“Life’s Greatest Gamble” - Sermon 2/4/7

February 4th, 2007

 

The congregation is currently in an expository study of the Book of Colossians. Last time we gathered (part 2 - soon to be published), we discussed “powers and principalities.” We discussed the biblical view (and HHCC’s) of the doctrine of angels, demons, and Satan. I nicknamed the message “The Twilight Zone.” I’m hoping to have both messages (inlcuding today’s) uploaded by mid-week.

Today, we welcomed a new visitor to the church. I had planned on preaching Part 3 of the Colossian series dealing with the questions 1) What and who is the “church”; and 2) Once saved, always saved?, but I believe the Holy Spirit obviously had other plans. Literally hours before, the message was switched to the title above.

I ran down to the corner store at 8:45 a.m. to buy a Lotto ticket a half an hour before this morning’s service. Irene couldn’t believe what I was going to do, but agreed. I told the man why I was buying the ticket, and he and the gentleman behind me looked at me like I was from Mars.

When service began, I pulled out my wallet and my Lotto ticket. I explained to the congregation last month (Jan.) was the worst month financially for the ministry (SBM) and financially difficult on our family. Lotto ticket in hand, I told the congregation I bought it this morning before church. Everyone in the chapel gasped.

I said, “Well, since the Lord didn’t provide for us last month, I guess I’m going to take things into my own hands.”

Another gasp even louder. People’s faces had the most confused look and I’m sure many thought I was going off the deep end (time to find another church??)

I then asked, “Who else here is going through any financial hardships at this time?”

Several people raised their hands. I then said,” Well, the Lord wants us to always put other people FIRST, right? So, in the spirit of Christian love, who wants this Lotto ticket — absolutely free — with a potential of winning $3,000.00? It’s yours - just raise your hand!”

Confused even more, I ended, “There’s only one small catch: by accepting this Lotto ticket you will publicly be denying Jehovah Jireh by doing so, whether you win or lose — but hey, it could be $3,000.00!”

People caught on very quickly. You’ll have to listen to the message for what happened next!

Today, HHCC also celebrated our first Lord’s Supper and Blake was all dressed up and excited to pass out the elements. Chloe collected the communion cups when we finished.

The object lesson was a great lead in to today’s sermon about salvation and trust. I pray you are blessed by it (check back mid-week.)

In Christ,

Pastor Steve

Sunday, Jan. 7, 2006 - A Study in Colossians - Pt 1

January 7th, 2007

*UPDATE 01/08/07: To stream this week’s sermon (Windows Media Audio format) CLICK HERE * 

Today, HHCC began our expository study in the book of Colossians.

As of today, I have a new format here on the Pastor’s blog, which will reduce a lot of my time online, and open me up more for regular ministry. I will no longer transribe my sermons myself, which takes a huge amount of time. Any volunteers affiliated with HHCC or SBM who are willing to do such, please contact me. The audio link to each week’s sermon will now be posted here within two days. It will remain on the public blog until the next audio sermon is uploaded. All audio sermons will still be archived in the Members Area in an .mp3 format for members to stream, dowload or burn to CD.

I will probably jot some talking points to the sermon here a little later. I really learned a lot this week in my studies and devotions about the background of Paul’s letter to the “home” church at Colosse - amazing stuff. It’s all in the audio. We’ll probably spend some time within this book - a lot of doctrine is covered here.

Check back later on this post for the notes - can’t promise when they’ll be posted.

I pray you all have a blessed week! Pastor Steve

Wednesday Evening Prayer

January 3rd, 2007
Tonight’s mid-week prayer service was not only one of the most powerful by far, but moving and very encouraging. The worship was uplifting and even I was overwhelmed with the Holy Spirit’s presence, peace and joy. Several were moved by tears at God’s answer to our prayers!      

HHCC is grateful for the freedom we have in Jesus Christ our Lord! We are staring the New Year off right - honoring the Lord in everything we do.

People shared from their hearts their burdens — and their praise reports and answers to prayer. Our God is a great and mighty God!

We are asking fellow Christians, united one in Spirit, to join us in praying for the following requests:

Salvation: Tina, Joyce, Art, Lori, Melissa, Chris, our families and friends.

Health: Marilyn and Donna - complete healing from breast cancer; J’s foot; Mr. M’s cough; C’s back; Danny - prostate cancer; Harry - congestive heart failure - both complete healing; G - regain strength in her hands; T & S - emotional/mental issues - complete restoration of the mind; L’s daughter-in-law - pregnant, healthy pregnancy & safe delivery; A’s throat surgery (nodule) to be scheduled ASAP with no complications; Lucy - for blood pressure to return to normal; LH - cholesterol to drop; S - chronic back pain.

Praises!: SBM’s financial needs were met for December!! Thank you Lord! (continued stable, monthly provision for SBM, direction in the newly revised Parent’s Group and wisdom from the Lord); CH - sober 7-8 months! (praise God!); the B’s new health insurance coverage; the sweet fellowship/oneness at HHCC!

Other: L - safety in Texas; A - G’s kid’s to stop causing stress; S - wisdom, direction, peace, personal issues; S & I - books; Complete peace, health, safety and direction serving Christ as a unified body of believers; BB’s first basketball game this Saturday; monthly support to be met for SBM.

Happy birthday Linda!! We’ll have a cake on Sunday for you after service during our fellowship time.

We thank God for the children of HHCC and Miss Irene!

We thank God for Christians worldwide, daily living their faith: not by word only, but by action and deed; Always serving Christ by serving and putting others first, no matter the circumstances. “Knowledge puffeth up…” The Lord has really been revealing to us as a congregation that there are many who “talk the talk,” yet don’t “walk the walk.” Actions speak a lot louder thans words. This is discouraging to see and we have committed to pray for these individuals. Christians need to be ALL that the Lord has called us to be — and this is our prayer here at HHCC.

We all are excited about this coming Sunday - the Lord’s Day - and the beginning of HHCC’s expository study in the book of Colossians. All are excited about the new freedom and format we will be celebrating, as well as noticeable changes here on the blog and website. We seek to honor and please the Lord - not men. God is not a respecter of persons — and neither are we.

I thank the Lord so much for such a wonderful, loving congregation who prays for me, my wife and our family and the church - and their primary desire IS to exalt the name of Jesus Christ more than anything!

So excited for Sunday — Lord willing, we’ll see you then!

Much love in our precious and gracious Savior and God who gave His life for wretched sinners — now redeemed and covered by the Blood — sinners like you and me,

Pastor Steve

Sunday, December 31, 2006 - New Year’s Eve Service

December 31st, 2006

Today’s service was a solemn prayer service for the New Year. I did not preach today. The chairs were all re-arranged to form a large circle.

Beginning with the children, each prayed for their requests for the coming New Year. When the children were finished, they left The Chapel and the adults prayed for almost an hour.

A time of food and fellowship followed after.

Wishing you and yours a blessed, healthy, happy and prosperous 2007!

Much love in Christ ~ Pastor Steve

“The King is Born” - The Christmas Story, Part 3 of 3, Christmas Eve ~ Sunday, December 24, 2006

December 24th, 2006

Well good morning and God bless you everyone – Merry Christmas! It’s Christmas Eve Day! Who’s excited?

Well, today and tomorrow are both big days where people all over the world are going to celebrate the “Christmas” holiday – the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Different people and cultures have many diverse traditions in how each celebrates Christmas.

Our family, for example, celebrates the big day on Christmas Eve. Now, it wasn’t like that for me growing up. Christmas was about Santa Claus and presents and Christmas cartoons and Christmas music. I grew up in a non-Christian home and Christ was never the focus of any of my childhood Christmases. Thank God our children today know what Christmas is really all about: the greatest story ever told – the birth of Savior, Jesus Christ.

Today concludes Heavenly Hope’s three part series – “The Christmas Story”, with today’s sermon titled, “The King is Born.”

Throughout the entire Old Testament, the Jewish and the nation of Israel – were promised by God – a deliverer, a Messiah, a Savior who was to come. The Old Testament is filled with historical prophesy that came to pass regarding the Savior of the World – Jesus Christ. Actually, here’s a biblical factoid: almost one third of all Old Testament prophecies regarding the Savior, had to do with Jesus’ birth – what we celebrate as Christmas!

In the first book of the Old Testament, the book of Genesis, we are told the Messiah first of all was going to come, that he would be a male and born of a woman.

The prophet Isaiah says something incredible in chapter 7 verse 14: the Messiah would not only be born of a woman, but something even more miraculous – she would be a virgin. There would be no human biological father. Micah chapter 5 verse 2 tells us specifically the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Then Isaiah chapter 9 verse 6 says something amazing about this Messiah: he was going to be a man, but he was also going to be God Himself at the same time! And this baby also would be carried into Egypt, (Matthew 2:13-15.)

This is just the tip of the iceberg with biblical prophecy. Next year Lord willing, we’ll get into some real deep studies of Bible prophecy, and that’s actually the whole reason I became a Christian. When you see what the Old Testament prophets said would come to pass, and then see exactly how it did, when they said it would, there’s no question there is a God. Especially, when God says there’s literally a heaven and a hell – and one day, we are all going to one of those two places and it depends on our decision today – NOW – it really makes you think.

Anyway, today we are going to hear one of the most beautiful stories ever of a baby that was born over 2000 years ago – a little baby whose name was Jesus.

Open your Bibles please to Matthew, Chapter 1, verse 18 – Matthew chapter 1, verse 18. When you found your spot, just look up here so I know everyone is there. If you need a Bible, grab one over from the Bible book rack to my right.

Now last week, we ended with these few verses, so let’s read them again so we can move on. Matthew 1:18:

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.
20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

Alright. That’s where we ended last week and now we’re going to continue on in Chapter 2, verse 1:
1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

First, Bethlehem is about 5 miles south of Jerusalem. Herod of course was the wicked king who reigned from 37 to 4 BC, Herod was the one who built the temple in Jerusalem that Christ knew. Now the wise men, were known as the Magi. These were experts who studied the stars. Tradition says that there were three and they were kings, but that’s not fact.

2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

That verse always struck me: when Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. For hundreds of years the prophesied Messiah had come – the signs were here. People of old looked for that day, but those who were living didn’t want the Messiah to come – they were troubled. Kind of sounds like today’s world, doesn’t it? The signs are all here. Jesus can come back any minute – in the twinkling of an eye – but men are lovers of self, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God. It’s exactly the same today – nothing has changed.

4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

Herod was shaking in his boots and he was going to kill this so called Messiah King. No one was going to take over Herod the Great’s rule!

5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,

(referring to Micah 5:2)

6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

Herod was jealous and burning, fuming with anger.

7 Then Herod, when he had privily (meaning privately or secretly) called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also

. Liar – wicked liar. He wanted the baby Jesus dead – and that was his plan all along.

9 When they had heard the king they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

Can you imagine this miraculous, supernatural star? It actually led these men right to the house where the Christ child was!

10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Now, this is where tradition sets in and not necessarily the Bible. Joseph and Mary were in a house now – no longer a manger. We always see this beautiful picture of Joseph, Mary, the baby Jesus, animals and the three kings – the wise men with gifts. Now some think there were only three because of the three gifts that were mentioned, gold frankincense and myrrh. What’s also amazing is these three gifts presented represent three specific things: gold: symbolic of Christ’s deity or kingship, frankincense of His purity and the myrrh of His death. Myrrh was used for embalming – symbolizing this babe was born ultimately for one purpose – to die on the cross of Calvary for your sins and mine. So again, the wise men in al likelihood never made it to the manger, but to the home of Joseph and Mary some time after the baby’s birth. It always amazes me what we believe. A side note here – anyone ever see the Ten Commandments? Remember Moses’ wife, the beautiful white woman who played her? Moses was married to a black woman! That was a bit too racy for Mr. Cecil B. Demille back then. They had to wait for Tracy and Hepburn’s Guess Who’s coming to Dinner to introduce inter-racial couples. So, like the magi who were not at the manger, Moses wife was an Ethiopian woman, not a beautiful white woman according to Numbers 12:1 – isn’t that amazing? Anyway, back to our story. The wise men – the magi…

12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.

Wicked King Herod was ticked off and tragically, a brutal mass murder of little boys was about to take place.

14 When he arose he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth (meaning very angry), and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.
17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,
18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life.
21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:

History records that King Archelaus, one of Herod’s sons, was worse than Herod and more bloodier.
 
23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

Now, that’s the Gospel account according to Matthew. The one that is the most famous though, if you will, is the Christmas Story in the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 2 – so why don’t you turn there please. That’s Luke chapter 2, verse 1:

1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (Caesar Augustus reigned from 27 BC to AD 14.)
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

Again, we talked earlier about this being a fulfillment of prophesy of the Messiah in Micah 5:2.

5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

So here, Mary is found with a big belly, ready to have Jesus. Matthew’s account really didn’t go much into the Christmas story that we all know. Luke does.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

In Luke, it says Jesus was laid in a feeding trough for animals in a stall or stable. Now listen to this: tradition says that Jesus was born in a CAVE, in which case the manger may have been cut out of a rock wall. Another tidbit of info: The real birth date of Christ is unknown: December 25th was mentioned first in the 4th century – that’s several hundred years AFTER Jesus Christ died.
 
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

This verse right here is the key verse for the duality of Christ as God and man: the angel pronounced Christ as Saviour, Christ which means anointed One, and Lord, meaning Yaweh – or God.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

Now remember we said the wise men or magi didn’t make it to the manger according to the Bible, but the shepherds… they did. And the angel of the Lord told them how they would find Him… wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
 
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

Listen to what the shepherds just said: Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us The Lord let the shepherds know the Lord was born – the Word – God the Son Himself – stepped down from heaven’s glory and became flesh. Jesus, the babe, was fully 100% God and fully 100% man – remember the key verse – write this one down – for Jesus Christ being fully God and fully man is Luke 2:11. Amazing!

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

The shepherds made it to the place where the angel said the babe was and found him exactly as said – wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
Remember, Gabriel told Mary what to name the babe in Luke 1:31, as well as in Matthew 1:21 it was told to Joseph – His name shall be called Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins and Matthew 1:23 – Emmanuel, which being interpreted is God with us! The Bible goes on to say:

22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;
23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)
24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

We talked about that last week: Joseph and Mary offered a sacrifice for their sins – so Mary, like the rest of us, was a sinner the Bible says. And the next part of the Christmas story is beautiful:

25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

The consolation of Israel Simeon was waiting for arrived: the promised Messiah of the Jews and the Saviour of the world – Jesus Christ!

26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,
28 Then took he him up in his arms (Simeon was holding the baby Jesus), and blessed God, and said,
29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; (Jew and Gentile alike my friends!)
32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.

Notice here Luke doesn’t refer to Joseph as Jesus’ father! He says, “And Joseph and his MOTHER marveled” – remember – God the Father was Jesus’ father!
 
34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;
35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, (referring to the agony Mary, Jesus’ mother would have to bear..) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;
37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

For Bible says our days are numbered – God knows the beginning to the end – He even knows the numbers of hairs (or lack of for some) on their head. It was the same with His son, the little baby born – the night we celebrate as Christmas Eve.

This baby was born for one purpose and one only – He was born to die – die a horrible death on the cross – God’s sacrificial Lamb – to pay the penalty for our sins so one day, we would have the chance to go to heaven.

Jesus was born in a lowly manger, because “there was no room for them at the inn.” In the sinful world in which we live today, people say, “I don’t want hear about your God and your religion. I have my own beliefs.” Nothing has changed for over 2,000 years. There’s no room for Jesus in their hearts or their busy lives.

The Bible says He came to His own and his own received him not. Now over the last several days, I’ve been reading my kids Dr. Seuss books and figured I write a little something in the style of Dr. Seuss that they would be able to understand. Listen good now kids…
 
Jesus was hated, despised and rejected of men,
When you think about it, not a single thing has changed since then.
The God of all creation who breathed our first breath of life into all of us,
His son, the babe in the manger, they killed and hung on a wooden cross.
Yet that little baby born and held in Mary’s arms,
Changed history forever and caused Satan the greatest harm;
Jesus came to set the captives free,
When He defeated Satan and death as He died on the tree.
Today, people laugh, they mock, they curse and they joke
About the only One who could save them and give them eternal hope;
But their eyes are blind and they cannot hear
The real meaning of Christmas that we celebrate this year.
But those of us who can and know it the best, continue to tell it still to all of the rest
In hopes that one broken soul will have the courage to know,
That Christmas isn’t about Santa, or presents or snow.
It’s about a man named Jesus who had one purpose in mind
And this is the purpose we pray the world will find
That life eternal begins at the manger for those who are lost
And is finally understood when one lays their burdens and sins at the foot of His cross.
The King of kings was born to ultimately die,
Because he loved us so much – everyone – including you and I.
So that my friends is the Christmas Story - how a virgin miraculously conceived,
God’s gift of love to the world, in hopes that all would believe.
In that baby named Jesus, who is the life, the truth and the way,
That we would all be born again, made new and repent of our sins –
That is what it’s all about – the true meaning of Christmas Day.

Let’s stand, make a circle and join in prayer…

“Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” - The Christmas Story, Part 2 of 3 - Sermon 12/17/06

December 17th, 2006

Well good morning and God bless you everyone. Welcome to Heavenly Hope! I’d also like to welcome Heavenly Hope’s “Church Home Away from Home” Members at this time, as well as those listening by internet, CD, or watching by cable or DVD. Church, let’s give all of our Heavenly Hope family and friends a warm welcome!

Last Sunday, I began preaching a three part series on “The Christmas Story”, which will conclude next Sunday morning on Christmas Eve day with the birth of the baby Jesus and how his birth changed history forever. I love using the word history, referring to the definition of the word as “His story!”

Remember to invite your family members and friends to Heavenly Hope’s Christmas Eve service, which will be at the regular time, Sunday morning, 10:00 am – or come a little early at 9:30 am if you want to join us for coffee and goodies before. If you’re able to, please bring a little food goodie we can add to our “goody stash” for a little celebration after service. Well, actually, it seems we have a little celebration with coffee and goodies after every service anyway, so – I guess it’s nothing new. There’ll be a lot of singing next week, including the children giving us a little “Christmas Concert” and I’m looking forward to it.

Last week, I asked Irene and her Sunday school class of children to remain with us here in the chapel for this series of sermons on the Christmas story. Children love to hear stories, and so do Christians when it comes to the birth of our Savior. So again the children will remain with us today. My vocabulary will be tailored more toward the kids for most of the time, yet, I will be speaking specifically to the adults as well.

The title of this week’s message is “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord – The Christmas Story, Part 2 of 3”

Last week’s message was titled “Elisabeth and Mary” and I’m briefly going to recap or go over what we learned last week. You can also go online to www.HeavenlyHopeCC.org to read the entire message or listen to it.

We talked about how God sent his messenger, the angel Gabriel (whose name means “Man of God”), to two different people: a old man named Zacharias and young girl named Mary. We learned Gabriel’s job and ministry as an angel was to make special announcements for God, to people concerning His’s plans (see Daniel 8:16 and 9:21).

We started off talking about Zacharias, who was a priest of the tribe of Levi. God had divided all the people of Israel into twelve different tribes or families and named them all. For you kids, it’s like 12 different basketball teams, but they were all on the same side!

The Levite tribe was the only one of the twelve tribes of Israel – the only tribe mandated or allowed by God – to minister by serving Him in the God’s temple. Do you understand that? So, since Zacharias was of the tribe of Levi, he served God as a priest by ministering in the Temple.

Well, Zacharias was married to his wife Elisabeth and both were elderly – they were old. The Bible tells us in the Book of Luke, chapter one, that they were both righteous before God (meaning they tried to obey all of God’s commandments and laws) in a godless society. In other words, many of the people of that day were bad and didn’t obey God and His laws (if they only saw today’s world!)

Zacharias and his wife Elisabeth were childless, meaning they had no children and they were very sad. Can you imagine if your mommy and daddy wanted a baby so much and they never had you? Do you know how sad that would make them? I know how sad I would be if Miss Irene never had Chloe and Blake – they’re my Closie-osie-poopa-dosie and my little Doobie! I would be so sad if they were not our children. Well, that what it was like for Zacharias and Elisabeth. They had no children and were very sad.

In Bible times, a woman who was married and didn’t have any children was often looked down upon by other people. The people thought that maybe the husband or wife was being punished by God by not being able to have a baby, maybe because one of them did something wrong or sinned before God. Well, the Bible tells us that wasn’t the case with these two people – they served and loved God with all of their heart, mind and soul. Elisabeth was an old woman now and because her body was old, it was very unlikely naturally that she could have children. When our bodies get old, some things stop working and for women, when they reach a certain age, they aren’t able to have babies any more. This was probably the case with Elisabeth.

All of a sudden, Gabriel the angel appeared before Zacharias who was in God’s temple and Zacharias was afraid. The angel told him that “his prayer” was heard and wife Elisabeth was going to have a baby, even as old as she was! The angel Gabriel also said that they were to name him John when he was born – and he was going to be John the Baptist! Zacharias, beside being afraid, didn’t really believe the angel and said, “How do I know these things are true that you’re telling me?”

Well, the angel and God weren’t so happy with Zacharias’ unbelief and response, so Zacharias became “dumb” the Bible says. That meant Zacharias couldn’t speak or talk! Then the angel said, “When your wife Elisabeth has the baby, then you’ll be able to speak again – but not a minute before!” (paraphrased.)

Now all of the people outside of the temple where Zacharias was, were wondering what was taking him so long! They were afraid that something happened to him – maybe they even thought that he died! Then, when Zacharias came out of the temple and the people saw he couldn’t talk at all, then they knew Zacharias saw something incredible.

When Zacharias was finished with all of his priest’s duties in the temple, the Bible says he went home to his wife Elisabeth and guess what happened? Elisabeth became pregnant with a baby – even as old as she was! Elisabeth was so happy and said, “Now the people and my neighbors can’t say mean things about me anymore because God is giving me a baby!” (paraphrased.)

Now remember, Zacharias still couldn’t what???  Talk – that’s right! Now it normally takes a mommy nine months to have a baby, so Elisabeth’s husband couldn’t talk to her – or anyone — for nine months! Remember we learned that last week?

OK. That’s where we left Zacharias and Elisabeth – she was pregnant and he couldn’t speak.

We also talked about another person and does anybody remember what her name was? Very good – Mary! Several months after the angel Gabriel visited Zacharias in the temple, Gabriel was sent by God to tell Mary that she was going to have a baby, too!

The angel told Mary she was blessed of all women, was very special in God’s eyes and was chosen by Him to be the mother of His Son: Jesus, or Emmanuel, meaning “God with us.” Mary was a little scared at first when Gabriel appeared to her, but then she was overflowing with joy and excitement at the news! Mary knew that her baby was going to be special because what the angel Gabriel said to her. Open your Bibles to Luke chapter 1, verse 30, or you can look at the screen to my left.

Luke 1:30-38
30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

(Mary wasn’t married to Joseph yet.)

35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Now that’s where we left off last week. Now we’re going to talk about what happened next in our journey of the Christmas Story.

Mary, we know, was a young virgin girl, probably a young teenager, who was espoused or engaged to be married to her future husband, a carpenter named Joseph. Now last week, we didn’t talk about Joseph at all – but today, we are going to.

The historical and biblical account that I love about Joseph and one that gives us great detail is found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter one. So, please turn there if you will and hold your finger on verse 20. That’s Matthew, chapter one verse 20.

Now, we know Joseph and Mary were engaged to be married. In biblical times and according to Jewish custom, when a man and woman were engaged to be married, it was usually a one year engagement or waiting period. It was no doubt a very sacred and special time in the life of a couple. It was so sacred or holy in fact, that even though Joseph and Mary weren’t even married yet, people would still refer to engaged couples like Joseph and Mary as husband and wife!

Now, in Matthew chapter 1 verse 18, Joseph finds out that Mary is pregnant with a baby. Joseph was shocked and couldn’t believe that and he was so hurt because he thought that maybe Mary had another husband – otherwise, how could she have a baby? They weren’t even married yet!

Joseph was so sad and hurt and he loved Mary so much, he didn’t want to embarrass Mary by telling everybody that Mary was pregnant and he wasn’t the daddy. So, Joseph decided he was going to leave Mary – he wasn’t going to marry her. Joseph was very heartbroken. How could this happen? How could Mary do such a horrible thing to him? That wasn’t Joseph’s baby and if it wasn’t his, whose baby was it?

In verse 20, the Bible says while he was thinking about all of this, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,

Matthew 1:20-24
20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:

The Bible says the angel told Joseph that this was God’s son and child and that God was the father and the child was God – Emmanuel. The Bible also says while Joseph would be Jesus’ legal father according to the law, Joseph was not Jesus’ birth father – God was. And after Joseph woke up, he did exactly what the angel said: he didn’t leave Mary at all like he planned to do, but rather, Joseph obeyed God – and God loves when we obey Him, just as your daddy and mommy loves when you obey them – right? OK!

Now Joseph knew for sure that Mary didn’t have another husband, but that the baby was God’s Holy Son. And Joseph loved Mary so much and still planned on marrying her, and he would be like a father to Jesus, here on earth.

Let’s go back to Mary now. Remember the angel Gabriel told Mary that her old, old, old cousin Elisabeth was pregnant with a baby now for six months? That meant in three months, Elisabeth was going to have a little baby boy! Well as soon as the angel Gabriel left telling Mary that she was going to have a baby, Mary was so excited that she and her cousin were going to have baby boys, she hurried up and ran through the hill country (Luke 1:39) to her cousin Elisabeth’s house.

Mary and Elisabeth were both cousins and two of the most important babies were going to be born: Jesus the Messiah and John the Baptist.

Turn to Luke, chapter one, verse 39. Remember, the angel Gabriel just finished speaking to Mary and he disappeared. Let me read what God’s Word says:

Luke 1:39-43
39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;
40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.
41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

Now this is extremely important what I’m going to say – especially for the adults to understand. Listen to verse 43 once again:

43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

Elisabeth, Mary’s cousin, refers to Mary as “the mother of my Lord” which translated literally means “the mother of my Messiah.” No where anywhere in scripture will you ever find Mary being referred to as the “Mother of God.” There are some religions which teach that and that is wrong! Mary is NOT the mother of God. God has no mother or father!

Revelation 22:13
I am ALPHA and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

John 1:1-3
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Can you see how one word in scripture can be twisted, and then an entire dogmatic doctrine built around it? God “is, was and always will be”. Mary was a virgin vessel, the birth mother of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is part of the triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – three in one – the Trinity. Mary is not the mother of the trinity, so Mary is not the mother of God – you adults here understand that, don’t you? Alright. 

Luke 1:44-45
44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.

When Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, she began to prophesy the Word of God. God, the Spirit, breathed God inspired words right through her. And then, for me, one of the most beautiful, moving and emotional proclamations is made by Mary, often called “The Magnificat.” There are many discernable scripture quotes from the Old Testament in what Mary says next, quotes from 1 Samuel, Psalms, Habbakuk, Malachi, Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Job, Jeremiah and more, showing how well the Old Testament – God’s Word – was known, loved and revered in the home in which Jesus was raised. But I also believe once again, this was God, the Holy Spirit, speaking through Mary. Listen what she says in verses 46-55:

Luke 1:46-55
46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
51 He hath showed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
54 He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
55 As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever
.

That is absolutely beautiful what Mary says!

Now, a false doctrine – a dogma – that some religions teach is that Mary is almost equal to God, in the sense that Mary herself was “without sin.” That is a lie! Only God was sinless. If Mary was sinless, then she would be God! They say, “How could the mother of God give birth to God who was sinless, unless she was without sin?” They say that’s a no-brainer.

First Mary again was NOT the mother of God, she is the mother of the Messiah and regarding Mary being a sinner, in verse 47 Mary says herself:

Luke 1:47
47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

If Mary was sinless, she didn’t need a Savior to forgive her for her sins or to save her from her hell! Right here Mary tells us she’s just like the rest of us: human, with sin and in need of a Savior. Later on, in Luke 2:24, Joseph and Mary present Jesus in the temple, according to the customs and Law of Moses, and offer a “sacrifice” of two turtledoves or pigeons for A SIN OFFERING according to Leviticus chapter 12, verses 2,6 and 8.

Yes, Mary was blessed among women and all generations thereafter have called her blessed, but Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a sinner – just like you and me, who declared by her own mouth, she needed a Savior to forgive her for her sins, and to save her from hell.

Luke 1:56 says:
56 And Mary abode with her
(meaning her cousin Elisabeth)
about three months, and returned to her own house.

Now we get to the good part. Guess who’s having a baby? Elisabeth and Zacharias! Baby John is going to be born!

You can follow along in your Bibles, or just look at the screen. This story is amazing.

Luke chapter 1 beginning in verse 57:
57 Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.
58 And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had showed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.
59 And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.
(According to Jewish custom, this ritualistic act was performed eight days after birth, and the child’s name was given at this time.)
60 And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. (The name John means “God is gracious.”)
61 And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.
62 And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.
63 And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all.
64 And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.
65 And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea.
66 And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.
67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,
68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,
69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;
70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:
71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;
72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;
73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,
74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,
75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
76 And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
80 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel.

That my friends, is the story of the birth of John the Baptist, as announced by the Angel Gabriel, promised by God, to Zacharias the Levite priest and to wife Elisabeth, the cousin of Mary.

Now why is the birth of John the Baptist important to the Christmas story? Well, for many reasons. Not only was it a fulfillment of God’s promise personally to Zacharias and Elisabeth, but it was also a fulfillment of God’s promise prophetically:

Malachi 3:1
1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts
.

Isaiah 40:3
3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Last week, when we read in Luke chapter 1 Gabriel’s announcement to John’s father in the temple, the Bible says this:

Luke 1:15-17
15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.
16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Just as the Lord God used Gabriel as a messenger to deliver a special message to individuals, God now was going to use a special man – John – as His special messenger also, to herald and usher in the Messiah, Jesus Christ – the Savior of the World!

John would be used by the Lord to turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.

John would come in the spirit and the power of Elias. Elias, also know as Elijah, was a very stern and strong prophet of God who rebuked the idolatrous King Ahab and preached repentance from wickedness and sin. When John grew up – he did exactly the same, reproving the wicked King Herod for taking his brother Philip’s wife in Luke 3:19, as well as John preaching repentance from sin to all the people.

But again, John, like Gabriel, was God’s messenger – his job to prepare the way for the promised Messiah, the Savior of the world – Jesus Christ. And John the Baptist did fulfill his purpose and destiny – and paid the ultimate price doing so – losing his life. Indeed, John did as he said in John 3:30:

John 3:30
He must increase, but I MUST DECREASE.

Therefore, John the Baptist is such a vital, important part of the Christmas story. John and Jesus were blood relatives, and by the shedding of their blood prophesy was fulfilled, and through Christ’s shed blood, the gates to heaven were swung open wide, for all to enter in – whosoever will – those who were chosen from the foundation of the world.

Next week, we’ll read of another baby that will be born, One who has changed my life in 1992 and eternally — and Lord willing, yours also – Jesus Christ. Please invite your family and friends next week as we conclude Part 3 of our Christmas Story message, The King is Born – that through the birth of Jesus Christ, others may be born again and receive eternal life. Amen? Amen!

Let’s stand please, form a circle, join hands and let’s pray…

 

“Elisabeth and Mary: The Christmas Story, Part 1 of 3” - Sermon 12/10/06

December 10th, 2006

Well good morning and God bless you everyone! Welcome to Heavenly Hope Christian Church. I’d also like to welcome Heavenly Hope’s “Church Home Away from Home” Members at this time, as well as those listening by internet, CD, or watching by cable or DVD. Church, let’s give all of our friends a warm Heavenly Hope welcome!

Believe it or not, two Sundays from today will be Christmas Eve Day! Who’s excited? Where did this year go? I’m telling you, I just started to learn to write the New Year – 2006 – on letters and checks and other things I send, and the next thing I know, in just a few more weeks it’s almost time to begin to write 2007. Unbelievable! And it seems the kids just opened Christmas presents only yesterday, and here we are, almost time to open them again! WHat’s most exciting though, it it’s time of celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ!

I’ve asked Irene and the children’ Sunday school class to stay with us in the chapel over the next three weeks, rather than go into their children’s class. As a church family, we’re going to go to the Bible, read God’s Word and understand what Christmas is really all about.

So for you adults, understand my language is going to be a bit more tailored for a child to understand, but you know what? Sometimes that’s the best way for all of us adults (who are really children in grown up people’s bodies) to understand the best!

Christmas can mean many different things for many people. It can be a time of year which is one of excitement and joy, big, bright little eyes waiting to open the gifts for them under the tree.  It’s the perfect time to give – give of one’s self for another. As a church, we’re planning some special ministry opportunities during the next few weeks visiting the elderly and Christmas caroling.

Sadly for some, Christmas can be a very sad and lonely time, as I discussed several weeks ago. It can also be stressful as people rush about scurrying and worrying what gifts they need to buy, the decorations that need to get put up, presents that need to be wrapped, cards that need to be sent, Christmas parties that one’s required or expected to make an appearance at, and so much more. The true meaning of Christmas some how seems to have fallen through the cracks for so many. Yet this is the perfect time of year for us to share the real meaning of Christmas with others.

No doubt, there are so many more aspects and traditions to the Christmas holiday that many celebrate that we are obviously not going to get into, because that’s not the purpose nor focus of this message.

Today through Christmas Eve day, we are going to learn all over again, like a child — afresh — the real, biblical story and meaning of Christmas. For some, it will actually be the very first time they will hear it — what really happened on that silent, holy night in a town called Bethlehem.

Please open your Bibles to the Gospel According to Luke, chapter one. That’s Luke, chapter one. If you need a Bible, feel free to borrow one from the Bible book rack over to my right.

I’m going to teach this series of Christmas messages mainly from the book of Luke, yet I will be referring to the other gospels as well.

Most of us know there are four gospel accounts about the birth, life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We learned that the first three gospel accounts – Matthew, Mark and Luke – are known as the synoptic gospels, because they are all very similar accounts of the life of Jesus Christ, recorded and told just from a slightly different perspective of each author. For you kids, synoptic means “kind of like the same”.

The gospel according to John though, we learned, stands out and is different from the other three gospels. The reason it is totally unique and different is because John, the disciple whom Jesus loved presents Jesus Christ as “God in the flesh”, right from verse 1:

John 1:1
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John goes on to say in verse 14:

John 1:14
14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

The reason I chose the Gospel according to Luke to tell the Christmas story, is because it is probably the best known for the Christmas story account. And for you kids both young and old, the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 2 is what Linus uses to tell the Christmas story in “A Charlie Brown Christmas”! And when we get to that part either next week or on Christmas Eve day, I think I may just have Linus tell it, because no one else can tell it better than Linus! Right? OK!

Well, first of all, I’m going to give you a little background about the author or writer of this gospel account – Luke.

Luke was a doctor, known as “the beloved physician” according to Colossians 4:14.

Luke 4:14
14 Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.

He was a very close friend and companion of the Apostle Paul. He was also the only Gentile, or non-Jewish believer in Jesus Christ, who wrote any part of the New Testament in the Bible. The Bible really doesn’t tell us that much about Dr. Luke, his early life or how he actually became a Christian – but one thing we do know: Dr. Luke was NOT an eyewitness of the life of Jesus Christ. He tells us this himself in Luke 1:1-3:

Luke 1:1-3:
1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, 2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; 3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus

Most theologians and historians agree that Dr. Luke probably wrote his gospel account around 60 AD, about 27 years after Jesus Christ was crucified and rose from the dead.

Though Luke was a physician (another word for doctor), he was primarily an evangelist, meaning he told people about Jesus and shared the gospel with them. Dr. Luke also wrote The Book of Acts in the New Testament.

Luke loved to travel a lot and he did so with the Apostle Paul during Paul’s missionary work. Dr. Luke was also with the Paul when he was killed because Paul believed in Jesus Christ and preached that people needed to be saved, or born again. The people at that time didn’t want the Apostle Paul to talk about Jesus, so they figured if they killed him, people would stop believing in Jesus. But when they killed Paul, do you think people stopped believing in Jesus? That’s right! Absolutely not!

For you kids, when someone is killed because they believe in Jesus or have faith in Jesus, they’re called a martyr – someone who is killed or dies for their faith. That’s how much the Apostle Paul loved Jesus – he died for his faith in Him. More importantly, that’s how much Jesus loved us, because He died on the cross to set us free from the penalty of sin and have eternal life!

But let’s get back to Dr. Luke. Remember I said Luke didn’t see Jesus’ life? So one might say, well, if Luke didn’t see Jesus Christ, how can he write about Him? Well that’s a great question.

Remember, Luke was a doctor, and we know how smart doctors are. Doctors seek after the truth so they can help people when they’re sick, right? Well, we can say Dr. Luke wrote his gospel account of the life of Jesus to help people who weren’t Christians, become Christians! Jesus said He came for those who were sick and needed a doctor, meaning, people who knew they were sinners and needed Jesus Christ to save them. Listen to what the Bible says:

Matthew 9:10-13
10 And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? 12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. 13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

If someone is sick and needs medicine, a doctor wouldn’t just make something up like, OK, for you to get rid of your headache or tummy ache, you need to eat two watermelons, five candy canes, ride your bicycle for a half an hour and do ten pushups. That would be crazy wouldn’t it?

When you kids are sick and your mommy or daddy takes you to the doctor, the doctor is very smart. He or she looks at you, tries to figure out what’s going on that making you sick, hurt or feel bad, and then the doctor comes to a conclusion and decides what’s wrong with you. That’s called a diagnosis. Now that the doctor has found out what’s wrong with you and made a diagnosis, the doctor now knows what medicine(s) to give you, or, what needs to be done for you to get better. Right?

It was the same with Dr. Luke writing what He did in the Bible. He was very smart man, and he wouldn’t make up a bunch of stories or lies. But the Bible tells us that Dr. Luke wrote his gospel account because first, he was inspired by the work of others – like Matthew and Mark. The Bible says:

Luke 1:1
1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us

Second, that Dr. Luke talked to eyewitnesses – that’s people who actually saw Jesus and people who were there when Jesus was alive, when He performed His miracles of healing the blind, raising the little girl from the dead, feeding the thousands of people with only a few fish and loaves of bread, or told His many parables and stories, and even when He died on the cross and rose again from the dead! The Bible says in:

Luke 1:2
2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;

Third, like a very smart doctor who needs to know the all of the facts before treating someone who is sick, Dr. Luke sorted out and went through all of the information he gathered about Jesus, and arranged in the proper order under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to teach a man named Theophilus – everybody say that name Theophilus! Now say Theophilus three times fast! That’s great! The Bible says:

Luke 1:3-4
3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

Now, the Bible doesn’t tell us much about who this Theophilus guy was, but this we do know:

1. The way Dr. Luke addresses him shows that Theophilus was an important person, probably of high rank; and

2. His name, Theophilus, means “dear to God” or “friend of God.”

So Dr. Luke wrote his gospel account, guided by God the Holy Spirit, to teach Theophilus, probably a high ranking person, the Truth, as well as you and me and everybody else over the last 2,000 years as well as those in the years to come, about Jesus Christ and the historical beginning of our Christian faith.

OK – so now we know all about Dr. Luke and why he wrote his gospel account, right? Are you ready to begin the real Christmas story and what Christmas is all about? OK!

Today, we’re going to learn about two women who are cousins – Elisabeth and Mary.

At Heavenly Hope, we read from the King James Bible, and sometimes, because some of the words back in the 1600’s (almost 400 years ago) are no longer used today in 2006, some people can get a bit confused – especially kids. But once you get the hang of reading it, it eventually makes sense – and the language used is absolutely beautiful. SO I’ll explain to you what I’m reading as I go along.

Mary, is the mother of Jesus, and her cousin, Elisabeth, her cousin, is the mother of John the Baptist! Who knew that Jesus and John the Baptist were cousins? Great! Now, the Christmas story begins with both of these ladies finding out that they’re going to have babies! I bet Chloe is going to love this story!

So first, we’re going to talk about Elisabeth and her husband, Zacharias.

Let’s go to Luke chapter 1, beginning in verse 5. It would be great if the parents and adults can help the kids follow along in their Bibles. Pastor Steve is going to read what the Bible says, then I’ll explain it in terms you can understand, OK? Here we go. Luke chapter one, verse five:

5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, (he was a mean guy) a certain priest named Zacharias (he was Elisabeth’s husband), of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
(That means they loved God and did what He told them to do with joy.)
7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. (In others words, they were old people, and they didn’t have any children, because Elisabeth couldn’t have a baby for some reason when she was younger. Some people aren’t able to have babies as much as they want to and it makes them very sad, so I think Elisabeth and her husband Zacharias were probably very sad that they didn’t have any children. And now that they were old, they couldn’t have any children.)
8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course,
9 According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
(Zacharias was a Jewish priest who served God in the temple and only once in a priest’s life time would he get the chance to serve God by burning incense. God commanded the priests to do that, so this time, it was Zacharias’ turn.)
10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. (Everyone was praying outside when Zacharias was burning the incense before the Lord.)
11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. (A real angel!)
12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. (Zacharias was really afraid. Would you be?)
13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.
16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Can you imagine this? Zacharias, who was old, was praying to God and the Lord knew that the couple always wanted a child, but Zacharias and Elisabeth were too old to have a baby. God was going to do a miracle and He sent an angel to tell Zacharias that his wife, Elisabeth, was going to have baby! And this baby was going to be John the Baptist! The angel also said when John got older, he would be great in the sight of God and tell many people about God!

18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings.

So Zacharias questioned the angel and doubted him – he didn’t believe him. When we don’t believe God, that makes Him very sad. And I’m going to tell you a little more about the angel Gabriel in a few minutes. But Zacharias said, “We’re old! We’re old! My wife Elisabeth can’t have a baby!” So that made God not happy and listen to what God told Gabriel, the angel to say to Zacharias:

20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. (He told Zacharias because he doubted and didn’t believe the miracle that God was going to do, God was going to close his mouth so he couldn’t talk until Elisabeth was pregnant with a baby. That’s a little scary isn’t it? God closed Zacharias’s mouth from speaking – and it takes a mommy almost nine months to have a baby! Do you think you could ever stop speaking for nine months? I couldn’t!)
21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. (They couldn’t believe he was taking so long and wondered what was going on.)
22 And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. (They knew Zacharias saw something so great, he couldn’t even speak.)

23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. (In other words, after all of the days Zacharias had to work, he went home to be with is wife – but he couldn’t talk!)

24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.

Look at what happened – exactly what the angel said would happen! As soon as Zacharias came home, his old wife Elisabeth was pregnant with a baby in her tummy! And she was thankful to God that He finally answered her heart’s desire and gave her a baby. But the Bible says, she hid herself, meaning, she probably stayed at home with no visitors for five months!

Now that is the story of Elisabeth and Zacharias – and remember, Elisabeth was Mary’s cousin. Mary was going to be the mother of Jesus!

Now, we’re going to talk about Mary – the mother of Jesus. I’m just going to read verses 26-38 straight through – and listen good, and then I’m going to explain in kid’s terms what I just read. OK? Here we go.

Luke 1:26:38
26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
(In our terms, Mary wasn’t “married” to Joseph yet. The jewish people considered this engagement period just like they were married though. But a daddy and mommy have to be married first, then have a baby. That’s how God made it.)
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Now, let me explain to you in “kid terms” what Pastor just read.

The angel Gabriel is a very special angel of God. His name means “man of God” and this special angel’s ministry involves making special announcements for God concerning God’s plans. Remember Gabriel told Zacharias in the temple his wife Elisabeth was going to have a baby, even though she was old? Well, this is the same angel now who visited Mary - six months later!

The Lord sent his messenger, the angel Gabriel, to make an announcement to Mary, who was probably a teenager! Many people in Bible times got married a lot earlier than we do today – and today, that’s probably best. I got married to Mrs. Irene was I was 29 years old and she was 28. Mary getting married to Joseph (who we’ll meet next week) and having a baby is like Hannah Montana, or London Tipton getting married and having a baby at their age! (These are characters the kids know and can relate to.)

So, Mary, who was engaged to Joseph to be married, but not married yet, lived in Nazareth, a city of Galilee. Now, many of you know of King David, a man the Bible says was “a man after God’s own heart”? Well, God said one day, the Messiah or Savior would come and he would be related to King David — from his family!

Now Gabriel said to this young girl Mary, “God is with you Mary. You are a very special girl whom the Lord has chosen to be the mother of His Son. You are blessed among all of the women in the whole world.!”

Now, the Bible says in verse 29, Mary was troubled, meaning, she was afraid. She was probably freaked out having a real angel appear to her. But in verse 30, Gabriel said, “Don’t be afraid. You are very special in God’s eyes and He has chosen you to have a baby! And He’s going to be a baby boy and you are going to name Him Jesus! And He is going to be the greatest — God’s son! He will be King of kings and Lord of Lords and His kingdom will have no end! You are the chosen one Mary!”

Can you see Mary looking all around, behind her, on the side of her and saying to the angel, “Are you talking to me?”

Then in verse 34, Mary says something like, “Gabriel, we have one slight problem here. I’m not married yet – but I’m engaged and we’re gonna be married! Oh, you should see him, his name is Joseph and he’s such as sweet…”

“Sssshhhh! Mary, sshhh! It’s taken care of. The Holy Ghost will overshadow you and you’re going to be pregnant with God’s son.”

Then Mary’s like, “Woah! I think I need to sit down!”

Then Gabriel said, “Oh and by the way, you know your cousin Elisabeth?”

“My old, old, old cousin Elisabeth?” asked Mary.

“Yup, the old one. She’s got a baby in her tummy, too. In fact she’s had the baby inside her tummy now for six months and in three months, she’s going to have a baby also! But her baby is not God’s son, your baby is! But her baby is going to tell others about your baby and well, your baby is going to save YOU and save the world!”

Then Mary said, “But Elisabeth is so old! How could she have a baby? And besides, they said she could never have a baby!”

Then Gabriel said, “Mary, Mary quite contrary…” (remember, this is Pastor Steve’s interpretation for you kids) “Your old cousin Elisabeth is pregnant and she’s going to have a baby, too. Mary, understand, ‘For with God nothing shall be impossible!’”

God can do anything! Nothing is impossible with Him, right? Right!!

Then Mary said, “OK Gabriel. You said it and because God sent you to say it, I believe it and I receive it!!”

Then Gabriel said, “Great! Gotta go now!” and poof!! He was gone.

Can you imagine, a real angel, appearing to a young girl – a teenager – saying you’re going to have a baby, you don;t have a husband and your baby is God – God the Son! Wow!! That has never happened in the history of the world before, nor will it ever happen again! The announcement was made by God’s messenger, Gabriel the angel: Jesus Christ – the Savior of humanity, the promised and prophesied Messiah was on His way!

Next week, we’re going to continue where we left off…. Mary is so excited, she runs to go see her cousin Elisabeth and wait till you see what happens! Remember, Zacharias, Elisabeth’s husband who can’t speak? Well, next week, Elisabeth is going to have her baby and wait till you see the miracle that happens with Zacharias! Next week we’ll also meet Joseph, who will turn out to be Mary’s husband, and then on Christmas Eve Day, we’re going to hear the beautiful story of the birth of the baby Jesus!

Isn’t Christmas exciting?? Isn’t the Bible exciting!!

Let’s all gather together and stand in a circle and join together in prayer…

Members: Tuesday Afternoon with the Seniors

December 5th, 2006

Today, HHCC is off to a local senior citizen housing complex to bring the folks delicious baked muffins and to spend a little time visiting.

A local bakery has graciously donated doughnuts, muffins and a variety of fresh baked goods to be distributed to those in need.

Those members interested in joining me should meet at the Church Office by 2:00 pm TODAY. We’ll carpool and I expect we’ll be done by 4:00 pm the latest. Call the office if you have any questions.

God bless,

Pastor Steve

Today’s Service

December 3rd, 2006

Today at Heavenly Hope was probably the most powerful, Holy Spirit service to date. It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord works, the people He brings for the live tapings — and the stories why each came.

I am not able to share one of the most moving stories to date of an individual who joined us this morning. Almost each week, it seems the Lord prepares the new people who will come. And in conjunction with the messages, there is NO denying that we as a body of believers are walking in the center of God’s will.

I received a call last night from my friend who is a lesbian woman. She’s attended HHCC several times. She was in need of encouragement as it has been three months since her partner passed away from alcohol abuse. She’s having a horrible time during the holidays. I preached the funeral service and gave her a copy of the music that was played and sung throughout. She says she listens to that CD every night when she comes home from work. It gives her peace. She said how much she loved our family and “…how blessed you are to have made the change through God that you did. Your family is beautiful and I love you, Irene and your two children — and I miss you all.” I told her we miss her, too, and hope to see her soon again. She opened up and shared many things, we talked at length and I believe she will be back soon.

Today’s situation was even more dramatic and my heart truly broke for this one individual. The devil is at work big time there, yet our God is bigger. When things seem impossible through our human eyes, that’s when God steps in. He won’t let anyone take the credit from Whom it is rightly due. The Lord knows this unspoken prayer request for this individual in what seems a horrible tragedy, and Irene and I need wisdom and prayer to do what we can as the Lord directs.

Hope to have the sermon notes up for today’s service within the next day or two. Irene and I are now taking Mondays off as we are putting a full day (and even sometimes evenings) of ministry in on Sunday. My personal assistant will be in tomorrow, catching up with a lot of office work - yet the office is officially closed.

For the HHCC partners, I’ll have streaming video of my key note speech in Massachusetts at the Article 8 Alliance Dinner Banquet (see item # 2 — thanks Brian and Amy for the kind words of encouragement.) from early November. I haven’t seen the DVD yet, but it will be posted in full for Members to watch. Login as usual in the HHCC Members Only Area and look for it to be posted sometime later this week.

Well, Lord bless you all. Tomorrow may be my surprise date with my wife. Nothing fancy, just a good ole’ fashioned romantic lunch and spending QT (quality time) together. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve. What an amazing woman she is.

It’s 10:00 p.m. and way past my bed time.

By the way, on this HHCC Pastor’s Blog, I’ve decided to discontinue comments. I encourage you though to send me your comments and feedback by e-mail by ckicking here

Love in Christ to you all — Pastor Steve

“Shaking Off the Holiday Blues” Sermon - 11/26/06

November 26th, 2006

God bless you and welcome this morning to Heavenly Hope Christian Church! I pray that everyone had a blessed and happy Thanksgiving… and for most of us, tomorrow, unfortunately, it’s back to reality. So let’s enjoy what little Thanksgiving break we have left.

We’re at that time of the year once again when emotions and sentiments are running high with many. The bluntest way of putting it is there are a lot of “Dr. and Mrs. Jeckle and Hyde’s” running around during the hustle and bustle of this holiday season.

During this time known as “the holidays”, many people change – and it’s not always for the best.

Statistically, suicide rates are higher, people are admitted into emergency rooms and inpatient treatment facilities for alcoholism, drug or food addictions, as well as other forms of sinful behavior. Many just can’t take the added stresses of life during the holidays and some even end up in psychiatric wards for numerous reasons. Doctors and psychiatrists report that depression, anxiety, bi-polar and other disorders with their patients is at an all time high. At Stephen Bennett Ministries, we personally feel the brunt of the onslaught of the holiday season with so many homosexual men and women calling for help - seeking hope - suffering from any or all of the above.

For some reason, it makes you scratch your head and wonder: Why in the world are people the most saddest, anxious, nervous and depressed during what’s supposed to be the happiest time of the year?

The weeks leading up to the holiday season which includes Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve and Day (and let’s not forget Hanukah for our Jewish friends) and whatever else people celebrate, can be extremely difficult for so many, especially those who are alone or by themselves. This holiday phenomena that I’m talking about is known as the “Holiday Blues” and can manifest itself in different ways with different people.

As I mentioned, we see it here at SBM every single year – also with broken hearted parents, individuals, family members and married couples calling the ministry, desperate for help. In fact, the telephone calls and e-mails are almost non-stop.

The holidays seem to be a time of year which heightens the emotional side of many people, where individuals literally switch operation modes and thinking patterns. No longer are some operating and functioning according to logic and that which is real, but they have switched to “emotion mode” – operating on “sentiments” — a mode which is completely unpredictable. Read the rest of this entry »