Beautiful Things Pt.3 – A Beautiful God

Beautiful Things Pt.3 – A Beautiful God 

Colossians 2:13 – Discover the depths of our brokenness – and the heights of God’s Love for us. Even out of the dust of our lives, God can make beautiful things. 

Lucy and Linus are gazing out the window at a staggering downpour of rain.

“Boy, look at it rain, ” Lucy says, fear etched on her face. “What if it floods the whole world?”   “It will never do that, Linus responds confidently. “In the 9th Chapter of Genesis, God promised Noah that would never happen again, and the sign of the promise is the rainbow.”   “You’ve taken a great load of my mind, ” Lucy says with a sigh of relief. Linus replies, “Sound theology has a way of doing that.”

That is my aim in this message today! To articulate the good theology (study of God) that God is a good God contrary to what someone may have said about Him, or our past perceptions.

I googled God. turns out there are 564 million results. My conclusion after the first few pages….Everyone has an opinion about God. 

To Know what God is like, look at Jesus

John 1:1-5, 14 ESV – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life,[a] and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son[a] from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Incarnation – enfleshment of God. God revealing Himself in the nature and character of Jesus (Not just an event, but the whole life of Jesus) – I believe Jesus alone is perfect theology.

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

John 5:39 ESV-  You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,

Matthew 26:59-64 NIV The chief priests…were looking for false evidence against Jesus so they could put Him to death. But they did not find any… Then they said, “Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God.” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.

John 14:9 NIV Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

God is Exactly like Jesus 

God is like Jesus – Jesus is what God has to say to the world. Jesus is the full and faithful witness to how God is to be understood. Jesus did not come to save us from God – Jesus came to reveal God as savior. He came to reveal God’s love. (John 3:16) – absorbing, forgiving and taking away the sins of the world. (Jesus the icon of the invisible God)

Hebrews 1:3 NIV – The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Colossians 1:15-19 NLT 15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, 16 for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. 17 He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. 18 Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. 19 For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ…

Colossians 2:9 NKJV  – For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily

A person’s perception of understanding of the nature of God will determine their level of faith in His ability or desire to help them.

I Corinthians 15:34 MSG – Ignorance of God is a luxury you can’t afford in times like these”

J.I. Packer said: “What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God. What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment, than anything else? Knowledge of God.”

“I have found God to be cordial and generous and in every way easy to live with.”- A.W. Tozer

I. What You Must Know about God

“Truth is true even if no one believes it, and falsehood is false even if everyone believes it.” Ravi Zacharias

1. God is Powerful

Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV – Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 44:24 NIV – This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb:I am the Lord, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself,

Isaiah 45:12 NIV – It is I who made the earth and created mankind on it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts.

God is more powerful than your sickness, disease, problem, etc…(Easter series – Miracles “God’s Power to Change your Life”)

•The Proof of God’s Power is not in an explanation but in a changed life – The world doesn’t need an explanation but a demonstration of the power of God.

Buechner said, “God cannot be expressed but only experienced”

Jesus is Powerful – Lazarus Come Forth, Blind Bartimaeus, Casted out 3000 plus demons out of the man and put them in pigs, woman with the issue of blood (who touched me?)

2. God is Good

Psalm 31:19 NIV – How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you

The Bible connects the name of the Lord or God or Jesus or the Holy  Spirit with “good” or “goodness” 370 Times.

Psalm 34:8 ESV – Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

God cannot cease from doing good, because HE is GOOD!

Psalm 103:1-5 ESV – Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s

Jesus went everywhere doing good to people

    1. Acts 10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
    1. Jesus healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, opened the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf. He had compassion on the needy and proclaimed good news to the poor. Jesus said in John (10:11) referred to himself as the “Good Shepherd”

3. God is Gracious and Merciful

Psalm 145:8-16 NIV 8 The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. 10 All your works praise you, Lord; your faithful people extol you. 11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, 12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. 13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.[a]14 The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.15 The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. 16 You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.”

•Grace is God giving people credit for something they didn’t do! 

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.”

Psalm 103:9-10 NIV “He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”

Do not freeze frame a certain time in your life and condemn your future based on that moment. God is gracious and merciful

Jesus is Gracious and merciful 

John the Baptist – Jesus the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Luke 15:1-2 ESV – Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Woman caught in Adultery – I don’t condemn you, Go and sin no more

Paralyzed man – Your sins are forgiven

II. What God Wants You to Know about HIM

1. To know that God loves me.

Lamentations 3:21-23 NIV – “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORDʼs great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

2. To know that God has a plan for me.

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

2 Corinthians 4:16-17 NIV – “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

3. To know that God will bring me through.

2 Timothy 4:18 NIV “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Philippians 1:6 NAS  “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

III. My Prayer for you

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer of Commitment

I’d like you to stand this morning and we’re going to pray a prayer together. This prayer originally appeared in A.W. Tozer’s book called, “The Knowledge of the Holy.”

“O majesty unspeakable, my soul desires to behold Thee. I cry to Thee from the dust. Yet when I inquire after Thy name it is secret. Thou art hidden in the light which no man can approach unto. What Thou art cannot be thought or uttered, for Thy glory is beyond comprehension.

Still, prophet and psalmist, apostle and saint have encouraged me to believe that I may in some measure know Thee. Therefore, I pray, whatever of Thyself Thou hast been pleased to disclose, help me to search out as treasure more precious than fine gold: for with Thee shall I live when the stars of the twilight are no more and the heavens have vanished away and only Thou remainest. Amen.”

All I Want for Christmas Pt.4

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All I Want for Christmas Pt.4 – Joy

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

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

God’s Antidote for a weary Religion

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

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

There are things that steal our joy:

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

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

The Twin Joy Robbers 

• Bad Things That Shouldn’t Happen, But Do

• Good Things That Should Happen, But Don’t

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s one of the healthiest things you can do is laugh

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

1. Joy will Change my approach to Life

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

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

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

2. Joy will turn my problems into blessings.

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

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

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

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

  • Take three tablespoons three times a day. 

a. Take it when you feel like it!

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

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

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

3. Joy will affect those around you.

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

Don’t take yourself too seriously

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

The Secret To Joy

1. Take responsibility for your own emotions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You cannot determine what happens to you

But you can determine what happens in you

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

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

Dear Lord,

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

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

2. Develop a high appreciation for life.

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

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

Life can change in a moment!

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

Story of senior being admitted into a nursing home

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

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

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

We cannot choose how many years we will live

But we can choose how much life those years will have

We cannot control the beauty of our face

But we can control the expression on it

We cannot control life’s difficult moments

But we can choose to make life less difficult

We cannot control the negative atmosphere of the world

But we can control the atmosphere of our minds

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

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

How?  People who have a high appreciation of life…

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

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

3. Find something positive in everything

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

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

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

This is spiritual warfare – pull down negative thoughts

Attitude and faith are very similar – way you view something

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

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

4. Say something positive in every conversation.

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

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

Best way is to pray daily…

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

People can frustrate you – must train our eyes

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

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

5. Express gratitude to God and others daily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE WELLS OF JOY (Genesis 26) 

A. THE PHILISTINES STOPPED UP ALL THE WELLS 

1. They thought this would drive Isaac away.

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

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

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

 B. GOD COMMANDED ISAAC TO REDIG THE WELLS 

1. Some of you need to redig the wells.

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

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

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

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

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

All I Want for Christmas Pt.2

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All I Want for Christmas Pt 2 – Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

A time of violent roman occupation

(Luke 2:6-14 NIV) “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[d]

Peace on Earth?

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

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

A not so silent night. There was no peace in Israel at this time. Gloom, anguish, and contempt were just some of the adjectives used to describe this darkness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

•Unavoidable circumstances.

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

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

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

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

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

•Unbearable people.

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

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

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

1. Who helped you in your difficult time

2. Who left you in your difficult time

3. Who put you in your difficult time

•Unexplainable problems.

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

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

3 Reasons for life’s problems

1. Sin – Imperfect world

2. Satan – Common Enemy

3. Self – we make mistakes

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

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

•Uncontrollable worry.

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

God doesn’t want you to worry!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Focus on God, not the problem! 

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

2 Options – Panic or Pray / worry or worship

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

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

1.Receive God’s Grace. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Run to God’s Presence.

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

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

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

– Prayer – the Word of God

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

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

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

3. Obey God’s principles.

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

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

Peace Comes through obedience to God’s word

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

4. Rely on God’s provision.

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

•Trust God to take care of things beyond your control

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

•Live one day at a time:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus Is…The Real Deal

Jesus Is_Screen

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

Jesus Is…God

Jesus Is_Screen

Jesus Is…God 

(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–Jesus crucified.”

To invoke a well-worn cliche, truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Roughly 2000 years ago he was born in a dumpy, rural, hick town to young Jewish virgin girl named Mary. At the age of 30 he began his public ministry that included preaching, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, & befriending social misfits. His ministry spanned 3 short years before he was put to death for declaring himself to be God. This story continues after 2000 years.

Inspiration for…more literature, more music, more works of art than any other person in history. Our calendar is set according to His birth. The two biggest holidays celebrated worldwide each year, Christmas and Easter, commemorate His birth and His resurrection. Despite ever-evolving cultural changes, Jesus has been relevant in every generation. (Contrary to what John Lennon said)

The Big 3 of Ancient Greek Philosophy – Socrates,, Plato, and Aristotle (formed the philosophical foundation of western culture. Combined careers equal 150 years) Jesus being in the public eye for only 3 1/2 years he and his teachings have arguably impacted the world far more than these 3 philosophers combined.

Encyclopedia Britannica dedicated 21,000 words to Jesus. Largest of any biographical entries.

In fact, Jesus has appeared on more covers of Time magazine than any other person who has ever lived.

Who believes it? Its been estimated that there are currently between 70 and 100 million people in America alone who believes that Jesus is God, and as many as 2 billion more worldwide. Not only do they are convinced the story of Jesus is true, they stake their eternal destiny  on it.

HIS CLAIMS

John 1:1-14 ESV –  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life,[a] and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own,[b] and his own people[c] did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 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.

†Jesus claimed to be God.

Matthew 26:59-65 ESV –  Now the chief priests and the whole council[a] were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61 and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” 62 And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?”[b] 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy.

That’s where the controversy starts for many.

The Religious leaders were out to take Jesus out

You and I may not have an issue with that but many people do.

Jesus had his share of haters.

At times through out his ministry he exposed their religiosity.

This morning I want to encourage you that Jesus is God and his desire is simple, he wants to have a relationship with you!

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

John 10:30-33 ESV I and the Father are one.”31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

†Jesus claimed to be the only way.

John 14:6-9 ESV – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.[a] From now on you do know him and have seen him.”Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Did you know the Hindu religion believes in 330 million different gods.

To them everything is God but man.

Story: Share on trip to China

People say we are narrow-minded and yes to a point that is true and so was Jesus he admitted it!

NOT IN NOTES (Matthew 7:13-14) Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Who is Jesus to you? Who do you say that he is?

Jesus asked this to his disciples and Peter answered…

NOT IN NOTES (Mark 8: 27-29) 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 Messiah.”

“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

Either Jesus was both the Son of God and the only way to Heaven or everything is false and a lie.

If these two claims that he made that he is God and the only way, if those two claims are true then there could only be three answers…

†Jesus is either: (according to Thomas Aquinas) 

1. Liar – like David Koresh, claimed to be God

2. Lunatic – Pastor in Miami who claims to be Jesus in the flesh. Nuttier than a snickers

3. Lord – He’s not a liar or lunatic, He is Lord. According to the first two commandments, there is only one God & that God alone is to be worshiped. That one God is Jesus.

JESUS IS GOD

Story: Dr. Simon Green Leaf was famous for evidence in the court of law out of Harvard. Out of much study he came to the conclusion that according the laws of legal evidence used in the courts of law there is more evidence for the historical fact of the resurrection.

More evidence to prove that his death & resurrection took place than really any other event in history.

What do we take away from knowing Jesus is God.

The key is not in the next few blanks but in the word experience that is what separates us from all religions.

(Philippians 2:9-11 NIV) “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Since Jesus is God Ask to…

1. Experience His power.

Don’t just know he is powerful but we can experience it

The blind man who had mud on his eyes and he could see.

The religious leaders questioned and investigated it.

They thought it to be a lie and a conspiracy.

(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!”

We must be desperate for God’s power.

You can never argue with someone whose had a personal experience and encounter with God.

Jesus never intended for his church to be powerless but powerful.

NOT IN NOTES (Acts 1:8) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Power in the greek is the word dunamis meaning explosive which is where we get the word dynamite from.

Concordance also says it’s a Miraculous type of power

•The Proof of Jesus is not in an explanation but in a changed life (Acts 3 story)

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

I Corinthians 2:3-5 Message – I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate—I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it—and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway. God’s Spirit and God’s power did it, which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God’s power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else.

2. Experience His presence.

There is no substitute for the presence of God.

You can have all the nice things, signs in place but if you don’t have God’s presence it’s an empty church.

(1 Corinthians 14:24-25 NIV) But if an unbeliever or someone who does not

understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced

by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his

heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming,

“God is really among you!”

(Acts 2:28 ESV – “You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.” (Psalm 16:11)

1. It produces REST. It’s not a goofy expression, but it’s peace!

•Isa. 63:14 (NIV) – They were given rest by the Spirit of the LORD. This is how you guided your people to make for yourself a glorious name.

2. It Produces FREEDOM. Not goofiness or a distraction.

•2 Corinthians 3:17 (NIV) – Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, There is Freedom.

We don’t want to go through the motions we are desperate for his presence to change us.

3. Experience His peace.

(John 14:1, 27 NIV) “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me./ Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

We are going to face tough time and tough seasons but this to will pass.

If you’re struggling go to Jesus and experience his peace through prayer and time alone with him.

3 Sources Of Tension • Uncontrollable Circumstances • Unchangeable People • Unexplainable Problems

Trust God to Take Care of Things Beyond My Control 

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

There is no fear in death when you know God and his peace.

You can experience his peace in a tragedy or your day-to-day life!

For every action there is a reaction – your response determines the outcome.

He is Jehovah Shalom – means the Lord is our peace.

NOT IN NOTES (2nd Peter 1:2-3) Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

The Storm – “Peace Be Still”

4. Experience His salvation.

(Romans 10:9 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.”

“The Good you do won’t finally save you and the bad you do won’t finally condemn you” Martin Luther

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

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.

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

Andy Griffith Show – The minister was moving away. Floyd & Andy were talking about him. “He was a good man, Andy said.” Floyd said, “I knew all his sermons by heart…but we didn’t give him much to work with. There’s just not a lot of sin in this town.”

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

3. Eternal Life 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. God wanted us to be brought back into relationship with Him.

Romans 5:8, 9 — But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

5. 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.

6. Repent – Turn away from sin and to Christ with a change of heart & mind

Acts 3:19 – 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,

I John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Altar Call

“Lord Jesus I need You.  I know that I am a sinner – and I am sorry for my sins.  Forgive me – for living my life my way.  Today I invite You – to be the Lord of my life.  Take control of my life – make me the kind of person – You want me to be.  Give me the power to change.  In Your Name I pray.  Amen.”

A Moveable Feast

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A Moveable Feast

Luke 13:29 ESV – And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at the table in the kingdom of God. 

Food matters. Meals matter. Drinks matter. Our life at the table, no matter how mundane, is sacramental – a means in which we encounter the mystery of God.

Food and drink connects. It connects us with family. It turns strangers into friends.

3 times in scripture – it says “The Son of Man came…” 1. not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45), 2. too seek and to save the lost…(Luke 19:10) 3. Has come eating and drinking…”(Luke 7:34)

•The first 2 statements are his purpose, the 3rd is his How.

•Jesus was called a glutton and drunkard and a friend of sinners

•Jesus’s mission strategy of evangelism and discipleship was around a table with some grilled fish, a loaf of bread, and a pitcher of wine.

Luke’s Gospel is full of stories of Jesus eating and drinking with people:

•Luke 5 Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners at the home of Levi

•Luke 7 Jesus is anointed at the home of Simon the Pharisee during a meal

•Luke 9 Jesus feeds the 5000

•Luke 11 Jesus condemns the Pharisees and teachers the law at a meal

•Luke 14 Jesus is at a meal when he urges people to invite the poor to their meals.

•Luke 19 Jesus invites himself to dinner with Zacchaeus

•Luke 22 is the account of the Last Supper

•Luke 24 the risen Christ has a meal with the 2 disciples in Emmaus, and then later eats fish with the disciples in jerusalem.

In Luke Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal. Why? It represents a shared life. These excessive meals were a type of God’s excess grace, mission, & friendship

(My memories of great meals – with family and friends, christmas, China, Paris, Mexico, Romania)

My title A Moveable Feast is best known as the memoir by Ernest Hemingway about his time in Paris in the 20’s. If you were a young aspiring writer Paris was the place to be.

But the term actually comes from the liturgical calendar. A moveable feast is a feast day without a fixed date, like Easter. In this sermon A Moveable Feast is about the ministry of Jesus. In the Gospels Jesus moves from meal to meal, feast to feast, announcing and enacting the kingdom of God.

Nearly 1/4 of the events of the Gospels occurs around a table. Everything Jesus talks about and enacts is the Kingdom of God. Healing the sick, raising the dead, preaching and teaching, forgiving sins, and the table practice of radical inclusiveness and hospitality.

•Eating and drinking with sinners was the most controversial things he did. Which was morally and ceremonially unclean, and found upon by the religious system and leaders of that day. •Holiness was defined and considered by what you ate and who you were with. Highly controversial.

•Jesus comes and blows that out of the water. Jesus comes on the scene as a movable feast.

Mark 2:15-17 ESV – 15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

•Even the first Miracle of Jesus was turning the water into wine. Why? he didn’t want the feast, the wedding, the dinner to end. Keep it going.

The context of our scripture was that Jesus was asked a question about how many people would be saved. He didn’t give them a number or a percentage. He talked to them about their salvation. He said people would be surprised who.

Jesus was telling the Jews that because they couldn’t think of that as ethenicity, nationally and culturally, because they did.

Jesus described salvation as participation in the kingdom of God

Luke 13:23-30 ESV  And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. 29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

When we talk about the kingdom of God we have to use metaphors (Jesus did) – The kingdom of God is like… best understood as a Table.

The Church is not a kind of temple – The Church is a Table

•Temple is exclusive – lots of restrictions, heirarchy, status conscience, enforced purity codes, certain people are not allowed in (women, gentiles, sinners…)

•Table is inclusive – pull up a chair, affirming, family style, party, everyone is welcomed

In Jewish culture they had the feasts and they had a Tabernacle – But it was moveable. Israel wanted a temple (David,Solomon) But God didn’t want a temple. He was fine in a tent.

Jesus came on the scene and was doing temple stuff at the table 

•when a person sinned they were to purchase an animal at the temple and give it to the priest to sacrifice it then you are forgiven

•But now Jesus is having a meal with sinners at the table with people and simply said, “Your sins are forgiven”

During the week prior to his death, Jesus protested, cleansed the temple and reformed the table

•Why? Only one guy (the high priest) could go into the holy of holies

Who is Jesus? He’s the incarnation of God, (To wit God was in Christ…) – the holiest of All, the Mighty God, the everlasting father, the prince of peace, Immanuel God with us, the son of God, Jesus is God sitting at the table.

•Who can eat with God? women, the lame, sinners, tax collectors, people shamed, misfits, imperfect, people with indiscretions  – the table is open to all, unlike the temple. 

He takes the passover feast and reforms it – the focus is now Good Friday. It’s no longer the sacrificed lamb in Egypt, its now Jesus the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Thats the center of the salvation story at the table. It’s now Whosoever will! Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. The table is now open to all! The table is no longer fenced. Through faith, baptism and obedience to Jesus

Luke 15:1-2 ESV – Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Old Hymn“Come and dine,” the Master calleth, “Come and dine”; You may feast at Jesus’ table all the time; He Who fed the multitude, turned the water into wine, To the hungry calleth now, “Come and dine.”

I know there are several kinds of people that I will address. Some of you have never known what it means to be accepted by God, and perhaps even by anyone else. All your life you’ve been living in a performance trap, having to do this thing or that thing to gain someone’s acceptance.

Keith Hernandez was known as one of baseball’s top players. He carried a lifetime batting average of 300 and won numerous Golden Glove awards for excellence in fielding. He won a batting championship for having the highest average, the Most Valuable Player award in his league, and even the World Series. Yet with all his accomplishments, he missed out on something crucially important to him — his father’s acceptance and recognition that what he accomplished was valuable. Listen to what he had to say in a very candid interview about his relationship with his father: “One day Keith asked his father, ’Dad, I have a lifetime 300 batting average. What more do you want?’ His father replied, ’But someday you’re going to look back and say, “I could have done more.”’” 

Sadly, that’s the story of many people’s lives: maybe yours. Your grades weren’t good enough. Your job isn’t good enough. Your house or car or clothes aren’t good enough. You don’t play good enough. You’re too young, or maybe you’re too old. Maybe you made some mistakes and you were pushed away.

Some of you tried to respond to God’s leading by attending church, but you still weren’t good enough, didn’t wear the right clothes or just didn’t feel like the people wanted you around. Church people have been notoriously judgmental, critical and condescending.

Today Jesus pursues the Imperfect

Romans 3:23 ESV – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Eugene Peterson said, “Every congregation is a congregation of sinners. As if that weren’t bad enough, they all have sinners for pastors.”

Luke 5:31-32 ESV And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

GraceTown needs to be about a Table, not a Temple. •••Let’s go look for people who are not included and let’s include them at GraceTown!

Song of Solomon 2:4 NIV – Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love.

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

Because of GRACE, God is not holding anything against anyone and welcomes all to His Table!

2 Corinthians 5:19 NIV19 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.

The Call of Salvation is not “Come and get right so God will love you and bless you” The Call of Salvation is Come! You Are Loved! God loves imperfect people, moral misfits, burned out believers, religious incompenants.

Conclusion

Today I want to urge you to place your trust in Christ.

In “The Whisper Test,” a lady by the name of Mary Ann Bird wrote something I want you to hear. She said,  I grew up knowing I was different, and I hated it. I was born with a cleft palate, and when I started school, my classmates made it clear to me how I looked to others: a little girl with a misshapen lip, crooked nose, lopsided teeth, and garbled speech. When schoolmates asked, “What happened to your lip?” I’d tell them I’d fallen and cut it on a piece of glass. Somehow it seemed more acceptable to have suffered an accident than to have been born different. I was convinced that no one outside my family could love me.

There was, however, a teacher in the second grade whom we all adored — Mrs. Leonard by name. She was short, round, happy — a sparkling lady. Annually we had a hearing test. … Mrs. Leonard gave the test to everyone in the class, and finally it was my turn. I knew from past years that as we stood against the door and covered one ear, the teacher sitting at her desk would whisper something, and we would have to repeat it back — things like “The sky is blue” or “Do you have new shoes?” I waited there for those words that God must have put into her mouth, those seven words that changed my life. Mrs. Leonard said, in her whisper, “I wish you were my little girl.”

Listen to me closely as we close today: God says to every one of us in this room who is deformed by sin, “You are my son” or “You are my daughter.” How do we know this to be true? Because over and over and over in the Bible God tells us as much. He loves you, no matter what you’ve done, no matter who you are.

“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. 

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

Confession of Sin

Most Merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you, in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; We are truly sorry and we humbly depend. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. In Jesus Name. Amen

Psalms 103:8-12 ESV – The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 9 He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. 10  He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.11  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;12 as far as the east is from the west,so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Silent Night

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Silent Night

What Christmas is really about

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

•Unavoidable circumstances.

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

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

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

•Unbearable people.

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

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

1. Who helped you in your different time

2. Who left you in your difficult time

3. Who put you in your difficult time

•Unexplainable problems.

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

3 Reasons for life’s problems

1. Sin – Imperfect world

2. Satan – Common Enemy

3. Self – we make mistakes

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

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

•Uncontrollable worry.

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

God doesn’t want you to worry!

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

Focus on God, not the problem!

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

2 Options – Panic or Pray / worry or worship

On Earth Peace

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

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

  1. Receive God’s Grace.

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

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

2. Run to God’s presence.

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

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

3. Respect God’s principles.

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

Peace Comes through obedience to God’s word

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

4. Rely on God’s provision.

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

•Trust God to take care of things beyond your control

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

•Live one day at a time:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rusty sings the first stanza…

    “Hark! the herald angels sing

            Glory to the newborn King

            Peace on earth and mercy mild

            God and sinners reconciled”

 God and sinners reconciled

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rusty sings the second stanza…

 Joyful all ye nations rise

            Join the triumph of the skies

With angelic host proclaim

            “Christ is born in Bethlehem”

            With angelic host proclaim

            “Christ is born in Bethlehem”

 Chris is born in Bethlehem

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

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

Rusty sings 3rd stanza…

  “Mild He lays His glory by

            Born that man no more may die

            Born to raise the sons of earth

            Born to give them second birth

 Born to give them second birth

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

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

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

 Why would Jesus say this last part?

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

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

Rusty sings the fourth stanza….

 “Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see

            Hail the incarnate Deity

            Pleased as man with men to dwell

            Jesus, our Immanuel  

            Pleased as man with men to dwell

            Jesus, our Immanuel

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

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

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

Rusty sings the fifth stanza….

           “Hail the Heaven born Prince of Peace

            Hail the Sun of Righteousness

            Light and life to all He brings

            Risen healing in His wings”

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

King of Kings

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

Holy Priest

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

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

Healer

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

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

Rusty sings final and sixth stanza…

 “Christ the highest Heaven adored

            Christ the everlasting Lord

            Come desire of nations come

            Fix in us Thy humble home

            Come desire of nations come

            Fix in us Thy humble home”

 Come desire of nations come

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Everyone stands and sings the entire carol together.

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

Pastor’s Closing Prayer and Blessing

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

 

           

 

 

Joy To The World

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Joy To the World

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

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

God’s Antidote for a weary Religion

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

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

There are things that steal our joy:

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

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

The Twin Joy Robbers 

• Bad Things That Shouldn’t Happen, But Do

• Good Things That Should Happen, But Don’t

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s one of the healthiest things you can do

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

  1. Joy will Change my approach to Life

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

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

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

2. Joy will turn my problems into blessings.

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

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

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

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

  • Take three tablespoons three times a day. 

a. Take it when you feel like it!

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

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

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

3. Joy will affect those around you.

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

Don’t take yourself too seriously

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

The Secret of Joy

  1. Take responsibility for your own emotions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You cannot determine what happens to you

But you can determine what happens in you

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

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

Dear Lord,

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

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

2. Develop a high appreciation for life.

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

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

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

Story of senior being admitted into a nursing home

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

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

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

We cannot choose how many years we will live

But we can choose how much life those years will have

We cannot control the beauty of our face

But we can control the expression on it

We cannot control life’s difficult moments

But we can choose to make life less difficult

We cannot control the negative atmosphere of the world

But we can control the atmosphere of our minds

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

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

How?  People who have a high appreciation of life…

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

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

3. Find something positive in everything

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

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

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

This is spiritual warfare – pull down negative thoughts

Attitude and faith are very similar – way you view something

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

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

4. Say something positive in every conversation.

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

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

Best way is to pray daily…

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

People can frustrate you – must train our eyes

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

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

5. Express gratitude to God and others daily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE WELLS OF JOY (Genesis 26) 

A. THE PHILISTINES STOPPED UP ALL THE WELLS 

1. They thought this would drive Isaac away.

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

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

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

 B. GOD COMMANDED ISAAC TO REDIG THE WELLS 

1. Some of you need to redig the wells.

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

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

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

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

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

Advent: The Human Experience of Waiting

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Advent: The Human Experience of Waiting

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

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

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

Our Preparation includes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waiting is the essential dimension of spiritual development  and growth

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

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

How to Endure the Season of Waiting in your Life 

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

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

Why God Makes Us Wait 

•Waiting Renews Our Strength 

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

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

•Waiting Refines Our Character 

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

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

Waiting Refocuses Our Purpose

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

 How To Grow in the Season of Waiting 

  1. Wait For the Lord, Not the Answer 

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

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

2. Wait In A Crowd, Not Alone 

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

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

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

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

3. Remember: God Waits For Me 

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

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

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

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

Remember 

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

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

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

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