Archive for January, 2013

Prayer in the Early Church

If you haven’t picked up on it yet the elders and pastors have decided to re-emphasize prayer in 2013. The vision of Lawton EMC is to be a praying church that makes disciples and plants churches nationally and internationally. We want to be a group of people that values prayer. We want prayer to become our church’s MO, or Modus operandi. We want it to be the default mechanism of our church. It’s our desire that prayer be the foundation, the pillar, and the covering of our church body.

So far, Pastor Roger has preached on why the early church prayed and to whom they prayed to. And last week we learned the different postures of prayer that we see in the early church and in the Bible. And so I began to diligently study the Scripture this week to see if I could find what exactly we are supposed to be praying about. To paraphrase 1 Timothy 2:1 and Ephesians 6:18, I learned that we should be praying with all kinds of prayers for all people on all occasions with all kinds of prayers. I found that redundant and not very helpful.

Instead of ending there, I decided to revisit the early church in the book of Acts and ask, “What specific things did they pray for could be of help to us in our Christian walk?” The first thing I found out is something I already knew from life itself: Just like in life you sometimes don’t know what to say in difficult situations, sometimes we pray when we don’t know what else to do. Maybe the disciples were feeling that way after Jesus left in the beginning of Acts. It doesn’t say exactly what the disciples were praying about. In Acts 1, Jesus tells them to “wait for the gift” the Father has promised and in Acts 1:14; a large group had gathered together praying constantly. They were simply waiting in prayer. Praying and waiting.

Sometimes, as Christians, we don’t know exactly what to pray. And that is OK. Prayer is a gift from God, anyway. We are sinners, and it’s only because of Jesus Christ that we can have a legitimate audience with the God of the Universe. It’s because we stand in his righteousness that the Father accepts us. And it’s the Holy Spirit that creates in us new life. And so when we pray it’s the Holy Spirit who helps us. And sometimes, we don’t know what to say. In Romans 8:26 it says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” It’s ok if you don’t know exactly what to pray because the Holy Spirit will help you.

But then again, sometimes we can see specific instances when those first believers prayed…

First off, the early church prayed for guidance.

We see this right away in the book of Acts as the disciples decide that they must choose a replacement for Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus and then took his own life. In Acts 1:23 they choose two men Joseph and Matthias. They prayed that God would show them which man was to fill the slot, so to speak, and be the next appointed leader. To decide who it would be, we read that they “cast lots” which was a common Old Testament method for determining God’s will.

Again in Acts 13, the leaders of the church in Antioch were fasting and praying together when God called two of them, Saul and Barnabas, to leave the church for a special mission. The church didn’t kick them out, and they didn’t leave without the blessing of the church. The elders of the church fasted and prayed more, placed hands on them (a symbol of praying over them), and sent them into other regions to spread the gospel. Then, when Paul and Barnabas were on their missionary journeys they were establishing new churches in the cities they visited. In Acts 14:23, we read that one of the things they did was appoint elders, through prayer and fasting, to lead the church.

It’s very clear that the early church believed in seeking the Lord with prayer and fasting before major ministry decisions were made. We also must be a church that seeks God’s will for the future leaders of this church. Today, we are going to be having our annual business meeting where we choose who will be the next leaders of the church. I hope you have been praying about this already. If not, I encourage you to take some time this afternoon to pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in these decisions.

In addition to choosing leaders, we see in Acts that prayer was part of the role for those in Christian leadership. In Acts 6:4 we read that the elders were to give their attention to “prayer and the ministry of the word.” This is so important. It really is the most important thing. It’s what we, as elders of this church, focus on. We pray for the body, in general. We pray for specific needs of individuals. We pray that we can lead the church’s attention to prayer and the Word.

In Acts 16, we see on two occasions that Paul and his associates were looking for a “place of prayer.” I hope you have your own private “place of prayer,” but here they were traveling and as a group wanted to find a suitable location. Just to remind you, every Sunday morning at 8:15 we make these first two rows a place of prayer for the church and then every other Sunday evening from 6-7:30 pm, this also becomes a place of prayer that you can be a part of.

Thirdly, we see that Paul asked for the churches to pray for Him as a leader. He writes this in more than one letter, but you can find a specific example in 2 Corinthians 1:11. Paul plainly says to the church “you help us by your prayers.” Church, praying makes a difference. You do help your pastors and elders when you pray for us. Are you praying for your pastors and elders? You should be.

In addition to guidance, we also see in the book of Acts, that the early church prayed for the needs of other believers. In many places in the New Testament, we see the words “prayers and supplication” or “prayers and petitions” used together. I know that a petition is a list of names, like when you are trying to get something on the ballot for an election. But what is “prayer and petition?” Well, when you petition someone you are asking for a specific request. So, in prayer it means to ask God for help.

The early church asked for help when they were suffering persecution. In Acts 4, Peter was in prison and the church gathered to pray. After his release, they prayed a prayer of thanksgiving. In Acts 12, Peter is in prison again because he wouldn’t stop preaching publicly about Jesus. And as Pastor Roger explained last week, the church there in Jerusalem was praying “earnestly” for him. And we see it a third time in Acts 16, but this time it was Paul and Silas when they were in prison in Philippi. They were praying and singing hymns while they were locked up.

The early church also prayed for physical needs of fellow believers. In Acts 4, after Peter and John were released from prison, one of the things that the believer’s prayed for was for God to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of Jesus. God used these miracles to bring people to himself.

James 5:14 echoes the importance of prayers. Turn with me there. It says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.” Are you sick? Call an elder or a pastor to come and pray over you. We really need to be doing more of this, church. When the elders come forward after church and stand up here, come up and be prayed over. Don’t make excuses. If you think you have never been in a position that you needed prayer for then you have a big problem. It’s a sin called “pride.” Stop acting so tough.

And prayer does work. Don’t stop praying. MaryBeth Allen gave me permission to share with you a result of prayers from her friend Dee Dee:

“Late last fall I [MaryBeth] heard about my good friend [DeeDee] from childhood who was given a month to live by her doctors due to a rare weakened blood vessel disorder. When I saw her last, she was so weak she could barely communicate and was getting ready to let her kids know she was going to be with Jesus. She is only 40 and has 3 young children. Many people prayed for her and I asked you all to pray too. This is the result of that:

On Tuesday of this week, we got this response:

“I want to take a moment to say THANK YOU to ALL of you that have been praying and fasting for me…God has heard your prayers!!! I got the results of my scans back…and I am OFFICIALLY HEALED!! Whoot Whew!!! The scans show that the blood vessels are no longer weak…and all of the pooling blood is GONE!!! My doctor said if she had not seen this with her own eyes she would not believe it!!! ONLY GOD is able to do THIS!!! Our God is AWESOME…and SOOO worthy of praise!!! THANK YOU ALL SOOOO MUCH for the love you have shown our family, we have been SOOO blessed to have so many people uniting in prayer, providing meals, sending cards, messages and gifts …we could not feel more loved!!! I will NEVER be able to express how much all of you mean to me… I LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH !!!!”

God hears our prayers and miracles still DO happen!”

The early church prayed for guidance, they prayed for the needs of one other, and they also prayed for the needs of unbelievers. For example, in Acts 28 when Paul was on the island of Malta he prayed for and healed the chief official’s father. Then many other sick people came to him for prayer and healing as well.

More importantly, though, we see the example in Scripture of praying for the spiritual needs of others. If you remember when Stephen was being killed he prayed that the Father would not hold that sin against them (the same prayer that Jesus prayed about those that killed him).

Turn to Romans 10:1. Here we see what Paul prayed about regarding the Israelites. It says, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” We believe that salvation is a gift from God; therefore we pray for unbeliever’s to be saved. I hope you are praying regularly for more people to come to saving faith in Christ. Do you pray for unbeliever’s to be saved?

So, following the example of the early church we pray for guidance, we pray for the physical and spiritual needs of believers and unbelievers. And finally, the early church prayed for God’s Word to spread.

In the letter that Paul wrote to the church in Colossae in Colossians 4:3, he said, “pray God may open a door for our message.” And then in 2 Thessalonians 3:1 he says, “Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.” He is saying that you’ve received the message of salvation that is available through faith in Christ, now pray that others hear it and respond. Pray for more opportunities. Pray for more salvation decisions. Pray for more churches to be established. Pray for us.

And when you pray, pray for boldness. That is what Paul was asking for himself in Ephesians 6:19-20: “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, or which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” When I think of the great apostle Paul, I think of someone who speaks boldly for Christ wherever he goes. But here he is asking for prayer from others so that he would be able to be bold and fearless in his communication. This is a great encouragement to me, because I feel so helpless and weak and not-bold so often. Please pray for me.

In Acts 4:29, the first church prayed that God would enable to them to speak his Word with great boldness. This is such an important thing to ask God for that I took a minute to look more closely at this word. The word “boldness” can also mean “outspokenness, confidence, openly/publicly, plainly, or with courage.

I know for some of us this comes easier than with others. It’s easier for some people to “speak their mind” than it is for other people. Some of us are naturally more outspoken than others. But this word doesn’t mean that we are to be overbearing. Boldness is not having to get your two cents in” as a part of every conversation that you hear (or overhear). But on the other hand, boldness does mean not always being quite because you are afraid to speak your mind.

We learn that from Acts 2:29, Peter said: “I may say to you with confidence…” And then in Acts 4, Peter demonstrates a clear presentation of the gospel.  “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (vs. 4:13). It’s the image of holding your head up and looking straight. In other words, we can drop the “awe shucks” approach to sharing our faith.

In addition to being confident, I want us to look briefly at three ways Jesus used this same word which should be helpful for us.

1) Jesus taught that speaking with boldness is speaking plainly. In Mark 8:31-32, Jesus spoke boldly or plainly, about how he was going to die and rise again. Boldness is speaking plainly. Christians, we need to avoid the tendency of vagueness. Sometimes we are vague because we don’t know why it is we believe what we do. You need to specifically know why you believe what you believe so you can speak plainly about it.

2) This same word, boldness, is used in John 16:25, to describe how Jesus taught publicly. In other words, you need to be able to speak openly about your faith and about the gospel. Don’t be ashamed of the gospel. If someone asks what you believe don’t just mumble something about it being a personal relationship. Instead, be able to speak openly about what you believe.

3) Finally, Jesus taught that it means to speak clearly. In John 16:25, this was the word Jesus used to describe how sometimes he taught figuratively, but now he was going to be speak clearly about things. As Christians, we need to be careful about speaking Christian-eze. That is a language that only other Christians speak. I’m not saying we can’t use words that are in the Bible like “sin” or “justification.” I’m just saying we need to make sure we are clearly defining those words when we are involved in conversations with others.

Pray that the Gospel message would spread, and that God would use you to speak confidently, plainly, and boldly.

In John 16:33 Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! [take courage, be strengthened] I have overcome the world.” Our courage comes from Jesus because He has overcome this world and our sins. So take heart!

What difference would it make to our life together if this was what we prayed for?

  • Do we pray for God’s guidance when making decisions, especially with regard to our current and future leaders?
  • Do we pray for the needs of one another regularly?
  • Do we pray for the salvation of lost people among us?
  • Do we pray for the spread of the message and our bold witness?

“Prayer is not preparation for work, it is the work. Prayer is not a preparation for the battle, it is the battle.” –E.M. Bounds

            If you haven’t picked up on it yet the elders and pastors have decided to re-emphasize prayer in 2013. The vision of Lawton EMC is to be a praying church that makes disciples and plants churches nationally and internationally. We want to be a group of people that values prayer. We want prayer to become our church’s MO, or Modus operandi. We want it to be the default mechanism of our church. It’s our desire that prayer be the foundation, the pillar, and the covering of our church body.            
            So far, Pastor Roger has preached on why the early church prayed and to whom they prayed to. And last week we learned the different postures of prayer that we see in the early church and in the Bible. And so I began to diligently study the Scripture this week to see if I could find what exactly we are supposed to be praying about. To paraphrase 1 Timothy 2:1 and Ephesians 6:18, I learned that we should be praying with all kinds of prayers for all people on all occasions with allkinds of prayers. I found that redundant and not very helpful.
            Instead of ending there, I decided to revisit the early church in the book of Acts and ask, “What specific things did they pray for could be of help to us in our Christian walk?” The first thing I found out is something I already knew from life itself: Just like in life you sometimes don’t know what to say in difficult situations, sometimes we pray when we don’t know what else to do. Maybe the disciples were feeling that way after Jesus left in the beginning of Acts. It doesn’t say exactly what the disciples were praying about. In Acts 1, Jesus tells them to “wait for the gift” the Father has promised and in Acts 1:14; a large group had gathered together praying constantly. They were simply waiting in prayer. Praying and waiting.
            Sometimes, as Christians, we don’t know exactly what to pray. And that is OK. Prayer is a gift from God, anyway. We are sinners, and it’s only because of Jesus Christ that we can have a legitimate audience with the God of the Universe. It’s because we stand in his righteousness that the Father accepts us. And it’s the Holy Spirit that creates in us new life. And so when we pray it’s the Holy Spirit who helps us. And sometimes, we don’t know what to say. In Romans 8:26 it says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” It’s ok if you don’t know exactly what to pray because the Holy Spirit will help you.
            But then again, sometimes we can see specific instances when those first believers prayed…
First off, the early church prayed for guidance.
            We see this right away in the book of Acts as the disciples decide that they must choose a replacement for Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus and then took his own life. In Acts 1:23 they choose two men Joseph and Matthias. They prayed that God would show them which man was to fill the slot, so to speak, and be the next appointed leader. To decide who it would be, we read that they “cast lots” which was a common Old Testament method for determining God’s will.
            Again in Acts 13, the leaders of the church in Antioch were fasting and praying together when God called two of them, Saul and Barnabas, to leave the church for a special mission. The church didn’t kick them out, and they didn’t leave without the blessing of the church. The elders of the church fasted and prayed more, placed hands on them (a symbol of praying over them), and sent them into other regions to spread the gospel. Then, when Paul and Barnabas were on their missionary journeys they were establishing new churches in the cities they visited. In Acts 14:23, we read that one of the things they did was appoint elders, through prayer and fasting, to lead the church.
            It’s very clear that the early church believed in seeking the Lord with prayer and fasting before major ministry decisions were made. We also must be a church that seeks God’s will for the future leaders of this church. Today, we are going to be having our annual business meeting where we choose who will be the next leaders of the church. I hope you have been praying about this already. If not, I encourage you to take some time this afternoon to pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in these decisions.
           
            In addition to choosing leaders, we see in Acts that prayer was part of the role for those in Christian leadership. In Acts 6:4 we read that the elders were to give their attention to “prayer and the ministry of the word.” This is so important. It really is the most important thing. It’s what we, as elders of this church, focus on. We pray for the body, in general. We pray for specific needs of individuals. We pray that we can lead the church’s attention to prayer and the Word.
            In Acts 16, we see on two occasions that Paul and his associates were looking for a “place of prayer.” I hope you have your own private “place of prayer,” but here they were traveling and as a group wanted to find a suitable location. Just to remind you, every Sunday morning at 8:15 we make these first two rows a place of prayer for the church and then every other Sunday evening from 6-7:30 pm, this also becomes a place of prayer that you can be a part of. 
            Thirdly, we see that Paul asked for the churches to pray for Him as a leader. He writes this in more than one letter, but you can find a specific example in 2 Corinthians 1:11. Paul plainly says to the church “you help us by your prayers.” Church, praying makes a difference. You do help your pastors and elders when you pray for us. Are you praying for your pastors and elders? You should be.
            In addition to guidance, we also see in the book of Acts, that the early church prayed for the needs of other believers. In many places in the New Testament, we see the words “prayers and supplication” or “prayers and petitions” used together. I know that a petition is a list of names, like when you are trying to get something on the ballot for an election. But what is “prayer and petition?” Well, when you petition someone you are asking for a specific request. So, in prayer it means to ask God for help.
            The early church asked for help when they were suffering persecution. In Acts 4, Peter was in prison and the church gathered to pray. After his release, they prayed a prayer of thanksgiving. In Acts 12, Peter is in prison again because he wouldn’t stop preaching publicly about Jesus. And as Pastor Roger explained last week, the church there in Jerusalem was praying “earnestly” for him. And we see it a third time in Acts 16, but this time it was Paul and Silas when they were in prison in Philippi. They were praying and singing hymns while they were locked up.
            The early church also prayed for physical needs of fellow believers. In Acts 4, after Peter and John were released from prison, one of the things that the believer’s prayed for was for God to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of Jesus. God used these miracles to bring people to himself.
            James 5:14 echoes the importance of prayers. Turn with me there. It says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.” Are you sick? Call an elder or a pastor to come and pray over you. We really need to be doing more of this, church. When the elders come forward after church and stand up here, come up and be prayed over. Don’t make excuses. If you think you have never been in a position that you needed prayer for then you have a big problem. It’s a sin called “pride.” Stop acting so tough.
            And prayer does work. Don’t stop praying. MaryBeth Allen gave me permission to share with you a result of prayers from her friend Dee Dee:
           
            “Late last fall I [MaryBeth] heard about my good friend [DeeDee] from childhood who was given a month to live by her doctors due to a rare weakened blood vessel disorder. When I saw her last, she was so weak she could barely communicate and was getting ready to let her kids know she was going to be with Jesus. She is only 40 and has 3 young children. Many people prayed for her and I asked you all to pray too. This is the result of that:
           
On Tuesday of this week, we got this response:
“I want to take a moment to say THANK YOU to ALL of you that have been praying and fasting for me…God has heard your prayers!!! I got the results of my scans back…and I am OFFICIALLY HEALED!! Whoot Whew!!! The scans show that the blood vessels are no longer weak…and all of the pooling blood is GONE!!! My doctor said if she had not seen this with her own eyes she would not believe it!!! ONLY GOD is able to do THIS!!! Our God is AWESOME…and SOOO worthy of praise!!! THANK YOU ALL SOOOO MUCH for the love you have shown our family, we have been SOOO blessed to have so many people uniting in prayer, providing meals, sending cards, messages and gifts …we could not feel more loved!!! I will NEVER be able to express how much all of you mean to me… I LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH !!!!”
            God hears our prayers and miracles still DO happen!”
            The early church prayed for guidance, they prayed for the needs of one other, and they also prayed for the needs of unbelievers. For example, in Acts 28 when Paul was on the island of Malta he prayed for and healed the chief official’s father. Then many other sick people came to him for prayer and healing as well.
            More importantly, though, we see the example in Scripture of praying for the spiritual needs of others. If you remember when Stephen was being killed he prayed that the Father would not hold that sin against them (the same prayer that Jesus prayed about those that killed him).
            Turn to Romans 10:1. Here we see what Paul prayed about regarding the Israelites. It says, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” We believe that salvation is a gift from God; therefore we pray for unbeliever’s to be saved. I hope you are praying regularly for more people to come to saving faith in Christ. Do you pray for unbeliever’s to be saved?
            So, following the example of the early church we pray for guidance, we pray for the physical and spiritual needs of believers and unbelievers. And finally, the early church prayed for God’s Word to spread.
            In the letter that Paul wrote to the church in Colossae in Colossians 4:3, he said, “pray God may open a door for our message.” And then in 2 Thessalonians 3:1 he says, “Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.” He is saying that you’ve received the message of salvation that is available through faith in Christ, now pray that others hear it and respond. Pray for more opportunities. Pray for more salvation decisions. Pray for more churches to be established. Pray for us.
            And when you pray, pray for boldness. That is what Paul was asking for himself in Ephesians 6:19-20: “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, or which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” When I think of the great apostle Paul, I think of someone who speaks boldly for Christ wherever he goes. But here he is asking for prayer from others so that he would be able to be bold and fearless in his communication. This is a great encouragement to me, because I feel so helpless and weak and not-bold so often. Please pray for me.
            In Acts 4:29, the first church prayed that God would enable to them to speak his Word with great boldness. This is such an important thing to ask God for that I took a minute to look more closely at this word. The word “boldness” can also mean “outspokenness, confidence, openly/publicly, plainly, or with courage.
            I know for some of us this comes easier than with others. It’s easier for some people to “speak their mind” than it is for other people. Some of us are naturally more outspoken than others. But this word doesn’t mean that we are to be overbearing. Boldness is not having to get your two cents in” as a part of every conversation that you hear (or overhear). But on the other hand, boldness does mean not always being quite because you are afraid to speak your mind.
            We learn that from Acts 2:29, Peter said: “I may say to you with confidence…” And then in Acts 4, Peter demonstrates a clear presentation of the gospel.  “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (vs. 4:13). It’s the image of holding your head up and looking straight. In other words, we can drop the “awe shucks” approach to sharing our faith.
            In addition to being confident, I want us to look briefly at three ways Jesus used this same word which should be helpful for us.
                  1) Jesus taught that speaking with boldness is speaking plainly. In Mark 8:31-32, Jesus spoke boldly or plainly, about how he was going to die and rise again. Boldness is speaking plainly. Christians, we need to avoid the tendency of vagueness. Sometimes we are vague because we don’t know why it is we believe what we do. You need to specifically know why you believe what you believe so you can speak plainly about it.
                  2) This same word, boldness, is used in John 16:25, to describe how Jesus taught publicly. In other words, you need to be able to speak openly about your faith and about the gospel. Don’t be ashamed of the gospel. If someone asks what you believe don’t just mumble something about it being a personal relationship. Instead, be able to speak openly about what you believe.
                  3) Finally, Jesus taught that it means to speak clearly. In John 16:25, this was the word Jesus used to describe how sometimes he taught figuratively, but now he was going to be speak clearly about things. As Christians, we need to be careful about speaking Christian-eze. That is a language that only other Christians speak. I’m not saying we can’t use words that are in the Bible like “sin” or “justification.” I’m just saying we need to make sure we are clearly defining those words when we are involved in conversations with others.
            Pray that the Gospel message would spread, and that God would use you to speak confidently, plainly, and boldly.
      In John 16:33 Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! [take courage, be strengthened] I have overcome the world.” Our courage comes from Jesus because He has overcome this world and our sins. So take heart!
What difference would it make to our life together if this was what we prayed for?
·         Do we pray for God’s guidance when making decisions, especially with regard to our current and future leaders?
·         Do we pray for the needs of one another regularly?
·         Do we pray for the salvation of lost people among us?
·         Do we pray for the spread of the message and our bold witness?
“Prayer is not preparation for work, it is the work. Prayer is not a preparation for the battle, it is the battle.” –E.M. Bounds 

“I don’t have your phone!”

Posted: January 17, 2013 in Funny

I just saw this from Tim Challies blog. It’s pretty funny so I thought I would repost it:

If you lose your cellphone, don’t blame Wayne Dobson – News – ReviewJournal.com.

This is funny. I was always worried about this happening to me when I load/unload my motorcycle.

Top 10 Bike Fails Loading Unloading – YouTube.

Naming the baby

Posted: January 7, 2013 in Sermons

My sermon from December 23, 2012: 

He will be called…
            Names are special. When you find out someone is expecting a baby you generally ask two questions: 1. Boy or girl? 2. Do you have a name picked out? It took my wife and I a little while to pick out our son’s name. We were settled on a girl’s name early on, but not a boy’s name. We picked the name Elliot for a few reasons. 1. We just liked it. 2. One of my Christian heroes (for lack of a better name) was the missionary Jim Elliot who was killed along with his four co-workers by the Ecuadorian tribe that they had gone to share the gospel with. And 3. It means “The Lord, he is God.” His middle name is Dean, who we named after Leah’s father. Naming your child is a special privilege of parents. And names can carry a lot of meaning.
            And people like their names because it represents who they are. Stephen Covey said, “A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” If you want an easy way to insult someone you make fun of their name. We learned that on the playground at recess in elementary school. To insult a person is to drag their name through the mud. Names are important in our day just like they were important in Jesus’ time. They tended to have meaning behind them. Today I want us to look at five names that Scripture tells us that Jesus will be called. These names do more than simply give us data from his birth certificate; they identify who this baby is. Therefore with each one of them we will look at the significance of each one. And then I want us to end by asking the question: What will you call him?
Call him Jesus:
            The first name is the most common one when we talk about Christmas. Let’s begin in Matthew 1:20. “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
            Mary and Joseph did not spend any time brainstorming names. They didn’t do an internet search, get a book of baby names, or ask their friends and family how they felt the name sounded. The name was already picked out for them. They were to give him the name “Jesus.”  At first glance, this was just an ordinary, common first century Jewish name. In fact, there have been 71 tombs discovered from the time of Jesus that are other tombs of people named Jesus. Paul worked with a guy named Jesus (or Justus). The fact that Jesus had a common name makes him that much more endearing to me. In many respects he was a regular dude just like me. We read in Isaiah that there was nothing special about his physical appearance that would attract people to him. And this is even true about his name, nothing too special about it. But there was a reason it was used often for children of that time:
            It was common because the name would have been Yeshua, or in the Hebrew Old Testament we see the longer version, Yehoshua, translated into English as “Joshua.” It literally meant “Yahweh (or the LORD) saves.” There were two significant Joshua’s in the Old Testament. The first was the Joshua who was chosen to lead God’s people into the Promised Land. But because of Israel’s unbelief, Joshua could not provide lasting rest (Hebrews 4:8-10). Jesus was a greater Joshua who would bring God’s people everlasting rest (Matthew 11:28-30).
            We encounter another Joshua in the prophecies of Zechariah. He’s the priest purified by the angel of the Lord in Zechariah 3. The visions of Zechariah 3 and 6 depict a priest who wears the royal crown. Since such a combination of priest and king was forbidden in the Israel’s law, this portrayed another kind of Messiah, a royal priest. In the coming of Jesus, this priestly king had arrived at last. In fact, the central message of Psalm 110, a psalm about the coming Messiah, views Jesus Christ as the messianic royal priest.
            When Mary and Joseph gave him the name Yeshua and when people would use his name, it would bring up images of the long-expected Messiah who would deliver his people from sin, death, and judgment.
Call him Immanuel:
            The second name that I want us to consider for this newborn child is found in Matthew 1:23. “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). For someone who was to be called “Immanuel” no one really called Jesus that (or if they did it wasn’t recorded in the Bible.) But it wasn’t so much about the name, per se, but what it meant: “God with us.” Jesus was God in the flesh. There was a song a few years ago that had the lines, “What if God were one of us? Just a slob like one of us. Just a stranger on the bus trying to make his way home?” I used to hate that song because I thought it was making fun of Jesus. Now I am sad for the songwriter because they missed what Christmas is all about. God did come like one of us. John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” We call this act the incarnation, which means “in the flesh.” That’s what Christmas is all about.
            John 1:18 “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” Jesus is God. He is God with us. Colossians 1:19 “In Him, the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”
            To really grasp what this meant to the Jewish people of the time, we need to look at their history again. This time from the time of Isaiah, around 740 B.C. It was during this time that Israel was divided in two kingdoms. The northern kingdom, Israel, was doing evil in the eyes of the Lord. God was holding onto the southern kingdom, Judah, for a little while longer. Its king was Ahaz. In Isaiah 7, King Ahaz was afraid that the kingdoms of Israel and Syria would join forces and make war against it. God sent the prophet Isaiah to tell King Ahaz and Judah that they would stand for a little while longer. And then God told King Ahaz to ask for a sign that God was on their side. After King Ahaz refused, God said that he himself would give Ahaz a sign: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.”
            This had two meanings. One was dealing with the current military situation, but the second was that God would fulfill the Old Testament promises of coming to be with his people. God repeatedly promised: “I will be their God, and they will be my people. I will live among them and walk among them.”(2 Cor. 6:16, Lev. 26:12; Jer. 32:38; Ez. 37:27). The birth of Christ was the fulfillment of God’s desire to dwell among his people.
            We see this in John 1:14, when it refers to the word becoming flesh it says he “made his dwelling among us.” That literally means that Jesus “tabernacled” with us or he pitched his tent with us. In the Old Testament, when the people of Israel lived in tents for forty years as they traveled the desert on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land, the presence of God dwelt in a tabernacle in the middle of the camp. He was their very close, very real neighbor. And now, in the person of Jesus, God made his dwelling with us. Immanuel – God with us.
Call him King:
            We call him Jesus, we call him Immanuel, and we also call him the newborn King. We don’t fully understand what it means to be king because we live in a republic and not a monarchy. But even England doesn’t operate as an absolute monarchy because the queen doesn’t have full political powers but is more of a ceremonial head of state. In an absolute monarchy, a person is born into the position and when he becomes a king he is one for life. It’s also a system where there is much power. He would be the one that people would bow to in honor. The wise men who came to see Jesus understand that they were coming to worship a future king. That’s why they brought they didn’t bring cheap cigars or balloons as a gifts. One of their gifts was gold – a gift fit for a king.
            Luke 1:32b-33, “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” This promise to Mary that her Son would sit on the throne of David was huge. It was interesting because Joseph was of the Davidic family line, which is why he traveled to Bethlehem for the census. Bethlehem is where King David was born. And if the prophecy was to be fulfilled it would come through the father, not the mother’s line. To understand the significance of the Christ child, one needs to know what God had long ago promised David and his sons. In 2 Samuel 7, God blessed David and his offspring, promising them an eternal throne. For nearly 1,000 years the people of Israel awaited a Davidic king who would keep the covenant and inherit the throne. The gospels reveal that Jesus is this long-expected, law-abiding king.
            Looking back at the prophecy in Isaiah that we looked at earlier, this time in chapter nine we read, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”
            Jesus is the one who would bring everlasting peace. He is the royal Son who would inherit the nations (Ps. 2). Thus, the baby born in Bethlehem was the one God had in mind when he promised David his son would sit on an eternal throne.
Call him the Son of God:
            The fourth name that we can call this newborn baby boy is one that you and I cannot relate to on a human level but is extremely important in the story of the gospel. He was the holy Son of God: Luke 1:35 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.” One time a demon-possessed man followed Jesus shouting, “Here is the Son of the Most High God.”
            Each one of us is a lawbreaker. We have chosen to break God’s law. We have committed sins. But we are also born as sinners with a sinful nature. Even if you could be perfect in your actions, thoughts, and motives, you would still be a sinful person at your heart. Jesus was not like us in that way. He did not inherit the sinful nature because he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin. He knew no sin (Romans 8:3). He came as God in the flesh. But also came as the Son of God which means he lived a life of obedience to God the Father with the help and power of the Holy Spirit.
            Because Jesus was without sin he was able to die on the cross as the perfect sacrifice for my sins and yours. His death for our sins brings us life. He is the only one who can be the mediator between God and man. He was fully man. He lived on this earth like you and me. He was also fully God. Therefore, he can be the substitionary atonement that we needed.
            As the Son of God, he also demonstrated perfected obedience to God the Father. He kept the law of God. He lived a life of submission to the will of God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Call him Savior
            You can call him Jesus, Immanuel, King, Son of God, and now finally, because all this is true, we can call him our Savior. Luke 2:11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”
            He is the promised rescuer and redeemer that everyone was looking for. He was the anointed one, Messiah that would be Lord and Savior of His people. Listen to 1 Peter 1:10-12: “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.”
            Salvation through Jesus Christ…God comes as a baby so that we can be saved from our sins. It’s so simple that a child could tell you what Christmas means, but it’s so complicated that even angels long to look into these things. No wonder they showed up on the first Christmas morning singing: “Glory to God in the highest.”
            This is why we look forward to this time of the year so much. This is why we celebrate. God came to rescue us. It’s the greatest story ever told. It’s the story of a returning king to make things right.
C.S. Lewis captures this in the book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In the story, the Lion, Aslan, was the Jesus-like Messiah figure whose return to Narnia was prophesied about. In the story, it was always winter and never Christmas in the land of Narnia. But when the animals noticed that it was getting warmer and the snow was beginning to melt. They said among themselves “Could it be true? Have you heard?” Could Aslan be returning to break the spell of the white witch? And then Mr. Beaver said, “Aslan is on the move.”
What a great day it will be when Aslan comes.
What a great day when Jesus appeared! He is the King, our Savior, the Son of God, Immanuel.
What will you call him?
            I want to leave you today with this thought: The reason why Jesus came was to seek and save the lost. Jesus did not save the world in his birth. It was in his life, death, and resurrection that made salvation possible. He became a suffering servant and offered himself as a ransom for many (Isa. 53; Matt. 20:28). In the Incarnation, the exalted Son took the form of a lowly servant, and died the death of a criminal. Therefore, the Father exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Joy to the Lord, verse 3:
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
            He was more than just a baby born that we celebrate once a year with food and presents. He is our Savior. He is our Lord. He is worthy to be worshiped.
            Will you call him the true King? Will you acknowledge that he is the Holy One, the Son of God? Immanuel – God with us?
            Christmas is truly wonderful. Receive him as Savior and worship Him as Lord. 

Elliot reading

Posted: January 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

Elliot reading

Elliot likes to grab his favorite book and sit in his rocking chair reading.