Sunday, December 19, 2010

What Christmas Means to Me


Growing up our family always celebrated Christmas with Santa Claus and presents under the tree, decorating the house, lots of great food and family gatherings. While at church however, we might have mentioned that this is the “time of year that Christ was born” we seemed preoccupied with the notion that since we couldn’t exactly pinpoint his birth date, we couldn’t properly celebrate Christ’s birth. So it seemed we simply “skimmed” over it. Instead we emphasized his death every week based in part because of Acts 20:7. A practice I still feel is ultimately much more important. But, had Jesus Christ not been born, He certainly could not have died either. You see without one there is no other. I admit again that without His perfect obedience, His being tempted, His cruel humiliation, punishment, death, and resurrection we simply could have no hope. In fact, it is this verse that I chose to be the basis of - the foundation of the rest of this story:

Give praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his great mercy he has given us a new birth and a hope that is alive. It is alive because Jesus Christ rose from the dead. 1 Peter 1:3

In this verse alone, it states that our hope is alive because Jesus Christ rose from the dead. But in my humble understanding, it is implied that our hope is alive because of EVERYTHING that Jesus Christ did and went through. It includes His resurrection, but how could He be resurrected without first being put to death? How could He be put to death without first being “captured”? And so on…

So again I say:
(please hover over any of the verses to read the scripture)

It is alive because Jesus Christ...

• is convincing men by his Spirit to live soberly, righteously, and godly Isaiah 9:7
• is reigning over His kingdom Isaiah 9:7
• is sitting on David's throne Isaiah 9:7
• is sitting at the right hand of LORD God Psalm 110:1
• serves as our high priest Psalm 110:4
• ascended to heaven Ephesians 4:10, Luke 24:51
• was seen alive by many people Mark 16:14, Acts 2:32
• redeemed us from every lawless deed Titus 2:14
• was raised from death Mark 16:6
• body was wrapped in linen and buried Mark 15:46
• freed those who were held in slavery to death Heb 2:15
• destroyed Satan's power over death Heb 2:14
• descended in hell Revelation 1:18
• died on the cross Mark 15:37
• cried out for his father on the cross Mark 15:34
• was crucified Mark 15:24
• was crowned with thorns and mocked Mark 15:17
• was bound and flogged Mark 15:1,15
• was spit upon, blindfolded and beaten Mark 14:65
• confessed that he was the son of God Mark 14:61,62
• was humiliated Acts 8:33
• was accused falsely by the religious elite Mark 14:55,56
• was betrayed by a kiss from a friend Mark 14:45,46
• prayed three times to bypass death Mark 14:41
• was overwhelmed with terrible sorrow Mark 14:34
• was impressed by the faith of the poor Mark 12:43
• was constantly tested by the religious elite Mark 12:13
• drove out the evil from the temple Mark 11:15
• entered Jerusalem as a King Mark 11:7-11
• predicted his betrayal, trial, torture, and execution Mark 10:33,34
• prayed for and blessed children Matthew 19:13, Mark 10:14
• denied himself of earthly pleasures Matthew 16:24
• was compassionate of people who were lost Mark 6:34
• spoke in parables to those who would listen Mark 4:2
• performed many miracles Matthew 11:4
• raised people from death Matthew 9:25
• invested time with those who needed forgiveness Mark 2:17
• ate with sinners Matthew 9:10
• forgave men their sins Matthew 9:2
• cast out demons Matthew 8:31
• calmed storms Matthew 8:24
• felt urgent about his business Matthew 8:22
• was declared by many people whom he healed Mark 1:45, Mark 5:20, Mark 7:36
• touched the unclean and unwanted Matthew 8:3, Mark 7:33, Mark 8:25
• prayed in solitary places Mark 1:35
• healed many of sickness Matthew 4:23
• called men to be his disciples Matthew 4:19
• preached the gospel Matthew 4:17
• confronted Satan Matthew 4:10
• knew and quoted scripture Matthew 4:4
• was tempted Matthew 4:1
• fasted and prayed Matthew 4:1
• was lead by the Spirit Matthew 4:1
• was confirmed by God Matthew 3:17
• was confirmed by the Holy Spirit Matthew 3:16
• was obedient Matthew 3:15
• was baptized Matthew 3:13
• was announced by John the baptist Mark 1:7
• was born of a virgin Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:18

Merry Christmas Everyone.



Thursday, January 14, 2010

Psalm 34 Broken and Crushed



A Psalm of David.

1 I will thank the LORD at all times. My lips will always praise him.
2 I will honor the Lord. Let those who are hurting hear and be joyful.
3 Join me in giving glory to the Lord. Let us honor him together.
4 I looked to the Lord, and he answered me. He saved me from everything I was afraid of.
5 Those who look to him beam with joy. They are never put to shame.
6 This poor man called out, and the LORD heard him. He saved him out of all of his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD stands guard around those who have respect for him. And he saves them.
8 Taste and see that the LORD is good. Blessed is the man who goes to him for safety.
9 You people of God, have respect for the Lord. Those who respect him have everything they need.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry. But those who look to the LORD have every good thing they need.
11 My children, come. Listen to me. I will teach you to have respect for the Lord.
12 Do you love life and want to see many good days?
13 Then keep your tongues from speaking evil. Keep your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn away from evil, and do good. Look for peace, and go after it.
15 The LORD looks with favor on those who are godly. His ears are open to their cry.
16 The LORD doesn't look with favor on those who do evil. He removes all memory of them from the earth.
17 Godly people cry out, and the LORD hears them. He saves them from all of their troubles.
18 The LORD is close to those whose hearts have been BROKEN. He saves those whose spirits have been CRUSHED.
19 Anyone who does what is right may have many troubles. But the LORD saves him from all of them.
20 The LORD watches over all of his bones. Not one of them will be broken.
21 Sinners will be killed by their own evil. The enemies of godly people will be judged.
22 The LORD sets those who serve him free. No one who goes to him for safety will be judged.
___________________________________________________
I ask for your prayers as again, just this evening at 10 pm I received a call from my employer that my "assignment has been terminated". That's quite a fancy way of saying that I was laid off - yet another time - the third time within a year. God has provided for me and my family during the past year, but I must say, it has been one of the toughest years I've ever been through. Praise God for providing for us. I am truly walking by faith, because I can see no way in front of me. I have no idea what I will be doing, or where I will be, or whatever will happen. I just hope, and pray, and ask God to go before me, and to lead the way, and to clear the way, and to give us peace that can only come from Him. God is the ONLY one on whom I can depend. My stomach is upset, I've now got a serious headache, and yes, I'm stressed out. God, please save me! Please! Good night.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

In God I Trust


Holy Father, find me. Search for me quickly! I feel as though I am adrift at sea and no one can spot me. I am but a speck, at a great distance away, too small to find. Father, your great waters are bobbing me up and down so that I am sick. I am unable to rescue myself, and no one else can hear my cry for help. I have sent out distress signals, but no one is watching. Everyone is busy emptying their own boats which are taking in water. I have given up on putting my confidence in those 'round about me. You have taught me that no one else is as reliable as you are. I have learned that I also have not heard or seen those flares from my friends. Father, forgive me for not being prepared, ready, and waiting for their signals.
-rest-
Father, you are my refuge. I am swimming hard to reach your shores. Please do not allow me to be removed from your safety. I know you are concerned for me, because there is no other who can protect like you. Where you are is always a good place to be found in times of trouble. Father, all of my troubles, cares, and worries - I throw them onto you. You receive them all so that I may rest easy and that I may be glad. You know how weary I am from running so hard away from them. You rub my sore muscles with your healing hands so that I fall quickly asleep.
-rest-
Father, you have rescued so many who have put their trust in you. You have delivered so many from such deadly perils, and you will deliver me as well. You are my only hope; there is no other on whom I can depend. There are many who have never heard of you, and therefore do not trust you like I do. But Lord, I cannot help but tell everyone how you have saved me. I have put my trust in you, and you have never left me alone. You have taught me in some difficult ways, but your lessons have become clear to me. It took me a while to see the answer clearly, but now I see how only you can be trusted.
-rest-
Father, I thought it was good for me to be proud, but you have taught me that I cannot. Instead, I boast only in what Christ has done for me, not what I have done for thee. Nothing I am; no matter how long I've followed you, can increase my worth in your eyes. I am no better than the best or worst in my life, I am only proud to be covered by Christ's blood. Without His life, sacrifice, and resurrection, all my hope would be lost. But because He reigns by your right hand, everything you've promised has already been guaranteed. Only in him and through faith in him may we approach you freely and confidently.
-rest-
So it is because of him I can come to you with my cries and petitions, knowing that you hear me. I am confident that you care for me, and that you will come quickly to my rescue. Have you not told me that I am worth more than the grass, the flowers, or the little birds? I know you care, and I will only trust in you. Please Father, now pick me up and place me in the cup of your hand and cover me. Dry me, warm me, feed me, protect me, provide for me, exalt me and elevate me in front of everyone. Allow me to proclaim to everyone how good you are, and what you've done for me. You have molded me, Father into a vessel of honor. Now Father, I am ready to be used for your purposes. Use me to pour out your Spirit onto others, Father. Use my touch to heal others pain. Use my voice to encourage others sorrow. Hear my prayers as I cry to you for them. Lord, come and rescue your people, and save us from this sorrow filled world. May the Holy son, Jesus Christ, my brother, take these words, and present them to you in his own way.
Amen.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Psalms 25


1 A Psalm of David. To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed; Let not my enemies triumph over me.
3 Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed; Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause.
4 Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths.
5 Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day.
6 Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your loving kindnesses, For they are from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; According to Your mercy remember me, For Your goodness' sake, O Lord.

8 Good and upright is the Lord; Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.
9 The humble He guides in justice, And the humble He teaches His way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth, To such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.
11 For Your name's sake, O Lord, Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.
12 Who is the man that fears the Lord? Him shall He teach in the way He chooses.
13 He himself shall dwell in prosperity, And his descendants shall inherit the earth.
14 The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, And He will show them His covenant.

15 My eyes are ever toward the Lord, For He shall pluck my feet out of the net.
16 Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, For I am desolate and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart have enlarged; Bring me out of my distresses!
18 Look on my affliction and my pain, And forgive all my sins.
19 Consider my enemies, for they are many; And they hate me with cruel hatred.
20 Keep my soul, and deliver me; Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You.
21 Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, For I wait for You.

22 Redeem Israel, O God, Out of all their troubles!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Are You Suffering?



Sometimes, it's hard to be motivated when bad things are happening all around, and also to yourself. In fact, when bad things happen to me, I'm often guilty of blaming God, or asking God why these things are happening. I am learning that our God is a perfect father in every way. That's not to say I believe if something bad happens, it's because God caused it to happen. Remember Job, God allowed Satan to have his way with Job. God was confident that whatever Satan did to Job, Job would remain faithful. But God does allow things to happen in our lives to break us, to strengthen us, and eventually cause us to depend on Him. Whatever situation I find myself in, it's helpful for me to remember that God is with me and will never leave me. God always remains. I might find myself to have left him, and squander my gifts and talents on something useless. But at the end of the day, when I find myself sitting in the muck, I know that If I return to God, He'll be there, waiting for me, and once He sees me walking down that road, He'll run to take me in.

So why do we have to suffer? I'm only going to offer up possibly one reason for now. I was talking with one of my older brothers the other day, and he gave me such a great reminder! By the way, I am so thankful for times when God's Spirit uses people to encourage others. My brother reminded me of the story of Joseph - in Egypt. Talk about a bad situation. Joseph was HATED by his brothers, in part because he was his father's favorite, also in part, because Joseph said the wrong thing at the wrong time. [Gen. 37:3, Gen. 37:5] So, his brothers stripped him and left him down in a well, only to raise him up again and sell him off to slave traders who were passing through. Joseph suddenly found himself caged, hungry, exposed, homeless, and far from home. That's a pretty bad situation in which I have never found myself in. Joseph was soon sold to a high ranking official in Egypt to serve he and his wife. Joseph quickly realized that God was on his side. Joseph realized that God was blessing him and he remained faithful to God. Once again, something else bad happened to Joseph which would quickly change his situation and level of comfort. He was accused of behaving improper to this official's wife and he was quickly thrown in jail. Again, I've never found myself to be in this bad of shape, but Joseph acted admirably. The jailor quickly realized that God was with this young man, and promoted him to be over all the prisoners and every activity that happened was first approved by Joseph. After serving a few years in prison - for nothing he had done, Joseph was quickly brought before Pharaoh - the leader of all of Egypt to interpret a dream. Joseph clearly explained to Pharaoh that he himself could not interpret, but that his God alone could. With God's help, Joseph explained to Pharaoh what his dream meant, and offered up a wise solution for them to follow to avoid ruin and devastation. Pharaoh realized that there was no one wiser than Joseph and immediately promoted him over all of Egypt. With God's help and the plan that He divinely explained to Joseph, Joseph's actions benefited all of Egypt and the surrounding nations. Everyone came to Egypt to buy food during a long famine and it was during this time that he was reunited with his family. Joseph realized and explained his greatest purpose in life was to be used by God to help save his family. [Genesis 45:5, Genesis 45:7, Genesis 45:8]

God can use people and their bad circumstances to bless others – if we allow ourselves to be used this way. It wasn't a joyous thing for Joseph to be mistreated, hated, sold into slavery, alienated from his family, and imprisoned. Joseph definitely trusted in God to take care of him, and God did bless Joseph greatly. As a result of Joseph's faithfulness, God blessed and protected a nation which would usher in the savior of the world!

Remember too, another mighty example of suffering found in the New Testament. The apostle Paul, an apostle of Christ who served much later after Jesus' life, was a faithful minister of God and Christ. Saul or Paul was chosen by God to serve him, and He wasn't going to make it easy for Paul either. [Acts 9:16] Some of his sufferings included these: [2 Corinthians 6:4-5, 2 Corinthians 11:23, 2 Corinthians 11:24, 2 Corinthians 11:25, 2 Corinthians 11:26, 2 Corinthians 11:27] But Paul realized that God was going to keep him going, that God was going to use him to further God's kingdom. In fact, Paul talks to his Christian brothers and sisters about his afflictions when he writes in Ephesians 3:13, clearly expressing that his sufferings were for THEIR glory. Just like Joseph suffered many things to secure and protect the people of God, Paul too was suffering for the benefit of the people of God. Think about even now, the benefits we have because of Paul's sufferings. What a blessing it is to open up the word of God and read Paul's writings - writings which were spoken to him by God, given to us so that we may know the will of God. [1 Timothy 3:15, 1 John 5:13]

As we suffer, may God give us His blessings and knowledge that our sufferings are first made to build us up and make us stronger so that we might encourage others to also be made stronger. [2 Thessalonians 1:3-4, James 1:3-4]. Take the challenge of recognizing our sufferings as being something from God then realize how it is we can bless others to their benefit. God works in mysterious ways, and He works in His own time.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Antenna



The other morning I was driving along on my way to work, listening to another good sermon on the radio. By the time I was getting close to the office, the signal was starting to cut out. The radio signal apparently comes all the way from St. Louis and reaches to parts of Memphis. This happens each day for me. Some days, If I leave later, I can hear the end of the program. If I leave sooner, I can catch the beginning of the program. Rarely do I leave at the perfect time to catch the whole program. But the other day, I was wishing I could have caught the ending. I was frustrated a little that in the best part of the sermon, the signal was cutting out – actually competing for a more local station. It would come and go, skipping over words and phrases, making it impossible for me to understand what was being said.

It reminded me of the old antenna I still have on my house that brings the TV signal into the TV in my bedroom, and the stereo in my living room. Ever so often, I’ve got to go outside and turn the antenna so that it points to the source. By turning the antenna to the source of the signal, I can get a perfect picture – without any static. With the antenna in my car, I’ve actually got to be within the area of the signal. When my car reaches the limit of the signal, I loose the signal. If I were able to turn back around and head toward the signal’s source, my car would again pick up the signal loud and clear.

So again, to have a good signal in my car depends where I am. In my home, it depends where my antenna is pointing.

Where am I standing at this moment? Am I facing God’s signal source? Or am all I hearing is static? Do I need to go and turn my antenna to face His signal? Or do I need to move closer? Do I need to get out of the area that I’m standing, and move to higher ground? May God grant me the strength and wisdom to always be in His signal, and when things around me distract or compete with His signal, may I turn or move closer to Him.

(sigh) I’ve got to get out there and turn the antenna now, the wind keeps blowing it around.