Dec 05, 1999
Dec 12, 1999
Dec 19, 1999
Dec 25, 1999
Dec 26, 1999
Dec 05, 1999
GIVING - A TEST OF LOVE
Sunday Dec. 5 marked the end of our Stewardship Month at Six Roads. Here are some of my
thoughts for the occasion taken from 2 Cor. 8:1-15.
Many times people in love find it necessary to put each other to the test. Sometimes a
young man will drop by unexpectedly to see his girlfriend to see how she looks when she
is not all dolled up and expecting him. Sometimes having to go overseas and be separated
for a while becomes the acid test for many relationships.
The question to us is: "If giving is a test of our love for God, could you pass the test?
Solomon said in Song of Songs 8:7
"Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown itÖ". Paul said in this
passage that he wanted to test the sincerity of the love of the Corinthians by their giving.
I would like to look at three ways in which giving is a test of love.
I. Giving is a test of our love for God.
We are told that the Macedonians first gave themselves to God. It is impossible for
a person to give cheerfully to God if they are not committed to Him first.
give as Christians we give to God. We do not give to pay a bill or to keep shame out of
our face - we are giving to God. Giving is also a recognition of the fact that God was
the first who gave when He gave his only Son to come to earth and die on a cross for our
sins. The passage tells us that even though Christ was rich yet He became poor to make us rich.
In Malachi 3:10 God challenges the children of Israel and by
extension all of us to put Him to the test in our tithes and offerings and see if He will not
pour out on us a blessing which we will not have enough room to receive. It is natural to want
to give to those we love. Is our love for God reflected in our giving?
II. Giving is a test of our love for the church
The Macedonian Christians ignored their own poverty. Now here were people who were desperately
poor but they were begging for the opportunity to help others in need. They did not consider
themselves too poor to give. Paul says that they gave as much as they were able and then they
went a step further, they gave even more than they were able.
Nowadays, we talk about people living
above their means. But how do you give more than you are able? In other words they gave sacrificially.
They had to deprive themselves of something to give in such a way. However, no one was commanding them
to give, maybe Paul was encouraging them not to give so much because they were so poor but they pleaded
not only for the opportunity to give but they gave entirely of their own accord. This was a spontaneous
gesture of love. What an example they set for us today!
III. Giving is a test of our love of the lost.
To love the lost is to look beyond ourselves. Today, in our self-centered world we can see only our
needs and our problems. The Macedonians pleaded for the privilege of sharing. When you really see
the world through the eyes of Christ you see their need for a Savior and want to share Him with them.
Do you really care about your family, your friends, your neighbors, the area in which you live in?
When we give to the Lord we facilitate the spreading of the gospel to both our communities and the world.
So long as there are people who have not heard the good news of the gospel we have to give.
The Bible says that your heart will be where your treasure is. Those who give substantial gifts to the
work of the Lord become interested in the Church and its programs. They are interested in seeing how
their money is used.
The Bible challenges us to make eternal investments, and it also challenges us to make
giving a part of these eternal investments. When all is said and done we are forced to realize that giving
is a test of love. If it is - How does your giving stand up?
Dec 25, 1999
Dec 25, 1999
THE GREATEST HONOR OF ALL
Text: Luke 1:26-38
How do you react to unexpected honor or happenings?
I remember as a young boy playing part in a lot of surprise birthday
parties. I remember a crowd of us waiting in a dark house for the
honoree to return home with their spouse. I remember them opening the
door, and I remember the look on the face of the person as a crowd of
people in the darkness shouted "happy birthday!" People react
in different ways to these kinds of surprises, some are so affected
that they have to sit down and let their hearts recover from the shock.
No matter what the surprise it makes the heart beat faster, the adrenaline
pump harder. We like them but they really challenge us.
In this message today we see that Mary had a surprise. In her surprise we
see the character of this special woman, a character that we would do well
to emulate today.
I. SHE RECEIVED A BLESSING.
The first blessing was seeing an angel.
Not many people are privileged to see an angel. Still fewer had the
privilege of seeing Gabriel. Gabriel appears only three times in the Bible.
He appeared not only to Zechariah and to Mary but also to the prophet Daniel
more than 500 years earlier (Daniel 8:15-17; Daniel 9:21). Each time Gabriel
appeared, he brought important messages from God.
It was a blessing to think that God recognized her. Mary was young,
poor, female ó all characteristics that, to the people of her day, would make
her seem unusable by God for any major task. But God chose Mary for one of
the most important acts of obedience he has ever demanded of anyone.
You may feel that your ability, experience, or education makes you an
unlikely candidate for Godís service. Donít limit Godís choices. He can use
you if you trust him.
It was a blessing to think that God had honored her
- Godís favor does not automatically bring instant success or fame. His
blessing on Mary, the honor of being the mother of the Messiah, would lead to
much pain: her peers would ridicule her; her fiance would come close to leaving
her; her son would be rejected and murdered. But through her son would come the
worldís only hope, and this is why Mary has been praised by countless
generations as the young girl who "found favor with God." Her
submission was part of Godís plan to bring about our salvation.
If sorrow weighs you down and dims your hope, think of Mary and wait patiently for God to
finish working out his plan.
It was a blessing to think that God was with her.
The scriptures say that God was with her. Isaiah years ago gave a
name for the Christ Child he said Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be
with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Matthew adds in Matthew 1:23
"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will
call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us."
All the other religions of the world exalted a man to be a God because of
what they saw as a godly life. Only in Christianity does God come down to
be with us, to walk with us, to show us himself in the form of Jesus Christ,
II. SHE RECEIVED A HEAVENLY BLESSING Ė She was to give birth to a child.
Isnít it amazing that God chose a child to bring His presence into the world?
He was to be a Holy Child, for he was to be called the Son of the Most High.
He was the Son of God, His name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name
Joshua which means "the Lord saves". He was also to be the inheritor
of a kingly throne - Centuries earlier, God had promised David that Davidís
kingdom would last forever (2 Samuel 7:16). This promise was fulfilled in the coming
of Jesus, a direct descendant of David, whose reign will continue throughout eternity.
III. SHE RECEIVED A HEAVENLY BLESSING THAT WAS MIRACULOUS.
Four questions are asked directly or implied in verses 34-36.
How can this be? I am a virgin? The birth of Jesus to a virgin is a miracle
that many people find hard to believe. These three facts can aid our faith:
Luke was a medical doctor, and he knew perfectly well how babies
are made. It would have been just as hard for him to believe in a virgin birth
as it is for us, and yet he reports it as fact.
Luke was a painstaking researcher who based his Gospel on eyewitness
accounts. Tradition holds that he talked with Mary about the events he
recorded in the first two chapters. This is Maryís story, not a fictional
Christians and Jews, who worship God as the Creator of the universe, should believe that God has the power to create a child in a virginís womb.
How will it happen? She was not too surprised to be practical, she was a virgin, how would she bear a child. The angel told her that the holy spirit will come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her. He said that the one born will be "the Holy One" and indeed "the Son of God."
- Give me a sign? He angel let her in on another miraculous event that had already happened that she did not know of Ė Elizabeth, her relative was pregnant. Elizabeth was an old woman past childbearing age, now she who was barren all her life was blessed by God and was to have a son also. Isnít it interesting that after the angel left Mary she hurried off to the house of Elizabeth, maybe to share their common experiences, but maybe to convince herself that what was happening was not some dream, some fantasy.
Give me reassurance? She did not ask for it, her faith was sufficient but the angel gave her reassurance anyway. He said "nothing is impossible with God". Elizabethís child seemed impossible but God conquered it. Maryís birth also seemed impossible but God specializes in the impossible.
IV. SHE RECEIVED A HEAVENLY BLESSING THAT WAS MIRACULOUS AND ACCEPTED.
How could she refuse? Was this not what every Jewish girl longed for -
to bring the Messiah into the world? Yet she could have thought of the
consequences of what was happening and shy away, she could have been more
concerned with her reputation.
A young unmarried girl who became pregnant risked disaster. Unless the father of the child agreed to marry her, she would probably remain unmarried for life. If her own father rejected her, she could be forced into begging or prostitution in order to earn her living. And Mary, with her story about being made pregnant by the Holy Spirit, risked being considered crazy as well. Still Mary said, despite the possible risks, "May it be to me as you have said." When Mary said that, she didnít know about the tremendous opportunity she would have. She only knew that God was asking her to serve him, and she willingly obeyed. Donít wait to see the bottom line before offering your life to God. Offer yourself willingly, even when the outcome seems disastrous.
Hers was a bold and humble acceptance of Godís will. Godís announcement of a child to be born was met with various responses throughout Scripture. Sarah, Abrahamís wife, laughed (Genesis 18:9-15). Zechariah doubted (Luke 1:18). By contrast, Mary submitted. She believed the angelís words and agreed to bear the child, even under humanly impossible circumstances. God is able to do the impossible. Our response to his demands should not be laughter, or doubt, but willing acceptance.
What does this annunciation to Mary tell us today about the nature of God? It says that Christmas is about God reaching down to mankind. It is about God uplifting the lowly. It is about faith in God that He will do as He promises even when by our own eyes it seems impossible. Are you willing to accept Godís love offering? Are you willing to let Him come in and transform your life? Are you willing to exercise the kind of faith that Mary exhibited so that Christ can use you for His glory?