Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve


Opening Scripture: Psalms 65:11 You crown the year with Your goodness, And Your paths drip with abundance. (NKJV)

What does it mean when God says that He crowns the year? In order to understand this better, let’s look at what King David, the writer of this song, understood the year to be.

Of course King David was an Israelite born to the tribe of Judah. He was very well educated in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These books were understood to be written by Moses and handed down as both history and law for God’s children.

Not only was David familiar with the Torah but was also privileged to have prophets and other spiritual leaders surrounding him who continually studied the scriptures and other sacred writings which were handed down through the generations, detailing God’s interaction with mankind. Many stories and traditions were rehearsed and passed on by word of mouth for generations prior to Moses who we understand committed them to writing.

King David was familiar with the covenant God made with Noah recorded in Genesis. This covenant declared that God would never again destroy the earth by a flood. A reminder of this covenant is still seen today, as it was in David’s day, each time we observe a rainbow in the sky. God continued His promise to Noah and his descendants by proclaiming that:

"While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease." (Genesis 8:22)

David knew that each year contained this promise and that one could expect seasons to be predictable according to God’s grace.

When David wrote Psalms 65 as a song of praise and thanksgiving to God, it is no wonder that he included the fact that God crowns each year with His goodness … but why did He use a picture of a crown?

The crown which David speaks of here is in reference to the end of the year, the harvest-time of the year, if you will. You see, the Hebrew calendar is not the same as the Julian calendar … in other words, David’s calendar and his observance of the new year is not perhaps what you are used to if you are more familiar with the Western world’s system of tracking days and weeks and months.

In fact, it can seem a bit strange to some of us when we first realize that the Jewish New Year does not even begin on the first day of the first month of the Jewish calendar. Before I fully explain, let me read a passage from the book of Leviticus, chapter 23. I know this passage is not easy to understand just by simply reading it from our modern day frame of reference, but I will explain it along the way.

Leviticus 23 KJV
23 ¶ And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
24 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.
25 Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
26 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
27 Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
28 And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God.

The Jewish New Year for things like people, animals, legal contacts and things like the calculating calendar years and years of jubilee etc, actually begins on the first day of the seventh month, the month of Tishrei. It is believed that man was first created on this day and each year on this day called Rosh Hashanah a new year begins.

The first ten days of each new year are observed as days of repentance, seeking God’s forgiveness of the sins of the past year, concluding on the tenth day of Tishrei with Yom Kippur, known as the Day of Atonement.

Jewish tradition holds that God inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year in a book on Rosh Hashanah, New Year’s day, and waits through the ten days of repentance until Yom Kippur before sealing that fate. During the ten days of repentance people attempt to mend their ways, curb their behavior and seek forgiveness for things done against God and man, hoping to affect a more positive fate for the coming year. At the end of Yom Kippur one considers himself absolved of sins by God and destiny set for the new year.

This is, of course, a very rudimentary lesson on these subjects, however suffice it to say that King David understood what the end of a year hoped to bring. Tishrei, the first month of the new year, coincides with the autumn and harvest time as far as seasons go and more closely with September/October of our more familiar calendar. In fact, Rosh Hashanah was last celebrated beginning at sundown on September 29, 2008, causing Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement this year to fall on October 8th and 9th.

Why is any of this important to you and me?

King David, a man after God’s own heart, understood and wrote that God always intends to crown our year with goodness, to end our year and in perhaps some likeness, our life and time on earth, with a bountiful harvest. God has a habit of saving the best for last!

Many believe, in fact most every studied person I am acquainted with, that God will send His Son, Messiah of the Jews and Savior of the World, back to earth in this Jewish season of the New Year, Rosh Hashanah. Prior to His coming the year, or season or time on the earth, will be marked by the ultimate fulfillment of this David’s prophecy, a great world harvest of souls.

The book of Revelation confirms that God will instruct the earth to be harvested in the season of ripened fruit. And, we are told by Jesus that the word and Kingdom of God will reproduce only three glories or stages of growth before reaching final maturity, first the blade, then the ear and then the full corn in the ear, representing the fruit in its fullness at harvest time.

Notice once again the scripture from Psalms 65:

Psalms 65:11 You crown the year with Your goodness, And Your paths drip with abundance. (NKJV)

The New Living Translation says:

Psalms 65:11 You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance. (NLT)

I don’t know how exact or accurate this translation is in reference to the hard pathways of God, but these things I do know:

1. Without regard as to when you celebrate your new year … Every New Year is a time to review and rededicate one’s life to the Lord.
2. It is God’s will and intent to bless you as much as you will let Him … this is already written in the Book.
3. The path of God for your life drips with abundance, even when the path seems hard.

Decide tonight that you are going to use this special time to review and rededicate your life to the Lord. Perhaps you too may find the need to enter into some solemn days of repentance, seeking God’s forgiveness and blessing on your next year. Surely He will hear you, He will forgive you and He will bless your life.

4. Lastly, Don’t forget … A great harvest in on its way!

God bless you and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Finishing Strong


Winston Churchill said, “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”

It has been said that it matters less where you begin in life than where you end up. I believe this statement has merit.

Life can be likened to a race or a game with a definite beginning, a definite end and a whole lot of time in the middle where people jockey for position. As long as you are still in the race, there’s a chance you will win. But, take yourself out of the game and it’s certain you lose.

One significant difference between life and any other game or race, is that in life we only compete against ourselves. Even though others may be involved, each person’s life is judged by no greater criteria than how they did when measured against their own individual potential.

Life offers us opportunities both to fail and to succeed and these always come wrapped together in the same package.

We cannot always determine what we go through but we can determine how we will go through it.

There is a song from the 80’s or 90’s which says,

I am determined to be invincible
Till He has finished His purpose in me
Nothing can shake me and He’ll never forsake me
I am determined to live for the King!

Determination is often the ingredient that holds us true to course even in the midst of winds which blow contrary to our chosen path. Determination turns our potential into reality.

Most stories about people in the Bible contain some element of a hardship they faced and details how they handled these situations.

This morning, as we approach the end of this year, we are going to take a critical look the lives of three people in the Bible. These three people face situations in life which gives them opportunity to fail or succeed, depending on how they choose to handle these situations.

The first person we are going to look at is Joseph, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. You can find his story beginning in the 30th chapter of Genesis.


* Born eleventh of the twelve sons of Jacob, the first son of Jacob’s favored wife Rachael, who had been barren for many, many years.
* As Rachael’s son, Joseph became the favorite son. This disparity created a great sibling rivalry between Joseph and his brothers.
* One day Joseph was sold into slavery to foreigners by his ten older brothers who hated him with a jealous hatred.
* Joseph spent years in slavery and prison in a foreign land.
* But Joseph never forgot his loyalty and his commitment to Jehovah, the covenant God of his fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
* Although his hardships increased and lasted near twenty years, Joseph won the battles within himself and kept his faith.
* In the end Joseph became second ruler over all of the land of Egypt and saved his family from starvation and became a key player in the plan of God for the whole world.
* We remember Joseph best of all from his life scripture when he faced his brothers and had power over them to punish them for what they had done to him. He could have taken revenge but …
* Joseph saw a bigger picture than his painful past and said:

Genesis 45:5 "But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.

* Joseph realized that he had been chosen by God and that the things which had happened to him were for a greater purpose.
* We too have been chosen … Jesus said it this way:

John 15:16 "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

* Neither the world nor the devil holds ultimate authority or power over your life. When standing trial before Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea, Pilate told Jesus, “Don’t you know who I am? I have the power to crucify you or set you free!”

John 19:11 Jesus answered, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin." (Allow me to tell you who is really in trouble here.)

After it was all said and done, Joseph, and Jesus, finished strong.

The second person we are going to look at today is Esther, Queen of the Persian Empire


* Esther lived in Persia, modern Iran, about the year 479BC.
* Esther was a Jewish girl who lost both of her parents at an early age and began being cared for by her older cousin, Mordecai.
* Most likely still a teenager, Esther was forced to enter a contest to become Queen of Persia … the rules were very strict and required Esther to enter the harem of the King Xerxes … in the course of time, Esther won the King’s favor and was crowned Queen.
* However, Esther was not always welcomed in court, as the law stated that if anyone came to see the King without first being summoned, they would be summarily executed.
* This was also true for even the Queen. The only escape from this certain death sentence was for the King to grant an immediate pardon and this was very, very rare.
* There came a time when the King signed a law that allowed Jews to be stolen from, and even murdered without penalty. At this time the King was unaware that his Queen, Esther, was a Jew.
* Mordecai knew that Esther was the only person who could possibly help. He asked Esther to go to the King on behalf of her people.
* Initially Esther refused out of fear for her life but later realized that perhaps this was the very reason why she had been blessed to become Queen in the first place. Maybe this was all a part of God’s bigger plan.
* We remember Esther best of all from her life scripture as she faced the most difficult decision of her life: Should she risk her life and position to speak up for others who were being mistreated?
* She put her trust in God and said:

Esther 4:16b “I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”

* Esther went unannounced before the King, received his immediate favor and pardon, artfully pled her case strategically guided by the Holy Spirit, and won a great victory.

Now that is finishing strong.

* You see, the Bible says:

Romans 9:16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.

* God really is in control and He is working all things together for the good of them who love Him and for those who are called according to His purposes. (Romans 8:28)

So far this morning we have looked at two very common and ordinary people in their day, Joseph and Esther. You may be more familiar with the next person.

The third person we are going to review is actually a work in progress … the third person is you.


* I do not know all it took God to get you to this place or what He has planned for your life which, at this moment, you are completely unaware of. However, what I do know is that God is much more involved in your life than you can imagine and that He is presently working to perfect those things which concern you.
* Just like Joseph, Esther and even the Apostle Paul along with so many others in the Bible, for the rest of your life you will continue to be a work in progress. Each day and in every way the encounters life affords you will present you with opportunities to fail and opportunities to succeed … it all depends on how you handle life.
* You have been chosen by God and are presently being prepared to serve His plan in your greatest capacity.
* Do not fear the pressures, problems and/or the uncertainties of life. Our God is able and with Him all things are possible … even your success.
* What will your life scripture be? What will you say in the end when you have faced the giant like David, been swallowed up by a great fish like Jonah, found yourself in a new place where you have no family or friends like Ruth, are asked to believe something impossible like Mary or given some great tasks to fulfill like the Apostles were given by Jesus when He ascended into heaven?
* What will your last words be? How will others remember you?
* With each decision you are writing the story others will one day tell about you. What will be your legacy?

The Apostle Paul penned his when he said to Timothy:

2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Joseph finished strong, Esther finished strong and I have confidence that you can too.

Decide right now that you are going to begin a new chapter in your life. Why wait until January 1st to make your resolution? Make your declaration today and choose to finish 2008 strong.

Victory and success begin with a decision and they gain daily strength through the daily declaration of our faith in God’s future for our life.

The Bible is a book of true life stories in which people, despite the hardships of life, finish strong because of their faith in God.

You can be one of God’s success stories … ask Him to help you and He will.

Get on God’s side and finish strong.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Miracles of Christmas


Key Scripture: 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. (NKJV)

Christmas is filled with miracles. For example, there’s:

I. The Miracle of Incarnation

John 1 NKJV
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

A. Isaiah prophesied that a virgin would conceive and bear a Son, who would be called Immanuel, meaning: God with us.

B. Jesus is both: The Son of Man and The Son of God, God Incarnate, God made flesh.

C. How can this thing be? It’s a miracle … the miracle of incarnation – The Word became flesh.

The Miracle of Reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5: 19 … God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself …

A. The death of Jesus did not save every person, but did make salvation available to every person. This is the miracle of reconciliation.

Romans 5:10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

B. Reconciliation has little to do with winning the sinner back to love and loyalty to God. Reconciliation speaks rather to the restoration of God’s forfeited favor and the removal of His merited wrath. God’s anger was appeased and therefore mankind was reconciled.

C. Sin demands death; Justice demands punishment; Reconciliation demands sacrifice. Jesus restored God’s opportunity to forgive. Justice was satisfied, anger appeased, the wall of separation was abolished, all by the death of our Savior, God’s Son, Jesus the Messiah made possible by that first Christmas.

D. The miracle of reconciliation restored man to a place where God’s favor and grace could be accessed by sinners who were once disallowed appeal and pardon.

E. The death of Jesus satisfied justice and made God friendly toward sinners, at peace with mankind, no longer enemies and opened the door of salvation to all who would sincerely apply.

Reconciliation makes salvation a possibility … your decision makes salvation a reality.

F. Both the miracles of incarnation and reconciliation were acts of God on behalf of all mankind. Through these miracles God made a way for us to be saved.

G. Now … Salvation is only one decision away, and that decision is yours! He is reaching out to you … reach back and be saved.

The Miracle of Salvation

John 3 NKJV
16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

A. When the Angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her that she had been chosen to be the mother of the Son of God, Messiah of her people and Savior of the world, her answer was simple and yet so powerful:

Luke 1:38 Mary responded, "I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true." (NLT)

B. Whatever He wants! What does God want?

1 Timothy 2: 4 He wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. (NLT)

C. Even you!

D. We are saved by grace through faith and all of that made possible because of Christmas.

Note: There are people who want to take Christ out of Christmas. They want to celebrate a holiday without it being a holy day. However, without Christ there is no Christmas and there are no happy holidays or seasons greetings with which to bless our family and friends. Salvation comes to every heart because Jesus came to Bethlehem near 2000 years ago, the Son of God, born of a Virgin, a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and placed in a manger.

E. Christmas reminds us of the miracle of incarnation, the miracle of reconciliation, the miracle of salvation and:

IV. The Miracle of Participation

1 Timothy 1:12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.

A. The miracles did not stop with the birth of Jesus, or the shepherds visitation, the wise men’s gifts or even with the death of our Lord, oh no … these things were only the beginning of miracles.

C. The Miracle of Participation is a miracle of our earthly involvement in a heavenly plan.
1. From Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and wise men, to the angels in heaven, God involves others in His plan.
2. He is a: Whosoever will; He that hath an ear; lest at any time kind of God.
3. God always planned to include each one of us in the Miracle of Christmas.

C. You see, it is true: God has a plan, He will succeed and you have a chance to participate.

C. The Continuing Miracles of Christmas are all about you!

2 Corinthians 5:20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ …

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light

The Christmas Story demands that we who have received the Good News Ambassador from Heaven, become Good News Ambassadors for Heaven.

Decide right now that you will share the Good News with someone this Christmas. Decide to be someone’s Christmas present this year, sent from heaven’s hand to a hurting soul. Lets all make this Christmas about the Christ Who came, born of the Virgin Mary in a stable manger in the town of Bethlehem.

This Jesus the Incarnate; Jesus the Reconciler; Jesus the Savior, wants to partner with us as we participate together in His Father’s plan.

What will be your answer? Will you participate? Will you be saved? Will you be someone’s Christmas present this year … sent by heaven’s hand to a waiting soul? Why not today!

Let God know your answer right now as we pray together.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas In Prophecy

The Story Foretold

The Christmas story is one of the birth of Jesus the Christ, Messiah of the Jews and Savior of the world.

Many through the years have claimed to be the Messiah but only one fulfills the prophecies written about Him more than 1000 years before His birth. No man could orchestrate these specific qualifications so as to arrange for himself to be born in the right place at the right time to the right family. No … this birth was not the plan nor the hand of man … this impossibility could only be God!

This morning we will not look at the more than 1000 prophecies easily discovered in the Old Testament concerning Messiah which were all fulfilled in Jesus, but rather we will look at only a few which surround the birth of Messiah, the reason for our celebration this Christmas season.

Watch with me as we review the story foretold and see how it narrows more and more taking us to only one certain conclusion –

Jesus is Messiah!

Prophecy says that:

Messiah will be the seed of a woman
Genesis 3:15 Galatians 4:4

A son of mankind, a descendant of Eve … Narrowing the field farther the prophecies say that:

Messiah will be the descendant of Abraham
Genesis 12:3 Galatians 3:16

Galatians 3:16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "And to your Seed," who is Christ.

Farther narrowing the possibilities:

Messiah will be the descendant of Judah
Genesis 49:10 Luke 3:33

Messiah will be the descendant of David
Jeremiah 23 & 33 Luke 1:32-33

Not only is Messiah a son of mankind, the seed of Abraham, from the Tribe of Judah, in the lineage of David, but here is the real clincher …

Messiah will be born of a Virgin
Isaiah 7:14 Matthew 1:18-25

That’s right, a virgin shall conceive, the scriptures did not say from what town the woman would be from but there is a prophecy about Messiah being called a Nazarene and Mary was from the town of Nazareth … go figure.

Even though scriptures do not say where the mother will be from, prophecy specifically tells the town of Messiah’s birth ---

Messiah will be born in Bethlehem
Micah 5:2 Matthew 2:1

As if that were not enough to narrow the field of prospects, the prophet Daniel recorded a conversation he had with the angel Gabriel concerning a vision God had given him. Guess what?

Messiah will be born at a specific time
Daniel 9:25-26 Galatians 4:4

This is how Gabriel explained it to Daniel …

Key Scriptures:
Daniel 9 NLT
25 Now listen and understand! Seven sets of seven plus sixty-two sets of seven will pass from the time the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, (The Messiah), comes. Jerusalem will be rebuilt with streets and strong defenses, despite the perilous times.
26 "After this period of sixty-two sets of seven, the Anointed One, (The Messiah), will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing, and a ruler will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple. The end will come with a flood, and war and its miseries are decreed from that time to the very end.

It is certain that when the wise men from the east saw the star rise and came to Jerusalem seeking the one who was to be born as King of the Jews, the religious leaders and priest did not only know the place of His birth but also the time. It had now been 490 years since the decree to rebuild Jerusalem was given by Cyrus and it was now time for Messiah. Furthermore there is the prophecy of:

The Gospel foretold through Isaiah
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 The Gospels

This morning I am taking no personal license suggesting these prophecies refer to Messiah and His coming. Long before the birth of Jesus, learned scholars believed and taught that these portions of scriptures pointed directly to Messiah. It was the most studied and religious Jewish scholars of the day whom King Herod sought out to learn the place of Messiah’s birth. How did they know? It was foretold in prophecy, prophecies which they studied, prophecies which point to Messiah.

One of the confusing elements surrounding the prophecies of Messiah is that these prophecies paint two pictures. There are more than 300 prophecies of the first coming of Messiah as a suffering Servant, (Isaiah 53), but there are 500 prophecies about the second coming of Messiah as a triumphant King, (Zachariah 14).

There are not two Messiahs but rather only one begotten Son. The Jews for the most part are waiting for the triumphant One. People all over the world have questioned why it is so hard for the Jews who are God’s chosen people to accept Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah seeing He fulfilled every prophecy.

Have you ever expected to get one thing for Christmas and got something else which you considered less than what you wanted?

Well that’s the way the Jews viewed Jesus when He came, born as a babe, in humble surroundings, lived His life and died seemingly accomplishing nothing. But that’s what the prophecy in Daniel said would happen … remember …

Daniel 9:26 … the Anointed One, (The Messiah), will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing …

*** (Perhaps I will insert the attached personal story) ***

More than simply offering us the kingdoms of this world for a lifetime, a risen and victorious Messiah offers us the Kingdom of Heaven for eternity.

Don’t fall prey to being disappointed with what Jesus has done for you so far. Believe me, it’s not over yet!

Let me leave you with three points to ponder:

1. No one else can make the claim Jesus makes
2. God gives us what we need, not just what we want
3. We should be thankful for everything we get

(If I do not go to this or another personal story, I will close here)

Personal Story of Christmas Expectations

It must have been 1963 or 1964, I was nine or ten years old. That year I went to four different schools: Fort Worth, Lubbock, Oklahoma City and Texarkana. I was in the third grade and my dad was trying real hard to quit drinking while my mom was working to keep the family together and make a new home with each geographical cure which my father attempted.

I was a rambunctious child, a bit overactive, last in the line of four children, the baby of the family and it showed. I don’t remember much about my siblings that year, life seemed to be mostly about me and my mom. Making new friends was hard but not as hard as loosing them. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why I try so hard now to make deep and lasting relationships. I don’t want to digress into self analysis, so let me continue with the story.

We were in Oklahoma City I think, or maybe it was Lubbock … anyway, it was Christmas time and there was snow everywhere. I was so excited about Christmas, there was so much I wanted and I had rehearsed it all to my parents over and over again. I remember wanting a sled to ride down the snow covered driveway, a cowboy rifle and pistol, an electric race car set with a figure eight track and a science kit which the boy across the street said included x-ray glasses that let you see through walls.

I even have a vivid memory of getting back up late one night and talking with my dad when he got home, trying to convince him to buy me a real cowboy pistol, just in case they didn’t make them anymore once I got to be a man. He saw through that argument and assured me that they would still be around for a few more years. Ok, so I couldn’t get the real pistol, I could live with that, but the rest of the stuff I knew was in the bag.

I still remember coming into the living room Christmas morning where there were a few things set around the room for us kids. I saw some gloves and a hat, along with my stocking full of nuts and a candy cane. I quickly handled those things and began searching for the real stash. Under the tree I found a tube wrapped in Christmas paper, twisted at the ends and tied with ribbons. It had my name on it. It felt like the kind of tube Christmas paper came rolled on.

This is the cowboy rifle I thought, the sled must be outside. I attempted to set the tube aside and keep looking but my mom redirected me to the present at hand and said, “Merry Christmas”.

As I opened it to find several small metal matchbox type cars and little trucks, I got that gut wrenching feeling that this was all there was and if I did not act like I was happy, mom sure would be hurt. My gut feeling was right.

I was blessed with loving and giving parents. But, you can only give what you have and since then I have looked back on that Christmas and a few following that one and realize that my parents always gave all they had. Who could be disappointed with a mom and dad like that?

Through the years I have no doubt disappointed the expectations of my children and others but one thing I have never done, I have never given less than all I had, and many times, like you, I have given much more than I could afford.

Yet, at times, and with some people, less that what is expected is just not enough, no matter how much it costs the one who gave.

Have you ever expected to get one thing for Christmas and got something else … something you thought was less than you expected? Well …

Jesus was not what the Jews expected for Christmas. They expected the triumphant king and got the suffering servant … but it’s not over yet!

What we expect to get can sometimes keep us from accepting what we are given.

What we want can keep us from getting what we need.

What we hope to get can keep us from enjoying what others give us.

The Jews of that day did not accept Jesus as Messiah because He was not what they expected, not what they wanted, not what they imagined they needed.


More than simply offering us the kingdoms of this world for a lifetime, a risen and victorious Messiah offers us the Kingdom of Heaven for eternity.

Don’t fall prey to being disappointed with what Jesus has done for you so far. God gave His best and believe me, it’s not over yet!

Let me leave you with three points to ponder:

1. No one else can make the claim Jesus makes
2. God gives us what we need, not just what we want
3. We should be thankful for everything we get

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Bible Study- Continued


Last week we began the Christmas Story by reading from the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke. We learned some history about how the priests in that day were divided up into groups or courses and assigned certain times and duties to minister.

One day in about 4 to 6 BC a priest who lived in the hill country of Judea, about 12 miles south of Jerusalem, in what was most likely in the city of Hebron, was chosen to burn incense before the Lord at the time of prayer. We are told that this priest was advanced in years, as was his wife. His name is Zacharias and his wife’s name is Elizabeth … they had no children because Elizabeth was barren.

As Zacharias offered the prayers of God’s children upon the altar of incense in the Holy Place of the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, an angel of the Lord appeared to him.

Note: It had been 400 years since an angel or prophet had been heard in Israel and 500 years since this same angel, Gabriel, had appeared to Daniel and given him understanding of the coming Messiah.

500 years earlier when Gabriel came to Daniel as recorded in Daniel 10:12, Gabriel told Daniel that he had come because of Daniel’s continued prayer.

It is worth noting that this same angel, Gabriel, has now been sent to Zacharias while Zacharias is in church praying. It seems that Gabriel has come for the same reason … because of Zacharias’ consistent prayer.

God still sends help to those who attend church and pray!

Let’s read from this point as we pick up with the Christmas story in:

Luke 1 NKJV
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
14 "And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.
15 "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.
16 "And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.
17 "He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
18 And Zacharias said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years."
19 And the angel answered and said to him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings.
20 "But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time."
21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple.
22 But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.

Zacharias remained speechless until their son was born and officially named John, which means: Jehovah is a gracious giver or God is a God of blessings. Once that fact was announced and settled, Zacharias’ tongue was loosed. (Luke 1:63)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Faith & Grace


Christmas is about life and life is all about relationship.

Without healthy and productive relationships, life as we understand it cannot continue.

Life was designed by God to be a positive experience, mutually beneficial, a two way street if you will, a series of giving and receiving by everyone in a relationship. However, this is not always how our lives are lived.

Have you ever seen a relationship between two individuals in which one person felt entitled and was functionally selfish, demanding or self absorbed? I am talking about relationships between friends, siblings or spouses, even parent-child relationships where one person makes most things all about them, what they want, how they feel, a ‘what’s in it for me’ kind of thing, more motivated to get than to give?

God did not design life to be lived like this. It’s sad to imagine people, perhaps some of you listening today, who are burdened with the frustrations and disappointments which come from being in partnership with a selfish and uncaring person. Sadder still is the thought that someone listening this morning might be that self absorbed individual who makes life hell for others whenever they feel like it. God resists us when we are proud and self absorbed but He gives grace to the humble.

Life is designed to be a two way street and even God, though He is Sovereign and therefore accountable to no one, yet He offers us relationship based upon mutual respect and mutual benefit.

Keep that in mind while we turn to our text for today and take a fresh look at faith and grace.

Titus 2 NKJV
11 ¶ For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,
12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,
13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

It is the grace of God which brings salvation.

What is grace? Grace is unmerited or undeserved favor. I’m not nice because I have to be but because I choose to be. God does not bless us because He has to but because He wants to. That’s grace …

Mentioned 159 times in the Bible, grace is the constant reminder of God’s goodness and God’s hope for man. The first time we see the word grace appear in the Bible is in:

Genesis 6:8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

In a time when wickedness permeated the whole world and men lived according to their own evil lusts and selfish desires, God brought salvation and hope of a new day through His grace. God offered Noah a partnership. What this partnership required was Noah’s trust in God in return for God’s trust in Noah.

You see, not only was Noah being required to put his future in God’s hands, God was requiring Himself to put His Own future into Noah’s hands.

God required Noah to trust Him however, God was also requiring Himself to trust Noah.

Remember I told you earlier that relationship is a two way street. God did not ask Noah to do anything that God was unwilling to do Himself!

I told you about the first time that the word grace is mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 6:5, let me also show the last time the word grace is mentioned in the bible. It just so happens … well that’s not actually true … nothing ‘just so happens’ in the Bible … it’s a plan, a very well thought out, well laid out and very purposeful, strategic, and revealing plan … anyway … the last time grace is mentioned:

The last thing He wanted to leave with us was just the same thing He had given to Noah that helped Noah get to his new day … grace … So, let’s turn to the very last book of the Bible, the very last chapter, the very last page, the very last scripture … the last word God gave to us:

Revelation 22:21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

This is the final thought God wanted to leave with us – the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

How can I explain grace in such a way that you are likely not to forget? Well, let’s look at another scripture that will help.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Grace is that gift which saves us and, we access grace through faith.

Romans 5:2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Remember I told you that relationships are meant to be two way streets, even our relationship with God? Well, that is what these scriptures are trying to teach us. Simply put:

Faith is man believing in God.
Grace is God believing in man.

Faith is man trusting God.
Grace is God trusting man.

Faith is what you offer God hoping to change your world.
Grace is what God offers you hoping to change His world.

Do you trust in God? Well He trusts in you too!

Do you trust your life and future to Him?
He trusts His life and future to you.

So once again, what is Christmas all about?

Christmas is about life and life is all about relationship.

Just like we first read in Titus 2:11, I pray that the grace of God which brings salvation appears to all men this Christmas season and … may this grace appear to others through you. May you find both faith and grace for your relationships, faith that they will be all God wants them to be and the grace to do your part in every relationship.

Decide that you are going to be a greater reflection of God this Christmas season and fight every temptation to think, act or be self absorbed. Remember, life is a two way street, it’s not all about you, so give at least as much as you hope to receive.

I pray you find the grace to give to others.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Christmas Bible Study


This year we are going to enjoy and benefit from the Wednesday evenings of December by studying the Word together from the book of Luke, Chapter 1, concerning the events immediately before and leading up to the birth of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, Savior of the world.

In a simple approach to study we will no doubt learn some history and many relevant principles which will apply to our lives today. You may wish to keep a pen and paper ready to write those points which God reveals to you. These evenings together will no doubt prove to be valuable times as we study the word together.

So, without further conversation, let’s turn in our Bibles to Luke 1. I will dispense with the general greetings of Luke contained in the first 4 verses of chapter 1. Not because these are unimportant or without merit, but more that they have little to do with this season we are approaching in which we rehearse and celebrate the Christmas story.

Suffice it to say that of all the writers of the books of the Bible, Luke was perhaps the most studied and academically capable of producing a well researched and well documented argument. This is not the first letter which Luke writes to defend this Gospel of Jesus as Messiah. Luke’s credibility and approach to truth is unimpeachable by any standard and gives great support to the whole counsel of God’s Word.

By the way, Luke was not a disciple of Jesus as was Matthew or John and he is not even a Jew but rather a Gentile. In fact, Luke is the only Gentile writer of the New Testament or perhaps for the whole bible as many understand. He was a beloved physician by profession, one who was converted and became a disciple and follower of the Apostle Paul who felt compelled to search out the truth and write an account of the same.

Lest I digress, allow us to turn and begin now in verse 5.

Luke 1 NKJV
5 ¶ There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division,
9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
14 "And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.
15 "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.
16 "And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.
17 "He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
18 And Zacharias said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years."
19 And the angel answered and said to him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings.
20 "But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time."
21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple.
22 But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.
23 And so it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house.
24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying,
25 "Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people."

Supporting Information:

Herod – (Hero) Herod the Great appointed King of Judea by the Roman Senate in 40BC – died 4BC.

Jacob’s Prophecy:
Genesis 49:10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.

Shiloh refers to Messiah. For the first time since being established, the scepter has departed from Judah and Herod, a Roman, is now the recognized King --- It is now time for Messiah to come.

Judea = He shall be praised. This is the southern kingdom with its capital in Jerusalem.

Zacharias = Remembered by God.

Abijah = Possessor/Worshipper of God. One of and the eighth course of the 24 courses of priests, sons of Aaron.

Aaron = Light Bringer

Elisabeth = Oath of God

John = Jehovah is a gracious giver

Gabriel = Man of God

It was not an act of sin that had kept Elizabeth barren. Sometimes the answer to the question, “What am I doing wrong?”, is “nothing!”

We must keep praying.

There is more support in the Bible for rolling dice or drawing straws than for raising hands to vote. Zacharias lot of which one of the four courses of priestly duties he would do was determined not by the ‘luck of the draw’, but rather by the ‘God of the draw’. To burn incense was the most favored and special course of duties.

The priest enters the Holy Place and offers incense to carry the prayers of God’s people upward to heaven. Without a priest, who is the mediator between God and man, to offer sacrifice, the people have no access to God.

It had been 400 years since an angel or prophet had been heard in Israel and 500 years since this same angel, Gabriel, had appeared to Daniel and given him the understanding of the coming Messiah.

Gabriel also told Daniel in Daniel 10:12 that he had come to him because of Daniel’s continual prayers. The same thing was told Zacharias … Gabriel mentioned that his prayer was heard.

God still speaks to people who regularly attend church and pray.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hidden Lessons-The Power of Prayer


I cannot describe to the importance of knowing the stories and the characters of the Bible. Like some of you, I too was raised with a Bible in the home and had a general knowledge of God. I went to Sunday school and Church some Sundays and learned many wonderful things. However, it was not until I dedicated my life to the Lord that I decided to get more serious about the Bible.

Soon after my rededication I became both committed and faithful to memorize scriptures and follow a daily devotional. Since then I have learned quite a number of scriptures which I still draw on today and I continue to truly benefit from that commitment. I am never without a Word to direct me, shine a light on my path or give me peace. Each scripture is like an arrow in my quiver, a smooth rock in my shepherd’s bag or a fresh cup of water to pour into a thirsty soul. I would not take anything for the Word of God at my command.

At one point however, I noticed that I knew so many scriptures and stories which were powerful in and of themselves, but were yet somehow disconnected from one another. I could heap scripture after scripture onto any problem and drop verse after verse into conversations on virtually any subject and rattle them off with speed and accuracy. It was truly amazing for those who heard me, amazing but not life changing, and I am in the life changing business.

Some of you will understand what I am going to say because you experience this phenomenon as well … I see truth like pictures in my mind. And, if I can find the words to describe that truth, it seems to bring clarity and understanding both to me and to others. Jesus also did this when He used parables to describe a principle of God … like the parable of the man who sowed seeds in different types of soil. These comparisons help us to grasp parallel truths.

Anyway, although I had command of hundreds of individual scripture verses and could build a solid wall for God or against the devil by using each scripture as a block laid securely, nonetheless something was missing. Like I said, my command of the scriptures was always amazing but not always life changing.

After seeking God as to what was missing, one day I saw, as it were, a slice of bread with globs of mayonnaise dropped onto the bread. These globs represented me dropping scriptures on lives and into situations. I guess I was building a sandwich and I guess maybe you are that sandwich. Globs of mayonnaise! What did this mean?

It was not difficult to realize what needed to be done … I needed to smooth out the globs and spread the mayonnaise to more gracefully cover these slices of life. How could I do this? It came to me in an instant. I had spent so much time seeking and searching for scriptures to support the revelation I had received concerning salvation, water baptism, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, healing, prosperity, deliverance, persecution, marriage, child raising, business, and most every other subject imaginable.

I had globs and globs of scriptures I could drop onto anyone’s life situation. However I often had too much in one place and either did not take the time or did not have the grace to spread these out with any greater affect. What did I need? I needed continuity and a broader approach to God’s Word.

More than just knowing what God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit said, I needed to know why They said it, what the surrounding conditions were and what came both before and afterwards. The only way I could get this frame of reference was to actually read the whole story, as it had been written, not as a quest to prove any one doctrinal theory, but as the story of God and man.

So, that’s just what I did. Without checking off my three or four chapters here and there, like the Bible reading plans I had done before: So many chapters from the Old Testament, Psalms and the New Testament. Rather I just sat and read the Bible like a novel.

What I found was the marvelous story of life in the books of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Then there was Joshua, and Judges and Ruth and Samuel, Esther, Job, Jonah, Daniel and so on.

Then the New Testament! The life of Christ in the Gospels, the Church of Acts, the Epistles … Oh my, what stories!

With these things in mind, turn with me to:

Psalms 78 NLT
1 ¶ O my people, listen to my teaching. Open your ears to what I am saying,
2 for I will speak to you in a parable. I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—
3 stories we have heard and know, stories our ancestors handed down to us.
4 We will not hide these truths from our children but will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD. We will tell of His power and the mighty miracles He did.
5 For He issued his decree to Jacob; He gave his law to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children,
6 so the next generation might know them—even the children not yet born—that they in turn might teach their children.
7 So each generation can set its hope anew on God, remembering His glorious miracles and obeying His commands.

We are directed by God to teach our children hidden lessons from the well known stories of the Bible. The only way we can accomplish this directive is to actually know these stories. More than just learning or memorizing scriptures which we can use on command, we need to know the story into which that scripture is set. In this way we pass on to the next generation not only the hidden lessons we can teach but we also introduce them to their opportunity to gain personal revelation from God for themselves.

So, without further ado, lets find our hidden lesson for this morning in the story of Jesus as told in the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark.

Based on Mark’s account of the Gospel, when it came time for Jesus to begin His public ministry He traveled from Galilee to the place where John was baptizing in the Jordan. We know this to be near the old city of Jericho. Jesus was baptized by John who witnessed the heavens opening and the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus in the form of a dove. John heard a voice from heaven saying, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Immediately the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness where for forty days He was tempted by satan and was with the wild beasts while angels ministered to Him. Afterwards Jesus returned to the Galilee preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God, encouraging all to repent and believe the Good News.

It was in the Galilee by the Sea where Jesus called His first disciples to follow Him declaring to Peter and his brother, Andrew, that He would make them to become fishers of men.

One Sabbath day Jesus went to the synagogue in Capernaum and began to teach. Everyone there was amazed to hear the Word taught with such authority. Suddenly a man possessed with an unclean spirit interrupted the synagogue and demanded that Jesus stop teaching and leave them alone. Jesus forcefully commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man and the man was violently delivered. The news spread quickly throughout the region.

When Jesus left the synagogue that Sabbath day He went to Peter’s house where Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever. Jesus took her hand and lifted her up … immediately she was healed and began to serve the guests. That evening, when the sun had set, after Sabbath had ended, the whole city gathered at the door of Peter’s house and watched Jesus as He healed and delivered many who were sick or possessed with demon spirits.

How was Jesus always able to heal and deliver so many? He had a renewable source of power --- Our Hidden Lesson For Today --- The Power of Prayer! When Jesus finished ministering to all of those that evening no doubt He was tired and well spent. So …

Mark 1:35 The next morning Jesus awoke long before daybreak and went out alone into the wilderness to pray. (NLT)

You see, Jesus had just come from forty days of prayer in the wilderness of Judea by which He was strengthened to minister to so many and meet their desperate needs. Now, before continuing His mission to the other cities and towns throughout the region of Galilee, He finds it necessary to renew His strength once again.

His strength came from prayer. We find this hidden lesson confirmed in a later story of the Bible from the 9th Chapter of Mark.

Mark 9 NLT
28 Afterward, when Jesus was alone in the house with his disciples, they asked him, "Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?"
29 Jesus replied, "This kind can be cast out only by prayer."

Perhaps these disciples were powerless because they were prayer-less. It could be that they believed they had received some semi-magical power apart from a dependency upon God. Evil spirits are quick to discern spiritual complacency and a lack of moral power which is its natural result. Your problems know you and how you really are just as they knew Jesus in Mark 1:34 or Paul in Acts 19:15.

Later in ministry Jesus stands ready to raise Lazarus from the dead and shows that He is prepared for this miracle when in John 11 He says: "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me, and I know that You always hear Me …”

Jesus simply went from the place of prayer to the place of prayer and in between He worked miracles.

Isaiah 40:31 But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength.

Find your new strength and renew your power in Prayer. And, discover more Hidden Lessons for yourself as you read the Stories of the Bible. Commit today and change your life forever!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Study of the Miraculous Part Five-Thanksgiving


Sometimes people receive a miracle and never realize the real potential of the miracle. Only God knows the true potential and far reaching affects of the miracle He is willing to give you.

The story of my grandmother’s birth and my mother’s troubled pregnancies.

A miracle is nothing less than a Divine intervention by God. Every gift and each blessing from God is a miracle. However, God most often blesses us for reasons beyond our current circumstances.

The prime example of this truth is seen through the life and continuing impact of our father of faith, Abraham.

The story beginning in Genesis 11 and continuing, tells how Abraham and his wife Sarah passed the childbearing years of life together without having children. Both Abraham and Sarah so deeply desired a child and made it their constant prayer. However, as time went on and Abraham neared 100 years old and with Sarah almost 90, it seemed their dreams and prayers would go unanswered in their favor. This despite the fact that God had promised them a child.

Twenty-five years after they received God’s promise of a son, long after Sarah was thought able to conceive by any natural means, she became pregnant and miraculously gave birth to her firstborn son, Isaac. God told them that He was going to bless them, and He did, but that is not all God said about their miracle. God also told them what He wanted to see after He had blessed them. We read this about this in:

Genesis 12:2 I will cause you to become the father of a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and I will make you a blessing to others. (NLT)

Simply put, God intended to bless Abraham so that He could bless so many others through Abraham. It is the same with almost every other miracle recorded in the Bible. Every blessing God sends our way is meant to overflow our lives in such a way that we become a blessing to others. It’s the ‘cup running over’ principle from Psalms 23.

This is the best way to show true thanksgiving to God for His abundant blessings on our life.

Luke 12:48b Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given.

You see, there are two sure pathways to prosperity. The first truth from God’s Word involves us becoming a blessing to others even when we are in need. This is the biblical principle of sowing and reaping. We all understand that seed must first be planted before one can expect a crop. This truth is stated in many forms throughout both the Old and the New Testaments. Simply put, sometimes helping others get what they need opens up a heavenly door for our needs to be met. Job found this to be true when at last he prayed for his enemies, God turned his situation around and blessed Job with twice as much as he lost in return.

Proverbs 19:17 ¶ If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD—and he will repay you!

The second principle which points us to a sure pathway to prosperity is giving to others because we have been given to first. To bless others with the blessing we were blessed with. With each and every blessing we receive, we are admonished to take a portion of that blessing and cheerfully offer it to God as a means of giving thanks. In fact, when God wants to bless the work of the Kingdom by funding some church or ministry, He most often sends it through some person. How does God normally accomplish this?

God knows what each one of us will do with what he gives us. He bases this on what He has observed us doing with what He has already given us thus far. The only way to change His opinion of us, if we need to, is to begin a new history with what we have right now and continue impressing Him with the very next blessing we receive.

Luke 6:38 If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving—large or small—it will be used to measure what is given back to you. (NLT)

Miracle blessings are designed to reach farther than their initial and immediate impact. From the miracle of creation in the Garden of Eden to the miracle of the Children of Israel being delivered from Egypt, from the miracle blessings God gave Rahab and Ruth to the miracle given a young girl named Mary from the town of Nazareth. Miracles and blessings are designed to have far reaching impact, often much farther than the initial or immediate need.

This is what God intended when He decided to bless the widow of 2 Kings 4 with her miracle. We have read this story together over and again during these past few weeks. It has become a very familiar passage for many of us. Tonight I want to bring a conclusion to this series and tie it to our responsibility to show Thanksgiving for each and every blessing we receive from God.

Luke 17 NLT
16 He fell face down on the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, "Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine?

It is noted in the Gospel of Luke that Jesus provided a miracle pathway to healing for ten lepers. These lepers were healed after they had left Jesus’ presence. Upon realizing that they had received the miracle they had requested only one returned to give proper thanksgiving.

This account points to the facts that few make the effort to show true heart felt thanksgiving for their miracles and how important it is to Jesus that God get the glory for each and every blessing.

How does give glory to God … by first recognizing Him as our Source and then by using our miracle results as He first intended when He granted our miracle. Getting a blessing from God is only half of the story, what we do with our miracle is the rest.

When Jesus rescued the woman who had been caught in adultery from being stoned to death, he simply asked her to let that moment affect the rest of her life, to ‘go her way and sin no more’ lest a greater trouble come upon her. What could be a greater trouble than certain death by stoning? To fall into the hands of a Living God Whom you never thanked for all of the blessings He sacrificed His Son for you to receive.

In conclusion let me say that:

* God is willing to grant you a miracle if you will participate.
* The miracle will meet your need and more.
* God wants you to thank Him, and give Him all the credit.
* He wants to direct the more.

Remember, thanksgiving is simply: Thanks & Giving … Thank God and Give.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Biblically Correct


John 3 NKJV
16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
17 "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

The church does not offer condemnation for the world but rather salvation.

Believers in Jesus as Messiah, Savior and Lord cannot however, sit idly by and allow the truth of God’s Word to fade from the scenes of life in some misguided attempt to remain socially acceptable or politically correct.

God’s Word is applicable, relevant and meaningful for today. The world, societal tolerance, culture and even laws have changed over the past 2000 years however, God’s love has not.

What was considered unacceptable behavior when the New Testament was penned is still unacceptable behavior today and despite debate, sin is still sin, truth is still truth and the church is still the church.

The church can ill afford to dim the light of the glorious gospel of Christ Jesus to appease a changing world.

Winston Churchill said, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile hoping it will eat him last.”

The sinful nature of man can never be satisfied. Sin knows no boundaries and if tolerated, will continue to grow like an unchallenged cancer and will ultimately consume its victim.

Our challenge as a Believer in Jesus is simple: We can choose to be right with God or be right with the world. What will you do? Will you be ‘politically correct’, or ‘biblically correct’? It’s a fundamental choice and … don’t think you can escape facing this choice.

Just two short Sundays ago while we were here in church worshipping God, just before our children were released to their Sunday classes, a church in Lansing, Michigan was being attacked. Perhaps you read about it in the papers or heard it on the news … but maybe not … you see it was not widely reported.

In case you missed it, allow me to read an excerpt from a church member’s eyewitness account that Sunday morning, November 9th.

“Prayer had just finished when men and women stood up in pockets across the congregation, on the main floor and in the balcony. “Jesus was gay,” they shouted among other profanities and blasphemies as they rushed the stage. Some forced their way through rows of women and kids to try to hang a profane banner from the balcony while others began tossing fliers into the air. Two women made their way to the pulpit and began to kiss.” (Source: American Family Association of Michigan -

I purposefully chose the least offensive quote I found to share with you this morning in order to preserve the dignity of our service and not unduly offend you or your family. Other reports tell of a much more violent and profane disruption from this organized group who brought a reporter from a local newspaper in tow hoping to catch church members physically resisting these attacks. (Which by the way, did not happen)

It seems that a gay rights group based in Chicago had organized this raid and staged a rather loud and vulgar protest just outside the church building. Once they had successfully drawn the church’s security personnel outside, those who had been sitting strategically throughout the congregation were instructed by their leader to begin their coordinated disruption of the Sunday service inside. This violent raid was staged in attempts to intimidate the Church membership.

Now lest you think this can only happen way up North or is only a threat if you live on the ‘Left’ or ‘Right’ coasts of the US, think again.

On that same Sunday morning, just two weeks ago, right in the heart of the Bible-Belt, smack dab in the middle of Texas, at a relatively conservative, ‘not bothering nobody’ kind of church, the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, guess what happened?

An organized group of gay activist from the greater Dallas-Ft Worth area coordinated a protest, lining both sides of the street in front of the downtown church singing “Jesus Loves Me” while carrying signs promoting a gay and lesbian agenda and shouting “I’m Gay and It’s OK” to families coming for worship and others who passed by.

Why did they choose to demonstrate at this particular church? It seems the Pastor intended to preach a series on family values which focused on some ‘politically in-correct’ topics of the day. Topics which this group and groups like this believe should be outside the parameters of Church teachings. Topics which some believe should be taken out from under the 1st Amendment Freedom of Speech protections and placed under the Hate Crimes Act.

The organizer of that protest said she was there because she wanted to protect the children sitting in the pews who are struggling with their sexual identity from hearing only one side of the truth. (My synopsis) “I was like those kids,” she said. “The hardest part of coming out as a lesbian is aligning your faith with who your are.”

It is certain that God loves every person without regard as to how they feel, what they do or what led them to feel and do what they feel and do. However, there are some things which God’s word calls sin and disorder no matter why we feel or do them. And He says to entertain, foster or feed a desire within yourself or others towards homosexuality is sin, no more so than any other sexual sin, but sin nonetheless. You see, our feelings are not a license to sin.

Contrary to what some think, we can ill afford to teach our children or allow ourselves to align our faith with who - we - are … rather we must align who we are with our faith … the faith which is in Christ our Lord and His Word.

To bring these issues even closer to home …

Last week our church received an email protesting our assumed anti-gay position because our news department had chosen to see the events I have mentioned this morning as news worthy and dared to include them in our weekly broadcasts of ChurchOnline News. We were encouraged to not continue pursuing these types of stories in the future. Some believe the church should have no voice in social affairs and no opinion concerning such controversial matters.

It’s amazing to realize that people and groups are watching to make sure churches do not get out of line or become a threat to their own political agendas … right here in Southeast Texas, right here in your church … a church which has a long standing reputation of preaching an uplifting, non-condemning, not critical, non-judgmental word straight from the Bible.

We simply believe and teach that truth is truth and that truth is never determined by a show of hands or guided by emerging trends. Truth transcends time and culture. We follow neither the traditions nor the changing morals of society but rather stand firmly and lovingly upon the infallible, undeniable, living Word of our benevolent Creator.

Without apology the Church is a shining light designed to illuminate God’s pathway for salvation. We cannot allow that Light to dim or be hidden from view. It is the Light of Truth which draws men to Christ. If that Light shines on any darkness it is because darkness exists in the lives of all who approach the light.

Jesus is the Light of the world and there is no darkness at all in Him … no desire to judge, criticize or condemn, but to save. We condemn ourselves when we refuse to embrace the Truth.

Earlier I read from John 3:16 & 17. Allow me to re-read those scriptures and continue a bit further in that passage to help us remain biblically correct.

John 3 NKJV
16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
17 "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18 "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 "For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
21 "But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God."

No man can condemn you. However, people are condemned when they stand before the truth and refuse to embrace it. This is the condemnation that the light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. (v.19)

The remedy for darkness, the cure for sin, the help every person needs, is Jesus. Come to the light and open your heart and mind to God’s Word without pre-condition … listen to what He says, don’t be condemned, let the Word save you!

In closing I asked you to accept these biblically correct Facts
1. Jesus loves us the way we are but He will not agree with nor will He bless our sin.
2. We don’t have to be afraid of the Bible, it is our salvation.
3. If we will seek and embrace the truth, it will set us free.
4. We must teach our children the Biblically correct truth.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Study of the Miraculous: Part Four-Keep Your Hand on Your Miracle


Part One – ‘Participation’

Part Two – ‘Don’t Limit God’

Part Three – ‘Time, Place & People’

2 Kings 4 KJV
1 ¶ Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen.
2 And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil.
3 Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few.
4 And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full.

Notice the specifics of this command in verse 4:

4 And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full.

* It is understood that this woman was the one who was designated by God to do the pouring. This is confirmed later in verse 5 as we see that she indeed did the pouring herself. This gives support to the idea that who has their hand on the miracle can be important.

* I have seen time and again both natural and spiritual doors which would not open for one person open wide for another. I have watched adventures which for the most part were solid and were wisely approached but yet failed under the direction of one person and later flourished in the hands of another.

* Considering this phenomenon along with confirmations throughout the scriptures, I have concluded that at times it is critical that the person chosen and inspired by God with a vision be the person who handles the direction of that vision. It’s hard to hand off a pregnancy to someone else and many visions die for lack of that type of care. The hands of a nurse can never replace the womb of a mother. And the minds of followers cannot replace the hearts of a leader.

* There is a time to include others in the vision, for counsel and for care … but do it too early and the vision will be weakened and may die.

* We have a saying here at GTCOTR that “If it’s your baby, you raise it.” Why? Because no one naturally cares for a baby like its mother.

* There are usually ten good ways to do any one thing. However, the person who is going to be doing it is often the best person to get it up and running and also the best person to fix it if it begins to fail.

* Keep in mind that there is a difference between doing good stuff for God and then being directed by God to do God stuff. There is a difference between Good Stuff for God and God’s Stuff. Miracles fall into the category of God Stuff. Without the person God chooses doing it just like God said, miracles will not work. God gives miracle visions and miracle instructions to those whom He chooses.

* When someone comes to me with a great idea which I believe deserves to be implemented, I often enlist that person to manage the formation of that service or ministry. If they are unwilling to be that involved, the idea, even though good and profitable, may not get implemented. Why? Because it is not always easy to find someone one else impregnated with another person’s vision who will naturally care for its birth and development.

Philippians 2:20 For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.

* There is a natural care which a mother has for a baby and a natural care in those to whom God gives His vision for churches, ministries and miracles. No one will care for a vision or ministry like the creator of it. Just like God Who made it His responsibility to take care of mankind, give His time and energy, come up with a plan to meet their need, pay for it and stick with it through good times and bad times to get the job done.

* God chooses birth mothers and handmaidens for His projects. He impregnates them with His Word, faith, wisdom, love, care and concern for the life and well being of those projects.

* Many have the gift of pointing out the blatantly obvious and cataloging all of the things that need to be done. However, there are fewer who are willing to give of their time, talent or treasury to make those same things happen. Believe me, there is no shortage of vision but rather there is more often a shortage of readily available resources such as time or money which others are willing to commit to a project to see it through … especially if it is not their own project.

* Almost any person who has gone through puberty can create a child, but that doesn’t mean that they have the wherewithal to parent and properly raise the child to stand on its own, care for itself and reproduce responsibly. Still, the person who envisions and gives birth is often still the best person to see the matter through and to create structure and enlist others to help. This is why that if it is your baby, most likely you would be the best person to raise it.

* So, what am I saying? You may need to: Keep your hand on your miracle! Especially for things which you believe in which are struggling or failing in the hands of those you have given them to.

* When continuing to do your best does not accomplish the job and the job still has to be done, you may not be the one to do it.

* When others continue to do their best to accomplish a task but continue to fail, they may need to be replaced.

* Sometimes they may need to be better trained or supervised more closely. However at times … it’s just the wrong person on the project. This takes nothing away from that person but may only mean that God wants you more closely involved in your vision.

2 Kings 4:29 Then he said to Gehazi, Gird up thy loins, and take my staff in thine hand, and go thy way: if thou meet any man, salute him not; and if any salute thee, answer him not again: and lay my staff upon the face of the child.

* You may have a great staff, good friends and family, loyal servants and employees who will do it exactly like you say but nonetheless fail. If this is so it may be that you are the only one anointed to make some things work. Why? I don’t know why … but I do know it’s true and the Bible confirms it.

* The other extreme can also be a problem. If a quarter back is afraid to hand the ball off to others on the team and always has to run it himself, you have a problem that needs to be fixed. However, at some critical and strategic moments when yardage is a must, he is the best one to run the ball. Some miracle moments are keepers. We have to realize that this is God’s call, not ours.

* Notice again in verse 4 that this woman was told to pour out into ‘all’ those vessels. Don’t get tempted by tiredness or ‘just get enough’ thinking and quit in the middle of your miracle. Each miracle is designed by God to furnish what He has determined we need and not what we may think we need. The widow only saw herself needing to satisfy the creditors. God wanted to bless her much more than just her need. He supplied her need according to His riches and He desired to do exceeding abundantly above what she thought or asked for. Let the miracle run its full course and you may be blessed beyond your wildest imaginations. Don’t quench the Holy Spirit of God. The miraculous can be hard work. Don’t get tired and quit.

* ‘Those vessels’ referred to in verse 4 are empty vessels. One reason for pouring into empty vessels is that God did not want to have a mixed batch miracle. There is a difference between anointed oil and oil that is not anointed. Sometimes people try to pour the anointing of God into containers to top them off and give them an appearance of Godliness … this is not God’s plan.

* Man as a vessel cannot be two thirds filled with the world’s goods and then just add a little of God on the top to smooth things over and make them appear filled with God. Jesus sees right through that and says that the whole container is corrupt. He said to the religious of His time that they should not cleanse the outside and leave the inside unclean or allow sweet and bitter to come forth from the same well.

* Present yourself to God s clean vessels, empty of the world’s wisdom and the world’s answers. Ask God to fill you up with His anointed life. And, when God gives you something to do, treat the task as though it was your baby, a vision from God over which He has given you the care. Keep your hand on your miracle and let no one take your crown.

* Sometimes things don’t work because they just won’t work for anyone else but you.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What if...


What if there was really a God in heaven?
* What if He was Creator of the Universe, Sovereign Lord of everything and the Eternal Judge of all the souls of mankind?
* What if He was separated from His creation by a dark veil of sin?
* What if God so loved the world that He substituted His Only Begotten Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind?
* What if God established a law that whosoever embraced His Son, Jesus, as Lord would be saved from the powers of sin and eternal damnation?
* What if God decreed that any one who did not accept Jesus would be cast into outer darkness and live eternally in torment of the soul?
* What if this Sovereign God of the Universe set a time, a certain number of years, days and minutes in which He would give each individual their opportunity to take advantage of this salvation, after which time they could no longer access this grace?
* What if God gave every person who received salvation the responsibility to tell others about the opportunity to be born again into God’s family?
* What if God also set a time, a certain number of centuries, decades, years, months, days and hours, before He brought final judgment to the world and every soul who had ever lived?
* What if God wrote a book and gave it to mankind confirming what I’ve just said and describing how we would know the end was near?
* What if God chose a generation … to witness the return of Jesus to the earth and see Him rapture the saved to heaven before God unleashed His wrath upon all who choose to reject Him and live without Him in the ungodly corruption of this world?

The title of today’s message is:
* What if …
The question of the day is:
* What if we are that generation?

Key Scripture:
Esther 4:14 "For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

We live in exciting times. Imagine the days of the first church and the early disciples … the persecutions, the imprisonments, the martyrdoms … what exciting times to serve and to see the Kingdom of God advance against such odds and individuals.

There are two great days in every adventure: The day it begins and the day it ends – often with many adventurous days along the way.

Ecclesiastes 7:8 Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof … (KJV)

Ecclesiastes says that the end of a thing is better than the beginning thereof.

The New Living Translation says it this way:

Ecclesiastes 7:8 Finishing is better than starting …

Like a race in the Olympics, the excitement at the start when the gun sounds and the runners first get their footing. Along the way the pace changes while runners move within the pack. Then, near the end the excitement builds once again as the leaders push themselves to see who has the stamina, the heart, the power to win the race.

You’ve got to admit, we do get excited about the start of a race … but we stand with greater excitement to see who wins!

Every dedicated football player would love to get the chance to play in the Super Bowl … to perhaps make the winning play.

Every committed baseball player dreams of playing in the World Series and hitting a grand slam to clench the title.

Stand by any basketball court where young men are practicing, listen and you will eventually hear one of them saying something like this: “The score is 100 to 99 with just 3 seconds on the clock, he has the ball, can he score … he dribbles, he shoots, there’s the buzzer, will he make it? He makes it! Final score 101 to 100 … What a game!”

They are dreaming about themselves, encouraging themselves, speaking to themselves, preparing themselves … what you hear is from their heart … a desire to be in the heat of moment and win the game against the odds. God has put that desire in each one of us!

Not one of us has the lifelong dream of losing, failing, quitting …

Every diehard soldier longs to be on the front lines, fighting the war on the battlefield of determination.

And …

Every true Believer wants to live in the end times standing as a testimony of truth, facing down the enemies of the cross, holding back the forces of evil, serving in the last day Church filled with Power, caught up in the rapture of the saints just before the Anti-Christ reveals himself and takes over all world powers … beamed up just in the nick of time, just before the guillotine hits it mark.

Well, this just might be our chance!

Some generation will have the privilege and honor of facing the end times. Many prophets of old longed to be in that group but were not chosen for such a time as this. This is our day! Once again, Jesus has saved the best wine for last.

It’s like being asked to compete in the Olympics!

I believe that we are either that generation, or we are training that generation, who will see the return of Jesus and the end of this age.

We live in a day when the world only wants peace, prosperity and pleasure. Any person who can promise these will have the following of the whole world. Whoever can bring these will be their king.

The Church however knows that worldly peace, prosperity and pleasures are but fleeting illusions that can never fully satisfy. Don’t be fooled into thinking that any government of man has the answer.

You see, Jesus is the answer and He is coming back in your lifetime for you, whether He comes for everyone or not, He is coming for you. You will not live forever here in this life and we are told to prepare ourselves by living every day as if Jesus were coming back that day!

We should always be looking for the coming of the Lord …

Dear friends, if you are not already a believer in Jesus as the Messiah, Savior and Lord, then give Him your heart today. God is preparing your heart and mind to accept His Truth. All you have to do is trust Him, try Him and He will prove Himself real to you.

There is a peace which passes all understanding and this true peace will come to you from within, when you have Jesus, The Prince of Peace living on the inside of you.

There is prosperity, more than the gold and silver of this world can afford … prosperity which results from being an heir of God and a joint heir with Jesus Christ.

There are pleasures beyond your imagination awaiting you in the Kingdom of God. The Bible calls them ‘pleasures forevermore’.

Psalms 16:11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

If you will only make public what you already know in private to be true. There is a God and He is drawing you to become a Believer in Jesus as Messiah, Savior and Lord. Invite Him into your life today.

And Dear Saint,
I believe these are the last days, they are your last days for sure, in fact they are not only your last days … These days are your only days! You have but one life and one chance to make a difference throughout eternity. Your chance begins today …

This is the time to get serious about your salvation, your conviction and your commitment to Jesus as Lord. What are you doing with your everyday life? What are you pursuing? Is it God’s will for your life and are you making a difference? What can you do to better prepare yourself, your family and others for the coming of the Lord?
1. Increase your prayer commitment
2. Stop your pursuits of sin and selfish ambition
3. Return the Church to its original vision of winning the lost and equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.

Become a part of what God is doing in the earth. Surely He will do it even without you but what an opportunity we have to participate in the most exciting times this world has ever seen.

I feel just like I have been asked to participate in the Olympics, play in the Super Bowl, fight for the heavy weight championship of the world, or sling a rock at Goliath … the two minute warning has just been sounded and our game is at its most critical moment.

I leave you with four scriptures … testimonies of truth:
Luke 10:24 "I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it."
1 Thessalonians 2:19 For what is my hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?
James 5:8 Be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
1 Corinthians 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.