This Sunday together we will look at a church that drew no ire from Jesus Christ. A church that was praised for their faithful witness by The Lord even when the community in which they were located despised them. In looking at this church, we will be able to see the qualities needed to stand strong under fire. At a critical time in Laurelwood's history and in the culture today, I hope that we can learn from this church so that Laurelwood can continue to be a faithful witness until the end.
This Lord’s Day, I’d like to share with you a topic that the LORD has been schooling me in lately: contentment. Why is it so difficult for us to know when enough is enough? How can the people of God who have His Spirit and all the glorious promises in Christ still reach out for more, believing that something outside will satisfy them? This Sunday, I hope to glean with you the Wisdom of God revealed in the book of Proverbs so that you and I can be people who live fully satisfied, lacking nothing.
Three of the big themes in Scripture are: generosity, gratitude, and grace. All these positive qualities come from our relationship with God. We have to be careful to walk the talk when it comes to generosity. If we do, we find that God shall supply all your needs according to his riches. Notice it says according to. If Jeff Bezos (founder and Executive Chair of Amazon) gives a beggar 10 bucks, he has given out of his riches, but not according to his riches. God promises that when we give to the cause of Christ, we are stacking up not only temporal benefits but also in eternal benefits. In terms of sacrifice, I have found some people on Social Security are giving more to the cause of Christ than those who have six-figure salaries. When we give, God is pleased. Not only is that true, but God promises to meet the needs of generous givers. Needs not greeds. So in Philippians 4 we find generosity, gratitude, and grace at work in the people of God. When Pastor Erik visits I hope he sees those three characteristics which are evident in Laurelwood’s fellowship.
Philippians 4:13 is a great promise properly applied and dangerous if inaccurately applied. The number one issue is whether the person claiming this promise is basing it on a scriptural promise and not upon a whim. A person who understands his relationship with Jesus Christ based upon Romans 5-8, is in a good place to find God's will. Once we have decided something is in God‘s will and we have a biblical promise to back it we are in good shape to take the Philippians 4:13 risk. For example, God wants us to be generous people therefore we step out in faith and act generous with our finances. If we are good stewards of our money and trust God‘s promises with respect to giving we can do exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). With the promises of God‘s word and Philippians 4:13 we can say "I can" more often than "I can’t." Bottom line - there is a risk you must undertake for Christ's sake.
Behind every "no" from God is a greater "yes" to follow. That statement from Sonksen is right, however, you have to learn that perspective by applying the appropriate scripture. It is not automatic. Even the apostle Paul had to learn that the "no" to any more missionary journeys would eventually be a "yes" to the lasting influence of his four prison epistles and probably Philemon and 2 Timothy. Billy Graham said, "You can’t know the future but you know who holds the future." Paul was such a critical figure in the founding of the New Testament churches, we forget that his ministry was spread out over many years. He spent several years on missionary journeys and several years of writing what now makes up much of the New Testament. Both were critical for the health of the church. Paul learned in or out of different circumstances did not mean one was better than the other or one was more satisfying than the other. Too often I, and maybe you, set up certain expectations and when those expectations are not met, we are dissatisfied. This Sunday we will investigate how changing circumstances did not disrupt the apostle Paul’s contentment and hope in Christ.
So what do you think? This is a common question that we ask each other. But when we think and we think about our answer, do we take into account the guidelines God may give us? When Paul said "Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ" (2Corinthians10:5) we may think that is unattainable. Although it is impossible to do it perfectly 100% of the time, scripture (Philippians4:8-9) give us some very practical guidelines. These guidelines are very important when it comes to the social/political landscape. I’m going to take a specific example Sunday morning, no I’m not going to reveal it right now, and apply Paul’s thinking guidelines. The great thing about Paul is that not only did he teach how to live the Christian life, he also was an example of Christian living. We have so many external influences upon our thinking, but we must count on the fact that no thought can remain as a focus of your brain without your conscious permission. So what should we think? How do we think? What should be the visible result of our thinking in our life style? This Sunday will answer those and other questions implicit in Paul’s teaching. See you Sunday.
Much like a roller coaster, our journey of life has ups and downs and twists and turns. It can be exhilarating at times, but also sometimes scary with the anxiousness that accompanies the fear of the unknown. In life, just like when riding a roller coaster, we need peace. We need to find peace to know that it’s going to be okay and we will arrive victorious at the end. The Apostle Paul gives us some very clear direction in Philippians 4 of how to find peace. And it is so much more than just praying. While prayer is certainly one component of finding peace, there is a surprising level of action and responsibility on our part for those who truly want peace. Join us this Sunday as we explore how to biblically find true peace in our lives.
You are already perfect “in Christ “and yet you are maturing in this life. You can’t be perfect in this life, but you can be transforming into the image of Christ. How do we succeed at that transformation? In Philippians 3:15-21, Paul gives us some guidelines to be transformed. We need a good attitude. We need a standard. We need an example. We need to understand who the real enemy is. We need to act like citizens of heaven even while living on earth. The subjects of King Jesus should display the manners of his court while here on earth. Also Remember the enemies of the cross are people for which we should weep. Also this Sunday we will deal with the meaning of the word “perfect “in Philippians 3:15.
When you focus on what you lack, you lose what you have. But when you focus on Christ you gain more than you have. Ironically if you focus on past positive or Christian achievements instead of what you need from Christ, you also lose what you have. But when you focus on Christ, you gain more than you ever had. So let’s focus on Christ this Sunday. His power. His suffering. His resurrection. Such a focus will release us from previous hurts or previous successes so that we might become more and more like Christ. This progress comes from his spirit and growing our relationship with Christ. A backward focus hurts us. A current focus on Christ and what he is leading us to do in the future results in more maturity. Maturity is not focusing upon Christ's power and miracles, but focusing upon our relationship with him. That I may know him will proceed knowing the power of his resurrection. If we put his power before our relationship with Christ, we hinder in our growth in Christ.
This Sunday’s message is about joy. If you get your joy from Christ alone then the devil can never steal your joy. As you pursue your relationship with God, you discount false righteousness and depend upon the righteousness of Christ alone. You should not trust in religious actions. Eventually you will find that many of the religious perks you once thought worthwhile are merely superficial benefits. You throw them away so you can put your full trust and hope in Christ alone. Without Christ you are not good enough for heaven, but Jesus can get you there. You are not good until Jesus makes you good. Properly understood this will bring you joy in worship. Religious activity may bring false confidence and unproductive religious zeal, but when you learn to value Christ alone you find Christ always and in all things. Let’s learn how to value Christ above everything and thus find great joy in doing so.
When we think about people like the apostle Paul and Jesus Christ, we are intimidated by their example. However there are plenty of normal, average, people in the Bible. One of those people is the sidekick of the apostle Paul, Timothy. Turns out Timothy was a great asset to Paul. In spite of some limitations which I will share in the upcoming sermon, Timothy turns out to be one of the most important people in the New Testament. One of Timothy's chief characteristics was he was ready for anything. At a moment's notice the apostle Timothy traveled all over the Roman empire at the bidding of the apostle Paul. But Paul didn't consider Timothy his servant but rather he considered him a coworker. Timothy was ready to be equipped by Paul. Timothy encouraged people. Timothy helped Paul expand Christ's footprint in the Roman empire. This Sunday we will see how normal people can have a great impact if they are ready for anything.
Being selfless and serving others can be a very humbling and sometimes hard thing. It’s not easy to want to volunteer your time and serve when so many things demand our time and attention. Yet we are called numerous times throughout scripture to serve. Philippians 2 is a great passage, not just about serving, but about the joy that is found in serving. Paul gives a remarkable example of what serving can look like, and also encourages all believers to serve without complaining or grumbling, but with joy. This Sunday we will look at that passage and be challenged together to serve with joy.
Most of us recognize some of our behavior/thinking needs to change. It could be as simple as stop eating too much, or a much more complex issue such as wanting to end your life. To change our thinking/behavior with biblical principles will ultimately change our lives for the better, but how do we change our thinking? If our relationship with Christ is vibrant, things will change. To get there, by faith, we need to understand who He is and His authority. We need to recognize we have a responsibility to follow Christ. "Follow me" is Christ's most frequent command in the New Testament. How do we do it? As we look at Philippians 2, we find a balance between our responsibility and God's promises. The benefits we have from our relationship with Christ are life changing. This relationship with Christ allows us to live out our salvation: past, present and future. He has saved us by His cross from the penalty of sin. He saves us from the power of sin if we identify with Him (John 15, Galatians 2:20, Philippians 2:13, Romans 6:11, Romans 5–8). Someday when we go to heaven He will forever save us from the presence of sin. Our responsibility to identify with Christ describes the direction where we're headed this Sunday.
In the USA people have always given some recognition to Jesus Christ. Depending upon the poll taker and the generation, Jesus is a great moral teacher. This is the most common identification people ascribe to Jesus. Although this is true it is not the central identity that the Bible gives to him. What would Jesus do is certainly an important ethical standard, but who Jesus is and why he came is of eternal significance. In Philippians 2:5-8, Christ’s biblical identity is clear. Incarnation and crucifixion are truths we need to follow Christ. The attitudes of selflessness, submission, and sacrifice are essential for Christ-like living. Humility is the preeminent characteristic of God who allows himself to be a servant on our behalf. It was/is his death on the cross that allows us to be forever related to God due to his sacrifice on our behalf.
In Paul’s letters he refers to himself as a servant much more often than he refers to himself as an apostle. Do we treat our fellow Christians as people we need to serve? Let’s take a step towards being more like Christ as we discover principles from God’s word this Sunday.
When the apostle Paul wrote to Philippi, he was not in a good place (physically) yet his letter to this church was filled with optimism. By being less self-centered, he could focus on Christ and the needs of the Philippians. I remember working among nationals in a third world country and how their optimism and joy often exceeded my own. Physical advantages and benefits do not mean you will be happy. The media constantly talks about unhappy rich people, unhappy marriages of rich people and unhappy children of rich people. It’s not riches that make us happy, then what is it? Since Paul was in a difficult situation (jail) and his readers were better off, the attitudes that Paul embraces and advocates that other Christians follow, give us some life principles. We’ve heard it before - keep the main thing the main thing. But our pride wants us to major on the minors because often we have a better understanding/perspective of a particular minor issue that the person we are speaking with doesn’t have. You hear it every day in conversations: one-upmanship. You tell a story and then I tell a better story so it looks like I am smarter, more experienced, more savvy, more powerful, etc.
If we could embrace Paul’s attitudes in Philippians 2:1–4 it would put us on the way to becoming the church that Christ prayed for in John 17. How do we follow Jesus? How do we find a basis for our unity? How do we discover God’s purpose for ourselves and for our church? How do we regard others as more important than ourselves?