When Paul prays for the Philippians in chapter 1, he has a bold request:
9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so 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.
In the context of the Christians at Philippi in the Roman Empire, the idea of territorial expansion seems so far-fetched. There are so very few churches! In fact, Philippi is the very first church planted on the continent of Europe at the time (see Acts 16). It’s not uncommon for observers of the culture to compare the first Century Roman context to our context today in the 21st century. We too are surrounded on all sides by cultural imposition; some parts of the world experience direct physical threat (northern Nigeria for example) Yet Paul is bold enough to pray that rather than retreating and circling the wagon, we may expand the territory of our heart with love. Love is not an emotion without boundaries, but love controlled by “knowledge” and “all discernment.” Yet Paul is totally emotionally engaged as well. He loves the Philippians and “yearn” for them with the “affections of Christ” (Philippians 1:8). For him and for us to partner in the Gospel involves total emotional engagement. This emotional commitment is bound by love filled with the ‘deep’ knowledge of God, as an intimate understanding rather than a mere academic or intellectual knowledge of a topic. To partner in the Gospel is both a left-brain and right-brain activity and this partnership should expand as we grow together in love.
In related news, this weekend we are sending some of our men to a 72-hour spiritual retreated called “The Great Banquet.” This immersive retreat draws its name from Luke 14:15-24 and is a powerful and tangible experience of the Agape (or unconditional) Love of God. Several from TCC have gone already and we are hoping and praying that God uses the banquet to draw many men to Jesus. The women’s weekend is October 11-14 and some space is still available! Another iteration of the Great Banquet for both men and women will happen in the spring of 2019. Email email@example.com for more info.
Our self-preservation instinct in the face of adversity and hurt tempts us to shrink back and retreat. In what way is the Lord asking you and me to expand the territory of the heart, to reach out to someone with love, even as the circumstances seem so adverse? In what ways should we re-engage emotionally with people? This will not come from digging deep from within, but it will come from the deep love of God in Christ that has been poured into our heart by His Spirit. And here is the good news, that we ‘gospel’ to ourselves and others every day: In Christ, we know that “we love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). May His love grow more and more in us and through us!
As we launch a new theme for the year, “Partners in the Gospel,” one character particularly comes to mind that illustrates the idea of partnership: the jailor at Philippi (Acts 16). His life was radically transformed from foe to friend through divine intervention. This came to him by way of a big earthquake and the sudden realization of his own lostness: “what must I do to be saved?” he cries out in anguish. To this Paul responds: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.”
Acts 16 tells us the authorities had beaten Paul and Silas to a pulp on false charges. But the transforming power of Christ in the jailor’s life caused him to host his prisoners and take care of them, as he “rejoiced” in his salvation, “he washed their wounds.” This example is a textbook definition of partnership in the Gospel. We are being transformed by our belief in Jesus and those who were enemies become friends, even to a place of washing their wounds. Christ’s own sacrificial love has transformed us.
How do you define a good partnership with someone? Too often we reduce our relationships to mere transactional moments (texts, emails, perhaps a phone call). God calls us to true partnership in the Gospel. There was a mind-shift in the jailor’s behavior. Where are you in this journey from transactional to relational partnerships? Who is it that you should reach out in a genuine, self-sacrificial way? Remember that the quality of your relationships is based on how God draws us into a deeper partnership with Him. Acts 16 tells us of another person at Philippi, Lydia, a woman of great means, whom “the Lord had “opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). This week, allow the Lord to draw you closer to Him, into this everlasting partnership in Christ, His good work from beginning to end: “he who began a good work in you will bring to completion at the Day of Jesus Christ.”
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you …, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace…”
Life and ministry has cycles of work and rest, of busy and slightly-less-busy. As we come out of the summer season of ministry rest we look toward the Fall, a season filled with new activities, school, and resumed weekly ministries. In our experience, if we are not mindful we can easily enter the Fall already tired, and find ourselves stressed and overwhelmed by the time Christmas rolls along. We don’t want that. We want to be a healthy church where people worship weekly, serve out of love and not guilt, and maintain sufficient margins of rest in their lives. But we know this is easier said than done. We find ourselves easily pulled in a hundred different directions. We want to grow in our faith and rest in God’s love, but sometimes we do serve simply because there is a need and we seem to be the only ones able to step forward. Sometimes we can’t make it to church on Sunday and end up feeling guilty instead of taking a Sabbath rest on the Lord’s Day. As we look forward to the next year of ministry, we want to be aware of these tendencies in the culture of our community, and take active steps to mitigate them, allowing the Spirit to work in our hearts, through the nitty-gritty of our weekly schedule.
For this new year at TCC, we want to grow together in community. As Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians, we are “partners in the Gospel.” What does it actually mean to be partners in the Gospel? It means we share in the joys of ministry, we share in the celebration, the mourning, the praise and thanksgiving, the labor of love, and partake in feasting, resting, and fellowship together. What does Gospel partnership look like for you? Maybe you have shared in celebrating a prayer answered. Maybe you have seen a visible sign of God’s goodness to you, a friend, or family member. Celebrate it! Let us know in the comments how you have seen God’s grace and goodness. We want to celebrate with you.
In his book, Evangelism, Mack Stiles (pastor of Urbil International Baptist Church in northern Iraq) makes a great case how we need to become a culture of evangelism as a church. At critical points in his little book (available upon request; a great book for lifegroups this fall!), he appeals to the message of Philippians. What Stiles is advocating is not yet another church program, but a culture shift in our hearts toward what the Gospel means in our own lives, the lives of our children and how we want to share that passion with others. What we need is a total mind shift – a radical re-orientation. Deep down, whether we are new to Christianity or not, all of us need the Gospel every day of our lives: the message that God through Jesus forgives our sins (our brokenness, rebellions, shortcomings). By sharing in the grace and forgiveness freely offered to us, together we become partners in the Gospel. The secret to this reality of authentic community and unity of purpose is about a mind shift. A shift from ourselves and our own self-centeredness to the mind of Christ, who “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7). However, lest we think it’s about a passive life devoid of creative energy, Paul urges to take a comprehensive approach to this mindshift: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). Welcome to this journey toward one mind, one love, and one Christ. As we do so, we also share in this promise, “that he began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).
Beginning in October, on the first Sunday of each month we will worship together the same location, with adults and K-5 children and students beginning in the service as we have during the summer and splitting off into age-specific ministries at the greeting. Extending this practice into the school year reaches even more families who are away during the summer and is a visible reminder that we are one church, while retaining our wonderful age-specific ministry times. “First Sundays Together” will be times of celebration and unification as we highlight the children’s theme for the coming month as well as a special feature for not just families but the whole church that is relatable to people of all ages. We hope that these Sundays strengthen our identity as a church family and help us get to know one another and celebrate the amazing things God is doing in our lives.
Children’s Theme: Initiative – Seeing what needs to be done and doing it
Feature: Commission Children, Student, and Adult LIFE Group leaders
Children’s Theme: Contentment – Deciding to be okay with what you have
Feature: Operation Christmas Child Ministry
Children’s Theme: Community – Working together to do more than you can do alone
Feature: Children’s Bible Presentation
Children’s Theme: Compassion – Caring enough to do something about someone else’s need
Feature: Lessons and Carols
And to further unite and align us as a church, our 6th-12th grade students will be studying the book of Philippians this fall!
This is less of a ministry/program and more of a commitment to fostering relationships with people outside of our age group. We want to encourage new LIFE groups to form that span a variety of generations. We want to see parents serving alongside children. We want to empower older parents to connect with younger parents and share from their experience. We believe that strengthening relationships across generations will strengthen our church and our witness to the outside community.
Our 11am hour is a ripe opportunity for discipleship and teaching, and we are excited to offer classes and learning opportunities at that time for adults. We know that many at TCC want to go deeper into the Bible, even in addition to our Women’s and Men’s weekly Bible Studies, and want to learn how to read it for themselves. This Fall we’re offering a 4-week course on how to study the Bible, taught by Gordon-Conwell student and YWAM Alumn Jeridan Dyck, plus many other opportunities for growth.
Sept 30 – Welcome Brunch (12 pm)
October 14, 21, 28, November 4 – “How to Study the Bible” with Jeridan Dyck
October 28, November 4 – Membership Classes
November 18 – Missions Seminar with visiting Missionary Kevin Rideout
With a church of our size, the needs of day-to-day ministry can often overwhelm our volunteers. There are many jobs to be done, and many needs to be filled. In addition, we want to be a church that extends beyond our walls and serve our community. To do so most effectively, we want to streamline our service projects, partnering with two high-impact ministries to bless our community and contribute to the life of the church. We are concluding our partnership with Open Table in Maynard. Though this is an excellent ministry and we hope to see it flourish and thrive in the years to come, we want to devote more of our energy to two Christian ministries in Framingham, namely, Pearl Street Café and The Bridge House. Learn more about our local outreach at tccwayland.org/serve. We hope that everyone can join together in these great ministries to our community.
All of this needs to be built upon a foundation of prayer. Please join us in praying for the next ministry year, that Christ would be proclaimed as we strive side by side to advance the Gospel in Wayland and Metro West. Prayer is what unites us so that we can be of one mind as we work together.
Finally, we remind ourselves of the message of the Gospel which is not what we can do for God, but for what he has done for us in Christ. We become partakers of grace not because we earn any status or favor with God, but because he has partaken grace with us first.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)
May the Grace of Jesus be with your spirit,
Tom, Kyle, Debbie, Gail, Cheryl and Adam
Your TCC Ministry Staff
For the Israelite community in exile in Babylon (Psalm 137), their anguish and longing for home is reflected by a state intense grief: they wept by the rivers of Babylon. When taunted by their captors and oppressors: “sing for us!” All they could do is hang up their instruments (the lyre in this case) in despair: “How can we sing the Lord’s Song in a foreign land?” they asked.
Antonin Dvorak, a Czech, felt the same way when he lived in Manhattan (I can think of Bostonians who would feel the same way, having to cheer for the Mets, or worse yet). Even though he had been given a prestigious position in the National Conservatory with a ‘comfortable’ stipend, he longed for the hills of his native Bohemia. Yet in his deep longing, he picked up the lyre and compose the much beloved “New World Symphony.” Scholars have longed noted in the symphony echoes of another song of longing for home, now from the antebellum South: “Sweet low, sweet chariots, coming for to carry me home.” Yet another song, made famous in the 70’s by the band Boney M, “By the Rivers of Babylon” equally captures the anguish and the longing to head home from our own Babylons today.
This longing from home also includes the longing for justice. How long O Lord before the injustices of this world and the disregard for God’s Law are dealt with? The psalmist appeals to fairness: What our enemies have done us, let it happen to them! (Psalm 137: 8-9). At first glance this sounds like unbridled revenge (in a sort of Bruce Willis or Rambo way). However, the lex talionis ( the “eye for an eye” idea) is the principle of measured sentencing that is limited by the offense committed. This way, one cannot be punished beyond what the offense actually is. You and I can think of countless instances in world history where humans dispense justice in unfair ways: either the offense is punished with a sentence that is far greater than the actual offense (Jean Valjean in Les Misérables) or the offense goes unaddressed (perpetrators of unspeakable crimes who go on to live their lives without facing justice). The Psalmist longs for the day when justice will be done. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!
In Jesus and the Gospel, there is always a moment when we say, “But now.” In the case of this longing for home and for justice, it comes in Hebrews 12:22-24 and answers the longing of those who think it impossible to sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land: NOW, you have already come to Mount Zion. You have come to the Heavenly Jerusalem, the church of the first-born, and by faith in Jesus you are inscribed in heaven (registered as in a census). Not only that, but we have come to Jesus Himself, the one who died for our sins and guilt (for we all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory). But, by placing our trust in Jesus, we are now facing the Judge who has declared us righteous and not guilty before Him. This sentencing is not that we get off easy, far from it. The lex talionis is fulfilled in Christ who took on the punishment of the sins of the world upon Himself on a Roman Cross. The penalty was paid alright, but by Another who out of love took our place in the sentencing and the carrying out of the verdict. God’s justice has been served through God the Son who willingly took upon Himself the judgement of the guilty. This is the profound truth of the Gospel (the “Deep Magic” of Narnia) that you and I, in our frailty (both spiritual and intellectual) can only grasp by faith in Him.
So what kind of song do these folks who are registered H (Heaven, not political parties R, I, or D) sing? Revelation 15:2-4, the book of worship par excellence, tells us: We, the people of Zion, sing the Song of Moses (Exodus 15) and the Song of the Lamb. A song of deliverance from physical and spiritual bondage!
“Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed”
In the end, we long for the heavenly city even as we are oppressed, afflicted and taunted by the earthly city Babylon. But unlike the exiles in Psalm 137, we have already come back to Zion, we belong to heaven (duly registered as citizens of Heaven) even as we continue to suffer in Babylon. This is why we don’t hang up our lyres (or Fender/Gibson, violin, harp, etc.) but we sing the songs of Zion with full force. The requirement of justice has been met by the Mercy of God toward all those who put their faith in Jesus. For it is in Jesus alone what we are able to stand God’s justice. As James says, “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:13).
When you are bogged down by your own failures, the taunting voice of accusation, doubt, shame and guilt. When you despair over long-term illness, unfair treatment at work or at home, plaguing addictions, heavy debts, you name it. Maybe you have been struggling with all the injustices in this world and wondering what God is doing (or not doing). What about in our society that is so far away for any notion of fearing God?
Remember that this oppression is passing. Your oppressor, “Babylon,” will meet her judgment one day. Don’t ever forget that if you have believed in Jesus and put your trust in Him, you belong to another city, the heavenly city. In this city you don’t hang up the harp but you pick it up right now and you sing the song of the Lord.
Take heart, God’s justice has already been manifested at the Cross in Jesus’ sacrifice. Put your trust in Him to confront evil in His time and in His righteous way. Mercy triumphs over judgement!
At TCC we talk a lot about ‘gospeling’ others. Maybe you know someone who really struggles right now whether God even exists, or, as someone once said, “he is busy somewhere else.” By singing the song of Zion right now, you are exalting His justice and His mercy as made known through Jesus. Our song of praise is a witness to others that indeed in Christ, justice has been fulfilled. Mercy has triumphed over judgement! We join in and invite others to this massive concert/worship service that is going on right now:
Righteous and true are your ways O Lord!
Women’s Bible Study (WBS) will be studying 1st and 2nd Corinthians this year. We’re going to see how if we don’t understand the cross and what came after it – our lives won’t reflect it. Come study with us how to live a life of love in a broken world through His truth! Thursdays 9:15-11:00 am at TCC, Wayland September 13 – April 2018. Registration and questions TCCWBS@gmail.com or TCC office 508-358-7717.Register Online Read More