Tuesday, October 01, 2013

I have the church in my MIND!

In the first chapter of the book of Philippinas we see what I like to call "Four Cheers for the Church" as we see Paul had the church in his mind, in his heart, in his prayers,and in his life.  When Paul speaks of having the church in his mind, he's speaking about his intellect.  When Paul speaks about having the church in his heart, he's speaking about intimacy.  When Paul talks about having the church in his prayers, he's speaking about intersession.  And when Paul talks about having the church in his life, he's speaking about involvement. 

I can certainly understand Paul's feelings about the church.  Like Paul, I too love the local church.  I always have.  The church I grew up in was called Goodyear Heights Community Church and it was located in my home town of Akron, Ohio.  My grandpa pastored this church and my dad, though he wasn't a pastor, was on every board and committee in this church.  When I was growing up my family's mantra was, "If the church doors were open the Distler family was there - four pews back piano side."  But my dad was also the church janitor so not only was the Distler family in church any time the doors were open, our family was also in church many times when the doors were closed.  To say that I spent more time in the church than I did in my house is not an understatement at all.

I loved being in the church.  Even as a teenager when I would come home from school I would often grab my dad's keys to the church (with his permission, of course) and I would go up to the church and I would do my homework in the church.  I'd take my trumpet with me and practice it in the church.  To this day I can close my eyes and I can take you on a tour and describe for you every nook and cranny of that church.  I can still smell that musty fellowship hall where we spent so much time.  

As a result, I grew up in love with the church.  It's my passion.  My passion in life is to see people come to faith in Jesus Christ through the local church.  So when the apostle Paul says that he has the church in his mind, in his heart, in his prayers, and in his life, I understand exactly what he's talking saying.  Paul begins by saying that he had the church in his mind and he shows four ways this was true.  

Number one, when it came to his thoughts about the church, Paul chose to thank God for the church.  When he thought about the church, he thought about it with thanksgiving.  In verse 3 of Philippians chapter 1, he says, "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you."  You need to understand, when he's writing the book of Philippians, he's actually in prison in Rome.  He's writing to a church located in the city of Philippi in the region of Macedonia.  It was a church that ten years earlier Paul had started on his second missionary journey.  

He went to the city of Philippi and his first convert was a woman by the name of Lydia who was a seller of purple cloth.  It ends up, however, that Paul and Silas (his ministry colleague) get thrown into prison due to their ministry.  Acts 16 tells us that they took Paul and Silas and they beat them with rods and then threw them in jail and put them in stocks.  When you think of stocks, don't think of the Salem Witch Trial kind of stocks that you put your head and hands through.  In Bible times, a stock was a 6 to 8-foot log where they would take one of your ankles and chain it to one end of the log.  Then they would spread your legs apart, further than they're intended to go, and they would chain your other ankle to the other end of the log.  And after being beaten with rods, Paul and Silas, in excruciating pain, are now in stocks in prison.  

The Bible says that while they are in stocks they are singing praises to God.  I guarantee you that in that position they were singing soprano, but they're singing praises to God.  About midnight, God sends an earthquake.  The earthquake is so amazing that it opens all of the jail cells.  The jailer takes his sword and he's going to kill himself because in the Roman culture if you were a guard and your prisoner escaped you would be executed.  So rather than being executed he decides to kill himself.  But before he can, Paul and Silas say, "Wait, we're all still here!"  And this jailer, who heard them praising God in the midst of their pain and who experienced the earthquake, runs in to the jail cell, falls on his knees and asks, "What must I do to be saved?"  Paul says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved."  This Philippian jailer puts his faith in Jesus, as does his family, and they all get baptized and this church is born in the city of Philippi. 

Now, ten years later, with Paul in prison in Rome, he says, when I think of that church, when I think of what God did, when I think of those individuals, I can't help but choose to be thankful for the church.  I feel the same way about that little church that I grew up in in Akron, Ohio.  When I think of that church I can't help but to be thankful.  It was through the ministry of that church when I was a child, at a good news club taught by my aunt, that I put my faith in Jesus Christ.  It was in that church at the age of 8 that pastor Bruce Black baptized me.  It was in my pre-teen years at a missions conference in that church that I went forward and surrendered my life to full-time Christian service.  Most of my Biblical foundation of learning the Bible and all of the stories that are in the Bible, I learned in that little church. 

I understand what Paul's saying when he says when I think of the church, I can't help but to choose to be thankful.  He had the church in his mind.  So do I.  

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