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Category Archives: Philippians

Philippians 1:9-11

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

Dear God, I’ve been doing prayer journals for nearly 20 years, and when I read this passage this morning my first thought was, man, I’ve done this verse and this topic from other verse a lot. But then I had another thought. Much like a football team that goes through practice, there are times for new revelation and adding something to your development as a football player and there are times when you need to work on the fundamentals of blocking, tackling, throwing, and catching. These verses are that. They are fundamentals of which I need to be reminded.

What is the fundamental idea here? Knowing you more and more so that your love flows through me, my character becomes more righteous, and then others are drawn to you. You know–blocking and tackling.

I suppose it all starts with the self discipline of spending time with you. Spending time praying. Spending time meditating on the Word you have left us as our scripture. Then it involves making sure that the Holy Spirit has good soil in my soul in which it can grown and bear fruit. That means getting out the thorns of the sin that so easily entangles us–sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. (Galatians 5:19-21) Even if we try to self-righteously say we don’t have some of these things choking out the Spirit, all of us have at least a couple.

Father, help me to block and tackle well today. Help me to carry you with me all day. Be glorified through me. If I sin (when I sin), help me to repent and be humble enough to bring glory to you too.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2019 in Galatians, Philippians

 

Philippians 4:4-5

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
Philippians 4:4-5

Dear God, yes! This is exactly the type of verse I wanted to find this morning. Thank you for making it Bible Gateway’s verse of the day.

Why was I looking for a verse like this? Because I have a presentation tonight to a political group. And it doesn’t matter what type of political group or where they are on the “left” to “right” spectrum. There is a lot of anger and animosity out there, and I am sure there will be at least a little in the room tonight. When I woke up this morning, the word I felt like I was getting from you was to be a source of joy and hope to them. The goal for the evening is to leave them with joyful, tender hearts that are full of hope for how we can ALL work together for your glory.

So I sat down this morning and hoped I could find a verse to pray over today. That’s when I opened up www.biblegateway.com and saw the verse of the day at the top of the page. Thank you.

So this is my prayer–that I would be the embodiment of this passage. That I would be full of joy. That I would rejoice in ALL things. That I would be considerate in all that I do. And that I would be mindful that you are real, you are my God and to be worshipped, and that one way or another, I will one day meet you face to face–whether it be in death or your second coming.

Father, full the room tonight with your Holy Spirit. Fill it with your joy. Love through me. Represent yourself through me. And for any hearts in there that aren’t yours, turn them to you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2019 in Philippians

 

The Prison Epistles – Ephesians, Philippians & Colossians

Ephesians

  • Ephesians 1:3,11-12 – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ…In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.
  • Ephesians 6:19-20 – Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly. Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you.

Philippians

  • Philippians 1:7, 12-14, 18b-26 – It is right for me to feel this way about all o you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me…Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly…Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 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. For to me, to live in Christ and to die is gain. 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! I am torn between two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 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, so that through my being with you gain your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.
  • Philippians 4:10-13 – I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Colossians

  • Colossians 1:22-29 – No I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
  • Colossians 4:2-4, 10-11 – Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim it clearly, as I should…My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me.

Dear God, I had a bit of a revelation a few weeks ago. This might sound silly to some, but I saw it in a new way: Paul had a very mature faith.

In my study of Job, I came across commentary that discussed The Stages of Faith by James Fowler. Here they are as described by him:

  1. Intuitive – Projective Faith: Associated with the child’s faith, based upon fantasy and imagination.
  2. Mythical-Literal Faith: The family faith of the early school years, which is sustained by moral rules and either/or thinking.
  3. Synthetic-Conventional Faith: Adolescent phase that conforms to the tradition of the community and creates the “kind” of person of faith it models or rejects.
  4. Individuative-Reflective Faith: The faith of the young adult who is capable of critical thinking, independent reflection, and comparative reasoning.
  5. Conjunctive Faith: A mid-life and old-age faith that integrates self-identity with a comprehensive world view to see the order, coherence, and meaning of life in order to serve and be served.
  6. Universalizing Faith: The rare faith of the world citizen who incarnates a transcendent vision into a disciplined, active, and self-giving life.
    (source: James W. Fowler, The Stages of Faith (New York: Harper and Row, 1976), chap. 14.)

He talked about how Job grew through his experience to the ultimate faith–Universalizing Faith. As I looked into it and thought about other biblical characters who had reached this faith, I came up with a few New Testament examples. Jesus was obviously one. But Paul was one of the others.

The passages above actually start with Acts 20:24 when Paul is on his way to certain arrest in Jerusalem and people warning him to not go. Paul’s answer is, “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the goal and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given to me. The task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” The remarkable thing is that these are not just words. While Peter only thought he knew what he was getting into when he told Jesus at the Last Supper that he would follow him to death, Paul actually lived up to his boldness recorded in Acts. How do I know this? Because of what he wrote while he was in prison.

That’s what I’ve recorded from three of the four letters he wrote while in prison (the fourth was a personal letter to Philemon about a slave). He doesn’t complain. He doesn’t try to figure out a way out of incarceration. He has enough perspective to use the incarceration to finish the goal and complete the task the Lord Jesus gave to him.

Imagine if he sat around and complained. Imagine if his letters had started out, “You people need to be grateful you aren’t where I am and you need to be getting about spreading the gospel because I can’t.” Or, “Why is God doing this to me? I was just trying to follow Him and do what is right, and now look where I am. Where is God is all of this?” That would have left us all a completely different example.

But Paul had “the rare faith of the world citizen who incarnates a transcendent vision into a disciplined, active, and self-giving life.” And he applied that faith to everyone else around him. He didn’t look at them and judge them by their outward circumstances. He evaluated them based on their motivations. He is quick to both praise and criticize in his letters, but he judges motivations and actions only.

Father, I am about to teach all of this to a Sunday school class this morning. Most are seniors who have lived lives longer than mine. They have seen more than I have, and goodness knows I am still learning these lessons. I still evaluate relationships based on what I am getting out of the instead of looking at what the other person needs that I can provide. That doesn’t mean I should allow myself to just be abused and have one-way, co-dependent relationships, but I can conduct myself in a way that considers my life worth nothing to me, if only I can finish the goal and complete the task you have given me. The task of testifying to the gospel of your grace.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2018 in Acts, Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians

 

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Philippians 3:14

I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Philippians 3:14

Dear God, I wonder if the person who chooses the Bible Gateway verse of the day was involved in Fellowship of Christian Athletes in the 80s, because the Hebrews 11:1 from two days ago and now the Philippians 3:14 are both verse that were themes for national conferences I went to in 1984 and 1985. Anyway, it’s always neat when I run into one of these verses, but is really special when it happens twice in three days.

I’ve been at a hospital conference the last few days and one of the topics that has come up often is the appropriateness of care—especially end-of-life care. We have reached a point in our society where we have much more control over what the end of the race looks like than we did when Paul wrote these words. The end of the road often came fast and abruptly for them. The prize of which she speaks was much closer at hand. I am 48 now. If I had lived then I would probably be an elder. On the board on which I sit, I am the second youngest. Technology has changed so much over the last 100 years—even the last 20 years. So much so that we have started to adopt an attitude that we don’t want the prize. If we get sick, we want to do everything we can to run the race. But not necessarily to run the race for you, but to race for ourselves. We want to see our grandchildren do this or that. We don’t want to leave our spouse or our children. As I sit here and think about it, our reason for wanting to continue to run is probably all wrong.

Father, I will have decisions to make about myself and my life one day. I will possibly have to make a decision for my wife. I might have to counsel my parents or siblings. In fact, recently, I had to counsel a patient about calling hospice. But when I get to those times, help me to remember that life is truly all about the prize, and the race itself is not about me and the “bucket list” things on my agenda. It’s about running the race for you you, through Christ Jesus, called me.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2018 in Philippians

 

Philippians 3:4-11

…though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

Philippians 3:4-11

Dear God, knowing Christ and becoming one with him. That’s the goal.

It makes me think of the best people I’ve ever known. None of them had to tell me how great they were. None of them told me about other people’s weaknesses and put them down. At their funerals, they are the kind of people about whom others say, “I never heard them say a negative thing about anyone else.” Those are people who know what grace is and have become completely comfortable in renouncing their own self-righteousness and embracing knowing Jesus and becoming one with him.

Father, move me closer to that today. Move me closer to being a builder and not a destroyer. Help me to reject the lie of self-righteousness and embrace the idea that my hope is built on nothing more or less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

I pray all of this through the power of His name,

Amen

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2018 in Philippians

 

Philippians 1:6

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Philippians 1:6

Dear God, I can feel myself getting better. Not that I am becoming a better and better person, but I am learning to lean more on you throughout the day when I run into struggles. I can think of two specific examples of tiles at work recently when I came up against something that flummoxed me, I prayed to you about it in real time, and you brought me an answer. There was no brilliance on my part. In both moments, I was scared and frustrated, and I silently talked to you about needing your help and intervention. In one case, you gave me the words to say. In another you actually gave me some small miracles in answer to my prayer.

I still have so much growing to do, but it is awfully nice to feel like I am maturing in you at least a little. Of course, I’ve been pursuing you as a discipline Christian for over 30 years so one could make the case that I’ve hardly grown at all over that time. But again, I’m grateful that I at least feel like I’m making progress, and I’m grateful that that progress is learning to lean more on you and less on me.

Father, I want get to the point where every breath I take is in communion with you. It’s hard to imagine ever getting there. And I have to wonder what kind of person I’d be like to live with if I got to that level. But I trust that any growth I have in you will bring me closer to my wife and who you need me to be for her, not push us apart. So today is another day. Bless the work of my hands, but do it for your glory’s sake and because it’s the work you want done.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2018 in Philippians

 

The Most Popular Verses

Dear God, I’m a devoted reader of Fred Smith’s weekly blog, and I enjoyed what I read this morning about The Soil of Partial Truth. In it, he listed the five most popular verses in the Bible. This is the order in which he listed them. I don’t know if it is by popularity or not. I’d be surprised if it was. They were:

  • Jeremiah 29:11 – …”For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “Plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope…”
  • Psalm 23:4 – Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, the comfort me.
  • Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
  • John 3:16 – “For God so love the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
  • Romans 8:28 – And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Instead of looking at the meaning of each verse and going into whether or not they are out of context (for example, the Jeremiah 29:11 is REALLY out of context if you read that verse alone), I want to talk to you about why we are drawn to these specific verses and what it says about what we need from you.

With the Jeremiah verse, I think it means that our psyche needs to know that you are in charge and that things are going to work out well. Now, while you are, indeed, in charge, working out “well” is a relative term and needs the broader context. But our human hearts want to know that our circumstances are going to work out well for us.

The verse from Psalms is about addressing our fears. we need your comfort during the times that we are afraid–especially of death. Whether it is our death or the death of another, we need your comfort when we are afraid. And that’s okay.

Philippians 4:13 is about leaning on you and looking to you for our strength. It’s a good one and a good reminder that we need you. The Isaiah 40:31 about those that wait on you will mount up with wings like eagles is a good one for this sentiment too.

I love the John 3:16 one because it is actually right in the middle of Jesus’ rant to Nicodemus. He’s trying to explain being born again and gets on a roll. I actually enjoy this whole speech more than just this verse. But in the end, Jesus is convincing an unbelieving Pharisee to believe.

And the Romans 8 verse brings us back to the need to know that it’s all going to be okay. I think the danger here is that we know that sometimes those who love you suffer, and we are looking at these verses and hoping that the suffering will happen to someone else and not us.

Father, I think, at the end of the day, we are just looking for your comfort, your strength, and your reassurance. We need to be reassured that you are there, we have access to you, and that, at least on the other side of death, there is hope. It would probably be good for me to sit down and some point and talk about my favorite scriptures/stories of the Bible. I wonder what looking at that collection of passages would reveal about me.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen