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Lesson 2 of the series “Our Blessed Hope” is now available on youtube. The title is “The Marriage Feast of the Lamb” from Revelation 19. In this lesson we will explore how the traditional Jewish wedding tradition is a picture of the Church as the Bride of Christ. I pray that you enjoy it, and learn something new!

 

I hope you will subscribe to our youtube channel to receive the studies as they become available. Please “like” and “share” as well. I pray that God will lead us in our teaching of His Word.

 

“The Marriage Feast of the Lamb”

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I’ve finally had time to record and upload the latest Hebrews lesson – Chapter 11. Here is the audio link Hebrews Chapter 11

Chapter 11 is known as the “Faith Chapter”. How would you define “faith”? Listen and see how this study describes “faith” and those heroes who left us such a legacy.

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Our 2017 Easter Sunday message audio – “10 Lessons from the Road”

The two on the road to Emmaus were “Easter people” and didn’t even know it. Jesus came alongside them, and they didn’t recognize Him. All they saw was the “doom and gloom” that clouded their eyesight. The war had been won, but the battle raged on.

 

And so are we, “Easter people”. And though we say we know it, we still walk with our eyes and our hearts downcast. We say we know that Jesus walks with us, but our feet drag and our shoulders sag.

 

O Father, warm our hearts and revive our spirits. Cause us to reach for the Living Bread, and allow us to see the nail-scarred hands reaching out to us. Then, oh Father, may we jump up and run to tell others that He IS alive and we CAN face whatever the day may bring! Because He lives, we CAN face tomorrow (and today, too.)

 

In His precious Name I pray – Amen.

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The 2017 Good Friday service from Huckleberry Springs Church

It was a great service. You should have been there 🙂

Good Friday sermon and music 

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Today’s Palm Sunday sermon “The ‘Choosing of the Lamb’ Day” is now available on SoundCloud.

“The ‘Choosing of the Lamb’ Day”

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Questions Along the Way

Do you ever have times when you feel like the ground is completely giving away beneath you? Perhaps this message, taken from the series “From Supper to Sunrise” will encourage you.

Jesus and the disciples have just left the Upper Room and are headed to the Garden of Gethsamane – and they are feeling the weight of the moment… and they have questions.

Do you also have questions when times are troubling. May God use these words to encourage you. Amen.

 

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Christmas Eve Service Huckleberry Springs 12/24/15

 

Then and Now

 

I dare say that there is not a person here this evening who does not know the Christmas story. In fact – the mere fact that you’ve taken this time out of your Christmas Eve celebrations with family and friends to be here speaks volumes about the seriousness of your faith. I pray that our music and our message will enhance your Worship experience, this Christmas Eve night.

I listed our scriptures in the bulletin if you brought your Bible and want to follow along. I’m sure you know the stories, but listen as I read them, for a common theme among each of them.

(read Luke 1:5-20; Luke 1:26-38; Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-14)

Did anyone pick up on the common theme among each scripture? What one thing did the angel say in each encounter – or in Joseph’s case – in his dream?

Do not fear!

We’ve memorized or read or heard these words a thousands time – “Do not fear…” But yet, we seem to somehow think that it was easier for them then, than it is for us, now. So, let’s see…

Zechariah:

In our first scripture we saw that Zechariah was a priest and a very old man. He and his wife Elizabeth had no children, which as you know, was a well accepted sign of God’s displeasure in those days. There were hundreds of priests in Zechariah’s day, and when verse 9 tells us that Zechariah was chosen by lot to go into the Holy Place to burn the evening incense, it was a high honor. As he was burning the incense to the Lord, our scripture tells us that an angel (whom we will later find out is none other than Gabriel) appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Verse 12 tells us that Zechariah was “troubled when he saw him, and fear gripped him”…

So what was Zechariah afraid of? Well, first of all, it had been over 400 years since God had spoken to His people, and then to be going about a normal routine priestly function (even if it was a great honor) and to look up and a find an angel standing there has got to be a little disconcerting! So Zechariah was afraid of what he saw. What is this going to mean? What is going to happen? It is highly unlikely that Zechariah had ever seen an angel before. What did he look like? How did Zechariah know it was an angel, anyway?

But then the angel said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard.” What prayer? What had Zechariah been praying for? Surely to goodness he wasn’t praying for Elizabeth to get pregnant! But, that was the answer, anyway… Sometimes the answers to our prayers aren’t exactly what we expect them to be. Perhaps Zechariah’s prayer was for the Messiah to come – well, John would be the answer to that prayer. Perhaps his prayer was to deliver the people from oppression and sin. And, John was the answer to that prayer, too. Or maybe Zechariah’s prayer was simply, “O Lord, let us hear from You!” And John was definitely the answer to that prayer as well.

If you’re afraid of what you see… God says, “Do not be afraid, I am the answer to your prayer…”

Mary:

In Luke 1:26, we find the angel Gabriel being dispatched once again. This time he appears to Mary. Mary doesn’t seem to be as disturbed by an angel appearing as she is by what he says. Verse 28 tells us that he said, “Greetings O favored one, the Lord is with you” and then we read that “she was greatly troubled at this statement and kept pondering what kind of salutation this might be…”

In our East Tennessee vernacular we might expect her to say, “What in the world????” But the angel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary for you have found favor with God.” The word “favor” is the Greek word charis and is often translated as “grace.” It means “a gift”. It does not mean one is deemed good enough to be chosen by God – but that God has chosen to give a gift regardless of one’s status.

Before Mary ever received the full account of Gabriel’s message, she was afraid that she had “found favor with God…” Essentially Gabriel said, “Hello Mary! God has chosen to give you a gift”. Now why would that frighten anyone? Often in our culture we expect that a “gift from God” equates to health, wealth and prosperity, but that’s not always what it means. Now, don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with being blessed with health, wealth and prosperity – but God’s gifts are designed to bring God glory – not us.

Many of you know that our youngest grandson was born in early September. He was a full month early, but appeared to be extremely healthy, and we were so relieved. After a couple of days there began to be some concern that he might have Down’s syndrome. There would need to be blood tests made, and the results wouldn’t be back for a week or so. Our son and daughter-in-law’s pastor and some friends were there when we went back to visit that night. The pastor prayed before he left and he said, “Lord, we know that You have chosen Johnny and Allison to be Jude’s parents…” and right then I knew that Jude would indeed have Down’s syndrome.

God had, in essence, said to John and Allison, and to all our family, “Hello there! You have found favor in My sight and I have chosen to give you a gift!” Were they afraid? You betcha they were, we all were, and still are at times… But God’s gift will always bring Him glory.

I have heard people say “Well, I’m not sure I want that much favor from God!” But do you remember what Mary said? She said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to Your word.” Submitting yourself to God may be the most difficult and frightening thing you’ll ever do – but it will also be the most rewarding.

If you’re afraid of what you hear… remember the words of Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.

Do not be afraid – God’s gifts are always perfect!

Joseph:

Next we come to Joseph. Poor ole Joseph – bless his heart. I wonder if he ever felt like he was just along for the ride? Here he was, betrothed to Mary – some translations will say he was “engaged” to her – but it was more than that. It was the same as being married – only without living together. To break it off would require an actual divorce – and if she was pregnant – and he knew the baby wasn’t his… Well, that would (by law) require stoning. He had always strived to keep the Law – so – should he do what was right – according to the Law… or should he do the right thing – according to his heart?

I suspect that he went many nights without sleep, trying to come to terms with what lie ahead. Then finally, in utter exhaustion, finally he fell asleep and an angel appeared to him in a dream. We don’t know why the angel didn’t physically appear to Joseph as he did to the others – but at any rate the message was the same “Do not be afraid.” Don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife. Don’t be afraid to do the right thing – and don’t be afraid of what lies ahead.

If you’re afraid of what lies ahead for you, or if you’re afraid to do the right thing – remember – Do not be afraid, for (as the quote goes) if God leads you to it – He’ll lead you through it…

Shepherds:

And finally, there were the shepherds. The shepherds were an interesting lot. By Jesus’ time the Orthodox Jew hated the shepherds. Never mind that Abraham and the Patriarchs were shepherds; never mind that Moses was a shepherd, and the greatest Israelite King of all, David, was a shepherd. The pious Jew hated the shepherds because by that time they were near the bottom of the social ladder. When Jacob and his sons and family went down to Egypt during the famine, they were all nomadic shepherds. When Moses led the Children of Israel out of Egypt some 400 years later less of them were shepherds. And after they returned from Exile in Babylon in 516BC very few were shepherds. It had become a despised trade.

Shepherds were mostly uneducated and unskilled. They were viewed as dishonest, unreliable and because of that, they were not allowed to testify in court. It didn’t matter if you were the only witness to a crime – if you were a shepherd, your testimony was inadmissible – because you were a shepherd. And well, they didn’t bathe very often either. Sheep required care 24/7/365. There were no days off or vacations. And, because of the constant care, they couldn’t keep all the rites and rituals required by the Law – at least the “man-made” portion of the Law; therefore, they were viewed as being constantly ritually unclean.

However, no matter how despised the shepherds were, they were indispensable. The Temple sacrifices required 2 “perfect” first-born lambs every day. Every. Day.  That’s more than 700 lambs a year PLUS the lambs that were needed for Passover and all the other feasts and festivals.

So the shepherds were just doing what their daddies, and granddaddies, and great-granddaddies had done for centuries – keeping watch over their flocks by night… And as the scripture puts it, “the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and (what? I love how the KJV puts it) they were sore afraid.” They were so afraid it hurt!

And what did the angel say? “Do not be afraid. I bring to you good tidings of great joy, which shall be for all people.” Not just those who dress right. Not just those who smell right. Not just those with the right pedigree. All people!

Why were the shepherds afraid? Well, you know, having an angel appear in the night sky might cause some alarm… But here’s what I think really frightened them. The… angel… came… to… them…

To them. The lowest of the low. The most despised. Did they dare believe it?

The message is the same today. Whether you live in a mansion or a mobile home; regardless of how you’re dressed, or how you smell, or what your past reveals, the angel’s message is the same, “Do not be afraid. I bring to you good tidings of great joy, which shall be for all people.”  For we celebrate tonight and tomorrow the birth of a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

People are still afraid today. We see the condition of the world around us and hear of “wars and rumors of wars”, and yes, we’re afraid of what lies ahead in this coming year. Do we dare believe that God is in control?

We’re not the only ones to face fears such as these.

One of America’s best known poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), composed the words to “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” on December 25th 1864. When Longfellow penned the words to his poem, America was reeling in the anguish of the Civil War, and was still months away from Lee’s surrender to Grant which would come in the spring of the next year.

As with any composition that touches the heart of the hearer, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” flowed from the experience of Longfellow– involving the tragic death of his wife Fanny and the crippling injury of his son Charles from war wounds.

Tragedy struck both the nation and the Longfellow family in 1861. The Civil War began on April 12th, and Fanny Longfellow was fatally burned in an accident on July 10th.

The first Christmas after Fanny’s death, Longfellow wrote in his journal, “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.” A year after the incident, he wrote, “I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace.” Longfellow’s journal entry for December 25th 1862 reads: “‘A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.”

Almost a year later, Longfellow received word that his oldest son Charles, a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac, had been severely wounded with a bullet passing under his shoulder blades and through his spinal cord. The Christmas of 1863 was silent in Longfellow’s journal.

Finally, on Christmas Day of 1864, he wrote the words of the poem, “Christmas Bells.” Perhaps it was the reelection of Abraham Lincoln, or the possible end of the terrible war, or the fact that his son Charles, had survived his injuries that may have been the occasion for the poem. But in his poem, the Christmas bells loudly proclaimed, “God is not dead.” Even more, the bells announced, “Nor doth He sleep.

God’s Truth, Power, and Justice are affirmed, when Longfellow wrote: “The wrong shall fail, the right prevail.” And the message that the Living God is a God of Peace is proclaimed in the close of the carol: “Of peace on Earth, good will to men.”

History is filled with times that try our souls, and this present day is no exception. However, it is words such as these that bring comfort to our hearts.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

 

Prayer:

Gracious Lord and Heavenly Father, so many times You have said to us, “Do not fear”, and yet we do. This world is such a fear-ful place. We’re afraid of what we see, what we hear, what lies ahead, and Lord we even fear that You have it all under control… Forgive us. Give us courage, give us peace, and give us grace to be faithful to Your call.

I pray now, Lord, for each home and each family represented here tonight – that You will fill their souls with gladness and joy in this precious season – and may Your presence manifest itself in our lives throughout the year.

We lift our prayer in the wonderful name of Jesus our Lord and Savior – Amen.

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