Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

No reserve. No retreat. No regrets. 31 December 2015

No reserve. No retreat. No regrets.
New Year's Eve

Big Idea: Live your life with no reserve, no retreat, and no regrets.

Introduction

Happy New Year’s Eve! In a few hours 2015 will be history. How was it? In a few moments you’ll have a chance to answer that question. While much attention is placed upon the new year (they don’t call it new year’s eve for nothing!), this is a wonderful hour in which to reflect, to look back, to celebrate the goodness of the LORD.

For some of you, 2015 was a difficult year. For others, a great year. For most, a mix.

The past 365 days have been filled with births and deaths, wins and losses, successes and failures. There’s nothing you can do with the past besides reflect and learn.

The psalmist wrote

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

I have a number of pastor friends who prefer doing funerals over weddings. I’m not among them, but I do appreciate their perspective. Funerals are one of the few times people pause to reflect upon life.

Today is another such time. It has been said we overestimate what we can do in a day and underestimate what we can do in a year. What did you do in 2015? How is your life different than it was 365 days ago?

I must confess my life hardly resembles it from a year ago, though I can hardly take any credit for it. I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would be living in Toledo, Ohio…and loving it!

What did you do in 2015? How is your life different than 365 days ago? How is the world different than it was 365 days ago because of you?

That might be a grandiose question, but if you’re like me you want to change the world. You want to make a difference. Let there be peace on earth…and let it begin with me.

This week I was praying with some dear senior saints that gather here each Tuesday morning. After hearing some very kind words from them, I said as the face of First Alliance I get far more recognition than I deserve. A football player can only score a touchdown if others do the unsung work of blocking. In the same way, they do vital work on their knees, praying for you, me, our church, and our city. Their work is done in secret, but it is changing the world.

You can change the world with your prayers. You can change the world with your encouragement, your smile, your time, your simple gift, your story, …your love.

As you reflect on 2015, what do you see?

One of the most powerful series of sermons I ever heard was at a Campus Crusade for Christ Christmas Conference in college. It must’ve been five years ago! OK, it was nearly 30 years ago…and I remember it like yesterday. There were three talks:

No reserve
No retreat
No regrets

I determined at that conference I wanted to live my life with no reserve, no holding back. Passion. The word itself stems from Jesus’ wholehearted act on the cross, giving everything. 110%.

I determined at that conference I wanted to live my life with no retreat, no turning back. The armor of God described in Ephesians 6 contains a belt, breastplate, boots, shield, helmet, and sword…but nothing to cover the back. There’s no running away, no backing down, no retreat.

I determined at that conference I wanted to live my life with no regrets. I’ve made countless mistakes, but a mistake is only a mistake if you don’t learn from it. I’ve tried to learn from my mistakes…and the mistakes of others.

No reserve
No retreat
No regrets

Did you give your absolute best in 2015? If so, fantastic! Do it again in 2016. If not, no worries. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Tomorrow will be a new year, a new beginning, yet there are no guarantees. Tomorrow itself is not a guarantee for all of us. We all have an expiration date, and none of us knows what it is. William’s was only 25 years.

This week I read about an acquaintance of mine who was riding his bicycle to a Christmas Eve service near Ann Arbor. On the way, he was hit by a car and died. It’s still surreal to think he’s no longer with us.

It is critical that we pause, we reflect, we consider how life is sacred, precious, and fragile. Every day is a gift from God.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

My prayer for myself and all of us is that on December 31, 2016 we’ll gather again and say, “To God be the glory for the great things He has done in and through our lives.” But it requires action on our part. We were not created as puppets He manipulates. We make choices every day that affect our lives and the lives of others.

I’m not going to challenge you tonight to make any New Year’s resolutions.

Well, except for reading the Bible with us. If you haven’t heard about the One Story reading plan there are copies at the Information Center and links in our weekly
FAC Focus e-newsletter.

There was a famous religious leader named Saul. He was so passionate he was at least an accomplice in the martyrdom of many early Christians. His conversion to Christianity was miraculous, to say the least. After his name was changed to Paul, he wrote much of the New Testament of the Bible. Reflecting upon his sordid past, he wrote,

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

I encourage you to press on in 2016. Follow Jesus with your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love your neighbors. Live with intentionality.

No reserve
No retreat
No regrets

Happy New Year!

Blessed, 27 December 2015

Blessed
Psalm 1

Big Idea: Blessed is the person who knows the LORD.

Introduction

Good morning! Welcome to that odd, in-between Sunday. The gifts are opened, maybe you’ve spent time returning that ugly sweater or unwanted fruitcake (can you return a fruitcake?!). The decorations are ready for the attic. You might be thinking about using that gift card to buy a treadmill or join Planet Fitness. New Year’s Eve parties (including the biggest of all, right here at 7 PM!) and bowl games are right around the corner. Parents might be ready for school to resume, kids enjoy every moment of freedom.

We look back at Christmas and look forward to New Year’s.
We look back at 2015 and look forward to 2016.
We’re going Back to the Future!

It’s that odd, in-between Sunday!

Rather unexpectedly, the Psalms became a focal point during our Advent series. Advent itself is an odd, in-between time, looking back at baby Jesus and looking forward to the Return of the King.

As we near the end of 2015, we’re going to go to the beginning of the Psalms and look at Psalm 1 together.

Blessed…(Psalm 1:1a)

Do you want to be blessed? I often here people pray, “LORD, bless me” or “LORD, bless so-and-so.”

Have you been blessed in 2015?

God bless us all in 2016!

The word “blessed” or “asrey” in Hebrew means…blessed, happy, a heightened state of happiness and joy, implying very favorable circumstances, often resulting from the kind acts of God.

Like joy, blessings are not related to our circumstances. Blessings are not obtained by seeking them, but rather they are often a side benefit from choices we make…or don’t make. A wise man said that happiness is like a
cat. Seek it and it will run from you. But go about your business steadily day by day and soon it comes and curls up at your feet. How true, although I’m not a big cat fan!

In biblical terms to be blessed meant to be rightly related to God so that your life was fulfilled and you experienced deep personal satisfaction. Who wants that?!

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, (Psalm 1:1)

Did you ever stop and think your actions are a factor in God’s blessing? It seems clear here. Note the contrast. Walk with the wicked or love the law, the Torah, God’s Word.

Notice this psalm begins with a negative. A person is blessed if they
don’t walk, or stand or sit. That’s in interesting progression. In each instance evildoers are involved. We are not to walk with the wicked. That could be a casual interaction. We are not to stand with sinners. That could be a more involved conversation. We are not to sit with mockers, perhaps to avoid becoming like them.

You are your friends. Jim Rohn says it this way: “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”

We need to invest our lives into those who don’t yet know Jesus, but we must guard ourselves from their influence. Like someone rescuing a drowning person, we must be careful to ensure we don’t get dragged down while we are attempting to serve others.

Often dangerous people look nice. Who’s going to come up to you and say, “I’m an unsafe person who will deceive and harm you?” Can you imagine a stranger approaching you wearing a “Let’s go to Hell together” t-shirt?! But this world is filled with wicked, proud-of-their-sin mockers. Notice I didn’t just say sinners since we’re all sinners. What’s your attitude toward your sin?

We are to be in the world but not of the world. This can be tricky.

The progression is walk, stand sit; think, behave, belong.

The psalm begins by telling us what not to do if we want to be blessed, but what should we do instead?

…but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. (Psalm 1:2)

Your delight determines your direction. Do you delight in the law of the LORD? Do you delight in the Bible? Do you delight in God?

Which is more popular, partying with pagans or going to a Bible study? Which is more fun? Which is the pathway to blessing?

I know I’m not supposed to say this, but sometimes I struggle to read the Bible. There are times I’d rather read blogs than the Bible. But no blog can offer the wisdom, inspiration, and transformation found in the living Word of God. And it is an exciting book. If you think it’s boring, you’ve either never read it or you have an ancient translation you don’t understand. In either case, we have free Bibles in modern English available for you at the Information Center in the lobby. Please take one…and read it! Or read it online (more about that later).

The other day I was talking with David Sankovich in the office and I said, “Did you know there’s a story in the Bible about someone speaking with the dead?” He knew. Did you? There’s accounts of donkeys talking, the dead raised, the earth swallowing up households, a woman driving a peg through a man’s temple, God serving frosted flakes to thousands—if not millions—of people…and that’s all before Revelation!

Do you want to be blessed? Get into the Word! Is your faith weak? Get into the Word!

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Romans 10:17)

You can read and listen to and study God’s Word, the holy scriptures, the Bible. Throughout history many have been unable to read. Most of us are able to read, but we can also listen to it as you are now, or online or via recording.

Much of Psalm 119—the longest chapter in the Bible—is devoted to God’s Word. Of course, it’s not enough to read or listen to the Bible, or even know it intellectually. We must obey it. We must do what it says. Why? Because Daddy knows best. God’s ways are higher than ours. Blessed is the one who delights in God’s Word.

…but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. (Psalm 1:2)

What is the object of your delight?

On Friday we saw children delighting in their Christmas gifts.
On Friday we saw adults delighting in their Christmas gifts!

Young lovers delight in…one another.

Sports fans delight in their teams, especially when they win.

The word for “meditate” means to digest thoroughly. I like that!
“Day and night’ means anytime, but it could also mean from the beginning of the day to its end.

Reading
Studying
Memorizing

LORD, help me to want to know You and Your Word! I want to want you!

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. (Psalm 1:3)

I love this image for many reasons. First, I love water. I often feel closest to God when I’m near water…and ocean, a lake, a river, a stream…sometimes a drinking fountain will do!

I’m…uh…blessed to be able to see Swan Creek in my backyard during this time of year when the leaves have fallen. I could spend all day watching and listening to the current. Water is life. Our bodies are about 60% water. We obviously need it to live.

So do trees! Trees with access to water will grow and become fruitful.

A tree planted by a stream is usually stable. Its root system is often greater than the tree seen above the ground.

How do you know when a tree has good roots? When the storms come!

Have you ever noticed apple trees produce apples? Orange trees produce oranges.

As we delight in God, our lives will produce godliness.

As we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will bear the fruit of the Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Psalm 1 continues…

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. (Psalm 1:4)

“Not so” the wicked. They are not like the righteous…at all!

Chaff is like peanut shells, waste. The wisdom of the wicked is waste. Garbage.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. (Psalm 1:5-6)

I used to think “stand in the judgment” meant to appear and be present at the judgment, to show up. It means “stand” as in “stand up, stand firm.” Without roots, trees will fall. Without righteousness, the wicked will not pass the judgment. The winds of judgment will blow them over like chaff.

The righteous will stand. The righteous will not blow down or be blown away. They will be like a strong, healthy tree with deep roots, surviving the windy storms and surviving God’s judgment.

The LORD knows the ways of the righteous, like a dad knows his children.

The wicked will eventually perish. It might not be today. Things might not seem fair now, but on Judgment Day God will have the final word.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Are you ready? Are your roots deep? Are you grounded in God’s Word or being sucked downstream by the current of the culture?

I pray we would be rooted in the Bible in 2016 (and every year!).

So What?

My first resolution for next year is to listen more…to God’s Word. Will you join me?

For the last several years I’ve done a Bible reading plan. I have done many different ones, but my favorite I’m about to finish this year and I can’t wait to do it again. It’s called One Story and it takes you through the key stories of the Bible in one year. The plan shows how the many stories of the Bible make up one interconnected story – God’s story. The plan calls for reading between one to three chapters of Scripture a day from three separate chapters (i.e. the main storyline and key cross references), six days per week. It’s not only the greatest hits of the Bible, it is beautifully constructed to link the Old and New Testaments in ways I’ve never seen before.

If you have YouVersion, it’s simply to access. Go to

https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1395-ownit365-one-story-plan

If you visit
http://ownit365.com/pick-a-plan/one-story/ you can not only access the plan, there’s also study guides and videos you can use on your own, with your family, or in your Sunday School or small group.

I’m not merely asking you to read the Bible next year. I’m inviting you to read it with me and the rest of us…together. If you miss some days, it’s not a problem. There’s power in reading the same passages. You’ll always have something to discuss when you get together.

I have a second resolution for next year: to talk more…with God.

Prayer
is a beautiful gift. We have 24/7 access to the Creator of the universe!!! But it’s hard. Just as I’d sometimes rather read blogs than the Bible, sometimes I’d rather talk to my friends than to my heavenly Father.

We have been invited to join churches across Toledo in three exciting prayer intiatives:

a. Church Together 21 Day Corporate Fast, praying for our city January 1 through 21 while fasting from one meal each day…or whatever God may be leading you to give up during those three weeks (Facebook, TV, desserts, etc.).

b. 
40 Day Prayer Journey with the same area churches beginning Sunday, January 3 and blanketing the seven key aspects of society.

c. 
Toledo Prays citywide prayer gathering on Thursday, January 7.

I believe Toledo’s best days are ahead and I believe First Alliance’s best days are ahead, but I believe they will only occur if we partner together with brothers and sisters of other churches at the foot of the cross, seeking the direction, protection, and power of Jesus Christ.

Begin the new year in God’s Word. You’ll be blessed. Read with us.

If you have not yet done so, I encourage you to sign up for one or more of the prayer initiatives. Begin the new year on your knees. Pray with us. You’ll never regret it!

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here. You can subscribe to the free FAC Focus e-newsletter here.

The Greatest Gift, 24 December 2015

The Greatest Gift
Christmas Eve 2015
First Alliance Church

Big Idea:
Jesus is the greatest gift…but all gifts must be received.

Merry Christmas Eve!
This might be the most exciting, anticipated night of the year. Kids, are any of you looking forward to tomorrow? Adults, are any of you looking forward to tomorrow?

How many of you have a tradition of opening a gift on Christmas Eve?

Oh, I better hurry so you can get home and open that present!

Christmas is all about presents. On Sunday we finished a series called “Be Here Now” which reminded us of the need to be fully present with one another and with God…and also of God’s presence with us.

In ancient days, names were more than words on a birth certificate. They conveyed deep meaning. Rather than naming children after celebrities or trendy names, parents would often choose names of honor and character.

My parents named me Kirk, not only because they liked the name (despite not being Star Trek fans!) but because it means “church dweller” and they hoped and prayed I would someday spend time in church. It worked!

One of my favorite names for God is Emmanuel, God with us. He is present.

The thing about being present is your presence must be acknowledged. Have you ever tried to scare someone, sneaking up on them? I usually try to NOT scare people, often making gradually louder noises as I enter a room when they have their backs turned to me. This happened recently with Sue. I didn’t want to scare her so I started gently knowing on her door until she turned around in surprise! I was in her office but she didn’t know it.

Tragically, it is like that with God for many of us. Sure, you might believe in God. You might believe Jesus came as a baby 2000 years ago. You might even believe He died—most people eventually die!—and perhaps you even believe He rose again. But what difference does history make in the 21
st century?

“Jesus is going to return someday,” you might add. Yes, that’s true, but if our faith is only about the past and the future, our present is meaningless. We either reminisce about the good old days like retirees in Florida or we dream about the future like students on graduation day.

But Jesus is here now. December 24, 2015. He wants you to know Him…not just know
about Him, but have a relationship with Him. I’d be the first to admit it can be unusual having a relationship with someone you can’t see or hear, but over time I’ve been able to hear His voice, not His audible voice but His words. The Bible is arguably the best way to hear His voice, and if you want to know God it’s the best way to get to know Him.

He also loves to listen. I believe the most beautiful sound in the world to God is the sound of your voice. Prayer is not merely talking to God, but talking
with God. Have you done that lately?

Jesus is here. He is alive. He wants to live inside you, giving you peace, joy, meaning, purpose, hope, and love. But you have to receive Him.

Christmas
is about presents, about gifts. It’s about a gift. The gift was a baby, but He became so much more. He loves you so much He spread His arms and said, “I love you this much.” He died to pay the punishment of your sins, everything you’ve done wrong. He died to reconcile—reconnect—you to your Creator, Almighty God who hates sin.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

He wants every man, woman and child to receive the gift, the gift of Himself, of Jesus.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Jesus is not exclusive. He died for everyone, young and old, male and female, American, Asian, Arab, and Australian. He died for teachers, tennis players, and even terrorists.

But like any gift, you have to receive it to experience it. Knowing about it is not enough.

$10 Bill

Let’s pretend for a moment I had a $10 bill. Actually, we don’t need to pretend! This $10 bill is available to any child who wants it.

When you receive a gift, it’s yours to experience.

Have you received Jesus?

This is not about organized religion. Jesus hated organized religion, man’s quest to know God. Instead being fully God He became a man to show His love to us and invite us to experience real life. He said

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10b)

Jesus is the ultimate example of what it means to be human. He showed us how to live. He showed us how to love.

Have you received Him?

The best gift you’ll ever receive is Jesus. The best gift you can give Jesus for His birthday is your heart…you…all of you. If you’ve never surrendered your life to Jesus, I urge you to do it tonight. It’s the most liberating, life-giving thing imaginable. Let go and let God.

You can begin a relationship with God through a simple prayer like this:

God, I’m sorry for the sins and mistakes in my life. I believe Jesus came as a baby, grew up and died for my sins, and rose from the dead. I want Him to be my Savior—saving me from my sins—but also my LORD, the leader of my life. I surrender my life and welcome Jesus into my life to take control and guide my life. Thank you for the gift of eternal life and abundant life. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

If you’ve just invited God into your life, please tell someone. Tell me or a friend. You’ve just begun the journey of knowing Jesus. The adventure begins tonight! We have free Bibles at the Information Center in the lobby—written in modern English, not Shakespeare! Just ask for one. They’ll help you get to know Jesus.

At First Alliance, we’re all about Jesus. We’ve seen Jesus heal the sick, restore broken marriage, get finances in order, bring peace to the disturbed, and provide hope to the hopeless. Every day of the year He’s at work in our lives giving us meaning and purpose, challenging us toward generosity and kindness, and reminding us of His infinite, unconditional love.

Jesus was born for you.
Jesus died for you.
Jesus is alive for you!

If you don’t know Him—personally—I urge you to receive the gift tonight.

If you’re not ready to let God lead your life, that’s ok. There’s no pressure. Gifts are never meant to be forced upon someone. But know Jesus’s arms remain outstretched, inviting you to do life with Him.

If you’ve invited Jesus into your life in the past, how’s it going? Is He a gift you’ve tossed aside and forgotten about like an old VHS movie or flip phone, or a precious treasure you appreciate every day of your life?

This Christmas, I pray you will experience the gift of life, the gift of love, the gift of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.

God With Us, 20 December 2015

God With Us
Series: Be Here Now
Matthew 1:18-23

Series Overview:
Christmas is the celebration of “presence.”

Big Idea: God is fully present with us…and Jesus will return soon.

Introduction

This morning we conclude our series “Be Here Now,” a series about presence. The first two weeks we talked about how important it is for us to be fully present with one another and with God, a challenge in our multi-tasking, screen-filled, noisy world…especially during the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

Last Sunday we shifted from our presence to God’s presence with us. We read several passages from the Psalms written by David where he declares the presence of God even in the midst of suffering and fear. His faith in God was stellar…and yet the Messiah had not yet come to earth. In fact, it would be hundreds of years until Isaiah prophesied…

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

David—and Isaiah—could only imagine the events we celebrate this week.

Proclaim FM’s sign is correct. Christmas is about three words: God with us.

In his book
Radical, David Platt tells this fascinating story:

I remember sitting outside a Buddhist temple in Indonesia. Men and women filled the elaborate, colorful temple grounds, where they daily performed their religious rituals. Meanwhile, I was engaged in a conversation with a Buddhist leader and a Muslim leader in this particular community. They were discussing how all religions are fundamentally the same and only superficially different. “We may have different views about small issues,” one of them said, “but when it comes down to essential issues, each of our religions is the same.” I listened for a while, and then they asked me what I thought. I said, “It sounds as though you both picture God (or whatever you call god) at the top of a mountain. It seems as if you believe that we are all at the bottom of the mountain, and I may take one route up the mountain, you may take another, and in the end we will all end up in the same place.” They smiled as I spoke. Happily they replied, “Exactly! You understand!” Then I leaned in and said, “Now let me ask you a question. What would you think if I told you that the God at the top of the mountain actually came down to where we are? What would you think if I told you that God doesn’t wait for people to find their way to him, but instead he comes to us?” They thought for a moment and then responded, “That would be great.” I replied, “Let me introduce you to Jesus.”

I get frustrated when I hear religions lumped together. Religion is man’s search for God. Jesus did not come to start another religion. He came to bring God to us.

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:18-23)

Let’s set aside the fact a virgin named Mary become pregnant.

Let’s set aside the fact an angel visited Mary…and Joseph.

Let’s set aside the fact this baby fulfilled prophesies that were hundreds of years old.

Let’s even set aside the fact this baby would become the most famous and controversial figure in human history, teach the most quoted truths ever recorded, model for us what it means to be truly human, perform miracles, die for us, conquer sin, rise from the dead, and ascend into heaven.

God is with us.

God was with us. God will be with us. God is with us now.

Jesus came. Jesus is coming. Jesus is here.

Jesus came.

Advent and Christmas are similar yet different. Advent is a time of waiting. The Latin word means “coming.” The first meaning of Advent refers to the first coming of Jesus the Messiah. He uniquely fulfilled hundreds of prophesies, about 324 to be exact. Here they are:

Gen. 3:15.....He will bruise Satan's head.....Heb. 2:14, 1 Jn. 3:18
Gen. 5:24....The bodily ascension to heaven illustrated....Mk. 6:19 Gen. 9:26,27...The God of Shem will be the Son of Shem...Lu. 3:36 Gen. 12:3...As Abraham's seed, will bless all nations...Acts. 3:25,26 Gen. 12:7...The Promise made to Abraham's Seed...Gal. 3:16 Gen. 14:18...A priest after Melchizedek...Heb. 6:20 Gen. 14:18........A King also........Heb. 7:2 Gen. 14:18...The Last Supper foreshadowed...Mt. 26:26-29 Gen. 17:19.......The Seed of Isaac.......Rom. 9:7 Gen. 22:8...The Lamb of God promised...Jn. 1:29 Gen. 22:18...As Isaac's seed, will bless all nations...Gal. 3:16 Gen.26:2-5..The Seed of Isaac promised as the Redeemer..Heb.11:18 Gen. 49:10...The time of His coming...Lu. 2:1-7; Gal. 4:4 Gen. 49:10.......The Seed of Judah.......Lu. 3:33 Gen. 49:10......Called Shiloh or One Sent......Jn. 17:3 Gen. 49:10...To come before Judah lost identity...Jn. 11:47-52 Gen. 49:10...To Him shall the obedience of the people be...Jn. 10:16 Ex. 3:13,14........The Great "I Am".......Jn. 4:26 Ex. 12:5...A Lamb without blemish...1 Pet. 1:19 Ex. 12:13...The blood of the Lamb saves from wrath...Rom. 5:8 Ex. 12:21-27...Christ is our Passover...1 Cor. 5;7 Ex. 12:46...Not a bone of the Lamb to be broken...Jn. 19:31-36 Ex. 15:2...His exaltation predicted as Yeshua...Acts 7:55,56 Ex. 15:11...His Character-Holiness...Luke 1:35; Acts 4:27 Ex. 17:6...The Spiritual Rock of Israel...1 Cor. 10;4 Ex. 33:19...His Character-Merciful...Lu. 1:72 Lev.14:11..The leper cleansed-Sign to priesthood..Lu.5:12-14; Acts 6:7 Lev.16:15-17...Prefigures Christ's once-for-all death...Heb. 9:7-14 Lev.16:27...Suffering outside the Camp...Mt. 27:33; Heb. 13:11, 12 Lev.17:11...The Blood-the life of the flesh...Mt. 26;28; Mk. 10:45 Lev.17:11...It is the blood that makes atonement...1 Jn. 3:14-18 Lev.23:36-37...The Drink-offering: "If any man thirst." ..Jn. 19:31-36 Num. 9:12...Not a bone of Him broken...John 19:31-36 Num. 21:9...The serpent on a pole-Christ lifted up...Jn. 3:14-18 Num. 24:17...Time: "I shall see him, but not now."...Gal. 4:4 Deut. 18:15..."This is of a truth that prophet."...Jn. 6:14 Deut. 18:15-16..."Had ye believed Moses, ye would believe me."...Jn. 5:45-47 Deut. 18:18...Sent by the Father to speak His word...Jn. 8:28, 29 Deut. 18:19...Whoever will not hear must bear his sin...Jn. 12:15, Deut. 21:23...Cursed is he that hangs on a tree...Gal. 3:10-13 Ruth 4:4-9...Christ, our kinsman, has redeemed us...Eph. 1:3-7 1 Sam. 2:10...Shall be an anointed King to the Lord...Mt. 28:18; Jn. 12:15 2 Sam. 7:12...David's Seed...Mt. 1:1 2 Sam. 7:14a...The Son of God... Lu. 1:32 2 Sam. 7:16...David's house established forever...Lu. 3:31; Rev. 22:16 2 Ki. 2:11...The bodily ascension to heaven illustrated...Lu. 24:51 1 Chr. 17:11...David's Seed...Mt. 1:1; 9:27 1 Chr. 17:12, 13a...To reign on David's throne forever...Lu. 1:32, 33 1 Chr. 17:13a..."I will be His Father, He...my Son."...Heb. 1:5 Job 19:23-27...The Resurrection predicted...Jn. 5:24-29 Psa. 2:1-3...The enmity of kings foreordained...Acts 4:25-28 Psa. 2:2...To own the title, Anointed (Christ)...Acts 2:36 Ps. 2:6...His Character-Holiness...Jn. 8:46; Rev. 3:7 Ps. 2:6...To own the title King...Mt. 2:2 Ps. 2:7...Declared the Beloved Son...Mt. 3;17 Psa. 2:7, 8...The Crucifixion and Resurrection intimated...Acts 13:29-33 Psa. 2:12...Life comes through faith in Him...Jn. 20:31 Psa. 8:2...The mouths of babes perfect His praise...Mt. 21:16 Psa. 8:5, 6...His humiliation and exaltation...Lu. 24:50-53; 1 Cor. 15:27 Psa. 16:10...Was not to see corruption...Acts 2:31 Psa. 16:9-11...Was to arise from the dead...Jn. 20:9 Psa. 17;15...The resurrection predicted...Lu. 24:6 Psa. 22:1...Forsaken because of sins of others...2 Cor. 5:21 Psa. 22:1...Words spoken from Calvary, "My God..." Mk. 15:34 Psa. 22:2...Darkness upon Calvary...Mt. 27:45 Psa. 22:7...They shoot out the lip and shake the head...Mt. 27:39 Psa. 22:8..”He trusted in God, let Him deliver Him"...Mt. 27:43 Psa. 22:9......Born the Savior......Lu. 2:7 Psa. 22:14...Died of a broken (ruptured) heart...Jn. 19:34 Psa. 22:14,15...Suffered agony on Calvary...Mk. 15:34-37 Psa. 22:15........He thirsted........Jn. 19:28 Psa. 22:16...They pierced His hands and His feet....Jn. 19:34,37;20:27 Psa. 22:17,18...Stripped Him before the stares of men...Lu. 23:34,35 Psa. 22:18.....They parted His garments.....Jn. 19:23,24 Psa. 22:20,21...He committed Himself to God...Lu.23:46 Psa. 22:20,21..Satanic power bruising the Redeemer's heel..Heb. 2:14 Psa. 22:22.....His Resurrection declared.....Jn. 20:17 Psa. 22:27...He shall be the governor of the nations...Col 1:16 Psa. 22:31.....“It is finished"......Jn. 19:30 Psa. 23:1....“I am the Good Shepherd"....Jn. 10:11 Psa. 24:3......His exaltation predicted......Acts 1:11; Phil. 2:9 Psa. 30:3......His resurrection predicted......Acts 2:32 Psa. 31:5...“Into thy hands I commit my spirit"...Lu. 23:46 Psa. 31:11...His acquaintances fled from Him...Mk. 14:50 Psa. 31:13...They took counsel to put Him to death...Jn. 11:53 Psa. 31:14,15..." He trusted in God, let Him deliver him"...Mt. 27:43 Psa. 34:20.....Not a bone of Him broken.....Jn 19:31-36 Psa. 35:11....False witnesses rose up against Him....Mt. 26:59 Psa. 35:19...He was hated without a cause...Jn. 15:25 Psa. 38:11.....His friends stood afar off.....Lu. 23:49 Psa. 40:2-5...The joy of His resurrection predicted...Jn. 20:20 Psa. 40:6-8....His delight-the will of the Father....Jn. 4:34 Psa. 40:9....He was to preach the Righteousness in Israel....Mt. 4:17 Psa. 40:14...Confronted by adversaries in the Garden...Jn. 18:4-6 Psa. 41:9.....Betrayed by a familiar friend.....Jn. 13:18 Psa. 45:2...Words of Grace come from His lips...Lu. 4:22 Psa. 45:6...To own the title, God or Elohim...Heb. 1:8 Psa. 45:7...A special anointing by the Holy Spirit...Mt.3:16; Heb.1:9 Psa. 45:7,8...Called the Christ (Messiah or Anointed)...Lu. 2:11 Psa. 55:12-14...Betrayed by a friend, not an enemy...Jn. 13:18 Psa. 55:15...Unrepentant death of the Betrayer...Mt. 27:3-5; Acts 1:16-19 Psa. 68:18...To give gifts to men...Eph. 4:7-16 Psa. 68:18...Ascended into Heaven...Lu. 24:51 Psa. 69:4...Hated without a cause...Jn. 15:25 Psa. 69:8...A stranger to own brethren...Lu. 8;20,21 Psa. 69:9...Zealous for the Lord's House...Jn. 2:17 Psa. 69:14-20...Messiah's anguish of soul before crucifixion...Mt. 26:36-45 Psa. 69:20...“My soul is exceeding sorrowful."...Mt. 26:38 Psa. 69:21...Given vinegar in thirst...Mt. 27:34 Psa. 69:26...The Savior given and smitten by God...Jn. 17:4; 18:11 Psa. 72:10,11...Great persons were to visit Him...Mt. 2:1-11 Psa. 72:16...The corn of wheat to fall into the Ground...Jn. 12:24 Psa. 72:17...His name, Yinon, will produce offspring...Jn. 1:12,13 Psa. 72:17...All nations shall be blessed by Him...Acts 2:11,12,41 Psa. 78:1.2...He would teach in parables...Mt. 13:34-35 Psa. 78:2b...To speak the Wisdom of God with authority...Mt. 7:29 Psa. 88:8...They stood afar off and watched...Lu. 23:49 Psa. 89:27...Emmanuel to be higher than earthly kings...Lu. 1:32,33 Psa. 89:35-37...David's Seed, throne, kingdom endure forever...Lu. 1:32,33 Psa. 89:36-37...His character-Faithfulness...Rev. 1:5 Psa. 90:2...He is from everlasting (Micah 5:2)...Jn. 1:1 Psa. 91:11,12...Identified as Messianic; used to tempt Christ...Lu. 4;10,11 Psa. 97:9...His exaltation predicted...Acts 1:11;Eph. 1:20 Psa. 100:5...His character-Goodness...Mt. 19:16,17 Psa. 102:1-11...The Suffering and Reproach of Calvary...Jn. 21:16-30 Psa. 102:25-27...Messiah is the Preexistent Son...Heb. 1:10-12 Psa. 109:25...Ridiculed...Mt. 27:39 Psa. 110:1...Son of David...Mt. 22:43 Psa. 110:1...To ascend to the right-hand of the Father...Mk.16:19 Psa. 110:1...David's son called Lord...Mt. 22:44,45 Psa. 110:4...A priest after Melchizedek's order...Heb. 6:20 Psa. 112:4...His character-Compassionate, Gracious, et al... Mt. 9;36 Psa. 118:17,18...Messiah's Resurrection assured...Lu. 24:5-7;1 Cor. 15:20 Psa. 118:22,23...The rejected stone is Head of the corner...Mt. 21:42,43 Psa. 118:26a...The Blessed One presented to Israel...Mt. 21:9 Psa. 118:26b...To come while Temple standing...Mt. 21;12-15 Psa. 132:11...The Seed of David(the fruit of His Body)...Lu. 1:32 Psa. 138:1-6...The supremacy of David's Seed amazes kings... Mt. 2:2-6 Psa. 147:3,6...The earthly ministry of Christ described...Lu. 4:18 Psa. 1:23...He will send the Spirit of God... Jn. 16;7 Song. 5;16...The altogether lovely One...Jn. 1:17 Isa. 6:1...When Isaiah saw His glory... Jn. 12:40-41 Isa. 6:9-10...Parables fall on deaf ears...Mt. 13:13-15 Isa. 6:9-12...Blinded to Christ and deaf to His words...Acts. 28:23-29 Isa. 7:14...To be born of a virgin...Lu. 1:35 Isa. 7:14...To be Emmanuel-God with us... Mt. 1:18-23 Isa. 8:8...Called Emmanuel...Mt. 28:20 Isa. 8:14...A stone of stumbling, a Rock of offense... 1 Pet. 2:8 Isa. 9:1,2...His ministry to begin in Galilee...Mt. 4:12-17 Isa. 9:6...A child born-Humanity...Lu. 1:31 Isa. 9:6...A Son given-Deity...Lu. 1:32; Jn. 1;14; 1 Tim. 3:16 Isa. 9:6...Declared to be the Son of God with power... Rom. 1:3,4 Isa. 9:6...The Wonderful One, Peleh...Lu. 4:22 Isa. 9:6...The Counsellor, Yaatz...Mt. 13:54 Isa. 9:6...The Mighty God, El Gibor...Mt. 11:20 Isa. 9:6...The Everlasting Father, Avi Adth...Jn. 8:58 Isa. 9:6...The Prince of Peace, Sar Shalom...Jn . 16:33 Isa. 9:7...To establish an everlasting kingdom...Lu. 1:32-33 Isa. 9:7...His Character-Just...Jn. 5:30 Isa. 9:7...No end to his Government, Throne, and Peace...Lu. 1:32-33 Isa. 11:1...Called a Nazarene-the Branch, Netzer...Mt. 2:23 Isa. 11:1...A rod out of Jesse-Son of Jesse...Lu. 3:23,32 Isa. 11:2...The anointed One by the Spirit...Mt. 3;16,17 Isa. 11:2...His Character-Wisdom, Understanding, et al....Jn. 4:4-26 Isa. 11:4...His Character-Truth...Jn. 14:6 Isa. 11:10...The Gentiles seek Him...Jn. 12:18-21 Isa. 12:2...Called Jesus-Yeshua...Mt. 1:21 Isa. 25:8...The Resurrection predicted...I Cor. 15:54 Isa. 26:19...His power of Resurrection predicted...Jn. 11:43,44 Isa. 28:16...The Messiah is the precious corner stone...Acts 4:11,12 Isa. 29:13...He indicated hypocritical obedience to His Word...Mt. 15:7-9 Isa. 29:14...The wise are confounded by the Word...I Cor. 1:18-31 Isa. 32:2...A Refuge-A man shall be a hiding place...Mt. 23:37 Isa. 35:4...He will come and save you...Mt. 1:21 Isa. 35:5...To have a ministry of miracles...Mt. 11:4-6 Isa. 40:3,4...Preceded by forerunner...Jn. 1:23 Isa. 40:9..."Behold your God."...Jn. 1:36;19:14 Isa. 40:11...A shepherd-compassionate life-giver...Jn. 10:10-18 Isa. 42:1-4...The Servant-as a faithful, patient redeemer... Mt.12:18-21 Isa. 42:2...Meek and lowly... Mt. 11:28-30 Isa. 42:3...He brings hope for the hopeless... Jn. 4 Isa. 42:4...The nations shall wait on His teachings... Jn. 12:20-26 Isa. 42:6...The Light (salvation) of the Gentiles...Lu. 2:32 Isa. 42:1,6...His is a Worldwide compassion... Mt. 28:19,20 Isa. 42:7...Blind eyes opened... Jn. 9:25-38 Isa. 43:11...He is the only Savior... Acts. 4:12 Isa. 44:3...He will send the Spirit of God... Jn. 16:7,13 Isa. 45:23...He will be the Judge... Jn. 5:22;Rom. 14:11 Isa. 48:12...The First and the Last...Jn. 1:30;Rev. 1:8,17 Isa. 48:17...He came as a Teacher...Jn. 3:2 Isa. 49:1...Called from the womb-His humanity...Mt. 1:18 Isa. 49:5...A Servant from the womb...Lu. 1:31;Phil. 2:7 Isa. 49:6...He is Salvation for Israel...Lu. 2:29-32 Isa. 49:6...He is the Light of the Gentiles...Acts 13:47 Isa. 49:6...He is Salvation unto the ends of the earth... Acts 15:7-18 Isa. 49:7...He is despised of the Nation... Jn. 8:48-49 Isa. 50:3...Heaven is clothed in black at His humiliation... Lu. 23:44,45 Isa. 50:4...He is a learned counsellor for the weary... Mt. 11:28,29 Isa. 50:5...The Servant bound willingly to obedience... Mt. 26:39 Isa. 50:6a..."I gave my back to the smiters."... Mt. 27:26 Isa. 50:6b...He was smitten on the cheeks... Mt. 26:67 Isa. 50:6c...He was spat upon... Mt. 27:30 Isa. 52:7...To publish good tidings of peace... Lu. 4:14,15 Isa. 52:13...The Servant exalted...Acts 1:8-11; Eph. 1:19-22 Isa. 52:13...Behold, My Servant... Mt. 17:5; Phil. 2:5-8 Isa. 52:14...The Servant shockingly abused... Lu. 18:31-34; Mt. 26:67,68 Isa. 52:15...Nations startled by message of the Servant... Rom. 15:18-21 Isa. 52:15...His blood shed to make atonement for all... Rev. 1:5 Isa. 53:1...His people would not believe Him... Jn. 12:37-38 Isa. 53:2a...He would grow up in a poor family.... Lu. 2:7 Isa. 53:2b...Appearance of an ordinary man... Phil. 2:7-8 Isa. 53:3a...Despised.... Lu. 4:28-29 Isa. 53:3b...Rejected... Mt. 27:21-23 Isa. 53:3c...Great sorrow and grief... Lu. 19:41-42 Isa. 53:3d...Men hide from being associated with Him... Mk. 14:50-52 Isa. 53:4a...He would have a healing ministry... Lu. 6:17-19 Isa. 53:4b...He would bear the sins of the world... 1 Pet. 2:24 Isa. 53:4c...Thought to be cursed by God... Mt. 27:41-43 Isa. 53:5a...Bears penalty for mankind's transgressions... Lu. 23:33 Isa. 53:5b...His sacrifice would provide peace between man and God... Col. 1:20 Isa. 53:5c...His back would be whipped... Mt. 27:26 Isa. 53:6a...He would be the sin-bearer for all mankind...Gal. 1:4 Isa. 53:6b...God's will that He bear sin for all mankind... 1 Jn. 4:10 Isa. 53:7a...Oppressed and afflicted... Mt. 27:27-31 Isa. 53:7b...Silent before his accusers... Mt. 27:12-14 Isa. 53:7c...Sacrificial lamb... Jn. 1:29 Isa. 53:8a...Confined and persecuted... Mt. 26:47-27:31 Isa. 53:8b...He would be judged... Jn. 18:13-22 Isa. 53:8c...Killed.... Mt. 27:35 Isa. 53:8d...Dies for the sins of the world... 1 Jn. 2:2 Isa. 53:9a...Buried in a rich man's grave... Mt. 27:57 Isa. 53:9b...Innocent and had done no violence... Mk. 15:3 Isa. 53:9c...No deceit in his mouth... Jn. 18:38 Isa. 53:10a...God's will that He die for mankind... Jn. 18:11 Isa. 53:10b...An offering for sin... Mt. 20:28 Isa. 53:10c...Resurrected and live forever.... Mk. 16:16 Isa. 53:10d...He would prosper... Jn. 17:1-5 Isa. 53:11a...God fully satisfied with His suffering... Jn. 12:27 Isa. 53:11b...God's servant... Rom. 5:18-19 Isa. 53:11c...He would justify man before God... Rom. 5:8-9 Isa. 53:11d...The sin-bearer for all mankind... Heb. 9:28 Isa. 53:12a...Exalted by God because of his sacrifice... Mt. 28:18 Isa. 53:12b...He would give up his life to save mankind... Lu. 23:46 Isa. 53:12c...Grouped with criminals... Lu. 23:32 Isa. 53:12d...Sin-bearer for all mankind... 2 Cor. 5:21 Isa. 53:12e...Intercede to God in behalf of mankind... Lu. 23:34 Isa. 55:3...Resurrected by God... Acts 13:34 Isa. 55:4...A witness... Jn. 18:37 Isa. 59:15-16a...He would come to provide salvation... Jn. 6:40 Isa. 59:15-16b...Intercessor between man and God... Mt. 10:32 Isa. 59:20...He would come to Zion as their Redeemer... Lu. 2:38 Isa. 61:1-2a...The Spirit of God upon him... Mt. 3:16-17 Isa. 61:1-2b...The Messiah would preach the good news... Lu. 4:17-21 Isa. 61:1-2c...Provide freedom from the bondage of sin and death... Jn. 8:31-32 Isa. 61:1-2...Proclaim a period of grace... Jn. 5:24 Jer.23:5-6a...Descendant of David...Lu. 3:23-31 Jer. 23:5-6b...The Messiah would be God... Jn. 13:13 Jer. 23:5-6c...The Messiah would be both God and Man... 1 Tim. 3:16 Jer. 31:22...Born of a virgin... Mt. 1:18-20 Jer. 31:31...The Messiah would be the new covenant... Mt. 26:28 Jer. 33:14-15...Descendant of David... Lu. 3:23-31 Eze.17:22-24...Descendant of David... Lk. 3:23-31 Eze.34:23-24...Descendant of David... Mt. 1:1 Dan. 7:13-14a...He would ascend into heaven... Acts 1:9-11 Dan. 7:13-14b...Highly exalted... Eph. 1:20-22 Dan. 7:13-14c...His dominion would be everlasting... Lu. 1:31-33 Dan. 9:24a...To make an end to sins... Gal. 1:3-5 Dan. 9:24b...He would be holy... Lu. 1:35 Dan. 9:25...Announced to his people 483 years, to the exact day, after the decree to rebuild the city of Jerusalem... Jn. 12:12-13 Dan. 9:26a...Killed... Mt. 27:35 Dan. 9:26b...Die for the sins of the world... Heb. 2:9 Dan. 9:26c...Killed before the destruction of the temple... Mt. 27:50-51 Dan. 10:5-6...Messiah in a glorified state... Rev. 1:13-16 Hos. 13:14...He would defeat death... 1 Cor. 15:55-57 Joel 2:32...Offer salvation to all mankind... Rom. 10:12-13 Mic. 5:2a...Born in Bethlehem... Mt. 2:1-2 Mic. 5:2b...God's servant... Jn. 15:10 Mic. 5:2c...From everlasting... Jn. 8:58 Hag. 2:6-9...He would visit the second Temple... Lu. 2:27-32 Hag. 2:23...Descendant of Zerubbabel... Lu. 3:23-27 Zech. 3:8...God's servant... Jn. 17:4 Zech. 6:12-13...Priest and King... Heb. 8:1 Zech. 9:9a...Greeted with rejoicing in Jerusalem... Mt. 21:8-10 Zech. 9:9b...Beheld as King... Jn. 12:12-13 Zech. 9:9c...The Messiah would be just... Jn. 5:30 Zech. 9:9d...The Messiah would bring salvation... Luke 19:10 Zech. 9:9e...The Messiah would be humble... Mt. 11:29 Zech. 9:9f...Presented to Jerusalem riding on a donkey... Mt. 21:6-9 Zech. 10:4...The cornerstone... Eph. 2:20 Zech. 11:4-6a...At His coming, Israel to have unfit leaders... Mt. 23:1-4 Zech. 11:4-6b...Rejection causes God to remove His protection.. Lu. 19:41-44 Zech. 11:4-6c...Rejected in favor of another king... Jn. 19:13-15 Zech. 11:7...Ministry to "poor," the believing remnant... Mt. 9:35-36 Zech. 11:8a...Unbelief forces Messiah to reject them... Mt. 23:33 Zech. 11:8b...Despised... Mt. 27:20 Zech. 11:9...Stops ministering to the those who rejected Him... Mt. 13:10-11 Zech. 11:10-11a...Rejection causes God to remove protection... Lu. 19:41-44 Zech. 11:10-11b...The Messiah would be God... Jn. 14:7 Zech. 11:12-13a...Betrayed for thirty pieces of silver... Mt. 26:14-15 Zech. 11:12-13b...Rejected... Mt. 26:14-15 Zech. 11:12-13c...Thirty pieces of silver thrown into the house of the Lord... Mt. 27:3-5 Zech. 11:12-13d...The Messiah would be God... Jn. 12:45 Zech. 12:10a...The Messiah's body would be pierced... Jn. 19:34-37 Zech. 12:10b...The Messiah would be both God and man... Jn. 10:30 Zech. 12:10c...The Messiah would be rejected... Jn. 1:11 Zech. 13:7a...God's will He die for mankind... Jn. 18:11 Zech. 13:7b...A violent death... Mt. 27:35 Zech. 13:7c...Both God and man.. Jn. 14:9 Zech. 13:7d...Israel scattered as a result of rejecting Him... Mt. 26:31-56 Mal. 3:1a...Messenger to prepare the way for Messiah... Mt. 11:10 Mal. 3:1b...Sudden appearance at the temple... Mk. 11:15-16 Mal. 3:1c...Messenger of the new covenant... Lu. 4:43 Mal. 4:5...Forerunner in the spirit of Elijah... Mt. 3:1-2 Mal. 4:6...Forerunner would turn many to righteousness... Lu. 1:16-17
Did you catch all of them?!

Jesus Is Coming

The first meaning of Advent was the first coming of the Messiah. We look back at it. Christ has come.

The second meaning of Advent is the second coming. Jesus promised to return. He said

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:1-3)

We wait for His return, His second coming. He said He would return soon, which doesn’t fit our definition of soon, but compared to eternity what’s 2000 years?

Jesus Is Here…Now!

Perhaps the most important meaning of Advent is His desire to come into our lives now. Today. Make no mistake, God is here now. When Jesus left the planet physically He sent the Holy Spirit to live in every believer. The transformation many of us have experienced is evidence God has not left us to fend for ourselves here on earth. Miracles occur. Bodies are healed. Hope is found. Broken relationships are mended. Finances are restored. The disturbed find peace. All because of God with us.

We are in the middle of history, looking back at Jesus’ first visit to our planet—a day we call Christmas, when Christ entered our world—and looking forward to His return, His second coming. While we cry “Maranatha! Come quickly LORD Jesus,” we also seek to be fully present with one another and with our God who is both here and there, on earth and in heaven. In fact Jesus taught us to pray

your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)

We long for those moments when heaven kisses earth, where God’s presence and power are visible and unleashed. When love conquers indifference and hatred, when peace overcomes violence, when life trumps death, when good wins over evil, when beauty defeats the mundane.

As we live in the in-between—this period between the first and second comings of Jesus—we find hope not in the created but the Creator, not in presents under the tree on Friday but in God’s presence with us every day.

God is with us…and that changes everything.

It means we’re never alone. He’s with us, especially when we’re afraid or suffering.

It means we have power. All authority in heaven and earth has been given to us as we make disciples, reproducing the life of Jesus to live abundant, fulfilled, exciting lives.

It means we can experience heaven, moments of supernatural wonder, miracles.

It means we have access to an unending supply of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control—the fruit of the Spirit, the same Holy Spirit that filled Jesus.

It also means we can die to ourselves and invite Jesus into our lives to become not only Savior but LORD. It means we give up control and “let Jesus take the wheel.” It means surrendering to our need to be God and submitting our lives to Him, truly seeking His kingdom and His will here and now.

We have an ancient and sacred practice called baptism in which a person is ceremonially dunked in water—symbolic of a water grave where their old self dies. That sounds harsh, but then they are lifted out of the water signifying resurrection and new life in Jesus Christ. You can’t renovate these temples. You must destroy them first and start from the ground up. You can’t have a resurrection without a death.

So What?

Jesus came. Jesus is coming. Jesus is here. Do you know Him? Does He live in you?

Jesus is the greatest gift you could ever receive. He’s the reason for the season. Do you know Him? He’s here.


c

When You are Suffering or Afraid, 13 December 2015

When You Are Suffering Or Afraid
Series: Be Here Now
Psalm 139, 23, 56:3-4

Series Overview:
Christmas is the celebration of “presence.”

Big Idea: God is with us…always…especially when we are suffering or afraid.

Introduction

This morning we continue our Advent series, “Be Here Now,” a series on presence.

Perhaps the holidays for you are the most isolated time of year. You feel like the guy in the video, surrounded by people, yet empty inside, alone, and seemingly invisible to everyone.

The first two weeks dealt with us being fully present with others and God. The next two weeks will address God’s presence with us. You are not invisible. You are not alone. Today we’ll briefly look at God’s presence when we are suffering and when we’re afraid. I have a few things to say, but mostly today I want to let the words of David from the Psalms refresh you.

This past week I was invited to the offices of Proclaim FM 102.3 and their sign said, “Christmas is about three words: God with us.” That is the meaning of “Emmanuel.” God is with us. He is present. He is here…now.

Do you know God is here? Perhaps you feel His presence right now. Maybe you don’t. It’s possible you’ve never felt God with you.

But He is. Whether you feel it or not.

Feelings are real. They are powerful. They cannot always be trusted. That’s why we need the Bible to guide us into truth.

One of my favorite psalms, Psalm 139, beautifully describes God’s presence—even seeing us in the womb!

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts,
God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139)

God is here. How do I know? “The Bible tells me so.” Is that enough? Sometimes.

Often I find a conflict between my thoughts and feelings, between what I know in my head to be true and what I sense in my heart.

I often think of God like
radio waves. Whether you know it or not, this room is filled with radio waves. They are invisible, but real. You simply need to dial in to experience them. A television will be able to tune in television channels, a radio radio frequencies, and a laptop WiFi signals. You can deny their existence…or listen in. God is here whether you deny or embrace it, whether you feel it or not. Is your antenna up?

Sometimes God seems very distant. I’ve had many
“dark nights of the soul” where I cried out, wondering where I could find God. Perhaps you’ve had them. Perhaps you’re going through such a season right now. I promise you God is real and He loves you and He is with you. I don’t understand why He sometimes seems to play hard to get, but He promised to never leave us or forsake us, to be with us always to the very end of the age. Don’t give up. Tell a friend your struggles. Fill your mind with the truth of God’s Word. Beg Him to reveal Himself. Be assured He is worth the pursuit.

When have you felt God closest to you?

On September 21, 2006 a friend of mine sent me this e-mail while our daughter was in horrific pain in the hospital:
 
It is hard to figure out where God is when we are sitting in the ash heap in suffering, but I really sense that God is sitting in the ash heap with you.  Along those lines, I encourage you to spend time in the place of mourning (even as you work on solutions to the problem) and I think that you will meet God there. 

His words were truly prophetic. The next day, September 22, I found myself at one of the worst moments of my life, despondent over our suffering child who could get no relief from horrendous pain. I opened my Bible to Psalm 22—since it was September 22—and read these words

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1a)

I instantly bawled like a baby, something highly unusual for me. The paradox was how close I felt to God at the moment. In fact, I’ve probably never felt close to the Father than when I read those words. I did not feel forsaken by God. Instead, my mind raced to the words of Jesus on the cross we looked at last week…

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). (Matthew 27:45-46)

As I watched my child suffer excruciating pain, I was transported to Calvary and the pain the Father must’ve felt watching His child suffer excruciating pain.

Where is God when you’re suffering? With you. He understands.

Psalm 34:18 says

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

There are many wonderful attributes of God. One is His presence. He is not only omnipresent—everywhere at once—He is especially close to the hurting, the suffering. Jesus knows pain and refused to watch us from a distance. The celebration of Emmanuel is God came near, God entered our world, God experienced pain, God understands.

For the longest time I couldn’t turn to Psalm 22 without getting emotional. Those nine words pierced my heart, reminding me of that place of mourning and agony and yet joyfully reminding me of God’s presence.

It was months later when I realized what follows the suffering of Psalm 22…Psalm 23. Perhaps you’ve heard it!

A psalm of David.

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever. (Psalm 23)


Because David was able to fear God and not evil—he found God more awesome than his temptations or fears—he was not afraid. The presence of God brought him comfort.

Every day we are tempted to be afraid as we read the news, talk with friends…look in the mirror! As we said several weeks ago, “Fear Not. Fear God.”

Where is God when you’re afraid? With you. So we need not be afraid.

A few chapters later in Psalms we read these words of David

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me? (Psalm 56:3-4)

It’s great to know God is powerful, but it is His presence which is truly comforting. Whether you feel it or not, God is with us. Always. Everywhere. He’s with us in the midst of suffering. He’s with us when we’re afraid.

The irony of Advent is during this season of waiting for Jesus, He is with us. He is here. At this time of year we look back at history, we look forward to the return of Jesus, but we must also be fully present in the moment, welcoming Jesus into our current reality.

He wants to do life with us. Today. We are never alone. As we celebrate Emmanuel, invite Jesus into your life, your home, your school, your place of work, your recreation, and your commute. He not only wants to be your friend, He is the Almighty God of angel armies who is always by your side.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here. You can subscribe to the free FAC Focus e-newsletter here.

When Friends Let You Down, 6 December 2015

When Friends Let You Down
Series: Be Here Now
1 Samuel 30:6

Series Overview:
Christmas is the celebration of “presence.”

Big Idea: We must be present with and find our strength in God, even when friends desert us.

Introduction

This morning we are continuing our Advent series, Be Here Now, messages about presence—not presents you buy and wrap but presence—being fully present. Last week we noted The Golden Rule, Jesus’ timeless command to

Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31)

We’ve all been annoyed by people who are present physically with us but are in another place mentally and emotionally. Whether they are distracted by texts on their phone, yawning binges and fatigue, daydreaming, or multitasking, it’s frustrating and downright offensive to be ignored.

It’s one thing to struggle for attention during a lunch conversation but quite another to be ignored or even abandoned in a relationship.

Have you ever been deserted by a friend? Have you invested in a friendship only to watch it die? What do you do when you’re willing to be fully present with someone and they no longer show up?

David

One of the great things about the Bible is its authenticity. You can’t make this stuff up! Today we’re going to look at three biblical characters, one from the Old and the other two from the New Testament. The first involves David. King David is one of the most important figures not only in the Bible but in human history. He became the second king of Israel following Saul, famous for a battle won against a giant named Goliath, and—like all of us—an imperfect sinner.

The book of 1 Samuel chapter 30 describes one of David’s worst moments as a warrior…prior to assuming the throne.

David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, and had taken captive the women and everyone else in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way. (1 Samuel 30:1-2)

This is not a good day!

When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. David’s two wives had been captured—Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. (1 Samuel 30:3-5)

Imagine how David is feeling. His two wives—we don’t have time today to discuss polygamy!—have been captured. Defeat is visible everywhere. He’s desperate.

Pause!

Shawn Achor, Harvard researcher and author of
How Happiness Fuels Your Success, says, “The social connection is the greatest predictor of long-term happiness by far…social connection is not only the greatest predictor of happiness, social connection is as predictive of how long you will end up living as obesity, high blood pressure, or smoking.”

Connection to friends is the key indicator of happiness and a huge factor in how long you will live!

What are the implications of that when we lose friends? Huge!

I know what it’s like to lose friends.

One of my very best friends drifted away, failing to return phone calls and showing no interest in me and our relationship.

A few years ago after gently confronting another friend about his offensive behavior a similar situation occurred. Not only did he no longer reach out to me, he said things to other friends who stopped inviting us to social gatherings.

There are other examples, but none come close to the intensity of David’s loss.

Back to David!

David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. (1 Samuel 30:6a)

It’s one thing to lose a friend. It’s another thing entirely to have friends that want to see you lose your life! What would you do…after you ran from these angry men?!

But David found strength in the LORD his God. (1 Samuel 30:6b)

This is an example of a good “but.” It’s worth noting the word “LORD” is capitalized. This is the Hebrew word that is essentially spelled YHWH. We don’t know how to pronounce it because Hebrew has no vowels and because it is the holy name of God, the name spoken to Moses at the Burning Bush. To this day Jews will not utter the word because they don’t want to dishonor it in any way. The word “Adonoi” is a more common word for “lord” often used instead. “In English, the Tetragrammaton—another term for YHWH— is in all-caps LORD to distinguish it from Adonai.

I once asked my Messianic Jewish rabbi friend about the pronunciation of YHWH. It is my understanding that Jehovah is grossly incorrect. When I asked Allen if it is Yahweh, he said, “That’s very close!” refusing to speak the word himself.

But David found strength in the LORD his God. (1 Samuel 30:6b)

This holy word for God describes Him as “I Am,” as the one who exists and/or causes existence. When abandoned by friends, David found strength in Am, in the LORD God.

One of the great things about God is He never changes. Hebrews tells us

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

Paul

Paul, once known as Saul, wrote much of the New Testament. In his second letter to his disciple Timothy, he writes,

Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message. (2 Timothy 4:14-15)

Notice Paul not only acknowledges the painful loss of a friend, he offers a warning to Timothy. Alexander is not a safe person. Boundaries are necessary.

We are to love all—look out for their best interests—but that does not mean we are to be best friends with everyone. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if Alexander was the only lost friend, but Paul continues…


At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. (2 Timothy 4:16)

Not only does Paul not complain, he speaks on behalf of those who deserted him, and then he offers a “but” similar to David.

But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:17-18)

Paul turns to God for strength, then seeks the glory of God in all things. Every story in the Bible is ultimately about God’s glory.

Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. (Isaiah 26:8)

He leveraged the good and bad for the glory of God.

Jesus

Our third biblical character was denied three times by one of His three best friends, Peter. He was betrayed by one of His twelve closest friends, Judas. I’m speaking of Jesus. As painful as those experienced must have been, nothing can compare to the anguish of being forsaken by the Father as He hung on the cross.

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). (Matthew 27:45-46)

When David and Paul were deserted, they turned to God.

When Jesus was deserted, He had nowhere to turn.

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. (John 17:1)


Jesus died for the glory of God. Did you catch that? He died for us, but even more He died for the glory of God.

In Jesus’ hour of greatest need, He turned to the Father. Where do you turn when you feel alone, abandoned, betrayed?

So What?

It’s impossible to be fully present with someone who’s not even there! The wounds of a friend run deep, and many common psychological problems stem from abandonment issues, often parents, but also friends. It takes years to build trust but only seconds to destroy it.

This season is “the most wonderful time of year” for some, yet it’s the most depressing time of year for others. Loneliness can be deadly—literally. If you feel alone, I have great news for you!

First, whether you know or accept it, you are a part of a family—the First Alliance family. You belong here!

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, our worship gathering is not the ideal environment for developing relationships, but we have Sunday School classes at 9 AM and Growth Groups that meet tonight and throughout the week, both smaller gatherings of people who not only study the Bible and pray but do life together. I urge you to get connected in a small group.

Second, Jesus understands. He was not only abandoned by friends, He was abandoned for a time by God the Father as our sins upon Christ were unbearable. He experience the ultimate pain, grief and loss.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

Third and finally, God is with you…always. We’ll discuss this further the next two weeks. One of the names of Jesus, Emmanuel, means “God with us.” Although Jesus is not physically with us at the moment, He left the Holy Spirit for all who believe in Him to experience. The Holy Spirit lives inside every follower of Jesus!

Conclusion

Relationships are risky. Friends can turn on you. Bonds can be broken. Such pain can make us bitter—or it can make us better as we run to Jesus, our big Brother who knows suffering and abandonment better than any of us could imagine.

This Advent season and every day of the year let’s be fully present for one another—inward. Let’s we reach out to the lonely and needy—outward. And let’s reach upward to Emmanuel, God with us.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here. You can subscribe to the free FAC Focus e-newsletter here.

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