Friday, December 31, 2021

Evening Scripture Reading - Romans 2:1-4

Romans 2:1-4 English Standard Version

1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

New Year's Eve Message - Forget the Past and Focus on What Lies Ahead

In chapter three of his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul writes, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

As we look to a new year, we must not concentrate on the things of the past. We, like a runner, must look ahead and concentrate on finishing the race and receiving the prize. I am not saying that we don’t remember the lessons of the past. We learn from our mistakes so that we can avoid them when we encounter them in the future. The race we run every day is not a sprint; it is a marathon. In order to win in a marathon, speed is not the primary method for winning. It is a small part of the equation. The real strategy is to maintain a constant pace, avoid obstacles that may slow us down and maintain a laser focus on finishing the race.

Notice what Paul says about what he focuses on. He forgets the past and looks forward to what lies ahead. He continues to press on until he reaches the end of the race. We must be the same in our faith. We must not only run to receive the heavenly prize but we must also run away from those things that will slow us down or ensnare us. 

Paul, in chapter six of his first letter to Timothy, writes, “But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.

By pursuing “righteousness and a godly life”, we are able to remain on course and able to avoid the pitfalls of going off course. Paul’s words to Timothy and to the brothers and sisters in Philippi need to ring true for each of us. If we concentrate on living a righteous and godly life, we cannot lose our way and run in the wrong direction. When we lose sight of righteousness, that is when we begin to experience problems in our lives.

I want you to think about the times in 2021 where you have veered off course and found yourself thinking about something else. How was that part of your race? If you are like me, I can tell you that that part of the race was very difficult. When I tried to find my own way, I struggled even more and got more and more lost with each step. Relying on my own strength and sense of moral direction only got me in a worse situation. However, when I realized the error of my way and looked to God for help, things changed in a big way and I was given directions back to the course and placed on a firm footing to start again.

As you celebrate the new year, take time to understand the lessons of your past difficulties and apply them to the rest of your race. Remain dedicated to finishing it and focus only on Him who gives you strength, protection and guidance each and every day. If you just do those things daily and forget the past, you can and will stand firm in His grace in the coming year ahead.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit,

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 134:3

Psalm 134:3 English Standard Version

3 May the Lord bless you from Zion,

    he who made heaven and earth!

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 14:28

Proverbs 14:28 English Standard Version

28 In a multitude of people is the glory of a king,

    but without people a prince is ruined.

Morning Scripture Reading - Colossians 3:13

Colossians 3:13 English Standard Version

13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Evening Scripture Reading - Numbers 30:1-2

Numbers 30:1-2 English Standard Version

30 Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the people of Israel, saying, “This is what the Lord has commanded. 2 If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 134:1-2

Psalm 134:1-2 English Standard Version

1 Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,

    who stand by night in the house of the Lord!

2 Lift up your hands to the holy place

    and bless the Lord!

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 14:27

Proverbs 14:27 English Standard Version

27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,

    that one may turn away from the snares of death.

Morning Scripture Reading - Isaiah 33:5-6

Isaiah 33:5-6 English Standard Version

5 The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high;

    he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness,

6 and he will be the stability of your times,

    abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge;

    the fear of the Lord is Zion's treasure.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Evening Scripture Reading - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 English Standard Version

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 133

Psalm 133 English Standard Version

1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is

    when brothers dwell in unity!

2 It is like the precious oil on the head,

    running down on the beard,

on the beard of Aaron,

    running down on the collar of his robes!

3 It is like the dew of Hermon,

    which falls on the mountains of Zion!

For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,

    life forevermore.

Mid-Week Message - Stepping Into the Future

"Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path."  Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

I have a vivid memory of lying on my bed as a teenager and thinking ahead to the year 2000.  I calculated my age and realized that I would be 42 years old.  At that time I wondered if that year would even come because it seemed so far off that it was inconceivable.  

Fast forward and we find ourselves at the end of 2021!  The time has passed and it seems to have passed much more quickly than was ever expected.  Life has presented us with incredible joys and the depths of great sorrow that reminds us of the brevity of our days.  

As we prepare to step into another new year, we may find ourselves wondering how to proceed.  So many changes have taken place that we never expected to see during our lifetimes and we can't help but have some trepidation about what the future might hold.  

Matthew 6:34 (MSG) tells us, "Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.  God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."  No matter how hard we attempt to project what will happen in the future, we will be unsuccessful.  There is only One who knows what is ahead and His instruction to us is to trust Him.  

Life can be like hiking through a treacherous area in the darkest of night.  Even with a flashlight we may only be able to see just a couple of steps ahead.  We have no idea what we will encounter.  The safest way to make the journey is to have a guide who knows the way.  

Today's verse reminds us that God's Word gives us the direction we need.  He may only show us one step at a time but we can have faith that He has gone before us to prepare the way and as long as we stay close to Him, we will be safe.  He will never lead us where He cannot protect us.

As we approach 2022, we can have confidence that the Lord already knows everything the year will bring and knows exactly how He will accompany us through it.  No matter what it brings, He will be beside us.  Blessings await us as we hold onto His hand and we have nothing to fear.  

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 14:26

Proverbs 14:26 English Standard Version

26 In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence,

    and his children will have a refuge.

Morning Scripture Reading - Jeremiah 10:6-10

Jeremiah 10:6-10 English Standard Version

6 There is none like you, O Lord;

    you are great, and your name is great in might.

7 Who would not fear you, O King of the nations?

    For this is your due;

for among all the wise ones of the nations

    and in all their kingdoms

    there is none like you.

8 They are both stupid and foolish;

    the instruction of idols is but wood!

9 Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish,

    and gold from Uphaz.

They are the work of the craftsman and of the hands of the goldsmith;

    their clothing is violet and purple;

    they are all the work of skilled men.

10 But the Lord is the true God;

    he is the living God and the everlasting King.

At his wrath the earth quakes,

    and the nations cannot endure his indignation.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Evening Scripture Reading - Matthew 2:13-18

Matthew 2:1-12 English Standard Version

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler

    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 132:13-18

Psalm 132:13-18 English Standard Version

13 For the Lord has chosen Zion;

    he has desired it for his dwelling place:

14 “This is my resting place forever;

    here I will dwell, for I have desired it.

15 I will abundantly bless her provisions;

    I will satisfy her poor with bread.

16 Her priests I will clothe with salvation,

    and her saints will shout for joy.

17 There I will make a horn to sprout for David;

    I have prepared a lamp for my anointed.

18 His enemies I will clothe with shame,

    but on him his crown will shine.”

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 14:25

Proverbs 14:25 English Standard Version

25 A truthful witness saves lives,

    but one who breathes out lies is deceitful.

Morning Scripture Reading - Joel 2:1-2

Joel 2:1-2 English Standard Version

1 Blow a trumpet in Zion;

    sound an alarm on my holy mountain!

Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,

    for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near,

2 a day of darkness and gloom,

    a day of clouds and thick darkness!

Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains

    a great and powerful people;

their like has never been before,

    nor will be again after them

    through the years of all generations.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Evening Scripture Reading - 1 Samuel 7:10-12

1 Samuel 7:12-14 English Standard Version

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14 The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 132:11-12

Psalm 132:11-12 English Standard Version

11 The Lord swore to David a sure oath

    from which he will not turn back:

“One of the sons of your body

    I will set on your throne.

12 If your sons keep my covenant

    and my testimonies that I shall teach them,

their sons also forever

    shall sit on your throne.”

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 14:24

Proverbs 14:24 English Standard Version

24 The crown of the wise is their wealth,

    but the folly of fools brings folly.

Morning Scripture Reading - Deuteronomy 34:9-11

Deuteronomy 34:9-12 English Standard Version

9 And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses. 10 And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Evening Scripture Reading - Isaiah 12:2

Isaiah 12:2 English Standard Version

2 “Behold, God is my salvation;

    I will trust, and will not be afraid;

for the Lord God is my strength and my song,

    and he has become my salvation.”

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 132:8-10

Psalm 132:8-10 English Standard Version

8 Arise, O Lord, and go to your resting place,

    you and the ark of your might.

9 Let your priests be clothed with righteousness,

    and let your saints shout for joy.

10 For the sake of your servant David,

    do not turn away the face of your anointed one.

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Accept and Share or Return

Millions of individuals will be spending their Sunday not in worship but in standing in lines to return gifts or spending their gift cards. Stores will put items on sale to entice people back into their places of business to spend more money on Christmas purchases. Gifts that didn't fit or just weren't right will soon be returned so that those receiving the gifts will get what they want. But, there is one gift that was given to all of us. That gift came in the form of a small child who would one day take on the sins of the world and be our atonement sacrifice for all time. Have you accepted that gift of salvation? 

As we approach the new year, it is time to reflect on things. We think back through all the events of this year. Some of them bring a smile to our faces while others tend to cause us uneasiness. Whether our memories of 2021 are good or bad, they are in the past and we cannot change them. The only thing we can do is to move forward in our lives and look forward to 2022. In order to help us get through next year, we all received a gift - a gift from God. 

This gift was given to each of us out of love. God sent His son, Jesus, to live among us, to teach us and ultimately die for us as our payment for our sins. Indeed, Jesus is truly the best gift that anyone can receive and, most importantly, share with others. When you think about Jesus as a gift of salvation, he really is the gift that keeps on giving. He provides a path back to the Father and gives the opportunity to love others and share the Good News with all. 

In the fourth chapter of Acts, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, says, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.

The person who Peter is referring to is Jesus. It is only through Jesus that we can receive salvation. No one else is able to save another from hellfire and damnation. As a pastor, I have saved no one. I have merely shared the Good News with others. Jesus is the only one who can save. In fact, I cannot save myself. Salvation can only come when you accept Christ Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord of your life. 

When you think about the past year, what do you see? Do you see a life full of misery and fear? Do you see yourself sinking in a tempest of turmoil? If that is how you see your life, do you still want to live that way?

These are very poignant questions to consider and they must be answered. If you only see fear, uncertainty and doubt in your life and fear the sunrise because you don’t know what the day will hold, listen to my words today and allow Jesus to come into your life. You don’t have to live in fear and wonder what will happen to you when “that moment” comes.

The author, in chapter nine of the Book of Hebrews writes, “And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.

We all have an appointed time to die. There is no getting around that basic, immutable fact. Each of us will face that moment when we close our eyes for the last time. With all of the advances made in medicine, death cannot be overcome. It can be postponed through extraordinary intervention, but, in time, death patiently awaits us all.

The only way to overcome death and truly be victorious over it is to accept Jesus and live your life with a Christ-like attitude. When sins are forgiven, there is no need to continue with sacrifices. The one sacrifice has been made for all and has paid the debt of sin. 

Many may see this message as dark before the end of the year, but to some, it will be light that shines brightly into their darkness. Many still walk in darkness daily and seek something more in their lives. Each has tried all of the different “isms” that the world has to offer and each has left all with more questions and doubts. Some will say that all roads lead to Heaven and to God. They are wrong. 

Jesus, in chapter fourteen of the Gospel of John, says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

The world will offer you so much and deliver on so very little. The world will make promises that it cannot possibly keep. Don’t fall for the words of this world. If you do, the only thing it will deliver on is more misery and fear. 

I implore you today to allow my words to fill your heart, mind and soul. Think about all of the things you are facing now. Do you feel dread daily? If you do, then I ask you to have a little talk with Jesus. He will show you the way to the Father and give you peace.

Paul, in chapter four of his epistle to the Philippians, writes, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”  

If you want the gifts of salvation and peace, don’t hesitate. Admit you are a sinner and ask for forgiveness. Ask Jesus to come into your life and be your friend. He will be your everlasting friend and will be there with you when times are tough. When you accept him as your personal Savior and the Lord of your life, you can rest assured that you will stand firm in His grace daily and have the strength to handle whatever tomorrow has in store.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 14:23

Proverbs 14:23 English Standard Version

23 In all toil there is profit,

    but mere talk tends only to poverty.

Morning Scripture Reading - Isaiah 26:7-9

Isaiah 26:7-9 English Standard Version

7 The path of the righteous is level;

    you make level the way of the righteous.

8 In the path of your judgments,

    O Lord, we wait for you;

your name and remembrance

    are the desire of our soul.

9 My soul yearns for you in the night;

    my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.

For when your judgments are in the earth,

    the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Evening Scripture Reading - 1 Peter 1:3-9

1 Peter 1:3-9 English Standard Version

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 132:6-7

Psalm 132:6-7 English Standard Version

6 Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah;

    we found it in the fields of Jaar.

7 “Let us go to his dwelling place;

    let us worship at his footstool!”

Merry Christmas!

Luke 2 New Living Translation

The Birth of Jesus

2 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.

6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

The Shepherds and Angels

8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,

    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 14:22

Proverbs 14:22 English Standard Version

22 Do they not go astray who devise evil?

    Those who devise good meet steadfast love and faithfulness.

Morning Scripture Reading - 1 Chronicles 16:31-36

1 Chronicles 16:31-36 English Standard Version

31 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice,

    and let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”

32 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;

    let the field exult, and everything in it!

33 Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy

    before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.

34 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;

    for his steadfast love endures forever!

35 Say also:

“Save us, O God of our salvation,

    and gather and deliver us from among the nations,

that we may give thanks to your holy name

    and glory in your praise.

36 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,

    from everlasting to everlasting!”

Then all the people said, “Amen!” and praised the Lord.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Christmas Eve Message - The Most Important Event

If you were to poll Christians around the world and ask them what event has the most meaning to them personally, a vast majority of them would answer that Christmas is the most important event to not only them but also to every Christian. Easter would follow as a close second. I would find it very difficult to pick one of those events as more important than the other. But, when you think about them, those two events are entwined and involve Jesus. 

When we think of his birth and the beautiful story of the Nativity, we see a small child born to a virgin. His birthplace was a backwater little town called Bethlehem. He wasn’t born in a palace to earthly royalty and his birth, for the most part, went unnoticed. The only ones who really knew about his birth, aside from his parents, were shepherds and three kings who came to give their gifts to the King of Kings.

The years between his birth and early years and the time he began to preach are largely unknown. The Bible doesn’t shed light on his formative years and what Jesus liked to do. Many believe that he worked with his father as a carpenter and probably had calluses on his hands. He put in long hours to help his family. We don’t know much if anything about his education. We do know that he wasn’t a rabbi in the more traditional sense of the word. When he taught though many thought of him as a rabbi. 

As he grew older, he began to teach and demonstrate the love of God to all those around him. Instead of spending his time teaching in temples and synagogues, he spoke to the common men and women. He dined with tax collectors and was seen with prostitutes and sinners. He didn’t isolate himself and tickle the ears of those who were in high society. He was a humble man who spoke kindly to those who needed salvation and spoke harshly to those who judged others and thought of themselves as being spiritually better than those around them.

This man, who started his life in a stable, would become the most important individual to the whole world. He told of God’s love and became the way back to the Father. As disobedient children who wandered away from God, Jesus gave us a path that led away from death and damnation. His way was of peace and his gospel of love.

In time, however, the world would come to hate him and what he stood for. Men plotted against him because he made them feel uneasy or he threatened to wreck the status quo. When people of power feel threatened, they will react and seek to destroy what threatens their livelihoods and their way of life.

John, in chapter one of his gospel, wrote, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John doesn’t cover Jesus’ birth with a lot of detail. Yet, in his simple account of his birth, we see Jesus for what he truly is, the light of the world. However, those who lived in darkness didn’t want any part of that light. They wanted their way to be the only way. When people feel that things are adversely changing, the perceived threat becomes the object of their hatred. They act out of anger and will do anything to change things back to the way they were.

In time, Jesus would be brought before the men who feared him and his fate would be sealed. He would be beaten without mercy and placed upon a cross to die like a common criminal. When he was laid to rest in a borrowed tomb, the men who condemned him breathed a sigh of relief. Their headache was gone and they could go back to their lives in peace or so they thought. 

After lying in that tomb for three days, Jesus rose from the dead as he had promised. Through his sacrifice, our sins were once and always washed away. When he rose from the dead, he showed that eternal life was a gift from the Father and that it was given to all.

His life, bookended by his birth and death and resurrection, is the most important event in our lives. He came into the world to teach us about the love of God. He didn’t come to judge or condemn us. He came to give us eternal life by showing us the way back to the Father. Our sins were washed away by the blood he shed for each of us on that cross. When he rose from the tomb to walk, he proved once and for all that death had no power over us as long as we accept the gift of salvation given to us by a loving, caring Father.

So, when you think about it, the most important event of Christians is not a particular day or event. It is the life of Jesus and what he did for each of us at his birth, death and resurrection. He gave us hope, peace, joy and love all in one little package in the form of a small child who was born to humble parents in a humble stable and would grow up to become the Lamb of God and our Savior.

If you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, I urge you to seek him out tonight. I know that you hear him knocking on the door of your heart right now. Let him in tonight and behold the miracle of your spiritual birth. 

In chapter six of his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.

When you allow Jesus to come into your heart, you will be born anew to walk in light and with Jesus daily. His birth and death paid for your freedom from sin. His resurrection is the proof that you are no longer a slave to sin and death. Eternal life is your gift. Accept it tonight. When you do you truly will be born again and able to stand firm daily in His grace.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Evening Scripture Reading - John 3:16-17

John 3:16-17 English Standard Version

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 132:1-5

Psalm 132:1-5 English Standard Version

1 Remember, O Lord, in David's favor,

    all the hardships he endured,

2 how he swore to the Lord

    and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob,

3 “I will not enter my house

    or get into my bed,

4 I will not give sleep to my eyes

    or slumber to my eyelids,

5 until I find a place for the Lord,

    a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 14:21

Proverbs 14:21 English Standard Version

21 Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner,

    but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.

Morning Scripture Reading - Ezekiel 34:15-16

Ezekiel 34:15-16 English Standard Version

15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Evening Scripture Reading - Ephesians 4:32

Ephesians 4:32 English Standard Version

32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 131:3

Psalm 131:3 English Standard Version

3 O Israel, hope in the Lord

    from this time forth and forevermore.

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 14:20

Proverbs 14:20 English Standard Version

20 The poor is disliked even by his neighbor,

    but the rich has many friends.

Morning Scripture Reading - Isaiah 26:7

Isaiah 26:7 English Standard Version

7 The path of the righteous is level;

    you make level the way of the righteous.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Evening Scripture Reading - Ecclesiastes 9:12

Ecclesiastes 9:12 English Standard Version

12 For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 131:1-2

Psalm 131 English Standard Version

1 O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;

    my eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things

    too great and too marvelous for me.

2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

    like a weaned child with its mother;

    like a weaned child is my soul within me.

Mid-Week Message - The Gift of Christmas

 "When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!  They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.  Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh."  Matthew 2:10-11  (NLT) 

Time for shopping is almost at an end for the holiday season and in most homes there are brightly colored packages beneath trees that are decorated in various styles.  In just a few days families will gather, gifts will be distributed, wrapping will be torn off and the mysteries of the packages will be revealed.  

I can remember that time in my life when I thought Christmas would never come.  As most children do, I loved the anticipation leading up to that special day of the year.  Actually, I still do.  There is still the little girl part of me that finds the season magical although for different reasons than when I was a child.  

One of the most loved songs of the season is "The Little Drummer Boy."  Among the pa-rum-pa-pum-pums is the story of a little boy with a drum who finds himself before the manger where Jesus is lying.  He sees the gifts that are given and wants to offer something himself but has nothing but his drum.  So, he begins to play for the baby.  The lyrics tell us that Mary nodded, the ox and lamb kept time and then Jesus smiled at him. 

What gift would you give the King of Kings if you found yourself before Him?  The wise men gave him gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Not only were they costly, they held symbolic meaning for the life of the Savior.  Gold was a symbol of kingship on earth.  Frankincense symbolized deity and myrrh, which was used as an embalming oil, referred to death.  Can you give Him anything as valuable?  

The very first Christmas gift was a baby that was born to a young girl in a stable.  This child, the foretold Messiah, slept in a feeding trough rather than a gilded crib in a grand castle.  Word of His arrival was announced to shepherds, not nobility.  Rather than living as a rich man, He lived a humble life and died a cruel death.  And He did it all for you and me so that we could have the ultimate gift of the forgiveness of sins, the restored relationship with the great I Am and eternal life with Him in Heaven.  

We don't know the actual date of the birth of Jesus.  In all likelihood it was sometime in the spring rather than winter, but we celebrate it on December 25th.  We give gifts to those we love because of what He gave to and for us.  The greatest gift we can give to Him is receiving Him as our Savior and sharing His good news with all we come in contact with.  There is no other gift that carries as much love as the Gospel.  

As we gather to share in the wonder of Christmas, let's first acknowledge the most wonderful gift of all and ask Him to be the center of our day.  Merry Christmas and God bless!  

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 14:19

Proverbs 14:19 English Standard Version

19 The evil bow down before the good,

    the wicked at the gates of the righteous.

Morning Scripture Reading - John 14:6-7

John 14:6-7 English Standard Version

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Evening Scripture Reading - Exodus 4:29-31

Exodus 4:29-31 English Standard Version

29 Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel. 30 Aaron spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. 31 And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 130:7-8

Psalm 130:7-8 English Standard Version

7 O Israel, hope in the Lord!

    For with the Lord there is steadfast love,

    and with him is plentiful redemption.

8 And he will redeem Israel

    from all his iniquities.

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 14:18

Proverbs 14:18 English Standard Version

18 The simple inherit folly,

    but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.

Morning Scripture Reading - Malachi 3:16-18

Malachi 3:16-18 English Standard Version

16 Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. 17 “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Evening Scripture Reading - Philippians 4:8-9

Philippians 4:8-9 English Standard Version

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 130:5-6

Psalm 130:5-6 English Standard Version

5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

    and in his word I hope;

6 my soul waits for the Lord

    more than watchmen for the morning,

    more than watchmen for the morning.

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 14:17

Proverbs 14:17 English Standard Version

17 A man of quick temper acts foolishly,

    and a man of evil devices is hated.

Morning Scripture Reading - Colossians 4:2-4

Colossians 4:2-4 English Standard Version

2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Evening Scripture Reading - Colossians 3:1-4

Colossians 3:1-4 English Standard Version

1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 130:3-4

Psalm 130:3-4 English Standard Version

3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,

    O Lord, who could stand?

4 But with you there is forgiveness,

    that you may be feared.

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Fourth Sunday of Advent - Love

The noted German Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, and key founding member of the Confessing Church, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, once said, "The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come."

As we approach the blessed day of Jesus' birth, the celebration of Advent truly does offer for each of us a time to reflect and release how "poor and imperfect" we really are. When you think about how disobedient we have been when it comes to our relationship with the Father, we have surely brought trouble to our souls. We are powerless to forgive our own sins and cannot, by our own mouth, declare ourselves forgiven of all sin. It took an act of love that we cannot possibly understand to give us the special and wonderful gift of salvation. 

That love shown to us by our Heavenly Father is totally alien to us. We cannot truly comprehend the sheer magnitude of that love. There is no possible way for us to express or experience it using our human frame of reference. This love, freely given to us, is indeed a precious gift of untold value.

John, in chapter three of his gospel, writes, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

In just a few sentences, John easily and quite eloquently crystalizes God’s love for us and His desire to give us salvation. He didn’t send His son to judge us. We had already been judged and found guilty of being disobedient. Our very acts of disobeying God are the testament to our wickedness. God, not wanting to see His creation suffer utter damnation, gave us the way back to Him.

When we accept Jesus and allow him to come into our hearts, we are transformed and made anew. We have been justified by his blood. His blood was spilt for us to cover our sins. His resurrection gave us the gift of immortality. His words gave us the way and his life provided us with the example of how to live our lives. All of this could only be possible by love

A few may be thinking right now about Christmas and the birth of Jesus and that is all that most want to think about. But, you cannot just concentrate on celebrating Jesus’ birth. You must also consider the reason why he came to live among us. You must also consider the love it took to do what God did for each of us.

Depending on your translation, the word, “love”, is mentioned between 100 to 300 times in the Bible. In Greek, there are three different words used to refer to love. The highest form of love, “agape”, is the transcendent love. This love is the fatherly love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God. It is a love that knows no boundary and is boundless. It is given freely without conditions.

Paul, in his first letter to Timothy, writes, “The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.

Agape love comes from a pure heart that has been cleansed by the blood of Jesus and made right in the eyes of the Lord. As we grow spiritually, we begin to show that same sort of love to God. We give Him our love freely with no reservation. It is unconditional and pure. This love is the foundation of having a clear conscience and a strong genuine faith.

In his first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul, in chapter thirteen, when describing agape love, writes, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

As I reflect on Paul’s description of love and think about God’s love for us, one thing jumps out at me. Paul said that love never gives up. God could have easily given up on us and wiped us away with a simple wave of His mighty right hand. But, He didn’t. He provided for us a path to salvation and eternal life in heaven with Him. All of this came through His son, Jesus.

The American Baptist evangelical Christian pastor and author, Rick Warren, wrote, “Never procrastinate in showing love. Don't delay. Don't put it off. Do it now.”

During this very special time of the year, do more than just say you love others. Show them. Let them know that you truly care. If there is one thing I have learned in all my years, love isn’t flashy or big. Love comes in a whisper or a small gesture. To you, it may seem very small and insignificant, but, to others, that one act of love is the best gift.

Just the other day, I bought lunch for members of my team at work. It was a simple gesture of kindness, but you would have thought that I had prepared a grand feast for them. It was just sandwiches, but to them, it was an act of kindness. I wanted to thank them for all of their hard work and their dedication. Each put in long hours in helping others. 

As we sat down to eat, the mood was lighter and festive. People were laughing and enjoying the lunch that I had provided them. It was fun and it didn’t cost a lot, but even the smallest gesture of kindness can do so much for others.

Have you noticed during the Christmas holidays that people tend to be more appreciative and smile more? Their spirits are lighter and they go out of their way to help others. Christmas truly brings out the best in all of us. Our goal is to continue to show that love throughout the entire year and beyond. If we all lived as Jesus taught us, the world would definitely be a better place.

So, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, I ask you to think about this wonderful gift of love and reflect on its meaning. As you reflect on it, put love into action. Remember the words of Rick Warren and don’t delay or put it off. Do it now and every day.

Jesus said it best in chapter thirteen of John’s Gospel, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.

If we all just did that one thing of loving one another as Jesus loved his disciples, the world would be a better place and we would be better for it. When we show love to others, we get it back many times over. Love, agape love, comes without strings or conditions. It is pure and definitely comes from the heart. When we do that and express our love for the Father, we can, most assuredly, stand firm in His grace. 

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. 

Fourth Sunday of Advent - Scripture Reading

Micah 5:2-5a New Living Translation

2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,

    are only a small village among all the people of Judah.

Yet a ruler of Israel,

    whose origins are in the distant past,

    will come from you on my behalf.

3 The people of Israel will be abandoned to their enemies

    until the woman in labor gives birth.

Then at last his fellow countrymen

    will return from exile to their own land.

4 And he will stand to lead his flock with the Lord’s strength,

    in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.

Then his people will live there undisturbed,

    for he will be highly honored around the world.

5     And he will be the source of peace.

Luke 1:46-55 New Living Translation

46 Mary responded,

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47     How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
    and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One is holy,
    and he has done great things for me.
50 He shows mercy from generation to generation
    to all who fear him.
51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
    He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
52 He has brought down princes from their thrones
    and exalted the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54 He has helped his servant Israel
    and remembered to be merciful.
55 For he made this promise to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and his children forever.”

Psalm 80:1-7 New Living Translation

1 Please listen, O Shepherd of Israel,
    you who lead Joseph’s descendants like a flock.
O God, enthroned above the cherubim,
    display your radiant glory
2     to Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh.
Show us your mighty power.
    Come to rescue us!

3 Turn us again to yourself, O God.
    Make your face shine down upon us.
    Only then will we be saved.
4 O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies,
    how long will you be angry with our prayers?
5 You have fed us with sorrow
    and made us drink tears by the bucketful.
6 You have made us the scorn of neighboring nations.
    Our enemies treat us as a joke.

7 Turn us again to yourself, O God of Heaven’s Armies.
    Make your face shine down upon us.
    Only then will we be saved.

Hebrews 10:5-10 New Living Translation

5 That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God,

“You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings.
    But you have given me a body to offer.
6 You were not pleased with burnt offerings
    or other offerings for sin.
7 Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will, O God—
    as is written about me in the Scriptures.’”

8 First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). 9 Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. 10 For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.

Luke 1:39-55 New Living Translation

39 A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town 40 where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

42 Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. 43 Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? 44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 14:16

Proverbs 14:16 English Standard Version

16 One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil,

    but a fool is reckless and careless.

Morning Scripture Reading - John 8:12

John 8:12 English Standard Version

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Evening Scripture Reading - Hebrews 2:1-4

Hebrews 2:1-4 English Standard Version

1 Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 130:1-2

Psalm 130:1-2 English Standard Version

My Soul Waits for the Lord

A Song of Ascents.

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!

2     O Lord, hear my voice!

Let your ears be attentive

    to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 14:15

Proverbs 14:15 English Standard Version

15 The simple believes everything,

    but the prudent gives thought to his steps.

Morning Scripture Reading - Ecclesiastes 10:4

Ecclesiastes 10:4 English Standard Version

4 If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your place,

    for calmness will lay great offenses to rest.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Evening Scripture Reading - Philippians 1:15-18

Philippians 1:15-18 English Standard Version

15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 129:1-8

Psalm 129 English Standard Version

They Have Afflicted Me from My Youth

A Song of Ascents.

1 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth”—

    let Israel now say—

2 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth,

    yet they have not prevailed against me.

3 The plowers plowed upon my back;

    they made long their furrows.”

4 The Lord is righteous;

    he has cut the cords of the wicked.

5 May all who hate Zion

    be put to shame and turned backward!

6 Let them be like the grass on the housetops,

    which withers before it grows up,

7 with which the reaper does not fill his hand

    nor the binder of sheaves his arms,

8 nor do those who pass by say,

    “The blessing of the Lord be upon you!

    We bless you in the name of the Lord!”

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 14:14

Proverbs 14:14 English Standard Version

14 The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways,

    and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.

Morning Scripture Reading - Luke 4:42-44

Luke 4:42-44 English Standard Version

42 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, 43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Evening Scripture Reading - Galatians 6:7-10

Galatians 6:7-10 English Standard Version

7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.