Saturday 30 November, 2013

Philippians 4:4-7

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I am not particularly good at committing sections of scripture to mind, but this is certainly one that I have been able to readily recall from memory for at least 10 years. I am not the sort of person who suffers from significant anxiety, but I do recognise that there is a very clear reason that “fear not” is the most common command in the Bible!

Having studied some basic psychology, I know that a current, well proven approach to treating anxiety disorders is to use something called “cognitive-behavioural therapy” or CBT I’m probably oversimplifying, but CBT is based on the idea that our minds and our emotions and our behaviours all feed one another, so in order to deal with emotions that are out of control, we need to put effort into managing the thoughts and behaviours that contribute to the emotion.

While CBT is a relatively modern approach to management of anxiety, it is intriguing to see how well Paul understood these same principles. In Romans 12 he calls us to be “transformed by the renewal of our minds” and here in Philippians, he instructs us first to address the way we are thinking to rejoice rather than worry (vs 4) and then he addresses the behaviour side of things by encouraging prayer and petition, and then reminds us about the issue again of our thoughts by adding “with thanksgiving.”

Lord, thank you that you understand our innermost souls and all the things that cause us concern and worry. Thank you that Jesus is the Prince of Peace and thank you for giving us the Holy Spirit who gives us the power to overcome our worst fears. We praise you that your perfect love casts out all fear, in Jesus’ name Amen!

Written by Justin Ware

1 (reply)
  1. David Newton says:

    I love this scripture. – When the pressure of life squeezes tight you are not afforded the luxury of applying complex doctrine to the defend yourself. You need scripture that is simple to remember and easy to do.

    Regarding CBT, it is such and effective tool for dealing with modern life I believe it should be taught in high schools as core curriculum. That and personal financial budgeting.

    Thank Justin, I am always interested to hear what you have to say!

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Friday 29 November, 2013

Philippians 4:2-3

2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

As Paul points out here both Euodia and Syntyche had worked with him ‘in the cause of the gospel,’ so they were on the same side. These women were fighting the same fight, and the pastor Paul calls them to be reconciled and walk in unity. Euodia, Syntyche, Clement, and the co-workers mentioned, have their names written in the book of life – they will all spend eternity with God. Now that’s a small detail that shifts perspective! God has called them to this magnificent life of relationship with Him, now and forever… are these women really going to get caught in disagreement?

I’m encouraged to lift up my eyes, lift up my thoughts, above the everyday demands, above the everyday thoughts… I’ve been called to relationship with the king of the universe, to know Him, to know and experience His goodness and His greatness, today, and always. Help me Lord, to live with this glorious perspective, to enjoy the day before me and anticipate an eternity in your presence. Help me to focus on the things that truly matter. Amen.

Written by Beth Waugh

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Thursday 28 November, 2013

Philippians 3:17 - 4:1

17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. 4 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

The first verse in this passage is the Mount Everest of the Christian Life. It is the pinnacle and goal to which we all should aspire and yet I wonder if few of us ever do. To live such an exemplary life for Jesus that we can say to others

“Pattern your life after mine”

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What a goal!

Fortunately, Paul also gives us a clue as to how we can do that in the second half of the same verse,

“And learn from those who follow our example.”

I don’t have to struggle alone. God has planted me amongst some amazing people who can help me on my journey. I need to be in Church. More than that – I need to be in a Connect Group, an Accountability Group, in a Ministry Area under the leadership someone who has the spiritual stature to say “pattern your life after mine”. All my actions should be guided by this principle – to live as an example for others to follow.

Lord, may the end result of my life be “he made followers of Jesus”.  Help me have the courage and conviction to live in a way that if people follow the pattern of my life they will be awesome disciples. Amen

Written by Boudy VanNoppen

 

1 (reply)
  1. David Newton says:

    The key is; where is your ‘mind set’?

    For some reason a mind ‘set on eternity’ is the foundational condition that allows amazing transformation to take place in people.

    This is why we need to be with committed and gifted church people in well organised church meetings, so we can continually challenge and refresh our focus!

    100% percent behind what you are saying Boudy!
    ——————————————————
    Hi Suzie, you are an awesome person!

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Wednesday 27 November, 2013

Philippians 3:12-16

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

This passage, to me, has always brought to mind the finish line of an Olympic  finals sprint race.  The picture that Paul paints here in verse 13 – straining forward – when all the athletes are straining to get their bodies over the line ahead of all the others, nothing in reserve, every fibre of their being going forward, not looking back or sideways but toward the prize – the gold medal.  But here Paul says our prize is heaven.

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I’m always challenged by this, am I like that athlete straining forward toward the prize of heaven? Toward my life becoming more Christ like?  Or am I looking around to see what everyone else is doing or looking back to see where it all went wrong or when it was all so much easier or better?

Father help me to keep the prize of you in front of me always, eternity with you – heaven – to be more like the athlete straining forward and not settling for prizes that are only here for a moment and have no eternal value.

Written by Suzie Hodgson

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Tuesday 26 November, 2013

Philipians 3:7-11

7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Paul has a very impressive resume when it comes to the things that his Pharisee friends would have equated with righteousness and rightness before God.

I can’t say I’ve ever been asked if I’m circumcised or anyone has taken any particular interest in my family tree, but there are lots of other things that people would use to judge whether I’m a good or valuable person, such as what job I have or whether I do good things or say the ‘right’ things.

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It can be easy to fall into looking for my significance in these things that people around me approve of. But Paul places absolutely no value on these things that he once considered so important.

It’s not that all of these things are necessarily bad (Paul’s zeal for the gospel is good but his zeal for persecution wasn’t). But they are absolutely inconsequential when compared to the value of knowing Jesus. Significance and value as a son of God is so much greater than anything else I might do or be. I receive this solely because of who Jesus is and what he did, not because of anything else I am or do. I regularly need to be reminded of this, and to reorient my sense of value.

And there’s a huge liberation in that: because I did nothing to earn it – just accept it as a gift (by faith) – nothing I do or fail to do will take it away either. I can stop striving for acceptance and instead live in the infinitely greater acceptance I am already given.

What can I say? Father, you give me such a wonderful significant place with you. Why would I ever look for significance elsewhere? And yet I do. I’m sorry. Please turn me back when I’m looking the wrong way.

Written by David Cornell

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Monday 25 November, 2013

Philippians 3:1b-6

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

In this reading I sensed again Paul’s affection for his readers. He recognises that they are young in the faith and need all the encouragement he’s capable of providing for them.

He gives a fatherly warning to his ‘family’ in Philippi.  He wants them to be well equipped to stand firm against those who would insist on circumcision.

Paul affirms that the ”circumcision’ ‘we have received manifests itself in worship by the Holy Spirit giving glory to Christ Jesus. In Him we put all our confidence, certainly not in the flesh. In other words there is nothing about ‘flesh’ which can benefit our personal relationship with God.

Taking up Paul’s comment on having no confidence in the flesh, I realise that the subtleties of modern western society can distract me from giving glory to Christ Jesus as the centre of my life.

My question is: Is my life so interwoven with society that I would find it impossible to focus exclusively on Christ? I know I need to constantly monitor   my lifestyle to ensure that Christ is supreme.

I ask you Holy Spirit to rid my life of anything which distracts me from intimacy with my God. Increase my awareness of the fact that there is nothing in this ‘world’ which enhances my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Written by Keith Bennett

1 (reply)
  1. David Newton says:

    Wow that is a big question and a big prayer. I know you are right but my question is ‘how can I respond today to those things that distract me from intimacy with God’? For me, I think I will watch less television today.
    Thanks Keith

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Sunday 24 November, 2013

Philippians 2:25 – 3:1a

25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. 29 So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, 30 because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me. 3 Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.

What a wonderful man Epaphroditus was! To be described by Paul as a ”true brother, faithful worker and courageous soldier” would be an amazing accolade. Yet Epaphroditus’ concern was not for his health or his acknowledgement, but for his friends and relatives. He was upset that they were worried about him!

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As Christians we are not protected from everything in life. Epaphroditus was at the point of death while trying to do the work God sent him to do. Paul welcomes God’s mercy which saved him from death. He did not blame God for allowing him to get sick in the first place. We need to remember that we are still in the world, and that bad stuff will happen. Paul’s desire for all his brothers and sisters, us included, is not for exemption from the effects of the world, but that God may give us joy no matter what happens.

I am challenged by this passage to

  1. Follow Epaphroditus’ example and become less self-seeking
  2. Find joy in God despite circumstances which may occur in life.

Dear Lord, please help me to consider myself less, and others more. Please also help me to remember the joy I have in you, no matter what happens in my life. Amen

Written by Megan Cornell

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Saturday 23 November, 2013

Philippians 2:19-24

19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23 I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24 And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.

This paragraph speaks to me of team and family & how God wants us to do life with each other.   Paul is in prison & yet there is still a team around him.  He’s not doing life or ministry on his own.  I love how he describes Timothy – “like a son”.  Being a Christian is not something we do on our own – it’s community and becoming family – being apart of each others’ lives and supporting each others ministry.

Paul can’t wait to hear how the Philippian believers are doing even though he’s in prison, he’s not thinking solely about himself & even though Timothy is so dear to him – (others instead doing their own thing) – he is willing to send him to the church so that they can be blessed by him too.

This is a reminder that like Paul, we all need people to do life with, ministry with, community with, close relationships, life long both in the good times and through the hard, difficult times.

Lord thank you that your Kingdom is all about relationship, I want to be in community with other believers, not seeking my own thing but supportive, encouraging and allowing others to walk with me.

Written by Suzie Hodgson

1 (reply)
  1. David Newton says:

    It is evident that God has blessings for His people both in this life and the next, but not all blessing are realised. What I have only recently come to understand (partly thanks to this forum) is that many of these blessing can only be fulfilled when in community with other believers.

    Thanks Suzie for the insight!

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Friday 22 November, 2013

Philippians 2:12-18

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.”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.

What do I live for? What would I die for? What is worth living and dying for? These are questions that can stop me in my tracks.

Paul lives to see the Philippians become children of God without fault, mature in an immature world. He is willing to die in helping them establish their faith in Jesus.

The joy and gladness that Paul describes in helping others know Jesus makes me think about how I invest the time I am given. I want to live and die for a worthwhile cause. I want to help create stars that shine in a dark world, stars that point the way to Jesus and make his wonderful Name known.

Lord Jesus, may I be given to this cause, no matter what occupation, life stage or circumstance I find myself in. Lord I want to invest into eternal souls, that they might rejoice and be glad with me as we love and worship you together.

Written by Andrew Mellor

1 (reply)
  1. David Newton says:

    Ultimately your investment in souls is the only thing that passes with you from this life into the next however v14 is something that can be practiced today!

    Cheers Andrew

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Thursday 21 November, 2013

Philippians 2:1-11

2 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Wow, this is possibly one of the most challenging passages in the Bible. The standard is set incredibly high here – no selfish ambition, vain conceit or looking to your own interests first. Rather, imitate Christ by taking the nature of a servant, valuing others above myself and be willing to even to give your very life for others.

If there is a human alive that doesn’t find this challenging, I’d like to meet them!

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I find that there is a rather odd tension in reading this set of instructions on how we should live, yet realising that I will never be able to fully live up to this while I am on this earth. Why am I being asked to do something that is impossible to achieve?

Although I aspire to these qualities, I know that there is only One who has ever attained this. And that is why God has exalted Jesus to the highest place.

I am inherently selfish. Oh how I need God’s help to be even remotely close to having the same love as Christ.

This is humbling, and perhaps the reason for this passage of scripture. To remind us how much we need God’s help and how we can never be ‘good enough’ to achieve our own salvation.

Today I am reminded that my knee is most definitely among those that bow at the name of Jesus!

Written by Shelley Witt

1 (reply)
  1. David Newton says:

    I love your honesty and insight.

    For me, I have always liked this passage because you can distill it down to a form which you can use to quickly check your behavior in day to day life.

    Thanks also Shelley for all your work with – Art on Loftus!

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