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Sunday Recap: …But Christmas 12.21.14

Sunday Recap: …But Christmas 12.21.14

No amount of Christmas singing can really fix any of our deepest hurts. No amount of spending on gifts can truly repair broken relationships. Not even the perfectly cooked ham will solve any of our world’s wounds. The question I posed yesterday was, how can anyone, let alone followers of Jesus, celebrate at this time of year, when such painful things lay beneath the surface of the “cheer”? How can we have peace on earth? How can we have joy in our homes? How can we have peace in our own hearts? How can we have ANY of that… –Without TRUE justice of wrongs and evil. –Without REAL restoration of what’s been broken. –Without HONEST restitution of what’s been taken. Is there hope? Without the reality of God come down in the person of Jesus…no, there’s not…but Christmas! Micah 7:18-20 18Who is a God like You, removing iniquity and passing over rebellion for the remnant of His inheritance? He does not hold on to His anger forever, because He delights in faithful love. 19He will again have compassion on us; He will vanquish our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. 20You will show loyalty to Jacob and faithful love to Abraham, as You swore to our fathers from days long ago. God has been forecasting for ages His plan to utterly conquer, to vanquish our deepest problem, sin. This plan came to light through Jesus and can give *anyone* true and lasting hope, both at Christmas and into eternity. Listen to the angels words to Joseph… Matthew 1:21-23 21She will give birth to a son,... read more
Sunday Recap: A Christmas Story

Sunday Recap: A Christmas Story

Quick. Complete these sentences: “Bah…“ ”Careful kid, you’ll shoot your…“ ”I’m Dreaming of a White…” Christmas. It’s all around us. It’s the time of year when names like Rudolph, Clark Griswold, and Ralphie remind us of its arrival. Christmas makes its way into our movies, tv shows, music and calendars. Yet, despite all the focus and festivities, you will be hard pressed to find people agreeing about what Christmas truly means.  We can’t even agree on a common greeting. Merry Christimas, Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings. Suddenly we find ourselves wanting to make sure we cover all our bases, “Happy Merry Season’s Christmas Greetings to you!” So what IS Christmas? Bing Crosby famously said, ‘Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won’t make it white.’ Yet, for many others, Christmas is centered on family, or parties, or rest and vacation. Many would state Christmas hinges upon the birth of a small baby born in a manger in the small town of Bethlehem some 2000 years ago. Yet, even for those of us who see Christmas as centered on the birth of Christ, we run the risk of missing the bigger picture of this event. When we isolate Christmas to a single date in our calendar year, when we see it simply as a single day, it can come and go without much significance in our lives. Let me explain what I mean. Birthdays are a pretty big deal around our house. My daughter’s birthday falls on October 13th. It’s a significant day for our family. Yet, we don’t simply celebrate that day as the... read more
Sunday Recap 12.7.14 At Any Cost

Sunday Recap 12.7.14 At Any Cost

The Acts 6-8 account of the ministry and martyrdom of Stephen at the hands of the religious Jewish leaders is a stomach-churning read, but was important for us to cover yesterday. Prior to his murder, Stephen is selected as a servant-leader in the local church to help care for widows in need (6:5). This ministry begins with fanfare as Stephen’s grace-filled life demonstrates true godly power and new converts. Success right? Soon enough, the fanfare turns from “great wonders/signs among the people”(6:8) to burning torches, all because Stephen was resolute in preaching the truth of God’s Word to anyone God put in front of him, at any cost. Like His Savior, Jesus, Stephen was under fire because he wouldn’t relent pointing out to the Jewish leaders that their two most precious religious sacred cows, aren’t sacred at all. His lengthy and Scripture-filled sermon, while covering almost the whole history of Israel’s rebellion against God, can be summarized by pointing out these 2 things: The temple in Jerusalem isn’t where God lives. It isn’t “holy”. Jesus is the true temple where God’s fullness lives. The law of Moses isn’t where salvation is found, salvation is only in Jesus. (and the law of Moses is fulfilled in Jesus) Upon hearing this things, the Jewish leaders were “enraged” and “gnashed their teeth” (7:54) at Stephen, soon dragging him to his death beneath a hail of rocks. While breathing his last breaths, in imitation of His Lord, Stephen commits His Spirit to God then prays for the forgiveness of his murderers(7:59-60). 4 ways I’m praying we can be encouraged and emboldened from Stephen’s example: 1.... read more
Sunday Recap 11.30.14 A Nice Normal Family

Sunday Recap 11.30.14 A Nice Normal Family

“Remember as far as everyone knows, we are a nice normal family.” This Sunday we continued our study of the book of Acts. Luke, the writer of Acts, shares an account of internal conflict between people in the early church. As we read in Acts 6:1-7, the conflict shows us that this church family experienced disconnects just like any other family. “Remember as far as everyone knows, we are a nice normal family.” Those are the words printed on a pillow recently purchased by my wife that sits on a chair in our family room. Normally, I am not one who takes much notice of a new pillow purchase, yet this pillow makes me laugh every time I catch a glimpse. because anyone who knows details about my family would say “normal” does not describe us. Besides providing me with some mild entertainment, this pillow has become a conversation starter for people who visit and catch a glimpse of it. Living in the beloved bubble we call the OC, where hiding behind a mask of perfection is the goal of most, our pillow attests to the subliminal message so many strive to portray, “Remember as far as everyone knows, we are a nice normal family.” It sums up our culture’s natural impulse to portray the illusion that we have it all together. This desire to be as presentable and acceptable as possible, is not simply a societal issue but it has bled into our churches as well. We want our church body to represent a nice normal family. Yet, the reality is that we are all a beautiful broken mess of disfunction... read more
Sunday Recap 11.23.14 Opposition, Obedience, On Mission

Sunday Recap 11.23.14 Opposition, Obedience, On Mission

Yesterday, in our service, we sat under and sang some heavy truths. Heavy because they point Christ followers to what can be harsh realities, like persecution. According to Jesus, His followers should actually expect those realities. In part, because that’s what happens when you follow Jesus and also because we all live in this broken world. The Apostles were able to, because of the reality of a risen Jesus, stand in the face of persecution and the face of death and say with confidence, “We must obey God rather than men.” Ac5:29 In addition, they were able to celebrate the fact that they were “counted worthy to be dishonored on behalf of the Name.”Ac5:41 These men weren’t crazy pain seekers…instead, they’d found what few others had…true, lasting, REAL life in Jesus who proved Himself to be the Messiah/Savior!  As a result, knowing their new identity as sons of God (Eph2:12-14), they knew that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed…”  They were able to endure present heavy/hard circumstances because they knew Christ has secured a better life for them in eternity. One of the songs Pastor Matt and his team led us in was “High Above it All”, some of the lyrics read: I’ve walked through death’s valley, I will not fear Your blood it covers me, You are my shield When I’m weary and I’m weak, You are all the strength I need Grace deeper than the sea, conquered the grave You gave it all for me, Your love displayed There is power in Your name, I give... read more