God With Us

Life-Altering Circumstances, 25 November 2018

When Life Throws A Curve (Life-Altering Circumstances)
D6 Series—When Life Gets Hard
Matthew 3:1-17; 14:1-12; 11:1-19

Series Overview: In this world we will have trouble, but we are never alone.

Big Idea: Although life is full or surprises, God is good, faithful, and in control.

So it’s officially the “most wonderful time of the year.” You know, that time when people jack up their credit cards buying gifts which will end up in next year’s garage sale. The season when greedy, selfish people feel generous for dropping a quarter in the Salvation Army bucket. The season when families gather only to argue about politics and eat more food than some small countries consumer in a year.

The time when your football team…oh, never mind about that!

I love Thanksgiving.
I love Christmas.

But despite being the most wonderful time of the year, for many it’s the most depressing, frustrating, financially-draining, emotionally exhausting, lonely time of the year.

My name is Kirk and this month we’ve been in a series entitled
When Life Gets Hard. We talked about broken relationships and mental illness. Jason, our guest from Indonesia, unknowingly contributed to our series two weeks ago when we spoke on failure. On this last Sunday before Advent, we’re talking about When Life Throws A Curve.

Occasionally we have open mic times when we share about God’s faithfulness. Our next such gathering will be on New Year’s Eve.

But imagine if we had an open mic to share about life-altering circumstances. We’ve all had them…or will. It might be a car accident (like the photo) but it could be a phone call, a conversation with a doctor, a letter in the mail, or even a text message.

What do you do when you life looks nothing like you ever imagined or hoped? Perhaps even more important, how is your soul?

If you ask God one question, what would it be?

One national survey revealed the number one question people have for God is, “Why is there suffering in the world?”

Some religions deny the existence of evil, calling pain and suffering mere illusions. Jesus, however, truthfully declared,

In this world you will have trouble. (John 16:33b)

An Alliance pastor once said, “It is right that things are wrong in a wrong world. It would be wrong for everything to be right in a world gone wrong.”

Our scripture reading for today tells a remarkably vivid and tragic story of John the Baptist. Like Job and Joseph and other godly people before him, John was devoted to following God. If anyone “deserved” good things in life as a reward for his obedience, it was Jesus’ cousin John. Yet he was hardly exempt from suffering.

On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus. (Matthew 14:6-12)

It was bad enough that John was in prison…for speaking God’s truth (after Herod took his brother’s wife). I’m sure he never imagined being beheaded on account of a birthday dance! Although John went “to a better place,” it must’ve been catastrophic for his friends and family…including Jesus.

We all recognize ever since Adam and Eve sinned against God we have lived with brokenness and pain.

Great! So what now? What do we do when life throws a curve? Here are some ideas:

Recognize God is not the creator of evil and suffering.

Love always involves a choice. Free will. Entire books have been written on the subject, but suffice it to say satan chose to rebel against God and took other angels with him. From they moment, a spiritual war has been raging between good and evil, life and death. Spiritual warfare is real. We have a real enemy. He may not be red with horns and a pitchfork, but we are all in the middle of a battlefield.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

It’s easy to blame God for all of the problems in the world. Some simply encounter evil, blame God…and then stop believing in God. This makes emotional sense, but not logical sense. How can you fail to believe in someone you blame? Then again, the word “believe” has been misconstrued, especially in our use of John 3:16. What I do understand are people who followed God, encountered trouble, and removed their trust in God as a result. When you encounter the effects of sin, blame satan! God did not create evil and suffering.

God can redeem suffering, using it for good.

We were made by God, for God, and for God’s glory. Life is not about our pleasure, but God’s glory. That’s hard for me to embrace sometimes—especially when life gets hard. I want to do things my way, but Dad knows best.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

This verse has been abused perhaps more than it has been used appropriately, but the fact remains. God is at work when we submit to Him. Suffering is one means the work of God is displayed.

Earlier in Romans—as we saw several weeks ago—it says,

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4)

I admit I want perseverance, character, and hope in my life. But do we need suffering? I suppose I could also say I want a fit, healthy body, but do I need to watch what I eat and exercise? Obviously, we don’t choose suffering, but it’s a part of life, and it’s a tool God uses to shape us and draw us close to Him.

The worst pain I ever endured was a kidney stone. I’m told childbirth is bad, too, but you have less to show for it in the end!

A few years later, God revealed to me the purpose of my kidney stone. I was shocked, but I realized the one night of hospitalization opened up space for a conversation I had with a visitor, a conversation that greatly impacted the next twenty years of my life. Had I not been in the hospital, he never would’ve visited me and we never would’ve had that talk. It sounds odd, but I’m grateful for that kidney stone (and even more grateful I haven’t had another one!).

None of us has a complete understanding of our present reality, much less the future.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

We can pray not only for God’s will and glory, but an understanding of His perspective. The story’s not over.

Tony Campolo used to say, “It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming!” For many of us, today is unbearable, yet tomorrow may not only be better, we may come to actually appreciate our suffering.

Our temporary suffering will pale in comparison to eternal glory.

Paul wrote of his very serious persecution,

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)
British church leader Galvin Reid tells about meeting a young man who had fallen down a flight of stairs as a baby and shattered his back. He had been in and out of hospitals his whole life—and yet he made the astounding comment that he thinks God is fair. Reid asked him, "How old are you?" The boy said, "Seventeen." Reid asked, "How many years have you spend in hospitals?" The boy said, "Thirteen years." The pastor said with astonishment, "And you think that is fair?" And the boy replied: "Well, God has all eternity to make it up to me."
That’s perspective! Listen to these words of encouragement:
However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” —the things God has prepared for those who love him— (1 Corinthians 2:9)

I want to return to Jesus’ words in John 16.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Jesus knows suffering. Jesus conquered suffering and death. He has the final word!
Jesus brings peace.
Jesus brings courage.
Jesus brings presence…through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus brings hope…the promise of heaven.

Count Your Blessings

We are all so blessed. The simple fact that you can understand what I’m saying is a blessing. The freedom to have access to the Bible, to be alive, to know about Jesus, to know Jesus…

Someone once said the only thing you can control is your attitude. It could always be better, yes, but it could always be worse. Count your blessings. Last week we looked at this powerful verse which is so convicting to me:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)

Pray with thanksgiving. That’s appropriate after this past Thursday, right? Count your blessings!

Don’t Go Alone

Get in a small group. Attend Celebrate Recovery. Reach out to a friend. Church is not a building. Church is not a gathering. Church is a family of messy, broken people pursuing Jesus Christ, the ultimate example of what it means to be human, and the one person who understands pain, suffering, grief, and loss better than anyone.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible says,

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15)

God created us for community. We need one another. We need to lean on one another, celebrate with one another, encourage one another, pray for one another, cry with one another, laugh with one another.

This is especially true at this time of year. The holidays are truly the most wonderful time of the year for some, and the most gut-wrenching, heart-breaking time for others. Family, this season is a wonderful opportunity to give and receive help, to give and receive love. Let’s rejoice—and mourn—together.

Don’t Give Up

Research has shown often people quit right before their greatest breakthrough. No matter how you are feeling, not matter the challenges you face, or the pain you are enduring, you might be days or even hours from a miracle.

Jesus himself taught us to persevere in our prayers, to not give up. He said,

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)

What you might not know—unless you know Greek—is this is a conditional promise. It could be literally translated, “Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking.”

Keep praying. Keep praising. Even in the storm. I can tell you from experience God is good. He can be trusted. If it doesn’t feel like it now, just wait. Don’t give up. You may be on the verge of a miracle. And even if God says wait a little longer, He is near. His ways are higher than our ways. He is faithful.

It Is Well

Horatio Spafford established a very successful legal practice in Chicago. A devout Christian, he lost his fortune in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, shortly after his son died. He planned a much-needed rest for his remaining family in Europe in 1873. When last-minute business kept him in Chicago, he sent his wife and four daughters ahead with plans to catch up with them days later.

The ship was struck by another vessel and sank in twelve minutes. When the survivors finally landed days later in Wales, Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband, “Saved alone.”

On his voyage to join his wife, he penned profound lyrics as he approached the area of the ocean floor where it was believed his four daughters had sunk.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul

How is your soul?

Credits: some ideas from D6, Lee Strobel, In The Midst by John Stumbo

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

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.
  • Joseph, 18 December 2016

    Series: First Christmas
    Matthew 1:18-25

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

    Big Idea: God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called.

    The thing I can't figure out is why He chose me. Have you ever thought that? Why did He choose for you to live here? To work here? To serve here?

    I had a great phone conversation with one of our church’s outstanding leaders. She was feeling out of her comfort zone, inadequate, and unqualified. I reminded her God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called.

    Why did He choose Mary?
    Why did He choose Joseph?
    Why did He choose you?

    Scariest, most difficult, confusing, puzzling, mystifying, amazing, glorious, inexplicable, exciting, gripping, intoxicating, powerful, petrifying, terrifying, most wonderful day.

    Parents, does that describe your child’s birthday? No day changed my life more than May 21, 1992. That was the day our first child, Kailey, was born. I’ve never been the same since.


    There are two important biblical characters named Joseph. The first was Jacob’s son, the boy given the coat of many colors who became the second most powerful person in Egypt under Pharaoh. The other is Jesus’ step dad, Mary’s husband. A humble carpenter.

    We don’t know much about Joseph. Mary is quoted, present throughout the life of her son, and a prominent figure. But Joseph…he almost looks like one of the shepherds in many nativity scenes!

    Does he complain? Hardly. Well, actually, we don’t know, but let’s assume the drama was accurate. It’s a privilege to be the stepfather of the Messiah. In fact, it is a tremendous gift and responsibility.

    What’s the greatest thing that has ever been entrusted to your care? For many kids it’s a dog. I know of at least one child who wants a dog for Christmas. But dogs require care—well, live dogs require care. I’m not talking about a stuffed animal. Dogs need food, water, treats, trips to the vet, and everyone’s favorite chore…cleaning up the back yard!

    Several years ago a friend of mine at our church was loaned a yellow Lambourghini, a car worth hundreds of thousands of dollars! He was so nervous knowing he possessed—at least temporarily—a treasure. He drove it so carefully, not wanting to risk even a small scratch on it.

    Parents, you certainly remember the first time you held your child in your arms, aware of the tremendous blessings—and responsibility—you were holding.

    Birth parents have a role in the gift they produce. I won’t get into a detailed explanation of that today (!), but in Joseph’s case he not only became a dad, he was chosen—by God—to raise the promised Messiah. It’s hard for us, sometimes, to understand just how significant this child was to the Jewish people. There were prophecies for hundreds (thousands?) of years concerning the Messiah…and then silence. There were about four hundred years between the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, between the prophecies and the arrival of Jesus. Four hundred years—of silence. Imagine silence since 1616! And then God announces you’ll parent God’s son!

    This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. (Matthew 1:18-19)

    These two verses tell us quite a bit about Joseph. He was faithful to the law. This means he was a righteous man. He obeyed God, which involved loving others. In this case, he wanted to protect the girl/woman he loved. Quietly divorcing (calling off the wedding) Mary would’ve been far less shameful for a teen mom than exposing her for “sleeping around.” Joseph was a good man. We know Mary was righteous, and she would surely not be engaged to a loser!

    Yet on the surface, Joseph must’ve surely thought he made a mistake by proposing to this teenage girl with bun-in-the-oven. Imagine how he felt. His love is pregnant…and he’s a virgin. He cannot be the father of this child, which means…who is it? Sure, Mary, the Holy Spirit. Who’s the Holy Spirit? I know people who think they’re holy, but Spirit is a strange last night for a guy, don’t you think?!

    As is so often the case with Bible passages, we know the rest of the story. We know what’s going to happen. We’ve seen the end of the movie! But Joseph had no clue. I can’t imagine the disappointment, the heartbreak, and the embarrassment. Make no mistake, people knew about his pregnant fiancée…or they would. It’s not like you could fly to another state or country and take on a new identity. Unwed mothers were not the norm as they tragically are today in so many communities. Joseph’s bride-to-be was a disgrace. Even associating with her would affect his reputation…and it did.

    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. 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.” (
    Matthew 1:20-21)

    I wonder how long it took Joseph to fall asleep. You don’t just get life-changing news, call off a wedding, and snooze when your head hits the pillow. He may have laid in bed for hours before finally drifting off into la-la land. And then he has a dream!

    The dream confirms what Mary said. Wait, is this a dream or a hallucination? Am I just making this up? So Mary is carrying the Messiah? The Savior?

    All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (
    Matthew 1:22-23)

    Even though all of this news was surely shocking to Joseph, it wasn’t completely unfamiliar. He knew the ancient scriptures. He was faithful to the law. As a Jew, he knew about the prophecies of the coming Messiah.

    Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:13-14)

    The book of Matthew quotes the Old Testament at least 47 times, most of them Messianic, dealing with Jesus. Matthew begins his gospel—good news—with a genealogy of Jesus. He wrote,

    This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:

    Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, …Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. 

    David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam…and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

    After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel…and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

    Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. (Matthew 1:1-17)

    Joseph knew the prophecy of the Messiah, but couldn’t have imagined he would play a part in the most important—and famous—birth in human history.

    Immanuel: God with us. God will be with Mary. God will be with Joseph. God will be with us. What a dream!

    When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. (
    Matthew 1:24-25)

    He did not divorce her. He did not abandon her. He chose to travel this remarkable—and often painful—journey with her. He married her. I have to add, contrary to some traditions, Mary and Joseph
    did consummate their marriage…after the birth of Christ. They had other children, too (so much for the “perpetual virgin” notion!).


    Although we don’t know much about Joseph, we know he was righteous, obedient, and faithful. I’m sure he felt unworthy of the gift and responsibility placed into his care, but he said, “Yes.”

    God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called.

    What is God calling you to do? Sure, you won’t be entrusted to raise God’s son, but He’s calling you. Maybe He’s calling you to quit playing religion and truly surrender your life to Him. Quit playing games and let God truly be LORD in your life.

    Maybe God is calling you to step out in faith, to take a big risk. Perhaps it’s to write a ridiculously generous check, trusting Him to provide for your needs.

    I believe God is calling some of you to step into new positions of leadership. It may begin with apprenticing under a small group leader, eventually leading to caring for your own group. Leading a small group is a tremendous gift and responsibility. The eternities of men, women, and children are at stake.

    Some of you have been resisting an investment in the next generation. Our children, our youth need you. God might want you to disciple students. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, only that you obey God’s call.

    If you feel inadequate, join the club!

    I was recently talking with Thomas George, our District Superintendent. He asked how things were in Toledo and I said, “Fantastic! I love First Alliance Church. I’m so grateful God called us to Toledo, though I feel unworthy of serving such a great congregation.” He looked me in the eye and said, “If you ever feel worthy, call me and I will remove you.” He was serious. I was appreciative. When we feel like we can do it, we no longer need God.

    God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called. When we ask, “Why,” He often responds, “Why not?”

    “We all have to embrace the fact that God wants to use us. He’s given us talents, passions, gifts; He’s given us a community of people to do life with. If we focus and have intentionality, He will absolutely use us to make a difference in the world.” – Chris Marlow

    It’s my desire for God to call many of you into new opportunities, new challenges. You can make excuses, but some of you know it’s time. It’s time to get out of the boat and experience the thrill of being used by God to accomplish great things. And when you are faithful in small things, He will entrust even greater things to your care. And remember, you are never alone. We are here…and so is He. The message of Immanuel is “God is with us.”

    • Credits
    Some ideas from SkitGuys.com.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • The Greatest Gift, 24 December 2015

    The Greatest Gift
    Christmas Eve 2015
    First Alliance Church

    Big Idea:
    Jesus is the greatest gift…but all gifts must be received.

    Merry Christmas Eve!
    This might be the most exciting, anticipated night of the year. Kids, are any of you looking forward to tomorrow? Adults, are any of you looking forward to tomorrow?

    How many of you have a tradition of opening a gift on Christmas Eve?

    Oh, I better hurry so you can get home and open that present!

    Christmas is all about presents. On Sunday we finished a series called “Be Here Now” which reminded us of the need to be fully present with one another and with God…and also of God’s presence with us.

    In ancient days, names were more than words on a birth certificate. They conveyed deep meaning. Rather than naming children after celebrities or trendy names, parents would often choose names of honor and character.

    My parents named me Kirk, not only because they liked the name (despite not being Star Trek fans!) but because it means “church dweller” and they hoped and prayed I would someday spend time in church. It worked!

    One of my favorite names for God is Emmanuel, God with us. He is present.

    The thing about being present is your presence must be acknowledged. Have you ever tried to scare someone, sneaking up on them? I usually try to NOT scare people, often making gradually louder noises as I enter a room when they have their backs turned to me. This happened recently with Sue. I didn’t want to scare her so I started gently knowing on her door until she turned around in surprise! I was in her office but she didn’t know it.

    Tragically, it is like that with God for many of us. Sure, you might believe in God. You might believe Jesus came as a baby 2000 years ago. You might even believe He died—most people eventually die!—and perhaps you even believe He rose again. But what difference does history make in the 21
    st century?

    “Jesus is going to return someday,” you might add. Yes, that’s true, but if our faith is only about the past and the future, our present is meaningless. We either reminisce about the good old days like retirees in Florida or we dream about the future like students on graduation day.

    But Jesus is here now. December 24, 2015. He wants you to know Him…not just know
    about Him, but have a relationship with Him. I’d be the first to admit it can be unusual having a relationship with someone you can’t see or hear, but over time I’ve been able to hear His voice, not His audible voice but His words. The Bible is arguably the best way to hear His voice, and if you want to know God it’s the best way to get to know Him.

    He also loves to listen. I believe the most beautiful sound in the world to God is the sound of your voice. Prayer is not merely talking to God, but talking
    with God. Have you done that lately?

    Jesus is here. He is alive. He wants to live inside you, giving you peace, joy, meaning, purpose, hope, and love. But you have to receive Him.

    is about presents, about gifts. It’s about a gift. The gift was a baby, but He became so much more. He loves you so much He spread His arms and said, “I love you this much.” He died to pay the punishment of your sins, everything you’ve done wrong. He died to reconcile—reconnect—you to your Creator, Almighty God who hates sin.

    The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

    He wants every man, woman and child to receive the gift, the gift of Himself, of Jesus.

    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)

    Jesus is not exclusive. He died for everyone, young and old, male and female, American, Asian, Arab, and Australian. He died for teachers, tennis players, and even terrorists.

    But like any gift, you have to receive it to experience it. Knowing about it is not enough.

    $10 Bill

    Let’s pretend for a moment I had a $10 bill. Actually, we don’t need to pretend! This $10 bill is available to any child who wants it.

    When you receive a gift, it’s yours to experience.

    Have you received Jesus?

    This is not about organized religion. Jesus hated organized religion, man’s quest to know God. Instead being fully God He became a man to show His love to us and invite us to experience real life. He said

    I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10b)

    Jesus is the ultimate example of what it means to be human. He showed us how to live. He showed us how to love.

    Have you received Him?

    The best gift you’ll ever receive is Jesus. The best gift you can give Jesus for His birthday is your heart…you…all of you. If you’ve never surrendered your life to Jesus, I urge you to do it tonight. It’s the most liberating, life-giving thing imaginable. Let go and let God.

    You can begin a relationship with God through a simple prayer like this:

    God, I’m sorry for the sins and mistakes in my life. I believe Jesus came as a baby, grew up and died for my sins, and rose from the dead. I want Him to be my Savior—saving me from my sins—but also my LORD, the leader of my life. I surrender my life and welcome Jesus into my life to take control and guide my life. Thank you for the gift of eternal life and abundant life. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

    If you’ve just invited God into your life, please tell someone. Tell me or a friend. You’ve just begun the journey of knowing Jesus. The adventure begins tonight! We have free Bibles at the Information Center in the lobby—written in modern English, not Shakespeare! Just ask for one. They’ll help you get to know Jesus.

    At First Alliance, we’re all about Jesus. We’ve seen Jesus heal the sick, restore broken marriage, get finances in order, bring peace to the disturbed, and provide hope to the hopeless. Every day of the year He’s at work in our lives giving us meaning and purpose, challenging us toward generosity and kindness, and reminding us of His infinite, unconditional love.

    Jesus was born for you.
    Jesus died for you.
    Jesus is alive for you!

    If you don’t know Him—personally—I urge you to receive the gift tonight.

    If you’re not ready to let God lead your life, that’s ok. There’s no pressure. Gifts are never meant to be forced upon someone. But know Jesus’s arms remain outstretched, inviting you to do life with Him.

    If you’ve invited Jesus into your life in the past, how’s it going? Is He a gift you’ve tossed aside and forgotten about like an old VHS movie or flip phone, or a precious treasure you appreciate every day of your life?

    This Christmas, I pray you will experience the gift of life, the gift of love, the gift of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.

    God With Us, 20 December 2015

    God With Us
    Series: Be Here Now
    Matthew 1:18-23

    Series Overview:
    Christmas is the celebration of “presence.”

    Big Idea: God is fully present with us…and Jesus will return soon.


    This morning we conclude our series “Be Here Now,” a series about presence. The first two weeks we talked about how important it is for us to be fully present with one another and with God, a challenge in our multi-tasking, screen-filled, noisy world…especially during the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

    Last Sunday we shifted from our presence to God’s presence with us. We read several passages from the Psalms written by David where he declares the presence of God even in the midst of suffering and fear. His faith in God was stellar…and yet the Messiah had not yet come to earth. In fact, it would be hundreds of years until Isaiah prophesied…

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

    David—and Isaiah—could only imagine the events we celebrate this week.

    Proclaim FM’s sign is correct. Christmas is about three words: God with us.

    In his book
    Radical, David Platt tells this fascinating story:

    I remember sitting outside a Buddhist temple in Indonesia. Men and women filled the elaborate, colorful temple grounds, where they daily performed their religious rituals. Meanwhile, I was engaged in a conversation with a Buddhist leader and a Muslim leader in this particular community. They were discussing how all religions are fundamentally the same and only superficially different. “We may have different views about small issues,” one of them said, “but when it comes down to essential issues, each of our religions is the same.” I listened for a while, and then they asked me what I thought. I 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.”

    I get frustrated when I hear religions lumped together. Religion is man’s search for God. Jesus did not come to start another religion. He came to bring God to us.

    This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

    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. 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 conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:18-23)

    Let’s set aside the fact a virgin named Mary become pregnant.

    Let’s set aside the fact an angel visited Mary…and Joseph.

    Let’s set aside the fact this baby fulfilled prophesies that were hundreds of years old.

    Let’s even set aside the fact this baby would become the most famous and controversial figure in human history, teach the most quoted truths ever recorded, model for us what it means to be truly human, perform miracles, die for us, conquer sin, rise from the dead, and ascend into heaven.

    God is with us.

    God was with us. God will be with us. God is with us now.

    Jesus came. Jesus is coming. Jesus is here.

    Jesus came.

    Advent and Christmas are similar yet different. Advent is a time of waiting. The Latin word means “coming.” The first meaning of Advent refers to the first coming of Jesus the Messiah. He uniquely fulfilled hundreds of prophesies, about 324 to be exact. Here they are:

    Gen. 3:15.....He will bruise Satan's head.....Heb. 2:14, 1 Jn. 3:18
    Gen. 5:24....The bodily ascension to heaven illustrated....Mk. 6:19 Gen. 9:26,27...The God of Shem will be the Son of Shem...Lu. 3:36 Gen. 12:3...As Abraham's seed, will bless all nations...Acts. 3:25,26 Gen. 12:7...The Promise made to Abraham's Seed...Gal. 3:16 Gen. 14:18...A priest after Melchizedek...Heb. 6:20 Gen. 14:18........A King also........Heb. 7:2 Gen. 14:18...The Last Supper foreshadowed...Mt. 26:26-29 Gen. 17:19.......The Seed of Isaac.......Rom. 9:7 Gen. 22:8...The Lamb of God promised...Jn. 1:29 Gen. 22:18...As Isaac's seed, will bless all nations...Gal. 3:16 Gen.26:2-5..The Seed of Isaac promised as the Redeemer..Heb.11:18 Gen. 49:10...The time of His coming...Lu. 2:1-7; Gal. 4:4 Gen. 49:10.......The Seed of Judah.......Lu. 3:33 Gen. 49:10......Called Shiloh or One Sent......Jn. 17:3 Gen. 49:10...To come before Judah lost identity...Jn. 11:47-52 Gen. 49:10...To Him shall the obedience of the people be...Jn. 10:16 Ex. 3:13,14........The Great "I Am".......Jn. 4:26 Ex. 12:5...A Lamb without blemish...1 Pet. 1:19 Ex. 12:13...The blood of the Lamb saves from wrath...Rom. 5:8 Ex. 12:21-27...Christ is our Passover...1 Cor. 5;7 Ex. 12:46...Not a bone of the Lamb to be broken...Jn. 19:31-36 Ex. 15:2...His exaltation predicted as Yeshua...Acts 7:55,56 Ex. 15:11...His Character-Holiness...Luke 1:35; Acts 4:27 Ex. 17:6...The Spiritual Rock of Israel...1 Cor. 10;4 Ex. 33:19...His Character-Merciful...Lu. 1:72 Lev.14:11..The leper cleansed-Sign to priesthood..Lu.5:12-14; Acts 6:7 Lev.16:15-17...Prefigures Christ's once-for-all death...Heb. 9:7-14 Lev.16:27...Suffering outside the Camp...Mt. 27:33; Heb. 13:11, 12 Lev.17:11...The Blood-the life of the flesh...Mt. 26;28; Mk. 10:45 Lev.17:11...It is the blood that makes atonement...1 Jn. 3:14-18 Lev.23:36-37...The Drink-offering: "If any man thirst." ..Jn. 19:31-36 Num. 9:12...Not a bone of Him broken...John 19:31-36 Num. 21:9...The serpent on a pole-Christ lifted up...Jn. 3:14-18 Num. 24:17...Time: "I shall see him, but not now."...Gal. 4:4 Deut. 18:15..."This is of a truth that prophet."...Jn. 6:14 Deut. 18:15-16..."Had ye believed Moses, ye would believe me."...Jn. 5:45-47 Deut. 18:18...Sent by the Father to speak His word...Jn. 8:28, 29 Deut. 18:19...Whoever will not hear must bear his sin...Jn. 12:15, Deut. 21:23...Cursed is he that hangs on a tree...Gal. 3:10-13 Ruth 4:4-9...Christ, our kinsman, has redeemed us...Eph. 1:3-7 1 Sam. 2:10...Shall be an anointed King to the Lord...Mt. 28:18; Jn. 12:15 2 Sam. 7:12...David's Seed...Mt. 1:1 2 Sam. 7:14a...The Son of God... Lu. 1:32 2 Sam. 7:16...David's house established forever...Lu. 3:31; Rev. 22:16 2 Ki. 2:11...The bodily ascension to heaven illustrated...Lu. 24:51 1 Chr. 17:11...David's Seed...Mt. 1:1; 9:27 1 Chr. 17:12, 13a...To reign on David's throne forever...Lu. 1:32, 33 1 Chr. 17:13a..."I will be His Father, He...my Son."...Heb. 1:5 Job 19:23-27...The Resurrection predicted...Jn. 5:24-29 Psa. 2:1-3...The enmity of kings foreordained...Acts 4:25-28 Psa. 2:2...To own the title, Anointed (Christ)...Acts 2:36 Ps. 2:6...His Character-Holiness...Jn. 8:46; Rev. 3:7 Ps. 2:6...To own the title King...Mt. 2:2 Ps. 2:7...Declared the Beloved Son...Mt. 3;17 Psa. 2:7, 8...The Crucifixion and Resurrection intimated...Acts 13:29-33 Psa. 2:12...Life comes through faith in Him...Jn. 20:31 Psa. 8:2...The mouths of babes perfect His praise...Mt. 21:16 Psa. 8:5, 6...His humiliation and exaltation...Lu. 24:50-53; 1 Cor. 15:27 Psa. 16:10...Was not to see corruption...Acts 2:31 Psa. 16:9-11...Was to arise from the dead...Jn. 20:9 Psa. 17;15...The resurrection predicted...Lu. 24:6 Psa. 22:1...Forsaken because of sins of others...2 Cor. 5:21 Psa. 22:1...Words spoken from Calvary, "My God..." Mk. 15:34 Psa. 22:2...Darkness upon Calvary...Mt. 27:45 Psa. 22:7...They shoot out the lip and shake the head...Mt. 27:39 Psa. 22:8..”He trusted in God, let Him deliver Him"...Mt. 27:43 Psa. 22:9......Born the Savior......Lu. 2:7 Psa. 22:14...Died of a broken (ruptured) heart...Jn. 19:34 Psa. 22:14,15...Suffered agony on Calvary...Mk. 15:34-37 Psa. 22:15........He thirsted........Jn. 19:28 Psa. 22:16...They pierced His hands and His feet....Jn. 19:34,37;20:27 Psa. 22:17,18...Stripped Him before the stares of men...Lu. 23:34,35 Psa. 22:18.....They parted His garments.....Jn. 19:23,24 Psa. 22:20,21...He committed Himself to God...Lu.23:46 Psa. 22:20,21..Satanic power bruising the Redeemer's heel..Heb. 2:14 Psa. 22:22.....His Resurrection declared.....Jn. 20:17 Psa. 22:27...He shall be the governor of the nations...Col 1:16 Psa. 22:31.....“It is finished"......Jn. 19:30 Psa. 23:1....“I am the Good Shepherd"....Jn. 10:11 Psa. 24:3......His exaltation predicted......Acts 1:11; Phil. 2:9 Psa. 30:3......His resurrection predicted......Acts 2:32 Psa. 31:5...“Into thy hands I commit my spirit"...Lu. 23:46 Psa. 31:11...His acquaintances fled from Him...Mk. 14:50 Psa. 31:13...They took counsel to put Him to death...Jn. 11:53 Psa. 31:14,15..." He trusted in God, let Him deliver him"...Mt. 27:43 Psa. 34:20.....Not a bone of Him broken.....Jn 19:31-36 Psa. 35:11....False witnesses rose up against Him....Mt. 26:59 Psa. 35:19...He was hated without a cause...Jn. 15:25 Psa. 38:11.....His friends stood afar off.....Lu. 23:49 Psa. 40:2-5...The joy of His resurrection predicted...Jn. 20:20 Psa. 40:6-8....His delight-the will of the Father....Jn. 4:34 Psa. 40:9....He was to preach the Righteousness in Israel....Mt. 4:17 Psa. 40:14...Confronted by adversaries in the Garden...Jn. 18:4-6 Psa. 41:9.....Betrayed by a familiar friend.....Jn. 13:18 Psa. 45:2...Words of Grace come from His lips...Lu. 4:22 Psa. 45:6...To own the title, God or Elohim...Heb. 1:8 Psa. 45:7...A special anointing by the Holy Spirit...Mt.3:16; Heb.1:9 Psa. 45:7,8...Called the Christ (Messiah or Anointed)...Lu. 2:11 Psa. 55:12-14...Betrayed by a friend, not an enemy...Jn. 13:18 Psa. 55:15...Unrepentant death of the Betrayer...Mt. 27:3-5; Acts 1:16-19 Psa. 68:18...To give gifts to men...Eph. 4:7-16 Psa. 68:18...Ascended into Heaven...Lu. 24:51 Psa. 69:4...Hated without a cause...Jn. 15:25 Psa. 69:8...A stranger to own brethren...Lu. 8;20,21 Psa. 69:9...Zealous for the Lord's House...Jn. 2:17 Psa. 69:14-20...Messiah's anguish of soul before crucifixion...Mt. 26:36-45 Psa. 69:20...“My soul is exceeding sorrowful."...Mt. 26:38 Psa. 69:21...Given vinegar in thirst...Mt. 27:34 Psa. 69:26...The Savior given and smitten by God...Jn. 17:4; 18:11 Psa. 72:10,11...Great persons were to visit Him...Mt. 2:1-11 Psa. 72:16...The corn of wheat to fall into the Ground...Jn. 12:24 Psa. 72:17...His name, Yinon, will produce offspring...Jn. 1:12,13 Psa. 72:17...All nations shall be blessed by Him...Acts 2:11,12,41 Psa. 78:1.2...He would teach in parables...Mt. 13:34-35 Psa. 78:2b...To speak the Wisdom of God with authority...Mt. 7:29 Psa. 88:8...They stood afar off and watched...Lu. 23:49 Psa. 89:27...Emmanuel to be higher than earthly kings...Lu. 1:32,33 Psa. 89:35-37...David's Seed, throne, kingdom endure forever...Lu. 1:32,33 Psa. 89:36-37...His character-Faithfulness...Rev. 1:5 Psa. 90:2...He is from everlasting (Micah 5:2)...Jn. 1:1 Psa. 91:11,12...Identified as Messianic; used to tempt Christ...Lu. 4;10,11 Psa. 97:9...His exaltation predicted...Acts 1:11;Eph. 1:20 Psa. 100:5...His character-Goodness...Mt. 19:16,17 Psa. 102:1-11...The Suffering and Reproach of Calvary...Jn. 21:16-30 Psa. 102:25-27...Messiah is the Preexistent Son...Heb. 1:10-12 Psa. 109:25...Ridiculed...Mt. 27:39 Psa. 110:1...Son of David...Mt. 22:43 Psa. 110:1...To ascend to the right-hand of the Father...Mk.16:19 Psa. 110:1...David's son called Lord...Mt. 22:44,45 Psa. 110:4...A priest after Melchizedek's order...Heb. 6:20 Psa. 112:4...His character-Compassionate, Gracious, et al... Mt. 9;36 Psa. 118:17,18...Messiah's Resurrection assured...Lu. 24:5-7;1 Cor. 15:20 Psa. 118:22,23...The rejected stone is Head of the corner...Mt. 21:42,43 Psa. 118:26a...The Blessed One presented to Israel...Mt. 21:9 Psa. 118:26b...To come while Temple standing...Mt. 21;12-15 Psa. 132:11...The Seed of David(the fruit of His Body)...Lu. 1:32 Psa. 138:1-6...The supremacy of David's Seed amazes kings... Mt. 2:2-6 Psa. 147:3,6...The earthly ministry of Christ described...Lu. 4:18 Psa. 1:23...He will send the Spirit of God... Jn. 16;7 Song. 5;16...The altogether lovely One...Jn. 1:17 Isa. 6:1...When Isaiah saw His glory... Jn. 12:40-41 Isa. 6:9-10...Parables fall on deaf ears...Mt. 13:13-15 Isa. 6:9-12...Blinded to Christ and deaf to His words...Acts. 28:23-29 Isa. 7:14...To be born of a virgin...Lu. 1:35 Isa. 7:14...To be Emmanuel-God with us... Mt. 1:18-23 Isa. 8:8...Called Emmanuel...Mt. 28:20 Isa. 8:14...A stone of stumbling, a Rock of offense... 1 Pet. 2:8 Isa. 9:1,2...His ministry to begin in Galilee...Mt. 4:12-17 Isa. 9:6...A child born-Humanity...Lu. 1:31 Isa. 9:6...A Son given-Deity...Lu. 1:32; Jn. 1;14; 1 Tim. 3:16 Isa. 9:6...Declared to be the Son of God with power... Rom. 1:3,4 Isa. 9:6...The Wonderful One, Peleh...Lu. 4:22 Isa. 9:6...The Counsellor, Yaatz...Mt. 13:54 Isa. 9:6...The Mighty God, El Gibor...Mt. 11:20 Isa. 9:6...The Everlasting Father, Avi Adth...Jn. 8:58 Isa. 9:6...The Prince of Peace, Sar Shalom...Jn . 16:33 Isa. 9:7...To establish an everlasting kingdom...Lu. 1:32-33 Isa. 9:7...His Character-Just...Jn. 5:30 Isa. 9:7...No end to his Government, Throne, and Peace...Lu. 1:32-33 Isa. 11:1...Called a Nazarene-the Branch, Netzer...Mt. 2:23 Isa. 11:1...A rod out of Jesse-Son of Jesse...Lu. 3:23,32 Isa. 11:2...The anointed One by the Spirit...Mt. 3;16,17 Isa. 11:2...His Character-Wisdom, Understanding, et al....Jn. 4:4-26 Isa. 11:4...His Character-Truth...Jn. 14:6 Isa. 11:10...The Gentiles seek Him...Jn. 12:18-21 Isa. 12:2...Called Jesus-Yeshua...Mt. 1:21 Isa. 25:8...The Resurrection predicted...I Cor. 15:54 Isa. 26:19...His power of Resurrection predicted...Jn. 11:43,44 Isa. 28:16...The Messiah is the precious corner stone...Acts 4:11,12 Isa. 29:13...He indicated hypocritical obedience to His Word...Mt. 15:7-9 Isa. 29:14...The wise are confounded by the Word...I Cor. 1:18-31 Isa. 32:2...A Refuge-A man shall be a hiding place...Mt. 23:37 Isa. 35:4...He will come and save you...Mt. 1:21 Isa. 35:5...To have a ministry of miracles...Mt. 11:4-6 Isa. 40:3,4...Preceded by forerunner...Jn. 1:23 Isa. 40:9..."Behold your God."...Jn. 1:36;19:14 Isa. 40:11...A shepherd-compassionate life-giver...Jn. 10:10-18 Isa. 42:1-4...The Servant-as a faithful, patient redeemer... Mt.12:18-21 Isa. 42:2...Meek and lowly... Mt. 11:28-30 Isa. 42:3...He brings hope for the hopeless... Jn. 4 Isa. 42:4...The nations shall wait on His teachings... Jn. 12:20-26 Isa. 42:6...The Light (salvation) of the Gentiles...Lu. 2:32 Isa. 42:1,6...His is a Worldwide compassion... Mt. 28:19,20 Isa. 42:7...Blind eyes opened... Jn. 9:25-38 Isa. 43:11...He is the only Savior... Acts. 4:12 Isa. 44:3...He will send the Spirit of God... Jn. 16:7,13 Isa. 45:23...He will be the Judge... Jn. 5:22;Rom. 14:11 Isa. 48:12...The First and the Last...Jn. 1:30;Rev. 1:8,17 Isa. 48:17...He came as a Teacher...Jn. 3:2 Isa. 49:1...Called from the womb-His humanity...Mt. 1:18 Isa. 49:5...A Servant from the womb...Lu. 1:31;Phil. 2:7 Isa. 49:6...He is Salvation for Israel...Lu. 2:29-32 Isa. 49:6...He is the Light of the Gentiles...Acts 13:47 Isa. 49:6...He is Salvation unto the ends of the earth... Acts 15:7-18 Isa. 49:7...He is despised of the Nation... Jn. 8:48-49 Isa. 50:3...Heaven is clothed in black at His humiliation... Lu. 23:44,45 Isa. 50:4...He is a learned counsellor for the weary... Mt. 11:28,29 Isa. 50:5...The Servant bound willingly to obedience... Mt. 26:39 Isa. 50:6a..."I gave my back to the smiters."... Mt. 27:26 Isa. 50:6b...He was smitten on the cheeks... Mt. 26:67 Isa. 50:6c...He was spat upon... Mt. 27:30 Isa. 52:7...To publish good tidings of peace... Lu. 4:14,15 Isa. 52:13...The Servant exalted...Acts 1:8-11; Eph. 1:19-22 Isa. 52:13...Behold, My Servant... Mt. 17:5; Phil. 2:5-8 Isa. 52:14...The Servant shockingly abused... Lu. 18:31-34; Mt. 26:67,68 Isa. 52:15...Nations startled by message of the Servant... Rom. 15:18-21 Isa. 52:15...His blood shed to make atonement for all... Rev. 1:5 Isa. 53:1...His people would not believe Him... Jn. 12:37-38 Isa. 53:2a...He would grow up in a poor family.... Lu. 2:7 Isa. 53:2b...Appearance of an ordinary man... Phil. 2:7-8 Isa. 53:3a...Despised.... Lu. 4:28-29 Isa. 53:3b...Rejected... Mt. 27:21-23 Isa. 53:3c...Great sorrow and grief... Lu. 19:41-42 Isa. 53:3d...Men hide from being associated with Him... Mk. 14:50-52 Isa. 53:4a...He would have a healing ministry... Lu. 6:17-19 Isa. 53:4b...He would bear the sins of the world... 1 Pet. 2:24 Isa. 53:4c...Thought to be cursed by God... Mt. 27:41-43 Isa. 53:5a...Bears penalty for mankind's transgressions... Lu. 23:33 Isa. 53:5b...His sacrifice would provide peace between man and God... Col. 1:20 Isa. 53:5c...His back would be whipped... Mt. 27:26 Isa. 53:6a...He would be the sin-bearer for all mankind...Gal. 1:4 Isa. 53:6b...God's will that He bear sin for all mankind... 1 Jn. 4:10 Isa. 53:7a...Oppressed and afflicted... Mt. 27:27-31 Isa. 53:7b...Silent before his accusers... Mt. 27:12-14 Isa. 53:7c...Sacrificial lamb... Jn. 1:29 Isa. 53:8a...Confined and persecuted... Mt. 26:47-27:31 Isa. 53:8b...He would be judged... Jn. 18:13-22 Isa. 53:8c...Killed.... Mt. 27:35 Isa. 53:8d...Dies for the sins of the world... 1 Jn. 2:2 Isa. 53:9a...Buried in a rich man's grave... Mt. 27:57 Isa. 53:9b...Innocent and had done no violence... Mk. 15:3 Isa. 53:9c...No deceit in his mouth... Jn. 18:38 Isa. 53:10a...God's will that He die for mankind... Jn. 18:11 Isa. 53:10b...An offering for sin... Mt. 20:28 Isa. 53:10c...Resurrected and live forever.... Mk. 16:16 Isa. 53:10d...He would prosper... Jn. 17:1-5 Isa. 53:11a...God fully satisfied with His suffering... Jn. 12:27 Isa. 53:11b...God's servant... Rom. 5:18-19 Isa. 53:11c...He would justify man before God... Rom. 5:8-9 Isa. 53:11d...The sin-bearer for all mankind... Heb. 9:28 Isa. 53:12a...Exalted by God because of his sacrifice... Mt. 28:18 Isa. 53:12b...He would give up his life to save mankind... Lu. 23:46 Isa. 53:12c...Grouped with criminals... Lu. 23:32 Isa. 53:12d...Sin-bearer for all mankind... 2 Cor. 5:21 Isa. 53:12e...Intercede to God in behalf of mankind... Lu. 23:34 Isa. 55:3...Resurrected by God... Acts 13:34 Isa. 55:4...A witness... Jn. 18:37 Isa. 59:15-16a...He would come to provide salvation... Jn. 6:40 Isa. 59:15-16b...Intercessor between man and God... Mt. 10:32 Isa. 59:20...He would come to Zion as their Redeemer... Lu. 2:38 Isa. 61:1-2a...The Spirit of God upon him... Mt. 3:16-17 Isa. 61:1-2b...The Messiah would preach the good news... Lu. 4:17-21 Isa. 61:1-2c...Provide freedom from the bondage of sin and death... Jn. 8:31-32 Isa. 61:1-2...Proclaim a period of grace... Jn. 5:24 Jer.23:5-6a...Descendant of David...Lu. 3:23-31 Jer. 23:5-6b...The Messiah would be God... Jn. 13:13 Jer. 23:5-6c...The Messiah would be both God and Man... 1 Tim. 3:16 Jer. 31:22...Born of a virgin... Mt. 1:18-20 Jer. 31:31...The Messiah would be the new covenant... Mt. 26:28 Jer. 33:14-15...Descendant of David... Lu. 3:23-31 Eze.17:22-24...Descendant of David... Lk. 3:23-31 Eze.34:23-24...Descendant of David... Mt. 1:1 Dan. 7:13-14a...He would ascend into heaven... Acts 1:9-11 Dan. 7:13-14b...Highly exalted... Eph. 1:20-22 Dan. 7:13-14c...His dominion would be everlasting... Lu. 1:31-33 Dan. 9:24a...To make an end to sins... Gal. 1:3-5 Dan. 9:24b...He would be holy... Lu. 1:35 Dan. 9:25...Announced to his people 483 years, to the exact day, after the decree to rebuild the city of Jerusalem... Jn. 12:12-13 Dan. 9:26a...Killed... Mt. 27:35 Dan. 9:26b...Die for the sins of the world... Heb. 2:9 Dan. 9:26c...Killed before the destruction of the temple... Mt. 27:50-51 Dan. 10:5-6...Messiah in a glorified state... Rev. 1:13-16 Hos. 13:14...He would defeat death... 1 Cor. 15:55-57 Joel 2:32...Offer salvation to all mankind... Rom. 10:12-13 Mic. 5:2a...Born in Bethlehem... Mt. 2:1-2 Mic. 5:2b...God's servant... Jn. 15:10 Mic. 5:2c...From everlasting... Jn. 8:58 Hag. 2:6-9...He would visit the second Temple... Lu. 2:27-32 Hag. 2:23...Descendant of Zerubbabel... Lu. 3:23-27 Zech. 3:8...God's servant... Jn. 17:4 Zech. 6:12-13...Priest and King... Heb. 8:1 Zech. 9:9a...Greeted with rejoicing in Jerusalem... Mt. 21:8-10 Zech. 9:9b...Beheld as King... Jn. 12:12-13 Zech. 9:9c...The Messiah would be just... Jn. 5:30 Zech. 9:9d...The Messiah would bring salvation... Luke 19:10 Zech. 9:9e...The Messiah would be humble... Mt. 11:29 Zech. 9:9f...Presented to Jerusalem riding on a donkey... Mt. 21:6-9 Zech. 10:4...The cornerstone... Eph. 2:20 Zech. 11:4-6a...At His coming, Israel to have unfit leaders... Mt. 23:1-4 Zech. 11:4-6b...Rejection causes God to remove His protection.. Lu. 19:41-44 Zech. 11:4-6c...Rejected in favor of another king... Jn. 19:13-15 Zech. 11:7...Ministry to "poor," the believing remnant... Mt. 9:35-36 Zech. 11:8a...Unbelief forces Messiah to reject them... Mt. 23:33 Zech. 11:8b...Despised... Mt. 27:20 Zech. 11:9...Stops ministering to the those who rejected Him... Mt. 13:10-11 Zech. 11:10-11a...Rejection causes God to remove protection... Lu. 19:41-44 Zech. 11:10-11b...The Messiah would be God... Jn. 14:7 Zech. 11:12-13a...Betrayed for thirty pieces of silver... Mt. 26:14-15 Zech. 11:12-13b...Rejected... Mt. 26:14-15 Zech. 11:12-13c...Thirty pieces of silver thrown into the house of the Lord... Mt. 27:3-5 Zech. 11:12-13d...The Messiah would be God... Jn. 12:45 Zech. 12:10a...The Messiah's body would be pierced... Jn. 19:34-37 Zech. 12:10b...The Messiah would be both God and man... Jn. 10:30 Zech. 12:10c...The Messiah would be rejected... Jn. 1:11 Zech. 13:7a...God's will He die for mankind... Jn. 18:11 Zech. 13:7b...A violent death... Mt. 27:35 Zech. 13:7c...Both God and man.. Jn. 14:9 Zech. 13:7d...Israel scattered as a result of rejecting Him... Mt. 26:31-56 Mal. 3:1a...Messenger to prepare the way for Messiah... Mt. 11:10 Mal. 3:1b...Sudden appearance at the temple... Mk. 11:15-16 Mal. 3:1c...Messenger of the new covenant... Lu. 4:43 Mal. 4:5...Forerunner in the spirit of Elijah... Mt. 3:1-2 Mal. 4:6...Forerunner would turn many to righteousness... Lu. 1:16-17
    Did you catch all of them?!

    Jesus Is Coming

    The first meaning of Advent was the first coming of the Messiah. We look back at it. Christ has come.

    The second meaning of Advent is the second coming. Jesus promised to return. He said

    “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:1-3)

    We wait for His return, His second coming. He said He would return soon, which doesn’t fit our definition of soon, but compared to eternity what’s 2000 years?

    Jesus Is Here…Now!

    Perhaps the most important meaning of Advent is His desire to come into our lives now. Today. Make no mistake, God is here now. When Jesus left the planet physically He sent the Holy Spirit to live in every believer. The transformation many of us have experienced is evidence God has not left us to fend for ourselves here on earth. Miracles occur. Bodies are healed. Hope is found. Broken relationships are mended. Finances are restored. The disturbed find peace. All because of God with us.

    We are in the middle of history, looking back at Jesus’ first visit to our planet—a day we call Christmas, when Christ entered our world—and looking forward to His return, His second coming. While we cry “Maranatha! Come quickly LORD Jesus,” we also seek to be fully present with one another and with our God who is both here and there, on earth and in heaven. In fact Jesus taught us to pray

    your kingdom come,
    your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)

    We long for those moments when heaven kisses earth, where God’s presence and power are visible and unleashed. When love conquers indifference and hatred, when peace overcomes violence, when life trumps death, when good wins over evil, when beauty defeats the mundane.

    As we live in the in-between—this period between the first and second comings of Jesus—we find hope not in the created but the Creator, not in presents under the tree on Friday but in God’s presence with us every day.

    God is with us…and that changes everything.

    It means we’re never alone. He’s with us, especially when we’re afraid or suffering.

    It means we have power. All authority in heaven and earth has been given to us as we make disciples, reproducing the life of Jesus to live abundant, fulfilled, exciting lives.

    It means we can experience heaven, moments of supernatural wonder, miracles.

    It means we have access to an unending supply of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control—the fruit of the Spirit, the same Holy Spirit that filled Jesus.

    It also means we can die to ourselves and invite Jesus into our lives to become not only Savior but LORD. It means we give up control and “let Jesus take the wheel.” It means surrendering to our need to be God and submitting our lives to Him, truly seeking His kingdom and His will here and now.

    We have an ancient and sacred practice called baptism in which a person is ceremonially dunked in water—symbolic of a water grave where their old self dies. That sounds harsh, but then they are lifted out of the water signifying resurrection and new life in Jesus Christ. You can’t renovate these temples. You must destroy them first and start from the ground up. You can’t have a resurrection without a death.

    So What?

    Jesus came. Jesus is coming. Jesus is here. Do you know Him? Does He live in you?

    Jesus is the greatest gift you could ever receive. He’s the reason for the season. Do you know Him? He’s here.


    When You are Suffering or Afraid, 13 December 2015

    When You Are Suffering Or Afraid
    Series: Be Here Now
    Psalm 139, 23, 56:3-4

    Series Overview:
    Christmas is the celebration of “presence.”

    Big Idea: God is with us…always…especially when we are suffering or afraid.


    This morning we continue our Advent series, “Be Here Now,” a series on presence.

    Perhaps the holidays for you are the most isolated time of year. You feel like the guy in the video, surrounded by people, yet empty inside, alone, and seemingly invisible to everyone.

    The first two weeks dealt with us being fully present with others and God. The next two weeks will address God’s presence with us. You are not invisible. You are not alone. Today we’ll briefly look at God’s presence when we are suffering and when we’re afraid. I have a few things to say, but mostly today I want to let the words of David from the Psalms refresh you.

    This past week I was invited to the offices of Proclaim FM 102.3 and their sign said, “Christmas is about three words: God with us.” That is the meaning of “Emmanuel.” God is with us. He is present. He is here…now.

    Do you know God is here? Perhaps you feel His presence right now. Maybe you don’t. It’s possible you’ve never felt God with you.

    But He is. Whether you feel it or not.

    Feelings are real. They are powerful. They cannot always be trusted. That’s why we need the Bible to guide us into truth.

    One of my favorite psalms, Psalm 139, beautifully describes God’s presence—even seeing us in the womb!

    Psalm 139

    For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
    You have searched me, LORD,
    and you know me.
    You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
    You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
    Before a word is on my tongue
    you, LORD, know it completely.
    You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
    Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

    Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
    If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
    If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
    even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
    If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
    even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
    For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
    I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
    My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
    Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
    How precious to me are your thoughts,
    How vast is the sum of them!
    Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.
    If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
    They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
    Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
    I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
    Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
    See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139)

    God is here. How do I know? “The Bible tells me so.” Is that enough? Sometimes.

    Often I find a conflict between my thoughts and feelings, between what I know in my head to be true and what I sense in my heart.

    I often think of God like
    radio waves. Whether you know it or not, this room is filled with radio waves. They are invisible, but real. You simply need to dial in to experience them. A television will be able to tune in television channels, a radio radio frequencies, and a laptop WiFi signals. You can deny their existence…or listen in. God is here whether you deny or embrace it, whether you feel it or not. Is your antenna up?

    Sometimes God seems very distant. I’ve had many
    “dark nights of the soul” where I cried out, wondering where I could find God. Perhaps you’ve had them. Perhaps you’re going through such a season right now. I promise you God is real and He loves you and He is with you. I don’t understand why He sometimes seems to play hard to get, but He promised to never leave us or forsake us, to be with us always to the very end of the age. Don’t give up. Tell a friend your struggles. Fill your mind with the truth of God’s Word. Beg Him to reveal Himself. Be assured He is worth the pursuit.

    When have you felt God closest to you?

    On September 21, 2006 a friend of mine sent me this e-mail while our daughter was in horrific pain in the hospital:
    It is hard to figure out where God is when we are sitting in the ash heap in suffering, but I really sense that God is sitting in the ash heap with you.  Along those lines, I encourage you to spend time in the place of mourning (even as you work on solutions to the problem) and I think that you will meet God there. 

    His words were truly prophetic. The next day, September 22, I found myself at one of the worst moments of my life, despondent over our suffering child who could get no relief from horrendous pain. I opened my Bible to Psalm 22—since it was September 22—and read these words

    My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1a)

    I instantly bawled like a baby, something highly unusual for me. The paradox was how close I felt to God at the moment. In fact, I’ve probably never felt close to the Father than when I read those words. I did not feel forsaken by God. Instead, my mind raced to the words of Jesus on the cross we looked at last week…

    From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). (Matthew 27:45-46)

    As I watched my child suffer excruciating pain, I was transported to Calvary and the pain the Father must’ve felt watching His child suffer excruciating pain.

    Where is God when you’re suffering? With you. He understands.

    Psalm 34:18 says

    The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

    There are many wonderful attributes of God. One is His presence. He is not only omnipresent—everywhere at once—He is especially close to the hurting, the suffering. Jesus knows pain and refused to watch us from a distance. The celebration of Emmanuel is God came near, God entered our world, God experienced pain, God understands.

    For the longest time I couldn’t turn to Psalm 22 without getting emotional. Those nine words pierced my heart, reminding me of that place of mourning and agony and yet joyfully reminding me of God’s presence.

    It was months later when I realized what follows the suffering of Psalm 22…Psalm 23. Perhaps you’ve heard it!

    A psalm of David.

    The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
    he leads me beside quiet waters,

    he refreshes my soul.
    He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.

    Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
    I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

    You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
    You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.

    Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
    and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
    forever. (Psalm 23)

    Because David was able to fear God and not evil—he found God more awesome than his temptations or fears—he was not afraid. The presence of God brought him comfort.

    Every day we are tempted to be afraid as we read the news, talk with friends…look in the mirror! As we said several weeks ago, “Fear Not. Fear God.”

    Where is God when you’re afraid? With you. So we need not be afraid.

    A few chapters later in Psalms we read these words of David

    When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
    In God, whose word I praise—
    in God I trust and am not afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me? (Psalm 56:3-4)

    It’s great to know God is powerful, but it is His presence which is truly comforting. Whether you feel it or not, God is with us. Always. Everywhere. He’s with us in the midst of suffering. He’s with us when we’re afraid.

    The irony of Advent is during this season of waiting for Jesus, He is with us. He is here. At this time of year we look back at history, we look forward to the return of Jesus, but we must also be fully present in the moment, welcoming Jesus into our current reality.

    He wants to do life with us. Today. We are never alone. As we celebrate Emmanuel, invite Jesus into your life, your home, your school, your place of work, your recreation, and your commute. He not only wants to be your friend, He is the Almighty God of angel armies who is always by your side.

    You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here. You can subscribe to the free FAC Focus e-newsletter here.

    When Friends Let You Down, 6 December 2015

    When Friends Let You Down
    Series: Be Here Now
    1 Samuel 30:6

    Series Overview:
    Christmas is the celebration of “presence.”

    Big Idea: We must be present with and find our strength in God, even when friends desert us.


    This morning we are continuing our Advent series, Be Here Now, messages about presence—not presents you buy and wrap but presence—being fully present. Last week we noted The Golden Rule, Jesus’ timeless command to

    Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31)

    We’ve all been annoyed by people who are present physically with us but are in another place mentally and emotionally. Whether they are distracted by texts on their phone, yawning binges and fatigue, daydreaming, or multitasking, it’s frustrating and downright offensive to be ignored.

    It’s one thing to struggle for attention during a lunch conversation but quite another to be ignored or even abandoned in a relationship.

    Have you ever been deserted by a friend? Have you invested in a friendship only to watch it die? What do you do when you’re willing to be fully present with someone and they no longer show up?


    One of the great things about the Bible is its authenticity. You can’t make this stuff up! Today we’re going to look at three biblical characters, one from the Old and the other two from the New Testament. The first involves David. King David is one of the most important figures not only in the Bible but in human history. He became the second king of Israel following Saul, famous for a battle won against a giant named Goliath, and—like all of us—an imperfect sinner.

    The book of 1 Samuel chapter 30 describes one of David’s worst moments as a warrior…prior to assuming the throne.

    David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, and had taken captive the women and everyone else in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way. (1 Samuel 30:1-2)

    This is not a good day!

    When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. David’s two wives had been captured—Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. (1 Samuel 30:3-5)

    Imagine how David is feeling. His two wives—we don’t have time today to discuss polygamy!—have been captured. Defeat is visible everywhere. He’s desperate.


    Shawn Achor, Harvard researcher and author of
    How Happiness Fuels Your Success, says, “The social connection is the greatest predictor of long-term happiness by far…social connection is not only the greatest predictor of happiness, social connection is as predictive of how long you will end up living as obesity, high blood pressure, or smoking.”

    Connection to friends is the key indicator of happiness and a huge factor in how long you will live!

    What are the implications of that when we lose friends? Huge!

    I know what it’s like to lose friends.

    One of my very best friends drifted away, failing to return phone calls and showing no interest in me and our relationship.

    A few years ago after gently confronting another friend about his offensive behavior a similar situation occurred. Not only did he no longer reach out to me, he said things to other friends who stopped inviting us to social gatherings.

    There are other examples, but none come close to the intensity of David’s loss.

    Back to David!

    David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. (1 Samuel 30:6a)

    It’s one thing to lose a friend. It’s another thing entirely to have friends that want to see you lose your life! What would you do…after you ran from these angry men?!

    But David found strength in the LORD his God. (1 Samuel 30:6b)

    This is an example of a good “but.” It’s worth noting the word “LORD” is capitalized. This is the Hebrew word that is essentially spelled YHWH. We don’t know how to pronounce it because Hebrew has no vowels and because it is the holy name of God, the name spoken to Moses at the Burning Bush. To this day Jews will not utter the word because they don’t want to dishonor it in any way. The word “Adonoi” is a more common word for “lord” often used instead. “In English, the Tetragrammaton—another term for YHWH— is in all-caps LORD to distinguish it from Adonai.

    I once asked my Messianic Jewish rabbi friend about the pronunciation of YHWH. It is my understanding that Jehovah is grossly incorrect. When I asked Allen if it is Yahweh, he said, “That’s very close!” refusing to speak the word himself.

    But David found strength in the LORD his God. (1 Samuel 30:6b)

    This holy word for God describes Him as “I Am,” as the one who exists and/or causes existence. When abandoned by friends, David found strength in Am, in the LORD God.

    One of the great things about God is He never changes. Hebrews tells us

    Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)


    Paul, once known as Saul, wrote much of the New Testament. In his second letter to his disciple Timothy, he writes,

    Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message. (2 Timothy 4:14-15)

    Notice Paul not only acknowledges the painful loss of a friend, he offers a warning to Timothy. Alexander is not a safe person. Boundaries are necessary.

    We are to love all—look out for their best interests—but that does not mean we are to be best friends with everyone. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if Alexander was the only lost friend, but Paul continues…

    At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. (2 Timothy 4:16)

    Not only does Paul not complain, he speaks on behalf of those who deserted him, and then he offers a “but” similar to David.

    But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:17-18)

    Paul turns to God for strength, then seeks the glory of God in all things. Every story in the Bible is ultimately about God’s glory.

    Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. (Isaiah 26:8)

    He leveraged the good and bad for the glory of God.


    Our third biblical character was denied three times by one of His three best friends, Peter. He was betrayed by one of His twelve closest friends, Judas. I’m speaking of Jesus. As painful as those experienced must have been, nothing can compare to the anguish of being forsaken by the Father as He hung on the cross.

    From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). (Matthew 27:45-46)

    When David and Paul were deserted, they turned to God.

    When Jesus was deserted, He had nowhere to turn.

    After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

    “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. (John 17:1)

    Jesus died for the glory of God. Did you catch that? He died for us, but even more He died for the glory of God.

    In Jesus’ hour of greatest need, He turned to the Father. Where do you turn when you feel alone, abandoned, betrayed?

    So What?

    It’s impossible to be fully present with someone who’s not even there! The wounds of a friend run deep, and many common psychological problems stem from abandonment issues, often parents, but also friends. It takes years to build trust but only seconds to destroy it.

    This season is “the most wonderful time of year” for some, yet it’s the most depressing time of year for others. Loneliness can be deadly—literally. If you feel alone, I have great news for you!

    First, whether you know or accept it, you are a part of a family—the First Alliance family. You belong here!

    As I mentioned a few weeks ago, our worship gathering is not the ideal environment for developing relationships, but we have Sunday School classes at 9 AM and Growth Groups that meet tonight and throughout the week, both smaller gatherings of people who not only study the Bible and pray but do life together. I urge you to get connected in a small group.

    Second, Jesus understands. He was not only abandoned by friends, He was abandoned for a time by God the Father as our sins upon Christ were unbearable. He experience the ultimate pain, grief and loss.

    For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

    Third and finally, God is with you…always. We’ll discuss this further the next two weeks. One of the names of Jesus, Emmanuel, means “God with us.” Although Jesus is not physically with us at the moment, He left the Holy Spirit for all who believe in Him to experience. The Holy Spirit lives inside every follower of Jesus!


    Relationships are risky. Friends can turn on you. Bonds can be broken. Such pain can make us bitter—or it can make us better as we run to Jesus, our big Brother who knows suffering and abandonment better than any of us could imagine.

    This Advent season and every day of the year let’s be fully present for one another—inward. Let’s we reach out to the lonely and needy—outward. And let’s reach upward to Emmanuel, God with us.

    You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here. You can subscribe to the free FAC Focus e-newsletter here.

    A Living Hope, 1 November 2015

    Note: This message is similar to one preached at Scio Community Church, September 6, 2015.

    A Living Hope
    Series: What In The World Is Going On? A Study of 1 Peter
    1 Peter 1:1-12

    Series Overview: God’s grace is present in the midst of suffering.

    Big Idea: Suffering is real but temporary. Salvation and hope are real and eternal.

    Prelude Comments

    Good morning, First Alliance! Before we dive into our sermon, I want to begin with a simple question: why are you here?

    There are many good answers to this question, but I hope above the social benefits, the music team, serving others, and even communion is a desire to deepen your relationship with God in order to become a disciple of Jesus.

    I was challenged several years ago by a friend who wondered whether or not discipleship occurs at all during the Sunday morning worship gathering. Since our mission is essentially to make disciples, I hope so!

    As we open God’s Word, the Bible, together, I want to preach not merely for the sake of conveying information, and not even for inspiration, but ultimately for transformation. I can’t do that, but the Holy Spirit can take the scriptures and activate them in our lives.

    May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. – Psalm 19:14


    What in the world is going on?

    Does it seem like society has gone insane?

    • - We can kill babies and sell their parts but go crazy if a lion is shot
    • - It’s ok to smoke weed but not cigarettes.
    • - Ashley Madison says “Life is short. Have an affair.”
    • - Bush might run against Clinton for president!
    • - Women now have wives and men can have a husband.
    • - The worldwide movement of Jesus based upon love is known for hate.
    • - We are to be tolerant of everything yet offended by everything.

    There are many reasons why we are alarmed, worried, depressed, and fearful about our world. We are exposed to more “bad news” than ever before, bombarded by media outlets virtually everywhere. Cultural Christianity has been in decline for years, something I celebrate while others mourn. As a result, the influence—power—once possessed by Christians seems to be waning.

    If you feel even a little afraid, if you find yourself in the minority, the underdog, you’re not alone. For thousands of years, God-fearers have faced opposition and persecution. Throughout our lifetimes our brothers and sisters in Christ have suffered unimaginable agony for their faith. What’s unique is our so-called “Christian nation” appears to be less Christian each day.

    It is my prayer that the next several weeks will provide you with hope, encouragement, and peace as we examine a letter from Peter to early Christians exiled.


    Before we begin in 1 Peter, I want to offer a quick lesson in hermeneutics, a fancy words for studying the Bible. It may sound simple: read and apply. The challenge comes in understanding the context. There are three steps:

    1. 1. What did it mean originally?
    2. 2. What does it mean today?
    3. 3. How can I apply it today?

    People are quick to quote a verse without understanding the context, often deriving a very different message than the author’s intent.

    The book of 1 Peter begins

    Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, (1 Peter 1:1a)

    This is Peter, also known as Simon. He’s the one who denied Christ three times, the one who walked on the Sea of Galilee, one of Jesus’ three closest friends. Catholics look to him as the first Pope. His name means “rock.” Peter and Paul were the primary leaders of the early Church. He writes this letter around the year 63, around the time Paul was martyred and not long before Peter himself would die for his faith. He’s most likely writing from Babylon.

    To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: (1 Peter 1:1b-2a)

    To God’s elect. This phrase has prompted great discussion. Do we choose God or does God choose us? To be “elect” is to receive God’s grace. He initiates. We love Him because He first loved us.

    This word “exiles” is often translated “strangers” or “resident aliens” or “sojourners.” In chapter two they will be referred to as “pilgrims.” Like us, they were citizens of heaven through faith in Jesus (Philippians 3:20), in the world but not of it (John 17:16). They are temporary residents. As strangers, they were considered strange by many, a scattered (diaspora) people in five different parts of the Roman Empire in what we now know as Turkey.

    Paul wrote to Gentiles, Peter to a Jewish audience.

    Have you ever been a stranger somewhere? How did it feel?

    Today is my third day living in Ohio. I feel like an alien! The First Alliance family has graciously welcomed me and my family, but I’m just beginning to understand my new surroundings, my new city, my new state, my new church family…

    We are so excited to be here despite being in unfamiliar territory.

    Our situation is far different than the recipients of this short letter.

    As we will see, Peter addresses these scattered strangers and acknowledges their suffering, at least fifteen times with eight different Greek words! Each time it is tied to hope. We have all experienced suffering in one form or another, though few to the extent of the first Christians. This is not persecution from someone calling you a name or even losing your job because you wanted to honor God above an unbelieving boss. A “fiery trial” was coming, persecution from the Roman Empire. Think ISIS or Boco Harum.

    What do you say to someone who is suffering?
    What do you say to someone who is about to experience suffering?

    The thing about suffering is we’re all coming out of suffering, in the midst of suffering, or about to experience suffering. It’s a part of the broken, human condition in this life.

    Note God has a plan. He knows what He’s doing. God has foreknowledge. He knows the plan. He is omniscient—He knows everything!

    Sanctification: we are set apart, becoming like Jesus, bearing the fruit of the Spirit. We are not to be spiritual infants but grow to maturity as we are filled with the Holy Spirit. Sanctification is not merely something after conversion but rather three dimensions: separation from sin, growing in holiness throughout life, and “the final act of God when He makes his holy people completely holy for eternity.” (Scot McKnight) The electing work of God leads to the conversion of these disenfranchised sojourners of Asia Minor.

    The blood of Jesus is also present. You can’t make too much of the blood of Christ. We remember it through communion. Blood is life! In the Old Testament, the blood of animals was used in sacrifices. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice. Do you obey Jesus? Do you do what He wants? That’s making Him LORD. Note here the Trinity is in view, one God in three Persons, Father, Son and Spirit.

    Peter continues…

    Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:2b)

    Grace is a customary Greco-Roman greeting and peace is a Jewish greeting. Peter uses the word grace in every chapter of this letter. Grace is unmerited favor. When we depend upon God’s grace, we can glorify Him in suffering, turning trials into triumphs. Peace comes when we have assurance of the forgiveness of our sins. In the midst of persecution we can have a true hope of future glory and blessing.

    Peter continues in what is essentially a ten-verse run-on sentence!
    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)

    This word “praise” is never used with regard to man, only God. We are to praise God the Father, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    We don’t “hope so,” but instead we have a living hope. It is our resurrected LORD. It rests upon Jesus’ blood. A body without blood is dead. He died so we might live.

    Scot McKnight writes, “It is not so much that believers are now living “full of hope,” but that they have a fixed “hope,” a clear vision of what God will do for them in the future.”

    Where John spoke of love and Paul faith, hope is a common theme in Peter’s messages. Warren Wiersbe said,

    “Hope is not a sedative; it is a shot of adrenaline, a blood transfusion. Like an anchor, our hope in Christ stabilizes us in the storms of life (Hebrews 6:18-19), but unlike an anchor, our hope moves us forward, it does not hold us back.”

    Our inheritance cannot be lost like cash, stocks, car keys, or cell phones. It is in heaven. It is indestructible.

    We are kept by the power of God through faith. A Scottish man had one word on his tombstone: kept.

    In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Peter 1:6)

    Some believe verse six is the key of the epistle. Jesus and James and Paul said we will have trials and troubles. Life is hard. We can rejoice, though, not because we have trials but because we have salvation. We have hope. Trials are temporary. This life is so short. Paul said

    For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

    Unbroken film: Louis "Louie" Zamperini

    These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:7)

    Faith is precious.
    Trials have a purpose.

    God puts us into a furnace not to destroy us but to refine us.

    When we see Jesus, we will thank God for our trials.

    “If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.”

    Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)

    Peter had seen Him and lived with Him for three years. These people have not seen Jesus…but they love Him. We have not seen Jesus. Do you love Jesus?

    The writer of Hebrews said

    Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

    Now the final three verses for today:

    Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. (1 Peter 1:10-12)

    The Old Testament prophets wrote by the Spirit of Christ.

    Angels are real! They would love to make an announcement as Gabriel did. Angels are great, but we have the Holy Spirit which is even better. Angels are mentioned to remind us of the privileges of salvation. Neither angels nor the prophets experience what we assume and enjoy as followers of Jesus today.

    So What?

    Increasingly followers of Jesus in our culture are becoming the minority (if we ever were in the majority). In a world of pluralism, it is radical to claim Jesus as the One Way to the Father (though Jesus said those very words). In a world of consumerism, it is radical to be generous. In a world of tolerance, it is radical to exhibit true love.

    When we respond to God’s invitation to follow Him, we are to live for Him, not ourselves. We are to maintain the course of a loving, holy lifestyle, and find our identity in being part of God’s family, God’s elect, the church, not in being part of a society that does not accept us.

    Are you first and foremost an American or a child of God?

    This life is short and will soon end. It is filled with trials and suffering…but we have a great hope for eternity. We have salvation. We have Christ.


    Some ideas from

    Be Hopeful (1 Peter): How to Make the Best of Times Out of Your Worst of Times (The BE Series Commentary) by Warren Wiersbe

    Thru The Bible audio messages by J. Vernon McGee

    1 Peter (The NIV Application Commentary) by Scot McKnight

    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.