Thursday, December 20, 2007

Advent 2007 (III): Mary and Her News
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Mary And Her Newsº


  1. Good News: You baptized seven people today in the river. Bad News: You lost two of them in the swift current.

  2. Good News: The Women’s Guild voted to send you a get-well card. Bad News: The vote passed by 31-30.

  3. Good News: The Elder Board accepted your job description the way you wrote it. Bad News: They were so inspired by it, they also formed a search committee to find somebody capable of filling the position.

  4. Good News: You finally found a choir director who approaches things exactly the same way you do. Bad News: The choir mutinied.

  5. Good News: Mrs. Jones is wild about your sermons. Bad News: Mrs. Jones is also wild about the “Gong Show,” “Beavis and Butthead” and “Texas Chain Saw Massacre.”

  6. Good News: The trustees finally voted to add more church parking. Bad News: They are going to blacktop the front lawn of your parsonage.

  7. Good News: Church attendance rose dramatically the last three weeks. Bad News: You were on vacation.

  8. Good News: Your biggest critic just left your church. Bad News: He has been appointed the Head Bishop of your denomination.

  9. Good News: The youth in your church come to your house for a surprise visit. Bad News: It’s in the middle of the night and they are armed with toilet paper and shaving cream to “decorate” your house.

Read: Luke 2:1-7


Trans:You have heard the expression, “As weak as a baby”2

  1. And it was as true for Jesus as it was for any other baby.

  2. But there is an irony here – for when we see Jesus in that manger we do see him at his weakest, but we also see the most powerful person in the universe. The King of Kings, the Lord of Lords.

  3. We must never forget, that in that manger lies not just a baby, but God himself.

T.S. And even though God is in that manger, I expect that not everyone thought that that birth was “good news”.

  1. Christmas is not Good News at all

    1. I think if I were Mary's grandmother, I would really wonder about how good this birth of Jesus really was. I mean I would really be embarrassed to explain to my neighbor all that went on with my grandson's birth.

    2. Mary is engaged – but she has not yet moved in with her husband and she is pregnant. Very pregnant.

    3. She wasn't even home for the first three months – went to visit Elizabeth you know. But once Elizabeth had her baby, a boy named John, she comes home. She didn't even stay to help.

    4. And, you know what was really strange. Mary is nearly ready to have her baby and Joseph takes here across country to that little village – Bethlehem. And he didn't even arrange for a place to stay – how irresponsible is that. Irresponsibility comes in two types. Some people, like Joseph, are just plain irresponsible.

(Ill.) And then there are times that even normal people do irresponsible things. For example, The Rev. Robert Middlemiss of England found he was traveling on the wrong train—a non-stop express. More than that: he had to attend a meeting at which he was to bring the message. Rev. Middlemiss prayed for help, and within minutes the train stopped. The preacher, overjoyed at his good fortune, jumped from the Newcastle-to-London express and summoned a taxi so that he could keep his appointment at a nearby town. But the British rail system was not happy about the incident. It criticized the Baptist minister for his “foolish and irresponsible action.” It also denied that the train stopped because of divine intervention, saying, “There was trouble on the line.” 3

    1. And because of Joseph's irresponsibility, Mary has her baby in manger – a manger.

(Ill.) It would be like your daughter or granddaughter going to the hospital and finding it was full. The nurse has a crazy idea – he and his wife are going on a camping trip tomorrow and the SUV is packed, ready to go. She has an orderly go to his car and set up the tent – and there, next to the wonderfully equipped hospital, your daughter has her baby.

    1. It really is a grandmother's nightmare – did you hear that Mary also tells stories about seeing angels. Not only Mary, but there is that boy Joseph – he talks about them too. And its not just them – there were those dirty shepherds. They talked about seeing an angel too – no not just an angel, a host of angels. And then they have the nerve to go and visit Mary. They didn't even know her,

    2. How can anybody consider this “good news”?

  1. Christmas is really Good News!

    1. But it is good news.

(Appl.) Too often we judge life by its circumstances. Our imaginary grandmother was doing exactly that – looking at the Jesus birth through the circumstances rather than through God's eyes. And we fall into the same trap about our circumstances

    1. Paul, in his letters to the Galatians, saw beyond the circumstances.

(Ill.) Galatians is an interesting book. Most believe that Galatians was one of earliest (maybe the earliest) letter written Paul. It respresents some his earliest thoughts about his faith as a young believer. And he shares some his thoughts on Christ's arrival on our planet.

    1. Let's take a minute to look at Galatians 4:3-7

    2. Paul is very much aware of what I have said all too often – we are broken people. We were slaves – and if you read the rest of the NT, you know he means slaves to sin. We did those things that we did not want to do. And did not do those things that we were expected to do.

    3. Because sin is so personal, we sometimes will feel like we are the only ones that have the problems that we have – when in reality sin is common to all mankind. Paul says it here, were slaves under the basic principles of the world.

    4. God could have left us there – but he didn't. To quote Paul, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

    5. Paul uses an illustration here – he says we can call out to Him, “Abba, Father”.

(Ill.) Abba is an interesting word. It is not the formal word “Father...”, rather it is a word that would be used in the nursury. We might use the word “daddy” in the same way. It is the kind of word you might here a child say as his father comes to the door – and the child comes running to meet him, “Abba”.4

    1. Christmas is not bad news. In Christmas God, brought His son into the world. And His son would allow us to become members of the family of God. And that is “GOOD NEWS”.

Conclusion: I want you to remember three things this Christmas:

  1. When we look at the circumstances of that first Christmas, it might very well be considered “bad news”.

  2. But when we look at Christmas from God's view, it is good news.

  3. Finally, there is one more lesson here. Whatever circumstances you may find yourself in, take time to look at your life from God's perspective.


ºMuch of this sermon is based on material in Beth Moore's book Jesus:90 Days With The One And Only. B&H Publishing (2007).

1Streiker, L. D. (2000). Nelson's big book of laughter: Thousands of smiles from A to Z (electronic ed.) (282). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

2Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. (Lk 2:1). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

3Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

4Balz, H. R., & Schneider, G. (1990-c1993). Exegetical dictionary of the New Testament. Translation of: Exegetisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament. (1:1). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Advent 2007 (II): Mary and Her Relative
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Mary and Her Relative1

Intro.: I have a funny habit – a habit that irritates my kids, but one that my wife loves.

  1. I sing songs to her.

  2. I make up little ditties that express my love and commitment to her as we drive along in the car.

  3. She likes it – especially when I come up with some words that makes sense.

  4. My kids don't like it – they feel the need to tell me I can't sing.

  5. And that is what Mary is doing for God in today's passage.

Read: Luke 1:39-56


Trans:I want to begin by making a few observations

  1. Mary had remarkable knowledge of scripture.

  2. In the ten verses of the Magnificat, she quotes no less than 15 OT passages.

  3. Mary's trip from Nazareth to Judea would have taken 3 to 5 days, depending on where Elizabeth lived in Judea. We are never told – only that it was a “town in the hill country of Judea”

  4. According to Gabriel in verse 37, Elizabeth was already six months pregnant. Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months – meaning she probably stayed long enough to help Elizabeth for a short time after her baby was born.

  5. Though we will only look at one of them, there were actually three responses to Mary's arrival in Elizabeth's home

    a. Elizabeth's baby, John the Baptist, leaped in her

    b. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit

    c. Mary shared the scripture we will be studying today.

  6. Mary's song had long been known as the Magnificat – which comes from the Latin for “Magnify” - the first word in the Latin Bible.

T.S. I want to look at the three stanzas of the Magnificas it leads us to praise God for all he has done.

  1. The Magnificat reminds us that God cared for Mary

    1. I will sometimes fall into the trap of feeling sorry for myself – afterall, some pastors have bigger churches, some believers have better cars, some people seem to have it together better than I do. In fact, if I were Mary, I think I might be tempted to fall into that trap.

    2. If I were a 13 year old girl, I would not be very happy to find out that I was pregnant. Yet, at what could have been the most horrible time of her life, she does not. Instead, she begins to focus on what God has done for her:

My soul glorifies the Lord

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has been mindful

of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,

for the Mighty One has done great things for me—

Holy is his name.

    1. Even as Mary found herself in what could have been one horrendous predicament, she continues to look to God.

(Ill.) Howard Rutledge found himself in a predicament too. As a pilot during the Vietnam war, he was shot down. He was able to parachute to the ground safely, but immediately captured and imprisoned. In his book, In The Presence of Mine Enemies, he describes how he and his fellow prisoners of war survived. Part of what they did was to go back to the lessons they had learned in Sunday School – the stories, the scriptures, the songs. For example, they remembered the song

Showers of blessings,

Showers of blessings we need!

Mercy drops round us are falling,

But for the showers we plead

      He also tells that every soldier seemed to remember Psalm 23 and the Lord's Prayer. But he goes on to recount that the most often quoted passage was neither of these, but John 3:16 - “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”1

(Appl.) You see, whether it was Mary or a Prisoner of war or you and me, when life gets tough, we can turn to God's word as a source of strength.

  1. The Magnificat reminds us that God cares for us

    1. Mary begins by reminding us that God cared for her, but she continues by reminding us that God's care goes beyond just her:

His mercy extends to those who fear him,

from generation to generation.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;

he has scattered those

who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones

but has lifted up the humble.

He has filled the hungry with good things

but has sent the rich away empty.

    1. Five times in these ten verses Mary uses the words “He has ...” to mean that “God has ...”

    2. She acknowledges that God is at work what ever may come.

(Ill.) In 1620, the Pilgrims came to America to find religious freedom.2 One of messages that they brought with them to New England was that “God was at work behind every catastrophe, and that He still spoke not only by the still, small voice but also by the thunder, the snow, the hail, the absence of rain, and if necessary even by death.”3

(Appl.) Mary, even her most confused moments, did not forget what God had done. Neither can we.

  1. The Magnificat reminds us that God cares for His people

    1. Mary begins by looking at how God has been with her. She continue by exploring how God has worked in the world around her. She finishes by looking at God's work among His people:

He has helped his servant Israel,

remembering to be merciful

to Abraham and his descendants forever,

even as he said to our fathers.

    1. We are not merely gathered here because of what we have done. We are here, because there have been lots of people that have come before us. They provided a building, they nurtured us. Some of you are here because of this church has done, some of you are here because of the blessing you have received from other churches. But none of us are just because of this group.

(Ill.) I am reminded of a song I heard several years ago by an artist by the name of Ray Boltz, “I Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb.” The words can be found at

    1. Saints gave their lives so that we could hear the gospel message today. May we never forget that our faith came because of the work of others – and may we do the work that will leave a legacy for those to come after us.

Conclusion: Let me conclude by suggesting this. I said earlier that Mary composed her Magnificat by choosing 15 verses to be her testimony. They were her testimony, but they were God's words.

  1. As you come through this holiday season, take time to think about your testimony.

  2. What verses would you choose to build your Magnificat?

  3. Then share you song with someone – your spouse, your co-worker, a friend.


1Much of this sermon is based on marterial discovered during my family's study of Beth Moore's book Jesus: 90 Days with One And Only

1Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (58). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.


3AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Advent 2007 (I): Mary and the Angel
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Mary and the Angel1

Intro.: I would have liked to bring a really famous person into church today.

  1. Somebody like the President of the US, or the Pope, or the Queen of England

  2. I think two things would have been amazing.

    * You would be amazed that that person was here at all

    * You would want to here every word that this person spoke.

  3. Today, as we begin our Advent season, we will look at the Mother of Jesus and her response to the news that she would give birth to the Messiah.

Read: Luke 1:26-38


Trans: Over the last few weeks my wife and I have been starting a study of Jesus' life as described in the book of Luke.

  1. The book that Sandra and I have been using is a Bible Study written by fairly well-known author by the name of Beth Moore.

  2. At the same time, I had been praying that God would give some guidance as to what I should preach on during the upcoming Advent season.

  3. And so, over the next few week, I will be sharing some of what I have been learning in my own study, from Beth Moore, and from the Bible Study that my wife and I have shared in the weeks leading up to Advent.

T.S. During the next few minutes I would like to address the question of how does one young girl respond to an angel and to his message?

  1. Responding to Gabriel Luke 1:26-33

    1. Gabriel had first visited earth about six months earlier. He had stopped to see Zechariah. Zechariah would become the father of John, John the Baptist. Zechariah was an elderly priest married to an equally married wife, Elizabeth. Gabriel had the privilege of telling Zechariah and Elizabeth of the birth of their son.

    2. Now, I want you to imagine for just a few minutes that you are a young person of of 13 years of age. I don't know where you are, maybe in your bedroom, maybe out walking. But you are alone.

    3. It has been six months since Gabriel made his last visit. And now he is standing in front of you. It must have been startling, at the very least. It couldn't have been you – after all, you are young, poor, and female. Nothing important ever happens to the young. Nothing important ever happens to the poor. And nothing important ever happens to women in Jewish society.2 And now, Gabriel is here. Now Gabriel is here to see you.

(Appl.) God does not always use what those that He might expect. He will take those who are willing to serve Him. He will take those who are where He needs them to be. In fact scripture tells us even the stones will cry out, if no one else will. But he doesn't choose the elite, he doesn't choose the rich, he doesn't choose a leader. Rather He chose a young, poor, female named Mary to bring the promise made since the beginning of time to fruition.

    1. Though it does not say it explicitly, I expect that Mary was stunned when she heard the angel's words, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.

    2. Whoa!” Scripture was says that Mary was “confused and disturbed” when she heard these words. The Greek word literally means totally agitated.

(Ill.) My first college degree was in Chemistry – but don't ask me anything about chemistry, I have forgotten more than I ever knew. But I remember using a small teflon covered magnetic bar. That bar could be placed into a beaker. The beaker usually contained a liquid and a solid that had to be thoroughly mixed. I would drop the magnet into the solution and set the beaker on a hot plate. Inside the hot plate was a motor that was attached to another magnet which would spin – and the magnetic bar would spin. The effect was to thoroughly agitate the ingredients in the beaker. Mary was thoroughly agitated when she met the angel.

(Appl.) Not an unusual feeling for most of us – there are times when we all might feel that kind of agitation – times when life makes no sense and we stand there wondering what is going on.

    1. The angel has the answer that both Mary and we need. “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” That probably gave her a few moments to relax – at least until the Angel finished his sentence:

      Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name JESUS. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.

    2. Now, I don't know about you, but if I were a 13 year old girl hearing this words, I would be anything but calm. Not only will she be having a baby, but she also knows what to call Him and what He will accomplish.

    3. If it had been me, I would have fainted right there. Right then.

  1. Responding to Gabriel's message Luke 1:34-38

    1. How does a young girl respond to this remarkable message?

    2. Mary was said to be “engaged to Joseph”. But the relationship was legally closer to what we call marriage than it was to engagement.

(Ill.)The engagement was a fairly sophisticated ceremony – The engagement ceremony was arranged by the grooms parents. This would consist of a meeting of the two families and other witnesses. The groom would commit himself to the marriage and present the bride with one or more piece of jewelry. He would thin sip a from a cup of wine. If the bride sipped from the same cup of wine, she was making the same commitment. And at that point the marriage was legally binding. Though they had not been physically intimate, the relationship was legally binding.

    1. Given Mary's surprise, her response is not unexpected: “How can this be?” Now I don't mean to be coarse, but I know how a married young woman has a baby. I expect that Mary knew that much. But she was totally unprepared for the explanation that Gabriel gave her: The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. And consider your relative Elizabeth - even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.

    2. How does a young girl respond to this remarkable message?

    3. If I had been that girl that day, I don't know if I would have had the faith to respond as she did. “'I am the Lord’s slave,' said Mary. 'May it be done to me according to your word.' Then the angel left her.

(Appl.) I may not have had the faith that day, but by following her example, I would hope that I might say yes to whatever God would have me do today. I would pray that you might respond similarly to whatever God expects of you.

Conclusion: One more question.

  1. I wonder if Mary saw it all as good news, or whether, as the angel left, she sat there wondering what it all meant.

  2. I wonder if her family and friends would see it as good news? What would her mom say?

  3. I pray that we see it as good news this year.


1Much of this sermon is based on material in Beth Moore's book Jesus:90 Days With The One And Only. B&H Publishing (2007).

2Life Application Bible. Notes. Luke 1:27,28.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Loving God: Basking In His Love
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Loving God: Basking In His Love

Jude 1:20-21 (HCSB) But you, dear friends, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life.

Intro.: I want to begin by telling you about two men.

  1. Oswald Chambers was a well known Christian leader from the early 20th century.

  2. He was born in 1874 to Baptist parents in Scotland. As a teen, he and his father attended a series of services conducted by Charles Spurgeon. While walking home, he mentioned to his father that if an invitation had been given, he would have gone forward.

  3. That night was where he always dated his conversion – but he struggled. He did not always find his answers in Christianity and found the Bible dull and, personally, uninspiring.

  4. It would take four years of spiritual dryness before he would realize that he could not force himself to be holy. It was only when he finally that Christ had traded His life Oswald's sin that he would experience the renewal that defined the rest of his life.

  5. Oswald's ministry would take him from Scotland, to Egypt, Japan, and America

  6. Now, I have to be honest – today's message, as well as last week's message had its beginnings in a sermon preached by Oswald Chambers December 1916, in Alexandria, Egypt.1


TS The second man I want to tell you about is a bit more obscure.

  1. He is the author of today's text – Jude.

  2. We don't normally think of Jesus as having siblings – but he did – we know the names of two James and Jude.

  3. Scripture suggests that they did not come to faith readily. But at least some of them did and God used two of them write two books of the Bible.

  4. Jude wanted to write a letter discussing the salvation he shared with the rest of the church – but chose to write instead words that prepare his readers for those who would try to destroy their faith.

  1. In the middle of today's passage is a single command: Keep yourselves in the love of God.

    1. God is love” - we learned that last week.

    2. But keeping ourselves in that love is something else.

    3. Most of us have been taught since childhood how to keep warm and as adults, most of us have learned to drive.

    4. But you know, scripture never tells us to keep warm, scripture never tells us to drive a car.

    5. Scripture does tell us to “keep yourselves in the love of God

    6. I find it interesting the “keep” is an active verb. We cannot sit around and do nothing. It requires WORK.

(Ill.) Have you ever watched a child in a pool – I don't know how it works now, but when I was a child, the pool had rules that all the children had to leave the pool for ten minutes every hour. But, if you are a child, you never want to leave that pool. You want to stay in the water.

    1. It requires the focused attention of one who desires to experience God's love.

    2. But what to do, how to do it.

(Ill.) I could almost imagine one of those cartoon characters walking all over the movie screen, “What to do? What to do? What to do?”

    1. And that is the question that Jude will help us to answer – you will notice three phrases each beginning with a participle: building, praying, and expecting.

  1. Building yourselves up in your most holy faith

    1. Building” is an interesting Greek word – the word ep oi kod om e ho refers to a house that has a sturdy foundation, but still needs its walls and roof added to be completed. Occasionally, you will find a building that is left with the foundation but nothing else, but it means that something has gone wrong with the construction – the builder went bankrupt, the required components were not available.2

    2. So recognizing that we are a building in progress, we are to work at building ourselves ... - now wait just a minute. It is a whole lot easier for me to worry about you, than to worry about me. Sometimes, it is easier to worry about someone else, than to care for myself. But, if I am a foundation ready to be built on, then I don't want to remain a foundation all my life – I want to be the building that God wants me to be.

    3. And, like any good builder, God tells us what to build with – our most holy faith.

    4. The first step in keeping ourselves in God's love is building ourselves in our most holy faith.

  2. Praying in the Holy Spirit

    1. To keep ourselves in God's love, we also need to be “praying in the Holy Spirit.

(Ill) Joshua's best friend from Iowa was able to come to his wedding. Now this friend has been dating a young lady for a couple of years and for most people that would sound pretty serious. But you see there is a catch – the girl is moving to Japan for a couple of years to teach English. The problem, and the couple recognize it, is that long distance relationships are very difficult to maintain. I don't know how they will handle it, but when it comes to our spiritual life, the lack of communication will get us nowhere.

    1. Do you want to keep in God's love, keep the communication paths open.

(Ill.) I have a on again, off again love affair with country music. There is a song that I have heard several times this week that talks about the things a son learns from their father. But there is a line in that song that goes like this:

Just this side of bedtime later that night

Turnin’ on my son’s Scooby-doo nightlight.

He crawled out of bed and he got down on his knees.

He closed his little eyes, folded his little hands

Spoke to God like he was talkin’ to a friend.

And I said, “Son, now where’d you learn to pray like that?”

He said I've been watching you dad, ain't that cool

I'm your buckaroo, I wanna be like you.“3

(Appl.) Now there a number of points I could make here, but I want to point out that this son was talking to God as if he were a friend. We can learn to talk to God as our friend – so not only is it not a long distance relationship, it can also be a close relationship. God does not need to be a long way off, God does not want to be a long way off.

    1. When you pray, you are talking to a friend.

  1. Waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

    1. There are some topics I haven't spent a lot of time preaching on.

    2. One of those is the events that are God has planned to bring time as we know it to a close. My problem is that there are so many different schemes that the best of scholars have found woven through scripture.

    3. But, and it is a big BUT, that does not mean that I do not believe that Christ will not be returning. It means that I am not sure how he will do it.

    4. And part of our job is to be waiting – and looking for the fulfillment of Christ's love for us. The day will come that we will spend eternity in His presence.

Conclusion: One command – keep yourselves in the love of God. And then Jude gives us three keys to doing just that -

  1. Build up your faith

  2. Pray in the Holy Spirit

  3. Wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ



2Strong, J. (1996). The exhaustive concordance of the Bible : Showing every word of the text of the common English version of the canonical books, and every occurrence of each word in regular order. (electronic ed.) (G2026). Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Loving God: God Is Love
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Loving God: God Is Love1

Intro.: I have here a red apple. [Show red apple]

  1. But how do you know it is red?

  2. Let's try an experiment. Close your eyes. I want you to imagine for a minute this lucious, sweet, apple. May be you will want to eat it, maybe you will want to put into an apple pie. But doesn't it sound good right now?[Exchange apples]

  3. Now, keeping your eyes closed, how do you know that it is a red apple. You cannot see it. And, even if you could smell it, it tell you nothing about its color. You see, you only have my word for it that it is a red apple.

  4. Now, open your eyes. [Show green apple]

  5. How can you know that the apple is red?

  6. But the same questions arise when we think about that statement that we have grown up, “God is Love.”

Read: I John 4:7-18


Trans: Today, we start a new series entitled “Loving God”

  1. I chose this title for the series because of this simple phrase really can have two meanings.

  2. First, it speaks of the very nature of God – we serve a “Loving God”

  3. But it also speaks of our loving God for all that He provides –

  4. Thanksgiving seems like an appropriate time for us to examine God and love.

  5. How can we know that God is Love? What proof is there that God is a loving God?

T.S. Today I want to look at four ways we can know that God loves us. These are not all inclusive – there are others, but these four focus our attention on our Loving Lord.

  1. God's love is seen in His creation

    1. Yesterday morning I looked out my front window for a few minutes – you know what I saw across the street? A lone goose. He (or was it a she) was walking on the neighbor's grass. Might not have been so strange if there were a pond or a pool on the neighbor's lot, but such was not the case. He was waddling (do geese waddle?) on the grace, made his way across the drive way. I lost track of that goose when I heard the phone ring. I went back to the window, but no goose, I looked up and down the street, but no goose.

(Ill.) I am reminded of that little trick that we sometimes see on TV in the typical detective show. The bad guy has written a ransom note for $250,000 and sent it to a set of parents who are missing a child. But, halfway through the show, the detective finds a pad of paper – now he doesn't have the original note, just the impression the writer left on the pad. But there is enough of an impression that can tell that the writer was there.

    1. Creation does not show us God, but it does show us that God was there.

(Ill.) Of course, this is similar to the argument that is currently being made by a group of very educated scientist – an argument called “Intelligent Design.” When we look at our world as we know it, when we look at life as we know it, the odds of arriving at the complexity that we see using a series of random events is impossible. In creation we see the imprint of God's presence.

    1. Part of what we see is God's love. In the beauty of a sunrise, in the wonderful patterns we see in nature.

  1. God's love is seen in His Scripture

(Ill.) Someone has called the Bible “God's love letter to man”.

    1. We sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that seeing God as a loving God is a NT concept.

    2. As early as 1440, Moses writes that “And the Lord passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, 'The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.'” Those were God's words in Exodus 34, but Moses echoes those same words as his own in Numbers 14.

(Appl.) That is often how spiritual growth happens. It is not automatic. It happens as we place ourselves in situations where we can hear God speak to us. After we hear something, we process it, meditate on it, and then it becomes ours. It becomes something that will change our beliefs, something that will change our behavior.

    1. God's love changed Moses. And it can change us.

    2. It is found throughout the scriptures. God loves His people; God loves individuals. God's love is found in the Law, the Writings, and the Prophets – the three classic divisions of the OT. Let me give you just two examples – David writes in Psalm 59, “O my Strength, I sing praise to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.” Jeremiah writes, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”

    3. God is love – it is a truth that transcends time itself. It describes the very nature of God. It may be John that declared it outright, but it is a truth that was true for all people, where'ere they may live.

  1. God's love is found in the gift of God's only begotten son.

    1. There is a hymn in our Christmas carol in our hymnal that I do not ever remember singing or even seeing. It goes like this Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, love divine; Love was born at Christmas: Star and angels gave the sign.

    2. God shows his love in the gift He made of Son.

    3. It was not a last minute thought, it was not a second chance, but it was a plan that originated in the earliest days of history. A plan that had its fulfillment in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    4. Paul writes, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,d neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

(Ill.) Shortly after I first gave my heart to Jesus, I became associated with our college's Campus Crusades for Christ group. You'll remember that we had Deanna Tuskas here a few weeks ago as she sought to begin ministry at SUNY Brockport. At the time that I was a part of Campus Crusades, their world headquarters was in Southern California – in the hills above San Bernadino at Arrowhead Springs. And two or three times during the time I was part of Campus Crusades, I was privileged to travel to Arrowhead Springs and hear some of the great Christians of the early 1970s. One of those speakers was the founder of Campus Crusades, Bill Bright. In 1996 Bill Bright was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress In Religion, the largest single monetary award made to an individual for intellectual merit – larger than even the Nobel prizes. Bill Bright has said, “When we have Christ we have everything we need. He is love incarnate, so that when we trust and obey Him we have love.”2

    1. In Jesus Christ we are shown God's love.

  1. God's love is found in the gift of the Holy Spirit

    1. I fear that I have missed one of the greatest gifts that God has given to His people – the gift of His Spirit.

    2. Paul writes, “God not only provided Jesus as our Savior – he also loved us enough to provide the Holy Spirit – God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

(Ill.) I have shown you this little token of love that was given to me by a five year old Sunday School student a good number of years ago. My wife often wears around her neck a small heart that includes a picture of me from my early 20s. That heart was a token of my love to her. And God has given us a token of His love – he has given us the Holy Spirit.

(Ill.) Somebody once said, “The baptism of the Holy Ghost will do for you what a phone booth did for Clark Kent – it will change you into a different human being.”3



1Much of today's sermon is derived from Chambers, O. (1996, c1973). The love of God. Hants UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott Containing also The ministry of the unnoticed, The message of invincible consolation, The making of a Christian, Now it is possible.

2Bright, B. (2004). Brightside Articles. Orlando, FL: NewLife Publications.

3Water, M. (2000). The new encyclopedia of Christian quotations (488). Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Joshua: What Is Remembered?
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Joshua: What Is Remembered?

Intro.: I want to share two events in the life of John Wesley.

  1. There was a point in John Wesley thought he wanted to be a mystic. He wanted to lead a secluded life in which he could enjoy real rest for his soul.He had not yet put his faith in Christ. And he thought that leading a solitary life give him the rest he finally needed. His wise mother interposed, saying that “God had better work for you to do.” Wesley traveled many miles to consult “a serious man.” “The Bible knows nothing of a solitary religion,” advised the good man. It would be a number of years before Wesley would find the rest that he was seeking. 1

  2. The second story comes later in Wesley's life. He had come to faith, he had gained the reputation as a preacher. A Lady once said to John Wesley, “Suppose you knew you were to die at twelve o’clock tomorrow night, how would you employ the intervening time?” “Why, just as I intend to spend it now. I would preach this evening at Gloucester, and again at five o’clock tomorrow morning. After that, I should ride to Tewksbury; preach in the afternoon; meet the societies in the evening; then repair to friend Martin’s who expects to entertain me; converse and pray with the family as usual; retire to my room at ten o’clock; commend myself to my heavenly Father; lie down to rest; wake up in glory!”2

  3. Wesley had changed. He had met his savior. And he had learned that he could trust him to give him time to do everything he needed to accomplish what God needed done.

  4. We, too, can find what God wants for us.

Read: Hebrews 4:1-11


Trans:Today we come to the end of our study of Joshua.

  1. Over the last two years, we have followed him as Moses chief assistant, Moses chosen replacement, and have watched him as he died.

  2. Today, I want to address one last question. What effect did Joshua have on history?

  3. And the results can be summed up in a single word – REST.

T.S. Rest is the theme that connects the book of Joshua to the NT and to us.

  1. Joshua gave his people rest

    1. It had been a long time since they had been home. They had spent almost 600 years in Egypt. Moses took them out of Egypt. Then they had to roam around the Middle East for forty years. Then, after Moses died, they crossed the Jordan and continued taking the land that God had given them. So what was the result?

    2. The book of Joshua sums it up this way, “After a long time had passed and the Lord had given Israel rest from all their enemies around them, Joshua, was old and well advanced in years,

    3. They were through with roaming, they could settle down and build homes, they could begin clearing the land to grow grapes and grain, they could begin building synagogues for worship.

    4. I bet to some of them it felt like heaven – a place they could call their own.

    5. But it wouldn't last for long. Joshua 2:7 tells us that “The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel.

    6. And then things went haywire. I won't read the rest of chapter 2, but it become clear that had chosen to follow a path that would reduce God's place in their life. In fact, the remainder of Judges 2 describes a pattern that would define their lives as a nation for years to come. I might help to think of a ferris wheel – that never stops.

      1. After serving God for a time, they would begin living their lives as if God did not exist.

      2. They would find themselves in trouble – the very people they had fought would return as raiders, plundering their land, taking the very things they had fought so long to have.

      3. The people would then, in the midst of their troubles, remember to call on God.

      4. God would hear them, and provide the people, resources, and circumstances needed to move on. And they would serve God for a time.

    7. They had become what some have called “Foxhole” Christians – willing to call on God only when they are in trouble, rather than living for Him on a daily basis.

  2. Jesus gives His people rest

    1. Joshua offered rest – but the people could not handle it. The New Testament book of Hebrews reflects on those days by saying, “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.

    2. But there is another Joshua in the Bible. This Joshua was born in a manger in a small town that was the ancestral home of his parents. This Joshua would grow up, after a brief trip to Egypt, in Nazareth watching his father the carpenter. And eventually, this Joshua would not die as a hero, but as a criminal on hill called Golgotha just outside of Jerusalem.

    3. By now you know that I am speaking about the person we know of as Jesus. But Jesus is a Greek name – the language of the NT. But Jesus' parents were Hebrew. Jesus' Hebrew name, the name used by his family and friends as they lived out their lives, was Joshua.

    4. And the writer of Hebrews had more to say. He argues that since God did not give a real rest through Joshua, there still remains a rest for the people of God.

(Ill.) Pythagoras was a famous Greek who lived about 500 years befor Christ. He tells a story of a friend of his – the man had asked the neighborhood cobbler to make a pair of shoes for him. He made arrangements to pay for the purchase over time, but when he went to make payment, the friend found the cobbler had died. His first reaction was joy – he could keep his money and keep the pair of shoes for nothing. But his conscience got to him and would not allow him to be at peace with himself. He went back to the cobbler's shop and left the money telling the new proprietor, “Go thy way, for, though he is dead to all the world, yet he is alive to me.” God is presented in a similar situation – he had promised rest to His people, but after Joshua, they had nor received it. If God was too keep all his promises, the rest was still to come. Just as Pythagoras' friend had to keep his promise, so will God.3

    1. Our world does not offer many opportunities for rest, rest that reinvigorates, rest that restores.

(Ill.) Have you seen all the advertisements for sleeping aids lately. There are both prescription and over the counter products out there. Now I recognize that there is a place for these medications, but I also understand it is indicative one of the problems faced in our society – the need for rest.

    1. Life keeps moving, life does not stop when we need it to stop.

    2. But we can turn to the one who still gives rest. Over the past few weeks we have found ourselves returning to Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28 – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Conclusion: Life is confusing. Life is difficult.

  1. It is time to find rest.

  2. It is time to put the very things that keep you awake into God's hands

  3. Are you ready to experience God's rest. To quote the writers of Hebrews one more time: Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following the Israelites example of disobedience.


1Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

2AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

3Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Joshua: Looking Toward The End
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Joshua: Looking Toward The End

Intro.: I want you to imagine just for a moment that you are near the very end of your life.

  1. You know that the end could come at any time. And you want to leave something – but what?

  2. Maybe you will decide to write your closest love ones a letter. I mean, most of us have 40 to 50 years of experience which have taught us a great deal. Experience which we may want to pass on to the next generation.

  3. As we come to the last two chapters of Joshua, we find him doing exactly this.

Read: Joshua 23:1-5


Trans:Joshua was 110 years of age when he died.

  1. Let me suggest you read Joshua 23-24 – they are two of the most readable chapters in Joshua. Chapters full of truth and instructions – both from Joshua and for us.

  2. You will find Joshua's epitaph in Joshua 24:29-30

    After these things, Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Serah in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.

  3. It says three thing – the first is the stuff of jokes. “Name two people in the Bible who are said to have no father.” Of course there was Jesus. But most people forget about Joshua who was the “son of Nun.” Now Joshua did have a father, but his father's name was Nun.

  4. It also says that he was buried at home, the very land which he was given because he believed God.

  5. But the most important thing that it says about Joshua is to call him “the servant of the Lord.” No greater tribute could be paid to Joshua.1

  6. Scripture makes it clear that we cannot serve two masters – and it says Joshua served the Lord. Everything else came second – money, family, possessions. Joshua did serve the Lord.

  7. This title “the servant of the Lord” is reserved for only three men in the entire Bible. Moses was the first and then came Moses successor, Joshua, It would be 400 more years before the term would be used to describe David. And then nobody.

  8. I don't think I will ever compare to these men, but I do hope that when that day comes and I die, that those who know me will feel comfortable putting those words on my tombstone.

  9. That was the very end of Joshua's life – but as he approached that point, he had some things to say to his people. And that is what we wan to look at today.

T.S. Joshua's message can be divided into parts – a look at the past and a look at the future.

  1. It pays to discuss the past

    1. Joshua begins by calling his people to remember what God has done. “So be strong! Be very careful to follow all the instructions written in the Book of the Law of Moses.”

(Ill.) I want to let you into a little secret. I never did like history. In fact I was probably one those students you have read about who make silly mistakes in history class. Rich Lederer gathered a bunch of those in his book Anguished English.

• The Bible is full of many interesting caricatures.

• Noah’s wife was called Joan of Ark.

• Lot’s wife was a pillar of salt by day and a ball of fire by night.

• Moses went up on Mt. Cyanide to get the ten commandments, but he died before he ever reached Canada.

• Solomon had 300 wives and 700 porcupines.

• An epistle is the wife of an apostle.2

History wasn't much fun for me – but Joshua under its importance in preparing God's people for the future.

    1. Joshua reminds the Israelites of all that God had done – He helped clear the land so that it could be settled. God said He would do it – and he did.

    2. If I was going to memorize a single verse from Joshua 23-24, it would be Joshua 23:14 - You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.

    3. Joshua, even at the end of his life, still recognizes that God is in the business of being faithful to what He says and to those who belong to Him.

(Appl.) As we age, it sometimes becomes easy to fall into the trap of thinking that God no longer matters. Take time now, while you still believe, to strengthen your walk so that you are ready, as Joshua was, to be faithful even when it gets difficult.

  1. It pays to discuss the future

    1. But Joshua also speaks about the future. In Chapter 24 he begins to call the people to make a decision for themselves.

    2. In the OT it is called a covenant – but in the OT a covenant is a legal term. A covenant is not unique between God and his people – but is found throughout middle east during the era represented by the OT.

(Ill.) Excellent examples are found in the treaties of these Mideastern countries. The Hittites were one such group of people – Their covenants consisted of five parts:

  1. The names of the parties involved

  2. An historical summary of past relations between the parties

  3. The stipulations that each party would uphold

  4. A list of witnesses

  5. A list of sanctions – good and bad, depending on whether the provisions of the covenant were honored

    1. Joshua calls the people to make a covenant – but it comes with a strange addition:

        v14 “honor the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly

        v16 'The people replied, “We would never forsake the Lord”'

        v19 “You are not able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy and jealous God

    2. It is ironic – even as Joshua calls his people to follow the Lord, he also is convinced that they cannot do it. It almost echos one of those things that I am saying quite regularly – we are broken people. As broken people, we cannot do all that God expects of us. And that is why we need a Savior. And there is another irony – the same Savior whose death covers us because we cannot live up to God's expectations, is the same Savior that empowers us, once we place our lives in His hands.

(Ill.) Harry Emerson Fosdick once wrote Fear imprisons, faith liberates; fear paralyzes, faith empowers; fear disheartens, faith encourages; fear sickens, faith heals; fear makes useless, faith makes serviceable; most of all, fear puts hopelessness at the heart of life, while faith rejoices in its God.3

Conclusion: Today, I want call you, like Joshua did so many years ago, to follow God. If you have never made a decision to follow Jesus, today is a good day to say “yes” to Jesus.

  1. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.

  2. Each of us has made a choice to go our own way. When we are going our own way, we cannot know and experience God's love and forgiveness.

  3. God's only provision for our sin is Jesus Christ. As we place our lives into His hands, we can know and experience God's love and forgiveness.

  4. Will you receive Him today?4


1Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (1:370). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

2Streiker, L. D. (2000). Nelson's big book of laughter : Thousands of smiles from A to Z (electronic ed.) (383). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

3H.E. Fosdick found in Water, M. (2000). The new encyclopedia of Christian quotations (347). Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd.

4Bright, B. (1994). Have you heard of the four spiritual laws?. Orlando, FL: NewLife Publications.