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Do Not Be Afraid 12/18/14

Good Morning,

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields, nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord.’”  Luke 2:8-11

What an incredible story and what an amazing time of the year.  NO, Jesus was not born on December 25th.  YES, many of the origins of the 25th of December are pagan.  HOWEVER, as followers of Christ, we can and we should take this holiday and make sure that Christ truly is the Reason for this Season.  Folks, that isn’t just a pithy saying; it can be a reality.  It is going to be what you make of it.

Look at those words again.  “Do not be afraid.”  The shepherds were going about their business when God burst into the middle of their ordinary lives.  He chose them to share the greatest news the world has ever known or ever would know; the birth of His Son, Messiah, our Savior.  It would be easy to get fearful in the middle of the days that we live in.  There are fears that crop up everywhere:  Isis, the economy, Ebola, nuclear war, and the list goes on and on.  But the message here, “Do not be afraid” is a good one for us to remember.  GOD IS IN CONTROL TODAY, I DON’T CARE WHAT ANYONE SAYS.  Do not be afraid.

Look at that next phrase, “. . . good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”  It is for everyone.  God’s plan for the salvation of mankind included all of mankind.  There wasn’t anyone left out.  It isn’t for just a select few.  It is for anyone who is willing to acknowledge that they are sinners and that Jesus Christ is the ONLY answer to that sin.  In a world that has become a cacophony of noise and insistence that any answer is right, the only answer that is right is Jesus, and He came for anyone and everyone.

Finally, “Today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you . . .”  Did you get that?  It is “to you!”  This is personal.  This is intimate.  This is AMAZING!  God thought of you and He knew that you would need a Savior, and so He sent One!  Wow, you are special!  He must love you very much!  J

I love you too – Merry Christmas!

Rick

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Upcoming Activities

Sunday December 21 – This Sunday is the last Sunday of Advent.  We hope and pray that you’ll join us for the celebration of the expectation of His coming.  Services at 8:45 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Hispanic service.


Wednesday December 24 – We will have a family Christmas Eve Service beginning at 6:00 p.m.  We hope that you will come and join with us and if you have family or friends visiting with you for Christmas that you will bring them with you as well.  We will celebrate the Eucharist, as we come together to celebrate the birth of our Savior.  It will be a wonderful time and we hope you are here!


Advent

 Good Morning,

I’m a day late this week but I wanted to share a few thoughts with you about Advent.  I woke up this morning and when I walked outside I could smell the moisture in the air, it smelled like rain.  I love that smell, I love this season and to be very honest with you I think cloudy days are the very, very best.  I like the sun, but there is just something about a cloudy day to me that brings out the best in a day.

We are in the midst of the Advent Season.  It is a season of expectation, a time set aside to receive the fullness of Jesus’ coming.  It is not just a remembrance of His incarnation, the coming of Christ in the manger, but it is a time of anticipation of His return again.  I believe that both are a part of this season but simply because of our culture and traditions we usually put more emphasis on the first coming of Christ, as the baby in Bethlehem’s manger.  For a few moments this morning I want to focus in on the second part of that, His second coming, and especially zero in on the part of the phrase, “a time set aside to receive the fullness of Jesus’ coming.”  The emphasis, obviously, is on the receiving.

Prophecy in scripture always points to Christ.  In fact, scripture always points to Christ.  The Old Testament lays the groundwork for the coming of Christ.  The sacrifices and feasts of the Old Testament are a foreshadowing or a type that leads to Christ.  The sacrificial system was designed to be temporary, for Christ is the perfect sacrificial Lamb of God, the final sacrifice needed for the forgiveness of sin.  The feasts were a foreshadowing of Christ and His life; the first four feasts His life at His first coming, and the final three a “look” into His second coming.

The key to scripture is that it points to Christ.  In order to understand scripture we must measure it, study it and read it with Christ in mind.  Christ is God’s answer to the universal problem that mankind faces:  sin. I would like to ask you to carefully read the following scripture.  We all have a tendency, myself included, to focus in on only a very small part of it.   I have included six verses because I believe we need to see the context.

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.  He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”  Romans 3:21-26

Let me highlight a couple of things.  First, the people Paul was writing to tended to think of their relationship with God in terms of what they did; I think we tend to have that problem as well.  Thus he states, “a righteousness from God, apart from law . . .” (emphasis added).  Then he mentions “to which the Law and the Prophets testify.”  While there is no punctuation in the original language, the Greek sheds light on the way this is translated.  In the first instance there is no article before the word “law,” and by article I mean the word “the.”  However there is an article “the” before the second instance referring to “Law and Prophets” which would be the writings of what we call the Old Testament.

So look at what Paul is saying; our relationship with God has NOTHING at all to do with what we do – “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believer.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ” (emphasis added).

So finally, back to the receiving thing, “receiving the fullness of Jesus’ coming.”  He IS coming again.  Advent is ALL ABOUT HIM.  (And while I’m at it, Christmas too IS ALL ABOUT HIM, but that is for another email.)  To receive the fullness of Jesus’ coming, very simply put, you must receive Christ and all that He has for you.  I am NOT just talking about receiving Him as your Savior – most of us have done that.  (If you haven’t what a perfect time to do so and if you need help please, please, please call me.)  I am talking too about receiving the fullness of Jesus’ coming.  This is something to celebrate.  The promise is He has come and is here, Immanuel, God with us, but He is coming too as the conquering King.

Happy Advent!  Merry Advent!

I love you

Rick

Upcoming Activities
Sunday December 7 –  Come and worship with us at either the 8:45 or 10:30 a.m. services or the Hispanic service at 4:30 p.m.

Monday December 9 – Ladies Claudia Best is hosting a Ladies Christ-mas lunch Monday at 11:30 a.m.  If you plan on attending please call her at her home or call the church office today.

PLEASE NOTE:  THERE WILL BE NO REGULAR WEDNESDAY ACTIVITIES ON THE FOLLOWING DATES:  WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 17, 24 AND 31.

December 24 – Christmas Eve Service 6:00 p.m

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Giving Tuesday

I did not know the following until this morning as I was reading the Breakpoint email that I receive each weekday morning.  Today is called Giving Tuesday.  It is an international day focused on charitable giving.  It is a direct response to the consumer holy days of “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday.”  I do not know the origins of this, who started it or how it became an “international day focused on charitable giving” but it is something that I wanted to share with you this morning.

This time of the year has become so focused on buying and spending money that we have lost our focus about what this season is all about.  Let me remind you again that this is the season of Advent.  Advent is the time set aside by the church to help believers prepare to receive the fullness of Jesus’ coming.  And it’s not just in remembrance of His incarnation, coming to Bethlehem as a baby in a manger, but it is also in anticipation of His return as the “Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory,” who will “send his angels to gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens” (Mark 13:26-27).

So I want to challenge you this morning to celebrate Giving Tuesday.  Many of us took advantage of “Black Friday” or perhaps “Cyber Monday” by making purchases for Christmas gifts or just scouting out “deals.”  I urge you to take today and find a place to give something charitable.  It might be time given to help others or it could be money given to help a favorite charity, church or organization that gives to others.  One of my favorite places to give is the Salvation Army Red Kettles – another place that I love to give is to Bonita Park Camp and Conference Center.  It doesn’t matter who, what matters is that we give.

Happy Giving Tuesday!  I’m going to make this a habit!

I love you

Rick