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Enduring Hardship Well: 5 Things to Do and 5 Things NOT to Do

The danger in hardship is (verse 3) that “you will … grow weary and lose heart.” Another way of putting that, which is faithful to the Greek text, is: “lest you become soul-sick and fall apart.”

Falling apart is the danger. There are five things we need to know to avoid it. 1) We need to know that hardship is inescapable. We will go through it – everyone does. Even Jesus the Son of God did.

2) We need to know that, while we don’t have a choice about whether we will go through hardship, we do have a choice about how we will go through hardship. (The how is what we are looking at today.)

3) We need to know that God knows. He knows what’s out there ahead of us and he knows what’s in here inside of us. He knows what we can handle (better than we do) and will keep us from any trial that we cannot, with his help, handle.

4) God will not waste our suffering. It will only be wasted if we waste it. He will use it to change us for the better and enable us to share in his holiness. Holiness is the state in which people flourish.

5) And this is a summary of all the rest: God intends to bring good to us through hardship, whatever it may be. That does not mean that hardship is good. It means that God is. So good, in fact, that nothing can prevent him from bringing good to his people.

When we know these five things, we are ready to do the five things that keep us from falling apart and avoid doing the five things that contribute to falling apart.

The first thing to do, which comes from verse 2, is to look at Jesus. If you want to know how to do a thing, find someone who has done it. If you want to replace the O2 sensor on your Ford F-150, get on YouTube and watch the professional at 1A Auto; don’t watch me. He’s done it. He knows how. Jesus knows how to endure hardship. He’s done it. Watch him. Continue reading

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A Mind for What Matters: Philippians 4:1-9

The first instruction, given previously and now repeated, is to rejoice always.

Really, Paul? Rejoice always? You have no idea what you’re asking. Working from home amidst a thousand interruptions. The kids are out of control. Can’t find toilet paper. Didn’t get my economic impact payment from the IRS, which I need to pay the mortgage. Will probably lose my job, which means no insurance. And you want me to rejoice?

To which Paul (from a dank, dark prison cell, where he has been quarantined for a long time, separated from friends and family, and waiting to hear the outcome of his trial, which might be death by beheading) answers, Of course! “Rejoice in the Lord always.” And in case you missed it the first two times I said it, “I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4).

Many people, hearing this, simply brush it aside as unrealistic and unfeasible. When you’re having marriage problems, when you can’t stomach your boss, when your hopes have been dashed yet again, when you’re sick, and tired, and in debt, how can Paul – how can God – expect you to rejoice? It’s impossible!

Yes, absolutely. It is impossible … for some people, but not for us – if our minds are undergoing a process of renewal. Continue reading

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The Stubbornly Silent Future: Learning to Trust

Our governor’s “Shelter in Place” order has changed the way we live. Rather than meeting people at church or in the coffee shop, I’ve been meeting people on Zoom. Pastoral visitation has not happened in people’s homes but on our phones. I and others have been calling our church family, checking on their health, and seeing if they need groceries or meds. Many of these members are older and, to a person, they are doing remarkably well. They are a resilient bunch.

It turns out that many of our older members were spending most of their time at home, even before the governor’s order. The pandemic has not affected them in the same way it affects the soccer mom, who puts 25,000 miles a year on her van, or the retired couple who eat out five nights a week.

While our church family is doing well, the question on their minds, and on their friends’ and neighbors’ minds is: How long will this last? They want to know what’s coming next and when things are going to return to normal.

All of us have a sort of inner gravity that constantly pulls us back toward normal, even when normal is not healthy. When will things be normal again? Our routines, which always have suffered interruptions, have now been turned on their heads. Everything has changed.
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Scapegoating, Responsibility, and Neighborly Love in the Plague

Here’s a very relevant article to the age of Covid-19 – a brief history of the church’s response to another pandemic – this one in the 14th century. There are lessons for us here, and I recommend it to you.

The writer is my son, Joel Looper (PhD, University of Aberdeen), author of the forthcoming book A Protestantism without Reformation: What Dietrich Bonhoeffer Saw in America (Baylor Press). Continue reading

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Cross Your Mind: The Humble Mind of Philippians 2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WrOP9Fehk4c Visit Lockwood Community Church in Coldwater Michigan. The worship service is abbreviated (a few songs, prayer, and a sermon) for online worshipers. The message is from Philippians 2 and explores the kind of mindset that can enable us go … Continue reading

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Powerful Prayers: The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation III (His Incomparably Great Power for Us Who Believe)

Paul longs for Christians to know, to the full extent of their mind’s ability, the supreme greatness of God’s power. He knows that when the Spirit of wisdom and revelation opens people’s eyes to God’s surpassing power, it changes them. It gives rise to reverence in them, what the ancients called “the fear of the Lord,” and makes them passionate worshipers. As our knowledge and experience of God’s power grows, the fear of failure, fear of people, fear of the future, fear of privation is extinguished. Knowing the power of God sets people free to try, to give, to enjoy, to love. We need to know, to the very limits of our ability, the power that God possesses.

This power, Paul says, is “for us who believe” or “for us the believing.” Do you think that is an accurate description of you? John the believing. Dawn the believing. Ethan the believing. Emily the believing. Not everyone is in position to take advantage of the power Paul is talking about. It is for the believing.

That begs the question, doesn’t it? What are “the believing” believing? In my experience, many people who confess belief in God have little more than a blur or smear of religious thoughts – some quite pagan – about a God who is generally nice and will look after us, and take us to heaven when we die. Would Paul recognize those folks as “the believing”? Continue reading

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A Prayer for Your Love Life: Philippians 1:9-11 (manuscript)

St. Paul wrote more of the New Testament than any other writer – he is the author of something like one quarter of the New Testament. If we are going to understand his letters, it is important to realize that he wrote them with some basic assumptions in place. He doesn’t argue for these things. He takes them for granted and assumes his readers do the same. For example, Paul assumes that the Creator of heaven and earth is actively involved in what is happening in our world. He is not on vacation. He is paying attention.

He assumes that the Creator, who is the God and Father of Jesus Messiah, is currently at work in our day-to-day world. All people on earth and every institution of which they are a part is known by God, accessible to God, and responsible before God. That includes you and me and Lockwood Church. This is not something Paul argues; he takes it for granted.

He further assumes that this God is pursuing a specific goal and is employing individuals and institutions to achieve it, whether they realize it or not, whether they cooperate or not. That goal is stated this way in the letter to the Ephesians: “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (Ephesians 1:10).

We read over that and miss how revolutionary (in the fullest sense of the word) it is. The goal is to bring all things – nations, for example, and their governments – under the headship of one leader: Jesus. The U.S., Russia, China, England, France – and the other 191 so-called sovereign states – will be governed by one head, Jesus Messiah. That’s the plan. Talk about a one-world government – this is it – and it is God’s intention to make it happen.

But it is not just nations. It is people, animals, weather systems, physical processes, spiritual forces – authorities, powers, and dominions – everything. Paul sees God making all things work together toward this goal and Paul has committed himself – even to the point of sacrificing his life – to that cause. He further assumes that the Colossian church exists for the same purpose: the realization of the universal lordship of Jesus; otherwise, they would not be a church. Continue reading

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A Shepherd’s Perspective on the Birth of Jesus

A shepherd’s perspective is, you know, close to the earth. We’re earthy guys. We don’t put on airs, even though we smell like sheep. We have tough hands and quick eyes. We have strong bodies and, by the time night … Continue reading

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Finally. I Jumped out of that Perfectly Good Airplane

On Sunday, I jumped (more like tumbled) out of an airplane at an altitude of 14,000 feet – that’s more than 2-1/2 miles up. I told you I’d let you know what that was like, and I will try to describe it for you, but it’s one of those “you had to be there” things.
First, the rush. Not the rush of jumping, but the rush of getting to the jump site. For me, that meant leaving church as soon as possible, changing clothes, and hurrying to the airport, which is more than an hour from home. We went through a MacDonald’s drive-through – slowest MacDonald’s ever – had to stop for gas, and I was worried everyone would be waiting for me.

They were not. When I arrived, the place was packed. All the people whose jumps had been postponed – ours was postponed because of weather on three straight Sundays – were there, waiting. And waiting. I waited about four hours.

When our group was finally called, we went inside to put on jumpsuits and get our instructions. On a large mat, we watched as three full-time parachute packers worked non-stop to prepare the chutes for the next round of jumps. It was interesting to watch these young people work. They talked and laughed with each other as they worked and I wanted to say, “Would you please concentrate on your work?” (Well, not really. But I could see how someone might feel that way.) Continue reading

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I Am the Bread of Life (pt. 2)

http://lockwoodchurch.org/media (Listening time: 27:43) In C.S. Lewis’s space novel, Out of the Silent Planet, a language expert named Ransom is abducted and taken to another planet where alien creatures reside. Ransom escapes his captors and flees into the vast, mysterious … Continue reading

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