Part 10 The “Dwell” Verse – Philippians 4:8

I figured starting with the central verse makes sense.  Have you ever heard of how to identify a counterfeit?  Study and know the real one, the standard.  Don’t study the fakes, study the real thing so well the fakes will be obvious.

So I strongly encourage you to, pause, reading this post to read Philippians 4:1-9.

You are back.  But did you read the passage?  Really, please stop and ready the passage if you didn’t, it is way more important than this post.

What an amazing list of encouragements.  Maybe in future posts I will take on each phrase starting from verse one, one-by-one.  Back to verse 8 for now.

Ok, so this will have to be a few posts.  My guess is it needs to be the next eight or more.  The alternative is to put up with a very long post.  There are eight concepts Paul challenges us to dwell upon.  One phrase or vague summary will not do justice to these concepts.

There are too many questions to answer in one post.  What is truth?  What does honorable really mean?  “Just” what?  (Attempt at a joke.)  Is there anything truly pure?  How is lovely different than beautiful?  Is that recommendable or commendable?  Is this a rhetorical question about moral excellence?  “Any praise – huh?

We can’t dwell on things we don’t understand.  In the last few years I have learned there is a big difference between recognizing something and being able to define it well.  I believe few reading this post would say they have no idea what is true.  But what is true?  How would you explain it to someone who believes truth is relative?  What did Paul mean by what is true?  What is the root meaning of the word in the original language?

I hope you are just as excited as am I to be digging deeply into each amazing detail of how we are to dwell, focus our attention.  Jeremiah 29:13, Matthew 7:7, and John 8:32 come to mind as we continue this journey.

By the way; 1. I am just taking this one post at a time as you can tell, 2. I will be doing most of my Bible study with the Holman Christians Standard Version, but not limited to this version, and as much as possible the original Greek, 3. I am not a Greek scholar to say the least.

Heavenly Father, how am I “dwelling” today?

Dwell, Part 9 – synonyms, part 1

“Or 3. There are other words used to describe the same idea, i.e. synonyms for the word dwell.”

Why isn’t the word “dwell” used more often to describe the focus of our attention?  This is the general question I have been exploring the last few weeks.  The most likely answer is that there are many other words or phrases used in the Bible to teach us about our focus.

Here are some dictionary synonyms for the word “dwell”: linger over, mull over, muse on, brood about, brood over, think about, spend time thinking about, be preoccupied by, be obsessed by, eat one’s heart out over; harp on about, discuss at length, expatiate on, elaborate on, expound on, keep talking about.  (thanks Google for the list)

This list is a good starting point, but it is going to take a while for me to search for these words and phrases in the Bible.  Actually, I intend to focus this search on the New Testament.

So the next post will begin a series of passages I find that deal with how we focus our attention – well, and poorly.

How am I “dwelling”?  (Yes, this is still a self-diagnostic question.)

“2. The topic is so clear no more passages are needed.”

A month ago yesterday I posted the following – “So only Philippians 4:8-9 has the word dwell used with the meaning we are looking to study.  This is interesting.  I think we only have a few main reasons why we don’t see dwelling in more passage.  1. What we focus our attention on is not that important. Or 2. The topic is so clear no more passages are needed.  Or 3. There are other words used to describe the same idea, i.e. synonyms for the word dwell.”

The last post expanded on option #1.  (Yea, read it if you haven’t yet please.)

Most likely I am overly complicating this topic.  I tend to overcomplicate nearly everything, but wait a moment.  There is a difference between knowing and doing.  Here is the reason I am exploring the idea in the first place.

I doubt it is any surprise that what I focus upon captures my attention.  Practically speaking, the Bible probably also does not frequently address this truth because it is pretty obvious.  But I don’t believe this is the reason this specific word, dwell, is not used often to teach about our focus of attention.

I believe the real reason Philippians 4:8-9 is the only passage using dwell in this way is because there are other ways to describe this specific idea.  So, onto a series of posts with different passages also teaching about how we are to focus our attention, but using different words.

How am I “dwelling”?  (Yes, this is a self-diagnostic question for you.)

Important or not?

Part 7

Last week I shared that there is only one passage in the New Testament (NT) with the world “dwell” in which the meaning is – focus of our attention.  The word “dwell” and it’s variations all the rest of the time are used for a location, where someone lives for example.

Philippians 4:8-9 is the only NT passage teaching us about the focus of our attention by using the word “dwell”.   (There are others words use to describe this process, synonyms, and I will write about those soon.)  So, what is the significance that there are not more passages?

The first possibility to explore is, from the last post: 1. What we focus our attention on is not that important.  I believe we immediately agree this is not a true statement, no matter what the context.

Where, on what, or on whom we focus our attention is very important.  If we are driving and distracted by: ____( fill in the blank) ____, it is dangerous.  When aiming anything, the target better be our focus.  Anytime someone is talking to us, we ideally give our attention to that person.

So why doesn’t the Bible teach more about the focus of our attention = how we “dwell”?  There are lots of options and we will explore them, but for now I think there is one practical answer – we know.  We know when we are distracted and not focused.  Therefore this whole topic should be unnecessary to explore?

Knowing and doing are too often different things!  You may have noticed this is a frequent theme of the Bible.  James 4:17 comes to mind.  “So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it.”  HCSB

I believe the reason I am so motivated to write about this subject is because of seeing in my life and others how we too often fail to see how our spiritual life affects us on a regular basis.  How well are you “dwelling” on the Lord?  Is He the daily, even more often, focus of your attention?

When we focus our attention well, spiritually and practically, everything is better!

The core passage on dwelling.

Last post I shared the core Bible passage regarding dwelling – Philippians 4:8-9.  The word dwell is used 150 times in the Bible, but most usages are to where someone lives.  Our dwelling place is not the point of this study and exploration.  (But it is interesting that the word dwelling is used for where we live.  I think this will be a necessary future blog.)

All but 22 of the usages of the word dwell or its variations are in the Old Testament (OT), we will sort out the significance of those 128 passage in the OT for future posts.

Of all 22 New Testament (NT) usages of the word dwell, only one passage uses the meaning of the word I want to explore.  Yes, all the rest of the verses are about some kind of a location and living there.

So only Philippians 4:8-9 has the word dwell used with the meaning we are looking to study.  This is interesting.  I think we only have a few main reasons why we don’t see dwelling in more passage.  1. What we focus our attention on is not that important. Or 2. The topic is so clear no more passages are needed.  Or 3. There are other words used to describe the same idea, i.e. synonyms for the word dwell.

In the next three posts I will expand on each of these three possibilities, but let’s seek a general conclusion.

I really don’t believe this topic is unimportant.  If I did I wouldn’t write these posts.  It is clear in my own life and as I serve with others that the focus of our attention is a core aspect of our lives.  So #1 is out of the question.

In many ways I do believe the Bible is clear about on what, on whom, and how we are to dwell as the focus of our attention.  Yet I don’t believe we live out this principle well.  So there are lots of reasons to explore not only what is clear in the Bible about dwelling, but also how to dwell well.

The third option opens up a lot of study, one I am looking forward to tackling.  For now, we will just leave this to future posts.

I encourage you to read Philippians 4:8-9.  I am going to read it and start memorizing it, not a bad I deal for all of us.

Let’s dwell well!

Dwelling – Back to the basics.

What is on my heart to explore is how what we DWELL upon affects how we live.  The initial answer is pretty clear, but the more I think about how this works in my life and the life of others, it is not so simple.

Remember being told – “you are what you eat.”  This is so true physically.  Eat junk-food and it leads to being full of junk-food without what we really need to live a healthy life.  Eating poorly may not start of seeming so bad, but stay on that path and it leads to poor heath and if nothing changes death.

What we dwell on “feeds” our actions.  What we think about leads to our actions.  Therefore, it matters what we think about.  You might be thinking, duh, but what are you doing?  Are you living a faithful life according to Gods’ will or something else?

It seems like the first response to this question for many is to bring up perfection.  Well, nobody is perfect.  Living a faithful life is not about perfection on earth, but it does require being perfected.  Here I go again getting all complicated.

Which way are you going?  There are only two ways!  Following Jesus on the narrow way (Matthew 7:13-14), or other.  What we are doing, how we are living, starts with on what or whom are we thinking (dwelling).

When we dwell on anything other than “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable – if there is any more excellence and if there is any praise – DWELL on these things.  Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”  Philippians 4:8-9

On what am I dwelling?

Opportunity leads to decision

The more I explore this idea of dwelling, the more aspects and details I learn are part of the whole process.  Last time, I encourage you to read it if you haven’t yet, I challenged us to recognize that at the beginning of anything and everything we have an opportunity.

I believe embarrassing the idea of opportunity is essential because  – opportunity leads to decision.

Let me see if I can explain what I mean.

Have you ever considered if you live passively most of the time?  Think about most days.  Do you typically live by routine, go with the flow, and or let circumstances or others make decisions for you?  You might ask me, what is the problem with living this way, I am glad you asked.

Let’s go back to the example, I used this last time as well, of starting each day.  If we start passively, without intention, we nearly always start without Jesus.  I know this true for me because it is how I lived my first 40 or so years.  How about you?

Living passively is living without conscious decision, unintentionally.

I believe failing to start nearly every day in prayer and Bible study, leads to a passive life.  In a way it is a self-fulfilling prophesy.  Live without intentionality leads to living passively.  Living passively leads to leaving our relationship with God out of our daily life.  Leaving God out of our life is a passive life.

Making the most of every opportunity leads to, when Jesus is our Lord, dwelling well.

I am not suggesting that God wants us to be decisive leader type people all the time, but I do believe He wants us to live purposeful lives.  If we are letting circumstances or others make most of the decisions for us, then it is unlikely we are living spiritually faithful lives.  Yea, this is a strong statement.

Isn’t it time to dwell well – live intentionally/obediently to God’s will?

Significance of “dwelling” well. Part 3

Finally, I am getting to one of the lessons I believe I am learning about dwelling.  Our first impression, feeling, or reaction to anything and everything is the first “opportunity”. 

Lesson 1:  Everything starts as an opportunity.

I just spent a lot of time asking the Lord in prayer what this first – lesson – really is.  To be transparent,  I had no clarity at the beginning of writing that dwelling is related to a series of opportunities.  This is an exciting new insight for me and I hope you will see for you as well. 

I believe opportunity is the better, but maybe still not the best, term because that is what we have in the Lord.  I believe opportunity describes well the situation at the very begging of everything. 

Ok, here is your first opportunity of this blog post.  What situations do not start as opportunities?  I honestly can’t think of any at this moment and I would like your input.

The reason I believe this idea of opportunity is so important is because the next step sets in motion how we proceed.  I believe we can nearly always stop and change “directions”, but in general how we start leads to how we continue.  Too often we only stop when damage had been done. 

I am confident most of us would agree with what I just shared, but I don’t believe we realize the significance of this truth. 

Let’s use the example of every day as a new beginning.  Regardless of our first thought in the morning: a busy day, did the alarm go off on time, what is that screaming, what is that pain, etc., we begin the day with opportunity. 

I believe too often we don’t respond to the first opportunity each day with purpose.  If we realized that everything begins with opportunity we will be more intentional with our next step in everything, every day.

Here is my concern.  If I don’t grow to realize each beginning is important, then we lose the change to begin well.  If we begin well, we will tend to “dwell” well.  If we begin poorly, …

So, what can we do?  We have only one limitless option – ask the Lord to teach us this lesson.  Imagine being able to respond well to every opportunity, every beginning.  Imagine being able to dwell on what is good and true, on the Lord.  I pray now for you Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians – Ephesians 3:14-21. 

Let’s learn to dwell well in response to every opportunity. 

(Please don’t hesitate to comment, I want to hear anything including constructive criticism.)

Significance of “dwelling” well. Part 2

Remember the V-Rod motorcycle I told you about, I sure do?  Let me pick up the story and share more about the importance of dwelling well.

If I had chosen to keep dwelling on the V-Rod; researching about it, getting pictures of them and putting them where I would see them often, and generally thinking about owning one,  I probably would have ended up buying one.  Since owning a motorcycle is not a sin, this may or may not have been a problem.

But what about dwelling on something that is sin-worthy?  What about FEAR?  This is one of the most destructive topics to consider though lots of others will be explored including: lust, pride, money, people, sports, etc.

1 John 4:18 says that “There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love.” (HCSB)

Wow, what a verse.  It sounds like we either love or fear.  What is your first response to this verse?

Does this verse motivate and inspire you immediately to cast off all fear in order to live according to love or to feel some version of defeat?  If you recognize your first feelings were on the side of negativity you are not alone.  I encourage you to write down, don’t wait, your best definition, in as much details as possible, of your first feeling as you read the verse.

Fear is a dangerous and deceptive emotion when debilitating.  It is natural to every human as it protects us from dangers: lions, bears, etc.  A healthy fear keeps us focused and aware, but doesn’t keep us from proceeding wisely.  Unhealthy fear keeps us from proceeding and traps us.

In the first post I shared the key question regarding dwelling.  How does dwelling on something affect us spiritually?  Let’s keep this question in mind as we proceed, because what we dwell on either leads to benefits or consequences.

Fear starts off helping us, but if we then dwelling on the object of our fear, it typically becomes all consuming.  Fear leads to either benefits or consequences.  I believe dwelling is a key principle determining the outcome.

Do you tend to dwell on the object of your fear?  Do you often become unable to make a decision out of fear?  Remember, maybe memorize, 1 John 4:18.  Dwell on love and fear will be kept in its proper place.

Please come back soon for the next part.

Significance of “dwelling” well. Part 1 of ? ( I really don’t know.)

Over the last six years as a church-planting pastor I have learned so much about just about everything.  Maybe mostly I have learned how little I know, how much I still have to learn, and how slow I am at the deeper processes of learning.  (I am fighting the urge to explore the last statement, but will leave that for future posts).  Literally the Lord continues to “renew” (Romans 12:2), redefine, my understanding of all things spiritual.  (Again, a whole can-of-topics for me are being put on my writing shelf regarding the last sentence.)

The lesson I want to try to focus on with this blog is dwelling.

I love bicycles, cars, and just about any mechanical device.  God made me an engineer and later called me to ministry.

One day in Moscow, Russia my attention became fixed on one of the most beautiful and mesmerizing machines I have ever seen – a Harley Davidson V-Rod motorcycle.  Though I grew up in a family that vilified, too dangerous, motorcycles other than for off-road use, I could not quit looking at this motorcycle.

At first glance I was in awe.  At second glance I began to notice the machine and it’s details.  For the next minutes, I could have stared at it for an hour, I was drawn deeper and deeper into it’s clutches (pun not intended).  I was hooked and for the first time in my life considered buying a street motorcycle.  Even today if I were to seriously consider buying a street bike, it would be a V-Rod.

How did the V-Rod become my standard for a street motorcycle?  Good question you ask, but that is not the right question, sorry.

I believe the more important question is how does dwelling on something affect us spiritually?  The motorcycle is just a beautiful machine to me, but it could have become much more and here-in lies the danger or the benefit.

What we dwell on either leads to benefits or dangers.

Now that I hope I have your attention, stay “tuned” for the next part.