From Start to Finish : Philippians 1:12-19

(Philippians 1:12-19)

12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,[b] that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard[c] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.

small group questions…

Take a moment and re-read Philippians 1:12-19, 30. Is there anything that stands out as you read these verses for a 2nd time?

Bad days seem to be a part of life. Can you recall a bad day that you’ve had recently – or a day when nothing went your way? How did you react?

Paul was obviously in a place where he didn’t want to be (prison), but was somehow able to make the best of his situation. Can you think of a time in your life where you just weren’t in a good place (physically, emotionally, spiritually)? Why was it so difficult to be positive in the midst of that circumstance?

Can you think/share about a time when you were encouraged as a result of someone else’s hardship? How did their attitude encourage/inspire you?

What do you love most about being a part of a growing community? Why is it so important for a Christ follower to be a part of healthy community?

The church in Philippi was an eclectic group of people from all walks of life – and Paul loved them for it. Does this describe the church of today? Or our church specifically? Why is diversity within community so important?

Check out Galatians 6:2. Why is it important (within community) to ‘bear each other’s burdens?’

Optional: Is there something that you’re passionate about that you’d like to share with the group? How can a church community support you in making this dream a reality?

From Start to Finish: Philippians 1:1-11

With this post comes the start of the new series. For the next few weeks we will be looking at the small gem of a NT book called Philippians. If you’ve ever received a note, text, email or (old school) letter that was just full of encouragement and love then you’ll be able to identify with this letter. Many say that Philippians is one of their favourite books/letters from Paul (the author). Probably because they like the Paul they find in this writing. Not that Paul is a bad guy…far from it. But he does come across a little cranky from time to time. In Philippians, he shows much love, humility and affection.

teaching promo April:May:June.001Paul is writing this book from prison. We know that for some historical evidence, and because he uses the word ‘chains’ a number of times in this letter (as a references to being in chains). He’s writing to everyone in the Philippian church and wants them all to hear what he thinks of them and how appreciative he is of them.

Right from the start we get a glimpse of what Paul is trying to accomplish with this letter. He wants the Philippians to know how appreciative he is of their partnership in the gospel. He also wants to remind them of the partnership they have with God. Ending this section with the most beautiful prayer.

(1:3-6) I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

In these first few phrases we can see Paul’s feelings coming through. He gets a little gushy if you ask me. If you read ahead to verses 7-8 you’ll see what we mean. Thanking God for them. Always praying for them. Filled with Joy because of them. Why all this joy and love and appreciation? Because of this one word, ‘partnership’. The word used here is the same word that we find in the NT for Fellowship or Community. That word is Koinonea. It refers to relational community, but implies so much more than belonging, it also implies action from those who belong. Their is a sense of participation in community. Our first steps into a wonderful community are filled with feelings of grace and acceptance – a sense of belonging and being taken cared of – loved. This is all true. But any authentic and healthy community has a sense of participation. There is ‘give’ and there is ‘take’. Heathy relationships are always like that. Otherwise they get old real fast. Paul is thankful because these Philippians get it; they are fully part of this new gospel community, so much so that they view it as a partnership.

This partnership is not just with people, the partnership is with God. As we dive into relationship with Jesus, he invests in us – from start to finish. Philippians 1:6 is a favourite verse of many because it reminds us that God is never done with us. He doesn’t just start things only let them us figure it out on our own. God completes what he starts in us. He begins ‘good’ work and carries it on to completion. He’s Marcus Stroman & Roberto Osuna wrapped up in one (That’s a Toronto Blue Jay analogy if you missed it). He’s a starter and closer. So if you’re ever feeling like giving up on God, know this, he will never give up on you. Never. Deuteronomy 31:6 is OT verse that affirms this. God has proven his love and commitment from the beginning. It reads… “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

After Paul starts his letter off with love, affection, and an appreciation for community and partnership, he ends this section off with prayer. Actually, he’s starting off the book with prayer. He prays 3 things for this young church:
– That their love may abound
– That their wisdom would grow
– That their life would produce the fruit of righteousness
Here’s how he puts it, ” And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
May we pray this for others. May we move away from praying for things and circumstances (only) and begin to pray for people in this deep and impacting way. Let the love we receive from Jesus not be stagnant or complacent, but let it grow and abound, in such a way that it affects every area of our life. Let this love flow into our thoughts and discernment so that we know what is best in all situations. Not to stop short, let us pray that the fruit we produce in our lives is what Paul calls righteousness. This simply means that a life with this kind of abounding love and insightful wisdom will make right choices and live rightly.

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small(er) group questions:

What comes to mind when you think of Paul’s phrase, ‘partnership in the gospel’?

Put yourself in Paul’s shoes (sandals). He’s in prison, in chains (the scripture says). How can he feel this kind of Joy & Affection for anyone while in prison? What’s your take on it?

Why is it tempting to view community and fellowship in a selfish way (what I can get for me) while forgetting that it’s a two way street? Would you agree that healthy and authentic community is one that involves give and take; receiving and participating? If so, how so?

Read Philippians 1:6. Why do you think many people favour this verse? What about it encourages you?

God is a starter & finisher. What does that mean to you?

Take some time to pray for one another tonight in the meaningful way that Paul prays for the Philippians. Choose at least one person to pray for in your group tonight and use similar words to Paul’s.

John 21 : Real Talk with Jesus : Do you love me?

(John 21)

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

Have you been asked the ‘do you love me’ question? From a girlfriend or boyfriend? From your husband or wife? From your fiance? If so you may identify with the conversation that starts the above scripture text. If not, you’ve at least seen something like this in a movie or sit com. One partner asks the other, ‘Do you love me?’ in hopes of an honest response. Well, the hope is that they say, ‘Yes, I love you’. But are those words the only thing they want to hear? Or are they really wanting to get to a deeper issue; the issue being that one person in the relationship may not be seeing enough evidence of this said love. Or, is this question a challenge for love to grow stronger and go deeper? 

You’ve heard it said before that love is a verb, an action – it’s not a thing (a noun) you obtain, but a an action (a verb) you do or exhibit.

Jesus is getting down to this very thing with Peter. They’ve come a long way together and gone through many experiences together.  Jesus is now readying himself to leave earth (we know this as the ascension) and depart from this disciples. As he does this Jesus wants to emphasize with Peter what his love for him must look like. This love that Peter so quickly says ‘yes’ to has got to be more than a lip service or a quick ‘love you too’ kind of love. This love that Jesus calls Peter to is one that must be backed up with action. What’s the action Jesus is calling Peter to? Feed his sheep. Jesus wants Peter to take care of the ones from whom Jesus’ is departing – the disciples and anyone who will begin following Jesus.

This is Peter’s calling, but is it ours? Yes and No. As we see in the following verses, Jesus tells Peter that his life and John’s life will be different. Their callings are different. There sacrifices different. Their call to follow and love is the same, but how it’s fleshed out is unique to them. In the grand scheme of things, they are both called to love Jesus’ sheep, but this becomes Peter’s distinction.

What does this mean for us? How do I read this text as some who’s following Jesus today? I think we can understand it in similar ways and apply it to our context.

Jesus is asking us a similar question: Do you love me? Sometimes he’ll have to ask us more than once (insert smile emoji). When the question comes our way, how do we respond? With words or with action? Will we actually show love for Jesus in tangible ways or will we simply respond with a ‘yes, I love you’ or ‘love you too’ or ‘of course I do, you know that’. Jesus is a master at asking questions, more so he’s the master at getting to the heart of the matter. So know that our response, like Peter’s, must involve more than words. Our response requires us to ask ourselves a follow up question, ‘How do I love Jesus and how does my love for Jesus get fleshed out in my life?’.  More importantly, how am I called to love Jesus? What does that uniquely look like for me?

Remember that this text from John is post-resurrection. Why is that important? Because it reminds us, as we’ve talked about before, that life and calling flow out of Jesus’ resurrection. The resurrection launches us forward into the life we are called to live. Discovering this calling is an adventure in itself – living this calling…well that’s the greatest adventure of them all.

(this post was inspired by a talk given by Chris Chase at The Village on April 10, 2016)

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(smaller group discussion)

What about this portion of scripture spoke to you? Any inspiration? Any resistance?

What do you think about the question ‘Do you love me’? How is it a loaded question? How is it a pointed question?

What’s scary or adventurous about the potential response to this question from Jesus?

Do you think that because the Disciples have seen Jesus’ sacrificial love on the cross and experienced the power of his resurrection, that it was an easier question to answer? If so why?

How does this text connect to last week’s talk on ‘post-resurrection’ living? (reference to the 3rd part of our Easter series, ‘before, after & after that’.)

Take some time to pray with and for one another.

before, after & after that

Over the last few weeks we purposefully walked through the three essential days of the Easter story: that would be Friday, Sunday and Monday. You’re probably thinking that we made a mistake. First of all, if we narrow it down, aren’t there only two important days, Friday and Saturday? But if we do add a third, wouldn’t Saturday be the most important? All great questions. Glad you asked.

Every good story has a before, an after, and an after that. There’s a incident that sets up the story, followed by a something in the story to look forward to, like a problem to solve or a tragedy to overcome. Even though we can’t read past the last page, there is more to the story, an after that if you will. Something that came from or out of the story. I call this life after the credits.

The Easter story has all of the above.

The before is of course the death of Jesus. The lead up to his death and the death itself is the part of this story we remember. By remember I mean, we reflect on it, ponder it, and are grateful for it. Unfortunately, when tied to the Easter events we sometimes rush through it. We so look forward to Sunday, that Friday is simply a tragedy to overcome. However, it’s in the death of Jesus that we find the life in this story and in ours. In Romans 5:6-8 Paul says, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. Those words express the power of Friday. While we were still weak, still powerless, still failures, still broken, Jesus died. Not only did he die, but he died for us, in our place, instead of us. Wow. If we rush to the ‘after’ in this story, the ‘Sunday’ in this story, we may not appreciate the magnitude in the ‘before’, the power of the cross. Never rush through this part of the story: appreciate it for what it is, God’s love in action for a broken world.

The after is of course the resurrection of Jesus. This is ‘oh my’ moment, the surprise, the climax, etc. It’s in this moment that we realize who the main character is: Jesus, the son of God, God incarnate. A read through any of the closing texts in the four gospels and we will see how shocked and surprised the disciples were: From the women who first witnessed the empty tomb, to Peter and John who ran over to see what the women were talking about. I’ve heard it said that Easter is always a surprise. No matter how well you know the story or if you were in the middle of it like the first disciples; Easter is a surprise ending to a really bad weekend. Even though it’s in Jesus’ death we are saved, it’s in his resurrection we are affirmed that he is God. This is, as some people say, the party of all parties, and rightfully so. Easter Sunday is something to celebrate, and I’m thankful that even though it’s one day on a calendar, we (the church) celebrate it every day.

Now here’s the part of the story that some people miss out: the afterward. It’s so easy to close the book on resurrection day, appreciate the hype and the party, but end there. We can’t do that. Every good story pushes us forward, causes us to react or respond or live differently because of it. If you’re like me, at the end of a movie or a TV series, you imagine what life will be like after the credits, after the last scene. Why? Because there has to be more to the story. The resurrection is that kind of ending…it’s really a beginning. The resurrection should be a launching pad, a turning point, a spring board into the future. 1 Corinthians 5:17 says that in Christ there is a new creation. 1 Peter 1:3 says that the resurrection gives a new birth into a living hope. Romans 8:11 says that the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is living in me…in you. Those are all future impacts to a historical event. The resurrection was never meant to be a one day thing, but an event that launches us into new life. Life, that Jesus hinted at, would be abundant and full (John 10:10). So never let this story end on a Sunday, instead may every day after it be a new and fresh day to live out the power of Jesus’ resurrection. Oh, and how does this new life look like? Take a look at places like Galatians 5:22Colossians 3:12-14 and 1 John 3:14 for clues.

When we think about Easter, may we think about it as a full, rich and true story; that looks at the (our) past and looks into the (our) future. May the death of Jesus and his resurrection do what it was meant to do, launch us into a new creation, into new life.