Author: TimMaynard

A Choice

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.

  • A visit with friends at our favorite coffee shop or restaurant
  • A gathering of believers in worship at our local church
  • A paycheck
  • A predictable future

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…

…loves us.

“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, REJOICE”

An Unseen Enemy

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.


We are providing worship plans for families and a in-home Bible study guide to walk us through Easter Sunday. 

Philippians Sermon Notes Week 03

THE SECRET OF CONTAGIOUS JOY
Finding Joy in the Hard Places
(Philippians 1:11-21)

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:

  1. We know God allows nothing to happen for us without a reason. Paul looked for the Divine purpose in everything happening to him.
  2. We know that things happen TO US so that God can make things happen THROUGH US. What was Paul’s optimism? That “the whole imperial guard has heard the Gospel.” Paul didn’t want to be in prison, even as you don’t want to be stuck in the prison of your tough circumstances. But he saw that, even through the inconvenience and difficulty, he God was using him to share Jesus with those whose job it was to be tethered to him by a chain. They learned that this Jewish prisoner they were guarding was really the free one, and they were the prisoner, and they knew he was imprisoned for the Gospel and was not a criminal.
  3. We know that as much as this ride we’re on feels like a downhill bobsled ride with no brakes, God is in control even of this. This is the time for us to answer the hard questions. “Where does my confidence really lie?” “What am I trusting in for my resources and provision?” “Who am I really looking to as my strength?”

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.

  1. We can choose joy in our difficult circumstances if we know Christ.
  2. We can choose joy in spite of difficult people if the Gospel is being proclaimed
  3. We can choose joy in spite of uncertain outcomes in life is Christ is our life, and our victory. Even death is gain!

A Prescription for Anxiety

“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

  1. Read twice daily:  Once in the morning and once in the evening.
  2. Read it to your children.  Every day.
  3. If you choose to watch the media, read before and after each broadcast.
  4. Believe what you read.  This is God’s Word.
  5. ‘Nuff said.

Philippians Sermon Notes Week 02

The Secret of Joyful Prayer

Philippians 1:3-11

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:

  • “Help me win the lottery”
  • “Bring my cheating boyfriend back to me”
  • “Help me lose weight while I eat whatever I want and never exercise”
  • “Bless me now, even though I’ve been ignoring you for years”
  • “Make me smart enough to pass the test I didn’t study for”

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:

  • That the Father’s Name would be hallowed
  • That His Kingdom would come…it’s more important than yours
  • That His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven…and in me
  • That He would give us what we need for the day
  • That we would be forgivers of those who sin against us
  • That we/our family would be delivered from the enemy’s snare
  • That His kingdom would be our first priority now and forever.

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).  ‘

  • He prays for their abounding knowledge
  • He prayed for the their growth in discernment
  • He prayed that they would be fruitful
  • He prayed that this would be to God’s glory
  • He prayed for the “good work”.

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.

A word from Pastor Tim regarding the Coronavirus

Fruit Cove family, we are aware of and up to date with the precautions and measures we should take to be a clean, healthy, and safe campus in light of the Coronavirus. We care deeply about our guests and our church family. We have an opportunity to show our neighbors and the world what it means to live our lives trusting God and not in fear. To our knowledge no member or attender of Fruit Cove has been diagnosed with the Coronavirus, and our prayers are with the 14 Florida residents that have. Our plan is to gather every Sunday and Wednesday (per our schedule), unless there are extraordinary circumstances. Here are a couple of simple notes about the Coronavirus in regard to what we are doing and what we are asking of you:

WHAT CAN YOU DO?
  • Stay home if you are sick. Watch Fruit Cove online at fruitcove.com or Facebook!
  • If you have been exposed to anyone with the coronavirus, the flu, or any other contagious condition please stay home for 14 days (per the CDC).
  • If you have recently traveled to China, Iran, Italy, or South Korea please stay home to watch your symptoms 14 days (per the CDC).
WHAT ARE WE DOING?
  • We are instituting the “fist bump” as the official greeting on campus. No more “right hand of fellowship” handshakes until this situation clears. For reference and a lesson in proper technique see the Sunday morning message from March 8 at fruitcove.com/sermons.
  • Our Facilities Team will continue to make sure our campus is clean and ready for use. This includes a plan for regular sanitization.
  • Beginning this Sunday we will be sanitizing highly touched surfaces before and after every service such as doors, handles, tables, water fountains, check-in stations, and sinks. This includes a heavy focus on our preschool and kids ministry areas.
  • Offering time will be moved to the very end of the worship service where congregants will be able to give their tithes and offerings as they exit.
  • Our staff and volunteer teams will wash their hands frequently and will stay home if they are sick.
  • We will be providing additional hand sanitizer stations around campus for everyone to use. These will be located in ministry area welcome centers and The Pavilion.
WHAT IS OUR SPIRITUAL RESPONSIBILITY?
  • We need to remember that followers of Jesus do not need to live in fear. He has power over all things, and we are eternally secure.
  • Our calling is to love our neighbor, whether they are sick or healthy.
  • Pray for God’s mercy and wisdom for US and global leaders as they deal with the crisis.
WHAT ABOUT MISSION TRIPS?

 In conversations with the International Mission Board and our church planting partners on the ground in London we have decided to postpone the HS Senior mission trip to London. This was a hard decision to make but we feel it is the right decision. You can read the full IMB statement here https://www.imb.org/2020/03/09/imb-recommends-volunteers-postpone-travel/.

At this time we are evaluating that status of planned trips to Jersey City, Miami and Puerto Rico over Spring Break. We will continue to maintain contact with our partners on the ground and unless our partners think it is not safe for us to come, the state of Florida recommends no travel, or the US State Department issues a travel warning we will proceed with all trips as planned. Participants of these trips do have the option of cancelling by contacting the Missions Office at 904-287-0996.

A SIMPLE TO-DO LIST TO PREPARE FOR THE CORONAVIRUS

  1. Don’t panic. Wash your hands. 20 seconds at least. A lot.
  2. Don’t watch/listen to the media. You might want to really limit your intake of Fox News and your favorite ABC or CNN news shows. You are keeping your mind and body on high alert because this stuff doesn’t stop 24/7. Use the time instead to pray for people around you. The time you would spend chewing your nails in front of the TV might better be used in a family Bible study!
  3. Adults…parents…your kids are watching you. If you panic, they’ll panic.  Answer questions they have if you can. Help them learn to access the Bible so they can calm themselves when everybody else is running around like Chicken Little. The truth really will set you… and them… free!
  4. Deal with your fears and anxiety head on. Don’t walk blindly into the devil’s den. He is the author of fear and a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour…and he’s already been snacking on some of you. Don’t give fear a foothold in your life. Ever. The enemy will exploit it every time.
  5. There is nothing contradictory to your faith or testimony in simple, wise preparation as that is needed. Just as you would do during a hurricane season, prepare for the possibility that the early stages of the virus may lead to short supplies and shutdowns. But don’t panic purchase. Think through what your household needs for an emergency. (Proverbs 27:12)
  6. Bear witness well to your faith. Be distinctive in your response to this. You have a God Who is real… a God Who is Sovereign… a God Who is watching over you. Sleep well tonight knowing that He’s got this!
  7. Trust the Lord with all your heart… and you’ll overcome the enemy’s assault… every time.

Joyful Praying

“…making my prayer with joy.”  (Philippians 1:4 ESV)
Is your prayer life joyful?  Is joy one of the first words that come to mind when you think about praying?  Or are the main words:
  • Drudgery
  • Duty
  • Boring
  • Rushed
  • Mechanical?
Many people find praying difficult or guilt-inducing rather than freeing and empowering and, well, joyful.  In Philippians 1, Paul shows us the secret to a joy-saturated experience with prayer.
One of the secrets to being a joyful Christian is learning to see our time of prayer, not as a hardship, but as time we hesitate to leave.  We are reconnecting our lives to the Lord of all Creation when we pray.  There is nothing of drudgery, or dullness, or boredom in that.
When we pray, our prayers should resonate with Heaven’s joy.  Yes, there are times we come to God in prayer with the sacrifice of our tears and pain.  Yet, the joy of the Lord should be our entry into His Presence…
… and the gift with which we leave.

Philippians – Sermon Notes week 01

THE SECRET OF CONTAGIOUS JOY
Letter of Contagious Joy Series
Philippians 1:1-2 & Acts 16:6-10

We are overstocked on a lot of things in our world today: discontent, misery, grief, unhappiness, fear, anger, division, criticism, and death. But we are short of one major commodity that would make all these other things easier to bear, if not make some of them disappear completely: Joy!
Most of us can number on one hand, with a few fingers left over, how many people we know who are truly joyful. Joy and happiness are in short supply today. But people are looking!

Worldwide, people say the number one thing they are searching for is happiness. In the three hundred year storied history of Yale University, the most popular class they ever offered was on How to Find Happiness! And if you Google “happy hour,” you will find over two billion five hundred and eighty thousand options.

We are assured in our founding documents as a nation that “all men are created equal, and have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Well, we’re sure pursuing it, but few are finding it.

And so, with this series and over the next several months, I am going to drop us right in the middle of this conversation. What does the Bible say about happiness? Well really, nothing. Sometimes the word “happy” shows up in translations, but it’s translating the Greek word “joy.” Happiness comes to us from an old English word that is a shortened version of “happenstance.”

Happiness has to do with circumstance. Magazine covers promise us everything from happiness with weight loss to financial happiness to happiness in remodeling your house. But they’re empty promises. Happiness is circumstantial. Circumstances change.
I want to talk to you about how to find something that remains even when your circumstances change. Some of you might say,
“I was happy but then my job was eliminated”
“I was happy but then I was diagnosed with cancer.”
“I was happy but then my wife left me.”
In other words, life has kicked the happiness right out of some of us!

So let’s stay focused on finding joy. “Weeping endures for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” In spite of weeping, and loss, and illness, and loneliness, we can know JOY that the world can’t give us, and, as an old song says, “the world can’t take away.” And neither can your circumstances.
Joyful Christians are contagious Christians. You will spread this “virus” of joy if you have it. There is nothing more inconsistent than a person sharing Jesus and looking like they just gargled apple cider vinegar. Get joy and then give it away! The Bible tells us that joy is a fruit of the Spirit. If we’re short of joy, we are not connected to the source which is the Holy Spirit indwelling those who believe.

By the end of this study, I am praying that some of you who have come to believe you could never know joy will be smiling and overflowing. I want to encourage you, but more than that I want the Word of God to challenge us, change us, and drop us into a vast stockpile of joy.

Let’s start at the beginning. Philippians is one of the most-quoted, most familiar books in the New Testament. More verses in Philippians have ended up on coffee mugs, T-shirts, Facebook memes, and Christian art plaques than any other Biblical book.
“For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.”
“He Who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.”
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”
“I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.”
“That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering.”
“This one thing I do, I press forward to the high calling of God in Christ Jesus my Lord.”
“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!”
“Do not be anxious for anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God…and the peace of God….”

THE JOYFUL APOSTLE ( v 1)

Paul was first a missionary, but also a church planter. Church planting requires people to share the Gospel with, and a harvest to build on. When Paul, and Silas, and Timothy, a young Greek, left the mainland they journeyed out to sea.
They didn’t have a travel itinerary, so as they left Derbe and Lystra they attempted to go to at least two different places where God said “no.” They continued sailing and praying, and one night God sent Paul a vision of a man from Macedonia (Greece) saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” (Some believe Luke was the man in the vision).

Pretty clear answer to prayer. And so they went following this vision. Paul’s clear ministry vision was “not to build on another man’s work.” He wanted to preach the Gospel where it had never been heard, and that led him to places he had never been and into experiences he had never had before. This is the first time the Gospel is proclaimed in Europe!

Now they had a plan. And that leads us to point 2:
THE JOYFUL CHURCH ( v 2)

This is the only one of Paul’s letters in the New Testament that is not corrective in nature or dealing with some divisive issue. It is a joyful letter. Obviously we can see that Paul had a deep affection for this little church. Part of his purpose was to thank them for a sacrificial gift they had given Paul while he was in prison.

Acts 16 tells us that the first person Paul preached to in Macedonia was not the man he had dreamed about. It was actually an Asian woman named Lydia, who dealt in purple cloth. She was a fashion mogul. She was wealthy; she wasn’t from Philippi, but she owned a home there, as well in her home in Thyatira. So here’s this lady, houses in New York and LA, wealthy and bright, and the Bible also adds she was “a worshiper of God.” Her foundation had been laid in Old Testament Scripture, and her heart was ready to hear the Gospel. When Paul arrived, she received Jesus and was baptized, along with her family.

Then we meet a person on the opposite end of the social spectrum. She was a slave girl. Not only was she physically possessed by men, but she was also possessed by a “python spirit;” she had the power of divination, a demonic gift that her owners exploited. She followed Paul and Silas and Timothy yelling out “these men are the servants of the most High God” until Paul could handle it no more. He cast out the demon, and she was became a believer. She was the second member of the Philippian church.

The third person was equally unlikely as the first two. The jailer, a former Roman soldier, had been given the responsibility of keeping Paul and Silas in custody. He threw them into the inner dungeon, a dark, damp, place and “placed their feet in stocks.” This, by the way, was a means of torture, not just securing them. It was an interrogation technique to place prisoner’s feet and legs in distorted positions causing cramps and sometimes paralysis.
But at midnight, the Bible informs us, Paul and Silas began singing praise through their pain. By the way, that’s a characteristic of joy. Joy isn’t having all of your circumstances line up just the way you’d like. It transcends them. But as they sang, “the place began to shake,” and the jail doors flew open. When the guard saw all the doors unlocked, he drew his sword to kill himself for failing to do his duty.

Paul stopped him. “We are all here” he said. And the jailer fell at Paul and Silas’ feet, saying, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

The jailer…blue collar…retired Marine…and his family became part of the church at Philippi. The most unlikely group possible of people to be in the same house group; to make up the first church on the European continent!

Right here is a problem we face. Do you know how easy it is to build a church where everyone is the same age, the same nationality, the same race, from the same background? Sociologists call this “the principle of homogeneity.” Like attracts like. Most churches are that. Caucasian churches attract Caucasian people. African American churches attract AA people; Phillipino churches… Baptist churches attract…well you get the picture.

But the “picture” that presents is not the Gospel. Now here me carefully. The most joyful and powerful testimony to the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not churches that all see things the same way, want things the same way, or think about life in the same way.

The picture of heaven is “every kindred, every tongue, every race,” together. Ever think about that? You will be the same race in heaven that you are on earth? Different races are not a mistake, and not a curse. There is no preferred race. They are an indication of God the artist’s love of variety!
And He wants His church to reflect that variety and that glory on earth! Now I’ll be candid here.

It would be a lot easier to pastor this church if we all were from the same generation, saw things the same way, wanted the same things, liked the same music, and had the same background. We’d get along great! And thats how some larger churches grow. Some churches are begun with the intention of catering to ONE group of people. Just run the rest of them off. Again, much easier.

But my understanding of the New Testament shows churches that do the hard work of tearing down walls between people, forgiving, and messing up and forgiving again. (Ephesians 2:14-22)

I am praying that there will come a day in Fruit Cove that we will worship each week with 30 different nationalities and people groups. As America changes, and the world keeps coming to us, I think that day is coming sooner rather than later.

THE PURPOSE OF JOY

Paul begins his address to this beloved church with the reason for their joy: “Grace and peace….” He calls them “saints.” That doesn’t mean, as we normally think, that they all had accomplished some lofty ideal of humanitarianism or were even uniquely holy or godly people. Saints aren’t made of plaster. We become saints because of the grace of God…”by grace you have been saved, through faith….” They were saints, not because of what they had done, but because of Jesus. We are saved by grace, and justified by faith. And we are made holy by the same grace.

But the outcome of our receiving grace is “peace.” Now that doesn’t mean that we will never find life and even our hearts in turmoil.

But it does mean that the most foundational issue of life, being reconciled with our Creator, has been settled.

Jesus came as our reconciler, to bring us peace with God and this joy we’re talking about. You may have it all together like Lydia. You may have nothing like the slave girl. You may just be a blue collar working man like the jailer. But we all need this grace. We all need this peace.

And we all want joy. Here’s how you get it. Here’s how it starts. We admit our need. We have sinned, and fall short of God’s glory. We need a Savior:

Only Jesus can save us.

He stands ready today with grace…and peace. It can be yours.

Joy in Giving

During a visit to Korea, two American businessmen were surprised to see a young farmer hitched to a plow that was guided by his father. Later they learned that both father and son were Christians who sold their only ox to provide money for a new church building. “What a stupendous sacrifice!” said one of the businessmen. “Not really,” replied a missionary accompanying them. “They were only sorry they had but one ox to give to the Lord’s work.”

As Americans we often give what we can afford to Kingdom work, but only infrequently (if at all) give a gift that costs us dearly. Jesus commended the widow who came and gave “all that she had to live on” to the offering at the temple. Others gave out of what they had and still had plenty. What we don’t see is the look, not of austerity and suffering, but of joy since “the Lord loves a cheerful giver.”

Those who cannot imagine smiling while giving a sacrificial gift have never given one.
There is a joyfulness in generosity that getting and keeping cannot match. But the only way to know that joy…

…is to give.

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