Warrior. Poet. King. Pt. 1 David and Goliath

Warrior. Poet. King

Pt. 1 David and Goliath
David is possibly one of the best shadows of Christ we have in the Old Testament. Throughout his story you will notice that this was a well-rounded man. He was a strong, valiant, warrior. He was a gentle, graceful poet. And he was a noble, just king. He is the kind of person that we would all want to be like. In fact, to this day, Jews will still use him as a reference point when they talk about their kings and presidents to this day. They’d say, “King Jehoshaphat is great, but he was no David.”

His entire life is so spectacular that we’re going to spend a few articles on it. It’s a story of conspiracy, war, adultery, bravery, beauty, and nobility. Those characteristics are often best seen in his relationships with other individuals like Saul, Jonathan, Bathsheba, and his Mighty Men. So we’re going to do a study on the different relationships David had, and how they reflect the Gospel to us.

His story begins with an unexpected visit from a prophet. Samuel shows up at David’s house and tells the family that David is destined to be a king! This is the making of a great fantasy novel, right? Then the prophet leaves the family for all of them to just dwell on what he announced. It was very long after this that David started getting some notoriety. Perhaps the one event that launched David into the spot light of the kingdom is the most famous part of David’s life; when he fought Goliath. So let’s talk about that historical moment with a new lens.

The Setting

There’s a stand-off between two armies. The Philistines are on one side of the valley. Israelites on the other side. I want you to place yourself in the shoes of the soldiers. Sleeping every night thinking you could go to battle the next morning. Cooking every meal as if it was your last. Constantly listening for the sound of the enemy. And then David shows up to see this strange moment. He was bringing food to his soldier brothers. But he got curious. Why was nobody fighting? Why was everybody just camped out? So, he starts asking around.

It turns out there’s this Philistine giant who’s laid out a challenge. If anyone beats him then they win the whole battle! Pretty simple, right? This was actually a typical Philistine tactic. It allowed the Philistines to decrease the loss of their own soldiers, while also laying claim on more of the enemy’s soldiers. It was a win-win for them. Especially because of who their champion was.

It’s hard for us to imagine what Goliath looked like, even with a description in the Bible, because we’ve never seen anybody quite like him! The tallest man on record is Robert Wadlow who lived in the early 1900’s. He stood at 8’11”. That’s crazy tall! But even when you look at his picture, you wouldn’t think of him as a soldier. Goliath was 9’9”! In addition to his height, he was strong. His spear is described to be like a beam. He had one man designated to carry his shield. This dude was bred for war!

Now contrast this giant killing machine with teenaged, shepherd boy David, who was probably about 5’7”( that’s the average height for a 15 year old.) It’s no contest! My money is on the giant spear!

So David hears and sees all of this. And in his typical teenage boy wisdom asks, “Why isn’t anyone taking this guy on?” So he then offers to combat the giant soldier. Can you imagine? Some farm boy, basically estranged from his family and all of society, shows up with cheese and bread, and says, “Hey, I’ll fight that giant!”

Of course, anybody would be skeptical. But everybody is also desperate, including the king. He’s unexpected and unlikely. They don’t think he can pull this off. So David explains just who he is. “Listen, I’ve fought off a bear and a lion with my bear hands. I’ve been fighting for sheep. I stand for those who can’t stand for themselves. I’m a protector, a fighter, a warrior.” And the King, at the shock of every around, agrees to let David fight for them.

David, an unlikely shepherd, who seemed unqualified to fight this giant, stands in the place of every soldier.

The Climax

As King Saul and the whole army waits in anticipation, David goes out to a stream and finds five smooth stones. And you have to wonder, is David regretting this whole thing? Does he have any doubt about God actually getting him through this? If David fails, the Philistines will take over Israel! And David will go down in history as the failure who plunged Israel back into slavery.

Nonetheless, he confronts the giant and delivers an awesome monologue. You have to read this. I Samuel 17:41-47 Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. 42 He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. 43 He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!”

45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

And then he does exactly what he said he would do. He kills the giant with a supernaturally accurate stone, and beheads him with his own sword. That might be the most boss thing you read in the Old Testament!

So David, the unlikely hero, slays the undefeatable giant! And all of the Israelites enjoyed the victory

The Point

Remember, David is a shadow of Christ. The unlikely hero who stood in the place of all of mankind to defeat an enemy that seemed impossible to defeat. Who are we in this story? The soldiers shaking in our armor. The cowardly King Saul. The skeptical older brothers. We are unable, and maybe unwilling, to face our own giants. We avoid the confrontation.

Goliath then represents an enemy that we can’t defeat: sin. We are soldiers literally living in fear of our enemy. We desperately need a savior. We need our own David to step up.

David goes out, and crushes the enemies head. This is not fulfilling any prophecy, but it is actually reaffirming a prophecy made about Jesus. Remember, in the story about Adam and Eve God tells Eve that her offspring would crush the head of the serpent? David doesn’t fulfill it, but reaffirms it. He is a picture of what Jesus Christ would later do. David stood alone in the place of all of his people. Just as Jesus stood alone in the place of all of mankind.

So what is your Goliath? Is it an addiction? Do you have a stronghold in your life? Is your Goliath a giant of fear? A giant of jealousy? Anger? Lonliness? The lesson for you is this: you can’t defeat your giant on your own. You’re not David. You need a hero. And your hero has already come! He crushed the enemies head!

At this point, your giant is already defeated! You don’t have to fight FOR your victory. You can now fight FROM your victory. Remember, the Israelite army jumped to their feet and chased the Philistines out of their country! So rise up, soldier! Give chase to your defeated enemy. Your giant is a beheaded corpse. You are not a slave to your sin. You are not a victim of Satan’s temptations. You are on the winning side. Enjoy the victory that has been won for you!

"The Power Of Gratitude" Brian Loveless Sermon

"The Power Of Gratitude" 

Brian Loveless Sermon from November 2, 2014 at 
Calvary Baptist Church, Grand Prairie, Texas.

Turn your bibles if you would to the Gospel of Luke Chapter 17.  So good to be with you today; I really look forward to this time of being together.  I heard a story this week I want to share with you.  I heard about a large dog who walked into a butcher shop carrying a purse in his mouth. The dog walks right up to the meat counter and the butcher looks down kind of puzzled. Here's this dog with a purse in its mouth and the Butcher’s kind of amused. He says, “Hey boy, what is it?  Did you come to get some meat? Come to get some meat for your master?” The dog barks. “Alright! Well you came to the right place. What kind of meat do you want? We've got some ham. We've got some chicken. We've got some beef.” And the dog barks right on beef. “Okay we got some beef for you!  How much beef you want? A half-pound, a pound...” Dog barks right on pound.  “OK, a pound!”  Butcher wraps it all up and right at that moment the dog drops its little purse.  Butcher comes around the counter, he’s still amused, and he picks it up, gets out the right amount of money, and gives the dog the meat.  The dog puts the package of meat in his mouth, turns around, and walks out the door.  The butcher’s absolutely puzzled, bemused, like “I’ve got to find out what the story is here” so he follows behind the dog.  A few blocks in the dog turns into a particular door of an apartment complex, walks up the stairs, butcher is right behind him. Comes up to one particular door and just starts scratching on the door. The owner opens up the door, and standing in the doorway, starts to berate this dog.  Angrily, stomping his feet just giving that dog what for.  The dog has its tail down, head tucked, and then the butcher steps up and he says, “Look buddy, I’m sorry, I don't know what in the world this is all about but this dog is amazing! This dog just came in and ordered from me for you, and brought it back.  This is the most intelligent dog I've ever seen in my life!”  The guy looks at him and says “Intelligent?! This is the third time this week he's forgotten his key!”

Ladies Love Ministry by Joyce Felton

Joyce Felton has been a member of Calvary Baptist Church for about 44 years. She volunteers in the Park area of Kid City, plays the piano for the Friendship class, and attends ladies prayer room as well as Bible study on Wednesday nights.  Along with keeping grandchildren, Joyce enjoys cooking for her family, having them over for a meal, or cooking and sending it home with them.  Joyce also loves talking with friends, quilting with those who quilt, and exchanging books with other readers.

Ladies Love Ministry by Joyce Felton

I had only attended one meeting when Loretta Cook (who started the latest version of the Calvary Ladies’ Love Ministry) asked me to help her with the purpose of taking over leadership. I appreciated her faith in me yet balked at the idea until the Lord pointed out that she had over 28 years on me and I should be willing to help. I couldn’t do what she did by organizing a place to meet each month at a restaurant, so I asked if she minded if we met at the Family Life Center and provided a meal there. We asked the ladies and they agreed to pay or help cook. And I don't have to do it by myself.  Along with all the ladies that help, my daughter-in-law, Beth, and her boys help make sure all the food is prepared, tables are set, and help with  all those small details that make it come together. She's been my right-hand and I couldn't do it without their help. 

Working with the strong Christians and seeing their steadfast faith has been such a blessing to me and made me want that closeness to the Lord for myself. There is not a day that passes that I don’t think about my friends who attend and our friends who can’t be with us because they are not able. God has given me a love for this ministry.

The question is ”How can we not see and experience God each day as we pray for and minister to others?" What a lovely time of community and fellowship we have each month as we share about the needs and answered prayers from the month before. Wouldn’t you say that is sharing life? And serving others with cards, calls, visits, and prayers? It is staying connected with those who can’t physically stay connected to us. Most of our group do not text or Facebook, but there is nothing wrong with their ability to take the time to call and visit with each other and those in need. Amazing!

I am reminded of the chorus of an old song “Others” that goes like this: 
”Others, Lord, yes others 
Let this my motto be.  
Help me to live for others, 
that I might live like Thee.”

Being with this group of ladies has been one of the greatest blessings. They are the most caring and generous people I know.  They keep up with the ones who are sick or hurting and keep me informed of the needs of others. They are truly a group of prayer warriors. 

The work and commitment these ladies put in reminds me of Ephesians 4:32a says “Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted……” and again in Matt. 25:35-4 when the Lord said (and I paraphrase) when you have done anything for one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it for me.

The Ladies Love Ministry meets every first Tuesday of the month in the Family Life Center at 11:30am.  All ladies are welcome and encouraged to come and fellowship!

The Scarlet Thread - Pt. 7 Judge Samson

The Scarlet Thread
Pt. 7 Judge Samson
Judges 13:1-5; 16:23-30

Well, here we are. The final installment of the Scarlet Thread series. The shadows of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament are sometimes a little difficult to find. But we know now that there is indeed this Scarlet Thread that has been woven throughout the entire Bible. In this final article, we’re going to look at a very familiar story, but we’re going to look at it in a fresh way.

After the Israelites entered into the Promised Land, they needed some form of government. For a while they were considered a “Theocracy” meaning they took orders directly from the Lord by way of the prophets. But there came a time when they needed more. So for a period of time, God chose to govern over the nation of Israel by way of Judges. Judges were only a temporary form of government until the Kings were established. These judges were each appointed at a certain time for only a certain period. There were 12 judges in total, with Samson being the very last, and probably the most well-known, of them all. His story starts like this…

Judges 13:1 “And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.” Kind of a lousy way for your story to begin, right? Now remember, Israel represents Christians today. They were freed from the slavery of Egypt, and they made it into the Promised Land, showing how Christians are freed from slavery to sin. Some Christians never quite make it to live in Christ and enjoy His power and manifest presence. But other do make it into that Promised Land.

Once a Christian reaches the Promised Land to enjoy God’s power and presence, they are not completely free of temptation or trials. Even to this day Israel does not live in peace. They are constantly defending themselves in their land from surrounding countries that are trying to take their country. It just so happened, not long after Israel reached the Promised Land, that they were attacked from the Philistines. Unfortunately, Israel lost their faith in God, and did what was evil in His sight rather than trust in Him. And so God allowed them to be taken captive.

Read this carefully, you might have once enjoyed Christ’s power and presence, but that doesn’t mean you are free from trials and temptations. Satan still wants you. You still have a sin nature. And the world still attempts to persuade us that we’re wrong. Many of us, right now, find ourselves being taken captive again and again. The Philistines in this story do not represent Satan, they represent your flesh, your sin nature. And when you allow your flesh to make your decisions for you you’re willingly giving control of your life over to your sin.

And just like always, the Israelites could not free themselves from this problem. They needed a hero just like we STILL need a hero.

Judges 13:2-5 “There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. And his wife was barren and had no children. 3 And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. 4 Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, 5 for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” A woman for whom it would be impossible to be pregnant is promised a son. This son would be special and would save the people. Doesn’t this sound a little familiar? Like the virgin Mary perhaps?

The story of Samson is a bit twisted. He is a shadow of Jesus Christ and the Gospel. But he was imperfect. He sinned pretty badly. So he’s only a 2-dimensional shadow. Not a perfect image of Christ. Yet throughout Samson’s life he did some incredible things. He basically waged guerrilla warfare on the Philistines singlehandedly. He killed a lion by ripping it apart. Caught 300 foxes, tied torches to their tails, and sent them running through the Philistines wheat fields. He fought an army of Philistines and killed 1,000 of them with the only thing he could find; a donkey’s jawbone. He tore the city gates off their hinges and carried them up a hill for everybody to see.

This man was the number one enemy of the Philistines. Remember, the Philistines represent your sinfulness. You cannot defeat your sinfulness on your own. You need a hero. And throughout the life of Jesus Christ, He proved that He has the power to defeat the strongholds of sin in your life.

But then tragedy strikes. Samson is betrayed by a person he trusted, and he is taken prisoner. Sound familiar? Jesus Christ was betrayed by a person He loved and was taken by soldiers. This all sounds like terrible news. It’s like the part in a movie where the hero gets amped up, he goes to battle the villain, and something goes wrong. The villain seems to prevail. But read this.

Judges 16:23-30 Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to rejoice, and they said, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.” 24 And when the people saw him, they praised their god. For they said, “Our god has given our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us.”[b] 25 And when their hearts were merry, they said, “Call Samson, that he may entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he entertained them. They made him stand between the pillars. 26 And Samson said to the young man who held him by the hand, “Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.” 27 Now the house was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there, and on the roof there were about 3,000 men and women, who looked on while Samson entertained.

28 Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. 30 And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.

In Samson’s death, he did more to defeat the enemy than while he was alive. His death brought a victory for Israel, and a blow to the enemy. Now, what does this have to do with us today in 21st Century America?  Check it out, this is a picture of when Jesus Christ died. When He died, it was the enemy of sin that was defeated. Christ’s death brought our victory. Jesus was taken, beaten, and crucified in our place. We were supposed to go to Hell, but He died for us. His death bought our freedom. His sacrifice gave us victory and satisfied the law.

The reason all of the Bible has a Scarlet Thread running through it is because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is central to our faith. If you do not build your life on the Gospel, then nothing will feel in place. This life is designed to only function properly when we have centered our lives on the Gospel. Not just as a means of getting us to Heaven, but even to give us peace with God now. To give us a satisfactory relationship with God, even after we had fallen short of Him.

In Italy, the Tower of Pisa began construction in 1173. The foundation was laid, and then abandoned due to war. Two floors were built by 1178. The weight of these two floors began causing the tower to sink. The foundation was thin and the soil was soft. Again, construction was abandoned due to war. After 199 years of construction the tower was finished. Because of the lean, the architects made one side taller than the other so the building is now actually curved.

A decade ago, they determined the tower was on the brink of collapse and so efforts were made to stabilize the building. Now architects say it will stand another 200 years minimum. At this point, the tower itself is safe for tourists to visit and get pictures of. But the foundation will eventually cause the entire structure to crumble. It’s a ticking time bomb. But not all is lost. The foundation can be fixed.

The Gospel Thread runs throughout the entire Bible because the foundation of Christianity is about bringing you back to Jesus. If you’ve tried Christianity and it has failed you, could it be that you have fallen out of alignment? Do you feel lost, burdened, depressed, and confused? Could it be you’ve built your life on something other than the Gospel?

Return to the Gospel. Thank God for His sacrifice. Thank Jesus that He satisfied God’s wrath. Thank God that you can know Him because of His death and resurrection. And place yourself back on the secure foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Recommended Resource: “The Songs of Jesus”

Recommended Resource: “The Songs of Jesus” by Tim and Kathy Keller

I can’t recommend enough the book “The Songs of Jesus” by Tim and Kathy Keller. For myself, it has helped shaped my prayers, my affections, and drawn me closer to God.  The book is structured as a 365 day devotional which takes you through all the Psalms roughly 5-7 verses per day. There is a short reflection on the verses as well as a prayer that is shaped by the content of the Psalm. I strongly encourage you to pick up this resource and do it with your family, with your spouse, or for your own time with the Lord. 

You can find out more information about this book at http://www.timothykeller.com/books/the-songs-of-jesus

Here is an excerpt from the introduction:
The psalms lead us to do what the psalmists do—to commit ourselves to God through pledges and promises, to depend on God through petition and expressions of acceptance, to seek comfort in God through lament and complaint, to find mercy from God through confession and repentance, to gain new wisdom and perspective from God through meditation, remembrance, and reflection.
The psalms also help us see God—God not as we wish or hope him to be but as he actually reveals himself. The descriptions of God in the Psalter are rich beyond human invention. He is more holy, more wise, more fearsome, more tender and loving than we would ever imagine him to be. The psalms fire our imaginations into new realms yet guide them toward the God who actually exists. This brings a reality to our prayer lives that nothing else can. “Left to ourselves, we will pray to some god who speaks what we like hearing, or to the part of God we manage to understand. But what is critical is that we speak to the God who speaks to us, and to everything that he speaks to us. . . .  What is essential in prayer is not that we learn to express ourselves, but that we learn to answer God.”7
Most of all the psalms, read in light of the entire Bible, bring us to Jesus. The psalms were Jesus’s songbook. The hymn that Jesus sang at the Passover meal (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26) would have been the Great Hallel, Psalms 113–118. Indeed, there is every reason to assume that Jesus would have sung all the psalms, constantly, throughout his life, so that he knew them by heart. It is the book of the Bible that he quotes more than any other. But the psalms were not simply sung by Jesus; they also are about him, as we will see throughout this volume. The psalms are, then, indeed the songs of Jesus.

The Faith Factors: Three Keys To Growing A Vibrant Faith

In January 2018 Pastor Brian Loveless started a sermon series called "The Faith Factors: Three Keys To Growing A Vibrant Faith".  Missed a week?  Check out all the videos from the series below!

Part 1: "What Is Faith?" Brian Loveless Sermon January 14, 2018

Part 2: "Relationship With Christ" Brian Loveless Sermon on January 21, 2018

Part 3: "Community With Insiders" Brian Loveless Sermon on January 28, 2018

Part 4: "Influence With Outsiders" Brian Loveless Sermon on February 4, 2018

Trusting Isn’t Easy by Brandon Hochstetler

I was sixteen years old when I wrote my very first song.  I remember my mom often quoting the verse Proverbs 3:5-6 on trusting in the Lord, so I decided to write a song on trust. I have to admit, it was a cheesy song.  The chorus was simple:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
Lean on Him in every way.
Through life’s trials and life’s pain
He will help and He will save,
And when your soul is feeling down,
You can talk to Him in prayer.
You can always trust in the Lord,
Always trust.

As I have grown in my faith, one area that continues to be a struggle for me is fully trusting in the Lord. Trusting in the Lord “with all your heart” and “in every way” is definitely not easy, but it is also a command in Scripture, and in doing so, the Lord promises to direct your paths. So, why is it so hard to fully trust in the Lord? I want to give you a couple reasons in hopes that it helps us recognize how to gain a deeper dependence on the Savior.

1. We don’t really believe who God says He is.

Proverbs 3:6 says, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make straight your paths.” What does it mean to acknowledge God? The Hebrew word for acknowledge is yada’ which means, to know (properly, to ascertain by seeing). This first means we must have a proper and broad understanding of who God is. We need to recognize His many attributes such as that He is holy, just, and sovereign just to name a few. The way we do this is by meditating and studying Scripture. The more we meditate and study the Scriptures, the deeper understanding we have of who God is. But, it is not just enough to know about God. A true understanding of God’s character leads us to truly seeing Him. This is what the Psalmist gets at when he says in Psalm 34:8 “O taste and see that the Lord is good!” This type of relationship with God goes beyond facts, but reaches into a heart that longs for God. If we truly believe who God says He is, our relationship with Him will be transformed and we will begin to fully trust in Him.

2. We rely too much on our own strength

My two-year-old daughter is at the stage where she wants to do everything herself. Just the other day we were making her dinner and she insisted that she wanted to carry her plate and cup filled with milk all by herself to her highchair. While we offered to help her, she was very set on doing it herself and you can guess what happened; it didn’t quite go as she planned. That is a perfect picture of how we often treat God. We try to handle our own problems in our own way, thinking we can do it ourselves. Proverbs 3:5 clearly warns against this when it says “lean not into your own understanding.” This does not mean that we never use any wisdom and discernment in making decisions, but it does recognize that any wisdom and discernment we have is from God, and ultimately His ways are higher than ours. (Isaiah 55:9; James 1:17) The best posture we can have in trusting the Lord is one of humility. It is in this posture we can begin to rely less on our own understanding and more on God’s.

3. We Have a Lack of Obedience

Trusting in the Lord is active. What I mean by that is, trust involves much more than just knowing about God and believing Him, it involves obeying Him. One of the clearest examples of this is Abraham when he offered up his son Isaac. When you begin to study the context of that story, you realize what a big deal it was that Abraham was willing to give up his Son. This son was the way God was going to continue to bless his family, this son was the miracle Abraham had been waiting and praying to God for so long. We see that Abraham trusted that God would keep His promises in blessing him and his family so much that he obeyed God even when that obedience could potentially cost him his son. Maybe the reason we don’t fully trust the Lord is we are too scared to step out in faith, too scared to do something? Is there something God has laid on your heart that you have put off due to fear and lack of trust? The amazing thing is, once you take that step of obedience, that’s when God strengthens your faith and you begin to trust Him more.

I wish I could write back to my sixteen-year old self and say thank you for writing a lyric that emphasized trusting the Lord with all my heart and leaning on Him in every way. While I didn’t fully understand trust then, and I am certainly far from it now, I am thankful for how God is teaching me to trust in Him and showing me the barriers that keep me from doing that fully. This is a daily struggle, but the stakes our too high to not trust in Him. May we all recognize these barriers and desire to grow in our dependence on the Lord in this new year!

The Scarlet Thread - Pt. 6 The Promised Land

The Scarlet Thread/Luminescent
Pt. 6 “The Promised Land”

Let’s do a quick recap of how we can see the Scarlet Thread of the Gospel running through the stories of the Old Testament. God Rules in Genesis 1. We sinned in Genesis 3. God provides a way in Genesis 40. Jesus saves in the story of Exodus. But we still wander.

In last month’s article, the Israelites were just about to enter the Promised Land. They had wandered for 40 years, representing the Christian life lived apart from God. It’s like trying flip a light switch a million times when your power is out. Living without the power source is infuriating. And that’s where we enter the next stage of the Exodus story. 

The Isrealites were going after the Promised Land. It’s why they packed what they could carry, and got out of Egypt. They believed there was something better waiting for them. But what is this Promised Land for us? I’ll tell you right up front, it’s not Heaven.  There were giants in the land that prohibited them from entering. In their story, there were obstacles (people) that had to be removed from the Land of Promise, and I’m pretty there are no giants in Heaven.

The Promised Land is not heaven for us later, it is the indwelling of Christ now. And there are giants in your life that are prohibiting this.

Before we talk about how to get into that Promised Land, let’s talk about the indwelling of Christ. Truthfully, if you’ve put your trust in Him and His work on the cross, you already have Jesus indwelling you. But there’s something incredible that happens when a Christian believes this and trusts this.

If I told you that I had a magic glove at my house that move around, point at things, and pick stuff up you would say, “Sure you do. But only when your hand is in it.” You got me! But listen to this: everything that is possible for my hand is now possible for my glove. As long as my hand is working, the glove is working too. That’s the idea of Jesus Christ dwelling in us! We have His very power and deity living in us!

This is the “newness” of the Gospel. The Promised Land is meant to be enjoyed today! You have only to enter this Promised Land and enjoy the power and presence of Jesus in your life.

But how do I get to the Promised Land? How do I enjoy the power and presence of Jesus in my life? Because, truth be told, there’s a lot of times when I don’t feel either of those things. Take a look at what Joshua, the new leader of the Jews after Moses, says to the people before entering the Promised Land.

Joshua 3:9-13 9 “And Joshua said to the people of Israel, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God.” 10 And Joshua said, “Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites. 11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth[a] is passing over before you into the Jordan.”

How do we know that God will wipe out the giants blocking the Promised Land? Because He’s the same God who delivered you from the slave masters of Egypt. God, who saved you from slavery to sin, will also be with you to defeat the remaining giants in your life.

Did you catch the symbolism with the ark and the Jordan River? You get in to the Promise Land of Jesus’ indwelling the same way you got out Egypt, your slavery to sin. The Red Sea split for them to get out of Egypt and Jordan River split for them to get into the Land of Promise. This symbolic crossing of these two bodies of water represent your faith in the Gospel.

Colossians 2:6 says “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,” You were freed from your slavery of sin by your faith in the Good News of Jesus Christ. And the only way you can live in that freedom is with continued faith in the very same.

As it turns out, Joshua sent two spies into Canaan who met with Rahab. She told them that Jericho had been terrified of the Israelites all along and were dreading the day Israel came for them. The victory had already been won! But they were living as if the enemy was undefeatable. They believed the fortress was impenetrable for 40 years all the while the enemy was shaking in their boots, hoping Israel never realized it!

The final question that remains is; how do I stay in the Promised Land? The story of Moses ended with him dying before entering the Promised Land. And as soon as he dies, God appoints Joshua as the new leader. And within 3 days of Joshua leading the people, they crossed the Jordan. But as they were crossing it, God gave Joshua some instruction.

Joshua 4:1-3 “When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests' feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’”

Joshua 4:21-22 “And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’”

This really is a beautiful thing. This stone altar that they erect, built from stones gathered from the middle of the Jordan River, stood as a reminder for generations to come. And every time they looked at this altar they would remember and be thankful for God’s deliverance of them. Those stones were gathered from an impossible place. They couldn’t have built that altar if they had never crossed the Jordan River.

I think in 21st Century America we have become so logical that we scoff at any sort of emotional or spiritual ritual or tradition. But I think God feels very deeply about things, and I think He can appreciate rituals or traditions that point to Him. Not every tradition or ritual is good, and not every one of the are bad. But if it is used to remind yourself of what He has done for you then it is a very good thing.

So build your own stone altar. I think it would be a very good thing for you. It can remind you of the grace you experience then. I’ve been thinking about getting a tattoo that says, “Imago Dei”. It means “The Image of God” and it would be a reminder to me that I am invaluable because I am God’s child. I love to see people wear Christian t-shirts, because it can be a reminder every time someone asks about it. Wearing a cross necklace or bracelet might be that thing for you.

The point is to remind yourself, while you’re living in the Promised Land of Christ’s power and presence, that He is the one that brought you there and keeps you there. What’s left for you is the work of believing that. Leave behind your unbelief. You don’t need to wander in the wilderness. You’re slave masters are dead. You belong in the Promised Land. Enter in. Enjoy Christ. Trust in His power in you. Surrender to Him.

"We're Far Too Easily Pleased" Brian Loveless Sermon

Brian Loveless brought in the new year with a fresh outlook on our faith and our walk with Jesus Christ.  Take a look back at the first sermon of 2018 with "We're Far Too Easily Pleased" Brian Loveless Sermon on January 7, 2018 at Calvary Baptist Church, Grand Prairie, Texas.

Recommended Christmas Album by Brandon Hochstetler

Recommended Christmas Album

This month I wanted to recommend a Christmas album that my family really loves to listen to this time of year. Three years ago, Sovereign Grace Music produced an album called “Prepare Him Room”. The idea of the album came from a family devotional book called “Prepare Him Room” written by Marty Machowski. I personally have not gone through that devotional, but have heard great things about it. The album includes a mixture of familiar Christmas hymns (many of them reworked with different melodies and lyrics) as well as some original songs. Some of the highlights include their rendition of “O Holy Night (Hear the Gospel Story)” which really encapsulates the power of the Gospel story through new lyrics in both the second and third verses, as well as the song “Who Would Have Dreamed” and “He Who is Mighty”. I love the chorus in “Who Would Have Dreamed” which says:

Who would have dreamed, or ever foreseen
That we could hold God in our Hands?
The giver of life was born in the night,
Revealing God’s glorious plan
To save the world.

I hope this album serves you and your family well as you take time to reflect on the reality of the incarnation. I am very thankful to Sovereign Grace music for providing such a beautifully crafted, gospel rich album!

You can find more information about the album and Sovereign Grace Music at

The Scarlet Thread - Pt. 5 The Wandering

The Scarlet Thread/Luminescent
Pt. 5 “The Wandering”

This is part five of our blog series, “The Scarlet Thread.” Here’s how it’s gone so far. God rules, according to the story of Creation. We sinned and ruined Creation, according to the story of Adam and Eve. God works despite our sinfulness, according to the story of Joseph. We can be freed from the slavery to our sin, according to the story of the Exodus. And NOW, I want to share with you the story of the Israelites Wandering.

Quite frequently the Bible uses different metaphors and pictures to illustrate a truth. In the story of the Exodus, the Bible uses the picture of the Israelites wandering for 40 years in order to illustrate a dull, powerless Christian life. This is something I hear very often in ministry. It is common for someone to say they feel like their spiritual life is stuck in a desert, or a wasteland. There’s no passion, no power, and really no life to their spirituality. I think you know exactly what I’m talking about, because I believe this is something everybody experiences at some point in their Christian life. The story of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness just might hold the key to get you out of your figurative wilderness. It goes like this…

The wilderness came after the Israelites were delivered from the Egyptians. In a very real sense, the Wilderness wandering was self-imposed. It’s not like they spent 40 years completely lost without a map. They actually knew exactly where they were supposed to go, they were just not allowed to go there because of their lack of faith.

When I was in kindergarten, I experienced something similar. My school was about one mile from my house. One day, when my mom came to pick me and my brothers up from school, she had gone inside to see a teacher while we waited in the van. After a couple minutes, I also ran inside to grab something I had left. When I came back out, the worst thing imaginable to a kindergartner happened. The van was gone. My mom thought I was hiding behind the seat (something my brothers and I did regularly) and so she started on the way home.

I knew where my house was, and so I started walking in that direction. The only problem was, there was a man out on a run, coming in my direction. At that point, I panicked! I wandered back into the parking lot, and began sobbing. The whole ordeal felt like an hour, when in reality my mom quickly realized I wasn’t in the car and turned right back around to get me. I knew the direction I was supposed to go, but my fear kept me from moving in the direction.

This is what happened to the Israelites. Moses has even seen the Promised Land they were meant to travel to. But their lack of faith (fear), kept them from entering. I’m guessing you know exactly what that is like. After all, isn’t fear the most human thing about us?

See, God delivered them from Egypt, then gave them the 10 Commandments. They were on their way to Canaan, the Promised Land. Just before they arrived, they sent their spies to check it out. The spies said, “Nope. They’re big. They’re strong. They’re fortified.” God said, “Go take it!” And they said, “Mmmm, nope.”

These were God’s chosen people; the famous Israelites! They had already been through so much. God had come through on a Promise He made a couple hundred years ago. He had brought them all this way, and at this point, they officially lost their faith in Him. As a result of their lack of faith God says, “Ok, I’m going to send you back into the wilderness for 40 years until every one of you who rejected the Promised Land dies.”

Sounds harsh, right? But it’s what God determined was necessary in order to bring the Israelites to a place of faith. Sometimes He deals with people in ways we don’t fully understand. But when we look at God’s actions in light of the big picture we can see that what He does is always for our good and His glory.

So when it comes to The Scarlet Thread, what does the wilderness represent? First off, it does not represent being lost in our sins. Remember, the Israelites were delivered from the sin masters already. So for us, the wilderness comes AFTER we’ve become a Christian. The Wilderness then represents the carnal Christian. A person who has been redeemed and forgiven by Christ and yet refuses to surrender to God’s authority. If you are not currently experiencing a beautiful relationship with God in which He reveals sin, you repent, you enjoy talking with Him, you see blessings and thank Him for them, then you might be living in the Wilderness.

Your wilderness is the twilight zone between enslavement to sin and living the full, Christian life. The Israelites enjoyed neither the comfort of their old slavery nor the milk and honey and beauty of the Land of Promise. They were dumped in the middle. Perhaps you feel the same way. It really might be the most miserable place to be for a human. The Israelites had caught a glimpse of the beautiful Promised Land. They had seen the fruitful trees, the green fields, the strong cities, the clean waters. They KNEW it could all be theirs. And yet they turned away.

They also remembered having a bed to sleep on in Egypt. They remembered that they had food to eat and water to drink back there. It was a place they called home, but they could never go back to. The pain of wandering is great because you feel like there is no place to belong and knowing every day in the wilderness is a day that could have been spent in Canaan.

Remember, they were brought OUT of Egypt in order to be brought IN to Canaan. God’s plan was for them to enjoy Canaan. And yet, they cheated themselves out of it because they had no faith. Can you imagine, today, a Christian being filled by the magnificence of the Holy Spirit, God pouring His power into them? Jesus Christ completely redeeming them and now their record is perfect. A Christian is capable of so much. But can you imagine them refusing, whether by ignorance or deliberate rejection, the beauty, glory, and power of that life?

The Israelites were promised so much, yet they chose the Wilderness. And a Carnal Christian is someone who has Christ living in them and pretends like He is not there. If you have determined that you won’t have an intimate connection with God, and that you will only take what you like from Christianity and leave the rest, then you have chosen the wilderness.

But take heart! There is good news if you are in the wilderness! There is a cure!

Three things you’ll need to do.

1. Admit you’ve lost faith. The Israelites had faith enough to free them from Egypt, but they lost that faith. They had enough faith to be saved, but along the journey, they started complaining and wishing they were back in Egypt. So they wandered for 40 years and many of them died without ever admitting to their faithlessness.

2. Appreciate the Manna. Every day, while they wandered, God sent manna for them to eat every morning. It literally just showed up laying on the ground every morning. They named it manna, because that literally means, “What is it?” And this is where it gets crazy. They described the Manna in Exodus 16:15, 31 as tasting like fresh oil and honey. Meaning Manna was a reminder that God was presently with them, but also calling them to the Promised Land. (It flowed with milk and honey). It was a small wafer that wasn’t really enough to fill them up completely.

Manna was God’s way of calling the Israelites back to Him and back to the Promised Land. Every day they had a reminder of what they were missing. What they had in the wandering was not enough to satisfy. It was simply a call to surrender to Christ and enjoy Him completely.  So what is your manna? Is there a place or time when you regularly feel convicted and challenged to make things right between you and God? Thank him for pursuing you that way. And listen to His calling!

3. The last thing to do is annihilate your unbelief. God sent the Israelites into the wilderness to wander around until all of the unbelieving Israelites died. For you, God is working to kill off your unbelief as well. He’s proving Himself to you every day. He’s sending out regular calls to come closer and deeper into Him. Perhaps you are in your own wilderness, feeling unsatisfied with where you are. Wishing you could have your sin and also wishing you could have a satisfying relationship with Jesus. Leave behind your unbelief. Listen to God’s call to you. Surrender to Him. And follow Him into the Promised Land of an empowered, fulfilling life in Christ!

The Gift

In 1905 William Sydney Porter, an author that most of us would know simply as O. Henry wrote what many considered to be a Christmas masterpiece: the Gift of the Magi. It's a story of Jim and Della Young. A young couple who were desperately poor, but on Christmas Eve they wanted to get each other gifts out of the tremendous love they had for one another. Della is grieving over the fact that she can't give her Jim a gift that reflects her heart’s love for him. She looks at the money she's been saving over all these last weeks and she looks and there's only a $1.87 to give him.  The most prized possessions that this couple has - she has her beautiful waist-length hair and he has a gold watch passed down to him from his father, and from his grandfather before him. So Della’s looking in the mirror on this Christmas Eve and weeping about the fact that she doesn't have the money to get him a gift.  While she's looking in the mirror an idea occurs to her - she'll sell her beautiful hair. She goes to the hairdresser, she sells her hair, she gets $20, so now she has a total of $21.87.   She goes out looking for a gift to give him and she finds this beautiful simple little gold chain that can go on Jim's watch. She goes home and gets dinner ready. She's got this little gold chain and she's excited to give him a gift but also terrified at “What will he think when he sees me? When he sees my hair is gone?” Jim comes in the door and he just stops in his tracks and has the strangest look on his face. Della says “Honey I know it's different, I know it's strange, and I know it's not what you expected, but I can explain.  I love you so much I sold my hair to get you this little gold chain for your watch. I hope you can still love me like this.” She's worried and Jim says “Honey I love you so much. I could never love you less for anything. You'll understand why I was so surprised when you see your Christmas gift.”  He hands her the gift and Della opens it up and it was the series of little jeweled, fancy combs that she had seen in a store window some months before.  Della makes the point, by the way, “Where did you get the money for these combs?”  He'd sold his watch.

I told my daughter Aubrey that story.  I was just kind of kicking around some things in my mind and I said “Have you ever heard the story of the Gift of the Magi?” I told Aubrey this whole story and I said “What do you think of that?”  She was like “Aw dad, ya know...”  I didn't know if she'd heard much of what I had said.  About 15 minutes later I hear her in the other room telling her little brother, Vance, the story and she gets to the end of the story and she says “Isn't that terrible!?” I’ve got to confess to you I was thinking the same thing.  Isn't that terrible!?  Like the worst Christmas story ever?  Like well, you had a little bit and now you got nothing - Merry Christmas!   I find it interesting that the author didn't view it that way at all. He ended his story by saying this, “and here I have told you the story of two children who were not wise, yet of all who give gifts, these two were the most wise.”

This morning we are starting a brand new series that, God willing, will last for the entire month of December very simply called Christmas Stories. There are some amazing Christmas stories out there. From Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, to “The Little Match Girl”, to the famous, famous one that most of us read to our kids on Christmas Eve - “The Night Before Christmas”.  Y’all it is my heartfelt belief that the most beautiful, magical Christmas stories are found in the first four books of this New Testament.

Today's story begins in an incredibly unlikely place with an unlikely audience. It doesn't begin with Mary, it doesn't begin with shepherds, it doesn't begin with Joseph, it doesn't begin with a manger. Our story begins before there was Earth, before there was man, before there was a material universe as we know it. Our Christmas story starts when there was only God and His angels.

 John 1:1 this morning. How many are glad you're here? Say Amen! 
John 1:1
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

Now most of you, if you've been in church any time at all, or you've been around the scripture at all, you know that when the Bible refers to the Word in this context its talking about Jesus Christ. If this language sounds familiar, I believe it's because this language in John 1 is Genesis language. In the beginning Genesis says, in the beginning God created, in the beginning God gave life, and what John 1 is telling us is that there in the beginning when God was, and he was creating, and he was giving life, so was Jesus!  Genesis tells us that in the beginning God was. John tells us in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God the same was in the beginning with God. l I can't fathom it. I can't properly describe it. I can't paint a picture for you. All I can say is God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit, and God the Son, all 100% God yet distinct personalities, for eons before planet Earth ever came around, God was doing life with God. God the author of joy, the author of peace, the author of life, the author of love, was doing life with God. Jesus was there and the angels were watching. Genesis tells us in the beginning God created, but John 1:3 says all things were made by Jesus, and without him was not anything made that was made. Colossians paints an even straighter picture when it says for through Jesus God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth he made the things we can see and the things we can't see, such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, authorities, in the unseen world everything was created through Jesus and for Jesus. Oh listen! We're very prone to only think of Jesus in terms of what He did on earth. Understand Jesus was integral to the whole process of creation. When the universe was spoken into existence it was spoken by the lips of Jesus. 

Genesis tells us in the beginning God gave life, but John tells us in Jesus was life. He elaborated in John 5:26, the Father has life in Himself and He has granted that same life-giving power to His Son. Here's the picture I want you to get. Long before the manger, long before Christ came down and did miracles, long before the cross, listen! There was Jesus in heaven sharing life with his Father, speaking the universe into glorious existence, breathing life into His creation, and there drinking it all in were the Angels. Every day their greatest joy was seeing what Jesus would do that day. Every day the point of their life was hearing what Jesus would say. Everything about Him is so glorious and magnetic. There's not an earth yet, there's not a universe as we know it yet, there's just God and that's enough! It was glorious and there was peace. I think we kind of lost the true meaning of the word peace.  We think of peace as like an absence of war and absence of conflict.  The Jews had a word for peace in the Hebrew it was Shalom. Listen Shalom meant life as it's intended to be. Not just an absence of conflict but a presence of beauty, and glory, and wonder. It was life as God created life to be! In wrapping their life around God the Angels have peace but they would soon learn a lesson that they never should have had to learn. They would learn that no God, means no peace.

You see there was perhaps the brightest of the Angels, an archangel we believe, musical, beautiful, named Lucifer.  And Lucifer, The Shining One, determined at some point that the only thing greater than the glory of God and the peace that came with it would be if he could be God. If he could sit on the throne, if all would bow the knee to him.  Lucifer rebelled against God and a third of the Angels, we believe, rebelled against God. Jesus said in the New Testament I was there and I was watching when Satan fell like lightning from heaven. I watched angels become demons. I watched Lucifer become Satan. He went from The Shining One to The Accuser. Listen when this happened, when there's no God, when there's no glory, there is no peace. We don't know how long, in terms of time that went, after that event but we do know the time passed.  The angels once again marveled. They're standing there watching God, watching Jesus, and He does something brand-new! He decides to create the earth. He creates man and woman. He makes them in his own image. He gives them a garden. He gives them a place. He shows his glory to them. Adam and Eve, wrapped around God, made in the image of God, they are drinking in His glory and they are showcasing it to the world. It was glorious and there was peace, but that Shalom, as you know, didn't last long.  The enemy, this fallen angel, takes them down the very same path that he'd gone. He makes an offer: you don't have to worship God, you can be God! Why bow the knee to him when the world can bow the knee to you? Instantly he says your eyes will be open and their eyes are opened! They get what they wanted but they lose what they have, and they learn the lesson - no God, no peace.

Here's the thing that occurred to me during this study that I don't know that I've ever articulated to a congregation before. I don't know that I've ever really consciously like done the math on this. If I understand my Bible right, while angels are unimaginably powerful, they are not omnipotent.  OK? Here's what this means:  you saw angels in the Bible.  If you're simply thinking of like sweet little cherubic naked babies with wings, that ain't the Bible version of angels!  Read your Old Testament and see one angel wiping out an army. Read your scripture and find Roman soldiers, the most battle-hardened, bloodthirsty men on the earth at that time fall down in terror at the presence of one of these shining ones. Angels are incredibly powerful but they're not all powerful. They know a lot, they've been watching mankind for generations, but they're not omniscient. They don't know everything and I find it amazing that in the Bible you find this this tremendous scripture which tells us in 1 Peter 1:12 that the angels desire to look into the mysteries of the gospel. So when man rebelled against his creator the angels must have wondered “What on earth is coming next?”  They knew what the truth of Romans 3:23 - all have sinned, all mankind has sinned and come short of the glory of God. They knew Romans 3:17 - the spirit of it, the way of peace they have not known, and I wonder if they didn't think something like this, “Surely God will abandon this fallen creation. Surely just as Lucifer is cast down, without ever a chance or a hope of being restored, perhaps He will destroy this earth and its inhabitants and start again.”  But I think these angels must have marveled when God didn't. For the next 4,000 years of human history, they would see a story of divine interventions. Adam goes against God, he tries to be God, he falls and now he's naked. Now he's self-conscious, now he realizes I don't have any peace.  I'm going to spend my life trying to find peace in all these places but I don't have it anymore. I'm naked as the day I was born. And God, instead of shunning him, has the first bloodshed that we ever see in the Bible. When God takes one of these little creatures that he's created, kills it, and wraps Adam in the skins. The angels are watching and wondering. We see Noah, when God looks down on the earth, and man has gotten so corrupt that God says, I'm going to judge it, I'm going to wipe it out. The Angels say you're justified in that God; you’re a God of justice. Yet we see this man named Noah, who found Grace in the eyes of the Lord, and we see that God does a whole new thing with this group of people and the Angels marvel. You see Abraham, who decides to take matters into his own hands.  He goes and gets Hagar, they have Ishmael, and it seems like the line that God is creating through Abraham is over. But then God comes down and tells Abraham and Sarah, I'm giving you Isaac. I'm going to make a way where there is no way and the angels see it all.  They see for thousands of years all these divine interventions for Israel, all these divine interventions for mankind, they start hearing prophecies. God tells men, I want you to write this down because one day... You know about the old covenant, do this stuff and avoid this stuff and you can earn eternal life, but I'm telling you there's a new covenant coming that no man can earn. I'm going to write my law on men's hearts. God says I'm sending a Savior one day and He's going to be a Jew, He's going to be from the tribe of Judah, and they're going to pierce His hands and His feet, Psalm 22. Isaiah 53 says they're going to lay stripes on His back to redeem a people and the Angels hear it, the angels see, and the Angels wonder what He means. Divine interventions and prophecies. Another thing that the angels see for all these centuries, are occasional Christophanies - times when Jesus leaves the throne in heaven and makes a trip down to earth. We see it before the judgement of Sodom and Gomorrah when Christ comes down and talks to Abraham. We see it when Jacob, the patriarch, wrestles with an angel all night and at the end of that wrestling match he's afraid that he'll die because he's looked in the face of God. We see it in the fiery furnace when there's three Hebrew children who are being persecuted, we think to death, but the fires can't burn them and when Nebuchadnezzar looks into the fire he says I see not three, but four, and one of them as the appearance of the Son of God. And the angels must have wondered “Jesus why?  Why are you doing this? Why are you going down there? What's the point of all this?”

All this transpired for centuries. The angels desired to look into it.  They decide to try to put all these puzzle pieces together. What is Christ doing? What is the point? Until one day those same angels come to approach the throne of Jesus Christ, like they had done every day for all eternity, and when they come to approach the throne of Christ, Christ isn't on the throne. He's gone! Where could He have gone? Where would the Son of God be?  For the first time in the history the Trinity, in a sense, is broken up. There's the Father, there's the Spirit, but where's the Son? The rumor echoes through the ranks that Gabriel has made a visit down to Planet Earth to some folks. The rumor begins to echo through the ranks that Jesus has gone down to earth and that He's in a city called Bethlehem.  I picture in my mind the angels, who lived on the glory of God.  It woke them up in the morning if they sleep there, and put him to bed at night. They had drunk it in. It’s the greatest thing in their life just being in the presence of Jesus.  They long to see Him, and they want to know what's going on, and they make their way to Bethlehem, and what they find is indescribable.

Max Lucado wrote a little book called God Came Near, he said these words a lot better than I could:
The omnipotent in one instant makes Himself breakable. He who had been spirit became pierce-able.  He who was larger than the universe became an embryo. He who sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent on the nourishment of a young girl. God as a fetus. Holiness sleeping in a womb. The Creator of life being created. God was given eyebrows, elbows, two kidneys and a spleen.  He stretched against the walls and floated in the amniotic fluids of his mother. He came not as a flash of light, or as an unapproachable conqueror, but as one whose first cries were heard by a peasant girl and a sleepy carpenter.  The hands that first held him were unmanicured,  calloused, dirty. No silk, no ivory, no hype, no party, and no hoopla. Angels watched as Mary changed God's diaper. All my life I've pictured every dealing of the angels with Jesus as being glory in the highest!  Glory! I wonder if their first response at that wasn't more like Aubrey’s, “that's terrible! Jesus why would you leave glory and come down to earth in a stable with animals, and filth, and manure? God why would you leave the praise of all the created order, all the angels, all of us singing your worth, to come down like this? Why would you lay aside your glory?”  Do you remember the scene in the scripture when Jesus tried to wash Peters feet and Peter said “no, no, no, no, no! It's inappropriate. That feels weird. You're God!”  Can you imagine how the angels felt seeing Jesus like that? I don't know how the final puzzle piece slid into place. I don't know when the moment of divine insight came. I don't know exactly what it looked like when they got it, that aha moment from God of what he was doing, but we know that they did because of Luke 2.

Turn back with me one last time Luke 2:8

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord [by the way folks, think Shekinah glory that filled the Old Testament Tabernacle, that filled the Old Testament temple, to where the priests had to leave it was so bright and glorious!] the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God,

If you've been at Calvary any time you know we've talked about the fact that most of us, like when you think of Moses, you picture Charlton Heston. Most of us when we picture this scene think of three or four angels with their hands raised like we've seen in a thousand Christmas programs. I want you to understand what when the Bible says that there were these shepherds, God pulls back the curtain between the physical and the spiritual, and lets them see. The Bible uses the word multitude. That Greek word is pléthos which we get the English word plethora. It is used to describe ,in the bible, the sand grains on the seashore, it is used to describe the stars in the sky. I believe there were perhaps millions of angels, spread out over all the mountainside.   What they've realized about that baby in a manger is so critical and so beautiful that they all showed up! Here’s what they sing “glory to God in the highest and on earth peace [Shalom] goodwill [God's favor] toward men. They realized that God has laid aside His glory. Jesus has laid aside His privilege and He's made this journey all the way from heaven to a cattle trough, to bring fallen men back into a relationship with God. He has made a way, once again, for them to taste the glory of God.  For us to taste the glory of God! And once again have Shalom. Once again have peace.

One evening many years ago an actress by the name of Mary Martin, Jenny and I were talking about this I believe she's from Weatherford , Mary Martin was about to go on stage for a production of South Pacific. Just before she stepped out on stage, she received a note from the famous lyricist Oscar Hammerstein. Here's what it said: “A bell is not a bell until you ring it. A song is not a song till you sing it. Love in your heart wasn't put there to stay; love isn't love till you give it away. Love isn't love until you give it away.”  So on the surface when I look at Jim and Della I say that is the worst Christmas story I've ever seen. They gave up everything.  Do you know why they were wise? Because giving your heart is the greatest gift in the world and it brings the greatest return in the world. Two thousand years ago, listen to me, God gave us His heart. He sent His son because love isn't love till you give it away.

Let me ask you a question this morning. You may be here today and the truth is, for some time God's been pursuing you about something. You've seen evidence of His goodness in your life, you've had wake-up calls in certain areas that you know something's off and it needs to be made right. Maybe you've ignored them, maybe you've pushed them to the background. Maybe you're not a believer yet but something's happening in you that's pulling you that direction. Maybe you're not a believer yet and you've been skeptical and maybe you've been angry. By the way, every atheist I've ever met is a person who's been hurt terribly in life.  You may be here and there's some things happening with you, including this service today, that you just can't explain.  Love isn't love till you give it away.

I want to tell you something, listen, 2,000 years ago God showed you how He felt about you.  Not the new, improved, cleaned up version of you. He knows exactly what you are and that's the person he gave his son for. He gave him away, for you! What would it look like this very morning for you to reciprocate? What would it look like this very morning for you to take that step of faith toward your Creator and say God I want to trust you, I want to love you. I want to go from my love being somewhere in the realm of my mind and my theology and I want to express it you.  You know what? For a bunch of us it means we need to get out of our comfortable little safe lives and do the one thing that Jesus did, which is serve other people. Love isn't love when it's just a theological statement.  Love isn’t love when it's just attending a church service. Love isn't love because you sing it and talk about it. Love isn't love till you give it away. What is God calling you to do? What is that step of love that he's challenging you in today?