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Sunday, May 31, 2020

"Certainties" - 2020 West Branch Baccalaureate [Matt's Messages]

“Certainties” :: Pastor Matt Mitchell
Online Baccalaureate Broadcast
West Branch Ministerium 
John 16:33 :: May 31, 2020

Congratulations to the West Branch Warriors Class of 2020!

You have done it! You have made it! Way to go and congratulations!

You are a special class because you have achieved what no other West Branch Senior Class has ever achieved before.

You not only completed your entire West Branch Warrior Education, you did it during a global health crisis! And that is no mean feat. Way to go and congratulations, West Branch Warriors Class of 2020.



More than two years ago, I asked to be the baccalaureate speaker for this year’s class because I know a good number of you personally. We have several of this year’s graduates who are a part of our church family at Lanse Free including Dalton and Thomas who helped lead this broadcast event this evening.

I’ve been a pastor in this community for 22 years, so I remember when you were all born, and I’ve enjoyed watching this class grow up in our West Branch Area community.

I have been looking forward to this baccalaureate service for a number of years. And I wish we could all be together for it. Everybody wishes we could all be together for it!

But because of COVID-19, we are apart. We are at safe distances from one another.

And it’s no fun. We’re all tired of it. We’re all “over it.” And yet, here we still are...“another online event.”

We are all missing various thing from our pre-virus days.

I know that one thing people are missing is haircuts.

I made the mistake of cutting my own bangs, and look what happened!

Actually, my “corona-cut” looks like my all-the-time cut.

But we are missing various things from our pre-virus days.

And I think one of the biggest things we’re all missing is more certainty.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the phrase, “In these uncertain times.”

“In these uncertain times.”

Every time I read those words now, I imagine the voice-over guy from movie trailers saying it: “In these uncertain times.”

We know these are uncertain times!

If there is anything certain right now, it’s that we are living in uncertain times.

It seems like the one thing we can count on is that there is nothing we can count on.

“Everything is canceled.”

I’m sure you feel that way as the Class of 2020.

So that’s why I chose John 16:33 in the Bible to be the passage of Scripture I wanted to give to you tonight as a graduation gift. It’s full of certainties.

Thomas read it for us already once. John 16:33. Words the Lord Jesus said to His disciples on the night before He went to the Cross.

If you knew that you were going to die the very next day, what would you want to say to your best friends? This is what Jesus said to them.

For the last 4 and half years, I have had John 16:33 printed on a piece of paper and posted at eye level on my desk in my office to remind me of these certainties all of the time.

John 16:33 again. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

This has become for me one of the most precious passages of holy scripture, and it’s a joy to give it and its certainties to the Class of 2020.

The first certainty is peace.

The Lord Jesus said that He has told them all of “these things” [which includes everything he’s been teaching in what we call the Upper Room Teaching in the Gospel of John chapters 14-16. He’s been teaching his followers all these things...] “so that in me [in Jesus] you may have peace.”

#1. CERTAIN PEACE.

Doesn’t that sound good?

What do we need more than peace right now? Peace in our hearts during “these uncertain times.” Peace with other people. And most important, peace with God.

Peace in the Bible is more than just the absence of hostility.

It is the presence of wholeness.

Of everything being right and healthy and in its proper proportion and relationship.

The Hebrew word for peace is “shalom.” And the Greek one here is “eiraynay

And it’s found in only one place.
Peace is found in only one person.
Jesus says, “In me you may have peace.”

Jesus’ peace is not like any other peace in the world.

That peace comes and goes depending on feelings and circumstances and changing situations.

Jesus’ peace is unchanging and forever and always available in Him.

Do you know the peace of Christ?

I know it sounds like a bumper sticker, but this totally true.

And check out my cool video effects!

No Jesus, No Peace.

But if you know Jesus, then you will know peace.

If you have never trusted Jesus as your own Savior and your own Lord, I invite you to do so right now. Jesus knew that He was going to the Cross the very next day to save His people from their sins. And all who put their faith in Him will be forgiven and given eternal life, eternal peace with God.

A certain peace that starts now and goes on forever!
A certain peace that takes up residence in the heart.
A certain peace that gives you an unshakable center no matter what trouble comes.

Because trouble will come.

That’s actually the second certainty in John 16:33.

#2. CERTAIN TROUBLE.

The Lord Jesus told His followers, “In this world you will have trouble.”

You will!
You can take that to the bank.
It is certain.

Followers of Jesus will have trouble.

The Lord Jesus Himself said so.

I don’t know about you, but that’s encouraging to me.

Because when trouble comes my way, I often think I must be doing it wrong.

“I must be doing this wrong” if it gets hard.

But Jesus knew that our world is fundamentally broken because of sin and that bad things will inevitably come.

We should not be surprised when we encounter trials, tribulations, and troubles.

On one level, that’s bad news because who wants suffering?

Let me level with you, Class of 2020. Far worse things than all of these cancellations are going to happen to you in life. 

We live in a broken world. And if you haven’t encountered much of that brokenness yet, I’m glad for you, but you will. We live in a world of disease and pain and conflict and war and terrorism and disasters...and death. In time, everybody you love will die and so will you.

Our world was damaged by sin, and even if you are a follower of Jesus, you will experience that brokenness. In fact, Jesus says that His followers will have it rough with opposition and persecution on top of all of that.

“In this world you will have trouble.”

It is certain.

So it’s okay to cry.
It’s okay to not be okay.
It’s okay to hurt over this.

The Bible has a certain kind of language to express that pain, and it’s called, “Lament.”

The Bible is full of lament, but most of us haven’t been taught how to pour our sorrows to the Lord.

We think we have to keep an “Instagram selfie smile” on our faces all of the time.

But Jesus didn’t.

“Jesus wept.” The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35 and it just says, “Jesus wept.”

Jesus cried. He experienced the brokenness of this world. His friend had died, maybe of a wicked virus, we don’t know. And at his grave, Jesus wept.

It’s okay and right and good to weep and lament over these troubles. You don’t have to stuff it and pretend that everything is okay. Everything is not okay.

“In this world, you will have trouble.”

“...But...”

Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t end with that certainty. He ends with an even greater certainty! Listen again to the last part of John 16:33.

“In this world you will have trouble. BUT TAKE HEART! I have overcome the world.”

#3. CERTAIN VICTORY.

Jesus says that He has overcome the world. Jesus is certain of His victory before He even goes to the Cross. He hasn’t even died yet, but he’s predicting the outcome.

Jesus says knows for certain that He is going to triumph on the Cross over sin and Satan and He knows for certain that He is going to triumph over Death in His resurrection. And He knows for certain that He is going to bring a whole new world at His second coming.

Jesus has certainly overcome the world!

The Greek word for “overcome” in this verse is “nenikayka” and the root word is “Nike.” Where they got the name for the shoes. It means victory.

Jesus is proclaiming certain victory over the world of trouble. And that makes all of the difference, doesn’t it?

When you know how something is going to turn out, it changes how you experience it.

Like when you watch a scary movie a second time? You don’t jump as much. You aren’t so worried.

Back in January when we still had sports, I got to go to a Warriors boys’ basketball game and watch Dalton and Ayden and Chance and Eddie and those guys play one of their nail-biters.

I lost my voice yelling so much! It went into overtime, and it see-sawed back and forth. And then they won! We were all jumping up and down. It was nerve-wracking because we didn’t know what was going to happen.

But now, if I watched that game again on video, I would totally enjoy it, but I wouldn’t worry one bit. Because I already know the outcome. I know who “Niked.” I know who overcame. I know who had the victory.

So as I watch, I can take heart. Even when the other team is winning!

“It’s okay. I know who gets more points in the end.”

That’s what Jesus is doing with EVERYTHING in this verse.

He’s telling us how EVERYTHING ends up.

And for Jesus it is certain victory.

“I have overcome the world.”

And so Jesus says to His followers then and is saying them to us today.

“Take heart!”

That means to take stock of what is truly certain and then live like it.

If Jesus has certainly overcome the world, then you and I can live lives of peace. If Jesus has certainly overcome the world, then you and I can follow Him into hard times. We don’t have to worry.  We can do hard things.

Some Bible versions translate “Take heart” as “Take courage.” Don’t be afraid. If you know the end of the story already, you can take bigger risks in the middle of the story. I like that. Some of you need to choose to take some big risks in the days ahead foro the good the world as followers of Jesus. Don’t be afraid.

Other Bible versions translate it, “Be of good cheer!” To take heart means to rejoice. If you know the end of the story already, there is no reason to wait to celebrate. That doesn’t mean we don’t weep and cry. We do that, too.

But if I’m watching that video of the boys playing basketball, I can be saying, “I love this game!” even at the parts when they are down on the scoreboard.

Be of good cheer.

In these uncertain times, we know that Jesus has certainly won, Jesus is certainly winning, and Jesus will certainly win the victory.

Jesus has overcome the world.

Class of 2020, “Take heart!”


***

Previous West Branch Baccalaureate Messages

June 2, 2005 "Don't Waste Your Life"

June 7, 2012 "Three Things I Pray"

“I am Glad and Rejoice with All of You” [Matt's Messages]

“I am Glad and Rejoice with All of You”
LEFC Message for Worship at Home
May 31, 2020 :: Philippians 2:12-18

I invite you to open your Bibles to the book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul’s missionary letter to his beloved church friends at Philippi, the book of Philippians chapter 2.

Next Sunday, Lord-willing, I’ll get to announce the page number in the Pew Bible once again (to some of you)! Because we are planning to resume in-person on-campus worship gatherings starting June 7.

However, space is limited so we need everybody who is planning to come to make a reservation for their household’s seating section in one of the two new worship gatherings. 

But this weekend, still none of us have a Pew Bible in our hands. We have to grab our own Bibles and find Philippians chapter 2.



It shouldn’t surprise you by now with this seventh message in Philippians to learn that Paul is going to talk again about JOY.

In Philippians, Paul talks about joy again and again and again.

In our passage for today, he ends by saying (v.17), “I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.”

Joy, joy, joy, joy, joy!

Paul says that both the Philippians and he himself have many reasons to rejoice.

And to rejoice with each other.

That’s important. They can and should rejoice with each other.

What is the logic here that leads to this shared rejoicing?

What is the reason?

It actually might surprise you.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We want to start with verse 12.

Paul has just asked each of the Philippians to put other people first. He knows they have been struggling with one another so he encourages them to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (2:3).

And then he gave them the greatest example of that kind of humility and service, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who let go of his exalted privileges to become one of us and die on the Cross.

And then was exalted! And given the name above every name. “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow...and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord...” (vv.10-11a).

And then Paul writes our starting verse for today. Verse 12.

“Therefore [because of all that], my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Stop there for a second.

I want to make four points of application from this passage.

And they all have the word “out” in them. See if you can remember them all by the end. Here’s number one.

#1. WORK OUT YOUR SALVATION.

Do you see that in verse 12? Paul tells the Philippians (and by extension us) to work out your salvation.

Now, what does that mean?

That might sound a little dangerous to our theological ears. “Work out your salvation.” And it almost doesn’t sound like Paul. Paul is the guy who insists that we cannot be saved by works, right?

Well, this is Paul. And it’s important to hear what he’s saying and note what he’s not saying.

He’s not saying that we need to WORK FOR our salvation.

We could never earn our way to God.

And he’s not saying that we need to WORK TO KEEP our salvation.

As if God has gotten it started but it’s up to our good works to remain worthy of it.

It doesn’t work that way.

Paul is saying that we need to WORK OUT our salvation. We need to live out the potential of it. We need to work out the details. We need to live out the implications of our salvation.

We have salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Now we need to work out that salvation, actualizing it in everyday life.

We do need to do good works, but they are the fruit of our faith.

Working from the changed-inside out.

And the good news is in the next verse. Verse 13 tell us how it’s possible.

“...for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

We work out, but God works in!

Notice that this both/and not either/or.

We tend to think that the work in our salvation is either God’s our ours.
But it’s both, isn’t it?

We work out, but God works in.

If God didn’t work in, then we could never work out.

But because God has worked in our hearts, we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Does that make sense?

Before we move on to the second application, I want to dwell for a second or two on what Paul about his personal presence back in verse 12.

He says, “As you have obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence...work out your salvation.”

Paul is not with them. I feel that in Philippians like I never have before. I think because we have been so separated from each other these last 3 months.

I’ve been making these videos, but we’re not together.

So Paul writes them a letter, the preeminent communication technology of the day.

And he says, “Beloved, I know that you will do this because you obey not just when I’m with you but when we’re apart.”

Work out your salvation.

I think this raises the application question, “Do I tend to live as a Christian only when others are watching or all of the time?”

We need each other.

But we also need to remind each other to keep obeying the Lord Jesus whether we are present with each other or absent from each other.

And here’s why. Because God is present no matter what.

That’s why Paul says to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

Not scared that it won’t work. But in awe and wonder and reverence that GOD is at work inside of my heart. At the desire level. At the level of the will. And at the behavior level. To act according to his good purpose. Work out your salvation.

Now, what does that look like in practical terms. Are you ready? Verse 14.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing...”

Ooh. I wonder if there is a loophole around this one?

I mean maybe it doesn’t mean what I think it means in the original Greek!

No. I looked it up, and it means, “Do everything without complaining or arguing...”

Man, is that hard to do. Especially right now when so many things are not as we would like them to be.

Do everything without complaining. No grumbling. No murmuring. No running on about our discontentment. No whining.

And no arguing. No quarreling especially with other Christians. This is probably what was going on back at Philippi, and Paul was trying to nip it in the bud.

He’s not saying that they must agree on every single thing, but no fighting.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing...”

If all of the Christians started to do that on, let’s just say social media, what difference would that make?

Now, remember, there is difference between groaning and grumbling. The Israelites groaned when things got bad, and the Lord heard their prayers of lament. We can and should groan when things are not as they ought to be.

And so much in our world right now is not as it ought to be!

But when the Israelites grumbled, then the Lord disciplined them.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing...”

If all of the Christians started to do that on what difference would that make?

Wouldn’t we look stunningly different from the rest of the world?

Here’s application point number two.

#2. STAND OUT IN YOUR GENERATION.

What happens when we work out our salvation by doing everything without complaining or arguing? V.15

“...so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe...”

Here’s where I get to talk about Cook Forest.

Some of you have been waiting for a Cook Forest illustration for a while.

On a clear night at our house in Lanse, we can see a lot of stars.

But at Cook Forest on a clear night, you can see like whole Milky Way.

I love to go out into the middle of field at the campground just stare up into space.

The stars really POP. They stand out against the blackness of the night sky.

That’s what Paul is talking about in verse 15. If we live out verses 12 through 14 we will stand out against the backdrop of our sinful society.

And big point here is not whether or not we lie or steal or murder.

We shouldn’t do that either.

But whether or not we complain and argue.

Do we complain or argue just like the world does?

Or do we stand out?

Ask yourself that application question right now. Is my life marked by complaining and arguing right now? What would my social media feed say about that? To whom might I need to apologize?

Because if we’re doing this right, we will be different from the world in our attitude and our words and our relationships, and people will notice and that will give us a chance to share the gospel with them.

It will create opportunities for evangelism. Look at verse 16.

“[you shine like stars in the universe] as you hold out the word of life”

That’s application point number three.

#3. HOLD OUT THE WORD OF LIFE.

Here! Here’s the words that lead to life.

Here! Here is the gospel. The good news of Jesus’s death and resurrection.

Here! Here is why my life is different. Why I don’t complain and quarrel all of the time and apologize when I do.

Here!

Remember our focus as a church in 2020 is not to just survive 2020.

Our focus is BOLD EVANGELISM. Sharing the good news about Jesus Christ with everyone who needs to hear it.

To whom could you hold out the word of life this coming week?

I’ve been giving away these books. Where Is God in a Coronavirus World? by Oxford Professor John Lennox.

Our church family gave one to each of the graduating seniors at West Branch this year.

It is full of the words of life.

We still have a small pile of them in the breezeway at church if you want to pick one up and give it someone. Or a Bible. We’ve got those too.

How are you sharing the gospel with those need to hear it these days?

Hold out the word of life.

Last but not certainly not least. Number four.

#4. POUR OUT YOUR LIFE AS A JOYFUL SACRIFICE. V.16

Live this way, Paul says, “in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.”

This is all about their relationship, isn’t it?

Paul wants them to work out their salvation in such a way that he won’t be ashamed to have invested all of this time in their spiritual growth.

If they turn out to be real genuine Christians, then all of his sacrifices along the way are worth it.
He didn’t “run or labor for nothing.”

Even. if. he. dies.

Remember, Paul is in prison for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And it’s quite possible that he might be executed for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Eventually, he will be.

But Paul says, “That’s okay. Helping you all to know and live for Jesus is worth it.”

It’s worth dying for.

I think that’s what he means when he talks about being poured out in verse 17. He is drawing on the Old Testament sacrificial system. You can read about it in Exodus [29:38-41 for example].

The morning and evening offerings that were sacrificed on the altar included a drink offering (a libation) that was poured out on top of the sacrificial lamb. The drink offering added something meaningful, but it was really worth nothing if there was no lamb.

[Maybe it’s a good thing we aren’t in the auditorium today or I might pour out some big drink on floor of the platform!]

Paul is saying that if the Philippians [whom he loves but is separated from] work out their salvation, and stand out in their generation, and hold out the word of life–then their service will be a sweet sacrifice to God and his service of ministry to them will be a drink offering poured out on top–a meaningful–“worth it” kind of sacrifice.

Even if he dies.

Can you relate to that?

Let me ask it to you this way. If the Lord were to return or you were to die this week (and either one is possible!), could you rejoice that your life had been lived in worship of Jesus Christ and ministry to others in His name?

Again Paul is happy to die.


In chapter 1, he was happy to die because he’d get to be with Christ.

In chapter 2, he is happy to die knowing that he had poured out his life in worship of Jesus and ministry in Jesus’ name.

That’s why he says, “I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.”

Not because we are all healthy and prosperous and #blessed.

But because we have Jesus, and we have one another.

And even over the distance, we can be glad and rejoice with one another!

Because Jesus is worth it.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:
01. "I Always Pray with Joy"
02. "Because Of This I Will Rejoice"
03. "I Will Continue To Rejoice"
04. "Whatever Happens"
05. "Make My Joy Complete"

Saturday, May 30, 2020

LEFC Guide to Worship at Home - May 31, 2020


LEFC Guide to Worship at Home
Pentecost Sunday
May 31, 2020

$          Introduction
$          Home Worship Guide
$          More Links to Helpful Resources
                       
Introduction                                                       
                                   
Dear Church Family,

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

Because of Jesus, we have so much to rejoice in as a congregation. This week, I got to share the good news of our plan to resume some in-person ministry on our church campus starting, Lord-willing, next Sunday, June 7th. To meet the diverse needs of our church body, we are launching 2 new shorter/smaller worship gatherings with different levels of health precautions.

To make this work, we are asking everyone to reserve a seating section for your household in advance. If you haven’t yet, please read the instructions to orient yourself to this strange new way of preparing for on-campus worship.

Even though things are going to remain weird for a while, I am eagerly looking forward to greeting the first wave of returnees!

Please continue to pray for wisdom for our church leaders as we make the necessary preparations for next Sunday.

Please also pray for those who it is not yet their time to return. Thankfully, we can all still stay connected through the use of our church directory and all of these Worship at Home resources that we will continue to provide.

We have prepared another ten-step guide for your family to use in worship at home this weekend, and I will be posting another recorded video message from the book of Philippians. You’ll notice that the theme of rejoicing continues to bubble to the surface.

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday when we traditionally focus on the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. For the Worship in Unity portion this week, we are reciting a section of the Lausanne Covenant (1974), a statement of belief drawn up for a global conference on evangelism and world missions initially spearheaded by BillyGraham and John Stott. I love how the Lausanne Covenant ties together the work of missions with the power of the Holy Spirit.

On Sunday at 11am, many of us are going to connect again using Zoom for a Church Family Fellowship time (I’ll be there by 10:45 to welcome folks and help people get set-up). This week Jim & Kay Panaggio will be joining us from their home in Michigan. We have partnered with the Panaggios since 1997 to reach and teach the peoples of Latin America.

Zoom definitely has its limitations, but it also has given us some neat opportunities, too, which we might not ever have enjoyed without it. Parents, I would love to have your kids do some show-and-tell from your homes this week. Would they be willing to show us on Zoom something they love at their house, perhaps a favorite toy or stuffed animal?

Next Sunday (June 7th) will be “Grad Sunday” when we celebrate the accomplishments of our church family’s recent graduates, especially from area high schools. While we won’t be able to have a pizza party together, we will be doing some special things across all of our on-campus and at-home ministries to recognize these young people. Their names are listed in the church family news below in case you want to send them a note or card.

This Sunday night (May 31st) is the West Branch Area Baccalaureate which will be an online event. Two of our own young men have a part in leading it, and I have the privilege of giving the message. I asked to be speaker a few years ago because the Class of 2020 is special to me. I have known them for all of their school days, and one of them is my oldest son! We have much to rejoice in.

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

In His Grip,

- Pastor Matt

P.S. I will say it again: Rejoice! I hope your family is singing together to express your joy in the Lord. Ephesians 5:18-19 closely ties together being filled with the Holy Spirit and making music in your heart to the Lord through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. There are many good songs to sing about the Holy Spirit. I had a hard time settling on just a few for this guide. Some other favorites of our church family include,““Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart,” “Sweet, Sweet Spirit,” and “Breathe on Me, Breath of God.” Perhaps you could search the music out on YouTube or Spotify and sing along.


Home Worship Guide
                       
1. Call to Worship

Read Psalm 96 with jubilation in your heart and voice as your family gathers to worship.

**Option: Families with young children may want to have the kids shout, “The LORD reigns!” after a parent reads each verse.

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


2. Worship in Singing

Remind your family that Pentecost Sunday is traditionally a day for Christians to focus on the Person and work of the Holy Spirit.

As a household sing “Holy Spirit” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend (2006).

**Option. Families with older adults might also or instead enjoy singing “The Comforter Has Come” by Frank Bottome (1890).

**Option. Families with younger children might want to repeat the song that has our Hide the Word verse in it: “Rejoice in the Lord Always.” Parents might plan to do this short song for several weeks because repetition helps us to learn something well. Don’t forget that it is also a canon your family can sing “in the round.”


3. Worship in Unity

As a household, recite together Article 14 of the Lausanne Covenant (1974):
           
“We believe in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Father sent his Spirit to bear witness to his Son; without his witness ours is futile. Conviction of sin, faith in Christ, new birth and Christian growth are all his work.

Further, the Holy Spirit is a missionary spirit; thus evangelism should arise spontaneously from a Spirit-filled church. A church that is not a missionary church is contradicting itself and quenching the Spirit. Worldwide evangelization will become a realistic possibility only when the Spirit renews the Church in truth and wisdom, faith, holiness, love and power.

We therefore call upon all Christians to pray for such a visitation of the sovereign Spirit of God that all his fruit may appear in all his people and that all his gifts may enrich the body of Christ. Only then will the whole Church become a fit instrument in his hands, that the whole earth may hear his voice.”


4. Worship in Lament and Thanksgiving

Share with your family both the good and the bad that you all have experienced this week and express them both to the Lord in prayer.

For example, you might rejoice that some in our church family will be able to return to campus for corporate worship next weekend but lament that others will not get to be a part of the first wave of returnees.

You might also lament the more than 100,000 virus-related deaths in the United States in just four months and at the same time rejoice that the number of new cases appears to be trending downward in our whole our country and that COVID-19 has had as yet minimal invasion into Clearfield County.


5. Worship in Bible Memorization
                                   
Recite our current “Hide the Word” memory verses, Philippians 4:4-5.
                       
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”

**Option: To improve your memory, try separating the two verses and say them out of order. Say verse 5 and then verse 4 and then verse 5 again.

           
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 message: “I Am Glad and Rejoice With All Of You.”
                                                                                   
Facebook Video
Read on Pastor Matt’s Blog

[The message will be available online by Sunday morning.]

Some families may want to watch/read the message on their own and then have a Bible study and discussion together during this time.

Application Questions for Personal Reflection and Family Discussion:

1. Do I tend to live as a Christian only when others are watching or all of the time? Why?
2. Is my life marked by complaining and arguing right now? To whom might I need to apologize?
3. To whom could I hold out the word of life this coming week?
4. If the Lord were to return or I were to die this week, could I rejoice that my life had been lived in worship of Christ? If not, what all needs to change?


8. Worship in Singing

Sing “Spirit of the Living God” by Daniel Iverson (1935).

**Option: Some families, especially those with young children who really enjoy repetition, may want to continue to sing “Jesus, Strong and Kind” by CityAlight (2019) each week.


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 - 11am on Sunday.

Many of us are meeting through video-conference online this Sunday at 11:00am:



More Links to Helpful Resources



“The Holy Spirit and the Gospel” by David Wells




Friday, May 29, 2020

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Sunday, May 24, 2020

“Your Attitude” [Matt's Messages]

“Your Attitude”
LEFC Message for Worship at Home
May 24, 2020 :: Philippians 2:5-11

I invite you to open your Bibles to the book of Philippians and follow along with this video as I teach from it to you.

This recorded message is intended to be used with the Guide to Worship At Home for Sunday May 24, 2020. And it’s the sixth message in a series on the Book of Philippians, Paul’s joyful letter to his beloved church friends at Philippi.

If you haven’t already, you might want to pause this video and watch some of the other ones first, especially the one right before this one because this is kind of like the sequel, part 2.



We’re in Philippians chapter 2 and the Apostle Paul has just asked the Philippians to make his joy complete “by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose” and to humbly put each other first.

Paul wrote, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

You before me.

If you don’t remember that, you should go back and watch last week’s message.

Apparently the church at Philippi was struggling to get along with each other, and Paul’s answer to their problem was to ask them all to put each other ahead of themselves.

And that would work, wouldn’t it?

If I put the needs and interests of someone I’m struggling with ahead of myself, and they put my needs and interests ahead of themselves? That’s a great answer to relational conflict!

Think about the marriages that could be rescued if both spouses would do that.

Think about the church splits that could be avoided if all of the members did that.

Think about the family squabbles that could resolved if every family member put “you before me.”

Workplaces.
Schools.
Communities.
Nations!

“You before me.”

Now, hold that in your mind, because Paul is NOT going to change the subject in the our paragraph for today. He’s still talking about the same thing in verse 5.

In verses 6 through 11, Paul is going to wax eloquent with an amazing poem, probably a first century worship song about Jesus. And it’s easy to get caught up in the complicated theology of that worship song about Jesus. (And that theology is worth thinking about!)

But Paul is using that song to make a point for the Philippians’ lives.

To use the big words, this passage is more about ethics than about Christology. Or it might be better to say this high Christology is used in this passage in the service of Christian ethics.

This passage is very practical. It is all about “Your Attitude.”

Listen to verse 5. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus...”

I like that translation, “attitude,” for a word that can be a little hard to translate.

Your version may say, “mind.”

“Let this mind be in you.”
“Have this mind among yourselves.”

And that’s a good translation, too, as long as you don’t think it’s talking about mind-control or some kind of mind-transfer or telepathy.

It’s talking about “mind-set.” It’s another word about your thinking like the thinking words back in verse 2.

Today we use the word “headspace.”

Where is your head at? What is your mind-set? What is your attitude?

Paul tells the Philippians that their mind-set should be the same mind-set as Jesus Christ!

Does that describe you?
Does that describe me?

Would somebody watching our lives say, “That guy has the same attitude as Jesus Christ?”

“I can see that she has the same mind-set as Christ Jesus.”

That’s the goal right there.

And remember, he’s still talking about the same thing. Putting you before me.

Because what was Jesus’ attitude? He tells us in verse 6. Here comes the worship song:

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness...”

I have three points of application for this message. Here’s number one.

Your attitude should be one of:

#1. HUMBLE SERVICE.

Our attitude should be one of the humble service of others. That’s the point of this worship song.

Jesus put other people first by humbling Himself (and so should we).

Think about what verse 6 says that Jesus gave up.

He was God! In His pre-incarnate state God the Son had all of the rights and privileges and glory and exalted status of God! If anyone ever had “rights,” it was God the Son.

But what was His mindset? What was His attitude?

Verse 6 says that He did not “consider” (there’s a thinking word) equality with God “something to be grasped.” That’s another hard one to translate.

The idea is that the Son did not clutch at His glorious status and think it was more important to hold onto than to achieve the mission of the incarnation. Some other translations say that He didn’t think His divine rights were something to be exploited. Held onto at any cost.

Here’s the picture I have in my mind. He let get go of His rights and jumped down.

Down, down, down, down, down.
Jesus humbled Himself.

He chose it. Verse 7 again.

“[He] made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

That’s Christmas! He became LIKE us in every way. He assumed our humanity to serve us.

He was still God with all of the attributes of God, but now He was also man with all of the lowly attributes of man. Talk about self-denial!

Look what He gave up.

How would you like to become a bug?

Well, the difference between us and a bug is infinitely different from the difference between us and God especially in status!

But God came down to our level to serve us. That was Jesus’s attitude!

But that’s not how low He went. He went all the way down.

Down, down, down. Verse 8.

“And being found in appearance as a man [showing up as a man], he humbled himself [further] and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!” It doesn’t get any lower than that.

Everything we just studied in the Gospel of Matthew this Winter. Remember “It just gets worse?”

He just went lower and lower and lower until He was on a Cross and then in a Tomb.

That was Jesus’ attitude!

You and I should be amazed at what Jesus did, but we should also be inspired to do it, too.

Jesus is our model. The Cross is our paradigm. This should be our attitude. Humble service.

So, take an inventory right now of your relationships and ask yourself what is your attitude to the people in your life?

Are you serving them? Or are you demanding that they serve you?

I was talking with Nancy W. this week about the survey went sent out about re-starting in-person ministry on our campus, and Nancy said that as much as she’d like to be at church together with everyone right away, she was probably going to hold back for a while not for herself but for others that might be affected if she were to contract the virus.

I came away from that conversation thinking how Christlike that attitude was.

I’m not saying that’s the only way to be Christlike in that situation, but I could see how Nancy was thinking about it and trying to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus.

“You before me.”

Monday is Memorial Day. And the soldiers who gave up so much for our country were also putting others ahead of themselves, and we should be a grateful nation because of their sacrifices.

How about you? How about me?

Do we have a Christlike attitude of humble service in our relationships?

Down, down, down.
Lower, lower, lower.
You before me.

Of course, Jesus didn’t stay there. God raised Him from the dead. In fact, God raised Him higher than just to new life.

He raised Jesus to the highest place! Verse 9.

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

What a great worship song!

Jesus went from the lowest place to the highest place!
He went from the lowest rank to the highest rank!
And was given the highest name.

If possible, He is even higher now than He was before the incarnation.

Because something new has happened. He has humbled Himself and taken on humanity and accomplished our salvation.

So He is exalted like before and perhaps unlike ever before!

Exalted as the God-Man Jesus Christ.

Lord of all.

“...that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth [that’s everywhere!,] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Now, let me blow your mind for a second.

Remember, this song is not here just to teach us good theology.

It’s here to inspire us with Christ’s example.

Because our attitude should not just be one of humble service.

Your attitude should be one of:

#2. JOYFUL ANTICIPATION.

Joyful anticipation of exaltation!

You and I will also be exalted.

Not to the highest place, of course, but what does the Bible say?

“Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you.”

Notice that word there in verse 9, “Therefore.”

It doesn’t say, “nevertheless” or “in spite of Jesus’ humiliation on the Cross, God exalted Him.”

It says, “therefore” BECAUSE Jesus humbled Himself, He was exalted.

Humility is the way to glory, and Jesus is showing us the way!

Listen. If you have the same attitude as Jesus Christ, you can expect the same kind of treatment.

If you go down, He will lift you up.

You and I have that to look forward to in joyful anticipation.

How’s that for a reason to serve others in love?

Do you see what Paul was trying to do the Philippians?

He was trying to get them to pour themselves out in Christlike love for each other and put each other first with the joyful expectation of Christlike exaltation!

Up, up, up!  What more motivation do you need?

One more thing about your attitude.

It should be one of:

#3. GLAD SUBMISSION.

Because one day every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

One day every tongue will be made to confess that.

But right now we have the opportunity to confess Jesus as our Lord voluntarily, from our hearts, putting our trust in what He did for us on the Cross in paying for our sins and owning Him as our Master and King.

Don’t wait until every tongue confesses. Confess Jesus as your Lord right now.

The Bible says, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Romans 10:9-10, NIV84).

Don’t let yourself get a bad attitude that refuses Jesus as Lord.

Your attitude should be glad submission to Jesus as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:

Saturday, May 23, 2020

LEFC Guide to Worship at Home - May 24, 2020

LEFC Guide to Worship at Home
May 24, 2020

$          Introduction
$          Home Worship Guide
$          Church Family News
$          Prayer Items
$          More Links to Helpful Resources
                       
Introduction                                                       

Dear Church Family,

Soon! We are definitely getting close to being ready to re-start some in-person ministry on our church campus. The church elder team is very encouraged by (1) your many, kind, and helpful responses to the survey we sent out last week, (2) President Trump’s recent affirmation of the important and essential nature of the church’s work, and (3) Governor Wolf’s announced plan to move our county into the “Green Phase of Reopening” next weekend. These are some clear signs that things are coming together for some of us to come together. Praise the Lord!

The church elder team will be meeting again early next week to continue working on our plan for restarting in-person ministry on our church campus. Please continue to pray for wisdom for us as we prayerfully consider all of the relevant factors and make all of the necessary preparations. We are excited about the possibilities and will communicate more soon.

At the same time, we know that many of our church family will and should stay home and not gather in-person for some time. Please know that we are committed to caring for the spiritual needs of every single person during this transition whether “at church” or at home. If that’s you, please know that you will not be forgotten or left behind. We are still in this together even when we can’t all be together (Philippians 1:3-8).
                                   
We have prepared another ten-step guide for your family to use in worship at home this weekend, and I will be posting another recorded video message from Philippians 2. For the Worship in Unity portion this week, we are reciting the Nicene Creed which was originally affirmed in 325AD with a fuller version completed in Constantinople in 381.

The Nicene Creed builds on the Apostles’ Creed (which we used back in March) and is alluded to in Article 4 of our EFCA Statement of Faith. The Nicene Creed is a beautiful summary of Christian teaching especially on the full deity and saving work of Jesus Christ. It fits perfectly with what we are going to see in Philippians 2 about Jesus’ humility and exaltation.

{Note: I have translated the Greek word “katholikayn” as “whole” to avoid confusion because the Creed isn’t referring there to a particular denomination but to the universal Body of Christ of which every genuine Christian is a part. Also note that when we say that “we acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins,” we mean that it stands for and illustrates that forgiveness. Water baptism is an outward picture of an inward and spiritual reality (Titus 3:3-7).}

Two other neat things are planned for Sunday May 24th:

At 11am, many of us are going to connect again using Zoom for a Church Family Fellowship time (I’ll be there by 10:45 to welcome folks and help people get set-up). If her internet service cooperates, our missionary Tobi Magill is planning to join us from Papua New Guinea! It will be 1:00am her time, so we will want to begin with interacting with Tobi so that she can get some sleep before her next shift as a nurse. I’m hoping that some of the kids in our church family will have specific questions for Tobi about what life is like on the other side of the world.

And from 2-5pm, Lord-willing, I will be sitting in the drive-thru at the church building for pastoral visitation. I’ll be wearing a mask and keeping my distance, but I would love to see some of you and pray for you. I haven’t seen many of you for three months, and I miss you all very much. If you are out for a Sunday drive, consider pulling through. Hopefully, the next time that I see some of you, it will be actually be inside of our church building!

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

In His Grip,

- Pastor Matt

P.S.  Few people have known as much suffering or been as joyful as Joni Eareckson Tada. She says that one of the secrets to this paradox has been to sing her way through suffering including during COVID-19. I hope you and your family are following her example.



Home Worship Guide
                       
1. Call to Worship

Read Psalm 47 with joyful anticipation as your family gathers to worship. The kingship of God over all of the nations is great news and worthy of our songs of praise!

**Option: Families with young children may want to have the kids shout, “Sing praises, sing praises!” after a parent reads each verse.

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


2. Worship in Singing

As a household sing “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” by Joachim Neander (1680) translated into English by Catherine Winkworth (1863).

**Option. Families with younger children might want to repeat the song that has our Hide the Word verse in it: “Rejoice in the Lord Always.” Parents might plan to do this short song for several weeks because repetition helps us to learn something well. Don’t forget that it is also a canon your family can sing “in the round.”

                                   
3. Worship in Unity

As a household, recite together the Nicene Creed (381):
           
WE BELIEVE in one God,
the Father, the Almighty
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

WE BELIEVE in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

WE BELIEVE in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of Life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.

WE BELIEVE in one holy whole and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.


4. Worship in Lament and Thanksgiving

Share with your family both the good and the bad that you all have experienced this week and express them both to the Lord in prayer.

**Option: Monday is Memorial Day. Your household could take some time to share memories of family members who have died. Lament their loss and give thanks for what they have meant to you. We are especially grateful for those who have given their lives in the defense of our nation.


5. Worship in Bible Memorization

Recite our current “Hide the Word” memory verses, Philippians 4:4-5.
                       
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”

**Option: Over the summer months we are going to memorize Philippians 4:4-9. Don’t wait until the verses get long and difficult to memorize. Have each family member close their eyes and say what they can remember out loud. Write it on a whiteboard or big piece of paper and hide key words.

           
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 message: “Your Attitude.”



Some families may want to watch/read the message on their own and then have a Bible study and discussion together during this time.

Application Questions for Personal Reflection and Family Discussion:

1. Taking an inventory of all of my various relationships right now, what is my current attitude towards others? What needs to change in my mindset?

2. How does Jesus' awesome example of humility and exaltation inspire me to live this week? What specific actions should I plan to take?

3. Have I personally confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord? If not, what am I waiting for?


8. Worship in Singing

Sing “He Is Lord” by Linda Lee Johnson, Claire Cloninger, and Tom Fettke (1986).

**Option: Some families may want to sing “Praise the Saviour” by CityAlight which celebrates the same amazing truth of Jesus’ humble sacrifice on our behalf.

**Option: Some families, especially those with young children who really enjoy repetition, may want to continue to sing “Jesus, Strong and Kind” by CityAlight (2019) each week.


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 - 11am on Sunday.

Many of us are meeting through video-conference online this Sunday at 11:00am:



More Links to Helpful Resources