Happy New Year!

Have a safe and happy New Year celebration!

No activities at the church campus tonight. Tomorrow, we kick off our 2-year journey through the Bible. Check out the following for more information: https://fbcadrian.com/2014/12/11/2015-16-bible-reading-challenge/

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Do what makes you happy, but… (pastor’s blog)

It’s advice you sometimes hear people say: just do what makes you happy. On the one hand, it’s not terrible advice—happiness is better than walking around miserable all the time. But on the other hand, it leaves the door open to individualizing morality away from God’s holiness; and it turns happiness into a god of sorts, making the feeling the supreme objective of life.

Solomon gave us an interesting take on the issue at the end of Ecclesiastes. Writing as an old man and reflecting back on his life, he mentioned several times how he had tested everything and denied himself nothing, even abundant pleasures, yet found them all to be vain. After his sizable reflection on the vanity of pleasure and just about everything else, he wrote:

8So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity. 9Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. 10Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.

12:1Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them.” … 13The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. ~ Ecclesiastes 11:8-12:1, 12:13-14

Solomon told his son: rejoice in your life, especially in your youth, do what you desire to do—what you think will make you happy, but remember God will judge. So keep your mind set on him, fear him, and follow his ways.

Thus our attitude should not be do what makes you happy; rather, do what makes you happy, but… That but helps put a bound on our happiness: God and his word. Yet, this is really not a bound but a refocusing. God’s ways are better than our ways. Hebrews 11 says that sin has its passing pleasures, Psalm 16 says that in God there are pleasures forevermore.

Solomon’s point is really threefold: 1) you only live once; 2) you’re only young once; and 3) God’s ways are best.

In the broader picture of his book, Solomon concluded there are plenty of things in life that can make a person miserable. Death comes to all, death comes unexpectedly, and death comes too soon. History moves on, the new generation forgets the last, yet human nature and folly remains the same. There is nothing new under the sun.

So, make the most of your life that you can, especially when you’re young and able. Pursue happiness. And why? Because the evil days are coming. In Ecclesiastes 12:2-7, Solomon poetically painted the process of aging. Yes, we have some medical benefits now that can make aging easier and more comfortable; but none of us escape it. Vision fades, strength is lost, hearing goes, desire falters, and then comes the grave.

Man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets. ~ 12:5

With age (hopefully) comes the wisdom of experience; but with age also comes difficulty in doing things. So, seize the opportunity while you can, grasp at the moment, pursue happiness, but keep the eternal in mind.

Recently I saw a list of 30 things to do before you’re 30. Most of them were good—spend a night camping under the stars, travel some place exotic, climb a mountain, learn a different language, etc. But several also had to do with various drunken revelries. In the pursuit of happiness, we need to keep the but in mind. In looking for joy we need to ask: will this make me happy AND will this honor God?

Life is short, age robs us of certain abilities, death comes to all… seek to live life to its fullest, make the most of your opportunities, and do it all for the glory of God in Christ. It is the pursuit of happiness interwoven with the pursuit of holiness.

Sunday 12.28.14

Join us this Sunday!

@945am Bible Study (Sunday School) for all ages
@1045am Worship; Sermon: “Living as Exiles” (a 2015 new year challenge) from 1 Peter 2:11-12 & Jeremiah 29:1-14

On January 1, we will begin our 2015-16 Through the Bible challenge, you can find more info including the Bible reading calendar by clicking here.

There will be no evening activities on Sunday night the 28th or on Wednesday night the 31st. Enjoy the holiday week!

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. ~ Jeremiah 29:4-7

Why should we celebrate Christmas? (pastor’s blog)

16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God. ~ John 3:16-21

Question: Why should we celebrate Christmas? And by that, I don’t mean why should we set apart one particular day and call it the birthday of Jesus, nor do I mean why should we gather and give and receive presents with friends and families. Those things can be good reminders of the gospel story. But, why should we celebrate the fact that Jesus was born into this world?—something we should dwell on every day.

Answer: Because we are desperately hopeless sinners who are loved by an amazingly loving God.

In John 3:16-21, the apostle explained why God sent his Son into the world. And it starts with the fact that on our own, we stand condemned. Each of us was born into the world with the stain of sin and a heart that desires sin more than it desires God. We run from this truth, reject this truth, and we attempt to twist this truth. Instead of turning to the light of Jesus who says: “You must change but I will change you;” we create our own god who says: “You are fine just the way you are, nothing needs to change.”

Yet, hiding in the darkness and rejecting this truth does not alter the fact that we stand condemned. This is why John could say on the one hand that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but on the other hand that if we don’t believe (i.e. we reject the truth of Jesus and all he offers and hold on to the deceptiveness of sin) then we are condemned already.

Being born into this world, we all start on a path towards hell, towards judgment for our sin and rebellion, and nothing we can do will result in our salvation. This is why Jesus told Nicodemus shortly before this passage: “You must be born again or you will not make it into the Kingdom of God.”

In life, a child does not conceiver herself, it is the work of the parents. Nor does a baby bring himself into the world, it is the labor of his mother. So it is, we cannot work our way or earn our way into the Kingdom—it is all God’s work, and we receive only through faith.

We are desperately hopeless sinners in need of rescue.

So, John wrote, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Here in this verse we find three glorious truths:

First, salvation is available. God did not leave us stranded in our desperate hopelessness. Yes he is a God of justice, but he is also a God of mercy. Yes he is a God of righteousness and wrath, but he is also a God of love and grace. He will wipe away the stain of sin in judgment, but he provides us the opportunity to avoid his wrath by giving us the life of Jesus.

Second, salvation is available for all. Here is the inclusiveness of Jesus and the gospel. There are no barriers of age, gender, ethnicity, orientation, race, or social class that can keep us away from the love of God. There is no laundry list of things we have done that create an insurmountable debt that God cannot overcome. Salvation is available for all. But…

Third, salvation is available for all who believe. Here is the exclusivity of Jesus and the gospel. To receive this gift of love, there must be faith. To receive salvation there must be a letting go of ourselves and a clinging to Jesus. In 3:14-15, Jesus reminded Nicodemus of the story from Numbers 21:4-9. The people sinned by rejecting God and wanting to go their own way in their own means. God sent judgment, condemning the guilty to death through the bite of a fiery serpent. Yet, God also provided salvation, instructing Moses to place a bronze serpent upon a pole and lift it up before the people, so that all who would look to it would live.

Jesus said, “That is about me. I will be lifted up (the cross), and whoever will turn to me will live.”

All of us are snake-bitten in our sin. Death is coming. Yet if we will take our eyes off our sin, our lust, our greed, our pride, and our selfishness; and if we will look upon the One sent to us, the one Son of God born into this world for us, then we will live.

Oh, the depths of the riches of his grace! Oh, the cause for joy and celebration, that God has sent his Son to us!

This blog first appeared at: http://sbcvoices.com/why-should-we-celebrate-christmas/

Sunday 12.21.14

Join us this Sunday!

@945am Bible Study (Sunday School) for all ages
@1045am Worship; Sermon: “Why Celebrate Christmas?” from John 3:1-21 (Series: Not Your Typical Christmas Stories)

@Noon Widows/Widowers Dinner (free, all widows and widowers are invited)

@500pm Last Awana of 2014 (will return Jan 4)
@600pm Adult Study: We will be watching a video preview of Billy Graham’s Heaven, which we will show in early 2015 as a larger event

Coming December 24th at 600pm
Christmas Eve Service: The God Who Came to Us

Join us for this time of celebration and reflection through song and a devotion, followed by cookies, snacks, and coco.

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Christmas Peace (pastor’s blog)

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. ~ 1 John 4:14

It doesn’t matter if you read the gospel, the first letter, or Revelation, in all of the apostle John’s writings you will find a global focus with the message of Christ. This is unquestionably one of the themes throughout all of Scripture, as well: God is Lord and King over all the earth and God is the Savior of the nations.

Earth globe Christmas ornament on treeGod’s global focus began all the way back in Genesis 1 when he told humanity’s parents to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). Even well after the fall, when God chose Abraham to be the father of a great nation, God’s love for the world was written into the story: “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (12:3).

This time of year, we celebrate Christmas, a day we have set aside to honor the birth of our Savior-King as glorious light in a dark and sin-broken world. Announcing his birth to shepherds, a host of heavenly beings rang out, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14).

Christ in the world was the declaration and fulfillment of God’s promises. Here is the source of blessing; here is the giver of peace.

The peace that Christ gives is both vertical and horizontal. Paul caught this reality well, as we see in Romans.

Therefore since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. … Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. ~ Romans 5:1, 9-10

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. ~ Romans 12:17-18

First, Jesus brings us peace with God. Our sin made us rebels and enemies. Our sin placed us in the camp of the great enemy, Satan, in a spiritual war which has been raging at least since Genesis 3. The life and sacrifice of Jesus justifies us from our sins through faith. It takes us from being enemies to being sons and daughters adopted into God’s family (Romans 8).

What a joy, not only to have our death sentence expunged, but to be brought into the home of and loved by the one we so pitifully warred against!

But when we come to have peace with God it means we are to pursue peace with others. “Live peaceably with all,” Paul said. And this peace is more than our cessation of aggression. True peace seeks for good towards even those who try to attack us (Romans 12:19-21).

John told us why this is so: God sent Jesus (born into this world) to be the Savior of the world.

Here we find the theology behind his vision in Revelation 7:9-10—“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number from every nation, from all tribes, and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”

It doesn’t matter our race, our ethnicity, our social background, our gender, our class, our orientations, or our age. Salvation is available to anyone who will hear the gospel message, let go of their life of sin, and cling to Jesus in faith. This is a promise to all, whether we live in the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Russia, France, Iran, Nepal, Kenya, Afghanistan, China, or any other nation across the earth. This is a promise to all, whether we grew up going to church, to a synagogue, to a mosque, or spending Sunday mornings in bed. This is a promise to all whether we have tried to live a good life or whether we have breathed threats and violence against others.

This means, when we look around at the world—when we look at our neighbors, our coworkers, people on the streets, fellow students, or people on tv chanting death to America—we are to see others not as our enemies but as potential brothers and sisters in Christ, if only they will listen, repent, and believe.

We also are to see our lives as the means to share the hope of the gospel of Jesus and potentially see others in our world come to have peace with God and seek for peace among mankind.

As we celebrate Christmas, we should set our minds on the proper perspectives. Christmas is all about giving and receiving. God gave his Son for us; we receive the gift and gain new life, forgiveness, and freedom. As we have received, so we are to turn around and give ourselves that others might receive and know Jesus as the Lord and Savior of their lives.