Tag Archives: Gifts

3 Church Priorities in a New Year

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:19-20

Time goes by so fast!  Hard to believe we are in another brand new year.  Thank the Lord for His mercy in giving you and I another day to live and serve Him!

The above verses are generally known as “The Great Commission” along with Mark 16:15.  Incredibly enough, the all-powerful God has partnered with His followers to deliver the Word of God into this lost world.  So the goal is to see people saved, discipled, and in turn, them making new disciples.  This is paramount.  This goal is #1. And then this cycle is to continue from one generation to the next.

As time goes by, even the most well intentioned Christians, and even whole churches, can lose sight of the main goal.  Our lives get crowded. Our vision of the goal becomes cloudy.  Some merely achieve good things and unintentionally neglect the best things.

As Christians and as a church we must have a heart that is not divided of affection for God, or distracted from the purposes of God for our lives.  With this in mind, my 3 objectives in leading our church this year are as follows:

  1. Salvation and Worship. The first goal is for people to engage in a close relationship with Jesus.  Knowing God truly begins at salvation.  Have you been born again?  Are you saved?  Our Sunday morning services at 11:00 AM will be oriented towards knowing God and learning how to become a Christian.  These will be terrific service to bring friends, relatives, and neighbors so they can hear the Gospel.
  2. Discipleship and Growth is the next area to zero in on.  What kind of follower of Jesus are you?  Will you participate in our Adult Bible Studies?  Small Group Bible study and discussion can cause healthy interaction with the Word with others. The 10:00 AM Adult Bible Studies are a great avenue for spiritual growth and knowing other people along the Christian journey.
  3. Service and Winning.  In what ways will you serve Jesus this year?  How will you serve others?  I am concerned if we only focus on serving the people we know and like.  We need to reach out.  We must show the love of Jesus to the people around us.  If not, how will this world know of their need for Jesus and His eternal life? I believe every saved and growing christian, must use their spiritual gift and find at least one ministry in which to serve in and through the local church.  In addition, no matter what you spiritual gift may be, you are called to be a witness to the lost.  Each of us are capable to telling others about the love of God, the forgiveness of our sin (that He paid for on the Cross), and how to be saved.  We can hand out tracts, help in evangelism outreaches, and invite people to sit with us at our 11:00 AM church services on Sunday.

The terminology and how these goals are articulated are being reviewed and revised as you read this article.  I hope to be able to share very soon a clear path to achieve these 3 goals.  With God’s help, these 3 goals will be restated and repeated time and time again.

Will you help?  Will you worship the Lord?  Will you become a good disciple of Jesus, learning and growing with other believers?  And will you make an eternal difference by finding a way to serve with your church while delivering the Gospel to others?

I believe the Lord will do good things as we keep our eyes on serving God in the entirety “His Great Commission.”

 

 

 

 

 

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The Last Lamb

The Last Lamb

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  Luke 2:8-9

When it came time for the birth announcement of Jesus to be given, the Lord told shepherds first.  These lowly and modest outdoors men were the first people God gave the “good news” to.  It is only fitting that they were the first ones to hear about Baby Jesus.  I hope to tell you “why” in just a moment.  For now consider sheep:

Sheep are used for several important things in history:

  1. Sheep cheese. The milk of Sheep is better for making cheese that Cows or goats’ milk.   According to Wiki: “sheep milk gives a much higher cheese yield than the milk from cows or goats. …Sheep milk is rarely drank as fluid milk.”
  2. Sheep wool. The wool of sheep is used for clothing even today.  It is a terrific natural product for fabricating warm, durable clothes.
  3. Sheep sacrifices. The Lord accepted the life of the sheep.

Sheep play a central role in the story of the Bible. For example:

  • I believe the first sacrifice was when God killed an animal to make clothing for Adam and Eve following their sin. It was probably a sheep.
  • Abel comes next and offers a lamb to God while Cain offered vegetables. God accepted the sheep sacrifice in Genesis 4:2.
  • Abraham, Isaac, Jacob all gave lambs to God.
  • Moses formalized the sacrifice of lambs in the Law.
  • The Lamb must be young with no blemish. This requirement is demonstrated at the first Passover in Exodus 12.
  • The sacrificial lamb at the tabernacle and later the temple were to be offered daily. Once in morning and another one in evening according to Exodus 29:38-43.  In addition there were several other offerings where a sheep was sacrificed, and killed on behalf of the people for their sin.

By the time Baby Jesus arrives on earth, the shepherds, particularly in Bethlehem, had been working diligently, since the days of Solomon, to produce the best, and most perfect lambs.  The priest in the Temple looked to the shepherds in Bethlehem to supply the sacrificial lambs to be used in the Temple worship.

When the “Last Lamb” was born, it is only fitting and quite poetic that God tells the shepherds about His arrival first!  Jesus is the “sacrifice once for all” according to Hebrews 10:10 and like John the Baptist said in John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

Jesus is the Last Lamb.  He paid the final sacrifice with His very own life’s blood.  While religion says: “do” Jesus says: “Done.”  When dying on the cross, being sacrificed for our sins, Jesus said: “It is finished.”  Jesus completed the redemption plan and for you and I to be forgiven of our sin and to be saved, all we do is believe.  WE believe the Gospel, the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lamb, Jesus.  Have you expressed faith in Jesus to God?  Have you prayed the “sinners’ prayer” confessing you sin, acknowledging Jesus and the Gospel and asked God to save you?  If not, why not take a moment to pray and do so now?

 

 

 

 

 

An Unimaginable Trade

An Unimaginable Trade

Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.  Romans 5:14

Before Martin Luther penned his 95 Thesis, John Hus, had already been burned at the stake because of His faith in Jesus.  He was a “pre-reformation” reformer who loved the Scriptures. Speaking of Christmas, John Hus said, “Rejoice, that the immortal God is born, so that mortal men may live in eternity. Rejoice, because the rich Lord of the Universe became poor, that He may enrich us needy ones.”

Jesus came to right the wrong that the first Adam had started… Rebellion, pride, sin. Because of our personal sin and our sin nature – both a result of Adam’s sin – we needed Jesus. The “one to come” in the above verse was Jesus.  He came for us and that is why we celebrate Christmas!

  • Jesus left the throne of Heaven and traded it for a lowly feeding trough.
  • Jesus left the bright light of Heaven and traded for the dark lighting of a stable/cave.
  • Jesus left the splendor of Glory and traded what many would consider the “slums” of earth.
  • God took on human flesh. He became man and walked among men for 33 years!

This is a trade that Jesus made because of love.  Jesus was sent by God the Father and He willingly embarked on a mission of mercy to seek and to save the lost.  We are lost in our sins and Jesus made the way for salvation.  He was born to die.  He came to earth to be the only sacrifice the Father would accept for the forgiveness and atonement for our sin.  Jesus traded riches for rags that we might be eternally rich!

Be thankful for Jesus.  Whatever this day is bringing your way – trouble, pain, difficulties, busyness – stop everything and thank the Lord Jesus for making this trade – for coming to this earth for us.

By the way – there is one more trade we cannot forget.  Jesus traded our sin for His righteousness.  He took our sins upon Himself and paid for them on the Cross.  He washes away the sin of the believer and when the Father sees a Christian – He sees the righteousness of Jesus.  What a great deal for us!  It really is an unimaginable trade!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Blurriness of Christmas

The Blurriness of Christmas

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.  Matthew 2:11

Consider the last few days in this month of December.  Lots of people are talking about “holidays” and Christmas. Many people appear to worship Christmas instead of worshiping Christ.  It is an easy thing to do.  There are holiday parties, travel to grandparents, gift exchanges and more.  I enjoy the holiday decorations, lights and nativity scenes we see all over the place.  The movie industry, commercial sales industry, and society as a whole are celebrating.  But, it is clear they are celebrating something other than the events in the Bible. The busyness of Christmas can give us blurry vision.

When the wise men saw baby Jesus they kneeled down to worship Him.  They did not loose sight as to why He was here and what Jesus was doing on the earth.  Just like when the cold temperatures outside and the warm temperatures on the inside causes the windows to fog up sometimes, we can have a hard time seeing Christmas for what it really is.  There is such a disparity in the perceived “reasons for the season” in the world today.

Pray and ask the Lord to help you not loose sight or have blurry vision during this holiday season.  With all the busyness and possible distractions of this season, take some time to kneel in prayer, thanking and praising God for His Son and our Savoir Jesus, the Christ.

 

 

 

The Gift of Himself

The Gift of Himself

I read about one boy named Alfred who “wrote a letter to Santa which read, “Dear Santa, you did not bring me anything good last year. You did not bring me anything good the year before that. This is your last chance. Signed, Alfred.””

Of course, us humans receiving material gifts is not the purpose of Christmas. Modern thinking tends to focus on gifts to the neglect of the reason for Christmas to begin with.

As the Christmas day approaches news reports always come in about record sales or low sales at the stores.  As soon as Black Friday hit, we heard of the large number of retail sales.  Online sales soared again on Cyber Monday.  Business owners perhaps are thinking “this is the best Christmas ever!”

When everything is said and done – the first Christmas is the best Christmas.  It was on that day, that Jesus inserted Himself into this human experience, took on flesh, and began His mission to seek and save the lost.   He gave Himself to us as a gift.

With all the busyness of the season, please do not forget the reason for this season.  God’s love.  His Gift. God’s Son. His Sacrifice. Our Sins. His Forgiveness.  Thank the Lord Jesus came to earth for us.   Thank God for the gift of His Son and the Salvation He purchased at the cross.

Philippians  2:5-8 is a good Christmas reminder: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Developing Character at Christmas

Developing Character at Christmas

“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11

In a day of extreme excess and people forgetting the true meaning of Christmas, Christian people must purpose in their mind and be deliberate in their actions to accurately portray Christmas to the family and to others.

The American Research Group reports: “Shoppers around the country say they are planning to spend an average of $929 for gifts this holiday season, up from $882 last year according to the 32d annual survey on holiday spending from the American Research Group, Inc. Planned gift spending for 2016 is $47 above spending in 2015 and it is the first time planned gift spending exceeds $900 since 2006.”

Black Friday, and Cyber Monday were again record breaking days in the number of sales and dollars transacted.

I like the choir song: “Much to do no time to do it, I can’t get it all done at Christmastime…”

With our schedules and minds being pulled in so many different directions, sometimes we forget the real purpose and meaning of Christmas!

Here are some ideas to help build character in yourself and your family members.

Emphasize Giving, Not Getting.  In Acts 20:35 Jesus said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

  • Encourage kids to give outgrown cloths.
  • Encourage the family to give unused toys (Even the tools and toys the men may have).
  • Exemplify giving to others in more need. Find someone to give food or essential items. Give things that you enjoy that others may enjoy them too.
  • Enjoy sharing a meal with others.
  • No matter our age, occupation, or financial status, each of us are in a position where we can give something to someone else.

Encourage Moderation, Not Excess.  Philippians 4:5 declares: “Let your moderation be known unto all men.”

Moderation means appropriate and mild.  When the wise men celebrated Jesus, they did so with three meaningful gifts:  “gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”

The gold was worthy of a King, the frankincense demonstrating His purity, and the myrrh represented His purpose for coming, to die on the cross.  Most of the time a few quality gifts mean more.

Joseph was able to take baby Jesus to Egypt and escape the murderous plot of King Herod to kill all the baby boys age 2 and under.  Joseph left his job and had the ability to move because of these meaningful gifts.

With our children we have purpose behind each gift.  We give…

  • An item they were hoping for. An item that would be on a “Wish list.”
  • An item they share with others in watching or listening to. An old TV show or movie that does not take away but contributes to godly character.
  • An item they can play with others. A board game, basketball, or even a video game would work here.

Cloths are a necessity so we do not include them as an item.  Three gifts are all we plan for.  Be purposeful with your gifts.  You may have some priorities that are like the above suggestions.  Whatever you do – have a purpose of some kind behind each one.  Be generous – with purpose and meaning.

Enable Simplicity, Not Busyness.

The church at Ephesus in Revelation chapter 2 “left their first love.”  How can that happen?  Because of the excess, commercials, and lustful society we live in – it is easy to get caught up with material things and business too.

Proverbs 4:23 instructs: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”  In order to keep safe our heart – we must have a greater purpose and plan.

Sometimes we are so busy we do get anything done.  Many of us do not accomplish anything that is worthwhile even though they have stress, work, and all the other symptoms of being productive.

SELAH – Stop and Think – is a needed practice at Christmas time.  Here are some suggestions to help you not be so busy that you forget what Christmas is really all about.

  • Read the Christmas Story in Matthew 2 and Luke 2.
  • Go to and participate in special church programs, but lesson your overall commitments of time and energy to things that have less than spiritual purposes.
  • Turn off the tv during the days off school. Our kids should not sit in front of a tv from 8 am to 3 pm.
  • Tune up beautiful Christmas Music. There are many wonderful Christian radio websites that will encourage you.  Please see the other postings for their addresses.
  • Go Christmas Caroling.
  • If you do watch a Christmas Movie, do so together as a family.

Be Purposeful – to Develop Character at Christmas.  Since Jesus Himself is the gift of Christmas, the things we do and give should reflect Him.  After all – It is His birthday we are supposed to be celebrating.

 

 

 

 

Gift Giving

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Gift Giving

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.  Matthew 2:11

Gift giving has gone on at Christmastime for a long time.  In our passage, the wise men bring worthy and timely gifts to Christ and His family. The gold was worthy of a King, the frankincense demonstrated His purity, and the myrrh represented His purpose for coming, to die on the cross.  With these gifts, Joseph was able to leave his employment and even leave the country as tyrannical King Herod was killing off all the male babies two years of age and under.  The Christ child lived in Egypt for a while before being brought back to Israel as the Old Testament prophesied in Hosea 11:1.  With hearts of love, expecting nothing in return, these men gave. The gifts the Wise Men brought were symbolic, meaningful, and beneficial to the Christ child and to His family. 

When we give gifts at Christmas time, be sure that you and those in your home are reminded about the significance of gift giving.  Every gift that is given is an opportunity to remember the greatest gift – when God sent Christ into this world to bring us the gift of eternal life.  As Romans 6:23 instructs:  “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”   With thankful hearts, let’s give to each other all the while remembering the greatest gift .