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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Home Improvement: Building Our Families on the Gospel

1. Home Improvement [Matthew 7:24-29]

2. Headship [Ephesians 5:22-6:4]

3. Marriage by Design [Ephesians 5:22-33]

4. Married to an Unbeliever [1 Peter 3:1-7]

5. Lovers [Song of Songs]

6. Keep Together [Matthew 19:1-9 ]

7. The Surprising Truth About Homosexuality [1 Corinthians 6:9-11]

8. The Family Dance [Ephesians 6:1-4]

9. Boys & Girls [Genesis 1:27]

10. Ready to Launch [Proverbs 1:7]

11. Worthy Widows [1 Timothy 5:3-16]

12. Single To the Glory of God [1 Corinthians 7 ]

13. Godly Grandparents [2 Timothy 1:5]

14. The Big Rocks [Matthew 6:33]

Matt's Messages - The Big Rocks

“The Big Rocks”
December 31, 2006

This is the fourteenth and last message that I have planned in our Home Improvement sermon series on the Christian family.

It has been a good time together considering God’s blueprints for building our families on the Gospel. We’ve covered a lot of ground in the last four months.

And I wanted to end the series by talking about family priorities and commitments. And what better time of the year to talk about family priorities than New Year’s Eve, when we are looking forward to another year in which to set our family priorities and goals?

I’d like to start today with an experiment.

You may have seen this experiment done before. It didn’t come from my brain, but I think it’s a good one.

We have here, my wife’s glass candy jar. Fits a lot of candy, doesn’t it?

We’re going to try to fill this jar up. We’ll start with these. [Big Rocks]

Is this jar full?

Okay, let’s add these. [Little Rocks]

Now, is this jar full?

Okay, let’s add some sand. [Sand]

Now, is this jar full?

One more, let’s add some water. [Water]

Okay, I think we’re pretty full now. We could probably fit something else in if we squeezed it, but that looks pretty full to me.

Now, what is the point of this object lesson?

The jar is your life. It can fill up pretty fast, can’t it?

The big rocks stand for the biggest, most important things in your life.

The little rocks stand for the things that are somewhat important to you but are not the most important.

The sand stands for all of those little things that you’ve got to get done and fit into your life.

And the water is all of those pesky tiny things that fill up all the remaining spaces and make your life completely full.

Now, what is the point of this experiment?

The point is NOT that if you work hard enough you can always fit some more things into your life. “You can do it all.” NO, there is clearly a limit to what the jar can take.

Here’s the point:

How do you get the big rocks in?

Do you think if I put in the sand, water and some of the other rocks first, I could fit in the big rocks? No.

If you don’t put in the big rocks first, you’ll never find room for them!

The big rocks have to come first. Everything else is just filler.

And this is true for our families. We can’t do it all. We can’t have it all.

So, we must figure out what are the Big Rocks, and get them in first.

So here are the big rocks: Television. Right?

Watching or taping your favorite program?

It seems to be a Big Rock for many Americans. Fifty percent of American households have three or more television sets. The average American watches more than four hours of television a day. On average, children in the United States will spend more time this year in front of the TV (1,023 hours) than they will in school (900 hours, and they watch some TV there, too!). [Rosemond.com]

In almost thirteen years of marriage, my wife and I have never owned a TV. We don’t do it because we are more holy than those who own one (we aren’t!), we don’t own one because I know that I would make it a Big Rock–and I don’t have time for it.

So if it’s not TV, what are the Big Rocks?

Surfing the Internet (that one hits more home for me, a waster of my time). No?

Okay, here it is: Climbing the Career Ladder. Right?

Getting ahead at work? No. The famous saying is true: no sane person ever said on their deathbed, “I wish I had spent more time at the office.”

How about: Accumulating Money and Possessions?

A bank account, a house, a boat, a truck, a computer, a wardrobe?

Success? Getting the grade, getting the degree, getting the part, getting the sale, getting the promotion, getting popular.

Certainly that’s a Big Rock?!

Okay, let me step on some toes:

Sports and Fun. That’s what life’s all about, right?! Watching the game, getting in the game, getting out in the woods, bagging that buck, being physically fit, living for the weekend.

Now, I’m not saying that any of those things are bad. They aren’t. In fact, in their proper place, all of them are good gifts from our great God.

But they aren’t the Big Rocks, are they?

What are the big rocks?

Because whatever you determine are the Big Rocks will drive your decisions about what to do with your time, talents, and treasures.

Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

And you need to know what your Big Rocks are.

I recommend before the day is out and the new year begins that you write out a list.

A Big Rock List.

And I want to suggest four Big Rocks from the Scriptures and encourage you to put them at the top of your list and prioritize them in your life and your families’ life.

The first and Biggest Rock of Them All is JESUS CHRIST.

The Bible says that Jesus Christ is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” (Colossians 1:15-18)

Jesus Christ is supreme! He should be the Biggest Rock of Them All for you and me.

Our relationship with Him should come first and foremost.

That’s what Jesus told Martha.

Remember the story in Luke 10 when Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet and Martha thought that the dishes needed done?

Martha complained to Jesus. But Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. [Only one thing is supremely important–me!] Mary has chosen what is better [being with me], and it will not be taken away from her.”

Now, are the dishes important sometimes? Absolutely. Someone has to do the dishes, someone has to mow the lawn, someone has to fix the car.

But only one thing is supremely important–a love relationship with Jesus Christ.

That’s the biggest rock of all, so it needs to go in first.

When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment, He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”

A love relationship with God through Jesus Christ is the most important thing.

And the gospel of Jesus Christ is the most important message!

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance [!]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...”

That’s of “first importance.” The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Main Thing.

And the Main Thing is the Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing!


And everything else will fall into its proper place.

That’s what Jesus meant when He said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things [which in the context is food, clothing, and other needs we often worry about] will be given to you as well.”

Jesus Christ is supreme.

And knowing Him in a love relationship through the gospel is the Biggest Rock of Them All.

Is Jesus your Biggest Rock?

It starts with trusting Him through the gospel.

“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, He was buried, He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...”

That’s the gospel. Have you come to put your trust in it?

Today on the eve of a new year would be a great day to turn from your sinful way of life and put your trust in the Savior, receiving the forgiveness of your sins, and being born into a new life.

I invite you right now where you sit to tell Jesus that you want to be rescued by Him.

Tell Him that you believe He died for you and you want to receive Him as Lord and Savior.

And tell Him that you are trusting Him and what He did on the Cross on your behalf.

And you will begin a love relationship with Him that will last forever and ever.

And that relationship should be your first priority.

More important than eating and drinking! Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes for the mouth of God.

The Bible and Prayer are the two chief ways that we relate to Jesus Christ.

Listening to Him in the Bible and talking to Him in prayer.

Is Jesus your Biggest Rock?

Are you seeking first Him and His kingdom and His righteousness?

That’s the secret of contentment.

One of you wrote me a note early in this series for the Home Improvement Survey. Remember that I asked for questions that you would like to have addressed for families during the series?

And one of you wrote this beautiful set of questions, which is really a prayer. It was anonymous, and it says this:
“August 20, 2006. ‘Learn the Secret of Being Content in All Things.’

1. ... being content with the Lord’s provision - the job I have, the home I have, the car I have, the place I live, the abundance of material things I am to manage or the lack of material things to manage, etc.

2. ... being content with the storms of life as they rage through our homes. ... being content when pain and suffering becomes the Lord’s will through the loss of health, spouse, children, and loved ones. ... being content when sacrifice must take place to further the cause and will of the Lord.

3. ... being content with our relationship with the Lord as we draw near to Him when all else fails or when all the world seems to be given to us. ... being content when He is close to us and when He is silent and seemingly very far away.

To find complete contentment in who the Lord is and our personal relationship with Him ... no matter what! Learning to faithfully pass this secret on to our children and grandchildren, this is the secret I want to learn from God’s word.”
Amen!

Paul says that the secret to contentment is knowing Christ.

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him [Christ] who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:12-13).

If Jesus is our Biggest Rock, every else will fall into place and take it’s proper place.

And here are three other Big Rocks that I think that the Bible would point out for us.
They are all less important than the Biggest Rock and are tied directly to our relationship with Christ.

They are all aspects of the second part of the Greatest Commandment: to love your neighbors as yourself.

YOUR FAMILY, YOUR CHURCH, AND YOUR WORK & REST.

These three are sometimes in tension with one another because they are sometimes more important than others at other times. But they are all Big Rocks that need to go in first.

Let’s take them briefly in this order.

YOUR FAMILY.

We have seen how important the family is in God’s plan for last four months.

But a lot of other things can crowd it out!

So we need to remind ourselves that it is a Big Rock and prioritize our lives accordingly.

Can I suggest that you think about this order:

If you’re married, your marriage first.
If you’ve got kids at home, your children second.
And if you’ve got extended family, the rest of your family third.

Now, if your kids are grown your parents might need your more.

But while they are under your roof, they would be more important (not that you should neglect the extended family!).

The place where I see couples going wrong is in elevating the importance of their children over their marriage.

Now, hear me! I’m not saying that your children aren’t important. They are precious, and you need to do The Family Dance!

But I am saying that your marriage is supposed to be the foundation that your parenting is built upon. Kids are safest and happiest when there is lots of attention given to the marriage.

This can be overdone, too, but I don’t see that as much as I see people who take their marriage for granted and think that their children are the most important relationships that they have.

Is Family one of your Big Rocks?

YOUR CHURCH. And your ministry in your church.

Would you have put this on your list of Big Rocks?

Many people don’t.

I was out in public a few weeks ago and I ran into somebody I know who used to go to our church. And I asked this person if they are involved in church now where they are.

And the response was, “Well, I don’t really have time for that right now because...”

Is church supposed to be a Big Rock?

When Paul was writing 1 Timothy, he explained why he was writing. He said (chapter 3, verse 14) “Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (14-15).

That sounds pretty important to me.

The writer to the Hebrews said that church fellowship was a Big Rock. He said, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (10:25).

Jesus died for His church. Bought her with His own blood. I think she’s supposed to be one of our Big Rocks if we follow Him!

And I don’t just mean attending on Sunday mornings. I’m glad you’re here, but attendance and sitting there doesn’t make you a disciple. It’s only part of the picture.

Here at Lanse Free Church, we believe that everyone who is a disciple needs to follow the Lord in corporate worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service. That’s what it means to be a real part of the local church.

Anything else is less than full participation and treating it like a small rock at best and sand or water at worst.

What is your ministry here at LEFC?

Everyone has a gift, everyone should have a ministry.

Here’s where I see families have elevated other things above church, especially sports and other extracurricular activities and part-time jobs.

Some of our families here have told coaches that they will not be at practices or games that conflict with church activities. I think that’s commendable!

When Heather was a high-schooler, she told her employer that she would not be available to run the cash register on Sundays. Respectfully, she said that if they scheduled her, she wouldn’t be there, and she would lose her job if she had to, to be at church. I don’t think that’s extreme.

Now, parents, sometimes, you might have to get a job that conflicts with Sunday morning worship. I know that the world does not stop for Sundays.

But what are you doing instead? Are you at Prayer Meeting on Wednesday night?

Are you in a Link Group? Are you finding another way to meet with the People of God and fulfill your ministry? Are you getting the CDs of the messages and working through them with application to your life?

Or do you think, “Well, I have to work, don’t I?” and that’s it?!

WORK & REST are the fourth and final category that I am calling to our attention as Big Rocks in the Bible.

Work & Rest are Big Rocks because God has called all of us to do work for Him for a purpose.

Some of our work is homemaking or the activities surrounding being retired or growing up/playing/and going to school.

Most of us, it’s bread-winning work.

But all of us aren’t supposed to just be idle. We’re to find something to put our hand to, and do it with all of our might for the glory of God in the name of Jesus.

Check out Ephesians 6 and Colossians 3 to see that Your Work Matters to God.

So it’s got to be prioritized. Sometimes, yes, even above the family and the church.

Because it is part of what God has called you to, men especially.

There are times that I’d rather be at home with my family that I am in my office or out with you doing my work. That’s part of my job.

The key is to have all of the Big Rocks in the jar and none of them out. And to know that all of the Big Rocks are Big Rocks and not little ones. Then they don’t get de-prioritized away.

And notice that I say, “Work and Rest.” Rest is a biblical category, too. There was a whole commandment about it!

There is supposed to be a rhythm of work and rest worked into our lives. 1-2-3-4-5-6 REST. 1-2-3-4-5-6 REST. 1-2-3-4-5-6 REST.

I see a lot of people who try to deny that rhythm, but it doesn’t work.

Are Work & Rest Big Rocks for you?

You’ve got to put in the Big Rocks first or they’ll never fit!

Application for today?

Now, once you’ve established your Big Rock List [You may break it down differently, at one point this week, I had 7 Big Rocks, but I boiled it down to these to keep it manageable. Once you’ve established your Big Rock List...] you’ve got to start working out goals for each of those areas so that they really serve as your biggest priorities.

And what I suggest is that you set at least one goal for each Big Rock for 2007.

And you set at least one goal for each Big Rock for the next week.

A yearly goal and a weekly goal.

What might be your goals for 2007 in your relationship with Jesus Christ, your family, your church & ministry, and your work & rest?

What might be a goal you could set this week to get you closer to that big goal?

For example, maybe in the family category, you know that you need to establish some kind of a family worship time. So you need to get your family eating together or going to bed together at a time when you can have some unhurried time to study the Bible as a family.

Make that a goal and then find a time for this week and put it on the calendar.

Or maybe you might want to cut down your TV time in 2007. My friend Dan Ledford (he’s showing up a lot in these sermons these days, isn’t he?) has set a goal of reading more than he watches TV this year. And he’s created a system for tracking it and gotten some accountability partners to check up on him. (I’m one of them.)

If you don’t prioritize these rocks, you’re treating them like little rocks and something else will take their place.

Maybe you need to set a goal that has come out of this 14 week series on Home Improvement:

If you are a husband and father, it might be in the area of headship.
If you are a wife and mother, it might be in the area of submission.
It could be romance. I set out last year to increase the romance in our marriage, and it has been a wonderful year for that.
It could be working on the difficulties in your marriage–maybe the gospel if you are married to an unbeliever.
It could be parenting, the family dance.
It could be honoring parents in the family dance.
It could be raising children in biblical manhood and womanhood.
Or readying teens for launch.
Or seriously considering marriage or lifelong celibate singlehood to the glory of God.
Or grandparenting and passing on a genuine faith.

This is a good time to set some goals for your relationship with Jesus Christ (Bible reading, prayer, the other spiritual disciplines), your family, your church (get involved), and your work & rest.

And then commit these goals to God.

Because only He can truly take them and make something of them.

On our own, we will fail. In fact, you might be listening to this sermon and feeling defeated because these rocks haven’t been your Big Rocks.

But there is mercy and grace at the Cross for you. Remember, all along we have been building our families on the Gospel of God’s grace. Not on our works, our efforts, our “making-it-happen.”

But on Jesus and His grace.

He will help you. He will help you to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these others things will come to you, as well.

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Rest of 2006's Bibliophilia

Remember, just because I read it doesn't mean that I recommend it! Utilize discernment! And read your Bible more than you read other books--even books on the Bible. [The first half of this year's list is found here. 2005 is here and here.]

McCall Smith, Alexander The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

Carson, D.A. (editor) Worship By the Book

Kostenberger, Andreas GOD, Marriage, and Family

McCall Smith, Alexander The Sunday Philosophy Club

Olasky, Marvin Scimitar’s Edge

Lewis, Robert The Church of Irresistible Influence

Sayers, Dorothy L. In the Teeth of the Evidence

Rainer, Thom S. Breakout Churches

Dreher, Rod Crunchy Cons

Lewis, Robert Raising a Modern Day Knight

Farrar, Steve Point Man

Lundgaard, Kris Through the Looking Glass

Berryman, Jeff Leaving Ruin

MacDonald, George The Fisherman’s Lady

MacDonald, George The Marquis’ Secret

McIntosh, Gary Staff Your Church for Growth

Eggerichs, Emerson Love & Respect

Strauch, Alexander The Hospitality Commands

Barna, George Revolution

Surrat, Geoff et al The Multi-Site Church Revolution

Strobel, Lee & Leslie Surviving a Spiritual Mismatch in Marriage

MacDonald, George The Tutor’s First Love

Chediak, Alex With One Voice: Singleness, Dating & Marriage to the Glory of God

Schreiner, Tom & Bruce Ware (ed) Still Sovereign

Kimball, Dan The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations

Goldman, William The Princess Bride

Bonar, Horatius Words for Winners of Souls

Alcorn, Randy The Grace and Truth Paradox

James, P.D. Cover Her Face

James, P.D. A Mind to Murder

The year's over, and I'm still working on...Getting Things Done!

Prayer for Ailing Christian Leaders

D.James Kennedy had a heart attack yesterday and Albert Mohler had abdominal surgery today.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Marietta Dreaming

My pastor and blogging buddy Byron Harvey is involved in a church plant in Marietta Georgia. Their new website is called idreamofachurch.com. Check it out.

The Nativity Movie

Heather and I got to see the new movie on the day after Christmas--excellent!

I was surprised at how good it was: tasteful, rich, theologically and biblically accurate (even if with minor liberties taken), moving, thoughtful, original, creative, and fun.

Good stuff.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Sermons from Dan Ledford

Dan completed his sermon series on Christmas carols on Sunday with three more sermons:

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Joy to the World

Silent Night, Holy Night


Monday, December 25, 2006

Advent 2006: Christmas Day

LEFC Family Advent Readings
Christmas Day “Mary’s Song”
“Mary’s Song and Mary’s Son”
Luke 1:46-55
December 25, 2006

“Advent” is over! Christmas has come! Jesus has come and will one day come again! This year we have been preparing our hearts for Christmas and for Jesus by delighting in God through the “Song of Mary” found in the Bible in Luke chapter 1 verses 46 through 55.

[READ LUKE 1:46-55]

On the first Sunday of Advent, we lit a candle [LIGHT FIRST CANDLE] to call us to glorify the Lord and rejoice in God our Savior. The second week, we lit a candle [LIGHT SECOND CANDLE] to remind us to trust in our God who is mighty over all. The third candle reminded us [LIGHT THIRD CANDLE] to celebrate God’s mercy to the humble. [LIGHT FOURTH CANDLE] Yesterday’s candle reminded us that God is mindful of His promises. [LIGHT CENTER CHRIST CANDLE]

Today is Christmas, and we need to remember that Christmas is about Christ.

Mary’s song is all about Mary’s son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Mary’s son is the fulfillment of all of what Mary sang–He is the Lord, worthy of glory, mighty over all, merciful to the humble, and mindful of His promises.

This is because Jesus isn’t just Mary’s son; He is God’s son in the flesh.

Christmas is about Christ.

May this candle burn bright today reminding us of Mary’s song and Mary’s son!

Amen.

Advent Bible Study for Families

1. Re-read Luke 1:46-55 one last time. How is Mary’s Song about Mary’s Son? In what ways does He fully fulfill what Mary sang?

2. Read John 1:1-18, especially verse 14 and verse 18. What do these verses teach us about the true meaning of Christmas?

3. Why do we sometimes forget that Christmas is about Christ? What can we do today to make sure that Christmas is about Jesus for our family? (Have each person in the family share.)

4. As a family, sing Go, Tell It On the Mountain!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Matt's Messages - Christmas In Two Words

“Christmas in Two Words”
Christmas Eve Worship Celebration
December 24, 2006
Matthew 1:18-25

Put yourself in Joseph’s shoes.

Matthew tells the story of Jesus’ birth from the manly perspective of a perplexed guy named Joseph. As I read it, imagine what he must have felt. Matthew chapter 1, starting in verse 18.

[Scripture Reading, Prayer]

Imagine how Joseph must have felt!

Joseph thought that he and his folks had found the perfect girl to be his wife. And he had all but married her. In their culture, the betrothal was as binding as marriage, it just wasn’t yet publically celebrated and privately consummated.

And then this happened!

“She was found to be with child...” (V.18) Mary was showing. And he knew it wasn’t his. It couldn’t be! How embarrassing. How shameful.

Righteous Joseph had a difficult choice to make. Should he raise a stink and have her disgraced and destroyed?

Or should he divorce her quietly and show compassion?

Of course, it would be unthinkable to marry her! That would send the message that he hadn’t waited either and the child was his after all. He would be admitting and taking responsibility.

But good old Joseph was both righteous and compassionate. He decided to do a private divorce and then try to pick up the pieces of his ruined reputation.

But that night, after he made his decision and put his head on the pillow–Joseph had a visitor!

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.

And what that angel said made all of the difference in the world to Joseph.

The angel announced the coming of Christmas.

In fact, the angel told Joseph the essential meaning of Christmas in two key words.

“Christmas in Two Words.”

If someone was to ask you what Christmas is all about, what would you say?

What if you only had time to give them 2 words? What would they be?

Presents and Family?
Trees and Cookies?
Santa and Snow?
Tinsel and Eggnog?

This angel told Joseph the essential meaning of Christmas in two key words, really two names of Christ: Jesus and Immanuel.

Christmas in Two Words.

First, JESUS. Look at verse 20.

“[A]n angel of the Lord appeared to [Joseph] in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife [there is no disgrace here], because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. [God is doing something special, something miraculous, something holy!] She will give birth to a son [an angelic ultrasound!], and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’”

Christmas is coming and it’s coming in the form of a little baby, a son.

And this son is to have the name Jesus.

Now if you have the New International Version, it has a footnote for the name “Jesus” in verse 21. We are used to the name Jesus, but we don’t always recognize what it meant in the original language.

The NIV footnote says, “Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means the LORD saves.” That’s why the angel says, “give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Jesus Means God Saves His People.

This little boy who is going to be born will be a savior. He will be a deliverer.

He will be a rescuer.

Jesus Means God Saves His People.

That’s what Christmas is all about–a Savior has come.

A savior from what?

From the oppression of the Romans?

What does it say (v.21)?

“He will save His people from their sins.”

Did you know that your greatest enemy is not Osama bin Ladin?

Did you know that your greatest enemy is not Satan, the enemy of God?

No. Your and my greatest threat to our ternal joy is ourselves and our sin.

Our sin separates us from God and makes us His enemies.

Our sin, our breaking of His law and falling short of His glory, ruins our relationship with God and makes us His enemy.

And there is nothing you and I can do about it.

We are, by nature, dead in our transgressions and sins.

And dead people can’t earn their way back.

We can’t rescue ourselves. We can’t bring ourselves to life.

But God in His mercy has sent a Savior for us!

And His name is Jesus. “God saves His people.”

Here’s how He did it. Jesus lived a perfect life. He never sinned. He lived in perfect obedient communion with His heavenly Father.

And then one day, He took on our sin for us. And He died in our place on the Cross.

The Bible says, “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

And then three days later, He came back from the dead to give us forgiveness of sins and new life!

The point of Christmas is Good Friday.

The point of Christmas is Easter.

The angels said to the shepherds, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.”

Jesus Means God Saves His People.

Two points of application:

#1. Trust Jesus to Save You From Your Sins!

Jesus came to save, and He invites you to trust Him today.

The Bible says that to those who receive Him, to those who believe in His name, He gives the right to become children of God.

It is not automatic. It requires repentance and faith and our part.

You cannot earn this salvation, but you must receive it by faith.

Have you come to trust in Jesus as your Savior?

Many people think that they will be saved because they have done good things or been a reasonably good person.

But you can’t save yourself any more than you can jump across the United States in single bound.

You must be rescued by the Savior.

You must trust in Him and what He did on your behalf on the Cross.

Some people think that they will be saved because they have gone to church every Christmas and every Easter for the last 75 years.

But going to church doesn’t make you a saved person any more than living in a garage makes you a car.

You yourself must turn from your sins and trust the Savior and His Saving work on your behalf.

Some people think that they will be saved because their parents or grandparents are Christians and they were raised to know what is right.

But God has no grand-children. Only children. And the only ones who are His children are those who have received Him by faith. Is that you?

Trust Jesus to Save You From Your Sins.

Right where you are. Tell Him right now that you need Him and that you want Him to be your Savior and your Lord.

You will be eternally grateful.

And that’s the second application.

#2. Thank Jesus For Saving You From Your Sins!

Many many of us here today are Christians. And we need to remember that the greatest gift ever given at Christmas was the gift of our salvation.

This year, we learned a new worship song at Easter: Jesus, Thank You.

Your Blood Has Washed Away My Sin
Jesus, Thank You
The Father’s Wrath Completely Satisfied
Jesus, Thank You

Once Your Enemy, Now Seated At Your Table
Jesus, Thank You

That is a Christmas song!

We can’t forget that the baby in the manger didn’t come to be ooh and ahhed over.

He came to die for us.

“Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18)

Jesus Means God Saves His People from Their Sins.

Have you thanked God for this gift today? We should be the most thankful people at Christmastime!

The angel told Joseph that Mary was going to have a son and they were to give Him the name, “Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

But that’s not all!

This was a fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. V.22

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’–which means, ‘God with us.’”

IMMANUEL.

Matthew does the translating for us here. He says Immanuel means “God with us.”

And this was prophesied 800 years before Jesus was born in the book of Isaiah, chapter 9, verse 14.

“The virgin (that’s Mary) will be with child (that’s a miracle!) and will give birth to a son (Jesus), and they will call him ‘Immanuel’–which means ‘God with us.’”

And that’s the essential meaning of Christmas.

Immanuel Means God Is With His People.

Jesus Means God Saves His People.
Immanuel Means God Is With His People.

It’s absolutely incredible!

Jesus Christ was not just an earthly savior who came to deliver people from their sins.

Jesus Christ was (and is!) God Himself come to Earth in human form!

We sang about it this morning:

Veiled in Flesh, the Godhead See
Hail, the Incarnate Deity (“incarnate” means “in the flesh”)
Pleased as Man With Men to Dwell
Jesus, Our Immanuel

You see, Immanuel wasn’t his name like Jesus was.

It is a word, a title, to describe the essence of Who Jesus was.

He was God With His People.

Think for a second about what that means:

It means that God has walked on Earth as a man.

It means that He understands everything that we humans go through–experientially!

It means that because he was God He could infinitely pay for our sin debt against an infinite holy God. In other words, because He was Immanuel He could be Jesus–our Savior.

It means that God could reveal Himself fully in language we understand–the language of humanity, of personal experience, of human love and sacrifice.

It means that ours is a “visited planet.” We are not alone. There is a Creator who made us and cares about us. Life is not meaningless.

It means that humanity is not just a insignificant class of primates wandering around aimlessly on this planet. Instead we are a significant class of beings, created in the image of God, and blessed by our Creator's humility to take our form. We among the creatures of the universe have a dignity that is unheard of, because God became one of us. Because God was with us!

Do you feel alone this Christmas Season?

Christmas is often a hard time for people. Winter has come. It gets darker earlier. Financial burdens pile up. People get lonely. We miss loved-ones who have died.

Do you feel alone this Christmas Season?

You are not alone if you know Immanuel.

The most important person in the universe is with you. And for you.

You are not alone.

God is with you.

Immanuel.

Application?

#3. Live Like God Is Truly With You!

Because He is.

I know many Christians who live no differently than the other people around them.

They live in fear.
They live in anxiety.
They live in anger.
They live in attack mode.
They live in gossip mode.
They live in lying mode.
They live in impurity.
They live in foolishness.

I know, because I have lived there many times myself.

We often live as if God was not with us.

We live in defeat and discouragement and denial.

But we don’t have to.

Immanuel!

God is with us!

God is here.

God has saved us through His Son.

We can live differently!

We can live as though God were with us because Immanuel has come.

We don’t have to live in anger or fear.
We don’t have to live in impurity or anxiety.
We don’t have to live in bitterness or gossip.
We don’t have to live in foolishness.

We can live differently!

We can live as though God were with us because Immanuel has come.

We can live in joy.
We can live in peace.
We can live in increasing harmony with others.
We can live in hope.
We can live in edifying speech.
We can live in wise choices.

Because God is with us.

And if God is with us, who can be against us?

My friend, Dan Ledford, is a great encourager. I am always picked-up when I’m around him. My spirits are always lifted.

And Dan is also someone who goads me on to holiness. I can’t wallow in my sin when I am around him. Both by example and admonishment, Dan goads me on to personal change.

Do you know someone like that who just by being around them, you are encouraged and moved towards joy and holiness?

Well, what about the fact that God is with you?

What difference it would make if we actually lived out the truth of Christmas–Jesus has saved us and God is with us!

Live Like God Is Truly With You!

Remind yourself every day, maybe every hour that God is with you.

My best friend Kipp used to put little notes around his office and his home that said simply, “God Is Here.”

That’s what Jesus’s birth means to us. Immanuel.

God is here.

And we need to live like it.

Last night, I got angry with the kids. One of them hit another of them while they were in the shower together. And in trying to get the fight broken up and get them cleaned up and dressed one of them threw up! This always seems to happen on Saturday nights!

And I didn’t handle it very well. I yelled at them (and not constructively!). All of them. Even the ones that weren’t in the room.

And I stormed around the house with a ugly look on my face–because my will was not being done.

When I got back to my office last night to put the finishing touches on this sermon, I thought, “What if I had taken one breath of prayer when that all happened and I said to myself what I’m going to say to the people? Immanuel. God is here. How differently could I have responded?”

Friends, we need to live like God is truly with us. Because in Jesus, He is!

What practices could you put in place this Christmas week to remind you of Immanuel?

God is With His People.

One more application of both of these names.

#4. This Christmas, Tell Others about Jesus, Our Immanuel.

Joseph woke up from his dream. He obey God and did what the angel said to do. He took Mary home as his wife, absorbing the shame that would naturally come from that.

And he abstained until she gave birth to the son–which we will celebrate tonight. And he adopted the boy and gave him the name Jesus.

What the angel said made all the difference in the world to Joseph.

The angel said two words: Jesus and Immanuel.

And that made all the difference in the world to Joseph.

And it makes all the difference in the world to you and me.

And it will make all the difference in the world to those you tell!

Tell Others About Jesus, Our Immanuel.

Friends, Neighbors, Co-Workers, Family, and Strangers.

Everyone needs to hear this message.

Everyone needs to hear the essential meaning of Christmas: Jesus, Our Immanuel.

God Saves His People.
God Is With His People.

Rusty Mains (sitting right back there) showed up at our Men’s Breakfast at the Pumpkin House three weeks ago. And he was having a terrible time.

A lot of different trials had come into his life and he was responding with both fear and anger. (Don’t worry, I have his permission to tell his story!)

And Blair Murray picked up on Rusty’s distress and told him, “Meet me at Key Largo’s at 2pm.”

Rusty said that he would be there, and he was.

And Blair shared with Rusty the Gospel–the good news of how God saves sinners through birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, Our Immanuel.

And right there at Key Largo, Rusty prayed to receive Jesus as his Savior and Lord.

And he’s started on the path of following Jesus by faith.

What would have happened if Blair had not spoken up?

You can do that, too. You can tell people about Christmas in two words.

Jesus: God Saves His People.
Immanuel: God Is With His People.

This Christmas, Tell Others About Jesus, Our Immanuel.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Christmas Family

A family with the last name "Christmas" who tries to show Christ with it! Praise God!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Advent 2006: Week 4

LEFC Family Advent Readings
Advent Week #4: Mary’s Song
“Mindful of His Promises”
Luke 1:46-55
December 24, 2006

“Advent” means “coming.” Christmas is coming. Jesus has come and is coming again. This Advent season, we are preparing our hearts for Christmas and for Jesus by delighting in God through the “Song of Mary” found in the Bible in Luke chapter 1 verses 46 through 55.

[READ LUKE 1:46-55]

On the first Sunday of Advent, we lit a candle [LIGHT FIRST CANDLE] to call us to glorify the Lord and rejoice in God our Savior. The second week, we lit a candle [LIGHT SECOND CANDLE] to remind us to trust in our God who is mighty over all. Last week, we lit a candle [LIGHT THIRD CANDLE] to celebrate God’s mercy to the humble.

[LIGHT FOURTH CANDLE]

This fourth candle calls us to rejoice that God is mindful of His promises.

Mary sang, “God has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.”

God always keeps His promises.

He promised a Messiah, and now, the Messiah has come.

Every promise that God has ever made is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

May this candle remind us to trust God to be mindful of His promises.

Amen.

Advent Bible Study for Families

1. Re-read Luke 1:46-55 one more time. Note all of the places where God’s faithfulness to His promises are emphasized. Why do you think Mary sang about this?

2. What were the promises that God made to Abraham and his descendants (see especially Genesis 12:1-3)? How are those promises fulfilled in Jesus’ first coming? What still needs to be fulfilled in His second coming?

3. What are some of the most important promises God has made to you in His Word? Why? (Have each person in the family share.)

4. As a family, sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

It's Not About Me

Bob Kauflin on receiving evaluation with joy.

A New Christmas Carol?

This one may not catch on, but it's a fun way of telling a great story.

Talking with Our Kids about You Know What

The Family Room pastors have been running an excellent series on talking with our children about S-E-X.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Monday, December 18, 2006

Pageantry



Robin and Drew were in a homeschoolers Christmas Pageant on Friday night.

Robin was an angel (must get it from her Mom), and Drew played a cute guy who smiled a lot up on stage (he was a natural--watch out world!).

Loving it!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Only Journal I Read All the Way Through Every Time

The Journal of Biblical Counseling edited by a very wise man, Dr. David Powlison.

The current issue came in the mail yesterday, and I'm devouring it already. It's all about anger: yours, mine, and ours.

In the first article, Dr. P boils anger down to this: "I'm against that." What a remarkable definition--remarkable for its insight, brevity, and clarity.

As in everything, some articles are worth more than others, but it is a generally excellent resource each and every time.

This issue ends with a book review of my friend Robert D. Jones' book Uprooting Anger: Biblical Help for a Common Problem. I've written a review of that book myself, slated for the Spring 2007 issue of EFCA Today. After it comes out, I'll "reprint it here."

An excerpt from my review: "Uprooting Anger covers a lot of ground. Not only does Jones provide a biblical definition of anger, a diagnostic for gauging the righteousness of anger and a detailed roadmap to change, but he also delves into specific problems with anger—such as anger against God and anger directed at yourself. A whole chapter is also devoted to helping others deal with their anger. This is a body-life book, practical theology at its best."

Tom Keller for Hire

In the amazing off-chance that you are in need of a wildlife biologist for your organization, my friend Tom Keller is looking for a position.

Resources for Godly Grandparents

I thought this short list of articles from Focus on the Family had some good thoughts.

I'm sure that these two FamilyLife broadcasts would have good stuff in them (but I haven't had a chance to listen to them myself).

The Second Half: Grandparenting Well (With Howard Hendricks)
Becoming a Great Grandparent

I'm sure, in the same way, that this DVD from Tim Kimmel is good:

Grandparenthood: More than Rocking Chairs

These two books were recommended by others, but I haven't read either of them to know if they are good.

The Power of A Godly Grandparent
The Gift of Grandparenting

I also enjoyed this sermon I found through Google.

Let me know what resources you've found to be helpful!

Matt's Messages - Godly Grandparents

“Godly Grandparents”
December 17, 2006
2 Timothy 1:5

I want to remind you that everyone here is invited this afternoon to our Christmas Open House. Heather has been preparing for weeks on end to open our home for a great fellowship time. She has baked all kinds of goodies and boiled up some fudge to share. So, please plan to come between 4 and 8 o’clock tonight. We’re planning to have some Christmas Caroling around 6pm.

We love you, and this is our Christmas gift to you. So, please come.

For the last four months, we have been building our families on the Gospel in a series of messages entitled Home Improvement. We have talked about marriage, homosexuality, parenting, teenagers, singlehood, and widowhood among other things.

We only have a few weeks left in this series. I expect to start the Book of Numbers in the New Year.

Today, I want to talk about “Godly Grandparents.”

Sometimes, they are called Nana and Papa, sometimes Gramma and Grampa, sometimes Gram and Pap, or Noni and Popi, Oma and Opa, or Granny and Gramps.

These are those special people who are the parents of the parents.

And the grandparents of the grandkids.

We have a number of them in this room today. And many, many of the rest of us will be grandparents ourselves some day.

They are an important part of the family.

The Bible is full of grandparents. Think about all of the lists of who begat whom!

Next month, we’ll see scores of them in the Book of Numbers.

And there are precious pictures of happy grandparents in the Bible such as Gramma Naomi holding little baby Obed in her lap at the end of the Book of Ruth.

But strangely enough, there is very little instruction in the Bible on how to be a godly grandparent.

There are little hints here and there, but no major chapters on that topic.

Certainly, what we talked about two weeks ago with worthy widows would apply to many grandmas. And most of the biblical teaching on parenting would have application for grandparenting, as well.

But we have to piece together our practical theology of grandparenting from several biblical sources.

Today, our primary source is just a simple description of one Christian family in 2 Timothy chapter 1.

Paul is writing to Timothy from prison. And he is somewhat lonely and longs to see Timothy again. This is how he starts, look at verse 3.

“I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears [probably at their parting], I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. [What gets him by now? V.5] I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”

Point #1. GODLY GRANDPARENTS PASS ON A GENUINE FAITH.

Now, anybody can become a grandparent. All you have to do is to have a baby and then your baby has a baby, and that makes you a grandparent.

But not everyone is a godly grandparent.

That’s different.

And I want to argue that the main difference between being just a grandparent and being a godly grandparent is that godly grandparents (to the extent that they are able) pass on a genuine faith.

Let’s read about Timothy’s family again. Verse 5.

“I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”

Notice the three generations and what they have in common: a genuine faith.

The word for “sincere” here in verse 5 means “real” or “genuine.” The real deal.

This is the real deal faith in Jesus Christ.

And Gramma Lois had it (as did Momma Eunice), and she passed it down to Timothy.

Godly grandparents pass on a genuine faith.

Does that sound good?

Now, let me try to give you some practical counsel on how to do that.

Remember, this is coming from someone who has only been a parent for a few years and never been a grandparent. But I’ve seen lots of good grandparenting and experienced a good bit of it on the receiving end myself.

Letter A. You Need to Have A Genuine Faith Yourself to Pass It On.

Notice that it says, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois...”

Lois had a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

And it was sincere or genuine.

She had trusted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.

She had believed the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus’ sin-bearing death and forgiveness-granting resurrection, and she had been saved.

She was the real deal.

And it takes the real deal to pass on the real deal.

Have you ever noticed that little kids can smell a fake a mile away?

If you want to have a godly influence on your grandkids, you can’t do it by faking it.

You have to be godly yourself.

You have to have a love relationship with God through Jesus Christ yourself. And that will begin your influence on your grandkids.

You will be modeling the Christian life for them. And a lot more is caught than taught.

Grandparents, do you know Jesus Christ as your own Lord and Savior?
Are you walking with Him by faith?
Are you growing in your relationship with Him?

That’s the first and most important thing.

George Burns used say that sincerity was the key to everything. If you can fake that, you can do anything.

But you can’t fake sincerity, can you?

Godly grandparents pass on a genuine faith, but they have to have one first to give it away.

If you have just been going through the motions, can I challenge you today to trust God for vibrant living faith that is the real deal?

If you don’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior, I encourage you now to submit your heart and trust your life to Him right now.

If you haven’t been growing, I challenge you to get serious about your relationship with Him. If not just for your own sake, for your grandkids.

Godly grandparents pass on a genuine faith, but they have to have one first to give it away.

Letter B: You Need to Give Your Grandkids the Best Gifts.

And I don’t mean the newest X-Box or Wii or GameCube.

I don’t mean piles of toys and clothes and money, at all.

Those are fine in moderation, but they are not the best gifts.

Here’s a list of some of the best gifts to give your grandkids:

Scripture, Time, Stories, Wisdom, and Prayer.

The best gifts are the kind of gifts that pass on a genuine faith.

How did Lois (and her daughter Eunice, who, by the way, was a spiritually single woman married to an unbeliever–which should give some of you hope of turning out a Timothy...how did Lois) pass on her genuine faith down to Tim?

Look over at chapter 3, verse 14. Paul is telling Timothy how to lead the church in Ephesus. He says, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it [he means himself, Eunice, and Gramma Lois], and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

It looks to me like Gramma Lois taught Timmy the Bible from when he was a little tike up.

That’s a great gift.

How can you give the Scriptures to your grandkids?

Some of you have a lot of time with your grandkids and they are in this room with you. Some of you don’t get to see them much at all.

What can you do to give the gift of the Scriptures to your grandkids?

And time. Invest your time in your grandkids. They need time to see how your genuine faith works itself out in your life.

And they need your love.

Give them those hugs and kisses that grandparents are famous for. I don’t care how old they are. Twenty year olds need grandparent hugs and kisses as much as 2 year olds do.

Give them your time.

And your stories.

When you’re together with them, tell them what it was like when you were a kid. Kids love stories. And they need stories.

They need to know about your life as it relates to their life.

They need a sense of personal history and rootedness. That’s a real gift to your grandkids, to let them know where they came from. It will help them to figure out where they are going.

Give them stories.

And your stories will probably have wisdom in them.

Hopefully, you have walked with the Lord for some time and you have gained some wisdom to share with your grandkids.

They won’t always want to hear it, but you should always want to give it.

Not necessarily in a lecture format. Tell a story. Share your history of how you learned a lesson and became wise. It might save them the same lesson!

I think of the godly old man who wrote Psalm 71. And the gift that he desired to give.

He said, “I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign LORD; I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone. Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.” (Psalm 71:16-18).

That’s the gift of wisdom–declaring God’s power to the next generation.

I know that I have profited greatly from the older men in our church family who have shared their wisdom with me–how God has worked in their lives.

I asked one of the grandpas in our church family yesterday what he would share if he was preaching this message today.

And he said that grandparenting is a chance to undo some of the mistakes made when parenting and pass along some of the wisdom that came with it.

And along with declaring God’s power to the next generation is praying for God’s power to affect the next generation.

Give your grandkids the best gift of prayer.

Pray for them.

Don’t stop. From the moment they are born until you die, have the name of your grandkids on your prayerful lips.

Many have been the children saved and grown to be Christ-following disciples because of the prayers of a godly grandparent.

This Christmas week, how about making a list and checking it twice, not of how many presents to put under little Timmy or Tina’s tree, but how you can give them the Scriptures, your time, your stories, your wisdom, and your prayers so that you pass on a genuine faith?

Letter C: You Need to Help Your Children Disciple Their Children.

The key word here is “help.”

Remember that the Bible gives the primary responsibility for discipline and instruction in the Lord into the hands of the parents. Ephesians chapter 6. We called it, The Family Dance.

Grandparents are called to help their children parent their children.

Whatever you can do to come alongside and help them is what you are supposed to do.

And that means, of course, not working around them or usurping their role with their children, or overruling them, or siding with the children over the parents or anything that doesn’t help the parents to do their job well.

I know that this is a difficult thing to navigate.

Especially when you don’t think your young son-in-law or daughter-in-law is doing a good job or you don’t understand how they are doing it–why they are doing what they are doing.

Now, I’m not saying to not give advice. I think that there is a time and a place for advice. Especially if you can do it in a loving, encouraging, helpful way!

But not in front of the kids. And not against their authority unless someone’s life is at stake.

Respect the parents and do what you can to help them disciple their kids. They are going to be held accountable for what they do with their kids. You are going to be held accountable for how you helped or didn’t help.

Sometimes, there is nothing you can do. When that happens, you just have to pray and trust.

But most of the time, there is plenty you can do to help them with that.

And I mean babysitting and everything else.

I don’t know what principles to share to really help you to grow in this area if it’s one of your weak spots, but I do recommend that you find someone who is good at it and “pick their brain” to find out what works.

I know that Heather and I have been very blessed as parents to have our parents come alongside us and work with us to disciple our children. They respect our wishes and follow our plans for them, because they know that we are responsible for our little ones the same way that they were responsible for us.

And they are always looking for ways to help us to disciple their grandkids.

I imagine Gramma Lois following Eunice’s lead in bringing up Timothy in the way that he should go. That’s probably part of how she passed on a genuine faith to Timothy.

And Letter D. You Need to Trust God with the Welfare of Your Grandkids.

I believe that a major temptation of grandparents is to worry.

To be anxious about their grandkids and what they are going to do with their lives.

Concern is good.
Prayers are better.

But worry is not.

God is faithful. And godly grandparents trust God with what He’s going to do with their grandkids.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests [about your grandkids] to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7).

God is faithful. Psalm 103 says, “From everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children [grandkids]–with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.”

That doesn’t mean that all grandkids will come to faith and be saved if you will be faithful.

But it does mean to trust God with your grandkids because He is faithful.

“Cast all your anxiety [about your grandkids] on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Godly grandparents pass on a genuine faith–a trusting faith.

How are you doing in this area? Is there one of your grandkids that you need to not only pray for, but trust God with?

Your worry can’t add a second to their lives or make them a better person.

Put them in God’s hands. He can handle it.

Godly grandparents pass on a genuine faith.

It’s not automatic. You can’t force it.

But you can be the real deal yourself.
You can give them the best gifts: scripture, time, stories, wisdom, and prayer.
You can work with (and not against) their parents to disciple them.
And you can trust God them with your grandkids.

And God, in his grace, will often birth a genuine faith in them, as well.

So that you can say, “I am persuaded it now lives in you also.”

What a joy!

Point #2. GODLY GRANDPARENTS ARE WORTHY OF GENUINE HONOR.

God commands us to honor our fathers and mothers.

And that command certainly extends to our grandfathers and our grandmothers.

And when our grandparents are godly grandparents we have all the more reason to give them genuine honor.

What can you do today to show honor to your grandparents?

Next Tuesday, my brother and I are going to drive down to the Columbus area to visit my Mom’s parents. I hope to honor them with my presence and attention and prayers.

What can you do today or this Christmas season to honor your grandparents? Their memory if they have already died. Or their person if they are living?

Godly Grandparents Pass On a Genuine Faith
And they are worthy of Genuine Honor.

Can I ask all of the grandparents that are here among us to stand?

Let’s show them our appreciation.

And let’s pray for them and for us.

TIME Mag's Person of the Year

You.

How's it feel?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Christmas Meditations

My friend, Bill Kriner, has been posting reflections on some of the main characters in the Christmas story. Good thinking.

Leaning Into Christmas



These four are eager for Christmas to come!

Resources for Being Single to the Glory of God

For single ladies, Carolyn McCulley's website, Solo Femininity, is a must read. Carolyn's book is excellent: Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? She also has a list of articles she has written on her website.

For guys, I recommend Alex Chediak's blog and the Rebelution blog of the Harris twins (which I talked about last month).

Alex's book With One Voice was a really good read and a lot of help to me as I prepared the message on singleness. Recommended.

On the topic of dating and physical boundaries for singles, check out these articles on Boundless.org:

Physical Intimacy and the Single Man by Matt Schmucker
Biblical Dating: An Introduction by Scott Croft
Get Married, Young Man by Alex Chediak

And, of course, I still recommend the book Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship by Josh Harris

I was also helped a great deal on the theology of singleness by John Piper's chapter on it in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (free pdf here) and Andreas Kostenberger's chapter on it in GOD, Marriage, and Family (see further discussion here on his website and summarized here on this website on the controversy about the gift of singleness and the so-called "marriage mandate"). I confess again to not having my mind fully convinced on these issues.


Advent 2006: Week 3

LEFC Family Advent Readings
Advent Week #3: Mary’s Song
“Merciful to the Humble”
Luke 1:46-55

December 17, 2006

“Advent” means “coming.” Christmas is coming. Jesus has come and is coming again. This Advent season, we are preparing our hearts for Christmas and for Jesus by delighting in God through the “Song of Mary” found in the Bible in Luke chapter 1 verses 46 through 55.

[READ LUKE 1:46-55]

On the first Sunday of Advent, we lit a candle [LIGHT FIRST CANDLE] to call us to glorify the Lord and rejoice in God our Savior. Last week, we lit a candle [LIGHT SECOND CANDLE] to remind us to trust in our God who is mighty over all.

This week, we light a candle to highlight the mercy of God to the humble. [LIGHT THIRD CANDLE]

Mary sang, “God has been mindful of the humble estate of his servant...His mercy extends to those who fear him from generation to generation...He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.”

Mary was saying that God has reversed the order of the world. The world normally gives great things to great people. But God gives great things to not-so-great people who recognize their bankruptcy and fear Him alone.

James puts it like this, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

God’s might is directed by God’s mercy to humble people.

May this candle remind us to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand to receive His mighty mercy.

Amen.


Advent Bible Study for Families

1. Re-read Luke 1:46-55. What words and phrases in Mary’s Song emphasize God’s mercy to those who are humble (she says it at least 3 different ways)?


2. Mary was probably influenced by the Song of Hannah. Read 1 Samuel 2:1-10 and note the similarities. Why is God’s mercy such good news?


3. What does it mean to be humble? How can we as a family cultivate humility?


4. As a family, sing Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dan Ledford, the Double Blogger

My pastor buddy, Dan Ledford, is running two good series right now.

One is on what we call "impulse eating" at his gluttony is a sin blog.

The other is his sermon series on the real meaning of Christmas carols. The current sermon examines what he calls Politically Incorrect Christmas Carols.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Matt's Messages - Single to the Glory of God

“Single to the Glory of God”
December 10, 2006
1 Corinthians 7 & Assorted Other Places

I want to thank you for praying for me this week as I prepared this message on singleness. I didn’t expect when I began this series on the Christian family that the message on singleness would be the most difficult one to prepare! But it was.

And, to be perfectly honest, for all of the time that I have devoted to preparing this message over the last month, I still do not have it all worked out in my mind to my satisfaction. The most important chapter in the Bible on singleness is the one in front of you, 1 Corinthians chapter 7. And it is exceedingly complex and difficult to interpret, especially in harmonizing its teachings with the rest of the Bible and getting the balance of application just right.

So, instead of directly preaching 1 Corinthians 7 to you this morning, I would like to give you some pastoral counsel on singleness based on wisdom from this passage and a number of other ones.

I am speaking mainly to singles today, but everyone needs to listen.

I was jokingly asked by a few of the married men if they had to come to church today because I was preaching on singleness.

And my response, if I had been quick, should have been “You probably ought to, you don’t know when you might need it!”

And I also want to give some counsel not just to those who are single now but also to the rest of us who are called together with singles in the Body of Christ.

I am thankful that there are a lot of singles that are a part of our church family. I will not ask you to stand to pray for you because you might already feel like you stick out. But I’m glad that you are here.

I went quickly through my church directory and counted at least 30 single adults (age 18 and over) who are a regular part of our church family.

That includes the widows we talked about last week, the divorced, those who are engaged but not yet married, and those who have never been married, some who have been single for quite some time and could give us some great testimonies this morning if we had time.

Singles, I am so glad to be your pastor. And I want to give you some pastoral counsel–especially for those of you who are young and single. You are no longer a teenager who is still directly under your Mom and Dad’s care–you have “launched” in the sense of the message that I gave last month to the teens (or at least you should have launched by now into adult life). But you have not yet married. And you may be wondering if you ever will.

I’d like to pray for you and then give you three points of pastoral counsel this morning. Let’s pray.

[prayer]

The apostle Paul said in chapter 10, verse 31 of 1 Corinthians, “Whatever you do, whether eating or drinking, do it all to the glory of God.”

And I think that applies to being single.

If you are single, you need to be “Single to the Glory of God.”

“Whatever you do, whether [being married or being single], do it all to the glory of God.”

So, let me give you some pastoral counsel on how to be single to the glory of God.

#1. BE CONTENT WITH WHERE GOD HAS YOU RIGHT NOW.

There is a reason why you are single today:

God is sovereign over your life.

Many singles struggle with being single. They desire to be married.

And that desire is a good thing. The Bible says that those who get married have received a good gift.

“He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD” (Proverbs 18:22).

But good desires make bad masters when they become demands.

If you think that you have to be married to be happy, you are wanting it for the wrong reasons, and you will not be satisfied.

Paul says that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). He was talking there about money, but it’s true of a spouse, as well.

Godliness with contentment is great gain.

To be single for the glory of God means to be content with where God has you right now.

Some people have it in mind that you are not complete unless you get married. And that being married is a higher stage of life–especially for Christians.

There is so much talk, talk, talk about Christian marriages (like we did this Fall), and how to find a Christian mate, and so forth, but there isn’t so much talk about how to be a “Single to the Glory of God.”

So you might get the idea that singles are “second class” Christian adults.

But that idea is not biblical.

Just ask Jesus. He was single.
Just ask John the Baptist. He was single.
Just ask Jeremiah. He was single.
Or just ask Paul. And look what he says in verse 7 of 1 Corinthians 7:

“I wish that all men were as I am [single, celibate]. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

Now that’s a different take on it, isn’t it?

Paul wishes that everyone could be single like he is.

Single is not second-class.

In fact, there are definite Kingdom advantages to being single.

For example, what Wilma did in going up to that camp and running their kitchen.

How many married couples here could have up and moved and did that ministry like that?

Or Katie Thompson heading to China?
Or Tom Fisch going to Thailand?

Single is not second-class.

Now, Paul makes it clear in the rest of chapter 7 that married is not second class either. Both have advantages, and while Paul would prefer singleness for many people, he knows that its not for everyone. V.7

“[E]ach man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. [Not everyone is supposed to be single. Not everyone is supposed to be married.] Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am [that’s good]. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. [That’s good, too.]”

So neither is more holy, don’t listen to what some religions say about celibacy.

It isn’t more holy to be celibate!

But neither is it more holy to be married.

And whatever you are right now, be content with where God has you.

God is sovereign over your life.

You are not single by accident. You are single right now by the providential hand of your loving God.

You are not on hold.
You are not incomplete.
You are not second class.

If you are in Christ, you are right where He wants you to be.

Be content with where God has you right now.

Now, that will include putting the right emphasis on the right word.

Do you see yourself as a Christian single?
Or do you see yourself as a Christian single?

There is a big difference, isn’t there?

Don’t find your identity in your married status. [That’s true for the married, too, isn’t it?]

Find your identity in being a faith-follower of Jesus Christ.

See yourself as a Christian who happens to be single.

That will help you immensely if God never gives you a spouse. He has not promised every believer a spouse.

Someone may tell you that “God has someone out there just for you.” But that may not be true. It may be true, but it may not be true. There is no universal promise of a spouse for every believer.

But that’s okay if you are in Christ.
It may be difficult (it probably will be), but Christ is enough.

Paul said in Philippians, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. [We could add, having a special someone or not having a special someone.] I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (4:11-13).

Christ is enough.

Now, church, married folks, let’s help our singles with this. Don’t treat our singles as second class citizens of the Kingdom God or second class members of the local church.

Include singles whenever you can in social functions.

Think about singles when you are planning ministry events.

I try to always think every week about how my message applies to the singles in our church. You may have noticed that often when I give applications, I include illustrations about living with roommates not just spouses and that sort of thing. I try not to assume that all of you are single or that sermon applies to everyone in the same way. It obviously doesn’t. About 15% of you are single adults!

And we need to remind each other that our marital status is not our identity.

We need to remind each other that we can be content in Christ–no matter what our marital status.

Be content with where God has you right now.

While at the same time...

#2. SERIOUSLY CONSIDER WHETHER GOD IS CALLING YOU TO MARRIAGE OR CELIBATE SINGLENESS.

Now, here is where it gets a little complex.

While everyone is supposed to be content with where God has them right now, not everyone is going to actually stay as they are.

God is going to call some people into marriage.

And God is going to call others into lifelong celibate singleness.

My counsel for you is to deliberately seek God’s will and calling for your life.

Don’t just fall into it. But actively seek it out to the glory of God.

The call to remain a lifelong single will probably be accompanied by a God-given ability to resist sexual temptation more easily than most.

Some scholars think that the gift Paul refers to in verse 7 is a special disposition to not feel the need for sex as much as others.

They tie it in with verse 8 and the “controlling themselves” or “burning with passion.”
Either way, if you are going to be a lifelong single, God is calling you to be a celibate lifelong single. Sex is for marriage and marriage alone.

A lot of singles are “living together” these days.

That’s wrong. Don’t do it.

Sex is for marriage. It’s that simple.

The call to remain a lifelong single may also be accompanied by a special call to a difficult ministry assignment. Some people are called to head overseas into closed countries dominated by aggressive Islam where having a spouse and a family would always be putting them at great risk.

If you have that kind of a calling, you may want to consider committing to lifelong celibate singleness.

Others of you may be called to lifelong celibate singleness because of other circumstances–such as being at fault in an unbiblical divorce such that you shouldn’t remarry or some other good reason.

And as you seek God’s will in prayer, scripture, and godly counsel, He will show you what His calling is on your life.

Again, we have some wonderful examples in our midst of godly older singles who have followed Jesus in lifelong singleness to the glory of God. If you are considering that as your call, you could learn a lot from them.

I’m guessing that most of the rest of you should be considering that God is calling you to be married or at least to pursue marriage.

Marriage is the norm even if singleness has some distinct Kingdom advantages.

And I think that there is problem in our society with directionless young men and women who are not pursuing marriage to the glory of God.

I highly recommend this book for all of the young singles in our church: With One Voice: Singleness, Dating & Marriage to the Glory of God by Alex Chediak.

He lays out a biblical framework for thinking through these issues and for looking for a spouse.

He points out that a lot of young men (especially) aren’t doing anything to become someone who is marriageable or seeking a wife.

And he calls young Christian men to stop playing their videogames and get on the stick and start moving towards marriage instead of selfishly floating around from girl to girl or fantasy to fantasy.

And in the same vein, Heather and I highly recommend this book by Carolyn McCulley: Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred which, despite it’s name, is in large part about what a young single lady should be doing to put herself in the way of getting married if God would so choose.

At another time, I’ll preach a series on “biblical dating” or “courtship.” What are the principles and standards that should guide young adults as they move towards marriage? I highly recommend (and have given to several of you) Josh Harris’ Boy Meets Girl. That’s a must-read for anyone who is trying to figure out if this one is the one and how to act in the process.

And again, living-together is not the way to figure out if someone is the one.

And neither is hooking up.

And neither is making out!

If you are young and single, save making-out for marriage. It’s really just foreplay. That’s why it feels so good and is so hard to stop.

You may think that I’m crazy for saying that, but it’s true and it will save you so much grief. [But that’s another sermon!]

The main thing I want to say to you today is be deliberate in searching out God’s will for you whether it is to be marriage or celibate singleness.

Ephesians 5 says, “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.”

A lot of singles are going nowhere fast.

But as your pastor, I encourage you to be going somewhere even if it is slow.

Seriously Consider Whether God Is Calling You to Marriage or Celibate Singleness.

And then purse that calling to the glory of God!

For guys that are called some day to marriage, it means growing up and being a man.

And it also means becoming a man that some special lady would want for a husband.

Check out 1 Timothy 3 for a list of what a godly husband looks like. And get busy.

For young women that are called some day to marriage, it means becoming a lady that some special man would want for a wife.

Check out Proverbs 31 for a description of a lady like that. Carolyn McCully points out Proverbs 31 was an alphabetical poem written for young men probably with a description of what to look for in wife.

If you are Proverbs 31 single woman, you are putting yourself in the path of maybe becoming a Proverbs 31 wife.

But guard your heart unless and until God brings that man into your life.

Don’t give yourself over to steamy romance novels and soap opera type television, movies, and magazines. Keep your heart pure for the man God might have for you.

And guys, keep your heart and your mind (especially) pure for the woman God might have for you.

Men, don’t give in to pornography. If you have, seek help. I recommend Josh Harris’ book Sex Is Not the Problem, Lust Is for really good practical biblical advice on how to deal with your lust.

What I’m trying to say is, “Be intentional. Be deliberate. Consider what God is calling you to and pursue that with all of your might.”

That doesn’t mean that if you think you’re called to marriage that you will get married.

And it doesn’t meant that if you think that you’re called to singleness that God won’t surprise you. He is sovereign, and He hasn’t told us everything about His plans for us.

But it does mean that you live your life intentionally now.

And married people, let’s help the singles among us to do this well, too.

I’m not saying, “Let’s try to get everyone married off.” We don’t need a match-maker church.

I am saying let’s pray with our singles and for our singles for God’s will for them to be clear. And let’s give them our wisdom (when asked for!), and let’s walk with them through the process of searching out what God is calling them to.

I loved being able to help Tom and Stacey Fisch determine if God was calling them into marriage.

That was a picture of how these sorts of things should be worked out–in the context and gathered wisdom of the local church.

Heather and I got to be involved in Katie and Scott’s courtship, as well. And that was a great example of two singles to the glory of God becoming a married couple to the glory of God.

We need to work together on that sort of thing.

Seriously Consider Whether God Is Calling You to Marriage or Celibate Singleness.

And pursue that calling to the glory of God.

#3. UTILIZE THE UNIQUE ADVANTAGES OF BEING SINGLE WHILE YOU ARE.

And I’m not talking about how you can save a lot of money by living with your folks!

I’m talking about how you are free right now to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in ways that married people are not.

Look at verses 32 through 35 of 1 Corinthians chapter 7. I’m not going to explain all of the context, I just want you to see the advantages that Paul sees for Kingdom living for those who are single. Verse 32.

“I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs–how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world–how he can please his wife–and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world–how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”

Now, Paul is not saying that being married is bad. Remember, last week, he recommended that some young widows get remarried.

But he’s also pointing out that if you can stay unmarried, it has some definite advantages–especially for focusing on the Lord and ministry.

What he calls, “undivided devotion to the Lord.”

Now, of course, a married person is supposed to have undivided devotion to the Lord, too. And even pleasing a wife or a husband is supposed to be done in a way that is devoted to the Lord and brings Him glory.

But we can all see how a single person doesn’t have the same temptation to be distracted by worldly affairs.

If you are single, you can give undivided attention to the Lord and His work.

So use that advantage while you have it!

Get busy in ministry while you can.

Don’t just concentrate on a career or an education or entertaining yourself to death!

Give yourself over to ministry. You have a lot to give!

Invest heavily in relationships with your own gender in a way that moves them along in discipleship.

Figure out what your gifts are and give them to the local church.

Bible studies, youth ministry, children’s ministry, teaching, evangelism.

You are not second-class citizens in the Kingdom God.

You are called to service in the Kingdom of God.

Undivided devotion, while you are single.

This requires creative planning and intentionality, but you can do that.

And we have some great examples in our church of single men and ladies who are ball utilizing the Kingdom advantages of singleness.

Watch what they do and get in the game!

I recommend this book by Andy Farmer, The Rich Single Life. He says that being single gives you opportunity to be rich in identity, rich in vision, rich in wisdom, rich in impact, rich in relationships, rich toward marriage, and rich in hope.

And it’s is all about snapping up those Kingdom opportunities that singleness affords.

And married people (the rest of us), let’s help the singles do that. Let’s find ways to include the singles in ministry and in ministry leadership allowing them to take advantage of this season (however long it turns out to be), to the glory of God.

Singles, be content with where God has you right now.

At the same time, seriously consider whether God is calling you to marriage or celibate singleness.

And while you are, utilize the unique advantages of being single...to the glory of God.