Archive for the 'Advent' Category

Daily Disciplines for the Christian Life: Get Off The Throne

Get Off The Throne

Joshua 24:14-18; 1 Peter 3:13-17; Isaiah 14:13-14

Here we are, Sunday before Christmas starts. We’re focused on the arrival of the Savior in the Manger. But consider what the Savior LEFT: the Throne of Heaven! God is on His throne! PS 47:8; There is ALSO a throne in each of us. Who has the right to be THERE?

To Keep Your Throne Clear for Christ

* Install to Serve Him ~ Joshua 24:14-18

  • 14 respect AND serve are linked: can’t do one without the other
  • 15 CHOOSE: a **human** exercise of will
  • 16/18 they respond IN THE MOMENT: it’s possible to make a commitment one moment, but not count the cost of KEEPING it. Have you done this? What has been the cost of keeping your commitment? Of NOT keeping it?

* Invest to Assert Him ~ 1 Peter 3:13-17

  • 13/14 this is a follow up from verses 8 on; PEOPLE (not just Christians) suffer- SO do what’s right!
  • 15 Sanctify/make holy: INVEST; if you were on a ball team, and you never showed up for practice to learn necessary skills, would you be ready to play? Would you even be SELECTED to play? What are you “making holy” in your life?
  • 16 we are to respect God; we’re ALSO to respect people… as a means of showing God respect as well!
  • 17 not suffering is ideal; if that’s NOT what happens, at least don’t DRAW suffering to yourself by doing what is evil

* Abdicate to Affirm Him ~ Isaiah 14:13-14

Choosing evil isn’t possible when you’re submitted to God. Why? Because evil is that which is OPPOSED to God… and God cannot oppose Himself. But WE can:

  • 13: You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. 14I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”
  • When WE kick God out of the driver’s seat, we do the SAME THING AS SATAN. Don’t DO that! GET OFF THE THRONE

Lord Jesus, I willingly relinquish the throne of my life and invite You to once again take control as Lord of my life.

Daily Disciplines for the Christian Life: Seek The Spirit

Daily Disciplines for the Christian Life: Seek The Spirit

Eph. 5:15-21

For this sermon to make sense, we’ve GOT to understand that the Holy Spirit isn’t a “force” or a “substance”. He’s a PERSON – the Third Person of the Triune God.

Step Three In The Spirit

* Care For Your Conduct ~ Eph. 5:15-18

  • 15 “watch how you walk” what wisdom do you use to make your choices?
  • 16 “to go to market” carefully choose your moment!
  • 17 through THIS don’t become unable to comprehend; “put it together”
  • 18 don’t BLUNT yourself in dumb choices; let yourself be CRAMMED full BY the Spirit

=> problem: when we read verse 18, we see the metaphor of being filled with wine (a substance), and often equate the spirit with that idea. We are not to be filled with the substance of spirit – we are being filled by a person: the holy spirit. Think less of a colander, and more of a manager of a warehouse. The manager notices when the warehouse gets empty, and makes arrangements for fresh goods to be brought in to replenish it

* Keep Being Filled ~ Eph. 5:19-21

  • 19 (power of the participle!) BE speaking the music of the Spirit to each other! (emphasize the positive- pour the goodness of God into people)
  • 20 BE “giving thanks at all times for all things”
  • 21 BE arranging yourselves as if Christ were right here: BECAUSE HE IS!

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you. (Isa. 26:3, 9)

Do you want peace, REAL peace? Long for the Leading of the Spirit!

Daily Disciplines for the Christian Life: Profess God’s Power

Profess God’s Power

2Chr. 20:5-9; Phil. 4:10-13

I’m looking for a car for my youngest. I found a 1968 Volkswagen Beetle in Yakima for only $500. She should be thrilled. The problem? NO ENGINE.

You’d be amazed at how many people think to live their spiritual lives in such a condition: they might have all the externals in place, but there’s no MOVEMENT because they don’t know how to turn it ON.

To Take Your Second Daily Step

* Plead God’s Power ~ 2Chr. 20:5-9

  • 5/6 GOD alone has the power
  • 7/9 God uses that power for our benefit (He hears and saves)

* Learn That Process ~ Phil. 4:10-13

  • 10/11 I have learned: this is a PROCESS; we learn IF we pay attention (“you learn something new every day” NOT AUTOMATIC)
  • 12 “secret”=INITIATED/shown the mystery; without this secret, it is very difficult to be content, because you focus on your circumstances which you can’t control
  • 13 IN HIM (en, not dia) there is POWER; when we are IN CHRIST (not the other way around), we are IN POWER, because Christ IS the power for Godliness

The difference is understanding that we don’t ADD Jesus to us (that way is failure, because we are still trying to control; Jesus is an additional tool in that scenario). We MERGE ourselves INTO Jesus; “I must decrease, He must increase” = I can’t; HE CAN

Profess Step Two: Lord Jesus, I am powerless. I have no ability in myself, apart from Your intervention in my life, to live my life in a way that is pleasing to You. I acknowledge that “I can’t.” But, I believe in You, Lord. I believe that You are the source of all power I invite You to live Your life in and through me today. Thank You that I can trust You to bring Your power into my life as I find myself IN You. Make me the kind of person You created me to be.


Daily Disciplines for the Christian Life: Admit Your Need

Daily Disciplines for the Christian Life: Admit Your Need

John 15:1-9

Every year, we remember what God does for us, from the beginning of the plan (Jesus’ arrival in Bethlehem) to the end (His return). Through it all, we see the example that Jesus gives as He lived. As we move through Advent, this year we’ll be looking at specific steps that will help us live the Christian life every day.

Have you found the Christian life to be frustrating? Try saying “I can’t…”

Parts of Your First Step

* Produce Produce! ~ John 15:1-2

  • We are EXPECTED to bear fruit! But HOW? Three possible ways to do this:
  • Plan A. keep the Law; (spoiler alert: doesn’t work)
  • Plan B. cling to grace/justification by faith (because plan A doesn’t work), or
  • Plan C. mix A and B (which is just A repackaged)

* Profess Powerlessness! ~ John 15:3-6

  • 3 Jesus’ word cleanses us (like a branch end must be clean to be grafted)
  • 4 focus is US being IN Jesus, not Jesus being IN us! Difference? We are to come into HIS presence; we enter into HIS Kingdom; HE CALLS THE SHOTS IN HIS OWN HOME
  • 5 this means we are powerless; (cf Matt. 5.6 abject poverty of spirit)
  • 6 look at the difference: a branch on its own has no life CANNOT bear fruit; a branch connected to the Vine has life (but not its own) – and THAT Life makes us able to produce!

* Persist and Preserve! ~ John 15:6-9

  • 7 “and my words remain” far too often, Christians focus on “ask whatever”, and forget the necessity of REMAINING in Christ and RETAINING His Word
  • 8 Farmers: how do you KNOW when a crop is ready for harvest? Don’t you INSPECT the fruit? We give ribbons at the county fair for brag-worthy crops; that’s our goal, too: to be blue-ribbon servants all for God’s glory (GOD is the Grower; we’re the Grafted)
  • 9 Don’t just visit: STAY because of LOVE

You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability… (Deuteronomy 8:17-18a)

Apply step 1: Dear Father, I come to You today to acknowledge that I am powerless. I am fundamentally powerless – period! I am also powerless over the effects of my separation from You. Apart from Your intervention in my life today, I do not have the ability to be Yours.

We Persist To Perceive It – God Completes His Promise

We Persist To Perceive It – God Completes His Promise

Hebrews 6:9-20

There’s a “new-ish” way to make money. Called cryptocurrency, it’s the idea that you can make something of tangible value out of a mere idea. If you’re the first to guess the exact huge random number, you “mine” Bitcoin, for example. It’s all based on a promise: that being the first to discover something is valuable. But the target number to guess always changes, so mining the “value” is tough. Compare that to gold: a naturally occurring finite resource which has been valuable for thousands of years. Permanence has value.

God promised His people thousands of years ago that He would send a Savior. Why should we believe Him? What’s the point of Christmas?

Why Is God’s Promise Worth Trusting?

The Basis of the Promise ~ Hebrews 6:9-12

  • 9 “better things”: better than the idea of falling away from God
  • 10/11 we don’t work to earn hope from God; rather, we eagerly desire to fully live IN hope
  • 12 “not sluggish” but actively hold onto God’s promises

The Bedrock of the Promise ~ Hebrews 6:13-20

  • 13/14 God’s promises are based on HIMSELF, not our response
  • 15/17 God’s promise doesn’t change because God HIMSELF never changes
  • 18 two unchangable things: God’s nature, and God’s oath
  • 19 this is OUR hope: God keeps His promise to us, because His promise is based in His unchanging self
  • 20 The promise: God saves us! NOW (through the first coming of Christ as our savior) and FOREVER (though His second coming as Jesus our King)

Why hit this point over and over? Because we don’t often believe it. It’s much more common to think that God gives us what we deserve, and when we hit a rough patch, we conclude that God is punishing us. That’s NOT how faith is intended to be used, as a bat with which you beat yourself. Faith is a GIFT. Enjoy it, and thank the Giver!

It’s Time To Receive It – God Prepares His Prophet

It’s Time To Receive It – God Prepares His Prophet

Luke 1:67-79

We’re aware of the Star of Bethlehem this time of year. I’m a huge fan of astronomy, and so I’m interested stellar events regardless of what time of year it is. Did you know there’s a star system named Eta Carinae, which has a mass 100 times greater than that of our sun, is giving signs that its life is about over. Researchers say that it could become a supernova—a blazing, exploding star—within the next 10,000 years. What is especially interesting about this is the idea that since light from that system takes 9,000 years to reach the earth, the actual explosion could have already taken place. God’s promises are like that: ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED, but we just haven’t realized them yet.

God’s Intent Is To Bring Us Home. HOW?

By Remembering His Promises  ~ Luke 1:67-75

By Reminding US of Those Promises By a Prophet ~ Luke 1:76-79

  • 76 a Prophet speaks God’s truth: MESSIAH is coming!
  • 77 MESSIAH is sin forgiver (not war hero)
  • 78 God’s tender love motivates the MESSIAH
  • 79 Without HIM, we’re stuck in the dark; we need guidance!

God loves us too much to let us die in the dark, stuck in our sin. He promised to rescue us; He sent a prophet to remind us; He sent the Christ to redeem us; and He STILL calls us to repent when we relapse! God is not the God of second chances; rather, He is the God of seventy times seven chances.

You’d Better Believe It – God Prepares His People

You’d Better Believe It – God Prepares His People

Luke 1:11-25

Small Details in the story can be crucial; more than just window dressing, often they clue us in to the nature of the story itself.

Zechariah’s story helps us notice:

God Is At Work Before We Realize It ~ Luke 1:11-17

  • 11 background synopsis 12/13 God IS listening!
  • 14/15 God plans for us
  • 16/17 John is promised preparer of Messiah: he is the type of Elijah (not reincarnation, but homage)

God Is At Work Before We’re Ready For It  ~ Luke 1:18-25

  • 18 a reasonable question: am I imagining this? How do I know this to be true?
  • 19/20 not a punishment, but verification
  • 21/22 Sometimes we don’t have the words to describe what God has done in us: MAKE SIGNS
  • 23/25 Recognize the Lord is at work in us

As we consider Zechariah and Elizabeth’s story, we see it leads into John the Baptist’s origin story. It gives us context as to what God ended up doing in John’s life. Consider your OWN context: what clues might be there, often unnoticed, that God is preparing YOU for something?


Pastor Ed Backell

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