It is a simple truth. 

My fullest and uninterrupted joy, contentment, happiness, satisfaction and delight will be when my heart is entirely given to Jesus Christ. 

It is simple, because I don’t have to figure out where to place the focus of my life. I don’t have to search for life’s answers. It is always Jesus! If I set the entirety of my mind and heart on Jesus I will experience the greatest possible joy in this world. 

The reason is creation. 

I am a created being. I was purposefully designed by God to know and enjoy him. This is my highest purpose for existing. 

The proof is heaven. 

My eternity will be wondrous, because I will be a Great Commandment person. My heart will overflow with inexpressible joy when my heart no longer withholds anything from Christ. 

This is a profound truth. 

Nothing is more important to understand, and nothing will bring more benefit to your life. Right now an army of activities and responsibilities are demanding your time and attention. However, none of them are as vital to your everything than the person of Jesus!

Love for Jesus is what makes life work.

Love for Jesus is how I get back on track.

Love for Jesus is how I begin each day.

Love for Jesus is how I filter all circumstances.

Love for Jesus is how I assess each day.

Love for Jesus is where I give my best efforts.

Love for Jesus is what my soul is searching for, and every substitute will leave my soul wanting more. 

Jesus will satisfy, he truly will.


Finding Joy in Something Bigger than Me

by Tim Shorey


Philippians 1:12-18

We experience life’s greatest joys when we share in its greatest realities. In our text we see 4 secrets to unquenchable joy

1. Joy comes from being a part of something bigger than ourselves v18

The source of his joy was something bigger than him—the gospel advance of the kingdom of God!

And his joy was great because his cause was great!

No prison or trial or possible death sentence or petty rivalry or the sinful selfish ways of others could quench the joy of his heart—it was way too big.

He was involved in and lost in something way bigger than he was—and so his joy was immense and unquenchable.

Friends, I think there is a pretty significant JOY-CRISIS going on among Christians today

(1)  Live life IN Christ

Philippians 4:4—“Rejoice IN the Lord always and again I will say, REJOICE!”

Rejoice in what it means to be in union with Jesus!

(2) Live life outside ourselves

The faith of too many is (in Os Guiness’s words) about “God servicing us, not us serving God!”

Life is simply happier if we live it outside ourselves!

The most miserable people on earth are the ones who can’t get themselves off themselves! They are totally self-absorbed!

Lose yourself in something bigger than yourself and you find joy!

If that is true at even a basic level—if joy comes in being part of something bigger than ourselves—than how might maximum joy come?

How might we receive the greatest joy possible?

By being a part of the biggest thing going!!

The gospel advance of the kingdom of Jesus Christ!

Knowing God and helping others to know him too!!


2. What we are a part of is a partnership vs 3-7

Notice the gratitude and joy language!  Partnership made Paul happy!

Philippians is full of partnership and cooperation words and phrases

—ALL these point to Paul’s awareness that what we are a part of is a partnership! —and he wants US to share in it (Philippians 1:27)

The principle is clear in Scripture that Christians are always to be engaged in the mission in PARTNERSHIP with others—in a local church, under church leadership, alongside of other believers, in teams, side by side—AND in partnership and fellowship with other churches!

There are not to be any lone ranger Christians or even lone ranger churches…

The way of Christ is partnership in and through the local church—and through families and unions of churches…

And how blessed are such partnerships—EVEN if they are sometimes challenging!


3.  What we are a part of is more important than the part we play

Paul cared a lot more about what he was a part of than he did about the part he played

I’m not reading this into it—think about it!  What part was Paul playing at this time—by and large?

He had the part of prisoner.

He had the part of victim: people were taking advantage of his hardship.

He had the part of potential martyr!

For all he knew his best ministry days were over—and now it was prison time; serving where the lights were dim and few noticed.

Lots of others were getting the more noticed parts, the parts that people would be drawn to!

But Paul was not at all about making sure he got all the right and good parts for personal gain or ambition.

He cared about one thing: the advance of the gospel!

 Brothers and sisters: it’s NOT the position or the role or the prestige that matters…

…it’s the KING and his cause!  (Matthew 10:41-42)


4.  Jesus took the humblest part that we might have a part in gospel joy (Phil 2:3-8)

Jesus is our sacrifice and Jesus is our example

Jesus does ask us to lay life down for the gospel, but he does not ask us to do anything that He has not already done Himself

ALL this that we might have a part in it all!

We experience life’s greatest joy when we share in its greatest cause


‘Joyful Bewilderment’

John 16:16-22

God, I don’t understand!  Lord, what are you doing? What does this mean?

You have probably had these thoughts, and in Jesus’ Farewell Address, we find his disciples asking those questions


Jesus’ disciples are bewildered

They are bewildered about statements we easily understand

It’s easy for us to understand now, because we know what happened

The disciples understood the words Jesus used, but not the ‘How’ and ‘Why’ of his leaving and return

It would not be until Jesus works were complete, that their understanding would be full

According to v19, Jesus knew exactly how they were struggling

Yet, he doesn’t give them a specific answer about what he meant by “a little while”

Instead, Jesus gives them a big picture answer about how it all ends

       Jesus knows his actions will eventually answer their questions

       Knowing the big picture will serve them in all life’s confusing and painful moments 

We want the immediate details about our circumstances and we complain to God when we don’t have them

 God does far better than give us the immediate details; he fills his Word with big picture clarity


Let’s look at Jesus’ ‘big picture’ answer (vs 20-22)

We will face what is painful and doesn’t seem to make sense – it’s unavoidable

(1)  We will find ourselves bewildered at times by life events

          Our world rejects the rule and truth of God, so we are surrounded by senselessness

          To think we won’t struggle is unbiblical; but so is struggle without hope (compare vs 20 and 22)

(2)  We will find ourselves struggling at times over God’s Word

          Much of God’s word runs against the common human perspectives of self

          Living with a biblical perspective only makes sense in light of the big picture of eternity

Jesus saw the disciple’s struggle to make sense of life

He cares about our struggle, but like small children, we simply cannot grasp it all now 

He has clear and excellent answers, and we will see them ‘in a little while’

        Until then, God has given us sufficient answers for now in the gospel and its promises

        Until then, God is giving us abundant grace now for the active presence of the Holy Spirit

All our sorrows will be transformed to joy

Jesus gives hope in his leaving by assuring them of his returning

       The return of his resurrection – when sin and death are defeated

       The return of his second coming – when our faith and his kingdom are made perfect

All our questions will be answered when we see Jesus

       Because the answers are all fulfilled by Jesus

       If we truly know Jesus, that should hold us for now!

Jesus uses child birth as an illustration of our big picture realty (v21)

       The real pain we have in life now, is producing an overwhelmingly greater joy forever

       This should encourage us in how we walk through what is now painful

Jesus gives 3 big picture reasons why we can take joy now (v22)

1.  We will see Jesus

The impact of this is multifaceted

       The glory and wonder of his presence will be pure joy

       His coming brings the perfections of life in his kingdom

       When we see him we shall be like him (1 John 3:2)

2.  Our hearts will rejoice

This is because every gospel fulfillment will completely satisfy us

       In Jesus’ kingdom we will all be Great Commandment people

       We will enjoy the fullest possible fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit

3.  No one will take our joy

No one who opposes Christ and our life in him, will be left standing

Christ’s kingdom will be perfect, eternal and undisturbed


Believer, joy is how all things end for you – including every pain, struggle and question



While reading CJ Mahaney’s tribute to Jerry Bridges I came upon CJ’s statement “I’m glad he’s in heaven”. Just reading those words made my eyes well up with tears. Why would that be so?

I am not a friend of Jerry Bridges. And this was not my first news of Jerry Bridge’s death. I had read several other tributes of his death. In fact, I had written a brief blog in recognition of his life and influence.

I was surprised myself that reading the simple words, “I’m glad he’s in heaven” affected me emotionally.

What was the reason?

Heaven is a real place, and God gives us a heart that longs to be there.

We are now in union with Christ, and we rejoice over this wondrous relationship that has its culmination waiting ahead of us.

I don’t have to know Jerry Bridges to be thankful that he is joyfully in heaven. And I can personally appreciate that CJ although grieved, also rejoices that his friend is with Christ.

Our emotions don’t prove that we are true believers, but being a true believer will cause the realities of Christ to reach deep into our hearts.

I find it easy to see (and be discouraged) by the ways I don’t show my love for God. So it is good to take encouragement from each manifestation that reminds me that I do love God!

In CJ Mahaney’s tribute to Jerry Bridges, he includes this excerpt from Jerry’s book, The Gospel for Real Life. CJ commented, “As I read it, I cried. I think you will too”.

Our Homecoming

“What will it be like when we enter the presence of the Lord? Sometimes when I focus too much on my own shortcomings, of how often I have sinned against grace and against knowledge, of how little I have availed myself of all the blessings of God and opportunities that have come my way, I think I would like to somehow ‘just slip in the side door’ of heaven, unnoticed and consequently unwelcome. But that is because I do focus too much on myself and try to anticipate my welcome on the basis of my performance.

The apostle Peter, however, gives us an entirely different perspective in 2 Peter 1:10-11: ‘Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.’” (pp.164–5).


‘Rejoicing Over God’s People’

Philippians 1:1-11

Philippians is one of Paul’s prison letters, written to a church which faithfully supported him. The tone and content of this letter indicate this was a healthy church

Paul Shares Why He Is Thankful For This Church (vs 3-8)

Paul is thankful for their “partnership” in ministry (v5)

  • v19 the Philippian Church prayed for Paul 
  • 2:25 they were involved in Paul’s ministry, sending Epaphroditus to serve with him
  • 4:14 their hearts were with Paul, ‘sharing his trouble’  
  • 4:15 they gave faithfully to his ministry

This was a church deeply committed to gospel mission

God established the Church to be a place where we grow together, and where we fulfill mission together

The Philippians recognized these truths, which resulted in their being part of meaningful ministry

If we have the fruit of the gospel, how can we not partner in gospel work?

Gospel work is our comprehensive job. It’s who we are in what we do

Paul is thankful for God’s ongoing “work” in them (v6)

This “work” is God making us a people fit to spend eternity with him

This “completeness” will be according to God’s standards, not ours

We could never accomplish such thing! It has to be God’s work

Because this outcome is “sure”:

We can find fresh joy in our striving

We can find fresh patience for fellow-believers, because this completion will be true for them too

 Confidence in our “completion” is part of our motivation for mission

vs 6 & 10 remind us “the day of the Lord” is coming! 

v6 assures us, we will be completed for it

 The Bible ends with the book of Revelation to help us keep in mind life’s trajectories (for the faithful and the faithless)

 Paul’s thankfulness results in a heart filled with “affection” (v8)

Paul declares “it is right” that he has joy and thankfulness for the Philippians

This is because they shared the gospel, they shared Christ, and they shared in ministry

These wondrous realities should dominate how we interact as a church


Paul Shares How He Prays For This Church (vs 9-11)

1. Paul prays that their love will keep growing (v9)

We cannot mature unless our love for God and others is growing

Love is the fulfillment of the great commandment

Love is the great motivator for all that should and should not be in our lives

Paul mentions two ingredients that growing love requires

Knowledge“:  in some ways love comes naturally, but we have many distortions about love. Our love is mixed with emotions, expectations and selfishness. We need knowledge about love

Discernment“:  This is knowing how to apply love in life’s situations. When our children frustrate us, or a co-worker misuses us, love will always lead us to be gospel focused

2.  Paul prays for their growth in godliness (vs 10-11)

God’s desire for us, is character fit for eternal communion with him

Our intentions for one another, should have the same agenda


Be Influenced by Paul’s Heart For the Philippians

(1)  Consider how we think about fellow church members

Guard against seeing them without the eyes of the gospel

Do we primarily see fellow members for their weakness and offenses against us?

Do we see one another as people that merely pass through our lives?

 Instead, Paul saw fellow believers through the gospel

v7 fellow believers are partakers with us in grace (they are people of v6)

We should see one another as our forever family with Christ

(2)  Commit to being prayerful for your church – which means the people in it

We need those prayers for ourselves

We need the attitude and heart that comes when we pray for them

If this is not your habit please begin to pray for your church!

(3)  Share Paul’s joy over the church

This joy is not due to perfect circumstances or perfect people; it is joy over the progress of gospel victory

Each believer represents wondrous works of God

Each believer is becoming a person of Christ-like beauty

 If Christ takes joy over the church, so should we (Isaiah 62:3-5)

 Love the Church, love your church, and love each other


On January 3, we will begin preaching through the New Testament book of Philippians.

Philippians is known as one of Paul’s prison epistles, because he wrote it during his Roman imprisonment.

The word most often used to describe Philippians is joy, because the words “joy” and “rejoice” are used 14 times. Joy is a topic all of us should be excited to dig into.

There are many encouraging themes and famous statements found in Philippians:

“He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” 1:6

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” 1:21

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” 2:3

“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” 2:12

“I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” 3:8

“One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” 3:13-14

“Rejoice in the Lord always” 4:4

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” 4:6

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” 4:11

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me” 4:13

Philippians is known most of all (at least at Greentree), for one of the most important theological passages in the Bible. Philippians 2:5-11 contains the great declaration of Christ’s pre-existence, humility, incarnation, obedience, death, resurrection and exaltation!

In order to gain a general sense of this wonderful book, start reading through the book of Philippians. This will help you to benefit more deeply as you hear the messages preached.

I also encourage you to consider reading Matt Chandler’s book on Philippians, “To Live Is Christ to Die Is Gain”. Some of our small groups have enjoyed working through it. You can read my blog review here.

For those who like to spend the week before each message review that Sunday’s text, here is our schedule for preaching through Philippians:

January 3        Philippians 1:1-11

January 10      Philippians 1:12-18

January 17      Philippians 1:18b-26

January 24      Philippians 1:27-30

January 31      Philippians 2:1-4

February 7      Philippians 2:5-8

February 14    Philippians 2:9-11

February 21    Philippians 2:12-18

February 28    Philippians 2:19-30

March 6          Philippians 3:1-11

March 13        Philippians 3:12-16

March 20        Philippians 3:17-21

April 10          Philippians 4:1-9

April 17          Philippians 4:10-13

April 24          Philippians 4:14-23


“The Realities of God Are Greater”

Psalm 4

The Psalms were written as a songbook for God’s people

They present an honest look at the human condition in all our struggles, as we intersect with the realities of God

Psalms are worship that instruct. In this way they are a great example of preaching the gospel to ourselves


This Psalm Begins With a Cry to God

It appears from v2 that David is being slandered

It hurt and he was helpless as some lied about him and others received it

Both giving and receiving slander are unloving and sinful (Romans 1 mixes slanderers and gossips with murderers and haters of God)

It takes careful attention to be gossip and murmur free

David turns to God in his hurt and frustration (v1)

He does this because God had proven himself in the past

Why should we be content to entrust our burdens to God?

Because he is almighty

Because he is faithful

The cross proves God’s faithfulness

The gospel tells the fullness of that faithfulness

What is God’s role to you? Is he “the man upstairs” or is he the full extent of your hope?


God Gives David Grace For Those Who Hurt Him

David gives counsel to those who misused him

1. God takes care of those who trust in him (v3)

Those who oppose God’s people are wasting their efforts

This is also a warning, letting them know they were raising their arm against God

2. Fear God and examine your hearts before him (v4)

The phrase “Be angry” literally means “tremble” in either anger or dread. The context seems to be tremble in fear of God

Rather than slander others, they should examine their hearts and consider God’s role over them

3. Submit to God and worship him (v5)

He exhorts them to be worshipers who entrust themselves to God

David’s heart was wounded, but it had not been poisoned

The grace God provided was greater than the sin he endured

If our grace is always greater than our burdens, then grace should always rule

This means we are to stay in the agenda of the gospel toward people – including those who misuse us

This is where David’s heart remained, because God remained present and faithful

Since God never stops his agenda for us, we should not stop serving his agenda

This is not a disadvantaged way to live

This is freeing – because the sin of others doesn’t determine how we live

This is powerful – because it places attention on the glorious realities of God


David Then Declares His Confidence (vs 6-8)

He introduces his confidence by making a contrast

David begins with a common question,

“Who will show us some good?

In other words, who or what will make us happy?

Most people don’t have a clear or dependable answer, so they look everywhere

And the truth is – without Christ, people don’t even know what is good for them

There is often a touch of cynicism, with people doubting if anything really works

All this leads to pragmatism which has no moral rooting: Do whatever makes you happy

The result is “all about me” behavior which is manifested by a culture that encourages abortion, affairs, cheating and common rudeness

In contrast for the believer, there is no searching or ambiguity:

“Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!” (v6)

If we have the presence of God, we have goodness

There are three implications in this declaration

#1. Engagement with the “face” of God (his personal presence) will meet our deepest needs

#2. The presence of God shines “light” on our life. The truths of God make life clear

#3. If you want goodness in your life, submit fully to the ways of God

David shares a couple wonderful results of entrusting our life to God

1. God puts “joy” in our heart (v7)

This joy is greater and deeper than simply having circumstances go well

It consists of a heart overflowing with the abundant riches of Christ in us

A joyful heart can be touched by pain and sadness, but it will not be drowned by them

2. God brings “peace” to us (v8)

God who is sovereign over everything, is committed to our eternal good

We can “lie down and sleep”, meaning we can rest


Let us work on the presence of God and our rest in God


A Joy Surpassing Our Struggles 

 James abruptly jumps into the deep end of the Christian life

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4)

James assumes we will “meet” trials and a “variety” of them

This is nothing new, in John 16:33 Jesus said, “in the world you will have tribulation”

If we are taught or expect that trials in this life can disappear, that is simply unbiblical

James gives us a wise perspective for all “trials” (v2)

How we think about trials should bring “joy” to us

This does not mean difficulties bring only joy (Matt 26:38 with Hebrews 12:1-2

The phrase “all joy” or “pure joy” means the highest joy

We have reason amidst our hurt and struggle to also have joy

This is not a ‘grin and bear it’ attitude, it is joy over what else is happening

God is active in our trials, they are not evidence that he distant or angry at us

God is in the center of our events and he is producing something (v3)

God is being perfect toward us, so that we may become “perfect” in him (v4)

Our natural perspective in difficulties is to think the best good is for them to go away!

However, Romans 8:22 compares our current “groaning” to the pains of childbirth

You want the pain to end, but not at the expense of that child

Struggles are real, but they are also temporary and purposeful

We have no promise that the trials of life will be removed or reduced

However, we do have promise that life in our trials can be more fruitful, contented and joyful

To trust God, means all things take on a God perspective

To love God, means all his ways are so worthy – we see them as praiseworthy

What do trials accomplish that is joyful? (vs 3-4)

1.  God uses trials to produce “steadfastness” in us

We are to “know” that difficulties “test” or prove our “faith” (v3)

Trials teach us that we cannot trust in ourselves or depend upon the world

These trials reveal that God is worth trusting and following

Trials help us see that walking with Christ is the one thing we must never neglect

  • Rather than accuse or doubt God, we keep worshipping Him
  • Rather than think obedience is not worth it, we know that submission to God is always our ‘true north’
  • Rather than get back at those who hurt us, we pursue God’s agenda for them
  • Rather than compromise to stop pain at any cost, we persist in whatever steps will honor God
  • Rather than wallow in self-pity , we rejoice that the Holy Spirit is transforming us
  • Rather than be examples of inconsistency, we become witnesses that the gospel is real!

2.  God uses trials to work toward our completion (v4)

“Perfect and complete” means we become all God purposed for us

“Lacking nothing” means there will be nothing left to add

Through trials, God is fulfilling the wonderful plans he has for us:

  • To be ‘like Christ’
  • To ‘love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength’
  • To live ‘filled with the Spirit’
  • To be mature disciple-makers

Just as birth pains have precious results, so do our labor pains

We don’t like struggle, yet for God’s covenant people, they are filled with graces

Peter repeats James in a way that exalts those graces  1 Peter 1:3-7

A joyful perspective sees: 

1.  God truly is all glorious

2.  God has a great heart for us     

3.  We have a wonderful eternity with him

What do you ‘see’ about God in your trials?


In this 9 minute video discussion led by John Piper, Matt Chandler and David Platt talk through how painful suffering AND true joy can exist within the same human heart. These men use their own experience as examples for the rich biblical truths that lead their conclusions.

Aster this past Sunday’s message which dealt with suffering and hope, I thought this video would be a great follow up for us

God’s Goodness in Your Pain from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.



II Corinthians 8:1-7 ‘The Grace of Taking Part’      

As individuals, we should not be satisfied with less than full maturity.  In the same way, a church should not be satisfied with less than full involvement of its members

The involvement God wants, is that we give ourselves to him 

The motivation of these believers was to honor God. That led them to become involved in God’s purposes around them. v5 “. . they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us”. This should be the heart we want, “Lord, here I am, please use me”!.How do we “give ourselves to the Lord”?

  1. Tell God that is what you want: this requires a prayerful dialogue with him
  2. Discover God’s heart for you; this requires consistent reading of his word.  Each day ask God to show you his heart is what you read. Think how meaning life will be, if we are living God’s heart
  3. Make God’s agenda more important than your own; this requires becoming a worshiper who continually exalts God   

When we give ourselves to God, he gives us grace to be used. 

In verses 8:1 and 8:6-7, Paul refers to their giving as a grace that God works through them.  In chapter 9:8-11, he expands this principle to all areas of ministry. God wants us to bring all we are to him, so he works through us in al situations

Our involvement should have two ingredients

The first ingredient is to be joy.  We see this quality in 8:2, 8:4 and 9:7

We should be joyful because this involvement not in human endeavors. We are taking part in what God is doing!

We tend to think of joy as a bonus item; a good thing, but not essential.  Yet joy is the fruit of the Spirit, which means it is essential to godliness. 

Joy comes from seeing the wonder of God and knowing that he is using us for his glorious purposes

Joy deeply affects the way we give ourselves to God: It affects the vitality and attitude of our service; it affects the believers who serve with us; and it affects the unbelievers who observe us.

The second ingredient that should be in our involvement is generosity.  We see this in 8:2, 8:3, 9:8, 9:11 and 9:13.

Generosity is when we freely do our best, rather than the least we have to do.  The point is not to squeeze generosity out of us, but to have God grow generosity in us.

We all recognize that we are generous to what we think is important.  So what brings generosity out of you?  Are you generous to your desires or to God?           

If the idea of becoming more committed to God is stressful you, you need to reassess your heart for God.  What do you think should bring joy – more of your own desires?

Our life potential is a God issue.  How much of us does God have?  What do we want most out of our life?  Do we want the effectiveness of our life to be defined by our potential, or by what God will do through us?