Archive for the ‘ Holidays ’ Category

Preparing Your Heart – The Third Week of Advent 2019

We are continuing the series originally posted five years ago!

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It is now the third week of Advent! (See the last two weeks’ devotional thought here (and here) and here (and here).)

Again, Advent is a time to remember our Lord’s first coming as we look forward to His imminent return.

So, let us prepare hearts for encountering the Lord!

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old“

. . .

“for my eyes have seen your salvation
    that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”
Luke 1:68-70, 2:30-32, ESV

The first part of the quote is from Zechariah, John the Baptist’s dad, at John’s birth. The second part of the quote was said by Simeon, an old and devout man, when he saw the baby Jesus at the Temple.

These two men knew that the Lord’s salvation was at hand. If you read all of chapters one and two of Luke, you can see that even they did not understand His plan of salvation. They were on the right track, but they were not aware of how things would unfold.

The Lord had come, Emmanuel, God with us, and he brought salvation. It was first brought to Israel, the Jews in Jerusalem in particular, and then it spread to “all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8) over the past 2,000 years.

What most everyone then did not know was that first the Lord would bring spiritual salvation, the forgiveness of sins and the repairing of the relationship with God and humanity; the physical redemption from all enemies is still to come.

Let us remember that salvation has come, but we await our salvation from the pain and evil of this world (see Romans 8). We do not understand fully how it will all happen, but we know Jesus will return!

May we not get caught up in the knowledge we have and miss the signs of His coming. May we remember that we are not home yet, and we await our coming Savior. May we bring as many as we can to all of this knowledge of the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of the Father!

Preparing Your Heart – The Second Week of Advent 2019

Once again, this series is a re-post from five years earlier, with some additions by me.

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It is now the second week of Advent! (See last week’s devotional thought here and here.)

Again, Advent is a time to remember our Lord’s first coming as we look forward to His imminent return.

So, let us prepare hearts for encountering the Lord!

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 was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:1-14, ESV

It is important for us to remember that God’s people, the Israelites, those who painstakingly preserved the written Word of God and pursued righteousness, failed to recognize Him when he came to them quite literally in the flesh.

Jesus said just three chapters later, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:23). Our culture today is largely spiritually dull, even in many churches.

Ask yourself, “Would I recognize God if He approached me today?” Seek His face in prayer, Bible reading, and the fellowship of believers. Ask God to reveal Himself to you. Too many missed Him the first time around. Seek the living Lord! Have faith that He is returning soon!

“For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 16:7b, ESV

Sermon: Signs You're a Christian – 1 John 3:10-24

I preached again! I liked it. Like, wept some, got goosebumps some, enjoyed preaching it … a lot.

Please enjoy listening (click here if it does not work just below), and see my rough notes for all scripture references and basic thoughts. I am reading from the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible.

Signs You’re a Christian (1 John 3:10-24)

Read 3:10-11

        1:1, 2:7: Nothing new, known from the beginning

Read 3:12

        Genesis 4:3-5: Why did Cain murder Abel? His sacrifice was not accepted.
Why?
2 theories: 1) He could have asked Abel for an animal sacrifice. Could have, yes, but …
          2) He offered “an offering of the fruit” versus Abel’s “firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions.” Abel offered the first and best, but Cain went for the bare minimum.
Genesis 4:6-7: Bare minimum can lead, at best, to complacency, and at worst to proof of not being saved.
Genesis 4:8-9: Our selfishness leads us to hatred, as John reminds us …

Read 3:13-15

        Testimony: Know I am saved, because I have loved the Church.
-Jim Harper – Pastor on the Titanic
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Pastor in Nazi Germany

Read 3:16-20

        Two things to remember:

  • Our sinful hearts:
    • Jeremiah 17:9-10
    • How righteous are we really?
      • Illustration with three volunteers (preferably one of the Paul’s, Jadon, and Scott as our prime example):
        • 1 at the left, representing Hitler and anti-christs
        • Student at the right, representing Christ
        • Scott (or someone) being moved for how much righteousness he has, starting out close to student, moving him until he is right next to “Hitler” to demonstrate how much better we are apart from Christ. Then, back over to hug “Christ” who has covered our sins with his own blood.
    • Romans 8:23 – awaiting the redemption of our bodies
  • Christ commanded that we help others, especially the Church (Galatians 6:10, John 13 especially v. 8)

Read 3:21-24

  1. If we believe, we are washed by Christ. Since we are washed by Christ, we should have clean consciences
    1. Sometimes, we struggle to let go of the past, making our consciences feel burdened …
    1. This is one reason Hebrews 10:19-25 (vv. 23-25) tells us to keep meeting together and encouraging each other, but also …
  2. Whatever we ask: See Ephesians 3:14-21 (v. 20)
    1. He meets all of our needs, knowing what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8, 7:7-11)

What does this all mean for us?

  1. First, realize we can do nothing good apart from God
    1. Romans 3 – None are good nor seek God, all have sinned
    1. Luke 18:18-19 – Only God is good
    1. Philippians 4:13 – Through Christ alone can we do good things
  2. Second, we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. (Ephesians 2)
    1. Realize our full need for Christ, repent of sins, and believe in His atoning work on the cross.
    1. As Ephesians 2 continues and reminds us …
  3. Third, we are made one with Christ and each other through Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit.
    1. We love Christ and His Church.
      1. Read your Bible
      1. Pray
      1. Meet regularly with other Christians
        1. Not just go to church on Sundays!
      1. Live out love for God
        1. Do good works as a response to the great love God has given
        1. Especially toward our brothers and sisters in Christ
        1. These reveal the Spirit’s work in us, that we love Christ by obeying His commands (John 15:12-14), all to the glory of the Father (meaning people see our love and good works and come to believe the Gospel!)

So, then, what are the commands we are to obey?

  1. Love God with all that you are (Matthew 22:37-38)
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39-40)
  3. Love one another as Christ has loved us (Sacrificially and with a servant’s heart) (John 13:34)
  4. Go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20)

Preparing Your Heart – The First Week of Advent 2019

This originally posted five years ago (and then again two years ago with the longer ending found here) but sometimes it is good remembering some things!
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It is the first week of Advent!
Advent is a time to remember our Lord’s first coming as we look forward to His imminent return.

So, let us prepare hearts for encountering the Lord!

“If you prepare your heart, you will stretch out your hands toward him. If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not injustice dwell in your tents. Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure and will not fear. You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away. And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning. And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security. You will lie down, and none will make you afraid; many will court your favor. But the eyes of the wicked will fail; all way of escape will be lost to them, and their hope is to breathe their last.”
Job 11:13-20, ESV

In the passage today, Job’s friend Zophar is offering his friendly advice. May we remember that the only way these words are true is if we turn to the Lord and let Him make us clean and righteous!

Wait for the Lord;
     be strong, and let your heart take courage;
     wait for the Lord!
Psalm 27:14

Preparing our hearts requires waiting patiently for God. We cannot hurry Him.

Patience leads to peace, because we have a hope found only in God as revealed in Christ and through Scripture.

Then we can more fully turn to Him!

VerseD: 1 Chronicles 16:34

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
1 Chronicles 16:34, ESV

God’s love is enough reason to be thankful everyday.

VerseD: Psalm 100:4

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
Psalm 100:4, ESV

Always give thanks to God, for everything all the time, praising Him for His love and good works.

It is the fastest route to God’s heart.

VerseD: Ephesians 6:2

“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise),
Ephesians 6:2, ESV

They gave you life, so they are due some honor.

Or they raised you, so they deserve some respect.

Loving our parents shows our love for our heavenly Father.