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Posts Tagged ‘Philippians 2:15’

The psalmists of old seemed to have a favorite metaphor for God: Rock. You’ll find the imagery used twenty-nine times.  Sometimes the writers included reasons why this was a meaningful comparison for them; sometimes they included synonyms:

  • “The Lord is my rock, my fortress” (18:2)
  • “My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield . . . my  stronghold” (also 18:2)
  • “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (61:2)
  • “God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe” (62:2 CEV)
  • “Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come” (71:3 NASB)

David seemed especially fond of this metaphor, perhaps because he spent months hiding from King Saul in the rocky terrain of the Judean wilderness. Psalm 57 was written specifically when he escaped into a cave. It may have been the characteristics of the rock walls surrounding him that brought to mind descriptors of God—solid, strong, protective, and unchanging.

Perhaps a cave such as this hid David and his men.
Might such a formation as this have provided the inspiration behind
“Be the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2)?

Later when he became king, David composed Psalm 18, probably after the numerous battle victories summarized in 2 Samuel 8.  Four times in that psalm he extolled God as his Rock.

In the New Testament we find Jesus’ parable about a foolish man building his house on sand, and a wise man building his house on rock. The point is clear: God is a reliable foundation-Rock on which to build our lives.  He provides:

  • solid, trustworthy wisdom for decisions 
  • strength and power for life’s challenges
  • protection from our arch enemy, Satan
  • unchanging reliability, faithfulness, and love—to name a few unfailing attributes
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise,
like a person who builds a house on solid rock” Matthew 7:24.
(House in Meteora, Greece.)

One of my favorite examples of Bible imagery is found in Philippians 2:15.  To understand the context though, we have to start reading at verse fourteen:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing,

so that you may become blameless and pure,

children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.

Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky

as you hold firmly to the word of life.

–Philippians 2:14-15 NIV

Isn’t that a glorious statement in the fourth line above?  We can shine into the darkness of the world like stars as we allow the Spirit to foster purity within us!

Ngc 3603 Nebula Cluster Of Stars

Now why would letter-writer Paul choose stars to make his point? Perhaps their beauty reminded him: with kindness, patience, joy, and more we can bring beauty to the world around us–a world darkened by selfishness, greed, and hatred.

Paul would also have known about using stars for navigation.  As far back as 3000 B.C. ancient Minoans were using constellations to navigate the Mediterranean Sea (1).  Perhaps Paul connected the starlight to God’s wisdom shining in mature believers, enabling them to provide guidance to those around them.

But now, centuries later, we know more about stars than Paul did and further comparisons can be drawn:

Stars shine by burning hydrogen into helium in their cores.  We shine as the Holy Spirit burns away the dross in our lives—those unbecoming traits like pride, negativity, and ingratitude. That’s when we can become radiant.

One prominent star in the evening sky of Fall and Winter is Deneb in the constellation Cygnus (the Swan), which is 19 quadrillion miles from earth.  The gleam we see left Deneb about 1500 light years ago in 521 A.D (2). The gleam of our lives can also achieve far-reaching effect as one life touches another which touches another, and then another . . . ad infinitum.

Stars not only create beauty but fulfill function.  They manufacture and distribute into the universe such elements as carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen (3). As we shine like stars in our circles of influence, we too fulfill function, manufacturing and distributing such elements as goodness, encouragement, and helpfulness.

From earth and sky come these two insightful examples of biblical imagery:  rock and stars.

Do you see the connection between the two? As you plant yourself on the firm Rock of Almighty God and shine for him like a star . . .

. . . YOU are a Rock star!

Notes:

  1. https://nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/navigation/
  2. https://earthsky.org/space/ten-things-you-may-not-know-about-stars/
  3. https://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-areas/how-do-stars-from-and-evolve

Photo credits: http://www.hippopx.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.pixfuel.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.maxpixel.net.

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Hurricane Frances, 2004, provided Steve’s and my first experience with that level of storm, even though we’d lived in Florida nearly thirty years. For twelve hours we listened to the roar of the wind and the banging of storm shutters, because Frances did not whoosh through the state, she shuffled.

 

(Note the eye.  That’s just slightly north of where we lived.)

 

Challenges continued after the storm, with a steam bath of heat and humidity compounded by the absence of electrical power for five or six days.

Even so, we celebrated:

  • Minimal damage–a mangled pool enclosure, many missing shingles, and a debris-filled yard. That was it.
  • A neighbor who shared his generator power with us, preserving the food in our refrigerator.
  • Time to rest after the ordeal of preparation; time to read and just be together.

The most memorable moment, perhaps, was the night we lathered up with Off, stood in the backyard, and stared into the cloudless heavens. (Plodding Frances had made a clean sweep of the sky on her way through.)

With the power out all along the coast of South Florida, more stars were visible than I thought possible to see without a telescope. Thousands upon thousands pierced every square inch of sky. Even one arm of the Milky Way spiral was discernible to the west.

 

 

Such an image is a worthy accompaniment to Philippians 2:15, where Paul urges us to be blameless and pure in a crooked and perverted generation, “among whom you shine like stars in the world” (emphasis added).

 

 

Paul surely had plenty of opportunity during his travels to contemplate the night skies. His view of the stars would always have been unencumbered by manmade light. And with all the ancients, he would have known that stars always shine brightest on the darkest nights.

So perhaps one inference we can make from Paul’s shine-like-stars encouragement: The brighter we shimmer with love, joy, and a positive outlook, the more we’ll stand out from those who focus on self, criticism, and negativity.

My thoughts turn toward those of you reading this right now who face dark circumstances in your lives. Every day you endure physical and/or emotional pain, yet you glow! You’re lit up by the Spirit within! And you scatter beams of grace to everyone around you–your family and friends, coworkers and neighbors. We bask in the light of your example and praise God for you.

 

 

Another inference we might make from Philippians 2:15: If only one pin-point star gleamed in the sky, we’d hardly notice. It’s the sheer number of stars that grabs our attention.

 

 

I wonder if Paul wanted us to contemplate the power of numbers. By the time he wrote to the Philippians, Christian churches had been established throughout much of the Roman empire. Today, thirty-seven million Christian churches spread across the globe*, and 2.3 billion people identify themselves as Christians**. That’s nearly one-third of all people on Planet Earth.

God has invited us to be part of a cosmos of believers—as grand as the night sky and awe-inspiring as the stars.

Just as the stars cannot be destroyed, nothing can destroy his church. Members may be persecuted, oppressed, and even murdered for their faith, but the church will not be extinguished (Matthew 16:18).

 

 

For 2000 years, kings, emperors, and dictators have tried. No one has succeeded. There are more believers in Jesus than ever.

True, people may scoff at or even refuse to listen to our words.  But a shining example of star quality is difficult to refute—especially against a dark sky.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Lord God, on any given day I fail to shine like the star you’ve created me to be. I want my words and actions to manifest YOU, to be a glimmer of hope, encouragement, and joy to others. Just as the stars continually gleam in the heavens, I pray for consistency in my life—consistency to rely upon you, my Source of delightful Light.

 

  

* http://www.christianpost.org

**http://www.pewresearch.org

 

Photo credits:  www.wikimedia.com; http://www.Forestwander.com on wikimedia.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.jpl.nasa.gov; http://www.goodfreephotos.com; http://www.dailybiblememe.com; http://www.flickr.com.)

 

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DARE

The ledge was very narrow—no more than a foot—and perhaps five feet long.  The drop-off was straight down—perhaps several hundred feet.

The four of us hiking at Red River Gorge that day had two options, as the trail narrowed to this dilemma:  1) Navigate across the ledge and very quickly get back to where our vehicle was parked, or 2) Turn around and spend a couple of hours hiking the way we had come, circling back and upward to get to the car.

Guess who was more than willing to hike all the way back, rather than risk that ledge?  Just me.  I was out-voted.

Since I’m here to tell the story, you already know the outcome.  We made it across just fine, although with great care.  But it took awhile for my heart to calm down and the adrenaline to stop flowing.  Even falling asleep that night was difficult.  (Did you catch the pun there?!)

And now you know:  I am not a risk-taker.

But there are some hazards worthy of embrace:

I want to live out my faith with courage.

Not just try.  No, DARE.

With my shoulders back and my head up, I want to jump into the day, into the conversation, into the situation where God puts me.

I want to live in confidence.

Put into practice what I know:  God is engineering the circumstances.  He’ll guide me to do or say what’s needed.

But I have to be proactive and step out, speak up, and take the risk–get in there, and just do it!

I also want to live in joy.

 This life with Jesus is full of blessing and delight!  But who will know that if I’m stone-faced and focused on the negative?

My desire is to sail out into the world as a breath of fresh air, providing a glimpse of the good life that I enjoy with my God (Philippians 2:15, The Message).

My Jesus is SO worth the risk.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Heavenly Father, I may need a push from behind to move me out of my comfort zone.  But I know that even as you push, you will be supporting and leading.  You will advise and encourage.  So, with my face raised in anticipation, and my arms spread wide in expectation, I affirm:  Here I am, Lord!  Send me (Isaiah 6:8)!

 

(Photo credits:  www.hikeky.com ; http://careergirlnetwork.com )

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