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Written by Dave Urbanski

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The first sentence in the passage we studied together Sunday reads as follows, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Philippians 3: 12)

And what is the “it” and “this” Paul refers to in this opening sentence? The answer is the ideas Paul discusses in previous verses — namely righteousness through faith in Christ, becoming like Jesus, and sharing in his sufferings as well as in his resurrection from the dead.

Pastor Scott emphasized that Paul exhibits a great deal of humility here, noting he’s far from perfect and has not “obtained this” in his life — but instead he’s decided to “press on” and make “my own” what Jesus has given him. The truth that we can take part in Paul’s mission means we must make it “our own” as well. To make following Christ personal to us, waking up each day and asking the Lord, “What can I learn from you today? What do you want me to do today?”

Also, check out the very end of verse 12 in which Paul notes, “I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” Pastor Scott has emphasized to us frequently that Paul’s efforts aren’t transactions with God. They’re not, “Lord, if I do this for you, can you please forgive me? Can you please save me?” No. Instead the Lord initiates. Jesus first made Paul “his own” through grace and faith — and now enveloped in that eternal relationship, Paul naturally desires to reflect God’s love in his own life (“make it my own“). May we all follow suit!

So, the first secret to being a spiritual “winner” is to “press on.” In the original Greek it denotes intense concentration — an intentional, aggressive pursuit of a goal. Verses 14 continues this idea, repeating the “press on” idea as Paul adds, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” One of the hardest things to do as a Christian is dispensing with things that interfere with our “upward call” to the Lord. Because some of those things aren’t necessarily bad — they even may be good! But nothing is more important that our relationship with Jesus, and we must continually examine our hearts and ask God to shine a light on them, seeing if anything — even something good — is distracting us and pulling us down or taking us even a bit off course.

The second secret is to focus, and verse 13 spells it out: “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead …” And what is the “one thing” we must focus on? The “upward call,” of course! Jesus shared the same words in Luke 18:22 with the rich young ruler: “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But the rich young ruler, despite wanting eternal life, couldn’t part with his money.

The third secret is to lean forward. Verse 13 calls it “straining forward.” And part of that urging from Paul is “forgetting what lies behind.” That can mean to stop spending so much time thinking about the past, since we can’t change things that have already happened — and instead pushing forward and developing new patterns of thinking and behavior through God’s help.

The fourth secret is to “join in” — as Paul notes in verse 17, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” It’s the idea of partnering with other believers and learning from the examples of mature Christians and doing as they do, observing their spiritual successes so we may be “imitating” them and having the same successes.

Finally, verse 20 describes the fifth secret which Pastor Scott called “confirm your identity”: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Our true home is not here on earth, and when things in this world conspire to bring us down — again, pull us away from our “upward call” — we need to stop and remind ourselves of who we are: Believers in Jesus who are serving him in a marathon, not a sprint, toward his kingdom. Therefore, let us never forget, or even minimize, who were are or what our “upward call” is.

Written by Dave Urbanski

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We just went through the theology of complaining in our study last Sunday, which covered just one verse from the second chapter of Philippians (verse 14): “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.”

And as Pastor Scott pointed out — both during his sermon and after our midweek meeting about his message — this all-important verse doesn’t mean Christians aren’t allowed to discuss negative things. We have to! If there’s a problem, it needs to be solved — and that means talking about negative things. Even more than that, there will be conflict in friendships and marriages and in groups, and they need to be solved and resolved, too. It’s all about being real in a world that’s really messed up.

This past Sunday, we dug into a bit of verse 14 again but focused mostly on the remaining verses in the passage through verse 18. They read like so: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.”

The word “blameless” in verse 15 is important to break down. There’s a difference between being “blameless” and “sinless.” As Pastor Scott noted, we’re not sinless! Instead being blameless is the result of how Christians live out their lives amid a crumbling culture; when we shine Christ’s light and strive to do the right thing, we take on the characteristics of being blameless. Consider when we’re around others who sometimes apologize to us when they use foul language or tell dirty jokes — because they know we’re not like that or are about those things. That’s a sign of our blamelessness. 

Another eye-opening moment occurred when Pastor Scott told us about the ancient Greek word related to the phrase “crooked and twisted”— it’s called “scolios,” which of course points to the familiar English word “scoliosis,” a painful condition when the spine is twisted. So when we’re talking about a “crooked and twisted generation,” we can safely say that generation’s condition involves some degree of pain! The way nonbelievers live is not “fun” or “cool” — when push comes to shove, it hurts. And not necessarily physically (although that can be part of it) but also spiritually and emotionally. And when pressure comes, they can’t handle it and get crushed.

That illustration ought to inform us about the plight of others with whom we share this planet — because as the rest of verse 15 states, we “shine” in their midst “as lights in the world.” Again, they see we’re different, they see we’ve changed, and they notice something about us that deep down they desire.

But it’s also important to keep in mind that such a positive response isn’t alway how things go. In the drama of temporal meeting eternal, mortal flesh doesn’t always turn the right way. In fact, some folks when exposed to the light of life, which originates with Christ, don’t want any part of it. They don’t want their sin laid bare. They don’t want their bankrupt deeds revealed. And yes, some want no part of God when given the chance to turn to him.

But also, as Pastor Scott suggested, let’s also ask ourselves in what manner we’re shining our light: Are we doing it annoyingly, right into others’ eyes … or are we helpfully guiding others’ paths, making sure they don’t trip? Let it always be the latter.


Another important point comes from verse 16 where Paul hopes we’re “holding fast to the word of life.” Pastor Scott pointed out that we have two cultures existing in front of us each day: that of the world and that of the Kingdom of God. And when we fall into the habit of spending more time digesting the culture of the world — such as cable news — then that gets in the way of the culture that will ultimately endure: the one belonging to the Lord’s kingdom.

In the latter part of the passage, we got a picture of Paul getting personal with his brothers and sisters in the Philippian church — and with us! This part, as Pastor Scott noted, is the WHY of what Paul has been communicating: He wants to make sure his efforts haven’t been in vain or a waste of time. He’s interested in the state of these peoples’ souls. As we should be! The race we all run as believers in Jesus of course means we want to impact as many people as possible; but there’s another side to it. Our love for other isn’t all about numbers; it’s about the heart, too! How is our heart in relation to the Lord? How are the hearts of others’ we love and have spent time with doing? That’s a factor only Jesus can measure.

Pastor Scott also shared another crucial historical reference from verse 17, breaking down what Paul means by being “poured out as a drink offering.” In Jewish sacrificial law was the act of pouring out wine — and it hits the ground or a burned lamb or bull, and it’s gone for good! Never again drinkable. In short, it’s a way of expressing that we are “all in” for the Lord, and other things, even possessions we value here and now, must fall by the wayside. 

Finally in verse 18, Paul urges us to “be glad and rejoice with me.” Remember, Paul is in prison and facing death on a daily basis — but it is indeed well with his soul, as the hymn writer once said. As Paul rejoices despite his suffering and the world’s hatred, so should we rejoice.

In that light, Pastor Scott emphasized that we are all in this together, struggling and triumphing as one people of God. As we began this all-important passage with the command to stop our grumbling and disputing, we close it literally with worship. And if you’re truly worshiping, it’s impossible to be grumbling and disputing and complaining. So let us worship and rejoice and move forward in our lives accordingly.

Written by Dave Urbanski

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This past Sunday we focused on just one Bible verse — and it’s one we all know well, either from our own study of Scripture … or because we’re all quite familiar with the subject matter.

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” — Philippians 2:14

Who among us hasn’t been guilty of that? Of complaining?

But while we as believers certainly have joined the chorus of complaining from time to time, we really don’t need to be singing that tune! Pastor Scott broke down the verse and explained to us that Christians instead ought to be thinking differently than nonbelievers and focusing on solutions to our problems rather than on the problems themselves.

Indeed, there are biblical reasons to avoid complaining.

The first is recognizing that God is working positively in our lives, no matter what our circumstances might be. God always has a bigger plan in mind and is using events in our lives to teach us — about patience, about forgiveness. The bottom line is that we live in a broken, fallen world, and not everything is going to go perfectly. Therefore we must continually tell ourselves the truths that God is in control, God is good, and God is loving.

The second reason to not complain is that the seeming setbacks we deal with are opportunities for God to work in our lives. Think about Paul in prison: He didn’t view that “setback” (to put it mildly) as the end of things for him. Instead it was a beginning — and an opportunity, he wrote more than once, to advance the gospel!

In this vein, Pastor Scott brought up one of the many Old Testament accounts of the Israelites complaining about their circumstances in the wilderness. And he pointed out a very interesting tidbit. They complained about the same three things that children always complain about: the food, the living conditions, and the leadership. Truth!

One question we need to ask ourselves: What is the opposite of complaining? Pastor Scott said the answer is trust. When our complaining increases, how much are we trusting in God’s authority? Probably not much. Therefore when we notice our complaining is increasing, we need to do a spiritual check and realize that our level of trust in the Lord isn’t as high as it should be.

Another key point Pastor Scott made is that there’s a big difference between complaining AT God and complaining TO God. He used David’s Psalms as an example of a “good kind of complaining.” In Psalm 142, we see David pleads to the Lord for mercy — an outcry for God to take burdens from him. And the thing is, God wants us to go to him in need. He waits and waits and waits for us to come to him in prayer. As believers, we need not bottle up those raw emotions. Instead we can go straight to the Lord’s throne and ask him to work in our lives.

Another compelling moment came with Pastor Scott introducing the Greek word for “disputing” in Philippians 2:14 — and it’s “dialogismos.” Indeed it’s closely related to the English word “dialog,” except it runs deeper than that. Pastor Scott checked out all the places in Scripture where the word “dialogismos” shows up and told us that it’s related to our “inner dialog” — our thoughts and inner discussions we have with ourselves.

The word “dialogismos,” for example, is found in Luke 5:22 when Jesus heals the paralyzed man on the mat and then rebukes the Pharisees for their inner thoughts against Christ’s rightful ability as the Son of Man to forgive sins. 

See, our internal dialogue can really get us into trouble and get us going in the wrong direction. But as believers, we need not entertain our problematic inner dialog because Jesus is in control of our lives, and he knows what he’s doing!

Therefore let us continually keep in mind these important principles as we move forward:

  • Complaining can be a spiritual indicator of a “heart” problem. So let’s be ready to do a heart check!
  • Complaining TO God (but not AT God) is a good thing. No, the Lord won’t necessarily take away every problem we want to get rid of — consider Paul and his thorn in the flesh the Lord wouldn’t remove — but instead works in us through all kinds of circumstances, even negative ones.
  • The opposite of complaining is trust.
  • And complaining and negative thinking is not befitting of Christians.

Indeed, it’s often difficult for us to know why God does and allows certain things to happen in our lives. More often that not, we have no idea what God is doing. Therefore let us ask him to help us trust in him more and more each day.

Written by Dave Urbanski

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As we got back into Paul’s letter to the Philippians amid the outset of 2022, we looked at a verse Sunday that is often misunderstood.

It’s found in chapter 2, verse 12: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

Many Christians have wondered concerning this verse, “Does that mean we have to work for God’s forgiveness? I thought we couldn’t work our way into heaven.”

As Pastor Scott pointed out, the answer to that question is an unequivocal “no.” The idea of “work out your own salvation” doesn’t mean we have to make an effort to be saved or earn God’s favor. Instead the full passage we examined is about how we live and behave day to day now that we are part of God’s family (after all, Paul wrote his letter to his “beloved” in the Philippian church — those who already have given their lives to Jesus and accepted his gift of salvation).

But let’s look again at the passage, which also includes verse 13: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Pastor Scott equated this passage to engaging in a “spiritual workout” that maximizes the health of our souls — in the same way that a physical workout maximizes our physical health.

But first we must consider a familiar word that opens the passage: “Therefore.” As we’ve studied at other times, we know “therefore” signals that the words which follow it are based on previously discussed principles. And what are they in this case? Earlier in chapter 2, Paul tells us that as believers in Jesus moving forward in our faith, we must have the same mind and put others first — because that’s exactly what Jesus did by coming to earth in the form of a servant and dying for our sins.

And after Paul writes “therefore,” he offers what Pastor Scott noted are six guidelines for living in light of those spiritual truths. They could be summarized as, “How to have a great spiritual workout.”

1. Find a Good Trainer

Why would someone want a trainer for a physical workout? Because it’s hard work! And having someone come alongside you helps you improve — and having an expert next to you will help you strengthen your workout weaknesses. As believers, we know that Jesus is our best trainer, and he wrote our training manual (the Bible), and he’s always with us. Plus, he deeply desires that we ask him how to grow in our faith and grow closer to him! So let’s do that, and ask Jesus to be our trainer.

2. Check your motivation

Paul tells his brothers and sisters that they should be obeying God even more now that he’s absent from them, and that points to an important principal: Doing the right thing, especially when no other humans are watching. It’s about integrity. And it says a lot about where we are spiritually when we’re willing to obey God when there’s no human audience to impress. 

3. Do the work

We already noted this very important principal, but it bears repeating: Working out our own salvation isn’t about working our way into heaven, which is impossible. Instead it’s about the work it takes to live as Christians day to day, which takes effort and intent. One of the interesting points that Pastor Scott brought up is that the Greek word Paul used to describe such a workout implies trying to dig something out of a mine.

Think about that: Miners can dig all day and come up with nothing. It can be tedious, exhausting, and frustrating work. But they have to keep at it, because every now and then, they’ll come up with a gem! A big payoff. And there would be no reward if they didn’t engage in the hard work day to day when it seems like nothing is being accomplished. Living the Christian life can feel like that, too. But we must continue to dig.

4. Your own salvation

God teaches different things to different people. While we’re all headed to the same place (heaven), we’re all on our own pilgrimage, our own journey, our own salvation. That part is personal to each one of us, and that should signal to each one of us to not compare ourselves to other believers. However, in the midst of our personal faith journeys, we all need to come together as one when we gather in church and share our stories — our triumphs and our struggles — and encourage one another.

5. With fear and trembling

In short, we need to take this stuff seriously! Sin has the power to damage and corrupt us. So we need to battle against sin, and that takes effort. It’s a fight, a race, and we need to engage in it every day as we battle our enemies: Satan, the world in general, and our own flesh. It’s not about being “scared of God”; rather it’s about taking seriously the fact that God is more awesome and holy that we can possibly fathom — and to take seriously the work involved to live our lives in light of God’s greatness.

6. Take your supplements

Verse 13 reads, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Here the passage shifts to the idea that at the end of all our human efforts to live in the way the Lord commands as members of his heavenly family, we can take heart that it’s NOT all about what we do! The bottom line is that God is the one working in us, and it’s all about HIM. And the Greek word word for “work” in this case denotes “energy.” And how do we get energy as believers? We rely on God! We work hard, but we rely on the Lord to give us what we need so we can exert the necessary energy. So take your spiritual supplements the Lord provides.

Written by Dave Urbanski

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It’s so cool that the verses we studied on Sunday from Philippians 2 get right to the heart of a subject that’s central to our lives — and coming up on the calendar: The Wonder of Christmas!

Pastor Scott began by repeating verse 5, which we looked at last week: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus …” The reason is because this verse sets up the rest of the passage, verses 6 through 11: “… who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

This passage gets to the crux of the wonder of Christmas because it describes not only who Jesus is but also the plan for how he burst upon humanity — and he did so in utter humility, born where donkeys, lambs, and cattle took shelter. Of course, most folks know that part of the Christmas story — but the amazing theology within that story isn’t primary in the hearts of most people. But Pastor Scott broke it down for us.

First we saw that Jesus remained “in the form of God” when he came to earth. He kept his divine essence, from his conception through the Holy Spirit all the way to his birth and then throughout his life. He was still 100 percent God and remains 100 percent God to this day. “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am,” Jesus said in John 8:58, describing his existence from the beginning of time.

However, in coming to earth Jesus “emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men …” This was the beginning of his sacrificial legacy. Remaining 100 percent God — but taking on complete humanity (100 percent man). Jesus experienced the full range of humanity. He got tired and hungry and thirsty. He got angry. He became sad. He faced temptation. And as an infant born in Bethlehem, he did what infants do: He cried. The act of taking on humanity and emptying himself (“kenosis” in the Greek) means that Jesus freely gave up the privileges associated with divinity, particularly the glory of God. And that was manifested by the literal circumstances surrounding his birth: Mary and Joseph hunted down by King Herod who would have no other monarchs around him and ended up killing countless infants Jesus’ age; the scandal of Mary’s pregnancy, even though God — not Joseph — brought it about; nowhere for the couple to stay amid their lengthy journey from Nazareth, forcing them to take refuge amid dirt, hay, smelly troughs, and smellier stables for Jesus’ birth. 

Not a very regal entrance upon the world’s stage for the King of Kings — at least to human eyes. But as usual, the Lord looks deeper, and in his infinite wisdom that turns lives around (and upside-down if necessary), Jesus was born in humility — and lived the rest of his days on this planet stooped down in service to us.

Pastor Scott also emphasized that Jesus gave up his independent authority and took his cues directly from God the Father — by “becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (verse 8) While this truth focuses on Jesus’ adult life, it’s part of the obedience that marked him ever since that very first Christmas when God’s grand plan to redeem his creation took flight.

Pastor Scott also offered a keen illustration about the word “redeem” — as in the idea of redeeming a coupon which allows us to get something or receive some kind of benefit, whether it’s a discounted meal or a free cup of coffee. However, he explained that in Jesus’ case, the redemption is curiously different. When we turn in a coupon, we’re involved in the redemption process. But in Jesus’ case, we’re not! While God the Father is the one establishing the Jesus “coupon,” he’s also the one receiving the benefit or “payment.” Literally God pays himself through Jesus’ sacrifice so that God’s holiness is maintained — and in the end, we benefit if we believe in Jesus and his sacrifice for us.

That’s such a humbling illustration for us to take in — we humans who always want to view ourselves as having earned the right to do or be this or that. We humans who hunger for being worthy. We humans who find it hard to not take credit. Therefore, we need to put away any images of us “turning in a Jesus coupon” as a way of entering heaven as if we could even “grasp” such a thing in our hands. Even that act is out of our reach. It’s already been done. We play no part in the transaction. The Lord did it all. And our part is simply acknowledging that truth, confessing and repenting, and accepting his forgiveness.
I loved Pastor Scott breaking down the idea expressed in the chapter’s last verses — that the only way to true greatness is Jesus’ way: Through humility. But that’s not the world’s message, is it? No way. Especially for those of us on social media, we see folks posting things over and over to “dunk” on others to make them feel bad, insignificant, less-than, and defeated. The sad notion that you have to go out each day and knock people down to gain “cred” and fame. 
Jesus’ way is far different — and stands in stark contrast to the world’s way. Because Jesus was humble on earth, “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.” It’s the same for us, too: We need to let the Lord be the one to bestow greatness upon us; and we should not be pursuing greatness for ourselves.

In the cosmic mystery of Christmas, God let us see how small we really are compared to how big the Lord really is by giving us Jesus to believe in and emulate. Therefore, as we celebrate the wonder of Christmas, let us — as verse 5 commands — have this as our “mindset” and be sure that at his name we bow our knees and with our mouths confess that Jesus is Lord so that God the Father rightly will receive the glory he so richly deserves.
That’s the wonder of Christmas.

Written by Dave Urbanski

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When Pastor Scott led our study Sunday covering the well-known passage of Philippians 2:3-5, he offered insights regarding Paul’s God-inspired words to his brothers and sisters that furthered our understanding of relationships, especially in a practical sense.

The passage reads, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus …”

Certainly the passage instructs us to act selflessly and put others first. Not an unfamiliar concept for believers in Christ. But Pastor Scott went deeper and revealed that verses 3 through 5 actually offer us the “secret ingredients for success in life.” 

In fact, he said the verses are “strategic” not only in regard to how we conduct ourselves relationally, but also in the sense that they show the way toward the best long-term, even eternal, outcomes resulting from our relationships with others.

And even though the word doesn’t appear in the passage, Pastor Scott focused intensely on the idea of “honor” as a key action.

For instance, verse 3 reads “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Carrying out those instructions means treating others as special. Interestingly, Paul isn’t specific about WHO he means by “others” — which signals that he means EVERYBODY. And that potentially opens up a can of worms, wouldn’t you say? Or at least a big challenge! Because we all have folks in our lives we’d prefer not to treat as special. People we’d rather not honor, for a variety of reasons. 

Pastor Scott’s illustration of demonstrating honor toward a police officer who tells pedestrians when they can and cannot cross the street was a great example of this idea. In other words, we don’t personally know the officer, but we show honor to the officer by virtue of the position the officer holds, and we therefore do as we’re instructed. Indeed, Pastor Scott emphasized that we can honor those we don’t necessarily respect since they haven’t necessarily earned it — and we do so by simply choosing to give that honor in humility. And such an action shows more about us than about those we honor. (Practical point: Pastor Scott also emphasized that the command for children to honor their parents appears frequently in Scripture, which tells us that learning to honor others starts when we’re young and in the home.)

Verse 4 tells us, “let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Pastor Scott called attention to numerous examples Jesus set for us, as well as his teachings, that amplify this verse: Turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, allowing the little children to come to him. The idea of doing more than what’s expected of us. 

Jesus also is well-known for doing the unexpected, such as the time at the end of Luke 7 when a “sinful woman” did the unthinkable: She entered a Pharisee’s house where Jesus was eating and made a scene! She “brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.”

So, how would you react if you were in Jesus’ position? You’d probably feel a little embarrassed, a bit put on the spot, and maybe you’d hope it would end quickly so everyone could just forget it ever happened. But that’s not who Jesus is. And he doesn’t let the moment slip away. In fact, he chides the Pharisee for ordering the woman gone from his house and instead shows compassion to her, and even tells her that her sins are forgiven. Talk about turning a situation on its head! But again, that’s who Jesus is, and that’s what he keeps doing, even today, in all of our lives.

Finally in verse 5 we have Paul telling us to “have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus …” Remember the idea of “mindset” from our previous study regarding the earlier verses in chapter 2? It’s the same idea here, and it means having a mindset that’s based in a good attitude. It means taking everything Paul has just told his church to do, and sealing it inside us as a way of life. A daily goal.

It means doing away with grumbling, complaining, arguing. It means bringing joy into the room. And it all starts with showing honor to others and undergirding that effort with humility.

And let’s not forget that God showed honor to us first! How? Pastor Scott reminded us that the Lord created us in his own image, redeemed us, and adopted us into his family. He honored us even though we don’t deserve to be honored. God made a choice, a decision despite the fact that we are sinners. Christ died for us and rose again to save us from our sins, giving us an open door to eternal life — and all we have to do is accept the gift he’s offering. We haven’t earned God’s honor and never will; no “transaction” is possible, as we saw in last week’s study.

So wouldn’t you say that, in addition to honoring others and putting others first, we also should obey the command to honor God as well by how we relate to him and how conduct our lives? Let us this week look for ways we can carry out the instructions in verses 3 through 5, not only in regard to relationships with others but also in regard to our relationships with the Lord.

Written by Dave Urbanski

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In our study this past Sunday of Philippians 2:2, it was important to look back at our previous study of verse 1 — because verse 2 and verse 1 are connected.

Verse 1 reads, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy…”

Remember that the word “so” — the very first word of verse 1 — indicates a reaction to Paul’s previous teaching that we’re all soldiers on a mission, marching and moving forward while engaged in conflict, both spiritually and sometimes even physically. 

And in order to successfully engage in such a mission, our emotional health needs to be optimal — and with that Paul notes in verse 1 that we are strengthened deep down by the Lord (and each other) through “encouragement in Christ” as well as “comfort from love,” “participation in the Spirit,” and “affection and sympathy.”

Which brings us to verse 2 — part of the same sentence — in which Paul continues by saying “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”

Verse 2 is the “then” part of an “if-then” proposition. It’s Paul’s charge, his “marching orders,” if you will.

In other words, once you’ve filled up at God’s “spiritual gas station” with all the gifts Christ bestows upon his beloved children (verse 1) — then demonstrate your renewed strength by being united with other believers as you go forth (verse 2).

Our world and our nation — and even the church itself — is quite divided today. It seems people are primed and ready to argue, fight, and tear each other down at every opportunity. How can Christians fix this amid even a divided church? By following Paul’s specific instructions: “being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” And we can start doing so right here at Calvary Chapel Living Hope!

As Pastor Scott said, when we’re all invested in the same mission, big things happen. So maybe if we’re all of one accord at our church in central New Jersey, that mindset will spread to other churches — and then watch out!

So how do we get there?

Pastor Scott broke down the words in verse 2 to show us how — and they all come down to the importance of developing deep, meaningful relationships. As we’ve seen in previous studies, we know we can’t optimally live the Christian life by ourselves. We need each other. The idea from a previous study of us standing side by side in a long line with our arms linked is a powerful image of strength. Think about that picture for a second: How much fear do you imagine yourself feeling with your arms linked in a line with fellow believers? Seems the answer is zero. That kind of unity is galvanizing and confidence inspiring. And it seems that’s exactly what the Lord had in mind when he inspired Paul to compose verse 2.

And Pastor Scott broke down the verse by describing four words that get deeper into the idea of unity.

The first is “same mind,” which in Greek is rendered as “phraneo” — and it’s all about bringing emotions and beliefs together. The result becomes our core belief — our “mindset” as we pursue the same mission.

The second is “same love” — and this particular rendering in the Greek is the familiar “agape” type of love or supernatural love. The love of God. (How interesting that the Greeks didn’t have one word for love as we do in English; no, they broadened it with multiple words describing love — and “agape” is the highest form.) And to bolster our unity, we must strive to give each other the “agape” love that the Lord freely gives to us. But it isn’t easy, is it? Agape love requires sacrifice. It requires an attitude of giving without expecting anything in return. When God gave us his only son, Jesus, the Lord knew we would never be able to repay him. But that’s the idea around salvation, isn’t it? There’s nothing we can do to earn God’s love, his forgiveness, his mercy. It’s not a transaction we’re so used to making day to day here in our consumer-driven world. No, instead it’s’s a one-way offer of love we can either accept or reject. A gift. And the more our mindsets are focused on living and loving as sacrificially as possible, the more successful our mission will be.

The third term — “full accord” — is all about being united as we walk together in faith. Not unlike the previous image of standing in a line together with our arms linked, Pastor Scott offered an equally powerful image of being “yoked” as oxen are. It can impede a mission if the we’re yoked and going in different directions — not much progress forward is possible. But Pastor Scott noted that if we’re all following Jesus, the direction forward is guaranteed: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

Finally we come back around to the words “one mind” at the end of verse 2 as we saw in the beginning of the verse. Pastor Scott emphasized that the repeated theme is meant to get us focused again on going in the same direction. He added another great illustration, too: An orchestra getting tuned up. Anyone who’s ever witnessed classical musicians in concert knows that before they actually play a song together, they’re playing individually amid cacophony. No unity, no beauty. But once they tune up, the music they make together sounds amazing. 

May we move forward together as one body, having one mind, and one mission — and begin by individually deciding to take part in the heavenly orchestra and by tuning to the same note. To link arms in one long line. To be yoked to Jesus as he leads us onward as we live life 100 percent for the purpose he has for us.

Then get ready for big things to happen.

Written by Dave Urbanski

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Pastor Scott delivered some compelling illustrations on Sunday to amplify the continuation of our study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

The first was the idea of baggage. You know what a pain baggage can be every time you carry multiple duffle bags, storage bags, suitcases, and other objects to an airport — and what a feeling of relief you get when you finally set them down. Now imagine carrying around a ton of baggage in your life all day, every day. Pastor Scott pointed here to the idea of emotional baggage — results of past trauma, abandonment, abuse — that can keep us from optimal emotional health. Now imagine the feeling of setting such baggage down … finally.

Pastor Scott also offered a great (and humorous) illustration of a spiritual “gas station” — a place where all of us need to continually go to “fill up” with God’s grace. The funny part (that has a serious side) was his question to all of us: “How long do you wait when you’re running low on gas to fill your tank back up?” And the truth is, most of us wait until we’re almost empty — even when the light flashes on that we’re almost out. That may be fine (albeit stressful at times) when we’re operating an actual car … but when it comes to our spiritual lives, Pastor Scott asked us how long we all wait to seek the Lord’s grace and power and covering. Is it when we’re running on empty? When it’s more likely we’ll make bad decisions in a state of spiritual exhaustion? Or will we get filled up frequently?

His illustrations were all connected to the themes found in verse 1 of Philippians chapter 2: “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy…”

The word “so” — the very first word of the verse — indicates a reaction to Paul’s past instructions to his brothers and sisters in the church at Philippi, which described to them the idea that they (and we) are soldiers on a mission, marching and moving forward while engaged in conflict, both spiritually and sometimes even physically.

And in order to engage successfully in such a mission, our emotional health needs to be optimal, doesn’t it?

At this point Pastor Scott shared 5 ancient Greek words from the verse 1 that give a glimpse into what’s necessary to get that emotional health from the Lord.

The first word — “paragoleto” — is the idea of calling someone to come alongside you and help you. Of course, we can always call on Jesus to be with us and help us in times of need, but the Lord also gifted us with fellow Christians who can end up being his hands and feet for us — and as we’ve seen in previous studies, God designed his church to be just that: a body of believers working together and standing side by side, even amid the chaos of life.

The second word — “parmutheon” — is the idea of consoling others with our words and actions; asking “how can I help you?” Pretty self explanatory, as it goes without saying that such a call of duty must be part of our lives with fellow believers.

Then there’s “koinonia” — the idea of fellowship in the same spirit with other believers. But Pastor Scott said it can go much deeper than that. It can be the idea of getting alone with the Lord and asking him, “God, please fill me up.” It was here that Pastor Scott ramped up the idea of carrying emotional baggage — even to the point where it can become part of someone’s identity. And I believe his most compelling point was his commentary on Jesus’ question to a sick person: “Do you want to be well?” How interesting. On first glance, we see such a question, and it sounds like a no-brainer: Of course someone who’s sick wants to be well! But Pastor Scott noted that when we examine the subject in a deeper way, being unwell in one way or another can become part of our identities that we may have a hard time letting go of. It can even be attractive or enabling in some ways because of how others respond to us in our sickness. We’re used to the discomfort. We’re used to the baggage. We’re used to the constant weight we carry around needlessly. And then it can get scary when such oppressions are lifted from us: Now what do we do? Change, even positive change, comes with risk and uncertainty. May the Lord work on all of us who are struggling in that way!

The fourth term is “splonkna,” which Pastor Scott said means “from my gut.” Something we feel deep down. It’s the Greek word translated to “affection” in verse 1. The idea that God loves us and is just waiting to throw his arms around us in compassion. In Mark 1:40-41, a leper said to Jesus, “If you will, you can make me clean.” With that, Jesus “stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, ‘I will; be clean.'” Pastor Scott connected such compassion to the Lord beckoning us to his spiritual gas station: “Come to this pump over here. I want to help you be stronger.” He also noted the widow in Luke 7 who also lost her son and was grieving — and the idea that we can rely on the Lord’s compassion so we don’t have to grieve alone.

However, Pastor Scott also pointed out that the hurt we feel as a response to pain can become baggage if we deal with it unproductively. And that can spell trouble for us emotionally over time, which is something we don’t want in our lives.

Finally there’s the word “oiteirmoi,” which is the idea of grace and mercy. We can always come to God and say, “I feel inadequate today, Lord. Please give me your grace.” And indeed, Scripture says the Lord’s “mercies are new every morning.” So why don’t we take advantage of that? Let’s deal with the baggage we’re carrying and fill up on God’s grace and mercy every day, every hour, every minute. Or else it will be much more difficult for us this side of heaven and perhaps greatly hinder the effectiveness of our relationships here and now.


Do you have emotional baggage strapped to your shoulders, in your hands, and under your arms as you wobble down life’s path? Is your spiritual gasoline down to the “E” with the red light on? May the Lord help all of us to set down the baggage and fill up with his grace, mercy, and power each and every day.


Written by Dave Urbanski

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It’s not easy to take a stand for Christ when others pressure us to sit down and keep quiet. But fortunately the Apostle Paul has a solution for us in the final four verses of Philippians chapter 1.

As Pastor Scott pointed out Sunday, Paul offers four principles — or pillars — that hold us up in a sturdy way as we step out and up for Jesus in all circumstances. It’s instructive also to notice that Paul in verses 27 through 30 uses terminology that reflects soldiers in the heat of battle: opponents, destruction, conflict. Certainly we’re not wearing uniforms and carrying real weapons as we contend for the gospel, but Pastor Scott noted it sure can feel that way sometimes — which is why we need to know how to equip ourselves to successfully stand.

First of all, we must maintain a clear FOCUS. “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ,” Paul writes in verse 27. The key words here are “manner of life.” It’s an all-encompassing phrase reflecting how wide and deep and far Christ can go in our lives — if we let him. And it challenges us to live up to the words we speak about Jesus. Do things in our lives match up with Christ’s message? It’s a question we must continually ask ourselves — a constant self-check and FOCUS — because others are watching us and asking that same question.

Secondly, we must BE PART OF A TEAM. Christianity isn’t a solo sport, ideally, and Paul knows this. He tells the Philippians that he wants them “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” Think about it: If you’re facing a really difficult, hard, scary situation, what would you prefer — standing in front of it alone … or with fellow believers in a big line right next to you? No contest, right? Pastor Scott offered an eye-opening illustration about how redwood trees grow hundreds of feet tall yet with very shallow root systems. Standing alone these trees would get knocked over by strong winds — except that their roots grow OUTWARD and join the roots of fellow redwoods, forming an incredibly strong base upon which they can stand up against almost anything. Few things are more inspiring or confidence instilling than being with a bunch of brothers and sisters engaged in the same battle — in fact, joined at the hip with the same root system. Going it alone? That’s for the birds!

Third, we must not be frightened by those who stand against us and against the gospel. We must BE COURAGEOUS! Why? Well, A LOT of people don’t like the gospel message. It’s offensive. It tells people they are sinners who need saving. For that reason, maybe they’ll ridicule you, put you down, and laugh at you. Such treatment is hard for some Christians to take. The easier route is to fit in to what society deems acceptable and “cool.” And as we’ve seen over and over again, the world generally is not kind to Christianity or Christians. Jesus, as we know, predicted such treatment — and he experienced the worst of it. Have you ever noticed that folks can bring up pretty much any other religion or religious figure in conversation without much of an issue — but when Jesus is mentioned, sparks fly? Why is that? No matter what language is spoken, there’s power in Jesus name — and authority — even 2,000 years since he departed this world in bodily form. And folks either embrace or bristle at his name. The question is, do we have the courage to speak his name to others? 

Finally, in order to successfully stand even when others want us to sit down, we must RECEIVE THE GIFT. What gift? Well, Paul uses the phrase “it has been granted to you” — an act of grace toward us — and then continues saying “that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” (verse 29) So how is suffering for the sake of Jesus a gift? It’s a great question, and the answer is that while no one relishes the idea of suffering — in fact, if we’re living life correctly, we do plenty of things to PREVENT suffering! However, amid our collective existence on a broken planet, suffering inevitably will come our way in one form or another, no matter how diligently we strive to prevent it. And for Christians, when suffering happens, the Lord uses it as part of a refining process. As Pastor Scott pointed out, we can’t really learn patience until we’re faced with a person who tries our patience. And it’s a learning process. It takes time and walking through it before we emerge on the other side a different person. And also, experiencing suffering provides windows to our hearts and souls through which others will see how we respond to difficulties, pain, and loss. Not that we have to pretend or act like we’re happy when there’s good reason for sadness, not at all. But others’ faith in Christ — or interest in him — can be increased if they see we’re handling suffering honestly with Jesus in the center of it.

Summing things up in verse 30, Paul says our job is to be engaged in the same conflict he’s endured. And Paul faced down a LOT of conflict for the sake of Christ. A lot of ridicule. A lot of suffering. Indeed, it takes FOCUS and COURAGE to walk the path Paul took. But it can be more successfully navigated when we’re part of a TEAM that engages with the battle at hand and thrives amid receiving the GIFT that comes through suffering for Christ. That’s how we move forward, and that’s how we grow. 

Written by Dave Urbanski

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Did you know there’s a secret ingredient to staying emotionally healthy?

Paul describes it in the first chapter of his letter to the Philippians, and it was the main thrust of our study of verses 20 through 26 on Sunday.
“It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death,” Paul tells his brothers and sisters.

As we know, the apostle is very much in danger of execution. In the very moment he pens his letter, he’s under house arrest in Rome and could at any minute succumb to the axe by the emperor’s decree.

Like any of us, the possibility of death dials into focus what’s truly important to Paul, and he’s determined to live whatever number of days he has left on earth by honoring Jesus “whether by life or by death.” Whichever outcome is fine by him. There are advantages to both. If he lives, he will continue to preach the gospel and lead others to Christ; if he dies, he will be with the Lord for all eternity.

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” he continues in verse 21. “If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”

The ultimate win-win. And as Paul embraces this truth, his emotional life follows suit and stabilizes. Pastor Scott expanded on this idea by describing to us our hearts as the place where our emotions dwell. One part of the heart contains the “desires of our heart” — our longings, hopes, and dreams. Another is where raw emotions dwell (happiness, sadness, anger, etc.). Yet another is how we react to circumstances and develop beliefs. But in the center of the heart is a space with a chair … and if we’ve invited Christ into our lives and let him guide us, he’s sitting in that chair and running our whole emotional show.

However, Jesus only sits there if we let him. He’s not a party crasher. He wants to be invited to sit in that center chair — and take center stage. And sometimes he’s not sitting there because we’ve squeezed him out when we give reign to ungodly desires and emotions, which typically lead to sinful behavior.

So, when Paul notes that he wants to honor Christ in his body, Pastor Scott said the idea is to magnify Jesus — to make him bigger. To have him sit in the center of our hearts.

One of the coolest parts of Pastor Scott’s sermon was his breakdown of another verb Paul uses in this passage: to depart (“My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”) He explained that “depart” in ancient Greek can be viewed illustratively in a number of ways: A soldier leaving a camp and going off to the next place; the ropes holding a boat to a dock being released so it can sail away; a farmer removing the yoke of the oxen when their work is over. It’s quite the image. It signifies the end of work labor and movement toward something great.

If we’re believers in Jesus, like Paul we know where we’re headed when we die. And like Paul, we need to be about making a difference for Christ’s glory while we’re still walking on this planet. How do we do that? Well, Paul explains toward the end of the passage in verse 25: “I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.”

For Paul, it is a joy to see his fellow believers grow in their faith. And he longs to be with his brothers and sisters in Philippi. It should be the same with us. We should be about devoting our time and energy and resources to others, believers and non-believers alike, and encouraging them toward Christ. And such actions naturally lead to joy. 

Pastor Scott also rightly pointed out that when we give too much time and attention to our difficult emotions, we become more self-focused. Life becomes all about me and my pain. But when we make the active decision to let Jesus sit on the throne in the middle of our hearts, our emotions can be in check, and we can become more useful to him.

Many people — even some Christians — live life mainly to be entertained until it ends, Pastor Scott added. So … how are you living your life today? May we all be locked in on our mission to magnify Christ in our bodies, place him on the thrones in our hearts, and devote ourselves to making a difference for him as we reach out to others.

Written by Dave Urbanski.

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Sadness is an emotion we all experience in this world, and it’s always as a response to the loss of something we value. Depending on the severity of the loss, our sadness can manifest itself as disappointment — and then all the way up to despair or even depression when we’re dealing with things like the loss of a loved one, the loss of health, or the loss of a job. 

In a deeper way, the degree of sadness we experience indicates what’s important to us in the moment. And in a practical way, as Pastor Scott noted, Christians in the midst of sadness need a plan to deal with it.

In the passage we studied Sunday in the first chapter of Philippians, we find Paul encouraging the church members in the midst of sadness over his imprisonment — which can naturally lead to doubt, despair, and anger. But he told them there is much to be joyful about. 

Yes, Paul wants to help them — and help all of us as well — get a change in perspective.

Verses 12 to 14: “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”

As Pastor Scott shared, Paul was living with the elite guards and soldiers of Rome during his house arrest — in fact, chained to them, shift by shift, 24/7. For most of us, that’s not an ideal way to live. But Paul sees this as a prime opportunity, and he probably spent most of his time with these guards sharing the gospel of Christ. Can you imagine? Those guards were a captive audience as much as Paul was a prisoner — and he turned what could’ve been a cause for disappointment, despair, and even depression into a cause for joy. Sure, he’s no longer traveling freely from city to city sharing Jesus, but because of his “new audience” there are converts to Christ in the imperial guard! And the impact they’re having on Roman leaders is profound.

It’s certainly an example of what happens, as Pastor Scott emphasized, when we hold on loosely to this life — and when we embrace the power and freedom and joy at our disposal that comes with setting our minds on “things above” (Colossians 3:2). Indeed Paul emphasized that “my imprisonment is for Christ.” It’s really the ultimate perspective of life itself for Christians, isn’t it? If our lives are “for Christ,” then the all the emotional bumps on the road are simply more opportunities to shine the light of the gospel.

Pastor Scott also emphasized another important point: All of the things that go into turning sadness to joy involve a DECISION to rejoice. It doesn’t just magically “happen.” But armed with knowledge and wisdom and examples from Scripture, part of our plan for dealing with sadness is recognizing that God’s in charge and then making a choice to put ourselves under the lordship of Christ, which will lead to joy.

Paul’s expectations had to change when he was under house arrest. And as Pastor Scott pointed out, when expectations change, often audiences change as well. It’s the same for all of us.

Another thing Paul rejoiced about was that his brothers in Christ grew bolder in their faith as a result of seeing him thrive in his imprisonment. It’s a testament to the fact that others are watching us and are affected spiritually by how we respond to adversity. And that can mean us delivering encouragement to other Christians by how well we surrender to the will of God.

Paul even refuses to be bitter over fellow preachers of the gospel who “proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.” (v. 17) Wow! That takes some strength of emotion and steadfast decision-making on Paul’s part — but it all falls under him finding reasons to rejoice. In other words, these wayward preachers still might lead others to Jesus. And for Paul, that’s everything, so he puts away bitterness and finds a reason for joy in the salvation of others.

It all leads up to the final part of Sunday’s passage — Paul’s remarkable proclamation that “to live is Christ.” But before that point, we see he’s acknowledging the prayers of his fellow believers, which tap into the very power of God — and that he’s confident it will lead to his deliverance. However, it appears Paul doesn’t necessarily mean he’s confident he’ll be released from house arrest (although that certainly would be cause for much rejoicing). No, Paul realizes he’s already ULTIMATELY delivered. “Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death,” he writes at the end of verse 20. 

If Paul lives, his life is about Jesus; if he dies, he’s with Jesus in the deepest way possible: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (v. 21) Talk about the ultimate win-win.

Some of us have nonbelievers in our lives who seem very happy — and maybe it’s genuine. But as Pastor Scott pointed out, every nonbeliever experiences spiritual depression in some way or another without realizing it because their sin is not addressed by turning over their lives to Jesus in repentance — and they’re not maximizing their joy. But Pastor Scott also noted that even Christians can experience spiritual depression because they’re still tied in some way to the things of this world, and far too often Jesus is not primary.

Are there things in our lives that we’re grasping hold of too tightly? That we’re placing too much importance on? That have become, in a sense, “gods” to us? That block us from experiencing Jesus as completely as possible? Paul made his decision. Even his imprisonment was for Christ, and he turned it into an evangelism extravaganza. Amazing! But what about us? What have we decided? What do we value, ultimately?

May the answers to those questions lead us to a place where we’re living completely for Christ and maximizing our joy.