Thursday, November 15, 2018
14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
These are hard words, because if you are anything like me, it can feel satisfying to grumble and complain, if for no other reason than to get something off my chest. I’ve done my whining so now I can let it go. Arguing seems less harmless in my mind, although there are valid reasons why we should stand up for justice.
Even so, Paul asks us to do our work without grumbling or arguing, because then we may become a shining witness within a world that is warped and crooked. Choose not to argue. Choose to live by a higher standard. Choose in all circumstances to seek God’s praise rather than having to insist on being right.
Paul is so proud of these people and how their faith has grown as a result of his work among them. They are part of the harvest that Paul has worked so hard to produce. So for him, even if it means that because of his ministry he could lose his life, he feels it is all worth it. He can still be glad and rejoice because of them. May they also rejoice with him in all they do day by day. Part of that rejoicing is made evident as they do all things without grumbling or arguing.
Gracious God, you know how hard it is some days to keep a positive attitude, and to refrain from grumbling or arguing. The harsh words we receive we want to give back at others. It takes some strength of will to refrain from escalating the tension and keep arguing. Help me release to you my grumbling, laying it down at your feet rather than burdening my friends or family with it. For in Christ I pray. Amen.
Wednesday, November 14, 2018
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.
Thus begins this wonderful chapter about the nature and character of Jesus. Jesus shares the same nature with God, but did not allow it to be used for his own advantage. He made himself nothing, becoming a servant, humbled himself and was obedient unto death, even death on a cross. He is exalted, because God has given him the name above every name. At the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess the Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father.
We are privileged to be united with Christ by the grace of God. We have been given access to the Father through the Holy Spirit, enabling us to take on some of the qualities of Jesus. Paul asks us to find encouragement from Jesus; be comforted by his love.
Some days we are filled with tenderness and compassion for our neighbor, but other days not so much. It is not so easy getting rid of selfish ambition and vain conceit. It is counter to our nature to value others above ourselves, to deny self and look to the interests of others. It takes a complete attitude reversal to slough off our self-centeredness and put on the mindset of Jesus. In this lifetime we will not be fully able to complete this process of becoming like Jesus, because we are imperfect beings. But it’s where we hope to go, as day by day we seek to be united with Christ.
This day, Lord, remind us again of your great love for us, and your great desire that we should become more tender and compassionate, more self-less and caring for the interests of others. When we are tempted to think only of ourselves, help us stop and try again. Help us walk in ways as Jesus would, to the glory of your name. Amen.
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Paul has no idea whether he will be acquitted or condemned when he goes before Caesar, whether he will be released to freedom or not. Yet he continues to rejoice for the spiritual resources he has received, and his expectation that he will, because of their prayers, have sufficient courage to meet whatever trials are before him. His desire in all things is that Christ will be exalted, whether that is accomplished in his life or by his death.
There is a Pakistani woman, Asia Bibi, a Christian, who has been imprisoned in solitary confinement since 2010, on the charge of blasphemy against Allah. In this strongly Muslim country, she could have faced the death penalty, but she recently was acquitted of the charges against her. For her protection, she may have to leave the country and even then, her safety cannot be guaranteed.
My prayers are for her, her family and five children in the weeks and months ahead, that God grant her sufficient courage to be a witness for Christ despite all she has endured. She has endeavored to live as a Christian in an increasingly hostile Muslim environment, then has persevered in faith through her imprisonment. Her trials give me perspective. If she can do it, surely I can find sufficient courage too.
Lord, I pray for those for whom their daily existence is one of danger because of their professed faith in Christ. I pray that you will bless them with the strength to endure their trials and that they will know of your presence and comfort. Gather us all close by your love, so that whether we live or die, we remain with you. Amen.
Monday, November 12, 2018
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may 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.
Sharing with you from the introduction to this letter from my Bible, Philippians was written while Paul was in prison, yet it is filled with love and joy for the people of Philippi. Paul rejoices because they have shown great love and concern for Paul, as he has had for them. He rejoices because of their partnership in the gospel. I think of a partner in a law firm – one who is committed to the wellbeing of his firm and is on equal standing with other partnering lawyers. Partners in a relationship share common hopes and dreams. They are together in all they do.
That’s the kind of close relationship Paul has with the people of this church. He knows he can count on them – for their support while he is in prison, for their prayers, for their continued work in his absence. That’s the kind of relationship we hope for in any church, to have a group of committed believers whose aim is to do God’s work every day, both within the walls of the church and out in the world, in whatever they do.
I hope you are blessed with the support of other believers as Paul has found in the people of this church. May we hold all believers in prayer as Paul does – to pray that our love in the Lord will grow, and that we will abound in knowledge and depth of insight. The end result of our prayers is that we learn what is best, that we be made pure and blameless before the Lord, filled with good spiritual fruit, and ready to give God our praise.
Lord, you are all love, all light, all mercy and the source of all joy. Thank you for fellow believers who are partners in your work. Thank you for their encouragement and support. I pray that I may seek you with all my heart, to grow in love and service, and that by your Spirit’s guidance, that I may be filled with knowledge and greater depth of insight, to give glory to your name. Amen.
Sunday, November 11, 2018
13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
These are among Paul’s concluding words in this letter, written when Paul was imprisoned and guarded at all times by Roman soldiers. Daily he saw their armor, fashioned to protect them, and no surprise, he made correlations with the Christian faith. The belt of truth keeps you secure. Just as a belt holds one’s pants up, so we are held firm in God’s truth. The breastplate of righteousness guards one’s heart, lest we become pierced by stabs from the evil one.
So many good allusions to ponder. Imagine what it is like having one’s feet outfitted and ready to go forth with the gospel of peace, ready and active as a force for peace. Faith is our shield when we hold it up and allow it to work in our lives. Too many times we simply drag faith behind and allow arrows of temptation and sin to injure us. Like a bike helmet or football helmet, we need the helmet of salvation to protect us. And of course we are to carry with us the sword of the Spirit, our only offensive weapon, which is God’s word.
And lastly, because our armor is not strong enough on its own, prayer is necessary because God is stronger than the worse in life we may face. Be alert and keep praying. Keep calm and keep praying. Pray for God’s people and never give up.
What a joy, Lord, that we may turn to you, that we may confess our fear and anxieties to you, that we may pray out of our sorrow as well as in thanksgiving for all the resources that are ours by faith. It is such a privilege to pray because you have become a friend by faith in Jesus Christ our savior. We need not fear you but may trust in your love, your protection, and your guidance. We pray for all of your people who are in need today. Strengthen them and us, in Christ’s name. Amen.
Saturday, November 10, 2018
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord.
When I look at my life, it’s hard for me to fathom how once I was in darkness but now I am as light in the Lord. My perspective is so self-centered that it’s hard for me to step far enough away to see God’s perspective. What Paul is saying here is that in Christ, God has declared that we are light in the Lord. God has blessed us with that designation, as we put our trust in Christ our savior. The darkness is our life before we came to know Jesus and call him savior, the kind of life where we trusted in ourselves rather than him.
“But now” changes everything. We are light in the Lord, so therefore, it’s on us to live according to the blessing God has given us. Live in goodness, righteousness and truth. This is a shortened list of the fruits of the Spirit (the longer list is in Galatians 5 – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). Maybe it’s too much for me to focus on more than one attribute of God’s light, so perhaps I can choose to try today to live even one, whether goodness or righteousness or truth. I think I’d rather be good than right, but it’s always good to be filled with God’s truth. Because then I don’t presume I have the truth on my own.
Can you take the challenge? Live today as a person of God’s light, as God guides you to do so. May God’s light be made real in you, as you endeavor to live out God’s goodness, righteousness and truth.
Lord, I praise you to realize that you have called me a child of light. This is not my light but yours, given to me by faith in our savior, Jesus Christ. Help me not revert back to the darkness where I once dwelled before coming to know you. Instead, let me be drawn to your light of goodness, righteousness and truth like a moth that cannot help but hover near. Let me live in your light, keeping my eyes on you. For this I pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
Friday, November 9, 2018
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.
In one form or another, you may have heard these words before. Do not let the sun go down on your anger. How true these words are, yet they are also not necessarily easy to live out. You and I know persons who have been angry for years, perhaps over some wrong committed in their childhood. A dad walks out, and the rest of the family is left grappling with anger and loss. A young person becomes involved with drugs or alcohol, or becomes the victim of sexual assault, or is unjustly denied educational or employment opportunities because of race. There are no easy answers to the anger inherent within these and other situations.
For all the tragic and unjust hardships imposed upon us through no fault of our own, we still have a choice how to respond. I remember reading about a woman who had been raped, the worst invasion of a woman’s body. Yes, she was angry and in mourning, but she came to realize that she could not give in to her attacker and retreat into a shell and not live her life. She had to give all the anger and hurt over to God and leave her burden at God’s feet. Otherwise she could not go on.
God wants our health – and especially the mental and spiritual health of a soul that is completely free as we turn all our troubles over to the Lord. Yes, this can be one of the hardest things we could ever do – releasing our anger over to God’s judgment and being released from our own need to retaliate. God knows we are hurt by our continued anger, far more than the one who is the object of our wrath. God in his love wishes to remove this burden of anger from us, if we can choose to let it go.
Dear God, you know my petty irritations and you also know the extent of a full-throttle anger that is deep-seated and pervasive. Maybe I can throw off the minor stuff by the end of a day, but how much I need you to help me through the really tough situations that I cannot solve on my own. Help me identify and offer you these long-term problems that have made me angry. Set me free, Lord. By your grace, help me find a way where I see no way. Release me from anger so I may live more fully for you. In Christ’s name, Amen.
What We Believe
We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only son and our savior, who lived among us to teach us and die for us. He rose again to give us the promise of eternal life in him John 3:16. He gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is God dwelling in us John 14:15-17. We seek God’s word in the Bible, the foundation of our faith. Our mission as a church is to proclaim the good news of Christ to all. We honor Christ through worship and fellowship, encouraging one another in faith, hope and love 1 Corinthians 13:13, and serving our neighbors with compassion and justice.
We belong to the United Church of Christ. As a congregation we are granted the autonomy to govern our local church, and prayerfully make the best decisions we can on how to live out our calling as believers. Each person has the freedom and responsibility of discerning for themselves how faith in Jesus Christ impacts their daily walk and their worldview. We respect one another’s differences because even though we are diverse, we are still part of Christ’s body.
We look forward to welcoming you some day soon. Peace to you in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
10:00 am Worship Service
10:00 am Children's Adventure Hour