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Tag: strength

The Joy of the Lord

We’re going to pick up our story today in Genesis chapter 21 – hopping over chapters 19 & 20 – but I would certainly encourage you to go back and read those chapters sometime this week – that will help you fill in the blanks of the story yourself.

Now while you’re turning to Genesis 21 in your Bibles, let me give you just a really quick summary of the story so far.

As I’ve pointed out before, the key issue in the whole story of Abraham is the issue of descendants. Namely that Abraham had none. One of the first bits of information that we read about Abraham was that his wife Sarah, had been unable to become pregnant. And of course, this is a big deal for any family, but it was particularly an issue for Abraham’s family because God had specifically promised to Abraham that his descendants would grow to become a great nation and they would inherit the land of Canaan or as we often call it “the Promised Land”. God was going to bless all of Abraham’s descendants and they in turn would be a blessing to every family on the earth.

However, through most of our story, Abraham has been childless. Several times God has appeared and reaffirmed his promise to Abraham – but by the time Abraham was 85, he still had no child on the horizon. So Abraham and Sarah decided to be proactive and help God out a little bit. They decided that Abraham should have a child with Sarah’s servant, Hagar. This was culturally acceptable – but was certainly not what God had in mind. The problems and the discord that this caused in the family became evident almost immediately. As soon as Hagar was pregnant, Hagar treated Sarah with contempt and Sarah treated Hagar so harshly that she ran away even before the child was born. Thankfully, God intervened and Hagar returned to Sarah and Abraham – and in due time, Hagar had her baby – little Ishmael.

Well, for many years, Abraham raised Ishmael as his dearly loved, one and only son – the son that he presumed was God’s promised child. But when Ishmael was 13 years old God appeared to Abraham and again reaffirmed his promise that Abraham would have a son – and that son would be born from Sarah – even though she was now 90 years old. God further clarified that Sarah’s son, Isaac, would be the one whom God would bless and would cause his descendants to grow to be a great nation – they would inherit the promised land, and they would be a blessing to every family on earth.

Of course, this was exactly what God had promised 24 years earlier – God’s plans had not changed even though Abraham and Sarah had not been careful to follow his plan. Despite their lack of faith, God remained faithful and today, we finally get to the part of the story where God finally does exactly what he said he would do for Abraham & Sarah. So in Genesis chapter 21, verse 1 we read:

The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. 2 She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. Genesis 1:1-2

I love how this chapter starts: The Lord kept his word. He did exactly what he had promised. Despite the impossibility of it all – (considering that Abraham and Sarah were well past the age of having children – Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90) – despite the impossibility of them having children, God kept his Word.

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The Unexpected Source of Joy

We’ve been preaching through the season of Advent – remembering the first (and looking forward to the second) coming of Jesus. These Advent candles remind us of the many gifts we have (and the gifts we look forward to) because of Jesus’ coming.  We started two weeks ago with God’s gift of hope – last week was a reminder of the gift of peace – and this week, of course, we want to look at God’s gift of joy.

This gift of joy is made possible only because of Jesus’ arrival into the world as a little baby. We read at our Christmas Celebration on Friday in Luke chapter 2 of how, on the night of Jesus’ birth, angels appeared to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem and announced to them this good news that would bring great joy to all people. Let me read for you in Luke 2 – starting at verse 8.

8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12

This little baby boy, born in the Bethlehem some 2000 years ago would be the source of joy to the world – even for us here in Penhold in 2017.

And I know this probably isn’t necessarily ‘new’ news for you this morning. Chances are, you many of you have heard this good news before. Especially if you’ve been here for the past two weeks.

One of the concerns that I had when we decided to do these Advent messages was that hope, peace, and joy are so intertwined with each other that I feared I’d be preaching the same message every week – just using a different word.

  • I could talk about how Jesus gives us hope because our sins are forgiven and he has promised to return and make all things right.
  • I could talk about how Jesus gives us peace because our sins are forgiven and He has promised to return and make all things right.
  • And I could talk about how Jesus gives us joy because our sins are forgiven and He has promised to return and make all things right.

And of course, that would all be very true! Christmas really is a ‘buy one, get two free’ kind of a deal. Hope, peace, and joy are all part of the same package. They are all made possible by Jesus coming to earth, being born as a baby in a manger – living and then dying on the cross and being raised back to life again.

But even though they are all so closely related, I do want to talk a little bit today specifically about joy. As I was studying up on the topic of joy this week – I found that even defining ‘joy’ could be a little tricky. There was no one clear definition of joy.

  • Some would say that joy is another word for happiness. Others would say that joy is certainly not the same thing as happiness.
  • Some would say that joy is a feeling or an emotion. Others would say, no. No it’s not.
  • Some would say we can choose to be joyful – that is it an act of our will – but others see joyfulness a natural by-product of something else.

There are lots of different ways to define joy – I think there can be good arguments made for all of those different ways.

So how do we understand joy? What exactly did the angels mean when they said that this good news would bring great joy to all people? How does this good news help you and I experience joy today?

Regardless of how we define it, joy sure sounds like a good thing – so how do we get it? I guess that’s really our bottom line – how do we experience joy in our lives today?

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Iron Sharpens Iron

Well, last week we wrapped up our series talking about the unlikely heroes in the book of Judges, so normally I would start a new series today. However, we’re just about into the summer months and most of us, including myself, will likely miss several Sundays as we take vacations, spend time at Bible camp, or whatever else we find ourselves doing this summer. So I didn’t really want to kick off a whole new series at this point.

But it is Father’s Day – and so I thought it might be good to do a message that was really geared for the men. Now that’s not to say that it won’t apply to you ladies – I think there’s lessons here for all of us today – but I really want to try to connect with the guys this morning. And so to that end, today’s message will be shorter than usual, it will include power tools, and it will end with food.

I think most guys would be agreeable to all that – so we here we go! Let’s jump right into it.

The main verse that I want to focus on today is Proverbs 27:17

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:17

Now of course, when I was a kid, I memorized this verse in the 1984 edition of the NIV – and back then, the translators weren’t so concerned about being gender neutral – and so that edition put it like this…

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 (NIV 1984 Edition)

So while, obviously this verse can apply to anyone – both men and women, today I want to focus on applying this verse to us men. Because I think this is really a missing ingredient in our Canadian culture today. We really don’t have that element of men sharpening men.

But I guess, before we get too far along, I should probably define this whole concept of sharpening one another and why its so important.

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Samson Finally Finding Faith

Today we’re going to wrap up our series on the Unlikely Heroes in the book of Judges. And it’s certainly been an interesting journey. We’ve looked at Ehud, Deborah, Barak, Jael, Gideon, and for the past several weeks now, we’ve been looking at Samson.

And of all the unlikely heroes that we’ve looked at, I think Samson started with the most potential – and has so far proven to be the most disappointing. Instead of being the leader that he could have been, Samson has shown himself to be selfish and arrogant. And as a result, he’s destroyed his marriage, his foolishness has cost the life of his wife and her family, and his own countrymen (the ones that he was suppose to rescue) don’t want to have anything to do with him.

And yet, despite Samson’s flawed character, God has still used him to begin to rescue the Israelites from the Philistines – just has He promised even before Samson was born. And while Samson certainly hasn’t pushed the Philistines out of Israelite territory, he has dealt them some serious blows. To this point in our story, he has severely crippled their economy by burning down all their crops, their vineyards, and their olive groves. As well, he has personally wiped out huge groups of Philistine soldiers.

So Samson is certainly public enemy #1 for the Philistines – but they can’t touch him. He’s got this incredible God-given strength and after their last attempt to capture Samson (which ended with Samson killing 1000 of them) no one dares to attack him. And so that kinda sets the stage for our final chapter today.

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A Taste of Joy

Last week I began with a question – and the question was “Does it matter what you believe?” And the answer we came up with was “Absolutely. Yes it does matter what you believe because what you believe determines the choices you make, and the choices you make set the course of your life.”

If we have incorrect beliefs, then we’re going to make incorrect choices, and thus the course of our life will end up going in directions that we don’t want to go.

For example, if you believe that bears are cute and cuddly, the next time you’re out camping and you meet a bear in the forrest, your incorrect beliefs may lead you to make poor choices, and the results may not be what you were hoping for.

So yes, it really does matter what you believe – and this isn’t just limited to your belief about bears. As we saw last week, what you believe about God is even more important because what you believe about God will impact nearly every decision you make in life.

The trouble is, the world around us does not offer us much truth to believe about God. Our universities, our newspapers, facebook, tv, movies – western culture in general has very little truth about God to offer us. And so most people live their life with a lot of incorrect beliefs about God.

Perhaps they believe that God is judgemental and angry – or maybe that he’s aloof and distant. Or perhaps they believe that God doesn’t exist at all.

Last week we talked about one recent movie where the actor for God was a “Hank the angry, drunken dwarf.” That’s who played God in this particular movie. So if we or the people around us take our cues from hollywood – we’re going to have some messed up ideas of who God is and what He’s like.

And that’s exactly the reason why so many people today reject God. It’s actually not God they are rejecting, it’s their false idea of who God is that they are rejecting.

If my picture of God was painted by Hank the angry drunken dwarf, I think I’d reject that God too!

So our conclusion last week was that the key then is for us to know the truth about God and to convey that truth to the people around us.

We looked at Psalm 34:8 which says…

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

    Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Psalm 34:8

Over the past several months as I’ve been thinking about our church and our community and what kind of purpose God has for us here, this verse has just been coming back to me time and time again. Our friends and neighbours around us have been fed a lot of distasteful, incorrect information about God. More and more every day I am convinced that it is our mission to help them taste and see that the Lord is indeed good.

Not only do we need to taste and see for ourselves the truth about the goodness of God – but we want the people around us to do the same as they interact with us. We want to be living examples of God’s goodness.

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