Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Christmas Prayer

"At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord's Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, "Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!" Jesus' parents were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby's mother, "This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul." (Luke 2: 25-35)

I enjoyed digging into Simeon's life and thought his example would be a great way for us to end this year and prepare for an incredible year of ministry ahead. As the story opens, we see Mary and Joseph obeying the Law. The Law said that when a mother gave birth to a male child, that on the 8th day, the child was to be circumcised. On the 40th day after his birth, the parents were to take the child to the Temple and present him to God and offer a sacrifice of consecration with 2 turtle doves or young pigeons.

But Mary and Joseph didn't know that when they arrived at the temple there would be an old man waiting for them. His name is Simeon. He has waited all his life for this moment. Simeon is a part of a group of Hebrew men who were called the "quiet of Israel." They devoted their lives to praying, meditating on God's Word, and to waiting for the coming of the Messiah.

What are you waiting for as you approach a new year? A man was sleeping when his wife shook him, "Wake up, someone is breaking in!" He had gone through this almost every night for 20 yrs, and he knew that the only way he would get any rest was to go and check it out. This time, however, there was a man with a gun who had entered to rob the house.

As the thief was about to flee, "Wait, you have to come with me and meet my wife." The thief said, "Why would you want me to meet your wife?" "Well, she's been expecting you for 20 years."

Well, I would loved to have been in the Temple when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus in to be dedicated. Simeon knew God's promise to him was being unfolded before his very eyes. He had seen salvation with his own eyes. Joseph and Mary were amazed when an old man took their son into his arms and spoke such powerful words. Simeon reminded them that Jesus was indeed a gift from God; the Messiah who would be a light to the world. He told them that God had indeed provided a Savior, but salvation is not automatic. Those with faith and those without faith would be clearly distinguished. He concluded by reminding Mary that she would be grieved by the widespread rejection Jesus would face.

Simeon knew that Jesus was not just going to be the Savior of the remnant - believing Israel. He was going to be the Savior of the world, "a light of revelation to the Gentiles…" - the only way of salvation, the one name whereby a man or a woman comes to God.

He says how every man, woman, boy and girl responds to Jesus will determine his or her fate both now and forevermore. He says, "You reject Jesus and He is appointed for your fall, but you embrace Jesus and you will rise with Him like the dawn. Accept Him and find eternal life; reject Him, and live in death forever.

Remember as you approach 2011 that Jesus is the issue and that you and I are called to tell everyone we meet the good news of the glorious gospel. Like Simeon, let's live each day in obedience so that when the time comes God can use us. Like Simeon, let's never lose our hope that one day we too will see the Messiah!

What a way to go out …….

Dr. Derek

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Advent of Peace

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." (Luke 2: 14)

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

(John 14:27)

Jesus is not to us as Christmas is to the world, here today and gone tomorrow. That is the true meaning of his coming. That is the meaning of our Savior, Christ and Lord. “Glory to God in the highest” is a descriptive word of heaven. The dwelling place of God and on earth brings perfect peace as Christ comes to dwell among men.

Today, men everywhere are talking about peace. In Washington, in the Middle East, in Iraq, many are trying to produce peace. There is no peace on earth except among men in whom “God is well pleased.” That’s the basis of God’s peace.

This little boy passing from babyhood, from childhood, and youth will stand about thirty years of age on the verge of his Messianic mission. He is baptized, and follows his baptism with a great teaching and healing ministry, calling men to repentance. He marches to Calvary and sheds his blood. He becomes the ultimate sacrifice so that you and I would be made pleasing to God. He conquers the grave and triumphantly returns to the Father as our victorious King.

He leaves us with a precious gift: His personal peace. This is the end result of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives – a deep and lasting peace. Christ’s peace ensures us that, despite any and all circumstance, we have no need to fear the present or the future. Let’s make sure this is the message we proclaim.

In the Indian Ocean there is a Christmas Island; an almost lost, isolated speck of land. There is another Christmas Island, an equally isolated speck of land almost lost in the Pacific Ocean. Christmas is always an island; an island of hope in a world of despair, an island of love in a world of indifference, an island of giving in a self-centered world.

All we could ever imagine, could ever hope for, He is.... He is the Prince of Peace whose first coming has already transformed society but whose second coming will forever establish justice and righteousness.

Dr. Derek

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Advent of Joy

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2: 8-11)

“Joy to the World” is Isaac Watts’ interpretation of Psalm 98, which says, “Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth” (verse 4). I suspect as Isaac Watts studied Psalm 98, he pondered the real reason for shouting joyfully to the Lord. The Messiah has come to redeem us. The “good news of great joy” is that we have a Savior, and he is Christ the Lord!

The angels of Heaven are teaching us about joyful expression as they announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds in the fields. They were terrified, their fear quickly turned to joy. They ran to see the baby and then they ran to spread the news of great joy to the world.

C. S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” The angels direct the shepherds, and in a way to us as well, to declare the joy of a Savior to the world. Janet Stuart surmises: “To be a joy-bearer and a joy-giver says everything, for in our life, if one is joyful, it means that one is faithfully living for God, and that nothing else counts; and if one gives joy to others one is doing God’s work; with joy without and joy within, all is well . . . I can conceive no higher way.”

Today we have “Good News of Great Joy.” A Savior has been born. He is Christ the Lord. He is Christ Our Lord. He is Christ MY LORD!

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

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,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

(Isaac Watts, 1719)

Dr. Derek

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Advent of Love

But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity." (Micah 5:2)

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Why Bethlehem? Why a seemingly obscure town to display the greatest measure of love the world has ever known? Bethlehem means “House of Bread” and is the birthplace of the Davidic dynasty. Eprathrah is comparable in today’s culture to the name of the county inclusive of the town (Jacksonville, Calhoun). Here we have a seven-century old prophecy explicitly fulfilled by Christ. At the “House of Bread” the Bread of Life was born into the world!

Micah decrees that this “Ruler in Israel” is “of old, from everlasting.” Though the Messiah’s lineage could be traced back to his royal ancestor (David), his roots go all the way back to eternity. The love displayed in a manger over two-thousand years ago has eternal beginnings and endings. Jesus echoed Micah’s prophecy in John 3:16 by revealing the kind of “love” that carried eternal marks.

“Agape” love is unconditional love that reveals the sacrificial heart of the Savior. And what was God’s motive in the birth of Christ. “For God so loved…” There you have it! God’s love was turned into an act of giving. He gave his very best for a specific reason: “…that all who believes in him would never perish.” WOW! Now that’s LOVE.

God’s deepest desire is to have depraved, sinful man restored to himself. God, out of love for us, became like us, so that we might become like him in eternal heaven. I pray this thought captures your heart and your every thought this holiday season. God loved me so much that he gave his only Son. He gave to me first. He is my role model for giving.

Dr. Derek

Yesterday’s worship was in a word: INCREDIBLE! What a great way to kick off our Christmas offering and our new message series. Our goal this year is the largest in our church’s history: $30,000. I can’t wait to see what God does through his people. Our “Change the World” globes have paid for themselves many times over. Our volunteer counters spent over three hours yesterday counting all the change. Hallelujah!!

To have the Andersons here from Honduras was a special treat. They are our missionaries in Honduras and are on furlough until December 22. All three services were very emotional for us. We wept several times as they shared about delivering all the clothes to over 216 children at the school in Santa Elena. I will never forget two of the experiences Michael and Alba shared with us. I can picture it this morning:

*A mother carries her crippled son three miles to school every day, stays to carry him from classroom to classroom, and then the three mile trip home. I can see the look on her face when her son is given a new wheelchair. I can see the tears streaming down her tired cheeks as emotion swept over her. I can see the look on her child’s face. PRICELESS!!

*A dad receives a ride from Michael and Alba as he goes to the clinic with his baby. When asked if he is a Christian he responds: NO. They stop at the apex of the mountain as Michael and Alba share the good news of Jesus Christ. He prays to receive Christ as his personal Savior in what Michael described for us as a “mountain top experience.” PRICELESS!!

Our Family Friendly Christmas message series and the website designed to support it started off with a bang! As a reminder, go and see all the helpful resources designed to help us keep the miracle of the manger in focus. Invite someone to be with you for worship in the remaining three weeks of the year. Together let’s declare to the world: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” (Luke 2: 14)