As we begin our series on Advent, anticipating the coming King, we consider what it would feel like to be in a time and place marked by hopelessness and longing. With Matthew 2 as our textual source, we examine the visit of three wise men from the east looking to worship the King of Israel. They first sought Him in Jerusalem and King Herod met with them in secret asking them to return to him when they found the King of Israel so he too could worship Him. Herod was already a king and wanted no competition in ruling so when the wise men did not return, Herod ordered the slaughter of all male children age 2 and under in the area where the wise men had been sent. There is much more to this story so please do listen. And while listening ask yourself who or what rules you and your life. Is it Jesus or someone or something else? What steps do you take to keep Jesus from being the center of your life, the ruler of your life?
Paul addresses the church in Corinth about the resurrection of the dead in the times to come. The controversy is whether or not there will be a resurrection at the day of the LORD. Paul speaks of the resurrection of Jesus as the undeniable truth of a resurrection to come. After all, Paul argues, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then our faith is futile and we are still in sin.
Today, we still have that same choice to make - do we believe that not only is Jesus the son of God and that he paid the penalty for our sins but that he also raised from the dead. Make your choice -- death or Jesus.
Faith can be a driving force in one's life. It can drive you to seek, to find, to succeed. Belief sometimes is based upon seeing what faith can accomplish. Sometimes belief is not present but fear is. Jesus encountered both situations in short order on at least one occasion. First He is sought out by a ruler of a temple as the man's daughter is ill - near death. On the way to the ruler's house, a crowd is pressing in upon Jesus. In the crowd is a woman who has been ill for 12 years; she has heard of the miracles of Jesus and believes that if she can get close enough to just touch His garment then she will be cured. In the meantime, the ruler's daughter dies; Jesus tells the man not to fear but to believe. All in all quite an amazing story.
What is the level of your faith? How about your belief? Do you believe that just being in close proximity to Jesus will affect your life? Even after witnessing what Jesus can do, are you still struggling with fear of the unknown or is your belief strong?
Jesus has just finished feeding a huge crowd using very little for food. Now He tells His disciples to get into their boat and leave Him as He needs to pray. The disciples put up some resistance but eventually cave. As they are crossing the sea in the middle of the night, Jesus comes stolling along. The disciples are now afraid; they are not sure it is Jesus. Only Simon Peter --when he realizes it is Jesus -- responds and then it is with the word IF. Eventually Peter doubts and begins to sink crying out "Lord save me".
Does this sound familiar? Could it be you? A willing follower of Jesus who sometimes questions His commands? Who sometimes doubts and has little faith?
Give a listen and see how the disciples handle themselves.
Jesus casts out a demon and is accused of doing it by the power of Beelzebul (the prince of demons - AKA Satan). Well, Jesus goes on to explain why He is not casting demons out by the power of a demon. It just can not be as that would have demons against demons and that just does not happen. Why? Demons are united in a cause, a battle to defeat the kingdom of God. We all know how that ends, but some people just don't understand. Give a listen to what may be considered some fine print that you signed on for when you said "Yes, Jesus, I will follow you!".
Matthew 22 begins with Jesus telling a parable of a wedding feast to help the crowds understand what the kingdom of heaven is like. Many of us have all been guests at weddings; some of us have been participants in the wedding. So we know what a wedding is. But the wedding feast Jesus describes is not any ordinary wedding. Listen to this parabe and ask yourself who you are in this story. Are you the father who invites the guests? Are you the groom? Are you the bride? Or are you one of the invited guests? Did you accept the invitation or did you refuse?
This message uses Matthew 11:2-18 as its source. In this passage, John is in jail and sends his followers to Jesus to inquire if he (Jesus) is the one to come. Jesus responds with a reassuring answer to John and then speaks to the crowds asking what they had come to see. Jesus' words gave encouragement then and give encouragement today. Give a listen to learn what the crowds went to see. Do you see it in your life today?
Jesus tells a parable of a rich man who seeks to increase his wealth to the point where he needs to tear down his storehouse and build a new one. The problem is the man didn't consider everything that was necessary to support the wealth he was building. He didn't consider the foundation that he needed to lay for the new structure. He was a fool and in the end he lost his life perhaps because of this; but even if not because of this, he discovered that what he had built would not last forever because of the inadequate foundation.
What is the foundation you are building your life and legacy on?
Being an outcast is something no one ever wants to be. But, in truth, mankind has been an outcast since the garden of Eden. Today, we may not consider outcasts to be outcasts - criminals, for example, are not often thought of as outcasts. Loners are not often thought of as outcasts and yet they may be social outcasts - shunned by the "cool kids", etc.
Have you ever thought of how Jesus looked at outcasts? There are many examples in the bible that show us how He treated them: the Samarian woman at the well; the man blind since birth; the cripple by the pool of Siloam; the woman caught in adultery. And then there is Zacchaeus, the tax collector - a man whose name means innocent - who is an outcast because of his job. Let's see what we can learn from how Jesus treats him.
Hezekiah was the king of Judah - the smaller kingdom resulting from the civil war within Israel. The Assyrian king had already conquered neighboring nations including Israel and much of the kingdom of Judah. He sent messengers to Jerusalem seeking its surrender. Hezekiah sought counsel from the LORD through the prophet Isaiah and was reassured that Jerusalem would not fall to the Assyrian king. When Hezekiah received the message from the Assyrian king, he immediately went to the temple and laid the message before the LORD -that is he went to the LORD in prayer. Let's listen to how hezekiah prayed and learn what happened to Jeresalem. Let's discover is such prayer would benefit us today.
We last saw Jesus heading for Bethany after delaying for two days and his disciples were concerned for Jesus' safety as well as theirs. We now find Jesus has arrived and Martha has run out to meet Him. She says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." Jesus replies "Your brother will rise again." A brief discussion of future events takes place; Martha runs to tell Mary that the teacher has arrived and is asking for her. Mary greets Jesus in a manner similar to Martha. The Jews who had gathered to console the sisters figure something is going on so they follow them.
Jesus instructs the stone to be rolled away from the tomb over the protests of Martha. He then prays loudly to His Father so that those present will know that the Father had sent Him. Finally Jesus shots for Lazarus to come out of the tomb and he does.
This message is one that deals with doubt, unbelief, and belief so that all present would have the chance to recognize who was in their midst. We have the same opportunity today. Have we recognized who Jesus is? Have we accepted Him? Do we proclaim His name and His gospel? How do we handle the doubts the devil may cause? Spend some time and listen to the message being delivered.
Jesus was a close friend of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. He probably visited with them on numerous occasions so when Lazarus fell ill Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus. Why? In all likelihood, they knew who Jesus was and believed that Jesus would heal their brother. When He heard about the illness, Jesus delayed returning as the hour had not arrived. When He was ready to return, His disciples feared for His life but they were determined to go with Him so they could die with Him. But remember, the hour had not arrived.
Jesus' first miracle was in many ways a foreshadow of what was to come. The miracle was turning water into fine wine at a wedding feast in Cana (in Galilee) on what appears to be the third day after Jesus called his first disciples to follow Him. This was only one marker of the future for Jesus and His church. Listen quite closely to other parallels to the final days of Jesus and what it means to His church as well as to you.
Have you ever desired a position of importance thinking that it would be as simple as asking for it? Two of Jesus' disciples thought they could just ask to sit on His left and right side when His Kingdom came. What they did not know was those seats were not Jesus' to give and even if they were there was a price that came with them. That price is suffering; suffering with Jesus and for Jesus. How much are you willing to bear for the KIng of Kings?
Jesus was an amazing person when he lived. For the son of a carpenter with no known formal education, he knew his scripture extremely well. In this message we begin with a review of Psalm 139:13-16 before getting into the main content of the message. Jesus could easily stand up to the Pharisees, however, he also knew how to choose messengers to deliver messages to the Pharisees very well.
We look at a man who was blind from birth and who made his living as a beggar. The examination of the now sighted man and his parents by the Pharisees is quite a story and a lesson in schooling for the Pharisees.
Give a listen and pay attention not just to the lesson taught to the Pharisees but also to lessons that may be being taught to you in your daily activities. Let go of the blindness and gain your sight.
Moses, as a prophet of the LORD, spoke to Israel of the blessings God would bestow upon them for following Him and obeying His word, commands, and law as they entered into and lived in the land promised to Abraham. If Israel did not follow and obey, then the LORD would curse not only the land, but the people.
We then turn to the disciple John to learn how Jesus taught Israel about these promises made through Moses. We also look at how those lessons apply to us today in our day to day material life and spiritual life.
Ever needed some parental assistance or advice? Parents not available or nearby? Who do you turn to? Have you considered turning to the church? Yes, the Church. Not just your local congregation but the Church Universal; as Christians we have a huge family that is standing by ready to help whenever he or she can. Using Galatians 4 as a textual basis, this week we look at how the Church can function as our mother. Give a listen. Be Blessed.
Have you ever had a wonderful, delicious, satisfying meal and found yourself hungry, starving almost, within a couple of hours? Well similar things happened in Jesus' time. He fed a huge crowd with a couple of loaves of bread and a few fish. The crowds ate their fill and Jesus' closest disciples gathered the leftovers. The next day, Jesus had to explain to the crowd that He was the bread of life and what he had to offer would last forever unlike the manna of their ancestors. Talk about an unruly, ungrateful crowd.
Has much really changed since then? We know Jesus is the bread of life but do we understand it? Give a listen to see what has changed since Jesus' day and what hasn't. Pick up your bible and read John 6:22-59 for the textual basis. Be blessed.
Using Psalm 8 as the textual reference, we look at how the name of Jesus was and still is being honor, glorified, and exalted throughout the earth. How we have been delivered from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of light and in doing so how we come to praise, glorify, and honor Jesus, the Christ.
Paul is one his way to Rome. In his letter to the Roman church prior to his finally getting to Rome, he writes about his longing to be there with them - to teach them, to encourage them, to fellowship with them, to love them. The first few lines of this letter speak all the work that Paul has done for Jesus and how much more he hopes - LONGS - to accomplish for Jesus. What was true for Paul is true for us today. Let's listen and learn together.