Miracles Pt.1 – The Miracle of Heaven

Miracles Pt.1 – The Miracle of Heaven 

Very excited about this series – Inspire your faith – Believe God for miracles – We believe that God still does miracles today

Jesus did some incredible things during His life on earth

Turned water to wine – blind man sees – raised the dead – healed the sick

We believe that God is still in the miracle business – We are a Church that believes in it

Of all the miracles the resurrection of Jesus is the greatest – We don’t serve a God who is dead but alive

(Romans 8:11 NLT)  The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. (Same power lives in you & works in you – wherever there is death or a place you need a miracle) And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

  • We can not only celebrate the resurrection, we can also experience it.

You are candidate for God to do something powerful in your life

Jesus at this point in ministry needed others to help, crowds were so big

Not just 12 but commissioned 72

(Luke 10:17-20) The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Resurrection can happen in your marriages, families, finances, jobs, dreams But that is not the greatest

The greatest resurrection isn’t the resurrection of things

It’s the resurrection that we leave this pain on earth & eternally with God

Jesus died & rose again – One out of one person is going to die

Be more positive – I’m positive and I am positive that will happen

The hope we have & why earth doesn’t sting as much – We know there is more to life than this

Examples: Jesus said don’t be afraid of the one who can kill your body

All of us are – We’re careful, lock our doors, wear seatbelts, get insurance, eat right, exercise, – Trying to make this body last

God is saying do all that but don’t be afraid of the one who can kill your body – Be afraid of the one who can destroy body & soul

If you would put some of the energy you put into your temporal body

Into your eternal existence you would be doing a lot better

Real way to look at life is you are a blip on the screen compared to eternity

Life is a mist it’s here then gone (David said teach me to # my days) – Those miracles are great but God is wanting us to focus on eternity

Second example: Disciples of Jesus struggling – about Jesus leaving

(John 14:1-2 NIV) “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. (They brought an earth problem & Jesus talks about Heaven) My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?

Don’t be discouraged you’re getting out of here

  • Jesus offers more than a better now. He offers a better place.

When you have that hope it changes everything about how you live on earth

1 CORINTHIANS 2:9 NIV However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” 

Pope Francis said, Hope helps believers to be open to the surprises God has in store for us.

(John 11:25-26 NIV) “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

•Death does not conquer you, Death does not defeat you 

Scripture says where oh death is your victory & where oh death is your sting

•It never stings those who have the hope of Heaven – Even though you die you will live – We’ve passed from Death unto life.

•I am reminding you – a lot of us are feeling the sting of earth – Seems like things are getting worse

•In the middle of what we are facing – God can intervene. There is a resurrection available to us through Christ

Story: The generations before us had this hope / reminding my church I grew up in Jewett Oh.  I remember the songs being about Heaven

Favorite songs: When we all get to Heaven, “I’ll Fly Away….” What a Day that will be, Oh I want to see him, In the Sweet by and by,  Soon and Very Soon….

•That hope is what held them on – Jesus is saying this Easter, I died & rose again so you can have that experience

1 Peter 1:3-4 (Mes) “What a God we have! … Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven, and the future starts now!”

It’s the ultimate resurrection – We want miracles on earth but the greatest miracle is Heaven

(1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 NIV) Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, (We don’t feel the sting of death because Jesus conquered death) and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him…Therefore encourage each other with these words.

Revelation 21:1-4 NIV Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

•Live your life for others – People need hope – Hope changes everything

Everyone is going through something – that’s earth/life – We can join in prayer on earth & see the miraculous happen

If it doesn’t work out here on earth & you have the hope of eternal life

You have the ultimate resurrection & nothing can ever defeat you

My message for you church…Summarized in this statement

  • Believe on Jesus…

Earth is as close to hell as you’ll ever get.

It only gets better.

The opposite is true – If you haven’t believed on Jesus yet…

Earth is as close to Heaven as you’ll ever get – It only gets worse

Colossians 3:2 NIV–“Set you mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”

C.S. Lewis said, “ If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world”

•He also 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.”

I would say to you – This is an opportunity to change your heart – It’s getting hope. How?

(1st John 5:13 ASV) These things have I written unto you, that you may know that you have eternal life, believe on the name of the Son of God.

God wants way more than just believing in Him but believe on Him

What’s the difference?

Story: Charles Blondin French Tightrope walker walked 1,100 feet suspended on a tiny rope 160 feet above the raging waters of Niagra Falls several times back and forth between Canada and the United States as huge crowds on both sides looked on with shock and awe.  Once he crossed in a sack, once on stilts, another time on a bicycle,  one blind folded, and once he even carried a stove and cooked an omelet!  Then he pushed a wheelbarrow.It was then that Blondin posed the question – “Who will get in the wheelbarrow?’ Of course…none did. The crowd had watched his daring feats. They said they believed, but their actions proved they truly didn’t.

It’s one thing for us to say we believe in God. It’s true faith though when we believe God and put our faith and trust in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Faith in God is the same way – Just can’t believe he did it

God is looking for us to take another step

Not Belief in is not enough but Belief on

That’s faith / it’s taking a risk

(2 Peter 3:13-14 NIV) “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

The Invitation

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

•The good news is not that Jesus Christ lived and died, but that he lived, died, and he lives.

Ask that for the next 3 minutes (music begins playing) No one move or distract others – Very important moment

Take the “Connection Card” out – I want everyone to take this spiritual survey with me

On the card – I’ll want you to mark an A, B, C, or D – Spiritual Survey

Let me explain these and then I’d like you to check one – You are one of these four

If you’d say, “Rob, I am certain that I am a Christian.  I have made Jesus the Lord of my life and I’m in a personal relationship. Jesus has already brought me out.”  You check A – I’m already in a relationship with Jesus.

If you’d say, “Rob, I need God to rescue me.  I need a real relationship with God.”  You check B – I’m believing today – I need a fresh start Check B – I’m beginning a real relationship with God today.

If you’d say, “Rob, it sounds good but I’d like to consider it a little bit more first. I’d like to check it out.” I’d appreciate you checking C – I’d like to consider what God wants to do in my life.

If you’d say, “Rob, I don’t ever intend to give my life to God.

I don’t think I need God in my life.  In fact I intend to live my life my way.”  Check “D”.

Why? Have the guts to be honest & come to terms where you are at

I want to ask you to respect those around you – Please stay seated, quiet and fill out this card  – We’ll take a minute – Bow your head when your done

I want to pray with you right now

First, I’m going to pray for you then you can follow me in a prayer

“Father, there are people here today who, in one way or another, are dying. And only You can give them life again. I thank you today that You bring us out from the bondage of slavery – that you save us. So today, I pray that You will move in their life in a powerful way so they can know you personally and experience real life.”

Choosing Heaven means choosing to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Such a relationship brings a foretaste of Heaven in this life, and an eternity of happiness.  You can make your decision today!

(Romans 10:9-10 NIV) “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

If you checked “B” say this prayer with me …

Salvation Call – Jesus, forgive me for all of my sins, I give my life to you, make me brand new. I believe you died for me so that I can live. Fill me with your spirit that I would know you, & serve you with my life. My life is not my own, I give it to you. Thank you for loving me, in Jesus name, Amen!

If you made a decision to follow Christ this is your next step…Fill out Connection card – We want to send you some information this week in your emailIf you need prayer our team will be here at the end of service – Party in the Front and Prayer in the Back

How To Respond to Tragedy

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How To Respond to Tragedy

Ecclesiastes 8:14-16 NLT – And this is not all that is meaningless in our world. In this life, good people are often treated as though they were wicked, and wicked people are often treated as though they were good. This is so meaningless!15 So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.16 In my search for wisdom and in my observation of people’s burdens here on earth, I discovered that there is ceaseless activity, day and night. 

(NCV) “Sometimes something useless happens on earth. Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to  Bad people.” 

There are two mistakes that you can make regarding disaster. One is to think all the good things that happen to me prove I’m good, and that all the bad things that happen to me prove I’m bad. That’s wrong. In Luke 13, Jesus is talking about two tragedies that happened in His day. He said you know there were a bunch of innocent people up there worshipping at the temple and they came in and were brutally slaughtered. And he said there was a tower that fell on eighteen people and killed them. And He posed the question, “Who sinned, that caused this tragedy?” Was it a result of their sin? And then He answered His own question. He said, absolutely not, absolutely not!

Not everything that happens is God’s will. When I hear people hearing about a disaster or tragedy and they say, “Well, it must have been God’s will”, I have a spiritual term for that. “Baloney!”. It makes me want to puke. Because it’s just not true! Don’t blame God. God’s grieving too. God’s will is not always done.

Does that make sense? God’s will is not always done in this world folks. God will never force His will on your will.  That’s why we’re to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Why? Because God’s will isn’t always done on earth.  How’s it done in heaven? It’s done perfectly. And so we’re to pray, “God, just like your will is done perfectly in heaven, we want that to be done on earth”. If it was being done, we wouldn’t have to pray for it. 

John 16:33 AMP I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]

It would be impossible, in just one message, to go into all the reasons for suffering and for why God allows tragedy. Instead I want to focus on five ways that we should respond to tragedy.

Tragedy – an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress, such as a serious accident, crime, or natural catastrophe.

1. I Need to Release My Grief

When you go through a tragedy, the first thing you need to do is release your grief. Why? Because tragedy always creates strong emotions.

When people have emotions, they don’t know how to handle so they deny them, they ignore them, and they push them down. In fact many people use God as an excuse for this, believing that God wants everybody to have a happy face all the time. But real life isn’t always happy.  God doesn’t expect you to be smiling all the time.

Matthew 5:4 NIV -“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

In other words, it’s OK to grieve. Face your feelings. Don’t repress them by pushing them down You release your emotions to God. If you don’t talk it out, you’ll take it out on yourself or somebody else.

Dr. Gary R. Collins: “Grief is a normal response to the loss of any significant person, object, or opportunity.”

The Grief Recovery® Institute: “Grief is the NORMAL and NATURAL reaction to loss. Grief is EMOTIONAL, not intellectual.”

God wants to comfort you in a tragedy.

Psalm: 62:8 NIV – “Pour out your heart to God, for he is our refuge.”

Psalm. 34:18 NIV – “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

2. I need to Receive from Others

It is a big mistake to isolate yourselves from others when you’re going through a crisis.  Now usually that’s what we want to do, we want to get all by ourselves; But you need other people. You need their perspective, you need their support, you need their encouragement, you need their prayer, and you just need their presence.  

Galatians 6:2 NIV – Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

“By helping each other with your troubles, you obey the law of Christ.” (NCV)

To make it through a crisis, we need not only the promises of God; we need the people of God.

Hebrews 12:15 NLT Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many

3. I Need to Refuse to be Bitter

One of the things I’ve learned from being in the ministry for many years is that there’s absolutely no correlation in life between your experiences and your happiness. I’ve seen people who had absolutely the worst experiences in life—things that would shock everyone of us, and yet they maintain this happy, cheerful, positive attitude, because happiness is a choice. You’re about as happy as you choose to be.

Job 21:25 NIV – Another dies in bitterness of soul, never having enjoyed anything good. 

• GNV- “Some people have no happiness at all: they live and die with bitter hearts.

Now you’re going to have to decide when you go through those tragedies, those disasters, “Am I going to allow this to make me a bitter person, or better person?” And he says here, you can have a choice, “you can either choose happiness in life or you can choose bitterness.” It’s your choice, but you can’t have both.  And if you choose bitterness in your life, realize you’re not hurting anybody else with it, you’re hurting yourself.

In the ministry I’ve seen people who had every right in the world to whine and who chose not to do so. Happiness is a choice. You refuse to be bitter, because bitterness always hurts you. It never changes anything. Blaming others (or God) never changes anything.  It only makes you feel worse.

How do you keep from being bitter when the inevitable tragedies of life are going to come?

The antidote:

•Accept what cannot be changed.

Job 11:13,16 NIV – “Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, 16 You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by.

Faith is facing the facts and not getting discouraged.  Can you write that down?  That’s what real faith is.  It’s not pretending everything’s great.  Everything’s not great.  There are bad things in the world. And bad things do happen to good people, but faith is facing the facts without getting discouraged.  You see there’s very little in life that you can control.  In fact, I’ve discovered that the most important things in life you can’t control.

Focus on what’s left, not what’s lost..

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

What’s God’s will for me in a crisis?  It’s that I be thankful, no matter what.  For the problem?  Of course not; God doesn’t expect you to be thankful for a tragedy.  But you should be thankful for what’s left, not what’s lost.  And you choose to focus on God’s goodness, because gratitude and depression cannot exist in the same body.

You want to get over depression, start making a list of all the good things in your life.  You cannot be grateful and depressed at the same time.  And the fact is, there are people in this world who would love to have your problems.  They’re worried about, am I going to get a meal in the next month, not how am I going to make it.  Like that old expression  I complained I had no shoes until I met a man who had no legs.  You focus on what’s left, not what’s lost.

4. I Remember What is Important

Disasters have a way of clarifying values.  They have a way of pointing out what matters and what really doesn’t matter.  They define your values

Luke 12:15 NIV – Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” 

“Jesus said… Life is not measured by how much one owns.” 

What is he saying here?  Don’t confuse your net worth with your self worth.  Don’t confuse your possessions with your purpose in life.  Don’t confuse what you’re living on with what you’re living for.  A man’s life does not consist of what he possesses.

I Timothy 6:7 NIV – For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

You’re never going to see a hearse with a U-Haul behind it.  Here is the point, if you want real security, you must build your life on something that can never be taken from you.  

Can you lose a home? Yes.  Can you lose a career?  Yes.  Can you lose a marriage? Yes. Can you lose your health?  Yes.  Can you lose your youthful beauty? Yes.  Can you lose your relationship with God? No. God says, “ I will never leave you or forsake you.”

5. I Rely on Christ

Christians get to approach tragedy differently than the rest of the world. We get to rely completely on Christ. We get to have hope. But how? By intentionally leaning on Christ for stability, listening to Christ for direction, and looking to Christ for salvation. He is our Rock, our Shelter, our Great Shepherd, our Hiding Place.

Philippians 4:12-13 NLT  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ,[a] who gives me strength.

Suffering and tragedy are inevitable in a sinful world, but Jesus Christ makes all the difference. Decide that you will rely on Him even in the darkest of hours of your life.

Psalm 46:1-2 NLT – God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. 2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.

2 Corinthians 1:9-10 NLT – In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.

Psalm 125:1 NLT – Those who trust in the Lord are as secure as Mount Zion; they will not be defeated but will endure forever.

Jesus Is…The Real Deal

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Jesus Is…The Real Deal

Gandhi once said, Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians – you are not like him.

Real Deal – True, exact, no fault, no fake, thrust worthy, clear, absolute. A person or thing considered to be a genuine or supremely good example of their kind

(1 Corinthians 2:1-2 Message) “You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did.”

Pray – let the words of my mouth…

“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.You can shut him up for a fool or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.” – C.S. Lewis

Who do you say that He is?

(Mark 8:27-29 NIV) Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”

“The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.” ― Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith

The Search for Jesus

•Tradition

(Matthew 15:7-9 NIV) “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”

•Intellect

(1 Corinthians 2:4-5 NIV) “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”

•A personal Encounter

(John 9:17, 25 NIV) Finally they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him?” He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

(2 Timothy 1:12 NIV) “…I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able…”

(2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV) “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

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

The Real Deal

John 1:14 ESV – And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 8:58 NIV “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

He was not a man who became God, He is God who became a man

1. “I am the bread of life.”

He offers real fulfillment.

(John 6:35 NIV) Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

“Jesus did not come to earth just to die, He came to teach us how to live”

Matthew 4:4 NIV – “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

John 6:63 NIV –  “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.”

Truth is, I think, if God just gave us our daily bread, many of us would be angry. ‘That’s all you’re going to give me? You’re just going to give me enough to sustain me for today? What about tomorrow or next year or 10, 20, 30 years from now? I want to know that I’m set up.’ And yet Jesus says just pray for your daily provisions. Francis Chan 

We will never be more spiritual than we are scriptural. 

John 8:31-32 NIV – “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 5:39 NIV – You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,

We must read & build our lives upon God’s Word. It is what will transform us

Matthew 7:24-27 NIV– “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

2. “I am the light of the world.”

He offers real forgiveness. 

 (John 8:12 NIV) When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Why? Because we are all sinners! Romans 3:23 — For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Jesus is not the man at the top of the stairs; He is the man at the bottom, the friend of sinners, the savior of those in need of one. Which is all of us, all of the time. Tullian Tchividjian

The Law reveals our Guilt, God love reveals God’s Grace, and the Light reveals Our Hope

The Fact of God’s Forgiveness

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.

The extent of God’s Forgiveness

Psalm 103:12 NIV – “As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

God won’t just take your sin from you; He’ll put it so far away you can’t find it anymore. That’s How forgiven you’ll be. 

Matthew 9:1-8 NIV – Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Then the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.

• God is a greater savior than we are a sinner 

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

3. “I am the Good Shepherd.”

He offers real guidance, provision, correction, and protection.

John 10:10-11 ESV The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Four Challenges of being a Sheep

  1. Sheep get lost easily
  2. Sheep are defenseless
  3. Sheep are very stubborn
  4. Sheep are dirty

(Psalm 100:3 NIV) “Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”

Let me tell you why I love this attribute of Jesus – b“Shepherd” is the same word used in Scripture for “Pastor” – Let me say it this way – Jesus is your Pastor

To have a shepherd literally means – We submit to the care of Him as our Pastor

It’s good to have a pastor – even a pastor needs a pastor – I have those in place in my life – Jesus has been shepherding/pastoring me – When I am struggling or having tough days I know he is my Shepherd!

We still need a regular pastor too – Bible calls me a shepherd – I put this verse in your notes too. Written to pastors…

(1 Peter 5:2-4 NIV)  “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”

But Jesus is the Chief Shepherd – I want you to know Him in this way – I want you to voluntarily put yourself under His care – Let me pastor you – but look to Him as your Chief Pastor

Psalm 23 is probably one of the most famous – most quoted Psalms – A lot of us grew up memorizing this – This famous passage is all about Jesus – Describes the qualities of a shepherd – Let’s say the whole Psalm aloud together…

(Psalm 23:1-6 NKJV)  “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

4. “I am the resurrection and the life.”

He offers a real future.

(John 11:25-26 NIV) Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Our Future – Heaven

Colossians 3:2 NIV –“Set you mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”

“Heaven doesn’t make this life less important, it makes it more important.”
– Billy Graham

I John 2:15-17 NIV – Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father[a] is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

C.S. 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.”

C.S. Lewis also said, “ If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world”

Paul set his sights on heaven with enthusiastic expectation 

II Timothy 4:7-8 NIV– I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing

Phil. 3:20 NIV– “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Hebrews 12:1-4 (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, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Altar call – Only through repentance and faith in Christ can anyone be saved. No religious activity will be sufficient, only true faith in Jesus Christ alone.

One way to define spiritual life is getting so tired and fed up with yourself you go on to something better, which is following Jesus. Eugene H. Peterson

The Power of the Cross

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The Power of the Cross

There is a difference between knowing about something and encountering it.

You can see places in movies, pictures, magazines or read about things in books – but to actually encounter, see, and experience  those things is amazing. (example – Eifle Tower in Paris, Big Ben or Buckingham Palace in London, Great Wall in China, sunset on the west coast, sunrise on the east coast, a Krispy Kreme Donut,)

It is possible to know God without actually encountering Him. If you want to encounter the power of God, you go to the cross where all powerful encounters start.

I Corinthians 1:17-18 NIV –  For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Power is a word much loved by us. Who doesn’t love power? We know that those with power have influence. We seek power in our lives over circumstances and relationships. The world teaches us that power is good and weakness is bad, power is proof that you have arrived as a success in life, weakness is proof that you are a loser. The one with the power calls the shots and often determines the outcome of things. Gaining power or being affiliated with those who have it too often becomes the goal of our life.

The Cross – a symbol of power! A fashion statement around someone’s neck or as a tattoo maybe – but definitely not power! Perhaps a wonderful emblem upon the highest place in the church for us to gaze upon but who can call that power? When was the last time that you saw someone flaunting an electric chair or a hangman’s noose as a symbol of power? Well they are the equivalent today of what the cross was for many people in ages past. Death on the Cross was a most demeaning death in the past. It was reserved for the basest and worst of slaves and criminals and also for those who opposed Roman rule. To picture a dying man on the cross so torn and tattered that one could hardly recognize Him and to call that power being demonstrated seems to be a ridiculous idea. Yet Paul calls the Cross the Power of God! 

What cross is this? Many have been crucified upon a cross – some good, most bad, yet none with the power to help you or to change and transform your life as the cross of Christ. You see it wasn’t any cross but the Cross of Christ that makes all the difference.

“The death of Jesus on the cross is the centre of all Christian theology. All Christian statements about God, about creation, about sin and death have their focal point in the crucified Christ.” –Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God

The Old Rugged Cross by George Bennard

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, The emblem of suff’ring and shame; And I love that old cross where the dearest and best, For a world of lost sinners was slain.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it some day for a crown.

Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, Has a wondrous attraction for me; For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above To bear it to dark Calvary. 

In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine, A wondrous beauty I see, For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died, To pardon and sanctify me.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true; Its shame and reproach gladly bear; Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away, Where His glory forever I’ll share.

Matthew 27:27-33 ESV 27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters,[d] and they gathered the whole battalion[e] before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 

Golgotha (Calvary) was so named simply because it was a place of execution, where the skulls and bones of criminals lay scattered.

•Golgotha is also the place where the love of God achieves its greatest expression. As Jesus is lynched in the name of religious truth and imperial justice he expresses the heart of God as he pleads for the pardon of his executioners.

•The cross is both hideous and glorious, simultaneously ugly and beautiful. It’s as hideous as human sin and as glorious as divine love. It is a collision of sin and grace.

•Before the cross is anything else, it is a catastrophe. It is the unjust and violent lynching of an innocent man.

Jesus died for us…not for God.

2 Corinthians 5:19 ESV – that is, in Christ God was reconciling[a] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

•The crucifixion is not the ultimate attempt to change God’s mind about us — the cross is the ultimate attempt to change our mind about God. God is not like Caiaphas seeking a sacrifice. God is not like Pilate requiring an execution. God is like Jesus, absorbing sin and forgiving sinners.

•The cross is not about payment, the cross is about forgiveness. Good Friday is not about divine wrath, Good Friday is about divine love

I look to the cross to see God. This is who God is, this is what God is like.

Isaiah 45:22 ESV – “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

•On the Cross we sinned our sins into Jesus and he forgave us

•In his crucifixion Jesus achieves solidarity with all who suffer.

•At the cross Jesus doesn’t save us from God, he reveals God

•In his crucifixion Jesus joins humanity in death that we might join him in resurrection

•I come to the cross to see God – I come to the cross to find God

•The Power of the Cross is the demonstration of God’s Love for Us

What the Cross Provides

The medieval saints used to erect a simple cross in the center of the market square of every town so that it came to be known as the market cross. This still may be seen in older towns of Europe. The simple and the beautiful idea was that the cross should dominate all the business of earthly life and that all transactions, interests and concerns should be under the shadow of the cross.

E. Stanley Jones: “At the cross God wrapped his heart in flesh and blood and let it be nailed to the cross for our redemption.”

The Hymn At Calvary – Years I spent in vanity and pride, Caring not my Lord was crucified, Knowing not it was for me He died On Calvary. Mercy there was great, and grace was free; Pardon there was multiplied to me; There my burdened soul found liberty, At Calvary.

Titus 2:14 NIV who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

A. THE CROSS PROVIDES RECONCILIATION FOR ME 

  1. Reconciliation: to make friends and bring together those who are at odds with each other or are enemies (variance or enmity)

2.  At Christ’s cross, God and the sinner can meet while Christ stands between, reaching out one pierced hand to the Father pleading, “Father, forgive them, for they know not that they are doing” and the other to sinners beseeching, “Be reconciled to God.”

Romans 5:10 NIV – For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

B. THE CROSS PROVIDES ATONEMENT FOR ME 

  1. Atonement: to cover, expiate, to make at one, to pardon, to forgive and show mercy.

Jesus did not shed his blood to buy God’s forgiveness, Jesus shed his blood to embody God’s forgiveness!

Romans 3:25-26 NIV God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[a] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Billy Graham said, “Two thousand years ago God invited a morally corrupt world to the foot of the cross. There God held your sins and mine to the flames until every last vestige of our guilt was consumed.” 

Exodus 12:13 NIV – The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. 

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

I John 2:1-2 NIV – My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

C. THE CROSS PROVIDES HEALING FOR ME 

1. Our very bodies have been redeemed that we may lay our sicknesses and infirmities upon Him who bore them and that we may take His resurrection life for every physical, spiritual, and emotional need of our mortal frame.

Isaiah 53:5 NKJV – But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,And by His stripes we are healed.

The Cross pronounced a complete cure for the ills of mankind.

I Peter 2:24 NIV  “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.

Psalm 103:2-3  – Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases.

“Our tendency in the midst of suffering is to turn on God. To get angry and bitter and shake our fist at the sky and say, “God, you don’t know what it’s like! You don’t understand! You have no idea what I’m going through. You don’t have a clue how much this hurts.”

•The cross is God’s way of taking away all of our accusations, excuses, and arguments.

•The cross is God taking on flesh and blood and saying, “Me too.”

D. THE CROSS PROVIDES PEACE FOR ME

Through the work of the cross of Calvary we have peace with God and we can appear righteous in God’s eyes:

Colossians 1:19-22 ESV For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 

Galatians 6:14 MSG For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. Can’t you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them!

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

E. THE CROSS PROVIDES ME TO DRAW NEAR TO GOD

Draw near to God’s presence with clean hearts and clean hands. Through the blood you have a right to dwell in God’s presence.

Ephesians 2:13 NIV But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Hebrews 10:19 NIV  Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 

Draw Me Nearer – Fanny Crosby (1875) 

I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice, And it told Thy love to me; But I long to rise in the arms of faith And be closer drawn to Thee. 

Draw me nearer, nearer blessèd Lord, To the cross where Thou hast died. Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessèd Lord, To Thy precious, bleeding side.

Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord, By the power of grace divine; Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope, And my will be lost in Thine. 

There are depths of love that I cannot know Till I cross the narrow sea; There are heights of joy that I may not reach Till I rest in peace with Thee.

Psalm 73:28 ESV – But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

“Once you have been to the cross, you will never be the same.” 

Isaac Watts penned the famous hymn At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light, And the burden of my heart rolled away, It was there by faith I received my sight, And now I am happy all the day!

Ephesians 2:16-22 MSG – Christ brought us together through his death on the cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility. Christ came and preached peace to you outsiders and peace to us insiders. He treated us as equals, and so made us equals. Through him we both share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father. 19-22 That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.

Fredrick Buechner said, “And now brothers, I will ask you a terrible question, and God knows I ask it also of myself. Is the truth beyond all truths, beyond the stars, just this: that to live without him is the real death, that to die with him the only life?” 

John 3:16-17 ESV – “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

3 Things To Remember and 3 Things To Do in 2016

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3 Things To Remember and 3 Things To Do in 2016

3 Things To Remember

(Colossians 1:28-29 NLT) “So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.”

1. Help People find Jesus. 

(John 9:17, 25 NIV) “Finally they turned again to the blind man, ‘What have you to say about him?’ He replied, ‘Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!’” 

(1 Corinthians 9:22 LB) “…yes, whatever a person is like, I try to find common ground with him so he will let me tell him about Christ and let Christ save him.”

•The church is the primary place where people come to faith in Christ and begin to live as Christians. Lost people matter to God & therefore ought to matter to the church.

•65 Fresh Starts/salvations and 24 water baptisms in 2015

(Luke 14:23 LB) “Go out into the country…and urge anyone you find to come in, so that My house will be full.”

•Be a Bringer! Who can you bring with you in 2016

2. Help People find relationships.
(James 5:16 NIV) “
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” 

(Romans 12:5 NLT) “…Since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others.”

•GraceTown Life Groups Starting 3 week in January

3. Help People Grow Spiritually. 

(Ephesians 4:11-13 NLT) “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” 

(2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT) “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

•God’s Word is the the primary catalyst for transformation and spiritual growth. You will never grow up as fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ on a diet of spiritual twinkies.

“The Scriptures were not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives”

Knowing God’s Word is the Pathway to Knowing God. You will never be more spiritual than you are scriptural!

•Upcoming spiritual growth class – The Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster starting next Sunday with Teacher Steve Light 8am & 9am in Kidstown Classroom.

3 Things To Do

1. Pray.

(Matthew 9:37-38 NIV) “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’”

(Ephesians 1:17-18 NIV) I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.

•Prayer is the highest order of business. For it links a powerless human to the creative force of God’s sovereign power!

“When we work, we work; but when we pray, God works.”- Max Lucado

•If you and I are too busy to Pray, we give our spiritual life a funeral! Prayer is a necessity, not an option!

•Make a commitment of 10-15 minutes to start your day each morning with prayer and devotion to God. 

•Churchwide Call To Prayer and Fasting for 7 Days starting January 11-18 – we will spend 7 days focused and seeking after God

One prayer can change ANYTHING. one prayer can change EVERYTHING

2. Serve.

(Ephesians 2:10 NIV) “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

The Big Idea: In the world, greatness is determined by how many people SERVE YOU; but, in God’s kingdom, greatness is determined by how many people YOU SERVE.

(Galatians 6:4 MSG) “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.”

“This is a story about 4 people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did. Somebody got angry with that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody would not do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.”

“Hillsong Church is not built on the gifts and talents of a few, but on the sacrifice of many.” Brian Houston

•Use your gifts, talents, and abilities to serve and be a part of the Dream Team at GraceTown

3. Give.

(Luke 18:29-30 GW) “I guarantee this. Anyone who gives up anything for the kingdom of God will certainly receive many times more in this life and will receive eternal life in the next world to come.”

(Mark 8:35 LB) “If you insist on saving your life, you will lose it. Only those who throw away their lives for My sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live.”

THE KEY TO A Godward LIFE IS A HEART OF GENEROSITY.

Proverbs 11:24-25 NIV 24 One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. 25 A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

•Generosity doesn’t start when you have a lot, it starts when you have little!

• Your giving and generosity should be directly tied to what God allows to come into your life.

•Challenge you to do 3 things:

  1. Be a Tither – 10% of your income to be returned back to God, 
  2. Give offerings (whatever you decide) 
  3. Give to our future (building fund) 

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

Go togracetownchurch.com/give

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

 

           

 

 

How to Survive the End of the World Part 3

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How To Survive the End of the World Part 3

Introduction: 

The world we currently live in has changed whether we like it or not. In JRR Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, Galadriel, the Elf queen says about the change happening in middle earth; “The world has changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost…

Yes the world has changed. We are living in an increasingly post christian culture. America was once a christian nation whose values were aligned with judeo christian values and ethics. Charles Dickens penned this opening statement in his classic, A Tale of Two Cities;

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…

The World around us has drastically changed over the past 40 years or so. In our increasingly post christian culture, the influences and values shaping emerging generations are no longer aligned with Christianity.

Tolerance? Tolerance may be a virtue and buzz word in todays culture but its not extended to Christianity.

•we are driven from public life

•denied 1st amendment rights

•actively discriminated against for our beliefs

We live in a quickly changing world. You might feel safe in the church world you and I live in, but step outside into the real world and things aren’t quite the same anymore.

So How should we live in this world in the last days?  The Call is to Live Biblically. To live as Christ lived.

1 John 2:6 LB  “Anyone who says he’s a Christian should live as Christ did.”

I Peter 2:21 NIV To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”    WWJD?

What does it mean to be a Christian?

  1. Jesus explained what it meant to be a Christian in Matthew 16:24 (NLT). He said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me.” 
    1. Put aside your selfish ambition – The desires we naturally have are in opposition to that which God desires (Gal. 5:16-17). But the Holy Spirit makes us a new person (2 Cor. 5:17) and gives us new desires (Rom. 8:9).
    2. Shoulder (Carry) your cross – The cross as a vivid pic that the disciples fully understood. To take up your cross meant to face death spiritually & possibly physically. Our sinful way of life dies (Rom. 6:6, Gal. 5:24) and Christ’s new life lives in us (Gal. 2:20). And for some, following Christ would cost them their lives physically.
      1. To sacrifice is to give up something for the sake of something else that is much better.
      2. What is my cross? The place of our greatest pain

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places. Ernest Hemingway

  1. Follow me – To be a Christian, we must follow Christ. We must act the way he acted. We must speak the way he spoke. We must love the way he loved.
    1. Embrace God’s will no matter what the cost

I love Jesus, but sometimes “Christians” frustrate me. Why? They fight & argue about the dumbest things. Too judgmental, act holier than thou, incredibly condescending.

1. With Humility 

Humility – Modest opinion of one’s own importance or rank. To lower oneself; lowly; abasing yourself, “down to earth”.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. . . . Humble people are so focused on serving others, they don’t think of themselves.” – Rick Warren

Humility – The discipline of putting others ahead of self -the choice to value others above self – its a matter of faith

“Humility is self-forgetfulness.” – C.S. Lewis

Matt. 5:3 NLT “God blesses those who realize their need for him…” 

It recognizes how inadequate we are by ourselves.

James 4:10 NIV “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up”. 

People who are not humble think they know everything, no one can correct them, and they believe they have the answers to everything

Matt. 11:29 NIV “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

2. With Simplicity 

Freedom from complexity. We live mismanaged lifestyles

Luke 12:15 NIV “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

•We have become slaves to our belongings – St Francis of Assisi insisted that true freedom lies in the abundance of life, not the abundance of possessions. Many times those possessions that we have acquired exercise power over us.

Matt. 16:26 NLT “How do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul?”

Living simply means that we carefully examine what it means to fully live. How? By focusing our efforts on things that are true, beautiful, and essential. Like Faith, Family, Healthy, Friends, and our Church, our Community

Psalms 131:1-2 Amp Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty; neither do I exercise myself in matters too great or in things too wonderful for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with his mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me [ceased from fretting].

•’I think the devil has made it his business to monopolize on 3 elements: noise, hurry, crowds… Satan is quite aware of the power of silence.”

•”The Value of our western culture demands us to be busy…”

Eccl. 7:29 – “God made man simple: man’s complex problems are of his own devising”

“To much clutter in your mind leaves insufficient room for devotion to Christ” Remember – You NO to others will soon translate into a YES for God!

3. With Possibility (Faith)

Potentiality for favorable or interesting results.

Faith is… To have trust or assurance, confidence, conviction, belief, reliance in what God says. Trust that produces actions.

Matt. 19:26 NLT With God everything is possible.”

Mark 9:23 NIV “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

•Believing when I donʼt see it. 

(Hebrews 11:1)  “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and 

certain of what we do not see.” 

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

•Obeying when I donʼt understand it. 

(Hebrews 11:7 NLT)  “It was by faith that Noah built an ark to save 

his family from the flood.  He obeyed God, who warned him about 

something that had never happened before.” 

•Persisting when I donʼt feel like it. 

(Hebrews 11:27)  “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the kingʼs 

anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” 

“In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins.  Not through strength, but through persistence.”- Unknown

Trusting if I donʼt get it. 

(Hebrews 11:39-40)  “They were all commended for their faith yet 

none of them received what had been promised.  God had planned 

something better…”

”Faith is to believe what we do not see; and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe” –Augustine

•The law of faith is the greatest law in the Word of God. Believe and ye shall receive.

• “I can get more out of God by believing Him for one minute than I can by shouting at Him all night.”- Smith Wigglesworth

4. With Charity (Love)

(I Cor. 13:1) “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge…but have not love, I am nothing.”

•The more spiritual you become, the more love you will show to others.

Matt 5:44 The Message “I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer.”

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Luke. 6:37 NIV“Do not judge, and you’ll not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

“Take away love and the earth is a tomb.” – Robert Browning

•Love takes no account of the evil done to it. Love does not filter its current emotional state through the screen of past hurts and offenses. Instead, it shows the grace and forgiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ who loved us while we were yet sinners, even suffering the shame of the cross

Love is ever ready to believe the best of every person. Natural human love requires a person to prove themselves before love is given. However, Christ-like love offers itself to those who are both lovable and unlovable. Instead of assuming the worst, it tirelessly looks for the best in others. True love hopes all things and lives with an expectant faith towards others.

(1 Corinthians 14:1 LB) “Make love your greatest aim…”

How?

•Accept others unconditionally.

(Romans 15:7 NIV) “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted

you, in order to bring praise to God.”

“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for, and deserted by everybody.” – Mother Teresa

•Encourage others continually.

(1 Corinthians 13:7 LB) “If you love someone…you will always believe

in him, and always expect the best of him…”

“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” – Booker T. Washington

•Serve people cheerfully.

(1 Peter 4:10 NIV) “Each one should use whatever gift he has received

to serve others…”

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else.” – Charles Dickens 

•Forgive others freely.

(Colossians 3:13 NIV) “Bear with each other and forgive whatever

grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

“When you forgive someone, you set a prisoner free… and then you find that the prisoner was you.”

5. With Priority 

Priority – Something given special attention

Luke 12:30-31 NLT These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

“If you don’t live by priorities, you’ll live by pressures. Either you determine what’s important in life or other people will determine it for you.” – Rick Warren

Matt. 10:39 The Message “If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.”

What are your priorities? 

Relationship with God (Church, Prayer, Worship, devotions, God’s Word, telling others, giving) & Your Family (Time)

I HAVE DECIDED:

To follow the example set by Christ.

(1 Corinthians 11:1) Follow my example, as I follow the example of

Christ.

(1 John 2:4 TLB) Someone may say, “I am a Christian; I am on my

way to heaven; I belong to Christ.” But if he doesn’t do what Christ

tells him to, he is a liar.

To declare my commitment publicly.

(Matthew 10:32-33) “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will

also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever

disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.”

Here’s what you need to know before the End of the World

1. God loves us and does not want us to perish.

John 3:16,17 — For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

1 Timothy 2:4 — [God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

2. All people have sinned. Sin causes separation from God.

Romans 3:23 — For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

James 2:10 — For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.

3. Heaven is a free gift. You cannot earn or deserve heaven.

Romans 6:23 — For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 2:8,9 — For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.

4. We receive God’s forgiveness through faith, by trusting in Christ.

John 1:12 — But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in His name.

Romans 10:9,10 — …if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

How To Survive the End of the World Part 2

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How to Survive the End of the World Part 2

I Peter 4:7-11 NIV – The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

The New Testament tells us that the end and the day of Christ return is not far away:

“The night is nearly over; the day is almost here” (Romans 13:12).

“The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:5).

“The Lord’s coming is near” (James 5:8).

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

How soon is soon? If you have read Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis, you may remember this conversation between Lucy and Aslan, the lion who is the Christ-figure in the story. “Do not look so sad. We shall meet soon again.” “Please, Aslan,” said Lucy, “what do you call soon?” “I call all times soon,” said Aslan; and instantly he was vanished away.

In the past, many years of well-meaning, but misguided ministers and authors have made predictions regarding the timing of Christ’s return and many other future events. If these predictions and dates had come to pass they would have altered the entire spiritual, political, and international climate of the entire planet. None of these came to pass and they continue to be wrong – but the Bible is never wrong.

Eschatology – is a part of theology concerned with the final events of history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity.

A lot of Christian eschatology is A “Passed-Down” Theology – what is popular is not always right.

Two keys to consider when attempting to understand prophecy in scripture is: 

1. Determine the time frame being referenced. Not all prophecy is directed at our generation or future generations.

2. Consider historical context of the prophecy to know and understand what was happening in and around the time of the prophecy.

If we focus on the wrong end, the end of the world can be: Confusing, dangerous, violent, and fearful.

I. You Don’t Have to Fear the Future – You Can Face it Confidently

A lot of people spend their lives worrying about tomorrow. They never enjoy today because they’re worrying about tomorrow. Why? Because we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Yet David, as he concludes this Psalm, is not worried.

Psalm 23:6 KJV –  “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

No anxiety, fear of the future, worry about tomorrow. He’s confident — “surely, goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.”

Where do you get that kind of confidence? If you’re a believer, there are three reasons why you don’t need to fear the future:

1. Because God is watching over me.

Because God is good I can expect His protection and provision. I can expect that no matter what happens to me, God will bring good out of it somehow. It will always either be for my own good, for the good of other people, or for the good of His kingdom. God is a good God.

Psalm 145:20 NIV – The Lord watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.

God cares about the details of your life. Like a father, He will provide for you in the future. We don’t know what the future holds but we do know Who holds it. We know God is in control and God loves you and wants to help you. He says, I will be like a Father and will watch over you.

“Surely goodness will follow…” What does he mean by that? Obviously David had disappointments in life. Not everything good happened to him. He’s not saying, Surely, only good things are going to happen to me. That’s not true. Bad things happen to good people. He’s not saying only good things are going to happen. He’s saying only goodness will follow. Good things will always come out of whatever happens even the bad, the evil, the difficult. God will insure that good will come out — it will follow whatever happens to David.

Romans 8:28 NIV – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

The great promise that God has given to believers. This is not a promise for everybody. All things do not work together for good for everybody in the world. Things work together for bad for people who are not trying to go the way God wants them to go, who are not following his path. But if you’re a believer, the Bible says all things are working together for good — not all things are good — but working together for good. That’s what it means “goodness will follow me”. There is no difficulty, dilemma, defeat, disaster in the life of a Christian that ultimately God won’t bring good out of. Eventually, He’ll bring good out of it. Somehow.

Often it’s difficult to see God’s goodness when you’re going through a tragedy. There are times when you don’t feel like God is good. You don’t feel His mercy. Sometimes you feel like God’s goodness is hidden. Even Jesus, on the cross, said, “My God, my God, Why?” t’s only later, looking back, that we see God’s goodness and how He was working for good. God will bring good out of good and bad.

Paul was put falsely in prison in Rome. Was that good? No. He was kept as a prisoner in Rome. While he was there, he wrote some books that we now call the New Testament. Goodness followed after his imprisonment. Today we’re benefiting from Paul’s problem, pain, difficulty. Goodness follows.

Psalm 91:11 NIV – For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;

God uses angels to watch over you. Angels are real. They are invisible helpers. The Bible says one of the reasons God has created them is to watch over and protect believers. You don’t talk to them or see them, but they are there working on your behalf all the time.

II. Because Grace is Working in Me

Isaiah 60:10 LB – Foreigners will come and build your cities. Presidents and kings will send you aid. For though I destroyed you in my anger, I will have mercy on you through my grace

What is grace? Grace is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. GRACE. It’s all God’s able to do for us because of Christ. Grace is the fact that God gives you what you need, not what you deserve. Aren’t you glad God doesn’t give you what you deserve? The Bible says, God is gracious and gives us what we need, not what we deserve. What is mercy? Mercy is grace in action. Why do we need mercy? Because we’re imperfect. We stumble and fall, blow it, make mistakes. In the future you’re going to sin! So in the future, you need not only God’s goodness, you need His mercy. You need His forgiveness, pardon, healing.

When you really understand God’s grace and mercy, that God isn’t out there trying to get even with you, if you’ve given your life to Jesus Christ, Jesus has taken the penalty for everything you’ve ever done wrong or will do wrong, on the cross. He paid for it, you don’t. So when a bad thing happens you don’t have to think God’s getting even with you. God doesn’t “get even” for things that have already been paid for on the cross. That’s grace, mercy. When you understand God’s grace and mercy then you have no need to fear the future.

Psalm 103:2-11 LB – Yes, I will bless the Lord and not forget the glorious things he does for me. He forgives all my sins. He heals me. He ransoms me from hell. He surrounds me with loving-kindness and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things! My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! He gives justice to all who are treated unfairly. He revealed his will and nature to Moses and the people of Israel. He is merciful and tender toward those who don’t deserve it; he is slow to get angry and full of kindness and love. He never bears a grudge, nor remains angry forever. 10 He has not punished us as we deserve for all our sins, 11 for his mercy toward those who fear and honor him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.

When you understand mercy, that God is not only being good to you, but He’s being merciful to you in handling your mistakes, your sins, your faults, then you don’t have any reason to fear the future.

Mercy means that when I’m going through a tough time, a valley, a difficulty — even one that I’ve brought on myself — God is there to help me out.

God doesn’t turn His goodness and His mercy on and off. He doesn’t treat you nice one day and the next day treat you badly. All the days of my life, I’ll have God’s goodness and God’s mercy.

Hebrews 4:16 ESV – Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

III. Because Heaven is Waiting for Me

“… and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

That’s one of the most important little connections we see in the Bible. It connects yesterday and today with tomorrow. God says, “I’ve got this great life planned for you and surely goodness and mercy will follow you through it, BUT that’s not the end! I’ve got something else at the end!” He builds it to a crescendo. David ends this Psalm by saying “We’re going to heaven!” Jesus saves the best until last. With God it just keeps getting better and better.

2 Corinthians 5:1 NIV – For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

Someday your body is going to die, but you aren’t. Your body is going to end but that’s not going to be the end of you. You’re going to live forever in one of two places — heaven or hell. We were made to last forever.

C.S. 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.”

Why are Christians the most confident people about the future?

2 Corinthians 5:6,8 NIVTherefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

Death, for Christians, is a transfer, a promotion. It’s on to better things. No more problems. You’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die.  If we have accepted Christ we’re going to go to heaven.

What is heaven going to be like?

Revelation 21:1-4 NIV – ‘Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

We’re going to be released from pain, from sorrow, from suffering, from depression, from fear.

Who is heaven made for?

C.S. Lewis also said, If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world”

I Peter 4:1-6 LB – And God has reserved for his children the priceless gift of eternal life; it is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And God, in his mighty power, will make sure that you get there safely to receive it because you are trusting him. It will be yours in that coming last day for all to see. So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while down here.

Earth is the warm up act. This isn’t the big deal. You’re going to spend 60, 70, 80 maybe 90 years here on earth. But you’ll spend thousands, millions of years in eternity. This is just preparation for the big event where you’re going to spend all of eternity.

How do I know I’m going to heaven?

John 10:27-28 NIV  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

When you face the future, what do you see? Do you look at it with eyes of doubt? With eyes of cynicism? With eyes of expecting the worse? You have two choices in life: You can either face the future as a cynic, a doubter, with negative thoughts, expecting the worse. Or you can face the future expecting God to be with you and His goodness and His mercy to follow you all the days of your life. It is amazing how much better life gets when you start to actively look for God’s goodness and God’s mercy in every experience. It’ll change your life.

Jesus is a greater savior than we are a sinner!

There is hope! The Gospel has the hope. Jesus died on the cross to personally pay the penalty for our sins.

Romans 5:8 NIV – But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us

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.

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending! 

The Gospel gives my life meaning and direction and the opportunity to start over no matter what my circumstances.

God invites you to receive salvation. (God’s RSVP)

(Revelation 3:20) “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If

anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat

with him, and he with me.”

(Romans 10:9-10) “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is

Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,

you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are

justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

How To Survive the End of the World Part 1

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“How To Survive the End of the World Pt.1”

Everybody wants to know about the end of the world. Some people love to make predictions about when it will happen, some people love to interpret current news and speculate how it will happen, and everyone loves to make money selling their terrifying visions to anyone willing to buy them..

The end is coming. Are we ready for the day when it all comes crashing down and nothing is left but the countdown to the end of the world? In this series we will talk about ways that we can get ready for the end and start living for the beginning of the rest of our lives.

“The Book of Eli,” “The Darkest Hour,” “Contagion,” “The Day After Tomorrow, “San Andreas”. The list of doomsday movies that Hollywood produces is incredible. Yet, they keep coming. There’s something about these end of the world stories that fascinates us, frightens us and keeps us coming back for more. The theme that inspires is survival. Against all odds, when all hope is lost, humanity grabs hold of courage, defies the enemy and turns the tide.How will you survive the end of the world?

(Matthew 24:1-6 NIV) “Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.”

1. Don’t Be Alarmed, Don’t Be Troubled

Jesus wants us to be calm, quiet spirited, not worried, and not to be deceived.

(2 Peter 3:3-10 NIV) First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ʻcomingʼ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.”

Writing this letter near the end of his life, Peter wanted to remind Christians that the final day is real. He calls it “the day of the Lord” and reminds his Christian readers that it is unquestionably coming.

To scoff means to speak in a scornful or mocking way. What do scoffers think about the end? In verse 4, Peter says that the false teachers mock the promise of Christ’s return and a final judgment. “Where is it?” they ask. “Ever since the days of the ancient patriarchs the world has gone on without interruption.” The scoffers claim that God has not and will not intervene in world history.

How do we know?

√ People will do their own thing. 

(Me focused, materialistic, Selfie Centered)

(Matthew 24:37-39 NIV) “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.”

√ People will forget God.

(Matthew 24:12 NIV) “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.”

Many will turn away from the Faith, against the Faith, Twist the Faith, & Tune out the Faith. Have Misplaced Priorities.

√ People will think Heʼs not coming.

(1 Thessalonians 5:2 NIV) “For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”

√ People will not be ready.

(Matthew 24:40-42 NIV) “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”

If the end is near…

1.I should pray.

(1 Peter 4:7 NIV) “The end of all things is near, therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.”

Anytime God wanted something done on the earth he calls someone to pray!

Luke 21:36 NIV –  Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

Real prayer is driven by relationship not need or crisis.

U can dump your junk. God gets bigger, your junk gets smaller.

Causes u to b more focused minded

a. Make it personal not formal.

(Matthew 6:7-8 NIV) And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

b. Pray with confidence.

(Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV) For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

“The less I pray, the harder it gets; the more I pray, the better it goes.” – Martin Luther

(James 5:16 NLT) “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

2.I should focus on my relationships.

(1 Peter 4:8-9 NIV) “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

Relationships are far more important than issues or disagreements. Get over those quickly.

most important – on 9/11 ppl were making last calls to loved ones

a. What relationship needs to be initiated

(Luke 6:13 NIV) “When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them…” 

  b.  What relationship needs to be nurtured

(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.” 

c. What relationship needs to be restored

(Ephesians 4:3 NIV) “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” 

Colossians 3:13 NIV – Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

3. I should get my life right with God.

(2 Peter 3:11 NIV) “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly

lives.”

(Matthew 24:42 NIV) Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 

(Romans 10:9-10 NIV) “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

4.Share Christ with urgency

(Luke 12:16-21 NCV) “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

Conclusion

Just as there was a beginning, there will be an end. We will not be reincarnated. We live once, we will die once and then we will stand before God. For unbelievers, today is the day to believe in him and turn from sin. For believers, today is the day to live lives of godliness and holiness so that we are ready for that final day.

When the End looks Troubling – Look Up! Look to Christ! 

Luke 21:28 NIV – When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Ghost Stories Pt.3

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Welcome today to Part 3 of “Ghost Stories” 

(1st Corinthians 14:1 MSG) Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it—because it does. Give yourselves to the gifts God gives you. 

Want to get you comfortable with the Holy Spirit

(2 Corinthians 13:14 Message) “The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, (Love from the Father) the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.” 

First relationship that you need is Jesus

Jesus is the one who gives us grace to rescue us from sin

Many uncomfortable with the Holy Spirit – Seen things heard things

Many people don’t know Him as a Him but as a IT – Give me blank pages

Strange mystical force – Seen strange things

A lot of Christians have distanced themselves from Him

1st Week – He is a Him/Person – Para-Kaletos Greek work in John 14

He’s Comforter, Counselor He will always be by your side

Last week looked at the part that is difficult for some – Literal translations – Ruwach – Pneuma – Blast of breath or wind

Spiritual gifts has presented controversy – 3 types of gifts are given

Three Gifts 

1.Eternal life / Salvation. 

We receive freely the gift of eternal life because…

You & I were supposed to pay the bill for the sins we committed

Hell is not a place that God sends people that he’s mad at. Religion loves to focus on hell – Jesus focused on heaven.

(Romans 6:23) “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

Can be a lot of confusion on this – Be very clear

Gift of Jesus Christ is the only thing you need for Heaven

Titus 2:11 NIV – For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.

2 Corinthians 5:19 NIV – that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

Everything we have talked about – Relationship with the Holy Spirit/Gifts

Has nothing to do with Heaven or Hell

To have a home in Heaven is receive the gift of eternal life

That only comes through Jesus & the payment made on the cross

2.The Holy Spirit. Second gift

This is a separate gift from the salvation gift – Jesus already paid for sins John 20

He ministered forgiveness of sins to His disciples – He breathed on them to receive the Holy Spirit – Forgiven you

Makes this statement…

(Acts 1:4-5) “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift (Not a Heaven or Hell gift) my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 

Acts 2:38-29 NIV –  Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

(Acts 8:14-17) When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

I believe God gave this intentionally as separate gifts

He didn’t want us to confuse the two

He wanted you to know salvation is all important settles your eternity

Tons of Christians that have received the first gift

But haven’t opened up the second gift – Gift is available to every believer. We will discuss this next week.

Another gift needed for our lives here on earth

3. Spiritual gifts. Topic today

(Romans 12:6) “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” 

Gift in the greek is the word Charis – Get the word charisma or charismatic

“Charis” Literally means – Grace Gift

He has given you a unique divine ability

Some have asked are we a charismatic church?

We don’t use that term – Don’t use any terms like that

Reason why is people have definitions for those terms  – People have re-defined it

It’s hard to use those terms any longer because – Many different attitudes, opinions on what those terms mean

Word Charis just means gift – has nothing to do with other associations

Because of cultural & traditional terms

Biblically the answer would be “yes”

God has given his church gifts – spiritual gifts

Seems to be a lot of confusion around spiritual gifts

It also happened in the early church – Paul planted a church in a city called Corinth – Received the Holy Spirit & got out of control, weird and wrong

Paul starts an entire chapter go read 12,13,14 of 1st Corinthians

(1 Corinthians 12:1) “Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.” 

Appreciate your attempts – People are out of control on both sides

Two Extremes: Some say I want nothing to do with it

Another extreme where things are done that are not mentioned in scripture

People ask the question; Are spiritual gifts for today?

Some have a doctrine or belief they call it (cessationism)  (cessationists)

They believe the gifts in scripture stopped when the apostles died

Problem with that belief is scripture doesn’t say that at all

Jesus said the opposite

Gift I will give you is for you, children & all who are far off

(John 14:12 NKJV) He who believes in me, the works I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to my Father.

I want our church to do greater things then even what you read in the gospels

Others believe like us that spiritual gifts are for today

I never hear people argue about the gift of mercy, faith, giving

Argument centers around one gift & that is the gift of tongues

Some believe it’s of the devil

Some believe you have to speak it to go to Heaven

Some believe if you don’t speak in tongues you don’t have the Holy Spirit

It’s not what the bible says – In scripture you see tongues come in two different forms

In a personal prayer language that people pray in – You see it in the form of a spiritual gift

Topic today is on spiritual gifts – 25-27 gifts in the NT

Tongues is one of them – Focus shouldn’t be on that one

I think the enemy has tried to hi-jack the Holy Spirit – To get people focused on that one spiritual gift – At the same time I don’t think it ought to be avoided either

(1 Corinthians 12:11) “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” 

I believe it shouldn’t be avoided or abused – I am introducing you to the Holy Spirit our friend

I would be careful about anything the Holy Spirit wants to give you

And talking about it like it’s some repulsive experience

If the Holy Spirit has anything for me – it is good

Some have asked if tongues are apart of our services?

It has never been apart of our services – The bible tells us it shouldn’t

(1 Corinthians 14:23) “So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?”

When we come together we don’t come together for us

We are a church on mission & a church trying to make a difference in our city and in our world – Reaching lost people

The bible says, we are to be sensitive to those who don’t understand

And for those who don’t believe

I love it! – Holy Spirit gives guidelines for the church

He is teaching us how to behaveThe Holy Spirit is a gentleman

Paul said I speak in tongues more than anyone

He said to us – God is more concerned about people coming to Christ

Then us doing our own thing

Gifts from a Friend – Want you to come to a comfort level with Him

 (1 Corinthians 14:1) “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts…” 

1. His gifts are unique.

(1 Corinthians 12:4-6) “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.”

Three times uses the word different – Means they are unique

Customized for you – Can see it – See it in families

2. His gifts are needed. 

We need the gifts in operation in the church

(1 Corinthians 12:27 NLT) “Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it.”

We cannot fulfill the mission unless we get this & welcome the gifts

87% of Christians don’t know their gifts or purpose

In 2016 we will offer a Spiritual Growth Class – Spiritual Gifts profile to help you understand you

Our dream is everyone of you know your gifts/purpose

His gifts aren’t spooky you can see it

3. His gifts are fulfilling. 

When you operate in those gifts – You will say this is why I was made

Happiest people I know are those serving in their gifts/purpose

(John 15:8, 11) “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” 

You’re never going to be happy until you’re doing something that makes a difference for eternity

Most happy when you connect with the Holy Spirit, receive gifts, operate in it

4. His gifts touch other people’s lives. 

People have connected with the gifts for the way it makes them feel

That is not the point – Holy Spirit did not come for our personal entertainment

End of the day spiritual gifts are to be used to impact another persons life 

(1 Peter 4:10 NLT) “God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God’s generosity can flow through you.”

Definition of a spiritual gift: A spiritual gift is a special supernatural ability that God gives to each of His children, so that together they can advance His purposes in this world.

Two question test coming up; What did you do with my son? What did you do with the gifts I gave you?

SALVATION CALL