Moving on

At times I can feel like new years can be so cliche with all the focus in new years resolutions, but my thinking is, if you don’t like something or want to do something better, then just choose to try and change it right then, regardless if what time of year it is. Recently I feel like like I have been dwelling on choices and things I have done in the past that may not have been honoring to God. Then last Sunday one of our pastors preached on Philippians 13:13-14.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

I think this just proves even more that when you are truly seeking God and His will, He will speak in His perfect timing. For Christmas I received a flip book with quotes by Tony Evans. January 2nd’s quote was

“Sometimes God allows something in your life that only He can fix so that you will get to see Him fix it.”

Paul had some ailment or thorn in his side, yet God told him that His grace was sufficient. I do believe that God causes all things to work for my good because I love Him, but more importantly because He loves me more than I can imagine. It’s just not fun to go through the storms we face, but I know God is with me and waiting for me on the other side with open arms.

Lord Jesus, give me the courage and humility to give over my chains to you that you may remove them from me so that I may press on to the future you have for me. May the words if my mouth and meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Zach Williams – Chain Breaker

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A faith that saves

I heard a pastor on the radio the other day talking about a saving faith.  He made reference to James 2:19 which says “19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder.”  In context James is talking about faith and deeds, which is anther great topic to think about.  But it got me thinking, do I have a faith that truly saves?  We also read in Luke 8 about a demon possessed man Jesus encounters.  In the encounter the man falls at Jesus’ feet and asks to not be tortured.  The evil spirit in this man truly recognized who Jesus was.  The disciples spent three years with Jesus in a close and intimate relationship, all of them dropping everything they had and leaving their lives behind to follow Jesus during that time and eleven of them, along with many others along the way, were saved because of their faith.  Sure it wasn’t rock solid the whole time.  We see Peter tell Jesus he’ll follow Him and not fall away, but yet in the face of seeing His Master being persecuted under a mock trial, Peter disowns Jesus three times, just as Jesus had told him.  This is the same Peter who stepped out of a boat and  walked on water to get to Jesus.

As I sit in my comfortable home that God has provided, in a country with more freedoms than I know what to do with that others have sacrificed and died for me to live in, would I have the same faith which Christians are being killed for in other countries which are not so comfortable?  Granted, Peter was later restored by Jesus and is one of the great authors of the Bible, but he did falter, and yet he gave what some may say as the greatest sermon to ever be preached.

I had the privilege of hearing a pastor speak a couple of years ago.  His story has stuck with me for a couple of reasons.  One, I don’t get to do it much, but I love military history.  I think its incredible to think back at what the veterans, especially of WWII, have done and given up for the freedoms we have today.  But secondly, this guy truly lived out a saving, or as he calls it, a bullet proof faith.

Return to Mogadishu – Jeff Struecker

As I sit here and write this I wish I could say that I have a bullet proof faith.  As I sit here, I would say yes I profess the name of Jesus, but in the face of extreme persecution my hope is that I would still have that same profession.  Yes, I believe Jesus lived a life that was sinless and paid the horrible price of dying on a cross, by giving up His place in heaven next to our Creator to pay a penalty that I should pay.  That its only by God’s grace that I have the opportunity at life here, incredibly blessed, with my family.  But I also know God is much more faithful than I am.  My prayer is that when its my time, God will count me as faithful and obedient.  Its my prayer that I would have been a good and faithful servant and that I can too share in my Master’s happiness.

21“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

We just finished celebrating the Christmas holiday, lots of people around the world just exchanged gifts had meals with family, had time off from work hopefully to relax which are all good things.  But did we really celebrate Christmas and what it truly means for us.

Lord Jesus, let these words be Your words, let them go out and not return void.

The ultimate gamechanger

We can look back at history and different aspects of life and read about different things that were so called gamechangers.  In medical history we can look at vaccines.  Because of vaccines, the deadly disease of small pox has been wiped out.  As a sports fan, we can look at the dual threat quarterback in football or the running back who could play as a wide receiver.  I remember when the St Louis Rams, who were at the time known as the “greatest show on turf”, had a running back, Marshall Faulk, that could come out of the backfield and run routes like a wide receiver. Or one that went beyond the sport, the debut of Jackie Robinson playing baseball for the San Francisco Giants.  Jackie Robinson debuted before integration took place in the US, but started breaking down the color barrier in our society.

But the ultimate gamechanger is Jesus.  God sent is son to do something no one else could do.  Israel had failed to maintain their righteousness with God by succumbing to their own sinful desires and putting other things before God.  As a result, there was about 450 years of silence from God Himself.  But then because of His love for us and His desire to still have fellowship with us, His creation, He sent His most prized possession to us, in the form of a baby.  He used a righteous man, Joseph, and a young girl, whom He favored, to bring our Lord and Savior into the world. Upon Jesus’s death, He broke a barrier that only God could break, He tore the temple curtain from top to bottom to give us direct access to God Himself.

But yet it couldn’t end there.  Jesus had to live a perfect and sinless life, yet die a most horrible death, and on top of that have His daddy, or Abba, turn His back on Him and face life for that moment in time alone in a most dark place.  But yet as part of the most perfect plan that God could imagine, Jesus rose 3 days later to give us a life that we could not give ourselves.  His death burial and resurrection gives us a treasure far better than we can find anywhere else.

Mary and Joseph got to hear the most precious baby sounds before anyone else, the cries noises Jesus made after being born two thousand years ago.

I pray that Jesus is your ultimate gamechanger, the one who changes your course of life, who changes your way of thinking, so that you may be drawn nearer to Him.  As Passion sings in the song Holy Ground

Chains fall
Fear bow
Here, now
Jesus, you change everything
Lives healed
Hope found
Here, now
Jesus, you change everything
Lord Jesus, thank you for stooping down to earth out of your love for us, thank you for living a life that we could not.  Jesus we put our hope in you and you alone.
Here as we wait
Seek Your face
Come and make Your throne upon our praise
Here in this place
Have Your way
The moment that we see You, we are changed
Merry Christmas

Treasuring God’s Presence

Do we truly treasure God’s presence?  We learn from scripture of a couple of instances where Mary treasured the circumstances around her with Jesus in her presence.  During the visit from the shepherds, they told people about their encounter with the angel and what was said to them and the people just wondered about it, but Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The second time is when Jesus was a young boy and remained in the temple listening to the teachers, while Mary and Joseph traveled back to Nazareth not knowing he wasn’t among them.

So far in her young life, Mary had had a visit from the angel Gabriel, had experienced a miraculous conception, had wise men travel, what would seem like, half way around the world, and bring gifts fit for a king, seen a baby leap in the womb of her cousin Elizabeth, been told by a man named Simeon that Jesus was the Messiah along with other experiences.

Mary was caring for a child, feeding, changing diapers, etc, who would eventually take care of her eternal needs.  She would see her first child be beaten, unjustly persecuted and hung on a cross while living a perfect and sinless life.  She was living out the story which we now have the complete picture of.

But we have to prepare ourselves for the encounters with God.  When we pray we are speaking directly to God, the creator of the universe, the One who spoke creation into being, who made dry bones come to life.  When we worship we are supposed to be offering all we have to God himself, giving Him His worth.  The religious leaders of Jesus’s day, knew the scriptures inside and out, yet they did not believe that the Messiah had actually arrived, they were expecting some grand savior and king.  They couldn’t “see the writing on the wall”.  But Jesus came in the simplest life form as a baby.  We have the whole story, from beginning to end and we know how it ends, we, those of us who proclaim Jesus Lord and Savior, are on the winning side.

Jeremiah (13:8-11) tells us that Israel and Judah had become useless, like an old belt, because of their pride and because they wouldn’t listen.

8Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 9“Thus says the LORD, ‘Just so will I destroy the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. 10‘This wicked people, who refuse to listen to My words, who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts and have gone after other gods to serve them and to bow down to them, let them be just like this waistband which is totally worthless. 11‘For as the waistband clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah cling to Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise and for glory; but they did not listen.’

God’s creation is all around us, I believe he still does miracles on a daily basis, we just need to prepare our hearts to see it all and listen and treasure the times when He speaks to us and moves in our lives.  God doesn’t always speak in great and awesome ways, sometimes He speaks to us in a whisper, sometime we need to stop and be quiet.

This Christmas, stop in the busyness and treasure what God has done.  Don’t be useless, walk humbly and listen to God’s Word.  Take in and ponder the real story of Christmas, the gift of a baby laying in a manger.

Lauren Daigle – Noel

 

Inexpressible joy

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

May you find the inexpressible joy in the trials you face while your faith is being perfected and being made pure holy and blameless.

Out of the darkness came the best news ever

Over the past week I have been thinking of the encounter of the shepherds and the angels.  Have you ever been in such a dark place that you can hardly see your hand in front of your face.  I have a couple of times.  Once, a few years ago, our family went to the Davis mountains in west Texas.  One of the nights we went up to the top of the mountain at Davis Mountain State Park after dinner.  I wanted our kids to really see the stars at night.  At the top of the mountain, it was so dark and the sky so clear, you could just see with your naked eye a comet that happen to be passing by earth at the time.  Beside that, it was so dark, that my wife decided to put the kids back in their car seats because she was worried they were going to wander off the side of the mountain.

Another time was one a hunting trip with a friend of mine.  We had finished dinner and were out driving on the property where we were hunting and we got the truck struck in a field.  My friend’s dad was with us so he walked off to get a tractor to pull the truck out.  But it was do dark, I wondered how he was going to find his way, but he did, and a few minutes later the darkness was lit up from the lights of the tractor.

Imagine being a shepherd, the lowliest of lowly, working the night shift, even lowlier.  I imagine they had the job, because no one  else wanted that job but they really needed a job.  So here are these shepherds, like Mary, doing what they would normally be doing dy after day, and all of a sudden this angel, as Luke tells us, shows up out of no where and they were frightened, which I can’t really blame them.  But the angel precedes to tell them don’t be afraid for I bring you good news of great joy.  God, is his incredible and infinite wisdom, decides that the shepherds of all people, the lowliest of low, should be the first to hear of Jesus’s birth.  And best of all, its for all the people, not just the rich, popular or well to do, but for everyone to hear.  Then to top that, God sends a huge, heavenly army which is praising God.  The shepherds were so excited to hear this good news that they hurried off to go see the baby.

Like the angel Gabriel, I imagine this had to be an incredible sight ad to try and explain it to someone else would be near impossible.  To be in complete darkness and all of a sudden have the night sky lit up.  We all walk or have walked in spiritual darkness and Jesus is the only one who can light up that darkness.  The cool thing is that the message is for all people, janitors, big corporate CEOs, the people you get your coffee from at the coffee shop, garbage men, government officials, all walks of life.  I was reading Jeremiah this morning and in chapter 5 he says,

20“Announce this to the descendants of Jacob and proclaim it in Judah: 21Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear: 22Should you not fear me?” declares the Lord. “Should you not tremble in my presence? I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross.

30“A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: 31The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?

I Jeremiah’s day, Israel had quit following God and were chasing after other idols.  The world at the time of Jesus’s birth was looking for a different savior, but I’m sure the shepherds trembled at God’s messengers.  But Jesus came in the simplest form of life, a baby, and brought light to a dark place.  Now, we have Jesus available for all people, in our spiritually dark places and He can light up our night sky.  If we follow Jesus, we have hope and a future an there is no end and we don’t have to question what we would do in the end.

Who I don’t hope to be and who I do hope to be

My wife and I have attended a Wednesday night bible teaching at church a couple of times over the last few weeks and the teacher has been teaching on the sermon on the mount.  Tonight was the last session and he spoke on Matthew 7:15-29.

True and False Prophets

15“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

True and False Disciples

21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

The Wise and Foolish Builders

24“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

A couple of thing struck me about these verses.  The first was about false prophets.  He mentioned, which I agree with, as a culture we tend to gravitate towards celebrity style preaching and teaching, things and people that are grand and awesome.  The prophets spoken about in these verses would come preaching what appears attractive and true but would not align with the Word of God.  If we hold fast to the Truth we should be able to recognize them by what they produce.  At times we can do good things, this that we say are in Jesus’s name, but if they are not for God’s glory, they’re not good in God’s eyes.

The second thing that struck me was in verses 21 – 23.  We may call on Jesus as our Lord, but not all of us will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  The ones who do enter the Kingdom of Heaven are the ones who build their house on the solid foundation of Jesus, the Rock, and does what His Word says, not just read it.  See, the thing about verses 24-27 is that the rains and winds and rising streams come around with both houses, the one built on the sand and the one built on the rock.  In life we are going to face storms, there’s no way around it.  We’re going to face things that test our faith.  We’re going to face circumstances that cause us to question God’s presence in those circumstances.

My prayer is that I hope I am not one of the false prophets.  As I said in my first blog that I don’t want these to be my words but to be God’s words through me, that these words would not be about me and what I think but only point to Jesus.  I want to known and noticed by God and to be His good and faithful servant.  My prayer is also that I am the one who builds my house on the rock, that when the winds beat on me, when the rivers rise and try to sweep me away, that my Lord and Savior Jesus will hold me up when my feet and my strength would fail.

So who are you?  Are you the true or false prophet?  Are you the wise or foolish builder?