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"Let us reason together…" Isaiah 1:18

Posts categorized Weekend Talks

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Becoming People of Realized Potential: The Importance of Your Tribe

Ruth succinctly states four crucial decisions in every human being’s life.  Ruth 1:15-18

  1. With who will I journey and stay?
  2. Who is my tribe and who are my people?
  3. Who is my God?
  4. Am I fully committed to these three decisions?

 

Today we consider the importance of “my people and tribe” as I journey to Father’s House.

 

From conception we begin our journey to Father’s house.

 

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;[a] believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?[b] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. John 14:1

 

From the Trinity, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we gain insight into an exclusively Christian experience of fellowship.

 

  • 14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14
  • God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:9
  • that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:3

 

Christianity is a common shared life (fellowship).

 

With whom am I in fellowship as I journey home to Father’s house?

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer captured the high value of fellowship in his book, Life Together.

 

The believer feels no shame, as though he were still living too much in the flesh, when he yearns for the physical presence of other Christians.  Man was created a body, the Son of God appeared on earth in the body, he was raised in the body, in the sacrament the believer receives the Lord Christ in the body, and the resurrection of the dead will bring about the perfected fellowship of God’s spiritual-physical creatures.  The believer therefore lauds the Creator, the Redeemer, God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the bodily presence of a brother.  The prisoner, the sick person, the Christian in exile sees in the companionship of a fellow Christian a physical sign of the gracious presence of the triune God.  Visitor and visited in loneliness recognize in each other the Christ who is present in the body; they receive and meet each other as one meets the Lord, in reverence, humility, and joy.  They receive each other’s benedictions as the benediction of the Lord Jesus Christ.  But if there is so much blessing and joy even in a single encounter of brother with brother, how inexhaustible are the riches that open up for those who by God’s will are privileged to live in the daily fellowship of life with other Christians!

It is true, of course, that what is an unspeakable gift of God for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trodden under foot by those who have the gift every day.  It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed.  Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living in common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart.  Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.

 

Christianity is a common shared life, it is fellowship and we are extremely blessed by this grace.

 

Careful selection of those in your fellowship is very important.

 

“…your own performance is either improved or diminished by the other people in your scenario.” Cloud, Henry. The Power of the Other (p. 9). HarperBusiness. Kindle Edition.

 

  • Ruth was improved by Naomi.
  • Samson was diminished by Delilah.
  • Paul was improved by Barnabas.
  • David was diminished by Saul but improved by Jonathan.

 

Careful observation of the Acts 2:42-47 church reveals seven beginning points for this glorious improved common shared life (fellowship).

 

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

 

The Early Church Common Shared Life Our Common Shared Life
Devoted themselves to….the fellowship Devote myself to the fellowship
The fellowship includes communion and prayer Devote myself to holy communion and prayer
All who believed were together Devote myself to being together with the fellowship
Had all things in common Devote myself to sharing with the fellowship
As any had need Devote myself to meeting the needs of the fellowship.
Every day attending the temple Devote myself to daily corporate worship
Eating together daily Devote myself to eating with the fellowship

 

When someone prioritizes these seven beginning points of fellowship with you, they are, as Bonhoeffer said, “a gift of grace” for whom “we thank God on our knees.”

 

Fellowship is a double blessing.  We are at home in our fellowship as we travel Home to Father’s House.

MCA Life Group Homework

Listen – My Story

  • Do you have a memorable eating together experience?
  • Is there a time when a Christian friend was “the presence of Christ” for you?

 

Lift – Prayer

  • Please pray for God to increase your joyful anticipation of being in Father’s House someday.
  • Please pray for each Life Group member’s hopes and wishes for their tribe and people.
  • Please pray for Connie Ordway, long-term MCA member nearing Father’s House.

 

 

Learn – Digging Deeper

  • Read 1 John 1:1-7.
  • From this passage, do you see any differences between friendship and fellowship?
  • Who are the fellowship partners in verse 3?
  • What does God require of his fellowship partners? 6
  • What are the two benefits of walking in the light? 7
  • Who are the fellowship partners named “one another” in verse 7?

 

 

 

Life – Taking it Home

  • Which of the seven beginning points of fellowship do you need to prioritize with your tribe?
  • Is there someone you should consider adding to your tribe?
  • Is there someone you should consider deleting from your tribe?

 

 

 

Posted on 9th February 2019 in Realized Potential, Weekend Talks  •  Comments are off for this post
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Full Potential: Position, Decisions and Desires

People who realize their full potential understand that key life decisions position them for experiencing their deepest desire.

Christians live a well-decided life within an all-encompassing unique framework.

Prior to the often-helpful framework of personal core values, purpose and mission statements, the Christian comes to terms with every human’s deepest desire.

Decisions and desires are a closely woven tapestry.

“The highest dream we could ever dream, the wish that if granted would make us happier than any other blessing, is to know God, to actually experience Him.” Crabb, Larry. Shattered Dreams (Kindle Locations 188-191). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

A well-decided Christian life becomes evident in those who understand their deepest desire is to know and experience God.

Notice, in Philippians 3:7-11, Paul’s emphasis upon his deepest desire to know and experience God.

Considered a Loss Considered Great Gain
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ,
  10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

 

Our most important decisions are to be made in harmony with our deepest desire.

In the experience of two women, Naomi and Ruth, God reveals the four most crucial decisions in every person’s life.

A short version of the narrative is:

  • There is a famine in Bethlehem.
  • Elimelech moves cross culturally to Moab with his wife, Naomi, and their two sons.
  • Elimelech suddenly dies. Naomi is now a widow.
  • Their sons have married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth.
  • Suddenly, both sons died too. Naomi is a widow who is childless.  Orpah and Ruth are now widows.
  • Naomi decides to move back to Bethlehem and encourages Orpah and Ruth to enjoy their Moabite lives.
  • Orpah agrees.
  • Ruth disagrees and reveals to us the four most crucial decisions every human being makes.

Ruth 1:15-18

15 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” 18 And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.

Ruth’s Statement My Crucial Decision
For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. With which persons will I journey and stay?
Your people shall be my people Who will be my people?
and your God (shall be) my God Who will be my God?
May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you. Will I fully commit to these decisions?

With which persons will I journey and stay?

  • The wise selection of my spouse and closest friends is crucial.
  • In what ways do we help each other pursue and realize our deepest longing for God?

Who will be my people?

  • The wise selection of my primary group or tribe or cohort is crucial.
  • In what ways do we help each other pursue and realize our deepest longing for God?

Who will be my God?

  • The wise selection of God, as revealed in the Bible, is crucial.
  • The wise selection of how you and God will relate is crucial.

Will I fully commit to these decisions?

  • Have I developed the wisdom to courageously and loyally serve these three decisions?
  • When these decisions and life as God allows it to come to me become exceptionally difficult, will I remain steadfast and unmovable in these commitments?

MCA Life Group Homework

Listen – My Story

  • What is your best ever decision (other than trusting in Jesus for salvation and selecting your spouse)?
  • Who most helped you make that decision?

Learn – Digging Deeper

  • Read Philippians 3:4-6. What are Paul’s reasons for “confidence in the flesh?”  Would most of Paul’s audience consider these reasons for confidence as positives or negatives?  Are there positives in our lives today that we should consider loss?  Are there negatives we should consider loss?
  • How might we develop Paul’s love (deepest desire) for knowing Christ, the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, and becoming like Him in His death? Philippians 3:10
  • Ruth helps us understand the four most crucial decisions every human being makes. Ruth 1:16-17
    • With whom will I journey?
    • Who will be my people?
    • Who will be my God?
    • Will I fully commit to these decisions?
  • Read Mark 8:27-30. Talk about why the question Jesus asked is still the most important decision every human being will make.

Lift – Prayer

  • Pray for each other to more deeply understand and experience the soul’s deepest longing for God.
  • Pray for each other to confidently join Paul in knowing what to personally “consider loss.”
  • Pray for the each other’s petitions.
  • Take time to listen for the voice of the Lord.

Life – Taking it Home

  • Is there something you need to do this week regarding Ruth’s four questions?
  • Is there something in your life regarding the four questions that you should consider loss?
  • Is there something in your life regarding the four questions in which you are experiencing the strong presence of God?

Share the Joy – Invite a Friend to Your Life Group

  • Someone in your circle of influence very much longs to be included in your spiritual tribe.
  • Some may even deeply desire having you as a very close friend.

 

 

Posted on 2nd February 2019 in Realized Potential, Weekend Talks  •  Comments are off for this post
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The Maker Has Made Himself Known: Make Him Known

Fourth Sunday of Advent 2018

What part of God’s world do you love?

Last weekend we investigated a two-way relationship with God, “Because He loves to give the gift of making Himself known to you, He also loves it when you give Him the gift of making yourself known to Him.”

 

In the same manner, “God so loved the world that he gave,” is His extravagant invitation for us to love God’s world as He does and participate in making the Maker known to others.

Pause for a moment and experience the exquisite joy of the angelic declaration first shared with a group of shepherds.  Luke 2:8-12

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Embrace the Good News!  Jesus’ birth, sinless life, miraculous ministry, death and resurrection are for “all the people.”

At the birth of Jesus, Bethlehem becomes God’s centerpiece of lovingly drawing all people to Himself.  God loves to make Himself known and demonstrate His love for all people.

People who have lived rough, messed up lives are included in God’s love story.

  • Men – David, the King and King Solomon (Matthew 1:6, 7)
  • Women – Tamar (Matthew 1:3) and Bathsheba (Matthew 1:6)

People considered undesirable and unwanted are shown they are desirable, wanted and loved by God.

  • The shepherds (Luke 2:8)

People who deny the true and living God are included in God’s loving Self-revelation.

  • The magi (Matthew 2:1)
  • “even the most pagan of pagans may respond to Jesus if given the opportunity (cf. Jonah 1:13-16; 3:6-4:1, 10-11). For one special event in history, the God who rules the heavens chose to reveal himself where pagans were looking.” Keener, Craig S.. A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (p. 100). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

People who love the true and living God are also recipients of God’s love and Self-revelation.

  • Joseph – Righteous (Matthew 1:19), humble, obedient (Matthew1:24), gracious, gift of discernment
  • Mary Highly favored, the Lord is with you (Luke 2:28), I am the servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word (Luke 2:38)

The Good News of great joy is for all the people!

“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”  John 6:35-37

“The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires (whosoever will) take the water of life without price.” Revelation 22:17

What part of God’s world do you love?

  1. Do you love people who have lived rough, messed up lives and are waiting for you to explain and show that they are included in God’s great love?
  2. Do you love people that others consider undesirable and unwanted who long to be included in God’s circle of love through you?
  3. Do you love people who deny the true and living God and are looking for you to bridge the gap to God’s love?
  4. Do you love people who love the true and living God and hope you will love them too?

Someone near you is waiting, longing, looking and hoping you will make the Maker known to them.

Jesus’ statement, “God so loved the world that he gave,” is His extravagant invitation for us to love God’s world as He does and do our part in making the Maker known.

Posted on 22nd December 2018 in Christmas, Weekend Talks  •  Comments are off for this post
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The Maker has Made Himself Known: Make yourself known to Him

The Third Sunday of Advent 2018

Have you ever had a secret admirer?

Who is your secret admirer? It can be hard to tell who’s been secretly sending you gifts or romantic messages, especially when he or she doesn’t want you to find out. You will need to use all the clues you can find. Look carefully at any messages or gifts that they have sent you. Ask around to find out who might be crushing on you. Be aware of the people in your life and keep your eyes peeled for potential admirers. Be careful and be patient. Your secret admirer is probably shy at the prospect of talking to you in person, so try to be tactful and respect his or her privacy.  https://www.wikihow.com/Find-Your-Secret-Admirer

God is no secret admirer.  He LOVES to love you lavishly (1 John 3:1), publicly, extravagantly, unbelievably and eternally!

An unknown love is discouraging, depressing and unrewarding.

God, the One who loves you beyond human capacity to understand, is not a secret lover.  He knows you and everything about you.

Isaiah 43:1

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

Jeremiah 1:5

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you: I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

Psalm 139:1-6

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

There is NO DOUBT! God knows you and loves you.

This encourages us to embrace a couple of questions:

  1. Do I know myself?
  2. Do I present the self I know to God?

1 Corinthians 13:12 is insightful on love and knowing.

12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

To be dependent is to only receive. (Creates indebtedness)

To be independent is to only give. (Creates impoverishment)

“Even God who is uniquely self-sufficient lives in the triunity of persons in a full giving that is a full receiving, and a full receiving that is a full giving.” Gloria Patri (2007), Nicholas Ayo, page 52

God is perfectly healthy in every way.

Because He loves to give the gift of making Himself known to you, He also loves it when you give Him the gift of making yourself known to Him.

We are invited into a “know and be known” relationship with God.

“The One who knows be best, loves me most.”  Bill Gaither

The Advent Text for this week is Zephaniah 3:14-20.

Verse 17 is the pivotal fulcrum for the experiences and expressions of the other verses.

 

3:14 Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!

 

3:15 The LORD has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more.

3:16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak.

3:17 The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing

 

3:18 as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it.

3:19 I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.

 

3:20 At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the LORD.

 

We are to sing aloud.

We are to shout.

We are to rejoice and exult with all our hearts.

 

 

Why?  The Lord has taken away the judgments against you.

He has turned away our enemies.

He is in our midst and we shall fear disaster no more!!!

 

 

We do not fear and we do not let our hands grow weak.

We stay strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.

 

What is the Lord, our God, in our midst doing?

He is a warrior who gives victory.

He rejoices over us with gladness.

He renews us in his love.

He exults over us with loud singing.

 

He removes disaster from us.

 

 

 

He deals with all our oppressors.

He saves the immobile

He gathers the outcasts and exchanges our shame into praise and renown in all the earth.

 

 

He will bring us home at the time He gathers us.

He will make us renowned and praised when He restores our fortunes before our eyes.

Because God loves to give the making of Himself known and also loves to receive the making of ourselves known, we respond energetically with King David in Psalm 139:23, 24

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

Prayer

Thank you, Father God, for loving to make yourself known.

Although I am dependent upon You, I don’t want You to do all the giving.  I respond to your gift of making yourself known by truthfully, authentically and openly giving you the gift of making myself known to you.

Although you are independent of me, I don’t want to do all the receiving.  Please receive my open and honest making of myself known to you as my heartfelt gift.

AMEN

 

Posted on 15th December 2018 in Christmas, Weekend Talks  •  Comments are off for this post
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The Maker has Made Himself Known: Preparing for God’s Self-revelation

Second Sunday of Advent 2018

In advent we prepare ourselves for the arrival of Jesus, past, present and future.

Today we reflect upon Jesus’ arrival in yesterday’s Bethlehem, embrace His arrival in our experience today and prepare for His arrival in our tomorrow.

God, in His Son Jesus, has made Himself known, is making Himself known and will make Himself known.

God making Himself known in the birth of Jesus was glorious.

John 1:14

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Luke 2:8-14

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

God making Himself known in daily life is powerful too.

Consider the miracle of the axe head floating.  2 Kings 6:1-7

Now the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “See, the place where we dwell under your charge is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan and each of us get there a log, and let us make a place for us to dwell there.” And he answered, “Go.” Then one of them said, “Be pleased to go with your servants.” And he answered, “I will go.” So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. But as one was felling a log, his axe head fell into the water, and he cried out, “Alas, my master! It was borrowed.” Then the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, he cut off a stick and threw it in there and made the iron float. And he said, “Take it up.” So he reached out his hand and took it.

God loves to make Himself known in powerful ways in the material things of our day to day lives.

  • In miraculous provision.
    • Food (manna and Quail) in the desert for the people of Israel. Exodus 16
    • Miracle catch of fish. John 21
    • Multiplying fish and loaves.
      • John 6:1-15 – Feeding 5,000 with five loaves and 2 fish (12 baskets of overflow)
      • Mark 8:1-13 – Feeding of the 4,000 with seven loaves and a few fish (Seven baskets of overflow)
    • He makes Himself known by continuing the wedding feast by turning the water into wine, saving the parents from embarrassment and providing for the joy of the wedding guests
    • He makes Himself known to the disciples by miraculously providing money to pay taxes. Matthew 17:27
    • He makes Himself known by healing paralysis, leprosy, withered hands, calming storms and raising those who have died.

God loves to make Himself known in our tomorrows too and we are in search of ways to prepare ourselves for God’s Self-revelation.

Can I prepare today for a greater Self-revelation of Jesus tomorrow?

Today’s Second Sunday of Advent text is Malachi 3:1-4

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare 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. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

From our text we learn things we can do to prepare the way for God’s Self-revelation.

  1. The preparer is sent by God. 1 “Lord, send me to prepare my heart for your arrival.”
  2. The preparer prepares the way for the Lord. 1  “Lord, may I prepare my heart for the way of the Lord rather than for my personal preferences.”
  3. When the Lord arrives in the prepared place, it can be something to be endured as being in a refiner’s fire and being scrubbed with fuller’s soap. 2.  “Lord, your Self-revelation is worth everything to me.  Please give me grace to endure the fire and scrubbing necessary to prepare me for your revelation.”
  4. In the process I am becoming like refined and purified silver and gold. ‘Lord, I celebrate the results you are producing in me and I come as a purified offering of righteousness to you.”
  5. Preparing the way of the Lord followed by His arrival is making me pleasing to Him.

Thank God for His Self-revelation through:

  • The first Christmas.
  • The material things in our lives.
  • Preparing my heart for His arrival tomorrow.

Jeremiah 29:13

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Posted on 10th December 2018 in Weekend Talks  •  Comments are off for this post
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The Maker has Made Himself Known

First Sunday of Advent 2018.

Christmas begins on December 25, when we celebrate the birth of our Lord.  In Advent we assume the prophesied ministry of John the Baptist.

  • A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Isaiah 40:3
  • In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’”  Matthew 3:1-3

Every year Christians reflect upon what “preparations” they should make for the arrival of Jesus on December 25th.

The word advent comes to us from Greek to Latin to English.  It carries the meaning of arrival and arriving.

In advent we prepare ourselves for the arrival of Jesus, past, present and future.

  • Jesus physically arrived about 2024 years ago.
    • And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-7
  • Jesus arrives in our lives in various ways today.
    • And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
  • Jesus will return to earth with a glorious and grand “Second Coming of Jesus.”
    • For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

‘Awaken! Remember that God comes! Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today, now! The one true God, “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”, is not a God who is there in Heaven, unconcerned with us and our history, but he is the-God-who-comes.’ Pope Benedict XVI, Celebration of First Vespers of Advent, Vatican Basilica, December 2006

Our Advent celebration is founded in the reality that “The Maker has Made Himself Known.”

The Maker made Himself known to John the Apostle through personal encounter, friendship and demonstration.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.  John 1:14-18

The Maker made Himself known to the Apostle Paul by revelation.

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  Ephesians 3:1-6

God loves to make Himself known:

  • In material things, natural provision and finances.
  • In physical strength, health and healing.
  • In peace, joy and love.
  • In relationships.
  • In removing sin, guilt and condemnation and replacing with righteousness and a pure conscience.

A most interesting story of “preparing the way of the Lord” is found in Judges 7:2-7

The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained.

And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.” And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water.And the Lord said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.”

Gideon and Midian by the Numbers

  • 32,000 warriors at the beginning
  • 22,00 warriors sent home due to fearfulness and trembling.
  • Of the 10,000 warriors remaining, 9,700 are sent back to their homes.
  • God made Himself known to all the world in and through 300 warriors.

Is there something in your life that God is reducing to prepare the way of the Lord?

Welcome God’s work in you because He has promised to make Himself known to you.

I (Kent) felt the Lord say to me, “I will make myself known and I will leave no doubt.”

  • I left no doubt to Abraham on the Mountains of Moriah.
  • I left no doubt at the Red Sea.
  • I left no doubt to Daniel in the lion’s den.
  • I left no doubt to the three Hebrew boys in the fiery furnace.
  • I left no doubt to Mary, Martha and Lazarus at Lazarus’ tomb.
  • I left no doubt following the death of Jesus on the cross.

If you reduce with God, He will make Himself known and leave no doubt!

When you seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:13

Posted on 2nd December 2018 in Weekend Talks  •  Comments are off for this post
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The Maker has made Himself Known: Lessons from the Ark of the Covenant

Insight into God’s Self-revelation from the Ark of the Covenant.

having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant.  Hebrews 9:4

We are pursuing the ways of God in matters related to Him making Himself Known.

In a previous message we investigated the role personal longing in God’s self-revelation.

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:13

God makes Himself known to people with core level longing for God.

It is fair to say the Ark of the Covenant is the most holy item to ever grace the earth.  The Ark of the Covenant is the centerpiece of God’s self-revelation.

From the perspective of the Ark of the Covenant, to whom does God make Himself known?

The items in the Ark of the Covenant are hugely instructive on the ways God determines to self-reveal.  There are three things inside the Ark of the Covenant.

  1. The tablets of the Ten Commandments.
  2. An omer of manna.
  3. Aaron’s staff.

First, God makes Himself known in relationship to His revealed will.

Second, God makes Himself known upon and through His provision.

Third, God makes Himself known upon and through His selected, appointed and anointed leadership.

However, we learn the antithesis is equally important in God’s decisions to self-reveal.

Above the Ark of the Covenant or the Ark’s lid and cover, is the Mercy Seat.  The High Priest applied an animal’s blood to the mercy seat as a sacrifice covering the sins of Israel.

What are the three most important sins to be covered?

First, as Moses returned down the mountain with the Law (revealed will of God), he found the people in great violation and in anger, he broke the two tablets.

We learn that God’s self-revelation is not given upon violation of His revealed will.  The broken law must be covered with a mercy seat and the blood of the sacrifice.  Then God is willing to manifest His glory.

Second, God provided for Israel’s food needs by the giving of manna.  The giving of manna is one of the most remarkable provisions of God in history.  However, the people began to complain and begrudge God’s provision.

We learn that God’s self-revelation is not given upon grumbling, complaining and begrudging people.  Grumbling, complaining and begrudging against God must be covered by the blood of the sacrifice placed upon the seat of God’s mercy.

Third, God makes Himself known through His selected, appointed and anointed leadershipRebelling against, resisting and undervaluing God’s selected, appointed and anointed leadership must be placed under God’s Mercy Seat and covered by the blood of the sacrifice.

Posted on 2nd December 2018 in Weekend Talks  •  Comments are off for this post
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Jesus, Legalism and Liberalism

Jesus, Legalism and Liberalism, part 2

Matthew 5:19 includes a key for understanding Jesus’ upcoming conversation about six different Old Testament commandments as interpreted by the scribes and Pharisees.

  1. A commandment about murder. 21-26
  2. A commandment about adultery. Vs. 27-30
  3. A commandment about divorce. 31-32
  4. A commandment about taking oaths. 33-37
  5. A commandment about retaliation. 38-42
  6. A commandment about loving one’s neighbor and hating enemies. 43-48

Jesus is, in essence, rebuking the scribes and Pharisees’ (Vs. 20) treatment of the Law given to Moses by God (He that hath seen me hath seen the Father) Himself.

In all six of Jesus’ examples we see a very powerful statement:

  • You have heard it said….
  • But I say unto you…
  • 21-22; 27-28; 31-32; 33-34; 38-39; 43-44

The “You have heard it said” statements require the hearer to consider, “From whom have we heard it said?”

  • Who said, “Thou shalt not murder?” God.
  • Who said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemies?” Don’t know.

The “But I say unto you” statements are exceedingly powerful and corrective.

  1. Jesus, who John reveals as the “Word became flesh,” lets everyone know, “I am the God who gave the word (commandments) in the first place and I am the God who properly interprets the word (commandments) now.
  2. Jesus points out that “what you have heard said” has hundreds of years and layers of human interpretation that totally miss the spirit and intent of the word (commandment) given by God.

Since “you have heard it said” came without the spirit and intent of the Giver, Jesus reveals the spirit and intent with which He gave the word to Moses and then further explains some of the ways in which duty and obedience to God’s word was being “loosened, released, dissolved, broken, and relaxed.”

“Jesus, legalism and liberalism: An illustration with three lines.”

 

 

Thou shalt not murder, as relaxed by the scribes and Pharisees, meant:

  • You can be angry (unrighteous anger) with your brother
  • You can insult your brother
  • You can call your brother an idiot/fool

AND STILL CONSIDER YOURSELF A COMMANDMENT KEEPER!

Jesus strongly corrects this relaxation of the commandment and tightens it’s meaning to His original intent.

  • Angry with your brother? You are liable to judgement.
  • Insult your brother? You are liable to the council.
  • Call your brother a fool? You are liable to the hell of fire.

Thou shalt not commit adultery, as relaxed by the scribes and Pharisees, meant:

  • You can lust after your sister…

AND STILL CONSIDER YOURSELF A COMMANDMENT KEEPER!

Jesus strongly corrects this relaxation of the commandment and tightens its meaning to His original intent.

  • Lust (sinful desires) is adultery.
  • Heart adultery and physical adultery are so repugnant to God that one should do anything necessary to eliminate it.
  • Heart adultery and physical adultery are deserving of a sentence to hell.

Not murdering is a measure of keeping the sixth commandment.  Not committing adultery is a measure of keeping the seventh commandment.

Jesus, however, requires a deeper obedience.

Our Lord intertwines this deeper obedience with love.  John 15:1-11

  • I can’t bear the fruit of deeper obedience, but the Holy Spirit can. 4, 5
  • This deeper, fruit bearing obedience glorifies God and proves that I am Jesus’ disciple. 8
  • As God loves Jesus, Jesus loves me. I am to abide in His love.  9
  • In keeping Jesus’ commandments, I abide in His love. 10

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 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. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

The Greatest Commandment has always been (and always will be), “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart and with all thy soul and with all thy might.”  Deuteronomy 6:4

This kind of love moves me into a deeper obedience of the spirit and intent of God, the loving and gracious Law-giver.

In what ways do I relax the words of Jesus who is inviting me into the joy of deeper obedience and love?

Posted on 19th November 2018 in Weekend Talks  •  Comments are off for this post
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Jesus, Legalism and Liberalism

Jesus, Legalism and Liberalism

Matthew 5:17-20

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

We know, from the words of Jesus:

  • He did not come to abolish the Law or Prophets, but to fulfill them. Vs. 17
  • Not the smallest letter or least stroke of a pen will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (It is finished) Vs. 19

Jesus always honors and loves God as seen in the Old Testament.  The Old Testament God is His Father, whom He loves.  Our Lord quotes the Old Testament twenty-four times.

Jesus holds the Old Testament, including the Law given to Moses, with the highest regard and respect.

“A God of wisdom was behind the Mosaic Law.  There has never been a more perfect standard of righteousness, neither could God’s plan of redemption have been implied more beautifully than in the ceremonial law.”  R.T. Kendall

God, the Law-giver, requires laws, commands, statutes, and precepts to be met with the duty of obedience.

Jesus forbids any and all ‘relaxing’ or ‘teaching others to relax the Law’ and thus miss the duty of obedience rightly required by God.

In fact, Jesus concludes His great Sermon on the Mount with a call to obedience.  Matthew 7:24-27

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

We know Jesus fulfilled the Law.  Matthew 5:17

  • Some of the Law He fulfilled ceased (Ceremonial Law).
  • Some of the Law He fulfilled continues (Moral Law).

The audience Jesus is addressing has much experience with and knowledge of the Law and experts in the Law.

  • Jesus highlights the scribes whose hero was Ezra (7:6, 10).
    • The scribes were the teachers of the Law.
    • The scribes were the doctors of the Law.
    • They were the professional interpreters of the Law.
    • They were the copyists who wrote out the Old Testament.
  • Jesus highlights the Pharisees.
    • The Pharisees were almost like a political party.
    • They too were teachers/doctors of the Law.
    • They were separatists from the priestly interpretation of the Law and from the common people.
    • They regarded themselves as superior interpreters of the Law.
    • They were well known for being legalistic and rigorous.

Contrary to the scribes and Pharisee’s teaching, a person NEVER earns God’s love, grace or salvation.  NEVER!

  • God’s love. 1 John 4:8 – for God is love.
  • God’s grace. Ephesians 2:8, 9 – “For by grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God so that no one may boast.”
  • God’s salvation. Titus 3:4-6 – “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior…”

Are earning and doing the same?  NO!

Do I have a duty to God’s love, grace and salvation?  YES.  The Bible couldn’t be clearer; my duty is to believe.

  • “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
  • because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Romans 10: 9, 10
  • 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God… John 1:12
  • 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. John 6:35
  • To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Acts 10:43
  • And they said, “Believein the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”  Acts 16:31

Believing isn’t earning.  Believing isn’t “works based salvation.”  Believing isn’t legalism.

Believing God is a human capacity, placed by God in every human being, and is connected to righteousness as far back as Abraham.

“And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”  Genesis 15:6

Let’s consider the scribes and Pharisees and the greatest commandment in both the Old and New Testament.

Deuteronomy 6:4, 5

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Matthew 22:36-38

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 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. 38 This is the great and first commandment.

“Jesus, legalism and liberalism: An illustration with three lines.”

Concluding Questions

  1. Have you placed your belief in Jesus for salvation?
  2. Do you tend to add things above the line of God’s truth and practice a form of legalism?
  3. Do you tend to subtract things below the line of God’s truth and practice a form of liberalism?

Listen – My Story

  • Do you ever practice the externals of your faith without the corresponding internals of faith? (Do you ever fake your faith?)
  • Why? What happens inside of our hearts that prompts us to be ingenuine?

Learn – Digging Deeper

  1. God’s love, grace and salvation are always the gift of God and never earned. What feelings and thoughts do you have about such magnificent gifts from your Heavenly Father?  (Include any Bible verses that come to mind, for example, 1 John 3:1)

 

  1. Read Luke 18:9-14. What are some strategies for dealing with the recovering Pharisee of legalism in our hearts?

 

  1. Read Isaiah 58:1-4. Do you see ways the people had liberalized fasting (required less of themselves than God does?  Notice especially verses 3 and 4.

 

  1. Are you more prone to legalism or liberalism (as demonstrated in the three-line illustration)?

 

Life – Taking it Home

  • What is the Holy Spirit asking you to personally adjust this week?
  • If you have experienced legalism or liberalism, what can you do to successfully move on?

 

Lift – Prayer

  • Please thank God for His gifts of love, grace and salvation.
  • Please pray for those in your LIFE Group who are recovering from legalism or liberalism.
  • Invite everyone in your Life Group to place their belief in Jesus for salvation.

 

Posted on 10th November 2018 in LIFE Groups, Weekend Talks  •  Comments are off for this post
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From Hard Copy to Heart Copy: Jesus and the Law and Prophets

Today’s text, Matthew 5:17 is foundational to and included in everything Jesus reveals.

The One True and Living God revealed Himself to Moses.  Exodus 3:1-15

13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

The One True and Living God revealed to Moses the attitudes and actions of right relationship with Him and each other.  (Begins in Exodus 19)

This revelation of right (righteous) attitudes and actions God revealed to Moses is called “The Law (Torah).”

  • The Law (Torah) has 248 commandments.
  • The Law (Torah) has 365 prohibitions.
  • There are then 613 requirements in the Law (Torah).

The revelation of God’s continued guidance and communication with God’s people was (is) given through “The Prophets.”

  • The Old Testament includes various categories for “The Prophets.”
  • There are the “writing prophets” and the “oral prophets.” (Somewhere over 70)
  • Another approach is based primarily upon the length of their writings, “The Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel) and “The Minor Prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi).”

In possibly the most pivotal statement in the Bible, Jesus reveals;

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17

Jesus makes several things VERY clear in this passage.

Do not think…             How we think about the Law and the Prophets is extremely important.

I have come…              God becoming human is purposeful and intentional.  Emphasis on Jesus’ action.

To abolish the law…    Working against God’s law is NOT Jesus’ purpose.

Or the prophets…        Working against God’s prophets is NOT Jesus’ purpose.

I have come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.

The Law God revealed to Moses (Mosaic Law) contains three primary parts.

  1. The moral
  2. The ceremonial
  3. The civil

The only proper response (for everyone, including Jesus) to God’s law is duty and obedience.

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law…” Galatians 4:4

Jesus’ proclaimed that he would perfectly and completely fill full the Mosaic Law; moral, ceremonial and civil.

Upon the cross Jesus proclaimed success.  He had now brought to perfect completion all of the Mosaic Law.

28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.  John 19:28-30

Finished!  This one word, stated in this moment by our Lord, carries more significance than possibly all other words combined.  Of this word C.H. Spurgeon said, “an ocean of meaning in a drop of language, a mere drop, for that is all that we can call one word…”

It is finished!  The law given to Moses and written on stone, totally fulfilled in Jesus, is now God’s law within us, written on our hearts.  Jeremiah 31:33

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Jesus didn’t abolish the Law and Prophets, he moved them from hard copy (stone) to heart copy (internal).

  • “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.” Hebrews 9:22 – Filled full in Jesus.
  • “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb.” Exodus 12:21 – Filled full in Jesus
  • “but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people.” Hebrews 9:7 – Filled full in Jesus
  • “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” Hebrews 9:24 – Filled full in Jesus.
  • “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;” 1 Peter 3:18 – Filled full in Jesus

Today, receive him (Jesus) and believe in his name!

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.  John 1:12, 13

MCA LIFE GROUP HOMEWORK

Listen – My Story

  • What is one of your favorite Old Testament stories? Why?
  • Do you find the Old Testament to be as important as the New Testament? Why or why not?

Learn – Digging Deeper

  1. The weekend lesson included, “The only proper response (for everyone, including Jesus) to God’s law is duty and obedience.
    1. Read Ephesians 2:8, 9. Salvation is by grace.
    2. Read Matthew 7:24-27. Wisdom is putting Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount into practice.
    3. Are there matters of duty and obedience in response to God’s grace?
    4. How do you respond to people who claim Christ, but have no sense of duty or obedience?
  1. If you receive and believe Jesus (John 1:12, 13), what are your duties and what are you to obey?
    1. Read John 14:15.
    2. Read Matthew 16:24.
    3. Is there duty and obedience required in these passages?

Life – Taking it Home

In what ways will you respond to Jesus fulfilling the Law and the Prophets on your behalf?

Lift – Prayer

  • Please thank God for Jesus who fulfilled ALL the Law and Prophets for you!
  • Please pray for the MCA Emergency Cold Weather Shelter (Tuesday evenings) and consider serving the Lord in this vital community outreach.
  • Please pray for the United States of America in this election/post-election week.

 

Posted on 3rd November 2018 in Sermon on the Mount, Weekend Talks  •  Comments are off for this post