MONDAY: READ // Philippians 2:1-13
If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.
What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.
TUESDAY: THOUGHTS // Surrender Together
We are in community every single day. When we go to work. When we go to the grocery store. When we are driving down the street. When we are walking, running, shopping, exploring. When we are breathing, we are in community. We are first in community with Christ—nothing we do is done apart from him. We are second in community with everyone else—everyone around us, everyone God created. Thus, everything we do impacts someone. We are not isolated in this world, no matter how hard we try, how much we might think, or how strongly we might want. We are not static creatures, but fluid and dynamic, flowing through life with a give and take that acknowledges everyone else around us. Everything else around us.
As such, we must bear in mind that our actions and thoughts and decisions are consequential—they matter. Even the most obscure notion trapped in the deepest recess of our mind is significant. It alters who we are and all of our relationships, with ourselves at the least and Christ at the most. Every thought we have presses a little deeper into our souls, refining us and hardening us as human beings, until we become entrenched in one way of thinking, in one blended thought.
If we surrender to the belief that we are more or less important than another, we have not only lied to ourselves but have made Christ in us to be a liar. Christ surrendered not to pride nor self-condemnation, but to service. We have a responsibility to represent Christ, ourselves and our neighbors to everyone we meet. We are the preeminent reflections of our lives—we speak and act and tell stories about who we are, our creator and our experiences. We are canvas telling a story—and we choose every moment to how to tell that story. Our very lives and everything and everyone contained therein are penned every moment. And our constant state of community is thoroughly changed and adjusted and reformed every time we speak or act or think. Because regardless of whether we’ve actually changed something, or whether someone knows what we have thought about them, we have changed ourselves. And we know. And that knowledge becomes a catalyst or inhibitor of future growth: ours alone and as a community.
WEDNESDAY: CHALLENGE // Regarding Our Thoughts
We must pay attention to our actions and words—we must be ever-conscious to not give someone reason to resent the Gospel; to resent the love of Christ because we tainted it with our own brokenness. But we also must be vigilant to guard our hearts and minds, because our thoughts have immense power. Our thoughts can change our perceptions. Our thoughts can teach us that someone is this way or that. Or isn’t this way or that. Our thoughts become judgments, become fear, become anger, become loss. Such is the nature of self-focus.
But we are not bound to such practice. We are instructed to take a better way—a more noble way. Paul writes to the Church in Philippi that we must “think of ourselves the way Christ thought of himself.” Christ neither puffed himself nor tore himself down. He recognized who he was and what he wanted—to love others. He recognized his purpose in life and he began walking toward it. He didn’t walk over others. He didn’t push them out of the way. He didn’t abandon others. Instead, Jesus invited everyone who would listen to join him in the journey. He surrendered his position and prestige to become something we can grasp. We ought not waste that opportunity.
Are we conscious of our actions and their effects on those around us?
Do we consider what our thoughts do to us?
Do we consider how those thoughts influence our opinions of others?
What is your greatest struggle toward others?
How do you overcome that struggle?
How do you keep your
heart and mind focused on Christ?
There are times when we do know what God’s purpose is; whether we will let the vision be turned into actual character depends on us, not on God. If we prefer to relax on the mountaintop and live in the memory of the vision, then we will be of no real use in the ordinary things of which human life is made. We have to learn to live in reliance upon what we saw in the vision, not simply live in ecstatic delight and conscious reflection upon God. This means living the realities of our lives in the light of the vision until the truth of the vision is actually realized in us. Every bit of our training is in that direction. Learn to thank God for making His demands known.
My Utmost for his Highest
Lord, teach us to control our hearts and minds as we interact with the world around us. Teach us to see you in everything and everyone around us, and to see the value of the world you created. We want to learn to take ownership over our thoughts and opinions, to create life and not death with those ideas. Lord, we want to find you amongst the busyness of life and not destroy the value of others within ourselves. We love you, Lord.