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Sunday, June 28, 2020

"I Press On" [Matt's Messages]

“I Press On”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
June 28, 2020 :: Philippians 3:12-16

For the last two weeks, we have been following Paul’s train of thought as he has told the Philippians his deepest aspiration, the greatest goal of his heart.

We said it could be summed up in the 3 word phrase, “TO KNOW CHRIST!”

For Paul that is the greatest thing. And there is nothing that even comes close.

In the first few sentences of chapter 3, Paul shared a little bit about his own story with the Philippians. Before he became a Christian, Paul was a religious success story as a Pharisee. If someone could be justified before God by following all of the religious rules, Paul would have been the one to pull it off.

But whatever was to his profit, he now considered loss compared to what he called “the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

Now, Paul rejoiced to be found in Christ and have a righteousness (not through his own following the law but a righteousness) that comes through trusting Christ.

All for the ultimate goal of knowing Christ.

Knowing Christ fully.

Knowing Christ in His resurrection power and even in the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings if that’s what it takes to fully know Christ.

To know Christ. There is no greater thing. Amen?

Paul wants to make sure that the Philippians don’t get the wrong idea about Paul’s progress in knowing Christ.

Paul has said that he wants to know Christ more and more.

He wants to know Christ fully above all things. But he is not there yet.

And so, he presses on. Here’s the three word phrase for this week’s message; get this, and you’ve got it all: “I Press On.”

“I press on.”



Listen to Philippians 3, verse 12. “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

I’ve got four points today to show you what I think is the flow of Paul’s thought.

Here’s the first one:

#1. I AM NOT THERE YET.

Paul doesn’t want the Philippians to think that he has arrived. In fact, he says it twice to make sure they get it. Verse 12, “Not that I have already obtained all of this [full knowledge of Christ] or have already been made perfect.”

And then he goes there again in verse 13, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.”

Paul knows that he’s not there yet.

He is not perfect. He does not have the full knowledge of Christ that he has been talking about.

Yes, he’s started to know Christ; has for 30 years. But he not only wants more, he needs more. He’s not there yet.

To the use the big theological words we’ve be learning:

He has been justified.
But he has not yet been fully sanctified.
Because he has not yet been glorified.

That’s still to come.

In the words of verse 11, he has not yet attained somehow to the resurrection!

He’s still “in process.” He’s still a “pilgrim.” He’s still imperfect in (everything but especially in) his knowledge of Christ.

And I don’t think he’s alone. Let’s take a test: raise your hands (yes, you on the other side of this screen)if you are perfect.

I thought so. By the way, if you do raise your hand, you don’t belong at Lanse Free Church. Our church is for non-perfect people. People who have not arrived yet. You’ll have to go somewhere else if you have been perfected already!

Paul says, “I’m not there yet,” and we have to say the same thing of us.

Now, what do we do with that? What’s the application?

Well, one thing we could do with it is to take comfort in it. If the great Apostle Paul didn’t reach perfection, then it’s probably okay on some level that I’m not there yet, myself. That is helpful. No need to lie to ourselves or think that we’re totally on the wrong track because we haven’t arrived yet. There’s something to that.

And we could definitely cut some other people in our lives some slack realizing that they’re not there yet either. Giving other people grace would probably be a good thing to do with this truth.

But Paul does something else with it, doesn’t he?

And I think what Paul does with it needs to be our main application.

It’s point #2.

#2. I PRESS ON.

Paul says, “I am not there yet, so I press on.”

He repeats this idea, too. Verse 12. “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

And then verse 13: “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

“I press on.”

Paul says that it’s the one thing he does. And he does with every muscle straining.

There’s a race theme running here, isn’t there? Paul is talking like an athlete who forgets what’s behind him and races for the finish line with every fiber of his being.

He fervently, passionately pursues his goal.

“I press on.”

Because he is not there yet, Paul focuses his efforts on getting there.

He passionately pursues perfection. He fervently chases after the full knowledge of Christ. And he lets nothing hold him back.

“One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind...” That’s not memory loss. That’s not letting bygones be bygones. That’s putting everything in verses 4-6 in the loss category like he does in verses 7 through 9.

That kind of pursuit of legalistic righteousness is all in the rear view mirror now for Paul. And he’s not going back.

He’s going forward towards the knowledge of Christ.

How about you?

Do you press on?

Are you passionately pursuing the full knowledge of Christ?

Everybody agreed that none of us have yet arrived.

But can we all raise our hand that we are straining toward what is ahead?

Here’s some good news for you: You don’t have to do this on your own.

Jesus has taken all of the initiative. Did you notice that in what Paul says here?

This kind of pressing on is nothing like the legalism that Paul was formerly engaged in.

Some people get worn down by Paul’s passion in verse 12 and 14 because they think that this pressing on is just another kind of legalism, another kind of works righteousness, another kind of religiosity.

But Paul says that kind of thing is in his rear view mirror.

This is just working out what Christ has already worked in us.

Remember that from chapter 2? “...work out your salvation...for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (vv.12-13).

Paul never gets the order of these things wrong.

Christ has done all of the hard work in saving us. But instead of de-motivating us to also do hard work, His works motivates our work to know Him fully.

Let’s see it. Look at verse 12.

“...I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

I love his play on words. I take hold of that for which I was taken hold of.

I can only take hold of it because He already took hold of me!

He does the same thing in verse 14.

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize [that’s the full knowledge of Christ] for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

God has done the calling.

God will see me through.

It’s like "Amazing Grace."

“Thru many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come;
‘Tis [God’s] grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.”

So, does that mean I don’t have to go home?

Because He’s given me His grace? I don’t have to do anything. No! Of course not.

Because He’s given me His grace, I can now run home!

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize [that’s the full knowledge of Christ] for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

By the way, Paul is very heavenly minded. We’re going to see that even more next week, Lord-willing. Paul has heaven on the mind. Let me ask you a question that we’ll come back to next week, “Is it possible to be so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good?”

Think about that this week. Paul was very heavenly minded.

He had been called by God to go to heaven, and by God’s grace, He was straining to get there.

“I press on.”

Whatever it takes.

“I press on.”

Not in my own strength, but with all of my own strength.

“I press on.”

Could you say the same?

Because Paul says that we all should. That’s point #3.

#3. WE ALL SHOULD PRESS ON. 

Look at verse 15. “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.”

We should all press on. This isn’t just for the super-Christians. For the apostles. For the saints. For the full-time Christian workers. This is for everybody.

“All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.”

We should all have this mindset.

Paul is being playful here with this word the NIV translates “mature” because in Greek it’s the same word as “perfect” in verse 12 which he says he’s not yet.

I think he means that everybody who is truly mature knows that they are not truly mature (yet). Everybody who is “perfect” knows that they are not yet “perfect” but are in hot pursuit. (Thanks to the ESV Study Bible’s notes for this insight.)

“All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.”

Is that your view?

Does this describe every single person in Lanse Free Church?

I want it to.

I would love it if every single person who calls this church family their church family would be able to say with Paul, “I want to know Christ!” and “One thing I do: I press on!”

Paul knows that they aren’t going to agree on everything. And there is plenty of room for disagreement on lesser matters. V.15, “And if on some [lesser] point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.”

Give it time. God is working out His salvation in you, and He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion for the day of Christ Jesus (1:6).

We don’t have to agree on all of the finer points.

Maybe they were having that trouble at Philippi. Maybe that was part of their problems back home. Paul says, “Don’t worry. God will take care of that.”

But everyone should do this: Everyone should press on.

Are you pressing on?

The worse thing that could happen is that we give up or go backwards. And that’s our fourth and last point.

#4. WE SHOULD NOT GO BACKWARDS.

Look at verse 16.

“Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”

Only! Whatever else we do, let’s make sure of this. That we don’t go backwards.

Whatever knowledge of Christ we have, let’s live that out today.

We need to put into effect what we know already.

Don’t float backwards.

Press on. Press on.

Are you pressing on?
Are you running the race?
Are you striving towards perfection?
Are you running towards sanctification?
Are you pursuing spiritual growth?
Are you disciplining yourself for godliness?
Are you chasing after Christlikeness?

Are you straining to know Christ?

Are you pressing on?

Or are you just sitting there?

Or are you even actually in reverse?

Press on.

Let’s go!


***

Previous Messages in This Series:

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Sunday, June 21, 2020

“I Want To Know Christ” [Matt's Messages]

“I Want To Know Christ”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
June 21, 2020 :: Philippians 3:10-11

We actually looked briefly at these very words last week, but we didn’t have time to really consider them carefully. These words are the beating heart of this Bible book and the beating heart of its apostolic author, so you don’t want to just pass over these words quickly or lightly. You want to linger.

Now, having said that, I also have to admit that nothing I say today can do these words justice.

These words are sublime. They are beautiful, and they beautifully sum up the beauteous aspiration of the heart of the Apostle Paul.

And nothing I will say today can do them justice.

But I’m still going to try! Because I want us to get a glimpse of the heart of Paul for the heart of Christ. To get a sense of what he really felt and what really he wanted so that, Lord-willing, we might feel and want it ourselves.

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 3:10-11, NIV84).



Do you hear his heart?

Do you hear his aspiration? What Paul really wants?

The Greek construction here that the NIV translates, “I want to know Christ” emphasizes that this is Paul’s deepest purpose for everything he does.

It literally could be translated, “TO KNOW HIM!”

That is it! That is the goal! That is the ultimate experience.

“To Know Him!”

Paul says, “That’s what I want!”

We saw last week how much Paul was willing to give up to know Him.

In his earlier life, Paul was a religious success story. And if you could be justified and saved by doing good works and being a good boy and outwardly following the Law, then Paul would have pulled it off.

But Paul said that he has thrown that all away. From the profit column to the loss column. Remember this?

V.8 “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish [street trash, worse than worthless], that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”

Why? To what end? To what purpose? V.10 again.

“[TO KNOW HIM] and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

Paul wants to know Christ. There is no greater thing.

Can you and I say the same thing?

Now, notice that Paul doesn’t just say that he wants to know God.

This is about knowing Christ. Verse 8 made it very clear. It’s “the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

Some people want to just know “God,” a generic God.

A Creator God, perhaps. God in nature. God up there in the sky. Something like that.

But Paul has a very specific God in mind. He wants to know the Lord Jesus Christ.

The One we’ve been learning about in the Gospel of Matthew the last few years. The most compelling Person who ever lived and ever will live! Paul want to know Him.

And he doesn’t just want to know ABOUT Him. His goal is not just to gather facts about Jesus and have a good mental database of factual knowledge of Jesus.

This is not just an academic exercise. This is relational. This is the language of personal relationship.

Paul wants to know Christ. Paul wants to relate to Christ.

Paul wants to have fellowship and connection and personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And he wants more and more of it!

I said last week that if I’m doing the math right (which is always a question!), the Apostle Paul has known Christ now for about 30 years of his life.

And he just wants more! He. just. wants. more.

On Thursday of this week, Heather and I celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary. The first one we’ve had during a pandemic! We both bought each other books that we knew the other would like. And she fixed me Eggs Benedict for supper, and I baked her Chocolate Chip Cookies for dessert. 26 years of joy!

Yesterday was my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary! A half-century of wedded bliss. Which is an even greater achievement and gift.

You know what? After 26 years, Heather and I still hunger to know each other better. And so do my parents.

We aren’t content to just know about each other or to have known each other.

We want to know each other! ... MORE!

That’s kind of how Paul felt about Christ. He wanted MORE.

He was hungry to know Christ more.

Can that be said of you and me?

Do you want to know Christ?

Around here at Lanse Free Church we like to say that our purpose is “to glorify God by bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.”

I remember when our elders formulated that statement. It was more than 20 years ago. We had a retreat where we prayed and brainstormed how to articulate what we believed was what the Lord had us here for as a church family.

And that’s what we came up with. “...bringing people into a relationship with Jesus Christ.” One of the key passages of Scripture that we studied that weekend and really inspired us was this one: Philippians 3:10 and 11.

This is what drove Paul, and it’s what drives us as a church.

A life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. “TO KNOW HIM!”

In these 2 verses, Paul goes into two different ways that he wants to know Christ.

Two different aspects of knowing Him.

Let’s look at them more closely. Verse 10 again.

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection...”

That’s the first aspect of knowing Christ, and it’s worth throwing away everything else for.

#1. TO KNOW THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION.

Whenever Paul wants to talk about extraordinary power, he almost always turns to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

What kind of power does it take to bring a dead man back to life?

I know we didn’t get to have Easter together this year as a church, so I’ll remind you what happened:

Jesus Christ was executed, crucified on a Roman Cross. And he was buried. He was really dead. Dead on Friday. Dead on Saturday. Dead on Sunday.

And then on Sunday morning, the third day, Jesus Christ came back from the dead!

What kind of power does it take to do that?! That’s what Paul wants to know!

He wants to know the power of Jesus’ resurrection.

Not just about it. He wants to know it. He wants that power at work in his life.

Why would he need that kind of power?

Well, we’ll see in a minute that he will need it for his own resurrection after he dies.

But he also needs it for the work that we often call “sanctification.” Which is becoming more and more holy. More and more like Christ.

Verse 9 talks about what we call “justification” which is being declared righteous, having righteousness–not of our own from the law but that which is through faith in Christ alone–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

But verse 10 goes beyond justification to sanctification. Not just being declared righteous but increasingly becoming more and more righteous.

Are you becoming more and more righteous?

In your heart, from your lips, at your hands, from your feet?

Are you becoming more and more like Christ?

It takes power to do that. Extraordinary power. The kind of power it takes to bring the dead to life.

I want to know that power, don’t you?

Not power without Christ, apart from Christ but resurrection power from knowing Christ.

However, before you experience a resurrection, you have to experience a death. Look again at verse 10.

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death...”

That’s the second aspect of knowing Christ.

#2. KNOWING THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERINGS.

That one doesn’t sound as appealing, does it?

I think we often forget this side of it, or at least we try.

But Paul does not try to avoid it. He says that he WANTS to know the fellowship of sharing in Christ’s sufferings.

What does that mean?

Well, that word “fellowship” in verse 10 is the same word we learned about back in chapter 1 back in March. It’s the word “koinonia,” and it shouldn’t be translated “coffee and donuts.”

It’s more like “partnership” or “in-it-togetherness.”

Paul wants to have in-it-togetherness with Jesus’ suffering.

He wants to share in Jesus’s suffering. What does that mean?

Well, I don’t think it’s a death wish. And I don’t think it’s masochism either.

Paul doesn’t love pain for pain.

But he does want to have deep fellowship with Jesus even if it means going through hard things for and with Jesus.

If that’s what it takes to really know Christ, then count me in, Paul says.

Of course, Christ’s sufferings were unique and one of a kind. He died like we never will.

But mysteriously, we were united with Him in His death. Paul says that elsewhere.

And as we are united to Him, Christ brings new meaning to whatever suffering you and I experience today.

We follow Christ’s pattern when we suffer in faith.

I think that’s what he means when he says, “becoming like him in his death.”

We are conformed to Christ’s image when we suffer as Christians.

And mysteriously we find ourselves knowing Him more and more and more.

Last year, I read this book by Paul Miller. The guy who wrote, “A Praying Life,” and it’s all about this concept of being conformed to the image of Christ through dying and rising with Jesus in everyday life.

He calls it the “J-Curve.”

J for Jesus, but also for the shape of our movement as we are conformed to Christ.

Remember in chapter 2 (over there on the big slide) when Paul said that Jesus went down down down, giving up His rights and privileges and prerogatives.

And that we need to do the same?

That will mean some suffering, won’t it?

Going down, down, down and putting other first will mean suffering.

For Jesus it meant the cross.

And Paul says that we should have the same attitude.

But Jesus didn’t stop there, did He?

No, God exalted Jesus to the highest place and gave Him the highest name!

Up, up, up!

That’s the pattern. Down in suffering like Christ. Up in exaltation like Christ!

You don’t get the one without the other.

So Paul says, “Count me in.”

I want to know the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death.

Do you want that?

Do you choose that?

Paul Miller shows us that this pattern gets repeated over and over and over again the New Testament.

It is what it means to know Christ.

Some people want you to think that you can know Christ without suffering.

And there’s big theological word for that, “Baloney!”

Don’t listen to anyone who says that Jesus just wants you to be happy, healthy, and  wealthy.

No, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

And Paul said, “I want to know that guy!”

“TO KNOW HIM and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, [verse 11] and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

That’s not just a metaphor. That’s a real, literal expectation.

Paul expects someday somehow to be resurrected from the dead himself.

And that’s when we move from justification to sanctification to glorification!  Which he’s going to talk more about as the chapter goes on.

Down, down, down even to real death.

And then one day up, up, up from the grave!

All because we know Christ.

Do you know Christ?

Is Jesus your Savior and Lord?
Is He your Rescuer and King?

Knowing Christ is worth giving up everything.

Knowing Him is worth throwing everything else away. Taking up your cross.

If you have never come to know Him, then let today be the day.

Turn from your sin and put your all of your faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

He crucified for your sin. And He offers the gift of His righteousness.

And He offers for you to be spiritually united to and found in Him.

There is no greater thing!

That doesn’t mean it won’t hurt. Following Jesus means embracing pain. Painful love, painful repentance, trusting God when bad things and trials come.

But you get to know Him better as you trust Him through those bad things.

You get the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings.

So it’s worth it!

And the suffering doesn’t last forever. After death comes resurrection. Somehow.

And knowing Him is worth it all.

Do you know Christ that way?

Have you told somebody else about it?

Knowing Him is so good. We can’t keep it to ourselves!

Paul is telling us how good it is. We need to tell somebody.

Who could you tell this week how much you want to. know. Christ. and the extraordinary power of His resurrection and the sweet and deep fellowship of sharing in His sufferings.

Not just about Him.

But knowing Him. More and more and more.

Forever!


***

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"
06. "Your Attitude"
07. "I Am Glad and Rejoice With All Of You"
08. "With Great Joy"
09. "Rejoice in the Lord!"

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Far More Than Rubies - 26 Years of Joy

Happy 26th anniversary to my wonderful wife, Heather Joy!

"A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies." Proverbs 31:10

Valentines 2020




Engagement Photos circa 1993








Photo by Isaac Mitchell.




Photo by: Nate Weatherly Photography, Used by Permission


The Happy Husband

Oft, oft, methinks, the while with thee
I breathe, as from the heart, thy dear
And dedicated name, I hear
A promise and a mystery,
A pledge of more than passing life,
Yea, in that very name of wife!

A pulse of love that ne'er can sleep!
A feeling that upbraids the heart
With happiness beyond desert,
That gladness half requests to weep!
Nor bless I not the keener sense
And unalarming turbulence.

Of transient joys, that ask no sting
From jealous fears, or coy denying;
But born beneath Love's brooding wing,
And into tenderness soon dying.
Wheel out their giddy moment, then
Resign the soul to love again;

A more precipitated vein
Of notes that eddy in the flow
Of smoothest song, they come, they go,
And leave their sweeter understrain
Its own sweet self-a love of thee
That seems, yet cannot greater be!

Samuel Taylor Coleridge [poemhunter.com]

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Sunday, June 14, 2020

"Rejoice in the Lord!" [Matt's Messages]

“Rejoice in the Lord!”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
June 14, 2020 :: Philippians 3:1-11

I invite you to open your Bibles to the Book of Philippians chapter 3, but before we read it, I want to mark this occasion as special.

June 14th, 1998 was the very first Sunday that I preached from this pulpit as the brand new pastor of Lanse Evangelical Free Church. 22 years ago to the day!

Today, I want to thank the search team chaired by Wally Kephart and the whole congregation chaired at that time by George Leathers for bringing us together, 22 years ago this day.

And do you know what was the first book that we went through together as a church with this brand new pastor?

The first two Sundays I preached from Isaiah 40 to remind us Who our Awesome God truly is. But the first book that I picked up to preach all the way through was the little missionary letter of the Apostle Paul to his beloved church friends at Philippi.

The book of Philippians.

Now, if you had told me in 1998 that I would still be the pastor here 22 years later and preaching a message June 14, 2020 on Philippians chapter 3 “posted” to the Internet on something called “YouTube” and “Facebook” and also to 2 different worship gatherings one where everybody is wearing a facemask and where at both everyone is sitting at 6 foot spacing from one another to mitigate the spread of a virus attacking the entire globe, I would have said, “You’re crazy!”

“There’s no way they’ll put up with me for 22 years!”

And yet, here we are.

In Philippians chapter 3.



And though many things have changed in those 22 years, the Word of the Lord stands firm.

Even though we’ve already made it half way through the book, the Apostle Paul has not swerved from his focus on joy.

Week after week (and this is the 9th week we have studied Philippians this year), Paul keeps talking about joy, joy, joy, joy, joy.

He always prays with joy.
He rejoices that Christ is preached.
He continues to rejoice no matter what happens to him because to live is Christ and to die is gain.
He asks them to make his joy complete by putting each other ahead of themselves.
And He rejoices with the Philippians because he knows that they are going to obey Jesus whether or not they see Paul ever again.
And, last week, he told them to honor Timothy and Epaphroditus and welcome them with great joy.]

So what do you think Paul is going to tell the Philippians next?

Chapter 3, verse 1.

“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!”

Now, that “finally” is kind of funny because Paul still has a lot of letter left to go.

This is kind of like when I say, “finally” in a sermon, and there’s still a lot of sermon left to go. Don’t close your Bible yet! “Finally...”

It’s not even the last time in the letter he’s going to say, “Rejoice in the Lord!” This isn’t our Hide the Word verse! That’s in chapter 4.

But Paul is getting back to the main point of his letter. That’s what “finally” means here. He’s done telling them about his plans to send Timothy and Epaphroditus, and now he wants to make sure they. get. the. point.

And he wants to warn them to make sure to get the point.

So he tells them straight up to “Rejoice in the Lord!”

That’s the whole message right there.

If you get that, and you get the reasons for that, and you get the way to that, and you start to do that, you’ve got the point.

“Rejoice in the Lord!”

There’s clearly two parts to that, and they are clearly both important.

Rejoice! This is about our joy. This is about our satisfaction and eternal happiness.

This is about our hearts. That’s where the rejoicing happens.

But he doesn’t just say, “Don’t worry. Be happy. Get your smile on.”

He says, “Rejoice IN THE LORD.”

And he means Jesus.

Rejoice in the Lord Jesus.

Why and how?

Paul goes on to issue a warning to the Philippians.

Because, you see, there is another threat looming over them.

We’ve learned about 2 threats already the Philippians faced.

One threat was persecution. They were being attacked from outside. Paul was in prison for preaching the gospel and might lose his life for it. And the Philippians were not immune from those same external attacks.

But another threat was from inside. The Philippians seemed to be struggling internally with potential conflicts bubbling up in the church family.

And now Paul says there is another threat they have to watch out for, and he reserves the strongest language for this one.

The persecution doesn’t bother him that much. "So you kill me, so what?"

The conflict can be solved by having a Christlike attitude and putting others ahead of yourself. “You before me.” Like Timothy and Ephaphroditus were so good at.

But this threat? It threatens your very soul.

Because it’s a threat to the gospel.

And the answer to this threat is to rejoice in the Lord. Look at verse 1 again.

“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.”

He’s said these things before. When he was with them and maybe in another letter we don’t have. It’s no trouble for him to repeat himself, and they need to hear the warning. V.2

“Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.”

Who’s he talking about? They sound bad! That’s some strong language there.

Dogs were not cute cuddly house-pets in that time and place. They were wild, dangerous scavengers. And they were unclean. The Jews often derogatively called the Gentiles, “dogs.”

Which here is ironic because Paul is talking about false Christians who are trying to get the church to go back to Judaism. These “dogs” probably were actually Jewish like Paul was.

It’s the same type of people that Paul was fighting in the book of Galatians. (Do you remember that from a couple of years ago?)

We sometimes call them the "Judaizers." They insisted upon circumcision and following the Law and that to be saved you have to first become Jewish.

Salvation comes through law-keeping.

Now the reason why Paul has to warn the Philippians is that these guys look really good on the outside.

These guys seem like the good guys. They are moral. They are religious. They are straight-laced. They are good citizens. They wear the white hats. They go to church. Their lifestyles look very attractive.

But Paul says that they are “dogs.” They are (truly) men who do evil. They are mutilators of the flesh. He’s talking about circumcision. Their’s isn’t real because it doesn’t get to the heart. It’s just about the flesh.

So watch out! V.3

“For it is we [Christians] who are the circumcision [the true circumcision, of the heart], we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh...”

That phrase “glory in Christ Jesus” is parallel to “rejoice in the Lord.”

That’s what true Christians do. They glory in Christ Jesus. The boast in Him.

They put their faith and find their joy in Jesus.

I’ve got two diagnostic application questions for us to consider from today’s passage.

Two questions (and they are related). Here is the first one:

#1. WHAT AM I TRUSTING FOR SALVATION?

Where do I put my confidence and faith?

What am I trusting for salvation?

That is such an important question!

Be careful to make sure you can answer it rightly!

Because these guys did not.

Paul says that real Christians (v.3), “put no confidence in the flesh.”

And by flesh there, he means circumcision. They put no confidence that circumcisions will save them. And he also means “flesh” in the broader sense of all human effort, all human ability, all human performance and achievement.

“Flesh” here is shorthand for the actions we do to get right and stay right with God.

Do, do, do.

Especially the religious ones.

Paul says that true Christians put no confidence in the flesh. But catch verse 4!

“...though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.”

That’s amazing that he goes there.

Paul says that if this was the way to be saved, he was there.

He had impeccable religious credentials. He was even born right!

And he did everything right (externally, outwardly).

If you looked up “Legalistically Righteous Jew” in the dictionary, Paul’s picture would be there!

Paul was a great religious success.

If you could get to heaven on your own, Paul was the poster child.

And yet, Paul says to watch out for people like he was!

What you are you trusting for salvation?

Are you trusting in your good works?
Are you trusting in your baptism?
Are you trusting in your church-going?
Are you trusting in your generosity?
Are you trusting in your being a good person, a good citizen?
Are you trusting in your family? In having come from a good religious family?

Paul says, “Watch out for people like that.”

Those are the kind of people that Jesus was always fighting with.

And Paul says, “That’s the kind of person I used to be.”

But now I put no confidence in the flesh. I rejoice in the Lord. Verse 7.

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.”

Financially imagery, right? Paul is moving those things from the profit category to the loss side of the ledger.

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.”

All of those things! (And some of them were good in and of themselves but they weren’t trustworthy. They won’t save!)

They are now loss. V.8

“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.”

Everything goes in the loss column. Every single thing that could be trusted in gets tossed over there.

And all for the sake of knowing Jesus.

Here’s the second application question:

#2. WHAT AM I THINKING IS THE GREATEST THING?

What am I trusting in for salvation and what am I thinking is the greatest thing in the whole universe?

You can see how these two question are related. The answer should be the same for both.

It’s Jesus Christ.

“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.”

There is no greater thing that knowing Jesus Christ!

And Paul came to believe that.

It’s not just that Jesus is better than those other things.

Those other things are worthless compared to knowing Jesus!

Paul had a complete and total change of mind!

That’s what we call “repentance.”

See how often he used the word “consider?”

He used to consider these things great. Now, he considers those things, “loss.” Worse than “loss;” verse 9.

“I consider them rubbish [street trash, dung, worthless junk], that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”

It’s so much better than “do, do, do.”

“It’s done!”

Jesus has done it for us on the Cross and has given us His own righteousness as a gift!

And we just receive it by faith.

That’s so much better!

Do you know Jesus like that?

As your Savior? As the One who gives you His righteousness? Not by your own works, but by God’s gift?

What are you trusting in for salvation? Trust in Jesus Christ and nothing else!

Especially not your good works.

And when you do, you find out that knowing Jesus is the greatest thing in the universe! Being united to Christ, what Paul call, “being found in him,” is the greatest reality in the world.

There is no greater thing.

Paul calls it, “the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

Do you know Him like that?

Is there something else that you are considering as greater?

What could it be?

We all do. We get our eyes off of the ball.

We start thinking that the greatest thing is some other experience.
It’s some other thing we’re chasing.
Popularity, possessions, relationships, jobs, money, politics, sports, books, whatever.

Paul says, “I used to value all of that.”

But now I know what is the greatest thing in all of the universe. And I just want more. V.10

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

We’re going to look at those 2 verses more in-depth next week, Lord-willing, but I just want to point out that by this time, Paul has probably known Jesus for about 30 years.

And this is what he wants right now in his life.

He wants more of Jesus.

More of His power. More of his suffering (if it means more fellowship with Him), and more of knowing Him forever.

Because there is no greater thing than knowing Jesus.

Do you know Jesus that way?

If you don’t, I invite you to start right now. Change your mind. Paul did. You can, too. Don’t listen to those guys. Stop putting your confidence in your flesh. Don’t try to do a righteousness of your own. Put that in the loss column.

Put your confidence in Christ alone.

And if you do, then see what you have to rejoice in?!

If you have Jesus, you have everything.

For the last 22 years, I’ve been saying it every chance I can get.

If you have Jesus, you have everything.

Rejoice in the Lord!


***

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"
06. "Your Attitude"
07. "I Am Glad and Rejoice With All Of You"

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Sunday, June 07, 2020

“With Great Joy” [Matt's Messages]

“With Great Joy”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
Worship At Home Video Message
June 7, 2020 :: Philippians 2:19-30

I invite you to open your Bibles to the Book of Philippians chapter 2. The Apostle Paul’s missionary letter to his beloved church friends in the Greek city of Philippi.

We’ve reached the words now marked in our Bibles as chapter 2, verse 19. Big number 2. Little number 19. Paul didn’t put those numbers there. That’s how we know where to find things now. Philippians chapter 2, verse 19.

This is the 8th message in the book of Philippians for Lanse Free Church to use for Worship at Home, and it’s the 12th message in this pre-recorded video format we’ve been using during the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Right now, I want to tell some of you to turn this video off right here.

Don’t watch this video if you are coming to worship on campus on Sunday morning June 7th at least until after you have come to worship on campus on Sunday morning June 7th!

Because this is the message I’m planning to preach to you folks in that building right there on Sunday morning!

So you can keep watching if you want, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

{By the way, it’s Pew Bible page #1162.}

The Apostle Paul has just finished an important section of his missionary letter to his beloved Philippians where he has encouraged them to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, to stand out in their generation by not complaining and not arguing, to hold out the word of life, and to be willing to pour out their lives in worship of Jesus Christ.

And that’s all because of what Jesus did for all of us when He let go of the high perks of divinity and humbled Himself into the servanthood of human death for us. And then was exalted to the highest place and given the highest name.

Do you remember that?

So in verse 19 of chapter 2, Paul resumes his missionary letter by telling the Philippians about his plans.

Paul is planning to send 2 of his associates, 2 members of his ministry team to the Philippians, one at a time. And both of these guys are guys they know. One is actually from the Philippian church himself.

And in the very middle of this letter, Paul has a lot to say about these 2 men.

I think that Paul (and the Holy Spirit inspiring him) is putting these 2 men forward as examples for the Philippians to follow, to model themselves after.

He’s not just telling them facts about these 2 guys. He wants them to become like these 2 guys.

At the end of the chapter, Paul tells them the “honor men like” these.

And he also tells them to welcome them in the Lord “with great joy.”

By now the emphasis on joy should not be surprising.

Philippians is Paul’s letter of joy.

He always prays with joy.
He rejoices that Christ is preached.
He continues to rejoice no matter what happens to him because to live is Christ and to die is gain.
He asks them to make his joy complete by putting each other ahead of themselves.
And He rejoices with the Philippians because he knows that they are going to obey Jesus whether or not they see Paul ever again.

Joy, joy, joy, joy, joy.

And now, Paul tells the Philippians to welcome these 2 guys with great joy.

Literally, “with all joy.”

And we’ll quickly see why. It’s because these guys were worth rejoicing in. They were worth honoring.

They were quality Christian men.



So, this is a perfect passage for us for at least two reasons this particular weekend.

The first is that Sunday June 7th is Graduation Sunday, and we have 5 young men who are our Class of 2020. 5 young men who have just graduated from high school:

Thomas, Dalton, Tyler, Andrew, and Ben.

I have had the privilege of being their pastor for most if not all of their school years.

I had the privilege of baptizing all 5 of them.

And this passage is perfect for Graduation Sunday because those 5 young men could learn a lot from these 2 Christian men in Philippians 2.

We all can, of course, but it’s particularly appropriate for Thomas, Dalton, Tyler, Andrew, and Ben who I hope either watch this video or catch the live version in one of the two new worship gatherings.

The other reason why this passage is particularly appropriate for this Sunday is that we got word on Friday night that our beloved missionary friend Henoc Lucien had died.

Henoc was a special man, a dear brother in the Lord, and had shoes too big for any one else to fill.

And Henoc was a lot like these 2 guys that Paul is writing about in the middle of Philippians.

And it is very appropriate for us to honor him to fulfill verse 29.

“Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him.”

We can’t welcome him here anymore on our campus, but we can honor him.

Let’s start in verse 19, and find out more about these 2 guys that Paul is planning to send to the Philippians.

The first is a man named “Timothy.” Chapter 2, verse 19.

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

So interestingly, Paul is not sending Timothy just yet.

He hopes to send him.
He wants to send him.
The Philippians want to see him.

But Paul is holding onto Timothy until it’s clearer what is going to happen with his court case.

Remember, Paul isn’t sure if he’s going to live or if he’s going to die.

He expects to live. He expects to visit the Philippians again.

But he doesn’t know for sure, and he needs Timothy with him while he waits for the verdict.

But Paul tell the Philippians that he is planning to send Timothy soon so that he (Paul!) may be cheered when the news comes back him.

Isn’t that interesting?

Paul wants to send Timothy so that Timothy will boomerang back with news about how the Philippians are doing.

It’s fascinating how relationship-focused this letter is.

I’ve always known that, but during these days when we have been so separate from each other, I feel it like never before.

Paul feels his separation from the Philippians, and he can’t wait to use the social media of the day to find out how they really are. He’s planning to send a human being all the way across the Roman Empire to find out on his return how his beloved Philippians are faring.

And he hopes to be “cheered” by the news (v.19).

I’ve been walking 8-10 miles a day for the last 3 months and on many many of those walks, I’ve been carrying these church directories with me and making calls to you.

This is my March one. This is my April and May one. And Marilynn just made me a June one this week.

I have been longing for news about you.

That’s how Paul felt. And it’s also how Timothy felt. Listen to verse 20.

“I have no one else like [Timothy], who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”

Now we’re getting into what makes Timothy so honorable.

Timothy didn’t just look out for himself.

Timothy was outstanding at looking out for others.

Listen closely, Thomas, Dalton, Tyler, Andrew, and Ben.

Listen closely, everyone.

“Everyone looks out for their own interests,” that’s normal.

But not everyone looks out for others for the sake of Jesus Christ.
If you find someone like that, they are worthy of honor.
If you find someone like that, they are worthy of imitating.

Does this language sound familiar to you? This language of interests and looking out for someone’s else interests?

I hope it does. Remember verse 4 of this chapter?

“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. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus...”

Timothy was like Christ Jesus!

He did that.

He put others first.

“You before me.”
“You before me.”

Here’s our first application question for today:

#1. AM I LIKE TIMOTHY?

Are you like Timothy?

Who is number one in your life?

Same questions as a few weeks ago:

Ask yourself who are you putting first in all of your relationships.

If you are a dad, does the family revolve around you and your will?
If you are a mom, is it your way or the highway?
If you are brother or a sister, do put your siblings’ interests ahead of your own?
If you are single are you focused only on your dreams and ambitions?
If you are a boss at work? If you are an employee at work? Who are you looking out for?
Drivers, who is #1 on the road?

“For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”

Isn’t that interesting that he ends with Jesus and not with the Philippians?

“I have no one else like [Timothy], who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”

So when a Christian looks out for other Christians and puts their interests ahead of himself, they are looking out for the interests of Jesus Christ, their Lord.

Thomas, Dalton, Tyler, Andrew, and Ben, is that you?

Everybody else? Is that you? Is that me?

Am I like Timothy?

Do we honor people like Timothy?

I think that Henoc Lucien was a Timothy. He was constantly putting the needs and interests of others ahead of himself.

My dad saw him in action in Haiti once, and Henoc carried two cell phones and could be talking on both at the same time while driving!

And he wasn’t just chatting. He was helping people with their problems.

He was putting others ahead of himself.

Welcome men like that great joy and be like them if you can.

Timothy did this over and over and over again. V.22

“But you know that Timothy has proved himself [passed the test again and again], because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.”

Timothy didn’t just put someone ahead of himself once. He did it again and again.

And you can see how close he and Paul became if you read the letters Paul wrote to Timothy later in your Bible. Like a son with his father.

Paul says that Timothy served in the work of the gospel.

The word for served is the same one as described Jesus as the servant in verse 7.

Timothy was like Jesus. He served.

And he served in the work of the gospel. It is work. The gospel is the good news of free salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But it’s work to share it. Henoc did that work.

And so should we.

Timothy served and served and served in the work of the gospel. He was a proven servant.

Are you and I?

Could someone look at our lives and say, “That one right there has proved himself a servant in the work of the gospel?”

Thomas, Dalton, Tyler, Andrew, and Ben, I would love it if someone said that about you!

You don’t have to be a pastor or a missionary to do it.

You just have to serve others in Jesus’ name and share the gospel with those who need to hear it.

No wonder Paul wanted to keep Timothy to himself. Soon he hoped to send him. And he also hoped to visit the Philippians himself.

But for now, Paul was going to send his friend Epaphroditus, probably bearing this very letter to them.

If the nickname for Timothy is Tim, what is this nickname for this guy?

E-Pap? Brother E-Pap!

Look at what Paul says about Epaphroditus in verse 25.

“But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs.” Stop there for a second.

This is also high praise.

Paul says that Epaphroditus is his fellow Christian (brother), fellow gospel worker (like Timothy) and fellow soldier.

That’s a word for a solid guy who can be depended upon a spiritual battle.

This is also a strong commendation of another Christian.

And Epaphroditus had apparently been sent from the Philippians to Paul.

He was a human care package!

They knew that Paul was in prison and needy. Roman prisons were not like our human American prisons with 3 squares a day and exercise in the yard.

In a Roman prison, the prisoner or his family had to supply of his needs.

And Paul had no family.

So the Philippians sent Epaphroditus with a love gift.

Just like the money we have recently sent to Pastor Henoc to help feed people on the streets of Cap Haitien.

So the Philippians sent Epaphroditus to Paul with a love gift.

But he almost didn’t make it. V.26

“For [Epaphroditus] longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill.  Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.”

We don’t know. Maybe he got a bad virus.

But he was down and almost out.

And if he had died, it would be far better for him.

But God had mercy on Epaphroditus and on Paul and spared him sorrow upon sorrow. V.28

“Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety.”

I won’t have to worry any longer about you worrying about him!

Because you’ll get to see your boy again.

Reunions are awesome, aren’t they?

Do you feel all of the longing of these loving relationships?

Verse 26 says that Epaphroditus “longs” for the Philippians.

Same word that Paul used in chapter 1, verse 8 to describe how he misses them, too.

And we, as church family, separated these last 11 weeks long for each other, as well.

Some of us get to be together in person. Some on Zoom.

But we look forward to a day when we can all be together.

And we won’t have to worry about worrying about each other!

And one day we will see Henoc again.

Right now we miss him, and we long for the Great Reunion that comes when the kingdom does.

Verse 29.

“Welcome [Epaphroditus] in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.”

So here’s the second and last application questions for us in this passage:

#2. AM I LIKE EPAPHRODITUS?

Am I taking risks for the work of Christ?

Thomas, Dalton, Tyler, Andrew, and Ben, be like Epaphroditus.

Don’t just play it safe.

Don’t take stupid risks.

Don’t take big risks for no good reason.

Make sure you know what the risks you are taking are and what the potential benefit might be.

But don’t just play it safe in your Christian life.

Because what’s the worst that could happen?

You die? So what? If you die in Christ, you get to go be with Christ.

That’s what Pastor Henoc has done. He obviously was taking risks for the work of Christ. And he should be honored for it. And we should learn from his example.

With great joy.


***

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"
06. "Your Attitude"
07. "I Am Glad and Rejoice With All Of You"

Saturday, June 06, 2020

LEFC Guide to Worship - June 7, 2020


LEFC Guide to Worship
Graduation Sunday
June 7, 2020

$          From the Pastor
$          Worship Guide
$          More Links to Helpful Resources

                                                           
From the Pastor                                                 
                                   
Dear Church Family,

Eleven Sundays.

The last time we gathered together in-person for worship on our church campus was March 15, 2020. Because of COVID-19, eleven Sundays have passed where we have all worshipped the Lord from our homes and utilized creative technological means of encouraging Christian fellowship and spiritual growth. For the last eleven Sundays, the church has not stopped being the church. In fact, the scope of our outreach may have even grown some as many people have accessed our online resources.

But it’s been too long. We all have missed being together for the last three months. There is nothing quite like what I call, “Church at church.” So as your pastor, I’m overjoyed that the Lord is leading us back. Thank you for praying for this day to come!

I’m extremely grateful for the leaders that the Lord has given to our church family. Over the last three months, the Elders have put in many hours of unified prayer, hard thinking, and diligent shepherding. The Facilities Team has kept the building in good maintenance and improved the internet service. The Deaconnesses have compassionately cared for hurting people. The Finance Team has kept the bills current, the staff paid, and the missionaries supported. Cindy has done a deep clean of the whole building. And Marilynn has kept all of the numerous plates spinning away, including many new plates that we’ve never had to deal with before.

Please keep praying for wisdom for these leaders as there are many things to think through in the days to come including when and how to restart other in-person ministries (On-Campus Prayer Meeting begins again, Lord-willing, on June 17th!) or envision creative alternatives. There is still much work to be done, but we know the Lord’s firm and tender mercies are new every day (Lamentations 3:23).

Eleven Sundays have passed since we were all together, but now some of us get to be back together again. If you are a first-wave returnee, welcome home! I’m glad you’re here on campus for the 8am or 9:30am worship gathering, and I hope you experience the grace of our Lord Jesus as we sing, pray, and hear God’s Word together. It won’t be the same as it was, especially with all of the extra health precautions, but I’m sure that it will be good because our Lord is good.

One thing that I’m certain will be difficult is that a lot of us will still be missing one another. Some will be worshipping at a different service than others, and many are not yet free to return to worship on campus. Church will probably feel a lot “smaller” this week, and we’re still going to yearn for the people we don’t see (Philippians 1:8). As your pastor, I suggest everybody pull out your church directory on Sunday afternoon and drop a line to somebody you are missing. We are all one church family regardless of whether or not we are all together at the same time and place. I’m hoping we see more and more of each other each week as new waves of returnees come in.

Another great place to see everyone is the Family Fellowship Meeting on Zoom (Sundays at 11:00am). This week our missionaries at Miracle Mountain Ranch, Donnie and Tonya Rosie, will be joining us to share about the challenges and opportunities before MMR this summer. If all goes well, they will connect with us from the ranch barns, and we’ll get to see some horses and/or other farm animals in the Critter Corral. The LEFC Kids should especially enjoy that! We’re also going to recognize our graduates and pray for one another other. I hope you can join us.

For those at home this weekend, we have prepared another ten-step guide for your family worship time and produced another recorded video message from the book of Philippians. You’ll notice that the strong theme of rejoicing in the Lord continues to surge throughout both the book and our worship plan because unstoppable joy is exactly what we all need during these difficult days.

Over the last eleven Sundays we have added a Worship in Unity element to our worship times. 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 return to 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 still 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.

The Elders have been praying about how and when to resume celebrating the Lord’s Supper as a church family. At this time, we have chosen to wait until the whole church can safely partake together. The biblical teaching on Communion emphasizes church unity and waiting for each other in love (see 1 Corinthians 11:17-34). While different churches will choose to handle these things in different ways, we believe that we should postpone our celebration until the “all clear” is sounded and the full church can gather around the Lord’s Table together once again.

Starting Sunday afternoon, we will be asking everyone who is ready to reserve a household seating section for next Sunday, June 14th. This helps us to ensure that we have enough of everything ready for both services, especially spaced seating. Please pray for us as we prepare this week to gather once again in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I hope we don’t have to forego eleven Sundays ever again.

It’s a joy to be your pastor. Whether at home or on campus this weekend, let’s make sure that every single one of us in this precious church family worships the Lord Jesus Christ.

In His Grip,

- Pastor Matt

P.S. Keep singing as you go! “There’s within my heart a melody–Jesus whispers sweet and low, ‘Fear not, I am with thee–peace, be still,’ in all of life’s ebb and flow. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus–sweetest name I know, fills my every longing, keeps me singing as I go.”




Home Worship Guide
                       
1. Welcome to Worship

Read Psalm 117 with gratefulness for God’s faithfulness as your family gathers to worship.

**Option: Parents might want to tell their children more about Psalm 117. It is the shortest in the Psalter (Book of Psalms). It has only 16 words in the Hebrew in just 2 brief verses. At the same time, Psalm 117 says a great deal, singing to all of the nations of the world about the greatness of the LORD.

Families with young children may want to have the kids shout, “Hallelujah!” after a parent reads Psalm 117 as that is the Hebrew translated “Praise the LORD” in verse 2.

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


2. Worship in Singing


As a household sing “’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus by Louisa Stead (1882).

**Option. Families with older adults might also or instead enjoy singing “He Keeps Me Singing” by Luther Bridgers (1910).

**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 Apostles’ Creed:

“We believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

We 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.

We 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 Lament and Thanksgiving

When the people of Israel returned from the exile and built the foundation of a new temple, they praised God with a loud shout (see Ezra 3). At the same time many of the older leaders who remembered the older grander temple wept aloud. Both responses were good and right for that moment.

As some of our church family worship on campus while others remain at home, we both rejoice and lament. As a family, give thanks for those who were ready to return and pray for all of the families who still needed to stay home.

Discuss other things your family has experienced this week, both joyful and sorrowful.

**Option. Have someone pray a prayer of lament that we are not all partaking of the Lord’s Supper together again today.


5. Worship in Bible Memory
                                   
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: Look ahead at verse 6. Is your family ready to add it in?

           
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: “With Great Joy”
                                                                                   
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. Am I like Timothy?
2. Am I like Epaphroditus?
3. Do I welcome and honor leaders like Timothy and Epaphroditus?


8. Worship in Singing

Sing “Amazing Grace” by John Newton (1779).

**Option: Some families, especially those with young children may want to sing, “Jesus Christ is the Same” from Hebrews 13:8. No matter what else changes in our world, we can count on Jesus to be unchanging.

**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:

- See one another’s faces and hear each other’s voices.
- Listen to announcements of church family news.
- Interact with our missionaries at Miracle Mountain Ranch, Donnie & Tanya Rosie.
- Kids, the Rosies are going to join us from the barns at MMR. We might get to see horses and other farm animals!
- Pray for one another live and online.



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