Monthly Archives: December 2013

He Came to Live With Us

Peninsula Community Church

He Came to Live With Us

December 22, 2013

Matthew 1:23 – “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 

When we read this portion of Scripture there is a need to understand the context in which it was written. You see Mary had received the news that she would be the vessel through which Christ would be born. In her and through her the seed of God would become man. In those days, the Jewish custom and the Rabbinical law allowed a man to select a bride. Once selected there would be a period of time of up to one year between the betrothal and the actual wedding. This is what we would consider to be the engagement period of our day. Today, we would give the bride a ring and there would be an exchange of commitments. The act of betrothal was a big deal in that day as both families would have promised wedding day gifts that usually involved property, money, and/or cattle.

During the betrothal period, the couple would promise to remain pure. This was a season of preparation for both the groom and the bride. It was a time to plan their wedding as well as to begin to prepare for their future home together. If the betrothal law was broken, divorce papers were to be filed and the wedding was to be cancelled. To file papers for divorce was a serious matter as it would be an embarrassment to the groom and to the families involved. This was an esteem and pride issue for the family, so this was a big deal. If the divorce papers were initiated as a result of unfaithfulness, the bride to be was to be stoned to death. While this seems unfair, it was the law of the land in that day.

It was this context that Mary approached Joseph to tell him that she was pregnant with God’s son. It is easy for us to look back at this story now and think that this would not have been a big problem. But it was. Once Mary shared the news, Joseph was conflicted because he loved Mary. He was caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand he knew the law and what was required of him but he also loved Mary. He wanted to honor his family, but he also wanted to protect his bride to be. Joseph was conflicted and filled with fear. 

The angel proclaimed the birth of the Messiah to Joseph. You see it was in this context that the angel came to Joseph and encouraged him with the words before us today. The angel came to Joseph in a dream. As he is sleeping or at least trying to sleep, God speaks to his heart. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us.) Matthew 1:19-22. 

The angel in essence is saying you can trust Mary and you can trust God. The angel is saying to Joseph, look she has not broken any law, she has remained pure and holy. That is why God had chosen her to be the mother of His son. 

Jesus – He will save us from our sin. In the angel’s communication he identifies two names for the Messiah. The angel stated that his name shall be Jesus for He will same His people from their sins. This is an awesome promise. Jesus came not just to forgive sin but to redeem men from their sin. There is a big difference in forgiveness of sin and redemption from sin. Forgiveness can be given to anyone but just because one is forgiven does not mean that they have been delivered from their sin. In fact it is possible for one to stay in their sin and to continue to live bound by the forces that come from the effect of the sin they have committed. But Christ came to redeem and to set man free from their sin and not just forgive them. Through the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit, Jesus still lives with you and has the power to deliver you from the grip of any bondage. No sinful habit, painful past, or present struggle is too difficult for the God-Man to overcome. 

The second name the angel used is just as powerful. While the angel proclaims that his name shall be Immanuel, we don’t see this name used widely in the New Testament. It appears that rather than a name that would be used, it serves as a descriptive term of who Christ would be. The term is “Immanuel” which means that God is with us. It is noteworthy that one of the most common promises in the Bible is that God will be with us. We see this promise given to Moses before he led the children of Israel out of captivity. We see this promise given to Joshua before he led the children of Israel into the promise land. We see this as a promise to his disciples and to the church when he said “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” God is with us; that is a promise.

Listen to this, what the angel is saying to Joseph through this passage and by way of identification with the Messiah was to not be afraid of the future or what people may say because I am with you. 

While this passage is written to Joseph it is a critical for us to receive this passage into our life and understand that it is for us today just as it was for Joseph in his day. God was with Joseph and He is with us today. Joseph changed because he knew now that God’s will was being fulfilled in Him. He knew that Immanuel was with Him.

Immanuel, God is with us in the moments when we are confused and conflicted about the circumstances we face. God is there to give guidance. When things go awry and while we can be confused and conflicted, God is there through His spirit and through the Word to give us guidance and direction. What do you do when you are confused or conflicted? Do you go to God’s word? Do you pray? Do you seek godly counsel from those you know that love God? Through these resources, he reveals that He is with us.

Immanuel, God with us is when fear has overcome us. Have you ever experienced that gripping fear that binds you and keeps you reduced to faithlessness? When I was a kid, I always hated to take the garbage to the road. I would slowly drag the can to the curb and then I would run back as fast as I could. I told my mom about how scared I was. The next time I took the garbage to the road, I was not scared. Do you know why? My mom stood in the doorway and watched me take out the garbage, just knowing she was there I felt secure and safe. Know this, no matter what you walk through, God is there, you call feel safe and secure because He is watching over you. 

Immanuel, God with us when we are discouraged. When we are discouraged we turn our minds and our thoughts to the fact that is with us and that He will see us through. Discouragement is a mind game that is so destructive. Discouragement can lead us to a false image of who we are. Discouragement can lead us to want to give up. Discouragement can lead us to run and hide. But God is with us to bring hope and life.

Immanuel, God with us when we do not know what the future holdsThere is nothing more frightening than an unknown future, but with God we can be at peace. The angel spoke to Joseph in essence and told him don’t worry. You do your part. Marry Mary! I will take care of the rest. 

While God is with us when we face emotional difficulty, there is one other benefit to understanding that God is with us. When God is with us the way we view life is changed. I know that I am an overcomer by His word and by the fact that God is with us. When I realize that God is with me it changes the way I act. It changes the way I live. It changes the way I think. This is a positive because as a passionate follower of Christ, we have a desire to please him and to honor his name. 

Do you know that He is with you this morning? Do you know that He loves you? Do you know that he holds your future? Do you know He is with you wherever you go? Whether you believe it or not, He is there. Whether you feel Him or not, He is there. Whether or not you know Him, He is there and he desires to draw you to Him. That is a powerful promise and what a hope.

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He Came to Give Us Eternal Life

Peninsula Community Church

He Came to Give Us Eternal Life

December 15, 2013

John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him

I love Christmas decorations. While in New York, one of the things we used to do after our Christmas Eve service was to load the family in the van and head off to look at homes that had decorated their homes to the point that the International Space Station could see the light emitted from the home. I would often think about the time it took to place each of those lights in the exact location so that they would achieve the intended purpose.  

After seeing those light displays, I would turn to the task of placing the lights on our Christmas tree. How could they do what they do when it always seems so complicated to simply get the lights onto our tree. I am not sure if you have had this problem before but you take out all of the ornaments and the lights out of the storage container and as you are placing the lights on the tree you find they are tangled to the degree that it becomes a frustrating nightmare. And then finally, you get them untangled and placed on the tree only to find out that one of the bulbs is blown so that now the whole strand of lights is out. Of course finding the one light that is causing the problem is like finding a needle in a haystack. Things like this can complicate the season. It can put a dampener on the way we feel and the way we look at Christmas. 

The fact is Christmas can be complicated in so many ways. There are so many events to attend. There are presents to buy. There are family members that will visit that we do not like but we have to play nice with them because it is Christmas. We buy gifts for people we don’t like with money we don’t have. Then we have to try to buy a gift that you know someone really wants but you have to buy it and and then wrap in such a way that it will be a surprise for the one opening it. And then, there are the gifts we get that we are not sure what they are about or what use they serve. For a while the singing fish was popular. What do you with a singing fish? Even if it sings “Sweet Home Alabama” what do you do with it?

While Christmas can be complicated, the message of the Gospel does not have to be. While the Christmas story is really a simple story about the good news, somehow, we have complicated the story and the message that Christ came to give. Too often, we blame those outside the church or we criticize those who have not accepted Christ for not accepting the message when the problem comes down to the fact that we have complicated the message to the point that it fails to bring the joy and the answers to life that it was intended to bring. We, therefore, cannot blame them for our own failures and our ability to complicate the message. 

So how do we simplify the message? How do we stop complicating the gospel?

The first thing we need to do is realize that Christ came to bring good news. In reading the Christmas story in Luke’s account of the Gospel, we find that the Angel proclaimed that Good News was coming to earth. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you:you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger (Luke 2:10-12).

The second thing we need to do is to realize that the Good News is that Christ came to bring us eternal life. If we return to our text, we see the Good News is that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to give us eternal life. Look at this with me. He, God, loved. He, God, gave. We believe. We receive. It is that simple.

We have complicated the message because although we say eternal life is freely received, we can intentionally or unintentionally set so many parameters and rules that must be met before we can receive the gift He has given, that it complicates the decision of the unsaved. One of the first parameters we set is that you must straighten up and fly right before you can accept this gift. Rather than coming to Christ with all of our failures and short comings we can lead people to believe that they must change or be at a certain place in their life to be accepted by Christ. The fact is, we come to him just as we are but we also come to Him with an understanding that He will not allow us to stay where we are. He will bring the change in us and through us that God must do. Look at who Jesus ministered to in the bible: the hungry, the prostitute who was used and abused, the leper who was rejected by the religious leaders and society, the tax man who was one that people wanted to have a relationship with, the lame, the cripple, the religious leaders, the fisherman who were simple minded men, and many more. He never asked them to change before He touched them or called them into service. He came to them in their fallen state and ministered to them right where they were in the moment. That should bless our heart and encourage us. It should spur us on to service in and to him.

Second, the good news is not about joining the church. In fact, it is not about what we would consider the church at all. Too often, we have complicated the message by inferring that salvation and church membership or at least church attendance are on equal terms with salvation. This is an inaccurate statement and belief. Salvation and church attendance are not the same. Salvation is not contingent on our attendance at church. You can attend church and never be saved. But, I will say that when you are genuinely saved, you will have a desire to be with God’s people.

Third, we can present salvation as the rite of being born into the right Christian family. The fact is we are not Christians by physical birth but only by way of spiritual birth. Once again we can receive eternal life and be a part of a pagan family or we can be a part of a Christian family and never come to fully understand eternal life. We come to Christ by accepting his gift and then we begin to follow his plan as noted in the word.  

The third thing that we need to understand is that eternal life is less about a destination as it is about a relationship. We have looked at what the good news is not, now let us look at what it is. In our passage today, John states that the gift of God is eternal life but what does that mean to us? I have to be honest with you. This has been one of those theological areas that has baffled me in many ways. What is eternal life? We say the believer will have eternal life but doesn’t every one really experience some form of eternal life? There is a heaven and there is a hell. That is a fact. 

So if everyone experiences some form of eternal life, then what does it mean when we say that we will have eternal life? To answer this question let us look at another passage. In John 17:1-3, John includes the following words of Christ in his writings. When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

If we understand this correctly, we see that eternal life is less about where we will live when we die but how how we live before we die. It is all about having a relationship with God the Father and God the son. Look at what Christ Himself says. This is eternal life…. that they know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you sent. Eternal life therefore is not a destination, it is a relationship. It is a relationship with the one and only God. 

Finally, we need to understand that to receive eternal life we must not just believe in but we must also believe on Christ. How is this relationship established? To understand this let us return to John 3:16 for a moment. Here, Jesus says that whosoever believes in Him should have eternal life. It is interesting to note however that the Greek used here does not say “believe in” Him. The Greek uses a prepositional phrase that means to “believe on” or “believe toward.” It carries the idea of trust. 

The fact is we can believe in many things. We can believe in Santa Claus. We can believe in the Easter Bunny. You see we can believe in something but never have a relationship with that something or that someone. We can believe those things exist but they may never have an impact on our lives. The idea that is given in the verbiage of the Greek is that to have eternal life we must believe on or believe toward Christ. The idea expressed here is the idea of trusting. Do we trust Him with our lives? Do we trust Him with our bank account? Do we trust Him with our relationships? Do we trust Him with our future? Do we trust Him with the unknown?

You see I can believe this stool will hold me but I must exercise a measure of faith and place my self on the chair to understand whether or not this stool will sustain my weight. I can believe in the stool but I must exercise my faith by believing on the stool and acting out my faith by sitting on the stool. I give this stool all of my weight, with a believe that it will hold me and will not fall a part under my weight.

That is what it means to believe in Christ. We begin a relationship with him through accepting him. We grow in the relationship by reading His word which is His letter to us. We also grow by finding people who love God with all of their heart and then hang out with them. 

So today, if you do not know Christ begin this morning by realizing that finding Christ does not have to be complicated. Secondly, understand that receiving the Good News is about eternal life and eternal life is about having a relationship with Christ. It is believing on Christ and trusting Him to do what He said He would do. Will you pray with me?

 

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He Came with a Purpose

Peninsula Community Church

He Came with a Purpose

December 8, 2013

John 1:14-18 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

In this passage, John makes a doctrinal statement based on the fact of Christ’s birth. This statement has changed the way we view life and what we think about ourselves. If we could fully grasp the meaning of this statement, we would be humbled and we would be filled with overwhelming gratitude and awe. What is this statement? It is this. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Think about that for a moment?

Jesus Came. The Word became flesh. Imagine the implications of this passage, if you will. The very Son of God left Heaven to become the son of man. He came to dwell with us. The Word, which was Christ, became flesh. The God of the universe took on the flesh of man. He clothed himself with the earthly body of His own creation. In doing so, He took on the nature of man so we could take on the nature of Christ.

But why did Jesus come? What was the plan in this? What was the purpose of His coming as the Son of Man. The fact is God did have a plan in mind. He did come with a purpose in mind. This was not an exercise of futility. This was not an act of self promotion. Jesus came as the son of God to be the son of man.

In Philippians 2:5-11 Paul makes the following statement that brings this into perspective. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

He came in flesh so that we could connect with Him. One of the fallacies propagated about Christ’s coming is that somehow God needed to do this. Some would say that Christ came so that God would somehow have a better understanding of who man is. The truth is, when Christ came as a man He did not need to understand man because He created mankind in His image. He already understood everything there was to know about mankind. He knew what made man tick. He knew man’s thoughts. He knew the propensity of his man’s heart toward sin. He knew all about his struggle to belong and to have purpose in life. 

The Psalmist clarifies the knowledge God had about us when he stated For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them (Psalm 139:13-16)

the LORD-knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath (Psalm 94:11).

O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether (Psalm 138:1-4).

Why then did He come? He came as a man so that we could understand God and not the other way around. He came as a man so we would catch a glimpse of who God is. You see according to the Old Testament no man had seen God face to face because if he was to do he would die because of the glory and holiness of God. He came as a man so that He could achieve what no one else or anything else could achieve, and that is to connect man with God and provide a way for the forgiveness of sin once and for all. 

He became that bridge we needed to fill the gap between God’s holiness and man’s sin. He became the bridge between what was evidenced by sin and what mankind and the world was meant to be by way of redemption. Jesus came to be the mediator between God and mankind. The only way for Him to accomplish this was to become man and at that He had be a sinless man.

He came to give us grace and truth. You see the law was truth but there was not much grace in it how it was carried out. We must understand that grace is the unmerited favor of God bestowed upon an undeserving people. Grace is not contingent so much on the one receiving the grace as it is on the one giving the grace. This grace has no strings attached. He freely gives grace to all. 

The term grace is an interesting one. Grace in the New Testament is derived from the Greek word “charis.” In secular Greek, charis was related to chairo, “to rejoice.” As far back as Homer it denoted “sweetness” or “attractiveness.” It came to signify “favor,” “goodwill,” and “lovingkindness” — especially as granted by a superior to an inferior. In the New Testament the word takes on a redemptive quality in that salvation is given by God with grace. He  

But he also brings truth. The problem existing too often is that we preach grace without truth. Truth is a critical and an undeniable part of what Christ has done for us. He came as truth. He said himself that “I am the way, the truth and the life.” When we only present one side of the equation we miss the mark of Christ’s intent. We need grace and truth in our lives. 

He came so that we might experience Him. The problem for man is that he could not see God. If this occurred he would die. The only man ever to come close to seeing God was Moses. God prepared a way for us. we can now sit at His table not as a slave but as a child.

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He Came at The Right Time

Peninsula Community Church

He Came – At the Right Time

December 1, 2013

Galatians 4:4-7 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. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

We have arrived at a great season of celebration and one that is filled with joy, peace, and promise. The Christmas season is a time of decorations, great food, family, and most of all the celebration of the birth of our Savior. I love this time of year. The music. The decorations. Visiting family and friends. Great celebrations of life. Christmas dramas and special meals. I trust you are as excited about Christmas as I am.

As I was I was praying about this season the idea that kept coming to me was that “He Came.” He came to bring life but Christ did not just come to bring life, He came to show us how to live life to the fullest. Christ came to die so we could live. He came to take on our nature so we could take on His nature. How awesome is that? Christ came!

Not only did Christ come but He came at the right time. He came to a land where the society, the religion, and the government was aligned together; and yet they were about to suffer great upheaval. The amazing thing is that when Christ came, his coming was noticed by so few. Other than the shepherds and the magi who saw the star in the east, we have no record of anyone else acknowledging his arrival. There were no headlines in the local paper. There was no media announcing His coming. He simply came. He was born in borrowed manger and was buried in a borrowed tomb.

As we look at Him coming at the right time, we must understand why this is important and how time is defined. In the New Testament, we find there are a couple of words for time. There is the Chronos time which is the time we are most familiar with. Chronos time is what we see on our watches, or on our calendars. Chronos time is what keeps us in line and our efforts in order. Chronos is what we use to mark our lives. Chronos has a certain beat. There is a specific timing that conforms to a chronos way of thinking. Too often, however, all we observe is Chronos time and we can miss out on the second time spoken of in the Bible. 

The second word in the New Testament is the word Kairos. In the classical use of the word it is an opportune time and/or place. It is a defining moment. Kairos is that element of time that upsets Chronos. Kairos is often a moment of surprise. Kairos moments are where God steps onto the scene of our life. Kairos moments are usually not convenient but are critical to our growth. Kairos moments of God are not always easy but they are worth it. Karios moments often change our destiny. They change the way we think. They change the way we act. They change who we are.

Kairos moments are moments that are pregnant with possibility. Kairos moments bring us to a crossroads of decision. These moments can make us better or they make us bitter. Kairos moments are teachable moments. Kairos moments are ripe with the possibilities of real hope and change. Someone has said that wasted Kairos moments are wasted opportunities to grow. They are missed opportunities to see God’s hand at work. 

Our lives are made up of both Chronos and Kairos moments. We see as we read the story of Jesus that His life was made up of Kairos moments. His life was filled with those divine moments of opportunity where he was able to impact and challenge others for good.

As we read the verse before us this morning, we see that Christ came in the fullness of time. When the Chronos time was right, it was time for a Kairos moment. Christ came and touched a young girl’s life who was forever change, as she was impregnated with the seed of God. She was the chosen as one who would be the mother of the Messiah. The Angel Gabriel interrupted the lives of Joseph and of Mary. They were living an ordinary life when they were called to an extraordinary purpose. They were called to be the mother and father of Jesus. 

This first Kairos moment was the coming of Christ as a little baby. Think about this for a moment. This one born as a child would replace his swaddling clothes, for the robe of a teacher which would be replaced by the clothes of a dead man, and then finally the white robes of kingship. He came to put on our nature so that we have the capacity to put on His. It is interesting to note that Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes at his birth but was wrapped in the garments of death upon his burial. “The babe in swaddling clothes came with a mission to fulfill.”

The question is what does this mean for us. It means that He Came for us. He came to bring us life. He came at the right moment to forever change the destiny of the world and those individuals who would accept his gift of salvation. You see this Kairos moment is twofold. For one, he came at the appropriate time and he continues to come to people at the moment they need it most. 

Throughout the New Testament we see that Jesus came to people at special times. At the right time, Jesus comes onto the scene of their lives. Jesus showed up on the scene of the prostitute who was about to be stoned because of the accusation by the religious leaders. Jesus showed up when the disciples faith was being tested in the storm even though they had been told by Jesus himself that they should go to the other side. Jesus showed up at the pool and an invalid was immediately healed physically and spiritually. Jesus showed up and healed the lepers although only one stopped to say thanks. Jesus went to calvary and gave himself for us. He rose on the third day so that we would be able to overcome sin and the power of sin. At the right time, Jesus came to Peter to announce that he was still loved and that He had a plan for Peter’s life. He was to be a critical part of the plan of God in the new church that was to be established by God.

God still comes today, at the right time, so that our lives will be forever changed. When he comes we must accept his work in us.

 

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