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WICKED SISTERS BELOVED BY GOD (The Gospel According to Philippians)

It was in a prayer group of mothers that the fight began. One of the women had suggested that we come up with a list of standards on which we could agree for our children. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could all agree we wouldn’t watch R-rated movies in our homes? Then our children would know their friends had the same boundaries.” It seemed like a great idea!

Within ten minutes we became like mother bears defending our cubs.


The tension began immediately. Margaret said: “I’m surprised you mentioned R-rated movies. In our home we don’t watch PG-13 movies.”

Quietly but firmly Hannah said, “In our home we don’t watch movies.”

We each bristled a bit. I suggested, “Why don’t we try dating age? I was thinking not before sixteen.”

“Sixteen! They are babies! They have no business dating before they are ready to marry.”

“In our home,” one said evenly, “there will be no dating.”


snarling One by one my friends left in tears, until all that was left was my dear friend Shell and me. Shell and I have promised one another unfailing love. Our daughters, Robin and Sally, became friends in kindergarten. My soul is knit to Shell’s. But I had always thought Shell was too strict, and I thought this would be a good time to tell her so. She felt I too permissive, and told me so.

Shell left in tears. I was undone. What had happened?


We had forgotten the gospel.


friendshipsThis happened over twenty-five years ago when I was writing The Friendships of Women, ironically. The Lord worked in our hearts so that we did humble ourselves and reconcile, and then God did a mighty work through that prayer group, so Satan did not have the victory. Looking back today, I have more insight than I did then. I see how wise my husband Steve was when I came to him in tears, saying, “Shell doesn’t realize what a precious friend she could be losing in me!”

He comforted me but he also said “I have heard you say that when there is a problem in a horizontal relationship, there is almost always a problem in your vertical relationship with God.”

He was gently pointing out of of the most important aspects of the gospel. We are so depraved, so wicked, that Christ had to die for us, yet sin blinds us. We always think it is the fault of the other person. Usually there is sin on both sides, and even if we think ours is the lesser, God calls us to do whatever we can to be at peace. I had to go, humble myself, and tell her what I had done wrong, and how I had hurt her. And she responded in humility, with the forgiveness of the gospel.

We talked about it later — how the specific issues addressed that day were Romans 13 issues — gray issues — and we shouldn’t have even tried to agree, and simply needed to give one another grace. When Paul says, “Have the same mind,” he wasn’t saying that we had to agree about everything, but that we needed to have the humility of Christ, not clinging to our “rights.” And when Shell and I had quarreled, though there was truth in what we each said, neither of us had spoken in love and we each felt attacked. Why? What causes tempers to flare?

Philippians 2 gives us insight into the root behind our outbursts. It is so helpful. I can’t wait to do the study with you — I need to be reminded of these truths constantly.

(And by the way, I need to credit Rebecca D. with the title for this week, who credits Elizabeth! That was fun — and I had fun with the mother bear pictures!)


1. What stood out to you from the above and why?

2. Before you do the study, take a stab at this: What do you think was the root that causes our tempers to flare? (You can review your answer at the end of the study.)


3. Paul begins his plea in Philippians 2:1 by listing some of the sure realities of being a child of God, of being cleansed and embraced by the Lord, of having His Spirit in us.  His Spirit encourages, comforts, and can give us a unique fellowship, like we are experiencing here. Slow down and contemplate this verse, and then take just one reality and give an illustration from your life on how it has blessed you recently.

One key aspect of the gospel is “sonship.” Our identity now should not be in the success of our mothering, ministry, marriage, or anything but in being a child of God. If our identity is in something else, we are vulnerable to defeat, division, and despair. I believe, in our situation, our identity was in being good mothers, and so we became defensive and angry.

4. The Philippian church was the healthiest of the churches, yet they too had discord. What request does Paul make of them in Philippians 2:2? What does it mean to be of the same mind and to have the same love? (See Phil. 2:5) Can you disagree about an issue and still have the same mind and same love? If so, can you give an illustration?

Read Philippians 2:3 in the KJV, which Keller says is a helpful translation for this verse:

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

5. What do you think “vainglory” means?

6. Where, according to John 17:22, should we find our glory, our identity, our significance?

I realize now that in that mother bear prayer group, we were finding our glory, our identity, in being good mothers. So we erupted when it was attacked. We might have been able to have a constructive conversation about these peripheral issues, but our tempers flared because our glory was in the wrong place. Yet despite all that, God came to us, loved us, humbled us, and brought us back together.

In Keller message he also talks about a “spirit of rivalry,” the one who gets his identity by always disagreeing. He wants to be noticed. Our greatest fear is being unknown, forgotten. But we are known by the One who matters most. If our identity is in Him that spirit of rivalry will fade. I keep thinking of Brennan Mannings words from a few weeks back — do we realize how much God loves us? Or will He one day say to us, “I never knew you?” Let us receive His love now and cultivate that intimacy.

7. What is Paul’s next plea according to Philippians 2:4? (This is a theme in Philippians.) How did Christ do this?

8. Think, if you can, of someone with whom you disagree or tend to disagree. Ask the Lord to help you see her side of things, why she is upset, why he has felt unheard, why she may have been hurt. (Paul is addressing believers, but this could be applied to your view of an unbeliever as well.)

9. What is the solution, according to Philippians 2:5?

10. How might you apply this to your life?


11. Listen to this sermon and share your highlights. (This is $2.50 — but next week’s is free.)  LINK


12. What’s your take-a-way and why?

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  1. 6. Where, according to John 17:22, should we find our glory, our identity, our significance? In Christ…who received His glory from God the Father…

    7. What is Paul’s next plea according to Philippians 2:4? (This is a theme in Philippians.) How did Christ do this?

    Do not merely look out for your own personal interests but also for the interests of others. Well, Christ gave up Himself…sacrificially…so that others might come to know the truth and be eternally saved!

  2. 3. Take just one benefit and give an illustration from your life on how it has blessed you recently.

    Any comfort from his love: I’ve been blessed and comforted because at last I’m seeing His light again. I took my eyes off Jesus and His deep love for me (sort of like Peter getting out of the boat and walking to Jesus). I was twirling with the wrong thoughts and wrong desires. But He never left me and when I called out to Him for help, He began to show Himself again and I can see where to go. I’m still bobbing in the water but the water is calming down and I see Jesus again. This blog has been a huge part of it. The study, the sermons, the books recommended. I am very grateful.

    4. What request does Paul make of the Philippian church in 2:2? What does it mean to be of the same mind and to have the same love? Can you disagree about an issue and still have the same mind and same love?

    He asks that the church be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind”. I’m having trouble saying what I want to say but here goes: I don’t think this means that we have to think the same but we are to come at life thinking the way that Jesus thinks and to love like He did. With humility, joy, compassion, forgiveness. Can we disagree and have the same mind & love? Yes, but it is tough. It does take a great deal of humility.

    5. What do you think “vainglory” means? To me, to be vain is to think of yourself, to try and show yourself as being more than you are. To have vainglory is to seek to be admired or respected for who are what you are.

    6. Where, according to John 17:22, should we find our glory, our identity, our significance?

    From God through Jesus.

    1. Jill I am glad your waters are calming and you can see Jesus again. I too have been led out of deep overwhelming waters through this fellowship and rejoice with you!

  3. What is Paul’s next plea according to Philippians 2:4?

    That we look to the interests of others and not only ourselves

    (This is a theme in Philippians.) How did Christ do this?

    The answer comes in the next verses, Christ did not ‘grasp’ at his equality with God, but emptied himself and took on the role of servant.

    This made me ponder, if we really grasped our identity and knew ‘the joy set before us’ as Christ did, how empowered we could be to stop grasping at things here in this life that will never satisfy, and serve one another out of love for Christ.
    Oh Lord may this vision and precious belonging grow in us and change us, make us more like Jesus. Amen

  4. 8. Think, if you can, of someone with whom you disagree or tend to disagree. Ask the Lord to help you see her side of things, why she is upset, why he has felt unheard, why she may have been hurt. (Paul is addressing believers, but this could be applied to your view of an unbeliever as well.)

    This is really hard to answer because it is there is a person who is causing a great deal of pain in my life right now. He is unrepentant. I pray for him and have worked at trying to understand his perspective.

    9. What is the solution, according to Philippians 2:5?

    The NIV says, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” We are to love, seek other interests, seek peace.

    10. How might you apply this to your life?

    I think this means I have to continually ask God to help me forgive again and again when someone wrongs me or my family. I try to work at trying to see the best in that person even when it is very hard. But that does not mean that I allow injustice to continue. Seeking the mind of Christ is an ongoing complicated life journey.

    1. These questions are harder to answer when one is standing in the struggle at the time they are asked.
      Praying for you, and all your family right now Diane.

      1. Diane, Chris is so right-they are harder to answer and especially for you in having an issue with this unrepentant brother but it is over a pretty serious issue. With Chris in praying for you now-and in having a new angle to pray about..

    2. Diane,
      You are in an on-going hard, hard situation, and I can only imagine the mixed bag of feelings you have towards this person, and also wanting to protect your family. I will also pray for you!

  5. 5. What do you think “vainglory” means?

    I am reminded of Dee’s example of a Camel in heat-so hungry to fulfill a desire to ‘be known’- making a mark, significance-even as in Galatians being willing to bend to a false Gospel to obtain man’s approval-using God and loving others for my glory-so everyone will see. Following the rules in order to gain the praise of men. Desiring to make my mark so I can be praised or remembered and using God to get something from him for me.

    6. Where, according to John 17:22, should we find our glory, our identity, our significance?

    In Jesus who receives His Glory from God-they are One and I am One in Him. He is my significance and so really what I ‘do’ doesn’t make me who I am..He makes me who I am and when I rest in that truth/light it burns through and lights up darkness-my sin that can so easily go into the camel in heat default mode. I do sense Him transforming me more and more in regard to being more secure in his love-not needing to ‘find my glory’ for He is my glory-really I could just stop there. I think of that John Donne Sonnet: “Take me to you, imprison me, for I, Except you enthrall me, never shall be free, Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.” -So I can say in this transformation it is Him, not me-He rescued me from me.

    I have to say the penny is dropping for me these past three or four years..I have let go of a lot of performance things/desires and am finding a quiet joy in resting in Him being my Glory. I am not perfect yet of course! But I do sense a change. Praise be to Him for this can’t be done by me. It is even by His Grace and power that I can yield to Him.

    1. Rebecca, I can so empathize with your thoughts: “Desiring to make my mark so I can be praised or remembered and using God to get something from him for me.” I have struggled with feeling insignificant all my life. I think that is why I have had such rough waters for the past few years. My desiring to leave my mark, to prove that I am significant. But God is letting me see that I am significant because He made me and will lead me where He wants me to go. Not because of what I do but simply because I am His. To do His will no matter whether I receive praise or not. Letting go of pride.

      1. Jill..You hit the mark. Yes..SO true we are kindred in this it seems. 🙂

  6. 7. What is Paul’s next plea according to Philippians 2:4? (This is a theme in Philippians.) How did Christ do this?

    That we wouldn’t look to our own interests but the interests of others.

    How did Jesus do this: Jesus was willing to be stripped of His glory to become man and He loved God so much He was obedient-willing, glad to do this so that He could have us. So that we could be forgiven and become One with God-Jesus humbled and emptied Himself of His glory so we could be covered in His righteousness.

    I am thinking of what it looks like-looking out for the interests of others above mine-what that looks like on the Cross and therefore what it should look like in my life. I think of Paul- “To Live is Christ” When Christ is my center, my identity the fruit in my life will show it-for I will care more for my brothers and sisters growth in Him-embracing a Gospel centered life, peace and unity in the church and the Gospel getting out to unbelievers than I will about desiring anything else in life. I would think a result is I would care less about the mamma bear thing-proving to others how good of a mom I am by how well my kids look or the rules I set because my identity won’t be found there. Or desiring significance from the ministry I am involved in. Wow..I will stop here I need to chew on this today.

    1. Tracking and chewing right along with you Rebecca

      1. Chris, 🙂

  7. 5. What do you think “vainglory” means? I always remember Keller explaining that glory means weight…So I would think it means putting weighted importance on something vain. Something not worthy of receiving glory.

    6. Where, according to John 17:22, should we find our glory, our identity, our significance? Jesus who gives glory from God the Father. So they can be one as Father and Son are one.

    7. What is Paul’s next plea according to Philippians 2:4? (This is a theme in Philippians.) How did Christ do this? Dont look out only for your own interests but of others as well. Well He did this in so many ways but the main way was laying His life down at the cross for us. Christ was always on the look out to serve. Ultimately He did fully at the cross. It was for our best interest.

    8. Think, if you can, of someone with whom you disagree or tend to disagree. Ask the Lord to help you see her side of things, why she is upset, why he has felt unheard, why she may have been hurt. (Paul is addressing believers, but this could be applied to your view of an unbeliever as well.) My cousin. I pray for her often. She is a democrat unbeliever. We have such differing views but I can support her as a person and she me. We could not be more different but we love one another anyway and I think it is beautiful. I more than anything would love for her to know Christ but cannot make her. I love her so!

    9. What is the solution, according to Philippians 2:5? We must have the same attitude that Christ has…

    10. How might you apply this to your life? Well above speaking of my cousin…Though I burn within wanting her to know HIM. I know Jesus did too I am sure when He talked to the rich young ruler. He gave him a choice and even let the guy walk away…I have to be this way with my cousin for as soon as I push I am no longer loving her. As much as I want her to believe. I pray and wait.

    1. Angela, I love your comments concerning your cousin. I think sometimes we can build a “Christian profile”…and when anyone has a different viewpoint it “seems” okay to be hostile or disengage with them and this just isn’t the case (I realize at times it is not always possible to stay engaged with them, based on differences and their choice to stay connected or disconnect; however the hope based on love can remain). As I consider the black and white issues (they do exist); however, the command to LOVE also exists. It is His abounding love that draws our hearts to Christ. I think of a popular Christian song that is out on the radio at the moment “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” it says, “never knowing what we are for only what we are against”….and I think this is a problem too. We focus so much on the “anti” stance…that it becomes the loudest part of our message. This should not be! So much of what we are experiencing in relation to the brokenness in our world traces back to family structure breakdowns, limitations in regard to development, all based in our sinful nature,…however, I think that is where we learn to reason and LOVE! Being able to understand the perspective of another and walk that out with them (regardless of our differences) is so vitally important! Earlier when I agreed with Dee on the black and white issues (that is truly my stance); however, there is always a twinge of pain in stating that boldly because (I think, unfortunately) the Christian communal voice has often been hostile and unkind. I know it is so painful to those who have been the recipient of harsh, angry voices…there is right and wrong and truth and we must stand and speak as God commands and act accordingly as circumstances require…however, at the same time it must be administered with love and grace…I just think the misrepresentations and hostilities have made it very difficult for those of us who really want to engage with others in respect…and allow God to heal and redeem lives as only He can, the healing often begins in places that are much deeper than surface issues and He digs all that out and cleanses and washes and makes white as snow….that kind of love speaks volumes and I agree with you Angela, when it can be done…it is beautiful and powerful to both the giver and receiver! You are to be commended for this beautiful example of love…such a powerful visual testimony!

      1. Thanks Rhonda! There is always usually more to the story with people too. I don’t know why but there was great hostility toward God by her father. She adored him so. He had a rough go with bladder and pancreatic cancer. On his death bed he said he believed that there is no God. He was so angry. It hurts my heart. So she is this daughter who adored her father and watched this….I am sure it is so hard to believe after that but God is bigger than it all. I keep praying.

        1. Angela do you feel at liberty to share her name with us? I will pray for her too.

        2. Ann is her name. Thank you!

        3. Angela, yes…most often there is a history. Just graciously taking that time to love and befriend (as you have) can bring safety and wonderful, natural conversation. It is amazing what will surface as we gently engage, knowing and understanding the hurt and pain! Your sensitivity to her difficult situation is wonderful! I will pray for her too! Lord, I pray for Ann…You know her entire history and the pain associated with the loss of her father. I pray that You will breath through Angela…by the power of Your Holy Spirit allow the natural ease and love to be a medicine for Ann. Lord, we would love to see You draw Ann to Yourself…use the good heart that You have placed in Angela…give her insight and words that will heal the wound and open the heart! Thank You for hearing our prayers…

  8. I just took my oldest two to school and on the way home I realized something..The truth as to why I quit singing for this season. It is my bend to desire to be ‘known’..Like Brennan Manning struggled with alcoholism, I struggled with ‘vainglory’ in regard to singing. I can’t dog Brennan for drinking after speaking because I am the same only with a different vice. After singing I easily fixate on how I sang, not believing them when they say I nailed a song-when I listen to my voice I hear flaws and holes-always critical of myself. Fixating on what others think of me-even frustrated that I can’t sing more often.

    I would rather not sing on stage so God can chisel away at me than sing with vainglory being my motivation-It makes me sick to my stomach to think I would use God that way-and it makes me sad that I forgot the cross-yet I have done it-I am too frustratingly aware of my natural bend and that is why I need Him every day.

    I am finding I don’t find my identity in ministry anymore as I ruminate more on the Gospel- and really it has been so freeing. 🙂

    Transformation is a painful process yet His Joy is building underneath as He helps me to rest more that He is my identity. Yet I know though that in transforming me He has a long way to go still.

    Sorry for this being so long..have to get off and get my younger two to school now. :~0

    1. All I can say is “Wow, Rebecca.” You are brave and I am wowed by your giving up singing so that you can find your identity in Christ alone. Motivation is key, yet God knows we will never do anything good out of pure motives. May God guide and teach you as you try to bend toward Him instead of toward your idol.

      1. Diane, I am so immature in this journey but you comforted me with-“God knows we will never do anything good out of pure motives.”- 🙂

    2. Rebecca, I relate to your post….I too stepped down from my singing position. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy worship, I really did…and the last 3 years that I served in that position I was truly able to sing from the depths of my heart. I had always been caught up in performance prior to this…and during this season God allowed me to engage from a different place. However, even in this time…I too realized that because I had been serving in this type of ministry so long, it had become my identity. Apart from that, I wasn’t sure how I would participate or engage with the church. After stepping down, I realized there was a completely different vantage point to be had in and among the congregational setting. I had always been up front, distanced…but to be in and among the body was very different and at times disconcerting for me. However, I realize that God used that time to teach me the value of having one on one conversations. The value of relating to individuals rather than crowds. It opened up a whole new line of sight for me…something that I have grown to love and appreciate in deep and meaningful ways. I love to have one on one conversations…just taking the time to get to know people as individuals…as a result of walking away from music ministry…God has given me a new and rich vision. I have just recently began to engage again (musically) in our small church plant…but it is very different, relaxing and enjoyable. No hype, no pressure…I am just able to be myself (mistakes and all)…I am now gleaning the best of both worlds…individual connections and worship…I am very grateful, I have learned a lot through the process!

      1. I have to add that in addition to the identity thing (related to singing)…there was a lot of general turmoil going on in the worship environment in this church…so that also contributed to me choosing to step down…but over all I can see that this was God’s provision…

        1. Rhonda,

          It is so refreshing to know you can relate to the hidden issues of the heart among musicians/singers. 🙂 It does amaze me how easy we can forget and hide in the identity of being a singer or worship team leader at church-instead of hiding in Him-He is our identity.
          I can relate to everything you said and the freedom in Him you are now experiencing.

          My ‘identity’ as a singer was ingrained in me before I knew Jesus when I sang in bands in bars. God used that talent after I came to know Him and I sang for Him. The thought of not singing anymore is strange to me, but now I sing at home mostly and in worship at church with the body but not on stage. That said, if someone emailed me asking if I would sing a special-I would pray about it for sure and if God is opening that door I will do it. 🙂

          God has also given me ‘background’ gifts and talents in other areas and I am REALLY enjoying using them.

          As far as church is concerned-for now-we are inviting couples from church and their children over for dinner once a month or so and letting God move in the time we spend together. I now don’t feel like since I am not ‘serving’ at church that I ‘should be’ so I need to try to find a place to serve. I am happy serving my family, love serving Dee in her Ministry and love being around the people at my church-so inviting them over is wonderful! I guess what God has taught me is that if you don’t sense there is true intimate fellowship going on at your church-then maybe God has you there to love on His people, and invite them over. 🙂

        2. Rebecca, you nailed it! The joy contained in those moments almost leaves me speechless. There is so much power and joy in serving in every day ways…it has really been transformational for me and more consistent with my true identity. There are conversations to be had all around us and those are so real and vibrant to Kingdom life. I too sing at home…some of my best times during the season of “letting it go” were sitting at the piano alone at home…singing praises to an audience of ONE! That was very centering to me…it is nice to know that you understand…thank you!

        3. Rhonda,

          🙂 Love that you and I can relate in this-God is so good!

        4. I agree Rebecca! It is neat…God is good!

  9. 8. Think, if you can, of someone with whom you disagree or tend to disagree. Ask the Lord to help you see her side of things, why she is upset, why he has felt unheard, why she may have been hurt. (Paul is addressing believers, but this could be applied to your view of an unbeliever as well.)

    I can’t think of any incidences with believers in my life-that might not be a good thing. I tend to be a peace keeper and have found most things we disagree with-(outside of foundational issues) are not worth dividing over. So I will move on to unbelievers-Oh wait-I do recall an incident with a believer-Okay…here it is:

    This was over three years ago but worth mentioning..A sister who has been a friend for years and who is an incredible Jazz piano player-tends to also be eccentric and is one who thrives on disagreeing-always being the devils advocate. When I was obsessed with Politics and posted political things on f.b. she would always come on and say something smart elec and defensive-usually the opposite..So we engaged with one another-she was liberally bent and I was more conservative. We had a pretty heated political discussion on facebook and she cited sources that were obviously not objective..So I commented saying something like, “wow, be careful of this source-this is chocked full of lies.” then I gave her my opinion on that particular subject. She then proceeded to go off on me and defriended me. 😉 lol! sorry, this whole conversation we had and defriending thing and how it upset us makes me laugh a little. Anyway, I ended up messaging her apologizing saying we have a sisterhood that dates back over 20 years and to throw it away over something silly like this isn’t worth it. I told her I love her more than this-and we have a strong history of ministering in music together-to throw it all away on disagreeing on politics? Sorry, but that isn’t God’s desire. 🙂 She accepted and we ‘friended’ one another again.. 😉

    1. This is funny Rebecca (not laughing AT you, but with you)! I too had a fb issue with my sister in law who is not a believer. It’s funny because I am not a big fan of fb and tend to only go on every few months. I live in a very interesting part of our country which takes politics very seriously. You can see many candidates on the same day in your town, on different sides of the aisle. It is really cool, as I have always lived in large states and this isn’t possible. My son and I went to a rally at a local college and we took some pictures. It was a beautiful fall day and I was teaching my child about our country’s governmental system. We had a blast!

      Back to fb…..we posted a picture of the event with a caption of where we were. Oh my gosh! You would have thought we had done something to land us in jail! She went off on me about how fb was not the place for “this kind of stuff…” I couldnt believe it! All we did was post a picture like other people do! At the end of long rant she said she usually “unfriends” people like me (threatening). I replied, “so unfriend me!” she did. I really didn’t care because as I said before I’m not a fb fan.

      A few weeks ago she and her husband happened to be coming up to our state (they live very far away) for a few days and my husband wanted them to stop by. I told him I didn’t want to see her. He begged because the husband is dying and we might not see him again. My children grew up near them and spent a lot of time with them as small children. I said ok and knew it would be awkward. It was (for her really), not me. I still think she was ridiculous.

      Anyway, I suppose this isn’t a story about how believers can set things aside, but more about how you do things in families for the good of the family. I don’t know. I just felt like we had a connection here Rebecca. I bet others have had similar issues in our technological, hide your face world!

      1. Laura Dancer, you can laugh AT me..I do all the time. 🙂

        Isn’t that amazing? On f.b. you learn fast it is hard to post anything political. We can all be ridiculous about things. 🙂 Have you noticed watching political debates it is like they have blindfolds on. No one ever looks at the other and says, you have a point-I didn’t think of it that way. It is rare if it happens.

        I love how you agreed to have her over anyway-that is wonderful. 🙂 Her husband is dying and so glad that trumped any of the petty political issues.

        I heard a wise counselor once smile and say, “It is okay to be wrong.” 🙂

  10. 8. Think, if you can, of someone with whom you disagree or tend to disagree. Ask the Lord to help you see her side of things, why she is upset, why he has felt unheard, why she may have been hurt.

    There is a woman with whom I tend to disagree on a regular basis. We are both members of the same church and both of us serve on the church board. Other than that, I will be honest here — my solution has been to avoid her as much as possible. However, I have been praying for her daily (ever since her husband died a couple of years ago); that is because I sense she is lonely and is having a hard time finding her niche as a widow. I haven’t been praying to understand her better because in my own smug way I have thought that I understand her perfectly well:) Perhaps that is my loss! I have noticed that she is often nearly the last one to leave the church building on Sunday (lingering to talk as long as there is someone to talk with). My family always goes out to dinner after worship, and a couple of times I have come close to inviting this woman to join us, but have stopped short, thinking “I wouldn’t want us to get into an argument over Sunday dinner!” It may not seem natural for awhile, but I will now begin praying for understanding!!

    9. What is the solution, according to Philippians 2:5? Have a Christ-like attitude.

    10. How might you apply this to your life?
    I think my answer to #8 is appropriate here!

  11. Dee, I see what Elizabeth was talking about with your full day on May 8th! I will be actively praying for your health and strength to see you through that event. An antibiotic would be helpful about now, if you aren’t on one already. The illness that starts with laryngitis and goes into a bad cough usually needs medicine to stop it! I know you will update us when you get a chance.

  12. 1. What stood out to you from the above and why?

    The entire story of the women’s prayer group and the ensuing disagreement. Take that group, that situation, and I can think of any number of other groups-other situations; it has been with family even, and the same disagreements and conflicts have occurred. I can almost “feel” the bristling, the tearful hurt feelings, as I read about it.
    That sin blinds me into always thinking it is the other person’s fault; how often when I go over a situation like that with God that He opens my eyes to my own sin.

    2. Before you do the study, take a stab at this: What do you think was the root that causes our tempers to flare?

    Hmmm….several things come to mind….judging, comparing, having a need to be “right”, to be seen as the one doing it “right”…and when that is challenged, it hurts our pride, and we get defensive, angry, unwilling to even listen to another’s point of view; we act dismissively. It is self-exaltation.

  13. 8. Think, if you can, of someone with whom you disagree or tend to disagree. Ask the Lord to help you see her side of things, why she is upset, why he has felt unheard, why she may have been hurt. (Paul is addressing believers, but this could be applied to your view of an unbeliever as well.)

    Like Diane, I too am in the middle of a similar situation. This is hard because I have tried to look at every side…and yet every angle still leads me to the same conclusion…this is in God’s hands…

    9. What is the solution, according to Philippians 2:5? To have the same attitude as Christ…this is what I am hopeful for…

    10. How might you apply this to your life? I believe it applies in that I should seek out and pray to have the mind of Christ in situations…being open to what He would say and how He would want to lead and guide circumstantially…

    1. Yes! Thank you Lord!

      1. My thoughts exactly!!

    2. Praise the Lord!

    3. YES! What wonderful news on both accounts…thank you for the update Dee!!! Praying for safety as you travel…

    4. SO THANKFUL DEE. Praying you can rest

    5. Yes Dee-so excited it went well and glad you can go home and rest..It will be so nice to just rest! 🙂

    6. AWESOME DEE!!

  14. So thankful for this good report! Praying now for sweet rest and healing for you.

  15. I am sorry these notes are so long, I started to cut them down, but I thought perhaps they might be useful to someone who didn’t purchase the sermon.
    It seems so clear that the Holy Spirit was at work in us this week, our discussions fit so incredibly with the sermon!

    Phillipians 2
    “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus”

    Fall of the Berlin Wall, hopes of a new world order, peace
    Yet long standing disagreements between people groups erupted

    Why do people fight? Why cant we get along? What can we do about it?

    From the outside, conflict solution seems simple

    People involved in the conflict feel trapped, they CAN’T just resolve it

    Because it looks easy from the outside, people on the outside feel superior

    So it appears that ignorance is the problem & education is the answer
    Education hasn’t worked-going back to the greeks

    The Bible tells us the roots and remedy of Human conflict

    Disease source-Diagnosis
words in verse 3 that shows the essence of what causes fighting:
    selfish ambition -vain conceit

    Rich words translated differently
    The order is important
    1 word is the pattern 2nd is motive

    Selfish ambition- better translation- hyper fighting, spirit of rivalry, a spirit that lives to fight
    Governed not by truth or reason or thought, but by prejudice

    What governs your relationship to people?
    It can either be your needs or the truth

    You come can understand the truth through your needs
    Or can understand your needs through the truth

    If you let truth governs your needs you can have discussion, and be reasonable and think about things

    If you let your needs govern the understanding of the truth, then you are a hyper-fighter
    I am right because its me, my needs are right because they are my needs, my ideas are right because they are mine, my group is right because its my group

    A spirt that refuses to let thought or reason guide relationships

    The sprit that makes you take things personally, the discussion is about you not an issue or truth
    Makes it impossible to think about the issue in front of you, but instead makes one consider what this is doing to my pride, my relationship, my standing

    A pattern of behavior that breeds strife-makes you take things personally -this has to do with ME

    Paul is talking to the best of the church’s, the healthiest church he has
    The best churches will struggle with rivalry if we let our guard down

    Tendency for us all to be unwilling to examine ourselves

    People despise one another because of pride & reputation

    The root of this is vain conceit or vainglory
    A person empty of or starving for glory

    Human beings are hungry for glory, importance, to matter, to have weight
    We are deeply afraid of not mattering, the worst thing is to be ignored
    We don’t want to be overlooked

    So If anyone treats as we are small and unimportant we go berserk

    We are afraid of being nothing so we manufacture success, love and glory
    We are driven by a fundamental instability in our hearts

    From the outside it looks easy to resolve but from the inside we can’t stop

    The horrible fear of being mediocre, drives Madonnas struggle not to be invisible

    We fear we have no glory

    Where does this come from?
The Bible says sin

    Sin has robbed us of glory

    The essence of sin is self centeredness, the more we want our own way the more we become boring, the more sinful you are the more uninteresting you are. Pride is a yawn

    In the garden we were centered on God & we had glory and we were fascinating. Our souls centered on God were beautiful.
    When we decided to be our own masters, “I and I alone will decide what’s right for me”, we became subject to death and lost our glory.
We know our glory is gone & we long for it

    Artists are frustrated by imperfection, we know the glory we had we long for it and are desperately afraid we don’t matter

    ***Unless we get centered on God in this life, we will hear Him say ‘I never knew you’
The worst thing, the utter nightmare, eternally overlooked by the only eyes that matter***

    The more we know we lack glory the harder we try to manufacture it, the more peevish we become

    Verse 5
    “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”

    Something can happen in you that can kill the vainglory because something happened outside of us

    Jesus emptied himself of his glory, He was God but emptied Himself and became human, he experienced all of our deepest fears

    He was utterly rejected, not just by his friends but by his Father. He walked through what I am afraid of, He took what I fear and deserve

    Jesus became utterly small, emptied himself of glory, so that He can fill us, John 17- He wants us to have a share in HIS glory!!! 

To be a Christian is to follow Him, If I come saying I am as good as other people, I am claiming to have glory, I will have none. If I try to fill myself I will be empty

    If I come empty, willing to dig up the fears look at God and say it is true… I am unimportant, I have no glory, no righteousness, I deserve to be cast off, as soon as I say I am marginal God say come in, now you count, when I say I have no righteousness of my own, then He clothes me in the perfect righteousness of Christ.
 He lived the life I should have lived and died the death I should have died so that I can be brought in.

    “Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus”
Jesus is a living argument when someone makes me feel small and I start to be upset, Jesus inside me says who cares what they think, when I love you, why try to complete your self by sucking glory out of this situation?
 I can be not petty, but balanced
    “Look not only to your own interest but also to the interest of others”

    I can look to the interest of others w/o ignoring my own needs

    Know that He has given me glory, take that in, let it catch fire

    1. Thank you so much, Chris. Your notes were very helpful indeed!

    2. Do not apologize for the length Chris…it was very loving of you to take the time to do this! I will be listening and sorting through it…thank you!

      1. Thanks Deanna & Rhonda, I seem to get and retain so much more out of the sermons when I take long notes.

  16. A quick update: After a few days into my new meds and some time off of work, I’m feeling a lot better (I hope it lasts). Please pray that my employer will approve the Family Medical Leave that my doctor put me on, otherwise I am up for disciple for missing too much work. Love to all of you.

    1. Oh Father, we thank You for providing help and hope to Dawn. In her darkest time she has been calling out and You are meeting her needs. We are trusting You for a long term wholeness. I do pray that You will go before her as she approaches this conversation with personnel at her work. I pray that there will be much grace and that the approval for the Family Medical Leave will be confirmed. You are so good and it is so wonderful to be reminded of the fact that when we are weak, You are always and forever strong! I pray that Dawn will be able to see that You have been and will continue to be her strength….thank You so much for helping!

    2. Amen to Rhonda’s prayer, so glad that you are felling better Dawn, it is tough to be in the pit.

    3. Praying Dawn

    4. Dawn,
      I’m glad the change in meds is helping you…I’ll be praying for you for the good results to continue and for the work situation!

  17. 11. Listen to this sermon and share your highlights.

    WOW-listened to the sermon this morning.

    Here are my highlights:

    Diagnosis-why do people fight:

    A spirit of hyper-fighting tells us that this is a spirit that is not governed by truth, reason or thought but by prejudice. What governs your relationship with people-your need for the truth. If the truth governs your needs then you can have a decent discussion with someone. You have your needs I have mine but lets see the truth. If you let your needs govern your understanding of the truth then you are a hyper-fighter. By definition I am right because it is me. This is a spirit that refuses to let thought or reason be the thing that guides your relationship. This is the spirit that makes you take things personally-this is what makes the discussion about you and not the truth.

    The spirit of rivalry makes it impossible about the issue in front of you but makes you think about what this is going to do do my pride, my relationship, my standing. There is a pattern of behavior that makes you take everything personally. On the inside it isn’t about reason, truth or the issue-it isn’t about the matter of content-this has to do with me. Paul is saying that is the pattern of behavior that creates all this strife.

    What is the root of our pride:

    Do nothing out of selfish ambition OR VAIN CONCEIT. The old king james version says-do nothing out of VAINGLORY.
    The Greek word that Paul uses is the Greek word for Glory-a person empty of starving for glory. Do nothing out of glory or hunger-What does that mean?

    Paul is reminding us that human beings are hungry for glory-to matter..The thing we are most afraid of is that we have no glory-we don’t matter. Unimportant or marginal.

    At a cosmic theological level that we are afraid we are going to pass away that we are nothing. We will be gone and no one will remember us that we will manufacture success, approval, love anything to manufacture glory-if anyone suggests we are nothing we go ballistic.

    Where does it come from? SIN. You are trying to manufacture your glory because of sin.

    The Bible tells us when we were originally put here we were built to know and serve God-not ourselves. Because we were centered on God we were fascinating-we were beautiful and we didn’t die-we were lasting. Our souls were beautiful because we were characterized by wisdom, love and joy-fascinating because we were centered on God not ourselves. When we decided we are our masters-when we do that we began to lose our glory-became subject to death and the glory was gone. We long for the glory we had and we were built for that but we know we are passing away.

    What is the remedy:

    The education model says people aren’t reasonable and they had bad models so we need to educate them. Loving families and education helps but it isn’t enough-something has to happen. The remedy for this disease-we will never know peace unless some tremendous thing happens.

    V5. Something happens outside-Christ..Something that makes you quit starving for gory..something has to happen outside. Jesus emptied himself of his glory. Though he was in the form of God he emptied himself and became human. Jesus embraced my worst nightmare-the things I hate and fear Jesus voluntarily walked in. He had no appearance that made him attractive-a man of sorrows acquainted with grief-he was despised.

    Jesus came ugly, poor and weak and in the end he was utterly rejected by people and by God. His father said to Jesus on the cross- I don’t know you.

    You know in your soul if you center on yourself you lose your glory-Jesus took the thing we are afraid of-he took what we deserve-he was glory emptied-despised, rejected. He looked so small-not a king at all. He became utterly small for me.


    John 17-he looks up to the Father and said I want them to have the glory I had with you before the world began. He emptied himself of His glory so we could have it.

    If you come empty before God He will fill you. To be a Christian means it is true-we have no glory, no righteousness, I am marginal-then God says-come in, it is only when you say-I am weightless..He lived the life I should have lived and died the death I should have died so I could be brought in.

    When you bring Jesus into your life-you bring into your life a living argument. And that living argument is telling you when you are about to get upset that you are treated as small-Jesus comes in and says isn’t my love enough for you? Jesus became small, not a King at all. You can’t become an upset person and let these petty things get to you.

    To look after others needs and not take care of yourself at all is vainglory-the same if you look after your own and not others.

    Jesus became smaller so you could live a big life not a petty life. Stop worrying about people criticizing you. Be willing to overlook slights-be willing to put out a hand to say let’s make this right.

  18. 11. Listen to this sermon and share your highlights.

    What governs my relationship with others? If truth governs needs, then I can be reasonable. But if my needs govern the truth, then I fight to “be right”. Then the conflict becomes personal, and creates in me a spirit of rivalry.

    The spirit of rivalry says it’s all about getting my needs met, I’m right, and everything is personal. I was convicted when Keller said in this state we refer to a conflict with someone as a “personality clash”.

    When I am centered on myself, my own needs, then I am unable to be governed by truth, and I seek “vainglory”. I am seeking to be my own master and I am “starving for glory”. This really struck me—the more I seek my own glory, the more I seek to be important, the more insignificant I become.

    The remedy is multi-dimensional. Something had to happen outside of me—through Christ. Jesus emptied Himself of His glory, to embrace me. He was rejected by His Father. He took my worst nightmare—He emptied Himself of all His glory. This really spoke to me. I am not one who likes attention, and I really prefer to be the “behind the scenes” type. But growing up, I struggled with feeling “forgettable”. Hard to explain the depths of the emotion, but I felt almost non-existent sometimes. As I grew in my faith, I asked the Lord to help me believe He sees me, He remembers me. So when I realize that He became completely nothing, so that I could have HIS glory—His importance, His value—it IS mind changing.

    The second dimensional change happens inside of me. If I claim to have glory of my own, if I seek to find my own significance—I have none. But if I come to Him empty, He fills me with His glory. He becomes a living argument that says “Who cares what they think of you…when I love you”. The problem of fighting is being self-focused. The remedy is to become Christ-focused.

    When I am centered on Jesus, I have significance, value, glory. This also struck me—that as I am changed by this truth I am no longer a “petty person”—no longer “someone always upset by little things”. That statement really opened my ears. I have been petty. I have been a fighter. I have let my needs govern. This sermon truly offered me life-giving hope of a new way to respond in all of my relationships.

  19. Sermon Notes:

    From the outside there is superiority over those on the inside

    From the outside it looks simple…
    From the inside it is not that simple…

    Truth governs needs – when truth governs needs you can have a discussion
    Needs governs truth – you can’t have a discussion
    “I’m right because it is me…”, “My group is right because it is me…”, “refuses to reason”

    Big Difference – “fighting to live” based in reason, “living to fight” based in prejudice

    Outside –based in reason
    Inside – Has to do with me (no reason, it is personal)

    Pride is a yawn, boring

    Philippian church was one of the best churches but it was still governed by a spirit of rivalry, hurting my power

    The Remedy – multidimensional (both inside and outside)

    Something can happen inside only because something happened outside – Jesus Christ emptied Himself of His glory and became human…He embraced your worst nightmare…Jesus Christ voluntarily walked right in…He was despised and we esteemed Him not…ugly, poor, weak, utterly rejected…Jesus took away the thing you are afraid of…he looked so small not a King at all…

    Jesus said I want them to have the glory that I had in You (Father) from the beginning…
    When we realize, “I am marginal”…”I am weightless”…God says…COME IN!

    You can be a person who is not always upset by little things…
    When Christ comes in there is a living argument, who cares what they think….when I love you! I would let nothing come between me and you…let good overcome evil…

  20. Dee I do hope you are feeling better.

  21. This has been such a busy week and it will continue to be busy for the next month. We have two college commencements today: my older daughter this morning and then my niece this afternoon. Then prom next weekend for my younger daughter. And on it goes until she graduates from high school on June 5. And I also have been battling the laryngitis/allergy/cold bug all week. I’m feeling a little mixed up. I’ve tried to write sermon notes and take away and they don’t even make sense to me :). So I’ve given up. But I have been able to listen to the sermon several times and it has really touched me. Lots that apply to me. My fear of being insignificant. My tendency to defend myself. If I have one take away, it is that this week’s lesson for me goes back to last week: to live is Christ. To empty myself of my needs because He emptied Himself for me. I’ve been reading your posts. Great stuff.

  22. My take away this week…the instructive words that God gave Paul are so helpful. To think through things and examine our motives (heart sweep) is so important. It also helps in knowing what is essential and non-essential as it relates to community. The pettiness in the “spirit of rivalry” is so deadly yet so subtle. Paul is a living example of dealing with disagreements and conflict…his life was full of it! I spent some time reading through the book of Acts yesterday…there were very few peaceful moments in his life and yet he balanced that with the a continual understanding that Christ was his life. Just reviewing his journey makes me value and appreciate his pastoral advice all the more! His life was messy and riddled with conflict…it was interesting to read his story again (with this study in mind) and think of all the words that we were using in this study…”rivalry, vain glory, being of the same mind, humility”…Paul’s life spoke a lot about these issues…it was neat for me to connect those two thoughts. It helped me better understand his heart…and the ideas that he has presented to us this week….

  23. My takeaway:

    My takeaway is the encouragement from every one here-seeing how God is moving in your hearts and being kindreds in Him in so many areas. I loved how God covered Dee and had her well so she could minister His Message of desiring intimacy with the women in New Jersey.

    Also, the reminder that it is a daily thing to remind myself that He is my identity. He has given it to me-so it won’t go away, even if I forget-;~) but when I forget I can wander and hurt God and our intimacy-remembering and yielding is the first step in cultivating intimacy.

    When I see Him face to face I want Him to say to me, “My Bride, how I loved when you came out of the cleft and I took your hand and we ran up the mountain.” 🙂 🙂 🙂

  24. One other thing I gleaned from the study this week…is that there was a lot of confusion in my mind about “conflict”….this is has been really helpful to me especially in light of the culture that we live in…with the understanding about the differences between conflict based on “vain glory and rivalry”…and conflict based on “reason and truth”…are skewed…it makes us avoid conflict at all…and I don’t think that is what Paul is saying. Based on his life, I know that isn’t what he is saying. I just think this is important as we face a lot of cultural battles (within the body and without)…I am concerned that our idea of “peace at all cost” is going to cause a lot of confusion as we struggle in this every changing and convoluted world. The clarity that came through the study this week was very helpful to me….

  25. Oh and God quickened me on this in Keller’s sermon:

    The Bible tells us when we were originally put here we were built to know and serve God-not ourselves. Because we were centered on God we were fascinating-we were beautiful and we didn’t die-we were lasting. Our souls were beautiful because we were characterized by wisdom, love and joy-fascinating because we were centered on God not ourselves.

    This hit me hard and I about flew out of my seat inside with joy-Yes I have KNOWN this but has it gone deeper in? This is the answer to our longing for intimacy with others at church. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    I guess I want you all to pray for me to remember this daily-Jesus was despised rejected by men-faced men who didn’t want anything to do with Him intimacy wise because they were too self centered-and really a lot of times when he was followed it was so they could get something from him-not just to be with him-yet He emptied himself and died for us. So too-He wants me to reach out-to love others even if they didn’t think of inviting us over, but this is an outflow of growing closer to Him. 🙂 I am such a whimp-we have never truly been ‘despised’ like Jesus and our hearts never truly deeply broken like His- and I forgot and became judgmental and that broke His heart for He desires for us to love the people at our church-and be willing to let those at our church love on us too! Sometimes we have to be the first to reach out but we will desire to reach out if we are cultivating intimacy with God and we will be willing to be patient with the time it takes to cultivate intimacy in church.

    I don’t know if God will have us change churches-He still might and I am open for the sake of my oldest son, but for now I strongly sense Him leading us as we cultivate intimacy with Him that it will flow out to others in our church-starting with our Sunday School class. We are having three couples over for dinner on the 31st-so pray! I prayerfully chose them and want to focus on Jesus-thinking and praying about what to talk about-yet wanting to leave it open for the Holy Spirit to move-a Keller sermon-what our Sunday school teacher is teaching?? 🙂 I am thankful to Dee for modeling hospitality to me for God certainly weaved that in-He is so faithful.

  26. My take-away this week centers on Steve’s response to Dee, when her group was self-destructing. “I have heard you say that when there is a problem in a horizontal relationship, there is almost always a problem in your vertical relationship with God.”

    I hope to carry this advice with me like a “measuring tape.” I want to remember, when a horizontal relationship gets to be tough and I am feeling defensive or critical, that probably what is going on is that my intimacy with God has slipped a yard or so. Otherwise I might not be having the problem in the first place.

  27. My take away:

    I want to thank those of you who took the time to put your sermon notes here. Sometimes I need to hear things that are hard and this is one of those times. I found the sermon hard to listen to because it convicts me of how self-centered I am when I feel threatened. I don’t do arguments very well because I always feel personally threatened. I will have to really ponder Keller’s words and pray that I will let God work in my heart about my spirit of rivalry and fear of being invisible, the fundamental instability of my heart. Jesus’ became “nothing” so I could be glorious in Him.

  28. 12. What’s your take-a-way and why?
    These thoughts are still in-process, but this is what He’s using from this week to work in me. In my answer to #2, I mentioned I wouldn’t have liked to engage in a discussion like Dee’s group of moms. I have never liked debates—can’t stand to watch them nor engage in them. I have very little interest in politics. I tend to have strong convictions, and I tend to like people to agree with me 😉 and I don’t want to spend the energy arguing my point. But something Diane said struck me—she said “I always feel personally threatened.” That caused me to look deeper at the heart issue going on in me. The reason I don’t want to have to argue my points is that it is all so personal—and the reason it is so personal is that I am still trying to create my own righteousness. I want others to agree with me so I can feel significant, wise, important. I don’t want to argue because I don’t want to risk my security, which lies in my reasoning, being threatened. Need to ponder this more–but Diane’s wisdom turned on the light!

    Also, Deanna reminded me of Dee and Steve’s interaction above—the vertical affects the horizontal. I have ongoing strife in a horizontal right now and need this reminder to continually ask Him to fill me with love in this relationship. I was reminded recently of Phil. 4:13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me”. I’ve let that powerful verse become too familiar. So I have begun praying “I can love _______ through Him who strengthens me” and it has really helped!

    1. Yes, Elizabeth, I too am “trying to create my own righteousness”. Sometimes I have to shake my head at myself. I know I cannot do that and do not need to, but then I seem to go right back to doing it again. Why do I do that? My only hope is to throw myself at Jesus’ feet and ponder Him.

    2. Elizabeth, I love your last sentence! There IS victory in Jesus!

      I thought of Casting Crowns song In Me:

      “Cause when I’m weak, You make me strong
      When I’m blind, You shine Your light on me
      Cause I’ll never get by living on my own ability
      How refreshing to know You don’t need me
      How amazing to find that you want me
      So I’ll stand on Your truth, and I’ll fight with Your strength
      Until You bring the victory, by the power of Christ in me”


      1. thank you for this Chris–so good! I loved the opening lines too “If You ask me to leap from my boat out into the crashing waves…I’ll go but I can’t go alone…”