I know who holds the future
Sunday December 30, 2007
Sermon: “” ()
“I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.”
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to an all-knowing God.”
(Corrie ten Boom)
“In 1996, contemporary Christian singer/songwriter Cindy Morgan arrived for a series of concerts in Los Angeles. As she unpacked her clothes for that evening’s concert, she discovered her dress was terribly wrinkled. A woman helping with the concert set out to find an iron. She was sent to a church staff member’s house with a key and instructions as to where she would find the ironing board. To her horror, she entered the house only to find the teenage daughter was home with a loaded gun. She was about to commit suicide when the woman arrived. Through quick thinking, a cool head, and the presence of God, she was able to talk the troubled teen into dropping the gun and returning with her for help. In response to God’s miraculous intervention, Cindy Morgan said, ‘to rescue a life, he wrinkled a dress.’” (Christian Reader, Jan. /Feb. 2000, p. 79)
This is a simple reminder that God is always in control.
“The following retraction had to be printed in the Milton-Freewater Valley Herald: ‘The title of a First Christian Church program in last week's paper should have been recorded as Our God Reigns. It was inaccurately recorded as Our God Resigns.’ Thankfully we serve a God who has not given up on his sin-stained world, but has chosen instead to reign as the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.”
(* Sermon Notes and Illustrations, Oct. 1995, p. 30)
As this year comes to a close (tomorrow being the last day of 2007) we reflect on the past year and look forward to the New Year. Some of us will be making New Year resolutions, and most of us will be breaking those resolutions – usually in the first month or two. A lot has happened this past year – especially within our church family. As we prepare to step into the New Year and wonder what it might have in store for us, it’s important to remember that even though we don’t know what the future holds for us, we do know who holds the future. And we know that we can trust this unknown future to an all-knowing and all-loving God. God is in control. But before we start looking ahead, I would like to share with you a few Christmas stories as we bring this Christmas season to a close.
“Wally Purling was a big, clumsy boy who struggled mentally. At age nine he was in second grade rather than fourth. Fortunately, Wally was well-liked by his classmates even though he was often prevented from playing in games where each team hoped to win. Ironically, Wally was a defender of underdogs even though he didn’t realize that’s exactly who he was—an underdog. When the Christmas pageant rolled around, Wally desperately wanted to be a shepherd with a staff. Instead, Miss Lumbard used his imposing size to cast him as the stern innkeeper. Wally was elated about his role and was completely mesmerized by the whole play. On the night when their whole town gathered for the play, Wally was so enthralled that Miss Lumbard had to make sure he didn’t just wonder onto the stage before his time. Finally, the moment arrived. Wally took his position and Joseph started knocking on the set door. Wally threw open the door and demanded, “What do you want?” The familiar lines were repeated while Wally stood stiff, staring straight ahead. He forcefully told Joseph the inn was full. When the young characters portraying Mary and Joseph turned to walk away, Wally was supposed to close the door. Instead, he watched them walk off. His countenance changed from the stiff innkeeper to a compassionate young boy. He suddenly responded as only Wally could. He yelled out to the young couple, “You can have my room!” Wally Purling rewrote the Christmas story from his tender heart and gave the world an excellent model to follow.”
(Christmas Stories for the Heart, Alice Gray, 1997, p. 21)
“Amid the horrors of World War I, there occurred a unique truce when for a few hours, enemies behaved like brothers. Christmas Eve in 1914 was all quiet on France's Western Front, from the English Channel to the Swiss Alps. Trenches came within 50 miles of Paris. The war was only five months old, and approximately 800,000 men had been wounded or killed. Every soldier wondered whether or not Christmas Day would bring another round of fighting and killing. But something happened: British soldiers raised ‘Merry Christmas’ signs above the trenches, and soon carols were heard from German and British trenches alike. Christmas dawned with unarmed soldiers leaving their trenches, though officers of both sides tried unsuccessfully to stop their troops from meeting the enemy in the middle of no-man's land for songs and conversation. Exchanging small gifts, they passed Christmas Day peacefully along miles of the front. At one spot, the British played soccer with the Germans, who won 3-2. In some places, the spontaneous truce continued the next day as neither side was willing to fire the first shot. Finally, the war resumed when fresh troops arrived, and the high command of both armies ordered that further ‘informal understanding’ with the enemy would be punishable as treason.”
The history of our mistletoe tradition is worth noting. It dates back to the Druids in Northern Europe. They believed mistletoe had curative power and thought it could even cure broken relationships. When two enemies found themselves under a tree with mistletoe above, they saw it as a sign from God that they should lay down their weapons and be reconciled. When missionaries moved into Northern Europe, they realized this was a perfect symbol for what occurred on that first Christmas. Christ’s birth ushered in the opportunity of reconciliation between man and God, so the mistletoe offered a powerful tool for communicating this truth. Although today it is associated with romance, its deeper meaning provides a rich reminder of what God has done through the birth of his Son.
“Luis Palau tells the story of a wealthy European family who decided to have their newborn baby baptized in their enormous mansion. Dozens of guests were invited to the event, and they all arrived in the latest of fashions. After depositing their elegant coats on a bed in an upstairs room, the guests were entertained like royalty. Soon the time came for the main purpose of the evening, the infant's baptism. When they asked for the child, no one seemed to know of his whereabouts. Panic ensued as they desperately searched for the baby. In a few minutes the child was found--buried underneath all of the coats, jackets, and furs. The very object of the day's celebration had been forgotten, neglected, and nearly smothered. May the overcoats of materialism, tradition, and schedules not smother the very reason for the Christmas season.”
(* Where Is the Child?, Luis Palau, 1988, p. 1-2)
“After unwrapping all of her presents, a little girl was asked, ‘Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?’ She thought for a moment and said, ‘No. But then, it's not my birthday.’”
Now back to the future (Hey that would be a good title for a movie). In Isaiah 42 verses 8 & 9, we read, “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to anyone else, nor share my praise with carved idols. Everything I prophesied has come true, and now I will prophesy again. I will tell you the future before it happens.” (NLT) More than one quarter of the Bible is prophetic. Most of those prophecies concern God’s chosen people, the nation of Israel, and many of them are prophecies about the coming Messiah or Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ – both about His first coming and His second coming. This morning, I would like to focus on some of the prophecies concerning His first coming – more specifically, Old Testament prophecies concerning the events surrounding His birth.
The Holy Bible is the only book in the world that contains prophecies about a Savior for the human race. No other book can make that claim – unless of course they copied those prophecies from God’s Word (The Book of Mormon comes to mind). The Old Testament includes about 60 different prophecies, with more than 300 different references, to the coming of the Messiah. It was through the fulfillment of these prophecies that Israel was told she would be able to recognize the true Messiah when He came. The four gospels record several times when Jesus said that He was fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy. For example, in Luke 24:27 we read, “…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” And in verse 44 we read, “He [Jesus] said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’”
Genesis 3:15 gives us the first prophecy of the coming Messiah. We are told that He would come from the “seed of a woman” – that He would be her offspring. Galatians 4:4 tells us that Jesus fulfilled this prophecy: “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law.” Isaiah 7:14 tells us that the woman would be a virgin: “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.” In Luke 1:26, 27, & 34 we read, “In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary…‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’”
Psalm 2:7 says that the Messiah would be the Son of God: “I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father.’” In Matthew 3:17, God says, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Micah 5:2 tells us that Jesus would be born in the town of Bethlehem: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Of course we see this prophecy fulfilled in Luke chapter 2.
There are many more…
Just as there are many prophecies in the Old Testament about Christ’s first coming to this earth, the Bible is filled with prophecies concerning his second coming with power and glory.
Both the Old and New Testaments are filled with promises of the second coming of Christ. Someone has reported that there are 1,845 references in the Old Testament alone and a total of 17 books that give it prominence. Of the 260 chapters in the entire New Testament, there are 318 references to Christ's second coming. That averages one out of every 30 verses. Furthermore, 23 of the 27 New Testament books refer to this great event. That leaves only four books that do not refer directly to the Second Coming. Interestingly, three of these four books are single-chapter letters which were written to specific persons on a particular subject.
Now obviously we don’t have time to look up and examine these numerous prophesies this morning. But suffice it to say that since we know that all the many prophecies concerning our Lord’s first coming were fulfilled exactly as predicted, we can trust that the prophecies concerning His second coming will also come to pass. The question is: “Will you be ready when He returns?”
“A little girl had been listening while her mother's friends were speaking about the imminent return of the Lord. After some time she was missed, so her mother went in search of her. She found her looking out a window at the top of the house. Asked what she was doing she said, ‘Oh, Mother, I heard you say Jesus might come today, and I wanted to be the first to see Him. See, I washed myself and put on a clean dress.’”
Now I would like to end my sermon by reciting for you a poem composed by an anonymous poet and based on the poem “Twas the night before Christmas”.
'Twas the night before Jesus came, and all through the house
Not a creature was praying, not one in the house.
Their Bibles were lain on the shelf without care
In hopes that Jesus wouldn't come there.
The children were dressing to crawl into bed
Not once ever kneeling or bowing a head.
And mom in her rocker with a baby on her lap
Was watching the Late Show while I took a nap.
When out of the East there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But angels proclaiming that Jesus was here.
With a light like the sun sending forth a bright ray
I knew in a moment this must be The Day!
The light of his face made me cover my head
It was Jesus returning just like he had said.
And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth
I cried when I saw him in spite of myself.
In the Book of Life which he held in his hand
Was written the name of every saved man.
He spoke not a word as he searched for my name
When he said "It's not here" my head hung in shame.
The people whose names had been written with love
He gathered to take to his Father above.
With those who were ready he rose without a sound
While all the rest were left standing around.
I fell to my knees, but it was too late
I had waited too long and thus sealed my fate.
I stood and I cried as they rose out of sight
Oh, if only I had been ready tonight.
In the words of this poem the meaning is clear
The coming of Jesus is drawing near.
There's only one life and when comes the last call
We'll find that the Bible was true after all.
(* Reminisce, Nov. /Dec. 1995, p. 19; Author's files)