Henry M. Morris
What situations make you feel powerless? What circumstances make you feel defeated? At those moments the resurrection of Jesus offers great hope - both now and for the future.
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
You have the power of the resurrection in you
A Christian is someone who has been born again by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead. The same Spirit lives in you! The same power that defeated death lives in you. Whenever you feel powerless or overwhelmed, remember the Holy Spirit dwells in you. You may be powerless but He isn't. There is no greater power than that.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9
Power for now
The power of the Holy Spirit is there for you everyday. The Spirit can empower you to resist sin and temptation, to love and serve sacrificially, to persevere through suffering and hardship, to experience joy in the midst of challenging circumstances. You don't have to rely on your own strength for the grind of everyday life, allow the Holy Spirit to empower you for every moment of every day.
Power for the future
The power that raised Jesus from the dead now dwells in us. This gives us great hope for the future. We know our resurrection and eternal life is secure. That gives us the ability to live with perspective, to view today in the light of eternity. There is nothing that can separate you from Him
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 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.
“I can see waters raging at my feet. I can feel the breath of those surrounding me. I can hear the sound of nations rising up. I can walk down this dark and painful road, I can face every fear of the unknown. I can hear all God’s children singing out, we will not be overtaken we will not be overcome. The Same Power that rose Jesus from the grave, the Same Power that commands the dead to wake, lives in us, lives in us. We have hope that His promises are true, in His strength there is nothing we can’t do. Yes we know there are greater things in store. We will not be overtaken, we will not be overcome. Greater is He that is living in me, He’s conquered our enemy. No power of darkness, no weapon prevails. We stand in victory!”
Written in 1719, Joy to the World became the most published Christmas Carol in North America by the end of the 20th Century, appearing in 678 different hymnals. Isaac Watts, a prolific hymn writer, took inspiration from Psalms 96 and 98 when writing this carol.
Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy;
Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
The first verse reminds us that the incarnation is the arrival of our King. Drawing on imagery from the psalms that pictures all creation rejoicing at the arrival of Jesus, we are also encouraged to consider our own position. What does it mean for our heart to prepare him room? Jesus arrived, but not everyone welcomed him. There was no room at the inn on the night of his birth. This joyful carol challenges us to consider our response - will we receive this king who comes to bring joy, or will we close the door of our heart?
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
Joy to the world! the Savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
The second verse draws on the only correct response to the reign of Jesus, our Savior - jubilant praise! When we consider who Jesus is and what He came to do, what else can we do other than join with creation in declaring his praise? How will you worship and glorify God this Christmas?
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
The third verse evokes the images of sin entering the world in Genesis 3. Ever since those events, sin and sorrow have been a part of everything we do. The good news of Christmas is that His blessings will flow as far as that curse. There is no part of life that He has not come to restore and refresh. In what areas of your life do you need to experience His blessing this Christmas?
He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
The carol ends with the glorious declaration of his kingly rule. We resist the idea of being under the authority of someone else, but not this king. He rules with truth and grace. No corruption, perfect justice. No selfishness, perfect love. Everything He does demonstrates His righteousness and glory. That is the wonder of Christmas day - and every other day of the year - there is more of His grace to experience!
"The fullness of Joy is to behold God in everything."
Julian of Norwich
I hope that you find joy in Christmas this year. On behalf of my Patty, Eric and David and myself, we wish you all a most joyous and happy Christmas season. Thank you for allowing me to serve you as your pastor for these last 10 years. It's been an honor and a privilege I look forward to many more years to come here at FBC Hanover.
In Ezekiel 34:1-16, God has some harsh words to say to the leaders of Israel. The leaders (shepherds) of the people were supposed to seek the good of the people (sheep). The sheep should flourish under the care of the shepherd. Instead, the shepherds:
● Fed themselves instead of the sheep
● Took from the sheep for their own benefit
● Didn't care for the sick, injured and weak
● Didn't look for the lost
● Ruled them with harshness and force
Therefore the sheep were scattered and vulnerable. Because of this situation, God says He is going to:
● rescue the sheep
● search for the sheep who have been scattered
● feed them
● take them to good pasture
● bring back the strayed
● bind up the injured
● strengthen the weak
● destroy those who became fat from the sheep
God is going to step in. He is going to be the shepherd. The good shepherd. Hundreds of years later, Jesus says this:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
When Jesus declares that He is the good shepherd - he is declaring that the moment prophesied by Ezekiel has arrived. The good shepherd has now arrived.
A bad shepherd doesn't really care about the sheep beyond what the sheep can do for him - provide a source of income or clothing or food. Jesus, the good shepherd, cares about the sheep. He cares about you. The bad shepherd abandons the sheep in danger, the good shepherd lays his life down for the sheep. On the cross we see that Jesus truly is the GOOD shepherd. He sacrificed himself for us, his sheep.
"Jesus' death was seen by Jesus himself ... as the ultimate means by which God's kingdom was established. The crucifixion was the shocking answer to the prayer that God's kingdom would come on earth as in heaven."
N. T. Wright
Jesus is our shepherd. Our GOOD shepherd. He has proved his love for us on the cross. We can trust ourselves to His care.
"Trust the Lord. He is the good shepherd. He knows His sheep. And His sheep know His voice."
M. Russell Ballard
Laughter and Love
Laughter has amazing benefits. Time spent laughing lowers blood pressure, reduces anxiety, boosts the immune system, combats insomnia, stimulates the cardiovascular system, decreases stress hormones, relieves pain and burns calories!
A day without laughter is a day wasted.
We can all instinctively recognise fake laughter, because genuine laughter can not be manufactured. It overflows from something within. It is a response to something deep in the soul of a person.
When the lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, "The Lord has done great things for them."
Psalm 26 is a psalm that God’s people would sing as they approached Jerusalem. The psalm describes scenes of great joy, which include laughter.
Their joy, and laughter, is a response to God’s actions. They remember how God has restored their fortunes, how he saved and rescued them from exile. His goodness to them was beyond their wildest dreams. This is not laughter in response to a witty comment or punchline, but the spontaneous overflow of joy in response to God’s overwhelming love. When they reflect on God’s love towards them, they overflow in joy, pleasure and laughter. This is laughter that can take place in the hardest of circumstances because it is based o the never changing love of God.
If love is the treasure, laughter is the key.
The word laughter in the Bible, in the same way as it is in modern English, can refer to different types of laughter. The same word can refer to spontaneous joy, pleasure and enjoyment or the laughter of scorn, derision. Often we laugh in mockery, laughing at others, rather than with them. This laughter is short lived and selfish and leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. It is not the full-throated belly-laugh of God’s people in the psalms. We can see this in the second verse of the psalm above, the result of this joyful laughter was that the nations around them became aware of God’s great love. God’s love causes a laughter which is contagious, the joy overflows and is shared with others. This laughter is not at the expense of other people, it includes others in the love in which it is rejoicing.
“What is life, a tragedy or a comedy? Think of it this way: a comedy is shaped like a smile. You go down then up—descending into darkness before rising up to joy. A tragedy, on the other hand, is shaped like a frown—up then down. You climb to prosperity then tumble into the pit.
[The world believes that] Life is a tragedy. Life, according to the wisdom of the age, is about enjoying our brief “moment in the sun.” We clamber upward, grab for ourselves all the achievements, experiences, and pleasures that we can and then, so soon, we are “over the hill” and the grave awaits. It’s up then down. The frowny face. The tragedy.
Then—against all odds and in distinction to all competitors—the Bible dares to tell a different story. It actually has the audacity to be a comedy. The tale it tells holds out dazzling and eternal hope for us.
The Bible promises resurrection. This is different. It’s about these bodies and this world raised up. It’s this life laid hold of and turned around, like the plot twist in a classic comedy. Without Jesus, life ends with a funeral. With him, there is a never-ending wedding feast.”
Let your joy overflow into laughter in response to God’s great love towards you.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
What are you seeking? The priorities we might write on a list do not always correspond to our priorities in real life. Our behavior shows what we are really seeking. You can tell what you are truly seeking by where your attention is. What dominates your prayer life? What keeps you awake at night? What do you think about as soon as you wake up? Those are the things that you are seeking, regardless of whether they would appear on a list of our top priorities for this year.
It doesn’t matter how efficient you are if you are doing the wrong things in the first place. More important than efficiency is effectiveness — getting the right things done.
Jesus' instruction here, to seek first his kingdom, should come ahead of everything else. He says his kingdom should be prioritised above their practical needs. 2021 will be full of important, even urgent, practical needs. Jesus knows about your problems. He doesn't want you to ignore those problems. But He still says that seeking His kingdom should come first.
"Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither."
Prayer seems like the least 'practical' thing we can do, especially when we're faced with an ever-expanding to-do list. It can feel like a waste of time but it is the most important thing we can do. It is not a bonus if you can find the time to squeeze it in. It is essential to your spiritual health vitality.
Jesus says that when we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, then all ‘these’ things will be given as well. God's grace overflows way more than we could ever imagine. He doesn't tell us to ignore those other practical things that tend to clog up our attention. He knows that we need them, and will give us those things. He does not say that they are bad, just that they should not get in the way of seeking him. Seek him first, and everything else follows. The other things fall into place when the priority is right.
When the sun is at the center of the system, the planets and moons don’t cease to exist. In fact, they exist more securely, more beautifully, in their proper positions and proportions.
With God at the center of your universe of worship, with the gospel at the center of your life, all other good gifts—people and pleasures, thoughts and things—take their proper place and proportion in our lives. They are more pleasing and enjoyable because they give the pleasures they are designed to give, and no more.
Jared C Wilson
CS Lewis puts it like this:
all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise. The world rings with praise — lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game — praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. . . . I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that is magnificent?”
That’s what we see at the start of the book of Ephesians - Paul usually starts his letters with a greeting and then a prayer for the recipients.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
After this greeting, before his prayer for the recipients, the is an “interruption” with v3-14. These verses are a 200 word long sentence praising God. Paul gets carried away with the goodness of God and can’t help but give thanks.
He thanks God that:
● We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing.
● We were chosen before the creation of the world.
● We have been adopted into his family through Jesus Christ.
● We have been freely given his grace.
● We have been redeemed.
● Our sins have been forgiven.
● He has made His will known to us.
● We have been sealed with the Holy Spirit
● We have hope of an inheritance in Him.
Why not read slowly through Ephesians 1:3-14 and let this reminder of good news cause you to naturally respond in thanksgiving and praise?
"God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say 'thank you?'"
William Arthur Ward
Moses and the snake in the desert
An image of a snake on a pole has become used worldwide as a symbol connected with medicine and healing. It is known as the 'rod of Asclepius'. Asclepius is a god of Greek mythology who is associated with healing. Readers of the Old Testament may recognize a connection between healing and the snake on a pole that pre-dates those Greek myths.
When God recused the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and led them through the desert, there was a lot of grumbling. Particularly about food. After one occasion of intense grumbling in Numbers 21, the people suffered the consequences of their sin as God sent venomous snakes throughout the camp. This caused the people to repent and cry out to Moses and God for help, Moses prayed for the people and God's reply was a bit unusual.
The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.
This is an unusual solution. You can imagine the doubt as the people heard Moses describing this plan. A bronze image of the animal that was killing them had to be made and all they had to do was look at it. The bronze snake itself was not doing anything, it had no power. But because this was God's method, it worked. They had to trust him. If they trusted God's method and simply looked, they would live.
All the people must do is trust what God has promised. It didn’t matter how hard they looked, or how convinced they were that it would work. As crazy as it may have sounded, all they had to do was look up, away from their own circumstances and believe. If God doesn’t act, the people die. But he gives them life.
We might be tempted to think of this as an obscure, slightly strange, Old Testament story that we read and then forget. But then Jesus brings it up!
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him
This statement comes just after Jesus had been speaking to Nicodemus about the need to be born again. Nicodemus is confused about the language, asking Jesus how it would be possible for a person to re-enter their mother's womb. Jesus explains that he is taking about a spiritual re-birth and he uses the incident with the bronze snake as an example. Not only that, Jesus compares himself to the bronze snake! As we consider the events in the desert with Moses, we see a reflection of Jesus mission.
The snake was lifted up on a pole for all to see. In the same way, Jesus would be lifted up on the cross.
The snake represented the thing that was killing them. Jesus acted as our representative and took the sin that was killing all of us
Those who trusted what God said and looked at the snake were freed from death and given life. Those who trust what God says and look to Jesus on the cross as their hope are freed from death and receive eternal life.
We are always tempted to think that we can earn our salvation and healing. God asks us to trust Him instead of ourselves. All He asks us to do is look, look to the cross and live.
Jesus Christ was put on the cross on purpose for you to look at. The only reason why he died, was that poor sinners might look at him and be saved. Jesus hung on the cross on purpose to be looked at. Look at him, look at him, and live.
With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.
Well my friends we are at the sixth month mark since we were last in the church meeting together on a regular basis and as you will agree with me, I’m sure, so much has happened since that time.
We have been challenged each of us in our own way individually and as a fellowship. We have lost family. We have lost friends. We have felt the stress of financial strain. We’ve had to come to terms with a new order of how things work in our church and how we communicate and deliver the word. And on top of that there are societal changes occurring around us and an election looming in weeks ahead. So many challenges in so short a period of time have contributed to a feeling of being overwhelmed, isolated and anxious.
However, in the middle of adversity and challenge God shows up by answering our prayers, reminding us of His presence and keeping us unified through his Spirit regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in.
As we prepare to come back together on the 20th of September let us be even more ready to greet our community with love, grace and compassion, slow to speak, eager to listen with reverence and concern to each heart we encounter. We have all been through a most difficult time in the history of our church and as we have continued adherence to the scriptures telling us as a people to bear with one another’s burdens, bear with one another in love, we can go above and beyond and gain a new level of spiritual perspective and love for one another. That is our challenge to bear with one another in love through this new transition that we’re about to go through.
As you may be aware the food pantry has continued to serve the community through the church. It has been a blessing to this community in multiple ways and I’m grateful for all the volunteers who have given themselves in this time to make that pantry available for those in need. AA has continued to meet at our church in the parking lot in the back throughout the summer and at some point, they’ll be asked to come back into the church because of weather with a limited number of people and of course mitigation to help control the virus. They have done their best face this challenge and I am so grateful we have a place where they can meet and share and support one another through this most unusual time. The Learning Ladder preschool has just reopened its doors to the community. Their situation is different as well because they’re controlled by a state agency that tells them how many people they can have and everything they need to do to keep their kids safe and they’re doing just that. And, of course, services have continued throughout this time with the use of social media and the use of YouTube. So grateful to God that we could use those resources to get the word to the world.
So, on the 20th of September things will be different and things may not be what we’re used to and the key word that we need to use often here is flexibility. We must all be flexible in every way. We need to be flexible with an attitude of grace and mercy for each other, remembering we’ve all walked a journey through this time. Things will not be perfect and there may be things we come across that we have to adjust to and that’s okay because we’re going to be flexible. If you come with a concern please try to have a solution to that concern. Let us work together to solve any problems we encounter in the weeks and months ahead through unity in the body and through the love of Jesus.
The Church Council will be meeting Tuesday night the 15th and we will be discussing a wide range of topics including the church fair which, honestly, I don’t know if it will happen this year and if it does it’s going to be different than in years past. But that’s okay because we’re going to be flexible and follow what the spirit would have us to do. And, of course, Christmas is coming and that may look different too everything is new to us this year let us embrace it and let us be creative and may the spirit of the Lord continue to embrace First Baptist Church of Hanover as a beacon of light for our community.
Please remember to,
Pray for one another
Be patient with one another
Be kind to one another
Put others above ourselves
And love each other as Jesus loved us.
I’m looking forward to seeing you all again as we continue to grow together in Jesus.
“By perseverance, the snail reached the ark” Charles Spurgeon
Do you ever feel like you are just “pushing through”.
I guess that has been my most used phrase in the last several months. It has been a season of trying to persevere, continue to move forward or just plain stick it out! That is not always an easy thing to do or even something we want to do, but as believers in Jesus it is something we are called to do.
Have the four walls been closing in around you during this pandemic? Suffering through some long-term health issue? Experiencing problems at work? Struggling with relationship difficulties? Sometimes the situations seem so difficult and so hopeless that you feel like giving up. Even praying for answers has us tired and weary.
When we feel like giving up, we can be encouraged by Jesus’ parable of the persistent widow.
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8)
Firstly, we can be encouraged that Jesus expected us to feel like giving up! The purpose of this parable is so that the disciples would always pray and never give up. Jesus knew that there would be times when they would feel like giving up and he told them this parable for those times. So, if you feel like giving up or have given up then Jesus told this parable for you!
“Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance” Samuel Johnson
Secondly, we can be encouraged to persevere by being reminded that Jesus is our only hope. The widow is weak and vulnerable, she has no power to change her situation. Her only hope is this judge (no matter how unlikely) and so she keeps going to him. This is a key to perseverance in prayer - coming to the end of ourselves so we throw ourselves on God’s mercy. The only hope of your circumstances changing is God. When we remember this, we will keep going to him in prayer.
“If you are going through hell, keep going” Winston Churchill
Finally, the good news is that God is good. This parable does not teach that we can grind God down in the way that the widow did with the judge. The judge in this story is an example of what God is not like. The judge doesn’t care about the woman, but God does care about us and so we have more reason to persevere than the widow. Prayer is not like banging a vending machine because someone has told you that if you do it enough times then a chocolate bar will drop out. Prayer is like a child going to a loving father and asking for a chocolate bar. He may answer yes, no or wait, but you know he’s good and will do the best thing for you.
The 19th Century evangelist George Mueller decided, in 1844, to start praying daily for the conversion of 5 of his friends. After 18 months, one of those friends was converted, followed by another, 5 years later. 11 years after he began praying, four out of the five men were Christians and he continued to pray for the fifth. Mueller died while the fifth man was still unconverted, but his prayers were not in vain. After Mueller’s death, the fifth man became a Christian, 52 years after Mueller began praying!
No matter what your situation, you can be encouraged to keep praying and not give up. Why? Because Jesus wants you to, He is the one listening to your prayers and He is the One with power to act. He loves you and always does what is good. Keep going and never give up!
Faith is more than an acknowledgement of Jesus. Demons that encounter Jesus acknowledge that he is the son of God, but they are not saved!
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
"Saving faith is trust in Jesus Christ as a living person for forgiveness of sins and for eternal life with God"
The word faith can sometimes be misleading because of the way they are used in our language today. It can be used to mean convincing yourself of something that really probably isn't true. The word "trust" is probably closer to the biblical idea of faith. Faith is trust in Jesus Christ. A good example of faith is the story of David and Goliath.
This encounter is often presented as an underdog story, in which God rarely gets a mention. This would surprise David, because he thinks it's all about God!
David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.
1 Samuel 17:45
This story isn't to try and get us to trust ourselves, but to trust in God. David went out there, not because of self-belief, but because He trusted in God. David knew he couldn't win, but he knew God could. That is what faith is.
The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.
1 Samuel 17:37
David knows that his past accomplishments are God's past accomplishments. That's a fact, whether we give Him credit or not. We can't breathe without Him. When we face difficulties we need to look back at what God has done in the past (look at the cross!).
All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.
1 Samuel 17:47
David trusts in God to win the battle, not human weapons. We need to trust in God to to be victorious in life. This doesn't mean we do nothing, David still had to go out there, but he goes out there recognizing his own inadequacy, and God's power. The answer is not to believe in yourself a bit more. The answer is to believe in God and his strength. The answer isn't more self-esteem, it's more God-esteem. Faith isn't something we've got to work up in ourselves - faith is putting your trust wholeheartedly in Jesus.
We like to identify with David in this story. We are the underdog, going out there to give it our best shot and winning. In fact we are more like the Israelite army. We are totally unable to go out and take on the giant of sin and win. We are helpless, we need someone to go out there and fight Goliath. The good news is that Jesus went out there for us. Jesus won the victory through apparent weakness on the cross and because of that we can rejoice in victory. That is the foundation of our faith.
My faith rests not upon what I am or shall be or feel or know, but in what Christ is, in what He has done, and in what He is now doing for me.
The Impact of the Resurrection
The death and resurrection are the central events of Christianity. If Jesus was not alive we would not be here. If the resurrection did not happen, we are wasting our time as Christians. Paul says this to the church in Corinth:
If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
1 Corinthians 5:13-20
If Christ has not been raised:
● Our faith is useless - We would be trusting in a dead man to have defeated sin and death, how would we know he has done it?
● The Bible is useless - All the New Testament authors claimed that the resurrection happened and it’s prophesied in the Old Testament.
● We are still in our sins - We would still be slaves to sin with no power to beat it.
● Our hope is only in this life - We would be giving when we should should have kept, served when we should have looked to be served.
Are you living as though Christ has not been raised?
● Uncertain faith - You're not sure whether Jesus accomplished everything the Bible says he did
● You don’t trust the Bible - You pick and choose what parts you want to believe.
● Only hope in this world - You act selfishly, getting frustrated that God isn’t giving you everything you want.
● Still enslaved to sin - You are trying to change but failing and feeling condemned, or succeeding and feeling self-righteous. How sad a people we would be!
We need to hear the message of Easter again.
Jesus has been raised! So:
● Our faith is not futile - We are not trusting in a theory about death but trusting in some who died and rose, conquering sin and defeating death.
● We can believe the Bible - The apostles preached it and wrote it because it happened. They didn't make it up!
● We are not still in our sins - The power is available to defeat sin. We will not achieve perfection in this life, but we are no longer under the dominion of sin
● We have a hope beyond this life - we can give, we can serve, we can invest everything we have into eternity. Suffering can be endured because we know its not permanent.
Jesus's resurrection is the beginning of God's new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven.
The death and resurrection of Jesus changes everything. It transforms lives. Let us remind ourselves of it and ask God to embed it in our hearts. Let us rejoice that we have a Saviour who died in our place and rose again, conquering sin and death!
We were buried with him by baptism into his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of God the Father, that we too might walk in newness of life.
If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.
George Bernard Shaw
The last decade brought us smartphones, the iPad and social media. Trends such as the Ice Bucket Challenge and Pokemon Go drifted in and out of public consciousness, while memorable moments like the solar eclipse and Royal weddings attracted the attention of millions. As we enter the 2020s, nobody knows exactly what to expect.
The roaring 1920 were a golden age of music, fashion and prosperity before the wall street crash of 1929 brought everything crumbling down. What will the 2020s be remembered for? Some will be looking back on the last decade with great memories and hoping the next one brings more of the same. Others will be pleased to see the back of the 2010s and will look forward to change in the next ten years.
We can't predict the future, nor can we prevent the march of time. History continues, year by year, decade by decade with similarities and differences echoing throughout the past. The only constant is God.
For I the Lord do not change
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
This year may be your best yet or it may hold unexpected pain and trouble. But one thing we can be certain is the God will not change in the next decade. He will continue to love and bless. He will remain faithful, even when we are faithless, because that is his character. He will not change his position towards you, he has proved his love on the cross. In 2020, some things in your life may remain the same, some things may change beyond all recognition, but the most important feature of your life is certain and secure. God loves you and is committed to your good.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
God has proved his love to us on the cross, that will not change. God's love is demonstrated that Jesus died for us while we were still sinners! He didn't die for you because you started to change. While you were at your worst he loved you so much he died for you. None of us were alive when Jesus died, that means all of our sins were in the future at that point. He looked through your entire life - more than we have experienced yet, he saw the worst of what we will be, and died for us. That is love. God died for you at your worst - that is set in stone, it has happened, he will not take it back. If Jesus died for us at our worst, he will not abandon us now.
This brings a great freedom to life. When we recognize that we have all the love, acceptance and security we need in Jesus, we are free to love others without needing their live in return. We are free to serve others without needing them to serve us. We become free to make decisions without being enslaved to the opinions of others. The key to freedom in the 2020s is rooting ourselves in the never-changing, always-faithful love of God.
But God never changes
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this, he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
In Matthew's account of the birth of Jesus we see the contrast of two kings. Wise men from the east arrive to ask the current king, Herod, where to find the new king, Jesus.
Herod, so called 'the great', had manipulated and forced his way into power. He ruled Judea under the authority of Rome. He is known for expensive, impressive, technologically advanced building projects and for his ruthless nature to remain in power, which included executing his mother and his wife when he perceived them to be a threat. He built multiple fortresses in case he needed to flee for safety and had a team of 2000 bodyguards. By all earthly standards, he was a powerful king.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
2 Corinthians 8:9
In contrast, Jesus entered the world in circumstances that don't seem fit for a king. The Magi turned up at the palace, but Jesus wasn't there. He was born in obscurity, to unknown parents in humble circumstances. While Herod lived in luxury at the palace, Jesus gave up the riches of heaven to be born in poverty. Herod was known for expensive, impressive displays of power and wealth, Jesus became known for a different kind of power - power over the wind and waves, power to heal, power that nobody else could claim. Herod spent his life working to get and then protect his power, not caring about the lives of others in the process. Jesus ultimately made himself powerless and gave up his life to save others.
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
This vicious act is typical of Herod. Other people’s lives were expendable in the pursuit of preserving his. Jesus gloriously turned this on its head. He gave up his life to preserve yours. Herod reflects the gospel message because he is the exact opposite of Jesus. Herod the king looked powerful but could not defeat death. He died and is now consigned to our history books. Jesus, the king of kings, appeared weak but conquered death. He lives today and offers you the gift of eternal life.
Herod the Great thought highly of his abilities and power, and spared no effort to impress the world with his greatness. He was a schemer who feared the loss of his power and ruthlessly destroyed all potential rivals with incredible cruelty and no remorse. Jesus, the Messiah and King of the Universe, sought first to do the will of his Father in heaven; to please, honor, and glorify him. Jesus also came to bring people abundant life, which required him to lose his life and then be resurrected to return to heaven.
Ray Vander Laan
My your Christmas be a blessed and happy one. May Christ be the center of your life not only at Christmas but all the your long!
"When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude".
Thanksgiving allows us to gain a sense of perspective and focus on God’s blessings. Even more than that, it allows us to enter God’s presence rightly.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
In this psalm, thanksgiving is pictured as the way we enter God’s presence. We cannot approach the Father with our eyes on ourselves, we need to lift them to Him and His blessings. When we do not have a sense of gratitude, we are turning away from His presence. We cannot enter his gates with a sense of entitlement or a puffed-up attitude of pride. An attitude of humble thankfulness is the only way to enter. Count your blessings.
This thankfulness is not just general, but given to God. The praise is in His name. We are not thanking the universe for general blessings but we are thankful to a loving Father who graciously gives his children gifts. Gifts come from a giver. Count your blessings and let them draw your attention to the One who has blessed you.
"Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it".
We are reminded that the Lord is good, and this form the foundation of our thanksgiving. Unlike any other person we encounter or relationship we have, God remains consistently good. He cannot fail to do good to us because He is good, it is his nature. Enter his gates with thanksgiving because he is good.
His love endures forever. He is not going to change his mind about you. He loves you. He has shown his love in his death on the cross, he is not going to take that back. You have not exhausted his supply of love because it endures forever. The love we experience in other relationships can be volatile and uncertain, and even the best love is ripped apart at the grave. But not this love. Enter his gates with thanksgiving because his love endures forever.
His faithfulness continues throughout all generations. God remains faithful to his promises. If he has said it, he will do it. He has promised to never leave or forsake you, and he is faithful to that promise. He has proved that faithfulness throughout history and he will remain faithful to future generations.
If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.
2 Timothy 2:13
Enter his gates with thanksgiving. The Lord is good and his love and faithfulness never end.
"Let us thank God heartily as often as we pray that we have His Spirit in us to teach us to pray. Thanksgiving will draw our hearts out to God and keep us engaged with Him; it will take our attention from ourselves and give the Spirit room in our hearts".
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
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