Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas
& A Happy New Year!

from your church staff

Friday, December 23, 2011

Discovering the Prince of Peace

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."  Luke 2:13-14

Everyone wants peace. Yet our time is like Jeremiah’s: “‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).  Many Americans live in comfortable homes, but domestic violence is at an all-time high.  Our cities are the most modern in the world, yet the streets are unsafe Our communication technology is unsurpassed, but there has never been more misunderstanding. In fact, people come to church so filled with anxiety that it is almost impossible for sermons to put them to sleep.

Where can we go for peace? Where on this earth can we discover lasting and fulfilling peace? For many, the destination for finding peace may seem preposterous. The place of peace is actually a misnomer.   Peace is found in a person. The only lasting peace comes from the One known as the Prince of Peace. 

Who Is This Prince of Peace?
Of the four titles given to our Lord Jesus Christ in Isaiah’s prophecy, this one speaks to the deepest needs of the human heart.  Peace was the supreme longing of the true Israelite and was the promised fulfillment of the Messiah’s reign: so they sang and hoped and waited for the coming Prince of peace.  It was a deep longing for the one who would come and change their lives...even their world.

Isaiah had foretold the coming of a child worthy of the title, Prince of Peace.  A title such as Prince of Peace doesn’t just happen.  A title is received as a birthright, or it is conferred by royalty. Such a title conveys a family bond to a ruling monarch and a legitimate claim to honor.

What was Jesus’ claim to this title? In what ways was He a prince?
  • He was the Son of the Master of the Universe, and the son of a king is a prince. 
  • He gave to those who became His followers the gift of a special kind of peace, a peace far more enduring than any peace earthly kings have ever been able to accomplish. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.”  John 14:27
What Kind of Peace Does the Prince Give?
The Prince of peace came to bring us peace with God and the peace of God.
  • Peace with God is spiritual peace. “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)
  • The peace of God is emotional peace. We must have peace with God before we can experience the peace of God—emotional peace—an internal sense of well-being and order.  The Scripture says, “God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” (1 Cor. 14:33)  This peace is not the absence of conflict, but it is an ability to cope with the conflicts and frustrations of life. Even in the midst of difficulties, God’s peace will be present.
The Prince of peace wants to give us peace, and He is ready to present that gift to us if we only accept it. 

Scripture to Claim:
And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful. Colossians 3:15

Thursday, December 22, 2011

God's Best Gift in the Worst Times

"But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” Therefore He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel.  And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth.  This One will be our peace. Micah 5:2-5

On Hampton Plantation in coastal South Carolina there used to live an elderly sharecropper, illiterate but very wise. One of his favorite sayings was this: If you ain’t in trouble, your prayers ain’t got no suction.”  Translation:  It is our desperation that increases our determination to draw God to us in time of trouble.

The Bible declares that our extremity is God’s opportunity. God is most likely to be found at your wit’s end, just when you need Him most, when you have run out of answers and almost out of hope.

Consider the great prophets of the Old Testament: Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah. These were not prosperity prophets. No, they were aroused by God in times of crisis, even of national disaster.

Jesus did not visit this planet when we became good enough to receive him. “While we were yet sinners,” says the Bible, “Christ died for the ungodly.” He faced us at our worst, and loved us anyway, all the way to a cross.

What does this mean for you and me in this season? It means this: Those who enter this holy season with the greatest needs stand the best chance of encountering the Messiah. 

After all, Jesus the Great Physician did not come to heal the healthy but the sick. His mission is not to round up the pious, but to seek and to save the lost.  If you are hurting or lost or spiritually hungry this December, the odds are very great that you could encounter the Messiah.

What causes me to believe this? I’ll tell you. I got it straight from an Old Testament prophet named Micah.  Seven hundred years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Micah was called by God to speak his word to the nation of Judah. Though just a simple farmer, he was utterly fearless. 

The national situation was awful: morals were low, crime was rampant, the government was decadent, the courts were corrupt, most organized religion was formalistic and cold, and the dominant religion was materialism. Yes, that could be a description of contemporary America, but actually I’m talking about Judah in 700 B.C.

To make matters worse, Judah was a tiny nation precariously perched between two hostile superpowers--Assyria and Egypt. The nation had about as much security as a fly in a room full of lizards.  Insecurity, weakness and even hopelessness plagued the nation.  At that critical moment, Micah lambasted the nation’s sin and called for repentance.

 But he did much more than that. Inspired by God, he looked out into the future and said: A Messiah will be born in tiny Bethlehem. God is going to send someone great to us. So don’t despair. God has good news coming!  

Yes, it is the prophecy of the coming of Jesus Christ who is our strength and our peace.  So if you are among those in need receive God’s gift for your life today.

Scripture to Claim:
For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. John 3:17

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Interruptions

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, "GOD WITH US." And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. Matthew 1:18-25

Often an interruption brings on a knee-jerk reaction. We make decisions that, if we were better informed, we would not make. We must be careful that when we face an interruption, we don’t just react according to our own fears and feelings. We might make a serious mistake.

The key to handling an interruption is to get God’s take on it.  Thankfully, God rescued Joseph from his error.  I can imagine Joseph, having learned of Mary’s situation, tossing and turning in bed, trying to decide what to do.  Finally, he decides. He will divorce her privately. Having decided, he finds enough peace to get to sleep.  But while he is sleeping an angel of the Lord appears to him in a dream.  Joseph awoke with a changed mind.  He would not divorce Mary. He would take her as his wife and help raise this miraculous child.  He had gotten God’s perspective of his interruption.

When you encounter an interruption, whatever it may be, don’t react according to your own feelings and thoughts. Seek God’s direction. Remember Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV)

Here are three words to remember when you encounter an interruption.
The first word is prayer. The first thing to do when your life is interrupted is stop and pray. Pray for guidance. Pray for courage. Pray for help. But pray. When you look to God He will help you. 

The second word is perspective. Put the interruption in the proper perspective. How bad is it really? How long will it actually be important? What difference will it make in eternity? 

The third word is providence. Keep in mind that God, in His providence, is still in control of your life. Nothing can happen to you without the leave and notice of your Father. He still has all of the hairs on your head numbered. 

Interruptions can at times redirect our lives in a new and positive way. This was true of Joseph and Mary. Their plans were interrupted, but oh what an interruption. Can you imagine a more wonderful privilege, or a more challenging responsibility, than to be the human parents of the Son of God? The direction their future took was not what they had planned, but it was so much better.

Have you ever considered that God could do that kind of thing in your life? Not that you would be made the parents of the Son of God, but that God would take what seems to be an interruption, an unforeseen problem, and use it to set your life on a new and better path.

Whatever interruption you may be enduring right now, why not look at it in a different light, and ask, “God, are you using this to do something great in my life?” Then begin to look for the marvelous things He will do.

Scripture to Claim:
And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  Luke 2:7

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Light of the World

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. John 1:4-9

Snoopy of Charlie Brown comic strip fame is typing a novel. He begins his story, "It was a dark and stormy night ..." Snoopy always starts his stories in this manner. Lucy looks at what Snoopy has written. She goes into a tirade, putting down Snoopy for such a silly beginning. Doesn't Snoopy know that any good story starts with the words, "Once upon a time ..."
The last frame of the comic strip has Snoopy starting his story again. Now he is ready. He types, "Once upon a time, it was a dark and stormy night." Do you feel like Snoopy sometimes? No matter how you begin your story you somehow revert to "a dark and stormy night." If you feel that way today you are not alone. Most of us are struggling in one way or another to overcome the dark side of our existence.

There is a lot of darkness in life.  There are times where it seems we will never break into the light again.  The Bible speaks of all mankind apart from Christ being in darkness and in need of the light.  The book of Job speaks repeatedly about the darkness of life as he struggles with his troubles.  It was into this darkness that God sent His light.  

It is light that dispels the darkness by revealing the truth about it.  In the darkness of our despair, fear rises up in us for what we think could be there.  We find ourselves groping and timidly searching our way along in life.  What is it we need?  We need light...the light that enlightens us to the truth about the darkness and thus strikes down our fears.

It is light that brings understanding.  It is light that brings hope.  It is light that brings security.  It is light that brings salvation.
Out of all the metaphors for Christ, this is one that all Christians can agree on; that Jesus has brought light to our lives.  It is through His truth that we have been set free.  He has conquered the darkness by revealing not just our sin but His cross!  

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. Isaiah 9:2

The light of the world is Jesus! 
Scripture to Claim:
For You light my lamp; The LORD my God illumines my darkness. Psalms 18:28

Saturday evening at 6:00 p.m. and Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m. at North Side Baptist Church we will gather together to light the Christ Candle on our Advent Wreath.  We will enlarge that light with our individual candles and gradually darkness will be dispelled by the light.  We trust you will join us for this special event. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

A History of Messiah by George Frideric Handel

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6  

A History of Messiah by George Frideric Handel

The story goes that after the first performance of Messiah, an enthusiastic member of the audience congratulated composer and director George Frideric Handel for producing such a wonderful piece of "entertainment."  "Entertainment!" Handel replied, "My purpose was not to entertain, but to teach them something."

That was April 13, 1742, in Dublin, Ireland. The previous year, Handel had been approached by the librettist Charles Jennens about a musical oratorio on the life of the Messiah. Jennens' concept was to tell the entire story of the Christ through passages of Scripture put to music. He would begin with the Old Testament prophecies foretelling the ministry of Christ, move to the New Testament's accounts of the birth of Jesus, then forward through his death and resurrection, all seen through the eyes of the writers of Scripture.

In an age when illiteracy was widespread and written copies of the Bible were expensive and rare, Handel became excited about Jennens' idea. Handel pioneered the "oratorio," a musical composition designed to teach the Scriptures by setting them to music. He seems to have immediately understood how important such a composition about the life of Jesus might be, and he set to work on it right away.  The following account is told:

In a small London house on Brook Street, a servant sighs with resignation as he arranges a tray full of food he assumes will not be eaten.  For more than a week, he has faithfully continued to wait on his employer, an eccentric composer, who spends hour after hour isolated in his own room. Morning, noon, and evening the servant delivers appealing meals to the composer and returns later to find the bowls and platters largely untouched.

Once again, he steels himself to go through the same routine, muttering under his breath about how oddly temperamental musicians can be.  As he swings open the door to the composer’s room, the servant stops in his tracks.

The startled composer, tears streaming down his face, turns to his servant and cries out, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself.” George Frederic Handel had just finished writing a movement that would take its place in history as the Hallelujah Chorus.

Handel set to work composing on August 22 in his little house on Brook Street in London.  He grew absorbed in the work that he rarely left his room, hardly stopping to eat.  Within six days part one was complete.  In nine days more he had finished part two, and in another six, part three.  The orchestration was completed in another two days.  In all 260 pages of manuscript were filled in the remarkable short time of 24 days.  This was not out of his custom when writing.

Sir Newman Flower, one of Handel’s many biographers, summed up the consensus of history: Considering the immensity of the work, and the short time involved, it will remain, perhaps forever, the greatest feat in the whole history of music composition.”  Handel’s title for the commissioned work was simply Messiah.

Messiah premiered on April 13, 1742 as a charitable benefit, raising 400 pounds and freeing 142 men from debtor’s prison.  A year later, Handel staged it in London.  Controversy emanating from the Church of England continued to plague Handel, yet the King of England attended the performance.  As the first notes of the triumphant Hallelujah Chorus rang out, the king rose.  Following the royal protocol, the entire audience stood too, initiating a tradition that has lasted more than two centuries.  This work has had an uncanny spiritual impact on the lives of its listeners.

So, this Christmas when you thrill to the presentation of Handel’s Messiah, know that it was written to teach us about our wonderful Savior.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Love All – LOVE

We know love by this that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. 1 John 3:16-18

When Jesus loved, He loved in ways never imagined. By spending less at Christmas we have the opportunity to join Him in giving resources to those who need help the most. One less gift. One unbelievable present in the name of Christ.

Love All – LOVE
Love is a word we use a lot to describe our affection for things and in America, we love a lot of things. We love our kids, spouses, freedom, sports teams, chocolate, steak, pizza, pets, mother etc.  Christmas love contains an extra effort of Christ-like character and love that we give during this season.

Consider Christ’s Love Sacrifice 1 John 3:16-18
 I don’t know if you have ever really contemplated the greatness of God’s sacrifice for us.  Love came down at Christmas.  Not just a squishy, gooey emotional love but a purposeful and sacrificial love. I am not sure that we will ever be able to get our heads around the sacrifice that Christ made for us so we could have the opportunity for life. To give up everything, the glory of heaven, the perfect union with the Father and Spirit, to take on flesh and voluntarily subject yourself to the limiting nature of flesh even while knowing the glory you experienced with the Father.  Jesus understands sacrifice in a way that we never will because we cannot love as purely as He loved.

Our Love for Others should be Sacrificial
Because God loves us and His love is sacrificial, John tells us that our Love for others should be sacrificial.  When we reflect on the perfect love that came down that first Christmas and embrace who Jesus is, how does that translate into our lives?  Maybe it's more about dying to our selfishness and pride than it is about jumping into oncoming traffic or taking a bullet. Maybe it's not so much about what we say as it is about how we act. Maybe it's about truly finding joy in the giving rather than the receiving

·      We need to be sacrificial with our currency - Money is one of those things that can truly show where our heart is because money can purchase many of the other things we like.
·      We need to be sacrificial in our conduct – Our actions, the things we do, speak love to others.  Our words need to be backed up with our conduct. The actions of love are different than the actions of greed, lust, selfishness or control.

To Love sacrificially requires a New Nature
John tells us that the ability to love in this way comes from God.  Agape love acts when we don’t feel like it.  It requires that we know God; not just know about Him… we need to be in relationship with Him. We enter that relationship by receiving Jesus Christ as our Savior. That is when we receive the Spirit of God to indwell us and help us to grow in our capacity to love with God’s kind of love.

Here is the Loving All – It is compassion and consideration displayed in our everyday relationships. What are the sacrifices, other than financial, that we can make to love others? Paul gives some very practical ways to be sacrificial in our lives.  The heart of sacrificial conduct is AGAPE love. 

Scripture to Claim:
and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you;   1 Thessalonians 3:12

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Give More - JOY

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  John 3:16

Give More - JOY
We continue to Worship Fully, Spend Less and look today at Giving More.  It’s a time when we are encouraged to think outside and live outside our own wishes and desires and reach out with both with gratitude and with generosity. GIVE MORE doesn’t have to mean SPEND MORE!  “Giving More” is about becoming more deeply connected with people and needs in a way that really matters. God’s gift to us was a relationship built on love. The epitome of relational giving is the incarnation.  Emmanuel means God with us.  We believe that in Christmas, God became incarnate in Jesus.

The Perfect Act - that He gave
When your heart is right then your actions will follow. The action of love is to give...personally, sacrificially and sufficiently.  Relational giving for Christians means giving of ourselves in ways that are incarnational, giving in ways that makes God present in the life of others. It means giving of ourselves in ways that bring healing, hope, peace and reconciliation to the lives of others who need those very things from God. It means giving of our own lives in ways that help to bring new life to others who may be despairing of the lives they are living.  You can’t do that with a pair of socks.  The incarnation happens every time Christians choose to give more of God through themselves for the sake of others.

The Perfect Gift - His only begotten Son
The value of a gift should be determined by the difference it makes in the life of the one receiving and giving.  God saw our need. He recognized our helplessness. He gave a gift we cannot repay.  This was a grace gift.  It is the real definition of a gift. It has no obligation attached to it at all.

He paid a debt He did not owe, I owed a debt I could not pay. 
I needed someone to wash my sins away. 
And now I sing a brand new song, Amazing Grace. 
Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.

When we consider the perfect gift, the best place we can turn is the gift God gave us in Christ at Christmas.  He sent His only Son as a tiny baby to be the savior of the world, yours and mine.

To give may be better understood as sharing.
We have enough plus more than we need which places us in the position of being responsible for stewardship of God’s resource.  Which end do you want to be on? Not to use God’s resource for His purpose will cause us to be troubled by discontent and a hunger for more as we put more trust in our resources and consume them on ourselves. Seeing and touching the needy brings a response of love which cannot be created by pictures or words. Do you really know the needs of the people in your life…home, workplace, community? 

The Gift of Time
Time is the real gift Christmas offers us, and no matter how hard we look, it can’t be found at the mall. Take time to make a gift that turns into the next family heirloom, time to write mom a letter. Take time to take the kids sledding. Take time to bake really good cookies and sing really bad Christmas carols. Take time to make love visible through relational giving. Sounds a lot better than getting a sweater two sizes too big, right?” Advent Conspiracy

Scripture to Claim:
… but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.   Romans 6:23

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Spend Less - PEACE

After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Matthew 2:11

Spend Less - PEACE
We like gifts.  Our kids really like gifts.  We’re asking people to consider buying ONE LESS GIFT this Christmas...just one.  Sounds insignificant, yet many who have taken this small sacrifice have experienced nothing less than a miracle: They have been more available to celebrate Christ during the advent season.  The whole meaning of the Advent season prior to Christmas is this: a gift from God is on the way.  The basic reason we offer Christmas gifts to each other is to honor and reflect the only perfect gift ever offered--the gift of God through a Bethlehem baby named Jesus.  The problem is not Christmas, it is our expectations.  We are looking for the wrong thing!

Our level of joy at Christmas is directly related to where we look.
The Magi show us how to increase our level of joy at Christmas by looking for the right thing.  What was it they were looking for?  They came to Jerusalem and said, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”  They were looking for Jesus.  Christmas for them was an opportunity to worship Jesus.  The problem was they used their heads and went to Jerusalem because that is where the king would be.  Our logic tells us that Christmas will be all we want it to be if we just spend more.  Expectations set up disappointments – Re-set the scale!!!
Our level of joy at Christmas is directly related to what we give.

With the season of giving upon us come the usual Christmas questions: To whom should we give? What should we give? How much should we give?  We can let our joy be stolen by the feeling of having to give the perfect gift or the best gift. 

Advent Actions
·      Pause and ponder: Read the Christmas story in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 and ponder the deep meaning of what it means that Immanuel, God with us, has come to dwell in us.
·      Invite Jesus into your “impossible” situation: Christmas is a time for miracles to take place. I love the words of Gabriel to Mary found in Luke 1:37:“For nothing is impossible with God.”
·      Buy one less gift this year and use that money to give more: Ask God how He wants you and your family to bless someone else this year.
·      Tell your family and close friends that you don’t want a typical Christmas present this year.  

Consider the following quote from Advent Conspiracy:
We are constantly searching for the one thing that will satisfy us. Yet each time we trust the promises of our possessions, more barriers are raised between our true selves and God’s plain command to love [Him] above all things. It’s not that we necessarily want more – it’s that what we want is something we can’t buy.”
(From “Advent Conspiracy,” page 24)

When you look for the right thing, look in the right places, and give the right gift, you will have joy at Christmas.

Scripture to Claim:
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.  James 1:17

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Take Time to Think it Through

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us." So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.  Luke 2:15-16

This Advent season here at NSBC we are celebrating Christmas a little differently.  We are “Reframing Christmas”.  By that we mean that we are looking at Christmas in a different light.  Instead of focusing on shopping, spending more, doing more, etc…, we are focusing on four different points this season.  They are Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All.  Focusing on these four aspects of Christmas will make the true meaning of Christmas shine bright.

Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing - FIND HIM and WORSHIP HIM.
It starts with Jesus. It ends with Jesus. This is the holistic approach God had in mind for Christmas. It’s the party of the year. Entering the story of Christmas means entering this season with an overwhelming passion to worship Jesus to the fullest. The tragedy of life is that there are so many good things that force out the best. We can easily get caught up in all the shopping, parties, programs, etc…, and forget about focusing on the one thing that is most important.  And then the season is over and the opportunity is gone for another year. 

The world shows little priority to spiritual things.  We must look for the miraculous amid the mundane. We are burdened with choices of things that are not bad in themselves, but in their amount they become burdensome and oppressive. We are not rushed and pushed by things that we don’t like or want to do but by too much of a good thing.

Take Time to Think it Through
And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.
Luke 2:18

Meditate on the real meaning of Christmas. The Incarnation was real.  Christ’s identification was complete. His complete identification means he can save you, whatever your situation.  The baby was born to die – Savior.

His understanding and sympathy are real because he had the same type of physical body we have, and still does. This baby was the anointed one – Christ.

That baby, God’s Son, demands our complete allegiance. This baby is Lord of all - Lord.

He really did come into the world, and because of this, he really can come into your heart.

Worship Fully - Faith
The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.  Luke 2:20
Keeping Christmas to ourselves will rob us of the greatest opportunity we have to discover true joy and truly have a Merry Christmas. This time of the year is perfect for sharing your faith with your family. 

·      The whole reason for the season is found in the birth of Christ

·      Faith” not only means trusting, the word is also used to define what we believe.

·      Our beliefs should describe who we are.

Have you allowed Christmas to make a positive difference in your life?  Do you return to work after the holidays, praising God for the gift of his Son and rejoicing in a merry Christmas? Real worship changes all of our life.

Scripture to Claim:
 O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.   Psalm 95: 6

Monday, December 12, 2011

"Who? Me? Beyond My Door..."

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak. Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. Colossians 4:2-6

The church of Colossae had been infected with the leaven of false philosophy and the religion of knowledge.  The result was the undermining of the Person of Christ and the perversion of the purpose of Christianity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Believers exalted their minds and sat on their "salt".

Knowing must never replace being.

Even "living water" can stagnate if it simply pools together and stands for too long of a time without any activity.   God-intended the living water He gave to flow out, to move toward those who did not know Him.  Paul is writing from prison and is unable to "walk" about as he would like. He is writing to a people that are free to carry the gospel to others, but have chosen to be "knowers" and not "doers" of the Word.  

 (PRAY) To pray for the lost beyond our doors –

What begins with prayer (talking to God about men) ends with evangelism (talking to men about God).  Paul calls the Colossians to be continually devoted to prayer as they should, but he also calls them to pray for them and for open doors of utterance.

Most corporate prayer time is dominated by crisis prayers of sickness or distress.  Paul is charging the church to engage in Kingdom prayers that will advance the gospel of Jesus Christ – we too, must learn to pray beyond ourselves towards those without Christ.

(GIVE) To give to the work beyond our doors –

Paul desires for the church to partner with him in missions and ministry – “that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.” When we give to the Cooperative effort for mission we place ourselves in a partnership.  It is as important that I give as it is that they go.

(GO) To go to the fields beyond our doors –

Paul instructs the Colossians to "walk" in wisdom toward them that are without.  The term without has a double application – those without or outside our walls; and those without or outside of Christ.  If we are to engage the lost, we are to engage them beyond our doors. We are to go where they are and present Christ in grace and with salt. In other words, our speech and lives should produce a thirst for the Living Water of Jesus Christ.

Christ urges us in the Great Commission to take his words to the ends of the earth.  Remember during this Christmas season to give the gift that will bring life, eternal life.  Don’t forget in all of the holiday hustle and bustle to share the love of Christ with those around you, neighbors, people in line at the store, those in desperate need.  Christmas is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the spirit of the season.  For many will be more receptive this time of year than any other.  Emotions are high and hope is abounding.  Let it flow from you to those around you.

Scripture to Claim:
And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."  Luke 10:2 ESV

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Can You Hear the Angels?

Luke 2:8-14
We are a dying race living on a dying planet. All that we see around us will someday vanish without a trace.  Despite our best efforts, there is nothing we can do to save ourselves.  If we are to be saved, salvation must come from somewhere else.  It must come from outside of us.  So God sent His son. 
Incarnation means that God came to earth and shared our humanity.
The incarnation is the presentation of our salvation.  It has the same power as Easter.
The resurrection is no problem for those who believe in the incarnation.

I. Christmas is about When Two Worlds Collide - And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them,

It is impossible to miss the supernatural element in the birth of Jesus.
A great divide in the world comes right here at the point of spiritual awareness and sensitivity.

A Biblical Portrait of Angels:

1.     They are spirit beings, created before mankind.
2.     Angels can appear to human beings in many different forms.
3.     Angels are most often sent as God’s messengers.
4.     Angels are guardians protecting us from harm.
5.     Angels express the glory of God and praise Him. 

II. The Nature of the Supernatural - the glory of the Lord shone around them.

There are some things that can never be proven by logic and reason.  They are beyond them.
The great things by which we really live are not proven by logic, but by life and experience.
When you lose the ability to sense and relate to the spiritual things in life a great part of your life is lost.

III. The Power of Awe - and they were terribly frightened.

It was sung in the highest manner, sung in the highest heaven and sung for the Highest Being.
The String Theory of Physics - the "theory of everything."
Some things in life capture our attention while others capture our amazement or our wonder; but the awe of God captures the soul.

Friday, December 9, 2011

His heart, His hands, His voice - I am Southern Baptist missions | JOHANNESBURG

Week of Prayer:

His heart, His hands, His voice - I am Southern Baptist missions


Lisha* was just a little girl who trusted her pastor, but he raped her. As a teenager she trusted her friend, but he raped her repeatedly. When Lisha’s mom found out she was pregnant, she kicked Lisha out, forcing her to find a home with her abusive boyfriend. He soon realized he could profit from selling Lisha to his buddies for sex. Lisha is now 33 years old and still trapped in forced prostitution.

Lisha is just one of an estimated 27 million victims of human trafficking around the world. Human trafficking is the practice of deceiving individuals or taking them against their will, selling, buying, and transporting them into slavery. Trafficking encompasses more than just sexual exploitation; men, women, and children are also trafficked for forced labor.

IMB missionary Martha Richards*, who lives in Johannesburg, met Lisha while researching trafficking in South Africa. As Lisha shared her story, Richards was eager to help girls escape from bondage.

“We need to open our eyes and take a hard look at the reality around us,” Richards says. “Many of these girls have never received genuine love. They desperately need to know the love of Jesus.”

Richards tried to help Lisha and another woman escape, but their “owner” found them and forced them back into prostitution.

·        Pray that God would save trafficking victims and their owners. Ask Him how He wants you to join the global fight against trafficking, whether through prayer, support, or personally rescuing victims of modern-day slavery.

*Names changed
Further Resources on Week of Prayer can be found at

Scripture to Claim:
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My savior, You save me from violence.  “I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, And I am saved from my enemies.   2 Samuel 22:3-4

Thursday, December 8, 2011

His heart, His hands, His voice - I am Southern Baptist missions | LONDON

Week of Prayer:

His heart, His hands, His voice - I am Southern Baptist missions

If you are a follower of Jesus, you are part of the task to fulfill the Great Commission.  Paul says, “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). Jesus has commissioned us to be His heart, His hands, His voice. Through praying, giving, and going, Southern Baptists have fulfilled this legacy for more than 160 years.  Yet billions remain lost and time may be running out for them. We must pray more intentionally and give more sacrificially than ever before. Our churches must take direct responsibility for helping reach the nearly 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups that missionaries may never be able to get to.  And, since most unreached people groups likely are represented in the world's urban centers, we have unique challenges and opportunities to reach the world through the cities, as illustrated in this year’s week of prayer features.  What can you do, individually? Start by being “Southern Baptist missions” through your prayers to be an extension of His heart, hands, and voice through unprecedented giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering®. 
Though she has always lived in London, Fatimah grew up observing her family’s Islamic rituals, just as if she were living in her father’s homeland of Iraq. And she has faithfully passed these traditions on to her own children. Fatimah’s parents make the hajj to Mecca every year, and she has been five times herself, she says.
“We don’t drink alcohol or smoke, so we save that money to use to go to Mecca,” she explains. “It’s really lovely there, like a festival, with everyone there for the same purpose,” she says, her eyes shining as brightly as the tiny diamond piercing her nose.

Fatimah lives in an area of west London teeming with ethnic restaurants, clothing shops, mosques, and Sikh temples. To walk the streets of Southall is to encounter a very different London from what most tourists to Britain experience.

London is an amazing place to get to relate to people from all over the world,” says Patrick Sims*, IMB missionary. This multicultural aspect of London brought Sims, strategy leader for the London team, to work here nearly a decade ago.

The world has indeed come to London: schoolchildren here speak more than 200 languages, and more than 40 percent of London schoolchildren speak a language other than English at home. As in urban settings everywhere, building relationships is a challenge for missionaries serving here.

·        Pray for missionaries in London to develop deep, cross-cultural relationships in this urban environment.

Further Resources on Week of Prayer can be found at

Scripture to Claim:
For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly…   Romans 12:4-6a

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

His heart, His hands, His voice - I am Southern Baptist missions | KARACHI

Week of Prayer:

His heart, His hands, His voice - I am Southern Baptist missions

If you are a follower of Jesus, you are part of the task to fulfill the Great Commission.  Paul says, “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). Jesus has commissioned us to be His heart, His hands, His voice. Through praying, giving, and going, Southern Baptists have fulfilled this legacy for more than 160 years.  Yet billions remain lost and time may be running out for them. We must pray more intentionally and give more sacrificially than ever before. Our churches must take direct responsibility for helping reach the nearly 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups that missionaries may never be able to get to.  And, since most unreached people groups likely are represented in the world's urban centers, we have unique challenges and opportunities to reach the world through the cities, as illustrated in this year’s week of prayer features.  What can you do, individually? Start by being “Southern Baptist missions” through your prayers to be an extension of His heart, hands, and voice through unprecedented giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering®.

Aadam Channar* was only a boy when Baptist missionary Hu Addleton first brought the Gospel to his province in Pakistan. Today he is an evangelist trying to reach Pakistan’s largest city.

Karachi is the largest city in Pakistan. When we arrived there [in 1956], it was 1 million population. Now it’s 17 to 18 million,” said Addleton, who retired after serving 34 years in Pakistan with his wife, Bettie. “It is a picture of the whole country, because you have every ethnic group living in Karachi.”

About 97 percent of Karachi follows Islam. Christians make up only about 2 percent of the city’s population, according to the US State Department.

Channar grew up in a tiny Hindu village very different from the bustling hub of Karachi, but that did not keep him from approaching the city with the intention of sharing the good news of Jesus among its many people groups.

“God gave me this vision: ‘Go [to] Karachi. Leave your home, area, village.’ So God sent me here,” Channar said. “That’s why I am in Karachi.”

Addleton, who discipled Channar, encourages Southern Baptists to continue giving through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

“We ought to continue to pray for [Pakistani Christians] and to challenge people to go,” Addleton said.
·        Please pray for Channar as he represents the Lord as His heart, His hands, His voice in the city of Karachi, and ask that more Pakistani Christians would respond to God’s call to do the same.

Further Resources on Week of Prayer can be found at

Scripture to Claim:
Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!"   Isaiah 6:8

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