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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White Christmas #2: Peace On Whom?

JesusBirth

Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church: White Christmas series #2: Peace On Whom?      To hear this message and others download our free app @ the App Store by searching The Gathering Connect.

Bethlehem Isaiah 9:6, Micah 5:2, John 6:29-35, 48-51, 53-58

In celebration of Advent—Last week we lit the Prophecy Candle and reflected on the Hope that the coming Messiah would bring to those who would believe on faith in the promises of God.  The candle lit today is called The Bethlehem Candle and we focus on the intricate preparations that God made in this little city to bring His promise of Peace to a weary and sinful world.  The Prophet Isaiah foretold of a “child being born”, “a son given” whom would one day govern the earth (referring to the millennial reign of Christ after He returns: Matthew 19:28, Revelation 20:2-6) and be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).  The prophet Micah foretold that Bethlehem is where this “ruler over Israel” would come from”.  His origins would be from ancient times (referring to the linage of Christ descending from the line of king David: Micah 5:2). It is clear that the prophecy stated that Bethlehem would be the    Messiah’s (Lit. anointed one of God/ Savior) birth place and upon further study we can clearly see why God carefully chose this place:

  • Rachel, Jacob’s (renamed Israel by God) beloved wife and mother of Joseph and Benjamin, was buried in Bethlehem (then called Ephratah) after dying in child birth (Genesis 35:16-20). She was comforted by her midwife with the knowledge that although she would die her son would be born. “Hope for her people.” Through Benjamin’s line came, among others: King Saul (the first king of Israel: 1 Samuel 9:15-21), Mordecai and Esther used by God to deliver the Jews from extinction: Esther 2:5-7) and the Apostle Paul (who brought the gospel of Christ to both the Jews and Gentiles: Romans 11:1).  Rachel’s tomb is still   visited in Bethlehem today.
  • Bethlehem (AKA “City Of David”) is the Birth place of both King David ( 1 Sam uel 16:1-13/ Israel’s greatest earthly king) and King Jesus (Luke 2:11/ Her eternal king and Savior). King David’s son, Solomon, built the  first temple to sacrifice to the Lord.  God’s Son, Jesus, became the final sacrifice for sin… “Once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). 
  • Bethlehem translated means “House of Bread”. Jesus is called Himself  “The Bread Of Life” (John 6:29-35, 48-51).
  • Bethlehem was the well known site where lambs for the Passover temple sacrifice were birthed and shepherded. It makes perfect sense that this be the place where “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” , as John the Baptizer proclaimed (John 1:29),  should also be born.
  • Bethlehem was the place that God directed Mary and Joseph to at just the right time of Mary’s pregnancy so that Jesus would be born there. Caesar                      Augustus called for a census to be taken at just the right time.  Joseph had to            report to the place where his family originated (Bethlehem) so he journeyed      there with his pregnant wife. There was no room for them at the inn because             God prepared it that way. God wanted the Savior to be born among the lambs      prepared for temple sacrifice because that is why He was born…to be the “food and drink” of our communion with God (John 6:53-58, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).   

 “Peace to Those on Whom His Favor Rests” Luke 2:11-14, John 14:15-27 

When the birth of Jesus was triumphantly announced to shepherds by angels in          Bethlehem (“the town of  David”) they proclaimed “peace”, but not peace to everyone— but “to those on whom His favor rests.” 

 The proclamation is very specific in most all  translations of the Bible with the exception of King James versions which simply say “good will toward men”.  Universalists, liberal    theologians and greeting card companies like this translation for obvious reasons, but one simply needs to read the gospels and Jesus’ own words to know with clarity that God’s peace only comes to those who receive Him as Lord (master). We know according to Jesus’ own words that His “favor” only rests upon those who “eat His flesh and drink His blood” so to speak.  He said clearly:  “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6   The Apostle Paul said: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7  “In” Christ Jesus is the key phrase.  We must be “in” Christ.  When Jesus promised “Peace” to His disciples in John 14:15-27 He made it clear that His “peace” comes from the Holy Spirit.  He also made it clear that the Holy Spirit only comes to those who love Jesus and keep His commands. Jesus went on to say “The world can not accept Him.”  Judas (not the betrayer) asked: “why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”  Jesus essentially responded by saying “Judas, home is where the heart is!”  If our heart belongs to God then we are “at home” in His peace.

“Peace, Peace” Jeremiah 6:12-16a

The world is in desperate search of peace, but there is no peace to be found except in Christ who came to fill us up with real “food and drink.”  He came to settle the matter:  “Though our sins are like scarlet, they can be as white as snow” Isaiah 1:18

Jeremiah was named the weeping prophet because in the 40 years that he prophesied to his rebellious people, he never had any good news for them. He was God’s messenger in a time where Judah claimed to be righteous but had really turned far from God.  In chapter six he spoke harshly to the defiant Jews and their so called prophets and priests who had become totally worldly.  His words are timeless and might just as well be spoken to our present day “Christian Nation” who says “In God We Trust”. “Stand at the crossroads and look…”  The Good news of Christ coming is for everyone, but His Peace, salvation and rest is only for those who receive Him into their lives.  “Those on whom His favor rests.”  Those who make their heart His home…come home!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White Christmas #1: White As Snow

WhiteChristmasArt

Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church  White Christmas Series #1: White As Snow            To hear this message and more download our free app at The App Store.  Search The Gathering connect.

COLORS                                                                                                                                                      As we enter the Christmas season its distinctive decorations, light, and color delight our senses no matter how much work it took to get us here —and aren’t the colors in our sanctuary beautiful this season?  The Christmas colors of red, green and white fill this place.  In the word of God there are  definitely patterns of  symbolism attached to the colors in the Bible as they crop up again and again throughout the old and new             testaments. The color white is  always symbolic of righteousness and purity, and the color green is always associated with life and growth.  In the Christmas season evergreens   symbolize the everlasting life found only in Christ. The color red (or scarlet) in the Bible is always symbolic of blood.  The life of man is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11) and so red also symbolizes humanity and the stain on every human which is sin.

 STAINS  Isaiah 59:1-2, Jeremiah 2:22, Isaiah 1:18, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Isaiah 53:3-7     Consumer Reports put out a little book entitled “How to Clean Practically Anything.” It tells you, what solvent to use for a particular stain. Glycerin will remove the stain from a ball point pen. Boiling water will remove berry stains. Vinegar will remove crayon stains. Ammonia will remove blood stains. Alcohol will remove grass stains. Hydrogen peroxide is good for magic marker stains. Bleach works on mildew stains. Lemon juice works well on rust stains. But of course the book lists nothing for the stain of sin. Only one book does—the Bible.  As the great hymn of  Robert Lowry (1826-1899) said:  “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”  

 Through His prophets, long ago, God proclaimed that man’s sin separated us from Him  (Isaiah 59:1-2).  The stain of our guilt is always before Him (Jeremiah 2:22) and it can not be washed away by anything that we can do; however, the Lord desired to “settle the matter of our sin separation forever. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18)”.  The prophet Isaiah announced that God would bring a “suffering servant” (Isaiah 53) to be “pierced for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:3-7). This is what Christmas is really all about.  God’s offering of a blood sacrifice for our sin wrapped in human flesh and laying in a manger.  He was born to live among us and die for our sins 33 years later. Jesus, the Peace Child!  Although “the wages of sin is death (eternal separation from God) the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). 

God desires all of mankind to have a “white Christmas” so to speak. That is to say He wants to cover our stain of scarlet sin in His snow white righteousness and purity so that we can have true life and growth in His Spirit— springing up into eternal life. “What can Wash away our sin?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus”.  Your Christmas gift from Christ is   to be wrapped in white— That in Him you “become “the righteousness of God!” (2 Corinthians 5:21)  Have you opened that gift?

OPENING GOD’S GIFT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS Revelation 3:20, John 1:10-14                             The first candle of advent that we lit today represents the Hope announced by prophets for the forgiveness of sin that would come through the blood of Jesus Christ.  Like any thoughtful gift under your Christmas tree, God’s gift to mankind was planned out and purchased long before that Christmas in Bethlehem. The scarlet thread of the blood of Christ has been woven throughout the Bible.  Every book and letter is a testament to  Jesus—God’s promised gift: first through the law, the prophets and poets and later through the gospels and letters to the church.  

From the very first book in the Bible-Genesis, we see a foreshadow of Christ as we read of     Abraham taking his only son to sacrifice as a sin offering to the Lord.  Suddenly an angel of the Lord stopped Abraham and provided a ram who was caught in the bushes for that sacrifice instead (Genesis 22:1-18).  In the same way Jesus, God’s only son, was provided as a sacrifice for our sinAgain, we see a type of Jesus in the book of Exodus when the children of  Israel are released from slavery in Egypt.  The angel of death passes over all the homes that had the blood of a sacrificial lamb painted on the lintels of their door ways in the sign of a cross (Exodus 12:1-14).  Jesus was called “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” by John the Baptist (John 1:29) and later the Apostle Paul called Jesus “the Passover Lamb” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).  In the last book of the Bible-Revelation, We see Jesus Himself say Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If  anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:20). 

God’s gift of forgiveness—Jesus,  is literally knocking at the door of our heart every time it pushes life’s blood through our body.  He knocks so that we will answer Him.  He wants to sit down with us and fellowship— this fellowship is made possible by opening our life’s door to Christ who has become the blood   sacrifice for our sin. In exchange for that sin He imparts His righteousness to us!   “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). 

Like any gift, we must open it to know its benefits.  As the apostle John said: “To all who did receive Him, to those who believe in His name, He gave the right to become children of God (John 1:10-14).  Jesus has come to the world and it has not recognized Him as it should have.  Jesus came to the Jewish people, but they did not receive Him.  Jesus—stands at the door and knocks for you.  Do you recognize Him?  Will you receive Him?  Have you opened this indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15)?

JESUS, HOPE FOR THE NATIONS Matthew 12:18-21                                                                    Our first candle of advent is Hope… Jesus is the only hope for mankind who are marked with the scarlet stain of sin.  He alone is the way, the truth and the life and none will come to the Father except by Him (John 14:6). As the prophet Isaiah said, Jesus is the “ Chosen servant”  who proclaims justice and hope for the nations.  Put your hope in Him and let Him wrap you up in His glorious purity and light…have a White Christmas!