Thursday, December 31, 2020

A Good Ending

Thursday, December 31, 2020 

The end of a thing is better than its beginning; Ecclesiastes 7:8 

A Good Ending

I think  Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 7:8 have never had more meaning than they will today. I daresay there is anyone who is not happy to see 2020 end! Although this year has been devastating for many and challenging for all of us, we must remember that God was still in control in 2020. Satan would love for us to believe that somehow God has lost His power as well as His seat on the throne, but neither is true. As insane as this year has been, God knew it was coming and He was with us every step of the way. Now, thankfully we can put 2020 to bed and head on into 2021 with God leading the way. 

Maybe you traveled over the Christmas holidays. If so, you know that the end of a trip is infinitely better than the beginning. It always feels so good to come back home and know that all the hours in the car are behind me.  Imagine a ship that leaves for a far port.  When it returns with all its cargo, the captain knows just what storms they weathered in the trip.  He remembers nearly running aground or being swamped.  He recalls the three nights they spent without ever seeing the stars and three days without the sun.  For him, the end of the voyage is clearly better than the beginning. 

Or perhaps, we should think of a soldier, going off to war.  Is not the end of a thing better than the beginning for that soldier?  How he longs to complete his tour and be safely home!  This point is obviously true in so many instances in life but it is not absolutely true. It must be taken with a grain of salt.  Some people look at the beginning and ask, “Will the end really be any better?” 

Because of the storms of 2020, many of us are afraid of what the storms of 2021 will bring.  Will the pandemic get worse?  Will I have less or more at the end of the year?  How will my family be affected this year?  Will more businesses be forced to close? Will we have to wear a mask forever? Will things ever be normal again? Yet, Solomon says, no matter how bad the beginning is, the end is always better. 

In our growth as believers, most Christians have more trials early in their Christian walk rather than late.  And all of us are growing in our Christian walk.  Lamentations 3:27 “It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth.”  If you wake up in the morning and the sun is behind the clouds, you don’t assume that the sun will never shine again.  And, if you are in a dark period of your life, don’t despair, the sun will shine again. 

Take this verse from The Message as a prophecy to give you hope and dispel your fears: I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out--plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. (Jeremiah 29:11)

The end of the matter will be better than the beginning. God is still in charge.  The past is history, the future’s a mystery, but God has given us this moment, that’s why it’s called the present.  It is in this time that God will move us toward that end that He has promised.  So let’s keep our eyes on the prize and move into this year with the understanding that God has a plan and a purpose for today and our future.

Have a Blessed New Year!

Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:31

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

A Radical Change

 December 30, 2020

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 18:2-4

A Radical Change
For Mary and Joseph, that Christmas night when they first met Jesus, was for them only the beginning!  From then on, every night, for the rest of their lives, they were with Jesus Christ!

They did have to leave Bethlehem, but they took Christ with them. We know, for instance, that they moved from Bethlehem to Egypt.  Then they moved from Egypt to Nazareth.  But they never moved without taking Jesus with them! There was one time, they slipped up and left Christ behind in Jerusalem.  But, as soon as they realized He was missing, they immediately went to find Him!  

In Christmas services around the world millions of people came to worship Jesus. But the great majority will simply leave saying, "That's nice!"  And they went on with life as usual. Only a few who, having seen Jesus Christ, determine never to leave His side again! 

We should always be aware that Christianity is not a religion...IT IS A RELATIONSHIP!  And, if we do get sidetracked and misplace the Lord in our lives, make a beeline back to Him as soon as we figure it out! 

For Joseph and Mary, Christmas was more than a once a year celebration, It was a day by day reality. Does the presence of the Messiah change things?  Only if you enter a relationship with Him. Christmas is only a holiday if you do not receive the gift of God and live in His presence. The promise of faith is peace, joy, love and salvation.  Are those now ours in experience or did we leave Bethlehem without Him?

Mary and Joseph Nurtured Their Relationship with Jesus! 
Raising Children is a growing experience!  Anyone who has raised children knows the parents grow up almost as much as the child does!   As they grow up, they change, and so do you.  A relationship requires constant attention to keep it strong! For one thing, YOU HARDLY KNOW THE CHILD THAT FIRST DAY YOU BRING HIM INTO THE HOUSE! You have to get to know that kid growing up in your home...AND THE TRUTH IS, YOU NEVER KNOW THEM FULLY! You have to learn to be a good parent. 

While the shepherds returned to their flocks... Mary and Joseph stayed there, responsible for the rest of their lives to nurture and develop their relationship with Jesus Christ!  The same is true with our relationship with Christ.  We get to know Him only a little the day we are first introduced to Him as our Savior! We are glad for the relationship, to know we are going to heaven. 

Nurturing – Completing what God has purposed
Mary and Joseph spent not only Christmas, but the rest of their lives growing in their relationship with Jesus! There are too many Christians, who are great people but THEY AREN'T GROWING ANYMORE IN CHRIST!  They know a certain amount about Christ, they are happy with what they know, AND THEY AREN'T INTERESTED IN KNOWING ANY MORE!  Now that Christmas is over, will you simply return to life as normal, perhaps praising God for the chance to celebrate Christmas, but really, no different than you were before? Or will you, like Mary and Joseph have your lives radically changed by Christmas? God has a purpose for all He does…and it will always result in a change in our lives

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. 2 Corinthians 9:15 (KJV)

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

A Great Light

 Tuesday, December 29, 2020 

The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.  Matthew 4:16

A Great Light

Oddly enough, that first Christmas had something in common with Christmas 2020. What did they have in common? A mood. A mood of desperation, despair, resignation, and darkness.

At that time, God’s people were feeling very defeated.  There was persecution and taxation. There was disillusionment and probably a lot of doubt that the promised Messiah was never going to come.

This year I dare say that a lot of people were feeling a little drab, despaired, and disillusioned.


Maybe you couldn’t get together with family for Christmas. Maybe you spent Christmas all alone. Maybe you are sick or have sick loved ones. Maybe you didn’t have the money to spend on Christmas that you would have like to have spent. Maybe you are staring at December 31st wondering what 2021 will hold, afraid to believe it will be better.


Whatever it is that has disillusioned Christmas for you this year I have good news! There is a great light that has come, and it has overcome the darkness, as it always will. We cannot deny that darkness exists. It would be nice to think that bad things are not real, but the God tells us they are real and that we don’t battle the things of this world we can see. Our battle is with the powers and principalities, the forces of darkness.  His light is the great light that can defeat all powers of darkness forever.


Darkness is real. But because of the Light of the World, that was born on Christmas Day, we never have to fear this darkness. The light is stronger than the darkness and the light came for you! There is hope. Life is worth living. 

What now? What do we do now with the light of the world - the great light that has come? How can we take this great light to a dark and discouraged world?

  • Shine on to others – This is a reflected light. When the light shines on you, you reflect it to others. This is the light of Christ. We reflect whatever we stand before. Whatever we surround ourselves with or submerge ourselves in, we will reflect. When we submerge our lives in Him we can reflect that light to others.
  • Reveals Truth – Light displays whatever is present, reveals the truth. This is a careful and gentle process, not to be judgmental. He reveals the truth through His love and compassion for us - to lead us in the right way.
  • Glorifies God – When we have this great light inside us, our actions and attitudes will point to God and bring Him glory. We are to be a beacon to the world of darkness, never to steal the glory from God. 

We want to live our lives in a way that draws others to it. When the light shines, people are drawn to it. Does your life make a difference? What kind of difference do you make? Jesus is clear that we are to make a difference. 

The good news of Christmas is that in the midst of a deep darkness there came a light, and the darkness was not able to overcome that light. It was not just a temporary flicker. It was an eternal flame. There are times, in the events of the world and in the events of our own personal lives, that we feel that the light will be snuffed out. But the Christmas story affirms that whatever happens, the light still shines, forever. This is the story we need to get out to the world.


Yet, in thy dark street shineth the everlasting light…The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight…O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillips Brooks

Monday, December 28, 2020

Showing Love to Those Who Mistreat You

 December 28, 2020

But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27-28


Showing Love to Those Who Mistreat You

When Jesus lived on earth, He was often met with opposition. But He always met this opposition and even hatred with love, time after time. He modeled for us the way we are to treat our enemies - those who hate us, curse us, and mistreat us. This time of year we are naturally thinking about how we can spread some extra love and cheer. Why not spread this love to those who have never shown love to us? The truest form of Agape love is the love that is given to those who seemingly don’t deserve it and from whom we know we will probably not get a thank you in return. But Agape love is given with nothing expected in return. From the verse above we can find three ways we can show this love to others:

Words of love - Bless those who curse you

The power of words is awesome. Christian love returns blessing for cursing.

It is so hard to say loving things to someone who is not being loving to you. It is our human nature to feel angry, hurt, and even resentful when someone says awful things to us and about us. But Jesus never did react with words of anger to those who cursed Him. In His power and strength, we can show the love of Jesus to those who curse us by returning blessing for cursing. 

Actions of love - Do good to them that hate you

Words are cheap - actions are costly.  This requires purpose, not emotion, for accomplishment. Jesus knew what He was saying was impossible except there was a transformation of the heart! 

Only in His power can we have the strength and control to respond with goodness to those who show us hate. That could be an anonymous act of kindness or baking cookies and taking them to an unfriendly neighbor. 

Attitudes of Love Pray for those who mistreat you – 

Jesus gave to us the best example of this when He prayed, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. Those who are opposed to your life and its influence are usually on your mind - Pray for them The true test of this kind of love is to be found at this very point. 

Nothing says love for someone more than lifting them up to our Heavenly Father. This is a private act between you and God, not for public glory. The most intimate moments between you and God, to lay open your heart and tell Him everything. You can tell Him how you might have been hurt by this person, and then pray for them.  

If you are living in a relationship with someone who mistreats you, such as a family member or a spouse, then you know the constant pull of trying to show love to them. It is the most difficult thing, yet the most sanctifying. Jesus was never saying that He wants us to be Martyrs. He never wants anyone to stay in an abusive relationship. But He does want us to respond in love always, especially to those who don’t show us love. This act of showing love to them is an extension of the very heart of Jesus Himself. We can always show love to those who love us. That is easy. But showing love to those who hate us is a true act of agape love. Jesus doesn’t call us to do easy things - like love those who love us. He calls us to hard and holy things - loving the unlovable. 

Who can you show the love of Jesus to this week? Be looking for ways to be a vessel for His love, to spread it to those who are not easy, to those who are unlovable, to those who are difficult. How can you do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you? This is what He has called us to do. Pray for His strength to respond in His love.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 25, 2020

 Merry Christmas from the Staff of
North Side Baptist Church

John 1:4–5

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Jesus came into the world as the the Light of the World. His light overcomes all the darkness - all the darkness of 2020, COVID, death, sin, heartbreak, job loss, social issues, loneliness, and so much more. As you celebrate with your family today, focus on that light that brings life. Remember all the good things He has done and all the blessings He has given. Worship Him together and praise Him for His gift of life - eternal life - that was brought to us by the tiny baby in the manger. 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

The Light of the World

 Thursday, December 24, 2020

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

 The Light of the World

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


North Side Baptist Church will offer two in-person and online Christmas Eve Services today at 4:30 and 6:00 p.m.  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.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Hope For the Future

 Wednesday, December 23, 2020

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people.  Luke 2:8-10

“Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Let earth receive her King!”

Christmas carols are playing and the message we hear once again is the promise of a king who is coming to bring us joy, peace, and love.  Songs of the shepherds, the star, the wisemen and the manger retell the story of God’s coming to earth in the form of a babe.  “Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Let earth receive her King!”  The world loudly sings the triumphant message of God’s wonderful grace given for the souls of men but is that gift really complete unless it is received? 

“Joy to the world, the Lord has come!”  Sadly, the promise of Christmas is not realized in our world.  Where is the peace, when rioters storm the streets and wars rage against those who are not like them?  Where is the joy, when so many are burdened by debt and damaged relationships?  Where is the love, where divorce, hate and distrust eat like a cancer on families?  Did God not provide what He promised?

“Let earth receive her King.”  It is not because God has not provided the needed gift, but that man has not “received her King.”  There in Bethlehem on that first Christmas night there were a few who were extremely joyful.  But even the joy they experienced was an expectant joy.  While the Lord had come, His work was not done.  The joy was in the promise of His fulfilling the further prophecies of His work here on earth.  For right now, He was merely a baby in a manger.

Too many feel that joy is the product of circumstance.  They wait for something to come into their life that will create feelings of happiness, joy, or peace.  For them, joy is something that happens to you, not something that you carry with you.

Consider the expectation of the birth of a child and the mixed emotions that are a part of the waiting.  When the day of delivery comes there is an abundance of happiness.  But the real expectation is for the change that the coming of the child will bring in the days that follow.  Life will be different; and that joy of the promise is the deeper joy that fills the thoughts of the parents and family.  Receiving the child into their homes and lives will transform their lives.  The same is true with Jesus.

How many missed the coming of the child that night but “received their King” later - a blind man sitting by a roadside, a tax collector whose life was transformed by the Master, a woman caught in adultery, some fishermen who laid down their nets and followed - all found joy.  I received Him and I pray you have as well but the joy I find in His coming is not just the experience of today but the promise of tomorrow and all of eternity.

“Joy to the World, the Lord has come” is not an empty pronouncement but the invitation to receive a new perspective on our lives and our world.  As we anticipate His impact on our today and our tomorrow, we can experience the joy of His presence and power.  His coming changed eternity for all men, but it can also change our today as we joyfully live in the hope He brings for our future.  “Let earth receive her King!”

"You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth”.  Luke 1:14

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

God's Best Gift in the Worst Times

 Tuesday, December 22, 2020

"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

God's Best Gift in the Worst Times
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! 

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

Monday, December 21, 2020

Love - The Ultimate Motivation

 Monday, December 21, 2020

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)

The candle we lit Sunday for Advent represented love. We have lit the candles for hope, joy, and peace and now this week we look at love, the ultimate motivation from God in giving us the greatest gift ever - Jesus Christ.

In this simple salvation passage is the Christmas story. John 3:16 gives the total picture of the meaning and purpose of Christmas. In this passage we discover the motive, action and purpose of the beautiful gift of Christ. Christmas and Easter are one act of God - It is called REDEMPTION.

The Person of Christmas – God

While the focus of Christmas is the manger that contains the Christ child, the person behind the manger is God. John 1:1 describes Christmas from the vantage point of eternity and identifies the child as God incarnate: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God

It is God who presides over and orchestrates the event that we call Christmas and takes it all the way to Easter. Herein for every simple heart is the very essence of the gospel. This text tells us certain very great things:

  • It tells us that the origin and initiative in all salvation lies with God.
  • God’s creation of man was for fellowship. Man sinned and separated himself from God for God is Holy. God takes the initiative to restore access for fellowship and power. 
  • Sometimes Christianity is presented in such a way that it sounds as if God had to be persuaded to forgive. Some draw a picture of a stern, angry, unforgiving, legal God, and a gentle, loving, forgiving Jesus. Sometimes men present the Christian message in such a way that it sounds as if Jesus did something that changed the attitude of God to men from condemnation to forgiveness. 

But this text tells us that it all started with God. It was God who sent His Son, and He sent His Son because He loved men. Behind everything there is God.

The Spirit of Christmas - so loved

What would cause an all-powerful God to act as He did? The answer is LOVE. The spirit of Christmas is Love. John said it well in I John 4:16 & 19 - And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love and the one who abides in love abides inGod, and God abides in Him....We love Him, because He first loved US.

Christmas is the display of the heart of God as well as the purpose of God and person of God. How does God prove this love of his? Not by a weak indulgence that passes over what should not be as if it were not there, or which pretends it does not gravely matter even if it is. That was not love at all. But by doing all that even God can do, and giving all that even God can give to help us; stretching even divine self-sacrifice to the uttermost, and holding back nothing all because of LOVE.

The Recipients of Christmas – the world John 3:17-21

It was His creation, the world, that God so loved. It was not a nation: it was not the good people; it was not only the people who loved Him; it was the world. The whole world is blessed because God chose to love it. The unlovable and the unlovely, the lonely who have no one else to love them, the man who loves God and the man who never thinks of God, the man who rests in the love of God and the man who spurns the love of God -- all are included in this vast inclusive love of GodGod loves the world; his foolish, blundering, wayward, sin-sick world; and cannot bear to leave it in the troubles and disasters in which it has involved itself; but has thrown in his all, God's all, to right things for it, if it will.

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

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Jesus Is ______ (Love) Part 4


Jesus Is ______ Part 4

Love—The Impossible Human Action
1 John 4:8-16

Worship fully and discover that Jesus is Hope. Spend Less and discover that Jesus is Peace. Give More and discover that Jesus is Joy. Today we come to the fourth action to help us fully celebrate the coming of Christ which is to Love All. Yet, human love is incapable of such a task. Our discussion today shares how Agape love can flow through us to the world.


My favorite song from today was…Why?





The Bible verses used today were...






I think the sermon was about...






How can I apply this to my life?












Something I would like to know more about...


Friday, December 18, 2020

The Perfect Act of Love

 Friday, December 18, 2020

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

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Traditions…Old and New

Thursday, December 17, 2020 

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

TraditionsOld and New
Traditions are a big part of Christmas for most people. So many of our traditions have already been replaced this year by Stay at Home orders at Easter and Thanksgiving. Many of our Christmas traditions will look a little different this year as well. Some families will choose to not come together in a large group. Some churches will not have Christmas Eve services. Many school programs have been cancelled and I saw Santa literally in a bubble! He was in a big plastic bubble with some fake snow. You could walk up to it and wave and get your picture taken, but not on his lap, not this year.

Not only are traditions a big part of our Christmas celebrations, but they are also a big part of gift giving as well. I love to give my kids pajamas on Christmas Eve. Some people want every person to have the same number of gifts to open. And some have even more specific traditions about what they give their loved ones for Christmas. But this year is a year that has broken all the rules and has no precedent. This is a good year to start a new tradition.

While everything is looking a little different, why not start some new traditions – spending less and giving more. Spending less money and giving more of ourselves. When we give more – from our hearts – it brings the focus back to Christ. It is the overflowing of our hearts full of His love that enables us to give more of ourselves. We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

This love that God gave us, this perfect gift that was wrapped in swaddling clothes rather than beautiful wrapping paper tied up with a bow. This love is the beginning of love and this love is the perfect gift for us to pass on to others. There are so many ways we can show Jesus to others this season - and every season from now on. First, you have to know this love, accept this love, and be filled with this love before you can share it. It's 2020. People need love, time, presence, and moments more than they need anything else. It has been a hard year, being separated from loved ones and friends and have we not all discovered what the truly meaningful and important things in life are? And none of them can be bought, wrapped, and put under the tree. 

Call a neighbor, bake some cookies, drop off a meal, spend some time together. Share the love of Jesus - the greatest gift ever given - with all those around you this year. Make some new traditions, traditions that point to Him. Maybe Christmas might look a little different this year, but it may be the most meaningful Christmas you have had in years. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

God's Presence Brings Joy

Wednesday, December 16, 2020 Advent Devotional from Advent Conspiracy
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”   
Luke 2:8-12

God's Presence Brings Joy

Imagine for a moment being one of those shepherds.  You are going about your job, looking after the sheep, you like the solitary.  However, the people in the nearby town don’t really respect you. Other shepherds haven’t helped.  People think you are smelly, a likely thief, a bit odd and not deserving of much respect.

Then in the stillness of the night, out of the blue, an amazing power surrounds you, God’s glory is in your midst.

How would you feel?  Would you be terrified like the shepherds or comforted?

When I look back on my life and I have been placed in the presence of powerful people with authority, I have been like those shepherds.  Terrified that I might be in trouble.  Terrified that I might mess things up.  Terrified that I might be criticized.  And as a pastor at times I meet people who feel the same about God.  They worry that God will criticize, condemn and even punish them.

But God has a different message for us, just like he had for the shepherds.

God’s angel says: “Don’t be afraid, I bring you good news that will bring great joy for all the people”   This good news is that God uses His power and authority not to condemn or terrify people, but to give us Jesus, who gives us the real gift of Christmas, the gift of a loving life with God forever.

So being in God’s presence leads to joy not fear, when we truly hear from God.


As you spend time with God take notice of the good news God gives you, that you can share with everyone you know.


Almighty God, thank you for using Your power and glory to give us the Good News of Christmas, may everyone know You by Your Good News.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Give More

Tuesday, December 14, 2020

You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. Luke 1:14

Give More - from Advent Conspiracy Blog

We’ve talked about rebelling against consumerism by spending less but now we’re encouraging you to give more… Is that a contradiction? Nope! Giving more isn’t about giving more toys, more gadgets, more clothes, more gift cards, more stuff.

God is calling us to give more intentionally and relationally. That means giving more of our time, our energy, our memories, our talents, our presence. It’s a both/and. Spend less money and give more of yourself to the ones you love.

We believe that the best gifts celebrate a relationship. Think back on the most meaningful gift you’ve ever received. Chances are that there is a story and a relationship that was connected to that gift. Now try and remember all of the gifts you were given last year…For most of us that’s hard to do.

It sounds obvious, yet we seem to have drifted away from this liberating, straightforward truth: The Father gave his one and only Son. God’s answer for the world’s problems has never been material things. God did not give us more stuff – even good stuff like work, food, or health. He gave us himself. The most priceless and personal gift of all!

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  - John 1:14

Relational giving means that we think about the other person–who they are and what they care about. We focus more on giving our undivided presence and less on a pile of presents under the tree. This takes time and effort on our part. These kinds of gifts often require planning, but you’ll hardly be able to wait until Christmas to give such a gift!

When we give relationally during the Advent season, this is what we remember: it’s an opportunity to worship as we remind each other of the gift that was given for our sake. If we can resist the trap of giving easy gifts, and reject the assumption that giving expensive gifts is the best way to express love, something else might begin to happen. Our kids, family, neighbors, and coworkers will watch us celebrate Christmas differently, and through our actions they will hear the good news of the Gospel.

Some ideas to help you Give More:

  • Check out our list of relational gift ideas.
  • If you’re overwhelmed, start small. Choose one person on your list to give a relational gift to.
  • On Christmas morning, turn off your cell phone. Take a couple hours to be present with your family and focus on the people God has put in your life.
  • Invest in experiences you can share. Sign up for dance lessons, go camping, plan a vacation, take cooking classes.
  • Pass down memories. Make a recipe book or photo album to give to your family.
  • Get a blank journal and write notes and prayers to your kids.
  • Give a copy of your favorite book to a friend and then meet up for coffee and discuss it. Then switch and read their favorite book.
  • Buy someone a gift that relieves a burden: babysitting money, help out with yard work, make a meal.
  • Give the gift of hospitality. Invite a new family over for dinner and games.
  • Do an activity with your kids – puzzles, jewelry making, baking, hiking, fishing, sports. Be present.

Monday, December 14, 2020

What is Real Joy?

 Monday, December 14, 2020  

You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.  Psalms 16:11

What is Real Joy?

So often, people confuse joy and happiness.  Happiness is a superficial feeling, but joy is much deeper. It is born deep in our souls and comes from God. It is not a product of our circumstances or our possessions.

True joy is a “state of being” more than an emotion.  Unlike happiness,
joy is not dependent on circumstances.  – Van Houser

There are times in life when joy does not come instantly, or even at all.  Sometimes, it is truly a choice to be joyful and we may even have to fight for it. We may have to pursue it so our own emotions will not drown it out. Those times may be the times that we don’t want to fight for it. It may be that we don’t want our joy back enough to fight for it. We have given up and feel all is hopeless. This is a vulnerable place for a Christian to be and a great victory for Satan! He is constantly working to try to steal our joy by making us think that joy is from this world and the things in it. Things may bring us momentary happiness, but they will never give us deep, abiding joy. That kind of joy only comes from God. 

There are some genuinely sad and hard times in life. There are times when we weep and grieve and joy doesn’t seem to be anywhere in sight. But it is possible to weep and grieve and still have joy deep down in our soul. Joy comes from God and it is unwavering. Sadness comes. Grief comes. Frustration and anger and all those emotions are part of life, but joy is not dependent on what is happening in our lives. Joy is a divine gift from God, and nothing can take it away. It is this joy from God that helps us through the tough times.


Christmas Emotions
At Christmas, our emotions are heightened, as is our stress and perceptions of how it all should go. We can let our circumstances at Christmas cover our joy if we are not careful. One way to make sure this doesn’t happen is to keep our focus on the true reason we celebrate Christmas. It isn’t about the gifts, the decorations, food, or tree. It is about Jesus and His gift to us. He gave us the ultimate gift with His life and that gift is a gift we can give to others. This gift, and passing on to others  brings us that deep, abiding joy that we so desperately seek.

Jesus exampled the joy that can be ours when we give by giving the ultimate gift - His life - eternal life.  
  • Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the JOY set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2
  • These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.  John 15:11

These verses depict the suffering He endured on the cross, yet also speak of His joy, despite His circumstances. Jesus found joy when He gave Himself and we can find joy in giving of ourselves to others also. 

Three ways we can give more of ourselves is:

We can give more time - We can give more by giving more time to those in our lives that may need us.  One of the greatest gifts we can give those who love us is time. Those people that need to talk to you, that child that needs you to play with them, etc... they don't want a material gift in place of you. They want time with you. Time spent together brings joy and it is always worth the sacrifice. 

We can give more service - We can give more in joy by giving ourselves in service, to God and others. Serving others will make you forget your burdens and troubles faster than anything by putting others needs first. It brings great joy when we serve others - joy for them and joy for us. 

We can give more love - We will always find more joy when we give love away. Love is that thing that never runs out. When we give love, our reservoir is refilled by God and then we have more to give away. We are given the love of our heavenly Father and when we give that joy to others, we will have that deep joy. 

Sunday Brother Van said The eyes and ears of a believer who is seeking to discover places to find joy do not focus on the places of happiness but those places where things and people are in need. The greatest joy we can know is in having a part in fulfilling the mission of Christ. Jesus is Joy and giving to others - time, service, and love, brings that joy straight into our hearts. 


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