Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Is Community ~ His Story:

The Day Before Christmas

Becoming agents of reconciliation.

2 COR 5:17~21 The Ministry of Reconciliation

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the Righteousness of God.

The Apostle Paul wrote that “in the last days perilous times shall come.” (2 Timothy 3:1) And that is so true of today! All sorts of dangers and hurt everywhere. Hard times are all around us. Some of us are experiencing hard and painful times. Things seem to be getting worse. And with this bad news, comes a good message found in the meaning of Christmas. I believe that one of the messages we can live with coming from Christmas is that Christmas is Community.

As we read 2 Cor 5:17~21, I can hear the Christmas Message yelling at us! He came to bring us into a right relationship with the Father. The relationship was damaged because of our sin and that separated us from Father God. (He being Holy and Pure...) God's message to us today-those of us who are aware-is to respond to His Love Message and join in the work of bringing others into the understanding that He wants us to make peace with Himself. He will provide all we need for that peace move as well. God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world as a baby-in the flesh-the Incarnation-who was pure and without sin so that in Him we might become the Righteousness of God.

In the middle of all the sounds, color, advertising, the giving and exchanging of gifts, let's make THIS a Christmas in which Christ is known. In one where others can hear and understand the message of reconciliation.

Christmas is a call of God:Called to Come Together ~ Like that of Jesus and His Father. Let's look into the past to the time when Jesus and His Father were talking. In fact, it was prayer. We were the main topic of that prayer. Let's look at it in John 17:20~23

20 "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. 22 I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one: 23 I in them and You in Me. May they be brought to complete unity tolet the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.

What we have here is the Christmas Message. In verse 23, we can see that this unity they that have and that they want us to have will aid in others knowing about His First Coming. If we, who are called Believers, would act in Unity and out of the same love Jesus and His Father had, the world will know about the Birth and the Message of reconciliation between Him and us.

Basically, He is calling all of us to unity. Called to unity. Called to Oneness (but not Jelly). With substance, with a back bone, with a purpose and with a future and a hope.

With back bone…The Word of God

With purpose…His Plan for reaching a lost world.

With a future (and a hope)…

Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

This seems to be a promise! Do you read it that way? Next question is harder: Do you believe what God said in that verse? If so, then don't worry about next week or next year. We need to plan, yes. We need to make arrangements, YES! But we do not have to fear. His plans for us are for His good!

In this Christmas story, God called His Angels together to announce the Birth of His Son.

As we sing about the men and sheep on that hillside, it is kind 'a hard to think of what it was like for them. They had never been part of anything big in their lives. They were part of the lowest groupings of people in that society. Most likely, they were not well educated. They were not rich. They were outside watching their flock by night-as the song goes. And all of a sudden, Bam! Great light! Angels talking and singing to them. They were terrified and the Angel said to them: “Do not be afraid.” There was not even an exclamation mark! What would you have done? I would still be afraid! It is one thing to be told: "Don't be afraid.” Quite another thing of not being in fear. Yet, these men of wool, it is said of them in

Luke 2: 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

My guess is I would not have been so lax about it all, but to their credit, they not only went and saw but also went and told. And this message that they told was a message of Unity. They were of one heart and of one story. They spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.

UNITY in the Message.

In this Christmas story, God called the shepherds together to be witnesses to the Birth of His Son.

Even though the men could not give witness in a court of law, these commoners spoke in the common places around Israel. These men would be sure to tell others about what had happened that evening. It impacted their lives forever. How has the message of Christmas effected you conversations?

What was demonstrated in this was a UNITY in the Meaning.

In this Christmas story, God calls the world to taste and see the Wonder of the Birth of His Son. Here is where Isaiah comes in. He wrote about Jesus many years before Jesus was born. He spoke of Him in ways that gives us a flavor of who Jesus is now. See how it fits in today's world of pain/worry/hopelessness.

Isaiah 9: 2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. 3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder. 4 For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. 5 Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. 6 For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

Look at our possibilities in the message! These Four Marvelous Names!

The First is Wonderful. Jesus' life was wonderful. He mixed things up with all sorts of bad people (sinners) yet was sinless. He walked with some very rich men and women but had no place to sleep at night. He associated with people called publicans who were tax collectors (usually shady men) and sinners yet never partook in their lifestyle. The people who became His enemies could find no fault in His character at all; He was beyond reproach. The Pharisees said. “We have never heard a man speak like this man speaks.” Even at His death on the Cross, a Roman soldier said of Him. “Truly this Man was the Son of God.”

Jesus was also wonderful in His death. His substitution death was a fitting end to His selfless living. He lived for others; He died for others. When people beat on Him, He did not open His mouth. People jeered and mocked Him, but He said, “Father, forgive them; for they don't know what they are doing.”

The great wonderful fact of His death was that His death brought about reconciliation between God and man. The crucified Christ became the risen Christ on that wonderful first Easter morning.

The second part of that phrase is having Jesus called Counselor. People need counselors today. People who can help others understand their roles and situations and console them thru the painful areas of life. Jesus is such a counselor. With the thousands and even millions of people all over the world who have accepted this Christ, they have found the Solution to their unsolved problems. He is the one who said He'd carry our burdens and lift our sorrows. He can be that for us. He is The Counselor.

“The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on His shoulders. It He bids us carry a burden, He carries it also.” Charles Spurgeon.

The second Name Jesus was called was The Mighty God. When the wilds of the world were in need of taming, God sent The Might One to bring it all under his Feet. God did not send an army of Angelic Host to accomplish His divine purposes, He sent a Baby! This Baby was/is God/Man. The Incarnate One who is the Mighty God of the universe.Thirdly, Jesus was called The Everlasting Father. He is eternal. He had no beginning and He has no end. He always was and will always be. Eternal has a long-term sound to it, doesn't it? When He was born in that manger that was not His beginning; THAT was His incarnation. He was the designer of the entire universe. He told the crowds “Before Abraham was, I am!”

The fifth name given to Jesus was The Prince of Peace. The Apostle Paul wrote that “in the last days perilous times shall come.” There are wars and rumors of wars. Countries are at odds with each other. Marriages are falling apart. There will never be lasting peace on this earth until He comes again in Righteousness. But Jesus is the Prince of Peace in another way, too. None of us can have peace with our Creator apart from Jesus and the peace He made possible through the Blood of His Cross. (Colossians 1:20) We cannot have peace in our hearts apart from our relationship with Jesus. He will, in fact, give us His Peace today, this Christmas, if we put our trust and our hope in Him. “My peace I give you-not as the world gives you.”

UNITY in the Mighty Name of Jesus. Here is Community.

That is Christmas. In a nutshell: He came to bring us back to His Father. We would be absolutely lost without Him and without His Grace and Mercy to forgive us. He has given us the message of reconciliation to pass on to others. He has given us a united message of Hope to pass on to a world without hope. He has given us a message of being a witness of His Forgiveness. A message that gives us a satisfied heart. As we come under His leadership as our wonderful Counselor; as our Might God; as our Everlasting Father; our Prince of Peace. Know that peace today-as best as you know how-here is a prayer you can pray to open yourself to this forgiving heart of God.

“Lord Jesus, I am sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life (take a few moments to ask His forgiveness for anything particular that is on your conscience). Please forgive me. I now turn from everything that I know to be wrong.

Thank You that You died for me on the Cross so that I could be forgiven and set free.Thank You that You offer me forgiveness and the gift of Your Spirit. I now receive that gift.

Please come into my life by Your Holy Spirit to be with me forever.

Thank You, Lord Jesus. Amen.”

If you prayed such a prayer, PLEASE contact us at

May you all have a wonderful Christmas!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Christmas Is NOW! His Heart Gift.

Read Luke 2:1~20

Are you impatient? Last week, my brother told me of an incident at his doctor's office. It seemed that he needed to go into the building a different way because the 'old way' was under construction. A patient drove his car thru the door and into a doctor's office. A lot of damage. I guess either he could not find a parking spot or he was running late for the appointment.

Sometimes, our impatience runs amuck and results in many problems. Impatience causes anxiety and anxiety causes sickness and in some cases, sickness causes death. Other emotions also run the risk of hurting us. Unfortunately the list is long: Anxiousness, anger, depression, discouragement, fear, frustration, guilt, insecurity, jealousy, low self esteem, temptations, stress and worry. There are verses all through the Bible that help us deal with these emotions that plague our souls and our lives.

Some have said that they want patience and they want it right now! Some things, you have to wait for things. You need to wait for them! It would not be healthy any other way. The birth of a baby. It will NEED to take about 9 months for that to happen in a healthy way. Sometimes they come early and sometimes that come 'late.' It will take time.To get a degree, you need to study and take test and write papers and study and take test. It takes time.During Christmas, there is something that took time. In the real sense of the term, Christmas came just at the RIGHT time. Many people were waiting for this event!

Titus 1: 1-3 “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness- a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and at His appointed season He brought His Word to light through … our Savior,”

2 Timothy 1:10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.

Galatians 4:4 But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law,

As it was with the Savior's Birth, it was now time. When you look at Scripture, many times, time is a factor. Such is the case in today's passage. Verse 2…in those days; v6…while they were there; v11…today; 12…you will find; v21…when it was time; v22…when the time.

It was time for this to happen. In the past, we have spoken about how the world was really set for this Message of God's Son to arrive. One language, one set peace plan in place, roads were well organized, education was extensive (many could read), and travel was common. The world was set to also hear of this Message. The Angels called it Great News. The Message was one of Grace and Mercy. It was one of Hope.

People at this time were prone to despair. Advice was to go and die for there was no real hope! That is one of the reasons this message in actuality took off. It gave people Hope.

You could almost read the newspaper headlines!

Hope Has Come!

Christmas Is Now!

Angels Proclaim Great News!

God's Son Is Born!

Few people were unmoved with that news. The shepherds were excited and told everyone. The Wise Men came and were moved to proclaim Him worthy of bringing Godly gifts of Gold; for a King, frankincense; for perfuming a body for the grave, and myrrh; assists in the healing process. An old man in the Temple later said to God that NOW he was ready to die because he had seen the Hope of Israel. Old lady Anna was waiting for this to come and praised God. King Herod ordered his men to kill all the babies in the area of Bethlehem because he felt this boy child a threat to his throne. And since that time, men and women, boys and girls-all-when they hear the Message of God's Great Gift to us, once they hear it with open ears, they too will say that it is indeed good news.

God came to earth in the flesh-the incarnation of God-to bring us salvation and forgiveness of our sins. To set us free.

Luke 13:12 When Jesus saw her (the woman who had been crippled for 18 years), He called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity."
John 8:32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Romans 6:18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
Romans 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal.
Romans 8:2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
Galatians 5:1 [Freedom in Christ] It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Hebrews 9:15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance-now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

Now is the time for Salvation. For Decision, for New Life, Change, and an awareness of the needs of our hearts.So, here we have the report coming in that the Baby was to be born. Many post cards and Christmas art shows Joseph leading Mary, heavy with child, through the crowed village streets looking for a place-any place to have a baby. Someone 'let's' them use the stable because Joseph was not smart enough to make reservations ahead of time. But that is not how it is written.

Luke 2: 3~ And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,”

The words to look at are: “While they were there…” Hate to wipe out images of a frantic new Dad, not knowing what to do! Joseph had a lot more going for him than most have given him. If an angel could tell him that his young wife was going to have a baby while she was still a virgin, he would have enough sense to prepare for the birth of that child. The inns at that time were used as a clinic as well as lodging. Take the story of the Good Samaritan. Where did he leave the injured Hebrew? In an inn. (From Luke 10:25-37)

This Birth was so very special. It had been spoken about for many hundreds of years. Not in the “wouldn't it be nice if…” sort of a story. It had been foretold to the finest details as to when and where. And in the fullness of time, He was born.

In the title of today's sermon, I used the words “His Heart Gift”. That is exactly what I mean. It came from His Heart and this birth was a gift. Let me explain.

John 3:16 is most likely the most known verse in the Bible outside of “Eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Shall we look at that verse in light of Christmas being NOW? First, from the Old Testament book of Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 36:25-28 “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be My people, and I will be your God.”

What follows in this book is what is called The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones in which God's restoration of the people is described as bringing the dead men back to life (Ezekiel 37). What was needed back then was a new heart and a new life; that is, the Spirit must give birth to spirit (Jn 3:7). Only those alive in the kingdom of the Spirit by the Spirit will be able to recognize and enter that Kingdom. That same true truth is accurate for today!

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

For God --The Greatest All:

So loved--The Greatest emotion: Motivates His actions

The world --the greatest community

That He gave --The greatest sacrifice: He gave His ALL

His only Son --The greatest relationship: the Savior

That whoever --the greatest number: Open to all who believe.

Believes --the greatest adventure: based on Faith

In Him --the greatest Person

Shall not perish --the greatest separation

But have --the greatest opportunity

Eternal life --the greatest gift: the reward is Great!

One of the greatest gifts you can give to God is your attention. While you are giving Him your attention, you can ask Him any question you want. No matter how wild or forceful or even rude! If your questions are driven by open honesty, God is good to hear them. He is not afraid nor is He offended when we ask. That is how we learn. It is not just blind faith, but a series of questions that are answered to the point of satisfying our heart's need of answers. As we see from the poetry of King David in the Psalms and the wise sayings of his son Solomon in Proverbs, God is looking for people who are open. Open and honest. Open, honest and full of passion.

When was the last time you were passionate with God? When did you cry out to Him with your open hurt and express to Him your need for Him to know your heart? It is ALWAYS good to express your heart to Him IF it is from a position of openness. Blind anger has its place but few get answers going along in that vain.

Maybe the time of your encounter with the God of Christmas is NOW. Realize His Heart Gift for you is His Own Son and that He cares for you. The time for this is NOW!
All Scripture is from the NIV Bible.

Merry Christmas to all of you!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas is Unique: We are His Workmanship

Ephesians 2:8-10
8 For it is by Grace you have been saved, through Faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

There is a new movie out in the States this month called “The Nativity.” It is supposed to be a rival to the Mel Gibson's film, “The Passion.” Your guess is as good as mine but the timing of the film is important as it gives 'the other part of the questions' “The Passion” made. That being:
Why did Jesus get in trouble and had to be arrested?
Why did Jesus get beaten up so badly?
Why did the Jewish leaders hate Him so much?
Why did He 'have to' die?
What was His crime?

I have not seen this new movie, of course, but I visited the movie's web site. You can guess the storyline. That can't be too hard for anyone! “The Nativity Story chronicles the arduous journey of two people, Mary and Joseph, a miraculous pregnancy, and the history-defining birth of Jesus.” -from the movies' web site:

First of all, you will need to ask what does 'nativity' mean? na·tiv·i·ty noun, meaning…
1. birth or origin, especially the place, process, or circumstances of being born
2. a horoscope based on the time of somebody's birth
Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

The word also means delivery, labor, or even confinement. But the most important meaning comes at the very birth of the Son of God. How can this be? Is this the Uniqueness of this Christmas story?

Michael Card, a Christian songwriter sang a song as Joseph and asks, “How can I be the father to the Son of God?” What could Joseph teach his new son? How will this Son of God show Himself to the family? How do you correct Him? Would He need correcting? Will it be through His words, actions, and attitude?

The BIG story here is that God became a MAN!

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In Him was life, and that life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. 6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that Light, so that through Him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the Light; he came only as a witness to the Light. 9 The True Light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.

The Word became Flesh! THIS UNIQUE visitation of God into His creation has been the focal point of most of history from that point until now. I believe it is the most important event that ever happened in Human History.

As we think of the situation here, it almost becomes mind blowing! The Lord of ALL creation left that powerful seat next to the Creator and entered into the form of a baby-of an infant-of a human child. The concept of the Divine becoming human is not that uncommon among the world religions, but what is UNIQUE is of the kind of involvement that Divine One has with the creation.

Unlike Greek, so-called-gods, this God/Man is not prone to fits of anger or jealousy. He is not some one who is looking for a fight or revenge. He is concerned for the well-being of the creatures He helped to create. He LOVES the creation and has found the way to bring creation back to Himself.

As in Philippians 2:5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name, 10 that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This attitude of the appeal is to 'set your minds on the same thing' as in Romans 8:5-7. As someone well said: "Love begins when someone else's needs are more important than my own," which is precisely what Paul will urge in the explanation that follows. That is the reason for the Cross. God's love for the creation-you and I-was much more important to the whole plan of God than the comfort of His Son. Mankind needed a Savior and Jesus-His son, was the one and only way to get the wayward creation back to the Father. Not selfish ambition nor envy and rivalry that characterized those who were attacking Paul while he was in jail. But that He would make Himself nothing…for the good pleasure of His Father.

In fact, these free flowing words of Paul do indeed portray the deep caring mindset that is just the opposite of the world's. Jesus-in the form of God-very God-showed His Godlikeness in 'emptying Himself' so as to fulfill the Law in dying for the ungodly. He showed great HUMILITY.

Humility is not found often and is, in fact, uniquely found in Christian Virtue. This message of a Crucified Messiah stands in direct conflict with the teaching and practice of that day. As it is also found today. The Romans, the Greeks and modern man all found humility not to be a virtue but a gross shortcoming.

You will remember Jesus' teaching of being the one who turns His cheek when attacked.

Luke 6:28-30 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

This is different from modern thought!

This is the goal Paul has been writing about here. That we would achieve that same mind-that same attitude-that was found in Jesus. Different from the world. Psalm 149:4 “For the LORD takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with salvation.” And in Isaiah 66:2 “Has not My hand made all these things, and so they came into being?" declares the LORD. "This is the one I esteem: He who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at My Word.” And Matthew 11:29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 18:4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

HUMILITY is sometimes mistakenly linked to being a pushover or a milktoast. We hear it all the time: “I'm no good for anything.” You are a special creation of God made for His purposes-for His Glory. You are good to save! We can't steal that from God. You are precious to Him. Whenever we hear others call us good for nothing, we need to speak out and say that is NOT TRUE! We are loved by God! His Spirit supports us and He longs to have fellowship with us. That is you are a person of importance!

We would do better to understand our proper stance before the Creator-both in our weakness and in our strengths. We are to be utterly dependent upon Him and totally trusting Him for all things. At that place, you can find a good balance: we are made in His Image. That position makes neither too much nor too little of either. True Biblical humility is not self-focused at all but rather, as Paul describes it, as considering others better than oneself. That does not mean that others are better than us. It does mean that their needs should not surpass my own.

We are not to seek their own good, but the good of others (1Cor 10:24 Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.) That is necessary as a community; to cut out selfish ambitions or vain conceit that is often found in our… fellowships. To boldly go where few have gone before! We are human after all!

Here is the challenge and a unique opportunity for this Chapel. It maybe easy to live with one another when we only see each other for over one hour a week. The unique challenge set before us today is for us to live in community with one another as Christ lived in community with His Father outside these four walls. This Oneness is THE factor that makes us unique. And the uniqueness of Christmas is that this shows us how to do that very thing.

Again, look at John 1:10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. The world needs to see Him alive in us so that they can be alive in Him! In the larger Christian community, people can get along with others because they do not HAVE to live with one another. The problem becomes even more acute when it is found in the Christian home. It is there that things are worked out on a daily basis with those who are closest to us.

The solution or cure is the same for the home as it is in a bigger community: in humility before God, each of us putting other's interest ahead of our own. We cannot keep looking for our needs to be met. How can I meet the needs of the person next to me? To the person who is not here this week? To the person who I don't see each week because I am infrequent? It, the Christian Life, is not about me. It is, after all, about Christ Jesus who left His Divine Nature and became like one of us to show us the only way to Him.

God, in His unique creativeness, is showing us the worker's manual in the Person of Jesus, who is THE Emmanuel. This same mindset is the eternal goal of the Father as He is at work in us to reproduce His Will in His People. We are His Workmanship…to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

This most unique message of the Nativity is that God became a man. John tells us that God became flesh and lived with us. Eugene Peterson put it this way in “The Message,” “he moved into the neighborhood.” Paul does a good job at saying the same thing in Col 1: 19 “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him…”

In a very good method of teaching, rather than having simple TELL us what He was like, God came to us personally. He showed Himself to us. A picture is worth 1,000 words. And in this case, the Word became flesh. The INCARNATION! He opened His Heart to us and gave us more than an eye full; He gave us His Heart-full of His love.

I wonder now, how can we live any other way but for His good? Just as we received salvation by Faith, so should we live by Faith. It was by Grace that we were saved-this gift of God was not only given to us on Christmas but so that this gift could be understood and embraced every day of the year.

I want to celebrate His Uniqueness in how I live. In how I think. In how I relate to people inside this community and to those outside it. I invite you all to celebrate His uniqueness of His Gift to us by thanking Him! Would you bow your head and heart before Him now and talk to Him?

__Ideas for this sermon are from Johannah Reardon's article 5 Big Messages of the Nativity,, and and IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
All Scripture used is the NIV unless stated.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Gift of Christmas ~ Let Us Worship

I am sure that most of you enjoy receiving presents. In one-way or another, we give and receive different things from one another. Birthday, anniversaries, Christmas, St. Valentine’s Day, graduation, giving a cold to someone… Each of us were born and that was a present to the family. Some receive gifts well while others feel that it is too much and will not accept them. It may make them embarrassed. It might make them feel pressure to give a present back.

But there is ONE gift and ONE Giver that is way beyond our ability. Our Creator God, the God of the Bible has given us life. He created us. AND He knows all about us. The Scriptures tell us that our days are known by Him and they are even written down in His Book. Those who have put their trust in Him have their Names written down into His Book of Life. Those people have eternal life in His Name. It is a Gift of God. That is a great gift!

It is the time of the season to once again talk about the Gift of Christmas. What was this Gift? How was it given? Who was the Gift for? What can I DO to get the gift? What does it cost me?

The Bible talks about the GREATEST giver of the Greatest Gift of all time in the Person of God’s Son. We will be looking at that on December 17, Christmas Covered Dish Sunday.
For now, let’s look at Isaiah 9: 6
“For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.”
That is a great gift! Luke 2:11-15 11
"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth
peace to men on whom His favor rests." 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
Unto You Is Born Today…

Response: The Angels sang His Praise
I find it very interesting that when time for Jesus’ birth to be announced, God, His Heavenly Father made the great announcement by way of His Angles. They had been waiting for this and really did not understand why. They were not the ones to be saved. They had not fallen. They were in the forever presence of the Holy Father.

THE RESPONSE OF THE ANGELS WAS ONE OF PRAISE. They went wild in the Heavens in bringing joy back to the Creator of the Universe. Glory to God in the highest!… as did the shepherds
These were the real outsiders of Hebrew society. Again, I find it wonderfully strange that the Lord of All sought out these men to give them this great message. God entrusted this wonderful message of all time to men who could not even speak at a court case; their testimony was not to be even heard. Yet, God chose the likes of these men with the greatest message of all time. And they too gave praise to God. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

The Gift of Salvation
Let’s open up this gift. What does it require? How is it given? What strings are attached? Open to ALL who believe and are called. Chances are, if you hear the message, you are being called. God does not desire anyone to die far from Him. His desire is for all people every where to come to know Him and to place their trust in Him.

The Offer Is Now. Found only on The Roman Road!
Roman Road: The Highway to a Relationship with God: The Roman Road was not just an organized way to build highways conjured up from the Roman Empire in the 1st Century. They had a saying back then was: All roads lead to ROME. But all roads do not all lead to God. Some say so, but they are wrong.

The Roman Road is also God’s Plan of Salvation found in Paul’s letter to the Romans. This is known as the Roman Road, the following is a collection of passages that build a beautiful and systematic approach of the Gospel of God’s Grace by and through the Personal Work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. This causes us to worship and to give Him the Glory that He is due. Follow along with me on this Roman Road.

Roman Road: The Gospel of Grace~ “Follow Me” It is THE Way to Jesus!
1. Romans 1:20-21: "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened." We must recognize God as the Creator of everything and accept our reserved position in God's creation.
2. Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” We must all realize that we are sinners and that we need forgiveness. We are all in the same boat! There is nothing WE can do to change our position, but God has a plan…
3. Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Through Jesus, God gave us a way to be saved from our sins. God showed us His love by giving us the potential for life through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. He could do this because of the next verse.
4. Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If we remain sinners, we will die. However, if we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and repent of our sins, we will have eternal life. This is His Plan to save us all! He paid the price for our sin by dying in our place. He went to the Cross for that very reason!
5. Romans 10:9-10That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” This sounds so simple. Can it be true? In can, indeed! Even the Children can understand this great Truth. As adults, we may think there are other ways to get this done BUT there is no other way. So, just confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead and you will be saved! Obey His Word!
6. Romans 10:13 “For whoever calls on the Name of the LORD shall be saved.” This is the Good News! It is called the Gospel. Gospel means Good News! And this plan was set in motion by God Himself. There are no religious formulas or rituals -- Call upon the Name of the Lord and you will be saved!
7. Romans 11:36 "For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen." Determine in your heart to make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life today. Receive this Great Gift of Christmas and really accept His Gift of Forgiveness. Now, we can really worship and give Him Thanks!

That is the Roman Road: Are you ready to accept God’s Gift of Salvation? If you truly believe the message of the Bible, and want to accept God’s gift of salvation right now, it's a matter of repenting of your sins and turning the rest of your life over to Jesus Christ. Again, this is not a ritual based on any specific words or prayers, but rather, a willful decision and a sincere step of faith.

8. Romans 10:13 "For whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved." Will you now call upon Jesus to save you from your sin so that you can know God's love and forgiveness?

Pray like this: “Father God, I know that I have broken Your laws and my sins
have separated me from You. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward You. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that Your Son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was raised from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen.”

When anyone calls on the Lord in this manner, that one is saved according to the authority of God's Holy Word. If you prayed a prayer of repentance and faith, you are saved! You have God's Word on it.
If you have prayed this prayer to receive Christ as your Lord and Savior, why not record your decision to follow Jesus as follows. Often times, a good place to write this would be inside the cover of your Bible:
Believing by faith that God loves me and sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for my sin and arise from the grave to live in me, I, _______, do this day,________, repent of my sin and accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. According to the promise of God in Romans 10:13, I have called upon His
name and have His word for the assurance of my salvation.

"Repent, and let every one of you be Baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38)
If you decided to receive Jesus today, welcome to God's family. Now, as a way to grow closer to Him, the Bible tells us to follow up on our commitment.
* Get baptized as commanded by Christ. Talk to us…
* Tell someone else about your new faith in Christ.
* Spend time with God each day. It does not have to be a long period of time. Just develop the daily habit of praying to Him and reading His Word. Ask God to increase your faith and your understanding of the Bible.
* Seek fellowship with other followers of Jesus. Develop a group of believing friends to answer your questions and support you and be a support to them in accountability.
* Attend to a local church where you can worship God.

And Really Worship: O COME LET US ADORE HIM!
To see an example of a Roman Road in Pompeii click on:

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

How 'they' see us...

It was Saturday evening when I thought of the idea to give the young people at IC something to do in helping them understand the message. I went to my favorite web site for making puzzles and made a handout with 27 words and names that I would use in the sermon that covered the topic of Missionary Era. Names like CT Studd and Charles Spurgeon and words like reaffirming and restoring. The longest was von Zinzendorf! (A prize to the first to tell me who that was!)

One of the young teens finished the puzzle fast and drew me! I am glad I wore a suit on Sunday. Is this how they see me? I wonder how those outside the church see us? Here I am standing behind the Cross. Do people see Jesus?

Interesting that Stephen even drew the reflection on the floor. Another question comes to mind: Do I reflect my Savior that well?

Good job on the sketching, Stephen!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Acts 13:1~5 The Modern Missionary Era

The Modern Missionary era really started back in the 1700’s when a man would board a sailing ship at the docks of Liverpool, England, wave good-bye to his family and literally sail off into the sun set—never to be seen alive again. On the six to 12 month trip to the foreign shore, he might met a young woman going to the same shore, seeing that it would be better as a couple than as a single and seeing that he did not find anyone willing to go with him, here was a warm blooded female already going that way so he would ask the Captain of the ship married them; she would conceive, give birth and maybe even live long enough to see the first foreign national she was called to reach for the Gospel before dying along with her new born.

Usually, by following the example of this chapter, ‘teams’ of two or more would go together to the foreign field. Many had very little money and the prospects for raising more fund from the home front was slim to none. Some had a very rude medical education; some were well versed in the Holy Bible, but with no idea of how to present that Gospel to a pagan people group. There were strange stories told by seamen who had the first contact with the natives. They were a wild bunch, prone to killing, drinking and a general evil life style. And that was the seaman! ;-)

Some of the early missionaries were from the elite side of society. Wealthy men and women with a desire to serve their Lord to the end without any care as they turned away from the powerful, carefree life of their homeland. C.T. Studd (1860-1931) was an English missionary who faithfully served His Savior in China, India, and Africa. His motto was: "If Jesus Christ is God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him." Dr. David Livingstone (1813-1873), Scottish doctor and missionary, considered one of the most important European explorers of Africa, also pioneering the abolition of the slave trade. He reached many 1,000s with the Gospel. David Brainard (1747), well-known missionary in the American Indians:
"I am going into eternity; and it is sweet to me to think of eternity; the endlessness of it makes it sweet. But oh! What shall I say of the future of the wicked! The thought is too dreadful!"
On January 8, 1956, five missionaries (Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint, and Roger Youderian) were killed by the Waorani Indians (referred to at the time as the Auca Indians of Ecuador). Amy Carmichael 1867 – 1951 was known as the Rescuer of India’s children. Charles Haddon Spurgeon once said;
“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms around their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unsprayed for.”
Certainly, you can’t talk about the Missionary movement without speaking of the Father of Missions, Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, in the 1700’s. He was known as the Count Without Borders as he encouraged many hundreds to follow the Lord’s command to God and preach the Gospel.

Many others left a trail of pain and blood for others to follow. But there is also the trail of countless new beginnings. Men and women, boys and girls who were once living in darkness had come to the Glorious Light of the Gospel of Jesus. Now set free and forgiven, they in turn leave their homes of relative safety and enter areas that their Grandfathers would enter only to fight, kill and get even. Now, they are warriors of a different kind. Soldiers of the Cross--&--Followers of Jesus.
Acts 13 is the crucial point for the Church. Look at just what they did and how they went about doing it.

First, Luke shows us that the Church there in Antioch was well established. They knew their people and they knew what their people were capable of doing. Best part of all, they knew what their God was capable of doing. All that we have looked at so far in this study of Acts was well in their hearts and memory. Miracles of healing, freedom from jail, incredible growth, persecution that was unparalleled. And they saw a need outside their own community. They did not get tired of their fellowship, but needs were so much greater OUT THERE!

Secondly, they were working within their Spiritual Gifts. There were prophets and there were teachers. There were five men identified who had these special gifts. They were being readied for His service.

Thirdly, they had an international group. Know of any churches like that? Barnabas was from Crete. Simeon was most likely from Africa and was most likely the man the Roman soldiers forced to help carry Jesus’ cross back in Mark 15:21. This could be the SAME person! (Also see Romans 16:13 were Simon’s sons are also spoken about; Rufus and Alexander.) Then there was a Lucius of Cyrene who was both a Christian teacher at Antioch (Acts 13:1), and Paul's kinsman (Rom. 16:21). His name was Latin, but his birthplace seems to indicate that he was one of the Romans of Cymene, in North Africa. (Libya) Both men were most likely back. Manaen, who in his youth was chosen as a companion to a prince, Herod. Even Saul who was a Pharisee was from Tarsus.

~Some of the above material comes from the study on Biblical People of Color © 1998 by David Humpall.~

Today, this same kind of function—that of being a cross-cultural pioneer church planting among un-reached people’s groups is still a high calling. Check out Romans 15:20; 1 Cor 12:28; 2 Tim 1:11
Romans 15:20 It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation.
1 Corinthians 12:28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.
2 Timothy 1:11 And of this Gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.

Fourthly, the men were in worship. This is where God speaks to His people. When we are close to Him, we can hear His voice better. Think about it! Think back when you were cold to the things of God, you were feeling a divide—a separation in your relationship with your Heavenly Father. When you were not reading His Word, you were not able to draw from His Power. When you were prayerless, you were not even talking with Him. Here, not only were they worshiping, they were also engaging in one of the Spiritual Disciplines of fasting. They were seeking the Heart of God and God was moving them to do so.

And while they were worshiping and fasting—for a time, the Spirit of God spoke to them! When all other sounds were gone…they could hear God—just like with Isaiah.
Isa 6: 1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted… … 6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" (NIV)

How does the Spirit of God direct the Missionary Operation?

Look at the timing here. Verse 2 starts with “While they were worshiping…” And verse 3 starts with “So after they had fasted and prayed…” What went on between two and three? God spoke. As He did in Genesis; He spoke and there was creation! Here, the Spirit of God moved those early men of God to send out as their first Church missionaries. They placed their hands on them and sent them out!

And where did they go? Remember when we first meet Barnabas? Where was he from? Acts 4:36 "And Joseph, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas … a Levite, a man of Cyprus by race…”

They went to Barnabas’ home island. For these new missionaries, they did not have to go to language school. In some cultures, language school takes about three to six months. In other places, it takes a lifetime.

The goals were the same then as they are today. Verse 5 “when they arrived…they proclaimed the Word of God.” Romans 10:14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?
And they had a helper in the person of Mark, who was in Mary’s prayer meeting during the imprisonment of Peter. Just a point here: it is far better to go in a team than by one self.

Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work

Getting back to one of the basics of Spiritual Formation, or Discipleship, we will need to ask an important question: Is worship part of the Believer’s practice? The answer is “Yes.” What about the other element that was in this chapter, the element of fasting? What is the purpose of fasting? (See Handout)

One purpose of fasting could be to withdraw as far as possible from the pull and control of the world system and cause oneself to be open to the commands from the heart of God. Exodus 34:28 Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water.

Luke 2: 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. In both verses, both Moses and Anna were seeking special particular guidance. In both situations, the Lord showed them His heart. Not to be used to force God’s Hand!

Well, was it only the leadership that needed to do this as in Moses or were the whole church participants in this endeavor? In this case, and that of Acts 6:1-7 when they were choosing seven men to aid the widows, the leadership seemed to be the ones doing it BUT the leaders were doing this in front of the entire Body.
How is one called to service? Who sends the missionary out to do the work of the Gospel? God sends the sent-out-ones via two crucial and matching means: The personal, inward calling to the person and the outward confirmation through the resident church.

The Church Releases the Workers:

There were no assessments of the two sent-out-ones. They had seen them work in their area for over one year. They had been sent to Antioch from the Mother Church in Jerusalem to strengthen the baby church. The Word of God states: 1 Tim. 3:10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve…

To give these men a great sendoff, they covered them with prayer, fasting and the laying on of hands. Both the local church and these men worked together in an act of solidarity both to commission them as an outreach of their own fellowship but also and commend them to God’s Grace and blessing.

The local church had cultural diversity and was spiritually gifted. They had sensitive and obedient leaders who were willing to let go some of their best men to do this hard work of evangelism. As a local church ourselves, what is our roll in World Evangelism? Can we just send money and pray for missionaries like Hiroko Yamashita? Or are we getting ready some people to go out from us as the early church did at Antioch?

Over the years at ICCS, we placed on our handouts each week, this phrase: “A Place To Worship God.” As long as we kept the fist things first and kept worship central, we grew.

Recently, after looking at how the Lord had moved us in ministry, I have seen that He touched us in three areas: Restoring Hurts, Reaffirming Faith and Reconfirming Commitment.
If we keep this going, we will both help in the healing of many who have been hurt and redirect their hearts to the Lord of All Mercy and Comfort. How does this happen, you ask? He wants to touch your heart in an Eternal Way, by having us:
Affirm His nearness in your heart.
Visualize God’s presence in your mind.
Renewal of your mind
Access God’s nearness through prayer, Talk with Him/by yourself and in community
Reflect His presence in our behavior. Walk/talk/act as His Child/ Just as you received Christ Jesus-so walk in Him.What would Jesus do? You do the same…Next week: Christmas talks start!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

When the Bad dies… Acts 12:19-25

We will start off where we ended last week. Peter had been put in jail and was scheduled to bebeheaded after the holidays. Herod felt it was a grand idea and one that would put him in good companywith the Jewish leaders. But God stepped in and freed Peter from certain death. God had used theprayers of the believers at Mary’s house. In fact, they were shocked that Peter was freed; they really didnot even believe their own eyes! Peter told them what had happened and then took off to hidesomewhere in Jerusalem. The church was pleased and encouraged and so should we. Many times, Godanswers our prayers well beyond our own understanding.

In fact, Mark 11:24 Therefore I tell you,whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Ephesians 3:20Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us,

And, again: James 1:6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubtsis like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.But when you do ask, we may not really believe. We need to work on that, don’t we?

Our prayers need to go well beyond what we pray and be open to what He wants to do and give. Intruth, the Fellowship there at Mary’s house needed to grow up in their understanding of the power ofprayer as much as we need to grow up. Seek Him while He is near and speak to Him. Be confident andtrust Him for the outcome.

In that time in Acts, the Church needed to give respect and honor to those who rule over them. Luke 6:28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.We are to pray for those who rule over us as well. For the government leaders, civic and social,religious and those who are over us in our families. We need to pray for them and not rebel. There is a‘safety net’ over us that the government provides. But the demand of total loyalty could turn to totalopposition when the State faces believers who are confessing, “Jesus is Lord of ALL!”Over all things. In

Ephesians 1:22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him tobe head over everything for the church. All through human history, we can see certain governments who oppose Christian teaching and doctrine. This story in Acts SHOULD give us confidence today and would let the non-believers know that the State cannot stop the growth of the Church.

ILL: China, Cuba, North Korea, Saudi Arabia.They brought pain & Death to some of the faithful but they could NOT destroy ALL the remnant! TheBattle belongs to the Lord. His right Hand=Power & Righteousness.

How do we respond when the bad die?

When we watch movies, read novels and watch TV, when the bad are gaining power, we kind of know that the good would win in the end. When the movie/book or TV show ends with the bad winning, we feel –violated. The Good Should Always Win—we feel. But sometimes, it does not. Not at that time andspace. Psalm 73:11-18We tend to look for the good ending in things—in life and when it does not happen, we tend to feellet down. Let down by God, by reality, in life. We want the ability to re-write the end of the story. Here is Acts 12:19, we see that power—complete power can lead a man to murder. Herod had power of life anddeath. When the guards woke to find that their prisoner was GONE you can well imagine how they felt!They were responsible for the well-being of the one they were guarding. If that person had escaped, thentheir very life would be on the line. Herod interrogates the 16 guards (guarded with four squads of foursoldiers each, rotating in three-hour shifts at night) and finds no real explanation of the missing Peter, sohe has them killed. Who cares? Do you care if men die? Does God? Because God places value on Life all life!

In Ezekiel 33:11 Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasurein the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evilways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?'If He cares, should we also care? In the real world, there are so many who die each day. Shouldwe morn for all those people as well? I don’t think so, but we should care. We are to be praying for thelost so that they could hear and place their trust in the Savior. Even in this account, it does not say it, but the Fellowship does not seem to loose sleep over their death.Herod has the power of life and death yet he lacks something very crucial. Remember, Powerwithout authority is kin to mob rule. If one is to have authority, he should show that his power is gauged byhow he response to outside pressure. Here, Herod just drives away. He lacks the real power of leading:Mercy.Herod travels to the administrative capital of Judea—Caesarea, on the coast of the Med. Sea.Those who live there are in deep need of the grain of Judea.

From Ezek 27:17 " 'Judah and Israel tradedwith you; they exchanged wheat from Minnith and confections, honey, oil and balm for your wares.” Welearn that the trade between these to areas has been going on for a long time. There was some form ofconflict between him and the people of Trye and Sidon. It was very necessary for them to work somepositive arrangement out as they needed the King’s food supply. Ever hear the old saying “Don’t bite thehand that feeds you”?They had worked their way into Herod’s very household by befriending the trusted personal servant ofHerod, Blastus. He was his chamberlain. Close to the King, he could speak with him all the time. Thecity folk got to the king thru this man. We don’t know what the full problem was nor what measures Herodtook to displease the two cities but they were very concerned. Have you asked for peace? Has therebeen a division between you and another? Here are the steps to reconciliation and restoration.

Patterns of Confrontation- Matthew 18:15-17; Gal 6:1.
Requirements of Forgiving- Pray- Matt 5:44; Love-Matt 5:44;
Carry Each Others Burden- Gal 6:2;
Goal of Forgiving- Rom 12:21;
As the Lord forgave you…- Matt 18:33.

Herod was at the top of his power. Not only had Rome ‘given’ him all of Judea but also he had theright to bring pressure on the surrounding communities for taxes. On the day of this peace talk, which wasalso the day to honor Caesar with some sport games, he came to the theater wearing his best cloths.Josephus reports “clad in a garment woven completely of silver so that its texture was indeed wondrous,he entered the theatre at daybreak. There the silver, illumined by the touch of the first rays of the sun, waswondrously radiant and by its glitter inspired fear and awe in those who gazed intently upon it." Thetheater seats faced west. No wonder that as Herod addressed the assembly, which included the populaceof Caesarea as well as the delegation from Tyre and Sidon, they cried out, “This is the voice of a god, andnot of a man.”Herod does not refuse this claim. He rather likes it! Flattery kills the cat! He breaks the first two commandments. Herod does not give glory to God but keeps it to himself. He received the worship of thepeople. He made himself the object of false worship. God brings fast and painful punishment to him.Immediately an angel of the Lord strikes him down and worms eat him. He experiences pain in the heartand stomach—bleeding from a perforated appendix, combined with intestinal roundworms, ten to sixteeninches long. (Bunches of these can obstruct the intestines, causing severe pain, copious (abundant)vomiting and finally death.) This excruciating condition continues for five days until he dies.All people everywhere, must be duly warned by Herod’s arrogant attitude. The Lord of all is Lord of all. He will not share His Glory with another.

Isa. 42:8 "I am the LORD; that is My name! I will not give My Glory to another or My praise to idols.;Isa. 48:11 For My own sake, for My own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will notyield My Glory to another.This is worth looking at. How does that fit in with my life? Do I allow certain things into my life thattake Glory away from the Lord. What sorts of idols do I hold onto that would prevent His blessing to flowinto my life. What sort of glory do we give to another?“Ding dong, the wicked king is dead.” And the next few verse tells us how the early Christianshandled that news.The worms ate King Herod but the Holy Spirit continued to increase and spread. The World Systemcannot keep the Power of God down. It may appear at times to be that way, but never fear, His Spirit ishere! And with that bit of news: When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.Herod was cut off after only four years of rule but the Spirit of God and the work of His Churchknows no such incompleteness in any aspect. The two men had finished their work and went home, bringyoung Mark with them.
Is our work over?
Is it done?
Are we taking off and going home?

I dare say, NO. Many need theGood News and we are the ones to bring it to them. We all need to work at extending forgiveness so theLord will forgive us of our sins.The Bad die but the Righteous keeps on working.

According to your prayers” Acts 12:1~19

“ 11/12/06
What goes on when we pray?It starts not at the point of saying “Dear Lord…” or in the space of where we are standing or sitting. It starts in the heavenlies! It really starts in the heart of God and there is very little we really know about it there EXCEPT that if His Spirit moves to touch you to pray about something, that is on His heart. We are to know Him and to enjoy Him forever. Must if not all of that knowing comes first from Him as He gives us the heart, the desire, the will, and the way to hear His Heart on any issues or topics.It really started in His Heart and His Holy Spirit, who intercedes for us on our behalf.

Romans 8:26-27 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the Mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.”

Here we have a situation where the Church Body is in one accord—praying for all they are worth, for the life of one of their own. James had already been taken by King Herod and put him to death with the sword. (See Mark 10:39)

Herod really was a lousy leader as he was prone to fits of anger, unjust punishment, murder, and all sorts of things we don't like in a political person. He was the puppet leader set up in Judea to rule and pressure the Jewish nation into some form of order. Interestingly, he was the grandson of the man who tried to kill Jesus after His birth in Bethlehem. He was the nephew of Herod the Tetrarck who killed John the Baptist. He had grown up in the royal surroundings of Rome. When he was sent to Judea, he maintained the Peace of Rome while observed the Jewish practices in a pious mode.The death of James, the son of Zebedee and the brother of John was a deep blow to the Christian community.

It was only about ten years after the Resurrection of Jesus that this happened. The Body was pretty tight; mostly Jewish, related tone another, in some situations and had a common history. It seemed clear to the community that Herod has found this death to be pleasing to the Jewish leaders. Remember that some of them felt that mixing with non-Jews was worthy of death. Some felt that even sitting with a non-Jew was worthy of death. Here in Jerusalem, the followers of ‘the way’ were now doing that very thing ALL the time. Herod saw it as a political move to better his chances in lasting out in the death hole of a kingdom.Dr Luke had already showed us that the world of the Satan's control is directly related to political governance.

Luke 4:6-during the temptation of Jesus and later during His arrest in the Garden Luke 22:53. Darkness reigns at these times. We hear about it all over the news when people, who live in darkness, strike out against those who live in the light.Iran: A 19-year-old believer serving in the army was arrested for evangelizing and tortured for two days. They released him after he signed a written confession that he would no longer evangelize. He is emotionally distraught.ERITREA (eratreeya) Police Arrest 150 More Christians – Compass DirectIn a large-scale roundup in late October, Eritrean authorities have detained 150 Christians from at least five of the country's outlawed churches.

Starting October 25, security officers in the town of Mendefera began going from house to house, arresting local Christians from a list they compiled of known members of Pentecostal churches and the Orthodox renewal movement.TURKEY: Hakan Tastan, 37, and Turan Topal, 46, joined the ranks of 97 other Turkish citizens hauled into court in the last 16 months over alleged violations of the country's controversial Article 301, restricting freedom of speech. If convicted, the accused could be sentenced from six months to three years.IRAQ Assyrian Christian Boy Beheaded A news service has reported that Muslim militants in Baqouba, Iraq, beheaded a 14-year-old Assyrian boy, Ayad Tariq, on October 21.This is going on right now in our world. Spiritual darkness is in control of political leaders and law enforcement agencies. Jesus warned us that its power would be used against us. Luke 12:11-12 11 "When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.

"Luke 21:12-19 12 "But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 This will result in your being witnesses to them. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 All men will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By standing firm you will gain life.When the time comes, will we stand for the Lord Jesus as our Lord, realizing that sooner of later we will pay the dear price so many have already paid for the sake of the Gospel. We have much to learn from those who are going through hard times under the oppression of totalitarian rulers. So, when you pray, do you think about these things? Maybe we should. Luke is a good writer. Look how he hangs two separate items out that really cover each other. “so Peter was kept in prison…but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” This prayer was really not just a short one liner but the text suggests that it indicates duration—fervent prayer!

Like the kind of prayer Jesus used in the garden in Luke 22:44 “And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Or the kind of prayer that Peter (interestingly that HE would use that same kind of word in 1 Peter 1:22 “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.”
4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”This kind of prayer for Peter was deep, it was united and it was long lasting—well into the night.Problem was: they did not really believe in the Power of Prayer!

Here is the story, as I see it: (retell the story)And here is the situation at Mary's house, as I see it: (Retell)There is a non-connect here! Even Peter didn't catch it during the prison escape! And he was walking thru it in real time! He thought he was seeing a vision. He was OK with that. Once he came to himself, he said “Oh, now I can see it all clearly!” So he went to his support team. He knew, didn't he that the Family would be in prayer for him. Maybe, he was at that very house when James was taken. Maybe that is why he didn't stay there after the explanation. (It wasn't like they could really hide!)So when this had dawned on him, he went to the one place he could find support; and the door was shut on him! Been there? It hurts when you think that this friend really understands me and will support me and they don't. That we may feel that by going back to a location that was significant to my growth might be the very thing to jump-start the heart again—and it doesn't. What can we learn from that?

The SS answer is the right answer here. It is only in Jesus that we can find the right kind of ear to hear our concerns and pain. Only Jesus is the one who can really hold you up during the hardships of life. You could say that you tried and the problems are still there. You may have to need to keep knocking. Peter did.Once he was in jail, Acts indicates that the Family started and kept up the prayer support. Peter seemed a little at rest in the jail cell. He was sleeping—and doing that 1) the night before his death and 2) between armed guards who had NO sympathy at all for him or his cause. He might have had some prayer time before light out but it does not say here. The ones who were knocking on Heaven’s doors were the men and women in Mary's house. They kept on knocking in prayer all night long. This kind of prayer is much needed today—even here at ICCS.

When was the last time we spent any deep time in prayer as a church family? If deep, extended, fervent, united prayer is not our Church's FIRST line of defense in times of crisis, the Body might be depending on something or someone other than God for the outcome. Giving, serving, leading, teaching, singing, witnessing —all these are good and have their place in this Chapel, but what about the prayer support. There are times, when I come up to the front, I feel beaten already. It might have been a word of discouragement I heard before the service started, or something I am personally dealing with. I know that my words are not that powerful to keep us all in the Faith. It is my intent to be open and honest with you—as much as possible.

But, I need to know of your prayers for me and for the Work of His Spirit here at ICCS.While outside, Peter was doing another kind of knocking: on the door of Mary's gate. Both were knocking yet both could not get thru. Why?On Peter's side: unbelief that God could release Peter from jail, they could not accept the fact of him being there. “No, it is really me! Let me in or they will find me and jail me again!” And on the family's side: unbelief that God could release Peter from jail, they could not accept the fact of him being there.Same reasons. They were praying but they did not really believe. Can you understand where they were coming from? Of all people, James was now dead! He had taken over as the head person of the Apostles and gave “The Way” some leadership with the question of non-Jewish believers. He was their head Pastor. And now he is dead. They have locked themselves in rooms much like they did back at the day of Pentecost. And like then, the Power of God's Spirit was much bigger and more powerful than they could even dream of. He broke the WOW factor big time back there and He is doing it again with Peter's release.Poor servant girl! Can't you just feel for her? “Wow, it's Peter! And he is just outside the gate! We have a wonderful Lord to deliver him from Jail….” But she forgot to open the door!Ever forget to open the door? Meaning: ever not allow the answer to come in? Meaning: ever not open your heart to the answer you have asked for because it did not look like the answer you were seeking? You were asking for white and you got green! You were asking Him to move the other person and He started to change you! Why?Warren’s quote.He is interested in YOU. Not that we need to get all ME-centered! As the servant girl Rhoda recognized Peter's voice, but did not act on the voice, are we able to recognize God's Voice and respond by opening the door of our heart and will?I find that the last thing Peter said to his Family before he went into hiding again was very significant. Just like when Jesus said to him in Luke 22:31-32 "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."I believe Peter remembered those words and he wanted to encourage James, the son of Alphaeus (Mark 3:18) and the brothers with this news. God is still on the throne.In truth, no matter what happens in your life, whatever hardships fall your way; He is still on the throne.

From those in northern Hokkaido who are suffering from the strange wind that destroyed their homes to you in your family pains, He is still on the Throne and IS ABLE to handle ANY situation BECAUSE He is the Lord, Almighty. That is His Name!Next week: When the Bad Die.