Captive Joy: Philippians and Life’s Lockdowns

Padlock, Door, Lock, Key Hole, Macro

Pixabay

I have been in lockdown since the 16th of March.  In that time, I have really only been out of the house on four or five occasions and those were short walks around the block.   Many of us are feeling the burden of the limiting of our everyday freedoms.  It’s frustrating.  It’s easy to grumble.

If we are honest, how does our limited exercise of freedom compare to that of Paul?  What does the Holy Spirit and God’s word tell us?

If you think a couple of months of quarantine is bad, think about being a prisoner for the Gospel.  Paul spent four or five years in custody.

It is his attitude in this confinement that is an example to us.

Philippians 1, Paul notes his love and thanksgiving for his brothers and sisters in Philippi and then verses 7 – 14 says:

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.  God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Although physically isolated from them he is still in harmony with them as they shared the grace of Christ.  We may not physically be together today but we are linked and united in that grace.

Paul then continues in verse 12:

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.  As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.

Members of the Emperor’s household guard were coming to the Lord as a direct result of Paul’s captivity.   It may not seem it now, but you may well be making a bigger difference in this time of restrictions than you are aware.  It may be through your examples of faith and perseverance, or it may be through such links and forums as these online worship sessions which bring us together and link us to some who have never worshipped with us before.  We are only the sowers, but God will reap the harvest.

 

In Ephesians 3:14-21 Paul tells the church not to be disheartened by his tribulation.  He instead explains his wish for the saints:

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,  that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

 

Paul’s desire was for the church was for it to know that no matter what the outward appearance of things may seem, God is bigger than it.

 

So in a practical application, we can see in Philippians 2:14 and 15:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 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   . . .

 

We need to examine where we are today.  Not only in this Covid crisis, but in all life’s other lockdowns, as well.   Job losses, bereavements, strained relationships, and the like are all lockdowns emotionally, but they don’t need to be spiritually.

 

What can we do?  Well look at the opportunities.  In this long isolation I have had more time for the word.  Have you?  More time to pray.  I have really focused on many of you, and for families around the world who have suffered loss in these times.  More time to encourage.  The internet is wonderful when applied to godly purposes.  I really have been blessed myself in being able to send little words of hope and encouragement to others.

 

In the end, in life’s lockdowns, it’s a time for joy.

 

Padre

 

If you have noted that the format of this isn’t exactly the same as my usual posts, it is because this in a manuscript of a sermon.

More Than Bricks and Mortar

imageedit_5_7186995301 (1).jpg

 

Lock-down, quarantine, self-isolation, and social distancing have had a major impact on our lives.   This is no less true of our worship, than with any other of our other social interactions.  But Pastors, Priests, and other faith leaders have been proactive in bringing what the modern world has to offer to keep their flocks together, and to fulfill the instruction of Hebrews 10:25, that we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.

This morning, as on the last several Lord’s Days, I “attended” worship on a live feed which linked the saints together.  The word was powerful as we were reminded that times of trial help prove us, and prepare us for the Lord’s work.  Our growth often has a “necessity” of such trials.  The worshiping of God from the vantage point of our physical separation from one another is one such trial.

It does show us another great truth, however.  The church (Ekklesia) is not the physical structure in which we gather.  We do not “go to church.”  Rather we are the church!  We, the Body of Christ, not the bricks and mortar are church.  The challenge then is for us the “Be Church.”  Nothing else is good enough.

Whether we are housed together with loved ones, linked by technology, or in near total isolation, we are tied together by far more.  We are bound by the blood of Christ!  We are family, and we are a body (I Corinthians 12).   We are Church.

 

Padre

 

Ineffable

Woman, Girl, Freedom, Happy, Sun, Silhouette, Sunrise

Pixabay

Speechless, in awe, too much to take in

Overwhelmed by the glory radiating from Him

So many sights and blessings witnessed each day

In nature, or human kindness

We encounter along our way

Sometimes it’s a sunrise, bright beams of gold

Sometimes it’s a whispered “I love you”

When that’s what you need to be told

Ineffable, in awe, too much to take in

The blessings daily flowing from Him

 

Padre

Weekend Writing Prompt #130 – Ineffable Ineffable in 70 words

 

 

 

 

Tsunami of Fire

Fire, Beautiful, Flame

Pixabay

Pastor Vince this week spoke of a vision of a wave of revival coming over the church and the land.  He noted that for such a revival to come, God’s people need to be focused on Him, not their own agendas.  He went on to say that it is through praise that we can find that focus.  When we offer our praise and thanksgiving to god, He responds with even more blessings.  The pastor on several occasions reminded us that as our praise goes up, His blessings come down.  What a mighty truth!

Psalm 71 reminds us of the place of praise,

“As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.  My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long— though I know not how to relate them all.  I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign LordI will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone (verses 14-16).”

Note that in praise we have hope, and as we have God’s mighty acts to proclaim, He will show us even more of them to praise.

But such praise is not a solo act if we want true revival.  A revival that will sweep over the land like a tsunami.  It is an act of praise that is unified, and of common purpose.  Psalm 133 reminds us,

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore”

Notice that in unified purpose (v 1) that God bestows His blessings (v 3).   Compare that to the words of Matthew 18:19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”

So what is the nature of such unified praise?  The Psalmist states it clearly in the 100th,

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God.  It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.  For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;  his faithfulness continues through all generations.”  

It’s as simple as that, praise Him as our creator, our shepherd, our faithful provider.  Praise Him for His love.

 

Such praise will change the land.  It will “sow seeds” of righteousness.  The harvest of which will be of fire, the fire of the Spirit.  As in Acts 2 when the flames of the Spirit came like a mighty wind, not a drizzle but a storm. 

Hosea 10:12 tells us, 

Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground;  for it is time to seek the Lorduntil he comes and showers his righteousness on you.”

Okay, some mixed metaphor but truth all the same.  When we prepare the unplanted land of our praise.  When we till and prepare the soil of our hearts, then he will shower (even pour down) His righteousness on us.

Do we want revival?  Look at Matthew 13: 18-23,

 

 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means:  When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.   But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.  The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.  But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

In our acceptance of God’s word, in our thanksgiving for His gifts, in our praise of Him for His goodness, we prepare the soil.  We break up the hard ground, we remove the rocks and weeds.  We in short fulfill Hosea’s words, and in so doing we can await the tsunami of fire, the revival of the land!

Padre

 

 

Stillness in the House, Stillness of Heart

Dianne as teen

Young Dianne

My wife, Dianne was a talented musician.  She was a classical pianist, played for worship at several churches, and scored and accompanied amateur singing and dramatics groups.  During her illness she continued to practice, but as her energy levels waned, she dedicated herself to making recordings of her work so that I would not be without her “pretty noises,” as I called them once she was gone.

The recordings are precious to me, but as of yet, I have not begun to play them.  But I shall.  For now there is stillness in my house.

Having come from a religious tradition of A Capella music, it took me some time to truly come to appreciate the praise that musicians can shower on the Lord.  Dianne taught me that making harmony in one’s heart is just as much harmony with the glorifying of God as it is with that of other worshipers.

Music is indeed an aspect of our human experience.  It can move us, lift us, humble us, and encourage us.  There is a theological concept called numinous, “having a strong religious or spiritual quality; indicating or suggesting the presence of a divinity.”    I have felt this presence of God on several occasions in my life.  The earliest memory was a vespers service at a Benedictine house when I was a teenager.  The Spirit of God sent shivers through my body, and the devotions of the monks were life changing for me.  Later, I had a similar experience during a particularly powerful acapella worship in Tennessee.  Most recently, not long before Dianne’s passing, I again felt it during a Pentecostal service of praise and worship.  Dianne used to sit quietly during such periods of worship, not singing, but mediating upon the Spirit’s washing over her, and through the congregation.   Her praise (despite being a musician) was at those times was meditative, and personal between her and God.

I have come to truly value the act of praise, and I hope that my heart’s reaching out to God is more complete than just what I can offer with my voice.  But I can also, as Dianne taught me through her example, just “be still in the Lord.”

Padre

 

Praise to the Three in One

Trinity

 

Hallelujah, to the Three in One,

hallelujah –

 

Blessed be the Alpha, in whom at the beginning all was made

Blessed to the Emmanuel who came to walk with us

Blessed be to the Omega in whom it was finished on the cross

Blessed be the Comforter who with us stayed

 

Hallelujah, to the Three in One,

hallelujah –

 

Praise to the Father – On His throne

Praise to the Spirit who guides us amidst life’s strife

Praise to the Son who for us did atone

Praise to the Three in One that gives us life

 

Hallelujah, to the Three in One,

hallelujah –

 

Trinity a word in the Bible not to be found

But single terms of reality are not the test

But God’s three part nature in that book does abound

And at Jordan River all were manifest

 

Hallelujah, to the Three in One,

hallelujah –

 

Praise to the Father – On His throne

Praise to the Spirit who guides us amidst life’s strife

Praise to the Son who for us did atone

Praise to the Three in One that gives us life

 

Padre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mistake

Anton, the maitre d’ was a stickler for decorum. So it should have been of no surprise that he had a fit when Simone came across as rude to the Taylors, regular Friday night customers.

It wasn’t that she had been blatant in her disapproval of the couple’s public embrace.  Her mistake was more of the “clearing of her throat to get their attention” kind.

Nevertheless, the damage had been done. It looked like she would be back to night shift at McDonald’s come Monday.

Padre


Secret Keepers Weekly Writing Challenge

(5) Words: | KIND | RUDE | FIT | EMBRACE | MISTAKE |

 

 

 

 

Advent: The Coming . . .

Advent is “the coming of a notable person or thing.” It is the expectation of something spectacular, and spectacularly the world is transformed. Lights, lights, and more lights mark the expectation. Quiet suburban streets are transfigured into something resembling a Tokyo business district, a world of incandescent glory.

But what is the great expectation for? Is Black Friday a term packed with more meaning than first meets the eye? Is it a season bereft of any spirit other than hype?

Yet, in our churches, the very place where the true “Light of the World” is proclaimed, a ring of four simple candles, one lit anew each week marks the coming of “a notable person,” one whose arrival was first marked by a single star.

Padre


 

Inspired by Weekly Prompts: Advent

Visage

images (2)

Visage

I stare at an image greater –

Than Homer’s “Rosy Fingered Dawn.”

A vast illumination –

The very face of God.

 

Was this the self-same scene –

That met the eyes of Saul,

On the fateful journey  –

On the road to becoming Paul?

 

Glorious shining visage –

A light beyond compare;

What should fill me with trepidation,

Instead removes my every care.

 

So, I’ll stare at the image greater –

Than Homer’s “Rosy Fingered Dawn.”

And hold in my heart forever  –

The very face of God.

 

Padre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Taylor (Tailor)

97191022-999f-467c-aaac-5c0d7b208826_570.Jpeg

Artwork: Ludwig Johann Passini

This is an adaptation of a poem I wrote some years ago to honour a really inspirational man I had known as a teenager.  Brother Dominic was a truly humble man with a heart for God.  In this rendering of the poem, I have used the name Mattheus rather than the original Dominic, as I have recently used that name Dominic in a short fiction piece.  This is not to diminish the debt I owe to the example of Dominic in my own spiritual development.

Dom Mattheus is his name,

T’is twenty years since first he came,

To live his life by the Rule,

A threaded needle as his tool.

 

Repairing habits, sewing seams,

With lines as strait as any machine,

Each stitch an act of divine devotion,

By a humble man who sought no promotion.

 

To pray and stitch, was his daily task,

The chance to serve was all he asked,

Small tasks unnoticed, seen by few,

But by Him above, it is He who knew.

Padre