Posts in the "Series" Category

God's Odd and Wonderful Plan: Week 2

Sunday Sermon Series God's Odd and Wonderful Plan

Last week we learned about 2 odd and wonderful pregnancies.

  1. Elizabeth is pregnant and Zechariah didn’t believe the angel, so he is mute until the baby is born and named John.

  2. Mary is pregnant and is engaged to Joseph and is a virgin. Joseph thought to divorce her quietly but was persuaded by an angel to still marry her.

Luke 1:57-2:38

Elizabeth gives birth to a baby (Luke 1:57-80).

  • Elizabeth and Zechariah name him John. … The relatives there did not understand why      the baby was to be named John. It was more traditional to name the first male son after his father.

  • Zechariah is able to speak again, and he praises God. …

Mary gives birth to a baby (Luke 2:1-21).

  • Joseph and Mary journey to Bethlehem. … Caesar Augustus issued a decree that everyone should return to their ancestor’s hometown for a census. Joseph was a descendent of David, yes, the David who killed Goliath and later became king of Israel. Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth, but had to go to Bethlehem for the census.

  • The baby is born in a place where livestock are kept. … Mary and Joseph couldn’t find anywhere to stay, probably because so many people came back for the census. They ended up in some type of livestock holding area. It may have been a cave where animals were kept or structure like a stable.

  • Angels announce the birth to shepherds. … In and odd and wonderful way, the first birth announcement is to some shepherds. The shepherds are just out there watching their sheep for the night and angels appear to them, declaring the birth of the Christ.

  • The shepherds find the baby and praise God. … The shepherds were told the baby would be in a manger and go to find him. Imagine this group of shepherds enthusiastically knocking on doors and asking residents if their was a baby in their manger.

  • When the baby is 8 days old, He is named Jesus. … The name is important.

Joseph and Mary take Jesus to Jerusalem (Luke 2:22-28).

  • When Jesus is 40 days old, they go to the temple. … When a child was 40 days old, the mother was required to offer a sacrifice for cleansing. Also, the first born was to be consecrated to the Lord.

  • Simon and Anna recognize Jesus as God’s salvation. … Anna, an old lady, prophecies to Mary and Joseph about Jesus. Simeon, an old man who had asked God to show him the Messiah before he died, recognized Jesus as that Messiah and knows salvation is here and on the way. … Anna and Simeon knew Jesus was how God would save the world in an odd and wonderful way.

Salvation is not a philosophy. Salvation is a relationship with Jesus. We all need saving from our sin. For those of us who have already accepted that salvation, we sometimes need to ask for forgiveness for our failings too. For those who have not accepted it, consider doing so by starting that relationship today.

God's Odd and Wonderful Plan: Week 1

Series God's Odd and Wonderful Plan


The story of Christmas is the story of God saving the world.

Where do we begin? Before we get to that, let’s look at the last verses of the Old Testament. In Micah 4:5-6 the prophecy of a Messiah comes and the people wait 400 years before He comes. God works on His own time, not ours.

This story starts with two odd and wonderful pregnancy announcements.

  1. First we see that Elizabeth is pregnant (Luke 1:5-25). … Zechariah and Elizabeth were an old couple who had been unable have children. Zechariah, a priest, goes into the temple to perform his duties. Gabriel, an angel, appears to him and tells him he we have a son and that his son’s name will be John. John is to take a vow to never drink any kind of wine. John is to prepare the way for the Messiah. Zechariah finds all of this hard to believe and then we learn that God wants us to take Him at His word and makes Zechariah mute until the baby is born and named John.

  2. Second we see Mary is pregnant (Luke 1: 26-38). … Gabriel goes out to the boondocks of Israel in Nazareth and appears to Mary. Gabriel tells her not to be afraid, that she has been chosen to give birth to the Messiah. Mary is confused. She doesn’t understand how she, a virgin, could have a baby.

Then Mary goes to visit Elizabeth. Both are pregnant at this time. Something odd and wonderful happens. John senses the presence of Jesus and jumps in Elizabeth’s womb. Mary breaks out in song.

When Mary returns home, Joseph, her betrothed, finds out she is pregnant and decides to quietly divorce her (Matthew 1:18-25). … But an angel appears to him and tells him to not be afraid to take Mary as his wife because the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit. The angel tells him to name the baby Jesus. The name is significant. It means Yahweh saves. It is a message to Joseph and to the world that this child will save the world, He will save us from our sins. … The angel also tells Joseph this was happening in this way to fulfill the prophecy of the virgin birth. The virgin conception is certainly odd and wonderful. … The baby will also be called “Immanuel” which means “God with us.” The virgin conception is important to this. If Jesus had had two human parents then we might have more trouble believing He is fully human and fully God. But with God as His Father, we can see more easily how Jesus is both.

It is truly an odd and wonderful plan.

Nehemiah: Be Faithful to the End

Sunday Sermon Series Nehemiah

Nehemiah 13


This is the last chapter of Nehemiah and the last sermon in this series. The purpose of the series was to answer this question: What does God want me to do with my life?


The first half of the book tells us God has work for us. We saw in those chapters that we will face obstacles when we do God’s work. We learned that prayer and preparation are important in doing God’s work.


In the second half of the book we saw that God wants us to assemble. God wants us to come together.


Nehemiah returned to his job in Persia. Later he came back to Jerusalem. He found that spiritual conditions had declined in his absence:

  • The temple was defiled (Nehemiah 13:7-9). … A man, a non-believer even, moved into the temple. He was living there. Nehemiah threw him out and put the temple back i order. The people did not keep their commitment from chapter 10.

  • Tithing was neglected (Nehemiah 13:10-13). … The temple was understaffed because the people were not tithing, which probably led to the man being able to live there. They neglected their commitments from earlier.

  • The Sabbath was not observed (Nehemiah 13 15-21). … The people did not honor the Sabbath again, just as their ancestors, and against their commitments.

  • Marriage was compromised (Nehemiah 13:23-26). … The people ignored God’s commands on marriage and their own commitments as they married foreigners, just as their ancestors.


What does this teach us about faithfulness in our lives?

  1. Your spiritual life will tend to decline without continual attention. … The second law of thermodynamics is true materially and spiritually. Without maintenance, it will fall apart.

  2. It is more difficult to restart your spiritual life than to continue it. … You can restart, but it’s hard. The law of inertia applies to our spiritual lives too, making it easier to keep momentum than to start or stop or restart.

  3. Leaders can set the tone for your spiritual life in a group. … In this book we see that while Nehemiah is there, everything goes well. When he leaves though, it all falls apart until he returns.

  4. We need the Gospel to enable us to be faithful (Romans 8:3-4). … Nehemiah 13 might be the last book, chronologically, in the Old Testament. The book of Malachi probably comes before Nehemiah’s first return to Jerusalem or just before his second return. Then, 400 years later, we get the New Testament, the Gospel. Nehemiah shows us our inability to keep the law on our own. We can’t keep the law good enough to earn our own way to Heaven. That’s where the Gospel comes in (Romans 8:1-4).

Like Nehemiah, Jesus has gone away, and He is coming back. He wants to find us faithful (Matthew 24:12-13, 45-46).

Nehemiah: Ordinary

Sunday Sermon Series Nehemiah

Nehemiah 11-12


Let’s review a little: Nehemiah used to be a cupbearer to the king of Persia. Persia was the controlling empire at the time and the capital was lavish. Nehemiah probably had it pretty nice. Then God calls him to help rebuild Jerusalem, a broken down city that requires months of work to rebuild just the walls. Nehemiah may have been tempted to return to the lavish life in Persia, but he found something special in Jerusalem. He found God’s presence and God’s work.


Big Idea: God is building churches made of of seemingly insignificant people who live ordinary lives, but change the world.


Point One: God uses ordinary people who surrender their control (Nehemiah 11:1-2). … At this point, Jerusalem is not safe. The rebuilt walls make it a fresh target. The people who live in the city don’t have as much as land in an agricultural society. Jerusalem offered very little to its inhabitants, but the people who volunteered to live there wanted to be part of what the city meant. This was the Holy City. This was where God’s presence was supposed to live on Earth. They made a sacrifice to live in the city. They sacrificed their control; the control of land and of safety.


Point Two: God uses ordinary people who surrender their eternity (Nehemiah 11:3-24). … The men who were to live in the city were men of courage and of valor and of faithfulness. They were men capable of protecting their family. They were men willing to make sacrifices for God. … We were made for joy. We get joy from worshipping and serving God, as these men did. … There are two lists of names for our final eternal destination. Do you know which list you are on? Are you going to have eternal joy in Heaven or eternal suffering in Hell? Here are a couple questions you can ask yourself:

  1. Have you trusted in Jesus Christ to save you from your sin? … Have you been saved?

  2. Are you a member of a local church? … Being involved with a local church may not be a requirement for salvation, but it is important for our growth as Christians.


Point Three: God uses ordinary people who surrender their resources (Nehemiah 12:44-47). … The people saw the importance of worship and were willing to invest in it. They gave of their farms and of their income so that the people could worship.

Nehemiah: Renew Your Commitments to God

Sunday Sermon Series Nehemiah

Nehemiah 9:38; 10:29-39


Lots of people are indecisive. They struggle to make decisions about life, and sometimes it’s just time to fish or cut bait. Decisions must be made. That’s where the Israelites are now in our study of Nehemiah. They have to decide  who they are. They chose to renew their covenant with God. … Today we take the Lord’s Supper as a renewal of our covenant as well.


Nehemiah 9:38; 10:27-28 … The Israelites did this publicly and unashamedly. They signed a binding agreement. This is not something to take lightly.


Basic Commitments (Nehemiah 10:29) … Their basic commitment was to follow the Word of the Lord. Here are basic commitments you can make today:

  • I want to become a follower of Jesus and be baptized.

  • I want to join First Baptist Church (or whichever church you attend).

  • I renew my commitment to Jesus as Lord of my Life.


Separation/Holiness (Nehemiah 10:30) … The Israelites decided to separate themselves from the outside world in ways God commanded them long ago. Here are ways we can separate ourselves from our world today:

  • If I marry, I will choose a person who shares my faith.

  • I will not view anything that pleases God.


Rhythms of Worship (Nehemiah 10:31) … The Israelites decided to follow the patterns God specified in the Old Testament. Here are some patterns we can follow so we honor God consistently:

  • I will gather with my church family for worship each week unless providentially hindered.

  • I will join and attend a Connection Group (Sunday School class).

  • I will participate in the Christian Development Program on Wednesday nights.

  • I will seek to pray and read my Bible daily. I will do this with my fam`ily.


Stewardship (Nehemiah 10:32-39) … The Israelites once again decide to follow God’s law, even with their time and hard earned resources. Here are ways we can do this too:

  • I will give a tenth of my income to God through the church.

  • I will give to special offerings:

    • Missions

    • Finish the Race

    • Other:

  • I will give my time as a volunteer in a ministry in my church.

Maybe there is some other commitment you need to make. Whatever commitments you need to make, put it in writing and sign it. Make a binding agreement with God like the Israelites did.

Nehemiah: Confess Your Sins to God

Sunday Sermon Series Nehemiah

Nehemiah 9


The Israelites gathered together, fasting, wearing sackcloth, and putting dust on their heads. They spent about three hours confessing their sins to God (Nehemiah 9:1-3). … The first gathering (on the 1st day of the month) was full of joy. Now they meet again on the 24th day of the month and mourn as they confess their sins.


Nehemiah 9:5-37 is a prayer of confession for their sins and the sins of their ancestors. … This is also a great review of the Old Testament. It is a confession of sin as they review their history. They praise God for what He has done even as they and their ancestors sinned.


Confession of sin involves these actions:

  1. Evaluate your life … Look back on your life

  2. Acknowledge your sin … It is important that admit you have sinned

  3. Grieve … Be sorry for your sin

  4. Ask for forgiveness … Ask God to cleanse your sins

  5. Turn from sin … Repent, turn away from your old ways


Why do we believers need to confess our sins? If we are saved, aren’t we already forgiven? (John 13:8-10; 1 John 1:6, 9; 3:6). … Even though we have had our bath or shower to make us clean, we still have dirty feet, dirty hands. Your sin as a believer does not end your relationship with God, but it does hurt your fellowship with Him.


Are there sins you need to confess?


10 Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:4-21)

  • Have you made anything more important than God?

  • Have you made anything into an idol?

  • Does anything coming from your mouth dishonor God?

  • Are you forgetting to take a day off work to honor God?

  • Are you disrespectful towards parents?

  • Have you taken a life? an unborn life? Do you harbor hate towards anyone?

  • Have you stayed faithful to your spouse? Have you lusted after another?

  • Are you robbing your employer, the government, or God?

  • Do you lie to your parents, your spouse, or your anyone else?

  • Do you covet after things other people have?


Thoughts (Colossians 3:5-11)

  • How is your thought life? Is there malice, lewdness, or envy? Does it cause slander to come from your mouth?

  • Are you prideful or self-righteous?


Spiritual Clothing (Colossians 3:12-17)

  • Have you forgotten to put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, or patience?

  • Is there anyone you haven’t forgiven?

  • Have you put on love? Do you show love to those around you?

Nehemiah: God Wants Us to Build Our Lives upon His Word

Sunday Sermon Series Nehemiah

Nehemiah 8


We have reached a turning point in the book of Nehemiah. The wall has been built and we are only halfway through the book. Let’s look at how the halves of this book fit together.

Nehemiah chapters 1-6

Nehemiah chapters 7-13

Nehemiah rebuilds the wall

Nehemiah rebuilds the community

“What God had put in my heart” (Nehemiah 2:12)

“My God put it in my heart to assemble” (Nehemiah 7:5)

Key word: work

Key word: assemble/gather

God wants me to invest my life in his work.

God wants me to center my life in a community that worships him.


These next three chapters have the building blocks of how we experience spiritual renewal. It’s important to come together and worship. There are different opportunities to do this at most churches. Our church has Sunday morning service/worship as well as Connection Groups (Sunday School) and Wednesday night discipleship classes.


Now let’s look at the first key to revival: The Word of God. Here are three correct responses to the Word of God.

  1. Hear the Word of God eagerly (Nehemiah 8:1-6). … The people listened attentively from daybreak to noon. They were standing there, listening, for hours. … Ezra and other priests read from the scrolls for about 50,000 people for hours. The people stood in reverence for the Word of God for hours. They were eager to hear God’s Word.  

  2. Receive the Word of God joyfully (Nehemiah 8:7-12; Philippians 4:4; 1 Peter 1:3-6). … The Levites were out among the crowd instructing the people about what they were hearing. The people realized their sins and started weeping. It is indeed sad when we realize our sins, but ultimately, we should take joy in the Word of God. Joy in our Lord is a strength for us. We need to know the Word and rejoice in it. … If you can internalize and take joy in the Word, in who you are in Christ, a son or daughter of the King, it can protect you from discouragement and depression.

  3. Obey the Word of God promptly (Nehemiah 8:13-18; Deuteronomy 31:10-12). … The day after the public reading, the heads of families came together and seeked to follow God’s Word and laws. They discovered that during this feast, they were to live in temporary housing. So the word was spread and the people built their tabernacles/tents and obeyed the Word of God.

Nehemiah: Recognize the Strategies of the Evil One

Sunday Sermon Series Nehemiah

Nehemiah 6


For the third chapter in a row, we see opposition to the wall being rebuilt. Let us reiterate that Nehemiah was following God’s will and still faced opposition. Just because we face opposition does not mean we are out of God’s will. Following God’s will could even get you killed.

  1. The devil will attempt to sidetrack you from what God wants to do (Nehemiah 6:1-2). … One of the strategies the devil uses is to get us off track. At this point in the project, the wall itself is done, but the gates still need to be finished. This was Sanballat’s last chance to stop the project, so he invited Nehemiah to a meeting with the intent of harming him.

    - Stay Focused on your mission by learning to say no (Nehemiah 6:3-4).  … You have to say no to some things so you can say yes to God. Nehemiah declined the invitation so he could continue the work.
    - Pray for strength (Nehemiah 6:8-9). … Nehemiah prays in light of this intimidation for strength. His prayer is short and to the point. At our church we call these roman candle payers. You can pray anywhere at any time.
    - Know the Truth (Nehemiah 6:11-13). … Nehemiah was able to thwart this strategy because he knew God’s law. He knew the Truth. (This is a great place for “Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns.)

  2. The devil will spread fake news to intimidate you (Nehemiah 6:5-7). … Sanballat spread rumors by sending an unsealed letter. He knew people would read an unsealed letter and spread the rumors. … The devil still uses this strategy today. For example, this article titled “The Bible Got It Wrong: Ancient Canaanites survived …” Yes, the Israelites were told to wipe out the Canaanites, but the Bible reports that they failed to do so repeatedly. The headline should read “The Bible Proved Right”

  3. The devil will send people to offer bad advice to entice you to sin (Nehemiah 6:10). … Sanballat sent a false prophet to give Nehemiah bad advice and tried to cause him to sin by going into the temple even though he wasn’t a priest.


The responses of Nehemiah might be summed up in the word shrewdness (Matthew 10:16). … Nehemiah acted shrewdly, just as Jesus tells us to do later in the New Testament.


When the Antichrist comes, these are three strategies he will use, and here are three passages that show this:

  • Rev 1613-14 … The frogs represent words as the Antichrist, Devil, and a false prophet speak lies.

  • 2 Thess 2:9-12 … The Antichrist’s message is a lie.

  • Daniel 11:32 … He will use flattery to corrupt those who do not know the Truth.


Clearly one of the most important weapons we have against the Devil is the Truth we find in God’s Word.


Conclusion:

The work and will of God will succeed (Nehemiah 6:15-16). … The wall was completed in 52 days. They started in August and finished in October. Despite the opposition they faced, it only took 52 days to rebuild the entire wall around Jerusalem. Their enemies were afraid because they realized it was completed with the help of the God of Israel.

Nehemiah: Oppose Injustice and Help the Poor

Sunday Sermon Series Nehemiah

Nehemiah 5


Nehemiah faces another major problem that takes his attention away from building the wall. He has to deal with an economic crisis. … Nehemiah was following God’s Will and still faced problems. A lack of problems does not mean you in God’s Will and having problems does not mean you are out of God’s Will.


There were three reasons for the economic problem.  

  1. Heavy taxation by Persian empire

  2. Famine

  3. Rebuilding effort has taken people away from the harvest


The Problem (Nehemiah 5:1-5). … The people were exploiting each other. The ones who had food charged outrageous prices and those who had to buy food were being forced into debt, even into selling their sons and daughters. They also had to pay high taxes to the Persian empire.


Nehemiah’s Action (Nehemiah 5:6-11). … Nehemiah is “very angry”. Here, the same Hebrew word is used as where we saw when Sanballat was “very angry”. Sanballat had unrighteous, self-centered anger. Nehemiah has a righteous anger focused on helping others. Nehemiah spoke with the officials and nobles, accusing them. They were charging interest to their own people. He challenged them to stop charging interest and to give back what they had taken.


The People’s Response (Nehemiah 5:12-13). … The people agreed with Nehemiah and returned the money, the fields, and the slaves.

Nehemiah’s Economic Policy (Nehemiah 5:14-16). … Nehemiah was appointed governor and laxed the demands previous governors had instated. He did not demand food or money. Instead he shared what he had with his people.


What is God saying to you through this passage? How are you being led to oppose injustice and help the poor? … If God cares, so should we. God cares about the needy, the hungry, the homeless, the poor. We should also care about them and reach out to help them. … In our area, much of this population is poor due to poor choices or laziness, but that does not excuse us from having compassion on people who are poor. … There is an abundance of opportunities to help locally, nationally, and globally. Our church has ministries that server all three. … Why should we do this instead of spending the time and money on ourselves though? Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 8:9 that it is because of the grace of God. By the grace of God, Jesus became poor, and through His poverty, made us rich.

Nehemiah: When You Join God In His Work, Expect Opposition

Sunday Sermon Series Nehemiah

Nehemiah 4


When you follow Jesus or join in God’s work, there will be opposition.

  1. Expect opposition from the world. … The “world” here is everyone not part of God’s people. That could include people in your family. … Sanballat opposes the wall because it affects his power. But this was also

    This opposition comes in two forms:

    1. Ridicule (Nehemiah 4:1-3). … Even today Christians are mocked. Some in the world encourage others to ridicule Christians (see Richard Dawkins). How should we respond to this ridicule? Do we respond with more ridicule and angry? No, we should respond with respect and with love. We should turn to God instead of taking vengeance on our own. Look at how Nehemiah responds. He prays for God to take care of it (Nehemiah 4:4-5). Nehemiah prays for justice. In the New Testament Jesus tells us to pray for mercy and forgiveness. That is not incompatible with Nehemiah’s prayer though.

    2. Attacks (Nehemiah 4:7-8). … When the ridicule failed and the wall continued to go up, the enemies prepared to attack. How did Nehemiah and friends respond? They prayed to God and posted a guard (Nehemiah 4:9). This is the perfect marriage of prayer and practicality. They pray and also prepare themselves. There is no conflict between prayer and practical action.

  2. Expect opposition from within the community of God’s people (Nehemiah 4:10-12). … The people working to rebuild the wall started complaining about the rubble. The rubble there was from when the Babylonians tore down the original wall. This rubble made it more difficult to put up the new wall because it had to be moved so they could work. Rebuilding is harder than building because of the rubble from past troubles. The rubble must be cleared, or even used, to rebuild. … Sometimes the enemy sows false disciples amongst true believers and uses them to discourage believers. Other times believers simply disagree or are mistaken in their action. … Nehemiah and the people stop building when it looks like attack is imminent. Let’s see what happened next.


Nehemiah told the people to fight (Nehemiah 4:14), and he said God would fight for them (Nehemiah 4:20). … There was no attack at that point. From then on half of the people worked on rebuilding the wall and the other half stood guard with spear and shield. … We are to fight and also that God will fight for us. We see here again the the pairing of practical action and faith. We do our best to fight our battles, but we also pray for strength to do so and we know God is right there with us, fighting by our side.