October 3 – Philippians – The Messiah Poem

Read Philippians 2:5-11

Keith and I recently had our 1800’s farmhouse vinyl sided. Being the ‘romantic’ that I am, I pushed to keep the wood ‘gingerbread’ in the peaks. A few weeks after the crew left, the gingerbread started coming down. Keith borrowed a bucket truck and up we went to secure, scrape, and paint it. It sounds simple, except that I’m afraid of heights. With knees knocking as we climbed high, I set my mind on looking up.

And that’s where our passage starts. Paul wrote these words with prison bars in view, but, by God’s grace, his mind was ‘set on things above.’ The Spirit carried him beyond the seen to the unseen. From dire circumstances to the truth of the gospel. From captivity to freedom. From being a messenger of despair to a deliverer of hope and encouragement. This wasn’t Paul’s natural bent. He learned it from Jesus, the Great Master of humility and surrender.

Jesus retained the fullness of His deity, yet stepped into the ‘captivity’ of human skin. Have you ever thought about how low He had to stoop? If you’re a follower of Jesus, I’m sure you’ve embraced all that He’s done for you. But have you considered how low you should also stoop?

If we keep our minds here, it’s humbling, isn’t it?

Jesus’ mind was set on things above, not on His privilege. It was set on His love and plan for you. He gave His life as a ransom for many, and He invites us to do the same.

 “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”  Mark 8:34-35

The temptation is to think highly of ourselves and our positions. But His call for us is to take on the nature of a servant. To resist all privilege and pride and embrace the cost of following Him for the sake of others.

One day every stiff knee will bow to our Lord Jesus and proclaim that He is Lord!

He’s inviting us to bow now. To daily let go of all fear and pride and follow Him so that others may see Him in us. Are you accepting the cost of following Jesus for the sake of His kingdom? Are you “losing your life” so that others may find true life in Him?

Take some time now and ask Him to quiet your fears of being held captive by circumstances out of your control.  What can you let go of? Who can you serve?

Jesus is worthy!

Shelly Eberly

October 2 – Philippians – Follow Jesus’ Example

Read Philippians 1:27-2:18

“I’m forever grateful for you” is what Joe Burrow said, through tears, to his coach, Ed Orgeron, at his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech last December which is given to the best voted college football player in the country.

I watch this ceremony every December because I am inspired by the humility, hard work, determination and, sometimes, Christian faith that I see displayed. It is such a refreshing contrast to our culture and I love to often see the humility of Jesus in people.

Joe talked about his hometown. “Coming from southeast Ohio, it’s a very impoverished area and the poverty rate is almost two times the national average,” Joe said. “There’s so many people there that don’t have a lot and I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County that go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school. You guys can be up here, too.” He then thanked his family, teammates and everyone who helped him. He rarely used the word “I”.

Today’s reading in Philippians is easy to read and apply to our lives: how to conduct ourselves, stand firm, to not be frightened by those who oppose you, avoid vain conceit, honor others above self and try to have the same mindset as Jesus.

Humility is the source of love, Christian unity and an attitude of preferential treatment of others. It is part of being honorable as in Proverbs 15:33b, “Humility comes before honor.”

Selfish ambition is the enemy of unity and harmony.

Jesus taught that humility is a cornerstone of character and contentment.

“If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” Luke 14:11

Jesus made Himself nothing. He had the attitude of a servant. He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

There are many ways to show humility and honor other people:

  • Accept help
  • Be patient
  • Ask questions
  • Overlook mistakes
  • Forgive
  • Show compassion
  • Celebrate the accomplishments of others
  • Listen
  • Encourage
  • Find common ground
  • Respect other people
  • Open your heart

Complaining does not help much. Complaining is like throwing up; afterwards you feel better but then everyone around you feels sick.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 2:5

This includes a love of others in our relationships.  Are you a breath of fresh air to others?

“Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.” Psalms 119:36

Christ’s example is incomparable. Be in the light of Christ as He is in the light.

Tom Weckesser

October 1 – Philippians – An uncertain future

Read Philippians 1:12-24

Think back for a moment to January 1, 2020. Over the last several weeks, this day has played time and time again in my head. I had spent much of that morning setting goals, dreaming about what the year had in store, and cooking sauerkraut for a gathering with my friends that evening.

2020 had promised so much.

The start of a new decade. A commencement into a new chapter of history. But as we know, what was supposed to be a fresh beginning to a new tomorrow quickly turned into chaos in early March. Our lives were upended. Loved ones died at the hands of a novel disease. What once looked like a promising future quickly diminished into a cloud of uncertainty.

The author of today’s reading, Paul, was prone to uncertainty himself. He was imprisoned multiple times, shipwrecked, and beaten, not because of who he was but because of Who he followed. As Paul is writing this letter to his dear friends in the church of Phillipi, he was being imprisoned in a Roman jail. Certainly, he had every reason to feel uncertain about his future. Yet, his confidence is striking.

Paul’s confidence in tomorrow was not dependent on his present condition. His confidence in tomorrow was in the eternal hope of Jesus Christ. He might not have known the purpose of the pain at the moment, but he knew the provision through the pain was his Savior. Walking through the fire is difficult. Wandering through the valley at times can feel like it is endless. Paul reminds us today, though, that, even in those seasons, the seasons when we look around us and all hope seems lost, we need to look up. Look up to heaven and gaze at our great God. Friends, our hope is not in today, our hope is not in this world; our hope is in the promise of a God who defeated the grave.

None of us know what tomorrow holds, but I know one thing for certain.  Tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that, Jesus Christ is King. His life, death, and resurrection from the grave are the only hope I need. Some days are difficult, and I, like you, often find myself discouraged at the events of our time; but I invite you to join me today in heeding Paul’s words and rejoice in the uncertain. Rejoice because we have hope, not just for tomorrow, but for eternity.

Listen to “You Keep Hope Alive”

 Taylor Bennington

September 30 – Philippians – God’s work will continue!

Read Philippians 1:2-11

I call them “stones.”

Each one represents a time in my life of asking for or experiencing the working of God. The purpose of these stones is for remembrance, just as Joshua set up memorial stones after crossing the Jordan River. Many of these stones of remembrance are reflected by a name and date in my Bible. As I open to Philippians chapter 1, my son’s name and date, written in black ink, carries my mind back to November 2013.

Prayer seems to be the theme of today’s passage. Three times Paul reminds his friends in Philippi that he is praying for them. Tucked in the middle of these verses is verse 6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” What an encouragement that must have been to his readers! Paul had a confidence, an assurance, a no doubt kind of faith, that God not only began a work in them, but promised that He would continue that work to maturity. As I’m sure that also encourages us today, two things jump out at me when I read this passage:

First, it is God who does the working. As simple as that sounds, it is an important truth to remember. He is the one who initiates the work.

“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8

The work He has begun in believers is a gift from Him. We can do nothing to earn it and we don’t deserve it, but we get to enjoy the eternal benefits of His love and grace.

Has He begun that good work in you?

If God just gave us the gift of His grace, that would be more than enough, but Paul says that God will complete the work He began. Ephesians 2:10 states that God “prepared the good works He created us to do that we should walk in them”. As a receiver of His gift of grace, we have the privilege of learning, trusting, growing and serving. In other words, God will continue to mature our faith and the work He wants to do in us and through us.

Secondly, God wants to use us in continuing His work. Paul gives us a beautiful model in this passage. Prayer- Work- Prayer. Sandwiched between the assurance of God’s work is prayer. Prayer will ever be a mystery to me, but I know it is essential in continuing God’s work. Who or what are you praying for today?

As I reflect seven years ago to November 2013, I thank my God for that stone. I see God’s work continue and I remember that the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. As you pile up your stones, may you see that God’s work and prayer are a perfect partnership.

 Charline Engle

September 29 – Philippians – Intro & Context

Read Acts 16:11-12 and Philippians 1:1

In northeastern Greece are the remains of what was once considered a major city in the day of Paul’s ministry. In fact, Acts 16 tells us that Philippi was the first “Jesus community” that Paul started in eastern Europe. You can read about Paul’s story starting late in Acts 7. After Paul gave his life to Christ, he spent the rest of his days relentlessly traveling around Turkey and Greece planting churches, training leaders and ministering to many. The New Testament from Romans to Jude are all letters that individuals wrote to gatherings of people. These letters are called “epistles”. No sooner do some hear the word “epistle” before they hear “Pauline” before it. Paul single- handedly wrote around 2/3 of the New Testament with such letters to churches that he has planted or to mentees in his ministry.

While these letters were written all throughout his journey, 4 of them were written while Paul was in prison. These are commonly referred to as the “Prison Epistles”. I still can’t fathom the dedication that it takes to be thrown into prison for doing what you have dedicated your life towards, only to think, “Oh, you know? I should probably check up on those churches I planted.” If you read Acts, you will soon find out that the guy never took a break.

Now, Philippi was known for its patriotic nationalism which, in turn, means that a good amount of them didn’t take too kindly to Paul’s teaching that Jesus was the Messiah and not Caesar. After Paul left Philippi, the followers of Christ there experienced much of the same resistance and persecution. Paul is writing this letter to them to encourage them and to also thank them for a financial gift they sent him while he was in prison.

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

These words, which Paul wrote in his first letter to the church in Corinth, echo much of the same theme of Philippians. Paul encourages the Philippians that they need to see their story as a living expression of Jesus’ story. Throughout the book, you will see several examples of Paul telling the Philippians about imitation.

As you follow along with this study for the next 6 days, I challenge you to think about who your life is imitating. Do you claim to be a follower of Christ? Is this public knowledge? When people see you, do they see Jesus? Paul tells the Philippians at one point that, “for me to live is Christ”. Paul wanted the only word people could say about him, after seeing how he lived and carried himself, to be “Christ”.

Do people think the same about you?

Do they see any difference between their life and yours? Just as Paul encouraged the Philippians to follow after and imitate Christ, we should heed the same challenge.

Come with me as we study Philippians.

Jake Lawson

September 17 – Life Verses – Philippians 2:3b-4

Read Philippians 2:3-4

A couple years ago, Psychological Science published a study suggesting that people are becoming more individualistic.  And that’s not just an American trend, it’s a global trend.  In general, life is becoming more and more about us.

And many of you are thinking, “I didn’t need a scientific study to tell me that!  I see it every day!”

Entitled consumers.  Fascination with celebrity. Infatuation with appearance. Obsession with “likes.”

Yet, somehow, all this entitlement and narcissism and self-centeredness doesn’t sit well with us.  Deep within, we know it’s a problem.  But why?

While it’s totally consistent with our fallen nature, it’s completely contrary to our created design.  And as Christians, it’s inconsistent with our new creation.

The problem with being consumed with ourselves is that we are oblivious to the concerns for others.  We lack empathy.  When I put me first, I put others second.

Paul admonishes us to change our focus.  He said,

“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.”

Most people don’t get up in the morning and spend energy thinking about how others are doing. Most people are only concerned with their own pursuits. And that’s why many people are unhappy with their lives!

Value others. Pick your head up from your phone and see others and their needs. Change your focus.  Shift your attention away from yourself toward others. Find ways to encourage others and build them up.  In fact, Paul says that saying “no” to self and “yes” to others will bring joy into your life.

Throughout my lifetime I have missed more opportunities than I would care to count because my eyes weren’t open or directed toward the needs and the consideration of others.

Let’s agree to put others first. Let’s agree to look out for the interests of others.  Let’s agree to think of ourselves less and others more.  And let’s spread some joy.

David Lawson

September 12 – Life Verses – Philippians 1:21

Read Philippians 1:21

I remember seeing some shirts for young teens in a store and one sparkle-filled, bright pink shirt caught my attention.  It had in large black letters loaded with sequins the phrase “it’s all about me!”  I can only imagine the person who would wear that and what it would be like to be a friend to him or her.

I’m sure you’ve seen shirts with the motto YOLO on them.  It stands for You Only Live Once.  It was made popular in 2011 by a rapper.  It’s kind of become like a carpe diem kind of expression that is freeing people to do whatever they want because they only live once.  Life is defined in many different ways by people.  I’ve heard people say things like: “work is life” or “Starbucks is life” or “grandkids are life” or “sports are life”.  If someone decided to fill in the blank for your life how would they describe what the aim of your life was; “_ is life.”

That thought has been in my mind for decades as I ponder my life purpose and the verse that has guided me through the ups and downs of life.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians and in chapter 1 he was discussing the tension he felt between continuing here on earth or being with God in Heaven.  Some days I’d rather just be with Jesus in Heaven and away from the burdens of this life.  Other days I don’t want to miss what’s going on in the lives of people I love.  It’s a real tension.  And he boils it down to this one phrase…which is my life verse:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:21

This verse gives us 3 really important words for life:

Perspective.  Paul starts with “For to me.”  Life in Christ is not about you anymore.  You see everything differently.  Like in a football game when the quarterback is struggling and he comes off the field, puts on the headset, and is coached by someone up in the press box who sees the game from a different perspective.  Jesus gives us access to our Father who has an elevated perspective.

Purpose.  Next Paul gives a life mission statement when he says, “to live is Christ”.  In English class we learn the word “is” means an equal sign.  Life = Christ.  The fact that through Christ we have received forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit to guide us changes everything about our life.  We have hope to break chains and cycles and we live to make Jesus famous.  I want my life purpose to be all about Christ.

Promise.  Paul finishes with the phrase, “to die is gain.”  WHAT?!?  You can only believe death is better than life if you are confident that what is to come is better than what is now.  A relationship with Jesus promises us peace with God now and His presence forever in a place called Heaven.  It’s a promise of no more pain, suffering, or loss.  Paul essentially says, “the best is yet to come!”

So today make your aim His perspective, purpose, and promise:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Nick Cleveland

August 30 – Heaven FAQ’s – Is Heaven really that great?

Read 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 and Philippians 1:23

“From the beginning, God had a shining dream in his heart. He would make people to share his forever happiness. They would be his children and the world would be their perfect home.” (Jesus Story Book Bible).

On Mattie’s, our 3-year-old’s, birthday, he was given the Jesus Story Book Bible. I read this to a few children when I babysat and I remember their parents always telling me that it was the best children’s Bible they have ever come across. So, I was extremely excited when Mattie was gifted one. He and I have been reading a chapter each night since he received it, and I remember, when reading the words above, I thought to myself, “This, all around us, was not the intent when God created it”.

When I was in Bible school, my pastor would tell us, “There is world 1.0 and world 2.0.” Now, let me explain, “world 1.0” was the world that God intended when He began creation. Then “world 2.0” came about when the fall took place. These two worlds co-exist, but we can only feel and see 2.0. However, our “perfect home” is still in existence and we are just separated for a time.

When studying Heaven and even the end times, it can become quite mind numbing trying to make sense of it all, but Paul states it perfectly when he says, “it is paradise.”

When thinking of living in this fallen world, it is easy to forget that this is not our true home. This is our temporary home and our true home is in Heaven with Jesus.

If you have never picked up “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn, I definitely recommend it. It answers any questions you may have regarding Heaven and what it may or may not be like. One of my favorite things He discusses is how there is a “Present Heaven” and an “Eternal Heaven”. He explains the biblical knowledge of how the unification of Heaven and Earth come together but he brings scripture to life and explains in depth how this world, 2.0, is not where we are meant to be.

Where we were intended to be is “a bright, vibrant, and physical New Earth, free from sin, suffering, and death, and brimming with Christ’s presence, wonderous natural beauty and the richness of human culture as God intended it”.

Doesn’t that sound amazing?!

Kelly Lawson

June 10 – Enough – asking enough?

Read Matthew 7:7-11 and Philippians 4:6-8

A pastor once said, “Prayer is exchanging our broken perspective for God’s divine perspective.”

How many times have we prayed to God for strength or wisdom and this or that but failed to ask for the patience to wait for the answer?

Often, we tend to use God as a Heavenly ATM machine, making our requests known expecting the answer that we were looking for. Do you trust God’s perspective of your life…His divine perspective? How often do you allow your prayer life to become clouded due to your own emotions and misguided motives?

God is our LOVING father. He won’t give up on you but you may have given up on Him because you haven’t gotten the answer to prayer you wanted?

Maybe you need to examine your motives.

Are you asking for peace in your decisions, contentment in what you have, safety from your own mistakes, strength to face the hardships of life?

Are you praying for your team to win or for everyone to do their best?

Are you praying for fame and fortune or peace with what you have?

Does it fit in the list we find in Philippians 4:6-8? Is it true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy?

Remember God has promised to answer your prayers but He is not a “Heavenly ATM Machine” where you put your request in, say the right words and immediately you get what you asked for. God has promised to answer prayers but, we need to remember He might not always answer, “Yes!”  He might say “WAIT, it is not the right time.” “Wait, you aren’t ready to handle that!” “WAIT, think about it, do you really want that?”   “WAIT, I have a better plan!” And the one that is hard for us to take, “NO, it isn’t good for you.”

God is always listening, so keep on asking, but don’t be afraid to also ask, “Why?”  and then be patient, in the midst of all that is going on around about you to peacefully WAIT for an answer! In all of this, know that He has your best interest in mind and, if we exchange our broken perspective for His divine perspective, we can be used best for His glory!

Pat Arnold

November 22 – 10 Commandments – The Lord’s name in vain

Read Exodus 20:7 and Philippians 2:9-11

There is an importance on names. When it comes to a family, the name carries a certain weight to it.

I don’t know where this trend started in our family, but my grandpa’s name is Ronald (I honestly don’t know his middle name). My Dad’s first and middle name is David Ronald with mine being Jacob David. I was under no pressure to continue doing this when I found out Kelly and I (mostly Kelly) were having a baby boy but I wanted to keep the train rolling so our son’s name is Matthew Jacob.

Now, I’m not sure our name holds much power. I would hope that, when you hear the names of anyone in our family, you are shocked and amazed and standing in awe.

On the other hand, Paul writes this in his letter to Philippi:

“Therefore, God exalted Him to the highest place an gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

The name of God is quite literally awe inspiring. Paul writes that, at the mention of it, every single knee will bow and tongue will confess that Jesus is God.

This means that every person who went to their grave doubting God, who spent their lives cursing the very existence of God and saying any number of heinous things about Him, will, at the mention of His name, drop to their knees and confess that He is who He said He was.

There is power in a name.

That is why God Himself told Moses that His name should be revered, not taken in vain because, as one commentary reads:

“…God’s name is powerful, when we take the name ‘Christian’ upon ourselves, we must do so with an understanding of all that it signifies.

If we profess to be Christians, but act, think and speak in a worldly or profane manner, we take His name in vain. When we misrepresent Christ, either intentionally or through ignorance of the Christian faith as proclaimed in Scripture, we take the Lord’s name in vain. When we say we love Him, but do not do what He commands, we take His name in vain and are possibly identifying ourselves to be among those to whom Christ will say, “I never knew you” in Matthew 7:21-23.

The name of the Lord is Holy, as He is Holy. The name of the Lord is a representation of His glory, His majesty, and His supreme deity. We are to esteem and honor His name as we revere and glorify God Himself.

To do any less is to take His name in vain.

Are you holding God’s name in high regard in your life? Are you representing God the best way that you can? Are you being who you claim to be?

All of this goes into the 3rd command in Leviticus 20 to “not take the Lord’s name in vain.”

Jake Lawson