By Heather Tabers
When I study instructional passages of Scripture, I love to look at these three concepts: What, Why, and How. Let’s use these concepts to look at Philippians Chapter 2.
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
I love that in the first two verses of this chapter, Paul opens up a sermon on unity with one simple if/then statement. IF there is any encouragement (help, exhortation, counsel) in Christ, IF there is any fellowship (partnership) of the Spirit, IF any affection (the Greek’s strongest word for compassionate love) and compassion, THEN we are to be of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. IF we are blessed with encouragement, help, exhortation, counsel, fellowship, partnership, affection, compassion, and love, THEN we need to be united.
To break it down, IF God is compassionate towards you, THEN you need to share that same compassion with your brothers and sisters.
Paul offers no exception to this rule, only further encouragement to strengthen the bond among Christians. In one sentence, he gives us the What of the passage: Be united. Now, the Why- Why is it so important for Christians to be united? Why is it so important that we be of one mind, one love, one spirit, one purpose?
Because God chose to be united with us.
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
God, in all His perfection and righteousness and holiness, came to earth in the form of a lowly man through His Son, Jesus. Despite being sinless, He obeyed the Father and allowed Himself to be crucified horrifically in our place. The most compassionate love ever displayed was bestowed from a perfect Creator to a sinful creation, all for the sake of being united. Sin no longer separates me from God. He bridged that gap on the cross so that I can be His for all of eternity. That’s the Why-because Christ chose to be united with us.
But how we can be of one mind, one love, one spirit, and one purpose with all Christians? We’re so different!
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Putting others before ourselves does not usually come naturally, this is why Paul breaks it down for us. To be united in the body of Christ as one, we need to put away our selfish habits and conceited ways. We need to stop thinking that our needs and wants are more important than someone else’s. We need to look for opportunities to bless others- not just the others we want to bless, but all others. That’s the How in this lesson- choosing to humble ourselves in unity with one another, just as Christ did for us.
Who in my life do I lack unity with?
How can I humble myself and seek to put that person’s needs before mine?
What would this world be like if Jesus had put His needs before ours?
Lord Jesus, thank You for the humility and sacrifice You demonstrated on the cross. You put Your glory aside and chose to die for me, because of Your deep love for me, even when I was far from You. Thank You, Jesus. In light of Your love and Your sacrifice, I choose to surrender my pride and my wants, my needs. I choose to love others above myself. I know I can’t do it on my own, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit. Open my eyes to the people around me who need to be loved and served today. Amen.
Heather Tabers is the wife of a wounded warrior and the mother of five children. She is also currently a full time student, a specialty cake baker, and a volunteer with the VA Public Relations office. She writes about her life and her faith to encourage other women on her blog, Wives of War.
By Molly Huggins
I heard tell of King David’s first wife once: Michal, a woman both unloved and, in the end, unloving. It’s not a pretty story, and the ending leaves something to be desired.
We know she loved David; he may have loved her in the beginning. Somewhere in David’s power struggle with Saul, she- the king’s daughter- became an ugly pawn. Michal stayed when David fled and lied to protect him. David, instead of returning for her, took two other wives and Michal was given by Saul to a man who, by all accounts, truly loved her.
But politics prevailed, and as a condition of further peace with the house of Saul, David demanded his bride back from a man who wept at her departure. Michal had no love left for David and is depicted as scornful of his behavior and subsequently barren for the rest of her days.
And yet--her story is still included in the books of I and II Samuel. In THE Story. That’s the point, isn’t it? Of this season of Lent, of sacrifice, of a good, ugly, dark Friday.
Sometimes redemption tells ugly stories. We have to weep at the foot of a splintered cross to rejoice in a barren tomb.
And we all have them, these ugly stories, whether we are the wounded or the wound-makers.
And redeemed though we are, like Peter we take our eyes off Christ. And oh, the wind and the waves they are boisterous, and we don’t feel redeemed.
But the gospel, it is built on rock, The Rock. And our ugly stories become an exclamation point to The Story, finished in an echoing, empty grave.
We may not know the particulars of Michal’s story. We certainly don’t know the ending of ours. But we know when our sin swirls around us, eddying in the dark places; when the ugly seems the most real, and our wounds are aching- we are the redeemed. The named and chosen ones, tattooed on His palms. We who were once dead are now alive through the alchemy of Christ’s death and resurrection.
We are new creations, washed clean.
It’s spring here now. A perfect complement to this season of Death, slowly turning to Life. A Good, ugly, dark Friday and a Resurrection.
What stories are you telling?
How is God using the hard ugly things in your life to show the story of the Gospel?
Father, thank You for making all things new. You are always redeeming us, reclaiming us, forgiving us. Help me to see Your light shining in the dark places. Remind me of Your promises and who you are, that I might trust You more deeply. Amen.
Molly Huggins (All The Grace Between) is an Army bride, one-time helicopter pilot, compulsive writer, friend seeker, and lover of color and all things textile. Her current occupation is ringmaster of the Huggins family circus (party of five). She has a B.A. in English from Covenant College and a passion for meeting other women right in the middle of their own messy stories. Pull up a chair at her virtual beat-up kitchen table, listen to her stories, and maybe even tell her yours.
By Heather Tabers
When I was a little girl, I was surrounded by family and friends that loved me very much. However, I was also surrounded by family that were less than pleased with my existence. In many ways, I was a disappointment. An inconvenience. A mistake. A burden. An embarrassment. As I grew older, I grew more aware of these opinions and carried their weight around in my heart. I was told that I should have been aborted. I was told that my life ruined the lives of others. I grew up bearing the weight of misplaced condemnation.
The definition of condemnation is “the expression of very strong disapproval” or “the action of condemning someone to punishment”. I understood this definition all too well as a child. That’s why Romans 8:1-4 is such a passage to me. Romans 8:1 begins, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” For a little girl who was raised in condemnation, this was such good news! Who I am in the world is nothing compared to who I am in Christ. I was not planned or wanted in this world, but the God who knew me since the beginning of time had a special plan for my life. Why? Verse 2 says, “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “That’s great for you, Heather. You were an innocent little girl. Your circumstances were not your fault. But you don’t know what I’ve done. I’ve messed up. People don’t like me because I’ve done some bad things.” There’s good news for you, too, dear sister. The rest of this passage reads, “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Did you catch that? God sent his Son, Jesus to the world to bear our punishment. That condemnation that you and I have both felt is not ours to bear any longer! It doesn’t matter if we deserve the guilt, shame, and punishment or not- Jesus took it! When we are daughters of the King, we are liberated to live a new life free of the things that used to weigh us down.
Maybe you’re reading this and you’re thinking, “I know I’m a child of God. I even teach Sunday School. But I’m still a sinner. I keep messing up. Why can’t I just let go of this sin in my life?” These verses have good news for you, too, sweet sister. God’s boundless, limitless, matchless love and mercy flow over us every morning. Each day that you wake up is a new day to live in the Father’s freedom. Were you a gossiper yesterday? His mercies are new every morning, so today you are free from that condemnation. Were you a crabby mom yesterday? His mercies are new every morning, so today you are free from that condemnation. Were you an adulterous wife yesterday? Whoa. Adultery? That’s serious stuff. Are you condemned for that? No. His mercies are new every morning, so today you are free from that condemnation. When you GIVE GOD your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you of your sins and cleanse you from ALL unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Not just the little stuff. Not just the stuff that isn’t really your fault. He forgives us from ALL of our unrighteousness.
Tomorrow is a new day, sister. Lay those sins at the foot of the cross tonight and wake up free tomorrow morning.
What sins do I need to lay at the foot of the cross?
Who do I need to forgive in my life?
Freedom from condemnation is not just a gift for me. Who do I know that needs to be set free?
Father God, You are mighty to save! You love the unlovable. You forgive the unforgivable. You bring new life to the dead. Bring new life in me today, Father. I lay my sin, my guilt, and my shame at the foot of Your cross. You bore my sins so that I would not have to carry the weight of condemnation any longer. Thank You for loving me, forgiving me, and creating new life within me. Amen.
By Mary Parker
I’ve been struggling with some serious mixed emotions. My husband is taking off for a six-week TDY next week, and the thought of being without him for that long makes me nervous, sad and honestly, grumpy. I know it could be worse. I know he could be in a dangerous place, deployed somewhere with limited communication. The thought of countless spouses who endure that type of separation spurs me on and makes me so thankful for the nature of our separation. But still I know I will miss him.
Thinking of this love and sorrow makes me imagine how God must feel about us. He created you and me, in our mother’s wombs, and loved us before anyone else. He knows our thoughts, our words, our every move before we even make them. Despite seeing even our wickedest behaviors, He loves us in an immense way that surpasses understanding. He also misses us, and is calling us to Him every day, urging us to find our refuge and shelter in Him.
Imagine how you miss your husband every day when you are apart. That longing is how God feels for us when we’re apart. The Bible tells us that sin has separated us from God, but that through everything he is trying to win us back. Although he pursues us, we have to know Jesus before a relationship with God can be restored and nurtured.
This sounds like a lot of work, right? But the truth is, the work was done over 2,000 years ago. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This verse reminds us of the price Jesus paid with his perfect blood so that you and I could be completely redeemed and made righteous for God.
The sacrifice was made out of love! Not guilt. Not love-for-you-only-if-you-are-perfectly-perfect-in-every-way. Jesus died a horrible death for each of us, so that we could be reunited with God and avoid the agonizing suffering of sin. God doesn’t want something from us . He wants something for us, and that’s joy in life through redemption in Jesus. The innocent blood of Jesus was spilled for my sins, and yours, so that we don’t have to bridge an impossible gap to get back to communion with God. Praise the Lord for that!
If you’re feeling far from your husband or family, remember that your creator and redeemer has made Himself 100% accessible to you. All you need to do is recognize the price Jesus paid for you, and accept Him as your Lord and Savior today. If you already have a relationship with Jesus, take today to thank Him for his sacrifice and strive to walk closer with Him, learning his kind, patient, generous ways. Remember, Jesus Christ didn’t die for perfect people-He died for us.
Why is it important that Jesus died for us “while we were sinners?”
How is God pursuing me now?
How can I more actively pursue a relationship with Him today?
Dear God, Thank you for sending your precious son Jesus to take my sins. I commit my life to serving you and seeking your will, and I thank you for loving me even when I make mistakes. Help me to see through your eyes and show me how to follow you each day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Mary Parker is an Air Force wife who works as a public relations writer. A South Carolina girl at heart, she and her husband have recently relocated to Fairbanks, Alaska. Mary spends her spare time honing exercise and cooking skills, and is a self-proclaimed DIY addict. You can read about how faith and hope shape military family life, and check out Mary's latest projects at her blog, Mary's Mischief.
By Laura Moore
Where do you tend to fix your eyes? On yourself? On the approval of others? On some other desire?
What steps do you need to take to fix your eyes on Christ?
Lord, I am so thankful for Your great love for me, and that You are all-sufficient in every season of my life. I confess that I look to other things besides You- those things never bring true peace. Help me to turn my eyes on You in all situations, for all things. I trust that You are more than enough for me. Amen.
Laura is a Christ-follower, Navy wife, mother to one toddler, writer, and coffee drinker. She writes about Faith, Military Life, and Motherhood at Embracing This Life.
Friends - how has the Lord shaped you? What hard stories is He using to draw you closer to Him? I would love to hear them, and to pray for you.
I have often been envious of Christians who have amazing stories of how God rescued them from a life of drugs, alcohol, abuse, or poverty. To be brought out of a life of despair and into a life of hope is a beautiful testimony of God’s saving grace. My story is nothing like that and, to be perfectly honest, for a while I felt like my story had less value. Growing up in the church and in a Christian home, I was saved at the age of 9 on a Sunday evening. Sure, I had felt convicted of my sins- but at that point in my life, the worst thing I had ever done was stealing a sticker out of my best friend’s sticker book. That didn’t feel like much to need to be rescued from. As I got older and heard countless Christians tell of their dramatic salvation and rescue stories, I was disappointed that I would never have such a powerful story to share. I could not have been more wrong.
While I grew up loving Jesus, my faith was not tested much as a child. I always knew that Jesus was there but I didn’t feel like I needed him very often. That all changed when I was 21 years old. Having been diagnosed with Mixed Connective Tissue Disease during my senior year of high school, my doctors told me when I got married at the tender age of 20 that if I wanted to have a baby I should start trying early as they were not certain that my body would be able to bare children. After our first year of marriage we decided to try and within three months I was pregnant. When I called my rheumatologist to tell her the good news, she had devastating news to share with me. The results of my routine pulmonary labs had come back showing that I had pulmonary hypertension and that I was most likely going to die.
The worst news I have ever received became the defining moment in my faith. My rheumatologist immediately sent me to one of the best perinatologists in the country who immediately urged me to abort my unborn child. She showed me case studies and read me the statistics- I only had a 50% chance of surviving the pregnancy, if I aborted the baby. If I refused, they did not expect me or the baby to survive. Against my doctor’s wishes, I chose to keep my baby. My doctor continued to pressure me with horror stories of how I would die hooked up to a ventilator in the hospital, suffocating to death, leaving my husband a widower to possibly have to raise our potentially premature, sickly baby alone. My faith was tested but it did not waiver. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the same God who rescued alcoholics, prostitutes, and drug abusers from a life of pain and shame was big enough to rescue me. I trusted His sovereignty and His will for my life and I placed both my life and my baby’s into His capable, loving hands.
By Mary Parker
On August 29, 2010, things were a little hectic in my life. I had just started graduate school, and was a full-time student working about 20 hours a week. I lived with my future husband, and we were scheduled to be married in just a little over a month. School work, planning the last details of the wedding, and feeling imminent pressure from a number of sources left me drained, sad and alone.
Editor’s Note: This month, the ladies of the CMWF Writing Team are sharing parts of their stories with you. These military wives come from all different backgrounds and bring unique, beautiful stories to the table. We hope you enjoy getting to know us a little bit better!
By Laura Moore
When Darren and I were first married, we were not a military family. We were a young couple trying to figure out how to love each other and live together at the same time. It was kind of ugly at times. We were both selfish and had different ideas on how to do everything- and I mean everything! It was difficult, and looking back I wonder why I didn’t see that it was more important to love Darren instead of always needing to prove my point and determining to be right.
I didn’t know how God could save a marriage that was crumbling within the first few months.
Thankfully His plans were to bring us hope, and when Darren joined the military it was a turning point in our marriage. It didn’t make everything perfect, but I know that’s when I started to appreciate him a lot more.
Having him gone for extended times with little communication revealed how much I loved that guy. I was able to step back and see how God called me to support and love him. I came face to face with what was really in my heart. I don’t mean to say we didn’t have disagreements and that our marriage was always thriving. The first few years as a married couple, we struggled. But I’m thankful for how God would teach both of us and pull us closer year after year.
Here we are, nearing our fifth year as a military family, and I look back fondly at these years. I was told many times that the stress on our marriage from the military lifestyle would make it difficult to have a good marriage. I saw a lot of marriages end these last few years, but prayed God would strengthen ours no matter the circumstances.
He has answered that prayer, and we have made a strong effort to stay connected.
There were certainly challenges. How can you have a marriage with little to no communication month after month? I chose to marry Darren and wanted to spend my life with him, not apart. When he was home, most of that time he was very exhausted with little to offer. That was our biggest challenge.
I think if I didn’t have a relationship with the Lord then our situation would probably be very different. I would have felt hopeless all those years. But when issues presented themselves, we talked through them and didn’t shut each other out. That was not always easy but it was important to let each other know what was working and also what wasn’t.
We are currently on Darren’s shore duty and it has been amazing. I am so happy that he has a chance to rest. He still has a job that he works hard at here, but we’re soaking up this time together as a family.
We face unique challenges in our military marriages, but I would love to hear one thing that you do to stay connected to your spouse. Looking forward to reading your ideas in the comments!
Laura is a Christ-follower, Navy wife, mother to one toddler, writer, and coffee drinker. She writes about Faith, Military Life, and Motherhood at Embracing This Life.
Verse 14 tells us to wait. Speciﬁcally, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord.”
What does it mean to “wait on the Lord?” What should your attitude be while you wait?
How easy is it for you to remember God’s promises during times of heartache? Why?
What is your typical response when you don’t get the answer from God that you were hoping for? What does God want for you during those times?
Father, give me the strength to wait on You in my times of heartache and fear. Let Your Spirit remind me of Your promises. I believe that You are good, and that You love me. I trust You as my safe dwelling, my shelter, my Rock. Amen.