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What a Difference Christmas Makes (4 of 4)

December 30th, 2009

Have you received God’s Christmas gift of Jesus Christ? I was reading an online article earlier this month about a guy who got a Christmas gift, 49 years ago and he still hadn’t opened it. Isn’t that strange? I can’t imagine if my wife gave me a gift and it was there under the tree (or if you gave me a gift) and three months after Christmas, about March, you say, How did you like the gift? I say, I’m sure I loved it; I just haven’t had the time to open it yet.

The tragedy is many people celebrate Christmas, year after year… , and they’ve never received God’s Christmas gift.  That doesn’t make sense!  Have you accepted God’s gift of forgiveness, strength and eternal life through His Son, Christ?  You can’t celebrate Christmas. You’re not going to find it under the tree until it’s in your heart.  Have you ever received that gift? If you have, then you’ll share it from here on out.

I heard the story of a father who gave his preschool daughter some plastic pearls.  She wore them for years.  When she turned 13, he said, I want you to give me those plastic pearls you’re wearing. She wondered why and her dad said,  Just trust me, just give them to me. As he took them back with one hand, he pulled from his pocket a string a real pearls.

God is saying to us, For this new year, give Me the cheap plastic thrills, give Me the things you think satisfy but really don’t, and I’ll give you something genuine.  I’ll give you something real, something that lasts if you’ll trust Me.

I like Sundays because they start my week fresh. I like mornings because they start my day off fresh. And it’s the same with January. I want to look back on 2010 this time next year and see how much closer I’ve grown to God because of what I put my trust in – real pearls.

Zach

December 30, 2009 Posted by | Zach | | Leave a comment

New Year’s Resolutions for Christians

With the new year fast approaching it’s time again to be thinking about those pesky new years resolutions.  It is estimated that 100 million Americans will make new year resolutions and that 4 out of 5 will not keep these new resolutions. Below is a list of the most popular resolutions made each year.

  • Lose weight
  • Manage debt/save money
  • Get a better job
  • Get fit
  • Eat right
  • Get a better education
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Quit smoking
  • Reduce stress overall and/or at work
  • Take a trip
  • Volunteer to help others

I propose that we take a different approach for 2010.  If you are a Christian then you have the best guidance for making and keeping resolutions that anyone can have, the Holy Spirit.  Why not try to improve upon these nine characteristics of Christian life.

Galatians 5:22-23

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control.

Love

God set the example for us to follow when he sent His son as a sacrifice for each one of us.  He didn’t do it because we deserved it or because we earned it.  He did it because He could and because He wanted to.  This next year, why not try to show someone love without expecting anything in return and once you see how good that feels, try it again.  Pretty soon, showing love to others will become a way of life for you.

John 3:16
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Joy

Jesus endured the cross because of the joy it would bring us in the end.  Have you ever tried to pick someone out of a crowd that has no joy in their life?  Pretty easy isn’t it?  In 2010, why not try to be joyful. Even in our sufferings we can be joyful.  Jesus has already conquered death for us.  If you are joyful, then it is almost impossible for others around you not to feel joy, also.  Lets start a Joy Revolution.

Hebrews 12:2
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Peace

Peace is much like joy. It’s there for the taking. Jesus says he wants us to have peace. Why not be at peace with everyone and everything.  I wonder if we were at peace would we have all this stress heaped on us?  Would we naturally be healthier?  Only one way to find out.  In 2010, be at peace.

John 16:33
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Patience

It seems that today nobody has much patience. I’m trying to remember a story told by Bill Hybels about a time when he was traveling. Aboard the plane a man was complaining about sitting next to this young woman with some sort of problem. She was unable to control what she said or did and he didn’t like being next to her. Hybels offered to trade him seats and ends up spending the entire flight talking with the woman. After the flight landed one attendant came up to him and said, “You must be a Christian.”  He was surprised and said, yes he was, how did she know?  She replied that no one other than a Christian could have that much patience.  Does that story reflect you?  If not, 2010 would be a good year to make that your story.

1 Timothy 1:16
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

Kindness

There are a lot of people out there during this economic climate that sure could use some kindness.  Whether it is to help them with their problems or just a shoulder to lean on, people need kindness.  Since we should have an abundance of it, why not try to show it in 2010.

Ephesians 2:7
in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Goodness

Always endeavor to be good and do good.  Living a moral life and looking for the good in others can be the best witness a Christian can have.  Why not spend 2010 being good and doing good things for others.

2 Peter 1:3
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

Faithfulness

Living by faith is by far the strongest example of Christian living.  If we knew everything that was going to happen before it did then what kind of life would that be?  We trust God to provide and protect—that is having faith.  Why not use 2010 to increase your faith.  Do something to stretch your faith.  Step out into a new ministry where you don’t know, for sure, how it is going to work out.

Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see

Gentleness

I wonder what it would be like if we treated everyone the same way we treat a newborn baby. Careful and gentle, not wishing to injure or harm them.  What if everyone else treated you that way?  I wonder what kind of world we would live in?  Well, it has to start somewhere, so why not with you?  Why not decide to be gentle with everyone you encounter in 2010.

Ephesians
4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Self-Control

Imagine if you were the poster child for self-control.  What would you be like?  Would you always think before you spoke?  Would you never impulse-shop?  Would you never loose your temper with anyone?  Would you never be tempted to do the wrong thing when no one is looking?  Probably not, because everyone would look at you when they thought of self-control.  If you don’t qualify as the self-control poster child, why not begin working on that in 2010.

2 Peter 1:5-7
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.

December 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment

Merry Christmas

December 25, 2009

If you did not realize that today it is Christmas, the day that we celebrate the birth of the Christ child. In Luke 2:1-7 we read the account of the birth of Christ: In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Now in this passage He was born and wrapped up in cloths. So my question for the day is He stilled wrapped up? Do we keep Him contained to have a better handle on Him? By the time this is posted I will have been up, showered, read Luke 2:1-20, have had one of our children place the little baby Jesus in the manger of our nativity set, exchanged gifts, and gotten ready to go to grandma’s house. A lot has happened before this is even offered for you to read. Actually we have a mission team leaving for New Zealand before this is posted. As I read this passage I really focused on the wrapped in cloths, as a baby He was bound to provide comfort, protection, security, and quick access for early exit. As any baby He would be changed, but placed back into the cloth and wrapped tightly. As we wrap up 2009 how many times did we keep Christ bound and never really allow Him to live through us.

Christ is my Savior and He is alive, but sometimes we keep Him bound and confined, secret, hidden, and set aside. In Philippians 2:5-11: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” So the best present that I can see given today is the commitment to unwrap Christ and take on who He has set out for you to be. We all expect and understand that it needs to happen but struggle with the how. Follow His attitude as it is written the more we are like Him the more we unwrap Him and show Him off to others. This also is the best present you can give your family today—your commitment to live your life out loud for Him; living a life that is brighter than every light on every Christmas tree all rolled into a ball and plugged in. Understand the more we unwrap Him, the more we allow Him to be free in our lives, and the more freedom He gets the more your life will look like His. Allow Him today to “Live out Loud”.

God Bless and Merry Christmas.

Mark A Williams

December 25, 2009 Posted by | Mark | | 2 Comments

What a Difference Christmas Makes (3 of 4 )

December 23rd, 2009

This past Saturday, Whitney and I moved into a new house, our first owned home. When you purchase a new home, you grow up really fast. Never before had I thought about blinds for windows, fixtures for bedrooms, and we really grew up spending real money on real sofas.

One of the real, petty fears I’ve had since our first place broke ground was coming to grips with having to paint inside the home. I’m an awful painter. I don’t have the patience for it, and more than anything else, when it comes to painting I have a high that’s good enough for me level.

I’ve almost lost close friends over the botched job I did painting the bedroom of their new home. It was so awful halfway through that I was in between running away and just setting the room on fire. To this day I refuse to go into their bedroom and see the awful mistakes I made. It seriously looks like a three year old took paint to their walls. I’m just dreadful at painting.

Have you ever been halfway through painting a room and wish you could start over? Have you ever been halfway through cooking a meal and wish you could start over? Halfway through some project at work? Halfway through life and wish you could start over?

2nd Corinthians 5:17 says, If anyone is in Christ, he becomes a new person altogether. The past is finished and gone. Everything becomes fresh and new. God wants you to not just turn over a new leaf, God wants to give you a new life. It’s like starting again, being born all over.

The difference Christmas makes is that Jesus’ birth says, God didn’t come to rub it in, He came to rub it out. If there is anything that’s good news it’s that God says my past can be forgiven. Regardless of who you are or what you’ve done or what you think you’ve done, you matter to God and He cares about you. He wants to forgive you. The difference between life and death is forgiveness, and that’s possible by what we celebrate in a couple days. I’m gong to enjoy my December 25th and thank God for His Son (and I’m not going to paint on Christmas).

Zach

December 23, 2009 Posted by | Zach | | 3 Comments

Search for the message God wants you to hear

Well 2009 is coming to completion and 2010 will shortly be starting, for me personally a milestone, my oldest is graduating. (Okay now that I am completely depressed, sigh.) What do we want to hear as we complete the year or better yet what are the words that we need to hear today? In today’s highly technological society we have multiple ways to communicate. Whose email do you just open up immediately? If a letter was received and then forwarded onto you in an email, would you delete it before it is read? I can say that I delete the majority of FW: that I receive no offense please. What if it read; Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints (that is you) in Christ Jesus at Northside, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ Philippians 1:1&2 (NIV, with a personal touch.) What would be enough to get your attention? So what does the subject line need to say? Okay way to many questions. Now having a letter sent to me from someone who is in jail because they would not stop preaching the word. Paul is writing this because he wanted to encourage the church of Philippi even though he should be depressed. He is sending his encouragement to the Philippians as they were the one church that was living it.

So as you read this message and knowing we have been bombarded with so much information I realize that it is most likely being scanned from the beginning, stopping somewhere in the middle and then wrap up in the end. Ultimately being a culture of mass information and constantly searching for the most media bites we scan and move onto the next message. In the book of Philippians, we may start off with the praise to the “saints”, you all, then move into something in the middle “Watch out for those dogs…” Philippians 3:2, and then finish with Amen. Wow that was inspiring from Paul. The Bible is written to provide guidance, encouragement, instruction, life application, growth, and to become alive. So today as I read the whole Bible, “In the beginning” (Gen 1:1), “I lift my eyes on the hills—” (Psalm 121:1), and “…Amen.” (Revelation 22:21). If the soothing, informative, convicting, life changing, true, alive, relevant, God breathed, effective, … Word of God is all of these things then should we not have the desire to read, study, discern, learn, allow, be inspired, be excited, … from all the pages of the Bible? If we are just skimming the Word or searching the concordance for the perfect verse are we missing something amazing? God is the author and so often I hear from others you need to read from “  ”, he or she is amazing. God is inspiring and has written a personal letter to you and therefore we should not only be excited about what He has to say but long to hear what He has to say. So today, open the Word, don’t skim, learn it, love it, lead it, and teach it. Live your life out loud!

Blessings

Mark A Williams

December 18, 2009 Posted by | Mark | | 2 Comments

12/17 Jude

Jude is the writer of this short book and is the brother of James.  He writes a warning about godless men who are among us.  They are identified as those that change the grace of God into a license for immorality and they deny Jesus.  Then he goes on to site examples of this from the past.

4For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

5Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

8In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings.

If you know of people like this you would be wise to avoid them. God calls us to fellowship with other believers and not fellowship with the ungodly.  While we should befriend the unbeliever to help lead them to God, we should not let them sway us towards their own beliefs or lack of.

This will be the last blog post on Reading the New Testament.  We still have the book of Revelations to read.  Hope you all enjoyed this quick read through the New Testament.

December 17, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

What Difference Does Christmas Make (2 of 4)

December 16th, 2009

Scientists tell us that for those of us who live north of the equator, the longest night of the year is December 21 — the winter solstice. But any kid knows that the longest night of the year is not December 21st, it’s three days later on Christmas Eve.  I remember as a kid, I used to wake my parents up, six or seven times a night on Christmas Eve saying, Is it Christmas time yet? Many spankings I remember receiving on Christmas Eve due to childish annoyance.

What time is Christmas? The Bible says that everything that happens in the world happens exactly in the timing that God chooses. The Bible says that God specifically chose the time when Jesus Christ would come to earth. It was not an accident. In history, He specifically chose that time as the time for Jesus’ birth.  This is what God says through the apostle Paul:

Galatians 4:4-5 (Living Bible) When the right time came, the time God decided on, He sent His son, born of a woman so that He could adopt us as His very own children. God waited until just the right time to send Jesus Christ.

What time is Christmas this year? The answer to that question is found in the four statements the angels gave to the shepherds at the very first Christmas. There are four things that the angels said that we’re to do at Christmas.

1.  Christmas is time to release my fears

2.  Christmas is time to renew my faith.

3.  Christmas is time to receive forgiveness.

4.  Christmas is time to rebuild relationships.

It’s time to release your fears. Let go and let God handle that problem you’ve been worried about.  Just say, I’m going to let go of it and give You this problem. It’s time to renew your faith. Good News. God says I love you. I made you. You matter to Me .I want you to know Me. That’s good news! Renew your faith. Come back to God. It’s time to receive forgiveness. “Unto you is born a Savior.” If God hadn’t thought you needed a Savior He certainly wouldn’t have sent one. You need it. Admit it, we need God, Christ, as our Savior. We don’t stand a hope in a jillion of making it to heaven on our own effort. And it’s time to rebuild relationships. Why don’t you start by establishing the most important relationship? That’s the one between you and God.

We can’t focus so much on friends, family, and that hovering “to-do” list during Christmas time this year. God didn’t mean it that way; He wanted Christmas to be between us. This December has to be different. Take a few moments this week to thank Him for the four gifts that came true when the Truth came to us.

Zach

December 16, 2009 Posted by | Zach | | Leave a comment

12/14 1 John 4-5

God is love.  John writes that love comes from God.  If you do not love then you can not know God, because God and love are inseparable.  God showed His love by sending His only Son to this earth as a atoning sacrifice.

7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

So if we truly love God then we must love others.  During this season of love, show someone how much you love them.  Do something out of love for another person.  Not out of guilt or request, but just out of simple love.

December 14, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

12/13 1 John 3

The definition of love is that Jesus laid down his life for us.  He did this for the best of us and also the worst of us.  He did it so that the worst of the worst would have the same hope as all have.  Once we understand how deep this love is for us, we should in turn show that same level of love for others.  If someone is in need should we not help them out.  Helping others demonstrates that we understand what God’s love is.  Love is not shown through words alone, they must be accompanied by actions.

16This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

During this season of giving, let your actions speak louder that your words.  This is a favorite saying, Your actions speak so loudly I cannot hear what you say.” Hopefully that is true of you also.

December 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

12/12 1 John 1-2

1st John was written by the Apostle John.  In chapter 1 he writes about walking in the light.  God is light and the darkness is where evil exists, where sin is a way of life.  If we claim to be Christians and we follow after Jesus, we can not exist in the darkness.  Walking in the light allows our lives to be examined by others and our imperfections to be seen.  Walking in the darkness hides our imperfections, our sins.  We fool ourselves and others when we try to hide in the darkness.  God will eventually shine the light on us at some point and then we need to decide whether to continue in the darkness or accept His way into the light.

5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

Personally, I prefer the light.  While it is difficult out in the light for all to see, it surly beats slinking around in the dark.  Walking in the light doesn’t mean you are expected to be perfect, it just means when you are not, God forgives you.  He has more faith in us than we deserve.

December 12, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Love

December 11, 2009

Several times in the Bible there is reference to the greatest commandment. The passage that uses all four attributes of the text is found in Luke 10:27 (NIV) “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”(NIV). To further define that verse it reads in the Message version: “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.” Understanding the Greek and Hebrew text better will help us define the role of how God wants us to love Him. Loving Him with all of who we are, we love the Lord with all of our heart/passion or the thoughts and choices that we have and the desires that come from them. To love the Lord with all of our soul/prayer is to love Him from the depths of who we really are. To love the Lord with all of our strength/muscle, is to use that last bit of who we are-the last of our energy by completing the race when we have nothing left. And, to love the Lord with all of our mind/intelligence is to love him will all that we have already known and to share our vision.

So let’s get started and create our list of priorities of love: 1. Love God!—end of list. Now that was easy, I just pushed my “Easy Button”. However God can not be put on a list, He is the list! Our family, friends, neighbors and whoever can not be placed on the same list as God. God deserves 100% of our love. Giving Him all of our love, every ounce of it, all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind is His expectation. So how do I love my neighbor as myself? The real question is how do we love God? We love Him by loving others and showing our love for God through loving them. We can not truly love others the way they need to be loved with out giving all of who we are and all of our love to Him. Completely loving God with all of who we are will achieve the second commandment and ultimately achieve a complete fulfillment of the Ten Commandments. Loving others is the manifestation of loving God; the more we love them the more we love Him. Do not be confused here, we have to give all of who we are to Him. When we truly give all of our love and master our true love for God then we will be able to radically change the love of this world.

As we enter into December we are reminded that “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16(NIV). He sent His son to show His love for us so as we celebrate the Christ child’s birth we can celebrate His love for us. Because of the birth of the Savior we can see that God deeply loves us and deserves to be loved. “Live it out Loud” or better yet-“LOVE it out LOUD”.

See ya next Friday.

Mark

December 11, 2009 Posted by | Mark | | 1 Comment

12/11 2 Peter 1-3

In his second book Peter writes about certain qualities we as Christians should possess.  He starts with faith and then tells us to add the following.

Goodness
Knowledge
Self-control
Perseverance
Godliness
Brotherly kindness
Love

5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

10Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We should exhibit these qualities and they should continue to increase as we grow.  If we strive after these qualities then we will be effective and productive in our knowledge and work for the Lord.  What are you doing to allow them to grow in your life?

December 11, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment