Philippians 4.4-9 – April 6, 2020

Philippians 4:4–9

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

(Philippians 4:4–9, NIV)

Even during a time that may seem difficult or even impossible to find something for which to be grateful … rejoice!

Thought Questions:

What are the reasons you most often think of for rejoicing? How do the things you think of compare to life as you know it right now?

How do you see gentleness and rejoicing as related to one another? How does the Lord’s presence help this comparison make sense?

How does prayer help you find reason to rejoice?

Philippians 4.6-9 – April 2, 2020

Philippians 4:6–9

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
 (Philippians 4:6–9, NIV)

“Speaks of God’s will and guides for holy living”

Thought Questions:

We are living in an anxious time. What specific things do you worry about? How have you given these concerns to God?

How have you found peace in God?

What things in your life would you call true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable? In what ways do you keep these things at the center of your focus?

Philippians 2.1-11 – March 26, 2020

Philippians 2:1–11

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. 
(Philippians 2:1–11, NIV)

“It forms me. I think and act more like Christ when this scripture is on my heart.”

Thought Questions:

In what ways do you find yourself doing things out of “selfish ambition?” Why do you think it is so easy for people to do this?

What are ways you remind yourself to look to the interests of others, rather than your own interests? What suggestions would you have for someone trying to live this way?

How does Jesus’ giving himself for you help you better seek humility in your own life?

Philippians 4.13 – February 18, 2020

Philippians 4.13

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13, NIV)

“I like the fact that it mentions that we can always lean on God.”

Thought Questions:

What sort of things would you like to do for God if you knew that you could not fail in doing so?

When we read through Philippians 4, we discover Paul is focused on being content in any and every situation. How does God’s strength allow us to be content and do “all things” for him?

In what ways have you been strengthened by God?

Philippians 4.6-8 – January 21, 2020

Philippians 4.6-8

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4.6-8, NIV)

“God’s got us no matter what, so there’s no reason to fear or be worried about anything. He’s working for our good.”

Thought Questions:

What things are you anxious about on a regular basis? Do you think Paul really means for you to be not anxious about these things? Does Paul have exceptions?

Describe a time when you felt peace, even when you were undergoing times of anxiety or struggles. To what do you credit as the cause of such peace?

Spend time today praying specifically for those things which cause you the most anxiety.

I Can Do All Things… – October 3, 2019

Jeremiah 1.1-2.30; Philippians 4.1-23; Psalm 75.1-10; Proverbs 24.17-20

One of the most popular verses in scripture may also be one of the most misused. Philippians 4.13 is used to encourage us to do any sort of major task that we face, it is the pep-talk of pep-talks from Scripture. Yet if you go read the entire chapter, Paul is not writing about the major tasks he can accomplish, but rather the ways he can be content in any circumstance. How does your thinking change, and the actions that follow improve, when you know that any situation you face–good or bad–you can overcome it?

Questions:

How cool is it to know that God knew you before you were even formed in the womb? How does this change your understanding of your value and worth?

Why is it so easy for people who belong to the Lord to get crossways with one another and why does Paul see unity as such an important aspects of being a part of God’s people?

In what ways are you thankful for God who is near.

Why is it so easy for us to rejoice when our enemies fall? Why would the proverb writer instruct us not to do so?

You Can Go Your Own Way – October 2, 2019

Isaiah 66.1-24; Philippians 3.5-21; Psalm 74.1-23; Proverbs 24.15-16

Fleetwood Mac were not the first to point out one can go their own ways; the prophet Isaiah wrote similar words back in his day. The challenge with Isaiah’s words are that even though you can chose your ways, the results will not be good. Look at what Isaiah writes. How do his words compare to your own results when you have tried to go at it on your own?

Questions:

If everything on heaven and earth belongs to God, how should our actions reflect this?

Use Philippians 3.10-11 as your prayer for today.

Have you ever felt rejected by God? How did you respond?

Why does it only take one disaster to overthrow the wicked?

What Jesus Has Done For Us – October 1, 2019

Isaiah 62.6-65.25; Philippians 2.19-3.4; Psalm 73.1-28; Proverbs 24.13-14

“We put no confidence in human effort.” Paul’s words tend to be difficult for us to fully accept. On the surface, we would agree with him: there is nothing we can do to gain salvation from God. We have heard this enough to recognize the truth in the statement, yet there is a part of us that tries to prove otherwise. We cannot stand the thought of not earning our way, of doing enough to be recognized. In what ways do you rely on Jesus and what he has done for you rather than trying to earn your standing with God through human efforts?

Questions:

What has God done beyond your expectations?

How have you rejoiced in the Lord today?

Describe a time you have been bitter, yet God still held on to you. How do you continue to remind yourself of his presence in your life?

In what ways have you found wisdom to be sweet as honey?

Why Have You Forsaken Me?

2017.04.09 - 1HBSMy God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me?
(Psalm 22.1)

Today’s passages:
Psalm 22.1-22
Isaiah 45.21-25
Philippians 2.5-11
Matthew 26.36-75

I wonder how many times Jesus asked himself the following question in the week leading up to his crucifixion: Why am I having to go through this?

Sometimes I think we have this assumption that Jesus spent his life going through the motions as if reading from a script.

“Let’s see… Today I am to go down to Galilee and heal some people when I get there. Oh yes, then tomorrow it looks like the schedule says I need to teach some people.”

I think taking such a view removes some of the significance that Jesus was divine, yet he was also fully human. I cannot explain how that happens, but I believe the humanity of Jesus caused him to not only be tempted in every way like we are (Hebrews 4.15) but to also have some control over the ways he lived his life. If this is true—and I think the gospels demonstrate that it is—then Jesus’ last week must have been one that was full of anxious anticipation. He knew what was to come and quite frankly, I am not sure he was excited about the consequences at hand.

If you know the story of Jesus’ crucifixion, you know that one of the seven last words he spoke was a quotation of Psalm 22.1, as seen above. He did not quote the entire psalm, just the first half of the first verse: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

One can take this in a couple of different ways. The first would be to assume the abandonment by God in the precise moment that Jesus died. There are all kinds of theological arguments made for such a view, each trying to point out that Jesus suffered while going through death for our salvation.

The second thought about this quote of Jesus is that when one would quote a portion of a psalm, that entire psalm would come into the minds of those who heard the quotation. If this is the case, then we cannot simply stop at the idea of abandonment, but must also include the psalmist’s words that God is “enthroned as the Holy One” (v. 3) and that the writer would “declare [God’s] name to [his] people.” (v. 22) This second view probably gets closer to what Jesus was expressing with his quote on the cross. This idea is further enhanced when we look at the Philippian passage from today’s reading.

Many of us are familiar with these verses, which many scholars believe was originally a song that Paul used within his letter. The gist of the song goes like this: Jesus was God (we read this truth expressed all throughout Scripture) yet, he did not hold on to his “godness.” Instead, he gave it up (literally: emptied himself) so that he could be a sacrifice for us. This was an act of obedience, by the way. We might assume that if we knew we were to be glorified after the fact (see verses 9-11), then it would be easy to give up the life we currently have for the moment. I believe—whatever Jesus knew about what was to come—he was willing to give up his life, even if there was no guarantee for something in the future.

Which brings us full circle to my original question. How many times have you asked yourself: Why do I have to go through this? It is easy for us to assume that our lives, once we have committed to following Jesus, suddenly become heavy with the responsibilities of being good and not sinning and the like. We can also swing to the other side of the pendulum and assume that because we follow Christ, our lives will be nothing but joy and pleasantries. If something goes wrong, we think that God must have abandoned us. Both ways of thinking are filled with the dangers of overgeneralization, as well as the possibilities of missing God at work.

Perhaps a better question to ask, then, is: How can I remain obedient to God regardless of the circumstances that present themselves to me throughout my day?

 

Questions:

•Would you say you spend your time more in the first part of Psalm 22 (the one lamenting God’s forsaking you) or the latter part (where you rejoice in the assembly, praising God)? Why is this the case? In what ways have you been able to find a balance between these two extremes?

•How do Isaiah’s words that deliverance comes “in the Lord alone” provide comfort for you? In what ways have you tried to find deliverance in other things besides God? How has God shown himself as the only one who provides you deliverance and strength?

•How have you been able to take on the same mindset as Christ in your relationships with one another?

•As you read through our reading from Matthew, what stands out to you, even if you have read these verses many times before? How do you see Christ’s humility displayed in these verses?

•How do you remain obedient to God regardless of the circumstances that present themselves to you throughout the day?