Monthly Archives: December 2015

Jesus Changes Everything!

The Apostle Peter is a very unique character in the Bible. He was one of the early disciples of Jesus, and is sometimes referred to as the disciple who lived with his foot in his mouth. Peter was always acting first, and thinking later. Sometimes that is a great quality to have, but other times, it can get you into trouble. As erratic as Peter tended to be, he was a man who experienced the grace of God in a completely transforming way. He was the one who denied Jesus three times, but repented, was forgiven by God, and became a devoted follower of Jesus who was eventually martyred for his faith. He understood very personally and very deeply that Jesus changes everything.

Peter wrote two short letters in the New Testament. His letters were written to Christians who were suffering, and who were scattered all over due to the persecution they were facing. As he wrote to them, he wanted them to know that following Jesus was worth whatever trial they were facing. He wanted them to know who Jesus is, what He offers, and how following Him changes every aspect of their life for the good. In the beginning of Peter’s first letter, there are three things he speaks of that reveal how Jesus changes everything.

First, Jesus changes everything by giving living hope. 1 Peter 1:3 tells us that God’s mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In other words, because Jesus Christ rose from the dead, there is nothing too great that He cannot conquer. For those who have embraced Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, there is a hope He brings to our hearts and lives that is not dead, but that is alive. Jesus gives us living hope.

For many, the Christmas season can be difficult. Some people, like my family, have lost a loved one, and this time of the year brings great grief. The only encouragement and joy we have comes from the fact that we will see our Christian loved ones again. Because of what Jesus has done, not even death can overcome or separate us from one another. Christians have a living hope because we serve the Living God. I pray we never forget that!

Second, Jesus changes everything by giving an eternal inheritance. Peter also wrote in his letter that in Christ, believers receive an eternal inheritance that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.” He went on to say, “In this rejoice, though now for a little while you have been grieved by various trial.” This is a great encouragement to any Christian who is struggling. For the Christian, this world is as bad as it will ever get. God’s eternal Kingdom is much greater and much more excellent than anything we could ever imagine. Christians can rejoice in their trials because their trials are producing for them an inheritance that will never fade or perish.

 Finally, Jesus changes everything by giving inexpressible joy. Peter went on to say, “Though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him, and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible…” It is as if Peter was saying, “Yes, you will have to suffer for a while, but it’s worth it. Keep your eyes on Jesus and He will fill your life with inexpressible joy!  Not cheap happiness, not fleeting emotionalism, but deep rooted joy that only comes in Christ.” This Christmas, do not pursue joy, pursue Christ, who will bring you joy. Life can be hard, overwhelming, and stressful, but God wants to fill your life with His presence, and as the Psalmist said, “In His presence, there is fullness of joy.”

As Christmas day approaches, remember that Jesus changes everything. He gives us a living hope, the promise of eternal inheritance, and a joy that is inexpressible! Merry Christmas!

The Message in the Manger

Christmas is one of the most special times of the year. There is such an excitement and joy that comes with the holiday season. From family gatherings, to gift giving, to the lights, music, and food, there is just something special about Christmas time. But, the most important part of Christmas is the celebration of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where most people are so used to hearing about Jesus, especially during the Christmas season, they miss and forget the true wonder of Jesus’ coming. For many people, they know that Jesus was born of virgin and placed in a manger. They know about the shepherds, the wise men, the angels, and the bright star, but how many truly stop and grasp the incredible message in the manger? As you think about Christmas this year, I encourage you to look into the manger and see and hear the true message of Christmas; a message of majesty, mystery, and miracle. As you look into the face of the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, you see more than a baby, you behold the Savior of the world!

When you look into the manger, one of the first things you see is the majesty of Jesus. John 1:1-4,14 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men…and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” As you look into the manger, stand back and marvel at the majesty of the babe laid in it, and hear the message from the manger. The message is, in the beginning, when the heavens and earth were not created, where there was nothing but God, the Word existed, the Word was there, and this Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. The first message from the manger is that there is majesty in the manger, because God took on flesh and dwelt among us.

There is a second message in the manger and it is a message of mystery. Anytime you get close to the majesty of God, you will quickly be met with the mystery of God. As John 1 said, “The Word was God.” Jesus was fully man, but also fully God. This is a mystery the human mind cannot fully understand, but one that must be embraced by faith. The babe wrapped in the manger cried, laughed, got hungry, tired, etc., but He was also fully God. There is such majesty in the manger, but also such mystery. But, it is not a mystery that should lead to frustration or confusion, but rather to worship. When the mystery of God is embraced by faith, the majesty of God consumes our heart.

The final message we hear from the manger is one of miracle. Jesus’ coming was a miracle, for He was born of a virgin.  He was miraculously given to Mary.  He was the fulfillment of prophecy at just the right time. His birth truly was a miracle. Jesus’ life was a miracle. He performed many miracles while walking on earth.  He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, raised the dead and never sinned! Jesus’ death was a miracle. At any point, He could have stopped it all, but He willingly laid down His life as the sacrifice for sin.

But, Jesus, the One born in the manger, the One with all the majesty, and all the mystery, and all the glory, did not stay dead. Rather, Jesus conquered sin, death, and hell, and rose again, making His resurrection the greatest miracle of all! There is majesty, mystery, and miracle all wrapped up in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Do not miss the message in the manger this Christmas.

Be Rich in Giving

1 Timothy 6:17-19 says, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”

As we come into this special time of the year, a time where we focus on giving to others, the above passage is a great reminder of how we should live each day. The Bible does not condemn wealth, but it does condemn letting wealth become a person’s focus and the controlling factor in their lives. Christians are blessed by God to be a blessing to others. As I look at this passage, there are several great reminders to put into action in our lives.

First, we need to remember to set our hope on our Savior, not our stuff. This passage tells us very clearly that there is great uncertainty with riches. When we set our hope on God, the only certainty in life, He richly provides for us in every way. Sadly, many people think that the wealthier they become, the more stability they will have. As they acquire more and more things, their hope slowly begins to drift toward their stuff, which often begins to bring pride and haughtiness as well. This is why the Bible says not to set your hope on riches, because when you do, your confidence and worth are often based on temporal and fleeting things. Only God is certain, and our hope should be in Him.

Second, we need to remember that God is our great provider, and He richly provides us with everything to enjoy. God is good and He gives us what we need. When our hope is in Him, we soon discover what life is really all about. We can enjoy His creation without worshipping it. We can enjoy His provision without letting things become our “god.” In life, people will always be worshipping someone or something. Christians worship the “Provider,” not the provision.

Third, we need to be remember to be rich in giving. As God blesses us, we then turn, look, and see who we can bless. Did you notice what the verse above said? We are to be “rich in good works…generous and ready to help.” Generous giving comes from a generous heart, and our giving will never exceed the condition of our heart. If our heart is stingy, so will be our giving, but if our heart is full of gratitude and generosity, so will be our giving. This Christmas, look around and see needs. As God opens your eyes, seek to be rich in good works and in giving to others.

Finally, we need to remember that the goal of our earthly life is to focus on our coming eternal life. The greatest principle this passage teaches, is by giving things out on earth, we are actually storing things up in heaven. As a Christian, every time you give something out to someone else on this earth, you are truly storing something up eternally. As Jesus told us in Matthew 6, we are to “store up treasure in heaven.” My friends, this Christmas, be rich in giving. Be rich in being a blessing to others. Put your hope in God, and as He provides for you, seek to use His provision to meet others’ needs.

Plan to Take Some Risks

With Christmas rapidly approaching, there are lots of plans being made: travel plans, family plans, church plans, eating plans, gift exchange plans, etc. Planning is a natural part of the holiday season, but also of life. In fact, I am by nature somewhat of a planner. I am not nearly as much of a planner as some, but I do like to have a plan for things. I like to wake up each morning and know the plan, and when there is not a plan, I can quickly get frustrated. Plans help me keep my crazy life organized.

Being a planner is an excellent strength to have, but with every strength also comes some weaknesses. One weakness of being a planner is that it is easy to get into such a routine that you never take any risks in life. Planners do not typically like change. Planners can also potentially overthink things too much, and “plan themselves” out of some excellent opportunities that are right before them. My brother-in-law, who I might add is much more of a planner than me, sent me this quote a while back: “There are some people who get so picky about what door they go through that they miss the opportunities God puts before them.  They wait around for something wonderful to happen, but it never does because they’ve not shown a willingness to go through a divinely prepared and open door awaiting them….if a door is open now, you should seriously consider entering it rather than sitting around and waiting for ‘something better.’”

This quote reminds me that life is too short to play it safe all the time. In life, you have to plan to take some risks and plan to change. Planning and changing should be friends, not enemies! As a pastor, I face this all the time. I am a part of growing, thriving, and exciting church, and it would be very easy to keep playing it safe and not rock the boat. But, the minute I do is the minute our church has taken a serious step into complacency. I often say, “If you’re not changing, you’re dying.” Simply put, churches and Christians should make necessary changes to keep reaching a changing world with the unchanging Gospel. Planning and changing go hand in hand.

As you approach the New Year, perhaps you need to start planning to step out in faith in some way. The Bible says in Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God…” A good question to ask God is this, “God, what am I trusting You for, that only You can do?” At the heart of all we do as Christians, there should be faith. Yes, plans fail for lack of wise counsel. Yes, you need to use wisdom and truly think through important decisions. But, you should also plan to change. You need to plan to step out in faith and truly trust God. Aren’t you glad God didn’t play it safe? He made a plan to change our lives. His plan involved sending His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, that you and I might have forgiveness of our sins and new life in Him. I am thankful God never changes, but incredibly grateful for the change Jesus has brought to this world. What a great plan that brought great change!

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