Monday, April 07, 2008

Philippians and An Extra Thought

What is the book of Philippians about?

At first read, it kinda looks like Paul was arrogant...especially when he talks about how he suffers for Christ. "I am in chains for Christ," he seems to boast.

As we were preparing to teach this class to the teens, I remembered a lesson taught by Randy Harris, one of my favorite preachers.
"It seems to me that this whole letter was written because two ole (church) sisters were fighting! And you think it's hard to memorize the books of the Bible NOW! What if they kept every letter that was ever written because a couple of church folks were fighting?!"
Don't believe it? Look at chapter 4:2-3!

With that in mind, read Philippians again and tell me what you see.

Here's what I see: If we read this understanding that he's trying to help two people who are fighting, the whole letter makes LOTS of sense!

1. He tells them he is in chains for Christ. (Philip. 1:12-18) NOW this passage makes sense! Basically, Paul says, "You guys are fighting and I'M IN JAIL!!" Of course, Paul writes it a lot more nicely than I would have. "You guys knock it off! Am I in jail for nothing? Remember that I'm in jail for Christ, while you FIGHT IN CHURCH!" When it's put that way, church fights just lose their power don't they? When you think there are people whose LIVES are in danger every time they worship God, it makes us appreciate the freedom we have.
2. He tells them to check their attitude. (Philip. 2:1-11) "You all are fighting?" Paul shakes his head and writes his next thought, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus..." OUCH!! That line ought to at least stall a fight for a little while!! I notice that Jesus humbled himself NOT JUST ONCE, but several times. Follow the reasoning: Jesus = GOD. He went from being GOD to being HUMAN. He went from being HUMAN to being a SERVANT OF HUMANS. He went from SERVANT OF HUMANS to CRIMINAL'S DEATH ON A CROSS. And Paul wants me to have THAT KIND OF HUMILITY IN THE MIDDLE OF A FIGHT?
3. He tells them to rejoice. (Philip. 4:4-9) How can you fight when you're rejoicing? When you're truly rejoicing, having a great day, it's REALLY HARD to stay mad at someone!

I've tried to help people get along many times, but this seems to be the BEST ADVICE EVER! Instead of trying to solve the problem, instead of trying to prove who's right and who's wrong, instead of choosing a side, instead of ignoring the problem hoping it will go away, instead of taking it to the elders...take this great advice from Paul.
Have you ever had a thought enter your head and wondered where it came from? Can God still give messages to you that are supposed to be shared with others?
Edward Fudge was a speaker at the Tulsa Workshop that really made me think. He asked these questions.

Well, a friend of mine recently asked for input on his worship planning. Of course, I started off by giving him my personal thoughts on how to make it better.
As my fingers raced across the board, this thought came to mind: "Just keep in touch with God, and you'll find your rhythm in planning the worship."
My fingers came to an abrupt halt.
Should I put that down?
Where did that thought come from?
"Nah," I decided, "it sounds too weird. Too judgmental. Too...I dunno."
Anyways, I hope my friend reads this blog and sees this message. And I hope it gives him great encouragement.

Did this message come from God? I dunno. But I DO believe that God can use my words to encourage other people. But that doesn't mean I quit listening!


One Observationist said...

Interesting thoughts Franklin. I read a book a few months back called "Escape to God" and he spends a lot of time discussing the ways that God talks to us. Maybe it's a random thought or idea.

As far as the church stuff, I understand your point about "playing well with others" and giving up on trying to prove who is right or wrong. But I wonder sometimes if our organization sort of forces us to act this way. I mean, here we have these organizations, asking for our hard earned-God given money and time, to support things that we may or may not agree with. Should we stand by and let the church, or elders, dictate things to us when we disagree with them? Should we continue to monetarily support things we disagree with? Should we say something about the issues we have or should we just be silent and let the Lord sort it out?

Sometimes we are the Lord's mouth piece. So even though there has been a fair share of grumbling among Christians I fear that sometimes the leadership in organizations blow off the critics without truly looking at the organization to make sure that it is serving the needs of the Saints.

I guess my point is that it is going to be difficult for us to serve everyone and keep everyone on the same page when the organizations we have created are flawed.

I think Paul's point is still relevant, but I think we've changed the format and functionality of the organization. So it might be a little more difficult to apply his lessons, doctrines and teachings.

Anonymous said...

Very good post Franklin. In my Wednesday evening Bible study we're studying Philippians. I've gathered that part of the theme of Philippians is joy.

Franklin Wood said...

Jeremy, thanks for the comments.
I somewhat disagree, though, with your comments on our organization and leadership.
We must be respectful when it comes to leadership. These men were chosen by the church (and hopefully by God!) to shepherd our souls. They pray for us and try to help us in our walk with God.
Unfortunately, for our leaders, sometimes this means asking people to do things that might be uncomfortable (like serving the homeless.) Or it might mean confronting someone who's struggling with sin in their lives.
Now, if someone in leadership is pushing for something unbiblical, then yes, they should be approached. However, it should still be done respectfully and with much prayer. (Read 1 Timothy and Titus to gain a better understanding of how difficult it is to be a leader in God's church!)
Another point I want to bring out is that the church does not always exist to serve the needs of the Saints. We also exist to be a light in our community (and the world.)

Having said all that, I know your story, and the difficulties you've had with leadership. I'm sorry you've had a terrible experience there and hope you can learn to trust church leaders in the future. (There really are some good men out there with great hearts!!)
God bless you, brother, as you continue to heal from past wounds!

One Observationist said...

Hey man. Thanks for the response. I probably should've explained myself a little better in my original post.

At Southwest, the leadership has been great. If it wasn't for guys like Dean Hamilton and Rus Duncan I would most likely still be wrapped up in bitterness and anger. So my comments weren't meant to be directed at the leaders in our local church.

I also agree that if we are asked to serve we should seriously consider it. If the leaders are asking members to serve then they should know their flock well enough to manage it. Meaning, they probably shouldn't ask the shiest guy in the group to go out and make a public speech. Maybe the shy guy is better at filling up soup bowls at the local homeless shelter. Maybe the guy is more behind the scenes.

Also, I agree that Paul was explicit about respecting those in authority positions. If we have an issue with something we shouldn't start bad mouthing leaders or complaining about things behind their back. All of us have a moral responsibility to address issues face-to-face and respectfully. There are ways to respectfully disagree with people.

As far as the church I am curious to know what your definition of the church being a light to the community is.

As far as supporting the local work Christa and I financially contribute to the local church. I feel an obligation to help pay for the ministers’ salaries as well as the upkeep of the building, electricity, water, etc.

For me personally, based upon my own background, I have chosen to deal with the church as place where I can meet and associate with fellow believers and worship God with the group.

In all honesty, my main hang up with the church is that I believe we have changed the organization of it over the last 2000 years. Some of it has undoubtedly been positive changes, but other changes I’m not so sure about. It seems to me that the 1st Century church was unorganized and grass roots. I think we’ve lost some of the personal touch that the church was supposed to bring. So, one way I help make things better is too simply associate with people on the personal level. I attempt to reach people one-on-one rather than participating in some of the church sponsored organized activities. I feel like my talents are best suited for working on the individual or unorganized efforts.

I haven’t felt God push me towards any particular church function so I have to assume that He wants me working on other things. But, if He wanted me to do a certain function then I think I would rise to the occasion.

I’m not bitter or angry with the church anymore. I think I may have distanced myself from some of the more organized oriented programs, but that I still enjoy meeting with other Christians and taking part in the worship services.

Talk to you later.