Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; Philippians 2:1-4,12-18

Scripture for this Sunday is Philippians 2:1-4, 12-18

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV and ESV

This coming Sunday, March 6, 2016, Pastor Asher and the congregation of Kingswood United Methodist Church will joyfully welcome Ms. Wendy Shipman, who will be sharing her musical talents during the worship service.

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Have you ever wondered what would happen if God answered all of your prayers from the last 12 months the way that you wanted them answered? What would change in THE world? What would change in YOUR world?

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“… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phillippians 2: 12b-13 NRSV).

Because we live in the fallen world, we are predisposed to live as if God is not an active presence in our day-to-day lives. This in turn makes it much easier to succumb to temptations and sin.

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We are in the season of Lent, and Lent is about tough questions of faith. Lent is about figuring out what we need to do individually and as a community, so that our love for God grows, so that we better recognize God’s presence around us and we become better disciples and followers of Jesus.

All of humanity (which includes every one of us) occupies a special place in God’s heart and within God’s creation. We are created in the image of God, every person has the ability to understand abstract concepts, exercise freedom of will, has the ability and capacity to love, to exercise mercy and justice and to seek a relationship with our Creator. Every human being also possesses an immortal soul that temporarily connects our mortal bodies with our immortal God as we travel on the road of life towards perfection.

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The Good News is that God understands us and God made a choice to sacrifice God-self in the person of Jesus who was crucified and resurrected. In that selfless act all of God’s creation, including humankind, was redeemed. When we make a choice to accept God’s gift of redemption, the Holy Spirit begins a life-long process of molding and shaping us into a new creation (Ephesians 4:17-32).

“… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phillippians 2: 12b-13 NRSV).

For the longest time, the phrase from today’s reading was a “stumbling block” for me. I struggled with it because it says that each of us has “our own” salvation and that we have to “work it out.” Isn’t salvation by faith alone? What is Paul talking about here?

I finally understood these two verses when I connected them with two verses from the Old Testament.

The first verse is, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). The second verse is “… the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

When we talk of “the fear” as in “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” we tend to think of fear in the sense that “I am quaking in my boots.” I think that in that context, what was translated as “fear” should have been translated as “conscious realization of the presence of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

When we hear that the joy of the Lord is our strength, I think that it implies two things. First, when we are consciously aware that God is by our side all the time, there is comfort and joy in that realization. Second, when God takes joy in who and what we are.

Now let’s look at today’s reading through the lens of these two verses. “… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2: 12b-13 NRSV)

My paraphrase: “Work out your own salvation knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Lord is by your side whether you are aware of it or not. For it is God who is at work in you, taking great joy through enabling you both (1) to will and (2) to work for his good pleasure.”

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That is important because all of us are unique. We have different interests, likes and dislikes. When we talk about working out our own salvation, we talk about how we respond to God’s presence in our lives. Do we respond because we feel guilty or inadequate or scared of what eternity might look like? Or do we respond because God’s presence challenges us to be the best that we can be?

In both cases our response may be the same but our motivation is different. When we respond out of guilt or fear, it feels like a chore, an inconvenience, or an imposition. When we respond because we want to be the best that God created us to be, it feels altogether different. There is a joy in us and among us. And that joy translates into strength, into the ability to renew, to regenerate and to set and accomplish new goals.

I started today’s message by asking whether you have ever wondered what would happen if God answered all of your prayers from the last 12 months the way that you wanted them answered? Would God’s response change THE world around you or would it change things in YOUR world only?

{Celebrating the Sacrament of the Holy Communion}

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