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Carols - Week 4

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O come, O come, Emmanuel And ransom captive Israel That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. O Come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free thineown from Satan's tyranny From depths of Hell Thy people save And give them victory o'er the grave Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. O come, desire of nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind Bid Thou our sad divisions cease, and be Thyself our king of peace Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel! So Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel Has come to thee, O Israel! Has come to thee, O Israel! Well, Merry Christmas Eve to all of our churches and our Network Churches, and those of you from countries all over the world gathering with us at Church Online. What I want to do today is share with you what is probably the most heartfelt Christmas message that I have inside of me, because what I want to do is I want to talk to you about the verses from Scripture that, believe it or not, 24-years ago today, God used to grab my heart and never, ever let go. And so, what I'm going to do today is in so many ways a result of God's presence 24-years ago today through the verses that I want to talk to you about. So if I could, all of our different churches, would you guys just participate with me? Everybody say God is, God is. Okay, here's the deal, this is my ninth time to do this and I need some Christmas love from you okay? I'm going to bring my best, you bring your best; come on, let's have some fun with this! Everybody say, God is, God is, God was, God was, God will be, God will be, with us, With us. Now, that's some love okay, that's good! One more time, one more time, just for fun! God is, God is, God was, God was, God will be, God will be, with us, With us. Today, I want to talk to you about truth from God's Word, springing off of the carol, O Come O Come Emmanuel. Let me tell you about the history of the lyrics of this song. Believe it or not, the lyrics to this carol were written somewhere between the Eighth and the Twelfth Century. That's a long, long time ago. And what they would do during this era in Church history at certain churches, they would actually either sing or chant these phrases that all started with the letter 'O'. Then somebody would read a Psalm and then they would sing or chant phrases that started with the letter 'O', and they became known as the O antiphons. And during that era, one of the lines that they would sing birthed this song, O Come O Come Emmanuel. Now, the one word that's going to describe our whole message today is the word, Emmanuel. If you're taking notes, you may wonder, What does that word mean? Emmanuel means: God with us. Everybody let's say it, what does Emmanuel mean? It means God with us. Now, I'm curious, all of our different churches, how many of you have ever prayed, God be with me, be with us? Who has ever prayed something like that? You may be going on a trip, God, be with us as we travel and don't let our kids kill each other in the back so we don't have to kill them! God, be with us as we travel! God, be with us as we go Christmas shopping at the mall. Help us to have a parking spot, in Jesus' name! God, be with me as I go on this blind date with this guy, I pray he's not a psycho stalker! You know, Be with me as I take my final exam. Sometimes I think God wants to say, I'll be with you in your finals, but you should have studied, it would have gone a lot better! You know, God, be with me! What does it mean for God to be with us? I want to read to you from Matthew, Chapter One, Matthews version of the birth of Christ. He talks about the Virgin Mary in verse 21 and says: She will give birth to a son.... It's hard to read this without getting emotional, it's so powerful. ...and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because... What will Jesus do everybody? Because: ...He will save His people from their sins. Now, this was the announcement that people had been longing to hear for centuries and Matthew makes this announcement. I mean, this is the Good News of the Gospel, this is what the story is about. He goes on to say in verse 22: ...All this took place to fulfill what the Lord said through the prophet. Now let's pause there. What Matthew's about to do is he's going to quote the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah. It was in Isaiah 7:14 that the Prophet prophesied some 740 years before the event took place. Now, I don't know about you but that gets all up into my mind and I'm blown away by how good God is, how big God is, that over seven centuries before the event a prophesy is given and here is the prophesy which is now fulfilled, verse 23: ...The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and... What will they call Him? Everybody, and: ...they will call Him Emmanuel... What does that mean? It means: ...God with us. If this were a movie, at this point the music would get real dramatic and they would say, He's called Emmanuel, God with us; da, da, da! That's what you would hear, it would be better than that, but that's what you'd hear. Because what he just said was the most earth-shattering news possible. Because everybody listening or reading this would know that in the Old Testament it said that God is too holy, you can't even look upon Him in His purest essence and live. They would have known that Moses had to hide his face when God passed by because Moses couldn't handle the full-blown presence of God. They would have known that when God dwelt in the temple that nobody was allowed in the temple, except for the high priest only once a year. And they had to tie a rope to his leg, if he died in the presence of God, they'd pull the dead priest out with a rope because God was just that big. And suddenly Matthew says, 'He is with us'. What is it that made the shepherds run back into the fields rejoicing? What was it that caused the Wise Men to fall on their face and bow down and worship? It was this fact and this fact alone, that God is not a distant, far off, uninvolved God. That God is not someone who just watches over us, but that God was now with us. The Creator and Sustainer of the universe is a relational God who stripped Himself of His glory and became like us in the form of a baby, who was all God and yet all man without sin, He dwelt on earth. John 1:1 says: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word of God became flesh... Verse 14: ...and dwelt among us. And all of the sudden Matthew is going to say this: God is with you, God was with you, God will be with you. And that's the best news ever. The problem is that many of you simply don't believe it, you don't! I mean, I can kind of tell because you're just kind of sitting there. I'm telling you something really...tells a story, Where's the funny? You're just sitting there. And here's the deal, some of you, you don't believe in God, so hands down, you don't believe He's with you, you shouldn't you don't believe in Him, and I understand that's where you are right now. Some of you, you're Christians and yet when I tell you God is with you, you're kind of like, Really? Because I don't feel Him right now! There's no tingly! No goosebumps, you know, I don't feel Him! Some of you, you're in a really difficult spot right now. I don't know if you've noticed this, but Christmas to me is kind of like a great magnifier; it magnifies the good and makes things really good and it magnifies the painful times and seems to make them really painful. And some of you, you're facing maybe an empty chair this year, someone that you wish was going to be there and isn't, maybe through divorce, or death, or distance, or whatever and that just wrecks you. Or sometimes there's that relational tension that you know, things are right. Or maybe it's bad news about some health issue, or whatever it is, but you're going through it and you're going, You know what? Where's God in this? I don't feel God, I don't see God. If God is there, why is this going on? Where's God in this? God's with me? Some of you, if you were really honest you'd say, I've done something in my life that I'm so ashamed of, why would God want to be with someone like me? God with me? It's really hard to believe! Here's my goal, here's my goal: Before we're through today, with the help of the Spirit of God, I pray that you are convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God is, that God was, that God will always be with you because He is Emmanuel, God with us. And when God plants that truth in your heart, I'm here to tell you that you will never be the same. Let's break it down into three thoughts. The first one is this: Everybody say, God is with you! God is with you! Luke 1:28, an angel appears to a little virgin teenage girl and says: Greetings... A very polite angel! Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is... What? The Lord is: ...with you. The very first truth the angel proclaims to this girl is what she needed to know because he's about to ask her to do something very difficult, and says, The Lord is with you. Some of you who are hurting right now, I want you to understand the Lord is with you in even a more powerful way, because Scripture says that our God is the God of all comfort who comforts us in our trials. The root Greek word that's translated as comfort is the word 'parakletos'. Para means alongside and kleto means called to. Our God comes alongside of you, He is called to minister to you in your times of trouble. I mean, that to me is the most beautiful picture, that our God comes alongside of us, with us to comfort us in our times of trouble. Again, many people just simply don't believe that, because if you believe it and not just hear, but hear it would change the way you do everything. For example, I was trying to convince my son, my oldest son, years ago that he was going to be okay because Dad, me, was with him, with him. We were at a restaurant called, Chuck E. Cheese. Who knows anything about Chuck E. Cheese? Now, what's funny to me is that you're laughing! When I just say, Chuck E. Cheese, you laughed! I'm not sure why, but probably for me to take my family with six kids, it costs about $177.00 for lunch. Then, for another $300.00 you can buy tokens where they can win 46,000 tickets, which are redeemable for one small plastic Frisbee! Maybe that's why you're laughing, I don't know! But anyway, we took them there and Sam was about three at the time, it was his birthday party. Chucky came out and he was afraid of Chucky. Now, some of you are saying, Who is Chucky, what's Chucky? I'm not talking about Chucky the doll, okay? Everybody should be afraid of Chucky the doll! That dude is wacked, okay? I'm talking about Chucky the mouse, Chuck E. Cheese, this adorable Mickey Mouse looking thing. And Sam was afraid of Chucky and I said, Go give Chucky a hug! He said, No, Dad! I'm afraid! I said, Look, look, Sam, Dad's with you, it's cool! Go hug Chucky! He's like, No Dad, I'm afraid! I said, Look, your Dad is with you! Go hug him! I said, Look Sam, $177.00, you go over there and hug him right now! I'm taking a picture and we're going to remember this and love it! He wouldn't do it! So finally I said, You stay over here Sam. I went up to Chucky and I'm thinking that it's probably a 16-year old kid inside the mouse costume. I said, Look Chucky, my boy over there, he's afraid of you. I'm going to just show him that you're not dangerous. So, Chuck you stand there, and I said, I'm going to just tap you, just don't hit me back. And so, I just took my hand and said, Watch this Sam! Pop! And I hit Chucky on his mouse face, and as soon as I did this, Chucky took his mouse paw and popped me! I said, You're not following along! What I'm asking you to do is don't hit me back! So, I went like this again, and he hit me even harder. And at that point, I'm kind of getting whatever. And so I said, Don't do it again! And I did this and Chucky put his mouse paws up and took a swing at me! God as my witness! Now, he's laughing and it's all in fun, but you need to know, I wasn't always Pastor Craig. Back in the day, I had some skills! Nunchuck skills, computer hacking skills, and I mean I'm just saying I've been trained! And so, when he did this, my reflexes took over and I just, without even thinking I had Chucky in a headlock, and the next thing you know I mean, I'm just doing this! And I'm still kind of laughing, but he's in a headlock and that mouse is not getting out! And it's all funny until someone's kid screamed, Mama, there's our Pastor Craig and he's whipping Chucky! And that's where it all fell apart! Well anyway, all that to say, I went back to Sam after kind of apologizing to Chucky and making it all good and said, You've got to understand, your Dad is with you! When your Dad is with you, Chucky's not going to get you! And here's the thing, when you understand that the God of the universe, the All-knowing, All-powerful, Ever-present God, that God is with you and that changes everything. Let me define it, when you are lost and don't know where to go, He is with you as your guide. When you're hurting and feel alone, He is with you as your friend. When you're in the middle of a trial, our God is with you as your comforter. If you're ever sick, our God is with you as your healer. Whenever you're weak, our God is with you as your strength. Anytime you're lost in your sin, our God is with you as your Savior. If anybody has the urge to say Amen or clap, now would be a good time to do it, because our God is with you! And for the record, I think today, I'm preaching just a little bit better than you're responding! Because our God is with you! Everybody say, our God is with us, Our God is with us! 2. Write this down: Our God was with us. In the past, I'll tell you what, you look back over your lifetime and sometimes God is easier to see in the rear-view mirror than He is in the moment. You look back over a series of events in your life and you can be like Joseph in the Old Testament. Joseph is a different Joseph than Mary's Joseph. This Joseph, if you don't know his story, at one time he was a little boy with big dreams. And he said, 'I'm going to be a leader!' And his brother said, 'You're a punk and you're cocky.' And so his brothers beat him up and thew him in a pit. And they said, 'Let's just leave him here for dead!' And then one of the nice brothers said, 'No! He's our brother. Let's just sell him into slavery!' They're like, 'Oh okay, let's do that!' And so, that's what they did, they sold him into slavery. And he lived with integrity and yet he was falsely accused, something he didn't do and got thrown into prison. And if you're looking at this from a distance, it would really be easy to say, Where's God in that? Where's God in all of these trials? Where is God? And you have to see the story over the course of his life to realize that God was actually working behind the scenes. You could say that the pit became the passage eventually to the palace where he was second in charge over Egypt and God used a very indirect route to put him in charge so he could save countless number of people from a tremendous famine. And you wonder where was God through all of this? Well Genesis 39:21 tells us exactly where God was. The Bible said: The Lord was... Where? The Lord was with Joseph... That's where He was. You look back, He was there, He was with Joseph. I get very emotional as I look back over my life and see all of the different times when God was with us. For one, I mean, even the small things, like the ridiculous ways God was with us when the one time in 18 years of raising kids, the one time only that my kids prayed for a dog, which is a Biblical prayer! Cats, not Biblical. But anyway, they prayed for a dog. We didn't have a dog and God as my witness, they prayed for a dog, held hands, God we ask you for a dog. The very next day, God was with us when a puppy walked up to our front door. God as my witness! And that was the most expensive free dog in the history of the world! But God was with us in that way! And I remember when Amy and I were first married and we were living on more love than money. Some of you know what I'm talking about. We had in one month; our air conditioner break, our plumbing break and our car broke down. And when everything else broke down, we got broke real fast. Our emergency fund was gone and we prayed, God, be with us financially. And the next day, we got a refund check that covered the last unpaid bill we had and we never missed a meal. And I remember God was with us as our provider. I remember when our church was five months old and we were meeting in a little middle school cafeteria. If you were there, we sat in these little middle school chairs and everyday you'd get Cheetos dust on your butt! Real orange spots as you leave church and it was great! Well, one week, the maintenance guy who worked there said the school board said we couldn't meet there anymore. I was devastated on the Sunday morning, stood up and said, I don't know where we're going to go. And God was with us. Two days later on a Tuesday, a building came up for sale and God as my witness, there was another man who owned this bike factory, who, on a handshake; no money, no signature, on a handshake, let us move in the very next week into his building and God was there with us. God was there a few years ago when there was a couple that couldn't conceive. For seven years they tried everything. And Amy and I said, Let's just ask God! And we prayed and nine months later, God was with them when they gave birth to their first son. God was with us when we went to the hospital to visit Jeff Buchanan, who had a massive heart failure, and for 45 minutes they couldn't get oxygen to his brain and they couldn't keep him alive. The doctor said, Hey Pastor Craig, I'm a Christian, but you need to know, this guy's not going home. The home he's going to is in heaven. If he lived, there would be massive brain damage. You need to go and comfort the wife. And Amy and I walked in there and we asked for God to be with us and to be with him. And God as my witness, two weeks later, Jeff Buchanan sat there with arms lifted high toward heaven, worshiping the God who made him whole! And God was with us on Christmas Eve, when Amy's brother, at the age of 34 checked into the emergency room. And God was with us everyday until January the 16th when he died. And God was with me when I stood before people and preached hope in Christ at his funeral. And God was with Uncle Blue, the man that we had been praying for since the day I met Amy, when he gave his life to Christ that day and became a new creation. And I saw life come out of death and God took what Satan meant for evil and used it for good. God was with us then. And God was with me 24-years ago today, God was with me on my last Christless Christmas. My last Christless Christmas, I had a lot of them. We'd go to church, kind of like some of you. In the ministry world, what we call some of you honestly, it's affectionately, we call you CEO Christians, CEO Christians. It stands for Christmas and Easter only. Glad you're here, see you next Easter. You know, and that's kind of the gig. And we were even more than that, we went a few times more. But I had a head knowledge of the story of Jesus but not a heart relationship. And that pastor said to us that day, The virgin will be with child. She will give birth to a Son, they will call Him Emmanuel, because God is with us. And it was like he was talking directly to me and he said, I want you to know, God is with you. And I remember thinking, If that's true, there's only one reasonable response. And that is, that I give Him my whole life. And two months later, that's what I did when I knelt down at a softball field, thinking I was all alone, but not realizing God was actually with me. I knelt down one person and stood up transformed by Christ. And what I do today is because, I know, I'm telling you I know, God is with me and God was with me, and God is with you and God was with you and number three: 3. God will be with you. No matter what you go through, God will be with you. I want you to think about this little girl Mary, this little teenage girl. Imagine if she could have seen the future. When the angel said, 'The Lord will be with you', imagine if she could have seen the future. Here's what she would have said; she would have said, we can't see the future, we freak out. If she could have seen it, she would have said: God will be with me when I conceive this child by the Holy Spirit. God will be with me when I tell Joseph, and God will be with Joseph when an angel says in a dream, 'It's cool, this happened!' and then God would be with us when we traveled on a donkey's back for 100 miles! And God would be with me when there was no room for us in the Inn. And God would be with me when I gave birth to the Son of God in a stable in a manger, next to farm animals. And God would be with me when I was on the run trying to save the life of my Son, and God would be with me when my Son was 12-years old and we couldn't find Him. And then, we discovered He was in the temple asking questions, answering questions, teaching and saying He was about the Father's business, and God would be with me at the wedding feast when they ran out of wine and I watched as my son turned water into wine and performed the first of many miracles that would be to come. And God was with me when I watched my son being falsely accused and persecuted. And what Mary would have said is that God would be with me when I watched my son suffer on a cross brutally abused by the sinners for whose sin He would die as they drove stakes through His body. And she would have said, 'God is with me as I watched Him suffer, and God was with me when He looked up to heaven and said to His Father, It is finished! And God would be with me when He said, Into your hands I commit my Spirit. And God would be with me when the earth went dark, and God would be with me when the whole earth shook, and God would be with me on the first night when I waited and wondered. And God would be with me on the second night when I waited and wondered. And God would be with me on the third day when the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty and He was not there; because He has risen, because He is Emmanuel, because He is God with us, and He is God who was with us, and He is God who will be with us no matter what you go through.' Paul said it this way, he asked the question, help me answer it. He said: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble? Somebody answer yes or no. Shall trouble? No! Shall hardship? No! How about persecution? No! Famine? No! Nakedness? No! What is nakedness doing in this text? I have no idea! Just in case you're wondering, nakedness will not separate you from God! How about danger? No! Sword? No! No, in all of these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor death, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. Understand this, nothing, no thing will be able to separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. He will never leave you and He will never forsake you. You never will be alone! Nothing can separate you, not your fears; not your doubts; not your insecurities; not your theological questions; not the things that you can't explain; not your brokenness; not your failures; not your mistakes; not sickness; not a divorce; not what someone else did to you; not broken dreams. There is nothing that can separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, because He is, He was, He will be with you! Revelation 1:8, Jesus said: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, the one who was and who is to come. The God who is with you, who was with you and is with you forever. Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death you shall fear no evil. Why? Because our God is with us. He is with us and there is no question whatsoever. It is settled and it is written. He is Emmanuel, God with you. There is no doubt, He is with you. The only question that needs to be answered is this, are you with God? That's the only question that needs to be answered and it's time to give it an honest answer, because God is with you. He is Emmanuel and more than anything else, He wants to reveal His love, His character, His nature, His goodness to you. And more than anything else, He wants you to be with Him; loving Him with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength. Because He's not a God who is far off or uninvolved or distant, He is a relational God who came to earth to reveal Himself to you and forgive you of your sin so you could know Him, serve Him, and have eternal life. God, I pray that your Spirit would do a work that only you could do. Transform us by the good news that you are with us. All of our churches, as you're praying today; some of you right now, you're at a place where you really need to know that God is with you. There's difficulties, challenges, trials, pain, and you really need to know that God is with you. At all of our different churches, those of you who would say, Craig, would you just pray for me because I really need a special touch from the presence of God today. It would be my honor to pray for you. Would you just lift up your hands now? All of our different churches, those of you who would say, I really do, I need God's presence. There are so many of you and I pray right now God, just as you were with us in the hospital with David, Amy's brother; just as you were with us as we suffered and grieved, God I thank you that your presence was enough then and your presence is enough now. God, I pray that your Holy Spirit would bring about a peace that goes beyond our human ability to understand or comprehend and God, that your presence would guard our hearts and our minds and our souls in Christ Jesus. Now God, at this moment, I thank you that you are here, you are the God of all comfort who comes alongside of us to comfort us in our trials. God, would you come alongside your children today to comfort them with your presence. And God, I thank you that your presence is more than enough. As you keep praying today, all of our different churches; I really do man, I pray that you recognize that God is with you. Here's a question that I want you to really answer honestly, are you with God? Are you with God? And I want to challenge you to answer it as honestly as you can because as I look back at my life 24-years ago, I would have had to say, You know, I am not! I mean, I do the church thing every now and then and I kind of believe you know. But hey, even the demons believe in God and they're smart enough to shudder. Are you with God, and does your life reflect an ongoing, loving relationship with the God of the universe? And if not, then I want to tell you that it is no accident that you are here today, because God is reaching out to you, because God is with you, He was with you, He wants to always be with you and He wants you to be with Him. You may say, You know, I'd like to know that I'm good with God and I'd like to serve Him, I'd like to be one of His you know, but I'm not a good person, I've messed up, I need to clean some things up first, I'm not good enough! And let me just confirm that thought that you're having and tell you very directly and lovingly, you're right, you're not good enough and neither am I, none of us are. We are all sinners and that's why we need a Savior, that's why Jesus was born of a virgin without sin, so He could be the perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. Are you with God? More than anything else, God wants you to respond to His free gift of salvation. You can't earn salvation, you can't work for it, it's a free gift. But once you receive that gift guess what you give Him back? You're only reasonable response is, Hey, here's my whole life, I want to be with you in everything that I do. All of our churches, would you guys look up here at me. Just everybody look up here. Here's the deal, Jesus said this, He said: If you confess me before men, I will confess you before my Father in heaven. But if you don't confess me before men, I won't confess you before my Father in heaven. And here's the good news, guess what? Merry Christmas! Many of you today, you get to say publicly, I'm with God. I need a Savior, I need your presence, I need forgiveness, I need you. I don't care what anybody thinks, I want to go public with this. I'm with God. I give my life to Him, I don't care what anybody thinks, publicly before God and everybody, I'm with Him. I'm with Him, He's with me, I'm with Him. Save me of my sins, make me new! Here you go everybody, tell it publicly, I'm with God, I'm giving my life to Him. All of our churches, those of you who would say, That's me! Lift your hands high now! Lift them up all over the place, lift them up and say, I'm giving my life to Christ, I need forgiveness, I need salvation. Put them down for a second, I want to make sure I'm really clear, I need salvation, I need forgiveness, I need Christ, I want to go publicly! Would you lift up your hands right now, I want to make sure I'm clear. Lift them up right here, God bless you. And here, praise God for you! And right back here, and all of you here, and right back here and right here! Others of you, praise God for you! Right back here, hand waving! And way back there, and way back there! Oh, my goodness, and hand waving over here! Can somebody get a little more excited about that? And right back here and here and here! Publicly, right back there, praise God for you! Others of you, come on, others of you, I give my life to the One who gave His life for me! Right back there, Jesus, take my life, I'm with You! Everybody pray aloud, pray Heavenly Father, save me from my sins, make me new. I believe you died for me so I could live for you. I know you're with me, now I'm with you. Thank you for new life, I give you mine! In Jesus' name. Somebody worship God with us!

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Posted by: lifechurchopen on Jan 4, 2012

Carols - Week 4 - Craig Groeschel - LifeChurch.tv

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