04/29/2018 = Philippians 2:1-18 = “The Christmas Star Makes Us into Shining Stars”

(Click HERE to listen to this message … if you dare…)

Mark Wheeler

Philippians 2:1-18

“The Christmas Star Makes Us into Shining Stars”

04/29/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

I was up all night wondering where the sun had gone … then it dawned on me. OK. That was the warm up for the big one. Are you ready?

 

A Higgs boson goes into a church and the priest says, “We don’t allow Higgs bosons here.”

And the Higgs boson says, “But without me there is no mass.”

I feel like maybe that jokes needs an explanation???  In 2012, scientists confirmed the detection of the long-sought Higgs boson, also known by its nickname the “God particle,” at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the most powerful particle accelerator on the planet. This particle helps give mass to all elementary particles that have mass, such as electrons and protons. You know, sciency stuff. Oh, and in the Roman Catholic Church a worship service, which includes the Eucharist, is called a “mass”.

So, let me re-tell the joke, and this time you can laugh – because you love me if not because it’s hilarious.

A Higgs boson goes into a church and the priest says, “We don’t allow Higgs bosons here.”

And the Higgs boson says, “But without me there is no mass.”

 

I was up all night wondering where … nevermind….

 

Why start with that “super-funny joke”? Because the “God Particle” is related to the existence of the stars in the sky, and in today’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Christian people in Philippi we see a reference to Jesus’ incarnation, His birth stories (which include the Star of Bethlehem), and Paul’s declaration that Christ’s followers shine like stars in the sky.

 

We are in this sermon series working our way through the New Testament book of Philippians. Acts 16 and I Thessalonians 2 show us that this is a city where Paul and Silas had a particularly difficult experience:

  • Paul and Silas go to Philippi against their own plans, because that’s where God directed them
  • The first recorded European baptism takes place in PhilippiLydia
  • Paul and Silas are arrested and imprisoned for their Christian faith
  • While in prison, they pray and sing, and God opens the doors and loosens the shackles
  • The jailer gets baptized – the second European baptism on record
  • Paul and Silas create an opportunity to share the Gospel with the Magistrates as well

Philippi gave Paul some success stories, but it was not a fun place for him to be.

 

With that, listen to Philippians 2:1-18 (Page 831 in the pew Bibles) …. —-

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, [Before we get too far in, remember whenever there’s a “therefore” we gotta ask what’s the “therefore” there for: “Therefore” always brings into conclusion a previous set of statements. What we read last week ended with, “27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. … Therefore,]

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, [Notice, Paul does not say, “Therefore SINCE you have encouragement, comfort, compassion…” He says, “IF you have these things…” Almost like he’s asking, “Do you have encouragement? Are you tender and compassionate? If so,” he says,]

then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. [How do we be of one mind and one heart together? He answers] Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

[I know – we have 18 verses we want to get through this morning, but we absolutely need to take a look at this for just a minute – we will get rolling soon, I promise. The NIV, in verse 3, says, “value others above yourself”. Let me interrupt for a minute here. The NIV is a fine translation of the Old Testament Hebrew and the New Testament Greek – but occasionally it misses a key point. This is an example of that. In chapter 1, what we read two Sundays ago, we saw that the Apostle Paul, the greatest Church starter in all of Christian history, called himself a “servant of the Lord Jesus Christ” as he was writing to Bishops, Elders, Overseers in Philippi – a church he planted! And we commented that Paul was a great equalizer every one is equally important and valuable in the eyes of God! So, now less than a chapter later does he really say, “value others above yourself? And the answer is … No. After some research and study, I learned that what Paul really says in this verse is “in humility put others before you”, notthink of them as more important than you”. Let me illustrate how that plays out: (one-man skit)

In grocery store, with one item in hand, looking for the quickest checkout line:

Oh my, this store is quite busy, and I only have this one apple to buy…

I could go to the ‘8 items only’ line, but look how long it is – and I know that, even though it says ‘No Checks’, the person right in front of me will write a check – and the poor lady will have to call a manager to come over and approve the check – and that will not go fast.

I know, I’ll stand in this line, behind that lady with a full cart, not that lane where he’s already started to go through, but this lane with two people in line, but this lady hasn’t gotten started yet – and she looks like she doesn’t have any coupons – that’s always a mistake to get behind a conscientious coupon clipper.

I know, I’ll get behind her … and I’ll look a little sad … and anxious … I’ll pretend to be on my phone telling my wife that I’ll be right out as soon as I can …

What am I hoping will happen?You’ve only got one item, Honey? Go on ahead of me.

OK, who else has played this exact game before? Who has been invited to “go on ahead of me”?

THAT’s what Paul is talking about here! THAT’s GRACE! This nice lady could have said, “You wait in line, Mister! I’ve been shopping for an hour and a half, buying all the right non-GMO, Gluten-free, organic, stuff – to feed my family for a week. I need to get out of here, too – and I’ve spent my time doing it all right – not like you who forgot one apple the last time you were in…. You just wait in line!” She could have said that! That’s LAW. But instead, she offers GRACE.

That’s what Paul means – If you have received any encouragement, any comfort, any tenderness, any compassion, from Jesus Christ through your fellow believers, then offer GRACE! Put others before you in line!]

Paul continues: In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: [Remember how Christ did this:]

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

[A couple of very quick points here: Notice that this is written as poetry, not as prose – it’s in stanzas, not paragraphs. We have no historical record of this being sung – but every Bible scholar, from a hundred years after Paul wrote this letter to right now believes this was a very early Christian hymn, an early Praise Song. We sang a version of this last week: “He came from heaven to earth, to show the way; from the earth to the cross, my debt to pay; from the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky, Lord, I lift Your name on high”. This is Paul’s reference to the Christmas star – the star that showed the magi how to find the newborn King of the Jews, the star that shone over Bethlehem. Jesus, God from God, very God from very God, became a human – but not just any human, a servant human (doulos, means a “slave”), God became a slave, and died – on a cross, the cruelest of deaths, reserved for the vilest offenders! Why? Not because Jesus, the Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords, is less valuable than you or me, but because, in humility, He put us before Himself in line!

Now, Paul says, He is asking us to do that for each other! We’ve been offered graceoffer that grace to others! Stop being critical, stop being judgmental, stop holding the LAW as more important than LOVEput others before you in line!

When I read this, I am immediately convicted of self-righteousness, aren’t you, too?

Because Christ did this, God lifts His name on high! – the Name of Christ is above every name! And that is so true that there will come a time when every knee will bow before Him, every mouth with acknowledge HimPaul says, let’s choose to do that right now, of our own free will, receive Him and believe Him, today!]

And then there’s another “therefore”. Listen:

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence— [it doesn’t matter about meI’m not the one you should be looking up to, it doesn’t matter whether I am there or not] continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. [“continue to work out your salvation” does not mean you have to deserve it or earn it, “work it out” is what we do as we grow in our faith. How? Paul continues:]

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”  [This means we have to act it out – like tithing. If we plan to tithe, if we think about it too much, we get an ulcer – but when we put the principle of tithing to practice we experience blessings we could never predict or expect.“Put others before you in line! And, do it without grumbling!”] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life.  [As the star from heaven announced the incarnation of the Son of God, so you will be co-heirs with the Son of God when you receive and believe in Him giving you the right to also be called children of God! But please, remember the Living Word of LifeJesus Christ!]   And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. [And Paul again invites us to join him in JOY! SEVEN times, so far, in 1-1/2 chapters, Paul expresses joy with these people where he suffered so terriblyjoy in the Lord, which gives him strength!]

 

Let me close today by reminding us all of three things that stand out in these versesthree questions we might ask ourselvesthree truths which define for us what it means to live as followers of Jesus in stressful, turbulent, dangerous times:

  • If we have any encouragement, comfort, tenderness, compassion from fellow believers, know that it comes from God through Jesus Christ – can you name any time, ever, when someone loved you? – We owe our thanks to God for those expressions of love – we love because God first loved us (I John 4:19)!
  • There’s that whole song about how Jesus put us before Him in line – have you ever been invited to go before someone already in line? Will you offer that grace to someone else this week? – the question isn’t so much WWJD?, it’s really What DID Jesus Already Do? And now What Would He Have Me Do?
  • That early Christian hymn sings of Jesus humbling Himself as “True God of True God” becoming a mere human of the lowest standing, and dying the worst death, for us; and then Paul says that when we grow in our faith our lives will “shine like stars” pointing to Jesus – has anyone asked you where your joy comes from? How you handle life’s struggles? When was the last time someone became a follower of Jesus with you because of what they saw in you? – As the Son of God came (the Christmas Star) and offered Himself to/for us – so we also become Children of God (shining stars), not by what we do, but by how we believe, which shows itself what how we live!

 

May we hear God’s grace and receive His love … right now, and for-ever. Amen.

 

Resources:

Hawthorne, Gerald F.; Word Biblical Commentary: Philippians; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1983; Pp. 63-107.

 

Martin, Ralph P.; Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Philippians; Wm. P. Eerdman’s Pub. Co.; Grand Rapids, MI; 1983; Pp. 90-121.

 

Palmer, Earl; Building a Robust Faith: A Study in Philippians, Sessions 3; Essential Media Services; 199?.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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04/22/2018 = Philippians 1:12-30 = “Being a Good ‘Citizen’ Makes Us ‘Worthy'”

(Click HERE for an audio – it’s not a great audio, but it’s an audio…)

Mark Wheeler

Philippians 1:12-20

“Being a Good ‘Citizen’ Makes Us ‘Worthy’”

04/22/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

A Sunday school teacher was discussing the 10 Commandments with her five and six year olds. After explaining the commandment to “honor” thy Father and thy Mother, she asked, “Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?”

Without missing a beat one little boy (the oldest of a family) answered, “Thou shall not kill.”

 

We are in a series working our way through the New Testament book of Philippians. Acts 16 shows us that this is a city where, if I had been Paul or Silas, the “Thou shall not kill” commandment would have been an important one to remember! Remember that:

  • Paul and Silas go to Philippi because that’s where God directed them
  • The first recorded European baptism takes place in PhilippiLydia
  • Paul and Silas are arrested and imprisoned for their Christian faith
  • While in prison, they pray and sing, and God opens the doors and loosens the shackles
  • The jailer gets baptized
  • Paul and Silas create an opportunity to share the Gospel with the Magistrates as well
  • And in I Thessalonians 2:2 Paul says, “We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition.”

Philippi gave Paul some success stories, but it was not a fun place for him to be.

 

With that, let’s turn to Philippians 1:12-30 (Page 830 in the pew Bibles), this is a long passage to preach from, but I want to read the whole section so we have context, and then concentrate on the 8 verses that are printed in your bulletins …. —-

12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.  

Let’s stop there for a minute: Paul is here reminding his readers of his own circumstances – he was imprisoned in Philippi, for no real reason other than that the Christian faith he proclaimed hurt somebody’s huckster business.

And now, at the time of the writing of this letter, 10 years after his visit in Philippi, he was in prison in Rome for the same kinds of reasons. But what does he say? He says, “It’s all good! God has used my suffering to further Gospel of Jesus Christ to further His purposes – He’s even used those that mockingly preach the Gospel to bring the Good News to people! And, in suffering and out, I rejoice! Again I say, I rejoice!

Now, starting in verse 20, listen to Paul’s statement of faith:

20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.  21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

What does Paul mean when he says, “To me, to live is Christ and to die is gain? What does that mean? St. Patrick says, “Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me; Christ to comfort and restore me; Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger!” That’s what Paul means. There is nothing more important in this life than his relationship, your relationship, our relationship with God through Jesus Christ! That is it! Nothing is more important!

And that’s why “to die is gain!” Do you see that? Betty Stewart learned that a month ago! Rich Wilson knew this a week later! So many of us have loved ones who know this truth! “To live is Christ! And to die is gain!

Look at verse 23 – I meant to put this verse in the bulletin, but I missed it – the NIV says, “What shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body….” – I am torn between the two! Torn apart by these two diametrically opposed situations!

The Greek word Paul uses here for “torn apart” is “syn-echo”. The prefixsyn-” means “together” – we have words like “synagogue” (a place where people come together), “synchronize” (bringing things together in time), “synonym” (two words brought together by the same meaning); and the word “echo” means “to be held”. “Syn-echo” means “held together”, nottorn apart”! The RSV translates this verse by saying, “I am ‘hard-pressed’ between the two.” That’s better. Like a river bank holds the river together; like these walls hold this roof together; Paul says that on the one hand, life is Christ, and on the other hand to die is gain! Paul is not saying that he is being cut in two by a pocket-knifeno, he is being held together by these borders!

And now Paul gives a little pushback toward these Christ-followers in this Roman provincial county seat with this first instruction regarding how they are to apply all of this in the lives. Listen:

27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Whatever happens” – in living or in dying, whatever happens, “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel”! Where he says “conduct yourselves” he uses a political word – a word that describes good citizenship. “Whatever happens, in living or in dyinga sign that you will be saved by God –  conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel.

Paul is telling his readers that as citizens of God’s Kingdom, people who live and die under God’s rule, on earth as it is in heaven, you are worthy of the Gospel. This is not a command to work hard so that you deserve the Gospel Good News of salvation, you cannot earn it by being good enough!

But he is saying that when we live and die in such a way that the Gospel of God’s Agape love shows, others will see itothers will taste the Gospel through your life and death, through our life and death, through my life and death!

 

Let me put this in summary:  I see three things that stand out in these versesthree questions we might ask ourselvesthree truths which define for us what it means to live as followers of Jesus in stressful, turbulent, dangerous times:

  • We can rejoice in God even is bad times, because the Gospel is real and true – are you able to experience joy, even in the midst of pain and fear, your chaos and loss? – This joy is evidence of your faith in God, and His presence offers hope and joy regardless of our hurts and struggles!
  • We are held together – as a community, but also as individuals are held together, we are held together, hard-pressed by living in Christ, and by dying in His presence – do you feel the pressure of wanting to be more spiritually present with God, and also being more physically present here? – as bookends hold a row of books on the shelf, so does our love for God and our love for His place for us here hold us in tension for His good purpose.
  • God’s Kingdom, God’s rule, God’s authority in our living and our dying, makes us “worthy of the Gospel” – do you know that your salvation does not depend on you being good enough?You are made “worthy of the Gospel” simply by being a “citizen in God’s Kingdom”, and by receiving His Son you are not just a citizen, but a child of the King!

 

May we hear God’s grace and receive His love … right now, and for-ever. Amen.

 

Resources:

www.beliefnet.com/ilovejesus/features/15-funny-pastor-jokes-and-stories.aspx?p=10

 

Hawthorne, Gerald F.; Word Biblical Commentary: Philippians; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1983; Pp. 31-63.

 

Martin, Ralph P.; Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Philippians; Wm. P. Eerdman’s Pub. Co.; Grand Rapids, MI; 1983; Pp. 67-90.

 

Palmer, Earl; Building a Robust Faith: A Study in Philippians, Sessions 2-3; Essential Media Services; 199?.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

04/15/2018 = Philippians 1:1-11 = “Caring and Prayer-ing”

Mark Wheeler

Philippians 1:1-11

“Caring and Prayer-ing”

04/15/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

A pastor one time said to a parishioner: “You need to join the Army of the Lord!

This man replied, “I’m already in the Army of the Lord, Pastor.”

The Pastor questioned, “Well, how come I don’t see you except at Christmas and Easter?

The man whispered back, “I’m in the Secret Service.”
Today we begin a new series working our way through the very-non-Secret-Service New Testament book of Philippians. Last week we introduced this series by reading the historical event of Paul and Silas’ visit to the Roman County Seat of Macedonia, Philippi, about 10 years before this letter was written. And in Acts 16 we see a few things happen that impact the writing of this letter. Does anyone remember any of the events we read from Acts 16:

  • Paul and Silas got to Philippi because that’s where God directed them
  • The first recorded European baptism takes place in PhilippiLydia, that’s the photo on the bulletin cover, the Strymon River on the western edge of the city
  • Paul and Silas are arrested and imprisoned for their Christian faith
  • While in prison, they pray and sing, and God opens the doors and loosens the shackles
  • The jailer gets baptized
  • Paul and Silas create an opportunity to share the Gospel with the Magistrates as well
  • One more thing, not from the book of Acts, but from Paul’s First letter to the Christian Church in Thessalonica, chapter 2, Paul himself says, “We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition.”

That’s not all we read, but that’s a good start. Philippi gave Paul some success stories, but it was not a fun place for him to be.

 

With that, let’s turn to Philippians 1:1-11 (Page 830 in the pew Bibles) …. —-

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The greeting salutation identifies the author as Paul, and Paul’s spiritual son who by this time had been the pastor of the Church in the Asia Minor (Turkey) city of Ephesus. And he does not identify himself as their superiornot Paul and Timothy, Bishops, or your Church Founder, or Apostle, but as “servants of Christ Jesus”.

And then he writes, “To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus…”. Who are these “holy people”? They are the ChurchLydia, and her household; the unnamed jailer, and his household; and all those whom these two had gathered in their homes to worship God in the name of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spiritall of them.

Together with the overseers (episcopoi, elders, bishops, church leaders, not unlike our Council of Elders) and deacons (ordained servants, not unlike our Board of Deacons).

In typical letter fashion from one Christian to another, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

What does this say to us? We are all equal under the eyes of God – “priesthood of all believers” is the way Luther and Calvin said it. You are just as valuable and important as the person in front of you or behind you. Lydia is just as important as the jailer (she’s got a name, and he does not!). You are just as valuable as Pastor Kathy or Pastor Mark! Do not ever doubt that!

 

So, after the Greeting, what does Paul say to these Christians who live in Philippi?

Remember how difficult Philippi was for Paul. But, we also saw Lydia invite Paul and Silas to her house while they were visiting her city; and we saw the jailer take Paul and Silas to his house to clean their wounds and feed them; and we can imagine all the ways the other Christians in this city of conflict may have cared for Paul and his crew of Christian evangelists, so Paul writes:

I thank my God every time I remember you. 

And the relationship does not end with care – one of my Facebook friends just posted on Friday that she thinks that praying for someone may be the most loving thing we can do for another person – so Paul writes:

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy (I love that Paul connects “joy” with this town of torturejoy is the sense of light and hope we have in our hearts, despite the desperate circumstances we find ourselves in because we have a confident faith in our Savior Jesus Christ! Does that describe you right now?)  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus(Is Jesus dependable? He who began a good work in you will complete itthat is a reason for joy) It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is where Paul gets specific. The Rev. Dr. Earl Palmer, a retired Presbyterian Pastor, says that this prayer is like the prayer your mom says at dinner when her baby comes home from college for Spring Break – she prays for all the things she’s about to askI pray he’s studying hard (how are your classes going?), that she gets good sleep every night (are you going to bed at a reasonable hour?), that the work study program is paying enough to cover basic expenses (do you need your father to give you some money?). Listen:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, (are you growing in how you love your neighbor?) 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, (how’s your ability to defend against temptation going?) 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God (do you think God is pleased with what He sees?).

 

In summary, I see three things that stand out in this opening textthree questions we might ask ourselvesthree truths which define for us what it means to live as followers of Jesus in stressful, turbulent, dangerous times:

  • The Great Apostle Paul counts himself as a servant of Christ among others who are overseers and deacons and God’s people in Christ Jesus – do you know how valuable YOU are to our Lord and Savior? – this is why Jesus died on that cross, why God gave His one and only Son, and why He calls you His child if you believe in Him!
  • Joy in the midst of strife is available to all who have received Jesus as God’s gift – do YOU HAVE this JOY today? In the midst of your struggle, your fear, your chaos, your loss, do you experience joy in Christ Jesus your Lord? – God offers that grace to you, right now; take a moment and reflect on how deeply you need Him, and ask Him to step in and shine His light of hope and peace right now.
  • Paul offers his prayers for these Philippian followers of Jesus – do you know who is praying for you? Do you know that your Deacons pray for you every month? And when something happens, prayers are shot out from the whole body of believers here? Do you know that prayer carries with it the power of God almighty who hears our every plea, our every cry our every praise?You are prayed for today, so you are never alone!

 

May we hear God’s grace and receive His care … right now, and for-ever. Amen.

 

Resources:

www.beliefnet.com/ilovejesus/features/15-funny-pastor-jokes-and-stories.aspx?p=2#kpvl8fVlWhhEMJKl.99

 

Martin, Ralph P.; Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Philippians; Wm. P. Eerdman’s Pub. Co.; Grand Rapids, MI; 1983; Pp. 1-67.

 

Palmer, Earl; Building a Robust Faith: A Study in Philippians, Session 1; Essential Media Services; 199?.

 

04/08/2018 = Acts 16:6-40 = “Full o’ Philippi”

Mark Wheeler

Acts 16:6-40

“Full o’ Philippi”

04/08/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

I want to start this morning by asking you to turn, in your Bibles, or maybe in the Pew Bibles, to the New Testament history book called Acts, chapter 16 (that’s on page 784 in the Pew Bibles) – that’s actually not the real name of this book, it’s really called (what?) something more like “The Acts of Jesus Christ after His death and resurrection through the work and words of His Apostles”.

The opening line goes like this: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” (A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens) No, wait: “It was a dark and stormy night.” (A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle) First lines are sometimes unforgettable, right?

Acts starts like this: “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day He was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the Apostles He had chosen.Too long for a NY Times Best Seller, right? But did you hear that?

Luke, the author, makes immediate reference to the Gospel According to Luke, and summarizes that book by saying it is about what “Jesus began to do and teach ….”

The implication, it seems, is that this sequel is aboutall that Jesus continues to do and teach through the Holy Spirit and the works and words of the Apostles He had chosen.” (Although, frankly, anyone who has ever read this book knows that it’s really about what the Apostle Peter does and teaches, and then what the new Apostle of Jesus Christ named Paul does and teaches.)

Chapter 16 is a story about Paul.

Your bulletins say Acts 16:6-40, which gives the whole context, but just so you know, I’m going to concentrate on the verses that tell about Paul and Silas’ imprisonment in the Roman city of Philippi. Listen carefully, follow along, because after the reading I’m going to ask some questions, non-rhetorical questions. Are you ready? Acts 16:6-40 …. —-

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

11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.

13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”

37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.”

38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.

 

That was a longer reading than we normally do, but I wanted you to hear the whole Philippian encounter – from why/how Paul went to Philippi all the way to the end of their visit there.

So, here’s where we all get to share some insights or ask some questions as a part of our group encounter with the Gospel message. I will ask some specific questions, and then I’ll follow up with some open-ended questions.

  • Where does this story take place, in what city? [Philippi]
  • What else do we know about this city, Philippi? [Paul wrote an Epistle to the Church here – long after his visit, while he was a prisoner in Rome.]
  • Why does Paul and Silas and their team go to Philippi? [The Holy Spirit, the Lord, blocks their path to “Asia” and “Bithynia”, and then by a vision/dream a man pleads for them, they went to Macedonia, where Philippi is located.]
  • Name one key thing that happens in Philippi:
    • [At the river they met a group of women, and the first recorded European convert/baptism happens – Lydia, and her whole family; Lydia is from Thyatira, a city in the province Paul was forbidden by God to go to. That makes me wonder if, in fact, the Asian person he was supposed to meet was Lydia all along, and had he gone to Mysia (right near Thyatira), they would have missed their divine appointment….
    • There seems to be a lot of description about the “place of prayer”.
    • Also, Paul and Silas are arrested and thrown in prison – notice the photo on the front of today’s bulletin (Victor Avery, from Louisiana, and me) – What happens to them in prison?
      • They worshipsing and praywhy? – because even in suffering, even under dire circumstances, even when life might seem unbearable/impossible, they know that they are under God’s watchful eye, and that God is good, all the time (all the time, God is good).
      • What does their worship lead to?
        • Their potential freedom (their chains fall off, the prison doors are opened)
        • The second recorded European conversion/baptism – the jailer and his whole family!
        • Their actual freedom is granted by the officials!
        • Their chance to bear witness of Christ’s presence and power to the highest authorities when they declare their Roman citizenship!
        • Back to Lydia’s house, where they “encouraged them”.]

 

So, allow me now to ask one (?) last question:

  • What does this Bible story ask us to do?
  • What is the Holy Spirit nudging you to do with this?
  • In the blank spot at the bottom of your bulletin, write down how you apply this faith story to your own faith life.

Who wants to share?

 

This story from Acts 16 is our intro to the next few weeks of sermons from the New Testament Epistle from Paul to the Christian Community in the Pagan city of Philippi. May God bless us 21st Century Spokanites as we hear God’s Word together. Amen.

 

 

 

Resources:

Morgan, G. Campbell; The Acts of the Apostles; Fleming H. Revell Co.; Old Tappan, NJ; 1924; Pp. 377-397.

04/01/2018 = John 11:21-27 = Resurrection Sunday: “Is This All There Is?!”

Click HERE to find the audio version of this message.

Mark Wheeler

John 11:21-27

Resurrection Sunday, 04/01/2018

“Is This All There Is?!”

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

 

So far today, in this “hour” or worship, we have re-enacted the events of Maundy Thursday, when Jesus and His twelve disciples celebrated the Passover, and Jesus instituted what has become Holy Communion. We prayed and sang our way into Good Friday and were present at Jesus’ crucifixion – and we prayed and offered our own sacrificial giving with our tithes and offerings. And now we come to the part of the service where we remember what this day is really all about!

So, get your phones ready, I’m gonna give you some super Tweetable quotes:

  • You may still have a son at home in bed – but God’s Son is Risen from the dead!
  • Your Easter Basket is full – but the tomb is empty!
  • He can put your life back together when it is in pieces – but some of you are still focused on the Reeses!
  • Do you love Jesus? – When Jesus is born I get presents; when Jesus dies I get chocolate! Of course, I love Jesus!

Back in the day, we had a church member whose husband only came to worship on Christmas and Easter; and then one year he didn’t show up for Christmas, and then he didn’t come on Easter, so I asked the church member where her husband was; this is what she told me:Nick stopped coming to church because every time he came he heard the same two sermons over and over again!

 

So … we have now got all the one-liner, same-sermon, topics out of the way … let’s look at a non-Easter Bible passage, with a real-Easter message wrapped inside!

 

Let’s turn to John, chapter 11 (page 760 in the pew Bibles). This is the story where Jesus’ good friend Lazarus dies, because Jesus takes three days to get to him. When He heard that Lazarus was sick and dying, Jesus said, straight out, “this will not end in death” … but then Lazarus died! And Jesus wept! That’s the story. When Jesus finally shows up, Lazarus has been dead for four days! Listen to this brief excerpt, a conversation between Jesus and Lazarus’ sister Martha: John 11:21-27 …. —-

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”  (What do you think she was saying here? Did she expect Lazarus to come back to life?)

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  (Now she’s baiting Him, right? There was a denomination of Jews who believed in an end-times resurrection – that’s what she’s talking about.)

25 Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life.  The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.  Do you believe this?(Altar call….)

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

 

You see how this is not an Easter storyJesus does not resurrect in this story – no one does! Not even Lazarus! Lazarus does come back to life – like the flesh and sinews that grew back on the bones in Ezekiel’s day (Ezekiel 37, “dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones”) – but it’s not a “resurrected” body, it is merely a revived body, a resuscitated body, a body that will, someday, get sick or old or injured, and die again! You see the difference? One offers life eternal; the other offers life for awhile longer.

But you also saw the real Easter message wrapped inside? Jesus says, “I am the resurrection … and the life. If you believe in me, you will live … and whoever believes in me will have life eternal.”

 

There are three Greek words which all might be translated “life” in English.

  • Bios” means, literally, bodily-life – biology life, the life we live in our bodies.
  • Psyche” means, literally, soul-life – psychology life, the life we live in our thinking and feeling.
  • Zoe” means, literally, living-life – zoology life, not just animal life, but life beyond what we do and how we think or feel.

Zoe” is the word Jesus uses here.

And when He says, “I am the resurrection and the Zoe-lifeJesus is identifying Himself with God and offering that life which goes beyond our timeline on planet earth. There’s a special way to say “I am” which is the Greek version of the Old Testament Hebrew word “YHWH” = God’s name. That’s what Jesus does in this passage.

 

I imagine Lazarus coming out of his tomb, alive again, but wondering, “Really? Now what? Is there something more to this than just breathing and moving and reproducing, more than just thinking and feeling?

That’s exactly what Jesus is telling Martha. “Yes!” He says, “There is so much more. I am the Resurrection and the Life. Do you believe this?

 

As C.S. Lewis observed, our longings run deeper and reach further and aspire to things far higher than anything this world can offer. Are we really ready to settle for only what we can gain in this temporal existence, when so much more is offered through a relationship with God through Jesus Christ in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit? That is Jesus’ question to Martha: Do you believe?

 

If there is nothing more than our struggles and hurts and disappointments in this life, or even our victories and successes and joys, if there is nothing more, how much trouble do we really want to put into it? But if what Christ is offering has any value, why would we ever put it aside?

 

Jesus goes to the Cross on Friday, dies for my sins, and yours, and ours, and on Sunday His tomb was empty because He has conquered that separation from God we call death, not by merely resuscitating, but by His resurrectionnew body, new thinking, new Life! And, simply by belief, He offers that eternal treasure to us!

Jesus boldly proclaims that each person’s eternal destiny depends on whether one receives Him by faith as He offers Himself to us in the Gospel or rejects Him to stand before God on the final judgment with only our condemning conscience as counsel.

Jesus comes to the world because “God so loved the world that He gave His one and 0nly Son”, and He offers His gift of life to all, at any age, in every nation, after any life event, to innocent children and to thieves on crosses.

I am the resurrection and the life,” He tells Martha. “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

Then He put the crucial question to Martha, and to each of us: “Do you believe?

 

Resources:

Baugus, Bruce B.; “Is This Life All There Is?”; TableTalk; August 2017; Pp. 28-29.

Crist, John B.; “Pastors on Easter Be Like…”; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XsrJ3687aM .