Saturday, November 30, 2013

December 1, 2013

"Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ." Romans 10:17

I really hadn't planned to go this direction this morning but as I was reading about the angelic visits to Zachariah and to young Mary, and for that matter, the shepherds, this verse popped in my mind and tied some things together. Perhaps this thought will help you as well!

What I was looking at was the initial response from these who were visited by angels and then their ultimate response. Each of them moved from fear to faith. They each changed from being terrified to being edified. How did that happen?

We can understand the fear part. Each of them were minding their own business in the course of their daily responsibilities and suddenly an angel appears. That has to startle you a bit. We know that they were frightened because in each case the angel reassures them with the words, "fear not!"

Imagine you are at work today or on the treadmill or eating your frosted flakes and a brilliant, beautiful heavenly being pops up in front of you. How would you be?

Me, too!

But that is the easy part to understand. What we need to know is what happened to move them from fear to faith.

In each case it is the same. They listened to the message that the angel brought. Each one of them heard the Word of the Lord. Their faith came by hearing!

Is there a message there for us? I think so!

Fear comes from looking, faith comes from listening! Looking at an angel can certainly be frightening. It's not like they saw them everyday. For all we know this was the only angelic appearance of their lifetimes. But as they listened to the message of hope, and peace, and news of great joy, they moved from fear to faith.

If you or I look at the world in which we live or a particular circumstance that might face us, fear can rise up within us. If we walk by sight we can be overcome by fear. But as Paul reminds us, "we walk by faith not by sight". And where does faith come from? LISTENING to the Word of God!

Zachariah, Mary, the shepherds all give us proof from the Christmas story! That is another aspect of the "good news of great joy" announced by the angels! We don't have to live in fear!

Are you struggling with fear? Does what you see around you have you frightened?

Tune into God's voice!

 Get into God's Word. Hear what He has to say to you today! 

Let His voice move you from fear to faith!

Friday, November 29, 2013

November 30, 2013

"For nothing is impossible with God." Luke 1:37

Much of the lore and legend surrounding Christmas centers around impossible things happening.

For example, the story of a benign and jolly man who lives around the North Pole with a large population of highly skilled elves and a herd of flying reindeer. This industrious bunch craft a wide variety of toys to distribute to every child in the world during the night-time hours of Christmas Eve. Sound impossible? Ah, but don't forget that he has the benefit of the supersonic flying reindeer to propel his sleigh!

In fact, the REAL story of Christmas featured some fairly fantastic unfolding of events.

For example, the birth of John the Baptist. Consider this account from Luke 1:11-25

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 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. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” 19 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. 20 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.” 21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

When God needed a prophet to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah, He did it in an impossible way! Out of the weakness of an elderly priest and his barren wife, came John the Baptist. These good and faithful people had borne the shame of infertility their entire married life. Having a son was a sign of God's sanction and blessing upon your life and marriage. So, here is a highly spiritual couple having to live under the shadow of doubt regarding their lack of a son. It was a burden that they had suffered together through the years. I am sure they had lost count of the times they had cried out to God, apparently to no avail.

Don't you think they struggled through some faith issues? You have had enough disappointments with God that you can identify with their heartaches. But in the end, as all people of faith do, they came to grips with the will of God for their lives.

After all that, and now that conception was a physical impossibility for this aged couple, they impossible announcement comes to Zechariah from no less that Gabriel himself! Their prayers had been heard, their faith had been honored and their dreams would come true. What had been impossible to them was about to happen for them! Why? How?

Because "nothing is impossible with God"!

The good news of Christmas is that God is not limited by our weakness! He is not diminished by our humanity!

Because of Christmas - because of Christ - everything is possible! Miracles can happen! Through Christ, God can bring wins out your your weaknesses! Through Christ, God can bring fulfillment out of your futility. Because of Christmas your dreams can arise amid your doubts! Because of Christ there are no dead ends in your life!

As you gear up for your celebration of Christmas - celebrate this - Christmas proves that "nothing is impossible with God!"

Thursday, November 28, 2013

November 29, 2013

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

A teen-age virgin was to become the mother of the Messiah!

What a strange and amazing way to save the world! Who would have thought of such a plan?

Only God! And only God could pull it off! It is ingenious and it is supernatural.

No man could have dreamed this up! Humanism wants us to believe that men are intrinsically good. If they can be provided with the right education and right environment they can grow and develop into god-like beings living in a man-made utopia. The Tower of Babel is the symbol of their vanity. That was their idea of saving the world.

God knows better. He was in the Garden when Adam and Eve disobeyed and lost their true utopia. Their sin activation a sinful will within the human nature. Your battle with sin originates with the original sin. You and I sin because we are sinners. It is our nature. And it is what alienates us from a relationship with a Holy God. One of the most heart-breaking stories in the Bible is when God came looking for Adam and Eve but found them hiding because of their shame. No longer could they walk with Him. No longer could they dwell in a perfect place.

Being created to be in fellowship with Him, He is the Source of spiritual life. He is the Source of all truth. He is the only hope for moral restoration and transformation. God would not stand for His Creatures being separated from Him. But He had a problem. Actually, we had the problem and only He could come up with the solution. How could a Holy God restore fellowship with a sinful and rebellious race? It was impossible for Him to become "unholy" and equally impossible for man to become "unsinful". How could this gap be bridged? Was their an answer for this spiritual and moral dilemma?

Jesus became the Bridge! Christmas became the solution. Young Mary became the vessel. The Angel's announcement revealed the genius of God's plan. God would send His Own Son, born of a human but conceived by the Holy Spirit! He would be born without the sin nature by virtue of His immaculate conception, but He would also human! Because He was born without sin and if He would live a sinless life through the power of the same Holy Spirit that conceived Him, He could become the sacrificial Lamb Who could die for our sins! He was and He did!

What a strangely amazing way to save the world! It was first revealed to a young teen girl named Mary. And strange as it was, she embraced it and executed it.

The miracle of Christmas is the virgin birth of Jesus! The motive of Christmas is the incredible love of a Holy God for a fallen world! The message of Christmas is that salvation is come!

No greater gift has ever been given! No more brilliant plan has ever been formulated! But a gift must be received and a plan must be believed if it is to mean something.

Will you believe it? Will you receive it?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

November 28, 2013

Psalm 118

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.
Let Israel say:
    “His love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say:
    “His love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say:
    “His love endures forever.”
When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;
    he brought me into a spacious place.
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?
The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
    I look in triumph on my enemies.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in humans.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in princes.
10 All the nations surrounded me,
    but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
11 They surrounded me on every side,
    but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
12 They swarmed around me like bees,
    but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
13 I was pushed back and about to fall,
    but the Lord helped me.
14 The Lord is my strength and my defense;
    he has become my salvation.
15 Shouts of joy and victory
    resound in the tents of the righteous:
“The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!
16     The Lord’s right hand is lifted high;
    the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!”
17 I will not die but live,
    and will proclaim what the Lord has done.
18 The Lord has chastened me severely,
    but he has not given me over to death.
19 Open for me the gates of the righteous;
    I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord
    through which the righteous may enter.
21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
    you have become my salvation.
22 The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
23 the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 The Lord has done it this very day;
    let us rejoice today and be glad.
25 Lord, save us!
    Lord, grant us success!
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
    From the house of the Lord we bless you.
27 The Lord is God,
    and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
    up to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will praise you;
    you are my God, and I will exalt you.
29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November 27, 2013

"But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship." Galatians 4:4-5

You are probably familiar with Murphy's Law. In case you aren't it goes like this: 

Murphy's Law - If anything can go wrong -- it will.

Maybe you haven't heard some of the additional corollaries to this cynical law:

* Murphy's First Corollary - Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse.
* Murphy's Second Corollary - It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.
* Quantitative Revision of Murphy's Law - Everything goes wrong all at once.
* Murphy's Constant - Matter will be damaged in direct proportion to its value.
* The Murphy Philosophy - Smile... tomorrow will be worse.

  1. If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the first one to go wrong. 
    Corollary - If there is a worse time for something to go wrong, it will happen then.
  2. If several things that could have gone wrong have not gone wrong, it would have been ultimately beneficial for them to have gone wrong.
  3. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
  4. If anything can't go wrong, it will anyway.
  5. If you perceive that there are four possible ways in which something can go wrong, and circumvent these, then a fifth way, unprepared for, will promptly develop.
  6. If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.
  7. Everything takes longer than you think.
  8. You never find a lost article until you replace it.
  9. If nobody uses it, there's a reason.
  10. You get the most of what you need the least.
If there is ever a time when things can go wrong it is around the Holidays when so many things are planned.and, therefore, many bad things can happen.

As a matter of fact, if you were Mary and Joseph, deeply involved in the events of the first Christmas it must have seemed like everything that could go wrong WAS going wrong! It must have seemed like Murphy's Law was in effect.

Try to put yourself in their place.

What a bad time to get pregnant!

What a terrible time for a census!

What a lousy time to have to take a long trip on a donkey!

What an inconvenient place to have to travel!

What a horrible time for King Herod to get paranoid!

At a time in their lives when they had plans for things to go right, everything seemed to be going wrong!

But, despite all the problems, a miracle was about to happen!

Christmas proves that even when everything seems to be going badly a miracle can still happen! That's Mercy's Law!

Mercy's Law trumps Murphy's Law every time!

Monday, November 25, 2013

November 26, 2013

"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.”All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus."  Matthew 1:18-25

In "The Circle Maker", Mark Batterson made a statement that caught my attention. He said, "Sin complicates your life but so does God's blessing."

I have preached about the fact that sin complicates life but hadn't thought about the aspect of God's blessing. But it IS true and Joseph illustrates it very well.

If you are going to be a life-changer you can forget about a comfortable life! Life-changers live very inconvenient and uncomfortable lives. 

it is hard to read the Christmas story and not be very impressed by these two teen-aged life-changers.

I think we can agree they are life-changers, can't we?

And can't we agree they blessed the world more than any other human beings?

Over the next several posts I will illustrate how complicated their lives became when they answered the call of God.

The first awkward and very uncomfortable complication they faced was a serious hit on their reputations. 

For Joseph as a small businessman in a tiny town, his reputation was a matter of his business survival. Who is going to trust an immoral carpenter when there are other carpenters in town who are kosher?

And while Joseph's business was at stake, Mary's life was on the line. The penalty for adultery was being stoned to death.

When children bring shame to themselves, there are also two sets of parents who also carry the shame as well. Children are such a source of hope and pride that it is devastating when they bring shame upon the family.

Imagine all the excitement about the wedding plans and suddenly you a confronted with those plans being crashed and your family reputation being trashed.

Guess who bore the brunt of all this shame and disappointment?

A teen-ager named Joseph and his bride-to-be, Mary.

Complicated, wouldn't you agree?

God's blessing can complicate your life!

Thank God that two teens were willing to be seriously inconvenienced in order to become life-changers!

How about you?

Are you willing to trade comfort for the blessing of changing your world?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

November 25, 2013

"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." Luke 9:23

The best definition of discipleship that I have heard comes from Eugene Peterson, a prolific Christian writer and author of The Message translation of the Bible. He describes discipleship as "a long obedience in the same direction". Isn't that good? A long obedience in the direction of God and His Word and His will!

It sure fits with Jesus' call to His disciples here in this verse!

A disciple decides every day to aim his desires at God and shape his feelings, emotions and decisions around obeying Him. And then, the next day he awakes and does the same thing - and the next and the next and, well, you know. That is a "long obedience" in that direction.

A disciple daily chooses to deny himself of any desire, thought or habit that would tug the disciple in an opposite direction. Moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, he guards every thought and reigns in every action. And then the next day he awakes and does the same - and the next and the next and, well, you know. That is a "long discipline" in God's direction.

A disciple takes up his cross daily - not the necklace or the bracelet or the lapel pin - the one that hurts, the one that demands him to die to self and sin. The disciple doesn't actually carry his cross, he lays down on it and dies. He dies to self so Christ can live through him in the power of the Holy Spirit.

And then the next day he awakes and does it again. And the next day! And the day after that! That is what it means to die daily - a long obedience in God's direction!

As you begin this Thanksgiving week, where will you aim your life? How will you direct your way? 

Who will you follow? 

Who will you please? 

What will you serve? 

Will you have to get back on course? 

Have you back tracked or strayed in another direction? 

Will you aim yourself in God's direction - again?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

November 24, 2013

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Acts 1:8

Change is hard!

Have you ever tried to change a habit?

How did that work out?

Still working on it, eh?

Knowing how hard it is to change anything in ME, I find it amazing that God could use me to bring life-change to someone else!

His power to change me and to use me to bring change to others is a source of thanksgiving for me. And you just never know how much those changes will affect your world!

Many years ago in St. Louis, a lawyer visited a Christian to transact some business. Before the two parted, his client said to him, “I’ve often wanted to ask you a question, but I’ve been afraid to do so.” 

“What do you want to know?” asked the lawyer. 

The man replied, “I’ve wondered why you’re not a Christian.” 

The man hung his head, “I know enough about the Bible to realize that it says no drunkard can enter the kingdom of God; and you know my weakness!” 

“You’re avoiding my questions,” continued the believer. 

“Well, truthfully, I can’t recall anyone ever explaining how to become a Christian.” 

Picking up a Bible, the client read some passages showing that all are under condemnation, but that Christ came to save the lost by dying on the cross for their sins. “By receiving Him as your Substitute and Redeemer,” he said, “you can be forgiven. If you’re willing to receive Jesus, let’s pray together.” 

The lawyer agreed, and when it was his turn he exclaimed, “O Jesus, I am a slave to drink. One of your servants has shown me how to be saved. O God, forgive my sins and help me overcome the power of this terrible habit in my life.” Right there he was converted. That lawyer was C.I. Scofield, who later edited the reference Bible that bears his name.

I'm glad that lawyer took the risk of sharing his faith!

Not only did he add a great blessing to the Kingdom of God and the people of God, but he found the thrill of being used by the Spirit of God to become a life-changer!

Have you known that thrill?

What is keeping you from experiencing the thrill of God's will?

Friday, November 22, 2013

November 23, 2013

"The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you." Luke 10:17-19

In these two verses you hear the heart of our Savior as He laments the fact that His people have short-changed the world.

What do I mean by that?

Listen to Jesus' words, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few." 

In other words, there is a big potential for changed lives but there aren't enough followers willing to be life-changers.

How does that impact you?

Let's put it this way. Aren't you glad that the person God used to bring life-change to you didn't short-change you?

I am thankful I didn't get short-changed!

God help me not to short-change anyone whom You can use me to reach!

There are a couple of significant ideas implied in these words. Let me unpack those for you.

1) The size of the harvest is only limited by the number of available life-changers

2) God will give you more life-changers if you ask Him in prayer

3) Some day you will have to stand before the Lord of the harvest and answer why you short-changed His world.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

November 22, 2013

"But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’  I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” Luke 10:10-16

When you commit to the thrill of being used by God to change lives there is a predictable thing that will happen. Those who are not thrilled about lives being changed will challenge you!

If you have been on the planet for more than a few years and have ever tried to carry out God's will, you have discovered not everyone appreciates your efforts.

In fact. if you are a Christian and have never been ridiculed or opposed you must not be doing it right!

Jesus was very honest with His followers as He prepared to send them out. He told them that they would run into people who would be rude and not receptive of their witness. He was preparing them for the challenges they would face as they tried to change lives with His Gospel. He also told them when they get rejected He will take it personally and those who oppose them will be opposing Him! He will deal with them!

Jesus is saying, "You will be opposed but when you are I will have your back!"

When you commit to becoming a life-changer you should come to it with eyes wide open! You will find it challenging! You will be opposed! You will get intimidated!

These seventy-two disciples did!

But because Jesus had prepared then they faced the challenges and overcome them by the power of His Word in their mouths!

God used these faithful followers to change lives despite the opposition and challenges they faced. And in fact, rather than stealing away the thrill of God's will it only added to it!

Aren't you glad these followers didn't cower in the face of the challenges they encountered?

Are you allowing the fear of opposition keep you from becoming a life-changer?

Monday, November 18, 2013

November 20, 2013

"However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20

For over forty years I have been addicted to the thrill of being a life-changer. It still amazes me that a God like Him can use a man like me to change the eternal destiny of another human being! But He has, and He does, and He will continue to do so! There are people will spend eternity in Heaven with Jesus who may have ended up in eternal agony if I had not shown up in their town!

That is an incredible blessing for which I am profoundly grateful!

The reason the Lord can use me to be a life-changer is because He changed my life! He changed my life through some life-changers who had their lives changed by the mercy and grace of God! As they witnessed to me about their life-change and showed me how I could experience life-change I chose the change!

In the context of this Scripture text, Jesus has called seventy-two of His followers who have had their lives changed to go out and be life-changers. When they went out in His power and shared His good news they saw lives dramatically changed! As they returned to Him to report the amazing life-changes they had witnessed they were overwhelmed with  great joy!

So was He!

God calls you to a changed life for two basic reasons:

1) You need a fundamental spiritual transformation

2) He needs to use you to fundamentally change the lives of others.

Have you been changed by the grace of Jesus Christ through faith?

Do you confidently know your name is written in heaven?

If you are sure you have had a spiritual life-change, who's life have you changed?

Life-changers have their lives changed in order to be used to change the lives of others!