Friday, November 30, 2012

December 1, 2012

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" Romans 5:6-8
Therein is the power of the Christian Story. God sent His Son to pay the penalty for your sins! That act is called the “atonement”.
The Christmas story has several strong implications:
1) God takes sin so seriously that He sent His Son to deal with it.
2) So, either He didn’t love His Son very much OR He loves you as much as He loves His Son!
3) Which do you think it is?
SIN = Saying “No” to the Father and “Yes” to the Flesh
I. THE FIRST ADAM, Genesis 3
Sin Wrecked People, 3:1-13
1) Sin Contaminates – V. 1 – “Did God really say……?”
                                  V. 3 – “You will not surely die….?”
                                  V. 5 – “You will be like God…..”
When Adam and Eve listened to the serpent and said "No" to the Father and "Yes" to the flesh, it forever changed how humans think. Once deceived, now our minds are contaminated by sin.
2) Sin AlienatesV. 7 – Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together……”
Once they said "No" to the Father and "Yes" to the flesh, their innocence was gone and forever replaced by shame and self-consciousness.
3) Sin Isolates, V. 8-10 – They hid themselves
Adam and Eve went from a perfect relationship characterized by innocence and intimacy to one of distrust and dishonesty.
4) Sin Separates, V. 9 – They hid from God
Knowing they had disobeyed God they couldn't face Him so they hid. Sin took them from walking and talking with Him to hiding from Him.
This is provides tragic proof of how sin destroys people and relationships - two things God loves and desires. He hates sin because sin destroys these things He loves.
Sin Wrecked Paradise, 3:16-21
This beautiful garden that God had created and blessed was suddenly cursed and broken.
“All of creation groans………” Romans 8:22
God is serious about sin because sin destroys what He loves. He couldn't allow that to stand. Sin could not continue its destructive assault. God immediately announced a plan - Genesis 3:15 - "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
The plan of redemption began to unfold and the countdown to Christmas began!


Thursday, November 29, 2012

November 30, 2012

"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:6-8
Following up on the story I shared in yesterday's post, here are some applications:
In reference to the convicted and condemned criminal - a thief and a murderer - he is you! And me.
Our sins are as grievous to God as his crimes are to us. As Romans 3:23 declares, "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God".
Like him, we are guilty and condemned and worthy of judgment.
The daughter in the story, the innocent victim of the wicked criminal, represents the holiness of God which we have violated by our sinful thoughts and deeds.
A holy God cannot have fellowship with sinful people which is one of the BIG problems with sin - it separates us from God. That is sad for Him and tragic for us!
The judge and jury represent the justice of God that defends His holiness.
It is impossible for us to violate His holiness and escape the justice of God. In the short term it may seem as though evil is winning the day, but justice and judgment is coming.
In the story, the warden represents the devil who had to begrudgingly submit to the Father's authority and demands.
The father in this parable is God Who suffered from multiple attacks on His holiness and kindness.
Despite all the rebellion directed toward God, His nature does not change nor do His purposes. He remains merciful and yet mindful of those who continue in rebellion against Him. Judgment will eventually come to those who reject the Father's mercy.
And, the Son in the story is Jesus! The execution is the Cross.
I contend that in order to fully appreciate the love of God you must understand how awful and destructive sin is.
While love was the motive for Christmas, sin made it necessary. That is Paul's point when he penned these words, "God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us."
Christmas proves that God is serious about sin - dead serious.......

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

November 29, 2012

"Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:1-8
I want you to imagine this scenario. You are the proud parent of a teen-aged son and a daughter who is also in her teens. They are both good students and active in church and school events.
One day you and your spouse are at work while your son is at ball practice. Your lovely teen daughter is at home alone. Someone breaks into the house to rob it and discovers her there alone, surprises her, assaults her and then brutally murders her. Following that heinous act he returns to emptying your house of every valuable item he can find.
You are the one who comes home to find your house ransacked and then make the horrible discovery of your daughter's lifeless savaged body.
This is a parent's worst nightmare! How could anything be much worse than this?
Fortunately, the thief and murderer is arrested and brought to trial. During the trial you find out more about this criminal and begin to understand some of the factors in his life that shaped him into such a cruel person. You begin to feel a bit of compassion for him yet you are thankful that he is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt and convicted of murder and grand larceny.
A month later when he is sentenced to die by legal injection you feel that justice has been served but there is also a sense of sadness over it.
During the several years that he is on death row you make repeated efforts to reach out to him but every request is denied by him. In fact, he shows no remorse but taunts you by saying he is glad he did it, he enjoyed it and he would do it again if he had the chance.

The years drag by until the day of his execution arrives. At the stroke of midnight he is to be administered a lethal dose of drugs through an injection that will end his life and carry out the justice demanded of him by the court and the legal system.

You, your wife and your son are ushered in to the small cramped room where the execution is to happen. It is a few minutes before midnight and he had been strapped to the gurney and the tubes are being inserted that will transport the lethal toxins into his body.

He refuses when asked if he wants to make a final statement. The warden turns to you and asks if there is anything you would want to say to the condemned man. You reply, "Yes, there is. My family wants him to know we have forgiven him for this terrible thing he did. In fact, my son and I have discussed this at length and decided we want him to be free from his guilt and condemnation. For that to happen, my son offers himself to be strapped to the gurney and receive the lethal dose instead of this convicted criminal. That will satisfy the demands of justice and carry out the remedy prescribed by the court."

The shocked warden responds, "This is highly unusual. This is very unusual. Are you sure this is what you want to do?"

You and your son both affirm this as your will.

"Okay, then," concedes the warden, "Release the prisoner and take this young man into custody to prepare him for execution."

Broken-hearted, you watch as the lethal dosage is pumped into your son causing him excruciating suffering until the life drains out of him.

"A ridiculous story," you protest! "Who would even consider doing such a thing?"

I wouldn't!

You wouldn't!

But that is precisely what God did! At just the right moment He sent His Son, Who willing left heaven to suffer the penalty for your sins and mine! We were guilty. He was innocent. He suffered a cruel and shameful death sentence in our place to satisfy the just demands of a Holy God.

That is how good He is! That is how much He loves you! That is how much He wants to live in a loving relationship with you!

And that is how bad sin is! That is how ugly and disgusting it is to cause an innocent man to die a painful death so you and I could be set free from the death penalty imposed by sin.

It was in a stable in Bethlehem where a teen-aged by and his teen-aged wife gave birth to the Son of God Who came to take away the sins of the world! Jesus, the Savior, born to die for you and for me!

Glory in the highest!

But this is a gift that must be received! Have you received it?


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

November 28, 2012

"Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" (2 Corinthians 9:15).

If taken literally, giving the gifts of the famed holiday song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, would cost you a fortune--and much more this year (2012) than last!

The cost of buying all 364 items repeated throughout the timeless holiday carol has gone up 6.1 percent since last year, according to the annual Christmas Price Index compiled by PNC Wealth Management. And the new retail cost of $107,300 really hurts in the biggest U.S. cities [Chicago, Los Angeles, New York], where state and local sales tax adds on as much as 9.5 percent. …

Thrifty shoppers may find some reasons for cheer. Six items mentioned in the song haven't gone up in price: maids-a-milking, ladies dancing, lords-a-leaping, calling birds, turtle doves and the partridge. The eight maids-a-milking still cost just $58.

Twelve drummers drumming ($2,775.50) and eleven pipers piping ($2,562) might also be considered relative bargains compared to seven swans, which will set you back $7,000. Nine ladies dancing will cost you $6,294.03.

Dunigan said the 2011 drought caused the prices of some birds to soar, partly because of corn and other feed costs.
"The geese were up 29.6 percent, and swans were up 11 percent," said Jim Dunigan, managing executive of investments for PNC, adding that none of the gifts in the song went down in price this year.

The price of a pear tree is $189.99, an 11.8 percent jump from last year's $169.99. Five gold rings jumped 16.3 percent this year, to $750, and three French hens are now $165, instead of $150.

The $15 partridge is the cheapest item, and swans the most expensive, at $1,000 each.

Last-minute shoppers who turn to the Internet, possibly in a bid to dodge sales tax, will pay a bit more for the gifts. Buying one set of the core items in each verse costs $24,431 in traditional stores this year, but $40,440 online. Part of that difference is the extra expense of shipping live birds, Dunigan said, adding that Internet costs rose 1.5 percent compared to last year.


Wise gift givers this year (and every year!) might do well to forgo the partridges, gold rings, and swans in favor of sharing the one gift of greatest value ... the message of salvation by grace alone through faith in the Child of Christmas ... the Lord Jesus Christ. Cost to you ... nothing. Cost to Christ ... everything. Value ... priceless!



Monday, November 26, 2012

November 27, 2012

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:6-8
I'm sure you have noticed that God's timing is different from yours. I certainly have!
Have you ever questioned His timing? I have.
In verse six the Apostle Paul mentions God's timing, "You see, at just the right time...."
So, the Great Apostle is reminding us that God's timing is perfect.
I have to wonder if Joseph and Mary had a few doubts about God's timing when the events of Christmas began to unfold?
Could there have been a much worse time to become pregnant? Mary's pregnancy spoiled their wedding plans, scandalized both of their reputations, and potentially placed Mary's life at risk.
What a terrible time for a taxation to be imposed!
What a terrible time to ride a donkey for a few days over rugged rutted roads!
And what an awful out of the way place to go!
What a terrible time for the King to become paranoid and cause Joesph, Mary and Jesus to flee to Egypt for several year! How hard do you suppose that was on his carpentry business back in Nazareth!

I think I understand why the might have questioned God's timing around that first Christmas! Who would blame them?

But they were obedient and faithful despite the hardships imposed by God's timing. Soon they came to understand that God was RIGHT on time!

History records that it REALLY was just the right time! The Romans had built roads and aquaducts, and shipping routes and established the "Pax Romana" so it was possible to travel safely. Plus, the religions of the day had grown stale and empty and people were ready for something real.

God's timing really IS perfect and Christmas proves it! I am sure that if you could interview Joseph or Mary today they would echo Paul's affirmation that it happened at "just the right time".

So, if you are doubting God's timing are questioning "why" things are happening as they are, remember He is working at "just the right time!"

Sunday, November 25, 2012

November 26, 2012

"And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." Luke 1:26-35

A teen-age virgin was to become the mother of the Messiah!
What a strange and amazing way to save the world! Who would have thought of such a plan?
Only God! And only God could pull it off! It is ingenious and it is supernatural.
No man could have dreamed this up! Humanism wants us to believe that men are intrinsically good. If they can be provided with the right education and right environment they can grow and develop into god-like beings living in a man-made utopia. The Tower of Babel is the symbol of their vanity. That was their idea of saving the world.
God knows better. He was in the Garden when Adam and Eve disobeyed and lost their true utopia. Their sin activation a sinful will within the human nature. Your battle with sin originates with the original sin. You and I sin because we are sinners. It is our nature. And it is what alienates us from a relationship with a Holy God. One of the most heart-breaking stories in the Bible is when God came looking for Adam and Eve but found them hiding because of their shame. No longer could they walk with Him. No longer could they dwell in a perfect place.
Being created to be in fellowship with Him, He is the Source of spiritual life. He is the Source of all truth. He is the only hope for moral restoration and transformation. God would not stand for His Creatures being separated from Him. But He had a problem. Actually, we had the problem and only He could come up with the solution. How could a Holy God restore fellowship with a sinful and rebellious race? It was impossible for Him to become "unholy" and equally impossible for man to become "unsinful". How could this gap be bridged? Was their an answer for this spiritual and moral dilemma?
Jesus became the Bridge! Christmas became the solution. Young Mary became the vessel. The Angel's announcement revealed the genious of God's plan. God would send His Own Son, born of a human but conceived by the Holy Spirit! He would be born without the sin nature by virtue of His immaculate conception, but He would also human! Because He was born without sin and if He would live a sinless life through the power of the same Holy Spirit that concieved Him, He could become the sarifical Lamb Who could die for our sins! He was and He did!
What a strangely amazing way to save the world! It was first revealed to a young teen girl named Mary. And strange as it was, she embraced it and executed it.
The miracle of Christmas is the virgin birth of Jesus! The motive of Christmas is the incredible love of a Holy God for a fallen world! The message of Christmas is that salvation is come!
No greater gift has ever been given! No more brilliant plan has ever been formulated! But a gift must be received and a plan must be believed if it is to mean something.
Will you believe it? Will you receive it?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Nvember 25, 2012

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Ephesians 5:15-20

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” -- Cicero

“The gracious stirrings of grateful affection to God," in which love flows from the heart as a response to the Divine, is one of the surest ways to discern the presence of the Holy Spirit in a person's life.” – Jonathan Edwards.
For this penetrating insight into gratefulness, I am grateful to Dennis Prager, author of the shrewd and perceptive "Happiness is a Serious Problem."
"There is a secret to happiness,'" Prager writes, "and it is gratitude. All happy people are grateful, and ungrateful people cannot be happy. We tend to think that it is being unhappy that leads people to complain, but it is truer to say that it is complaining that leads to people becoming unhappy. Become grateful and you will become a much happier person."

This is a keen observation, and it helps explain why the Judeo-Christian tradition places such emphasis on thanking God. The liturgy is filled with expressions of gratitude. "It is good to give thanks to the Lord," begins the 92nd Psalm.

Why? Is it because God needs our gratitude? No: it is because we need it. Learning to be thankful, whether to God or to other people, is the best vaccination against taking good fortune for granted.  And the less you take for granted, the more pleasure and joy life will bring you.


I am thankful that God sent Jesus to pay a sin debt that He didn't owe to redeem me from a debt I couldn't pay!

I am not only thankful that I got what I didn't deserve but also that I didn't get what I did deserve.

I thank God for a Savior Who I can know personally. As the hymn writer put it, "He walks wit me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own......"


The Spirit is the Comforter who helps me through difficult times. He is the Spirit of truth Who leads me into all truth. He helps me when I pray and convicts me when I stray.


I am thankful that the Blood of Christ can cleanse my sinful nature and allow the Holy Spirit to fill me until His will is my will!

I am thankful that when I am in Christ and when His Spirit indwells me, I can know I am secure in His love - forever.

I am very thankful that God has written a love letter to me that reveals all of His truth and details His will.


I am thankful that I get to share my spiritual journey with others who are saved and Spirit -filled and who love the Scriptures and enjoy serving Him within the fellowship of the church.

I am even happy for the struggles of life. Even though I don't enjoy them I understand their value in developing my faith. The only way to really understand how strong and faithful God is through the struggles of life.


I am thankful for a God Who is the First and the Last - the Alpha and Omega - and everything in between! He had the first word in creation and He had the first word in my recreation. Everything is under His control and He is bigger than life and bigger than death!
How about you? Will thanksgiving be just a holiday or a habit?

I will add force to my life by changing the focus of my life:

-       I will commit to thanking God for everything every day.

-       I will commit to thanking others on a daily basis.

November 24, 2012

"Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.  Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Ephesians 5:15-20

A blind boy sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet. He held up a sign, which said: "I am blind, please help." There were only a few coins in the hat. A man was walking by. He took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the hat. He then took the sign, turned it around, and wrote some words. He put the sign back so that everyone who walked by would see the new words.

Soon the hat began to fill up. A lot more people were giving money to the blind boy. That afternoon the man who had changed the sign came to see how things were. The boy recognized his footsteps and asked, "Were you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write?" The man said, "I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but in a different way." I wrote, "Today is a beautiful day but I cannot see it." Both signs told people that the boy was blind. But the first sign simply said the boy was blind. The second sign told people that they were so lucky that they were not blind. Should we be surprised that the second sign was more effective?

This simple story Illustrates the power of thankfulness.

A simple focus on thankfulness added a new force to his life and changed his fortunes.

Never underestimate the power of thankfulness.

Cicero once said, "Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others."
The Puritan preacher John Edwards wrote, “The gracious stirrings of grateful affection to God," in which love flows from the heart as a response to the Divine, is one of the surest ways to discern the presence of the Holy Spirit in a person's life.”

Thankfulness acknowledges God is the giver of all gifts and the ultimate foundation for thankfulness. There is a feeling of indebtedness to the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. God's generosity provides the model for how Christians are to deal with their own children and with each other.

What message is written on your sign?

Have you made thankfulness the focus of your life?




Thursday, November 22, 2012

November 23, 2012

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:31-40
Over these past several days you have been taking stock of all you are thankful for. And the list is considerable in size!
It is good to count blessings and healthy to give thanks.
As you were giving thanks, did you ever wonder what makes God thankful?
If giving Him thanks is very important, wouldn't it also be important to make Him thankful?
How does that happen?
According to what Jesus says in this teaching, the way you make God thankful is by ministering to people in need.
In other words, you make Him thankful when you give others a reason to be thankful.
Though He is attentive to the needs of His children and it troubles Him to see them suffering, He depends on His people to be His hands and feet so hungry people can be fed and ill people can be restored to health and naked people can be clothed. When their needs are met and they are thankful God is thankful to those who met the needs.

Recently our church people got to experience first hand the joy of meeting needs and making people thankful. At the request of our people we prepared all the food for our annual church Thanksgiving Dinner but rather than enjoy it ourselves we were privileged to take it to a local motel populated with working poor families. That evening we served Thanksgiving to 65 people who would not have had a hot home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner.

I know God put it on the hearts of our people to do this act of love and kindness, but I was thankful that they obeyed Him and served Him so well. Out of that Thanksgiving dinner we made needy people thankful, we were thankful and God was thankful!

That's a good Thanksgiving!

Have you made God thankful lately?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

November 22, 2012

"Praise be to you, O LORD, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.”  I Chronicles 29: 10 – 13

While the turkey is cooking and before you are invaded by family and friends, let me share some thoughtful and inspiring quotes about thankfulness from some great minds and hearts.

Matthew Henry, the great Bible scholar, author and preacher was once ambushed and robbed. How did he respond to this harrowing experience? He said, "I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed and not I who robbed."

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you,' that would suffice." ~ Meister Eckhart

"When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?" ~ G.K. Chesterton

"If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled." ~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon

"We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things?" ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“A thankful heart cannot be cynical.” ~ A.W. Tozer

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." ~ G.K. Chesterton

"Receive every day as a resurrection from death, as a new enjoyment of life; meet every rising sun with such sentiments of God's goodness, as if you had seen it, and all things, new-created upon your account: and under the sense of so great a blessing, let your joyful heart praise and magnify so good and glorious a Creator." ~ William Law

"Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint. I can choose to be grateful when I am criticized, even when my heart still responds in bitterness. I can choose to speak about goodness and beauty, even when my inner eye still looks for someone to accuse or something to call ugly." ~ Henri Nouwen

So, how will you express your thanks to God today?

Who do you owe some “thank yous” today?

When will you express those?

How will you express them?