Sunday, November 27, 2005

Always Thankful

Intro.: There was once a good king in Spain called Alfonso XII. Now it came to the ears of this king that the pages at his court forgot to ask God’s blessing on their daily meals, and he determined to rebuke them. He invited them to a banquet which they all attended. The table was spread with every kind of good food, and the boys ate with evident relish; but not one of them remembered to ask God’s blessing on the food. During the feast a beggar entered, dirty and ill-clad. He seated himself at the royal table and ate and drank to his heart’s content. At first the pages were amazed, and they expected that the king would order him away. But Alfonso said never a word. When the beggar had finished he rose and left without a word of thanks. Then the boys could keep silence no longer, “What a despicably mean fellow!” they cried. But the king silenced them, and in clear, calm tones he said, “Boys, bolder and more audacious than this beggar have you all been. Every day you sit down to a table supplied by the bounty of your Heavenly Father, yet you ask not His blessing nor express to Him your gratitude.i

Read: Philippians 4:12-23


Trans: Today we stand at the crossroads.

  1. Last week was Thanksgiving.

  2. This is the final sermon from Philippians

  3. And it is the first Sunday of Advent.

  4. In the next few minutes we will bring those three milestones together as we explore thankfulness.

T.S. Philippians 4:12-23 illustrates the need for believers to be thankful for what God has given to us and for what God has done for us.

  1. Be thankful for what God has given

(Ill.) I think my oldest memory of Christmas is the gifts. Now, some fifty years later, I know that Christmas is not primarily about giving – but giving is a part of our tradition. Amazingly, having said that, Christmas is about giving – not our giving, but God's giving.

    1. This includes the things he has given

      1. Paul has learned to be grateful for all that God provides. The financial support offered by the Philippian church is a wonderful demonstration of God's grace.

(Ill.) Things have been a part of Christmas giving from the very beginning. Gerald Ward tells a wonderful story about the three wise men who followed the star to Bethlehem. It seems that one of them was a young man, and in his youthful idealism he looked for a King. He carried gold, a fitting gift for royalty. Another was middle-aged, and to satisfy the deep questions that disturbed his maturing mind, he longed to find God. His gift was frankincense with which to worship God whom he hoped to find. The third was aged, with many a sin-stained year behind him; he longed to discover a Saviour. Feeling that his Saviour must be a sufferer, he took with him a gift of healing myrrh.ii

      1. Sometime we try to minimize the giving, becomes it becomes too big part of our lives. But we don't ever want to forget that giving was also a part of the very earliest Christmas.

    1. This includes the people he has given

      1. Paul is very much aware that God's gifts are not only “things

      2. God's gifts also includes the people that he puts in our paths

      3. Most of the things that God allows to come our way, come by way of people. Epaphroditus is the example in today's passage – but it was the people

      4. Certainly he is aware of Epaphroditus' role in bringing the Philippian church

      5. As we saw last week, though he disappointed in the current relationship of Euodia and Syntyche, he is thankful for their contribution to his ministry

(Ill.) As I look around here this morning, I find myself much like Paul. - thankful for the contribution you have made to my ministry. As I look around, I remember the way you have been involved in my life. I look at each of you and remember conversations, I remember moments of the last 3-1/2 years. I am grateful for all that you have contributed to Sandra's and my life over that time.

(Appl.) As you move through this holiday season, don't forget to be thankful for all that God has given you. Whether it be the things that are yours or the people that God has allowed to be part of your life. God has allowed these things and these people to shape your life. You are who you are because God has been at work in your lives – and, this holiday season, we need to be grateful for those things and people God has used.

  1. Be thankful for what God has done

(Ill.) The word “Christmas” is derived from two words – Christ and mass. Originally the mass, before it came to refer the practice of receiving the Lord's supper, was the final movement in a worship service. Christmas is first of all a time for worship of the one sent for us.

(Ill.) Sometime ago, while pastoring my first church in La Farge, WI, shortly before the lunch hour the local National Public Radio station had a program that read current novels. One Fall they read a novel that has ended up being a classic novel for young adults – Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time. This famous author wrote, “When we celebrate Christmas we are celebrating that amazing time when the Word that shouted all the galaxies into being, limited all power, and for love of us came to us in the powerless body of a human baby.”iii

    1. In the NT, God began in work with Christmas, and it continued when we find Jesus Christ on the cross.

    2. But even then it was not done. Look at his prayer in verse 19 - “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”iv

    3. God is still at work accomplishing all that he wants done. In our lives individually, in the church, and in the world.

(Appl.) Take time this week to look around you. What has God done for you? What is God doing in your life now? Take time to thank God this holiday season for his work in your life.

Conclusion: Let me conclude with one more comment.

  1. I hope that thankfulness was part of your experience this thanksgiving.

  2. I trust that thankfulness will be a part of the remainder of your holiday season.

  3. But a thankful attitude is not unique to Thanksgiving or Christmas.

  4. My real prayer is that we each can develop an attitude of thankfulness that continues into the new year and does not stop.

  5. May we learn to always be thankful for what God given to us – whether they be things or people. And may we learn to be always thankful what what God is doing in our lives.


iAMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

iiTan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : [a treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers]. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

iiiMadeline L’Engle in Water, M. (2000). The new encyclopedia of Christian quotations (Page 199). Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd.

ivThe Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Php 4:19). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

What Is My Job?

Intro.: Two documents define our jobs.

  1. First, there are a group of documents called company policies. These are responsibilities of every every employee in the organization.

  2. They may also give some of the rights that we have as employees

  3. The policies may also list the details of benefits provided by our employer – insurance, retirement, vacation plans, etc

  4. But there normally another document that will define our job – the “job description”

  5. The job description provides the details of our employer expects of us. It distinguishes our job from those of most the other people around us.

  6. There is a similar set of rules for our spiritual life – there are some expectations that God has for all Christians. These are those characteristics and behaviors that come as a result of knowing Christ

  7. But there are also expectations that God places on each us – it might be related to our calling, it might be related to our relationships to others.

  8. This can be illustrated by examining the next section of Paul's letter to the Philippians.

Read: Philippians 4:2-9


  1. Expectations of every believer

    1. Paul ends the section by giving instructions to the entire Philippian church.

    2. I count six commands in these eight verses:

      1. Rejoice (two times in verse 4)

      2. Let your gentleness be evident to all

      3. Do not be anxious about anything

      4. In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God

      5. Whatever is true, right, pure, lovely, admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

      6. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice

    3. I don't know about you, but I could spend a lifetime building these six principles into my life.

(Ill.) Paul understood a lesson that an Anglican bishop some years ago. Written on the outside of his tomb is a quote from the end of his life: “When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But it, too, seemed immovable. As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.

And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country and, who knows, I may have even changed the world.”

    1. It does starts with us – but there is a promise connected with these commands. And that promise is repeated twice – look at verses 7: And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

    2. And look at the end of verse 9 - “and the God of peace will be with you.”

(Appl.) When we start taking God seriously, when we start listening and applying what he asks of us, then our relationship with God takes a fresh turn. Let me illustrate it this way:

Two painters were asked to paint a picture illustrating peace. The first painted a beautiful evening scene in the foreground of which was a lake, its surface absolutely calm and unruffled. Trees surrounded it, meadows stretched away to the distant cattle gently browsing; a little cottage, the setting sun—all spoke of perfect rest. The second painter drew a wild, stormy scene. Heavy black clouds hung overhead; in the center of the picture an immense waterfall poured forth huge volumes of water covered with foam. One could almost hear its unceasing roar, yet perhaps the first thing to strike the eye was a small bird, perched in a cleft of a huge rock, absolutely sheltered from all danger, pouring forth its sweet notes of joy. It is the second painter who could describe the peace that passeth all understanding. This is the peace that can be ours when we

  1. Expectations of the individual believer

    1. The commands found in verses 4 through 9 are intended for the every member of the church. But earlier in this passage is a command that was not intended for the entire church, but for two women who could not get along.

    2. Euodia and Syntyche had worked side by side with Paul in sharing the gospel. He knew what they had to contribute.

    3. Now, as they find themselves at odds, Paul calls them “to agree with each other in the Lord.” It is a phrase he used earlier in Philippians when he wrote “... make my joy complete by being like minded ... let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”

    4. But Paul realized that he would need help. He calls on his friend Syzygus to get involved to bring these women together.

(Ill.) Now if you look at the NIV you do not see the name of Syzygus – you see it in a footnote. The term “loyal yokefellow”, found in the NIV, can also be a proper name – the name Syzygus. And though the NIV translators thought otherwise, there is very strong evidence that Paul's instructions were given to a church leader named Syzygus.

    1. Paul is very much aware of the need to for the church to work together to accomplish its task. Paul recognized that he had been given a special task to accomplish that day outside of Damascus.

(Appl.) But he also realized that he could not do it alone. He was aware that the Holy Spirit was a required if he was going to accomplish his task. But he also realized that he needed men and women to join him if the vision God has given to Paul is going to be accomplished. And so, there are specific tasks that we each are given. We, like Clement, are “fellow workers”. We each are called to work along side Paul – even now 2000 years later.

Conclusion: As believers we have responsibilities.

  1. Some of those responsibilities are shared by all believers.

  2. Some of those responsibilities are unique to you (or me) alone.

  3. But as we serve God together, the work of the church will get done.


Sunday, November 13, 2005


Intro.: In just a couple of weeks we will be celebrating Thanksgiving.

  1. My wife will cook a wonderful turkey stuffed with rice dressing.

  2. We will probably also have mashed potatoes, carrot salad, hot rolls, and for desert, pumpkin pie

  3. But it is the turkey that I want to focus on this morning – because that is where I get involved.

  4. I will probably get up a couple of hours after Sandra. She will have the Turkey in the oven.

  5. The first thing I will do is ask how is it going? It will be a couple of hours yet, she'll say.

  6. And then every half hour I will ask, “How's it coming?”

  7. When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, I am a kid at heart.

  8. I want the turkey to be done. I like the white meat best – but, of course I can't get my white meat until the whole turkey is done.

  9. During the morning, I may even sneak a peak at the pop-up or the thermometer. Maybe I can rush it if I look more often – naw, it doesn't work that way.

  10. The turkey will be done when the turkey is done.

  11. Paul thought the same thing about his Christian life

Read: Philippians 3:12-21


Trans: We left Paul last week saying, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

  1. Paul knows his goal

  2. Paul is facing the right direction

  3. And Paul continues moving forward

T.S. Philippians 3:12-21 provides two key concepts

  1. Concept I: We Are Not Yet Done Philippians 3:12

    1. There are times that I want to argue with the people I find in scripture. This is one of them.

    2. I mean, here is Paul – the one man we look to as a model of living the Christian life is all about. And he writes to the Philippian church that “he has not yet made it.” Here is Paul, nearing the end of his life. Sitting in house arrest, chained to a Roman guard. He has been a Christian for nearly 30 years. And now he says he has not reached his goal.

    3. It gets worse – he does not just say it, he says it three times: v12 Not that I have already obtained all this v12 or have already been made perfect ... v13 I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it

    4. If Paul, having been a believer for thirty years has not made it, what chance do I have of making it?

(Ill.) It is as if Paul had gone 5 miles on his journey and I have gone 1 mile. The problem is that the goal is a million miles away.

(Ill.) Paul used a number of pictures to describe the Christian life: Military – “Put on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6) Agriculture - “For whatever a man sows he will also reap” Galatians 6 Architecture - “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (I Cor 3) and here he uses pictures an athletic event - a race.

    1. Look at the words he uses - “I press on”, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead”, “I press on

(Ill.) I read that last weeks New York Marathon had the closest finish ever. 26 miles in 2 hours and 9 minutes. It appears that winner took Paul's advice. When the young man from Latvia was a 100 meters, about the length of a football field, away from the finish line he was in second place. I suppose he could have looked back on the last 25 miles and lamented the fact that he wasn't in the lead. But he didn't. He pressed on, forgot what was behind and passed the leader just moments – less than a third of a second - before reaching the finish line.i

(Appl.) I don't know what kind of race you are on. But I do know this – if we spend our time looking back, we are less likely to move forward. Knowing we, like Paul, have not yet reached the finish line, we are called to “press on”

  1. Concept II: We Can Finish the Race

    1. Paul has a unique way of using his vocabulary. In verse 12 – he has not yet been made perfect. In verse 15 he says “All of us who are mature ..” Its the same word. Perfect and mature – they are represented by the same Greek word. Paul recognized that he was not perfect, but that he was being perfected.

(Ill.) Mark Twain once said, “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.”

    1. But that is what Paul sets himself up as – an example.

    2. There are examples we are not to follow – Paul calls them enemies of the cross. - they know where they going-destruction - their god is their stomach - they take pride in the very things that should be their shame - their mind is on earthly things Life for them is backwards. The very things they should confess, they wave like a flag. They find it easier to feed their wants, than to serve God. And they are not to be our example.

    3. If Paul is to be our example, then it makes sense that we know something about him.

(Ill.) One day St. Francis of Assisi said to one of the young monks at the Portiuncula, “Let us go down to the town and preach!” The novice, delighted at being singled out to be the companion of Francis, obeyed with alacrity. They passed through the principal streets, turned down many of the byways and alleys, made their way into the suburbs, and at great length returned by a circuitous route to the monastery gate. As they approached it, the younger man reminded Francis of his original intention.

“You have forgotten, Father, that we went to the town to preach!”

“My son,” Francis replied, “we have preached. We were preaching while we were walking. We have been seen by many; our behavior has been closely watched; it was thus that we preached our morning sermon. It is of no use, my son, to walk anywhere to preach unless we preach everywhere as we walk.”

    1. Of course we already know something – we know that he is finished with his race, we know that he presses on. But there is more.

    2. Paul recognizes that though he is a Roman citizen, after all, that is why he was sent to Rome, his heavenly citizenship is far more important. And the King is coming -

    3. And when he does – the transformation will be complete.

      We eagerly await a Savior – the Lord Jesus Christ – who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

    4. Paul has come full circle – we are not complete, we are not perfect, we are not finished. But, like Paul we are to press on, waiting for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. And then we will be done. The transformation will be complete.

Conclusion: I know this about your spiritual life.

  1. It is not yet done.
  2. The race is not completed
  3. And you are called to “press on”
  4. And if we do, then God will transform us - step by step - until that day when we meet him face to face and the job is completed.


Sunday, November 06, 2005

Finding Our Place

Intro.:    One of those pieces of trivia that many Christians carry around with them is knowing the shortest verse in the Bible.
  1. Most people will tell you that the shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35 - “Jesus wept”
  2. But that is only half true.  It is only true in an English translation.
  3. If we read Greek, then would find a verse that is shorter by one word.  
  4. The Greek in John 11:35 has three words.
  5. The Greek for I Thessalonians 5:16 is only two words long.
  6. And what does I Thessalonians 5:16 say - “Rejoice always.”
  7. And that takes us to Philippians 3:1-11
Read:  Philippians 3:1-11
Trans:  You have heard me say, perhaps too often, that as people we are broken.

1.  That might raise the question – what does an unbroken person look like.
2.  G K Chesterton, writing in the early 1900's addressed that issue when he wrote -

that most humans rejoice over the insignificant and despair over the essential. However, that isn’t the last word, Chesterton averred. “Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude … praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul.”  Why does joy go deeper in humanity than pain? Because joy is at the heart of our relationship with God and was the basis of Adam’s initial walk with God. One day that joy will be restored as the basis of our redeemed walk. So often now joy lies manacled by the equivalent, or excessive, sorrows of life. And while we can hear joy shouting its existence, even while imprisoned, it will one day break free and embrace all the saved in its delight. Pain is a viscious interloper that will one day vanish. In the new world, free from restriction, joy will once again prevail, rippling like waters through stony heights.

  1. Rejoicing in the Lord    Philippians 3:1
  1. We all will start some where.
  2. Paul starts with “Rejoicing”
  3. He knows – whether one has learned to rejoice or not – a heart that is capable of rejoicing is ready to face life's difficulties.
(Ill.)  I suspect most of us have read the Pollyanna stories or seen one of the three movies based on the book.  Pollyanna was a fictional girl whose father, a missionary, had died.  She was sent to be raised by a rather obnoxious aunt.  Her arrival in Vermont to meet her aunt is a good illustration of the “Glad Game” that became an important part of the Pollyanna stories.  When she first arrived at the railway station, she was met by a servant that she thought was her aunt.  “I am so glad that you came to meet me, Aunt  Polly.”  When Pollyanna found out that it was not her aunt, she turned and said, “I am so glad that Aunt Poly did not come to meet me – I have now made a friend of you and I can still meet my Aunt Poly.”  Today we think of Pollyanna as being an air head who never understood what life was really about.  

Eleanor Porter, the author of these books, would want to argue with you.  The daughter of a pastor, her father was given to times of depression that seemed to take over his life.  For many years he felt discouragement as he sought to serve the Lord – and, as you can imagine, it took its tole on the little girl, Eleanor.

That was until he discovered “his rejoicing texts” as he called them.  It was those verses that began “rejoice” or “be glad in the Lord” or “Shout for joy.”  Eleanor tells the story that one occasion when he was particularly depressed, he took the time to count the verses that he had collected.  There were eight hundred verses.  Her father said that if God took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times to be glad and rejoice, He must really want us to do it.  And he developed the “Glad Game” for himself.  He taught it to Eleanor, who through the Pollyanna books, taught it to us.

Pollyanna's cheerfulness wasn't an escape from the reality of life, but the simple faith of a child learned from her father, who, like us, was learning to trust God and rejoice in all life's ups and downs.i
  1. Paul writes, “Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord.”  Maybe we too need to listen to what he has to say.
  1. Watching out for the kill-joys
  1. I don't know what happened between verse one and verse two.  It sounds as if Paul is about to end his letter – but before he does he puts down his pen for a time.  Before he is able to finish, Paul hears some disturbing news.  
  2. Strangers have apparently arrived in Philippi suggesting that those who had placed their faith in Christ must now follow the OT law.  It was not enough to accept the grace of God – you must also place yourself under the rules and regulations that are found in the OT.
  3. And Paul responds by using strong words – he calls those who would divert the minds, hearts, and souls of the church from following Christ alone, “Dogs.”  
(Ill.)  At the very least it was term to used to refer to the Gentiles who had no real faith in God.  The Greek word is a reference to the wild dogs that roamed the city streets scavenging for any garbage that they could get their mouths around.  Rather than being holy people, there was nothing clean about the dogs that roamed the city.  
  1. “Mutilators of the flesh” refers specifically to the OT practice of circumcision.  The OT laws were no longer required – permitted to the extent someone wanted to follow them, but not required.  
(Ill.)  A counselor at church camp told of his experience with a nine-year-old boy who started to cry when they turned out the cabin lights the first night. “Was he afraid of the dark?” the counselor asked. “No,” the boy replied; “he just didn’t want to be attacked by the ‘killer rabbits.’“  Some older kids at home had told him that there were “killer rabbits” who would come out at night and attack the campers. Jesus was constantly reassuring the disciples with the words, “Fear not.” Their fears betrayed their lack of faith. When one traces these words and their usage throughout the Bible, it seems that one of man’s constant needs is to be reassured of the presence and comfort of God almighty. Christians can draw on this presence to find comfort and destroy their fears. Watch out for “killer rabbits!” They can destroy your peace of mind at camp and throughout life.ii
  1. What Paul is really saying is this – that we must watch for those things that might distract us from following the one to whom we gave our life.  Whether it be people, ideas, or things – there are distractions to our walk with God.  Paul warns us, “Watch out for the kill-joys of faith.”
  1. Finding the balance
  1. There was no room to boast in the Law.  Paul knew that better than anybody.
  2. He was a Jew that had spent his time obeying the law  - look at what he writes ”... circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.”
  3. If anybody had reason to boast – it was Paul.  
  4. But, now, as a believer, Paul looks to that same past and call it “rubbish”.  His past had no value when placed in the hands of Jesus Christ.   
(Ill.)  Perhaps understood the explorer in a story I once heard.  A very boastful explorer was boring his dinner guests with accounts of a South African trip he had made. “And just as I looked inside my tent when I retired,” he boomed, “I saw a ferocious ape.”  

“What do you suppose I did?”  

A weary voice replied, “Took the mirror down?”
  1. We cannot boast in what we have accomplished.  May we have Paul's attitude in Philippians 3:8-11.
    Read Philippians 3:8-11