Advent 2023 (Wk 5)

Back to the Future

 
27 For just as the lightning comes
from the east and flashes even to the west,
so will the coming of the Son of Man be.
 

Cyndi Johansen & Bree King share with the children.

 
 
Luke 1:31-33
 
Matthew 13   Jesus compares things to the Kingdom of God
 
Luke 4:11
 
Matthew 25
 
 
Mark 4:11
 
 
Matthew 24:27, 30-31
 
Jeremiah 23:5-6a   The Lord is righteous, perfect, never broke God’s rules
 
We’ve all done wrong things… (example of sticky notes = our sins)
 
Jesus covers our sins (example:  Blanket)
 
Matthew 24:31-34
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is Jesus coming back?
 
Matthew 24:36 
 
What if you were getting ready for company but you didn’t know when they were coming? 
When would you get ready?
 
 
 
 

Conclusion: Pastor Jerry shares

 
Philippians 2  So then my beloved…
 
God gave us the Holy Spirit… to secure us, to empower us…
 
1 Corinthians 15  We will all be changed!
 
If you believe this — act like it!
 
How do we do this?  That will be our focus in 2024!  Get ready for some challenges…
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Advent 2023 (Wk 4)

Back to Jerusalem
Job 19:25-27
 
25 “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.
26 “Even after my skin is destroyed,
Yet from my flesh I shall see God;
27 Whom I myself shall behold,
And whom my eyes will see and not another.
My heart faints within me!
 
 
 
What is Peace?
 
calm, no war, relaxing, — all of these things come to an end.
 
Let’s talk about a Peace that never ends.
 
What scares most people?    Death!
 
God wants us to know that there is something wonderful after death!
 
Redeemer – A person that pays for, trades for something.
 
Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins so that we could someday live in Heaven with Him!
 
Scriptures:
 
Matthew 18:1-7  The empty tomb
John 5:28-29    The dead will rise
John 5:24          If we believe in Jesus, we will be in Heaven one day
 
Jesus is with us.  He wants to be with us.
 
 

If you would like to see only the Time Machine lesson, click HERE.

 

If you would like to see the entire service, click HERE.

 
 

If you would like to see the evening Candlelight service, click HERE.

 

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Advent 2023 (Wk 3) The Christmas Word

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

To see the edited version, click HERE.

(The sound has been edited and some things were taken out at the beginning.  Sound issues are mostly fixed)
 

To see the original streamed version, click HERE.

(Includes first song, announcements, Advent candle lighting.  Sound is up and down.)
 
 

To see the original program, click HERE.

 
 
 
 

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Advent 2023 (Wk 2)

Setting Our Hope Anew on God

God So Loved the World

 
 
 
 
We can find out how much God loves us by reading in the Bible.

Jerry explaining the Cross & Manger

 
 
 
John 3:14-17
 

14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever a]believes will in Him have eternal life.

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His b]only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
 
 
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness…
 
 
Cyndi shares the story of God’s people wandering in the wilderness.  They were disobedient.  He sent serpents to punish them.
 
Numbers 21:9
 
And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.
 
John 3:14
 
14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;
 
John 8:28a
 
28 So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He
 
John 3:15
 
15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.
 
John 3:16
 
16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His a]only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
 
Do you know that God loves YOU this much?  Emmanuel means “God with us”!
 
Like the Grinch, our hearts can grow at Christmas.  We normally think of gifts at Christmas.  Every time you look at your Christmas tree, think about how God came to earth and was born a baby.
 
Jesus is the greatest gift ever given!
 
Pastor Jerry shared about this free gift.
 
 
 
 

If you would like to watch just the presentation on YouTube, click HERE.

 
 

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Advent 2023 (Wk 1)

Setting Our Hope Anew on God

A Return to Bethlehem

 

The Kidz Zone Time Machine with Cyndi

 
 
Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
 
Isaiah 9:6-7
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will a]rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.
 
Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign:
Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son,
and she will call His name Immanuel.
 
 
Song:  Away in a Manger
Quotes from a version by Casting Crowns (verse 4)
 
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus, lay down His sweet head
Lord of all creation, lay down His sweet head
The Savior of the nation, lay down His sweet head
 
 
Luke 2:11
…for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
 
Romans 5:6-9
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.

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood,
we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
 

Cyndi & Jody sit with the children and share about the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth.

 
Come back next week to find out what happened next!
 
 

If you would like to watch this presentation on YouTube, click HERE.

 

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Advent 2022 – Week 5

Christmas Eve & Christmas Day

 
 
You can watch the Christmas Eve Candlelight service by clicking HERE.
 
 
 
You can watch the Christmas Morning Service by clicking HERE.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Advent 2022 – Week 4 The Carpenter’s Daughter

 
 

 

You can watch the play and the following service by clicking HERE.

 
 
 

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Advent 2022 – Week 3

Welcome Home: Inviting Jesus to Make My Heart His Home!

A Home of Joy

Nehemiah 8:10 & Luke 2:9-14

 

Something interesting you may not know about my family is that years ago Kimberly and I named our home. This is the first house we have ever owned, having previously rented or lived in military housing. The naming of our house didn’t happen for years, but after the first five to six years of pastoral ministry here in New Castle, we decided to call it, “The Haven.” The definition of a haven is, “any place of safety and shelter.” Some synonyms for the word haven are “retreat, anchorage, cover, harbor, sanctum, or sanctuary.” We want our home to be a space for grace – a sanctuary where God is at work in and through us, a retreat to find rest for the soul, a safe harbor from the storms of life, a sanctum from the insanity of the world, a cover from the attacks of the enemy, a sacred place where we will love and disciple our children to walk in the ways of the Lord.

 

Additionally, years ago, we named our home school, “The Little House Discipleship Academy.” This merges our family’s heritage with my sixth (or seventh) Cousin Laura Ingalls Wilder and her famous series of books, The Little House on the Prairie, and our focus on raising our children in the Word to train them to walk in a manner worthy of their calling. As a family, we intentionally and diligently protect our home to be a home of hope, love, joy, and peace. To do this, we must very intentionally and diligently walk in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ so that our hearts and minds are a haven of God’s presence before we can work together as husband and wife to create a home that lives up to its own namesake, “The Haven.” Friends, nothing happens by accident nor happenstance; you must be diligent.

 

This Christmas, I am inviting you to surrender your heart to be Christ’s home so that your home may become a home of hope, love, joy, and peace – a place where the weary of mind and body, a place where the heavy-burdened of heart and soul, can come and find rest (Matthew 11:28-30). If you want to transform your home, you must start with your own heart – you must become a person of hope, love, joy, and peace.

 

In the first two weeks, we focused on transforming our hearts into homes of hope and love, today, the message will focus how our faith invites Jesus Christ to transform our hearts into havens of joy. There is great joy you receive through a relationship with Jesus Christ! This is not only the joy of our eternal salvation, secured through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but this is the work of the Holy Spirit, the fruit of God’s presence in and though our lives that gives us a joy that will empower us through the mountaintops and valleys of our emotions and life experiences.

 

To illustrate my emphasis on our hearts being havens of joy so that we can create homes of joy, I want to emphasize the famous passage from Nehemiah 8:10, “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” As most of you know, I am currently studying the book of Nehemiah for my daily devotional phone calls, which then is transformed into the material for my Seize the Moment devotional books with AGF Publishing. As I was studying this passage, I wrote this devotional for this coming week’s daily phone call:

 

Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the most remote parks in our national park system. It is seventy miles off the coast of Key West, and you can only get there by seaplane or boat. As part of its natural wonder and historic significance, Dry Tortugas is the only deep-water safe harbor in that vicinity, making it a strategic location when ships were the key to both commerce and security for our growing nation. For this reason, Fort Jefferson, a massive stronghold, was built on the island, to protect American ships and sailors.

 

Whether it’s from the storms of life or the dangers of enemies, we all need a safe harbor – a stronghold to find shelter or refuge. Inside the stronghold of Jerusalem, with its finished walls and restored gates, Nehemiah the governor and Ezra the priest taught the nation of Israel where they would find their safe harbor – not in a walled city, but in God’s Word. Nehemiah 8:9-10 captures the moment they first heard the Torah:

 

“This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

 

The Hebrew word translated “strength” means stronghold, refuge, or fortress. The joy of the Lord is both our safe harbor from storms and our stronghold from enemies. As Psalm 18:2 declares, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

 

Seize the moment and find shelter in the safe harbor of God’s joy – put your faith in Jesus Christ!

 

Your home becomes a space for grace when you have become a safe harbor of God’s joy. This happens by inviting Jesus Christ to make your heart His home. The Christmas story, in Luke 2:9-14, foretells the purpose for Christ’s coming into the world:

 

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 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; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 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.”

 

Christ came to bring us “great joy!” This is as applicable for your heart and your home, as it is for world peace. Let’s do a quick survey about what the Bible teaches about God’s joy:

 

  1. Psalm 16:11. “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.”
  2. Psalm 118:24. “This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
  3. Proverbs 15:13. “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.”
  4. John 17:13. “But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.”
  5. Romans 15:13. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
  6. 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.”
  7. Philippians 4:4. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”
  8. Hebrews 12:2-3. “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

 

Joy is not a response to circumstances; joy is the rock of our well-being – a firm foundation from which we can experience all other emotions and respond in covenant faithfulness to God, according to His promises for our lives. When joy is the deep bedrock of our souls we can experience the human realities of anger, grief, and sadness without being displaced from the rock of God’s joy into the shifting sands of human emotions. You can experience the hardships and injustices of real life while finding the security of God’s stronghold, which has been strategically built in the only safe harbor to be found out in the open seas of life. The King has made a way for this to be done for you! You can respond authentically as a child of God, and authoritatively as a soldier for Jesus, because you are secure in the Father’s love and safe in His sovereign grace.

 

It takes diligence to make your home a haven of joy! It’s not a response to our circumstances, it is the stronghold of our lives, the haven of our sanity, the sanctum of our peace, the rock on which we build our lives – it is the victory of our faith in Jesus Christ! Always remember, joy is the fruit of the Spirit, not a manifestation of the flesh. It is so much more than an emotional response to our circumstances. I close with this prayerful exhortation from 1 Peter 1:3-9:

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.

 

Friends, nothing happens by accident nor happenstance; you must be diligent to make your heart Christ’s home if your home is going to be a home of hope, love, joy, and peace. Let us pray.
 
 

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Advent 2022 – Week 2

Welcome Home: Inviting Jesus to Make My Heart His Home!

A Home of Love

Ephesians 3:14-19

 

Kevin Stonerock to share about and play special song: Black Diamonds.

 

This song speaks to a situation that has been playing out for generations, in many shapes and sizes. There are the lost stories of the Civil War and World War I veterans who came home. There are the whispered stories of the World War II & Korea War veterans who came home. There are the loud stories that I grew up with of the Vietnam veterans who were homeless and struggling with substance abuse. There are the sensational stories of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans coming home lost to themselves and their families, with devastating suicide rates.

 

These stories of veterans coming home from war and struggling to transition back into their families and communities have a theme – the soldier may have left the war to come home, but the war didn’t leave them just because they came home. We’ve said, “Welcome home!” Now let’s welcome soldiers home from war in a way that invites them to experience the qualities of a home of faith that will be healing to them and to all our families. A home characterized by the four virtues of the Advent season – hope, love, joy, and peace.

 

There is a lot of preparation that goes into a homecoming, for both those at home and the soldier who is returning. The home itself must be actively prepared to be a home of hope, love, joy, and peace, just as the soldier must intentionally work on transforming his mind and heart from a posture of hyper-vigilance (called “Battle Mind”) to being in a posture of rest. Jesus wants to make His home in each of our hearts and in all our homes, and it is His presence in our hearts and homes that transforms us.

 

This Christmas, I am inviting you to surrender your heart to be Christ’s home so that your home may become a home of hope, love, joy, and peace – a place where the weary of mind and body, a place where the heavy-burdened of heart and soul, can come and find rest (Matthew 11:28-30). If you want to transform your home, you must start with your own heart – you must become a person of hope, love, joy, and peace.

 

Last week we focused on transforming our hearts into homes of hope, today, the message will focus how our faith invites Jesus Christ to transform our hearts into homes of love. Our Scripture for this message is Ephesians 3:14-19:

 

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

 

Let us pray and ask the Holy Spirit to fill us to all the fullness of God so that we may know the love of Christ and be transformed by it, so that we, and our homes, may be homes of love.

 

The love of God is transformational. When Jesus Christ makes your heart His home through faith, then you become rooted and grounded in love. In other words, the love of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, transforms your story – God changes you and begins the process of changing your life, your marriage, your parenting style, your motivations for work, and your inspirations for living. Our entire life becomes a dialogue about the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love because we are supposed to bring the love of God into every area of our life.

 

Here’s the secret to all of this, you don’t know something until you put it into practice. Teachers know that you haven’t learned the material until you can teach it. By the same principle, you can’t know the love of God until you express it, share it, give it in each circumstance of your life. The transformative quality of God’s love is a positive feedback loop. As you grow in spiritual maturity and learn more about God’s character and His love, you can ‘teach’ or demonstrate His love more and more through your actions. God transforms your understanding of His love as you grow in Christ, and that doesn’t mean that God or His love has changed because He is constant. Rather, it demonstrates the importance of our progressive sanctification. We must pursue the relationship to experience the fullness of the transformation so that we “may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.”

 

You are transformed by the love of Christ because the Holy Spirit fills you to the fullness of God. This is when your home becomes a space of grace for returning soldiers, when you are a person in an ongoing conversation with God about His life and what His love looks like in every situation of your life. You are transformed by love by practicing the love you were first given, and, in doing so, you become a loving person. It’s kind of like this, if you are looking for friends, be one. If you are looking for good people, be one. Love transforms you through the giving and receiving of love. It’s not a theory, it’s an action that is constantly explored, a way that is walked, a life that is lived. If you don’t know how to react to a situation or person – love! It’s the golden rule at work, as Jesus taught us in Matthew 7:12, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

 

The love of God is not transactional – it is freely given! The motivation for the Christmas gift of Jesus Christ is explained in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Our salvation is an action of love. You could not be saved today, if God had not taken His essence of love and expressed it in action. You are transformed because God first acted toward you, as Paul explained in Ephesians 2:1-10:

 

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

 

Therefore, because of God’s love, you are to walk in the good works of love – the activity of our salvation should be an expression of that same love He first gave you. Just like we give gifts at Christmas because God for gave to us on that first Christmas, our lives become love because we are transformed by His first love! The beloved of Jesus said in 1 John 4:7-5:4:

 

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 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. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.

 

The love we are to fill our homes with is the love that overcomes the world; it is the love of God that comes through faith, not the love of the world that comes through the flesh; it is a fruit of the Spirit’s work in you, bringing God’s fullness into your life (Galatians 5:22-23). If you want to make your home a safe place for the soldiers to come and find rest for their heavy hearts and weary minds, then don’t give them a counterfeit love for which they must perform. Rather, give them the love that flows from the throne of grace.

When we give this to one another, then we proclaim the gospel of peace for all the world to see, as Jesus taught in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

Welcome home our soldiers by giving them a soft place to land, a space for grace to experience the security of love that will help them transform from being in a hyper-vigilant battle mind, always looking for the worst in other people, watchful for attacks and ambushes. Help them be restful at home, always looking to be their very best for other people, as they experience the peace and rest of a love that cannot be earned, and one that will never end because of that first Christmas gift. As the song O Holy Night teaches us, “Truly He taught us to love one another / His law is love and His gospel is peace / Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother / And in His name all oppression shall cease / Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, / Let all within us praise His holy name.”

 

Never forget, we can’t love with God’s love until we experience God’s love personally. I pray that you will accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and begin to experience the love of God for yourself personally; that’s where it all begins for each of us. For those who have already experienced God’s love, I pray that your home may become a great laboratory of learning to love as God first loved you. May you be transformed as you put into practice God’s Christmas gift to you and to me, and to all of humanity.

 

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Advent 2022 – Week 1

Welcome Home: Inviting Jesus to Make My Heart His Home!

“A Home of Hope”

Psalm 62:5-8

 

He was fresh out of the military and multiple deployments oversees. He saw ghosts during the day and fought them in his sleep. He saw the eyes. The eyes that never blinked. The eyes he would never forget. The eyes that looked back at him every time he shaved. They weren’t his own, but they were the eyes through which he experienced the world. The drinking helped, but it was never enough. He was desperate for peace but found none. He told himself he was unforgiveable for what he had done; what those eyes saw him do. What he knew he was guilty of. His buddy told him that he had found some peace after becoming a part of a group that met a couple times a week. He said they talked about real life, prayed about real struggles, read from the Bible, and found real answers, helped each other out in real ways. He was happy for his buddy. God knows everyone needs a little peace in this hell of a world we live in. But they weren’t him and they hadn’t done what he did. He had to be cursed because it sure did feel like his demons were getting the best of him. He called up his buddy, not knowing where else to turn. It was late, really late, he couldn’t sleep, he didn’t want to sleep. Nights were hard. His buddy answered the phone. They were going to meet at Steak-n-Shake in 30 minutes. His buddy told him that he had been praying for him and that he had been waiting for this moment. He told him that he had some good news to share with him. God knows he needed some good news. He wasn’t sure how much more he could take of this hopeless existence. He walked out the door to go meet with his buddy, hoping to feel hope for the future again.[1]

 

This is a situation that has been playing out for generations, in many shapes and sizes. There are the lost stories of the Civil War and World War I veterans who came home. There are the whispered stories of the World War II & Korea War veterans who came home. There are the loud stories that I grew up with of the Vietnam veterans who were homeless and struggling with substance abuse. There are the sensational stories of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans coming home lost to themselves and their families, with devastating suicide rates.

 

These stories of veterans coming home from war and struggling to transition back into their families and communities have a theme – the soldier may have left the war to come home, but the war didn’t leave them just because they came home. We’ve said, “Welcome home!” Now let’s welcome soldiers home from war in a way that invites them to experience the qualities of a home of faith that will be healing to them and to all our families – a home, which is characterized by hope, love, joy, and peace.

 

There is a lot of preparation that goes into a homecoming, for both those at home and the soldier who is returning. The home itself must be actively prepared to be a home of hope, love, joy, and peace, just as the soldier must intentionally work on transforming his mind and heart from a posture of hyper-vigilance (called “Battle Mind”) to being in a posture of rest. Jesus wants to make His home in each of our hearts and in all our homes, and it is His presence in our hearts and homes that transforms us.

 

This Christmas, I am inviting you to surrender your heart to be Christ’s home so that your home may become a home of hope, love, joy, and peace – a place where the weary of mind and body, and heavy-burdened of heart and soul, can come and find rest (Matthew 11:28-30). If you want to transform your home, you must start with your own heart – you must become a person of hope, love, joy, and peace.

 

Today, the message will focus how our faith invites Jesus Christ to transform our hearts into a home of hope. Our Scripture for this message is Psalm 62:5-8:

 

My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken. On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.

 

Selah invites us to take a breath, pause, and pray. So let us do that. Let us be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). Let us pray.

 

As we see in our passage today, a home of hope is a place of patience – a people who have learned to be still, to wait in silence, to trust God in the uncertainty and unknowing. We create a safe place for soldiers to come home when we are a patient presence for them and create space for grace amid the struggle and turmoil of stress, uncertainty, insecurity, and fear.

 

We come to know that God is our refuge only after we have learned how to hide ourselves in Him. It is easy to hide yourself behind a façade of success, a busy schedule, a nice appearance. But hiding in anything but God only leads to a loneliness that seeps into our souls. We hide in God so that we can risk being seen by others.

 

We come to know that God is the rock of my strength only after we have learned to build our lives firmly upon Him – the rock, the only secure foundation. It is tempting to build our lives on our jobs and reputations, our volunteer efforts and good works, and our pleasures and hobbies. When we build our lives on anything other than God, we are building our lives on shifting sands. We build on the rock so that we can risk being involved in real ways in real life.

 

We come to know that God is our salvation when we learn to put our trust in Him alone. It is preferable to keep ourselves as the center of our lives, to fight for control, to carry the full weight of responsibility for our own destinies, but when we do so we never learn to trust anyone else, and we end up crushed by our inability to carry the load to the finish line. We trust God alone for our salvation so that we can risk loving and trusting others in everyday life.

 

We must wait upon God so that this hope gets in our bones, so that our faith is a truth that transcends a propositional statement. Faith is meant to be what upholds us as we learn to hope in what we believe is true and wait upon the God who promises to deliver on our faith. A home of faith gives us the hope we need to be a soft place to land and a space of grace for living.

 

Hope is a right expectation in God – I wait upon Him knowing that He will show up in my situation. As the prince of prophets taught us in Isaiah 40:28-31:

 

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. 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.

 

Hope is not wishful thinking – it is the certainty of Immanuel, God is with us! The Christmas miracle provides you stability during the trials and tribulations of your everyday life. Today, the first Sunday of Advent, we are invited to remember the first coming of Jesus Christ, which was awaited for a thousand years, from the time of God’s promise to King David, and for four hundred years since the faithful remnant of Jewish people received the promise of God in Malachi 3:1, “‘Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,’ says the Lord of hosts.”

 

The Jewish people were forged in a long season of waiting. When Jesus Christ came, the messengers of God proclaimed the fulfillment of their waiting in Luke 2:8-14:

 

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 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; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 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.”

 

It’s as if they were saying, “The wait is over! God has delivered on His promises! Your hope has been fulfilled. The victory has been won, and bestowed upon you, through faith in Jesus Christ! Don’t miss it!”

 

And I say to you, “DON’T MISS IT!” As those who believe in the Christmas miracle, hope is our superpower because hope never disappoints. God’s promises are worth waiting for, no matter how long you must wait for their fulfillment. As Paul promises 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.

 

Hope is a mindset – a mental perspective that anchors your everyday life and situations in the reality of God and His victory over the devil, death, and sin through His Son Jesus Christ. Hope is an “anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19), which allows us make space for grace in our hearts and homes. If we want to welcome home the soldiers, then we need hope to be an essential quality of our lives. This hope is forged into our lives as wait for the Lord’s second coming. We conclude with the declaration of this hope from 1 Thessalonians 5:8-11:

 

But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

 

Let us wait upon the Lord’s return, and in doing so, may the Holy Spirit transform our hearts into a home for Jesus Christ – a home of hope – a safe place to invite the soldiers to come home and find rest for their souls.
 
 

You can listen to this message by clicking below:

 

You can watch this message by clicking HERE.

 
 
 
 
 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] I found this story in my files. I’m not sure if I originally wrote it or if someone else did, but either way I modified it for this sermon. I am happy to give credit where credit is due, if I knew, all glory to God!

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