Monday, December 31, 2012

January 1, 2013

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" II Corinthians 5:17
Happy 2013! 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 threshhold 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 2012 that you don't need to drag into 2013?

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.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

December 31, 2012

"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 condition 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’condition 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?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

December 30, 2012

"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 live 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!

Friday, December 28, 2012

December 29, 2012

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!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

December 28, 2012

"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!

December 27, 2012

"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 desparately need Him to be Who His Word says He is - rejoice! Jesus is everthing 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!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

December 26, 2012

"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

I hope you had a joyous Christmas!

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 were facing some difficult challenges as you celebrated Christmas 2012. Find joy in the power of God! Take joy in the knowledge that "nothing is impossible for God"!

Monday, December 24, 2012

December 25, 2012

"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!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

December 24, 2012

"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!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

December 23, 2012

"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 I 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!

Friday, December 21, 2012

December 22, 2012

"But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day."  II Peter 3:8
I have always had a hard time trying to wrap my mind around the concept of eternity. When I was a kid I would lie in bed thinking about forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and........I would drift off to sleep. A finite mind like mine can't grasp infinity.
But I believe in it! I am counting on it! I have invested my life in the faith that there is a forever!
Just as I struggle to comprehend eternity, I wonder if Jesus must have struggled a bit when He stepped FROM eternity into the constraints and limitations of time! Imagine the One Who had measured time in millenia now had to meter it in minutes. Imagine the One Who is timeless having to learn how to tell time!
Of all the adjustments Jesus had to make when He emptied Himself of all the advantages of divinity to be born as a flesh and blood baby in a stable on planet Earth, learning to live in time must have been one of the toughest.
But one of the many amazing aspects of the Christmas story is that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" stepping out of eternity into time!
Understanding that He did that is important. Understanding why He did it is even more important. He submitted to the constraints of time so He could make it possible for you and me to enjoy the freedoms of eternity!
So, with that in mind, will you make time for Him in the midst of this busy Christmas season? Will you find time to seek Him in His Word? Will you make time to talk to Him in pray? Will you set aside time to meditate and hear His voice? It takes time to become eternal!

And the next time you feel under time pressure around the Christmas rush let it remind you that the Son of God put Himself under time pressure in order to help you last forever!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

December 21, 2012

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."  John 3:16
If the date 12-21-12 sounds familiar it could be because you have been hearing about it for at least the past year. Blogs, newspapers, radio, TV, social media, and a motion picture have all heralded this date as the last day of the Mayan calendar - aka - the end of the world.
Count me among the skeptical but if you delayed your Christmas shopping until after today, I hold no scorn for you and if the Mayans are correct you will be among the wisest to perish in the cataclysmic conclusion of the human race.
Should this ancient civilization somehow be correct in their calculations you have celebrated your last Christmas.
Regardless of this primitive prediction, you and I do have a final Christmas somewhere in our future. That is undeniable and undebateable. That might a one Christmas from now, it might be this Christmas or it may be decades from now, but there will be a final Christmas on earth for every one of us.
Because of the reality of a final Christmas God made sure there was a first Christmas! John proclaims that in this very well-known verse from John's Gospel.
God loved you too much to let you perish from this earth and into a Godless eternity. He wanted you to be able to enjoy eternity with Him in Heaven when you pass from this earth. The fact is the vast majority of your life will be lived after you die and God wants you to spend that eternity enjoying Him forever in Heaven. So you must make sure you are ready to depart this planet once you die.
The message of Christmas is that God came from Heaven in the Person of Christ, virgin born as a baby in a manger to become the sacrifice for our sins!
The motive of Christmas was love! God's amazing love!
The mission of Christmas is salvation for all who will place their trust in Christ.
The marvel of Christmas is that those who believe gain eternal life when that last day arrives and abundant life until then!
No one knows then their final Christmas will come. That is why they need to come to terms with the First one!
Have you trusted Christ for salvation?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

December 20, 2012

"Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.  Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation,     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Luke 2:25-32
There is a saying, "Seeing is believing."
Christians shouldn't say that because it is not a statement of faith. For those of us who are of the Faith, "believing is seeing!" and Christmas demonstrates it!
In this portion of the Christmas story Simeon believed in the Christ Child long before he saw him! When the Spirit of God revealed to him that he would not die until he saw the Messiah with his own eyes he believed it! He began hoping for it! It energized his life, while at the same time, freeing him to die!
This is true throughout the Christmas story!
Mary believed it before she saw it. She believed it in spite of the fact that a virgin has never conceived before or after her. It became real before it really happen for Mary!
Joseph believed it before he saw it. He had some crucial decisions to make at a critical juncture of his life and he had to decide if he would base those decisions on what he saw or what he believed. He believed before he saw!
Elizabeth believed before she saw. For many years this barren woman had lived with the belief she could not bear a child. That fact had shaped her reality. Now she was confronted with the promise of a new reality. What would she believe? See chose to see herself as a mother before she became one!
Ironically, the one who seemed to have the hardest time believing without seeing was the priest - Zechariah! The man of faith seemed to have the biggest struggle with faith! He laughed at the announcement! A priest laughing at God is not a good formula. You would think faith would come easier for someone who stands in the presence of God.
You cannot contemplate the Christmas story and draw the conclusion that "seeing is believing". This marvelous miraculous narrative illustrates the principle of faith that "believing is seeing"!
Do you have to see it to believe it or do you live by faith?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December 19, 2012

"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!

Monday, December 17, 2012

December 18, 2012

"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!

December 17, 2012

"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 2012 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?

December 16, 2012

"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 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 super-human, sinless 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!

Friday, December 14, 2012

December 15, 2012

"This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  Matthew 1:18-21
I was visiting my brother in Sacramento a number of years ago.
My family and his decided that we would spend an afternoon floating the American River in a raft. We had a blast.
Our pleasant afternoon nearly turned tragic, though.
Looking up river we saw that our raft was approaching a section of rapids. As the raft began to pick up speed in the first part of the rapids my brother went to the back set of oars and I grabbed the front oars. We began steering the raft through the rocks and the rapids.
Suddenly someone yelled, "Where's Mikey?"
Mikey, my brother's youngest son had been wanting to use the oars but had been told know. Unbeknownst to me, when I slid backwards to get to the oars Mikey had lunged forward. I never felt it, but he bumped into me and fell overboard into the rapids and under the raft.
Again, someone yelled, "I don't see him!"
It had to be a moment of divine intervention because immediately and simultaneously my brother and I both shouted, "He's under the ratf!"
Without thinking nor remembering how I got there, I instantly found myself over the front of the raft holding onto it and dragging my feet on the rocks below. At the same instant and again, without thinking, my brother slid to the back of the raft. My weight at the front of the raft slowed it enough that the swirling water shot Mikey out toward the back of the raft where my brother, Mike, grabbed him up out of the water.
Mikey was saved from a sure death!
His disobedience had gotten him into a deadly spot. The force of the current kept him trapped. He was unable to free himself. Unless an outside force came to his rescue he was doomed.
Does any of that sound familiar? It should! That's your story! That's my story!
That story is the story behind the Christmas story. God sent "JESUS" - "the salvation of God"! That's why the angel was insistent with Mary and Joseph, "You SHALL call his name "JESUS" for He will save His people from their sins."

Thursday, December 13, 2012

December 14, 2012

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14
Paul Harvey told the story about a family on Christmas Eve. This family had a tradition where the Mother and children would go to the Christmas Eve service, and the Father would stay home and read the paper. When the family returns home from church, they would all gather to open up their presents.
The Father was not an evil man, but he just couldn't believe in the childhood stories anymore of God coming as a baby in a manger. As the family left for church, he opened up the evening paper and began to read by the fireplace.
Suddenly, he heard tapping on the window. It was a bird flying against the glass of his window trying to get out of the snow into the warmth of his home. The man had compassion on the bird, and he went outside, hoping to bring it in.
As he approached the bird, the bird just flew against the window even harder. Pretty soon, the bird flew into the bushes below the window, half frozen, yet too afraid to be caught by this huge man. The more the man tried to reach for the bird, the more the bird flew frantically into the snow and thorns of the bushes.
After a few minutes in the cold and seeing the bird continue to injure its self, the man yelled out in frustration, "Stupid bird, can't you understand that I'm trying to help?" The man paused and thought, "If only you understood you wouldn't fly away ... if only ... if only I could become a bird maybe I could get you to understand."
Just then, the church bells rang, as they always have on the hour. But when the man heard the bells this time, he fell to his knees and began to cry, saying, "Oh, God, I didn't understand. Oh, God, I didn't understand."
God's Son came in human form that we might understand from where we have come, for what reason we were separated and how we could be restored to God.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

December 13, 2012

"But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21

It was in December of 1903, that after many attempts, the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, were successful in getting their "flying machine" off the ground and into the air at Kitty Hawk. Thrilled over the accomplishment, they telegraphed this message to their sister Katherine: "We have actually flown 120 feet. Will be home for Christmas." Katherine hurried to the editor of the local newspaper and showed him the message. He glanced at it and said, "How nice. The boys will be home for Christmas." He totally missed the big news ----- for the first time in human history, man had flown!
I love that story! Here is a small town newspaper with the chance to break a story of a historic accomplishment that forever change history, and he total missed the point! I wonder how that worked out for him?
Granted the flight was only the distance from home plate to second base, but it had never been done before and it was CERTAINLY newsworthy! Someone somewhere got the story but this poor guy missed the chance of a lifetime!
When I think of this editor I think of so many people, who like him, miss the whole point of Christmas. The point of Christmas is CHRIST!
It isn't Xmas!
It isn't just a "holiday"!
It is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Who came to "save His people from their sins". There is not only significance in the Person Who was born in that manger in the stable behind the inn, but there is tremendous importance in His Name, "Jesus"!
The name "Jesus" that the angel announced originated from the Hebrew "Yeshua" and it means "to deliver" or "to rescue" or "to save". In the Old Testament this name was rendered "Joshua". Joshua, who had the huge responsibility of following Moses in leading God's people over the Jordan and into Canaan - the Land of Promise.
Likewise, the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born to a virgin was given the powerful and prophetic name of "Jesus" because as the angel proclaimed, "He would save His people from their sins." He would, indeed, "rescue", "deliver" or "save" His people from their sins.
And did He ever "save" His people and "rescued" them from sin and "delivered" them from death!
That is why there is power in the Name of Jesus! That is why we call it "CHRISTmas" - because Jesus was born to become the Messiah that would "save His people from their sin".

What's in a name? When it is the name of Jesus - EVERYTHING!
Praise the NAME of Jesus!
Merry CHRISTmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

December 12, 2012

"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!

Monday, December 10, 2012

December 11, 2012

"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 1:13-15
"You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him 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 Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:31-33
In our pluralistic and politically correct culture, you will often hear this phrase tossed out by well-meaning people under the pretense of open-mindedness, "We all worship the same God, it doesn't matter whether we call Him "God" or "Allah" or "Buddha" or whatever."
Uh, sorry! It matters! It matters a lot!
First, there is the little matter of the First Commandment - actually, the first four, were very clear and specific that there is only One God and it is "Jehovah" the God of the Hebrews. The Old Testament lists a series of names that describe character of "Jehovah", but it only enhances and strengthens the uniqueness of our God.
While this is a less weighty argument, it is nevertheless significant that Gabriel, the archangel who stands in the presence of Jehovah God, was very specific about what Zachariah and Mary were to name their sons. The same God Who was blessing them with miracle babies also had a definite idea of what He wanted them to be named!
In the ancient Hebrew culture a name had great importance. Names were given according to some unique feature of a child's physical nature or regarding their character. A name had an almost prophetic quality. Parents named their child in a way that would inspire and help shape his future character and values. Unlike today when a name is often chose from a favorite celebrity, Hebrews were very intentional about the name they gave their child understanding it had eternal implications.
No wonder Gabriel stressed to Zachariah that this miracle son that God was going to give them MUST be named "John"! Why?
Because God said so! But also because "John" means "God is gracious". Who better to preach repentance in preparation for the coming of the Messiah than a son named "John - God is gracious"? After all, the Scriptures tell us that it is the "kindness of God that leads us to repentance" (Romans 2:4). Repentance would be futile had without God's gracious plan to send His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. So, who better to declare the message of turning from sin and clinging to grace than one named "John - God is gracious"?
Now, be sure, if you miss the grace of God and if you become confused by this politically correct myth about all gods being equal, then you will only know the wrath and justice of God.
Gabriel also was clear to Mary that her miracle child would be a son and she was to name Him "Jesus". Very specific!
The name "Jesus" comes from the Hebrew name "Yeshua" which is used 27 times in the Old Testment and has a rich and extensive documentation. It means "God saves" or "salvation". Since Jesus was the Son of God ("Yeshua" came from "Jehovah") should we not worship that God? And does that not clearly separate that God (our God) above all other gods? Names matter!
The good news of Christmas is about a "gracious God" Who sent His Son to bring "salvation"! That message was made clear when God sent "John" to prepare the way for "Jesus"!
What's in a name? Eternal salvation and personal access to fellowship with the God of the Universe, that's all.