Women Embracing Faith

Thinking Through the Bible

Positive Thinking? June 10, 2010

Filed under: Philippians — womenembracingfaith @ 10:42 am
Tags: , ,

This is the last lesson on Philippians.  I hope this series has been useful to you personally.  Just scroll ‘Category’ to Philippians for all the lessons.  Perhaps you could use it, along with Roger Ellsworth’s Opening Up Philippians, for a small group study.

Reread Philippians 4

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you”  (Philippians 4:8-9).


If this isn’t “positive thinking,” what is it?  In the 1950’s, a pastor in N.Y.City came up with a popular notion for those looking for inner peace and tranquility in life.  Just think about the good.  Keep your mind on the positive and joy would come your way.  It seems like that’s all Paul is saying here as well.  But, the catch comes in verse 9 which connects how we are looking at people and events with following his instruction and example. 

His whole point in this letter was to stand firm together for the gospel, with love for each other, so that the work of telling others about Christ Jesus would go on.   Maintaining peace and harmony in any group takes work.  So Paul told them to deliberately look for the positive in events or others.  What is honorable here, what is just, lovely, worthy of praise?  We are to “be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” as he told the Ephesians (4:3).  Eager to be reasonable and to live peaceably.   The purpose in searching out the lovely and just and honorable is not for our own inner peace, as Norman V. Peale taught, but for keeping the local church on track. 

But, Paul’s own joy is to be our example.  That joy was rooted in his desire that Christ be honored and proclaimed.  “…as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now, as always, Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:20-21).  Have the desire that Christ Jesus be glorified by your living reasonably, looking for the good, keeping the peace.   Like Paul, be happy when someone helps you or shows concern for your work to spread the gospel.  He had learned contentment, not through positive thinking, but by rejoicing in the Lord who gave him strength (4:10-13).  What an example of confidence in God and living for God’s glory he was setting for all of us who would read this letter.  He was sure God would supply all of their needs so that God would be glorified.  He had certainly experienced that himself on his recent trip to Rome–through storm at sea, shipwreck, an angel’s visit, snakebite (Acts 27).  He wanted to be an example to these friends of confidence and rejoicing in God.  Like the prophet Habakkuk, he could say,

“Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls–yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.  The LORD God is my strength;”(Hab. 3: 17-19).

This experience is a long way from the whole positive thinking thing.  It all comes back to God’s grace.  By his grace, we can maintain the glue of peace in our churches, families,  and relationships.  By his grace, we can get through needy times.  By his grace, we can stand firm.


Simplify May 19, 2010

Filed under: Philippians — womenembracingfaith @ 6:05 am
Tags: , , ,
Reading Philippians 

Reread Philippians 3-4:1.

Paul is urging us set an over-riding goal of knowing God more intimately, relationally, while reflecting his character by who we really are.  He uses the terms “pressing on” and “straining forward” so we may know God and his power as we willingly sacrifice our own interests and desires (3:10-12).  He urges these friends to follow his example, but to be aware that there are many whose example will be a snare and stumbling block to them. 

“Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. (Philippians 3:19).

The problem with these people is that they are chiefly interested in themselves, in satisfying their own desires, in pursuing their own interests. It is awfully hard to be singular in purpose when one is tossed about by every wave of worldliness or new trend.  We can’t be thinking of these things all the time, seeking to fulfill every desire even if it is against the Bible’s examples of how we are to live.

In another letter, Colossians, Paul explains how to have this singular eye of knowing God and reflecting him:

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth….Put to death, therefore, what is earthly in you, sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness…put them all away:  anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk…do not lie to one another…Put on…compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, …put on love…(Colossians 3:2-14).

Notice this is an active sense of determining to think about spiritual things.  Then to turn away from those actions and thoughts that will destroy that determination.  And to replace them with love.  It helps to keep an eye out for people who are humble, compassionate, kind, patient, sexually pure, truthful, forgiving. People like this are to be our role-models. We need friends like this!  We are to be examples for others of kindness, humility, love, while standing firmly, rooted and grounded in the gospel. 

This is really about setting priorities, watching what we think about, what we really like or desire because that will shape who we become.   Jesus talked about the same thing when he said,

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The eye is the lamp of the body.  So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.  If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money” (or possessions) (Matthew 7:19-24).

Simplify your life by having one desire that over-rides all others:  to know God more intimately and to let others see Jesus in you.


Philippians 3:7-14 April 27, 2010

Filed under: Philippians — womenembracingfaith @ 3:08 pm
Tags: , , ,

“…and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own…

Paul explained what it means to be “in Christ” in another letter.  Here his emphasis is on our applying the righteousness of Christ to our daily lives–that “righteousness from God that depends on faith–” (3:11).  When we sin, and the guilt causes us to despair, we are to remember we are clothed in this perfectness, this life of the Lord Jesus who never sinned.  Practicing this enables us to passionately pursue our goal of knowing God and experiencing his power. 

Then, we can follow Jesus’s example, as well as, put off our own sinful desires, and our selfishness, and put on love, joy, peace, patience, longsuffering….. 

“Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immortality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealously.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14). 

Paul even encouraged them to look at his example of how to live this out. He knew he was not perfect; his only perfectness was found “in Christ.”  God declared Paul righteous. It depended on his faith–the gift of God.  He kept his eyes on his goal of knowing God, and he insisted this was the only way: to be “in Christ.” 

I used to have a sign on my podium reading “Follow me to the library.”  The senior social studies kids weren’t very appreciative.  That just wasn’t on their minds. 

Here, Paul was encouraging his readers to follow his example as he followed Christ Jesus.  Is that what is on your mind?

THINK ABOUT THESE VERSES:  Comparing verses with each other helps us understand and apply them.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:1).

“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17).

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:  sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and coveteousness, which is idolatry….You must put them all away:  anger wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouths…Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, …” (Colossians 3:5-12).