Exalting the Wrong Thing

At times, the church unintentionally exalts the wrong things. Let’s look at two examples.

Scripture Memorization
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great if kids and adults have a bunch of verses memorized, but are they truly living out those scriptures?

Knowledge without action is just knowledge.

James 2:17-22 “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?”

Accepting “The Gospel”
Accepting the Gospel is great, but this is just the first step. Jesus spoke in simple parables, and yet it seems we still miss the message. Receiving does not automatically mean life or fruit.

Mar 4:13-20 “[Jesus] said to them, “Do you not understand this parable?…The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.
Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”
But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

The Gospel isn’t like a pill we swallow once and we’re good to go, nor is it the golden parachute we slip on if the plane’s going down. Rather the gospel is something we need in our life like air. It’s not a one time need or interaction. The Gospel is an ongoing intake of God’s love, mercy, grace, etc. God gave us Life and is giving us life (this is the gospel) so that we get to live and show His love, mercy, and grace to others. This is where faith becomes fruit. Where the seed that is sowed, becomes a plant, is fruitful, and participates in the harvest.

Challenge: We need to exalt God in our lives not just the things of God. Because without God the things of God mean nothing. Only, with God does Scripture speak Truth, and only with God does the Gospel bring Life.

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Just An Interesting Thought

The first thing Jesus did was communicate to His disciples that He wanted them!

I had never thought of this until a couple of weeks ago when a pastor made the comment that rabbis did not usually choose their disciples, rather disciples typically had to come to the rabbi and basically ask to be his disciple. If the rabbi was really someone, too, he might have so many people wanting to be his disciple that he would choose one disciple over another depending on their merits, etc.

So, I don’t know about you, but I’ve always read Jesus’s first interactions with His disciples and the words “Follow me” as more of a request/command. But, from a Jewish perspective, Jesus was a renown rabbi who was saying to fisherman, “I want you!”

1Jo 4:19 “We love Him because He first loved us.”

Challenge: Let’s see how often we can change our approach from telling other people to be different to instead first expressing how important they are to us.

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Happy New Year!

We have seen 2017 shift into the past and now face 2018.

To some this is a cause for uproarious celebration.
To others this event brings somber reflection.
Or perhaps to many it’s both.

If we’re fortunate, we have learned many lessons over the last year, though probably not all in nice happy ways. Really some of the most significant lessons God teaches us are often not taught through good times but rather through hard times.

Stepping forward into 2018, fearing the mistakes of my own past, I think of Proverbs 16:9.

The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” (NASB)

Challenge: Absorb the lessons God taught you this last year, do not neglect the lessons He is still trying to teach you, and embrace His grace within your pursuit of both.

May you have a new Year of Hope and Life in HIM!

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Merry Christmas!

Enjoy God’s creativity, and praise Him for your own uniqueness!

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The True Light of Christmas

1Jo 2:8 “…the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.”

Psalm 96:6-10
Honor and majesty are before Him;
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
Give to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
Give to the LORD glory and strength.
Give to the LORD the glory due His name;
Bring an offering, and come into His courts.
Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness!
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns…”

Challenge: Shine Light this Christmas!

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Reminders of Christmas

What if, that first Christmas, there had been no New Born King? What if there had been no promised Messiah? What if there had been no announcement to the shepherds of a Savior? What would happen to our living nativity? What would happen to our Christmas music?
What would happen if Christ wasn’t part of Christmas?

We have so many fun festivities during the Christmas holiday: hot drinks, fun lights, music, parties, and laughter. All of these add to it being a wonderful time of the year, but sometimes its easy to forget what actually makes Christmas the most wonderful time of the year.

Often we think of Easter as the Christian holiday, but really without Christmas there would have been no Easter. Every event that matters in Christianity is tied forward or back to Christmas.
Do you know? If you type “Christmas definition” into Google, this is what you get, “the annual Christian festival celebrating Christ’s birth, held on December 25 in the Western Church.”

That’s right!

We can’t remove Christ from Christmas! He is Christmas.

Isa 9:6-7 “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it
with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”

Luk 2:7-14 “[Mary] brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger…there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and [the shepherds] were greatly afraid.
Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’”

A Savior! (The One Who Saves Others)
Who is Christ! (The Messiah-the Promised Deliverer)
The Lord! (The Ruler-with Power, Authority, and Influence)

Mar 15:25-26 Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him. And the inscription of His accusation was written above: THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Mar 15:34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” (If you have never read Psalm 22 in conjunction with this verse you need to do so. It is breathtaking.)
Mar 15:37-39 “And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, [and said, ‘It is finished!’ John 19:30] and breathed His last. Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, ‘Truly this Man was the Son of God!’”

Mat 28:1-6 “Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.’”

John 20:26-31 “And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him , ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’ And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Challenge: My hope is that this Christmas finds you truly living for your Lord and King.
2Co 5:14-15 “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” Truly He is the Son of God!

Merry Christmas!

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Practical Worldview: Exhorting One Another

Our God is a Comforter.
2Co 7:6 “…God, who comforts the downcast…”

Are we also walking out this character trait of His?

When you’re feeling at a loss in your Christian walk, what gets you going again? Someone slapping you on the back and saying, “Gosh, you’re a Christian, pull yourself together.”?
 Or is it someone coming alone beside you and saying, “It’s okay. God has not abandoned you. He loves you and is here for you, and so am I.”?
Speak Truth! Speak Love! And Speak Life! Basically, speak Jesus (John 14:6)!

1Th 5:9-11 “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.”

Heb 10:23 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Challenge: If you can, each day this week, choose someone to encourage and exhort in their walk with Jesus!

I want to start now, and I want to say to each of you reading this: You are so incredibly loved! God knows you inside and out, and He wants you. Even in your worst moments, He wants you. And He’s not going away! And neither is the true Church. We are here, and we love you!

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