Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Advent Mid-week 1

Advent Mid-week 1
November 30, 2005
Characters of the Nativity-Joseph
Matthew 1:18-25

INTRODUCTION: Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The gospels of Matthew and Luke assert that Jesus was born to Mary at a time when she was betrothed to Joseph, before their marriage was consummated (Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:27, 35).

Joseph was a carpenter (Matthew 13:55), and was known as a “just” man (Matthew 1:19). When he learned that Mary was bearing a child, he was understandably disturbed. When he learned that she was to become the mother of Israel’s Messiah through the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit, he proceeded with his plans which brought him, with Mary, to Bethlehem where the child Jesus was born.*

Through circumstances and influences beyond his control Joseph was given his place in history. What lessons can be gleaned from his life’s story? Our text answers these questions this evening.

1.        Joseph is a man of profound conviction tempered with compassion. He knew of two realities. First, Mary to whom he was engaged was expecting a child. He also knows he is not the Father. Our text reminds us “…Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.” (v.18)

Joseph, being a just man, tried to conform his life to the Jewish law. “Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” (v.19) Here we see Joseph’s dilemma. Whose reputation, he pondered, should be tarnished Mary’s or his own? That was the issue with which he was wrestling. Joseph felt betrayed, he loved Mary, yet he didn’t want to “expose her to public disgrace.”

If he were to continue in the relationship most people would simply conclude that after they were engaged but before they were married - she was expecting their first child. There would be some embarrassment. It would be awkward. But hopefully, in time the humiliation would subside.  But could he trust her? What guarantee would he have that she would disappoint him again?

If unfaithfulness was a part of her character what would be the consequences in the future? If word got out that he had married her, knowing full well that the child was not his, what sort of aspersions would be cast in his direction!

What he planned to do was to use the most private form of a legal divorce, handing a letter to Mary in the presence of only two witnesses to whom he needed not give his reasons.

When we must choose – choose wisely. Often we are forced to make decisions in life in which the outcome will not necessarily be pleasant.  When we have to choose “the lesser of two evils” as Joseph, we need to wrestle and pray. Actions do have their consequences. Joseph did not act rashly. Decisions reached hastily are often ill advised. Patience is needed when the situation is serious.

2.        Joseph also learned that we are placed in these challenging circumstances for God to do His best work. Divine intervention was necessary in Joseph’s situation. “But after he had considered this an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” - Matthew 1:20

The angel reminded Joseph of the greatness of his ancestry to assure him that his resolution was right insofar as Joseph knew the circumstances. Joseph knew of only outward circumstances. The Lord sees beyond these things. It is His responsibility to act.

It was Joseph would name this child. He would be given the name “Jesus” which means literally - ‘God saves!’ - For this Jesus is the Christ and He will save His people from their sins. The salvation from sin through this child Jesus is what Joseph and his family had hoped for so many generations. God was about to act and Joseph would see it. Not only would this child be called ‘Jesus’ but also “Emmanuel” – ‘God who is with us’ – the manifestation of God who is in our midst.

3.        We see that Joseph is a man of profound faith.  Joseph’s faith is seen and demonstrated in his immediate obedience to the commands the angel gives him. “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” Matthew 1:24 

Joseph came to know a profound truth. God is with us. So often we may live our lives with little awareness of how close God really is to us. The reality of our Christian existence is this: God is with us. It took a life changing moment in Joseph’s life to come to this conclusion.

CONCLUSION: Tonight God is saying to you - in all of life’s circumstances and in all of life’s decisions “I am with you” for this Jesus whose birth we celebrate this season is ‘Emmanuel’ – “the God who is with us” –He is ‘Jesus’ - “the God who saves”

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

* Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Grand Rapids MI D. G. Stewart editor 

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day
November 24, 2005
Luke 17:1-19
“Giving Thanks in all things”

INTRODUCTION: The story of the Pilgrims. They remembered both the gifts they received and the Giver. True gratitude always does.


I.                    Counts his blessings

A.     What a blessing to be cured of leprosy.

1.      Release from a death sentence; leprosy was incurable.

2.      Chance to return to society, to family and friends.

3.      No wonder the one came back to give thanks.

B.     But only one came back; ingratitude is quick to forget.

1.      The nine.

2.      Too many today forget; they spend their time complaining or getting heart attacks trying to get more. Remember,

a.       Ahab;

b.      The children of Israel in the wilderness;

c.       The man who complained that he had no shoes until he saw a cripple who had no feet.

Application: Count your blessings; material and spiritual. What an incentive to live with a grateful heart.

II.                 Remember the Giver.

A.     The one did. How could he forget!

1.      There is no physician like Jesus

2.      He was a man of faith. A Samaritan at that!

B.     Nine forgot.

1.      They were quick to pray and quick to forget

2.      People are like that even today

a.       There are no atheists in foxholes; but men still forget

b.      Even on the human level it is east to forget; children and parents, husbands and wives.

c.       Much more…

1.      The Protestant ethic; hard work brings results

2.      The American ideal; the self made man

3.      And still God is forgotten

C.     But faith remembers that God is the Giver God.

1.      He supplies our physical needs.

a.       Behind the loaf is the field of grain; behold the field is God.

b.      Shakespeare: “If we have any ill escaped or good attained, still Heaven chalked the course that brought us thither.”

2.      God supplies our spiritual needs.

a.       God loves us, the unlovely

b.      God gave His Son

c.       Christ gave Himself an offering for sin and sinners

d.      For Jesus’ sake God gives life and salvation

e.       How rich God has made us all

CONCLUSION: Remember the Giver. Give thanks at meals, at the end of the day, in success and failure, too. And show how grateful you are by giving cups of water in His name. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving Eve

Thanksgiving Eve
November 23, 2005
Matthew 6:24-34
Four Timely Admonitions

INTRODUCTION: In this materialistic, worrying world we need these four timely admonitions for direction and guidance. As we approach yet another national Thanksgiving let us take heed.

I.                    It is impossible to serve God and money. “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the others, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Vs. 24)

A.     Ananias and Sapphira tried…and died!

B.     The rich young ruler went away…sorrowful.

C.     Christians need to heed God’s clear word. ”But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that> People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith love endurance and gentleness…Command these who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth which is so uncertain but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be right in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” {1 Timothy 6:6-11; 17-19}

II.                 Minimum Faith Produces Maximum Anxiety. “Therefore I tell you do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. The do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field which is here today and tomorrow in thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Vv.25-30)

A.     Does God provide for birds?

B.     Does God provide for flowers?

C.     Won’t He provide for you?

D.     Learn to trust God. “We do not want you to be uniformed brothers, about the hardships we endured in Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. ‘But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril and He will deliver us. Upon Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us.” {1 Corinthians 1:8-10}

III.               Worry Is Worldly. “So do not worry, saying ‘What will we eat?’ o r ”What shall we drink” or “what shall we wear?’’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Vv.31, 32)

A.     “Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God” {Philippians 4:6}

B.     “Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong” {Psalm 37:1}

IV.              Put God First and He will take care of your needs. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (V.33)

A.     God’s promises are sure and true. “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this, says the Lord Almighty and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessings that you will not have room enough for it.” {Malachi 3:10}

B.     “I was young and now I am old yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” {Psalm 37:25}

CONCLUSION: Truly these are timeless truths.