Monday, December 30, 2019

New Year

Wed. = New Year's Day - question:  Who's making a "Resolution"?

Some statistics and facts:
Stats vary, but 40 - 50% of Americans make New Year's Resolutions.  People recognize the need for self-improvement!!!
Approximately 50% are health related. Of those, the top two are (1) exercise more and (2) lose weight.

Success rates??   Polls and studies vary widely!  Success rate by polls = 46%, 12%, 4%

There is Evidence that this was practiced by ancient Babylonians & Romans!  (And practiced widely throughout the world today)    Point = common to mankind!

AND success rate is much higher among those who (resolve and) begin on Jan. 1st.  (rather than a random starting date)

Question:  What does the Bible say about New Years' Resolutions??

On one hand, it says nothing.
However, says a lot about....
    (1)  Resolutions -  "choose, decide, determine" - make a resolute decision
   (2)  New Beginnings
         New Birth - Jesus  "born again" - John 1 & 3
         New Creation - Paul - 2 Cor. 5:17
         New Man - Paul - Eph. 4:24
         New heart  - Ezekiel 11:19 & new Spirit!!
         New Song - David - Psm. 40:3   Rev. 14:3
         New Name - Rev. 2:17  examples:  Jacob renamed Israel, Simon renamed Peter
         New family = church
         New outlook, perspective, direction, purpose,
Therefore, New Walk - lifestyle

Obviously, all this involves change for the better!
But the Biblical perspective calls for something more than change, and something Better than change.
ie:  "Growth" - Difference???

Differences in Change and Growth -

1) deals with actions, habits,  what you DO             
2)  deals with external, (not exclusively, but primarily)                        
3)  tends to be event oriented  -  "this happened and I changed!"
4)  can be temporary - can change back  to old behavior              
5)  Something you can manage on your own  (self-improvement)                          

  1)  includes attitude, heart, who you are
  2)  deals with internal (heart) also.  Rom. 12:2  don't be conformed, be transformed
  3)  process oriented - many things contribute over time 
  4)  is permanent - you don't un-grow.
  5)  Requires God's assistance  (example:  garden.  if God is not active, no growth)

On one hand, some things need to change without waiting for growth - examples:  abusing spouse, kids - stealing from employer.  Bible is very clear the some things NEED to change.
However, God's ultimate method of change (in this life) seems to be ...... growth!!!

A parallel concept = "Maturity"

Luke 8:11-15 - Parable of Sower and seeds.
1st. three groups didn't mature - Luke 8:14
4th. group "grows up" - develops - produces

Eph. 4:11-15 - God gave the church gifted servants (Eph. 4:13) and leaders SO people could "grow up", become "mature".

Phil. 3:15 - speaking of growing up, and continuing on, Paul says "all who are mature will share this view"

Heb. 6:1 - "therefore let us go on to maturity" - (grow up)

James 1:4 - perseverance must finish its work, so you may become Mature and Complete!
God wants to see more than just change of behavior.

Again:  not saying we should wait for growth to change, But, ultimately, finally GROWTH is what God is looking for in us.  (a better plan!)


#1.  (this kind of) Growth requires God's assistance.  Created in His image, damaged in the fall, now reshaping!!
This  character development  (not comfort)  God is willing to sacrifice our comfort in order to develop our character.
Point:  This is more than self improvement, therefore we want Him involved!!!
Have you accepted Christ?  Are you an active follower?  (vs. occasional worshiper)

#2.  Growth begins with a recognition of need.
Luke 18:9-14 - (Publican and the Pharisee)  Rev. 3:15-18 - (Laodecia)
Point = examine yourself in light of God's Word!!  (mirror)

#3.  Growth also requires your efforts.
2 Pet. 1:3, 5-8  - "increasing measure" = growth
Compare:  gardening:  you create a "growth environment
You (A)  add in  (fertilizer, water, light) - Bible Study, Quiet Time, prayer, fellowship, church attendance
       (B)  remove (weeds, insects) - Heb. 12:1
Church is a place where you grow.  Even those things that are not necessarily sin, but will hinder us from growth.

#4.  Growth is intended to be ongoing - as long as we're in this life.
Gen. 22:1-2 - example:  Abraham - "Father of the faith, friend of God, @114 years!! Still in school!!
This is NOT a 1 year self-improvement program.
lifelong process of becoming!!

Short list of needs:
    Resolution - decide, determine, choose!!
    Action - "want to" is not enough.  Action, followup
    Nurture - add in, take out
    Consistency - occasional attention will not get the best tomatoes!j
    Time - a Process  (But = a process with results!!)

Nothing wrong with New Year's Resolutions, immediate changes, self-improvement
BUT, as you pursue those .... remember God's plan and design is more than that!!
God's plan = grow, mature, develop, Become - what he created us to be.  Is a constant process!

Closing scripture:  Phil. 3:12-16

Monday, December 16, 2019


Opening - One Solitary Life

1/3 of the world's population (roughly 2 billion people) claim some form of Christianity.   8 in 10 Americans claim to be Christian

How do you explain the greatness of the Man whose birth we celebrate at Christmas?

The Biblical explanation = INCARNATION!!  
Definition of Incarnation = God in flesh, God in human form, in a human body - LITERALLY!!

(deeper view) - (1)  the 2nd. person in the Godhead in human form.  (God, the Father, Son, Holy Spirit)
God is Spirit.  Christ is something we can see, touch, hear, etc.  He is he EXACT representation of God.
(2)  though fully human, nevertheless fully God!!!  (ie:  fully human without compromising His Deity/Divinity)

John 1:1, 14  1 John 1:1,  Col. 1:15,  Heb. 1:3

On one hand, He's clearly human!!  His birth, childhood.. hunger, thirst, pain exhaustions, emotions ... AND the lineage which records His human ancestry!

However, He's clearly divine
(1)  He displayed (divine) authority .. though many miracles of many kinds (healings, nature, demons) John 21:25

(2)  He claimed divine prerogative to forgive sin(s)
then performed an obvious, miraculous healing to verify His right to that claim!
(Other audacious personal claims as well)

(3)  He evidenced uniqueness in His Presence and His teaching.  Example:  John 7:46 - temple guards

(4)  His Resurrection - from death  over death!!  Rom. 1:4   Even His own brothers came to believe after the resurrection.

(5)  His Ascension  - physical, visible

(6)  ALL in line with, and fulfilling Old Testament prophecies!

So, Both fully human and fully Divine.

Question:  HOW???   Answer:  I don't know!  BUT.....
(1)  it is a mystery - 1 Tim. 3:16
note:  beyond understanding does not mean beyond possibility

(2)  Divinely Accomplished - Isa. 9:6-7  "the seal of the Lord
IF you can buy Gen. 1:1, then should have no problem with the incarnation!

(note:  the deist (unorthodox "Christian") wants to recognize Jesus' uniqueness without admitting His deity!!
Which, on one hand, is understandable  ("mystery")
However, C.S. Lewis' argument = "Liar, Lunatic, or Lord" - Has to be one of the three

This we celebrate at Christmas!!  Matt. 1:22-23

Takeaways??  In the Incarnation we gain...

I.  A Better Understanding of God  (His Person, Character)
Examples:  (1)  His humility - "stepped down" - Phil. 2:5-8
                                          - "stooped down" - John 13:12-16 - foot washing
                  (2)  His love, concern - John 3:16, Rom. 5:8 - more than declared, = demonstrated!!
                  (3)  His accessibility -  contrast  temple cleansing, sinners, unclean..., with "come unto me, whosoever will"

II.  A Model for ourselves - example:  fad from several years ago:  WWJD?  (what would Jesus do?)
Answer = (A)  look at His teachings   (B)  look at His Example!!
Examples:  stewardship, interaction with sinners, "cross!!

III.  An understanding of His understanding - Heb. 2:17-18, 4:14-16  - He understands what we are going through,

This is What we celebrate!  This is WHO we celebrate!!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Advent for Today

Advent (Latin:  adventus) - a coming, an arrival (notable/significant arrival)

in Christianity - traditionally = 4 (weeks) Sundays before Christmas - leading up TO Christmas, which = Coming of Messiah (Christ) - (Greek word for Messiah = Christ)

in Jewish thought Messiah = THE ANOINTED ONE - who was a man, from God, to deliver, his people (Israel), from oppression!!!  (times when nation was oppressed by various people groups.  In the time of Christ, that was Rome!)

BUT ... God's plan different! 
Messiah =
(1)  an incarnation - ie:  God in human flesh!! - Matt. 1:23, John 1:1, 14

(2) a descent - ie not raised up but Stepped Down!  - Phil. 2:6-8  - was in heaven.  Gave that up to come down to earth.

(3)  a Spiritual Deliverance - Matt. 1:21
This does not exclude physical deliverance ... rather, goes beyond that!  (to eternal deliverance)
Jews thought of earthly oppression.  God came not to just to deliver from earthly oppression.

So Advent = (1) celebration of His (1st) Coming - Christmas
(2)  Anticipation of His 2nd. Coming - Return -  prophesied in the Old Testament
                                                                         promised by Jesus - Matt. 24:30-31
                                                                         pictured in Revelation - Rev. 19:11-16
Will not return in humility of a child, but as a warrior King.

Meanwhile ... we live in "'tween times"
                                       1st. Advent                                                   2nd. Advent

So... beyond "Celebration" ad "Anticipation" ... Advent for Us?  today??

Answer = we pray for a Visitation (another coming) - a coming between!!
Example:  Psm. 44:1-3, 23-26
Spirit of Advent should include:
"Lord come an deliver" - (me, us, them)
from Oppression!!!  (physical, spiritual, emotional)
"SAVIOR" - (deliverer)

The cry recognizes ... (1)  our need    (2)  our inability to meet the need   (3)  His Providence (His ability - to meet need if He chooses)  Example:  Joni Erickson Tada

Specific Examples:  ...."Lord, come and ....
(1) Heal - (physical, emotional, spiritual, relational)

(2) strengthen

(3) Comfort

(4)  Guide

(5)  Reveal  (yourself)

(6)  transform (me)  - example:  Paul - Romans 7

(7)  Establish  (Your Kingdom)

in Summary = "Come and deliver" .... "Come and Save!!!  - "Me!!  Us!!  Them!!!"

New Testament example/illustration - Mark 4:35-41

On one hand - compare  (the situation, dry, deliverance...)

However, we must also contrast!! - Because our "tween time" Visitations tend to be ...
(1) occasional  & (2) underwhelming - miracles are NOT the Norm!!

Nevertheless, we should "Cry out" and we should "have faith" - Psm. 23:4

And we should give thanks!!
Because we Know our Savior,
we Know He is with us whether we feel His presence, whether we see the effects - we are confident of His Presence, Power, Providence....