Paul’s letter to the Philippians is known, appropriately, as the letter of joy. The topic is an important keynote, all the more so because Paul was in prison when he wrote it. So it is noteworthy when, at one point in the letter, Paul says he writes “with tears.” Do you know what it is that causes his tears, and why the subject brings him to tears? Read Php 3.
Philippians is less known as a letter of mission cooperation. Paul opens and closes with thanksgiving for their participation in his effort. This literary technique, called inclusio(n), marks their financial gifts as a major theme of the letter. Perhaps we don’t notice it because we lack the missionary spirit the Philippian saints had, or because we’re reading commentaries whose authors don’t have it and therefore treat it briefly.
Some think the letter is arranged in a chiastic structure, making Php 2.19-30 the heart and center of Paul’s purpose. Now does that throw a chink into your lesson outlines, or what? That’s the part we tend to skip over, is it not?
One of my first try-out sermons, around 1980, used Php 1.3-8 as the text. Verse 7, with its emphasis on those saints being in the apostle’s heart, was a main point. It must have worked: the congregation invited me to work with them. (Eddie Lawson liked it, too. He and his wife were restored that day, after seven years away from the Lord.)
¶ Whatever her beliefs, Renee, Duchess of Ferrara (1510-1575 AD), got it right when she told her Catholic inquisitors “that she was neither a Lutheran nor a Calvinist but simply a Christian,” according to R.M. Hannula in Trial and Triumph. This was today’s QBT post. (Have you joined?)
¶ Working hard, again, on our little dictionary of biblical vocabulary for the Brazilian brethren. Yesterday, I wrote an entry for the word “walk.” Do you know the first time the word is used in the Bible? Try Genesis 3.8.
V – “Finally, pray for us, brothers and sisters, that the Lord’s message may spread quickly and be honored as in fact it was among you” 2 Thessalonians 3.1 NET.
T – God desires that our communion, prayers, and proclamation of the Word result in obedience (honor) among many.
P – Father, make the Good News run with great success.
On the site, I added this note: Our sins hinder not only our sanctification, but the salvation of many, because of our failure to pray and to proclaim the Good News. Let us dedicate ourselves to the work of God! (The verse literally says, “that the Lord’s word may run.”)
I don’t have good penmanship. Too many years of keyboarding has killed my handwriting. I want to get back, also, to using my fountain pens. My writing is better with them.
To reinforce the source and ensure that the verse can be read, I place the Bible open at the verse, at the side (or above or below) of the agenda. Like saying, this didn’t come from me.
Nobody’s happy anymore with plain text. We want images, photos, memes, selfies. But this is an old lament about the Word in the era of visual. So am I giving in here?
¶ I use many Bible versions, in English and Portuguese. Aren’t they the best commentaries of all? Many are now available online for free, so I’ve bought few in recent years. But, during a recent visit to the US, when I found the Revised English Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible at a used bookstore, I snapped them up.
¶ Not so many centuries ago, biblical scholars and religious workers were up at 4 a.m., to study and pray. I know one or two today who do that, but not many. Maybe the old guys went to bed earlier. But some slept four hours a night.
My body won’t let me do that. By cutting out frivolous activity and downtime, however, I’m making better use of what little time is left me. Isn’t that what this verse means? “These are evil times, so make every minute count” Ephesians 5.16 CEV.