The Beauty Of The Christmas Story

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(Matthew 1:18-23 NIV) This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. (19) Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. (20) But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “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. (21) 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.” (22) All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: (23) “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

1.Christmas – A Beautiful Story

{trees, gifts, stars, illumination, food, peace and joy!} {nativity scene}

-wonderful promise of the Saviour

-wonderful people and family (and surprise guests from close and afar)

(Psalm 68:6 NIV) God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

-wonderful purpose

2.Christmas – A powerful story

-virgin birth

-the angel

-the dreams

-the star

3.Christmas – A story of hope

-name “Jesus”

-“Saviour” – to rescue us and make us safe – {in many languages}

-“Immanuel” – ‘God with us’

For This One Person We Would Have Come!

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1.Only 1/10 came back. But for that one, he would have come.
(Luke 17:11 NIV) Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.
(Luke 17:15-19 NIV) One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. (16) He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. (17) Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? (18) Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” (19) Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

-all 10 healed, but only 1 thankful, worshipping. -Imagine 1/10 in Japan = 13 million new believers!

2.God is seeking worshippers (one-by-one … including you and me)
(John 4:23 NIV) Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
(Ephesians 1:4-5 NIV) For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love (5) he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—
(John 6:65 NIV) He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

3.So… what do we need to know about inviting?

1.We’ll never know who will respond – “Don’t know, Never will”
– Seems random

2.Wipe off the dust – and keep inviting

3.Stay thankful that God called you!

Pruning Season

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John 15:1-4 NLT
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”
Pruning: trim (a tree, shrub, or bush) by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, especially to encourage growth.
Note: God is the gardener and we are the branches.
1. Pruning is Necessary For Fruitfulness
John 15:2 NLT
 “He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.”
James 1:3-4 NLT
 “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
2. We Are Pruned Out Of Love
Hebrews 12:7-8 NLT
“As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all.”
Note: Discipline (Latin: discipulus) is the root word of disciple.
3. We Are Often Pruned To Get Back In Line With Our Purpose
Note: Branches that are growing in the wrong direction are pruned. These branches rub the other branches and can cause disease. They also block out the sunlight that is needed for flower buds to form.
John 15:8 NLT “When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.”
Note: Our purpose is to “produce much fruit” both internally (fruit of the Spirit) and externally (good works).

Priorities 

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‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:33‬ ‭NLT
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Note: The Kingdom of God: is the rule of God in every area of your life.
Note: We are born again into God’s Kingdom
1. Give God Your Best
Genesis‬ ‭4:3-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬
When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.
Note: When you don’t prioritize the kingdom, you miss out on the provisions of the King. (ie: first fruits story of Cain & Abel)
2. Jesus Christ First in Everything
Colossians‬ ‭1:18‬ ‭NLT‬‬
Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.
Note: Do you seek God’s counsel through his Word and prayer before you consult everyone else?
3. You Can’t Serve Two Masters
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:24‬ ‭NLT‬‬
No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.
Matthew‬ ‭6:20-21‬ ‭NLT‬‬
Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

Praise And Victory Are Linked

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(Psalm 134:2 NIV) Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.
(Psalm 47:1 NIV) Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.
1.Praise opens the door for victory
(Acts 16:25-26 NIV) About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. (26) Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.
2.Praise in the fight
(Exodus 17:10-15 NIV) So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. (11) As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. (12) When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. (13) So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. (14) Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.” (15) Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner.
3.Praise after the victory of Jesus
(John 12:32 NIV) And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
(John 19:30 NIV) When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
(Philippians 2:8-11 NIV) And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! (9) Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, (10) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (11) and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Don’t Touch That Monkey

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Peter’s Question:
(Matthew 18:21-22 NIV)Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” (22) Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
My question: “Hey, What Is Forgiveness Anyway…?
-to dismiss or release from one’s presence.
-let go
-to send away
-to give up
-to release from legal and moral obligation
-to move away from … = a separation from
My definition:
“Don’t touch that monkey”
“release that monkey”
‘‘let go of that monkey”
“Decide now to separate from that monkey”
Jesus’ story is our answer to ‘how’?
(Matthew 18:23-24 NIV)
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him.
1st guy – Released from 10,000 talents
(a talent = 90kg gold = $40,000) = 4,000,000 Yen
(10,000 talents @ $40,000 = $100,000,000) = 10,000,000,000 Yen
2nd guy – NOT released from 100 denarii
(a denari is a workers pay = $100 )
100 denari @ $100 = $10,000 = 1,000,000 yen
The master forgave a billion yen
The one receiving that freedom would not forgive a million yen.
He received in 1,000 thousand times more than what he was ready to release out.
“What a jerk!”
(Matthew 18:31-35 NIV) When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. (32) “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. (33) Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ (34) In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. (35) “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Who is that jerk? …. me if I don’t release others.
(Colossians 2:13-14 NIV)When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, (14) having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)Rejoice always, (17) pray continually, (18) give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

The Power of Praise 

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Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭16:25-26 NLT‬‬
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.”
Testimony: My experience with the power of praise as a young Christian.
1. Praise reminds us of who God is and what He has done
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭150:1-3 NLT‬‬
“Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heaven! Praise him for his mighty works; praise his unequaled greatness!
‭‭‭‭Psalms‬ ‭135:3‬ ‭NLT
“Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; celebrate his lovely name with music.”
2. Praise attracts God’s presence
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭22:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬
“Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.”
Note: Enthroned (Hebrew “ysb”): to sit and remain sitting, to inhabit and to dwell. It implies the idea of ownership and control.
3. Praise brings God’s power in times of trouble
‭‭2 Chronicles‬ ‭20:21-22‬ ‭NLT
‬‬“After consulting the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang: “Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!” At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves.”
Note:  Praise was the catalyst that caused God to move supernaturally on their behalf.
4. Praise opens our heart to receive God’s joy.
Psalm‬ ‭16:11‬ ‭NIV
‬‬“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
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Closing: Praise exalts God, attracts his presence, and opens the door for the supernatural power of God to operate in our lives.

I Like Big-Hearted People, Don’t You?

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“Hey … I don’t want a little, stingy, shriveled, unhealed and unforgiving heart. I want a big, life-loving, forgiving and giving, expansive heart, “lifehouse’ … Like Jesus!
(2 Corinthians 8:1,7 NIV)
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. (7) But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
1.That’s why I love Jesus
(John 3:16 NIV)
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
(2 Corinthians 8:9 NIV)
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
-“Father, forgive them”
(Luke 23:34a GNB)
Jesus said, “Forgive them, Father! They don’t know what they are doing.”
2.That’s why I choose life with Jesus’ grace and power
(Proverbs 11:24 MSG)
The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.
(2 Corinthians 9:6 MSG)
Remember: A stingy planter gets a stingy crop; a lavish planter gets a lavish crop.
(Luke 6:37-38 NIV)
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (38) Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
-be big-hearted with people and money
a.no judgement, no condemnation
b.but forgiving and giving “Who is my neighbor?”
(Luke 10:27-29 NIV)
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (28) “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” (29) But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
3.Live Big-hearted – take-aways:
1.Stop blaming and take responsibility for your heart’s condition
2.Present your heart to God for healing and cleansing
3.Give with a heart of joy
(2 Corinthians 8:7 NIV)
But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
(Hebrews 12:2 NIV)
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The Choices of Esther

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Choice 1 – To maintain an excellent attitude in life or not?
The difficult past. She was an orphan. Where was God when … ?
Yet being brought up under Mordecai.
(Ester 2:7) Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This girl, who was also known as Esther, was lovely in form and features, and Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.
(James 1:27) Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Choice 2 – To give up personal freedoms or not
-To enter a beauty contest meant a lot of sacrifices.
(1 Corinthians 9:22-23) To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. (23) I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Choice 3 – To risk it all for what is right?
(Ester 4:14) For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?
(Ester 4:16b) When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.
Great Choices lead to great outcomes
She got a great marriage, family, respect, God’s favour on her whole life.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

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Part 1: Great power==>God’s resource

(Matthew 25:14-18 NIV) “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them.(15)To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.(16)The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more.(17)So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more.(18)But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

1. “Remember, with great power comes great responsibility!” Uncle Ben in Spiderman

(v.15) ‘ability’
(Greek: dunamis” 121x in NT. 120x is translated ‘power’. one time ‘ability’ It means power, force, energy, capacity,)to dismiss or release from one’s presence.

– All of us have a different start. You’ve been given a great one!

– True wealth = health, finance, stability, education, opportunities = Options

2. “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” Hudson Taylor

(Philippians 4:19 NIV) “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

(2 Corinthians 9:6-9 NLT) Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.(7)You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” (8)And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. (9)As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”

Part 2: What you do with==>your desitiny

-This parable of ‘capacity’ parable… motivational when we know there’s a ‘payback’ system expected.

(Matthew 25:19-30 NIV) “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.(20)The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’ (21)“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ (22)“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’ (23)“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ (24)“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. (25)So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ (26)“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? (27)Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. (28)“ ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. (29)For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. (30)And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

3. Live for heaven’s applause and personal destiny. “Only one life, ’it will soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.” ― C.T. Studd

(2Timothy 4:6-8 MSG) You take over. I’m about to die, my life an offering on God’s altar. This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting—God’s applause! Depend on it, he’s an honest judge. He’ll do right not only by me, but by everyone eager for his coming.

4. “Use it or lose it.” Henry Ford