Saturday, December 9, 2017

חנוכה

חנוכה
Gtcotr/ss121017

This morning we are going to continue our Christmas series. After reviewing some history to help set the stage we will begin by reading from the Word of God in Luke, chapter 1. Then we’ll conclude with principles that will offer us an opportunity to apply God’s Word to our lives today.

Keep in mind that he Bible does not intend to tell us everything that happened during the time of the patriarchs or in the life of Jesus for that matter. There are intentional gaps in the time line for which history provides added perspective. The most noted gaps are the 400 years between the Old and New Testaments and all that has happened since the close of the Apostolic age and the first-generation Church. As well,  

John 21:25  And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.

·        There are 12 judges listed in the Old Testament book of Judges.
·        However, throughout the Bible and since its canonization, there are many more men and women who were destined, prepared and used by God to deliver His children from persecution through miraculous means and by God’s divine intervention at their hands.
·        God is a God of miracles.
·        Last week we learned:
o   God can do anything – miracles included …
o   God works through people …
o   God’s people can do anything with His help.
·        There are modern day men and women called and destined to be used by God to deliver His message and lead His Children.

Now for a little historical perspective:

In brief and general terms, around 160 years before Christ was born the Jewish nation was under the rule of the Syrian-Greek Seleucid Empire. The Jews were divided between into two main groups. Those living in Jerusalem who had been “Hellenized” and greatly influenced by the Greeks and their watered-down way of life and worship, and those living in the country who followed a more traditional holy way of life and who worshipped according to the Law. The Greek King Antiochus IV hoping to increase revenues, sided with those in Jerusalem and even went a big step further. Antiochus, a mad man, attempted to abolish Judaism by outlawing worship of any god except the Greek gods. He erected a statue of Zeus in the Temple Ezra had built to Jehovah and installed his own high priest.

Jews rebelled and in the end five brothers lead the Maccabean revolt and won a great victory, recapturing the temple mount and taking back control of Jerusalem through their innovative guerrilla warfare tactics. They then performed a ritualistic cleansing of the Temple in efforts to restore true worship to Jehovah. One big problem was discovered however … there was only enough holy consecrated oil found to light the lamp in the Temple for one day … that was just not enough time to resupply this special oil.

They decided to depend on the Lord and go ahead and light the lamp and, miraculously the flame continued to burn for 8 days … enough time for them to resupply the oil. This was a noted miracle among the people.

Everyone in Jerusalem witnessed this miracle and it was vowed that this miracle would be remembered, and a festival would be held each year to commemorate the deliverance of the Children of God from the hand of their oppressors. God had brought salvation and so they named this 8-day festival The Festival of Lights. It has been celebrated each year beginning on the 25th of Kislev and lasting 8 days. It is a time of celebration and food and games and remembrance of the salvation God brought His children and the rededication of His Temple. Jesus would have celebrated this festival growing up in Nazareth with His family.

The Festival of Lights for this year begins on December 12th and ends 8 days later on the 20th. You may also know this festival by its Hebrew name, חנוכה, pronounced Hanukkah. It was most likely during the celebration of this Festival of Lights, around the year 4 to 6BC, that God sent an angel to visit a young girl in the town of Nazareth. Let’s read:

Luke 1 NKJV
26  Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
27  to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
28  And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
29  But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.
30  Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
31  “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.
32  “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.
33  “And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
34  Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
35  And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.
36  “Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.
37  “For with God nothing will be impossible.”
38  Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Conclusion:

1.   Purity of spirit, soul and body is critical to achieving God’s best for our lives.
2.   One moment of favor is worth a thousand days of labor.

3.   Give God’s Word a chance and it will change your life.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Influencing Others


Gtcotr/ws120617

Note: Today at about noon Central Time, 1pm Eastern and 8pm Israeli Time, President Trump signed into action the process of officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the nation of Israel both by proclamation and by moving the Embassy of the United States from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He began the immediate process of hiring contractors and those responsible to begin building the new US Embassy facilities. President Trump articulated the concerns and the realities in a very good way and covered all of the issues with grace and yet with firmness. He called on everyone to seek and pursue peace. I felt the speech was given with sensitivity to the issues at hand and yet acknowledged the reality of situation and the reality that Jerusalem is the established capital of this longstanding democracy. Well done president Trump.

Matthew 16:24  Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

Recently I was asked by the leader of a large organization of Churches to give him one statement that summed up my life’s calling. Specifically, he asked me for my “Life Message” as he put it.

Without hesitation I replied: “Discipleship – Building a tier underneath yourself and raising up runners for the next lap.”

When I say the word discipleship, I am talking about making people more like Christ, not more like me. In order to please God you do not have to become more like me however, in order to be more pleasing and useful to God you will need to be less like you and become more like Jesus. God encourages and accomplishes this change in our lives best through the process of discipleship. The process of discipleship teaches:
·        Deny yourself
·        Take up your cross
·        Follow Jesus

Out of the many pursuits in life, discipleship is the most noble of them all. For the disciple there is an element of laying down one’s life for a greater cause while for those who make disciples it is a giving of one’s life to making others more successful. Both are expressions of the sacrificial love of God.

Taking on the responsibility to raise others who will run farther, last longer and do more is a divine call God has given to each generation and to every one of us. It began with His first 5 Commandments in the Book of Genesis given to Adam and Eve.

Genesis 1 NKJV
27  So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
28  Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
1.   Be Fruitful
2.   Multiply
3.   Fill the Earth
4.   Subdue the Earth
5.   Have Dominion of the works of God’s hands

Genesis 9:1 So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.”

It is the established will of God that we birth, grow and fill the earth with both our natural and with our spiritual children. Jesus said it in such a time and manner that we refer to His last words as the Great Commission given to every Believer in Christ.

Matthew 28 NKJV
18  And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
19  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20  “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

How can we make disciples with both our natural and our spiritual children? First by example and then on purpose by taking the time necessary to invest our time and attention in their lives. Here is the process used by Jesus. Peter and Paul both used this same simple approach.

1.   Allow life to offer the subject matter
2.   Share a principle or truth concerning that matter
3.   Supply a scripture reference to insure the principle reflects Christ and not our own personal opinion
4.   Give a life application opportunity

We are either making others more like us or more like Christ. Our children are watching and our opinions influence others. Let’s take account of what our words, attitudes and actions are affecting the lives of others around us.


Teach your children to build their lives on the Rock …

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Holy Ground

Gtcotr/ss120317

For the next few moments we are going to take a brief survey of the life of one of the most well-known characters in the Bible, a man named Moses. Moses’ life, like most people I believe, can be broken down into three seasons or three phases if you will. For example:
·        His first 40 years he was raised as a prince in the courts of Pharaoh.
·        The second 40 years Moses spent in a wilderness tending sheep and raising a family while living off the land.
·        For his final 40 years Moses lived as the undisputed leader of the nation of Israel after he was used by God to deliver them from bondage and slavery in Egypt. For the Children of Israel, Moses was the voice of God. We begin today at the beginning of his final season.

Exodus 3:1  Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

God found Moses at 80 years old on the backside of a wilderness alone and tending to a few sheep. Moses had been prepared to do God’s will and fulfill his highest calling while being a shepherd in the deserts of Arabia.

So many people are willing to be used by God but are not as willing to spend the years it takes to be prepared for use.

I doubt Moses felt the middle 40 years to be the preparation he needed for the last 40 years of his life … but rather I imagine he felt more like it had been punishment for the first 40 years. Moses did not know he was on his way to meet with God. Moses was not expecting to encounter God or have some spiritual experience on this day. Moses was simply being faithful to what lay before him … his natural, normal duties of life and family. Moses was just busy making a living which was far beneath that of which he was capable. Moses was easily one of the most educated men in the world, yet Moses was tending a few sheep in the wilderness of Midian.

Horeb, where Moses was headed, was not the mountain of God before this incident … only afterwards. Moses wrote this account in retrospect and remembrance that God chose this mountain on which to manifest Himself first to Moses and then to the whole nation of Israel.

Any place where God decides to meet with us becomes Holy Ground.

Exodus 3:2  And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.

The Angel of the LORD …
·        A clear and continuing reference to Jesus the Messiah, the Word and the Son of God.
·        Angel = Messenger
·        LORD = Jehovah, The Existing One – The God Who Is …
·        There is no doubt or scholarly argument that imagines anything different than the fact that this was the Holy One of Israel who made this appearance and spoke with Moses.
·        No mere created angelic being elsewhere claims that he is the Almighty God. In the passage Jehovah Elohim vouches for Himself …

Exodus 3
3  Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.”
4  So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”

LORD = Jehovah     God = Elohim

Not two Gods … Rather two expressions of the One God. There are many facets of this One God who is known as a Savior, Healer, Warrior, Shepherd, Counselor, Father and Friend among other names of His nature.
·        Just like you … You are also a multifaceted being:
o   You may be called by your name; referred to by gender; A Boss; A Parent; Spouse; Sibling; Child; Friend; or Foe …
·        But you are only one person … You’re not more than one person just because you have more than one facet or one existent expression of your life. So also, the LORD our God is One God.
·        These verses clearly indicate that the One speaking is no created or lesser being … this is God!
·        The Angel of the LORD is our Jehovah – Jesus, the Messiah – The Great “I Am”! And so He unmistakably identifies Himself …

Exodus 3
5  Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”
6  Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.

Here we see the proper response to a Holy encounter with God. Moses displayed a Holy reverence and a right response when faced with the reality that the Great I Am has chosen to reveal Himself to man.

God had a message for Moses and ultimately a message for the entire world. It is the same message God had in the beginning and the same message God is speaking to as many of us as will listen to Him today.

Exodus 3
7  And the LORD said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.
8  “So I have come down to deliver them …
10  “Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

It’s a memorable story … but what can we learn from this story?
1.   God prepares us all of our lives to serve Him in our highest calling.
2.   We do not know when, where or how the Lord God will choose to reveal Himself to us.
3.   God’s plan is always the same … “Set My people free so that they may worship Me!”
4.   You may not always feel capable or qualified, but God’s got you covered.

Just as the captain of a ship cannot make the wind to blow yet he can raise the sails, stand the watch and man the helm to catch any offering God does send … so are we when we sit in Church, open our hearts and faithfully wait to know God’s pleasure. When the Spirit calls we will be ready to serve. Are you ready? First, you must be born again and then, you must be prepared to serve … It can begin today, right here, right now!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Fruit of the Spirit Series – Part 9 Self Control


Gtcotr/ws112917

Galatians 5  KJV
22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23  Meekness, self control: against such there is no law.

Seeds of these 9 fruits of the Holy Spirit are resident in the life of every Born-Again Believer in Jesus Christ and they can be cultivated for maximum growth. As with any fruit, the purpose for growing it is so that the fruit may be consumed by the grower or consumed by others. Although not finite, it has been suggested that these fruits can be categorized into three groups depending on their primary purpose, benefit and aim.

Perhaps the first three: Love, Joy and Peace, are primarily grown to be consumed or enjoyed by the grower. Maybe the second three: Longsuffering, Gentleness and Goodness, are best aimed at blessing others around the grower; while often the last tree: Faith; Meekness and Self Control are those fruits which the we offer to God to please Him.

However their multifaceted use and benefit may be seen, all nine of these fruits grow on one tree, or one branch, if you will. In this scenario, Jesus likens Himself to a tree and He calls us the branches. Apart from Him, we can grow nothing but if we abide in Him, He says, we will grow much fruit.

This evening we are going to focus on the Fruit of the Holy Spirit called: Self Control … or … the God given grace available in the life of every Believer to Control Themselves!

Self Control, or temperance, as some Old English versions of the Bible translate it, is a much needed commodity in our lives. Without self control we might fall prey to living a life or facing situations that push us to being out of control. We have all seen what people do when their lives are out of control. Whether it is a person who can’t control their tongue, their spending, their anger, appetites and/or their thoughts and imaginations. It is a terrible thing to be out of control.

The Greek word used by the Apostle Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to describe this particular fruit of Self Control is the Greek word:  egkrateia … It means: The virtues of a person who masters his passions and desires and especially his sensual appetites.

Self Control, according to the original definition is not only a fruit but also considered to be one of the virtues of life. The root word for this Greek word “egkrateia” is the word: egkrates … This root word means to be strong and robust so that one may exercise power over something and control it in order to master, curb or even restrain it if need be.

In this case, Paul is referring to us growing in the grace of God so that we will have the power to curb, control and restrain our fleshly desires and our carnal appetites if the need arises. Self Control is the power to say no to our flesh, our thoughts, our fears and our feelings when they do not represent the best we should offer of ourselves to God.

Self Control … Temperance … Is one of the requirements to be in the leadership of a Church.

Titus 1
7  For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money,
8  but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled …

As well, the Apostle Peter also held the virtues of self control as essential to the growth and maturity of every Believer.

2 Peter 1
5 ¶  But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,
6  to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness,
7  to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
8  For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God has offered each one of His children a great opportunity. This opportunity is for us to grow as much fruit as we choose. God has provided the seeds and placed them deep within the hearts and minds of every Born-Again Believer. If you are saved by the blood of Jesus, the seeds of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, humility and self control are inside you right now. You are the only one who can make them grow.

Once grown these Fruits of the Holy Spirit will serve to satisfy you, bless others and become your daily joy-filled offering to God.

Something is growing on your tree of life … Either you are consuming and serving others from the works of your flesh, (Galatians 5:19-21), or from the fruits of the spirit, (Galatians 5:22-23). Which is it? If it’s not God … you can begin to change that right now.

1.   Repent to God for allowing the works of the flesh to grow in your life.
2.   Renew your mind with God’s Word and take each thought and every imagination captive to obey Christ.
3.   Cultivate the seeds of the Holy Spirit through prayer, Bible reading, fellowship with other Christians and service to God through attendance and involvement in His Church.


It’s time to grow up and be fruitful … best of all you’ll love feeling and acting more like Jesus.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

First Place

Gtcotr/ss112617

Revelation 1 NKJV
4  John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne,
5  and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,
6  and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
7  Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
8  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

There are several “Firsts” in the Bible. God is a God of “Firsts.”
·        Firstborn from the dead – Revelation 1:5
·        First Day – Genesis 1:5
·        First Man – 1 Corinthians 15:45
·        Firstborn – Numbers 3:13
·        First Month – Exodus 12:2
·        First Principles – Hebrews 5:12
·        First Fleece – Deuteronomy 18:4 (As an added bonus for the priests)
·        First Fruits – Deuteronomy 26:2 (Of all the land …)
·        First Partaker – 2 Timothy 2:6
·        First Place – Numbers 10:14 (The Tribe of Judah went first)
·        First Rain – Deuteronomy 11:14 (First & Later Rains)
·        First Covenant – Hebrews 9:1
·        First Tabernacle – Hebrews 9:8
·        First House – Ezra 3:12
·        First Glory – Haggai 2:3 (The glory of the later house will be greater)
·        First Testament – Hebrews 9:15
·        First and Great Commandment – Mark 12:28;29 & 30)
·        First Day of the week – John 20:1
·        First Estate – Jude 1:6
·        First Love – Revelation 2:4
·        First Works – Revelation 2:5
·        First Resurrection – Revelation 20:5
·        First Heaven and First Earth – Revelation 21:1

The Word of God makes direct reference to someone or something as being first over 400 times, 406 in the King James Version to be exact. As I said earlier: “God is a God of firsts”.

Isaiah 44:6  “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.

Jehovah God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is:
1.  The First
Revelation 22:13  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”

2.  The Last
Hebrews 12:2  Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Matthew 24:35  “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

3.  The Only
Acts 4:12  “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

What does this “God of Firsts” desire of me?

Matthew 6:33  “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

What is occupying “First Place” in your life? Is it God?
·        What is your “go to” …
·        If God is not first in our day; first in our week; first in our difficult moments and the first one we thank for each blessing we receive … He may not be first place in our lives.

·        Let us examine ourselves so that we can adjust our priorities as needed to insure God is actually First Place.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The All Volunteer Army of God


Gtcotr/ss111917

Matthew 9  NKJV
35  Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
36  But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.
37  Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.
38  “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

·        Jesus was doing all He could physically do with His time and attention. He was preaching and teaching and healing people …
·        But when He saw the multitudes and knew that He was only One Man, Jesus knew that He could not get to everyone who needed.
·        Jesus needed Help and for that He needed helpers …

The single factor limiting growth and greater success is an unwillingness or inability to reproduce yourself and release others to do what you do. God is willing to invest His time in you so that you can help Him succeed.

Success is always in other people. God’s success is in you!

The greatest investment you will ever make is an investment in others.

Parents, let your children, nay … teach your children and make them cook and clean and wash dishes and take out the trash and mow the yard and as they grow show them the checkbook and the water bill and let them put air in the car tires, change the lightbulbs, or fill the tank with gas, supervised of course, and shop for groceries and handle paying for them.

President Ronald Reagan said, “Leadership is not about what you can do but about what you can get others to do.”

God is calling people to volunteer … His plan is the same plan we see Jesus working at the end of Matthew 9. When you are doing all you can do, find some other people, reproduce yourself in them and put them to work.

When Jesus saw the multitudes … He was moved with compassion because they were in need and there weren’t enough workers to meet those needs.

Jesus said there was no lack of harvest nor harvest opportunities, rather there was a great need for more laborers. This is the prayer Jesus asked us to pray: Lord, send more laborers into Your harvest!

So, what did Jesus do about it? He empowered others … the next verse:

Matthew 10:1  And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.

The Gospel of Luke records that Jesus broadened His appeal for even more volunteers to empower and release to do the work needed.

Luke 10
1  After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.
2  Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.

Allow me to tell you what God is going to do this year … it is the same thing He has been doing every year since the creation of the world and the same thing we see Jesus doing during His earthly life and ministry. God is calling volunteers to help Him do His work. Volunteers are needed everywhere and in every area of the Church, ministry and missions. From Sunday School teachers to greeters, from missionaries to ushers and from musicians to altar workers, God’s army is an all-volunteer army.

Every Believer has a fair share of volunteer ministry they should offer to Christ. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to do what is needed or what you want to do for Jesus … I will insure you are properly trained and placed in a productive field of service.

The only thing limiting God from reaching and rescuing one more soul is the current shortage of laborers. Would you be a volunteer in the Army of God? What will you do so that God can see others reached and discipled for the cause of Christ? Don’t worry … there’s something for everyone … You can do it … I’ll show you how!

This year we are endeavoring to reach Every Heart and Every Home for Jesus. Each one of the departments and ministries of our Church will host or sponsor a community outreach of some kind in 2018. We know the harvest is waiting for us and all we need is more laborers we can send into the ripened fields all around us.

Prepare yourself and be ready to volunteer and serve in the Army of God during this coming year. From Christmas Fest to VBS and from Pre-Teen outreach to our elderly care, there is a best place for you to serve.


We believe 2018 will be A Volunteer Year. That’s what it will take to reach Every Heart and Every Home for Jesus! Let’s do it together!