Winter Ponderings

Winter Ponderings

Psalm 51:7

“Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

                                                                                       Psalm 51:7 (NASB95)

Old man winter showed up this week, with a vengeance, in Northern Indiana and Southwest Lower Michigan. The artic blast and 5”- 6” of snow in mid-January were not enough, so, on Ground Hog Day, February 2,2022, we went from beautiful blues skies and 43* to blustery conditions with 3” of snow on the ground and more falling! The forecast on Thursday, the 3rd, was for an additional 10”-12” throughout the day. I went out three times of Thursday to shovel my deck, sidewalk and driveway. By the time I finally made it to the end of the driveway there was close to a foot of snow on the ground. By the time I had finished shoveling for the day, the snow had stopped…until Friday night and Saturday morning. I woke to 2” of fresh snow fall over night and the reason for this post.

While we only had 2” of fresh snow, my step-daughter and step-son woke up to 4” of fresh snow, and since they are the worship team and handle the A/V functions, we decided to keep everyone safe and at home and canceled our weekly service. So, I thought I would take this opportunity to share with you some of the thoughts that came to mind as I was shoveling my way through Thursday. The first thought that came to mind was the absolute transformation of the area around our home. It began raining Wednesday night, before the snow began, and everything was wet and glistening in the streetlights. It also melted much of the snow from the previous storm, so there was plenty of grassy area and dead leaves that had fallen late to be seen – and to be quite honest, they were just plain ugly to look at. Dead leaves that have lost the colors of Fall and dormant grass are not a pretty sight!

Less than 12 hours later and a fresh blanket of new fallen snow had transformed the area around our home to a winter postcard setting. There was no street noise; there were no kids out waiting on school buses, for the schools had closed; there were no track sin the snow, so in the early morning quiet, it was quite beautiful. This led me to think about my transformation and John 15:16:

“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.”  

                                                                                      John 15:16 (NASB95) 

He didn’t have to choose me, but He did. I was busy chasing after dreams of the flesh – mostly material gain and buying into the lies of the enemy – but He saw something different in me, something deep down inside – something I couldn’t even see myself. He plucked me from the firebrands of hell and set me on the path He predestined for me from the foundation of the world. Which led me to think about the whiteness of my garments before the Father – pure as new fallen snow and the reason for the Psalm 51 passage – all because of the sacrifice Christ made for me, to bring me into the Kingdom of God as a full-fledged citizen and member of God’s family.

It was at this point that I was once again struck by the absolute beauty of winter. So often we spend too much time complaining about winter – I know, I’m one who complains, I just do not do well with the bitter cold – that we miss the beauty of winter. If you have never been outside during a heavy falling snow and experienced the silence that is so complete that the only thing you “hear” is the falling snow, you have no idea what you are missing! This brought a newness to Psalm 46:10:

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

                                                                                      Psalm 46:10 (NASB95)

Thursday morning was indeed still, and the Lord was exalted in the earth! His presence; His power; His mercy, grace and love surrounded me that morning, even as I shoveled the new fallen snow from my deck, sidewalk and driveway! Oh! Without a doubt I felt the burn of muscles that hadn’t been used in this way for a few months (I still feel a little of that burning this morning) but the presence of the Lord was overwhelming in the midst of this snowstorm. Winter is a time for things to rest and rejuvenate. Everything about winter screams for us to rest and rejuvenate – the early nightfall, the cold, the snow, all tend to drive us inside where we can find rest and rejuvenation. Oh, sure there are lots of fun things to do in the winter and that is part of the rejuvenation process – but do not neglect the rest and rejuvenation of your soul. Spend time reading the Word and talking with your heavenly Father in prayer!

I do still feel some of that muscle burn this morning, but it is a good burn for it reminds me of the time I had with the Lord Thursday morning as I shoveled. It actually set the tone for my devotional time after I finished each session shoveling. I was more attentive to hear what God was saying through His word and as I studied later in the day. All because of a snowstorm that blanketed our area with fresh snow, forcing me outside to see and experience the beauty of God’s creation in winter.

We do all things for the glory of God through Christ our Lord.

Amen and amen.

Recognizing Jesus, the Christ

Recognizing Jesus, the Christ

Home Church Service 1/29/2022

Life & Light Community Church began in the early months of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. What began as an opportunity for me, my wife and step-kids to continue to worship together, has now evolved into a ministry that has expanded to include close friends, family and those who are simply hungry for the word of God. You can find us on Facebook, so please, feel free to reach out and join us.

When our small group meets for worship, we like to discuss what we are learning, in the moment. Sometimes that happens right after the message and at other times we will address something during the message. These messages are designed to be interactive, discussing what we are learning right after I have addressed each point of the message. You will find the questions at the end of each section. In most formats they will appear in bold. Use these questions as a guide to meditate on the points being discussed. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and above all, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. After all, He knows any way!

“This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” 24Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.”

“The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

                                                                                John 1:19–34 (NASB95)

We have just completed the prologue to John’s gospel account, verses 1 – 18, where John presents, in a rather majestic way, the Word – Jesus Christ. John’s view of Jesus is unique from the other three gospel accounts and that continues as we reach out next passage in chapter 1. We move from the majesty of the preexistent Word to the rigors of everyday life for John the Baptist.

In this passage we will see the first two titles given to Jesus in John’s gospel account – the Lamb of God and the Son of God. Thus begins the shaping of John’s unique perspective and the difficulty people have had, both then and now, in Recognizing Jesus the Christ.

John the Baptist confessed to the priests and Levites he was not the Christ, Elijah or the Prophet. He said he was a voice crying in the wilderness. While the priests and Levites had trouble Recognizing Jesus the Christ, John points to Him as the One whom the Spirit remained upon – the Lamb of God and the Son of God.

As Christ followers, it is important for us to know who we are in Christ. Those around us may have difficulty in Recognizing Jesus the Christ, thus everything we say and do must point to the One who takes away our sin – the Lamb of God – and the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit – the Son of God.

In this message we seek to understand how we can help people in Recognizing Jesus the Christ.

We can help people in Recognizing Jesus the Christ by being their voice in the wilderness.

1). As Christ followers, we must first understand that many will have difficulty Recognizing Jesus the Christ because they are looking in the wrong places and asking the wrong questions.

We must be open, honest, and transparent because we simply do not have all the answers.

Verses 19-28 deal, once again, with the testimony of John the Baptist. John, the author of the gospel, makes it clear to his readers, that John the Baptist has been sent from God to testify to the Word – Jesus Christ. We are told that John the Baptist gave this testimony when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to question the Baptist. There are a couple of things here that we need to aware of that will help us understand what is happening. First, we need to remember Israel was a divided kingdom. The Northern Kingdom, Israel or the House of Israel, was sent into Assyrian captivity in approximately 722 B.C. The Southern Kingdom, including the capital city of Jerusalem remained until the Babylonian captivity of 586 B.C. While the Southern Kingdom would return from Babylonian captivity, the Northern tribe assimilated into other cultures, never to return. So, what we know as the Northern kingdom, at the time of Jesus, would be Samaria and Galilee.

Why is this important? Because John tells us in his prologue that the Word, Jesus, came to His own and His own rejected Him. Naturally most people assume this is the entire nation of Israel, but this is not the case. The word Jews in verse 19 actually means Judeans and Judah was part of the Southern kingdom that returned from captivity and includes the capital city of Jerusalem. So, it is not the entire nation of Israel that rejects Jesus but the Judean Jews who reject Him. We will see further proof of this later in the gospel account of John. Secondly, there are Levites among those who question the Baptist. Why is this important? The Levites are the priests of Israel in charge of those who are priests and perform priestly duties. Remember, John the Baptists father, Zechariah, is a priest and as the son of a priest, the Baptist is expected to become a priest, but he must go through the proper channels of authority and the Baptist has not done that.

Now we can fully understand the testimony of the Baptist. Those who came to question him want to know who he is and who gave him permission to baptize. The fact that the Baptist does not conform to the rules and customs of the priesthood is a great threat to the Pharisees. This is also the start of a pattern for those John the author refers to as Jews. Most of the confrontation between the Jews and Jesus has to do with authority. Again, the same old question, who gave you permission? Notice the answers the Baptist gives grow shorter with each question. “Are you the Christ?” to which he replies, “I am not the Christ?” The second question, “What then? Are you Elijah?” again the Baptist replies, “I am not.” And finally, he gives a simple “No” to the question about being the Prophet.

The Baptist knows and understands these men are looking for his credentials, but he will not play into their game. The Baptist believe authority comes from God, not man. The Baptist understand he has been sent on a mission from God and as such, his authority comes from God. He has made a point of being clear in pointing to the One who comes after him, One these men do not know though He stand among them. The witness and testimony has been to point the way to the Word, Jesus the Christ; he did not waver from this mission and has denied being the Christ freely and openly. And yet these men sent by the Pharisees continue to ask the wrong questions and look in the wrong places for the much-anticipated Messiah.  

Things really haven’t changed that much over the past 2,000+ years, people still ask the wrong questions and look in the wrong places, making it difficult in Recognizing Jesus the Christ. Speaking from my own experience only, people still ask questions about authority, they still seek to know who is running the show. People still ask questions seeking credentials, seeking to answer the same old question, “Who gave you permission?” There is a never-ending series of questions that seem to run in a loop that doubles back time and again. In reality they are simply seeking to deflect the question and change the subject.

There is this great misconception among most people that becoming a Christ follower will solve all of your problems instantly. I have been asked many times about money and money issues. “Why should I become a Christ follower? Don’t you still have money problems?” Yes, that is a real question have I been asked, probably a dozen times or more. The next most ask question is “What’s in it for me?” As if the removal of your sins and eternal life isn’t enough! The third question, and perhaps you have heard this, “What makes you so special?” In other words, “Who put you in charge?” There are other questions that follow but these are the most common from my experience. Some who asked may have been genuinely curious, but for most it was a way to deflect and change the subject.

The other issue is that people look in the wrong places. In the case of the Baptist, the men sent to question him were looking for human credentials and permission for the Baptist to do the work he was doing. The Baptist knew his credentials and authority came from God alone, but the religious sect of Israel felt they had the last word on who could become a priest and then perform priestly duties. We have the same issue today. People want to see the human validation behind everything anyone does. That includes stepping out in faith to share your story in Christ.

You see if a human being has given their approval, it is real and tangible in this world. Like the Pharisees, people today must have the final say, not the God who has called you to serve Him. Today people turn to many different things in looking to fill the void, that something deep down inside that is missing. The first place is an authority on earth, as we have just discussed but there are plenty of other places they look. People look to a sports team or event to fill the void. Perhaps it is celebrities or psychics that fill the void. Others turn to astrology or self-help materials or another religion where they have control of their own destiny.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

In your own life, what are some of the ways you have rejected Jesus?

When do you have difficulty in Recognizing Jesus the Christ?

What are some of the ways you have experienced people deflecting or attempting to change the subject when talking about Jesus?

We can help people in Recognizing Jesus the Christ by being their voice in the wilderness.

2). As Christ followers, we must then understand it is our responsibility to point the way for those having difficulty Recognizing Jesus the Christ by making straight the way of the Lord.

We can only help others if we are willing to walk with them, no matter how dirty we may get along the way.

Time and again we see the Baptist pointing the way to Jesus. When asked if he were the Christ, he freely and openly confessed he was not. His answer was the same for the follow up questions about his identity because the Baptist was confident in who he was and what his mission was. John the Baptist had ample opportunity to grab glory for himself and run with it, but his humility would not allow him to do so. His own description of himself comes from the prophet Isaiah as “one crying in the wilderness.” He was sent to witness to and testify about the true Light coming into the world, the Light that gives life to all people. As the one who is crying in the wilderness his job is to make straight the way of the Lord, to prepare the hearts of the people to receive the Messiah. The Baptist knew who he was, and he knew his mission.

In verse 29 we find, perhaps, the greatest example of the Baptists willingness to point the way to Jesus. John the Baptist is standing with others, his own disciples among them, and as Jesus approaches them, he quickly and clearly proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” This title must have caught the people off guard and caused them to take notice of this man the Baptist proclaimed. Every Jew in the area would understand the implication of calling this man “the Lamb of God.” Every day at the Temple, two lambs were sacrificed, one in the morning and one in the evening. These lambs were sin offerings for the people. This would also bring to mind the story of the original Passover and the lamb each family sacrificed so the Lord might Passover their homes as the plague of death hit the first born of Egypt.

Symbolically, the Passover pictured the coming of Jesus Christ as the Messiah. He is the lamb without blemish, a picture of His sinless life. The blood that was sprinkled on the door post pictured His blood shed on the cross. It was the sign that the life and blood of an innocent lamb had been substituted for the firstborn. So, when the Baptist proclaimed, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” he had to be aware of the sacrificial aspect of the title. This is an echo of the Old Testament, once again coming from Exodus but there is also an echo from Genesis.

Some may have recalled the account of Genesis 22 and the sacrifice of Isaac. So much of this story also foreshadows the coming of Christ as Messiah. Abraham is instructed by God to take his ONLY son, the son he loves to the land of Moriah as a burnt offering. For three days Abraham and Isaac travel, all the while Abraham aware that he must offer his son to the God who has called him. Once they reach the site, Abraham places the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac, and they climb the hill. For three days Abraham must have seen his son as good as dead, now the time has come to complete the offering. It is Isaac that ask where the lamb for the sacrifice is to be found. His father tells him God will provide the lamb. Sure enough, God stops the offering and indeed does provide a lamb for the offering, the son of Abraham has risen from among “the dead.”  

Finally, at the end of this passage, the Baptist gives witness to the fact that the One who is “the Lamb of God’ is also “the Son of God.” This is a title given by God Himself at the baptism of Jesus. The Baptist proclaims he saw the Spirit descend like a dove and remain upon Him. Here again is an echo from Genesis and the dove of chapter 8. The dove became a sacred bird and symbolized peace, gentleness, safety, hope, purity, innocence and future. Most significantly, it was associated with the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of God Himself. The Baptist testified that He saw the Spirit descend upon Jesus and remain on Him. At the baptism of Jesus, the sacred bird that symbolized peace, safety, gentleness, innocence, hope, purity and future remained on the Prince of Peace, the Gentle Shepherd, the ultimate symbol of safety, innocence, hope and future.

The dove was also associated with the king of Israel. That the dove remained on Jesus would identify Him as the King of Israel and be an important symbol of His role as King. Anticipation for the arrival of the Messiah was at a high during the time Jesus was on the earth. People were expecting the Messiah to come and release them from their oppressors, the Roman Empire. Many expected a Messiah with power, a combination of political and military strength. This is far from what Jesus presented as Messiah. Jesus filled the role of Messiah and the role of the King of Israel by subduing us to Himself. We became subjects to the King and Messiah. He ruled and defended us as a King and Messiah. He restrained and conquered those who were His enemies. This is the most important role of the King – to defend and conquer in order to provide safety.

It is our responsibility to point the way to Jesus. We cannot save anyone. We simply plant the seed and allow God to do the work of salvation. We are to be “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” That will look different for different people, but we simply act as the voice that says there is another that you do not know, One who came before me; One who is the very essence of hope, peace, gentleness and safety. He is the One who as changed my life, and He is the only One who can change your life. I know, it seems over simplified, but it really can be just that simple…we need to be heard and we must plant the seeds of faith in Jesus the Christ.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

How are you pointing the way to Jesus the Christ for those in your life who may be having difficulty recognizing Him?

How are you planting seeds of faith in the lives of others?

How has Jesus been the King of your life?  

We can help people in Recognizing Jesus the Christ by being their voice in the wilderness.

Demonstrating true humility is the basis for any work we do for Christ. This is especially true in being “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” for others. In ancient times, a herald, or forerunner, would go before a dignitary to announce his coming and clear the way before him. John was the Messiah’s herald and forerunner; he came on the scene to announce and to exhort people to prepare the way. Likewise, we too are the herald or forerunner for Jesus the Christ. We have been sent on a mission from God to testify and witness to the true Light that has come into the world. This is the Light that gives life to all people. We are to make straight the way of the Lord.

What are we to make straight? We need to straighten the concept of Messiah. Many in the time of the Baptist saw Him as just another man. Some saw Him as a liberator, one who would free them from the oppression of a military power. Some saw Him as the One who would judge all nations and provide for their salvation alone. We face many of these same issues. Jesus was indeed a man, but He was more than a mere man…He was God in the flesh. He came to experience all things human that He might provide for us an example and an Advocate before the Father. It is our responsibility to help others see that Jesus the Christ is different from the gods of other religions. Yes, Jesus will set you free from sin, the grave and death but He will also give you life and life in abundance, something no other religion can offer. Yes, Jesus will one day judge the sin of the nations and each individual person, but for those who know Him, He will be the defense attorney who holds the key to your release and eternal life.

We need to help people realize that religion does not save you. Religion is a man-made institution, formalized and institutionalized that each person can be in “control” of their future. Jesus the Christ is a real person who lived a real life among real people – the difference is Jesus was also fully God, come down from heaven to live as those He created in His image. He is the new message of God’s mercy, grace and love – a love so strong people can see their own sinfulness and still have hope for the future. The Messiah we know is pure, holy and truthful. He does not lead anyone astray and will not leave us to our own devices. We must make Messiah known in such a way that people sit up and take notice, people must respond before it is too late.

We are a voice and people must hear us! We must proclaim our message clearly and with urgency for the time is short and people must repent. Point the way to the One they do not know!

We do all things for the glory of God through Christ our Lord.

Amen and amen.

Next week: John 1:35-42

The Fullness of the Father

The Fullness of the Father

Home Church Service 1/22/2022

Life & Light Community Church began in the early months of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. What began as an opportunity for me, my wife and step-kids to continue to worship together, has now evolved into a ministry that has expanded to include close friends, family and those who are simply hungry for the word of God. You can find us on Facebook, so please, feel free to reach out and join us.

When our small group meets for worship, we like to discuss what we are learning, in the moment. Sometimes that happens right after the message and at other times we will address something during the message. These messages are designed to be interactive, discussing what we are learning right after I have addressed each point of the message. You will find the questions at the end of each section. In most formats they will appear in bold. Use these questions as a guide to meditate on the points being discussed. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and above all, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. After all, He knows any way!

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” 

                                                                                  John 1:14–18 (NASB95)

John’s gospel account gives us the most unique perspective of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Most of the material in John is unique to his gospel. In fact, John does not include any parables or a birth narrative in his gospel account. Instead, John gives us a group of sevens – seven signs, seven titles and seven “I Am” statements. This group of sevens helps to provide the unique perspective of Jesus.

Up to this point, John’s audience has been held captive by this unique “prologue” to the gospel account of John. John captured their attention with the use of the word “Logos” or Word, known and understood by Greek and Jews alike. Things are likely to change after this next section, however. Any Greek philosopher in the audience would likely leave the discussion at John’s claim that “the Word became flesh.” That the Word would take on human likeness would just be too much for the Greek philosopher. But Jesus didn’t just put on flesh, Jesus came in The Fullness of the Father.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us in The Fullness of the Father. John testified about Him as the One who existed before. We all have received from His fullness, for He brought grace while Moses brought the Law. He has seen God, for He is in the bosom of the Father, and He has explained Him.

The Word became flesh to live with us. In The Fullness of the Father, He brought grace and truth and John testified about His eternal existence. Though the Commandments came through Moses, Jesus Christ brought grace and truth that He might reveal God, having the very nature of the Father.

In this message we seek to understand why the Word came in The Fullness of the Father.

The Fullness of the Father has been seen in His glory, and through the Law of Moses, but they did not explain Him.

1). The Word came in The Fullness of the Father to show the grace and truth of the Father.

The Word became flesh to show us how-to live-in grace and truth.

The technical term for what John means when he says “the Word became flesh” is Incarnation. God’s eternal Son, the One who created all things, came to earth as a human being to live among us. The Word became something He was not – He became human. John’s statement is clear, it leaves no room for doubt – the Incarnation did take place. The Son of God was actually made flesh and came in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is beyond doubt, God Himself, who became something He was not, by taking on human flesh, blood and bones.

Why would the Son of God take on human flesh? The answer, John says, is to dwell among us. Why did the Son of God want to dwell, or live, among us? Let’s unpack this by first taking a look at the word dwell. In the Greek language this is the word skenoo, it means to pitch a tent or to tabernacle. So. You could literally translate this sentence to “He tabernacled among us,” or “He pitched His tent among us.” Remember I said we would hear echoes of Genesis throughout this gospel? Well, this is another one with the echo of the Garden of Eden when the presence of God walked with Adam and Eve. But wait, there’s more! We can also hear an echo from Exodus and the Tabernacle when God pitched His tent among His people so they might see His presence among them.

That brings us to the word “glory,” when John says “we saw His glory…” Most biblical scholars understand this to be the shekinah glory of God that was seen during the wilderness wandering. Shekinah carries the meaning of “in the tent.” This refers to the Tabernacle when God’s presence was evident by the cloud that covered the Tabernacle, thus, you could read this as “glory in the tent.” God’s presence was “localized” in the tabernacle. In the same way, the presence of God is now “localized” in Jesus Christ. Jesus pitched His tent among us, and we have seen His glory in the tent.

But this is no ordinary glory, this glory is from the Father full of grace and truth. This is the main reason the Word became flesh – to show us the grace and truth of the Father. John describes Jesus as “full of grace and truth,” meaning that Jesus could not have any more – He is completely filled. Grace is the Greek word charis, it means favor or goodwill. It is also understood as gracious or merciful behavior of a more powerful person towards others. Truth is the Greek word Alethia understood as being in accordance with fact or reality, or what is real and genuine.

The Word became like us, to live with us and to live as us. He became flesh to experience all things human. We saw His glory, glory that reflects the Father’s glory, glory that came from the Father. We saw His glory from eternity, glory that radiates grace and truth. The Word came to show us the grace and truth of the Father. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the phrase “grace and truth” is equivalent to the Old Testament phrase “kindness and faithfulness.” This is what Moses asks for in Exodus 33:18 when he says. “Show me Your glory.”

Moses was only able to see the back of God that day, but at the transfiguration of Jesus, Moses finally saw the full glory of God in Christ Jesus. Moses and Elijah were present, as well as Peter, James and John, at the transfiguration of Jesus. Moses and Elijah representing the Law and Prophets, while Peter, James and John represent His followers, including you and me. Here is where the rubber meets the road for us as Christ followers. Jesus said, at the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” Jesus came to reveal the glory of God’s grace and truth by fulfilling the Law and the Prophets – He lived His life in accordance with fact and reality. As the Creator of all things, He was gracious and merciful towards others. He showed us how to live our lives within God’s Law. Not once did Jesus strike down the Law but always, He explained and expanded the Law.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

How do you sense Jesus “pitching His tent” with you?

How have you experienced grace and truth recently?

How are you reflecting God’s glory in your life?

The Fullness of the Father has been seen in His glory, and through the Law of Moses, but they did not explain Him.

2). The Word came in The Fullness of the Father that He might explain the Father.

The Word became human that the Father might be revealed through Him.

The Word came in the flesh to live among us and experience all things human. He came reflecting the glory of the Father, full of grace and truth. From this fullness, John says, we have all received grace upon grace. As I said earlier, fullness is that which is completely full, the sum total. In Jesus dwelt all the wisdom, righteousness, glory, grace and truth – all the abundance of God the Father. In fact, fullness is the Greek word pleroma meaning superabundance and completeness. Jesus couldn’t have any more of God – He was fully God.

In stating that we have received grace upon grace, John is saying Jesus gives grace on top of grace; He give grace enough to meet all our needs, no matter the circumstances; one blessing leads to another blessing; new wonders dawn upon us daily and there are fresh expressions of His goodness constantly springing up in our lives. The literal translation here is, “grace in place of grace.” It speaks of a continual flow, “grace replenishing grace.” God’s grace is unlimited and never depleted.

We hear another echo from the Old Testament, Exodus once again, in verse 17 when John talks about the Law coming through Moses. Both the Law and grace express God’s nature. Moses emphasized God’s law and justice, while Jesus highlights God’s mercy, love and forgiveness. It is true the law was meant to point out our failure and condemn us for breaking the law, for no one can keep the law perfectly – thus, our need for a Savior. The Law demonstrated God’s righteousness and judgment, but the fullness of the Father – His sacrificial love, grace and truth – were never displayed in the sacrificial system as they are in Jesus.

Christ came as the demonstration of God’s grace and truth – God gave His Son to the world as the eternal sacrifice for our sin. So, perhaps there is a better way to read verse 17, “For the Law was given through Moses and grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” There is a major distinction here we must understand. The Law was GIVEN through Moses. The word “given” here is understood as “to allow, to cause, command, or grant.” The Law, the 10 Commandments, were given on physical stone tablets, words written or caused by God, on how to live with God and with others – a kind of Cliff Notes for Dummies on how to live with God and others!

In contrast, grace and truth were REALIZED through Jesus Christ. The Greek word for realized means “to come into being, to happen to become.” Meriam-Webster Dictionary offers a definition that is very close – to understand or become aware of; to bring into concrete existence. Jesus, the Word made flesh, came in the fullness of the Father that He might explain Him. In the Greek language the word explained means “to show the way.” It is a combination of two other Greek words – the first meaning “from, from out of,” the second “to show the way.” Jesus brought God into concrete existence by literally leading from out of or showing the way. Jesus came down from heaven, to lead the way into human history, thus explaining the Father to all people.

The Fullness of the Father has been seen in His glory, and through the Law of Moses, but they did not explain Him.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

Where have you experienced the superabundance or completeness of Christ recently?

How are you showing grace upon grace to those around you?

How has Jesus brought the Father into concrete existence in your life?

Jesus was the very embodiment of truth while He lived on earth. Through His teachings and His sinless, perfect life, Jesus demonstrated God’s truth to the world. As Christ followers, Jesus Christ came to lead us from darkness into His glorious light. His light is what gives each of us life. He came to lead us from a life under the influence of darkness and deception into the truth of God’s mercy, grace, and love for each of us. He came to lead us from death to life.

God the Father revealed Himself to humanity through Christ, the only One who could explain Him. Through His earthly ministry, Jesus declared, without question, that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. Every person believes or does not believe the grace and truth of God as revealed, realized and explained in Christ Jesus. The greatest question Jesus will every ask anyone is, “Who do you say I am?”

Christ came in the flesh meaning He became the whole person; He took on human existence in all its frailty and vulnerability. This very fact proves the value of human life and existence. In fact, let’s make this a little more personal – the fact that Jesus took on human life in its frailty and vulnerability proves the value of YOUR life and YOUR existence. God identified with us in our human life, particularly our weakness and suffering.

In closing, I want you to consider one more fact about our human life. Jesus came in the fullness of the Father. There was no sickness or disease He could not cure. He called Lazarus forth from the grave. He went to the cross to be crucified and die. He was placed in a sealed tomb – BUT death could not HOLD Him, the grave could not KEEP Him! And yet, our human life was truly the vehicle for God’s life, our flesh CONTAINED the Word, our humanity was home for Him who was forever.  

We do all things for the glory of God, through Christ our Lord.

Amen and amen.

Next Week: John 1:19-34

The True Light

The True Light

Home Church Service 1/15/2022

Life & Light Community Church began in the early months of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. What began as an opportunity for me, my wife and step-kids to continue to worship together, has now evolved into a ministry that has expanded to include close friends, family and those who are simply hungry for the word of God. You can find us on Facebook, so please, feel free to reach out and join us.

When our small group meets for worship, we like to discuss what we are learning, in the moment. Sometimes that happens right after the message and at other times we will address something during the message. These messages are designed to be interactive, discussing what we are learning right after I have addressed each point of the message. You will find the questions at the end of each section. In most formats they will appear in bold. Use these questions as a guide to meditate on the points being discussed. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and above all, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. After all, He knows any way!

“There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

                                                                                                                                           John 1:6–13 (NASB95)

Last week we began our series in The Gospel According to John. In this first message, John firmly establishes the fact that he is a committed Jew, entrenched in Jewish traditions and the rich customs of the Judaism of the Second Temple period. John introduces us to The Eternal Word by using three simple but very important words… “In the beginning.” These three words link this gospel to the Torah and, as we are learning, for John, everything begins with the Torah.

This week we are introduced to John the Baptist, a man sent from God to witness to the Light. The Baptist freely admits he is not the Light but has come to testify about the Light with one simple purpose, that all might believe through his testimony. John, the author of the gospel, tells us the Word is also the Light, in fact, He is The True Light coming to the very world He created.

John was a man sent from God to testify about The True Light. He came to the world He created to enlighten all men but was rejected by His own. To those who received Him, He gave the right to become children of God, born not of blood or the will of the flesh or man, but of God.

Like John, we too have been sent to testify about The True Light. Our witness is to enlighten all people on why the Light came to the world He created and to show how all people can become members of God’s family through spiritual rebirth.

In this message we seek to answer the question, “Why did The True Light come to the world He created?”

As Christ followers, we too have been sent to witness to and reflect The True Light.

1). We must first understand that The True Light came to the world He created to enlighten ALL people.

Our witness will make known The True Light to those who are ready to receive Him.

Scripture makes a strong contrast between what has been said about Jesus and what is being said about John the Baptist. As we learned last week, Jesus was “in the beginning.” John tells us He “was with God” and “He was God.” Remember we learned the word “was” is a continuous action in the Greek language, so “was” is literally “was continuing.” John the Baptist on the other hand came into existence at his birth, the Baptist was “a man” sent from God. John the Baptist had an earthly mother and father, we can read about them in Luke chapter 1.

As Christ followers it is important for us to have a solid understanding of these first three verses, for in them we must see ourselves. One of my all-time favorite tee shirts had a Christian theme, it was very simple but the figures on the tee shirt we very well known. It was a white shirt with the black silhouettes of Jake and Elwood Blues – The Blues Brothers. Above them was a simple line from the movie – “On a mission from God.” If you have seen the movie, you know the line comes after Jake and Elwood have been released from prison and before they set out on a crazy adventure through the city of Chicago.

More importantly, this is a simple summary of John the Baptists purpose in life – he was sent “on a mission form God,” a very special mission. “From God” is literally translated as “from beside God.” John the Baptist has been sent from the very side and heart of God, making the Baptist a man uniquely sent by God. But John the Baptist hasn’t just been sent by God, he has been sent to witness, to testify, meaning he has been sent by God WITH a message that has been prepared FOR him. John means gracious and this is the message that the Baptist has been sent with – God’s grace has now entered human history.

John the Baptist came from God with a special message – to proclaim the Light. The Baptist brought a crucial message, the good news of salvation through Christ and this message must be declared to all people that they might believe, through his message, that Christ is the True Light. During his ministry, John the Baptist is the only true representative of God’s Light. John has a Christ-centered message with the goal of winning people to personal faith, regardless of their condition or attitude. What’s more, John has the same message as Jesus – a message to enlighten all people.

John the Baptist came to testify to the True Light. John’s message says light is clean, pure, clear, and good. It penetrates, enlightens, and reveals. Light guides, exposes and strips away darkness. This is the message of Christ when He says, “I am the light of the world.” The Baptist proclaims Light calms, conquers, and ends chaos. It discriminates between right and wrong. Light warns and protects. Is this not the message of Jesus in stating, “I am the Good Shepherd” or “I am the way, the truth, and the life?”

Our world is in dire straits right now. The spirit of antichrist is on the rise. The world is full of darkness – the darkness of sin and despair; the darkness of sickness and death; the darkness of corruption and destruction. This darkness looms over the whole world. But Christ came as The True Light to give light to ALL people. Christ gives light through natural revelation – that is through creation and the order of the universe. He gives light by giving us good gifts and displaying God’s goodness towards us. Christ gives light through God’s word – God has revealed Himself and His truth through the Scriptures. Christ enlightens us to the truth that He loves us and cares for us.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

You have been sent on a mission from God. Do you now have a sense of where you are being sent?

How has the message of The True Light been played out in your life?

Knowing that Light is pure, penetrates, exposes, calms, warns, and protects, what is the Light shining upon in your life at this moment?

As Christ followers, we too have been sent to witness to and reflect The True Light.

2). Secondly, we must understand The True Light came to the world He created to show All people how to become more like Him.

Our spiritual rebirth begins and ends with God the Father.

John, the author of the gospel, tells us that The True Light was coming into the world He created only to go unrecognized and, ultimately, to be rejected by His own. More importantly, John adds that The True Light came to show ALL people how to become like Him – a child of God. Before this, however, John expands on his statement from verse 3, “All things came into being through Him…” John expands this statement by saying “He was in the world” and “the world did not know Him.” In other words, the world and those in the world He created did not recognize Him.

Christ was actually in the world long before He came as a human being, for the power and presence of Christ were already in the world. Christ gave the light of order, purpose, and beauty to the universe as a whole. He gave humanity the glorious light of living in such a beautiful world. Christ gave spirit to every person – the light of knowing and worshipping God and of living with God forever. He gave messengers to the world, prophetic lights to proclaim the truth. Is it any wonder the people of the world had a hard time recognizing this carpenter from Nazareth as the King of the universe?

John next gives us the bad news – He came to His own and His own did not receive Him. The word “own” is used twice here. The first “own” is in the neuter plural in the Greek language, thus the first “own” should be translated as “His own things.” The second “own” however is best translated as “His own people.” Some have tried to translate the first “own” as home or place – which would certainly fit coming to “His own people” but we lose the emphasis on the entire universe being created by Him and through Him. “His own things” would certainly include His home or place.

The world Jesus created is certainly His home and Israel is, without a doubt, His specific home, and the people He had chosen as messengers to the world. However, we run into an issue when we assume “His own did not receive Him” is the entire nation of Israel. This would be a false assumption on our part, for John present Jesus as Judean, not as Galilean, thus making “His own people” the people of Judah and more specifically, the capital city of Jerusalem. Thus, Jesus is only rejected by Judean Jews and not the entire nation of Israel, for there were many Christ followers in first century Israel.

The good news is that there were some who did receiver Him and believed in His name. Those who received Him did so by faith, believing in His name – the Word, Life, and Light. Specifically, Yeshua, which translated in English is Jesus, means Jehovah is salvation and Christ which means Anointed One or Messiah. Thus, those who received Him believed that He is the Anointed Savior and Redeemer promised by the Lord. In addition, those who received Him were given a gift – the right to become like Yeshua, a child of God.

To receive Yeshua means to believe, accept, welcome, and love. Those who received Him believed in His name and His works. They accepted His teachings, His reality as the Son of God, His commands, and His demands. They welcomed Him in word and deed, following His teachings and His example. They loved Him because He first loved them. The gift to those who received Him is the right to become children of God. The word right implies power or authority. It is a legal term referring to an officially granted right or privilege, given or granted by a king, judge or government. But it also implies responsibility and purpose. Being a child of a king comes with responsibilities. We become a mouthpiece for the king, His official representative among the people. It also gives us purpose no longer are we lost and wandering, we now belong to the King for which we live and lose our lives.

To become means we become something we are not. When we receive Christ, God, the highest power of all, gives us the privilege to become what we are not – a child of God! We become one of His dear children, meant to become like The True Light – to become more Christlike through a spiritual rebirth that begins and ends with God. Blood, flesh and man are the human means of physical birth but to become like the Light requires something of God – a spiritual rebirth.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

Consider your own perception of Jesus for a moment. If He were in the world today as a carpenter, and began teaching in our culture, as it currently stands, could you receive Him and believe in His name?

Keeping in mind your perception of Jesus, how would you show your belief in Him? How might you welcome Him?

As a child of God, you are a child of the King. What are your responsibilities as His child and how are you handling them?

As Christ followers, we too have been sent to witness to and reflect The True Light.

This is one of the most important passages for discovering the meaning of John’s gospel account. This passage is part of the prologue and from the prologue the path for what follows is set – how we read and understand the prologue will affect how we read and understand the rest of what John has to say.

We too, like John the Baptist, are sent by God to testify about The True Light. As such, we must remember that servants and messengers of God are not sent by people but by God alone. There is no church or committee, no government or other public entity, on this earth that can deter, deflect, or destroy the servant or messenger from God. As God’s servants or messengers, we are sent forth from God – right from the very side and heart of God. He alone determines our message, and He alone can change or stop our message.

As God’s messengers we have received the highest of all callings and missions. Our calling is to tell others about Yeshua, The True Light; our witness is to enlighten ALL people. Our mission is to bring people to personal faith in Yeshua, that they receive Him and believe in His name. Not everyone will believe through our message – for some we will simply be planting the seed of faith. Our message, however, is a given message – one that God has prepared especially for you and your experiences. We have not been left on our own to think up a message. We are not dependent upon our reason, thoughts, or ideas. Our message is Yeshua – The True Light.

John’s gospel account came to a world where rank counted and those who were slaves had no rights or freedom. John’s gospel message promises ALL people, regardless of rank or status, nothing less than personal membership in God’s family. Likewise, today, people complain about what seems to be God’s indifference to pain and suffering – some even blaming Him for both. Yet this gospel shows that God does indeed care, for this is why He came to the world He created! God simply could not have cared more, for He sent His only Son that people could receive Him, believe in His name, and become children of God. And yet He is still ignored and, in the end, rejected.

Finally, the theme of witness permeates this gospel account. The witness of the truth of God’s self-revelation in the Word is manifold in this gospel. It is comprised of the witness of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, the witness of Christ’s works, and the witness of His disciples. Add to this your own witness and it is clear to see the purpose of the theme of witness is that ALL might believe, in fact, this is the very purpose of the gospel itself.

We do all things to the glory of God through Christ our Lord.

Amen and amen.

Next week: John 1: 14 – 18

The Eternal Word

The Eternal Word

Home Church Service 1/08/2022

Life & Light Community Church began in the early months of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. What began as an opportunity for me, my wife and step-kids to continue to worship together, has now evolved into a ministry that has expanded to include close friends, family and those who are simply hungry for the word of God. You can find us on Facebook, so please, feel free to reach out and join us.

When our small group meets for worship, we like to discuss what we are learning, in the moment. Sometimes that happens right after the message and at other times we will address something during the message. These messages are designed to be interactive, discussing what we are learning right after I have addressed each point of the message. You will find the questions at the end of each section. In most formats they will appear in bold. Use these questions as a guide to meditate on the points being discussed. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and above all, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. After all, He knows any way!

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

                                                                                       John 1:1–5 (NASB95)

Like many in modern day Christianity, I believed the first three verses of John to be absolutely ground-breaking – but in fact, they are NOT! It will not be until we get to verse 14 that a truly innovative idea is brought to light. Nothing that John states in the first three verses is contradictory to Judaism.

What we find in the first three verses should be enough for us to understand one very important fact – the author of this gospel was a committed Jew, entrenched in Jewish customs and the rich concept of Judaism during the time of the Second Temple. This being the case, John sets out to present evidence that Jesus is The Eternal Word and that all would believe and have eternal life in Him.

The Eternal Word was with God in the beginning, in fact, He was God. He was there when all things came into being and nothing could come into being without Him, for in Him is life. This life is the Light of all men, shining in the darkness that cannot comprehend it.

The Eternal Word has always been and will always be with and is God. He created all things, and nothing has been created without Him. His life gives Light to all people as it shines in a darkness that will never overcome it.

In this message we seek to understand why The Eternal Word is important in the life of a Christ Follower.

The Eternal Word is Light that darkness cannot understand or overcome.

1). We must first understand that The Eternal Word is important in the Christ follower’s life because The Eternal Word has always been with God and has always been God.

He is God without beginning or end.

“In the beginning,” three simple words but three very important words for this gospel. “In the beginning,” roots this gospel with the foundational words of the Torah – “In the beginning,” and “God said.” You have heard me say this before and I am going to say it again, Jesus did not come to start a new religion, He came to create a NEW BODY. John’s words throughout this gospel account will confirm this. What we find in John, perhaps more than any other gospel writer, is that everything begins with the Torah. In fact, we will find echoes of Genesis throughout this gospel account.

Given this, it is foundational for the Christ follower to understand “In the beginning was the Word.” Beginning here does not mean from the beginning or from the start. Jesus never had a beginning – He has always existed with God. This is further confirmed with the word “was.” In the Greek it is in the imperfect tense meaning a continuous action, so, in this case “was” can actually be translated as “was continuing.” This is true throughout the first three verses: “In the beginning was continuing the Word, and the Word was continuing with God and the Word was continually God.” The point is clear – Jesus is preexistent. He was always continuing! 

John faced a major obstacle in writing his gospel account – how to connect with Gentiles, that is non-Jewish people, who may have never heard of the Messiah and Jewish people who were expecting Messiah. The answer for John lay in the concept of logos, word, for the concept of word was understood by both Gentiles and Jews. Jews saw the word as something more than a mere sound. A word was something active and existing. It was a power – a possessing power to express something.

Greeks, or Gentiles, saw the word more philosophically. When they looked at the world of nature, they saw order and not chaos. Everything had its place and moved or grew in an orderly fashion. Therefore, the Greeks said that behind the world was a mind, a reason, a power that made and kept things in their proper place. This creative and sustaining mind was said to be the Word. The word was also seen as the power that enabled people to think and reason. It was the power that brought light and understanding to the human mind, allowing humans to express their confused thoughts in an orderly fashion. More importantly, the word was the power by which people came into contact with God and expressed their feelings to God.

There is one other aspect of the word we must consider – the written word. It has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword. The written word can be many things. It can paint the picture of a beautiful sunset. It can also reflect the ugliness of anger, hatred and bitterness. The written word can move us to tears or spontaneous laughter. The written word can wound or bring healing, it can bring joy or cause sorrow. The written word can inspire, convict and set free – there is power in the written word.

If we combine the Jewish understanding, the Greek understanding and the thought of the written word from our culture, it is clear to see the concept of word has power in all areas of human thought, speech and writing. And if you find yourself thinking you are not quite sure about the thought aspect, consider this – you had to use words to form that thought! Yep, that’s right, you use words to think! In fact, you cannot think without using words! Now we can understand why Paul encourages us to renew our minds daily or to take every thought captive to Christ.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

What comes to mind when you hear the words, “In the beginning?”

How has your concept of the term “Word” changed? If not, why?

How have you experienced the concept of “word” in Jesus recently?

The Eternal Word is Light that darkness cannot understand or overcome.

2). The second point we must understand is that The Eternal Word is important in the Christ follower’s life because The Eternal Word has brought all things into being.

He is the Creator and Giver of life.

John makes a profound statement that helps us understand the Word better. John says, “the Word was with God.” This means that the Word was near, active, and attached to God. He was familiar with and known by God. The Word was watching, doing, and imitating God, because. He in fact, was God. This sets up the thought in verse 3, “All things came into being through Him.” Christ, the Word, created all things, not just creation, but every detail of creation. Nothing was in existence, for matter is not eternal. God did not take something from outside of Himself – something less than perfect – to create the perfect place for His most prized possession. God used His will and His power to create all things.

John then states that in Him, in Christ, was life. This means that not only did the Word create all things, He is the substance and essence of all things. All creation contains some of His essence – His beauty, His order, His faithfulness – but this also means that all of creation also suffers under the curse. The Word is the power that holds all things together. This also means that nothing has come into being apart from the Word, for He is the beginning of all things. Thus, John can confidently say, “In Him was life.” He gives life, He creates life, and He can take life. He has power over life. Life is in Him as well as through Him.

John goes on to say that this “life was the Light of all men” – of all people. This is a profound statement that, once again, echoes Genesis. All people have life, so all people MUST have some Light. This means that every person EVER CONCEIVED has had some Light, or some part of Jesus in them!  “Let us create them in our image.” The image of God carried by all people is now damaged and corrupted by sin. The life in Christ sheds Light on our sinful condition but it also points the way to the abundant, eternal life He came to bring.

Humans brought darkness into the world through sin. The life in Christ was the Light of humanity meant to show us the way, the truth, and the life. Christ is the source of life and from the beginning it has been, and continues to be, God’s desire that we know that life – to know God personally and intimately. Thus, John says, “The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.” Here again we find echoes of Genesis in Light and darkness being separated.

“The darkness did not comprehend it” can be understood in several ways. Darkness could not understand the Light – could not figure it out or make sense of it. Darkness could not overtake or conquer the Light. And darkness could not overcome the Light. The life in Christ not only penetrates the darkness, but it also utterly conquers the darkness. The Greek word for overcome expresses the truth that darkness can neither defeat nor extinguish the Light of Christ. It also expresses the truth that the darkness of the world cannot understand or grasp the Light.

Try as he might, the enemy who brings darkness into this world and against Christ followers will never be able to understand or defeat the Light of Christ. There is much confusion, chaos, and division in our country today, tactics used by the enemy to keep people off balance and distracted – including many who claim the name of Jesus. It is not our job to judge and condemn those who are under the influence of Satan and his demons. Ours is to reflect the Light and allow it to penetrate the darkness in which we work, play, and live out our days on earth. It is a high calling indeed to shine the Light into the darkness, to allow the Light to expose sin and to show the way, the truth and the life.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

How have you experienced the substance of the life of Christ recently?

Where are you experiencing Light conquering darkness in your life?

Where are you being called to be a beacon to reflect the Light of Christ?

The Eternal Word is Light that darkness cannot understand or overcome.

I have long felt that the first three verses of John were ground-breaking but in fact, they are not. There is nothing that is contradictory to Judaism in them, and it is only once we get to verse 14 that a truly innovative idea is brought forth.

What we find in those verses should be enough to show that the writer is a committed Jew, entrenched in Jewish customs and understand the rich concept of Judaism in the Second Temple period. So, with this in mind, John sets out to show that Jesus is The Eternal Word.

Love’s instinct is to create – out of the unique communion of love between God the Father and “the Word,” the universe came into existence. The greatness of Christ is seen in His being the creative mediator of the observable universe, Christ is, therefore, the unifying principle at the heart of all existence. All things came into being – you and I included – the universe came into being – stars, moons and the sun – not out of some pre-existing material, but by the will and power of God. Thus, EVERYTHING and EVERYONE, is utterly dependent upon the Word of God.

With this understanding of logos, the Word, and our utter dependence on Him, we now have the foundation to better grasp the remainder of this gospel account. As we move forward, we will continue to hear echoes of Genesis and see the Word in the midst of all that John records. Whether it be the spoken word, the written word or the words of thought, there is no escaping the presence and the power of the Word. This should also help us put meat on such passages as taking captive every thought in obedience to Christ and renewing our minds daily.

It also brings a new light to our responsibilities as Christ followers. We are to reflect His Light, not out own. That Light must first shine in our own darkness and then penetrate the darkness of the world around us. Ours is not to judge, that is we do not judge the person, we judge the sinful action AFTER the Light has exposed our own sin. Then and only then are we prepared to lead others to the way, the truth and the life.

We are also much more aware of our utter dependence on the Word. This should give us pause from our daily routines and begin to cause us to see and be aware of the presence of the Word in al we do and who we are. The Word is the Giver of Life and Light. We carry a part of Him within us, though it is damaged, each day is an opportunity to move closer to Christlikeness and remove some of the damage and corruption caused by sin. We can also rejoice in knowing the fact that no matter how bad things get, the enemy can NEVER defeat or extinguish the Light. In Christ we are overcomers! We stand in His Light as conquerors even today.

We do all things to the glory of God through Christ our Lord.

Amen and amen.

Next week: John 1: 6-13

New Message Series

New Message Series

John: The Gospel of Life & Light

Beginning Saturday, January 8, 2022

John gives us, perhaps, the most unique perspective of all the gospel accounts. John’s gospel account has been called “the most theological” of the gospels for the way it handles the person and nature of Christ and the meaning of faith in Christ. Written between 85-90, by an author who is identified only as “the disciple Jesus loved,” this author displays a knowledge of Jewish customs, was an eyewitness to the life of Jesus and presents details only an eyewitness could share, thus, we can conclude, this author is John, the son of Zebedee and Salome.

John is a Galilean, the younger brother of James. The brothers became known as “the Sons of Thunder,” in Mark 3:17. John played a leading role in the work of the early church in Jerusalem, he then went on to lead the church at Ephesus, wrote the letters of 1,2,3 John nut is perhaps best known for his writing while exiled on the island of Patmos – The Revelation of Jesus Christ.

John is also unique for what it does NOT include. You will not find a birth narrative, no Sermon on the Mount and there are no parables in John, instead, John takes us back to “the beginning,” before time began, where we find the Word with God. You will also find seven signs or miracles performed by Christ, seven titles for Christ and seven “I Am” statements made by Christ. All of these are included to give us a complete picture, or perhaps better stated, a complete revelation of God in Christ.

As we progress through our study of John’s gospel account, we will examine key words and themes, as well as the signs, titles and “I Am” statement, and how they impact the life of a Christ follower today. I pray this gospel might impact your life the way it has impacted mine. Prayerfully read each section (the next weeks passage will be included at the end of each week’s message) BEFORE the message is given, asking the Holy Spirit to open your eyes, ears and mind, that God might grant you clarity in seeing, hearing and understanding His message for you. We begin our study on Saturday, January 8, 2022 @ 11a.m. with John 1:1-5.

I truly believe that this gospel is so unique that by the end of our study in John, you must believe one of three things: 1) Jesus was a liar; 2) Jesus was a lunatic or: 3) Jesus is Lord! This pastor/Christ follower chooses to believe number 3 – Jesus is LORD!! See you Saturday, January 8, 2022, as we begin our study on John: The Gospel of Life and Light.

New Year: New Beginning

New Year: New Beginning

Home Church Service 1/01/2022

Life & Light Community Church began in the early months of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. What began as an opportunity for me, my wife and step-kids to continue to worship together, has now evolved into a ministry that has expanded to include close friends, family and those who are simply hungry for the word of God. You can find us on Facebook, so please, feel free to reach out and join us.

When our small group meets for worship, we like to discuss what we are learning, in the moment. Sometimes that happens right after the message and at other times we will address something during the message. These messages are designed to be interactive, discussing what we are learning right after I have addressed each point of the message. You will find the questions at the end of each section. In most formats they will appear in bold. Use these questions as a guide to meditate on the points being discussed. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and above all, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. After all, He knows any way!

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven— He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.

                                                                     Ecclesiastes 3:1&11 (NASB95)

So, here we are, another year has flown past our eyes, and we stand at the beginning of a New Year. I cannot remember a time when New Year’s was so looked forward to as the past two years, 2020 and 2021. These past two years have stretched us to the limit and so we look forward to a New Year: New Beginning, hopeful that this year will be better.

Looking forward is a good thing but there is a small catch to looking forward. We need to look back first. Why? Because if we do not look back, at both the good and the bad, we cannot successfully navigate the New Year, nor can we grow from our past mistakes. A New Year: New Beginning must first begin with a look back before we can move forward.  

1). The first thing we must do with a New Year: New Beginning is look back at our mistakes, failures and hurts.

Looking back is NEVER easy but it is the only way we can learn and grow from OUR mistakes.

No one likes to admit they make mistakes, have failed themselves and others or have been hurt or hurt other people, but sadly, it is a fact of life and the only way we can learn, and grow, is by looking back. Before looking back, you must understand this very important point, looking back is NOT to be an exercise in self-condemnation, nor is it to be simply a self-improvement exercise. The point here is growth – more specifically, growth in Christ.

So, we must first start by making a list of those mistakes, sins, or hurts that have been done to others or have been done to us. This could be anything from a sin that has gone unconfessed to a mistake you glossed over in front of others or something you blamed another for to keep from the consequences or something someone has done to you. Prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. Be open and transparent. If you allow the Spirit to guide you making this list will be easy, but you just might find that you will see God in the midst of your list. What do I mean? You just might find that God was already working in the issue before you made the mistake, committed the sin or hurt the other person or were hurt by another.

Once your list is made, take the appropriate action. If you need to apologize to someone, apologize and ask forgiveness. If you need to forgive someone, forgive them, BEFORE they apologize to you. If there is something that can be made right, make it right. You MUST understand this, you cannot and will not have peace in the New Year until you have peace with others, with yourself and peace with God. It makes no difference how big or how small you might think the act is or was…clean it up, get it out of your life because these “little things” can keep you separated from God.

Once again, this is NOT to be an act of self-condemnation. You will know if condemnation is coming from the Holy Spirit or of it is from self or the enemy. The Spirit will certainly bring condemnation, but the condemnation of the Spirit will come in love. It will come in the still small voice that is moving you to a better way, not the voice that brings justification or excuses for the acts you have committed. Listen for God to speak in the midst of your struggle with your list. He will lovingly, yet sternly move you to the right path, His correction is just that – CORRECTION! Meant to get you on the right path and to remain in His light.

Questions for reflection:

What was the most difficult thing about forming your list?

Did you allow the Holy Spirit to guide you into the harder confessions and admissions?

How are you sensing peace after forming your list?

2). The second thing we must do with a New Year: New Beginning is look to the Lord God for He has made all things appropriate in their time.

Everything happens in its time and for a reason.

Once you have completed your list and taken the appropriate actions, it is now time to look to God. The New Year: New Beginning means we have a blank slate, but it also means things will still be done at the right time. God has set all things to happen in the time they are meant to happen. There is no such thing as karma, luck, coincidence, happenstance, chance or even a lucky rabbit’s foot! God has ordained things to happen at the appropriate time. We must, therefore, seek Him in all things we do in the New Year.

God sits in sovereign control over all He has created. He leaves nothing to chance and there is nothing that takes Him by surprise. He is intimately involved in your life and seeks to bring you only the best, in turn brining glory to His name. This does not mean we will not suffer the consequences of bad choices or mistakes we make or the sins we commit. We must still answer for those, and the outcome or consequence may be a surprise to us, but it will not surprise God. We must, therefore, remain close to the One who has created us and has given us life.

Just as there is an appropriate time for spring, summer, fall and winter, so there is an appropriate time for all things in our lives. God has order things in such a way that we, as mere human beings, cannot see what He is doing or what He will do. Certainly, there will be signs along the way, but we can never truly know what God is doing until He makes it known in its time. Our finite minds just could not handle seeing those things. Instead, God has granted us full access to His throne room, through our faith in Christ, whenever we need to come to Him. It matters not how small or large the problem or issue is, our heavenly Father wants us to need Him and come to Him.

So, what do we do? Make another list!! This time list those things that are heaviest on your heart. Maybe it is a new job or a promotion at your current job. Maybe it is a new car. Maybe it is a new home. Maybe you have a ministry that needs to go to the next level or take the next steps. Again, be open and transparent and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. Don’t be surprised if you find God already there in this list as well. Pray, pray, and pray some more. You may not receive an answer to your entire list, or even a part of it, right away. The key is to be persistent in prayer.

Once you have your list and you begin to pray, be attentive to what is happening around you. Look for signs that God has begun to work in your prayer requests. Do not be dismayed if you are not seeing anything, again persistence in prayer is the key, but we also need to listen and be watchful. You must learn to be aware of His presence in your everyday life and to rejoice when His presence is near. Learn to look past the everyday routines of your life and recognize the miracles of life in the presence of God.

Questions for reflection:

What do you sense God calling to you do this year?

Where do you need God’s guidance this year?

How have you sensed the presence of God during the past year?

None of us likes to look back, especially when it involves making a list of what we have done wrong. But this is the only way we can learn and grow. It is my prayer that God will grant you the courage to take this step, making a list of the mistakes, sins, wrongs done to you or to others, every year, not just this year. I pray that your growth in Christ will be noticeable to you and those who are closest to you. May you learn the peace of Christ as you remove the barriers between you and God the Father, for we cannot have peace with the Father until we have peace with ourselves and with others. May the New Year: New Beginning be filled with peace, joy, love and happiness as you seek to serve the One who has called you into fellowship with His Son and given you a life that shines in the darkness.

Remembering is an important part of our faith. The Hebrews were constantly reminded to remember what the Lord God had done in bringing them out of Egypt. We too must remember what God has done to bring us from our own Egypt, sin and how He continues to guide us even now. So, the making of this list of mistakes is to help us grow in Christ, to reach maturity and Christlikeness. We are not to dwell or live in the past, but we must allow God to work in healing our past. Trust me, this comes from personal experience, and it is one of the most freeing moments I have ever experienced in my life with Christ. We have been given a gift – the start of a new year – a blank slate to fill with those things God has prepared for us and ample opportunity to bring glory and honor to His name.

Make the most of the New Year. Enjoy life in and with Christ. Impact those around you by being so radically different, they simply must ask why!! This is a New Year: New Beginning, redeem the time wisely for we are fast approaching the return of our Lord and Savior, Yeshua, Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and honor forever and ever!

May God bless you and keep you. May He make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May God lift His countenance upon you and give you peace.

Is Your Heart Filled with Praise?

What are you praising God for as 2021 comes to a close? Is your heart filled with praise for the One who has given you life? Do you have an unshakable joy that can only be found in Christ Jesus? Are you rejoicing because God has seen you through yet another yet filled with doubt, chaos and uncertainty? If you do not know the peace that comes from Christ and goes beyond our human understanding, then now is the time to find it! Doubt, chaos and uncertainty will still be there when the calendar page turns to 2022. There is a better way, His name Christ Jesus and we can help you find the peace you seek in the New Year. Please feel free to reach out to us and we will help you begin the New Year filled with hope, peace and unshakable joy.

Gift of Love

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.”

                                                                                     Isaiah 9:6–7 (NASB95)

What is this obsession we have with love? How can one emotion or feeling so hold people captive? There seems to be no end to the way we express our need for, confusion over and our helplessness in our love affair with love – especially in our music! In 1961 Elvis Presley claimed we Can’t Help Falling in Love. In 1965, Jackie DeShannon claimed What the World Needs Now is love sweet love. By 1967 the Beatles were convinced All You Need is Love. In 1979 Queen had come to the conclusion that it’s a Crazy Little Thing Called Love. In 1984 Foreigner was saying what we were all thinking, I Want to Know What Love Is. And finally in 1985 Robert Palmer admitted what we already knew to be true – we are Addicted to Love.

And so, we too, turn our attention to love this morning. We, however, will look to a different source in helping us to understand love – the Bible. Love is more than a feeling or an emotion – love is a choice. It is easy to love those who love you back, but it is much more difficult and becomes a choice, when you choose to love those who do not love you and seem not to even like you. Today we are looking at a child who was born, a son who has been given. This child was born with a singular purpose – He came to die that we might live – He came to be the Gift of Love.

A Gift of Love will be given when a child is born, a son on whose shoulders the government will rest. He will sit on the throne of David and His government will increase, as will peace, as He rules with justice and righteousness forevermore.

A Gift of Love has been given in a Son – One who is meant to rule and reign overall. He will sit on His Father’s throne and peace will grow as He rules and reigns rightly and justly throughout eternity.

In this message we seek to answer the question, “Why do we eagerly anticipate the Gift of Love?”

The Gift of Love has been given to rule and reign for eternity in the zeal of the Lord.

1). The first thing we must understand is this Gift of Love is meant to rule and reign over all.

To some He will be a Wonderful Counselor, to others He will be Mighty God or Eternal Father and to some the Prince of Peace.

The prophet Isaiah is the first to break the news of this gift of love. He tells us this gift is to be born as a child, a son to be given to Israel. In making this declaration, Isaiah is giving Israel a sign – this gift of love is going to be born as one of the covenant people! This son to be born is given to the Jewish people, coming from among the Jewish people.

The government will rest upon the shoulders of this Son. That the government rests on His shoulders refers to the kingly robe worn by the Messiah. As King, He will be responsible to rule the nations. He is to rule over all Israel and the world. The rule and reign of Messiah is a direct contrast to the rulers of Judah in Isaiah’s day. They are not capable of ruling the people properly, but Messiah will rule the people properly. His reign will be done in the fear of God, in truth and not for dishonest gain. The Messiah, the gift of love, is meant to rule and reign over all – over all people, over all creation, over the entire universe.

In patriarchal times, the head of the household held judicial power over his household – even life and death. So, for some, Messiah will be Wonderful Counselor; to others He will be Mighty God or Eternal Father; and to some He will be the Prince of Peace. Each of these names reveals the character of Messiah beginning with the name Wonderful Counselor, where wonderful can be translated as “exceptional” or “distinguished.” Wonderful is a name for Messiah and as an Adviser, He can give advice upon any matter, thus people will gladly listen to Him as the authoritative One.

Mighty God speaks to the power of the Supreme Being and Creator of the universe. Isaiah knew Messiah would be God in some sense of the term. Eternal Father speaks to the essential attribute of God – an existence without beginning and that will never end. The Messiah will have all of the attributes of God and as a descendent of David, will fulfill the promise for which the nation of Israel has been waiting. As the Prince of Peace, Messiah is the One who will bring in and maintain the time of millennial peace when all nations are properly related to the Lord.

While these names speak to the character of Messiah and one of those names may personally standout more than the others, as Christ followers, we must also see His majesty, His power and His authority. While many, both in the church and in the world, will focus on the babe in the manger, Christ followers must not fall into that trap. We must be focused on His return as King Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords. His birth is an historical event, but it is in His return where we will find our final and full redemption, claimed as a child of God, coheir with Christ.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

Is Jesus Christ, Messiah, properly ruling in your life today? How?

Which of the four names of Messiah do you most identify with right now?

The Gift of Love has been given to rule and reign for eternity in the zeal of the Lord.

2). The second thing we must understand is this Gift of Love is meant to rule and reign rightly and justly.

His rule and reign will be in peace, and both will continue to grow forevermore.

Because Messiah will have all of the characteristics of God, the reign and rule of Messiah will conform to God’s holy character and demands. His reign will not be self-serving or for personal gain. His rule and reign will not be oppressive or burdensome. The rule and reign of Messiah will be in stark contrast to those who rule over Judah during the days of Isaiah.

We are told Messiah will sit on the throne of David to rule over His kingdom. The use of the term kingdom implies there is both subjects and a ruler, it signifies the idea of kingly authority or rule. This is the first major contrast between the rule and reign of Messiah and Judah’s rulers during the days of Isaiah. There are no true kings ruling Judah during these days – there are only foolish, immoral, corrupt kings, thinking only of themselves. Messiah will be the true King over all Israel – and the entire world – a King with full authority and holy character.

The rule and reign of Messiah is to be established forevermore, according to Isaiah. The rule and reign of earthly kings over Judah is fleeting at best. All of Judah’s kings fall away from God, turning to purely human means to rule, forsaking the power of the One who brought them out of slavery. Messiah’s kingdom will be established to last forever, it will continue to grow throughout eternity. This kingdom will include both the spiritual salvation of the new covenant and the outward salvation of society through the defeat of evil and the establishment of the righteous rule of Christ on earth.

In contrast to the rulers of Judah who created a fragile kingdom that knew much war, famine, drought, disease and oppression, the kingdom of Messiah will know peace – a peace that will continue to grow throughout His reign. This peace will go far beyond just the absence of conflict – this peace will include the Shalom and Eirene peace we talked about in week two, peace that includes our well-being, health and spiritual growth and maturity.

Messiah will be the King to rule and reign rightly and justly. He will rule rightly by doing that which is right and conforms to the character of God. He will rule justly by promoting equality among all people within His kingdom, by fairness of judgment, especially in the treatment of people within His kingdom. There will be no favoritism or partiality with Messiah as king, for God exercised absolute equity in punishment of sin and reward for righteousness.

All of this is dependent upon God – not Israel or humanity – Messiah will rule because God has promised it and He will see that it comes to pass! Without God’s sovereign intervention there would be no kingdom for Israel or for us in eternity.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

How does Messiah, Jesus Christ, rule and reign in your life today?

How have you experienced the rightly and justly rule and reign of Messiah, Jesus, in your life?

The Gift of Love has been given to rule and reign for eternity in the zeal of the Lord.

We have an obsession with love in this country. There seems to be no end to the ways in which we try and express our love affair with love – especially in our music. Let’s face it…we are Addicted to Love!

Today we too turn our attention to love. We, however, have turned to a different source for our understanding of love – the Bible. We have looked at the child who was born to die and become the greatest Gift of Love.

So, where does all of this leave us, as Christ followers? It leaves us waiting, groaning and crying out for our Lord to return and claim us as His own.

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

                                                                    Revelation 19:11–16 (NASB95)

This is the day we eagerly anticipate – this is the day of the Lord’s return. Notice the description of Christ at His return – seated on a white horse; His name is Faithful and True; He judges and makes war in righteousness; He is crowned as a King with eyes of flames that see all; He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood; He strikes down the nations with the sharp sword coming from His mouth; He rules with an iron rod; on His robe is the name King of kings and Lord of lords – He is the Word of God. This is King Jesus, no longer the helpless babe of Bethlehem. Now, in His return, He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. He is adorned as a king, judges as a king and rules and reigns as King.

From this point forward peace will begin to grow and though the enemy will have one last chance to deceive people, he will be unsuccessful in overthrowing the throne of Christ and be cast into the lake of fire – peace will reign. There will be no more sorrow, no more pain or death, no more tears – for peace will grow endlessly as we live in eternity under the rule and reign of Messiah, the Gift of Love.

I pray that God will strengthen you in perseverance, embolden you with courage and increase your faith as we await the return of Christ Jesus, our Messiah.

We do all things through Christ our Lord for the glory of God,

Amen and amen.

Joyful Blessing

Joyful Blessing

Home Church Service 12/11/2021

These sermons began as devotionals for my family as we met during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. We have now begun to include our friends and the devotional has now become a full sermon. We are also recording our service and will begin posting those videos in the near future.

When my family and I meet for worship, we like to discuss what we are learning, in the moment. Sometimes that happens right after the message and at other times we will address something during the message. This message was designed to be interactive, discussing what we are learning right after I have addressed each point of the message. You will find the questions at the end of each section. In most formats they will appear in bold. Use these questions as a guide to meditate on the points Paul is making. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and above all, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. After all, He knows any way!

“Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”

                                                                                   Luke 1:39–45 (NASB95)

We find ourselves in the third week of Advent, a time that is to bring hope, peace, joy, and love. The third week of Advent is the week of joy. Joy is often mistaken as happiness but as we have already seen, joy is not the same as happiness, though it does include being happy.

As Christ followers we are to find our joy in the Lord. He is the One who has called, sealed, given us life, boldness and strengthens us to be grace in action and to live as light. Today, we look at the One who gives a Joyful Blessing for all who seek Him.

Mary travels to a city in Judah, to the house of Zacharias, to greet Elizabeth. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaims a Joyful Blessing to Mary at the news of her first child, while the baby in the womb of Elizabeth leaps for joy, at the anticipation of what God has spoken.

In our journey as Christ followers, we will greet many other Christ followers. Those who are filled with the Holy Spirit will speak a Joyful Blessing as their soul leaps for joy, as they witness the word of God come to life, evidenced in the new creation of other Christ followers.

In this message we seek to answer the question, “What is the meaning of this Joyful Blessing we so eagerly anticipate?”

The Joyful Blessing causes the soul to leap for joy for the belief and trust in God the Father, by the Christ follower, has been strengthened.

1). The Joyful Blessing means the Christ follower can trust the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in their lives.

The Holy Spirit produces fruit in the Christ follower that is evidenced by their new life in Christ.

This passage of Scripture is largely overlooked in Luke’s gospel message. After all, it comes right after Mary is told she will give birth to the Son of God and right before what we know as “The Magnificat.” Mary’s poem that fills the remainder of chapter one. But there is much we can learn here and apply to our lives as Christ followers. The first point of this message is that Christ followers can trust the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in their lives.

The first evidence we see of this comes in verse 39 – “Mary arose and went in a hurry…” The meeting between Mary and Elizabeth demonstrates the obedience of Mary – this reflects Mary’s desire to see the sign the angel told her about. Notice that Mary “went in a hurry…” This shows the willingness of Mary to obey and go where God is leading her. As a Christ follower, how many times have you “drug your feet” in being obedient to where God is leading you? Or how many times have you “arose” in obedience to see something God has told you about.

Secondly, there is the humility of Elizabeth. Elizabeth is honored just to be in the presence of Mary, “the mother of my Lord,” and the child Mary is carrying. There is a sense of privilege and favor at being used of God, in both of these women – humility that has led to finding favor with God. It is sad that more Christ followers cannot follow the example of these two women – then again, many who call themselves Christian have a hard time following the example of Christ. We can find many cases of false humility in the church – the one who says or does the right thing before people and freely confesses “I didn’t do it for the recognition,” only to complain when they are not given recognition for something else they have done. Yes, it is hard to find true humility in the church today.

Humility is a natural by-product when we reflect upon who God truly is. In ancient Israel, a relationship with God was not a casual affair – treating God as if He were just a friendly neighbor. Having a relationship with God was seen as an honor – it called for deep respect. Think about how people treat those of celebrity status today, or even an important diplomat. God is the Creator; He is the One who is responsible for us being a part of His creation. In ancient Israel, much awe was reserved for God, so much awe in fact, that they discussed how He should be approached at the Temple. As Christ followers today, we should appreciate how much care and consideration was given to approaching God; we should appreciate the honor of having a relationship with God and what it means to know Him.

If we, as Christ followers, truly trusted the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in our lives, this world would truly be a different place. We are all familiar with the fruit of the Spirit list in Galatians 5:22-23.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

                                                                         Galatians 5:22–23 (NASB95)

Have you ever stopped to consider how much of this list you actually put to use in your everyday lives? The list of the fruit of the Spirit lists only 9 fruits. These 9 fruits are already possessed by you – you just need to use them and allow the Holy Spirit to produce more – to an overflowing abundance. We have, at least, a working understanding of each of fruit on this list – but how often do we actually use them? Now, obviously, this is not an exhaustive list – it only contains 9 fruits – and there are more the Spirit can produce. We’ve already talked about obedience and humility, so clearly there are more.

Here is the thing we must understand – this list of the fruit of the Spirit are given to us as we begin our new life in Christ. They are not perfectly developed, and we must use them to perfect them, but we have ALL of them. This is why I get so upset when I hear someone in the church say, “Oh, that’s just the way she is – we have learned to deal with it.” Or when I hear, “Oh, that’s just how he is – we have learned to ignore it.” NO, NO, NO – a thousand times NO!

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

                                                                          2 Corinthians 5:17 (NASB95)

The list of the fruit of the Spirit comes with the new you! You have them and thus you must use them! How else will others see Christ in you? How else with the new you be seen by others? The change in the Christ follower is to be so radical, the people who know you best need to do a double take! Remember the questions and confusion that surrounded Jesus? “Isn’t this the son of Joseph, the carpenter?” Or how about, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Or “Where did this man get such learning?”  This is the way the world should look at the Christ follower – with a sense of confusion, wonderment and curiosity.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

How have you been obedient to God this past week?

Which “fruit of the Spirit” has been seen, used and grown this past week?

Are you trusting the Spirit to produce fruit in your life? If so, how? If not, why?

The Joyful Blessing causes the soul to leap for joy for the belief and trust in God the Father, by the Christ follower, has been strengthened.

2). The second point we must understand is the Joyful Blessing means the Christ follower can believe in the fulfillment of all that God has spoken.

As Christ followers, we take joy in what God has spoken regardless of the circumstances that surround us.

This is a major theme in the first two chapters of Luke’s gospel message – God does what He says. There are rich blessings that come to those who share in and believe that truth. Like Mary and Elizabeth, when God steps into our lives, we should rejoice and trust that He will do as He has promised, for joy and blessing come to those who believe that God will fulfill all He has spoken.

“Mary arose and went in a hurry,” because of her obedience but also because she believed what God had spoken to her. Mary and Elizabeth are cousins and Elizabeth is older and has been known to be barren. Luke tells us that both Elizabeth and her husband, Zacharias, are advanced in years – they are past the point of child-bearing years. When the angel announced to Mary that she would give birth to the Son of God, just for good measure, he adds that Elizabeth, “who has been known to be barren” was now, in fact, in her sixth month of pregnancy! The angel emphasizes this point by saying, “Nothing will be impossible with God.”

We read in verse 15 of chapter 1 of Luke, that the baby Elizabeth is to carry will be filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb. In verse 42 we read that when Mary greets Elizabeth, the baby leaps for joy and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. The fact that Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit is important for Christ followers to note. How else would Elizabeth know that Mary was with child – let alone carrying the Son of God?!

This knowledge – this word – had to come to Elizabeth from God through the Holy Spirit. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth believed that God had spoken to her. Oh yes, I know the Scriptures do not say this, but we can tell this to be true by her response. Elizabeth cries out in a loud voice and blesses Mary. “Blessed are you among women!” and “Blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Elizabeth then ends the passage by adding yet another blessing – “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what has been spoken to her by the Lord.” When Elizabeth became pregnant, she believed she had found favor with God, and He had taken away her shame. Both Mary and Elizabeth have been blessed because they believed God would do what He has said.

What is even more impressive is that neither of these women were worried about the circumstances that surrounded them. Elizabeth is known to be barren and past the age of childbearing. She greets her husband, after he returned from the Temple where he was on duty, completing his priestly duties, only to find he is mute. Can you imagine Zacharias trying to explain to Elizabeth what has happened in the Temple? No words could be spoken by Zacharias; maybe he used pictures drawn on papyrus, or perhaps he used hand signals – but he could not speak! And what about Mary? Told by an angel she would carry the Son of God – BEFORE she was married to Joseph! Consider her age for a moment – it is commonly believed Mary was between 13-16 years of age!

Let’s not forget that her family is poor, women do not have much value or influence in society at that time and Joseph is considering divorce. Just another ho-hum day of human existence! Right? And yet, these two women are obedient, filled with humility and believe what God has spoken to them. Now, let’s put this in perspective. How was your week? Did everything go exactly as you had planned? Was it a smooth ride through the best week ever? I’m going to go out on a limb and say NO! It was a tough week!

I’m guessing you are glad this week is over, and you are probably wondering what is going to happen this week. So, did you take time this week to intentionally focus on the peace you have in Christ? If so, what did you hear God speaking to you and did you believe Him? Maybe your word came through the Scriptures? Or perhaps in prayer? You see, we first need to be listening before we can hear God speak. Unless it is a come to Jesus moment that slaps you in the face and stops you dead in your tracks – you need to be intentionally listening in order to hear Him speak. If we do not still ourselves long enough to listen for His voice, we will not hear Him speak, even if it is a Scripture you have hidden in your heart – you cannot hear Him speak if you are not first listening – then you MUST believe.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

What did you hear God speaking to you this past week?

Were you able to look past the circumstances around you to see God and hear God this past week?

What has God spoken to you (at any time) that you are believing in fulfillment?

The Joyful Blessing causes the soul to leap for joy for the belief and trust in God the Father, by the Christ follower, has been strengthened.

In this third week of Advent, we look at the theme of joy. Joy is often mistaken for happiness, and though it does include being happy, joy and happiness are different.

As Christ followers we find our joy in the Lord and on this third week of Advent we look at the One who gives a Joyful Blessing to all who seek Him.

As Christ followers, we must take God at His word. We must find a way to get past the routines of our lives and be amazed at His involvement in our lives. God owes us nothing! Yet we owe Him everything. Just like the child that leaped for joy in the womb of Elizabeth, the life of a Christ follower must be filled with moments when we recognize His presence, and our hearts leap in our chests, as we consider the many blessings He has poured upon us. God does what He says, and He has much to say to the Christ follower, but we must first be listening to hear.

As we get closer to Christmas it will get much busier. Time with family, friends and work parties will all put added stress to our already busy schedules. I challenge you to find a way to STOP and intentionally LISTEN to what God has to say in this season. Once you HEAR God speak, then the challenge becomes believing. I pray that God will empower you, through the Holy Spirit, to make time to listen for God to speak and then grant you the courage to believe He will fulfill what He has spoken.

We do all things to the glory of God through Christ our Lord,

Amen and amen.