Sunday, December 30, 2007

the BAD or GOOD News About Jesus

Luke 2:22-38 
Jesus’ birth was the best thing that could have happen to you—or the worst.

The day after Christmas or a week after Christmas can be disappointing or outright sad. Perhaps Mary and Joseph felt the same after Jesus’ birth. The visitors from the hills overlooking Bethlehem had left. They were getting use to each other as a family. In the days to come they had to face the bad news with the good news. From Luke 2:22-38, we read of this...
The shepherds had left days before. The wonder of that special night was somehow in the past and the reality of DUTY was on the minds of the parents. They needed to go to Jerusalem. 
Lev 12: 1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Say to the Israelites: ‘A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. 3 On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. 4 Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over. 5 If she gives birth to a daughter, for two weeks the woman will be unclean, as during her period. Then she must wait sixty-six days to be purified from her bleeding.
6 “ ‘When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering. 7 He shall offer them before the LORD to make atonement for her, and then she will be ceremonially clean from her flow of blood. 
 “ ‘These are the regulations for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl. 8 If she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’ ”

They needed to get to the Temple so the baby could be legitimate or kosher. He needed to be presented to the Temple and dedicated to the Lord as it was the DUTY of all parents of a first-born male child. As it said in the Law: "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord"

In life, there is sometimes good news mixed with bad.  

With our story today, we find two people, really three, who are living in a tough situation. The times are not all that sure, what with the Roman government in control of Israel. There are rebels trying to overthrow the Romans. Thieves and beggars are looking for fast riches. Those who were poor had to pay more taxes and to top it all off, here is a couple who do not have a home to call their own——yet.

So, being good Jewish parents, Joseph and Mary travel to the capital city to present their first-born son at the Temple. What they experienced there would only add to what Mary already held in her heart. It was something bad and good concerning her Son.

The Good News :
The old man Simeon, who saw them there was so excited. The One he had been waiting for ALL his life was before him. He broke into praise to the Father by saying:

29 "Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, 
You now dismiss Your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
31 which You have prepared in the sight of all people,
32 a Light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel."

That was the good news. God’s salvation was here! In the sight of ALL people everywhere—not to a few select people. This salvation was also for the Gentiles AND for the people of Israel.

But to Mary, he would say some sad or bad news: 
34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, His mother: “This Child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."

This Child is intended to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel. The imagery of this verse comes from...
Isaiah 8:14-15 14 “and He will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel He will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem He will be a trap and a snare. 15 Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured.” 

That means that some in Israel will not follow this Rock. That they will stumble over Him because they were looking for another—looking another way and they missed the Messiah. They will not make it. They will loose their way and be captured because we do not fight against flesh and blood. We are fighting against the spiritual forces in heavenly realms. 

(Eph 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.)
and 28:16 
16 So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a Stone in Zion, a tested Stone, a precious Cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.”
These Old Testament texts are alluded to in the New Testament 
(Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:6-8; Luke 20:17-18). 

Jesus will divide the nation (and the world) in two. Some will respond and others will oppose Him. That means that those who oppose Him will speak him against. People will be challenged with the facts of Jesus. The road to this Promise-fulfillment will not be a smooth one. To identify with Jesus will bring pain, because many will reject Him. That sounds like bad news to me! But wait!

Should that keep us from being open to His Love? Should that keep us from embracing the Truth found in the Person of Jesus? I think not. To be honest with ourselves and question the things at are puzzling and let go of those things that are dead ends, one would find the Peace that passes all understanding.  

In truth, the message of Simeon is both good news and bad because it shows us there is a difference with this Jesus. He is not neutral. He does make a difference in lives. He changes their hearts. He gives them forgiveness. He is the Light for us Gentiles to follow. And thru Him, we become the Glory of God’s People Israel—meaning we become the holders of the blessings of Abraham. AND He is alive today to prove that to be true.  

Good News, indeed! As it brings five things into focus!

1. Produced by Faith; By Faith we approachEph 3:12.
In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

2. Strengthened by Faith; I know whom I have believed2 Tim 1:12.
That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know Whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day. 


3. Made Sure by HopeAnchor for the soulHeb 6:19.
We have this Hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, Getting right before God Himself!

4. Confirmed by the SpiritWe know it1 John 3:24.
Those who obey His commands live in Him, and He in them. And this is how we know that He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us.

The division Jesus brings reveals the thoughts of many hearts. Jesus is God's litmus test for where a person is.
Litmus is a powdery substance obtained from lichens (a fungi and algae growing together in symbiosis or are mutually beneficial between two things) that is used to indicate whether something is an acid or a base.
A test in which a single factor determines the outcome of weather or not one is a believe or not.

Do I sense a need to depend on God and come to him to walk in light, or do I not? My response to Jesus is the test, and the answer comes from my heart. Each person's response to Him reveals where he or she is before God, just as one day Jesus will reveal where everyone's heart is (Acts 10:42-43
He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43. All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.")

God's work is for all people. As with the shepherd’s reference in verse 20 going to the people all over, both Jew and Gentile, verse 32 makes clear. In fact, Jesus is the Light (1:78-79). But Jesus serves as the Light for Gentiles as He is a revelation to them. This term refers to His opening up the way of salvation to the nations in a way unknown or at least misunderstood before His coming.

The fifth focus…
5. Is the Effect of RighteousnessPeaceIsa 32:17.
The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.

No longer are men to wander looking for salvation—hoping to DO enough. It has been filled to overflowing in the Righteousness of Jesus alone!

The Bad News:
In case it was missed, the bad news went like this:
   Mix with Non Jews—outside the Fold—God’s Plan (1st in the book).
   Experience pain-rejected by a divided Israel.
   Stumbling stone 
Romans 9: 31-33 but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone." 33. As it is written: "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame."( from Isaiah 8:14; 28:16.)
Matthew 10:34-36.
34."Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35. For I have come to turn " 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 36. a man's enemies will be the members of his own household. 

This sounds like the worst statement our Lord made. Maybe it was misquoted? Micah 7:6.

Though no details of Anna's prophecy are given, this section completes the cycle the Temple witnesses. Again, Anna's godliness is underlined by references to her old age, her faithful widowhood and her regular ministry at the Temple. She is full of thanksgiving at the arrival of the Child who will complete God's promise, and she speaks about the Child to all who were looking forward to the Redemption of Jerusalem. Just like the men on the hills with their sheep, they went everywhere and when they went, they spoke of the things they both saw and were told. All who frequented the Temple would have heard her teachings. Her hope, like Simeon's, looks to the completion of what God is starting.

Jesus' Growth (2:39-40).

Having obeyed the Mosaic law, Jesus' parents return with Him to Nazareth in Galilee where He grows in strength and wisdom, receiving the favor of God. There He awaits the ministry that will fulfill what Mary, Zechariah, the angels, the shepherds, Simeon and Anna have proclaimed. 
God will fulfill His word and perform His plan.

Has this been Good News for you or bad news? If it is good news, then you are experiencing the New Life already that He came to give. If it has been bad news, than we need to talk. I feel that going into 2008 without the Promise of God’s Grace and Forgiveness is not a good way to go. We have a relationship with one another or you have a relationship with someone else in this Fellowship. Ask them to help you.  

Then verse 40 would be ours to enjoy.
  There the child grew strong in body and wise in spirit. And the grace of God was on him. The Message.

Next week: Please read Ezra…
AND have a very Happy New Year!  See you on January 6, 2008!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Christmas To-Do List Luke 2:8-20

So often in the Christmas story, we focus on the main characters: Mary, Joseph, and, of course, Jesus. But through the short account in Luke 2:8–20, we can learn from the shepherds four things that should make the top of our to-do list this Christmas.

Item #One Believe
The angels announced in spectacular fashion that the Messiah had been born. They came out in great numbers. As soon as the angels left, the shepherds looked at each other and said: What are we waiting for? Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened.

There is no debate. There is no procrastination. They don’t decide to sleep on it. They don’t go on the web for research. They just believe it! That’s faith. Scripture says that without faith it’s impossible to please God. The angel said, “Peace on earth among people with whom He is pleased.” Who are those people? It’s those who respond to God’s gift through faith. Scripture says, “For by grace you are saved, through faith…” Eph 2:8 Faith means you say yes to all that God did through Christ. Yes, He is the Savior of the world. Yes, He came to die for my sins. Yes, through Him I find forgiveness and new life. Yes, I want to follow Him. Believe in Him.


Item #Two Obey

The shepherds did exactly as they were told. We sometimes think of Christmas as a tame holiday. “All is calm, all is bright.” We think of sweet little baby Jesus asleep on a bed of hay. Everyone loves that because it’s so innocuous, harmless and safe. But Christmas isn’t safe! That baby is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He has come to usher in a kingdom that rivals the kingdom of self. That’s threatening. It threatens the social order. This Message changes lives forever! He bids those who would follow Him to take up their cross daily—to lay aside our own right to rule ourselves, to surrender to His rule.

The world loves to celebrate the birth of Christ, but they hate to obey Him as the Lord of their lives. Everyone wants to keep Christ in the manger. A Baby can be But the manger is meaningless apart from the Cross. As one writer put it many years ago: "But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD ? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”1 Sam 15:22 Christmas is a time for obedience.

Believe-- Obey

Item #Three Tell
When the shepherds arrived in Bethlehem and saw the child lying in the feed trough, “they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.”... They weren’t preachers. They weren’t missionaries. They were not professional Churchmen. But that didn’t matter. They had heard and seen something that meant salvation for the whole world. And they were not going to keep it to themselves.

ILL of the Gospel shared in China in the 1800’sHow long has the West known this Message and you JUST now bring it to us?! We must tell!

Christmas trees, eggnog, and exchanging of gifts are fine, but if we do all that stuff but don’t talk about Jesus—if we fail to speak of the real meaning of it all… If we neglect to tell someone that this Child was born as Savior and Lord, that He was sent by God to die on the Cross to purchase with His Royal Blood our own deliverance from sin, death, and the devil… If we neglect to publish that abroad, we’ve failed to do Christmas right. We have not read out To-Do List!

The angel said that this is good news of great joy which shall be for all the people. Share the joy. “Who do you know that NEEDS to hear this good News?”


Item #Four Experience
The shepherds were overwhelmed at the angel’s announcement. They experienced holy wonder... Have you ever had Holy Wonder? When that happens then maybe that means you stop in the middle of your shopping, sit down, and read the Christmas story. Maybe that means you gather your children around a Nativity scene each night and unwrap a different piece and talk about the role it plays in the Christmas story. Maybe that means you wake up early one morning and find a place you can watch the sun rise as you meditate on Luke 1:79 "to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace."

The work of holy wonder is treasuring and pondering the fact that God invaded planet Earth on a perilous rescue mission. Amidst all the activities of this week, stop and treasure all these things. Ponder them in your heart. Engage in some holy wonder.
Believe—Obey—Tell—Experience The Christ, the Son of God 

Come to ICCS on Christmas Eve for a ICCS Family Christmas Eve Candle Light Service.  Starting at 5:30 for international soup and sandwiches AND Christmas cookies!  At around 6:30, we will have the Christmas Candle Service with singing, a video movie and a message by our own Ken Nishiono-San.  At the end of that service, we will leave the Chapel to sing in the Enoki-Cho community.  We will have about two houses to visit and sing Carols of Christmas.  Before  we all go home, return to the Chapel for some hot drinks and more Christmas cookies.
And Merry Christmas one and all!
He IS the REASON for the Season!
-Outline taken from Mark Mitchell, with JoHannah Reardon's A Christmas To-Do-List.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

What is the TRUE Spirit of Christmas

Just what is the Christmas spirit? And I suppose there are a lot of potential answers to that question. To Scrooge, in the Christmas Carol, the Christmas spirit was a ghost. On one website, it comes in a bottle as Vodka as their Christmas spirit. Some people feel that the Christmas spirit is somehow the truce that takes place in the family where nobody brings up issues, or quarrels. One site spoke about the Spirit of Christmas being Generosity. I suppose for some others, the Christmas spirit is expressed in a card that conveys a sentiment of well-being. In the West, a huge number of people will be involved in sending five billion plus Christmas cards expressing these sentiments.

For some people the Christmas spirit is an attitude of happiness found with the fellowship of friends or family, or in a party spirit while consuming 10 to 12 million hams and fried chicken. For others in the world, the Christmas spirit is not so trivial, or so frivolous or so much fun. For many the Christmas spirit is one of profound sadness, increased depression because all that is wrong in their life is then measured against the hilarity of the time and seems even more profoundly painful.

Last week, while speaking to one of our regular worshippers here at ICCS, she told me that well over 90 people kill themselves during this time of year: each day! Not exactly a warm feeling, is it?

But what is the True Spirit of Christmas? Is it in a card, in a song, in a bottle, or a poem or is it in a Person?

Some have said that the Spirit of Christmas is in the person of Santa Claus. That his giving of toys and gifts and with his generous attitude, he’d be the one people turn to for that good feeling. But then, he was invented after WW1. Was there a Christmas Spirit before that?

Well, it is no surprise to anyone here today that the Spirit of Christmas is indeed in a Person: The Person of the Son of God.

(As for the Day of Christmas and the celebration we have today: in the Western world, the birthday of Jesus Christ has been celebrated on December 25th since around AD 354, replacing an earlier date of January 6th. The Christians had, by then, collected many pagan festivals and traditions during the year and were in the hope of stamping them out.)

Let’s look at Luke 1:26–38 again and hear of that special encounter a teenager named Mary had with an Angel named Gabriel!

The true spirit of Christmas is not the spirit of family bonding or even the spirit of rejoicing. All of those things are well and good, but Jesus teaches us that the true spirit of Christmas is a spirit of humility.

Humility is not something you may have and tell people about. It is not like you would show the badge of Humility you received from the Queen of England. No, it is something as valuable as that but much more important. Humility. It’s hard to be humble. It is a great burden to live among others who think that you have arrived. Margaret Guenther, Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction.

Humility is facing the truth. It is useful to remind ourselves that the word itself comes from the word humus, or earth, dirt. In the end this simply means that I allow myself to be earthed in the Truth that lets God be God, and myself, as His creature. If I hold on to this it allows me to put God there at the center and helps prevent me from putting myself there instead. (Taken, in part, from Esther de Waal, Living with Contradiction: Reflections on The Rule of St. Benedict).

In our passage today, we can see the attitude of one young girl, who was being, in one way, forced to be even a younger person. She was at the edge of adulthood. She was forced to be as a little child. To believe what the angel Gabriel told her. 
Mark 10:15 5 "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." 

Mary was exercising her God-given-gift to belief.

She was humbled before the Lord and the Lord blessed her greatly. She became the Earthly mother of the Son of God. Her character did not change much from that time. She behaved as a young mother would; caring for her first child, watching out for Him as she came to understand much more as the years went on that this Boy was indeed the Promised One of the Lord, the Promised Messiah. [Mary’s Song]

And it is in this Promised One we can see what Humility really is. Turn with me to the Christmas passage found in Philippians 2:1:11. Here’s the Christmas Story—after the fact.  

Are you like me in that when all else fails finally read the manual? That's what Paul is now up to, showing the Philippians and us "the manual."

Philippians 2:1:11 The Message: 1-4 If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if His love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
 5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of Himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of Himself that He had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, He set aside the privileges of Deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, He stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, He lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a Crucifixion.
 9-11 Because of that obedience, God lifted Him high and honored Him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that He is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

Humility is usually confused with false modesty ("I'm no good") or with "milquetoast," a timid or submissive person. (a dated word) That kind of image only repulses us. Rather it has to do with a proper estimation of oneself, the posture of the creature before the Creator, who is utterly dependent and trusting in Him. In this position, you become well aware both of your weaknesses and of your glory (we are made in God's image, as His Image Bearer, after all). It is better not too make too much nor too little of either. True humility is therefore not self-focused at all but rather, as further defined by Paul, “considers others better than yourselves.” If you were lost in the wilderness and you had a compass that always pointed to you, would you feel good about that?

As with humility, this last phrase does not mean that one should falsely consider others better. As Philippians 2:4 will clarify "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others”, we are to consider others not in our estimation of them--which would only lead to the very vices Paul has just spoken against--but in our caring for them, putting them and their needs ahead of our own. Others in the community are not necessarily "better" than I am, but their needs and concerns should "surpass" my own. After all, this is precisely how Christ's humility expressed Himself, as Paul describes in verse 8. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death— even death on a Cross! This is how Paul and even John describe those whose behavior is genuinely Christian or not. If they do not seek their own good, but the good of others (1 Cor 10:24 24. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.) than there is a connect with the Gospel.

Here is the sure cure for selfish ambition or vain conceit, not to mention "complaining or arguing" (Phil 2:14. 14. Do everything without complaining or arguing).

The line, be like Jesus or what would Jesus do? are the focal theme of what Jesus did when He came to earth. He came to serve us. He came to give us. He came to die for us. He came to be an example of how we are to come, give and serve others, in His Name.

Jesus, who is the Son of God, equal with God, became flesh—the incarnation—born of a woman, in Bethlehem. He was obedient to His Father—even to death and that on a Cross…for us! His birth was the predicted event that shows us how we are to also live. Obedient to the Father. When Jesus humbled Himself before the Father, God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every Name. Under This Name, all of us in this room and all of the people in Tokyo and in Japan and in Asia and around the world can bow our knees before Him and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God in the Highest!

Everyone is in the same place. We all start out there. We have the choice to move. Move and live or stay and die. He did not make it hard for us to believe. Just become a little child and trust in the Message.  

Trust in the Message and believe. We all are broken people. In fact, the Church is not made up of a bunch of spiritual giants; the True Church is only broken men leading others to the Cross. In part, from: David J. Bosch, A Spirituality of the Road. 

Are you that way? Are you a broken person? Are there things that need fixing? One said that God would only use a broken person to do His will. Hard to see that and hard to hear that but, over time, we can understand that!  

The True Spirit of Christmas was found in the Person of Jesus, the Christ Child. Go to Him afresh. Go to Him with your old stories. Go to Him with your heart. With your pain. With your questions and He will touch you with His Spirit and refresh and remake you. That is His Promise to Mary and to you. Verse 37 “For nothing is impossible with God."
Next week: The Christmas List.

What to do this season? What to do to end the year? Keep Christ in the season with the reason of His Love being the focus. Share with others this great story of God’s love with those you know and with those you love. If you don’t, who will?

This is a little story about four people named Everybody,
 Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done 
and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job.

Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, 
but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody 
when Nobody did what Anybody could have done

Monday, December 10, 2007

#2 Be Prepared

The following is not the full text of the talk given at ICCS on December 9.  At points in this presentation, there will only be an outline.  If you have any questions about the talk, please contact ICCS at the address provided in this web site.  Much thanks and Merry Christmas!

What God is offering this Christmas? Be ready to receive His Gift.  

We are not in this LIFE thing just for the ride. This is all for a reason. What is the reason for this season?
Remember the Boy Scout creed? “Be Prepared”
(A bag filled with ‘stuff’ is shown-candy, flashlight, matches, air pillow, silver sheet, knife, Kleenex, shaver, breath mints, bank note, map, Bible, paper & pencil, clean socks, soap, hat and a fishing pole.)  Be prepared for life as well.

Be Prepared for training for a run…what is needed? Practice!
Be Prepared for training for childbirth…what is needed? All sorts of thins to learn and to be ready for when the time comes!

Just in case, Be Prepared.

Jesus says for us to watch and wait. Why? “Cause He is to return.”
Titus 2:13 while we wait for the blessed hope—
the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Jude 1:21 Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy 
of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
1 Thessalonians 1:10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, 
whom He raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

Be ready and be prepared.
“The Boss in coming on Wednesday, how to prepare?”

Look at the events of our lives:
  1. Things that brought Pain…
  2. Things that brought Joy…
  3. Things that brought Challenges…
  4. Things that brought Uncertainty…
Events that change us.
  1. Death of a child
  2. Broken promises
  3. Call to a calling
  4. Rejected by parents
  5. Becoming a Believer
Now, take these events that changed us and ask:
  • How does this shape me?
  • How does this move me?
  • How does this change me? 
We need to turn--To Define our Faith
What kind of Faith do you have?

Faith comes by hearing; 
Romans 10:17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, 
and the message is heard through the Word of Christ. 

Without Faith-impossible to please God; 
Heb 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him 
must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

The Righteous will live by Faith; 
Romans 1:17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, 
a righteousness that is by Faith from first to last, just as it is written: 
"The righteous will live by faith."

Faith by itself is DEAD; 
James 2:17 In the same way, Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Need to increase your Faith; 
Luke 17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"

Examples of Preparation in the Old Testament.
Marker #1
Joshua 7:13 “Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow.”

There was a great victory at Jericho but when the People of Israel took on a small hill town of Ai, they lost big time! Why? That is what Josh asked God. God’s answer was that there was sin in the camp. One man, Achan, by name, took some things from Jericho that he was told not to. He paid for it with his life.
  • Maybe, you are Coming to Faith in Jesus
  • Maybe you need to have a Rededication to the Lord
  • Maybe, you are now Determined to follow Him
Remember, in this verse in Joshua, God said: “These is NO Victory IF the cleaning is not carried out."

Marker #2
1 Kings 5:1 Build the Temple

God had given Solomon great wisdom. His father David had been good friends with the King of Tyre, King Hiram. Because of this friendship and trust, the king gave Solomon all the cedar trees he needed to build the Temple.
  • Step by step
  • Directed by the Lord
  • Open to His leading
If these markers are alive and in evidence in your life, THAT is a good marker that He is coming closer to you.

Marker #3
1 Chronicles 22:5 I will make preparation for it.”

All this was done BEFORE David died. He was to give a great inheritance to his son. Men! What are you giving to your children? You MUST…
  • Plan for the future
2 Chronicles 2:1 
  • Built on what was gathered before
Marker #4
2 Chronicles 34:14 “They made preparation for others”
  • Passover; first time it was celebrated since Samuel!  That was many years before.  People just plain forgot about the ways of God.  They forgot to remind their children of God's Work in Egypt.
  • Law was found 34:8, 14
2 Chronicles 35:15 Unity, Community
  • To receive the Full blessing
Question: Is GOOD better than BEST? Is all right always fine with us? Why do we settle for all right when excellence is in our grasp?
Don’t be caught doing ‘just fine’ when the Lord returns—ask for a heart of excellence.

Be fully prepared
  1. In Spirit
  2. In Community
Examples of Preparation in the New Testament
The movie “Mary”.

Marker #5 Luke 1:5-25
Zechariah and Elizabeth
  • Your prayers have been heard—ever call for help? Vs 13
  • Many…people will be brought to the Lord their God Vs16
  • Believe or be silenced by His Hand Vs 19-20
  • Acknowledge what He has done-verse 25
Be prepared for an out-of-the-way sort of event/or situation/or answer
  • He shows His favor to His People
We also know that Jesus is preparing something for us as well. 
John 14:1-4
 1 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. 2 In My Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going."
  • A census, one language, the Peace of Rome-
  • God made things ready for us!
  • In the fullness of time…
Romans 5:6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

What is the Number ONE thing you can prepare for this Christmas? Are you ready to receive what God is offering this Christmas? Be prepared to see Him and to follow Him and to allow Him first place in your heart. Not the matter of gifts to be bought, cards to be sent, well wishers to be made, but your heart needs to be prepared for His visit—His presence—in your heart, in your life, 
in your family and in your Christmas. 
Be prepared. Be open to be open to His call for you to follow Him.
Wise men STILL follow Jesus. Will you?

Next week: The True~Spirit~of~Christmas
Question: Are you where God wants you to be this Holiday Season?
Luke 1:26-56 Please stay for the Christmas Covered Dish. If this is your first time, just come and be our guest!  If you'd like, you can bring some food or drink to share with the rest.  This is a great time to join in on some important friendship building time. 
 Be Prepared to have some real fun!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

First Christmas Message: Proclaim

Acts 28:17-31

One of our very own, someone who used to worship with us with his family, Doug Birdsall, is now the Executive Chairman of Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. He said once that his involvement in this movement was connecting himself to...
a global network of men and women who share a passion for the vision of ‘the whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world.’"
He is not alone! At the meeting in Manila back in 1989, many there felt that same feeling Paul expressed in his excitement to bring the Living Gospel to Rome in word, deed and sign.”

(Lausanne III: Cape Town 2010, the Third International Congress on World Evangelization to be held 16-25 October 2010.)

On Paul’s way to Rome, he engaged in one-on-one evangelism. He got involved in mercy ministry and, once bitten by a poisonous snake on Malta, he was proclaiming these same truths that have been embodied in mission work ever since. Taken together and aligned with each other, these actions by Paul help us understand what it means to proclaim the “whole Gospel.”

He was meeting the needs around him. Keeping the Gospel in sharp focus and in the front of his actions and words, Paul shows us how to bring the Christmas Message to our community of Tokorozawa and beyond.

To have the Truth of the Gospel control our very being in such a way that the message and the person are one of the same. It is hard today to say: “This is Truth. Believe it!” Rather, today’s society that looks at us would rather walk along side us and watch us and see that there is a difference in our life—or walk—our relationship with each other—so much that is different from their world, that they will ask us why it is this way with us. How the world hears it is thru seeing it…

It took a shipwreck to get some people’s attention on Malta and an illness of a leader’s father, who was healed once Paul prayed over him. What will it take around us?

Even while this entire Gospel work was going on, the pagan belief system of the time was in full swing. The twin figureheads on the front of the ship from Egypt was to give those who sailed on this boat good fortune as they represent the twin gods of the King and Queen of Sparta. This Gemini was the patron deities of sailors’ world wide, this ship’s employ had promise.

This last leg of the voyage went without a hitch. They arrived in Italy and were the guest of some believers in the Bay of Naples.

This visit now brings to the surface two themes that run thru Acts: One, looking back at the full fulfillment of the promises of God to Paul (Acts 23:11; 27:24). And, two, to note the WAY Paul enters Rome—not as a Roman prisoner, under guard but in the company of fellow believers.

The Jewish population in Rome was about 40-50,000 with over 15 synagogues supporting them. The Judaizing opposition from Jerusalem was not there and the negative report of Paul had not reached Rome at all. What they had heard was against the ‘sect’ & they wanted to understand it.

Now, remember back to Acts 1:8? Here it is being done or at least, the start of the being done. The Gospel, with all its Power and direction from the Holy Spirit of God will now have a place to proclaim from. Also: "repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in [Jesus'] name to all nations" (Lk 24:47).

Today utopias (an ideal and perfect place or state, where everyone lives in harmony and everything is for the best) of the left and the right are in shambles. People are uncertain, even apprehensive of whether the kingdoms of this world can manage the present, let alone the future. They are ready for the good news about the kingdom of God.

And that is what it is all about! The Angels proclaimed it on the hills around Bethlehem to the shepherds while they were watching the flocks at night. The Wise Men from the East proclaimed to all who would hear of the Christ Child they saw during their visit. They realized Who He really was: The Promised Messiah whom the Prophets spoke about and of whom the stars and the heaven so openly announced thru the star that lead them. An old man in the Temple who was looking for this blessed sign also witnessed that Proclamation. From an old lady named Anna, who blessed the Holy Child and Mother and then turned around to those who were in the Temple area and told them.

This responsibility of the proclamation that Luke writes about is also placed on us—who have heard the message and who, from one point or another, place ourselves under It’s Control and Power.

Even those who heard Paul there in Rome were under the pressure to respond. Look to verses 23~28.

23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe.

Hard to reconcile their past with fact Paul was proclaiming for a long time. This DOES NOT MEAN we need to spend that amount of time each time we share about God’s Love. Luke just wanted to report on what happened and very seldom does he editorialize his writings.

Just the facts!

And what were the facts?
25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: "The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said through Isaiah the prophet: 
26 " 'Go to this people and say, 
"You will be ever hearing but never understanding; 
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving." 27 For this people's heart has become calloused; 
they hardly hear with their ears, 
and they have closed their eyes. 
Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, 
understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.'  28 "Therefore I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!"

And God’s salvation has been sent to us today as well. Question is, will we listen? Will we respond well to the call to believe? Or will we harden our hearts like some of them did?

Over the next few weeks during the Christmas Season, we will be asking a few questions and with all hope, find some answers. The questions are:

Are you ready to receive what God is offering this Christmas?
Are you where God wants you to be this holiday season?
What’s at the top of your list this season?
What is the Bad (or Good) News about Jesus?

Will we find place in our busy lives to be still long enough to have it become more than a tradition? To be still long enough to desire more time being still? Can the business of this season and into the New Year be overcome, be conquered, and be triumphed over? The promise in today’s passage is just that!

27b Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, 
understand with their hearts 
and turn, and I would heal them.'  28 "Therefore I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!"

The promise for us today is that we must listen with open ears and see with open eyes and to have an open and understanding heart so that He will heal us.

We, as well, will need to remember Him during all the Holiday noise and chatter. Remember Him in the morning when we wake up. Remember Him before we start our b’fast. Remember Him all day long. Remember Him when we face hardships and disappointments.

Remember Him when we fail to be the best parent we feel we ought to be. Remember Him that He died for all our sins and that in the upper room, long time ago, as He passed the bread and wine around the room to His Followers, His love to them was as strong then as it would ever be.

Come to the Table of Remembrance and Thank Him.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Shipwrecked Faith: Acts 27:27-44

We are coming to the close of our Study of the Book of Acts. We sure have come a long way since Acts 1:1. One more week to go! THAT will be the start of our Christmas series. If you are in town, please stop by. This is the season for many new people to come into our Fellowship. You might be one of them.

We will be looking at five men who's lives may have started out just fine, but somehow, there was a crash. A shipwreck not to unlike Paul's in Acts 27. Look with me at these men's lives.

Esau Genesis 27: 36 Esau said, "Isn't he rightly named Jacob? He has deceived me these two times: He took my birthright, and now he's taken my blessing!" Then he asked, "Haven't you reserved any blessing for me?" 37 Isaac answered Esau, "I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?" 38 Esau said to his father, "Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!" Then Esau wept aloud.

Korah Numbers 16:1 Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent 2 and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. 3 They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, "You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD's assembly?"

Saul 1 Samuel 9:17 When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD said to him, "This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people."
1 Samuel 18:5 Whatever Saul sent him to do, David did it so successfully that Saul gave him a high rank in the army. This pleased all the people, and Saul's officers as well.
1 Samuel 18: 8 Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. "They have credited David with tens of thousands," he thought, "but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?"
1 Samuel 18:12 Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with David but had left Saul.

Rich young man from Mark 10:17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
18 "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'"
20 "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
22 At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"

Demus Colossians 4:14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.
Philemon 1: 23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. 24 And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.
2 Timothy 4:9-10 9 Do your best to come to me quickly, 10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.

a. One had the birthright and lost it ‘cause of greed and personal lack of integrity.

b. One was born in a good family (Levi).

c. One was chosen by God to be King.

d. One was wealthy and followed all the rules.

e. One was selected by Paul as a fellow-worker.

No matter what background they have, they are all in need. What are they lacking? They thought it was enough! They were really in want of something else.

As far as the ship with Paul in it, they were going to do what God had told them to do, yet failed to make the port. Seriously bad weather and poor judgment caused the shipwreck.

Have you ever been on a ship in a storm? It can be very exciting yet mostly dangerous and life threatening. One such event happen on one of the Great Lakes back in 1975, November 10. The ship went down with all hands. Twenty nine men lost their lives that evening. There is a song that tells about the ship, the storm and the men who died...

Wonder what it was like on Paul's ship there on the Adriatic Sea. The men were afraid of death. The waves had been hitting them for over 14 days and they were worn out. Fear captured their hearts and there was a spirit of selfishness among the sailors. Many might have been thinking it would had been better to have stayed at the last port. When problems of life come to you, you may also have lots of things to say:

“If they had only … .”
“If I could have … .”
“I was misunderstood when I … .”
“Why did this happen to me???”
“I am qualified!!! but … .”

All may be good reasons but in the final analysis, they come up short. Just like in this story of Paul’s ship. No matter what experience they had, they were not going to make it IF they did not listen to the Man of God.

There was another who ‘had it all together’ as well and he confronted Jesus at night—while no one was looking—and ask of Jesus a question that many have asked but, to be honest, he might not have understood the answer right then and there.

The man’s name was Nic and he was a teacher of religion. Find his story in John 3:1-15.
He asked: “Really, Who are You, ‘cause what You do is so like that of a Person from God?”
Jesus answers with a statement that DOES NOT answer the question: “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. You can not make it in life without being born in the Spirit.”
The Teacher was surprised and asked: “How can a man be born when he is old? He can’t really re-enter his mother’s womb again!”
Jesus replies: “Don’t be silly! You're a teacher of the Law and you don’t know this? Has the Truth be hidden from even you? It is not a New Teaching here! God has been speaking of this for years and years!”

[Even a man like Nic needed the Truth shown to him. How about us? Who among us does NOT need help?]

During the consecration and the dedication of the Temple of God in Jerusalem, King Solomon was standing before the Lord God and giving Him praise.

2 Chronicles 7: 1 When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 The priests could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it. 3 When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the LORD above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying,
"He is good;
His love endures forever."
4 Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the LORD. 5 And King Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty-two thousand head of cattle and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep and goats. So the king and all the people dedicated the temple of God.

11 When Solomon had finished the temple of the LORD and the royal palace, and had succeeded in carrying out all he had in mind to do in the temple of the LORD and in his own palace, 12 the LORD appeared to him at night and said:
"I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a temple for sacrifices.
13 "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among My people, 14 if My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My Face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now My Eyes will be open and My Ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that My Name may be there forever. My Eyes and My Heart will always be there.
17 "As for you, if you walk before me as David your father did, and do all I command, and observe my decrees and laws, 18 I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father when I said, 'You shall never fail to have a man to rule over Israel.'
19 "But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will uproot Israel from My land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for My Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. 21 And though this temple is now so imposing, all who pass by will be appalled and say, 'Why has the LORD done such a thing to this land and to this temple?' 22 People will answer, 'Because they have forsaken the LORD, the God of their fathers, who brought them out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why He brought all this disaster on them.' "

The storms of Life have come and your ship is about to be dashed on the rocks somewhere, sometime, what do you do? Is there a way out of this mess? Humble yourself before your Maker, Pray to Him. He will answer and deliver you! Turn your eyes upon Jesus.

So, will we see you next week at ICCS? Being the first Sunday of the month, we will be celebrating the Lord's Table or Communion. Join us for the worship and stay for the growth.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


During the Service last Sunday, I passed out a short piece of paper. I asked the people to finish the sentence:

I THANK GOD FOR _________________ .

Here is a sampling of what was on their hearts.
I THANK GOD FOR my brother.
I THANK GOD FOR Your Sacrifice.
I THANK GOD FOR His Loving Care everyday.
I THANK GOD FOR listening to my prayers.
I THANK GOD FOR (that I could) come here today.
I THANK GOD FOR giving me special friends.
I THANK GOD FOR my family. (many wrote this)
I THANK GOD FOR His Grace, Mercy and Faithfulness.
I THANK GOD FOR giving us Jesus, His Son.
I THANK GOD FOR dying on the Cross for my sins.
I THANK GOD FOR (amazing) friends that I can rely on.
I THANK GOD FOR mak(ing) me a conqueror.
I THANK GOD FOR children who love Jesus.
I THANK GOD FOR I job I enjoy doing.
I THANK GOD FOR a wife who is supportive and faithful.
I THANK GOD FOR sending is this Church.
I THANK GOD FOR adopting me as His son.
I THANK GOD FOR my mother-in-law.
I THANK GOD FOR (the fact) Alex Rodriguez is still playing for the Yankees.
I THANK GOD FOR the knowledge I am not alone.

What would you write down to this?
I THANK GOD FOR _____________________ .
For many, this is Thanksgiving week. In fact, from my tradition, TODAY is Thanksgiving Day. Turkey, pumpkin pie, sweet potato, gravy, cranberry sauce, and stuffing all being eaten during half time of some football game. But, please, there is so much more to be thankful for. For many, this Thanksgiving week is very hard or difficult or even life threatening. Take some time today and speak to the Creator God of the Bible and give Him thanks for His Great love and for His great Gift of His Son, Jesus, who came to earth to pay our price for our sins. His forgiveness is something we can sure be thankful.
I THANK GOD FOR __________________ .

Under His Grace.
Pastor Stan