Follow Along

Get new posts by email:

Sunday, March 29, 2020

LEFC Guide to Worship at Home - March 29, 2020

LEFC Guide to Worship at Home

March 29, 2020

$          Introduction
$          Home Worship Guide
$          More Links to Helpful Resources
           
Introduction                                                       

Dear Church Family,

How did your worship at home go last week? I hope you had a good experience worshiping together as a household and that the Lord is using this time of disruption and deprivation to take us all deeper in our faith and bring us closer together as Christian families.

This week’s Guide to Worship at Home has two new steps for your family to take together:

- Worship in Unity. Christians throughout church history have declared their faith together in essential Christian doctrine through beautiful summaries of biblical teaching often called “creeds” and “confessions.” This week we will recite the Apostles’ Creed which we regularly sing together in songs on Sunday mornings. This short overview of the Christian faith is one of the earliest statements of unified Christian belief. Reciting an ancient creed or a portion of a confession in worship may feel a bit foreign to you, or it may remind you of experiences you’ve had in other churches. The point is not to just recite it lifelessly but to proclaim from the heart our unity in the faith with the whole church throughout the world and throughout the ages.

- Family Fellowship Meeting on Zoom. We all miss each other’s faces and voices, so we are experimenting with an online meet-up Sunday at 11am. The details for connecting are below. I’m sure we will have some technical difficulties, and it’s no substitute for being together in person, but I think it’s worth trying. Let me know what you think of this experience.

Parents can now download the Kids Worship Bulletin for this week and print it out for your children to complete during worship. It comes with a little Bible study you can lead your kids through. I have also sprinkled in a number of additional options for families to use as you customize your worship plan for your household. Let me know what you found especially helpful and/or frustrating and any suggestions you have for improving these worship guides for future use.

Just like last week, I have recorded a short sermon and posted it on YouTube and Facebook. We’re back to following Jesus through the Gospel of Matthew. I’ll be checking the “comments” on the video for us to discuss the message afterwards together.

What time are you going to gather your household this weekend to worship the Lord Jesus Christ?

In His Grip,

- Pastor Matt

P.S. Don’t forget to sing! The Bible says, “Make a joyful noise.” It doesn’t say it has to be pretty, too. The Lord loves to hear His people praise His name.


Home Worship Guide

                       
1. Call to Worship

Have someone read Psalm 150.

**Option: Read around the circle having each family member who can read take one verse.

Have someone pray and ask God to bless your time of worship at home.


2. Worship in Singing

As a household sing “Come, ThouFount of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson (1758)

**Option: Younger families especially could instead/also sing “Jesus Christ Is the Same.
  

3. Worship in Unity

Recite the Apostle’s Creed together in unison:

“I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Christian Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.”


4. Worship in Thanksgiving

The Bible says, “Give thanks IN all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Remind each other that “Every day may not be good, but there is good in every day.”

Have each member of the household share at least one thing they are thankful for this week.

**Option: Put what your family is thankful for in the “comment” section of the video!

**Option: Agree together as a family on one thing for which you are all thankful and appoint a member to share that praise item with the LEFC Zoom Fellowship Meeting at 11am.


5. Worship in Bible Memorization

As a family recite our “Hide the Word” verse for this Spring: Matthew 28:18-20.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

**Option: Write this out on a whiteboard, chalkboard or big piece of paper. Erase or cover key words and try to say it without them.

           
6. Worship in Prayer

Take prayer requests and pray for each other.

Read the prayer guide together and pray for the rest of the church family and the requests listed.


7. Worship in the Word

Watch or read Pastor Matt’s short message: "If You Are The Son of God."

Some families (especially with teens) will want to watch the message on their own and then have a Bible study and discussion together during this time.


8. Worship in Singing

Sing “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” (Stuart Townend, 1995)


9. Worship All Week

Have someone pray a prayer of commissioning for your family as you end this time of gathered worship and face a week of new opportunities and new challenges to serve the Lord, the church, and the world in His Name.

                                                           
10. Participate in LEFC Family Fellowship Meeting on Zoom.

We are experimenting with a video-conference online meeting Sunday at 11:00am.

- See one another’s faces and hear each other’s voices.
- Share your family’s top thanksgiving item for this week.
- Pray for one another live and online.


More Links to Helpful Resources:



                                                                                               



                                   


Saturday, March 28, 2020

“If You Are The Son of God” [Matt's Messages]

“If You Are The Son of God”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
LEFC Message for Worship at Home
March 29, 2020 :: Matthew 27:38-50

I wish we could be together as we study this passage as we have for the last 76 messages in this series. But we, in the providence of God, are not together this weekend, so I am recording this video message which I hope will help us to understand and apply Matthew 27 to our lives.

At least we get to return to the Gospel of Matthew!

Matthew is a theological biography of the most compelling Person who ever lived, the Lord Jesus Christ.

We’ve been following Jesus through the Gospel of Matthew, and for the last several months, have been following Jesus through that last crucial holy week of His passion.

And we’ve reached the last day of that last week.

Now we’ve reached the last hours.

And you know what I’ve been saying again and again as we study Matthew 26 and 27?

“It just gets worse.”

When we were together in Matthew last, Jesus was crucified.

He has been betrayed, arrested, bound, deserted, tried, denied, beaten, spitted upon, slapped, toyed with, condemned, tried again by the Romans, shouted at, scourged, stripped, mocked, struck, and now crucified.

Hung on a cross. Nailed up on a beam of wood so that He either pulls Himself up in excruciating pain or asphyxiates when He can’t hold Himself up any longer.

Again and again and again.

And it just gets worse.

How could it get worse?

I’ll tell you. On top of being crucified, Jesus continues to be insulted and mocked while He hangs there!

And the ones mocking Him echo the words of Satan from His temptation in the wilderness.

They call into question Jesus’ very identity.

And they mock the very idea of His true identity!

Let me read to you Matthew 27:38 through 40.

“Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!’”

Do you hear that last taunt?

“If You Are The Son of God.”

That’s exactly what Satan said to Jesus in the wilderness.

And again we’ve come back to the question that has guided our study of Matthew all along:

“Who Is Jesus?”

How many times have we said, “Keep your eye on the ball?”

Matthew wants to show us who Jesus really is.

We know Who Jesus really is.

But these people sure don’t believe it.

Jesus is crucified between two criminals. They might have been rebels against Rome.

In the words of Isaiah 53, Jesus was “numbered with the transgressors” (v.12).

And the bystanders, the passersby hurl insults at Him shaking their heads.

Can you imagine?

How shameful that was?

I’m sure they didn’t realize it, but they were fulfilling Psalm 22, verse 7.

Which says, “All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads...”

Jesus is fulfilling the Old Testament before their eyes.

And it’s painful.

I have three points about what it means for Jesus to truly be the Son of God according to this passage of holy Scripture.

And here’s the first one.

If You Truly Are the Son of God:

#1. YOU DON’T SAVE YOURSELF.

These mockers have it all wrong.

Which is ironic.

They say, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!”

Well, NOT saving Himself IS destroying the temple (of His body!) and in three days, it will be rebuilt.

But if He were to save Himself now–And He could have! He had the power. He had the authority. If He were to save Himself now, however–we would have been lost forever.

They are calling His sonship into question.

But He is living out His divine sonship right before their eyes.

This is what the Son of God looks like.

Hanging on the Cross.

Things are not always as they seem.

Sometimes when things seem at their worst, and they can be truly awful, there are all kind of wonderful things actually going on.

Great good can come from great evil and suffering.

As I record this video, we are in the midst of a global health crisis, and we are being asked to isolate ourselves from others.

And it’s hard. And the news has dreadful things in it.

And the suffering is real.

But it’s not the whole story.

God has good purposes for all of the suffering that His children go through.

He will work it all to the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

God will use this time of trial with all of its suffering to bring Himself glory and His people. Just watch!

We know that because He was doing it on this terrible day.

This day was the worst day ever.

And what do we call it?

Good Friday!

The worst crime ever committed was the crucifixion of the Son of God.

And it was also the greatest gift!

Because Jesus did not save Himself.

I’m sure He was tempted.

He could still have called down 72,000 angels to rescue Him.

But He didn’t.

Because He knew who He was.

He knew what His Father said at His baptism.

He knew what His Father said at His transfiguration.

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

And He knew what He had to do.

Because He had said to His Father, “Your will be done.”

It wasn’t just the bystanders who mocked Him in this way. It was the religious leaders who had been His enemies for several years. Look at verse 41.

“In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.”

As if.

They would never believe Him.

They had refused to believe Him from Day One.

These are the men Jesus called “Fakes and Snakes.”

These are the ones who condemned Him that morning in a mockery of a trial.

And now they are mocking His claims to save people.

“What a joke!” they say. V.43

“He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, 'I am the Son of God.'’”

Yes, He is!

And He is saving people right here, right now by NOT saving Himself.

And they, unwittingly, fulfill another verses from Psalm 22. Verse 8.

The mockers say, “He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”

But that’s the opposite of what is true.

There will be no rescue for Jesus BECAUSE He is the Son of God.

And He is doing what only the Son of God can do.

And it just gets worse.

Look at verse 44.

“In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.”

Even the criminals are abusing Jesus!

And it just gets worse.

It’s going to keep getting worse, until it’s all over.

Verse 45.

“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.”

That’s from about noon to three.

The brightest time of the day becomes the darkest.

This is supernatural.

This is a judgment.

This is like during the plagues in Egypt.

This is no mere mortal Who is dying here.

A three hour time of darkness rests on the land because Jesus is hanging there.

And it just gets worse.

Verse 46.

“About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’– which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”

This is what it means to be the Son of God.

If You Truly Are The Son of God:

#2. YOU ARE FORSAKEN BY YOUR GOD.

Jesus very intentionally is quoting and fulfilling Psalm 22.

That’s the first verse of Psalm 22 in Hebrew and Aramaic.

“‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’”

Jesus was living that question.

He was feeling that question. Experiencing all of the agony of that question.

He knew the answer. It wasn’t an intellectual question that He was ignorant of the answer to.

But He was experiencing the question.

He was feeling all that it means to be abandoned by God.

All of the alienation.

All of agony.

He was not spared any of it.

Not only did He not save Himself.

He opened Himself up to the wrath of God.

“Our sin upon His shoulders.”

This is how bad sin is, friends.

This is what it took for us to be saved.

This is what Jesus underwent for you and for me.

It puts our “little” suffering into perspective, doesn’t it?

Without pretending that our suffering isn’t real or doesn’t hurt.

The worst thing that ever will happen to us is nothing compared to what Jesus went through for us.

Jesus was forsaken so that we will never be forsaken.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

There is a great mystery here. Because Jesus chose this.

And, theologically, we know that the Trinity cannot be broken.

But the Son of God, in His humanity, experienced the wrath of God for our sins.

The Bible says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

That’s why.

That’s why He said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Because that’s what He was going through.

Because He is the Son of God.

Have you put your faith in Him?

This is what it took for us to be saved.

And it’s free for anyone who will repent and believe.

One more.

If You (Truly) Are the Son of God:

#3. YOU ARE SOVEREIGN TO VERY END.

We’ve seen again and again that Jesus is ultimately and mysteriously still in charge of all of this.

None of this awfulness has taken Him by surprise.

In fact, in some mysterious way, it has all been according to His plan.

That doesn’t take away the blame from anyone, not Judas, not the Jews, not Pilate, not any of us.

But He has not given up His sovereignty either.

Jesus is royal and regal even as He suffers.

His cross is a throne!

He has been lifted up.

And He is reigning even as He is dying.

The people heard Him yell out, “Eloi, Eloi,” and they didn’t understand Him. V.47

“When some of those standing there heard this, they said, ‘He's calling Elijah.’  Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, ‘Now leave him alone. Let's see if Elijah comes to save him.’”

Mocking Him to the end.

And here it is the end.

And Jesus knows it and chooses it.

We have killed Him, but He is sovereign the very end. V.50

“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.”

He laid down His life for us.

I have good news for you.

This right here is as bad as it gets.

From here on it gets better.

Next week, Lord-willing, we’ll see how.

Right now, I want to leave you with a question.

How will you apply the truth of this passage to your life this week?

Because Jesus is the Son of God:

He didn’t save Himself, but gave Himself up for us all.
He was forsaken on the Cross by His God.
And He was sovereign to His very last breath.

What difference does that make for you today?

Praise Jesus that He IS the Son of God!




***

Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones
49. If Your Brother Sins Against You
50. The Lord of Marriage
51. Drop Everything
52. First and Last
53. The Suffering Serving Son of Man
54. Shouting for the Son of David
55. Expecting Fruit
56. Come to the Wedding Banquet
57. Whose Image?
58. Acing the Test
59. What Do You Think About the Christ?
60. How Not To be A Leader
61. Malignant Religion
62. Fakes and Snakes
63. Birth Pains
64. The Coming of the Son of Man
65. No One Knows
66. Keep Watch
67. Well Done!
68. When Did We See You?
69. A Beautiful Thing
70. "The Passover With My Disciples"
71. "This Very Night"
72. "It Must Happen in this Way"
73. "He Is Worthy"
74. Disowned and Condemned
75. Jesus Stood Before the Governor

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

"Don’t Be Anxious… Pray" by Ed Welch

These are anxious times. The unknown is scary whether anxiety is something you struggle with on a daily basis or only on occasions that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable for everyone.

Most of us have at least a little anxiety right now thanks to COVID-19. But, God’s word has a lot to say about feeling fearful and anxious. The following is an excerpt from A Small Book for the Anxious Heart by Edward T. Welch, a small but powerful devotional book to remind us of the encouraging, beautiful words in Scripture to anxious people. 

***

Don’t Be Anxious… Pray
By Ed Welch

This sounds too simple.

Do not be anxious about anything, but   in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 NIV)

Don’t be anxious . . . pray.

But don’t brush this off as trite and simplistic. Every other way of dealing with fears and anxieties relies on some technology, medicine, and/or self-talk. But we all know—even children know—that our anxieties need the right person, and you know that person.

Have you tried this when you are anxious? Have you ever answered your anxious thoughts with Scripture-led prayer? It turns out that this seemingly simple and available-to-all teaching is one of the hidden and underused treasures of Scripture. It only sounds trite if you haven’t practiced it.

It is simple, but, like the simple instruction to “love one another,” it takes a lifetime to master.

-    We learn to speak honestly to the Lord about our fears and anxieties.
-    We grow in making simple requests, such as “help.”
-    We talk to God using his words in the Bible—merging our requests with what he says is true and what we know the Lord delights in giving us.
-    We learn to wrap all this together with thanksgiving, remembering what Jesus has done, what he is doing now, and what he will do when we see him face-to-face.

Those who consistently respond to anxiety with prayer are the sages in our midst. Too often we brush off this passage and look for something more complicated. Meanwhile, this wonderfully compact teaching stands waiting for us.

The last thirty years of my life have been spent shortening the time lag between the appearance of anxiety and the onset of prayer. That gap has gone from two days down to one, and then down to an hour. Occasionally, prayer comes even before my anxiety is full-blown. When that happens, I marvel at the power of God that equips me to do what is counterintuitive. Left to myself I spin out doomsday scenarios, hoping that my frenetic mind will stumble into some answers. But when I go to my heavenly Father and tell him my worries, when I remember his words to me (an ever-present help in trouble), and when I thank him for his care, the peace of Christ does begin to rule my heart and mind. It’s a miracle that still takes me by surprise.

For this passage to come alive to you, you have to know that God is near. Paul mentions that right before he tells the Philippians to replace anxiety with prayer (Philippians 4:5). Do you have an image for that yet? For the ancient Israelites, God was just on the other side of a curtain, residing in his Holy of Holies. Now, Immanuel—God-with-us—is in us and we are in him.

Are you persuaded that he wants you to talk to him? This is what happens in the best of relationships. We speak of what is heavy on our hearts, and the other person never minimizes our struggle. Although the Lord knows your thoughts and feelings before you do, he values you actually putting those thoughts and feelings into words and into prayer.

Welcome to the deep wisdom of God that is available to us through Jesus.

***

Excerpted from A Small Book for the Anxious Heart by Ed Welch. © 2019 by New Growth Press.

Edward T. Welch, MDiv, PhD, is a licensed psychologist and faculty member at CCEF. He has been counseling for more than thirty-five years and has written extensively on the topics of depression, fear, and addictions.

***

Want to read more? You can get a copy of A Small Book for the Anxious Heart on the New Growth Press website. They are still on a regular shipping schedule. It is available in print and eBook formats.

Visit https://newgrowthpress.com/resources-for-anxiety for more resources on anxiety, worry and fear.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

LEFC Guide to Worship at Home - March 22, 2020

LEFC Guide to Worship at Home


$          Home Worship Guide
$          Church Family News
$          More Help for Parents

Introduction

Dear Church Family,

I wish we were meeting together tomorrow morning in person, but we’re going to have to wait.

I think this deprivation, however, is a good opportunity for each of our families to worship in our own homes. The early church often met in homes, and thousands of churches across the world still do every week! I hope that each of our families make the most of this opportunity and help revive this ancient practice even after this public health crisis has passed.

Worship at home is not just for families with small children. Every household no matter what size or what age can take part. And it can be more interactive. The smaller the group, the easier it is! I’m hoping that each family hears the voice of each family member tomorrow.

We’ve created a simple 8 step guide for home worship. Feel free to modify it for your household: add, subtract, use the good websites or Christian TV/Radio to supplement. There are lots of resources out there, and I’m glad to recommend some great ones.

I’ve given a few ideas and pointers for each step in the plan.

I’ve also recorded a short message and posted it on YouTube and Facebook that gets us all on the same page. Let’s join each other in the “comments section” as our virtual foyer to discuss the message afterwards!

We’re going to have to do it this way again next Sunday, as well, so please give us your suggestions of what we can do improve this resource and to help your family worship our Lord.

Pick a time now to gather your household to worship the Lord Jesus Christ!

In His Grip,

- Pastor Matt

P.S. Don’t be afraid to sing! Nobody is listening but you and your God (and He gave you that voice!). If you need help, look up the songs on YouTube or Spotify, but don’t just listen; sing!

Home Worship Guide

           
1. Call to Worship

            Have someone read Psalm 95:1-7.

            Have someone pray and ask God to bless your time of worship at home.

2. Worship in Singing

            As a household sing, “O Worship the King” by Robert Grant (1883).

            O worship the King all-glorious above,
            O gratefully sing his power and his love:
            our shield and defender, the Ancient of Days,
            pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.

            O tell of his might and sing of his grace,
            whose robe is the light, whose canopy space.
            His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
            and dark is his path on the wings of the storm.

            Your bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
            It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
            it streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
            and sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.

            Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
            in you do we trust, nor find you to fail.
            Your mercies, how tender, how firm to the end,
            our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend!

            O measureless Might, unchangeable Love,
            whom angels delight to worship above!
            Your ransomed creation, with glory ablaze,
            in true adoration shall sing to your praise!
            

3. Worship in Thanksgiving

The Bible says, “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Have each member of the household share at least one thing they are thankful for this week.

            Put what your family is thankful for in the “comment” section of the video!

4. Worship in Bible Memorization

            As a family recite our “Hide the Word” verse for this Spring: Matthew 28:18-20.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
           
5. Worship in Prayer

            Take prayer requests and pray for each other.

Read the prayer guide together and pray for the rest of the church family and the requests listed.

6. Worship in the Word

Watch or read Pastor Matt’s short message “I Always Pray with Joy” from Philippians 1:1-11. Follow along in your Bible.

Some families (especially with teens) will want to watch the message on their own and then have a Bible study and discussion together during this time.

In the message, Pastor Matt encouraged us to brainstorm wise ways to love others as a family this week. “How can we be a blessing?”

            Message Notes

            1. _______________________ In the Gospel.

            2. _______________________ of God’s Work.

            3. _______________________ for Smart Love.


  
7. Worship in Singing

Sing “In ChristAlone” (Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, 2002)
             

8. Sent Out to Serve
Have someone pray for your family as you end this time of gathered worship and look into a week of opportunities and challenges to serve the Lord, the church, and the world in His Name.



More Help for Parents



Church at Home by Minno                            


Saturday, March 21, 2020

"I Always Pray with Joy" [Matt's Messages]

“I Always Pray with Joy”
LEFC Message for Worship at Home
March 22, 2020 :: Philippians 1:1-11

I took a poll when I was making calls this week and asked whether folks would more appreciate the normalcy of continuing our study of the Gospel of Matthew this weekend or a special message that speaks directly to what we are all experiencing right now.

And most of you asked for a special message of encouragement and guidance during these disrupted days. So that’s what I decided to do.

But next week, Lord-willing (and it’s important to say that, isn’t?! Lord-willing next week), I want us to return to the Gospel of Matthew see what our Lord endured for our salvation.

But right now, I want us to consider Philippians chapter 1.

Philippians is a letter sent from the Apostle Paul to the church family at the Greek city of Philippi.

Paul knew these people personally. In fact, this church had supported him in his missionary work.

And Paul was writing them back to give them a missionary update and to encourage them in the gospel and to give them guidance for some of the problems they were experiencing.

I’m going to read the whole thing (vv.1-11) to you, but I want to tell you the title of this message first so that you can listen for it as I read the passage to you.

I’ve entitled this message, “I Always Pray With Joy.”

Doesn’t that sound good?

Paul says that he always prays with joy, and then he gives some really good reasons for rejoicing.

And I think that we all need that today.

I have three things I want to emphasize in this message and apply to our church family scattered throughout the area, in our own homes.

And all three are reasons to rejoice.

Reasons to always pray with joy.

Especially the first two.

Here’s the first one.

I always pray with joy because of our:

#1. PARTNERSHIP IN THE GOSPEL.

Philippians is a very relational book. Paul is leaning heavily into relationships.

Look again at verse 1.

“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons [the whole church and the church leadership]:

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

Boy, we need that today, don’t we?

Grace and peace!

Grace and peace!

Paul blesses them with a blessing from the gitgo.

And then he blesses them with a thanksgiving. V.3

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy...”

That’s a lot of ALL isn’t it?

Every time.
All my prayers.
All of you.
Always joy.

Paul was constantly thankful and joyful for these precious people.

Why? V.5

“...because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now...”

Now, that word “partnership” might sound kind of “stuffy” for us today.

The Greek word is “koinonia,” and it’s often translated, “fellowship.”

But that is kind of “fuzzy” for us today.

When we say “fellowship,” we often think coffee and donuts together.

But the word is stronger than that.

It’s maybe a bit more like being on the same team or “team-ness.”

How do you like for a new word–teamness.

Or if that sounds too much about sports.

It’s more like “in it togetherness.”

We are in this together.

That’s what “koinonia” means.

It means sharing something vital that brings us together and makes us one.

And what is that thing that makes us one? V.5

“because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now...”

Paul and the Philippian church were in the gospel together and had been since day 1.

They had the gospel in common and were working for the gospel together.

The gospel of Jesus Christ.

The good news of Jesus’ life and death and life again.

And the salvation that He gives.

They were “in it together.”

And you can guess I why I picked this passage for us this weekend.

Because this gospel is what binds our church family together, as well.

We are centered together on the goods of Jesus.

The gospel is our middle name.

Long ago, we learned to say, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. And the main thing is the Gospel.”

And, friends, we are in it together.

Even if we can’t be together!

Paul was not together with the Philippians.

He had to be apart from them.

And so he used the technology of his day–pen and ink!–to express his love for them.

Look down at verse 7 and see how strong he felt. V.7

“It is right for me to feel this way about all of you [thanksgiving and joy], since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains [he was in prison at the time] or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. [The word for “share” there is based on koinonia.] God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.”

By the way, verses 3 through 8 are one long convoluted sentence in the original Greek!

Paul says that he has these precious people in his heart even when he’s apart from them.

And we can do that do that, too. We can have each other in our hearts even during this time of social distancing.

That doesn’t mean that have to like it!

Paul was longing for being together with them again.

He calls God as his witness! V.8

“God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.”

The word for “affection” there is literally “entrails or bowels.”

Paul is saying that he loves them with all of his Christ-given guts.

And he wishes they could be together in person.

But whether they are or not, they are in-it-together in the gospel.

I think the application is obvious for us. We should give thanks for each other and pray for each other with joy every time we think of each other because our fellowship in the gospel.

We should long to be with one another because we share in God’s grace.

But whether we are together or not, we should give thanks and pray for each other with joy.

I do that for you.

You do that for me.

And let’s all do it for one another!

This week, we sent out the 2020 Church Family Directory.

Let’s use this church directory to pray for each other and to stick together during this difficult time. Pick out some people in the directory that you give thanks for and remember them in your prayers.

And maybe drop them a line that you miss them and love them with all of your Christ-given guts. Or however you want to say it!

We are in this together.

Number Two.

I always pray with joy because of the:

#2. PROMISE OF GOD’S WORK.

I skipped verse 6 before. Let’s go back and look at it.

This is one to have memorized if you haven’t yet.

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 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.”

What a great promise!

Paul does not just have joy. He has confidence.

Paul has confidence, faith, that God will unstoppably act to complete His good work in the Philippian church.

Everything God was doing in them, He was going to finish.

And nothing could, would, or will stop Him.

So many things have ground to a halt this week.

All of our plans have been altered.

Everything has changed and then changed again.

We’re still reeling from one change and then another one gets thrown at us.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been pretty overwhelmed.

I’ve even found myself weeping at times. Just on overload.

But here’s a reason to rejoice:

God’s gospel work is unstoppable.

What He has truly begun in you and me cannot be stopped by any force on earth.

No silently attacking virus.
No governmental turbulence.
No economic upheaval.
No spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly realms!

God’s gospel work is unstoppable.

Until Jesus returns!

“...he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Until we go to Him or He comes to us!

What we talked about last week with return of Christ.

And what a day that will be!

Do you have that confidence, friends?

That no matter what, God’s work in you and in us and in the church will be completed?

Remember, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. [That prediction is coming true!] But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

This is a promise you can take to the bank.

Think about it every day this week.

Memorize it.

Preach it to your own heart.

God’s work in you is unstoppable.

If He’s begun it.

Someone listening right now might not yet have surrendered to God’s work in their life.

You can only be a partner in the gospel if you have put your faith in it.

Have you put your trust in Jesus Christ and what He did on the Cross?

That’s where it all starts.

Paul was in prison for “defending and confirming the gospel,” for telling people this message that Jesus “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...” and that all who believe in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

Repent and put your trust in Him, and He will begin an unstoppable work and carry it on to completion until the day He returns.

That’s a reason to rejoice!

One last one.

Here’s exactly what Paul prays for the Philippian church, and when God answers it, it’s a reason to rejoice.

#3. PRAYER FOR SMART LOVE. V.9

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.”

Wow. What a prayer!

Paul prays for what I call “smart love.”

Love that abounds more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.

We don’t normally put those things together do we?

We think of love as being hot or cold.

Or last week, deep or shallow.

But Paul prays for their love to be smart.

The word for “abound” there in verse 9 is the same root word for when I poured the water all over the floor in the auditorium.

Overflowing is the idea.

Paul prays for overflowing intelligence in their love.

Why do you think that is?

I think it’s because loving someone is not always easy to do.

It requires wisdom.

Have you ever wondered, “How do I love that guy? How am I supposed to love that woman?”

It’s not always easy.

Paul says in verse 10 that we need to discern what is “best.” Not just good or better, but what is the best way to love someone right now.

I think we need these kinds prayers during this time of crisis more than ever.

Because it’s not always apparent how to love others these days.

We need new and fresh wisdom to love others well.

- How do we talk to people in public and on social media?

- What do we buy? Where do we buy it?

- How do we stay in touch over distances?

- How do we treat others?

We need new and fresh wisdom to love others well.

Can I encourage you in your home after you watch this video to have a discussion as a household how you can exercise more discernment and wisdom in how you love your neighbor and your church family during these disrupted days?

Every Christian needs this kind of smart love.

That’s why it’s here in our Bibles.

Because when we love like that, we grow in godliness.

Paul says in verse 10, we pray for smart love so that you “...may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ...” There’s that day again!

“...filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ– to the glory and praise of God.”

And that’s what it’s all about; isn’t it?

So that God gets the glory!

When God answers that prayer, we will all rejoice.

Brothers and sisters and friends,

I thank my God every time I remember you in all my prayers for all of you.

All of you!

I always pray with joy.

Because of our in-it-together partnership in the gospel, because of the promise of God’s unstoppable work, we pray for smart love.

And we always pray with joy.

“To the glory and praise of God.”



Sunday, March 15, 2020

“The End of All Things Is Near” [Matt's Messages]

“The End of All Things Is Near”
March 15, 2020 :: 1 Peter 4:7-11

We’re going to take a very short break from our study of the Gospel of Matthew.

I hate to do that because we’re basically leaving Jesus on the Cross there, but I felt led to preach on something different in light of the national health emergency and global pandemic which is COVID-19 or the coronavirus.

And there are a lot of things we could say about that.

And we’ve said a number of them and sung a number of them and prayed a number of them already this morning. So many truths to draw from God’s Word.

But this is the passage that I was drawn to as I searched my Bible for a word from the Word for you today.

And this is the sentence that caught my eye. 1 Peter 4:7

“The end of all things is near.” 

The Apostle Peter says, “The end of all things is near.”

And most of the time, you know, it doesn’t feel like it.

Most of the time, when you hear someone say, “It’s the end of the world as we know it,” they are either singing a song by REM or they are a fruitcake wearing a signboard and yelling at people on the sidewalk.

But sometimes it does seem like it.

Sometimes events in the world are moving at such a fast pace and there such scary headlines, that you begin to wonder, “Is this it?”

Let me very clear: I am not saying that this is it.

I’m actually thinking that in a few months, we’ll all be worrying about something else than this novel coronavirus. We will have, Lord-willing, moved on. I hope.

But Peter says right here in the Bible, “The end of all things is near.”

And he wrote that almost 2,000 years ago.

So it was true 2,000 years ago.

And if it was true then, then it’s got to be even more true now.

It's true. all. the. time.

We are closer than we’ve ever been to the end of all things.

History is headed towards its conclusion.

And Peter says it’s at hand.

What does Peter mean? And how should we then live?

Be warned: time is limited. Time is short. Human history is a finite line. It had a beginning point. And it will have an ending point. And the end is near.

Peter knew that the end of history is imminent, impending, ready to unfold, close at hand.

The next great event on the calendar of God is the consummation of history and the triumphant return of Jesus Christ!

“The end of all things is near.”

Do you believe that this morning?

Very often, Christians like you and I make the major mistake of living as though this world and our lives were going to go on and on just like they are (now) forever.

But Peter says that is not true. And that is not the right way to live.

“Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King.”

Up a couple of verses, in verse 5, Peters says that the judge of the living and the dead is “ready.” He’s set. He’s prepared. He’s ready. Like we talked about during the Advent Season, God is only waiting in His patient, perfect timing to tie up the loose ends of history and send the Son of Man on His return.

Now, notice, Peter didn’t set a date. He didn’t set a time.

Peter was there when our Lord said, “Nobody knows. Not even the Son.” Remember that. Nobody knows. You and I don’t know when Jesus is coming back.

Might be sooner than we expect.
Might be later than we expect.
We don’t know.

But Peter also knew and taught that the Lord Jesus will certainly return and usher in the end of history at any time.

“The end of all things is near.” Or some of your versions say, “At hand.”

Do you believe that? Do you live like that is true?

What if you knew that the end of your life was near? Today for example.

Many people in the world are grappling with that right now.

But let’s say you knew on the authority of God’s Word that by 6:30 this evening you would be dead.

What would you do? How would you live? What would your priorities be if you knew that you would soon be seeing the Judge of all the Earth?

Peter says, not only is the end of your life near, the end of all things is near.

We are living in the last days, and the last of the last days is coming at some point which Peter calls “soon.” And knowing that, you and I should live with a certain set of priorities.

However...we might be surprised at what those priorities are supposed to be. What should we being doing if the end of all things is near? (And it is.)

Peter gives us four different but complementary priorities:

“The End of All Things Is Near.” Therefore,

#1. KEEP YOUR HEAD. V.7.

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.”

Peter says that the end of all things is near, so therefore keep your head. Keep your wits about you. Don’t get frantic or manic or out of control.

Now, I don’t know about you, but instinctively I get a little nervous when people talk about the world ending! If I think things are serious, my first reaction is to panic. 

Chicken Little, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” My first reaction is to lose my cool. My first reaction is to think about all of the wrong things.

That happened to me a number of times this week reading the headlines.

I think it’s happened to a lot of people in our culture.

Look at the lines at the grocery store.

The end of all things is near. Therefore, be clear-minded and self-controlled. Get a hold of yourself. Don’t go off the deep end. Focus. Focus on what is important.

Why? V.7 “So that you can pray.”

If the world is ending, if you are going to see the King, then you better get close to Him now. Talk with Him. Trust Him with all things. The important thing is to remain close to the One who is coming soon.

Keep Your Head so that You Can Pray.

It’s a focus issue. Too often, we get caught up in focusing on this world and not the world that is going to break in on us soon.

It had happened to Peter personally. Remember in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus told Peter, James, and John to keep watch and pray? What did Peter do? He started sawing logs! He lost his focus and got a muddied-mind and lost self-control and slept. He lost his head and didn’t pray. I think he probably remembered that night and that’s one of the reasons why he cautions us against living like that.

Yesterday, the elders were meeting and trying to come up with our plan for leading this week and I was trying to write this message, and I just lost my head and snapped at my wife.

I’m sorry, Heather Joy.

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by things, and Peter knows that, so he reminds us, “Be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.”

What’s got your attention right now?  Are you being clear-minded and self-controlled and prayerful?  Or are you manically chasing after this world?

The King James says, “[B]e ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.”

That doesn’t mean be long in the face and watch people praying.

It means: calm down and pray.

The end of all things is near so keep your head about you and pray.

#2.  STRETCH YOUR LOVE.  V.8

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

Peter prioritizes this one at the top, “Above all,” he says, “love each other deeply.”

That word “deeply” could also be translated, “fervently, earnestly, intensely.” It comes from a Greek word that means to stretch something to its fullest length. Like a rope. The word was often used to describe an athlete or a horse running and straining at full stretch.

“Go all out in love” is what Peter is saying. Don’t just play at love. Don’t just go part way. Go the distance in love!

Stretch yourself. Stretch your love.

Stretch your love with people who are hard to love. Peter says, “love covers over a  multitude of sins.”

That doesn’t mean “Condone sin.” It means love someone through their sin.  Cover sin with ready forgiveness. Forgive 70 times 7. Cover over sin by sheltering someone from the exposure and condemnation that their sin would normally yield. If you can, cover sin by overlooking faults and offenses.

Go the extra mile in loving someone who has sinned against you.

Stretch your love for those who sin against you.

The end of all things is near, so ratchet up your love! There is no time to focus on quarreling. The body of Christ needs to be exercising deep love because time is short.

Now, I wouldn’t have thought of this one. I would have thought of preaching the Gospel because time is short, but I would have thought that loving each other would be a lower priority.

I would have been wrong.

God puts a premium on love for one another.

Especially love when it’s hard.

Are there people in your life right now that are hard to love?

Time is short.

“As much as it depends on you, live at peace with all men.”

Time is short. Get things right.

Living in light of eternity means stretching our love for each other right now.

Someone has wisely said, “To live above with saints above, that will indeed be glory, to live below with the saints we know, now, that’s another story!”

But we need to. We need to love as Christ loved us.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

Stretch your love. Stretch it–even to strangers and those who need a meal or lodging or some other kind of material assistance. V.9

“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

Now, in an time of social distancing that might have to look differently than in a time when an invisible viral army is not running rampant.

But this is a command for all Christians in all times so we don’t get to duck it.

Perhaps hospitality in our current cultural situation is leaving some toilet paper for someone else to buy.

Or maybe it’s making a meal for someone who is shut in.

Or an underfed child that is home from school where they normally get a hot lunch.

Or maybe it’s your family taking the time this week at home to draw pictures and send notes and cards into nursing homes and hospitals where they aren’t going to get many visits in the next few weeks.

However you do it, Peter calls us to stretch our love in hospitality.

Which means using our homes and our resources to bless others, especially strangers.

And we aren’t allowed to do it grudgingly or with complaint. V.9 “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

That’s a stretch of love. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by people.

But remember, the end of all things is near. There is no time for whining about a little discomfort! We need to stretch our love.

#3.  USE YOUR GIFT. V.10

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”

Notice that it doesn’t say, “If God has given you a gift, use it.” It says, “Use whatever gift you have received.”

That means that everyone here who is a Christian has a least one grace-gift from the Lord to use in service to others “within and without” the body of Christ.

It’s not just our musicians who are gifted.

It’s not just pastors who are gifted! Everyone is! You are!

Yes, you!

The question is not do you have a gift. You do.

The question is are you using it to serve others?

Would you ever have thought that this would be an End-Times priority?

It is. The end of all things is near so use your gift in service to others.

Use Your Gift.

I have a pastor friend that loves to say, “Life is short; live for God.”

Use your gift in service to others. Use it faithfully, as a steward (a manager). God has given you some grace (Peter calls it grace in various forms). God has given you some measure of grace (not to hold onto but) to pass on to others.Don’t bury it; put it into practice.

“Life is short; live for God.”

Or like we said around Christmas:

What do you want to be found doing when the Lord Jesus returns?

Some people have made the mistake of setting a date and then putting on robes and hanging out on rooftops waiting with arms outstretched for Christ to come for them.

That’s not what God has asked us to do in the last days! He has asked us to be busy using our grace-gifts in ministry so that he find us living for Him when He comes back for us.

That’s what I want to be doing when Christ returns. Heart longing for Him, hands and feet active for Him. I would love to be preaching when Jesus comes back!

But I better do it God’s way. Not my own. V.11.

“If anyone speaks [like I am doing now, speaking in ministry to others], he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.”

Brothers and Sisters, time is short. There is no time for messing around with God’s Word. My job (and anyone’s job who is gifted in speaking in ministry) is to speak God’s words after Him. Words that fit with the Scriptures. Words that accord with sound doctrine. Words that are Cross-Centered and communicate the Gospel.  Words that God can use in people’s lives as if they were His very own.

And of course, not everyone is a teacher. Many labor behind the scenes. Unsung heroes. Those gifts and ministries are just as important and must be done God’s way, as well. V.11 again.

“If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength that God provides...” Stop there for a second.

This is the way to avoid burn-out in ministry.

If God is the One burning in the bush, it is not consumed.  If God is the One burning in the servant, the Servant will not burn-out.

God’s strength for ministry. Not our own.

Use your gift, but use the Holy Spirit empowerment that comes with the gift to do ministry. Anything else will be virtually worthless. And you will suffer for it, too.

I have many times made the mistake of trying to do ministry in the strength that Matt Mitchell provides. Ugh. Don’t go there.

Answer: “If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides...”

How about you?

Are you using your gifts in ministry right now? Time is short, and Church is not a spectator sport. Everyone needs to get off the bench and use the grace that God has given us to serve others.

Right now, strangely enough, we need to be careful of being around each other.

But there are lots of ways to use our gifts in ministry that don’t require personal contact.

The point is that

Time is short. Live for God. The end of all things is near. So use your gift.

Why?

#4.  To MAGNIFY YOUR GOD.  V.11 again.

“[Use the strength God provides], so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

If we use God’s power for ministry, God will get the glory!  God will be praised if we use the gifts He gives with the energy He provides.

And that praise, glory, and dominion are the bottom line in life.

We exist for God’s glory.
We should live for God’s glory.
The end of all things is near so we should magnify the Glory of God!

This strange day that we live in is no different than the day Peter wrote this in this one thing, our ultimate aim should be to magnify the glory of God.

As the end draws near (and it is 2000 years nearer now than when Peter penned these words!), we should position our lives to maximize the magnification of God through Jesus Christ!

“Rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”

 “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Colossians 3:17:

 “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Cor 10:31

“So that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

Those are not just religious words! Those are words that describe ultimate reality.

God wants us to magnify His glory. Not like a microscope. Not making something small bigger. But like a telescope, making something unimaginably huge visible to the fallen human eye.

Are you living for the magnitude of God?

If God wants anything from you and me, that’s what He wants.

The chief goal of mankind is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.

Is your life a telescope of the glory of God?

So that He gets the praise, He gets the glory, He gets the power?

I have no idea where this virus will take us.

God only knows.

But He knows everything and is completely trustworthy.

What I do know is that no matter what time is short. The end of all things is near. It has been for 2,000 years.

But the glory of God through Jesus Christ lasts (v.11) “forever and ever. Amen.”