The Beginnings of the Prayer Project – Reflections on Philippians 3

This has been a watershed chapter for me. It has granted me deep desires that I am acting on to help me grow in my faith. But, first, from the chapter itself.

In my Bible, the first part of the chapter is entitled The Inadequacy of the Flesh. Paul thought he was doing everything right by persecuting the followers of Jesus. His background, his zeal, what he was doing in his own strength would be what got him to heaven. Those thoughts are not very different from what a lot of people think today. However, Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, and it changed his life. It turned everything he thought about himself and God upside down. He learned that Christ was sufficient.

Nothing else mattered. It was not the law that brought righteousness from God, but faith in Christ. And this faith gave Paul a deep desire to know Christ. I especially liked what Verse 12 had to say because it shows that Paul was a human being just like the rest of us.

“Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.”

He doesn’t claim he is better than that rest of the people he is writing to. What matters is that Jesus is in him, and he is pursuing God’s call home to heaven.

This leads to the final section of the chapter where Paul appeals to the Philippians and to all of us. This world is not our home so our focus is not supposed to be on earthly things. As Verse 20 says, “our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now, back to what I said in the first paragraph. This chapter and other things in my life have brought out a deep desire to know my Lord and Savior. And the best way to know someone is to talk with them. With God, this talking is known as prayer. All of us who profess faith know this, but what I have realized is that my prayers need to go deeper than the prayers offered at mealtime or prayers offered in desperation. They need to be consistent and specific. So, today, I am starting something I am calling the Prayer Project.  I am looking forward to seeing how God moves in my community. Prayer changes lives, and it helps us to know our Lord and Savior better. All we have to do is pray.

God’s blessings on you today!

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Reflections on Philippians 2

As I get further into this letter, I’m becoming more aware of how much a community the first century Christians were and how far present day Christians have gone from what God intended. Our time at church now is spent going from person to person and making sure we have surface conversations, not taking the time to really listen to the person we’re talking to because we want to make sure we get to the next person. How sad! God intended that we know the people we worship with, that they should be just as much family to us as the people who share our homes. But, I digress. I’m here to reflect on what I learned from the second chapter of Philippians.

This chapter starts with Paul saying how all believers should be of the same mind, think the same way, have the same love,  and share the same feelings as they focus on one goal. That doesn’t mean believers are all robots. It just means that we have Jesus in our hearts and minds, and we are loving and taking care of others like Jesus would. Verses 3 and 4, in particular, portray this message.

“Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

After this introduction, the chapter continues and tells the reader about having a Christ-like attitude and how we should be obedient to the point of going to the cross like Christ did. Verses 9 – 11 are verses that have been quoted often in songs and in sermons.

“For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow–of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth–and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

There are so many good verses in this chapter I almost hate to keep quoting them as this is supposed to be what I think about what I read. The next section talks about obedience and how we’re to work out our own salvation. I’ve not understood before what the difference was between the words Paul used about “working out your own salvation” and the grace and mercy we receive from Christ. I understand it better now though.  It means that God is working in us so we will desire what He wants and become more like Him. It’s what we signed up for when we asked Him into our hearts. And when we open our hearts like we should, He is able to do the work we asked Him to do in our lives.

And finally, Paul ends this chapter by telling the Philippians he will be sending Timothy and Epaphroditus to them. He does this so they will be encouraged in the faith and encouraged to have news of him. I believe this is also a way of encouraging us to take care of those who are in ministry and who minister to us.

I learned a lot from reading and studying this chapter and know that I will learn just as much from the other two chapters of this book.

God’s blessings on you today!

 

Stealing Our Joy

For those of us who claim Christ, this is what Satan most likes to do. He likes to steal our joy and take us away from the peace that is ours through Jesus. It can be an easy thing to do when you are worn down by life as I have been for the last several weeks. It can be an even easier thing to do when you have a hard time letting people in to your heart as I do as well. I don’t know what the solution is. I’ve been told I write my way through the things I need to think about well so this is my attempt to do so.

It’s hard for me to let people in when I hurt. I feel like I should always show joy because of my faith. There is a person at my church who is a good example of showing joy even though her mother died recently. People flock to her and are there for her. I know that sounds like jealousy, and I don’t mean it that way. I guess I just have fear that people won’t be there for me, and I believe a lot of that comes from my upbringing. My upbringing that taught me I wasn’t a valuable person. My upbringing that says I deserve it when people say cruel words to me. My upbringing that won’t let me let go of fear even when Jesus says I should. I revert back to my old patterns when life overwhelms me as it has in the past month.

So, is there any solution or is this something I will work through for the rest of my life? I think the answer to both halves of this question are yes although the question itself sounds like one of the answers should be a no. The solution is to hang onto my relationship with Jesus Himself which I have, sometimes with a desperation  that surprises even me. God hears my prayers, and He is always there for me even when no one else is. Even when I feel alone. So, in that sense, I will work through these feelings for the rest of my life.

In the previous paragraph, I state the most obvious solution to how I need to handle Satan’s attempts to steal my joy–to hang on to God with all my might. But, there is something else God wants for me, and it is something I am the most fearful of because of the chance of rejection. God wants me to let people, regular human beings, into my heart and have relationships with them. He is waiting to use them to bring joy into my life and allow me to show His joy if I will only let Him. Wow, the last sentence just jumped off of my fingers without me even thinking about it! I guess I know what I need to work on now.  🙂

God’s blessings on you today!

 

 

Reflections on Philippians 1

I began my study of Philippians last week with the first chapter. By reading the entire chapter first and then studying each section, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of what Paul, the writer, was trying to convey. And with this understanding, I think a lot of us who claim Christ, especially in the Western church, have missed the boat on discipling new believers. I’ll explain what I mean in a minute. First, though, I’ll discuss what I learned in each section.

The first two sections are where Paul greets the Philippian believers and gives thanks for them. I don’t believe we speak enough positive affirmation into the lives of other believers. God wants us to though; He wants us to live in community with one another, and using Scripture to speak affirmation is something, I believe, God planned when He gave us His Word. Verses 3 – 6 are especially good for this.

“I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

This section and the next also talk about how we are to always pray for one another and encourage each other in our growth as believers. We are not to just pray for each other in serious situations. We are to pray for each other always. I have to admit I am not always the best at this. I have to work constantly on not thinking about myself all of the time and thinking of others instead. It is a constant battle, but one that Christ will help us with if we only ask.

In the next section, Paul speaks of his imprisonment and how it is in the cause of Christ. Most of us today, especially in the Western world, wouldn’t have that attitude about being imprisoned. We don’t understand that we need to proclaim Christ through our storm. I will admit this is hard for me though I’ve come to a greater understanding of why we’re supposed to do this over the last few years.

This understanding was cemented by my reading of the last two sections. Paul is encouraging the Philippians to be firm in their faith and to work together, to live in community. He says we will suffer in this life, but that God wants us to know we are NOT alone. We are never alone. And because of this understanding, I claim Philippians 1:20 as one of my life verses.

“My eager expectation and hope is that I will not be ashamed about anything , but that now as always, with all boldness, Christ will be highly honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”

Now, after I have explained all of this, let me explain what I meant at the beginning of this post. I think we miss the mark on accepting new believers into our faith communities and explaining what that really means. The emphasis on individualism in the Western world is not how Christ wants us to live. He wants our faith family to be just as much family to one another as our blood family. This requires  a fundamental shift in our attitudes especially with those in our faith families who are different than us. I pray my understanding of how to live in a community of believers will continue to grow.

God’s blessings on you today!