Monthly Archives: December 2015

“Wonder, Ponder, Glorify, and Tell!

From Luke 2:17-20, Pastor Charles H. Spurgeon preached a magnificent sermon exactly 150 years prior to Christmas Eve in 2015. I used the verbs which Pastor Spurgeon used in that message to deliver a short meditation to the people of Waukee Community Church on December 24, 2015. If you would like to read the outline of my message, “Wonder, Ponder, Glorify, and Tell!” please read on. . .

 

“Wonder, Ponder, Glorify, and Tell!”

By Dr. Bob Stouffer

Waukee Community Church

Thursday, December 24, 2015

 

Text: Luke 2:17-20

 

Opening

 

God privileged me to witness the birth of my daughter Molly in 1986 and, in 2013, the birth of my granddaughter Gracelynn with wonder, pondering the miracle of life, glorifying God for these beautiful gifts, and telling others of the goodness of God.

 

Verses 17-20 of Luke 2 detail the wonder of the shepherds, the pondering of Mary, the glorifying of those hearing about Jesus’ birth, and the telling of the shepherds, who were so humbled by and excited about this pivotal juncture of God’s meta-narrative.

 

Alternate Opening

 

At 6:11 a.m. tomorrow morning – Christmas morning – those of us on earth will experience a rare full moon. The last full moon on Christmas occurred on 1977; the next, will be in 2034.

 

Those of us who are fascinated by, wonder about, ponder, glorify God, and tell of this rare phenomenon really should be praising God for reflecting the light of the sun so we can even see the full moon!

 

What a marvelous metaphor on this Christmas Eve. Ah, that all of us as Christians would reflect the light of the true Son in telling how He has transformed our lives, a phenomenon that is far more miraculous than a full moon on Christmas!

 

So – let US wonder, ponder, glorify, and tell tonight!

 

Text of Analysis

 

We. . .wonder.

 

Wonder!

 

. . .is a verb which means,

 

  1. to think or speculate curiously;

 

  1. to be filled with admiration, amazement, or awe; to marvel.

 

What causes you to wonder?

 

Most probably. . .

 

. . .a subject or object about which you are passionate –

 

. . .or a unique or remarkable occurrence/place –

 

The Grand Canyon,

 

Mount Everest,

 

Angelic voices like Katie’s and Kaelynn’s,

[Katie Ingle and Kaelynn Brooks sang a duet earlier in the service.]

 

A championship in athletics,

 

The launch of a Space Shuttle,

 

And GOD, of course!

 

In this passage, the shepherds “made known” to others that Jesus had been born, and they experienced a sense of wonder.

 

They must have wondered, Was this really the Messiah?

 

Why would God announce the birth of the Messiah to lowly shepherds?

 

Could the Messiah be born as a baby and placed in a manger, of all places?!

 

Pastor Dave encouraged us to read <this devotional> which featured the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Listen to what the editor says about “wonder” in God Is in the Manger [p. 60].

 

. . .

 

Wonder.

 

Wonder. . .and ponder!

 

Ponder!

 

Ponder is also a verb, which means. . .

 

to consider something deeply and thoroughly; to meditate.

 

Ponder?

 

What should we ponder?

 

The complexities of life –

 

The curious behaviors of people –

 

The questions which should drive the actions of our lives –

 

Why are we here?

 

What does God want us to do for Him?

 

Where do I go when I die?

 

And we should ponder GOD, of course!

 

Mary pondered the miracle of her pregnancy, Jesus’ birth, and all the shepherds were saying about Jesus.

 

Earlier, in Luke, Chapter 1, verses 47-55, Mary pondered the angel’s announcement of Jesus’ birth:

 

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” [English Standard Version
 (ESV)]

 

Wonder. . .ponder . . .and glorify!

 

Glorify!

 

Again Luke uses a verb:

 

Glorify –

  1. to honor with praise, admiration, or worship; extol –

 

  1. to make glorious; invest with glory

 

  1. to praise the gloryof (God), especially as an act of worship.

 

GOD ALONE should be the object of our glorifying, of course.

 

But we spend so much time glorifying the temporal, rather than the eternal:

 

Celebrities,

 

Athletes,

 

The wealthy,

 

Charismatic leaders,

 

“Successful” people by the world’s standards.

 

The shepherds glorified, praised, and worshipped GOD as a result of all they had seen and heard.

 

Wonder. . .ponder. . .glorify. . .and tell!

 

Tell!

 

A final verb is used:

 

Tell –

 

  1. to give an account or narrative of; narrate; relate –

 

  1. to announce or proclaim.

 

What do we “tell”?

 

Stories,

 

Gossip,

 

Secrets.

 

Opinions.

 

Once again, we must tell others about GOD!

 

We must live the Gospel.

 

But we must SPEAK and tell the Gospel as well. We must tell of Jesus!

 

Wonder. . .Ponder. . .Glorify. . .Tell.

 

Closing

 

 

EXACTLY 150 years ago tonight – on December 24, 1865 – in the Metropolitan Tabernacle of London, England, famed Pastor Charles H. Spurgeon preached a message he entitled “Holy Work for Christmas,” and I close with his very words from that sermon. . . .

 

Resources

 

Dictionary.com

 

The Holy Bible.

 

Reiss, Jana, ed. God Is in the Manger. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John

Knox Press, 2010.

 

Spurgeon, Charles H. “Holy Work for Christmas,” Sermon No. 666, 24

December 1865 (http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols10-12/chs666.pdf).

“Sex Education in Kindergarten?!”

With great interest, I recently read “The Case for Starting Sex Education in Kindergarten,” by Saskia De Melker (Public Broadcast Station News Hour, 27 May 2015).  Should schools start teaching sex education in kindergarten?  If you’re interested in my answer, read on. . .

“The Case for Starting Sex Education in Kindergarten”

By Saskia De Melker

PBS News Hour

May 27, 2015

In this article, journalist Saskia De Melker studies comprehension sex education in the Netherlands.  Children as young as age 4 are asked the question, “Who here has been in love?” almost as though romantic love is possible at this stage of their emotional development.  Eight-year-olds learn about gender stereotypes.  Eleven-year-olds discuss contraception options.  Adolescents are taught that “young people can be in love and in relationships.”

Really?!  Such a curriculum and instruction reeks of encouraging students to enter into sexual relationships at far too early an age — AND outside the boundary of marriage!  And this body of sexual content is being taught by schools, RATHER THAN parents?!  Why is it that schools are so determined to supplant the biblical role of parents to disciple their children in this important life arena?!

I am not against speaking to 4-year-olds about love, but not in a sexual context.  I am not against speaking with 8-year-olds about gender stereotypes, which is a critical issue.  I am not against speaking to 11-year-olds about contraception; call me old-fashioned, but I advocate for one form of contraception — ABSTINENCE.  We do not need to assume that children have no control over their sexual urges, believing we must teach them to protect themselves when it’s a “foregone conclusion that they will be engaging in sexual intercourse.  I am not against speaking against adolescents about being in love and in relationships.

But all of this speaking must be filtered through biblical truth.  Adolescents, let alone young children, do not understand sexual “love,” as God intends sexual love.  God reserves physical intimacy for one man and one woman within the boundary of marriage.

And schools are NOT the primary teacher of  sex education.  PARENTS must teach and disciple their own children, in this regard.  The Netherlands is right in one regard:  “Sexual development is a normal process that all young people experience, and they have the right to frank, trustworthy information on the subject.”  And that frank, trustworthy information must come from the parents, not schools.

This article reports that 66% of sexually active American teens wish they had waited longer to have sex for the first time.  So why are the Netherlands, United Nations (of all organizations), and some states in our country pushing so hard to talk about teens becoming sexually active?!  The Netherlands touts its low teenage pregnancy and sexually-transmitted disease as evidence of success with their sex education, but, in this article, I didn’t read reports of the widespread and verified depression which comes from girls and boys being cast aside as sexual objects.  Sexual intercourse is THE most intimate act between two human beings, and, if outside the boundaries of marriage, sexual love cast aside can be devastating emotionally.

Do we honestly believe SCHOOLS should be discussing scenarios like the following with 11-year-olds in the Netherlands?!!

“You’re kissing someone [at a party] and they start using their tongue, which you don’t want.  A girl starts dancing close to a guy at a party, causing him to get an erection.  Your friend is showing off pornographic photos that make you uncomfortable.”

Should a Dutch (or American) teacher say the following to a a girl who believes she is a lesbian?!!

“It’s not strange for some girls to like other girls more than boys.  It’s a feeling you can’t change, just like being in love.  The only difference is that it’s with someone that is the same sex as you.”  

Seriously?!

Can you say, “AGENDA”?  I knew you could.  One of the American researchers raised in the Netherlands stated, in the article, “In the Netherlands, there’s a strong belief that young people can be in love and in relationships.”  I’m pretty old school, but I don’t believe any K-12 student truly understands “love” or “relationships” in this context.  I got married at 24, and I didn’t understand love and physical intimacy through a biblical filter.  We typically do not marry the people we “date” in high school.  And we often ruin our high school and college friendships by prematurely entering into sexual relationships.

I’m with Utah.  Utah “bans discussing details of sexual intercourse and advocating for homosexuality, the use of contraceptives, or sexual activity outside of marriage.”  I was also pleased to read in this article that half of the United States require emphasis on abstinence.

In a sex-saturated culture, we abstinence advocators are perceived as prudish and judgmental when we argue against sex outside of marriage.  I say, so be it.  Why should we bow to the mainstream support of physical intimacy before we marry?!  Please, parents, talk early and often, through developmentally appropriate language, to honor God’s design for His precious gift of physical union between a man and a woman.

“Christmas Opportunities”

How perfectly understandable that Pastor Dave preached a Christmas sermon at Waukee Community Church on Sunday, December 20, 2015, and the sermon spoke powerfully to me in our circumstances, as Cheryl and I anticipate a scary new future in our life journey.  If you would like to read my summary of that message, “Christmas Opportunities,” please read on. . .

“Christmas Opportunities”
By Pastor David Brooks
Waukee Community Church
Sunday, December 20, 2015

Text:  Luke 1:8-38

Summary Notes of and Editorializing by Bob Stouffer, Elder, Waukee Community Church

Today, we want to talk about “Christmas opportunities” from Luke 1.

It occurred to me, as I was preparing this sermon, that I want to be a man who says, “YES!” to God.

Would I be a man who would buy a homeless man a sandwich, and invest in his life as well?

Would I be a man who, in counseling a friend, would be willing to say tough things to him?

I’m afraid that I’m also the kind of man who struggles with priorities of saying, “Yes!”  to my family more than “Yes!” to God’s initiatives.  I have a personality which too often centers on being liked by others.

Sometimes, I might miss an opportunity from God.  We all need to process these opportunities.  We don’t want to miss opportunities.

God is in the opportunity business.  He wants to do great things in our lives.

Luke 1 is about a God who presents opportunities.

Zechariah had doubted Elizabeth would have a child.  A baby born to an old, seemingly barren woman?!  He was mute until John the Baptist’s birth.

In a state of wonder, Mary pondered this announcement of a miraculous birth to her.  A baby born to a virgin?!

Both of these births are miraculous.  With both of these births, the Angel Gabriel tells the women not to be afraid.  Both of these births make the impossible possible.  Both of these births present opportunities from God.

God wants you to say, “Yes!” to His opportunities.

TO SAY, “YES” TO GOD’S OPPORTUNITIES, KNOW THAT. . . .

GOD IS SPEAKING.

God had been silent [during the Inter-Testamental Period].  Both of these women would have been surprised that God was speaking to them after 400 years of His silence.  God spoke.  God is speaking to you and to me today.  Sometimes, we, too, are surprised even by the simplest messages from God.

In Hebrews 1:1-2, the writer stated,

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers through the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also created all things.”  (English Standard Version)

Friends, you need to know, truthfully, that God is still speaking today.  He spoke fully through Jesus, and He is still speaking through His Holy Spirit.

Think about how different Zechariah was from Mary.  Zechariah was a old man; Mary, a young woman.  They were at different ends of the socio-economic spectrum; he was a priest with a social status, but Mary was a young peasant woman with no standing.  Zechariah would have been secure with his income as a priest; Mary struggled to survive day-to-day.  Yet God spoke to both of them.

Think about how different we are in this room.  If he can speak to Zechariah and Mary, it’s not unreasonable to believe that God will speak to each of us.  In fact, we can expect it!  He speaks to us in His Spirit.  The pathway of transformation is fueled by His Word, His people, and His Holy Spirit.  God’s Spirit speaks to you and to me.  Jesus changed everything; He opened up the gates of heaven to us!  God’s Spirit is constantly at work.  If we’re truthful with ourselves, we’ve gotten to the place where we expect God NOT to speak and NOT to act.  We pray, but we doubt whether God will move.  We listen, but we doubt whether God will speak.  And we don’t recognize the God opportunities in our lives.  In this church, we have engaged in 10 years of endless labor of setting up and tearing down for this church, and we’ve gotten tired; perhaps we don’t believe God will speak or act [given the current property purchase which is before us].

God is not done.  He’s not done.  He’s not done with you.  He’s not done with me.  He’s not done with this church.  He’s speaking opportunities every day.  God is still speaking, and God is still acting.

One of my favorite verses in the entirety of Scriptures is Genesis 50:20.  Joseph’s brothers had thrown him into a pit and sold him into slavery.  Later, in a position of authority, Joseph could have squashed his brothers, but he had long ago forgiven his brothers, saying, “What man intended for evil, God used for good. . . .”

TO SAY, “YES” TO GOD’S OPPORTUNITIES, KNOW THAT GOD IS SPEAKING.

TO SAY, “YES” TO GOD’S OPPORTUNITIES, KNOW THAT GOD’S OPPORTUNITIES ARE ALSO DIFFICULT.

An old lady is going to have a baby?!  A virgin is going to have a baby?!  These are two fairly “impossible” situations.  Yet God was set to do the impossible.

Zechariah was understandably skeptical about Gabriel’s foretelling of John’s birth to a seemingly barren woman.  Mary couldn’t figure out how a virgin would have a baby.  Gabriel said to Mary, “. . .nothing is impossible for God.”  (1:37)

In our situations, we should keep praying.  Mary was in relationship with God, and she was receptive to God’s opportunity.  She had come to the table with nothing, and she had been doing nothing.  God made her special.  He gave her grace.  He gives us grace based on His character, not ours.  We cannot understand our relationship with Jesus rightly, unless we understand our own depravity and the extent of God’s grace.  We come to Him with nothing, and he showers us with grace at a time when we least deserve it.

That’s the Gospel message.  Because of His power, grace, and might, we can be in difficult positions — in dangerous places — where all we can do is to depend upon the grace of God.  The position is dangerous and exciting at the same time when we are completely dependent upon God’s grace.  Mary was a teenager.  She was engaged to be married.  Pregnant and unwed, she would have been seen as unfaithful.  She could have been stoned.  God put Mary in a dangerous position, but she trusted Him.

The best place to be is facing God-sized tasks, so we can depend upon God to accomplish these tasks.  What was it like for a senior citizen like Elizabeth to enter into a high-risk pregnancy; the pregnancy was dangerous, but it was the best place for her to be — in the center of God’s will.

We live in a safety-obsessed culture.  It’s scary to enter into a dangerous situation.  But, when we walk into these God opportunities, it’s the absolute best place to be.

TO SAY “YES” TO GOD’S OPPORTUNITIES, KNOW THAT GOD IS SPEAKING, GOD’S OPPORTUNITIES ARE OFTEN DIFFICULT, AND, FINALLY. . .

. . .GOD’S OPPORTUNITIES REQUIRE A REQUIRE A RESPONSE.

After his response to Gabriel’s pronouncement of his wife’s pregnancy, Zechariah was struck mute.  After her response, Mary was praised. Why the difference?  Zechariah knew better.  He was a priest.  He should have had faith.  He had apparently grown cynical enough that his cynicism tainted his faith.  With age, stubbornness can occur.

When God puts an opportunity in front of us, we must be ready to say, “Yes!” to God.

God worked through their faith, little as it was initially with Zechariah and large as it was with Mary.

Zechariah named the child, and he got his voice back.  His was an ever-growing faith.

Mary was obedient in faith, and she had the privilege of raising the Messiah.

Even the faith of a tiny mustard seed can be honored and loved by God.

A father asked Jesus to heal his boy from the demon tormenting him.  Everything is possible for those who believe.  The man said, “I do believe.  Help me in my unbelief.”  And Jesus healed his boy.

I don’t know what position you are in today.  Are you tired?  God may seem like a million miles away.  But I encourage you to see, with eyes of faith, the opportunities God is putting in front of you.  The circumstances may not be easy, but they require a response of faith.

Have you had a moment in which you have said, “No” to God because of the challenge?  Perhaps you don’t think God is speaking to you.

What are the opportunities God is placing in your life?  Those opportunities may not seem at all possible.

God is knocking at the door of our church.  He’s asking Waukee Community Church to do great things for His glory in 2016.  Will we step forward in faith?  Will we respond?

How has God been speaking to you?  Have you been listening for the opportunities He has placed in front of you?

You are going to walk away from this place to the busy-ness and distractions of your life.  Please pause right now, silently, and reflect on those opportunities.  Ask God to make clear how you should respond to those opportunities.

“Was, Is, Will Be, and Am!”

I was so blessed that that the Oskaloosa Herald asked me to write the following column, as we anticipate the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016.  Perhaps you are interested in what I had to say in “Was, Is, Will Be, and Am!”

“Was, Is, Will Be, and Am!”

By Dr. Bob Stouffer, Principal, Oskaloosa Christian School

December 17, 2018

 

How can you not love the Charles’ Dickens’ Christmas Carol story of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge being visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future in such a wonderful tale of redemption?! Literalists and naturalists would declare the tale to be a “dream” of Scrooge. As a Christian, I can support the interpretation of God placing a “vision” in Ebenezer’s mind to turn him away from his sinful behavior toward a more generous, forgiving, joy-filled spirit.

 

I think of A Christmas Carol as I look back on 2015 and look forward to 2016 in Oskaloosa. What a year it has been for Oskaloosa Christian School! We have been so grateful for the past support of this community and surrounding communities. It really does take the full body of Christ to raise a child. We thank everyone who has supported the school through School Tuition Organization (STO) state tax credits and our For Generations to Come scholarship drive.

 

In 2015, God blessed Oskaloosa Christian with our first-ever Christian Schools International accreditation after a rigorous process and tremendous work by the teachers, staff, and Board. Under the excellent leadership of Ruth De Bruin, we were also able to implement the outstanding new Kinder Kids program as a dual-track program to assess and to make sure that young five-year-olds and more traditional kindergartners are being appropriately challenged in their first official year of K-12 education.

 

Those are just a couple of the numerous ways that God blessed our school and this community in 2015. On behalf of the entire Oskaloosa Christian staff and Board, I want to express our gratitude to God for “the good, the bad, and the ugly” events which refined our school and community members in 2015.

 

When I think of Christmases and New Years past, present, and future, I think of verbs which capture the essence of life. We just experienced a year that was.   That time is past. We can never recapture the opportunities. We now live in the present. Life is. As a Christian, I must take every present thought, word, and deed captive to Jesus Christ. I know I will fail time and time again, but I need to consistently present myself as a living sacrifice to Him. And we live for the future. That future will be redeemed entirely by God for those who have placed their trust in Jesus. Everlasting life will be.

 

Of course, the one verb which is most important is “am.” God said, “I Am.” God alone has ALWAYS existed. He exists outside of time. He exists outside of the “past,” “present,” and “future.” And, as I look back on 2015, anticipating what lies ahead in 2016, I am grateful for a God who was, is, and will be. I am grateful for an all-powerful God who can state, “I Am.” I encourage you to hold that truth in your mind and heart, as you engage your hands and feet for His glory in 2016.

“Badgers, Bullets, and Beasts: Oh My!

Time for another oldie but goodie from the archives! I fondly recall my experience at the Sportsmen’s Retreat at Hidden Acres Christian Camp (just north of Ogden, Iowa) in March of 2010. Please relive my experience with me in “Badgers, Bullets, and Beasts: Oh My!”

 

“Badgers, Bullets, and Beasts: Oh My!”

By Dr. Bob Stouffer

Monday, March 29, 2010

 

I entered a unique subculture of the United States on Friday-Saturday, March 26-27. This world is one I do not typically experience. I am a city boy who has had no training. I was a bit of an “outsider” as I walked among 300+ men. But I also enjoyed myself very much, and the men were most welcoming of my presence.

 

You are no doubt wondering about my interesting adventure. I am holding you in too much suspense. I attended the annual Hidden Acres Sportsmen’s Retreat for two of the three days of that gathering. Please allow me to make seven observations about my experience – for hunters and non-hunters alike.

 

  1. I think it’s pretty cool when men who are wired as hunters and fishermen gather to worship the Lord through their hunting and fishing passions. God places different passions in the hearts of men and women; those gifts should be used for God’s honor and glory. There can be no doubt that I observed great passion for hunting during my two days at the Hidden Acres Christian Center (about 10 miles north of Ogden).

 

  1. When I walked into the opening chapel, I was taken aback. I had never seen so many people in one place with camouflage! I suppose I could joke that I didn’t really “see” them, since their “camo” allowed them to blend together with each other and the pews of the chapel! When men enter the hunting arena, they put on their “game uniforms.” One guy, affectionately known as “Badger,” was most interestingly dressed in animal skins; in fact, I think he gained his nickname from the prominent role of one badger skin on his person. Another man was available to help boys and men shoot authentic replica Colt .44 pistols at a firing range, so he was appropriately dressed with the look of an 1800s cowboy. In my mind, all of the men at this retreat were also putting on the full armor of God for spiritual battle.

 

  1. The preaching of hunters is good, too! Terry Baxter, an avid hunter and evangelist, delivered most of the messages during the weekend, and he did an excellent job of encouraging all of the men, challenging us to be “mighty men” for God. Men need that reminder constantly. Otherwise, we can fall into passivity, failing to lead our families and churches.

 

  1. The weekend also centered on two pivotal activities – shooting and eating! The shooting was great! I think these guys would have shot 24/7, if they’d had the energy. In fact, all-night shooting at lit ranges was fare of the evening! We were out shooting handguns until 12:30 a.m. on Saturday. Contest upon contest matched the prowess of the dozen or so men who had become our covey of shooters; if there had been enough shells and time, these guys probably would have expended every round and every clay pigeon during their time together!

 

  1. I grew up in the City of Davenport, Iowa. Hunting and shooting were not activities in my life. So this culture is a most fascinating one to me. For some reason, God surrounded me with a large percentage of hunters when I became a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. So people like Billy Owens, John Thomason, Randy Cool, and my cousins Ralph and Richard Brokaw have taught me a great deal about firearms, ammunition, and peripheral activities associated with hunting. I am not a huge fan of shooting, but I don’t shy away from it, either. So I was encouraged to take my turn on the line, and it really was quite enjoyable. I often can’t hit the broad side of a barn, but the men were very tolerant of my efforts. I should express my thanks for use of their arms and ammo. Hunting is not a cheap avocation, and they generously supported my practice during the weekend.

 

  1. The eating was also great. Anyone who has ever been to Hidden Acres for a retreat or summer camp can attest to the abilities of the cooks at this marvelous Christian center. The huge sugar cookies and famed chocolate chip cookies were outstanding, as always. No one walked away hungry from the eggs and sausage, potatoes, cereals, and pastries of breakfasts. The “wild game feed” was fascinating. I was a bit cautious about eating meat from a hunt which was not within my sphere of influence, but I did partake of some tasty venison and pheasant which had been swimming in a spicy hot Tabasco gravy!

 

  1. Sleep arrangements at these kinds of events can be a mixed bag. I was so tired from a busy week that no snorer could have kept me from my appointed rounds of sleep on Friday night. A fan was also blowing loudly in the room, thus drowning out any of the “noises” from men who don’t sleep well or don’t hold their chili well!

 

I didn’t really have time to attend a retreat for activities which are generally not typical for me, but I was so pleased to spend time with my cousin Richard Brokaw, who had ventured all of the way from Cheyenne, Wyoming for the event. My son-in-law Jake and I also had a great time together during the trip up and back. Richard, Jake, and Billy Owens were the only initial reasons for my involvement, but you can see there were many other reasons as well. I praise God for the many ways that we can express our love for Jesus!

“Incarnate Living”

Pastor Dave Brooks continued his messages about giving like Jesus at Waukee Community Church on Sunday, December 13, 2015. If you would like to read my summary of and editorializing about the message, “Incarnate Living,” please read on. . .

“Incarnate Living”
From the “Disciple Who?” Sermon Series
By Pastor David Brooks
Waukee Community Church
Sunday, December 13, 2015

Text: Philippians 2:5-15

Summary of and Editorializing by Dr. Bob Stouffer, Elder, Waukee Community Church

As a parent, I have heard a phrase uttered on numerous occasions in my home, and I’m guessing you have heard this phrase as well, “That’s. . .not. . .fair!” You’ve thought it. I know you’ve heard it. You’ve said it.

“Fair” is such an interesting concept. Everyone wants what’s fair. The word means “just and reasonable circumstances.”

The point is that we want “equal.” We want God to be “fair” [and equal] with us.

Most of the time we cry, “Unfair!” when circumstances are unfavorable or disadvantageous for us.

Would you ever choose something that was unfair to you? In an altruistic moment, you might. But would you choose that as a way of life?

That’s exactly what Paul tells the people at the Church of Philippi to do. He tells them to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but to consider others as better than yourselves (Philippians 2:3).

You may think I’m trying to make you feel guilty, but I need you to understand that this way of life — giving like Jesus — is the way we must live our lives.

A disciple lives, loves, and gives like Jesus. And s/he brings people together to do the same. A disciple is not a disciple until s/he is helping others to be disciples as well.

You want to be a disciple of Jesus Christian. Then, you must want to give like Jesus. Choose what is best for someone else.

GIVING LIKE JESUS BECOMES A REALITY WHEN WE CHOOSE WHAT IS BEST FOR SOMEONE ELSE.

WE GIVE LIKE JESUS THROUGH AN ATTITUDE OF HUMILITY.

Consider others better than yourself. Give like Jesus. It starts with your attitude.

Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus (2:2).

Our big God confined Himself to the limiting body of a tiny, fragile baby. There is no greater example of the attitude of considering others as more important than self.

How do we choose what is best for someone else?

Jesus had all of the rights and privileges associated with being God. He did not lose His attributes of divinity, but He chose not to use His divine rights as a human being. Jesus did not cease to be God. He was fully God and fully human. It’s not a spatial understanding. He was one person. He had two distinct natures. And He set aside His rights as God. His diaper was changed. He thirsted. He became tired enough that He couldn’t keep his eyes open. He had an attitude of humility.

We live in America, a country founded on the concept of our “rights.” There’s an entire Bill of Rights. It’s a foreign concept NOT to cling to our rights. But Jesus, who had every right in the universe, set those rights aside. Our attitude should be like Christ’s.

I’m not treading on political ground. Voting matters. Rights in this country are important. But we should hold onto our rights and privileges loosely. Something more important is going on here.

We must work on this attitude constantly, because the Kingdom of God is at stake. Jesus gave up His rights, because the Kingdom of God was at stake. He made Himself nothing (2:7). He emptied Himself of His rights and privileges, taking a new nature.

If we had the power of God, we would have great difficulty setting aside that power, because we would probably be overwhelmed by our ego.

Jesus became obedient to death. And if death weren’t enough, He submitted Himself to death ON A CROSS. This is the Gospel. We should never lose sight of the grace coming from God’s humility. God allowed Himself to be killed. He substituted His death for our deaths. He atoned for our sins. Jesus. For you. For me. Could there be a better servant attitude than that?!

Christmas always looks to the cross. The manger points to the cross. Why would God do this? He did this because He values people. You and I are of intrinsic worth and value to God. You cannot give like Jesus unless you employ this same attitude of valuing people. People are important.

ALL people have intrinsic value and worth to God. So we should have an attitude of setting aside our rights and privileges, looking on others as better than ourselves.

This is not a miserable life. Listen to what happened to Jesus.

God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above all names! Every knee bows to Him. Every tongue confesses that he is Jesus Christ the Lord! (2:9-11). Jesus was rewarded greatly. When we adopt the attitude of Christ, we, too, are exalted.

Humility is a blessing in and of itself. A humble life “says” others are more important. Someday, we will stand before Jesus, and He will say, “Well done, you good and faithful servant!” There is no greater joy than to hear those words. This is your moment when your Master says he is pleased with you.

WE GIVE LIKE JESUS THROUGH AN ATTITUDE OF HUMILITY.

Also. . .

WE GIVE LIKE JESUS THROUGH ACTIONS WHICH ARE INCARNATIONAL.

Paul had quoted this great hymn in Philippians 2 because he wanted the church to continue to WORK OUT their salvation with fear and trembling. (2:12)

Embrace the attitude of giving like Jesus through action. We go and invest in other people.

We live incarnationally with others because we value them, just as Jesus valued others and stepped into their lives. For you, it might mean stepping into an athletic league, a book club, or a job which includes people who do not follow Jesus.

We must be intentional about what we do.

We should also open our eyes to see where God has placed us, looking for people that God has put in our paths.

Remember this map on the bulletin. [Pastor Dave held up that page of the day’s bulletin.] Put your house in the middle of this map. Identify those who live around you. Step into their worlds when God has placed you. Can you identify these 8 neighbors by name? Pray for your neighbors. Invite a neighbor and a life group member to dinner. Show people what it’s like for believers to interact with one another. Love your neighbors incarnationally. It’s not hard.

Continue to work out your salvation. It’s a continual process. It’s about outpouring of grace to others, since God had poured out His grace on you.

It is God who works in us “to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (2:13, ESV). It is not up to us to be God in someone’s life. It’s our God who steps in, and we see what God does in that person’s life. Just show up wherever God has placed you!

The passage continues preaching about acting incarnationally. We are to do everything without complaining and arguing (2:14). When we live like this, we live very differently than the culture.

What happens when we live differently than the culture? We will be blameless, pure, and shine like stars in the universe (2:15)!

Our goal must be to live-out the Kingdom of God. It will work, because it’s different. It stands out! We must care about the work in the Kingdom of God.

Here’s Waldo. [Pastor Dave projected an image of Waldo from the famous children’s book series.]. Here’s a picture where you need to find Waldo. [The photograph was filled to sensory overload, making it difficult to see Waldo.]. Where’s Waldo? But on this page, it’s more my speed. [Waldo was easily found on this new image.]. Waldo on this page stands out. He essentially shines like a bright star in the universe.

Will you have an attitude like Jesus?

Will you act on that attitude?

Will you stand out like a star in a dark universe?

Will you help restore what God sees as valuable?

A family bought an old homestead. The farm was old. The previous owner had developed a junkyard. The new family looked to see if there were any value in the junk pile. Someone came by. He found an old pick-up truck. It was sitting on blocks. The truck would not start. Most people had seen the truck as junk. But this man saw the value of the ’38 Ford. He took the truck home. He worked to restore the vehicle. It took him years to find the parts in restoring the truck. He kept at it. He kept working. He finished! It was gorgeous! The beautiful truck was there all along, he said. You just had to envision the restoration.

Sin has had its day. God sees something better. People are valuable. Will you see people in the same way? You will give like Jesus. You will invest in people who are difficult and broken. If Waukee Community Church could only be a church like that!

We’re going to close with a song which emphasizes this simple point:

“All the Poor and Powerless”

“All the poor and powerless
And all the lost and lonely
All the thieves will come confess
And know that You are holy
Will know that You are holy

And all will sing out
Hallelujah
And we will cry out
Hallelujah

And all the hearts that are content
And all who feel unworthy
And all who hurt with nothing left
Will know that You are holy

And all will sing out
Hallelujah
And we will cry out
Hallelujah

Shout it
Go on and scream it from the mountains
Go on and tell it to the masses
That He is God.”