Celebrating Jesus at Christmas (Week 4)

“Jesus is our Peace!”

Key Verses:  Luke 2:1-20, emphasis on verses 13-14 (NASB)

 

Life is crazy! How can you find peace in the middle of it? Christmas is a time of peace, but what does it mean to have peace if the world is crazy all around us? How can we experience the promised peace of Christmas? Let’s look at the Bible to learn how to find the promised peace of Christmas and then bring it into everyday lives.

 

Read the Christmas story of Luke 2:1-20. Emphasize Luke 2:13-14,
 
“And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (emphasis added)

 

The Christ of Christmas brought to this world the good news of a great joy which is peace with God, peace with one’s self, and peace with other people!

 

Listen to Jesus in John 14:27,

 

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.
Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

 

Jesus does not offer us the peace of the world (which at best is a cease fire, but not the end of hurt feelings and tensions), but Jesus offers us His peace. Jesus says, “My peace I give to you…” and the peace of Jesus is the end of strife between us and God, and the end of the enmity “among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14). Enmity is when there is strife/discord/hostility between two parties.

 

As Paul teaches us in Ephesians 2:13-18,

 

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.

 

How do we receive the peace of Jesus Christ?

 

You can have peace with God by inviting Jesus to be the Lord of your life. By taking our faith off of ourselves, off of anything or anyone else, and putting our full trust on Jesus for this life and the life to come. There is no other way to peace. The catastrophic damage caused by trusting in yourself as Savior, trusting in a career, a person, an achievement, a goal, a degree, a job, or in anything or anyone is so prevalent and rampant around us that there is no peace to be found. Only in Jesus, can we have peace!

 

Listen to Romans 5:1-8, where the Apostle Paul teaches us of this peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ,

 

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

 

But this is not just a promised peace between us and God, as we have already seen. We bring the Peace of Jesus into our everyday lives by bringing our peace with God to other people.

 

How do we have peace with other people when other people can be so “unpeaceful”?

 

To do this you first must be at peace with God and then with yourself. The Apostle Paul emphasizes this to the New Testament church in Philippi. He teaches in Philippians 4:6-9,

 

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

 

This kind of peace – from God and internal to us – is one that will stand guard (military imagery!) in our hearts and minds, so that we can face even the worst of life situations. This keeps us off the roller coaster of the world’s concept of peace and stable in God. Listen to Jesus in John 16:32-33 explain how:

 

Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.

 

We have this promise to anchor our souls in life’s storms so that the peace of God perseveres in us and through us, first from God, then into our own self, and then out to our neighbors. Only then are we ready to do what Jesus commands in the Greatest Commandment found in Matthew 22:37-40,

 

And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

 

You can’t love your neighbor with God’s love, and live at peace with him/her, unless you are first at peace with God and loving your “neighbor as yourself” which means giving them the peace you first received. This peace, like joy, is a grace from God, given to us as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

 

Here is what I want to know: How can I walk in this peace every day?

 

By trusting that Jesus is who He says He is—knowing the promises of God and persevering in them! Listen to Jesus teach us about why He came that first Christmas morning. From John 10:10-18,

 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.

 

Jesus came to earth to bring us into God’s care and protect us from the true dangers of this world (the thief, the wolf). Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He will walk with you no matter the storm or situation, relationship struggle or financial woe. The Lord is with you and He brings His peace with Him wherever He goes. Invite Jesus to walk with you and talk with Him along the way so that He can bring His peace to your mind and heart in each and every situation.

 

Do you know His voice? His leading? Do you know the peace that comes from abiding in His presence?

 

Listen to Psalm 23 to see how the Lord will walk with you as your Good Shepherd:
 

    1            The Lord is my shepherd,

I shall not want.

    2            He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside quiet waters.

    3            He restores my soul;

He guides me in the paths of righteousness

For His name’s sake.

    4            Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I fear no evil, for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

    5            You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You have anointed my head with oil;

My cup overflows.

    6            Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

Did you hear the final promise?

This promise is the promise of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, walking with you throughout your life on earth and taking you home to dwell with Him for eternity. This is why Jesus came to earth, so that we who put our faith in Jesus can have peace with God, peace with ourselves, and peace with other people.

 

Let us persevere in this peace, not just in this Christmas season, but as patiently wait for His 2nd coming. As Jesus taught us in John 16:33,
 
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.
In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
 
 

You can listen to Pastor Jerry’s message here:

 

You can watch the video HERE.

 

 


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Celebrating Jesus at Christmas (Week 3)

“Jesus is Joy!”

Key Verses:  Luke 2:8-12, (NASB)

Christmas is a season of joy, but what does it mean to have joy when so many aren’t happy? How can we experience the promised joy of Christmas? Let’s look at the Bible to learn how to find true joy and live with it in our everyday lives, this season and into the New Year.

 

A Christmas Scripture reading from Luke 2:8–12,

8    In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.

9    And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

10  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;

11  for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

12  “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

 

The good news of Jesus Christ is the “good news of great joy which will be for all the people”.

 

This is the gift of Christmas! Listen to the words of the famous hymn, “Joy to the World”:

[Verse 1]
Joy to the world, the Lord has come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

[Verse 2]
Joy to the world, the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy

[Verse 3]
No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found

[Verse 4]
He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love, and wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders of His love

 

Joy is an important promise of the Bible, so important that we must memorize it and persevere in the promise of joy as greater than our happiness or sadness, our situations and circumstances. Joy is rooted in the Christmas story because joy comes from God in fulfillment of His promise to bring “Joy to the world [because] the Lord has come!”

 

Here is today’s BIG IDEA:   Joy is the gift of the Lord’s Presence!

 

Listen to Psalm 16:5-11 to hear this big idea in Scripture:

The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. I will bless the Lord who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. I have set the Lord continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. (emphasis added)

 

We know this big idea is true because its converse is a daily reality for so many. Listen to what happens when God removes His presence. From Lamentations 5:15, “The joy of our hearts has ceased; Our dancing has been turned into mourning.” (emphasis added) The gift of joy ceased because God had removed the gift of His presence from Jerusalem. And we know that God would not restore Jerusalem for 70 years, but until that time He let the land lay barren as judgment for the rebellion of His chosen people. The author of Lamentations is Jeremiah, known as the weeping prophet, but even in the midst of judgment, God does not leave His people without hope. He gives Jeremiah this promise of hope found in Lamentations 3:22-26,

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the Lord.

 

Because God’s lovingkindnesses never cease and His compassions never fail, and they are new every morning, I can go through each day with joy. That is why I start every day with the singing of “This is the Day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it” and why I start each morning with a set apart time of Bible reading, prayer, and listening to God so that I cultivate an immediate awareness of God’s presence in my life. How can you start your day becoming  aware of the presence of the Lord? Is there a favorite song you could sing?

 

While the people of Israel would experience a return to Jerusalem, they would not experience the fullness of this promise until the declaration of the angel that first Christmas morning: Jesus Christ is the Person of the promise and He promises to give His joy to us! Listen to Jesus’ words from John 15:8-11,

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. (emphasis added)

 

Jesus is joy! Jesus is the gift from God to bring about the salvation of the LORD! This is why we can sing, “I’ve got joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.”

 

The joy of Jesus is different and distinct from happiness or sadness. Joy is not an emotion; it is a gift from God to every person who receives His Son Jesus Christ and puts their trust in Him for their salvation. Just like with our salvation, joy is not something we earn or work for. Joy is what we have in a personal relationship with Jesus! Joy is a grace of God and the grace of God brings joy! Joy is something you have, but it is also a presence at work in you.

 

So, in my life, I not only start my day with time with the Lord to become aware of His presence tangibly and practically, but I am also learning to practice His presence throughout my day, as I go… That means I am learning to pay attention to the work of the Holy Spirit – eyes open to the presence of God in and through me, in and through others. How about you? Are there ways you can start practicing paying attention to the presence of God in your life and in the activities and events of your days? Are you aware of God’s presence in you as you go about your day?

 

But we have to do more than know we have joy; we are commanded to be a joyful people! That takes the grace of God, too. Let me be honest, I know that this seems to be an incredibly insensitive command of God because we all experience so much pain and grief on this side of Heaven. I get it…there are times for grief and lament in our lives. I am not leading us to a Pollyannaish faith or a “happy-clappy” Christianity. Remember how James 1:2 commands us, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…”

 

I am teaching us that this command of God is not insensitive, it is a part of His lovingkindness and compassion from a loving Father to His children, that are new every morning. Our joy is us coming in agreement with who God is, not us coming in agreement with the evil of this world and the depravity of a fallen creation. Listen to Jesus talk about the importance of joy to His disciples from John 16:20-22,

Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy. Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.

 

Just as Nehemiah said at the rebuilding of Jerusalem after such a long period of suffering and hardship: “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

 

Did you hear that? Joy is strength! When we manifest the presence of God in our situations and circumstances, we are bringing the God of the universe to bear on whatever we are facing! This is us facing the giants of our lives and this world with faith, hope, and love!

 

After a period of deep grief over his sin and a painful loss of a child, King David cries out to God in Psalm 51:11-12, “Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.”

 

Are you seeing the intimate connection between joy and God’s presence? This is why we need to learn to be aware of God’s presence through the Holy Spirit in our everyday lives as we go about our day. Paul teaches us that joy is in the “Fruit of the Spirit” that God gives to us when we first believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. God manifests joy in us and we are to manifest what we have and who we are in Christ by putting aside our flesh and passions so that we can walk in submission to the Holy Spirit. There is power in a submitted obedient life and one of the greatest powers God gives us through His Holy Spirit is the ability to be joyful! Paul teaches us in Galatians 5:22-23,

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

 

We are strengthened to live faithfully to God’s commands by the joy of our salvation – the presence of God in us. When we lose our joy we find obedience to be burdensome and incongruent with our circumstances. When we walk away from God and sin against Him and disobey His commandments we lose the awareness of the joy of our salvation and do not manifest the presence of God as we once did – we find it hard to practice His presence and sing worship songs. This becomes a vicious cycle that rational thought actually reinforces. But this is why we must sing every day and why we must read our Bible every day and why we must pray. Only the Holy Spirit can lead us to rejoice always, again I say rejoice! Joy changes everything!!!! Joy is a discipline of the Christian life…

 

There is power in rejoicing, which is the outward expression of joy, because joy is the manifestation of the person of Christ in you – you are putting Jesus on display for all to see. Rejoicing is a declaration of your faith, hope, and love! Rejoicing has power over darkness and dominion over evil spirits because it is bringing the presence of Jesus to your situation. That is why Paul says, “Rejoice always” in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 and again, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). There is so much power in joy – it is an atmosphere changer! Both in you and outside of you – a truly joyful person is infectious!

 

Friends, I know there is every reason to weep or lament. I read the news, too. I work with people every day, in some of the hardest situations of life. I am living in the real world, right there with you. We are commanded to be joyful, not because there isn’t suffering in the world, but because there is hope in the new heaven and new earth, in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, in the communion of the saints, and in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Our faith and hope call us to rejoice, especially in the midst of our weeping and lamenting. Because our suffering does not tell the whole story – Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection does!

 

The Christmas story is the beginning of the “good news of great joy which will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10b). Joy doesn’t come from singing a Christmas carol, but believing in the truth it proclaims: “Joy to the World [because] the Lord has come”! The key to experiencing the joy is found in the first verse of this famous hymn: Let every heart prepare Him room”.

 

If you don’t make room for God’s presence to dwell in your heart, then the joy offered to the world that Christmas morning 2,019 years ago will not enter your life. I want you to live in the fullness of God’s joy, so please this Christmas, invite the Christ of Christmas into your life.  
 

You can listen to this message here:

 

You can watch the video HERE.

 
 
 

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Celebrating Jesus at Christmas (Week 2)

3 Wise Men and a Baby

 
The FBC Children’s Choir and guests present a musical  play about events surrounding the birth of Jesus. 
 

 

Cast

(In Order of Appearance)
 
FBC Children’s Choir & guests
 
Soloists:
Helen Estelle, Grace Logan, Kaitlyn Giddings, Bella Dailey, Lily Dailey, Nora Hamilton, Dylan Bunner, Jacob Hamilton, Aubrey Whitaker, Emma Durham, Jonah Kinnaird, Caleb Kinnaird, & Danny Hurst
 
Narrator : Haylee Brown
 
Ranger Shawn : Shawn Harter
Angel #1 : Grace Logan
Kid #1 & Kid #2 : Maxwell Richardson & Josiah Plumhoff
Inn Keeper : Caden Upchurch
Inn Keeper’s Wife : Kaitlyn Giddings
Joseph : Dylan Bunner
Mary : Nora Hamilton
Animals : Addy Durham, Brenna Evans, Lucy Kinnaird & Anna Plumhoff
Shepherd #1 : Jacob Hamilton
Shepherd #2 : Aubrey Whitaker
Shepherd #3 : Emma Durham
Multitude of Angels : Willow & Alana Ingalls, Helen Estelle, Bella & Lily Dailey
Gaspar : Jonah Kinnaird
Melchior : Caleb Kinnaird
Binky : Danny Hurst
 

You can listen to the production here:

 

You can watch the video version by clicking HERE.

 
 
 
 

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Celebrating Jesus at Christmas (Week 1)

“Jesus is Hope!”

Key Verse:  Luke 2:1-7, NASB

Christmas is the proclamation of the coming of the Living Word, God’s one and only Son Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, the divine herald of God’s Gospel, and the Eternal King of God’s Everlasting Kingdom. 2,019 years ago something happened that changed not only time as we know it, but shifted the hope of the nations for all time. What happened was that the most influential person in history was born and the Bible records it from first-hand witness accounts.

Allow me to read a selection of the Bible’s account of the Christmas Story. From Luke 2:1-7.

Does listening to this familiar story thrill you with the hope of the Christmas Story or weary you with the burden of the Christmas Season?

For the weary and the heavy-burdened, it is my privilege to teach you about the hope that Jesus Christ came to give the world. He did so in such a dramatic fashion that time itself started over at 0. All dates before this event are called B.C. (before Christ) and all dates after are called A.D. (anno domini, Latin for “in the year of our Lord”). We live in a season of Advent Celebration and Anticipation! Jesus has come and Jesus is coming! All time points back to and leads to these dual truths of Jesus’ 1st & 2nd comings. We celebrate His first coming as we hope for His return!
 

Why do I mention time? Because time is important and in fact I believe a right view of time is so important that a proper understanding of the Christmas story “in time” is essential to learning how to live with hope in our everyday “in real time” lives. I will teach you what I mean by this and then apply with 3 practical applications that will start helping you live with the hope God intends for you to live your everyday lives in light of the Christmas Story.

 

The key to understanding the hope of the Christmas story lies in the fact that it is a real story in real time. Listen to Luke 2:1-2, “Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.” This same key is highlighted in Matthew 1’s “Genealogy of Jesus” summarized in Matthew 1:17, “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.”

 

What am I talking about and why is this important?  Both Luke’s and Matthew’s accounts of the Christmas story start with time markers. Luke’s from a Gentile historian’s perspective (the historical witness of rulers and their activities) and Matthew’s from Israel’s religious perspective (by genealogy). But both serve the same purpose: to put the Christmas story “in time”! This is important because the promise of God for the Christmas miracle, the coming of Jesus, was foretold many times over the course of hundreds of years by many prophets of God. God gave His people a promise so that they wouldn’t despair. Faith and Hope are intertwined in time!  

 

Listen for the key to living with hope in Isaiah 40:30-31: “Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”

 

I emphasize the words, “yet those who wait on for the Lord,” but this time hear those words from the NIV, as the key word shifts to illuminate the depth of the original Hebrew word that the Prophet Isaiah used to make the point: “But those who hope in the LORD…”. And from Young’s Literal Translation, “But those expecting Jehovah…” All these translations are correct, none more than another because the Hebrew word carries all of these meanings: to wait on; to hope in; and to expect.”[1] There is a deep truth about the biblical concept of hope (found in OT and NT) that I want you to understand. Listen to this definition of biblical hope:

 

In the Gospels, the theological concept of hope is expressed in terms of waiting (προσδέχομαι, prosdechomai) for the kingdom of God (Mark 15:43). In the Letters, hope is directly related to and grows out of faith in God. While faith takes God at his word, believing that he will do as he has promised, hope is the anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s promises (Rom 4:18–21; Heb 6:11–18). Hope originates with God (Rom 15:13), is based on his calling (Eph 1:18; 4:4), and is facilitated by Scripture (Rom 15:4). Specific objects of hope include the future resurrection (Acts 23:6; Rom 8:20–24); the Parousia (Titus 2:13; 1 John 3:2–3); and eternal life (Titus 1:2; 3:7). Hope’s opposite is expressed in terms of unbelief (Heb 3:6–12), grief or despair (1 Thess 4:13), and shame or disappointment (Rom 5:5; Phil 1:20).[2]

 

Isaiah wrote 700 years before the Christmas miracle of the incarnation, the coming of Messiah, the great rescue of God for His people and all the people of all nations. He commanded God’s people to wait for it, to hope in it, to expect it! Isaiah pointed to the Messiah in more detail and with such exactness that his prophecies have been quoted by the Church throughout history to point to the fulfillment of God’s promises through Jesus Christ. The people of God knew these promises, they knew the prophecies of Messiah, but they still sought salvation from Egypt instead of trusting in God to rescue them. That led to their destruction and deportation.

 

Because of our perspective today (hind sight is 20/20), we see now what God’s people couldn’t seem to hang onto for 700 hundred years even though God had told them everything they needed to have hope—God had promised and their hope was to be in His promises and not in their own abilities to rescue and deliver themselves from their situations and circumstances.  When we don’t wait on the Lord and we take matters into our own hands, we more times than not make it worse and cause ourselves greater worry and anxiety. We are to wait on the Lord to keep His promise for rescue and deliverance; for the Kingdom to come on earth as it is in Heaven.

 

Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 40:30-31 give us direction on how we are to remain hopeful in our everyday situations:

  1. We WAIT on the Lord to keep His promises through hard times;
  2. We HOPE in the Lord to accomplish His good purposes even when evil seems to be having its way; and
  3. We EXPECT the Lord to act in and through us in our situations and circumstances. This is the way of hope in our everyday lives.

 

The Gospel story of Jesus Christ starts with a time marker of Jesus’ birth (for both Jewish and non-Jewish listeners) because God wants us to see the importance of how God works in real history with real people who have real faith. The key to all of those great stories of the Bible is that the people of faith waited on the Lord, not always perfectly, but they lived by faith and trusted in the Lord’s promises.

 

Christmas is a story found in real time! Can you empathize with how difficult it must have been for the Israelites to wait on God through their circumstances? Waiting is hard! Because it’s not a passive waiting; it is a faithful, trusting, expecting waiting. Hope requires faith! The problem for us is not that we have learned to read the Bible with eyes of faith, but that we have not yet learned to look at the events of our lives the same way we read the Bible stories. So, we have created a disconnect between the hope we read about and the hope we experience.

 

Just as God gave us the prophecies of Jesus from Isaiah 700 years before the promise was fulfilled and just like there were 400 years between Malachi and John the Baptizer (i.e. the intertestamental period), God’s people have a long history of having to wait on God’s promises and even at times, waiting through God’s silence to us in our situations. It’s what we do in the waiting that determines whether or not we will experience hope or despair in our circumstances.

 

Truthfully, it is not the events that bring despair or depression in our lives, it is our interpretation of the events. I invite us to look at our daily circumstances with biblical hope.

 

Here’s how to have hope, not only this Christmas season, but from this day forward:

 

  1. DEVELOP A FAITH PERSPECTIVE ON EVENTS:
    As Isaiah taught us, we WAIT on the Lord to keep His promises through hard times. To do this, we must know the promises and persevere in the promises. That means our faith must become personal and intimate. It must work its way into the very nuts and bolts of our everyday working and playing lives. So often, in the past, we have allowed world events, national politics, community gossip, church challenges, family situations, work circumstances, and health struggles to determine our perspective on life. That is backwards! Your faith in Jesus Christ and what He has promised is the shaper of our conversations and how we interpret life. Faith shapes perspective: This is the way to hope!

 

As Paul taught us in Romans 5:1-5, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

 

What shapes your daily conversations? How do you interpret your situations and circumstances? Is your faith in Jesus Christ worked into the very fabric of your whole life or is it compartmentalized into a Sunday morning religious observance?

 

  1. REMEMBER THAT THE PROMISES OF GOD ARE GREATER THAN OUR PROBLEMS!
    As Isaiah taught us, we HOPE in the Lord to accomplish His promises even when evil seems to be having its way and our problems seem bigger. Your faith in Jesus Christ brings hope by giving us God’s promises to hang onto when all the evidence of this life points away from an all-good, all-loving, and all-powerful God. Hope is not wishful thinking, like I hope it snows for Christmas. Hope is a certainty that faith in God and His promises is not displaced because He who promises is worthy of all trust!

 

God delivers on time, every time! Paul taught us the reality of how to live this way. He said in Philippians 4:6-9, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

 

We need a persevering faith that comforts us with not only the assurance of our salvation, but also the assurance of Jesus’ promise for the abundant life (John 10:10). There is no hope outside of the rest you gain from the assurances that God and His promises are right and true, every time and on time—in His time.

 

When you walk in the assurance that the PROMISES OF GOD are BIGGER THAN the PROBLEMS OF YOUR LIFE then you will experience the PEACE OF GOD.

 

But conversely, when you allow the PROBLEMS OF YOUR LIFE to LOOM LARGER THAN then PROMISES OF GOD then you will experience the ANXIETY OF THE MOMENT.

 

Every time you feel the emotion of anxiety, it’s an opportunity to turn it around and go to God with thanksgiving in your heart for who He is and His promises for your life! Don’t let anxiety condemn you, but allow the conviction you feel at the normal human emotion of anxiety to move you to God. Do you know the promises of God so that you can rest in Him? How do you work them into your heart and mind so that they can bring about the promised peace of God? What shapes your emotional well-being—your circumstances or His promises?

 

Your FAITH in Jesus Christ is the foundation of who you are (your identity!). The HOPE you have in the promises of God will shape your perspective and your perspective will shape your emotional well-being. What makes all this visible, is the LOVE of God put on display through your life during the hard and challenging times. That leads us to the final application:

 

  1. LIVE THE ABUNDANT LIFE OF LOVE!
    As Isaiah taught us, we EXPECT the Lord to act in and through real people in real situations and circumstances. I am here to tell you that you can be the solution to the situation. When all hope seems to be lost, be the hope by loving the people around you instead of reacting with anxiety and fear. Be the person that God uses to bless people by how you walk through your situations and circumstances. The world does not need any more doomsdayers, gossips, or troublemakers. Our nation has reached its quota on all of these and the church is called to be different than the culture, not co-opt it.

 

How can we be different? Biblical Hope! We hope in the promises of God! Just as we celebrate whole-heartedly the first coming of Christ every Christmas, we resolve to whole-heartedly hang on to the promises of God that Jesus will return; His second coming is imminent and the Kingdom of God can’t be thwarted by evil. We can love today because we know Love wins!

 

Our church is called to be the light of Jesus Christ to East-Central Indiana, not just a representative gathering of a growing minority of people called Christians who happen to live in East-Central Indiana. We are called to transform stories so that we will see thriving communities. That will only happen through LOVE! And the only way LOVE will happen in the hard times and difficult meetings and in controversial polarizing conversations is if each of us has our lives built on the foundation of the assurance of our faith in Jesus Christ, pillared by our hope in the persevering promises of God, and put on display by the Love that God first loved us!

 

As John, the Beloved of Jesus, taught us in 1 John 4:9-11, “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

 

Christmas is a wonderful time to practice loving people in practical ways. Many people are weary and heavy-burdened during Christmas because they have forgotten that Jesus is the reason for the season. Their hope has been displaced from the reason of the season to the hustle and bustle of the season.

 

Let us give the greatest gift of all—the Hope of Jesus Christ through practical and intentional acts of love. You will spend a lot of time and money on giving gifts this season, but why not invest a lot of time and money on becoming the gift of God to our communities.

 

It has been said, “Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air…but only for one second without hope.”

 

Christmas is the proclamation of the coming of Jesus Christ—the One who brought hope to the nations! Don’t go another second without the hope of Jesus Christ for yourself. Don’t let the weary and heavy-burdened of our community go another day apart from the real hope of Christmas. You are called to go from this place today and be the hope of Jesus Christ.
 

Listen to Pastor Jerry’s message here:

 

You can watch the video HERE.

 
 
 

Footnotes:

 

[1] “קָוָה (qāwâ). vb. to wait, hope. In its basic sense, the term describes the act of waiting. It may indicate the act of expectation when a particular outcome is anticipated (often rendered “look for”) or the act of hoping when the expected outcome is desirable or beneficial” (Aaron C. Fenlason, “Hope,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014]).

 

[2] Aaron C. Fenlason, “Hope,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).
 
 

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