Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christmas Stories: Simeon - Not Just Another Baby

Focus Passage: Luke 2:21-38

Just think if every child baptized in Kentucky had to go to one church in Frankfort to have the baptism performed. Every Sunday, there would be a line of a couple hundred families. You might notice a family extremely well dressed or a family that is extremely tall or short. Most families would not get a second glance. So it would be with Jesus’ family. Every Jewish family was required to bring their child to the Jerusalem temple when the child was 40 days old to present a sacrifice. Jesus’ family was poor and brings the sacrifice of the poor – two doves or pigeons. They are hardly worth a second look. Yet, he was not just another baby. In the midst of the crowds, one man starts a commotion that others around must have wondered what the fuss is. He tells us why this is not just another baby.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Lost Sheep - The Importance of One

Focus Passage: Luke 15:1-7

Three shiny school busses pulled up at the Cincinnati zoo with a load of third and fourth graders. The teacher in charge lectured the children about staying with their chaperone Then off they went across the bridge and into the Zoo. Ted was following the group when he spotted a docent showing off an eagle feather and talon. He heard squawking behind him and went to see the eagles in their cage. After a few minutes, he realized that he wasn’t with the rest of the group. He began to panic. At the same time, Mrs. Kravitz was counting heads and realized Ted was gone. She jumped up and began to retrace her steps finally finding Ted crying in front of the eagle cage. Ted was lost like sheep in the text and like the sinners that were gathered around Jesus. There was a big difference between the Pharisees who were against Jesus and the sinners who just got lost.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Story: Christmas - The Birth of a King

Focus Passages: Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2

They must have thought that God had forgotten them. It had been 2100 years since he was promised to Abraham. Would the Messiah ever come? There are times that we often think that God has forgotten us as well. God, do you care about us? We need your help and you seem so silent. Yet, the child did come and He shows us what is different about our God and our faith. He shows why it is worth holding on until he comes and what he will bring when he gets here. It is worth hearing again because we live in a culture that thinks all religions are alike and all are worthless. He also shows us why we should share him with others so that they can have this blessing in their lives as well.

Mary – A Friend who thinks you’re special Luke 1:30 The story begins with a teenage girl who was the first to know that Jesus was coming. God called her favored for she would be the mother of Jesus. Her life would not be easy. People would think this virgin mother was a hor. She would have to run for her life to Egypt and watch her son die on a cross. Yet, God would be with her and shower his love on her. She would know God’s love in ways that you and I will never experience.

Joseph – A Savior in the battle with sin Matt. 1:21 The next one to know about the child was a man named Joseph. This descendant of David would be used by God to protect the child so that God could give them something that they didn’t realize that they needed, which is a savior. Jesus would save people from their sins. He would sacrifice himself on a cross so that our sins would be paid. He would rise so that we might have a future in heaven.

Manger – A servant who belongs to everyone Luke 2: 7 The angels said that the savior would be for all people. The baby in the manger put those words into action. He was not born in some great palace or even in the temple. Look at the dirty shepherds holding the baby and the unimportant town’s people crowding around his parents. The savior has come for everyone. No one is excluded

Magi – A God who you can approach Matt 2:11 The magi traveled for weeks just to come and touch him. He is a God that you can approach for he became one of us. No other god has ever become one of his people. We have a God who speaks to our needs in scripture and who we can share anything with in prayer. He is approachable.

Other religions are based on lists of things that you have to do to be saved. Those people go it alone in life. Even if their gods were alive, they don’t care about them. Our God is different. He loved us so much that He died for us on a cross. He wants us to succeed in life and so he walks beside us ready to help. He gives us guidance and even works miracles for his people. We are loved by the baby in the manger who we can call friend. The child makes faith personal. We worship a God whose life is contained in the scriptures. We can imagine that we are sitting on the hill and hearing the actual words that he said in the Sermon on the Mount. We can picture walking with the crowds as he healed the sick and raised the dead. It is what sets our faith apart from all the others. Our faith is different and worth holding on to. One look at the baby will tell you how different it is.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Who Was Mary?

Focus Passage: Luke 1 and 2 

Who was Mary? Sadly, Lutherans tend to ignore her as much as Catholics venerate her. We do know from early church legend that her parents’ names were Joachim and Anna. Luke also tells us in Luke 3 that she is a direct descendant of David and thus is from the house of Judah. Yet, what should we do with her? We don’t want to pray to her like the Catholics, but I think we can learn a lot from her about what it means to live as Christians. She was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus and like Abraham, David and Paul; her life can teach us a lot about living for the Lord.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Story: Divided Kingdom - Leading People From The True God

Focus passages: 1 Kings 1-11, 2 Chron. 1-9

 Strong and weak presidents have changed the course of our nation’s history. Washington would be one of the great presidents in almost anyone’s book. Buchanan is often rated as one of the worst presidents. He sat and watched the country fall apart in the years before the civil war. As we look presidents and other leaders, we can see how they are instrumental in the shape of a country or a company. The same is true of the kings of the Jews. Solomon got the people started on the wrong path and his successors made things even worse. Yet the constant in the time of the kings was the Lord. He had made promises that the nation would continue and He worked to keep Israel as a nation. He brought the people through this time so that the Messiah could be born among them and could change the world.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What Are Your Expectations for Christmas?

Focus passage: Luke 1:5-24

If you were asked to list your expectations for the Christmas season, what would they be? Are you hoping for a great present under the tree? Maybe you are looking forward to time with family like I am at Christmas and New Year’s Day. What are your expectations for worship? Do you expect to gain an insight in worship or have a warm feeling from serving someone in Christ? Do you expect to have an encounter with God that changes your faith or are you just hoping to make to January with as little damage as possible. Realize that when you don’t expect anything, nothing is often what you get. The holiday will pass by and be as empty as ever. Sometimes God will still give you a special gift and it will be the shock of your life. That is the story of a man named Zachariah. He had the day of his life and didn’t get to enjoy it because of his low expectations.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Story: Solomon - Throwing God's Blessings Away

Focus: 1Kings 1-11, 2 Chron. 1-9

Solomon’s annual income was 25 tons of gold a year and the riches were all around him. He sat on an ivory throne overlaid with gold, received tribute from kings and merchants and drank from goblets made of gold. He was so rich that silver had almost no value in the days of Solomon. Yet it was all thrown away in a generation. The kingdom would be torn in two. The riches would disappear and the peace would never be seen again. Solomon had it all, but threw it away for lust of women and because he forgot the true God.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Angel's Birth Announcement

Focus Passage - Luke 2:10-12

The date was July 22, 2013 and citizens, reporters and photographers lined the streets for the first glimpse of the royal child. An official announcement of his birth was placed in front of the palace. The world had to be told. What many consider the world’s most successful monarchy had an heir. At Christmas, we are celebrating the birth of a royal Child! A Son has been given to us! Yet, there was no announcement of his birth at the palace in Jerusalem, and even though people had been waiting for centuries for this Child to arrive, no reporters and photographers lined up along the streets of Bethlehem for a glimpse of this royal Son. What did God want us to know about this child? The Lord had prepared a special press release shared by the angels that laid everything out for us. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Story: King David - A Humble Heart

Focus passage: 2 Samuel

Was David really a Godly man? The young David surely followed the Lord. Yet, as we follow him through life we see a man who seems more evil than the king that he replaced. Saul never committed adultery, murdered a man or allowed his children to do the evil that David did. Yet, David was honored by God and Saul was discarded. On the surface, it doesn’t make sense. What David had was not a perfect life, but a humble heart. He sinned, but was open to the Lord’s rebuke. As you follow David, you see the power of being open to the Lord. No one is without sin, but how you react to sin can make all the difference. David repented when he sinned so that the Lord might restore him.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Breakthrough Prayers

Miracles happen when people pray
And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. Gen 32:24 (ESV)

He stood exposed before the emperor and the archbishop. His writings were strewn on a table in front of him as evidence of his tyranny. If he renounced them all, he might still live. If not, the state and the church would put a bounty on his head. He asked for an evening to pray. During that night, he wrestled in prayer. He was being asked to deny the truth. He was being asked to put his life over God’s scripture. He knew that it had to be about God and not about Him. He would not lie for the empire or for the church.

The year was 1521 and the man was Martin Luther. In the midst of the crisis of his life, he prayed with all his heart. He came back the next day and looked his accusers in the eye and told them that he would not recant unless they could prove by scripture that the words he wrote were wrong. Thus began the reformation. A crisis had led to impassioned prayer. Wrestling in prayer had led to a breakthrough that rocked the church and changed it forever.