Press On

Have you ever run in a race only to be frustrated to find you were not in or even near one of the top groups to finish? I can still remember participating in high school athletic track meets. The coaches thought I should be good in the shorter races, but I failed miserably and was in middle or near the last of the pack. In reflection, I cannot imagine why anyone thought I could win, as I was much less than enthusiastic about track and had never practiced, or even participated, until the last week before a competition.

Running the Righteous Life

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Paul reflected on the whole course of his life, which by worldly standards would have been considered to be quite a success. He was born into the right tribe, from the nation of Israel, a Pharisee (which meant he knew and followed the Jewish law), a persecutor of the church, and outwardly righteous. However, he counted all this as rubbish (Phil 3:8), as he had been practicing works-righteousness, and not faith-righteousness, which is only from God through faith in Him. Yet after his salvation experience, Paul had a totally different outlook, and encouraged the churches with his writings.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14

In these verses, Paul was comparing our walk with Christ to the Greek Olympian games. He made clear that he had not “arrived” or attained the goal of being Christlike, but was still very much in the race of the Christian life. Nor has he become “perfect” or mature in his walk. He still had more spiritual heights to climb. Yet he was still actively pressing on toward Christlikeness.

I cannot count the times in my spiritual life that I have failed to meet the high standard of righteousness, and I cringe at the thought. But Paul tells us to continue on, to pursue Christlikeness with the following:

  • Enthusiasm- acting with maturity, yet vigorously and with zeal
  • Persistence- keeping on trying, pressing on daily
  • Purpose- remembering the goal, Christlikeness, because one day we will meet Him face to face
  • Concentration- forgetting the past failures that might overwhelm, or the successes that might bring complacency. Rather we are to keep looking ahead, always focusing on the prize. As Charles Stanley says, don’t waste time looking back.

My prayer is that I may never become stale in my walk with Christ, that I remain steadfast in my faith, serving Him with humility, yet with great joy and enthusiasm, remembering that one day I will be with Him for eternity. This earth is not my home; so I press on.

About the writer:
Beverly has been an educator, administrator, educational sales representative, Sunday school teacher, and mentor; but most importantly is a wife, mother, and grandmother with a passion for sharing Christ.

The Secret of Contentment

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11b-13)

If you grew up going to church or have been a believer for any length of time, I can almost guarantee that you have heard this passage. I have always loved the comfort that stems from it. Reading back over it in preparation for writing this blog however was eye-opening. Look back at verse 12: “I have learned the SECRET.” I don’t think I have much paid attention to that crucial word that has such an impact on the way I now view my circumstances.

Are you a planner like me? I like to pretend that I am super spontaneous and go with the flow, and I am very laid back for the most part; but I prefer to know what’s coming next in life, don’t you? The Lord and I have had lots of chats (which consist mostly of me telling God how He should probably follow MY plan) about the plans I have for my life and, in turn, learning what His plans are (which are by far better than any I could ever dream up.)

The nugget in this passage of Philippians where it talks about the secret of contentment has the power to transform my controlling personality if I allow God to  nudge gently me when I slip into old habits. What are you holding onto in your life that God is asking you to let Him carry? For me it’s being frustrated at not knowing what the future holds so I can plan ahead! But when I ask Him to show me where I need to let go and trust, He is gracious to show me in tangible ways that He’s got this and won’t let me fall. There will be times that I pray for specific encouragement and that very afternoon I’ll get a card in the mail from my bestie, or I’ll have the joy of buying a coffee for someone else who may be having a crummy day. Contentment reminds me to live in the moment so that I can enjoy those daily blessings.

We’re all in this journey together, my friend. Contentment is a daily practice, sometimes hourly if you’re impatient and intent on getting your way like me. BLESS. The secret of contentment is Jesus, plain and simple. If we are walking closely with Him, we’ll want what He wants and be satisfied with what He provides, even if it looks very different than we thought it would.

About the Writer:
Anna is a full-time student finishing up her degree at Liberty University while also working full-time at First Baptist Dallas in the Young Married and Singles Ministries.In her spare time when she’s not writing papers for school, she enjoys laughing with friends, road trips to new places, and drinking copious amounts of iced coffee.

Keep It to Yourself

Paul’s opening remarks to the Philippians are so encouraging and loving they leave no doubt about how important encouragement and support of them was to him. He was a prisoner of Rome; but, when he picked up his quill, he had nothing but positive things to say to his ministry partners in Philippi, partners that had come to his aid at a critical time.

Can you imagine your pastor or your Sunday School teacher greeting you in such a manner? If your answer is “no” then I would encourage you to examine the possible reasons. Are they grumpy and distant with never a positive thing to say? Or have you never given them a reason to think of you this way? Ouch. I know; I’ve felt the breaking realization fall on me with shame and guilt. Part of my own problem has always been my love of truth and my inability to realize that it doesn’t ALWAYS need to be said out loud with a directness completely void of any grace.  Question: “Does this make me look fat?” (I will never ask that question!) Response: “No, you are fat.” Better response: “There are other styles that look so much better on you, let’s go find one.”  When was the last time a pastor asked you, “How did you like my sermon?” I have never been asked that, but I have offered my opinion with no thought of it being anything other than truth that he needed to know. >hangs head< My opinions are just that-mine-and most of the time should stay that way! As a wife/ mom/nurse, I’m always looking for what could become a problem, inconsistencies and ways to improve, as I should. As a member of the body of Christ, however, I should be seeking opportunities to encourage, to uplift. I want someone to look past my failings and view me as a beloved sister ever in need of grace and mercy. Don’t you want that, too?

Paul ends his letter with the exact way to get this accomplished. When we think on what is lovely and pure, trustworthy and honorable, when we choose to fill our minds with these things, not only will we become a delight to our church leadership, but Paul promises that we will have the peace of God as well. That is a win for everyone!

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is [a]lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, [b]dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9

About the Writer:
Cindy loves being an RN, wife, mom, and CiCi (that’s a grandmother but I’m way too young and hot for normal terminology) to one sweet little 5 year old girl. She loves the Lord with all her heart and wants to serve Him with gladness all the way to her dying breath. Cindy plans on starting seminary very soon. She can hardly wait for Wednesday and Sunday to roll around so she can sing with the choir and experience just a sliver of the joy we’ll have when we all get to Heaven!

Watch the Lamb

Thank the Lord for my Sunday School Class (REAL Talk)! I started attending this class when my internal world was spiraling out of control because I didn’t know how to process the chaos of circumstances or others’ emotions and actions. I didn’t know how to be at peace, or the light Christ calls us to be (Philippians 2:14-15), when the relational world around me was not. Three years later, I am in a much different place; but still learning and blessed to serve with this group of ladies. All of us, to some extent, are touched by people who, for many reasons, can be difficult. Employers, family, friends, spouses, random strangers struggling through their own battles, etc.—there are many fellow hurt humans walking around perpetrating the same hurt on others.

 When I start to feel my own spiritual, emotional, mental, or even physical calm being influenced by another; I have to step back for a moment to stop myself from getting swept up in someone else’s drama, or from stoking the conflict with my own plentiful fuel. In moments like those, I like to turn on praise music and remember Scriptures as well as the tried and true biblical principles He’s taught me in the past. Oftentimes, the Holy Spirit will give me a thought in the midst of those disciplines that is so simple, yet revolutionary to my current situation. When words sting or attitudes and actions add a crushing pressure, Christ keeps shinning rays of hope through His example.

 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. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:3-8

 Watch the LambOne of the songs on my worship playlist is the 1986 classic from Ray Boltz, “Watch the Lamb.” When I remember how much Christ suffered for those He deeply loved yet whom had no regard for Him, it enables me to feel emotionally safe, accepted and loved. Instead of feeling confused or hurt when people press in against me or don’t hear or understand my needs, I’m learning more and more to release the rights I think are universally due all humans (Philippians 1:29-30). I’m learning how to be like Christ—to be obedient and love the person in front of me, trusting that the Sovereign Lord and Great Shepherd will tend to all my bruises and tears. Any other way starts to feel foolish.

 As I focus on God’s sacrificial love, and lift others up in prayer, I trust God to change THEM. In some unexplainable way, I also experience Him changing ME. It covers my brokenness, not just theirs.

 Unfailing love and faithfulness make atonement for sin. By fearing the Lord, people avoid evil. Proverbs 16:6  

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. I Peter 4:8

About the Writer:
Lyndsay has been many things in her past, but no career, experience, or calling define her more than the desire to follow after Christ in response to His gracious work in her life. At present, she teaches movement classes and works as a wellness consultant in addition to loving her amazing husband and raising her daughter to know and love the Lord.