Five Discipleship Goals for 2018

 

Five Discipleship Goals for 2018

1. READ YOUR BIBLE DAILY. (1 Peter 2:2)

Read your Bible daily, if you would be strong

To witness for Jesus and overcome wrong;

“I’m busy” you say, as you lay it aside

But when you neglect it you’ll surely backslide.

2. KEEP LOOKING TO JESUS. (Colossians 3:17)

Keep looking to Jesus, He never can fail

And walk in His footsteps in every detail;

The world’s bright attractions will fade from sight

When you look to Jesus, your Savior and Light.

3. PRAY WITHOUT CEASING. (Luke 11:9)

Pray without ceasing, you can count on Him

Who cleanses and keeps you a victor o’er sin:

There’s nothing so great that our God cannot do,

And nothing so small that He won’t do for you.

4. CONFESS HIM TO OTHERS. (Matthew 10:32)

Confess Him to others, be bold for your King

To those who are living in darkness and sin;

What help can you better to all recommend,

Than this blessed Jesus – the needy one’s Friend?

5. DO SOMETHING FOR JESUS. (James 1:22)

Do something for Jesus, He did all for you,

Your Joy is complete when His will you do;

So seeking to please Him through each new day

His presence shall gladden each step of your way.

(Author Unknown)

Christmas Eve

You are invited to join us Christmas Eve morning at 10:30 for a time of worship in song, Scripture, and communion. If you do not currently have a church family we would love for you to visit with us. Forsythe Church of Christ prays for our community to have a peaceful and joyous Christmas season.

John Dobbs, Minister

Daniel Kirkendall, Associate Minister

 

 

All Who Are Thirsty

All Who Are Thirsty   Isaiah 55:1-11

Audio:

Introduction

 Maybe everyone has an idea of what they want for Christmas, or what the perfect Christmas might be. Are you dreaming of a White Christmas? God has an idea of what he wants his people to experience. In the end, His idea will prevail and his Kingdom will look just like he wants it to. In the mean time, our own sin and weakness prevent us from experiencing all that God has in store for us. Isaiah was a prophet to Israel – and they had lost their entire image of what God wanted for them to enjoy. The loss of the Promised Land because of their own idolatry and failure was stunning to them. In the hands of their enemies they at times felt there was no hope … but God is not in the giving up business!

Isaiah 55 is God’s open invitation to the beaten up, discouraged, broken, hurting humanity … it’s His “Christmas list” that all would follow Him. God’s List is much different from ours. It’s not speculative nor doubtful, but certain, inviting. It’s not only for the shining special ones, but for those who’ve come through the mud and dirt of a long  messy journey through life. Through Isaiah God invites us to into his vision for His eternal kingdom. Today I hope we hear God calling us closer to Him, and that we will joyfully respond in faith!

1. WHO NEEDS TO HEAR GOD’S CALL? (Isaiah 55:1-2)

Those who are living in great need. (1)

Isaiah 55:1 All of you who are thirsty, come to the water!
 Whoever has no money, come, buy food and eat!
 Without money, at no cost, buy wine and milk!

Thirsty, poor, hungry people are called toward Him. “When you have nothing left but God, you become aware that God is enough.― Maude Royden. Whether physically or spiritually, the needy are wanted and welcomed.

It’s for the frustrated (2)

Isaiah 55:2 Why spend money for what isn’t food,
 and your earnings for what doesn’t satisfy?
 Listen carefully to me and eat what is good;
 enjoy the richest of feasts.

Unfilled, unsatisfied, unable to take another step. “Isaiah said that this offer is for everyone…God’s grace leaps over racial barriers, leaps across class distinctions, soars over social bars, and finds its way to every hungry, languishing dispirited souls. The Church of Jesus Christ is the only institution in the world some doors are open to every class, caste, race,  color and nation.” – Billy Graham

If anyone ever felt that life was too big a mess for God to accept them, take heart… God built his Kingdom for you and calls everyone to come.

2. HOW WE CAN ANSWER GOD’S CALL (Is 55:6-11)

Thirsty For God 

Isaiah 55:3,6 Listen and come to me;
 listen, and you will live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
 my faithful loyalty to David. … Seek the Lord when he can still be found;
    call him while he is yet near.

God is outreaching to Israel, even after their continual rejection that landed them in captivity. God is reaching out to us no less…no matter what rejections or failings we have experienced. His offer is based on an everlasting covenant he made with King David – a great example of someone who had everything a human could want but still blew it. What are you doing to seek God in your life?

2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Thirsty For Mercy

Isaiah 55:7 Let the wicked abandon their ways
    and the sinful their schemes.
Let them return to the Lord so that he may have mercy on them,
    to our God, because he is generous with forgiveness.

Because of our sin: Mercy is for those who need it – a withholding of what we deserve because of our sin. 

Because of our thoughts: Isaiah instructs to leave behind old sinful ways and thoughts.

Psalm 10:4 In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Because of His grace: We should be eager to seek God because He is generous with forgiveness. 

Thirsty For His Wisdom

Isaiah 55:8, 9 My plans aren’t your plans,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
 so are my ways higher than your ways,
 and my plans than your plans.

The more we follow our hearts, the more we get into trouble. We need the insight of One who is greater than we! God sees a much bigger picture than we do.

Thirsty For His Word (10-11)

Isaiah 55:10,11  Just as the rain and the snow come down from the sky
 and don’t return there without watering the earth,
 making it conceive and yield plants
  and providing seed to the sower and food to the eater, so is my word that comes from my mouth;
 it does not return to me empty.
  Instead, it does what I want,
 and accomplishes what I intend.

“His word, which once spoke the universe into existence…has lost none of its ancient power. Nothing can frustrate it, or divert it from its course.” –  Webb

“Take heed in how ye hear. In all tenderness and yet with great earnestness and great conviction. … How shall we hear? Prayerfully, obediently, and in faith. Let us pray that in our lives God will plow up the fallow ground, give us the receptive heart, the child heart, willingness to hear and learn…” – G. Campbell Morgan

Conclusion

All who are thirsty are invited to come to God seeking His Mercy, His ways, his words. We do this by seeking Jesus who calls us to to Kingdom in vivid ways.

He calls us from His amazing birth!

He calls us from his amazing teachings!

He calls us from the cross!

He calls us from the empty tomb!

With Jesus the hungry, thirsty, needy find fulfillment in every way that matters.

You might get everything on your wish list for Christmas, but in the end it’ll leave you empty and unsatisfied. No possession in this world offers can fulfill us and lead us to the Kingdom of God. Seek God, Listen to Him!

“When Christ went to Jericho, He touched the lives of two men: Zacchaeus and Bartimaeus. One was at the top of the social ladder, a tax gatherer; and the other at the bottom of the social ladder: a beggar. Christ saw both of them, not as rich and poor but as miserable, disillusioned, unhappy men. Freely He applied His grace to the needs of both, and sent them on their way rejoicing and satisfied. I submit to you that if Christ can meet the need of the highest, and the need of the lowest, then He can meet the needs of all of us in between.”  – Billy Graham

LifeGroup Questions

1. Christmas wish lists have probably changed a lot over the years. Can you remember the kinds of things you had on  your list as a child? What are some things are on Christmas wish lists of children of today that you would have never asked for?

2. Isaiah’s initial invitation in chapter 55 is for all who are thirsty to come and drink. In what ways was Jesus’ ministry open to all who were thirsty? What are some examples of people Jesus talked to that were unexpected of a Jewish Rabbi?

3.  What does it mean to you when God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways” (v. 8).

*Can you think of some ways that our thoughts about things are so different from God’s?

*Read Matthew 5:45-48 and as a group talk about how different God’s thoughts are than our typical thoughts as expressed in that passage.

-How can we be more like God by adopting His attitude toward people who have made themselves our enemies?

– Jesus asking us to be perfect – in what sense?

4. 2 Corinthians 10:5 addresses the difficulty of our thought life: We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself  up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

*How do you think we can take our thoughts captive?

Charles Stanley suggests three ways we can govern our thoughts:

1. Screen them – ask yourself about your thoughts…if they are going to build you up or tear you down? Can I  share this with someone else? Does it make me feel guilty? Does it fit who I am as a follower of Jesus Christ?

2. Select them. Every time an opinion or teaching hits your screen, you can choose to either let it through or discard it.

3. Cultivate them. Dwell on ideas that align with God’s word and then start practicing them.

5. Isaiah says that God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts and his ways are higher than our ways. What is another way to say that? In what way does this verse impact your faith?

6. In verse 12 God affirms that his word “will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” What do you understand that passage to be teaching?

7. What are some promises that God makes to the wicked that respond to Him? (Isaiah 55:12-13) In what ways does Jesus fulfill those promises?

8. If God had a Christmas wish list, what do you think would be the first thing on it? Go around the room and share your thoughts on this.

No LifeGroups will meet next week. You might want to have a discussion about December 31st .. the next Sunday night is New Years Eve.

Resources

http://www.aplainaccount.org/single-post/2016/02/22/Isaiah-5519

Barry G. Webb, The Message of Isaiah, IVPress, 1996.

Richards, L., & Richards, L. O. (1987). The teacher’s commentary (pp. 396–400). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

G. Campbell Morgan, The Harvests of the Word of God, The Westminster Pulpit, Volume 9, No. XX.

Billy Graham’s sermon Are You Getting What You Want is from 1957 and is found in A Treasury of Great Preaching, Volume XII, p. 336.

New Life for Tired Bones

New Life For Tired Bones   Ezekiel 37:1-14

Audio:

Introduction

The legendary cheerful gift giver we refer to as Santa Claus has his origin in the life of St. Nicholas, often called Father Christmas. Nicholas was a Bishop in Myra, modern Turkey.  According to legend he was a wealthy man who was widely known for his generosity – a trait that inspired the story of Father Christmas as a bringer of gifts on Christmas Day. Nicholas died December 6, 343 AD. Most of his remains have been held in a Basilica  in Italy, since 1087,

Saint Nicholas

where they are buried beneath a marble altar, but over the years relic fragments have been acquired by churches around the world. A few days ago a newspaper in the UK reported that Oxford University analyzed a bone fragment that was owned by a priest in Illinois. There may never be any way to prove definitively whether or not the bone really was from St Nicholas, but it does date to the correct historical period.

Our text today is from a vision of the prophet Ezekiel and relates to some ancient bones. This vision is both poetic and prophetic. Ezekiel preaches to a people in captivity because of their own sin, and lets them see how God views it using the imagery of bones. (Ezekiel 37:1-14)

There are three views of life presented in this poetic prophecy that we should reflect on today.

1. LACK OF LIFE a valley of dry bones. (Ezekiel 37:1-2)

This is not the valley God intended it to be. It is what it has become because of separation from God. The Psalms reflect this same kind of thought.

Psalm 38:3 There’s nothing in my body that isn’t broken because of your rage; there’s no health in my bones because of my sin.

Proverbs 17:22 A joyful heart helps healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.

In the absence of God there is no life.

Jeremiah 10:23 I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own, that we’re not able to direct our paths.

 “Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance or hope.” Rick Warren

The bones of Israel scattered throughout the valley remind us that when we wander away from God we wander away from everything that gives our life meaning, purpose, and eternity.

Can these bones live? Only God knows. (vs. 3)

2. LOOKS LIKE LIFE – they’re moving but not breathing! (37:4-8)

Some may be away from God and lack life, but there are some who may be closer to God but only have the appearance of life. The thing about sin is that it is deceptive.

Appears Benign. ”What would you expect? Sin will not come to you, saying, “I am sin.” It would do little harm if it did. Sin always seems “good, and pleasant, and desirable,” at the time of commission.”  J. C. Ryle

Appears Wise. “See to it that nobody enslaves you with philosophy and foolish deception, which conform to human traditions and the way the world thinks and acts rather than Christ.” Colossians 2:8

Appears Fun!  Don’t be deceived, bad company corrupts good character. Sober up by acting like you should and don’t sin. 1 Corinthians  15:33-34a

Appears Religious. “Thousands are deceived into supposing that they have “accepted Christ” as their “personal Savior”, who have not first received Him as their LORD.”  A. W. Pink

Ezekiel saw quite a sight … bones that lacked life came together and it looked like they had life, but it was just an appearance. Until God spoke.

3. LORD OF LIFE I will put my breath in you and you will live

New Life For Tired Bones…

New Life only comes from God (37:9-10). Israel didn’t regain life until God gave it. We only find life when we embrace the Lord of Life.

New Life Brings Hope to the Hopeless (37:11). God still recognized the bones and named them. When we have no hope, we still have hope in God.

New Life is possible through God’s powerful promises (37:12-13). Resurrection, eternal life, salvation.

New Life is found in the hearing of God’s word (37:14). Are we listening to Him?

Conclusion

John 11:25-26 “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

To embrace the new life in Jesus we need to leave behind the old bones of living away from God and living in the deception of sin. The Good news is that the free gift of eternal life awaits the sinner who wants to come home and the one who has yet to give their life to Christ. When we consider the gift of eternal life that God wants to give to all of us, we should never accept life without Him, or life that just looks good on the outside – to to embrace the gift of eternal life today – it keeps us from slavery and opens us to a continual supply of His Spirit … not just once a year but always.

Psalm 51:8 Let me hear joy and celebration again; let the bones you crushed rejoice once more. 

LifeGroup Questions

1. There are many stories about St. Nicholas. One poor man had 3 daughters with no dowry to marry them off. They were destined to live in slavery but mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. What are your Christmas Eve traditions?

2. This story in Ezekiel 37 is a report of a prophetic vision that Ezekiel had. In the vision he preaches to a valley of dry bones. How do you think it felt for Ezekiel to preach to a valley of dry bones? How can we relate in terms of bringing the gospel to a world dead in sin?

3. Christmas is a hard time for many people. What are some ways we can bring new life into the ‘dry bones’ of the Christmas season when people feel discouraged?

4. Read John 15:1-5. Jesus makes it clear that as God’s people, we do not possess life in and of ourselves. What are some ways we can continually draw life from Jesus?

5. Today John said that sin is deceptive in appearance. 

*Appears Benign.

*Appears Wise. Col. 2:8

*Appears Fun!  1 Cor. 15:33-34a

*Appears Religious.

As a group, think of an examples of each one of those.  Why is it so easy to be deceived by sin?

6. As the lesson closed today, we read Psalm 51:8 which says, “Let me hear joy and celebration again; let the bones you crushed rejoice once more.” Go around the group and let each person share one thing that brings them joy and celebration because of their  relationship with God.

Next Week: Isaiah 55:1-13

Resources

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/father-christmas-bone-fragment-saint-nicholas-oxford-university-researchers-italy-christianity-a8094356.html

http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/who-is-st-nicholas/

https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=39