Sermons Archives: December 2015

Resolution or Reality: Why We Hate New Years

Posted on Dec 30, 2015 | Download

Slow Growth is an Illusion. For the past five years or so the once rural city I live in has become quite progressive. The population is increasing, business is booming, the arts are beginning to flourish, and people are actually moving here from bigger cities and do not feel completely Podunk. As a result there are several new buildings and architecture popping up out of nowhere. But they really aren’t out of nowhere. In reality, I drive by a construction site on my way to work for months and am constantly wondering what in the world is taking so long. It seems like half a year goes by and the four walls are not even standing yet. Then all of the sudden it happens. The same structure that had no structure for six months is fully functioning within a couple of weeks. The foundation takes a while. The first time I noticed this I just assumed there was some logical reason that the progress stopped. Maybe a disagreement arose about the contract, or perhaps the owners ran into some sort of legal issues with the property. But as I saw this happen time and time again I finally realized what was going on. The foundation was being built. As a carpenter, Jesus talked about this in his Sermon on the Mount. Toward the end of His message He said that if anyone applies His teaching to their lives they are like a man who builds his house on rock, a solid foundation. If anyone does not apply it to their lives, they are like a man who builds his house on sand. When the storm comes the house on the rock will stand strong, but the one on the sand is in trouble. The foundation is the most important part of the structure and usually takes the longest. This is how life goes for me. Sometimes I look back over the years and see that I am still struggling with the same things I was struggling with ten years ago. I think to myself, “If it has taken me this long to have only come this far, will I ever arrive?” But the reality is that God is a Foundation Builder. He is in it for the long haul, and He is in it for our ultimate joy rather than our immediate and temporary happiness. "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6). Not a morning person. When I was young my parents would do everything they could think of to get me up in time for school. My dad would sometimes wake me up all excited by playing with my action figures. We would play for a few minutes until he said, “Alright, now get ready for school.” Other days he thought it was funny to wake me by pouring water on my head. Not as enjoyable as playing with my toys, but it got the job done, I suppose. I’m sure they wondered if I would ever be a self-functioning, normal adult. There was no change until I was twenty-four. Then I started college. For some reason I would try to stay up late and do my homework and it was just not happening. 10pm would come around and I could not stay awake. The assignment was due the next day. The only thing I could do was wake up at 4:30am and do homework until it was time to go to my job at 8am. Turns out that 4:30am is like a fresh cup of coffee. I was wired and ready to go. I now frequently wake up early to focus and get ready for the day. It is my best time to get things done. Not a money person. One more. I was absolutely awful with money. For a year after high school I attended an internship. My parents paid for it, and the total tuition included food, lodging and learning. That means the only expenses I needed extra money for were gas in my car, and entertainment. I spent $1,100 in one month… on entertainment! Like going out to eat, getting coffee, going to the movies, etc. My parents told me they were going to have to cut me off. Apparently their bank account was not just a bottomless pit with my name on it. I am a completely different person now.  I left the internship, got a job, and then found out that money really doesn’t grow on trees. Now I enjoy budgeting so much that I am in college for Accounting. Reality. I say these things, not to tell you that someday you will be a morning person or a financial guru. And of course, this is not the whole story either. I can list plenty of areas in my life that aren’t even close to an overnight fix. I’m still terrible with directions, meeting new people is still very difficult and terrifying, and I cannot stay consistent in eating healthy for the life of me. But I do want to encourage you not to give up. This is the time of year that some people, (whom most of us find annoying), begin thinking about how they want to better themselves over the next year, while the rest of us are too familiar with the feeling of defeat to even want to try. There are some things you hate about yourself and no matter how much effort you put into it, change just isn’t happening. You have noticed little, if any, improvement over the past several years and it is getting discouraging. But the Bible tells us, “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9). Don’t look at your lack of progress assuming growth is never going to happen. Sometime you work for years and years to improve an area of your life and one day something clicks and you just do it as if you always have. Other things are like climbing a mountain. You will see your progress, not by seeing how far you’ve yet to go, but by seeing how far you’ve come. But do not give up. Keep repenting, keep pursuing, keep learning, keep trying, and someday you may be amazed by your sudden growth. You may have been building the foundation all this time and since the foundation takes the longest and looks like the least amount of progress, you might feel like you’ve accomplished nothing. Don’t stop. You will reap if you don’t give up.

The First Noel Was No Silent Night: A Painful Christmas

Posted on Dec 9, 2015 | Download

The Not-So-Silent, Holy Night “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman… She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth… And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her Child he might devour it. She gave birth to a Male Child, One who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron…” (Revelation 12:1-6) All was far from calm, little seemed bright, and as for the Holy Infant, there was no sleeping in heavenly peace. When God Himself came down and became flesh, even from the first announcement of His birth, chaos and confusion seemed to follow. God does not come quietly, He never has and never will. And His birth—the very Incarnation itself, the day the Word of God took on flesh—was no exception. The angelic broadcast that brought “Good tidings of great joy,” also left devastation and uncertainty in its wake.  We Three Kings: What Peace on Earth? “’Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled…” (Matt. 2:2-3) The news of a Baby who would be the “King of the Jews,” was a threat to the lineage of Herod’s kingdom. So when he was told about this Royal Child, he found out what city He would be born in and told the magi to come back and tell him exactly where the Baby lived, “So that I too may worship Him.” But when the magi were warned in a dream not to tell Herod anything, he took matters into his own hands. What started as these men’s desire to worship, ended in a mass infanticide by a tyrannous, insecure, and jealous king. Herod ordered a massacre for all babies under two years old throughout the whole region just to make sure he got the right one. Imagine an entire city with almost every household filled with weeping mothers and helpless fathers, as thousands of families hold their cold and breathless bundles of joy. Even as I write this, the thought of soldiers kicking in our door as we are sitting down for dinner, and ripping Owen out of my wife’s arms as we experience the worst day of our lives, nearly brings me to tears. The question that should be ringing in our ears is, “Where is this peace on earth?” Nothing Calm, Nothing Bright “Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more’” (Matt. 2:17-18). Think about it. Let the confusion linger in your heart as it did for thousands of tragedy stricken Jewish families that “Silent Night” in Bethlehem. Events like this and the injustice they carry are the seeds that give birth to atheism, and for good reason. The question that should be burning in our minds is, “If God is good why didn’t He stop this from happening?” If God can prophesy about this event in Jeremiah hundreds of years before and if He can warn Joseph in a dream to escape, then couldn’t He have prevented the whole thing? And the answer if we stay true to the Bible is yes, God could have prevented all of it, and He did not. And here is where we want to speculate. But doing so is usually our way of trying to make excuses for God; trying to make Him look good, or be more acceptable for the twenty-first century. The truth is God can defend Himself and when He gives clarity we should listen and when He does not we shouldn’t try to make Him more human or easier to understand by making up “good reasons” for why He allows these things to happen. We don’t know the fullness of God’s wisdom, but thankfully, while God doesn’t give us very much clarity, He does give us great hope.  Good Will to Men And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11) This massive infanticide happened about two years after the angels appeared to the shepherds giving them “good news of great joy.” Now, two years later, life has gone back to normal, the once astonished shepherds are back to sheep duty, Joseph is doing carpentry work again, and the world has moved on. Nothing has changed, no “peace on earth,” and all of the sudden a killing spree in response to the news of the toddler king. This devastating verse that is quoted in Matthew about a mass murder in Bethlehem was originally written in Jeremiah 31:15, sandwiched in a section filled with hopeful promises from God of Israel’s restoration. The whole passage in verses 15-17 says, “Thus says the Lord: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.’ Thus says the Lord: ‘Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future, declares the Lord, and your children shall come back to their own country.’” The “Good news of great joy,” is the promise of a final resurrection—justice at last, all wrong finally made right. God does not promise that we will not go through difficulty, in fact, He promises the opposite (John 16:33; 1 Peter 4:12). But what God does give us is promise of final justice; true peace on earth. The “peace on earth” that Jesus brings is not necessarily a peace in our relationships, nor in our chaotic lives, but it is peace with God. Every other religion gives man the task of striving to climb up to God on the mountain of good works, but only the Bible shows us the love of a God who came down to man. We are sinners. We are enemies of God. We deserve God’s wrath. But He offers us peace. And this peace is not just a truce between two enemies who decide not to fight anymore. It is more than just forgiveness. God doesn’t merely offer us absolution, He offers us adoption through the birth, and later, the death and resurrection of Jesus. The “Savior who is Christ the Lord” is called the Savior because He came to save His people from their sins and to reconcile them to God. The beginning of the story may be the tragedy of thousands dying at the birth of the Savior, but the end of the story is billions being saved by the death of the Savior. The angel came with good news. The good news of a God with open arms rather than closed fists. He is the God of mercy. His very name, Jesus, literally means “God is Salvation.” “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:1-8).

A Hebrews 11 Kind Of Hero

Posted on Dec 2, 2015 | Download

A lot of people have different chapters of the Bible that are their favorite. I would say most people really enjoy the book of Hebrews and specifically chapter eleven. The subject of Faith is an obvious cornerstone in our life as a believer. This chapter in Hebrews brings great definition to faith and adds to it wonderful biblical examples of those who have gone before us who have exemplified great faith. Towards the end of the chapter, the writer of Hebrews seems to save a special section for those who seemed to give it all. Those who in the face of all adversity and dire circumstances laid their life down for Jesus. Many people refer to these as the “Great Heroes of the Faith”. People who in faith, literally gave all for the surpassing knowledge of Christ. Here is how the text reads picking up in Hebrews 11:35-40. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment.They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains,dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. I have met a lot of wonderful believers during my lifetime. People who will have truckloads of crowns to lay at the feet of Jesus when they go to heaven. However, in my 34 years of living, I feel that I have only had one encounter with a person that screamed Hebrews 11. I was living in China at the time, but I was on a ministry trip to Cambodia and Laos. After spending several days in Cambodia, my ministry partner and I flew into Vientiane, Laos. We found a taxi and he zoomed us off to our hotel. We got to the hotel, got checked in and then started getting situated in our room. Once settled, we were relaxing before our evening dinner and meeting and we hear a knock on the door and someone come in. I look up and somewhat nervously look around the corner to see who it is. In comes a middle-aged, white man who is a little on the skinny side, dressed in very casual jeans and a t-shirt. He yells out my ministry partners name and my friend looks up with an expression of amazement on his face. They greet each other in the middle of the room and I can quickly gather that they go way back. My friend turns and introduces this new guy to me. I greet him and then I begin to hear the story of how these guys know each other. It turns out that their paths had crossed multiple times in the missions world. My friend had been living and serving Jesus in China for 20+ years. This other man had been in and out of China and Southeast Asia for almost just as long. As they talked about missions and what our visitor is currently doing, I felt the Holy Spirit pressing upon me that this man who just walked into our rooms is one of the Heroes. One of the Hebrews 11 Heroes. He opens his mouth and begins to describe in a very humble way all that he is doing and been through to distribute the bible to literally the darkest places in the world. From interrogation to persecution to staying hidden for weeks and months at a time. He has had passports taken from him, documentation destroyed and the list goes on and on. Yet, he continues to find ways to get Gods word into peoples hands in the most hostile places in China and Southeast Asia. It was a surreal moment. It was a God moment that marked me for the rest of my life. I knew that I was truly in the presence of a Modern Day Hero on this earth. No one will ever know his name. He will never be on Tv. You will never read one of his books. But, he is exactly who I think of when I read through Hebrews 11. I will never forget him and pray for those that are like him around the world! May they continue to press on towards the ultimate prize!!

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