July 8th 2018: Dave Norbury

Dave Norbuy-July18Philippians 1:1-11

This is a significant book written to a significant church in Philippi. Paul knew this was the place God wanted him to be. He was about to plant the first church in Europe. God directed him here. This church has to grow and succeed. We are reading about our family history. This church in Philippi was set up against all the odds. Two people were converted here. Firstly, the Lord opened Lydia’s heart. It so happens that she was a business lady who had a big house which people could meet in (Acts 16). Paul is imprisoned. There again, God meets with the jailor who asks how he might be saved. He was converted.

The church at Philippi is established. From this seed, others are planted. Like every church it is fragile. Philippi was a strategically important church, light in a very dark place. Churches are strategically important. We are a vital, strategic church to our area, as Philippi was to its area. 95% of people in the UK know nothing about the gospel. Just as Philippi was fragile, so can we be too. The world, the flesh and the devil are out to destroy God’s work.

Paul is writing from Rome to Philippi. As he writes, he writes to you too. Timothy is probably doing the writing, Paul is dictating. It’s a servant leadership – just as Jesus was a servant. They are writing to all the saint in Jesus Christ, it’s a letter to the leadership and to every single person in the church. Paul wants us to see the hallmarks of Christianity – grace and peace (Philippians 1:1). Grace is kindness which we don’t deserve. We should ooze with this. We are trusted with inestimable kindness by God. We should have peace, even though we have rough edges, peace in our own hearts knowing we can trust the God we love. These are the hallmarks of God’s church. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). This is the outworking of grace and peace – the interest of others.

Paul looks back. He pours out his heart to the people he genuinely loves. He’s remembering them with great love and appreciation. He has joy when he thinks of them. He thinks of them and a smile comes to his face. Isn’t that what we, as a church, want to be? The Philippians have sent gifts to Paul and his fellows regularly. Epaphroditus risked all to reach Paul, to support and encourage him. We should be partners with others in the gospel, that’s what the Philippians were, sending support.

Paul also rejoices because God is at work in them. There is a real fellowship. Paul is speaking of a deep knowledge of God, he knows their faith is real, their lives have been turned inside out. He knew they had been born again, so he rejoices.

It’s when you go through personal challenges you grow. Be encouraged – this is when you will grow most! God will take you to a place you never wanted to go – and achieve things you could never achieve.

Paul looks up (Philippians 1:6). There’s an absolute certainty that the work God began will come to completion. He looks up and he rejoices. You and I were lost sheep, in darkness, dead in trespasses and sins. He, in His kindness, began a work in us and will bring it to completion. God works in us. He continues the work. Believe Him, trust Him. We are His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). This should give great encouragement. God is at work in you. Paul is delighted, we should be delighted too because of His glorious work.

Paul looks forward. What does he want for the church to succeed and grow? Love abounding more and more, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment” (Philippians 1:9). Biblical love is not sentimentalism – it’s anchored deeply in the love of scripture and Christ. It’s a wonderful thought that our churches should abound in love. Pray God will help you. Love abounding – with knowledge and all discernment. It’s a love that knows what’s right. Discernment – it is not blind love, it knows what is right and what is wrong. We are encouraged to know what is right and wrong and to prove the things that are excellent. There’s a testing going on. Growing in love is about maturity. We need to be blameless, our characters need to grow.
Don’t get distracted, have your integrity intact. When we make mistakes we should be the first person to say sorry. We should be humble, the first to admit we’re wrong.

We should mature and grow in Christian character, knowledge and discernment. Ask God to help you. Articulate this in your prayers. Be filled with the fruit righteousness produces. They’ll be many and varied. What joy it gives to God’s heart when fruit is produced in your life and mine. Praise God. Be a joy to others, have confidence He will complete the work He has begun, be mature, blameless, growing in maturity, full of integrity, growing in the work of the Holy Spirit.

December 25th 2017: Gareth Edwards

gareth-e-sept-2016In 1647 Christmas Day was not celebrated. No church bells rang, no services were held. Christmas was not to be celebrated by an Act of Parliament for a few years. Why? Was it because M.Ps were against the gospel? Because there was no love for Jesus Christ in the land? Perhaps a great disaster had struck in the land so Christmas was cancelled? No. The people who passed this Act of Parliament loved Jesus Christ with all their hearts. So why then? The people were concerned to underline the importance of Sunday worship. Over the centuries the church had added saint feasts, there was concern to point out the only command is to worship the Lord on the Lord’s Day. They wanted to establish the Lord’s Day as a worship day for the nation.

The people were also concerned that Christmas was celebrated with drunkenness, gluttony and little or no reference to the birth of Jesus Christ. They thought it such a travesty that they cancelled the celebrations. Perhaps we should cancel Christmas? After all, isn’t it true that Christmas is nothing more than an excuse for gluttony, revelling and with little thought of Christ? An increasing number of children do not know Christmas is anything to do with the birth of Jesus Christ.

What about us? How much are we conscious we gather because of the birth of a Saviour? What is wrong with the nativity scenes that are presented to us? It is highly unlikely Jesus was born in a stable. It is not likely animals were present. One thing in the usual nativity scenes in Christmas cards and presented to us is definitely not part of the nativity – the wise men weren’t there. Herod slaughtered boys up to two years old. The wise men would have taken a substantial time to travel to Herod. We are not told the wise men found Jesus in Bethlehem – they came to a house where the young child lay.

Our Christmas is so full of different ideas and notions and bear little or no relation whatsoever to the birth of Jesus. Let’s cancel it. We don’t need a special day of giving thanks to God … But perhaps Christmas is worthwhile, worth keeping if we, like the wise men, come to worship. If that’s our true motivation.

The wise men brought three gifts. The gold symbolised the kingship and royalty of Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Frankincense is a very aromatic spice used in the temple as part of worship of God. The priests prepared it. The wise men brought frankincense to one who will be the great High Priest of His people, representing His people before God, bringing sacrifice for the atonement of sin. Myrrh is associated in the New Testament with the death of the Saviour. It was part of the preparation of herbs and spices of Jesus’ body by the women. He came to die. Myrrh is a symbol of death. Perhaps Christmas should be celebrated if it’s us coming to worship the King of Kings, the great High Priest, the Lamb of God. If that’s why we gather, then certainly it is right we do so. But how sad so many are careless they celebrate what they do not understand or know, they reduce worship of the King of Kings to nothing more for indulgence.

Perhaps too, Christmas is worth keeping because God has given us, in Him, the gift that really matters. There are presents you can open anytime, not waiting for a certain day, presents offered by God. Angels spoke of them. Presents embodied in the baby. He is the gift, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’ (John 3:16). This is God’s gift. It brings us joy. There is a difference between great joy and great fun. For most, Christmas is just great fun. But at some point the laughing stops. But joy continues. There is a difference between great happiness and joy. Happiness depends on circumstances. But circumstances can change. Adverse things can overtake us and our happiness is spoilt. Great joy, deep satisfactions of the soul, is knowing God, having contentment which means we know it is well with our souls and nothing can change that. The laughing may stop but the joy goes on, knowing God’s presence because a baby was born to die for our sins. It’s not only joy, it is peace, that peace with God, being made right with God. God was justly at war with us because of our sin. He shed the blood of His only Son to bring peace.

God’s gift in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ is so we can enjoy every moment of every day. It is worth celebrating Christmas if it’s thanking God for His great gifts to us. We can show the concern of 1647 but maybe we don’t have to cancel Christmas if we truly come to worship the King, trusting in Him as the sacrifice offered for our sin, thanking God for joy unspeakable and peace which passes all understanding that He has given us – Jesus Christ.

May this day be a blessed day as we spend it having fun, being happy, but full of joy and peace in Christ Jesus, our Saviour. Amen.