Notes of Meeting Sunday 12th September 2021

Lee Street Church

Notes of Meeting – 12th September 2021

 

Worship led by Ken Cowell

 

Zephaniah 3.171 The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.       

Psalm 33 1-3: 1 Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. 2 Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. 3 Sing to him a new song; play skilfully, and shout for joy.                                                                                           

The verses in Psalm 33 show us one way to worship, sing joyfully and shout joyfully.  How do we know God likes singing?  We could say it’s because he commands us to do it when we worship him.  But another reason is that he sings himself, as is seen in Zephaniah 3.17 which says he sings with joy over his children.  When our children were babies I used to sing over them.  I just sang a simple sentence “Andy Cowell is a lovely little boy, Yes he is a lovely little boy”. I got a smile.  Should it not also give us joy when we know that God delights to sing over us?  To help us sing to God we are grateful for the worship team, as no doubt the psalmist was for the instruments of his day.   One reason for singing to God is the joy we experience through it. Also the shouting for joy reveals the enthusiasm with which we worship.  In other words giving worship our best effort and not with a lukewarm attitude.  It says worship is “fitting for the upright”.  Worship to God is what we were made for but it was lost through mankind’s fall in sin.  That has been recovered now by being saved as we worship as God’s children.  Let’s worship then, not only with singing and shouting from our lips but also with worship from our hearts for that is where true worship comes from. 

 

SONG 1003    Sing to the Lord with all of your heart                                                                                               SONG  496       Shout for joy and sing

 

Psalm 33 4-6: 4  For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. 5 The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love. 6 By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.

Why do we worship God?  He is worthy to be praised because of his character. In these two verses we have revealed that God is right, true, faithful, righteous, just and has unfailing love.  We also see his almighty power in creation making all simply by his word.  He is to be worshipped as our creator.  Two songs bring these two characteristics together.

 

SONG 26        Ascribe greatness to our God the Rock                                                                                                        SONG 425     O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder 

 

The next song speaks of God’s unfailing love which is the source of our salvation.  It brings home to us the sacrifice that God’s love provided for us in giving His Son to die for our sin.

 

SONG 780      How deep the Father’s love for us

 

Breaking of Bread                                                                                                                                                             1 John 4.9-10: 9 This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

God showed his love to us not by shouting from heaven but by sending His Son to live among us.   God also sacrificed His Son to the death on the cross for our sin.  He did this not because we loved him, or merited his love, but because of his unconditional love for us.  It was through the sacrifice of the life of Jesus on the cross that we can have eternal life.  We must never forget that his death on our behalf was the main reason for his coming to earth.  That is why Jesus instituted this feast so we could never forget but always remember the Father’s love for us and Jesus’ death for us on the cross which brought us our wonderful salvation.

 

 

Robin Thomson’s Message

 

Philippians 4.10-20               

 

Have you had any good news recently? Do share it if you have…

 

I was trying to think of any - good weather this last week… - good exam results for many teenagers…

 

You may have other good news to share, but otherwise it’s all very discouraging

- worrying predictions about climate change

- the tragedy of Afghanistan

- on-going worries about Covid

- people losing their jobs or very uncertain

- no real plan for sorting out social care

 

We wonder

- what keeps us going in the face of all this?

- does God really care about our daily life?

 

This chapter of Philippians is very relevant to these questions.

Paul wrote this letter to thank the church in Philippi for sending him a gift. He began the letter by praying for them, then he shared his situation and some of his very personal feelings. He was in prison, in Rome, perhaps on death row – certainly facing that possibility very acutely.

How did he react to that?

At the beginning of chapter 4 he urged his readers to rejoice – all the time (v4). Then he made a remarkable promise of peace (v 7, 9)

 

Now, finally, he turns to thank them for their gift, through Epaphroditus (v 18). This is his thank you letter. But it’s remarkable because he is not just thanking them
he is exploring two vital qualities

Contentment

Concern

(there is a third C which we will include later).

 

And through Paul’s words we may find answers to our questions

- what keeps us going?

- does God really care?

 

These two qualities are mixed together in the passage. Paul begins with the Philippians’ concern for him (v 10). He graciously acknowledges their gift and their concern. Perhaps he is a little uncomfortable to talk about money or his personal needs, because he quickly moves to talk about contentment. He makes an amazing statement (v 11)

“… in whatever situation I am in, I am content” – whatever the circumstances.

 

Contentment is the single most absent quality in our lives today – as individuals, as a society. We could easily look back over the last 18 months as the time of discontent

- Covid uncertainty and hardships

- lockdown, job losses, sickness, death

Add to that

- divisions in our society (race, gender, age…)

-conflict and violence increasing

- climate uncertainty

And more

 

We could consider we have genuine reasons for discontent and distress. But in fact the whole structure of our society makes us discontented. Our economy is based on consumer spending, consumer confidence. We need to keep on spending more, keep on wanting more. Advertising is all about that.

 

Of course it’s all relative. I have a 21” TV, but I would love to have a 48” screen… My teenagers need new trainers: they must be the right designer label (and cost a fortune).

 

Paul shows a different attitude. Note: this is not asceticism (v 12). Paul would have flown business class if it was offered – but equally Ryanair. Or he would have walked or gone in a leaky boat. 2 Cor 12 tells us the amazing hardships he had endured. But he was not against development, or change, or economic growth.

 

It was something much deeper.

The word Paul uses for ‘content’ (v 11) is literally ‘self-sufficient’ (autarkes). It was an ideal quality of the Stoics, one of the major religious philosophies of the time. For them the secret of contentment was to eliminate desire. It was somewhat similar to Buddhist belief – if you got rid of desire, attachment, maybe all emotion, then you would be content.

 

Paul uses the word here, but he fills it with a very different meaning: He is not self- sufficient, his sufficiency comes from something – or someONE – else:

V 13 ‘I can do all things through him who strengthens me’ (literally ‘in him who strengthens me’). If we are in Christ, he gives us the power to face any situation. In fact his power is most clearly seen in our weakness. Paul knew that: in 2 Cor 12.9, when he was in an extreme situation, God said to him ‘My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness.’

 

Now we come to the heart of contentment. It is an attitude of ‘submitting to and delighting in God's wise and fatherly disposition in any condition.'

John McArthur (commentary on Philippians, page 296) says:

'contentment comes only from being rightly related to God and trusting in his sovereign, loving, purposeful providence... But we seek it where it can never be found -' …money, possessions, power, prestige, relationships, jobs or freedom from difficulties.'

 

Am I contented with what God has given me in my life? My family? work? possessions? opportunities? This is not asceticism, but gladly accepting from his hand, with thanks.

 

Often it’s not about money or possessions. We may be facing difficult relationships; health problems, for ourselves or our families. As we get older we can’t do the things that we used to. We have not travelled much in the last 18 months. As things open up we may realise that actually we are not going to go again to that place, or meet those people again – ever…

 

I preached from this passage 4 ½ years ago, in January 2017. It was just before my wife, Shoko’s condition with Alzheimer's deteriorated quite sharply. I was finding it very difficult. And I realised I was not contented.

I wrote later about this in my book:

“I was troubled by Shoko’s condition, angry, impatient, upset. I was not angry with her. I was angry about her condition and her illness. But it affected all my attitudes… I needed to pray ‘Lord, change me’…”

 

What do we do when we face these frustrations? How do we accept them? It’s not by my strength or mental resolve. It’s not an act of will.

 

It’s his strength:  v 13: ‘…through him who strengthens me.’

 

So it is ‘Contentment in Christ’ – there is our third ‘C’, perhaps the most important.

 

Now Paul comes back to the other word

Concern for others

 

He has already thanked the Philippians for their concern for him (v 10); now he shows his concern for them – there is a delicate interplay between these two concerns.

He thanks them genuinely (v 14): ‘you helped me in my time of trouble’. He was in prison, perhaps short of money – we know he was facing life and death.

(v15-16) ‘you helped me in the past’

(v18) ‘I have received full payment’ and more. It’s a word from accounting; ‘here is my receipt’’

 

But what Paul is really pleased about is the attitude they have shown (v17). He wants to increase their credit (again an accounting word) – because what you have done, he says, is pleasing to God as well. It’s like a sacrifice: fragrant, acceptable, pleasing (all words from the OT sacrifices – the burnt offering: symbol of dedication; and the peace offering: symbol of thanksgiving).

 

It’s not about the money. It’s about your love, your relationship, with me and with God. It’s you and me and God together, bound together in a relationship of love.

 

It’s not about ME. So much around us is all about ME – iPad, iPhone, iPod: all deliberately named. I am in control. It’s all to serve me.

 

So many of the self-help techniques today are about ME / MY feelings / MY power to control. For example, mindfulness or cognitive behavioural therapy (though they have their value). They say that I am in control. Recently even gratitude is considered to be good because it brings benefit to me (improved kidney function, so they say…)

 

It’s not wrong to think about yourself. We should love ourselves: ‘love your neighbour as yourself’.

But we can love ourselves because we have been loved. We have a Father who loves and provides.

 

That is how Paul can make a great promise from his own experience

(v19) ‘My God will supply every need of yours…’

(v19) ‘My God’ ; (v20) ‘Our God and Father’. Because we are all together, it’s all about relationship.

And because he provides for us, we can gladly share with others. Generosity is part of his nature, and so it should be of ours.

I have been very slow to learn this. I lived for many years in India, in a country with poverty all around. Sometimes you are afraid to be generous.

 

But God provides, says Paul. NB it is according to his riches. If Bill Gates gives me $1000, that would be ‘out of’ his wealth. I would receive it gladly but I would know that he could give far more. If it was according to his wealth it would be $100,000 or $1 million.

 

That doesn’t mean that we should expect God to give us millions. I think ‘according to’ here means that there is always enough. He will never run out. Jesus said (Mt 6.32) ‘Your heavenly Father knows your needs’.

I love these words. Whatever our need – financial / emotional / social / spiritual – he knows and he has enough to meet that need.

 

We come back to our original questions

- what keeps us going?

- does God really care about our needs?

 

In this passage we have seen that everything comes from him, our loving, generous Father, who knows our needs and gives us what is best for us (though we don’t always see it).

 

We remember our three words

Contentment

Concern for others

With Christ in us

 

Whatever our situation, it is the one that he wants for us, that is the best for us. We can truly be contented, with Christ in us giving us strength.

And we can show concern for others, as children of our loving heavenly Father.

 

Closing Hymn 1448 - May the mind of Christ my Saviour

 

Notices

The service next week will be largely an open time of worship with the opportunity to share both favourite songs and what God has been doing in our lives.