Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Really?

TwoCarpenters“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:12-13 KJV)

Hmm. Work out your own salvation. Do so many good things, they outweigh the bad? No, that wouldn’t be grace, would it. So what does that mean, exactly?

It means work throughout the term of your salvation, from the time you were born again until the time you arrive in heaven. Work. Don’t be lazy. Don’t camp on some mountain top waiting for the rapture. Be busy doing something.

Jesus said, Occupy until I come (see Luke 19). Not occupy a city square or occupy a lounge chair, but be occupied, working at something.

Let’s look closer at these verses:

    • work out – katergazomai – kata (down from, throughout, in) and ergazomai (labor, perform, do work). I like those ideas: down from, throughout and in – meaning from beginning to end and during the process, during the term of something. The term of what?
    • your own salvation – soteria – deliverance, preservation, safety, salvation; from root word sozo (provision of whatever is needed: rescue, health, deliverance)
    • with fear and trembling – phobos / tromos – distrusting your own ability to meet the requirements, yet doing your utmost to carry out the assignment. The apostle Paul said, “And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” I Co. 2:3-5
    • Why? because it is God – theos – the deity
    • who works – energeo – empowers, energizes, operates (like operating a computer or a business, a freight train or a lawnmower)
    • in you – inside, with, by, among
    • to will – thelo – to purpose; desire, wish; to love; to be fond of doing; to take delight in, have pleasure in
    • and to do – energeo  – operate
    • his good pleasure – eudokia – good choice, delight, pleasure, satisfaction (i.e. whatever activity he chooses that brings him pleasure)

The Holy Spirit is the prime operator, we are his co-workers. No wonder the presence of his power – energeo – resulted in fear and trembling for Paul.

He saw and experienced multiplied miracles when he took the Holy Spirit where he wanted to go, and let him do what he wanted to do through himself, Paul!

“And there are distinctive varieties of operation [of working to accomplish things], but it is the same God Who inspires and energizes them all in all.” I Cor. 12:6 (AMP) “Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” John 14:17 “… Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Col. 1:27

You think those verses were only meant for a few “super-believers”?

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Intercession, one definition

This week as I was thinking about intercession and how it’s different from other types of prayer, the Holy Spirit spoke clearly and distinctly to me.

“Interceding is My interfering with the schemes of the enemy.”

It’s God’s method to scotch the devil’s activities on earth. Prevention, intervention, substitution, whatever is needed for the situation. God’s way of throwing monkey wrenches into the devil’s designs.

It is not just praying what God says to pray, although it includes that. It is speaking what God says to speak – to the enemy, to circumstances, to your own spirit / soul / body, to other people (their spirit / soul / body), to whatever.

It’s different from petitions, which may be our own desires and needs for ourselves, our family or friends. That’s certainly not prohibited, it’s encouraged. It’s just not all there is to prayer.

Relax, be watchful, be mindful, be ready to take advantage of every opportunity to be God’s eyes, ears, hands, mouth, or monkey-wrench.

Yeah, sure, but how do you DO that

I’m still re-reading the book of Philippians, jotting down thoughts and questions as I go. Eventually I’ll put them in order, but for now I’m selecting passages that have had a special impact on my life. Like this one –

Thinking“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Phil. 4:8 KJV)

Think on these things… and just how, exactly, do you DO that, I wondered?

Minutiae can overwhelm our life, if we let it. Tiny fragments of time in a normal day, tiny moments of planning, carrying out, performing mundane tasks and chores that don’t even require coherent thought.

That doesn’t mean these things are nonessential or unimportant. You have to think about that kind of stuff, just to survive.

But worry, fear, or anxiety over them will grow and grow, if we think on these things in the wrong context. Believe me, I know that from experience.

But here’s a clue. I discovered that “think on” in Philippians 4:8 doesn’t mean just have a thought or idea. Thoughts come and go. That’s not what this means – this means focusing on, really considering something.

The root Greek word is “logizomai.” Our word logic comes from this. Definitions include to compute, calculate, take into account; consider, weigh, meditate on; suppose, deem, judge; reason, conclude; to determine, purpose, and decide.

What kinds of things run through your mind on a typical day? Such things as:

Job / career / education – your own, spouse’s, children’s
Finances / savings / retirement
Family / friends / neighbors / acquaintances
Health / diet / exercise / checkups / medical care
Chores / duties / responsibilities / errands
Home / car / belongings
Entertainment / sports / hobbies

So, can you get through a day without thinking about work? or breakfast? or paying bills? No.

But you can refuse a negative knee-jerk reaction when some thoughts crop up. Start a new habit. Respond, not just react.

Counter irritating, worrisome or fearful thoughts with other kinds of thought.

Like those in Philippians 4:8. Each one of them can be linked to some attribute of Jesus, Father God or the Holy Spirit, to their work or to their words.

The Amplified version reads “For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them].”  I like that.

Fix your mind, even if just for a few moments, on something that is:

  • True – Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)
  • Honest, worthy of reverence, honorable, seemly – Jesus through and through.
  • Just – I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. (John 5:30)
  • Pure – Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man. (Luke 23:4)
  • Lovely and loveable – Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (John 14:23) Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
  • Of good report, kind, winsome and gracious – And from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him. (Mark 3:8)
  • Virtue, excellence – And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. (Luke 18:19) He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. (John 14:9)
  • Worthy of praise – And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace (praise), the stones would immediately cry out. (Luke 19:37-40)

So here’s a practical way to do it – ask the Holy Spirit to teach you how to combat fear, worry or anxiety-causing thoughts. Ask him to enable you to do it. Even annoyance, irritation, frustration, aggravation, can spiral out of control when you’re under pressure and cause guilt and anxiety later. He can teach you how to respond – not react – when that happens.

It takes practice, but that’s how you learned to walk, or ride a bicycle, or do math. You keep at it until it this becomes a new habit, replacing the old one.

“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” (John 15:26)

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” (John 16:13-14)

Something has changed

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

SkyHasChangedSomething has changed in the spirit world since yesterday. Global change. I walked outside and was suddenly aware of an atmospheric difference. It was an unsettling, unnerving difference. Not bad, not good, just different.

It’s May – still Spring – but it seemed as though the seasons had changed and we had just entered the Fall of the year. It was as if the axis of the planet had shifted.

The sky seemed a different, alien shade of blue. There was a thinner diffusion of sunlight, a different arrangement of something on a cellular spatial level – but I don’t know what.

I stood still for a moment and just looked and listened. All the sounds were as usual, mostly traffic. Shrubbery, trees, buildings, cars – all were in their usual places. Nothing obvious was out of place, nothing obvious was abnormal.

But something had – has – decidedly changed, and if I could sense it I’m sure others can too. Now I’m waiting for the “other shoe to fall,” praying, interceding, reading news reports from around the world to see if someone else reports a similar sensation in the spirit. And to see what happens next.

“I will get through this”

woman-looking-out1Since I’ve been re-reading and studying Philippians, some things keep coming back to my mind. Memories of other lessons from this book, some quite a while ago… like “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Phil. 4:13 KJV)

Alone in the apartment, I stood in my bedroom and yelled at God. Out loud. I raised my fists and shook them at him. I called him names. I said, I don’t like you! I don’t believe you! I don’t believe in you! I don’t believe anything in your Bible. You don’t love me and I don’t love you! You didn’t take care of me.

It was early evening and my children were off somewhere with their friends. I had no friends.

There was no place I could go, or wanted to go, because somebody I knew might be there and they would go out of their way to avoid actually speaking to me. And besides, I had no money.

I had a good time wallowing in self-pity. Sometimes I paced around the darkened room, sometimes I stared out of the windows overlooking the street, watching a few cars go by. Sometimes I examined the sparse furniture in this rented apartment bedroom, wondering who had lived there before. But who cares, I thought, they were no doubt better off than I am.

And after a while, I heard a quiet voice intruding into my thoughts. Are you through?

And yes, I was through – for now. I realized that he had been listening to my rant, not arguing back, not zapping me with lightning bolts for being rude. Just being patient, patiently waiting for me to be through.

I clenched my teeth, clenched my fists, and determinedly began to speak out loud again.

But I choose to praise you. I choose to thank you. I choose to worship you. I choose, by an act of my will because I sure don’t feel like it. I WILL get through this. I WILL survive this.

I CAN do all things. I CAN DO THIS.

Out loud I began to repeat any verses I could think of. Scripture songs I had memorized. Psalm 23. I began to thank him for the ordinary things, like the clothes I had on. The shoes I wore. The fact I actually had a roof over my head and food in the kitchen. That my teenage children had clothes and food.

More and more things kept dropping into my thoughts. Health. Job. Car. Family. Books. Library card.

I began to praise him with clenched teeth for who he is. Not what he does for me, or gives me, but just for who he is. Almighty. Creator. Alpha and Omega.

After a few minutes I realized my attitude had changed, my feelings had changed. Although my feelings of hopelessness and loneliness had not totally vanished, they weren’t as dreadfully painful.

The praise and gratitude became real. I was exhausted and exhilarated at the same time, recognizing how much had evaporated from my emotions. I was surprised. Surprised and puzzled.

The voice of the Holy Spirit spoke to me again. Better now?

The year was 1978. My children and I had left our beautiful home and mini-farm, left a situation of abuse that had become intolerable to them and to me. What now, God, what now? was like a broken record running around in my head.

One thing now, I had learned a valuable lesson. Praising God doesn’t stroke his ego, doesn’t increase his power, doesn’t do anything for him. But it certainly had done something for me.

(Also see


The river of God’s glory is becoming visible

The River
6 May 2015

The river of God’s glory is becoming visible. Eternal, unlimited by time or place, one nation or one continent, the river of God’s glory has been obscured by clouds of doubt and unbelief.

Desperate pain, prayers for rescue, repentance, pleas for mercy and for His presence, are clearing away the clouds.

The river is becoming visible again.

You can’t put the river in a box.
You can build docks and quays, piers and ports, but you can’t enclose the river.
You can build a dam and make a lake, but you can’t stop the river.
You can use the river or abuse the river, but you can’t kill the river.

You can ignore the river or acknowledge the river. Best let the river fulfill its function.
Best let it take you where it’s going.

“Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over.” (Ezek. 47:5)

“And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” (Rev. 22:1)

“For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab. 2:14)

Philippi – why should I care about that place?

PhilippiViaEgnatiaEtcOne morning last week as I was thinking about what book of the Bible might be good to re-read next, Paul’s epistle to the Philippians popped into my mind.

“What do you know about the people and place Philippians was written to?” the Lord asked me.

“Not much,” I replied. “Uh – why should I care, exactly?” Not being rude, I was just curious.

“Why don’t you see what you can learn about them?” he suggested.

Okay, I thought, why not. So I approached the subject like Sherlock Holmes might: who, what, where, when, why, how – like that. Here’s some of what I’ve learned so far:

A bit of background

While Paul was in house arrest in Rome, he did more than boldly proclaim the gospel to anyone and everyone (Acts 28:30-31), he also wrote at least four letters which scholars refer to as the “prison epistles”: Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians and Philemon.

First-century house arrest wasn’t your typical American prison; however, it wasn’t a vacation home either. It’s purpose was to serve as a holding tank for prisoners awaiting trial. Two years was the maximum amount of time someone could be held, at which time they were either tried, found guilty and executed, or released.

Although guards were always nearby, prisoners were allowed much freedom such as access to visitors and limited access outside the home. “The apostle was under the charge of these troops (i.e. praetorian guard), the soldiers relieving each other in mounting guard over the prisoner, who was attached to his guard’s hand by a chain. In the allusion to his bonds, Ephesians 6:20, he uses the specific word for the coupling-chain. His contact with the different members of the corps in succession, explains the statement that his bonds had become manifest throughout the praetorian guard.”

Probably the most difficult part was that prisoners were responsible for payments, such as their rent, food, and so on. This was obviously tricky for someone who was not allowed to work for a wage. In fact scholars say that numerous prisoners died in house arrest due to lack of food.

So what was Paul to do?  Enter the Philippian church.  As Paul was in house arrest completely dependent upon the financial gift of others to keep him alive in prison, the church at Philippi stepped up by sending a man named Epaphroditus with a financial gift (Philippians 4:18).  (This wasn’t the first time the church financially came to Paul’s aid.  In a number of letters Paul mentions the grace-filled generosity of the Philippian church in providing for his needs time and time again: Philippians 4:15-16; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5; 11:7-9. )

Epaphroditus didn’t travel 800 miles to just bring Paul money, but he also came with news about the health of the Philippian church.  Apparently the persecution Paul faced in Philippi more than 10 years earlier was still on-going against the believers in Philippi (Philippians 1:29-30).  And, not only was the church facing trouble from the outside, but they were also experiencing great disunity and conflict on the inside between one another (Philippians 1:27; 2:3-4,14; 4:2-3).

In light of these threats on the church Paul writes them a letter (what we know to be the book of Philippians), gives it to Epaphroditus and sends him back to Philippi with it (Philippians 2:25-30).


Miscellaneous thoughts about Philippi

“But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.” (I Thess. 2:2 KJV)

This entire chapter describes how Paul lived and preached, both at Thessalonica and previously at Philippi, and what happened because of that – persecution.

In Philippi it had been by Romans – who were upset at losing their demonic source of income and needed a way to get it back.
In Thessalonica it was by the Jews – who disagreed with Paul’s message about Jesus and continued to follow him from town to town.

In Paul’s vision (Acts 16), he saw a Macedonian man calling him to come and help. It wasn’t a man of any specific city or country, but the entire region, what we know today as the country of Greece and other Balkan nations. This was the doorway into Europe…


From Smith’s Bible Dictionary: “Achaia signifies in the New Testament a Roman province which included the Peloponnesus and the greater part of Hellas (Greece) proper, with the adjacent islands. This province, with that of Macedonia, comprehended the whole of Greece; hence Achaia and Macedonia are frequently mentioned together in the New Testament to indicate all of Greece. Ac 18:12; 19:21; Ro 15:26; 16:5; 1Co 16:15; 2Co 7:5; 9:2; 11:10; 1Th 1:7,8 In the time of the emperor Claudius it was governed by a proconsul, translated in the Authorized Version “deputy,” of Achaia. Ac 18:12.”

Note: Macedonia was the northern region of Greece. Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea were there. Hellas was the southern region, before reaching Achaia. Athens was there. The Peloppones peninsula is the western and southern-most region of Greece. Corinth was there.

Paul had not intended to go into that part of the world, at least not yet. He had intended to go into the northern part of Asia Minor (Turkey today). Somehow, we are not told exactly how, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let him go that direction. But he continued his travels and changed directions as necessary, being hindered from first one place, then another. He wound up going west, instead of north.

It was important to God that Paul take the gospel that way next – into Europe. Why? Who was there, that God wanted to reach? Perhaps Romans?

Acts 16 (NIV) (notes in parentheses are mine):

“6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace (an island in the Aegian Sea), and the next day we went on to Neapolis. (A port city, now called Kavala. The Roman road Via Egnatia began/ended here originally, extended on to Byzantium shortly before Paul’s visit.) 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district[a] of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.”

Another source: Marvin Vincent Word Studies of the book of Philippians.

About the City of Philippi

Philippi was a city in eastern Macedonia, established by the king of Macedon Philip II in 356 BC and abandoned in the 14th century after the Ottoman conquest. The present municipality Filippoi is located near the ruins of the ancient city and it is part of the region of East Macedonia and Thrace in Kavalla, Greece. Philippi was established on the site of the Thasian colony of Krinides or Crenides (“Fountains”), near the head of the Aegean Sea at the foot of Mt. Orbelos about 8 miles north-west of Kavalla, on the northern border of the marsh that in Antiquity covered the entire plain separating it from the Pangaion hills to the south of Greece.

The objective of founding the town was to take control of the neighboring gold mines and to establish a garrison at a strategic passage: the site controlled the route between Amphipolis and Neapolis, part of the great royal route which crosses Macedonia from the east to the west and which was reconstructed later by the Roman Empire as the Via Egnatia.

Philip II endowed the new city with important fortifications, which partially blocked the passage between the swamp and Mt. Orbelos, and sent colonists to occupy it. Philip also had the marsh partially drained, as is attested by the writer Theophrastus. Philippi preserved its autonomy within the kingdom of Macedon and had its own political institutions (the Assembly of the demos). The discovery of new gold mines near the city, at Asyla, contributed to the wealth of the kingdom and Philip established a mint there. The city was finally fully integrated into the kingdom under Philip V. The city contained about 2,000 people at that time.

More about Philippi

Philippi was in a strategic location — it commanded the land route to Asia Minor. The city was also important because of the gold mines in the nearby mountains.

In 42 B.C., it became the site of one of the most crucial battles in Roman history. In that battle, the forces of Antony and Octavian (cf. Luke 2:1) defeated the republican forces of Brutus and Cassius. The battle marked the end of the Roman republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire.

Antony and Octavian settled many of their army veterans at Philippi, which was given the coveted status of a Roman colony. Later, other army veterans settled there.

Being a Roman colony, Philippi was governed by Roman laws and subject to Roman rule. Citizens of Philippi were Roman citizens, exempt from paying certain taxes and not subject to the authority of the provincial governor. It was a little Rome in the midst of a Greek culture, just as the church is a “colony of heaven” here on earth (Philippians 3:20).

Events leading up to the founding of the church

  1. Paul was on his second preaching trip and he visited the churches established on his first trip (Acts 15:36; 16:5).
  2. The Holy Spirit prevented Paul from turning aside to Asia or Bithynia and he journeyed to Troas (Acts 16:6-8).
  3. The Macedonian vision directed Paul to go into Europe (Acts 16:9-10).
  4. Paul went to Philippi and searched for a synagogue (Acts 16:11-13). (There wasn’t one.) Though the initial converts were Jews or Jewish proselytes, Gentiles made up the majority of the congregation. The fact that there was no synagogue is evidence that the city’s Jewish population was small.
  5. The church began with the conversion of Lydia at a meeting of Jewish women.

About the church at the time of the letter

The 10 year old Philippian church had its share of problems. At the time of Paul’s letter, its members were desperately poor, they were being persecuted for the cause of Christ, they were being attacked by false teachers, and there was a feud between two prominent women in the congregation.


About Paul’s letter to the Philippians

  • Author

The early church was unanimous in its testimony that Philippians was written by the apostle Paul (see 1:1). Internally the letter reveals the stamp of genuineness. The many personal references of the author fit what we know of Paul from other New Testament books.

It is evident that Paul wrote the letter from prison (see 1:13–14). Best evidence favors Rome as the place of origin and the date as c. 61. This fits well with the account of Paul’s house arrest in Acts 28:14–31. When he wrote Philippians, he was not in the Mamertine dungeon as he was when he wrote 2 Timothy. He was in his own rented house, where for two years he was free to impart the gospel to all who came to him.

  • Purpose

Paul’s primary purpose in writing this letter was to thank the Philippians for the gift they had sent him upon learning of his detention at Rome (1:5; 4:10–19). However, he makes use of this occasion to fulfill several other desires:

  1. To report on his own circumstances (1:12–26; 4:10–19);
  2. To encourage the Philippians to stand firm in the face of persecution and rejoice regardless of circumstances (1:27–30; 4:4);
  3. To exhort them to humility and unity (2:1–11; 4:2–5);
  4. To commend Timothy and Epaphroditus to the Philippian church (2:19–30); and
  5. To warn the Philippians against the Judaizers (legalists) and antinomians (libertines) among them (ch. 3).
  • Recipients

Christian citizens of Philippi, mostly non-Jews. The city of Philippi (see map) was named after King Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. It was a prosperous Roman colony, which meant that the citizens of Philippi were also citizens of the city of Rome itself. They prided themselves on being Romans (see Acts 16:21), dressed like Romans and often spoke Latin. Many were retired military men who had been given land in the vicinity and who in turn served as a military presence in this frontier city.

That Philippi was a Roman colony may explain why there were not enough Jews there to permit the establishment of a synagogue and why Paul does not quote the OT in the Philippian letter.

  • Characteristics
  1. Philippians contains no Old Testament quotations.
  2. It is a missionary thank-you letter in which the missionary reports on the progress of his work.
  3. It manifests a particularly vigorous type of Christian living: self-humbling (2:1–4); pressing toward the goal (3:13–14); lack of anxiety (4:6); ability to do all things (4:13).
  4. It is outstanding as a letter of joy; the word “joy” in its various forms occurs some 16 times.
  5. It contains one of the most profound Christological passages in the New Testament (2:5–11).
  • Outline
  1. Greetings (1:1–2)
  2. Thanksgiving and Prayer for the Philippians (1:3–11)
  3. Paul’s Personal Circumstances (1:12–26)
  4. Exhortations (1:27—2:18)
  5. Living a Life Worthy of the Gospel (1:27–30)
  6. Following the Servant Attitude of Christ (2:1–18)
  7. Paul’s Associates in the Gospel (2:19–30): Timothy (2:19–24); Epaphroditus (2:25–30)
  8. Warnings against Judaizers and Antinomians (3:1—4:1) (Antinomian: the view that Christians are released by grace from the obligation of observing the moral law.)
  9. Exhortations concerning Various Aspects of the Christian Life (4:2–9)
  10. Concluding Testimony and Repeated Thanks (4:10–20)
  11. Final Greetings and Benediction (4:21–23)


Having gotten that far, I thought I should do more study on the letter itself. So far I’ve read several translations and a few commentaries, plus some word studies by a couple of notable scholars. I’ll share my thoughts about all that in a separate post one day. It has turned out to be a really interesting investigation.

So, why should I care about the people and place of Philippi?

They are a lot like believers today. Men and women, a mixture of races, ages, cultures and financial status, from a variety of religious backgrounds.

Many were military, active duty or retired. Many of those were landowners. No doubt some were civil workers for the Roman government, workers in the nearby gold and silver mines, or tradesmen and shopkeepers serving the thousands of travelers coming through this crossroads between continents. Some were most probably slaves, and some were slave owners. Rich and poor, all were citizens of Rome, the most powerful empire on earth.

They were a melting pot – a lot like America. But there is yet one difference between the Philippians and American believers, at least for the present:

All of them were being persecuted for their faith.

Right place, right time…

FRIENDS-TALK“We owe the world an encounter with the Holy Spirit.”

I didn’t understand just what that meant when I first heard it. I’m getting the idea.

One Sunday afternoon I was sitting in my easy chair with the TV on, reading a book and petting my cat when the Holy Spirit spoke to me. “Go to Barnes & Noble.”

Hmm, I wondered. I had plenty of books to read, why go to Barnes & Noble? The words came again, “Go to Barnes & Noble, go NOW.” So I got my purse and went.

I wandered around for a few minutes observing the other shoppers but not meeting anyone I knew, before picking out an inexpensive book. Still wondering why I was there, I made my way over to the coffee shop, paid for a cup of coffee and the book, then settled at a table facing the outside door.

Letting my coffee cool a little, I flipped open the book when clear as a bell, the Lord spoke again, “Get your nose out of that book.” Oh wow, I thought, that was blunt!

So I closed the book and slowly sipped my coffee, keeping an eye on the several entry ways into the coffee shop – and then I saw her, an older lady I occasionally ran into at community events. Her name was Elfie.

Spotting me about the same time, she brought her cup of coffee over to my table, and for the next hour Elfie poured out her heart to me. She said, “I know we don’t believe the same way on everything, but I do believe in prayer. Would you pray for me?”

She was about to go overseas on vacation, but on the way she planned to stop in New York where her daughter was in the hospital. Elfie was very worried about her. Sitting there in Barnes & Noble I prayed for Elfie and for her daughter.

We chatted a few more minutes, finished our coffee and went our separate ways, me to my car, her on into the Mall. I never saw Elfie again. She died last year.

I had a lot to think about on my drive home. Suppose I had ignored the Lord’s voice? Suppose I had put off going until later? I would have missed seeing Elfie.

I would have missed the opportunity to bless her, and to be blessed myself by obeying the Lord. Because I know, that I know, what I know — God wanted to help Elfie and her daughter, and he wanted to use me to do it.

That singular encounter made me mindful of how much the Lord loves people. It sharpened my spiritual ears and quickened my response time to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

And it changed the character of the encounters I have with people. That was the first time I had ever prayed for someone out in public, not in a church, or on the phone, or in the privacy of a home. But it was the first of many “right time, right place” encounters with the Holy Spirit since that day.