Month: December, 2015

“What Are You Waiting For?”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

I hope you all had a very blessed Christmas and that you all took time to focus on the reason for the season and to give Him thanks. It’s sometimes easy to get so involved with all the commotion of Christmas that we fail to take time to have some one-on-one time with God in thankful prayer.

I know for me it was always important that the pastor’s sermon on Christmas Eve was short because the longer he took the longer it took to get to the presents that we have always opened right after the Christmas Eve service. But, more often than not, the pastor would go on and on for what seemed like an eternity, and I was made to wait. Unfortunately, it took me some time to put the gift giving second to my effort in worship.

For most of us, waiting is an ordeal rather than a good deal. We want what we want when we want it!

When we read our Gospel lesson this morning, however, one of the major themes of Christmas turns out to be delayed gratification. Think about it.

The nation of Israel had to wait thousands of years for the promised Messiah to come and deliver them from their bondage.

Zechariah and Elizabeth had to wait until they were in their old age to be given a child and then Zechariah had to wait 9 months until he could speak again.

Mary and Joseph had to wait throughout a whole pregnancy for Christ to be born knowing that within her womb was the very Son of God.

Christmas has a lot to do with waiting. In our Gospel lesson this morning, we learn that Simeon also had to wait a long time to see the Christ or Messiah. The term Christ is not a name but rather a title which tells of the work the Jesus had come to accomplish. Christ means “anointed.”

This was a title that Jesus accepted for himself also. In Matthew 16:13-17 it says, “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”

And in John 4: 25-26 it says, “The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26Jesus said to her,) “I who speak to you am he.”

Christ had been set apart from the very beginning to accomplish His Father’s will for all mankind. He was called to offer Himself in payment for our sin. Simeon knew all this, so he patiently waited for the very hope of Israel. Following the birth of Jesus, Joseph and Mary went to the temple to observe two important ceremonies in obedience to God’s Word: the presentation of the child as we read about in our Old Testament lesson this morning in Exodus and the purification of the mother which can be found in Leviticus 12.

While they were there, they ran into Simeon, who’s name means “one who hears and obeys.” Simeon was a righteous and devout follower of God and he had been waiting patiently for the opportunity to see the Lord’s Christ before he died because the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would be given this privilege.

After years of waiting and now that he was a very old man, the moment finally came. The promised hope he had been waiting for was right there in the form of a baby.

During our midweek Advent services, we talked about the songs of Christmas and the one we had left happened now for Simeon as he sang praises to God and in doing so he has shown us three main ideas.

First, to see Christ is to see God’s promises fulfilled. God is the ultimate promise keeper. He always does what He says he’ll do. As a matter of fact, it is impossible for God to make a promise and not fulfill it because he cannot lie, so first Simeon acknowledges that God has kept His word.

First He kept His word to Simeon. As we have said it was previously told to Simeon that he would not die until He had seen the Lord’s Christ in vs. 26. We can assume that Simeon was an old man and that he had been waiting a long time for this event to happen, because once he had seen the Messiah he was ready to go. His word’s sound like a slave who has been freed after a long captivity, he was finally released from the burden of waiting.

Secondly, God kept His word to all mankind. Genesis 3:15 reads, “I will put enmity between you and the woman,  and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head,  and you shall bruise his heel.”

Immediately after the fall of man, God promised to destroy the works of the Devil through the seed of the woman. This salvation, promised so long ago, had finally arrived in Jesus who is the Christ.

In other word’s, this was no secret. Jesus birth was for all to see who were willing to see the birth of Christ for what it was, the fulfillment of God’s promise to redeem all of mankind.

When we make promises they may or may not be kept, but when God makes a promise, He keeps it. We might have to wait like Simeon, but its fulfillment will come as promised. This was true when God promised Abraham a son so that through him all people would be blessed. It was true when God promised David that one of his descendants would sit on the throne forever. It was true when God promised Isaiah that Israel would be given a sign that their deliverance had arrived. God always keeps His promises. Simeon knew this, so he patiently waited, even as he grew older and older, and then he praised God for it.

To see Christ is to see salvation. Luke wrote that Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel. What was it that brought Simeon so much contentment that he said to God, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace.” It was in the understanding that salvation had come through Jesus as promised. Simeon recognized that the baby boy presented in the temple by His parents was no ordinary child.

He was the promised Messiah, the very Son of God who had come as “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

Simeon knew that Jesus did not come for the Israelites alone, but for all people. His peace comes as our does, in the realization that Christ came to save us all from the consequences of sin. Christ had come to rescue His people, both Jews and Gentiles.

As part of my duties as a father, I am sometimes called upon to rescue my family. Sometimes I am the taxi when someone is left stranded or I’m quickly cooking supper so my family will be fed when they get home. Why do we father’s do such things? Because to do otherwise would be unloving and unfatherlike. In our distress, our heavenly Father has come to our rescue through His Son.

To see Christ is to see God’s offer rejected. After Simeon’s song of praise he goes into a prophetic message for Mary. In the message he acknowledges that while God’s work of salvation exalts some, it will humble others. He prophesies that Christ’s life will be one of conflict. In the people’s response to Jesus, they will show where their hearts are and what truly motivates them. The conflict will even come to effect Mary, herself.

 

We still see it in the world today. In California they had to take all the angels and stars from the Christmas trees because the leader of a local atheist group found it offensive. Christmas has become Happy Holidays and parties had replaced worship.

Today there are still people who have accepted God’s plan of salvation and others who have not. The only sin that a person will be sent to hell for is the rejection of Christ, yet so many still deal with their faith in a flippant and carefree way. They call themselves Christians without even knowing Christ. Tradition will not get you to heaven, only a true commitment and faith in Christ will. Too many people think they know enough and have got it all figured out. Very few are like Simeon who put his whole faith into the promises of God.

Finally, to see Christ we have to be faithful in our waiting. Simeon sang praises because he knew the truth. He knew, that for the world to be saved, it would have to come through the promised Messiah. When He was blessed to finally meet the one who would grow to make things right. His faith sustained Him into the understanding that God’s Word had been fulfilled. His faith gave Him the assurance that God would continue to honor His promises by bringing the world back to Himself.

So now we are the ones who have taken up the mantle of faithful waiting and, hopefully our faith will sustain us as well. Throughout the world, we see evidence that this kind of patience is getting to be quite rare.

As a society we don’t like to be kept waiting. We want our satisfaction realized immediately and our thirst quenched yesterday.

In our fits of attention deficit we have found other things in the world that don’t make us wait so long. Worldly satisfaction can come in seconds. It only takes an evening and alcohol can numb us to reality. It only takes seconds and the internet can tantalize us with pictures that leave us in dangerous fantasy. Our attention span is getting shorter and shorter. It’s no wonder why our churches are dying.

We are no longer a society of commitment, in fact, commitment is seen as a negative to more and more people who think that freedom means the avoidance of commitment. Faith like Simeon’s takes commitment and, as a society, we just don’t have that kind of patience anymore.

So, where do you find yourself this Sunday after Christmas? Do you put your faith in His promises, both fulfilled and those we have to be patient to see? Do you hang your very salvation on those promises with the faith of Simeon or is your patience wearing thin?

As we wait, God helps us in our wait for things to come with the aid of His holy Word and the work of the Holy Spirit within each one of us. He knows how limited we are so He provides us with those things like faith and patience we could never attain on our own.

 

You see, He is the master of waiting. Since the time of Adam, He has had to wait for His people to finally understand and, unfortunately, he stills waits on most of us. Since the dawn of time, He has had to endure the utmost patience toward the people who turn against Him time and time again, some in unbelief and others, even more dangerous, in their lukewarm belief.

How will you start your New Year? Will it be like all the rest where you put God on the shelf until you need Him or are you willing to make the commitment to surrender your entire life to Him so that you might walk in His ways. You know inside what He is asking. Do you have the patience to see it through? God is waiting. Amen

Bible Study Questions – Luke 7: 18-28

Bible Study Questions – Luke 7: 18-28

Is it possible to be a believer and have doubts?

 

Is there a danger in not facing our doubts?

 

What are some reasons that we have doubts about things spiritually?

 

Did John doubt Jesus’ authenticity?

 

How much of John’s confusion do you think had to do with him sitting in prison?

 

How did the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus differ?

 

What had Jesus said would be part of his ministry? How might this have affected John’s faith? Luke 4:16-18

 

Was John’s question really a “question,” or was a public challenge?

 

Is this how Jesus intended to proclaim His messiahship? Matthew 16:13-17; Luke 9:18-21

 

Why did John doubt? Did Jesus reject him because of his doubts? What does this say about us when we doubt?

 

Verse 23 says, “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me (Jesus).” In today’s world, how are people offended by Jesus?

Did any other spiritual leaders ever have struggles in their faith? Numbers 11:10-15; 1 Kings 19:1; Jeremiah 20:7-9; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9

 

How did Jesus “answer” their question Luke 7:21-23? Why did he do this? Isaiah 29:18-19; 35:4-6; 42:1-7

 

What did Jesus say about John’s greatness? (Verses 24-28) How are believers greater than John the Baptist? What does this say about even the weakest, most struggling Christian?

 

What are we to do for those who are struggling or are questioning our faith? 1 Thessalonians 5:14; Galatians 6:1

 

Why do you suppose Jesus felt compelled to speak on John’s behalf in verses 24-28?

 

Remember, God counts you among the greatest. What is a lesson, a promise, a command, or a warning that you needed to hear from this story?

“O Little Town of Bethlehem”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please Pray with me…

n 1865, shortly after the Civil war, the Pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Boston, Massachusetts was helping with a Christmas Eve service in Bethlehem of Judea. He later wrote about his feelings as he descended from Jerusalem into Bethlehem riding a horse.
He said, “I remember standing in the old church in Bethlehem, close to the spot where Jesus was born. The whole church was singing hour after hour splendid hymns of praise to God, it was as if I could hear angelic voices telling each other of the Wonderful Night of our dear Savior’s birth.”
Two years later, in 1867, this Pastor, Phillip Brooks, put his pen to paper and wrote a very special and very biblical song that we often hear during the Christmas Season. He wrote these glorious words…..

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

During a visit to the Holy Land, Phillip Brooks came to understand the heart, the very promise, of Christmas. The time when our hopes and our fears were met by God with the birth of our Savior.

This day the angels proclaimed and the shepherds rejoiced in, was a time of celebration, a time of contemplation, but most importantly, a time of salvation.

In a mere 40 words, the prophet Micah describes the scene that took place in a very special little village. He says of Bethlehem, “From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days……And He shall stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God……And He shall be their peace.”

Though his words are few, each word helps to tell the story of the greatest event in human history. These are words of hope, of new life, of salvation and of the coming of the Savior of the world. It’s a story that been told and re-told for thousands of years.

Especially now, in these trying times we live in. It is such a blessing to come to terms with what this blessed event has provided us. Yet, we are living in a time when the story of the birth of our Savior is being lost to the world, drowned out by the sound of commerce. The real story is slowly being replaced by reindeer and snowmen and songs of Santa Clause. Today, for fear of offending someone, stores instruct their employees to say happy holidays instead of Merry Christmas. The birth of our Savior is being replaced by the birth of sales and the only bells that are significant anymore are those of the cash register ringing.

So it is good for us to be reminded of the prophet Micah’s words. Words that contain a wealth of spiritual truth. Words of the importance of the little village of Bethlehem and the birth of the Savior of the world. It’s the real story of Christmas. When Micah writes of Bethlehem he writes of an insignificant town that will produce something great.

When we think of Bethlehem, we, of course, immediately remember that birth that we celebrate. But Bethlehem has an interesting and significant past. It’s a town only five miles from the great city of Jerusalem. The first mention outside of scripture that has been found of Bethlehem was in a document of the king of Palestine to the Egyptian Pharaoh in 1250 BC. This would have been in the time of the Judges. Bethlehem means “House of Bread,” and Micah uses another name Ephrathah, which is the older name of the city and means, “Place of Fruitfullness.” How fitting, then, that Jesus should be born there.

Long before this, however, we hear evidence of its existence in Genesis in chapter 35 when Jacob and his family are journeying home to Canaan. Rachel goes into labor and gives birth to a son and dies. As she lie dying, she names her newborn son Benoni, which means, “Son of my Sorrow.” She dies and is buried just outside Bethlehem. Jacob later changes his son’s name to Benjamin which means, “Son of my right hand.”

So this little hamlet is first mentioned as a place of sorrow and death but is eventually transformed into the birthplace of the baby who would grow to bring us new life.

The story of Ruth also involves the small village of Bethlehem. It is there that she found redemption from her pain and from her past. It is there that she found grace, mercy, love and acceptance. She was restored to a rightful place in her family and this gave her hope and a future. All in this little insignificant village near Jerusalem called Bethlehem.

As we look back at her history, Bethlehem has played an important role throughout the history of God’s people. The salvation found in Christ promises all the same things Ruth found in Bethlehem, and so much more. We read in Ephesians 2:1-10, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

That same forgiveness and grace that Ruth received in Bethlehem can be yours as well. It was a drink from a well in Bethlehem that refreshed David’s soul as told in 2 Samuel and when Christ was born, a spiritual well of refreshment was given to all people. And everyone who drinks from this well will never thirst.

Bethlehem was the focus of an amazing prophesy from Micah. A prophesy hard to believe because it involved such an insignificant little village. Yet she would rise to witness the greatest miracle ever given. Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, God in the flesh, savior of the world came into this world in all humility, resting in a lowly manger. It would soon welcome wise men from the east who had come to worship the one of the promise. And today wise men and wise women still seek Him.

We still seek the King of Kings born to die so we might live eternally. We look for the Wonderful counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting father and the Prince of Peace. He is still being sought by all those who have chosen better things than the world can provide.

From the beginning, God had a plan for humanity and its Savior was to come through Bethlehem. When mankind turned away from God in the garden of Eden, a Savior was needed to bring people back to Him. As years went by, more and more of God’s plan was revealed.

When God saved His people through the blood of the lamb at Passover He revealed His Saving power. When he provided His people manna in the wilderness he revealed that He was always with us. When He gave Israel the law he revealed that He had a plan and a future for us. Through the prophets He revealed His relationship with us And then when Christ was born he revealed His saving grace.

When Micah revealed where the Savior of the world was to come from, He was proclaiming the one who would carry out the most important revelation from God. Here God revealed How His grace and mercy would save us from the sins by which we were condemned. It would involve God coming to us in the humility of a human birth. It would see this child grow to show, by His Word and deed, that He was indeed the very Son of God. It would involve that person, fully God yet fully man, hanging on a cross to die a death that we deserved and he did not. It would involve that same condemned man to rise again in majesty both in His resurrection and His Assention. And finally, it will involve our Savior making His return to bring all believers to Him in Paradise. It was a plan designed from the very beginning for you and for me.

 

 

The prophet Micah, at the end of verse two says, “From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” These words describe no ordinary man. These words describe the eternal God. He may have been born in Bethlehem but His beginning was not there. He is our everlasting God and even today he is in our midst. For where two or more are gathered together in His name, Jesus will be there. Here today, Jesus is in our midst.

Poet Grace Cairns wrote in her poem:

If you look for Me at Christmas

You won’t need a special star

I’m no longer just in Bethlehem

I’m right there where you are.

People of Redeemer. The greatest gift ever given on that glorious day in Bethlehem is also our gift. That treasure is ours. That miracle is our miracle and the song of the angels singing “Glory to God in the Highest” is also our song. It’s a gift more profound than the healing of a leper, its greater than when sight is restored to the blind. Its more significant than the casting out of demons or even raising someone from the dead.

That gift given us in Bethlehem, when God was born in human flesh to walk among us, is the ultimate story of love. Miraculously, God placed Himself in Mary’s womb and she gave birth to a son. And when she looked into that child’s eyes she was looking at God Himself.

It’s not something we could ever comprehend. How can someone be fully God yet fully man? How could God humble Himself so greatly as to be born in so meekly? He did it because of His great goodness and mercy. He did it out of a love we could never imagine because of its immensity. A love so great that He would offer His own life for ours.

O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend on us we pray;

Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.

We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;

O Come to us, abide with us, our Lord…..Emmanuel!

Amen

Bible Study Questions Micah 5:2-5

Bible Study Questions Micah 5:2-5

What phrase or image speaks most powerfully to you in this passage? Why?

Why do you think this prophesy was given?

Why do you think God would give such a large role to such a small village?

Why do you think Micah used both the ancient (Ephrathah) and modern name (Bethlehem)? 1 Chronicles 2:50-51

How is the name of Bethlehem, which means “House of bread,” appropriate for the place the Savior is to be born? John 6:31-35

How is the name Ephrathah, which means “House of Fruitfulness,” also appropriate?

What is meant in verse 2 by the words, “whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days?” John 1:1-3,14, 17:1-5,24; Ephesians 1:3-5; Colossians 1:16-17; 1 Peter 1:17-20; Revelation 22:13

What do the above verses tell us about Jesus?

Who is to be given up in verse 3?

Think outside the box. What are some reasons that Micah might have used the character of the shepherd to describe the coming Messiah, especially when shepherds were seen as third class citizens?

Dr. Donald Williams wrote in his commentary, “What is the Law but a Schoolmaster to lead us unto Christ? What are the Prophets but the predictors of his coming? What is the Sacrificial System but a foreshadowing of his death? What is the Psalter but the Hymnbook of his praise? What are the Proverbs but wisdom for his followers? What are the Gospels but the Record of his life, death, and resurrection? What are the Epistles but the explanation and application of the meaning of all of this for all of life? And what is the whole Bible? “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me” (Jn. 5:39). Truly Martin Luther did not exaggerate when he said that “The whole Bible is about Christ only everywhere.” What are your comments on this part of his commentary?

Could Jesus really be considered a ruler? Why or why not? What kind of ruler did the Jews expect?

How does the description of the future ruler give you comfort?

How does all of this connect to our journey through Advent and the anticipation of what is to come?

 

What does it mean when Scripture says that Jesus is our “Peace?”

 

“The Hope of Transformation”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

When I was a kid, one of God’s creatures that fascinated me the most was the caterpillar. I can remember in Miss Zerr’s class in third grade that she had a habitat for a couple of them. We got to watch the whole transformation from one creature to another. It was fascinating and something I have never forgotten.

I mean, consider the caterpillar and the perspective he must have had. All these kids staring at him waiting for him to do something special. At first everything is rather dull but then something starts to happen. First he’s just crawling around doing his caterpillar thing trying to make it from point a to point b and then he starts to feel this sense of anxiety. He’s feeling a change coming on and if he doesn’t do something about it he’ll burst! So, he works with a sense of urgency, probably not even knowing why. It’s just what he must do. Before he knows it he’s wrapped himself up in a sort of prison. He struggles but his work has been done too well and he can’t escape.

He wants to be free so he pushes against the walls, maybe even saying little caterpillar prayers to God to save him and just when all seems lost, he sprouts wings and breaks free from his self-imposed prison flying to safety. A metamorphosis has taken place and the timing had to be just right.

From trial to imprisonment to a sort of death from one thing to another, and finally freedom. The very trials he was forced to go through were necessary for the transformation to take place. He’s moved from complacency to hope, finally to see that hope of escape granted.

We have much to learn from the caterpillar. I guess you could say that our Savior, Jesus Christ, had a little of the caterpillar in Him and, in a way, so do we. Christ also had to go through a change that involved birth, life, trial, suffering, death and resurrection. We also have that hope within us to escape the prison of our worldly selves and to be born anew in the kingdom of grace where we see that this hope that we share was not given in vain.

Over 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ started that journey. As a babe in a lowly manger, His life began. A life that would transform the world as He transitioned from life to death to life.

Life’s journey often brings us to that same sense of urgency the caterpillar might have felt. Life is a series of transformations, some good and some bad. And during these transformations, we don’t really know why, many times, we’re having to go through them. It’s just something we have to do.

And during these times of relative confusion, especially in our faith, we feel the need to ask questions. Am I doing the right thing? Is my faith sufficient? Is God even real? Have I been a fool to believe God loves me and has created me with a purpose? Is the hope that I have in a new life with Christ ever going to be fulfilled?

And it’s ok to have questions. In our Gospel lesson, even John the Baptist had questions. They are a part of life and important parts of our transformations in life. It’s in realizing that even God’s servants had questions from time to time that we can find security in the hope that we share. The story of John the Baptist encourages us, in fact, to stand secure even when we might have questions. God knows our struggles and He has given us ways to feel that our hope is a hope of better things to come and that they will come just as He has promised.

That’s because hope doesn’t begin with us, but with God. It was God who came to earth to give us hope. It was Christ who suffered and died to pay the price that would renew our hope.

It was Christ who rose again to build up that hope and it is Christ who is coming again so that the hope we have in Him can bear its fruit.

Deep within our hearts, the Holy spirit has instilled that hope. Deep in our hearts lies the truth that God’s ways are always pure and good. Despite the questions we all might have, that hope continues to guide us to the truth.

John the Baptist had that same hope. It was the hope we all share for the coming of the Savior of the world. He lived a life of holiness and separation from the world. A modest life lived for one purpose, to usher in the One who had come to transform us all. He wasn’t flashy and he was even a bit rude. He had faults like everyone but his passion was ingrained into his heart and, even though he might have wondered why at times, he just did things he had to do so that the transformation could be complete.

As he sat in prison, he finally had time to think and ask questions. Did I do all I had been called to do? Did I read the signs correctly? Is what I’ve done really going to make a difference? Was God with me the whole time? Is Jesus really the Savior I thought He was? Idle hours bring on contemplation which give us time to think of questions both rational and irrational. John was just proving his humanity by asking the same questions we would have asked.

Sometimes, we think we have to have all the answers to grow and, sometimes we think too much. We think that if we appeal to the world our hope might be increased, but it doesn’t take long for the world to let us down yet again. Sometimes we think that we can play the role of God in our lives and, in that we’ll be able to have hope, but our sinful nature soon assures us otherwise.

We try and try to place our hope in other things than Christ and time and time again we see fruitless results. Yet we keep trying don’t we. We try to find truth in things apart from God because we have too much time to think. We accommodate those things that are wrong and avoid those things that are right because we think that if we can just figure out the way to do it ourselves then that’s where our hope should lie. As a result, we develop into people we were not created to be and, while people should be able to look at us and see Christ, they only see the same broken people they have become.

John may have thought he should have softened his tone a bit and not been so insistent on things. Maybe he was a little too rough on Herod. Maybe he should have had a better way to present things. But he just did what he was compelled to do and for that, he sat in prison awaiting who knows what.

But if John had done anything differently than he was compelled to do, it would not have seen the same blessed results. His passion was an integral part of the message he had to share. He had the most important news ever given, and it was of such importance that he could not bear to tone down his appearance. This was a message that all needed to hear. It was too important not to be given with every passion he possessed. And it was because of this passion many were saved, even if it might have cost him his life.

John knew that God’s way was the right way and that was the anchor of His faith. he knew the message he was to share was Good News with a capital G N. Jesus Himself said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This is the message that John had to share. The message of the coming Savior. News too good to keep. News to bring all people hope in the salvation they have been offered in Christ. A promise to transition from this corrupted world to a new kingdom of purity and grace.

Martin Luther said that hope arises only from the fact that God has mercy on us and instills it into us, and it never has any other object or matter or foundation than the simple mercy of God, not our works or our own making, which rather, is the object from where despair arises. Christ lived for us; if we believe in Him, (He is our only source of hope”).

That same Christ that was born so humbly. That same Christ who called Mary mother. That same Christ who was baptized and began His ministry at the river Jordan. That same Christ who healed diseases and plagues and cast out evil spirits and gave sight to the blind. That was the man John ushered in to save us all. Though he had questions, the hope that he had was not in vain. It’s that same hope we share and we also, do not hope in vain.

This time of year can be for us, the opposite that it was meant to be. Instead of giving us hope, it can suck all that hope right out of you, especially when those bills start arriving. Yet, it’s still the hope we have in Christ that will shine the brightest. Because today we celebrate the coming of the King of Kings. He came once to bring us into His kingdom and He will come again to take us to Him once again when our valley of tears here on earth has come to rest.

In life, you will continue to have questions, and that’s ok. God wants you to come to him with questions on your mind. Not all of them will be answered and I’m sure even John the Baptist wasn’t completely satisfied that all of his questions were solved. But he did what he must, what he was compelled to do even though the questions were there.

We must follow His lead and do what we have been compelled to do.

 

The devil will continue to try and trip you up as he has done with many in this world, but God gives you the strength to withstand this earthly prison so that one day you can break free and become a new creation in Him. He will place in your hearts the drive to do the right thing. Trust in Him to transform the brokenness into something beautiful. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Bible Study Questions – Luke 7: 18-28

Bible Study Questions – Luke 7: 18-28

Is it possible to be a believer and have doubts?

 

Is there a danger in not facing our doubts?

 

What are some reasons that we have doubts about things spiritually?

 

Did John doubt Jesus’ authenticity?

 

How much of John’s confusion do you think had to do with him sitting in prison?

 

How did the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus differ?

 

What had Jesus said would be part of his ministry? How might this have affected John’s faith? Luke 4:16-18

 

Was John’s question really a “question,” or was a public challenge?

 

Is this how Jesus intended to proclaim His messiahship? Matthew 16:13-17; Luke 9:18-21

 

Why did John doubt? Did Jesus reject him because of his doubts? What does this say about us when we doubt?

 

Verse 23 says, “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me (Jesus).” In today’s world, how are people offended by Jesus?

Did any other spiritual leaders ever have struggles in their faith? Numbers 11:10-15; 1 Kings 19:1; Jeremiah 20:7-9; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9

 

How did Jesus “answer” their question Luke 7:21-23? Why did he do this? Isaiah 29:18-19; 35:4-6; 42:1-7

 

What did Jesus say about John’s greatness? (Verses 24-28) How are believers greater than John the Baptist? What does this say about even the weakest, most struggling Christian?

 

What are we to do for those who are struggling or are questioning our faith? 1 Thessalonians 5:14; Galatians 6:1

 

Why do you suppose Jesus felt compelled to speak on John’s behalf in verses 24-28?

 

Remember, God counts you among the greatest. What is a lesson, a promise, a command, or a warning that you needed to hear from this story?

“Joy To The World”

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

What do you need to truly find joy? In the year 1900 a survey asked, “What must you have to find joy?” The results showed 72 different answers. In 1950 they took the same survey with the same amount of participants and the results showed 496 answers. I wonder how many results we would have today if we took the survey again?

It seems that it’s harder and harder for people to find joy today. The simplest things no longer qualify. We used to find joy in family but today, families break up faster than ever. We used to find joy in playing outside with our kids and now if they don’t get the latest gaming system at Christmas many kids feel frustrated. We used to find joy in going to church every Sunday but less people do that today in the United States than ever before. Today, joy is in short supply.

So many people go through life and never really experience pure joy yet all of them pursue it. Some eventually find it but too many people miss out because they look for their joy in all the wrong places.

It seems every talk show, self-help book and magazine has their own idea of how to find it. Seven steps to joy! Five steps to a happy life! Three steps to a more glorious existence! If you Google: “How to find happiness,” you’ll get 186,000,000 results in less than a second.

Some look to find joy by going to bars looking for others even more miserable than they are. Maybe that will bring joy to their life. Every product on television offers you the opportunity to find joy in their product so we end up trying it just in the off chance it might be true. We search every website, we search our Facebook, we search and search and search. Yet so many people are without it still.

We look around and we see so many sad people, so many people dealing with things like depression and anger. We medicate ourselves now more than ever in human history just to get ourselves through the day because we all want to feel is joy. Eventually, many find out that true joy isn’t something you can find in this world.

When Christians think of joy, most of us first think of Jesus. I mean we’re supposed to, right? Isn’t Jesus always the right answer? Isn’t that why Jesus came? To bring us joy? Isn’t that why He’s coming again? Then why am I still miserable?

Our problem is that we know the right answer, but we have failed to research why. We just hear our parents say it.

You see it everywhere at Christmas. My pastor has told us, but beyond that, we’re kind of stumped. Well, today, we’re going to talk about true joy, that joy that can only be found in Christ. And to do it, we’re going to go to our New Testament lesson in Philippians.

Now it’s important to know that as Paul wrote this letter, he was sitting in prison for his faith. Yet how does he start this letter? “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy.” Joy? Paul is experiencing joy sitting in prison? Yes, in fact the overriding theme of Paul’s letter to the Philippians is joy. Here Paul proves that joy is not a surface emotion that depends on favorable circumstances and comfortable surroundings. Joy is independent from outward conditions and can even be found in the most dire of situations like suffering and persecution.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians reveals the timeless message that true joy is to be found only in a vibrant personal relationship with Jesus Christ and in the assurance that God is able to turn adversity to our good and His glory.

Martin Luther said, “To achieve true joy we must cling wholeheartedly to the Word and find comfort in the thought that Christ has so solemnly promised to be with us, together with the Father, and to protect us, so that no misfortune will harm us, no power of the devil and the world will crush us or tear us away from Him. In this way we constantly find comfort and joy, and we become increasingly happy as time goes on, allowing no suffering or adverse circumstance to get the better of us.”

That is why so many martyrs of the faith sang praises to God as they stood waiting to die for their faith in Him. That is why so many missionaries who live in the worst conditions do so willingly and with great joy just so others will get the benefit of God’s promises to us. That is why the disciples were willing to be beaten again and again for preaching in the name of Jesus. Joy is not found in things or even in favorable surroundings. True joy can only be found in Christ.

Today is the first Sunday in Advent. It’s a season that we rejoice in the eager anticipation that Christ is coming again as He promised us He would. It is right, therefore, to speak of Christ’s coming into the world at Christmas and His Baptism from which He started His earthly ministry. If you are looking for joy, true unadulterated joy, then Christ coming into the world to save us should be at the very top of your list of what it takes to bring you comfort and joy.

Our Jesus. Born of the Father before all worlds. The Savior of us all. Willing to die the most gruesome of deaths to give us a new life in Him. The one who has prepared a place for us in heaven.

That is where we should find our true joy. Not in earthly things but in the eager anticipation of the things to come.

We can hear it in Paul’s words, especially when we read verses 8-11.

 

Here he says, For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

 

These are not the words that we would expect from a man in prison waiting for his judgement of death. These are words of joy for others. He doesn’t lament about his condition. He rejoices in the condition of his readers. This is something only real joy can do.

But we live in a different reality than that today because we haven’t taken the time to find out where true joy is found. Paul found it even in chains because he knew the source of joy and when he wrote to the Philippians that was the only thing on his mind. He wanted them to have what he had, even as he sat in jail.

 

Owen Hanson got it write when he wrote, “After thousands of years, western civilization has advanced to where we bolt our doors and windows at night while jungle natives sleep in open huts. Where has all this searching for joy gotten us. Today we are more guarded, more paranoid, more sensitive than ever before.”

 

Wednesday morning I heard that for the first time, the white house will not have a Christmas tree. Oh, they’ll have a tree but this year it’s to be called a holiday tree so as not to offend anyone. Really? Is that how far we have digressed? We can’t even call a Christmas tree a Christmas tree anymore. Today instead of looking for joy, so many are looking for the negative. Joy is taking a backseat to what someone perceives to be their right and how society isn’t giving them all they feel they deserve. As if that would bring them joy.

Now we have metal detectors in our schools, safety caps on our bottles, bulletproof vests on our police and terrorists at our doorstep. We demonize those who have sworn to protect us and we glorify those who have vowed to destroy us. What the world needs now is the joy that only Christ can bring but less people are looking in the places He may be found.

Paul’s close relationship with Jesus gave birth to a close relationship with the ones Jesus loves. In fact, Paul said that the feelings he had for the people of Philippi were directly from the source Himself, Jesus.

William Barclay got it. he said, “So Paul was saying: I yearn for you with the very compassion of Jesus Christ Himself. I love you as Jesus loves you.”

And that love that Jesus has for His people can be found in the textbook we have been given to remind us of such things, God’s Holy Word. In its pages we learn about a God who was born in the flesh so that He could live our life even to suffer and die.

In its pages you learn about John the Baptist paving the way for the Savior of the world so that He might begin a new covenant with His people, one that would have Him sealing that covenant in His own blood. We hear about the promise Jesus has given those He loves to come again and take us with Him to the place He has prepared for us. That is where true joy is found. That should be the source of all happiness in our lives.

Paul mentions two things that I think are very important for us to consider in our discussion of joy. Paul mentions that his wish is that all would love Christ enough to have all knowledge and discernment. The former is knowing something and the latter is knowing what to do with that knowledge. He knew that to find real joy, one must be in relationship with Christ, not just superficially but deeply. Too many are already failing to put that knowledge to work and as a result people everywhere are living lives of ignorance and deception.

What he’s asking us to do, indirectly, is to take this faith that we proclaim and use it to motivate ourselves towards the Biblical truth. He is asking us not to be satisfied with doing the least we can do.

Live that faith out by taking the time to understand why you have that faith in the first place. The ultimate goal is to be the blameless body of Christ in both word and deed because this is where we will find our greatest joy.

Soon, we will be celebrating the birth of our Savior. Do you really understand why that’s something to celebrate or do you find your joy living in your ignorance?

As we continue with Advent, use every day to remind yourself where your joy should be found. As the final chapters close on our time here on earth, give praise to the Father for the joy He has given us through His Son. Praise Him for the promises answered in the birth, ministry and death of that Son. Grow in your love for each other and in your worship of the one true God.

This is the reality about joy – it comes in sizes and shapes and it is adaptable to who and what Christ wants you to be. So where will you find your joy?

Franz Haydn was criticized for the light-hearted nature of his church music. It was a somber time in most churches of the 1750’s.

 

Haydn explained:

“I cannot help it. I give forth what is in me. When I think of the divine being, my heart is so full of joy that the notes fly off as from a spindle. And as I have a cheerful heart, He will pardon me if I serve Him cheerfully.”

When Haydn came to the end of his days, he was weakened and confined to a wheelchair. Shortly before he died he attended the Vienna music hall, where they were to perform his oratorio, “The Creation.” When the orchestra reached the passage, “Let there be light,” the chorus and the instruments burst forth in such power that the crowd couldn’t restrain its enthusiasm. The whole audience rose in one spontaneous applause. Haydn struggled to his feet and motioned for silence. He said, “Not me,” pointing his hand towards heaven, and he fell back into his wheelchair, exhausted. With his life, his gifts, and all that he was in Christ, Franz Haydn gave praise to God through his music and that gave him his greatest joy.

So how do we find this joy? We find it in God’s Holy Word. We find it in the realization of just how important God is in our life. We find it by being the hands and feet of Christ in this world and we find it in the intimate relationship we have with our Savior.

As we get closer to Christmas, you’ll hear this word, “Joy,” over and over again. Where will you find your joy? I pray it will be found in Jesus. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Bible study questions – Philippians 1:2-11

Bible study questions – Philippians 1:2-11

How would you describe Paul’s perspective? What emotions does he express towards them?

 

Paul says the Philippians are his partners in the gospel. What did he mean?

 

What does Paul mean when he says God will complete the good work he began in them?

 

Paul insists his “feelings” toward the Philippians are right or appropriate. Why does he have to clarify this? Why might someone consider his perspective inappropriate?

 

How does Paul explain or defend his positive perspective toward them?

 

How might God’s grace help someone suffer for, defend and confirm the gospel?

 

What are you trying to communicate when you tell someone you “yearn” for them? What nuances does this communicate beyond just telling them you love them?

 

Paul says he yearns for the Philippians “with the affection of Christ Jesus”. What does this reveal about Christ’s heart? How is this an explanation for Paul’s confidence God will complete his work in them?

 

If you were in a situation like the Philippians, how would hearing Paul’s positive perspective affect you?

 

Paul desires the Philippians’ love to abound more and more with knowledge and discernment. How would a lack of knowledge and discernment in the face of suffering hinder the Philippians from abounding in love?

What do we learn about Paul’s perspective on life from his prayer?

From this whole passage, 1:2-11, How has Paul’s experience of Christ shaped his perspective on life? What can you learn from it?

 

Think of the Chris%ans that know you best. What in your life would cause them to thank God,

rejoice, and have confidence that God is at work in your life?

In what ways do you see a lack of good perspective keeping you from abounding in love for    God, other Christians, or the lost? Where do suspect you will be tempted to have bad perspective this Advent season?