Food for the Soul
Food for the Soul
15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. 17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 21 Greet all God’s people in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me send greetings. 22 All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen
I find it incredible the way that God brings things to my attention through His word and my circumstance through themes, especially when I pay attention.
Four times in the past week, the idea of Godly contentment came up in conversations that I had with different people, plus I read 1 Timothy 6, where it says “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”
I feel like God wants to teach me how to be more content, and he is showing me what it means to be content in His kingdom.
I have historically felt that the opposite of contentment is ambition, but God is showing me that I can be ambitious and content at the same time.
Here Paul is in a really awful situation. Chained between two Roman centurions with a very short chain, under house arrest where he needs to pay the costs of his own imprisonment. Facing death at the hands of Roman execution. Feeling the aches in his aging body that has literally been punished for dozens of years of travel and beatings, shipwrecks and violence, all in the name of Jesus.
But his attitude and response to his situation is “I have learned to be content, (v11) and the way I have made contentment work is to realise that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”
This is the ultimate fusion of ambition and contentment!
Lord, help me to not just learn this truth, but to truly live it!
Written by Ps Justin Ware
10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 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. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. 14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.
Verse 13 has been quoted in all manner of circumstances, I know I have done this. However, in its context here, being able to do all things in Christ relates to how we are to live. Being content. Whether having plenty or not .. we are to live contented in Christ. Jesus is our enabler .. not fame or fortune or the latest advertising that we are told we must have to make us happy.
I love the way that the Message version phrases this, “I can make it through anything in the One that makes me who I am.” Being content and satisfied is truely something to strive for, and only by focusing everything through Jesus will we find this.
Lord I need your true contentment in every aspect of my life. Holy Spirit help me in keeping Jesus central to who I am.
Written by Suzie Hodgson
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
When Paul says “finally”, it doesn’t mean this is the last thing he has to say. (He began chapter 3 with “finally” too.) It does indicate that this is what ties together everything he has been saying. He’s telling us to logically think through what really is true, noble, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy, and to put that into practice – imitating Paul (3:17) and imitating Jesus (2:5).
Paul’s perspective is astonishing. Being in prison is good because it meant he could tell the gospel to the whole Praetorian guard (1:12). People preaching the gospel to cause him trouble is good because they’re preaching the gospel (1:18). Facing the real prospect of death becomes a choice between two good things: continuing fruitful life or being with Jesus (1:23). The things others call “praiseworthy” (all Paul’s Jewish achievements) are garbage compared to being in Christ (3:8).
Jesus is even more astonishing. God empties himself and becomes a man – a servant – dying a humiliating, dehumanizing death for our sake (2:5-11). And Paul tells us to have the same mind as Christ.
As my mind becomes like Christ’s, my life will become true, noble, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy – even if I’m in the middle of garbage, hostility, injustice or danger. My thinking and my life will finally be transformed because the God of peace is with me.
Written by David Cornell
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. 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.
Recently, I have found myself playing the role of Euodia or Syntyche, I have all too often found myself being an agent of strife, conflict, or disunity. How? Why? In one sphere of my life, I have felt that I have been the victim of an injustice, and that has led to me playing the ‘blame game’.
As I reflect, it is evident that I am an agent of somebody, whether I am conscious of it or not. I am either a weapon in the hands of Satan or a healing balm in the hands of God.
I want to be a healing balm, and I have seen God use me for this in the past… so how do I ensure I am not Satan’s weapon but instead God’s agent for love and healing in this broken world? This passage has the answers.
First, rejoice! I am a child of God, he loves me, his grace is always bigger than my sin. If I am not rejoicing I am not thinking upon the wonderful and unending love God has for me.
Second, pray! I am to let my emotions (anger, anxiousness, sadness, etc) drive me to prayer. God wants me to lay it all before him, and he promises me his peace.
Third, dwell on God! If I am not dwelling on God, I am probably dwelling on myself and my needs… God is bigger than my needs and he promises to meet all my needs and more.
Fourth, do good! The above three points will ensure I am aware of what God is doing in and around me, the final step is to act, and to be the peacemaker God calls me to be.
“Dear God, thank you for your patience with me, thank you for drawing me back to you even after I have strayed from your ways and even done things that Satan would want me to do. You are the greatest healer, thank you for healing my heart, winning me back and making me your agent of peace in this world. Amen”
Written by Andrew Mellor
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!
As the mother of a toddler, I have become well aware of how carefully I am being watched and mimicked at all times! Small children have such a knack for modelling our example, copying our language, habits and mannerisms. It has made me so conscious of what I say and how I act, because my child is learning from me at all times and is establishing her understanding of how people relate and how the world works. I am the person she spends the most time with, which currently makes me the most influential person in her life. Sometimes I really feel the pressure of being an example 24/7, and I know that sadly, I don’t get it right all the time.
Yet as I read this passage, I am so encouraged by verse 17, where Paul writes to his fellow Christians to join together in following His (Jesus’) example. Paul knows that as a leader, others are modelling their behaviour from himself, however Paul is following Christ as the ultimate example! When we look to Jesus, when we live as citizens of Heaven, we know that we are empowered and shown how to love and live like Jesus did. I am encouraged to continue to stay in God’s word, to immerse myself in Jesus so that He is the greatest influence in my life. It is only by following Jesus that I can help others to live as He did.
Jesus, thank you that you are the ultimate example for how we should live, speak and think. Help me Lord to follow you first and foremost. Mould my heart that my life would reflect you so that I could lead others to follow your example as well. Amen.
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.
Paul’s goal as he writes this is to take hold of Christs plan and purpose for his life. Paul realises that in the midst of living out this plan there will be a context of challenge, race and needing to push through obstacles. Paul reminds us that the prize isn’t of this earth but is in heaven.
As I read this, I am reminded that just as Paul took hold of what God had for him, he understands that it is also Christ who supplies the resources for him to ‘press on towards the goal.’ It isn’t in my strength that I need to press on towards the goal. The Holy Spirit steps in and helps me, He reminds me that the prize isn’t earthly but heavenly, that in the midst of the challenges and wins it is worth it because of the privilege it is to serve Christ.
Jesus, thank you that you do have a plan for my life. Help me today to remember Christ’s plan for my life and that you by the power of the Holy Spirit supply all that I need to fulfill it. Fill me again with your Holy Spirit and help me today to live in accordance with your ways. In Jesus Name, Amen!
Written by Ps. Annique Botta
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 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.
Prior to this passage the Apostle Paul is listing off his religious accomplishments. His religious obedience of circumcision, his human efforts to obey the law, his strictest obedience to follow Jewish law perfectly and his zealous persecution of the church.
All these he now realises are nothing “counting them as garbage” when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. His encounter with Jesus Christ transformed his heart, his mind and then his actions.
All of a sudden all of our actions even our good ones are now really worthless compared to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ. Whatever we do is not for religious gain or “points”, it is just measured by love. Whatever we do for Christ and His church is because of His love.
What strikes me in this passage is there is “no pass mark”. All it is, is about being adopted into his family and loving and caring for the family. Laying our lives – everything – down for the message and cause of Jesus Christ.
Ultimately, we know when what we say, do and live, shows to others that we look more like Jesus that our true selves.
Our world needs to see the Gospel before they hear the Gospel.
Lord, thank you for wanting to use us to expand your Kingdom. It is a privilege to know you and live for you. Help us Lord to listen to you and to follow your guidance. Help us to look more like YOU. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Written by Ps. Sue Botta
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.
What do you think of when we say flesh? I almost guarantee you it is different to what Paul is saying here in this passage. Flesh for Paul, given the context, is a sense of achievement outside of grace in Jesus. Paul lists a series of accomplishments – some by effort some by birth – all not of value in pleasing Christ.
We are not to place our confidence in the flesh! We are not to use our accomplishments or status as something that advances ourselves. We are to rely on Christ – His death and resurrection.
Paul makes straightforward forthright declarations that powerfully enable us;
“we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh”.
Do you rely on your accomplishments? This becomes more tempting the older you are, simply you have accomplished more the older you are. Our task to is place our confidence in Christ, to worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ – this will set us free into the lifestyle Jesus calls us to!
Father, help me to place my confidence in Christ alone!
Written by Ps. Richard Botta
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.
Have you ever become tired of hearing the same thing over and over again? Or thought to yourself that you have heard it all before? Have you wished that the Pastor would say something new, something you have not heard before? Or tried to find some teaching from another church, searching for some fresh revelation?
Paul says here in ch3v1 “Whatever happens, rejoice in the Lord”. It has a familiar ring to it, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t you like Paul to say something else, something new and different?
Paul says to them and us, that he never gets tired of telling you these things. Perhaps, we should not get tired of hearing these things. Paul repeats things, important things, because it is a safeguard to our faith.
The safeguard of our faith is not chasing new teaching or new insights. Those things are encouraging, and refreshing, but what keeps us safe, is hearing again and again, the foundational truths such as, “Whatever happens – rejoice in the Lord!”
I may not WANT to hear that again, but the truth is I NEED to hear it again.
The key factor that separates amateurs from professionals is repetition. Doing the same thing over and over again until it is second nature, until it is perfected.
There are a few things that need perfecting in my life, like rejoicing in the Lord, WHATEVER happens. So, even when I don’t feel like hearing it again, I need to stop listening to my feelings and listen to the truth again.
Holy Spirit, open my ears to hear, and my heart to receive again.
Written by Andrew Martin
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.
If you or I were to be sent as a representative on behalf of the church, what would the reference be that vouched for your spiritual and personal reputation? Timothy came with the highest referral to the Philippian’s due to his years of integrity and faithful service. It seems to me the things that made Timothy so recommended were issues of character, not material. He was not being recommended for contributing the most money or having the ministry with the biggest number of people – he could have been both these. But it was evidence of genuine concern, his Jesus first attitude and faithful service, that he was noted for. So, what would my or your reference be?
Jesus, help me to love others, help me to get my priorities straight all week long. Lord I ask for your wisdom in the relationships I have both inside and outside the church. Help me Lord to love and support my pastors. In Jesus name. Amen
Written by Christine Knight
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.
Paul is encouraging the Philippian church to continue to work hard to show the results of their salvation even when he isn’t present. He says that this is done in an attitude of reverence towards the Lord and goes on to give examples what a life so lived might look like to people outside the Christian faith. A Christian life shines brightly in a sinful world and does not feature complaining or arguing. The apostle Paul also exhorts the Philippian believers to hold tightly to God’s word.
Paul’s instructions to the Philippian church can seem admirable but a tall order at the same time. I want to but how do I live to that standard continually? I take particular comfort in verse thirteen which states that, “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” This does not absolve me of responsibility but assures me that God is working within me – I am not trying to achieve this on my own! It is such a relief to know that God is giving me the desire and power to do what pleases him. An extraordinary truth really and one worth taking some time to ponder.
Dear Lord, help me to work out my salvation with due reverence and thank you that you don’t leave me to work this out on my own but rather you are working within me to achieve your purposes. Amen
Written by Ps. Ainslie Woods
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[a] 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[b] 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!
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
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,[a] 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.
Paul is speaking from prison in this passage. He is speaking words of encouragement to the people in Philippi even in the midst of his difficult situation. These words can be an encouragement to us too. He asks that we base our lives on the reality of the gospel of Christ. Reading the verses leading up to this passage gives us a picture of what he means. He speaks of being filled with love in all he does. He speaks of being filled with the fruit of the Spirit. He asks that these people will receive grace and peace across their lives. He prays for their love to grow and increase beyond measure bringing rich spiritual insight in all things.
These are indicators of how faith in God is growing in each of us – our ability to love, to be kind, to have peace and to bring grace. Living life with Jesus enables us to grow in these characteristics. Given how the world works and how that is likely to make us feel, having these characteristics will mean we will seem different – we will stand out. We will bring our faith into every situation and we will bring God’s love to everyone we meet. This is what Paul did – even in prison he cared for the guards, for everyone in the churches he started and for everyone who had yet to hear about Jesus. He brought love and kindness, peace and grace. What a great idea!
Thank you, Jesus, that you love us beyond imagining and that you can help us love others beyond what we can imagine. Thank you that you brought Good News not just news when you came to save us. Thank you that your message is about your love for us – that you loved us enough to die for us before we were even thought about and that there is now nothing that can separate us from you and your love. Help us to live out that love that we can source from you. Help us to bring your light into our part of the world on a daily basis. Amen
Written by Therese Manning
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 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.[a] 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.
Paul is in prison. He is a man who prior to following Jesus was a religious leader, respected and well known. He was also a Roman citizen, which carried its own privileged status. In other words, he has fallen from worldly renown to worldly shame as a result of following Jesus, now imprisoned as a criminal. And yet he is rejoicing! Here he is saying that he will praise God whatever the outcome of this imprisonment. If he dies, praise God, he gets to be with Jesus! If he lives, praise God, he gets to keep doing God’s work on earth! Seriously?!
When things do not appear to be going well, this is generally not what my prayers sound like. My prayers tend to be more along the lines of …’have I done something wrong? Did I mishear you God? I trusted you Lord, did all you asked, how have I ended up here?’. In short, my prayers tend to be much more self-centred!
God, please help me to pray as Paul does in all circumstances – praising you for all that brings glory to your name, even if it costs my own name. Help me await eagerly that moment when I meet you face to face, while thankfully using each day you’ve given me on this earth to glorify you here!
Written by Rhiannon Mellor
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,[a] that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard[b] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. 15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defence of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Do you ever think when you are in the middle of something terrible that God will use that situation to highlight the truth of the gospel to someone else?
In troubled times, normally in such a “fog” of the situation, where my mind is consumed with details and emotions that it is difficult to have a higher level of thinking of anything else. When the situation resolves itself there tends to be specific “God moments” that I can pinpoint to tell others and encourage others.
As Paul writes in this passage, it almost feels to me like he is illuminated in his mind and words (vs 18 “the important thing, whether be false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice”). He is in chains yet still so thankful that many have heard of Jesus and the truth. His words, to this day are inspirational and humbling to all. It feels almost that he is fearless.
Dear God, thank you that you sent Paul to be such an example for us, even in the year 2021, so many years after his life on earth. Thank you that although he suffered in chains, it was not in vain and that many have heard of Christ because of his life. Lord, teach us to be humble and to rise above our own suffering and remember that in all things you have a plan and purpose for our lives.
Written by Susannah Ware
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons[a]: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may 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.
It is striking how far from indifferent Paul is towards the Philippians he leads. “God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.”
Jesus has so got Paul’s heart, and his affections, that the people he leads are those he longs for. Longs to be with. Longs to partner in the Gospel with. Longs to have God’s fresh grace imparted to.
Jesus, I give you my heart, not in a moment, or on this refocussing occasion. I remind myself – my heart is surrendered to you for good. The rest of my days. That you who lay full and rightful claim to my heart may fill me with your affections for people. That I won’t just care for others because it is easy to, or out of obligation, but because your affections are flowing through me to those around me! Amen.
Written by Ps. Rob Waugh
17 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. 19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. 21 Timothy, my co-worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my fellow Jews. 22 I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord. 23 Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.  25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.
As the letter to the Romans comes to a conclusion, I thought it was interesting what the apostle Paul felt were the most important things to address, as he signed off.
Firstly, a warning, then statements of faith, purpose and blessing. What underscores all this is the revelation of the truth of the gospel – God’s plan of salvation revealed in the person of Jesus Christ – vs 25-26.
Then as today, the gospel of truth was being warped and misused by “those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned” (v17). I think of political and ideological messages with a Christian veneer, the point of which is to divide and push an agenda. While it is essential Christian voices are heard in public debate, Paul is reminding us not to be hijacked by messages which are feeding others’ appetites. V19 in The Message puts it fairly clearly – “…I want you to be smart, making sure every “good” thing is the real thing. Don’t be gullible in regard to smooth-talking evil.” The test – is this teaching or debate submitting to Jesus, and pointing me to the Lord?
Paul’s warning to “keep away” from these manipulators is challenging (v17) – do we engage in the debate or challenge the teaching to win over or care for our friends who may be influenced by them? Will we then run the risk of being simply drawn into arguments and away from the truth?
Dear Lord, my focus must be on the wisdom I find in you – drawing close to your heart, pursuing your character in my life and being in your Word. Holy Spirit fill me today with wisdom and desire for your truth.
Written by Claire Moore
16 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon[a][b] of the church in Cenchreae. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. 4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. 5 Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia. 6 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among[d] the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. 8 Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test. Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. 11 Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew. Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. 12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the other brothers and sisters with them. 15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord’s people who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.
This passage is a wonderful reminder of the way we should be dealing with one another within the church. Paul encourages the believers in Rome to treat one another in the following ways…
Shower her with hospitality, embrace her with Honour, provide her with whatever she needs, respect them, give my love to them, so thankful for them, give my loving greetings, make sure they are honoured.
And the reasons he instructed this were because they were…
A sister in the faith, shining minister of the church, belongs to the Lord, set apart for Him, great leader, champion for many, partners in ministry serving Jesus, risked their lives, toiled and laboured extremely hard, diligently served the Lord.
Dear Lord, we thank you for the leaders of our church and for those who are working in ministry alongside them, faithful servants who work tirelessly in your name. Lord, please strengthen them, equip them and encourage them and spur us on to be treating them in a way that honours and pleases you. Amen
Written by Jocelyn Petschack
23 But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to visit you, 24 I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to see you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25 Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem. 27 They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. 28 So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this contribution, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. 29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ. 30 I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. 31 Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favourably received by the Lord’s people there, 32 so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed. 33 The God of peace be with you all. Amen.
I have travelled to India and Nepal a number of times and am always impressed and touched by the connection that exists between Christians, even when we have never met and are from very different cultures. Here we see Paul writing to Christians in Rome, whom he has never met, but writing with a warmth and trust for them. He is looking forward to their company, expecting them to support him financially and spiritually on his proposed journey to Spain and asking them to pray for him for his journey to deliver aid to the church in Jerusalem.
It is a bit sad reading Paul’s hopeful plans and knowing that, despite the prayer of the Roman Christians, he was arrested and imprisoned while in Jerusalem and ended up coming to Rome in chains instead of freely. However, we also know that “God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Paul shared the gospel with many of the soldiers he was chained to (a captive audience!) and the gospel spread among Caesar’s household, so God definitely brought good out of that situation.
Where does that leave me? I rejoice at the worldwide family I am in! As family care for each other through good times and bad I have a fresh desire to connect with, pray for and support Christians in other places.
Dear Lord Jesus, thank you that your death and resurrection means that I have a new, worldwide family. Please help me to love them as you do. Amen
Written by Megan Cornell
14 I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another. 15 Yet I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18 I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— 19 by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20 It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. 21 Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.” 22 This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you
Do you know? I always thought of Paul as a church planter/builder/teacher. But this passage reveals Paul’s clear and succinct purpose statement – go where the gospel isn’t. (v20)
What about me? Do I stay in the safe place and serve only in the church, where people have heard and received the gospel? Do I invest my time in “preaching to the choir”? Do I see my life outside the church, where my neighbours, friends and workmates who have never heard the gospel, as my highest calling?
Lord, thanks for your servant Paul and his example. Show me how I can do the same – to go where the gospel isn’t.
Written by Boudy Van Noppen
7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9 and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.” 10 Again, it says, “Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.” 11 And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; let all the peoples extol him.” 12 And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.” 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you (v7)
To feel welcomed by someone is an incredible gift. I’m not talking about a polite greeting but when someone expresses their desire to include you in their space. They want to bring you closer and have you join them.
Maybe you can remember a time when you were warmly welcomed to a friend’s house and they prepared a meal for you. Or perhaps you stopped by their house and they were happy to see you and gave you a hug and invited you inside. To feel welcomed is to be embraced for who you are. Feeling welcomed brings the healing power of love to a person. It has the power to encourage a crushed spirit and bring hope to a broken heart. A welcome brings life.
This is what Jesus does for you when he says “Come”. He invites you to come close. He wants to share his heart and hope with you. Then we can share it with others and bring them close too.
Lord Jesus, I am so grateful for your invitation to come. Your welcome fills my heart with hope and love.
Written by Gab Martin
15 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” 4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. 5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I think most of us would agree that what the apostle Paul is suggesting here is excellent practice. As The Message version puts Verse 2, “Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”
Yes, excellent advice indeed, and wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all did this? However, as much as we may want to follow this principle, we all struggle at times because of our inherent bent towards self-centeredness.
Fortunately, we see a shift in Verse 5, as Paul turns to prayer for God’s help. “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had…”
This shift in focus reminds us that it is only with God’s help that we can come even close to fulfilling this calling to put others before ourselves.
I am so grateful for a God that never waivers in His selfless love for us. And I am grateful that He calls us to a higher version of ourselves to live a life of service to others, just as He does.
But more than that, I am grateful for the help that He provides for us to live in this high calling, and grace and mercy he provides when we don’t always reach the mark.
Let us be reminded today to ask God for His help, and not fool ourselves into thinking that we can do anything of real value without Him.
Written by Shelley Witt
13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. 19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall. 22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
“Mum” said the baby fish to his mother. “I’ve heard of this stuff called water. Where can I find some?”
“You are in water my dear. Water is everywhere.” Said the mother fish
“Oh” said the baby fish. “Well, one day, I want to get out of the water and go to the ocean!” Said the baby fish.
“Well my dear, that will be hard. You see, you are already in the ocean”
“!?” Said the baby fish
The culture and worldview that I exist in are a bit like the water and the ocean, and I am a bit like that baby fish. It’s really hard to see what culture and worldview that I am immersed in, unless someone points it out, or unless I increase my attentiveness to why I do what I do, and be inquisitive about how those around me act.
In today’s passage, Paul writes to the Romans about some rules about food that seem distant to us, but really, Paul is addressing an issue of culture and worldview that couldn’t be more current.
As I read this, I realise how individualistic and selfish our culture and worldview can be. I am often swept up in this and I can act in a way that isn’t loving towards others in the way I speak, behave, or even in things that I neglect to do. Only when I am shown the issue of my actions, or if I spend time in prayer, thought and reflection, do I realise that I need to make a change to the way I treat other people.
If verse 19 says “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” I need to put the effort in to becoming more loving.
Lord, create in me a clean heart, a new heart that desires You and Your ways more than my own selfish desires. Help me not to conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of my mind in Christ Jesus!
Written by Ps Justin Ware
14 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. 5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’” 12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
Judging. I dare say we are all guilty of doing this .. and here specifically in areas of faith v1. But I am thinking of where these areas of judgement come from; pride, legalism, neither of which comes from love. Paul tells us that individual conscience is where these matters lay as there is only one judge – God – and we’ll all stand before him one day.
Understanding that my actions and words will be before the Father, who has seen and heard them all, no hiding, leaves me very vulnerable. And so, Paul is calling us to rise above, to understand each other as no one is right or wrong in these matters of faith but all are accountable before God. So out of love, let’s build each other, encourage each other so that we all grow in Christ.
Lord I ask your forgiveness where I have judged another believer’s faith, only you can know this. Holy Spirit help me to be one who builds rather than one who criticises. Continue to build your heart into my life. Amen
Written by Suzie Hodgson
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law. 11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
Paul is again exhorting the Church in Rome, teaching that love is the fulfillment of the law. He is instructing on what to do, and then why it should be done, since salvation is nearing.
But the components of this passage that I am drawn to are “putting on the armour of light”, and “clothing oneself with the Lord Jesus Christ”. Armour is for protection. Clothes can too, but can also be a reflection of our taste, our role, our status, and Paul is encouraging us to infuse this with Christ.
These instructions require action and intention. They require decisions, they require choices, they require submission, they require discipline, they require sacrifice of the desires of our sinful nature. And by taking these actions, Christ protects us and empowers us in His light to resist, to overcome, and to reflect Him.
Lord, help me to always be actively submitting to your ways and to be clothed in You. In a world that taunts and tempts, may I shine your light, with love for all and to draw others to yourself. Amen.
Written by Steve Fell
13 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.
I think at times Australians struggle with authority. Maybe foundations from the convict heritage makes us suspicious and questioning. At times we find ourselves questioning authority or possibly rebelling against authority. Even children, so quickly learn the word “NO”. Why is this?
I believe that it is good to “test” things. I believe that God wants us to ask for wisdom and insight into peoples’ motives and it is ok to question. However, if those in authority are there caring and governing us with the right motives it is good for us to honour them. God has designed people to lead and others to follow.
God’s way is “servant leadership”. Politicians are known as “public servants”. They are there to serve the people. Pastors and leaders are there also to serve the people. We are all to be servants. Ultimately, we will one day stand before Jesus and give an account of our lives and the motives behind what we have done. Our model is Jesus. He encourages us to obey, to do what is right and good leadership will honour us. Jesus was the “servant King”. He showed us what it was to be in leadership, and He modelled servanthood and sacrifice. Do you want to be a leader? It all begins with servanthood. Doing what a leader asks you to (as per the Bible) with a cheerful heart. Be sacrificial and honour will come.
Lord, help us to serve you with the right heart. We want to be like you. We thank you for modelling to us servanthood and sacrifice. Help us to model that to others. Amen
Written by Ps. Sue Botta
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
What an amazing series of bullet point accurate life advice.
Starting with the inner life to love one another; to devotion to our brothers and sisters in Christ; to the manner of our service to God – enthusiastic; to not giving up in difficult times; to welcoming guests and speaking blessing the list goes on as Paul gives us bullet point after bullet point of life giving practices. This is a veritable list of how to live life in Christ to achieve the summation in verse 21 – “Never let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good.” Each and every one of these practices releases us to fulfil this last bullet point – defeat evil with good.
All too often we forget we’re in a battle between good and evil, light and dark. This battle is won in a variety of ways – in prayer, speaking truth over error, loving not accusing or condemning, and living out this list of best practices – because to live them out is to choose to walk in the opposite spirit!
If I am committed to ensure evil doesn’t win over me then I need to live out these ‘opposite spirit’ practices to combat the influences of the world in my world.
Father empower me to live as you choose me to with Romans 12:9-21 to guide my steps.
Written by Ps. Richard Botta
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
As bodies are my business, I feel I should have some profound thoughts on us working cohesively as a Body of Faith. But what I am thinking of is the grace that is needed by other parts of the body when one part breaks down. If I break my ankle then other parts of me must work harder (arms and shoulders for crutches, the other leg and my vestibular system for balance) until things are better. Those parts extend ‘grace’ to my ankle for as long as is needed.
Where can I extend grace towards my brothers and sisters in Christ? How can I help another to be the very best person that God created them to be? Where is God calling me to extend grace today? It is too easy to be judgmental or offended when we perceive someone not ‘pulling their weight’. When our human bodies break down there are systems in place to help us recover. If our spiritual bodies have a problem then I want to be part of the solution for that too. Paul says it is ‘by grace’, he doesn’t say it’s easy!!
Thank you God that you saw fit to save a sinner like me. Help me to use the abilities and gifts you have given me to be a blessing to others and the church. Help me Lord to have a heart of Grace, not a spirit of judgement. In Jesus Name. Amen
Written by Christine Knight
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