Category Archives: Philippians 4

Feeding the Dog in One Another

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

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

dogfightOur Native American brothers have an interesting way of describing our conflicted behaviors.  They talk about each man having within him two dogs fighting: one good and one bad.  They say the dog that wins at the end of the day  is the one you have been feeding.

That old saying draws upon an eternal truth about the human condition.  We all have a quirky tendency to become the person we believe others perceive us to be.  Good or bad, positive or negative, we actually tend to become more and more like we believe others perceive us to be.  If you have reared children, you have seen this firsthand.  If you tell your child he is “stupid” often enough, he begins to believe you and he fulfills that prophecy.  If you tell her she is beautiful inside and out, she begins to believe that and carries herself accordingly.  There is something very powerful about our perception of others’ perceptions of us, particularly if those others are ones whom we respect or whose opinions matter to us.

This is what makes this final word from Paul’s prescription for church conflict such an amazing insight.  After walking us through some practical counsel about dealing with conflict in the church, Paul ends his advice with a final tidbit that can literally transform some of the most difficult parties to a conflict.

Paul says that, in the midst of the conflict, while we are practicing all his other counsel, we must learn to see the …

Worrying or Praying, Praying or Worrying

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

(This is the fifth in a series of posts from Philippians 4 on dealing with church conflict).

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Do I need to come up with a poignant illustration to remind you that these are anxious times in our country and in the world?  No, I didn’t think so.  And for church leaders, it rarely gets more anxious than when there is divisive conflict going on in our church…particularly when it seems to be swirling around us personally and our leadership.

Indeed, I have been in many churches where worry and anxiety are the normal state…if they happen to stumble on a season with nothing to worry about, they somehow feel stagnant and they honestly do not know what to do.  In our “I want it all and I want it now” culture, anxiety has become the new normal.

worrycropHere is what Paul understood about worry: it is a behavioral pattern.  Like abusive conduct or overeating or road rage or fingernail biting, worry is simply a behavioral pattern…one which can be broken with the type of “renewing of the mind” of which scripture speaks.  Changing a behavioral pattern just requires changing our perspective, i.e., how we see the thing.  It also helps a great deal to replace the wrong behavior with a right behavior.  In this case, it means replacing worry with prayer.

I have had “Gethsemane moments” in my prayer life, moments when I thought the anguish would overcome me and …

Paul Knew His Pigtails

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

(This is the fourth in a series of posts from Philippians 4 on dealing with church conflict).

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:5

I believe unresolved anger is one of the big obstacles to the church today.  I find it to be especially problematic in conflicted congregations.  It is awfully difficult to effectively communicate with one another when one side of the issue is constantly pushing the buttons of the other side.  It makes this notion of gentleness a tall order.

pigtailsI remember how hectic Sunday mornings could be when my girls were little.  While Mom was still getting ready, it often became my job to figure out the girls’ hair (usually just a rubber band or two would do the trick).  The problem, of course, was that their hair was often a tangled mess…we never could seem to impress upon them how much easier it would be if they actually brushed it out at night before they went to bed.  And so, usually running woefully late for church already, and more than just a little frustrated by the tangled mess in front of me (it always reminded me of trying to grab a wire clothes hanger out of the closet but finding it all tangled with the other hangers…frustrating may be a bit of an understatement) I would grab a brush, grab a girl, and start brushing.  Not long into the hurried event, there would often be tears and great wailing and gnashing of teeth, followed by a poignant look from their mother…it’s a look I’ve come to fear over the years.  It is a look that shamed me into submission and gentleness

Rejoicing Over Conflict

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

(This is the third in a series of posts from Philippians 4 on dealing with church conflict).

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Phil. 4:4

So be honest.  How many times did you use that verse before you realized that its context is church conflict?

This verse begins Paul’s prescription for dealing with conflict.  In the case of the Philippians, it was the conflict between Euodia and Syntyche.  In my church it would be a different issue.  In your church, a different one yet.  But in any case, Paul’s first word of advice is “rejoice!”

How is it that Paul can say that about a church fight?  What is it that he understood about church conflict that we are inclined to miss?

wavesFirst, Paul understood that conflict is inevitable in church.  If there are people in your church, there will be conflict.  It is a part of the human condition.  Issues are to the church what waves are to the seashore.  No matter what issue we are dealing with today, there will be another one tomorrow, and another one after that.  How naive would it be to be standing in the surf, get knocked over by a wave, and then stand up and say, “Well, I’m glad that’s over…we won’t have to worry about that happening again.”  Paul understood this.

Second, Paul understood that there will never be a church conflict that sneaks up on God.  Whatever conflict your church may be facing right now, God saw it coming a long, long time ago.  He could have prevented it.  He did not.  He permitted it to come.  How you deal with it will either bring …

I Am Syzygus

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

(This is the second in a series of posts from Philippians 4 about church conflict)

Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Philippians 4:3

Have you ever thought about your name and wondered how it has shaped you or influenced you as a person?  I have…

syzygusMy name is Syzygus.  It is Greek.  There really isn’t a good English translation of it, but “yokefellow” comes pretty close.  It’s a bit of an embarrassing name, actually, because it is a reference to oxen in a yoke.  I have no idea what my parents were thinking.  But today, looking back on my life, I’m glad they named me Syzygus.  When I think of how God worked in my life, it fits.  I suppose it refers to a co-laborer wearing the same yoke as you, pulling along with you.  If there is any truth to the old adage that names do reflect something about us, then I am a true friend who has walked along with you during good times and bad times, never leaving your side.  I am a person who has been coupled with you through difficult service together.  I have grown to trust you and you have grown to trust me.  I am your “yokefellow”.

I suppose I was not surprised, then, when Paul called me out in his letter to my church in Philippi.  I had been yoked with him in ministry and had been yoked with Euodia and Syntyche as well.  I knew them …

A Legacy of Conflict

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

(This is the first in a series of posts from Philippians 4 on dealing with church conflict).

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Phil. 4:2

Have you ever noticed that people don’t tend to name their daughters after these two particular New Testament church members?  I mean you’ll find plenty of Peters, James’, Stephens, Philips, Lidias, Priscillas, and even a few Dorcas’ and Cornelius’, but you’ll have a hard time finding a child named after Euodia or Syntyche.  That is because parents tend to name their children something that is positive or that has a strong legacy behind it.  Most parents do not name their children after people with a bad legacy.  And that is exactly the kind of people Euodia and Syntyche were.

euodia-and-syntyche

Euodia and Syntyche as children

We know practically nothing else about these two women except for the fact that they apparently could not get along.  They may have been critically important founding members of the Philippian church.  They may have had sons who went on to become wonderful pastors or teachers.  Who knows, they may have been teachers themselves.  They may have been wealthy contributors to the work of the church or key figures in the women’s ministry there.  They may have been beloved prayer warriors or wise members of the personnel committee.  They may have been any or all of these things, or perhaps none of them at all.  We simply do not know.  But forever and ever, as long as the kingdom of God is around, everyone will remember Euodia and Syntyche for one thing and one thing only: they could not get along …

Balancing Content with Discontent

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

While traveling among the churches in South Africa, I would often sit in my room at night, journaling my experience and how God revealed Himself to me that day.  I’m not a very faithful “journaler” here at home, but I am consistent with it when I travel abroad.  It helps me report back to those who are praying at home.  But often I am not able to articulate what I’m seeing until I get home, as in this particular case.  It wasn’t until I was home, preparing a lesson from Philippians 3-4 that another observation about the South African church struck me.

perfect-balance

Paul lived his life in a constant tension between two attitudes which leaned against each other in perfect balance.  The first was his interminable desire to know Christ better.  He had a drive in him to always press forward, always looking for God and always wanting to draw closer to Christ.  His comment in Philippians 3:10 (“I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection…”) bears witness to this attitude.  Near the very end of his life, the most important writer and church starter of the New Testament church still wanted more of Christ.  It is inspiring.

But leaning up against this constant discontent was the attitude he expresses just one chapter later in Philippians 4: “I have learned to be content in all circumstances…”  Paul was so focused on the eternal, that the temporal, physical circumstances of his life never bothered him much.  Because of this focus, Paul was able to walk in this perfect balance of contentment with the physical but constant discontent  and forward progress with his Spiritual placement with Christ.…