Gospel

To Know Jesus

The issue of church growth seems to haunt every pastor at some point.  Why?  Because so much is being said about it.  I was at a conference this weekend where during one of the break-out sessions I was told all kinds of methods about church growth.  I must be honest; I struggle with that.  I have a real problem with the methods when I read what Scripture tells us.  Listen to this:

“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” – Philippians 3:8

It seems to me that by far the greatest thing I can offer someone is Jesus Christ.  We must share the Gospel.  He is the draw.  He is the need.  Knowing Jesus is the goal of life!

If we get sidetracked, we start to look a lot like the Judaizers Paul was referring to in Philippians 3.  They worked very hard to earn God’s favor. But let’s be honest, any attempt at cleaning up our own sin just smears it.  It is like all of those times I have sent one of my kids to the bathroom to clean up after eating something sticky.  Sure they try hard, but they get it everywhere else.

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Let Jesus clean up the mess!

Would you say that your heart considers everything else a loss next to knowing Jesus?  If not, what needs to change?  

Remember to give and receive and give again.

IMAG0329Christmas is such a magical time.   There is just something about lights and snow that makes me want to drink hot chocolate with candy canes.  It brings families together and brings people to church for candlelight services.    There is something very intriguing to us about a silent night that was interrupted by a chorus of angels praising God for the birth of Jesus Christ. The only thing is that each year it seems like we add more distance between that scene in Bethlehem and what Christmas has become.    Yet,  no matter what we try to scream at each other, Christmas still means something valuable to all of us.  We don’t just enjoy it, we long for it.  It is the one time of year when we throw out all caution about leaving the lights on and we add more lights to our home.  I mean, it is Christmas — it only comes once a year!

Steeped in all of the commercial and political correct jargon is the reality of what has taken place.  Sure a winter solstice is happening, but Christmas was not that big of a deal until it became a celebration of Jesus.  It provided a time for us to gather together to tell the story of God taking on flesh to save people who have rejected Him.  It allows all of us to start to answer the question about what this is all about and how we can have hope in a future.  Jesus is the gift we need and He is where the focus needs to be.  The story actually includes us.

Think about what would happen if you received a gift that would save your life.  If your life literally hung in the balance and you got what you needed to live, would you put that gift on the shelf?  I know I would open it up and apply it to my life.  If I knew someone else with the same problem as I had, I think it would be a nice idea to try to save them too, wouldn’t it?

Who wouldn't want to watch this sheep?

Who wouldn’t want to watch this sheep?

In Luke 2 there are shepherds out tending to their flocks.  It says that they were living in the fields.  I would imagine that it was an ordinary night of sheep watching.  Then God showed up and His glory shown around them.  In other words, they knew that it was the Lord who was showing up to tell them something.  Despite their fear, they are able to calm down and hear about the Savior who has been born.  The gift is a baby and not just any baby, the Savior of the world for all people!

So they go to see and they find the baby in the manger.  What they do next is what I think we need to remember — they went and told everyone!  There is good news and they want the world to know.

This challenges me to make sure I don’t miss out on the giving part of Christmas.  There are people all around us who have never received the gift of forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus Christ.  We must not keep Him to ourselves.  I know it is not politically correct to talk about Jesus, but it is far worse not to.  The Savior has come for all people.  (yes, even them)

I believe that all of the rhetoric and media hype over things people say is just a distraction from what really matters.  We need to keep our head on straight.  Jesus Christ is the way for anyone who will come.  Christmas is a holiday to celebrate that.  The Bible is truth and God does not need us to defend any of it.  We are to share the gift of Jesus with the world around us.

As you receive the blessing of drawing near to God because of Jesus, remember also to share Him with others.

Merry Christmas! 

 

Come Before God With Thanksgiving

The beginning of the first proclamation of a national day of Thanksgiving from 1789. – by George Washington.  (before it became a yearly thing)

‘Whereas, it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, humbly implore his protection and favor…”

The goal was always to thank God for his provisions. That is what Thanksgiving is about!

Why is God where our Thanksgiving beings, as it says in verse 2 “come before him with Thanksgiving.”

He gives Salvation to us

The Psalm reminds us that God is the Rock of our salvation. Right now there is turmoil in families all over the world.  If we were left to our own devices to somehow obtain salvation and make sense of it all, it would be like trying to build a mansion on the beach with no foundation.  Sure, you might get by for a while, but the wind and waves will come at some point and the house will be destroyed.

We can be thankful today that despite all the changes in our culture, positive or negative, that God does not change.  We can be thankful that He still saves sinful people from the mess of sin we are in.  He takes us and places us on the Rock, Christ Jesus.

He Made it All & is Over It All

In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land – Psalm 95:4-5

 There is purpose and order in the creation.  No matter what is going on at any given moment, God is still the real King.  Why?  Because He made it all.  I mean try to imagine this scene.  The depths of the earth in his hand.  The mountain peaks, some of which people have never climbed, and never will climb, are his.  The sea in all its splendor is God’s. He owns it because He made it.    I mean I have made some amazing things with Lincoln Logs and Legos,  but never anything as amazing as the universe, the depths of which we can never fully grasp.

This makes my heart burst with thanksgiving because it tells me that God is always on the throne.  God is never surprised by anything that happens.  There is no molecule in the universe that he is not aware of.   He made it all.  He knows it all.    It reassures me that no matter what I am going through, no matter how alone I might feel, I can find comfort in knowing that God knows exactly what is going on.

He Knows and is Involved With us Personally

This is where it gets crazy.  God over everything, but He knows everyone personally, individually.   It is one thing to recognize that there is a God who is over everything, who is larger than anything. Many people believe in a “higher power.”  But, the difference here is that God is personal and involved in our lives.

Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; – Psalm 95:6

He is our maker.  That means we are not a mistake and not junk.  Ephesians 2:10 says that we are God’s handiwork, His masterpiece.  He has molded each person individually like an artist does with clay.

So, as we gather today we give start by giving thanks to God because in Him is where our Thanksgiving begins.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!  

 

Thankfulness Overflowing Before Frantic Store Going

Thanksgiving is first

Thanksgiving is first

If everything I have belongs to God, then I must learn to appreciate what I have.  If I have been given everything in need in Jesus Christ, then I must appropriately overflow with thankfulness.  This is a healthy way of life.  Instead of looking at what other people have or at Black Friday ads and hoping to get something you don’t have, you look at all that you do have.  It is a lifestyle that sometimes is hard to do with all of the stuff around us, but it is so freeing to say “thank you” for even the most mundane things as a realization that nothing comes from you.   It is all God’s!   This type of attitude makes us happier people and even keeps us away from burdens like unnecessary debt.  Yes, that was me tying frivolous spending to a lifestyle of thankfulness.

Christmas is coming up again.  But did you know that before Christmas is this holiday called “Thanksgiving?”  What is making matters even more interesting this year are the number of stores once again opening on Thanksgiving.  It seems like some retailers are pushing things up every year putting their own bottom-line over their employees family time.   I understand the need to make money as a business, but I also know that people need time to stop to give thanks.  It is not just about turkey and football, it is about health and worship.  It is about happiness and time with family.  So, just stop and give thanks without looking through all of those ads and desiring to buy things that you cannot afford.  And please do not buy my family gifts that you do not have the money to buy.  That defeats the purpose of this season, in my opinion.

But Christmas comes soon enough --

But Christmas comes soon enough —

Instead we need to find our foundation in Jesus Christ.  It is in Him we live, move, and have our being.  It is in Him where we received everything we could ever possibly need.  And actually it is really the gift of Jesus we celebrate at Christmas anyway, not the material items we give each other.  You have been given fullness in Christ!  He is available right now, offering Himself to you.

Soon it will be time to deck the halls and I am looking forward to that.   But let’s not forget about Thanksgiving first.

 

My Hope

Tonight is the night that Billy Graham’s message “The Cross” is being aired nationwide.  It is an opportunity for the Gospel.  Let’s make it known and pray for God to use this in powerful ways.

Find out where to watch it here — http://watchbillygraham.com/

A Prayer for the Church

This song has been on my heart today as I pray for God to build His Kingdom here!  We all know how much we need His power and work in our midst.  Let’s ask Him to work through us wherever we find ourselves today.

You are not good and it does matter.

What dirt?  I am clean!

What dirt? I am clean!

Even with all that goes on in the world today, I still run into people who believe that people are generally good.  Often what they say is something like: “I am a pretty good person and God is alright letting me live my life how I think.”  Really?

It does not take very long to get corrected on that thinking when the Bible is opened up and read.

“Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”  – Colossians 3:1-2

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” – Colossians 3:5

This section of Scripture continues to list off more things you are to take off and a whole list of things that you are to put on.  In other words, yes it does matter to God how you live and no you are not good on your own.  That goodness comes only as a result of a transformation that happens as you trust in Jesus Christ.   It is at that point that these sinful things come off and these new things get put on.

This realization is actually key to the Gospel message.  When we stop and recognize that we are sinful people in need of a Savior it positions us to receive the gift of new life in Christ.   The message is not about behavior modification; the message is about a new spiritual life.  That is where true freedom is found – not in doing things our own way!