Saturday, December 28, 2019

Praise the Lord


Have you ever lost something? Something you greatly value? And after searching for it everywhere you happily find it? Then you get so excited that you tell your family and friends that you’ve found it? That’s how God feels about us … Let’s look at Luke 15.

A few days before Jesus was arrested and crucified in Jerusalem, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law of Moses were openly complaining about Him. They didn’t like the fact that Jesus spent the major portion of His time with tax collectors and notorious sinners. Jesus, wanting them to understand how God felt about sinners, decided to tell them a story hoping they would see themselves and the truth in the parable.

First Jesus told them about a man who had 100 sheep and one became lost. “Which of you, Jesus said, would not leave the 99 safe and go in search of the one that was lost? Finding it, a man would rejoice and tell all of his neighbors." Jesus concluded:

Luke 15
7  “I say to you that likewise there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!”

Jesus then proceeded with a second parable about a woman who had 10 silver coins and lost one. After lighting a lamp, sweeping the house and searching diligently, she found it. Upon finding the lost coin the woman called her friends and neighbors and said, “rejoice with me … for I have found the piece which I lost.”

10  “Likewise I say to you, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”
11  To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story … 
“A man had two sons.
12  The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
13  “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living.
14  About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve.
15  He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.
16  The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
17  “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!
18  I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you,
19  and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
20  “So he returned home …

Luke 15
20  “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.

·       There is reasonable evidence in this scripture to suggest the father was watching daily with great diligence, hoping for his son to come back home.
·       The father was already filled with a love and compassion that motivated him to action.
o   The scriptures say that Jesus was moved with compassion and healed the multitude.
o   We are told that our faith works by love.
o   Love is the motivation and the power we often need to rise above the hurts and the disappointments we are served in this life.
o   God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son …
§  Notice: The father ran … He made up the difference; covered the distance; bridged the gap.
§  Notice: The father embraced … Sudden acceptance is so important to the repentant person. The embrace says, “don’t worry … we’ll figure this out … I’m with you.”
§  Notice: The father kissed … I’ve thought hard and meditated long on this kiss. It is the kiss of a covenant. The reassurance that we are still in covenant. The kiss was the father’s seal of relationship. You are my son …
·       A kiss can mean many things …
·       This kiss was the kiss of covenant
·       Covenant is the promise of a future together
·       It’s like the kiss of marriage – the seal of the covenant … I am yours and you are mine.

21  His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’
22  “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet.

·       The Robe – A sign of family
·       The Ring – A sign of authority
·       The Sandals – A sign of comfort and care
·       Quick! – No hesitation; nothing to prove; sudden acceptance
o   That’s what we receive when we repent

Where there is repentance, God’s love and forgiveness demands no penance. Restoration is sudden and complete.

23  And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast,

·       Let’s celebrate!

24  for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

Luke 15 NLT
10  In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

Word of Knowledge concerning 2020

2020 is the end of some things and the beginning of others. Things are going to get easier and better in 2020 for so many people. Increase will come and seeds which have been planted in the past will produce an abundant harvest. Long prayed prayers will be answered, and life will be happier for so many of you.

Of course, not everyone will reap the benefits of these good days to come because not everyone has sown seeds for this harvest. Nonetheless, people will be better off and find greater opportunities for honest increase.

Like in the days of Noah and in the seven years of plenty during the life of Joseph while he was in Egypt, things will be easier and better, and people will experience abundance. Make no mistake, these blessings come from the Lord just as sure as those that were given the Israelites in the Land of Promise. Do not be deceived, every good gift and ever perfect gift comes from the Father of Lights.

The great concern and perhaps the hardest challenge that will be faced by the Christian in America will be to not forget God. Blessings from God have always come with a purpose. There is a definite reason why God is going to pour His rain out on the just and the unjust. When God blesses us, it is so that we can be a greater blessing.

Listen how Moses encouraged the Children of Israel before they entered the Promise Land:

Deuteronomy 8 NLT
10 ¶  When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.
11  “But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the LORD your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today.
12  For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in,
13  and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful!
14  Do not become proud at that time and forget the LORD your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt.
15  Do not forget that he led you through the great and terrifying wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, where it was so hot and dry. He gave you water from the rock!
16  He fed you with manna in the wilderness, a food unknown to your ancestors. He did this to humble you and test you for your own good.
17  He did all this so you would never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’
18  Remember the LORD your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath.

Turn and return to God. With every step, keep turned towards Him.

Hear the Word of the Lord and make your vow today so that the blessings coming your way and the increase you will certainly enjoy will not distract you from the mission God has for your life. Certainly God will bless you. Remember, He is blessing you to make you a blessing.
·       We cannot afford to worship the blessings more than the Blessor.
·       We cannot imagine we did it by our strength or wisdom.
·       We will not forget to honor the Lord with our substance and with the first fruits of all our increase.
·       Let’s keep making time in our busy schedules for Church, for family, and for friends.

The Covenant Kiss of God is on your life. Praise the Lord!

You were lost and now you’re found … Don’t forget to keep praising the Lord in 2020.

 Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Christmas Story ​Part 2


One moment of favor is worth a thousand days of labor.

God wants us to know how much He loves us and what He is doing to give us the opportunity to live with Him forever in a world without sin. This is why God has labored diligently the past 6000 years, choosing men and women and working with them to provide examples for us to follow. 

God even went a step further and inspired men to record the life stories of these examples in the Bible. The most amazing account ever recorded is the account of the birth of Jesus. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son and whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

The Bible gives us a record of so many events surrounding the birth of Jesus. This morning we are going to look back to that first Christmas. It was right about this time of the year when the Angel Gabriel first visited a young virgin named Mary in the city of Nazareth.

Luke 1 NKJV
26 ¶  Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
27  to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name wasMary.
28  And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
29  But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.
30  Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
31  “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.
32  “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.
33  “And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
34  Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
35  And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.

I’ve been to Nazareth and walked the old city several times imagining what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph and Jesus living there. When the Angel Gabriel visited Mary we’re told that there were only about 400 families living in Nazareth. It had a city market and a synagogue situated on the top of the hill of Nazareth with stone houses all around. 

Mary must have been inside and alone when Gabriel appeared because of the words Luke uses to paint that picture for us. It begins, “And having come in …”. In that time, Virgins who were already engaged to be married, as was Mary, were often found alone either in prayer or preparationmaking sure their lamps were filled and their wedding garments ready. They did not know when the trumpet would sound and the bridegroom would come.

Let’s read a portion of Luke’s account of the first Christmas.

Luke 1
28  And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

This greeting was common among God’s people butdelivered in an unusual way. It was not proper for a man to say this to a woman who was engaged, especially in a private setting. This gave her reason to be a little concerned. She asked herself, what is he doing here and what does he mean? Where is he going with this? 

29  But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.
30  Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

Not only were the words gracious but we can so well imagine the formidable presence of this angel who had just been sent by God with the holiest of messages. At times it is not only the words which impact us but the spirit with which they are delivered. No doubt Gabriel’s words pierced Mary’s soul and spoke to her in a way nothing else, but the word of God could. One Word from God can change everything.

The angel said to her … “Do not be afraid … why? … because, as I said a moment ago, you are highly favored, and the Lord is with you … you are blessed among women for you have found favor with Almighty God!

One moment of favor is worth a thousand days of labor.

Later Luke takes notice that as a young man, Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with both God and man. Imagine what it would be like to find out that you have favor with God.

In Luke 1:30, the phrase, “do not be afraid”, the English word afraid = Greek Word: phobeo – where we get the word Phobia. Phobeo means:
• To run away from; stay away from; to hide mentally or physically because of fear, worry or anxiety.
• To imagine something will hurt you, even when it’s presently not, and maybe never has … nonetheless, you’re afraid …

Fear itself is not always unreasonable … but … unrealistic fear is. How do we know if our fear is unrealistic? Well, if God says, “don’t be afraid”, then it would be unreasonable to let fear control us.

Did you know there are some really bizarre fears alive in the minds of people around usThere is an identifiable phobia of trees; there’s fear of the color yellow; even a fear of bellybuttons; and wind; stringphobiathere is a diagnosable phobia of taking a shower or bathing or being clean; dancing phobia: not afraid you can’t dance but rather afraid of other people who are dancing; and, tons of people seem to suffer from a really hard to pronounce phobia: Arachibutyrophobia – The fear of getting peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth.

Now I can understand getting a little anxious about Angels showing up and popping in, out of thin air but, peanut butter? Who’s afraid of peanut butter? Evidently lots of people are 

One of the latest phobias to be researched and diagnosed during the past decade is Nomophobia. We are told that more than 50% of people in the UK and almost that same percentage of people in the US suffer from this fear which could not have even existed prior to March 13, 1984. 

Nomophobia is a crippling, all-consuming phobia that lives in the minds of many people. It so consumes their lives that they miss work, lose sleep, go into deep depression, spend large sums of moneydemolishhomes, experience fits of rage, and become so mentally and emotionally dysfunctional and some even refuse to eat, bathe or even take one more step.

What is Nomophobia, as if some of you have not already googled it … Nomophobia is the fear of being without your mobile phone or the use of it due to loss or low or no battery, poor cellular signal or going into situations which discourage the use of mobile phones. Some suffer from such extreme nomophobia they experience severe panic attacks and have to keep their hand on their phone at all times, even when they’re sleeping.

As I said, Fear itself is not always unreasonable … but … unrealistic fear is. You are not going to die if you can’t access social media for a day or two.

Fear stops us; shuts us down; torments us; controls us; captivates us; robs us of confidence; diminishes our strength; lies to us; distracts us from more important things and limits our potential. Fear wants to destroy our life. Fear torments the soul and keeps that soul in bondage.

The only thing you need to fear is something that’s bigger and stronger than your God … and for me,that’s just not realistic … especially when my God is with me.

For Mary to have been afraid for her future was unreasonable. Why? Because, the angel Gabriel toldher that she had the favor of God on her life.

Imagine what it would be like to have the favor of God on your life … You’d be unstoppable, or should be. When Jesus was about 33 years old, He was speaking to a crowd of people and a certain woman spoke up:

Luke 11 NKJV
27 ¶  And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!”
28  But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

Jesus quickly acknowledged that his mom was blessed,but He also told the crowd that those who hear the Word of God and put it into practice are more blessed than His mother. More blessed than Mary? How can this be? Because, not only is God with you, and over-shadowing you, the Son of God actually lives inside of you. He moves in when you get Born-Again!

So, if you don’t have Him living in your heart yet, allow me to personally introduce you to the Star of the Christmas Story, Jesus, the Son of God. More than just being brave or courageous; more than just learning how to control your anxieties with mantras and meds; more than learning how to practice Christianity, let me to introduce you to the person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the: 
• Alpha and the Omega
• The Beginning and the End
• The First and the Last
• The Author and the Finisher
• The One Who Was, Is and Is to come
• He is the Son of God
• The Prince of Peace
• The Promised Messiah
• The Lamb of God
• The King of all Kings
• Firstborn among many brethren
• The Savior of the World
• And He wants to be your Friend 

From the Babe in the manger to the King of all Glory, Jesus is alive and He is Lord!

You are highly favored by God … because Jesus gave His life for you. And one moment of God’s favor can be worth an eternity of favor and blessing.

There is no reason to be afraid of the future … because you have been given the opportunity to receive the Son of Almighty God as your Savior.

1 John 4:18  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

Whoever fears the future is not understanding how perfectly God loves His children. He did not save us to punish us, or torment us, but He saved us from torment and punishment. God has an eternal plan for every one of His children. 

Have you been Born-Again? Does Jesus live in your heart? 

Celebrate the Christmas Story this year by asking the Son of God to save your soul and show you His perfect love. Don’t be like the Bethlehem Inn-keepers, make room for Jesus in your life this Christmas. 

Spread the Good News … Fear not! Jesus has a future for you that is out of this world …