Greetings from Pastor Bob and The Encouraging Word. Itís beginning to look a
lot like Christmas. Although I have to admit it has been hard to get into the
spirit of Christmas with the temperature hanging around 82 degrees every day.
It is suppose to start to cool down, that will help. It might even get as low
as 40 degrees, burrrr. I just had to throw that in for every one freezing up
north. . I actually had a job of playing Santa Clause Saturday Night. It was
for a corporate Christmas party. Everyone was great, we all had a good time.
The big question was what list they were on, naughty or nice? Where do you
think your name would be?
I want to remind everyone once again about our live webcasts of the service.
Simply go to the website:
and click on the link for the live webcast and enjoy or service Sunday at
11:00 Am and 6:00 PM and Wednesday night at 7:00 PM. There are more exciting
things coming to the web site in the very near future. Thank you for helping
us make that possible.
I do want to thank everyone for your continued prayers for Amyí boyfriend,
Steven who is still in I.C.U. here at Tampa General. I also would like us all
to pray for the families of the those who have lost loved ones so close to
Christmas. You most likely know someone yourself, and that someone might just
be you. If so, know that we
are praying for you. Your loved one would not want you to be sorrowful this
time of the year. Let their memories
bring you smiles of who they were and the wonderful blessing that is was to
have been able to spend time with them here on this earth. In fact that is the
very reason for Christmas so that it would be possible for even those of us on
the naughty list to spend all eternity with God and all our loved ones in
heaven. So let us all continue to pray for one another that the joy of the
LORD would fill each of us to the overflowing. AMEN? AMEN!
Now, my friends, letís get into the
A Voice Crying in the Wilderness
(Matthew 3:1 - 3 KJV)
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of
Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven
is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying,
The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
This is the perfect verse for this Advent season. John the Baptist is
sometimes far too often overlooked in his importance and what exactly he has
to say to us. He is our first real demonstration of the difference between the
Old Testament and the new. His main message was one of personal repentance.
And he sets each of us an example of how we all should be pointing the way, to
the world, to eternal, abundant life in Christ. He basically was saying, Jesus
is coming. He said, that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And guess what. It
is once again.
Letís go ahead and start back at the reference of who they said that he was.
Verse three tells us that he is the one spoken of by the prophet Esaias. Most
every other translation of the Bible will simple come right out and tell us
that it is Isaiah that was being spoken about. Looking the name up in the
original language it just leads you back to Isaiah. So there can be no doubt
that it is the prophet Isaiah that is being spoken about here. In fact the
exact passage that is being quoted here in Matthew is found in Isaiah 40.
(Isaiah 40:3-5 KJV)
The voice of him that
crieth in the wilderness,
Prepare ye the way of the
make straight in the
desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be
and every mountain and
hill shall be made low:
and the crooked shall be
and the rough places
And the glory of the LORD
shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it
for the mouth of the LORD
hath spoken it.
Here is the big mistake
that I believe that we make. The first thing we think about when
we read or hear these words
come to our mind is some wild man in camel skin clothes, eating locust and
honey screaming at people to repent. Although that picture
is not too far from the truth I want us all to look at the first couple of
verses of this 40th chapter of Isaiah and examine the mood that is
40:1 & 2 KJVA) Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith
your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her
warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received
of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins.
What a difference from the
hollering and yelling and screaming and condemnation that we first had in
mind. These are gentle words of encouragement and comfort. We all need to
rethink the message and the messenger of John the Baptist. Letís go back and
look quickly at the man and his message together.
He was born from a
miracle. Both his mother and father, much like Abraham many years before, had
given up on the hope of having any children. Then God speaks to
Zacharias in a vision as
he was serving the LORD in the temple. Letís read the account together in the
first chapter of Luke.
1:5-20 KJVA) There was in the days of Herod, the king of
Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife
was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and
ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child,
because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in
years. And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before
God in the order of his course, According to the custom of
the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple
of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were
praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared
unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of
incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and
fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy
prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt
call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall
rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and
shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the
Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel
shall he turn to the Lord their God.
(Luke 1:17 KJVA)
And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn
the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom
of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
(Luke 1:18-20 KJVA)
And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am
an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. And the angel answering said
unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to
speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. And,
behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these
things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be
fulfilled in their season.
The reason that I
separated the 17th verse out is to show something to us that makes
a huge difference in our lives and the lives of our children and our
grandchildren. You see how even before the birth of John he had a purpose. You
need to know that God has an equally important purpose for you. One other
thing I want us to see. Is how Johnís parents knew that their son had this
special purpose and I am sure that they would bless him throughout his life
letting him know of his special calling. That is called the family blessing.
To often we pass down generational curses rather then giving family blessings.
And those blessings and curses all come from the words we speak to our
What are you telling your
children that they are? Are you reminding them that they are children of the
King, or are you telling them that they will not amount to anything? Because
what ever you are telling them, they will believe you. That is really one of
the sad things I find in our society today. Mothers and fathers putting each
other and their children down. Calling each other terrible names and speaking
curses without even knowing or caring. We really need to make sure that we are
telling the next generation that they are the greatest generation ever.
Johnís mission was clear
from before his birth. Now as we look at him as a grown man in his ministry in
the wilderness I want to clear up some more misconceptions. First of all the
whole locust and honey thing.
I know we all get this
gross picture of John eating those ugly grass hoppers and getting the legs
stuck between his teeth. Yumm- yumm. I hate to break your misconception but
from all the research that I have done the locust that John was actually
eating was a biscuit or wild unleavened bread made from the plants in the
desert. Now, biscuits and honey sounds a little more appetizing to me. But
then I guess it does take away some of the drama.
And that is really exactly what John was doing. He was creating drama to get
the interest and attention of the people. He lived in the wilderness and
dressed like the prophets of old and quickly got a reputation of being that
voice crying in the wilderness, preparing the way for the messiah. There was
another prophet that we too often forget that told us of Johnís position as
the one crying in the wilderness. Look in Malachi with me in the last chapter.
(Malachi 4:5 & 5
KJV) Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn
the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to
their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
Look at how Mark combines
the passage of Isaiah with this passage in Malachi to describe who John the
(Mark 1:1 Ė 3
KJV) The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger
before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one
crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths
straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach
the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
One quick thing I want to
remark upon is how intellectually deep the Bible is. It can be either too
easily dismissed as a simple book of religious writings on
one hand and seen as a complicated religious puzzle on the other. The word
that makes both miss the mark is religious. The Bible is both full of
unlimited depth that one could study it alone all the days of their lives and
it is simple enough that a child can understand. The problem is we just simply
donít read it enough.
Now I really want to get
into Johnís message. The first thing that I want to point out is the
difference that he make from his message and the message of the prophets of
old. If you look back at the prophets in the Old Testament, you will see them
preaching the repentance of the nation to either avoid the wrath of God or to
receive the national bless of God.
John is for the first time
not preaching a message of national repentance. He is preaching a message of
personal repentance. And He is not preaching repentance to avoid the wrath or
to receive the blessings of God. he is preaching repentance for each of us to
be ready to receive the Kingdom of Heaven. He tells us to repent for the
kingdom of heaven is at hand.
That expression ďat handĒ
is one that declares that something is closer then you think.
From G1451; to make
near, that is, (reflexively) approach: - approach, be at hand, come
(draw) near, be (come, draw) nigh.
It comes from the verb to
squeeze, like something that
is ready to be shoot out of a
pressed wine skin. Or like when you have a tube of glue or something that the
nozzle is glogged so you squeeze it and squeeze it then suddenly
BAM it explodes out of the tube. That is the type of
he is talking about. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. It is ready to explode
upon you at any time. Get
ready. GET READY!!!!
And how is it we are to
get ready? Ah, there it is that word we have learned so much to avoid.
It really is a shame that we have been conditioned to somehow cringe when we
hear the word repent. It is honestly meant to be a word of comfort and
encouragement. Going back to that passage we read in Isaiah 40
(Isaiah 40:1 & 2 KJVA)
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably
to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her
iniquity is pardoned:
The whole idea of
repentance is the realization that there is a better way. It is the idea of
coming to the knowledge of there being real hope for a better tomorrow. We
have talked about how the original word for repent is ďmetanoia.Ē
It literally means to change your mind. Look at another meta word that
you might be familiar with; metamorphous. Metamorphous means to change form.
Meta = change and morphous = form; change form. It is the thing that happens
to a caterpillar when it turns into a butterfly. So
metanoia is; meta Ė change and noia (where we get the word knowledge) equals
mind. Change your mind.
I have often said that if
you would only change your mind you would change your ways. What is it that
you need to change your mind about? And you know, that is a lot harder then is
sounds. To often when we even know that something we are doing is wrong, we
justify it in our minds that it is not that bad. Or we think we are getting
away with something. That might be all well and good until it catches up to
you. And you can be sure that your sin will find you out. But even worse then
that is when we are doing things or believing things that are wrong and we
canít see it.
The Bible gave us the Ten
Commandments. As we look over some of them, most of us can say that we have
been pretty good, we havenít killed any one, we havenít worshiped any graven
imagesÖ.. Well, come on there are eight more. How about the honoring the
Sabbath. You all know that I am guilty of that. Then there is the not coveting
stuffÖ. I thought that that was what America was built upon, keeping up with
the Jones. And if you say that you have obeyed these simple ten commandments
then you just broke the one about not giving a false testament. We know that
we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
But the hope, the comfort
the thing that we can change our mind about is that we can overcome these
things and even better then that the price of all of your sins
have already been paid for.
You can stop walking around defeated by your sin. You can stop kicking
yourself for not living up to even your own expectations. You can start right
now by accepting the truth of Godís love for you. It is all about changing
your mind about God. He is not some giant tyrant waitng in the sky for you to
mess up so he can squish you like a bug. He is a loving God who gives you the
free will to love Him back or not. He gives you the free will to accept Him or
not. He is not like some abusive husband that makes their wives stay with them
out of fear. He is like the loving husband that bonds with his wife in a
And that is what God
desires to have with you. He desires a loving, everlasting relationship. I do
not know what might be holding you back from plunging into Godís love. Because
that is really what baptisim symbolizes. It symbolized you taking the plunge.
Completely trusting in God. Today. You can change your mind about who God is
and let His kingdom give
birth with your heart.
And I am not just talking to
pre-Christians. I am talking to you Christian. You who have said the
prayer, and believe but are
still not experiencing the full blessing of God. You need to change your mind.
You need to realize how much God loves you. He has a plan and a purpose for
your life. The enemy has been lying to you for too long,
telling you that you are something that you are not. You are a Child of the
Most High King. You have a mission to be that one shouting in the wilderness.
You have been called to be an overcomer. You have been called to wake up the
It is time for not only
personal repentance, but it is time for national and international revival.
The kingdom of heaven is at hand. The heavens are being squeezed and ready to
burst upon us. It is time for all of us to repent and get ready for the King
of Kings and the LORD of Lords Jesus is coming. He is Coming He is Coming.
If you are ready; pray
this simple prayer with me and receive the truth of your eternal life.
Heavenly Father; forgive
me of my sins. LORD, I except you into my heart of hearts and ask you to wash
me clean. I repent of my sins, I confess and I know that the things that I
have been doing are displeasing to
you. The way that I have been believing has been wrong and now I know who I am
in you. Jesus, I know that you are the LORD and my personal savior. I
give you my heart and my life. Use me to let others know of your never-ending,
supernatural, life changing love. I am yours, I am your. I am Yours!!!! Thank
you Father for filling me, for baptizing me with your Holy Spirit in Jesus
If you have any questions
or if there is anything we
can pray for you about please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.
can go to the website at:
from there you can get our
E-Mail address, or phone numbers, there is also a map of where you can find
us. I want to personally invite you com come and enjoy Christmas Eve service
with us this year. We will be having a special service at the church starting
at 5:00 so you can get home to be with your family for the rest of the
evening. God Bless you all and merry Christmas.
We are reaching around the world with the good news of Godís plan of
salvation. And we do need your
help with that so if you can send us any amount at all to help cover the
expense of the internet and all
the technical equipment that is needed it would be greatly appreciated.
Write us at:
Interbay Community Church
4308 Euclid Ave.
Tampa, FL. 33755