People Who Missed Christmas

Rev. Lane Stephenson

 

People Who Missed Christmas

 

Scripture records different responses to the birth of Christ. Some ignored the news of His birth or were indifferent to it. Some were openly hostile or fearful. Some who knew Old Testament prophecies of Christ failed to see the Christ of Scripture. As John's gospel says, the world did not know Him and His own people did not receive Him.

But - and that is a glorious word - to all who did receive Him, He gave the right to become the children of God. Some welcomed the news, rejoiced in it, and believed in Christ. By God's grace, their hearts and eyes were opened to see the beauty of Christ. Through the new birth that only God can give, they became the children of God.

This Sunday we will think of those who, for a multitude of reasons, did not welcome Christ. We will ask ourselves the most crucial question of all: Have we received Christ? Are we merely celebrating a season or rejoicing in the Savior's birth as those who believe upon Him?

Joseph and Mary

Rev. Stacey M. Cox

 

Joseph and Mary

I read recently almost 400,000 babies are born each day. The birth of a child isn't particularly extraordinary. But there is one kind of woman who never, ever gives birth: a virgin. It makes total sense that Mary questioned the angel Gabriel's news of her pregnancy and Joseph had to take a nap. Sunday we are going to take a closer look at these two most common individuals who possessed extraordinary faith. Make plans to join us for "Joseph and Mary"!

Knots on the Family Tree

Rev. Stacey M. Cox

Knots on the Family Tree

It would be interesting to know how many people skip the genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17 during a family Christmas reading. If one has small children, jumping ahead to verse 18 is understandable. Yet, the fact that Matthew began his Gospel with Jesus' genealogy indicates its importance.  Think of it, the entire New Testament begins with these verses! And they are chock-full of God's remarkable grace. Make plans to join us Sunday for "Knots on the Family Tree."

A Christmas Prophecy

Rev. Stacey M. Cox

A Christmas Prophecy

The Bible is a story, God's story. It recounts how the Creator made a beautiful and good world, and how He fashioned mankind in His image to share in His rule. It tells how things went terribly wrong, how the human race embraced the rule of sin and death. But God didn't simply walk away from His creation. Enter Christmas and the birth of Jesus.

This year we are calling our Advent series, "Immanuel: God with Us." And over the next four Sundays leading up to Christmas, we are going to look closely at some of the key elements of the biblical account of Christmas. We'll see exactly why the birth of a baby two thousand years ago should be important to us today. Hopefully we'll all come away with a new and deeper understanding of Christmas. We kick it off this Sunday with "A Christmas Prophecy." Hope you will join us!

Membership in the Church

Come and Join Us!

Rev. Stacey Cox

Membership in the Church

Jesus promised, "I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). That sounds pretty certain and definite. But what sort of church did Jesus build? What sort of animal is the church? And what does it mean to be a member of the visible church? Sunday we conclude our series on the church with Membership in the Church.

The Mission of the Church

Rev. Stacey Cox

The Mission of the Church

Matthew 28:16-20

 

'Bond, James Bond.' He's been around for over 54 years now. And we still love him. But why? There are many reasons. Yes, he's a good-looking hero who fights on the side of freedom while managing to do so in a tux and a tie.  What's not to love? But above all this, Bond is on a mission. He knows his mission and he is willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish his mission. What is the mission of the church? It has one. It's been given by our Lord. It is a God-defined mission, not man-made. Last week, we looked at the marks of the church. Sunday we will consider the mission of the church. Hope you will join us!

The Marks of the Church

Rev. Lane Stephenson

The Marks of the Church

When individuals take their vows to become members at Westminster, one of the questions they are asked is, "Do you promise to support the Church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?" The question assumes one has an understanding of what constitutes a church, the privileges and responsibilities of membership, as well as a biblical understanding of the local church's God-given mission. Over the course of three Sundays, we are going to take a closer look at this vow. In a culture with a low view of the church, it's helpful to take time to study the church that Jesus thought it worth dying for.

In the first of this three-part series, we will look this Sunday at three essential marks of the church. Hope you will join us!

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Never Underestimate Grace

Rev. Dr. Stacey M. Cox

When we first meet Naomi in the book of Ruth, she makes it clear that she isn't in the best season of life. 'Call me Mara,' she states to the women of Bethlehem. Bitter. By Chapter 4, a change has taken place. Naomi is happy once more to be known as Naomi. From rebellion and disappointment to full joy - What a transformation! What's happened? Sunday we conclude our fall study in Ruth. Hope you will join us for "Never Underestimate Grace!"

When a Man Loves a Woman

By Stacey Cox

Before Boaz could take Ruth to be his bride, certain obligations had to be met within the Levirate Law. A godly man, Boaz was determined to act in accordance with this law of redemption - even though it meant waiting and risking the loss of Ruth to a closer kinsman-redeemer.  Boaz's deep, personal love for Ruth shines through in this final chapter of the book. Love found a way. Join us Sunday for "When a Man Loves a Woman."

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He Said "Yes!"

By Stacey Cox

Harvests are joyful times. We love a good harvest festival, whether it celebrates apples, pumpkins, or cotton coming in. The celebration would probably be greater if we realized all that a farmer goes through to bring in crop and so keep us alive. Last week we witnessed as Ruth agreed to the plan of Naomi, heading down to the harvest "job site" to propose that Boaz fulfill the law of the kinsman-redeemer. How shall this noble man respond? Join us Sunday for "'He said, Yes!'"

Love is in the Air

By Stacey Cox

After a long, hot summer, fall is making an appearance. There's a chill in the morning air. Signs of the season are beginning to appear: apples, pumpkins, and hay bales. Similarly, something is stirring in the air, as we transition from Chapter 2 to Chapter 3 of Ruth: love. The signs are becoming clearer. Unlike the falling temps of autumn, temps are rising in the budding romance of Boaz and Ruth in Chapter 3. Sunday we continue our study in Ruth with "Love is in the Air." Hope you will join us!

The Generous Master

Aaron Mann

The Generous Master

Ruth 2:14-23

As our story continues to unfold, Ruth finds herself gleaning in the fields of a wealthy man by the name of Boaz. Ruth, a poor foreigner, has done nothing to merit his attention. She is a long shot to gain his affection. Yet, Boaz takes notice of Ruth. Join us this week as the story of Ruth and Boaz heats up. 

We look forward to seeing you this Sunday for "The Generous Master"!

When Boaz Met Ruth

Rev. Stacey M. Cox

When Boaz Met Ruth

Ruth 2:1-13

The plot thickens in our story Sunday as Boaz is introduced to the reader. God's rule, care, and covenanted grace is put on display when Ruth 'just so happened' to choose Boaz's field to work. She knew nothing of the man Boaz (whose name means "in him is strength"). All she knew was she and Naomi were hungry. It's been said 'the Good News is that God works in bad news.' In the life of the man Boaz, God was doing a work in Ruth and Naomi's lives that could have been hardly imagined in the fields of Bethlehem. Make plans to join us Sunday for "When Boaz Met Ruth"!

Divine Ripples

Rev. Stacey M. Cox

Divine Ripples

Ruth 1:19-22

Can you imagine Elimelech and Naomi's story in the era of social media? Elimelech not only failed miserably when he relocated his family to Moab, but his account has been published for us all to read and evaluate. Who would ever envy his reputation? Now add the advent of the Internet to his fiasco. Aren't you glad our failures to date haven't been published for the world to scrutinize, tweet, post and re-post?
 
One can't help but wonder if Naomi was thinking "Why me?" on her walk back to Bethlehem with Ruth. "Lord, why?" We can relate. But what if it's not about us? What if the failure and pain are in part about God's divine ripples touching others? Sunday we continue on with Naomi and Ruth. Hope you will join us!

A Difficult Providence

Rev. Lane Stephenson

A Difficult Providence

Ruth 1:8-18

Have you ever asked yourself the question, "If I had known then what I know now, what would I have done differently...would I have done it differently?" It's a tantalizing question - especially as the years go by and we have more of life on which to reflect!

The story of Ruth is a reminder that our steps, our days, and our circumstances - even our "difficult providences" - are in the hands of a God whose gracious sovereignty and incredible kindness work to accomplish His good purposes, enabling us to affirm with William Cowper:

"God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm. Deep in unfathomable mines of never-failing skill, He treasures up His bright designs, and works His sovereign will."

As we continue the Sunday morning series in the book of Ruth, we learn more of the greatness and grace of our God as we reflect on the difficult providence experienced by Naomi and her family. One writer has said, it is an account that urges upon us "a certainty, and delight, in the security of God's providence."

The Prodigal Daughter

Rev. Stacey Cox

The Prodigal Daughter

Ruth 1:3-7

The road of self-determination took Elimelech, Naomi, and their sons to Moab. Dreams of a better life in the land of compromise soon became a living nightmare. The unthinkable happens, and Naomi finds herself in a new country and culture all alone. The ground underneath Naomi had to feel as though it was cracking. Sunday we will observe the prodigal daughter's return home. Hope you will join us, as we continue in our fall study of Ruth!

When Life is Hard

Rev. Stacey Cox

When Life is Hard

Ruth 1:1-2
The renowned philosopher Forrest Gump once remarked, "My mama always said, 'Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.'" On one hand, that's correct, we make choices in life like we choose chocolate candies from a box. On the other hand, it often seems like life gives us no choice at all. Who would ever choose a crippling accident or life-threatening disease? Sunday we launch out into our Ruth series.  Out of the gate, we'll notice choices being made by a man and his family - and circumstances being thrust upon them - that carry the family down a hard road. Hope you will join us for 'When Life is Hard'!

Sustained by the Gospel

By Lane Stephenson

“They were a young Church, just delivered from paganism. Like lambs in the midst of wolves, they stood amongst bitter enemies, their teacher had left them alone, and their raw convictions needed to be consolidated and matured in the face of much opposition.”
(Alexander Maclaren, 1826-1910)

In correcting the confused and erroneous beliefs of the believers at Thessalonica concerning “the last things,” Paul assured the church that the day of the Lord had not yet come by telling them that prior to that day there must come a time of rebellion and the appearance of the man of lawlessness.

There is “good news” and “bad news” in other words. The good news: they had not been “left behind.” The bad news: difficult and perilous days will precede the coming day of the Lord, days in which dangerous wolves seek to devour the lambs.

What, then, is the anchor for our hope and confidence? What will sustain us, equip us, and keep us during the difficult and perilous days that precede the day of the Lord?

Paul’s answer is the gospel. In giving thanks to God for the believers at Thessalonica, he speaks of the work of the gospel in their lives and gives the gospel as the ground of their steadfastness and hope.

This Sunday, we look at Paul’s description of the work of the gospel in the lives of the believers at Thessalonica and see in his description the cause and ground of our hope. A gospel-centered church is sustained by the very gospel that brought that church into existence!

Man of Sin - Part 2

By Stacey Cox

There are numerous references in the Bible to the Antichrist. In some cases, whole chapters are devoted to him, but we rarely hear sermons that deal with him in light of his rise prior to the Lord Jesus’ return. This is probably due to the fact that most ministers are fearful of being dubbed the next Harold Camping. But we must not hold back from highlighting and describing his characteristics, as described in the Bible, and the destruction he will unleash prior to Christ’s second advent. That’s what we will set out to do Sunday. Hope you enjoy as we continue our study in 2 Thessalonians!

The Man of Sin

By Stacey Cox

People have a keen interest in the future. “Itching ears” are evidenced by the popularity of astrology, fortune-tellers, and political prognosticators. Christians aren’t immune to a fascination of the future. But many are confused as to what to believe. Depending upon one’s perspective, any number of angles can be taken regarding ‘the signs of the end times’ mentioned in Scripture. None is more subject to speculation than the sign of the coming “man of sin” or the Antichrist. What does the Bible have to say about this figure? What is his role in God’s work of redemption between our Lord’s first and second advents? That’s where Paul takes us Sunday, as we continue our study in 2 Thessalonians with “The Man of Sin.”