Handel's Messiah

Worthy is the Lamb, 30 April 2023

Worthy is the Lamb that Was Slain
Handel’s Messiah
Revelation 5:9-14

Series Big Idea: Handel’s Messiah may be the greatest work of music ever created, bringing praise and glory to the Creator.
Big Idea: Jesus the Messiah, the Lamb that was slain for us, is worthy of our eternal worship, praise, and devotion.
Today’s the day, the grand finale, the big conclusion to our series on Handel’s
Messiah that began with Advent last year and resumed on Resurrection Sunday. Hallelujah! If you’re new around here, Handel created this magnificent work around lyrics taken from the Bible. Virtually every word is scripture! For years I had this crazy idea to do a sermon series on it and we finish it today…and get a glimpse of the future!
Of all of the sermon requests I get, perhaps none is greater than people wanting to hear about Revelation. There is no book more fascinating, mysterious, or misunderstood than the last book of the Bible. Some of you may recall several weeks ago a woman interrupting my sermon to say nothing in Revelation has happened yet, despite that it begins with John writing to the seven churches in the province of Asia…about 2000 years ago! Much of Revelation may lie in the future, including our text for today, but it’s worth noting the context before we dive in.
Revelation is a special type of literature called apocalyptic which means revelation or unveiling. You read it differently than Romans, for instance, a teaching on theology, or Matthew which is essentially a biography of Jesus.
We all understand science fiction is not to be understood the same as
The Toledo Blade, right? You don’t interpret The Babylon Bee the same as The Wall Street Journal. Poetry is read differently than a science textbook, and comic book has a different purpose than a car owner’s manual. You might say that how you read depends upon where you are in the library. The Bible is a library, and we can’t read Genesis, Song of Solomon, James, and Revelation the same way. They’re all God-inspired, valuable, and true, but understanding them and applying them vary from book to book.
I said Revelation is apocalyptic literature.
Here’s The Bible Project explaining what that means.
Although much of Revelation is challenging and controversial, today’s text is rather clear. It speaks of Jesus as the lamb mentioned in the video. He is sometimes depicted as a lion (you may know C.S. Lewis used a lion named Aslan to be a symbol for Jesus in the Narnia series) and sometimes a lamb, causing me to often say during election time
our allegiance is not to an elephant or a donkey, but to the Lion of Judah who is also the Lamb of God.
In Revelation chapter five, there is a wonderful scene that is a preview of what is to come.
Then I saw a scroll in the right hand of the one who was sitting on the throne. There was writing on the inside and the outside of the scroll, and it was sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a strong angel, who shouted with a loud voice: “Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll and read it. (Revelation 5:1-3, NLT)
Jesus’ friend John continues…
Then I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll and read it. 5 But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:4-5, NLT)
Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which represent the sevenfold Spirit of God that is sent out into every part of the earth. 7 He stepped forward and took the scroll from the right hand of the one sitting on the throne. 8 And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. (Revelation 5:6-8, NLT)
The video said sometimes symbolism is identified. Here, gold bowls filled with incense are the prayers of God’s people. Did you know that about your prayers?
Many have used Revelation like a treasure map or a secret decoder ring, trying to solve every mystery and make it into a simple story, often using numerology to predict events and dates. This is where people often get off track…and why many are fascinated with Revelation.
Another challenging factor is this was written about 2000 years ago. Imagine 2000 years from now there is a political cartoon which shows a crying bald eagle with the numbers 9/11 below. We understand the bald eagle as representing the United States and the tears representing the tragedy of September 11, 2001, Similarly, there are images and symbols in Revelation that are literally thousands of years old. John’s original readers likely understood them better than we can, at least at first glance.
Is Jesus returning this year? Is so-and-so the anti-Christ? Are we living in the last days? Is that new Amazon technology the mark of the beast? One of the most popular books in the 1980s was
88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Be in 1988. There was a big sale on them in 1989! By the way, Jesus himself said he didn’t know when he would return. He said…
However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. (Mark 13:32, NLT)
If someone tells you a date, they think they’re greater than Jesus! Run!
And by the way, rapture is a word that isn’t even found in the Bible. It is common in one eschatology or end times theory known as dispensationalism which sees history as divided into multiple ages or "dispensations" in which God acts with humanity in different ways.
This theological system began in 1833 with writings by John Nelson Darby and was spurred on by Cyrus Scofield who added study notes to the King James Bible in 1909 which essentially became the first study Bible. Tragically, some people confused the notes with the scriptures themselves! Many believe the Scofield Bible was the single most influential Bible in American History.
I’m not going to say everything written by Scofield was wrong. I’m certainly not going to say everything her wrote is right. What I am saying is since many didn’t understand the difference between scripture and his notes, those notes became very influential.
If you want a quick summary of how this dispensational theory spread, Israel becoming a nation in 1948 was a catalyst for people trying to see modern events in the book of Revelation. Hal Lindsay’s The Late Great Planet Earth became the best-selling non-fiction book of the 1970s and was the subject of a television special in 1974 and 1975 and even a 1978 film. The Left Behind books introduced in 1995 have sold more than 65 million copies.
I’m not necessarily saying these theories are wrong, but they are certainly controversial and relatively new way of viewing Revelation…and they have made publishers very rich!
Dispensationalism is a theory and must always be treated as such. The problems people have with the Bible and theology and God often have nothing to do with the Bible and God…and everything to do with our interpretation of the Bible. 
I must admit there are parts of the Bible which are difficult to understand, which is why we were meant to be in community, to study the Bible together. First Alliance has Elders to help discern what God is saying to us, both through the Bible and through circumstances. It’s really more than one person can handle.
Mark Twain famously said, ““It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it's the parts that I do understand.”
Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself. Go and make disciples of all nations. Don’t worry about when Jesus will return. Just get ready…and help others get ready.
If you’re still fascinated with Revelation, I have two and a half books to recommend to you. The first is
Reading Revelation Responsibly by Michael Gorman. Gorman notes several problems with the “Left Behind” approach including (and I quote):
The series misunderstands the NT references to the “end times.” For the NT, the “end times” is the period between the first and second coming of Jesus.
It reduces the primary reason for conversion to fear.
It is escapist and therefore has no ongoing ethic of life between the times, between the first and second comings. There is no compulsion to love one’s neighbor, practice deeds of mercy, work for peace and justice, etc. Contrast the hope of imminent return and the ethic in 1 Thessalonians, which actually has an ethic for life in the hope of the second coming.
The second book I would recommend is
Revelation for the Rest of Us by one of my seminary professors, Scot McKnight. Neither Gormon nor Mcknight  claims to be the sole, perfect authority, but they present a broader understanding of various interpretations of Revelation.
I said two and a half books. I say half because
The Rise and Fall of Dispensationalism by Daniel Hummel will not be released until May 4, but I’ve read excerpts from it and it sounds enlightening.
The point is there are many different views on Revelation, here are some you may not have encountered, and don’t become overly concerned about the future. We’re one day closer than yesterday.
The purpose of Revelation—and all of the Bible—is to bring comfort and help us prepare for the future. Get ready! These things will happen someday. We don’t know when. It could be today. It could be 1000 years from now. But get ready…and now we’re ready for our text for today from Handel’s Messiah.
And they sang a new song, saying:
            “You are worthy to take the scroll
                        and to open its seals,
            because you were slain,
                        and with your blood you purchased for God
                        persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10         You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
                        and they will reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10, NIV)
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. (Revelation 5:11, NIV)
Can you imagine? What a sight! What a sound!
In a loud voice they were saying:
            “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
                        to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
                        and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:12, NIV)
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
            “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
                        be praise and honor and glory and power,
                                                for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13, NIV)
Don’t miss this: it says every creature. This isn’t just an announcement from an angel. These aren’t words spoken by a group of saints. It says every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea. Does that mean fish and birds and giraffes and puppy dogs will declare this?
There may be many things we don’t understand about Revelation, but the Lamb that was Slain is certainly Jesus the Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, who came, lived, died, and rose again. He is worthy—worth—all power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing. Hallelujah! Praise the LORD!
The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped. (Revelation 5:14, NIV)
That’s the natural response to an encounter with God…humility and worship. That’s one reason we gather each week…to be reminded He’s God and we’re not and He deserves our worship, our allegiance, our time, our talents, and our treasures. He is in control, we’re not. He is LORD. He is worthy of our worship.
Do you want to know when all this will happen? I don’t know, but we’re done day closer to it today than yesterday…and it will be amazing!
Amen. Yes, LORD. Let it be!
Jesus the Messiah, the Lamb that was slain for us, is worthy of our eternal worship, praise, and devotion.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

The Trumpet Shall Sound, 23 April 2023

The Trumpet Shall Sound
Handel’s Messiah
1 Corinthians 15:51-53

Series Big Idea: Handel’s Messiah may be the greatest work of music ever created, bringing praise and glory to the Creator.
Big Idea: Transformation is coming soon…get ready!
High school. For some, it’s filled with wonderful memories of making the homecoming court, scoring the winning touchdown, or winning the spelling bee. For others, it’s social awkwardness, struggling through final exam week, or a long list of poor choices. I went to Brighton High School in Michigan and graduated in nineteen-something! The best thing that happened to me in high school occurred in my senior year when I met the love of my life, an amazing girl named Heather.
The second best memory of high school is band…symphonic band, jazz band, and most of all marching band. I played the trumpet and our trumpet section was so passionate, we made t-shirts that said, “Trumpets Jam.” I don’t have the t-shirt, but I still have the trumpet! The greatest thrill was when four of us were featured at the Detroit Lions halftime show at the old Pontiac Silverdome, hearing my name over the PA system in front of 80,000 fans (most of whom were at the concession stands or bathrooms!).
Today we’re continuing our series on Handel’s Messiah, arguably the greatest piece of music ever composed…with lyrics taken directly from the Bible. Today’s song is The Trumpet Shall Sound. The text is taken from 1 Corinthians 15:51-53. The New King James Version reads,
51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:51-53, NKJV)
Is this good news? Absolutely!
Let’s look at the passage again, this time from a modern translation.
But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. 53 For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. (1 Corinthians 15:51-53, NLT)
There is so much we don’t know about the future, but this hopeful text reveals many things. First, transformation is coming. I’m too old to have played with Transformers, but I know of their ability to change from one thing to another. That’s the idea of transformation. A caterpillar is transformed into a…butterfly. Our physical campus is in the midst of several transformations. The garage across the street has been leveled and will soon be transformed to green space. Our children’s wing was first transformed by a car flying into our nursery and is now being transformed again with new flooring, murals, and decorating to become vibrant space for kids to encounter Jesus. You get the idea!
We all realize change can be hard, especially when loss is involved, but in the case of our campus—and the case of our bodies—transformation is a beautiful thing. I said two weeks ago the odd of you dying are about 100%. This text seems to make an exception for some in the future who will not die. There will be a brief moment when a trumpet is blown, the dead will be raised, and our mortal bodies will be transformed. Transformation is coming.
Second, we must prepare for the transformation. There will be no advance notice. It will happen suddenly…in the blink of an eye. That’s fast! Nobody knows when this event will occur, not even Jesus (so don’t waste your time with people claiming to know)!
Our transformed bodies will be like Jesus’ resurrected body. I mentioned it will be immortal. Jesus ate after the resurrection, so we will eat…but perhaps we won’t have to count calories! There was at least one moment when Jesus seemed to defy the laws of physics and enter a room without going through a door or window.
Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said.  (John 20:26, NLT)   
That’s kind of fun! Resurrection Sunday is about more than just Jesus’ resurrection. It’s a preview of coming attractions for his followers, too. We will have our own resurrection day soon (well, after we die!).
But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. 53 For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. (1 Corinthians 15:51-53, NLT)
Compare our current bodies from our resurrected ones:
Perishable                             imperishable
Sown in dishonor                 raised in glory
Sown in weakness               raised in power
Sown a natural body           raised a spiritual body (1 cor. 15:35-54)
Sickness and death             no sickness or death
There’s more to the transformation than just the physical flesh and blood which will decay and die. Our sinful nature is in rebellion against God. It’s not suitable for the new world that is to come, the new creation
If we read a bit more…
Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:
            “Death is swallowed up in victory.
55         O death, where is your victory?
                        O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55, NLT)
I love those words. Those are fightin’ words! Death, you won’t have the last word. Your time is coming to an end. Jesus defeated you, and someday we will, too!
Paul quotes from two Old Testament prophets, Isaiah (25) and Hosea (13). But if you look at the entire library we call the Bible, you will see the themes of creation, death, and new creation. What God did in Jesus the Messiah He will do for all of Jesus’ followers. Through Jesus, we’ve been given victory over sin and death. It has been given, it will be given, and in the here and now it is being given to us.
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:56-57, NLT)
Like much of scripture, it is a present and future reality, now and not yet. Sure, we look to the future, but don’t miss the present reality, the mission, the calling to make disciples and restore masterpieces now. Jesus didn’t come so we can go to heaven when we die. He came so we could experience moments of heaven now—Thy Kingdom come and Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven—and in a more complete way in the future. Perhaps you were taught that the value of Christianity begins when you die. Paul…and Jesus…and I would vehemently disagree.
So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. (1 Corinthians 15:58, NLT)
The things we do in this life matter for eternity, good or bad. Paul is saying specifically the things we do for the LORD are not in vain, they are never useless. This is an important thing for us to remember. We have a present responsibility, an opportunity today.
All this talk of resurrected bodies and new creation are wonderful…for followers of Jesus. But tragically, there is an alternative destination for those in rebellion against God. From Matthew 25 to 2 Thessalonians 1 to Revelation 20, we see judgment is coming and without Jesus as Savior, they are without hope. We must tell them. We must show them. We must proclaim good news in word and deed. Family, one of my four prayers for us is passion…passion for the things that matter to God…passion for the lost. I have family members, friends, and neighbors I love who are facing an eternity without God. I can’t imagine such a hell! My heart aches when I think about them living without God now, too, and how they’re missing out on a life of peace, joy, and meaning.
But ministry is hard. I don’t mean professional ministry. Any ministry, any discipleship, any outreach, any investment we make in people…because people are people. They are messy. They wander. They betray. They deny. They leave. They backslide. They sin (just like all of us!). Discouragement is rampant among anyone trying to make disciples, restore masterpieces, love their neighbor as themselves. You’re heard the old adage “no good deed goes unpunished.” It’s not biblical, but it seems true sometimes.
First Alliance Church, be strong. Be immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the LORD. Nothing you do for God’s Kingdom is in vain. Even if people quit your Life Group. Even if your ministry struggles. Even if the person you are discipling seems clueless. Even when that student you poured your life into makes poor choices. Even when your own children or grandchildren walk away from the faith. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. You matter. Your Kingdom work matters. We’re all called into the disciple-making ministry and it’s hard. It’s rarely convenient. It will stretch you and take you out of your comfort zones…but God will meet you there, and there’s nothing better than that!
I love these words from N.T. Wright:
How God will take our prayer, our art, our love, our writing, our political action, our music, our honesty, our daily work, our pastoral care, our teaching, our whole selves – how God will take this and weave its varied strands into the glorious tapestry of his new creation, we can at present have no idea. That he will do so is part of the truth of the resurrection, and perhaps one of the most comforting parts of all.
Wright, N. T.. Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 228). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
Family, I love you, and I’m so proud of you. Many of you have served around here for decades, pouring your time, talent, and treasures into God’s work here and around the world. A day is coming when you will receive your reward. It will be greater than any paycheck or new car or lottery winning. Your new body alone will be worth it, to say nothing of eternity with the LORD.
The day is coming. The trumpet will sound. The dead will be raised. We will be transformed. Are you ready?

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

I Know that My Redeemer Lives, 9 April 2023

I Know that My Redeemer Lives
Job 19:25-27; 1 Corinthians 15:20-22

Series Big Idea:
Handel’s Messiah may be the greatest work of music ever created, bringing praise and glory to the Creator.

Big Idea:
The resurrection is at the heart of our faith, a wonderful miracle with countless effects.
Welcome to Resurrection Sunday! Welcome to Easter! This is the greatest day of the year and begins what should be a season of great joy and a celebration of life. The life of Jesus. Abundant life. Eternal life.
This past Advent, we began a sermon series examining the songs and lyrics of Handel’s Messiah. The first part of the magnificent work of music speaks of the Incarnation, the events of Christmastime. We will complete our study over the next four Sundays incorporating the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus the Messiah and glimpses of the future.
He is risen! He is risen indeed!
The book of Job may seem like an odd place to go for our Easter text. It might be the oldest book in the library we call the Bible. It’s the story of a righteous man whose faith is tested by a variety of tragedies and pain, from physical suffering to the loss of his children. In the midst of recorded dialogue with God…
Then Job replied:
“How long will you torment me and crush me with words? Ten times now you have reproached me; shamelessly you attack me. (Job 19:1-2)
Have you ever felt like God is against you? Have you ever felt crushed by the storms of life? One of the most important messages from the book of Job is the difference between testing and punishment.
Sometimes our suffering is the result of sin…ours or that of others. For example, if you fail to pay your taxes and end up in prison, don’t blame God. Pay your taxes (which are due next week!).
Sometimes our suffering is the result of strengthening…a testing of our faith.
Jesus’ half brother, James, wrote,
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (James 1:2-3, NIV)
Athletes understand this well. They endure great pain in practice so they can finish well in the race or game. There is a testing that takes place, pushing sometimes beyond what is even thought possible. The old expression “no pain, no gain” often applies to an intentional workout.
Perhaps the most common spiritual question people ask is, “Why does God allow suffering?” It’s a valid question, one I think every human has considered. Why did God allow that hurricane to destroy, those children to die, that saint to develop cancer, that family to get hit by the drunk driver’s car, …
One of my dearest friends and mentors, our District Superintendent Rev. Thomas George, says, “Don’t ask ‘why,’ but ask, ‘What are you up to, LORD?’”
We all understand suffering, whether it’s the result of sin or strengthening. Perhaps when written, nobody understood suffering like Job. In a short period of time, he experienced financial loss (1:14-15), the loss of his children (1:18-19), physical anguish (2:7-8), loneliness (19:13-19), loss of his reputation (12:4), and even his wife was challenging his faith (2:9). Returning to Job chapter 19…
He has blocked my way so I cannot pass; he has shrouded my paths in darkness. (Job 19:8)
He has stripped me of my honor and removed the crown from my head. (Job 19:9)
He tears me down on every side till I am gone; he uproots my hope like a tree. (Job 19:10)
His anger burns against me; he counts me among his enemies. (Job 19:11)
Job is honest about his suffering and how he feels about God’s testing. There’s more…
My breath is offensive to my wife; I am loathsome to my own family. (Job 19:17)
Even the little boys scorn me; when I appear, they ridicule me. (Job 19:18)
All my intimate friends detest me; those I love have turned against me. (Job 19:19)
I am nothing but skin and bones; I have escaped only by the skin of my teeth. (Job 19:20)
“Have pity on me, my friends, have pity, for the hand of God has struck me. (Job 19:21)
Why do you pursue me as God does? Will you never get enough of my flesh? (Job 19:22)
Have you ever felt like that?
Then a few verses later after expressing all of his anguish, he declares,
I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. (Job 19:25)
And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:26-27)
I know that my redeemer lives.
Redeemer is one of those church, biblical words you rarely hear in our culture, but it’s incredible.
To redeem is to exchange. When I was a kid, I remember collecting cereal box tops and redeemed them for prizes in the mail. More recently, I have redeemed gift cards, entered redemption codes…one definition of “redeem” is to turn in and receive something in exchange.
Another meaning of redeem is to pay off, like a debt or promissory note. A few years ago I had a friend who had clothes at the dry cleaner’s, but he didn’t have twelve dollars to get them. I told him I would pay the debt—the bill—and he was able to retrieve his items.
Is there anyone perfect here? You’ve never told a white lie, cheated, lusted, coveted, driven over the speed limit…!!! We’ve all sinned, and according to God we must be penalized. That’s only fair, right? Justice means restitution must be made for evil, making good for damage, loss, or injury. A simple example would be paying a parking ticket or a speeding ticket.
Imagine you received a ticket from God for every sin you committed, every bad deed, every failure to love well, every evil thought. That would be an expensive ticket, right?! How would you feel about paying it?
Now imagine God comes along and says, “I’ll pay it.” How would that make you feel?
That’s redemption. That’s a redeemer. That’s grace…unmerited favor.
Job wrote centuries before Jesus walked the earth. While we can view his words as somewhat prophetic, he had no knowledge of the Messiah’s death and resurrection. He was not only on the other side of Easter, Job was on the other side of Christmas! But even in his agony, he had faith to believe the God would eventually intervene, that he would be vindicated, that whether in life or death, he would see God.
I know that my redeemer lives.
Job wrote those words hundreds of years before the first arrival of the redeemer, Jesus the Messiah, to our world.
At First Alliance, we’re passionate about Jesus…because Jesus is passionate about us! He know none of our good works could ever be good enough to pay for our sins. God doesn’t grade on a curve. A perfect God demands perfection, and only Jesus lived a perfect life. Then he died…willingly, purposefully, to offer payment, redemption for those who follow him. This is the reason Good Friday is good…for us.
But if Jesus remained dead, there would be no reason for faith. We would have no hope. Death would win.
But he is risen! He is risen indeed!
But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. (1 Corinthians 15:20, NLT)
Job’s words, “I know that my redeemer lives,” were prophetic. They were a vision of the resurrection.
I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. (Job 19:25)
And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:26-27)
Someday we’re all going to die. It might be today. It might be decades from now, but the odds of your death are…one hundred percent! What happens after we die is worth considering.
So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. 22 Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22, NLT)
Death entered the world when Adam and Eve sinned. But because Jesus was raised from the dead, so also his followers will be given new life…eternal life.
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NLT)
You and I can have eternal life because Jesus is alive. Do you know that the Redeemer lives?
Is Jesus your redeemer?
The resurrection is at the heart of our faith, a wonderful miracle with countless effects. The Christian faith rises and falls with it. If Jesus is dead, we have no hope. If Jesus is not your redeemer, your savior, your LORD, you have no hope.
Paul wrote to the church in Rome,
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)
He didn’t deny the present, the pain, the sufferings, but put them into perspective…an eternal perspective. Perhaps you’re in the middle of a trial that feels like death, like Good Friday. As author Tony Campolo famously said, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!” If you know Jesus, there is always hope. Jesus knows suffering. Jesus knows pain and death. But
He is risen. He is risen indeed!

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Hallelujah, 25 December 2022

Zechariah 9:9-10
Revelation 19:6; 11:15; 19:16

Series Big Idea:
Handel’s Messiah may be the greatest work of music ever created, bringing praise and glory to the Creator.
Big Idea: The Messiah is King of kings and LORD of lords…hallelujah!
Throughout this season of Advent—waiting, arrival—we’ve been looking at various scriptures through the lens of
Handel’s Messiah. If you go to a live performance of the musical masterpiece, you will likely get something called a libretto, a booklet with notes. The first time I experienced it live, I was struck by how the libretto was entirely Bible passages!
We’re going to look at two songs on this the day we celebrate the birth of the Messiah. The first one is
Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion. Like much of Part One of Handel’s Messiah, the text is from an ancient prophet, this time Zechariah:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
And the horse from Jerusalem;
The battle bow shall be cut off.
He shall speak peace to the nations;
His dominion shall be “from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.’ (Zechariah 9:9-10. NKJV)
What does this mean? These prophecies were fulfilled hundreds of years later when Jesus entered Jerusalem on the day we call Palm Sunday.
Matthew the tax collector recorded the following:
As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. 2 “Go into the village over there,” he said. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.” (Matthew 21:1-3, NLT)
This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said,
“Tell the people of Jerusalem,
            ‘Look, your King is coming to you.
He is humble, riding on a donkey—
            riding on a donkey’s colt.’” (Matthew 21:4-5, NLT)
As I’ve said before, one of the reasons I believe the Bible is true is because of the fulfilled prophecies, especially those pertaining to Jesus the Messiah. There are more than 300 Messianic prophecies Jesus fulfilled. According to Christianity.com, the chances of one person fulfilling eight of them are one in 100,000,000,000,000,000. The odds of fulfilling 48 of the 300+ would be one in ten to the 157th power!
Before we look at our final song for this part of Handel’s Messiah, I want to jump back to the Zechariah passage. It ends,
His realm will stretch from sea to sea and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth. (Zechariah 9:10b, NLT)
We find ourselves between the first and second comings of Jesus. Zechariah wrote around 500 BC…about 500 years before the first Christmas. We’re 2000 years on the other side of it awaiting his return. He’s not coming back as a baby. He won’t be riding on a donkey. There will be no arrest or crucifixion next time. We live in the awkward in-between with the Bible and Holy Spirit to guide us, yet a great day is coming…for those who follow Jesus.
Is that you today? A few weeks ago we saw how Judgment Day is coming for us all. We either bear the penalty for our sins and mistakes or trust Jesus’ death and resurrection to pay for us…but that requires surrender, followership, devotion to Jesus.
The greatest gift you can give Jesus for his birthday is your heart. Actually, your heart, soul, mind, and strength. He doesn’t need something from WalMart! He wants you!
The most famous verse in the Bible says,
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV).
That word “believe” doesn’t mean intellectually agree. The original Greek word
pisteuo means to have faith in, to trust, to commit. We live in a culture that tells us every day it’s all about us. The message might as well be we’re gods and don’t need God. We don’t want someone telling us how to live our lives, even if He wrote the instruction manual and knows what’s best!
God gave. The Father gave the Son, Jesus. Jesus gave His life. When he left earth after he rose from the dead, he sent the Holy Spirit to live inside every disciple, every follower.
There are actually three parts to Handel’s Messiah. The first is what we might call the Christmas portion. Part two we’ll cover as we approach Holy Week, the death of Jesus for the sins of the world. Part three is about the resurrection of the Messiah and the resurrection of our bodies when he returns. Our final song today—the last song of 2022 for First Alliance Church—speaks not of 2000 years ago or even the present, but the future. The texts come from the book of Revelation where John the apostle records a vision from the LORD.

And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! (Revelation 19:6, NKJV)
This is a picture of the coming King, the return of the Messiah. The word “Alleluia” or “Hallelujah” means “praise the LORD.” It is the same in languages around the world.
I’ve been in big crowds, but none have sounded like many waters and mighty thunderings. This is some choir! The word “omnipotent” means all-powerful. God may seem distant from you today. You may wonder if He hears your prayers (He does!). You probably ask, “Why?” a lot like I do, but He is at work, often behind-the-scenes. He’s waiting, perhaps for us to finish the mission of letting 8 billion people know they are loved by their Creator who wants them to surrender and follow Jesus.
Do you know Jesus? Do you know the Messiah? There’s no other agenda or purpose or mission we have at First Alliance Church than proclaiming the gospel, the good news, that Jesus is LORD. It’s all about the Messiah. He wants every man, woman, and child to trust and love him with all of their heart, all of their soul, all of their mind, and all of their strength…and then love others as they love themselves.
Let me say again, what are you getting Jesus for his birthday? He wants you! When he returns, you’ll be on the winning team! Listen…
Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15, NKJV)

He shall reign…forever…and ever! That’s a long time! Here’s another description:
And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
            KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:16, NKJV)
I did not put this in all-caps. It’s how it’s written! Jesus the Messiah is greater than any king, president, CEO, movie star, social media influencer, athlete, or author. He’s greater than any angel, demon, and definitely greater than satan. He’s greater than communism, capitalism, religion, or political party. He’s truly the GOAT: the greatest of all time. And he’s returning soon. Are you ready?
The most famous song in Handel’s Messiah celebrates in lyric and music.

If you’ve ever attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah, you know everyone stands when the Hallelujah Chorus begins. Tradition says this is because King George II stood up during the song in the 1743 London premiere, so moved by the music that he stood in reverence. Regardless, we conclude our first series on Handel’s Messiah and our Advent series by singing…the Hallelujah Chorus.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Shepherd, 11 December 2022

Shepherd (part of the Family Christmas Program)
Isaiah 40:9-11; 60:1; Matthew 11:28-29

Series Big Idea:
Handel’s Messiah may be the greatest work of music ever created, bringing praise and glory to the Creator.
Big Idea: The Messiah is our Good Shepherd.
One of the most vivid images in the Christmas story is the shepherds. I don’t know if they wore bathrobes or not, but I find it fascinating the angels announced the arrival of the Good Shepherd to lowly shepherds. The birth announcement was not on CNN, Instagram, or Tik Tok, but through music!
This Advent, we’re looking at the scriptures in Handel’s Messiah pertaining to the first arrival of Jesus. The prophet Isaiah spoke about the Messiah.
O Zion, You who bring good tidings, Get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, You who bring good tidings, Lift up your voice with strength, Lift it up, be not afraid; Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Behold, the Lord GOD shall come with a strong hand, And His arm shall rule for Him; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him. (Isaiah 40:9-10, NKJV)
Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. (Isaiah 60:1, NKJV)
Here's a sample of Stevie Wonder and Take 6 singing Handel’s music.
The next verse talks Jesus the Good Shepherd.
He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young. (Isaiah 40:11, NKJV)
Here’s Steven Curtis Chapman and Sandi Patti.
Jesus the Messiah said,
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29, NKJV)
Psalm 23 begins, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.” During this Christmas season when we put together wish lists and are bombarded by commercials, I want to remind you nothing satisfies like Jesus. There is no greater present than presence of God. I know many of you are heavy laden…you have heavy hearts. Take Jesus at his word.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29, NLT)
Jesus the Good Shepherd offers rest for your soul.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Comforter, 27 November 2022

Handel’s Messiah
Isaiah 40:1-5

Series Big Idea: Handel’s Messiah may be the greatest work of music ever created, bringing praise and glory to the Creator.
Big Idea: The Messiah is our comforter.
Welcome to the season of
Advent! Some say this is the most wonderful time of the year. For others, it’s a challenging season for any number of reasons. Though we usually use the word “Christmas” to describe the next several weeks, the word “Advent” is becoming increasingly popular, perhaps because of the proliferation of advent calendars.
Advent is all about arrival. For hundreds of years, prophets spoke of a coming Messiah, the promised deliverer of the Jews. This season celebrates His arrival about two thousand years ago.
It’s beyond cliché to say Jesus is the reason for the season, but it’s true. Amazon, Target, and the mall can’t wait to get your money. Your calendar may be filling up with parties, concerts, and seasonal events. But in the consumption of time and money, I want to challenge you to keep your focus not on exchanging presents, but rather experience His presence, the presence of Jesus, God in the flesh, becoming one of us. I still can’t grasp the incarnation, the shocking truth that the Messiah visited this planet, moved into the neighborhood, and understands every temptation and struggle we face.
Did you know…
There are over 100 Old Testament prophecies uniquely fulfilled by the Messiah.
There are many reasons I believe in Jesus, but one involves biblical prophecy. No person could possibly fulfill these prophecies unless they were legitimate. We’re going to look at a few of them through what might be the greatest music of all time, a collection of songs known as Handel’s Messiah.
When I saw The Messiah performed at the University of Michigan many years ago, I was struck by how much scripture was contained in the lyrics. It’s basically all scripture! Mr. Handel wrote his extraordinary music under the inspiration of numerous passages of the Bible assembled by a man named Charles Jennens.
Check out this VIDEO that explains the background.
Handel’s Messiah has three parts, the first of which covers the themes of Christmastime, the arrival of Jesus to our planet. The second and third parts deal with Holy Week, the death and resurrection of Jesus which we’ll revisit when Easter approaches.
The Messiah begins with three songs from Isaiah 40:1-5. I want to share samples of them with you today. But first, a bit of context.
Isaiah is a prophet who wrote the book that bears his name around 700 BC. The people of Israel were struggling under the expansion of the Assyrian empire. Like much of the Jewish Bible—the Old Testament—themes of God’s salvation and judgment abound. God goes to extraordinary lengths to show his love for humanity, we turn away from Him, and things go south! Pastor Soper notes the cycle like this:

Israel forgets God >>>
Israel forsakes God >>>
Israel worships other gods >>>
God sends judgment upon Israel >>>
Israel cries out to God >>>
God raises up a deliverer >>>
God saves Israel >>>
Israel pledges to serve God >>>
Israel forgets God >>>

Why don’t we learn?!
As Isaiah’s writing, God’s people are in bad shape.
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. (Isaiah 40:1, NIV)
Whenever you see something repeated in scripture, take notice. Ancient scrolls and languages did not have bold, italics, or different colors to get our attention. They had to literally spell it out! God tells His people they will be comforted in the midst of their bondage. Deliverance is coming, and it came most profoundly about 700 years later in the first coming of the Messiah.
VIDEO: Comfort Ye, Newark-Granville Symphony
I want to thank the Newark-Granville Symphony for the video clips today.
I realize some of you may not be fans of classical music…yet! I must confess I rarely listen to my symphonic recordings of The Messiah. In 1990, a group of Christian singers and musicians came together for an updated version of The Messiah, simply called Handel’s Young Messiah.
Here’s Matthew Ward’s rendition of “Comfort Ye.”
Strangely, three years later, The New Young Messiah was released with a different group of artists.    
Here’s Wayne Watson.
My favorite recording of this music is 1992’s
Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration. Quincy Jones brought together an all-star cast of African-American artists ranging from Take 6 and Dianne Reeves to Patti Austin, Stevie Wonder, Al Jarreau and the Richard Smallwood Singers.
Here’s Vanessa Bell Armstrong & Daryl Coley
Jesus brings comfort to our lives, whatever the circumstances. He is present through the Holy Spirit in every believer. Do you need comfort today? Call out to Jesus.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’S hand double for all her sins. (Isaiah 40:2, NIV)   
Jerusalem had been held captive for seventy years. The trial was the result of their sin, but that is coming to an end. Now Isaiah speaks of John the Baptist, a New Testament figure who will come on the seen about 700 years later.
A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3, NIV)   
This is a vivid description of John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus. The book of Mark is explicit.
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
            “I will send my messenger ahead of you,
                        who will prepare your way”
3          “a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
            ‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
                        make straight paths for him.’ ”
And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:1-4, NIV)
Verse 4…
Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. (Isaiah 40:4, NIV)   
Raising and lowering was a metaphor for preparing a road for a dignitary. We might call this today, “Rolling out the red carpet.” Get ready for the Messiah, people! Isaiah said it then about the first arrival. We can proclaim it today as the return of Christ is near.

Handel's Young Messiah video
This is one of my favorite songs on the Soulful Celebration album.
Audio: Every Valley, Soulful Celebration
And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:5, NIV)   
The bottom line of First Alliance’s mission statement is God’s glory. I want that to be the bottom line of my life. In the midst of suffering, Isaiah declared God’s glory would be revealed. These days, it seems like nobody is paying attention to the LORD God Almighty, but just you wait!
Video: And the Glory of the LORD, Sandi Patti
So What?
Today, we wait for the return, the second arrival of Jesus.
He’s coming soon. He promised! Are you ready? Do you know him? He’s the reason we’re here!
Actually, God is with us…now! The Holy Spirit is here until Jesus returns. Sure, you can’t touch the Holy Spirit, but that doesn’t diminish the power or reality of the One who is at work making us more like Christ, preparing us for the Messiah’s promised return, filling us with gifts and fruit, and bringing comfort to us in our dark days.
My prayer is that this season we would center ourselves on Jesus the Messiah. Rather than giving into fear, we can experience the Prince of Peace, the God of comfort.
I want to encourage all of you to experience Handel’s Messiah, too. You can attend a Toledo Choral Society performance next weekend (flyers are at the Information Center), stream the songs, watch video performances, visit websites about the musical masterpiece, or just show up next Sunday as we continue the series.
The music is beautiful. The lyrics…well, they’re taken directly from scripture, so they’re beautiful. The Advent story is beautiful…and even has a present reality as we await the return of the King.
We’re going to close with the song
Beautiful Things because God is an artist. We are made in His image and can create songs, meals, paintings, organizations, and so many other things, but you are a masterpiece! As we focus on Handel’s masterpiece, you are God’s masterpiece! Don’t forget that this season. You are more valuable than anything found online or in a store! You matter to God…and you matter to us.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library