Longing Pt.2 – To Live a Richer, More Satisfying Life

Longing Pt.2 – To Live a Richer, More Satisfying Life

It’s the 2nd Sunday of Advent. 

Matthew 1:18-25 NIV –  This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[d]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[e] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[f] because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[g] (which means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

OPEN: A Sunday school teacher once asked her class of children: “What is Christmas a time for?” Many of the kids gave the usual answers—Jesus’ birthday, a time of joy… but one child responded it was “a time for sportsmanship, because you don’t always get everything you want.”

Everybody gets gifts they really don’t want during this season and several years ago “USA Today” conducted a survey among adults to find out what they do with that not-quite-right holiday gift:

– 31%: Keep it – 30%: Hide it – 13%: Toss it – 12%: Give it away – 6%: Return it

Every once in a while, everyone receives gifts that they’re really not sure that they want.

Gift: Webster’s dictionary defines a gift as

1 a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present: a Christmas gift | [ as modifier ] : a gift shop.• an act of giving something as a present: his mother’s gift of a pen. informal a very easy task or unmissable opportunity: that touchdown was an absolute gift.

John 10:10 NLT The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (NKJV-Abundant)

Abundant – existing or available in large quantities; plentiful. excessive, profuse, rich, lavish, abounding, liberal, generous, bountiful, large, huge, great, paramount, overflowing, prolific, extraordinary.

Life – Greek word Zoe (The God Kind of Life) – Not only duration of life but Quality of life

My Favorite Christmas Movie – “It’s a Wonderful Life”

In the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” George Bailey had a gift that he wasn’t sure he wanted. His gift was the gift of life. And his life had seemingly fallen apart all around him. He just knew he was going to lose his business, his livelihood. He faced prison for something he hadn’t done. And as a result of all this… his family faced shame and poverty.

“At exactly 10:45 pm tonight, earth time, that man will be thinking seriously of thowing away God’s greatest gift.”  Franklin’s voice “Oh dear, dear! His life!” Clarence’s voice

Clarence says to George, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives and, when he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” 

Psalm 139:14 NIV – I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

The Life that God gives us is such an Extraordinary Gift 

•••Just a reminder in case your mind is playing tricks on you today: You matter. You’re important. You’re loved. And your presence on this earth makes a difference whether you see it or not.

Our Longing this Christmas

Every moment is a fresh beginning. T.S. Eliot

1.To Live a More Richer, Satisfying Life

Ephesians 2:10 AMP –  For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us]. 

Water to Wine – Are you weary and disenchanted with the bumper sticker, paper-thin Christianity? Are you yearning for something deeper, richer, fuller? Has the wine run out and you need Jesus to perform a miracle with your water? Are you longing for vintage wine from old vines?

•Jesus has something better than “cotton candy watered down Christianity.” There is MORE! Hunger and Thirst = Filled.

Ephesians 3:20 NIV  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. Marcus Aurelius

(Proverbs 9:6 MSG) “Leave your impoverished confusion and live! Walk up the street to a life with meaning.”

95 year olds were asked – What if they lived life again what would they do differently?

  1. I would REFLECT more
  2. I would LOVE more
  3. I’d do more things that live on after I’m gone – Legacy/Eternity

•This is what I’m learning the older I get. Live simply & passionately. Forgive completely. Love generously

We cannot choose how many years we will live – But we can choose how much life those years will have

If I Had My Life To Live Over – by Erma Bombeck

•The following was written by the late Erma Bombeck after she found out she had a fatal disease.

If I had my life to live over, I would have talked less and listened more. I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded. I would have eaten the popcorn in the ‘good’ living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth. I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed. I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage. I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains. I would have cried and laughed less while watching television – and more while watching life. I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband. I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for the day. I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn’t show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime. Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle. When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now go get washed up for dinner.” There would have been more “I love you’s”.. More “I’m sorrys” …But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute… look at it and really see it … live it…and never give it back.

2. Live Your Life Knowing God More Personally

In C.S. Lewis‘s, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?””But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan. “Are -are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.”I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

Rom. 5:10-11 (NLT) “We were restored to friendship with God by the death of His Son while we were still His enemies, and we will be delivered from eternal punishment by His life. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God – all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us…”

“If there is no God, nothing matters. If there is a God, nothing else matters.” HG Wells

Phil. 3:7-8 NIV But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ

My Prayer for you

Ephesians 1:17 NIV “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”

Jeremiah 29:13 NIV “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Everybody surrenders to something or someone in life. If not to God, you’ll surrender to popular opinion, money, resentment, or fear, to your own pride, lust, and ego.

Surrender is not the best way to live; it is the only way to live. Nothing else works. All other approaches lead to frustration, disappointment, and self-destruction.

So this Advent time give it all to God: your past regrets, your present problems, your future ambitions, your fears, dreams, weaknesses, habits, hurts, and hang-ups. Put Christ in the driver’s seat of your life, and take your hands off the steering wheel. Don’t be afraid; nothing under his control can ever be out of control.

3. Live Your Life Loving People More

I John 4:7-8, 21 NIV Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?” Bob Hope

Every Person We Encounter is either….

•A Victim to Exploit •A Problem to Avoid •A Person to be Loved

John 13:34-35 NIV 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Mother Teresa

“God sees the best in the worst of us, knows the worst about the best of us, and loves us all without condition or exception.”

•When you know that God loves you unconditionally, you can love people unconditionally.

I John 3:18 NIV  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Love is intentionally doing something – caring or helpful for another person, regardless of the cost or consequence.

“Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.” Charles M. Schulz

Proverbs 3:27-28 MSG – “Never walk away from someone who deserve help; your hand is God’s hand for that person. Never tell your neighbors to wait until tomorrow if you can help them now.”

“The significance of the law of love is precisely that it is not just another law, but a law which transcends all law.”- Reinhold Niebuhr

(Galatians 5:13-15 NIV) “Serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

The more of God’s love we give away, the more he supplies. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Love always finds a way: selfishness always finds an excuse!

God calls you to a service far beyond anything you could ever imagine. You were put on Earth to make a contribution.

You weren’t created just to consume resources  – to eat, breath, and take up space. God designed you to make a difference with your life. God wants to you to give something back!

I Believe

I Believe_Screen

“I Believe” (To Believe is Human, To Doubt is Divine)

I want to talk today about how hard it was for the followers of Jesus to get beyond his death to his resurrection. The reason I want to talk about it is because there are a lot of people who acknowledge that Jesus lived, was a great teacher…a Rabbi or prophet….but don’t believe that someone who was dead came to life again. If that’s a struggle for you….you might find it interesting to know that some of Jesus’ most devoted followers had the same struggle

““if you don’t have doubts you’re either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.” Frederick Buechner

Our text this morning records Mary’s words to Peter and John after she went to the tomb where Jesus had been buried…she said…

John 20:1-2 ESV Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

The people who knew him best…chosen by him… they thought an empty tomb was nonsense

Luke 24:11-12 NIV But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Buechner also said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief’ is the best any of us can do really, but thank God it is enough.” 

Sometimes things happen that are hard to believe…. Like the huge plane that disappeared last year… I don’t know about you but I found it very hard to believe that a HUGE plane could just disappear!

• All the sophisticated equipment and satellite systems of the world….a plane that big is gone! Disappears off all the radar systems and satellite systems of the world…all we have are and a lot of theories …AND then there’s always some conspiracy theories…Like some of what you see in Ripley’s Believe It or Not… freaky…crazy…hard to believe!

Illustration: A little boy was going past a cemetery with his father when he noticed a new open grave. He pointed it out and said, “Look, Dad. One got out!”

•These kinds of things happen daily somewhere in the world….situations and circumstances that defy natural laws…break barriers of what we think is impossible… That’s how some would categorize what we celebrate today…with the resurrection of Jesus….Hard to believe/Impossible/a conspiracy….

While many believe that Jesus was a good teacher, a Rabbi….and was crucified. We believe that there’s more beyond the cross. We believe that Jesus literally, physically rose from the dead!!

Anytime there’s something hard to believe….like the resurrection….you may wonder how people get from wondering to believing?…..

Q=How is a theory or a rumor or a truth validated?….

1. FIRST OF ALL, IF WE ARE AN EYEWITNESS TO AN EVENT –  Meaning we are there when it happens and we see it and witness it ourselves. But when it comes to the resurrection, none of us were alive 2000 years ago so that’s out….None of us were there.

2) SECONDLY, IF ENOUGH OTHER PEOPLE SEE IT AND TELL US WHAT THEY SAW

>In court, the amount of eyewitness you have who tell the same story the stronger the case for truth.

>We believe a lot of what we have not seen because of enough credible people in history who saw and documented what they saw.

1. There were many people who witnessed the resurrection, wrote about it and had no motivation for saying it happened.

>They had nothing to gain and a lot to lose…(research how they suffered and died because of their stories)

Let me tell you about some of those people…

Matthew- saw a risen savior and documented it

Mark and Luke-spent time with Peter and others who saw a risen savior and documented those experiences…

John– saw a living Jesus, watched him die, walked away with his mother…then said he saw and had a meal with a risen Jesus.

Peter– said he saw him die and then spent time with a risen Jesus

James- The brother of Jesus…

Question= what would your brother have to do to convince you that he was the son of God?… he would have to rise from the dead! James who had never believed Jesus….was embarrassed by Jesus….said he saw him!

Paul…the chief persecutor of the church…the one who wanted to put the early church out of business…who wanted these other men to die wrote about the eyewitnesses naming Cephas and a group of about 500 that were with Jesus after the resurrection.

No royalty checks….nothing to be gained….but a lot to be lost… stuck to their story through grueling persecution and death. Some were themselves crucified… some were stoned to death… some beheaded….ALL OF THEM STUCK TO THEIR STORY OF A RESURRECTED SAVIOR.

B) The followers of Jesus documented their own disbelief.

They believed in him as teacher, Rabbi… like many people today…they believed he was great BUT they also believed he was dead!

• If you’re part of a conspiracy you tell a different story…you say: I never doubted…I knew it all along…we waited outside thetomb in a vigil…I had pre-printed T shirts that said “He is Risen” you make yourself look better…

• You don’t say: we were cowards; bewildered, overwhelmed and afraid…we were hiding…

• If you’re Peter and you’re making up the story: you don’t tell how you run away from your friends when they need you most and then deny knowing Jesus 3 times and launch into obscenities at the very suggestion that you were his friend….

• If you’re a friend of Thomas you don’t tell what the doubter said in private when he was afraid, upset and angry….

• Women of that day were not allowed to witness in court…So if you’re fabricating a story…you don’t document the women’s testimonies….it doesn’t count and you’re looked down on for even considering it!

This wasn’t a strategy, a conspiracy… a fabricated storyThis was their honest documented experience…What they saw and felt…experienced—clearly an honest documentation of how certain they were that Jesus death was a shock and that his resurrection was not something they expected or were quick to believe

Q= If you believe anything they say….why not believe everything they say about Jesus?

3) THIRD, PHYSICAL EVIDENCE.

Historical compatibility….geographical match ups…real people…real places… real garden…real tomb…. …that had a huge stone in front of it… being guarded by soldiers… was now empty…

• In court cases physical evidence is a huge! Physical evidence includes the aftermath of an event.

•The time our parents town and home was flooded

A) The resurrection of Christ is the only way to explain the massive amount of people going from a skeptical, fearful, doubtful position…..to a full on believer who is willing to live and die for what they have found to be true.

• Apostle Paul—went from persecuting Christians to being a devoted follower who was persecuted, in prison and died a martyr.

• Thomas– a bold doubter….a bold skeptic…who goes from doubting to preaching to dying a martyr.

• James the brother of Jesus who all his life felt embarrassed and humiliated by Jesus….and then after the resurrection saw Jesus for himself and walked into a church service in Jerusalem….his death was violent as well.

Followed by millions of stories…of real people, intelligent people, socially popular and social misfits…

>Former prison inmates.

>Former depressed

>From selfish to selfless

>From anger to self-control, peace

>From hatred to forgiveness

VIDEO: Listened to Bono • He explains his belief that Jesus died and rose again…I have no problems with miracles….they are all around me….I am one.

John Lennon once said, “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue with that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first – rock and roll or Christianity.”

Well, I still listen to the Beatles and enjoy them, but I think Lennon is wrong. Christianity will never die because Jesus is alive and the resurrection is proof that man doesn’t have the last word, God does.

B) At the end of the day….a sound argument will never convince someone to be a Christ follower but an experience will.

•The sound argument encourages someone to re-think, look again….but eventually it’s the awareness that God is real… that he is speaking to me…that he is calling me to serve him….FOLLOWED by a personal experience so real that his presence and power is undeniably at work in your life

**This is why many reasonable, intelligent people who started out unsure have come to the conclusion that Jesus died, was buried in a tomb and rose from the dead.

•The Proof of the resurrection is not in an explanation but in a changed life

CLOSING: (Ask that no one move…..everyone stay in your seats….until we dismiss)

It doesn’t make sense to believe Jesus was a good man, a good teacher who was crucified on a cross….and then stop short of believing in his resurrection.

• The same people who documented everything else about him are the same ones who documented his resurrection. If there is no resurrection you should abandon everything Christian.

• Because none of the rest matters…If he died and the resurrection part was fabricated…then the story’s and the scriptures has no significance in our lives

• If the resurrection is not true then take the cross off the wall…don’t wear it around your neck…

• Don’t have Christian wedding ceremonies…with those scriptures about how love overcomes all things and never fails…

• Don’t have a Christian funeral with the talk about heaven and eternal life….seeing your family and loved ones again.

If on the other hand, the story of scripture is credible then early Sunday morning….on the third day….Jesus got up!! He not only walked out of the tomb….he broke the power of sin and death off our life!….So that whoever believes in him would not perish but would have everlasting life!

• Easter means….He not only was a good teacher…a rabbi….a man who lived and died…

• Easter means…He is a risen savior!…He is the hope of the world!! As the song says: Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus just to take him at his word….Just to rest upon his promise… Jesus how I trust him how I prove him ore and ore”….

TO not just believe in the cross… but to go beyond the cross…to cross over to the reality that on the third day…the body that was placed in a borrowed grave…was suddenly filled with the breath of

God….

• Mary crossed over

• Peter crossed over

• James crossed over

• Thomas crossed over

• So many before you have crossed over….

• People not as smart as you have crossed over…

• People who were smarter than you crossed over…

• People with less information than you have crossed over…

• People with more information  than you crossed over

John 11:25-26 NIV Jesus said, “I AM the resurrection and the life! Whoever believes in me, even though they die, will live again. I give them eternal life for believing in me and they will never perish!”

Death is not the end of the story! NOTE: Not a principle. A person!   I Am! You need to get to know Jesus!

Brennan Manning said, “For me the most radical demand of Christian faith lies in summoning the courage to say yes to the present risenness of Jesus Christ.”

My prayer for you this Easter…

Ephesians.1:19-20 ESV  and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,”

The disciples had the knowledge of the resurrection, but didn’t have the power of the resurrection!  PAUL:

Philippians 3:10 ESV “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  

A LIFE-CHANGING PRAYER

Romans 10:9 “I because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”

PRAY: Dear God, I need your presence, and your promises, and your power in my life. Thank you for sending Jesus to pay for all the things I’ve done wrong by dying on the cross for me….

This is why I want to encourage you to PROFESS AND DECLARE FULL FAITH IN CHRIST. TO STAND UP FOR HIM like he stood up for you!!!

“The good news is not that Jesus Christ lived and died, but that He died and lives.”

(SALVATIONS) TO LIVE FOR HIM…TO FOLLOW HIM….TO PUBLICLY DECLARE HIM…TO PUT YOUR TRUST IN HIM!!!

Silent Night

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Silent Night

What Christmas is really about

Isaiah 9:6-7 ESV – For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon[a] his shoulder, and his name shall be called[b] Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Peace – shalom – fulness. Having everything you need to be whole and happy (Jesus – The Prince of Peace)

(Luke 2:6-7 NIV) “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Peace on Earth? But the Light Came in the Midst of Darkness

Fredrick Buechner said, “Peace is not the absence of struggle but the presence of love.”

The Song is wrong – the world wasn’t silent. There was no peace in Israel at this time. Gloom, anguish, and contempt were just some of the adjectives used to describe this darkness.

•The word of God had not been heard for four centuries.  Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament, written in the fifth century BC.

•The people of God were under the oppressive rule of Rome. Political darkness reigned!

•The nation of Israel was fracturing. The Pharisees, Sadducees, The Essenes, The Zealots – which resulted in the oppressive rule of Rome

•The census was a considerable imposition.  Living in Nazareth, Mary and Joseph lived more than 100 miles North of Bethlehem.  Yet, there was no way around it.  They were forced by legal constraint to make the arduous trip.

•The poverty of Mary and Joseph did not fit the royal son they had. Joseph had no bargaining power. Without family or hospitality, darkness surrounded them.

•Through the hostile forces of Herod, Satan tried to kill Jesus. Herod, so paranoid for his own position and power that he had multiple family members executed, attempts to use the wisemen to lead him to the Christ child—not to worship, but to exterminate. He orders the execution of all the children in and around Bethlehem.

(Luke 12:51 NIV) “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.”

(John 16:33 NIV) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Internet search for peace of mind – home security, hypnosis, funeral services, perfume, plumbing to insure your toilet

•Unavoidable circumstances.

(Jeremiah 4:20 NIV) “Disaster follows disaster; the whole land lies in ruins. In an instant my tents are destroyed, my shelter in a moment.”

Sometimes the pain and problems in your life is nobody’s fault

John 9:1-3 Message Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?” 3-5 Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.”

•Unbearable people.

 (Psalms 109:3 NIV) “With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause.”

Never forget 3 Types of People in Your Life. Those:

1. Who helped you in your different time

2. Who left you in your difficult time

3. Who put you in your difficult time

•Unexplainable problems.

(Matthew 27:46 NIV) “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

3 Reasons for life’s problems

1. Sin – Imperfect world

2. Satan – Common Enemy

3. Self – we make mistakes

Problems are God given opportunities to grow – challenges drive us to deeper understanding and maturity. Problems come from the greek word which means “To Throw” or “To Drive forward”

Robert Schuller said, “Impossibilities vanish when a man and His God confront a mountain”

•Uncontrollable worry.

(Jeremiah 6:24 NIV) “We have heard reports about them, and our hands hang limp. Anguish has gripped us, pain like that of a woman in labor.”

God doesn’t want you to worry!

I Peter 5:7 NIV Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Focus on God, not the problem!

Myth – I can control and fix things by worrying about them / Truth – Worry only makes me miserable

2 Options – Panic or Pray / worry or worship

On Earth Peace

(Luke 2:10-14 NIV) “’Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’”

(John 14:27 LB) “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

  1. Receive God’s Grace.

(Romans 5:1 NIV) “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Micah 7:18 NIV – Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.

2. Run to God’s presence.

(Isaiah 26:3 NKJV) “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You.”

(Psalm 46:1, 10 NIV) “God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble…Be still and know that I am God.” (180,000 troops to attack Israel)

3. Respect God’s principles.

(Psalm 119:165 NIV) “Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.”

Peace Comes through obedience to God’s word

Romans 8:6 NIV – The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

4. Rely on God’s provision.

(Philippians 4:6-7 LB) “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.”

•Trust God to take care of things beyond your control

•Quit dwelling on the “What if’s” of life

•Live one day at a time:

•Matthew 6:34 says, Don’t worry about tomorrow, Matthew 6:11, Give us today our daily bread

Peace in today’s society is a commodity much desired and rarely found. Most people are familiar with tension, stress and anxiety than peace. The lack of peace is the result of our complex, accelerated and stressed out world.

When we put our care in God’s hands, He puts his Peace in our Hearts

Hark the Herald Angels Sing – “A Song from the Dawn of Time”

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Hark the Herald Angels Sing – “A Song from the Dawn of Time” By Steve Light

Ever wonder how and where are most beloved Christmas carols came from? Today I want to explore one of my favorites – Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Is it 100 years old? Is it 200 years old? Could it be over 500 years old? Or, if we really take the time to understand this carol we would see that God wrote this song of love and redemption at the very start of Creation, which under the Hebrew calendar was 3761 BC, which means 5,776 years ago!

Let’s back up. The modern history of the song starts with an English hymn writer named Charles Wesley in 1739. The song started simply as a poem. A few years later, George Whitfield, an English evangelist, made some changes that helped the poem flow better. For example, Wesley wrote…“Hark! How the all the welkin rings, Glory to the King of Kings”. What is a welkin? It’s an old Anglo-Saxon world for “vault of heaven”. Whitfield changed it to the modern version of “Hark! the herald angels sing- Glory to the newborn King”. Yet, it was still just a poem.

About 100 years later, in 1840, the famous composer Felix Mendelssohn wrote a tune to celebrate the 400-year anniversary of the printing press. While he was a Messianic Jew, he specifically did not want the tune to be for religious purposes. However, along came Dr. William Cummings, a Christian organist who in 1885 combined the Whitfield poem with Mendelssohn’s tune to create our beloved carol that we now have.

Its popularity has been established by being showcased in classic shows like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. However, the poem almost never made it to life. In 1649, the English Parliament, controlled by Puritans actually BANNED the making and singing of Christmas carols. Guess Christianity under attack is not something that is new in 2015 in the U.S.

Biblical scholars often credit this carol for being of the most remarkable due to its theological accuracy, depth and richness. However, I need to also share those same scholars will tell you that the bible does not have any passages in which angels actually sing, but no where does it say the don’t do it either!

Today it is my hope that this beautiful song to God will forever be transformed for you as you make the connection between words of the song and the biblical prophecies God gave to us that came true with the birth and life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

We will explore six stanzas of the song with a focus on the key point of each stanza. We will tie the key point back to old testament prophesy written hundreds to thousands of years BEFORE the birth of Jesus. We will see that in fact it was not Wesley, or Whitfield, or Mendelssohn or even Cummings that truly wrote this carol, but our Holy Father in Heaven, who has been lovingly singing this to us in scripture since the Garden of Eden.

You have a copy of the song to follow on your chair. Rusty will help us out. We will listen to him sing a stanza and then I’ll share some thoughts with you to consider. And at the conclusion we will stand in unison, one church, one family of born again Christians, raising our voices to heaven to glorify God and give thanks to Jesus for his gift of grace the gives us peace on earth and life everlasting.

Rusty sings the first stanza…

    “Hark! the herald angels sing

            Glory to the newborn King

            Peace on earth and mercy mild

            God and sinners reconciled”

 God and sinners reconciled

 Genesis 3:15 (HCSB)…and the Lord said to the serpent….“I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed (flesh of the world) and her seed (spirit of God). He (Jesus) will strike your head (destroy the serpent) and you will strike His heel”

Even at the moment of mankind’s fall, our Father was already putting a plan in place to reconcile us and take us from the clutches of death.

The Messiah would come to bruise the serpent’s head – that is, to destroy Satan and all his works and overturn his whole earthly empire.

700 years before Jesus was born the great prophet Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 7:14 (HCSB)– “The Lord Himself will give you a sign: the virgin will conceive, have a son…”

This was God’s way of ensuring that the woman’s seed was holy and without sin. The Messiah had to be the unblemished sacrifice.

Check. The seed of woman will be born to address the seed of the serpent. Around the same time as Isaiah’s Immanuel prophecy, another prophet named Habakkuk wrote the following in Habakkuk 3:13 (HCSB)…“You come out to save Your people, to save Your anointed. You crush the leader of the house of the wicked and strip him down from foot to neck.”

Rusty sings the second stanza…

 Joyful all ye nations rise

            Join the triumph of the skies

With angelic host proclaim

            “Christ is born in Bethlehem”

            With angelic host proclaim

            “Christ is born in Bethlehem”

 Chris is born in Bethlehem

This is an easy prophecy to find in the bible. We turn to the book of Micah, who was an 8th century BC prophet from Moreseth in Judah. In Micah 5:2 (HCSB) we read… “Bethlehem, you are small among the clans of Judah; One will come from you to be ruler over Israel for Me. His origin is from antiquity, from eternity”.

This ancient prophecy ties directly to the Gospel of John in Chapter 1, verse 1 -4 (HCSB)…“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him and that life was the light of men.”

Rusty sings 3rd stanza…

  “Mild He lays His glory by

            Born that man no more may die

            Born to raise the sons of earth

            Born to give them second birth

 Born to give them second birth

A second birth? What does that mean for us as Christians? As a young adult, and not truly knowing the Bible I used to cringe when I would hear Christians say “I am a born again Christian”. Ugh! I thought. That sounds so…weird. But, if we truly know scripture, Jesus is quite clear on this and again, this carol harkens back to an Old Testament prophecy and guidance through the Word of God.

Let’s turn to the story of Jesus and Nicodemus in the Gospel of John. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and ruler of the people. He would have been very knowledgable of scripture. He tells Jesus in their encounter “we know you come from God as a teacher, for no one could perform these signs unless God were with him” (John 3:2 (HCSB). What does Jesus say to this? “I assure you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 (HCSB))

This perplexes Nicodemus. He asks Jesus how someone can be born a second time? He thinks in terms of the physical world. Jesus moves to rebuke him. Why? Because Jesus reminds Nicodemus that his knowledge of scripture should be clear that a person can be reborn. In verse 5- 8 Jesus says this… “Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again”.

 Why would Jesus say this last part?

For that we need go back 600 years before the birth of Jesus and look at the Book of Ezekiel. In Chapter 36, verses 25-27 (HCSB) we read several points that tie directly back to Jesus’ guidance to Nicodemus. “I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a NEW heart and put a NEW spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statues and carefully observe My ordinances”.

Here we have Ezekiel speaking the Word of God – our bodies being cleansed by water. Our bodies being remade – reborn. Drawn out of the world that is impure and hard to a life in the Spirit. And, our hearts being filled with the very Spirit of God to give us direction, wisdom, peace and purity by the grace of the Messiah.

Rusty sings the fourth stanza….

 “Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see

            Hail the incarnate Deity

            Pleased as man with men to dwell

            Jesus, our Immanuel  

            Pleased as man with men to dwell

            Jesus, our Immanuel

 So what is “Immanuel”? In Hebrew, the name means “God is with us”. I believe that all of mankind, made in God’s image, has an innate tuning to be connected with God. To be close to the Lord. To walk with the Father. We know in Genesis Chapter 3 that Adam and Eve had the opportunity to walk with God in the garden of Eden…”the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze”

 Imagine God trucking across your backyard to your kitchen door for a hot chocolate on a cold winter afternoon???

However, something terrible happened. With mankind’s disobedience, sin was introduced and we became separated from the presence of God. Yet, we return to Isaiah 7:14 to learn that the prophecy said, “the virgin will conceive, have a son, an name him Immanuel”. God with us – born fully man and fully God. The perfect and living sacrifice to pay the price for our sins so we could return to the Father.

Rusty sings the fifth stanza….

           “Hail the Heaven born Prince of Peace

            Hail the Sun of Righteousness

            Light and life to all He brings

            Risen healing in His wings”

 There would come a Messiah. King of Kings. Holy Priest. Healer.

King of Kings

Jesus was born from the family of King David. David was told by Nathan the prophet…“I (God) will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father and he shall be my Son”. (II Samuel 7:12-14 (HCSB)).

Holy Priest

Jesus also fulfilled a prophecy for a King that would be a priest as well. David was a king but not a priest. But the Psalmist prophesied of the coming King Priest in the Messiah…“Forever, You are a priest like Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4 (HCSB))

Why Melchizedek? It is the root of the name in Hebrew we need to focus on. Melech means king. Tsedek means righteousness. The two together in Hebrew means “My King is Righteous”. Sun of Righteousness. Zechariah 6:13 in the Old Testament further emphasized the coming Messiah would be both King and Priest… “He…will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne” (NIV).

Healer

Jesus was born for our salvation and for our healing. Isaiah 53:5 (HCSB) explain “But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds”.

Even the wise men understood these three roles that Jesus at birth fulfilled. Their gifts reflected the different purposes Jesus was born for. Gold represented his kingship. Frankincense was a symbol of his priestly role. And myrrh was a flash to his role as healer through His death and resurrection as it was used for embalming.

Rusty sings final and sixth stanza…

 “Christ the highest Heaven adored

            Christ the everlasting Lord

            Come desire of nations come

            Fix in us Thy humble home

            Come desire of nations come

            Fix in us Thy humble home”

 Come desire of nations come

Jesus did not come to save only the Jews. He came to save everyone. God wants to open our spiritual eyes and ears and hearts and “shake us” in the U.S. and in China and in England and in Spain and in Brazil and to every part of the earth. And even right hear in New Albany and throughout Columbus. Haggai 2:7 (HCSB) is the basis for the last stanza…”I will shake all nations, and what is desire by all nations will come”.

 Isaiah 2:2 (HCSB) – “In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and ALL nations will stream to it”.

 Jesus was clear in the Gospel of John on his role as our Savior.

John 3:17-18 (HCSB) – “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God”.

 Are you reborn? Do you have faith in the healing name of Jesus? If not, do you want to be? You are in the right place. This is the house of God and it is a house of mercy and prayer. With all heads bowed and eyes closed, say this simple prayer of salvation with me…. “Jesus, you are my salvation. You are my Lord. I know that I am broken. I know that I need to repent of my sin and accept your gift of grace and forgiveness. You died on the cross for my sins and I want to follow you. Come into my heart, guide my life and teach me your ways. Amen”.

 If you said that prayer this morning and gave your life to Jesus we are so excited for you. After the service we will have elders in our church in the front that can say a blessing for you and discuss how you take the next steps in your faith.

 Everyone stands and sings the entire carol together.

 So now you know. Hark! the herald angels sing is an amazing Christmas carol. It is a song from God, written because He loves us. Now every time you sing it I hope the lessons of this sermon adds a little joy to your voice as your know the real basis for this carol.

Pastor’s Closing Prayer and Blessing

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve. Pour upon Gracetown the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen

 

           

 

 

Joy To The World

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Joy To the World

One of the best parts of the story – joy of that night

There was so much turmoil – under Roman rule – miserable God brought “great joy”

God’s Antidote for a weary Religion

Luke 2:8-14 ESV – And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

I think one of the missing things in Christmas today – joy For many – Christmas isn’t so holly jolly

There are things that steal our joy:

  1. Past experiences become Dim
  2. Present Burdens become heavy
  3. Future Hope becomes distant

John 15:11 ESV– “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

The Twin Joy Robbers 

• Bad Things That Shouldn’t Happen, But Do

• Good Things That Should Happen, But Don’t

Today – Joy to the World – how to enjoy your life – have fun – laugh

Don’t you love to laugh?  I do – and love to listen to people laugh

Happiness is usually what we want, but JOY is what we need! 

Remember- for every minute of anger, you lose 60 seconds of joy

Joy – intense, ecstatic, exultant happiness, expression of that feeling, to enjoy, fill with pleasure and satisfaction.

Words that describe Joy – amusement, animation, bliss, cheer, comfort, delight, gladness, good humor, jewel, luxury, rapture, refreshment, wonder, sport, treasure

(Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4)  “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to laugh.”

It’s one of the healthiest things you can do

(Psalm 2:3)  “The One enthroned in heaven laughs.”

  1. Joy will Change my approach to Life

Think about all the different aspects of your life. Emotions will affect it more than anything else.

Nehemiah 8:10 ESV  “ Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

You are stronger when your attitude is strong – emotions are solid – It will give you an uncommonly positive perspective on life

2. Joy will turn my problems into blessings.

It has the ability to turn bad things into good things –

Psalm 126:5 ESV Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!

(Proverbs 17:22 NIV)  “A cheerful heart is good medicine.”

•God’s got some good stuff for you!  No aweful side effects

  • Take three tablespoons three times a day. 

a. Take it when you feel like it!

b. Take it when you don’t feel like it!

c. And take it when you don’t know how you feel!

Psalm 30:5 ESV For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.[a]Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

3. Joy will affect those around you.

It’s contagious – Can totally change the dynamic of your Christmas

Don’t take yourself too seriously

Psalm 126:1-2 NIV “When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’”

The Secret of Joy

  1. Take responsibility for your own emotions.

So easy to blame others – but it’s up to you

Choosing the way you’re going to view life – people

For most of us – our attitude will not take care of itself

Remember – it’s not a feeling – it’s a choice

If you don’t like the situation that faces you – change it

(Hebrews 12:1 ESV)  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”

You cannot determine what happens to you

But you can determine what happens in you

RememberThe walls we build around us to keep out the sadness also keep out the joy

The best way is to start off each day – decide – get rid of stuff

Dear Lord,

So far today, I am doing all right.  I have not gossiped, lost my temper, been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or self-indulgent.  I have not whined, cursed, or eaten any chocolate. However, I am going to get out of bed in a few minutes, and I will need a lot more help after that.  Amen.

(Psalm 19:14 ESV)  “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

2. Develop a high appreciation for life.

We’ve been given a priceless resource called TIME – You can’t save it or buy it. 18 times a minute you breath, 25,920 times a day FREE of Charge.

Life can change in a moment! (Tricia’s coworker husband 51 yrs old)

The question is not how will you die, but how will you live life?

Story of senior being admitted into a nursing home

“Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time.  Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged.  It’s how I arrange my mind.”

John Wooden said—“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”

(Ecclesiastes 5:19 NIV)  “When God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work–this is a gift of God.”

We cannot choose how many years we will live

But we can choose how much life those years will have

We cannot control the beauty of our face

But we can control the expression on it

We cannot control life’s difficult moments

But we can choose to make life less difficult

We cannot control the negative atmosphere of the world

But we can control the atmosphere of our minds

Too often – we try to choose and control things we cannot

Too seldom – we choose to control what we can – our attitude

How?  People who have a high appreciation of life…

Know that God is going to work it out for the good

(Romans 8:28 NIV)  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

3. Find something positive in everything

How?  Think positively – glass is half empty – or half full

Some people are so negative when they walk into a room the lights go out.

(Philippians 4:8 NIV)  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

This is spiritual warfare – pull down negative thoughts

Attitude and faith are very similar – way you view something

Either the “yes” or “no” – either doubt or faith

(2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV)  “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

4. Say something positive in every conversation.

This is hard – but can change the dynamic of every situation – Some people have NO filter

(Proverbs 16:24 NIV)  “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

Best way is to pray daily…

(Psalm 141:3 NIV)  “Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

People can frustrate you – must train our eyes

Look for the best in them – bring out their positive qualities

(Philippians 2:3-4 NIV)  “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

5. Express gratitude to God and others daily.

If you’re thankful for everything – can’t be disappointed

Consider all of life a gift from God – That breath you just took, it’s a gift

“It’s not happy people who are Thankful, It is thankful people who are happy”

I Thessalonians 5:18 NIV “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live…He has penetrated the whole mystery of life: giving thanks for everything.” – Albert Schweitzer

(Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

God wants to restore your joy – This is what the gift of Christmas is all about – Getting your joy back

Phillipians 4:4 ESV – Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. (prison letters)

•Happiness is an emotion, but joy is a decision. And your decisions must rule your emotions, not vice-versa.

THE WELLS OF JOY (Genesis 26) 

A. THE PHILISTINES STOPPED UP ALL THE WELLS 

1. They thought this would drive Isaac away.

2. They attempted to cover up his source of refreshing and strength.

3. The devil would like to do the same to you.

4. He wants to stop up your JOY WELL and cover it up.

 B. GOD COMMANDED ISAAC TO REDIG THE WELLS 

1. Some of you need to redig the wells.

2. You need to uncover the well which the devil has sought to hide from you.

3. Isa 12:3  “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of  salvation.” 

4. The devil may try to stop your JOY-WELL up, but you’re going to unstop those wells.

John 16:24 NIV  “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.  Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” 

Psalms 43:4 – “I will go to your altar and you my exceeding joy in PRAISE”!