Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Miracle of Christmas – The Manger

Peninsula Community Church

The Miracle of Christmas – the Manger!

December 26, 2011

 John 1:1-4, 14 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 an thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 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.

The birth and life of Jesus came with some amazing claims and promises. What does Jesus claim to be? Let me list just a couple of these for you.

  • One of the first things He and scripture claim is that He is the Son of God. On two occasions God Himself proclaimed that Jesus was the Son of God.
    • The first occasion was at his baptism in Matthew 3:77 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
    • The second occasion was at his transfiguration in Matthew 17:5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
  • Secondly he claims to be the Savior of the world. In John 3:16 John proclaimed that God so loved the world that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but will have eternal life.
  • Thirdly, He is the only way to heaven. I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me. John 14.
  • Fourthly, He has the authority to forgive sins – Matthew 9:6; Mark 2:10; Luke 5:24.
  • Fifth, He is the only path to eternal life – John 3:15

What do you do with these claims? There are some who would ignore them. There are others who are respectful to Jesus but don’t take His astonishing claims that serious. The religion of Islam teaches that Jesus was a prophet and teacher. The Hindu believes that Jesus is just one of many ways of finding God. Many people admire Jesus from a distance, but when it comes right down to it, He’s just a nice man who has some nice stories written about.

It interesting that these claims have been made by someone who:

  • Never led an army
  • Never wrote a book
  • Never ran a corporate enterprise
  • Never held political office

For some people these are extravagant claims. The reason this seems so is that for many today the problem is that we have been desensitized to believing and trusting anyone’s claims. We have all been given promises and had claims made about certain products and people only to find these products are less than their marketing make them out to be.

  • Scientifically – The earth is flat, the sun rotated around the earth and if one had an infection they would bleed them out.
  • Medically – Don’t drink coffee, eat butter not margarine; eat butter not margarine.
  • Politically – Don’t worry social security is safe, your taxes will never go up, I promise to keep you mind when I vote in Congress.
  • Relationally – I promise to love you.
  • Commercially – This car was driven by a little old lady from Pasadena.

You get the idea, promises made only to be broken. The problem is that we have become suspect of anyone that makes claims that seem impossible.

But what if His claims are true? What does that mean for us? How would we be changed if we truly believed?

You see that what we decide about Jesus has both eternal and earthly implications. What we decide will determine our eternal destiny and our earthly direction.
 

C.S. Lewis explained that Jesus did not leave us the option of just respecting Him as a good, noble teacher. His claims leave no room for that position, even though it is very popular. We really only have three options concerning what to make of these claims. He is who He claims to be, the Lord of All. Or, He made these claims knowing that they were false and therefore He is a liar. Or third, He made these claims because He believed them to be true but in reality they were not, which makes Him deceived or a lunatic.

But we know his claims are true and what he said can be trusted.
 

The question here today is what if his claims were true. What would that mean for us? It would mean that we can trust his words and believe that all he has said and done is true and that he has us in mind in all that he does.

  • It means that we can trust him with our lives.
  • It means we can trust him with our family.
  • It means that if we trust Him with our lives that we have the promise of eternal life in heaven with him.

Do you believe?
One of the Christmas classic movies is “Miracle on 34th Street.” An old man claims to be Santa Claus but no one believes in him. They end up going to court to prove that he exists and they present the court with bag after bag of letters addressed to Santa Clause. It is at this moment that everyone begins to believe that he is indeed the one he claims to be.

It is not enough just to believe but you must step out in faith to receive and live out all that he has given and promised. In believing in Him, He will wipe away the pain of the past and remove the burden of guilt and regret. He alone can give us a reason for living and can fill us with the fullness of His love, His life and His grace.

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The Christmas Miracle – The Method

The Miracle of Christmas – the Method!

December 18, 2011

 Romans 11:33-36  Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Two weeks ago we looked at “The Miracle of Christmas, the Moment” and realized that God sent His son to earth at just the right moment. What we discovered is that in our lives God shows up at just the right moment and sometimes when we least expect it.

Last week we looked at “The Miracle of Christmas, the Message” and we discovered that God does indeed want to speak to us but that too often we have closed our ears and have failed to listen when He speaks.

This week we will look at the “The Miracle of Christmas, The Method.” We will discover that God works in amazing ways and that we will never understand or comprehend why He does what He does and why He uses who He uses the way He does.

To understand this let us look at a couple of things this morning:

The first of these is the fact that God’s methods transcend us and are so often beyond our ability to understand or comprehend. The prophet Isaiah sheds some light on this when he states “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV).

Imagine with me for a moment that you are God. What would you have done differently in terms of the Virgin Birth? How would you have announced His birth? Would you notify the local papers and run an ad? Would you have chosen someone else other than Mary and Joseph? After all, they had no position or rank and they certainly did not have the social standing that warranted giving birth to the Savior. Would you have made Jesus more like William Wallace from Brave Heart or Maximus from Gladiator? My guess is that if we were God that we would have done things much different.

As we look at many of the Bible stories we see that God’s methods of doing things always seem to be beyond us and beyond our comprehension and understanding. Think about it for a moment:

  • Gideon’s army was whittled down from 32,000 to 300 and then they were to use a few trumpets, empty jars and torches to cause confusion to come upon the enemy.
  • For Moses God used a rod.
  • David used a sling and a stone to kill the giant.

In the Christmas story we see God uses a young woman with no significant social status or major riches to be the mother of Jesus, the King.

The second idea here is that God’s sovereignty means that God can do what He wants to when He wants to, to whom He wants to but God also has chosen to include us. The idea here is that God often uses ordinary Individuals to achieve extraordinary things.

Paul understood this when he wrote, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;  God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:25-29 ESV) .

The fact is that throughout history God has used ordinary individuals to achieve extraordinary things. Think about this for a moment, God does not need us but He chooses to use us to accomplish His will.  Let’s look at a few of those who God used in the Old Testament.

  • God chose Abraham and Sarah to give birth even though they were far beyond their child bearing years and even though Sarah doubted that God could make this happen.
  • God chose Moses who stuttered and was not a very good speaker. He also felt rejected because he was downgraded from living in a palace to herding sheep in the desert.
  • God used Joseph who was a “snot nosed” kid who had a chip on his shoulders.
  • God chose David who was the smallest and youngest of his brothers.
  • God used Gideon who had to be brought out of the winepress because he was so afraid.
  • God used the jaw bone of a donkey.

How do you feel? Do you feel ordinary? Do you feel unqualified? If so that is right where God wants you because you a candidate for God’s blessing and that is exactly the kind of person God’s wants to use.

The third idea here is that God not only includes us but He invites us to participate in what He is doing. God’s methods transform us and sanctify us in ways we cannot comprehend. The reason that he not only involves us but He invites to participate is because in the process of God working is us, we are transformed. The experiences of life and the circumstances we face all serve to transform and shape us. God takes these things and uses them to mold and shape us into the person He wants us to be.

Paul reminds us that God wants to be shaped and formed like Christ. It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you (Galatians 4:18-19 ESV)!

Whatever God sends your way God uses it to transform us and make us like Him. When we face difficulty there is a part of us that is revealed and we therefore begin to see a part of us that needs transforming.

The final thought is that God is working but we can miss it because:

  • Our focus is on what we can get as we are selfishly motivated. When we are selfishly motivated, we tend to do things that satisfy and not change us.
  • We fail to live with thankful and grateful hearts. When we are ungrateful and not thankful we will miss the good that God is doing because we are not content or satisfied.
  • We don’t understand what He is doing. Sometimes God works in ways that we will not understand because it is beyond us.
  • We forget that all things work together for the good for those who are called to his purpose (Romans 8:28). This does not mean that everything is good it simply means that God’s plan will be good for us.

So where are you? How is God working in you today? How is God using you?

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The Miracle of Christmas – The Message

The Miracle of Christmas

The Message

Hebrews 1:1-2 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

God has spoken in the past. As we see in this passage God has spoken to His people in many different ways. “Long ago” He would speak to a prophet or key leader and then that leader would speak to the people. As we read through the Old Testament we see many different ways and people that God used to speak.

  • Moses – the burning bush (Exodus 3)
  • Elijah – the still small voice
  • Elisha – It was a whirlwind (2 Kings 2)
  • Isaiah – through a vision (Isaiah 6)
  • Joseph – through a dream (Genesis 37)
  • Hosea – through his family circumstances (Hosea 1)
  • Jeremiah – the potter’s clay (Jeremiah 18)
  • Balaam – through a donkey (Numbers 22)
  • Abraham and Sarah – It was a visitor at night (Genesis 18)
  • Jacob – it was wrestling with an angel (Genesis 32)

What we learn through this is that there is no lack of variety and means by which God will speak to us. He speaks in different ways and at different times in order to get his audience to hear Him. God will use whatever means is necessary to get our attention, to wake us up and to stir us into action.

It is interesting to note that for 400 years after the book of Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, God had been silent. There were no significant books written. There was no evidence that God had spoken in any significant way. There was only silence.

God spoke directly to us through His Son. Things changed in the New Testament because God decided that it was time to speak directly to man through His son. God chose to use His Son to speak to us in ways no one before that time could. In John 1:1-14 John details the coming of Christ as the Word of God. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The Word, Jesus came to dwell with us so that He could communicate directly to us. In the right moment of time God sent His son so that He could interact with us. He came to express Himself and reveal Himself in ways we could understand and comprehend. He came as a man, to live as a man so that we could know how to live as a child of God.

Not only did Jesus, the Son, come to speak to us but He also came to reveal the Father to us. When we want to know what God looks like we look to Jesus as He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs (Hebrews 1:3-4). His word is truth and it is powerful for it is His very words that uphold the universe and controls destiny itself.

God continues to speak in order to bring transformation. When He speaks He doesn’t just speak for the sake of hearing his own voice but His words have purpose and meaning. Have you ever known someone who loved the sound of their own voice? He didn’t come to say what we wanted to hear but what we needed to hear. Jesus came to so that we could draw near and as we draw near to Him we are changed and transformed. He came to reveal the Father to us and to connect us to the father. His goal has always been to transform lives and not just be a great orator.

God speaks but too often we are not listening. God speaks to us today in a number of ways. He uses His Word. The Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts and guides our lives. God has given us pastors and teachers to speak into our lives. He uses the circumstances and events of our lives. He uses the people around us:our family and friends. He uses nature itself.

  • Turning a deaf ear – Sometimes we do not hear him because we have turned a deaf ear. We ignore the words we hear and believe that we can do better than what God has commanded. Sometimes we have selective hearing. We listen when God communicates positive words but when it is a corrective word or a word that we think keeps us from doing what we want to do we reject those words.
  • Too busy to hear – We can fill our calendars full with activity so that there is little time to hear what God is saying to us. Too much TV or newspapers or other media that keeps us from hearing God when He speaks to us.
  • Too distracted – Too often there are distractions that keep us from hearing God’s word to us. We want to hear but we find it hard because there are so many other voices that are pulling against us. There are so many ideas and ways of living that are presented and there is confusion about which one is right.

We all receive messages that impact our lives but this is the moment that Christ’s words come alive.

We all hear messages that impact us negatively. The fact is we have an enemy that likes to distort and discourage us and he will take advantage of the events, circumstances and words spoken into our lives. Some of us, today, have heard some of the following and the words echo loudly in everything that we do and in every way we act.

  • “You’ve got cancer or you have MS.” The enemy says be fearful and discouraged. There is no hope.
  • “I don’t love you anymore and I want a divorce.” The enemy says that you are rejected and not worthy of anyone else’s love. You are unlovable.
  • A teenage daughter who announces that they are pregnant. The enemy will say as a parent that you are a failure and it is your fault. He will remind you of all the things you should have done.
  • “You’re fired or you’re laid off.” I am not worthy. I am not needed. I have no value. Once again fear and concern fill our hearts.
  • “Mom/dad or sis I am gay.” Confusion, doubt and fear resonate upon this news.
  • The enemy loves to convince us that we’re no good. We are a failure. We will not make it.

But it is in the midst of these messages God comes and speaks life and hope.

  • There is nothing that will separate you from the love of God (Romans 8:36-38)
  • Trust in me and I will direct your path (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  • Forgive those that mistreat you or have done you wrong (Matt. 6:14-15; Mark 11:25-26; Luke 17:3-4; 2 Cor. 2:10-11)
  • Rejoice and be glad for His has come (Matt 5:11-12; Luke 6:22-23; John 16:22; Rom 5:2; Rom 12:12-15; Phil 4:4; 1 Thess 5:16; 1 Peter 1:6-8).
  • I have a plan for your life (Jeremiah 17)

Are you listening today? Do you hear His voice? Do you hear His message?


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The Miracle of Christmas – The Moment

The Miracle of Christmas

The Miracle of the Moment

Galatians 4:3-5 – In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 

There is much to be said about time. Think about it for a moment. Think of everything that transpires in just a minute. (Allow 60 seconds to run off the clock without saying or doing anything). 1 minute seems like a long time when you are just sitting still. And yet at other times 1 minute seems to fly by.

Jesus came at the right moment. In the verse we read this morning, the Greek word for time is the word “Chronos” which denotes a specific period of time or a specific opportunity. In the time of this writing the Greeks believed that time was virtually a power which inescapably determined one’s life. In other words the use of time and what transpires in the moment of time forms and shapes who one is. The word “fullness” denotes completeness or the right time.

What is meant here, in this passage, is that when the time was right, that is in the right moment of time God sent His son into the world to be the Savior of the world. This plan had been formulated from the beginning of created time. Now God said its perfect time and He sent the Holy Spirit to impregnate Mary (Matthew 1:18) so that she would give birth to the Savior. This was all accomplished according to God’s time table which is always at the right moment in time.

Why was this the right time? Historians and theologians have given a number of reasons why this was the right time for Christ to come:

  1. The Roman Empire was united. Barriers that had existed before had now been destroyed. The world was now melded together as one community.
  2. The Romans had built roads that would link the known world of that time together. Rome had built these roads to carry Caesar’s armies but they were also to be used to carry the feet of those missionaries that would take the gospel to the world.
  3. The world was at peace under Roman rule. There were no wars being fought. Prior to this, Christ’s message would have been blocked by self-sufficient and antagonistic nations who did not like each other.
  4. There was a common language in the world. Latin and Greek were known throughout the world so communication was much easier.
  5. But more than all of the things that are listed above There was a longing and a search for answers. While everything on the outside looked good there were problems and these problems made it the right time for Christ’s birth.
    • Economically – Times were hard. In the midst of this grand empire was poverty and unrest. The aftermath of war, the extravagance of Herod the Great, the burden of taxation and the tremendous rise in population all negatively impacted the society. The world was filled with worry and concern.
    • Religiously – Old philosophies were dying and were found to be powerless to change lives. Strange new mystery religions were invading the empire. Religious bankruptcy and spiritual hunger was everywhere. People were dissatisfied with their lives. They wanted something more and they were turning to all kinds of things to fill the void in their lives.
    • Morally – The world of the day had sunk to moral hopelessness.

Our society today is a mirror image of the Roman Empire. Economically we are being challenged. All it would take is for one major country to fall into bankruptcy and totally collapse for there to be worldwide panic. Morally, we are at a low like we have never seen before. Just recently, I heard a story about a 4 year old that was beaten to death by the mom’s boyfriend because he was crying and the boyfriend could not hear his TV program.

But, it has been God’s plan throughout history to show up at the right moment. He knows when and how to show up at just the right moment and at just the right time. He is never late. He is always on time and it is always at just the right time.

Jesus provides all that we need at the right moment.

If we are not careful we will navigate through the Christmas season and never experience a moment that God shows up and does only what God can do. There are some in this season that need nothing short of a miracle. Perhaps there are issues that are impacting your life in negative ways. I know for some here at PCC they have needed God to show up as we have witnessed some of the PCC families being impacted by the issues of life. Dawn, Doug and Ashley have experienced the death of a loved one. Paul received word that his sister Helen has been diagnosed with cancer of the lymph nodes that has spread to her other organs. The Brooks had someone scam their checking account of several 1000 dollars. Nancy has been rushed to the hospital as a result if another bleed on her brain.

While these are difficult issues, it is a time for Christ to show up and show Himself strong and provide the right answer and provide at the right moment. So don’t be discouraged for when we are in need it is the right time for Christ to come. But no matter the need, God’s word promises us that He will show up at the right time. But we must always remember that it is His time table that he works from and not our own. Sometimes He strengthens us to endure through the problem and at other times He delivers us from the issue that brings us such pain and difficulty. Either way God is at work.

Psalm 145:14-15 –The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.

Psalm 104:27-28 These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.

Deuteronomy 11:13-15 “And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full.

 

Please that food in these passages represents the provision God has for us. In that day the provision of food was one of the greatest needs they had.

In Romans 5:16 we are reminded that at the right time while we were weak and powerless and while we were in need Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:1-6 – Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Jesus says that now is the right moment.

It seems that we are always looking for the right moment for God to do something. For some we are waiting for the right moment to commit our lives to Christ and the right moment for to begin to serve Him. But now is the time.

  • Mark 1:15 – And saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
  • 2 Corinthians 6:2 – For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

This repentance is more than just a repentance for salvation but repentance for failing to accomplish all that God has called us to. It is to repent of not seeing God show up when He has been all around us. The sad commentary of Christ’s birth is that He had come and no one knew it. They continued with their business as usual.

Has God shown up in your life this year? Has He shown up this week? What about today? Do not miss Him.


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