Shine Like Stars Week 14 Recap

Here is the final installment of recaps from our Women’s Bible study on Philippians. Thanks for coming along on this journey!

Philippians 4:14-23

In this passage, Paul stated that the Philippian church was the only church to consistently support him in his ministry. The congregation in Philippi was also the poorest group of believers, yet the most generous. These friends also stuck with Paul over the long-haul and Paul was so grateful for the commitment of these people. Paul mentioned that he received aid from Philippi while he was in Thessalonica.

What was going on in Thessalonica? There are some clues in Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians.

  • “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” (1 Thess. 4:11-12)
  • “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle…” (1 Thess. 5:14)
  • “We hear that some among you are idle.” (2 Thess. 3:11)
  • “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.'” (2 Thess. 3:10)

It seems the Thessalonian church had an issue with laziness. They couldn’t support themselves, much less Paul. So the Philippian church kicked in to help Paul financially. In fact, it was the church in Philippi that enabled Paul to give up his trade and preach full time. Bless them. (See Acts 18:1-5) If Paul had been forced to keep making tents, it would have been such a waste of his giftedness.

Why is the giving of offerings so important in our walk with the Lord?
God looks at our offerings as a sweet fragrance, much like the Old Testament priests who went into the holy place to put incense on the altar. Our offerings are not donations — they are “acceptable sacrifices, pleasing to God” and they reflect the state of our hearts. That’s why it’s important to give to God right off the top instead of giving Him the leftovers. The only time in scripture God says, “Test me,” is in regard to giving. (See Malachi 3:6-12)

Paul had confidence that God would respond to the Philippians and provide for them as a result of their generosity. That is God’s way. Even Jesus stated, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38) We can never outgive God.

“When God’s word is done in God’s way for God’s glory, it will not lack for God’s supply.” (Hudson Taylor)

Paul ended his letter with greetings to all the saints, especially those in Caesar’s household. Nero was the reigning emporer, or Caesar,  at the time. He was a cruel, brutal leader who tortured Christians in bizzare and grotesque ways. Yet in Nero’s very household there were believers and Paul sent his greetings and encouragement to them.

Paul began his letter with a greeting of grace (Phil. 1:2) and ended his message with grace (Phil. 4:23). Paul gave us a glimpse of his heart in the letter to the Philippians. Although he was a great thinker and theologian, Paul loved people and rejoiced over and over in his relationships within the body of believers. He showed us what a mature believer looks like and how to shine like stars in the midst of a perverted and crooked generation.

Thanks be to God!


Shine Like Stars Week 13 Recap

Here is the recap from this week’s study on Philippians 4:10-13.

Paul was sitting in a Roman jail with only a Roman soldier for company. Then one day Epaphroditis showed up, his friend from far away Philippi, with gifts and encouragement from the Philippian church. That must have meant the world to Paul. It had been ten years since he had heard from these friends as they had lost track of Paul. This visit and gift made Paul “rejoice greatly”. (The word for “greatly” in the Greek is “mega”. Paul had mega-joy when Epaphroditis came.)

The Philippian church was held up as a model in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians.  “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.” (2 Cor. 8:2-4)
These were people who experienced severe trials, yet had overflowing joy. These were people who lived in extreme poverty, yet gave beyond their means. In fact, they begged Paul to let them give!! Can you imagine someone standing up in church after the offering and saying, “Pastor, please pass the plate again! Please let us give more!” 

Paul talked a lot about contentment in this passage. What is contentment?
Dictionary: – satisfied with what one is or has, not wanting more or anything else.
We tend to think of contentment as that feeling when our stomachs are full and we can relax and enjoy a day off. That’s not the kind of contentment Paul was talking about. Paul said he “learned” to be content in times of plenty and in times of great need. He even said there was a secret to being content, which means it’s not easily found in this world. Contentment is something that has to be learned over a long period of time through many experiences, as God shows Himself faithful to provide.

This world is set up to make us feel dissatisfied. That’s what the advertising culture is all about — to make us believe that happiness is hinged on having a Lexus with a bow on top sitting in our driveway on Christmas morning. The truth is, God is the One who set it up this way, making sure that the accumulation of satisfactions other than Him will NEVER satisfy. We are made for more than this earth. We are made for eternity. That longing for more is really our longing for relationship with the Creator and the promise of spending a mind-blowing forever on a new earth.

Paul spoke from experience. In 2 Corinthians 11, he recounted some events from his life in ministry:

  • 5 times he was whipped 40 lashes minus one. (It was believed that 40 lashes would kill a man, so 39 were given to ensure maximum suffering. Paul endure five of those violent floggings.)
  • 3 times he was beaten with rods. (He remembered exactly how many times — you don’t forget things like that.)
  • 1 time he was stoned. Paul knew what the intended result of stoning was: death. He himself had watched over and approved of the stoning of Stephen. People hated him so much that they threw rocks at him to kill him. (Read about it in Acts 14.)
  • 3 times he was shipwrecked. What is it like to have your ship go down? (Personally, after the second shipwreck, I probably wouldn’t get on a boat for a third voyage.)
  • One of those shipwrecks put him out on the open sea for over 24 hours.
  • He was constantly on the move. No home, no bed of his own, no vacations.
  • He was constantly in danger.
  • He went without sleep, food, and adequate clothing.

How many of us would keep going in the ministry
if we had to put up with this? 

Yet, it was through these very experiences that Paul learned contentment. It didn’t matter what was going on externally. Contentment came from the inside — a peace from God that never quit even if there was chaos all around. The reason many of don’t have that kind of contentment is because we give up when things get hard and so we don’t get to experience God coming through for us in the midst of trials. If God let His chief apostle experience times of great need, we should expect to go through a similar training process “for, as citizens of heaven, God wants to wean us from dependence upon the decaying delicacies of earth.” (Spurgeon)

Paul was a thermostat. He set the temperature and made everything around him conform to his setting. Most of us are more like thermometers. When circumstances are good, we ride high. When situations are troubled, we sink down. Up and down, up and down we go, depending on the externals.

This passage ends with a “coffee-cup verse” — one that is often taken out of context. “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” This is often used by athletes to inspire them to run fast, jump high and score lots of touchdowns. Unfortunately, that’s not what Paul had in mind. Instead of claiming this verse to enable us to do whatever we set our minds to, the context is saying, “I’ve learned to be content when I received everything I want; I’ve learned to be content when I got nothing I wanted. I can do either one by the power of Christ.”

God will indeed give us the strength to do the things He asks us to do with the power available through Christ.

What does a mature believer look like? A growing Christian is learning how to be content in any and every situation.

How can we shine like stars? In this world of greed, dissatisfaction and materialism, a contented person will stick out like a beacon in darkness.

One more week and our study of Philippians is complete. It takes 15 minutes to read the entire book of Philippians, but it has taken us 15 weeks to dig deep into Paul’s letter. I’m sure we could keep going for 15 years and still find treasure there.

Shine Like Stars Week 14 Worksheet




Shine Like Stars Week 12 Recap

Here is an abridged version of our discussion on Philippians 4:2-9. I wish I could include all the wonderful insights and comments from our group gatherings!

It seems the church in Philippi had an issue that Paul needed to address. Two women, Euodia and Syntyche, were in conflict over something — we don’t know what — but Paul had to nip it in the bud, so he called them out on the division they were creating in the church. I wonder how these two ladies felt when they heard their names being read in public. I imagine they might have sunk down in their pews a little bit. It probably wasn’t a doctrinal issue, or Paul would have addressed it sooner. Most likely it was a silly argument that was getting blown up, but was having a negative influence on the church.

Paul didn’t say, “Agree with each other.” He said, “Agree with each other in the Lord.” There’s a difference there. Bringing the Lord into the problem puts things in perspective. He also asked a mediator to step in and help them resolve the issue. Then he complimented these ladies for being hard workers for the gospel. This shows that women in the early church were an essential part of ministry. Just the fact that Paul used their names shows how prominent they were at Philippi.

Here’s a not-so-fun fact: 74% of people who leave the church, leave because of disagreements with other church members. A divided congregation is a poor witness to the world and can’t expect growth or God’s blessing.

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” St. Augustine

Is it really possible to “rejoice in the Lord always”?
Again, Paul didn’t say, “Rejoice always.” He said, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” There’s a difference there, too. Even in the midst of conflict or chaos or trauma, we can rejoice that God is with us, that He hears us, that He loves us. This was so important to Paul that he repeated the command — “I’ll say it again — Rejoice!” Remember, he is sitting in a jail, waiting to hear if he’s going to the gallows.

In our study groups, we talked about how important it is to have some truths so ingrained in our souls that when the crisis hits, we don’t collapse, but have a firm foundation to stand on. That can be as easy as making a list of things that are true about God and pulling it out when we need to “preach the gospel to ourselves”.

Is it really possible to “be anxious for nothing”?
We live in a very anxious time. Anxiety is a huge problem in our culture. Paul offers a way to handle stress — “Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers.” (Message) 

We can’t stop anxious thoughts from going through our minds, but we can choose whether or not to let them stay there. Martin Luther said, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” Most of the things that cause us to worry are the “what if’s”. But when we give ourselves over to worry, we are forgetting that “God is near” (v. 5). Continually stressed out believers actually make our God look bad and demonstrate lack of trust.

There are times when we need to “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5) Sisters, we have the right to use the authority of the name of Jesus to tell a negative thought to leave. We need to use that weapon!

If we know how to worry, then we know how to meditate. Worry is just meditation on the negative. If every worry drove us to prayer, a supernatural peace that stands guard over our feelings and perceptions is promised by God. It’s worth a try, don’t you think?

The battlefield is the mind, so Paul tells us what we need to be focusing our thoughts on: whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. The world gives us a steady stream of the opposite: lies, corruption, immorality, obscenity, unpleasantness, mediocrity, dishonor. It will take intentional effort to swim against that stream. It does explain the lack of peace in this world, though, doesn’t it?

Anxiety is defined like this: being pulled apart in all directions.
Peace is defined as: getting put back together into wholeness.

Paul asked the Philippians to practice these things, to make them habits. So there’s our challenge. Can we learn to do things God’s way and handle what life gives us so that we can show the world what His “peace that passes understanding” looks like? It’s easy to talk about — not so easy to implement — but it must be possible if it’s in God’s Word.


Shine Like Stars Week 13 Worksheet

Shine Like Stars Week 11 Recap

Here’s a brief summary of what we discussed this week in our Bible study on Philippians 3:15 – 4:1.

What dangers did Paul warn the Philippians to watch out for?
Paul reminded the church in Philippi that everyone was at a different level of maturity. Those who were farther along in their faith-walk had some responsibility to be patient with young believers. He pointed out that there may be differences of opinion on some matters, yet Paul trusted that God would deal with his people. Paul didn’t have to correct everybody all the time on every topic. Maturity takes time and we shouldn’t expect babies to eat a steak.

What was Paul’s bold command? “Follow my example.” (v. 17) 
It’s important to note the context of that statement. “Join with others…” Maturity comes in the context of community, among brothers and sisters in Christ. Being a part of a body of believers is crucial if we want to grow up. In fact, if we are not regularly attending a Bible-preaching church or consistently meeting with other believers over the Word, then we are out of God’s will.

In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul says it this way: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”  I like that. It wasn’t uncommon for Rabbis in this time period to call disciples to follow them. Even Jesus called his 12 disciples by saying, “Follow me.” To be called by a Rabbi was a great honor. Disciples were under the instruction of the Rabbi, but also lived with their teacher so they could learn his habits, his character, his routines, his prayer life — everything. In the same way, we are to “take note” of people who are pressing on, not in perfection, but in passionate pursuit of Jesus.

We have a dear lady who comes to Bible study — she is 88 years old and has been walking with Jesus for 70 years. And she’s still learning and growing in her faith.  She’s an example for the younger women to follow. What a gift!

In the midst of Paul’s joyful letter, he reveals what brings him to tears. “Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” (v. 18) There have always been enemies of the cross and we shouldn’t be surprised when we face opposition. Who are these enemies of the cross? It could be forces outside of the church that hate what the cross represents, which is — the demonstration of God’s love and power. It could also be people inside the church who depend on legalistic righteousness to earn them salvation based on works. They dishonor the cross and Christ’s sacrifice by saying that what Jesus accomplished on the cross was not enough.

Perhaps Paul’s tears were because he foresaw the coming destruction of lives that stood in opposition to God. He described them as people who were driven by their appetites, doing what they want, when they want, how they want — doing whatever feels good or whatever satisfies temporarily — wrapped up in worldly things.

What makes us citizens of heaven? Our allegiance to Christ and His Kingdom.

Do you know what it takes to become a citizen of the USA? It’s a long process. You have to get a green card, live in the country for 5 years, meet a list of requirements, fill out applications, submit fingerprints, pass tests, pay $640, attend interviews and finally, swear the Oath of Allegiance.

Or get born.

I hope you catch the analogy. Becoming a citizen of heaven is not based on a checklist or passing tests. We are born into the Kingdom — or, rather, reborn, when we give Him Lordship over our lives. We belong to Him, so that makes us aliens, exiles, strangers here on earth. The Philippians would understand this because Philippi was a Roman colony, even though it was hundreds of miles from Rome. In a Roman colony, people dressed like Romans, ate like Romans, talked like Romans, governed like Romans. It was a little piece of Rome in a distant land and the citizens continued to live under the control of and in the spirit of their home country.

Likewise, the church is an outpost of heaven here on earth, and we wait eagerly for our King to call us home. Home will be magnificent. I can’t wait to trade in my lowly body for a glorious one! Thoughts of our future in a renewed heaven and earth should help us stand firm in the Lord! (For a beautiful picture of what’s ahead for believers, I encourage you to listen to the podcast “A Conversation with John Eldredge”, episode “All Things New, part 3”, aired on October 2, 2017)

Blessings on the study of His Word!

Shine Like Stars Week 11 Worksheet

(We will take next week off for Thanksgiving and return the following week. Happy Thanksgiving!)


Shine Like Stars Week 10 Recap

If you missed Bible study this week, or if you are following along from a distance, here’s a quick recap of what we talked about as we looked at Philippians 3:12-14.

Paul was quick to point out that although he had an impressive list of accomplishments in his past, and although he was presently striving to know Christ more, he had not “arrived”. He admitted he wasn’t perfect (something hard for a perfectionist to admit) yet knowing he wouldn’t reach perfection did not deter Paul from moving in that direction. He didn’t just throw up his hands and say, “I’ll never make it so I might as well give up.” Paul knew that God had taken hold of him for some purpose and it was his job to take hold of that purpose.

Paul used the words “strain” and “press on” — words that are rich with meaning.

Strain: to stretch to the full, to exert to the utmost. Paul may have been picturing a runner, going hard for the tape across the finish line, straining with every muscle in his body. To Paul, a Christian was like an athlete who trained hard to run well.

Press on: to pursue, to chase, to hunt down. Just as Paul had once been hunting down Christians for harm, now Paul was chasing after God for good.

What was Paul forgetting from his past? He may have been full of regret for what he did to believers. He had been driven by legalistic judgmentalism. He had to let the sins of his past go to keep him from being bound up. We can relate to that. But sometimes we also need to stop looking back at “glory days” and past successes in order to move on. We don’t have the capacity to go back and erase our pasts from our memories. The word “forget” here means that we are no longer influenced by or affected by that memory — we don’t give it power over us anymore.

What was Paul straining toward in his future? Heaven and eternal life with Christ, which would bring it’s own reward. Even after 30 years of dedicated labor for the Kingdom, Paul didn’t decide to sit out in his last few years. He knew that there was no auto-pilot in a walk of faith, no coasting — no one stumbles into godliness. It takes strenuous effort, but he kept his eye on the prize. What was that prize? Not salvation — that was a gift given by grace, accepted in faith. The prize would be standing before Christ unashamed, offering Him a life poured out for the sake of the gospel.

Most of us are trying to do way too many things. Paul reminds us that we need to keep “the main thing, the main thing.” “One thing I do,” said Paul. One thing. Press on. Pursue, chase, hunt down Jesus. Jesus said it like this, “So above all, constantly chase after the realm of God’s kingdom and the righteousness that proceeds from him. Then all these less important things will be given to you abundantly.” Matthew 6:33

Press on, brothers and sisters!

Shine Like Stars Week 11 Worksheet

press on

Shine Like Stars – Week 9 Recap

Here are some of the things we talked about at our Women’s Bible Study this week on Philippians 3:1-11.

Paul starts chapter 3 by saying, “Finally…” Then he goes on for two more chapters! Maybe he was intending to wrap up the letter and then something came up to keep him going. (Just beware anytime a pastor says, “In closing….” — it probably means he’s half way through the sermon!)

What warning does Paul give in verse 2? Why does he come down so hard on these people?

When the good news of Jesus started spreading and people began to believe in His saving work, some of the Jewish believers began to put requirements on new converts. They said that before anyone could become a Christian, they had to first become a Jew and follow the Old Testament laws, including circumcision. Paul responded by saying, “No, no, no!” We are saved by grace through faith. It’s not Jesus + circumcision; it’s not Jesus + the Law; it’s Jesus + 0 = everything.

Paul uses some very strong language here. To call someone a “dog” was a very derogatory statement. In Paul’s eyes, these people were evil, making it harder for those who wanted to follow Jesus. The sign of circumcision was nothing more than mutilation of the flesh if the heart wasn’t right. Falling back on someone’s own ability to keep the Law in their own strength in order to earn salvation was a teaching Paul passionately fought against. That misleading message communicated that what Jesus did on the cross was not enough.

Instead of an outward sign to prove belief, Paul gave three indicators of a person’s heart:

  • a true believer is a worshiper
  • a true believer glories in Jesus
  • a true believer’s confidence is in Christ, not in self

What were Paul’s reasons to have self-confidence about his right standing with God? He had an impressive resume, loaded with significant assets.

  • Circumcised on the 8th day — he came from a godly family who followed the Law.
  • Of the people of Israel — he had a pure blood line, descending directly from Jacob.
  • Of the tribe of Benjamin —  Benjamin was the only one of Jacob’s sons to be born in the Promised Land. The first king of Israel came from the tribe of Benjamin, King Saul, who Paul may have been named after. The tribe of Benjamin was the only tribe to stick with King David when the nation split. The temple was built on the land given to Benjamin. To be a Benjaminite was to be highly esteemed and among the elite.
  • A Hebrew of Hebrews — indicated that Paul could speak in Hebrew and that he was highly educated.
  • In regard to the law, a Pharisee — Paul had risen in the ranks of professional religious leaders quickly. A Pharisee was dedicated to keeping the law in all aspects.
  • As for zeal, persecuting the church — Paul defended Judaism and was responsible for putting many Christians in jail and putting some to death. He was there, holding the coats of the people who stoned Stephen. (Acts 8:1)
  • As for legalistic righteousness, faultless — Faultless. Who says that? 

What kinds of reasons do people give today?

I had a godly grandma. I go to church. I teach Sunday school. I sing in the choir. I tithe. I don’t drink, cuss, go to R-rated movies (except the one about Jesus dying on the cross). I’m a good person. I’m better than a lot of people.

Put all those things on one side of the accounting ledger and what does it add up to? Rubbish. Except Paul didn’t use the word rubbish. When the translators came to this Greek word (skubala) they didn’t know what to do with it. This vulgar term embarrassed them. It offended and shocked them. So they tamed it down. Paul used this word only this time and never again. Perhaps he used it for shock value, to try to express how intensely he felt about this. Paul used the word shit.

All the things he did to try to earn God’s favor, all the striving to be perfect, all the achievements and success — a pile of dung. Leave Jesus out of the equation and it all adds up to zero. Stamp the word “Bankrupt” on that side of the accounting sheet.

We can’t find Jesus by using our own measure of goodness based on rules. Trying hard to be righteous based on performance is empty and is the equivalent of feces. We find Jesus by leaning on His righteousness alone by faith, which is full and complete and robust.

What was Paul’s highest goal?

To know Christ — after 30 years, Paul hadn’t let up on his pursuit of Jesus.

Matt Chandler says there are two questions we must ask ourselves continually:
1. What stirs my affection for Jesus?
2. What robs my affection for Jesus?
I hope you spend some time thinking about these questions. Self-awareness of what enhances our spiritual growth and what hinders our spiritual growth is a step toward maturity. I encourage you to listen to Matt’s message (21:00-29:30, if you’ve got 8.5 minutes). Matt Chandler – To Live Is Christ

May this be our prayer: I want to know Christ, inside and out.

Shine Like Stars Week 10 Worksheet


Shine Like Stars – Week 8 Recap

Here’s a recap of some of the discussion from Week 8 of our Bible study on Philippians 2:12-30.

What did Paul expect from his dear friends in Philippi? 
Paul expected the believers in Philippi to continue on in the faith and to keep growing. He urged them to take some responsibility and put great effort into their life of faith. He was in a prison 800 miles away and could not hold their hands or baby them along. Paul encouraged this young body of believers to stick with it and don’t fizzle out.

Paul made it clear that it is God who does the work IN us, but we are to work it OUT. To be very clear here — we do not work FOR our salvation, or even ON our salvation. Salvation is a work of God and God alone, not something we earn or strive for. There can be no salvation without God, but what God offers, people must receive. And once received, there is expectation that growth and maturity will follow.

When a baby is born, it is a joyful event! There is rejoicing in that delivery room! But what a tragedy it would be for that new little life to never leave the delivery room — to never grow or mature or experience life beyond that space. Our spiritual birth is important, but it is only the beginning! Baby Christians need to grow up into vibrant, mature believers.

What does it mean to “shine like stars”?
In Matthew 5:14, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” That’s a fact. That’s who we are. We are not to hide our light or be secretive about our faith. We are the way God shows His love to the world. If we don’t shine, the dark world just becomes darker. Maybe a better question is, “What is your wattage?!” If we are bright spots, we will obviously stand out against darkness.

Verse 14 says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” Whew — that’s a tough one. Is it even possible? Why is complaining such an affront to God?

  • Complaining voices a lack of trust in God.
  • Complaining is a way of saying God is insufficient.
  • Complaining is a backhanded accusation that God’s ways are not good.

The word “complain” means to “murmur”, which is a reference to the people of Israel during their 40 years in the wilderness (see Exodus). They continually called into question God’s goodness and His leadership. Complaining about God got them in lots of trouble.

On the other hand, many Old Testament people complained. King David wrote, “I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.” (Psalm 142:2)  Job also voiced many complaints to God but “Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” (Job 1:22) 

It’s okay to take your complaints TO God, but we need to be careful not to complain ABOUT God. Or His Bride, the church. (See here)

Also, a group of people constantly whining or arguing make a very poor witness. One way to shine like stars is to avoid negative, degrading, divisive talk.

Paul ended this section by holding up two men as examples of servants who embodied everything in verses 1-5 of chapter 2.

Timothy (verses 19-24)

  • took a genuine interest in the welfare of others
  • went where he was most needed
  • humbled himself under Paul’s authority as a son

Epaphroditis (verses 25-30)

  • volunteered to make an 800 mile trip to deliver an offering from the Philippian church to Paul
  • almost died, serving at great risk to himself
  • was willing to put the work of Christ first over his own comfort

An interesting note on “risking his life” (v. 30): That was a gambler’s word that meant to risk everything on the roll of the dice. “In the days of the Early Church there was an association of men and women who called themselves the gamblers. It was their aim to visit the prisoners and the sick, especially those who were ill with dangerous and infectious diseases. Often, when a plague struck a city, the heathen threw the dead bodies into the streets and fled in terror. But the gamblers buried the dead and helped the sick the best they could, and so risked their lives to show the love of Jesus.” (David Guzik)

What brought Paul joy? Being poured out as a pleasing sacrifice to God.
What does a mature believer look like? Someone with an uncomplaining, grateful heart who is willing to risk something for God.
How can we shine like stars? By letting the same light that broke into the void on the first day of creation (And God said, “Let there be light.” Genesis 1:3), shine in our hearts out to a world that’s becoming increasingly dark.

Shine Like Stars Week 9 Worksheet



Shine Like Stars Week 7 Recap

We are officially half way through “Shine Like Stars” — our Bible study on Philippians! This week we dug into Philippians 2:6-11, considered by some theologians as the high point of Paul’s letter. It’s possible that these verses were words to a hymn, poem, confession or creed that the early church used in their gatherings. John Piper calls it “the most glorious picture of Jesus there is.”

We started this week by looking at verses 6-8.

“Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped….”
The “who” in this verse is Jesus. We must not forget that Jesus is God. (Read Colossians 1:15-20 for a look at the supremacy of Christ.) Tony Evans calls Jesus the only “200% person” to ever live. He was 100% human and 100% divine — not an easy concept for us to take in. However, by coming to earth as a human, Jesus limited his “God-ness” and gave up some of his rights and powers of deity.

“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity (God) lives in bodily form.” Col. 2:9
Jesus was a man, but He was more.
He limited His power but it kept leaking out.
He was thirsty, because He was human.
Yet He calmed the sea because He was God.
He was hungry and had to eat because He was human.
Then He fed 5,000 people with a few loaves and fish because He was God.
He had to sleep because He was a human.
He got up out of the grave because He is God.

Jesus had access to legions of angels who would have come to His rescue if He had said the word. (Matt. 26:53) But He didn’t use the resources available to Him to ease His own situation. Everything He did, He did for you and me.

“…but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

What is the nature of a servant?
Think about being in a restaurant and having a really good waitress. What are the qualities that make her a great server?

  • Others oriented — not being self-absorbed
  • Willing to serve everyone — not waiting only on big tippers
  • Uncomplaining spirit — not whining about the cook or her aching back
  • Hard working — not being lazy
  • Observant and attentive — not ignoring the needs of the people
  • Faithful — not skipping out when she doesn’t feel like working

Jesus is our example of the ultimate servant.
We look the most like Him when we serve like Him. 

Matt Chandler tells about a staff member from his church who always parks in a big puddle in the church parking lot when it rains. It means walking through six inches of water and getting all wet. When asked why he parked there he answered, “I park there so no one else has to.” That’s a good measure of servant-hood — what things can you do that aren’t so pleasant so others don’t have to?

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”

Jesus knew He came to die. (“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28) That doesn’t mean He was excited about dying, especially the most cruel, torturous, shameful death possible. (“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” Matthew 26:39) He had to become obedient. The humility required of Him was on a level far beyond anything that will ever be required of us. Talk about doing something unpleasant so we wouldn’t have to!

Thanks be to God for Jesus’ sacrifice, His submission to the Father’s plan, His willingness to suffer, His heart to serve! As a result, God exalted His Son and gave Him the title “Lord” – a name high and full of authority. It’s such a powerful name that every knee will bow at the sound of it. Believers will bow in worship and praise. Those who rejected Him will bow, but it will be in bitter agony as they acknowledge His Lordship.

Every tongue will confess — what will that sound like? The absolute totality of all creation will recognize the superiority of Jesus Christ from highest heaven to deepest hell. John confirms this event in his Revelation vision (Rev. 5:11-13). What a day that will be!

With Jesus as our example, here are some questions to consider:

  • What am I willing to sacrifice?
  • How much am I willing to serve?
  • How submissive am I willing to be?
  • Am I willing to suffer if my suffering brings glory to God?

Blessings on you as you seek to walk as Jesus walked!

Shine Like Stars Week 8 Worksheet


Shine Like Stars – Week 5 Recap

In week 5 of our study on Philippians, we looked at Phil 1:21-30. We spent quite a bit of time on verse 21, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Paul’s perspective on death was radically different than the way most of us think of death. All of us have experienced pain by the passing of loved ones – it was not glorious and we would not have chosen it. But in this passage Paul is showing us a healthy perspective on how to approach our own death. Not an easy conversation, but an important one.

For most people what does having a great life look like?
A big house, plenty of money, a good job, health, leisure, no struggles.
How would you fill in this blank? For me, to live is ___________________.
If the answer is money, then to die is to lose it all.
If the answer is possessions, then to die is to leave it all behind.
If the answer is health and fitness, then to die is the ultimate failure.
Anything that can go in that blank will end up a loss. Anything but Jesus.

What about Paul?
Paul defined a great life by the words “fruitful labor”. The only life that winds up with gain is a life of fruitful labor for Christ.

For most people what does death look like?
For some it looks like fear, an end, defeat, something to avoid, something to fight against. For others death looks like an escape. We never want to glorify death or take it into our own hands. “All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16) God holds the keys to life and death – we need to leave the timing of these things to Him.

What about Paul?
Paul viewed death as a departure (“I desire to depart and be with Christ.”) The word “depart” is a nautical term for a ship lifting its anchor and sailing home. Paul saw death as more of Jesus, which was better than anything this world had to offer. Is it any wonder that heaven looked good to Paul? “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked….” (Read the rest in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29.) 

Paul saw death like this:
1. We lose everything we don’t need (troubles, tears, fears, weaknesses, sin).
2. We keep everything that matters (our personality, the Word of God, people).
3. We gain what we never had before (face to face with Jesus, heaven, angels).

What was Paul’s dilemma?
He was torn between the two possible outcomes: life, which was a temporary mission for Jesus, or death, which was an eternal gain with Jesus. For Paul, it was a win/win situation.

His first choice, his greatest desire, was to depart and go be with Jesus. But Paul settled for his second choice — stay and continue to serve the church. His own personal desires were superseded by the needs of the body. What an example for us! What if the needs of my local church came before my own personal desires? Wow. As Steven J. Cole said,  “If everybody had this mindset, we’d have a waiting list to teach Sunday school.”

What was not an option for Paul?
DO NOTHING. The possible third choice of continuing to live without fruitful labor was not even on the table. As long as he had a physical body, Paul figured it was to be used for the sake of Christ. Spending his last days at a Mediterranean resort was not a consideration.

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (verse 27)

The word “conduct” implies a citizenship. When people become citizens of the United States, they pledge allegiance to the country. They receive all the rights of an American and are responsible to uphold the law of the land. Their conduct when traveling abroad is a reflection of their homeland. Foreigners judge America based on the behavior of its citizens.

A friend recently went through boot camp and became a U. S. Marine. He has pledged to conduct himself worthy of the U. S. Marine Corps. Even when he’s not on base. Even when he’s not on active duty. He is expected to represent the USMC at all times.

It’s not enough for us to be Christians at church. That’s easy. We are responsible for our conduct outside those walls, as representatives of the gospel of Christ. What happens to the reputation of the good news of Jesus when we don’t conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of it? If we easily cave in to culture over and over, if we compromise our values on little things, then when we are in a situation to have to stand firm for Christ, we won’t have the courage to do it. We need to be unashamed, in any company, to be identified as followers of Jesus. We must not laugh at dalliance with sin or join in behavior that smudges the reputation of our great God.

Lord, may we grow in our faith and in knowledge of truth so we can say with Paul, “to live is Christ, to die is gain”. Amen.

What gave Paul joy? Helping others progress in their faith.
What do mature believers look like? They put aside their own desires for the sake of the gospel, the Kingdom, the church.
How can we shine like stars? By keeping an eternal perspective and conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of His gift of salvation.

Shine Like Stars Week 6 Worksheet


Shine Like Stars – Week 4 Recap

Here is a short summary of what we covered at this week’s Bible study on Philippians 1:12-20. Reading through this recap doesn’t come close to the rich discussion we have in our groups, but hopefully it spurs you on to keep digging.

What good things happened as a result of Paul’s imprisonment?

  • Paul was able to share the gospel with the members of the Praetorian Guard, the elite regiment of soldiers assigned to Caesar’s palace. As a prisoner, Paul was chained to a guard around the clock, getting a new man every six hours. For two years. The guard had nowhere to go and so Paul saw it as an opportunity to witness to people he otherwise would have had no access to. The word spread into Caesar’s very own household (Phil. 4:22). How else would that have happened?

A bit of background here is helpful. Paul had a strong desire to go to Rome and visit the church there. He did not start that church and had never been to the great city until he arrived as a prisoner. The church in Rome was firmly established and there were already people there sharing the gospel. But Paul longed to preach in Rome.

“After all this happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achia. ‘After I have been there,’ he said, ‘I must visit Rome also.'” (Acts 19:21)
“I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome.” (Romans 1:15)
“I have been longing for many years to visit you.” (Romans 15:23)

Then one night, while Paul was in jail, the Lord came to him and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” (Acts 23:11)

Paul’s dream of going to Rome was going to happen! But he was probably expecting to go as a preacher, not as a prisoner. This could have been a great disappointment to him. Do you know how hard it is for a preacher not to preach? Yet God gave Paul an audience — one soldier at a time, and that advanced the gospel more than he could have imagined.

Sometimes, our disappointments turn out to be God’s appointments. 

  • Another good result of Paul’s imprisonment — it empowered others to speak out with courage. (v. 14)
  • Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon while sitting in that Roman prison. Paul probably wouldn’t have stopped to write those letters unless he was forced to sit still somewhere.

What not-so-good things happened as a result of Paul’s imprisonment?
Some local preachers may have been threatened by Paul’s popularity or jealous of his effective ministry. It seems they had some bad motives and were out to tarnish Paul’s good name. Even so, they were preaching the gospel and not some heresy, so Paul said, “As long as they are preaching Christ, I don’t care what they say about me.” He was unoffendable. This is a man who didn’t let his ego get in the way. Paul knew he was in prison for the defense of the gospel, not to defend himself. That takes maturity.

Paul didn’t condemn those preachers who were stirring up trouble because he didn’t want to give life to that distraction. Of supreme importance to Paul was that Christ was being preached. Period.

Why was courage needed by the believers at this time?
They were in the capital of the Roman Empire, where Caesar declared himself to be a god and demanded worship. A group of people showed up who called Caesar’s deity into question and introduced the God of Heaven and Earth. That was risky business. It took great courage to speak about their beliefs in that pagan culture. For many, it took even greater courage to die for their faith.

What about us? Francis Chan asked, “Why are we cowards when it comes to speaking the gospel? Jesus is a name we claim to love. Why wouldn’t we want to speak about the Person we love the most?”

Paul asked his friends in Philippi to pray for him to be courageous in the face of uncertainty. He never considered himself too big or important to need and depend on the prayers of other people. Maybe he would be released or maybe he would be sentenced to death. Either way, he determined ahead of time to magnify God, to make Him great.

The last half of our study was spent on looking deeply into verses 18-20. What a joy to hear the many ways God’s Word was speaking to the women in our groups!

What should give us joy? The message of Christ getting out, no matter the method used.
What does a mature person look like? A mature person leaves his ego at the door.
How can we shine like stars? By taking a disappointment and watching to see how it might lead to a divine appointment.

Shine Like Stars Week 5 Worksheet

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