Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Joy in the Hard Places

Devotion: Philippians 2:17-18

Jesus demonstrated what it means to be joyful in the midst of the hardest places and situations in the world. In Hebrews 12:2 we read, "...Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." What Hebrews is telling us (and the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:18) and what Jesus demonstrated is that the present suffering and struggles in this world are not to be compared to the glory and joy to come. It is this precise notion that led the Apostle to write the following to the Philippians:
"Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me." -Philippians 2:17-18 ESV
The Apostle views his life as only valuable if it is used in the service of the Christ. Jesus who himself poured out his life for the sake of others is the role model the Apostle looks to as well as the Lord who empowers him through faith to live and, if called upon, to die for the glory of God. The Apostle views this as a cause of joy and invites the Philippians to rejoice with him even though at present he was facing almost certain death for proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Far from weeping and wailing at his possible death at the hands of the Romans, he invites celebration.
Our place in this is to learn from the example of the Apostle and of Jesus himself. We spend much of our lives avoiding pain, suffering and struggles in a vain attempt to live the good life. Jesus himself is the demonstration of the good life lived in a world lost, hurt and broken by sin. To be God's man or God's woman in this world will invite the mistreatment of the world. For a while the Church was in a culturally advantage position and so the pain associated with the Christian life was minimized if not eliminated. Now, however, the Church has fallen out of favor in the Western world and the anger, misunderstanding, and mistreatment that characterized much of the early church's history seems to have returned. As neo-pagan values are on the rise (power, greed, lust) in all ideological viewpoints the values of love, mercy and grace are seen not only as unnecessary, but dangerous unless redefined through a non-biblical lens. Love, for instance, ceases to be the self-sacrificial variety described in our passage this week and becomes instead the self-gratifying variety that only returns love when it provides personal benefit. Mercy and grace are meted out in this neo-pagan sense only to those deemed worthy by one's own standards of morality and never for those regarded as enemies. In my own short lifetime the country I live in has become a harsher, darker and crueler place. Despite the overcoming of some true injustice in the mid-twentieth century, this land has slipped into self-centered madness lifting up identity politics and its reductionist scheme (in which we all are divided into a series of labels) on the one hand and the sovereign self (in which power and control by the self, even or perhaps especially at the expense of others) on the other hand. Hard places are easy to find in life these days as a result.
So what is the Christian to do? The Apostle's answer is surprising. Find joy in the hard places as we pour out our lives for the sake of others. We are to practice true Christian virtue enabled and empowered by the constant application of Christ's saving work by the Holy Spirit that makes us newly and truly human. We love, we forgive, we practice kindness, mercy, grace, peace, gentleness, faith, goodness, self-control and, in the midst of the hard places, even joy. For our Savior lives and will yet stand upon the earth. On that day everything will be put to rights and the tears will stop. In the meantime, we are on a mission to live under his gracious reign in the world today, sharing the Good News and the joy we have in him.

Shout Outs:

A big thank you to all those who helped put up the decorations in anticipation of Christmas. The Sanctuary and all the church are looking quite festive.


  • The Winter Wonderland Youth Gala will be held this Saturday, December 3 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 and dessert auction will be held. All proceeds go to support our annual youth camp. Come out for a good meal, good fellowship and a good cause.
  • Throughout the month of December we will be collecting canned goods (and donations) to help the needy in our community. Bring something to share a little bit of love this Advent season. 

Opportunity to Serve:

Sign ups are under way for our next two shelter weeks (December 4-10 and December 25-31). Please contact the church office if you can spend a night giving folks a warm, safe place to sleep. Both men and women are needed!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Devotion: Philippians 2:14-16

The Apostle Paul throughout his letter to the Philippians was calling the church to faith in Christ Jesus, the humble one who gave up any outward sign of honor to give his life that we may live. He did this without complaint or protest out of love for us that He may shine the light of God in our midst and give His Father the glory. Christ did all this without thought or consideration for himself--He thought of His Father and us above all. This humble Savior loves us and gathers us to Himself in unity that we may shine as lights in this dark world, bringing the hope and truth of Christ Jesus to the world. That's the Apostle said in our passage this week.
"Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain." -Philippians 2:14-16 ESV
The world can be a truly dark and ugly place. The last thing the humble, unified church needs to be is dark and ugly. We follow Jesus who gave Himself completely for us. Grumbling and disputes are unbecoming the followers of Jesus. We do not have to turn far to find grumbling and disputing in our current political climate. How different the Church should be in the world!
Sin has twisted the world out of shape and it takes Jesus to set the world right. To do this we need to shine in the light of Christ, hold to the word of life that He has given to us and eagerly wait for the great and terrible day that Jesus Christ comes in glory to judge the living and the dead. Even as we wait for that day, let us be sure to shine the light of Christ as we come to know it in the word of life everywhere and to everyone. Never in triumph, we should add, but in surrender to Jesus who loves us.

News and Thanks

  • The annual Youth Camp Gala and Dessert Auction is coming up December 3 at 7 p.m. Childcare will be  provided for those who need it. Tickets are $15 and all proceeds will go to send youth in our community to a week of camp where they will hear the Gospel clearly proclaimed.
  • Operation Christmas Child boxes are due back this Sunday, November 20.
  • Big thanks to all those who have volunteered for our first week of the Rotating Shelter. We need one more woman volunteer this Saturday, November 19. Please contact Pastor Bill as soon as possible to volunteer for this outreach ministry!

Opportunities to Serve

Our first day for Salvation Army bell ringing will be Saturday, November 26. Please sign up after worship this Sunday for one hour to raise funds to help the needy in our community.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Salvation and Togetherness

Devotion: Philippians 2:12-13

Following the amazing declaration that Jesus Christ will be the one that everyone proclaims as Lord to the glory of God the Father (2:10-11) we read this:
"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." -Philippians 2:12-13 ESV
The Apostle has heard from Epaphroditus that the Philippian church has been practicing infighting. This is why he called them to humility, that in turn is in service to unity. When we are humble it leads us to put the needs of others before our own and that leads to a community united in mission. So where does it all start? The Apostle is clear it begins and ends with Christ.
Salvation as a topic is one that is often treated in a reductionist way. To be sure, salvation is full and complete through faith in Christ alone and it is to be had only by the grace of God out of his good pleasure to bestow it upon us. Yet, salvation is more than a mere point in life when we surrender to God. Salvation is also a lifelong path of discipleship. While I will not bore you with a complete order of salvation here, let us look at two points within the category of salvation. There is a moment when we come to know Christ as Lord and bow our lives before him. This is justification and all too often justification is seen as the only moment of salvation. Beyond justification, however, is the long road of sanctification in which the Spirit continues to work among us to lead us to both desire (will) and actually do things for the glory of God. Sanctification trains us as Jesus' followers and sets us apart day by day as the Spirit continues to apply the saving work of Christ to our lives. Salvation is only ever of God, yet we grasp and live in and out of that salvation in the power of the Spirit.
So what then of all of this fear and trembling? The Apostle is calling the Philippians to humility and unity. As he is in prison he cannot go to them, yet his authority still resides over them. He calls them to realize the power of salvation in Christ and how they must, TOGETHER, work out the implications of that salvation. This should be done in fear and trembling as they, an unholy people, now stand exposed to a holy God. It is not that somehow their work will gain their salvation, but rather they have salvation now they must figure out how to live together as the newly constituted people of God.
At the time that I write this to you the United States has just had a presidential election. In the wake of a national election (and we only elect one position nationally every four years) the sharp and stark divides in our country are exposed. Some will gloat in victory. Some will lament in defeat. Others will take matters too far on both sides and use the election as an excuse for all sorts of vileness and hatred. Sisters and brothers, it cannot be so among us who call Jesus Lord. We have one Lord and as such, we are one people. Like the Philippians we need to learn to live and love together in the midst of differences. This is precisely what the Apostle is getting at in our passage this week.

Shout Outs:

A big thanks to Elders Fred and Randy who will be heading up efforts to organize our bell ringing. We will have sign ups for ringing in front of Walmart beginning this Sunday.

Opportunity to Serve:

We are in need of a few more women to staff our Rotating Shelter Week. Specifically November 15 and 17. If you can donate one night to the shelter this week we will be sure to give people a warm place to sleep if they need it.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Humble and Exalted Christ

Devotion: Philippians 2:5-11

The major theme of Philippians, so far as I read it, is unity. We will see later that the Philippian church has some internal strife, but we have already seen that they have overcome this strife, at least for a time, to give the Apostle financial support while in prison (for which he is deeply thankful, another theme of the letter with joy). Over and again the Apostle surrenders the desire to be right, well-regarded and respectable. Why? In a word, Jesus.

The so-called 'Christ Hymn' of Philippians 2:6-11 is in the service of promoting the unity of the Church. The Church is called in 2:5 to have the same mind among us that is ours in Christ Jesus. We are used to reading the Christ Hymn as a statement of Christ's divinity, the true glory of the humble Lord upon the cross and a statement of final judgment. While all of this is technically correct, the point of the text is to put this doctrinal statements into service for uniting the Philippians in mission and ministry. As Joseph Hellerman points out in his excellent commentary on the Greek text 
"...Paul has leveraged Christology--conceived in terms of status and prestige--in the service of ecclesiology."
Or, in other words, the Apostle puts doctrine about Jesus, focusing on his glorified and exalted status and how he surrendered it to serve the will of Father by saving us on the cross, into service to promote the peace, purity and, especially, the unity of the Church.
Christ humbled himself to the point of the cross and is elevated in resurrection and ascension to a greater glory. We are to see in Christ the way to the Father and thus follow him into humble service, even if it costs us everything. Following Jesus is not safe. When we surrender to Jesus we will follow him to the cross. The only way we can do that, realistically, is if we go together, being encouraged and strengthened by brothers and sisters along the way. We must surrender the self and be born again through faith in Christ Jesus, but let us remember that it is Christ that opens the way for us to be made new. So let us encourage one another as we seek to follow Jesus together.


News and Thanks

  • A big thanks to all who served at the Trunk-or-Treat event. We served well over 450 trunk-or-treaters and had a great time. Our community appreciated our effort and hopefully this will create some avenues for fruitful outreach in the future.
  • A bridal shower for Emily Martin will take place this Sunday, November 6, at 2 p.m. hosted by Stephanie Lamb and Bailee Meese. The wedding will take place Saturday, November 26 at 7:30 p.m.


Opportunity to Serve

  1. We will host the ManFsher meal on November 20. This year we will be cooking a Thanksgiving meal and could use some help. Contact Kathy Mintzer if you would like to serve in this important ministry.
  2. Our first week to host the Rotating Homeless Shelter will be November 13-19. There will be a sign-up sheet after church on Sunday. In addition, a brief training session will take place following worship at 11:45 a.m. this week. We especially need men to serve as hosts, but could also use men to serve as screeners.
  3. Do not forget to get your Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes back by November 20!