The Aim of Life is Knowing Christ

Christian circles, especially once you move into women’s ministry, sometimes take a lot of flack for talking so much about identity. Identity can be very poorly explained; it can disintegrate into conversations about beauty and being enough. I’m all for throwing that out because that has nothing to do with our identity anyway.

But identity itself is crucial. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in Matthew 4, the first two times the devil started with, “If you are the Son of God.” Are you sure, Jesus? Are you who you think? Are you what the Father says? Is He true and faithful?  We stand on our identity; what we perceive to be true about ourselves and what others tell us is true about ourselves shapes what we believe. Identity matters. I think women and men should have regular conversations about where they should find their identity.

We need regular conversations because we are a forgetful people. Everything we know about this new life in Christ goes against our nature. It’s fought by the world. It’s not what we hear in the scattered conversations at our workplaces and schools. We need constant reminders of who God is and who we are. Paul starts chapter 3 of Philippians pointing this out. “In addition, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. To write to you again about this is no trouble for me and is a safeguard for you.”

Why You Need the Bible: Paul’s Version

One of my favorite things to talk about is reading the Bible. But I think it’s very important that you know why you should read the Bible. It’s not about a checklist or memorizing a list of rules. We read the Bible because it shows us truth. We read the Bible to know who God is and what He’s doing. From that, we know who we are and what we are supposed to be doing.

Knowing the Word was just as important to Paul. Right after his magnificent poem about Jesus and His example of living, he continues shaping the way the Philippians should live and he wraps it all up with one phrase, “holding fast to the word of life.” This is the only hope we have of making it.

Work it out

Paul introduces this new thought with “therefore” because it’s all based on the life that he just told us about. The life that Jesus lived is the basis for what coming’s next. Philippians 2:12-13 says, “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.”

Christ: Our Model of Humility

When our Bible study group met last week, we went deep. We would discuss a concept and a quiet pause would follow. We wanted those truths to settle into our hearts and minds and change us. In the beginning of Philippians 2, Paul moves from talking about struggling in a conflict and finding encouragement and affection from other believers to a call to unity: same mind, same love, some purpose.

How unity exists

Unity is easily confused with uniformity. Uniformity means consistency; we’ve put on a Christian exterior and now we all match. Uniformity is cheap, short-lived, and not at all what God is after. God made the beautiful variety of skin colors, personalities, women and men, young and old. Unity means “the state of being united or joined as a whole.” We must have unity to live as the body of Christ: not the same, but joined to Christ as a whole. How do we find unity among so much diversity?

The Fellowship of Suffering

There are many things that I love about the internet and technology. I love writing here and talking to you all on Instagram stories. I love producing a podcast and listening to my favorite podcasts. I love ordering books on Amazon and getting perspectives from around the world. Something I don’t love is the constant influx of news. It’s not that I want to bury my head under the sand, ostrich-like in my intentional ignorance. But it’s overwhelming to get reports of injustice and brokenness and suffering happening continually all over the world. I find myself longing for my true home more and more often.

In the middle of Philippians 1, Paul is debating between life and death. He says he would rather have death because then he gets to be with Christ. Honestly that sounds pretty good to me some days. I long for the glory of new creation. I desire to be with Jesus and not fight to remember Him in the busyness. I would gladly be rid of the sin that hurts myself and those around me. Then Paul says something shocking. He says he would choose life because it’s fruitful labor, because it’s progress and joy in the faith for others. He’s postponing the ultimate joy to continue the mission of God.

He was facing a potentially gruesome death. He wasn’t trying to skip that by choosing life though; his life was one many would choose. He had physical problems. He was weighed down with worry over the state of the believers that he was serving. He was frequently beaten and stoned for sharing the gospel with the lost. He had been abandoned and deserted by people who had once stood by him.

Defend and Confirm: a tour through Philippians

It’s easy to think that you know a book of Scripture only to camp out and see whole new depths. Our Friday Bible study is working through Philippians for the summer and we all agreed we were just familiar enough with the material to use verses out of context. We’ve divided up the material and are committed to reading the whole book every week as well as studying the specific portion. I hope to share some thoughts from our study with you throughout the summer.

Paul told the believers at Philippi that they were “all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:7)

I get stuck imagining things when I read the Bible. The “defense and confirmation of the Gospel” stopped me because I’ve been considering how we ought to teach and defend the faith, and how much it matters that we actually live out what we believe, not just that we speak it out.

Lamenting Losses: distance is a familiar foe

This morning one of my dearest friends is coming to my house with her kids. When she leaves, instead of heading back to her house, she will get in her van and drive on down the interstate. She won’t go very far today, but tomorrow she and her family will drive to Florida with all their belongings. After church Sunday night, the boys and I walked out of the building with her husband and two children. I casually said bye to him, and then we both stopped and realized it was actually goodbye. We hugged and cried in the parking lot.

I’ve had several friends move over the past few years and when this friend told me she was moving, I came home and announced to my husband that I was no longer going to make friends. I would be friendly, but I would not be friends, and for me, there’s a big difference. It’s one thing for me to hold space for you; it’s quite another for me to step into the space and open my heart.

Refusing to form friendships is, of course, nonsense. We are designed for community. God lives in community. The church is a body, a family, and we need other people. We all shrivel left to ourselves.

Falling in Love with the Process and not just the Results

When the enneagram “Eight” song released in February, a woman that I follow on Instagram shared that Sleeping at Last had an entire podcast episode discussing the making of the song. I listened and was captivated by how much the vision for the song changed as he worked.

I’ve become obsessed with process. I watched the director’s commentary on the extended edition of Moana. I listened to Andrew Peterson and Ben Shive talk about making “Maybe Next Year.” I’ve been reading books and articles about writing by people who are writing well.

Google may define the word process as “a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end” but all of these people started with an idea that changed drastically once they started working. They had no idea what the work would come to, but they had a tiny thought that they started chasing.

When we develop ideas- books, companies, songs, ministries- we start with tiny ideas. We start working on the tiny ideas and they are shaped by the changes we make, the influences we exert. We’re not sure what’s going to come from them, if anything. It’s not just Andrew Peterson and the superb job that he and his team did with Resurrection Letters, Vol 1. (Although, friends, it’s almost Easter. This is your time to go listen it. Spoiler: I like it so much that I listen to it year round. It’s a favorite. It makes me feel simultaneously hopeful and homesick.) This is about making anything: a life of significance, a marriage, grounded community, knowledge of the Bible, a book, a song, a dinner event.