Grown-Up Christmas Questions: But, Why Am I So Favored? (Luke 1:41-43) Billy Russell 12/16/2018

December 19, 2018

 Grown-up Christmas Questions

(Giving a Reason for Our Hope in Jesus)

“But, Why Am I So Favored?”


“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk.1:41-43)



Elizabeth’s question reflects her overwhelming feeling of double blessing (being pregnant with John and being Mary’s relative and receiving her pregnant with Jesus). While rhetorical, her question reflects her awareness of God’s great grace at work around her, and her humble awareness of her role in His plan. We too are greatly blessed! God’s blessing leads us to be a blessing to others.


                                      But, Why Are We So Favored?


We are greatly Blessed (1:39-42)-

     This encounter was a confirmation for both women of God’s grace.

     We too have been greatly blessed by God!

     An awestruck awareness of God’s great grace expressed in our lives!

     The journey of faith is an on-going realization of God’s grace at work.


We are to be a Blessing (1:43-45)-

     Their visit connected the dots of God’s design, yet the mystery remains!

     Mary’s visit blessed Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s words blessed Mary.

     Notice the humble acknowledgement of God’s role for them in His plan.

     Recognize the blessing. Pass it along to others.

     Share the blessing, don’t hoard it.


Because we are greatly blessed how can we bless others?

     Praise the Lord for all He has done for you in Christ!

     Develop a “pass it along” plan: ways to share God’s blessing.

     Do this 1 thing: practice giving grace as freely as you’ve received it.


Grown-Up Christmas Questions: How Will This Be? (Luke 1:34-38) Billy Russell 12/09/2018

December 19, 2018

 Grown-up Christmas Questions

(Giving a Reason for Our Hope in Jesus)

“How Will This Be?”



“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Lk.1:34-35)


Welcome to the Holy-days of wonder, awe, and mystery! The Incarnation is about what God was doing in sending Jesus to rescue us. Today, we explore Mary’s inquiry, “How will this be?” as she sought to understand the inner-workings of God’s plan and His assignment for her. Can you give a reason for your hope and peace in Jesus this Christmas?            


                                         “How Will This Be?”


By the power of the Spirit (v.35)- “The Holy Spirit will come on you...”

     The Spirit inspires and empowers trust in His plan.

      Spiritual conviction revealed/assured only by the Spirit w/o other proof.


By trusting the Word (v.37)- “For no word from God will ever fail.”

     His Word is sure, steadfast, without fail.

     His Word is His Divine provision.

     Revelation Assurance- God acts to keep His Word.

                                         His character leads to fulfillment of His promises.


By obeying by faith (v.38)- “I am the Lord’s servant (slave- doulos)”

     Willingness of heart. Service is the heart of obedience in action.

     Acceptance of role and identity.

     Jesus chose to serve (e.g., Mk.10:45; Jn.13:12-17; Phil. 2:5-11)

     Trust in God’s provision (for her role in His plan).


By resolute surrender (v.38)- “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

       Courageous affirmation! It’s personal.

       Act on what you know. Faith the rest!

       Depend on God like He can be trusted! Because He Can Be!


Grown-Up Christmas Questions: How Can I Be Sure of This? (Luke 1:18) Billy Russell 12/02/2018

December 4, 2018

Grown-up Christmas Questions

(Giving a Reason for Our Hope in Jesus)

“How Can I Be Sure of This?”


                                     “Zechariah asked the angel, ‘How can I be sure of this?                                           I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.’ ” (Lk.1:18)


Welcome to the Holy-days of wonder, awe, and mystery! The Incarnation is about what God was doing in sending Jesus to rescue us. Our new series centers on answering the questions found on the lips and hearts of the characters in the story of Jesus’ birth. Today, we explore Zechariah’s request for certainty of the birth of his son, John (Lk.1:11ff), the forerunner of Jesus. Can you give a reason for your hope in Jesus this Christmas?                                   


How Can We Be Sure of This?


  • Trust the Prophetic Voice (Lk.1:19-20)- God has spoken! Listen.

    • We can trust the Word entrusted to us (by the angel Gabriel, Zechariah, Luke, through the Church, inspired by God’s Spirit).


  • Entrust my Personal Need (Lk.1:11-17; 1:1-4)- It was personal for Zechariah/Elizabeth & for Luke/Theophilus.


  •   We can entrust... the quiet and stormy desires of our hearts to God.

    • What personal matter do you need to entrust to God?


  •   We can trust... God is at work revealing Himself to us through all that we are going through (life!).


  •   We can choose... to trust the Word who became flesh, Jesus!

    • We can live by faith because God can be trusted.


  • Prepare to share your hope in Jesus (1 Peter 3:15)-

    • Celebrate the Incarnation- Jesus is our Immanuel! (God with us).
    • Understand Incarnation’s meaning and impact (knowing what the
    • Incarnation is and why you believe it).
    • Give a reason for your hope in Jesus.

A Living Hope (1 Peter 1:1-9) Guest Speaker, Nathan Hamann (11/25/18)

November 29, 2018

 A Living Hope

(1 Peter 1:1-9)

  • The human heart cries for hope and the hope you cling to under pressure might be different than you think...
  • 1 Peter 1:3-4
    • Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
  • What is “a living Hope”?


  • Route – comes to us via the resurrection of Jesus Christ--re-birth (v. 3)

    • Alternate Routes
  • Object – an inheritance/grace/salvation (v. 4, 5, 13)
    • Alternate Objects
  • Timing – revealed in the last time (v. 5)

    • Alternate Timings
  • In the meantime…
    • When Hope is rightly set, what changes?

      • The importance of many of our plans’ success dim
      • Eternity informs our plans more and more
      • Boldness – because no one can take away our hope (2 Cor. 3:12)
      • Hope will not disappoint (Rom. 5:5)
  1. How do I fix my hope completely on Jesus Christ?

Walk This Way:Trust God for Tomorrow (James 4:11-17) Billy Russell 11/18/18

November 21, 2018

Walk This Way
“Trust God for Your Tomorrow”
(James 4:11-17)

“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)

James teaches us that faith is belief in action. Living by faith means protecting the reputations of other believers (by enforcing a no-slander zone), and trusting God for tomorrow (by employing a no-boasting zone). How will you honor others by guarding your words about them? How will you acknowledge and honor God’s sovereign role in your life?

  • Enforce a no-slander zone (4:11-12)- Protect the reputation of others.

    • Honor people with your words.
    • You are not the judge of others.
    • You are to guard your heart and words carefully.
    • Remember: Our responsibility is to love, not judge our neighbor.


  • Employ a no-boasting zone (4:13-17)- Trust God for your tomorrow!

    • James says do the right thing in the right way at the right time.
    • Refuse to live as a practical atheist: living like their is no God in your
      everyday life experiences and decisions.
    • Check yourself: guard against the arrogance of demi-godhood.
      “Life is too short to do anything less than God’s will.” (-T B Maston)
    • Live like God can be trusted. Live by faith in His providential care.
    • Determine to acknowledge God’s providential watch-care and
      submit to His authority and will. This is the “right thing to do” (v.17).

Walk This Way “Submit Yourself to God” (James 4:1-10) Billy Russell, November 11, 2018

November 14, 2018

Walk This Way

“Submit Yourself to God”

(James 4:1-10)

 “Submit yourselves, then, to God... Come near to God and he will come near to you... Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:7, 8, 10)

 James teaches that faith is belief in action. Living by faith, following Jesus’ Way, impacts our words, attitudes, wisdom, and actions. This lifestyle transformation comes from a yielded surrender to God. He empowers our faith to live for Him. Are you willing to wisely submit yourself to God?

  •  Wisdom to understand the nature of our problem (vv.1-4)-

    • Vivid depiction: we want our way, and do whatever we can to get it!
    • Friendship with the world breaks relationship with God.
    • Declarative choice: one way or the other: your way or God’s Way?!
  • Wisdom to see God’s approach (vv.5-6; Prov. 3:34)-
    • God opposes the proud-
    • God gives grace to the humble-
  • Wisdom to submit to God for help (vv.7-10)- accept the invitation! A series of command/promises to embrace...:
    • “Submit yourselves, then, to God...”
    • “Come near to God and He will come near to you...”
    • “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”



Walk This Way: Live Humbly and Wise (James 3:13-18) Billy Russell 11/4/18

November 7, 2018

Walk This Way

“Live Humbly and Wise”

(James 3:13-18)

 “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (James 3:13, NIV)


James teaches us faith is belief in action. Living by faith is seen when we apply wisdom to daily life situations. What is wisdom? How can we live humbly and wise in the face of trials and temptations?

  •  Wisdom is... Applying spiritual truth to everyday life (practical).

    • Applying what we know and have learned from living by faith to everyday life situations. It begins with a deep respect (awe, fear) of God and our relationship with Him (Prov.1:7).
  • Wisdom is also: observable, beneficial, and available (v.13; 1:5).
    • Wisdom is both attitude (humility) and action.
  • Wisdom in action does not look like... “bitter envy and selfish ambition”
    • Resentful jealousy (comparisons); promoting selfish desires.
    • There is an “earthly” wisdom that is “unspiritual, demonic” (vv.14-15).
    • Jesus calls this “the broad way” (Mt.7:13-14)- crowded path, looks right, but leads to destruction.
    • Refuse to boast or follow this path- leads to “disorder and every evil practice.” Don’t be deceived!
  • Wisdom in action looks like... a mosaic of 8 godly characteristics:
    • pure- undefiled, untainted by selfishness; first = priority of the list
    • then peace-loving, considerate, submissive: peaceable, gentle (kind) motivation- right way to do right (4:17); willing to yield (reasonable)
    • full of mercy and good fruit: compassion; reap right living before God
    • impartial and sincere: not playing favorites (2:1-13); genuine
    • Jesus is the wisdom of God (1 Cor.1:24); He is these traits in action
    • Jesus calls this “the narrow way”- the road less-traveled, leads to life
    • Jesus and James call this the peacemakers life (v.18; Mt.5:9)-
  • How will you live humbly and show wisdom in action this week?