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Entangled Roots | Sunday Message

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
December 24, 2023 3:00 am

Entangled Roots | Sunday Message

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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December 24, 2023 3:00 am

Help us share the gospel in 2024!

Struggling in the family department this Christmas? Pastor Jonathan Laurie reminds us that even Jesus had an imperfect family tree. See how you can approach challenges and emotions you’re facing—and how you can be a light to those around you.

Notes:

Matthew 1:1–7, 15–17

“Jesus’ story is not about God helping perfect people but saving lost people.” —Pastor Greg

2 Chronicles 16:9

1 Corinthians 1:27–31

1. Joyfully.

James 1:2–4

Hebrews 4:15–16

2. Humbly.

Philippians 2:5–8

Romans 2:4

Luke 6:32–35

3. Look Up and Look Ahead.

Philippians 3:12–14

Ecclesiastes 3:11

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Hey there, thanks for listening to the Greg Laurie Podcast, a ministry supported by Harvest Partners.

I'm Greg Laurie encouraging you. If you want to find out more about Harvest Ministries and learn more about how to become a Harvest Partner, just go to harvest.org We don't lose Christ at Christmas. It's all about you, Jesus, but if we're honest, it's easy to get caught up in the hustle and the bustle and the materialism and just all the busyness that takes place during the Christmas season. Jesus, you bring us the greatest joy. You bring us the deepest sense of peace and contentment and satisfaction. Your will for our lives is greater than anything we could ever choose.

The gift that you give to us, eternal life, the forgiveness of our sins, a hope to be with you someday is greater than anything we could ever receive in this life and on this earth. Lord, we are truly thankful to you. We are indebted to you, Jesus, and we worship you today. This Christmas season, Lord, would you help us?

Would you be near to us? Would you help us to just reflect your love and reflect this wonderful gift that you have given to us? We're thankful, Lord. We're blessed to be called by your name, Christians. Lord, we want to reflect your attributes.

We want to reflect your generosity and your love this Christmas season and the whole year. So we pray this all now in Jesus' name. Amen. Amen. Good afternoon. That was warm. Good to see you all, regardless of the greeting.

I'm going to reflect the attributes of Jesus here. Special welcome to our friends in Riverside joining us. Hello to Harvest Riverside as well as those joining online. Can we welcome all of our campuses?

Harvest Maui as well. Hey, I want to let you know that next week is Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve this year falls on a Sunday, and so we're excited for that.

It's going to be a lot of fun. So our Christmas Eve services are going to be our normal Sunday morning, 8, 10, and 12, Riverside and Orange County. And then we are going to have a special Christmas Eve candlelight service at 5 p.m. How many of you guys like coming to the candlelight service?

Yeah, that one's a fun one for sure. And so we're going to be doing that at 5 p.m. You're all welcome. Make sure you invite somebody with you. Make sure you bring someone to Christmas Eve services. We make this joke every year. The CEO Christians, right? Christmas and Easter only. They like coming for those two services a year. And so that's OK. Let's invite them and let's try and get them to be part of the church on a more regular basis. Amen. And so we're going to be ministering to everybody Christmas Eve. So join us for that.

No services. Christmas Day. That's a Monday. We'll be with our families. And so please leave us alone.

No, just kidding. But then we'll be back in service normal times for the following week as well, which will be New Year's Eve. So join us for that 8, 10, 12, and 5.

If you're watching on the island of Maui, you guys are doing 8 and 10 and then a 6 p.m. candlelight service. So we are one week away from Christmas. I hope that you've all gotten your Christmas shopping done. This is the last reminder from your pastor. Gentle encouragement. If you have not started yet, get to it.

Get started. I think if you place some orders on Amazon, you have a good chance of getting them in the first part of the week. But if you're like Christmas Eve trying to do overnight delivery, you're out like it's done. You're not you're not getting anything delivered that late.

Right. I would not go to any of the malls on the weekend. Go do it now, because if you're like me and you show up and you have your items and thankfully you get them and then you walk and you see the line is like two hours long, you just drop them right there.

You drop the wall. I'm just going to take the hit and everyone's going to think I'm a jerk for not getting my present this year. I'd rather take the hit than be in a two hour long line. Right. So last week, my dad pointed out how based on what kind of family you are from, the holidays can either be a really wonderful time that you enjoy and are fun and you look forward to. Or they can be a hard time. They can be difficult. They can be challenging. You might find yourself feeling sad and discouraged rather than holly and jolly.

Right. Or resentful and anxious rather than excited and thankful. Christmas has a tendency to magnify things that are already going on in your life. And again, this could be because of a family dynamic. You have a fractured relationship with a member of your family. It could be with a parent.

It could be with a sibling or it could be with one of your own children or a grandchild. You know, some words were exchanged and something was said. And now there's just a uncomfortable relationship. And maybe it's somewhat cordial and hello.

Hey, nice to see you. And you have to endure that three minute conversation when you walk in the door, the same conversation you have every year. And so that could happen. Or you could have a great relationship with your family.

It could be awesome. And everyone in your family sings Christmas carols and you give each other extravagant gifts and play games into the night. And you genuinely enjoy each other's company.

It's amazing just how much a lobotomy will do for you. Just kidding. But maybe you find yourself somewhere in between there like most of us do. Right.

Somewhere in the middle. I think it's safe to say that there is no perfect family. And if we joined it, we'd ruin it.

Right. Well, I have good news for you. Even Jesus, the Son of God, had a twisted family tree. He had a family tree with some entangled roots. And that's our message title today is Entangled Roots. We're going to be looking at the genealogy of Jesus and looking kind of closely at some of these colorful characters that are listed in Matthew's gospel that are related to Jesus, that he is a descendant of. Pretty amazing to see how the Lord uses all of these people and includes them in the family tree of Jesus. And so we're going to be looking at that. And we're also going to be talking about how can we respond to these colorful characters in our own family? How can we keep Christ central at Christmas?

How's that sound? My goal in this message today is that for everyone who is here and everyone who is listening, whether you're a part of a wonderful family or a not so wonderful family that's kind of uncomfortable, my goal is that you would discover and rediscover how to approach the challenges and the emotions that you might experience during the Christmas season. And for you to be a light to those that are around you by looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him, Hebrews 12 says, who endured from sinners such hostility against himself so that you may not grow weary or faint hearted in your struggle against sin.

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. He is our ultimate example. He is the one that we look to. And so as we experience these difficult family dynamics or feelings of inadequacy, we are to look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, as our motive and our source of inspiration and our greatest blessing. And so we're reading together in Matthew Chapter one, starting in verse one, we're going to be reading some names here. And don't worry, we'll break some of these down.

So just follow along with me. Matthew Chapter one, starting in verse one. Now, the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham begot Isaac. Isaac begot Jacob and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar. Perez begot Hezron and Hezron begot Ram. Ram begot Amminadab and Amminadab begot Nahshon and Nahshon begot Salmon.

Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab. Boaz begot Obed by Ruth. Obed begot Jesse and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah, aka Bathsheba. Verse seven, Solomon begot Rehoboam and Rehoboam begot Abijah and Abijah begot Asa. Skip to verse 15.

Eliud begot Aliezer. Aliezer begot Mathan and Mathan begot Jacob and Jacob begot Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who was called Christ. So all the generations from Abraham to David are 14 generations. From David until the captivity in Babylon are 14 generations.

And from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are 14 generations. Let's stop there. Some pretty interesting names, right? Not just because of who they are, but just like generally just interesting names. I feel like I was reading a Star Wars character list in some of those. I haven't heard Eliud or Rehoboam or Obed lately. Now there's some surprising names, though, as we go through that list.

Some of them might have jumped out at you like they did to me. Normally, it's good to note that Jewish genealogies did not include women. Luke's gospel, it's all men. And it specifically points out kind of the royal lineage that Jesus came from. And Matthew follows more of the traditional kind of family lineage, and he includes some of the women in there. And so, for instance, in Matthew's lineage that we just read, we read of five women included in the family tree.

And so who are they? We see Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and, of course, Mary. Now a number of these women were very immoral at one point, and so why would Matthew include them?

Why would Matthew include them? I think my dad summed it up pretty well last week when he had this quote. He said, Jesus' story is not about God helping perfect people, but saving lost people.

Isn't that true? Jesus' story is not about helping perfect people, but saving lost people. It's not about taking bad people and making them good people or taking good people and making them better people.

It's about taking dead people and bringing them to life. That's what the gospel is. That's what Jesus came to do. And as we look at some of these names, there are some of the most notorious saints and sinners mentioned ever in the Bible, right? Let's start with Abraham, Father Abraham, right? He is the father of the Hebrew people. He is the one who God created the whole covenant with. He said that he would establish him and that he would increase his descendants to be more than the sand, on all the sands and the beaches in the earth, and also more than the stars in the sky. And so he made this promise to Abraham. He is a picture of a man of faith and trust, and by Abraham, though, he was merely a man. He was merely a man.

He was a human being. And we see that Abraham failed many times. A number of times we read about in scripture. Number one, we read that Abraham lied about his sister, excuse me, his wife Sarah being his sister when he entered into Egypt so that he wouldn't have to ultimately trust God, and he took the matters into his own hands. This was wrong in God's eyes.

This was a sin. We also know that he doubted God's promise of a son through Sarah, who was very advanced in years, probably in her 80s. And he said, there's no way.

There's no way God's going to give us a child together. And so what did he do? He went and slept with his wife's servant Hagar and impregnated her. He also laughed at God's promise of a son in their old age, basically just saying, are you kidding me? Have you seen my wife lately? Have you seen me lately? We are dried up.

We are old. There is no way this is going to happen. There's no way it's going to happen.

There's no way that we're going to be able to have children together. He doubted God's promise, and he took matters into his own hands. We see in verse 5, a woman named Rahab. She's mentioned Rahab was a prostitute in Jericho.

I don't need to tell you that a prostitute is a woman who makes her living by getting paid to have sex. She was an adulterous, unclean, sinful woman. But we read in the book of Joshua, as we did in our last series, that she protected the Jewish spies who came out to conquer Jericho and saved their lives. And ultimately, she was allowed to be a part of the Jewish people and brought into their families.

And she began to worship the true God of the Hebrews, and she married a guy named Salmon, Salmon. And together, they had a son named Boaz. Now, that might sound familiar because Boaz is basically the picture-perfect guy that every girl is told to wait for. Wait for your Boaz, ladies, right? We know in the book of Ruth, wait for your Boaz. Don't, you know, sign up for anybody else. Don't settle for somebody else that's lesser.

Wait for your Boaz. So I think it's pretty amazing that this woman, who was a prostitute and a moral woman, actually was able to have a son, who she raised so well, obviously serving the Lord now, God redeemed her story. And now here is this man who is the image of what the perfect man should be.

So I think that's pretty cool. So we have Rahab, the former prostitute. And then we have in verse 6, King David. King David, he is a guy that is considered to be Israel's greatest king in all of history. He was referred to by God as a man after my own heart. That's no small thing.

This is a man after my own heart. David's name is also associated with two other names in the Bible, David and Goliath, and David and Bathsheba, right? David and Goliath, he conquered the giant. It's a beautiful image, the symbolism, and the literal meaning of how he was able to conquer this enemy of Israel, this giant.

This physical giant is a young, small man, weakling. But the Lord enabled David to conquer Goliath, and it's a wonderful story. David and Bathsheba, he slept with one of his soldier's wives, ultimately got her pregnant, and had her husband killed in order to cover up his sin, a tragic story. And so he is forever aligned and known by those two names, David and Goliath, and David and Bathsheba. We read that later on, towards the end of David's life, he desires to build the Lord a permanent dwelling place.

Up to this point, the Lord had dwelled in tents and tabernacles. And David said, Lord, I want to build you a house. I want to build you a temple. I want to build you a place that you can have your presence dwell forever in. And the Lord said, that's a nice sentiment, but you have too much blood on your hands, and I don't want you to build it. But here's what I'm going to do, David. You're not going to build me a house.

I'm going to build you a house. And he tells David that there is going to come one, one of his descendants who will sit on the throne forever and ever. And who is he speaking of there? Jesus, of course. And Jesus was the fulfillment of that prophecy. And so David, this guy, conflicted character. He was a man after God's own heart. And he wants to build the Lord a house, but the Lord instead establishes his bloodline. And as God establishes the bloodline of David through Jesus as a fulfillment of that promise, which we are now grafted into, in a sense, we are part of the house of David and of the lineage of David, which is pretty cool.

And then we come to verse 3, I saved the best for last. There's Tamar. For those of you who are familiar with Tamar's story, you can read about it in the book of Genesis. I won't go into too much detail on her story, but it is a repulsive story of deception, prostitution, and extortion. She was far from a godly woman, and yet here she is in the messianic line. So you thought you had a weird family Christmas. Imagine Jesus' descendants, or excuse me, his distant relatives showing up at Christmas dinner.

Pretty wild. Just because you might have a past, I want to tell you this. It doesn't mean that God doesn't have a plan for you. Just because you have a past, just because you have a colorful history, doesn't mean that God has a future and a hope for you. He has a plan for all of our lives. I think if we went around the room here and we talked about some of the things that we had done before we had given our lives to Christ, some of the stuff might make our hair stand up on the back of our neck, right? But the reality is we are new creations, and that is what God can do for you. So you might have a colorful past.

Listen, God has a plan for you. And if he can do it for me, and he can do it for so many of us here today, he can do it for you as well. Amen? Second Chronicles, oh, let me say this. So as we look at this bloodline of Jesus, who he comes from, we see kings and prostitutes, and we see patriarchs and murderers all over the place from one spectrum to the other.

Just because you might have that past, oh, excuse me, I already said that. That's always good when you read your notes over again. And so that brings me to 2 Chronicles 16, 9. This is where we see the heart of the Lord. The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to him. That is what God is looking for. We often think that God is looking for perfect people, that he is looking for beautiful people, that he is looking for talented people.

I know when you look up here, that's what you see. And you think, God can never use someone like that. He can never use someone like me. I'm not like Jonathan.

No, obviously, I'm joking. But no, he is not looking for someone who's perfect and beautiful and rich and wealthy. He can use those people. But what God is looking for is someone whose heart is loyal to him. We read in 2 Chronicles that he might do what?

Show himself strong on behalf of, right? God doesn't need us. He doesn't need us. He doesn't need the angels.

He doesn't need anything. God could open up the heavens and we would all just be torched. We would all just be dead from being in his presence, his sinless presence we cannot exist in because of our sin except through Jesus Christ. And so ultimately, God could do whatever he wanted, but he chooses to use us.

Why? Because he loves us. And what a blessing it is to be used by God. Oftentimes, the most powerful stories, the most powerful testimonies are the result of broken people being used by God and being restored by God.

And then used in ministry to reach other people. 1 Corinthians 1, I think, sums it up well. The Apostle Paul tells us this. God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise.

And God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty. And the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen and the things which are not to bring to nothing the things that are. That no flesh should glory in his presence, but of him you are in Christ Jesus. Who became for us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. That it is written, he who glories let him glory in God. So what is that telling us? That is telling us that whatever God does on our behalf, he gets the glory for.

We shouldn't take any credit for it. So when you lead that person to Christ or you raise your children up well and you see them being respectful and worshipping Jesus and singing to him, give God the glory for that. Because who does he choose? He chooses the foolish things. He chooses the weak things. He chooses the base things.

That's us. He chooses those things to confound the wise and there's no other way you can explain it except God did it. It's like a turtle on a fence post. You ever heard that before? If you see a turtle up on a fence post, you know he didn't get there on his own. Somebody put him there, right? And so that's what we see with all these characters of the Bible.

They are turtles on a fence post. They are people that you can't explain it. Crazy stories, God uses them.

And we see that God does the exact same thing today. And so in light of this, how should we approach Christmas and the challenges it may bring this season? We all have colorful histories.

We all come from colorful families, most likely. And so how can we approach Christmas? How can we reach those people? How can we really make Christmas a good one this year? Well, number one, the way we should approach Christmas is number one, joyfully. Approach it joyfully. James chapter 1, he says these words. My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

I love that. Every time I read that verse, every time I read that passage, it always hits me in the heart. It's like completely contrary to worldly logic, right? Sounds like something Yoda would say. But to have this perspective, it really changes everything, doesn't it? It changes everything.

To count it all joy when you experience trials of various kinds. I remember being at a restaurant with my wife. And it was on a Saturday. And sometimes you see the sports teams come in, little league teams and soccer teams. They've got their team's jersey on. And sometimes the coach is there.

He's buying everybody pizza. Well, we saw what looked like, I'm assuming, a softball league, a girls' softball league come in. And they were getting food. And they were all kind of stoked. And so it was cool to see them just being excited about being together as a team.

And they're all wearing their jerseys. And on the back of their jerseys, it had something written that caught my eye. It said, win or learn, there is no lose.

And as I read that, I thought to myself, they probably don't win very often. But then I thought, that's actually a great mantra for the Christian. Win or learn, there is no lose. It's actually a great statement for the believer.

Because think about it. Even in our failures, even in our suffering, even in our misfortune, even in our uncomfortable family dynamics, our inadequacies, there is an opportunity. There's an opportunity.

The opportunity is to choose what you will base your joy on. Are you going to base it on temporal circumstances? Are you going to base it on things outside of your control?

Are you going to base it on visions of grandeur that will never be realized? Or should you find your joy in Emmanuel, God with us? The creator took on the form of the creation and showed us how to live, how to think. And he gives us the power to do it. And he gives us his very life as a gift.

Jesus knows. He sympathizes with you. He is not unfamiliar with your pain.

He is walking with you in it. The Christian faith is not one to gloss over suffering. In fact, it's the only faith that can really look suffering fully in the face and somehow still have hope. This Christmas, my prayer for you is that it would not be Christmas presents under the tree that gets you excited, but it's his Christmas presents in your lives that brings you joy and contentment and peace. Hope for the believer is not based on circumstance. It's based on an immovable, unchangeable fact that you are a child of God, and he will never leave you nor forsake you.

That's good news. The older I get, the more I appreciate that fact that Jesus is the greatest gift of all. And I find myself just relishing in that and being so thankful. And every year, it's like, that is what it's really all about. Because there's nothing I really want anymore.

I mean, there's some stuff that I want. But not like when you were a kid. You remember waking up in the morning and just being so excited for Christmas? I remember maybe being eight or nine years old and waking up like every day the month leading into Christmas at like 5 AM. Is it Christmas Day?

No, 29 more days to go. At some point, that just wears off. And you become cynical and jaded.

And it's no longer fun like it once was. But as you get older, you rediscover those fun things with your kids. But the best thing of all is a relationship with Jesus Christ. He will never leave you.

He will never forsake you. And it could be that you're suffering. You have a hard Christmas that is ahead of you.

It could be because of that family dynamic. It could be because you're remembering last year and how good it was. And you didn't realize that that loved one was going to die. And now this Christmas, it sucks. It's hard.

You're missing that person. It could be that you had to move away from your home. I'm thinking of our friends and family over in Maui, how so many of them had their homes burned down. They had no idea that they were going to be displaced. Now they're in a hotel room or an apartment. And yeah, that's great. They've got shelter and housing.

Thank you, Jesus, for providing that. But they're still missing out on what happened last year. Their hearts are broken. It's not the same without that loved one.

It's not the same without that previous experience, whatever it might be. John Mark McMillan, one of my favorite songwriters, summed it up well in one of his songs when he said, well, I've got no answers for heartbreaks or cancers, but a Savior who suffers them with me. Come down from your mountain, your high rise apartment, and tell me of the God you know who bleeds.

Hebrews 4.15 tells us that we don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He's been through weakness and testing. He's experienced it all, but the sin. So let's walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy.

Accept the help. I would encourage anyone this Christmas season who is suffering, as I have over the last 15 years, as my brother's been in heaven now, I miss him every Christmas. I think of him every Christmas. I think of him beyond Christmas, but I miss him.

There's a hole there. It's missing, and it's hard, and it's hard for my family. But I would tell you what I have found is that to remember the true meaning of Christmas, to remember the true meaning of peace that comes from the Prince of Peace, Emmanuel, God with us, is the thing that will bring you comfort this Christmas season. And you can find yourself still celebrating, still worshipping the Lord, and still being thankful for what he has given to you. Now, so for many of us, we won't get a quick fix to our problems. We want a quick fix. We want the Lord to come in and just zap it through the power of his Holy Spirit, and everybody thinks and acts like they should, and everybody thinks that my opinion is the best, which it is, and I'm going to be the loudest voice at the table.

And that's how it should be. And maybe the Lord will do that, but probably not. I would say to you, could it be that God has called you to be the catalyst? He's called you to be that person to show himself strong on behalf of.

I think so. You see, you can have joy that defies circumstance because you get to be an instrument in the hands of a loving and perfect God. And so how should we approach the difficulties during Christmas? How should we approach hardship? It brings us to point number two, approach it humbly.

Humbly. Philippians 2, we read these words. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider a robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation. He took on the form of a bondservant or a slave, and he came in the likeness of men. And being found in the appearance of men, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

How can this not shift your perspective when you read those verses? You know, I think so often when we are around people in our family and our friends, whether they are believers or not, we want to come in with all of our thoughts, with all of our opinions. We want to start correcting everybody and informing.

Well, actually, if you read this article on this website, you would know that that's not true. We want to start all these things sending political links in the group chat. Please don't do that. And you finally want to put Uncle Steve in his place, because you've been having this ongoing debate for the last 10 years, and you finally want to settle at who's right on that topic. The reality is that's probably not the best way to affect change in your family, is it?

There's a time and place to have those conversations. Don't get me wrong, but remember the mind of Christ. What will win people over? What's going to make an impact to them?

Clearing the table, taking their plate to the trash, helping wash the dishes, hold that crying baby, take out the trash. Being the loudest voice and biggest opinion in the room isn't going to change anything. Romans chapter 2 says, don't you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can't you see that His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? Listen, God gave us a seat at the table before we deserved it.

He gave us a seat before we deserved it. And when you show humility, grace, and love, it doesn't mean you are agreeing, condoning, or accepting that person's lifestyle or choices, but you can put on the mind of Christ and look for opportunities to show sacrificial love to those people in your life. Actions communicate what words cannot. Actions communicate what words cannot. You can express your appreciation, you can express your love, or you can show it.

You can demonstrate it through the way that you act. No one forgets a kind act, especially a sacrificial unwarranted one. When I was younger, in my late teens, 18 to like 22, and I was not really walking with the Lord at all. I mean, I came to church and I believed, but I definitely didn't live out the faith that I said that I had. There was a lot of people that I was great at keeping at arm's distance, right? Most of them were people from the church. And I just kind of kept them at arm's distance.

I didn't really let them know what was going on or what I was really up to. But there was this one youth pastor that was unrelenting. And he would always reach out to me and always check in with me and try and chat and see how everything was going. And this one week in particular, he was like, let's get lunch. I want to hang out. I want to connect with you. And I just kept canceling on him and blowing him off and coming up with excuses.

Until finally, I said, OK, I'll tell you what. I have a lunch break at work at 11.30. I get a 30-minute lunch break. If you want to show up to my lunch break and eat lunch with me for 30 minutes. He lived in Dana Point, by the way. I was working in Santa Ana.

30-minute drive just to do this. If you want to do that, I'll have lunch with you. And he showed up. He said, OK, let's do it. So we ate Taco Bell in the front seat of my car. We sat there. He talked at me for a few minutes. He prayed for me.

And then I went back to work. But I let him in. I let him in. And I started hanging out with him. I started hanging out with his family. And he became a friend.

And I'll tell you this, Levi Lusko has remained a true friend to me and to my family ever since then. I didn't care that he was a good preacher. I didn't care that people would talk about what a good communicator he was or that we had the same interests or anything like that.

I didn't care. But what he did was a sacrificial showing of just kindness and wanting to be my friend and wanting to be there for me. And I'll tell you what. I don't think there was any person that was of more help and closer to us in the immediate aftermath of my brother going to heaven than Levi was to our family.

And so we're so thankful to him and to his wife and his kids and their ministry and what he's done for us. And so that just shows you, what does it take? It doesn't have to be some wrongly written letter that most people aren't going to read with voice dictation and AI now. I just assume everything is fake. You didn't even write that.

AI wrote that. Chat GPT. Come on. You know you got the premium account for that. But it could be that the sacrificial act could bring that person's guard down in your family. So instead of remembering the awkward way the conversation ended last year or the harsh word that maybe that uncle or that parent or that grandparent had towards you when you were a kid, look at the opportunity of how you can have the mind of Christ and you see what God does. You see what God does without opportunity. I promise you, regardless of the outcome, you will be blessed.

You will be encouraged as a result. Jesus said these words in Luke chapter 6. If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to only those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that.

And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. Love your enemies. Do good to them.

Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for He is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. Oof, right to the heart on that one, right? Thank you, Jesus, for those words.

Convicting, enlightening, and it shows us how we are to operate. That brings us to point number three. Lastly, look up and look ahead. Philippians chapter 3 says this, I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already achieved perfection, but I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing, forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. OK, so now the application. You've heard the exhortation. The first two points, right? Sounds good on paper, yeah? Be joyful when you're suffering, right, right? Easy, great, slam dunk. Be humble, even when your opinion is the right one, and OK, yep, which it always is, by the way.

No problem there. Reading and hearing is one thing, but agreeing and obeying is another, isn't it? You can hear the preacher say it, oh, I feel great about that. OK, well, now you need to agree and you need to obey. And so how do we do this? How do we do these things? We do it by looking forward. We look forward. We look forward to the prize. We look forward to the goal, our eternal life which awaits us, our forgiveness of our sins. And in the meantime, we can know this. No suffering, no hardship, no act of meekness or generosity or self-denying will go unnoticed.

Your Father in heaven, who knows all, sees all and will reward you. I think it's safe to say that the commercialism of Christmas has given many people today a sense of inadequacy, right? You see on social media or you see on TV these picture-perfect Christmases. If you watch Home Alone, you're like, how in the world did they pay for the entire family to go to France? What did that guy do?

That's the job that I need. But you want to express your genuine love to your family but your lack of finances maybe doesn't allow you to buy the extravagant gifts that you would like to give. Or it could be that your ideal family has not manifested the way that you thought that it would and you've got a broken family or you've got a fractured family and it could be that your Prince Charming turned out to be a frog after all. This life is a proving ground. It's a blip on the map.

It's a vapor of smoke that's here one minute and then gone the next. And the more we chase after our own ideas of perfection and fulfillment, we find ourselves emptier and increasingly critical of what we also deem imperfect. That is why the gospel is so beautiful and so counterintuitive to everything this world tells us to do. We want to focus not on the things that lie ahead, oftentimes, but the things that are behind. I want to hold on to that grudge.

I want to remember that thing that they said or that smirk that they gave me. We want to focus on the things that have let us down, the misfortune, the pain, and the wrongs that have been done to us. And we want to hold them so tightly that we end up not being able to see anything else. And it just eclipses our vision. And all we can do is focus on it. That's all we can think about. And we can't see anything else, any of the blessings that God has given to us, any of the positive things about our family.

And we end up missing the whole thing. We want to not look up to Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith, who, like all of us, suffered and was tempted. We want to look to ourselves or to that social media star or to that neighbor who maybe has a little bit more than we do or that family member that seems to have it all together.

This is Satan's greatest strategy. He wants us to not look ahead. He wants us to not look up. He wants us to look at ourselves and compare to what others have. And he wants us to look behind. He wants us to look behind. He wants us to forget what lies ahead, getting us to focus on what shouts loudest in our minds and our desires right now, not what will bless us in eternity, not what will positively leave a legacy we will give to our children and our grandchildren.

He wants us to focus on the things that matter the most to us right now, right? Now yells louder, but later lasts longer. Now yells louder.

It shouts louder. Do it right now. Have this relationship. Buy this stuff. Put yourself in credit card debt. Blow that person off and put them in their place. That's the temptation.

But later lasts longer. Commit it to the Lord. Look ahead. Lord, what do you want me to do with this situation? It's not surprising to you that that person once again said that remark to me or towards one of my kids. And Lord, you know what I want to do to them in my heart. But God, how do you want me to respond in this way? And it could be that the Lord calls you to do some sacrificial act of generosity. And what will happen? It could change that person's whole life. It could be that they had someone do the same thing to them, and they're just waiting for somebody to come and speak to them. And show them an act of kindness that could break their heart and cause them to give their lives to Christ as well. It's now versus later, eternity versus now.

And I don't know what your family in closing is facing this season, or what tragedies you have endured in the past, or what kind of family you may come from or be a part of. But I do know this, that Jesus makes beauty from even the worst messes. He makes beauty from even the worst messes out of Jesus' own twisted and jacked up family tree came the Savior of all mankind.

Nothing is wasted or lost. We read in Ecclesiastes 3, God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart.

But even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end. Amen? Let's pray together. Lord, Christmas is all about you. It's all about you. We are so predictable.

We so often make everything about ourselves, and how we feel, and getting what we want, and things living up to our expectations. And Lord, whether we realize it fully or not, what we really want is you. You know everything that I want.

You know everything that I need. And regardless of what my current situation is, I believe that you are enough for me. Your love is enough. Your will is enough for my life. And so this Christmas season, we once again come to the tree.

Not the Christmas tree, but the foot of the tree which you were nailed to. And once again, we lay our expectations, our shortcomings, and our sins at your feet. Jesus, you are more than enough. And we confess your word to be true, and that we can experience true joy in the midst of situations we do not like and do not understand. Lord, would you give us grace?

Would you help us to have the mind of a servant like you when you walked this earth? Thank you for the greatest gift that we could ever receive, the forgiveness of our sins and the adoption into your family. Thank you, Jesus. And when our heads are bowed and our eyes are closed and we're praying together, it could be that there are some here who are not only facing a difficult Christmas, but you don't even have Jesus to go along with it. It's one thing to have a hard Christmas and have Jesus, but it's another to do it on your own. It could be that you're one of those people that had that loved one here last year and their wish for you was to come to church on Christmas Eve or Christmas, the services leading into it, and you never made it around.

And so here you are, you want to honor their wish. It could be that you're just thinking of this Christmas and it's hard, and you think you're just going to miss out, and you don't have any of the stuff that you ever wanted, and your life is kind of a wreck, if you're honest. Listen, I want to tell you today that wherever you are on that spectrum, whether you've got a great family or you've got a difficult family, whether you've got all the presents under the tree or you've got no Christmas tree, listen, the best thing that you can do is put your faith in Jesus Christ. Because regardless, the Christmas season is going to let you down unless it's all about Jesus.

That's what it's all about. The Christmas season is all about Jesus. It's all about Emmanuel, God with us, the sacrifice that he made. That little baby, he didn't stay in the manger as much as some of us might want to keep him there. He grew up to be a man and live a perfect life, and he died a perfect death because we needed a Savior. We needed a sacrifice on our behalf so that we could be forgiven of our sin and have the hope of heaven, and we could be the men and the women that God has called us to be and created us to be, and we can find that fulfillment.

I want to tell you today that you can have that relationship. You can have that forgiveness. You can have that burden of guilt removed off of your shoulders, and you can have the best Christmas ever today by putting your faith in Jesus Christ. So whatever campus you might be watching from, wherever you are, I would encourage you to pray this prayer out loud after me if you'd like to put your faith in Jesus Christ. Pray this now. Dear God, I know that I'm a sinner, but I know that Jesus is the Savior who died on the cross for my sin. And I turn from my sin from this moment forward, and I turn to you. Would you help me to walk with you and to hear from you and to obey you from this moment forward? Fill me with your Holy Spirit. In Jesus' name I pray, amen. Amen. God bless you that prayed just now. That's amazing. Amen.

Hey, everybody. Thanks for listening to this podcast. To learn more about Harvest Ministries, follow this show and consider supporting it. Just go to harvest.org. And to find out how to know God personally, go to harvest.org and click on Know God.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-24 04:17:45 / 2023-12-24 04:36:42 / 19

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