Our Blog

The Church Family

Do you feel that your #church is your family?

 

Philippians 1:5 “…because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”

 

The following analogy was given some years ago: A family went to the movies together. They went in and sat down, but the youngest of the sons stayed in the lobby to get some popcorn. When he finally got through the long line at the concession stand with his refreshments, the movie had already begun. He stood at the back of the dark, crowded theater, looking unsuccessfully for his family. Finally from the back of the auditorium he yelled, “Does anyone in here know me? Does anyone recognize me?” Unfortunately, that is how many people feel when they enter their local churches. It is supposed to be filled with their brothers and sisters in Christ, but when push comes to shove, they don’t feel like anyone in the crowded room even knows them. That is not the way it should be when we meet together as a church family, and it is not the way it was in Philippi. Paul began his letter by telling this church that he thanked God every day for them, for their partnership with him in ministry. He remembered them in love because they were his family and they made sure he knew it. When you walk into your church, do you ever feel like that little boy in the movie theater, searching desperately for someone who might know you? Or are you one of the members who are content to sit in the pews, looking straight ahead, making no effort to either greet your family or be greeted by them? Our church is our family, our God-centered family. Let us strive to greet one another as such, making sure every member of the family knows that they are known.

 

Study/Meditation: What active plan do you have to make your church more like your family in Christ?

 

*Father, thank You for giving me brothers and sisters in You. Help me to both seek them out as well as avail myself to them as they seek me out. Amen.

 

Joy in Prayer

How often do we seek #joy by praying for others?

 

Philippians 1:3-4 “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy.”

 

Paul knew the secret to attaining true joy, and it is founded in the Holy Spirit and through the outpouring of relationship. Don’t misidentify joy for happiness. Being happy is a response to circumstance. Joy is the result of right relationship. Paul was sitting in prison upon writing this letter to the Philippian church. It’s a pretty sure bet that he wasn’t exceedingly happy in his circumstances. However, he knew how to seek joy, and that was in remembering his brothers and sisters in Christ and praying for them. The ability to do this sort of remembering and focused prayer can only come from a joy that first originates with a right relationship with God. When we have peace with Him, being assured of our salvation and eternity with Him, then joy permeates our situations in life and naturally pours forth in joy toward those who share this experience with us. As a matter of fact, we know that trials and persecution don’t touch joy if it’s the joy of the Spirit in a Spirit-filled life. On the contrary, these circumstances may become occasions of deeper joy because they cast the believer totally off his circumstances and on to his God. It’s in that relationship, its depth, that real joy is found. Are you looking for true joy today? If so, look no further than to your relationship with your Father and then remember and pray for your fellow brothers and sisters. Your circumstances, no matter how dire, will not permeate your state of heart in this eternal perspective.

 

Study/Meditation: Think of at least two fellow Christians you can pray for today and lift them up in prayer. Why do you think this is a path to the joy we all have in Christ?

 

*Father, my hope and my joy is in You. I love You and I give You all the praise and glory and honor in my life. Amen.

 

headshotBy Elizabeth Ryan
When we are young we grow a custom to our environment and the people around us. Unable to view our experience from any other perspective, because of course, this is all we know. We instinctively accept the behavior of others, adapt ourselves accordingly and believe that this is the way it is supposed to be. Whether our environment is happy and safe with lots of loving communication or it is scary and unstable with lots of abusive words…or maybe it could
be someplace in between…This is our world and this becomes the foundation from which we begin to build our lives and our understanding of others and our world.
If we could imagine for a moment that our experiences with others are like a constant exchange of garments. From the time we are little we are given all types of “emotional” garments and as we grow we learn to accept the garment no matter what is given.
Then, in turn, we begin our exchange of imposing garments. Some are heavy and cloak like. Others are scratchy and irritating and some tight and confining. While others can be sheer and light, some colorful and flowing or maybe soft and comforting.
Throughout our lives we exchange garments with those we encounter. Some of us have become so heavy-ladened with garments we find we can hardly breathe much less move or even see. We are sometimes panicked at the fact that we are unrecognizable even to ourselves trapped and hidden deep, beneath all the layers we cling to so tightly.
Our voices so muffled we are unable to be heard or even seen for who we truly are, whom God created us to be.
In our inability to bear the weight of all that we have accumulated we drop to our knees…Then, collapse into a heap on the ground. Broken and ashamed at the realization of all that we have given to others…In this, we are able to find true humility and are ready to let go.  Our Savior removes the garments one by one, those that we have received and those that we have given, now we can begin to experience what it means to truly be free. As the bondage is
released Jesus is able to reveal to us the beauty of whom he created us to be without the garments of this world.
Through His grace and mercy we have been given the ability to see beyond the garments worn by others. We have a deeper understanding and true compassion for those who are unaware of their own garments and share with them the hope we have come to know when Christ removed ours and revealed to us His glory.
The garments, whether weighty or light, can only fully be seen by our Savior.
After all, He “knows” us. He was there when we received them, He knows fully from whom they were given and how weary and tired we have become from dragging all the bags we have accumulated behind us. He has seen all the garments you have given to others and yet He sees clearly that you are beautiful and you are His…Exactly the way He created you and no longer hidden, deep beneath the heap on the ground.

 

Matthew 11:28-30  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Let us surrender the need to exchange the garments of this world and instead embrace the simple exchange of the only garment we need…The garment of God’s Glory.

 

 

**Featured Image Photo by Sonora Leif Photography

Peace in Grace

#Peace is only available through the #grace of God.

 

Philippians 1:2 “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

This greeting, which appeared in some form using “grace” and “peace” in all thirteen of Paul’s letters, was a combination of traditional salutations in the Jewish and Greek societies. Paul begins this letter to the church in Philippi with the clear intention of not only introducing himself and providing the appropriate greeting, but with uniting them as Christians who have available to them grace and peace that only comes from God through Christ. Grace is that gift one receives due to unmerited favor. If you think you’ve done something to earn favor or reward, then you do not receive grace. Grace is given to us by God due to His own character and of His own will. We deserve His wrath. He chooses to give us His grace. If for some reason you think that you can gain God’s favor by being good enough or living cleanly enough, then you do not yet know God’s grace. Only by seeing how undeserving we are of eternity can we be the recipients of this gift. Peace, on the other hand, is the result of receiving God’s grace. True peace comes when a person knows that God’s grace has been bestowed upon him, and he thereby can live in contentment now with God, with himself, and with others. Grace and peace begin vertically, but will always extend horizontally. Those of us who know God’s grace and have peace with Him because of it will naturally seek to both show grace to others and live peaceably with them.

 

Study/Meditation: Read Romans 4:1-8. (http://www.esvbible.org/Romans+4/). How does Paul connect faith and grace?

 

*Father, thank You for giving me Your grace so that I can experience peace with You and with others. Help me to extend grace to others as I have had it shown to me. Amen.

 

Christians as Saints

How is it that every true Christian is a saint?

 

Philippians 1:1b “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.”

 

You may read a greeting like this from the Apostle Paul to the Philippian church and think he was greeting some special select group there, some “super Christians” who had done a great work or a glorious service so that they had received the title of “saint.” Unfortunately, the word “saint” has often been misused; it was biblical in its usage when referring to all true Christians. In fact, Paul had written to the saints in Philippi, Ephesus, Rome, and even Corinth as he wrote to the entire church. The word “saint” simply means “holy one.” To be holy means to be “set apart.” Christians are those who have been set apart for Christ. Believers have been set apart for Christ in that they have accepted His sacrifice and His lordship so that God has forgiven them of their sins. They have been therefore “set apart” from this evil world, set apart from serving themselves and their sinful natures, and instead set apart in Christ to do His will. Paul was greeting all of those who had been set apart by God in Christ to do His will and to live to His glory. Christians, or saints, are to live in the world but to live as one who is set apart from it. That doesn’t mean that they are to remove themselves from the world as in a monastery or somewhere else away from the rest of “ordinary people.” On the contrary, they are to be in it to testify to Christ’s saving work while they are obviously set apart as His. All believers, therefore, are saints, or holy ones set apart in Christ.

 

Study/Meditation: How are you to live day by day as one “set apart” for Christ? What does that look like practically?

 

*Father, help me in my endeavors to live in this world while set apart from it. Forgive me for the times when I fail and give me strength and wisdom to live correctly for You. Amen.

 

Are You a Slave?

To whom are you a #slave?

 

Philippians 1:1a “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus…”

 

It was traditional in antiquity for the writer of a letter to introduce himself in the very first few words. Whereas Timothy was not writing this letter with Paul since Paul refers to himself in the letter in first person and refers to Timothy in the third person, Timothy was most likely there with Paul, serving as a secretary of sorts. Paul then introduces them both to his Philippian audience, and the way he does so teaches us much about how we are to view ourselves in relation to Christ. Paul uses the word “servant” or “slave” to describe both himself and Timothy. Literally the word was “bond servant,” which was used to illustrate ones obligatory, subordinate role under the authority of another. Paul unabashedly calls himself a slave to Christ, and even though the connotation of that word often offends, the truth is that we are all slaves to something. Paul wrote in Romans 6:16, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one who you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” The question we must ask ourselves is, “To whom am I a slave?” Many people call themselves Christians, but day in and day out they are only slaves to themselves. There is only one Lord and that is not self. So as we begin this study of Philippians together, let us ask ourselves if we are happily enslaved to Christ, our Savior and Bridegroom. Paul was, and he readily identified himself in such a manner.

 

Study/Meditation: Read Romans 6:15-23. (http://www.esvbible.org/Romans+6/) How does Paul describe being a “slave to righteousness”?

 

*Father, I am your slave, and I am so privileged to be so. Thank You for Your abounding mercy and love in bringing me into Your kingdom. Amen.