Shine Like Stars – Week 3 Recap

Here is the Week 3 recap for the Bible study “Shine Like Stars – 14 weeks in Philippians” for anyone who missed class or is following along from a distance. Questions and comments are welcomed.

Philippians 1:1-11

We are finally getting into the letter Paul wrote to the church in Philippi!

What title did Paul and Timothy give to themselves?  Servants. That’s the right answer, but before moving on too quickly, this word is super significant for two reasons.
1. This is the only letter Paul wrote with this title. In most of his letters to the churches, Paul called himself an apostle. (See 1 Cor. 1:1, 2 Cor. 1:1, Gal. 1:1, Eph. 1:1, Col. 1:1) By definition, an apostle is someone who knew Jesus while He was on earth. We are disciples or followers, not apostles. Paul had a face-to-face encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus which gave him the right to be called an apostle. This title carried with it a level of authority. Paul was saying that his official position as an apostle meant that he had the right to say what he was going to say, and that the churches had the responsibility to listen.

This is important because most of the other churches were dealing with some big issues. In Corinth, there was a member of the church sleeping with his mother (or mother-in-law — 1 Cor. 5:1). The church was divided between those who followed Paul and those who followed Apollos. Believers were suing each other. Communion was a mess and not done with reverence. Worship services were chaotic. So when Paul wrote to them, he had to establish his leadership in order to address a lot of serious issues.
In Galatia, the church there started out great, but got off track when some teachers came in saying that in order to become a Christian, a person had to first become a Jew and get circumcised. Paul had to write and say “NO!”  He sent a letter to straighten out that incorrect teaching.
In Ephesus, false teachers were messing with the doctrine and the immature, easily swayed believers were getting confused. There was sexual immorality among the believers and drunkenness was a problem. Paul wrote to them to say, “Grow up.”
In all these instances, Paul needed to pull his apostle card because he had some tough things to say and some correcting and rebuking to do.

None of that was the case with the Philippian church. Instead Paul said, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” What a relief for Paul to have a church that was not in crisis. No wonder he was so thankful for them! For any pastor, a healthy, thriving church is a tremendous joy. So Paul called himself a servant — a fellow worker, a partner in ministry.

2. There’s another reason why this word “servant” is so significant. A servant or slave in Ancient Rome was far different than our context for slavery, which was a dark time of great injustice in American history. In Rome, slavery was voluntary and not permanent. In fact, it was a way for people to rise out of poverty. A person could offer himself as a servant to a master and it would be a seven year commitment. At the end of that time, the master had to set the slave free. Then the slave had options. He could leave or he could say, “Master, you have been kind, you have provided food, clothes and shelter for me, you have given me work and I have come to love you and want to serve you the rest of my life. I want to stay, not because I have to, but because I want to.” The master would then take the servant to the doorpost, stretch his earlobe across the frame and pierce his ear. That piercing indicated that he freely chose to devote his life to this master. Do you see the beauty of this illustration? Paul called himself the servant of Jesus Christ, meaning he was totally submitted to his Master’s will, he was all in, he had pierced his ear.

To whom was the letter addressed? To all the saints in Christ at Philippi. What’s a saint? Any believer. That means you, if you believe in Jesus. What does it mean to be “in Christ”? It’s a phrase Paul used 164 times in the New Testament. “The Christian lives in Christ as a bird in the air, a fish in the water, the roots of a tree in the soil. What makes a Christian different is that he is always and everywhere conscious of the encircling presence of Jesus Christ.” (William Barclay)

Which expressions show how close the relationship was between Paul and the Philippians? “I have you in my heart.” (v.7) “I long for all of you with the affection of Christ.” (v.8) From a dark, dank prison cell Paul wrote a letter that drips with love for these people. Remember Lydia, the jailer and the slave girl from last week? Paul had such affection for these people, even though ten years had passed from his first meeting them (Acts 16) until writing this letter. We often think of Paul as a thinker, a theologian, a great mind. But he was also a man of great heart and deep love for people.

What are some specific requests Paul prayed for the Philippians? 
He prayed that they would love, even though it is obvious they were already a loving community. Paul said love bountifully. Love more. And then, love some more. There is no end to love, there is always more. Then he went on to describe this love – it is based on knowledge and insight. How does knowledge help us love better? Just as the more I learn about Jesus, the more I love Him, so too, the more I know about my brothers and sisters, the better I can love them. If I know someone is going through a rough season, it makes me more aware of their needs so I can reach out in love and support.  How is insight different than knowledge?  Insight is the ability to see into a situation, what we might call intuition, or understanding that comes from the Holy Spirit. Love with knowledge and insight is powerful!
Paul also prayed for much fruit to come from the Philippian believers. (See Galatians 5:22-23) Good fruit can only come from the work of God as we stay attached to the vine. Being able to display supernatural love, joy, peace, etc. is what makes Him evident to the unbelieving world. It makes us look like Jesus.
What is Paul’s overarching request? That God would receive all the glory and praise.
How does his prayer compare to what you pray for your friends? I don’t know about you, but I find myself mostly praying for friends who are in crisis. The idea of praying joyful prayers for my Christian brothers and sisters who are doing well was inspiring.

On the second page of our study for this week, there were lots of blanks! Don’t be intimidated by that! Once you try it a few times, it will become second nature. And the best part: this is where you begin to interact with God’s Word on your own and begin to hear His voice. Here is an example of how this can be done.
What does God’s word say? v. 3 “I thank my God every time I remember you.” The first blank is for you to copy the text word for word from the passage. Easy.
What does God’s word mean? What facts can you pull out of these words?
1. Paul spends a lot of time thanking God for people.
2. Paul prays when God brings someone to mind.
3. Paul uses his memory as a trigger to pray.
4. Paul thinks of others and not his own troubles.
What does God’s word mean to me?
1. Are my prayers thankful? Joyful?
2. Am I the kind of Christian who brings joy to my pastor’s mind when he thinks of me?
3. Do I respond with prayer when someone comes to mind?
4. How much of my prayer time is focused on me and my own needs?

Then move on to verse 4, 5, and 6. We had rich discussion in our study as we squeezed out meaning from some key words in those verses. I encourage you to invest in this study on your own because God wants to speak to you.

We will wrap up this week by revisiting our three questions from week 1.
1. What’s the source of joy? In this passage, Paul’s source of joy was other believers who were staying strong. His prayers for others gave him joy.
2. What does a mature believer look like? A mature believer doesn’t focus on his own problems, but finds something to rejoice in. A mature believer is a true partner in the work of the gospel, which means being an active, participating, contributing, involved member of His body, the church.
3. How can we shine like stars? By exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit and allowing God to do good work in us. We won’t be perfect and complete until Jesus returns, but He does want us to partner with Him until that Day.

(A resource we used in class was an audio clip of Matt Chandler’s sermon “Service” starting at 40:38 – to the end. You can find that on itunes at The Village Church, aired on September 18, 2017. ) 

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Shine Like Stars Week 4 Worksheet

Shine Like Stars – Week 2 Recap

Here is the Week 2 recap for the Bible study “Shine Like Stars” for anyone who missed class or is following along from a distance. (It’s a long one – grab a cup of coffee.) Feel free to leave questions and comments.

I can’t wait to jump into the book of Philippians, but first we are going to get the backstory about this place and the people Paul knew in Philippi. Acts 16:6-40.

Why did Paul go to Philippi?
*Paul had a dream, or vision, of a man asking him to come to Macedonia (v.9).
*The Holy Spirit stopped Paul from going anywhere else! (v. 6-7) His first choice was to go south to Asia Minor (present day Turkey), but he was blocked somehow. His second choice was to go north into Bithynia and Paul got to the very border but had to turn around. Since he was coming from the east, west was the only other option. He traveled as far west as he could before coming to the Mediterranean Sea and stopped in a town called Troas. There, Paul and his traveling companions met a doctor named Luke. (There is some speculation that the reason they were stopped from going north and south had to do with health issues. They found a doctor in Troas who happened to be Luke and he joined the team to be Paul’s personal doctor. Interesting idea, but no scriptural proof.) Luke ended up writing both the the Gospel of Luke and The Book of Acts.

There are some subtle clues in verses 8-10 that indicate Luke joined them at this point. Verse 8 says, “So they passed by…” Verse 10 says, “…we got ready at once….” Watch those pronouns!

*When they got to Macedonia, they still needed God’s leading on which city to go to. Paul went to Philippi because it was the “leading city of that district” (v. 12). Paul always went to the the place where there was the most potential to have the biggest impact and to reach the most people.

Just think how the western world would be different if Paul hadn’t obeyed God’s leading to bring the gospel to Europe. Just think how different the Bible would be without Luke’s writings. What if Paul had gone ahead with plan A to go south? Or plan B to go north?

One of the questions we’re asking in this study is “What does a mature believer look like?” Paul shows us right here. A mature believer trusts God’s “no”. Paul was willing to change his plans in response to the Holy Spirit’s leading. Paul was stopped from doing something we normally think of as good (preaching the gospel) because it wasn’t in God’s timing. I find it comforting that even the great Apostle Paul wasn’t always clear as to what God’s will was, yet he didn’t give up when things didn’t go according to his plans.

So they went to Philippi, which was a Roman outpost in Macedonia (Greece). Paul took the gospel international. This was the first time the good news crossed over into a different continent – Europe. All of us with European ancestry should be grateful God sent Paul west.

Who went with Paul?
Silas (Acts 15:40), Timothy (Acts 16:1) and Luke.

Paul had significant interactions with three different people in Philippi. List as many facts as you can about each person.

Lydia (Acts 16:11-15)
*She was a dealer in purple cloth.
*She was a woman who ran her own business. Purple dye was very costly, extracted drop by drop from shellfish. A person in this line of work had to have money. Purple was the color of royalty, so her customers were high on the social scale. Lydia was a metropolitan fashionista.
*She was from Thyatira, Asia. She was not a native Philippian, but traveled there often.
*She owned a home in Philippi, indicating she may have had a “house on both coasts”.
*She was a worshiper of God, meaning she didn’t buy into paganism. She was open to the Jewish God and was actively seeking more spiritual depth.
*She gathered her girlfriends together to pray by the river outside of town. This is significant because it shows there was not a Jewish synagogue in Philippi. A Jewish place of worship required ten Jewish men, which Philippi obviously didn’t have. Lydia took it upon herself to gather some women to pray.
*She was the first convert to Christianity in Europe. The Macedonian man in Paul’s dream turned out to be an Asian woman!
*She was hospitable, immediately inviting Paul and his team to her house, which became the gathering place for the first believers in town (Acts 16:40).
*She had “people”. All of her “household” also came to believe, which could have been family or more likely, servants.
*She had a heart open and ready to respond to Paul’s message. Once she heard it, she was all in and wanted to be baptized in the river right away.

The Slave Girl (Acts 16:16-18)
*She was a fortuneteller, able to predict the future because of an evil spirit that possessed her.
*She was enslaved by “owners” who exploited her for their financial gain. Today we call this trafficking.
*If she was local, her ethnicity would have been Greek.
*She was from the lowest class of society, with no rights and no hope.
*Something in her was drawn to Paul and the demon within her recognized Paul was a godly man. What she said was true (v. 17), but she was out of control, constantly shouting and harassing Paul. He didn’t want the message of the gospel being confused with this form of evil so Paul cast out the demon. “Paul didn’t appreciate free advertising from a demon.” (Matt Chandler) Consider the source.

Because Paul disrupted the fortunetelling business, the owners accused him of “throwing the city into an uproar” (v. 20-21). Paul and Silas were arrested and thrown in jail after being severely whipped. (Anybody been flogged lately?) Luke and Timothy were not arrested (they were Gentiles) and there is a clue in verse 20 as to why: “These men (Paul and Silas) are Jews.” Apparently there was some racial bias going on in Philippi. The prison guard was told to keep them safe and to guard them carefully. The jailer took it upon himself to go a little farther and put them into stocks in the inner cell.

The Jailer (Acts 16:25-34)
*He was a rule follower, didn’t want to mess up, just wanted to do his job well.
*He was probably an ex-G.I., a retired Roman soldier living in Philippi.
*He was a middle-class, blue collar worker who “wanted to put in his time at work, go home, have a beer and watch the game” (Matt Chandler).
*He was a family man and owned a house.
*He may have been getting an earful of the gospel from Paul; it may have been the first time he ever  heard singing in his jail.
*He fell asleep and was awakened by an earthquake.
*He was a man of honor, who was willing to take his own life for failing to carry out his duty.
*He was blown away when Paul and Silas didn’t escape but instead took charge and stopped him from committing suicide.
*He wasn’t ashamed to ask Paul “What must I do to be saved?”
*He immediately wanted his family to hear the gospel.
*He was a changed man, shown by his tender washing of Paul’s wounds, which he had inflicted several hours earlier.
*This may have been the first time his household experienced real joy.

3 very different people: 

  • an Asian business woman from the upper crust who responded with her intellect.
  • a young Greek slave girl from the lowest class who responded from her spirit.
  • an Roman man who came to believe through a supernatural, miraculous event.

God brings people to Himself in so many different ways. And all Paul did was watch and see where God was moving and joined in. “There’s some women praying. Let’s go see.” “This girl keeps following me around. I think I’m supposed to do something here.” “I’m in jail so I might as well talk to the guy guarding me.” Paul was always aware and watching for an opportunity to share Jesus. Nothing stopped him.

What preceded all three encounters? (v. 13, 16, 25)
Prayer. I think we underestimate the power of our prayers.

What would you say to someone if they asked you, “What must I do to be saved?”
Because we’d better have an answer. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (v. 31). It’s a belief that embraces these truths:
*Jesus Christ was God in human form.
*He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.
*The sacrifice of Jesus is the only adequate payment and covers it completely.
*He rose from the dead and is alive, preparing a place in eternity for all believers.
Say yes to this, accept His offer of forgiveness and salvation, and you are saved.

What a church it must have been in Philippi! So diverse and multi-cultural! Yet united by the Holy Spirit and alive with excitement! Now as we dive into the letter Paul wrote, we will be able to picture Lydia, the slave girl (no longer a slave!), and the jailer — Paul’s dearly loved friends.

Shine Like Stars Week 3 Worksheet

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Shine Like Stars – Week 1 Recap

Our Women’s Bible study for this fall is “Shine Like Stars — 14 weeks in Philippians”. Each week I will be posting a recap of what we studied so if someone has to miss class, they can keep up. However, anyone who is interested in joining this study is more than welcome to come along via this blog. Feel free to comment and engage with each other here. May God bless the study of His Word!

Week 1 — Introduction

We started out the class by answering two questions:
1. What are you hoping to get out of this study?
2. Are you willing to commit to studying on your own and coming prepared each week?

    It’s good to honestly lay out some expectations at the beginning of a new class. Although I know there are weeks when the wheels fall off and craziness prevents us from our lofty intentions, don’t use that as an excuse to stay away. Keep coming to class anyway! You will always learn something.
On the flip side, the more you put into a study like this, the more you will get out of it. So, the expectation is that everyone will have spent some time with the material.

Consider this:

Have you ever signed up for an exercise class?

When you went to class, did you just sit there and watch the instructor exercise?

Have you ever taken music lessons?

When you went to your lesson, did you just sit there and watch the teacher play her instrument?

Of course not, right?

Bible study is better when everybody is in it together.

Romans 1:12 says, “…that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Mutual. Encouragement. That’s what we’re after.

Time is always an issue. We are busy people with busy lives. There are lots of things vying for our time. Did you realize that the average American spends over an hour a day on Facebook and 4.3 hours a day watching TV? We are spending lots of time on things that add no value to our spiritual lives. My challenge for us is to make Bible study a priority. It will transform us! End of pep talk!

THREE WORDS

As we journey through Philippians over the next 14 weeks, there are three catagories of words we are going to watch for. You will need 3 different colored pencils to consistently mark these words in the passages.

  1. Happy words — like joy, rejoice, glad  (Pick a color that says “happy” to you)
  2. Absolute words — like all, every, always, ever, everything, everyone, anyone
  3. God words — like God, Jesus, Christ, Spirit

This will help us zoom in to look at every word. Paul never wasted words. We don’t want to miss any of them!

THREE QUESTIONS

There are three questions that we are going to ask throughout this study.

  1. What’s the source of joy?
  2.  What does a mature believer look like?
  3. How can we shine like stars?

These questions will help us zoom out to see the big themes in Philippians.

Next week’s study is going to give us some backstory before we dive into Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi. We are going to meet some of the people to whom Paul wrote this letter.

My goal for this study is for us to fall in love with this book. I hope our Bibles fall open to Philippians because we’ve spent so much time pouring over it. I hope our pages come loose and fall out. I hope we can “become Philippians”, as we immerse ourselves in the treasures this book holds.

Perhaps you could take 15 minutes this week and read straight through all four chapters. As you do, remember that Paul wrote this book from prison and he did not know that his letter would be published, much less become Holy Scripture. He was just writing a letter to a bunch of people he loved. Try to hear his words as your beloved pastor writing to you from a prison cell overseas, waiting to find out if he is going to be released or put to death.

Here is a great summary of the book, done in a creative and engaging way. Enjoy!

 

Here is the study sheet for week #2.

Shine Like Stars Week 2 Study Sheet