Archive for the ‘Philippians’ Category

Word for Today – Philippians 2:21

Seeking Their Own Interests

As I ponder Scripture, I don’t ever want politics to hinder my messages to you. However, sometimes political figures provide great examples of how not to do things as Christ followers. Today, is such a day. I’m not questioning the heart of my good, bad example because even the most seasoned Christians have lessons to learn. I am merely jumping on a teachable moment.

“All of them are seeking their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:21 NRSV).

Naming names isn’t important here, but the facts are:

  • An expensive state-funded train engine is named after a certain government official evident by the custom plaque adorning the front of the locomotive.
  • A recently completed interstate exchange is assigned the name of this political figure.
  • A spaceport runway is christened with, you guessed it, the same name.
  • The University of New Mexico hospital is permanently identified with the same name.

I’m not saying that great people should never be memorialized for their accomplishments; after all, look how many things are named after our first president, George Washington and other great leaders. But, in the case I’m sharing (and I doubt it is and isolated incident), many New Mexico residents question the greatness of this official with the ubiquitous name who, by the way, is still alive and currently in office.

I could be wrong, but it seems logical that the honor of having a pubic structure or project named after oneself should stem from 1) a great accomplishment of public benefit, and/or 2) an exceptional act of heroism or sacrifice. At best, these standards are debatable in the life official I’m talking about.

Many may not agree with me and that’s fine, however I’ve not shared my personal opinion about this individual. So far every thing I have shared is factual information. I only expressed my opinion about the criteria I believe should be used in naming infrastructure and public projects.

From where I sit, this public servant is a good example for bringing to life the premise of Philippians 2:21 of not “seeking our own interests.” I could be wrong, but it appears that this official is a master of chasing his own interests. Other facts supporting him as a good example of what to avoid stems from his purchase of a private plane with state funds, many public buildings and other locomotives bearing the names of his friends, the fact that many of the people he surrounds himself have had brushes with the law, and him being investigated for questionable financial dealings involving state money and awarding public projects.

No matter what I think, there is no denying that something is not right with this elected official and others engaging in what looks a lot like political shenanigans. Too many facts point to him and other public servants chasing their own self interests over those they are elected to serve. I don’t know this particular official’s religious affiliations, but it appears that he is a good example of how not to live for Christ. But, more importantly, it also opens to door for us to ask ourselves, Are we living for Christ or our own interests?

Word for Today: Don’t live as those seeking their own interests, live for Christ.

Posted by on November 28th, 2010 2 Comments

Word for Today – Philippians 2:14

Shine Like Stars

I really don’t want to write about today’s topic because it packs a bit more a of personal sting than I’d like, but here I go:

“Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world” (Philippians 2:14 NRSV).

Are you squirming as much as I am? It’s time to shine the light on the cobweb of complaints lurking in the darkest recesses of our hearts and minds.

We tend to complain when things do not go according to our plan, and we are directly affected. My biggest area of complaining involves my house. I’ll admit that efficient time management does not come naturally for me. Combine that with my love of writing, editing, consulting, and it makes for a cluttered and chaotic existence that seems to bother me more than it does any of my testosterone-laden family members.

I’m not a purest when it comes to murmuring. Instead of outright complaining, I get subtle digs in here and there for anyone within earshot: Gee, I worked all day and the house is still a mess, or As usual, I don’t have time for anything else because I have to do never-ending chores.

Outwardly I may be subtle, but I’m embarrassed to admit that my inner-most thoughts are anything but subtle. I know it sounds terrible, but now is no time to be silent. The cobwebs in the dark part of my mind cling to negative things. If my husband would help out around the house, I’d have more time to spend with him. If my son would use some of his teen energy to help me out, I wouldn’t be such a slave to my house. (See why I didn’t want to talk about this? Transparency is not fun.)

As I fill my inner cobweb with complaints it is easy to forget that my husband works hard all day and is a great provider. My self-centered thoughts chase away positive things about my son like the fact he doesn’t party, he has a job, and is a beloved baby sitter. When we complain, negativity blinds us the to the good things in our lives. Is there a balance between legitimate concerns and unnecessary complaining? Of course there is, but when we murmur too much we are less likely to take a healthy approach.

Jesus is a wonderful example of not complaining. Look at the events of his crucifixion. If anyone had reason to murmur, he did! He paid a debt he didn’t owe. We are the sinners, not Jesus. However, he took on our punishment because he loved us. As a result, he is still shining brighter than any star in the world.

We will never be Jesus, but if we can love what is good about others and release the complaints from our inner cobwebs, we will shine like Jesus to the world.

Word for Today: Do all things without murmuring so you will shine like stars in the world.

Posted by on November 24th, 2010 5 Comments

Word for Today – Philippians 2:5-6

Touch Hearts

The world is full of sayings describing  people who think more of themselves than they should.

  • He thinks he is God.
  • She thinks she is the greatest thing since sliced bread.
  • He acts like he hung the moon in the sky.

No one in their right mind would actually say such things about themselves, but we often have no qualms acting out such egotistical nonsense among others.

There is only one person who can claim all these mighty things and be 100 percent correct, however he chose to live as a lowly man while setting a divine example for us to follow:

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited” (Philippians 2:5-6 NRSV).

Jesus was God, yet he set aside that equality to walk among mortal man. Why is it we have such a hard time walking within that realm when we actually start out as man? We are no where near God in scope, but some of us act we are.  We, and I’m including Christians, often elevate ourselves above others.

I’ve seen learned Bible students at the church level strut their academic prowess like peacocks in all their splendor. I’ve been waved off my church leaders who are suppose to lead me. But, I’ve also seen generous hearts shared by Christians in high places.

Several years ago at a training seminar I was on faculty with Florence Littauer, a well-known Christian author and speaker. One of the attendees was engaged in a heart-felt conversation with Ms Littauer when one of the event organizers whisked much-loved celebrity away to meet a fan.

The attendee was grateful for the time the famous speaker spent with her, but was disappointed that their chat ended so abruptly. Imagine the attendee’s surprise when Ms Littauer actually sought her out several hours later to finish their conversation. That Christian leader touched a heart that day.

That is what Jesus is all about. He did not exploit the fact he was God . . . he touched hearts. No one reaches people when they wrap themselves in a mantle of haughtiness. If anyone had the credentials to strut his stuff like peacock or wave off people because of his greatness, it was Jesus. However, he decided to disregard his equality with God and touch hearts instead.

Word for Today: Don’t get so wrapped in who think you are in God that you forget to touch hearts.

Posted by on November 22nd, 2010 No Comments

Word for Today – Philippians 2:3

Regard Others As Better Than Yourself

I’m selfish. What about you? Most Christians would rather feign unselfishness than admit their ego-centric attitudes. As much as we want to parade our spirituality before others, there is no denying that our “fleshiality” often drives our motives. It’s hard not think about me, me, and me. We all do it to some extent.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourself” (Philippians 2:3 NRSV).

Setting ourselves aside is hard! After all, from the day we were born it’s been about us. WAH . . . I’m hungry! WAH . . . change my diaper! WAH . . . just ‘cuz! Our demands don’t naturally change because we grow up, except that most of us don’t bawl to get our way. Oh no, we are much more refined as adults; we manipulate things to feed our desires and often have no problem plowing over those who stand in our way. It’s human nature.

How do we live as encouraged by Philippians 2:3? It’s not easy, but we must set ourselves aside. Early in our marriage my husband learned that I expected cake for my birthday. I’d grown up celebrating with special creations every year, and I wasn’t about to go without just because I was married. I don’t remember how I trained him, but I’ve had cake every birthday for over 20 years. It doesn’t matter how busy Warren is or if he’s been traveling for work, I get my cake.

However, the funny thing is that I am now to the point that if no one remembers my birthday, much less gets me cake, I’m fine. It took years, but eventually the “me” disappeared, and I have more fun celebrating other people’s birthdays.

Despite my cake break-through, I’m still pretty selfish. How about you? I still have the occasional pity party when “I” can not keep my house clean, and “I” expect others to help. Certain things can only be done “MY” way. And, as much as I hate to admit it, I still want to meet God on “MY” terms.

Setting aside selfish ambition and conceit is not easy. However, the great news is by taking it step-by-step in the small things, it paves the way for us to start to regarding others as better than ourselves. When we start by humbly letting go of the small things, like me and my cake, it becomes easier and easier to put others first in the big things.

Word for Today: Let go of the small things, and it becomes easier to “regard others as better than yourself.”

Posted by on November 18th, 2010 2 Comments

Word for Today – Philippians 1:27-28

The Evidence of Your Salvation

We will be tested. That is one of those facts of life when we live according to Christ and operate in faith. I recently returned home from a writers conference; wild and wacky situations invaded the lives of many attendees as they prepared for, and returned home from, their mountain-top experiences.

One attendee asked for pre-conference prayers as she struggled through sleepless nights. Many first-timers packed conference jitters alongside clothes stretching both nerves and suitcases beyond their limits. Still others had silly conflicts with spouses and loved ones they left behind while pursuing their dreams of writing.

When all the lessons had been learned and new connections made, it was time for all attendees to turn their hearts toward home again. Stepping back into reality, many of us were greeted by welcome mats of migraines, colds, wayward children, and car accidents.

“Only live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidences of their destruction, but of your salvation” (Philippians 1:27-28 NRSV).

It doesn’t matter if you attend a writers conference to write for Christ, or whether you strive in other ways to accomplish things for him, trials will happen. Expect difficulties when living for God. The devil wants us to fail. He wants us to tumble down the mountain side once we’ve had revelation at the top. Whether it’s a writers conference or something else, Satan wants to deliver a knock-out punch making us ineffective servants of God.

He wants us mad at life. He wants us angry at those we love the most. He wants us to crumble under the weight of everyday life. But, in the midst of the fiery darts he shoots at us, we need to live according to Christ and operate in faith. The evidence of our faith is the divine shield deflecting every weapon the devil hurls in our direction.

After the conference I moved forward despite the cough trying to thwart God’s plan for my day. I kept my peace when my son called to inform me of his morning car accident; instead I praised God it wasn’t serious. And I prayed for other attendees stepping on their own welcome mats of reality after the conference. Let troubled reality be rendered ineffective by the evidence of our salvation.

Word for Today: Let the evidence of your salvation be the shield between you and the devil.

Posted by on November 16th, 2010 No Comments

Word for Today – Philippians 1:25-26

Boast in Jesus Christ

From the time my boys were young, I worked at developing humble spirits in their little hearts. If you were to ask them my stance on praise, they’d probably give you a little smile, subtly roll their eyes, and say in a sing-song sort of voice, “Save your praise for others and let others praise you.”

Those words have been launched from my lips like flying tentacles whose mission was to wrap themselves around my son’s minds so they would develop humble hearts. I’ve met with a degree of success. My boys are very confident in themselves, and sometimes I still have to remind them them about proper praise.

According to the apostle Paul, there is One who is the most deserving of our praise:

“…I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again” (Philippians 1:25-26 NRSV).

It is good to praise others, but it is more important to boast in Jesus. After all, “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). Whether in the physical or the spiritual, God gives us his best. It makes sense that we should boast in him most of all. It is true that God uses people as his hands and feet on earth; they are praiseworthy. But, ultimately, we need to reserve our most fervent boasting for God.

When I acknowledge others for the good things they have done, their responses often give God all the glory. That is true, but without willing vessels to work on God’s behalf there would be fewer good gifts distributed on earth. So, willing vessels do deserve recognition, but ultimately all glory, for all things goes to God.

Word for Today: Praise others, but boast in Jesus Christ.

Posted by on November 12th, 2010 No Comments

Word for Today – Philippians 1:15-18

Christ is Proclaimed in Every Way!

Why do Christians go to church? Why do Christians help others? Why do Christians preach the Gospel?

These questions may seem like no-brainers, but let’s not assume we know the answers. Philippians 1:15-17 provides a backdrop by which to reconsider the typical answers to these musings:

“Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. These proclaim Christ out of love . . .the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition” (vs 15-17 NRSV).

Now, let’s take another look at those questions:

Why do Christians go to church?

Many go to honor Christ, fellowship with the body, and learn. Others go to  better their social standing in the community or network for their career.

There was a time I went for knowledge. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but I turned it into a type of envy and rivalry. For selfish reasons, I envied those who were more learned than me. I should have been inspired to become like them, but I was envious and wanted to be the Queen of Bible Trivia! Then it got to be where I wasn’t happy unless I knew more than anyone around me. My church attendance was a bit about ME than it was Jesus.

Why do Christians help others?

Many do so because it is the right thing to do and because they genuinely want to. Others go through the motions for tax breaks and bragging rights.

I recently heard a story about a couple from my past. I cannot confirm or deny the truth, but the story provides a great example. Supposedly the husband has not honored his marriage vows, yet is held in high esteem as a leader in his church. He has been lauded because of his work in the community. Whether what I heard is fact or fiction, something does not add up when any Christian navigates a ungodly road of deception and betrayal, while being lauded for helping others.

Why do Christians preach the Gospel?

Many proclaim it because they genuinely care for the souls of others, while others do if for fame and financial gain.

A great example of the fame aspect is televangelists. I know there are genuine people getting God’s message out via the airwaves . . .both radio and TV. But, I’d be naive to think there were no “snake-oil salesmen” just looking to support their lavish lifestyles. You know what I’m talking about!

Behind all of our actions are motives as numerous as grains of sand on the beach. Some area good; others are not. We’ve all witnessed the noble and not-so-noble sides of Christianity. And, we all come down on one side or the other. Maybe you’ve even been like me and been on both sides! But, what does God do when our motives are less than honorable?

“What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice” (Philippians 1:18).

That verse may not compute immediately, but let’s look at in context of the above examples.

What about my knowledge envy and my desire to be the queen of Bible smarts? My motives were less than desirable, but during that time I enlightened a lot of people causing them to fall in love with the Bible. Even with less than pure motives, I helped educate those in God’s kingdom.

What about the example of the unfaithful husband? God in no way condones that behavior, but if an abandoned spouse turns to God, a whole new world may blossom for them despite the pain. Despite the fact that the man I  mentioned may not have been faithful to his wife,  it’s possible that his efforts in the community still showed people Jesus’ love.

I knew a Christian guy whose wife left him for an Internet relationship. During the divorce proceedings she was a little audacious in her requests when dividing their property. Something inside of the man told him to let her have what she wanted. He didn’t like it, but he obeyed the voice. Little did he realize that a co-worker watched him throughout the process. The co-worker was so impressed with how the Christian man handled everything, he asked the man how he got through the divorce with such grace. That question opened to the door for the divorced man to share the Gospel. Through the less than honorable actions of one, another was saved.

How about the televangelists? Even when their motives center around themselves, I know people who have been saved when watching some of those TV yahoos. The evangelist may not be genuine, but God’s message is.

Isn’t God amazing? He can make good out of bad. Hopefully, those who have the wrong motives will be set right at some point . . . I know I was. But, in the meantime let’s rejoice!

Word for Today: Whether motives are genuine or not, Christ is proclaimed in every way.

Posted by on November 7th, 2010 2 Comments

Word for Today – Philippians 1:7

Because You Hold Me

We are always throwing around phrases like, “I’ll keep you in my prayers,” “You are in my thoughts,” “I hold you in my heart.” Now, I’m no expert, but most people, Christian or otherwise, appreciate hearing those words because they are usually spoken to comfort the recipients through difficult times.

But have you ever thought about the recipients response to someone investing such interest in them? Let me explain.

When the Apostle Paul wrote the New Testament book of Philippians, he was in prison; a literal captive due to his devotion to Christ. No doubt many of his devotees thought often about his predicament, thus giving him a prominent place in their thoughts, hearts, and prayers. Paul was particularly touched my the the Philippian believers, hence the letter he penned specifically to them.

Paul opened his letter by expressing his great joy in them, and how he constantly prayed for them. He goes on to say:

“It is right form me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart” (Philippians 1:7 NRSV).

Before reading Paul’s words, I had never given any thought to my response to others when, for whatever reasons, they held me in their hearts. I always appreciated the position they reserved for me, but I never thought of actually responding to it.

As I ponder this new revelation, I immediately think of people I know going through difficult times. They are affected by health issues, the loss of loved ones, and even spiritual struggles. These people drift effortlessly throughout my daily thoughts and prayers. I want them there and am grateful for the quiet, yet powerful way to gird them up.

However, I never, never expected them to give thanks for or pray for me! Yet, that is a very biblical concept. Paul, despite being imprisoned, rejoiced in and prayed for those who carried him in their hearts. That’s Christianity – expect the unexpected!

Another thought I had involves the loved ones who reserve a spot for us in their hearts: parents, spouses, children, friends, etc. Both inside and outside of my family I’ve seen the “beloved” be absolutely terrible to the one who carry them in their hearts.

Parents reject children, children pain their parents, friends hurt friends. You know what I mean? This verse has opened my eyes to the travesty of people hurting the ones that love them the most . . . it is not right, nor is it Christ-like.

No matter where you fall, remember to respond appropriately to those who hold you in their hearts.

Word for Today: Lord, because you hold me, help me to remember to pray for those who also hold me in their hearts.

Posted by on November 5th, 2010 No Comments