06/17/2018 = Genesis 12:1-3 = Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: “Who’s Your Daddy?”

Click HERE if you wanna HEAR this message.)

Mark Wheeler

Genesis 12:1-3

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: “Who’s Your Daddy?”

06/17/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

After Leslie brought home her fiancé to meet her parents, her father invited the young man into his study to find out more about him.

“What are your plans?” he asked Joseph.

“I’m a scholar of the Bible,” Joseph replied.

“Well, that’s admirable,” Leslie’s father replied. “But what will you do to provide a nice house for my daughter?”

“I will study, and God will surely provide for us,” Joseph explained.

“And how will you buy her a nice engagement ring?”

“”I will study hard, and God will provide for us.”

“And children?” asked the father. “How will you support children?”

“Don’t worry, sir, God will provide,” replied the fiancé.

The conversation continued in much the same fashion. After Joseph and Leslie had left, her mother asked her father what he found out.

The father answered, “Well, he has no job and no plans, but the good news is that he thinks I’m God.”

 

Today we begin a new series, for the Summer, where we will be addressing our favorite VBS and Sunday School lessons – so, if you have a favorite Bible lesson, or a story that you’ve always wondered about or had questions about, bring them to me and we’ll get at it sometime this Summer.

Today we start with the story where Abraham is called by God.  You’ll see why we’re starting here in a minute.

 

This is a short, three-verse passage that introduces a 15-chapter story. We’re just going to read these three verses today: Genesis 12:1-3 (pages 8 in the pew Bibles), hear the Word of God …. —-

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation,             and I will bless you;         I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.     I will bless those who bless you,             and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth            
 will be blessed through you.”

 

We are starting this series with this story, not because it’s the first VBS story (it’s notCreation, Adam & Eve, Cain & Abel, Noah and the Flood, all come in the chapters before Genesis 12). But we are starting here because, in some ways, this is where the Gospel story that leads to Jesus really begins.

 

We meet Abram in chapter 11, but just barely, at the end of a genealogy of generations after the Flood. And suddenly, Genesis 12 jumps in with, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go ….’

We know nothing of Abram’s background, or childhood, or even his adult-life (other than the names of his forebears), and suddenlythe Lord had said to Abram …” when he was 75-years old, in an established community, getting ready for a retirement home, with no children to take care of his stuff while he might be away!

“Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you….”  What destination does he log into his Google Maps for a navigation guide?To the land I will show you!”

And what does Abram do? He does not simply consider how inconvenient this directive is, or complain that it’s not what he wants to do, or decide that what would make him happiest is if he could just do what felt good to him – what he does do is do what God says! And the book of Hebrews tells us that Abraham is credited as faithful – he is saved by grace, through faith, in doing what God wants him to do!

 

Let me stop here for just a quick second: what do you think God might be calling you to do? Does it seem bigger than what you can do on your own? That’s a sign that means it might actually be from God. Does it mean you might have to change directions? Or that what makes you “happy” is different? Abram heard God’s voice in a way we may seldom know for sure it is actually God speaking, but when he heard it, he did it.

 

But, before we assume how easy that must’ve been for one of the Old Testament heroes of the faith, please take note that he does not simply obey without hearing some guarantees – and these guarantees are also bigger than life: listen again to verses 2 & 3:

 “I will make you into a great nation,  and I will bless you;  [later this is further detailed as receiving a “land” – this is part of the whole Middle East unrest over to whom the Holy Land really belongs – and as many offspring as there are stars in the sky or grains of sand on the beach (in other words, an uncountable number of offspring) – but, how many children does Abram and Sarai have at the time of this call and promise? (Zero) and how old is Abram and Sarai at this time (75 and 50?too big to do all on their own? Uncomfortable? Happy – probably, but now when does retirement happen?) – and the guarantee continues:

I will make your name great,        and you will be a blessing.     I will bless those who bless you,        and whoever curses you I will curse;          and all peoples on earth              will be blessed through you.”

 

Today is Father’s Day, and we will be praying for fathers and fatherhood is a few minutes, we will have the chance to express the greatest joy of being a father and the greatest challenges, to confess where we goof it all up as fathers and celebrate where our offspring make up for our goof-ups in ways we could never imagine – THAT’s the story of Abraham!

In VBS, when I was a kid, we leaned the song “Father Abraham … had many sons … many sons had Father Abraham … and I am one of them … and so are you … so let’s just praise the Lord … right arm! …” – this is the point of the cartoon on the front of our bulletins today… [He’s bragging about how many children he has ….]

Is Abraham really MY father? And yours? He is the Father of what became known as God’s Chosen People, the Jewish nation, the Hebrews, the Israelites (named after Abraham’s grandson Jacob who after wrestling with an angel became known as Israel), but I’m not Jewish – is he MY father? Am I numbered among his offspring? Are you?

 

That’s the last line of this promise – that’s where the Gospel message of salvation through grace by faith in Jesus Christ commences)!

Both in Matthew and Luke (the only Gospels that contain Jesus’ genealogies) show us how Jesus is a direct descendent  of Abraham– through both His mother Mary and His human father Joseph!

And, therefore, to use Paul’s words, “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law (Jewish  by blood or marriage or conversion to Judaism, people of the Old Testament covenant) but also to those who have the faith of Abraham (who are of the all peoples on earth          who will be blessed through Abraham’s ultimate offspring, the final fulfillment of this promise, God’s SonJesus who was given because God so loved the world!). He is the father of us all.” (Romans 4:16)

 

God still calls His chosen people to BE His chosen peoplehow is God calling you today? Will you be able to say, “O God, You are my God, and I will ever praise You. I will seek You in the morning; I will learn to walk in Your ways. Step by step You’ll lead me. And I will follow You all of my days.”?

 

Because in Christ, we can all sing, “Father Abraham had many sons; many sons had Father Abraham. And I am one of them; and so are you. So let’s just praise the Lord.”

 

Thank You, our heavenly Father, for the gift of our earthly fathers, for their love and protection and providence, and perhaps for how they helped in bringing us closer to You (whether purposefully or unwittingly). And thank You, especially, for calling us Your children and calling us into Your Kingdom purposes, even when our own hopes and dreams need some transformation. O God, You are our God, and we will ever praise You! Amen.

 

Resources:

Advertisements

06/10/2018 = Philippians 1:1-2, 4:21-23 = “Servants, Saints, Overseers, Siblings”

(Clicking HERE will bring you an audio file of this message.)

Mark Wheeler

Philippians 1:1-2; 4:21-23

“Servants, Saints, Overseers, Siblings”

06/10/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

I am going to start this sermon a little differently than I normally do – no personal story, no joke, no anecdote. Today I feel  led to start with us just being honest with each other about our struggles. Some weeks in ministry are fun and easy,  nothing but victories and laughter … and then other weeks are like this past week – there were no tragic accidents, no ER visits, no arrests or anything like that; but the number of people who called or stopped in or who just happened to be in the same room as me who had heart aches and trials and unforeseeable difficulties was astounding.

Honestly, just raise your hand if this past week contained at least one event you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. [Auto accidentcar died while out of town – pet died – really illhousehold utilities break down – unexpected bills with no money – and if it wasn’t us it was a loved one…]  (Yeah, see that? And maybe that’s no different from any other week, but this week I was privileged to hear about several of these – and some of them were my own!)

Thank you. I wanted to start there for two reasons1) so we could each see the fellowship we are in; no one is immune to difficult moments; but no one is required to go through it alone. 2) because this is exactly the way of life for the people in Philippi some 2,000 years ago when the Apostle Paul wrote this letter to them – that means it is also for usGod has preserved this Word in His Holy Word for you and me to find His Gospel blessing.

 

Well, today we’re at the very end of our sermon series in the New Testament book of Philippians. These two months have renewed my love for this little book as I came to realize what it says, and how important it is. I hope this has been even half as true for you as it has been for me.

 

Before we read today’s short passage, we get a pop quiz. Are you ready?

  • 10 years earlier, did Paul and Silas go to Philippi because this is where they always wanted to go? [NO! this was against their own plans, but it is where God directed them]
  • Name one “bad thing” that happened to Paul and Silas while in Philippi:[They are arrested and imprisoned for their Christian faith]
  • From what you have heard these past two months, was Philippi a fun place for Paul to have visited? [No – I Thessalonians 2 tells us how un-fun Philippi was!]
  • OK – anything else you learned about Philippi?
    • First and second recorded European baptisms (Lydia and the jailor)
    • While in prison, they pray and sing, and God opens the doors and loosens the shackles

 

OK, one last question: Over the last 7 or 8 weeks, who has a favorite verse from Philippians, or a favorite lesson, or a favorite sermon point or illustration you can share with us? [Put others before you in line – find a way to “agree in the Lord” – we can live through all things, with everything and with nothing, in Christ who strengthens me.]

 

And now, listen again to the opening words of this letter, and to the final closing words, and we’ll try to catch some of the blessing that’s there for us: Philippians 1:1-2, 4:21-23 (pages 831-2 in the pew Bibles), listen to the Word of God …. —-

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….

 

OK, so some quick observations:

Who wrote this letter? [Paul and Timothy – SERVANTS of Christ Jesus.]

 

To whom was this letter written? [To ALL “God’s holy people” in Christ Jesus – the Greek is “pantoi hagioi” which literally means to ALL the SAINTS – that’s everyone who believes in Jesus (specifically every one in Philippi who believes in Jesus – but these SERVANTS {is there a “greater saint” in the New Testament than St. Paul? He calls himself a SERVANT} writes to ALL the SAINTS!)]

 

But wait, there’s more! To whom else was this addressed? [the OVERSEERS and deacons – the SERVANTS who started this church, the Apostle Paul and Timothy, refer to their spiritual children as OVERSEERSbishops and elders and deacons!]

 

And the opening words of greeting include Paul’s typical blessing of Grace and peace from God OUR Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! I want to emphasize the “OUR” in that blessing – God OUR Father. Paul does not emphasize it, but I want to because it connects directly to the closing words in this letter! Let’s go there now.

 

4 21 Greet all God’s people in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me send greetings. 22 All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.

23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

 

OK, some more quick observations:

Paul writes this letter to ALL the SAINTS in Philippi, and he gives them a directive in his closing salutation: “Greet ALL God’s people in Christ Jesus.” That’s what the NIV says. A slightly better translation would say, “Greet EVERY SAINT (panta hagion) in Christ Jesus)”. The reason I think that’s an important distinction is that Paul is singling out each and every believer, making sure not a single believer is missed; and the word SAINT is used, not just “God’s people” but EVERY SAINT – from the greatest in the church to the least, from the oldest to the youngest, from the OVERSEERS on the Church Council to the babies in the nursery!

If this is an instruction to the Philippian Christians, maybe it’s also meant as command to 21st Century Christians in Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church, as well.

 

Who else does he say sends their greetings? [“The brothers and sisters who are with” him. Some Bible translations just says “brothers”, or “brethren”, but the word adelphoi is not gender specific – it means brothers and sisters, SIBLINGS in Christ. Remember up in  the opening blessing Paul brings Grace and peace of God OUR Father and the Lord Jesus Christ? This is where he very subtly brings that to a conclusionGod is OUR Father because in Christ Jesus we are all SIBLINGS in the Lord! Treat each other as such!

 

All the SAINTS here send their greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.” This is a brief identifier of where Paul writes this letter from – he was held prisoner, according the book of Acts, in a cell probably located in a place where the Emperor himself, Caesar Nero, could keep his eye on him. “Those who belong to Caesar’s household” are probably the guards and servants under Caesar, some of whom had become Christians because of Paul’s influence in their lives!

 

And one more blessing benediction: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” Amen.

 

Treat each other as if you were a SERVANT!

Love each other because the other is a SAINT!

Be OVERSEERS and deacons in each other’s lives, help each other grow in Christ Jesus!

Because we are SIBLINGS in Christ Jesus, seek to be God’s people together!

 

Thank You, dear Lord, for the gift of experiencing Your love, which sets us free to love others. Thank You for Your Son who came to SERVE, not be served. You call us SAINTS, not because we are so perfectly good or “holy”, but because You have called us as Your children and You are God OUR Father. And thank You for the SERVANT-SAINT responsibility of OVERSEEing each other’s Christ-centered spiritual growth, as SIBLINGS in Your household! Today we receive Your perfect grace, and choose to grow together in Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Resources:

Hawthorne, Gerald F.; Word Biblical Commentary: Philippians; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1983; Pp. 212-216.

 

Martin, Ralph P.; Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Philippians; Wm. P. Eerdman’s Pub. Co.; Grand Rapids, MI; 1983; Pp. 184-186.

 

Palmer, Earl; Building a Robust Faith: A Study in Philippians, Sessions 1 & 6; Essential Media Services; 1995.

06/03/2018 = Philippians 4:10-20 = “How to Do ‘Everything’ (and still be humble)”

(Click HERE and you’ll find an AUDIO of this message.)

Mark Wheeler

Philippians 4:10-20

“How to Do ‘Everything’ (and Still Be Humble)”

06/03/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

We’re very near the end of our sermon series working our way through the New Testament book of Philippians. And I have to say, the more I read this short Epistle, the more I realize what it says, and how important it is. I hope this has been even half as good for you as it has been for me.

 

Remember that Paul and a crew of travel partners first visited Philippi 10 years earlier, but what we learn from  Acts 16 and I Thessalonians 2 is that Philippi 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.

 

After the opening greetings, Paul gives some comments about how everyone is of equal value in God’s eyes – that Christ died just as much for the criminal on the cross right next to Him as He did for your loved one; just as much for you as for Your most admired Christian celebrity; just as much for the sinner on the street or your least favorite neighbor as He did for you!

Then Paul tells these Christ-followers in Philippi, that since that egalitarian perspective is true, we ought to serve each other rather than expect to be served! Paul identifies himself as a “servant of the Lord Jesus” as he addresses the overseers and bishops and church elders here. Then, Paul says that even Christ, who is God of Gods, true God of true God, humbled Himself by becoming a human, a slave, who would die as a convicted-but-innocent man on our behalf; therefore, we, too, should humble ourselves and offer ourselves on behalf of others! Furthermore, he says, in the midst of your struggles, your difficulties, your losses, your trials … REJOICE in the Lord! Then he almost closes the letter with a harsh criticism of human pride vs. God’s grace.

And last week we saw Paul’s PS – where he called out two pillars in the church who were arguing about something, and Paul says, “Agree in the Lord”; and then he tells the rest of the church to remember that Christ died for these two as well, so lift them up.

 

And, finally, as a second PS, Paul writes today’s 11 versesPhilippians 4:10-20 (page 832 in the pew Bibles), listen to the Word of God …. —-

10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. [Remember that he’s writing this letter from prison in Rome – remember also, this church had sent one of their own, Epaphroditus, to visit him and see to his needs.] 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. [I love what Paul says here – “I am content when I live abased and when in abundance; I can be happy eating gruel and top ramen and with a table full of lobster and T-bone; I can drive a Mercedes Benz quite happily, but I’m just as happy with a beat-up old Chevy pick-up truck.” He says. “I have learned the secret (– and you can bet he’s gonna give us that secret) of living in abundance and in hunger, in the swings of life (from manic to depressive). Paul’s secret was best described by a 17th century mathematician and physicist, who was also a Christian theologian in the French Roman Catholic Church, Blaise Pascal. His sister published a book of “The Ponces (Thoughts) of Pascal”, listen to this one: “Do great things as though they were small, because of Jesus Christ; and do small things as though they were great, because of Jesus Christ!” We’ll come back to this in a minute – but listen to how closely Pascal’s quote actually comes to Paul’s counsel from last week to “let your ‘gentleness’ be known, for our Lord is nearby”.]

And then comes, perhaps, our favorite verse:

 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. [Please pay attention to the context of this verse: Paul is not saying, “I can fly off the Monroe Street Bridge through Christ.” Please don’t prove your faith by doing that. Neither is he saying, “I can be a competitive Marathon racer in Christ Jesus who strengthens me.” This is his “secret of being content in whatever circumstances life throws at me”. I have heard this sentence translated as “I can take in stride all things though Him (Christ) who gives me strength.” Because Christ gives me strength, I can take in stride the report from the oncologist; because of Jesus Christ, I am not startled by the call from the bank; because of Jesus Christ, I will not become someone entirely different because of this winning lottery ticket; I can still praise God, I can still hold my head up, I can still keep my faith and understanding, regardless of life’s circumstances; I can do all things through Him who gives me strength!”]

14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. [Of all the churches Paul planted, of all the new Christian Fellowships founded by Paul, only Philippi sent him help when he was in trouble…] 17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account.  [Here comes a beautiful “Thank you” note, listen:] 18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus [here’s their own church member who came to Paul’s aid in Rome whom Paul is sending back to them because of his own health concerns] the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. [that was a pure, unsolicited, “thank you”. A “Thank you” with no hooks. There was no, “Thank you, that was really great, but next time could you … maybe next time add some chocolate”; not, “Thanks for everything, but next time send a healthier missionary to help me.” He just says, “I am full; I have received ‘full payment’, thank you.”] Followed by a blessing:

19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

20 To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Now, let’s return, for a minute, back to verses 12 and 13, “I am content in plenty and in want; and I can do, I can take in stride, all things though Christ who gives me strength.”

Remember Pascal’s quote: “Do great things as though they were small, because of Jesus Christ; and do small things as though they were great, because of Jesus Christ!

Look at all the giant things we face in this life – most of which we realize we can do nothing aboutNorth Korea, systems of health care, global economy, human trafficking, orphans in Kenya, etc, etc. What can I do? Right? My life doesn’t countnot when it comes to such magnificent world concerns. I am UN-able to do anything!

Do great things as though they were small, because of Jesus Christ….” These are all “great things”, do them as if they were a handle-able sizepray for North Korea, vote on health care systems, shop local, pray for young girls on the street, sponsor a child in Kenya or contribute a small amount on a monthly basis; love your neighbors as you love yourself. In Christ, we can and do make a difference!

 

But it’s not just the big things that overwhelm us, right, it’s also all the little things in our lives that pile up, all the thousands of details that clutter our lives, that get in the way of the big things. Several years ago, our house went from a septic system to county sewer system, which meant we needed to pay for our own pipeline to the sewer line in the street – and our money was very tight. So, we hired a company to come and shut off and fill our septic tank, and connect us to a pipeline that went around the house out to the street’s county pipe. A month after it was all paid for, we had trouble with the back-flow valve right outside our back door – so we called the company who hooked us up. Guess what – out of business. So, we called somebody else who said the issue was that the valve, whose job it is to keep the sewage from ever flowing backwards back into the basement of our house, was not installed on the level, and it would be (I forget how much, but at the time way more than we could afford) to get it fixed. So, they did a temporary fix, and said it should only be a problem if there something wrong at the top of the hill (we live at the bottom) and all the neighbors’ sewage also was to flow down into our basement. So … guess where my mind goes every time the downstairs toilet is flushed, or we get a heavy rain…. Is this the time? Right? I’m supposed to be thinking about saving souls, preparing sermons, praying for your loved ones, and here I am listening to the toilet flush! In the grand scheme of life, that’s a small thing, but it occupies my mind way too much.

Do small things as though they were great, because of Jesus Christ.” Paul says, “I can take in stride the swings of life – poverty to plenty, loss to luxury, pain and fear and disease to confidence and good health – I can take all things in stride through Him who strengthens me!”

Big things need to stand in their true place alongside Jesus Christ! When they stand alongside Jesus Christ, I can be “gentle”, relaxed, unstartled (remember Paul’s, “Let all people know your gentlenessthis is why Paul said that last week – the Lord is nearby!”

How do we handle the huge problems that lurk behind every dark corner, every flush of the downstairs toilet, every potential doctor visit? C.S. Lewis fans would say, “Ride on Aslan’s back.” Walk with Jesus! Why would we be afraid when we are guarded by the One who rules the universe?! Right? Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

Handle the huge things as if they were smallracism, hate, fear, start at home! Jesus had 12 apostles, not thousands; He had three inner-circle apostles, not all 12!

 

And “Do small things as though they were great because of Jesus Christ!” Take care of what seems insignificant, as if it really mattered – at the restaurant, treat your wait staff with utmost respect – and tip them generously! How do we teach generosity to our children? They watch how we treat others! I have watched a young family in our church leave $5 tips at fast food restaurants! Generosity will be well bred in that household!

 

If you want a list for your Sermon Notes, Paul’s secret to being content has five steps:

  • Praydon’t be anxious, pray, and the God of peace will guard your hearts
  • Whatever is good – think on these things – focus on the things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, praiseworthy – meditate on these things
  • Put them into practicedo Live like you believe what you say you believe!
  • Fellowship – find or start a small group for support – we cannot do it alone. We need each other!
  • Experience the grace of Godlook for it, expect it!. Paul says, “My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus!

Have you ever gone to a church potluck, and saw a few items on the table that you knew would not last – so what do you do? We all do this right? We try to get in line as early as possible, and we reach ahead for that specific dish – we skip the buffet table and we go straight to the dessert table. Right? Donna brought only one cherry cheese cake – so I’ll skip right past the celery and carrots – I’m not gonna be the fool who doesn’t get a piece of that pie!

But suppose Donna knows how much I love that cherry cheese deliciousness, and when she sees me come in she says, “Hey Mark, I know how much you love that cheese cake, so I made a whole extra pie. It’s in the upstairs fridge for you. Make sure and take it home with you….” So now what do I do at the potluck? – I’ll go straight to the celery sticks!

That’s the grace that God offers us! We know we are taken care of! We do not need to grasp for what we want, we can let others get ahead of us in line! God has a whole Donna-Stone-cherry-cheese-cake just for us!

 

Thank You, dear Lord, for the gift of experiencing Your love, which sets us free to love others. Thank You for providing all that we need – for even knowing that we need – and with that, help us to know Your love more. You have put us before You in line, You have offered Your grace to overflowing, may we now put others before us in line in the same way, showering those around us with Your grace! Guard our hearts and minds, and give us Your confidence as we live today like we believe what we say we believe, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Resources:

Hawthorne, Gerald F.; Word Biblical Commentary: Philippians; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1983; Pp. 193-211.

 

Martin, Ralph P.; Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Philippians; Wm. P. Eerdman’s Pub. Co.; Grand Rapids, MI; 1983; Pp. 174-184.

 

Palmer, Earl; Building a Robust Faith: A Study in Philippians, Sessions 5-6; Essential Media Services; 1995.

 

05/27/2018 = Philippians 4:2-9 = “Re-Joice … again, Re-Joice … in the Lord”

(Click HERE, again I say Click HERE …)

Mark Wheeler

Philippians 4:2-9

“Re-Joice … again, Re-Joice … in the Lord”

Trinity Sunday, 05/27/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

[Open with the joke about the man on a deserted island with three buildings, and why I’m not going to start with that joke ….]

 

We’re near the end of our sermon series working our way through the New Testament book of Philippians. In fact, what we read last week sounded like it could have been the end of this letter – but … it was not! Almost like Paul thought of one more thing that needed to be addressed, he adds this last page to his epistle. This last page starts with a word about a crisis in the Philippian Church – an argument between two women in the congregation – a dispute between two church pillars.

 

Remember that Paul and a crew of travel partners first visited Philippi 10 years earlier, but what we learn from  Acts 16 and I Thessalonians 2 is that Philippi 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.

 

After the opening greetings, Paul gives some comments about how everyone is of equal value in God’s eyes – that Christ died just as much for the criminal on the cross right next to Him as He did for Rich Wilson; just as much for you as for Your most admired Christian spokesperson, Billy Graham or Ravi Zacharias; just as much for the sinner on the street or your least favorite neighbor as He did for you!

Then Paul tells these Christ-followers in Philippi, that since that egalitarian perspective is true, we ought to serve each other rather than expect to be served! Paul identifies himself as a “servant of the Lord Jesus” as he addresses the overseers and bishops and church elders here. Then, Paul says that even Christ, who is God of Gods, true God of true God, humbled Himself by becoming a human, a slave, who would die as a convicted-but-innocent man on our behalf; therefore, we, too, should humble ourselves and offer ourselves on behalf of others! Furthermore, he says, in the midst of your struggles, your difficulties, your losses, your trials … REJOICE in the Lord! Then he almost closes the letter with a harsh criticism of human pride vs. God’s grace.

But wait – there’s this one last thing – listen – Philippians 4:2-9 (page 832 in the pew Bibles) …. —-

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. [So, after a wonderful 3 pages of Pauline theology and Christian doctrine – he suddenly announces out-loud an argument that everyone in the church knows about but no one dares mention – and he names names! Euodia and Syntyche apparently are in the middle of some kind of cantankerous debate – we’re not told any details, and it really doesn’t matter – probably fighting about what color carpet the Fellowship Hall should have, or what brand of coffee should be served after worship in the foyer – but did you hear what Paul said? If this was every church’s, and every church member’s, approach to cases of church discipline we’d be in a far better place – he tells Euodia and Syntyche to “be of the same mind in the Lord!”! He did not say, agree about which Bible translation is the best, or about whether the Pastor should wear a Geneva Robe or coveralls, he says, “Agree in the Lord!” … Now keep listening:]

Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. [Paul calls these two women outnames them outright, and then immediately calls the church to gather around them and help them “be in the Lord”! The word he uses for “help” is “syllambano”, “lift them up”, work together to encourage their faith in the Lord – and then he reminds everyone how these women, along with someone named Clement, too – another person caught in the fray? – how they have been on the same team together! – along with all the un-named people who maybe have gotten involved in the uproar over hymns versus praise songs, the “rest of my co-workers” … “whose names are in the book of life”. A colleague of mine illustrates this conflict and how to treat it with this story – he says, “Suppose you’re a manager of a company but you have two employees who are constantly arguing over silly things, but their arguing disrupts everyone’s work day. Then, one day a Rolls Royce pulls into the parking lot, and Mr. Rolls steps out of the back seat and enters the office – and you learn that Mr. Rolls owns the company! So you treat him with extra honor and respect – and then he pulls out his wallet and shows you some pictures of two nephews who will inherit the company after Mr. Rolls retires – and you instantly recognize the boys in Mr. Rolls’ wallet as your two jokers who are always causing trouble. Instantly, you change your attitude about them and work hard to help the whole business surround them and support them, because one day, soon, they will be your boss!”My colleague says, “That’s what Paul is saying hereEuodia and Syntyche and Clement and the rest have their photos in God’s wallet!They, along with you, will inherit the Kingdomserve them and honor them! Do you see how he comes back to what he has said in previous Philippian sermons?Their names are in the book of life! Euodia’s name is in the book of life!! Honor her in the Lord!]

Then, verse 4 is many people’s favorite verse – we’ll be singing it before we leave today:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! [So, we all know by now that Paul always centers his teaching, his faith, his joy … “in the Lord”! We have seen that in just the opening first 20 verses there were SEVEN places where he talks about JOY! So, why here, why does he give the doublet commandment here? Actually, it’s almost like FOUR times, right? JOY, and REjoice, and again another JOY and REjoice! Why do these Philippians need that much instruction to find joy in the Lord? Here’s what I think – these Christians were in no mood to rejoice at all! Their dirty laundry just got publicly aired out! Euodia and Syntyche’s squabble is now named out loud … in a letter by St. Paul! And not only that, but these two little cantankerous old ladies just got their namesin the Bible! Right? There are two reasons your name gets in the Bible – either because you are someone super special in the Kingdom story, Mary, Martha, Elizabeth, Joseph, James, Peter – or you have to have done something really bad, Herod, Judas, Euodia, and Syntyche! (But, again my colleague, honorably retired Pastor Earl Palmer, says that we got even with these twono one names their baby after Euodia or Syntyche!)]

Paul says,

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. [He could have named any Christian character trait, any fruit of the Spirit – he chosegentleness”! In the midst of your congregational storm, the bruhaha over who didn’t put the coffee pot away clean, let everyone see your “gentleness”, because “the Lord is near” – whether he means that Jesus is coming back soon or that Jesus lives in your hearts and minds and lives, the Lord is nearby, so remain gentle, be calm, in the midst of your melee, have Shalom…. Then he explains with a couple lists of attitudes and behaviors:]  

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. [Remember a couple weeks ago we read where Paul says, “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling”, and we commented that the Greek word order makes that command much clearer – “fear and tremble, the salvation, yours, work it out!” Here he says, what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, praiseworthythink! And DO IT!

And the blessing is that the God of peace will be with you!

 

Let me close today by offering a few thoughts and conclusions from this passage, a few ideals about what it means to live as followers of Jesus in stressful, turbulent, dangerous times:

  • Who are your Euodias and Syntyches? We all have someone with whom we just disagree, or who gets on our nerves, who is that for you? Pray to find a way to “agree in the Lord”!When you encounter that person, imagine her photo in God’s wallet, and recognize that she is a child of God, his name is in the book of life! Find a way to say THANK YOU for how even your Syntyche is ultimately on the same team as you in the Kingdom of God!
  • Name the thing in your life that makes you want to grumble! In the middle of that, can you rejoice in the Lord!? When you want to gripe or complain, sing your favorite hymn or praise song – and watch as rejoicing in the Lord actually gives you joy in the Lord!
  • Choose three specific items from Paul’s list in the closing paragraph of this passage, pick any three things – and think on them, and do them! Observe an area in your life that needs more God, reflect on that listed virtue that requires attention, discuss it with a friend, make a plan to address it, ask your friend to hold you accountable, and then do it! Think on and do these things! And the God of peace will be with you!

 

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. 175-192.

 

Martin, Ralph P.; Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Philippians; Wm. P. Eerdman’s Pub. Co.; Grand Rapids, MI; 1983; Pp. 165-173.

 

Palmer, Earl; Building a Robust Faith: A Study in Philippians, Session 5; Essential Media Services; 1995.

 

05/20/2018 = Philippians 3:12-4:1 = “Is There More?”

(Click HERE if you’d like to LISTEN to this message.)

Mark Wheeler

Philippians 3:12-4:1

“Is There More?”

Pentecost, 05/20/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Our good friend Kermit was talking to God this week. “God, how long is a million years?”

God answers, “To me, it’s about a minute.”

Kermit then asks, “God, how much is a million dollars?”

“To me, it’s about a penny.”

“God, may I have one of your pennies?”

“Sure, but it’ll take me a minute.”

 

Today is Pentecost Sunday – our church’s 111th birthday – the day we commemorate God’s Holy Spirit Gift to God’s Chosen people in a brand new and completely, abundantly, empowering way.

Remember that story in Acts 2? On that day there was the sound of a mighty wind and there were tongues of fire and there was an experience of communication no one understands (the Apostles spoke and everyone from all over the Roman Empire heard them in their own local native languages, and 3,000 Jewish men and women came to faith in Jesus Christ!

God, can I have a piece of that Holy Spirit experience?

          Sure, but it’ll happen in My time – and under My conditions.

 

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 Philippi 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.

 

Today’s reading, starting in chapter 3, verse 12 (on page 831 in the pew Bibles), describes something about the More that God promises – and that we should all want. Listen to Philippians 3:12-4:1 …. —-

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

 

After the opening greetings, Paul gives some comments about how everyone is of equal value in God’s eyes – that Christ died just as much for the criminal on the cross right next to Him as He did for Betty Stewart or Janie Sorensen; just as much for you as for Your most admired Christian spokesperson, Dietrich Bonhoeffer or C.S. Lewis; just as much for the sinner on the street or your least favorite neighbor as He did for you!

Then Paul tells these Christ-followers in Philippi, that since that egalitarian perspective is true, we ought to serve each other rather than expect to be served! Paul identifies himself as a “servant of the Lord Jesus” as he addresses the overseers and bishops and church elders here. Then, Paul says that even Christ, who is God of Gods, true God of true God, humbled Himself by becoming a human, a slave, who would die as a convicted-but-innocent man on our behalf; therefore, we, too, should humble ourselves and offer ourselves on behalf of others!

And last week we read where he says, Furthermore – in the midst of your struggles, your difficulties, your losses, your trials … REJOICE in the Lord!

 

This pericope commences with Paul’s confession that even he still fails at this ideal of Christian-living – but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: … 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

 

Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, gives the same instruction as what Paul states for his own progression. Matthew 6:33 (my life verse during my college days, and as a life-long backdrop still today): “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (the things we need to live) will be given to you as well.

That for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” is the same asthe goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” is the same asthe Kingdom of God and His righteousness”.

When that becomes our life-purpose, seeking first the Kingdom of God, the “more” that we want becomes made available. Let me say that differently, when we seek God’s Kingdom and righteousness above all else, God wants to give us what we are seeking!

Paul’s point in this passage, and Jesus’ point in His Sermon, is that there is, indeed, more to life than what we currently have – but we have become desperate for the wrong things. We seek first things like safety, health, provision, a job, freedom from diabetes or cancer or arthritis, freedom from captivity or debt or fear. All of those are good things to want, right? Nothing wrong with hoping for a pain-free day or a day when our car payment is finished or our credit card is paid-off.

But, our tendency is to use God as a means to our own ends! We are like the Israelites in Egypt who prayed for God to get them out of Egypt – but their goal wasn’t to get to know God; God was simply their means to get their freedom!

Moses used the Exodus as a means to get to know God!

When God took too long on the mountain, what did the Israelites do? They made their own god, a golden cow, and they worshiped the cow! But Moses waited on God! God was the goal!

Something interesting happens when we make intimacy with the Holy Spirit our number one goal! It numbs our desperation! It does not remove the problem, it just makes the problem not the most important thing in our life! Yes, we may have trouble with our finances; yes, we might have a terrible pain in our body; yes, there might be a broken relationship that has disrupted our other relationships – but guess what … God is bigger than our finances and our physical and emotional aches and pains …. There will be a day, when we are buried 6 feet under, when the financial stress will be gone, when the aches and hurts will disappear, when even our lost loved ones will no longer pain our souls … but we will have an eternity either with our loving God, or without Him.

Seek first His Kingdom, and we will not be desperate for temporal satisfaction. When we seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, God is way happy to grant that to us! Because it is for our best good!

 

So Paul says, “Let us live up to what we have already attained!”

The Philippian Christians, and dare I say most of us (and I am certainly including myself), fail to “live up to what we have already attained in Christ Jesus.” We live up to a level that says, “that’s probably good enough, I don’t really want to try any harder”, and then we start to slip into an attitude that places our comfort ahead of God’s Kingdom and righteousness.

Then we pray for God to bless us, to heal us, to provide for us (none of which is bad, until it leads us to) using God as a means to our own ends, our own goals, our own purposes.

 

In 3:19 Paul writes that “many live as enemies of the cross of Christ”, those who use Christ to get what they want as well as those who identify themselves as direct opposition to the Gospel.

When am I an enemy of the cross of Christ? Whenever I think I have to be good enough to deserve salvation, to deserve God’s love; whenever I stop praising God and start only asking Him for deliverance; whenever God becomes only my security and stops being my heavenly Father (and that’s always MY doing, never God’s).

When our understanding of God is nothing more than our ultimate Magic Genie, our Fix-it Man, Paul says, ourdestiny is destruction”.

 

But as growing followers of Jesus Christ, as those who have received and who believe in the Word made flesh, “our citizenship is in heaven … so stand firm in the Lord!

Our “heavenly citizenship” does not mean that our time on earth is just waiting room time. God gives us these years on earth to grow in faith, to experience His presence and power, to know what Holy Spirit baptism means, and to share all of this with the world around us!

Yesterday a FB friend of mine, a seminary friend from 30+ years ago, commented on a post I offered praising the work of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance program which was on site at Friday’s Texas school shooting by Friday afternoon. His post was: “25% less prayer and 150% more action”. And then we got into a minor FB debate over the value and importance of prayer, and how for Christians one ought to enhance the other, not ever replace it – prayer does not replace feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc.; but neither should the ministries of actually doing the good work replace the need for prayer!

 

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…. Therefore, stand firm in the Lord (stay centered, remain focused, be grounded in the Lord), dear friends!

 

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:

  • Even Paul had not reached a level of Christian faith where he thought he was done growing – When do I use God as a means to my goals rather than as the whole goal of this life? – when we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, all our other concerns take less of our energy and focus, because God is bigger than our problems!
  • Living as “enemies of the cross of Christ” happens every time we focus on our own problems and seek God only as our solution, rather than seeking God as our primary life-giver – Do my prayers focus only on my concerns? Or do I offer God praise even in the hard times? – When we are only looking for miracles, we miss the One who offers miracles; when we claim the power of prayer without claiming the power of the One to whom we pray; we nearly fall into the trap of making a golden calf.
  • We are citizens of heaven, of God’s Kingdom, and as such God offers to transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body, by the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives . – Do I “stand firm in the Lord”, filled with His Holy Spirit, right now? Do I even want to? – Dear friends, God invites you in!

 

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. 148-191.

 

Martin, Ralph P.; Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Philippians; Wm. P. Eerdman’s Pub. Co.; Grand Rapids, MI; 1983; Pp. 151-165.

 

Palmer, Earl; Building a Robust Faith: A Study in Philippians, Session 4; Essential Media Services; 199?.

 

 

 

 

 

05/13/2018 = Philippians 3:1-11 = “Confidence in Faith or Confidence in Flesh?”

(Click HERE to listen to this message)

Mark Wheeler

Philippians 3:1-11

“Confidence in Faith, or Confidence in Flesh”

05/13/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Have you ever tried to tackle something that was just beyond your expertise and ability? That’s a thing about Moms– – every day, right?, you face new challenges that you have no idea how to answer. But my Mom never showed any fear and never wavered in a sea of no-self-confidence.

I wonder if she followed the philosophy of Jeff Stilson. Jeff Stilson says:

I don’t have any sympathy for people who suffer from low self-esteem. You don’t have to love yourself.  You just need to hate a lot of other people, then grade yourself on a curve. Hey, I might suck, but I don’t suck as bad as Hitler!

 

OK, if you know me at all, you know I don’t mean that … at all. But confidence is a weird thing like that. I am filled with self-doubt, and sometimes that self-doubt costs me more money than it should have; sometimes it costs me opportunities I might have taken; sometimes it costs me in relationships that could have been mine.

Here’s two quick examples: a couple weeks ago, when we learned that Andrew was coming home on a medi-evac situation, we knew we needed to fix the main bathroom’s showerhead so he could bathe in that bathtub – he’s on crutches and his right leg is non-weight-bearing for several weeks. But I know that the showerhead neck needs replacing, not just the showerhead – so I call our plumber, Freedom Plumbing, he’s a great guy. And I watch him simply unscrew the old neck and screw in a new one! I was too scared to do that simple task, and now almost too embarrassed to admit that in front of you – so an $8 piece cost me $8 + a plumber’s house call! My plumbing skills may suck, but I don’t suck as bad as Hitler!

When I first laid eyes on Jennifer, I knew she was way out of my league, so I never even spoke to her, let alone, ask her out. It took like TWO YEARS before I gained the courage to ask her out – and that was an act of God – ask me about that later….. I may have sucked as a suave teenaged sex symbol, but I didn’t suck as bad as Hitler!

 

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 Philippi 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.

 

Today’s reading, the chapter 3, verses 1-11 (starting on page 831 in the pew Bibles), describe how to build confidence. Listen to Philippians 3:1-11 …. —-

1  Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christand be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

 

This pericope begins with a “Furthermore”, so let’s take a quick second to see what “more” is “further”:

After the opening greetings, Paul gives some comments about how everyone is of equal value in God’s eyes – that Christ died just as much for the criminal on the cross right next to Him as He did for Mother Teresa or Billy Graham; just as much for you as for Your most admired Christian spokesperson, Corrie ten Boom or Bill Gaither; just as much for the sinner on the street or your least favorite neighbor as He did for you!

Then Paul tells these Christ-followers in Philippi, that since that egalitarian perspective is true, we ought to serve each other rather than expect to be served! Paul identifies himself as a “servant of the Lord Jesus” as he addresses the overseers and bishops and church elders here. Then, Paul says that even Christ, who is God of Gods, true God of true God, humbled Himself by becoming a human, a slave, who would die as a convicted-but-innocent man on our behalf; therefore, we, too, should humble ourselves and offer ourselves on behalf of others!

And last week we read where he says, “Take my spiritual son Timothy, for example; and my brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier, Epaphroditus! I hope to send them to you, as my equals – what they say is what I say – because they genuinely love you! And Epaphroditus, your apostle. Honor him, and people like him. … Furthermore ….

Furthermore, what? Furthermore, work hard? Furthermore, prove your value?Furthermore – in the midst of your struggles, your difficulties, your losses, your trials (what?) … REJOICE in the Lord!

 

Notice what Paul does here? He makes sure that his readers, and that includes you and me, remain centered on Christ! This is what makes Paul a good teacher! He remains centered on Christ, and he keeps his readers centered on Christ! He does not say, “Don’t worry, be happy.” I mean, that’s fine – but totally unrealistic.

Don’t worry, be happy – when the bank is foreclosing on my house? Don’t worry, be happy – when the doctor says that there’s some bad news? Don’t worry, be happy – when my husband tells me he’s leaving? When my daughter quits school? When my world is crumbling in all around me?

NoRejoice in the Lord! Stay focused on Christ! Joy is in that relationship – forever!

 

Paul addresses some of the local Philippian theological debates between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians – a little racism, ethnicism, elitism. And his argument concludes with – “They got nothing on me – but none of that matters – because (middle of verse 8) there is nothing better than knowing CHRIST!

 

The NIV Bible titles this section “No Confidence in the Flesh” – because Paul uses the Jewish rite of circumcision, which Jews used to claim their superiority over the Gentiles, as worth nothing compared with knowing Christ!

The word “confidence”, which Paul uses to say that the believers who put their confidence in their fleshly surgery are simply wrong, the word literally means, “with faith!” “Con-” is the prefix which means “with”, “fides” means “faith.”

 

Rejoice in the Lordthe surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lordthat I may gain Christ and be found in himthat which is through faith in Christrighteousness that comes from God on the basis of faithI want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

 

Paul reminds us that when Christ is our center we have the ability to Rejoice in the Lord, regardless of life’s circumstances – and that is a super power the world would love to have. Preachers and church leaders who concentrate on peripheral things miss out on the most influential aspect of the Christian faith! Do not get sidetracked with anything less than what God offers us though Jesus Christ!

 

Thank you, Mom, for giving this gift to me!

 

Let me close today by reminding us all of one central thing that stands out in these versesone question we might ask ourselvesone truth which defines for us what it means to live as followers of Jesus in stressful, turbulent, dangerous times:

Paul wants his readers to always remain centered on Jesus Christ, because that focus gives us confident joy even in the darkest moments.

Do you know Christ like this? Is He that around which everything else revolves? Do you want the ability to rejoice in the Lord … today?

When we discover the truth of God’s perfect grace, like the earth revolves around the sun without even thinking about it, we will find Christ as our source of strength and light always.

 

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. 121-148.

 

Martin, Ralph P.; Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Philippians; Wm. P. Eerdman’s Pub. Co.; Grand Rapids, MI; 1983; Pp. 134-151.

 

Palmer, Earl; Building a Robust Faith: A Study in Philippians, Sessions 4; Essential Media Services; 199?.

 

05/06/2018 = Philippians 2:19-30 = “Leading and Leaning/Parenting and Partnering”

(Click HERE for this message, and listen for the invitation to “Live in the Lord”.

Mark Wheeler

Philippians 2:19-30

“Leading and Leaning/Parenting and Partnering”

05/06/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

The boss called one of his employees into the office. “Rob,” he said, “you’ve been with the company for a year now. You started off in the mail room, one week later you were promoted to a sales position, and one month after that you were promoted to district manager of the sales department. Just four short months later, you were promoted to vice-president. Now, it’s time for me to retire, and I want you to take over the company. What do you say to that?”

“Thanks, Dad,” said the employee.

 

Yup! Being a Parent and being a Partner are two very different things – but every once in awhile we can see them happen together, and when we do it is an amazingly beautiful thing.

 

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 Philippi 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.

 

Today’s reading, the second half of chapter two (Page 831 in the pew Bibles), starts with a paragraph about Paul’s spiritual son Timothy and then closes with a paragraph about a partner in the ministry named Epaphroditus. Listen to Philippians 2:19-30 …. —-

19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel23 I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me.24 And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.

That’s the paragraph about Timothy. Let’s take a minute and examine what Paul might be saying here:

First, let’s remember the context this paragraph is a part of. After the opening greetings, Paul gives some comments about how everyone is of equal value in God’s eyes – that Christ died just as much for the criminal on the cross right next to Him as He did for Mother Teresa or Billy Graham; just as much for you as for Your most admired Christian spokesperson, Corrie ten Boom or Bill Gaither; just as much for the sinner on the street or your least favorite neighbor as He did for you!

Then Paul tells these Christ-followers in Philippi, that since that egalitarian perspective is true, we ought to treat each other as servants rather than as those who expect to be served! Paul identifies himself as a “servant of the Lord Jesus” as he addresses the overseers and bishops and church elders here. And in last week’s reading, Paul says that even Christ, who is God of Gods, true God of true God, humbled Himself by becoming a human, a slave, who would die as a convicted-but-innocent man on behalf of us; therefore, we, too, should humble ourselves and offer ourselves on behalf of others!

And here, in this paragraph, he says, “Take my spiritual son Timothy, for example! I hope to send him to you, as my equal – what he says is what I say – because he genuinely loves you, he has proved himself to you before; Timothy exemplifies what I’m talking about when I quote that good old country Gospel song in verses 6-11!

You, too,” Paul is urging, “because you have received God’s amazing grace should be overflowing with grace to offer others – remember last week’s “putting others before you in line” story!”

And, by the way, as many of you now know, Andrew made it home from Kyrgyzstan after his surgery on his femoral head, but he will be another few months of non-weight-bearing, so I will be home more and in the office less for a while, and your Deacons will be doing the visits. I trust them fully and thank them immensely for their servant-hearts!

 

And now, let’s look at the next paragraph, about Epaphroditus:

25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. 29 So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, 30 because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.

So, I learned this week that, apparently, Epaphroditus was a pretty common name in the ancient world of Greek-speaking Roman Empire. I mean, it was no “Jack” or “Dick” or “Ken”, but it was pretty common. If you look carefully you can see the name of a Greek goddess in this masculine nameAphroditegoddess of love; with the epiprefix, Epaphroditus’s name means something like “even a better lover than Aphrodite”!

One might wonder why the Christian communities didn’t try to change that Greek-goddess-name into something more in line with Christ-likeness right? There are plenty of name changes in the Bible, usually following some sort faith-event. Why not Epaphroditus? I found one commentator who thinks the reason is that being a Christian is more than simply having a Christian name! Being a Christian is having a Christian life! Like you’ve heard before, “Let’s live like we believe what we say we believe!

Epaphroditus does that. Paul goes out of his way to call this man “my brother, my co-worker, my fellow soldier”. Paul says, “If you think I’m a Christian, think that equally of Epaphroditus, equal to me in every way!

And Paul even goes further: “My brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, and yourmessenger’ (the word Paul uses here is Apostolosyourapostle’), and minister/deacon (the word means ‘care-giver’).”

Since I can’t come right now, cuz I’m in prison in Rome; and since Timothy can’t come yet, cuz he’s dealing with some stuff in in Caesarea, let me send to you the guy you sent to take care of me here in Rome – he’s one of your own, he’s from Philippi, and he deeply misses you, and he’s been literally deathly ill here – in fact (this is what Bible scholars think), Epaphroditus is gonna deliver this letter to you! Welcome him in the Lord with great joy!

And, honor everybody who lives like they believe what they say they believe like Epaphroditus lives like he believes what he says he believes!

 

Today we are invited to join together at our Lord’s Tableequal in God’s eyes, siblings in Christ, co-workers in His Kingdom, fellow soldiers in God’s army.

 

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:

  • Christ came to serve, not to be served, and we are called to be Christlike – Whom will you go out of your way to serve this week? – We have been offered grace beyond measure!
  • Paul says to welcome Epaphroditus with joy and honor people like him – Whom will you give special honor to this week, and how will you show that honor? – Epaphroditus lived like he believed what he said he believed and Paul tells us that if we, also, live like we believe what we say we believe, we, too will deserve honor from each other.
  • The Gospel is demonstrated in this passage by Paul’s repeated use of the line “in the Lord Jesus”. – Do you know life “in the Lord Jesus” today? – God invites you in!

 

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. 107-121.

 

Martin, Ralph P.; Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Philippians; Wm. P. Eerdman’s Pub. Co.; Grand Rapids, MI; 1983; Pp. 121-134.

 

Palmer, Earl; Building a Robust Faith: A Study in Philippians, Sessions 4; Essential Media Services; 199?.