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No Word From God Will Ever Fail!

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Six times in Scripture God did wondrous things through the wombs of unlikely women. In His mercy, He brought forth sons, born to women who had given up hope of ever having children:

  1. Isaac born to Sarah and Abraham (Gen. 11:30; 21:1-2).
  2. Jacob born to Rebekah and Isaac (Gen. 25:21).
  3. Joseph born to Rachel and Jacob (Gen. 29:31; 30:22).
  4. Samson born to the wife of Manoah (Judg. 13:1-3).
  5. Samuel born to Hannah and Elkanah (1 Sam. 1:5-6, 20).
  6. John born to Elizabeth and Zechariah the priest (Luke 1:5-25, 57) cf: Our God Remembers – Zechariah’s Hope.

Barrenness meant sadness, shame, and even ridicule for women in Bible times. Childlessness was even considered to be a curse. Yet in His mercy, the Lord did the seemingly impossible through these barren women. He opened their wombs and brought forth sons who were significant in the story of Israel. This is a reminder that there’s hope for you even when things seem impossible!

And God did something even more amazing, not through the womb of a barren woman, but through the blessed womb of a virgin, named Mary.  This would be even more miraculous than a birth to a barren womb, as this conception did not involve an earthly father, but would involve the power of the Holy Spirit.

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” – Luke 1:35

God speaks His Word through the angel Gabriel, and Mary conceives an even greater Son.  What Child is This? the Christmas carol asks.  The answer is: this Child is The Greatest Son, not only in the history of Israel, but in the history of mankind!  Mary herself was amazed at the possibility of this occurrence, to which the angel responded with some of the most profound words in Scripture:

“For no word from God will ever fail.” – Luke 1:37

Wow, how true.  Then Mary’s response forever changed history as she humbly surrendered to God’s will saying …

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. – Luke 1:38

God had sent His people “redeemers” in the form of kings and judges throughout Israel’s history.  But as with all things earthly, their redemption was limited, and eventually faded.  But they did serve an important function at a critical time in history.  And, perhaps more importantly, they served the function of pointing to Jesus.  Theologians refer to this as “typology.”  In its most basic sense, this means that something in the Old Testament prefigured something that Jesus Christ would more completely and more thoroughly fulfill in the New Testament.  (For some examples of “types of Christ” in the Old Testament, see this BibleStudyTools.com article.)

One wonderful example of an Old Testament type of Christ is the judge Samson.  Samson was born to a mother who, being barren, should not have borne a child … just as Mary, being a Virgin, should not have borne a child.  And yet, by God’s mercy, Samson did some amazing things in his rescue of Israel! Similarly Christ did some amazing things in His rescue of God’s people.  Christ’s mighty acts, however, were not ones in which He displayed His power, but in which He withheld His power, in order to accomplish His Father’s greater will.  Here are some ways in which Christ did an even greater job of rescue than Samson, demonstrating His strength through sacrifice, rather than through might:

  • Where’s Samson ripped apart a lion, Jesus had the strength to rip apart Satan. But for our salvation, He allowed Satan to rip Him apart and pierce Him through on the cross, suffering God’s judgment in our place.
  • Whereas Samson used the jawbone of a donkey to kill the faithless Philistines, Christ had the strength to wipe out the countless people who scorned Him and rebelled against God – even calling down legions of angels if He desired; but instead, He allowed himself to be crucified by a makeshift cross, bearing all of humanity’s sin and dying for those who sinned against Him.
  • And whereas Samson was blindfolded, beaten and mocked, in his last act he demonstrated his strength stretching his arms out to bring down the ceiling on Israel’s enemies … He pointed to Christ, who also was beaten and mocked, but in His final act, He withheld His strength as He stretched out His arms on the cross! Nonetheless in that act, He did crush our enemies of sin, death and the devil and finished the work of our salvation.
  • And whereas Samson put the gates of the city on his back and brought them to the top of the hill, Christ put all of our rebellion and sin onto His back and took it up the hill of Calvary to atone for it.
  • But where we really see that Christ is the greater rescuer, is that after his work of rescue, Samson died. Christ, however, did not stay dead. He rose triumphantly over our sin and death on the third day. Christ is The Greater Rescuer indeed.

The comparison of Christ with Samson is particularly important when you consider that God chose to rescue His people, Israel, not through an army, and not through sophisticated weapons of war, but through the mighty acts of one man – Samson.  How similarly wonderful, and yet more remarkable, is how God chose to rescue His people of every nation, tribe and tongue throughout all the world and over every age, through the mighty acts of one man – His Son.

All of this was to fulfill the Word of God, as the Angel Gabriel said when he came to Mary, “For no word from God will ever fail.” – Luke 1:37

May you find strength and hope in knowing that even the impossible is possible with God.  He rescued His people, Israel, and He rescued you in Christ!  May your faith be strengthened, knowing NO WORD FROM GOD WILL EVER FAIL!

Trusting in God’s faithfulness,

Pastor Augie.

Our God Remembers – Zechariah’s Hope

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Often the names of characters in the Bible have a specific meaning, perhaps relevant to something in their lives.  Zechariah the priest, father of John the Baptist, is no exception.  Zechariah’s name means: “God Remembers.”  We see God “remembering” in two ways in Zechariah’s life.

First, God is remembering Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth who remain childless at what the Bible describes as a “very old” age (Luke 1:7), by giving them a son. The angel Gabriel meets Zechariah in an area of the Temple reserved for priests, and gives him a message:

But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.” – Luke 1:13

Secondly, we see God remembering His promise to His people to send them a Savior.  Zechariah knows his son John is being called to be the forerunner of Christ and to point people to Him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  So as soon as John is born, Zechariah proclaims a long “song” of praise extolling the faithfulness of God in remembering His people and fulfilling His promises.  This section of Scripture in Luke 1:68-79, is known as Zechariah’s Song and is sometimes used in the traditional liturgical service of Matins as the Benedictus.  Here’s a short excerpt where we see Zechariah proclaim how God has remembered His people:

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. … and to remember his holy covenant” – Luke 1:68, 72

What’s interesting to note is what transpired between Luke 1:13 and Luke 1:68.  You see, when the angel told Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth was going to have a son, Zechariah responded in disbelief:

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” – Luke 1:18

For someone whose name means “God remembers,” he seems surprised, doesn’t he?  Has he forgotten how God brought children into the lives of the barren wives of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?  God may have a long memory, but Zechariah’s seems short.

The truth is, we worship a God that always remembers.  More than that, when He remembers, He acts!  That’s important, right?  If I just remember our wedding anniversary, but do nothing about it, my wife doesn’t really consider that remembering.  And just as I would be insulted if my wife were surprised that I remembered our anniversary, God is not pleased when we act surprised at his faithfulness.

So the angel Gabriel takes away Zechariah’s ability to speak until John is born. But when John is born, Zechariah makes up for lost time, and uses his first mouthful of words to proclaim a beautiful song of praise!

Shouldn’t that be our response to our faithful God who not only remembers, but acts in faithfulness to His promises?  Rather than be surprised at God’s goodness, we should be anticipating it with a confident hope!  We should reflect our expectation of God’s faithful action in our prayers, in our words to others, and even in our own actions!  That’s why the Apostle Paul encourages the Christians at Rome, and us:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13

Zechariah, once he’s able to speak, clearly expresses this confident hope in God’s faithfulness through the Holy Child who will be born to Mary.  May we do the same this Advent season, and always.

Trusting in God’s faithfulness,

Pastor Augie.

Keeping Christmas

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keeping-christmas

“We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” – 1 Corinthians 2:12

The title of this Advent’s message series “Keeping Christmas” is inspired by the final paragraph of Charles Dickens’ well-known and beloved book A Christmas Carol:

“He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!”

We do not know how to “keep Christmas well”, if our stress, spending, and spiritual celebrations were to be used as the evidence.  We need to know how the Lord would have us “keep,” or observe, the birth of our Savior.

Throughout this series we will describe and discover how we, like Dickens’ main character Ebenezer Scrooge, have failed to keep Christmas and how we, like he, are in need of a visitation; not by three spirits, but by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:12), with the result that we find and celebrate what the Lord most wants us to have – and keep – this Christmas.

Each week, we will consider one of the spirits that visited Scrooge, and the corresponding message that the Holy Spirit wants to convey to us through His Word and the Birth of God’s Son at Christmas:

  • December 4 The Ghost of Christmas Past – “Sorrow”
  • December 11 The Ghost of Christmas Present – “Repentance”
  • December 18 The Ghost of Christmas Future – “Transformation”

“Bah!  Humbug!”  was Scrooge’s favorite saying.  What does that mean?  “Bah!” is a kind of dismissive expression.  “Humbug” refers to “deception.”  That’s what Scrooge thought of Christmas.  He thought it was nothing more than foolish trickery.  Why?  For one thing, Scrooge was carrying around a lot of sorrow – baggage that turned him into what Dickens called “A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!”  He had been abandoned in boarding house as a boy, and lost the love of his life because he loved the idea of becoming wealthy more than he did the girl who loved him. That sorrow became a chain that weighed down his soul.  You and I carry our own sorrow and it interferes with us truly “Keeping Christmas.”

The ghost of Christmas Past came to “reclaim” Scrooge.  In the same way, Christ came to ransom, or reclaim us.  The ghost takes Scrooge on a journey all the way back to his childhood.  Then the next ghost takes Scrooge to the present day where he must confront the world that he has created for himself.  He learns of the way that others speak of him and his scrooginess.  He is shown that the actions of the present will shape his future – but that future is changeable.  So it is for us Christians.  Christ forgives our past and as we turn from our sin He then works in and through us to fashion a future for us – a better one.

How do we hope to “keep Christmas” this year?  How might we serve those around us as a way of keeping Christmas well?  The Apostle Paul underwent his own “visitation” as he was overcome by the blinding light of Christ.  In that experience, Paul was transformed by the only power that can transform any of us: the grace of God.  It is the Spirit’s power that enables us to die to self.  And it is God’s grace that gives us new life, the life of Christ.  May we keep it well.

Keeping Christmas with you,

Pastor Augie

Tell Everyone What He Has Done!

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I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us– yes, the many good things he has done…”  – Isaiah 63:7

When something great happens in your life, you want people to know.  Looking back at the last year at Redeemer, we have seen some great things happen!  …

We have seen our number of Growth Groups increase.  We have worked together to completely break through our goal of providing 1,000 hours of Community Service by our members.  We have improved our Worship Experience by making changes to our sanctuary and beginning a process of training new and existing Sunday morning worship teams.  We’ve increased community awareness of Redeemer by hosting a Family Fun Fest as part of our 25th Anniversary.  Plus we’ve added a solar system to our facilities that should provide most if not all of the electricity that our congregation and school currently consumes!

As great as these happenings are, some even greater things have happened.  Redeemer has been a place where family and friends have consistently heard and shared the Word of God.  We have regularly welcomed new members into our midst and celebrated the Sacraments together with an increasing number of baptisms and first Communions.  God has certainly been moving in our midst!  Is that something we would want to keep to ourselves?

Clearly we want to “tell of the kindness of the Lord” as the prophet Isaiah suggests!  To do so, we can begin by simply sharing what God has done in our lives and the hope that He give us.  1 Peter 3:15 tells us “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”  Do you have hope?  Tell others!  And be clear that the reason you have hope is not because of new government initiatives, or a strong economy, or even a good return on your investments … but because Christ is Lord!

As we prepare to celebrate one of the most joyous & hope-filled times of year, let us recognize that of all the great things that God has done, the greatest is that He sent His Son into the world to take on human flesh and be “Immanuel” – God With Us!

May this season of Advent & Christmas, and the beginning of a New Year fill you with joy and hope, knowing that Christ is Lord.  And may you join us in telling everyone what He has done!

Telling of Christ with you,

Pastor Augie.

A Manger Is Not That Comfortable …

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When I am going out of town to a conference, I wonder … will my bed at the hotel be as comfortable as at home? It’s likely, that even with “deluxe” pillows, I won’t sleep as well as in my own bed. Do you find the same to be true for you? … Well, my kids have taught me a saying that may be relevant in this situation … “that’s a first-world problem,” they say. There are so many people in the so-called third world who do not even have a bed to sleep in, and yet we in America (a first world country) worry about thread-count and memory foam. We also have leather seats, surround sound and air conditioning in our vehicles. We are very concerned about comfort.

I wonder what it felt like for the Christ-child to leave His heavenly “bed” and be born in a stable and sleep in a manger – a feed trough for animals! What about HIS comfort? My bet is that a manger is not that comfortable. And yet, that is so much like our Lord – He is willing to sacrifice His comfort for ours!

This Advent, we are in a message series that catches our attention because of the words, “Comfort” and “Joy.” During these troubled and unsettled times, we are really looking for a place where we can find comfort and joy.

Simply turn on the news, and you and I will see images of violence, dishonesty and danger. It can be very unsettling.   Even in the seats of our plush armchairs, we don’t find true comfort.

We can spend our Christmas bonus – and then some – on gifts for ourselves and others; and we can post pictures of our vacations and travels on Facebook, and yet we do not find true joy.

Why? Why is comfort and joy so attractive? And why is it so elusive? The answer is simply because true comfort and joy is not found in any earthy thing, place or person. It can only be found in God.

Each week leading up to Christmas, we will look at sections of Isaiah 40. In them, we will find out about the different kinds of comfort Christ comes to bring, and experience the resulting joy that can be lived out. Here is a preview of each week in the series:

  • Week 1: The Peace of Christ (Isaiah 40:1-2): True peace comes only through Jesus Christ and the forgiveness that he brings. He ends warfare without and within. He is the Prince of Peace.
  • Week 2: The Pardon of Christ (Isaiah 40:3-5): We prepare the way of the Lord through repentance, as the forgiveness we receive through Christ makes the rough places of our lives smooth.
  • Week 3: The Presence of Christ (Isaiah 40:6-9): We remember that Christ is present with us now and that he will come again in glory on the Last Day.
  • Week 4: The Power of Christ (Isaiah 40:10-11): God himself came to live among us and be our Savior, but his power was displayed in the weakness and humility of the manger and the cross.

We hope that you’ll join us for some or all of this message series. But mostly, we pray that you will find comfort and joy in the only place it is to be found – in Jesus! He sacrificed His comfort by humbling himself to take on human flesh and by allowing himself to be crucified. He did this though, Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “For the joy set before him.”   Jesus found His joy in us … May we find our joy in Him! We pray you are blessed by this season of Advent preparation for the coming Christ Child.

Joy in Jesus!

Pastor Augie.

P.S. If you’d like to serve others by sacrificing some of your own comfort this Christmas, consider making a year-end donation to our Christmas offering – its purpose is to help those in need.   It beats sleeping in a manger!