Expectations

Acts 1:1-11

You are God's dream.  The staggering reality is that, despite the billions of us on the earth despite the reality that there were billions before us who have lived and died, before there was a physical universe, God already had in mind everything He was going to do.   When you read the first chapter of Jeremiah, God says, before you were born He had a concept in mind.  You are no accident.  The world has told us that we are so ordinary, we are nothing.  The Bible is saying you were in God's mind before you came t be. You are God's dream come true, his dream job!

God has high expectations for your life.  Stop letting Him down.  Stop letting the devil and the world around you talk negatively about you.  God doesn't want any other job but helping you shape eternal life.  Dr. Luke wrote this to his friends about those early days in the Church.

"In my former book,,,,I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day He was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen."

We are 500 years from the Protestant Reformation.  It was a dark time in history  tragic  God had to reach in and do things in His Church that perhaps He never would have thought needed to be done.  There needed to be a return to the scripture, a return to gospel, and return to that which He originally inspired the early Church to be.   God has had to do this a number of times over the years, because somehow we all drift away from the original deal.  We add and subtract a bit here, a bit there, and once again, God needs to stir us up.  Maybe God want to stir us up with a fresh expectation.

The verse that came up out the Protestant Reformation is a verse that is going all the way through the Bible.  It says.  the just shall live by faith.  Faith is that central component to our Christianity.  Unless we let faith stretch us from what we know to be to what we believe can be, we we will always be living powerless lives.  

There are three faith facets that confront us in Acts, chapter 1:

Unknown Experience

The disciples had never met anyone who was back from the dead.  In verse 3 it says:

"After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave them many convincing proofs that He was alive.  He appeared to them over a peirod of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God."

There is a central truth concerning the kingdom of God.  Without that central truth, nobody can see the kingdom of God.  With that experience, you can be powerfully in the kingdom, and the kingdom can be in you.  Jesus told His disciples not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the gift His Father had promised.

Disciples, I want you to expect something.  John baptized with water, but the disciples were baptized with the Holy Spirit (vs. 5).  This, in every age, should be a disciple's expectation.  This was the great unknown experience for the disciples.  

Disciples, I am telling you that the kingdom of God can be inside you.  Jesus want to be inside us,  His breath into us.  Jesus' spiritual part, He would like to give us His Holy Spirit.  The big question is, have you been filled with the Holy Spirit?  If not, can this sermon take you from what you have known to what you will begin to believe?  There is no greater expectation for a disciple of Jesus than to be filled with the Holy Spiritl

Unmet Expectations

In verse 6, the disciples asked Jesus if He would restore the kingdom of Israell (they were under Roman occupation).  Jesus answered them in verse 7-8:

"It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit come on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

Their unmet expectations struggled with that answer.  Having left all to follow Jesus, they now had nothing to show for it.  Then Jesus was taken up to heaven.  What does all this mean?  Where is He going now?  What happens now is.....

Unclear Explanations

God sent the disciples two messengers in verse 10.  This was now their "known to be."  Jesus had left the world.  The two messengers gave them an uncertain explanation that takes as much faith to believe today as it did the day it was first spoken.  That calls for a life of faith today. 

Go about your daily business, expecting His return.  One day, the trumpet will sound for His coming.  The sky will shine with His glory.  Faith will call you to stretch what you believe can be, from what you have known so far to be.  

 

The Inexhaustible Love Of God

Psalm 139

God is in control, but change is hard.  Jesus said "Blessed are those who mourn."  To mourn is to feel , to process, to remember the joy, acknowledge the loss, and move forward a whole person.  Encouragement then, is a pert of the mourning process.  As change comes hammering down on us all, know that there is a constant.  God is the eternal constant.  If you know the character of God and love Him, then that He is so constant is a wonderful and amazing thing.  

Psalm 139 is told from the viewpoint of a man who is in a relationship with God.  Consider the first actions of Adam and Eve upon revolting against God.  They covered themselves.  Contrast this with the repentant Christian.  Our most broken moments come when we see our sins as they truly are, when we are utterly aware of how far we have fallen  short of God's ideal.  Yet, these broken moments are the ones that God loves most.  In Psalm 51 verse 17 says :

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God you will not despise."

What God wants is for our hearts to break for the things that break His.  Our love for God grows immensely when we are aware of our brokenness, but still know that our Father in heaven loves us anyway.  Our need for Him fills His heart with pity and moves Him to action.

We can never know the full extent of who God is.  God knows far more than we can ever know.  And yes, His wrath is far more terrifying than our miinds can grasp.  God knows all and can do all.  God is a great sustainer. 

If God knows what I am going to do before I do it, how am I considered free to choose my faith?  God is infinitely intelligent.  He invented time.  Time is part of His creation.  You see this in the scientific concept called "space-time continuum" from science-fiction movies.  It is actually a scientific term to describe creation.  Stephen Hawking said there was never a time when there was nothing.  Time and matter came to be simultaneously.  St. Augustine described space-time in  a book about his relationship with God using only the Bible as his resource.  God is eternal.  He is outside of time completely.  So then, God knows who we are.  He knows who we were, and He knows who we will be.

Guess what  God did when He found me?  He loved me, and He died on the cross for me.   The Holy Spirit walks beside us.  What we are reading is just how far God will go to walk beside us.  The sun was darkened when Jesus died.   Scripture says He became sin on the cross.  It was our sin that caused Him the pain and despair.  Any of us could look at ourselves in the mirror, and realize that God must be seeing something we are not seeing.  In the eyes of God we are righteous and redeemed.  We are His beloved sons and daughters, destined for eternity in heaven with Him.

 

The Messianic Hope

Micah 5:1-4

Who Were The Wide Men?

We don't know.  The Bible doesn't give us their names. 

A.  The Miracle Place

Through stargazing, three wise men found themselves in the palace of King Herod.      King Herod was the wrong man to ask this.  If Jesus was born in 5bc, then the wise men would have arrived at about 3bc, and asked King Herod, an embittered man, "Where is he who is born King of the Jews?'  The Miracle Place - it is just like God to choose a humble place.  Bethlehem, a humble, ind1script place.  Jeremiah prophesied that Rachel would weep for her child.  To see that murder of the little boys ages two and under by King Herod was Satan's very first attempt to prevent Jesus, our Messianic Hope,  from going to the cross.  Micah talked about Jesus in verse 2:

"..Out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."

Before Abraham lived, He already was.  From Bethlehem, a miracle place, came one from ancient times - Jesus.  He came into our times from Bethlehem.

B.  The Misery Race

The rabbis of the time before Jesus talked of the burden of Israel, the only monotheistic faith in a pagan world.  They talked of tremendous sorrows and struggles that came upon them as a nation.  Rabbi Harold Cushner  said that to be a Jew is to be a  magnet for hatred, resentment.   The Jews suffered for 400 years until when?  Verse 3:  

"Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites."

Until Mary, a peasant girl, gives birth to Christ the Lord.  Jesus said, the other sheep from another sheepfold, He must seek them too.  There is now neither Jew nor Gentile, for we are all one in Christ.

C.  The Majesty of Grace

The one who would be ruler over Israel.....Micah speaks of the shepherd in verse 4:

"He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.  And they will live securely, for then His greatness will reach to the ends of the earth."

Jesus is the one son out of Bethlehem who is the good shepherd.  This is the shepherd who carries His flock on His shoulders.  This is an illustration of the majesty of grace.  "His greatness will reach to the ends of the earth."  A carpenter from a nowhere town who ministered for only three years.  There is no change unless God is in it!

Jesus told Hid disciples to out to the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  And whosover believed and was baptized would be saved.    Jesus also predicted that the gospel of the kingdom will be preached to the whole world as a testimony to all nations and then the end will come  We live in a world where the gospel has finally begun to reach the entire world

Conclusion

Wise men still seek Him.  The Church doesn't grow by sword or conquest.  It grows by LOVE.  That's our style.  We are here to love..  When you become His disciple, you commit to love, for that's His style, His message, the language of His Kingdom.  Out of Bethlehem, the offer of God's grace is extended internationally.  The offer of God's grace has reached us.  Can we keep it to ourselves?  No, no, no.  If you receive grace, GIVE IT AWAY, even to the most undeserving.

Christmas

The Mystery Of Christmas

1Timothy 3:16

Introduction

How long do you have to be a Christian before you can say you fully understand the Christmas story?   How do wise men, seeing a star in the sky, connect it to a baby in a manger, Emmanuel, born in the town of David? 

A.  The Mystery of Divinity Permeating Humanity

St. Paul wrote about the mystery of godliness.  Beyond all questions, the mystery of godliness is great.  It is the Mystery of Divinity permeating humanity, taking on human flesh, Isaiah professing a virgin should be with child called Emmanuel.  "El" is the Word of God in Hebrew.  "Emmanuel" is "God with us."  The Word of the Father became flesh and dwelt among us.  

God appeared in the flesh.  That is the mystery of Divinity - to bear the sins of humanity.  The Father spoke when Jesus was baptized:  "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."  This scripture is now fulfilled.  Jesus was vindicated by the Holy Spirit.  Divinity permeated humanity.  He didn't stop there.

B.  The Mystery of Doubters Preaching Internationally

What did it take to move a frightened group of apostles to go into the world and preach His Word?  On the night they came to arrest Jesus, no one was there except a few apostles.  Their courage failed them and they ran. It is amazing that this bunch of doubters began to preach internationally.  Jesus was preached among the nations. 

C.  The Mystery of Disappearance Promising Eternity

Jesus was only with us for 33 years.  Then He died.  Any hope of an international religion was so over.  Oh, and then a grave opened, and the resurrection occurred.  The disciples wondered, looking upward.  How long would you have stood there.  This same Jesus will return in the same way the disciples saw Him ascend into Heaven.  This mystery of eternity gives us the promise of eternity.

 

Conclusion:

Are you waiting to understand the whole mystery first, before you commit your life to Jesus?  Beware -- it may take two lifetimes.  In this life, we are seeing through a blur.  Afterwards, in Heaven, we will see clearly.

Christmas Eve Sermon

I will answer three questions:  When, How and Why  It's all about YOU

And then I will pose the same three questions about Jesus of Nazareth

A.  When?  When did you start?    And the answer is........?

B.  Second question.  How did you start?  There was a moment in time when two cells united.

C..  Why did you start?  Why are you here tonight?

Long Pause.

A.  When did Jesus Christ of Nazareth start?  

The Bible has an answer that is tied t the origin of the universe itself.  Our top mathematicians have shown how the entire universe was all in one place, so smalll and so dense that our minds can't understand it....no energy, no  matter. 

It could not start itself--there had to be "first cause."  This cause had to have at least three qualities:  timeless, matterless (spiritual, and immensely powerful.  And a fourth quality added by some brave scientists:  limitlessly intelligent.

The Bible says Jesus Christ was that timeless, matterless, immensely powerful, supremely intelligent first cause of the universe.

John 1:1-3  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through Him all things were made;  without Him nothing was made that has been made."  

Jesus was there from the beginning.  The same disciple said:

John 1:14 "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

B.  That brings us to the How question

How did Jesus start?   

Matt 1:18  "This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about:  His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit."

No!  Come on - that takes believing.  Yes it does.  If a timeless, matterless, all powerful, supremely intelligent God could be the first cause of all that the strongest telescope can see--it isn't very hard to add that He can make a baby by  a supernatural creataive act.  The How of Jesus Christ was the only God-man combination ever.

C.  Why?  

Listen carefully now.  Why did Jesus lay aside the omnipotence of divinity to come live here?  LOVE.  God entered into the human experience so that as a man, He could tell us in human language and with many acts of human kindness, that God wants us to know Him  and live with Him after we die.  Jesus came to earth on a Love mission.

D.  Why Are You In  The World?

Why are you a thinking, feeling, rational, emotional being?  What is the purpose of your life? 

God supervised the how of your conception, your DNA, and the personality you have, and your talents, and the when of you with a tailor-made plan for your life: God made you to be known by you even as you are known by Him. 

Your life matters! 

It matters not only for this world, but for all eternity future.  You are a precious, unique created being that bears a stamp from God inside you.  There is a space inside you only God can fill.  God made you for a relationship with Himself.

Why do you have a body?  So you can relate to the physical world.

Why do you have a secret yearning inside you to know completeness and fulfillment?  So you ca relate to the One who created you.

Why do you have a mind?  So you can seek Him and find Him and pray to Him and hear from Him and read more about Him in the Bible.

Conclusion

You are here by a sacred design.  This message is the best Christmas present I can give you.  

Merry Christmas