Archive for December, 2014

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But I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…” (Philippians‬ ‭3‬:‭13‬ NLT)

When I was a Youth Pastor, my Pastor and mentor, Gary Elrod, kept all his sermons in yearly binders, called them his “recipe books” that he could draw from. In my office today, I have the same thing. But in that line up of binders, going back to 1998, is one small, red binder: 2002, the hardest year of my life.

Just because we walk the Christ Life path does not guarantee us a life free from pain, or even a sustained season of it. But our mindset must be on the God who not only brings us into the valleys, but also has plans for us on the other side of them! So we can do as Paul did, letting go of whatever things have held you back or haunted your mind, and then pressing on with a confident reassurance of a new season while being held in the mighty hand of God!

On my sermon shelf are plenty of binders that stretch past that little red one. I keep it as a reminder that, as the Bible says, “it came to pass…” Allow God to convict, correct, heal, and guide your new year. Resolve the old and make room for the new life ahead! You are loved!

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Then his disciples said, ‘From this we believe…Jesus asked, ‘Do you finally believe?'” (John‬ ‭16‬:‭29-31‬ NLT)

Some years ago, I heard a man affiliated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Ministry speak of the millions who came to God through their incredible crusades over the decades and around the world. But with remorse, he made a confession: By their own estimates, only less than 2% of those who made decisions for Christ actually committed themselves to living the Christ Life.

In my own mind, I recalled several televised crusades from my childhood where teary-eyed souls would stream to the platform to pray a prayer, never giving another thought to the fact that the “experience” of the moment would be abandoned due to never plugging into a local church and a discipleship process.

God is so much more than an experience! In this text, the disciples have lived the previous three years in a very emotional place with a mighty Savior. But while they claimed to believe, it was a belief born without testing, without pain or sacrifice. His response: You don’t believe enough because you are about to leave Me (v. 32).

Your belief in the Lord, His abilities, and His power cannot stem from good feelings or academic knowledge, but from a tested and true relationship with Him. Any thought of belief apart from this is wishful thinking on our part. When you arise from the testing grounds, you will stand knowing that God is real because you endured and remain! Never settle for anything less! You are genuinely loved today!

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Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah‬ ‭41‬:‭10‬ NLT)

On December 15th, Craig Johnson was on his way to visit his family when his snow mobile started to sink. He survived being lost for three days in the Alaskan wilderness, 40 miles from civilization, in subzero temperatures and being stalked by a wolverine. But only after the searching helicopters flew past him did he start to give up hope.

As you look back on 2014, there may be some hopeless situations you’ve had to endure; for some, maybe it’s been longer than a year. But the amazing thing about our God is that His very presence and existence screams hope for anyone who will listen! Throughout the Bible, God is spelling out the case for divine protection for the believer: If we are His, then He will provide and defend.

Craig Johnson is a blessed man to be alive today, and so are you. We don’t have to be stuck in Alaska or the Pacific Ocean to feel hopelessness. Be free from the dungeon of the your mind by allowing God to save you. If you are His, then your eventual breakthrough is secure! You are loved today! Hang in there!

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Now therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth.” (Psalms‬ ‭2‬:‭10‬ NKJV)

At age 74, Benjamin Fred Roll had been able to get his arms around pretty much everything life presented him: World War II battlefields, Appalachian oil fields, and the raising of eight children. But one thing kept eluding him: passing the California bar exam. Thirteen times, Roll, a retired lieutenant colonel and real estate agent, failed the grueling three-day test. But on the 14th try, he was successful!

Growing in God is not a simple or short process. To try the Christ Life without Christ’s teachings is a failure waiting to happen. God has given us teachings and capable teachers to help know who He is, what He desires from our life, and what lies ahead for the faithful followers. While it will be difficult to understand all of it, it is of the utmost importance that we do not fail in developing our discipleship habits!

As you get ready to welcome the weekend and an upcoming new year, set goals to achieve at this time of life. But among all of them, desire to know God better so that you can experience a greater and fuller life in His presence! You are loved today!

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Then the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing…which the Lord has made known to us.'” (Luke‬ ‭2‬:‭15‬ NKJV)

Have you ever wondered what the Christmas story would have been like if Mary and Joseph hadn’t traveled to Bethlehem, in spite of the official census? What if the shepherds chose to stay in the fields, ignoring the angel’s urging? What if the wise men had better things to do than to chase a star across the desert? Things would have turned out a LOT different!

When God brings a word or revelation to your life, it is useless unless it is acted upon. God’s urging means there is a plan, but it incorporates our commitment of action to create His desired outcome. Our problem is usually that we desire our own convenience over the sacrifice to find the endeavored blessing that awaits us. We don’t like things that cost us something.

As we celebrate Jesus’ advent of salvation for all mankind at Christmas, consider His plans for your life. If you are willing to be obedient and search out God’s best at His leading, you’ll find spiritual discoveries that not only change your life, but that impact those around you too! Come and see! You are loved!

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And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” (Luke‬ ‭2‬:‭12‬ NKJV)

Imagine if the birth of Christ happened today, how would it be written? Maybe it would be something like this:

“And suddenly an angel appeared to the Detroit sanitation workers as they hung out at the garbage truck garage. Frightened, they ran for cover, just knowing that all kinds of badness was about to break out! But the angel spoke peace to them, announcing the birth of the Savior, ‘And this will be the sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in a homeless man’s jacket and lying in a shopping cart in a parking garage on Junction Street.’ And suddenly the garage was filled with angels singing and praising God, blending worship with diesel fumes. Once the workers realized that it wasn’t a gang drive-by, and making vows to visit their mommas at church, they scrambled into their garbage trucks and caravanned to the parking garage and found the baby just like they were told, along with a frightened teenage girl and her boyfriend.”

Sometimes we miss just how strange the original story was! But God’s plan was with a purpose, that the Savior would be welcomed by all nationalities and social classes. Take time this Christmas to appreciate the story God created for all mankind and you! You are divinely loved!