Finding Deep Joy in a Sad, Shallow World (A Study of Philippians)

Used 16 times (with its variants), the term JOY reminds us of what is important in life. We have seen from the first use of the word (1:4) that we should pray for others with JOY. Is prayer a drudgery to you? Start praying for others . . . with JOY!

The second use of the term JOY is found in  1:18 and concerns the preaching of the gospel. We rejoice that the gospel is preached, but we do not affirm the many false gospels that are out there!

Yesterday we noticed the third use of the word JOY and that was also in 1:18. Paul says he will “continue to REJOICE.” Deep, biblical JOY allows us to praise and serve the Lord even in the worst of circumstances.

This morning we will look at the fourth use of the word JOY and that is also in chapter one:

25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. (ch. 1)

Paul’s desire is that the Philippians would advance in their progress and JOY in the faith. The term “faith” is sometimes used in Scripture to refer to our confidence in God, but here (as in Jude 3) it is used to refer to the content of truth that God has revealed to us. We believe the truths of the Christian faith. And those truths ought to bring us JOY!

Let’s think about several of the Christian truths that ought to bring us JOY. Do you rejoice in the character of God (His love, holiness, mercy, sovereignty, presence, etc.)? Do you finding yourself praising Him for His leading and guiding you in the daily affairs of life? Are you grateful that He knows the end from the beginning and nothing takes Him by surprise? Are you excited to be part of His rescue mission to reach others with the incredible news of the gospel? These and may other truths ought to bring JOY to our hearts! Someone has said that the mentally and emotionally healthy are those that have learned when to say Yes, when to say No, and when to say Whoopee! (Willard S. Krabill, M.D.)

Think about and study one of the truths of the Christian faith that brings you JOY. And progress in that truth today!

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1 Corinthians 15: I am what I am

by tindalfamily

But I am what I am because of God’s grace, and His grace to me wasn’t wasted. On the contrary. I worked harder than all of them – though it wasn’t me, but God’s grace which was with me.

1 Corinthians 15:10, New Testament for Everyone

Sermon-based Small Groups: Yes or No?

By Chuck Lawless on Apr 29, 2019 01:00 am

More and more churches seem to be moving to a sermon-based curriculum for their small groups. That is, they review and study the same text the pastor preached on the previous Sunday. On the other hand, I’ve met church leaders who oppose this approach. Here’s a summary of the arguments I’m hearing:

Why Sermon-based Small Groups are Good:

  1. They allow church members to dig more deeply into that week’s preached text. Seldom is it a bad move to know the Word better, and focused study can help the church reach that goal. Particularly, the group can work together to ask how they should apply the text in their life that week.
  2. They provide a place for church members to ask questions about the text. I’ve never seen someone ask a question during the sermon, but that doesn’t mean that listeners don’t have questions. A sermon-based small group gives opportunity to ask those questions.
  3. They promote consistency and unity among all the small groups. Regardless of the number of groups, everyone’s studying and reviewing the same content—which helps to build unity and direction within the church.
  4. They encourage worship service attendance. If you know that you’ll be discussing the sermon material in your small group, you’re more likely to be at church to hear the sermon. And, you can often listen to it online if you need to miss the service.
  5. The facilitator is just that—a facilitator. His or her job is to lead the group in discussing the sermon and biblical text. Facilitators don’t have to study a new text and prepare a new lesson each week.

Why Sermon-based Small Groups Aren’t Always Good

  1. The church misses an opportunity to teach more Bible in the small group. If the group is only discussing the sermon text, they seldom veer from that text. Over the course of a year, the church studies only what the pastor has preached – and there’s usually a lot more Bible than that.
  2. Some group members might feel like they’re simply hearing the sermon again each week. And, if they’re only doing that, what’s the point of attending small group?
  3. The discussion can sometimes become nothing more than a critique of the pastor’s sermon and leadership. The group thus becomes an opportunity not only to talk about the sermon, but also to express concerns and air grievances about the pastor. The leader ought to halt this kind of discussion, but that doesn’t always happen.
  4. Group members who miss church that week may feel unprepared to come to small group. Yes, they can often listen to the sermon online, but not everyone will take that step. Some will simply decide not to go to small group that week.
  5. Writing sermon-based curriculum is not easy. It’s not as simple as just reiterating the sermon’s points. It requires someone who has the time to write it, who knows how to write well, and who thinks practically enough to build application into the curriculum. I’ve seen too many churches hurt their small group ministry by producing only weak, unfocused curriculum.

What are your thoughts? What does your church do? 

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Learning to Love

“We love Him because He first loved us.”1

While we are encouraged and even commanded by God to love one another, it isn’t always easy to do. Loving actually needs to be learned.

As the Bible teaches, we love God because He loved us first. He modeled it for us. The same principle is true with human love. We love people because someone first loved us and modeled love for us.

We didn’t come into the world knowing how to love, only with the ability to learn how to love. If we didn’t receive healthy loving or if we didn’t feel adequately loved when we were growing up, chances are as adults we will suffer from love deprivation and not know how to love properly—only how “to make” love which may or may not have anything at all to do with love!

In other words, to learn to love we need to be loved first—for what we didn’t receive in our early developmental years, we need to receive now.

We do this by having at least one or two safe, loving, non-judgmental, and accepting people to love us as we really are—by allowing them see our total dark side—secrets, failures, sins, weaknesses, faults … warts and all. As these people love and accept us for who we are (not for what we have or haven’t done), we learn little by little to love and accept ourselves. Remember, too, that we can only be loved to the degree that we are known, and we can only love and accept others to the degree that we have learned to love and accept ourselves. Admittedly this can be very scary but it is profoundly healing.

This is another reason why the Bible teaches us the importance of confessing our sins and faults to one another.2 Doing this is crucial for the healing of our human hurts and damaged emotions.

Suggested prayer: “Dear God, please give me a few friends with whom I can feel safe to let them know me fully and love me still. Through their love and your love please help me to learn to love and accept myself in a healthy way. In so doing teach me to love others who also need to be loved in the same way I do. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus’ name, amen.”

1. 1 John 4:19 (NKJV).
2. James 5:16.

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Y Moments

by Ann V. Friend

Experience is one thing you can’t get for nothing.
Oscar Wilde

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

Welcome to Day 29 of the A to Z Challenge.

Continuing the blessing of positivity, with encouraging thoughts, to be content, in whatsoever state…..

Y moments can be a positive or negative experience. Depending on perspective and understanding wisdom.

Remembering the faithfulness of God and Romans 8:28, going through Y moments, is a lifeline to faith and hope in Jesus.

The ability to endure Y moments, in whatsoever state, is another example of the many blessings of positivity.

Abundant blessings and have a marvelous day!

The just shall live by faith. Praise The Lord.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

©Ann V Friend, afriendofjesus2013Blog, Aug 2013 to present.


Changing Needs for Changing Times

“Jesus told him, ‘Stand up, roll up your sleeping mat and go on home!’ Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up the mat and began walking! But it was on the Sabbath when this miracle was done. So the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, ‘You can’t work on the Sabbath! It’s illegal to carry that sleeping mat!'”1

Imagine that. Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath and the religious leaders “tried all the harder to kill him” (that is, to kill Jesus)!

As we’ve noted before, tragically, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day loved their programs more than they loved people! They were expecting the promised Messiah but because he didn’t come the way they expected him to come, and didn’t do things the way they wanted them done, they wouldn’t believe in him and refused to change.

It goes without saying that we live in a world of rapid change. Yes, we need to hold fast to that which is permanent and eternal, but in other areas of life if we don’t change, we, too, may miss out and get left behind.

Here’s a classic example from the business world: “From 1900 to 1967, the Swiss were the leading watchmakers in the world. In 1967, when digital technology was patented, the Swiss rejected it in favor of the traditional ball bearings, gears, and mainsprings they had been using to make watches for decades. Unfortunately, however, the world was ready for this advance, and Seiko, a Japanese company, picked up the digital patent and became the leading watch manufacturer in the world almost overnight. Fifty thousand of the 67,000 Swiss watchmakers went out of business because they refused to embrace this new technology. It was not until years later that the Swiss caught up and regained their position in the marketplace with the creation of Swatch watches.”2

This principle also applies to each of us in today’s marketplace—if we don’t keep up our training with the needs of today’s changing marketplace, again, we may be left behind.

In serving God, while our message never changes, our methods of communicating it need to change with the changing times and the changing needs of people or, again, we may get left behind—as many a business, church, and organization has. By way of interest, as the Internet began to grow, our gospel literature sales began to plummet even though our literature had done extremely well for three decades. This is why here in our US office we changed from hard copy print to the electronic media. We never changed the message—only the way of communicating it. Had we not made this change, we never could have continued to successfully preach “the gospel to every creature”3 as Jesus commanded.

Suggested Prayer: “Dear God, help me to hold fast to that which is eternal, but be flexible and willing to change where change is needed. And above all help me to be willing to change where you see my need for change and growth. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus’ name, amen.”

1. John 5:8-10 (TLB)(NLT).
2. Cited in Bits & Pieces.
3. Mark 16:15.


Belonging to the Church

A Broadcast with Sinclair Ferguson

Western culture glorifies individualism, but God calls us to community. Today, Sinclair Ferguson reminds us that the church is at the very heart of God’s plan for His people.