When Jesus stood up in the synagogue and read from the scriptures, he was reading Isaiah 61. Jesus indicated that the fulfillment of Isaiah 61 was happening with Jesus. Isaiah 61:1-2 (ESV) says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn. . .”
Luke doesn’t record the rest of Isaiah 61, but Isaiah 61 is really about revival. God is a God who takes the broken and rebuilds. He restores. He redeems. Verse 4 says, “They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.” In this passage, there is rejoicing. The rebuilding that comes by God’s hand is something to be celebrated. They will receive the “oil of gladness.”
As we focus this year on revival, we should focus on rebuilding, renewing, and rejoicing! There is so much to be celebrated in the kingdom of God.
With a host of New Year’s resolutions stacking up for 2020, we mark both the turn of a new year and the turn of a new decade. Each year we begin a new theme for the sermon series. Since we are embarking on a new decade, it seemed fitting to follow the theme of “Revival!”
Revival is needed in every aspect of life because we have a tendency to stagnate. Marriages stagnate. Churches stagnate. Jobs stagnate. Life stagnates. Revival allows us to turn the page and bring about renewal. Psalm 85:6 says, “Will you not revive us again, that you people may rejoice in you?”
God is a God of revival. He revives that which was once lost and dead. He renews and restores. And God rescues and redeems. He revived Israel when he rescued her from Egypt, made a covenant with her, and promised to bring her into the promised land. Jesus revived the sick, lame, and dead. He restored their health and reunited them with their families.
Revival runs strong throughout the entire Bible, because that’s who God is. 2019 brought on many challenges to our congregation. We have faced poverty, death, and much sickness. We have endured and persevered. But now it is time for revival!
If you are tired, come for revival! If you are sick, come for revival! If you are grieving, come for revival! If you have left the church for an extended time, come back for revival! The church functions best when the body of believers joins together in perfect harmony. We’re excited to see where God is taking us and we long for you to be part of the journey!
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When Jesus was born, a man named Simeon was at the Temple, waiting for the consolation of Israel. The word for consolation literally means an urgent call done by someone close by. Context determines the exact meaning (e.g. urging, encouragement, comfort, appeal, exhortation). Luke 2:25 (ESV) says: “Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel.”
Context for this word means “consolation.” Consolation is the comfort received after a great loss. Simeon was waiting for Israel to receive comfort by the one calling out on her behalf. He was told by the Spirit that he would not die until he saw the Lord’s Christ. When the baby Jesus was brought to Simeon, he blessed God and said,
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke2:29-32)
Israel was desperate. Injustices had gone on for generations. People were weary. They were crying out, desperate to find hope. God sent his son to rescue the perishing, to liberate the oppressed suffering.
At the same time, there was a prophetess named Anna. She was a widow and stayed at the Temple day and night with fasting and prayer. She was eighty-four. Luke records, “And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel. Anna was speaking to all the people waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. The Christ was the one who would bring both consolation and redemption! The time was here for people to be comforted and rescued by the only One who would do so. Immanuel–God is with us!
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The parallels between the Exodus story and Jesus’s birth and first years are not accidental. Throughout the Bible, and because of God’s throne of righteousness and justice, God cares for what philosopher and theologian Nicolas Wolterstorff dubs “the quartet of vulnerable.” Those include widows, orphans, aliens, and the impoverished. It’s no accident that Jesus was born extremely poor to an unmarried Jewish couple. They were outcasts and had to flee to Egypt to escape death.
King Herod wanted to see Jesus, under the pretense of worshiping him but presumably to kill him. The wise men tricked Herod and an angel warned Joseph to take the child and flee to Egypt. Matthew records: “And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son'” (Matthew 2:14-15 ESV).
This evoked the whole Egypt experience. Israel was living under oppression with a Pharaoh who wouldn’t let the Israelites go. The last plague required a sacrifice, a slain lambs’ blood to be painted over the door frame. Then God miraculously led the Israelites out of the foreign land of oppression into the Promised Land. God doesn’t just parallel these stories, Christ reenacts the whole Egypt experience.
People waited for the Messiah with anticipation. They longed to be healed. They longed to be freed. The vulnerable quartet of widows, orphans, aliens, and impoverished finally had a redeemer and protector-one who not only could save them, but one who also would.
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Christmas is a time when people around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus, Messiah. He is the savior of mankind, and certainly is worth celebrating. But we can’t forget that the reason there was such a high anticipation for the Savior to come is because people were living in desperation, having been ravished by Assyrian and Babylonian captors and seeing the daily oppression that was their new reality. It wasn’t just sin that mankind needed saved from. It was oppression and a lack of justice.
Isaiah 59 foretells a time when the Christ will come: “‘And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,’ declares the Lord” (Isaiah 59:20 ESV). Before the Light came, there was darkness. The people were despondent from living in utter darkness for so long.
Isaiah painted the grim reality: “We hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men. . . We hope for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us” (Isaiah 59:9-11).
If we truly are going to get into the Christmas spirit, we need to remember the oppressed. We need to reach out to those who are destitute and feed and clothe them. Jesus can’t be reduced to a Christmas tree and lawn ornaments. The reason we celebrate a savior is because people needed a savior. They needed a protector and defender. They needed a savior who was willing to lay his life down for others. Always remember the reason for the season.
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This year our congregation was able to send a group of ten to Ecuador. We have a heart for missions and have been able to keep up with some pretty tremendous works, including supporting missionaries in both Haiti and Ecuador.
It’s always good to go back and reflect on our work throughout the year so that we can remember how far we’ve come. Though we’ve experienced some losses, we have much to be grateful for! God is always doing great things and we owe him all the honor and praise!
This Sunday Dan Pyle will share pictures and stories from our trip to Ecuador. Short term trips are great for our kids to go on because they get to serve beside their parents. We had five (half of our group!) who were young kids. Our youngest was 4 years old-the youngest to visit Camp Bellevue in Ecuador! From old to young, everyone worked hard and a lot of lives were impacted.
We are coming up on the American Thanksgiving season. It’s a reminder of our nation’s history and how the pilgrims broke bread with the natives after enduring the long, dangerous trek across the open ocean. As we enter this season, we’re reminded of all that God does for us. He sustains, protects, loves, saves, and executes justice.
The current general mental and spiritual outlook in the US is grim. Suicide among our youth is the highest it has ever been and is the second leading cause of death among young people. Drugs and negativity have overtaken our cities and have permeated even the deepest of our rural communities.
An article from two years ago called The shocking impact negative people have on your brain, according to science, is making its rounds again. The article explains how neurons in the brain that “fire” are neurons that “wire.” In other words, if we hear negativity all the time, our brain chemically becomes hardwired to perceive the world through negativity, regardless of reality. The opposite is also equally true–the more thanksgiving we hear, the quicker our brains become hardwired to perceive things with optimism and hope.
It’s no surprise that the Bible instructs us to be thankful. Over and over again. Psalm 100 says, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (Psalm 100:1-4 ESV).
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