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December 12, 2014 - What Does Your Life Speak to Those Around You? (Preparing the Way of the Lord) - Luke 1:11-20

posted Dec 16, 2014, 12:54 PM by Grant Garber   [ updated Dec 17, 2014, 12:47 PM ]

  • We tell ourselves that if we don’t get what we expect, the only mature thing to do is to cope with how it is.
  • The Bible doesn't tell us we will get what we want just because we expect it.  It says that we should be very careful about expectations because they are a veiled way of trying to control the future.  And the future belongs to God.
  • The Bible does tell us to live with expectancy.  To live with expectancy is to believe that God is at work in our world and in our lives, so anything can happen.
  • We get into trouble with Christmas when we try to capture its expectancy with our own expectations.
  • A life without hope cannot speak blessings.  Does your life speak of disappointed expectations, or does it speak a blessing?
  • There is something about Christmas which takes the words away from us.  It is sometimes in the silent moments that it is most easy to behold the work of God among us.
  • You can’t behold a miracle when you are talking. 
  • Jesus does what we cannot do.  He believes what we cannot imagine.  He saves those we cannot help.  He breaks through the icy resolve to recover our souls.  He is the holy response to our every yearning. 
  • Don’t just ask me whether what I have done is my life.  Ask me whether what Christ has done is my life.
Pastor Jim Spon | Luke 1:11-20

December 7, 2014 - The Hopes and Fears of All the Years Are Met in Thee Tonight (Preparing the Way of the Lord) - Luke 1:8-12

posted Dec 12, 2014, 5:51 AM by Grant Garber

  • Christmas has never been about giving.  We had it right when we were kids.  Christmas is always about receiving.  The only person who is giving at Christmas is God.  And what He is giving is salvation.  The rest of us are struggling to receive this amazing gift.
  • We are more accustomed to praying and asking than we are to receiving.
  • e have learned to tailor down our expectations and our dreams.  As long as life doesn’t become tragic, we can tolerate the reality that is vaguely dissatisfying.
  • Christ proclaims that God has broken into our lives to give us the dangerous gift of hope.  Hope is dangerous and frightening because we can’t control it.
  • The message of Christmas is that God is saying, “Yes” to these old yearnings.  But as I said last week, God is probably not going to answer your prayers the way you were expecting.
  • The promise of Christmas isn’t that we will always get what we want.  But we have to keep asking in order to receive what we need.  And what we need most of all is God.  At Christmas, that is exactly what we get --- God giving us Himself in the birth of Jesus Christ.

Pastor Jim Spon | Luke 1:8-12

November 30, 2014 - Our True Longing (Preparing the Way of the Lord) - Luke 1:5-7

posted Dec 3, 2014, 11:50 AM by Grant Garber

Even our longing prepares us for the coming of the Savior.
Jesus’ coming transforms the holiday into a holy-day, and He can be found in the most stressful moments that lie ahead.
The worship services of Advent are not meant to relieve stress but to help you recover your greatest longings in life.  Nothing could be more stressful.
In worship we bracket out the busyness long enough to realize that we were using it to suppress our deepest longings, which are mostly dangerously apparent in this season.
Just because certain yearnings are impossible to fulfill doesn’t prevent us from yearning for them.
God appeared to Zechariah while he was faithfully serving as a priest, and the first thing God did was renew his unrealistic longing.
When we receive grace from God, we receive not what we want; certainly not what we deserve, but we receive what we need.
What we all need most of all is to live in a world that is filled with the presence of God.  In such a world anything can happen.  Sins and failures can be redeemed, new beginnings can still occur, and the tattered old prayers that lie around on the floor of your soul can still be answered.  But --- usually not the way you imagined. 
The prayers for what you want prepare the way for what you need, which is grace.
Pay careful attention to the longing that propels you into all of this busyness.  And then watch for the strange ways in which a Savior arrives to reveal that your true longing has always been for Him.

Pastor Jim Spon | Luke 1:5-7

November 23, 2014 - A Grateful Heart - Psalm 100

posted Dec 3, 2014, 11:49 AM by Grant Garber

  • Thanksgiving dictates humility before the person to whom one is indebted.
  • The person who is thankful to God sits before God to enjoy His presence.
  • The gracious benefits of God are a cause for joy and exuberant worship.
  • The Lord has dealt with us out of divine love and not as we deserve. This sense of undeserved favor is the wellspring of all thanksgiving.
  • Gratitude has been referred to as the memory of the heart.
  • We need not feel guilty for the plenty we enjoy. But we must be unbelievably grateful for the position in which we find ourselves.
  • Gratitude is the homage of the heart --- rendered to God because of His goodness.
  • God’s greatest gift is not riches but redemption through the blood of Jesus; not food but forgiveness; not safety but a Savior.
  • Thank God He hasn’t given us what we deserve but something better; His love and grace…He has given us Himself!
  • Everything that we have and are comes from God. How delighted we are to offer it back to Him and to acknowledge before the entire world that there is nothing that we have or could be that doesn’t come from Him.
Pastor Jim Spon | Psalm 100

November 16, 2014 - Give Thanks in All Circumstances - I Thessalonians 5:18

posted Nov 17, 2014, 6:58 AM by Grant Garber   [ updated Dec 3, 2014, 11:49 AM ]

Today’s Question
How do I give thanks when my spirit is crushed and I see terrible suffering all around me…even among those I love?

Answers:
  1. A Magic Word – You will be delivered from any distress by the magic formula of thanksgiving.
  2. A Severe Sovereign – God ordains the agony and horrors of humankind for the praise of His own glory.
  3. A Benevolent Bumbler – God, who is all-loving, suffers together with His children in the emerging destiny of the universe.
  4. A Loving Savior – Because we have a loving Savior you can give thanks in every circumstance…but not for every circumstance.
Lessons
  • The great drama of the Bible centers in the belief that God is at work for good in the lives of His people, no matter what.
  • Gratitude and thankfulness is the supreme act of faith and trust that God’s love will eventually bring good out of evil’s adverse circumstances.
  • I can give thanks even in the midst of trials, because in Christ I have received my salvation.
  • Thank God for His continued presence and power at work in your life.
  • If we face the “Son” the shadows will fall behind us but if we turn our backs on the “Son” all the shadows will be in front of us.

November 9, 2014 - Jesus Is Our Bridge (King David Series) - II Samuel 11:1-5

posted Nov 17, 2014, 6:52 AM by Grant Garber

  • At least 50% of resisting temptation is a matter of geography. When you aren't in the right place, it is hard to make right choices.
  • David’s story shifts from receiving what God gives to taking what he wants.
  • Power tempts us with the illusion of control.  All of us try to use power to send our problems away.
  • David has accomplices in his sins.  Sin is so contagious.
  • Sin is anything that separates us from God.
  • Sin is what we do when we cover up the truth and choose to believe the lie.  The lie is believing we are entitled to take whatever it is we lust.  It is insisting on getting what we want, and it is our anger when we don’t get what we want.
  • Confession is telling the truth.
  • When we hurt others, we apologize and try to make amends.  But this hurt also hurts our relationship with God, and sin is first and foremost a disruption of that holy relationship.  So it is to God that our sin must be confessed.  
  • When the son of David and Bathsheba dies, David knows that the judgment of God has been satisfied.  He believes he is forgiven.
  • On the cross where another Son of David died – the Son of God – God’s judgment against us was satisfied.  We don’t need more judgment than what Jesus Christ has already paid.
  • From God all that is waiting is grace for anyone who will tell the truth and believe the greater truth that we are forgiven.  Until you accept that grace, which is always waiting, you will never be able to return to life.

November 2, 2014 - Our Disability, His Ability (King David Series) - II Samuel 9:1-7, 13

posted Nov 3, 2014, 11:10 AM by Grant Garber

  • We all have some gifts, talents, or strengths, and we use these abilities to get through life.  So isn't it interesting that the Bible spends so much time focusing on our disabilities?
  • The story of Jesus Christ is all about God being in search of us as we got lost along the way in the frantic fray of life.
  • When we are defined by our weakness or disability we always end up in a barren place.
  • We all have some weakness or disability.  We all have fallen.
  • Life gives us so many reasons to be afraid.  We are very afraid of our weaknesses being exposed.
  • When God finds us in Jesus Christ, He gives us grace – loving “hesed”
    • He restores us to what we were created to be from the beginning.
    • He gives us a place at the Table.
    • He adopts us into His family as joint heirs with Jesus.
  • The reason people with disabilities threaten us is because their disability exposes the weaknesses in our own lives that we have tried so hard to hide.
  • We live in a society that has taught us to fix things that are broken, and we are uncomfortable with anything that can’t improve.  So when we are around broken people, we don’t know how to respond.  We say nothing for fear of sounding foolish.  But we can’t build community by saying nothing.  That only lowers the disabled to a barren place.
  • Ironically, the Gospel claims that strength is found in weakness. The goal isn't to avoid our inevitable and universal disabilities.  The goal is to find the Savior.  And our disability is always the means for discovering the ability of that Savior.

October 26, 2014 - Get Over It! (King David Series) - II Samuel 6:1-11

posted Oct 28, 2014, 6:47 AM by Grant Garber

  • Some people are often a step behind God.
  • Some people are often a step ahead of God, and this describes David.  Running ahead of God is the best way to get lost in disappointment.
  • While the duties of Christian citizenship are clearly taught in the Bible, the Scriptures are equally clear about the fact that all nations stand before God as the object of His love and judgment.
  • God is a Spirit who can enter into the heart of any person who believes.  But large groups of believers gathering for spiritual reasons can serve as reinforcement for one’s faith.
  • Centuries ago God’s people used every known instrument to praise God.  Yet today, we have churches who feel that there is something irreligious about certain instruments, or in some cases, any instruments.
What went wrong in this story?  What made God so angry?
  • David “grabbed” the Ark because he planned to “use” God in his new capital.
  • Uzzah had a plan to keep God safely on an oxcart.
  • God will not be captured by anyone who thinks they might have a use for Him.
  • God will not be rescued by anyone whose plan is to keep Him safely tucked inside a box.
  • God has never been as offended by our impulsiveness as by our carefulness.
  • We can bring our anger, hurt and disappointment to God in worship, but our carefulness will always prevent us from knowing Him.
  • God will not be hauled around; certainly not by our hard working, oxen strategies for a better life.  Don’t pray for God to bless your plans; pray for eyes to see the plans of God.
  • Whatever your great argument with life may be, it is first of all an argument with God.  Until you give up trying to keep God in a box of your own comprehension, you will never recover the dance steps to life.
  • Maybe the time has come to slay the ox!  You are never going to get over the hurt until you sacrifice it and all of your justifications before God.

October 19, 2014 - Believe in the Dream (King David Series) - II Samuel 1:19-27

posted Oct 28, 2014, 6:41 AM by Grant Garber

David’s elegy (a poem of lament and praise for the dead):
  • Thrice repeated theme “How the mighty have fallen”.
  • That the joy of the Philistine victory would be short-lived.
  • A curse upon the Philistines that they would suffer a drought.
  • Remembering Saul and Jonathan.
Lessons:
  • The difference between Saul and David?
    • Saul had only the weapons of war, by which he perished.
    • David had only the dreams God gave him, dreams that couldn't be defeated.
  • The problem with success is that you then worry about losing it.
  • We all have weapons and are tempted to use them when we feel threatened.
  • God’s dream will always rise and prevail.  But sometimes it goes into hiding.
  • Not only are weapons ultimately ineffective, they also drive you crazy.
  • It is impossible to hold a dream as big as the one God has for you if you are already holding weapons. 
  • The dreams God gives you can’t be protected by weapons.  God doesn't need us to defend His good work in our lives.
  • What God asks of us is something more demanding --- that we will still believe in the dream.  Believe in the dream that there is always a holy purpose to your life.

October 12, 2014 - Three Sanctuaries (King David Series) - I Samuel 22:1-2

posted Oct 14, 2014, 6:07 AM by Grant Garber

  • Waiting is never wasted time. It is as we wait for the faithfulness of God to unfold in our lives that we become the kind of people who can handle receiving our dreams.
David finds three different sanctuaries that change his life.
  1. The sanctuary of holiness.
    • We sometimes approach the sanctuary of holiness desperate and demanding for something to take away our perceived hunger. But our souls are actually hungry for God, and it is God’s dream for us to realize that.
    • We tend to evaluate the church based on whether it gives us what we want.
    • The church of Jesus Christ can never worry about protecting its holiness from the world. No one has the power to pollute the holiness of the church. The holiness of the church is found in the Lord Jesus Christ and not in its members.
  2. The sanctuary of community.
    • God’s idea of community always includes people who are distressed, needy, and discontented.
    • The source of life in the church is in Christ Jesus. As a community of people gathered here who are all discontented about something, Jesus joins us. And Christ is the One who changes us.
    • We are not what we appear to be. We are what we were called to be. And in community, we reach our potential.
  3. The sanctuary of doing the right thing.
    • Different people can look at the same situation and come to totally different conclusions about the role God had in it and what should be done.
    • As you wait for the faithfulness of God to unfold in your life, there are right things to do in the meantime.
      • Caring
      • Giving
      • Forgiving
      • Receiving Holiness
      • Loving

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