The J.o.y. of Fellowship

Grace and Peace to you!

The Apostle Paul planted a church at Philippi.  Acts 16 gives an account of Paul's missionary journey to that area as a result of the call of the Holy Spirit to go minister in that area. As they gathered at the riverside on the Sabbath for prayer, they spoke to some women there and as a result of their sharing, the Lord opened the heart of a business woman named Lydia. Later as they journeyed, Paul cast out an evil spirit of a young girl, the after effects which caused Paul and Silas to be imprisoned. While in prison, Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God in the hearing of the prisoners, an earthquake occurred which initiated events through which the jailer asked the all important question: "What must I do to be saved?" He was told, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, and your house."

 

After leaving the congregation, he had returned at least once (Acts 20:1-6) and then was imprisoned in Rome, at least 700 miles from Philippi. While in prison a member of the Philippian congregation, a man name Epaphroditus came to visit Paul to bring him encouragement. Paul, having a heart for the people in the Philippian congregation, sent a letter back with his beloved friend which was to be read to the congregation.  Last week we gave an overview of the letter, and today we will consider the first 11 verses of his letter to his beloved people whom he cared for deeply.

 

But first a little reintroduction to the Apostle Paul, who grew up in the Jewish religion, was converted to Christianity and became an amazing vessel for the Lord. (We will hear of his testimony in chapter 3) He grew in his knowledge of the love and the grace of God, which can be seen by recounting three statements that he made concerning how he recognized more and more of his need of God’s grace. Paul understood grace!!! Do we understand grace?

 

1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  Written 55 A.D.

Ephesians 3:8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; Written 60 A.D.

1 Timothy 1:15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.  Written 62 A.D.

Here is the beginning of his letter to his beloved people, a letter from which is oozing the grace and love of God in Christ Jesus. Oh, that our preaching and sharing would be from the same Spirit………

 

ESV Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:

2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,

  4. always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,

 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

 

The two Apostles lived in humility before God as they recognized that their calling to minister to the congregation was of privilege. They loved and served all the saints of the congregation, without any favoritism being showed, thanking God for them and praying for them with joy.  He recognized and applauded their partnership/unity in the Gospel which they had been connected together in right up to the current time.  He than gave additional encouragement by pointing out the the same Lord who had begun the work of grace in them would continue it until the day when faith becomes sight!! This was a stable congregation, for the power to keep and to preserve a congregation is God’s power.

 

7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.

 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

 

He then with all sincerity and intimacy pours out his heart, which is the heart of Christ for them, saying that his affection for them is not some earthly love, but it is the love of Christ. It is the seat of our tenderest affections which have been stimulated and made alive by the Holy Spirit, so that we love one another as Christ has loved us.

 

He  speaks somewhat openly of the intimacy that they share, not because of any outward characteristics, but because they are joined together through the grace of God which they have all received. Just because they are separated in a physical sense does not mean that they are not still in communion with one another, or that they have stopped working together, for the bonds of the grace of God are not earthly bonds, but heavenly and spiritual bonds. In addition, Since the love which abides in the heart of all believers as the result of receiving the gospel cares about their neighbor, Paul used his imprisonment as an opportunity to defend and confirm the gospel by defending and in so doing sharing it with his captors.

He then closes this first part of his letter with a prayer for them, that their love would continue to grow, like a flower going from a bud to a blossom to the fruit.

 

The Fruit of the Knowledge of God: Love

 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,

 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,

 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

 

 

 

 

He prays for them, asking for an increase more and more of their knowledge and discernment in love, for he knows that the future unity of their congregation hangs on whether they are living in and growing in the giving love of Christ.....There is no way that this point can be overstated........

 

Briefly stating a conclusion to the three verses, it is clear that the growth of our knowledge and discernment of the love of God will determine and govern our ability to rightly approve things that are excellent, to be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ, and to be filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God.

 

"Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable…. The cliché definition of grace is “unconditional love.” It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing. Let’s go a little further, though. Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is loved, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold…. Grace is one-way love.

 

 

Grace doesn’t make demands. It just gives. And from our vantage point, it always gives to the wrong person. We see this over and over again in the Gospels: Jesus is always giving to the wrong people—prostitutes, tax collectors, half-breeds. The most extravagant sinners of Jesus’s day receive his most compassionate welcome. Grace is a divine vulgarity that stands caution on its head. It refuses to play it safe and lay it up. Grace is recklessly generous, uncomfortably promiscuous. It doesn’t use sticks, carrots, or time cards. It doesn’t keep score. As Robert Capon puts it, “Grace works without requiring anything on our part. It’s not expensive. It’s not even cheap. It’s free.” It refuses to be controlled by our innate sense of fairness, reciprocity, and evenhandedness. It defies logic. It has nothing to do with earning, merit, or deservedness. It is opposed to what is owed. It doesn’t expect a return on investments. Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver.

It is one-way love.   (Written by Paul Zahl)

 

This past week we had the joy of having VBS with the theme of Running the Race, and we hosted the Spoke Folk on Wednesday and Thursday. Thanks to all who joined together in this fellowship by offering their gifts which collectively worked to bless all, including those who served. It is truly a joy to be partaker of the continuing work of encouraging, affirming and inspiring.

Many were encouraged by teachings, the crafts, the games and the pizza and the video which was shown on Friday night. Some were inspired by the presentation done by Spoke Folk to the end that they might be one of the Spoke Folk of the future.  

May the grace that pours itself out upon us and into us each and every day, so fill us with love and longing for the saving of all souls of all ages that we have the response of Isaiah. For when Isaiah experienced the grace of God towards him, and when the question came forth as to Whom will be the messenger, He replied, “Here I am, send me.”

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be upon us, now and forever, Amen.

God’s abundant grace upon you today,

Pastor Orval

 

Joy: Jesus, others, you

Psalm 16:8 I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.

 10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

 11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

The words that David wrote were not only his own experience, but more importantly were prophetically speaking of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (Acts 2:25-28) Jesus is our joy, and the only true joy giver. May the joy in the God of our salvation even as  Habbakuk did in the midst of trying circumstances.

 

Habbakuk 3:17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:

 18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

 19 The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.

 

 

Today we will do an introduction to this letter as we consider what was written by the Apostle Paul to the church of Philippi, a church that he had been involved in from its beginning. In today's world, we call it a church plant.  Acts 16 gives an account of Paul's missionary journey to that area as a result of the call of the Holy Spirit to go minister in that area. As they gathered at the riverside on the Sabbath for prayer, they spoke to some women there and as a result of their sharing, the Lord opened the heart of a business woman named Lydia.

 

Later as they journeyed, Paul cast out an evil spirit of a young girl, the after effects which caused Paul and Silas to be imprisoned. While in prison, Paul and Silas  as prayed and sang praises unto God in the hearing of the prisoners, an earthquake occurred which initiated events through which the jailer asked the all important question: "What must I do to be saved?" He was told, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, and your house."

 

After leaving the congregation, he had returned at least once (Acts 20:1-6) and then was imprisoned in Rome, at least 700 miles from Philippi. The congregation and Paul had a very close relationship. This is understandable by anyone who has been involved with anything from its beginning and so when a congregational member Epaphroditus visited Paul in prison to bring him encouragement and humanitarian needs, in the course of their fellowship hearing of the state of the congregation, Paul sent a letter back with his beloved friend which was to be read to the congregation. The letter to the Philippians.

 

Some of the most common known memory verses are in this letter. Perhaps you are familiar with some of them:

KJV Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

KJV Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

KJV Philippians 3:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

KJV Philippians 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

KJV Philippians 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

KJV Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.

KJV Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

 

May this letter become more to us than a book from which we have isolated memory verses.

 

May this letter become more familiar to us as we hear the voice of the Spirit speak through the heart and life of our dear brother in Christ Apostle Paul.

 

May the message of this letter be burned into our minds, hearts and souls as we hear of and experience the love of Jesus flowing through the heart and life of our beloved brother Paul.

 

May we be joined closer in the love of God in Christ Jesus, a love that casts out fear, a love that unites us in joy and a love the empowers us to serve together for the sake of our neighbor!

 

 

 

Often times our changed circumstances cause our joy in the Lord to diminish as we struggle with acceptance of a changed situation. Nevertheless, with the help of the Lord and others, we attempt to work through to a place of accepting the current circumstances as the way things are for the time being.

 

1. What do we do when our joy is diminished by our present difficult circumstances?

 

2. Do we wait until our circumstances change to be joyful again?

 

3. Is it possible to live in joy in the midst of life's often changing circumstances?

 

4. What does it mean to have joy, to live in joy, to rejoice?

 

The answers to these questions we will seek in Apostle Paul's letter to the Philippians. This letter has been called the letter of joy as in it the Apostle Paul, being held in prison while he wrote the letter, encouraged his readers in this manner:  "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice."  This verse is found in the last chapter of his letter, in chapter four, verse four.

 

Joy is a reality that is ours through the knowledge that God has reconciled us to Himself through the cross, by His gracious gift we trust in that reality, and even if circumstances change in our lives, our relationship with Him now and forever cannot be shaken.

 

Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.

 

Christian joy is shared, it is confident and it is increasing.

 

Jesus spoke of the connection between Himself, His Word, His Love, and His Joy.

 

 John 15:7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.

 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.

 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

 

 

Apostle John speaks of the joy that comes from our union with the Father and His Son and of his desire that our joy would be full.

 

KJV 1 John 1:1-4  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)

 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

 

May these studies be helpful to all of us who share in life's often difficult circumstances.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and in you always! Amen!

 

The Inward And The Outward Flow of Grace pt 2

On the signboard outside of our church near the highway one reads a message on each side of the sign:

 

God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense  and Faith Binds Us To God’s Promises.

 

 

Our recent ALCA convention which was held in the Tri Cities in Washington State had for a theme: Amazing Grace.  Many of the messages that were spoken were centered around this great truth,  a truth that is often difficult for us remember and to live under it:  God’s unmerited favor towards us.

 

 

Why is it so difficult to accept God’s grace towards us when He continually tells us in His Word that He loves us, that He is the One who has the authority to punish evil, that His goodness is greater than all our sin and that He will always take care of us? This is a common difficulty that most Christians struggle with at times, not only in today’s world, but even in the time of Joseph it was a struggle for Joseph’s brothers to believe that forgiveness was just that: God saying: I forgive you out of love and grace.

 

 

Many here today remember a specific day in which we experienced the grace of God and began to live in the freeing power of forgiveness which meant that we were now free from the penalty and the power of sin. Or perhaps it has been a gradual and growing awareness in our experience of the grace of God which is about God joyfully accepting us on the basis of Jesus’s sacrificial death on the cross.

 

 

For the first time, we felt the cleanness of our conscience, in that there was now fellowship with our God through Christ and fellowship one with another. But then we began to walk the life of a Christian, and whether it was in a short time or even many years later, we began to struggle with the question of assurance.

 

 

Is grace really true? Could God really have forgotten all the sin I have done? Is it true that God will never again bring up my sin before me? Is it really and truly separated as far as the east is from the west?

 

 

We are in chapter 50 of Genesis and Joseph’s brothers, who out of hatred and envy had sold Joseph to the slave traders, had heard  17 years earlier from Joseph himself some shocking, disturbing, but yet joyful words as he revealed himself to them.

 

 

KJV Genesis 45:1 Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren.

 2 And he wept aloud: and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard.

 3 And Joseph said unto his brethren, I am Joseph; doth my father yet live? And his brethren could not answer him; for they were troubled at his presence.

 4 And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.

 5 Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.

 6 For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest.

 7 And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

 8 So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.

 9 Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not:

 10 And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children's children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast:

 11 And there will I nourish thee; for yet there are five years of famine; lest thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast, come to poverty.

 

 

Fastforwarding to 17 years later, after Jacob had died, we see the brothers coming to Joseph(50:15).  What are they thinking as they approach their brother who had spoke grace into them so many years earlier? Let us read Genesis 50:15-21.  

 

 

 

Genesis 50:15 And when Joseph's brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him.

 16 And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying,

 17 So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him.

 18 And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants.

 19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?

 20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

 21 Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.

 

Joseph wept: Why?  Because they doubted Joseph words of grace and forgiveness extended to them out of God’s love flowing through him for them.  50:17

Because they feared that he would now punish them. 50:18-19

Because they thought that that evil they had done to him was greater than the kindness of his grace and forgiveness. 50:20

Because they feared for their future as they were dependent upon him. 50:21

 

 

God loves you!!!

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

 

Only God has the authority to punish evil.

Romans 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

 

His kindness is greater than evil, evil does not have the last word,

KJV Isaiah 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

 

He will take care of you in every aspect of your life.

John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

1 John 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

 5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

In closing, I want to read a facebook entry by Marla Peterson, the daughter of Brian and Melissa Peterson,  and she has given me permission to use it today.

 

I think about suffering sometimes. And that may sound odd, but it’s a aspect of reality that I believe forms so much of our worldview, our culture, and our personhood.

What I’ve realized is that God acknowledges suffering in a way that no one else can. God knows supremely the wrongness of this world because God is perfectly good— therefore, recognizes challenges to goodness more truly than we can.

The Bible, particularly the Old Testament, continually describes the horrifying state of a nation, a people, or a person. God does not hide the fallen state of humanity; He points it out and rebukes it time and time again. But God doesn’t do this out of pride or conceit. God is providing a true description of reality from an unbiased perspective that we wouldn’t otherwise have.

I feel like these descriptions should be read like a sentence fragment right before the comma (in nerdy grammatical settings, we call this a compound sentence with a coordinating conjunction) followed by:

“, but God knew His perfect and sinless son would be crucified to die to redeem these broken people… to redeem this broken nation that fell away.”

God draws attention to suffering and brokenness because it’s part of our beautiful redemption story. He brings up suffering because he knows that the joy of the gospel overshadows it— even if we don’t quite feel that reality yet.

We can view the realities of the Old Testament and the New Testament as two separate sentences, I suppose. But I actually prefer them together as one compound sentence with a coordinating conjunction. Who knew grammar could be so helpful in conveying biblical themes.

Suffering feels a little too heavy for me these days, but God knows that. And in response, I think God says, “I know. I know it feels that way, and that is okay.” And I do believe that Jesus still weeps with us, even knowing that a victorious ending awaits.

But I think God also asks us to trust in the promise written in Romans 8: The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us (v. 18).

I don’t think this verse requires that we deny, minimize, or ignore suffering. If anything, it allows me to acknowledge the magnitude of my suffering, my community’s suffering, and this world’s suffering while trusting that what God declares is true— the gospel and the glory of God outweighs the seemingly stifling heaviness of suffering in this present age.

 

He loves you and His grace is yours today and always!

Genesis 50.15.26 The Inward and the Outflow of Grace

Genesis 50:15 And when Joseph's brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him.

 16 And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying,

 17 So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him.

 18 And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants.

 19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?

 20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

 21 Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.

 22 And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he, and his father's house: and Joseph lived an hundred and ten years.

 23 And Joseph saw Ephraim's children of the third generation: the children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were brought up upon Joseph's knees.

 24 And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

 25 And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.

 26 So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.

 

Joseph lived by faith in the promises of God, and as a result he trusted God in all the adversity that he endured, thereby giving witness to those on the outside of the presence of the Lord within his mind, heart and life. By faith he saw the future that God has promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which was not in Egypt, but in the Promised Land. Joseph was a type of Jesus Christ, for consider a few parallels in their lives.

 

 

Joseph was sent ahead to prepare a place for his family through humiliation and exaltation.

Jesus was sent to prepare a place for us the humiliation of the cross and the exaltation of the resurrection.

 

Joseph suffered wrong willingly for the life of his family.

Jesus suffered wrong willingly for the life of the world.

 

Joseph longed to gather his family, just as Jesus longs to gather his family. (all people)

 

Joseph forgave his brothers because he possessed the heart of Jesus, which is full of grace and truth.

 God forgave us through Christ's because that is the heart of God to the whole world.

 

 

Some have said in the past that when we struggle with unforgiveness towards self and/or others, an unforgiveness that eventually turns into bitterness against people, against God and against oneself, we need to return to the cross of Christ and there to behold two things:

 

 

Firstly, Behold the cost of our redemption in the suffering and death of Jesus which was for our sin.

 

Secondly,  Behold the grace, mercy and love of God that is for us through His offering of His Son/Himself for the sake of our sin. 

 

We live by faith which means that our life is lived according to the acts and the promises of God in grace toward us and towards others. God has forgiven us in Christ, and as a result we live in forgiveness towards others. Therefore we are enabled and empowered to go into a graceless world through the calling/vocation/job we have in life and there we have the privilege and the opportunity to put Jesus Christ on display through our attitudes, through our words and through our actions. 

 

Further Along

 

                                                                        Farther Along

When Joseph was "farther along" he was able look back on his life through the purposes of God, therefore he was able to speak words of peace, of forgiveness, and of encouragement to his brothers who had hated him, had rejected him and left him to die. Consider the marvelous words of grace that came out his forgiving and giving heart as brothers came to him in fear and cowered before him..........

Genesis 50:19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?

 20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

 21 Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.

This is a continuation of last week's message which was about how in the acknowledgement of our weakness, we are made strong in His power. Through the eyes of Joseph we will see how he responded to the changing circumstances of his life as he was being tried, shaped and prepared for the purposes of God. May this message help us in the times when God seems silent as He works His will, shaping us and forming Himself in us so that He might work through us.

Joseph experienced the Presence of the Lord in his changed circumstances  Genesis 39:2, 39:21

Joseph, though mistreated, rejected, falsely accused and forgotten, trusted in God in the midst of his changing circumstances.

Joseph resisted the temptation to live for his own desires. Genesis 39:9

Joseph at some point recognized that out of his difficult circumstances God had been working to preserve life.  Genesis 50:20-21

Joseph received his brothers with a forgiving heart. Genesis 50:20

Joseph demonstrated his forgiving heart with actions of love and caring for his brothers and their families. Genesis 50:21

Knowing, understanding and experiencing some of the above, how might we practically by faith live in the midst of our changing/changed circumstances?

 

  1. Reaffirm our position in Christ
  2. Ask God to remove the adversity from our life.
  3. Reaffirm the promise of God’s sustaining grace
  4. Thank God for the unique opportunity to grow spiritually
  5. Receive adversity as if it were from God.
  6. Read and meditate on Scriptures describing the adversities of God’s servants.

 

Strength in Weakness

2 Corinthians 12:1-10   Strength in Weakness

Dear friend,

Grace, Mercy and Peace be unto you from God our Father and from His Son our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, now and always!

 

Have you ever experienced a time in your life when you begin to doubt your identity? Even knowing that you are a child of God, but yet experiencing circumstances that are shaking the very foundation of life and its meaning? As a child of God in Christ Jesus, we know that the past life is under the grace of God, our present life is under the grace of God and our future life is also under the grace of God. We believe that, we know that, but yet we live in anxiety of the present, with a foreboding eye on the future, even as we witness increased lawlessness, anger, rebellion, fear and anxiety in our world.

 

In our lesson today, we find the Apostle Paul in the middle of being challenged by those who would wish to destroy his ministry by accusation, innuendo, resistance, and so on. In 2 Corinthians 10-13 he defends his identity in Christ and his calling as an apostle of Jesus Christ. In these chapters reveals his inner thoughts, feelings and emotions in order to lay before his hearers of who he is in Christ, as he recounts the sufferings that he had endured for the sake of Christ, sufferings in which he gloried and rejoiced in. 

 

Reluctantly, then in chapter 12, he gives the account of a vision and revelation of God, and because of its glorious nature, how he had been subjected to "a messenger of Satan" to buffet him so that he would not be "exalted above measure." or get too big for his britches. He prayed three times that this "thorn in the flesh" would be removed, and it appears that after the third time he heard these words from our Lord. We might ask how long did he struggle, and persevere in prayer before he heard the sweet answer of grace come from the throne of God? Up to 14 years? What warm words of assurance and comfort the word of the Lord must have been to his struggling mind and heart!

 

2 Cor 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

 

Grace was sufficient, for in his inability to stand on his strength, he was given to experience the cleansing power of grace, recognizing that his identity in Christ was not lessened due to his continuing inablity to overcome his 'thorn in the flesh." He was able to see that the ongoing struggle within was actually for his protection against forgetting what grace really is. Therefore, he was able to rejoice in his sufferings for the sake of the Gospel, understanding that the knowledge of his human weakness was an open door so that the power of Christ would flow into his being. 

 

 

A huge watershed moment in the life of Apostle Paul……………

 

In the past I have asked others as to what are some of the watershed moments in their lives, times in which one experienced  a major happening which caused one’s life to take a different direction, either a negative direction or a positive direction. We all have them and it is good to think and to remember those times as we are who we are today because of our lives in the past. Our life today is lived in light of our formation from the past, our convictions, our attitudes, our words and our actions. And furthermore we can say that our vision of the future is based upon who we are today.

 

If someone would ask you and I this very day, how is it going, how would we respond?

 

Would we say, it is going well, would we say, it is going, would we say, a day at a time, or would we say, a moment at a time?  Depending upon the depth of the relationship, various responses would be given.

 

 

There are three basic ways that we communicate one with another: We don’t listen, we listen to respond and we listen to hear and understand what is being said in order to better understand the other. There are definite parallels between our relationship with people as well as with our relationship with our Father in heaven. May we have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to us today.

 

 

Today we look at one of Apostle Paul’s watershed moments in his life as he defended his identity and his calling that was of God and not of man.  He was being accused of being a false messenger of God.

 

 

In our congregation and amongst people who are connected with us, there are many many that are suffering adversity in their lives and so it seems good to spend some time in our Sunday morning sermons considering the topic of trials and suffering. Today’s reading is from  2nd Corinthians 12:1-10. As the Lord leads we will continue next Sunday in the same topic. May the Lord truly speak to us today through His Word and Spirit so that we may be comforted and taught to the end that we may be able to comfort those who are suffering in the trial of their faith.

 

 

First an overview of sin and suffering in the world. Suffering occurs because of our fallen world. Trials and suffering continue because it is allowed to do so. When it occurs with others who are distant from us, we are not that affected by it. But when it happens to those close to us, or to ourselves, we think a lot about and it is difficult to stay away from asking the “WHY” question.  Is okay to ask why? Does God “allow” such questions?

 

 

Not the result, but for purpose.

KJV John 9:1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.

 2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

 3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

 

 

Response to trials of our faith

James 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;

 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

 

 

Freely ask God for wisdom

 5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

 

 

Ask in Faith

 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.

 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

 

 

We know the ending.

KJV Revelation 21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

 

 

ESV 2 Corinthians 12:1 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.

KJV 2 Corinthians 12:1 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.

 

 2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.

 3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)

Paul used the third person as he does not wish to draw attention to himself.

 4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Was what he saw so glorious that he did not want to try use human language to describe it, as it would not do what he saw justice?

 

 5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.

 6 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.

 

Paul did not use his experience as a reason to elevate himself, but he spoke of it for the purpose that his inner struggles would be revealed to those who were listening. I recall my wife sharing with me of how she had been at a conference during which a woman had shared mightily and powerfully from the Word of God and my wife found herself thinking something like this: “Wow, that would be nice to be a speaker such as she is.”  Then later my wife found out of the tragedy and the suffering that the speaker had gone through, watershed experiences which she had responded favorably to which made her the woman of God that she was.  Learning that, my wife wasn’t so eager to go through what that woman had experienced and endured.

 

 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

There can be divine purpose behind adversity.

God may choose to reveal the purpose for our adversity.

 

 

 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

God never scolds us for asking why or for requesting that the adversity be removed.

Adversity may be a gift from God.

Satan can be the agent of adversity.

 

 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

God will comfort us in our adversities

God may not see fit to remove our adversity.

 

 

10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

ESV 2 Corinthians 11:29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?

ESV 2 Corinthians 11:30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

 

 

When we recognize our weakness, the strength of Christ fills us.

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

 

 

Contentment does not hinge on the nature of our adversities

The key to  growth in Christian maturity through adversity is to view it as for the sake of Christ and His kingdom.

 

 

Do we understand that grace is sufficient for us in all our struggles, and that we are overcomers by faith in the One who has loved us and given Himself for us?

 

 

What experiences have you and I have that would be similar to the Apostle’s? Have we been able to “see” how what we thought was evil in our life, the Lord worked it to the good for His purposes in us and then through us  for other’s sake?

 

 

How is it with you and I in our struggles in life: Are they encouraging us or discouraging us?

 

 

 

How might the Potter be molding us with His tender hands to become a more suitable vessel for his purposes? How might our present circumstances be our friend to this end?

 

 

May His grace be sufficient for us, for we know the ending. He hold us tightly and will not let us go.

KJV Revelation 21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

 

Freedom

Freedom comes from the Word of God, it is the Truth and that Truth makes us Free. It is the Son of God, Jesus Christ who makes us to live in Freedom.  Freedom is not something that we earn or merit, but it is a gift that is given to us by our Father and our God through His Son, Jesus Christ. The established hierarchy in the time of Jesus had their own definition of Freedom. It was based upon that which they had received from their forefathers, but through time had drifted away from the Word of God and were now being invited into Real and True Freedom, which only comes through and in Jesus Christ.

 

 

As grateful recipients of freedom, we have the responsibility to know what True Freedom is and to do our part to protect and preserve True Freedom. For the one who  knows, experiences and practices Christian Freedom makes the best  citizen in whatever role one has in their lives, whether in a family, in a church or in a country.

 

 

John 8:31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;

 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

 33 They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?

 34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.

 35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.

 36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

 

We are free to share the Greatest News that anyone can ever hear, for we have been freed from the penalty of sin and from the power of sin. We have been found by our God and live in the riches of grace in the forgiveness of our sin!!  Freedom!!!! We can pour out the Good News:  “You have been freed, you may rejoice in the freedom which Christ has purchased for you, and He wants so earnestly that you would swim in that marvelous grace that flows continually from heaven via the cross of Christ.

 

 

 

The question for me and for you today is:

Are we living in the freedom that Jesus is talking about in our text?

Is the freedom that we enjoy grounded in the Word of our God?

Have we come to see the difference between freedom in the Spirit and the freedom in the flesh?

Do we use our freedom to serve others in love, or do we use our freedom for our own purposes and benefit?

 

 

The Privilege of Freedom

The Responsibility of Freedom: To understand, to experience and to practice Christian Freedom by serving our neighbor in love.  Galatians 5:13

In our two scripture readings, the Holy Spirit taught us about Christian Freedom and how when properly understood, experienced and practiced, it means that we care for those who are yet in bondage to sin, but who believe that they are living in freedom.  It is to those that we have been freed to reach out to in love, which is what God has always done since the fall of mankind, and which is a trademark of those who live in Christian Freedom.  It is freedom from the flesh, and it is freedom to the Spirit of God.

 

 

Paul taught this very clearly as he said:

 

1 Corinthians 9:19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.

 

 

Consider the heart of God as we think about our freedom in Christ and in the Spirit:

 



KJV Genesis 3:9 And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

 



(from an account by Max Lucado)


A man had become disillusioned with his life, had walked away one day and was never heard from for many years. (He was single) His sister looked for him, asked people about him, but nobody had a clue what had happened to him. Where he had gone was to Texas and as he lived in a shack by a freeway, he got this idea that his calling was to keep a portion of the freeway clear of trash. This he did for many years. No one had any success trying to pull him out of his "calling." After around 14 years of this, two things happened which caused things to change for him.

 

 

One is that the place where he called home was going to be destroyed for a building project and the second was that he contracted a fatal strain of cancer. Because his home was destroyed, he had to come out in the open and there he was found lying on the highway in severe pain. A care giver, as a last resort, began to search for any family that this man might have and through his efforts his sister was found and came to help her brother. He did not want help, resisted every effort of his sister, wanting his "home" and his "calling." When asked why she did not give up, she said, "He is my brother."

 



Adam and Eve ran to hide in the bushes, God came looking and calling; Moses was in the desert when God came near to him in the burning bush; Jonah was running away via the boat when God came near to him in the cloud, in the storm; the Samaritan woman was at the well when Jesus came near to her; Peter, after denying the Lord, experienced the nearness of Jesus around the cookout where Jesus was frying fish, Lazarus was awakened by Jesus' voice when Jesus came near to him......

 

 

In what way is He near you/I today? In what way is He near our loved ones, those who are not able to see or experience His inviting and calling love?

 



So many  are like the man and perhaps we are like that man who walked away from everything, got caught up in nothing and did not want to leave what he was used to and into which he was bound. But his sister did not give up on him and continued to seek him, advances to which he succumbed just before he died. Let us not give into discouragement or to hopelessness, but let us remember that if we do not faint, we will reap in due time.

 

 

Jesus is seeking to reveal Himself to all, to those who are in darkness, but even for us who are the children of light, He wishes to establish a deeper bond between us and Himself, a bond of love and trust.

 

 

Let me illustrate this:

 



A number of years ago Beth and I were sitting and listening to a song which was being sung at a wedding. As we sat there listening, I was watching the young bride, who kept glancing up at her husband to be, seemingly hoping to catch his eyes so that she could shower her love to him through her eyes/expression as well as receive his adoration in like manner. She did this a number of times, in the hope that their eyes would make contact. He was intent on listening to the song, but then he turned to look into her eyes. I could not see his face, but I could see hers. The expression of love for him as well as the apparent reciprocation of love from him put a look on her face that to me was indescribable and, after observing this for a few seconds, I looked away because the moment was too personal and too holy for me to look upon.

 

We have been looked upon in love by our Father, He has drawn us to Himself through His Son Jesus Christ, He has downloaded His Spirit into us so that we not only know the gift of Freedom, but we exercise our Freedom by serving others in love.

May the love of the Father, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us now and always, Amen!

 

Spoke Folk is coming to KALC!

Spolk Folk is coming to our church on August 8th and 9th. They are a group of high school age students who are pedaling from church to church to share the Word of the Lord with various congregations. We will be serving them a meal, we will worship together with them as they share their journey in their walks with our Lord, they will spend the night in our church building and in the morning we will serve them breakfast before they pedal away to their next stop. Please join us on August 8th at around 5:00 pm

The Battle is the Lord's

                                                                 The Battle is the Lord's

 

2 Chronicles 20:1 It came to pass after this also, that the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them other beside the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle.

 2 Then there came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, There cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea on this side Syria; and, behold, they be in Hazazontamar, which is Engedi.

 3 And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.

 4 And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the LORD: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.

 5 And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court,

 6 And said, O LORD God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee?

 7 Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever?

 8 And they dwelt therein, and have built thee a sanctuary therein for thy name, saying,

 9 If, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence, (for thy name is in this house,) and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear and help.

 10 And now, behold, the children of Ammon and Moab and mount Seir, whom thou wouldest not let Israel invade, when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them, and destroyed them not;

 11 Behold, I say, how they reward us, to come to cast us out of thy possession, which thou hast given us to inherit.

 12 O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.

 13 And all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.

 14 Then upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, came the Spirit of the LORD in the midst of the congregation;

 15 And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's.

 

 

                                                                 Faith and Opportunity

 

 

Faith can grow in the face of uncertainty.

 

Faith is cultivated through being challenged.

 

Faith grows in the face of opposition.

 

Faith weakens when it is not exercised.

 

Many of the encouragements given in the Holy Bible are timeless, meaning that the examples recorded are for people of all eras to learn from.

 

And many of these happenings show us the blessing that comes from recognizing and acknowledging our weakness and helplessness, so that we may be made strong in the Lord through the experience of his deliverance.

 

Let us consider the following historical account of His children who lived many years ago in the land of Judah. “King Jehoshaphat, when he heard that his people were going to be attacked by enemies; he feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, proclaiming a fast throughout all Judah and his congregation also gathered themselves together, to ask help of the Lord: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 20:3,4)

 

 

May we learn from the examples of those who have come before us noting especially how the king, upon initially experiencing fear, set himself to seek the Lord and of how the people did likewise. They recognized and acknowledged their inability to deal with the great threat, even to the point that they admitted that they did not know what to do.

 

 

How good it is that we admit to the Lord that we do not know what to do, but that our eyes are upon Him who is able to work everything to the good for us who love Him and have been called according to his purpose. After all, the battle is not ours, but it is the Lord’s.

 

 

Therefore, we need not be afraid or dismayed by reason of the magnitude of the problem or challenge before us, for in committing all to the Lord we are casting all our cares upon Him, trusting that He will provide the comfort for today, as well as the deliverance that is needed. This deliverance may not necessarily be through a change of circumstances, but by the means of a greater realization and experience of His Presence with us. This means that we are given to know and experience that He is with us and is working everything out according to His will and for our spiritual benefit and growth.

 

 

Please read and meditate over the 20th chapter of 2nd Chronicles in order to receive more encouragement from our Mighty God through the testimony of our brothers and sisters in the Lord, including the little believers who are mentioned. Make this portion a personal prayer when you are in a difficult situation: Lord, I do not know what to do, but my eyes are upon you!!

Jesus reminds us that He has overcome the world and that we are partakers in this victory through faith as we see in the following verse.

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Let us keep our eyes on Him this day and always.