December 21 – Word Became Flesh – Exemplify Humility

Read Luke 2:7, Matthew 21:1-11, Philippians 2:3-8 and Luke 19:1-10

The opposite of humility is arrogance, which is an attitude of offensive displays of superiority or self-importance. You can be confident without arrogance. Can you be a person with an attitude of humility?

Humility is often seen as being modest and a low view of one’s own importance. It could also be the experiences some people have had this year in a pandemic. A great view of humility is in Luke 2.

Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem:

“and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”

Luke 2:7 NIV

So Jesus was born in a stable – a building set apart and adapted for keeping horses. A barn. Inside was a manger which is a trough – a long, narrow, open container designed for animals to eat or drink out of. It also has been called an open receptacle, usually boxlike in shape, used mainly to hold water or food for animals. So, you could say Jesus was born in a trough.

What a humble birth!

A feeding trough in a barn is usually dark. Darkness can keep the flies away in summer. There’s not much light in a barn. So, it is interesting that Jesus – born in a dark trough – was the Light of the world. The darkness is the world we live in. The Bible says that:

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

John 1:5 NKJV

Was it a coincidence – circumstances without apparent cause – that there was no room for them in the inn? In my view, no. I do not believe in coincidences. Instead, this was a demonstration of humility. To be born in a stable. This was the will of God – His good, pleasing and perfect will. No improvement can be made on the will of God (Romans 12:2 NIV Study Bible comments).

Michael W Smith wrote the Christmas song GLORIA and  Mercy Me sings it. I listen to it at 100 amplitude.

“How could Heaven’s heart not break

On the day, the day that You came?

Salvation’s reason to celebrate…”

Jesus was born in a very humble place. He performed many humble acts in His short lifetime of maybe 33 years. For example, He took the form of a servant and washed the dirty feet of the disciples…even the feet of an enemy (Judas Iscariot), to give us an example of serving in humility (John 13:6-7). Then Jesus said, “I have sent you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (v. 15) The message is to treat people the way that Jesus would treat them. Jesus definitely has the attitude of humility.

Do you practice humility every day?

Tom Weckesser

November 10 – Philippians – Closing Thanks

Read Philippians 4:10-23

I have never been in prison and don’t plan on being there any time in the future.  It is one thing to be there because of something you did – robbed a bank, hurt someone, etc.   – but to be put there for no apparent reason would be different. You could become very bitter and hateful or accept the situation that is beyond your control. Paul was there for the “crime” of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. He had already been ship wrecked several times, beaten and whipped, stoned and put in prison for preaching the gospel. He was determined to not let his suffering stop him from doing what he knew God wanted him to do.

Most of us will not suffer the extreme sufferings that Paul had to endure.  We will not be put into physical brick and mortar prisons but could find ourselves in the prisons of our bodies and minds.  It might be because of our own doing, such as addictions, but it might also be something we have no control over. It is our attitude that will speak much louder than our words. God will use it to inspire the people around us.

My cousin, Mary, was born with spina bifida. From day one of her life, she was restricted from having a “normal life” but not an inspirational one.

The braces she always had on both of her legs never stopped her from keeping up with the rest of us.  It might have taken her longer to climb all of the steps in Grandma’s house, but she did it without help from anyone else! I asked her sister what her take was on Mary’s attitude and she said, “My parents let her know that she could do anything she wanted to do. She lived her life in that manner. She had joy in her heart and was thankful for what she had in life. She never complained or expected to be treated with special favor. She brought a positivity to life and people responded to that.  She sought the goodness in people and returned it in kind.”

Summer after summer, she would lay on her back in a full body cast due to some operation she had had.   My uncle would carry her out to the back yard and lay her on a cot so she could watch the rest of us run and play.  Not once did I see her without a smile on her face.  She knew how to be content in her situation, just like Paul.  As a result, she was an inspiration to all who knew her.

What is your “prison” in life?  What is holding you back from being an inspiration to the people around you?  Do you wake up each morning, listing all of the things you can’t do or do you take verse 4 to heart?

Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS and again I say rejoice!

Pat Arnold

November 9 – Philippians – Live out Jesus’ Story

Read Philippians 4:2-9

As baby dedication approached after Mattie was born, we were asked by Grace Kids to select a verse that represented our prayer for Mattie’s life. Philippians 4:8-9 quickly came to mind. I knew my hope and prayer for Mattie’s life would be one that was fully devoted to following after and living for Christ.

I love this verse because, just like most of Paul’s letters to these small churches, Paul is reminding, encouraging and challenging these people to remember what they were taught and what they have witnessed. The goal is to live out a life that reflects that of Jesus. To ultimately live out His story.

Now, we all know that this is easier said than done, because, well, we are human; we are broken. BUT…
We have the Spirit of God living within that gives us the strength to change our perspective and walk in a way that is different than that of this world.

In verses 2 and 3, Paul is addressing a tiff that has occurred. How often does this happen to you? Especially with other brothers and sisters in Christ?

Paul reminds us that we all have the same goal. That we all are striving to live as Christ has intended. He encourages them to find companionship in one another as living out this goal is not easy. Life truly is better together.

When you read verses 4 through 7, do you get convicted too? How often do I not praise the Lord ALWAYS?! Oh, how easy it is to complain and worry and forget that God is in control and is good and therefore reminisce that He is here!
Do you know someone in your life that you can learn from in this?

I do.

My mother-in-law, Julie, is probably the biggest prayer warrior I know. She is one that I see and hear rejoicing in the Lord always. She is always the one to remind us that the Lord is near and is always going before Him in gratitude, knowing that He cares and trusting in the plan that He has. She lives out these verses and I am so grateful to have her in my life to show me, to encourage me in this with how she lives and walks. It isn’t easy, but she is a pillar the Lord has placed in many lives to assist in living out this part of who Jesus is.

Finally, here is Paul prompting us to keep our perspective on the straight and narrow in verses 8 and 9. Bringing up, again, that, where our perspective lies, so will our actions, our faith and our trust.

Have you heard the phrase, “What you put in you is what will come out?”. Well if you are constantly filling your life with the things of this world, how easy it is to forget to live out Jesus’ story. But, if you are constantly “filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned . . .”  from Paul, Jesus and so many others then we will begin to have Christ’s light and story shine through our lives, our actions, our words, our prayer.  We will begin to live out Jesus’ story.

Kelly Lawson

November 8 – Philippians – Paul’s Life as an Example

Read Philippians 3:1-41

If you had the experience of playing sports, then you probably had teammates you looked up to.  The ones who excelled and would fight for the victory with every ounce of energy they had.  The ones who made everyone around them better.  Success didn’t just happen overnight.  There were countless hours of training when no one was watching.  The amount of dedication they had makes you want to follow in their footsteps.

As followers of Jesus, we have several examples of what it takes to be a follower of Christ.  In today’s reading in Philippians 3, Paul, the one-time persecutor of Christians in high standing among Jewish leaders, had everything.  He had success and the respect of his peers.  Then he encountered Jesus and everything changed.  He left that all behind to follow Jesus.

In verse 13, Paul tells us that to be like him is “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead”.   Leave your past behind you.  The baggage, sin and shame that you put at the foot of the cross?  Leave it there.  Instead of looking back, “strain forward”, “press on toward the goal” for our heavenly prize.  To strain is to put out “excessive or difficult exertion or labor” according to Webster.  As you think about that definition, think about the ministry of Paul.  He worked, physically laboring, and traveled miles and miles by foot and by sea.  He was shipwrecked, stoned and left for dead. He was bitten by poisonous snakes, beaten, whipped and spent years in prison.  Why?  For the sake of the Kingdom.  To take the Gospel to the world.

Paul was not merely sitting on the bench, content to have received salvation.  He was in the trenches striving forward with the Gospel.  As he was one who persecuted the Christians at one time, he knew full well what the cost of following Jesus was.  He knew that persecution and possibly death may be the price he would pay.  In I Corinthians 4:10-13, he says,

“We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.  To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things”.

And in verse 16, he once again tells his readers,

“I urge you, then, be imitators of me”.

We live where we can worship freely and face little to no persecution.  What Paul endured was extreme.  But he put everything aside for the sake of the Gospel.  There should be nothing more important in our life than Jesus Christ and following Him.  What are you going to do to follow Jesus with the same determination as Paul?  It’s time to get off the bench and get in the game! What is God laying on your heart? How can God use you to carry on the message of hope?

Nate Mills

November 7 – Philippians – Timothy & Epaphroditus

Read Philippians 2:19-30

Be like Jesus!

That is a high calling. It is the instruction that Paul gave earlier in Philippians 2. Specifically, he invited us to demonstrate the humble, others-first orientation that Jesus reflected in becoming man, and serving, dying, and being raised for humanity. Jesus is our worthy example.

But we can also rationalize that Christ-likeness is an ideal beyond our reach. Perhaps that is the reason Paul included the description of the two individuals in our reading today. They were normal men that Paul was sending to the believers in Philippi. Still, they are human examples of what Jesus calls all of us to and reminders that you and I really can reflect Jesus in life.

Timothy was the first. Paul described him as a “one of a kind” servant of God. The thing that set him apart from the crowd was his selflessness. Timothy was a living example of the old adage that “JOY” is found in living the priorities of Jesus, Others, and then You. He placed the interests of Christ and of the Philippian believers ahead of his own. Timothy was living, flesh-and-blood proof that, while prioritizing the interests of others may be unique in the world, it is not humanly impossible.

Epaphroditus was the second example of what it looks like to humbly and sacrificially serve others the way Jesus did. He was a messenger sent from the Philippian church. In all likelihood, he carried a financial gift from the church designed to meet Paul’s temporal needs, while enabling him to give greater attention to the spiritual needs of others. But, while representing the church and serving Paul, Epaphroditus became deathly sick. Gratefully, he recovered. As Paul sent him back, he invited the church to extend to Epaphroditus a “hero’s welcome.” He had risked his own life for the needs of others and the progress of the gospel.

Maybe you need the reminder today that being like Jesus isn’t so far out of reach after all. People like Timothy and Epaphroditus have illustrated what that might look like. It includes setting aside your own interests in order to see others served and the purposes of God accomplished. Your expression of the life of Jesus in you may not seem to totally set you apart as a “one of a kind” or make you feel worthy of a “hero’s welcome.” Nevertheless, it is noted by your Father, and it blesses others.

Steve Kern

November 6 – 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

November 5 – 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

November 4 – 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. These 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”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROsdWfK_G0E

 Taylor Bennington

November 3 – 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

November 2 – 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