Tag Archive for: Philippians

When preparing for mission, begin by learning about “missio Dei,” the mission of God. As you listen and learn, set your focus on the love of God you have experienced in and through Jesus. 

Part of your preparation is helping individuals know that they are “beloved children of God,” and that God has something special for them to do as God’s children. Improve the acoustics so that people can hear God’s call amid the many callings in their lives.    

Make Jesus Your Priority

As you prepare, help people be about God’s business. Make Jesus your priority for living and loving. With the competing voices vying for your attention, it is easy to give into the loudest voices. The default is to depend upon your own goodness and effectiveness. But, when you make Jesus your priority, you focus on God’s goodness and upon becoming who God has created and gifted you to be.   

As a Christ-centered leader, it is your responsibility to model God’s call. It is your responsibility to lead people into God’s mission. As you model what it means to follow Jesus, you begin to reorient your perspectives and thinking, and you gain a clearer focus on what is most important.   

Put God’s Love in Action

So, what is most important? Putting God’s love, agape, into action. When Jesus is your priority, God’s love permeates every aspect of your life. Jesus becomes your reason for living and loving. 

The goal is for every person and every congregation to be a conduit of God’s love. When Jesus is the priority, people begin to love one another as they have been loved. When Jesus is the priority, the church begins to love the people in the community. So, as you prepare for mission, make Jesus your priority.    

Look at how Paul talks about making Jesus the priority in his letter to the Philippians. 

Read Philippians 3:5-14 

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.  8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 

12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal, but I press on to lay hold of that for which Christ has laid hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have laid hold of it, but one thing I have laid hold of: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal, toward the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. 

Reflect on Philippians 3:5-14 

Paul wrote to the church in Philippi in response to teachers who were trying to influence the church by focusing more on themselves and their credentials than on Jesus and what it meant to follow him. 

Essentially Paul is saying, “If I were to enter a bragging contest, I would win. Not for what I have but for who I am.  With my identity, my genealogy, my family tree, my connections, my standing in the community, I win any bragging contest.”  

First, Paul was a Jew.  

With a little study of the scripture, you will find that Paul was proud to be a member of the house of Israel. The Jews had hung onto their faith in God. They had kept the light on when darkness was everywhere. They had given the world the basis for moral and ethical standards like the Ten Commandments, and they contributed the writings that shaped three great religions in the world, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Paul was born a Jew and was proud to be a Jew.   

Second, Paul was from the tribe of Benjamin. 

His family, Benjamin, was the smallest tribe, but was a productive tribe in Judaism. The first King of Israel, King Saul, was from his tribe. Paul was proud to have been named after King Saul. He was Saul of Tarsus. 

Third, Paul was a Pharisee. 

Different Jews had different views, but Paul was proud to be a Pharisee. It simply meant that he believed in the Bible. The scripture was central to all of life. It was important to know the Scripture, to listen to the Scripture being read, and to obey the Scripture in everyday living. Paul was known to be at the top of his class in learning and knowing Scripture. In fact, he had such passion for the scripture and was so conscientious that he could not stand anyone who distorted it or weakened it in any way. He was blameless under the Law, so he was proud to be a Pharisee. His character, his family, and his genealogy were unsurpassed. 

Fourth, being a Pharisee meant the synagogue was important. 

When the Temple was destroyed, the Pharisees built a substitute called the synagogue. They built synagogues everywhere they went. It was for worshiping God, listening to the Scripture, and keeping the covenant. Paul was proud of his heritage, proud of his faith, and proud of the witness and work of the Pharisees. 

Paul’s Heritage

With all the reasons he had to brag, he essentially says, “I count all this a garbage. My character and my heritage are no longer my ultimate priorities.”  Paul was not a man who lived with regret. He was not ashamed of his past and he was not torn up inside and burdened with guilt. All of his zeal and achievements, all his past and background were good. He did not have bad habits to be given up or guilty actions to be lived down. So why would he say all that good stuff was garbage? 

Look at chapter two of his letter. Paul believed Jesus was with God but did not count being with God or being equal to God something to hold on to. Instead, Jesus emptied himself, became a human being, and was obedient by putting his life on the line, dying on a cross. That is who Jesus is. That is what the anointed one is like. 

Downward Mobility

For Paul, being a follower of Jesus was not about upward mobility but downward mobility. Jesus had come from the presence of God, from all that was good. 

He came from, as the old Gospel song said, “the ivory palaces,” from the throne of glory, from the angels, from God. He possessed all that was good, but he tossed it and became a human being like you and me, obedient even to death. 

Become More Like Jesus

What would happen if, by the grace of God, you reoriented your perspectives and thinking, set these things aside and became more like Jesus? What would happen if you began to love, to care, to give, to serve, to suffer, and to sacrifice like Jesus?” 

Paul said, “Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal, but I press on to lay hold of that for which Christ has laid hold of me. I do not consider that I have laid hold of it, but one thing I have laid hold of: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal, toward the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” 

What could happen if you became more like Jesus? Remember, who you are is how you lead. 

Respond to Philippians 3:5-14

Paul thought that if you are going to be a follower of Jesus then you should be like Jesus. Here are the questions to reflect upon today and everyday as you set your goal on being like Jesus. 

  • How can I claim to be a follower of Jesus and seek upward mobility?
  • What do I do with my pride?
  • What do I do with my agenda?
  • What do I do with my selfishness?
  • What do I do with my independence?
  • What do I do with my calendar to which I may or may not add a little church?
  • How can I tack on my Christianity around the edges and keep my life intact when this new life is in the name of Jesus, who gave it all up, took it to the heavenly dump, and came down here and became a servant? 

Today, be aware of the moments you insist on your own way. Take note of the times you let people know who you are as a way of getting ahead or as a way of getting what you want. Keep in mind what it means to have Jesus as your priority in all you say, think, and do. 

Be mindful of what you need to set aside or take “to the dump” to become who God has created you to be. 

Prayer

O God, make me aware of the people around me today. By your grace, help me yield a little more of myself so that I may love others as you have loved me in Jesus. Help me be faithful to your call upon my life so that I may be a blessing to someone, somewhere, today. Amen

Return

Give thanks for God’s call to follow Jesus. In what ways were you aware of following Jesus? Of giving up your pride? Your agenda? Your selfishness? Your independence? Your desire to put Jesus second to what you wanted or desired? What did you take to “the dump” today? Who were the people you encountered? How did you experience God’s love? In what ways did you model and share God’s love? With whom do you need to celebrate the love you experienced in and through them? What will you do differently tomorrow?

Have you heard the word discernment lately? I ask you with a smile because in every direction I turn I meet a leader or a congregation in the process of discernment. As I have reflected upon what I have heard and experienced, I think it is time that leaders take a good look at the intrinsic value of discernment in their leadership style and decision-making. 

What is Discernment?

Discernment is a unique discipline that takes practice and insight. It is wisdom based upon facts as well as context, options, implications, and motivation. It is a learned skill that focuses on the process of reflection based upon the values, principles, and integrity of the leader and others engaged in the process.  

Too often a leader will discern a direction for an organization or make a decision involving the people entrusted to his or her care and then ask those followers to trust their discernment and decision-making.

What would happen if you, as the leader, would become vulnerable enough to depend on the discernment of a larger body of followers who might be as focused on God’s direction as you are as the leader?

Let’s take a moment to read the scripture, reflect upon it, respond to it, and at the end of the day return to assess what has been learned through implementation and experience.

Read Philippians 1:9-10 

This is my prayer: that your love might become even more and more rich with knowledge and all kinds of insight. I pray this so that you will be able to decide what really matters and so you will be sincere and blameless on the day of Christ. (CEB) 

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, (NIV) 

Reflect

The apostle Paul prayed for Jesus’ followers in Philippi to have discernment so they could judge the right way to go in life. He prayed that they would be able to decide what really matters and to make their judgments accordingly. 

What does it mean to discern something? Discernment, at its best, is the ability to recognize small details, accurately tell the difference between things that are similar, and make intelligent judgments by using such observations. This ability was important to Paul. He writes to the Jesus followers in Rome to be transformed by the renewing of their minds so that they could discern the will of God, that which was good, acceptable, and perfect (Romans 12:2). 

Paul’s prayer is not just for individuals but for the entire church body. We usually think of discernment as an exercise of the mind and heart of the leader, but discernment is also of the mind and heart of the body of people who are making decisions. Your commitment to leading people in discerning and doing the will of God is what distinguishes you as a spiritual leader. You help people to think for themselves and to discern who to follow and to whom they should listen. 

A Model of Discernment

Let me offer one model which will assist you as a leader, especially during these days in which we are living. This process is known as “The Fenhagan Model For Corporate Discernment.” It was developed by James C. Fenhagen and can be found in his book, Ministry and Solitude.   

It is designed to assist in making decisions regarding ministry opportunities or projects. It is to be used when groups are making major decisions and are looking for the best direction for the church or organization. It is a process of prayer, meditation, and openness to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It engages participation in searching the scripture, prayer, and listening to God and one another. 

Starting the Discernment Process

The process begins when all possible information is gathered, clearly identified, plainly described, and made available to those who will be engaged in the deliberation.  

Discernment Steps

First, start with scripture. Below are examples to use for setting the context. You might have other scriptures to help frame and focus your discernment. 

  • Psalm 119:125: I’m your servant! Help me understand so I can know your laws. (CEB) Or, I am your servant, give me discernment that I may understand your statutes (NIV) 
  • James 1:5: But anyone who needs wisdom should ask God, whose very nature is to give to everyone without a second thought, without keeping score. Wisdom will certainly be given to those who ask. (CEB) 
  • Gaining discernment or sound judgment involves trusting God and one another. King Soloman  advised his son to hang on to discernment so that he would stay safe and secure on life’s course:
  • Proverbs 3:5–6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence. Know him in all your paths, and he will keep your ways straight. (CEB) 
  • Proverbs 3:21–23: My son, don’t let them (common sense and discernment) slip from your eyes; hold on to sound judgment and discretion. They will be life for your whole being, and an ornament for your neck. Then you will walk safely on your path, and your foot won’t stumble. 
  • And as we mentioned before, the apostle Paul prayed for the believers in Philippi to have discernment so they could judge the right way to go in life:
  • Philippians 1:9–10: And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. (NIV) 

Second, provide a time to ask and answer questions regarding the information provided. Too often in this process, we use only the information that helps move toward the decision we want. Making all information available allows persons the freedom needed to hear God’s direction in their discernment. God will speak through the persons who are gathered. 

Third, is a time of sharing. Each person has the opportunity to share the reasons he or she discerns against moving in a particular direction.  It is important that all people participate. If a person does not have a reason or wishes not to give a reason, he or she can pass. It is important that they have the opportunity to participate. When the decision has been made, it is important that all persons have participated.  

Fourth is a period of prayer and meditation. After each person has reported, take the time to pray and reflect upon the seriousness of what has been reported. Ask the group to set aside emotions and preferences and to listen closely to what God is saying.   

Fifth, is another time of sharing. Each person has the opportunity to share his or her own personal discernment regarding moving forward. Again, it is important that all persons participate. If a person does not have a reason or wishes not to give a reason, he or she can pass. It is important that they have the opportunity to participate. When the decision has been made, all persons should have participated.   

Sixth is a period of prayer and meditation. After each person has reported, take the time to pray and reflect upon the seriousness of what has been reported. Ask the group to set aside emotions and preferences and to listen closely to what God is saying. 

Continue Until Consensus Is Reached in Discernment

If no clear consensus emerges, the process continues. Take the time to sort out and weigh the reasons behind the pros and cons, recording those reasons so that they are available to all, and to discern communally, in the light of what has been listed, the direction to which the community is called by God.  

In commenting on this aspect of the process, John Futrell, in his book, Communal Discernment: Reflection on Experience, writes, “…if the conditions of authentic communal discernment have been fulfilled (i.e., if there is genuine openness to the Spirit), the decision should be made clear, and confirmation should be experienced unanimously through shared deep peace…finding God together.”  

Final Steps for Discernment to Reach a Decision

Through scripture, prayer, reflection, and conversation, your church or organization can reach a decision.  Even though you might want total agreement, the reality is there will be some who disagree with the decision being made. So, here is the final part of the process.

Ask each participant the following questions:

  • Do you agree with the decision? If the answer is yes, you have affirmation of the decision. If the answer is no, ask the following question:
  • If you don’t fully agree, can you live with the decision? If the answer is yes, you have affirmation of the decision. If the answer is no, ask the following question:
  • If you don’t agree, can you live with the decision? If the answer is yes, you have affirmation of the decision. Seldom is there a totally negative response. But if the participant says I don’t agree with the decision and I can’t live it, then say, “God must be saying something different to you. We are ready to listen and to learn what God is saying. What is God saying? How do we move forward?

Reaching a Decision

You will either get an affirmation of the decision or a new direction will surface. If it is a viable alternative, lead the process of discernment again. When you are vulnerable and listening to God and to the people, the right decision will be made. 

Finally, when the decision has been made and everyone can live with it, give God thanks and affirm the corporate commitment to carry out the decision.

Paul’s prayer was for the entire church body to grow in love and to gain more knowledge and depth of insight so that the body might be able to discern what is best. 

Your commitment to lead people in discerning and doing the will of God is what distinguishes you as a spiritual leader. Who you are is how you lead.  

Respond

O God, thank you for your call upon my life. Give me the wisdom and insight to trust you in and through the people you have given me to love and serve. In all I say and do, may I be a reflection of your love and care, even in the decisions I make and help others to make. By your grace, let me and the people entrusted to my care, be a part of what you are blessing in the name of Jesus.  Amen

Return

Give God thanks for the people you encountered today. What decisions did you make? How were you able to cut through the confusion and ambiguity? Give God thanks for the wisdom you received to discern and understand? Are you able to be vulnerable enough to trust the people you lead to make decisions? What do you need to trust others as they trust you?

“The trouble with the rat race is even if you win, you’re still a rat.” Instead, the race we are to run is to fulfill the call God has on our lives. Read more

“Don’t fret or worry.  Instead of worrying, pray.  Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.  Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.  It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life” Philippians 4:6-7 (MSG)

Paul’s teaching “Don’t fret or worry” seems unrealistic.  Who among us has gone even one day without worrying about something?  Some weeks it feels like we are bombarded with bad news.

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