Fruit Cove Baptist Church


Pastor Tim's Blog

Don’t Miss the Joy! Chapter 6

CHAPTER 6

Finding Joy in Chaotic Times

Philippians 1:21-30

 

The classic little Charlie Brown cartoon offered this favorite of mine.  Charlie and Lucy are having a deep discussion about life.  Lucy says, “Charlie Brown, life is like a deck chair.  Some people set their chairs so they can see where they are going.  Others set their chair to see where they have been.  And others so they can see where they are in the present.” Charlie was wordless for a frame, and then said, “I can’t even get mine unfolded!”

One of the last places we would expect to encounter joy is in the middle of a dilemma… a confusing, perplexing experience… tossed back and forth between options or opinions.   Quite a few of us are facing dilemmas today in the midst of our current situation, and you are “trying to get your deck chair unfolded…” in the midst of chaos.

Paul wrote about this very thing in 2 Corinthians:

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”   (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)

We are perplexed, but not in despair.  Nowhere has this been truer than in our now months-long battle with Covid-19:

  • Which media reports do I believe about the coronavirus… the conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated Twitter opinions or another source? Should I pay attention to them at all?
  • How do I talk to my kids about all this? Do I tell them everything, or shelter them from much of what is happening?
  • Should we just revert back to normal now that restrictions are being lifted, or continue “sheltering” until an all-clear is sounded or a vaccine is discovered?
  • Do I spend my time and energy taking care of my own family, or do I see this also as a time of generosity and ministry to my neighbors who hurt just like me and try to reach out to them?

We could list more.  Again, we are living through times like we’ve never experienced in our lifetime.  The uncertainty of it all produces a lot of dilemmas for us.  Times of crisis usually do.  They are “perplexing.”  They are chaotic.

Ideally, though, they force us to our knees in prayer.  Maybe we need to spend more time just focused there, rather than worry about the storm blowing around us.    Every emotion you are experiencing right now…fear, anxiety, anger, depression, loneliness, frustration…should be processed before God in prayer.  Don’t dwell on it until you have prayed about it!

We stand in serious times, to paraphrase a famous quote of John Adams.  Most of us have never seen times more serious than these.  It seems almost hourly a new reality is revealed making our bad situation worse.

Let’s admit it.  We do find ourselves confused, perplexed, sometimes frightened, anxious, stressed, and unsure what to do next.  Sometimes that is precisely where life circumstances bring us.  God knows right where you are today.  He is still on His throne and He is the One we should be looking to in this.

———————————————————

It may also help to realize that this is not the first time, nor the worst time the Body of Christ has faced on earth.  The church has continued and even thrived through far worse.  The Black Plague, The Spanish Flu of 1918, the Nazi takeover of Germany in World War 2; not to mention wars, genocide, and persecution on a scale we have never experienced were all thought to be “the worst of times” for the church on earth.

CS Lewis was a voice of stability to the British people during the Second World War.  His messages were broadcast over the BBC network and were eagerly heard by this beleaguered people.  After World War Two ended, Lewis continued to lecture and write.  In one essay, he responded to a question asked by an individual who was concerned of the possibility of a nuclear attack on London.

I will repeat his reply as he wrote it.  But as you hear it, just insert “coronavirus” wherever you read the words “atomic bomb.”

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age? I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.‘  In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation.

He continued,

Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways…. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

While Lewis’ remarks may not speak exactly to our situation, there is enough of a connection to draw some lines to it.  First of all:

1).  God does not forsake His people.  The Lord is in the Heavens, and He does whatever He pleases.   He’s not afraid of catching the coronavirus, nor is He washing His hands and trying not to touch His face.  He’s not socially distancing from us!  Do not begin to believe God is absent from us, even though we are for a time absent from each other.   We should not let the prospect of what MIGHT happen dominate our minds and preoccupy and sideline our lives.

2).  As chaotic as all of this seems, God is working in the midst of our distress to bring His purpose to completion. You and I get to be a part of that purpose, and whatever the coronavirus does to us as a child of God, we still win!

3).  Let’s stop acting like we’ve already lost the war and everything important to us.  We haven’t.  God is still on His throne.  I am asking God daily to do a work that will be so amazing and undeniably His hand that no man or no country can take credit for it.  I am daily praying Ephesians 3:20 over us that we will see God do “exceedingly abundantly more than we could ask or imagine.”

“Look among the nations and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” (Habakkuk 1:5)

God is at work, in ways that we would not believe if He told us!

I want us to be delivered from this moment.  But if not this it will be something else.  The world we live in… the world our Creator God entrusted to us…is broken beyond our remedy because of sin.  We are seeing now the outcome of what that truly looks like, without the candy coating of our daily lives and activities softening the reality.

In our study today, we hear again through the inspired Words of the Bible about a man who could be joyful in spite of false accusations, a prison sentence, and even possible execution for the crime of claiming that only Jesus was Lord….and not Caesar.

And we are looking clearly for the secret of his joy that was contagious.  Joy is more contagious than the coronavirus!  If we can choose joy in a time like this, well, some people will think we’ve just gone insane.  But others will want to know, “How do you do that?”

Well, we can do it like Paul did it.   People are looking for it now more than ever.

 

PAUL FOUND JOY BY HAVING A CONFIDENT HOPE

Paul was not suicidal, nor did he have some kind of morbid death wish.  Paul had hope.  He knew that when he went home, his suffering would be over forever.  The persecutors that sought to shut him up would forever be silenced.

He did not fear death.  He did not vacillate in what he believed about it.  We could argue that he welcomed it!  He had a confidence that the life to come is “better by far” than his life here.  He had confidence that death was a beginning, and not an end; a continuation of His walk with Christ only now with face- to- face fellowship.   It is possible to walk in a fellowship with Christ that is so real, and so life-giving that you barely notice it when you die.  I think Paul was there.

But fear is indication of a problem.   We are ONLY to fear God.  Oswald Chambers said, “If you fear God, you need fear nothing else.  If you fear anything else, you are not properly fearing God.”  Jesus said, “Fear Him Who has the power to throw both body and soul into hell.”

If we are fearful about everything happening around us, then we are not focused on the One we should TRULY fear.   Paul was not afraid.  He had a certain hope.  He knew, as he knew that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” that death opened the door to a lot of things for the faithful one who dies in Christ.

Death held an end of suffering for Paul; an end to pain and despair of imprisonments and illness and having nothing and no money and no family and no home.  Of course, he looked forward to it!

What is your hope in today?  Are you hoping in government, in the United States, in science, in health care, in the economy?  I pray for all of these and those involved in trying to solve this crisis.  But all of these will fail us, if not this time, then at some point in the future.  Only God is the Rock you can anchor your hope to, and He never wavers, and He never fails.

 

PAUL FOUND JOY BY LIVING A WORTHY LIFE

CS Lewis’ 1948 strangely relevant article continues:

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are… going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.  (And they should not crush our spirits.)

Jesus used an interesting word in talking about the day of His coming.  He gave instruction to the disciples, and to us, “occupy until I come,”

So how then do we live in this present distress?  What does it look like to “walk around” having a worthy life…to occupy until He comes?

First, Paul says we are to be “firm in one spirit.”  The strength of the church comes as we walk together in the “unity of the Spirit.”  We are to be one.  Jesus, in fact, prayed for this very thing in John 17.  “That they may be one…”  We take our English word “athletics” from a Greek term that means “to contend as one man.”

Second, as we stand “firm in one spirit,” we are to defend the faith.  The purpose of our defense of the faith is that we might engage the lost with the truth of the Gospel.

Peter tells us we need to be “ready to give an answer to anyone who asks us for the reason for the hope we have in us.”  That does not mean engage them in arguments, or philosophical debate unless those lead to a clear, loving presentation of the Gospel of salvation.

Third, we are not to be put into “fluttering alarm by any of our adversaries.” (Barclay.)  We are not to live cowering in fear.  We are not to live in fear of our adversary, the devil or be afraid of his threats.

All of this comes under a call to live consistent lives as citizens of heaven.  Our ultimate “residence” changed when we came into the Kingdom of God.  Our earthly citizenship, though we have obligations and responsibilities to it, are secondary to our heavenly one.

We are to be consistent in our lifestyle.  We are to be consistent in our love, as we are proclaiming a Gospel of love.  We are to be consistent in our liberty as we proclaim a Gospel of freedom.

As Christians, Paul calls us to be faithful, to be forceful in our defense of the faith, and to be fearless as we face the enemies of the Gospel.

 

PAUL FOUND JOY BY SEEING A VICTORIOUS OUTCOME

This part of Paul’s letter leaves them with an expectation.  He fully expected they would be victorious, no matter what happened to him or even what happens to them.  “It has been granted you that you believe and suffer….” As your faith is a gift of God’s grace; (BUCKLE IN here) so is your enduring suffering well an evidence of faith and “a gift of grace” from God!

Being a Christian does not mean we won’t have problems.  It does not create a guarantee for you that you won’t get this cursed virus.  But even if you do, when you suffer as a believer you are showing the certainty of your faith and bearing witness to God’s goodness in the midst of it.

This is especially true when we are caused to suffer because of our faith.  Our suffering due to our faithfulness is as much a gift from God as is our salvation.  They are part of the same experience.

It’s our time to live a faithful and worthy life in a dark and chaotic time. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who are cheering us on!

It’s our time to choose to rejoice in the Lord, and having done all else, to rejoice!

—Make sure your hope is in the right place—and fear is put in its place

—Make sure you are living a life worthy of the Gospel—if not, course- correct!

—Make sure you are keeping your eye on the finish line, confident that the One Who began this good work in you will be faithful to complete it!

Don’t Miss the Joy! Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Finding Joy in the Hard Places

Few of us would expect to find joy while locked in a prison cell.  Especially if we were there for being obedient to God and awaiting a possible death sentence. Paul’s situation (as he puts it “the things that have happened to me”) give a lot of credibility to his words.  As he writes about how he found joy in the hard places, maybe it will give us encouragement as well in “the things that have happened to us!”

 

FINDING JOY IN SPITE OF TOUGH CIRCUMSTANCES

“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.” (Philippians 1:12-14)

It isn’t a stretch for us to see that our culture (and our world) has entered into one of the most difficult seasons most of us have ever experienced.  And I am not just referring here to our movements being restricted or our isolation from others or Disneyworld closing.   People are frightened.  They are confused.  They are lost and if they do not know the Lord, they have nowhere to look for help.

If you are reading this book as a believer, then you can say with Paul, that in spite of our circumstances:

  1. We know God allows nothing to happen to us without reason.  Paul looked for Divine purpose in everything that had happened to him.
  2. We know that things happen TO US and IN US so God can make things happen THROUGH US.  What was Paul’s optimism?  That “the whole imperial guard has heard the Gospel.”  Paul did not want to be in prison, even as you do not want to be stuck in the prison of your tough circumstances.  But he saw, even though the inconvenience and difficulty, that 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.

    You may not be literally “chained” to a difficult co-worker or an unsympathetic supervisor, but certainly God has placed them in our lives and us in theirs for a reason bigger than the moment.  How do we leverage these relationships, even in tough circumstances, for the Kingdom of God?  That’s how Paul coped.  And that’s how the joy came!

  3. We know that as much as this season we are in feels like a downhill bobsled ride with no brakes, God is in control even of times like these.   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 to us right now 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, or a cancer diagnosis, or a divorce proceeding 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 proclaims 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.” (Philippians 1:15-18)

This is also a tough one.  All of us have experienced a person, or multiple people, who seem to have made it their mission to make life harder for you.  Maybe it is 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 a little 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, and again, they are there for a reason.  You need to stay open to the reason why God placed them in your life.  Paul was continually hounded by people whose mission in life was to frustrate his.  Let’s be honest.  Those kinds of 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 by persecuting Paul, and some were sincere in their belief.  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 about a college football player 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 cannot get prepared for that.

Paul was being tackled by those who claimed to be on “Team Jesus.”  But he chose joy in spite of them.  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 by those individuals.   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.”  (Philippians 1:18-21)

Paul truly did not 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 will 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 cannot 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 we have to add the word “loss” then we are living for something less than what God’s best is for us.  This is a hard thing to think about, since for many of us a person’s name is going to go into that blank.

But as many know, if you are living for a person, you can also lose that person and with them, your purpose and primary reason for living.

There was a time that I would have put my wife’s name in the first blank.  We had to come to a point in our relationship where we affirmed what we had said at the beginning:  “I must always say I love you but not as much as I love Jesus.”

If we cannot say that, then the relationship has become an idol that stands in the way of your total commitment to Jesus Christ.  When you can truly say, with Paul that “for me to live is Christ,” it gives depth of true love to every other relationship in life.  If a person is coming first in your life:  spouse, child, grandchild, or friend…  you are loving something that can be taken away from you by illness, or death, or divorce, or by a child leaving home.

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.  Until we have this settled, something like the threat of this virus will continue to terrorize us and rob us 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!

Don’t Miss the Joy! Chapter 4

Chapter 4

The Secret of Joyful Prayer

If you were surveyed about your prayer life, would you characterize it as:

A. Boring, mundane
B. Mechanical, draining
C. Joyful, energizing

Does A, B, or C most characterize your time with God?  Now realistically everyone must work at prayer to a certain extent.  There is a real enemy who does not want you talking to the Father.  Nobody who truly prays doubts the existence of the devil!  But what if we could understand the secret of praying joyfully?

Truth be known, 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.   Worship is sometimes automatic and perfunctory.  Our spiritual reading is often haphazard.

But sadly, our prayer life is often among those activities.  Jesus chastised the three men who were closest to Him in His incarnation by asking, “Could you not watch with Me one hour?”

It may well be we are 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 did not if your prayers included:

 “Help me win the lottery”

 “Please 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 our prayer?  Maybe what we wanted was not God’s will.  James wrote, “You ask, and receive not because you ask amiss that you may consume it on your lust.”

And 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!  (See the list above)

Maybe if we prayed liked Jesus taught us:

That the Father’s Name would be hallowed

That His Kingdom would come…it is 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 central 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.

A Model of Joyful Prayer

Paul gives us a model of praying joyfully.  Now that is not 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.” (Heb 5:7)

But communion with our Heavenly Father can 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 eliminate the shame and guilty stain of sin.  When this happens, joy remains.  But how do we pray with joy when it seems nothing is joyful around us?

Paul could pray with joy, first, because

He knew 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 praying 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 weeping under some burden.  During the dream, the church came around me, laying their hands on me.

I truly believe and will continue believing that I am continuing in ministry because of the prayers of God’s people.  The grace of God holds me fast…but their hands and prayers for me keep me moving forward.

Fellowship brings joy, and healing, and recovery.  We are not to try do this thing alone, though some of us try really hard to do that.

The joy comes along as a contagious experience of fellowship.  Paul could pray with joy, further, because he had

He had a confidence in God’s faithfulness (vv. 6-7)

Not only did Paul experience joy because he knew he was not 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 does not mean we are going to see everything go our way, or always experience sunshine and pleasant circumstances.

Remember that 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). It was hardly a happy time for the Lord.

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 does not 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.”

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 is 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.

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 does not 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 does not 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.

He had 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 are 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 is 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, and that reminder of his love brought joy in a prison cell.

He had an overflowing love (vv. 9-11)

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 does not 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 to the creatures within it and the cities that are built near it.

But 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.  And clearly, there are things we should not love as Christians. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world…” the Apostle John tells us.  Christian love is discriminating…distinctive…discerning.  It loves and approves “that which is best/excellent.”  It does not love unwisely.

I hear a lot of people say, “being a Christian just means you’re supposed to love, right?”  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 a wise person will not eat them!

The end is nearer than we think

The world is headed for the day of Christ.  He is coming.  Being ready does not mean simply BELIEVING that…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 is on the verge of exploding into chaos.  Jesus predicted that His appearing would come after the birth pains of tribulation…the baby normally does not come out on the mother’s first contraction.

But we need to heed the wakeup call and hear the reminder on occasion that it won’t be long before Christ appears…and we need to be ready now.

Learning to pray with joy is one thing we can do as we anticipate Jesus’ coming back again.  But let’s also remember that this prayer that Paul prayed can become a model for your prayer life as well.

What if, in all the places Paul uses the word “you” in the prayer, you insert your spouse’s name?  Your children’s names?  As we personalize this prayer, we begin to see another level of it’s value.

Joyful praying is a possibility for all of us.  The next time you pray, pray expecting

Don’t Miss The Joy! Chapter 3

Chapter 3

 Finding Joy When Happiness Won’t Come

THE JOYFUL LETTER

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….”

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.

THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS

Have you ever found yourself saying it?  “I’ll be joyful when I finally get a decent job!”  “I’ll be joyful when my husband (or wife) starts loving me like they should.”  “I’ll be joyful when this illness is finally cured.”  “I’ll be joyful when I’ve paid of all my credit cards.”

We’ve all done it.  We mistakenly think that joy can only be ours when our circumstances agree.  And we make a mistake that many make.

Joy is not the same as happiness.  Happiness is a pleasant thing. Don’t get me wrong.  I am as much into happiness as the next guy.  But I know a secret.  I know that joy can come even when happiness will not.

Happiness is one of those words we have hung onto from the old English language.  Now not that we do not speak English today (although I have a British friend who would disagree).  But we have moved past a lot of words that occupied our language for hundreds of years.

Happiness is from the old English word “happenstance.”  “Happenstance” is an acknowledgement of the chance that things just happen and hopefully they are good things.  So, our “happenstance” are our circumstances that “happen” to us.

Happiness, therefore, simply came to mean having pleasant circumstances occur in our lives.  It is our “chance,” our “lucky stars” that we have to thank for those.

Joy is more robust than that.  It does not fade away in the face of hard circumstances or unpleasant days.  It endures despite them.  The lie the enemy would have us believe is that joy cannot come to us unless our “happenstance” is positive.   In other words, it is the lie that joy and happiness are not different.

Nothing is further from the truth.  We see joy coming in some of the most difficult and painful circumstances.  It is a supernatural gift and does not blow away with the winds of adversity.  Paul’s joyful attitude we see on display in his Letter to the Philippians is evidence of this.

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 are sure pursuing it, but few are finding it.

Magazine covers promise us everything from happiness with amazing weight loss to financial happiness to happiness in remodeling your house.  But they are empty promises.  Happiness is circumstantial.  Circumstances change.

My circumstances are very good at the moment.  As I was working on this chapter, my granddarlin’ McCail showed up to visit.  She brought along her little tablet and sat right down at the table beside me to “work” with Poppy.  Grandfather heaven!

But my joy is not dependent on all my circumstances aligning, though they’re really good at the moment!  But 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.”  Despite weeping, and loss, and illness, and loneliness, we can know JOY that the world cannot 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 are short of joy, we are not connected to the source which is the Holy Spirit indwelling those who believe.

JOY IN SPITE OF OUR CIRCUMSTANCES

So, can we know joy when our circumstances aren’t cooperating?  When they may be anything but good?  When our prospects are not promising, and our future is foreboding?

Well Paul had it.  Paul knew joy despite the worst of external conditions.  Imprisoned for preaching the Gospel, Paul wrote one of the most joyful and encouraging letters in the New Testament while in jail.

It is an amazing thing how joy can buoy our spirits when everything in our life is trying to push us down.  Let’s summarize:

Paul had been falsely imprisoned

He was being held on “death row” awaiting sentencing

He never knew if each meal; each sunrise was his last

He didn’t know if he would ever be free again.

He lived each day connected by a short chain to a Roman guard.

And yet, in spite of these circumstances, Paul had an unquenchable joy. Something like that can only be attributed to a supernatural source.  Not “happenstance.”

Throughout the four chapters that make up Philippians, we will encounter the source of Paul’s joy and how he lived it out.  And the best news is the joy of the Lord that Paul knew is not out of anyone’s reach who knows the joy giver of Paul’s life:

The Lord Jesus Christ.

Don’t Miss the Joy! Chapter 2

Chapter Two

The Joy of Unlikely Relationships

There are few things in life that can bring us more joy, and almost at the same time more pain that relationships.  If you ask most people who seem to be happy or joyful for the reason, they will almost always tell you something about a relationship.

At the same time, if you find someone who is long-faced and looks miserable, and you ask them the reason for their sorrow, they too will almost always mention something about a relationship.  Maybe it is a relationship gone bad or is undergoing stress, or perhaps they have lost someone close to them or they are lonely.  But it all goes back to a conversation about relationship.

By the same token, the church is made up entirely of relationships.  Good ones, bad ones, or people looking for one.  Ideally these begin and are rooted in a relationship with the Savior.  But sometimes they are not.

It is by means of relationships that much pain and grief is experienced among Christians, along with immeasurable joy if we are open to it.  But sometimes we are not.

THE PROBLEM OF ALONENESS

Being alone was never God’s intention for any of us.  Our God, in Trinitarian array, exists in an eternal relationship: a “joyful dance” as someone called it.  A joyful interaction of the Three-yet-One we know as the persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

It was always God’s intent that those He created in His image (“let us make man in OUR image”) join in that endless, eternal, and joyful dance.  God is a generous God.  He wanted to share part of Who He is with us.

And so, when He drew us up from the dirt of Eden’s garden and breathed spirit life in us, He said “it is good.”  It is good that we are in His image.  It is good that we are like Him.  It is good that we can relate to Him as our Creator.

But later in the Creation account in Genesis, He said “It is NOT good that the man should be alone.” This state of aloneness is unnatural to our God-stamped natures.  It hurts to be alone.

When a captor wishes to break the mind and will of a stubborn prisoner, the prisoner is placed in solitary confinement.  Left there sometimes for weeks or months on end, the human mind begins to melt down.  The will begins to sag under the weight of isolation.

We are not created to be alone.  “I will make a companion suitable for him,” God said.  And so, Eve entered the picture, taken from Adam’s side.  Like him, but different.  Equal to him, but submissive.  Invaluable to him, but not ruling him.  

The pair shared everything.  Work. Procreating: childbearing and child-rearing.  Ruling the world for a time, having dominion over everything.  The Bible describes their joyful condition as “The man and his wife were both naked but not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:25)

THE JOYFUL DANCE OF INTIMACY

Pastor and author John Ortberg wrote a book recently entitled, I’d Like You More If You Were More Like Me.  The book is an exploration of human intimacy.  One counselor refers to intimacy as “into-me-you-see.” 

The pursuit of intimacy is a joyful pursuit.  It calls us out when we would rather hide because of shame and our sinfulness.  It stabilizes us when we feel bad about ourselves.  It does not leave us alone, even when we deserve and want to be isolated.

But intimacy as an expression of human relationship is not the experience of “becoming like” the other.  It is the experience of “become one” with them.  Those are two different experiences.

The first, “becoming like,” is the experience of conformity.  Some dysfunctional religious groups and dystopian societies are experiments in conformity.  I often will tell a pre-married couple in counseling that if both of them are the same, one of them is unnecessary.  Conformity is not the goal.  Conformity can be enforced, but it is not natural.

The goal is not uniformity.  The goal is oneness.  It is not the weaker clinging to the stronger in fear.  That is unhealthy attachment.  It is “two-becoming-one” that is expressed in marriage.  

The joy of seeing “two-become-one” over the course of a long and healthy marriage is a marvel that deserves to be called miraculous.  We do not see it often enough.

Sometimes marriages are abandoned because getting to that oneness is not automatic.  It’s laborious.  It’s hard work.  Sometimes one will not be willing to pay the hard price of dying to self so the relationship can become what it was intended to be.  Yet they fail to realize that, even though the relationship is painful, tearing it apart is still tearing flesh apart.  “What God has joined together, let not man tear apart.”

THE JOYFUL BODY

It has ever been God’s intent that His church, His body, His bride on earth know the oneness that is known in Heaven.  Marriages in Christ express a visible picture of God’s intention for all believers and for all the redeemed to have with Him.

No one was more aware of that intent than Paul.  It was his desire to present the churches he was planting as a “spotless bride” to His Lord.  He was jealous to protect and keep them pure until the wedding day, as the best man would be responsible for doing.

He fought as a warrior for joy to be found and known among the gathered but dissimilar believers that made up the first New Testament congregations.  But it was a battle where victory was never fully realized while he was on earth.  

God’s intention is for the relationships we experience in the church to bring us joy.  Too often these relationships end in pain, and heartache, and disappointment and can even become abusive.  The same author who wrote I’d Like You More If You Were More Like Me also wrote another book on relationships called Everybody’s Normal till You Get to Know Them.

We are not normal.  Peter refers to God’s people as “peculiar” people.  Now I know the theological thought behind that has to do with our being unique, and distinct and set apart.  But we all know folks in the church who are, well, peculiar in other ways.  

Churches are not joyful because everyone’s walking in lock step with each other.  We do not have to be the same.  Churches that grow around affinity demographics (same age, same social and religious backgrounds, same musical tastes) create an artificial sense of unity that is not a reflection of the New Testament church.

A.W. Tozer suggested that coming to unity would be like tuning one hundred pianos to the same tuning fork.  They would automatically be in tune with each other if tuned to the same pitch, but not if the tuner sought to tune each individual instrument to the one beside it.  

The church that Paul was seeking to build crashed together different nationalities, different language systems, different cultures, different religious backgrounds.  They had to become one through abandoning prejudices, overcoming religious one-upmanship, and burying long years of inborn hatred.  Their unity came because they were “attuned” to the same Person:  The Lord Jesus Christ.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near through the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.  (Ephesians 2:13-14)

It is only through the blood Christ; a radical focus on Christ and His Kingdom that different races, different cultures, different religious backgrounds, and assumptions about life can be in unity.  We cannot do this by our best efforts.  Only God can accomplish it.  

But when it does happen there is unbelievable joy!  There is a depth of richness in a relationship that could only have happened because of Jesus.  There is a joyous wonder in a friendship, a fellowship, or a marriage that is Christ saturated and Spirit-formed.  

A married couple truly attain oneness in the same way.  When we focus on our own needs and concerns to the exclusion of the other, we are in constant friction and conflict.  When we try to “tune” ourselves to the other person but not to Christ, unity is missed.  But when we agree that Christ is more than our needs, and greater than our personal wants, we find ourselves automatically attuned to each other as a result.

THE UNLIKELY CONGREGATION

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 was not from Philippi, but she owned a home there, as well in her home in Thyatira.  So, here’s this lady, houses in two cities, 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.

Next, 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 around 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 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 is 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… like a retired Marine… and his family became part of the church at Philippi.  The most unlikely group of people possible came to be in the same house group and made up the first church on the European continent!

This brings us to 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 people of color; Filipino churches attract Filipino… Baptist churches attract…well you get the picture.

But the “picture” that presents is not the Gospel.  Now hear 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.

We have to get over thinking that the church is supposed to be made up of people who all see things exactly the same.  Maybe (to quote the book title) “I would like you better if you were more like me.” But the reality is we’re different.

Let me just get you to imagine an experiment.  What if I came to your church and told the people, “I’m going to make a cup of coffee right here that will make every person in the building who likes coffee happy?”

After you’d finished laughing, you would say “that’s impossible!”  What would such a cup of coffee taste like?  You like your coffee bold and black, caffeinated or decaffeinated or frothy with cream, or sweetened with Splenda or sugar or honey, or hot or iced?  It would be humanly impossible!

So, if we can’t even all get along on how we like our coffee, then how on this earth are we going to build a fellowship of believers who are all going to get exactly what they want?  It’s impossible to come to consensus on some things.  

Yet the church survives, and even thrives on our differences.  It’s not being different that kills churches and congregations—it’s the demand of a few to have their own way.  It’s the expectation that things should always go the way they want them.  

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 of people.  They are an indication of God the artist’s love of variety!  

And He wants His church to reflect that tapestry and variety and that glory on earth!  Now I’ll be candid here.

It would be a lot easier to pastor the church I serve 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 that’s 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.  

A year or so back we commissioned a survey of our community, and the group studied the “psycho-social and religious” profile of our church field.  Would you like to know what they discovered just in our immediate church field?

Fifty percent of the people wanted a church building that looked like a church building.

Fifty percent of the people preferred a building for worship that didn’t resemble a church building.

Fifty percent preferred music that sounded like they believed church music” should sound.

Fifty percent preferred music that was contemporary and didn’t resemble traditional music in any way.

Fifty percent wanted a church where people dressed up on Sunday.

Fifty percent wanted a church where people preferred casual dress for Sunday.

The truth?  Representatives of both groups attend worship at our church!  Every week.  We shouldn’t get along.  At all.  But we do because it’s not us trying to match people to their preferences.  As long as we keep our eyes on Jesus, we’ll be unified.  

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). That takes the grace of God to work.  And it does.

THE JOY OF AN UNLIKELY CHURCH

For most of the ways we evaluate church success, Philippi scored zero.  The people were not similar in any way, except each of them had met Jesus Christ personally and believed in Him and were focused on Him.

But when Paul and Silas left Philippi the next day after their release from prison, that was the church they left behind.  We remember the words of our Lord in Matthew 16 that remind us

I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. 

Jesus built His church in Philippi.  He chose the materials; He put the “stones” of the temple in place.  He set them in Lydia’s house as their physical location.  He added more “stones” as they shared the Gospel with family and friends in their network.  

And from there, these different individuals with their diverse social and economic backgrounds became the unlikely relationships that gave Paul encouragement, support, and the will to press on more times than they would ever know.  They were the church.

And, these unlikely people brought him much, much joy!  As we open the Letter to the Philippians, we find ourselves benefiting from that same encouragement.  

Don’t Miss the Joy! Intro & Chapter 1

Introduction

I missed Philippi by 25 miles.  By plane and by bus, I had already traveled over 5500 miles to arrive in Sofia, Bulgaria. From the Sofia International Airport, I traveled several hundred more miles by van and bus through small Balkan villages and mountainous passes and armed guards at checkpoints.

And finally, my bus arrived…in Thessaloniki.  I offered my most diplomatic American voice and questioned the driver: “I thought we were going to Philippi?”

He said, “Thessaloniki better.  Shops better.  Food better.  Philippi just ruins.”  I slumped back in my seat.  It was apparent my travel companions were more interested in acquiring lovely souvenirs from Thessaloniki tourist spots than seeing one of the most incredible and intact archaeological digs on the route of Paul’s journeys.

“Paul also went to Thessaloniki,” the driver offered me helpfully.  “I know, I know.”  And so, Thessaloniki it was.  Philippi, just a scant forty-minute drive to the north, eluded me.  I found out later the driver did not know HOW to get to Philippi, but he failed to mention that fact.

So there I was, stuck in Thessaloniki.  It was drizzling chilly rain, but it was actually a beautiful seacoast city.  Sadly, not the one I wanted to see.  And so I sulked.  And I missed the joy available in the moment.

We do that all the time, don’t we?  When we don’t get our way, on our timeline, in just the manner we saw it playing out in our heads.  And so we pout like children.  How many times has it happened to you?

I’m beginning my thoughts on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians in the midst of the 2020 coronavirus outbreak.  We are now told that the peak of infections in Florida will arrive within ten days from this writing: maybe sooner.  I just had a church member reach out to me who leads a nursing home facility to my south. She was asking me to pray for her staff.  The next day the National Guard was arriving to test all of them after a patient and one of the nurses tested positive for Covid-19.

It’s hard to find the joy sometimes.  Life bumps into us in unlikely and unexpected ways.  And we miss the joy…maybe by a few feet or maybe by 25 miles.  But somehow it escapes us, and it is difficult to find it once it’s gone.

My prayer is this book will remind you to look for the joy in unlikely places.   Joy is not awarded to the ones who “try” the hardest to get it and hang on to it.  It is not a wage given to a worker, and it is not on loan.  Joy is a gift given us by Jesus: “My joy I give to you.”  And as we abide in Him, we can embrace it.

We just have to recognize it, and then accept that sometimes joy comes wrapped in unexpected and sometimes even unpleasant circumstances.  Sometimes it comes by means of unexpected people.  And sometimes it comes in situations that only God, through the eyes of the Spirit, can enable us to see.

But I am deeply convinced that God does not want us to miss it.  It may not come in the timing we thought, by the people we thought, or even through the circumstances we thought. It may surprise us if it comes wrapped in disappointment, or tears, or heartache or confusion.

Joy could have met me in Thessaloniki.  But that was not where I’d planned to meet it.  I missed it by 25 miles.

Don’t miss the joy.  Even when the gift comes wrapped in the unexpected!


Chapter One

Finding Joy in Times of Confusion

“And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.”  (Acts 16:6)

Paul and company weighed anchor and set sail full of confidence.  It was a confidence born of God’s call.  A confidence affirmed by God’s people.  They set sail to parts unknown, determined to bring the Gospel to lands and people where it had never been preached.

The apostle “born out of time” (his description) was leading the missionary venture after he and his friend Barnabas parted ways.  They were bravely following the bold vision and clarity offered by their influential leader.

Those were the days before electronic navigation and GPS systems.  Sailors traveled by locating the stars and heavenly bodies.  They relied on wind and currents that a skilled mariner could mostly predict.

But it was not maps and navigation they lacked.  They were waiting for the clear and affirming voice of the Spirit of God, which Paul had learned to recognize and rely on, to direct them.

And all they heard were “no’s.”

And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.  (Acts 16:7)

The Book of Acts, penned by the physician-historian Luke, tells us that one-by-one Paul’s efforts fell apart.   Asia was a no-go.  The Holy Spirit had “forbidden” them to go.  Then, they attempted to enter Bithynia, but “the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.”  Sometimes our best-laid plans seem to end just like that.

 

CUE:  CONFUSION

We lay our lives out: school, career, marriage, children, home purchase, then retirement. While some may not be nearly so structured, all of us have a kind of built-in expectation of how things will be.

By the way, let me say quickly that there is nothing wrong with planning.  The Book of Proverbs, for one reference, affirms careful planning:

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plan will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”  (Proverbs 16:9)

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”  (Pr 16:21)

That is just a sampling of one chapter.  There is no caution about planning in the Bible as long as we understand that God has a right to overrule our plans to establish His own.  Sometimes we get it wrong.

And sometimes our plans do not take the Lord into account at all.  It is continually surprising to me how many young people raised in churches and coming from families of faith never truly seek the Lord about what He wants them to do with college.

We take one of the most important (and expensive) decisions we have ever made and just “wing it.”  I wonder how different things would be if we simply asked, “Lord, which school do you want me to attend?  Which major?  Which professors and classes do you want to use to shape my mind and thinking?”

And then we scratch our heads and wonder why college is such a frustrating and sometimes futile experience.  Did you ask God to “establish your plans” as you filled out applications?

Or how about the new job offer you’ve received?  Yes, it will mean uprooting your family…again.  Yes, it will mean disrupting the routine of your family and tearing your household out of networks of community and friends.  But after all, God wants you to make more money, right?  Isn’t that all that matters? Is the Lord “establishing His plan” in your job?  If He says “no” will you do the same?

For those who are dating, is God “establishing His purpose” in you as you seek a date, or a mate?  Is He guiding those you spend time with, as well as you, in the course of your lives?  Has He established His plan in your relationships?

God has an interest in our plans.  The American church has several favorite verses that end up, well, everywhere.  One such verse is Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you a future and a hope.”

God is personally and deeply invested in us as His followers and children.  When we give ourselves to follow the Lamb of God into eternal life, God becomes deeply interested in using the life you have surrendered to Him.  He wishes to “establish His purpose” in us.

But when we follow our own wisdom, our own counsel, and our own instinct, we sometimes wind up in a cul-de-sac of confusion.  We cannot understand where God is.  Why didn’t He show up?

 

CLEARING THE FOG

I do not wish to imply that Paul had taken a wrong turn in Acts 16.  The men on that voyage did not embark with a clear destination in mind, except to go where the Gospel had not been proclaimed. They were simply willing to trust God wherever He led.  It is the truest example of discipleship, of trusting Jesus moment by moment in obedience wherever He leads us.

Their problem was discerning where that next step was to be!  They were listening to God.  They knew He wanted them in the ship they were in, and in the sea they were sailing.

But they could not discern clearly where He wanted them to drop anchor.  Asia?  Europe?  An island?  The mainland?  Where was God leading them to go and proclaim the Gospel?

Sometimes we reach those intersections in life where it is not clear what God is doing.  On several different occasions in my life, I have had to stop to discern the will and direction of God.  It’s not always a clear choice and option of “good” or “bad.”  Often, it is more “good, better, or best.”

Those are actually much harder choices.  None are terrible.  But one, you know in your heart, is optimal.  These times can become paralyzing if we let them.

When these moments occur, I know instinctively that I will have to make a decision without all the information I would like to have on hand.  At some point, maybe due to prompts and thoughts that I cannot objectively validate, I will take a step (maybe a leap?) of faith.

This can be particularly frustrating to your mate if you’re married.  They have questions.  They have concerns, and “a dog in the fight” too.  How do you know?  What is God saying to you?

Pam and I went through such a period as I was finishing my college degree and trying to begin the steps of moving to Louisville, Kentucky to enter the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Frankly, I had been in two years of non-stop classes, carrying heavy class loads including two years studying Greek, and I was just over it.

For almost three months, I floundered.  Her life was in the balance, too.  She needed to apply for jobs.  To complicate matters, a door had opened for me to go to Nashville and work with a friend who had done quite well for himself in the Gospel music industry.

One day while driving south on the Interstate near our home in Williamsburg, we passed a sign that summarized the dilemma.  The sign said “Louisville Nashville” and showed the interstate parting just ahead.

I had caused us to be adrift in a sea of uncertainty.  It seemed in the moments that followed a voice welled up inside me and said, “Make a choice.”  I knew if I had to decide in that moment, I needed to point my car toward Louisville.  And when I acknowledged that, I had peace.

I’m sure Paul fielded a few of those questions.  To Paul’s credit, he was not going through a “hunt and peck” or “trial and error” approach.  He was praying and waiting on the Lord.  And finally, the answer came.

 

WHEN GOD SPEAKS

God does speak.  Our God is not silent.  We are just hard of hearing sometimes.  Other times, God has shrouded what He is doing in mystery.  But sometimes God speaks in ways that are crystal clear.

So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.  And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him saying, `Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ (Acts 16:8-9)

On this occasion, God spoke to Paul through a vision.  This vision apparently came to Paul as he slept.  Paul awoke with the only confirmation he needed for their trip to continue.

And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them (Acts 16:10)

Now some may object, “well that was how God did things in the Bible, but not today.”  There are many in unreached Muslim cultures and other people groups who would disagree with that assessment.

They still see visions today in some circumstances.  I have heard numerous testimonies claiming this, and people have come to faith with the help of these visions.

In a nation like ours where Bibles are plentiful and people are literate, visions and dreams may not happen quite as often.  Leaders will sometimes claim heaven-sent “visions” for their churches or ministries.

I do believe, however, that God gives us what I call “dreams and visions” when He is calling us to a new ministry or season of ministry.  While these are not visions that focus on a glimpse of the future, I believe God calls us to “daydream” and be preoccupied with the thing He is calling us to do next.

 

THE JOY OF MOVING FORWARD

Out of the season of waiting and drifting in uncertainty, the joyful travelers set sail for Macedonia.  You could almost hear the songs of praise being sung over the spray of salt water as they pointed the bow of their ship toward their destination.

There is always a joy within us as we know we are following the will of God, even when we have to seek for a season and travel through some period of confusion and uncertainty to find it.

But the joy makes the journey worth it!

What A Day! from Cayela Moody

What a day! I have been on the phone, fielding e-mails, interviewing. Finally, at three, I sat on the couch with all my babies and watched a movie. Because I didn’t want to think about foster care for a moment.

I have spent the week talking with news outlets about reunification as the primary goal and finding ways to support biological families. How much we need caring and compassionate families to love on these children. I said everyone has a role, that we can’t turn a blind eye anymore. I agreed that it is a broken system, but that is even more a reason to rise up and protect these amazing, vulnerable children.

And every time a new story came out, it was the same: Baby gets adopted after 700 days in foster care.

The reality is, this isn’t a fairy tale. I am beyond grateful Isla is here and so loved and very safe. But, adoption is messy. There will always be questions I can’t answer. There were some paths in this journey that still keep me up at night. I think of Isla’s first mama all the time and will tell Isla when she asks someday that her mama loved her so much.

And in our very broken world and in this messy, broken system, still beauty resides. I see it every moment of the day. Every time I look at all these children in my home.

And every day, Evan walks up with Isla or our other foster baby in his arms and he says something like, “Look at this. Have you ever seen anything so precious? Did you ever imagine we would be so blessed with these amazing babies.” He exudes fatherly pride. Everyday this has happened for two years. It never gets old.

We aren’t the story. The happy ending isn’t the story. You have been the story. Every prayer, every card, every casserole, every coffee delivery. When you asked me if I was okay and I collapsed in your arms. When you came to court. When you called. When you babysat and arranged nights out for us. When you included our children from the foster system in the Christmas exchange, just like all the other cousins. When you proudly framed them in your family photos. When you loved us beyond anything we ever felt we deserved. That is the story here.

Thank you. To our family, Fostering Hope, and our churches Fruit Cove Baptist Church and Refuge Church, FBCH + One More Child, and all our friends.

I am sharing the story from CBS today, which really highlighted our community. We are grateful to Good Morning America and the other news outlets that shared our story today as well.

There is a foster child who needs you. Maybe it is a gift, maybe it is a mentor, maybe it is a meal, or maybe it is a home. But, you have a role somewhere. We all do.

-Cayela Moody

 

Link to video below ?

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/2-year-old-in-foster-care-for-700-days-gets-virtual-adoption-hearing-and-parade-to-celebrate/

 

Welcome to Fostering Hope! by Allison Geraci

Welcome to our page! We are so happy you found us. Whether you are here just to learn more about our church and our ministry, whether you’re a foster/adoptive parent or know someone who is, or whether you are just searching for something God has put on your heart…YOU are in the right place!

Our foster and adoptive ministry, “Fostering Hope” originally began several years ago, although it didn’t look anything like it does today. As with many ministries and outreach mission groups, it all started with identifying a need.

I will never forget the morning God opened my eyes to this world and all of its heart-breaking brokenness. At the time, I had just taken on the role of Sunday School Teacher for the one-year-old crew at Fruit Cove Baptist Church (FCBC). I was searching desperately to find my place, to plug-in, and to really serve this amazing church community that I had been a part of for so long. I knew God was speaking to me. I knew this calling was for children, so this is where I started. I had two school-aged kiddos of my own and I was super eager to jump back into the baby world and get those elusive snuggles in that were starting to be less frequent with my own children. Little did I know, God wasn’t stopping there. He had bigger plans, and this would be the platform for it.

A couple of months went by… I was getting into my groove… feeling pretty good about my decision to serve…when a woman unexpectedly walked into my classroom with a young boy. I had never seen her or this child before. We navigated through the normal drop off banter but when we finished, she said, “he is our respite placement for the weekend so it will only be for today.” And as quickly as she had appeared, she had walked out and left us with this precious little boy. Respite? Did I miss something? What did that mean? I thought I had maybe missed something in my Sunday School education quarterly meeting. Our Preschool Ministries Director, Mrs. Ginna would NOT be proud. It sparked a lot of questions that continued to plague me the rest of the day. Then, it carried into the week. I wasn’t sure how to deal with this overwhelming sense of uncertainty. I couldn’t get it off my mind! Then, the following Sunday, as we were starting our day, the same woman walked back through the door with her respite placement from the weekend prior. Baby J! She said something came up and that he was with them again! Um, CRAZY! I knew this had to be a sign. When she left, I tracked her down and forced her to have coffee with me. I asked her so many questions I was sure she thought I had lost my mind and I’d never hear from her again. That was the first time I met one of my (now) best friends, Karen Roy, our Fostering Hope Ministry Leader. And this is only MY story…. One of many…

The need was there. My eyes were opened. I guess you could say I took the red pill? After that, our  HUGE, expansive church community started to change shape into a much smaller, very intimate community: Who was fostering? Who wanted to foster? Who had adopted? Who was going through training courses to be a foster/adoptive parent? We ALL had so many questions and yearned so deeply for fellowship with like minded people. It wasn’t long until we had an amazing group of families that rallied behind each other. We supported each other as we navigated through the storm that ensues when you step into the broken world of foster care. Next thing we knew? Our community was growing…exponentially….We started planning monthly dinner dates at Panera to get out and talk about our families, our cases, our fears, our doubts, and to most importantly, pray for each other and the children. The need was so evident! These children NEEDED loving Christian homes, but these families NEEDED support themselves to carry through this emotional, soul-testing journey. Our mission then became focused on the “How?” How do we support these families and in-turn, better serve these foster/adoptive children and their biological families?

How were we going to offer support to foster and adoptive parents? To their bio families? Not only in our church, but in our community? We knew we wanted to start small with accomplishable goals and we knew we could immediately provide prayer. When we reached out to our church, the support was honestly overwhelming. The prayer ministry welcomed our prayer requests with open arms. They even requested weekly updates…. not only from our church members, but from community families! And our church didn’t stop there. Our Family and Missions Pastor, Johnathan Wilson, quickly and eagerly jumped on board! He knew we didn’t have to travel far to reach those in need. Our mission field was right in our backyard. And it was huge…

After the church’s full backing, things literally took off and RAPIDLY grew momentum in a shockingly short period of time. What started as a monthly get-together between foster parent friends quickly snow-balled into a full-blown ministry, serving our own church families as well as those in our surrounding areas. It is nothing short of a miraculous display of God’s handiwork, as he laid the groundwork for this ministry to take flight.

We created an advisory board consisting of past and present foster and adoptive parents as well as a Guardian Ad Litem to help guide the ministry, lay a foundation, and maintain focus on our mission. What better way to start a ministry than through those that have walked the path?! This then led to spreading the word! We formalized our monthly meetings and were provided space on campus at FCBC. We also created a Facebook page to provide a platform to share meetings, provide encouragement and prayer,  and to engage the community. Within a few short months, our group was now a ministry! Fostering Hope was born and was now a fully operational ministry with a focus on outreach and support not only within our church home, but within the surrounding community of Northeast Florida. We created a “closet” to store essential items, clothing, bedding, diapers, formula, you name it….all to support foster children in care. We started to become well known in the community as we worked diligently to partner with local agencies, neighboring churches and foster/adoptive minded businesses. It wasn’t long before we realized we needed a model or framework to operate under. As soon as the need arose, God provided!! Crazy how he does that right? We quickly partnered with CompaCare and adapted their proven framework to wrap around foster families with support to retain foster families. This support is necessary to ensure these families stay actively licensed and continue fostering so that these children can come to know the Lord in a safe, nurturing and CONSISTENT Christian home.

Through this model, Fostering Hope has been able to provide reliable wrap-around care for ALL of our actively licensed foster families at FCBC. This includes a volunteer advocate for each family who manages a team of volunteers. This team provides services such as meal deliveries, goody baskets, babysitting, clothing and supplies. This is possible only through VOLUNTEERS who answer the calling that has been presented to them…AMAZING! We couldn’t do it without them…

So, most importantly, we want to share our “WHY!” At Fostering Hope, our goal is to introduce this Christian-based program into our surrounding community by partnering with neighboring churches and agencies. We believe every family who fosters should have a team of support and prayer backing them. This is God’s true requirement of us, is it not? He calls on us ALL as Christians to care for the orphan. Not only does he ask us to care for the orphan and widow, but he exclaims that it is PURE AND FAULTLESS religion to practice this! We should routinely practice this to keep from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27) WOW. Focus on the good. Focus on the needs. This seed has taken hold and the overwhelming support has turned into this magnificent demonstration of how God can truly guide willing hearts and PROVIDE when you are simply willing to say, YES! Yes, to foster care! Yes, to supporting foster and adoptive families! Yes, to volunteering efforts to “the least of these.” “GOD IS LOVE! Anyone who lives a life of LOVE is joined to Him. There is NO fear in love. Instead PERFECT love drives away fear. Because fear has to do with being punished and those who are punished do NOT have perfect love…WE LOVE BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US!” (1 John 4:19). And we will not rest until EVERYONE, even the orphan, even the “least of these,” knows it…

Philippians Sermon Notes Week 06

The Secret of Contagious Joy

Having the Mind of Christ Part 2

(Philippians 2:5-11)

Two little guys were arguing at breakfast over the last pancake. Mom broke the conflict up and said, “Now boys you remember what we learned about the way Jesus thought? Do you think that Jesus would argue over the pancake? No He would let His brother have the pancake. Now I need you to be like Jesus to each other and do what He would do.” The boys were quiet for a moment, staring each other down. Then the older brother looked at the younger and said, “You be Jesus first.”

We need to be Jesus to each other. And we need to go first.

Paul’s appeal to the Philippians applies equally to us today. He didn’t leave what that would mean in the area of theory. We are to outwardly show the inward and hidden mind of Christ, which you have if you’re a Christian. Having it, however, does not mean we are perfectly showing it!

You know we miss the joy of the Lord sometimes precisely because we look for it in all the wrong places. We look for it as we grasp selfishly, and live proudly, and refuse to give ourselves sacrificially in service to others. A selfish, proud man who will not love His wife sacrificially is a death sentence to his marriage.

Selfishness, pride, and an unwillingness to give ourselves freely should not characterize us if we’re Christians. Now we will no doubt occasionally slip back into these from time to time. After all, they are our default mode! We still live with a fallen nature.

The Bible doesn’t just show us how Jesus lived and what He, but it takes us inside how He thought. And then it says, “When you think this way, and then you’ll live the same way.” If we are not acting this way, it’s a thinking problem. And we must be willing to have our minds renewed. How often? Well every time we start living and thinking in the flesh again. “The mind set (same word) on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the spirit is life and peace.”

How does that look? Well, three things we learned last week. The mind of Christ (or “mindset” of Christ) leads us first to be unselfish…considering the interests of others first.

FIRST, JESUS DEMONSTRATED UNSELFISHNESS BY GIVING UP EQUALITY WITH GOD. (V 6)

Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” Jesus had a good thing going in heaven. Jesus didn’t come to earth to become God. He was eternally God before He came. “Though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor that we through His poverty might be made rich” we read in 2 Corinthians 8.

This One Who is Deity, was Deity, and will always be Deity—the second person of the Trinity—had eternal wealth and power and wisdom and strength and angels worshiping Him constantly. He was enthroned in glory, but He gave that up unselfishly, seeking the interests of His Father and our interests before His own.

We had nothing to motivate Jesus to act unselfishly toward us. We are not unselfish people by nature. Anything but, actually. Now that said, there are some folks who seem to be less selfish than others; who are more generous and philanthropic. But that is not the kind of radical unselfishness Jesus demonstrated for us.

Recently there was a picture on Twitter that demonstrated something of this. A twelve year old girl was having trouble with her math homework, and so she emailed her teacher. He came to her home with a whiteboard, knelt down on her front porch and taught her through the door! He didn’t say “good luck” or “come to my front porch.” This teacher would have been paid the same to stay home. He didn’t have to risk his health or give up his free time to help this little student out. He had nothing to gain, but the satisfaction of getting to help.

We couldn’t comprehend God. We couldn’t solve our sin problem, and didn’t know enough to know we were in real, eternal trouble. A person unawaken to their sinfulness is like a person infected with the coronavirus but is not aware that something is terribly wrong inside them.

But Jesus, Who was equal with God, Who in fact WAS “the fullness of the godhead bodily,” gave that up to be born as a Jewish man, and He came and knelt before us and gave us a picture of Who God is. He washed His disciple’s dirty feet. He served the least deserving.

The mind of Christ leads us to live unselfishly. Even when it’s hard; ESPECIALLY when it’s hard. We are to have an unselfish attitude (mindset) even toward people who are selfish by nature.

JESUS SHOWED HUMILITY BY BECOMING A SERVANT

You know it may sound strange, but the Bible says that Jesus, “for the joy set before Him” went to the cross. Sometimes there are hard things we have to endure. But even hard times don’t stop the joy Jesus gives us.

He did not count equality with God something to be clung to. He unselfishly gave up His rights to be worshiped, to be honored, to be adored as He was in Heaven and He stepped onto earth as an infant.
RG Lee, the great Southern Baptist evangelist, used to say, “Jesus was as much God as God is God, and as much man as man is man.”

I know some critics have claimed that Jesus never directly claimed to be God, but let’s understand that when Jesus was tried by the Jews He was being tried for blasphemy. They understood that He was making a claim to be God, and they wanted Him crucified for it. 3 reactions to Jesus: Hate Him, run from Him, follow Him. But you can’t “like” Him.

We are remembering the HUMILITY of Christ as we think about and reflect on His dying. I think, of all the qualities of Christ we need to be looking for in our lives, humility is the one thing (my opinion) that God values most. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” The death of Jesus, the obedience of Jesus shown by the humiliation and shame of the cross, is the extreme illustration of Christ’s humbling Himself. Jesus said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” The mind of Christ is a mind of humility.

JESUS SHOWED THE DEPTH OF SACRIFICE BY GIVING UP HIS LIFE

Jesus “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

We see some amazing illustrations of sacrifice in our world today in the self-giving we are seeing in our medical communities. Doctors and nurses are risking their lives just by showing up for work. Yet they serve even knowing it may cost their lives.

These sacrifices point us to the One Who said, “No man takes my life from Me, I give it to them.” You know it’s one thing for us to see these amazing folks giving as they are, but let me ask you a question. If a patient showed up one day that the doctor knew; let’s say a guy that he had recently found out was having an affair with his wife.

So ideally that wouldn’t change the doctor’s treatment of this patient. But now, this man who took the doctor’s wife has the virus and treating him may cost this doctor his life. Would he give up his health and maybe his very life to care for one who was an enemy?

What is unique about Jesus’ sacrifice is that EVERY PERSON He died for was an enemy! “But God demonstrated His love for us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were enemies (at enmity) with God, He sacrificed Himself for us.

There will be countless ways, I believe, for us to show a sacrificial attitude. But for the Christian, there should be no hesitance here. We have the mind of Christ! A mind that forgives; that loves even when love isn’t returned; that shows the best when others show their worst.

We should not shrink back when we are called to give everything for the sake of the Kingdom. In his book The Insanity of Sacrifice, missiologist Nik Ripken wrote,

It is one thing to read about God’s people in other times and other places who have sacrificed in obedience to God. It is another thing altogether to imagine that God would expect the same of us. But why would God exempt us from the same sacrifice that He has required from His people throughout history? God will do anything—ask for anything—demand anything . . . to fulfill His purpose. He even sent His only Son to fulfill His purpose. And when that Son arrived, He declared the purpose of God clearly and openly: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). That is the purpose of God: to seek and to save the lost, for His glory. As the people of God, it is both our privilege and our calling to embrace and share in God’s purpose. In fact, the very reason for our existence is to join God in His work.

These three attitudes: unselfishness, humility, and sacrifice should mark us as Christians. The verses we have briefly examined show a perfect picture of all three.

JESUS DEMONSTRATED THE PLEASURE OF GOD IN HIS EXALTATION

“Therefore,” Philippians 2:9 begins. “Therefore,” looking back on all that was written in verses 6-8; Christ’s self-emptying, His refusing to “grasp” the privileges of Deity, His becoming a servant (doulos: slave), His becoming obedient to the death of crucifixion; all of that is included and summarized in THEREFORE.

THEREFORE God has “super-exalted Him.” Jesus stepped down into human existence, occupying a lowly human body. He became man and yet never ceased being fully God.

Of all the world religions and philosophies that people have followed, NONE regards the material, physical world as highly as Christianity. Eastern religions as a whole reject the material world as an illusion. Greco-Western religions regard matter as evil.

Neither religions of the East or the West could have imagined a statement like the Hymn to Christ that is found in Philippians 2:6-11.

That God became a man…not for a little while, but reigns forever in a human, though exalted and resurrected body!

THEREFORE God has exalted Him and given Him a name that is above every Name…

“There is no other Name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved, “ we read in Acts. Jesus has a Name that excels and exceeds every Name that could be named.

It is before Jesus that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that HE IS LORD, to the glory of God the Father. Every knee, every tongue, in every language…for the first time since Babel every tongue will speak the Name of Jesus together!

The confession, JESUS IS LORD, has been for two millennia the confession by which men and women, boys and girls are saved. No other Name will do. No other Name can suffice. No other Name but the Name of Jesus.

This confession requires two things:

  1. It requires CONVICTION. We must be convinced in our hearts that Jesus is indeed Lord of our lives. He is God, as He claimed to be. When the disciples said “Jesus is Lord,” they did not confuse what they meant. The Greek word “kurios” (Lord) was used in the Greek Old Testament translation to translate the word “Yahweh,” which is the Hebrew name for God. Over 1600 times this term was used. For the apostles who wrote the New Testament, this would have been the Old Testament translation they were most familiar with. For them, saying “Jesus is Lord” was claiming “Jesus is God.”
  2. If Jesus Christ is God, as the Bible claims He is, then this requires of us a second thing: COMMITMENT. Our conviction of Who He is must be followed by our COMMITMENT of everything to Him. You cannot casually “like” Jesus. People didn’t just “like” Him. Some people hated Him, and wanted Him dead. Some feared Him, and fled. But some fell at His feet and called Him Lord and God.

If Jesus Christ is Lord, then that confession demands “our soul, our life, our all,” to paraphrase the old hymn. It leaves us no quarter. We despise Him, we flee from Him and hide in claims of atheism and intellectual arguments to prove His claims wrong, or we fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.

But you can’t just “like” Him. That option is not open.

He is Lord, He is Lord
He is risen from the dead and He is Lord
Every knee will bow, every tongue confess
That Jesus Christ is Lord

As We Move Forward…

 

We continue to monitor official updates regarding Coronavirus/COVID-19 as it impacts Fruit Cove and our community. All regularly scheduled on-campus ministry and programming events remain suspended until further notice. If you are not receiving regular email updates from us use the Connection Card to request being added to our email list.

Sunday Worship Plans

  • Facebook Live and LiveStream will air at 9:30 am and 11 am
  • Listen live on radio 94.1 FM (Jax Country) at 9:30 am and 100.7 FM (The Promise) at 11 am
  • NEW Download Fruit Cove KIDS listening guide here
  • NEW Fruit Cove Worship Spotify playlist here

Sunday School Plans

  • Use this the in-home teaching guide for personal Bible study or to guide your family
  • Weekly guides will be posted by Friday and can be found at Fruit Cove Sunday School
  • If you would like to connect with one of our Sunday School classes that are meeting via Zoom email Jonathan Wilson

NEW Community “Thanks” Initiative  

  • As a church we want to reach out to the Medical, Law Enforcement, and Fire/Rescue personnel in our area to let them know we appreciate them and are praying for them as they are on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. We’d love for your class to be activated and mobilized to focus on Medical, Law Enforcement, and Fire/Rescue Personnel in our area. To maximize our resources class assignments have been made, but if there are existing relationships your class has with a specific hospital or fire station please continue in that direction:
  • Focus on Medical personnel at local hospitals/ERs. Ask class members and their families to write notes of encouragement and thank you cards to hospital/ER staff teams…mail or drop them off in person.
    • [9:30am classes that meet in the ROC buidling] Baptist Medical Center South, 14550 Old Saint Augustine Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32258
    • [9:30 classes that meet anywhere BUT the ROC building] Baptist Medical Center, 800 Prudential Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32207
    • [11am classes that meet in the ROC building] St Vincents Southside, 4201 Belfort Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32216
    • [11am classes that meet anywhere BUT the ROC building] Memorial Hospital, 3625 University Blvd S, Jacksonville, FL 32216
  • Focus on Law Enforcement. Cards and notes from your class families would mean a lot to these guys! For classes with families that include younger kids ask them to send some artwork as well!
    • NW SJSO 725 Flora Branch Blvd, Saint Johns, FL 32259
    • Main SJSO 4015 Lewis Speedway Rd, Saint Augustine, FL 32084
  • Focus on Fire/Rescue personnel in our area. Cards, notes, dropping off snacks/food are just a few ideas.
    • [9:30am classes that meet in the ROC buidling] Jax Fire and Rescue Station 42…2948 Delor Dr Jacksonville, Jacksonville, FL 32223 (Off of San Jose in Mandarin)
    • [9:30 classes that meet anywhere BUT the ROC building] Jax Fire and Rescue Station 62…14279 Bartram Park Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32258
    • [11am classes that meet in the ROC building] St Johns County Fire and Rescue Station 2…1120 Sheffield Rd, Saint Johns, FL 32259(Off of SR 13)
    • [11am classes that meet anywhere BUT the ROC building] St Johns County Fire and Rescue Station 17…10001 Cartwheel Bay Ave, 10001 Cartwheel Bay Ave (Off of 210)
NOTE: Ask class members to sign their names, put the name of your class and Fruit Cove Baptist Church. If class members are unable to get out for stamps, cards/letters can be dropped off at the church for mailing. Just make sure envelopes are addressed and marked “needs postage”.

MidWeek@Home Plans

  • MidWeek options for children, students and adults will be posted at MidWeek@Home

I Need Help

  • If you find yourself in need of an encouraging phone call, urgent supplies or a personal shopper for a grocery store run contact us at info@fruitcove.com and we’ll see how we can help

How Can I Help?

  • Prepare to minister to fellow church members and neighbors, especially those who are older. If you live beside or are in close contact with families who have high-risk individuals in their homes, reach out to see if they need anything. Maybe that means offering to pick up supplies on your next trip to the store or dropping off some food if they’re unable to get out.
  • Look for opportunities to share the gospel. When conversations of fear and uncertainty arise with neighbors, talk about the hope you have in Jesus. Many people are looking for answers that only He can provide. Click on our Jesus link for help in communicating the Good News!
  • Here’s an easy way to let your neighbors know you are there to help. Print this out as a postcard or full sheet and place in mailboxes or on doors of homes on your street
  • Download the Help Postcard

How Can I Pray?

2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” As believers, we can trust that God brings triumph in our trials. As believers, we have the authority through Christ to pray against the spread of any disease and to pray for healing for those who have the Coronavirus.

  • Begin your prayer time by praising God for His sovereignty. He still is and always will be in control of all things. Pray that we will trust Him to help us navigate this season of uncertainty.
  • Pray for wisdom for government leaders, the CDC, researchers, other medical personnel, and leaders in churches and other strategic places to respond wisely and appropriately.
  • Pray for the protection of doctors, nurses, crisis response teams, emergency first responders, researchers and other medical professionals who risk their lives to protect ours.
  • Pray for comfort and healing for those stricken with this virus. Pray they will receive the quality health care they need to regain health and strength. Pray for their healing and for a vaccine to cure and eradicate this virus.
  • Pray for peace and calmness, as well as freedom from fear, anxiety, and panic among individuals and communities.
  • Pray that we would be proactive in proclaiming the gospel and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. Pray that this event would be a catalyst for revival in Northeast Florida and around the world.

Continue to give 

  • Fruit is a generous church and we want to demonstrate our faith by giving in this time of crisis
  • The funds given help us to minister to many local, national and international agencies who will bring relief to those affected by Coronavirus.
  • You can send your tithes/offerings to 501 SR 13-St Johns FL-32259, stop by the church office and drop an envelope through office foyer door mail slot, or  Give Online

Daily Video Updates

Look for daily video updates posted by our staff team members on Facebook and Instagram.

© Fruit Cove Baptist Church
Site By: OneEighty