The Fear of Being Known

Recently a friend of mine opened up and shared some tough things, smeared mascara running down her cheeks and all. She ended our talk by saying how much she appreciated having a safe space to let her guard down and allow someone to know all of her–  the good, the bad, and the ugly. No matter what trial she’s going through or what she’s personally struggling with, she knows I love her and won’t disown her. 

Later that night, as I reflected, I thought about what typically keeps walls up in relationships:
There is often this underlying fear of truly being known.
“Well, if they really knew me…”
This fear of being rejected for who you really are. 

I know I’ve experienced this. People initially engage me in conversation alright, but upon revealing my nerdy knack for all things philosophical and theological, I see their eyes glaze over and a yawn begin to form. My knee-jerk reaction is to shut down and stop sharing who I really am; just stick to what they want to hear. 

This happens all the time in our lives, from the big to the small. Most of it is insignificant. You refrain from interjecting that you actually didn’t care for that movie with the weird blue people when the rest of the group did. You hide your enjoyment of classical music and ballet when amongst a group of athletes and gym-goers. You pretend to understand the lofty verbiage coming from a well-educated individual, shoving down that feeling of inferiority in their presence. Your daughter pauses at mentioning her favorite hobby of playing with dolls after a few classmates joke that dolls are for babies. 

We all do it.

To a degree, some of this is normal. We don’t want every conversation to become a debate, and if we’re in a healthy place, we merely recognize that people enjoy different things.

However, when fear and shame build and it begins to affect us on a deeper level, then it stagnates our relationships. 

  • A refusal to ever open up with your small group. 
  • Prayer requests that always remain “unspoken.”
  • An inability to share flaws, all the while they fester into a sense of shame, feeling like “you’re the only one” who struggles with fear, pride, anger, bitterness (you fill in the blank).  

Here is the beautiful part: God does know us. He knows every intricate, unique detail about us. He knows what makes each of us tick. He knows Joy is sweet and sensitive and can’t handle too much chaos at once. He knows Grant is the extrovert who feels lonely without lots of bustling activity and people around him. He knows Jamie comes alive with music, while Sarah is happiest digging in the dirt, and Calvin loves any game involving a ball to kick or throw. 

Along with all the good, He also knows which of us tend to lose patience the easiest, those who are the most gripped by anxiety and the “what ifs”, those whose moods can swing up or down, those who struggle with laziness, and those who forget to slow down and enjoy quiet moments with their kids. 

God knows all of this, along with so much more that we don’t even recognize about ourselves. And yet he still chooses us. He still says yes, again and again, whether at this moment you are thriving and living your best life, or you feel like a hot mess puddle on the floor. He relentlessly pursues us, because he is the Perfect Heavenly Father who never gives up, nor turns his back, on his children. 

In the same way you delight in the differences of your kids, God delights in us. 

That being said, what if we began to really absorb that we are to reflect the heart of God? What if we allowed the way God faithfully loves us to transform us to the degree that we can love others in that very same way? How would that change the way people experience the love of Jesus in this world? 

What if you become a safe haven for a close friend? A trusted confidant with whom they can truly be themselves and still experience the love of Jesus. 

What if you begin to extend the same grace and mercy toward your child as God extends to you? 

How would your marriage change if you knew your spouse would still approach you with agape love, no matter how low you feel on your worst day? What sort of intimacy could begin to flourish?

That, my friends, is pure freedom and kingdom-of-God relationships. What a lovely picture to envision being surrounded by friends and family with whom we feel both known and still loved.

Unlike the moment with my friend where she did feel incredibly safe and loved, I don’t always get this right. Sometimes I roll my eyes at my husband. Sometimes I unintentionally dismiss what someone else enjoys. Sometimes I react poorly to my daughter’s sensitivity, forgetting that she gets most of that trait from me. But God has been bringing this to my attention more and more, and I’ve been asking Him to keep stretching my heart to love like he does. Because the truth is, without receiving God’s love ourselves, allowing it to permeate our hearts and transform the way we view others, trying to love like Jesus will be quite the uphill battle. 

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 

1 John 4: 10-12

This doesn’t necessitate being all things to all people. Even Jesus said no to some things and some people. But we do have this incredible opportunity to embrace the relationships God has put in our lives and to begin allowing God’s love to bubble up out of us, so that those with whom we do interact are impacted for the better. 

Let us go about our week and ask the Lord for discernment about where we can display steadfast love to others, along with where we can begin to make ourselves vulnerable in order to receive Christ’s love from trusted people around us.

Grace and peace,

~Renee

Think of These Things

I came home the other night from a full day of work, rushing to kids’ activities, both body and mind exhausted. Then I stepped into my backyard that evening and couldn’t help but feel a sense of complete gratitude. 

Birds fluttered and danced across the yard. Hues of pink and orange began to streak across wispy clouds. Fragrant lilac was being carried by the breeze. Neighborhood kids could be heard in the distance giggling and chattering together. 

A stroll out to my little garden revealed bright white flowers speckling my strawberry bed. Pops of green and purple lettuce greeted me. Happy little peas began to grab hold of their trellis. Tiny zinnia seeds began to push their way through the dirt. 

My mundane backyard was transformed into Eden. 

I could have chosen to dwell on the fatigue my body felt or the annoyance my son stirred up in me that afternoon or the neverending to-do list I couldn’t seem to make much ground on. But that day, I didn’t. 

Some days I inevitably do give in to that grumbling spirit and I go down the path of “woe is me.” Every now and then we need to feel all the feels. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging what is hard or stressful, and it is perfectly okay to have legitimate seasons of grief or lament (we’ve talked about that in What To Do With All The Feels: A Lesson On Lament). 

But regardless of the season in which I find myself, whether fast and chaotic, slow and boring, the perfect happy-medium, or especially trying, God is developing in me this constant need to dwell on that which is good and lovely and excellent. 

Finally, brother and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

I make choices about the content I allow to enter my mind: 

Too much news produces anxiety; The Dick VanDyke Show makes me laugh. 

A little bit of HGTV can spark creativity; too much can produce a spirit of discontent. 

However, that’s only part of the equation. Consciously taking time to see all the good and right and admirable in the day-to-day becomes life changing. 

Our perspective changes things. The lens with which we view our day changes our approach. Therefore, more and more, I am trying to find those places and moments of seeing God’s hand or artistry in my daily routine. 

The kindness displayed by an encouraging co-worker. 

Sentimental words from my daughter: “you’re the best mom ever.”

The sweet tune of the goldfinches as a thank you note for their thistle.

Vibrant blue hydrangea waiting to say hello outside my front door. 

A family that still comes together for dinner in the evening. 

The wonder on my son’s face as he discovers a new stone.

A quiet moment with just my Bible, journal, and a HOT cup of coffee.

You can tell I’m a small-town girl moved by nature, but for you it could be entirely different. 

Instead, maybe it’s: 

The smell from the corner bakery. 

The neighbors who congregate every evening in the shared greenspace. 

The familiar hustle of people rushing home after work. 

The intricate stone architecture on the church the next block over. 

A breezy stroll in the neighborhood fruit market where each vendor knows you by name.

Whatever it is that brings us joy, wherever we live and with whom we interact, we can grab hold of those nuggets of glory. 

There is power in the thoughts on which we dwell. These thoughts, constantly sprinkled through the day and week, change us. They shape our view of life. They draw us closer to the heart of the Father and ultimately mold us to be a little more like Him. 


Share your nuggets of glory with me! Where did you see God in your day? What moments brought you joy?

Philippians Study: Part 4


OUTLINE

Genre:

  • Letter: sometimes referred to as Epistles
    • Written in response to a specific need or circumstance.

Context:

  • Author: Written by Paul (with Timothy- his disciple)
    • Around 61 AD; about 30 years after Christ’s death; original generation still alive
    • One of 4 letters written while Paul is in prison in Rome
  • Original audience: 
    • The Christians in Philippi; 
      • not one church; lots of small churches within the city
  • What was going on?
    • They had sent their member, Epaphroditus, with a gift to deliver to Paul. Paul wrote the letter to thank them for their support/encouragement while he’s imprisoned.
    • Paul was also concerned about coming persecutions and the members not all getting along→ written to instruct them to work together
  • Bonus: Read Acts, chapter 16, for some of the historical accounts in the Epistles

Observe: What’s Happening?What is the text saying? 

  • Again, asking the churches to get along:
  • Vs 2- Agree with each other!
    • Greek women; possibly led separate house churches and not getting along
      • Inscriptions show that women played a significant role in Philippi’s religious realm
    • They worked w/ Paul; obviously has high regard for them
    • Asking other to mediate; help them to reconcile 
  • Stand firm in your faith, agree with each other, do not be anxious, 
  • Instead: think of good things and the God of peace will be with you 
  • Thanks them for their gifts (vs 10-20)
    • Paul is stating his gratitude without seeking further gifts; doesn’t want to depend on their gifts
    • He’s learned to be content
  • Paul is telling them not to worry about him
  • Learning to be content
  • Vs 11-13- Greco Roman thinkers would have valued self-reliance; Paul is placing dependence on Christ instead of self
  • Vs 19- Paul can’t repay them, but trusts God to meet their needs
  • Vs 22- News that the gospel had reached Caesar’s household would have been really exciting and encouraging to the original hearers
    • Acts 28- those who guarded Paul heard his teachings

Interpret: What does it mean? What is the central lesson the author wanted to communicate? What does it teach us about God? 

  • Again visits the theme of unity
  • Excellent Thoughts:
    • Do not be anxious- present to God
    • Paul follows his instructions for unity, rejoicing, and releasing anxiety with thinking about good things
    • Vs 8- Repetition would have been intentional to get reader’s attention 
    • Does this really help? 
      • Example of how what we think/dwell on affects us
        • Always thinking negatively/taking in negative things isn’t helpful
      • Cognitive Therapy: a type of psychotherapy in which negative patterns of thought about the self and the world are challenged in order to alter unwanted behavior patterns or treat mood disorders such as depression
      • Paul follows his instructions for unity, rejoicing, and releasing anxiety with thinking about good things
      • Also goes in line with the idea of perspective from Chp1; Paul’s perspective shaped his attitude of the situation
    • And the God of peace will be with you
      • Vs 7 & 9 (sandwiches the thoughts of peace)
      • Peace- Greek is “eirene” (equivalent to “shalom” in Hebrew) 
        • tranquility, absence of conflict/harmony with each other
  • Contentment: 
    • Vs 11- learned to be content whatever the circumstances
    • Vs 13- Do everything (other translations say “I can do all this”) through Christ who strengthens me
      • Not taking vs 13 out of context
    • Allowing Christ to help you be content whatever the circumstances vs. the traditional interpretation of vs 13 as a motivational statement
    • Strength to endure

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– if anything is excellent or praiseworthy– think about such things.” 

Philippians 4:8


Application: What does it mean for you? Personal application

  • Begin to pay attention to how what you’re consuming and repeating in your thoughts is affecting you– both positively or negatively. Are there any areas in your life where you could replace certain thoughts with whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy? 
  • Reflect on this area of contentment? Do you generally feel satisfied or does the culture’s message of “more” have an impact on you? Are you able to lean on the Lord for strength in seasons of want? 
  • Did anything else speak to you from the reading?

Philippians Study: Part 3


OUTLINE

Genre:

  • Letter: sometimes referred to as Epistles
    • Written in response to a specific need or circumstance.

Context:

  • Author: Written by Paul (with Timothy- his disciple)
    • Around 61 AD; about 30 years after Christ’s death; original generation still alive
    • One of 4 letters written while Paul is in prison in Rome
  • Original audience: 
    • The Christians in Philippi; 
      • not one church; lots of small churches within the city
  • What was going on?
    • They had sent their member, Epaphroditus, with a gift to deliver to Paul. Paul wrote the letter to thank them for their support/encouragement while he’s imprisoned.
    • Paul was also concerned about coming persecutions and the members not all getting along→ written to instruct them to work together
  • Bonus: Read Acts, chapter 16, for some of the historical accounts in the Epistles

Observe: What’s Happening?What is the text saying? 

  • Vs 1- likely repeating them things he taught them in person
  • Conservative Jews saying you needed to be circumcised still; Paul is refuting that
    • Don’t need to put confidence in a physical process anymore; Paul is making it clear this is no longer what marks them as the people of God
    • Ie- circumcision (way of marking that their people was set apart; belonged to Yahweh)…..Jesus coming abolished the law and need for this
    • Vs 3: The Spirit allows us to circumcise (i.e. purify) our hearts
      • The Spirit is now what marks followers of God instead
      • God is already alluding to in the OT as part of his plan: 
        • Deut 10:16, Deut 30: 6
      • Will be giving a new heart from the new covenant by the Spirit
        • Jeremiah 31:33, Ezekiel 36:26-27
          • Ez- “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
  • And if anyone could boast in worldly things, it’d be him; but he doesn’t; he considers all those things loss compared to knowing Jesus
    • You want confidence in the flesh? Paul can boast of worldly confidence
      • Pharisee (strictest of Jewish sects)
  • Knowing Christ intimately (along with his suffering and resurrection)
    • But it’s a process, hasn’t obtained perfection
    • Vs 10- I want to know Christ
      • “Know”= intimacy, covenant 
    • Interestingly, Paul also connects knowing Christ to sharing in his sufferings
      • Though divine, Christ sacrificed himself for us 
      • We’re to imitate Christ
  • Don’t listen to false teachings; they’re led by passions
    • Vs 15- Maturity
      • Common for philosophers of the day to admit they hadn’t reached perfection, though they’d still contrast the difference b/w the mature and novices; advanced students as mature
  • Ultimate citizenship is in heaven
    • Vs 20- they would have understood being a citizen of a place they’ve never been to
      • Philippi was a Roman colony; therefore legal citizens of Rome, along with its benefits
    • Vs 21- the Jews regarded resurrection to include the entire body; but this idea would have been foreign to the Greek and Roman 


Interpret: What does it mean? What is the central lesson the author wanted to communicate? What does it teach us about God? 

  • Identity: in the flesh and in this world, or in our relationship with Jesus?
    • Having cultural status isn’t ultimately what matters
    • Whatever were gains before, Paul now considers loss for the sake of Christ
      • Knowing Christ is better
    • Vs 8- “because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus…for whose sake I have lost all things”
    • Liken to a love relationship, or a child: you thought life was good/fine but then you can’t imagine life w/o
    • This relationship is important/life changing
  • Relational: Intimacy with Christ
    • Vs 10- Paul desires to know Christ; vs8- a loss compared to knowing Christ
    • Greek word “know”= ginosko
      • Relational: Knowing Christ in the sense of having a relationship of faith and trust; recognition of his divine person
      • John 10:14-15- my sheep know my voice
        • “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” 
        • You recognize the voice of someone you know vs a stranger
      • Knowing- also connects to the concept of Covenant, but we’ll cover that separately
  • Pressing On – Athletic Imagery 
    • Remember, a Greek audience.. Philippi located in modern day Greece
    • Vs 12-14- “I press on”- it’s a process; not about reaching perfection
      • Paul’s goal: vs 10 & 11
    • Vs 13- If you’re running a race to win, looking behind slows you down 
    • Vs 14- winners were typically called up for their prize; in this case the prize is heaven

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3: 14

Application: What does it mean for you? Personal application

  • Are there “worldly” gains you still cling to for worth instead of your identity in Jesus? Do you remember life before “knowing” Christ? 
  • Would you consider yourself to “know God intimately”? Like in Jesus’ parable about the sheep, do you think you would know His voice? One of the ways we can know God’s voice is knowing what He says in the Word.
  • In week 1, we talked about sanctification and how it is a process of becoming more like Jesus. Do you feel pressure to have already arrived in terms of your character, knowing the Bible, knowing God, etc? What sorts of things cause you to look behind or slow you down in moving forward? What does this concept of simply pressing on, and knowing even Paul hadn’t arrived, do for you? 
  • Did anything else speak to you from the reading?

New Name Announcement!

The Girl Who Talks to God is changing to The Priscilla Initiative:

I’ve been praying about it for some time and felt like now was the right time for the name change. My original name worked for a season with my original goals– which was initially to blog and write about the things of God here and there.

While I still plan to write reflective blogs, my heart has been growing to turn the website into more of a women’s ministry hub. I want it to be a place where women can grow and deepen in their faith by learning how to read the Bible, to get excited about the things of God, to encourage more women to step into their own roles as leaders, and to provide resources. 

That being said, it seemed like the right time for a new name. The Priscilla Initiative comes from the Bible character, Priscilla, from the book of Acts. She is a woman of God who works alongside Paul and disciples others. My favorite line is this: “When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:26).

Discipleship has been at the core of my ministry heartbeat for some time, so it only seemed fitting that the website be named after a female leader who discipled others into better knowing their God. Over the coming weeks, the website will get updated with the new name/theme, and you may even see some fellow women in ministry begin to guest contribute.

I’m excited to see what God has in store! 

Philippians Study: Part 2


OUTLINE:

Genre:

  • Letter: sometimes referred to as Epistles
    • Written in response to a specific need or circumstance.

Context:

  • Author: Written by Paul (with Timothy- his disciple)
    • Around 61 AD; about 30 years after Christ’s death; original generation still alive
    • One of 4 letters written while Paul is in prison in Rome
  • Original audience: 
    • The Christians in Philippi; 
      • not one church; lots of small churches within the city
  • What was going on?
    • They had sent their member, Epaphroditus, with a gift to deliver to Paul. Paul wrote the letter to thank them for their support/encouragement while he’s imprisoned.
    • Paul was also concerned about coming persecutions and the members not all getting along→ written to instruct them to work together
  • Bonus: Read Acts, chapter 16, for some of the historical accounts in the Epistles

Observe: What’s Happening?What is the text saying? 

  • Paul invites them to live in unity
    • Vs 2- “make my joy complete by being like-minded, one in spirit”
    • Vs 3- Do nothing out of selfish ambition; value others above yourself; look to the interests of others
      • Roman culture, it was all about reputation, position, honor
    • Vs 4- think of the larger good over yourself
  • Imitate Christ’s humility
    • Paul’s use of poetry highlights its significance; being the heart of the letter
  • Vs 9-10 THEREFORE
    • Because of Christ’s humbling himself, God exalted him; was able to accomplish his work
  • Vs 12/13- Again, this idea of growing, sanctification
    • “Continue to work out your salvation,” 
    • “God who works in you”
  • Vs 14/15- Idea of standing out in a dark world
    •  Deut 32:5- Jewish literature often compared the righteous with light
  • Sending Timothy and Epaphroditus
    • Vs 22- teachers often viewed close disciples as sons; wants to send Timothy to encourage them
    • Epaphroditus- messenger who almost died on the long journey. It wasn’t safe to send money with just anyone. It would have been a trusted person to carry the gift from Philippians all the way to Paul in Rome

Interpret: What does it mean? What is the central lesson the author wanted to communicate? What does it teach us about God? 

  • The Church as a Unified Community
    • If we really love Christ and are allowing him to change us from the inside out, we should be able to live in loving community with each other.
    • When we see each other as fellow “spirit-carriers”/ambassadors/family members, we should have a sense that we need to work in one direction
    • All of that should produce affection and empathy for one another
    • There are SO many clashes in the modern-day church
      • Music, buildings, theology, culture, politics, moral behavior, etc
      • SO HOW DO WE DO THIS?!
  • The Answer: Think of yourself the way Jesus did!
    • “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ”
      • In your relationships with one another, have the mindset of Christ
    • Not self-focused; not bringing our thinking in line with each other, but in line with Christ’s thinking!
  • What was the mindset of Christ?
    • Verse 6- Jesus didn’t use his position to his advantage
      • the NT culture was all about using your status to your advantage; completely counter-cultural
      • Rulers like Alexander the Great and Augustus were domineering, military conquerors.
      • Paul’s message would have seemed absurd!
    • Vs 7: God as servant: 
      • It was unusual for people of status to even eat with a servant, much less act like one
      • Vs 7: “made himself nothing” can also mean “emptied himself”
        • This does not mean he emptied himself of divinity; it was about being truly divine; emptied himself of his rights 
        • Word picture from Isaiah 53:12- the servant who poured out his life in death
    • Vs 8- humbled himself and became obedient to death on a cross
      • the cross was the epitome of a shameful death
      • about his obedience to go all the way to the cross; 
        • NT Wright: he is the God of self-giving love
    • Vs 9-11: Paul showing the victory in it all
      • Paul references Isaiah 45:23 to show Christ is equal to God- “to me and me alone, every knee shall bow and every tongue shall swear”
      • Christ is the Messiah
    • Paul building a proof: point A→ point B → point C
    • Live in unity by living like Christ
  • THEN We’ll be a witness!
    • Remember how the church is to live in a way that exemplified the final restoration/kingdom living; we are God’s ambassadors
    • Vs 14- without grumbling and complaining; shine like stars
    • Point C→ Live in unity by living like Christ and you will be a shining example to the world around you

“As you look at the incarnate son of God dying on the cross, the most powerful thought you should think is this: this is the true meaning of who God is. He is the God of self-giving love.”

-NT Wright, Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters

Application: What does it mean for you? Personal application

  • Our God is known most clearly when he abandons his rights for the sake of the world. Can you think of ways you still think of yourself before “the sake of the world”? 
  • How can we bring a sense of unity to our lives– our families, churches, communities, world? 
  • Did anything else speak to you from the reading?

I heard this song this past week and the lyrics seemed fitting for today’s conversation.

Philippians Study: Part 1

Here’s a closer look at the maps!

Taken from: NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, Copyright 2016
Taken from: NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, Copyright 2016

OUTLINE:

Genre:

  • Letter: sometimes referred to as Epistles
    • Written in response to a specific need or circumstance.

Context:

  • Author: Written by Paul (with Timothy- his disciple)
    • Around 61 AD; about 30 years after Christ’s death; original generation still alive
    • One of 4 letters written while Paul is in prison in Rome
  • What Philippi was like: real people; real time
    • Philippi was a prosperous Roman city; not a small rural area
    • Along the Egnatian Way, which was a major highway that connected the eastern provinces to Rome (major highway)- big factor in its prosperity and political influence
  • Original audience: 
    • The Christians in Philippi; 
      • not one church; lots of small churches within the city
      • Paul and his team started the church of Philippi during his 2nd missionary journey. First church established in Europe. Luke (as in the gospel of Luke) was its pastor for the first 6 years. One of the healthiest churches in the New Testament. 
  • What was going on?
    • They had sent their member, Epaphroditus, with a gift to deliver to Paul. Paul wrote the letter to thank them for their support/encouragement while he’s imprisoned.
    • Paul was also concerned about coming persecutions and the members not all getting along→ written to instruct them to work together
    • The Christians in Philippi all loved Paul, but were not getting along with each other
  • Bonus: Read Acts, chapter 16, for some of the historical accounts in the Epistles

Observe: What’s Happening?What is the text saying? 

  • Paul is so thankful for their faith in Jesus; begins his letter with encouragement and affection
  • Vs 6- “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion”- God keeps working on us
  • Vs 9- “this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight…may be able to discern”- continues this idea of God working on us
  • Vs 12- “what has happened” (see Acts)- he’s in prison
    • All through the palace guard (entire palace); it has helped to advance the gospel (perspect changes interpretation of circumstances)
  • Vs 13- likely refers to the Praetorian Guard around Rome (Acts 28:16)
  • 15- Common in the Meditarranean culture to desire honor
  • Vs 18- what matters is that Christ is preached
  • Vs 19- Job 13:16 
  • If he lives, he gets to continue sharing the gospel; if Paul dies, he gets to be with Jesus
  • No matter what happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of Christ
    • Stand firm in one spirit, one man for the faith

Interpret: What does it mean? What is the central lesson the author wanted to communicate? What does it teach us about God? 

  • Idea of continued sanctification: 
    • Definition: the action or process of making something holy; the action or process of being freed from sin
    • Becoming more like Christ
    • Verse 6- “will carry it to completion until the day of Christ.” 
    • vs 9/10- “more in knowledge…to discern….until the day of Christ”
    • Vs 11- “Filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ”
  • Perspective: 
    • Don’t be discouraged with my being in chains
    • Paul could be grumbling about being in prison; instead he’s praising God about his ability to share the gospel bc of his unique position there
    • He doesn’t get upset that some are preaching from selfish motives; either way Christ is being preached!
    • Vs 18- “Yes and I will continue to rejoice!”
    • Death vs life- serve here and preach Christ or be with Christ in heaven
  • Paul affirms their relationship and his care for them
    • begins with sincere thanks, encouragement, and affection; 
    • almost as if to make it clear that any rebuke is coming from someone who genuinely loves them
    • Whatever happens…conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of Christ
      • He’s talking about whether he lives or dies and the coming persecution
      • Stand firm in one spirit

Application: What does it mean for you? Personal application

  • What emotions does the word sanctification bring up in you? Positive/negative/confused? Does that idea that Jesus continues to work in us after being saved intimidate your or give you hope? Are there any areas God is working on in your life now? 
  • What do you think about Paul’s perspective in the midst of really difficult circumstances? Are there any areas in your life where you could use some new perspective? 
  • At the end of Chapter 1, Paul is just getting started with some of his rebuke to the Philippians. Knowing Paul gave these warnings from a place of love, how does it make you feel? Regardless of circumstances or persecution, do you feel the body of Christ is standing firm in one spirit? The body of Christ begins with us. Are you conducting yourself in a manner worthy of Christ in our volatile cultural climate? 
  • Did anything else speak to you from the reading? 

Leaning on the God Who Provides

I wrote this well over a year ago and tucked it away. It was raw and it was personal. I needed to write for therapeutic reasons, but I couldn’t share in the midst of the valley. For a time, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever share it, but after seeing a few dear friends walk through their own valleys with their children, it seemed appropriate, even if only for the purpose of sending all my love and encouragement to them. You aren’t alone. ❤ 


Having children has been my hardest trust journey of all. Every step of it, if you don’t want to live in fear, has to be placed into God’s hands. From the waiting and the trying to get pregnant. To the hopeful anticipation that it will be an uncomplicated pregnancy. To the checking for 10 fingers and 10 toes. To the sweet hugs as you send them off to kindergarten. To the moment they’re suddenly suiting up in cap and gown. 

I’m quite certain it doesn’t end there. 

But actually trusting God through a difficult situation is a lot harder than just reading about it or saying the words or believing in the philosophy.

When suddenly a season hits where you aren’t sure as to your child’s health and something feels amiss. People give awkward comments, unwanted advice, and readily slap on labels. You begin to obsessively check your phone, waiting for reports from “the experts”. When it feels like you are staring evil in the eye and have no choice but to prepare for battle. It’s as if the situations around you are spiraling and you’re lost in this sea of questions and doubts and doctors and experts and the like. You start to question everything you’ve ever done as a mother and the ways it could have caused permanent damage- from the non-organic food you consumed while pregnant, to the not-so-perfect parenting moments. And you nonchalantly try to sneak out of church before anyone notices the tears beginning to well up because you can’t hold the fake smile any longer. 

That’s when things get real. 

We all know we’re supposed to trust God with our kids, with our precious little babies. But what does that look like when things hit home? What does that mean when living in this fallen world seems to invade the very fabric of our lives? 

I wish I could say I understood the space I find myself in right now. I wish I could say it all makes sense and I can see how it fits into God’s larger plan. But right now it just feels heavy. It feels dark. And there are moments when it feels as though Satan himself is warring against my family and my child. 


The Bible is very clear that we serve the God who provides. Jehovah Jireh in Hebrew means, “The Lord Will Provide.” We first see this name given to the Lord in Genesis 22:14. God tells Abraham not to lay a hand on Isaac and instead provides the sacrifice through a ram caught in the thicket, so Abraham names the place “The Lord Will Provide.” This is in direct contrast to the name Abraham gives God in the previous chapter, El Olam, the “Eternal God,” where He is the enduring God, the God of the long term and big picture. Here, Abraham recognizes that God is also the God of the short term, caring for our needs of today. The two attributes beautifully compliment one another to convey that Yaweh is not a God of either/or, but a God of both/and. Hebrews 11 tells us that Abraham carried on in obedience because he believed God would provide. His ability to trust was because of who he knew God to be. 

Right now my soul so badly needs to remember that. I need to know that I serve a God who provides for today, like rain drops bringing sustenance to the sun-scorched crops. But I also need to know that my God takes care of the big picture; that he is holding my family 10 years from now; that this all somehow matters. 

The truth is, we don’t always get to know all the answers. Sometimes we can see the bits and pieces of the greater picture later on, sometimes we can see the good that comes out of the bad, but other times we walk through difficult seasons with no sense of purpose and no justification for the pain being felt. Those are the seasons we grab on tight to the hand of God and ask Him to steady us. Those are the moments when the need for a Savior and the longing for eventual restoration of all things is felt more than ever.

Sweet Jesus, erase our tears and bring about healing. 

In the meantime, I hope and I trust. Not because life is rosy or because I’m guaranteed a happy ending, but because I can be confident in my Savior God. He is faithful, He is merciful, He is good, and He is both my El Olam and my Jehovah Jireh. Like Abraham with Isaac, I’ll continue to step forward in obedience, trusting God to provide, remembering that he loves my sweet child even more than I do.


For any of you out there going through a difficult road with a child, my heart and prayers are with you friends.

~Renee

My Response to the Asian-American Hate

Despite being a writer, I haven’t been able to find the words regarding all the Asian-hate in the media as of late. I don’t have the answers, and I know there are people who are so much more knowledgeable in this area than myself. 

This I do know: I was raised to see the beauty in our differences. Not to ignore them. Not to tolerate them. But to delight in and see God’s design in the many differences we all have with different hair color, eye color, skin color, and culture. When my little boy says he wishes his eyes were blue like mine, I cannot reiterate enough to him how much I adore his big brown eyes. 

I praise God that, for now, my sweet, precious babies can remain unaware of the hatred that exists in the world. We are blessed to be in a community where we feel loved and supported. But we were also conscious when choosing where to live that racism still exists, and were purposeful about avoiding certain areas where we might feel less welcome. 

I’m still fleshing out where the marriage of grace and justice happens. Where God’s heart for loving our enemies and forgiving those who’ve wronged us collides with a God who also longs for rightness and for his people to display the way of his Kingdom. He isn’t a God of either/or. He is a God of both mercy and righteousness.

In the meantime, I will raise my children to meet hate with love. To stand up for justice. To be the light in the darkness. They will receive the message that they have been beautifully and wonderfully created by their Heavenly Father. And I will continue to seek the face of God for all the brokenness that exists amongst his people. God knows, we need Him. 

Part 8: Making the Head to Heart Connection

Even as a champion for reading and understanding the Bible, I understand that without absorbing today’s topic, everything else I’ve written these past weeks is meaningless. When we approach the Bible, we must come with an open, humble heart that allows the cerebral information to penetrate into our hearts. Without that, we’re reduced to academic scholars, pushers of religious dogma, even to Pharisees. 

Let’s look at this quote from a Seminary Professor, C.L. Blomberg: 

“If we wanted to be brutally honest…one would have to say that the conservative, evangelical Christian…is probably the closest parallel to the ancient Pharisees.”

What terms or adjectives come to mind when you hear Pharisee? Does that statement seem a bit extreme? Did it strike a chord? Seem a little offensive to your Christian sphere? 

Before walking off in a huff, hold onto your panties, take a deep breath, and hear me out. Let me remind you that the man who made that statement is not anti-Christian. He is a Bible professor, teaching pastors and ministry students who will go on and teach more people. So why would he say such a thing? 

Jesus actually had a lot to say on this topic. 

In Matthew 23, Jesus spends the entire chapter rebuking the Pharisees and teachers of the law. 

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. 
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." - Matthew 23: 25-28

Yikes! Jesus compares them to whitewashed tombs, calling them dead on the inside. Clearly he takes it very seriously that they care more about following the rules and looking good on the outside than they do about cleaning their hearts. 

Again, in John 5: 38-39, Jesus says to the Pharisees, “nor does God’s word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” Of the religious groups of the day, the Pharisees knew the scriptures better than anyone, adhered to the rules better than anyone, yet they were missing the main point! Jesus was making it clear that their strict rule following wouldn’t save them. Jesus’ message was about coming to Him for salvation.  

In the process of trying to more carefully understand the context and absorb Biblical knowledge, we cannot forget to make that head to heart connection.

In the process of trying to more carefully understand the context and absorb Biblical knowledge, we cannot forget to make that head to heart connection. If all we ever do is store up a wealth of knowledge, a list of dos and don’ts, we become too much like the Pharisaic Jew or the legalistic evangelical, and forget what is at the center of Christianity: a transformative relationship with Jesus. 

The trouble is, we humans tend to go to extremes. If you remember the introduction (An Intro: Why It’s Not Just For Your Pastor), I spoke about being informed in the Scriptures for ourselves so that we are not like lemmings and easily led astray. However, on the opposite side is an equal challenge of not becoming the hypocritical, white-washed Pharisee. We should neither have a faith that is led merely on warm fuzzies and our emotion of the day any more than we should claim a faith in Jesus that is reduced to academic knowledge of the Bible while ignoring its purpose to shape us into the reflection of the one we claim to follow.

We need balance. 

I will make this very clear: dogmatic reading of the Bible or a precise following of the rules will not save you. Only a relationship with our Savior, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, is what saves. “For it is by grace you have been saved…not by works, so that no man may boast” (Ephesians 2). Repenting from our sin and accepting the gracious gift of Jesus that has been given us is the only thing that saves. However, if we don’t build on that foundation, if we ignore the opportunity to come to know our Creator God and Savior more through his Holy Scriptures, we miss out. We pass by on the chance to better understand the heart of God and to allow it to transform our lives. 

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

So if there’s anything with which I can leave you regarding the need to read your Bible, perhaps it is this:

Reading the Bible is not a “you have to,”
it is a “you get to!” 

Therefore, as we conclude this series, my prayer for you is that you can let this notion be your framework as you grow your knowledge of God’s beautiful, holy Scriptures. Let His word be your sustaining daily bread. Let it guide you and provide you with a discerning voice. Celebrate the unending richness you will uncover as you peel back the layers of its goodness. And then sit back and ask our gracious God to use all of that to work inside you so that you never resemble the Pharisees, who quoted the holy Scriptures yet failed to recognize when He stared them in the face. Rather possess a heart that is so transformed, it begins to reflect the heart of the Savior.

May our God bless you and keep you, and make his face shine upon you. 

~Renee