Thanks for coming to be a part of the worship and teaching series with The Virtual Pew and Mosaic Church today. It is always an honor knowing that people are choosing to get some of their teaching here. I am blessed and God is good. Let’s start off with worship this morning where we can be reminded of the time of year and the Savior we honor. While this is originally being written during the Christmas season, we need to all be reminded that the celebration of Christ birth can be celebrated all year through. Now let’s enter into worship, but first let me pray.
Father, thank you for all you have given us. I ask that your Holy Spirit Come, and that your Holy Spirit move as we worship you. In Jesus name I pray, Amen!
The following is not typically known as a worship song, but if we think about what it says, it easily becomes one.
Mary Did You Know
While the next two follow a little bit of a different format, they are both focusing on a theme that even the angels in Heaven understood and valued the ultimate gift that God was going to give us.
Angels We Have Heard on High
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing Sing-Along
I am reminded of a man by the name of John Newton who understood the amazing grace offered by God through the gift of his son Jesus Christ. The following takes an old traditional hymn, and gives it new life. It is a tribute to a wonderful man, used by God to bring about a great deal of change in our world. God can use any of us if we allow him. Join in now in this wonderful rendition of Amazing Grace, My Chains are Gone.
Amazing Grace My Chains are Gone
Dear God, you are such a wonderful God. You have given us so much. We see during this time of the year, the change of seasons. The Winter reminds me of death, the death that we all faced, yet in the middle of that death, we were given the hope of a savior, the hope of your son Jesus. What an amazing gift, the ultimate, perfect gift. Dear God, help me, help us, bring honor to that gift. When people want to look at me or we for an example, dear God, may they see the only true, the only perfect savior, may they see your son Jesus and only Jesus. It is in the perfect and holy name of Jesus I pray. Amen!
I would encourage others listening in today, or even those reading the message on line, take the time you need to honor God, to thank his Son, and ask for direction from his Holy Spirit. Take the time to praise God almighty, because God almighty deserves all of our praise. You may want to go back, play a particular song, and listen in silence to what God would have for you. Just listen to your heart and experience the goodness of God.
Now is the time to take a short break. You may want to get a cup of coffee, make a phone call to a friend or send an email to a family member, tell them you love them, tell them that you were thinking of them. Also remember that giving is an act of worship and there are many wonderful ministries seeking help to carry out their ministry. I encourage you that if you are a part of a local community church, support that church. If not or if God leads you to help another ministry, then seek out to bless those that have blessed you. Enjoy a break, then come back to enjoy todays message which will look at The Ultimate Love Letter of all Time.
There is a passage of scripture that I would like you to look at today.
2 Timothy 2:15
(15) Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. (NASB)
There are all kinds of ways we can look at this passage, but I want to look at it in regards to the responsibility we all have in regards to what we call The Bible, and what I call, the Ultimate Love Letter and Instruction Manuel. There are several things that we are going to do today, and in order to do that I am going to ask you to go get a Bible, that’s right an old fashioned Bible and bring that back to the computer screen with you.
Hopefully you now have your Bible. The Bible is an incredible book it is a book that has so much more in it than many, even many within the religious community give it credit for. I will assure you there is intent behind looking up some of these verses but here is what I want you to do. I want you to go from one verse to the next, and find that verse as fast as you can. Once you find it, read the verse out loud. Ready to go, let’s do it!
Malachi 2: 1-4
1 Peter 2:11
Did you find each of those passages quickly? Were you surprised at what some of those passages spoke about? I will assure you, there are these stories and much more in Scripture that we don’t often think about. My point in part was to show and assure you that there is far more in the Bible than we give it credit for. There is a prescription for hemorrhoids, intrigue, murder, sex, horror, crime drama, csi stories and on and on. The Bible is filled with things that we can only imagine. It is sad how so many don’t know what is in the Bible, and how so many others don’t know the context of what is in the Bible.
I want to take a little different twist here and talk some about love stories. How many of you have ever been in love? Obviously I have been have been married to the same woman for going on 30 years now. There was a time when I was in love with others prior to our marriage, and there was a time I was in love with my wife long before we got married. For many of those you will recall aspects of the times you have been in love.
I remember the love letters, and tapes we would send back and forth when I was in college in Kansas and my then girlfriend was living in Tennessee. I remember on one occasion going out of the way and getting a cherry pie wrapper from McDonalds. In those days those wrappers had an opening on the front of the package. You could address the letter in such a way that you could use the package the pie came in for an envelope. I still have a lot of the letters and tapes my now wife sent me, and she has copies of tapes and letters that I sent her.
There are all kinds of things about love letters, they express your heart, there is an openness about them, there is a longing to be together, there is so much that is good. Most of you can likely think of many other things that are true about what is contained in love letters, now I want you to think of this. As a love letter to humanity, the Bible also has those types of things, and the ability to bring about those types of emotions, if we will but open it and read it. It is unfortunate but many of us say we love God, yet we are not excited about reading his love letter to us.
It is sad that we seldom think about what the Bible says, in fact, sometimes we hear things that we believe to be in the Bible but in reality they are not. Think about the following for example:
The Bible does not say, “Cleanliness is next to godliness,” neither does it say the following, “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” “God helps those who help themselves,” “There is none so blind as he who will not see,” “An idle mind is the devil's workshop” or that, “Money is the root of all evil.” As an example, the Bible does say that, “The Love of Money is the root of all evil.” There is a difference, and unless we read and know the Bible, we will get things wrong.
It isn’t only on the things we hear though; we need to have an understanding of what the Bible does say, for example, the Bible does say these things, but we have to know the context of what is said; "And the king said unto her, What aileth thee? And she answered, This woman said unto me, Give thy son, that we may eat him to day, and we will eat my son to morrow. So we boiled my son, and did eat him: and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son, that we may eat him: and she hath hid her son." – 2 Kings 6: 28, 29, “Am I my brothers keeper?” – Gen. 4:9, “For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it must be put to death.”– Exodus 35:2, “Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." – 1 Corinthians 15:33
Now it is a fact, that on the above, the Bible does in fact say each of those things, but to understand again, the context, the meaning and more is important.
I would personally encourage each person hearing this, or reading this to be involved in personal Bible study. In becoming involved in personal Bible study there are some things to take into consideration. For example, what time of day is best for you? Identify what that time is, for me it is normally earlier in the morning. Are you willing to be involved in your study on a daily basis? You should try, but if you fail, no big deal, start over the next day. One may ask how much one should study the Bible. As much as you have time to commit to. Remember though, if this is a love letter, treat it as something you in fact love.
There are other questions though, should you use various study helps? That depends; I prefer to personally do a part of my study with helps, others without. Sometimes it depends on where I am at. Sometimes the helps allow me to focus, sometimes they help direct me, I am reminded though, the helps are not the Bible, the Bible is the Bible, but the helps are simply what they state, helps.
There is another area to look at when reading or studying the Bible. Many will ask which translation or version to use. On this point, I will use as a resource an old time preacher that I still really like. J. Vernon McGee is dead now but his radio broadcasts can still be heard everyday on the radio. I recall him being asked this question when he was alive and I will never forget his response, it was simply, “The one you will read.”
Dr. McGee implied that the Holy Spirit, the helper that God has provided each of us, is certainly capable to help us all understand God’s word. While there are good and bad translations, the Holy Spirit has an ability to lead us all in the right direction. There are of course certainly translations or paraphrases I wouldn’t recommend, then again, there are paraphrases I certainly would recommend. Just this last week I went out and purchased a copy of The Message for a teen that needs a basic understanding of Scripture. I could go on here, and am certainly open to giving my views in more detail as to this specific question. For those wanting more information on my views here feel free to email me at the provided email address.
Now I want to also make clear, there are many reasons to read the bible including the following. The Bible is the world's best selling book, it is, has been, and will continue to be for a reason, once you open it, start reading it in a way you can understand, you will quickly find out why the Bible is the best selling book of all time.
As we start reading the Bible we will discover that Biblical faith is based on a historical event. From Sodom and Gomorrah to the destruction of Jericho, archeologists have simply proven history time and time again.
We can discover and will quickly realize that Jesus was a real person. It is good to look at the texts of his faith, and the teachings of Jesus. Once discovering what the Bible really says, it is hard to dispute its writings from a logical, and/or intelligent perspective.
After reading the Bible, and looking at its impact one will quickly see that the Bible message changes lives. From Chuck Colson to CS Lewis and from Michelangelo to Galileo lives have been changed. We will also see that the Bible is filled with real people and has real places. I think of the movie 300 as an example here. Xerxes for example was the evil ruler in that movie. Yet, when we read the book of Esther and the story of one night with the King, we realize, the movie got a huge part of Xerxes wrong.
We also should realize that the person of Jesus has dramatically affected history. Don’t believe it, write a check today, think about what it means when you write the date down for that check.
I have also come to realize that brilliant people believe the Bible to be true, this includes scientists and composers, educators and students. While many attempt to dumb down those who believe in the Bible, any effort at research will show that many intelligent and brilliant people have believed in and placed their life into God’s hands from what they came to understand from reading the Bible.
The Bible will also fulfill our deepest needs. I can’t begin to express the number of times that reading the Bible has helped me in a crises or particular difficult situation I am in.
The Bible is not only the worlds best selling book it is the world's most widely distributed book. It has been distributed to more countries, in more languages than any other book in history. It is also packed with the most exciting events. From great wars, to great examples of love, there are many stories of all types in the Bible.
I have come to also understand that what the Bible says makes sense. Despite what may will do to confuse the issue, to confuse the message of Christianity, the Bible makes sense. While many will look to those who practice what the Bible says to try and bring about discord, the Bible itself is actually very reliable, and does make sense if you read it contextually and with an understanding for what it is,” God’s Ultimate Love Letter and Instruction Manual.”
It is important to read the Bible because many people have died for their faith. Wouldn’t it only make some level of sense that if people are willing to die for their faith that we have some understanding as to why? I have learned that the worst part of knowledge surpasses the best part of ignorance any day. I want to be knowledgeable about any belief system that is so strong that people are willing to die for it.
The Bible has also survived the most sustained attacks in history. Despite those attacks, all of the above is still true, still sells a ton of copies, still has people dying for their beliefs related to the Bible, it is the Holy Book for two major religious groups, some would say three, and despite the attacks, it has survived.
I believe it also becomes clear from reading the Bible that we can see it is historically reliable. As mentioned above, many archeological truths have been proven as have other things from the Bible. While there are some things we don’t know about yet, that can also be said about many of the things that have been proven to be consistent with the teachings in the Bible in the last 100 years.
In closing today I would has, how has God used the Bible to help illustrate to you that it is his ultimate love letter, and instruction manual? Maybe you don’t know that to be the case, if not, open up the book. To quote another popular movie during the Christmas season, I triple dog dare you! If you do you will find out quickly that the Bible is in fact, all it is cracked up to be.
As we close out today, I want you to think about how awesome our God is. A popular Wichitan wrote the song Awesome God. Rich Mullins got it. We do serve an awesome God.
I want to thank each of you for taking part in today’s service, whether in person or on line. Dear God, thank you for each of these people whom you love so much. Lord, may each of us fall more in love with you today than we ever thought possible. May we fall in love with you so much that we want to read your love letter to us over, and over again? I know your Holy Spirit will be there to help us understand it, I thank you for that. Lord, bless each of these people have taken part in this service. May they go through their week with strength and with power? Protect us; use us in Jesus name I pray, Amen!
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