“Prayers For Those You Love” (Philippians 1:7-11 sermon)

During the American War for Independence, John Adams, one of our Founding Fathers, corresponded with his wife Abigail, and thankfully their letters back & forth have been preserved for us. They are full of humor, and history, and love. In one of them, John Adams closes with a prayer: “May God Almighty’s Providence protect you, my dear, and all our little ones. My … Guardian Angel whispers me, that We shall see happier Days, and that I shall live to enjoy the Felicities of domestic Life, with her whom my Heart esteems above all earthly Blessings.”

That was a sweet prayer of blessing from John Adams to Abigail. And our scripture passage for today contains another sweet prayer, from the Apostle Paul to the church at Philippi, that he loved so much. He really did LOVE these people. He said in :7 “I feel this way about you”; he said, “I have you in my heart”; he said in :8, “I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” So he really loved these people. And because he loved them, he prayed so much for them. And we too, will really pray for the people that we love. Prayer is surely one of the greatest indicators of godly love.

But what should we pray for those we love? Prayers can take many forms, but Paul turns around in the next verses and shows us what HE prayed for the Philippians; and it can teach us something about what we should pray for OUR loved ones — as well as what God is trying to work into our lives spiritually:

“For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;
having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

Continue reading

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“A Confident Future” (Philippians 1:3-6 sermon)

Last week Cheryl & I went with Scott & Tina to get some fruit trees at the Fairgrounds — and we bought two different avocado trees and two satsumas. I LOVE avocados, so if those trees really produce a good crop, I will be in hog heaven (or guacamole heaven!) here in SW Texas! We planted those trees that Saturday morning we got them, and we tried to follow the directions, and do all we were supposed to when we planted them, but I don’t know how much confidence I would say I have that we will ever get fruit from them. There are SO many variables: frost can take them out, I hear, and root mold — plus I don’t trust myself to keep them up and protect them the way I should. We’ll see; I mean I HOPE so, but on a scale on 1-10 … I don’t know how confident I would say am that we will see fruit from it!

But thank God we can have more confidence than that in our future as God’s people! Paul writes to the Philippians here about the confidence he has in their their future, and he says:

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Here we see that Paul was very confident of the Philippians’ walk with God: where they had been; where they were now, and where they were headed in the future. That confidence was based on several things: Continue reading

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“The People of Joy” (Philippians 1:1-2 sermon)

A few weeks ago I mentioned Hudson Taylor, who began a great mission work in China in the 1800’s. While he was there, the work was difficult, and funds were getting low, but he reported to one of his friends that

“the Lord … makes our hearts so very glad in HIMSELF — not Himself plus a bank balance.”

So even in his hardship and financial shortfall, Hudson Taylor was able to “rejoice in the Lord,” just in God Himself. 

The Apostle Paul was able to do that same thing when he went to the city of Philippi in Northern Greece. That is where he first landed in Europe with his little mission team and sat down by the riverside and began speaking to some women who had assembled there, and the first person in Europe, a woman by the name of Lydia, came to Christ. And it was there a few days later that Paul & Silas were thrown into prison for sharing the gospel, and while they were in that prison, on mission in a foreign land, they sang praises to God at midnight. God shook the place and opened the doors, the jailer cried out “What shall we do to be saved?” A few days later they were released from prison, went back to Lydia’s house and encouraged the new believers there — and then left to go on to Thessalonica. But that’s how the church at Philippi, the church that Paul was writing to here, got started.  (As a side-note, we had pastor Grozdan Stoevski from Bulgaria, here last week speak to us about partnering with them for future trips to minister to unreached people groups in Bulgaria. Grozdan told me that the city of Philippi is actually only about 2 hours south of where we would be working in Bulgaria, so when we go there on mission, we would be able to take a little side trip to Philippi — which would be really interesting!) 

But here Paul is writing back to this new church of believers in Philippi, about ten years or so later, while he was prison in Rome.  And he is writing to them about the LIFE OF JOY that God has for them. That says something right there: Paul is in PRISON (again!) and in his letter to them he continually tells them to “rejoice in the Lord.” He who could sing at midnight while he was in prison in Philippi, was STILL rejoicing from prison in Rome; and he encouraged the Christians in Philippi — and us today — to find our joy in God too. As we go through this book together over the next weeks, we will see how Paul continually commands these believers (and us) to rejoice in the Lord; to find our joy in Him.

But what kind of person is able to have the joy that he talks about in this book? He shows us right off, in the letter’s opening lines:

“Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons; Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

We saw in our study of I Peter that “overseers,” “bishops,” and “pastors” are all the same thing; so when he says “overseeers” here he just means “pastor.” And we recognized our church deacons just a bit ago; our men who just like in the Book of Acts care for widows and others in our church. That is who deacons are. But these opening words also tell us some important things about those who can be “The People of Joy”:  Continue reading

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“Defective Discipleship” (Matthew 26:58 sermon)

Several times in recent weeks I have mentioned Martin Luther, the German Reformer of the 1500’s. After he brought the authority of the Bible, and salvation by grace through faith, back to the forefront of Christianity, he was not satisfied with the discipleship he saw going on among his people. In fact in 1529 (12 years after his Reformation began) he wrote:
“‘Dear God help us … The common man, especially in the villages, knows absolutely nothing about Christian doctrine; and indeed many pastors are in effect unfit and incompetent to teach. Yet they are all called Christians, are baptized, and enjoy the holy sacraments — even though they cannot recite either the Lord’s Prayer, the (Apostles) Creed or the (Ten) Commandments. They live just like animals.”

Somehow I get the sense that Luther was not satisfied with the discipleship he saw among the German people! But most of us would admit that Christians in America today are not the disciples that we should be, either. I finished reading the Book of Matthew the other day, and near the end of the book is a verse that really stuck out to me. It comes after the Jews had arrested Jesus, and they took Him to the high priest to be examined, and Matthew 26:58 says:

“But Peter was following Him at a distance as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and entered in, and sat down with the officers to see the outcome.”

In this verse we see several ways that Peter fell short as a disciple, that should challenge us too, not to be “defective disciples”: Continue reading

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“Becoming An Acts 1:8 Church” (Acts 1:8 sermon)

(Preached at First Baptist Church, Angleton, TX Missions Conference   1/19/20)

In the 1800’s Hudson Taylor was called by God to go to China, where he spent 51 years as a missionary and founded the Inland China Mission, which ended up sending 800 missionaries to China, and the fruit of their ministry is still spreading today, even under Communism, as millions of Chinese have come to Christ. One December Taylor wrote home about what life was like for him in China. He said that it was very cold, that there were no ceilings in their house, and his “bedroom wall” was a sheet they hung up!  But he said “We did not come to China because missionary work here was either safe or easy, but because He had called us.”

That call of Jesus to go on mission is our theme today as we kick off our first Church Missions Conference: “Becoming an Acts 1:8 Church.” Acts 1:8 is that “call” of Jesus that Hudson Taylor talked about, to go on mission. In Acts 1:8 Jesus says: 

“… but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Continue reading

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“On The Alert” (I Peter 5:8-11 sermon)

Following the death of General Qasem Soleimani last week in Iraq, U.S. citizens and military in the Middle East were put on the alert: Iran had promised to avenge Soleimani’s death; everyone needed to beware of revenge attacks that could happen at any time.

Those kinds of warnings need to be heeded. It’s foolish to have your “guard down” when you know have an enemy who is actively seeking to destroy you. But that is exactly the position that many of us as God’s people find ourselves in, virtually every day, when we go walking right out into the world from our homes, unprepared, when we need to be“on the alert,” because we have an enemy who is seeking to destroy us! 

If we are going to succeed in the Christian life, we’ve got to realize that we are in a battle, every day. We aren’t here on earth just to “coast along” and “have fun” or “live our best life now.” Life is a spiritual battle. You may not want to hear that, but I’m not here to tell you what you want to hear; I’m here to tell you the truth. And the truth is, we have a real enemy who is out to do everything he can to harm us and hinder God’s kingdom work. So Peter gives us this warning here as he brings this book to a close in :8-14, that we need to be on the alert every day:

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Continue reading

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“Humility In The Church” (I Peter 5:1-7 sermon)

On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 theological statements to the door of the Wittenburg church, and kicked off the Protestant Reformation. He called the church of God back to the authority of the word of God, and salvation by grace through faith. A few years later, his followers began to be called “Lutherans.” Luther’s response should be very instructive to us. He said, “What is Luther? After all, the teaching is not mine. Neither was I crucified for you … How then should I — poor stinking maggot fodder that I am — come to have men call the children of Christ by my wretched name?”
Luther is a great example to us of one of the most important qualities of the Christian life: the quality of humility. We see the importance of humility in the church taught here in the first part of I Peter 5:

“Therefore I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 

You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” Continue reading

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