Archive for the ‘ Christmas ’ Category

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: Luke 2:13-14

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Luke 2:13‭-‬14, ESV

Some teach angelic beings do not sing, or at least not anymore, since The Fall.

Is it too much to think they may have at the birth of the Son of God?

Regardless, they worship Jesus. May we join with them!

VerseD: Matthew 1:21

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Matthew 1:21, ESV

Trust the promises of God. Like Mary did, we can trust that the One who saves is returning!

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – My Hymns & Songs – 12/09/2018 – Faithfully Coming

Continuing our journey through the songs and hymns that have had an impact on my spiritual life, we now turn to another of those famous Christmas carols.

O Come All Ye Faithful

Lyricsd

O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing all that hear in heaven God’s holy word.
Give to our Father glory in the Highest;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

A few thoughts …

In all of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it can be too easy to forget to stop and worship our King.

We must remember that this is a time of joy. Our Savior has come!

Some may get caught up in the materialism. Get past it.

Some may get caught up in the idea that angles do not sing. I like what some teach, that they did sing at Creation (Job 38:7) but stopped singing at the Fall. However, perhaps they did sing at the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:13-14), for God joined His Creation to save sinful humanity.

Regardless, let us come together and adore our Savior and King!

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – My Hymns & Songs – 12/02/2018 – Drumming Up Faith

It is time to continue looking at the hymns and songs that had an impact on my spiritual life, and this week I have another of my top three Christmas carols.

Little Drummer Boy

Lyrics

Come they told me
Pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see
Pa rum pum pum pum

Our finest gifts we bring
Pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King
Pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum

So to honor Him
Pa rum pum pum pum
When we come

Little baby
Pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too
Pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring
Pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give our King
Pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum

Shall I play for you
Pa rum pum pum pum
On my drum

Mary nodded
Pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time
Pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him
Pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him
Pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum

Then He smiled at me
Pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum


A few thoughts …

Here is why I really like this song:

We are invited to come to the King of all Creation. We must realize that we nothing to bring other than what He has given us, so we really have nothing to offer. But …

If we only seek to give our best, our all (even though we may – will – fall short, He only desires that we obey His commands and draw near to Him), Jesus will smile on us. It is His faithfulness that we rely on. We merely let Him call the shots and help us get through.