A tale of two perspectives – Worship @ Home Sunday, 19 July 2020

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps

Major Elizabeth Turner
(with thanks to Prof N.T. Wright)

Song        Praise him, praise him, Jesus our blessed redeemer

  1. Praise him! Praise him! Jesus, our blessed redeemer!
    Sing, O earth. his wonderful love proclaim!
    Hail him! Hail him, highest archangels in glory;
    Strength and honor give to his holy name!
    Like a shepherd. Jesus will guard his children,
    In his arms he carries them all day long.

Praise him! Praise him!
Tell of his excellent greatness;
Praise him! Praise him!
Ever in joyful song.

  1. Praise him! Praise him! Jesus, our blessed redeemer!
    For our sins he suffered and bled and died;
    He our rock, our hope of eternal salvation.
    Hail him! Hail him! Jesus. the crucified!
    Sound his praises! Jesus who bore our sorrows,
    Love unbounded, wonderful, deep and strong.
  2. Praise him! Praise him! Jesus, our blessed redeemer!
    Heavenly portals loud with hosannas ring!
    Jesus, Saviour, reigneth for ever and ever;
    Crown him! Crown him! Prophet and priest and King!
    Christ is coming, over the world victorious;
    Power and glory unto the Lord belong.

Fanny Crosby (1820-1915)

Chorus            God is still on the throne

God is still on the throne
And he will remember his own
Though trials may press us
And burdens distress us
He never will leave us alone.

God is still on the throne
And he will remember his own
His promise is true
He will not forget you
God is still on the throne.

Pray the Lord’s prayer

Bible Reading Philippians 1:12-26

12 Now, my dear family, I want you to know that the things I’ve been through have actually helped the gospel on its way. 13 You see, everybody in the Imperial Guard, and all the rest for that matter, have heard that I am here, chained up, because of the Messiah, the king. 14 My imprisonment has given new confidence to most of the family; they are now much more prepared to speak the word boldly and fearlessly.

15 There are some, I should say, who are proclaiming the king because of envy and rivalry; but there are others who are doing it out of good will. 16 These last are acting from love, since they know that I’m in prison because of defending the gospel; 17 but the others are announcing the king out of selfishness and jealousy. They are not acting from pure motives; they imagine that they will make more trouble for me in my captivity.

18 So what? Only this: the king is being announced, whether people mean it or not! I’m happy to celebrate that! Yes, and I really am going to celebrate: 19 because I know that this will result in my rescue, through your prayer and the support of the spirit of King Jesus. 20 I’m waiting eagerly and full of hope, because nothing is going to put me to shame. I am going to be bold and outspoken, now as always, and the king is going to gain a great reputation through my body, whether in life or in death.

21 You see, for me to live means the Messiah; to die means to make a profit. 22 If it’s to be living on in the flesh, that means fruitful work for me. Actually, I don’t know which I would choose. 23 I’m pulled both ways at once: I would really love to leave all this and be with the king, because that would be far better. 24 But staying on here in the flesh is more vital for your sake. 25 Since I’ve become convinced of this, I know that I will remain here, and stay alongside all of you, to help you to advance and rejoice in your faith, 26 so that the pride you take in King Jesus may overflow because of me, when I come to visit you once again.

The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation by N.T. Wright.
© 2011 HarperCollins Publishers.

Song                For me to live is Christ

For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.
To hold His hand and walk
His narrow way.
There is no peace, no joy, no thrill,
Like walking in His will.
For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.

Now once my heart was full of sin and shame.
‘Til someone told me Jesus came to save.
When He said “Come home to me”
He set my poor heart free.
For me to live is Christ, to die is gain

Now there are things that I still do not know,
But of this one thing I’m completely sure:
He who called me on that day washed all my sin away.
For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.

Keith White
(Copyright Status unknown)

Found on https://www.philosophyforchildren.org/lessonplans/different-perspectives-game/

A tale of Two Perspectives

In his book ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, the inspirational Victorian novelist and social commentator Charles Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” Set in the era of the French Revolution, the reader is carried as on the swing of a pendulum between life in the city of London and life in the city of Paris.

Dickens’ words in that quote could well have framed another era: that of the time of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. From the content of this first chapter it seems that the believers in the city of Philippi were gravely concerned for Paul imprisoned as he was in another city far from them (Rome or Ephesus?). Word of the seeming confusion and difficulty that abounded where Paul was being kept had reached their ears and they were anxious for him.

Professor Tom Wright points out that Paul’s careful description of what was happening to and around him gives us an unusual glimpse not seen in any of his other letters. Normally, Paul goes straight to the heart of those matters he wants to address and moves on, giving little or no context to how things are for him. That is Paul. His letters are primarily about Jesus and encouraging the believer to proclaim and to live for him. That is the driving force of his writing. But Paul’s love for the Philippian believers is as tender as their love for him, so he takes some time in this opening chapter to allay some fears concerning himself whilst still pointing to Jesus; choosing to use it as an opportunity to teach thinking like Jesus, rather than thinking like the world. Philippians1:12-26 is rather like ‘a tale of two perspectives.’

Living as we do in a fallen world, life is tough. Building resilience is a key factor in negotiating our life’s journey. At two years, old we might opt to plop down on our bottom and cry with exhaustion in the middle of a supermarket, but if we were still doing that at 32 years of age, we might come in for some strange looks! Instead we’d resist that urge until reaching the privacy of home to do that! After that, we would work out what’s next. If it is in the evening we might ‘call it a day’ and have an earlier bedtime. If it is the middle of the day, we might choose to schedule time for a break and return to the exacting task later. When we become a Christian, we need to shed worldly perspectives for Christ-like perspectives. So it is that Paul begins in verse 12 by stating, ‘Now, my dear family, I want you to know that the things I’ve been through have actually helped the gospel on its way.’ The worldly perspective states, ‘That’s not how it should be! The whole thing is a disaster!’ Whilst the Christ-like perspective may acknowledge, ‘That’s not how it should be,’ Christ’s positive perspective would look at the situation differently and say: ‘Actually the good news is still getting out there and that is what we want!’

Paul then shows them how that is working out. Even though he is in prison people are seeking him out, coming to hear what he has to say. So it is that ‘everybody in the Imperial Guard’ and associated officials know why Paul is in chains. The Christian believers in that area have gained ‘new confidence’ as they are speaking ‘boldly’ and ‘fearlessly’ (v13). People in positions of power alongside people of lowly status are hearing the good news about Jesus. Yes, there are some people who are proclaiming Jesus the King out of envy and rivalry. But there are also those who are doing it out of ‘good will’ which is great. The ‘good willers’ are doing what they are doing out of a heart of compassion. They see that Paul is not able to move beyond his cell and stand where they are able, in order to share the good news. Therefore, it’s up to them to do what they can on his behalf to get the word out.

As for those spreading the news of Jesus with impure motives, believing that they are stirring up trouble for Paul, well ‘guess what’ Paul seems to say, ‘Jesus the King is being announced!’ And that is very good. Definitely ‘something to celebrate’ Paul writes (v18). A worldly perspective would dwell on the ‘unsuitability’ and ‘wrongness’ of the method, but a Christ-like perspective points to the worth of it. Prof. Wright highlights that ‘whenever Jesus is being announced as King, things happen. Sometimes those things are bad and sometimes they are good’. Yet the matter remains, bad or good ‘it gets insidepeople and there is a reaction’.

By Matthias Stom – http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/NzGqkcNuqdnAaHyggbcCJw, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1683288

Consider how, at a special meeting of Jewish leaders discussing the fate of Jesus, Caiaphas the High Priest unwittingly stated a greater truth than he knew, when he said, “You don’t understand a thing! Don’t you realise we’d be much better off if this one man were to die for the people than for the whole nation to perish?” (John 11:49b-50) When Jesus was condemned to death, the leaders were affronted at a sign Pilate posted over the cross of Jesus. The sign stated, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” But the chief priests said to Pilate, “You must change the sign! Don’t let it say, ‘King of the Jews,’ but rather— ‘he claimed to be the King of the Jews!’” Pilate responded, “What I have written will remain!” (John 19:20b-22)

Whether Jesus is being talked about and presented in a manner of mere ‘katangeletai’ as Paul says (v.15 & 17) — a simple unimpassioned style of announcement — or in the manner of ‘evangelion’ (v.16) — proclaiming ‘good news’  an announcement usually relayed with a sense of joy or excitement —people are hearing about Jesus. So the Philippians are to be reassured and encouraged to ditch their worldly perspectives, drawing them to think the situation ‘is all disaster’, and to look at it again from Christ’s perspective, to see that it really is something ‘to be celebrated’. Thus, Paul helps them to become resilient believers, showing them what a mind and heart gently reshaped by Jesus looks like. As he instructs in his letter to the Romans, “Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.” (Romans 12:2 The Passion Translation)

Paul also helps the Philippians to see that as believers they are not spared the necessity of wrestling with life’s ‘gritty issues’. Nor is there any shame in admitting that the challenge can be almost overwhelming. (See 2 Cor.1:8-10) Yet ‘through [their] prayer and the support of the spirit of King Jesus’ (v.19) Paul counters that he is filled with hope. It cannot be ignored that Paul’s imprisonment could at any time bring the reality of a death sentence down on his head.

Alongside those opportunities to share the gospel with the curious who come to seek him out, writing to the fledgling Church in Philippi, coaching Timothy who is on hand supporting and ministering to Paul, Paul has a lot of time to think, pray and reflect. In prayer Paul has considered both the outcome of freedom and the joyful pursuit of proclaiming Jesus, death and the abundance of joyful being with Jesus. He’s ready to live according to Jesus’ just purpose for him. Paul admits that in all honesty, he doesn’t know which he would choose should he be offered such choice (v.22) since both are about living to serve and honour Jesus. Surely in this context Paul would have echoed the words of Dickens when he writes “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known” (A Tale of Two Cities).

Far from being melancholy and wishing his life to be over, Paul is taking a pragmatic view and seeing the good aspects of both of these situations, so that those who read this letter may know where his heart was truly settled. Like Job before him Paul is convinced that this situation will be to his benefit whichever way he looks: ‘In fact, this will become my salvation’ (Job 13:16). With his own personal wrestling and praying to God, along with Timothy’s and other believers’ helpful presence and support and the support and prayer of the Philippians, Paul implies that his progression through this situation is not the work of just one, but that of a whole community advancing together for the ultimate good of the gospel (v.18). Overall, it is the sovereign masterful hand of God, doing what only he can do best.

Paul wonderfully describes this truth in his letter to the Romans when he says, “We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.” (Romans 8:28 The Voice Bible Translation). That’s what Paul was encouraging the Philippians to do: ‘accept his invitation to live according to His [God’s] plan’.

Don’t get stuck in the world’s defeatist perspective, which is a joyless monotone, but rather gain a joyous kaleidoscopic perspective through Jesus, King even of life’s toughest and messiest of situations. Concerning the matter of perspective Henri Nouwen wrote, ‘Perhaps nothing helps us make the movement from our little selves to a larger world than remembering God in gratitude. Such a perspective puts God in view in all of life, not just in the moments we set aside for worship or spiritual disciplines. Not just in the moments when life seems easy.’ If the Philippians were ever proud of their city’s status or positioning as Roman nobility swept through, a far greater more just pride could be revelled in by ‘refocusing that pride on King Jesus’. (Tom Wright) (v.26)

Are you and I able to shed the worldly perspectives that cloud our vision, stopping us from seeing the glory of Jesus in the situations of our lives or our loved ones, the community or the world? Are we able to wrestle with unpalatable issues as Paul had to, to know that however the situation plays out, ‘in fact, this will become my salvation,’ as he and Job before him had declared? Are we proud to be citizens of the Kingdom of God?

Take some time now in the presence of Jesus to think about and answer these questions with humility and candour, choosing once more or perhaps for the first time to ‘accept His invitation to live according to His plan’ and in doing so ‘discover [his constant] work toward something good and beautiful’ in our lives as we embrace his perspectives.

Song 752        Peace, perfect peace

Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?
The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.

Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties pressed?
To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.

Peace, perfect peace, with sorrows surging round?
On Jesus’ bosom naught but calm is found.

Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away?
In Jesus’ keeping we are safe, and they.

Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown?
Jesus we know, and he is on the throne.

Peace, perfect peace, death shadowing us and ours?
Jesus has vanquished death and all its powers.

It is enough: earth’s struggles soon shall cease,
And Jesus call us to Heaven’s perfect peace.

Edward Henry Bickersteth (1825-1906)

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you went through many trials to bring us our salvation. You told your disciples that they too would face trials, but that you would always be with them. Thank you for Paul’s letters, which show us how you fulfil that promise. Give us the confidence and strength in you that Paul had, so thet we too may be faithful in following the path you have set for us, no matter how hard that may be. Amen

Song        Standing on the promises

Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let his praises ring;
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God

Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Saviour;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail;
By the living word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises of Christ my Lord,
Bound to him eternally by love’s strong cord,
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call,
Resting in my Saviour as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I now can see,
Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me;
Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free,
Standing on the promises of God.

Russell Kelso Carter (1849-1926)

Benediction    May God’s blessing surround you each day

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin.
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.

About prophetable

My wife Elizabeth and I were commissioned as Officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army in 1997, and have served in appointments in England and Scotland. Since July 2016 I have been working in The Salvation Army's Scotland Office as combined parliamentary and ecumenical representative.
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