Monthly Archives: December 2016

READ IT ALL

route-66-travel-through-the-bible

Every Christian should agree with what is in the Bible

Every Christian should live by what is in the Bible

Every Christian needs to know what is in the Bible

Every Christian ought to be reading the Bible – regularly, methodically and completely

God’s people are all on board with my first statement, and they most likely are not in disagreement with any of these statements.

But they may find themselves increasingly uncomfortable and disconnected as they go down the list.

There are many ways to approach Bible reading, and few of them are unhealthy (jumping around passages without reading through books of the Bible would be one). Yet there are important steps to becoming biblically literate and healthy.

One ingredient to biblical rootedness, is to read through the entire Bible (translation: read every page of it).

Certainly there are some portions of the Bible that are not as enjoyable or essential as others (skin diseases in Leviticus, and property allotments in Joshua come to mind). Yet there are plenty of important benefits to reading it all.

As we begin 2017 and the brief days of acting on New Year’s Resolutions, make a commitment to reading the Bible regularly and all the way through. How long this takes is not that important. But getting it done will benefit your life.

As an encouragement to reading the entire Bible, take a few minutes to peruse this article by Kristen Wetherell, “17 Benefits to reading the Entire Bible”.

This will take effort and persistence, but it will leave you joyful and without regret. Which is more than you can say for all the ways you spend time not reading your Bible

FAMILY DEVOTIONS, CAN WE LIVE WITHOUT THEM?

 

“Can our family live without having devotions together?”

This a prodigious question for parents with children still at home.

The short answer is, yes you can live.

But the fuller answer is, not anywhere near as well as a Christian family should!

Family devotions are not about parents being scholars, teachers, or having all the answers.

Family devotions are about inserting God and his Word into family life. It an essential process for making sure that the most important truths for life and eternity are given a prominent voice in our home.

If your answer is “My children get enough of God at church and their Christian school.”

My response is NO THEY DON”T!!

What your children don’t get – and this is enormous– is to see that the most influential people to them are committed to loving God and putting him first in their lives. They don’t see that your family is led by God’s Word – unless they experience your family reading and implementing God’s Word

In the end, God has placed the primary discipleship role on parents. God gave your children to you and God made you their parents. Your church has an essential role that supplements, not supplants the role of parents.

If your answer is “But I don’t know where to start and what to do?”

I understand. Keep it simple.

Gather the family

Open your Bible to the New Testament

Read a small portion (they key is consistency not amount)

If an application or comment comes to you, share it. If not, don’t worry about it

Close with prayer

Over time you will become more comfortable doing it. And if you sincerely pray for God to help, he will answer that prayer.

Be encouraged in knowing that God is always the main character in the process.

To help stir up some good ideas for family devotions, I urge you to read this article by Tim Challies. He gives 10 Ideas for family devotions and then adds 10 Tips to help make it work.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 12.26.16

The Christmas Story Ends with a King     

Matthew 2:1-12

 

The Wise Men were late comers to Jesus’ birth

Some think v16 indicates this scene was two years after Jesus birth

The time could certainly have been far shorter; however, it is later, and Jesus’ family is now in a “house” (v11)

Perhaps they needed to stay away from Nazareth, due to family tensions caused by Mary’s pregnancy

Who are these visitors who set a vivid contrast to the shepherds?

The Wise Men or Magi were likely priestly advisors

They are from the “east”, probably Persia or Babylonia (which was a 750-1000 mile journey)

Either location had a long history of influence from Judea

Roman historians indicate that Jewish Messianic hopes were widely known

Their trip was clearly a work of God to them, and in them

The “star” which led them was clearly not a natural phenomenon

Somehow, they connected its appearance to the Jewish Messiah    

They were motivated to travel a great distance at significant cost

The Magi arrived in Jerusalem asking what they thought would be known:  

“Where is he who was born king of the Jews?”

No one was aware that the Messiah had been born

Yet, the religious leaders had no problem identifying where that would take place (vs 5-6)

This news “troubled” Herod and the city

Herod was troubled because he was king, but not by right (Herod was not of David’s line or fully Jewish)

Herod was also very paranoid (he killed two of his sons)

The religious and political leaders were troubled, because a Messiah showing up would take from their influence

When Herod got his information, he “secretly” met with the Wise Men

He doesn’t want his real plan, to get rid of the Messiah, to become known

The Wise Men now know to look in Bethlehem – only 6 miles away

Then the star also appeared again – and led them to the exact location

The emotions of the Magi in this moment are striking (v10)

It had been a long trip, but this is more than relief from travel fatigue

What the Magi saw when they arrived, was not impressive (v11)

Yet, they humbled themselves, and “fell down and worshiped”

They also gave generous “gifts”; such as would be given if visiting a ruler

Imagine the drama of the spectacle of the Magi’s arrival

Arriving at Joseph and Mary’s front door is an entourage from a distant land

They are eager to see the child, and upon seeing him, fall to ground

 

How can we use this story of the Magi?

Christ is to be worshiped!

The angels worshiped, the shepherds worshiped and the Magi worshiped

Any response to Christ that doesn’t include worship is simply wretched

There are two groups that stand in stark contrast to all the worshipers in the Christmas Story

(1) Those who simply ignored Jesus

The people in Jerusalem heard the Messiah may have been born, but they couldn’t be bothered to go and see

What of Christians who know Jesus lives! Yet to read his Word, to regularly pray, or to serve him – are considered too much trouble

If you call Jesus King, will you not bow or give him the treasure of your life?

(2) Herod who tried to get rid of Jesus

Herod is an example of all who are desperate to hold onto the throne of their lives

We all start there, we all begin life desperate to be king over it  

Christ cannot be gotten rid of, pushed aside, or overthrown (Psalm 2)

And in the end neither can he be ignored! (Romans 14:11-12)

The Christmas Story ends with a King and this King will reign!

 

CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS FOCUSED ON CHRIST

by Debbie Huber

When Kyle and I began raising our family we both brought Christmas traditions from our childhood together to make our own family traditions. Some of my traditions revolved around baking Christmas cookies and decorating the house. Kyle brought the traditions of creating a Christmas countdown calendar for the children and allowing the children to open their stockings in their beds when they woke up early on Christmas morning. The memories of these traditions are priceless for our family.

Another tradition that we started as a family was to read the biblical account of the birth of Christ together before any presents were opened. This kept the focus on what was most important.

In her book, “Treasuring God in Our Traditions”, Noel Piper emphasizes the importance of our traditions to demonstrate that God is at the center of all of our lives.  

“God is the reason that we have anything to celebrate.  He is the ultimate source of our celebrations. As we read in James 1:17, ‘Every good gift and every gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.'”

How would your favorite Christmas tradition change if you looked at the people you are sharing it with and thanked God that He created them, that He chose this day for them to share it with you?  We might want to plan a time to pray specifically for those people.

How would the focus of our traditions change if we looked at them to strengthen our ultimate hope in Jesus?  Do others see our joy we have because of Christ’s birth?

Let us pray that our traditions will reflect Christ and increase our delight in God.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 12.19.16

 Jesus’ Life Began Before Bethlehem

 

by Eric Huber

The Apostle John writes his gospel to combat growing heresies in the early church. 

Some denied the full deity of Christ; saying he was simply a good man and a moral teacher. 

Others denied the humanity of Christ. 

They thought, “How could God suffer and die?”  They believed Jesus only appeared as a man.  He did not enter our world and suffer in the flesh.  John writes, “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and believing you may have life in His name (Jn 20:31).” 

John wants us to understand who Jesus is and what he has done for us.

John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” 

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus, but the person of Christ did not begin in the manger in Bethlehem.

Jesus eternal being who is at the heart of God’s redeeming purposes in all of Scripture – both NT and the OT.  Paul tells us in 1Tim 2:5, “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”.  When we see God in the OT moving on behalf of His people, we see the pre-existent Christ, the second person of the Trinity.

Jude 5 tells us that in fact it was Jesus who delivered Israel from the land of Egypt.

It was Jesus who led them in the wilderness and gave them manna from heaven. 

It was Jesus who spoke from the holy mountain and gave them the Law. 

It is Jesus who mediates between God and humanity.

It is the eternal Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. 

He entered our world.  He took upon himself our nature and our obligation to obey God in everything, so that He could be our high priest who took our punishment upon himself – dying in our place, so that we could have a restored relationship with God. 

He became one of us so that we might become children of God.

He is the one who is full of grace & truth. 

In fact, if we reject Christ, then we cannot know truth. 

He is the creator God and so he makes reality what it is.  We can, therefore, not make sense of the world without him. 

Out of his common grace, he will allow us to function in his world, but we will always feel disconnected from reality because we have rejected the one who can make sense of the world and give us fulfillment in it. 

But if we will turn to Christ, then out of his fullness he gives to us grace upon grace.  It is an ever sufficient grace if we will turn from our sin and turn to Christ.

AVOID THE AFTER-CHRISTMAS-LETDOWN

 

by Debbie Huber

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday…I had my shopping plans for these special shopping days.  I bookmarked the special Black Friday Deals website to know where all the BEST deals were to be found.  I kept all of my coupons and found all of my Promo codes.  I was ready to have a successful and bargain-filled Christmas shopping season!

Unfortunately, things like this can dominate our lives from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve.  Gift lists are made, shopping days are planned, Christmas parties and concerts are put on the calendar. Somehow we have to wrap the gifts, make the cookies, send in the teacher’s gifts, and find a way to have everyone dressed nicely for a family Christmas picture.  

Our lives are hectic right up until Christmas Day and then on December 26 we have the “Day-after-Christmas-letdown” where we are surrounded by tired and cranky family members, empty boxes, and bags of torn wrapping paper. 

It is easy to allow the hectic schedule and the “planning” to dominate your families’ lives at Christmas.  The buildup and expectation of Christmas and family is a wonderful blessing from God, but without the celebration and thankfulness for what it meant for Jesus to be born, there will be a letdown until next year. 

Jesus is Emmanuel, God With Us!  Our God was born as a baby so He could live on this Earth like us and experience the trials and temptations as we do and yet without sin so He could be sacrificed in our place for our sins. 

Jesus should be the foundation of our plans, our expectation, our celebration, and our joy of Christmas. 

Make it a priority to have Jesus and the celebration of what He accomplished as a result of being born as “God With Us” be the foundation of your family’s Christmas season.  Read about it in the Bible, sing about it at home and in your car, thank God together through prayer, and celebrate with each other about the amazing reality of what Jesus has done for us. 

Do not let a day go by without rejoicing in your heart and thanking God for the wonder of the incarnation of Christ.  Share with the unsaved people in your life about it the glory of Christmas and invite them to church! 

There may be some tiredness after Christmas, but there is no after Christmas letdown because the gospel is a reality in our lives for eternity!

ALL GOD DOES IS GOOD!

This is a wonderful video that brings to our hearts a number of important reminders:

Each life is from God and EVERY child has worth

God is good in all he brings

Life is enriched when we trust and obey God

The Christmas story is overflowing with beautiful truths

SERMON LEFTOVERS 12.12.16

Joseph’s Hard News

 

Matthew 1:18-25

 

The Angel Gabriel visited Mary to announce her pregnancy, now Joseph finds out

 

Being chosen as Jesus’ parents, was a difficult honor

Joseph is a deeply hurt man; his fiancé was “found to be with child”

We don’t know how Joseph found out, or if he spoke to Mary

He knows his betrothed is pregnant, and he thinks she betrayed him

The pain and “dishonor” goes beyond Joseph and Mary

Both sets of parents, their extended families and friends were all impacted

Then there was the question who is the father?  Whose life was affected by suspicion?

Joseph was a ‘just’ (righteous) man who wants to do the right thing (v19)

He realizes he cannot marry a woman who is unfaithful and “unrepentant”

But he will show mercy and divorce her ‘quietly’; which means he will not bring charges (she could have been stoned)

Joseph is righteous and Mary is favored by God, but their lives are unraveling

God’s favor doesn’t ensure an easier life, but it will unquestionably bring a fuller life

Even though the angelic visits brought truth, the complications remained

Being in the center of God’s grace doesn’t mean all will be clear to us, or that people will be supportive

Yet, every moment of God’s purposes is gloriously worth it

 

An angel is sent to intervene (vs 20-21)

God knew Joseph couldn’t be expected to accept Mary’s testimony

God provided what Joseph needed, to follow the path given

The statement, ‘Do not fear’ was an assurance that even this will be okay: you will not be a fool, and you will not regret it, for the Lord is fully in it

The angel brought 3 affirmations to Joseph

1.  The child in Mary’s womb was conceived by the Holy Spirit

2.  The name of this child is to be “Jesus”

3.  This child is the Messiah (the “anointed one”)

Anticipation of a Messiah came from Old Testament prophets, who often described a coming deliverer who would bring unparalleled blessing

This Messiah would come from the line of David, the great king of Israel

Messianic fulfillment was clearly in the angel’s words and in the circumstances

Joseph’s response, like Mary’s, revealed his character

They both accepted what God had ordained for them

Joseph obeyed, he “did” what God commanded (vs 24-25)

Joseph will soon fade from the biblical record; and none of his words are recorded

We don’t know much about Joseph, but we know what matters – he was faithful in his part

 

Matthew adds commentary on Jesus’ birth (vs 22-23)

Jesus’ birth fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies: Matthew gives one from Isaiah 7:14

God “with us” is a key theme of the Bible – from the Garden of Eden onward, God is with his people

Jesus transcends all previous expressions of God’s presence (John 1:14 & 18)

Jesus is not only the Messiah, he is Messiah beyond expectations

God himself is our Messiah!  There could be no greater deliverer (Romans 8:31-38)

The deliverance Jesus brings is also beyond what was looked for

Jesus doesn’t simply save us from current problems, he saves us to the uttermost! (Hebrews 7:25)

He saves us as far and as wondrously as is possible to be saved!

 

Matthew gives context for Jesus’ birth (vs 1-17)

The announcement of Jesus’ birth is preceded by his genealogy

Jesus fits the biblical promise that the Messiah be from the line of David

This genealogy shows Jesus’ coming is part of a huge sweeping plan (vs 17-18)

Centuries of events and lifetimes culminate in Jesus’ arrival

No one was more aware of being predestined than Jesus. He often spoke of “my time” and “my hour”

Christ is at the center of God’s plan, but his genealogy shows God uses messy people along the way

Jesus’ genealogy contains as many skeletons as anyone’s closet

The Bible doesn’t hide the mess of these lives, Jesus saves them!

GETTING THE JOB DONE

Jason is an 8-year-old boy coming home sweaty and filthy after a day playing outside. His mom asks him to clean up for dinner.

Jason obediently goes to the sink to wash up in order to be presentable for the dinner table. His mom calls from the kitchen, “Jason, are you cleaning up?” To which he cheerfully answers “Yeah”, and proceeds to take his seat at the table confident that he has fulfilled what his mother asked.

But what do you think are the odds that Jason arrived at the table truly clean?

It’s not that Jason was trying to be disobedient. In his 8-year-old perspective he had done a fine enough job. But his idea of clean is different than his mom’s, and his attention to detail is incomplete.

When it comes to cleansing ourselves from sin, we are like Jason and every other 8-year-old boy!

We ignore parts, miss parts, and then scrub some spots sore, but in the end we are still grungy.

How wonderful that God has stepped in to take over the job of making us clean! He carefully cleanses our soul with a thoroughness that leaves us eternally spotless!

 “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18)

God knows we are incapable of making ourselves clean to his standards, so he sent his Son to step into our place to take the punishment our sin deserves and at the same time wash us of the filth that had stubbornly clung to us.

If you are trying to make yourself presentable to God, it is not only an impossible task, it is also a task already accomplished by Christ when we repent and submit our lives to him.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)

As Christians, it’s essential that we keep ourselves from any sin that pursues us; and that we quickly brush off every sin that splatters us. But take joy in the wondrous reality that Christ has made our soul clean and that is how our God sees us.

If we only look at the job we do in cleansing ourselves, discouragement will quickly overshadow our hearts.

Instead keep your eyes on the job that Christ has done to cleanse you. And in faith rejoice, for the day is coming when we will sit at our Heavenly Father’s banquet table flawlessly, spotlessly, and forever clean!

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 12.05.16

 Mary Receives Impossible News

 

Luke 1:26-38

 

Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel (vs 26-30)

What do we know about this woman Mary?

Today, we would consider her more of a girl; the typical age of betrothal was 12-14, with the marriage following a year or more later

She was Galilean, raised far from the places of power and prestige

Gabriel tells Mary, she was ‘favored’ by God (vs 28 & 30)

This doesn’t mean she deserved what she was about to hear, but Mary was certainly a godly woman

So, we know she loved God and obeyed his word, Mary’s character was like that of the Son she would bear

How God uses us differs, but the character he looks for in us is the same

Gabriel adds in v28 the Lord is “with you”

Here was the great truth about Mary!

She had true faith which brings a true relationship with God

God been working in her beyond what she grasped, for the grand purpose he had for her life

God has “favor” and is “with” every person he saves

Gabriel’s statement describes the grace and joy God has for all his children

Yet this ‘favor’ didn’t keep hardship at bay; it brought difficulties she otherwise would not have endured

 

Mary is told the Impossible (vs 31, 34-37)

As a virgin, she will bear a son!

The virgin birth is essential to the hope and power of the gospel

If the virgin birth is not true, Jesus was just another man who cannot save us

If the virgin birth is not true, Jesus was simply a good man whose life ended early and tragically

If the virgin birth is not true, the Bible is one more book of myths which offers nothing eternal

But if the virgin birth is true, God has come!

God has not merely appeared, he has entered into humanity itself

The virgin birth is the first step of God overpowering the helplessness of our sinful brokenness

Gabriel gives a 3-fold answer to Mary’s question

(1) The Holy Spirit will cause your womb to conceive

(2) You have an example of God’s power in your relative Elizabeth (vs 5-25), whose dead womb is now 6 months pregnant

(3) The ultimate answer for Mary is declared in v37, “nothing will be impossible with God”

This means God’s only limitations are his perfections! God will perfectly perform what he says, as well as what we need

 

Mary is told the Unimaginable (vs 32-33)

v32 Your son will be “great” – he will be a man worth following, serving and obeying

v32 He will be “Son of the Most High” – he is the Son of God and so equal to God. His birth will mean that God walks among us, in a greater way than He did with Adam in the garden

v32 He will be given “David’s Throne” – he is the Messiah; and will fulfill a 900-year promise of deliverance and blessing

v33 He will “reign forever” – will be more than a great king, he will be an eternal king. And those who are citizens of his kingdom, will be eternal citizens

v31 You shall call him “Jesus” – this was a common name which means the ‘Lord saves’

Jesus is the name which should daily fill our mind and flow from our lips

Jesus is the one before whom we should humble ourselves – as he did, to reach us

 

Mary’s response is our example (v38)

Her initial response is “How will this be?”

Mary’s question flows out of perplexity rather than doubt

It is okay to be perplexed by what God is doing; but we shouldn’t doubt or blame God for what he is doing

Mary submits to what the Lord has ordained for her

She accepts what she cannot fully grasp, because she trusts her Heavenly Father

She is willing to follow and fulfill what God has planned for her

Mary had no preparation for a virgin birth, for being the mother of God in flesh, or for enduring the hardships these would bring to her

But God was “with her”, so Mary had all she needed for everything to come

 

Over the next few weeks we will celebrate a joyful holiday; consider what actions you (and your family) can take to exalt Jesus in it!