Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Rejoice in the Lord

Devotion: Philippians 3:1

The Apostle Paul thanked God that he was delivered from the potential sorrow of Epaphroditus' death. As he concludes the matter of sending Timothy and Epaphroditus to the Philippians he takes a moment to remind the Church to rejoice. Joy, part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) is part of the maturing Christian's life and is to be the basic attitude of the Christian toward the God who redeems in Christ Jesus.
"Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you." -Philippians 3:1 ESV
In an age of sarcasm, cynicism and pessimism, the Christian should above all stand out for our innate joy in salvation. Through the gift of faith, the Christian has assurance of pardon for sin, an inheritance of eternal life and a confidence that God will put all things to rights through Christ Jesus. As the Apostle suffered imprisonment for Christ, it was joy in the Lord that overwhelmed him and joy in the Lord that became his command to the Philippians.
The implications of this command are straight forward. To encourage each other to find and place our joy in the Lord who loves us, saves us and transforms us is never burdensome and is always safe. While despair, snark and contempt are fashionable in cultural attitude toward others and toward God, the Christian is not allowed that route for good reason. To give in to the spirit of the age and despair is to deny the power of the resurrection of Christ Jesus in us through faith. To deny that power is troublesome and unsafe.
So find joy in the Lord. Take time to rejoice in prayer to God for the great salvation He has wrought in you through Christ Jesus. Then share that same joy in thought, word and deed and in simply how you approach life and find that evangelism, sharing the great joy of the Good News of Christ Jesus, comes spilling out.

News for You

  • Sign up for a small group this Sunday as we study the Gospel Project's Saved. The six week study begins the week of 1/29 and will help us in God's Word to rest secure in our salvation and spur us to better proclaim God's salvation in Christ Jesus.
  • The 109th annual meeting of the congregation of Community Presbyterian Church will take place 1/29/17 following the fellowship hour. If you are a member or just curious, come reflect on the year behind and pray for the year ahead.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Life and Death

Devotion: Philippians 2:28-30

Last week we saw how the Apostle Paul had deep concern for the well-being of Epaphroditus who had taken ill in his missionary journey to bring financial and moral support to the Apostle in prison. The Apostle rejoiced that the Lord had granted him mercy and comfort by restoring Epaphroditus. It is now the Apostle's aim to send back Epaphroditus to Philippi so that his own church may also come to know his relief from grief and experience it as joy.
"I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me." -Philippians 2:28-30 ESV
Our passage this week leads us to think about Christian missionaries and others who share our faith in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior who risk life and limb to serve him. As many of you know, we have been praying for Andrew Brunson, a pastor ordained in the EPC, who has been imprisoned in Turkey where he has served and ministered for many years. Pastor Andrew is one of many sisters and brothers in harm's way for the Gospel, but he hits close to home for us in the EPC and becomes emblematic for the persecuted church as a whole for me. While I have not and likely will not meet this brother face-to-face this side of glory, I would rejoice greatly to know he has been freed and all is well. I hope you will join me in praying to that end.
Even in the midst of this all, we come to realize just how impossible it is for us to get around thinking about life and death. Death, while for the saints a passing moment that puts an end to sin, pain and sorrow in our lives, is none-the-less an end of relationships in the here and now. The restoration of Epaphroditus serves to remind us that death is tragic and an enemy of God defeated in the resurrection of Christ Jesus. Those who risk death for the Gospel are to be honored by the Church as we rejoice in their service to Christ Jesus. What's more, such death-risking activity should spur us all to proclaim Christ all the more each and every day.

News for you

  • Sign up for a small group this Sunday (1/22/17) as we study the Gospel Project's Saved. The six week study will help us in God's Word to rest secure in our salvation and spur us to better proclaim God's salvation in Christ Jesus.
  • This Saturday 10 am-noon Bob Walsh from the EPC Foundation will be on hand to teach us about Transformational Giving. If you RSVP in a hurry (like now) lunch will be provided.
  • The 109th annual meeting of the congregation of Community Presbyterian Church will take place 1/29/17 following the fellowship hour. If you are a member or just curious, come reflect on the year behind and pray for the year ahead.
  • Linda Swanson is looking for somebody healthy and strong to help her in the coming weeks for three days and two nights each week with the ranch and with caring for Bill. Room and board as well as fair pay are available.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Mercy and Comfort

Devotion: Philippians 2:25-27

The Apostle Paul, moldering physically in prison, had been sustained by his ministry associates and by a gift carried by Epaphroditus. This gift had been a blessing to Paul in many ways beyond the physical sustenance it provided. He was encouraged by the remembrance of him by the Philippians. He was comforted that he did not bear his suffering alone. More than any other comfort, however, was the comfort that his labor in, for and with the Lord had not been in vain. Indeed, the Gospel of King Jesus the Redeemer had taken root in the hearts and minds of the Philippians and it was bearing fruit. In his suffering, he found comfort that the service he had rendered to his God was of value. So it was disheartening to the Apostle when Epaphroditus, this messenger of comfort, fell ill. Here is how the Apostle puts it:
"I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow." -Philippians 2:25-27 ESV 
The Apostle Paul made plans to send Epaphroditus back to the Philippians so that they too may be comforted by their brother. He speaks well of a man well-known already to the Philippians and some questions why he would need to do this. Yet haven't we all had something or someone in our lives that had been disregarded and overlooked for a long time until value and worth come to the fore. I can think of a time in algebra class when I wondered when I would ever use such information in my life. As an adult, I can say that the value and worth of being able to solve an equation has shown itself many times (planning a garden, doing taxes and calculating costs to name just a few). I have also been given gifts that I thought were of little to no use until the time came that I needed that tool and all of the sudden I had a new appreciation for the gift. Sometimes it takes someone else to reveal the use and purpose for us to come to appreciation. Even more, it can take someone else pointing out the qualities and gifts of another person that we already know before we realize just how valuable they are. That is exactly what Paul is doing for Epaphroditus.
Even still, the Apostle reports to the Philippians that sending him back almost did not happen. Epaphroditus had fallen ill. Whatever this illness was, it was serious enough that he could have died. All of the wonderful things and purposes that the Apostle saw in Epaphroditus could have come to an end in this world, yet the Apostle reports that God had mercy to remove from Paul his possibility of deep sorrow. The Lord, in his great mercy, restored Epaphroditus to health and thus prevented the already languishing Apostle from a deeper sorrow.
As we think through the passage, it seems to lead us to seek the Lord's mercy and the comfort God provides himself in Christ Jesus through the ministry of fellow believers. We will have sorrows in this world. Pain and suffering are part of the human condition (no matter how hard we try to avoid such things). In that pain and in that suffering, we need to seek God's mercy. We need to find ourselves in the arms of the one who created all things and in Christ Jesus makes all things new. Is someone in your life in need of God's mercy? Provide comfort with a kind word at the very least. Be creative in how God could use you to help others. Are you need of mercy and comfort? Turn to the Lord in prayer and receive the missionary work of fellow believers even if it means risking sorrow.

News for You:

  • Small Groups are starting a six-week study the week of January 22. We will be studying 'Saved,' published as part of the Gospel Project. Plan to sign up for a group this Sunday! We have books on order for 60, but if you prefer a digital copy, just click the link and follow the directions.
  • The bathrooms upstairs at CPC are undergoing a refreshing. That means we are putting down new flooring (the old flooring was original and has served its useful life) and painting the walls. We have other needs like this in our facility and will be doing them from time to time to maintain the facility for the use of giving glory to God. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Commending Discipleship: Part Three

Devotion: Philippians 2:23-24

Our small group ministry just concluded a study entitled 'Experiencing God.' Throughout the study we were challenged to look for God is doing in the world and then join him in that work. On the surface this seems pretty straight forward, but the challenge comes when the Lord's will and my desire come into conflict. Blackaby, the author of the study, labeled these moments a crisis of belief that would lead the person to either adjust life to the call and will of God or to walk away disheartened and bitter (think the rich young man). Adjustment means having my life, my desire and my will conformed to the Lord's will. To undergo this process of conforming to the Lord's will is to be a disciple of Christ Jesus, the one who perfectly did the will of his Father.
The will of God comes to the forefront in our brief passage from Philippians:
"I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also." -Philippians 2:23-24 ESV
It was clearly the Apostle's desire to go and be with the Philippians who had so graciously provided for his physical needs while he was in prison. Sending Timothy, couched int he language of hope, as his proxy was acceptable, but that was not his heart's desire. In essence, the Apostle knew that his upcoming trial could have two outcomes: 1) He could go free and then resume his travel plans, including visiting the church in Philippi again or 2) He would be convicted of riotous behavior and disturbing the peace and sentenced to any number of gruesome fates. While the Apostle sincerely hoped and desired the first, it seems through out the letter that the Apostle came to countenance the thought that God may be glorified in his imprisonment and suffering.
Here in our passage we can actually see the Apostle crisis of belief on display (which will be resolved famously in Philippians 4:13). The Apostle makes a plan to send Timothy (if the Lord should will it, hence the 'hope') if things turn toward option 2, but he holds out the possibility that the Lord could lead him to option 1 (and that is his desire). And this is where the beauty of the Christian faith comes through--we can sincerely desire and express our desire for things to go a certain way, but when they do not we trust in the Lord and His will to be better for His glory. This is beautiful in theory, difficult in practice, but ultimately glorifying to our God.

News for You:

A new, six-week session of Small Groups begins the week of January 22nd. The new year is a perfect time for growing closer to Christ and to each other. Make a resolution to sign up for a small group!