God is Good…All the Time, 31 December 2016

A Year To Be All In
Tabernacle of Praise – First Alliance Church
Psalm 25:1-5

Big Idea: God is good…all the time. He is true, present, and faithful. God was faithful in 2016. Will we be faithful in 2017?

Welcome to the end of 2016!

Life is full of endings and beginnings, have you noticed? The stores have clearance sales on summer clothes while introducing winter fashions. The end of college basketball occurs on or around baseball’s opening day. Heather and I once attended her grandmother’s funeral with news of our pregnancy and an upcoming baby.

Sometimes it’s hard to let go. We want to hold onto the past, but we can never move forward if we’re stuck in park.

Tonight, I have a simple message for you. You may have heard it before. Are you ready?

God is good…all the time.
All the time…God is good.

God’s been good…in 2016.
God’s gonna be good…in 2017.

How do I know? God’s character does not change. He’s always doing new things, but His character does not change.

What can we say about God’s character, His being, His essence? How much time to we have?!

I want to look at three aspects of God’s character tonight: true, present, faithful.

God is true.

King David, perhaps the most powerful man in the world in his day, wrote these words:

In you, LORD my God, I put my trust. (Psalm 25:1)

He didn’t say he put his trust in his power or his army or his wealth. His trust was in the LORD, his God. Can that be said you…really? Sure, we talk about trusting God. We nod when the preacher says God’s trustworthy, but do we really live like it?

Pastor Craig Groeschel recently wrote a book called
The Christian Atheist. He says many so-called Christians have biblical knowledge, but we practically live as if God doesn’t exist. Let me give you an example. A few weeks ago I decided to address an ongoing problem in our house—a leaky toilet. For the uninitiated, if a toilet leaks from the bottom, it usually means the wax ring between the toilet and floor is failing. It’s a $4 part to replace, but requires a bit of work to remove the toilet, clean out the old wax, and reset the toilet with the new wax ring. Seeing that I’m not Mr. Handyman, I watched a YouTube video which showed how the $4 part could be installed in about thirty minutes.

Have you heard of Murphy’s Law? Let me recite it to you. It says, “A $4, thirty minute home improvement project will surely cost at least $100 and take a week or more to complete.” Actually, Murphy’s Law states if anything can go wrong, it will…and it did! (Do you know the corollary to Murphy’s Law? Murphy was an optimist!).

The point really isn’t my toilet installation, but rather how I ignored God in the process. I was waist deep in—well, never mind that—I was in the middle of the project when it occurred to me to pray about this situation. It was far more complicated—and costly—than I expected and I needed help…divine help. Until I prayed, I was living as a practical atheist.

King David continues…

I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause. (
Psalm 25:2-3)

He says it again, he trusts in God. And he needs to trust in God. He has real enemies. His enemies aren’t a mean school teacher who grades hard, gossipers on Facebook, or even an angry boss. People want to kill him. People want his kingdom. Armies have been formed to defeat him.

Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (
Psalm 25:4-5)

I don’t know about you, but I want that to be my prayer. I want God to show me His ways. I want Him to teach me His paths. I want Him to guide me in truth. The more I know God—not just about God, but knowing God—the more I experience peace, joy, and contentment. It’s so cliché but it’s true:

Know God. Know Peace.
No God. No Peace.

The recent celebration of Christmas is a celebration of Jesus, God’s son who is fully God but also fully human, a wonderful mystery. Jesus said

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6b)

He is the truth. Speaking of Jesus,

God is present.

The word “Emmanuel” means “God with us.” John 1:14 says

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

That’s a fine translation from the Greek, but I really like the way Eugene Peterson translates it in
The Message:

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. (John 1:14, The Message)

God moved into the neighborhood. He came here. He didn’t remain in heaven, feeling sorry for the mess we’ve made of this world. He sent Jesus to be born in a cave or some primitive shelter likely made for animals. Jesus spent about thirty years doing normal life out of the spotlight. Then for three years he taught and healed, lived and died for us, rose again, ascended into heaven, and now he’s awaiting the Father’s signal to return. Maranatha! Come quickly, LORD Jesus! Maybe he will return in 2017. Are you ready?

Even though Jesus is not physically walking the earth today, God is here. God is present in this place. The Holy Spirit is a gift given to every follower of Jesus. God no longer lives in fancy tabernacles or cathedrals. He lives in me. Is he living in you? This means God is present. He is still Emmanuel, God with us. You can’t see him, but he’s still present. You can’t see the WiFi in this building, but it’s still real. Some of the most powerful realities of life are invisible, yet present—love, the wind, radio waves, thoughts…God is present.

God is faithful.

My favorite hymn is
Great is Thy Faithfulness. It has been the theme song of our marriage for more than 26 years. Our family—like many of yours—has endured job loss, deaths, mental illness, a sick child for nearly a decade requiring treatments in five different states, childish rebellion, strained and even broken relationships, …but God has been faithful. Even when it feels like He’s distant, He’s still present. He’s still active. He still hears our prayers. Sometimes our will aligns with His and other times He has a higher purpose, a better plan, perfect timing.

Let me link some ideas together. How many of you have prayed a prayer and God didn’t answer the way you wanted? All of us experience this regularly. Did you know Jesus did, too?

The night before Jesus was arrested, he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s a real place, in Jerusalem. I’ve been there. Jesus knew he would be crucified and die for you and me, but he wanted Plan B. He prayed…

“Abba , Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)

That’s a tough prayer to pray—God, this is what I want, but I will trust You if Your will is different. I’ll obey You. You are good and faithful, even if it doesn’t feel like it in this moment.

Can I get an amen?!

That’s faith. It’s easy to trust God when the sun’s shining, the bills are paid, the family’s getting along, and there are leftover Christmas cookies to eat! Praise God!

But can you praise Him in the storm? Is He any less faithful at the hospital, the attorney’s office, the police station, or the frustrating job site? He’s really not.

The prophet Jeremiah had a pretty rough life. God told him to proclaim unwanted news to the people of Jerusalem, and warned Jeremiah he would be rejected! Wow! His life was so challenging, he wrote a book of laments—words of deep grief and sorry—called Lamentations. He said this:

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. (Lamentations 3:19-20)

You might as well call him Eeyore! But he wasn’t necessarily complaining, just being honest with God. You can be honest with God, too. He can handle it!

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (
Lamentations 3:21-23)

Let me turn again to The Message:

But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:

GOD’S loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! (Lamentations 3:21-23, The Message)

Listen to what follows:

I’m sticking with GOD (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.

GOD proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. (
Lamentations 3:24-25, The Message)

I love that! I’m sticking with God! He’s all I’ve got left.

Maybe you feel that tonight. 2016 has left you in a tough place and you hope 2017 will be better.

Perhaps 2016 was a banner year and you’re nervous 2017 won’t be as good.

Regardless of how you feel in this moment, God is still God. King Jesus is on the throne. He’s not a little baby any longer. He’s preparing to return to us soon. He is true. He is here. He is faithful.

God is good…all the time.
All the time…God is good.

He is true, present, and faithful. God was faithful in 2016.
Will we be faithful in 2017?

Angels, 25 December 2016

Series: First Christmas
Luke 2:1-14

Series Big Idea:
Most know the Christmas story, but what did the individual characters experience?

Big Idea: We need not fear angels…or anything but God.

Merry CHRISTmas! My name is Kirk and I’m thrilled to be able to celebrate Jesus’ birthday with you!

Throughout Advent—this season of waiting—we’ve been looking at the Christmas story through the eyes of various characters present at the First Christmas. We looked at the Wise Men, Elizabeth, the Innkeeper, Joseph, and today it’s the angels.

Have you ever met or seen an angel? Our minds picture a person dressed in white with wings and a halo, but angels are real creatures. In fact, they’re mentioned nearly three hundred times in the Bible! Unless they suddenly became an endangered species, they are just as real and important today.

We don’t have time to do a thorough study of angels today, but I want to look at two words they spoke: fear not.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. (Luke 2:1-3)

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (
Luke 2:4-7)

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. (
Luke 2:8-9)


Why were they terrified? They saw and angel. They saw the glory of the Lord.

It seems like often when angels appear, people are afraid. That makes sense, right?

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. (Matthew 28:5)

But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. (Luke 1:13)

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. (Luke 1:30)

Sometimes people are already afraid and angels are sent to bring comfort and peace.

God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. (Genesis 21:17)

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:20)

And we have the example in today’s text.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Luke 2:10

I have loved Charlie Brown for as long as I can remember. Being a musician, I should’ve identified most with Schroeder, but whenever I would read the Peanuts comics or watch the television specials I always connected with Charlie Brown.

Charles Schultz, the creator of Charlie Brown, told so many wonderful stories, but the best story he ever told was not his, but taken from the Bible.

Perhaps you’ve seen the Facebook post by Jason Soroski. I’m so grateful to Crystal who sent it to me. I nearly cried reading it…and I want to share it with you today.

Last year, A Charlie Brown Christmas aired on national prime time television for the 50th time. In a world where the latest greatest technology is outdated in a matter of months, and social media trends come and go in a matter of days, 50 years of anything becomes quite meaningful.

I am a fan of all things nostalgic and all things Christmas, and so when the two are combined I am hooked, and the Charlie Brown Christmas special falls squarely into that category.

I was in the first grade back when they still performed Christmas pageants in schools (less than 50 years, but still a very long time ago), and our class performed a version of the Charlie Brown Christmas. Since I was kind of a bookworm and already had a blue blanket, I was chosen to play the part of Linus. As Linus, I memorized
Luke 2:8-14, and that Scripture has been hidden in my heart ever since.

But while working so diligently to learn those lines, there is one important thing I didn’t notice then, and didn’t notice until now.

Right in the middle of speaking, Linus drops the blanket.

Charlie Brown is best known for his uniquely striped shirt, and Linus is most associated with his ever-present security blanket. Throughout the story of Peanuts, Lucy, Snoopy, Sally and others all work to no avail to separate Linus from his blanket. And even though his security blanket remains a major source of ridicule for the otherwise mature and thoughtful Linus, he simply refuses to give it up.

Until this moment. When he simply drops it.

In that climactic scene when Linus shares “what Christmas is all about,” he drops his security blanket, and I am now convinced that this is intentional. Most telling is the specific moment he drops it: when he utters the words, “fear not.”

Looking at it now, it is pretty clear what Charles Schultz was saying, and it’s so simple it’s brilliant.

The birth of Jesus separates us from our fears.

The birth of Jesus frees us from the habits we are unable (or unwilling) to break ourselves.

The birth of Jesus allows us to simply drop the false security we have been grasping so tightly, and learn to trust and cling to Him instead.

The world of 2016 can be a scary place, and most of us find ourselves grasping to something temporal for security, whatever that thing may be. Essentially, 2016 is a world in which it is very difficult for us to “fear not.”

But in the midst of fear and insecurity, this simple cartoon image from 1965 continues to live on as an inspiration for us to seek true peace and true security in the one place it has always been and can always still be found.

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

What are you afraid of? I know that’s an odd question to ask on Christmas Day, but what are you afraid of?

The dark?
Your credit card bill next month after Christmas shopping?
Your health?

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1John 4:16-18)

We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

Fear not!

The angels said it.

It’s the most common command in the Bible.

If we recognize the love and presence and power and wisdom and wonder and mystery of God, our other fears will diminish.

Technically, the Bible doesn’t say the angels sang. It says they praised God.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (
Luke 2:13-14)

We can praise with words, but music has a special way of enhancing the worship.

“Angels We Have Heard On High” has possibly the longest word in any piece of music! The 18-syllable word is "Gloria." Gloria, in excelsis Deo means simply, “Glory to God in the highest.”

Fear Not

The message of Christmas is Immanuel, God is with us.

Fear not…God is with us.
Fear not…the Prince of Peace is here.
Fear not…you are not alone.
Fear not…the baby will return soon as King Jesus.

Happy birthday, Jesus! Merry CHRISTmas! God bless you!

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Carols, 23 December 2012

    O Come O Come Emmanuel

    Big Idea: God is with us. Are you with God?

    Welcome to the fourth Sunday of Advent. Advent is about expectant waiting and preparation. For generations, the Israelites awaited the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. We are awaiting His return. We are in between His first and second visits to our planet. We look back
    and forward.

    During these four weeks during our preparation for Jesus’ birthday celebration, we’ve been looking at four classic Christmas Carols, their lyrics, and their biblical message. It is my hope and prayer that as you hear these songs, you’ll not only hum the melody, you’ll think about the timeless message.

    We began with the line in O Holy Night that says, “A thrill of hope/the weary world rejoices/for yonder breaks/a new and glorious morn.”

    Then two weeks ago we looked at
    O Come, All Ye Faithful and discovered that we can be joyful and triumphant despite the hardships of life.

    Last week we said that although
    Away In A Manger mentions the “little LORD Jesus,” He is no longer an 8 lb. 6 oz. little baby Jesus but the King of kings and LORD of lords who warrants our attention, allegiance, devotion, and complete surrender.

    Today we are looking at the key word in the carol
    O Come, O Come Emmanuel.


    The lyrics were written between the 8th and 12th century. They would sing or chant these phrases that began with the letter “o.”

    The key word is Emmanuel, God with us.
    God was, God is, God will be with us.

    Emmanuel: God with us. What does that mean to you?

    Have you ever prayed for God to be with you?

    We’ve all had moments of loneliness and desperation. I wonder how many S.O.S. prayers God hears each day!

    It has been said that the essence of religion is man’s search for God.

    One of my favorite stories is from David Platt, author of the book Radical that has been Scio’s theme this year. While in Indonesia, he engaged in a conversation with a Buddhist leader and a Muslim leader. He said,

    “It sounds as though you both picture God (or whatever you call god) at the top of a mountain. It seems as if you believe that we are all at the bottom of the mountain, and I may take one route up the mountain, you may take another, and in the end we will all end up in the same place.” They smiled as I spoke. Happily they replied, “Exactly! You understand!” Then I leaned in and said, “Now let me ask you a question. What would you think if I told you that the God at the top of the mountain actually came down to where we are? What would you think if I told you that God doesn’t wait for people to find their way to him, but instead he comes to us?” They thought for a moment and then responded, “That would be great.” I replied, “Let me introduce you to Jesus.” This is the gospel.

    The Gospel, or good news, is just that. God is with us, Emmanuel.

    One of the things that I love about the gospel message is its history. We are involved in a story that began thousands of years ago and has transformed lives around the world for generations.

    The prophet Isaiah around 700 BC wrote...

    Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

    How many virgins have been with child?

    More than 700 years before the birth of Christ, it was announced that Emmanuel would enter our world.

    In Matthew chapter 1, an angel came to Joseph—who was engaged to a woman who was pregnant—and said

    “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

    All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” — which means, “God with us.”
    (Matthew 1:20b-23)

    People had waited centuries for this announcement.

    This was the most earth-shattering news possible.

    Before Jesus, people couldn’t handle the presence of God. They would die if they encountered Him.

    The mere idea of God being with us—much less becoming One of us—was radical! It still is today.

    We’ve been studying the Gospel of John. Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase in
    The Message tells it all in the first chapter.

    The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. (John 1:14, The Message)

    You may not feel Him, but He is with us.

    He was, is, and will be with us.

    That’s Emmanuel. That’s Christmas. That’s the Gospel.

    I don’t know about you, but if I were God in heaven, I’d stay there! I’d delegate to angels, write words in the sky, or do something safe and comfortable to connect with humanity.

    Fortunately I’m not God! The real image of Christmas is not a baby, but a King who came, died, conquered sin and death, and who lives! God is still with us today!

    Sometimes it’s easier to see God in the past than in the present. We can read that God was with Joseph, Moses, David, and others.

    Jesus made a promise to His followers. During His final moments with them, He said

    And surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:20b)

    That wasn’t just a metaphorical statement. When Jesus ascended from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem into heaven, He said it was actually good that He left because His departure would pave the way for the Holy Spirit.

    But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)

    In Acts 2, the Counselor, the Holy Spirit arrives and lives inside followers of Jesus.

    Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

    Do you need more proof?

    You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Romans 8:9-11)

    Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

    Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you — guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. (2 Timothy 1:14)

    No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

    If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.
    (1 John 4:12, 15)

    If you are a follower of Jesus, you get the Holy Spirit, too!

    God is with us. God is within us!

    This does not mean that we are God, but rather that God lives in those who welcome Him.

    One of my favorite promises in the Bible comes from the book of Romans. Paul wrote

    Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

    What can separate us from God’s love? Nothing. No thing.

    Not a criminal record.
    Not a divorce.
    Not anything done to you.
    Not your mistakes.
    Not your sins.

    All you have to do is receive the gift of Jesus Christ who became one of us to demonstrate His love for us.

    As we said last week, the greatest gift you can give Jesus for His birthday is you, your heart.

    Most of you would say you believe in God. You believe Jesus came as a baby. Great, but belief is not enough. The Bible says that demons believe that!

    The question is have you fully surrendered your life to the LORD Jesus Christ? He came for you, but like any gift, it’s not yours until you receive it, embrace it, own it.

    Emmanuel, God is with us.

    Advent is about waiting. People waited for Jesus’ first visit to our planet. We await His return, but in the meantime, Emmanuel is not merely an historical figure. It’s not that God WAS with us. Through the Holy Spirit, He is with us right here, right now, right in this place, this Christmas.

    God is with us.

    Are you with God?

    God is here.

    Like love, you can’t see Him or touch Him, but you can experience Him, not only on His birthday, but every day of the year. For followers of Jesus Christ, every day is CHRISTmas, Christ’s day.

    I urge you to truly make this Christmas about Christ. He is with us and wants nothing more than for you to be with Him.

    Credits: Series theme and various ideas from Craig Groeschel, LifeChurch.tv

    You can listen to the podcast here.
    You can view a music video of
    O Come, O Come Emmanuel from LifeChurch.tv here.