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A Time for Salvation

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Luke 2:11

Quick One-Liners

*Christmas: When you exchange hellos with strangers and good buys with friends.

*Christmas is the time when people put so many bulbs on the outside of their houses, you don’t know if they’re celebrating the birth of Jesus or General Electric.

*Do you know what it is like to put up fifteen hundred Christmas lights on the roof of a house? The kids are giving two to one I’m gonna come down the chimney before Santa Claus does.

*Every Christmas pageant throughout the world has a scene showing Joseph leading Mary into Bethlehem on a donkey. Do you realize what would happen if the Republicans asked for equal time? *Sometimes I get the feelin that if Christmas, Father’s Day and birthdays did not exist, then aftershave too, would not exist.

Last week we talked about why, for Christians, that Christmas should be the biggest party time of the year. Think about those shepherds! They had heard for years from their parents and grandparents that a ‘messiah’ was coming from God…and they were the first to hear that it was happening. Think about the prophets of that time that were intently waiting. Think about the Rabbis who had told that story over and over…the story of Micah 5…and now they get to tell their new students that IT HAS HAPPENED! This was party time! Do we party like our lives depend on it?

How do we celebrate when we’ve finally lost 20lbs? How do we celebrate when that credit card is paid off? How do we celebrate when one of our kids or friends graduate? Think about the parties we’ve all been to. Pictures are up. Balloons, streamers and signs hang from the ceiling. Cakes, cupcakes and goodies are all prepared. Do we celebrate Jesus birth like that? Well, maybe we don’t do the lights outside or the streamers around the kitchen. But, do we celebrate the birth of Jesus?

Here’s what they were celebrating. Salvation. Luke 2:11 states, “11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.” Think of what that word means. Savior. What does it mean to you? What does it mean to the people you lead? Is it just someone we come to a building once a week to learn about? Is it just someone who’s life makes for poetic songs that we sing once a week? I really hope not….but I’ve carried that attitude before. For those guys, surrounded by sheep when the angel spoke, it was LIFE.

I like what Rick Warren writes, “The answer to your problem is not a place, a program or a pill. It’s not jumping into another relationship. The answer to your sin problem and to your dissatisfaction in life is Jesus Christ. You need a savior.”

Remember the story of the runaway son? If you don’t, you can reread Luke 15. The son (prodigal son) had made the decision to leave the family (pride) and go out on his own (selfishness). He thought he was smarter (arrogance) and could make it on his own (supreme independence). He found that he couldn’t (realization). He struggled (realization of sin/guilt). He made a decision to give up on himself and go back to dad (repentance). Salvation came with a bear hug. Salvation for the world came with a birth-day. There may have been a coniferous tree nearby. And at one point in time there were probably gifts. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t blinking lights, unless you count the stars in the sky. But there was a party…because a savior had come from Heaven. The world could now start the process of being made new again (Revelation 21:5). The one who will beat sin…He will erase the ‘space’ between creation and God…is now here!

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The Perfect Storm

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

A couple had two little boys ages 8 and 10, who were excessively mischievous. They were always getting into trouble and their parents knew that if any mischief occurred in their town, their sons would get the blame.

The boys’ mother heard that a clergyman in town had been successful in disciplining children, so she asked if he would speak with her boys. The clergyman agreed, and asked to see them individually. So, the mother sent her 8-year-old first, in the morning, with the older boy to see the clergyman in the afternoon.

The clergyman, a huge man with a booming voice, sat the younger boy down and asked him sternly, “Where is God?”

They boy’s mouth dropped open, but he made no response, sitting there with his mouth hanging open. The clergyman repeated the question. “Where is God?” Again, the boy made no attempt to answer. So the clergyman raised his voice some more and shook his finger in the boy’s face and bellowed, “Where is God!?”

The boy screamed and bolted from the room. He ran directly home and dove into his closet, slamming the door behind him. When his older brother found him in the closet, he asked, “What happened?”

When we hear the word ‘discipline’ we probably thing of one of two things. First, there’s the thought of a child getting into trouble or being disciplined. The second might be discipline in life…as in an athlete being disciplined in training or a Christian being disciplined in daily prayer. This week’s sermon uses a similar word, with a completely different meaning. Judgment. Judgment is often thought of as a courtroom term…and correctly so. It is the final statement. It is the final decision.

In the Scripture that Steve has chosen to use for this week’s sermon, we SEE judgment. God had told Noah his plans for the flood. God also told Noah the reasons for these plans. There was not only sin on the earth, there was the result of sin…Violence. There was a complete and utter discard for the beauty of human life. The Bible reads a few times in our previous chapter that the earth was “full of violence.” It wasn’t just that kids were lying to their parents. It wasn’t just that there were greedy businessmen. It wasn’t just that there were people who were thieves or drunkards. There was violence. Add that to 100 years of building the ark. I’m just guessing here, but I’ll be Noah had to deal with more than just teasing.

God’s judgment for this lack of obedience and this disregard for human life was to start over. Many might say, “See God failed.” Nope, God didn’t fail, man failed God and His plans and His love. Noah undoubtedly told family and friends the plans of God and the reasons for those plans…he had 100 years to persuade, preach, teach and live out his devotion to God. I’m sure his family saw that devotion too. The Bible doesn’t say if they were or weren’t devoted friends of God, as it did with Noah. But let’s take a peek inside the ark and use our imagination for just a bit.

For 100 years, Noah’s family watched, helped, and stood alongside Noah as he built a structure capable of withstanding a worldwide flood…a worldwide judgment. The news was out that rains were coming…and I’m sure that the countryside had heard of this news. Then the first rain drops fell.

Have you ever seen a kid’s eyes when his parents, maybe you, drop judgment? My three kids respond completely different. First there are the warnings. We do three. On the third is a grounding from something…maybe TV or computer. It always amazed me that nothing happens when I say “one.” When the word “two” comes out of my mouth I begin to get responses. Hannah talks back, Micah gets quiet, and Naarah ignores. But when I get to “three, your grounded,” judgment becomes reality. Reality hits hard. Hannah then screams. Micah usually whimpers and tears up. Naarah continues to do the wrong thing…she’s still learning. J

Can you picture the faces of the people who began to feel the rain fall from the sky? Can you see them begin to look at the clouds just a bit differently. Life instantly changed…dramatically. Judgment was at hand, and they knew it.

Think about it from Noah’s side. He and his family had…as the Bible states…150 days to float on the water and ponder judgment. That’s a lot of time to think. No radio. No TV. Lots of animals to feed, but feeding the animals gave lots of time to think…about a flood, being the only people on earth, and God.

God has said that there is another “end” coming. The world as we know it is going to stop at some point. We don’t know that day or time, but we’ve been told about it in the Bible. How we respond to that information is up to us. We can believe it all we want…but how we give God evidence that we believe it and are shaping our lives accordingly is our responsibility. Change of the heart is evidenced by change in behavior. We want our behavior to be in obedience with God’s will.

We do not want to feel that first rain drop and realize that we’ve done nothing to move towards God.

So how do we teach and lead this concept? We need to, again, help our NICC family realize that judgment will happen because Jesus said it will. And Jesus is not a liar because there’s no body in the tomb. Given that there will be a judgment, we have the choice to move towards making God smile, or move away from Him and his life plan for us. The simple point is, when narrowed down, is this; if you’ve accepted Jesus as your personal savior, cool. If not, you’re on the bad side of judgment.

Now, many people in today’s world look at God as a loving God, incapable of looking down on any behaviors (judgment) and one who will be taking everyone to Heaven. Actually, a perfect love is just, and perfect justice holds perfect love. You can’t have one without the other. I love my kids, therefore, I’m going to teach them things that keep them safe, polite, God fearing, healthy, loving…and to form those characteristics (character) in my kids, I have to use discipline and judgment. God is no different. However, there is an end to His judgment. The final judgment will be just that…final.

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