Sermon Sunday December 19, 2021 – Why Christmas part 3

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As I continue our series on the “why” of Christmas, we have two more questions today.

1: Why was he given the name of Jesus?

2: Why the Shepherds?

As Shakespeare once wrote in Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name?” We associate people or characteristics to names. Let’s face it, the reason we don’t like certain names is because we know someone by that name who by their actions or their personality, has marred the name for us.

But the name Jesus, is a name that means so much to us. Not because the letters themselves carry any sort of power in themselves, but because the man Jesus gives power to the name.

The name “Jesus” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Joshua”, and means, “God Saves”. Now the name Jesus was a common name at the time of his birth. The name Jesus continued to be popular during the life of Jesus, but after he died and rose again, the name was not used much at all. Historians have found that after the 1st century, it seemed that the name “Jesus” simply vanished from use in the region. The name Jesus took on a much more controversial meaning. For early Christians, the name Jesus means so much that they felt that no child was worthy to carry the same name as the Messiah. For those who did not believe that Jesus was the promised messiah, they did not want their child to be associated with such a controversial character.

Jesus taking a common name shows us that he came to the earth as a common person. The people of Israel were looking for someone to come as a mighty warrior as their messiah, so they missed him because he came as a carpenter.

But now the name of Jesus means so much more to us. We call on the name of Jesus for our salvation and we pray in the name of Jesus (see 14:13-14 and Acts 4:12). The name of Jesus carries immeasurable power. There is no more powerful name in all the universe than Jesus, not because of the name itself, but because of the One, the Christ, who gives the name power.

Have you called on the name of Jesus?

Moving on to the next question, why did God announce the birth of Jesus to the Shepherds?

We read in Luke 2:9 that the shepherds were terrified as they encountered the glory of the Lord. It is hard for us to imagine the terror these men must have experienced as they were blinded by the light of the glory of the Lord.

While shepherds had once been held in high esteem among God’s people, they had become unwanted, left out, and pushed to the side. They smelled like sheep. They slept on the ground. Their jobs made them little or no money and as a result they came from the lower rungs of society.

So why did God choose to announce the birth of the Messiah to a group of shepherds before anyone else?

Interestingly, Jesus was born in the line of David, the shepherd boy that God made a king. In Jesus, God took a king and made him into the sacrificial lamb. God constantly turns the ideas of man upside down. He chose Bethlehem rather than a larger city. He chose Mary and Joseph rather than a wealthy, respected couple. God chose the downtrodden and small people of Israel to be the chosen nation to host the savior of the world. When God chose to announce the birth of the Christ, he didn’t choose the emperor or the governor, or even the high priest, that would be a good option. No, God chose the people that no one would listen to, the people at the bottom of the societal structure. These shepherds probably had little education and quite possibly didn’t use the best language or display acceptable morals.

It appears God was setting the tone for the life and the message of Jesus. God was reaching to the humble people of society because Jesus was born in a humble location to humble parents. God always invites humble people to a special seat at His table.

Jesus displayed this in his ministry. Jesus always had time to minister to the poor, the lepers, and other outcasts of society. Jesus taught his disciples that serving leads to greatness (Mark 10:43).

God elevated the humble shepherds and made them the first evangelists. They left their sheep and quickly went to Bethlehem. After seeing Jesus, they immediately went out and proclaimed the Good News of the birth of the Messiah (Luke 2:17-18). The shepherds didn’t have a position in the synagogue or any theological training, but they met the Lord and became evangelists, they were changed forever.

One of the primary reasons people don’t share their faith is that they have not had a real encounter with Jesus. If you have a life changing encounter with Jesus, no one will be able to stop you from sharing the Good News. Maybe this Christmas season, it is time for you to make Jesus Lord of your life and begin living for him.

Another significant reason that God called the shepherds to be His messengers is that God Himself is a shepherd (see, Psalm 23, Isaiah 40:11, Ezekiel 34:11-16 and John 10:1-18). God wants us to know that He knows us and cares for us and will never abandon us. When the glory of Jesus’ birth was announced, it was announced to shepherds to remind us of our Shepherd and how much He loves us. The Christmas story is a story about God’s grace and His love for you and me.

Jesus came for the poor and the humble. Never underestimate the power of God to use those that the world has dismissed as uneducated, soft-spoken, or poor (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-27).

You may be listening this morning and thinking that God will never use you, the world has overlooked you pr you feel downtrodden. (1 Corinthians 1:26-27).

Do you know the call of God on your life?

Sermon Sunday December 12 2021 – Why Christmas 2

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Why did God decide to intervene in History at the time he did? It was a campaign to bring freedom and salvation into the world, to provide a way to reconcile man to God, so the timing had to be perfect, the pieces had to be in place. As with any military or political campaign, timing is everything. The creator of all things was on a mission to set the captives free, Jesus came to a world enslaved by sin, to set us free. The timing of this mission had to be perfect. “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son” (Galatians 4:4). What made this the perfect time?

Let’s look at the pieces that were in place that made this time in History perfect for Jesus to be born. The Roman Empire ushered in a time, when for the first time in history, all the nations and peoples of the known world in the Mediterranean region, were unified. This started under the Greeks as Alexander the Great brought all the nations together, and the Romans continued to expand this development by building an incredible system of roads. Transportation and sea travel linked people groups and nations that previously had no contact with each other. All these developments paved the way for the message of Jesus Christ to be easily spread by word of mouth and letters.

There was also the period in world history of unusual peace, from 27BC to 180AD, known as Pax Romana. The Roman Empire was stable and there was a relative peace across the known world, Prince of Peace came at a time of peace in the World.

Another major factor was Language. The Roman Empire was influenced by the Greek Empire, and the common language across all the empire was Greek. Language experts say that Hellenic Greek was one of the most articulate languages in history. A perfect language for the greatest story ever told.

When the time had fully come- God set the timeline, and He is still setting the timeline as we await the second coming of Christ.

So we can see why Jesus came when he did, but why Bethlehem? Why should this place be the location for the one born who was to be the savior of the world?

Bethlehem was not a major city of any importance. But when Jesus was born there, it became the most important town on the face of the earth. Looking back in the Old Testament, we see that Bethlehem has quite a legacy. One of the first pieces of history we read about Bethlehem is that Jacob’s wife Rachel was buried there, as we read in Genesis 35. She died giving birth to Benjamin, Joseph’s favorite brother.

The story of Ruth and Naomi also took place in Bethlehem. Boaz, who married Ruth was the great grandfather of King David.

In 1 Samuel 16, the prophet Samuel, anointing a young shepherd boy by the name of David, who became Israel’s greatest King. That is why Luke in his Gospel calls Bethlehem the town of David, in chapter 2. The name Bethlehem means “House of Bread”. Jesus was well aware of that when in John 6:48, he says; “I am the Bread of Life”.

We see a thread running through the Old Testament, that ties Israel to this little town. There was a preparedness and a readiness about Bethlehem at that time. It was the culmination of History.

For Christ to be born in Bethlehem at that time in history was not an accident. All the pieces were in place, Bethlehem was ready, History was ready. The fullness of time had come for the arrival of God’s Son.

So, we come to our last question today, why are you and I here at this time in History?

Time is one of the most precious commodities that we possess. But the truth is that we don’t possess time, we are given time with the purpose of stewarding it. Each of us is given a certain amount of time, that has been entrusted to us by God. He places it before us, we can choose to use it wisely, or we can simply sit back and let it run by like water running down a hillside stream. The Psalmist David writes that God gives us a certain number of days, and even writes them down before we are born as we read in Psalm 139:16.

So why are we here today; December 13, 2021? Paul writing to the church in Ephesus writes; “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10). If you have made Jesus Christ Lord of your life, you are a son and daughter of the King, you were created in Christ to do good works, that He prepared in advance for us to DO!

This specific day in December in 2021, is only here for a moment in history, God placed you in this moment, with a purpose, with a mission. A mission that only you can fulfill. Do you know your mission?

But there is another component to this line of questioning, why am I here? Why am I here in Kansas City? I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that I am in Kansas City, because God has called me to serve Him in this city. Along my life’s journey, I have often asked the Lord, why am I here? I believe that this is essential for us as Christians, we need to know our purpose, and know why God has called us to serve him in a particular place at a particular time.

Jesus was born at a specific time in history, at a specific place on the earth, for a specific purpose, you have been born at a specific time in history, you have been placed at a specific place on the earth, and you have a specific purpose.

Do you know the call of God on your life?

Sermon Sunday December 5, 2021 – Why Christmas part 1

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Isaiah 9:1-7

As I was trying to reconnect my Christmas lights yesterday and getting anxious about all that I needed to do. I began to wonder why we do this every year. I don’t mean that we shouldn’t celebrate our Lord’s birth, but all the other busyness that goes along with this season.

This must be the same question asked by millions around the world, since we live in a post-modern society that tries so hard to ignore God. So why are we celebrating Christmas? What is the point of Christmas if we leave out Jesus? I fear that in a generation to come we will still have this celebration called Christmas, because the retailers demand it, but nativity scenes might be illegal, and all references to Jesus will be taken out, people will begin to ask, why do we celebrate Christmas?

In Isaiah 9 we read about two tribal areas in the northern kingdom of Israel; Zebulun and Naphtali. It is important for us to note that in 732BC the Assyrian army attacked and overran the northern Kingdom, and the first two tribes to be routed were Zebulun and Naphtali. The area became dominated by Gentiles and was known as Galilee of the Gentiles. The northern kingdom was inhabited by many different peoples and became known as Samaria, thus the prophecy of Isaiah here calling it “Galilee of the Nations” proved to be remarkably accurate. But at the time, it must have been inconceivable to the Israelites. This part of Northern Israel was the first to be overrun by the Assyrians, the first to fall into darkness, and by God’s wonderful grace, they are also the first to see the light of the promised Messiah (Isaiah 9:2).

Jesus could have launched his ministry anywhere, it would have made sense for him to start his ministry in Jerusalem, as it was a major hub. But instead, as we read in Matthew 4:13, Jesus begins his ministry and heads to Capernaum, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. Not only is this significant because Jesus is coming to the area where the destruction of Israel began, but also I believe Jesus was demonstrating that he was coming for both Jews and gentiles. And in verse three we read; “You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy”, here the prophet is speaking of God enlarging the nation. What I believe he is talking about here is that because of Jesus’ coming, the nation will grow because Jesus came for both Jew and Gentile. We who have believed in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are part of the Kingdom of God. This is an incredible prophecy, that Isaiah pens. The Old Testament has over three hundred prophecies directly relating to Jesus.

So, the first question is, why all the prophecies?

The role of a prophet is to preach, to declare the truth. To speak to the present the eternal truths of God. Frequently in the Old Testament the prophets spoke about a coming champion. Israel at the time of the prophets was a dying nation, and many of the people had been taken into slavery and exile. There was great confusion and loss of identity. The nation yearned back to the days of David and Solomon when the nation was at its greatest and most powerful. It was in this era that the prophets were used by God to encourage them and give a glimpse of greater days ahead.

The prophecies were necessary because when combined, they reveal that Jesus must be the Son of God, the promised Messiah. The fact is that even though we have seen the fulfillment of almost 300 prophecies about Jesus in the Gospels, we need the prophecies just as much as the ancient Jewish nation needed them.

The Israelites needed them to warn the nation and to keep them faithful and hopeful. And we need them to remind us that Jesus was no ordinary man. He was God in human form (Isaiah 7:2).

Which leads us to our next question, why did God become a man?

The answer to why God became a man starts with the creation of the universe. In the garden of Eden there was perfect communion, but then man sinned and a gulf was formed between God and man. Mankind and all of creation has suffered because of the sin of Adam and Eve. There is a separation between God and man and no matter how good man tries to be, how many laws man tries to obey, we could never be good enough to restore the relationship with God.

The problem needed a solution, and it had to come from God. The first step was for God to introduce and reveal himself to mankind. However, the infinitely holy God could not simply reveal Himself, so God had to become like man, literally be born of a woman, conceived by the Holy Spirit.  The creator became like one of his creatures to display God’s character and nature, and provide a way to reconcile man to God (John 14:9).

This leads us to our third question, why do you need to believe?

Isaiah 9:6a states; “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…”

Jesus was born just like any other human being. But he was given to us as a gift as we read also in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son…” Almighty God, gave his only son. Why did God give His only son? The verse continues, “So that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

There is the simple answer to the question, why do we need to believe? Because if we don’t believe in Jesus Christ, and make him Lord of our lives, we will perish.

This is the miracle of Christmas, the significance of this special time of the year. God sent his son to rescue mankind.

Is he Lord of your life?

Sermon Sunday December 27, 2020 The Hope of Christmas Part 2

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Have you ever had someone come to you and tell you about something that would happen to you in your future that was impossible to know or predict? We call this prophecy, a special word of knowledge from God, given for encouragement.  

It is about that time when people begin to predict what will happen in 2021. However, if we have learnt anything in the last twelve months, we know this is an exercise in futility.

And yet, there are many so-called prophetic voices, people sharing their musings on social media. We need to pray for wisdom and discernment being careful not to place our hope in mere man.  

We see time from a singular perspective. We can look a few days or weeks ahead clearly. But God is not bound by time, He not only sees the road from a different vantage point, but he also sees the entire universe and all of time in one sweep of his perspective.

The Old testament itself points to the coming Messiah. The Old Testament has over three hundred prophecies by multiple authors pointing towards Jesus. Most of these were completely fulfilled during the life of Jesus on the earth. But some of them refer to the great Day of the Lord when Jesus will come again in judgement.

The overall message of these Old Testament prophets is that the people must wait for one more King. He will be the greatest of all and he will bring an end to all struggles and wars.

This time of the year we will often read Micah 5:2, but the verses that surround this verse seem to be disconnected. In Micah 5 verse 1, the prophet begins with a call to arms. He mentions the city of troops, which is probably Jerusalem as the seat of power and the place where most of the military were staying at the time. Micah predicts that the city will come under attack.  He predicts that this attack will succeed and that the enemy will strike the king of Israel on the cheek with a rod. Most scholars believe that this was foretelling the attack on Jerusalem by the Babylonians and the capture and torture of King Zedekiah. Thus, the first verse is a prophecy of the impending defeat of Jerusalem and the exile of the tribe of Judah which took place around 586BC, pointing to something that would take place around 100 years after Micah.

Then we have the very familiar verse 2. We know this verse refers to Jesus, the promised Messiah who will be born in Bethlehem in the region of Ephrathah. The name Bethlehem means, “house of bread”. Interestingly, Jesus called himself the Bread of Life and it is no mistake that he was born in the “house of bread”. This King will be born in the same town that David came from, he would be in the line of David. The people were hoping for another king like David.

But then Micah mentions that this rulers’ origins will be from old, from ancient times. The literal translation says, “days of antiquity”. The origins of this king will be before the beginning of time. This king will be one who transcends time. As we know from history, the second verse points to the first century, almost 700 years after Micah’s prophecy.

Looking at verse 3, it would seem that this verse refers to Mary and the birth of Jesus, however there are two other clues that point to the fact that this might be another time in history.  Verse 3 begins with, “Therefore Israel will be abandoned until…”.  Israel ceased to be a nation until 1948, when the Jewish nation was restored. And the last part of the verse; “and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites”, is something that we have seen taking place for the last 72 years.  Many scholars feel that this birth that is predicted is the birth of the nation of Israel that was witnessed in the 20th century, some 2700 years after the prophecy.

As we turn to verse 4, we see that this ruler will be one who stands, meaning that he will be established and unmovable as the King, and that his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. Micah is not prophesying about the first time Jesus came to the earth, he is writing about the second coming of Jesus. When Jesus will establish his throne on the earth, and he will reign over all the earth There will be no doubt of his majesty and authority.

Looking at the prophecy of Micah from this perspective, we see that it is relevant for us today, because it points to our future as well as he was inspired to write by the Holy Spirit.

These are the words of God to us, as they were to the people of the tribe of Judah, who were about to be invaded by the Babylonians, and to the remnant looking for and awaiting the Messiah who came in the form of a little baby born in a stable in Bethlehem. These were the words of God that confirmed the re-establishment of the nation of Israel. And these are the words of God to us as believers all over the world, to encourage us to keep looking ahead and keep looking down the road because Jesus is coming back again.

As we see with the prophetic writing of the past, people missed it. Jesus came after 400 years of silence from God, and even the most respected scholars of the day missed it. Those who studied the prophetic writings did not recognize the Messiah when he came in the form of a Baby in Bethlehem.

But I can assure you that when Jesus comes back again there will be no doubt as to who he is, the Lion of the tribe of Judah is coming back to rule and reign in glory.

The only question we need to be concerned about is whether or not we are ready.

Only by making Jesus Christ lord of your life, will prepare you for the second coming of Jesus.

Are you ready?   It could be today.

What’s the Big Deal about Christmas? Part 1. Sermon Sunday December 15, 2019

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It is the Christmas season and almost everyone is talking about shopping and gifts. Society views Christmas as a big deal, it’s time off work, celebrations and family time. However, a lot of the big deal is driven by greed and commercialism. I wonder if Christmas would be celebrated the same way if we didn’t give gifts? If there was no commercial benefit in Christmas, would the malls and stores promote it so widely, if at all? Sadly, the modern-day Christmas celebration is a distraction of the Big deal that really took place 2000 years ago.

The first few verses of Paul’s letter to the Roman church is not your typical Christmas sermon text, but it is a concise record of why Christmas is such a big deal for us.

Paul introduces himself in verse 1, and in the original Greek, he used ten words to describe all that the Roman church needed to know about him. In English it is around eighteen words, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” Romans 1:1

Paul begins by calling himself a servant. The Greek word is Doulos, which means a humble slave or servant. Paul never exalted himself because he realized that he was a sinner saved by grace (see 1 Timothy 1:15). As followers of Jesus, we are all undeserving sinners, saved by grace, called to be servants of the King of Kings.

Next, Paul says that he was “called to be an apostle”.  Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus and called him, changing his life completely (see Acts 9). He was called to be an apostle, which means an ambassador or messenger sent by God. Paul was sent by Jesus as his messenger to proclaim the Gospel to the world.

Paul then says that he was consecrated, “Set apart for the Gospel of God”. Paul was completely transformed from his old way of life and he was set on a new path. This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, to be set apart and placed on a new pathway, one that leads to eternal life for the glory of God. If you don’t know that you are set apart, you are probably not saved.

Paul was set apart for the Gospel. We sing carols at Christmas that speak about “glad tidings”, which means the good news. The good news that God reached down into this broken world. He lived amongst us, dying for our sins in order to provide the perfect sacrifice so that we could be set free from the burden of sin. Jesus was raised back to life on the third day and through him we can live an abundant life, a life of meaning and purpose for the glory of God (see Isaiah 9:2).

After Paul uses the first verse to introduce himself, he steps out of the way and introduces Jesus, the reason for his letter. He begins with the fact that the Old Testament has hundreds of prophecies declaring the arrival of Jesus, the messiah.

Jesus Christ coming into this world to live and die for our sins was not an afterthought or a “plan b” by God. This gospel message was planned and originated before the foundation of the world.  Jesus came with a primary purpose, to live a perfect sinless life so that he could offer his life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Jesus, the creator God, who spoke all of creation into existence, stooped down, and humbled himself for the sake of his creation.

Donald Grey Barnhouse said, “love that gives upward is worship, love that goes outward is affection, love that stoops is grace.”

This is overwhelming because we have no concept of the greatness of God. We speak about it, we sing “How Great is our God”, but we really have no idea. Moses had a unique relationship with God and in Exodus 33, we read how Moses asked God to show him His glory. God knew it would be too much for Moses, so he sheltered Moses inside the cleft of a rock and then covered him with His hand while God let His goodness pass by Moses.

In the next chapter we read that Moses came down the mountain with the stone tablets of the law and the people are terrified of him because his face is shining. Moses spent time with God, and he radiated the glory of God.

Because of Christmas, the cross and the empty tomb, we can come into the presence of God and speak to God, coming into His presence through Jesus Christ. This is prayer and this is why prayer is such an amazing privilege and source of power. Do you radiate the presence of God because you spend time daily in the presence of the most Holy God? Those around us should see the effects on our lives as a result of our prayer life.

Jesus came down from Heaven to be born in a manger in Bethlehem. This amazing God stoops down and provides a way for us to be saved and then in verse 5 Paul continues, “through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,”

We are not saved to simply sit back and live our “best lives now”. We are saved by God in order to be a witness for him, to proclaim this good news to all the world. When you are saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, you are equipped with power from Heaven, and a new purpose in life (see Ephesians 2:10).

The final phrase of verse 5 is the purpose of it all, for the sake of His name, for the glory of God. All the redemptive story of Christmas and the Gospel focuses on the glory of God.

Christmas is a big deal, but the big deal is that God came down to His creation so that we could be saved from an eternity separated from God and that when we are saved, we are called to share this good news to a lost and dying world.

Oswald Chambers wrote: “There is only one relationship that matters, and that is your personal relationship to a personal Redeemer and Lord. Let everything else go, but maintain that at all costs, and God will fulfil His purpose through your life. One individual life may be of priceless value to God’s purpose, and yours may be that life.”

Christmas is a bid deal, and it is the time of the year when everyone around us is celebrating the birth of our savior. What a tremendous opportunity we have to introduce people to a personal relationship with him.

Who are you going to tell this week about your relationship with the King of Kings?

Sermon December 23, 2018 – The surprise of Christmas

The Christmas Surprise

Have you ever been surprised by a gift on Christmas day? Most of us like surprises.

When Jesus was born he was not recognized as the Messiah. Nobody knows the exact day of the year that Jesus was born, but it should have been no surprise to the religious leaders and scribes of the day.

As we study the Old Testament we see that it all points to the coming Messiah, it is as if the Old Testament is a road that leads to the little town of Bethlehem, to a seemingly insignificant event on a global scale, a child being born who will be the savior of the world.

The Old Testament has over three-hundred prophecies by multiple authors and prophets pointing towards Jesus, most of these were completely fulfilled by the life of Jesus while he was here on the earth, some of them refer to the second coming of Jesus that we are waiting for.

Micah was a prophet of God in the eighth century B.C. and it is customary to read Micah 5 verse 2 during the Christmas season, but the verses that surround this verse seem to be disconnected and hardly seem to fit the Christmas narrative. As we look at the first four verses of Micah chapter 5, we see that the prophet is taking a wide, sweeping view of history.

Chapter 5 begins with a call to arms. The first verse mentions the city of troops; this is probably Jerusalem as the seat of power where most of the military were staying at the time. Micah writes that the city is under siege. Micah prophesy’s that this attack will succeed and that the enemy will strike the king of Israel on the cheek with a rod, a sign of humiliation.  Most scholars believe that this was foretelling the attack on Jerusalem by the Babylonians and the capture and torture of King Zedekiah. So, the first verse is a prophecy of the impending destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the tribe of Judah which took place around 586B.C., an event that would take place around one-hundred years after the prophet Micah.

Then we have the very familiar second verse of Micah chapter 5, which refers to Jesus, the promised Messiah who will be born in Bethlehem. The name Bethlehem means “house of bread”, again we see a prophetic glimpse. Jesus called himself the Bread of Life and it is no mistake that he was born in a town with that name.

Micah also prophesies that this ruler’s origins will be from of old, from ancient times. The literal translation means, “days of antiquity”. The origins of this ruler will be before the beginning of time, one who transcends time, only God can do that.

So, verse 1 points to a time about 100 years after Micah’s life, verse 2 points to the birth of Jesus, almost 700 years after Micah’s writings.

At first glance, verse three refers to Mary and the birth of Jesus, however if we carefully study the phrase, “Israel will be abandoned until….”.  We have to draw another conclusion. Israel ceased to be a nation until 1948, when the Jewish nation was restored. The last part of verse 3 says; “and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites”, is something that we have seen taking place within the last 70 years.

Many scholars feel that the birth that is predicted by Micah, is actually the birth of the nation of Israel that we witnessed in the 20th century.

To recap: verse 1 points 100 years down the road, verse 2 points 700 years down the road, and verse three points almost 2700 years down the road of history.

But then we come to verse 4. This promised ruler who is to come will stand, meaning that he will be established and unmovable as the King, there will be no challenge to his authority. He will shepherd his flock, and not only that, but his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.

Micah is not writing about the first time Jesus came to the earth, he is prophesying about the second coming of Jesus. The time when Jesus will establish his throne and reign over all the earth. There will be no doubting his majesty and authority. Thus, in verse 4 we see a glimpse not only into the future of the prophet Micah, but also into our own future as we await the second coming of our Lord.

This prophet who lived around 2800 years ago, was led under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to write these words that we have translated for us today. These are the words of God to us, as they were to the people of the tribe of Judah, who were about to be invaded by the Babylonians, and to the remnant looking for and awaiting the Messiah who came in the form of a little baby born in a stable in Bethlehem. These were the words of God that confirmed the re-establishment of the nation of Israel in 1948, and these are the words of God to us as believers all over the world. Words to encourage us to keep looking ahead, keep looking down the road because Jesus is coming back again. And when he does come back again all the world will recognize him, as Paul wrote in the letter to the Philippians chapter 2:10; “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,”

As we see with the prophetic writing of the past, people missed it. When Jesus came to the earth even the most respected scholars of the day completely missed it and were surprised by the birth of the messiah.

But I can assure you that when Jesus comes back again, there will be no doubt as to who he is, there will be no doubt about his power and authority.

The Lion of the tribe of Judah is coming back to rule and reign in glory. The only question will be, are you ready, or will you be surprised by the second coming of Jesus. The only way that you can prepare for Jesus to come again is to submit to his lordship over your life, believing in the name of Jesus for your salvation and then to look everyday expecting his triumphant arrival.            (John 3:16)

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 2:12-13 – Sermon December 16, 2018

Philippians 2:12-13

Who has had the greatest influence for good in your life? We all have people who set an example for us. Mark Twain once said, “few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.”

However, a great person can inspire us, but they cannot enable us. Role-models can inspire us, but without us actually beginning to work, we will never achieve anything.

In Philippians 2:6-11, Paul presents Jesus as our ultimate role-model, but how well do we put into practice the life that Jesus modeled for us?

Paul continues verse 12 and says, “as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,”

Paul was a role-model for the church in Philippi, and he instructed them to be obedient and put into practice the daily spiritual disciplines of prayer, evangelism, integrity, honesty, humility and preferring others. As a role model, Paul wanted them to continue even while he was not with them in person. What Paul really wanted them to understand was that he was not the ultimate role-model, Jesus was.

What Paul was referring to here is Character. Character is moral strength or integrity. Sadly, true character is hard to find these days as so many people do not have the personal endurance to stick with something until they have seen it through. Christian character is developed over years of practicing personal spiritual disciplines. Character is the backbone of a Christian. As many have said, Character is how you behave when no-one is watching.

“Character is like a tree, and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing” —Abraham Lincoln

Paul then writes, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” which can be a bit confusing at first glance. But notice he doesn’t write, “work for your salvation”. These people were already Christians and Paul told them to put into practice what God has already worked in by His Holy Spirit. We need to be reminded that we cannot earn our salvation by works (See Ephesians 2:8-9).

We work out our salvation because we have already been saved, not to be saved. The works are the authentication of the faith that we already have.

When we become a Christian, we have so much potential opened to us immediately, the tragedy is that too many people view Christianity as simply a way to avoid going to hell. When you become a Christian, you have unlimited and instant access to the throne of the all holy, creator of the universe, and He invites you and I to call Him Father. There is the very real potential in every Christian to be used by God to transform families, neighborhoods, cities, and even nations.

Becoming a Christian is like being given a plot of land that sits on a diamond mine. The mine has billions of dollars’ worth of precious stones just below the surface, all you have to do is dig a little bit and unearth the treasures that are already in the land that you possess. You have the choice to sit on the land, knowing it’s worth, but never realizing its potential, or you can work a bit and get the value out of what it already in your possession.

Our lives filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit have tremendous potential. So many believers are satisfied with just enough when God offers us so much more than we can ever imagine. I challenge you to work out, what God has already placed in your life.

Paul continues, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

The Greek word for “fear”, that Paul uses in this context means, profound respect and awe for God.

As we begin to try to work out our Christian life, we realize that we don’t have the natural ability to do anything for God, and we learn to rely on God to work through us. We work out our salvation with respect and awe for God, trembling, because we realize that we are only operating in the power and the strength that He gives us in the first place (see Philippians 2:13).

For example, we cannot love others, if we weren’t empowered by the Love of God, we do not have compassion without God placing that compassion in our hearts and we are only able to place others first because of the Spirit of Jesus in us.

Before salvation, God works on us, by the Holy Spirit, we are convicted of sin and our need for salvation. After we are saved, the Holy Spirit works through us. The presence of the living God in us energizes us to do the work of the ministry that God invites us to do.

Philippians 2:13 ends, “…both to will and to work for His good pleasure

True Christianity is spending time in prayer each morning, asking the Lord for what He would have us do, and then allowing Him to empower us to do that which He calls us to do. That is the daily effectual Christian walk, of working out our salvation as God works through us.

If we don’t have a desire to be used by God, it is one of two things; 1) we aren’t followers of Jesus, or 2) we aren’t allowing the Holy Spirit to have the leadership in our lives and we are not led by the spirit (see Romans 8:14).

This is all for His pleasure, and this is where our 21st century narcissism wrestles against the truth of God’s word. We were created for God, God is not our creation, we are His creation, and we were created for His pleasure. But at the same time, as we do what pleases God the Father we are blessed beyond compare.

As Bible believing Christians, this should be nothing new, we have heard it before, but is it simply head knowledge? We know that God is able and that He is faithful, that is theological knowledge. But do we know that God is faithful because of experiential knowledge? The only way to move from theological knowledge to experiential knowledge is obedience. Taking that step of faith.

What step of faith is God calling you to do today?  Proverbs 3:5

What Child is This? part 3 – December 17, 2017

So much of our Christmas season focuses on the birth of Jesus, but we cannot look at the birth of Jesus without looking at the reason why Jesus came to live amongst us.

Luke’s Gospel tells the narrative of how Jesus would be conceived and named. In Luke 1:26-35 we read how Mary had an encounter with the angel Gabriel, and he told her that the baby would be called Jesus. Jesus means God Saves, this must have been another indicator to Mary of who Jesus really was.

Every child carries some of the attributes and characteristics of their mother and their father. The angel told Mary that Jesus would be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus would have some of the attributes of Mary and some of the attributes of God himself. And we know from Hebrews 1:3 that Jesus is fully God and fully man.

Jesus said to his disciples in John 14 verse 9, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

So, this child, conceived miraculously by the power of the Holy Spirit, is the exact representation of God the Father and he is fully God, but by being born of Mary, he also has some of the nature of Mary. This is by God’s infinite design so that by being a man, Jesus would one day be able to offer himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

The Apostle Paul wrote about this in Philippians 2:6-8.

We know that Jesus reflected the nature and character of God the Father, but how much of the character of Mary did Jesus possess as he walked the earth?

Looking at the way in which Jesus dealt with people we can see some of what Mary must have been like. Jesus was compassionate and kind, especially with children Jesus displayed patience and tenderness.

Jesus sought out the people on the fringes of society, calling them, showing them compassion and embracing them.

When the angel encountered Mary, he told her in verse 30, that she had found favor with God. God saw in Mary something special, she found favor with God possibly because she displayed the characteristics of gentleness, compassion, patience and tenderness. Perhaps it is possible that God saw in Mary the character traits, that He placed in her in the first place, but the character traits that would be necessary for Jesus to be who he was.

This child that lay asleep on her lap would one day grow up to have the character traits of care and compassion that his mother had.

There are several times in the Bible where the nature of God is described using motherly language and imagery (See Isaiah 66:13, Deuteronomy 32:11-12a, Psalm 22:9-10, Hosea 13:8a, Luke 13:34).

We see these images of God in the Bible as partial descriptions of the nature and character of God. Jesus is the exact representation of God; therefore, he must have these attributes himself. The same attributes that Mary displayed.

In addition to these characteristics, Mary and Jesus both displayed strong character in their lives. They both displayed great faith and trust in God. They were both willing and committed to the mission that God the Father had called them too. When Mary received the instructions from the Angel, her response was in Luke 1:38, “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

When the time came for Jesus to face the completion of his mission, just before he was arrested and crucified, he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, humbly submitting to the perfect plan and will of the Father (Luke 22:41-42).

Both Jesus and Mary lived lives of extraordinary consequence, but both suffered deep pain. We only have a glimpse from the account of the crucifixion of how much pain and suffering Jesus went through as he paid the price for our salvation, but Mary also suffered. When Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple they met Simeon who praised God for allowing him to see the Messiah before his death, and went on to prophecy over Mary foretelling of the pain that she would one day endure (Luke 2:34-35).

Even in the Christmas carol, focusing on the birth of Jesus, we read of the purpose of why Jesus came to earth and gave up his glory in heaven. Mary was present at the crucifixion, standing by the cross, and enduring the agony of seeing her son die in the most excruciating way. Mary never left the side of Jesus, she was committed to being there for her son. This is also a promise of Jesus and one of the primary characteristics of the nature of God, he is a faithful God who promises to never leave us.

No matter how dark the season is that you are going through, no matter how lonely you feel at this Christmas season God is always near and his Word promises that He will be with you.

Jesus promised his disciples when he left them his Great Commission (Matthew 28:20b).

One of the most powerful scenes of compassion took place as Jesus hung suffering on the cross. Mary was there, and she wanted to help alleviate the pain, but Jesus looked at her and cared for her as he instructed the Apostle John to care for his mother (see John 19:26-17). What an incredible picture of love and compassion, in his pain he made sure that Mary was going to be taken care of.

“What child is this?” He is the one who came to love and to be the selfless sacrifice for all those who would believe in his name. But praise God, it didn’t end there. Jesus rose from the dead in a new resurrected body, Jesus became the first born of the new creation, and by his re-birth we can be born again.

Mary came to understand that this miraculous baby became the greater miracle, the way of salvation for millions of people who would put their faith and trust in him.

This Jesus is still the same today, full of compassion and love, ready to meet your needs.

If you are facing a huge trial and difficulty, Jesus knows what you are going through and he can meet your need.

If you are lonely and struggling with depression, Jesus knows your pain and is full of compassion.

Jesus came to earth as a little baby, to be fully man, so that he could identify with you and me (see Hebrews 4:15-16).

What Child is This? part 2 – December 10, 2017

In Matthew chapter 2 we read the account of the wise men who came from the east to meet Jesus.

We must ask ourselves, who were these men, and why did they get invited to meet the Messiah?

 The first thing we notice is that these wise men came from the east, most likely they were Gentiles from Arabia, this would have included modern day Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, UAE and Iraq.

One of the clearest explanations for their place of origin would be the types of gifts they brought to Jesus as we read in verse 11 of Matthew 2. The Gold which these wise men brought was probably mined in the region of Ophir and Sheba, which is mentioned in 2 Kings 9 as the place where King Solomon obtained huge quantities of gold for his extravagant building projects. The gifts of Frankincense and Myrrh are also derived from trees that primarily grow in Southern Arabia. It is important to understand the origin of these wealthy travelers in order to understand that they were fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 60:1-6

So how does knowing this information about the wise men help us in answering the question, “what child is this?”

Firstly; both Jesus and the wise men came from a distant place to Bethlehem. The Wise men travelled from a distant country in the east, and Jesus as we know came from God the Father and took on human form as he became Emmanuel, God with us (see John 1:1-2, 9-12).

Secondly; one might be tempted to think that because of all the prophecies relating to the messiah being Jewish, it would mean that he only came for the Jews. However, with these wise men coming from the east, God clearly announced that Jesus came for all mankind.

Thirdly; these wise men were wealthy, but to say that Jesus came from a place of means, is probably the greatest understatement in history. If you read Revelation chapters 4 and 5, you will see a glimpse of the majesty and the incredible riches of heaven. Jesus was surrounded by wealth, power and majesty in heaven, and yet he humbled himself to come as a poor baby born to a poor couple in a humble stable.  This child born in the manger is the Lord who created everything and owns everything.

And finally, the wise men were generous as they brought extravagant gifts for Jesus. Jesus himself came to bring a gift of unimaginable worth to all who would receive it. Jesus came from a position of wealth and he came with a gift, the ultimate gift of eternal life (see Galatians 1:3-4a, 1 John 3:16, John 14:27a, Philippians 4:13, Mark 10:45).

Have you ever wondered why the wise men came to Bethlehem?

The greater question is, how did these wise men know that the King of the Jews was to be born. We know that ancient eastern scholars were students of the natural sciences and in fact they came from a culture that valued the study of the stars and the planets. Thus, when they saw this strange star in the sky, they began digging to find out why it was there. To find out how they came to know about Jesus, you must go back nearly six centuries to the Babylonian exile of the southern kingdom of Israel in 587 B.C. After the exile had ended, some of the people of Judah remained in the eastern lands where they maintained their oral traditions and scriptures. They would have taken the tradition of telling the stories of the ancient scriptures to whoever would listen. These transplanted exiles would have told of the prophecies of Jeremiah, Daniel, and Isaiah about the coming Messiah the King of the Jews.

These wise men would have known of the ancient prophecies of the Messiah coming in the west. And when they saw the star, they came to meet this king. However simply knowing of an important birth happening hundreds of miles away probably wasn’t the real motivation for their coming to Bethlehem. I believe is the real reason the wise men visited Bethlehem was that God the Holy Spirit invited them and compelled them to meet Jesus.

Just as God invited, and prompted the wise men to come and see Jesus, so to, today, the Holy Spirit invites and compels people to come and meet Jesus.

One of the incorrect statements we often hear is, “I found Jesus”. Well the truth is that you didn’t find Jesus, he invited you to meet him.

When the wise men finally come to the house of Mary and Joseph, imagine Mary’s surprise when these wealthy, well dressed, upper class men come into her home and when they see the baby, they bow down and worship. These gentiles probably didn’t speak Aramaic or Hebrew, but they bow down and worship the king. They had been invited to witness the most important birth in all of history and unlike the rest of the people around them, they knew who deserved to be worshipped. The rest of the people in Bethlehem at that time did not recognize Jesus for who he was, and they never did.

These wise men were the first non-Jewish people to worship the Son of God, and just like you and me today, they were invited in. Because Jesus didn’t come only for the Jews, but he came for all nations for all people groups.

So, what about you? You have been invited to meet the King of Kings, the one born in Bethlehem, who brought the gift of eternal life to all mankind

Have you met Jesus? Have you worshipped Jesus? There is only one gift that we have to offer Jesus, and that is the gift of our lives, fully committing our lives to worship him and live for him.

Christmas sermon series part 1 – December 4 2016

christmas-pt-1

Every year when Christmas comes around, we traditionally look at the Christmas story in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The story of a baby being born in Bethlehem, not just any baby, but the very son of God. The Christmas story is just another beautiful story unless we connect Christmas with the cross. This baby being born in Bethlehem was part of God’s perfect plan to provide a way of salvation for a lost and dying world.

Jumping ahead 33 years, Jesus’ final words on the cross as recorded in John 19; “it is finished”. What was finished? The mission Jesus came to accomplish? We have to look all the way back to the first book of the Bible to see what Jesus was talking about. What Jesus came to finish began in the book of Genesis chapter 3. In the beginning God created mankind in his own image, he put something of himself in man. There was perfect communion, but then Adam and Eve sinned, and the result of this sin was a separation between God and man. All of creation has suffered as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve. The separation between God and man was so great that mankind could never cross over back to God, no matter how good man tried to be or how many laws man tried to obey. One of the most tragic verses in the Bible is verse 8; ”… and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God…” The tragedy is that mankind has been trying to hide from God ever since.

As Adam and Eve are hiding, God begins to ask a series of questions; “Where are you?”, “Who told you that you were naked?”, “Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

God knows everything, so why is he asking all these questions? God is not asking because he needs information, rather God is asking questions to give Adam and Eve an opportunity to repent. God the Father is walking through the garden with a broken heart, knowing the terrible course of events that have been set in motion. What began with two people eating forbidden fruit, would lead to centuries of pain and heartache for billions of people and ultimately to the death of his own son on the cross at Calvary.

In Genesis 3:14, God begins to deliver judgment and in verse 15 we read what God says to the serpent Satan; “And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

God promised that a child of Eve’s would crush the head of the serpent Satan. Eve thought that this was accomplished when she had her first son Cain as we read in Genesis 4, but Cain was even more wicked and because of his pride he killed his own brother Abel. God was not looking to the immediate offspring of Eve, he was looking thousands of years and many generations down the line to Jesus. Jesus would be the one that ultimately crushed the head of Satan. Genesis 3:15 is the first declaration of the wonderful Gospel message.

Genesis 3:15 says that Satan will bruise the heel of Jesus, Jesus would suffer pain and more pain than we could ever imagine, but the wound inflicted on him would not be fatal (see Isaiah 53).

But by rising from the dead, Jesus crushed the head of Satan, ultimately which will lead to his being sent to hell (see Rev 20:10). In order for Jesus to restore the relationship between God and mankind, he had to become as a man. In part to fulfill what God promised Eve, but also to be the perfect sacrifice. God had to become a man in order to pay the price for sins and the restoration of our relationship to God the Father.

As a result of that first sin the problem of sin permeated the whole world, the solution had to come from God as mankind was helpless. The first step was for God to introduce himself to mankind, a way for God to connect with his creation. We could not connect with God, but he could connect with us and reveal himself to mankind. So God had to become a man, taking on flesh by being born of a woman. What an incredible concept and miracle. The creator of the universe left his throne, disguised himself as a man, and walked among us. The creator became like one of the creatures and revealed his nature to mankind (see John 14:9).

As we celebrate Christmas, let us not become so wrapped up in the beauty of the lights and the tinsel and the singing of Christmas Carols, that we forget the rescue mission, the real story of Christmas that is the enormous price that Jesus paid in setting aside his glory and taking on flesh.

Looking back to Genesis 3 verse 21, we read that God made clothes for Adam and Eve from animal skin. But in order to make those first clothes, God had to kill an animal, this was the first blood-shed in order to cover sin. It became the foreshadow of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus himself.

RA Crisswell wrote:  Somewhere in the ground of Eden the ground drank the blood of the first offering for sin, and from that harmless and blameless creature a coat was made to cover up the shame and nakedness of the man and his wife. It is a picture of the covering, the atonement, the washing away of our sins in the sacrificial victim on the cross of Calvary.