Wednesday, December 31, 2014

January 1, 2015

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"   II Corinthians 5:17

Happy 2015! 

May God bless you with a healthy and joy-filled year!

Time marches ahead relentlessly and a new year is upon us! Will you make the New Year new or will you drag the same old pain and problems across the threshold of time?

Speaking of time, the Apostle Paul reaches across the centuries with this solid reminder that only in Christ can all things be made new! So, the New Year cannot be truly new unless you are "in Christ".

What needs to be gone in your life? What did you carry in 2014 that you don't need to drag into 2015? Is there a sinful habit? Is there shame over your past? Is there an unhealthy relationship? Is there a spiritual stronghold? Is there a lack of discipline? Is there discouragement or depression? Is there spiritual apathy? Is there outright rebellion against spiritual truth?

The promise is that if you are "in Christ" you can be made new and the old, painful, unproductive, and harmful things can be gone!

So, what does it mean to be "in Christ"?

It means to live in trust. When you trust "in Christ" for your salvation and stop trusting in your own goodness or righteousness, then you can enter into a spiritual relationship with Him.

It means to live in truth. When you are "in Christ" you surrender to His truth and "lean not unto your own understanding". His truth is expressed through His Word, the Bible. Living in truth means that you commit to defining what is real in your life based on what the Bible says is real. You live by its principles. You order your life by its priorities. You shed your past and plan your life according to its promises and you prevail in life according to its power.

The New Year can only be new if you are made new! It can only be happy if you are made whole - and holy!

As you turn the page on the calendar will you turn a page in your spiritual experience? Will you be "in Christ"? Will you trust His truth to transform you into a "new creation"? Will you allow Him to make "all things new" in you?

You can be "in Christ" or in crisis. It's up to you.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

December 31, 2014

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people." Ephesians 6:18
Dr. Thom Rainer, President of Lifeway, shares these eight prayer requests for churches in 2015. Read them over and see if you feel lead to adopt one of these for FredWes next year.
You will likely recognize some of these themes if you read this blog with any regularity. These are my eight prayer requests for churches in 2015:
  1. For greater emphasis on prayer. Many, if not most, churches have a woeful emphasis on corporate prayer. Churches who do not give prayer a high priority are churches without God’s power.
  2. For standing firm on biblical truth. Culture is trying to push our congregations away from the truths of Scripture. We cannot yield to that pressure. If we do, our congregations cease to be true, biblical churches.
  3. For greater unity in our churches. There is too much infighting in many of our congregations. And there is too much disunity from church to church. The world is watching our fights. “Now this is His command: that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another as He commanded us” (1 John 3:23).
  4. For greater intentionality in evangelism. The typical church in America is doing very little to share the gospel of Christ boldly and intentionally. May we be so grateful for what Christ has done for us that “we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
  5. For greater emphasis on groups. Churches should grow larger by growing smaller. A church member not in a small group or Sunday school class is not fully committed to the body.
  6. For membership to be more meaningful. For many churches, membership has become nearly meaningless. For others, membership is a perceived entitlement, much like country club membership. I pray that membership in our congregations will become truly biblical as Paul demonstrated in 1 Corinthians 12.
  7. For clear plans of discipleship. Too many congregations cannot clearly articulate how members can become more obedient followers of Christ. This issue was the thesis of my book with Eric Geiger, Simple Church.
  8. For more ministry involvement and impact in our communities. I pray that our churches will become known by the positive impact they have in their respective communities. As we obey Acts 1:8, we must first be obedient to our own Jerusalem.
These are my (Thom Rainer's) eight prayers for our churches. What do you think of them? 

Monday, December 29, 2014

December 30, 2014

"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." Ephesians 5:15-17

Paul is writing specifically to the believers in the Church at Ephesus, but more generally to all Christians everyone. He is writing to give practical advice and instruction on how to live a life that pleases God. 

These are good verses to hang your hat on for 2015 because the advice he offers in these two verses is for God's people to live wisely.

You may ask, "How does Paul define wisdom?"

He identifies three aspects of wisdom:
  • Your walk
  • Your works
  • His will
"Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise" 

The phrase "be very careful" means "look around" or "be alert and aware" . Nowadays, we might say "keep your head on a swivel!"

The word "live" could be translated "walk".

So, a wise person is one who walks carefully fully aware of the temptations that threaten the man of God.

How is your walk?

The second question is, do you make your time work for you or against you? - "making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil"

Time is the one thing everyone has the same amount of. Everyone has 24 hours in a day and seven days each week. Wise people make that time work for them by planning and prioritizing and by living on purpose. 

Everyday is an opportunity! Every hour of each day brings opportunity!

Time is what life consists of so it should be used wisely.

Paul adds to the sense of urgency with the reminder that the "days are evil". 

What he is saying is this, "There is a strong current of evil flowing through your culture and unless you are careful and wise your life will get swept away by that current."

Your clock is ticking today. Will you make time work in your favor or will you waste it in non-productive pursuits? Will you live wisely and make wise decisions or will you be swept way by the torrent of evil that surrounds you?

Finally, wisdom is understanding God's will and doing it!

Doing God's will demands giving up on your will and living up to His. That is the essence of wisdom!

Foolishness is believing you can please God by doing your own will and ignoring His.

These are evil days!

What are you doing to keep from getting carried away by the torrent of evil sweeping through our culture?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

December 29, 2014

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”   Luke 2:10-11

God is aware of your fear!

Fear usually arises out of our weakness or areas where we feel out of control. God knows that.

Zechariah and Elizabeth lived under the fear that they would be judged as less spiritual because they were childless. Children were seen as a sign of God’s blessing and God’s blessing was considered a reward for your level of spirituality.

So, Zechariah had labored faithfully as a priest but had done so with a heavy heart over being childless and being disrespected because of something he couldn’t control.

You get a sense for the level of his disappointment when he hesitated to believe the angel’s announcement.

But to that fear the angel spoke, “Fear not!”

Mary’s biggest fear after being assured that God would cause her to become pregnant with the divine child even though she was a virgin, was how her pregnancy would be viewed by Joseph and the rest of her neighbors in Nazareth.

What if Joseph didn’t believe her story and chose to divorce her? She had no control over how he would respond.

What if the people of the town didn’t believe her story – she could be stoned to death! She had no control over what they might decide to do.

Those were very real fears, but to them the angel spoke, “Fear Not!”

Out on the Judean hillside those shepherds also struggled with fears. They feared insignificance. All they were was lowly shepherd, some of the most overlooked and unappreciated people in the land. The shepherds had little control over the level of disrespect they received but it was hard to take.

But God valued them and gave them significance by sending the angel to say, “Feat not!”

You and I see our weaknesses as obstacles to faith, but God sees our weaknesses as opportunities to show His power!

As God told St. Paul, “My strength is made perfect in your weakness!”

The exciting news is that God used weak and fearful people to change the world! He met them in their doubts and at their inadequacies and in their anxiety and unleashed His power through them.

You may feel weak and your life out of control but "Fear not" a miracle is on its way!

December 28, 2014

"But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people." Luke 2:10

Once famous evangelist, Billy Sunday said, “if you have no joy, there’s a leak in your Christianity.”

Joy was a new experience for the shepherds because joy arrived with the coming of Jesus! But it should not be a novel experience for you. Jesus intended for His believers to live in joy:

"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." John 15:11

"Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." John 16:24

So, what can you learn about joy from this encounter between the angel and the shepherds?

First, joy comes from receiving the good news.

These shepherds heard the good news in a very dramatic way. The angels came to them with this amazing announcement. How great was that?!

You will not get the news from an angel but the good news is no less powerful. One of your main responsibilities is to put yourself into places where you can receive the good news. Whether that be church service or small group or listening on radio or on the Internet or watching TV or in your daily devotions, it is up to you to get your daily dose of good news! No one else can do that for you.

How can you have joy if you are not regularly hearing the good news? What are you doing to make sure you regularly hear the good news?

Second, joy comes from responding to the good news.

The shepherds immediately responded to the good news. When they heard about what was happening they went to see it for themselves.

What do you do with the good news you receive? Do you obey it? Do you test it? Do you live it out in your daily living so that you know it it true? Do you let it guide your decisions and steer your emotions? Joy is not an emotion, but it is an action that leads to positive feelings. Feelings always follow faith and faith is the preferred response to the good news.

Living in joy means receiving the good news and responding to the good news and thirdly, joy results from relationship with the good news!

Joy is the natural response to living in relationship with Jesus. If you receive the good news just for information you will not live in joy. If you receive purely for inspiration it will not remain. But if you will commit to living in an intimate personal relationship with Jesus, your joy will not leak. The good news is about truth and Jesus IS the Truth! The good news is about finding your way and Jesus IS the Way! The good news is a way of life and Jesus IS the Life!

How is your relationship with Jesus? How well do you know Him? Is He your Source of Joy?

Don't let the joy leak out of your life. Plug that leak by plugging into Jesus! Receive His good news daily and respond to it and live in relationship with it!

Have a joyous day of worship!

Friday, December 26, 2014

December 27, 2014

"Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." John 6:35

As the prophet Micah foretold, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. It was the city of his ancestor, King David and by decree of Caesar Augustus that all throughout the land the citizens were to register of the census in their home town.

It was while Mary and Joseph were there in Bethlehem that Mary's baby was born in a manger at a local stable because the inn was full. So the history records that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea. It was prophetic but it was also symbolic.

The word "Bethlehem" means "house of bread". Jesus, the Son of God, was born in "the house of bread". The Bread of Life was born in the "house of bread"! How good is that? Think about what that birth in Bethlehem signified.

First, it means that Jesus sustains life. As bread was a staple of their diet and an important part of ours and sustains our physical life, Jesus sustains the spiritual life of anyone who believes in Him and "feeds" on Him spiritually.

Second, it means that Jesus strengthens life. Just as a healthy diet of good food, such as bread, is necessary to strengthen the body, so "feeding" on Jesus strengthens the spirit of a believer.

Third, it means Jesus satisfies life. Few things are more delicious and substantial than a hot freshly made loaf of homemade bread. You can almost smell it now, can't you? In the same way, Jesus satisfies the spiritual hunger of those who "feed" on Jesus!

How do you "feed" on Jesus?

Have faith in Him. Believe what His Word tells you and life according to those truths.

Have fellowship with Him. Walk with Him daily. Talk with Him through pray and hear Him through His Word. Regularly partake of Communion in the fellowship of your local church.

All of this is possible and available to us because the Bread of Life was born in the "house of bread"! What good news this brings to a hungry world!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

December 26, 2014

"But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people." John 2:10

What was this "good news of great joy"? Why don't we see more joy in the church among believers?

We have recognized there should be joy in the presence of God and joy in the pardon from God and because of the peace of God though Christ. Also, you can find joy in the power of God. Christmas was impossible but impossible things happened so Jesus could be born!

How about another reason for joy?

You can take joy in the promises of God! In the events leading up to and culminating in the birth of Jesus there were 360 prophecies fulfilled. That means that 360 things that God predicted in advance were going to happen happened! And they happened exactly as they were foretold!

That incredible fact proves that God had His fingerprints all over the events that led up to the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! And the accuracy of these predictions should give us joy in knowing that the promises of God are true and reliable!

Whatever His Word promises He will do!

There is no one else you know and love who could keep his promises 100% of the time! Every person over promises and under delivers. BUT NOT GOD!

If you are facing a difficult circumstance right now and you desperately need Him to be Who His Word says He is - rejoice! Jesus is everything He promises He is and He can do and possibly has already done what ever He says. What He can do is posted in His Word. Read it, memorize it and claim it!

Find joy in praising Him that He will do what He promises to do! Christmas proves it!

December 25, 2014

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us."  John 14:1

Long before there was Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Oakland there was Occupy Bethlehem.

But rather than union members, and college students, and leftover hippies from the '60's, these characters were an entirely different sort of radicals! Joseph, Mary, Elizabeth, and Zechariah were called on to occupy key roles in the redemptive plan of God. These very ordinary folks were required to become radical in their faith, in their commitment and, especially in their obedience. Rarely has the world seen radicals like these!

A radical redemption from God was required to overcome the results of a radical rebellion that took root in the heart of Lucifer in Heaven and was re-enacted by Adam in the paradise called Eden. Those two acts of flagrant disobedience radically disrupted two perfect places and one perfect plan. They allowed sin to occupy the place once reserved only for God. But the grace of God is much more powerful than the greed of man. God's radical plan was announced right after the destructive deed was perpetrated, So the LORD God said to the serpent, Because you have done this“Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 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.” Genesis 3:14-15

From the moment of that announcement a patient, purposeful, persistent, and powerful plan was enacted from the heart of God that would require radical faith and radical obedience from a faithful few from generation to generation. Heroes of faith like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, Moses, and David demonstrated a radical preoccupation to having God occupy their hearts. Because each was faithful to occupy their roles in His plan, the stage was set for two teens in tiny Nazareth of Galilee.

If history teaches us anything it shows us the world is shaped by those who are the most radical in their beliefs, desires, and devotion. The rise in radicalism among socialists, communists, progressives, anarchists and militant Muslims should remind us of that fact.

The radical obedience of Joseph and Mary won the Day for God by allowing Him to send His Son to fulfill God's amazing plan and display His radical grace. They also demonstrate for us How God can occupy you, radically transform you and use you to change your world for Him!

On this day when we celebrate Occupy Bethlehem, will you once again become preoccupied with God? Will you allow His Spirit to occupy you and empower you to radically obey Him in the same way Joseph and Mary did? It is time to get radical! Radical righteousness defeats radical rebellion every time!

Christmas proved it!


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

December 24, 2014

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of GRACE and TRUTH.” John 1:14

That just has a nice sound to it doesn't it – “full of grace and truth”?

I could love a God like that! I could trust Him to love me!

What a joy to know that the very same Word Who spoke the universe into existence with just a few words, tempers all that power and authority with grace and with truth! I wouldn't want One who possessed that much might being spiteful or dishonest. Would you?

Amazingly, not only does His grace and truth keep His massive power in check but grace and truth balance each other.

Grace, as wonderful as it is, can actually become harmful if not balanced by truth.

I’m sure you have known people who are so gracious they allow others to get away with harmful and unhealthy behavior. A good relationship requires boundaries that make grace meaningful. Those boundaries are formed and established by truth. That is best illustrated by the Ten Commandments God gave His people on their way to the Promised Land. He wanted them to prosper toward Him, their families and in society, so He established the guardrails of truth to define healthy relationships.

This wasn't in my notes, but as a parallel thought here, remember when Jesus said that He didn’t come to abolish the Commandments but to fulfill them? In part, this is what He was talking about. Check out the Commandments and you will see that all ten deal with relationships. And Who better to demonstrate for us how relationships should work than God in the flesh?

Jesus even tried to simplify it for us by reducing truth into two big concepts – “Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself”. Truth and grace are to define our daily reality and our relationships.

The Master also made it plain He could help us execute those two realities by identifying Himself as, “the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life”. Anyone see a theme developing here?

Have you noticed how much trouble people create for themselves and others when they try to become arbiters of truth? No wonder our culture is so bad at relationships! How can I ever hope to have a healthy relationship with you when we are operating from two different versions of truth? The only way I can extend you grace is if you line up with my version of truth! It is hard to love someone you are tying to dominate. If I am trying to manipulate you and control you and cajole you with attempts to force you into my reality, how can that foster trust or respect (the two foundations of healthy love)? Hello, conflict! Hello, conditional love!

Truth and grace in proper balance equal unconditional love! That is exactly why that Baby was born in that manger two millennia ago! That’s why Christmas should count!

Aren't you glad that the Word came “full of grace and truth”? Will you, like Mary, ponder these things in your heart and let His Holy Spirit of truth minister to you?

Monday, December 22, 2014

December 23, 2014

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Given that I am a rebellious sinner at my core, I really need God’s grace. What great news to hear that Jesus came from God “FULL OF GRACE”!

Grace is such a wonderful concept! Someone expressed it this way – GRACE = God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense! Grace means that when you and I deserved judgment and justice from God instead He gave us mercy! When He should have sent the Sheriff He sent His Son! And His Son didn’t come as a social worker He came to be a sacrifice for my sins!

God’s grace means I have a choice! I don’t have to live in guilt and bondage to sin!

God’s grace means I have a chance! I get a “do over”! I get a “mulligan” in life! If I receive God’s grace by accepting the Gift of His Son as our Savior, I can live in relationship with God!

God’s grace means that if I make my choice and take the chance and I can have a change! I can change from a sinner to a son of God! I can change from an enemy of God to an ambassador for Him! I can change from death to life! I can change from being full of guilt to filled with grace!

Christmas celebrates the greatest gift ever given – the gift of grace!

Another wonderful fact about His grace is that He is “FULL OF GRACE” and yet when He offered His grace to all the world He had no less grace to give! You can receive His grace and I can receive His grace and He is still “FULL OF GRACE”!

However, just like any gift you will give this Christmas, it must be received! God was so very gracious to give this amazing gift, you must be humble enough to receive it! What a shame to let grace be given in vain.

Do you need a new choice?

Could you use another chance?

Are you ready for a change?

Take the gift!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

December 22, 2014

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-14

Here is another amazing paradox in the Christmas story: The Creator became Christ, the creature, in order to allow you and me to be re-created in Him!

Think on that for a moment!

Before I elaborate on the significance of the “Word” becoming flesh, let me talk about what it means for you.

God, the Word, put on flesh in order to correct us – “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it”

Sin had plunged the human race into spiritual darkness. Darkness is the symbol of spiritual ignorance and sin. Light stands for God’s truth and His holiness.

Have you ever been in total darkness? Maybe you were in a cavern or in a cellar and you couldn’t even see your hand in front of your face. If you can relate to that experience and how it felt, then you have a clue about your spiritual condition apart from Jesus, the Word of God,

We were so morally and spiritually lost in the darkness of sin and ignorance we did not even know we were lost. We thought God grades on a curve and we can do enough good things to earn a passing grade.

Jesus, the Word that became flesh, came to declare the truth about out lost condition. But, praise God, He proclaimed the truth in grace!

God, the Word, put on flesh to connect us – “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”

Because the Word was God and because He “put on flesh and dwelt among us”, He was uniquely able to as a Holy Son to introduce us to His Heavenly Father.

That connection did not become possible just because The Word was born in a manger, but it happened because He died on a cross. In fact, the reason He was born in human flesh was so He could die on the cross to atone for our sins. His atoning sacrifice on the Cross paid the price of your adoption as a child of God.

Because the Word become flesh, the Son of God, died to pay the penalty for your sins, trusting Him to be your Savior will connect you to God by faith!

God, the Creator, was born into the world in the flesh of a creature, to make it possible for you and me to be recreated – from the inside out! Have you been made new?

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” II Corinthians 5:17

Saturday, December 20, 2014

December 21, 2014

"A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ. The Birth of Jesus Christ." Matthew 1:1-17

Over the past decade or so there has been an increasing interest in tracing family trees. Websites like have sprung up to respond to this trend.

Do you know your family history? How far back can you go in your know of relatives?
I would like to have a better grasp of my family lineage. It is interesting to know about your heritage.

While this is interesting information for us, it was essential information to the Jewish people to whom the Gospel of Matthew is addressed. That explains why it was tucked in at the beginning of the Gospel record. You and I tend to skip over this portion of the Gospel when we do our Bible reading. It holds little interest to us. But the Hebrews were big on family pedigrees. For them to accept the story of Jesus, His ancestry had to be established beyond question.

In my next couple of posts I want to share why this rather obscure group of verses should matter to you and me.

As you look through these names, there are a few celebrity names that are easily recognizable. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and King David are "superstars" who jump off this page. I'm sure we all have a few ancestors we point to proudly, while ignoring the weird uncles, etc.

But again, the strong message of Christmas is clear - God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things! The fact that you are familiar with most of the names should be an encouragement to you!

I am one of those ordinary people who no one has heard of. So are you! Sometimes we wonder if it is worth the sacrifices we make or the struggles we endure trying to be obedient to God and true to the faith. What difference will it make! How can I be sure it matters? No one will ever hear of me. No one will care about what it took for me to remain faithful.

This genealogy testifies that it DOES matter. You have no idea who may come along in a generation or two in your family line. If you compromise your faith or sell out to selfishness, you can be sure that the blessings will cease. I would venture to guess that every person listed in this genealogy had decision points where they wondered if it was worth it. They became discouraged. They struggled with faith. They knew the loneliness of being misunderstood because of your values. BUT they remained faithful! And it mattered! Through them came a Savior!

From the Christmas Story comes the great news that faithfulness matters! It matters for individuals. It matters in families. It matters to God. He notices. He blesses. He moves in and through those people. Ordinary people in ordinary families who commit to exceptional faith make and extraordinary difference under the Hand of God.

We all know that Christmas is a family Holiday. Now you know that it REALLY is! In more ways than you imagined. God emphasized that at the very beginning of the story! Before He told the amazing story of Christmas, He told the story that made it possible!

Will you embrace that truth?

Will you take encouragement from it?

Will you recommit to creating a legacy of faithfulness in your family?

Friday, December 19, 2014

December 20, 2014

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation and took the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Philippians 2:5-8

In this season where you become focused on what you will be getting or obsessing on whether others will like what they're getting, Paul writes to the Church at Philippi and calls them to focus on what was given to them.

And further, God calls them to remember what the One Who was given TO them gave up FOR them!

This portion of Scripture details that everything you and I want, Jesus HAD and GAVE up in order to give Himself for us!

We want to be like God. He WAS like God and gave it up! And He gave it up to make it possible for you and me to actually become like God in our spirits!

Jesus had power, position, prominence, popularity, prosperity, and protection in the PRESENCE OF GOD! 

Who wouldn't want that?! Who wouldn't aspire to that?!

He had it all and gave it up to come as a vulnerable humble human servant!

Something else we aspire to is Heaven!

Everyone wants to go to Heaven! (maybe not today, but someday)

Well, Jesus was IN Heaven and He left it! He left it to make it possible for you and me to be able to get there!

One reason we want to go to Heaven is in order to live forever. Well, Jesus, Who had never known anything BUT eternity left eternity to subject Himself to the constraints of time, space and schedules for the express purpose of helping you live forever!

He had it all, everything you and I wish we could have and He gave it all up! And He gave it up to struggle in the flesh of a man so He could identify with our struggles. He gave it up to show what a servant looks like. And, He gave it all up so He could suffer and die.

Why did He give up ALL these wonderful things that we so desperately desire? We gave them up so that some day He could give them all to you!

Will you receive His gift?

Will you confess your sins and turn from your sin and trust Him to be your Savior?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

December 19, 2014

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death on the cross." Philippians 2:5-8

This is the Apostle Paul's contribution to the Christmas Story!

I like it!

Here's the truth that blesses me most from this great Scripture during this Blessed Season, JESUS HAD EVERYTHING YOU AND I LONG FOR AND HE GAVE THEM UP SO HE COULD COME TO DIE FOR US!

What was the temptation that brought down Lucifer?

Lucifer wanted to be "like God" and convinced himself that was actually possible. It didn't take him long to realize how wrong he had been! Dead wrong!

Was it not a similar temptation that led to the undoing of Adam Eve?

The serpent accused God of hiding knowledge from them because He didn't want them to be "like God" and assured them if they would eat the forbidden fruit they would "be like God".

Why the destructive obsession to "be like God"?

It is the desire to be "large and in charge" and be free from accountability or consequences of their behavior.

If you are God then you don't have to answer "to God"! If you are God you can free yourself from any consequences causes by your actions. That is a very tempting delusion! 

Lucifer couldn't resist nor could Adam or Eve.

But Paul declares that the Son of God, the Second Member of the Trinity, WAS "like God" BUT He didn't cling to that advantage. He let it go! He emptied Himself of all power, all privilege, all popularity, His exalted privilege, and the glorious presence of God.

The VERY thing Lucifer and Adam craved so much it caused them to fall, the Son HAD and GAVE it up to humble Himself unto death!

You must understand that in order to comprehend the depth of your depravity and the breadth of His redemptive grace!

Jesus went 180 from human nature in order to be able to redeem and transform the human nature!

So, what?

Paul says, "Let this mind be in you". 

You are to develop the same mind, to think as Jesus thought when He decided to give up all the advantages of being "like God" in order to come as God's servant and His sacrifice!

You are to empty yourself of all your selfish desires so He can fill your heart, soul and mind with His Spirit!

You CAN be like God, but only through the power and presence of Christ at work in you!

December 18, 2014

"But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord." Luke 2:10-11

The angel came bringing good news!

And not just good news - good news of great joy!

That announcement presupposes that there was some bad news going on. Uh, yeah! This proclamation came to a people whose politics were bad news. They lived under Roman oppression. And their economy was bad news. They earned very little and much of what they did earn went to the Romans. There was an ultra-wealthy ruling class and a lot of really poor folks and no welfare program. Even worse, their religion was a disaster! It was oppressive, demanding, impersonal and corrupt. This was the world the average Jew lived in! And there was no hope on the horizon!

But then in a remote pasture to some lonely shepherds, hope came! Good news was announced!

As a pastor, I live in a world of bad news. Hardly a day goes by that I don't hear some bad news about someone. I have my own bad news to deal with, too. How do I cope with all the bad news? What am I to do in an ever worsening economy, an ever expanding increasingly oppressive government, and a religion that is daily attacked and minimized?

What are you to do?

Well, I am a minister of "the Gospel". What is the "Gospel"? The "Gospel" means "good news"! In a world of bad news I believe the good news! The very same good news that the angel brought to the shepherds! The good news that Christ has come! A Savior is born! The Savior died for my sins to conquer sin and rose again to conquer death! For me! For you! For everyone who believes and receives the good news!

Am I to deny the bad news? Am I to ignore it? No! I speak good news to it! I deal with bad news in the power of the good news. I live in the knowledge the the good news is more powerful and longer lasting than the bad news! The good news is more real than the bad news! The good news means more and brings more joy in light of the bad news! My hope is in the good news!

As we move into this week before Christmas and as you celebrate Christmas at your church and with your family and in your quiet time with the Lord, rejoice at the reality of the "Gospel" the good news of salvation! God has conquered sin and death and through the power of the good news living in and through you and me He is conquering evil. Rejoice that the bad news will end but the good news is eternal - and only gets better!

That is your good news report for today!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

December 17, 2014

Has your “expecter” expired? Have you have been disappointed by God? Are you got tired of praying and believing without seeing an answer? Are you tired of expecting little – and getting it? Would you like to expect big things?

“Expecters” are powerful because expectations are powerful. Expectation and faith are “kissin’ cousins” and faith is powerful. Faith is expecting God to be Who He says He is and to do what He says He will do.

The challenge of faith is to keep your “expecter” expecting.

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is an example of someone who had a good “expecter”. What if Mary would have had the same mindset that Leah and Lydia had? But she didn’t! She believed God!

Even though nothing had happened in Bethlehem it didn’t keep Mary from believing it could! Rather than believe what she had seen she chose to believe what God said, “Nothing is impossible with God!”

Here’s the story:

“In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon 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. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.” Luke 1:26-38

So, what can you do if your “expecter” is expired? How do you inspire your expired expector?

What you have to do is develop a “Mary mindset”. You need to have the same expectations of God that she had.

We have two very different mind-sets on display here! One mind-set says:


The other mind-set says:


Could it be possible that nothing ever happens here (where you are) is because nothing is happening here (in your head) or here (pointing to heart)?

Last week I talked about a “Joseph Heart” – being willing to do whatever God asks you to do, be willing to not do want you want to do and be willing to get no credit.

When you develop a “Joseph Heart” that is one of the things that must happen here (your heart). This morning I want to talk about what needs to happen here (point to head) and that is a “Mary mind-set”.

How do I inspire my “expired expecter”? How do I get a “Mary mind-set”? How can I get to where I believe that something CAN happen where you are?