A message from the series "Joy Unchained." My friend told me he wanted to know everything Jesus taught. I said it might surprise you to know that one-fourth of the time he spoke about money. He said, "Really? What else did he talk about?" One of the effects of the gospel going deeper into our souls is that it frees our fingers to loosen their grasp on our stuff. Generosity is one of the great evidences of truly being a disciple of Jesus Christ. But for the Christian, the issue is not just that we give, but how... “God loves a cheerful giver” 2 Corinthians 9:7. Christian generosity happily finds its' motivation from Jesus himself — our Savior, Lord and greatest treasure — demonstrated the ultimate in generosity in coming to save us... “Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” 2 Corinthians 8:9. If Jesus is in us, then increasingly such an open-handed tendency will be in us as well. We don't own anything. Instead we steward what we've been given. This leads to freedom. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21 Since our treasures reveal our hearts and our hearts are idol making machines then money reveals our idols. So we need help. Paul gives it to us in two simple paragraphs as he concludes his letter to the Philippian church. Contentment, needs vs wants, and the sacrifice of Jesus compel all believers to be generous stewards. Remember, the theme of the book of Philippians is joy and joy comes when you share with others!
A message from the series "Joy Unchained." There have only been a few times in my life when I've been far away from any city lights. When this happens there is one thing that cannot be ignored. One thing that screams for my attention. So I stare into the night sky filled with stars. It's awesome. The vastness of just that little slice of God's universe is an overwhelming thought. From our position on earth, there is one star perfectly placed by God that holds special significance. We call it Polaris, the North Star. Before the compass or sexton sailors used that fixed point to determine direction. Now more than ever we need a North Star in life. Of course, God has given it to us in his son Jesus Christ. I love what C.S. Lewis said... “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” Our exhortation from the Apostle Paul this week is a great one. Every single one of life's challenges is to be seen from a cosmic perspective. In other words, look up to the sky and remember that from heaven we await a savior who will transform our bodies. We will be in a place that is unbroken and untouched by sin's weariness. So let's put our earthly circumstances into that eternal perspective and find the path to joy on earth.
A message from the series "Joy Unchained." Last week, we read about Paul's desire in Philippians Chapter 3 to know Christ by stating that He counted all as a loss for the value of knowing Jesus. He stressed that his supreme goal was to have righteousness, which only comes through faith in Jesus. In other words, Paul exchanged his work for the work of Jesus on the cross. He also said he wanted to know the power of His resurrection and to share His sufferings, even in His death. This is Christian maturity. Our past can be a weapon. It can make us think that our future is determined by our former failures. Paul’s attitude toward pressing on to a goal is humble in that he does not consider himself perfect. He said that it was wise for him to forget things that are behind and reach forward for the prize that lies ahead, which is a divine call of God through His son, Jesus Christ. Paul also stressed the need for those who were mature to have the same mind and follow his example. Can you see the tears streaming down Paul's face as he sends a heartfelt warning to those who do not walk properly by setting their minds on earthly things and making greed their god? He reminded the church at Philippi that a Christian’s true citizenship is in heaven, not on earth. As a matter of fact, Paul said, Jesus Christ will transform our bodies to conform to His glorious body upon His second coming. Christian, your past does not determine your future. Stop feeding the monster that believes this. Every Biblical hero except Jesus was formerly rebellious to God in some way. Every human heart is crooked but in God's hands the crooked heart is made to draw straight lines!
A message from the series "Joy Unchained." Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order 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 comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. Philippians 3:8-9 Sometimes it's hard to believe God accepts us as we are. We put in the work of salvation in hopes that God will put a smile on his face. Or perhaps we work so that he can be in our debt. Many people will say, "If I'm basically a good person then God will be duty-bound to throw open the gates of heaven for me!" Sometimes we make the relationship with our creator feel more like an employee to an employer. The challenge is that success is a moving target. How do we know if we've really been good enough? How do we know for sure that we have put a smile on God's face? This is a recipe for an anxious life of uncertainty. In the end, what we've done is put our hope in ourselves only to be devastated and worn out. We take our deep habit to gain approval from others and we apply it to the God who created us. This proves to be a fickle faith. So let's take a breath and remember Paul's words above. There is a righteousness that has already been secured on our behalf. Jesus did it on the cross. All of the work that Paul put in as a religious zealot counted as nothing when it comes to earning God's favor. No longer did Paul want a righteousness of his own. This could also be called self-righteous. Instead, God wanted a pure heart that is dependent upon faith in Jesus. The pressure is off. The love is on. We now find our motivation to please God because of Christ's sacrificial work on our behalf.
A message from the series "Joy Unchained." Last week, we received Paul's exhortation to think of others as more important than ourselves. This could not come at a better time. The injustices we've seen in our country have shaken our silos. God's people must lead the way by searching our own hearts, bearing one another's burdens and bringing the Gospel message of repentance, reconciliation and restoration. Paul reminds us that humility is the key to unity. We need help in the form of an example and of course, we have it in Jesus. Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone modeled His heart? There's a simple Greek word Paul uses to describe Jesus's selfless action and it packs a punch - kenosis. We often think about what Jesus gave up to come to earth. He had all the rights and privileges of deity and he set them aside and was born in a stable. But Jesus didn't just leave things behind. He also added. Jesus added to His divine nature a human nature as He humbled Himself for us. Jesus went from being the glory of glories in heaven to being a human being who was put to death on the cross. “Taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” In the ultimate act of humility, the God of the universe became a human being and died for His creation. Philippians 2:7-8 Jesus took on human nature with all of its limitations, except with no sin. In humility he died for us, so we can live for him. His obedience to God's plan inspires us. Let's be honest. Sometimes we Christians are whiners. We have forgotten the unfathomable good will shown to us through our savior's obedience to the Father. Our obedience causes us to shine for others says Paul. This implies that people need to be shown the way. People are watching you Christian. Perhaps now more than ever they are asking questions – Does Jesus make a difference? Is Jesus real? Does he change anybody? What does a faithful Jesus follower look like and how does he or she influence culture? Paul says that when it comes to following God, "Please shine like stars!" Show them how Jesus lights our path and can light theirs too.
A message from the series "Joy Unchained." Memorial Day has reminded us of sacrifice. We are thankful for those who have given their all for the country and people they love. Sacrifice never comes easy and that is why Paul's letter to the Philippians holds what might be the two most challenging verses for fallen humans. What do you think? Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 We are called to find ways to serve and bless our brothers and sisters in Christ. According to Paul this is the secret sauce to a healthy and thriving church. Simply put, humility creates unity. The church can be a fragile thing. Pride and arrogance on the part of a few can undermine what takes years to build and mature. So how do you get the resources to pursue the unity that comes from humility? Every one of those resources comes from Jesus. You can't be humble without contentment. Jesus gives us contentment. You can't be humble while being insecure. Jesus gives us security. You can't be humble without having a model. Jesus is our model. Jesus prayed for you and me. He prayed for those who would come to know him. Of all the requests he could make on our behalf, he asks this of the Father... “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17:20-21 You can't be humble without experiencing humility from others. Jesus will humble himself all the way to the cross so that you can believe he was sent by God!
A message from the series "Joy Unchained." It's been said that all of man's life is one long attempt to avoid death. But then someone you love dies. You attend the service honoring his or her life. Depending on your age, you might think for longer than a minute about your own memorial and then you push it aside. Still, someday people will be talking about you in the past tense. The apostle Paul was faced with this thought time and again. Perhaps now more than ever because he is a prisoner of Rome and that usually doesn't end well. Especially for a Christian living under the reign of Nero. Paul reveals his attitude... "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Philippians 1:21 In other words, he's saying, "It doesn’t matter if I live or die, either way, I win." Paul's worldview allowed him to face anything. His circumstances didn't define him, rather his faith defined his circumstances. You see Paul has answered the question, “What am I doing here? Why am I on this planet?” His outlook was both realistic and hopeful as if to say, "Death is not bothersome and yes life is hard, but I don’t want you to be discouraged because of me. I'm doing fine; I know why I'm here and I know where I'm going!" This is a cause for a great celebration my friends. Jesus has answered life's most pressing questions for you and me!
A message from the series "Joy Unchained." I'm very excited to announce "Joy Unchained" is the new series beginning this Sunday. It's a study in the book of Philippians which is written by the apostle Paul while a prisoner of Rome. What would he want to tell us while wearing the chains? The message is simply this: there is joy in adversity. I don't remember much about the early years of my public school education. I do remember feeling anxious. I also remember not fully trusting my parents when they said the experience would be good for me. "Yeah right, how could being around kids I've never met and in a new environment be good for me??" Eventually I gave in and it worked. I made a lot of new friends. Have you noticed this spiritual principle? God often has to "shake us up" to move us beyond where we are in life. As the country begins to reopen we find a variety of (and oftentimes heated) opinions regarding safety, security and sanitization. There were big challenges as we entered quarantine but there might be bigger ones as we re-engage. It seems that everyone is in one of two places. We are either entering adversity or we are coming out of adversity but either way we can know that this is not the last adversity we will ever face. So what is the secret to finding joy in adversity? Paul gives us the answer and it's not found in something but in someone.
A message from the series "For Such A Time As This!." Esther's story is a great one. She is taken from total obscurity to national prominence as Queen of the Persian empire. But there's a twist. She's a Jew and Jews were about to fall on hard times because of a racist scoundrel named Haman. For now, Esther has kept her ethnicity a secret. However, she will be asked to take a risk to save her people. She doesn't want to do it because she's interested in maintaining her palace lifestyle. What would compel Esther to take a stand? The grace of God. Her cousin Mordecai gives a simple but compelling speech. This changes Esther's perception of the world and her place in it. He says, "And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” This phrase is in the passive tense. Literally, it means, "brought about by another." Esther's position as queen was a door opened for her by God. When God is in it, there is no risk. She used her position to save her people. Does this sound familiar? Jesus would use his position to offer salvation to all people. Esther lived, but Jesus would die. Christian, do you fear taking risks for God? The grace of Jesus toward you and me dispels that risk. So perhaps now more than ever God is giving you open doors of opportunity to reflect the image of his son Jesus Christ - for such a time as this!
A message from the series "For Such A Time As This!." The story of Daniel and the lion's den is a Sunday school favorite. But it's not just for kids. The faith of Daniel is for every Christian who wants to please God in all circumstances. Have you ever thought about why God allows the lions in our lives? The answer is found in the outcome of the story. Through the witness of Daniel, his faith, and the faithfulness and power of God, an entire nation came to know and revere the Lord. The Persian king himself proclaims, “For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end.” Daniel's entire life reminds me of what Jesus said about being different. Jesus said his followers should be like salt. What does salt do? It enhances the taste of food. Christians should be people who enhance every environment they enter. However, in ancient times they didn’t have salt shakers, instead, they used salt as a preservative. Salt keeps things from decaying and it prevents food from spoiling. This is the ministry of every Christian. We go out as little salt shakers. What comes out of us inhibits the decay of sin in others because we carry the gospel. This is what Jesus did. He reached out to everyone. Now, this is easier said than done because salt goes where things are falling apart; salt enters what is decaying. The world is coming apart. Our current circumstances are creating new and amplifying old pains. Daniel's life is a strong reminder that faithfulness is the key. What lions are you facing today? There is only one way to be saved from those lions and that is through faith in God. We are also reminded that Jesus was placed into the den of death and came out alive; and because of that every lion’s den we encounter has already been dealt with!