Archive for the 'Christmas' Category

Daily Disciplines for the Christian Life: Refill Your Spiritual Supply

Refill Your Spiritual Supply

Ps.143:7-12; Mat.6:9-13; 1Pe.2:1-5

My car has a drain; something is using up power, and I haven’t been able to track it down. To keep it running, I have to KEEP IT RUNNING.

Running Low? To Recharge Your Life

* GRASP the WORD ~ Psalm 143:7-12 (hold on for dear life!)

  • 7 what’s the answer?
  • 8 show-look/listen
  • 9 rescue/read to hide
  • 10 teach/study
  • 11 preserve/memorize
  • 12 “for I am Your servant” / meditate

GET (hear- Rom 10.17)
READ (Rev 1.3)
ANALYZE (study- Act 17.11)
STORE (memorize- Ps 119.9-11)
PONDER (meditate-Ps 1.2-3)

* GASP your PRAYER ~ Mathew 6:9-13 (pray like you breathe)

PRAY LIKE THIS:

  • 9a relationship (Our Father…),
  • 9b worship (hallowed be Your name),
  • 10 interruption (YOUR kingdom – we give up),
  • 11 provision (give us this day – we rely),
  • 12 forgiveness
  • 13a protection (lead us),
  • 13b affirmation (Yours is)

* GROW up ~ 1Peter 2:1-5 (move on to maturity)

  • 1 “put away” like taking of filthy clothing
  • 2/3 crave to grow up; beyond want-NEED
  • 4 AS you come – ongoing (fellowship)
  • 5 priests: stand before God for people, and before people for God

The Christian life is like a cross
~ live the VERTICAL: Pray up; get the Word down
~ live the HORIZONTAL: FELLOWSHIP needs commitment of time, energy, resources; WITNESS: not what you DO, but who you ARE

https://youtu.be/BWqlreTCtck ?start=1395&end=3513

Daily Disciplines for the Christian Life: Admit You Trip

Admit You Trip

Psalms 32:1-5; 1 John 1:5-10

Have you ever tripped, and looked back to see over what you stumbled? There’s a Youtube prank that does this: a bunch of people pretend to trip over nothing, and bystanders are very confused. Tripping or stumbling happens in our spiritual lives as well. What do you do when THAT occurs?

Want To Get Past Your Past?

* Say Your Sin TO Him ~ Psalms 32:1-5

  • 1 maskil=”teaching” LEARN THIS
  • 2/4 teetertotter: weight of unconfessed sin vs freedom of forgiveness
  • 5 David’s conclusion: let sin go, and you let guilt go!

* See Your Sin BY His Light ~ 1 John 1:5-10

  • 5 in case you missed it: light is a metaphor for TRUTH
  • 6/7 teetertotter: darkness of sin vs light of truth
  • 8 addresses wrong idea: that WE are the SOUL alone, not affected by the flesh
  • 9 freedom from sin isn’t found IN us; it’s found in the character of Christ. God forgives because that’s who God IS
  • 10 we’re NOT inherently good people who occasionally do bad things; when we pretend that our occasional actions aren’t sinful, we run from the truth of God; we choose darkness over light

Practical Method: as soon as we recognize we’ve tripped, we practice “spiritual breathing” : we *exhale* by confessing our sin to God, and we *inhale* by willingly surrendering to God’s control.

Lord Jesus, I am a sinner constantly in need of Your grace and the experience of Your forgiveness. Thank You, Jesus, that You died for these sins in my life. Thank You that You have mercy on me. Help me to lose the addiction to sin, and when I fall, prompt me by the Spirit to confess, repent, and hold on to Your grace. All this I ask the Father in Your name, Jesus: Amen.

https://youtu.be/Li-9WPFHB90 ?start=1095&end=2908

The Present That Lasts Forever

The Present That Lasts Forever

Hebrews 7:1-3; 25-28

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to receive as a gift was a model. I had model ships, model planes, model cars: anything that I could build to help me understand the construction of a thing was a huge hit. I **still** have some models that I’m looking forward to completing. Models can teach, models can inspire.

Does God Use Models For His Ministry?

OT: Model of the Promise ~ Hebrews 7:1-3

  • 1 king+priest; ONLY good example of mixture of religion and government in all of Scripture
  • 2 righteousness+peace=antitype of Jesus, the perfect combination of kingship, righteousness, and peace with God
  • 3 this OT character just “shows up” unexpectedly in the narrative; often, Jesus does the same: He shows up in our lives when we don’t expect Him. How has Jesus shown up for you?

NT: Messiah is the Present ~ Hebrews 7:25-28

  • 25 OT priests were place-holders, fulfilling an office (the PERSON filling the office changes, the OFFICE does not); Jesus lives, and permanently fills the requirements of go-between for God and humanity
  • 26/7 He has no sin; wages of sin is death; He died as a sacrifice on our behalf (not His own need): THAT is why He is the Highest Priest Possible!
  • 28 “made perfect” Christ’s journey is complete: the Son let go of Godhood, became human like us, took on our sin, died and canceled it out, rose again to give us new life, and finally re-entered God’s presence as the perfect go-between for both US and God: from the TOP to the BOTTOM and back to the TOP.

I’m intentionally playing with a triple pun in English:

  1. at Christmas, we give each other gifts, and we call them presents
  2. Christ was God’s gift of Himself to all of us: Emmanuel, His Presence
  3. Jesus enables us to live with God regardless of time: eternally the present

Do We Need To Achieve It? – God Prepares His Prize

Do We Need To Achieve It? – God Prepares His Prize

Hebrews 4:1-11

You know what I love more than a good party? Not much! Fun people, good music, free food… what’s not to love? So imagine my dismay when I completely forgot to go to a party to which I was invited!

Want To Go To The Ultimate Christmas Party?

Receive His Invitation ~ Hebrews 4:1-5

  • 1 setup: refers to Moses & promised land; God intends to bring us to Himself
  • 2 message+faith=functional (toy w/out batteries? BOTH need to be present in the present)
  • 3 look at the contrast: those who don’t enter God’s presence are those who refuse to believe & trust Him: true then, true now!
  • 4/5 Rest isn’t about “not working”; it’s the reflection that God is responsible for His work (not us).

Actually Show Up! ~ Hebrews 4:6-11

  • 6 disobedience=apatheia; they didn’t think God’s promise was WORTH it
  • 7 God wants us to respond to His invitation NOW, TODAY
  • 8/10 rest from our own work: what a Christmas gift THAT is
  • 11 “make every effort”=flavor of urgency – let’s GET TO IT; no time like Today to Trust God for His Good Gift

God plans the party; God sets up the decorations; God sends out the invitation. OUR part? Respond with Joy!

Snapshots from Mark: Miraculous Moments

Snapshots from Mark: Miraculous Moments Sermon Audio Here

Mark 6:30-56

The Prince of Egypt is one of my favorite films; it’s the story of the Exodus of God’s people from slavery to freedom. One of the most moving songs is “When You Believe”. The original draft of the song used the lyric “you can do miracles when you believe”, but this seemed to imply that the believer, not God, was responsible for performing miracles; the lyric was later changed to “there can be miracles when you believe”. God is still able to be about His miraculous business. Here’s how we might see Him at work:

Miracles Manifest When We

Feed Because Of Need ~ Mark 6:30-44 (Jesus Feeds the 5000)

  • 34 compassion because of a shepherd shortfall
  • 38 find out what resources you already have
  • 41 thank God for what you share (God can do more with it than you can)

See In The Storm ~ Mark 6:45-52 (Jesus Walks On Water)

  • 46 Jesus took time to pray; what do we do with our time?
  • 48 Jesus sees us in the storm, but waits for us to call out
  • 52 we misunderstand what God is doing because of the hardness of our hearts

Share What You’ve Seen ~ Mark 6:53-56 (Jesus Heals The Sick)

  • 54 people STILL recognize Jesus today
  • 55 “they heard” – they’re still listening

The difficulty in seeing God in our lives aren’t because God isn’t still at work; it’s because, like the disciples, we’re distracted by our surroundings. Let’s encourage one another to take our eyes off the storm, and see the Savior instead.

Snapshots from Mark: Cost of Confrontation

Snapshots from Mark: Cost of Confrontation Sermon Audio Here

Mark 6:14-28

This time of year, considering conditions, fender benders are more likely to occur. This is no surprise to us; but did you know that insurance companies have decided you’re statistically more likely to get into another accident if you’ve had a first? It’s all part of how they count the cost of our premiums. As we leave the old year behind, and prepare to face a new year, what will the cost of following Christ be for us?

As You Count The Cost To Confront, Consider: ~

Spiritual Power Provokes a Response
~ Mark 6:14-16

  • 14 “this” – Jesus & disciples healing throughout the land
  • 15 the common people know God is at work somehow
  • 16 Herod panics because of his past sin

Political Power Preserves Its Privilege ~ Mark 6:17-20

  • 17/18 John confronted sin in governmental leadership
  • 19/20 sinners can enjoy God’s truth without conviction

Personal Power Doesn’t Protect From Pressure ~ Mark 6:21-28

  • 21/25 historical background
  • 26/28 political power doesn’t protect from pressure

29On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

When we make the decision to be His disciple, it means to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily. That Cross is an instrument of death, and just as John the Baptist paid the ultimate price, we too need to pay that price every day. That’s why we need You, Jesus.

Advent Conspiracy: Give More

Advent Conspiracy: Give More Sermon Audio Here

Matthew 1:18-25

I love Christmas, but increasingly I don’t love trying to explain it to people who confused the real thing with “ChrisMyth”. You know “ChrisMyth” – where the magical Coca-Cola corporate seasonal mascot observes all your marketing data – ahem “sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake” – and either brings you toys or coal depending on how much you’re willing to spend – cough “whether you’ve been good, so be good for goodness’ sake”

Real Christmas Requires Real Gifts:


Realize Life Intrudes
~ Matt. 1:18-19

  • It begins with a couple who are betrothed. Betrothal is a little more serious than engagement. This couple’s name is Mary and Joseph and they had not slept together yet. This is pre-wedding. And Joseph finds out that Mary is pregnant.
  • Now, finding out that your soon to be wife is pregnant without your help would be grounds for very severe punishment in that time. Joseph could really ruin her life. What Joseph does decide to do is, divorce her quietly and not make a scene.
  • Now if you found out your fiancé was pregnant with another man’s baby, what would you say? Joseph says to himself, ok, I’m not going to get crazy, I’m not going to shame her. I’m just going to divorce her very quietly.
  • So the first part of God’s story to save humanity starts in the thought to divorce. Sounds like real life to me.

Remember, God Interrupts ~ Matt. 1:20-25

  • 20/23 Angel speaks to Joseph in a dream: Don’t worry; God has a plan
  • Heb. 1:1-2 – God speaks in many ways; today, through His Son
  • In the past God spoke in many ways, but now he has finally spoken with Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of Gods revelation. So, we have this reality of God with us, but in the form of a baby. This should draw some serious reflection out of us. Cheryl Lawrie reflected this way:

we are tempted to think
that this is out of character for you
a momentary fragility
showing your tender side
that once the Christmas carols are finished
and the decorations are put away,
you’ll get back to power and might.
but in your completeness –
this one chance we get to see flesh and bone
put onto the theory –
this is you:
fragile,
impossibly vulnerable
and at the mercy of human response.

  • Fascinating really. God puts himself at the mercy of a young girl,
    and a new husband. God enters life as a human. God with us.
  • That is how the story starts; no reindeer, no snowmen, no thunder, no pillars of fire, just a thought of divorce, a dream, and a baby, who is God in the flesh, come to be with us, Immanuel.
  • And so yes it is a simple story, but it is a story full of wonder.

We get to ask the question: what would it look like if God came to earth as a man?
And the answer we get is Jesus.
The wonder of the incarnation (God coming to earth in flesh) communicates so much. But at its core it is answering a very simple and deep question, which is:
God where are you?
And His answer is: Here with you. In this life. I’m not
some far off being, I am here among you.

I know what it’s like to be you. In your humanity, in your joy, in your suffering.
I know what it’s like to live this life. And I want to be with you. In this Life.
It’s a question we all longed to have answered. God are you with me?
And God answers very deeply, yes I am with you.
God longs for life to be lived with him, not necessarily, under him,
or for him, or above him, but with. In relationship with.
It can be very simple and very powerful when you are fully
present to someone, it fulfills a deep desire of our heart.

I remember a time when I was 16 years old. Mom had passed away, and it was just Dad and I in the house with a single bathroom. Dad had been sporting a Regular Army haircut for as long as I’d known him, but after my Mom died, he decided he’d let it grow out a bit. One morning we were both running a bit behind schedule, and we ended up standing side by side coming our hair. We looked at each other and just cracked up: it was so ODD. At that moment, we were just a couple of guys who were a bit frustrated that our hair wouldn’t quite do what we wanted. A strange moment to be “fully present”, but I wouldn’t trade that memory for the world.

When you’re content to just be with another person, entering into their world, being with them it touches something deep in our heart. It satisfies a deep longing.

And so when it comes to the actual story of Christmas one of the best ways to celebrate is to simply give the gift of your presence. Be with someone.
This year we are trying to spend less on presents and give more of our selves.

It’s the story of What God did, he came to be with us, and so we celebrate, by giving relational gifts.

Practice Give More

Specifically, during this season of Advent, we thought it would be a great way to remember “God with us” by trying to be more intentionally present — First to ourselves and then to other people.

Technology is making it easier and easier to be present but not be with. We’re halfway present, being present with our body but not with our whole relational selves.

It’s not unusual to be in a crowd full of people and for everyone to be distracted, in their own world, on their phone. An artist named Antoine Geiger has an installation called “Sur-Fake” that captured this really well. It’s a series of photographs which shows peoples faces being stretched and blurred into the screens of the devices they hold.

He says, basically this technology is pulling us out of the moment, out of relationship and even away from our own thoughts, instead of being quiet with ourselves and thinking and working something out in thought and prayer, we just distract ourselves with a phone.

So not to get all anti phone, but we think it would be a great way to celebrate God with us by trying to be more with ourselves and others by doing a phone fast this week. Temporarily, turn off your social media apps. Have a spot where you put your phone as soon as you walk into the house. Do whatever you have to do to eliminate the distraction.

Each time you reach for your phone, instead spend a moment in reflection and prayer.

Or, ask your friends or spouse or kids a question, or play, cook, talk, run, just don’t be alone with your phone.

Try and be — with.

Use the time to brainstorm the relational gifts you can give this Christmas as you spend less and give more.

Maybe for you it’s not the phone, maybe it’s the TV, or work that doesn’t need to be done right this moment, but I invite you to stop, and celebrate God with us, by being with each other and being with him.

Very simply celebrate the simple story of a God who is with us, by being with others this Christmas.


Pastor Ed Backell

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