Dec 31, 2017
New: A Prelude to “A Time for War”
New: A Prelude to "A Time for War"
Joshua 4:18-24
 
 
Introduction:
Here we are at New Year’s Eve again. It is an exciting time where people have a chance to set the pace for a New Year. Many people set new goals and then make resolutions to help accomplish the goals. With that being said getting something new is generally exciting and fun, but doing something new, well that can be a whole other story. Learning a new language would be a wonderful challenge this year, but just thinking of the time, energy, and money that would cost is exhausting! Many times, the thought of what it cost to do something new stops me from ever doing it. I would like to get in tip top shape, the image in my head of a healthy muscular little man looks good, but thinking about running, sweating, high heart rates, and being short of breath is more than I can bear. Doing new things takes work, a lot of work and dedication. Today we will look at the new things that the children of Israel were facing when Moses died and Joshua became the new leader. It is my hope that this message is good prelude to our January Series “A Time for War” by laying out the foundations that makes doing new things as a believer possible.
 
What New things were Happening in the life of Joshua?
When we open the bible, and begin reading in Joshua chapter one we learn the Moses is dead and now Joshua has charge over a multitude of people that are on the brink of the promised land (Joshua 1:1-2). Joshua is now a new leader, and before him new challenges. Jericho’s walls and Jordan’s overflowing waters are on his desk when he starts the job. He crosses the Jordan into the promise land which is also enemy territory at this time. There he circumcises the children of Israel, again this is something new for that generation (Joshua 5:2). Finally, God is going to change how he feeds the people. The manna was to stop and the people were going to take responsibility to feed themselves (Joshua 5:12). There was more change facing Joshua then in his life than any of us are facing today. But God had a game plan built into all these changes. He had ways that would encourage His people to make good decisions that would change their lives and bring new things to pass.
 
E/c Can do things that glorify God in 2018
By laying the following stones as foundation to accomplish new things
 
I. Remember (4:21)-
Memory is a powerful thing. It can motivate you or it can detour you. Moses had recently died, but it was not the memory of Moses’s death that God sets as a foundation to do that which is new. No God decides to take His people across the Jordan and set up a memorial of His power, grace, and justice to the living generation. He wanted them to remember Him at every turn of their journey. God decided to use stones to arouse the memory of all those present and to come. God has done much for each of us this past year and we can stack those memories up to remind us of God. It is not any old stone that will do, just like there is not just any old memory that will do. God has specifics when it comes to things He wants us to cling to. Not every stone, not every memory will help new things happen.
The Place of the Stones (4:3)- God wanted the stones collected from “where the priest’s feet stood firm”. God wants us to go to the place where faith conquered fear and did not waiver. Our memories that push us forward are to come from the place where faith stood firm. It may not be where or feet stood, but it needs to be where someone’s feet did! Collect stones and memories from the victories of faith.
The people of the Stones (4:6)-12 men were selected to get the stones. The stones mattered to the generation present and the ones to come. Natural curiosity would cause the next generations to ask “what do you mean by these stones”. Our children and grandchildren need to be evoked to serve and worship God by what we pull out of our present. There is noting more motivational to me than to see and hear from the more seasoned believers how God wrought wonderful things in their life. It reminds me God can do it for me as well.
Illustration: I recently read about the last days of William Tyndale. William suffered unto death for translating the bible into English. His faith and work created a new thing that earned him death. Reading the last letter William wrote gave me strength and encouragement in the ministry. The letter was not long and complex, but it was real and carried with it the spirit of a warrior for Christ. The “stone” he left was his letter and martyrdom. It is such memorials that give me courage to continue in service to Christ and the desire to do more.
Application: What are you remembering today about God that pushes you forward, what are you leaving today to push others forward in the future?
 
II. Recalibrate (5:2)-
Joshua led his people across the Jordan with collected stones to commemorate the event. Once settled on the other side of the Jordan the people were commanded to be circumcised. Their faith and commitment would have to be adjusted to a higher level. They had just witnessed the power and care of God toward them and now they would be commanded to give flesh off their body in keeping the commands of God. Their faith was called to an Abrahamic faith (Genesis 17:10-12). It was no small request to ask that all the men be circumcised. Once in the history of Israel a whole group of people died when the fighting men of the city were circumcised. Joshua would know the story very well because it was his ancestors that did the massacre (Genesis 34:18-29). What God asked seemed very untimely, but it is never timely to serve God. Serving God always cost and it cost dear. When transitions are happening and new things are to be accomplish be prepared to be obedient to God on a higher level. Christian new year’s resolutions should be more than diets and work outs. It should begin with a desire and then design to grow in Christ and serve God to a higher degree. Doing new things for God is possible when our faith is adjusted to a higher temperature.
 
Illustration: Zell Kravinsky knew he wasn’t cut out for the wealthy way of living. Sure, he had made millions investing in real estate in his native Pennsylvania, but Kravinsky decided his dollars had a grander purpose than just fattening his bank account. In 2001, he began donating money and land to various charities until his contributions reached $45 million dollars. By then, his family and friends thought that he was being too impulsive, but Kravinsky brushed their reservations aside and said that he could always earn more money—though he’d likely give it away as well.
However, Kravinsky still felt that donating money and land wasn’t enough. He decided up the ante and gave his kidney to a total stranger. His move was met with mixed views, ranging from praise to disbelief. Even his wife threatened to leave him, although that was later defused thanks to famous singer Pat Boone, who knew what Kravinsky did and urged her to forgive him for being too generous. As for Kravinsky, he said that he would readily give any of his body parts again for any who need who needed it.
We should continually adjust our faith toward God until we will give anything for Him. This is love without limits.
 
Application: What has God ask of you to adjust your level of faith?
 
III. React (Joshua 6)-
Joshua 6 is about the fall of Jericho. The people watched the wall fall only after the obeyed the Lord. The people under Joshua’s command showed their reaction to who God is and what He says makes the impossible possible. The stones lay in another place to remind them that God can do the impossible, their circumcision proved they were committed, and their marching showed that it was not all for naught.
What were the people reacting to?
The people were reacting to God’s desire for them. God’s people had wanted to return to Egypt. That was their desire. They wanted to be continually fed with manna and not have to worry about crops and harvest and the such. Their own desires were carnal and deadly. But when the people reacted to God’s desire for them the walls of a great city fail before their feet with a few days march. As a father, mother, employ, or boss whose desires are you reacting to?
It is now time to react to God’s desire toward you. He desires that you love Him with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.
Application: Will you react to God’s desire for you in 2018?
WatchNotesDownloadDateTitle
  • Dec 31, 2017New: A Prelude to “A Time for War”
    Dec 31, 2017
    New: A Prelude to “A Time for War”
    New: A Prelude to "A Time for War"
    Joshua 4:18-24
     
     
    Introduction:
    Here we are at New Year’s Eve again. It is an exciting time where people have a chance to set the pace for a New Year. Many people set new goals and then make resolutions to help accomplish the goals. With that being said getting something new is generally exciting and fun, but doing something new, well that can be a whole other story. Learning a new language would be a wonderful challenge this year, but just thinking of the time, energy, and money that would cost is exhausting! Many times, the thought of what it cost to do something new stops me from ever doing it. I would like to get in tip top shape, the image in my head of a healthy muscular little man looks good, but thinking about running, sweating, high heart rates, and being short of breath is more than I can bear. Doing new things takes work, a lot of work and dedication. Today we will look at the new things that the children of Israel were facing when Moses died and Joshua became the new leader. It is my hope that this message is good prelude to our January Series “A Time for War” by laying out the foundations that makes doing new things as a believer possible.
     
    What New things were Happening in the life of Joshua?
    When we open the bible, and begin reading in Joshua chapter one we learn the Moses is dead and now Joshua has charge over a multitude of people that are on the brink of the promised land (Joshua 1:1-2). Joshua is now a new leader, and before him new challenges. Jericho’s walls and Jordan’s overflowing waters are on his desk when he starts the job. He crosses the Jordan into the promise land which is also enemy territory at this time. There he circumcises the children of Israel, again this is something new for that generation (Joshua 5:2). Finally, God is going to change how he feeds the people. The manna was to stop and the people were going to take responsibility to feed themselves (Joshua 5:12). There was more change facing Joshua then in his life than any of us are facing today. But God had a game plan built into all these changes. He had ways that would encourage His people to make good decisions that would change their lives and bring new things to pass.
     
    E/c Can do things that glorify God in 2018
    By laying the following stones as foundation to accomplish new things
     
    I. Remember (4:21)-
    Memory is a powerful thing. It can motivate you or it can detour you. Moses had recently died, but it was not the memory of Moses’s death that God sets as a foundation to do that which is new. No God decides to take His people across the Jordan and set up a memorial of His power, grace, and justice to the living generation. He wanted them to remember Him at every turn of their journey. God decided to use stones to arouse the memory of all those present and to come. God has done much for each of us this past year and we can stack those memories up to remind us of God. It is not any old stone that will do, just like there is not just any old memory that will do. God has specifics when it comes to things He wants us to cling to. Not every stone, not every memory will help new things happen.
    The Place of the Stones (4:3)- God wanted the stones collected from “where the priest’s feet stood firm”. God wants us to go to the place where faith conquered fear and did not waiver. Our memories that push us forward are to come from the place where faith stood firm. It may not be where or feet stood, but it needs to be where someone’s feet did! Collect stones and memories from the victories of faith.
    The people of the Stones (4:6)-12 men were selected to get the stones. The stones mattered to the generation present and the ones to come. Natural curiosity would cause the next generations to ask “what do you mean by these stones”. Our children and grandchildren need to be evoked to serve and worship God by what we pull out of our present. There is noting more motivational to me than to see and hear from the more seasoned believers how God wrought wonderful things in their life. It reminds me God can do it for me as well.
    Illustration: I recently read about the last days of William Tyndale. William suffered unto death for translating the bible into English. His faith and work created a new thing that earned him death. Reading the last letter William wrote gave me strength and encouragement in the ministry. The letter was not long and complex, but it was real and carried with it the spirit of a warrior for Christ. The “stone” he left was his letter and martyrdom. It is such memorials that give me courage to continue in service to Christ and the desire to do more.
    Application: What are you remembering today about God that pushes you forward, what are you leaving today to push others forward in the future?
     
    II. Recalibrate (5:2)-
    Joshua led his people across the Jordan with collected stones to commemorate the event. Once settled on the other side of the Jordan the people were commanded to be circumcised. Their faith and commitment would have to be adjusted to a higher level. They had just witnessed the power and care of God toward them and now they would be commanded to give flesh off their body in keeping the commands of God. Their faith was called to an Abrahamic faith (Genesis 17:10-12). It was no small request to ask that all the men be circumcised. Once in the history of Israel a whole group of people died when the fighting men of the city were circumcised. Joshua would know the story very well because it was his ancestors that did the massacre (Genesis 34:18-29). What God asked seemed very untimely, but it is never timely to serve God. Serving God always cost and it cost dear. When transitions are happening and new things are to be accomplish be prepared to be obedient to God on a higher level. Christian new year’s resolutions should be more than diets and work outs. It should begin with a desire and then design to grow in Christ and serve God to a higher degree. Doing new things for God is possible when our faith is adjusted to a higher temperature.
     
    Illustration: Zell Kravinsky knew he wasn’t cut out for the wealthy way of living. Sure, he had made millions investing in real estate in his native Pennsylvania, but Kravinsky decided his dollars had a grander purpose than just fattening his bank account. In 2001, he began donating money and land to various charities until his contributions reached $45 million dollars. By then, his family and friends thought that he was being too impulsive, but Kravinsky brushed their reservations aside and said that he could always earn more money—though he’d likely give it away as well.
    However, Kravinsky still felt that donating money and land wasn’t enough. He decided up the ante and gave his kidney to a total stranger. His move was met with mixed views, ranging from praise to disbelief. Even his wife threatened to leave him, although that was later defused thanks to famous singer Pat Boone, who knew what Kravinsky did and urged her to forgive him for being too generous. As for Kravinsky, he said that he would readily give any of his body parts again for any who need who needed it.
    We should continually adjust our faith toward God until we will give anything for Him. This is love without limits.
     
    Application: What has God ask of you to adjust your level of faith?
     
    III. React (Joshua 6)-
    Joshua 6 is about the fall of Jericho. The people watched the wall fall only after the obeyed the Lord. The people under Joshua’s command showed their reaction to who God is and what He says makes the impossible possible. The stones lay in another place to remind them that God can do the impossible, their circumcision proved they were committed, and their marching showed that it was not all for naught.
    What were the people reacting to?
    The people were reacting to God’s desire for them. God’s people had wanted to return to Egypt. That was their desire. They wanted to be continually fed with manna and not have to worry about crops and harvest and the such. Their own desires were carnal and deadly. But when the people reacted to God’s desire for them the walls of a great city fail before their feet with a few days march. As a father, mother, employ, or boss whose desires are you reacting to?
    It is now time to react to God’s desire toward you. He desires that you love Him with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.
    Application: Will you react to God’s desire for you in 2018?
  • Dec 27, 2017An Unselfish Spirit
    Dec 27, 2017
    An Unselfish Spirit
     
    An Unselfish Spirit
    James 1:22-27
     
    Every Christian can have an unselfish spirit by applying the following three actions.
    I. See What God Sees

    The disciples saw a hungry crowd, but Jesus saw sheep not having a shepherd.
    The disciples saw a storm, but Jesus saw a lesson.
    The Pharisees saw a sinful woman as a pawn in their game, but Jesus saw a candidate for forgiveness.
    Saul saw a little boy who needed lots of armor, but God saw an able warrior!
     
    a. By being honest with yourself
    James 1:22-27; 1 Samuel 16:7; Galatians 6:7
    Your sin may not bother you, but it bothers God.
     
    b. By being compassionate with others
    Mark 6:34

    The priest and the Levite saw the man on the side of the road, but didn’t SEE him.
     
    II. Go Where God Goes

    God goes to the blind, thirsty, hungry, hurting, lonely, and lost.
     
    a. By emptying
    Philippians 2:4-8; 2 Corinthians 8:9
     
    b. By entering
    John 18:4

    To visit, in their afflictions.
     
    III. Do What God Does
    James 1:22
     
    a. By bringing relief
     
    b. By bringing reconciliation
    2 Corinthians 5:17-18
     
  • Dec 24, 2017Christmas @ Bethany: Beholding Christ at Christmas
    Dec 24, 2017
    Christmas @ Bethany: Beholding Christ at Christmas
    Beholding Who Mary Held
    Hebrews 1:3
    Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
    Luke 2:7
    And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
    Today is Christmas Eve and I will spend the morning and afternoon hours with my church family. Tomorrow like most of you I will be with my immediate family. Last night I was with my extended family. I am truly blessed to be wrapped up with each of you. God has been very good to me by allowing me to be packaged together, by His grace, with so many that love God and my family. My Christmas experience is great, because it flows from the God of greatness. All of my enjoyment this time of the year is because Jesus was born and still lives till this day. All the blessings I receive overflow from the Son of God. Christmas is wonderful! The next couple days will be packed with excitement. A trip to grandma’s house, a cooked ham, presents, movies, sleeping, and any other good thing seems to happen near and at Christmas. It is for this cause that I come to you today.
     
    These good things can become sour if they snatch our attention from Jesus. Evil is simply good perverted and each of us, especially me, can make good things bad by prizing them in their wrong place. These things can also be sanctified if they are sanctified by our affections on Christ and not things of this world (Colossians 3:2). The message that is in my heart is to remind and teach church that Jesus is supreme and is to be most prized at all times. It is because other things fight for our devotion that we must preach today. It is also because we are weak and are easily misaligned in our affections that I preach today. It is my hope that through the text we have read that we can behold this morning what Mary beheld when she gave birth to Christ in order to set our affections right for the day and events to come. When we behold with earnestness what Mary held the day she gave birth to Jesus we can find true joy in Christ. During this message we will ask and answer “What did Mary see when she Beheld Jesus”?
    I. Mary Beheld the Brightness of the Glory of God
    (Hebrews 1:3a)
    When Mary gave birth to Jesus she saw what most all men in the world desire to gaze upon. She saw the God of heaven robed in flesh. She saw the splendid glory of holiness. The Washington Post on Dec 23rd 2012 posted an article that stated 84% of everyone in the world believed in a god or gods. 33% of those are consider Christians, and 33% of that is consider protestant. 90% of the world worship god/gods differently than we do. People want to see beauty, holiness, and power beyond this world so they seek God in their own way. People have sought for God since the fall of man. Monuments and temples are scattered about the globe in worship to some god. Their minds are darkened by sin and their view of god perverted to the root, yet men seek after God to their own demise. Mary saw what countless others desired. According to Scripture God elected to reveal Himself to fallen people, so He selected Abraham and his descendants from the people of the earth to reveal Himself to. God used visions, dreams, and people to teach fallen man Himself.
     
    Abraham’s descendants were delivered many times by the outstretch hand of God from enemies and their own devices, given a law, land, tabernacle, and temple. All of this was not enough to save the soul. The Nation of Israel fell to show other nations the glory of God and they fell in obedience to God. God’s glory was not recognizable to Israel and the world because the nation of Israel and all men are sinful. Then came Jesus brought into this world and watched over by Mary and Joseph. A Human that is all God brought the exact glory of God to the world. The glory of God that men desired would be delivered to them by Jesus Even when the throne of the nation was occupied by a fraud (Herod), bloodlines watered down, and traditions of true worship eroded Jesus still came into the world as the Seed of David who was the Seed of Abraham who was the Seed of Adam who was the son of God! When you behold the coming of Jesus into the world you behold the brightness of the glory of God.
     
    a. Why do when desire God- People know the world is dark and full of evil. 84% of the world agrees there is something greater out there than what we see. People want God because they want what is bright and attractive. If you are seeking for God seek no further that Jesus Christ for all that come to God through Him are forgiven and accepted before God.
     
    II. Mary Beheld the Person of God
    (Hebrews 1:3)
    When Tara gave birth to each of our 4 sons it never ceased to amaze me how she gazed at them after delivery. She was exhausted yet full of life as she looked into the faces of our children. In that moment, although in a room full of people, her child had her full affection. Her carrying and laboring to bring them into the world connected her to them in the tightest fashion. What we gaze or stare at and into has our affection.
    a. Mary labored to bring Jesus into the world as any mother- Joseph more than likely delivered Jesus with his wife. They together saw the person of God, held the person of God, and cared for the Person of God. How could Mary and Joseph long for anyone or anything than God when they were holding Him in their arms?
    b. Hope in God Causes All other desires to find their place- Mary waited with expectation to give birth to Jesus. When she went into labor she hoped in and hoped for the Son of God to be born. When our hope and expectation is in Jesus alone we can combat the things that want to battle for our affections. When we combat the things that battle for our affections we find our joy filled in Jesus.
    c. Laboring for God places Emphasis on God (Luke 2:7a)- Mary was a willing participant in the birth of Jesus. God did not give His Son to someone who did not want Him. The circumstances were labor intensive, but Mary embraced it fully and gave birth to Jesus. When all our effort and energy is placed in laboring for God things have a hard time detouring us from our joy in Christ.
    Application: What are you beholding today?
     
    III. Mary Beheld the Atonement and Resurrection
    (Hebrews 1:3c)
    Mary did the best she could for Jesus. Her circumstance limited her in some ways, but her quality of love and care for Jesus was the highest that could be found. She wrapped Jesus in strips on clothing and placed Him in a manger. When she looked at her Baby in the manger she saw the atonement for the Church of God. She would raise Him up and watch Him bleed for the sins of the World. If Jesus was not atonement then the celebration of His birth would not be great. His birth is great because His mission of atonement was great!
     
    She not only saw heartache in the atonement, she saw joy in resurrection. He purged sins with His atoning death, and sits with God the Father in the resurrection. Today millions upon millions of people are celebrating Christmas for one reason or another. Sadly, many will celebrate the day with other affections ruling their lives. Is it food, presents, family, or traditions that you look forward to the most? Have these good things become evil because they take your affection away from Jesus? Are these things great things because Jesus has your affection?
    When mother’s give birth and look at their child they are looking at doctors, lawyers, pastors, engineers, business owners, soldiers, inventors, teachers, mothers, and fathers. When I first hailed Nehemiah 18 months ago I held whatever he is to be. Mary held Jesus on the day of His birth and therefore held the Lamb and the Lion!
    This morning I challenge you to “look unto Jesus” and see “Jesus only” (Hebrews 12:2 and Mark 9:8)
  • Dec 17, 2017Christmas @ Bethany: Rachel’s Tears
    Dec 17, 2017
    Christmas @ Bethany: Rachel’s Tears

    Matthew 2:18

    “The Tears of Rachel “ (Sobering Truths for God’s Glory at Christmas)

    Christmas joy, singing, and miracles, are reminders that joy can exist and overcome the most difficult of circumstances. Jesus was born as Joy into a world of sorrow. It was not the world was doing splendid when Jesus was born. No, the world was full of sin and all the vices and troubles that follow. Christmas (the birth of Christ) is not joy upon joy, but Joy injected into sorrow. They exist side by side until the full joy of our complete glorification emerges. Christmas is real and the emotions of the time are real. Jesus entered a sin cursed world. A world of hate, thirst for power, murder, division, greed, sickness, and death. Jesus would experience the full sting and might of sin in His life. Isaiah told of a virgin who would conceive and give birth to a Son. This Son would be called the Prince of peace, Emmanuel, Counselor, and Mighty God. Isaiah also described Him as smitten before God and a Man of Sorrows. Christmas is a reminder that the world has been invaded by the dark damnation of sin, that God loves sinful people, and a suffering Savior is needed for man to come to a Holy God.
     
    “I celebrate Christmas” carries with it the implications that:
    • God is real and Just
    • Sin is real and the full wrath of God falls on sinners
    • All people are guilty of sin and deserve the wrath of God
    • Jesus’s birth is joyous because He came to stand in our place of God’s wrath on the cross and bear our punishment, while at the same time giving us His righteousness so we can be accepted by God who is the supreme Joy of all things.
    • A relationship with God is the most prized possession over all things in heaven or earth.
    When we celebrate Christmas we also embrace sorrow. We agree that it is vividly real. We fear before God, and He ministers to us in a unique way. Sorrow can teach lessons that man cannot achieve over many life times. Here is what we learn from scripture concerning sorrow.
     
    The Sorrows and Horror of Christmas are Real
    It sounds morbid to say that real infants and toddlers were murdered, mothers wept till exhaustion overcame them, screams of distress were heard through the region, pain cut to the deepest regions of the soul, fear shook families to the core. Sadly, the reality of this world is morbid. The sorrows and horror of this world are consequences of sin, which is esteeming anything greater than God. Rebellion against God to any degree is fire, though it be a spark it is still fire. Sin is what caused weeping and screaming to echo through the town streets in our text. Sin is the root of hatred, murder, sickness, death, and all other terrors of this life. Sin is so dreadful, powerful, and an offensive to God that no known power in all creation could uproot it, except for the suffering death of the Eternal Son of God.
     
    What has sin wrought (Romans 3:23)- The payment, the result, the consequence of sin is death. Death comes in many shapes and forms. The first death in scripture was caused by murder. Cain killed his brother Able. Their parents, Adam and Eve, were no doubt hurt deeply because they lost two sons that day. Scripture is not silent concerning the payment of sin. Sin separates man from God and then man slowly dies until he awakens to eternal death that does not die. Job said that people were born to live short days filled with troubles, and as sure as a spark fly upward men are born into trouble (Job 14:1, Job 5:7). James 4:14 tells us that our lives are very short lived. Sin has brought sorrow and horror to this world it guarantees nothing but a short life of pleasure and after that the judgement (Hebrews 11:25, Hebrews 9:27).
     
    What hath God Wrought (Matthew 4:16)- While sin has captured and locked man in a dungeon of torment, God has done a marvelous work that frees man from chains of damnation. Jesus came into a dark world as a great light. The darkness tried to settle itself. Herod was on the throne as the imposter king. He was a murderer and was going to murder. When Jesus was born dawn had arrived and the settled darkness began to be driven away. The dawn of salvation was upon man and darkness was uprooted. This is what God has wrought, Great Joy in our sorrow!
     
    Application: Does your heart yearn to worship in your sorrow?
     
    You do not Weep alone
    Jesus is sinless, but He was born into a sin filled world, among sin filled people, we can conclude that Christmas is not sinless, which means it is not void of sorrow and horror. The weeping in Matthew 2 is the weeping of families who experienced the results of sin (James 1:15). These people were not alone in their weeping and pain. Consider other believers who understand your weeping and weep with you and be comforted and encouraged.
     
    Rachel- Rachel is the person in our text that is said to be weeping. She is known as the lovely, bright bride, of Jacob. Jacob worked 14 years to pay her father Laban for her. Jacob underwent many hardships to obtain Rachel and all her beauty. We can see from the narrative in Genesis about Jacob and Rachel gospel shadows. Jacob labored and suffered wrong for his bride and Jesus would suffer for His bride the Church. Rachel’s beauty did not keep her from sorrow. Genesis 35:16-21 gives record of Rachel's final moments. Her last words “Benoni” which means son of my sorrows, then she died. Rachel knew and understood pain and sorrow in a circumstance that was also full of joy. The prophet Jeremiah uses Rachel as a symbol of sorrow when the nation of Israel lost people to death and captivity. Matthew uses the birth of Christ to “fill up” the meaning behind Rachel’s life. Her children were always in trouble so she wept and could not find comfort. God’s children are always in trouble in this world, and our tears should fall as we mourn tragedy and sin, while at the same time clinging to the promise that those that mourn shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4)
     
    David- David was anointed King of God’s people at a young age. I am sure it was a joy and extremely exciting to be given such an honor at a tender age. Along with David’s anointing came the hatred of Saul, the reigning king. David spent years of his life hiding because of his anointing. David’s years on the run equaled tears. He wrote heartfelt songs of pain and agony. Consider Psalm 6:6 “I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.” David was a weeping worshiper. He wept over enemies, loneliness, and his own sin. You may weep, but you weep with mothers and kings! Christmas is a reminder of tears shared among all Christians.
     
    Nehemiah- Nehemiah was a man’s man. He was a mix of a president, general, preacher, and builder. Nehemiah new how to get the job finished no matter the obstacles that faced him. I usually do not feel like I am any of those things, but I have something in common with Nehemiah, tears for God’s people (Nehemiah 1:4). At Christmas I share one thing in common with all believer’s tears of joy, sorrow, and concern. Tears are the commonality among all believers. Gifts, tradition, and location separate us, but tears bind us together.
     
    Paul- Paul’s ministry was unique. A Genius in his own right. He was a focused and fearless leader. Yet he wept (Acts 20:31). Christmas would not be reality without tears. Tears are part of our lineage and they are powerful in the economy of God.
     
    Jesus- John 11:35, Luke 19:41 confirms that Jesus was a man of tears. He wept in full compassion and love for others. He had feelings of the fullest sort. They were not numb by sin, but were in full force for others. When sorrow feels your heart, remember you do not weep alone. Joy’s existence does not mean that sorrow is extinct. Rather joy and sorrow coexist for the glory of God.
     
    Application: Will your joy and sorrow work together to glorify God?
     
    Sorrow will be blessed and Turned to Eternal Comfort and Joy (Psalm 30:5, Matthew 5:4, John 16:20, 2nd Corinthians 4:17)
    Sorrow can be so deep and so painful that is seems to be permanent, but it is simply a seed that when it is fully grown is eternal glory. Mary’s son lived and the other mothers suffered great lost, but because Jesus lived the sin that killed their children itself died. Jesus lived to die and in His death, death died. Death was swallowed up in victory.
     
    Consider these things as you await your sorrow’s transformation to joy:
     
    The pain you feel as a Christian is real- If you sorrow over sin, the lost state of a loved one, a personal failure, death, sickness, or circumstances it is real. Sorrow is important to God. Godly sorrow leads each of us to repentance (2nd Corinthians 7:10). It leads us to warn others, and to building healthy walls. I have found that real pain leads to real results.
     
    The pain you feel as a Christian is temporary- God shall wipe away all tears from the eyes of His people (Revelation 21:4). Tears will be wiped away never to return, because the former things that brought pain and affliction mainly sin and Satan are completely done away with. When pain is great remind yourself of the greater promises of God.
     
    Christ pain captured your pain and releases your Joy- Jesus knowing that He would please His Father and free people from the root cause of all sorrow was His joy through His life (Hebrews 12:2). God the Father found pleasure in the suffering and death of His Son, for it satisfied His wrath and revealed His unity and love within the Godhead (Isaiah 53:10). Jesus did not come to live an easy life and tell us all the wrongs we have committed. He came to pay for all the wrongs we have committed! He came to suffer for sin in the flesh that He might condemn and destroy sin in the flesh (Romans 8:3; 2nd Corinthians 5:21). Christ died for the glory of God and sake of man. Judgement has passed from us and soon the words will be spoken “enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matthew 25:23)
     
    Application: Will you trust in the work of Christ for your joy?
  • Dec 10, 2017Christmas @ Bethany: The Taxing Season of Christmas
    Dec 10, 2017
    Christmas @ Bethany: The Taxing Season of Christmas
    The Taxing Season of Christmas
     
    How would you like to go with me to Columbia the rest of the month of December, camp out in a barn, waiting to pay our taxes, let’s carry a pregnant lady about to give birth, and just to make it interesting let’s walk down some unpaved roads all the way there! How many of us would sign up for that? Talk about a merry Christmas. What the parents of Jesus experienced the day of His birth was not ideal. That first Christmas was great, but it was extremely taxing. Luke 2 opens with it being tax season. This meant a good journey for Mary and Joseph awaited them. Nazareth to Bethlehem could take up to 10 days. The first Christmas season was taxing financially and physically. This Christmas season can produce a taxing time for believers. Now I cannot relate with what Mary and Joseph went thorough, but I can learn from them and others that experienced Jesus with them.
     
    I. Do What is Right
    (Luke 2:1-4)
    - Life is not an excuse to do wrong. Joseph and Mary were in a fix. Young Mary, heavy with her first pregnancy, Joseph with the stress of business of life, and a week or more trip of travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Worse yet the government that ruled over them were oppressive. If I were staring this obstacle in the face getting out of it would be a priority. I have traveled a distance with a pregnant lady in a comfortable vehicle and that was no walk in the park, and she would say worse about having to deal with me! For some the circumstances of pregnancy would be reason enough to break the law, for others giving money to a government that supported everything you didn’t believe in would generate a noble excuse, and for others just not wanting anyone to command you to travel so far to register for something you didn’t want in the first place would lure you to law breaking. None of these things moved Mary or Joseph. Doing what was right was at the top of the list for them. Doing right can be very taxing, but do it regardless, knowing that there is the truth of “all that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2nd Timothy 3:12).
     
    Do Right Concerning the command of God (3rd John 1:11)- John says that believers in Jesus should not imitate or follow anything that is evil. Paul tells us to avoid all appearances of evil. Good is not the mere subtraction of evil, but also the exercise of that which is good. Good is what is God approved. We know what is God approved from His Word and Spirit. Mary and Joseph are great example of avoiding evil and doing right when circumstances made it inconvenient to do. When you do right when times are taxing it truly proves your love for God. Mary and Joseph loved the Lord God with all their hearts!
     
    Do Right Concerning government (Romans 13:1, 1st Peter 2:13-17)- The church over the years has lived under governments that were unkind and unchristian, and while these institutions may have not aided the church in the mission of Christ, the Church often aided them by being obedient citizens. There are often difficulties for many Christians when it comes to politics, but for Mary and Joseph it was simple at this time. It would become more complex when they had to flee to another land because of the oppressive government they lived under. The solution that Mary and Joseph had to their governmental problem was simply to obey. They went to be registered and taxed. Their taxes paid for good things that were needed and funded things that were ungodly and abusive. Jesus taught us to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” once they turned money over to Rome it was Rome’s business. As hard and taxing as it was to do, Mary and Joseph did what was right by the government over them. Jesus was the greatest example of living righteously under an oppressive government and leadership. The mission of the church is not to overthrow the governments over us, but to teach that Christ will rule the nations and invite nations to worship Him.
     
    Do Right knowing it’s a light (Matthew 5:16)- Today Mary and Joseph are still lights to the church. The hardships that they encounter and overcame on the very first Christmas season still inspire hope in those who pay attention to the birth of Christ. Doing right produces radiant beams of hope that travels past our short lived lives.
     
    Application: What do you need to do that is right this Christmas Season?
     
    II. When it appears you don’t have anybody there is always somebody
    (Luke 2:5, Luke 1:40, Luke 2:16, Matthew 2:11)
    - Loneliness is taxing., and the Christmas season can be very lonely. Mary understood loneliness, but she did not succumb to loneliness. Here is how Mary lived in and through a happy but difficult time.
     
    She sought another Believer- There was no waiting on someone to come along and understand, instead there was hot pursuit of someone else she knew God had touched. Pursuing others does make you vulnerable. What if they turn you away, reject, or mock you? This is why you cannot just seek out any person. The person you reach out to must know God and walk with Him. This Christmas go out and seek other believers to share life with. Refuse to do loneliness alone! When Mary found out she was pregnant with Jesus it placed her in an awkward social situation. Joseph planned to divorce her, but there was Elizabeth who would understand, and Mary and Elizabeth would sing together.
     
    Trust in God’s Promise- Mary would give birth to Jesus. Joseph may not understand at first, but God will handle what she could not. God will also handle what you cannot handle. Trust in His plan and lean not into your own understanding.
     
    Mediate on God sent people (Luke 2:19)- The Shepherds came when Jesus was born. They were informed about the new born King by an angel and a multitude of heavenly creatures. Needless to say there arrival was a “God thing”. They came to worship and adore the young couples baby. There is nothing that parents like more than people who really adore their children. Mary did not forget these men and their reaction to her Son. When God sends people your way, do not blow them off, but ponder in your heart the purpose and meaning behind their arrival. God always has somebody when there seems to be nobody! When Mary and Joseph found themselves alone in a stable giving birth to their first Son, shepherds show up to worship God and were in awe of their position.
     
    Accept Good Gifts- Our level of humility can be measured by how we receive good gifts from others. Mary and Joseph were honored by a caravan of foreigners bringing good gifts to them. Receive gifts happily and humbly knowing that God will soon but those gifts to good use for His glory and your sake. When time past wise men brought glorious gifts to show their gratitude to God for the birth of His Son.
     
    Application: Will you be the somebody for the person that has nobody?
     
    III. The Season Will End, but the Story Will Continue
    (Luke 2:39-40)
    - I remembering growing up watching the Wonder Years, Full House, Family Matters, boy meets world, and Seinfeld. I remember watching the finales of these shows and feeling a bit empty and curious. I wanted to know what happened after Seinfeld and the gang were locked up in prison. I wanted to follow the cast beyond their season, but if we could truly follow all of our favorite shows past their season we would really only find death. The story would end sooner or later, but in Christ the story goes on even when seasons have ended. The birth of Christ quickly moved to the 12th year of Christ, and then He is with John the Baptist in His late 20’s or Early 30’s. Then He is leading a group of men, His fame catches on, stalls, He is betrayed, and crucified. The curtain seems to close, but resurrection burst forth and Jesus lives, and because He lives we live as well. If your Christmas season is a hard one, remember it does not last forever. If your Christmas season is a delight remember it does not last forever and enjoy it completely. The taxing times of life have a great purpose that will be in full bloom come eternity.
     
    Application: What will you do with the lessons from Mary and Joseph
     
     
  • Dec 3, 2017Christmas @ Bethany: All Wrapped Up
    Dec 3, 2017
    Christmas @ Bethany: All Wrapped Up
    John 1:6-9
    Tools, John the Baptist, and Christmas

    Presents are fun to buy for others, but let us not forget that we really like to receive presents as well. It is better to give than to receive, but to add “it’s not good to receive” would be incorrect. It is good to receive, and I do like to receive. Have you ever come down for Christmas and saw a big wrapped box? Have you ever waited patiently to open that big gift, because you wanted to exercise Christmas restraint? Along the way to opening the big box you open some little boxes. You get a flashlight, a shirt, some socks, and a tool set. Those gifts are great, but now it is time to open the big one. You begin to rip through the colorful paper that has separated you from you hearts desire and when the dust settles there stands a large box with a beautiful picture of the grill you always wanted. It then dawns on you that the flashlight and tool set have a lot to do with the big gift. You will need the tools to assemble the gift if you are going to receive it fully and you will be working through the night so the flashlight will come in handy. Now I know you are wondering what this has to do with John the Baptist, Jesus and the Christmas message. Jesus is the big gift and John is the little gifts. John is not a bigger gift than Jesus, but he is a required gift. God planned that His Son would have a “tool” set to put together His arrival and John was this tool set. John’s primary purpose was to bear witness to the coming of God’s Son. His witness of Jesus brings many men to salvation. The same is true for each of us. We are given as a gift to others that our witness may be useful in bringing other to know Jesus.
     
    John’s promised coming
    The Old Testament foretells of John’s coming (Isaiah 40:3) and the New Testament records the filling (John 1:23). John’s birth, response to Jesus, naming, and celebration are recorded in Luke’s first Chapter. Every gospel account places John in it. He was a great man that came to us through a great birth, worked in a great ministry, attracted great multitudes, died a great death, and received great esteem from the Greatest of Men. John is one of our many Christmas gifts from God. Today I am going to proclaim that you, as a Christian called and chosen of God, are a special gift to many people as well. John was unwrapped (revealed) to his parents, the people in the temple, and then to the world. His whole ministry was to go and prepare a people for the Lord. We are called to do the same. Christmas time is the perfect time to give others the gift of you.
     
    How can you give yourself as a gift?

    Take time and pray for others
    Search out opportunities to give charitably
    Seek opportunities to serve
    Be a bright light of joy and hope where you go
    Visit someone that is lonely
    Look for moments to share your faith

    Since you have so much to offer and so many opportunities to offer what you have the list could go on. Do not hide the wonderful gift you are to the world. Imagine if God withheld His elected messenger from the world.

    Dangers and delight
    For Christians I believe it is easy to get stuck in one of two places. First, it is easy to get the “I’m nothing but an old sinner” mindset to the point that little is done in the power of God’s proclamation of who you really are. Second, there is the danger of being prideful. Both attitudes are abundantly present in the Christian church. There is a third option and it’s not the middle ground between “guilt and pride”. This third option is the higher option and it is simply delighting in what God has said about you. It’s not just knowing what God has said about you and acting it out. It is delighting in God, knowing what He says about you, and doing, out of delight, His commands. This Christmas “delight” in God and sharing such delight with others.

    What makes us special gifts?
    Luke 1:11-17
    The whole idea today is to prove that you are a special gift and to do something about it. I believe once you know that you are a gift, know why you are a gift, and then you will go to others as a gift.
     
    Our Purpose that Comes from God (Luke 1:11-17)
    The worst kind of gift is a useless one. My guess is you have gotten one of these gifts. There are always those who are excited to give useless gifts. They think it funny or exactly what you need and that makes the gift all the worse. It is a nice gesture to get a gift, but when the gift is useless we smile and put it in the “re-gift” pile. When you have “one” already the gift is useless. When you have a fear of dolls and clowns and you get a ceramic clown, it’s useless. When you are given make up that isn’t your color or clothes 3 sizes too big or small, they are useless. That is not to say you are not happy that someone attempted to get something you like, but appreciative doesn’t mean useful. Christians are useful gifts with divine purpose. You are exactly what others need. You were born once with a purpose to be born again with an order to show the expression of God’s love. Here is what the Angel Gabriel said about John and how it applies to you:

    He will give joy and gladness- (14) Our good works and attitudes will do the same
    His Separation will reflect the Spirit that fills him (15)- The things we do or do not do reflect the third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit. This makes Christians a rare and wonderful gift.
    He will cause people to know God (16)- Our primary purpose is to worship God, from this flows our purpose, to bring people to know the God we worship. This is called missions in the church.
    His life set wrongs right (17)- Our worship and works causes brokenness in homes and society to be made right. There are results that happen when we give ourselves as gifts that we may never see here on the earth. We simply need to trust that God’s word will do its job.
    Saying you have purpose may sound redundant, but it is truth. Accept your purpose and act in your purpose so you can enjoy your purpose this Christmas.
     
    Ask yourself: Are you celebrating, living in, and sharing the Purpose God has giving you?

    Our Pleasure that Comes from Jesus (Luke 1:39-44)
    Every Christmas Tara and I buy toys for our children. They unwrap them, put batteries in them, and then slowly or quickly destroy them! The pleasure in our bought gifts is short lived. Scripture says pleasure in sin is short lived. All of our pleasures are short lived, but our pleasure in Jesus is eternal. John found pleasure in Jesus before his birth and in his death. His life long pleasure was found in preparing the way for Jesus. Here are instances where John’s pleasure caused him joy, motivated him, sustained him, and made him a gift to the world

    Before His Birth (Luke 1:41)- The Holy spirit in a person will always cause joy in that person when Jesus is brought up.
    In His preaching (Matthew 3:1-2)- John’s preaching of repentance was fueled by His joy and pleasure in the Lord.
    In His proclamation of Jesus (John 1:29)- John waited and watched with patience until the day Jesus showed up at one of his messages. Then he proclaimed “Behold the Lamb of God!”
    In His baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:14)- John stood in awe of Jesus and found pleasure in humbling himself before the Son of God. Although John was asked to do great things he never allowed pride to take place of his pleasure in Jesus.
    In the growth of Jesus’ following (John 3:29-30)- John rejoiced when people knew who Jesus was. He did not come to build his kingdom and found joy in Jesus.
    While in Prison (Matthew 11:3)- While in prison the only thing that would satisfy John was being reminded of who is. Jesus being Jesus made John’s stay in prison manageable.

    The pleasure that began before birth lasted a lifetime and left an example to all of us that there is no greater pleasure than the pleasure that we have in Jesus. Jesus called John “much more than a prophet” and “none born greater than John”. When our pleasure comes from Jesus we give a gift to others that is unique and useful.
     
    Ask yourself: Have others experienced the joy you have in Jesus?

    Our Power Comes from the Spirit (Luke 1:15)
    How did John live a holy life separate from sin, separated from God, and turn many to God? How is one man supposed to accomplish so much with so little? The answer is the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that empowered John to be a great gift and accomplish great things is the same Spirit that has been given to each believer (Romans 5:5). We now operate in the power of the Spirit displaying the Fruit of the Spirit. What does the power of God produce that is a gift to others in us? Galatians 5:22-23
     
    Love
    Joy
    Peace
    Longsuffering
    Gentleness
    Goodness
    Meekness
    Faith
    Temperance

    We have every reason to make much of Jesus. The world needs the Fruit of the Spirit that is in the church. Such fruit can convert the soul and alter the social course of an area. If you want to change the social morality in your area, start by giving yourself as a gift. You can change the way people view and treat each other. You can affect how people go about their lives for the glory of God, but it does not begin in a march or demonstration. Such change beings in the giving of Christians to the world. Be the light, be the salt, affect the world!
    These good gifts are in us and need to be shared with others; if they are not shared then they are not what they are. This Christmas unleash the power of the Spirit of God that has been given to you.

    Who to Give Yourself to?

    My first inclination is everyone, but my spiritual inclination tells me to warn you not to cast your pearls before swine. Be prayerful and cautious but willing to give yourself to everyone. God has not given us the Spirit of fear but of a sound mind! Go forth and spread Christmas cheer for the glory of God and sake of man. Who are you giving yourself to this Christmas season?
  • Nov 26, 2017Christmas @ Bethany: Getting the Most at Christmas
    Nov 26, 2017
    Christmas @ Bethany: Getting the Most at Christmas
    Getting the most at Christmas

    Isaiah 7:13-14
    Matthew 1:18-25
     
    More to Christmas
    I love Christmas. It is a great time of the year to hang out with friends and family while making much of Jesus. I do like the things we do that brings friends and family together like decorating, eating, watching our favorite Christmas movies, shopping, going to see lights, and attending parties. All those things are so much fun! Yet if I ask if you celebrate Christmas or believe in Christmas I am not asking if you celebrate or believe in those things. I am asking do you celebrate Jesus Christ as Lord. If I told an unbeliever that those things are the elementary things of the season it would seem inappropriate and unbelievable. Unaccepted or accepted the truth is there is so much more to the Christmas season than what is nominally observed. There is so much eternal truth to receive and rejoice in. It is such a wonderful time for the church to find reason to assemble and not disassemble. When it comes to Jesus there is always more to stand in awe of, more to reverence, and more to celebrate. I pray that you will join me weekly during the month of December to get the most out of Christmas this year!
     
    God is not Weary in Pursuit of Man
    Isaiah 7:13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?
     
    One great truth to celebrate at Christmas is that God is not tired of pursuing people and God is not tired of You. At the time of Isaiah, king Ahaz had made the patience of stronger nations thin against the nation of Israel and although all the sins of Israel and their royal court deserved God to punish them, God decided to pursue them even further. Isaiah was saying “your attitude and actions can cause weaker kings to react without compassion, but the eternal King will still do as He pleases with you.” The sin of man does not dictate, nor does it manipulate the wisdom and power of God. God does what He wants and there is frankly nothing you can do about it. That means as hard as you may try to out run or out last God you cannot escape Him! You have not wearied Him, and He is not tired of you! All this is great news. Our sin, although great, did not stop God from choosing sinful people to be redeemed and placed in His family.
     
    The God who gets Very close
    Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel
    Wait there is more. What does God do instead of withdrawing from Israel and the nations of the earth? He comes close to them in a very real way. God elects to come to them. Not through a representative. God sends a Word, an angel, signs, and prophets, and now He gets even closer by sending Himself! Immanuel is “GOD WITH US”. Not God above us, below us, or around us, but “with us”! Now before we get so happy in this truth let’s answer a few questions that may come to your mind, so they will not put a damper on our party.

    How would the Creator get close to the Creature?
    First, I need to point out that God the Father wanted to get close to His creation because He has always been a loving relational God. Jesus said in John 17:24 “thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world”. God the Father is a loving and relational God. Before He created anything, He had a relationship and loved eternally in that relationship and had fellowship in that relationship. God is not God because He created. He is God because He is! The relationship between God the Father and God the Son is complete and lacks nothing. We are not the key to God’s fulfillment and happiness, but we are His choice to love, not out of some animal like natural compulsion, but from free will He loves us. God then freely chooses to come to us as we are to be as we are, so we can be as He is! He gets close to us by being born as we are through a virgin womb. There was no avenue for man to “be with God” so God came to “be with us”!
     
    How do we know that the Word “virgin” means “virgin” and not young woman?
    It would not be much of a “God given sign” if a young woman had a baby by natural means. Young women get pregnant every day, truly virgin women do not give birth to a baby. Matthew verifies Mary was a Virgin and there is zero evidence to doubt his testimony. There is no reason to believe Mary was not a Virgin and reason to believe she was a virgin.
    Could Joseph had been the true father of Jesus.
    No. Such teaching undermines teaching of scripture and wrongfully destroys Jesus’s Sonship and therefore attacks God’s Fatherhood and from there the gospel is torn to pieces and there is no good news and no Christmas. God is Jesus’s Father.

    What are the implications of “God with us”?
    Matthew 1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
     
    I would like to share these implications that Christmas brings with it.

    God wants to be with us- God “with us” is the opposite of what we deserve. God is full of grace and truth and we see that in Jesus Christ. His birth means that God desires you. Christmas means God desires man. God’s desire for you is seen in “the Word became flesh and dwelt (tabernacle) among us” (John 1:14). He came in such a way that His followers “Beheld His glory”. God desired man to the point that He became “the Son of Man” so that He may “seek and save those that are lost” (Luke 19:10). The birth of Jesus reveals the heart of God in a clear way. God’s choice of us is clearly seen when He became like us.
     
    God “with us” brings much to us (Isaiah 9:6 and Matthew 1:21)- Isaiah says it is “unto us a child is born, unto us a child is given”. He is born for us and brings salvation to us. Jesus has come not to observe mankind and formulate a report, He has come to bring to us Himself and with Him comes SO MUCH! He has come to set right the government by bearing it upon His shoulders. The bickering about right and wrong is swallowed up in Jesus. What He is called reflect what He is and does. He is wonderful because all that He does is mysteriously great. He is counselor in that He knows all that you need, when you need it, and He is always available. He is Mighty God and imparts strength in weakness to make our infirmities glorious. He is Everlasting Father therefore He knows how to care and give good gifts. He is Prince of Peace so in chaos you can be calm! He is with us and with Him comes all that He is.
     
    God is instead of us (Matthew 1:21)- Matthew says He shall save His people! How is the work of salvation wrought on our behalf by Jesus? Our Christ became His, our wrath His, our shame His, our rejection His, our suffering His, our sin His, and our death HIS. Instead of us it was all God! In our stead He stood bleeding and suffering. He traded to us His royalty for our poverty. Bleeding He died in our stead no greater love is known to man! God in our stead such a glorious story! God in our stead revealing His glory. God in our stead our hymns extol He carried and buried our sin and love He bestowed! What a God! What a Savior! What a gift! Thank God for Christmas.
     
     God with us for eternity (Revelation 21:3)- It is God that will be “with men” for all eternity. This planet is sin cursed and not our home, as it is. Yet it was originally our home and will become our home once again. God’s intentions are to set up His headquarters on a New, most believe, renewed earth that has been purged with a fervent heat (2nd Peter 3:10). Christmas is the gift that keeps giving us HOPE and TRUTH! God is with us, for us, in us, and is all these for eternity! Rejoice with me! Worship God with me. Sing with me!
     
    Ask yourself: Will you worship God this Christmas season? Will He be your priority?
  • Nov 19, 2017Extremely Thankful with Holy Intentions: People as God’s Gifts
    Nov 19, 2017
    Extremely Thankful with Holy Intentions: People as God’s Gifts
    Scripture: Ephesians 4:1-13
     
    Opening Thoughts
     
    The past few weeks here at Bethany I, as a pastor, have been able to truly enjoy the people of God. I have watched the word of God work in the lives of the people. There have been both small and large observations. One that is quite obvious is the giving attitude toward others. Near $4,000.000 raised for Jenna Bodiford and her family, near $2,500.00 to Honor Larry Lynch and his family with a home going service, over $250.00 to help Ms. Susan with traveling expense to go say good bye to her father in Michigan. There is also the joy of watching a large effort in a small town. Dozens of people mobilized to host a fall festival where several hundred people were blessed. Then there are the behind the scenes people that sit up for life groups, work in the office sending out letters, emailing invites to our thanksgiving tailgate, and doing many other things for the glory of God. And finally, there are the little things. The sound of fellowship in the foyer overshadowed with Wesley’s loud “welcome to Bethany” accompanied with a unique laugh. The knowledge of fellowship outside the church, the new faces that come to life groups and church, new believers, scheduled baptisms, along with shared joys, meals, concerns, and pains. It hums of holy life together. The glory in it all is breathtaking. God’s goodness is radiating through you, His people! Did you notice that the big and small things are all Giant things? Are you over joyed and extremely thankful for your God and Church? I certainly am and I want to encourage you to embrace the reality of life here at Bethany Baptist Church. I encourage attendance to worship on Sunday Mornings, evenings, and life groups on Wednesday. Life together in God’s Word and worship toward Him. I want you to cherish correctly God and His good gifts. It would be a crying shame for any of us to miss opportunities to be uniquely blessed by God What is the point in Embracing God and His Gifts:
     
    Now the question has come to my mind “why is it important to embrace God and His good gifts now”? The answer is two-fold.
     
    1) It tremendously affects your worship toward God and our worship needs to be affected greatly! How do we worship here at Bethany?
    a. We assemble together
    b. We sing together
    c. We pray together
    d. We give together
    e. We hear God’s word together
    f. We respond together
    Notice each aspect of worship begins with “we”, ends in “together”, and has an action lodged between. We then need to be affected to do all the things of worship more together! And I am very aware worship will become red hot when we become “Extremely thankful with Holy intentions”.
     
    2) It directs our intentions. It is too easy to have intentions that are not bathed in holiness and honor to God. It is normal to put on ideas of morality and forget the Holy God of worship, but when We reach an “Extreme” level of thankfulness to God much about our mission changes from the inside out. Embracing God and His good gifts gives us Holy intentions in our marriage, with our children, amongst our friends, at the work place, in school, our town, and in our finances. Every area of my life has been affected by Embracing God and His Good gifts, because my intentions have changed in every area by God!
     
    The Purpose behind the Message
     
    The message begins with its title: “Extreme Thankfulness with Holy intentions”. The purpose of such a title is to encourage each Christian to place their thankfulness in the right place for the right reasons. We have been blessed so greatly with the good gifts of God that we can lose sight on where our praise should be placed. Thanking God for the right reasons leads to a right life. This series will guide our minds toward “Extreme Thankfulness with Holy intentions” which will encourage godly living in all phases of life.
    What has God given His people that encourages Extreme Thankfulness with Holy intentions?
     
    I. Himself (Ephesians 4:5)- Extreme thankfulness with Holy intentions begins to blossom in a person’s life when they “come to God and believe that HE
    IS” (Hebrews 6:11)! God is the grand prize and provocation to be extremely thankful with holy intentions. Once we come to God we discover more about Him as we read His Word, pray, and worship with other believers. Each time we obey God we learn more about who He is.
     
    i. What motivated the Psalmists to Write, Sing, Pray, and Worship? I am currently writing devotions through the book of Psalms. Did you know it is the longest book in your bible? Did you know that it is a book of songs? Do you see why, as a pastor, I believe it important to sing? If God placed such an emphasis on song and worship shouldn’t a proclaimer of His truth do the same? That is why we place emphasis on you singing with others and not just others singing to you. What provoked the writers in the book of Psalms to write as passionately as they did? The answer is God and His revelation about Himself. Throughout the Psalms the Person of God is described as Mighty Creator, Strong Fortress, Judge, Forgiver, King, Shepherd, Warrior, Sacrifice, and Provider. The writers tap into the details of God’s strength, beauty, kindness, strictness, and creation. Belief in God equals songs to and about God resonating from the tongues of those who Believe that He IS! When God is described to people that love Him they become Extremely Thankful with Holy Intentions. How has God revealed Himself to His Church that provokes them to be Extremely Thankful with Holy intentions thus transforming their lives daily?
     
    ii. As Unified- Let us from this point forward unpacking the value of Ephesians 4:6. Paul says that there is “One God”. Paul begins to describe God and His program to invoke obedience to Ephesians 4:1-3. Here Paul calls church members to “walk worthy”, “forbearing one another”, “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit” and please take note that these are difficult things to do. Paul knowing this brings us to the reasoning for his charge, and that is “God is unified”. God the Father, Son, and Spirit are so unified they are ONE. We as church members are to work continually to be what God desires us to be one to another and the only way for us to do this is to Be Extremely Thankful with Holy Intentions that God is One! Looking at God as One as scripture describes Him releases the kind of extreme thankfulness that will make the church one. Thankfulness for God being One leads to the continual work of the church to be one.
     
    iii. As Father of All- Extreme thankfulness comes from God being Father of all. Once enemies of God by our sinful nature we are now children of God. How is such a transition possible? God gave Jesus as a propitiation for our sin. Jesus came to be the Just one given for the unjust ones. One-man Adam brought sin into the World and death to all men. Jesus came as One Man to bring life to all men who would believe. God did not become our Father by happen chance, but He divinely selected each of us by the sacrifice of His Son. Such expressed love is meant to cause each church member to become extremely thankful that God became our Father at a great cost to Him. The verse implies that believers are not alone or isolated. The word “all” expresses a complete count. This means we not only have a Father, but we have a full family. We will discuss the great gift of a gospel family next week. Marvel with me that God brings us to Him and each other. Are you extremely thankful for God’s Fatherhood being expressed toward you?
     
    iv. As Above all things- God is unified, Father, Ruler of all things, and He is our most sacred gift! He who rules over the known world has given Himself to us. When we believe that this truth Extreme overflowing thankfulness comes from our heart the Holy intentions. When the reality of God’s Rule is embraced thankfulness for the hardest of circumstances becomes real. There is no power higher than our God and He is our greatest gift. What does God rule over?
    1. 7.5 billion people
     
    2. 400 billion stars in our Galaxy
     
    3. More than 170 billion galaxies
     
    4. Possibility of infinite universes Not to mention every single atom and rock on every planet. God rules over the seen and unseen. We are more than star dust. We are creatures with emotions and thoughts. The human brain is the most complex object in the universe and God rules over it. Man is God’s most precious and complex design. He is only worthy to rule over us and He does so with wisdom and care.
     
    v. As Working in the Life of all that are His- God is vastly supreme, but He is not disconnected from His people. God is High and Lofty, but He is not hands off in the lives of lowly creatures like ourselves. He is working on us and in us to be molded to His perfect image and to perform His will (Philippians 1:6; 2:13). Salvation, sanctification, and glorification is not a hands-off work. Our experience with God is personal. When we view all our success and blessings as the work of God’s hands and not our own a strong sense of humility and glory floods our hearts for our enjoyment.
     
    vi. As the Glue that Holds Us Together- God clues each person to Himself and makes us all together. He is in each person working , ruling , and holding so that we may grow up together in Christ. The friendships I share here at Bethany Baptist church only exist with God. My marriage to a beautiful Christian woman happened through God. This week I sat and talked to every life group leader individual and sat at Al and Debbie’s house for a wonder breakfast with other Christians. This Never would have happened without God being the clue that holds us together. Look around at your friends and family and thank God that you are connected to them by His Grace. He holds us together which means we will never fall apart. The Greatest Gift Appreciated
     
    Are you extremely thankful toward God for the gift of Himself to you? Are you overwhelmed with of God is? If we are a people that appreciates God we must ask “how can we show appreciation to God”? The answer is so simple and biblical. It is something promoted here every Sunday we gather. We come together in His name, we pray together in His Name, We Give together in His name, we sing together in His name, and we go together in His name. Let us do all these things before we leave this place.
  • Nov 5, 2017Filling the House: Sheep, Silver, and Sons: The Heart Wrenching Truth of a Son Left Lost
    Nov 5, 2017
    Filling the House: Sheep, Silver, and Sons: The Heart Wrenching Truth of a Son Left Lost
    Filling the House: Sheep, Silver, and Sons
    The Heart-wrenching Truth of a Son Left Lost
     
    Scripture
     
    Full Scripture: Luke 15:11-32
    Text Scripture: Luke 15:25-32
    25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. 28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.
    29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: 30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
    31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. 32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
     
    Introduction
     
    During the past few Sunday mornings we have explored God’s desire to have His house of forgiveness, love, joy, and grace filled with people. The message of forgiveness and reception is preached to all people but only repentant people are allowed to enter and attend the Father’s grand celebration. The first two parables in Luke 15 express the recovery of sheep and silver along with the rejoicing that accompanies the completion of the rescue mission. These two parables are great carriers of heavenly truth, yet another story is needed to add humanity and divine grace that can only be communicated through family. Today we will explore this climatic parable filled with true grace, forgiveness, acceptance, restoration and joy and in the end, a heart-wrenching truth of a son left lost.
    Jesus again turns the page of His storytelling to engage both audiences in a more direct way. Pass the field with the happy shepherd; go beyond the house with the woman and friends celebrating the found silver coin, and onto a large estate owned by a father who has two sons. The story Jesus brings His audience into is far from a pleasant one. The place, at first, sounds nice to American ears. A father, two sons, servants, and a large estate sounds Disney-like; however, unhappiness exists in the hearts of both sons. Relationships are shattered; greed, lust, and competition abound. The family splits as soon as the story opens.
     
    The Hearts in the Matter
     
    As the story opens, three people appear: the father and his two sons. The younger son appears as the “disrespectful daddy hater.” He asks for his inheritance and leaves home to live a wild, sinful life. While the younger son is away the older son stays home doing all the father asks, playing the part of the “good” son. Meanwhile the younger son is in a far country going broke. His choices are catching up with him and maturing him at the same time. The job he obtains in order to survive is
    not filling. He makes the decision to go home. What unfolds next reveals the true nature of each main character. Follow me in your Bible as the events unfold.
     
    EVENT ONE
    I. The Arrival of the Younger Son (17-20a)
     
    a) What happened in the far country? The far country was a hard experience for the younger son. He lived a sin-filled life that left him empty. In the far country he discovered that money could not buy happiness and what he truly needed was a relationship with his father! There is grace in the younger son’s revelation. Many people move to a far country, go broke, live miserably, get sick and die. It is the mere grace of a loving God to use a bad situation to convict the heart.
     
    b) The heart’s desire. As mentioned in point “a” above, God’s grace changes the heart of man. God can use kindness or hardness to call men to repentance, but man’s repentance is of God. What happens to the heart when God is convicting? The younger son decided to take a big step and head home, face dad and confess that he had sinned greatly. During the time of the parable there was no guarantee that the son would be permitted back in the family and there was the possibility of severe punishment; however, none of this stopped his heart from leading him to the father.
     
    c) The long road home. The younger son, who at the time was starving, broke, dirty, and anxious to go home, started down the long road to the father’s house. The parable emphasized the distance as a “far country.” It was not a journey without obstacles or one he could complete unless his eye was on the prize. The long road home was a small price to pay if his dad would simply give him a servant’s job. The decision for a person to repent this morning is not a light one. It is not one that will be done without effort. There is the fear of failure, rejection, embarrassment, and the unknown, but if God is calling you to repent He will place in you the heart to follow through!
     
    d) Who is the younger son? The younger son is a picture of those that are sinners who come to Jesus. They were in the audience the day Jesus spoke and they are in the audience today. The younger son had the smell and brokenness of sin on his body that could not be hid, yet his heart was humble and desired to repent and be close to the father. There would be much to be done after he was restored but none of that mattered. All he wanted was restoration. Today, if Jesus is calling you home to the Father, be humble, be repentant, and be the younger son. Come to the Father!
     
    Application: Will you walk the long road home today?
     
    EVENT TWO
    II. The Father’s Acceptance (20a-24)
     
    a) The father’s view. How God sees you may surprise you. Yes, He has allowed you by your own will to wander off, but He hasn’t forgotten you and His love has not failed! God sees you as a son that needs to be home in His care. The Father recognizes you just as the father in our story recognized his son. You may be far off, years may have passed and your looks changed, but the Father still knows His son! The father did not see his child as a vagabond sinner but as a son in his family. That is God’s view toward those that come to Him!
     
    b) The father’s embrace. The father’s embrace began with a sprint. The father longed to hold his son and to kiss him over and over. The father tossed out all decorum of the day in order to express his full emotion for his once dead child. Imagine the relief and pure joy of touching someone you thought you lost for eternity. The filthy, skinny man in which his son had become did not detour the father from latching hold of his child. What others thought of the scene did not matter, the same way it did not matter to Jesus what those of His day thought of Him receiving sinners. Love was above decorum! The Father embraces those who want to repent. He handles them as if they are with the promise they will not be the same after His embrace.
     
    c) The father’s ridiculous spending. Jesus taught Nicodemus about God’s love and He measured it by the gift of His only begotten Son. God’s love looks ridiculous. His great spending for a shattered soul is incomprehensible. A billion dollars for a wrinkled piece of common paper doesn’t compare to the price paid for us. What did this father do for his son? Robe, ring, roast, and a party? His son was recently a reckless spender indulging in sinful pleasure without restraint and the father gives him the “best” without placing the son under close scrutiny? It was wild spending that the father used to communicate absolute forgiveness and express what his heart has thought of his son through the years. The father was certainly prodigal (giving something on a lavish scale). God’s love for us is extreme and vast beyond all measure!
     
    Application: Will you accept the embrace of God?
     
    EVENT THREE
    III. The Elder Son’s Protest (25-32)
     
    i. Lost at Home- The oldest son, being hard at work in the fields came home to hear and see the festivities. Curious about the situation, he enquired what had taken place. He learned his little brother had come home and dad had gone all out to welcome him back to the family. This set big brother off. “How could
    dad do such a thing? Has Pop lost his mind? This boy caused him and the family grief and shame and does not deserve anything! He hasn’t worked for a dime!” This type of attitude proves that the elder son was lost while at home the same way his younger brother was lost away from home. Salvation is first relational and then geographical. First, I am drawn to God because of His great love then I am geographically
    (positionally) with God. The elder son felt that being “close” to dad equaled loving dad. Lost and at home is a hard place to be.
     
    ii. Slave or oon? The father heard of the mad, prideful, pouting son standing outside the house and came to him in order to bring him into the house as well. The older son knew to come into the house he had to agree with the father’s nature and decision on the matter of radical forgiveness, acceptance, and restoration and that, for him, was not an option. When the older son stated his case he used two words “served” and “commands.” At first, they sound noble, but underneath the seemingly good service was rot. The son felt that his work and obedience of duty gave him the right to judge the father. He believed that he was good enough and if anyone had earned the right to be rejoiced over it was him. This attitude reeks of religious pride and an unsaved heart. Keeping the speed limit, all your life only ensures you will not receive a speeding violation, but it does not generate a reward. Nothing was owed to the older son for doing right. Reward only comes by grace. The father in the parable knew this but the son refused to know it. The son saw himself as a slave and was lacking the same thing the little brother had lacked for many years and that was a relationship with the father.
     
    iii.The son’s disapproval and father’s last call. The older son finally said it. “Dad, you approve of his behavior after all he has done, you are in agreement with a wicked person?” He cunningly called the father wicked. When Jesus began to teach in Luke 15 the religious crowd said that “he receives sinners.” He accepts them as family and the Pharisees meant that Jesus was in accord with wickedness. The sharp disapproval of the father’s decision to accept, forgive, and celebrate the return of a dead child was hideous in the sight of the elder brother. Instead of snapping on his son the father once again reminded him of the love he had for him. “All that I have is yours” and “You are ever with me.”
    Then he reminds him that joy over a lost brother is necessary. The older son lost nothing when his brother left but a brother. It cost him nothing but it cost the father greatly. The only way the older son could enjoy his father was to enjoy the nature of his father. The story ends and the “good” brother is left outside the tent. A stark warning settles over the crowd who had been listening as Jesus made it clear that the father receives sinners to forgive them. Many will come from the corners of the world to worship God in eternity, but people like the Pharisees would be left out (Matthew 8:11-12)
     
    iv. Who is the older son? It is clear by now that the older son in our story is the Pharisees that were in the audience the day Jesus spoke this story. They are with us still today. The heart- wrenching truth is many that know of God do not know God and will be left out the Kingdom of God on the Day of Judgment. This is the hard truth the religious people had to hear. This story, in fact, was the Father coming outside the tent entreating them that they come inside to the celebration and fulfilment of grace. These people had been faithful to do and obey yet it was out of control and not love. Their work was
    strategy and not love. Their idea was God owed them and when God seemed to reject them they would simply point to how good they had been and how bad someone else had been. The plan sounds good from the human point of view, and works quiet well with other people, but God is not swayed by such antics and accepts people based on His grace and not their own merit.
     
    v. The older son takes nothing away. The older son, being outside does not hinder the celebration of the dead son coming to life once again. Joy in heaven will not be broken up by the shrills of Hell. If the idea of the older son was to stop the great joy of the Father’s grace he was sadly mistaken. God is happy in Himself and we share His happiness when it is directed toward us by His grace.
     
    Application: Will you rejoice with God as a true son and brother?
     
    IN CLOSING
    IV. The Missing Brother
     
    a. God is good, God is just. God is good, therefore God forgives sinners.
    At the same time God is just and must condemn and punish sin. How are these great truths reconciled in the parable of the prodigal son?
     
    b. Jesus the brother. The only way the story ends with the younger brother in the father’s house is because Jesus is the author. The person telling the story can map it out as they wish. Jesus spoke the parable directly to both audiences. The younger brother is the sinner and the older brother is the knowledgeable Pharisee. Jesus tells the story knowing he would die for both. The judgment of the Father would soon fall on Jesus. Whoever ends up in the Father’s house will do so because of the cross of Jesus Christ. God forgives and judges based on the cross of Jesus Christ. He was the missing brother in the story. Only the religious crowd would know to ask how God can accept sinners in such a way. Many that heard the parable that day would soon hear the message of the cross and get their answers.
     
    c. Repent, rejoice, or perish. Our teaching will close with this invitation.
    To those who are younger brothers, God wants you in His house. He longs to forgive you and make you His. Will you repent? To those
    that are true older brothers: will you rejoice with the Father? Will your prayers, labor, giving, and songs be one with your heavenly Father? Will you cast off pride and doubt and get happy over the atoning work of Jesus? To the religious and non-religious that are hard of heart: Do you wish to perish? Are you willing to die in the far country or outside the house of God? Will you be saved?
     
    Application: Will you read each story through the lens of the cross? Will you live your life through the lens of the cross?
  • Oct 24, 2017Filling the House: Sheep, Silver, and Sons: The Pure Desire to Find Dirty Silver
    Oct 24, 2017
    Filling the House: Sheep, Silver, and Sons: The Pure Desire to Find Dirty Silver
    Filling the House: Sheep, Silver and Son Part 3: “The Pure Desire to Find Dirty Silver”
     
    Luke 14:23 23 And the Lord said unto the servant, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”
    Luke 15:8-10 8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? 9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. 10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
     
    Introduction
    Today we will continue with our current series, “Filling the House: Sheep, Silver, and Sons.” The title is taken from Luke 14:23 along with the three parables of Jesus found in Luke 15. Jesus has a great desire to fill His house with people. He also desires that those people desire Him as shown in their response to the invitation He sends out by His servants in Luke 14. Luke 15 makes it clear that Jesus has an immense desire for people to come and fill His house and that He is fully committed in God’s task to bring men to salvation. These stories present Jesus as a shepherd, woman, and father restoring the lost at all cost. But there is more to these parables than that. There is rebuke, warning, and a clear view of the economy of God. The sheep, silver, and sons depict people of religious and non-religious backgrounds, each standing in need of a shepherd, a caring woman, and father. Each class needs God. The parables are a reminder that every person, despite their upbringing, needs to be saved by the grace of God. Entering the house of God only comes at the care and expense of God revealed in Jesus. The expense, search, restoring, and rejoicing is all accomplished in Jesus Christ!
     
    What We Have Learned
    As we journey further into Luke 15 here are some key points to remember from the past two weeks.
    God is a gracious God
    God celebrates
    People are people no matter their grouping
    One is valuable to the whole and the whole is valuable to the one
    These parables show the character of God and His mission, call to both audiences, and serve as a rebuke to the religious who think themselves better than others.
    What’s unique about this parable:
    God spends greatly, recovers, and rejoices. This is the common theme of these parables. The theme does not change despite the changing stories. The differences in each story appeal to the audience in a unique way.
    When Jesus turns the page from one story to another a woman emerges as the main character. This would appeal to women in the audience from both classes. A woman may not know how a shepherd would feel about a sheep being lost, but she understood a piece of silver being lost. She would understand the lack of light in finding things in a house, the need for a candle and broom to search, and the great relief and joy in returning something to its rightful place.
    Jesus also turns from sheep to a silver coin. What is unique about this change? An instinctive animal will wander off by its own urges and does not rationalize like a person. The nature of things drives the lostness of the silver. A silver coin falls to the ground because of the law of gravity. I hope you see where I am going with this. People, because of their natural impulses, wander off like the sheep. People because of their nature are guilty because of God’s divine law. God’s divine law is set in stone because it reflects His being. God’s being is a mystery as gravity is still a mystery to science. The force of His glory forces sinners from His presence and that is why people are called lost.
    The arena of the wilderness is replaced with a house. This shows that people can be lost in wide open places or in tight quarters. You can build tight barriers in life and still be as lost as a person wandering in wide open places without fences. Without Jesus, the sheep and the coin are both lost. Without Jesus those with tight moral codes and no moral codes are just as lost.
    A light is lit and the house is swept. The light is a revealing agent. God’s Word is the light with which we search for the silver in the morning. The good works and kindness of the church shine bright throughout the week as we look for shining silver that may be overlaid with a thin layer of the world we call dust. The light makes that which appears as earth to glimmer enough that it can be recovered, cleansed, and restored. Is your heart glimmering a little this morning? Is God shining the light of the gospel call on your life?
    I hope you can see that Jesus turns the page with the purpose of filling His house for the glory of God and sake of man.
    Lessons from the Silver: Who, What, How, and Why
    Now that we understand the parable a little better we can move on to apply this to our lives. We are going to do this by asking and answering five questions.
    Who is the woman?
    What is the symbolic meaning of the silver?
    Where was it lost?
    How was it recovered?
    Why was this exciting?
    I know some of you will start reading the scripture and attempt to uncover these as I teach, and that is good, but do not miss what I am about to say for it is important.
     
    Who is the Woman (Luke 15:8a)?
    She is Jesus- What could be more appalling for a religious man than for Jesus to depict God (Himself) as a woman? At the same time what could be more luring to a woman for Jesus to depict God (Himself) as a woman? Jesus is not aiming at being gender neutral, because God is masculine, but at being gender inclusive. He desires men and women to be saved and fill His house. Jesus also wanted to shed some light on the character of God (Himself) that only could be communicated through a female persona. I read an article this week in preparing for this message about the differences in men and women. It is a little humorous, more so helpful, to me that a team of researchers collected data on differences in men and women. The results verify what many already assume. Men are more analytical and dominate in personality while women are more sensitive, warm, and apprehensive. The woman in the parable shows God as understanding, warm, and sensitive more than that of the Shepherd or Father. It is necessary then, because of limitation of men and women, for God to use both to reveal Himself.
    She is the Church- Jesus is talking directly about God (Himself) and indirectly to the Church (His bride). The Church is directed to continue the mission of Christ (John 20:21). We are to warmly care for those that are not yet recovered. We are to be about filling God’s house. We should find joy, as God does, in the restoration of all that are found. Caring, searching, recovering, and rejoicing are the business of the church in this age.
    Ask yourself: Are you about the business of Jesus?
     
    What is the Symbolic Meaning Behind the Silver (Luke 15:8b)?
    The Woman desired the silver- God is God without us, just as the woman was a woman without her silver. We add nothing to God’s being; the silver would add nothing to the woman’s being. I asked David Malachi, Tara and my 4-year-old, why he looked for things when he lost them. He responded, “Because I like them”. This is the reason God searches until we are found! God does not spend all because He is lonely or guilt ridden. God loves us and spends to find us simply because He wants to. The woman wanted her bag or band full of the silver that was rightfully hers, and God wants His house filled with people that are rightfully His.
    Image of a King- The woman’s silver coin has an image on it. An image that gives the money certain value. We have on us the image of the King of glory. God is so glorious that those that bear His image are worth finding simply for the image they carry! Our value is wrapped up in Him that sits upon the throne.
    Ask yourself: Do you find value in people when they cannot add value to you?
     
    Where Was the Silver Lost (Luke 15:8c)?
    The dark- Jesus brings His listeners into a house where it is hard to see. The coin had fallen to the dirt and rolled into some corner, and worse still it was dark. The position of fallen man is darkness.
    In a house- The coin was so close to home it was even in the house, but the only thing that makes home real is the presence of the people there. The coin lay without knowledge that it was lost. People are so near God and at the same time far away. We live on His earth, in His solar system, even made in His image. It is as if we are in His house and not yet home.
    Covered in earth- Most homes in the day of Jesus had dirt floors. The floors would be swept clean and dust would abound. The coin fell to the earthen floor where it would take upon it the dust of the earth making it harder to find. People far from God, unaware of our position, in the dark, and covered with dirt, yes, are much like the silver coin.
    Ask yourself: Would you leave what you loved in such a position?
    How Was the Silver Recovered (Luke 15:8d) ?
    A lit candle- The woman lit a candle to shed some light in the dark house. The candle that God has lit is the gospel call. Jesus came as the Light of the World (John 18:12) to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45) and to seek and save that which is lost (Luke 19:10). The church likewise, through good teaching and works, shines forth in areas of the globe as it searches for silver! According to the parable the burning is not in vain for the silver is found! Does your teaching and life light up your area?
    The house is swept- Finding a silver coin in the earth is dirty business. Jesus got dirty. He was rejected, stripped, spat upon, bruised, bled, crucified, and buried. Jesus suffered on our behalf. All the labor was His as we remained dead. The church sweeps the earth, getting dirty and stirring up dust as we uncover those silver pieces that will fill God’s house.
    Diligence was employed- It was not a quick find. The silver was deeply lost. Finding silver to fill God’s house is not a fill-the-church-quick scheme. It takes prayer, time, desire, and patience.
    Ask yourself: What are you doing to fill God’s house with silver?
     
    What Was the Outcome (Luke 15:9-10)?
    Recovery- The silver was saved! More work was put into the silver than it was worth, but finding the silver was about the woman not the silver. It was about what the woman wanted and how much she was willing to do to recover it. Our recovery is about the glory of God, what He desires and what He is willing to spend to fill His house.
    Revelation- The revelation came to the friends and neighbors of the woman. They did not know how much one lost coin meant to her until they received an invitation to a party in honor of her recovery of it. Jesus’ true friends in the audience gladly receive the revelation that the lost and found are precious to Him.
    Rejoicing- Rejoicing began with the woman and others were invited to share in that joy. The church is to come to the joy of God when one person repents of sin and joins God’s family.
    Reflection- The outcome of the story is simply a reflection of a heavenly truth. God is happy with those He searches for and finds. Heaven is filled with joy for God’s house is filled with redeemed sinners!
    Ask yourself: Are you reflecting here on Earth how God feels about lost souls being found?
    Conclusion
    The title for this message: “The Pure Desire to Find Dirty Silver” reflects the heart of this woman. It also relays God’s great desire to fill His house with His findings and friends. Be filled this day with the joy of God to have you fill His house.