Hello Church family!
Engaging in helpful practices and spiritual disciplines can deepen our connection to God. Our sermon theme this week is When Doing Changes Thinking from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Chapter 4, verses 1-9. Here Paul shares certain practices (or disciplines) that can help transform our thinking, especially during periods of worry. This week’s message, “” was uploaded to Facebook and our Grace Communion Melbourne and Grace Communion Orlando’s websites
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Your pastor & brother,
Grace Communion Melbourne
Grace Communion Orlando
Apostle Paul shares certain practices (or disciplines) that can help transform our thinking, especially during periods of worry.
Posted by Grace Communion Melbourne on Saturday, October 10, 2020
When Doing Changes Thinking
Phil 4:4-9 by Pastor Steve Schantz
Welcome to worship with us this second weekend of October! Have you heard that smiling more makes you feel happier? I’ve heard it before… But how many of us intentionally try to practice the habit of smiling more? If you’re like me, sometime the follow-through trips me up. I mean I’ve really tried! In fact my wife actually reminds me once in awhile with a ‘lift your eyebrows’… because when I do my face will follow suit!
I recently saw a Ted Talk video about the value of smiling that was fascinating! Did you know that we are born smiling?
Using 3D ultrasound technology, we can now see that developing babies appear to smile, even in the womb. When they’re born, babies continue to smile—initially, mostly in their sleep. Even blind babies smile to the sound of the human voice. Smiling is one of the most basic, biologically uniform expressions of all humans.
Being around children—who smile frequently—makes us smile. This is especially true if they are your grandchildren in a pumpkin patch!
A recent study at Uppsala University in Sweden found that it’s very difficult to frown when looking at someone who smiles. British researchers found that one smile can generate the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate. (What happens if you smile while you are eating chocolate? J)
But get this…That same study found that smiling is as stimulating as receiving up to $20,000 in cash.
With smiling being this valuable, you’d think we would naturally do it more often. By not having a thought-out plan or practice to smile more, I forget. By not having a discipline or practice, we lose sight of how we want to think and feel. So what does this have to do with our text today in Philippians? For one thing, smiling is a sign of someone rejoicing. It’s a sign of joy—a joy that comes from the God who enables us to smile. And the book of Philippians is known by many as the happiest book of the Bible. As we dig for the pearls of insight in chapter 4, the clam-tight corners of our mouth might be set free to contagiously infect others. By God’s grace this letter still has the power to teach us how to smile…Our scripture focus today comes from the 4th chapter of Philippians, verses 4-9. Paul opens the chapter addressing a couple of women in the church at Philippi who had worked together to promote the good news, but then they had a falling out. Paul uses the rest of the letter to help us understand the connection between how we behave, and how we think or feel. He concludes by reminding us to rejoice. “Joy” and “rejoice” are recorded 16 times throughout this upbeat letter. What can we notice about the passage?
Phil 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
We notice that Paul encourages us to rejoice—always… or “at all times.” He doesn’t qualify it by saying we should only rejoice in the good times or when things are going our way, but he says…always. This doesn’t mean that we won’t experience suffering, grief, or loss, or that when we are suffering, we have to put on a “happy face.” What Paul is honing in on is an attitude of joy that isn’t tied to our external circumstances—where we are or what we are doing, but rather who we are united to Christ—who we are in him. Paul isn’t rambling along with philosophical musings here. He has done it and it works! You’d think that a letter expressing so much joy would be written by someone sunning himself on the deck of a Mediterranean luxury liner…but nothing was further from Paul’s circumstance. Earlier in his ministry, Paul was arrested in Philippi, beaten with rods, and then thrown into prison with his feet in stocks. When midnight came, the battered evangelist had every tormented prisoner within earshot listening as he prayed and sang praises to God. (Acts 16:22ff). That joy set in motion an earthquake that set him free and resulted in the conversion of the jailor. As he writes this letter he is under house arrest in Rome, constantly chained to a Roman guard Acts 28:16, yet nothing could bind the joy Christ had given him for the church at Philippi.
So Paul has walked the walk, he has lived what he is teaching. In his letter to the Corinthian church Paul refers to himself and his situation as “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10 ESV). Huh?? Is Paul suffering from a split personality disorder? How is this possible? No- Paul hasn’t lost it. In fact he is really on to something here… He has actually gained it and made sense of it as he encourages us to follow through and think it through now in Phil 4:5
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand. (Philippians 4:5 ESV)
The idea of “gentleness” can also be translated “reasonableness,” and the concept means living as a Christian within the larger community, not isolating oneself or being difficult to get along with, but living our lives “in a manner worthy of Christ” (Phil. 1:27). The next short sentence, “The Lord is at hand,” captures the idea that God, through the Holy Spirit in us, is as near as our next breath. Paul continues in verses 6-7:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV)
These verses deal with our real doubts and worries and turn us toward our true strength and help. Paul prescribes the antidote of prayer and thanksgiving. These practices move our thinking from dwelling on problems toward the peace of God. When we make our requests known to God and trust him, we can rejoice. He guards our hearts and minds with that trust. (It is very hard to be anxious while offering prayers of thanks!) It is here that Paul presents the grand finale of this new direction in thinking which accompanies this kind of prayer and praise:
Finally, brothers, 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. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9 ESV)
Paul offers practical ideas for breaking the grip of fear in our lives. In addition to prayer and thanksgiving, he suggests that we replace worried thoughts with what we know is true, excellent, beautiful, and positive in our lives. It may help to think of the source of what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise? This is who Jesus is! He is filled with joy… “For the joy that was set before Him he endured the cross”
There is a Nativity painting on display at the National Gallery in London from the late 1400’s. The artist is Piero della Franacesca, and he was somewhat the action figure of painters in his day. He poses all the main characters of his Nativity carefully on the canvas.
Some of the colors have faded or suffered from cleaning over the past 550 years, but you can see the Christ child lying in the foreground on the trail of Mary’s deep blue cloak, and she is looking down at him with hands clasped in prayer… On the left, five angels are singing praises to God, two of them strumming lutes, and wise men are off to the right behind Mary, lips pursed and eyes closed, one pointing to heaven. Joseph is nonchalantly seated on a saddle, and he is kind of staring across the picture toward some point on the horizon, looking neither at Mary nor the Christ child, because it was important to convey on canvas that this was a miraculous birth: That Joseph had nothing to do with this child’s conception…and in fact he and Mary had not yet ‘honeymooned’. And there are also two animals in the painting… A large Ox right in the middle behind Mary, peering down solemnly at the child, and then dead center in the painting, behind all the other actors is this Donkey, only his head showing. And with his nose pointed straight up in the air, with mouth wide open and teeth showing, he is letting out a bray for all the world to hear! He’s the one character who’s Gonna “Go Tell it on the Mountain!” The Art scholars agree that this donkey really gets it! Joy is an emotion to be expressed not an equation to be analyzed! Christmas is something to bray about! This donkey carried Mary heavy with child to the manger, and now he is celebrating that birth! I realize that Christmas is still a couple months off, but the joy of our Lord being present to us as Emmanuel is an all season all year reality! (Back to live video)
Heb.12:2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Set our sights on him…Keep our mind on him. By doing these disciplines of prayer, thanksgiving, changing thoughts to rest on Jesus, we can feel and know his peace more fully.
Where do you live mentally? Where do your thoughts travel when there’s a free moment? Do they pack up and head for the past?…sloshing through the mistakes of yesterday? Or, for the joy set before you, are you buying tickets on a flight into the future?
Doing something doesn’t mean we lack faith. We are physical beings, and we need practical strategies to break the hold of negative thinking. In these verses God gives us examples of helpful disciplines so that we can be released from fear, focus on Jesus, and live lives of rejoicing and peace. Smile – You are known and loved by Jesus!
Closing Prayer – Gracious God, by your Spirit draw us to you yourself and the very joy that surrounds your throne. A joy expressed by the never ending voices of angels, and the prayers of your children rising up like incense. Guide us into consistent and constant prayer and thanksgiving. Lift our fears and doubts and help us replace them with your joy and peace. In Jesus name – AMEN