Thursday, December 14, 2017

The "STAR" of Christmas

I would like to share a portion of the letter that I sent to our church family on Wednesday. I truly believe that God is calling us to revisit the message of Christmas revealed in the Bible. It is so easy to become captured by certain elements of the story or even the characters of the story. But God was sharing with us more than a story. He was revealing the message of LIFE to each of us and this message would be housed in the earthly and heavenly life of Jesus Christ. It is no wonder that the heavens were filled with the glory of God at the time of the birth of Jesus!!

Matthew 2:9-11, When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (NKJV) (Emphasis Added)

The ability as well as desire to "rejoice" began to resonate in my heart as I thought about the Greatness and Goodness of God. It is not always easy to rejoice as we travel the road of life. Each of us have faced or we are facing difficulties in our lives. We go through various "up and down" moments which can turn our "rejoicing into mourning" very quickly. But when we choose to focus on the "star" of God's goodness we can begin to reverse the process of our thinking. The Spirit of God can turn our "mourning into rejoicing."

The men in the passage of Matthew are often referred to as "wise men." Many Bible scholars believe that these travelers were astrologers from the East who saw the star which led them on their journey of discovery. Their journey of following the star led them to the house where Jesus was located. The Bible references Jesus as the "bright and morning star." The impact of the presence of Jesus even as a "baby" led them to fall down and worship the Savior of the world.

Let us choose to worship as we identify the "star" of God's Goodness in our lives. I would like to encourage each of us to take a moment and look around at the "star" of God's Goodness in our lives. Let me share a few things that I have pondered this morning. "How many times will I breathe today? How many times will my heart beat today? How many times will I get up and walk across the floor today? How many times will I drink clean and fresh water today? How many meals or snacks will I eat today? How many people has God placed in my life that love and care about me?" I encourage you to make you own list as you take time to notice the "star" of God's Goodness.

EACH OF YOU ARE AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE "STAR" OF GOD'S GOODNESS IN THE LIVES OF MANY PEOPLE!!!  YOUR LIFE IS MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN THIS WORLD!!!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What Will We Celebrate on Christmas Day?

Luke 2:13-15, And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” 15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” (NKJV)
It seems to me that people are always looking for a reason to celebrate or throw a party. Even birthday parties for children are becoming an extravagant affair (Disclaimer: I am not against this by any means.). The celebration of Holy Matrimony has almost been overshadowed by the approach that some couples take for the celebration of their wedding vows (Disclaimer: I am not against this is you can afford the celebration.). People are all ready planning their New Years Eve parties even down to making sure that they are dressed in the "right outfit." There will be Super Bowl parties in a few weeks. I can go on with other examples but I will stop at this point.
But I have written these previous words so that I can write these next words. Has the celebrations of the culture overtaken and in some cases even replaced the daily celebrations that ought to take place in our lives? Christmas allows us and even encourages us to look in the Bible and see what God set in motion for the people of this world to receive. The gift of Jesus Christ to this world opened the door for the plan of Salvation to be revealed to humanity. We who were far away from God would now be called to draw near through the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. The birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ ushered in an opportunity for mankind to showcase their praise and honor to God. We would be given the opportunity to celebrate our "spiritual freedoms" which would begin with the birth of a child in a manger in Bethlehem. "Oh, what a message to share and Oh, what a song to sing!!!"
We are in great need for God to help us focus on the good news that has caused great joy for people around the world and across the ages of time. Our true HOPE is found in the Truth that Jesus came to this world to save sinners and each of us were in need of a Savior to say the least.
We are in awe that the coming of the Lord Jesus has shaped the history of the world and has changed untold millions of lives. We need this gospel in troubled times lest we become fearful and overwhelmed by the challenges of daily life. The Word of  God will strengthen our faith during these challenging times.
We rejoice in the proclamation of Immanuel, God with us. As Isaiah said, “to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Friday, December 8, 2017

Silent Night!! Will WE Remain Silent?

This anonymous devotion spoke to my heart as I read the words. I even took the time to read the words again. I wanted to soak in the truth that was being shared as well as examine my need to apply this truth to my life. Will I (you) continue to sing and worship even during the difficult and challenging times? Will I choose to allow the "noise" around me drown out my praises to God? I (you) may be called on to make the difficult choices in life when it comes to standing strong in my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ!!

Musicians' Daily Devotion:  "Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany determined to take over the German church and dictate the nation's religion.  He falsely accused many of the clergymen of treason, theft, or immoral practices; thus priests, nuns, and church leaders were arrested on trumped-up charges.  Religious publications were suspended.  Hitler encouraged couples to be married by state officials rather than by priests and pastors.  In 1935 he outlawed prayer in the schools and he did all he could to replace Bible-reading with Nazi propaganda.  
     
He had greater difficulty with the holidays because Germans had faithfully observed Easter and Christmas for centuries.  Carols and nativity plays were banned from the schools in 1938, and even the name Christmas was changed to Yuletide.  Holy days became holidays and the sacred was secularized.  
     
Sound familiar?  Today we're amazed to observe the same thing happening in America as social libertarians, seemingly aided by the media and the courts, trying to rob Christmas of its true meaning.  I implore you, along with me, to do whatever it takes to help others stay focused on Him during the season - to proclaim His birth, His life, His death and resurrection...how He was sent to earth to redeem mankind on that silent, starry night of long ago.  
     
Be determined as the Christians in Nazi Germany who still stood and sang in church the beautiful carols of Christ's birth.  One of those songs we all know from memory is "Silent Night."  I particularly love to sing it in German (it originally was written in German and accompanied by guitar) for, in some way, it seems to help me negate the attempt by Hitler to stamp out Jesus Christ:
                                               
               Stille Nacht
      Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
      Alles schlaft; einsam wacht
      Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
      Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
      Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
      Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!     (Anonymous)

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Christmas story or Christmas MESSAGE

A few weeks ago in Bible Study; one of the participants made a statement that continues to resonate in my heart on a daily basis. I am paraphrasing her words but this is the essence of what she said.   “We have taken the story of Christmas and treated it as a “story” rather than remembering and realizing that the celebration of Christmas is more than just the rehashing of an “old story.” The birth of Christ is one of the many “messages” that God has declared through the ages. These messages were intended, designed, planned and even orchestrated by our Heavenly Father as a means of providing fallen mankind with an opportunity to have a relationship as well as fellowship with the Lord God Almighty!! 

I have come to declare today that my previous statement is more than just a story but it is a DIRECT MESSAGE FROM HEAVEN TO THE PEOPLE ON PLANET EARTH. God fulfilled His plan to offer redemption, rescue, as well as Salvation to “whosoever would believe on the name of the Lord.” The Holy Spirit is challenging me and now I am going to challenge you today. We need to upgrade the birth of Christ from more just a “story” to the GREATEST MESSAGE THAT HAS EVER BEEN DECLARED ON PLANET EARTH!!! Is it possible that Christianity in general has “drifted away” from the powerful Message that is brought to this earth through the incarnation of Jesus, the Son of God? We are being called to celebrate that message as well as share that message with this world!!!

Isaiah 7:14, Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel (God with us). (NKJV)

Hebrews 6:17-19, Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,” (NIV)

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

This is no TIME TO BE IDLE

I would like to share a portion of a letter that I shared with our church family today. I trust that each of us will be challenged to seek to walk in a deeper, stronger, developing relationship with Jesus Christ!!

Good morning! I trust that you are sensing the Holy Spirit at work in your heart and life. I know that I sense Him calling me to draw closer to Him on a daily basis. The world in which we are living at this present time reminds us that we need God more than ever before.

We have made the turn away from Thanksgiving and we are quickly moving toward our encounter with the Christmas "holidays." Christians look at Christmas through a different set of eyes. We see more than a simple holiday; we see the celebration of the birth of our Lord  and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I am going to share a statement that I placed on Facebook yesterday. I would encourage you to read it again even if you read it yesterday and allow the words to "marinate" in your soul. I truly believe that God is calling each of us to examine our lives and make sure that we are moving forward in our relationship with Christ. This thought came into my mind yesterday morning as I was listening to my car's engine idling as it was warming up. The car was using up its supply of fuel even though it was not even moving. Could that same principle be true with our soul? Satan desires for believers to grow complacent sitting in a state of "spiritual idling." Their relationship with God has leveled off. Their spiritual engine is still running but they are not moving forward in their relationship with Christ. They are in the state of "idling" but their "spiritual fuel" supply is disappearing. I believe that God's plans for our lives includes more than just sitting and idling. He has called each of us to an ABUNDANT LIFE IN CHRIST!!

Charles Spurgeon spoke this great reminder to each of us, "the past is gone; the future has not arrived; we shall never have any time but time present. We are called to serve God promptly. This quote has also been attributed to Charles Spurgeon: "Do not fritter away your life in thinking of what you intend to do tomorrow as if that could make up for the idleness of today. No man ever served God by doing things tomorrow. If we honor Christ and are blessed, it is by the things which we do today."

I truly believe that this is a day and time in which God is calling us out of "idling" and He is calling us to follow Him NOW!! We must stop waiting. We must stop procrastinating. We must stop sitting on the side lines. We must become very active in our pursuit of more of God in our individual lives. Each of us (including me) must answer this call as an individual believer.


2 Corinthians 6:1-2, As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation. (NLT)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

But, Where are the Nine?

Luke 17 15-19, And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.   17 So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed?  But where are the nine? 18 Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.” (NKJV)

This passage of scripture continues to marinate in my heart and spirit! I continue to examine my response to the the blessings of God. Do I take the time to offer genuine praise, honor and worship to God or do I just offer a brief response of gratitude to God and then get back to living my life? Doesn't God deserve more than mere "lip service"? But is it possible that there is another question that we need to be asking ourselves? "Is it possible that God is looking for more than just "lip service"? The Word of God does reveal that Jesus did ask the one leper who returned about the other nine who did not return!! I wonder if God has ever looked for us or listened for our voice. 

I presented these following questions to the New River congregation on Sunday. I truly believe that God spoke these words in my heart and I believe that we need to review them in our hearts as we reflect on the blessings that God provides in our daily lives.

Did the nine lepers find more important things to do with their time since they had received this new freedom?

Did the nine lepers think that they would take the time some other day to thank Jesus?


Did the nine lepers take this encounter with God for granted? Could they have felt that they “earned” this blessing because of all that they had endured in their lives?


Did the nine lepers appreciate the gift more than they did the giver of the gift?


Were the nine lepers just content to enjoy their new life and the new freedoms/opportunities that they were experiencing? Were they so captured by the moment that the “attitude of forgetfulness” took control of their lives?

We must not allow the attitude of "forgetfulness or lack of genuine gratitude" gain a foothold in our lives!!

Monday, November 27, 2017

I'm Back

I can not believe that it has been over a month since I last shared my thoughts with you. I have used other platforms of social media to express those feelings that God has placed in my heart but have not taken the time to share them in this particular platform. But I have come back today with some of the same "inspirations" in my heart such as: "I am convinced that God still desires to awaken the church in America to a deeper and more meaningful relationship with Him. I also still believe that God is looking for "true worshipers" who will worship from the heart and not just their religious mind. I also still believe that God responds to a "praying church" that will focus on the needs of others more than their own needs. One other thing, I still believe that God is looking for a church that will truly love Him in action and in deeds and not just with fancy words that seeks to impress their fellow human beings. WOW!! I am feeling better already since I have taken the time to write down a few of my core beliefs.

We just finished celebrating "Thanksgiving." But true thanksgiving is more than a holiday; it is a way of life for believers. I truly desire to live a life that is grateful to God and mindful of the blessings that He provides for me on a daily basis. I would like to share some thoughts from a recent sermon that I shared at New River.

Luke 17 15-19, And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.   17 So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed?  But where are the nine? 18 Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”19 And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.” (NKJV)

Do we still exhibit a humble attitude of gratitude, or have we graduated beyond gratefulness? In fact, the more we grow in the grace of God, the more thankful we should become. God provides each of us many with many opportunities to show up and speak up with thanksgiving at various chapters in our lives. For example, how long has it been since we thanked God for the employment that we have at the present time? Very few of us have a “perfect’ job but we do have a job which assists us in meeting the needs of life.   Let’s face this fact, it is a lot easier and simpler to grumble and complain. There are certainly times that we can more easily identify what we don’t like quicker than we can identify what we do like and appreciate. We must have an “attitude checkup” from time to time so that we can open wide our mouths with words of thanksgiving. I truly believe this action on our part will allow us to watch the Lord perform wonderful works around us as well as in us. Gratitude speaks up words of praise, appreciation and thankfulness to its Savior! Gratitude speaks out for our Savior and all of the daily benefits that He consistently places in our lives!!!