Under The Sun #2: “If It Feels Good…”

NewClothes2Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church Under The Sun #2 (Ecclesiastes): “If It Feels Good…” To hear this message and others download our free app at The App Store.  Search The Gathering Connect.

If It Feels Good Do It? Proverbs 14:12, Romans 6:23, Ecclesiastes 2:1-11, 1 Kings 11:1-6

We’ve all heard the old saying that was coined in the 60’s counter culture movement: “If it feels good do it.”  Many people do just that.  The problem with living by such a credo is that many things that feel good lead to ruin and misery and not just for the doer but for those connected to him or her as well.  Think about it, can you recall any sin that you committed, or anyone else for that matter, that didn’t at first “feel good?”  Yet the Bible clearly states that there is a way that seems right to a man (pleasuring himself at all costs) but that way leads to death (Proverbs 14:12). In Fact Solomon wrote that!  The Apostle Paul expanded on that truth and said that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).  Thank God for the second part of that verse that tells us that “death” is cancelled by “the gift of God” for those who receive Christ Jesus as Lord (John 1:12). 

In our text today “the teacher” (Solomon) tells of how he engaged in a life of pleasure, and unlike most of us, had unlimited resources to do so.  He makes a list of pleasurable things that he engaged in, some of them seemed harmless enough: building houses, planting trees… but others are not so harmless like buying slaves and making a harem for himself.  “He denied himself nothing his eyes desired; he refused his heart no pleasure (Ecclesiastes 2:10a). We know from scripture that Solomon had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines (1 Kings 11:1-6).  We also know that this displeased the Lord. 

In his writing Solomon presents us with an oxymoron (a figure of speech in which        contradictory terms appear in conjunction) when he says “I tried embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom.” Folly defined is a lack of good sense or foolishness.  Wisdom defined is good judgment.  You can only embrace one or the other, but when one embraces folly it always seems right…cause it feels so good!  That is why you do it… until the consequences set in of course.  Solomon himself wrote in the book of Proverbs The way of a fool seems right to him…  (Proverbs 12:15).  So why didn’t Solomon follow his own wise advice?  A better question would be do you? 

Be Free! Galatians 5:1, 13, 16-17, 24-25, Ecclesiastes 2:12-23

When a person lives like a fool wisdom goes right out the door, no matter what they write in a book, preach, or teach to others!  God’s word clearly instructs us to consider our steps and walk according to His commands ( John 14:15).  We are to think beyond      pleasuring ourselves and follow God’s way.  The Apostle Paul calls this being “set free!” (Galatians 5:1) He encourages believers in Christ not to be burdened again by slavery to sin.  This is obviously what we see Solomon bound to as we read on in our text (Ecclesiastes 11:12-23). When we live only to pleasure ourselves we become slaves to sin.  Solomon saw his behavior as “madness” and “walking in darkness” yet he said: “The fate of the fool will overtake me also.”  What reasoning does he give for this conclusion?     Solomon concludes: “Like the fool, the wise too must die”.  The very next line Solomon writes after his conclusion to remain in his sin is to write how much he hates life!  He is also miserable with the thought that someday someone else will pleasure themselves with what he worked so hard to pleasure himself with.  Even at night his mind does not rest. “Meaningless” he quips! 

Living only to please self is meaningless.  We were called by Jesus to be free from the selfishness of sin and to serve others in love (Galatians 5:13).  If we walk in God’s Spirit we will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  Jesus does not want us to do “whatever we want”, He wants us to follow His example (Galatians 5:16-17). He did not come to pleasure himself.  He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  He came not to accomplish His will, but His Fathers (John 6:38).  Our grand purpose on this earth is to partner with Jesus to make His kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-10). We are to crucify our flesh like He allowed Himself to be crucified for the mission to save the lost and reconcile others to Him.  When we live with this intent in mind and heart our life has great meaning and purpose (Galatians 5:24-25).  

We Reap What We Sow Galatians 6:7-9 

We are clearly warned in scriptures not to live for our own pleasures, but to sow things in our life to please the Spirit and to not to grow weary in doing the good that God desires. As believers, we are God’s children and should seek to live for things that eternal and not temporal.  Solomon was unsatisfied as long as he tried to fill himself up with pleasure.  Only Jesus can fill us up with an abundant life of meaning (John 10:10).  

New Clothes Ecclesiastes 2:24-26, 2 Corinthians 4:18, 5:9-10, Isaiah 61:10

Solomon concludes this chapter with advice to find satisfaction in our own toil (work) and to please God. God has made it clear how we are to please Him and what work we are to do.  Living selfishly to pleasure ourselves is not the recipe for anything except folly. 

The Emperor’s New Clothes” is a short tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unwise or stupid – while in reality, they make no clothes at all, making the foolish king and everyone else believe that the clothes are invisible to them. When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new “clothes”, no one dares to say that they do not see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as stupid. Finally a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”  Suddenly, the crowd erupts in laughter and the king is revealed for the fool that he is. 

What is the “weaver” (the Devil) convincing you to put on in this life?  Who do you want to impress?  How much will you spend?  How much will you toil?  How much of your life will you spend on your own pleasure only to find that you were chasing after wind?  Like the Emperor, each of us will one day parade before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10).  What will you be wearing—wisdom or folly?  Let us fix our eyes on eternal things— clothed in garments of His salvation (Isaiah 61:10).  Let us make it our goal to please Him!   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under The Sun #1: Dust In The Wind

DustInTheWindPhoto by Oliver Valsecchi

Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church Under The Sun #1 (Ecclesiastes): Dust In The Wind  To hear this message and others download our free app at The App Store.  Search The Gathering Connect.

Dust In The Wind (The song and its writer) 

“Dust in the Wind” is a song by the rock band Kansas, written by band member Kerry     Livgren and released on their 1977 album “Point of Know Return.” This was the first      acoustic Kansas song and one that Livgren actually fought with the band over not to include on their album. Of the song he said: “people seemed to identify with what I said in that song – and that really surprised me. Cause in a way, that’s kind of a dismal song, you know?” 

Originally Livgren created the melody of the song as a practice scale for finger picking but his wife insisted that she liked the sound and he should use it in a song.  One day Livgren was reading a book on American Indian poetry when he came across the line ”for all we are is dust in the wind” and that line made him think.  Regardless of everything—one day he would die.  In a 1992 interview Livgren said of the song: “well, you know, that’s really true. Here I got all this success – I’ve got material possessions – I’ve got a goal in my life that had been accomplished at that point, but I’m going back into the ground – and what does this really mean in light of that? This is the message of that song, but the amazing thing was that so many people identified with that”. 

The song identified with so many people that it became the band’s biggest hit ever and crossed over to a  variety of radio stations that played rock, country, and adult contemporary music.  It remains one of the most famous acoustic rock songs ever recorded.

Kerry Livgren would go on to write songs that searched out life’s meaning which eventually led him to Christ in 1979, to create a solo album of his faith in 1980 (Seeds Of Change”) and to leave the band Kansas in 1983 to began a band called A.D. (83-88) that better expressed his faith. From 1989-2000 Livgren did solo projects and then began another band called Proto-ka in 2003. Livgren has lived a life of faith with his wife Vicci (1975-present), fathered two children, runs a farm in Kansas, teaches Bible study at his church, runs a studio and   record label , makes music with his band and shares Christ, but he is no stranger to heartache and pain. His wife suffered a head injury in 1998 and he suffered a massive stroke in 2009 which wiped out his ability to play the guitar and keyboards or even remember concepts of his faith.  Weeks after Livgren’s stroke Vicci fell and broke her back.  Years later she was diagnosed with cancer.  In 2018 Vicci survived cancer and in November of last year Livgren announced that he was putting the finishing touches on his soon to be released   album Cantata (The Resurrection Of Lazarus).  It is an album of faith that includes many    different artists and has been over 20 years in the making.  Pray that Kerry will finish it soon and tell the world his story of faith once again through music and song.  His legacy is truly more than “dust in the wind”.  He has prepared many for an eternity with Christ. 

Ecclesiastes (The song and its writer)  1 Kings 3:5-15a, Matthew 7:13-14 

The line “for all we are is dust in the wind” could have just as well come from the Bible out of  king Solomon’s writings in the book of Ecclesiastes.  In fact this is the key reflection of Solomon throughout the book that we will be studying in the weeks ahead.  

Solomon was the third and last king of the united kingdom of Israel, following King Saul and King David. He was the son of David and Bathsheba, the former wife of Uriah the  Hittite whom David had killed to hide his adultery with Bathsheba while her husband was on the battle front. Solomon wrote the Song of Solomon, the book of Ecclesiastes, and much of the book of Proverbs. When Solomon ascended to the throne, he sought after God, and God gave him opportunity to ask for whatever he wanted. Solomon humbly  acknowledged his inability to rule well and unselfishly asked God for the wisdom he would need to rule God’s people justly. God gave him wisdom and wealth besides (1 Kings 3:4–1510:27). In fact, “King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth” (1 Kings 10:23). God also gave Solomon peace on all sides during most of his reign (1 Kings 4:20–25). Solomon wrote many proverbs and songs (1 Kings 4:32) and completed many building projects (1 Kings 7:1–129:15–23). Solomon also built a fleet of ships and acquired tons of gold from Ophir with Hiram, king of Tyre, as a partner (1 Kings 9:26–2810:1122). Solomon’s most important building project was completing the    Jewish temple with the instructions and provisions of his father, David (1 Kings 61 Chronicles 22).  

In the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon introduces himself as “the Teacher”.  He does this with hopes to impart wisdom to those in the future who read the lessons in this book.  His lessons are compiled from his own life experiences and reflections.  For being such a “wise and discerning king” Solomon sure made a lot of mistakes. It must be noted that all of the life experiences and conclusions he shares in the book are not necessarily godly or wise; however, Solomon’s final conclusion in the book is.  We will learn more about Solomon and his life choices as we progress through this study, but it will suffice for now to say that Kerry Livgren did better than Solomon with the epiphanies provided them.  We can constantly look, as Solomon did, to find “something new under the sun” (in search for that “missing piece”) or find meaning in life by following Christ.  In this poetic book, written long ago by Solomon, we will look at both the broad way and the narrow way of life (Matthew 7:13-14)  and come to a conclusion on the matter. 

Meaningless Ecclesiastes 1:1-18, 1 John 2:15-17, 1 Peter 1:18-25, John 1:10-13 

As Solomon begins his poetic book he notices that just as water continually flows into the sea, which is never full, so are people never full of all they pour into their lives.  There is “nothing new under the sun”. What appears new today has only been re-branded from the past (Hold onto those old clothes and shoes. Fashions will return!). Solomon also points out that no one remembers former generations (note how we repeat mistakes throughout history for sake of forgetting the past).  He also points out that the wiser you are the more sorrow you will haveWhy?  Because…most people are stupid and do stupid things and that is disheartening to say the least.  No wonder Jesus calls us his “sheep”. John 10:27-28

Is all of this true? Of course it is.  If you are looking for life’s meaning in worldly things you will be left wanting every time (you will never be full).  The world and its desires are     passing away (1 John 2:17), but God’s word lasts forever and this is the word that was preached to us (1 Peter 1:25) by Jesus.  He came so that any who would receive would become eternal “children of God” and no longer only “dust in the wind”.

 

   

 

Epiphany: A Word To The Wise

WiseMan

Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church  Epiphany: A Word To The Wise                                       To hear this message and others download our free app @ the App Store.  Search The Gathering Connect.

Epiphany (What does the word mean?)

1 capitalized : January 6 traditionally observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magi. 2 : an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being   3: an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure (a revealing scene or moment).

The Gathering enjoys celebrating Epiphany on the Sunday closest to January 6 to both remember the significance of the Magi coming to worship Christ and to recognize, in each new year, that God desires to direct our lives supernaturally should we choose to listen.   

Listening  Matthew 2:9-23, Matthew 7:7-8, James 1:5-8, John 14:6, Revelation 3:20

In our last lesson we learned that the Magi followed what they called “his star” from the East all the way to Judea to seek out “the one who had been born King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:1-8).  They inquired with king Herod, consulted with the Chief Priests and teachers of the law and the ancient writings of prophets (Micah 5:2-4). The Magi were accustomed to obtaining all of their knowledge from the patterns of the stars, from ancient scrolls, the advice of the great minds of the day and from earthly religious people and governments.  These men were not Jews who believed in God and longed for their Messiah.  They were pagans from the East.  Astrologers (magicians) who studied the stars and practiced divination, but God choose to lead them to Himself because the Magi sought truth, looked for direction and desired to honor and worship such a King who prophets and nature itself proclaimed. 

We continue the story of the Magi in Matthew 2:9 after they met with King Herod.  They were astonished and delighted to see the star rise up ahead of them and stop over “the house” where the child was.  Can you imagine the anticipation that they must have felt as they knocked on the door?  Can you imagine the looks on the neighbor’s faces…on Mary’s face as she opened the door to them?  Upon seeing Jesus they bowed down in worship and then gave Mary their gifts.

Note:  It is most likely that Mary and Joseph used  the three gifts that the Magi gave to travel to and live in the land of Egypt until Herod’s death.  The symbols of the gifts are also evident:  Gold: A gift for a king. Frankincense: A priestly incense which represents prayer. Myrrh: A fragrant perfume, used for embalming bodies. The three gifts together also  underline the Messiah as being our prophetic Savior, priest and king.

Notice the order of action by the Magi.  1.) They sought out Christ, 2.) they saw Christ, 3.) they worshiped Christ, 4.) they gave gifts to Christ and then 5.) they received direction from God. “And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country.” – (Matthew 2:12). Jesus said to ask for direction and it will be given, Jesus told us to seek truth and we will find it in Him.  He said to knock on His door and He will open it (or in the case of the Magi Mary opened it for Him) Matthew 7:7-8.  See also direction: James 1:5-8, Truth: John 14:6, opened door: Revelation 3:20. 

 When we listen to God in the way the Magi did He brings us into His plan and purpose.   Are you listening to God so that He will supernaturally direct (or redirect) your life? 

Worship & Giving Matthew 4:4-8-10, Matthew 16:21-23

The Magi became an active part of God’s plan once they worshiped Him.  Their           obedience resulted in a domino effect of fulfilled prophecy (Matthew 2:13-23 : a.) Out of Egypt I called my Son Hosea 11:1, b.) Rachel (matriarchal representation of Israel) weeping for her children Jeremiah 31:15, c.) Jesus a “Nazarene”: from the “despised city” Matthew 2:23, John 1:46, Isaiah 53:3).

When a man or a woman engages in wholehearted worship and gives something of value to the King of Kings (to His work) it becomes easier to hear the voice of God! Prior to this incredible event, the Magi had to depend on earthly directions and man’s best judgment. After meeting Jesus, worshiping Him and giving to Him that which was of value, the   guidance of God became easy to discern. Worship and giving (also service) in a believer’s life, always turns up the volume of heaven!   Like the Magi, then, not only do we hear His voice … we obey His voice!  The Magi were changed and so was their direction.  Has your direction changed from worship and serving of self to the worship and serving of God? 

Jesus made it clear that worship and service (giving) belongs to God alone.  He made this point to the Devil at the onset of His ministry when Satan attempted to try and get Jesus to bow down to him by serving Himself (Matthew 4:8-10).  Jesus also made this same point near the conclusion of His ministry when His friend, Peter, tried to dissuade Him from  offering up Himself as a sacrifice for our sin.  “Get behind me Satan” is what Jesus said to Peter (Matthew 16:21-23).  Jesus clearly saw that the Devil was attempting once again to thwart the worship and service that belonged to God alone through the ministry that Christ had come to do.   We must remember too, that worship and service to God is the hallmark (stamp of purity and genuineness) of our faith.   

How is it that we can even  consider the worship of God without bringing that which is of great value to Him as our gifts? Our time, treasures and talents should bring Him worship and not just our “big mouths”.  What can you bring as gifts to God?  Does the product of your worship glorify you or the God you say that you adore? 

How Far will you go? Proverbs 3:5-6, 2 Corinthians 4:18

We have no idea what trials the Magi encountered on their long journey, but we can be sure they had them.  The scripture even indicates that the star wasn’t always in view. Why else would they have asked for directions?  Will you trust and follow Christ even when the “star” is not shining?  Will you carry your gifts for Him  even across the desert?  How far will you go? Keep following on faith friends even into that dark night— for what is seen is temporal and the unseen is eternal.  Never forget that Wise men still seek Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Into The New 2020

wisemenPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church  All Things New: 2020 New Years message                To hear this message and others download our free app @ the App Store.  Search The Gathering connect.

Something New Matthew 2:1-12

Christmas day always brings new things doesn’t it.  New clothes, new shoes, a new winter jacket, new pajamas and slippers, new toys, games and gadgets.  There are so many new things as we move into the new year…except for you!  With few exceptions, by the next Christmas all of these wonderful new things will be old and a new list of wants will take their place under the tree, but what about you?  Is there anything new in you?  I’m not talking about new years resolutions to lose that weight, give up that bad habit or accomplish that lofty goal.  I’m talking about something much deeper than that.  I’m talking about a spiritual newness that only takes place as Christ takes hold of you.   

A new job can make a difference in your income, your financial abilities and in your    availability for other things.  A new phase in your relationship like an engagement, a     marriage, a breakup or even a death can make a difference in your motivation and      inspiration.  A new physical look can give you a temporary lift, that is until something else physically falls or fails to give you that satisfaction.  A new travel destination or vacation can certainly rejuvenate us if everything goes well.  It can also wear you out for your    resuming routine once you return. But again… I’m talking about something much deeper.  I’m talking about a spiritual newness that bursts forth like a shining star and ever increases as you move towards it. 

Let us consider the Magi for a moment in regards to my point.  Those so called “wise men” from the East who journeyed to Jerusalem to bring three gifts to the prophesied “King of the Jews.” (Three are assumed because of three gifts, but there could have been two or many more). The Bible calls them Magi or magicians (A title for an Eastern       astrologer or mystic in a kings court).  These men were received by king Herod and made a “disturbance” in Jerusalem when they arrived. The disturbance would have been because of the entourage of slaves and security that accompanied them.  The fact that Herod received them and accommodated their search shows that they were emissaries or ambassadors from another kingdom and therefore financially well off“East” would have been the vast area of Mesopotamia. So their travel could have ranged from 400-700 miles depending on the region (three weeks to a month by camel and more if traveling only at night in order to follow the star). 

Why would men make such a difficult journey unless they were compelled by an inner longing for something “new”? These men had everything that an earthly soul could want.  They ate at the king’ table, enjoyed a high position in society, had many fine things and lived comfortable lives. There is no doubt that they had many new things in every new year, but something deeper called to them.  Is that something deeper calling you too?

Follow Jesus Luke 18:18-27, Romans 6:4-6, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Lamentations 3:21-25,         1 John 1:8-2:1-2 

There was a certain ruler who once asked Jesus for something new.  He wanted eternal life. That is the something that is new every morning and constant.  “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”, asked the man.  

Jesus first reminded the man that he was talking not just to a teacher as many thought, but to God in the flesh: “Why do you call me good?”  “No one is good but God alone”, said Jesus. When we ask Jesus for something we must remember who He is.  He is God who came down so that we might know Him. He is our Savior who offered up His life for our sin so that we could be forgiven and live in the newness of the life that He gives to those who call upon Him (Romans 6:4-5).  He created us and knows us better than we know ourselves.  He desires to give us eternal life (resurrection) and make all things new within us.  It is Him who says:  “If anyone is in Christ the new creation has come: the old is gone and the new is here!”  2 Corinthians 5:17  If God said it then it is settled.  We are made new in Christ and can look forward to His promises and compassion.  We are promised newness every morning! (Lamentations 3:21-25)

The rich ruler analyzed his life and decided that he had kept all the commands of God since he was a boy (wow!).  The Apostle John said that if we claim to be without sin we deceive ourselves (1 John 1:8).  The rich ruler had obviously overlooked his need for      forgiveness and was mistaken to think that his good works would bring him newness. Nothing that we can do will ever bring newness to our life.  We will always be left wanting.   Only God brings newness through a relationship with Jesus.  He alone atones for our sins.  He alone can make our scarlet sins as white as snow!         Isaiah 1:18 

Jesus tackled the mans unreasonable lack of humility with a truth test.  “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven. Then come and follow me,” He said. The ruler, unable to let go of his wealth sadly left Jesus.  The lesson here is not to sell everything you have and to give to the poor, but to “follow Jesus” above all other pursuits.  It is only in following Jesus that newness of life comes.  Only He can give abundant life as He Himself said: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  John 10:10

Into The New  Isaiah 43:18-19

The Magi left everything to follow the star that led to Jesus.  God directed them and protected them along the way, but they chose to follow.  The rich ruler chose to follow after his wealth which would never give him the newness of life that Christ brings.  “The thief” comes only to steal, kill and destroy.”  The devil ripped him off!  Don’t you be ripped off this year.  Forget the past, God desires to do a “new thing.” Follow His way. 

As we embark on a new year let us put following Jesus as our highest priority so that life can be lived to its fullness.  The magi were wise to follow the star to see the Savior so long ago.  It is wise for us to seek Jesus first in all we do today too.  Put Jesus first this new year and see what a difference He makes.  What seems impossible with man is possible with God! 

Wise men still seek Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHRISTMAS EVE: The Perfect Gift

Gifts

Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church  Christmas Eve: The Perfect Gift  To hear this message and others download our free app from the App Store.  Search the gathering connect.

The Perfect Gift   John 1:1-5, 10-11

What was the most thoughtful gift that you ever gave?  Did you save up all you had to purchase it?  Did you search long and hard before you found it?  Maybe you made it with your own hands.  Perhaps it took a long time to create.  Who was it for?  Why were they so special to you? And most importantly of all, what was their reaction as they received it?  Did they receive your gift with joy and appreciation?  Did gracious tears fill their eyes?

If there was awkward silence followed by a contemplative look of confusion, a quick “thank you” as they moved on to open their next gift, or a genuine attitude of ungratefulness or even a rude smirk followed by a hurtful comment, then you have some sense of how God felt when He gave His only Son to an undeserving and ungrateful world. 

Jesus was the perfect gift for mankind, but mankind did not comprehend it.  He came wrapped in swaddling cloths as a gift to those He had created, but “His own” did not    receive Him.  In the Christmas story we read that “there was no room for Him in the inn.”  The inn (lit. the guest room) was full like so many lives.  There seems to be enough time for work, school, sports, entertainment, relationships, business, technology and even pets, but what about God?  Is there any room for Him in your busy world?  On this “night before Christmas” in our decorated homes, do we recognize Jesus and give Him praise?

The fact that you are assembled here with us tonight shows that you, or someone who has great leverage in your life, acknowledge that Jesus is the reason for the season.  But God’s gift was to offer more than a pretty crèche (Nativity) at Christmastime. John the Baptist said of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  (John 1:29b) This is why Jesus is the perfect gift.  Because man needs a Savior.

God Sent Us A Savior

If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator.  If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist.  If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist.  If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer.  But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior.   Author unknown.

Dirty clothes cannot be washed until they are introduced to a washing machine.  A broken car cannot be fixed until it is introduced to the mechanic.  A person cannot be healed until they are introduced to the doctor.  An individual cannot be saved until he or she meets the Savior. That first Christmas was the introduction of God to man.  Every Christmas celebration, thereafter, is God’s reminder to mankind that they need a Savior.

To Be Put To Good Use  2 Corinthians 6:1-11, John 1:12-14, Matthew 5:14-16

No perfect gift is meant to be put on a shelf.  It is to be put to good use. For those who have not yet unwrapped this gift of salvation from God, you are urged to open in now.  As Paul once said to those people in Corinth:  “Now is the time for God’s favor!” Many a man can go on all day about how someone, calling themselves a Christian, has discredited Jesus; however, there are many who have exampled true Christianity through all forms of trial.  Jesus’ testimony is true.  He has never discredited Himself.  No more excuses…” Now is the time!”

For those of us who have received Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we have been given the right to be called the children of God.  Now that we have been given this right, apart from any merit of our own, we are to share Christ with others.  We are to be lights in this dark world.  Christian, what good is a flashlight without batteries.  We must never forget that apart from Christ, we can do nothing (John 15:5).  He is our energizer as well as our Savior.  Our regular worship of Him, the reading of His word, and fellowship with His church is our needed recharge.  We must continue to be filled with His Spirit in our daily lives (Ephesians 5:18).  Then, and only then can we light the path for others.

The Bible…True After All  Revelations 21:1-8

From time to time people panic about the end of the world.  Remember Y2K (year 2000)? Later, the end was announced according to the Mayan calendar. 12.21.12 was to be the end of the world.  Well, the Mayan calendar ended over seven years ago but we are still here!  Now those politicking on the left say that global warming will wipe us out in eleven years.  Still, others say that the world will go on forever, but that is not what the Bible says.  Unlike the techno doomsayers, the Mayan mystics, the far out far left and other non-biblical prophets and scientists, the Bible will be proved true once again.  It has an      amazing track recorded for accuracy.  Jesus alone fulfilled over 300 prophecies!  And no prophecy of scripture has ever been refuted no matter what unbelievers want to say or believe.  According to the Bible and Jesus, there will come a judgment day for all mankind and an end to this world…but then also a “new heaven and earth” promised for God’s people.  Scoffers will undoubtedly find that the Bible is true after all and a  Judgment day will come…

Today however, God is waiting to have a relationship with anyone who will open His     perfect gift of salvation (a constant reminder to us as we celebrate Christmas and Easter once a year).  Those of us who accept this gift and value it will one day celebrate eternally in heaven.  Those that reject His gift will be forever regretful of the opportunity they rejected.  Have you opened God’s gift of salvation to you?  “Now is the time!”

Christians… Let your light so shine that everyone might clearly see the Perfect Gift that is in Christ.  Shine on!  For you may be the only Bible that some ever read.  What will you demonstrate on the pages of your life?  Remember Jesus is the reason not only for the season but for the very gift of life.

Merry Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White Christmas #4: Love Came Down

JesusBirth2Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church  White Christmas Series #4: Love Came Down     To hear this message and others download our free app in the App Store.  Search the gathering connect.

A Need For Love John 3:16, Hebrews 1:3, 1 John 4:8                                                       Love….this four letter word seems to be the main event of living.  Millions of songs about it have been recorded all over the world and they comprise the main subject of all songs ever written, recorded or listened to world-wide.  Love, in some fashion, is also the most written about subject in poetry, playwrights, novels and in screen scripts.  All humans seem to be preoccupied with the search for it, the struggles with it, the hope of it or the damage from the lack of it.  Studies have even shown that all human beings need it.  Without love human beings do not develop properly and can actually die.               

Cipher in the Snow is a short, but true story written by Jean Mizer about the death of an ostracized teenager.  It was later made into a short film by Brigham Young University in 1973.  The story is about an ostracized teenager, Cliff Evans, who following his parents’ divorce, has no friends and becomes a completely withdrawn “Cipher” (defined as “Zero” or one with no worth).  Then on a school bus, he asked to be let off and collapses and dies in the snow near the roadside.   An autopsy reveals no health problems.  The heart just stopped.  His school’s math teacher is asked to notify his parents and write the obituary.  Though listed as Cliff’s favorite teacher, he recalls that he hardly knew him.  After getting a delegation to go to the funeral—it’s impossible to find ten people who knew him well enough to go—the teacher resolves never to let this happen to another child in his charge.  It is implied that his death was caused by a broken heart; he was unloved.

This fourth Advent candle celebrates the purest of love that came down from the Creator of mankind.  God knew that man needed love to remedy his sin-sick condition and since no pure love existed on earth because it had been spoiled by sin, God delivered His love personally in the person of Jesus Christ.  He is the perfect representation of God (Hebrews 1:3) and God is love (1 John 4:8).  The Christmas story is that God sent His love to a sin-sick world to save mankind from the damnation that was due.

God’s Definition of Love  1 Corinthians 13:1-8, 1 John 4:9-10

Man defines “love” in any number of ways.  Man’s definition of things, however, is not the standard by which we will one day be judged.  God’s definition is clearly found in His own written word.  No human name can adequately replace the word “love” in the      definition found in 1 Corinthians 12:1-8; however, the name Jesus can.  He is the demonstration of pure, sacrificial and undefiled love.  He is “the look of love” as illustrated by God HimselfLove came down wrapped in swaddling cloths.

Love Says “NO!”  John 3:14-21, Numbers 21:4-9

Many will say, “if God is love then He would never refuse any man His forgiveness, and He certainly would never send those who rejected Him to hell.”  Can love say “No”?  Anyone who argues this way makes one fatal mistake in that he is defining love and its boundaries himself.  If God is love as the Bible teaches, then He alone has the right to ascribe any boundaries He wants.  God’s definition of love requires one to embrace that love to receive it.

Jesus make this point clear to the Pharisee, Nicodemus when He compares Himself to the bronze serpent lifted up by Moses in the wilderness.  The Israelites had sinned against God and so they were plagued by poisonous snakes that bit them.  God had Moses prepare a gracious remedy.  The symbol of a serpent made of bronze.  Moses was to instruct those bitten to look at that serpent, which he lifted high on a pole, and live.  Any that did as they were instructed lived; however, we infer through the passage that many died.  Can you imagine the pride and stupidity of those who perished? 

Jesus makes it clear that God so loved the world that He gave Jesus to be our Savior.    Jesus did not come to condemn the world for our sin (which would have been just) but to be love’s remedy for our lostness.  Like the poisoned Israelites, we must look upon what God has lifted up for our salvation.   We must believe on Him who was sent and look up at the cross that was lifted. God has lovingly offered a way out of sin and eternal separation from Him; however, those who refuse to look at the cross and embrace Christ will die in their sin.  Love doesn’t say “no” to the seeker.  Love makes a way; however, many people will say “no” to God’s provided way. Like those who died of snake bites in the wilderness, they will choose to reject life and suffer an eternity apart from God.  God’s love does say “no!”  There is no other way to God.  (John 14:6)

A Sacrifice of Love  Romans 5:8, 6:23

Jesus came to earth as heaven’s sacrifice for mankind’s sin.  He came like a lamb to be slaughtered.  A perfect and sinless sacrifice for sinful men.  He is God wrapped in human flesh.  He lived among man for 33 years to demonstrate His perfection and sinlessness.  No witness could ever file a truthful charge against Him.  He died, not because of His own sin, but for the sins of any who would call out for forgiveness in His Name.  God demonstrates His love in Christ…The wages of our sin is death, but Jesus is the gift that brings  forgiveness to any that call upon Him. 

Jesus is the reason for the season.  Without Him there is no love.  Without Him there is only judgment and wrath for sinners.  Have you humbled yourself at the manger of God’s love?  Lift up your eyes to the cross.

As the prophet Isaiah has proclaimed and Jesus has fulfilled it: “Though your sins be as  scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.  If you are willing and obedient you will eat the good things… for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.  Isaiah 1:18b-19, 20b

 

White Christmas #3: JOY

childLamb2Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church  White Christmas series#3: JOY  To hear this message and others  download our free app @ the App Store.  Search The Gathering Connect.

400 Years of Silence  This third week of Advent we light the Shepherd’s candle.  This candle is traditionally colored differently than the others to signify the joy in the announcement of Christ’s birth made to the shepherds—incredible joy, since no prophet had been provided by God to speak to His rebellious people for 400 years!  The 400 years of silence (referred to as “The Silent Years” or “The Intertestamental Period”)  refers to the time between the Old Testament and New Testament, during which God did not speak to the Jewish people. The 400 years of silence began with the warning that closed the Old Testament: “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the  fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6) and ended with the coming of John the Baptist, the Messiah’s forerunner who said: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29. The proclamation by the Angels to the Shepherds; however, was the first introduction of God’s promised Messiah to the world…John’s would come 30 years later.

Shepherds  Luke 2:8-20, 1 Peter 2:25, Isaiah 1:18

With such a long awaited proclamation from God, one might ask: “why make it to lowly shepherds in some far away field among a bunch of sheep?”  God designed that shepherds be the first to hear the gospel for several reasons. Firstly, God’s most faithful leaders of His people began as shepherds:  Moses, who led his   people out of slavery, was a shepherd for 40 years.  The “fathers of our faith”, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were all shepherds.  King David, who was also born in Bethlehem, was a shepherd before being anointed as king.  Throughout scripture, shepherds are a common metaphor used to refer to leaders over people.

 Secondly, the angels proclaimed the message to shepherds to remind us that Jesus was born to lead His people as a shepherd leads his sheep.  He is called the Chief Shepherd of our souls. (1 Peter 2:25).  He, will guide His people safely from death into eternal life.  From sin into salvation. Though our sins be are like scarlet they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson they shall be like wool. Isaiah 1:18.  Something that no other leader before Him or after Him could ever do.

The Good Shepherd  John 10:2-4, 7-11, 14:6-7

Israel’s leaders were a great disappointment.  The patriarchs were far from perfect and even the best of Israel’s leaders failed.  Moses’ failure as a leader kept him from entering the Promised Land.  Eli and Samuel were God’s judges, but their appointed sons who succeeded them were sinful. King Saul disobeyed God and was stripped of his authority. King David abused his powers when he sinned by committing adultery with Bathsheba and killing her husband Uriah. Solomon’s early years as a king were awe-inspiring, but his later life was in shambles.  In the end, there was no perfect leader throughout the history of Israel (or any other nation for that matter).  No human leader ever fulfilled God’s promises for a coming king who would sit forever on the throne of David.  When the Old Testament spoke out against the wicked leaders of their day, they spoke words of hope concerning a “Good Shepherd” that would someday come and tenderly rule over His people.  Jesus proclaimed Himself as that “Good Shepherd”.  He also called Himself the “Gate” for those sheep and proclaimed that all other religious leaders were “thieves and robbers”—furthermore, He claimed that He was only the only “Way, Truth and life” and that no one will see eternal life except by Him.  Without the Good Shepherd we are lost…but there is good news of great joy!  A Savior has been born, the Chief Shepherd of our souls!  He not only guides and directs us, but He also “lays down His life for His sheep”.

The Shepherd’s Story  1 Corinthians 1:20-31

We can certainly see how the proclamation to the shepherds was used like a parable to the wise, but there is yet another reason why the shepherds were first to hear the “good news”.  They were the lowliest, poorest class of people and as such were the most likely to stay within their own ranks, shy away from public encounters, and be the least likely to be heard by those in higher social settings.  In short, the best people to display the power of God.  God wanted to remind mankind that one must humble himself to find truth.  God wanted to frustrate men who think that they are above others and exalt men who see themselves as unworthy.  God wanted to make His power obvious by displaying it through weakness.  The shepherd’s story could have only been told by the shepherds.  They were the only ones there!  As it tells us in Luke 2:20, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they heard and saw which were just as they had been told.”  The shepherds proclaimed the truth to everyone—even those outside of their own social status and their Joyful testimony went forth into the whole world.  The angels told them the good news of Christ; they saw it and proclaimed it too.  Now all the earth can be filled with Jesus Joy.

 God’s Call to Mankind:  “Don’t Be Terrified”  Luke 2:9-10,14,  John 1:12

We read in Luke’s gospel that the shepherds were terrified! Why were they terrified?  Beyond the sudden appearances of angelic beings, they were terrified because they were in the presence of a Holy God, and they were sinful men. The destiny for such a person is judgment: For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.”  And again, “The Lord will judge His people.”  It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God”(Hebrews 10:30-31), but the angels proclaimed to the shepherds that “peace” comes to those on whom God’s favor rests.  God’s favor “rests” on those who receive and believe in His name.” The “Good News” of the angels is that we do not need to be terrified in the presence of God!  Jesus came to reconcile sinners to God. There are, of course, many who have and will reject Christ.  These should be terrified for the day is coming where they will be condemned.

“Spread the Word”  Luke 2:17-19, Matthew 5:14-16

The shepherds shared the word of joy, and Mary considered them thoughtfully. So should we! Treasure the love that God has for you and make the joyful declaration of His salvation known to everyone.  Be a light to the world and shine so that others will see.   Spread the Joy to the world.  The Lord has come!