All of us, to one degree or another, are experiencing having things taken from us. Things we have come to value, love, and maybe take for granted.
I’m convinced that we aren’t at the end of that experience… at least not yet. Certainly some are sacrificing and feeling this more than others. A family in our church, the Moodys, experienced the painful separation of husband and father Evan who was deployed by the military to serve in one of the virus hotspots as a member of the medical team.
We don’t yet know where all of this will end. Some (ME!) are asked to stay at home due to age (ME!) or vulnerable health. But really, that’s a small sacrifice to make. Some will face some very hard days ahead. We can’t predict what it will be or who it will happen to. But we can predict how we will react to it should that time come.
We have a choice. A choice as to our attitude through this whole crisis, and personally… internally… a choice moment-by-moment how we are going to respond.
May we choose joy. I’ve tried to remind you in sermons and in other things I’ve written that, as followers of Christ, we are “infected” with a much more contagious agent than the coronavirus. Joy is catching. Joy is more contagious than ANY virus ever created. Joy is the only antidote to fear, and depression, and self-pity.
When Paul wrote, as he did in many places, that we are to “rejoice in the Lord,” he did two things:
(1). He wrote, in the Biblical language, with an imperative voice meaning it’s a command. We are commanded to be joyful! That means that joy doesn’t wait for our feelings to catch up. Joy controls our feelings, not vice-versa. We are commanded to be joyful.
(2). He showed us that joy is a choice we make, regardless of difficult or even austere outward circumstances. A Roman prison cell, an enforced lockdown, is a strange place to write about having joy, and yet he rejoiced!
We choose joy. We don’t know what God is doing in all of the things happening to us, but we know HE IS DOING SOMETHING! And so we rejoice in what God IS doing in this, not because it’s pleasant now, but because we will understand God’s purpose in it. And it will be a cause of joy.
We choose joy. We can still pray. We can still worship. And we CAN choose joy because of the promise of what lies ahead, not because we’re having such a great time now. And we can rejoice because we know the One Who is in control of this…
“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, REJOICE”
April 5, 2020 @ 9:30am & 11am
It has been tradition for our church to take the Lord’s Supper on Palm Sunday for many years. This year will be no different…except it will be different. On Sunday, April 5th we will be hosting a Family Lord’s Supper Service via our online broadcasts at 9:30am and 11am. What that means is families will be taking the Lord’s Supper together in their own homes, while being led by Pastor Tim during our online broadcasts. This is a chance for our Church Family to join together, no matter where you are located and worship together in this special way.
There are a couple of ways you can do this as a family:
1 cup unbleached flour
1/3 cup cup water, room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
Combine the flour and salt. Add enough water to make a dough that will clean the sides of the bowl and can be gathered into a ball. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead 10 minutes. Shape into a ball and cut in half. Roll each piece out until very thin. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake in a preheated 500 degree oven for 5 minutes or until lightly colored, blistered, and crisp.
The main point is for us all to worship together in taking the Lord’s Supper. It isn’t about whether or not you have bread, crackers, grape juice or Kool-aide. What is important is the meaning behind those items and that is Jesus Christ!
We love you and cannot wait to worship with you in person, but in the meantime let’s continue to be the church activated and mobilized in our homes and neighborhoods!
-Your Fruit Cove Baptist Church Staff Team
It’s a strange time, and one that is testing each of us… our nation, and even the world, to the breaking point. An enemy has landed among us, like some alien force from a science fiction movie, and it’s great weapon is invisibility. We can’t see it.
The effects? Oh we see plenty of those. Empty parking lots at malls, restaurants, and churches. Full parking lots and shopping carts at grocery and big box stores, filled by fearful people. We see the stock market plummeting, the President floundering to know what to do next, and the medical system brought to its knees with overflowing patient need. This enemy is relentless, merciless, and all too real.
But yet invisible. How do we fight an invisible enemy? One we can’t see with our eyes, and one which can invade and assault our bodies through an airborne droplet or an infected surface or doorknob.
Yet as Christians, we should be the most familiar with unseen realities. We have been redeemed by a God we cannot see. We have been filled with a Spirit we cannot know with our eyes. And we have a Savior Who, “Having not seen Him, yet we love Him.”
And yes, we and this entire world are afflicted by a spiritual enemy we cannot see. Our adversary, like a roaring lion, roams about unseen in this world “seeking whom he may devour.” We never see him coming.
So how do we defeat these unseen foes? We are in a spiritual war as Christians. At all times. We are constantly barraged by “the flaming darts” of the evil one. The Bible is clear. We are either casualties in this war, or we are taking up the armor of God and standing firm in it.
We defeat the coronavirus threat with the same invisible weapon we use to defeat the enemy of our souls: Prayer. As the Christian prays, the enemy flees. As Christians across America and, in fact, across the world… fall to our knees and cry out to God the enemy will fall. Every time.
While we are “socially distancing” at home, or at least away from the fellowship of believers for a time, use this opportunity to wield this invisible weapon against the enemy.
Don’t let fear overwhelm you. Don’t let the icy grip of the devil choke out the vitality of your prayer life. Get on your knees. Ask God for grace and deliverance for us.
And though unseen, the “effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man (or woman) will avail much.” Let’s unleash the unseen against our invisible enemy… whether that enemy is a microscopic virus… or Satan himself.
THE SECRET OF CONTAGIOUS JOY
Finding Joy in the Hard Places
Few of us would expect to find joy locked in a prison cell for being obedient to God, and awaiting a death sentence. Paul’s location (as he puts it “the thing that have happened to me”) gives a lot of credibility to his words. When he shows us how he finds joy, even in the hard places, that gives us encouragement in “the things that have happened to us!”
FINDING JOY IN SPITE OF TOUGH CIRCUMSTANCES (vv12-14)
“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
It isn’t a stretch for us to see that we have entered into one of the toughest seasons most of us have ever experienced. And I’m not just referring here to the NCAA or NBA seasons being cancelled or Disney World closing down. People are frightened. They are confused. They are lost and if they don’t know the Lord, they have nowhere to look for help.
If you’re listening this morning as a believer, then you can say with Paul, that in spite of our circumstances:
We find joy when we realize that our tough circumstances have a purpose, that God isn’t going to waste a moment of what we’re going through, that HE is in control of everything happening right now…GOD IS GREATER…and we need to begin asking this question: What is God wanting to do THROUGH ME in this time as we wait out the coronavirus; as things are happening around us and TO us that we cannot control?
WE CAN HAVE JOY IN SPITE OF DIFFICULT PEOPLE
“Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”
This is also a tough one. All of us have experienced a person, or multiple people, who have just made it their mission to make life harder for you. Maybe it’s an unsympathetic boss at work, or an annoying co-worker, or someone who says unkind and untrue things about you online, or an irritating neighbor. We will all encounter difficult people in life.
John Ortberg has a book he entitled, “Everybody’s Normal ‘til You Get to Know Them.” Everybody’s got a little dysfunction in them; well… some have more than others… and it’s tough if the difficult person in your life is your mate, or a parent, or even a child.
So I’m not going to give you three simple steps in how to pray that person out of your life…they may be there to stay. Paul was continually hounded by people whose mission in life was to frustrate his. Let’s be honest. Those people can suck the joy right out of you, can’t they?
In some settings, Paul had to deal with Jewish teachers who were jealous of his success, or angry at his teaching that disagreed with theirs. Some thought they were doing God a favor. Clearly they were enemies of the Gospel.
But I think it was a lot tougher on Paul to deal with those who claimed to be on his side. I heard of a guy who was permanently injured in a game when he was tackled by his own teammate. You can brace yourself from a hit by the opposing team. But when it’s coming at your blindside, from a person wearing your uniform, you can’t get ready for it.
Paul was being tackled by those who claimed to be on “Team Jesus.” But he chose joy. Let me offer a paraphrase of what he said:
“So what if some preach Christ with wrong motives? Furthermore some may be overly impressed with themselves. Who cares? What really matters is this: Christ is being proclaimed…and that thought alone intensifies my joy! All the other stuff, I leave to God. “
Now Paul never allowed the message of the Gospel to be compromised. He said in Galatians,
But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a Gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9)
God is able to accomplish His purposes even through people we may see as difficult. And even though we may not rejoice in that troubling person, we can find joy knowing that the Gospel can go forward in spite of them!
FINDING JOY IN SPITE OF UNCERTAIN OUTCOMES
“What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (vv 19-21)
Paul truly didn’t know how the situation he was in was going to turn out. There were no lawyers representing criminals in jail cells in Rome. Paul could be set free…or he could face the executioner’s axe.
I think by far one of the most frustrating things for many of us in dealing with this virus crisis is the uncertainty of it all. How long are we going to have to wait? Will someone I know be infected? Will I? What about my job? My business? My children? My future? The economy?
And no one can tell us the outcome. All the entities we have come to depend on in times like this: government; economics; health care; nobody seems to know what to do.
So clearly the government can’t save us; our money can’t save us; the medical community is overwhelmed. But it leaves a big question that needs to be answered: What are you really trusting in?
Paul could say, “For me, to live is Christ…and to die is gain.” In essence he was saying, “If the worst-case scenario, physically, happens to me it won’t be a loss, but a gain.” That’s confidence, folks. That’s trusting Jesus above everything else. He was saying, “Don’t cry at my funeral. I haven’t lost…I’ve gained everything!”
If I live on physically, I live for Christ. If I die, I go to live with Christ. Either way, you win. Either way, there is joy.
So where is your confidence and ‘earnest expectation’ today?
For me to live is….______________? And to die is…____________?
Will you think about that for a moment with me? How would you fill in those blanks? For me to live is…money? Fame? A relationship on earth? Success in business? And if that is how you would honestly fill in the blank, then how would you fill in the second? “To die is……
If nothing else, this coronavirus gives us opportunity to truly ask ourselves some hard questions. Where does your trust lie this morning? Is it in something that death can take from you? Or do you know a relationship with Jesus that makes life worth living NOW, and death no longer something to fear, but something that will bring gain?
It’s time to think hard about these questions folks. Until we have this settled, something like the threat of this virus will continue to terrorize you and rob you of joy.
This is an evolving situation so stay up to date on how our church is responding at this website and our social media channels @FruitCoveBC (Facebook, Twitter, Insta).
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Matthew 6:25-34 ESV
The Secret of Joyful Prayer
So many of the activities we participate in to celebrate our faith are done mechanically, without much conscious thought or effort, and are often without much joy. Among those activities is our prayer life.
It may well be we’re just doing it wrong. The disciples asked Jesus in Luke 11, “Lord teach us to pray.’. Sometimes a person will say, “I tried praying. But God didn’t give me what I asked for.” Well maybe He didn’t if your prayers included:
Why didn’t God answer my prayer? Maybe what you wanted was not God’s will for you. James wrote, “You ask, and receive not because you ask amiss that you may consume it on your lust.”
But maybe it was just dumb. Now I’ve said many times in a lecture to seminary students, there are no dumb questions. But there sure are some dumb prayers.
Maybe if we prayed liked Jesus taught us:
If these prayers that Jesus taught us were the content of our praying, then prayer would begin to make sense…and even be joyful!
We try to turn our prayer life into a thing that enriches us…not as a means of truly hearing from God and aligning with His will.
Paul gives us a model of praying joyfully. Now that isn’t to say that sometimes our prayer life isn’t marked with tears of sorrow at times or even by the pain of grief or guilt and shame over our sins. We will at times agonize in intercession. And the Letter to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus was heard through His “loud cries and tears.” (Hebrews 5:7)
But communion with our Heavenly Father should be marked with a sense of joy regardless of circumstances. Jesus said, “My joy I leave with you.” Let’s remind ourselves again that Paul wrote this letter from a prison cell awaiting execution.
Prayer should dry our tears, ease the heartache of grief and loss, and erase the shame and guilt stains of sin. When this happens, joy remains. But how do we pray with joy when it seems nothing is joyful around us?
Paul prayed with joy, first, because
HE WAS NOT ALONE (vv 3-5)
When Paul prayed, he carried the grateful memories of the congregation that gathered in Philippi…a congregation that was marked by their love for Paul and their faithfulness to pray for him.
He offered his prayer “with thanksgiving,” which is a key to joyful praying. His joy came from their fellowship (partnership) in the Gospel with him.
It’s an incredible thing to have people pray for you. A friend shared a dream he had about me a while back. In the dream, he saw me standing in the pulpit, and then kneeling down weeping. During the dream, the church came around me, laying their hands on me.
I truly believe and will continue believing that I am standing here because of the prayers of God’s people…your prayers. The grace of God holds me fast…but your hands and prayers for me keep me moving forward. I never told you this, but throughout the first two-plus years after Pam’s death I never lost a night’s sleep, and until only recently I never even dreamed at night. Never. About anything.
Fellowship brings joy, and healing, and recovery. We are not to live this thing alone, folks, though some of us try really hard to do that.
That’s one of the reasons we have Celebrate Recovery!
The joy comes along as a contagious experience of fellowship. Paul could pray with joy, further, because he had
CONFIDENCE IN GOD’S FAITHFULNESS. (vv 6-7)
Not only did Paul experience joy because he knew he wasn’t alone, but also because he prayed with confidence knowing that, no matter what happened in his life or in theirs, God was working. We all understand that God’s working doesn’t mean we are going to see everything go our way, or always experience sunshine and pleasant circumstances. (“Even when I don’t see it you’re working…”) In fact the greatest work of God we have seen is His work of atonement at the cross and the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. “For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame.” (Hebrews 12:2)
But it is God’s energizing at work in us that brings to completion what He began at the moment of salvation. If you can look back at a time in your life when you can say, “I know God brought that about…I know it is God Who saves me and that is not something I can do for myself…;” if you have that moment to remember then know this: God has never, is not now, nor will ever give up on you. He will never throw up his hands and say, “this one’s too tough…I’m gonna bail out.” God doesn’t give up on what He starts. This looks forward to Phil 2:12-13 which says,
“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.”
This means something really important for us to take away today.
Our salvation, in Christ, is secure. I hear people sometimes say, “I’d be a Christian, but I couldn’t live the life.” Or, “I’m afraid I wouldn’t hold out.” “I’d quit and then be a hypocrite.”
Well, you can’t live the life. Christ -in- you lives out the life He wants you to live through the presence of His Spirit. And you won’t hold out. Not in your own strength. You are held in His hand, and Jesus said “No man can take them out of My hand.” You are not holding on to God. You’re not that tough. He is holding on to YOU! That’s our confidence, and our security. He Who began the work will be faithful to complete it.
In Romans 8, we read of the ultimate plan that God has for our lives in Christ:
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:28-29)
God’s plan…God’s will for your life is that, through every experience and circumstance, you are being sharpened and shaped to be more, think more, and act more like Jesus.
A sculptor chips away everything that doesn’t look like the image he or she is seeking to bring to the shapeless and formless rock. The Divine Sculptor is doing the same in us as He “chips away” everything in us that doesn’t look like Jesus.
This is exactly what happens in the process of sanctification. The Divine “sculptor” hammers away at all those dimensions of our life that keep Jesus from shining through! In the hard and the good times, God is at work. Nothing stops His Divine progress in our lives.
AN ABIDING AFFECTION (v 8)
This affection for the Philippians, which interestingly could also mean “you have me in your hearts” can literally be translated “I have a heartache for you.” Have you ever cared so much about someone that it hurts? We hear songs that talk about that, and usually they’re sung when the two lovers are apart.
The Motown hit, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” was written to describe the power of love drawing two lovers together, no matter the obstacles. When you really love someone, it can physically hurt to be away from them.
That’s what Paul is talking about as he prays for them…this is a unique love that bound them together around their partnership in seeing the Gospel of Christ go forward. But his heart was aching because of his separation from them. He genuinely loved these people.
BECAUSE OF THE FELLOWSHIP OF GOD’S GRACE
Christian friendships are not just coffee meetings and potluck meals. They are marked by a “sameness” of experience…a similarity of a grace they shared in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is mentioned nine times in Philippians.
And that further bound them to a mission together to share that grace with others, in the same way it should bind us together. A fellowship that is formed around a mission is different and deeper than a fellowship that forms around coffee and donuts.
BECAUSE OF ABOUNDING LOVE. ( vv 9-11)
This is strongly paralleled by what was written in Colossians 1:9-11. A lot of the words are repeated in Colossians that are used here (by the dating of the letters, probably first). ‘
Someone has said that love is like a river. Rivers can bring life. I grew up around the banks of the Ohio River. This river that I played in, drove over, and gazed into thousands of times in my life brought commerce, and recreation, and beauty and life. But a river that floods over its banks doesn’t bring life. It brings chaos and death.
The same river decimated my hometown more than once. Love is like a river that “abounds” and flows. It brings life. But even Christian love, like a river, needs to stay in its banks. If there are no boundaries, and it loves everything indiscriminately …it will even love things it should not love. Christian love is discriminating; distinctive; discerning. It loves and approves “that which is best/excellent.”
I hear a lot of people say, “being a Christian just means you’re supposed to love.” Yes, but love what? What are the “banks” of love? Love needs to be guided by “knowledge” and discernment and result in “the fruit of righteousness” or else it indiscriminately picks up garbage and pollution. We are to be “pure” (our inner world)…below the surface where few if any people see…and “blameless” (our outer behavior) that we might be fruitful in our faith. The same river that brought life and beauty to many people through the years today is polluted and filled with garbage. You can still catch fish in it…but you’d better not eat them.
This is how we are to praying for each other. Can you plug your spouse’s name into that prayer? That SUE might be….that ROD might be…or your children’s names…that BETH might be…that DON might be…
We are all headed for the day of Christ. He is coming. Being ready doesn’t just mean BELIEVING…being ready means “bearing the fruit of righteousness” that will TRULY bring joy to our lives and glory to God as we wait for His appearing.
And folks, I’m not trying to be apocalyptic here, but things are not getting better and better in the world, are they? We are seeing things that we never thought we’d see…and the world just seems like it’s on the verge of exploding into chaos. Jesus predicted that His appearing would come after the birth pains of tribulation… the baby doesn’t come out on the first contraction.
But we need the wake-up call and the reminder on occasion that it won’t be long before Christ appears…and we need to be ready now. If you’re dozing through life or barreling through it without giving a thought for your eternal destiny, maybe right now is a good time to push pause…to hear the alarm sounding…and get our lives right with the Lord.
We’ve had several questions about plans for this coming Sunday, March 15. At this time all regular Sunday programming is on, Sunday School/Small Groups at 9:30am and 11am, Worship services at 9:30am and 11am.
We have decided to make the following postponements: