Don’t Get Run Over by the Reindeer
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)
My Cup Overflows
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)
My Cup Overflows
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)
My Cup Overflows
God has a plan . . . and we are in it!
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. “
My Cup Overflows
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)
How to Hug a Vampire
Loving the People Who Suck the Life Out of Us
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)
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)
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)
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)