Transformed by Koinonia

Scripture Focus: Philippians 1.4-6
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Reflection: Transformed by Koinonia
By John Tillman

The word Paul uses to describe the partnership that he feels with the Philippian church is koinonia. Like many Greek words, it has multiple shades of meaning. The word in English primarily refers to the “fellowship” of the church as a community. This meaning is not incorrect, but another interpretation is of being a business partner or having a “share” or investment together in a business. 

Paul knows what it is to have partners in business, having supported himself at times through the skilled trade of tentmaking which he had in common with Priscilla and Aquila. However, the business to which Paul is referring, that we all have a share in, is the gospel.

The business of the gospel is the “putting right” of everything in the cosmos. And the means by which we do so is by “fellowship” or “partnership” with Christ Jesus, whose work continues until “the day of Christ Jesus.” There is no koinonia with Christ without change.

In this phrase, Paul is redefining the ancient Jewish concept of the “Day of the Lord.” This is the “last day” to which Martha refers when discussing her brother Lazarus’s future resurrection and is sometimes called the “eighth day” to symbolize that God is both ending and renewing creation.

This is a day when all will be put right. The day of Lord will be a day of leveling. It will mean tearing down those who have built themselves up and lifting up those who have been crushed.  Earth will be transformed into another place—a place in keeping with all that God desires for us, but we are too foolish to ask for or seek.

Christ’s correction of the cosmos is not limited to all that is without us but includes all that is within us. It is not just Earth that will be transformed but Earthlings. We, each of us, have an inner cosmos that must succumb to a “Day of the Lord” transformation. Within us are exalted idols and habits that must be torn down. Within us are fruits of the spirit that we have trampled under selfish feet.

As we submit to him, Jesus will, with axe and fire, tear down in us what must burn, and with tender nourishing care will tend and cultivate the fruit that he always designed to grow in us. Christ is our partner and our koinonia with him means every trial, suffering, isolation, loss, and sadness, shall work together for our betterment, strengthening, and righteousness.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. — 2 Corinthians 4.6

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 14 (Listen 3:45) 
Philippians 1 (Listen -4:03)

This Weekend’s Readings
Proverbs 15 (Listen 3:36) Philippians 2 (Listen -3:45)
Proverbs 16 (Listen 3:15) Philippians 3 (Listen -3:21)

Read more about Jesus with Axe and Fire
John the Baptist describes a Christ who stands ready with both axe and fire. May we ask him regularly to cut down our idols.

Read more about Lamenting Materialism
In an environment in which some who claim Christ have suggested we sacrifice lives to save profitability, we need this lament more than ever.

Confession as a Crucible

Scripture Focus: Ephesians 6.10, 13
Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power…so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Reflection: Confession as a Crucible
By John Tillman

The crucible of COVID-19 is revealing in our society and ourselves the ugliest most sinful parts of our nature. 

In our society we have already seen this crucible give rise to racial hatred as Chinese-Americans face violence and verbal attacks. We have seen hoarding and even violence over scant medical supplies. We have seen carelessness and a selfish refusal to observe CDC guidelines by spring break partiers and planners of weddings and other gatherings. And being cooped up with our families for days, we have all probably seen our tempers and frustrations flare at one another.

These failings remind us that we are weak and it is only in God’s mighty power that we may be able to stand.

The purpose of the crucible is to cause these things to rise so that they may be removed and us purified. Rather than deny their existence or give in to their ugliness, may submission to Christ and his Word draw these elements out of us to be disposed of as dross and fruits of the Holy Spirit shine forth instead.

Lord, help us to see our current sufferings and struggles as evil that you will use for good.
May the flames of suffering that some may think will destroy us be used by your Holy Spirit to purify and strengthen us.

Reflect in prayer on part of the hymn, “How Firm a Foundation.” (The great hymn’s authorship is unknown, attributed only to the mysterious “K.” It was published in 1787 by John Rippon.)

“Fear not, I am with thee; oh be not dismayed
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand
When through the deep waters I call thee to go
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress
When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie
My grace all sufficient shall be thy supply
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose
I will not, I will not desert to its foes
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

*How Firm A Foundation” recording by Norton Hall Band — SBTS

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; let the whole earth tremble before him. — Psalm 96.9

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 13 (Listen 2:45) 
Ephesians 6 (Listen -3:17)

Read more about The Labor of Love
The believers were transformed by the labor of love within them. Their attitude towards their suffering had changed.

#Suffering #LaborOfLove #Love #Faith #Work #Transformation

Read more about Cameos of Love
May God raise up in us the image of Christ, and carve away from us other parts of our lives to show to the world, his perfect cameo

The Way of Love Amidst Fear

Scripture Focus: Ephesians 5.1

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

*Photo credit: Texas Baptist Men delivering 10,000 N95 masks, 2,000 biohazard suits and four decontamination tents to Texas Division of Emergency Management officials in Austin

Reflection: The Way of Love Amidst Fear
By John Tillman

In an email to students enrolled in his online course on the book of Philippians, (which I highly recommend) Professor N.T. Wright said concerning the pangs of social distancing, “It’s like an odd Lenten discipline, without any idea of when we might celebrate the Easter victory over this wretched disease once and for all.”

As people of hope not fear, we know that the Easter victory professor Wright refers to is coming. The one on the calendar will be here in 18 days. At the current pace of rising infection rates it is highly probable churches may not meet for this most sacred day of the year. I pray that if this occurs, it will make Easter more precious to us and more holy, not less.

It will be a difficult moment for the church as a whole, but one that reminds us that we live in between the resurrection of Christ and our ultimate resurrection victory on the last day. During this time, we live in suffering and groaning—even Creation itself groans with us. 

Meanwhile, in the groaning in-between in which we live, Paul challenges the Ephesians and us to walk in “the way of love,” following the example of Christ who went before his disciples into suffering and is with us now in the suffering we endure. We are to offer ourselves as he did, “a fragrant offering.”

As Christ prepared for his own suffering, he also prepared the disciples for the suffering they would endure both at that time and in the future. He told them, “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home (…as we are scattered…). You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone (…just as we are not alone…), for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16.32-33)

Fear is natural and one shouldn’t be ashamed of being afraid. However, the response of a Christian must be supernatural. As we have written before, we can respond TO fear instead of responding IN fear. (1 John 4.18)

While maintaining an abundance of caution, for the protection of the vulnerable, and following all CDC guidelines, to support the flourishing of our community, we can be known as people of peace rather than panic, people of faith rather than fear, people of sharing rather than hoarding, and people of sacrifice rather than self protection.

This is how we live the way of love in a time of fear.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let us make a vow to the Lord our God and keep it; let all around him bring gifts to him who is worthy to be feared. — Psalm 76.11

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.


Today’s Readings
Proverbs 12 (Listen 3:07) 
Ephesians 5 (Listen -3:42)

Read more about The Opposite of Hoarding
Hoarding is a natural response to fear…we are not to give in to our natural responses, but instead to respond supernaturally.

https://theparkforum.org/843-acres/the-opposite-of-hoarding/

Read more about Revelation of Love
Fear leads only to bad places. Decisions dominated by fear lead to selfish evil. Churches dominated by fear sanctify hatred. Governments dominated by fear commit atrocities.

The Opposite of Hoarding

Scripture Focus: Proverbs 11.24-25
One person gives freely, yet gains even more;
    another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
A generous person will prosper;
    whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
People curse the one who hoards grain,
    but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell.

Ephesians 4.28
Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

Reflection: The Opposite of Hoarding
By John Tillman

Hoarding in a financial investment sense (buying up enough of a commodity to influence its market price) can net speculative investors a profit, but can be considered a criminal act. Prosecuting speculative hoarders is rare because the line between prudent preparation for a crisis and attempts to corner the market are blurry, but high-level investors have gone to jail for hoarding commodities in the past. (One well-known example is Yasuo Hamanaka, the “Copper King” of the 1990s)

The more “street-level” hoarding we are seeing in reaction to COVID-19 is not motivated in an attempt to make illegal profits, but in a surrender to fear and panic. This type of hoarding begins with a fear of scarcity and creates the scarcity that was feared. Hoarders today can look at empty shelves of toilet paper or hand sanitizer and say, “See? I was right to hoard!” It’s a self-fulfilling, self- justifying mania and it has consequences.

Medical supplies such as masks, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizer being out of stock across the United States and manufacturers being unable to get more goods to market is causing a very real crisis for medical workers and their patients. In response, some governments are seeking to criminalize hoarding of medical supplies and other goods necessary to slow the advance of the virus.

Hoarding, whether criminal or not, is morally wrong because it withholds necessary goods from those who need them and causes panic and suffering for others. Just because hoarders take items from a store shelf, doesn’t mean that they aren’t also taking them from the hands of the elderly, those with health concerns, and those without the financial margin to “stock up.”  In this way, hoarding is similar to stealing, which Paul addresses in Ephesians 4.28. 

Hoarding is a natural response to fear. Being united to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are not to give in to our natural responses, but instead to respond supernaturally. We can respond to fear, not in fear.

What is the opposite of hoarding? What is the opposite of panic and fear? What should the church be known for instead? 

Paul advised doing “something useful” and sharing “with those in need.” 

May we, with the help of the Holy Spirit, be known in this time of crisis as people of peace rather than panic, as people of hope rather than fear, as people who give to others rather than take from them, and as people willing to suffer that others may be comforted.

May the message of the gospel not be compromised by our acting as if God is not trustworthy, is not loving, and is not concerned with us.
Instead, may the manifold goodness of God be made known to the world through the deeds of our hands and the words of our mouths.
May we willingly limit and give up our freedoms for the good of others, as Christ gave up and limited himself for our good.
May our hearts always be open to others, even if the doors of our homes and sanctuaries must remain closed.
May we store up treasures in Heaven rather than goods on a shelf.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us saying, “Who, then, is the wise and trustworthy servant whom the master placed over his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant if the master’s arrival finds him doing exactly that. In truth I tell you, he will put him in charge of everything he owns. But if the servant is dishonest and says to himself, ‘My master is taking his time,’ and sets about beating his fellow servants and eating and drinking with drunkards, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” — Matthew 24.45-51

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 11 (Listen 3:41) 
Ephesians 4 (Listen -3:58)

Read more about Mind Your Manners
We want our world to work on our terms and provide for our needs. We’re selfish creatures.

Read more about Peace in Crisis
Acting with prudent caution, we can fearlessly engage to aid our cities and communities, loving and serving with abandon.

Fasting from the Feast

Scripture Focus: Ephesians 3.10-12
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

Scripture: Luke 14.17-18
At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, “Come, for everything is now ready.” But they all alike began to make excuses.

*As we enter the unintended fast of social distancing and canceling of many events and pastimes, may we make more time for drawing close to God in prayer and God’s Word.

Reflection: Fasting from the Feast
By John Tillman

We already know how to fast. We have simply been fasting from the wrong things.

Our culture has steadily, for decades, been encouraging us to abstain from spiritual disciplines in favor of activities that we are led to believe are more profitable.

Our culture tells us that rather than read scripture in the mornings, we must pound through more emails. Productivity trumps biblical literacy.

We are told rather than praying at noon, we should skip lunch to work at our desk or take lunch with a valuable business contact. Productivity and self-promotion trumps prayerfulness and relational spirituality.

Rather than living simply and giving extravagantly, we reverse the equation, making our giving a simple percentage that satisfies a legalistic requirement or gains a tax benefit. Moral satisfaction trumps active compassion.

Rather than draw away from the world to worship in community with other believers, we draw away from others to worship with our headphones in—shutting the world out via podcast or streaming music and worship services.

When we have had just enough of God to make us feel more emotionally healthy and morally superior, we wish to move on to productivity, profit, and success. (All with the implied blessing of God of course.)

“Many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not put it into words) that we are now good enough. He has done all we wanted him to do, and we should be obliged if he would now leave us alone.” — C.S. Lewis

We’ve pushed our chairs back from the banquet table of God’s Word and placed our hand over our glass to prevent being refilled with the wine of his Holy Spirit.

God invites us to the feast of the kingdom. But many are fasting from God’s feast in order to binge on the benefits we can wring from the world.

May we return to the table and to the fellowship of believers with gusto, pushing aside distractions and false supplements that aren’t real spiritual food. As the voice of Christ cries through the prophet, Isaiah, “Why spend money on what is not bread?

Spiritual disciplines of daily Bible reading, prayer, and meditation are not the spices and subtle flavorings of life—they are the main course. Everything else is sprinkles of garnish.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe, for you are my crag and my stronghold; for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me. — Psalm 31.3

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 10 (Listen – 3:34) 
Ephesians 3 (Listen – 2:41)

Read more about Fasting is for All
May we fill our unexpected margin not merely with more streaming entertainment, but with a more serious approach and commitment to prayer.

Read more about Fasting as Freedom
Fasting is cutting off the weights our broken world hangs on our balloon so that we remember to rise, filled with the Holy Spirit.

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