It is with both excitement and trepidation that I begin this Scripture-thon.
For the next 30 days, I’ll be sending out daily emails, with insights from scripture, reflections from my past, and applications of such realizations in my own life.
I had originally envisioned this as a “daily dose of encouraging fun”, but the pressures of recent tragedies like the death of George Floyd and the relentless march of COVID-19 have made me realize that the reality of life on this earth is far from the “fun” I envisioned.
However, the despair that we find in reality will force us deeper into seeking hope in something better. I hope that these emails will rather allow us to rejoice knowing that we have something greater that awaits us than any “fun” here on this earth.
This week, I’ll be doing devotionals on the book of Philippians, taking one chapter every other day.
Philippians seems to be a timely book to start this journey with. Just as Paul was writing to thank and encourage the Philippian church – “I thank God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy” (Philippians 1:3-4), I’m writing this email to thank you for supporting me as I embark on the Scripture-thon. I have already been so encouraged by the support that you’ve given me in my life, and I hope that I may be able to in turn encourage you through these emails.
I also hope to reflect on my time in NYC through these devotions (and also as a good excuse to share my photos :P)
NYC as seen from my apartment in Brooklyn – March 11, 2020 – 1 week before the start of the lockdown
Paul calls out in Philippians 1:15 that “some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love… the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition.” Since the tail-end of my time in NYC, I’ve been grappling with whether I was staying out of “selfish ambition.”
At first, I stayed in NYC after I told myself that the early Christians stayed in the cities to care for the sick during plagues when everyone else was fleeing to the countryside. I tried to do as many things to help people in the city – actions like delivering food and groceries to the elderly.
Posing for a camera in a NYC grocery store to market delivery services for the elderly – March 19, 2020
However, I realized that I may have been seeking to make myself feel like I was doing good, as opposed to truly serving God. Perhaps I wanted to glorify myself in history like the early Christians who left a lasting legacy that ultimately legalized Christianity in Rome. My fear that I was trying to glorify myself as opposed to God is partially what brought me back to Austin. I didn’t want to live like a Pharisee, who was doing right on the outside, without truly being righteous on the inside.
However, Pauls’s realization in Philippians 1:18 that “in that every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice,” encourages me. Even if I was acting out of selfishness, I can hope that at least a little bit of my work serving the city during Covid-19 furthered God’s kingdom.
Now, as I’m back in Austin, I’m wondering how to use my time here. Paul writes that “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) For Paul, it was a win-win scenario – if he died, he would have eternal life in heaven, which is far more enjoyable than earth. But if he lived, he would get to further God’s kingdom so others can also enjoy Christ. Paul eventually decides that he “will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith.” His continued plodding on this earth may have meant short-term suffering, but the long-term life that it gave others made it worth it.
After seeing God work in keeping me safe running around NYC during the height of COVID-19 and driving the 1700 miles from NYC to Austin, I realized that he is offering me another opportunity to serve him. Rather blindly running at the workaholic pace that I lived in NYC, I can use this time to reflect on how He wants me to follow Him.
Downtown Austin as seen from West Campus – June 7, 2020
- Pray for strength and resilience in writing and sending these daily emails for the Scripture-thon. I’ve joked with someone that it might have been easier running a marathon and now not sure if it’s a joke.
- Pray for those who are still in NYC serving the city. Pray that they will be fueled by the Spirit and find joy in loving the city.