A Letter from Prison (Philippians, pt 1)

Over the next several weeks, I’m going to share some thoughts from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. These posts are personal reflections taken from devotional reading of the book.

At the beginning of his letter to the Philippian believers, Paul is eminently thankful and joyful:

  • verse 3: “I thank my God in all my remembrances of you”
  • verse 4: “always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy
  • verse 5: “thankful for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now”
  • verse 18: “what then? only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice
  • verse 19: “Yes, and I shall rejoice. For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance”

Paul is imprisoned while writing this, yet his letter bursts forth with life and joy. What is it that makes Paul able to write with such exuberance? It is his confidence in God.

By divine coincidence, while reading these words from Paul, I came across Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s words on thankfulness in community in his masterful work Life Together:

Thankfulness works in the Christian community as it usually does in the Christian life. Only those who give thanks for little things receive the great things as well. We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts prepared for us because we do not give thanks for daily gifts….How can God entrust great things to those who will not gratefully receive the little things from God’s hand?

If Paul can live with joy and thankfulness in prison, how can we not be thankful and joyful in our daily lives today?

What are you thankful for today? What life situation or setting makes it a challenge for you to be thankful?

[If you want to explore Philippians further, consider viewing the 2018 preaching series, “Unshackled: Joy Beyond Circumstances,” beginning with the message, “The Joy of Faith.”]

||40days|| week six: live thankful

Every year in the US, we mark out a day to celebrate what we have been given. Thanksgiving Day, in my opinion, is actually one of the most culturally amazing moments where we take time out from work and normal routines to simply celebrate and enjoy God’s goodness. Of course, like all things, Thanksgiving can be trivialized by commercialism, but it is still a fascinating moment in our country’s history and experience.

The wonder of the life with God is that each day spent following Jesus propels us into thanksgiving. The abundance we have received from God through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is beyond words. Today, as we continue our ||40days|| journey, we want to come alive with thankfulness.

Throughout the Scripture, we encounter many sacrifices offered in worship of God. In Psalm 50, however, we encounter a different kind of sacrifice:Read More »

A Different Kind of Sacrifice

When I think of sacrifices for God, I tend to think of all the things I could give up for God. I could give up my time to help somebody out in the name of Jesus. I could give up my money so that someone else could have something they truly need and not just fill my own wants. I could give up my career and become a missionary to people in a faraway land or serve in an urban ministry. I tend to think of what I can do for God.

It is good to think this way. We should never shy away from it. But in Psalm 50, we see that something else should flow through anything we want to do for God. We encounter a different kind of sacrifice:Read More »

Philippi: Passion for Christ (discussion questions)

Here are discussion questions that accompany my message “Passion for Christ” from our series “Light for the City” at Eastbrook this past weekend on Philippians 3:1-14.

Discussion Questions:

1. Put in simple terms, Christianity is not about religion but about relationship with the living God. How does Paul describe his former way of seeing things – a ‘religious’ perspective – in the first six verses of Philippians 3?

2. What would you say is the fundamental difference between Paul’s former way of seeing life with God and his Christ-centered view of life with God? Compare 3:1-6 with 3:7-11.

3. Paul writes this: “Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ” (3:7). In your own life, what things have you counted a ‘loss for the sake of Christ’?

4. In 3:8-9, Paul explains that knowing Christ is the most important thing in all of life. This is because of what Christ has done for us (our position before God) and because of living life with Christ (our experience of God). How would you describe what Christ has done for you? How would you describe your experience of life with Christ; ‘knowing Christ’ as Paul talks about it?

5. Paul uses the phrase ‘I press on’ twice in 3:12-15. He uses the metaphor of an athlete to further describe the strenuous pursuit of God in our daily lives. How are you straining and pressing on to know God day by day? What spiritual practices do you engage in to know God more?

6. Take some time at the end of your study to consider at least one thing you have learned that will change how you live practically. If you are in a group, share this with one another. If you are on your own, write it out somewhere you will see it and come back to it each day this week.