Tag Archives: Philippians

A Living Sacrifice

11 Mar

After a massive stroke, Dad’s right side remained paralyzed and he was incapable of speaking more than a few words. Gone were the days when he played his guitar with such joy and beauty. (He took lessons until he turned eighty-one.) During the three and a half years he remained in a nursing home, Fuzzy Davis maintained his smile and courageous attitude. With great effort, he used the hall rail to navigate his wheelchair, pausing regularly to wave a wordless greeting to everyone he met.

Our family kept a spiral notebook in his room where we recorded visits, his care, and any bits of encouragement regarding his condition. One day we found two pages overflowing with beautiful words and signed by his Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA). Here is a short summary of what we found.

We love Fuzzy so much. He’s always kind and willing to do whatever we ask of him. He never fights us or tries to hurt us. He is such an inspiration and he has blessed our lives. We are grateful for the opportunity to care for him. We all love him. (Signed by the staff.)

 Dad’s last years taught us what quality of life really means. Trapped in a body that no longer responded to his will, Papa still brightened other’s lives. He got me laughing when he was first to decipher the phrase on Wheel of Fortune. He encouraged the chaplain as he nodded his head in agreement with the message and wept during the hymns. He responded graciously to care offered by the CNAs.

Some claim death is better than being confined to a wheelchair and/or bed for years. However, a simple spiral notebook confirmed Fuzzy’s life still had meaning and purpose. His spirit outshone his defective body.

Our deteriorating tent also reminds us that our true home is heaven; we’re just passing through. When Papa completed his ministry, Jesus called him home to total healing and unending joy.

 “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20–21 NIV).

 Our bodies, regardless of their age or vitality, play a crucial role in our spiritual growth and transformation.

 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:1–2a NIV).

 As we prepare our hearts for Resurrection Sunday, let’s offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God and in loving service to others.

Worry

2 Aug

I sat cross-legged on the bed in our inexpensive motel room, midway into our 900-mile trek. Our destination was the university where George hoped to get his doctorate. All our possessions were stacked in the rental truck and stuffed into the towed Datsun station wagon. Two dogs and a ferret occupied boxes in the back of our aging van, which pulled the boat. (“The Grapes of Wrath” comes to mind.) The university hadn’t yet accepted George into the doctoral program; neither house nor jobs waited. I read Matthew 6:19-34, which concluded with these words.

[Jesus said,] “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ . . . for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:31–34 NASB95).

I wrote in the margin, “Does this mean tuition, books, gas?”

I’ve heard the definition for worry is assuming responsibility God never intended us to have. Perhaps the key is distinguishing between God’s responsibility and mine. The passage above says our part is to seek God first. God knows us and adds to our life all necessary things.

Yet that’s an incomplete picture. Second Thessalonians 3:10b says, “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat” (NRSV). George and I worked extremely hard—maybe too hard. Remember how Martha worked as Mary sat at Christ’s feet? Jesus told her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41–42 NRSV).

Ultimately, God is our greatest need.

Still, we spend time worrying about so many things; most never happen. I realize we have legitimate concerns and God is not our fairy godmother. However, worry changes nothing. I’ve learned to do all I know to do and leave the results to God. We can trust His love and intimate knowledge of our needs. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT).

Paul said, “I have learned to be content with whatever I have” (Philippians 4:11 NRSV). That gives me hope. Replacing worry with contentment is something I can learn. The three years it took George to get his doctorate taught us remarkable lessons in contentment versus worry and faith versus fear.

Several years after my encounter with Matthew 6, I wrote the answer to my own question. “Yes— tuition, books, gas and so much more!” In spite of discouragement and fear, God provided material needs, emotional support, spiritual strength, and encouragement—always in His time. Life is continually a matter of praying, trusting, and waiting.

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7 NRSV).

Celebrate

21 Jun

Are you ever weary? I’m not referring to fatigue resulting from hard physical work. I speak of the weariness from working too hard, too long. It may be a job, a project, a tough relationship, or even following hard after God. Today it all caught up with me. I realized I was weary.

George looked at me. “What’s wrong?” (I can’t fool hubby.)
“I have no idea.” It took some thought as to why I felt bummed. “It may be because I can’t seem to have any fun.”
In the last couple of days, I had taken several breaks from writing. House cleaning and laundry sure didn’t help—neither did gardening, reading, or watching a recorded TV show. I tried prayer, Bible study, and counting my blessings. Nothing fixed my mood.
Then George asked, “How about dinner and a movie?”
Bingo!

I needed celebration. Everything I tried was a solitary endeavor. I needed fellowship and fun. God is all about celebration. Think of the angels proclaiming Christ’s birth or the apostle Paul reminding us to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 NIV).

God proclaimed regular times of celebration in the Old Testament. The biggest and best was the Year of Jubilee. Every 50 years God commanded the Israelites to cancel all debts, release slaves, plant no crops, and return property to the original owner. Every generation could experience new beginnings through complete trust in God’s provision.

Jesus began His public ministry proclaiming He was the fulfillment of the year of Jubilee.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18–19 NRSV).

George’s offer made me realize I had become captive to a deadline. I grabbed Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline and read the last chapter: “The Discipline of Celebration.” It was balm to my soul. How easy it is to forget the joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh. 8:10). Joy is also a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Lack of joy should have been a clue I wasn’t trusting God to help me meet my deadlines. My life was out of balance.

God had already provided for this evening of celebration. The place I wanted to eat “just happened” to have a Groupon—$20 worth of food for $10. Fits of laughter made a delicious meal even more delightful. We saw a good movie at the senior discount. What a blessing.

Are you weary? Perhaps you need a date with your mate, a night with the girls, or a game in the man cave. Celebrate love and friendship. Celebrate freedom in Christ. Celebrate with music, laughter, good food, and gratitude.
Just celebrate.

Relationship Repair

15 Jun

The question is not if a relationship will need repair, but when will a relationship need repair. Only superficial acquaintances avoid conflict. We can stick to subjects such as food or fashion, golf or fishing, and never have a cross word. However, if we want to go deeper than the weather, we’ll eventually find points of conflict.

We grow up with rules, spoken and spoken, in our family of origin. There are certain topics we don’t discuss, certain emotions we don’t express, and secrets we don’t acknowledge. We may think, “If you love me, you’ll never make me feel guilty. That was my father’s favorite weapon.” Then when a mate or friend has a legitimate complaint about the relationship, we feel betrayed, unloved, and angry.

The same is true of unspoken expectations. Many couples have told me, “If he/she loved me, he/she would know what I need. If I have to ask, it seems forced and artificial. What’s the point?” Asking for what we need is an important skill anyone can learn.

A healthy relationship is based on love, trust, and growth. It will offer honesty, compassion, forgiveness, respect, and mutual responsibility for maintaining the relationship. If one person walks on eggshells and the other feels free to explode in anger, the relationship may not survive.

How then can we quickly repair relationships? Repair depends on the level of offense or pain. The “secret” is our attitude. First, we can simply overlook some things, realizing fatigue, stress, or even low blood sugar can make us grouchy. Maybe it’s not that important. Love and let it go.

And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8 quoting Prov. 10:12 NKJV).

Second, the issue or offense is irritating and important but not deeply meaningful. However, it could become a more serious problem if we don’t address it. It’s time for a simple to understand, but difficult to practice skill: The I Message. I’ve taught elementary students to use this simple, formula to express needs.

I FEEL (Use specific words to describe emotions: angry, confused, disappointed, attacked).
WHEN (Describe the upsetting behavior without character assassination or blame).
I NEED (a response from you, help with, a different tone of voice, eye contact. Be specific), please.

In a usually positive relationship, intimacy increases when we’re able to express our needs and feel heard and respected. Once again, attitude is key.
“Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15NIV).

A third category is serious, painful, and threatens the relationship if ignored. It may be a flaw in the other person or touch a deeply held belief or fear resulting from a previous relationship or family of origin. This response is best thought out and, if possible, prepared in advance. Examine the source of such a powerful response and be ready to explain it. Then without blame, express your feelings, what the issue represents, and ask for compassion and understanding. The greatest success comes when both parties accept responsibility for their part and value the relationship.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3–4 NASB95).

With God’s help, we can repair relationships quickly.

Please share comments, questions, and/or how these tips worked for you. You can encourage and bless others with your response.

Who Am I Going to Believe?

13 Apr

Philippians 2:5 “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (NKJV).

I’ve been a Christian for many years and still fall short of what God intends for me, including my choices and thought-life. Maybe that’s not true of you, but I know many people who struggle to be Christ-like.

In spite of my failures, it’s my desire to handle God’s word accurately as it says in 2 Timothy 2:15. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (NKJV).

The word handling in the Greek means “to lay down a way,” “to build a road; also “to open a way.” That’s what I hope you’ll help me do on this blog—open a way of understanding, a way to live life with wisdom and joy.

The Bible says this about itself. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17 NIV).

So here’s my dilemma. Is it my place to choose which verses are believable and worthy of obedience? Am I going to set myself up as the authority over God’s word? Each person has to answer that question individually. But I look at it this way, if I can’t believe all Scripture, then I can’t believe any of it. Who wants a god who would deceive, mislead, or play tricks? Not me. Additionally, we have archeological proofs, personal testimonies, and historical evidence that the Bible is true. Therefore, I choose the inspired Word of God above personal experience or opinion.

Years ago, I decided my responsibility was to discover what it means to “have the mind of Christ.” That’s where we’ll start with the next blog.

How about you? Where are you in your belief of Scripture? How did you arrive at your conclusions? For additional study, you might want to read Josh McDowell’s Answers to Tough Questions or Know Why You Believe by Paul E. Little. If you would like to share your thoughts or other resources, click on the link below.