My hope is in the Lord!

Not in creativity, computers, comfort, capital gains or chance; not in skills, superstition, sex, social networking, stature, safety, security, second chances, sports or staff; not in gadgets, greatness, giftedness, government or Google or even grace;  not in technology, the internet, tattoos, television, talent, thriftiness, or titles, not in identity, image, imagination, income, independence, indulgence, influence, information, instinct or integrity; not in possessions, pleasure, power, prestige, popularity, peace, performance or people;  not in laws, law enforcement, lower taxes, luck, laughter, leadership, legacy, leisure, or the lottery; not in money, meteorologists, military, machines, mates, meaning or mercy,  not in friends, fads, facilities, family, freedom, fortune telling, food; not even faith and forgiveness;

My hope is in the Lord!

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God. Ps 42:5

Put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love.  Ps 130:7

Put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore. Ps 131:3

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD. Ps 31:24

We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. Ps 33:20

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; Job 13:15

Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isa 40:31

Be joyful in hope. Rom 12:12

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God. 1 Tim 6:17

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. Heb 6:19

My hope is in the Lord. Will you join me in placing your hope in Him and Him alone? You will never be the same.

Advertisements

What’s the big deal about Christmas—Part 3- and the best

This is my third and final post on why Christmas is such an important event. It is a big deal and it would help if we have a handle on why it is such a big deal. This is the summation of my first two posts on the subject. I would prefer you read them to get the full picture, but here it is. First of all, because Jesus Christ came at Christmas, my past can be forgiven. A simple statement but eternal in impact. A second reason why Christmas is such a big deal is my present can be managed.

Here’s the third reason why Christmas is such a big deal, MY FUTURE CAN BE GUARANTEED. (This post is somewhat lengthy so I only ask that you continue reading to the end.)

Hebrews 2 “Jesus became like us to set free those who were slaves all their lives because of the fear of death.”  The fear of death is a universal problem.  It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, educated or uneducated, white, black, brown, whatever, we’re all going to face death.  It a universal problem.   Do you know what the mortality rate in America is–100%?  Since we’re all going to die, it seems foolish to go through life unprepared for something you know is inevitable.  That just doesn’t make sense.  I know someday I’m going to die.  Everybody else in history has, so I guess I’m going to.  So it makes sense to be prepared for it. You’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die. 

Have you noticed people don’t like to talk about death?  Some of you get nervous with me talking about it now. Why?  Because they’re afraid of it.  Why?  Because they’re uncertain about what’s going to happen when they meet God.  We’re all going to meet God someday.  You can run from God the rest of your life, but then you can’t run any more. 

How do you make certain what’s going to happen on the other side? The Bible says “It’s appointed unto man once to die.”  That’s one appointment we can’t run from.  But He doesn’t want you to fear death.  It says Jesus came to set us free from the fear of death.  Why?  If you already know where you’re going and you already have a relationship to God and He’s your friend, you’re not worried about what’s going to happen.  I can say in absolute sincerity, I am not afraid to die.  I’m afraid of pain but I’m not afraid to die!  I know where I’m going.  I’ve already settled that issue. I’m already friends with God.  For a Christ follower, death is just a homecoming, a transition to better things.

At Christmas time, probably the most used word you hear is “gift”.  Everybody’s worried about giving and getting the right gifts.  Have you ever received a gift within a gift?  I received a book one time and in the book was money. It was a gift within a gift.

God has some gifts for you at Christmas time this year.  They are these three that I have addressed in three blog posts on “What’s the big deal about Christmas,” but they are wrapped up in one big gift, Jesus Christ.  When you receive Jesus Christ, the gift, you get the three benefit gifts. 

 1) The gift of forgiveness.  “Let us praise God for the free gift he gave us in his Son we are set free, our sins are forgiven.”  That takes care of my past. 
 2) The gift of strength.  That takes care of the present. Jesus said, “I’m leaving you with a gift, peace of mind and heart so don’t be troubled or afraid.”  He says, I’m with you.  I’ll handle it.  I’ll help you.  You don’t know what’s going to happen but I’ll help you. 
 3) The gift of eternal life.  Romans 6:23 “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” That takes care of the future.
When you look at these gifts here are some things you notice:

 1)  They are very personal.  They come from a person, Christ, to a person, you. 
 2)  They are practical.  They are exactly what you need. They take care of your past, your present, your future.
3)  They are priceless.  They cost Christ His life.  They cost God His Son.  That shows the worth of you.  When you receive a gift that expensive you realize somebody really values you. God says, you are valuable.
 4) They are permanent.  I’ve received a lot of gifts that didn’t last till new years.  This is a permanent gift.  Like the Energizer Bunny, it goes on and on… for eternity.

Here is the most important question I could ever ask you. Have you received God’s Christmas gift of Jesus Christ? I was reading about a guy who got a Christmas gift, 49 years ago and he still hadn’t opened it. Isn’t that strange?  I can’t imagine if my wife gave me a gift (or you gave me a gift) and three months after Christmas, about March, you say, “How did you like the gift?”  I say, “I’m sure I’ll love it, I just haven’t had the time to open it yet.” 

The tragedy is many people celebrate Christmas, year after year, and they’ve never received God’s Christmas gift.  That doesn’t make sense! Because you can’t really celebrate Christmas until you do.

Let me try to explain as simply as I can what it means to accept God’s gift of Jesus. It means that we decide to accept Him as our Savior and Lord. Savior means forgiver. It means we accept the reality of our condition, that we have sinned, the Bible says we all have, and that because of our sin there is the penalty of death. Death is eternity separate from God in a place called Hell. And that there isn’t anything we can do on our own to make ourselves acceptable to God and deserving of forgiveness. The bible says “There is a way that seems right to man, but it still ends in death.” We might try to do enough good works, or be sincere enough, or religious enough, or even compare ourselves to Christians who don’t live as good a life as we do, but it still ends in death. Pretty bleak picture. Pretty desperate circumstance.

Here’s the good news. In spite of what we deserve, God offers us the very opposite. He offers forgiveness and heaven with him. That’s where Jesus enters to picture. He came to provide a way for us to be forgiven and get to heaven with God.

The Bible says He was tempted in the same kind of ways we are, but He did not sin. He is the only sinless person to ever live. But even so, he was taken by cruel and jealous people and killed. Not only was he killed he was killed in the most cruel and inhumane manner possible, nailed to a cross.  

Now, here’s what you have to understand about Jesus. He didn’t deserve to die. He had done nothing wrong. We, man, are the ones who deserve the punishment. And what you have to understand is that when he died on the cross He was taking our punishment for us. He was paying our price. He was meeting God’s requirement on our behalf.

When God sent Jesus and when Jesus died like He did, God did everything he could do to let us know how much He loves us and how much He wants to forgive us and how much He wants us to spend eternity with Him.

So he turns to us and says, “Will you accept what I offer you? Will you accept the gift? Will you accept me as your Savior, the one who died for you and did for you what you could never do yourself? And will you accept me as your Lord, your manager, boss, CEO of your life.” Will you say, “I accept that you died for me and now I want to live for you?”

This takes faith. In fact, the Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith is more than accepting certain facts to be true, like there is a God, and who Jesus is. Faith is trust. Faith is trusting yourself completely to him for salvation. Take the trust off of self and place it in God, and His Son.

When faith is real it is accompanied with certain responses. We are taught about them in the Bible.

Like this thing called repentance. Repentance means I want to stop doing life my way and do things God’s way. I want to stop walking away from God, turn around and begin walking toward God.

Another response the Bible mentions is the willingness to confess our faith in Jesus and our acceptance of Him as our forgiver and manager. It’s to say, “I’m not ashamed of this choice in life I am making.”

And a third response to real faith is following Jesus in baptism, as the Bible says, for the forgiveness of my sins. It’s the public demonstration of taking off the old, self driven life, burying it in baptism and putting on the new God centered life.

The rest is growing up to be a real Christ follower.

This is what it means to accept the gift.

I heard the story of a father who gave his daughter some plastic pearls.  She wore them for years.  When she turned 13, he said, “I want you to give me those plastic pearls you’re wearing.” Why?  “Just trust me, just give them to me.”  As he took them back with one hand, he pulled from his pocket a string of real pearls. 
God is saying to you, “Give Me the cheap plastic thrills, give Me the things you think satisfy but really don’t, and I’ll give you something that’s real, something that lasts if you’ll trust Me.”

People are reading this post for a number of different reasons. Whatever the reason God wants to say to you, “I have a gift for you at Christmas.  You matter to me.”  I invite you to not waste another Christmas by refusing this gift.

Would you like to discuss further about receiving the gift of Jesus?

I knew serving donuts and coffee was a wise choice.

On Sunday mornings we serve free Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks coffee. That was a risky decision considering the sugar content of the donuts and the caffeine strength of the coffee. However, a report published this week has confirmed that the decision was the right one. Donuts and coffee actually make us smarter. That’s the word from a study published on the MSNBC website. Here’s the actual report.

“Coffee and doughnuts may give a brain boost”
Diane Mapes writes: Leave it to Spanish researchers to discover that caffeine and glucose — found in those longtime office favorites, (and I might say, church snack counters, added by me.) coffee and doughnuts — actually make you smarter.

In a study published in the journal Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, researchers at the University of Barcelona discovered that the caffeine-glucose combo boosts your brain in terms of attention and memory. And here we thought that stuff was bad for us. D’oh!

Researchers tapped 72 men and women, ages 18 to 25, for their caffeine/glucose experiments which, sadly, involved neither Starbucks nor Krispy Kreme donuts. After fasting overnight, subjects received doses of water, water plus caffeine, water plus glucose, or water plus caffeine and glucose (about the same amount you’d get in two soft drinks). Then they were tested on attention, manual dexterity, visuo-spatial and frontal functions and memory via a battery of tests such as remembering a list of 15 repeated words; taking a peg from a cup and quickly inserting it into a hole; sorting cards imprinted with shapes, numbers or colors; and repeating a series of numbers forward and backward. In other words, standard staff meeting stuff.

As it turned out, the subjects’ reaction time improved in water spiked with either caffeine or glucose (glucose gave a bump to their manual dexterity, as well). But a combination of caffeine and glucose showed beneficial effects on attention and on learning and consolidation of verbal memory; in other words, the coffee-sugar combination boosted the effects of both substances, making the test subjects’ brains more efficient.

As usual, researchers say further studies are needed, particularly with regard to investigating the “effects of caffeine and glucose, alone and in combination, with repeated doses.”

So come on over to New Venture Church every Sunday morning and get not only your spiritual boost but your brain stimulation as well. Who knows, they next thing we might hear is that nutritionists are recommending kids eat donuts and drink caffeine drinks before they head off to school in the morning. 
 

What’s the big deal about Christmas?

In the midst of all our Christmas activities and celebrations a strange thing happens. We lose sight of what it is all about. We disconnect with the meaning and value of the season. In my last post I began addressing the question of why Christmas is so important. I would encourage you to take a minute and read it before continuing on with this entry, but, in case you skip that step, here’s the summary statement. Because Jesus Christ came at Christmas, my past can be forgiven. A simple statement but eternal in impact.

A second reason why Christmas is such a big deal is MY PRESENT CAN BE MANAGED.

I meet stressed out people all the time. I don’t know if it’s the load they are carrying or the economy or just life itself.  It gets to you.  If you look around it seems people are searching for additional power everywhere.  So many bestselling books are all about power.  How to dress for power, how to eat for power, how to shower for power… Power to do this…power to do that. People are always looking for additional energy. Good news.  The Christ who came at Christmas 2000 years ago can give you the power to manage your present problems.

Philippians 4:13 “I have the strength to face all conditions by the power Christ gives me.”  You don’t know what the next year holds, but you can face them all.  God assumes the responsibility to meet your needs.  That’s amazing.  When you decide to become a Christ follower, He assumes responsibility to take care of all your needs.  “God gave us His own Son.  Can we not trust such a God to give us everything else that we need?”  He says He’ll supply all your needs.  If He supplies all your needs, what else is left? Nothing.

Do you know what I do at the beginning of each day? I turn it all over to God. And I invite Him to direct my life. I relinquish management to Him. I give up control. Now that doesn’t mean I then sit back and do nothing. I get on with it as much as anyone. But I’m sensitive to His leading and I let Him take the lead. I let Him sit in the driver’s seat. That’s how all the challenges of life become manageable. Until that happens in my life or any life, we will live in a state of overwhelmness (If that is actually a word. You get the point.)  

He takes care of my past. He takes care of my present.

In my next Christmas post I will discuss one more reason why Christmas is such a big deal. You might be able to guess what is coming.

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES CHRISTMAS MAKE?

Are you ready for Christmas?  All the kids say, “Yes!”  All the adults say, “No!” Because the adults feel a lot like the 12 days of Christmas, right?  If not right now, then you will soon. Are you experiencing a lot of craziness? Are things out of control?

Some of you are saying, “I have meals to prepare.  I have presents to wrap.  I have presents to buy. I need to put up the Christmas tree.”  In spite of all that you have done, still have to do and the entire crazy scene, in a few short weeks the whole world shuts down and they focus on a single event, ready or not.  The freeways will be empty.  Offices will be closed.  And the whole world focuses on this single event.

Why is Christmas such a big deal? What difference does it make? How can a baby born 2000 years ago on the other side of the world have such an impact on the entire world in 2010? 

It’s because it was no ordinary baby.  The Bible says, God came to earth.  That’s what Emmanuel means, God with us. That’s bigger news than when man landed on the moon. God invaded earth.  And that event split history into A.D. and B.C.  Every time you write a check, what’s your reference point?  The birth of Jesus Christ.  2010 — from what?  From the birth of Jesus Christ. 

But He was no ordinary baby.  If He had stayed in the crib, we wouldn’t be here today.  He grew up and He taught some powerful things about God because He was God. 

So?  Even if He was God.  What difference does it make?  It makes a big difference!

I want to be as simple and as straightforward and as brief as possible.  The Bible says that because Jesus Christ came at Christmas time, here are some things that can be true in your life.  I want you to remember this in 2010 and forever.  It has to do with your past, present and future. Pretty much all of your life. I am going to explain one reason today and the other two in coming posts.
 
Here’s the first reason why Christmas is such a big deal. BECAUSE JESUS CHRIST CAME AT CHRISTMAS, MY PAST CAN BE FORGIVEN.

Romans 3:23-24 (Living Bible) “All of us have sinned yet now God declares us `not guilty’ of offending him if we trust in Christ who freely takes away our sin.”  That’s good news.  The fact is none of us are perfect.  I don’t measure up to my own standard, much less God’s.

Do you ever read the letters to Santa Claus in the newspaper? They can be so adorable. .  One little kid wrote, “Dear Santa, There are three little boys who live at our house.  There’s Jeffrey.  He is two.  There’s David. He is four.  There’s Norman.  He is seven.  Jeffrey is good some of the time.  David is good some of the time.  Norman is good all of the time.  I am Norman.” 

The problem is — none of us are Norman’s.  None of us are good all of the time. We all have regrets and guilt has a devastating effect on our lives.  It robs us of happiness.  It causes depression.  It can make you sick.  Guilt does all kinds of things to us because we don’t know how to get rid of it.  People will do anything to relieve guilt.  They’ll take drugs or get drunk or try therapy or go to Disneyworld.  Thrills, travel, become workaholics.  Anything to cover up the things I wish hadn’t happened in my life.

But there’s only one solution– forgiveness.  The good news is God wants to forgive you.  He wants to clear your conscious.  Now, when God forgives you, here are some things about it that you need to know.

  •  It’s instant.  He doesn’t make you wait to forgive you.  You don’t have to wait through a long probationary period before you’re forgiven.
  •  It’s undeserved.  You’ll never earn it.  You can’t work for it.  You can’t beg God for it.  You can’t bribe God for it.  It’s undeserved.
  •  It’s complete.  The Bible says, When we confess our sins to God we give them to Christ, God says, “Their sins will I remember no more.”  That’s one of the most amazing verses in the Bible, that God can forget.  The God, who made the whole world, chooses to forget your sin once it’s forgiven.  Isn’t that a mind blower? If you are a Christian and you died tonight and go to heaven and said, “God, about that divorce…”  He’d say, “What divorce?”  “God, about that dishonesty…”  “What dishonesty?”  “God about that remark…”  “What remark?”  It’s forgiven. 

What God forgets, you can forget too.  That’s good news.  Most of us, even if we believe God forgives us, don’t forgive ourselves. We hold onto guilt over the years.  Somebody said, When God forgives us, He takes our sin and throws them in the deepest part of the ocean and then He puts up a “No fishing” sign.  Don’t drag them out again.  Satan wants to keep you under guilt, but God says it’s forgiven. 

My past can be forgiven.  Even if there were no such thing as heaven, and there is, but even if there weren’t, it would be worth it just to have a clear conscious.  Regardless of who you are or what you’ve done or what you think you’ve done, you matter to God and He cares about you.  He wants to forgive you. God says your past can be forgiven.

Have you ever been halfway through painting a room and wish you could start over?  Have you ever been halfway through a meal and wish you could start over?  Halfway through some project? Halfway through life and wish you could start over?  “If anyone is in Christ, he becomes a new person altogether. The past is finished and gone.  Everything becomes fresh and new.” 

God wants you to not just turn over a new leaf, God wants to give you a new life.  It’s like starting again, being born all over.  If there is anything that’s good news it’s that God says my past can be forgiven.   

Let that reality set the tone for your Christmas season. If you have any questions about God’s forgiveness I would love to hear from you. Next time I will share a second reason why Christmas is such a big deal.