HOPE in Christ (Advent.ure 1)

The First Sundblackfridayay of Advent 2016     Adventure Series 1   Pastor Barry, The Gathering Church

More John 8:12, Romans 8:22-24, Romans 5:5                                            Black Friday or should I say Thursday… (the mad shopping day after Thanksgiving)  is behind us now. Unfortunately, the day of shopping greed seems to be taking over that hopeful day of thanks.  In this mindless world of hate and greed people are longing for more but masking that need with things that cannot ever satisfy.  Many think they can find “more” in material things, personal achievements, or emotion based relationships.  Everyone seems to be looking for the announcement of the arrival of “more”, this great sale or that great deal or some other marvelous announcement. The fact is that nothing more will come.  The greatest of all has already arrived on that first Christmas Morning. Those of us who believe in the Hope that is Christ and have a relationship with Him know this because we now walk in His Light.  As a matter of fact, those of us who believe “wait eagerly” for the redemption (not of a store coupon)  of our bodies so that we can see the one we have hoped in face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12-13).

The word ‘Advent’ is Latin for ‘a coming or arrival’.  The idea behind the celebration of Advent is that God came to earthly life (In the Baby Jesus) and lived among us, which is news to stop the presses for.  It’s something to celebrate, because just by being in

the world, God was giving His supreme blessing to it.  But this birth led to an execution of the same God on our behalf (the crucifixion of Christ). Then the greatest news came (the resurrection of Christ), that is that death will not end our relationship with God.  Jesus rose from the dead and will come again to rule and reign. Those that hope in Him will be with Him forever (the second coming).  So with these things in mind, the Christmas season is not something that we who believe should just go rushing into.  We need to take stock of the fact that Christ came so that we could have a relationship with God. When we celebrate the birth of Christ salvation should leap in our hearts and the second coming should also be in our sight.  The celebration of Advent is more than religious liturgy.  It is the celebration of our adventure with the living God! 

The Advent Wreath:  Each lit candle symbolizes that Jesus is the “Light of the World” He is the “good news” that all of creation longs for, the “light of life.”   He is the “MORE” worth waiting for and He is the only true satisfaction of life.

The First Candle Ephesians 1:22,23, John 10:10                                                                              The first candle lit in the Advent Wreath is called the hope candle or the candle of prophecy because it symbolizes the promises that prophets delivered; promises that foretold of Christ’s birth and our hope because of Him.

The faithful have always waited for the promised Messiah, but unlike waiting in line for the hope of something “more”, Christ is the “fulfillment of all things.”    Jesus said that He came that mankind might have life to the full.  He also declared that  anyone or any other thing that sets itself up as our fulfillment is a destroyer and           a thief.

Foretold of Old  Isaiah 9:2,6-7, 53:5-7                                                                                              700 years before Christ was born the Prophet Isaiah foretold of His coming and of His death in amazing detail.  The book of Isaiah contains more prophecies about Jesus than any other book in the Old Testament.  Salvation is revealed so comprehensively in Isaiah’s writings that Augustine called the book the “Fifth Gospel.”  Others have referred to it as “the Bible in miniature” because it contains sixty-six chapters. (The Bible has sixty-six books).

The Second Coming                                                                                                                         When Jesus came the first time there were signs in the stars and trouble on the earth. The same will be true when He comes again. (Luke 21:20,25-28,33-36). We who wait for Jesus Second Advent are reminded to “watch and pray”.  Are you watching and waiting?

What Are You Waiting For?  Psalm 130:3-6                                                                                      In this season of big sales and long lines there is the temptation to overlook the truth foretold of old and become caught up in the lies and lore of “MORE.”  There is nothing more to be gained than what Jesus has already given.  Nothing is more precious than the adventure of life found in Him.  Take time in your life for the One who made time for you.  Teach your   children by your example of how to wait on the Lord.  There is nothing worth more to wait for.  His gift of salvation was promised long ago; it was delivered in a stable and fulfilled on a cross.  And to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to be called the children of God.           (John 1:12)

What are you waiting for?  Like the Psalmist said,” I’ll wait for the Lord”.  “More than the watchmen wait for morning. (Watchmen: Guards [soldiers] on watch on the walls of Jerusalem)  More than watchmen wait for morning.” How about you?

Religion or Relationship? John 3:3, 16-17                                                                              Christianity is not about signing up for a religion and carrying out religious acts. Christianity is about being born into the family of God and living an adventure with Him. Just as an adopted child has no power to create an adoption, we have no power to join the family of God by our own efforts. We can only accept His invitation to know Him as Father through our adoption (Romans 8:15).  When we join His family through faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit comes into our life (2 Corinthians 1:21–22). He empowers us to live like His children. God does not call us to do religious works. He calls us to come to Him so that He can work through us (Galatians 2:20). This is our living hope, that He in us can do all things! (Philippians 4:13)  For this reason He has come:  That we might know the adventure of living with Him!

THANKSGIVING (In All Things)

STUDY 8 othanksf 8  PASTOR BARRY,                            THE GATHERING CHURCH

Series Overview                                                                We have learned in the past seven weeks that God is “rock solid!”  His goodness, grace and truth is an absolutely firm foundation for us to build our lives upon.  In fact, there is no other foundation that is trustworthy…”all other ground is shifting sand”. If we are to stand firm in this life we must stand on the Rock of our Salvation.          Psalm 62:6-7  

We learned that to stand firm means that we:

  1. Build our life on Christ and allow Him to be the architect and contractor
  2. Stand on God’s promises written in His word (the Bible)
  3. Shine like a lighthouse in this dark world so that others might come to know Him
  4. Remember we are forgiven and to also forgive
  5. Stay Anchored in Him and be cautious of drifting
  6. Remember we are never alone…God is always with us
  7. Be a good citizen of heaven because we are not of this world

To conclude our series it is fitting that we end on this Sunday before Thanksgiving, because the last principal which keeps us standing on a firm foundation is thankfulness.

Giving Thanks In All Situations Job 1:21-22, Philippians 4:4-7, 4:11b-13                               Do you give God the thanks that He is worthy of…all the time?  It is easy to give thanks when everything is going great, but how about when you feel nothing?  How about when life is going dreadfully wrong?

Job was a man who had it all and then lost everything bit by bit without an explanation.  When Job lost his sons and daughters in a tornado his response was praise!  He gave God thanks for the blessings which had been his for so many years.  He realized that they were on loan to him and not his to keep forever.

There are two promises eternal, given only to those who have received Christ.  The right to become children of God ( John 1:12) and to live eternally with Him (John 3:16). These are God’s amazing acts of grace (unmerited favor) towards us.  We do not deserve them because we have sinned against Him time and time again.  This is why we should always give thanks to God for His indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:14).  So many “Christians” get this wrong.  They say that “blessing and  prosperity are their divine right and they order them from God like they are at some free fast food restaurant.  These are like spoiled children who demand more from the parent who has given everything.  They appear to have great faith, but what     happens to these people when bad times come?  Where will be their faithfulness in tribulation or trial, when health fails or a loved one dies?

We need to learn to give thanks for the nothings as well as the “somethings”, realizing that the two things that can never be taken away from us (our adoption as sons and eternal life with Christ) are sufficient and given to us as a priceless treasure by an awesome God.

Neglecting Thanksgiving  Job 2:9-10                                                                                              The Pilgrims first year after landing at Plymouth Rock was miserable; however, their faithfulness to God remained. God sent them a blessing in Squanto, a Native American who taught the Pilgrims how to farm, hunt and live off the land.  That second year proved to be prosperous and so a “Thanksgiving” was recognized in which the Pilgrims gave thanks to God for their friends and their abundant harvest.

The Pilgrims neglected a “thanksgiving” that second year because they were to caught up in their work and prosperity.  Once again they suffered so greatly in their harvest that even the natives exclaimed that they had never seen the likes of such bad weather.  Like Job, they sought the Lord rather cursing Him and dying, as Job’s wife so foolishly suggested.  Instead they fasted and prayed and repented for their independence from God.  Soon the rain came and Thanksgiving became a yearly festival in both good and bad years of harvest.

Sometimes Nothing Is a Blessing James 1:2-4, 1 Thessalonians 5:16                                    James says we should consider it a joy when we encounter trials because they build character and faith. Consider Paul and Silas in a Roman prison singing praises to God while in stocks.  This praise shook the very prison and released them from their chains.  Consider Joseph who praised God while in the Egyptian prison (Later released to become second to pharaoh).  Consider Job, who lost his family, fortune, health and friends, yet continued to give God praise.  He too was rewarded not only in this life but in the one to come.

As Thanksgiving approaches are you feeling nothing?  Then rejoice…for you have nothing to keep you from the hope of God’s eternal promises to you.  They are indescribable gifts which are too often ignored among the “somethings” in our lives.  Always give thanks!

Not Of This World (A “Good” Citizen)

notmyhomelighthouse

ROCK SOLID/STUDY 7 OF 8  PASTOR BARRY,THE GATHERING CHURCH

 A GOOD CITIZEN Philippians 3:7, 14,17-21                                                                               Before the 2016 presidential election many notable entertainment personalities said that if Donald Trump won the election that they were revoking their American citizenship and moving to Canada.  Frankly, I was looking forward to the mass exodus of these entitled, over inflated elitists, but surprise! They’re all staying put and publicly whining about the legal results of the election.  Thousands of their fickle fans are now marching the streets in cities throughout America in protest.  They are busting out car windows and burning effigies of the president elect and the American flag. These are mostly embittered “millennials” (a person reaching young adulthood around the year 2000) who have no appreciation for what has been paid for their citizenship by American soldiers, or for the free election process that they just engaged in.  Likely, many of these protestors didn’t even engage in voting in the first place!  They are citizens, however, of the United States of America, no matter how badly behaved.  I still say love it or leave it…please!

 “Good Citizenship” is defined as a person who properly fulfills his or her role as a citizen. Theodore Roosevelt said, “The first requisite of a good citizen in this Republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his weight”.   According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a good citizen is a person who obeys the laws of his country, contributes to society and participates in public affairs with wisdom. Good citizenship is closely tied to the concept of civic duty, the idea that citizens have responsibilities they must fulfill with regard to their country. The USCIS states that good citizens honor and protect the Constitution.

I have an idea that could solve our immigration problem forever!  Let us regularly deport all bad adult citizens in America and replace them with immigrants who truly want to be good citizens of the United States according to the definition. Flag burners and vandals can be the first in the trade!

The question of the day is…are you a good citizen?  And on this Sunday morning I am not talking about being a good American Citizen (anymore).  I am referring to your citizenship in Heaven…If of course you belong.  And yes, “Christians” often forget the requirements of that precious citizenship as well.

The Apostle Paul defines these Rock Solid requisites of our citizenship in Philippians 3:7 and 14.  We who are in Christ are no longer to look at what we can gain on this earth.  We are to press on toward the higher calling of Christ.  Remember the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-13).  In Philippians 3:15-21, Paul tells us that the mature (the grownups) will take this attitude and if you think otherwise God will deal with you. The Apostle offers him and other Church leaders as an example of good citizenship and reminds that those who set their minds on earthly things are “enemies of the cross of Christ”.  “Our citizenship is in heaven” and we eagerly wait for our Savior to return to take us home.  We are not of this world!

NOT OF THIS  WORLD John 18:36, John 15:18-19, 1 John 2:15-17, Romans 12:2                   Have you ever felt like you just don’t belong on this earth?  Like your values, morals and reasoning just don’t intersect with the populace masses? Is your biblical world view in    opposition to nearly every conversation you have?  Do even the people you know who go to church weekly think you are “over the top” in your life applications of Christianity?  If your answer is yes, then you are likely being a good citizen of heaven!

When Jesus was before Governor Pilate and facing execution, He boldly told him: “My     kingdom is not of this world”. Jesus also reminded His disciples that that they would be hated by the world as He was (is) because they also do not belong to it. The Apostle John explained the biblical definition of “the world” to his church in 1 John 2:15-17.  To be a good citizen of heaven we are not to love it. The Apostle Paul adds to that by saying we are “not to be conformed” to its pattern (or squeezed into its mold).  We are to be a people transformed by the renewing of our mind. Brainwashed if you like!  Yes, our brains all need to be washed in the water of the Word! (Ephesians 5:25-26)

WE ARE FOREIGNERS 1 Peter 2:9-12                                                                                             The Apostle Peter reminds us that as citizens of heaven we are a “chosen people” and a “holy Nation” with the purpose of declaring God’s praises.  Like a lighthouse in a dark sea.     We must remember that we are “foreigners and exiles” on this earth.  We are to abstain from the things that wage war on our souls and look forward to the day that Jesus visits us.

COMING FOR US John 14:2-4, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Mark 34-38                                      Jesus promised that He would return for His own.  We are to be faithful citizens of heaven as we wait expectantly for Him.  As the Apostle Paul explained, some will die before He returns and some of us will see Him come in the clouds. Some of us will rise first and others will be caught up to meet together in the air, but we will all be with the Lord together forever in that city He has prepared for His citizens.

Our mission is to unashamedly follow Him. We are not to follow others in “this adulterous and sinful generation”.  We are to follow Him as citizens of Heaven.  Let us be good ones!

Not Alone

lonelybeach3STUDY 6 OF 8: ROCK SOLID SERIES      PASTOR BARRY @ THE GATHERING CHURCH

  ALONE IN A CROWD Deuteronomy 31:1-8, Psalm 25:16-21                                                       Have you ever felt alone in a crowd? Joshua did.  In chapter 31 of the book of Deuteronomy, Moses, at 120 years old,  announces that he will no longer be leading the people.  He calls upon Joshua in front of the assembly and informs him that he will lead them.  Joshua was surrounded by people but he was certainly in a class all by himself…He was alone in a crowd, but Moses said to Joshua:

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

You may also find yourself alone in a crowd for other reasons too, like the loss of a loved one, a painful secret, deteriorating   health or feelings of rejection.  Like Joshua, we can take heart in knowing that God  will never leave us or forsake us.  We need not be afraid or discouraged because our God is with us.

 In Psalm 25:16-21 King David revealed his loneliness.  He asked God to “relieve the troubles of his heart”His hope for the relief of his loneliness was in God.  We too must remember that our feelings of loneliness are temporary and that in reality God is always there if we will only seek Him.

NEVER LEFT AS ORPHANS John 14:18-26                                                                                    Jesus said that He would not leave His followers as orphans, but He also gave a condition for that promise. As we obey the commands of Christ (loving Him in deed and truth: 1 John 3:18) we are filled up with the presence of the Holy Spirit.  He is our advocate, our comforter, our teacher, and our peace. He reminds us that we are not set aside but we are set apart from the world. To be set aside is to be rejected. To be set apart is to be given an assignment by God that requires preparation.

SET APART and PRESSING ON Philippians 4:7-14, Colossians 3:1-4                                         As God’s people we have been made holy.  That means to be set apart for God’s purposes.  We are called to be Holy (1 Peter 1:16) and to be a holy nation of people (1 Peter 2:9) that proclaim God’s “marvelous light” to the world.  If you are feeling alone then seek God to be like a lighthouse standing tall in a dark and raging sea. Search for the lost because they are out there and you can help them like no one else. Your loneliness can be an opportunity for preparation?  Look at this side of loneliness:

  1. Look for the gift of being humbled. Proverbs 11:2b reminds us that “with humility comes wisdom” . In this set apart place, God will give you special wisdom that you will need for the assignments ahead. The Lonely times in my life have helped me to identify with Christ and deepen my relationship with Him.
  2. Look for the gift of being lonely. This will develop in you a deeper sense of compassion for others. Those who have experienced loneliness will be the ones who look for someone sitting alone and make sure they know someone noticed them.
  3. Look for the gift of silence. When we are surrounded by the voices of people we often miss the voice of God. “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalms 46:10

I know it can be painful to be alone, and I know how tempting it can be to think that God has set you aside and has forgotten you, but this is never true. Pray through your feelings, and see if maybe your situation has more to do with you being prepared than you being overlooked. There is something wonderfully sacred that happens when a person chooses to look past being set aside to see God’s call to be set apart.

Learn from the Apostle Paul and keep Pressing on to the higher call:                                But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and   sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Phil 4:7-14

Until the call of glory comes:                                                                                                        Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things; for you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Who’s Going To The White House?

whitehouse

What Irony did Hillary speak?

“Donald Trump can’t be trusted in the White House.  Do you want him to have the nuclear launch codes?” 

How can we trust Hillary Clinton in the White House?  She has made huge money deals for herself with many nations that sponsor terror and hate the United States and our allies.  She made these deals while she was Secretary of State through the facade of a non-profit organization called The Clinton Foundation which is now under investigation by the FBI.  She has openly lied to the people of our nation on multiple occasions without apology and she has also openly lied to the FBI and the Department of Justice. She has compromised massive amounts of confidential materials on a public server that she was clearly told to never use.  In fact, she told her subordinates not to use a public server.  Hillary Clinton also refused to respond to over 600 calls for help from American Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, Libya. Her neglect ultimately resulted in his torturous death and that of three other Americans in a terrorist attack which she later lied about.  If this is not enough…The FBI has currently opened another investigation on her for thousands of more e-mails found on the computer of a congress man who is being investigated for sexual crimes with a minor.

P.S.  The President of the United States cannot just start a nuclear war.  The president must first convene a conference with military and civilian advisers in Washington and around the world to talk through options. Secondly, the Pentagon must comply with the commander-in-chief’s order. Hillary Clinton knows this of course.  So who is being a fear monger? 

What Irony has Hillary’s Media spoken?

“Melania Trump in the White House (Former Fashion/ nude model) as The First Lady?”

How about Bill Clinton (Former president/ adulterous playboy) in the White House as the First “Lady?”  Remember, he was responsible for giving the Oval Office a new name (“Oral Office”) after his romps with intern Monica Lewinsky.  He also made “oral sex” a household word in America and the lie: “I did not have sex with that woman” his trademark. His lies were later revealed about Monica… and Juanita and Pauline and Kathleen and Gennifer.  Bill was a busy boy in the White House.  I think I would rather give a first chance to a former fashion model than a second chance to Bill.  I think he has worn out his welcome in the White House and so has Hillary for that matter.

PRAY FOR AMERICA & VOTE NOVEMBER 8…IT IS REALLY NO LAUGHING MATTER.

ROOTED (ANCHORED)

rootedROCK SOLID SERIES: STUDY 5 OF 8 / 2016          PASTOR BARRY @ THE GATHERING CHURCH

DRIFTING Hebrews 2:1                                                          We have talked about BUILDING our lives on the firm foundation of Christ, STANDING on the promises of God, SHINING the light of the gospel for this dark world, and REACHING upward and outward in forgiveness.  Today we will look at what we must do to keep from DRIFTING away from all these good things that we have been talking about.  How many of you realize that drifting off the course of God’s blessing is the easiest thing to do in life and the greatest trick of the Devil? 

 The Apostle, Paul said it straight up in Hebrews 2:1…”Don’t drift!”  Drifting happens when you are carried away slowly by wind or water.  It is so important to remember that no matter how calm the waters may look there is always a gradual pull of the tide.  We must remember that we are God’s ship in a hostel sea.  There are many pleasure cruises in this world but we must remember that we are created by God for the purpose of knowing Him and making Him known.  We are a gospel ship and our destination is the purpose and plan of God.  Satan wants to thwart your mission and move you as far away from the destination that God has prepared for you as he can.  Make no mistake about it, as I shared in the last study, your salvation is sure; however, achieving God’s perfect will for your life is up to you Captain!  You must constantly pay attention to God (navigate) as you travel through life or you will drift off course, and when you are at rest or in a storm don’t forget to anchor.

 OUR ANCHOR 1 John 2:15-17, Colossians 2:6-8, Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 3:16-17            There are many types of anchors.  They range in size, weight and function.  Some are used to produce drag on a ship or boat in rough seas, others dig in deep to hold a ship or boat from drifting in the tide.  Christ is referred to as our hope and “anchor for the soul, firm and     secure” (Hebrews 6:19).  It is Jesus who keeps us from both being blown off course by the big storms of life and from drifting off course in the daily tides.  The tides of worldliness are what I am referring to. That is the tides of this world that the Apostle John spoke of in 1 John 2:15-17 (The Lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life).

Sometimes the tides are obvious and can be clearly seen.  High tide is a good example of the obvious but how about the under currents that sweep you along?  I remember many times body surfing or board surfing when I was so caught up in play that I didn’t realize how far I had drifted in a short time.  How easy it is to drift into danger when we are not paying attention to God’s direction.  I remember sitting on shore once at the Wedge in Newport Beach, where the tide is especially dangerous, when I suddenly spied a man in a raft paddling out.  The waters looked still between the ferocious sets, but the experienced surfers in the deep water and my friend and me on the shore knew better.  This rafter was either an experienced thrill seeker or an absolute idiot.  I could tell by his paddling that he was the idiot…and then the nine to eleven foot set came in! The man was pulverized in the first wave and spewed out face first into the sand.  His raft was beaten again and again in the churning foam until it washed out like a plastic bag in a flood.  Case and point… Pay attention to the tides, even when they are hidden.  The world view is very deceiving so don’t get caught up in it.

 The Apostle Paul advises us to “continue to live our lives in Christ, rooted and built up in Him”.  Being rooted to a tree is like being anchored at sea. The deeper we dig into Jesus and His word the more secure we will be.  The superficial and untruthful world view of man can be clearly seen by a Christian who is rooted in God’s word.  The problem is that only 28% of Christians in America believe that the Bible is the literal word of God and should determine all aspects of living. (Gallup Poll , May 2014)  It seems that many Americans are drifting.

The Bible on the Bible says “It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart “and that unto God we must give an account. (Hebrews 4:12) It also says that it is “God breathed”.

(2 Timothy 3:16-17)  If one does not use the Bible to navigate the seas of life then what shall he use?  The captain of that ship will certainly destroy himself and everyone on board and then…he will give an account of his actions to God.  Well, at least says the Bible, but what other document comes anywhere near its status?  Now, pay attention captain!

STAND FIRM 1 Corinthians 10: 1-5, 11-13                                                                                        We conclude our lesson today with a warning from the Apostle Paul.  He reminds us that many who followed God went before us.  He refers to those Jews who followed the cloud by day and passed through the Red Sea in route to the Promised Land.  They were in essence baptized by that mighty sea as they crossed with Moses, they drank water from a rock that symbolized Christ on the other side, but God was not pleased with most of them and only Joshua and Caleb and a new generation would enter the Promised Land.  Their fathers and mothers were shipwrecked in their faith and drifted from their mission.  What happened to them is recorded in the Bible as examples to warn us.  We must be careful that we don’t fall!

We are a gospel ship and our destination is the purpose and plan of God.  Satan wants to thwart your mission.  Make no mistake about it, your salvation is sure; however, achieving God’s perfect will for your life is up to you Captain!  You must constantly pay attention to God (navigate)  as you travel through life or you will drift off course, and when you are at rest or in a storm don’t forget your anchor.  He is Christ and His word is true, and God is faithful.