Advent Conspiracy: Spend Less

Advent Conspiracy: Spend Less Sermon Audio Here

Matthew 2:1-12

Jesus has been born and here come the three wise men, actually there was probably more than three. Who were these wise men? They were most likely pagan philosopher, astrologist, astronomer types who are from the priestly or ruling class of their eastern culture. They’ve come into Jerusalem, looking for the one who has been born King of the Jews…

What Do Wise People Treasure?

Wisdom, Gained In God’s Light ~ Matthew 2:1-2

Wisdom, Available To Those Who Seek ~ Matthew 2:3-8

  • 3 all Jerusalem disturbed because they misunderstand the signs: they focus on worldly power
  • 4/6 God tells the answer: Ruler will be a Shepherd (not a warrior)
  • 7/8 WARNING: don’t forget to seek for hidden motives!

Wisdom Treasures Worship ~ Matthew 2:9-12

  • Foolishness Worships Treasure: Herod was focused on earthly power and wealth;
  • these wise men willingly sacrificed their wealth in worship of the King of Heaven

If you don’t feel like the “right kind of Christian” you’re in good company. The right kind of Christian in the story, is on the wrong side of history. The religious establishment sided with Herod and his empire and missed Jesus.
The story of Christmas invites us to seek the truth, to be discerning when religion and power begin to mingle. To not be satisfied with mere religious goods and services, but to look in the out of the way places to see what God is doing.
This year we invite you ignore the signs and symbols of the empire.

  • We invite you to not give into the advertisers and corporation
    that really don’t want to worship but will use the language
    of Christmas to lure us into spending more.
  • We invite you to spend less on thoughtless gifts, to give more
    meaningful gifts, gifts of our time and presence.
  • We believe that as we do this, as we celebrate Christmas we can be a part of God still changing the world.
  • May you recognize that having it all is not having it all.
  • And so may your truth seeking lead you to Jesus, and may you be
    captured in wonder around this different kind of king who is grace
    and truth. May you take great joy, that the center of the world
    is a God who comes as a baby to bring peace on earth.


    Advent Conspiracy: Worship Fully

    Advent Conspiracy: Worship Fully Sermon Audio Here

    Luke 1:46-50

    NOTE: This sermon is from I’ve adapted it for my own preaching style, but the content is not mine. I’m grateful to the good people at Advent Conspiracy for helping the Church look at Advent in a different way.

    To help us make sense of the Scripture, remember: Mary is young, poor, pregnant out of wedlock, hiding in an obscure hill town which is currently occupied by a foreign power. She is living in utter obscurity. She has no reason to be beside herself with joy towards God. She is of humble estate and yet here she is… flooded with joy, over flowing with gratitude, so much that she burst into song as her spirit soars. WHY?

    Why “Worship Fully”?

    Because God Sees Us ~ Luke 1:46-48

    • When you know the Divine sees you, your deepest inner person, your soul is touched, and you can’t help but Worship Fully. You can say things like Mary said; “from now on, from this moment on, people will call me blessed. Holy is his name.”
    • The reason for this worshipful response is that the souls deepest longing is to be seen and known. (1 Cor. 13:12)
    • => a little kid: “hey hey hey hey hey!” look at them, and they’re good

    We Long To Be Seen ~ Genesis 16:13

    • She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
    • It’s why celebrity is so intoxicating. These people are seen so we think they must matter. I need to be seen to matter. On top of this need to be seen, our culture can breed isolation which just compounds our loneliness and can feed our despair at not being seen.

    In the book Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, the author Dave Eggers captured this sentiment early in the days of reality TV, as his main character writes in to MTV to be on “The Real World.”

    Dear Producers,
    Something is radiating deep within me and it must be transmitted or
    I will implode and the world will suffer a great loss, unawares. Epic
    are the proportions of my soul, yet without a scope who cares who
    I am? This is why I must but must be one of the inhabitants of MTV’s
    “Real World.” Only there, burning brightly into a million dazzled
    eyes, will my as yet uncontoured self assume the beauteous forms
    that are not just its own, but an entire market niche’s, due.
    I am a Kirk Cameron-Kurt Cobain figure, roguishly quirky, dandified
    but down to earth, kooky but comprehensible; denizen of the growing penumbra between alternative and mainstream culture; angsty prophet of the already bygone apocalypse, yet upbeat, stylish and sexy!
    Oh MTV, take me, make me, wake me from my formless slumbers
    and place me in the dreamy Real World of target marketing.

    • God sees Mary not because of her looks, her intellect, her status, her importance. God looks and sees her in her humble estate, her obscurity.

    When We Know God Sees Us, We Worship ~ Luke 1:49-50

    • After she sees and experiences this for her own life she says, trust in God, “from generation to generation”.
    • 51-55: she focuses on not what she has done, or even that she is seen. Her focus goes back to what GOD has done!

    This is the story of Christmas, that God has seen us, and that He sees those in need. This is why we as a church have chosen to celebrate Christmas this year by worshipping fully the God who sees and loves us and in response, see and love those that are in need around us and around the world.

    Christ Is Our King

    Christ Is Our King Sermon Audio Here

    Ephesians 1:15-23

    It’s Christ the King Sunday, the newest day in the liturgical year. It was first added in 1925 in response to increasing secularization movements worldwide, but in particular to the plight of Mexican Christians who were being told by their government that only their government was due ultimate allegiance. The Church in Mexico remained faithful, holding public parades throughout the land (with significant governmental pushback!) proclaiming “Cristo Rey!,” “Christ is King!” {gratefully borrowed from the Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church}

    The Benefits Of Belonging In The Kingdom:

    To Know The Father, We Know Christ ~ Ephesians 1:15-19a

    • 15 this reason=they have guaranteed salvation
    • 16 if we fully knew what Christ has done for us, we’d be overcome with thankfulness
    • 17 spirit=NOT H.S., but “breath/inspiration” to know the FATHER better
    • 18/19 we MAY know called hope, rich inheritance, & great power

    To See The Kingdom, We Show Christ ~ Ephesians 1:19b-23

    • 20 God put Jesus in the highest position
    • 21 Christ surpasses comparison of power and authority
    • 22 Christ rules over ALL; Head of the Church
    • 23 a head can’t function without a body; a body can’t function without a head

    We are Christ’s local presence: if the world would see Jesus, they’ll see Him (or not) THROUGH US.

    A Thief in Thessalonica?

    A Thief in Thessalonica Sermon Audio Here

    1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

    Have you ever been burgled? Home security systems make a big deal of fear to sell you their product. That’s all about preparing for something you DON’T want to happen. But what about something you DO want?

    Preparing for the Positive Surprise

    Start NOW to Get Ready ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5

    • 1/2 Church KNOWS not to watch times and dates; WE FOCUS on the valuable
    • 3 destruction=because they refused to prepare (silly image: pregnant woman who ignores oncoming labor pains – not stopping that baby’s arrival!) WE WAIT
    • 4/5 DARKNESS; God puts His light in us: WE SHINE (so don’t focus on darkness)

    Stay On Guard ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:6-11

    • 6 let us=WE CHOOSE to be aware
    • 7/8 WE GIRD ourselves, dress like a watchman (defensive armor)
    • 9 Jesus wins, we’re on His team; amount of playing time isn’t the issue
    • 10 We are DESTINED TO WIN!
    • 11 encouragement LEAKS! Remember how Paul told them to encourage each other just a chapter ago?

    This is an ONGOING TASK: guard duty means choosing to be alert for others’ protection and benefit. HOW? WE SCHEDULE this! We make room in our lives to protect each other.

    Theory of Thanatos in Thessalonica

    Theory of Thanatos in Thessalonica Sermon Audio Here

    1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

    It seems that every time we watch the news or read the paper, we learn about some new tragedy. Death occurs with astonishing regularity, even if the circumstances surrounding it become more and more bizarre.

    How Can We Respond When Faced With Death?

    We Can Have Knowledge AND Hope ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

      • Day of the Lord order: Return of Jesus FOLLOWED by resurrection of dead in Christ FOLLOWED by our joining Christ in the clouds
    • 18 This is GOOD NEWS: we haven’t missed it!

    The Thessalonians were concerned because they’d received differing accounts of Jesus’ return. Paul writes to them to set them straight… and we can be reassured as well: Jesus WILL return, and He WILL take us home: that’s all we need to know, and that’s what gives us hope!

    Thriving In Thessalonica

    Thriving In Thessalonica Sermon Audio Here

    1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

    In our first week looking at First Thessalonians, we tested thankfulness. Our second week, we measured motive. Today, we talk about flourishing faith:

    Faith That Thrives Or Is Merely Alive: What’s The Difference?

    Living Faith Is FUSED With Life ~ 1 Thessalonians 2:9-11

    • 9 preached=heralded; called out the truth; while working among them, the gospel was talked about (less pulpit, more participation)
    • 10 among you: Paul & team immersed themselves in the lives of others
    • 11 like a good father does

    Thriving Faith is USED Throughout Life ~ 1 Thessalonians 2:12-13

    • 12 encouraging, comforting, urging: father/pastor/coach => movement towards worth/value
    • 13 the Word “which is at work”; we’re not intended to just sit

    How do we know that God has ACTUALLY called us? How do we know that our FAITH is real (and we’re not just fooling ourselves)? Because we CHANGE. We’re DIFFERENT. The presence of God’s Grace does something in us, and we walk with God into His Kingdom.

    A Pastor’s Response To Politics

    This is an article I wrote for our church newsletter after last year’s election. I thought it might be worth capturing here.

    Dear church family,

    As I read through Facebook on the morning after the election, I realized I should say something. I don’t **need** to say something; there are others more eloquent than I am who have said many encouraging and hopeful things. I’m just one man.

    However, I am just one man who has a responsibility to stand up for what is right. As a follower of Jesus, I am bound to follow His example. As a student of Scripture, I take seriously the promises found in the prophets that justice will roll on like waters, righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24, for those of you who like to fact-check.)

    I pledge that I will stand up for the poor, the oppressed, and those who are getting the short end of the stick in today’s society. Do I support sin? May it never be! But I *will* let my guts be moved with compassion for those who receive judgment from those not qualified to judge. “Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious…” because boy, oh, boy, do we need God’s graciousness right about now. (Amos 5:15 for the reference)

    As a pastor, I will preach and teach and admonish and encourage our congregation (and everyone who has ears to hear) that we must be full of grace and truth, that we must put on love and put off hate (Colossians 3). We MUST be willing to move beyond business-as-usual, and demonstrate over and over and OVER AGAIN that we belong to God’s Kingdom, and we’re committed to building His spiritual work right here. We are the both the workers AND the building materials for God’s house of worship (1 Peter 2).

    We must stand with the poor, be counted with the unfairly treated, loose the chains of injustice, and do all this in all humility and gentleness of spirit, for it is God’s work we are to be about (Isaiah 58:6-10).

    To finally borrow once again from Amos: Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say He is. (5:14) Let us seek what is good together, friends.

    KFJ, Pastor Ed

     Vote Jesus

    Pastor Ed Backell

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