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We are in the Advent season. For those of you who didn’t grow up in church or for those who grew up in churches that didn’t observe the Advent season, I want to help you understand the importance of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. The word Advent comes from the Latin word, “adventus,” which means “coming or arrival.” The Latin Translation of the Bible in the fourth century, the Latin Vulgate, used the word “adventus” to describe the coming of the Son of God, both His coming as a baby born in a manger as well as His second coming. During this month we celebrate the coming of the Savior into our world and we are waiting for His arrival, His Second Coming. We are celebrating and yet we are waiting. This morning I want us to turn to a familiar section of God’s Word. If you will turn with me to Isaiah 9:1-7. Let’s read together. Read more
The Sunday before Thanksgiving I always take a break from whatever we are studying so we can focus on some Scripture that will help stir thoughts of gratitude and thankfulness for who God is and what He has done in our lives. Focusing on gratitude is very important for me because I recognize that there is so much going on in so many of our lives that would seek to pull us down and cause us to lose sight of the gratitude that we all should have regardless of our circumstances or situation at this time. Read more
It has been such a fun week! All week long we’ve had lots of kids, about 140 kids, with us for Vacation Bible School. I’m absolutely amazed at Linda Birsner and her team of leaders. We had lots of helpers, men and women, tons of teenagers, and all of them were used by God to plant seeds in the hearts of our kids that I believe will continue to be watered and nurtured by their families as well as by all of us, their church family. Read more
Mother’s Day, according to Hallmark and the other greeting card companies, is a warm fuzzy kind of day filled with Disney-like moments, but the reality of Mother’s Day can’t be captured by a Hallmark card. The reality of Mother’s Day is this: Mother’s Day, like life, is complicated. First of all, there are mothers with us this morning who are experiencing a Hallmark kind of moment this Mother’s Day. Cherish it. Relish it. Drink in it in like a cool drink of water on a hot summer’s day. There are others among us for whom today is not such a festive occasion. There are mothers with us this morning who have lost a child. I don’t need to try and describe what they are feeling. There are also those among us who no longer have a mom present to honor and Mother’s Day can be very lonely and painful, a reminder of what we once had, but no longer can enjoy. Or, some whose mothers are no longer with us suffer the grief of knowing they failed to honor her while she was alive and now the opportunity is gone. There are also mothers who are with us, but who are not with their children because something has happened to break the relationship they once had with their son or daughter and today is a painful reminder of what once was. There are also people with us whose mom was never the storybook description of what a mom should be and this day is lonely, filled with sorrow, and for some, a deep, deep bitterness because they never got to experience what their friends did while they growing up. Mother’s Day is complicated. Read more
I hope you won’t mind me taking you back to Israel for one more week before we turn our attention back to our study of the Gospel of John. There are just so many sites I wish you could see and so much of God’s Word I wish we could read together while actually sitting in the very place where it took place. I can remember the first time I went to Tel Dan. I have to be honest with you and tell you that I really had no idea of the significance of the site or the important lesson for you and me that is found in the life of Jeroboam.
I want to take you to the site of the Northern tribe of Dan and the time of the divided Kingdom of Israel. Dan is located about 100 miles north of Jerusalem and it is the place of one of the saddest stories you will read about in God’s Word. Let me set the stage for you. It is a sad story, but a great lesson for you and for me. Read more
What a blessing it has been to spend the last four weeks taking a look at Isaiah 9. I hope you have been blessed and that all of us have come to better understand the One who was born as a Child, given as a Son, and is called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.” Isaiah delivered the promise of the coming One to those who were distressed, suffering anxiety about their enemies who were plotting and planning their demise, and who would face even more difficult days in the future. The atmosphere was thick with tension and fear and yet the prophet of God stood up and spoke, “Thus saith the Lord…” Listen once again to his comforting words of reassurance that God has not, nor will He ever, forget and abandon His people. Isaiah writes,
1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan– 2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. 3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder. 4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. 5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:1-7 NIV)
There are few things as constant as change. Have you thought about it? Take just a moment and think about what has changed since last Christmas in your life. Some of us are working different jobs than we were working at this time last year and some of us are out of a job this Christmas. For some of us, we have had a child leave home that was living with us last Christmas. I have friends who were married last Christmas, but who are now divorced. I have other friends who were not married at this time last year, but now they are married. There are couples who have welcomed children into their homes during the past twelve months. I know of other people who have attended a funeral for one of their kids since last Christmas. There are folks among us who will struggle through this Christmas celebration as loved ones are now absent who were such a strong and comforting presence last Christmas.
For those of you who are thinking about how your life has changed during the past year and you really can’t come up with any big changes–give thanks. If you are still employed—give thanks. If you are still married—give thanks. If you haven’t attended the funeral of loved ones—give thanks. If you are still experiencing good health—give thanks. If life is good right now then enjoy the moment for it will not last forever. Read more
There is a heaviness hanging like a cloud over many hearts this Christmas Season. The sounds of Christmas joy are muffled by the kettle drum beats of fear, loneliness, and uncertainty. Hearts that were once full of joy, excitement, and expectation are hollow and the emptiness wrings out the soul. Many are the scenarios that could be shared this morning, but those who are experiencing the emotions that I am describing don’t need a scenario, they are living the story of heaviness as we speak. Read more
Isaiah was a prolific prophet in perilous times. He wrote 66 chapters that are filled with judgment, justice, love, and redemption. Throughout all 66 chapters, through the hard times as well as the seasons of peace and prosperity, there is a thread of hope. Some of the most vivid and awe-inspiring words of hope that have ever been produced are found in the pages of Isaiah. His brilliant and encouraging words are set against a backdrop of politically and spiritually unsettling and disastrous times. God moved upon Isaiah’s heart and he was able to write about God’s promises because he had his mind and heart fixed upon the sovereignty of Almighty God rather than the situations that the nation and the people found themselves enduring. You and I will benefit tremendously over the next four weeks if we will study this passage of Isaiah through and through, but for today we will fix our gaze upon one title that Isaiah gave to Jesus, our Messiah–He is the Wonderful Counselor. Read more