How was 2018 for you?
I know that some of you had an exciting year and I know others of you would say it was tough for various reasons. I know that for myself, I am once again reminded how little I actually control. At this stage of my life, if I have paid any attention at all to the last 53 years, I had better come to grips with that reality.
I believe that once I stop trying to control everything in my world it becomes easier to trust God. He has called me to live by faith and follow Him. When I was younger, I tended to think God needed to “show me His will” through special revelation or divine intervention for me to know I was on the right path. Now a days, as an older and more mature person [don’t check the maturity growth with Barb] I find God has revealed all I need for daily guidance in His Word. This week’s Scripture Passage for Sunday’s message is one of those fantastic passages to guide my life and yours.
Paul is writing to the congregation in Colossae and to us when he speaks of new life connected to Jesus.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
So, Oak Hill family as we enter this New Year, I pray that you rest in Paul’s words for us in 2019. We are “all dressed up in Jesus” and set for all that comes our way. This includes the tough times as well as the joy filled moments. Our God has made us His own so that we get to live like His own – forgiven and covered in grace. Below is a picture of a wonderful plaque that Kaylee Dorn made for me that sits in my office. I invite you to live in its’ truth for you today and every day because of what Jesus has done for you!
Sometimes I just don’t like to be told. I am very well aware of this tendency and no one has to deal with it more than my wonderful wife. Barb will ask me to do some little task and I need to confess to you, I don’t like it at times. Now, if I had done that very same task, at the very same time, in the very same way but without being told, I would just get after it. What is the deal with that?
I absolutely love my wife and I want to serve her. I am not expected to do an excessive number of chores around the house. I believe that I should do these things simply because Barb asked, and I can easily take out the garbage or vacuum or…whatever she needs me to do. With that being said, what is the deal with the little “control monster” that keeps popping up in my soul?
From my perspective, this is one of the most obvious ways that I see the extent of my sinful nature and my desire to live my life on my terms. It is here that I see the deep reality of my sinful nature. Can you relate to this at all? I can honestly say that I do like to serve and give, but I guess I also need to admit that even this is tainted by my tendency toward selfishness. I am very glad I have a Savior!
The reason I brought up this fault of mine is to deal with a common human problem that comes to light in our text for this Sunday. Paul is writing to the Philippians and he brings up the topic of being joyful in chapter four. I am confident that most of us believe joy is good thing. We want it all the time, don’t we? The answer that question may be: Well, yes I do want a lot of joy, but sometimes joy just doesn’t make sense and then there are other times I just flat out don’t feel like being joyful. Then along comes Paul, like Barb, and says, “Now, do it now, be joyful now!”
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Give me a break Paul!
The Greek word for joy is deeply connected with grace. God has told us that joy is a spiritual fruit. That means it is a gift from God. Joy is a declared reality [not primarily a feeling] that has the power to show up in odd places – it actually has the power to show up in all places, at all times. But for me, it doesn’t always show up and Paul’s words seem to beat me up at times more than bless me. Why is that? It is because I am not the Savior. I need to be reminded that I only follow the Savior, and this is a spot where it can be very hard to follow. It is as simple as that.
Dear Lord of Joy,
I do believe it is a universal truth that Joy can triumph in every situation in my life. In the earthly life of Jesus, it always did triumph, even at the Cross. With me, I need to confess it isn’t always the case --- but I want the joy in my life to show up more and more like it perfectly did for Jesus. Almighty God, thank you for giving me grace along with joy. I believe Joy can always be present. Lord, forgive me where my unbelief or discontentment wells up and joy is absent. Empower your Joy to show up more and more in my life! AMEN!
Last week I was nailed with the flu for a few days. It wasn’t pleasant for several reasons that I won’t go into here. I will simply say that I am very glad it is over. I am pretty sure that all of you who have ever had even a light case of the flu don’t look forward to it returning. If you do – well, you may need to visit a doctor for a reason other than the flu then!
One other thing I really hate about being sick is missing out on things. Last week I was unable to get together with people in a number of settings. Some were regular weekly gatherings, some were special events like a birthday gathering and others were one on one meetings. I appreciate a little down time as much as the next guy, but too much forced alone time is really a drag. God made me to go through life with you and I feel a bit off when I am not able to connect with you.
Our God has a lot of really good ideas. One of them is that people are to love each other. That means to go through life together. It also means that as we consider our Advent series, Joy Unleashed we are to realize that joy is meant to be celebrated in community. The Apostle Paul knew God created us like this and it constantly shows up in his writings. For instance, our text for this Sunday’s message is Philippians 1:1-11 where he says this:
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.
We are to find joy in each other!
Far too often, we go through life just occasionally bumping into each other rather than looking at each other as partners in the Gospel. This partnership Paul is talking about means that we find the greatest depth of connection at the point that matters most. When the love and sacrifice of Jesus unites us, all other differences find their proper weight and place. In fact, we may find that the very differences in each other that we struggle with are the differences that make us capable to accomplish things we never could with a group of people just like me.
From creation God made us to go through this journey together. When sin entered our world, it brought a natural division into our relationships instead of joy filled connections. But with the Advent and arrival of Jesus we once again can be overwhelmed with joy in all our relationships. God has given us this power. Let’s claim it and live it this year!
The source of true joy has come, and His name is Jesus. This is the joy that has the power to change everything. Let’s be united in praying that Oak Hill’s partnership in the Gospel would guide our community’s relationships and mission.
Pastor Nick Mundis