Humility Over Royalty

As the gift of Christ is delivered, we find that Jesus was on his way to a royal town without any of the trappings of royalty. Revealing that…

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Christmas was never about royalty alone, but always about humility. (Luke 2:1-7) In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) Luke connects his account to history, which can be verified and the veracity judged.  And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David-Jesus comes as one who legitimately could come and sit on the throne of David forever with a royal pedigree, as promised. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger (Cave with a trough carved into the walls), because there was no guest room available for them.

The prophet Micah had foretold that Bethlehem would become the home for the eternal ruler.  Yet, here is Jesus like socks and underwear; not really seemingly measuring up to what was expected of the MESSIAH, they wanted things to be put back as they once were. Since David and Solomon, the nation had divided into two, two exiles followed, then foreign powers oppressed the people—Persian, Greek, and finally Romans. Here is Jesus, the king of kings and Lord of lords born into a crummy manger, a cave with a trough carved into the wall, no palatial estate or grand trumpeted entrance.  Within a handful of miles, Herod’s grand palace could be seen, 90 ft. tall, 40 acres of building, 200 acres of garden and yet Jesus purposely is sent into his created world, humbly depended as a baby, humbly rugged rather than royal. Continue reading “Humility Over Royalty”

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Connection Over Comfort

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Christmas is that special time of year where expectations runs rampant. There is always a transformation that begins after Black Friday. Ordinary kids who can’t find their backpack, shoe, or homework become certified gift-finding specialists. They go from never stepping foot inside the attic or in your closet to roaming around searching for the holy grail of presents. It doesn’t end when the presents are wrapped and placed under the tree. Kids and adults alike become like a bomb sniffing dog—checking the weight, shape, size, and sound trying to judge just how seriously we should take a prospective gift. You see this in the classic movie The Christmas Story, Ralphie wants one thing: an “official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, BB gun” and before his master plan to get it moves forward he is constantly fantasizing about what life will look like before he has ever held the gift in his hands. He envisioned stepping forward and fighting off Black Bart and his cohort of criminals. Ralphie anticipated the gift, but didn’t fully grasp what it meant!

 

Today we are starting a new advent series looking towards the gift that changed the globe in Jesus Christ. A gift that was wrapped, weighed, and wanted for centuries. Wrapped in hundreds of prophecy, weighed while the Jews faced oppression, and wanted as God seemingly had gone silent for over 400 years. The anticipation was great but what those in the 1st century unwrapped was something they didn’t fully grasp. In fact, we are calling this series Socks and Underwear because when you open a gift and see the first signs of socks, what do you do? Growl and then throw it aside. Yet like socks and underwear, Jesus is the gift that everyone needs, but don’t always seemingly want.

John 1:1 starts to unwrap the the magnitude of what mesmerized the people: In the beginning was the (Logos) word–the Jews viewed the word as the personification of God’s will and revelation while the Gentiles understood the LOGOS as the bridge from the divine to the dust (material world), the word was with God and the word was God. 14 The word became flesh and made its dwelling among us. As we turn to the story of Jesus advent in the Luke 1 starting in verse 26, we find that LOGOS was THEOS and God instead of making:

 

 

Christmas  about comfort, it was always about connection (Luke 1:26-31) 26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. Continue reading “Connection Over Comfort”

Random Thought

Pluralism argues that each worldview/belief should have equal standing, that no one belief should be allowed to stand above the rest. After all, don’t all roads lead to God? In our culture where tolerance is the supreme value we might find ourselves nodding along, but isn’t this really nothing more than “DIVINE IDENTITY THEFT”?

Personalize this! If suddenly 6 different people start using your SSN, credit card purchases start showing up in the Cayman Islands as you rough it through another snowfall, or your credit score takes a nosedive faster than the Cleveland Browns you probably would get pretty angry, right? Of course you would. They would be taking something from you that was rightly yours.

I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise with the 1st commandment: Thou shall have no other gods before me.

 

Future Celebration

It is the sacrifice that resemble Christ that we turn into movies, memorialize, and try to remember but all along God promises a…

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Future Celebration (Isaiah 54: 1-5) Isaiah acknowledges that price the son’s sacrifice paid, and then shifts from him bearing many sins to our response: “Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child (To be barren for a Jewish woman was a great shame and yet he calls on that woman to sing); burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord. (Families depended on children for survival, before Social Security and nursing homes, but God says even the childless—prepare for a celebration.  “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. “Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.

Isaiah builds to an unlikely conclusion: that despite your current conditions, despite your past, your history, the offer is the same. You too, can be welcomed back where you were meant to be: united with the Father, through the Son, empowered by the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Messiah Jesus, our maker is called our husband. Author Jim Liske, pointed out that husband is a Norse word—Old English literally meaning—“house tiller of the ground.” Jesus was sent to earth to prepare and then pursue his bride the Church—he came to till up the weeds that choke out our lives and to allow for new growth—to cultivate in us an opening for our potential to emerge. Jesus complete sacrifice, remarkably, becomes a sacrifice worth celebrating.     Continue reading “Future Celebration”

The Son’s Sacrifice

It was God’s investment on our behalf that allows us to embrace the role of investing in him, and yet God wasn’t done—the ultimate restoration wouldn’t be experienced just by coming to earth and living as man, but only through the…

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Son’s Sacrifice (Isaiah 53:4-9) Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions (Crucifixion was invented by the Persians in 300-400BC and developed, during Roman times, into a punishment for the most serious of criminals.), he was crushed for our iniquities (“The weight of the body pulling down on the arms makes breathing extremely difficult,” says Jeremy Ward, a physiologist at King’s College London.); the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth (silent before Pontius Pilate); he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression[a] and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.[b] 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked (he gets the worst punishment the Romans had—and as the custom you didn’t get a proper burial, until Joseph of Arimathea stepped in and asked for the body giving up his tomb), and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Continue reading “The Son’s Sacrifice”

Celebrating an Investment

What is your favorite celebration or holiday? Have you ever noticed that people celebrate the strangest things? I’m talking about August 20th which is Chocolate Pecan Pie Day. Or if you start to hate this sermon remember we are close to Blame Someone Else day and that Aaron is truly to blame. Yet, the celebrations that we actual set aside time to remember usually have something in common—they revolve around sacrifice to be worthy of being set apart.

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For some, they see a sacrifice worth celebrating tangibly while visiting the now peaceful battle fields of Gettysburg or while walking the beach of Normandy off the French coast, still with the scares of war and still pouring forth speech about the sacrifices. It brings to mind the visions of what took place, remembering the men who bravely ran from their transporters into 20 feet of water, far from the beach, loaded down by their bags and supplies—some only barely making it to the shore to face the hot metal pulsating out of a machine gun bunker while bodies piled up. Yet, through each sacrifice, we moved closer to changing the world for the better, combating evil, destroying strongholds.

Sacrifices worth celebrating come in a lot of shapes and sizes.  Chelsea and I experienced a sacrifice worth celebrating on November 28th, 2013. We had been at the hospital since 7:00a.m. in the morning, just waiting for the birth of our baby. It was Thanksgiving, so there were turkeys decorating the hallways and I was working hard alternating between watching college football on TV while trying to catch a power-nap. I had been warned that sleep would be a rare commodity once you had a new baby at home. Finally, nearly 10 hours later, after cafeteria Thanksgiving food, the nurse finally came and got Chelsea who was taken into the birthing room.  Some of you have been through it once or numerous times, after 9 months of discomfort, cravings, some changes in life—there was finally through all that sacrifice a celebration. The music played through the overhead speaker that a baby boy had just been born, pictures were taken, nurses were smiling, dressed like Darth Vader, with my face covered we went back and forth holding this gift which was about to change our lives forever.
Continue reading “Celebrating an Investment”

Praying for Growth

We see Paul imprisoned yet set free by his partnership in the Gospel, his ability to partake in the grace that overflows, and despite all the setbacks and trials, he is able to continue to give thanks while…

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Praying for Growth (8-11) For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

What a powerful prayer—he shows us the results of partnership and partaking in grace is that what we experience is no longer private. It is like a pot of water on the stove, as the heat gets turned up, the energy transferred, what is inside bubbles up and boils over and eventually if allowed, over the edge. God through his grace gives us Agape love but as we put it into motion, the divine was never meant to be confined. Paul longs that God’s love would bubble up inside us: our knowledge and discernment, our intellect and experience, all that it would then burst out into the real world as we find it. That God carrying us would get the praise and glory of guiding us as well. All along, it would be to God’s glory and for our good—changing our relationships, finances, perspectives, ideas and identity. Continue reading “Praying for Growth”