Posts Tagged 'Matthew'

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.

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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.

    The Messiah’s Ministry: The Great Commission

    The Messiah’s Ministry: The Great Commission Sermon Audio Here

    Charcoal Briquettes on fire


    Matthew 28:5-10;15-20

    Every Christian Has a Dual Mission:

    * To Find Life… SEARCH
    What should we remember?
    v5 SEEK- look for Jesus (look 4 keys, find other stuff)
    v6 ENDURE- He Is Risen, just as He said (He Is Still Here)
    v7 AFFIRM- tell disciples He is risen (remind one another)
    v8 REMAIN- afraid yet joyful (don’t let fear win-go thru it)
    v9 CONNECT- approach; clasp; worship (3 point game plan)
    v10 HELP others to Look for Him (keep looking ’til you find)

    * To Learn the Truth… TEACH
    What should we do?
    v16 TAKE AFTER Jesus (do what He says)
    v17 EXALT even when there’s doubt (everyone doubts)
    v18 ACKNOWLEDGE Jesus’ authority (He is LORD)
    v19 COACH as you go; make disciples (learning process)
    v20 HOLD Him close – (remember His presence)

    We’re not called to come together as Christians to experience the warmth of being together; we come together to make a change in the world! What’s on *your* grill?

    The Messiah’s Ministry: A Personal Sacrifice

    The Messiah’s Ministry: A Personal Sacrifice Sermon Audio Here

    A curtain surrounds an altar, crucifix, and statues of Jesus and Mary at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain, Michigan.


    Matthew 27:32-44
    If you were to look at Rembrandt’s painting of The Three Crosses, your attention would be drawn first to the center cross on which Jesus died. Then as you would look at the crowd gathered around the foot of that cross, you’d be impressed by the various facial expressions and actions of the people involved in the awful crime of crucifying the Son of God. Finally, your eyes would drift to the edge of the painting and catch sight of another figure, almost hidden in the shadows. Art critics say this is a representation of Rembrandt himself, for he recognized that by his sins he helped nail Jesus to the cross.

    Everyone Responds to the Cross in Some Way

    * The Reaction to the Cross is Revealing
    Matthew emphasizes how other people experienced the crucifixion:
    v32 Simon – compelled to carry the cross (outside forces)
    v34/36 Soldiers – sour & bitter wine (compassion + convenience)
    v39/40 Spectators – (clueless contempt)
    v41/43 Sanhedrin – (cruel caricatures of compassion)
    v44 Scoff-laws – they want Jesus to rescue them for the wrong reasons (conceited collusion)

    * The Reason For The Cross Is Redemption
    How do WE respond to Jesus’ Sacrifice?

    Mt 27:44~ are we like the criminals, asking Jesus to save us for selfish reasons, wanting “salvation” so that we can continue our old life?
    Mt 27:41-43~ are we like the Jewish leaders, pretending to be holy, all the while seeking to further our own agenda at the expense of grace?
    Mt 27:39-40~ are we like the passers-by, who don’t really understand the work that Jesus has done for us, and treat it with contempt?
    Mt 27:34-36~ are we like the soldiers, who exercise a combination of compassion for Jesus’ life, but ignore His higher call because of convenience?
    Mt 27:32~ are we like Simon of Cyrene, compelled to take up the Cross of Christ, responding to the call of God in our lives?

    How will you respond to the Cross?

    The Messiah’s Ministry: Persevering Through Prayer

    The Messiah’s Ministry: Persevering Through Prayer Sermon Audio Here

    Persevering Through Prayer


    Matthew 26:36-46
    Prayer is surrender–surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boathook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God.

    Jesus Shows Three Truths About Prayer:
    * Troubled Prayer Is Normal
    36-39 Pray when you’re upset; everyone gets upset
    v36 wait with Jesus
    v37 share burdens with close supporters
    v38 express and share your concerns
    v39 submit to God’s will

    * Doubled Prayer is Helpful
    40-43 Pray when you’re weak; ask for help
    v40 realize that we will let each other down
    v41 pray in midst of weakness
    v42 let God know your desires
    v43 Jesus finds us in our weakness (being weak doesn’t mean being lost)

    * Stubborn Prayer Is Effective
    44-46 Pray with perseverance; don’t give up
    v44 be persistent in prayer
    v45 be aware: the hour is at hand
    v46 be “going with” Jesus

    E.M. Bounds wrote, “The central significance of prayer is not in the things that happen as results, but in the deepening intimacy and unhurried communion with God at His central throne of control in order to discover a ‘sense of God’s need in order to call on God’s help to meet that need.'”

    Prayer is not about getting from God; prayer is about being with God so that He can work with you.

    The Messiah’s Ministry: Teaching on the Talents

    Running with the football

    Matthew 25:14-30

    One of the most pressing questions of our time: who will be the Seahawks punt returner? Safety Earl Thomas wants the job, and has this to say: “This is my future. I can help this team and I know I can,” Thomas said. “…I want to show everybody who I am and I want to be able to impact the game as much as possible.

    When it Comes to Talent:
    * We Are Receivers
    14-18 distribution of talents
    v14 we entrusted with something that belongs to God
    v15 God gives us according to our ability – He knows us!
    v16/17 expectation is that we would get to work
    v18 not everyone fulfills expectations

    * We Are Returners
    19-23 settling of positive accounts
    v19 we will settle with the Master
    v20 talents put to use on Master’s behalf
    v21 Make the Master happy!
    v22 amount of talents isn’t the issue; it’s what you do with what you’ve been given
    v23 well done to be faithful with a little

    * We Are Responsible
    24-30 settling of negative accounts
    v24 hard man=harsh, ungenerous
    v25 responded to Master in fear
    v26/27 now you know why this servant only got one talent…
    v28/29 God does not waste His talent (this guy is an example)
    v30 lead into next section – the final judgment

    On New Year’s Day, 1929, Georgia Tech played University of California in the Rose Bowl. In the first half of that game a man named Roy Riegels recovered a fumble for California. Somehow, he became confused and started running 65 yards in the wrong direction. Coach Price reached out and put his hand on Riegel’s shoulder and said to him: “Roy, get up and go on back; the game is only half over.” And Roy Riegels went back, and the opposing team said they have never seen a man play football as Roy Riegels played that second half.

    No matter if you’ve ever felt as if you’ve let the Lord down in the use of your talents – YOU ARE NOT DONE YET.

    The Messiah’s Ministry: Preparing the Faithful

    He waits

    Matthew 24:36-44

    Have you ever found yourself waiting for the cable guy to arrive for installation? Sometimes you’re kept in a state of readiness for a 6 hour window! The cable company’s sense of time and urgency is very different from yours. So it is with God’s timetable for the arrival of Christ…

    When We Get Anxious About Life, Remember:
    * We Live On God’s Timetable, Not Ours
    36-39 unexpected arrival of the Kingdom
    v36 – Dependence upon Father’s timetable ALONE
    v37 – Kingdom comes unexpected by the world; not us!
    v38/9 – Ignorance of the Kingdom will not save; Long term plans w/out God will not thrive

    * We Live Out Kingdom Life Here And Now, Not Just Later
    40-44 Ministry while awaiting the arrival
    v40/1 – One is selected, and one is rejected (man or woman doesn’t matter) (cf. 31-elect)
    v42 – Why watch? Not about OUR salvation, but our ministry
    v43 – Lack of guard + unexpected thief=broken house; Guard+anticipation of arrival=Prepared Reception
    v44 – Christ WILL COME – therefore, all y’all watch (we ourselves watch, and help others watch, too)

    We are not watching for a rescue to escape this world; we are watching for a Redeemer to join Him in HIS rescue of the world.


    Pastor Ed Backell

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