Philippians 1:1-11

Philippians 1:1-11

Jesus finishes what He starts…

Pray: Humbly ask God for wisdom to understand this portion of the Bible and faith to live out what He reveals to you.

Read: Philippians 1:1-11   

I opened my mailbox recently and pulled out a letter from an inmate here in Tallahassee. An unexpected surprise from our state penitentiary! It felt strange but I was intrigued. I wondered what goes on in the mind of an imprisoned man. I was eager to open it and see what he had to say. Similarly, the church at Philippi received such a letter from the apostle Paul about 2000 years ago; penned in a dark, grimy Roman prison cell…and Paul had a lot to say! What would you think about all day in jail? Who would you write to? What would you write about?

As those early Christians opened (or unraveled) Paul’s letter, they must have been struck by at least three things in the first few lines.

1.   Paul’s deep love for them (vs. 8)

2.   Paul’s constant prayer for them. (vs. 3-4; 9-11)

3.   Paul’s confidence in Jesus to finish the work He started in them. (Vs. 6)

Years before Paul was in jail, he planted the church in Philippi. This means that he personally helped lead many Philippians to Jesus and got to watch their rebirth, baptism and initial spiritual growth as baby Christians. This is where his tender fatherly affection came from. But his love and special bond with them runs deeper than that. He also battled alongside them through “partnership in the gospel from the first day until now”. (Vs.5)

They fought for the advance of the gospel together! They prayed together, worshiped together, laughed together, learned together, suffered together, shared the gospel together, made disciples together, planted the church together and so it is no surprise that there was a robust bond between them. Anyone who has ever been on a mission trip, or served in the military recognizes this special brotherly bond. Deep down we all long for community and friendship like this don’t we? We all need Jesus to work His love through us toward others. Paul describes it best as having the “affection of Christ” for one another. (Vs.8)  

This deep love drove him to deep prayer. Don’t we pray the most for people we love the most? I’m struck by how much joy Paul had in his prayers for the Philippians and how little that happens in my prayers…maybe yours too? Sometimes praying for others seems like a drag, but Paul seemed so excited to pray for them as if it actually brought him joy. He prayed so confidently like his prayers made a difference. He prayed as if God were eager and able to answer his prayers. Why? How?

Paul knew a secret to God’s will…God not only desires our sanctification (1 Thess 4:3) but God sovereignly completes that sanctifying work in us. In other words, we are all under construction but Jesus will finish the job He started in us. God is just as sovereign over our sanctification as He is in our salvation. He is relentlessly growing us more like Jesus, for His glory. This is why Paul could so joyfully, boldly and confidently declare and pray things like “I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”(vs. 6)

Be encouraged, God is at work! Do you believe this? Does it make its way into your prayers? It’s tempting to believe we can never change, we can’t make it out of this dry spot we're in, we can’t overcome that sin that so easily entangles or that there is no hope for your lost friend…but don’t give up, don’t give in, and don’t forget that Jesus finishes what he starts. Trust Jesus today!

Reflection Questions:

1.  Do you have the ‘affection of Christ’ towards other Christians? (vs. 8) What are some ways you can grow in your love for others?

2.  What is it about Jesus that can help you grow in your love for others, and joy in prayer?

3.  Where in your life are you struggling to believe that Jesus really is at work and that He will finish the job He started in you?

Memorize: Phil. 1: 6

Philippians 1:12-21

Philippians 1:12-21

When we go through Tough Stuff

Pray: That the Spirit will illuminate this passage and give strength to persist.

Read: Philippians 1:12-21

When we go through tough stuff, we often comfort ourselves or others with nice little statements like, “God has a plan,” or “You’re gonna get through this,” and various statements like that. These remarks are absolutely true but I think we often skew the scope of which these actually could be true. What if God’s plan for you is to suffer a lot and die? What if your ‘getting through this’ is death? I know people that this was absolutely true for, and I’m sure you do too. Are these such bad things? We often think so but the apostle Paul challenges our assumptions and leads us to a greater hope.

For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21). For the Christian, it is better to die! Paul challenges us to reorient our view of the pain and suffering we experience. As we suffer in this life, we do it for Jesus (i.e. “To live is Christ”). The joy of our lives is to point other believers and people who are far from God to the suffering of Jesus on the cross, for the redemption of mankind!

Being thrown in prison has “served to advance the gospel,” Paul says (Phil 1:12). Do you have this view when things aren’t going your way or your perfect world is falling apart? Paul’s example is just for you. His challenge is to have the same confidence in Christ through the toughest of circumstances. You can rest in the delight of knowing that no matter what you go through, it honors the name of Jesus Christ. And if you happen to die in the end, and things don’t get better, then that is better. The question God is asking you is, “Will you trust Me?”

Don’t be ashamed of your suffering but embrace it with joy. Don’t wish away your circumstances but embrace them for Christ. When God’s plan comes to its fullness, you’ll be fine and you’ll know that you lived well because the peace of God that surpasses understanding was upon you. Embrace the pain. Allow the name of Jesus to be made great in your suffering. God’s plan for your life is going to move forward either way, but this way, you get to be on board and not fighting the current of God’s will. When you can begin to view your life this way through God’s perspective, then the pain becomes an opportunity and the end of life becomes full of hope.

Reflection Questions:

1.      What caused you the most pain over the last few years?

2.      How did you handle it? Did you point to Jesus or did you feel sorry for yourself? What was God doing in your heart through that pain or difficulty?

3.      Who do you know that is struggling that you can encourage with this message of hope?


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

Philippians 1:21-30

Philippians 1:21-30

"To live is Christ & to die is gain."

Pray: Humbly ask God for wisdom to understand this portion of the Bible and faith to live out what He reveals to you.

Read: Philippians 1:21-30

Have you ever thought about getting a tattoo or maybe what phrase you’d like on your tombstone? Something better than I Heart Mom or R.I.P.! Morbid, but gets you thinking doesn’t it? You want a phrase that is timeless, succinct, meaningful and is bigger than your life. While writing from prison, Paul throws us a softball, the perfect phrase for both a life verse and a tombstone epitaph; one of the most memorable verses in the Bible - "For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." (vs. 21)

For the remainder of Chapter 1 we see Paul challenging the people of Philippi to continue the work of spreading the Gospel, making full use of our time on this Earth while we have it.  Paul highlights the conflict that we all have: how we need to be forward-thinking about our future home in heaven, yet not overlooking or misusing the time we have here on Earth. We live in the tension of the 'now' and the 'not yet'.

I'm the type of person that likes to know when things end. I read books and obsessively follow the page numbers, or I'll peek ahead to how long I have left in a chapter. When I go see a movie, I always look up the movie's running time to know when it will be over. When I'm watching a game that goes into overtime, I'm immediately annoyed - even when my team was the one trailing before end of regulation.

I like to know what I'm getting into. How about you? So without knowing when our time on Earth will end, there's two reactions we can have on the spectrum:

  1. If you're like me, it makes you anxious and it tends to interfere with how you manage your time and maybe more importantly, what you spend your time doing. Or…
  2. If you're like Paul, it empowers you! It keeps you focused on the big picture. Paul calls us through his letter to the Philippians to live our lives worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Now in verses 22-24 Paul raises another common challenge, for me at least. Should we look forward to dying and entering heaven? The answer is an obvious yes, but what should we look forward to more? The time we have left on earth or the day when we leave? As we read through the rest of this chapter we see the two go hand-in-hand. Our time on Earth is more necessary, and it is our time to reach our lost friends with the gospel, dive into the life of City Church and help one another keep growing more like Jesus. We should approach every day being kingdom-focused - seeking every opportunity to make much of Jesus here in our city.

I hope you'll join me this week in taking things one new day at a time, getting excited about heaven and yet living surrendered to Jesus in everyday life. I pray we can all wake up each day, free from worry about when or how we’ll die, and instead be prayerfully asking for opportunities to share the gift of salvation through Jesus with others before their life ends. In the meantime, lets not worry about how our chapter ends and focus on “living our lives in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (vs. 27)

Reflection Questions:

1.  So what phrase do you want on your tombstone? Would verse 21 be a good representative of your life and/or hope? Why or why not?

2.  Why do you suppose Paul was writing on these kinds of subjects to the Philippian Christians?

3.  What are some areas of your life that are out of line with the gospel? (not in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (vs. 27).  Ask the Lord to show you where you need to make changes by the power of His Spirit so that you can live a life worthy of the gospel.


Phil. 1:27

Philippians 2:1-11

Philippians 2:1-11

Mind Your Manners

Pray: Humbly ask God to give you wisdom to understand this portion of the Bible and the faith to live out what He reveals to you.

Read: Philippians 2:1-11

If you’re like me & grew up in the South, there was something that your parents tried to instill in your life beginning at an early age…Manners. Whether it involved meals at the table & how you held a fork or spoon, or tagging “ma’am” or “sir” on the end of your “yes’” & “no’s”, many of us grew up being highly encouraged (or forced) to learn & use our manners. Now, as a parent, I find myself repeating conversations that my mom had with me in hopes of instilling politeness, kindness & manners in my children.

The Apostle Paul had a priority of depositing something far more important than manners into those in the church at Philippi. “…fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal. Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:2-4)

The implications of the Gospel on our lives move far past southern courtesy & not showing everyone what you are chewing at the dinner table. Paul’s goal for the life of followers of Jesus was that their focus would be not on themselves, but on Jesus first & then others second. As Paul held up Jesus’ resume to the Philippians in verses 6-11, those attributes in Jesus’ life were to be what fueled the Philippians to give glory to God & serve their neighbors.

When you get down to it, manners are taught so that you don’t embarrass others (namely your parents) or yourself. Paul wanted the Philippians (& us) to understand that following & exuding the attitude of Jesus in our lives is more earthly & eternally significant than manners. Following Jesus with our lives is costly & uncomfortable, but at the same time, it’s the only response we can offer to the One who died in our place, for our sins, so we might have a relationship with our Heavenly Father.

If we can daily think, love & focus on the goal of giving all credit to Jesus for who He is & what He has done, and allow the reality of the Gospel to affect how we relate to those God has placed in our lives, we can begin to witness the transformational power of God in our lives & it will overflow into the life of Tallahassee. It moves us from practicing social graces into an understanding of the only way we can make Jesus’ attitude our attitude…God’s grace.

Pray: Ask God to help you examine the motives & intentions in your heart-to see if these line up with His Word & if they aren’t, to confess & repent of them. Ask God to replace your motives with His motives.

Reflection Questions:

1.    Do I care more about what others think, or more about what God thinks of me? What adjustments do I need to make in my life to be less concerned about the opinions of others & more concerned with how God has asked me to live?

2.    Is my thinking & are my feelings in line with what God has asked me to focus on as a follower of Jesus? Why or why not?

3.    How can I focus on one area (thinking or feeling) this week & be more obedient to how Jesus has asked me to live in that area?


Philippians 2:3-4

Philippians 2:12-18

Philippians 2:12-18

The Joy of God’s Work

Pray: That God may open his Word to us by the power of His Spirit. That we may gain in knowledge, grow in our love of Jesus, and share the joy received with all of those around us.

Read: Philippians 2:12-18  

Our passage begins with an extraordinary command, “Therefore…work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” What in the world does that mean? Following a warning against rivalries (1:15), an encouragement to “be of one mind” (1:27), and to not be frightened of opponents, we are reminded that our salvation first begins with the fear of the Lord. (See also Matt 10:28 and Luke 1:50)

I have thought a lot over the years about that phrase “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”.  I grew up in a time when every service ended with an “invitation”. Where most pastors had everyone close their eyes and called people to say the “sinner’s prayer” so they too could be saved.  Following Jesus was just that easy. Come get your ‘get out of hell free card’!  However, sometimes it felt that there was so much emphasis on that moment of conversion, that there was not much being said about following Jesus as Lord in your everyday lives.  As Dean reminds us often,  “following Jesus interferes with your life”.

Following Jesus isn’t just “that easy”.  To not fear God’s wrath as part of our salvation is to not understand the agony that Christ endured.  If you find yourself folding when trouble comes your way, maybe it is because you assume wrongly that following Jesus is supposed to be a walk in the park. Living for Jesus is hard, but it is worth it! Only in Christ do we find true joy.  We will suffer with Jesus (1:29), but in Christ we are also raised again in new life. 

So are we saved by just working really hard to please God? No. Let’s be clear, our salvation is not about working harder it’s about trusting the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross. If we think that we can work our way into a right relationship with God we’ve missed the boat big time. Shipwrecked! .Likewise, if we think we have no reason to work or fear God because we said the sinner’s pray as a kid and were “saved”…shipwrecked again. Yes, first, we have received our salvation through the work of Christ, but then, we must work because God is working in us, “to will and to work for His good pleasure.” We work from God’s grace rather than for grace.

Paul then gives us two ways that our work in Christ must look like. First, we are to work “without grumbling or questioning”. More than a call to not be sour, this is a call to joyful readiness. We are to be found not just working, but “holding fast to the word of life” so we can endure to the end.  The sin of grumpiness often begins with the belief that we are the ones doing the work. 

For the perfectionist, every difficulty we encounter prompts us to assume that “we” have failed.  We look up with clinched fists toward God and cry “Foul! No fair God. Give me a chance hear.” Maybe some of the reason God seems to be giving us more than we can handle is to reveal our need to rest in His work rather than focusing on our performance. (See Hebrews 4:10) If we work for self-righteous perfection, then we miss the perfection of God’s work.  If we cry “no fair”, we accuse God of not working “enough”. 

Secondly, we “should be glad and rejoice” in this work.  Nothing, not even hardship and death can prevent our rejoicing.  Even if our lives are to be “poured out” as Paul says, to be used in a way that we may not understand or see the purpose of – even in this we can rejoice.  This is what makes us different from the world around us.  This is our super-power and what makes us truly, “lights in the world.” God is always at work, we also must be at work ourselves. For as Paul also wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:9 we are God’s fellow workers. Rejoice in your work today!

Reflection Questions:

1)   In what ways have you felt you have “worked out your salvation with fear and trembling”?

2)   What are the ways that God has worked in your life beyond just controlling circumstances around you?  How has he worked through your own hands?

3)   What does resting from your ‘work’ or ‘Christian performance’ look like for you and how might this help you know God better? (See Heb 4:10)

Memory Verse: Phil 2:13

Philippians 3:1–11

Philippians 3:1–11

Have you ever suffered tragedy?

Pray: Humbly ask God to give you wisdom to understand this portion of the Bibleand the faith to live out what He reveals to you.

Read: Philippians 3:1–11

Have you ever suffered tragedy in your life that really made you refocus your priorities? What used to matter a great deal (possessions, status, recognition, etc.) seems to fade into the background in light of a great personal tragedy or loss because we suddenly see how fleeting those things are in light of what is truly important. This was Paul’s experience when he met the risen Christ.

Paul emphasizes that we are to rejoice in the Lord. He goes on in this passage to explain the things that mean nothing and the One Who means everything. His warnings are to beware of those who put the emphasis on physical things, things that can be done by one’s effort (circumcision) or status (Pharisee). In fact, Paul indicates that if anyone could brag about themselves based on these things, it was him. He was a Pharisee (a person who was an expert at understanding the righteous requirements of the law) and a law-abiding Jew from the tribe of Benjamin. These accolades should be more than enough if what matters are our efforts or lineage.

Instead, he refers to all of these things as loss (worthless). He even refers to them as filth, which can be translated “garbage” or “dung” (some might even say “crap”) (v. 8). Why does he use such disgusting but vivid images? Because this is the way he thinks of individual efforts and accolades in comparison with Christ. We are nothing before Him. In light of God and His righteousness, as Isaiah put it bluntly (and crudely), “all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment” (Isa 64:6). As Pastor Dean often says, “the only thing we contribute to our own salvation is the sin that makes it necessary.” In other words, we can’t earn our way into heaven or work our way to forgiveness…because it is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

The next time we attempt to feel good about ourselves because we have accomplished a Christian checklist or we depend on a Christian heritage from our parents or grandparents, we need to look at Paul’s assessment of these things. It is solely God’s gracious act in Christ on the cross that justifies us before Him. If you are like me I need to be constantly reminded to trust Jesus and stop trusting myself and find forgiveness in the work of Christ not my Christian performance. Have you ever made it a goal to get to know Jesus better? Our goal, as well as Paul’s goal is “to know Him and the power of His resurrection” (v. 10).

Reflection Questions:

1.  How well do you know Jesus? What are some ways you can get to know Him better? What would you like that to look like?

2.  How do your accomplishments or failures impact the way you view yourself before God?

3.  What is the difference between knowing about God and knowing God (v.10)?

Memorize: Phil 3:8b–9 “…Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith”.

Philippians 3:12-21

Philippians 3:12-21

The Prize of Heaven

Pray: Ask God to bring you closer in your relationship with Him as you read this passage. Ask him to show you how glorious Jesus’ death and resurrection are, and how worthwhile it is to live your life for Him.

Read: Philippians 3:12-21

It’s just a little over three months away from the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics, and it will be a big one. Michael Phelps is projected to swim faster than ever in his final Olympics; the slowing Usain Bolt will make his last stand as the world’s fastest man, and Mike Krzyzewski will be coaching Team USA basketball one final time.

The Apostle Paul, the writer of Philippians, was not unfamiliar with the Olympic Games, which began in Ancient Greece. In his letters, he often compares the Christian life to that of competitive runners and fighters, and for good reason. These spectacular athletes spend the first twenty years of their life training to compete on the global level, in hopes of gaining a few hours of notoriety and a medal that will eventually be forgotten. In the Christian life, however, Paul instructs us to spend our lives working to achieve a prize that does not waste away and will not be forgotten: eternal life in Heaven with God.

Here in verse 12, Paul admits that he has not obtained prize of heaven, nor is able to. But he presses on, like an Olympic runner, and will obtain it “because Jesus Christ has made me his own.” Likewise, there is no way we can ever obtain the prize of heaven on our own because we are sinful people. Fortunately, Jesus Christ died for ungodly sinners, like you and me, and has secured for Christians eternal life with Him. In other words, He has made us His own!

In verse 18, Paul speaks of “the enemies of the cross of Christ.” He says that “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (v.19). If that’s how an enemy of the cross lives, how then should a Christian, who has “citizenship is in heaven”, live (v.20)? Well, just the opposite. In Colossians 3:1 Paul writes “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

As Christians, everything that we put into our minds is to be saturated with the truth of God. This is difficult in an age where everything on the television, on the radio, and on the internet is drawing us away from godly things. With the busy lives we have here in Tallahassee, a dozen things are always competing for our attention at any given moment. That’s why it is so incredibly important to have times in the day where we can get alone in a quiet place, away from the bombarding of the world, and spend time talking with God and soaking in the riches of His Word. And although it is difficult, and can often require sacrifice, we join with Paul and say

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Reflection Questions:

1.   What sacrifices have you made to know Christ better? When have you had to “strain” and “press on” to know Him better?

2.   Do you have a quiet place where you can pray and read your bible, both at work and at home?

3.   Who is someone that you know who imitates the life of Paul, and what are actions they take that you could implement in your own life?

4.   In what ways do you still live like “the enemies of the cross of Christ?”

Memorize: Colossians 3:1 

Philippians 4:1-9

Philippians 4:1-9

Wrapping up

Pray: Humbly ask God to give you wisdom to understand this portion of the Bible and the faith to live out what He reveals to you.

Read: Philippians 4:1-9

As Paul is wrapping up his letter to the Philippian Church, he addresses many important things in rapid succession. In the first few verses, he appeals to two female church members to end a disagreement, but then he goes on to talk about what the Christian life, in part, should look like.

He tells them (and by extension, us) to rejoice and not be anxious. He tells them to think on pure and lovely things. I don’t know about you, but at first glance, this just sounds like some type of superstitious, “thinking my problems away” type of mysticism. There many people, including some Christians who look at their lives and problems as the result of not enough positive thinking. But that isn’t what Paul is suggesting. We can’t divorce the positive result - peace -  from the peace-giver: God.

We need a God-centered focus for this passage to make sense, much less be worked out in our lives. We have to constantly remind ourselves that:

·        We were redeemed by the all-powerful, sovereign creator…

·        Are being conformed to the image of Christ, and…

·        Will ultimately be glorified and live eternity with God.

When we take God at his word and trust that he is good and powerful, we can find rest and peace in that. A peace that only comes from him. So anxious believer; lay your worry aside today by trusting in God’s sovereignty, focusing your mind on things above and prayerfully seeking God’s calming peace. God’s peace will empower us to confidently follow Jesus into the world this week.

Reflection Questions:

1) What is the difference in positive thinking and Christ-centered thinking?

2) What areas of my thought-life need some spring cleaning? Out with the old, in with the godly!

3) Where in your life do want to experience the peace of Christ? What is robbing you of this joy?

Memorize: Phil. 4:6-7

Philippians 4:10-20

Philippians 4:10-20

A Fragrant Gift

Pray: Humbly ask God to give you wisdom to understand this portion of the Bible and the faith to live out what He reveals to you.

Read: Philippians 4:10-20

At the end of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he begins to thank them for their gift (aka…making it rain $$$) in helping him spread the gospel. It takes financial support to send missionaries and plant churches across the street and around the world. Paul sits shackled with his cell mates and yet has a grateful heart, as he is reminded of the Philippians generosity towards him and their passion for seeing the gospel spread to every tribe, tongue and nation.

So, Paul thanks them for their generosity, but then quickly makes it known that he did not need this gift. Why? Because Paul has learned a lesson we all need in our lives; contentment. In speaking on contentment, Paul is clear that he has been on both sides of the coin: he has been poor, and he has had plenty. In both circumstances, Paul has learned to be content, it didn’t happen overnight. He experiences a peaceful confidence because he trusts in God’s profound provision. It is God who strengthens him, not economic superiority. It is not that “having plenty” is a bad thing, for Paul has been there as well, but rather than finding his strength in “things,” Paul has all he needs in Christ. How about you dear reader? For someone writing in prison (context), this is quite the statement.

Paul gives the Philippians a shout out for their gift, not for the gift itself, but “the fruit that increases to your credit.” Paul knows that the giving of this gift for the spread of the gospel is pleasing to God, like a “fragrant offering.” Here, Paul echoes back to the Old Testament language in order to show that the gifts they sent for the gospel movement are pleasing to God. The “pleasing aroma” was used in the Old Testament with sacrifices to God (Gen. 8:21; Lev. 4:31).

Context is important when reading Scripture. Think about Paul writing from prison.  Why would Paul choose to speak about contentment when rotting away in Roman chains?

Reflection Questions:

1.      Are you truly content (as Paul describes it)? Why or why not?

2.      What are some ways Philippians 4:13 is used out of context?

3.      Paul thinks of the Philippians as co-laborers for the gospel, what does this mean to you?

4.      How are your finances affected by the gospel and call to radical generosity for the advance of the gospel? What is one way you can be more generous with the money God has given you?

Memorize: Phil 4:12-13