Philippians 4:13: A Statement of Empowerment or Dependence?

I don’t have a lot of memories of my parents embarrassing me when I was a kid, but one in particular stands out. I was probably about 10-years-old (give or take a year or so) and playing baseball for the local little league. My team was in a big game, and it had gone into extra innings. I was standing in right-field, waiting for the next pitch, when all of a sudden I heard my mom’s voice screaming, “You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you!”

I can laugh about it now, but at the time, I was mortified. Being an introvert, I don’t particularly like the spotlight under normal circumstances. But when all eyes are on you because of a crazy lady shouting Bible verses, it’s a special kind of misery. Suffice it to say that I never again gave her trouble about not paying attention at one of my sporting events. In fact, from then on, I was happy to look over in her direction and see her reading a book instead of watching the game.

But while I was embarrassed that my mom was attaching that verse to my performance on the baseball field for me, applying Philippians 4:13 to a sporting event or other accomplishment or aspiration is hardly a novel concept. Somehow Paul’s declaration that he could do all things through Him who gave him strength has been transformed into a personal missions statement promoting self-empowerment and a “can do” attitude that belies Paul’s original meaning. Continue reading Philippians 4:13: A Statement of Empowerment or Dependence?

A Resolution Worth Keeping

Every year on January 1st, teenagers around the country resolve to try harder in school, eat better, exercise more, get a job, save money, or be less distracted by the opposite sex. And every year on January 2nd, those same teenagers decide that it’s easier to just do nothing, and their resolutions are forgotten more quickly than information after a test is handed in.

As Christians, instead of setting goals that deal only with surface issues and are dependent on our own efforts, we should think like Paul, who wrote in Philippians 3, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (vv. 12-14). Paul wasn’t pressing on toward a healthy diet, a 4.0 GPA, or a PR in track. He wasn’t forgetting last marking period to press on in this one. Rather, he was counting everything except Jesus as loss (v. 8) and straining (because it’s not easy!) to become like Jesus in his life and in his death (v. 8-9) that he might gain Christ (v. 8) and the resurrection from the dead (v. 11). And he was doing it all as a response to what Jesus had done for him (v. 12). Paul’s goal wasn’t focused on self-improvement or motivated by pride; it was focused on Christ-likeness and motivated by reciprocating the love that he had been shown. He went on to say, “Let those of us who are mature think this way,” (v. 15) and, “join in imitating me” (v. 17). This isn’t something that only super-saints like Paul are called to do. It is to be every Christian’s goal. Every year. Every marking period. Every day. Continue reading A Resolution Worth Keeping

Be Reasonable

This year has been a trying one for me, mostly because I was more unhappy at work than I have ever been. Men find meaning and fulfillment in work (sometimes to unhealthy and unbiblical extents), and no longer being able to find it in what I was doing was a strike at the core of my identity. Because of this I was contemplating a new career, something that is stressful enough when you’re 19, but is even more so at 29, with a wife and son to support, and a 1/2 finished master’s program that would be wasted with the change. That combined with busyness of family life and ministry at church left me in a constant state of worry, agitation and stress.

One of the Scripture passages that I’ve always used to help me during such times is Philippians 4:6-7:

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I can still remember sitting outside the U.S. embassy in Moscow repeating those verses over and over in my head while my wife (then, fiancee) was being interviewed for a visa to come to the United States. And again in the DHS offices in Newark as we waited for her citizenship test and interview. Or a few weeks ago in Louisiana as we awaited news on our son, who had been taken to the hospital in New Jersey. Continue reading Be Reasonable