Thursday, December 30, 2010

December 31, 2010

"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
As you know, I have been talking about joy for several days because joy is such a hallmark of Christmas. And, also, I want to comment on joy one more time because joy is such a powerful force but such a rare commodity.
Here is a good illustration of joy:

“I have everything I need for joy!” Robert Reed said.
His hands are twisted and his feet are useless. He can’t bathe himself. He can’t feed himself. He can’t brush his teeth, comb his hair, or put on his underwear. Strips of Velcro hold his shirts together. His speech drags like a worn out audio cassette. Robert has cerebral palsy. The disease keeps him from driving a car, riding a bike, and going for a walk. But it didn’t keep him from graduating from high school or attending Abilene Christian University, from which he graduate with a degree in Latin. Having cerebral palsy didn’t keep him from teaching at St. Louis Junior College or from venturing overseas on five mission trips. And Robert’s disease didn’t prevent him from becoming a missionary in Portugal.He moved to Lisbon, alone, in 1972. There he rented a hotel room and began studying Portuguese. He found a restaurant owner who would feed him after the rush hour and a tutor who would instruct him in the language. Then he stationed himself daily in a park, where he distributed brochures about Christ.
Within six years he led seventy people to the Lord, one of whom became his wife, Rosa.
I heard Robert speak recently. I watched other men carry him in his wheelchair onto the platform. I watched them lay a Bible in his lap. I watched his stiff fingers force open the pages. And I watched people in the audience wipe away tears of admiration from their faces. Robert could have asked for sympathy or pity, but he did just the opposite. He held his bent hand up in the air and boasted, “I have everything I need for joy.”
His shirts are held together by Velcro, but his life is held together by joy. - Max Lucado.
That is joy! Joy is enjoying God's favor and knowing His fullness!
Robert Reed knows that joy. Do you?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

December 30, 2010

"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 a 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!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

December 29, 2010

"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
There is a trite old definition for joy that says joy is "Jesus-Others-You".
Actually, that formula fits pretty well into this text we have been studying.
The shepherd's joy began when they heard the angel tell about the birth of Jesus. For centuries faithful Jews had been praying, waiting and longing for the Messiah. Now the angel is announcing His arrival and the good news comes to a few humble shepherds! How good is that!?
And then they hurried to the stable to see the Christ-child as the angel foretold. When they arrived and saw Him cuddled in his mother's arms they rejoiced!
Jesus was a source of joy!
Having seen for themselves and rejoicing at the sight of the newborn Son of God, the shepherds then went to spread the good news to others throughout the land. Wherever they went and everyone they told were amazed at their story. Their joy incited joy in others!
Their witness about Jesus was a source of joy to others!
Once they had seen Jesus and then told others about seeing Jesus and when they had seen they joyous response of others, then the full significance of the events they had seen and heard finally impacted them. They were filled with joy! It was an amazing night of joy!
I guess the trite old formula IS true. Joy does come from Jesus and then Others and You. So, it may be trite but it is true! Try it!

December 28, 2010

"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 New Year!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

December 27, 2010

"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
The shepherds found joy that night just as the angel promised. Once they found the joy they spread it around. True joy is contagious!
So, what is the source of joy? If it is contagious, why don't we see more of it? Do you have it? Would you like to have it?
I have been sharing with you some sources of joy based on the events that transpired that night. The birth of Jesus brought the joy of God's presence, and it brought the joy of God's pardon, and the joy of God's peace, and joy from God's power, and the joy of God's promises proven true, and joy because of the possibilities that faith in God brings to your life!
The possibilities are what I want to focus on this morning. Notice that the angel appeared to three different times in this chapter and each time he announced that there were greater possibilities for their lives if they would receive the good news and believe it.
There was Zachariah, the aged priest with a barren wife. They had prayed and dreamed of having a son all of their lives, but to no avail. Now the angel announced that what they had thought was impossible was now possible! Nothing is impossible with God!
Mary was a teen-aged girl making wedding plans and looking forward to being married to her fiance', Joseph. When the angel brought the amazing news that she would soon become the mother of the Son of God, it was not possible since she had never known a man. But her life was filled with possibilities because nothing is impossible with God!
Even the shepherds who live a lonely isolated life would become evangelists, proclaiming the birth of Christ and spreading the joy they had come to know! They never would have believed that was possible!
Loving God and living in Christ lifts the limits from your life! As the Apostle Paul came to understand, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". Imagine the joy of knowing that your life is filled with potential and possibilities when God is your God!
Over this past week I have shared six reasons to have joy because of the birth of Christ. Any one of these if reason enough for joy in itself, but the good news of Christmas is that ALL of these are available to you as a believer!
So, again I ask you, "How's your joy?" Are you living in joy? If not, why not? What are you lacking? What is missing?
Are you living in His presence? Have you received His pardon? Do you know His peace? Is His power at work in you? Do you believe His promises? Are you focused on your possibilities or are mired in your past?
Will you take a spiritual inventory of your life as 2010 draws to a conclusion and a New Year looms? Will you determine that for 2011 you are going to discover your joy?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

December 26, 2010

"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
Over the past several days I have been focusing on the announcement made by the angels to the shepherds that holy night. 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!

Friday, December 24, 2010

December 25, 2010

"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 2:1o

Joyous Christmas to you!

Here is another reason why the good news of Christmas brings reason for joy.

Christmas brings the joy of His presence, and the joy of His pardon, and the joy of His peace. Anyone of those is reason enough alone - but ALL of them are available to you through Christ!

Want more?

Find joy in His power!

It was the power of God that caused an elderly couple to conceive and give birth to John the Baptist, the greatest prophet ever! From their weakness came the strength of God! From their impotence sprang a miracle! His power brought Zachariah and Elizabeth great joy!


Because "nothing is impossible with God"! That is His power!

Through the power of God a virgin gave birth to the Son of God without ever knowing a man! It is impossible, but it happened! Because "nothing is impossible with God"! He has the power to accomplish everything He wishes to accomplish. And he can do it through weak human beings! Mary found exceeding joy through the power of God at work in her!

Christmas demonstrates the amazing power of God! Nothing is impossible because of His great power! And that power resides in you when you walk in Christ and His Spirit!

Perhaps you are facing some difficult challenges as you celebrate Christmas 2010. Find joy in the power of God! Take joy in the knowledge that "nothing is impossible for God"!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

December 24, 2010

"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
Christmas brings great joy. There is the joy of His Presence. Jesus came to be "Immanuel", "God with us". Because of Christmas you can live in the presence of God! Take joy in His presence!
Also, there is joy in His pardon. Jesus redeemed us by dying to pay the penalty for your sins. "The wages of sin is death", says the Scriptures. So, the sinless Lamb of God came to take away your sins and deliver you from the guilty and shame of sin! What joy there is in being pardoned!
This morning I want to remind you of another source of joy from the Christmas story. In addition to the joy of His presence and the joy from His pardon, there is the joy of His peace!
Peace has several aspects but essentially, peace comes from being reconciled with God. That reconciliation is possible once you have been pardoned from sin. When the barrier of sin is removed and you connect with the Father through the grace of Jesus, the net result is peace!
Jesus would be the Prince of Peace because He would come to reconcile His people to God.
He would be known as the Prince of Peace because he can give a rest from the burden of your sin and the nagging bondage of living in sin. God is given the central place in your life and when He filled the God-shaped void in yor life, you slowly grew in your knowledge and understanding of His peace. There is great joy in having that peace!
And, find joy in the fact Jesus not only provided for your peace - HE IS YOUR PEACE! That is a source of great joy!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

December 23, 2010

"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
Christmas is supposed to be a season of joy. In this series of posts I am taking a closer look at this topic of joy. What is it and where does it come from?
Joy comes from God's presence. Christmas is when God came to us in the person of Christ.
Also, joy comes from God's pardon.
Jesus came to be our Savior. Savior from what? He saved us from the penalty of sin. As sinners we were spiritually dead and destined for eternal death. But Jesus, because He was without sin, took our sins upon Himself. He died for you and me.
Because He took our penalty, we can be pardoned.
It would be the equivalent of you receiving a death sentence because of a heinous crime you committed. You are arrested and tried and found guilty by a jury - because you ARE guilty. When you appear before the judge he sentences you to death and you are taken to death row. You remain there for several years until the time comes for your sentence to be carried out and you hear footsteps coming down the long hallway toward your isolated cell. Your heart quickens, a big lump develops in your throat and there is a sinking feeling in your stomach. "This is it!", you think to yourself. But, the guard opens the door and announces, "You are free to go!"
"What?", you reply.
"You are free to go. Report to the Warden and he will make sure you get your belongings."
"The Warden's son volunteered to take your death sentence. He will die tonight in you place! Since he has taken your sentence you are free!"
As the news begins to sink into your consciousness, you feel a great sense of relief and then slowly a joy arises in you as you realize you are free! You will get to grow old! You will get to see your children grow up! You will live out your days in freedom because someone's son died in your place!
That is the pardon you receive in Jesus when you put your faith in Him. And that is why Jesus came at Christmas. He came to pay the penalty for your sins so you can be pardoned!
Joy results from God's presence and joy arises from His pardon. Christmas is where it all began!

December 22, 2010

"for behold, I bring you good news of great joy......" Luke 2:10

Like you, I have had good news and I have had bad news and good news is definitely better! But, not all good news brings great joy. The news about Christmas did! Why?
I want to examine this "joy thing" over the next few posts and perhaps you can gain a better understanding of what theangel was talking about and why you don't experience more of it.
How does that sound?
As meditated on this question, "What was it about Christmas that brought joy?" I came up with a number of answers that worked for me. We will see if they matter to you.
The first source of joy in the Christmas story is God's Presence!
God's greatest present was His presence! Jesus was "the Word that became flesh" to dwell among us! Jesus was "Immanuel", " God with us!
For centuries only the High Priest could enter presence of God and only on special occasions. But now, because of Jesus, God would realize His greatest desire and your deepest need could be met! He could dwell in you and you can live in His presence! Since that is exactly what you were created for, that brings joy!
Will you know the joy of His presence today? Will you enter in? Will you welcome Him into your spirit? Will you fellowship with Him by faith? Will you walk with Him in obedience? Will you commune with Him through prayer? Will you encounter Him in the Word? Will you partner with Him in service?
You will never know joy apart from the presence of God. And the good news of great joy is that Jesus has come to dwell in you!

Monday, December 20, 2010

December 21, 2010

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." Romans 5:6
You are likely familiar with Murphy's Law which says, "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong". If there is any time of the year when Murphy's Law is most likely to happen it is surely at Christmas time! During Christmas there are so many plans made that something is certain to go wrong. And usually does.
When we think of the first Christmas it conjures up sentimental pictures of a sweet baby in a manger with mother Mary and Joseph looking on in wonder surrounded by shepherds and wise men. Such a tranquil scene!
But in real life, as the Christmas story was unfolding there was a series of things that seemingly went wrong. For Mary and Joseph it might have seemed like Murphy's Law was in play! What do I mean?
What a terrible time for the Caesar to get greedy and decide on a tax increase!
What a terrible time to get pregnant! Mary was engaged to be married to a fine young man and was waist deep in wedding plans when the angel showed up with his incredible announcement. If she went along with this amazing plan, there would be not dreamy wedding. She not only would forfeit her wedding, she would risk her reputation and her relationship with Joseph. In a matter of minutes her life went from great happiness to hardship.
What a terrible time to have to take a trip! Just days before Mary was due to deliver her baby she had to climb on a donkey and ride 60 miles on a donkey over rugged terrain. How hard is that? What else could go wrong to complicate things?
And what a terrible place to have to go! Bethlehem was a tiny out of the way place that happened to be the ancestral home of Joseph. Why else would anyone go there?
What a terrible time to go to Bethlehem! The place was crawling with cousins and aunts and uncles who had also come to register for the census and be taxed. There was only one place to stay in the whole town and by the time Mary and Joseph arrived, all the rooms were filled! They came all this way only to find themselves without a room. What else could go wrong?
What an awful place to have to deliver a baby! In a stable? Inside a manger? How humiliating! What else could go wrong?
And what a terrible time for the King to get parnoid and launch an assault against all baby boys in the land! What else could go wrong?
What a terrible place to have to flee! Just when they should have been heading back home to set up their lives, they had to make a midnight trip to Egypt!
For Mary and Joseph it must have seemed like Murphy's Law was in full effect! And yet the Scripture tells us "at just the right time Jesus was born"! What certainly looked like terrible timing was in fact, God's perfect timing! There was a greater law that Murphy's Law! What law was that? Mercy's Law! Mercy's Law says, "When everything seems to be going wrong - a miracle can still happen!"
Are things tough for you this Christmas? Does life seem to be going against you? Do circumstances seem to be conspiring against you? Are you asking, "what else can go wrong?" Have you convinced yourself you are a victim of Murphy's Law? Child of God, let me remind you of a higher law that is at work in your life - Mercy's Law. God's plan is right on time for your life!
Mercy's Law trumps Murphy's Law everytime and Christmas proves it!

December 20, 2010

"So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." Luke 2:16-20
I am still focused on the good news this morning! This "good news of great joy" has never been more needed than it is at Christmas 2010 - and it has never been more powerful! I am rejoicing this morning in the fact that bad news ends but the good news only gets better! Forever! There is a day coming when we will only know good news!
So, what do we do in the mean time? How do "good news" people operate in a bad news world?
BELIEVE the good news!
I talked about that yesterday. Everyday you must awake and decided which you are going to believe and which you are going to allow to define your reality. Will you choose to be overcome by the bad news or will you stand firmly on the good news? Only you can decide and what you choose will shape your awareness, your attitude and your actions.
BEHOLD the good news!
The shepherds believed the good news but they still went to see it for themselves. Believing the news got them to the stable, but drove them into the world! Hearing the news charged them but seeing the good news changed them!
Every day you must SEE the good news! How?
See Him in your spirit as you pray. See Him in His words as you read and study. See Him in the beauty of nature and in the grace of other believers. See His Spirit as work through your hands. Sense His Spirit dwelling in your heart!
If you BELIEVE the good news. And if you BEHOLD the good news. You will naturally BECOME the good news!
That is exactly what the shepherds did! They told everyone they knew about what they believed and what they had beheld. That is what you must do! It is what I must do! How can you believe the good news and behold the good news without becoming the good news? I am not sure that is possible. If that happens either you don't believe or you are not beholding on a regular basis. OR there is some dysfunction or a disconnect in your faith.
Believe it. Behold it. Become it!
Christmas 2010 will change and Spotsylvania County 2011 will change when you decide to become the good news!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

December 19, 2010

"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 proclaimation 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!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

December 18, 2010

"Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” Luke 1:18-20
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month." Luke 1:34-36
Have you ever noticed how most people find it easier to believe bad news than to believe good news?
When Zachariah and Mary were presented with some of the best news ever shared, they questioned it. Understandable - but not acceptable.
However, it is encouraging to notice how Gabriel responded in each case. He gave them evidence! And I believe he did so because he understood that they wanted to believe but they weren't used to such good news! so, he helped them!
In Zachariah's case, he struck him dumb, so he could not speak. At first glance it looked like a judgment, but I believe it was evidence. I think it was for Zachariah's benefit. How better to believe a supernatural report than to see something supernatural happen?
For Mary, the angel gave her two proofs, a longer-term proof - pregnancy; and a shorter term proof - her formerly barren cousin, Elizabeth's pregnancy.
Here's the good news I get from both of these examples, God not only asks to have faith, He gives it to us! When He knows we really want to believe He will give us evidence to believe. I like that! I need that!
Now on my part, I need to work on my faith until I find it easier to believe good news from God, from His Word, and by His Spirit. I must condition my faith to expect good things from the Hand of God and to know that He will also turn the bad news into good in His time! That is my part! But I can even count on His grace to help me there! And I can condition my heart and mind and spirit by saturating them in the Word of God.
So this is the good news of Christmas - for those who believe and those who are wanting to believe more - there really is only good news! There is immediate good news and there is ultimate good news! That is the God we serve! Christmas is the evidence!

Friday, December 17, 2010

December 17, 2010

"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! " Philippians 2:5-8
Everyone who has ever struggled in a relationship should be thankful for Christmas!
I guess that would include about all of us! I know people who do relationships better than others but I don't know anyone who hasn't struggled with a spouse or a parent or a sibling or a co-worker or a neighbor or someone!
There is a simple reason why we struggle with relationships - SIN! That's right, sin! Sin, as in selfishness. Sin as in self-seeking! Sin as in selfish ambition. When sin rules in your heart and mind, you are a user not a lover. When sin rules in your heart and mind, you are separated from God and God is love. Sin not only brings separation it brings isolation, it brings alienation, it brings humiliation, it brings degradation, and it brings complications.
Christmas reminds us of how much God desires to be in relationship with you and me! He literally moved Heaven and earth to remove the barriers that separated us and Him. I'm not sure any of us will ever understand why He loves us that much, but the "good news of great joy" is that He does love us and Christmas proves it.
There has never been a great or more damaging relationship breech than the one that separated God and man. Only God could bridge that gap and Jesus became that bridge! Because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit He was born sinless and lived His life in perfect obedience. That allowed Him to bear the guilt and penalty of our sins!
Relationship with God is now possible through Christ! Once you enter into relationship with God, healthy relationships with others becomes possible!
As Christmas 2010 draws near, is there a relationship or two that needs some healing? I understand it takes two to heal a relationship (actually it takes three), but with God's help and with Christ's example, you can begin the healing! If Christmas can bridge the gap between God and you, is there any relationship that can't be healed?
Christmas says, "No!" What will you say?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

December 16, 2010

"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness." Philippians 2:7-9
I am late posting today because I am feeling under the weather. Usually it is my computer that is running a little slow but today it is me!
I remain captivated by this rich portion of Scripture. Paul is revealing some radical concepts about the love of God and how it should impact the way you and I should love.
For centuries there has been much speculation about the Anti-Christ, who he might be and when he would appear. That will continue until it actually happens and will probably catch most of us by surprise. But, in this Scripture we see the "anti-human" nature of Christ. He WAS essentially God, but became incarnate in human flesh.
It was this mystical union of God and man that made it possible for us to be delivered from sin. Jesus possessed the very thing that led to original sin - He was God. Lucifer was not God but tried to be and sinned. Adam was not God but wanted to be and sinned. Since that original sin our human nature has been contaminated with this desire to be like God. It is a rebellious nature. It is an attempt to escape accountability. It is a desire to do whatever we desire and face no consequences.
Jesus had that in His position as the Son of God, the Second Person in the Trinity. He could have clung to that. We would have! But He surrendered it and humbled Himself to become obedient to death. Because of His anti-human, anti-sinful nature, He was uniquely able to deliver us from our sins. Jesus, the Second Adam, was able to undo what Adam had done!
That is good news of great joy!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December 15, 2010

"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!" Philippians 2:5-8
I am having trouble getting my mind around this Scripture. This is pretty radical stuff! On one hand it sends a comforting message of how much God loves us, but it also confronts us with our responsibility to love each other like Christ loved us! What Christ demonstrated at Christmas must be how we love each other year-round!
Let's examine that love again today.
The first thing I notice is that Christmas love sees the needs of others.
Romans 5:8 tells us, "God demonstrated His love for us in this, while we were still sinners Christ died for us!" Wow! God provided for our need before we were even aware we had a need! He provided a solution before we even understood the problem!
How atuned are you to the needs of others? Are you too consumed with your own problems and pains that you become oblivious to the plight of others? Christmas love sees the needs of others and seeks to ways to minister to those needs. Christmas love is not selfish.
Can you imagine a church fellowship where each member saw the needs of others and stood ready to help? What a radical place that would be!
Christmas love also serves the needs of others. Jesus wasn't simply an observer that saw rhe needs from the security of Heaven and waited for someone else to do something. Christ, the omnipotent sovereign Son of God, shed all His power and priviliges to become a servant! He surrendered control and became vulnerable so He could serve a needy race! Christmas love is humble in order to be helpful.
How about you? Are you willing to humble yourself to serve someone else? Are you willing to give up control and allow yourself to be vulnerable if it means meeting the needs of others? Can you be weak to strengthen someone else?
Imagine a fellowship like that! What a radical place that would be! Why can't there be a place where members see each others needs and step up (or down) to serve those needs?
Also, Christmas love sacrifices for the needs of others. This may be the most radical of all because it usually involves death. For Jesus, the sacrifice didn't begin at the cross. It because at the throne of His Father in the most exalted place in Heaven! Everything we dream about and desire, Jesus had - and He laid them down! He saw our needs and judged our crisis to be more urgent than His own comfort. Christmas love willingly traded Paradise for pain. How can God die? BECAUSE HE WANTED TO!
What have you sacrificed for someone else? It is nice to see a need and feel compassion. But Christmas love sees the need, serves the need and sacrifices what ever it takes to solve the need. Love is hard work! Love is costly! Love hurts! You can't love safely and conveniently - you must love sacrificially!
I dream of a fellowship where Christmas love is a reality. Why can't we love until it hurts? Why can't we die to serve others? Didn't Jesus call us to "deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him"? What if there was a group of believers who actually decided to be that radical!
Christmas love will cost you, but Christmas love will change you - and everyone around you! Christmas love could create a contagious fellowship! It could be Christmas in July - and August, and Septemeber and...........

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December 14, 2010

"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!" Philippians 2:5-8
Christmas was driven by love.
In these three incredible verses Paul reveals the motive of why Jesus gave up His exalted position and all the privileges of being God and did some serious down-sizing to become flesh and blood. He stepped out of eternity and into time. He came from a serene and secure paradise to a sinful, selfish and savage world.
What would possess Him to do such a thing?
LOVE! No other explanation makes sense.
Not only was Christmas driven by love but it defines love.
Love begins with an attitude - "have the same mindset as Christ". No one loves accidently. No one loves naturally. Love is a decision. You and I love because we choose to love. Even Jesus, Who was God - and God IS love - had to set His mind on leaving Heaven.
Love becomes an action - "He made Himself nothing". Love has to be more than a thought or a feeling. Love has to be demonstrated with cooresponding actions. Love seeks! Love serves! Love sacrifices! The Bible says that God loves us BUT Christmas showed it!
Love bought atonement - "He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross"
Love properly expressed results in life-change. Real love is transformational! It changes the heart, it changes the head and it changes the habits. Loving like Jesus loved changed the world! When you receive His love it changes you - it helps you love yourself. Loving yourself enables you to live for God and love others. Paul begins this portion of Scripture by commanding us to love like this in ALL of our relationships!
What drives your life? What defines your life? What difference does your life make?
Christmas demands an answer! Christmas holds you accountable to love! Christ took away all the excuses!

Monday, December 13, 2010

December 13, 2010

"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!" Philippians 2:5-8
Yesterday at FredWes we had an amazing day of celebrating relationships!
I was privileged to dedicate five beautiful babies. As their proud and grateful parents and grandparents carried their children to the front of the church to publicly dedicate themselves to being godly parents and to dedicate their precious little ones to the Lord. There were so many reasons to be excited about this but chief among them was the fact that the Faith was being passed to another generation!
Also, I baptized three young men who boldly professed their faith in Christ and just prior to their baptism their fathers came forward to pray over them. What a blessing that was!
The whole congregation swelled with pride as the children sang the songs of the season and celebrated the amazing love of God expressed in Christ!
In case those three celebrations didn't tug hard enough at your emotions, a precious young couple renewed their marriage vows on the eve of their 10th anniversary. For those of us who know the incredible work God has done in their individual lives and in their marriage it was more than just touching, it was extremely gratifying!
Relationships are what give meaning to life. Relationships make life rich! Loving and being loved is why God created us and placed us in families and communities.It is in loving one another that we learn to live in His love. And as we grow in our ability to receive His love, we grow in our ability to express love to others.
According to this portion of Scripture, Christmas was driven by God's desire to be in relationship with us and His hope that we would learn find fulfillment in giving and receiving love.
The reason that the craziness and the crush of commercialism and consumerism are bearable is because we are doing it to bring pleasure to others. Our goal in gift-shopping and gift-wrapping and gift giving is improved relationships. Christmas helps us connect with those we love the most!
Today, as you reflect fondly on the people you love, praise God for Christmas! As you meditate on how His love and grace have enirched your life, praise God for Christmas! When you realize how much peace and satisfaction your soul has found in Christ, thank God for Christmas! Christmas happened so that healthy relationships can happen for you, and in you and to you!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

December 12, 2010

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." Romans 5:6

The Apostle Paul writes after the fact that all the events of Christmas happened at precisely the right time and in exactly the right way!

I believe that is true. You probably do too!

But, for Mary and Joseph, not so much! Christmas was an inconvenience for them!

Think about it!
What a terrible time to get pregnant! Mary was engaged to a wonderful man and was making plans for the dream wedding. But then the angel shows up with another plan. Mary would conceive by the Holy Spirit and bear a son. As far as she was concerned, it couldn't have happened at a worse time!
What a terrible time for the Caesar to declare a tax! Just when Mary and Joseph were trying to scrape up enough money to begin their new life together, now they have to cough up a bunch of it to Rome! From their perspective it couldn't have happened at a worse time!
What a terrible time to have to take a trip! Mary was nine months pregnant! And what a terrible trip to have to take, across the hilly, rocky roads of Galilee - ON A DONKEY!
What a terrible place to have to go! Bethlehem? Such a tiny little place with only one hotel! And what a terrible time for that one hotel to be all booked!
And, what a terrible time for the king to get paranoid! Mary has just given birth to a baby - in a manger inside a stable no less - and not they have to hit the road for another trip! This time they must head down to Egypt to escape the edict of the king to kill all newborn boys. What a hassle!
Just when everything seemed to be going wrong, God brought the miracle of salvation! When everything was uncomfortable and inconvenient for Mary and Joseph it was perfect timing for God!
That is another of the amazing truths of Christmas! God's timing is always perfect even if it doesn't fit your schedule! When everything seems to be going wrong, God can still work a miracle! IF you are obedient to Him in spite of the inconveniences.
This Christmas season, trust God's timing! Trust His sovereign goodness! Even if it looks like the worst time for something to happen, remember that when everything seemed to be going wrong God brought a miracle!
Obedience is a willingness to be out of control - and under His control!

December 11, 2010

"Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord." Luke 1:8-15
When the angel appeared to Zachariah and spoke these words it marked the end of a 400 year period of silence. His message marked the beginning of the New Testament era.
Many people wondered what God was up to during this 400 years of silence. That question was answered conclusively with the events that unfolded over the next year. John was born and prepared the way for the coming of Jesus. Then the Christ was born in a manger in Bethlehem and the world has never been the same. So what was God doing in that period when He appeared to be silent? He was being God! He was preparing people and events for His next great move!
There have been times in your life when God seems silent. You pray and pray and look for God to answer and you see no evidence that He hears you. Maybe you are in one of those periods right now. Heaven seems like brass and your prayers don't seem to get anywhere. It can be discouraging! It can test your faith!
One of the many blessed truths of the Christmas story is that when God appears to be silent He is actually just preparing for the next great work He is planning for your life! Embrace that truth and let it encourage you!
But to me, it raises and even bigger question, "What are you doing when God appears to be silent?"
Learn from Zechariah! Learn from Mary! Both were busy serving God and being faithful! The Scriptures testify that they were righteous people who found favor with God! Even though God had been silent, their faith was strong! They trusted in the goodness of God even when they couldn't see evidence of His activity in their lives!
The great 19th Century preacher, Charles Spurgeon was said, "When I can't trace the hand of God I can trust His heart!"
In those moments when God seems silent in your life, trust His heart! Believe that He is preparing you and your world for the next great thing He wants to do! And, remain faithful to Him so you can remain in His favor. When you are not sure what He is doing, be sure that YOU are doing right!
Christmas proves that God is always up to something good!