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January 18, 2015 - What You Believe Determines How You Will Live - Romans 1:16-17

posted Jan 19, 2015, 8:05 AM by Grant Garber

  • Ideas and beliefs are extremely important.
  • What you believe determines who you will be and what you will do with your life.
  • You want to make sure that what you believe is the truth.
  • Our faith in God isn't something we have conjured up in our own hearts.  It has come through the faith of those who have gone before us.
  • To call yourself Christian is to claim that you have inherited a set of entirely life-transforming ideas.
  • Doesn't it make sense to believe in a faith that has guided people through persecutions, plagues and wars, loss and heartache, and everything you could possibly face in life?  It is waiting for you.  It is your inheritance.  But like all inheritances, it has to be received.
  • We will all lose a lot of things we love along the way in life.  If that is all we believe, then our lives will be a continual experience of despair.  But if we lean on the great 2,000-year-old faith of the church, then life will be a continual experience of the salvation of Jesus Christ --- Very God of Very God.  It is your choice.
Pastor Jim Spon | Romans 1:16-17

January 11, 2015 - The Small Crowd - Matthew 15:32-37

posted Jan 12, 2015, 6:38 AM by Grant Garber

  • God is at work in big ways and in small ones.  Of course it is harder to see the small miracles.
  • The real miracle is that Jesus had compassion on the crowds.
  • We have lots of reasons to be wary of the crowds.
compassion = to suffer alongside
  • Jesus cares about the large crowd and the small crowd, and He has a miracle for all of them --- even the small, demanding crowd of need that you carry in your heart.  Jesus cares.
  • It isn't our job to perform miracles.  That is the Savior’s work.  Our job is to follow Christ Jesus into any crowd that He leads us.
  • God has compassion on you and on the little crowd He has led you to serve.  When you believe that, you are finally able to engage in authentic acts of compassion yourself.
  • We engage in acts of compassion to the small crowd because we believe a Savior is in our midst, and the Savior isn't nearly done providing the most miraculous gifts.  There is even a miracle for the anxious crowd within our own hearts.
Henri Nouwen, the late theologian of spirituality, died while he was serving in a home for disabled adults in Toronto.  Many of Nouwen’s earlier writings depicted a relentless searching.  A search that he tried to satisfy by becoming ordained in the Catholic Church as a priest, by getting a PhD., by serving as a seminary professor at Yale, by leaving seminary and becoming a monk at a monastery in Geneses, and later by serving as a missionary in South America.  Through many of these experiences, he wrote profound books depicting what he was learning about the spiritual life.  But if he did find what he was looking for, it came to him through this little crowd of mentally handicapped adults in Toronto.

Nouwen would spend the first two hours of every day caring for a man named Adam, who had severe Picture:  Henri Nouwen’s disabilities and couldn't speak.  Nouwen would wake him, get him washed and dressed, and take him to breakfast where Nouwen would eat beside Adam.  Then he would bring him to the place where he would spend his day.  At first Nouwen was afraid of this assignment, thinking it would be overwhelming.  But before long he began to look forward to the assignment as he always received a glimpse of the love of Jesus in the eyes of Adam.  He would write about these experiences in his last book, Adam, God’s Beloved.

People would ask Nouwen if this was the best way to be making an impact for a man of his academic training and whose writings were read by hundreds of thousands.  It was, after all, such a small crowd --- a searching scholar and a disabled man who couldn't speak.  But Nouwen would always explain that he didn't spend time with Adam to perform miracles.  He did it because Jesus led him there.  And he did it because it was wonderful to be in a place where people’s handicaps were obvious, and he could deal with his own hidden handicaps.  He did it for the compassion he received as much as for the compassion he gave.  And he did it because he had finally found joy.
  • There are already people around us --- in our small crowds --- who have hidden disabilities.  This is our small crowd.  The Gospel is crystal clear that Jesus is moved with compassion for them.  And as we enter His compassion for this small crowd, we too will find the miracle of joy.
Pastor Jim Spon | Matthew 15:32-37

January 4, 2015 - Life’s Legacy - Philippians 4:4-7

posted Jan 5, 2015, 6:19 AM by Grant Garber

  • It is along the way, through so many seemingly ordinary choices, that you decide what kind of person you will be.
  • Paul is telling us to let gentleness be our life’s legacy.
  • For Paul, gentleness has nothing to do with weakness.  In fact, he would claim that only the strong can afford to be gentle.
  • To be gentle means that we are always watching for the strength of Christ to be revealed.
  • The strong believe the Lord is near, as near as their hearts, and nothing can defeat His power.  This means the gentle are actually bigger on the inside than on the outside.
  • Jesus Christ was so often in conflict but never in an argument.  He would simply state the truth and then back away from it.  He seldom used a second paragraph.  It is the second paragraph that gets us into trouble.
  • The gentle simply state the truth and then step back to allow the truth to do the convincing, believing that the truth doesn't need to be defended.  It is the truth – and that will always persevere.
  • The peace of God will guard the heart and mind of the gentle.  What this means is that if you invite Christ into your life, He brings His sentry, called Peace, who guards your heart and your mind.
Pastor Jim Spon | Philippians 4:4-7

December 28, 2014 - Leaving the Manger Differently Than When We Arrived - Luke 2:15-20

posted Dec 29, 2014, 8:29 AM by Grant Garber   [ updated Dec 29, 2014, 10:48 AM ]

Picture of the Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
  • No one ever gets to stay at Christmas.
  • The point of holidays or holy days is to help us live more faithfully in the ordinary days, which is mostly what we have.
  • Most of life is not spent in the dark valleys of crises or in the mountaintops of ecstasy.  Most of it is spent in the flat plains of ordinary.
  • When we are just riding out a long blank space in life, we become bored, easily distracted, or tempted to create something extraordinary on our own.  That usually leads to problems.  So we are most in need of divine help when we are handling the ordinary.
  • Real glory isn't the beautiful lights, music, and glad reunions of Christmas.  Real glory is seeing God with you in the ordinary, gray, blank days that follow Christmas.
  • Did your time at the manger help you glorify God as you now return to these routines?  Do you leave Christmas a bit different than you arrived?
  • If God is with us, the ordinary is holy.  So who knows what can happen?  And that is the secret of enjoying God.
Pastor Jim Spon | Luke 2:15-20

December 21, 2014 - Between the Silence and the Word that Enters It (Preparing the Way of the Lord) - Luke 1:57-66

posted Dec 23, 2014, 6:30 AM by Grant Garber

  • The silence of Christmas is quite important to our souls.  It is the time we gather up all of the other silent moments in our lives.
  • This silence forces us to confront ultimate questions like:  “Why am I here?”  “Is there anything I get to keep in life?”  “Does God remember me?”
  • Christmas insists that we bring the familiar silence into these days that lie ahead this week, and we hear the incredible news of a Word from God that enters the silence.  But this Word can’t just be spoken.  It has to become flesh and dwell among us – as it did on a silent night long ago.
Zechariah  =  “God will remember”
John  =  “God has been gracious”
  • We all live somewhere between these two names at Christmas.  We are between our great hopes and their fulfillment, between silence and the Word that enters it.
Zechariah’s hymn:
  • (Verses 68-71)  The first stanza gives praise to God for giving us a Savior.
  • (Verses 72-75)  The second stanza claims this Savior, Jesus, is the fulfillment of promises from long ago. 
  • (Verses 76-77)  The third stanza describes the role of Zechariah’s son John in preparing the way for this Savior, Jesus, who would deliver us all from the enemy within.
  • (Verses 78-79)  The fourth stanza looks for the tender mercy that the Savior will bring to the people.

  • You would think that if a father who has spent his life waiting to have a son was going to break out in song, he would sing about his own kid.  But, no, Zechariah begins to sing about Jesus.  He doesn't get to his own son until the third stanza.  Then he goes back to singing about Jesus again.
  • As adults who were formed by these early expectations, we live our lives trying so hard.  We act as if it were all up to us, and as if the hopes and fears of all the years are met in us.  So is it any wonder that we have so many silent moments that make it painfully clear that we cannot save anyone?  We can’t even save ourselves.
  • In the silence, Zechariah and we are forced to look and wait for a Word from God.
  • Christmas is a big week not because of what you have to do or because of the things you get to do for the people you love.  It is a big week because God enters the silence in Jesus Christ.  God has remembered, and God is gracious.  That is an amazing song of redemption.

Pastor Jim Spon | Luke 1:57-66 - Luke 1:68-79

December 14, 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 23, 2014, 6:23 AM ]

  • 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.

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