starsGlory to God in the Highest

Luke 2:6-16

Central Theme:  Christmas is a time for big changes.

Introduction–I have to admit that at Christmas I go a little crazy.  I save all year and spend all December.  I blame my parents.  They worked all year preparing for Christmas for us.  Sewing cooking and repairing, painting old bikes.  The majesty of God’s gift cannot be matched but I try every year.  READ Luke 2:6-16.

       I.     Pretend that you are a shepherd.

A. They were minding their business but God had planned a little surprise for them…before the foundations of the earth. (vs 8)

1.  What we can’t imagine is that God has exquisitely exciting surprises for our lives.

Christmas costumes 2.  Last year as I was fretting about the number of hours I spend working on costumes.  I said to the Lord, “No one’s life has ever been changed by a costume I’ve made.”  Within a few minutes,  a young woman who was a  neighbor stopped to say, “I never told you but you made a costume for me and it was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.  I’ve always loved you for that.” 

B.  We fear the glory of the Lord getting too close (vs. 9).

1.  Songwriter Michael Card’s speaks of the “friend that we most fear.”

a.  we hide our faces from him–he can see us.

b.  we hide our hearts from him–he can change us.

II.     God comes again and again to assure us of his goodwill for us (vs. 10-12)

A. He never comes in the expected ways/expected times.

1.  Remember the times God spoke to you–unexpected, unprepared.

2.  You prepare your heart in a quiet place–He speaks in the shower or sitting at a red light.natures wonder

              B. Angels filled the heavens the night he was born; but only a few shepherds saw it (vs. 13-14).

                  1.  Would Disney put on an expensive, extravagant light show for a few middle-class herdsmen?

                  2.  Would you pour out your life in a place where no one will see–on one will know?

III.     Whatever he does, His purpose is to entice us come to Jesus (vs 15).

A. However, Jesus is not what you expect.

                  1.  Wherever our executive director preaches, people say, “That sermon was one of the best I ever heard.  You know, you could what you do for real people.”    We often chuckle and ask, “Then why aren’t you rich and famous?”

2.  However, there is not a mentally challenged person in Duval, Indian River or Brevard or Volusia County who doesn’t know him and all of them love him.

Conclusion–Going crazy at Christmas should be expected.  After all, God went a bit crazy with joy at the birth of Jesus.  Several angelic appearances.  An old couple unexpectedly has a baby they name John.  A host of angels.  A new star.  Yet, not embracing the Living Lord any time is a horror.

The choice that changed everything

Nehemiah 9:17

Central Theme:  Man choices to sin and God chooses to be gracious.

A ream of paper has 500 sheets–not more and not less.  A foot is 12 inches–not more and not less.  There are many absolutes in our lives.  There are a couple of absolutes that totally changed mankind.  First, since Adam’s sin, we all choose to sin; and God always chooses to be gracious and forgive. Have a member read Nehemiah 9:17. 

I.     Tell the story of the fall and sin of mankind.

A. Eve ate the fruit and Adam followed.

B.  They were tricked by Satan.

C. God made them leave the garden but he chose to love them and forgive them.

II.     God will always choose to be gracious and loving to you.

A. We must desire God‘s love and his forgiveness.

B.  We don’t always think we need God.

III.     The ways we reject God.

1.  We decide that we can handle everything ourselves.

2.  We work toward being independent of God

3.  We want to please people rather than God

3.  We disobey God‘s laws.

A. There are unintended consequences to all of the bad choices that we make.

IV.     We should never forget that God will always show his love and graciousness to us.

Conclusions:  Each of us chooses to sin but God chooses to forgive us all the time.

The Power of Courage

Acts 4:29

Central Theme:  God gives us courage to speak and do what is right.

Introduction–Bring one of your gardening books. Explain how much I love gardening and I find it easy to talk to people about gardening.  I like to share tips and information.  Explain how nobody is going to kill me for talking about my garden.  Immediately after Jesus died, arose and ascended into heaven, the church was people who loved Jesus so much that they couldn’t stop talking about Him even though it meant that they would be in trouble.  Have a member read Acts 4:29. 

I.     What would happen to you if you decided to tell every person you met about Jesus tomorrow?  Would that take real courage?

A. Would you be arrested?

B.  Would you be put in jail?

C. Would you be killed?  Would you need courage?

II.     In Acts 12:1-25, we read about a group of people who were so happy that they could not stop talking about Jesus.

A. The church leaders of the day got very angry and put their leaders in jail.

B.  James, the brother of Jesus, was killed.

C. But they had great courage.

III.     We know that Jesus has the power to change lives and we want to tell others about what has happened to us but we are afraid.

1.  God can give us courage and joy.

2.  Tomorrow ask God to give you one person who is hurting and needs your help.

A. Become their friend.

B.  Tell them about Jesus.

Conclusions:  We can make a difference in the world, one person at a time, if we have courage.  God will give us courage if we ask.

Prayer Asks for Help

Psalm 121:12

Central Theme:  Prayer is a cry for help.

Introduction–I have a friend who has a poster.  It says,  “When things are so bad or scary that you don’t know what to prayer, memorize this prayer and pray it:  HELP!  God gives us prayer so that we can ask for help.

                  Have a member read Psalm 121:12.

I.     Tell the story of Samuel and the Philistines (I Samuel 7:4-11)

A. God sent the Philistines to punish the Israelites.

B.  The Israelites repented and Samuel prayed for help.

C. God sent lightning and thunder and the Philistines were scared and ran away.

  II.     Praying for help is usually what we do best but somethings keep us from asking for help.

A. We have sin in our lives and we don’t want to talk with God.

1.  This can be subtle and sneaky.

B.  We think we can handle the mess ourselves because we are prideful.

C. We are looking to other people for all our help–professionals and parents.

Conclusion  Prayer is a great tool when we need help.

The Bible teaches us

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing people what is wrong in their lives, for correcting faults, and for teaching  (II Timothy 3:16).

Central Theme:  God‘s word is our teacher.

Introduction–Have everyone hold up their Bibles.  We have learned that the Bible is a wonderful treasure and that it is true.   But we also need to know that God’s word teaches us how to live.

I.     Paul and Timothy were good friends.  Paul was a lot older than Timothy so Paul helped Timothy learn about God‘s truth.  Paul wrote two letters to Timothy that became part of the Bible

A. Have a member read II Timothy 3:16.

B.  Timothy was a pastor and Paul was helping him with some of the problems he was having.  They were practical problems, like stomach problems and problems in his church.

II.     The scriptures are used for four things.  The scriptures are some part of the Bible.

A. To teach us.

B.  To show people what is wrong in their lives

C. To correct faults in our lives

1.  Naturally curly hair is not a virtue.

2.  Hanging onto things that are a sin; just because they are part of who I am is also not a virtue. ex.  When we get angry and try to hurt other people, we are sinning.  To say that we have a bad temper because we are English is an excuse.  It is not a virtue.

3.  If we are born with something wrong with our bodies that can be fixed, we need to fix it.

a.  my teeth were not straight.  I was able to straighten them by pushing them around.

D. The Scriptures are used to teach us how to live right.

1.  We all have question about what we should do or not do.

2.  The Bible helps us to see the areas of our life that are right and how we can improve our lives.

Conclusion–There is no way we can live a successful life without following the teachings in God‘s word.

The Bible teaches us about Jesus

John 20:31

Central Theme:  The Bible teaches us about Jesus.

Introduction–The other night my husband and I were driving home from a Bible study and we started to talk about Jesus because the teacher had been talking about the Savior.  I have pictures of Jesus.  I have other books that are written about Jesus.  There is a Jesus video that tells me about Jesus.  But the best place to learn about Jesus is my Bible.

                  Have a member read John 20:31.

I.     Tell the story of Paul and Silas in Thessalonica  (Acts 17:1-9).

A. Paul was teaching about Jesus from the scriptures.

B.  Some people did not want to hear about Jesus.

C. They decided to have Paul and Silas thrown in jail.

D. Some Christians help Paul and Silas escape.

II.     John tells us that the Bible teaches us about Jesus.

A. The Bible helps us believe that Jesus is the Christ.

1.  There are some things the Bible tells me that I must believe.

2.  Jesus was born of a virgin

3.  Jesus is part of the trinity and is God

4.  Jesus died, was resurrected and he will return.

III.     When we read the Bible it helps us to know what Jesus is like.

A. Knowing Jesus will change us.

Conclusion–Jesus is our Lord and Savior; but there is much more that we can learn about Him.  We need to study the Bible.

Visitors who come to Special Gathering which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community are often surprised that they also receive ministry through the messages and the devotions, teaching and sermons they hear.  No matter who is teaching, if they are effective at reaching our members, they will be effective a reaching others.

There are several reasons:

First, the gospel preached with the anionting of the Holy Spirit produces humility, simplicity and joy.  This  reaches into the hearts of everyone.

Second, at Special Gathering, we deliberately attempt to throw into our messages nuggets which will minister to our teachers.  These are small caviots that may be humor or points of interest.  Interestingly, I find that our members often “get it” as much as our teachers.

Third, there is the supernatural power of the gospel that reaches into the hearts of the every hearer that transforms and changes.

Fourth, our members are a more sophisticated listener than most people give them credit.

Fifth, there is never a necessity to  “dumb down” the message.  It is the presentation of the message that must be adjusted to meet academic realities.

Waiting on a bus in a crowded city, there will be a get variety of people with differing academic levels.  But each person will enter the same bus by the same doors and take their seats or stand in the same way.  Presentation of the gospel is like this.  Hungry people–eager to hear the simple claims of the gospel–will “get on the bus.”   The most sophisticated listener with enter and sit down if they understand their need for Jesus.