Sermon Series:

Growing Faith


Personal Ministry


3/29/2020

It is easy during this time of isolation and fear to allow the darkness of despair to get the best of us.  It seems there is only bad news, and we struggle to see how God is at work and helping us in these times.  If we are not careful, we will see everything through a lens of despair, rather than hope!  This is why we need this series, “Growing Faith.  We need a bigger faith in order to find peace, hope, joy, and love during difficult times.  In this week’s sermon, we turn to the power of “Personal Ministry.”  We are called to bring the presence of Jesus to the world around us.  Yet, as we struggle with our circumstances, it is hard to find the energy to care for others.  In Matthew 14:23-33, there is a dramatic and difficult moment for the disciples, but Jesus comes to them while walking on the water.  It is easy to get caught up in this miracle and miss the lesson that Jesus wanted to teach his disciples and Peter.  It helps us to find the strength to minister others under difficult circumstances.  As you read Matthew 14:22-33, may the presence of Christ come to you to give you courage and hope! Matthew 14: 23-33: After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”  (NIV)


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Sermon Series:

Growing Faith


Confronting Worry


3/22/2020

This week, we will not be gathering in the sanctuary for worship due to our commitment to cooperate with the President’s guidelines to help stop the COVID-19 virus.  Connect with worship at https://sjpcjax.org/online-services-covid-19/ We continue our Lent series, “Growing Faith” with the sermon “Confronting Worry.”  All of us have had an increased level of anxiety during the recent weeks.  There is a lot of information, but some of it is contradictory and confusing!  The fear of not getting what we need is at an all-time high.  Many people are arming themselves.  Let’s put a pause on the panic by listening to some of the most reassuring words ever spoken in Matthew 6:24-34.  Jesus speaks to a crowd who lived on basic wages day to day.  They lived on the edge of existence, paycheck to paycheck, but Jesus tells them not to worry!  How can they not be worried?  We are living on a thin edge of anxiety and fear.  How can we hear these simple words of, “Don’t worry!”? Worry is based upon whom and what we trust.  Jesus points us to a big faith that trusts God for our lives.  Matthew 6:24-34 is the culmination of chapter 6.  In this chapter, there are several private disciplines that we can use which pull the plug on panic and find a deep rest for our souls.  As you read Matthew 6:24-34, it is our prayer that your heart will sense God’s care and closeness!  Matthew 6:24-34 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you– you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (NIV)


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Sermon Series:

Growing Faith


Providential Relationships


3/15/2020

These are difficult times with the spread of this virus.  Fear seems like it is in control, rather than the voices of assurance and hope.  We need a faith that is growing faster than our fear!  In the series, Growing Faith we are taking a look at Providential Relationships.  Providence is the trust that God has a plan and that God’s making all things work together to bring us into a relationship with Him.  God’s providence is the source of us building our trust in God’s care! Through the providence of God, we see the plan fitting together.   We return to Hebrews 10.  Remember that these people were struggling to trust God due to their difficult circumstances.  In Hebrews 10:15-25, the writer says that God had been at work for centuries to create a new and living way for us to come into God’s presence.  The realization of this plan should cause us to respond to God and others in a different way.  As you read Hebrews 10:15-25, may the fear of our current circumstances be transformed into the assurance that God will care for us! Hebrews 10:15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: 16 “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” 17 Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” 18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary. 19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another– and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  (NIV)


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Sermon Series:

Growing Faith


Practical Biblical Teaching


3/8/2020

We continue our Lenten series, Growing Faith with Andy Stanley’s first point of Practical Biblical Teaching.  Every Christian struggles to connect knowledge and action, or to put it another way to “walk the walk.”  Through the all the scriptures, this is a grand problem in our relationship with God.  We are saved by grace, but we are in danger of ignoring the “good works” God has prepared for us to do.  The other extreme is that we become legalistic and we define salvation by doing a set of works.  As long as we color between the lines, then everything is good with God!  God wants us to take obedience seriously so that we do not become “actors” of faith (hypocritical) or raging legalist (Pharisees).  This is obedience based upon being loved by God and wanting to love God in return.  In Matthew 7, at the very end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses an amazing illustration of the wise and foolish builders.  It is a simple story with a very direct meaning.  The storms impact both the wise and the foolish, but the conclusion of each house is dramatically different.  How do we begin to walk this tightrope of trusting God and not find our house collapsing around us?  This simple story is instructive, especially if we look at the rest of Matthew 7.  As you read these verses, you may sense the waters rising at your doorstep, or the wind howling at your door, but be comforted!  The Rock of Salvation, Jesus Christ, will hold in the most desperate storm!  Matthew 7:24-29: Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.  (NIV)


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Sermon Series:

Growing Faith


BIG FAITH


3/1/2020

We have started the season of Lent and our goal is to increase of the light of Jesus Christ in our lives!  We are using Andy’s Stanley’s study, Five Things God Uses to Grow Your Faith in our small groups to help us increase the spiritual light of our lives.  The Lent sermon series is based upon this study and it is entitled, Growing Faith.  Our first sermon in this series is Big Faith.  Jesus uses a picture of faith in the New Testament.  He likens it to a “mustard seed” which is very small, but grows into a large tree (Matthew 13:31, Matthew 17:20).  Our faith is always in a growth curve, but it helps if we do things which will cultivate a strong and vital faith.  In this first sermon, we turn to a group of early Christians whose trust in God was being challenged by their circumstances.  In Hebrews 10:32-11:2, we see the back story of the great “faith” chapter of this letter to those struggling Christians.  It gives them and us some foundational guidance to find a faith greater than the problems of our time!  As you read these words, let the Holy Spirit give you an assurance that greater is the power in you than in the world.  Hebrews 10:32-11:2: Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” 38 And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” 39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.  (NIV)


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Sermon Series:

Unconditional


CONFIDENCE


2/23/2020

In conditional human love, one of the problems we experience is confidence!  How can we be sure that someone loves us?  How do we trust them enough to have a relationship?  Human love is filled with betrayal, failure, and uncertainty.  We see it every day!  In our sermon series, Unconditional, the sermon is Confidence.  If we cannot trust the love of those around us, then how can we know and trust God’s love for us?  This is the question the Apostle John is answering in 1 John 4:11-19.  He reminds us if we are truly loved, and we are convinced of this, then fear is not an option!  He wants us to know the basic and powerful indicators of this love that give us the confidence to “kick fear to the curb!”  Your love life may be a trail of broken tears, but as you read these words, may you be filled with the undeniable assurance that you are loved forever!  1 John 4:11-19:11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.  (NIV)


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Sermon Series:

Unconditional


CHOICES


2/16/2020

Our sermon series Unconditional continues with the sermon, Choices.  Our lives are filled with choices!  No one can deny the power of choice.   We often think of life’s big choices such as marriage, career, or buying a home, but there is also great power in the smaller choices.  Our smaller choices accumulate to determine the quality of our lives.  We cannot avoid this.  Our decision not to decide is still a choice that will have consequences!  Choosing to accept God’s unconditional love is an important choice because according to 1 John 3:1-9, this is a “lavish” love that adopts us into God’s family.  If we neglect to choose this option, we are on a path to destruction rather than new life.  In order to truly discover the power of this new life and the depth of this unconditional love, we need to understand what it means to be God’s child and how this alters our lives.  As you read 1 John 3:1-9, it is our prayer that you sense this “lavish” love and that it gives strength and confidence to your life! 1 John 3:1-9: See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. 7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.


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Sermon Series:

Unconditional


COMPETING


2/9/2020

We continue our series Unconditional with the sermon Competing.  Why is loving someone as Jesus loved us so difficult?  It seems that with all of our progress in modern society we would not struggle to love each other.  Yet, as we look at our world, anger and hatred seem to be stronger than ever.  In 1 John 2:9-17, John the Apostle is writing to the early Christians about the competing forces that lead us away from loving others more fully.  Hatred of a brother, sister or neighbor is a blinding darkness that will lead us to a pit!  What will help us find the light?  These verses from 1 John help us to find the strong light of unconditional love.  John guides us to shed the darkness of hatred and walk in the path of Jesus.  As you read 1 John 2:9-17 may you sense the darkness passing way and the light of God’s love flooding your heart.  1 John 2:9-17: Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them. I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one. Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world– the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life– comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (NIV)


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Sermon Series:

Unconditional


CONNECT


2/2/2020

We begin a new series this week, entitled, Unconditional. This month, we will celebrate Valentine’s Day which is a celebration of human love. Americans are estimated to spend 19.6 billion dollars on this day for cards, flowers, and other gifts! All of us want to be loved because it has a powerful impact upon our hearts and lives. Human love often comes with conditions, like buying a gift for Valentine’s Day! God loves us completely with no strings attached. This unconditional love holds great power for our lives! Our struggle is to fully comprehend the power of this love. In this week’s sermon, Connect, we turn to John 15:7-17. Jesus is the source of this unconditional love and these words help us let this love flow through our lives! As you read John 15: 7-17, we pray that you sense the complete and full love of God! John 15:7-17: If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit– fruit that will last– and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other. John. 15:7-17 NIV


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Sermon Series:

Lamp for our Feet, Light for our Path


Seeking


1/26/2020

Have you ever tried to find something in the dark?  Most all of us have had that desperate moment in which we have lost something so important, so valuable, that we were compelled to search for it in the dark!  However, as we search our desperation gives way to despair!  It seems that there is a desperate search in the world around us, but it is in darkness.   We can see the hopelessness that people experience when they do not find the meaning or purpose that makes life vibrant.  In the sermon series, Lamp for Our Feet, Light for Our Path we turn to Isaiah 55:6-13.  In the sermon, Seeking, this Word of the Lord from Isaiah gives us direction for overcoming the darkness of our desperate search to find an enduring light of joy!  What are you seeking today?  Find the meaning and joy that can truly lift your heart as you read Isaiah 55:6-13: Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. 8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. 12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.” (NIV)


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Sermon Series:

Lamp for our Feet, Light for our Path


Seed


1/19/2020

As we continue our series Lamp for Our Feet, Light for Our Path, we come to 1 Peter 1:22-25 and find the “Seed” that causes us to be born again. This seed, the word of God, is imperishable, living, and eternal. Once it is planted in our lives, it continues to grow and produce fruit. The fruit of God’s word in our lives is drastically different than the fruit and glory that comes from our own flesh: it is sincere, earnest, and pure love for one another. It is love that we cannot produce or show other people in our own strength. It is love that is self-sacrificial. It is love that can only be found in Jesus Christ, the Word of God, who comes into our lives when we believe in him. As you read these verses, remember that the love God has planted in our hearts lasts forever because it comes from Himself. 1 Peter 1:22-25: Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you. (NIV)


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Sermon Series:

Lamp for our Feet, Light for our Path


Sabbath


1/12/2020

Happy New Year!  We continue with our series Lamp for Our Feet, Light for Our Path with the sermon, Sabbath. Sabbath is a rare word for “our world.”  God modeled sabbath by resting on the seventh day of creation.  Jesus helps us understand this example by saying, “Sabbath was created for man….” (Mark 2:27) In other words, God knew humanity would need cycles of rest and worship.  Many of us do not get enough rest, or find a sense of rest in our lives!  Both are important.  If we do not find “rest for our souls” then it will be harder for our bodies to rest as well.  In Hebrews 4:9-16, the writer says that if we are not careful, we will miss God’s rest through our stubbornness and mistrust!  Sabbath is not just a day, but it is an active living reality found in God’s Word.  These verses help us to find a deeper rest that will brighten our path and guide our feet to a better relationship with God! As you read these words, let your heart rest in God’s promise of grace!  Hebrews 4:9-16: There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.  For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.  Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are– yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (NIV) 


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Sermon Series:

Lamp for our Feet, Light for our Path


Surety


1/5/2020

Happy New Year! We begin 2020 with a new sermon series and a new emphasis for the coming year. In 2019 we focused on prayer and now we want to couple prayer with reading the Word of God. Our series is “Lamp for our Feet, Light for our Path” and this will be the theme for 2020. Our goal is to listen to God’s voice in scripture, to brighten the road before us, and to lighten the load upon us. Our first sermon of 2020 is “Surety.” It is a great place to begin because each year comes with its own uncertainty. One way to deal with the uncertainty of a new beginning is to realize the security of those things we can depend upon! The theme for this year comes from Psalm 119: 105-112. King David realized that the light of God’s Word was a foundation to his life. These verses help us to realize how we can strengthen this foundation in our own lives as we start this year. As you read this part of Psalm 119, let the light of God’s Word to strengthen you and guide you to God’s peace. Psalm 119:105-112: Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. 106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws. 107 I have suffered much; preserve my life, LORD, according to your word. 108 Accept, LORD, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws. 109 Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law. 110 The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts. 111 Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. 112 My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end. (NIV)


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Sermon Series:

Don’t Get Run Over by the Reindeer


WOUNDED?


12/29/2019

Happy New Year!  We are on the verge of 2020, a brand-new decade! However, we are still finishing our Christmas sermon series, Don’t Get Run Over by The Reindeer.  Even though the presents are done, you still may be dealing with the problems of “holiday let down.”  Or, if your celebration did not go so well, you may be recovering from the aftermath!  Either way, this sermon will help you recover.  In the sermon, Wounded? we turn to Isaiah 61:1-7.   The people of God were struggling with the darkness of their society and their individual lives.  They are broken, but this is not the last word for any of them or for us!  Jesus uses part of this passage as a commission for his own ministry on earth, because it is a vision of redemption.  As you read Isaiah 61:1-7, allow the Spirit of the Living God to lift you into his care and guide you into the coming year. Isaiah 61:1-7: The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. 4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. 5 Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. 6 And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. 7 Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours. (NIV)


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Sermon Series:

Don’t Get Run Over by the Reindeer


WEARY?


12/22/2019

Merry Christmas!  We are just one Sunday away from Christmas Day!  It has passed quickly and you may be reeling from the hoof prints on your back, or you may just be tired.  In our sermon series “Don’t Get Run Over by the Reindeer,” we turn to a common problem for this time of year.  It is in the form of a question, “Weary?”  Weariness can be exhaustion, but it can also be expressed with cynicism, frustration, anger, or apathy.  We underestimate the power of weariness. But God doesn’t!  We turn to Isaiah 40:1-11, which becomes part of the Christmas celebration due to Handel’s Messiah.  The Messiah begins with the words from Isaiah 40.  We realize, though, that these words are for everyone who is weary, frustrated, exhausted, or afraid.  They are an antidote to apathy and cynicism, because things are about to change for the better!  No longer will it be business as usual!  As you come to this Christmas, let the Word of the Lord from Isaiah 40:1-11 refresh your heart that a good and powerful change is coming! Isaiah 40:1-11:  Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. 3 A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” 6 A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. 7 The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” 9 You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” 10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. 11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. (NIV)

Sermon Series:

Don’t Get Run Over by the Reindeer


Where is it?


12/15/2019

Merry Christmas!  Christmas Day is only 12 days away!  In our Christmas season, the sermon series is Don’t get run over by the Reindeer!  This week, our sermon is Where it is?  It seems that we are always looking for the right gift, the right decoration, or the right time.  Yet, as we go through this season with all the activity and gifts, we find ourselves empty and frustrated, rather than excited and relaxed. This week, we turn to Isaiah 11:1-10.  It is a vision of God’s Peaceable Kingdom.  It communicates a fullness that comes from a place of brokenness and heartache.  From a burned-out stump, a branch will grow and a flower will blossom. This is a part of the Christmas story because Jesus is the branch that will bring a wonderful rest to the striving of humanity.  But how? This vision of the coming Peaceable Kingdom helps us in 2019 to find the peace, joy, and hope that we are looking for!  As you read Isaiah 11:1-10, may you find God’s presence lifting up your heart! Isaiah 11:1-10 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him– the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD– 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. 6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. 7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den, the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. 9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. 10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. (NIV)


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Sermon Series:

Don’t Get Run Over by the Reindeer


WAIT FOR IT


12/8/2019

It is our hope that you are finding the joy and meaning of this Christmas season.  In our sermon series, “Don’t Get Run Over by the Reindeer” the sermon is “Wait for it!”  We struggle during this season with waiting!  It seems we are waiting in line, waiting in the drive through, or waiting for the family plan for Christmas and the lists seems to be endless!  But what are we really waiting for?  All of our waiting during this season just increases our frustration and despair.  One of the major problems during this time of year is “holiday blues” caused by stress and anxiety.  It is seems we are waiting for all the wrong things!  In Isaiah 9:1-7, the people were focused upon all the darkness of problems, uncertainties, and fear.  God is never content for darkness to reign, whether during the time of Isaiah or today.  These verses help us realize that the light of Christ can dispel the deepest darkness. If you are walking in darkness today, hear the words of God from Isaiah!  Wait for this light, it’s coming for you!  Isaiah 9:1-7: Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan– 2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. 3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. 4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. 5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. 6 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. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. (NIV)

 


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Sermon Series:

Don’t Get Run Over by the Reindeer


WATCH OUT


12/1/2019

Merry Christmas!  We are now through Thanksgiving and the race toward Christmas has begun!  Our Christmas series is: Don’t Get Run Over by the Reindeer!  Between the events, crowds, shopping (even online), and planning for extended family gatherings, this time of year can become overwhelming.  The holidays create their own level of stress and even fear.  The fear of uncertainty, the fear of being alone, and the fear of past experiences are some of the things with which people struggle.  It is easy to forget that this season was intended to give us greater peace, more hope, eternal joy, and an unconditional love.  Our first sermon in this series is a warning: Watch Out!  Our scripture is from Isaiah 7:4-14.  King Ahaz was the king of Judah, or what is often called the “southern kingdom”. In this historical moment he received word that the northern kingdom, also called “Israel” or “Ephraim”, had made an alliance with Aram (or present-day Syria) to take over Jerusalem.  If they were successful, Ahaz would be removed as the king or even killed.  He and the people of Jerusalem were terrified!  Into this moment came God’s living Word through the prophet Isaiah.  God was not going to allow this evil plan to succeed, but Ahaz struggled to believe!  The Lord told this fearful king: “If your faith is not strong, you will not have strength enough to last.” Isaiah 7:9 (NCV).  This question is just as important today. The strength of faith enables our lives to find a marvelous strength even in the face of great obstacles! As you read Isaiah 7:4-14, believe that God will care for you as God did during the time of King Ahaz. Let these words strengthen your faith in our Savoir who was born of a virgin to fulfill this Word from Isaiah.  Isaiah 7:4 Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood– because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. 5 Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, 6 “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.” 7 Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “‘It will not take place, it will not happen, 8 for the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is only Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people. 9 The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.’” 10 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.” 13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.  (NIV)


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Sermon Series:

My Cup Overflows


POSSIBILITIES


11/24/2019

We come to the end of our series My Cup Overflows with this week’s sermon, Possibilities.  We are constantly being drained of goodness and generosity, but what will refill our hearts and lives.  The possibilities are greater for people who have an overflowing cup because they live happier and longer lives!  They find strength and meaning which enables them to overcome the obstacles they confront.  As we come to this Thanksgiving Day what will fill your cup to overflowing.  Luke 6:31-39 helps us to find the fullness of a generous spirit.  These are the words of Jesus from Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Plain.  It begins with the Golden Rule: “Do to others what you desire them to do for you.”  To follow this rule is not only a challenge, but at times it seems like an impossibility.    Yet, if we listen to these words of Jesus, there is a far greater potential for a fullness in our lives that nothing in this world can take away!  It is our prayer that you sense this fullness as you read Luke 6:31-39.  Luke 6:31-39: Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 39 He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit?  (NIV)


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Sermon Series:

My Cup Overflows


Purpose


11/17/2019

We continue our series My Cup Overflows as we get closer to Thanksgiving Day.  Over the past two weeks, we have looked at Provision and how God provides for us.  We have considered God’s Plan and how we fit in it.  This week, we turn to Purpose.  What in the world are we here for?  This is a great question and one which our society is asking.  There is a growing emptiness that drains our spirits.  There is no defining purpose except to get what we can while we are here!  We try to fill a void, only to find ourselves in greater despair.  When we have a defining purpose, we feel better about life and we make better choices.  Purpose allows us to discern a fullness in our lives because it fills us with meaning. In Psalm 116:7-19 King David was in the depth of despair; possibly facing death itself. Yet he was able to hang on to trust and hope in God and it was transformative for his life.  He realized a great lesson about God’s power being able to refill our cups, even in the most desperate moments!  The lessons he learned are still transformative for us!  As you read these words, may your cup be refilled to overflowing! Psalm 116:7-19: 7 Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. 8 For you, LORD, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, 9 that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living. 10 I trusted in the LORD when I said, “I am greatly afflicted”; 11 in my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.” 12 What shall I return to the LORD for all his goodness to me? 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. 14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. 15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants. 16 Truly I am your servant, LORD; I serve you just as my mother did; you have freed me from my chains. 17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD. 18 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, 19 in the courts of the house of the LORD– in your midst, Jerusalem. Praise the LORD.  (NIV)


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Sermon Series:

My Cup Overflows


God has a plan . . . and we are in it!


11/10/2019

We continue our series My Cup Overflows with the sermon God has a Plan and You are in It!  Some people see life as a random series of events without any rhyme or reason.  One of the sources of despair in our time is a failure to see how our lives fit into a broader scheme.  This leaves us without any sense of purpose, nor do we find any substantive meaning.  Even as Christians there are times that all the pieces of the puzzle do not fit, and we are left with jagged edges of hurt.  We wonder where God is.  Why has this happened?  What is God’s plan?  Does God care?  These are ancient but very timely questions!  God does have a plan, and more importantly God has a plan particularly for you!  God wants to fill the void of existence with hope and purpose.  These Scriptures my seem to be random, but they lead us to a path of God’s eternal plan.  As you read these words, may you find the comfort and hope of God’s plan for you!

 

Romans 15:4: “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance, and encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope

 

Zechariah 12:10: “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.

 

 Jeremiah 31:35 -36: If the created order should vanish from my sight’, declares the LORD, ‘only then would Israel’s descendants ever stop being a nation before me.’ The LORD proclaims: ‘If the heavens above could be measured and the foundation of the earth below could be fathomed, only then would I reject Israel’s descendants for what they have done’, declares the LORD.


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Sermon Series:

My Cup Overflows


Provision


11/03/2019

As we begin the month of November, we start a new sermon series: “My Cup Overflows.” This phrase is taken from one of the most famous and beloved chapters in the Bible, Psalm 23, a passage that beautifully captures God’s care and provision for us. We often feel like sheep: lost, afraid, and clueless. However, with God as our Shepherd, we no longer lack protection, provision, and rest. We no longer lack deliverance from our enemies, comfort in trials, and rest when weary. We have those things because we have Jesus Christ as our Good Shepherd. And not only do we have them, we have them abundantly, so that our “cups are overflowing!” As you read this Psalm, reflect on the abundant blessings God has poured out in your life.

Psalm 23: 1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (NIV)


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Sermon Series:

How to Hug a Vampire


Loving the People Who Suck the Life Out of Us

COMPASSION


10/27/2019

 We complete our series on How to Hug a Vampire-Loving the People who Suck the Life out of Us, with the sermon, Compassion.  All of us struggle with “compassion fatigue” and at times, we are afraid to care for others because it is so exhausting!  Or we find ourselves in a death grip of hugging someone who makes us feel guilty if we do not fix everything for them.  What are we to do?  In Luke 10, Jesus encounters a religious scholar who tries to trap him in an argument, but Jesus instead turns the tables and puts the scholar on the defensive.  In the scholar’s effort to justify his own behavior, he asks a question that we still ask today, “Who is my neighbor anyway?”  Jesus responds with the timeless story of the Good Samaritan.  This simple parable is able to help guide us to appropriate but powerful compassion.  As you read Luke 10:27-37, let God’s compassion and love fill your heart!  Luke 10:27-37: He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”  (NIV)


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COMMITMENTs


10/20/2019

We continue with our series, How to Hug a Vampire-Loving the People who Suck the Life Out of Us.   So far, we have learned that God wants us to love others (Clarity), but we cannot take God’s place (Confession)!  We need to follow God’s boundaries in our lives.  This week’s sermon is Commitments.  Managing our commitments is one of the great struggles in life.  All of us have to learn how to juggle various things and it can be exhausting!  Does God even care about all the things we have to do?  Trying to love others amid all the other things, just seems to drive us down rather than give us hope.  This week, we turn to Hebrews 13:8-16.  Some of these Christians were on the verge of giving up.  They were enduring persecution and wondering where would they find help.  This passage shares with them the path to find a fountain of strength, even in great adversity.  The secret is found in choosing the right commitments in our lives!  As you read Hebrews 13:8-16, realize that God is able to fill our hearts, even when all hope seems lost! Hebrews 13:8-16:  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. 10 We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat. 11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. 15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise– the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (NIV)


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CONFESSION


10/13/2019

We continue this week with How to Hug a Vampire-Loving the People Who Suck the Life out of Us with the sermon, Confession.  We determined last week that we cannot simply cut people out of our lives, except when we realize that we do not have the spiritual maturity to truly love the person who is sucking the life out of us!  We are called to be servants of a living God who asks us to share a genuine love for others.  This week, we turn to Psalm 139:1-14.  These verses are filled with realizations of God’s power that is at work from the moment we begin our lives.  King David’s words also, help us to realize that we are limited creatures. Despite our limitations, God’s strength and ability are available to help us find the abundant life that God wants for us. As you read Psalm 139:1-14, allow the Holy Spirit to fill your cup to overflowing with the goodness and greatness of God! Psalm 139:1-14 For the director of music. Of David. A psalm. You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. 5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. 7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (NIV)


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CLARITY


10/06/2019

This week, we begin a new series: How to Hug A Vampire-Loving the People Who Suck the Life Out of Us.  All of us have relationships that have a tendency to drain our goodness, grace, and generosity.  Sometimes it is the people at work or that we randomly encounter, but it can even be within our families!  Certainly, one solution is to completely cut this person from our lives, but is this what Christ wants us to do?  Maybe…maybe not!  This is precisely the problem and confusion with these relationships.  Yet, if our spirit is filled with anger and we are drained of any goodness toward this person, it generally doesn’t end well!  How do we counter the toxic nature of the world?  We are not the first Christians to confront this problem! James the Apostle writes a letter to all of the Christians of his time because they had become so toxic in their behavior!  How he begins this letter gives us the title of the first sermon: Clarity.  James 1:1-8 is trying to create a clarity for these struggling Christians to help them find the strength to love others!   As you read these words, let the Holy Spirit show you the path to wholeness and fullness in your life to overcome the drain of our toxic world! James 1:1-8: James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. (NIV)

 


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