Longing Pt.1 – Waiting and Wanting

Longing Pt.1 – Waiting and Wanting

The Liturgical calendar began in the 5th or 6th century to follow along and walk the way of the life of Christ and move us to experience Christ. To follow the feasts and celebrations of Israel

Today begins the season of Advent – Beginning 4 Sundays before Christmas and ending on Christmas eve – The Christian season of Christmas actually begins on Christmas Eve and lasts for twelve days, ending on January 6. (No, the twelve-day season of Christmas did not start with the song. It was the other way around.) The time before Christmas is Advent, a season of preparation for Christmas. Christians prepare for celebrating the birth of Jesus by remembering the longing of the Jews for a Messiah. In Advent, we’re reminded of how much we ourselves also need a Savior, and we look forward to our Savior’s second coming even as we prepare to celebrate his first coming at Christmas.

Advent is not decorating, shopping, wrapping, pictures, partying, stressing or the receiving of gifts. Advent is waiting, expecting, observing, praying, hoping, preparing for the arrival of Christ – first as the Child and Savior and then as the returning King. 

When the church celebrates Advent she makes present the ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for Jesus’ first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming.

Advent itself means ”arrival” or ”an appearing or coming into place.” Christians often speaks of Christ’s ”first advent” and ”second advent;” that is, His first and second comings to earth. His first advent would be the Incarnation-Christmastime.

Advent is seen as a time to prepare one’s heart for Christmas and for the eventual return of Christ (and the judgement He will bring to the world).

Micah 7:7 ESV – But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.

Advent makes us look for God in all those places we have, until now, ignored.

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”

•Imagine four hundred years without a word from God—no voice, no prophet, nothing. Imagine the agony of waiting, and the struggle to keep faith in the promises given long before. You can almost hear the ques- tions being passed from one generation to the next. Was God gone? Was He ever really there? Was faith in Him just a waste?

Suddenly, when the time was right, Bethlehem’s fields lit up like noon- day as angels proclaimed, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men on whom his favor rests. 

The wait was over. The silence was broken. Heaven unleashed thun- derous applause. And in a messy manger, Jesus was born. God in human flesh! The Son of God had become the Son of Man. Emmanuel— God with us!

From the beginning, the Christmas story has been one of fulfilled longing.

Song “O Come O Come Immanuel And ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the son of God appears. Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel”

Luke 1:26-38 ESV In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[a] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[b] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[c] 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant[e] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes…and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.”

Advent is about learning to Wait. We learn in Advent to stay in the present. Knowing that only the present well lived can possibly lead us to the fullness of life.

Life is not mean to be escaped. Like the liturgical year moves from season to season (advent, lent, etc…) from feast to feast. Life is an exercise in transformation. It takes a lifetime of practice, patience and slow growth.

Waiting is the essential dimension of spiritual development and growth

The function of Advent is to remind us and relieves us of this frantic fast paced world. Waiting – that cold, dry period of life when nothing seems to be enough and something else beckons within us – it’s the grace that Advent brings.

We all want something more. Advent asks the questions, what is it for which you are spending your life? What is the star you are following now?

Rom. 8:25 The Message “Waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting.” 

Henri Nouwen said, Waiting is a period of learning. The longer we wait, the more we hear about Him for whom we are waiting. 

 How To Long for Christ in this Season

“Patience (endurance) is what gives staying power to our faith. We’d all love it if every desired result was instantaneous, but we know that there is often a process involved. That’s why Hebrews 6:12 tells us that it’s through ‘faith and patience’ that we inherit the promises. Faith is our trusting God, and patience is our unwavering tenacity in doing so.”

1. Wait For the Lord

“I try to remember that walking in the will of God might mean waiting as much as it might mean moving forward.”

Isaiah 64:4 NIV – Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him

The good news of Advent is not that we are faithful in our waiting (we often aren’t) but that God is faithful in his coming.

Isaiah 40:31 ESV – but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Waiting exposes our idols and throws a wrench into our coping mechanisms. It brings us to the end of what we can control and forces us to cry out to God. God doesn’t waste our waiting. He uses it to conform us to the image of his Son

Psalm 37:7 NIV – Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…

Waiting is a very active part of living. Waiting on God, if we do it correctly, is anything but passive. Waiting works its way out in very deliberate actions, very intentionally searching the Scriptures and praying, intense moments of humility, and self-realization of our finiteness. With the waiting comes learning. I can’t think of much I’ve learned that’s positive from the times I’ve plowed ahead without waiting on God.

2. Wait with Each Other

(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.”

Mother Teresa said, “At this Christmas when Christ comes, will He find a warm heart? Mark the season of Advent by loving and serving the others with God’s own love and concern.”

I Thess. 5:11 NIV – Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Focus on your relationships and express your love to those closest to you. When people are on their deathbeds, they don’t think about their work or all their things. They think about their family and people in our lives

Example: The Waiting Room when Dad was in the hospital. Family and Friends coming to be with us (Ron had food delivered)

3. Remember God Waits For Me 

2 Peter 3:9 NLT – The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

Jan 6, 1980 The day Jesus waited for me

Colossians 1:11 NLT – We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy

Isaiah 30:18 NIV – Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

Fredrick Buechner said in his book The Magnificent Defeat, “For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning – not home but the place through which we must pass if ever we are to reach home at last.”

Remember 

“Life is a constant Advent season: we are continually waiting to become, to discover, to complete, to fulfill. Hope, struggle, fear, expectation and fulfillment are all part of our Advent experience.

“The world is not as just, not as loving, not as whole as we know it can and should be. But the coming of Christ and his presence among us—as one of us—give us reason to live in hope: that light will shatter the darkness, that we can be liberated from our fears and prejudices, that we are never alone or abandoned.

“May this Advent season be a time for bringing hope, transformation and fulfillment into the Advent of our lives.”

So each of us are an innkeeper that needs to decide is there room for Jesus?

All I Want for Christmas Pt.4

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All I Want for Christmas Pt.4 – Joy

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 and in life today – joy For many – Christmas isn’t so holly jolly and not so merry and bright

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 is laugh

(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 To 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.

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

Life can change in a moment!

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”!

All I Want for Christmas Pt.2

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All I Want for Christmas Pt 2 – Peace

Looking for Peace? Most of us are more familiar with tension, stress, and anxiety, rather than peace. Lack of peace is a result of our complex, accelerated and stressed out world. People say…

•I’m ready to throw in the towel •I am at the end of my rope •I am just a bundle of nerves •I am at my wits end •I feel like resigning from the human race •I am in over my head

Peace in today’s society is a commodity much desired and rarely found. Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise or trouble. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.

Isaiah was describing a time of darkness, oppression, war, and death. War was looming between Israel and Judah

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 – (def) – freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility; freedom from war or violence. (Hebrew) shalom (greeting of Hello or Goodbye) – means fulness. Having everything you need to be whole and happy. prosperity, harmony, peace, completeness.

A time of violent roman occupation

(Luke 2:6-14 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. 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,14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[d]

Peace on Earth?

There is always some kind of darkness or danger of some kind overshadowing our world: warfare, cancer, poverty, broken relationships, murders, cruelty, suffering, etc…

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

A not so silent night. 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.

(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.

Much of life is out of our control, On an airplane – baby crying, Stuck in traffic. Couples trying to have a baby, Singles who want to get married

When things are out of our control – We get frustrated and lose our peace of mind

(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.

Have you ever thought…? Life would be great if it weren’t for all these people – You make all of these great plans – people will not cooperate

(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 difficult time

2. Who left you in your difficult time

3. Who put you in your difficult time

•Unexplainable problems.

Then there is the whole “unexplainable” part of life – Things don’t turn out right – don’t understand why

(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!

The truth is – Christmas season is anything but peaceful for people. We all love this time of year – but produces so much worry, stress, anxiety, and depression.

I find that men and women worry about different things at Christmas Women worry about, Did I buy enough?  Do we have enough?  Have I done enough?  Are the kids going to be happy? Did I forget anybody?

Guys worry about at different things at Christmas – really two How am I going to pay for all of this? And, How long are the relatives going to be in town?

Worrying never solves tomorrow’s problems – Worry only robs today of its peace

I know there’s a lot of stuff here that we’re worried about Some real legitimate, pretty serous things

Health issues, financial problems, family crises, Are my kids going to be all right? Am I going to have a job next year? What’s the doctor going to say?

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

The question is – How do you really find peace of mind?

(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. 

You were made to live in harmony with God – When you are not – it causes stress

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

Psychologists will tell you that a main source of stress – guilt – There is nothing more peaceful than a clean slate

Justified – just as if I’d never done it – But you need to accept it – even some Christians don’t

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.

God is eager – it’s the best part of His day – Think about it – total forgiveness – completely clean – That would give peace of mind

2. Run to God’s Presence.

This one is hard to explain – you have to experience it – There is a tangible presence of God

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

Peace is a mindset – but can’t get it through secular meditation – Comes through focusing on what God says about you

– Prayer – the Word of God

(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.”

Back story – 180,000 enemy troops were about to attack Israel

God says – “chill out” – sit still – hurry aggravates worry – Be still “And know” – intimacy not knowledge

3. Obey God’s principles.

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

If we’re honest – most of our stress comes from ignoring His principles – What has God told you that you haven’t done yet?

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.

Today on this second Sunday of Advent, identify areas in your life in which turmoil is reigning rather than peace.

I admonish everyone of us today to Trust in God’s Provision and Care

Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” 

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

Don’t fall to pieces – Follow Peace – April Osteen Simons

All I Want For Christmas Pt.1 – An Amazing Life

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All I Want for Christmas Pt.1 – An Amazing Life

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.

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.

2 a natural ability or talent: he has a gift for comedy.

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

In desperation, he pleads with his arch-enemy (Mr. Potter) for a loan on his life insurance. Potter gleefully observes “George, you’re worth more dead than alive!”

And thus, George Bailey decides that his only solution is to throw himself off the bridge into the frigid waters below and at least supply his family with the money from his life insurance.

But God steps in and an angel is sent to earth to stop George Bailey before he can take his life.

But how do you convince a man that the gift he wants to throw away is in reality far too valuable to be destroyed?

The angel’s solution: to grant George Bailey’s wish and show him what life would’ve been like if he’d never been born. So, as George tries to get back to his home, he finds that…

• the town he’d worked so hard to build up and protect had become a den of iniquity and evil

• the pharmacist – who George saved from a tragic mistake – has become the town drunk

• his brother Harry whom he’d saved from falling thru the ice, dies because George wasn’t there to save him and the hundreds of men died that Harry would have saved during the war, because Harry wasn’t there to save them.

• and the beautiful woman he’d married and had had such wonderful children with ended up becoming a wretched, dejected and lonely spinster.

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?”

George Bailey finally understood how wonderful his life had been because he was allowed to see how much would have been lost if he had never been born. That – which he’d been tempted to throw away – he came to realize was too valuable to lose.

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

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.

Sometimes Life is not so merry and bright

Charles Dickens said, There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.

•Life seems useless.

Ecclesiastes 1:2-4 NLT “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!”What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes.

(GN) “Life is useless, all useless. You spend your life working… but what do you have to show for it? … The world just stays the same.” 

•Life seems tiresome.

Ecclesiastes 1:4-8 NLT Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.

(GN) “The sun rises and goes down… the wind blows round and round and back again. Every river flows into the sea… [then] the water returns to where the river began and starts all over again. Everything leads to weariness…” 

•Life seems unfulfilling.

Ecclesiastes 1:8-10 NLT  Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. 10 Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new.

•Life seems uncontrollable.

Ecclesiastes 1:15 NIV What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.

(GN) “You can’t straighten out what is crooked;
you can’t count things that aren’t there!” 

What Matters Most in Life

1. God matters. 

(Philippians 3:7-8 NIV) “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ…”

(1 John 2:17 NIV) “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”

2. People matter. 

“God gives us people to love and things to use, not things to love and people to use”

Focus on your relationships and express your love to those closest to you.

(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.” 

(Matthew 25:35 NIV) “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

(Ecclesiastes 4:12 NLT) “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

Our Response this Christmas

1. Live Well

(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 – Live
  2. I would RISK more – Love
  3. I’d do more things that live on after I’m gone – Legacy

(2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV) “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

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

2. Live your life in view of eternity.

The most important issue you will ever face in life pertains to where you will spend eternity.

John 3:16-17 NIV For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

CS Lewis said, “Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

(Deuteronomy 30:19 NIV) “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life…”

•At the end of your life it won’t matter How much money was in your bank account, how many awards you won, how many goals you achieved. Did you love God? Did you love the people in your life?

3. The Result Of Christmas: You Can Know God Personally

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…”

Ps. 70:4 NIV “But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say,“The Lord is great!”

Phil. 2:9-11 (Good News) “For this reason God gave Jesus the name that is greater than any other name… (One day) all beings in heaven, and on earth, and in the world below will fall on their knees, and all will openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God.”

We are not mistakes in need of correction, we are sinners in need of a savior!

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”!

Advent: The Human Experience of Waiting

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Advent: The Human Experience of Waiting

The Liturgical calendar began in the 5th or 6th century to follow along and walk the way of the life of Christ and move us to experience Christ. To follow the feasts and celebrations of Israel

Today begins the season of Advent – Beginning 4 Sundays before Christmas and ending on Christmas eve – The Christian season of Christmas actually begins on Christmas Eve and lasts for twelve days, ending on January 6. (No, the twelve-day season of Christmas did not start with the song. It was the other way around.) The time before Christmas is Advent, a season of preparation for Christmas. Christians prepare for celebrating the birth of Jesus by remembering the longing of the Jews for a Messiah. In Advent, we’re reminded of how much we ourselves also need a Savior, and we look forward to our Savior’s second coming even as we prepare to celebrate his first coming at Christmas.

Advent literally means “coming” – Advent is a season of waiting, expecting, and hoping. Preparing us for the birth of Jesus

Our Preparation includes:

  1. We remember Israel’s hope for the coming of God’s Messiah to save, to forgive and to restore
  2. We remember our hope for the second coming of Jesus
  3. We remember our need for a Savior to save us from our sins
  4. We prepare to welcome Christ at Christmas into our world…and into our hearts

When the church celebrates the liturgy of Advent she makes present the ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for Jesus’ first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming.

Advent makes us look for God in all those places we have, until now, ignored.

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”

Song “O Come O Come Immanuel And ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the son of God appears. Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel”

Luke 1:26-38 ESV In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[a] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[b] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[c] 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant[e] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes…and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.” 

Advent is about learning to Wait. We learn in Advent to stay in the present. Knowing that only the present well lived can possibly lead us to the fullness of life.

Life is not mean to be escaped. Like the liturgical year moves from season to season (advent, lent, etc…) from feast to feast. Life is an exercise in transformation. It takes a lifetime of practice, patience and slow growth.

Waiting is the essential dimension of spiritual development  and growth

The function of Advent is to remind us and relieves us of this frenetic fast paced world. Waiting – that cold, dry period of life when nothing seems to be enough and something else beckons within us – it’s the grace that Advent brings.

We all want something more. Advent asks the questions, what is it for which you are spending your life? What is the star you are following now?

How to Endure the Season of Waiting in your Life 

Henri Nouwen said, Waiting is a period of learning. The longer we wait, the more we hear about Him for whom we are waiting. 

Rom. 8:25 The Message “Waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting.” 

Why God Makes Us Wait 

•Waiting Renews Our Strength 

Isaiah 40:31 ESV – but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

“Patience (endurance) is what gives staying power to our faith. We’d all love it if every desired result was instantaneous, but we know that there is often a process involved. That’s why Hebrews 6:12 tells us that it’s through ‘faith and patience’ that we inherit the promises. Faith is our trusting God, and patience is our unwavering tenacity in doing so.” 

•Waiting Refines Our Character 

Romans 5:3-4 NIV – Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg—not smashing it.” – Arnold Glasow 

Waiting Refocuses Our Purpose

James 5:11 NIV As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

 How To Grow in the Season of Waiting 

  1. Wait For the Lord, Not the Answer 

Isaiah 64:4 NIV – Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him

Psalm 37:7 NIV – Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

2. Wait In A Crowd, Not Alone 

Hebrews 6:15 NIV – And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.

Hebrews 12:1 NIV – Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,

Mother Teresa said, “At this Christmas when Christ comes, will He find a warm heart? Mark the season of Advent by loving and serving the others with God’s own love and concern.” 

I Thess. 5:11 NIV – Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

3. Remember: God Waits For Me 

2 Peter 3:9 NLT – The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

Colossians 1:11 NLT – We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy

Isaiah 30:18 NIV – Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

Fredrick Buechner said in his book The Magnificent Defeat, “For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning – not home but the place through which we must pass if ever we are to reach home at last.”

Remember 

“Life is a constant Advent season: we are continually waiting to become, to discover, to complete, to fulfill. Hope, struggle, fear, expectation and fulfillment are all part of our Advent experience.

“The world is not as just, not as loving, not as whole as we know it can and should be. But the coming of Christ and his presence among us—as one of us—give us reason to live in hope: that light will shatter the darkness, that we can be liberated from our fears and prejudices, that we are never alone or abandoned.

“May this Advent season be a time for bringing hope, transformation and fulfillment into the Advent of our lives.”

So each of us are an innkeeper that needs to decide is there room for Jesus?

Christmas at The Movies: A Christmas Carol

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A Christmas Carol

What’s your favorite thing about Christmas? The gifts? Decorations? Candy Canes? holiday parties? Christmas music? How about the movies? No other time of year has had as many movies dedicated to it as Christmas. We are exploring behind the scenes from Christmas Classic Movies to discover a story that connects with something deeper within all of us!

Isaiah 9:6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

We are exploring Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Published in 1843, it’s one of the best-loved stories to be set at this time of year. Its frankly one of my favorites. We probably think we know the story back to front. After all, it’s been adapted into over 200 films, and is such a powerful tale that it’s credited with helping to define our contemporary understanding of Christmas. But a fresh look at this all-time classic, reminds us that it’s far more than just a feel-good festive tale featuring a miserly old humbug with one of the oldest catchphrases in the world. The book’s main character, of course, is the mean and intimidating Ebenezer Scrooge, who lives to make money and very little else. He certainly has no use for religion or sentimentality.

Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge had NO PEACE, He was a troubled man:

You may remember from the story how one Christmas Eve, Scrooge receives a terrifying wake-up call. The spirit of his business partner, Jacob Marley, who died seven Christmas Eves previous and was a miser like Scrooge, comes to visit, bound and wrapped in terrible chains. Marley has been condemned to roam the face of the earth, tormented in death by the things he neglected to value in life.

Marley is desperate to give his old colleague a final chance to avoid the same fate. ‘My spirit never walked beyond our counting house,’ he warns Scrooge. A great length of chain traps Jacob Marley’s spirit and weighs it down. Marley tells Scrooge that he alone forged it in life: ‘I made it, link by link and yard by yard.’ Chains that were forged with regrets and sins of his own making which he could not release, and hurts he would not forgive. And as he stands before Scrooge, he can see the even greater chains that bind his old colleague: ‘Would you know the weight and length of the coil you bear yourself?’ asks Marley. ‘It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it since. It is a ponderous chain.’

This, he makes clear, is Scrooge’s last opportunity to turn from selfish ways.

Listen to the way Dickens describes Ebenezer Scrooge:

“No warmth could warm him, no wintry weather could chill him. No wind that blew was more bitter than he. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often came down handsomely, and Scrooge never did.”

ILL> At one point in the story, his nephew Fred stops by to wish him a merry Christmas. That’s where those famous words were spoken, “Bah, humbug.”

ILL> In another scene two gentlemen stop by to ask for a donation to help the poor during the holidays. They even offer to keep Scrooge’s gift anonymous if he wishes. “What I wish is to be left alone. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry.” They reply, “Then many will die.”

“If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

  • Not many in the world cared for Ebenezer Scrooge, but worse yet, he cared for no one but himself. He was a man who had NO Peace.

• On Christmas Eve he is visited by 3 spirits

1. The spirit of Christmas past showed a happier time when Ebenezer fell in love, but chose to invest himself in making riches instead of relationships

2. The spirit of Christmas present showed him the down and out in the world and how Bob Crachit’s family struggled to make ends meet–and there were others who were unable to do so altogether

3. The spirit of Christmas yet to come. Tiny Tim had passed because there were no funds to cure his ailing body •Ebenezer died, but no one seemed to care •Finally, he is faced with his own grave.

•Even though The Christmas Carol is a fictional story set in London in 1843. It remains amazingly relevant today.

Not Much Peace today

 John 16:33I 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.”

•Unavoidable circumstances.

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

•Unbearable people.
Psalms 109:3
“With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause.”

Never Forget the 3 Types of People in Your Life: 1. Those who helped in your difficult time, 2. Those who left you in your difficult time, 3. Those who put you in your difficult time

•Unexplainable problems.

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

3 Reasons for Life’s Problems: 1. Sin – We are in an imperfect world, 2. Satan – common enemy, 3. Self – We make mistakes

(Sometimes it’s nobody’s fault)

John 9:1-3 MSG1-2 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- 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

How to Receive Peace this Christmas

Luke 2:10-14 “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.”

Peace- Shalom, fullness, freedom of the mind from annoyance, distraction, anxiety, an obsession, etc.; tranquillity; serenity.

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

John 14:27 LB “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isnʼt fragile like the peace the world gives. So donʼt be troubled or afraid.”

1. Receive Godʼs pardon.

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

Micah 7:18 “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives…You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.”

2. Run to Godʼs presence.

Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.”

Psalm 46:1, 10 “God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble…Be still and know that I am God.”

3. Respect Godʼs principles.

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

Peace comes through Obedience

4. Rely on Godʼs provision.

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

Trust God to take care of things beyond our control

Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV – Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight

There is no need to dwell on the “What if’s” of life – Our response is either panic or pray, worry or worship!

Be Transformed! When you put your care in His Hands, He puts His Peace in your Heart

Fortunately for Scrooge, this is the life-changing moment while he is at his own grave, when he understands that it’s now or never. He asks whether it’s possible to mend his ways and so alter his life and destiny. Surely the Spirits wouldn’t be visiting him if not? As Christmas morning dawns and he wakes, once more, to the world, Scrooge realizes that he has been given a reprieve- a second chance. Just as Dickens believed we have all been given another chance, only because of the birth of the hero of the greatest Christmas story, Jesus.

The good news is that if we will learn from the past, we can change now so that we can create a better future. Just as the spirits of Christmas wanted Scrooge to change for good. Christmas is the time and place where God draws back the curtain, so we can see his face. Because we are bound by chains that bound old Jacob Marley, Jesus has come to give us peace, But we must look to the Christ The good news is that we, like Scrooge, are still alive. It’s not too late: we can choose to change. Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards. Whatever our past has been, we can have a better future.

At the heart of ‘A Christmas Carol’ lies Scrooge’s transformation. Transformation means change. Change from a selfish, greedy, Troubled, and bitter old man, we see him become a grateful, generous, Peaceful, and compassionate figure. A man that was filled with deep regret sees his life transformed, to the point where Dickens concludes he became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew.’ We assume that Scrooge learns his lesson, and experiences what amounts to a ‘conversion’. He responds by changing his ways and living out the lessons that he learnt on that Christmas Eve.

 

Christmas at the Movies: What Christmas is All About: A Charlie Brown Christmas

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What Christmas is All About: A Charlie Brown Christmas

INTRODUCTION: A Charlie Brown Christmas

-The Peanuts gang is really getting into the spirit of Christmas

-Charlie Brown is wondering “Is this what Christmas all about?” He has a problem.

-Linus said out of all the Charlie Browns in the world, your the Charliest Brown of them all!

-He gets no Christmas cards

-He gets help from Lucy (the pyschirotrist)- 5 cents, She loves $$$$

-He says he is depressed, its Christmas. She Exclaims to CB you need involvement. Be the director of the play.

-Lucy says she gets depressed to . Why? She never get’s what she wants for Christmas.  She wants REAL ESTATE.

-Snoopy ‘s doghouse:  CB reads a flyer. “The true meaning of Christmas, lights & display contest- win $$$$$” -Charlie Brown- “My dog has gone commercial!” -Sally (his baby sister) wants him to write a letter to Santa: “Dear Santa-…… I want tens, twenties, etc….”

-Charlie Brown at school to direct play: goes & gets a tree

-all kids say – your stupid, hopeless. Charlie Brown exclaims: “Does anyone know what Christmas is all about!”

Text: 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, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!

Philippians 2:5-11 ESV Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

What is so special about Christmas? It is the centerpiece of our history. Even our calendar is dated from the reference point of Jesus Christ. God split history with the event of Christmas. Everything is either A.D. or B.C.

What is so special about Christmas? I think Philippians 2 answers it. We have here the greatest explanation in the Bible of who Jesus Christ is and what He came to do. This is the bedrock, the foundation of all that we believe.

1. THE RELEVANCE OF CHRISTMAS: GOD CAME TO EARTH 

When the allies landed on Normandy on D-Day, that was big news. That is nothing compared to the news when God invaded earth. It was big news when man landed on the moon and walked there. It’s bigger news when God landed on the earth. Jesus Christ is God Himself. It was God that came to earth.

Col. 1:15-16 Living Bible “Jesus Christ is the exact likeness of the unseen God. He existed before God made anything at all, and in fact, Christ Himself is the Creator who made everything…

John 1:1-5 ESV – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life,[a] and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Despite our efforts to keep him out, God intrudes. The life of Jesus is bracketed by two impossibilities: a virgin’s womb and an empty tomb. Jesus entered our world through a door marked “No Entrance” and left through a door marked “No Exit”. 

If Jesus really was God and God came to earth, then Christmas is the most relevant event of history. So stop seeking the God you want and start seeking the God who is!

2. THE REALITY OF CHRISTMAS: GOD BECAME A MAN

This is even more difficult to understand. If you were God and were going to come to earth, of all the ways you could choose to reveal yourself, would you come as a baby? as a human being?

Philippians 2:7-8 ESV but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[a] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

The reality of Christmas was that Jesus Christ was a real man, flesh and blood, bones, hair. He was a real person, not a myth, fable, a nice story. In the Encyclopedia Britannica there are more pages on Jesus Christ than anybody else. The reality is that God came to earth and God became a man.

Charles Wesley put it this way in his great hymn: “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail th’ incarnate Deity, Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.”

Why would he? If God had wanted to communicate with dogs, He would have become a dog. If He wanted to communicate with birds, He would have become a bird. But God wanted to communicate with people so He became a person. That is what the Bible calls the incarnation. God came to earth but He came as a human being, a person, like us.

How is Jesus like us?

1) He was born like us. He made himself nothing. He came into the world like billions of other babies. But the whole history of the world rested in that one fragile infant. That must have blown the minds of the angels — “What is God doing?” No flashy entrance to let the whole world know He’s there. He just comes in in the middle of the night in a stable in Bethlehem. Jesus didn’t stop being God when He became man. He was 100% God and 100% man. He was God in human form. He was born like us.

2) He grew like us. Luke 2:52 “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” He grew and developed and had growth spurts. Can you imagine what it would have been like to have gone to school with Jesus? You would know that He was a little bit different but would you believe that He was God. He did not parade the fact that he was God. He was a human being and grew like us. He looked every inch a carpenter and a Jew from Palestine. He was a real man. That’s the reality of Christmas.

3) He was tempted like us. Hebrews says “He was tempted in all points like as we, yet without sin.” Jesus experienced the same pressures that you and I do, the same temptations, desires, drives. The same temptations to lie, to cheat, to steal. He had the same drives but He never gave into them. This is important because He can relate to you when you’re struggling.

4) He suffered like us. He felt pain, disappointment. He got tired, fatigued. He felt lonely at times. He grieved, He cried, He was human. In Gethesemane (Matthew 26:38) He said, “The sorrow is so great it almost crushes Me.” He knew what it was like to feel pain. He can relate to your pain, problems, pressures. He was God but He became a man. Jesus became what we are so we can become what He is. That is the reality of Christmas.

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said wouldn’t be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or else he’d be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was and is the son of God, or else a madman or something worse.” – C.S. Lewis

3. THE REASON FOR CHRISTMAS: JESUS CAME TO DIE

Philippians 2:8 ESV And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus didn’t stay in a crib in a manger. He went to a cross and voluntarily laid down His life for us. Why? He didn’t have to. He was God. He could have called 10,000 angels and stopped the process at any point. He did not have to go to the cross. Nobody put Him there without His permission. Why did He allow Himself to go to the cross?

Remember: “God’s power to save us is greater than our sin that condemns us”

The Bible says He did it for two reasons:

  1. To demonstrate God’s love.

Romans 5:8 ESVbut God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

His motivation was love. If you want to know how much God loves you, look at the cross. The Bible says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” A lot of people may give their life for their friend or family or children. But the Bible says that God gave His life for us when we were rejecting Him, before we even knew Him, before we were even born. He gave His life for us. That’s love.

I John 4:9 ESV – In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

2. To pay for my sins.

When you break a law you’ve got to pay a penalty. When you break man’s laws you pay man’s penalties. When you break God’s laws you pay God’s penalties. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” But “… the gift of God is eternal life.”

I Peter 2:24 Living Bible –  He personally carried the load of our sins in his own body when he died on the cross so that we can be finished with sin and live a good life from now on. For his wounds have healed ours!

Somehow what He did 2000 years ago can make a difference in my life right now. I can be completely forgiven for everything I’ve ever done wrong or will ever do. That’s the reason for Christmas.

The angels said, “For unto you this day is born a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

Jesus came to be the Savior of the world.

Salvation is freedom — freedom from guilt, worry, fear, purposelessness in life, to know that your eternity is settled, freedom to live the way God meant for you to live. That’s the reason for Christmas.

4. THE RESULT OF CHRISTMAS: JESUS IS LORD

Philippians 2:9-11 ESV – Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The cross is not the end. He’s alive! That’s what Easter is all about. If there were no empty manger there would be no empty tomb.

Because He humbled Himself:

1) He has been given a new name. The name “Jesus” in New Testament times was a very common name. It wasn’t unusual — like John or Jim today. “Jesus” means “salvation is of the Lord.” The Greek word is Joshua. That is why they had to distinguish which Jesus it was they were talking about — Jesus of Nazareth, etc. Even when He was born He was given many names: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

What is the name He has been given as a result of going to the cross for us? LORD. Jesus is Lord. Lord in Greek is the word that means “master, ruler, number one, Mr. Big, the one in control, total sovereign, king”.  Over 600 times in the New Testament the Bible calls Jesus, Lord.

What does it mean to say “Jesus is Lord”?

a) I acknowledge that He really is God. He’s more than a man or a prophet. He really is God. He is the Lord. It is a test of my commitment to Him.

b) I believe that He has everything under control. To say Jesus is Lord is a statement of comfort and encouragement. Although everything looks bleak, Jesus is Lord and I know He’s got everything under control. Nothing escapes His care or concern. Because He is Lord. To say Jesus is Lord is to say I don’t know what the New Year holds but I know who holds the future.

c) I commit all of my life to Him. He calls the shots because He is God. I’m seeking to live according to His plans

Romans 10:9 ESV – 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.

The issue is not, will you admit that Jesus is Lord? You will one day. The issue is simply, when? You will either admit it now in love and honor and respect or you will admit it later and find you have been wrong and made a big mistake. Every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. That is the result of Christmas.

Will Christmas this year be an event or an experience? Will it be past history or present reality? It’s up to you!

Jesus came for you! Will you come to Him?

Romans 7:24-25 The Message24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? 25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does…