The Crete Church family is going to spend the next two months digging into the book of Philippians. Thanks for joining us!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Philippians 2 discussion Guide

This is the "Bound for Joy" discussion guide for Philippians 2.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Discussion guide for Philippians 1:12-30

You can download the latest "Bound for Joy" discussion and study guide at http://www.box.net/shared/vrss0dsdxk

Friday, April 30, 2010

It's all about where you're looking...

As I continue to reflect on Philippians, I'm more and more convinced that our lives are shaped by where we focus. It's not my understanding of SUFFERING that makes the difference, as much as my understanding of GOD.

A lot of people talk about having a correct "theology of suffering". I like that thought, as long as we don't re-define it to mean, "perspective on suffering". The key word is "theology"- the study of God. If our eyes are focused on God, and we are learning to see Him more clearly through the Bible and the work of the Holy Spirit, then we can begin to see suffering differently. A right view of God (who is unspeakably, immeasurably good AND sovereign) becomes the lens through which we view suffering.

When life is hard, and we can't hardly handle the tough times, maybe we shouldn't start by trying to understand suffering- why it happens, etc. Maybe we should start by understanding our God more clearly. Jesus suffering for us on the cross- that's a good lens through which to view our own struggles...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I'm not worthy...or am I?

(I'm writing this from Fort Lone Tree, a camp outside of Capitan, New Mexico, in the high desert. I've been speaking to a Men's Retreat from Nehemiah 1-4. Friday night and Saturday morning went pretty well, but Saturday night, GOD SHOWED UP...big time. Please pray that things will finish well tomorrow morning, as we wrap it up.)

Meanwhile, back in Philippians....

If you're anywhere in your 30's or early 40's you remember this quote....you can probably name the movie: "We're not worthy". If I remember right, Wayne and Garth were talking to Alice Cooper when the famous line was born. I'm not trying to be anti-Alice Cooper, but I don't think that I would feel "unworthy" to meet him.

In Philippians 1:27, Paul says that we should conduct ourselves in a manner "worthy of the gospel". My first thought is, "nope...can't do it." Worthy of Alice Cooper, I can handle. But my conduct, even on my best days, seems to fall FAARRRR short of being "worthy of the gospel." That's the point, isn't it? None of us are worthy of Christ dying for us. Period.

But Paul tells us to do this. In the Bible. And the Bible would never command us to do something that we simply can't do...would it? That would be like my giving my 12-year-old son a basketball and saying, "Dunk it, Ben". No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't do it.

I'm not completely clear on this passage yet, but let me give you a logical progression of thought. Chew on this and let me know what you think-
1) The gospel says (among other things) that I'm a sinner...that I can't get myself together...that I desperately need a savior....that I'm UNWORTHY.
2) Therefore, conducting myself in a manner "worthy of the gospel" means I'm supposed to conduct myself worthy of the fact that I'm unworthy. Sounds like a nonsense sentence...doesn't it?
3) My conclusion: Paul is telling me to conduct myself as if I KNOW I'm not worthy, but that the God of the universe has placed his love on me anyway. A worthy life is not a perfect life- it's an imperfect life live in gratitude. It's a life that depends on a savior to forgive and rebuild me despite my fallen nature. He has declared me worthy, and He is busy making me into what He has declared me to be.

THAT is not an impossible command. It's an attitude that God is slowly imprinting on my heart. How about you?

By the way- if you read this blog, please let me know. Sometimes I wonder if blogging is like shouting off the deserted edge of the Grand Canyon- or a tree falling the forest...if nobody reads a blog, does it really exist? :-)

In His grip,


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Joy is a choice...but not necessarily "spur of the moment"

As I'm studying through the book of Philippians, it's been really useful to read in Acts 16 about how the church in Philippi got started. Pretty amazing story...you can hear me talk about that in the April 18 sermon when it's posted at (I think they're having technical problems right now, but it should be up soon).

But don't read through it too quickly...did you notice Acts 16:25? "About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them".

Midnight...in a Roman prison...after being unjustly accused, beaten, and chained. What kind of joy do you find in those circumstances? I think they make a choice at that moment, but I think that choice might be possible because of a thousand little choices they had made before- choices which prepared them for the big challenge. Great athletes, great musicians...they both perform under pressure because they've prepared "out of the heat of battle".

A few quick things we know about Paul, which might have prepared him for the dark, midnight moment:

1) He knew he was there because God brought him there (see 16:6-10). Sometimes I find myself in dark situations NOT because God brought me there, but because I'm rebellious...or sinful...or just plain stupid.

2) Prayer...and then prayer...and then some more prayer after that. Read any of Paul's letters in the Bible, and he's ALWAYS saying things like, "I've been praying for you, and here's what I've been praying". It's not the weak-kneed "I'll be praying for you" that we sometimes throw out. Prayer in the "normal" times prepares us to pray in the dark.

3) He knew his stuff. Before he met Jesus, Paul (Saul) was VERY educated in the old testament. After Christ rocked him on the road to Damascus, he still took time to study, and learn. It's hard to trust promises you don't know, from a God you haven't spent time with. When life is falling down around us, I suppose it would be helpful to know that God has promised that he will be with us...

4) They had each other. I know I talked about this in Sunday's sermon, but here it comes again...WE NEED EACH OTHER. It's not good for man to be alone. Jesus sent the disciples out two by two. We're supposed to love each other, encourage each other, rebuke each other, forgive each other, teach each other (and so on, and so on...). When you're alone in a dark prison, you call out to God, but I think it's probably a good idea to find someone to be with you in the darkness.

How about you? Are you ready for the darkness? Even if it feels a lot like prison? Do you have the tools to face it? And are you available to sit (and maybe sing...or cry...or maybe just sit) with people who are experiencing darkness?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Do I Really Care THAT Much....? (Philippians 1:12-30)

I care a lot about the gospel. I love it when people come to know Christ. I get pretty excited when it's obvious that God is working in people's lives. And it's not just because I'm a professional religious guy- pastor, missionary, etc. I really do believe that Jesus is the answer. The answer to...well, pretty much everything.

But then I read Philippians, and I wonder if I really care THAT much. Look at what he says starting in 1:12- "Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly". In other words, he's saying, "I'm glad to be in chains...in prison...because it's advancing the gospel." Not "I'm willing"... He's GLAD!! I'm not sure I care that much...

Then he says, some people "are trying to stir up trouble for me while I'm in chains". But he DOESN'T CARE, as long as Christ is preached. Honestly, I don't like when I feel that people are trying to mess with me behind my back. I'm not sure that I could say, "no problem, as long as it helps people to hear about Jesus".

I don't sound very spiritual, do I? Just being honest. How about you?

Wait...it gets even MORE crazy. In verses 20-26, he takes it even farther. My summary of this: "If I die, I'm fine with that, as long as people see Jesus in it. If I stay alive and am imprisoned, tortured, beaten...I'm fine with it, as long as people see Jesus in it."

Christian history is filled with people who were willing to die for their faith. I admire that. But I'm not sure I care that much. I wish I did. In my overseas ministry, I meet Christians who have been imprisoned, beaten, and even threatened with death. Maybe I need some of that...but I don't honestly know how I would respond...how about you?

One more verse in this passage that shakes me- look at verse 29. "It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him". Did you catch that? "Granted to you" That's a word that implies a good thing. When an organization writes a grant, they're asking for something GOOD. Criminals hope to be "granted" a pardon. Paul says we've been "granted to suffer".

In my most spiritual moments, I think I MIGHT be willing to suffer...but I'm not sure I'd ever see it as a "grant". Hmm....

How about you?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Get Ready, Get Set....GO!

I really enjoyed this morning at Crete Church! It was great to talk to so many people who are excited about the "Bound for Joy" journey. If you haven't signed up for a "Bound for Joy" group yet, email Steve Clark at Steve@chs.com. Group leaders (and members)- you can download the discussion guide for Philippians 1:1-11 at http://www.box.net/shared/7j0j3tdtc9

A couple thoughts about this first passage:
1) Paul starts his letter by calling the Christians at Philippi "saints". How would our relationships change if we saw people as being "holy and consecrated for God's purposes"?
2) Look at 1:6...We like to talk about "perseverance of the saints", but I wonder if that's the wrong way to say it. Do I persevere, or does God persevere for me? I tend to spend a lot of time trying to wriggle out of His grip, but He never lets go. I think we need a better phrase...
3) In order to be "partners in the gospel" (vs. 5), do we have to be doing something? I don't remember anyone ever saying, "John and I are forming a business partnership. Our business will be doing nothing." If gospel partnerships lead to deep connections (having people "in our hearts"), then maybe the first step is to DO SOMETHING to share the gospel...

Thanks for thinking with me.

"I have you in my heart"

Mark Morris

P.S. if you missed worship Sunday, the mp3 of the message will be posted on Monday at http://www.cretechurch.com/content.cfm?id=2036

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bound for Joy

Welcome to the "Bound for Joy" journey! We're going to be digging into the book of Philippians (one of my favorite books of the Bible) for the next couple months. Here are some ways you can be part of it:

1) Read the book! I'm suggesting that you consider reading through Philippians once/week during the series- it'll only take you 10-15 minutes each time. If you have any questions/comments, write them down and drop the note in the offering plate.
2) Check out the passage for the coming week. Read it, study it, think about... You may be surprised how reading in advance helps you really "plug in" with the sermon.
3) Come to church! The Sunday morning messages will walk us through the book. 6 of the next 9 weeks will be on Philippians (the Sundays when I'm around). Here's the schedule:
April 18 Philippians 1:1-11
May 2 Philippians 1:12-30
May 9 Philippians 2:1-30
May 23 Philippians 3:1-11
June 6 Philippians 3:12-31
June 13 Philippians 4:1-23
4) Join a group! We've got 5 groups planned, and we're hoping to start a couple more. Here's the latest schedule:
Witvoets- Sunday night after Prayer Vine
Liccars- May 2, 16, 23, June 6
Boersemas- Sunday nights (exact dates to be determined)
DeVries- Sunday nights (exact dates to be determined)
VanderLaans- Friday nights (exact dates to be determined
If you'd like to join one of these groups, or if you'd like to find another option, email Steve Clark at steve@chs.com. If you're interested in joining a group, being a host, or a discussion leader, Steve will help you out.
5) Come back to this blog. I'm hoping to blog (almost) everyday about my wrestling through Philippians. You can add your own thoughts, comments, questions...even your disagreements are welcome!
6) Invite a friend to join in- challenge your Crete Church friends to join a group! Maybe even invite a friend to church. The book of Philippians has some strong applications that will touch everyone, regardless of where they are in their spiritual journey.