Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Spiritual Road Map

Acts 2:37 – 47

“Spiritual Road Map”


I.          Step #1: Get started


            A.        Repent [v 38]


                        1.         (lit.) “to change the mind”


                                    a.         O.T. = “to change the behavior”


                                    b.         Mind = behavior


                                    c.         We must “hate” the sin we have committed.


                        2.         The heart (where choices are made) is the battle field.


                                    a.         Not just feeling but thinking… CHOICE.


b.         Totally convinced to abandon sin and embrace righteousness.


            B.         Be baptized.  [v 38]


                        1.         A public confession, identifying with Jesus.


                                    a.         We are following Jesus examples, humbling ourselves to be disciples and His servants.


                                    b.         We are renouncing all.  It is the “point of no return.”


                        2.         It is a demonstration of grace.


                                    a.         Baptism points out God’s grace of forgiveness and new life.


                                    b.         It is an expression of the changed life.


            C.        Receive the Holy Spirit [v 38]


While baptism is an expression of the changed life receiving the Holy Spirit brings the ability/power to live a changed life.


It is through the work and power of the Holy Spirit that forgiveness is applied and repentance gives direction.


II.         Step #2: Get started.

            A.        Consistent in basics [v 42]


                        1.         Systematic learning and application of the Apostles teaching.  (They were the first Methodists!)


                        2.         Continually in fellowship (community)


                        3.         The Lord’s supper/communion.


                        4.         Prayer.


            B.         Developing positive attitudes. [vv 44 – 47]


<From Martin Mull>


                        1.         Worship. (Relationship toward God.)


                        2.         Witness.  (Relationship toward others.)


                        3.         Willingness.  (Relationship toward ourselves.)


III.       Step #3: Get committed.


            A.        Committed to each other.


                        1.         [vv 44 – 45] Helping those in need.


                        2.         [v 46] Being together to encourage others... being useful.


            B.         Membership [vv 41, 47]


                        1.         Formal identification.


                        2.         The Lord drawing people into service.


We need GOD to get started.

We need OTHERS to grow.

We need OTHERS to continue.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

December 21

Hi everyone... since I'm not preaching this Sunday, I thought I would upload an old sermon.  It is called "Why Pray?"  Check it out!
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Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Ultimate Christmas

Isaiah 12

The Ultimate Christmas

Introduction: Christmas is a time we celebrate the birth of Jesus. It is a time we wish others peace. It is a time of hope for peace. In Isaiah 11 the time of the rule of the Messiah is described in verses 6 – 9 (read). Isaiah 12 is a psalm describing what would be said at that time. It starts with “In that day.”


I.         God’s relationship to us will change (12:1 – 3)


            A.        There will be an end of separation (v1).


                        1.         All are separated from God. (Romans 3:23)


                                    a.         It stared in the Garden of Eden. This separation is also between people. (Tell Garden of Eden story of shame and blame.)


                                    b.         Tossed out of the Garden and the way is guarded by a flaming sword (implied death)


                        2.         All are under God’s wrath. “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” (Romans 1:18 NIV)


                                    a.         God’s anger is gives way to comfort (on going effect)


                                    b.         (ill.) the child that is disciplined by a loving parent is also comforted by that parent.


            B.        There will be an end of fear (v2).


                        1.         The fear of God will be gone. There will be no need to fear others. Our other fears will melt (like fear of failure/ “deferred success.”)


                        2.         It will be replaced with trust. (The opposite of fear is not courage, it is trust.)


                        3.         It will be because of salvation.


                        4.         There is an extremely rare expression used to inspire absolute perfect, unwavering confidence: “The LORD, the LORD.”


            C.        There will be an end of want (v3).


                        1.         Image of a well in a hot, dry country.


                        2.         Jesus told the woman at the well, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water... [14] but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."” John 4:10, 14 (NIV)

On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the Jews would bring water in a golden picture from the fountain of Siloam. They would pour this out on the alter as a thank offering with great rejoicing.

Image of our most basic necessity becomes the image of God’s provision of salvation through Jesus.


II.       God will be plainly known (12:4 – 5)


            A.        God’s name will be known (v4).


                        1.         There is confusion over who is God.


                                    a.         Modernists seem to think that Man is God... We are not!


                                    b.         Postmodernists seem to think that Man is God... We are not!.


                                    c.         Other religions have invented God in their own image. (BTW, there is a false “Christianity” that does the same thing.)


                        2.         Who God is, what God has done will be proclaimed clearly.


                                    a.         A celebration, like a memorial.


                                    b.         (ill.) TV show “This is your life.”


            B.        God’s work will be known (v5).


                        1.         Jesus entered the world as a baby. (We call this Christmas.)


                        2.         Jesus walked through this life facing everything we face to save us. “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil.... [17] For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. [18] Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Hebrews 2:14, 17 – 18 (NIV) (We call this Easter.)


III.      God’s presence will cause a reaction (12:6)


            A.        Joy will be a reaction.


                        1.         There will be shouting (like when our favorite sports team is doing will).


                        2.         There will be singing (like when we are happy and excited).


            B.        God will be among us!


                        1.         There is coming a time when God will “physically” live with us and we with God. Or as it says in Revelation 21:3 – 4, “[3] And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. [4] He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’” (We call this Heaven!)


                        2.         Right now we have a small piece, a down payment, on that time. God has given us the Holy Spirit.

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Silent Night, Holy War

Revelation12:1 – 12, 17

“Silent Night, Holy War”

[Ron Sucek has a book out with this title based on this passage. Found in Mike Mason’s book “Champaign for the soul.”]

Why does our expectation of the Christmas season and its reality differ so much?

Christmas is expected to be a time of peace.

The angles declared “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” [Luke 2:14]

Look at the reality: We suffer from the Christmas struggle, the pressures of the season. We gain weight (stress or diet?). We have places to go and things to do (it stresses us out). We “have to” shop for Christmas presents (it becomes drudgery). We visit people we do not necessarily like (remember those endless Christmas day visits to relatives nobody mentioned during the year?). We send our children to places we don’t want them to go (like to their dad’s home).

It *almost* seems we are at war with ourselves, our schedules, and life in general this time of the year.

On that first Christmas day, God did three things.


            1.         God gave us the birth of Jesus to celebrate, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given...” [Isaiah 9:6a]

The successful birth of a child is *always* a joyful thing. It is a fresh of new in the stale of life. It is a shot of energy into the listless existence. There are hopes and dreams rekindled and passed on as an inheritance from our parents.


            2.         God gave us a new government, “and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” [Isaiah 9:6b]

Sometimes we get sick and tired of the old government. Maybe we dislike it or distrust it. Fact is, when it comes to governing ourselves we should. The weight of governing our lives is lifted at the cross of King Jesus. Jesus offered, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. [29] Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. [30] For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11:28 – 30]

You see, left to ourselves; we get it all wrong. We struggle and not know why. We fight without realizing we are fighting the one who loves us and died for us.


            3.         God helped us in our greatest war, “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.” [Revelation 12:7]

There have been all sorts of ideas about who the woman, the dragon, and the child are in this story. Before the advent of “dispensationalism” (a theological view point started around 1900) one understanding was the woman was the church and the child was the Roman emperor Constantine. This doesn’t make sense because Constantine is of no eternal significance. Revelation is about eternally significant matters.

Some have thought that the woman is Israel and the child is the Christian church. They see images of the Exodus from Egypt in this story. It makes sense on several levels, except how do we understand the war in heaven and Satan being cast out?

Maybe Revelation 12 makes sense in context to the first Christmas.

Christmas upsets the spiritual balance.

Let’s take a look at the devil’s appearances BEFORE the first Christmas. He’s both in heaven and on earth.

Satan was the tempter in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3:1 - 6). This story explains the origins of sin in this world and the sinfulness of the human nature and life lived in disobedience to God.

In Job, Satan had the privilege of freely presenting himself to God and leaving God’s presence at will (see Job 1:6 – 7, Job 2:1,7).

Satan was able to challenge and accuse God’s people directly to the face of God. (See Job 1:9 – 12, Job 2:3 – 5, Zechariah 3:1)

God’s angel was delayed and detained by satanic forces in response to Daniel’s prayer. (See Daniel 10:1 – 14)

Something changed.

Jesus stated, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” [Luke 10:18]

The angel to the shepherds arrived on time with a time specific message. (See Luke 2:9)

We are warned, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” [1 Peter 5:8]

Matching Revelation 12, there was an immediate attempt on the life of a child... Jesus. The devil lost his prey, his place in heaven, and his power.

“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him. [14] So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, [15] where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: Out of Egypt I called my son. [16] When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. [17] Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: [18] "A voice is heard in Ramah, Weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” [Matthew 2:13 – 18]

This leaves some interesting questions.

If the devil is so smart, why did he follow the script?

The prophecy was very clear about what would happen. In following the prophetic script, the devil helped prove the prophecy and the claims of Christ. Why?

You have to admit the chance to end God’s promised plan was too good to pass up. If the devil really does not believe what God says, then he would try. This was possibly the easiest point in history to end God’s promised plan of a deliverer.

Rage does blind intellect. Then again the devil was known for beauty and pride, not common sense.

If God is so smart, why did He risk everything on something so vulnerable as a human birth?

This story took human cooperation and obedience, something we are not good at. Joseph had to listen and act quickly, if not immediately to save Jesus. “So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt.” [Matthew 2:14] What sort of man would move his, presumably sleeping family, in the middle of the night? An obedient man who is in tune with God.

This story risked the fury of an anti-Christ government. Herod believed the prophecy which is why he acted the way he did. Fact is this spirit has been operating since the birth of Jesus, “but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” [1 John 4:3]

Christmas puts us on the “front line.”

While victory is God’s, it is also personally ours. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” [Revelation 12:11] Its one thing to cheer on the winning side, it’s another to be the actual winner. With the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony we are the actual winner...

So, what kind of tools do we have in this victory?

There is the blood of the Lamb. Jesus established the new blood covenant, “In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood...” [1 Corinthians 11:25a] In doing so, Jesus exchanged His righteousness for our sin. (See 2 Corinthians 5:21) In other words, Jesus exchanged places with us.

We have the word of our testimony. What is this testimony? The life changing word is about Jesus and the possibilities of an abundant life (instead of just existing). Part of this is found in our mandate, “and repentance FOR the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. [48] You are witnesses of these things.” [Luke 24:47 – 48 TNIV, emphasis is mine, it is the difference between TNIV and NIV]

This should be backed by our lives. “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” [1 Peter 2:12] Of course people who hate Jesus will always find a way to interpret the believer’s behavior as evil. Why? Jesus said, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” [John 3:20]

Now we can understand the Christmas struggle differently.

When we celebrate Christmas with joy, we mark the birth of King Jesus. We lionize King Jesus and His kingdom. We brand our lives with King Jesus’ salvation and power.

In a real sense we acquire the taste of victory that comes before the final seconds tick off the clock, knowing we have won. In fact, Christmas is “the beginning of the end” to the spiritual depression of a world without its rightful King. This is “finalized” in the blood covenant of Jesus... His death and resurrection. It is empowered by Pentecost... the coming of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

We gain weight (stress or diet?). We have places to go and things to do (it stresses us out). We “have to” shop for Christmas presents (it becomes drudgery). We visit people we do not necessarily like (remember those endless Christmas day visits to relatives nobody mentioned during the year?). We send our children to places we don’t want them to go (like to their dad’s home).

Underlying all the stress, depression, pressure, concern, and struggle there is a spiritual battle. God’s grace has been forcefully advancing though out history since the first Christmas. The light of King Jesus is expanding into a dark, joyless, violent, and a hopeless world. Is it a wonder the world wants to celebrate the “holidays” rather than Christmas? Is it a wonder that people use the court system and government to eliminate any visual representation (from manger scenes, to crosses and Ten Commandments) of this from the public eye?

At Christmas, we celebrate our personal and eternal salvation, a testimony that can change the personal eternal destiny of others, and the promise of complete victory.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Listen to the Last Sermon

You have seen the outline. Now listen to the sermon. Thanks to the good people of Sermon Central, I can now post the weekly sermons in audio format. You will find a link on the left.