Saturday, May 31, 2008

Topical Study: Salvation

Today I begin a new process from The Navigator Bible Studies Handbook.

In a topical study, I do a comprehensive search of the Bible and pick 10-12 top verses and passages that relate to the theme.

Then, I analyze and synthesize these insights to develop an overall view of the Bible's teaching on the subject.

Finally, I collect illustrations and develop personal applications related to the theme.

This will be a two-week topical study.

The word salvation appears in the NIV exactly 120 times. My goal is to read all 120 verses and pick 10-12 to study in further depth.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Devil's Playground

I am used to thinking about the past and learning from my mistakes.

Paul encourages us, in 3:12-14, to forget what is in the past and focus on the target in the future.

That is great advice for me at the end of another school year.

I can't focus on what I wish I'd done differently. Instead, I will focus on my target, preparing my students for their June 20 final exam.

This is easily applied to spiritual matters as well.

Once a sin is confessed, it's forgiven. The past is the devil's playground on my mind. Paul wisely counsels us to focus on the future, which is Jesus' playground!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Be Like Christ

Paul calls Christians everywhere to be more like Christ.

That call is overwhelming. I come up so short.

The WWJD? concept doesn't resonate with me in the same way as Philippians 2:1-18. These verses humble and sadden me this morning.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Paul's Prayers

Paul writes about praying personally and intimately for the members of the churches he helped establish.

I should pray more, starting with my family, continuing with my students, and also including the people I lead at church.

It would be good if I Twitter-ed "Praying" more often!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

More About Philippi

There is great material about the church at Philippi on pages 20, 21, and 22 of 33 total pages in the following study guide:

The Prison Epistles of the Apostle Paul, by Gene Taylor.

What stands out to me most, after reviewing Taylor's study, is Acts 16:6-12.

The church at Philippi was established as a direct result of Paul's inability to travel elsewhere. This city was not on his original itinerary. In verses 6 and 7, Luke, the author of Acts, attributes these struggles to the "Holy Spirit" and the "Spirit of Jesus."

One lesson I learn is that when I face insurmountable struggles and need to change my life's itinerary, it may be because God is calling me to serve elsewhere.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Review of Philippians

I still feel like I don't have a good handle on who the Philippians were.

I'd like to learn more because Paul speaks so highly of their church.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Concluding Question

Paul concludes this letter, in verses 21-23, with standard greetings and a blessing.

What is the "grace of the Lord Jesus Christ?"

After clicking on the preceding link and reading the 12 verses in the NIV which contain variations on this phrase, what do you think, Dear Reader?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Meeting Physical Needs

In verses 10-20, Paul thanks the Philippian church for their faithful giving.

Paul stresses that the gifts were not necessary, but that he appreciates them nevertheless.

There is always this tension: ministers for Christ should be content no matter their circumstances, but there is great blessing for both the ministers and the people who give to their ministries.

When given the choice to give or not to give, if there is any question, go ahead and give!

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Great Example

Verse 9 is not the first place I've read Paul suggesting that people follow his example.

What would it take for me to feel comfortable writing or saying this?

I don't even like the thought of putting a Christian symbol on my car, for fear I will be a poor witness.

How do I live like Christ consistently enough that I can be an example to the people around me?

I suppose the first step is consistent prayer.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Thought Life

It's easy to go over negative experiences in your mind and reply them over and over.

I think this is one reason why we're taught in the Bible not to let the sun go down on our anger.

Paul lists positive and uplifting things to think about in verse 8.

How does this list compare to my thought life? How does it compare to yours, dear Reader?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Internal Peace

Paul describes, in verses 6-7, the key to peace.


Why are the most difficult problems the ones that God appears to solve most simply?

I don't pray enough. Therefore, I get stressed out.

Prayer will not eliminate stress and weariness, but it will make a significant difference.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Paul writes, in verse 5, "Let your gentleness be evident to all" (NIV).

But how about when a firm hand and a confrontational spirit are necessary? How did the prophets of the OT live out this verse?

The key outcome is to model the second half of the verse, "The Lord is near."

In gentleness or in confrontation, people around us should sense that the Lord is near.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Rejoice always? That doesn't even make sense.

I don't rejoice when someone I love dies, even when I know they're in heaven.

I don't rejoice when my checking account is overspent.

I don't rejoice when the driver in front of me cuts me off on the highway.

But the verse specifically says, "Rejoice in the Lord always" (NIV verse 4).

That makes a bit more sense. No matter my circumstances, I can always rejoice in what God has done for me.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Euodia v. Syntyche

In the Commentary Critial and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, it is noted about Paul in verse 2 that he does not take sides in the disagreement between Euodia and Syntyche.

This is a wise way to handle conflict when there is no clear right or wrong perspective, but rather simple differences of personality and style.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Outline of Philippians 4

I. Live Wisely
II. Think Wisely
III. Imitate Wisely
IV. Share Wisely
V. Celebrate Wisely

Friday, May 16, 2008

Heavenly Citizenship

I don't fully appreciate the significance of citizenship.

I've never had any longing to move to another country. Both of my parents were born in the U.S.

In fact, I've rarely traveled out of the country.

But Paul emphasizes in verses 20-21 that we are ultimately citizens of heaven.

That's a really neat image.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Follow My Example As I Follow the Example of Christ

It seems so brash that Paul says, in the Bible, to follow his example in verse 17.

But as we read his story, we learn that he really is a great example. The focal point was his conversion on the road to Damascus (cf. Acts 9:1-31).

After that time, he lived a passionate life in the name of Christ.

What will it take to create that kind of passion in me? I'm worried that if I pray for it, God will give it to me. But what will that mean to my comfortable routines?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Eyes on the Prize

Paul describes the struggle of living the Christian life eloquently.

It's impossible to achieve perfection, but there is an ideal model to chase.

Paul acknowledges in verses 12-14 that we'll not reach the goal this side of heaven. But there is great value in the process and the attempt.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My 15 Minutes Seconds of Fame

During last week's Guardian science podcast, the studio hosts railed against Michael Heller, essentially calling him a liar, for no greater crime than stating that Richard Dawkins had conceded in a public debate that they, philosophically speaking, spell the word Rationality (rationality) differently!

The introduction to this interview begins at 20:04 into the podcast. The interview with Michael Heller goes from 20:53-25:50, and in-studio reaction continues from 25:51-31:36.

Pay particular attention to the immediate reaction (about 25:51) of the studio hosts after the interview proper and draw your own conclusions about their level of objectivity.

I posted to their Facebook wall and blog, and was flattered and impressed by their willingness to broadcast my concerns on this week's podcast, 34:39-35:23, although they didn't agree with my assessment.

Relative Worth

Paul writes in verse 8 that everything else in his life is less than worthless, in comparison with Jesus.

What would it look like if I really lived out this truth? How would it look in your life, dear Reader?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Crazy Math

In verse 7, Paul explains elegantly that having a relationship with Jesus turns numerical descriptions of what we value backwards and upside down.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Paul's Pedigree

According to verses 1-6, Paul is a Jewish superstar!

Fortunately for a Gentile like me, that isn't what counts.

Rather, it's a solid relationship with God.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Outline of Philippians 3

I. Beware of Legalists

A. Circumcision is nothing without Christ
B. I should know...I'm Paul!

II. Run Life's Race to Win

A. How?
B. By following the right people's examples

Friday, May 9, 2008


Even knowing the gospel message, even knowing a person you love is a Christian, death is so sad and so difficult for the people left behind.

Paul acknowledges this fact in verse 27.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Poured Out Like a Drink Offering

Both my wife and my sister-in-law are having very difficult experiences these days.

I myself do not feel like I'm being poured out, but they both do.

In verses 17-18, Paul says that's he's glad even if he dies for the cause of Christ.

I can't relate to this level of faith. When I'm facing a crisis, I get frustrated and impatient.

It is important that I learn from the example of Paul and support the people around me whom I love and see suffering.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Complaining and Arguing


How can I live out verse 14: "Do everything without complaining or arguing" (NIV)?

I want to live at peace with others.

That isn't always easy. In fact, it's not always possible.

Does context provide an answer to my concern? Check out verses 12-16.

Paul specifically refers to the work of the Philippian church as they "hold out the word of life."

That makes sense. Arguing and complaining about sharing the saving story of Jesus is just plain silly.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Philippians 2:4

"Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (NIV).

It is important that I examine my motives. Do I truly look to the intereests of others? Or do I pretend so I can feel better about my inherent selfishness?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Philippians 2:3

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves (NIV).

Do you live this out, Dear Reader? Do I?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Foundation of a Strong Congregation

The Bible is so practical.

Contemporary leadership writing emphasizes the importance of creating and maintaining an organizational vision and mission to keep people moving in the same direction and generating institutional momentum.

In 2:1-2, Paul asks the members of the church at Philippi to do this very thing.

One of the most common criticisms I hear nonChristians level against the Church today is the huge number of denominations.

I don't have a good response to this criticism. They're right.

But an important first step in addressing this issue is applying these two verses to each individual congregation.

I'm fortunate to attend a church which has formalized Paul's guidance and applied the latest organizational research to our leadership and membership structures.

It's the first time I've experienced at a church the kind of unity in purpose that Paul requests. My church is a very special place with an effective outreach.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Outline of Philippians 2

I. Be Humble, Like Christ
II. Timothy and Epaphroditus

Friday, May 2, 2008

Online Showdown

A few years ago, I was in an extended online argument with an arrogant atheist. (Of course, I'm confident his perspective was that he was in an extended argument with an arrogant Christian!)

Ultimately, he put out a challenge: reenact 1 Kings 18 with two piles of sticks. The twist was that he would assume the role of science (lighters and a match) while I would serve on behalf of Jesus through prayer alone.

I said yes to the challenge, and my opponent abruptly left that message board.

We are called to suffer for Christ, even today, as we are laughed at for our faith. But as Paul makes clear in verses 28-30, our continuing courage will be a powerful witness.

Dear Reader, how can you stand up for Christ today?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Church Unity?

Paul teaches, in verses 27-28, that unity within the Philippian church will serve as a sign to outsiders that Christians are right and non-Christians are wrong.

No wonder Christians have such a poor public outreach to non-Christians in today's world.