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

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October Lit List

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I like this chair. I sit in it every morning. It’s a really good reading chair.

Here’s what I’ve been sitting in this chair reading lately.

  • The Wild Birds, by Wendell Berry — I thought I had read all of the books in Berry’s Port William series, but lo and behold, there was one more. And it was sitting on the public library shelf eight blocks from my chair. This is a compilation of six stories featuring some of his beloved characters. It’s been really fun to read one author’s works over the course of a year.
  • Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading, by Eugene Peterson — Eugene Peterson is the author of The Message version of the Bible, but he’s written a whole slew of other books besides. I liked the idea that reading is an art. I labored through the first few chapters, wondering if I had the brain power to keep up with Peterson’s academic style. Then we started understanding each other and I underlined the daylights out of the rest of the book. I’d like to read more from him in 2018.
  • The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah — I picked up this hardcover at a library book sale for $1. Library book sales are the best. This was a historical novel about two sisters living in occupied France during World War II. I learned some things about that time in history, but didn’t really connect with the characters. Instead of getting wrapped up in the story, I was too aware that I was reading a story.

Where is your favorite place to read?

“Ordinary people have big TVs. Extraordinary people have big libraries.”
–Robin Sharma–

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

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Birthday in the Bathroom

This morning I asked the Lord for something special.

Just a little love verse, or inside joke, or whispered song,
commemorating my entrance into this world on
Sunday, November 1, 1959 at 4:34 p.m.

I flipped open the Bible and searched for a word,
but there were no goosebumpy moments.

I picked up a pencil and wrote the date in my journal,
but no wise contemplation broke forth.

I sat in my chair, listening in the silent, dark morning,
but I didn’t hear a thing.

I gave up on a “special something” and got on with my day.

Little did I know,
the birthday party was waiting for me in my bathroom.

As I stood in front of the mirror looking at my year-older self,
I saw something in the reflection — gifts galore.

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That Psalm I’ve been living with for ten months,
the one I can almost recite all the way through without peeking —
called to mind my 21,000+ days and my future, better Day to come.
“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.”

Those two toothbrushes standing at attention,
brought to my attention that thirty eight years and three bypasses later,
I still get to see two toothbrushes in my mirror every day.
“I am my beloved’s and he is mine.”

The straightener that I use every day but have never noticed,
says Nu-Me, and I am reminded that I am
renewed daily by His mercies.
“They are new every morning; great is his faithfulness.”

Those little pearly earrings, cheap imitations of the real thing,
speak of the real thing — the kingdom pearl of such great value
that everything is worth trading for such a gift.
“When he found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had,
and bought it.”

All my birthday gifts were hiding in the bathroom.

Party on.

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

 

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Harvest

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This is my favorite picture of my grandpa.

He loved the feel of an ear of corn in his hands.

I wrote about him last spring. (Find it here.)

It only seems fitting to write about him now, at harvest time.

I have fond memories of late fall evenings in the seed house, watching my grandpa and my dad fill bag after bag of dried seed corn. Those kernels had soaked up sun and rain all summer long. The cobs had been picked and shelled, and mountains of corn had gone through the drying process. The fields had done their job, producing hundreds of kernels from every single seed planted. Father and son had done their job, cultivating and reaping. They poured in the produce, weighed each bushel and sewed every bag shut. In the spring, those bags of Trelay corn would go out on trucks to waiting farmers.

I wish we could see a turn-around like that for every spiritual seed that was planted. The truth is, we might not see any harvest for all our efforts. We simply do our best and have to leave the rest to God.

Paul gives us an encouraging word in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

    Don’t give up.
    That’s the key.

Don’t give up on studying the Bible.
Don’t give up on meeting together.
Don’t give up on praying.
Don’t give up on loving people.
Don’t give up on living for Jesus.
Don’t give up on believing.

“The harvest is great, but the workers are few.”
Luke 10:2

Let’s get to it.

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

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