Merry Christmas: The Greatest Story Ever Told

Emmanuel, God with US

Isaiah 7:14, Matt. 1:18-25

God Wants To Be With US

Christmas 2011

ME

Christmas means Wassailfest, lights at the downtown circle, Christmas Parties, Christmas Trees, Christmas Shopping…

We pretty much have a routine that our kids are beginning to grasp here in New Braunfels.  Laura has been under the weather this year, but that doesn’t stop Katie and Noah from requesting a visit to Wassailfest.  It is awesome looking through the eyes of little kids.  Noah, my three year old, came around the corner Thursday night and shouted in excitement, “It’s Christmastime!”

 This year Mommy was not the only one excited about getting down the Christmas Tree and all the decorations.  Before she could even say anything, our little five year old set the tone for the family.  SHE wanted to top the tree this year, and she did, on Daddy’s shoulders.  So we got the inside decorated, and we were driving home from Church the next day, and Katie says, “WE need Christmas Lights on the outside of our house now!  Ours is BLANK!”  

I love that Katie and Noah are thinking on their own and learning new things.  They really have this thing about just wanting to be with Mommy or Daddy, almost all the time.  That is both good and bad :).  A very special BE WITH Time, though, is usually bed time.  Noah is easy, he usually wants his little blanket and stuffed animals (it is like he is making an ark of his own) and asks for a drink of water and snuggles up under his big Spiderman Blanket and goes to sleep.  Not before he calls me some three year old name like “Silly Cookie” or Good Night “Woody” referring to Toy Story.  If I lay in his new “Big Boy Bed” he usually says “Get OUT OF MY BED!”    

Katie on the other hand milks the exclusive BE WITH time for all it is worth.  She loves it when Mom or Dad lay with her and talk a little, snuggle a little, look at her American Girl Doll, and listen to a Kids Christmas Musical on the CD player that she has requested… since October.  I sort of feel good when she tries to pull me back as I try to leave.  I think its because we both like to have a little quality BE WITH time.

WE
Looking at my kids and thinking about where we come from, it makes sense that a relational God would make people like you and me with a craving to BE WITH someone, anyone that would love and accept us.

I mean, this BE WITH craving really took off in the cyber world of Facebook and Twitter.  I know that probably most of you have requested some amazing Cell Phone for Christmas so you can have a REAL SOCIAL LIFE and text your friends.  Now you can even skype or have “face time” on your iPad and video chat.  I think this all has to do with a BE WITH FACTOR in all of us, and the truth is, you have all that, but get most satisfied when someone is actually WITH you.  Actually PRESENT.  In front of you.  Face to Face.  Real in person like.  

God created us to be relational beings.  He set the BE WITH FACTOR inside of us.  A craving for real relationship.  How about that girlfriend or boyfriend of yours, or even a crush.  It doesn’t satisfy you just to text him or her, you really want to BE WITH that person.  If you really think about it, you are probably planning amazing moments in your head revolving around the next time you are going to actually BE WITH him or her.  Maybe that is why you actually like school.  You are a 6th grade guy that thinks he is in love with your Math teacher, and you are planning every moment just to BE WITH her as she teaches you addition subtraction.  One word – TUTORING!

It is funny, though, we lose that thought when it comes to knowing God.  When we think about God, we tend to forget that he really just wanted to BE WITH His Creation.  In the Garden of Eden, He walked and talked with Adam and Eve. Then sin separated us from God.  I think sometimes, we think of Him watching us from afar and not really interested in our daily lives.  That is where this amazing Christmas Story proves us wrong.  THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD begins with a promise in the old Testament.  
Isaiah 7:14 says
“14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
There had been a hope throughout history that hinted about GOD BEING WITH US.  
So lets read out of Matthew and think about GOD BEING WITH US.  

GOD    The Birth of Jesus Christ Matt. 1:18-25

18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.

19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and 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 be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

You see, Joseph was pledged to BE WITH Mary.  

Joseph was a descendant of King David and had been taught the Oral Law

from the time he was a young boy. Mary’s cousin Elizabeth was married to a priest,

indicating her family’s values. Jesus would grow up in a loving home that observed the

Jewish laws. But Jesus was conceived in a way that appeared to conflict with those

Jewish laws. Mary and Joseph were betrothed.

Betrothal was nothing like today’s

“engagement” period. Mary and Joseph did not live together, but their betrothal was an arrangement so binding, that it could not be ended except by divorce. When Joseph found out Mary was pregnant, the Oral Law gave him an additional option. He could have had Mary killed by stoning. Yet Scripture tells us that Mary was “highly favored!”  Scripture says the Lord was with Mary . . . and the Lord was with Joseph. The presence of God enabled Joseph to believe and trust that the rules of his religion were to be submitted to the Author of his religion.

YOU
GOD WANTS TO BE WITH US!
When Sin Separated us from Him, he found a way to get reconnected again. He took on flesh, played by his own rules He created for mankind, and actually became a man, just to BE WITH US!  Some day we will be in the New Heavens and New Earth and there will be the same relationship Adam & Eve had in the Garden.  We will be God’s people and He will be our God.  That is why it is the GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD!  God made a way to redeem us by sending the Son of God.  Born of a virgin.  A king is Born.  One that will rule over our lives forever, and He knows how we feel.

WE
So if God wants to BE WITH US, the question is do you want to BE WITH God?
In other words – To BE WITH or NOT to BE WITH… THAT IS THE QUESTION!  He pursued us in the most miraculous way.  He wants us to have some exclusive time just talking about life, enjoying His Presence and enjoying the RELATIONSHIP.

The Shepherd and Overseer of your Soul

Sheep are mentioned over 500 times in the Bible.  One reason is that they play a part in relating the imagery of the Shepherd and his Flock to Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The followers of the Good Shepherd are… well… SHEEP.  With this in mind, many thoughts about sheep have come about.  First off, sheep are thought to be really stupid.  Stories I have heard involve sheep mindlessly following the other in front of them, no matter what is going on, so if a Shepherd put a staff out for one sheep to jump over and then took it away for the next sheep, the rest of the sheep would “follow the leader” and jump in the same spot.  Secondly, we hear out of Luke 15 that 100 sheep could be doing fine and then one of them might go astray, so the Good Shepherd has to run after that one that decided somehow to just wander off, even though the routine is the mindless following.

So does that make us STUPID SHEEP, and is Jesus greatly placing prominence on Himself and belittling humankind?

Being less and less agriculturally inclined in society today, and not in the business of raising sheep, I discovered what many people may already know.  Sheep actually have some distinct attributes that put them at a higher IQ than one can imagine.

  1.  They are right below Pigs in IQ and can be considered the same level as cattle.  MOOOOO!!!
  2.  Sheep can actually recognize facial features and remember them for years.  Take that iPhone number kazillion and one!
  3.  Sheep can pick up on different emotional states pretty easily.  (In a BAAAAAD mood???)
  4.  Sheep can also express their emotional state by the various sounds they make.
  5.  Sheep can self-medicate themselves and graze on needed nutrients depending on their current physical status
  6.  Sheep also can distinguish between voices and know when their name is called.

Wow!  Maybe sheep are smarter than we think! With all these amazing facts (and believe me there are more from sheep enthusiasts), maybe Jesus is wanting us to feel more than “stupid.”

 

John 10 paints a picture of a Good Shepherd that knows His sheep.  He calls them by name.  He protects them.  He gives them abundant life. He oversees every aspect of their lives.  In fact, He oversees the deepest part of our inward being.  The keeper of the our mind, will, and emotions.  The place that we tend to keep hidden behind the outside, natural part of ourselves.  Our Souls!

Maybe Jesus is revealing His true heart to us and the heart of the Father for mankind.  All we need to do is respond to the call when we hear our name.  He willingly lays down His life for US, the SHEEP!  Do you know His voice?

or better put… DO YOU KNOW THE SHEPHERD AND OVERSEER OF YOUR SOUL?

Peter was asked to do something by Jesus.  “FEED MY SHEEP” Those words must have echoed in his mind for the rest of his life.  After denying Jesus on the road to the cross, he finds a place of forgiveness and reconciliation.  Then he is given a noble task.  To follow Jesus and point others to the Shepherd of the Sheep.

Maybe those thoughts settled in his mind in a way that gave him the wisdom to encourage his flock with these words:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
1 Peter 2:24‭-‬25 ESV

The comfort we can find in Peter’s words lands on the word RETURN.  The truth is all of us have strayed away from the heart of the Father.   We have something within us that decides to wander away, even when we do a good job of following most of the time.  Peter understood the word “RETURN,” and brings comfort in this truth.  YOU CAN RETURN TO THE SHEPHERD AND OVERSEER OF YOUR SOUL.  Just as Peter did.  We all have the ability to RETURN.

Where are you today?  Wandering?  Following?  Listening to the Voice of the Good Shepherd? 

YOU CAN SIMPLY RETURN

Church Technological Advances lead to MS Summer Trip Registrations Going Online

The greatness of technology, the upgradeness of life, and the movement of our Shelby System has granted us the nifty ability to place REGISTRATION ONLINE.

That’s Right!  It is now 2018, and the digital age has come to Oakwood!  

With all technological advances, we find the user learning curve may tech a second (but hey, it used to take an hour to really think through stuff) to realize there is a payment option online and with all glorious capabilities, there is a small fee for the online convenience.  Whatever the case, from the comfort of you device, wherever you use it, you can click on links and sign up for stuff like the rest of the modern day world!

Click Click Click…. Wow this is easy!!!

This is our MIDDLE SCHOOL CAMP JUNE 3-8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click Click for Mission Trip 

This is our MIDDLE SCHOOL MISSION TRIP June 25-29.

A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Sex and Dating

From Pastor Brandon

After ministering to Middle School Students for a decade, I am now on the parent side, along with you, asking how I can speak Godly Wisdom into my own two children before they enter Middle School, so that I might be focused and equipped to hand them over to the loving Father in this phase of life.  With all the messages our culture is speaking on the issue of sex and dating, this short Parent Guide is a simple tool for you to use in preparing for a conversation with your preteen or growing teenager.  Mark Oestreicher is a Middle School expert, and Joel Mayward is a fresh voice, as both take steps to give you a brief theology on sexuality, reveal cultural myths, as well a church myths, and give specific helps for each gender, setting boundaries, and dealing with personal sexual issues.  This book is a great springboard into diving in deeper on certain issues and pointing me in the right direction to face the truth in our modern day culture.

Description

Helping your child make wise choices about sex and dating requires more than just one chat. It’s about building bridges of ongoing dialogue throughout the teenage years.

But youth workers Mark Oestreicher and Joel Mayward realize many parents don’t feel comfortable or prepared to have these kinds of conversations. That’s why they wrote A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Sex and Dating—to equip you to initiate healthy, honest discussions with your teenager. This book will also help you understand some of the relevant trends and issues in today’s youth culture.

Your role as a parent is to do more than provide your teenager with information about sex and dating. You have the opportunity and the calling to help your child live wisely and honor God in this sometimes tricky, occasionally awkward, and always vital area of life.

Click Here to purchase

Are YOUR FEET BEAUTIFUL?

When I was in High School, something happened. At some point in my many High School adventures I slashed my left foot, right between the big toe and the second toe.  At the time, it must not have been major, because I don’t really remember what I did and didn’t even apply any medication to it.  I just left it to heal on it’s own.  Needless to say, this place on my foot eventually developed into a cyst that looked like I was creating my own little skin foothill to say the least.  Days turned to months, months turned into years, and I learned to live with this little bump on my left foot, but NEVER liked to show it off.  The great thing about socks and shoes in our society is that I didn’t have to really worry about anything until summer time rolled around.  Oh yea… Summer!  You know the time where you go barefoot and wear your flip flops or chacos or sandals and SHOW OFF YOUR FEET.  You get the picture.  I didn’t think my feet were up to par and really never thought my feet could ever be BEAUTIFUL.  (Hey, I’m a guy, so don’t just tell me to go get a pedicure and be done, girls.  I am sure that if I did consider something like a pedicure, that the lady person would have taken one look at my feet and bursted out in some sort of horrible scream, like the wicked witch of the East did in the Wizard of Oz.)

In a world of feet and stinkiness, I realize that maybe there are some of you out there with me.  You don’t like your feet.  They stink.  They are ugly in some way, and most of all, they CANNOT be BEAUTIFUL.  Lets face it, if there were some chart out there on the interwebs, the value for feet in this world would probably be really low compared to the value for, let’s just say, your eyes.

In conclusion, I realized that my feet were not beautiful and many others did not really have a high value for feet as well.

This is a problem.  When Paul starts talking in Romans about feet.  He uses the word beautiful in the same sentence as feet.  So when he talks all about feet, I naturally reject whatever he is about to say.  It’s like I just skim over Romans 10:15 and get to the next part.

HOWEVER,  all my life, I have been missing something that Paul has been saying about the whole foot thing.

Here is what he says…

And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
Romans 10:15 ESV


I had to get over the foot stuff and really look deeper into what Paul was saying.  He was pointing out something that makes total sense, to put BEAUTIFUL and FEET in the same sentence.

You see, wayyyyyy back in the day, When armies went to battle, those who remained at home waited anxiously to hear of the outcome, because often their destiny was tied to the success or failure of the armies. But they didn’t have telecommunication systems that could rush news instantly from the battlefront back to the local community. So messages were carried by runners.

Here is the main point – It’s not about FEET it’s about GOOD NEWS

IN FACT, in the ancient world it was customary, in some places, that if the messenger brought bad news, he was punished with death. If it was bad news, then, he would be burdened by the news that he was carrying, and fearful of what treatment he might expect. As each city posted lookouts to watch the approaching runners, it became almost a science whereby the lookout could determine whether the messenger was bringing good news or bad news, just by his feet.

To go deeper into history and the intentionality of Paul, there was the legend of Pheidippides.  (Yell out that name and see what reaction you get!!!) This was a soldier that ran from the battlefield at the site of the town of Marathon, Greece, to Athens in 490 B.C.  He ran so fast and so hard that as he delivered the momentous message “Niki!” (“victory”), he collapsed on the spot and died.  You might have guessed, that this why we use the word “Marathon” for that long run thing people do.  In fact, Pheidippides was honored by a 24.85 mile run from Marathon Bridge to Olympic Stadium in Athens during the first modern Olympic games held in 1896 in Greece.

Like Pheidippides, if the messenger was bringing good news of victory, his feet would be flying and he would be kicking up a lot of dust. There would be an exuberance and an enthusiasm in his running form, as he approached the walls of the city. Hence the phrase, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

You See, It’s not about FEET it’s about GOOD NEWS

So when you are grossed out by stinky feet or huge cysts growing on them, remember that Beautiful Feet are ones of Victory. Oh, and by the way, I eventually got a wife, and told her about the cyst, and she made me better by taking me to the skin Dr. and getting it removed on the operation table in the office, as my two young kids ate their Cheerios and watched their Daddy wrench in pain.  I love my wife!

How about you right now? Do you  have Victorious or Defeated feet when it comes to your walk with Jesus?

 

Wherever your feet go, do they gladly bring the Good News of Jesus Christ?

OR do they bring other news and drag behind you?

 

How can your pursuit of Christ be like Pheidippides?

 

Do you want to go run a Marathon now?  (Me Neither)

How do you prepare for the storm?

Alert!!! Alert!!! The storm is coming!

harvey-1-rt-er-170825_12x5_992In the midst of Hurricane Harvey, we rush to fill up our cars with fuel, we rush to fill up our grocery baskets with dry goods, and we rush to batten down the hatches as winds rage and rains fall.

In the midst of all this rushing around, I was brought back to the imagery that Jesus portrayed in Matthew chapter 7.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Matthew 7:24‭-‬27 ESV

How can we THINK TWICE about all this chaos to prepare for the storm?

The truth is that the rushing winds, the falling rains, and the flood waters impact us all, the wise and the foolish.

However, the wise have been practicing Godly Wisdom, building on the foundation of the words of Jesus, and taking those truths into their daily lives.

We have already seen devestation as the eye of the storm has navigated from the coast to the southern Texas region. Those who decided to prepare a firm foundation still take a hit, but remain useful and even a shelter for others that were pummeled by the storm.

Father, help us to see your vision and walk in your wisdom, so that when the storms come, we can be a witness and shelter to others for your Glory.