the same way (same passions, ambitions and desires).  Third, he commands them to guard themselves against pride.  Lastly, he encourages believers to consider others more important than themselves.

Paul encourages believers to make his joy complete by being unified.  He has the same investment and interest in the spiritual well-being of the believers in Philippi as a parent would for a child.  In order for the church to stand against persecution, false teachings and spiritual warfare, believers must not tolerate disunity.

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

If the enemy wants to deem the Gospel ineffective one of the first places he attacks is the unity of believers.  If he can split up the church, he weakens it.  This is a great opportunity to look inside ourselves and see if there is any pride that can separate us from others.  Pray and ask God to reveal to you if there is pride.  God wants to set you free from pride so you can experience a deeper relationship with Him and others.

Secondly, how do you regard yourself compared to others?  Humility is not self-deprecating.  Humility is lifting others up and wanting the glory of God to shine in them more than we want the glory to shine on ourselves.

During the Winter Olympics, I love watching the couple’s ice skating.  I love seeing the male skater lift up the female skater and twirl her around while the audience roars in applause.  The male and female skaters are equally important.  However, the male skater’s pride is in lifting up the female skater and making her shine.  Such is the same with esteeming others over ourselves.

As a licensed counselor, I’m finding more and more people being professionally instructed to cut off relationships.  Being of one mind and having the same passions is now called ‘enmeshment’.  If we die to ourselves so others shine, we are ‘being taken advantage of’.  If we let others win an argument, we are being ‘manipulated’.  Friends, guard yourself against such lies.  The enemy is now disguising unity as disunity and disunity as unity.

If you discover pride in yourself, confess it to the Lord and change your ways.  If you feel you have let pride get in a way of a relationship, consider calling them up and having dinner with them.  Encourage them, compliment them and uplift them.  You will discover loving selflessly is the key to a joy-filled heart, just like Paul wants.

Scripture Memory and Homework 

We are memorizing Philippians 2:1-6.  It is one of my favorite passages of the Bible.  When you are finding yourselves having a hard time in a relationship, it is a great passage to bring to the forefront of your mind. Work through observation, interpretation, and application for Philippians 2:5-11 over this week. 


I also encourage you to pray through Philippians 2:1-4 and ask God to give you the passion and conviction for unity, the humility of Jesus Christ, and a selfless love that can embrace the hardest of hearts.

~Edna Lee


Week 4: Philippians 1:19-30

Warm Up Before the Hike

Consider sharing highs and lows of the week, then download the app, AllTrails.  Find a trail near you and set a date to hike it together.  Post your group pics or selfies to Instagram @sacredstoryministries or by e-mail to contact@sacredstoryministries.org.


As we enter week 4 of our hike through Philippians is anyone else saying, “I needed this!?” Life is a steep hike right now. Heavy life circumstances are mounting up and I needed to be reminded of Paul’s suffering, to put my own in perspective. Can anyone relate?

Last week we watched Paul demonstrate what it looks like to trust God when it doesn’t seem like God is moving. Emma challenged us to identify areas of our lives where we are struggling to see God move.  It caused me to change my prayer from, Father, fix this, to Father, show me how this suffering can advance your kingdom.  Not my will, but yours.

There’s no time to “sulk in our cells”. Let’s put on our hiking boots and move into greater intimacy with God and each other, just as Paul instructed us to “stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.”


19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. 27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved–and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Observation – What does the passage say?

  • Paul’s source of strength is the prayers of fellow believers and God’s provision through the Holy Spirit. (19)
  • Paul desires to maintain sufficient courage to honor Christ with his body whether alive or dead. (20)
  • Paul is torn between his passion for the church and his desire to be at home with Christ in heaven but is resolved that it is necessary for the church that he remains in fruitful labor. (21-24)
  • Cause/Effect – Because Paul chooses to persevere others will progress and joy in the faith and boast about Christ. (25-26)
  • Paul urges fellow believers to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel, unfrightened by those who oppose them as a sign of God’s deliverance, regardless of Paul’s outcome, regardless of what they may face, just as Paul is demonstrating for them. They must not only believe in Christ but also suffer for him as Paul is. (27-30)

Interpretation – What does the passage mean?

Reminding us of the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit, Paul calls on the believers in Philippi to intercede for him that he would receive sufficient courage to honor Christ in his suffering, whether he lives or dies.  He exhibits extraordinary perspective proclaiming that regardless of how it turns out God will use it for his deliverance.  Just as Christ chose to leave heaven and come to earth to suffer and die for us, Paul chooses to remain in the struggles of this earth for the sake of advancing the gospel although he desperately desires to be in heaven with Christ.  His perseverance will encourage the church to stand firm together in fear-destroying confidence to advance the gospel.  They are not immune to suffering.  They should expect it and commit to persevering with the mind of Christ.

“Sonic Light provides many insights on the meaning of the passage. Here are a few:

“The paradox of a man in prison—rejoicing—lies at the root of what this book is all about. Such an attitude demonstrates an unusual view of life. It is a uniquely Christian view of life. It demonstrates the “mind of Christ,” which is the key to this epistle.”

“Our life should be “worthy of the gospel” (1:27). This was one of Paul’s favorite ways to describe our conduct responsibility as Christians (cf. Eph. 4:1; Col. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:12). Worthy conduct is not just morally upright behavior. It is conduct that the gospel drives, conduct that aims at proclaiming the gospel, making it known. It is conduct that responds appropriately to God’s gift of grace to us.”

“The Christian life is not a playground; it is a battleground. We are sons in the family, enjoying the fellowship of the Gospel (1:1-11); we are servants sharing in the furtherance of the Gospel (1:12-26); but we are also soldiers defending the faith of the Gospel. And the believer with the single mind can have the joy of the Holy Spirit even in the midst of battle.”[98] Wiersbe

Application – What does the passage teach me about God and me?

My life is not a playground, so why do I expect it to be all sunshine and picnics?  How do I react when storms roll in?  I’m particularly frustrated by a big one right now that seems so unfair and hits me in the core of my soul. It is such a distraction from all the good work I had going.  What will I do with this prison cell?  Will I pout and hide behind closed doors to avoid public shame and hurtful labels?  Will I let the world determine the end of this story, or will I stand united with believers in fear-destroying confidence?

“In calling his readers to unite in steadfastly enduring the antagonism of unbelievers in their area, Paul was not asking them to do something he himself had not done. He was urging them to unite with one another, and with him, and to view suffering for their faith as a privilege that would glorify Jesus Christ. This exhortation is necessary for today, when we feel tempted to agree with, or go along with unbelievers, rather than taking a firm stand for our Lord.”

What are you enduring right now?  What does the world say about your circumstances?  Are you being tempted to give in?  Is it too much?

What if Paul hadn’t written? What if his pain was too debilitating, the outcome too bleak? What if it was too difficult to write a letter while in chains? Would it even reach the audience? Would they listen?

Who would miss out on God if I let my “too much” take away too much of my faith?

The higher I hold up the Sword of the Spirit the more opposition I will invite.  But there is only one sure way for victory in this life, and we have no fear of death.  “To live is Christ and to die is gain.”


Next week we’ll cover our memory verses, Philippians 2:1-4.  Spend 10-15 minutes a day: 2 days on observation, 2 days on interpretation, and 1 day on application.

Scripture Memory

Anyone else struggling with a memory verse mental block? Try reading and reciting 2:1-4 during your next work out.  Break down each verse and personalize it.  For example, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ,”… recall times you have received courage through Christ. And, so on.  Before you know it, the Word is deeply embedded in your soul and your workout is over.

Life is tough, the struggles are real, but our joy overflows!

In His Unfailing Love,


Week 3: Philippians 1:12-18

Warm Up Before the Hike

Consider sharing highs and lows of the week, and maybe share your favorite summertime memory from growing up too.


Welcome sisters to the mountains of God’s goodness and grace! For the past few weeks we have been traipsing through the book of Philippians, seeking to dwell closer with God and one another. Last week we learned about the joy of watching the lives of dear friends be transformed by the gospel and loving one another deeply. Deep friendship is an incredible gift from the Lord, and Laura’s post last week lead me to recall some particularly joyous friendships which have been saturated with God’s redemption, faithfulness, and goodness over the years. I encourage you to do the same! This week Paul shifted from pouring out his heart to a more exhorting progress report on his current imprisonment in Rome. I am excited to share with you the richness found in this passage about who we know Christ to be and how this knowledge transforms how we live!


12 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

Observation – What does the passage say?

  • Paul thinks his circumstances are being used to advance the gospel (v 12)
  • Everyone in the prison with Paul, including the Romans soldiers working as guards, have come to know Paul as a Christian (v 13)
  • Believers who are not in prison with Paul have experienced increased excitement and success in sharing the gospel. His circumstances have inspired fearlessness for the gospel! (v 14)
  • Paul thinks that God still uses the message of those preaching the gospel out of selfish ambition (v 15-17)

Interpretation – What does the passage mean?

Paul easily could have used this time in prison to pout that he was suffering instead of “succeeding”. However, he is steadfast in his knowledge that his life is about the furthering of the message of Christ, not about his own comfort and worldly success. While his circumstances are difficult (he is stuck in prison while other preach out of selfishness in his place), he is encouraged by the understanding because the goal is for Christ to be proclaimed and taught. We see Paul be singularly focused on the advancement of the gospel for the sake of the salvation of those not yet saved by the unending grace of God.

Application -What does the passage teach me about God and me? 

God didn’t waste Paul’s time during his imprisonment in Rome. It would have been so easy for Paul to sulk while watching his platform be stripped away from him while others preach from false motives in his place- I know I would have been very tempted to sulk in my cell! However, he chooses to see God’s sovereign hand moving, even in the hearts’ of the false teachers. We know from Romans 8:28 that God “works all things together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” and we watch Paul here walk out what it looks like to trust God when it doesn’t seem like God is moving.

Where in your life are you struggling to see God move?

Where are you tempted to proclaim hopelessness instead of clinging to the Living Hope?

God is our hope, our strength, our refuge. He is working all things together, so we can trust him when things seem bent out of shape.


Set a goal to rest in Philippians 1:19-30 for 15 minutes every day this week while moving through the spiritual rhythm of observation, interpretation, and application.

Scripture Memory

Continue memorizing Philippians 2:1-4. Adding on two new verses may seem intimidating at first, but memorizing sentences can be much easier than memorizing fragmented clauses. I personally have never been good at memorizing off of note cards, so I like to read the passage I am memorizing over and over and over again, and day by day it begins to be written on my heart. It is amazing how quickly Scripture integrates into part of your thought life and flows into heart language. I pray that those of you who share my similar restraint to memorization will find this method encouraging and successful!

This week let’s dwell in God’s love and freedom together- we are fully loved by our Creator even on our worst days. After all, this is what the book of Philippians is all about!

– Emma

Week 2: Philippians 1:1-11

Warm Up before the Hike    Consider sharing highs and lows of the week


Last week we surveyed the overall journey and gathered our gear to depart for a summer hike through Paul’s letter to the Philippians. We gained background information about how his relationship with the believers at Philippi began while realizing he pens his letter from a damp prison cell. Now you and I are setting out on the first “leg” of our hike by making the effort to apply the inductive Bible study method of observation, interpretation, and application through the first eleven verses. If you haven’t carved out the time to do your study of 1:1-11 and share with a friend or group, I strongly encourage you to do so before reading the thoughts below. You won’t regret receiving a firsthand encounter instead of just “hearing about the hike!”


Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 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, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Observation – What does the passage say?

Paul refers to himself and Timothy as servants and the Philippians as saints and partakers of grace with him (vss. 1, 7)

He blesses them with grace and peace, acknowledging both are from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (vs. 2)

Cause/Effect – When Paul thinks about the believers, he thanks God and responds by praying with joy (vs. 3-4) their ongoing partnership in the Gospel causes Paul to have joy (vs. 5)

Paul expresses his love for the believers when he says he holds them in his heart (vs. 7) and yearns for them with the affection of Christ Jesus (vs. 8)

Paul says he prays for them at the beginning of his letter (vs. 4) and then at the end he explains four requests: 1) your love to abound more and more (vs. 9) 2) you will approve the things that are excellent (vs. 10) 3) you will be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (vs. 10) 4) you will be filled with the fruit of righteousness (vs. 11)

Cause/Effect – when the believers are growing, it causes God to receive praise and glory (vs. 11)

Interpretation – What does the passage mean?

Paul pours out his tender love for his friends in the church at Philippi as his heart is tightly knit to them through serving together for the cause of Christ. He thinks about them and remembers how they defended the truth of the Gospel to those who are resistant. He also recalls the delight of watching lives transformed. Paul expresses gratitude for their friendship and support while he’s been in prison. He wants them to go onto maturity as he declares his confidence in God’s ability to complete the good work He began. Being unsure of what his future holds, Paul casts his concern for their spiritual health upon God as he depends on Him to maintain their growth in the Lord so that others offer praise to Jesus who is alive.

Sonic Light provides many insights on the meaning of the passage. Here are two:

*On Paul’s meaning of the gospel, “It does not take much reading of Paul’s letters to recognize that the gospel is the singular passion of his life; that passion is the glue that in particular holds this letter together. By ‘the gospel,’ Paul refers primarily neither to a body of teaching nor to proclamation. Above all, the gospel has to do with Christ, both his person and his work.”

*On 1:6 about God completing the good work, “This verse does not teach that God will keep all Christians faithfully persevering in the faith and in good works until they die. Believers can and do resist, oppose, and limit God’s sanctifying work in them (Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 5:19). Perseverance in faith and good works is not automatic for the Christian. The New Testament writers consistently urged us to persevere, recognizing that some Christians will not do so (Titus 2:11-13; Heb. 2:1; 4:1; 6:1-8; et al.). . . Even though some Christians do not persevere in faith and good works, God will persevere in bringing them to glory (i.e., will glorify them). Thus it is God who perseveres in the work of salvation, not necessarily man.”

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

Paul declares God’s promise that He will complete the good work He began and bring believers to glory. Being assured of our glorious destination as believers in Jesus’ death and resurrection, let’s ask God for fresh awe of knowing Him and becoming like Christ. Take time to examine if you are resisting, opposing, or limiting God’s sanctifying work in an area. Do you believe His healing and restoring power is greater than your hurts, habits, and sin patterns? Is there something you’ve given up on believing God can give you freedom and redeem? If so, confess your doubt and ask for a new experience of completion of the good work He began in you.

Paul’s hopes and prayers center around the spiritual health of his friends in Philippi. I am sure there were many physical needs given the persecution of believers and the socio-economic status of most men and women. Who can you pray for this week using Paul’s prayer as a guide? Spend some time praying his prayer for yourself and those who are studying with you.

HOMEWORK: Read Philippians 1:12-18 and then spend 10-15 minutes a day: 2 days on observation, 2 days on interpretation, and 1 day on application.

Scripture Memory: Memorize Philippians 2:1-2. As a reminder, we will be memorizing through verse 13 over the summer.

I am using index cards to help me memorize. However, I’d love to hear ways that you memorize Scripture as this is a struggle for me. Leave a comment below and help out this sister and perhaps others who are on the hike.

I continue to ask God to open your eyes to beautiful views that refresh you and quicken your joy as you take each step.



Week 1: Introduction to Philippians

Hi ladies, I am excited about our hike through the book of Philippians this summer. As we climb deeper into the Scripture, I am expectant to see beautiful views of God’s Word which will refresh our spirits and quicken our joy. We need each other when studying the Word of God to help us keep going and gain insight from one another. I pray you and your gal pals are gathering – whether one on one or as a group – and connecting weekly. As an icebreaker for your time together, consider sharing highs and lows for the past week.

Although the days of writing letters back and forth are a thing of the past, think about the last time you received an email or text from a friend you admire in the faith who reminded you of God’s faithfulness, encouraged you about your faith, let you know what was going on in his or her life while offering perspective. The apostle Paul penned the letter to his friends he cherishes at Philippi and as we will see, communicates all the above as he expresses reassurance, concern and love.

Background of Philippians

One of the resources we will be referencing is Dr. Tom Constable’s online commentary called Sonic Light. Dr. Constable explains the background:

“The story of the founding of the church in Philippi appears in Acts 16. Philippi was the first town in which Paul preached after he crossed the Aegean Sea from Troas and entered what we now call Europe. At that time, in A.D. 50, the city had few Jewish residents, and the first converts were Lydia, a Gentile businesswoman from Thyatira in the province of Asia Minor, and the Philippian jailer. The church evidently met in Lydia’s home at first (Acts 16:15).

Paul’s companions on his first visit to Philippi included Silas, Timothy, and Luke. Luke may have stayed in Philippi to establish the new converts when the other members of Paul’s missionary team moved on to Thessalonica. He may have remained there until he traveled to Troas to join Paul on his way to Jerusalem during Paul’s third missionary journey (Acts 20:5) . . .The Philippian Christians sent financial support to Paul in Thessalonica more than once (Phil. 4:15-16).

The apostle was a prisoner when he penned this letter (Phil. 1:7, 13, 16). References to the palace guard (1:13) and Caesar’s household (4:22) have led most interpreters to conclude that Paul wrote from Rome (cf. 1:19-24; 2:24). . . Evidently he did so during his first Roman imprisonment (A.D. 60-62), during which time he also wrote Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, the other Prison Epistles.”

Get a Feel for the Entire Terrain

Before beginning the different “legs” of a longer hike, it’s important to get a feel for the overall experience by looking at a map. We want to look at a high-level view of Paul’s letter to the Philippians before digesting bite-size chunks. While you are with your group, read the letter aloud by each of you taking turns. You may want to consider the ESV or NIV version. Ask each other, how would you describe the tone of the letter?

Strap on Your Gear: Let’s GO

Now it’s time to embark upon the first of twelve “legs” of our journey. Turn your attention to Philippians 1:1-11. We are using the inductive method of Bible study which means you are strapping on your gear and taking steps while we guide you. Here are the three areas of study:

OBSERVATION – What does the passage say?

INTERPRETATION – What does the passage mean?

APPLICATION – How does the meaning of this passage apply to me?

If you’d like a more thorough description look at this article. Observation is easy to gloss over quickly since it may feel like, “Duh?! The passage says what it says.” However, time spent making notes of observations is critical to accurate interpretation and application. While on a hike, you observe many details which will give you greater insight into the beauty of the whole experience.

Don’t miss out on the intricacies of how God wants to reveal Himself. Take a minute and brainstorm a dozen or so observations together.

HOMEWORK: Continue studying Philippians 1:1-11 for 10-15 minutes a day: 2 days of observation, 2 days of interpretation, and 1 day of application until our blog contributor meets you here next Tuesday the 11th.

Taking Photos of the Views

I worked with an organization for over two decades where we met in Colorado every other summer for a conference. image1.jpegI fell in love with being near the mountains. I enjoyed driving up into the Rockies with spectacular views. Photos are a must. Similarly, we want to capture images of Philippians in our mind which will stick with us beyond this summer. This is why Scripture memory is so important.

Over the next 12 weeks, we are aiming to memorize Philippians 2:1-13. This week you will commit Philippians 2:1 to memory. Take a few minutes and write it on an index card and place in visible sight. For practical input about memorizing Scripture, read Nancy Taylor’s book Taking the Word to Heart.

Study on sisters! AND leave me a comment to let me know how it’s going.


Practice: Rest

NOTE: This important message from Edna Lee wraps up our series on Praise and Practice. Next week we will launch our summer study on the book of Philippians. Grab gal pals and join in studying this powerful and moving letter written by the apostle Paul.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Exodus 20:17

Have you ever wondered why keeping the Sabbath, resting from work, is in the Ten Commandments?  Why didn’t God ask us to work diligently?  The Ten Commandments were created to instruct the Israelites on how to relate to God in a way that would make them set apart from the world, holy.  God wanted people to see the way the Israelites lived and want to know their God.

In order for us to understand God’s heart, it’s important to understand the Biblical concept of rest.  The first theological concept of rest is introduced when God created the world.  In Genesis 2:2-3, it says God created the world in six days and on the seventh day, He rested from all the work He had done.  He blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created.

Again, it’s interesting God would specifically mention He rested and He set apart His day of rest.  In Psalm 121:4, God does not sleep nor slumber.  He does not need physical rest the way we do because He is perfect.  When God rested, He enjoyed all that He created.  He delighted in His handiwork.

Another example of Sabbath rest is when the Israelites were walking through the wilderness.  God provided food for them each day called manna.  He instructed them to only pick up food for each day and not to gather food for the next day.  He also instructed them to gather double the amount of food on the sixth day because on the seventh day, He wanted them to rest from work.

Some Israelites did not obey His command nor trust God’s provision.  Instead, they stored up more manna than they needed.  As a result, their manna rotted.  Their physical, emotional and mental efforts were futile.  They controlled their anxieties by overworking rather than trusting God’s provision.

As a result of the Israelites not observing the Sabbath, the children of Israel were taken into captivity to Babylon for 70 years.   Jerusalem was burned and many people were killed.  Then the land was allowed to lay desolate for 70 years to enjoy her Sabbath rest.

God loves us and He wants us to rest in Him.  He wants us to have a sabbath attitude than can rest in Him and trust Him in all circumstances.  He also desires us to set aside time to rest from our work and delight and enjoy His handiwork in our lives.  God wants us to enjoy Him.  If we do not physically and spiritually rest in Him, we enter into a different kind of captivity – anxiety, depression, burnout and lack of joy.  Today, a person at peace is indeed set apart from our stressed and anxious world.

I identify closely with the Israelites who overworked themselves because they could not trust the Lord’s provision.  I desire to be one of the Israelites who trusted God’s provision and so entered into His rest.  Which Israelite are you and will you receive God’s invitation to rest?

~Edna Lee

Praise: God is Truth

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” John 14:6

Every year Oxford Dictionary declares a word of the year.  Words are debated and a winner is chosen based on what is “judged to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year and to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance.” In 2016 the word chosen was “post-truth.” This word was defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Does absolute truth exist? Who or what determines what is true? Is truth subjective or objective? While the definition of truth has never changed, the perception of it has devolved significantly in the last few decades. What used to be viewed as absolute has become purely subjective.

We live in an age of moral relativism and many claim there is simply no truth. Several years ago Chuck Colson stated, “We are living in the first generation in human history which has said that there’s just no such thing as a truth claim.” The Christian faith provides a different answer.

Truth is that which corresponds with reality. Truth is not an opinion, a belief based on the majority, a feeling, what makes us feel good or only what can be understood or proven. Truth is universal and unchanging applying to all people at all times. Giordano Bruno, a 16th century Italian philosopher and priest wisely said, “Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by the majority.” In other words, truth does not change because it becomes unpopular.

Truth has many attractive counterfeits today. The world says we can make up our own truth and live however we want but we decide to be “led by our hearts”–a common buzz phrase in today’s culture–we are prone to emotional whims. Jer. 17:9 is sobering when it tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” We cannot depend on our ever-changing emotions.

Truth is not passion, emotion or a good argument. It is found in knowing Christ and living according to God’s Word. The Bible is filled with promises that we can depend on. Because God never changes, His Word does not change even as our culture shifts more and more away from truth. God is our only objective source of truth. It has never been our job to define what it true. Our job is to believe the truth and respond rightly to it.

Jesus Himself claimed to be “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).  In John 18:37 Jesus stood before Pilate and said, “I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth.” We must understand truth is found in a Person:  Jesus. He is truth incarnate–the absolute embodiment of all that is true.

The Holy Spirit promises to lead us into all truth (John 16:13). As we submit to His leading through repentance of sin and a humble desire to obey, He will show us the way to live that glorifies Him and produces peace and blessing in our lives. Truth can and will set us free when we let God determine what is true, not us.

Will you today acknowledge your need for truth only found in Jesus?

Will you turn from counterfeit truth the world offers?

Tammy’s story highlights how God’s truth changed her life and gave her peace. Praise God we can rest in the truth as we sing, “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”



Practice: Study Philippians With Us

“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”  2 Corinthians 11:3  (NASB). image1.jpeg

I hope you’ve enjoyed our journey this Spring through Practices and Praise. They were all great reminders of ways we can refocus and serve our God. Meditation, fasting, worship, confession, service, submission each require hard work, but simplicity surprised me.

I just had the rare privilege to put Simplicity into practice when I was tested far beyond expectation. 

My sister has always been the outdoorsy type. She jumps out of perfectly good airplanes and scuba dives, while I take business and relational risks at sea level.  Joining her on a hike presented a great opportunity to practice simplicity.

1st simplicity challenge: pack everything you need for 4 days below the rim of the Grand Canyon in one awkwardly fitting pack that would soon become an extension of my being. 

2nd simplicity challenge: Choose one book to read at camp. Does your nightstand look anything like mine? Piles of devotions so high, your Bible is not recognizable. I found it. 

3rd simplicity challenge: Focus on your foot placement. One misstep could ruin the trip for everyone. 

Focus grew more important as I fought overwhelming waves of fear as we traversed 3’ wide trails carved by cliff sides. Traversing rock formations in our way had me longing for the formerly terrorizing 3’ wide path. Blowing rain and lightening intensified the situation and my focus was refined to one thing, one gaze, on one person, Jesus Christ.

The setting sun and new waves of storms forced us to set up camp on a ledge miles from shelter, surrounded 330 degrees by 4000’ drop offs. We took shelter in a tent supported by a hiking pole now threatening to be a lightening rod. The storms blew fierce as my sister phoned in our coordinates in event of disaster. 

This was not what I planned. 

Is life surprising you with storms? Are waves of fear all consuming? Can you see your own knees shake as you tell your legs and feet to keep climbing?

What expert advice is helping you now, what resources bring you peace? In every storm, the purpose of the storm is to strip us down to simplicity of focus on the only one who saves. If the Word isn’t in you when lightening strikes, it’s too late to find it hidden in your backpack. 

For 2 days, I recited every verse I could recall, every characteristic and name of God and every hymn from my childhood. I wished I knew more.

We must consume the Word of God before the winds come. We must hide it in our hearts.

This Summer, I hope you’ll join us as we hike through the book of Philippians and take on one simple challenge. How much of Philippians can you hide in your heart through focused study including effort on memorizing the scripture?

Will you and your friends take the challenge with us starting June 4th? Take a look at Laura’s post about how to prepare for the hike.

Pack your Bible and undivided attention. You will never be the same.