Saturday, December 30, 2023

Happy New Year



Oh, don’t we hope we have a happy new year? It’s not a given you know. If we could only find a way to please God … I’m certain He would help us if people would just please Him.


Micah 6:7  Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, Ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?


Today we come to the end of what has been a very difficult year for so many of us here, and for so many others all around the world. We can only hope and pray that the New Year we are about to enter will be better.


People tend to use this time to make a few New Year’s resolutions. The Bible even encourages us to examine ourselves and take an inventory of our lives so that we might change to be more like Jesus. By the way:


If the best we can hope for is to be like Jesus, then it stands to reason that the best we can hope for is to be treated like Him. 


2024 will be an election year in the United States. Every citizen over the age of 18, if registered to vote, will have the chance to weigh in on who will lead our nation into the future. The elections are already shaping up to be very divided … perhaps the most divided since the civil war. 


Europe, the Middle-East, and Asia are all embroiled in their own wars which may spill out into a World War if we cannot stop the escalation. Believe me, no matter how bad it is, people can make it worse.


But, nothing is set in stone. Just ask Nineveh … of course you may want to also take a look at Sodom and Gomorrah as well. But even Sodom had a chance. If the messengers of God could have found only 10 righteous people in the city, God would have spared it.


My goal today is to give you an opportunity to make a commitment to God and to yourselves. We have a chance to get it right.


We still have a chance to leave things better than we found them.


God has given us another chance to participate in the ongoing impact of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Do you want to know what you can do to please God? Micah didn’t stop his search until he found out what God wanted. 


Micah 6:8  He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?


I have decided to do my part to please God in the coming year. Each one of us is able to adopt new routines and develop new habits. Would you consider making some Godly commitments along with me which I know will help you and please God? I decided to put my commitments in writing.


Be it resolved by the grace of God in 2024, I commit myself to:

• Daily Prayer
I will talk to God every day in 2024.
I will pray for myself and for others each day.
• Bible Reading
I will read from the Word of God each morning.
I will keep God’s Word in my heart all day.   

  (Bible Project/The Bible – You Version Bible App Plan)

• Church
I will attend Church each week when I am able.
I will find and fulfill my place of service in the Church.
• Stewardship
I will honor the Lord with my substance and my increase.
I will give from my income and my storehouse as God directs.
• Witness
I will remember that I am a light that shines in darkness.
I will stay ready to joyfully share my faith in Jesus with others.
• Life
I will love my family; encourage my friends; forgive my enemies; and be kind to strangers.
I will do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my Lord.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Faith for the New Year



My good friend died today. This message is in memory of Robert Benlien.


During the days of the prophet Habakkuk:

• It was a tough time in Israel and for the Children of God. 
• This was roughly 600 years before the birth of Jesus.
• Judah was in captivity in Babylon and Jerusalem was laid to waste.
• How could things have gotten so bad so quickly in his lifetime?


Habakkuk 1 NKJV

1 ¶  The burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw.

2  O LORD, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, “Violence!” And You will not save.

3  Why do You show me iniquity, And cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; There is strife, and contention arises.

4  Therefore the law is powerless, And justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore perverse judgment proceeds.


Many people felt the same way. The prophet Habakkuk did not speak to people on behalf of God like other prophets did … rather … Habakkuk spoke to God as tohow he felt about the things going on all around him. 


However, by the end of the book of Habakkuk, we see him writing a song about his faith in God. He finally talked himself right into trusting God.


Have you ever talked to God about something you didn’t understand and ended up defending God’s decisions? Listen to the last words of Habakkuk as he is singing to himself about himself, confirming his trust in God


Habakkuk 3

17  Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls — 

18  Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

19  The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.


What changed to make this prophet go from talking to God about how bad things were to confessing his confidence in the Lord’s decisions? It certainly wasn’t the circumstances … because things all around him were only getting worse. What changed? Habakkuk did … 

• Habakkuk means ‘strong embrace’
• Habakkuk put his faith in God and embraced what he always knew about God. Listen to what he said to himself … 


Habakkuk 2  (Let’s break this down.)

Verse 1:  

• I will stand my watch 
• And set myself on the rampart,
Go higher … we see better when we go higher
• And watch to see what He will say to me, 
• And what I will answer when I am corrected.
Corrected vision … it’s a part of life.


Verse 2 Then the LORD answered me and said: “Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it.

• Small words but in BIG LETTERS! Advertise the will of God to others.


Verse 3: 

• For the vision is yet for an appointed time; 
• But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. 
• Though it tarries, wait for it; 
• Because it will surely come, It will not tarry.


Verse 4:

• Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; 
• But the just shall live by his faith.
Romans 1:17
Galatians 3:11
Hebrews 10:38


In 2024 I will choose to walk by faith and not by sight… I will trust God.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Silent Night



The story of Christmas is filled with people who talk and people who don’t. The angel of the Lord and the heavenly hosts, as well as the shepherds talked a lot, while Mary kept all the things they said and pondered them in her heart. There is another important person in the Christmas story who never says a word. Can you guess who it is? Let’s begin with:


Matthew 1  NKJV

18  Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.

19  Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.

20  But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

21  "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins."

22  So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:

23  "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."

24  Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife,

25  and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.


God chose Joseph, a common construction worker, to be the earthly image and play the role of father in the life of Jesus. I have long looked at Joseph as one of the unsung heroes of the Bible. So many times we overlook the critical part he played in the plan of God. Even though we never hear one word uttered by Joseph, I nonetheless believe he speaks volumes to each one of us.



And although Joseph’s words aren’t recorded anywhere in the Bible, his silence speaks loudly. A simple survey of the passage we’ve already read this morning reveals 4 evident reasons why Joseph was chosen and why I believe he was successful. As you listen this morning imagine how these truths can apply to your life. What does Joseph’s silence teach us?


What made Joseph successful? You know … just because Joseph didn’t say anything doesn’t mean he has nothing to say. Silent nights can be some of the most powerful and precious moments of our lives. Tell me, why do we even know his name?


1. Joseph was connected to someone who was connected to God … 
a. Matthew 1:18&19 tell us that Joseph was engaged to Mary and was her husband.
b. Let me put it this way: There were a lot of men in Nazareth in Mary’s day. And we don’t know the names of any of them except Joseph.
c. We don’t want to go thinking Joseph didn’t have a choice. Joseph made a choice. He could have said no!
d. Fate and destiny are two different thingsBeing chosen by God was not Joseph’s fate … it was his destiny … it was his opportunity … and it was his choice.
e. We cannot put our faith in fate. 
f. Joseph’s trust was in God.
g. Who we choose to include in our inner circle can help us or hurt us.
h. Our success in life may depend on others more than we realize.
2. Joseph was a humble man
a. Matthew 1:19 says that Joseph did not react selfishly when he found out about Mary’s pregnancy but considered what he should do based on how his actions would affect her.
b. Joseph did not react out of haste or hurt; he was not rash, nor did he take advantage of the situation to vindicate himself.
c. Joseph didn’t let his pride get the best of him … he humbled himself and gave his best to God and to Mary. 
3. Joseph embraced the supernatural
a. Matthew 1:20-23 reveal how Joseph believed in and accepted both the messenger and the message from heaven.
b. Joseph could have dismissed the dream, but he believed in spiritual things. 
c. One Word from God changes everything … at least it does for those who will receive it …
d. Some things can only be explained in light of the supernatural plan of God.
e. In his critical moment Joseph embraced the Word of the Lord as divine direction for his life.
f. When God could do no better, God sent His Word … to Mary; to Joseph; and to the world!
4. Joseph was unafraid to go against popular opinion
a. Matthew 1:24&25 show us that Joseph obeyed God instead of just going with the flow or pleasing the crowd.
b. Proverbs 29:25 says the fear of others will bring a snare. But whoever puts their trust in the LORD will be safe.
c. Reckon what all those “wagging tongues” are going to say come judgment day? Think they’ll still be making fun of Joe?
d. Actions most often speak louder than words and Joseph’s silence still speaks today … what do his choices say to you? 


When God chooses you for your next task realize it may not be all about you so:

• Stay humble.
• Embrace the supernatural Word of the Lord.
• Don’t be afraid to swim against the tide. 
• Remember – Connect with people who are connected with Jesus.


I love you … Merry Christmas! Even if it’s a Silent Night.

The Reason for the Season

It is Christmas Eve! What a great day to be in church. I love Christmas. Many people do! Spending time with family, giving gifts, watching kids open gifts, eating together, making memories, etc. It is meant to be a season of joy, peace, love, thankfulness, and faith. It is the season in which we celebrate the birth, or conception, of Christ.


Today we will be looking at the Christmas story from a different angle. Over the past month we have been going though a series on the Armor of God. We are looking at how we as Christians can be prepared for the spiritual battle that is happening around us. With that said, I wanted to continue in the same vein and look at the Christmas Story through that same lens. Jesus has already been born. Lets take a look at the account in Matthew.


Matthew 2:1-4 ESV

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.


Lets keep reading


Matthew 2:7-12 ESV

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.


It is important that we keep Jesus at the center of Christmas.



Matthew 2:16

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.


Wow, what a sad outcome for Bethlehem and the towns surrounding it. A moment that was meant to be about the joy and peace that was brought through the birth of Jesus became about the envy and jealousy of Herod. So much so that He was willing to do anything and everything to eliminate what he believed to be a threat to his throne. He did the unthinkable. How sad.


What would drive him to do something so evil? What would drive anyone to do something so destructive? In a season where peace on earth and goodwill to all men had become a reality, what would drive someone to be that evil? The answer is simple. God has a plan, but so does the devil.


Gods plan was that the son of God would be sent to the earth, born of a virgin, live, die, be buried, and then raised from the dead, alive. His plan was that this little child would bring forgiveness to all mankind. His plan was that this child would open the door for all to be saved. However, the devil had a plan as well. His plan was to do everything he could to remove Jesus from the picture. So what did he do? He enticed Herod. He influenced him. He made him believe that this newborn child was a threat. He made him believe that the best way to protect his throne was to eliminate this child, even if it meant killing quite a number of children in the process. Herod was not fulfilling Gods plan. He was fulfilling the devils plan.


As I mentioned before, along with the gifts, food, spending time with family, etc, Christmas is meant to be a season of joy, peace, love, thankfulness, and faith. It is the season in which we celebrate the birth of Christ. That is what Christmas is about.


However, it doesnt take much for Christmas to become a season of stress, complaining, jealousy, envy, impatience, complaining, anger, etc. It has the potential of bringing out the worst in us. The Christmas traffic, the rush into stores, gifts being out of stock, people being rude and short out of frustration, so on and so forth. 


How is it that the Christmas season that is meant to be filled with peace, joy, and faith becomes a time of stress, frustration, and anger? The answer is simple. God has a plan for you and your family this season, but so does the devil. 


God has a plan for you. He has a plan for all of mankind. His plan for us this season is that our eyes would be pointed to Jesus. To bring peace in your home, joy to be in your heart, faith to rise up, goodness, and patience. His desire is that His spirit would rest in your home. His desire is that there would be peace in your family and your relationship. God’s desire is that you would be blessed this season. 


However, the devil wants to do the opposite. He wants to do everything he can to take our eyes off of Jesus. He wants to blind us from Gods blessings in our life. He wants us to feel cheated, to feel wronged, mistreated, like everything is going wrong. He wants to give us reason to take our eyes off of Jesus and focus on the bad, the negative. He wants to flip and twist what Christmas is all about. Why? This is what he does. 


As I mentioned before, we have been going through a series on the Armor of God here in the first service. We have learned that as Christians we are encouraged to put on armor because there is a spiritual battle taking place all around us. It takes place in the spiritual realm. This battle is for the souls of men. The devils desire is to do everything he can to lead people away from God. Reading this Christmas story, we can see the same spiritual battle taking place then as well. The devil tried to destroy Jesus, he tried to tempt Jesus, and he tried to kill Jesus. Even then, satan was waging war against God.


Now, the devil was defeated at the cross. One day he will be destroyed, and he wants to take as many people with him as he can. He does this through deception. His goal is to keep as many people from knowing God as possible. What a terrible reality.


However, he has been doing this since the beginning:


Creation of man - serpent in the garden


One God - The setup of idols


New bloodline of Israel- devil tried to destroy it

Jacob (his brothers tried to kill him)
Moses (Pharaoh extermination of babies) 
David (Saul repeatedly tried to kill David)



It is no different in the Christmas story. Jesus was sent to the earth, was miraculously conceived in Mary, and was born in Bethlehem. This was the Son of God, the one who would take away the sins of the world. He was born as a child. Peace on earth! Joy to the world! The savior of the world was born. Shepherds, inspired by God, went to see Jesus. Wise men, inspired by God, went to see Jesus. 


Herod, inspired by the devil, tried to kill Jesus. What was a moment of joy and peace turned into a time of mourning and pain. The devil was at war with God then, trying to destroy what God meant for good. 


However, the devil would not win. Jesus went on to grow in stature, began His ministry, went to the cross, died, rose again, and ascended into heaven at the right hand of God. He paid for our sins, He defeated sin, death, hell, and the grave. Namely, He defeated the devil. 


Today, this Christmas, the devil is still trying to destroy Gods plan. He wants to remove Jesus as the reason for the season. He doesnt want peace in your life. He doesnt want you to experience joy in your home. He wants you to hold on to bitterness, to recall unforgiveness, to be frustrated, etc. He wants you to forget all about the reasons why we celebrate Christmas. You see, the devil has a plan for your life this Christmas. However, God has a greater plan for you. 


His desire is that Jesus would be at the center of your life.

His desire is that Jesus would be passed down to your children.

His desire is that Jesus would be passed down to your childrens children.

His desire is that you would have peace in your relationships.

… that you would have joy in the midst of your circumstances.

… that you would experience the love of God this season.

… that you would be blessed.


Matthew 2:13-15 ESV

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod


God will always provide and protect His plan for your life.


God provided a way for Joseph and Mary to protect baby Jesus from Herods evil rule. The devil wanted the baby dead, but God wasnt going to let that happen.


What is Gods plan? That Jesus would be the center of it all. 


He is the reason for the season.





This Christmas, let us:


1. Keep Jesus as the reason for the season
• When Jesus was born, the devil did everything he could to remove Jesus from the picture. He wants to do the same thing in your family.
• Along with all the festivities, let us partner with God to keep Jesus as the reason for the season.
2. Give to God what the devil meant to destroy
• Christmas is not easy for everyone. It can be a time of mourning, hurt, pain, etc. 
• The devil wants to use these things to drive our hearts away from God. 
• Let us take those hurts, doubts, questions, and give them to God.

Romans 8:28 - 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
• God is molding the good and the bad together, reshaping them, and turning them into good, into something better for our good.
3. Allow God to fulfill His plan in your life
• God has a plan for your life; but so does the devil.
• God wants to fulfill His plan in your life. He just needs you to work with Him. The devil wants to fulfill his plan in your life. He just needs you to with Him as well. 
• Let us trust God and work with Him.
• Trust God. Trust His Word. And obey it.
• Allow God to fulfill His plan in your life. Allow God to use you to fulfill His plan in someone elses life as well. All He needs is for you to partner with Him. Trust Him and follow through.
• [ Story of leading Jared to Jesus at the basketball court ]


This Christmas, realize there is a spiritual battle happening around you. The devil wants to remove Jesus as the reason for the season. However, he wasnt successful then and he does not have to be successful today. Work with God to keep Jesus as the reason for the season, give to God what the devil meant to destroy, and allow God to use you to fulfill His plan in your life and in someone elses life as well.