Going Deeper with the Message:
Who Took the Cookie from the Cookie Jar?
by: Michelle Lemley
Picture it: a cookie has gone missing from the treat jar. When two perfect, angelic boys are asked who took the cookie, they both point fingers…at each other. So who is to blame? The taller boy who is the only one able to reach the jar? Or the little chocolate lover who coaxed his brother into committing the crime? The fact that both their faces are smeared with chocolate seems a moot point.
Blame is a sticky subject. I can try to teach my boys about the rules, but at some point there have to be consequences for their actions. We discuss that the only way to avoid blame is to stay out of the situation altogether—to obey the rules by making good choices and stay away from trouble.
I can provide a safe home for my boys. I can love them and give them treats. But at some point, they have to grow up and develop a responsibility for their actions. I can’t follow them out into the real world and continue to clean up their messes for the rest of their lives. Because I love them, I believe it’s part of my job description to equip them with knowledge and experience to help them be successful after they leave my care.
As it so often does, Pastor Tim’s words this past Sunday made me reflect on my life by comparing it to my children’s. He spoke about Philippians 2:14-16, which reads:
Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world. Hold firmly to the message of life. Then I can boast in the day of Christ that I didn’t run or labor for nothing.
Pastor Tim went on to define “blameless” in the context of “unmixed,” as in, we are able to remain separate from the sinful ways of the world by staying obedient to His message. And by obeying His Word, we can experience the joy that He has in us.
Just as I try to equip my children for the world with love and guidelines to keep them safe, so God has given us everything we need to go out into the world and let His light shine through us. But we cannot expect joy without putting in the effort to learn what He expects of us. Just as my children learn my expectations through communicating with me, I believe that we must seek out His Word to learn what God wants us to do with our lives. And just as my children can grow up and stand out in the world by following the rules and showing themselves to be hardworking, exceptional adults, so can we Christians become “blameless” in the world by working to obey His teachings.
I encourage you this week to consider an area in your life that you know you could be working on. Could you be praying more, spending more time with the Word, working to give up a bad habit? As Pastor Tim said, joy comes when we work with God, who is working in us!
Going Deeper with the Message:
by: Barb Barnhart
This week, as we are studying the book of Philippians, Pastor Tim shared with us that our relationships can be a source of great joy. I have been struggling with writing this devotional because I have been focused on the words great joy. You see, I am not feeling it, great joy. Some of you may be in the same boat. In life, we are imprisoned by unforeseen circumstances—unplanned repairs to your home, illness, or loss of relationships, just to name a few. These things are anything but joyful. We can’t see the forest for the trees.
Consider the circumstance from which Paul is writing the letter to the church at Philippi. Paul is a prisoner. That is not my idea of a joyful place. But joy is not in the place where we are at the moment. Paul’s joy was found in his relationship with God. This has to be our starting point. When we focus on God, He turns our focus from inward to outward. We can begin to see others’ needs and concerns rather than being consumed by our own.
Philippians 2:1-4 says:
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal. 3 Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. 4 Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
I love that Pastor Tim uses an alliteration of the letter “u” to help illustrate his points. We must pursue unity and be unselfish in meeting the needs of others. We all struggle, but as we look to the needs of others, our focus on them returns our joy. United, we care for each other, putting others first.
This week, as you live out your relationship with God and others, ask yourself, “How can I meet their needs?” Soon, your circumstances will be put into perspective and your joy will be made complete.
As a reminder, please read through the book of Philippians, noting what impacts your heart. As you prepare yourself for Sunday’s teaching, God will begin to speak to you and the impact will bring you joy in uncertain times.
Going Deeper with the Message:
Citizens of Heaven
by: Andrew Archer
This Sunday, we began our new series “Finding Joy in Uncertain Times” where we are looking at the Book of Philippians and how Paul was able to joyfully persevere through terrible circumstances. Not only were the events surrounding the inception of the church in Philippi difficult, but while Paul wrote this letter to the church there, he was facing more uncertainty than most of us will ever deal with. He was imprisoned and clearly unsure about what his situation would bring. Death was a more than plausible outcome.
Despite all of that, Paul was still able to have joy. Tim shared that the reason was because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel brings us peace with and from God. The Gospel makes us part of a community, a family. The Gospel brings a promise from God that what He has started in us, He will finish. And the Gospel gives us a purpose for living: Christ.
In Philippians 1:27, Paul gives the church one exhortation in light of the supreme excellence of the Gospel:
“Just one thing: As citizens of heaven, live your life worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, in one accord, contending together for the faith of the gospel.”
Now even though we may be West Virginians or Americans, when we place our faith in Christ, we have a higher citizenship; we become citizens of the Kingdom of God. Paul says that we are to live out of that identity. That’s incredible news because even if our state or country outlasts us, we know that they will one day cease to exist; however, the Kingdom of God is everlasting and we will be citizens of that kingdom forever.
Paul also wants the Philippians to be “standing firm in one spirit.” If you read most of his letters to churches he planted, unity is one of the recurring themes. Paul has many reasons for this, but I believe one reason is because persevering through tough times is easiest when united in community.
So this week I want to encourage you to do two things that will help you joyfully persevere through uncertain times:
1) Ask yourself, “In what ways can I live out of my identity as a citizen of heaven?”
2) Lean into your church community. Don’t allow yourself to go through this life alone.