Sunday, December 16, 2012

December 16, 2012 … Joy, Joy, Joy!

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 351

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Acts, Chapters 24-26 To study these chapters, go to this link

Highlight Passages: Philippians 1: 3-6 : [NLT] … {This is another of Paul’s prison epistles, this one to a church Paul had helped establish in Macedonia about 11 years earlier, a body of believers who meant a lot to Paul. And this has been called Paul’s “joy letter,” because 16 times, beginning in Phil. 1:4, the imprisoned Apostle speaks of how the Philippians evoked joy in Paul’s countenance. Note also in Verse 6 below how Paul is trying to remind the Philippians how Christ will always work to reform and complete the life of believers who choose to pursue their relationship with Christ.} …  
3 Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. 4 I always pray for you, and I make my requests with a heart full of joy 5 because you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. 6 And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again. … 23 I’m torn between two desires: Sometimes I want to live, and sometimes I long to go and be with Christ. That would be far better for me, 24 but it is better for you that I live. 25 I am convinced of this, so I will continue with you so that you will grow and experience the joy of your faith

Highlight Passages: Philippians 2: 3-6 : [NLT] … {In Phil. 2: 5-11 is found my favorite passage about the incarnation; and I often say it’s my favorite Christmas passage, because it summarizes for Christians how Christ came to be with us in humility, as a servant. He will return to us as a KING, having been re-crowned in Glory by our Heavenly Father. And we, as Christians will only be able to find true joy when we pursue Christlikeness, no matter what circumstances our lives present, … yes, even like prison, from whence Paul was writing this joy-filled letter.} …  
3 Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. 4 Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing. 
5 Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. 7 He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form.  

Highlight Passages: Philippians 3: 8; 13-14 : [NLT] … {So, given all that life presents to what end do we strive as Christians, a question answered in this chapter for the Philippians (and us). And we can choose joy because we have Christ and that the pursuit of that relationship is what moves us toward “the prize,” which Paul writes about in Verse 14 below.} …  
8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ … 
13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.

Highlight Passages: Philippians 4: 4-8 : [NLT] … {The joy we can choose in the Christian life is explained and exhorted in this theologically pregnant chapter. So often, we humans worry about life, pursuing happiness rather than choosing to pursue the joy and peace which can be ours if we pray for and pursue what Christ has for us in this life. } …  
4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. 6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  

Reference Passage: James 1: 2-4 : [NLT] … {James, Jesus’ brother, recognized that our pursuit of joy is found only in our relational pursuit of his Brother, … The Christ.}  
2 Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. 3 For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything. 

My Journal for Today: When I was growing up, my mother taught me to write “bread and butter” letters of thankfulness when we had visited someone who had extended themselves to take us in or when anyone had reached out to help us in some way. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, written from prison about 11 years after he had been taken in and helped by the Christians who were part of the church Paul helped establish in Philippi, was a “bread and butter letter.” And it is filled with expressions of joy and love from Paul to these brothers and sisters in Christ.

When I read this epistle, as I did again this morning, I’m taken by the reality that Paul could express such joy to his fellow Christians even though he was imprisoned and his life was under threat of death. And Paul wanted his beloved Christian brothers and sisters in Philippi to know how to experience the joy that can only come from the pursuit of knowing Christ and building our relationship with the Lord.

I think of the passage in Phil. 1: 6, where Paul reminds the Philippians (and us) that Christ will continue to work a work of completion in all who pursue knowing Him as their Lord. So, I ask myself, “Do I really (seriously!) want all Christ has to give me as His disciple?” And strongly answering that one in the affirmative, Philippians 1 helps me realize that I need to do all I can –which is much more – to get to know my LORD.

Philippians 2 reminds me that Christ humbled himself for me; and the only way I’m ever going to find the joy in my relationship with my Lord is to choose to be like Him … HUMBLE. Ouch!! But that’s where the conscious action is in the Christian life, isn’t it? It’s choosing to be – or rather choosing to become - as much like Jesus as we can.

Philippians 3 helps me see that I will only find contentment – that “prize” Paul writes about, when I keep my focus on the pursuit of building my relationship with Christ. And then Philippians 4 is pregnant with truth about how this is accomplished – i.e., fixing my focus on Christ and getting to know Him as intimately as possible … by choosing to pour Christlike thoughts into my mind, filling my heart with Christ’s Spirit.

And when this happens, as Paul writes to the Philippians, we can find the joy of the Christian life. Oh, how Paul wanted that for his beloved Christian brothers and sisters in Philippi to experience that joy; and … OH, … how Christ wants that for you and me, as He states in John 10: 10, “… My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.” 

My Prayer Today: … Lord, I coming after Your prize. Amen

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