Sermons 6

December 25, 2016

It All Started With God      John 3:16

Christmas is a holiday set aside to celebrate the birthday of Jesus, the Son of God. The Eternal Son took on a body and was born of a woman, a young virgin named Mary. He came into the world so that He could be our Savior.

Mankind sinned, and because of sin the whole human family was plunged into darkness and separation from God. We were condemned to eternal judgment and separation from God forever. The only hope for all mankind was a Savior - - one without sin, who was willing to become sin for us. Only Jesus. God's son, could qualify.

When Jesus was born In Bethlehem, 2,000 years ago, His birth fulfilled many prophecies. The beginning was in Genesis 3:15, when the voice of God spoke concerning the seed of the woman.

All the prophets spoke of the coming Christ, who would redeem the world from sin. Centuries before Christ was born Isaiah wrote "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14

The prophecies were finally fulfilled when the angels of the Lord announced to the shepherds in Luke 2:11, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord."

Galatians 4:4 tells us: "But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman"

Here is something too wonderful for the human mind to take in - - the means by which God the Son came into this world to be the redeemer of mankind.

According to Genesis 3:15 It was through the seed of the woman and Luke 1:35 said to Mary: "The power of the Most High will cover you. The holy Child you give birth to will be called the Son of God."

That child, having no earthly father, was a God-man, because God was his father.

Jesus is the divine Son of God. Without sin, He came into the world to be the Savior of the whole world.

We often hear the saying, "Jesus is the Reason for the Season," and how true it is. Jesus, the sinless One, came down to earth to save mankind - -And that is what Chris'as is all about.

Christmas is the most wonderful holiday of the whole year. It is a time of giving gifts. It is a time when we show our love for one another. Children give to their parents, husbands to their wives, and wives to their husbands. What started all this giving and festivity? Well, it all started with God.

The first Christmas gift came from heaven. It came from God. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16).

Our great God and Heavenly Father, who has always known everything, prepared His Son, Jesus, before the foundation of the world.

When Adam and Eve fell, it didn't catch God off guard. God was ready for what happened. The sacrifice for sin was prepared and ready. As Abraham told Isaac, "God will provide Himself a lamb" (Gen. 22:8).

It was God, the Son, given by God, the Father, conceived by God, the Holy Ghost, who was delivered to the world as a free gift.

God's Christmas gift is perfectly fitted for everyone. This gift is to the whole world. No one who ever receives Jesus will ever say He doesn't fit or will ever seek to exchange Him for someone or something else.

He is perfectly designed to meet every need of everyone in the whole wide world. Even though God's Christmas gift is to all the world, He is also a personal gift to every individual of the entire human race!

Jesus is absolutely perfect in every respect.

He was perfect in His pre-incarnate state - - before He ever took on a body.

He was perfect in His virgin birth.

He was perfect in His sinless life.

He was perfect in His atoning death on Calvary.

He was perfect In His resurrection.

He is now perfect in intercession for us in heaven.

and He will be perfect in His second coming for us in the rapture and in ruling this earth in righteousness forevermore.

Thank God for this perfect, unspeakable gift.

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (Jn.3:16)

During the Christmas season, everyone's mind is turned toward giving and receiving gifts. What is the greatest gift you have ever received? The Bible tells how the Queen of Sheba gave King Solomon over six million dollars worth of gold, plus many precious stones, sheep, and cattle. (1 Kings 10).

That was indeed a great gift. But, there is another gift that we are told about in the Bible that is much greater than all this.

It is the giving of an only son to be abused and eventually crucified on a cross in order that the world might be saved. The name of this gift is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

"For God so loved." It was the love of God that moved Him to sacrifice His only Son for sinful mankind.

It is unexplainable how a holy God could so love sinful creatures that He would sacrifice His only Son to pay for our sins in order that we might be saved, but He did! He did this for you: He did this for me. Jesus is our gift from God. Have you received your gift? If not, do it now.

The Bible tells us, "He that believeth not is condemned already."

It would be humiliating to offer someone a gift and have them reject that gift but this is what happens when people neglect, ignore, or reject Jesus Christ for their salvation.

What a tragedy that anyone would reject the greatest gift ever given. If you have never received God's gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, do so now. If you have received Jesus as your Savior, rejoice in Him.

Sin entered the human bloodstream through Adam and Eve. Death entered through sin, and "so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Rom. 5:12).

The only way that sin and death can be conquered is by the sinless blood of Jesus, God's Son. He Is God's gift for you and me.

December 11, 2016

Are You Ready for Christmas         Luke 2:8-20

Last week I shared with you that the day after Thanksgiving we went with our grandson Micah to cut his Christmas tree. Then one day this past week Marla was face-timing with Micah and he wanted her to show him our Christmas tree.

When she told him that our tree wasn't up yet he seemed somewhat incredulous Never mind the fact that Marla had spent eight days in Indiana at his house he was a little put out that we weren't ready for Christmas.

To be honest we had made plans to not be ready for Christmas. Our son Andy and his wife Kim have been here the last two Christmases and so the plan this year was for them to be in Michigan at Kim's parent's house and since Eva and Ben have a new baby they are not planning on traveling here for Christmas.

So not to be a Grinch but I kind of thought maybe just maybe I wouldn't put up a tree this year or put the lights up on the roof.

Well as all plans go mine also went. Kim's sister is an ER Doctor and they changed her schedule so she has to work Christmas so Kim's family is having Chris'as a week later.

So Andy and Kim are coming to Keithsburg for Christmas. Which is wonderful! ...But it also means that we weren't ready for Christmas.

For the past 4 years Sarah's brother Zach has put up my outdoor lights so I sent a couple of text messages and waved my magic wand (My magic wand looks a lot like cash) and three Christmas Elves appeared. (Picture) And put up the lights, rearranged the living room, and brought the tree up from the basement. And now we are pretty much ready for Christmas!

A question that is often asked this time of the year is, "Are you ready for Christmas?"

Every Christmas, getting ready seems to be everyone's main focus. And the definition of our getting ready encompasses a broad spectrum of areas in our lives.

There are gifts to procure and wrap, travel plans to make, decorations to hang, food to cook, entertaining family and friends, songs to sing, worship services to plan, and more.

And while all this preparation and "getting ready certainly can, and usually does, wear us out  it should also help to lift our spirits and help us to be thankful for the birth of the Son of God, Jesus, The Christ.

But what would have happened if we didn't get everything done? What would have happened if gasp we weren't ready? In fact are any of us really ever ready for Christmas?

But you know what? No matter what we do, or fail to do. No matter if we prepare or not - Christmas will come. So why should we even worry about getting ready and perhaps even more important what does it mean to be ready?

When you think about the whole Christmas story it appears that Mary and Joseph really weren't ready even though they knew well in advance that Jesus and Christmas were coming.

I mean let's think about it. They left on long journey knowing the baby would be born while they were away from home and still they arrive in Bethlehem, tired, probably hungry, with no reservations at the inn, and Mary goes into labor.

They had known for nine months a baby was coming yet had made no arrangements for a crib, toys, clothes, linens, or even diapers. There was simply Mary and Joseph in a stable with a feed trough and some animals.

By our standard they weren't even close to being ready for Christmas yet Christmas was coming and did come.

Not only that but based on what the Bible tells us, it appears that the Jewish people and King Herod were not ready even though they had known for centuries that a Messiah was coming, that Christmas was on its way.

This can also be said of the entire world because even the leaders of the great Roman Empire had heard rumors about this King of the Jews.

So here we are with what appears to be the entire world right down to Mary and Joseph not ready for Christmas yet Christmas came.

But appearances can be deceiving. You see what we perceive and understand as being ready for Christmas might be different from God's definition of being ready. I ask you to consider the following:

+ After eons the world was ready to be delivered from its original fall. The plan of Salvation was ready to take place “ Christmas was coming and did come.

+ Even though the prophets and leaders of God's chosen people had misunderstood the nature and character of the Messiah (They thought He was going to be an earthly King)  the message was still correct that Christmas was coming and did come.

+ Even though King Herod made plans to lash out in a violent attempt to kill the coming King “ yet Christmas was coming and did come.

+ And even though Mary and Joseph were not prepared by our standards for the birth of a child they were indeed ready for the birth for everything that took place was exactly as God planed it - Christmas was coming and did come.

So here we are  getting ready, in our own way, to celebrate this wonderful gift we received over 2000 years ago. And that's a good thing. But we need to remember that our understanding of being  ready might not be Gods understanding of being ready.

With this thought in mind let us never forget to remember that just as Christmas came so long ago it is coming again and we need to be ready.

I am not only speaking of being ready for the celebration of that first Christmas but of being ready for the Christmas that is yet to come - the return of the King of Kings.

To be ready let us be like the shepherds and wise men of so long ago and look upon the Child in the manger with love and adoration.

Let us accept and believe that Jesus is God's gift of salvation to us and then let this gift of unimaginable love fill our hearts and change our lives.

Above all other things let us always strive to be faith filled disciples of Jesus Christ.

And when we do these things I assure you that no matter what else we do or how well we prepare in our own way to celebrate Christmas we will truly be ready for the Christmas yet to come.

Are you ready for Christmas?

December 4, 2016

Who Would You Choose?     Luke 2:8-20

 As we come into the Christmas season, it is easy to forget what is important we easily get our priorities mixed up And the true meaning of Christmas gets lost.

We begin to think it is about presents, decorations and parties.
But the truth is The true meaning of Christmas is not found in the wrappings, but in the gift.

The other night A Charlie Brown Christmas was on TV.
In it, Charlie Brown picks out a lonely tree with only a few branches as a tree for the gang's Christmas program.

When he brings the tree back, everyone mocks him for picking such a lousy tree, which makes Charlie Brown all the more depressed.
And in despair, he tells us that he doesn't know what the true meaning of Christmas is all about.

It is then, his friend Linus quotes the verses we just read together.

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, etc."

And this, folks, is what Christmas is about.
It is about the gift.
It is about God with us.
It is about God coming to touch us. All of us.

Which gives me cause to wonder why did God choose to tell the shepherds about the birth of His son before anyone else?

Shepherds had no status in their culture.
They were uneducated, and were considered low-class.

During Jesus' time, being a shepherd was a dead-end job.
There was no hope for advancement.
They had little chance of doing anything different the rest of their life.

As a result, you wouldn't want your daughter to marry one.

Shepherds had a hard, thankless job. And it was dangerous.
It was their responsibility to protect the sheep from robbers and wild animals. 

Loneliness, weariness and boredom characterized the life of the shepherd. In the big scheme of things, they were not considered very important.

So if you were God, Who would you have told first? After all, this was the Messiah. This was the greatest birth of all time who would you tell?

If it were us, I'm guessing we would most likely seek out the celebrities of the day. We would pick the "beautiful people the important people." (Or the people who have convinced us that they are just a little nicer than anyone else)

But Our choices and God's choice are different. God intentionally chose shepherds.

I think it is fair to say that the shepherds would not have been expecting this. They were not a spiritually minded bunch. After all, their deepest theological discussions were with sheep.
But this was not a random choice God sent angels to shepherds!

I like how Max Lucado expresses it. He says: An ordinary night with ordinary sheep and ordinary shepherds. And were it not for a God who loves to hook an extra on the front of the ordinary, the night would have gone unnoticed. The sheep would have been forgotten, and the shepherds would have slept the night away.

God often chooses to do his greatest work through people or things we normally think of as weak or unimportant.

This is what Paul means in I Corinthians when he writes: "Brothers, think of what you were when you were called." Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things”and the things that are not”to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

To God, nobodies are somebodies.

When our kids were born we had baby books for them that had a section in it to record the names of those who came to visit the baby. If Mary and Joseph had had one of those. The first names in the guest book would have belonged to the shepherds.

When the shepherds got the news about the birth of Jesus, I like the fact that they did not come casually.
They moved on it.
They hurried.
This was such good news, they had to act on it immediately.
They became the first guests to this miraculous birth. 

Why? I think God is teaching us that we need to connect with those who are overlooked.

Some of the overlooked during that day were shepherds.
But the truth that we must not miss is that God continues to identify with the poor. God absolutely insists that we reach out to the overlooked.
For when we do, we reach out to Him.
And when we do not, we resist Him.

For as it says in Matthew "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

The overlooked today come in many categories.
They are the elderly, outcast, and homeless.
They are the unappreciated and challenged.
They are the untouchable, the addicts, and the sick.

They are convicted felons.
They are the battered wives and neglected children.
They are unemployed.

Essentially, the overlooked are the ones we are overlooking.

Just like the shepherds, all are invited to worship. All are invited to come and see. By the grace of God, each one of us is welcomed here.

Let me ask you this. If you want to touch Jesus, whom do you touch? Jesus said, "Whatever you've done for the least of these, my brethren, you've done also to me." And so, if we want to touch Jesus, we have to touch people no one else wants to touch. 

God doesn't give preference to any group or class.
He does not discriminate on the basis of intelligence, education, wealth, profession, political power, or social standing.

Jesus is the Savior of all equally As the angel declared to the overlooked shepherds in Luke 2:10: "I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people."

This week I want to challenge you to connect with the overlooked or though our worship time together is ending, the service has just begun; there are many God wants us to reach that are being ignored, intentionally or unintentionally.

Connect with the overlooked ask God to give you compassion and passion to understand the needs, and then extend the loving arms of God around others.

Connect with the overlooked see God's face on those that are ignored; touch them with your eyes, your time and your love.

November 27, 2016

Creating Storms   Jonah 1:1 - 5 

Our scripture is from the book of Jonah but I'm not really preaching about Jonah, other than using him, and others, to illustrate my main point.

The main point or the sermon in a nutshell is this. Life has enough problems on its own without us causing more problems for ourselves.

I have found that life is often filled with trouble. Problems seem to have permanently taken residence in our lives. Job says man born of woman have but a few days, and those days are filled with trouble.

Trouble never takes a vacation or a day off. Trouble never goes to sleep on the job. And trouble is never hard to find. (In fact it usually finds you!)

Trouble comes as problems looking to be solved. Trouble comes as an illness' looking to be healed. Trouble comes as burdens looking to be borne. Trouble can even come looking like a blessing.

Have you ever gotten something and oh how happy you were when you got it, but down the road it turned out to be more trouble than it was worth? A car that turned out to be trouble. A job that turned out to be trouble. A dog or cat that turned out to be trouble.

Most of us are about one step behind trouble and trouble is waiting to happen. You can be sailing smoothly on the sea of life and all of a sudden out of nowhere, the winds begin to blow, the waves become boisterous and when the storms of life are raging there is nothing that you can do, but call on the name of the Lord.

Has anybody ever had to call on the Lord. If you ever been there you know what I mean when I say this life is filled with trouble. And since there is more than enough trouble I want to tell you this morning that we should not create storms for ourselves.

We do that when we fail to do what God told us to do. God said to Jonah go to Nineveh and preach to them against their wickedness. So Jonah says to himself, I'm not going to Nineveh I'm going to go the other direction.

In fact, Jonah says no. I'm not going to Nineveh and preach to them. I am going to go as far away from Nineveh as I can. Challenging God's authority Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.

I need to tell you that this is where so many of us are today. We challenge God's authority and do what we want to do. Sometimes the Lord speaks to us telling us what to do and we do something else.

We challenge God's authority directly by being disobedient to his word. The word of God says in 2 Cor. 6:14 don't be unequally yoked, with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And yet somehow we end up in an unequally yoked relationship and our life is miserable. That is called creating your own problems or like Jonah your own storms.

We challenge God's authority indirectly by being disobedient to his law that says children be obedient to your parents, the law that says obey them that have the rule over you, The law that says let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. That means the police.

Also when we challenge God's authority we place others in danger.
When we create storms in our life it doesn't just affect our life because we are not on the ship by ourselves.

Don't you know when you create a storm, everybody get soaked. Jonah disobeyed God and created a storm and everybody on the ship felt the ripple of the waves, everybody on the ship was fearing that the ship was in danger of breaking into pieces.

Awhile back I counseled a man who had just quit his job because he was tired of being disrespected and underappreciated. And on one level I can understand that. So he quit with no way to pay his rent, or car payment, or power bill. He created a problem a storm.

But he isn't in the storm alone He has a wife and kids that are now in a storm because of his actions.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son tells about a father who had two sons. And the younger son said to his father, give me my inheritance now. And he did. And not many days after the younger son gathered his possessions, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. Sounds to me like he created a storm.

He created a storm for himself. But not only for himself f you keep reading you will find out that, the father sat on the porch day in and day out looking for his lost son. And the bible says he saw his son afar off and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.

Do you see it? The father was in the mist of the storm because of his sons foolishness. He lost his joy, he was hart broken, it was not until the lost son came unto himself and came home that they began to be happy.
Don't create storms because everybody gets wet. Think about all the mothers and fathers who stay up late at night praying for that child who has created a storm. How often does some parent put a mortgage on their house, because a child created a storm.

Finally, when you create a storm, you place yourself in danger. Jonah created a storm, placed the others in jeopardy and when Jonah had to face up to his mess, he finds himself being tossed overboard into the sea.

God has fixed it so that you can run, but you can't hide. David looks over and sees Bathsheba, he creates a storm.

David tries everything to cover up his mess, he lies, and he kills, but Nathan comes to David and David has to face up to his mess and if you read the 12th chapter of 2 Samuel you will find out that he was punished. Judas, thought it was better to have 30 pieces of silver than Jesus and created a storm, but when he faced up to his mess, he found himself at the end of a rope.

When you create storms you will come to a point when you will have to face up to your mess and it won't be pretty. 
There is however good news. Because of Jesus I can make it through the storms and through the rain. If this morning you are facing troubles of your own making call out to Jesus for it is He alone who has the power to still the winds and the waves.

November 13, 2016

Veteran's Day 2016       John 15:9 - 17

Today is Veteran's Day and we truly appreciate all of you who have served in the armed forces of our great nation.

Even today there are thousands upon thousands of American men and women in uniform who are fighting our enemies on foreign soil. There are also those who are guarding the home front doing all they can to stop the enemies of our country from doing their worst.

It's a good thing to never forget that someone, somewhere, right this very moment, is paying the price for your freedom and that price is never cheap.

Today we pause to give thanks for those who have served this country in war, in peace, in times of great uncertainty, in times of great calm. I am of course talking about the Veterans of our various military branches. And truth be told, we ought to stop far more than once a year to say thank you to these dedicated men and women.

In this day and time, it is too easy to put aside what they have done for us, and what they continue to do for us, because we don't see it, up close and personal.

Whether they are actively engaged in protecting us, or actively involved in hostilities, they stand ready to do so at a moment's notice. With our smart weapons and long range missiles, it is easy to think that our military folks can somehow keep distant from harm's way.

But of course, that is absurd. When wars are carried out, military personnel are in harm's way, always. If you know a veteran, thank them for their service, for being the one who was and is prepared to defend this country if so called on. It is an awesome task, and one which we should all be grateful.

The history of Veterans Day begins with the armistice that ended World War I in 1918, Originally, called Armistice Day, the commemoration was born because hostilities in Europe ended on November 11, 1918 at 11:00 a.m.

What amazes me about all of that is that World War I was called: "The War to End All Wars." Yet, slightly more than 20 years later, Europe exploded again with the threats of Nazism and Fascism. Eventually, when it was clear that WWI would not end all wars, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day to include honors for all military personnel of all times and wars.

As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers. We read the scriptures about beating swords into plowshares and we pray for peace and calm. But we live in a world that does not easily accept peace. Hostilities erupt and we Christians must deal with that fact, just like anyone else.

We are taught that the peacemakers are blessed. We are taught to turn the other cheek. Yet, we seek to find our place in a world that too often does not bless the peacemakers, does not turn the other cheek, and engages in violence. It can be a confusing place to be when the teachings of our faith bump against a reality that seems to challenge those teachings.

I wish I had an answer to ending all war now. But I don't. I cling to the words of scripture that there will come a time when war will cease, and people will not take up arms against each other.

I hate that throughout the years we have lost so many good people to human conflict and war. I pray for each and every one of those who have served, as well as those who are currently serving. I pray that they might know the peace of God in their hearts, and that they feel the support and thanks of a grateful people.

I long for the day when we can truly live in peace, when the War to End All Wars is truly and finally finished. But until that day comes, I will give thanks for those who serve and pray for their safety, and I will remember the words of Dr. Billy Graham who said: Sometimes you have to fight for peace.

There is another kind of veteran that I want to honor this morning as well. These veterans often go without recognition. These are the veterans of the church, the army of the Lord that goes forth every day to fight back the powers of Hell and overcome the enemy of our soul.

Every one of you who know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and you are doing your best to serve the Lord, are among that number. You are a veteran of the Cross. You are a veteran of the war against darkness, sin and evil in this world.

No, you don't carry a rifle or drive a tank, but you wield a double-edged sword and wear the armor of God into battle every day that you live. Your war is never over until Jesus calls you home. You carry the scars of the battle with you all the time. You pick up your cross daily and then take your place on the front lines of the battle.

We know that our Commander in Chief has never lost a battle and has already won the war. In addition to that, God has empowered us to fight for justice and righteousness.

With the blood stained banner of the cross flying high in the winds of adversity, and unbroken ranks of Godly men and women, marching ever forward to destroy the strongholds of the devil, we go forth every day pushing Satan back on every front.

You have a great heritage from the Lord today. You have been chosen to be a soldier in the Lord's army. You aren't drafted “ this is an all-volunteer army.

When your race is won, and your last battle has been fought, you will stand before the Commander and receive your decoration for valor, your reward for faithfulness.

One day you will stand before God as a faithful veteran and you will hear those words, Well done.

In our scripture reading this morning we read these words: Greater love has no one than this,that he lay down his life for his friends.(John 15:13)

Today we thank our veterans for being willing to risk their lives in service to our great country and we thank our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who willingly laid down his life so that through faith in Him, we can have eternal life.

November 6, 2016

Surviving the Election       Psalm 22:27-31

As we all know the Chicago Cubs won the World Series this past week. Here is Keithsburg's own Bones Lybarger at Wrigley Field for game #5 along with 41,710 other Fans. (I showed a photo on the screen)

And then this past Friday they had a victory parade in Chicago which drew a crowd of 5 million people That's right 5 million people including Keithsburg's own Phillip Henry.(Another Photo)

Now I'm sure in a crowd of five million there was quite a mixture of humanity. There were blacks and whites and Latinos. There were Christians and atheists and Jews and Muslims, There were Republicans and Democrats and Independents and everything in between and they were all getting along.

And honestly with all we have endured with Tuesdays up-coming election it was nice to see people getting along.

If you are like me you are really, really ready for this presidential election to be over. We're ready for an end to the circus and tackiness. Voters on both sides feel frustrated, even embarrassed by it all.

I wanted to get it over with so Marla and I both went to the courthouse last week and voted early.

And what is disturbing is that there is a real fear out there about the results. What if so and so wins?

Christians shouldn't worry about the election results. Why? Because God is in control.

God is sovereign, meaning He is in control of everything, including election results. No matter who is elected by human vote, God is in control.

If you're a Christian and worrying about the election results, you're disobeying God's Word. It's as simple as that.

What's that verse Denny likes to quote? Philippians 4:6 Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.

When we wake up on November 9, post-election, when the confetti is swept away and the election is finally over, what will we see?

Max Lucado has a prediction. He says: I know exactly what November 9 will bring Another day of God's perfect sovereignty. He will still be in charge. His throne will still be occupied. He will still manage the affairs of the world.

God has never taken a back seat to a king, president, or ruler. And He won't on November 9, 2016.

Proverbs 21:1 says: The LORD can control a king's mind as he controls a river; he can direct it as he pleases

In the Old Testament God turned the heart of the King of Assyria so that he helped in the construction of the Temple. On another occasion, God stirred the heart of Cyrus to release the Jews to return to Jerusalem.  Nebuchadnezzar was considered to be the mightiest king of his generation. But God humbled him and put him in detention for seven years. 

Psalms 22:28 says: The kingdom is the Lord's, and He rules over the nations.

When we realize that God influences the hearts of all rulers, we can then choose to pray for them rather than fret about them. Rather than wring our hands we bend our knees and select prayer over despair.             

Dare to believe that good things will happen. Dare to believe that God was speaking to us when he said: In everything God works for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).

That means we won't face anything God can't handle Because God is perfect. He could not be any better than He already is.

No one helps Him. No one gives Him strength.

He is correct in every way, in every choice. He has never failed. Never! He cannot fail because He is God!

He has No limitations, no hesitations, no questions, no second thoughts, or backward glances. He punches no clock, keeps no calendar, reports to no one. He is in charge.

In this upcoming election there will be a winner and a loser. One person will emerge victorious while the other will suffer defeat. Yet, we all can be winners if we allow the God of this universe to be Lord over our lives.

He was never elected into office. He was there from the beginning. Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." John 1:1 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

God has always been and will always be. He was never voted into office and can't be voted out of office. He reigns forever and ever! Psalms 146:10 says, "The Lord shall reign forever 

So, no matter who is in office, God is still in control. We may not have the president of our choice in the White House, but if God is on the throne he will continue to rule and to reign.

If we put our trust in him, he will direct our path. If we seek his guidance, he will send an answer. He remains the same in spite of who is in office. Let's continue to put our trust in him, for he is able to see us through the darkest moments of our lives.

And as long as God is on the throne, he has the world in the palm of his hands and we should be at peace.

And when November 9th gets here we will all be okay.

October 23, 2016

The World Series of Life     Romans 7:18b “ 25a

Well I'm guessing the Cubs fans among us are happy today since the Cubs cinched the pennant for the first time since 1945 beating the LA Dodgers last night 5-0.

Now on to the World Series where they will be playing the Cleveland Indians, who last won the World Series in 1948.

The Cubs, have not won a World Series since 1908.

Baseball is an interesting game. There is a lot of strategy that goes on behind the scenes as the managers, coaches and players decide what pitches to throw, what defensive alignment to use, and who is going to cover what base in case the ball is hit. 

But what is unique about the game of baseball is that it is a game where even the best players fail more often than they succeed. 

For instance, the best hitters in baseball have a batting average of around .300. And you might say, well, if the best hitters in baseball hit .300, then that must be pretty good.

But what that really means is that the best hitters only get a hit about 3 out of every 10 times at bat. Ty Cobb, one of the best hitters ever to play the game, had a .366 lifetime batting average.

What that means is that Ty Cobb either struck out or hit into an out about 6 or 7 times for every 10 at bats. In other words, Ty Cobb failed as a hitter more than he succeeded. And so have all the good hitters ever to play the game. They fail more than they succeed.

Have you ever felt that way as a Christian? Have you ever felt like you were failing in your Christian life more often than you were doing the right thing? I certainly feel that way a lot. And many folks I talk with feel the same. It's the thing many Christians struggle with the most.

So what do we do when we feel like we are failing in our walk with God? Don't we try to work harder to do what's right? We tell ourselves that we can do better and live better and we try on our own to clean up our lives. 

Baseball players do that too when they're in a slump and not hitting well. Sometimes they forget the fundamentals of hitting like keeping their eyes on the ball. When their batting average drops, they try harder. They take extra batting practice or examine their swing on video with a hitting coach to try to see what they are doing wrong. And sometimes it works.

They figure out their mistakes and correct them and they start hitting again and their batting average goes up.

But more often than not, they slip back into the old habits and don't keep the fundamentals of their swing right, and before you know it, they're back in a slump, not hitting very well. 

We do that too as Christians when we get in a slump in our Christian walk. We slip from doing what we know is right. We take our eyes off what is important. And when we slip up, we try to work harder. We read our Bibles more or pray more for God's forgiveness. 

That may help for a while, but then something happens and we slip back to doing what we know we shouldn't. And as that happens more and more, we get discouraged. We feel like we are the worst Christian in the world, and will never be able to be the kind of person God means for us to be. 

If you've ever felt that way, I want to remind you of something this morning. Think about this for a minute. The greatest Christian of the New Testament church, the Apostle Paul, did the same thing.

He was in the very same boat we are. Paul said as much in his letter to the church at Rome. He said he knew what he ought to do, but many times he found himself not doing it. And what he knew he shouldn't do, he kept doing.

If Paul had been a baseball player, he was striking out more times than he was getting a hit. He acknowledged that evil was present in his life. He wanted to do good, but he found that he was not practicing what he would like to do.

In fact, he said he was doing the very thing he hated. Listen to what he says about himself in 1 Timothy 1:15  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”of whom I am the worst.

Paul says that when it comes to sinners, he was the worst of all.
How could God use someone with such a messy life for the good of His kingdom? 

And if Paul was such a mess, then we wonder how we can ever be used in our messed up state.

But, you see, that's what God's grace is all about. That's the beauty of God's grace. Even before we were born, God, in His omniscience, knew that we wouldn't be perfect. He knew we would fail. He knew that we would all sin and fall short of God's mark of perfection.

And that's why Jesus Christ was in God's plan. Jesus came to do what we couldn't do. Because, you see, Jesus batted a 1.000. He always got a hit. He never made an out. He played the perfect game. He never failed.

In baseball, sometimes when you're not hitting very well, the coach puts in a pinch hitter. The coach knows you're struggling and so he puts someone in to bat in your place. The coach knows that it's more likely that someone else will get a hit when you're in a slump. 

And that's the very thing that God did for you. He put Jesus in to pinch hit. He knew you were struggling at the plate, striking out a lot.

God knew you were a sinner, so God allowed Christ to be your substitute. Christ pinch hit for you. And when He hit for you, Christ hit a home run.

 Christ died on the cross to save us even when we were failures. And now, if you put your trust in Christ, you get to experience the results of Christ's sacrifice. Your sins are forgiven and you have a home in heaven for eternity. 

Aren't you glad you are on God's team? I sure am, because the Bible assures us that God's team will win. You see, God has seen the end of the game. He knows what the final score will be. He knows that those who accept Christ as their Savior will be on His team forever. 

So when you strike out now and then, remember this. Remember what Christ did for you. Remember that because of Christ and because of God's grace, you will win in this World Series of life.

October 16, 2016

Let's Pray More       Luke 11: 2-9

Let me ask you a question Do you believe God answers prayer?

Do you believe that God can still part a Red Sea, and cause the most hardened hearts to change?

Do you believe that God can still turn people like Saul into someone like the Apostle Paul?

You know what I do, and I want my life to be reflective of the power of God a God who not only CAN answer prayers but who DOES answer prayers.

I want to talk to you this morning why we should pray and how we should pray and ask you to pray more.

I got to thinking about prayer while preparing for last Wednesday nights Bible study about unanswered prayer A couple of key points: First God knows what's best for us and second Jesus, who is to be our example as we will talk about What did He pray in the garden of Gethsemane?

He prayed Father if it's possible let this cup pass from me He Basically said Father I don't want to die on the cross And then he ends His prayer by saying Not My will but Yours be done.

WHY SHOULD WE PRAY? Prayer is like spiritual breathing.

If you stopped breathing you'd stop living. Prayer is basically our spiritual breath. It's how we stay connected with God. It's how we talk to Him and how He leads us and He responds to us.

The New Testament teaches that prayer isn't just something we do occasionally; it's something we do continually. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, pray without ceasing.

You can pray because you want to or pray because you need to, but if you don't pray your soul will never be healthy.

The 19th century British preacher, Charles Spurgeon said, you don't expect a plant to grow without air and water, how can you expect your heart to grow without prayer?

When Jesus walked the earth, He was God. If anyone had an excuse not to pray it was Jesus; he already had everything He needed and all the power and provision in the world.

Yet the Gospels note that Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray. (Luke 5:16)

2. Prayer is how God changes us but it is also how he changes the world.

You might remember Roma Downey from the hit CBS show Touched by an Angel

She recently wrote an article in which she said: If you believe in the power of prayer, would you please pray more?

More and more, I'm convinced that the world would be a much better place if we took prayer more seriously. Prayer is not just a spiritual practice, it's the means by which God changes our lives and changes the world.

Prayer isn't just helpful, it's important.

Prayer is a responsibility each of us has to bring more of Heaven into this often broken world.

See, I believe that God doesn't just hear our prayers, but that he answers them. I believe God is not just aware of us but that he is deeply concerned for us.

I believe that he intervenes in miraculous ways more often than we think, and that coincidence is often God's way of remaining anonymous.

God is not only real and alive, he's also at work in our lives. He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother; he is an ever present help in our time of need, and with him all things are possible.

I've never been more convinced of God's power and I've never been more convinced that he answers prayer.

Roma's words that prayer brings more of Heaven into this broken world really struck me.

It reminded me of the the Book of Nehemiah, which records the story of the Israelites going back to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall around the city even while they remained in captivity at the hands of the fierce Babylonians.

A conquering kingdom would NEVER let their captives rebuild their city, but Nehemiah 1:4 says that an Israelite “ who worked for the King of Babylon “ began to fast and pray before the God of Heaven.

When he started praying the world started changing.

Maybe this world is crazier and crazier because the church prays less and less.

Jesus said in Luke 11:2, when you pray, say: ˜Father hallowed be your name .'

Did you notice that word: when He didn't say if He said when.

If you're Christian you're a praying person, so pray with faith. Jesus told us in Matthew 21:22 If you believe, you will receive.

God answers all of our prayers. Sometimes he says yes and sometimes he says no and sometimes he says not now but rest assured he is listening and he is answering but he is expecting us to pray believing that God CAN do anything.

Every time you pray you need to believe that with God all things are possible. But if the answer to our prayer is not what we wanted we don't lose our faith we just know God has another plan and we accept it.

Jesus gave us lots of practical advice about prayer, and he also gave us the example of his own life. Mark 1:35 says, very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Jesus began his day with prayer.

In Matthew 6:6 Jesus told us, when you pray, go into your room and close the door.

He knew that distraction is the enemy of prayer, and 2000 years ago he advised us to lock out the world when we lock into our time with God.

Jesus' advice is as good in the 21st century as it was in the 1st century.

If you don't shut out the world when you pray, you have a hard time opening your heart to God.

Hebrews 4:16 says you can boldly walk into the throne of grace and find help in your time of need.

Jesus can take your emotions, your questions, your concerns. When you pray don't be afraid to tell God what's on your mind. God's throne room is a safe place for you.

We need to pray more, our family needs us to pray more, the world needs us to pray more.

Pray regularly, pray diligently, pray passionately, and pray prayers as big as your God.

Jesus said something amazing to us in Matthew 7 and again in Luke 11.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

But what I want to make sure you understand is that the opposite is also true. If you don't ask you won't receive. If you don't seek, you won't find. If you don't knock the door won't be open to you.

We never know what our lives might have been had we prayed more.

I know some of you are going through a particularly difficult time. Perhaps you're struggling with prayer because you're struggling with faith.

Maybe a tragedy has happened in your life. Maybe you're going through a time of relational, financial, or spiritual crisis.

Maybe you barely made it here today because it's difficult to find the strength to get out of bed.

Maybe you're asking God, why?

While this morning's sermon isn't about answering that question, that's for another sermon on another day

I would just say that this is not the time to run away from prayer, but to run towards it. It's not the time to run away from God but to run towards him.

Now is the time to trust Him.

October 9, 2016

Come On In    Luke 18:9-14

Growing up we had an Australian Shepard named Suzy. She was black and white with grey spots on her otherwise white front paws.

Now my parents were firm believers that dogs do not belong in the house, and so Suzy was relegated to our large fenced in backyard. Even when we went camping Suzy wasn't allowed in the tent.

Suzy had a pretty good life with three kids at home she got a lot of attention and when we would go in the house she would catch the screen door with her nose and stand outside with her head inside watching over her kids.

She didn't dare come in because my mother would yell and mom was a champion yeller!

As time progressed Suzy continued to catch the screen door with her nose  and poke her head in the house but then she began to put her front grey spotted paws on the concrete step and so not only was her head in the house but also her shoulders

But since her feet were still outside she was okay. On occasion Suzy would put a paw just inside the door on to the turquoise carpet, which matched the turquoise drapes that matched the turquoise couch Mom liked turquoise.

And then after she had got away with one paw on the sacred turquoise carpet she would go for two. Finally we just became accustomed to Suzy half in and half out standing there watching over her humans

And over time mom stopped yelling at her as long as she was half in and half out Then the back half followed the front half and before long the outside dog had her own little spot inside the house by the back door.

Awww That was a cute story wasn't it?

But here's the question Where are you in your relationship with Jesus Christ? Are you in or out?

If you are on the outside looking in poke your head in and take a look around nothing spooky in here, just some common folks who love God and try to love each other.

The fact is there isn't a perfect person in the whole place we are all just doing the best we can.

You know they say Ignorance of the law is no excuse and ignorance about things of God is no excuse. You were created by God for God.

We were not put on this planet to see who can collect the most money, or who can be the most important person. We were created by God to serve Him Not ourselves.

Friday Marla and I celebrated her last day of therapy by eating dinner at a new restaurant in Moline called The Steel Plow.

I ordered a burger that had Swiss cheese, pastrami, thousand island dressing and a scoop of coleslaw very tasty.., very messy!

Now suppose you were to go to work in the kitchen of that restaurant and I order the burger I just described and so you put the meat on the bun and then you add pastrami, and Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing But because you don't like coleslaw you leave it off

Do you think the boss would be happy if you did it your way instead of his No. So when you live your life the way you want to Do you think it makes our Heavenly boss very happy?

The truth is when you are living your life according to your own rules to try to make yourself happy It's not working is it?...

You see you were created by God for a purpose The Bible says we were created for His own glory. We are to bring glory to God not ourselves.

We are to wake up in the morning and say What can I do to serve God today?  Not Let's see what can I do to make me happy today?

And if you do that try to please God you know what will happen you will find the peace that you were looking for. The Bible says to seek God and His kingdom FIRST then the other things will be added to you.

Okay So maybe you have been in church for a while now and you are like my dog Suzy half in and half out you are here on Sunday but the rest of the week belongs to you.

Maybe it's time to come on in take the plunge give yourself 100% to Jesus Christ.

Maybe all this church stuff is kind of new to you maybe you are just poking your nose in to see what it's all about and that my friend is a great place to start. Hey it worked for my dog!

If you have been here for any length of time you have heard me say over and over again  The church is NOT a spiritual museum where you come to see all the perfect people the church is a spiritual hospital where we hobble in each week and get a shot in the arm to make it through another week or get patched back up to face another day.

So put your little spotted paws on our turquois carpet and hang out at the back door until you are brave enough to come all the way in And just know this Mom ain't gonna be yellin' at ya We are all going to be cheering for you!

Speaking of cheering Marla and I like to go to the HS football games when we can we like to cheer for our guys And as I mentioned Sully is the starting center But you know he had to work his way up. The last couple of years he saw more sidelines than action but he didn't give up.

It's okay to be on the sidelines for a while On the sidelines you can encourage the other players But you weren't meant to stay on the sidelines for ever there comes a time when you need to get into the game.

Someday this thing called life will come to an end and when that happens you will be standing face to face with God the same God who created you. The same God who is going to ask you what you did with the life He gave you.

I've probably name dropped this story before but when I was working at a car dealership in San Diego one of our customers was Milborne Stone who all of us older folk know from TV as Doc from Gunsmoke.

I had to fix his seatbelt one time and I was nervous because he was someone famous Imagine being in the presence of God and we ain't gonna be talking about seatbelts

October 2, 2016

You Can Run, But            Jonah 1:1-17

For years, all I knew about Jonah was that he was the guy who was called by God, disobeyed, got eaten by a fish, got spit up on the beach by the same fish and then went on to do what God had called him to do.  End of story, right?

Well Maybe but I think there is a little of Jonah in all of us. From the second verse we know that Jonah is not going to Nineveh.  He's one of those guys who says It's my life and I'll do what I want!

Jonah may have been a prophet, but he disobeyed God.  We quickly learn that not only is Jonah going to go his own way but he's going to try and flee from the presence of the Lord .  It's an ominous beginning.

What's interesting is that at this point we don't know why Jonah doesn't want to go to Nineveh.  The writer of Jonah does not tell us why Jonah chooses to disobey God until a few chapters later. 

For now, we have to leave the questions of Jonah's motivations unanswered.  What we do learn about in this first chapter is the incredible effort that Jonah is willing to put out in his attempt to flee from God's presence.  Jonah wants to escape from God's calling, and he'll go to great lengths to do just that.

This first chapter of Jonah is a story about a man who knows where God wants him to be and what God wants him to do, but who tries to be somewhere else.  Jonah is a story about a man looking for the exit signs, trying to escape. 

Which makes me wonder about the escape plans in our own lives   I'm guessing there have been moments in each of our lives when we longed to be somewhere else. 

Perhaps some of us are better escape artists than others but I'm guessing that most of us have managed to walk away from places we ought to have been at some point in our lives.

Jonah's first plan “ plan A, you could say “ is physical escape.  God wants him to be headed to Nineveh, so he's going to head somewhere else.  He goes to Joppa, and boards a boat headed for Tarshish.  He wants to be somewhere else.

We may not board ships that often, but we have other ways of being in the wrong place, don't we?

Perhaps some of us are at work when we ought to be at home.  Perhaps we're at home when we ought to be at work.  Perhaps we hide in the back of the house when we ought to be with our families. 

Perhaps we seek out the company of others when we ought to be alone, in prayer and reflection.  Or maybe we're are alone when we should be with others.

I don't know how it is that you try to physically escape from where you ought to be but you can fill in those blanks for yourselves.  We all do it, at one time or another.

Trouble is God followed Jonah.  God sends a great wind on the sea, endangering Jonah and the ship's crew.  It was clear to Jonah that his plan of escape wasn't working; God wasn't going to leave him alone  

When Jonah knows that his first plan isn't working, he goes for plan B.  I would call plan B ˜mental escape' “ Jonah goes to sleep.  What a great way to avoid a situation, eh?

How do we make a mental get-away?  Reading the paper?  Watching TV? Spending hours on the computer? Sleeping, like Jonah?  Or Simply choosing not to think about something? 

There are so many ways to not be present to what's going on in our lives or in the lives of those we love.  Sometime this week, try to spend some time thinking about how you make your mental escapes when the going gets tough.  I think if we are hones we've all been there.

At this point in the story, things get pretty rough.  The ship's crew figures out that Jonah's at fault; he tells them as much.  In fact, Jonah makes an offer to the ship's crew: throw him overboard, and God will make the storm stop.  It seems like a rather unselfish thing for him to do, isn't it? 

Or is it that he'd rather die than admit he's wrong, and repent.  When fleeing the scene and going to sleep don't work Does Jonah opt for the ultimate escape? 

I don't know how your life connects with Jonah's But I do know that most of us will face situations at some point in our lives when we use everything we have to escape Those moments of deep despair, when we just want everything to stop.

In all of this, Jonah reveals quite a bit about us, about our capacity to try and escape.  But this first chapter of Jonah isn't only about fleeing God's presence This first chapter also reveals something about God.  After all, God plays a fairly active role in this story. 

After all, God first calls Jonah.  When Jonah flees, God tries to get his attention with a storm.  And in Jonah's darkest moment, God appoints a whale to swallow Jonah, thus saving him from himself. 

The real truth in this story is that God is present with Jonah, even in his darkest moments.  God is steadfast and Jonah is unable to flee from God's presence.  This is the good news that we find in the first chapter of Jonah.

Just as God is always present with Jonah God is always present with us.  There is nowhere that we can go where we can hide from God.  As the psalmist says,

Whither shall I go from your spirit?

Or whither shall I flee from your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

even there your hand shall lead me,

and your right hand shall hold me.

The story of Jonah starts with a word from the Lord, which comes to Jonah.  Maybe we don't all get a word as direct as Jonah's But we're all called to open our hearts to God's grace. 

We're all called to share that grace as best we can.  We're all called to love God, and to love our neighbor. 

God calls us to live in the fullness of His grace.  And always, we have to make a choice about how to respond.

So when God says to us: "Go to the great city of Nineveh..." or whatever it is that God says to us, let's not try to escape.  And if we do try to escape, and find ourselves in a frightening place remember that we are not alone.  God is always with us. 

 

 Ezekiel 36:4 (KJV)
Therefore, ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD; Thus saith the Lord GOD to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, to the desolate wastes, and to the cities that are forsaken, which became a prey and derision to the residue of the heathen that [are] round about;
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