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When Life Takes A Turn For The Worse

 
What do you do when you’re going along in life and things are going fine, you’re being blessed, your family is healthy and your company is prospering—when all of a sudden the bottom drops out?
 
(Your spouse tells you they want a divorce; or you find out one of your children is very sick; or maybe that your company is laying you off)
 
What do you do when the road you’re on suddenly takes an unexpected turn and you find yourself in a place you never thought you’d be in, facing a situation you’re not prepared to deal with?
 

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The C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S Story

 
As a pastor I’m always looking for new ways to communicate the timeless truths of Scripture in a way that will help God’s people remember them and apply them into their lives.
 
This morning I would like to attempt to do that very thing by using the word “Christmas” as an acrostic which I hope will help you to remember what the Christmas story is all about.
 
 
Of course, Christmas is about the birth of the Christ-child—something that has gotten lost in all the hype and commercialism that has come to characterize the Christmas season.
 
The birth of this special Child was foretold in numerous places in the O.T.—one of the prophecies that we’re most familiar with comes out of Isaiah 9:6—

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Saved, Sealed and Secure

 
In Ephesians Chapter 1 Paul is talking about how those of us who are Christians got saved. In verse 13 he gives a very simple 3 point outline—“You heard the word of truth (the gospel), you trusted in Christ, and you were sealed with the Holy Spirit.”
 
1. You heard the word of truth—v.13a
 
Romans 10:17 (NKJV)
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
 
1 Corinthians 1:21b (NKJV)
…it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
 
This is our part in God’s plan for saving the lost—to honor God with our lives and to share the gospel with our words.  We really have not been called to “win people to Christ” or to “save souls”—that’s the Holy Spirit’s ministry.
 
Our responsibility is to, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone” as Jesus commanded us.
 

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“BUT GOD”

The book of Ephesians is divided up into two sections—the first three chapters are doctrinal and the last three chapters are practical.  That order is no mistake, Paul realized that doctrine must always precede duty because—Christian living depends on Christian learning.
 
The believer who does not know his wealth in Christ will never be able to walk for Christ.  In Chapter Two, Paul wants to tell us some of the wonderful blessings that God has given to us now that we are in Christ. However before he talks about what God did for us he first talks about what sin did to us—or in other words the predicament we found ourselves in before we received Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
 
Ephesians 2:1-3 (NKJV)
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
 

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Be Imitators of God

 
 
In Ephesians 5:1 Paul admonishes us to be “imitators of God as His dear children”.
 
When Paul said that we are to imitate God as “dear children” he is implying that it is the most natural thing in the world for children to imitate their parents—and because we are children of God let’s be imitators of our Heavenly Father.
 
“Okay”, you say, “but how do I do that, what does that look like?”
 
Well, one the greatest attributes of God is love—in fact the Bible doesn’t say that God has a lot of love—it says that God is love!
 
So, with that in mind, one of the greatest ways we can imitate our Heavenly Father to the people of this world is by demonstrating God’s love as His children.

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Be Transformed By The Renewing of Your Mind

 
Ephesians 4:17 (NKJV)
This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind.
 
Here Paul is admonishing believers to stop living the old life of sin like unbelievers who do so because of the “futility of their mind” and to start living new lives of holiness and purity for God.  The phrase “futility of their mind” means the “empty-headedness of worldly thinking”.  First of all, let me say that the Bible teaches that the power to live a changed life comes from the Holy Spirit working thru a changed (clean) heart.
 
But David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart—O God” because he knew he couldn’t create a clean heart in himself.  
 
We don’t have the power to change our hearts—but we do have the power to change our minds. If I stop justifying sinful activities and old habits—if I change my mind, God will change my heart.
 
But He won’t change my heart until I change my mind—that’s what the word “repent” means—“to have a change of mind”.  Paul is telling us here that the main difference between Christians and non-Christians (a part from new life)—is in the way they think.
 
Once person repents (has a change of mind) and receives Jesus as Lord and Savior they receive the new birth with a new nature (the divine nature—2 Peter 1:4) and with it a new heart.  And now we are commanded to stop thinking like the world and to start thinking like the redeemed children of God we are in Christ.

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God Created You For A Purpose

Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
 
This verse clearly teaches that you are not an accident—God created you on purpose for a purpose.
 
a.    For we are His workmanship
 
The Greek word translated “workmanship” is poiema, from which we get our English word “poem.”  A poem is a literary work of art—and here Paul is using it to describe Christians, that each of us as Christians is a living work of art, a masterpiece in the making.
 
b.    Created in Christ Jesus
 
The only way we can begin becoming God’s masterpiece is through the new birth where we become a new creation in Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
 

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Gaining A Godly Perspective

Several years ago, I heard the story of Larry Walters, a 33-year-old man who decided he wanted to see his neighborhood from a new perspective. So, he went down to the local army surplus store one morning and bought forty-five used weather balloons. That afternoon he strapped himself into a lawn chair, to which several of his friends tied the now helium-filled balloons. He took along a six-pack of beer, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and a BB gun, figuring he could shoot the balloons one at a time when he was ready to land.
 
Larry, who assumed the balloons would lift him about 100 feet in the air, was caught off guard when the chair soared more than 11,000 feet into the sky — smack into the middle of the air traffic pattern at Los Angeles International Airport. His lawn chair had shot up so quickly on take-off that Larry dropped his BB gun—leaving him to the mercy of helium and wind currents. He stayed airborne for several hours, forcing the airport to shut down its runways for much of the afternoon, causing long delays in flights from across the country. Soon after he was safely grounded and cited by the police, reporters asked him: “Larry why did you do it?” To which Larry replied simply, “Because sometimes you gotta do something—you can’t just sit there.”

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Lessons From The Empty Tomb

In a few days we will celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
 
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single greatest event in the history of the world—and the cornerstone of the Christian faith. It is so foundational to Christianity that anyone who denies the physical, bodily resurrection of Christ cannot be a genuine Christian—it is an essential doctrine of the Christian faith for salvation.
 
You see, without the resurrection there is no Christian faith, no salvation—and no hope for man.
 

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Marital Warfare

One of the things that has many of us pastors very concerned is how many Christian marriages are struggling and failing today.  I personally am seeing more Christians getting divorced today than I saw 36 years ago when I first got into ministry.
 
One Christian couple I know got married, two months later she was cheating on her husband and two months after that they filed for divorce. And while that may be an extreme example of the flimsy, shallow commitment that many are entering into marriage with—it is nonetheless becoming more and more the norm.
 

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