The child with four amazing titles

The title of my Christmas message this year is “The Child with Four Amazing titles”.

Now in the Bible we see that Jesus is given many names. All of these names refer to some aspect of who He is and what He does. He is given names like the King of kings, the Lord of all lords, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Alpha and the Omega, the Lamb of God, the Bread of Life. He is also called the way, the truth and the life.

In today’s Christmas message I want to look at one verse from the Old Testament in the book of Isaiah. This verse was written some 700 years before the first Christmas, but it was written about Jesus. The verse comes from Isaiah chapter 9 verse 6.

It says, “For a Child is born to us, a Son is given to us. The government will rest on His shoulders. And He will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

In this verse the baby Jesus is given four amazing titles. Today, I want to look briefly at these titles.

1) Jesus is our Wonderful Counselor

Wonderful Counselor – what a great title. I don’t know about you, but sometimes in this life I need a wonderful counselor. Like most of us, sometimes I just don’t know what to do and I need help.

One of my favourite memory verses comes from Proverbs 3.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  6 Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.”

Isaiah 55:8-9 also says, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.  9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

It is great to know that I can pray to Jesus and ask for His wisdom and His guidance. It is great to know I can call on someone whose thoughts are higher than my thoughts. When I do call on Him in prayer, I find that before long the right path to take opens up.

Not only is prayer a great way to find guidance, but also are Jesus’ words in the Bible. In His famous sermon on the mount we see there are so many great truths contained for everyday life.

A quick scan of the Sermon on the Mount shows us how to have the right attitude to life, how to pray, how to respond when people wrong us, how to live in a marriage relationship, how to use our money and possessions, how to be generous, and how to be a true follower of Jesus.

These are timeless truth for how to live, how to relate to each other and how to relate to God. In fact, when He finished His sermon people were amazed. Matthew 7:28-29 tells us, “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, 29 for He taught with real authority–quite unlike their teachers of religious law”.

So not only can we pray and receive direction from our wonderful counselor Jesus, but we can also read His words in the Bible.

2) Jesus is our Mighty God

The second amazing title in this passage is mighty God. In His time on earth Jesus showed His power and glory in the way He lived and interacted with those around Him. Shortly after the sermon on the mount, Jesus moved out into the world and did a number of amazing miracles.

As we saw a few weeks ago, Jesus performed a number of miracles including…

The healing of the man with leprosy (Matthew 8:1-4), healing the Centurion’s slave (Matthew 8:5-13), the calming of the storm (Matthew 8:23-27), healing the  Paralytic man who was brought by his friends (Matthew 9:1-8), Jesus raised the Dead Girl to life (Matthew 9:18-26), Jesus healed the Sick Woman who touched His cloak (Matthew 9:20-22), He healed the Two Blind Men (Matthew 9:27-31), and He drove the demon out of the Mute Man (Matthew 9:32-33).

In performing these miracles Jesus showed that mighty God is a title that sits well on Him. He healed the sick, drove out demons, calmed the storm and He even raised the dead. Jesus showed that He had power that is not of this world. He did things that no mortal man could do. He did things that only God could do.

At times in life when we feel weak and we don’t think we can do the things we need to do, it is great to know that we have Jesus we can call on for help and strength. The Bible tells is we can do all things through Christ who is our strength (Philippians 4:13).

This Christmas we know that help from “Mighty God” is just a prayer away.

3) Jesus is our Everlasting Father

The third title is “Everlasting Father”. This title shows that Jesus is eternal.

John 1:1-4 reminds us that Jesus is eternal. “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.  2 He existed in the beginning with God.  3 God created everything through Him, and nothing was created except through Him.  4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and His life brought light to everyone.

When I first got interested in reading the Bible in my early 20s, I thought that Jesus came into existence when He was born at Christmas time to Mary.

Before long I realise that Jesus was there at the creation of the world. He was there when Adam and Eve were created. He was around when Noah build his ark, He was around when Moses led the people of Egypt to freedom, He was around the great kings and prophets walked the earth in Old Testament times. Then 2000 years ago He walked the earth to show us what God is like, to show us how to live, and ultimately to show us how much He loves us by dying on the cross for our sin. Now He has returned to heaven and He promises to come back for us one day. This is the great hope for all who trust in Jesus for their salvation.

Again, everlasting father is a wonderful title. It helps us to know that when we put our faith and trust in Jesus, we are not just trusting in a baby who grew into a man who walked the earth some 2000 years ago, but we are putting our faith in someone who is eternal and everlasting. And as Colossians 2:9 tells us, “For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body”.

Everlasting Father is a title that sits well on Jesus.

4) Jesus is our Prince of Peace

The final title in this verse is “Prince of peace”. Another great title that was given to Jesus.

It doesn’t take much to see that the world desperately needs a prince of peace. When we read the newspaper in the morning or watch the nightly news we see peace is needed. At times it is easy to get overwhelmed by it all.

However, when I get troubled by world events like terrorism, wars, floods, earthquakes, famine and the like, I close my eyes prayerfully and think about the prince of peace. The one who came from eternity, was born in a manger at Christmas, lived amongst us and gives us His peace.

There are two great verses that still my heart and mind when I am worried…

In John 14:27 Jesus said these words to His troubled followers when they were afraid, “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So, don’t be troubled or afraid.”

And in Philippians 4:7, the Apostle Paul who was one of the leaders in the early church said, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Story of Peace

Long ago a man sought the perfect picture of peace. Not finding one that satisfied, he announced a contest to produce this masterpiece. The challenge stirred the imagination of artists everywhere, and paintings arrived from far and wide. Finally, the great day of judging arrived. The judges uncovered one peaceful scene after another, while the viewers clapped and cheered.

The tensions grew. Only two pictures remained veiled.

As a judge pulled the cover from one, a hush fell over the crowd.

A mirror-smooth lake reflected a perfect scenery of rolling hills with a perfectly blue sky. Along the grassy shore, a flock of sheep grazed undisturbed. Surely this was the winner.

The man with the vision uncovered the final painting himself, and the crowd gasped in surprise. Could this be peace?

A tumultuous waterfall cascaded down a rocky cliff; the crowd could almost feel it’s cold, penetrating spray. Stormy-grey clouds threatened to explode with lightning, wind and rain. In the midst of the thundering noises and bitter chill, a tiny tree clung to the rocks at the edge of the falls.

A little bird had built a nest in the elbow of that branch. Content and undisturbed in her stormy surroundings, she rested on her chicks. With her eyes closed and her wings covering her little ones who were oblivious to the storms, she manifested peace that transcends all earthly turmoil.

This picture was declared the unanimous winner.

Jesus, as the prince of peace, can give us peace. A true and lasting peace that is not of this world. It is the peace of heaven. If you want to experience true and lasting peace this Christmas, it is found in the prince of peace.

Closing

So, as I close, I want to wish you all a wonderfully happy, safe and blessed Christmas. It is my hope and prayer that this Christmas you will experience the love of the child who grew up to be a Saviour with four amazing titles – the wonderful counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting father and the prince of peace.

If you have not made your connection with God, I would encourage you to  click on the “Peace with God” link to find true and lasting peace this Christmas.

Merry Christ everyone.

Read it out loud and absorb it

At my last church I Pastored the Elders understood that some weeks as a Pastor you are really busy with people, extra training, planning or prayer.

In those weeks it was okay for me to just read a passage of Scripture and share a couple of brief thoughts. At first I found this hard, but slowly I realised that while preaching is a key part of a Pastors work, sometimes the best thing I can do is just read out Scripture and let it be absorbed by the people.

This is an example of a passage I might read on those weeks…

Psalm 103:8-18 NLT
[8] The LORD is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. [9] He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. [10] He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. [11] For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. [12] He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. [13] The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. [14] For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust. [15] Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. [16] The wind blows, and we are gone- as though we had never been here. [17] But the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children [18] of those who are faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments!

Five tips for new Christians

If you are a new Christian you have made a great decision to follow Jesus! To get you started I have provided some suggestions for you to help you grow on your new journey. Below you will find some things that really helped me nearly 35 years ago when I decided to follow Jesus.

Read the Bible

The Bible will help you to learn more about God and gives you practical advice about how we should live. A good place to start is the Gospel of Luke that is found in the New Testament. This book will give you information on the life of Jesus Christ and you will be able to read about His miracles and teachings to His followers. After this you can move on to the Book of Acts. This talks about the early church and how they got started. We also have a number of two week reading plans on our Bible Readings page. If you don’t have access to a Bible, you can find an online one here at www.biblegateway.com

Start to pray

Prayer is simply communicating with God. It is a part of building our relationship with Him. Just remember to keep it simple. The Bible tells us to give thanks to God for what He has done when pray and also to ask for the things we need for ourselves and others. Before long you will see the difference prayer makes in your life and in the lives of those around you. You can check out our prayer category on our blog for some tips.

Meet with other Christians

God wants us to meet with other Christians and be a part of a caring faith community. We see in the Bible that He wants us to have a support network and a place where we can learn more about Him. We don’t recommend any church in particular, but encourage you to try a local one near you in your community. If you are in Western Australia you might like to look for a local Church of Christ , Baptist Church or an Australian Christian Church.

Do a discipleship course

Doing a discipleship course will help you to set a solid foundation for your new life in Christ. We have a free booklet you can download on our discipleship page. The booklet has 10 short studies on the Bible, prayer, church, serving God, sharing your faith and being assured of your salvation. It includes a number of Scriptures on each topic, some reflection questions, a simple prayer and some Bible memory verses.

Tell others about your new faith

Sharing your faith can be fun and rewarding. You might like to start by telling people close to you that you have accepted Jesus into your life. Telling others about your faith and decision to follow Jesus can will allow them to follow Him too. If you need some tips to help you share your faith you can visit a sermon I preached on this topic.

Faith and Endurance

This week I want to take my sermon from the first heading at the start of the Book of James. For most of our translations the heading says something like, “Faith and Endurance”.

And before I start, I have to say that James is one of my favourite books of the Bible. I became a Christian in July of 1989. I went to a Baptist church with some friends from work. They invited me to a Bible study at their house. They said we are starting a new study on the book of James. A year later I felt God wanted me to find a more local church to where I lived. So I went to my local Church of Christ. I got invited to a Bible study during the week, they were starting a new study on the book of James. I went to that church for about 5 years and then I met Larissa. We then looked for a church we both could attend. When we found one and when we were attending regularly, I got invited to a Bible study. Guess what…it was a new study on the book of James. It seems God had some practical things for me to learn on how to live as a Christian.

So you could say I am reasonably well versed on the book of James.

Points for today

Today I have three main points I want to bring out.

1. James tells us that we should be joyful when struggles come our way.

Verse 2 says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.”

This verse really got my attention when I sat in that first Bible study all those years ago. I remember hearing, “When bad stuff happens, I should be joyful”. I sat there and quietly thought this is crazy. Only a crazy person would be joyful in tough times.

But as I sat there and listened to the rest of the study I soon realised that the next verses gave that context. Verses 3 and 4 say, “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing”.

James was saying that faith that is tested, grows. And faith that grows comes to maturity. And when we are mature, we lack nothing as it says in verse 4.

James who wrote this book knew what it was to face trials. He saw His half-brother Jesus die on the cross. He was there for the early persecution of the church. History tells us that James, like the Apostle Paul and Apostle Peter were all martyred for their faith.

The thing I find interesting about James is how he started his book. Of all the themes he talks about, he chose to touch on trials and temptations first. It is almost like he is saying that if want a live a life that really makes an impact for the Kingdom, you can expect trials and temptations to be part of your journey. After all in verse 2 he says, “When trials come your way”, …not if they come your way!

Sometimes in this life, God allows trials to come our way. This is not because He is a mean God. It is because He loves us and He wants us to grow and mature. As I have said before, “God loves us the way we are. But He loves us too much to leave us that way”.

Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest put it this way. “Saints [believers] are like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, but our Lord continues to stretch and strain, and every once in a while the saint says, “I can’t take any more.” Yet God pays no attention; He goes on stretching until His purpose is in sight, and then He lets the arrow fly.”

The arrow can’t fly as far, if the bow is not pulled back far enough. So trials are necessary for our growth and for God’s purposes in us to be fulfilled.

So years on from that initial Bible study, and being a little bit more mature, I can see what James means when he says, “consider it pure joy when trials come your way”.

2. James tells us that if you need wisdom ask God

James 1: 5 says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking”.

Who knows that when we go through trials we need wisdom? Wisdom from God is so vital when we are going through trials.

When I was a new Christian and bad things happened, I would throw my hands up in the air and whinge at God. I would say things like “How could You let this happen?” or “Why have You left me alone?” or “Are You really there God?”. Over time my questions changed as I matured. I said things like, “Where are You in the midst of this Lord?” or “What are You trying to teach me Lord?”. Rather than whinge at God I prayerfully proclaimed His faithfulness and all the times He had helped me in the past. And how I knew this trial would not last forever. I would see things through the lens of eternity, not just the here and now. I believe this is a more mature way of looking at things.

Wisdom as we know is so much more than knowledge. Knowledge means we know stuff. Having wisdom means we know what to do with the knowledge we have. It is about making right decisions at the right time.

James tells us ask God if we lack wisdom. He tells us to ask the One who knows the beginning from the end. He tells us to ask the One who is all powerful and all knowing. He tells us to ask the One to where our help comes from, the maker of heaven and earth. If you need wisdom, you just need to ask God.

James also warns us in this section to make sure we look to God alone. Verses 6-8 remind us that, “6 But when you ask Him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”

James is saying we can’t look to God for wisdom or guidance about the future and then look to the world for answers. We can’t ask for wisdom and then go to a psychic or read our horoscope. We need to look to God and wait on Him for answers. Our loyalties can’t be divided. We have to stay the course. We have to believe God will answer our prayer for wisdom and in time He will guide us in what to do. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to look to God and lean not on our own understanding, and He will show us which path to take.

If you need wisdom in your current trial, seek God and ask for wisdom. He will give it.

3. James tells us that God promises to bless us in our trials

Verse 12 says, “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterwards they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him”.

All of us here could probably stand up and tell us of a trial they are going through or have been through. Health issues, family issues, problems at work, financial issues, legal issues, or issues with other people. None of us are immune. We live in a fallen world that is effected by sin. As hard as it is when we are going through it, if we walk through it with God, we are not alone. And if we walk through our trials with God, we grow our faith through them. On the other side of the melting pot of the trial, we are made mature. We have a deeper faith and trust in God and we are better able to handles the stresses of life. We lack nothing as James tells us.

Those of you who know me well, know that I am into keeping fit. Fitness is one of those things you have to work at consistently and if you want to improve you have to put the work in. I have been doing weights since I was 18. I started with light weights to strengthen my body that was ravaged by Rheumatoid Arthritis. When I started I could lift a 3kg dumbbell for some exercises. Over the years I have gradually got stronger and I now do the same exercise with 20kg. I couldn’t do squats at first and now I squat over 100kg. I couldn’t do dead-lifts, but now I dead-lift over 100kg. To do this I have had to work hard and be consistent to build strength, build fitness and build my body.

It is the same with building our faith and trust in God. We read our Bibles, pray and come to church to encourage each other. That helps our spiritual muscles to grow. But we need something extra to really build our maturity, we need trials and the blessing that comes from going through them. We need to archer to stretch the bow.

Would I want to go through the things I have been through in my life again? No way. But I am glad I have been through them. Because I have a depth of relationship with God, the blessings He has given me and an unshakeable trust in Him, I would not have know if I didn’t go through my trials.

If you are going through some sort of trial at the moment, I would encourage you to look to God. Look for His strength to help you through. Look to His wisdom to let you know what to do next. Look to the future with hope knowing that once you are through this, your level of faith and trust in Him will be greater than you have ever known. You will know a level of maturity that only comes through walking through the valleys of life. This to me is one of the great promised blessings God gives us in this life.

Stand firm, stay the course. God promises that blessing is coming. And a crown of life as it says in verse 12.

Some words from Paul…

2 Corinthians 4:8-11 – We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies…

16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

Closing

Today we have looked at the first part of the book of James. My hope and prayer is that you have been encouraged. I hope that if you are going through a trial at the moment, or when the next one comes, that you will remember these three points.

1. James tells us that we should be joyful when struggles come our way – because it a chance for growth.

2. James tells us to ask God if we need wisdom – He will give it to us.

3. James tells us that God will bless us if we endure through trials – we will grow and receive a crown of life.

Amen