2012 – A Year of Opportunity

Now that Christmas is over, our thoughts quickly turn to the year ahead. The truth is January can be one of the most depressing months of the year. Credit card bills come in from all that Christmas overspending, and winter, if not already here, is rapidly approaching, which means that we have very few days over the next couple of months that will permit us to pursue all those outdoor activities that we enjoy.

Winter doesn’t have to be a dark, dreary time in our lives. In fact, the Apostle Paul in one of the last letters he ever wrote laid out some pretty good advice to his close friend, Timothy – advice that we should take, too.

Paul was in prison in Rome and he knew that the sands of time were running out on his life. Think about it. What would you say to a close friend with your last words? Any of us in similar circumstances would likely reserve what precious time we had left to deal with the most important priorities in our life. Continue reading

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What Does Christmas Mean?

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.

“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

“And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” – Luke 2:8-14 (NKJV)

The fact that God made the announcement to shepherds helps us to understand the real meaning of Christmas.

John 3:16 says, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life,” and He chose to announce that to shepherds first of all.

You must understand that shepherds were at the opposite end of the social stratum from King Herod and all the influential people of the day. Think about it. Shepherds lived in the fields with their animals. They were not respected, they had no power or prestige.  Yet, God’s angel came to them and said, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).  Unto shepherds a Savior was born.

In that one simple announcement God made known some very important truths that will help us discover the meaning of Christmas.

So, what does Christmas really mean? It means three things:

1. That God KNOWS YOU and you are IMPORTANT to Him!

2. That YOUR LIFE MATTERS because GOD LOVES YOU!

3. That YOUR FAITH MATTERS because without it, you cannot PLEASE GOD! Continue reading

The Gift of Encouragement

But I considered it necessary to send you Epaphroditus—my brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier, as well as your messenger and minister to my need.  (Philippians 2:25)

Some people know just what to say and do to encourage others who are going through difficult times. Their words give strength to those who are discouraged and comfort to those who are grieving.

These people are sensitive to God’s voice. They are not self-centered or unaware of the struggles of those around them. They are the ones we immediately seek when we enter a crisis. They are welcome visitors when we are in distress, for their presence sustains us.

Scripture testifies of many whom God enabled to encourage others.

  • When Moses was overwhelmed by his work, Jethro went to him and encouraged him. Jethro gave Moses wise counsel that eased his strain (Exod. 18:1–27).
  • When Paul was imprisoned far from those who loved him, Epaphroditus risked his health and safety in order to go to Paul and minister to him (Phil. 2:25–30).
  • Later, Paul urged Timothy to come and visit him, for Paul found strength and encouragement in Timothy (2 Tim. 4:9; Phil. 2:19–20).
  • Paul asked Timothy to bring Mark also. Mark was the kind of friend Paul needed when he was enduring hardship (2 Tim. 4:11; Philem. 24).
  • Paul also relied on Luke for encouragement. When everyone else was absent or preoccupied, Luke could be found with Paul (2 Tim. 4:11).

Paul experienced trials throughout his life, but God sustained him by placing godly friends around him who provided support in practical and sacrificial ways. God wants to develop you into the kind of friend who can strengthen others. The words you share and the things you do can bring comfort and encouragement to your family, your friends, your neighbors, and your coworkers.

I am thankful, because I have been encouraged this week by family and friends.  Think of someone in your circle of influence and search for a way to encourage them during this Christmas season.

How To Pray Effectively

“Can you to point to some recent incident in which you know that your prayers were effective?” James 5:16b reads: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

I don’t know about you, but that is my desire for my prayer life – to be powerful and effective!  In order to be effective in our praying I believe Scripture shares with us several things we need to do:

1. Pray Biblically.

We must pray in accordance with the “will of God” and with the “doctrines of God.”  There is one major principle we must understand about our praying, and it is this, “God will never lead you, give you, or answer any of your prayers that are contrary to His written Word.”  Therefore, our praying must be biblical.

2. Pray Specifically.

As you study the prayers of the Apostle Paul you will notice that he prayed specifically.  There were prayers for courage, loneliness, finances, purity, health, colleagues, converts, wisdom, discouragement, pressures, opportunities, love, direction, spiritual growth, and faithfulness.  The point is, he prayed specifically! Continue reading

Defining Your Mission Statement

Disregarding the command of God, you keep the tradition of men. (Mark 7:8)

Effective leaders see beyond the traditional way of doing things and look for better ways.  They do this, however, realizing that some things are so sacred they are untouchable, and they always keep the ultimate goal in mind.

This is why it is so important to have a well-thought out, closely defined, easily understood mission statement.  Without this, even the most compelling and charismatic leaders get off track and go astray.  A mission statement is essential to quality leadership.  Otherwise, personality, pride, and the demands of the moment will be diverting.

For Jesus, “the command of God,” doing His Father’s will, constituted His mission statement. And the “tradition of men” was never going to sidetrack Him from His goal.  He was not to be diverted.

Again, the point to notice in Mark 7:8 is not that the Pharisees were holding on to the traditions of men.  We all do that to some extent becasue tradition helps to take the best of the past as a guide while we walk into the future.  Jesus might be wrongly seen here as attacking all tradition.  Instead, He criticized the Pharisees for having let go of the commands of God. When you place your own traditions underneath God’s will, they will serve as a positive guide, but, when the order is reversed, you will end up exactly like the Pharisees – abandoning God’s will for your own personal agenda.

Note the specific example Jesus gave in the following passage, verses 9-13. Continue reading

Formula for Faithfulness

In his book Be All You Can Be, John Maxwell shares the formula for fruitfulness taught by Jesus.

Jesus gives us a three-word formula for fruitfulness in John 15. These three words are the ones I want you to remember, because they are the key to fruitful living.

1. REMAIN – The first word is remain. Throughout John 15 Jesus tells us to remain. In fact, the word abide in the original language can be translated “remain.” “Remain in Me,” Jesus says. He’s talking about our willingness to take time with Him in prayer and in study of the Word. We need to let Him begin to be part of our lives and work on our lives.

2. RECEIVE – The second word in the formula is receive. Jesus says in John 15 that if we remain in Him, we will begin to receive certain things. What we’ll receive is good, fruitful living.

3. REPRODUCE – The third word is reproduce. If we remain in Him, we’re going to receive what He has for us, then and only then will we begin to reproduce in our lives.

Spend some time reading John chapter 15 from God’s Word, and then I encourage you to apply these principles to you life.  Decide today you are going to be fruitful!

Expected Lifestyle of a Christ Follower

I have spent the last several mornings in Matthew 5:33-48. Wow! There is so much to unpack here, so here goes!

This is the ultimate of “easier said than done”. In fact, it doesn’t even make that much sense. The last person I would want to be a servant to is the guy next door who constantly takes advantage of me. What is Jesus talking about here?

My first reaction is, ok, so obviously Jesus was willing to practice what he preached, but why? Why ask us to do this? Part of the answer lingers deep in my gut. My actions toward this kind of person may just be enough to be the tipping point of a conversion experience.

Alright, so what if a fellow believer takes advantage of me? Well, I suppose I would need to talk to them about that and express my concern that they are not themselves demonstrating Christ-likeness. But, I should look at the text. What does the text tell me? Continue reading

Worship – My Primary Purpose In Life

Revelation 4:11b (NLT) “You (God) created everything, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created.”

Matthew 22:36-39 (HCSB) Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?  He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and most important commandment.  The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Below is a brief sermon outline on the subject of worship. Enjoy!

1. WORSHIP IS MY RESPONSE TO GOD’S LOVE

Romans 12:1 (HCSB) Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.

2. WORSHIP IS GIVING BACK TO GOD.

Mark 12:30 (HCSB) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

3. WORSHIP IS FOCUSING MY ATTENTION ON GOD.

Psalm 139:1-3 (HCSB) LORD, You have searched me and known me. 2 You know when I sit down and when I stand up; You understand my thoughts from far away. 3 You observe my travels and my rest: You are aware of all my ways.

4. WORSHIP IS EXPRESSING MY AFFECTION TO GOD.

I John 4:19 (HCSB) We love because He first loved us.

Hosea 6:6 (NLT)  God says, I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices.  I want you to know Me more than I want burnt offerings.

5. WORSHIP IS USING MY ABILITIES FOR GOD.

Colossians 3:23 (HCSB) Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men.

Romans 12:1 (The Msg) Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, your eating, your going to work, your walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering.