Friday, February 26, 2016

Singing With the Exiles: Breaking Down the Gates - February 28th

Message notes for a sermon by Pastor Ewings based on Isaiah 45:1-8
Babylon was the city of paradise of its day.  The name “Babylon” means “gates of the gods” and this ancient city was given that name because the inhabitants believed that, when you stepped through the gates of Babylon, you were as close as you’d ever get to heaven on earth.  Renowned throughout the world for its beautiful hanging gardens and priceless works of art, Babylon was a wonder of the world in its own right.
Not only was the city known for its beauty, but it was also the stronghold of the mightiest military forces of its time.  Through military conquests, Nebuchadnezzar II would come to rule an empire that stretched from the Persian Gulf to the borders of Egypt.  He even captured Jerusalem—twice!—which led to the destruction of Israel’s temple and the deportation of many Jewish inhabitants to Babylonia. 
Hundreds of bronze gates were erected in and around Babylon, making it the world’s most fortified city.  Babylon was also surrounded by a series of walls, two of which enclosed the rectangular city.  The innermost wall was twenty-one feet thick and the outermost was eleven feet deep.  Three hundred and sixty watchtowers were on the walls every sixty to sixty-five feet.  A moat-like system in front of the outer wall hindered direct attacks on the city.  The Ishtar Gate opened up to a long processional way called “Aibur-Shabu” which means  “the enemy shall never pass.”
The children of Israel found themselves trapped behind these gates.  Their fate seemed certain behind the security of the walls of Babylon.  How could they escape from the mightiest army of the day?  It would take a miracle for an exiled people to leave the dungeons alive.  A miracle is exactly what they got as the Lord used His anointed, the pagan king Cyrus, to break down the gates of Babylon and rescue His captive children. 
The historical events predicted in Isaiah 45:1–3 unfolded as follows. In 539 BC, Cyrus, the Persian lord, surrounded the city of Babylon, and the pagan priests submitted and declared him Marduk’s chosen monarch. Then they opened up the city gates and allowed the Persians to walk in, proclaiming Israel’s freedom at the same time.  The Lord used Cyrus for three reasons: (1) so that Cyrus would know the Lord is his “Sponsor”; (2) so that Israel would benefit from the Persian’s military victories; and (3) so that all might know the Lord alone is God and there is no other.

Lesson 1:  Isaiah 45:1-8
Lesson 2:  2 Peter 3:8-13
Gospel:  Matthew 16:13-19

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Singing With the Exiles: Marked - February 21st

Message notes on a sermon by Pastor Ewings based on Isaiah 44:1-5
We have been marked by many different things in our lives.  For some of us, we’ve had visible, identifying birthmarks on our bodies since the day we made an appearance into this world.  For others, it took a little bit more time but, eventually, many marks marred us.  Our own bodies have been battered and bruised and some of these incidences, like ink, have left a lasting mark on our flesh.  Scrapes and scratches have become scars on our skin.  Some try to cover these up with clothes or makeup.  Others will undergo surgery to try and make things look better.  But some marks simply can’t be removed. 
What’s even more frightening is to take a look at the marks that go deeper than the skin.  Our souls have been scarred over time as well.  Sin has left its mark on our bodies and no clothes or makeup or plastic surgery can cover it up.  Like a tattoo boldly emblazoned on a body our souls bear a single, brazen word: SINNER.  You are marked and you can’t remove this identity on your own. 
The children of Israel found themselves in a similar situation.  Marked by shame and scorn as rejects in their world—exiles from their homeland and outcasts in their new land—it seemed that they didn’t have a whole lot going for them.  Worse yet, they were marked in the same way with that awful word.; they, too, were sinners with indelible marks left on their souls.  That’s why God gave them the titles that He did. 
The name “Jeshurun” appears in our text today.  This title is linked with the verb “to be straight, upright.”  Jeshurun is parallel with Jacob in verse 2 of our text from Isaiah today. “Jacob” means “deceiver,” “liar,” or “trickster.” This suggests that God’s people are, at the same time, both saints (Jeshurun) and sinners (Jacob); we are both upright and crooked.  Those marked by sin were likewise marked for salvation.
The Lord took note of this sad situation and got some skin in the game.  By sending Jesus, the Son of God, a new identity is forged for us: “belonging to the Lord.”  He was marked to be our sacrifice, marked to bear the dreadful load of our sin, marked to become a curse, marked to be our Savior.  Jesus has born the stigma of our sin in His body and given us a bold, new identity: we are the Lord’s!

Lesson 1:  Isaiah 44:1-5
Lesson 2:  Hebrews 4:14-5:6
Gospel:  Matthew 9:9-13

Friday, February 12, 2016

Singing With the Exiles: We Are Worms! - February 14th

Message notes on a sermon by Pastor Ewings based on Isaiah 41:14-16
Who would ever be want to be known as a worm?  They are slimy, yucky, creepy, crawly little creatures.  They’re certainly not highly regarded in the animal kingdom.  Worms are agents of The Lord’s judgment (Deuteronomy 28:39; Jonah 4:7) and vicious consumers of human remains (Isaiah 66:24). They are considered “detestable” in the Book of Leviticus (11:41–42) and the fallen king in Isaiah 14 is given maggots for a bed and worms for his covers (v. 11). David confesses to being under God’s judgment when he says, “But I am a worm and not a man” (Psalm 22:6). Our Lord quotes from Psalm 22:1 (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34) because He, too, was under the Father’s judgment, even though He had no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). In Isaiah 41:14, God unmistakably gives that us.  We are worms!
God uses small people and small things to accomplish a great salvation. All Moses had was a wooden stick and this defeated his enemies. Gideon gained a great victory over 120,000 of his enemies with just 300 soldiers. Samson took the jawbone of a donkey and defeated over 1,000 Philistines. And a sling and a stone were all David needed to kill Goliath.
Jesus also uses small things and people to accomplish a great salvation. He used five loaves of barley bread and two small fish to feed five thousand men. The Savior once said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed . . . the smallest of all seeds” (Matthew 13:31–32). Passing through Jericho on the way to Jerusalem, Jesus picked out little Zacchaeus and said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, [because this man] is a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9). And then these words, “Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).
All of this points to the day when Christ’s enemies used thirty pieces of silver, a whip, a blindfold, a spear, their fists, and three nails. But these small and insignificant things were used by God to accomplish for us a great salvation! Through them we see God’s great love for us when Jesus died for us on the cross. And because of this, little and insignificant people like us—call us worms—will move mountains!

Lesson 1:  Isaiah 41:14-16
Lesson 2:  John 11:32-40
Gospel:  Hebrews 9:27,28

Friday, February 5, 2016

In a Dark World, Let the Gospel Shine! - February 7th

Message notes for a sermon by Pastor Ewings based on 2 Corinthians 3:7—4:2
For many of us growing up, darkness was probably the one thing that scared us the most. Perhaps we grew up with a nightlight in our rooms. Perhaps we wanted a light on in the hall outside of our bedroom. Perhaps we didn’t want to go into anyplace where we might find ourselves in darkness. It’s natural to be scared of the dark because darkness enshrouds dangerous things. We never quite know what just might be lurking in the shadows until light takes away all doubt. 
Being in spiritual darkness is far worse than being in physical darkness. In physical darkness, at least, there is some hope that eventually someone would turn on a light, provide a flashlight or take our hands and guide us to safety. There is no such earthly hope in spiritual darkness. The sinful mind is spiritually blind to the blessings of God and His Gospel. Those who are perishing are unable to see the good news of the Gospel.  Today we see how the Lord, in His Word, reveals to us His glorious Gospel and shows us how we can shine with the light of the Lord as well.
I. List some ways in which the Gospel Shows Christ’s Glory:

II. List some ways in which the Christian Tells Christ’s Story:

God called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.  We go with Jesus’ glorious Gospel. Wherever the Gospel goes, lives will be illumined and souls saved!

Lesson 1:  Exodus 34:29-35
Lesson 2:  2 Corinthians 3:7-4:2
Gospel: Luke 9:28-36