Adopt the Attitude

Some days, attitude is everything.

When you are feeling low, taking on an attitude of hope can help you move forward.

When you’re feeling accomplished, remembering where your blessings come from can shift your attitude from pride to gratitude.

When you’re feeling joy, adopting an attitude of generosity can spread that joy outward.

When you’re feeling despair, remembering that you are NEVER alone can change your attitude toward your situation.

Paul talks a lot about attitude in the book of Philippians. In the fourth chapter, he encourages us to rejoice.

“Rejoice! Again, I say, rejoice!” (Verse 4)

That sounds like a lot of fluff until you remember that he was writing from prison. If his attitude can be one of happiness as he sits behind bars, we can take heart that our attitudes can rise above our circumstances as well.

In today’s passage, Paul lays out a tremendous challenge for us: adopt the attitude of Christ.

Philippians 2 (Common English Bible)

Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:

Though he was in the form of God,
        he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
But he emptied himself
        by taking the form of a slave
        and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
        he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
        even death on a cross.

We have talked a lot about obedience during this Lent season: obedience to the call to pray; obedience to the call to give; obedience to the call to study scripture, meditate, confess our sins, and repent; and obedience to whatever it is God is calling us to do.

Paul’s challenge is simple. If the Son of God can be obedient to the point of emptying himself and taking on the form of a slave, we can change our attitudes. Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death. Where is God calling you to humble yourself?

Therefore, God highly honored him
        and gave him a name above all names,
10     so that at the name of Jesus everyone
        in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow
11         and every tongue confess
            that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Soon the day will come when we will all be humbled. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Christ as Lord. Until then, adopt the attitude of Christ as you wait. This is the way the kingdom is built.

Every Knee Shall Bow by Bonnie Bennett

Joyful Hospitality

I am teaching a Lent Bible study based on Paul’s letter to the Philippians and this week’s lesson was on joyful hospitality. Hospitality is a very big deal in the Bible. The people depended on it in order to travel in a time before Marriott Courtyards and Airbnbs were available. To be welcomed in, fed, and offered a place to rest was essential. From Abraham and Sarah to the Disciples, hospitality was ingrained in the culture. Because of this practice the gospel spread from town to town and country to country. It is how the church began.

Last week’s lesson was on humility, where we are invited to consider that there is no task too small in serving God. When we combine humility with hospitality we become something very useful to God.

In today’s reading, Paul tells his beloved church that he is planning to send two men to visit them in the near future. He is counting on them to provide their usual joyful, humble attitude and their hospitality. He reminds them of what a joyful church should look like:

Philippians 2 (The Message)

12-13 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.

In welcoming others we are reminded to be energetic, reverent, and sensitive before God. What we say, how we say it, and most importantly what we DO reflect God’s presence in our lives.

In class this week a member shared a story of two women in our church who volunteered at a local thrift store when they lived in our community. The thrift store supports a faith-based drug and alcohol recovery program in our community and these women loved the young men who are in the program. They determined that the clothing part of the store was in disarray so they volunteered three days a week to manage that part of the enterprise.

One Monday night at our evening worship one of them mentioned that her back was sore. Her friend asked if they had processed a lot of donations that day and she responded that no, it was sore from scrubbing the toilet at the store that the young men used all day. The humbleness of this task takes my breath away. She was doing her task readily and cheerfully, providing living proof of God’s work in the world. The combination of humility and hospitality in her gesture is the very gospel itself.

14-16 Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing.

What can you do today as a gesture of humility in doing the work of the Lord? Who is God asking you to invite in? What offer of hospitality can you extend to someone that will bring the light-giving love of Christ into their reality?

God calls each one of us to practice the same humility that Christ exhibited as he humbled himself on the cross. We are invited to be invitational in sharing his cross with others in our community.

Go, and do likewise.

All Are Welcome by Jess Spiegelblatt

Conventional Wisdom

The disunity we are experiencing in our country, our towns, our churches, and our families is rooted in our discourse, and the subsequent positioning we take from intractable sides. One says blue and the other says red, and both point to endless articles to bolster their point. One says conservative and the other says progressive, and both point to scripture to prove their position. This type of debate-posturing results in both sides being disenfranchised from the koinonia, or the fellowship/kinship of the combined whole.

Paul writes this in Philippians 2:

1-4 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.

The root of our disconnect with one another is found in our reliance on our own wisdom. We apply our personal conventional wisdom to matters that wisdom defies. Our wisdom is colored and flavored with the prejudices of our environment, our status in society, and our upbringing. And when we think that OUR wisdom is better than THEIR wisdom, the community is destroyed. Truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent people can effectively argue an issue from many sides. So where is the truth?

1 Corinthians 1 (The Message)

18-21 The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It’s written,

I’ll turn conventional wisdom on its head,
I’ll expose so-called experts as shams.

So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn’t God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered stupid—preaching, of all things!—to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.

22-25 While Jews clamor for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti-miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God himself—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so cheap, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can’t begin to compete with God’s “weakness.”

The only truth that matters in the end is Christ crucified. All other debates, posturing, and positioning can only lead to further disruption of the singular message of “Christ crucified.” There is no human wisdom that can adequately explain this. There is no intelligent education that can sufficiently prove anything. Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Go and preach THAT, and that alone.

Unconventional Beauty by Michelle Robertson

See Jesus? Be Like Jesus

In studying the term “abundant living” for an upcoming sermon, I came across the idea that one aspect of abundant living is walking in Jesus’ steps. In a kind of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” chain of thinking, I then turned to looking at scriptures that definitively explain what it means to be like Jesus. (If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is a fabulous children’s book where a mouse gets a cookie, which means he needs a glass of milk, which means he has to use a chair to get a glass, which means….you get the idea.) In the plethora of cookie crumbs that I followed in that line of thinking, I came across this morsel of goodness from Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi:

Philippians 2 (The Message)

1-4 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

Holy Cow. Did you catch that? “If you have a heart, if you care…” Paul lays it on straight and THICK.

— 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.

Being Jesus means not being obsessed with getting your own advantage. Imagine how the world would work if everyone behaved that way!

5-8 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.

I’m terrible at math, but even I can see that equation: “Being like Christ” = “Being humble.”

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.

Now let’s think about how this could apply to the way we treat people who look or think differently or will VOTE differently than us. Think about the person you MOST disagree with…maybe it’s your relative, a co-worker, a friend, or even your spouse. It might be someone with whom you have had many arguments or with whom you have exchanged NASTY posts on FaceBook.

You know who I’m referring to….the one who is the red to your blue or the liberal to your conservative. Now hold that person in your mind and listen again to what the scripture is telling you about how to treat him or her:

  1. Agree with each other.
  2. Love each other.
  3. Be deep-spirited friends with each other.
  4. Don’t push your way or your IDEAS in front of that person.

What should we do? Don’t try to talk your way to the top but let others go ahead of you. Step aside, FORGET YOURSELF, and lend a hand….even to that person you don’t like.

That is the secret to abundant living. When we empty ourselves of ourselves, it is then that we are most like Jesus.

Step Aside by Michelle Robertson

Expiration Dates

My mother once told me a tip about buying dairy products in the grocery story. Never take the carton in the front. It is warmer and will expire sooner than the ones in the back. So reach behind and pull a colder one from the back.

Yesterday I bought a carton of Half and Half and pulled from the back. Indeed, the expiration date on the carton was later than the ones in the front. When I read the expiration date my first thought was, “Oh wow. That’s after the election.”

Funny how we think in those terms. How many of you are like me and just can’t wait for all of this to be OVER? This current season of disunity, hate speech, lies, attacks, and downright confusion cannot end quickly enough. And I am not such a Pollyanna that I think the election will miraculously cure the divisions that plague us, but at least the anxiety of waiting will be over. Both sides are promoting a platform based on fear and it can’t end soon enough. In my area, the local political ads are filled with slander and mud slinging and have reached the outrageous level. ENOUGH.

In the second chapter of Philippians, Paul addresses the subject of being united and agreeing with each other. He contends that those things are indicative of having the attitude of Christ:

Philippians 2 (Common English Bible)

 Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. 

This must be a taste of what heaven will be like. I am so jaded at this point that I can’t imagine we will achieve this on earth. How lovely it would be to share in the Spirit, have sympathy for our fellow human, share the same love, and be united. The humility required for God’s people to live in complete harmony is probably well beyond what we can achieve here.

What would it mean to watch out for what is better for others rather than to do things for selfish purposes? What change in your life would that require?

Paul gives the answer.

Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:

Though he was in the form of God,
        he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
But he emptied himself
        by taking the form of a slave
        and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
        he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
        even death on a cross.

To be truly Christ-like we must be willing to empty ourselves of ourselves. We need to be humbled. We need to be obedient. We need to let God be God and realize that we are not in charge of everything.

Therefore, God highly honored him
        and gave him a name above all names,
10     so that at the name of Jesus everyone
        in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow
11         and every tongue confess
            that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The challenge for today is to practice humility. Find that one opportunity to put someone else’s need, opinion, agenda, or desire ahead of your own. Empty yourself and take on an attitude of Christ.

By the way, being Christlike in everything you think, say, and do has no expiration date.

Reflections of Heaven by Terry Wingenroth

Band Camp

Something recently triggered my memories of attending band camp when I was in high school. We would travel by bus to a large camp somewhere near Tobyhanna, PA, and spend about five days learning the fall show. It was everything you would hope the experience would be: fun, informative, social, and very challenging. Early morning “marching and maneuvering“ practice was the WORST. We would descend on the practice field still covered in heavy dew, and our feet stirred up all of the resting mosquitoes and no-see-ums (it’s a Pennsylvania thing.) Luckily this was done without instruments, so our hands were free to swat and slap.

Those days in the heat promoted bonding that I still feel with my fellow band members when I see their posts on FaceBook. I had the opportunity a few years ago to officiate the wedding of a former drummer’s daughter. We don’t even live in the same state, but the friendship that began on a sweltering practice field in the August of our youth made it seem like a natural fit, and it was a joy to re-connect with old friends.

Many of us probably don’t remember how to play the instruments we carried during those years. None of us could recall the intricate routines. We probably can’t remember all the names of the songs we had to memorize. But the bonds we made in those formative years last forever.

Philippians 2 (The Message)

1-4 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.

Band-life was Philippians 2-life. Except for the chair challenges, when each player tried to capture first chair in their section, we did not push ourselves to the front or try to get our own advantage. When we hit the field, we were a community that felt a deep-spirited friendship, and we worked together to defeat the other bands. We were a team.

If you have ever been part of something bigger than yourself, you understand. God calls us into community so that we might bond with other workers toward the same goal. In the community of believers, that means humbling ourselves in the way that Christ did:

5-8 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.

Where is God calling you to take second chair? Where might you make a bigger impact by putting others first? Is God inviting you to forget about yourself, and offer a helping hand to someone else?

Being part of God’s bigger vision for your life means being a part of a deep-spirited community. Let us choose to love one another, agree with one another, and be deep-spirited friends. This is the way we will win the world.

East Coast Champions by the Record Breeze via Greta Mattingly