A Second Birth

I bet as a kid there was an adult in your life who played with you the game, Did You Know?  This game was often part learning, part lecture, and often a lot of fun. Looking over how things are we can oftentimes think that yesteryear was so much better, and thus we make sweeping generalizations. Moreover, when we reminisce we often drop out a lot of the negative things focussing only on the positive and sometimes I think we are too harsh a judge. 

No, I am not saying we should let go of our grasp of righteousness, or that we should relocate our faith stance on anything other than God’s holy Word. Rather, we should understand that life has always held struggles and that hope is only found in Jesus. Did you know Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday in the United States until June 26, 1870? In fact, Congress actually met in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America’s new constitution, and furthermore, it will take 2 decades before Virginia first declares it to be a state holiday in 1890.

Can you imagine the US Postal Service wanting to outlaw the delivery of Christmas cards? They attempted this in 1822 because the overwhelming numbers of seasonal mail put such an unusual strain on their resources and manpower. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was completely outlawed in Boston. Moreover, law-breakers were fined five shillings, which is approximately $0.40 for celebrating it? And those wonderful Christmas carols that had you all aglow were actually abolished in England by the Puritan Parliament in 1649. And it did not change until after Cromwell died in 1658 when the monarchy was restored.

Why share all of these stories? Because I want us to know what it is that really took place at Christmas. 1 Timothy 3:16~And most certainly, the mystery of godliness is great: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. (HCSB) There was no other way for us to have hope and a future. Hebrews 9:22~In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. (NIV)

This is the heart of humanity’s struggle. We need a God who is able to close the great divide, to expunge our sins, and to reconcile us back to Him. So when you are asked about the hope in you, I pray you will share the story of our Savior’s precious birth this Christmas.  That Mild He lays His glory by, Born that we no more may die, Born to raise us from the earth, Born to give us second birth.

Today ask yourself, to whom will I share the Christ of Christmas? Pray and ask the Lord to help you not become so busy that you fail to make room in your hearts for Christ in this Christmas season. Listen to Pete who encourages us in 1 Peter 3:15~But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (NIV) As you head out into the wide world about you, walk in the hope of Christ, as you continue your journey towards Bethlehem this Christmas.

Greater Love

Do you know what greater love is? (John 15:13) When it comes to Christmas it is not the biggest, shiniest, or most expensive gift that we give or get. In fact, it is a gift that we really can’t afford. As I grew up, I began to search out the meaning of Christmas. Have you done this? Realizing that Christmas came without ribbons or tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags. Has your puzzler ever become sore? What if Christmas, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more. In Christendom, we celebrate time differently. Time is known as sacred and common. It marks our year’s movement so that, the Advent of a season would not catch us off guard, lulled to sleep by life’s circadian rhythm.

As some of you have already read, Advent is surely a season of enduring perplexities for your pastor, and at the center is the Incarnation of Christ. Isaiah 9:6-7~For to us a child is born, to us, a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace, there will be no end. (NIV) 

View Advent this year as a new beginning. For it is a delivery of Hope. We are to hope in our salvation, which unfolds in the story of Christ our Savior. Who arrives by getting off of heaven’s throne and coming to save us in a truly preposterous fashion. He is born of a virgin in an animal shelter for His hospital. A literal litter box for the local bovine and hoof to table. It was not a place not fit for man, but beast. There, in the humblest of beginnings, they will swaddle God in flesh now appearing, with unfit rags for a King. Only to later lay Him upon a stone feeding trough. 

So innocent and helpless lay the King of all creation. Then, there are some who have asked, does He, God, love us? Yes, for love will take us places we never dreamt of going. John 3:16 well says this, just as we are provided a point of finer detail in John 15:13~Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (NIV) In my reflection I am viscerally moved by the words of ~Cloverton~ I know You came to rescue me, This baby boy would grow to be, A man and one day die for me and you, My sins would drive the nails in You, That rugged cross was my cross, too. Still every breath You drew was Hallelujah. 

Those words are some kind of powerful. They capture what Jesus has done for us individually, and for the whole world. This is the hope of Advent, that we encounter a God who is willing to ransom Himself for us. There is no greater love than that which is demonstrated in Jesus Christ. Why not share the greatest gift this Christmas. To whom will you give the best gift ever?

The Power of Delight — Burden Bearing Christ — Psalm 119.161-176.pages…Handout

Walking through the A, B, G’s, of Hebrew, we’ve heard the psalmist’s plea for us to get into and live out God’s Word. From Aleph to Tav, with____ verses Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. In___verse stanzas, the psalmist has demonstrated how God’s heavenly promises carry him through life’s many problems. Consider the Burden Bearing Christ: Need and_______.

1) Need_______? (119:161-168) Is there a place in your life where you need direction? Yes / No. Then turn to God’s______. When facing a prolonged problem in our lives, what we need is a______ solution. As a parent have you ever heard, That’s not fair! Yes / No. Psalm 119:164-165~_____ times a day I praise you for your righteous laws. Great peace have those who love your law, nothing can make them stumble. (ESV) Our world suffers from a broken scale that affects our thinking. (Romans 1:28-29) Who wants to go by produce and pay for what they are not getting. Me / Not Me. When it comes to our fallen minds we do not recognize that they are simply broken_______. Think about this, when you were younger, did anyone ever tell you that the truth had versions? Yes / No. This means our world will be filled with_________ problems as long as God allows us to live surrounded by billions of fallen minds. Psalm 119:166~I hope for your salvation, O LORD, and I do your commands. (ESV) As believers, we do not put our hope in the things of this world but in the coming salvation of the Lord. Philippians 4:6~Be anxious for nothing…(BSB) Nothing? Is that even possible in today’s world? Yes / No. We live in a culture of anxiety. The ADAA says anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US affecting____ million adults in the US, that is_____.1% of the US population. 

2) Prolonged________Perfect (119:169-176) David shares __ ways God sanctifies us through prolonged problems.
PPP#1—Our______. How did you learn what your limits are?_______ Psalm 119:169~Let my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word! (ESV) Pride locks the door of our hearts against God’s presence. While humility unlocks the door and invites Him in.
PPP #2—Inspiration To______. When we run into a problem, what do we do? Pastor______ How do problems promote praise? They______ us to praise God. Psalm 119:171~My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes. (ESV)
PPP #3—_____Power Problems display God’s power. Psalm 119:174~I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight. (ESV) Gideon is a great example of a weak individual who trusts in God’s power. (Judges 6:11-8:28)
PPP #4—______Perspective. Have you ever suffered from forest syndrome? Yes / No. Problems show us God’s perspective. Psalm 119:175~Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me. (ESV) When you think of all of those who bust’s line the hall of faith in Hebrews 11, what comes to mind? They all_____ God with their lives.
PPP #5—Recognition. Problems help us recognize our failures. Psalm 119:176~I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commands. (ESV)