Archive for December, 2013

God Has a Plan

December 30, 2013

God Knows What He is Doing:  Esther 4:13-14

And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

When Esther was selected to be queen, there was no way for her to know what was going to happen in the coming days.  God, however, does know what is going to happen.   One of the things that I find most fascinating to think about is how God is able to use His foreknowledge of future events, many of which are caused by the free choices that humans make, and blend them together into His plan.

I.  The Will of Man: Psalms 37:23-24

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
For the Lord upholds him with His hand.

God enables us to make the right choices.  When we are faced with decisions we can ask God for guidance, and He will guide our steps.  We can believe this to be true even if we do not receive clear guidance.  If we are sincere in our desire to let God guide us, He will guide our steps.

There are times when we fail to seek God’s will.  Sometimes we  are led into error by our flesh, or even by demonic spirits.  Thank God that He does not abandon us when we stray from the path.  We might fall, but we are not destroyed.  God helps us to get back up, and back on track.

II.  The Will of Satan:  John 10:10a

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. 

Satan desires to destroy the people of God.  However, we learn from Job that Satan is limited by what God allows.  There is a hedge of protection around the people of God and Satan is only allowed to tempt us and try our faith.  It is important that during the times of testing and trial that we keep our eyes on Jesus, seek to do His will, and place our trust in Him.

III.  The Will of God:  John 10:10b

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

God desires to give us abundant life.  Abundant does not mean merely everlasting, but joyful and fulfilling.  The abundant life that God has for us does not begin when we die, it begins the moment that we enter into a relationship with God through our faith in Jesus Christ.

Having abundant life does not mean that we do not have tests or trials.  It means that God is with us in the midst of those tests and trials.  It also means that God is able “to work all things together for good, for those who love God”.  (Romans 8:28)  This does not mean that all things are good.  It means that God can take something that was a mistake, or an evil choice, and still ultimately use it for good.

We can trust that God knows what He is doing.  He loves us.  He has a plan.  And in the end,  it is all good.

These are the sermon notes from the message preached December 15, 2013.  Feel free to make comments or ask questions.

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My Redeemer Lives

December 23, 2013

Job is an unusual book to begin a Christmas message, but that is where my message is starting today.

I.  My Redeemer Lives:  Job 19:23-25

“Oh, that my words were written!
Oh, that they were inscribed in a book!
24 That they were engraved on a rock
With an iron pen and lead, forever!
25 For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;

Job is considered by many to have lived about the same time as Abraham.  That would place him about 2000 BC. In his misery, as he is arguing with his friends he blurts out this statement of hope.   “My Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth:” .  At the time it was  a deeply held conviction that God would somehow redeem him.   As we look back, we know that Jesus Christ is the Redeemer, and that he did indeed stand upon the earth about two thousand years ago.

Job looked forward to the time of Christ and professed his hope.  We look back to the the time of Christ and profess our belief.  Still today, we can cry out “Our Redeemer lives!”  and “He shall stand at last on the earth”.  The difference is that we look back to the time when Christ came as a servant, and we look forward to the time when He returns as King.

II.  The Word Becomes Flesh:  John 1:1-5,14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

We know that Jesus is our redeemer.  I love these verses in John that speak of the incarnation of Christ, here called the Word.  It is one of the scriptures which clearly identifies Christ as God.  That is, of course, what we truly celebrate at Christmas, that God became a man, and dwelt among us for a time.  He was the light that shines in the darkness.

Not everyone understands.  Not everyone is drawn to the light.  We should not be surprised when people reject the message of hope that we offer.  We should not be discouraged, but continue to allow the light of Christ to shine through our lives.  Some will reject that message, but some will receive it.

III.  I Shall See God:  Job 19:26-27

And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,
27 Whom I shall see for myself,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!

The Old Testament does not speak frequently about life beyond the grave, but in this instance Job cries out a conviction that we share, that after death, we shall see God.  I am reminded of the verse “to be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:8)

Christ came to earth to be our redeemer.  We celebrate His birth at Christmas, but more importantly we proclaim our faith in Him as the Messiah, the one who saves us from our sings, the one who reconciles us to God, the one in whom we have the hope of everlasting life.

Our redeemer lives!

These are the sermon notes from 12/22/13.  You are welcome to ask questions or make comments.

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Rejoice in the Word

December 19, 2013

I would like to begin by giving a brief review of the history of the nation of Israel.  Abraham, Isaac and Israel are considered the patriarchs, or founders of the nation.  Israel and his twelve sons, who were the namesakes of the twelve tribes of Israel went to Egypt during a time of famine.  Their descendents stayed in Egypt for five hundred years.  Moses was sent by God to bring the people out of Egypt.  They spend forty years in the wilderness, and then entered the promised land.  In the beginning, judges, who were raised up by God, ruled over the land.  Then the people asked for a king.  There were only three kings before the country split into the Northern Kingdom, also called Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, also called Judah.  Various kings ruled for many years.  The Northern Kingdom from the very beginning was not faithful to God, and they were conquered by the Assyrians.  The Southern Kingdom had some godly, and some ungodly kings.  They too, fell away from God and were conquered by the Babylonians, and deported.  After seventy years in exile, they were allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.  Nehemiah was a leader who did not return with the original group, but he did come to help the Jewish people rebuild the wall around Jerusalem.  Today’s message takes place during the dedication of the wall.

Nehemiah 8:8-12

So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.

10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

11 So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.

I.  They Read the Word

In chapter 9:3 we are told that they read for a fourth of the day.  That would be three hours of reading.  Now, we recognize that those times were very different from today.  Not everyone was able to read, and certainly only a few copies of the law were available.  So it was a big deal to hear the Word of God read.  We are told in the verses above that they also helped the people to understand what was read to them.

We too, should appreciate the opportunity that we have to read the Word.  There are many tools available to help us better understand what we read.  It is good for us to read, study, and discuss the Word of God.

II. They Responded to the Word

The people initially responded with mourning.  They recognized as the Word was read to them, just how far they had fallen from obedience to the commandments of God.  They recognized their guilt and were repentant for their sins.

They also responded with obedience.  They realized that they were in the time of the Feast of Tabernacles and they followed the commandments of the law.  It had been many, many years since that feast had been correctly observed by the community of Jews.

We too, should respond to the Word with repentance and obedience.  We are not simply to read the Word and be unchanged.  We are to allow the Word of God, and the Spirit of God to have a life-changing impact on our lives.

III.  They Rejoiced in the Word

As they understood the implications of the Word for their lives, they rejoiced.  God had given them another opportunity to live as the people of God.  They were also told that the joy of the Lord was to be their strength.

We too, can rejoice as we understand the Word of God.  Certainly we also, can recognize that the joy of the Lord is our strength as well.  Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit, it is found in the presence of God.  The joy that God gives is not dependent on external circumstances, but is dependent on the presence of God in our lives.  And God has promised to never leave us or forsake us.

Read the Word.

Respond to the Word.

Rejoice in the Word.

These are the sermon notes from 12/8/15.  You are welcome to make comments or ask questions.

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Do Not Be Deceived

December 16, 2013

During the Christmas season, there are all kinds of movies on television emphasizing love, family and relationships.  Often there is no reference to God or Jesus.  I am reminded of a saying that I once heard (or read)  “For the unsaved, this world is as close as they will get to heaven.  For the saved, this world is a close as they will get to hell.”

I.  Do Not Be Deceived:  II Timothy 3:1-5 & I Timothy 4:1

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,

I am concerned about people who have been deceived.  Perhaps they have been lulled into a false sense of security because of some casual connection with some church.  Certainly, I see in some people many of the traits that are listed in the first scripture reading.  I am concerned.  I hope and pray that people are not deceived, having only a “form of godliness”.  May we have a true connection with the living God.  May He be Lord of our life, not simply a part of our vocabulary.

How can we avoid deception?

II.  Let The Word Guide You:  II Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

I am a firm believer in reading the Word of God.  If your only exposure to scripture is what you hear on Sunday morning, then you are not getting anywhere near enough.  Would you eat only one meal a week?  Of course not!  Neither should you only be fed from the Word once a week. Also, your exposure to the Word should not always consist of what other people think and say.  Do not just listen to sermons, read devotionals, and so forth.  Read the Word for yourselves.  If you don’t understand, talk about it with other believers.  Ask your pastor questions. Seek to understand.  Our growth in knowledge and understanding is a lifelong process. Regular time in the Word is an important factor in spiritual growth.

III.  Grow in the Lord:  I Timothy 4:12-15

 Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 13 Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. 15 Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.

Our lives should be continuing to change.  We should be growing in godliness, not merely a form, but the real thing.  In word, in conduct, in love,spirit, faith and purity, we should be changed by the presence of God in our lives.  

Conclusion:  How would we sum up our lives?  How will we be remembered?   I read a line in scripture that struck me.  It was not particularly impressive sounding, but when I thought more about it, I was impressed.

II Chronicles 17:16

 and next to him was Amasiah the son of Zichri, who willingly offered himself to the Lord, and with him two hundred thousand mighty men of valor.

May we be like Amasiah, and willingly offer ourselves to the Lord.  May God do with our lives what He wants done.  May His will be done in us.

These are the sermon notes from 12/1/13.  Feel free to ask questions or make comments.

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Give God Thanks

December 2, 2013

Psalms 100

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving we should be sure to thank the One who is the giver of all good gifts, that is, God.

I .  Serving God Faithfully in Peace: II Chronicles 31:20-21

Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and true before the Lord his God. 21 And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, in the law and in the commandment, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart. So he prospered.

Hezekiah was king over Judah.  He was a godly king who did what was good and right and true in the sight of God.  He did not merely think good things, he did not merely have good intentions, he did not merely say that he was going to do the right things.   He did what was right.  We need to be people of action, not merely good intentions or words.

Hezekiah served God with all his heart.  It was not just  done for the sake of appearance.  It was not just a minor item on a checklist of things to do.  Hezekiah served God with all his heart, and so should we.

As Hezekiah did these things, God caused him to prosper.  That was a nice bonus for Hezekiah.  God does bless those who serve Him.  These blessings come in a variety of ways.

In times of peace and prosperity, we trust God and give God thanks.

II.  Serving God in Times of Conflict:  II Chronicles 32:1-8

After these deeds of faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and entered Judah; he encamped against the fortified cities, thinking to win them over to himself. And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come, and that his purpose was to make war against Jerusalem, he consulted with his leaders and commanders to stop the water from the springs which were outside the city; and they helped him. Thus many people gathered together who stopped all the springs and the brook that ran through the land, saying, “Why should the kings of Assyria come and find much water?” And he strengthened himself, built up all the wall that was broken, raised it up to the towers, and built another wall outside; also he repaired the Millo in the City of David, and made weapons and shields in abundance. Then he set military captains over the people, gathered them together to him in the open square of the city gate, and gave them encouragement, saying, “Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.

Life is not always easy.  There are times of conflict and difficulty.  When faced with these challenges, we should evaluate the situation, and take appropriate action.  Hezekiah saw the danger, and did what he could do.

When he was encouraging his men he did not emphasis that they were ready, that they were prepared, or that that they were strong.  He reminded his men that God was with them.  He was not placing his trust in his own strength or preparations, he was trusting in God.

In times of conflict and difficulty, we trust God and give God thanks.

III.  The Outcome is in God’s Hands

    A.  Hezekiah II Chronicles 31:20-23

Now because of this King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, prayed and cried out to heaven. 21 Then the Lord sent an angel who cut down every mighty man of valor, leader, and captain in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned shamefaced to his own land. And when he had gone into the temple of his god, some of his own offspring struck him down with the sword there.

22 Thus the Lord saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, and from the hand of all others, and guided them on every side. 23 And many brought gifts to the Lord at Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah king of Judah, so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations thereafter.

God delivered Hezekiah and the nation of Judah from the king of Assyria.  There was no battle.  The Lord sent an angel who killed so many men during the night, that the survivors left without a fight.

B.  Josiah:  II Kings 23:29

In his days Pharaoh Necho king of Egypt went to the aid of the king of Assyria, to the River Euphrates; and King Josiah went against him. And Pharaoh Necho killed him at Megiddo when he confronted him.

It would be nice to say that those who trust in God and serve Him faithfully never lose… but that would not be true.  Josiah was another king of Judah who had faithfully served God.  He was in the prime of life when he was cut down in battle.  I have sometimes thought that this was unfair, but I recognize that God has reasons for things that we do not know, nor understand.

We are guaranteed victory in the end with the promise of eternal life, but there have been many who have lost their lives while trusting in the Lord their God.  Sometimes even faithful servants of the Lord are cut down in battle.  We need to remember that our true reward does not come in this life, but in the life to come.

Whether in victory, or defeat, whether in life, or in death, we trust God and give Him thanks.

These are the sermon notes from 11/24.  Feel free to make comments or ask questions.

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