Knee Jerk Devotional: March 31, 2021

Philippians 4:1-13


My dear, dear friends! I love you so much. I do want the very best for you. You make me feel such joy, fill me with such pride. Don't waver. Stay on track, steady in God.

I urge Euodia and Syntyche to iron out their differences and make up. God doesn't want his children holding grudges.

And, oh, yes, Syzygus, since you're right there to help them work things out, do your best with them. These women worked for the Message hand in hand with Clement and me, and with the other veterans—worked as hard as any of us. Remember, their names are also in the book of life.

Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

I'm glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you're again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.

How am I supposed to respond to this passage? Again, it’s another one that we could spend multiple days on. Paul jams so much insight into this brief passage. I am sure that as you read it there was something that jumped off the page to you. Pay attention to that! Notice it, meditate on it. Allow that verse or phrase to run around in your mind all day. Don’t let it go. Wrestle with it the way that Jacob wrestled with God until he blessed him.

Two things stuck out to me. First, the reality that there were people in the early church that struggled with one another. We too often have an idealized vision of the first century church. But there were conflicts between people then, just as there is now. Paul wanted them to deal with their conflict and return to a place of unity. There was probably some tribalism rising up within the Philippian church and Paul wanted them deal with it.

Unlike our day and age where people just go to the congregation down the street, there was no other place for these folks to go. They had to engage with one another and do the work of reconciling. There are too many people in our congregations who do not deal with the relational conflict they have with one another, they simply disengage and isolate. There is no room for the beauty fo the gospel of reconciliation to work in those situations as a result. When we don’t enter into relational conflict we rob the Gospel of its here and now power.

The second thing that jumps out to me this morning is Paul teaching the folks about GIGO or in this case BIBO. GIGO is garbage in, garbage out and BIBO is beauty in, beauty out. Paul is reminding the Philippians to take in beauty because that is what will come out. Whatever it is that we take in is what we will give out.

One of the remarkable things about our day and age is that we have access to some of the most amazing people at the click of a button. There are scores of podcasts, blogs, and even social media accounts that are worthy of our time and attention. They produce beauty and goodness. So many point us toward what is “true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”

At the same time, there is so much out there that does the opposite. The “worst” and the “ugly” and the “curse” are often what sells. These tend to be the things that gain the “juice” of the social media algorithm. We are drawn to the ugly and mean and nasty. We have to make a choice to fill our minds and hearts with the beautiful and noble.

It is easier to cut than mend.
It is easier to wound than heal.
It is easier to be unloving than loving.
It is easier to be mean spirited than kind.

Every day is a choice, a decision, to seek out what is “true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”

What choice are you making today?

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