Archive for December, 2015

(un)KNOWN

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

The new year is just around the corner. The year, comprised of 365 days, 8,760 hours, and 52,600 minutes, is full of unknowns. We have no way to know what we will encounter in the days ahead: the joys we’ll experience, the trials we face, victories, and defeats. When God created mankind, He did not give us the privilege of foresight. We live in the current hour, without knowing the next.

Not knowing our future is kind of like walking around in the dark. We can’t see in front of us, and we must hope we don’t step on an overturned doll table, LEGO block, or anything with wheels that will send us into hopping-stance, to our knees, or flat on our backs. There’s nothing to rely on except our own senses and prior knowledge of where obstacles should be in the darkened room.

Depending on the percentage of chance that we might be walking into a landmine of sharp objects—lodged between the fibers of the carpeting, knee-high, or even a low hanging object that could leave a nasty bruise on our heads—we might have a heightened sense of uncertainty compared to when we traverse through the room with the light on. We could even say that due to lack of adequate footwear or even shoulder pads, we may have a fear of walking into that dark room.

When we’re exposed, don’t know an answer, feel under attack, anticipate trials, etc. we feel fear. Whether subconscious or self-evident, we all may be feeling some level of fear facing the new year and its plethora of unknowns.

Corrie Ten Boom one said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” We may not know our future, but we know the One whom we can trust with our future (II Timothy 1:12).

Matthew 6:34 tells us, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow…” (KJV). We’re not to be anxious about the dark room—the next year, the next day, or even the next hour. God has everything under control! He knows the plans that He has for us (Jeremiah 29:11). God’s plan may be for us to step on every sharp object in that room, help us walk through unscathed, fall through a random sinkhole, or even worse: walk through a spider web. If it’s His plan, and we trust Him, regardless of the outcome, why are we even concerned about it?

If we’re alive and kicking today, it’s because God has brought us through the past year. Because we know God, and know that He’s kept us this past year, we can know and trust that He will yet bring us through another year (II Corinthians 1:10). It might be a blessed year, or it might be a year of hardship. But, we know that God will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6–7, KJV).

God didn’t give a spirit of fear (II Timothy 1:7) and we’re not to worry about anything—including the dark room! We have one sure tool for bringing peace into our lives, and that is through prayer. God may have hidden our future, but He hasn’t hidden Himself. When we learn to trust God, and seek Who we know, then we’ll be able to experience a peace about the unknown year. Trust what you know today and not the unknown.

Bound Too Long

Sunday, December 27th, 2015

And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God (Luke 13:10–13, KJV).

We have all been like the woman in Luke 13 at one point or another in our life—bound up; so broken, we cannot fight any longer. But, we don’t have to stay locked in a spirit of bondage. When Jesus shows up, we can be freed!

Progression of Bondage

We don’t wake up one day in a state of bondage. We experienced a progression to bondage—over time we slowly developed spiritual chains. When we become so focused on our problem (the negative), we forget to look to the One who can deliver us and the One who can save us (Psalm 121:1).

When we spend time focusing on the Lord, He will help illuminate things in our life that are dragging us down into a state of bondage. We can avoid the pitfalls that will lead us into spiritual bondage and bind the enemy before he binds us!

Desire to be Free

In the synagogue, many people had gathered to see Jesus teach. But, even though the woman was bound and could not stand up straight, Jesus noticed her. Her soul was crying out to Jesus to be freed from her bondage. She was tired of being bound. She wasn’t content with being bound. She knew she must be set free.

We must understand not only that we can find grace in Jesus, but that His grace can deliver us. God will not work a miracle in our life unless we ask (James 4:2). We cannot forget what it feels like to be free; we must desire freedom from our bondage and not be content with our current situation. The bound woman didn’t show up to the synagogue to stay that way—she desired to be delivered.

We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It is that sin which binds us (Romans 7:14–17), and the devil wants to convince us that we can never be freed from sin. Jesus died on the cross to deliver us from our sin and to provide freedom (Galatians 5:1).

Immediate Freedom

The woman was bound for 18 years. We can be bound for a few days, weeks, months, or years. Sometimes we become so accustomed to the bondage in our life we’ve “learned” to live with it. Being freed from bondage never crosses our minds; we think our bondage will always be present and overcoming bondage is impossible. We forget that everything is possible with God (Matthew 19:26).

Our chains can be broken in a mere instant with Jesus. But, we need to bring those “impossible” chains to the altar and give them to God. We should listen to the voice of the Holy Ghost over the voice of the enemy—the Lord bidding is us to be free (Psalm 19:13)!

We must never give up. We can overcome through the power of the Holy Ghost working in our lives. We don’t have to fight our battles (II Chronicles 20:15)—He will do it for us. He will break every chain (Psalms 107:14)!

An Expectation

The woman longed to be freed from her spirit of bondage. When Jesus touched her, she had a spirit of expectancy that she would be healed. She didn’t just hope Jesus would heal her—she had faith. In our situations today, we need to have faith God will deliver us. Jesus has come so we could be free (John 8:36); we need to expect the same promises is for us today.

Jesus is reaching out to us at this moment to deliver us. We don’t have to wait for tomorrow or the start of the New Year. The time for deliverance from bondage is now. We’ve been bound too long!

God With Us

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us (Matthew 1:23, KJV).

When Joseph was espoused to Mary, she mysteriously became pregnant. Joseph was faced with a difficult decision—stay with Mary or divorce her. God sent an angel unto Joseph and explained to Him that the child conceived in Mary was by the Holy Ghost (Matthew 1:20). This had come to pass to fulfill what the prophets had foretold (Matthew 1:22).

The birth of Jesus Christ would become the visible truth of God’s omnipresence—God is with us. In Jesus—Emmanuel—God was with us! We can learn if God was able to robe Himself in flesh and dwell in an earthen vessel, then He can show up anywhere.

His Omnipresence

It’s difficult to comprehend how God can be present in one location and everywhere at the same time. We must remember God isn’t a mystic force in the sky that is outside of the realm of human contact. He came in a physical form to show us that He isn’t too intangible to be with His creation. God wants to visit us in ways that we can feel.

We cannot think in the dimensions of God. He isn’t tied to our timing and confined to our existence. His ways are higher than our ways and thoughts higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8–9). He created us, we are His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10).

We can feel God through many avenues. When we feel God, it can be best described as experiencing His power. Today, we can experience the power of His presence through the infilling of the Holy Ghost (John 14:16). By His Spirit, His power can be with us at all times!

Experiencing His Presence

Moses sought to understand what it meant to have God’s favor. God told Moses, “…My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest” (Exodus 33:14, KJV). The evidence of God’s grace and favor in our life is His presence. God’s presence can be manifested in many ways and in all of our lives!

We have the opportunity to experience His presence through prayer, praise, worship, fasting, giving, etc. Our goal in our spiritual walk is to be constantly in the presence of God.

God With Us

Scripture tells us the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). We know that in Jesus dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). When Jesus walked the face of the earth, He was truly God manifested in flesh—God with us!

We must know the promises in Scripture about the Lord’s location so we will not raise up a generation that thinks they can get away from His presence. There is no where we can go to escape Him (Psalm 113).

Scripture shows us ways in which God worked in the lives of His people. He was with them. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and He is still with us yet today.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on December 23, 2015 with Guest Speaker, Brother Greg Wilhelm

The Countdown

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

We were forewarned through commercials, reminded through the paper, nagged by our calendars, and jabbed each time we walked into a department store—Christmas is coming—and now we only have 2 days left.

Some of us may be relaxed as everything is in order and in its place. Some may be scrambling to get every gift wrapped and garnished perfectly to place under the tree. And, some are hearing the ever-increasing pounding of their heart as they frantically rush store-to-store to find that last-minute perfect gift. A countdown started 363 days ago, and we either planned or we didn’t. The set date was inevitable: Christmas would be on December 25.

Countdowns are funny—we either like them or loathe them. For planners, they’re a dream come true; for procrastinators, they’re a living nightmare. Whether we choose to act (plan or procrastinate) we’re governed by dates and times. We know when things will happen, most of the time, and we can anticipate at least a reoccurrence of events per calendar year.

There is one date, however, that we cannot know—and will never know as long as we live. That date is the coming of the Son of man.

Scripture tells us Jesus is coming back one day for His church (Revelation 1:7); He will take His Saints out of this world to be with Him for all eternity (I Thessalonians 4:17). But, this day has an invisible countdown. The day is unknown to all except the Father (Matthew 24:36). That date will come as a thief in the night (II Peter 3:10) and will sneak up on us and possibly catch us unaware.

Because Christmas is a planned date on the calendar, we can choose when to get our shopping done, wrap gifts, cook meals, travel, etc. We have the time to incorporate it into our calendars—to prepare. The time to get ready for Jesus’ return isn’t something we can pencil into our calendars or create an appointment or reminder for on our mobile device. The time to get ready is now.

We must live our life in a state of anticipation that the Lord’s return is today. If He came for us, would we be ready? Have we already prayed, repented, been baptized, received the Holy Ghost, lived holy and righteously, sacrificed for His kingdom, witnessed to the lost, completed His will, etc.? Are we rushing to squeeze it all in today because we waited to the last minute, and the sound of our pounding our heart is because we don’t know if we’ll make it? Or, is everything still on our to-do list?

We know Christmas is in 2 days. We know we’re busy. But, have we been too busy for God? Have we lost track of the countdown to our eternal salvation? Do we think Jesus’ coming is too far into the future to think about now? Do we think we have time?

Jesus is coming back soon. The countdown is ongoing, and the date is looming. When the clock stops, where will we be? What will we have accomplished? Are we ready?

O Christmas Tree

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

The Christmas tree has become the icon of the Christmas season. However, when we look in Scripture, we find the Gospel’s rendering of the birth of Jesus Christ does not actually include the Christmas tree. But, the birth of Jesus is not the entire Christmas story, and if we look elsewhere in Scripture, we will find the most important tree of the Christmas season.

Jesus wasn’t born in Bethlehem so we could have a picturesque Christmas story, but He came for a cause (John 18:37). The cross at Calvary is truly what Christmas is about and contains the true Christmas tree.

A Beautiful Tree

Our Christmas trees today are intricately decorated and beautiful by most standards, but the cross wasn’t beautiful to look at (Isaiah 53:7–12). Jesus came to be an offering for our sin. He came because we all have need of a Savior. When we understand the purpose of the true Christmas tree, we can see His sacrifice as the most beautiful thing ever given to humanity.

Gifts Under the Tree

Like our novelty Christmas tree, the true Christmas tree had gifts underneath. Calvary opened up an outpouring of God’s gifts upon mankind. Included in His gifts, we can find a remarkable different than most gifts we can find underneath a tree.

Gifts That Don’t Break

When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He indefinitely healed us from every yoke of bondage, sickness, disease, etc. (Isaiah 53:5). His sacrifice on the true Christmas tree was a gift that would be everlasting through time. If we believe on Him, we are promised never to perish but to have everlasting life (John 3:15).

Gifts That Fit Everyone

By one man, in the Garden of Eden, was the entire human race set to destruction. But, it was by one man—Jesus—who died for all of us and set us free from the bondage of sin and death (Romans 5:1819). Jesus provided the one gift for redemption for all people. He provided a gift that will fit everyone  (Acts 2:39); we don’t have to worry about returning it or finding something better. His gift is perfect!

Gifts That are Free

The founding fathers of the United States identified four key needs for all humanity: truth, freedom, peace, ad the pursuit of happiness. These aren’t elements that will be found in the world, but only at the foot of the cross. God’s gifts are free, not because they don’t have value, but because they’ve already been paid for. Our gifts have been paid for by His precious blood.

While we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:8). We don’t ever have to get “right” to receive these free gifts from God. Jesus wants to pour out His gifts upon us to that we can walk righteously in this present world (Ephesians 2:8–10).

The True Christmas Tree

The true Christmas tree is not any tree that we can purchase from the store, but the one that stood on Calvary’s hill. The true Christmas tree has gifts that we are all welcome to partake in and the gifts will be forever life-changing. “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17, KJV). Are we ready to come and receive what God has in store for us under His tree? Let’s seek out to know more about the true meaning of Christmas and appreciate the true tree of the season.

Wonder: The Remedy for Cynicism

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

Wonderment of Childhood

As a child, we have such a wonder and amazement during the Christmas season due to the decorations, gifts, stories, and family get-togethers. But, as we get older, we lose our wonder about Christmas. Without realizing it, we become a cynic and become the “fault-finder” in everything.

We forget the reason we celebrate Christmas is to honor and celebrate Jesus. We need to get the right perspective about the season! How do we change perspective? Jesus told the disciples, “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark 10:15, KJV) and “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3, KJV). It’s bad for Christians to be childish about the holidays but it is good for Christians to be childlike.

Daily Wonderment

We need to have an excitement about Jesus and our relationship with Him, not only at Christmas, but all year round! If we’re not careful, we can get to a place in our walk with God where we lose our sense of wonder. What we believe is the most overwhelmingly, amazing story:

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory (I Timothy 3:16, KJV).

Our sense of awe and wonder about the Lord should be the same now as it was when we first fell in love with Him. Our worship for God will never rise above our level of wonder for Him—our worship is determined by our grasp of His greatness!

An awe for the Lord of Glory should be in our daily life. If we can’t see His wonder it’s because we’re too far away. We should also be careful that our mouths don’t say one thing about our walk with the Lord and our hearts do another (Matthew 15:8–9).

Christmas is about wonder and the miraculous gift of God’s love toward us. Time has not changed this! If we have a close relationship with God, and we maintain our wonder, our love will grow stronger for Him, not weaker. When we have a wonder for the Lord, we will fully receive everything He has in store for us and on the level He wishes to pour it out! If we struggle with being a cynic this time of year, we need to pray for God to help our unbelief (Mark 9:24).

Ways to Cultivate Wonder to Battle Cynicism

Remember God’s Worth

On a regular basis, we need to search out God’s value for ourselves. We need an intimate relationship with Him, and we can develop this intimacy by studying His Word to see how it applies to our life. When we study and combine our study with prayer, the Holy Ghost will reveal God to us in ways we’ve never imagined! We must be careful not to assume that because we “know” Scripture, we “know” God. We must go deeper than regurgitating the Word, but applying the knowledge we learn.

We cannot worship something we’re not “wowed” about. How are we not awed at how the Lord of the universe chose us (mere humans) to die for over angels? Have we become so familiar with God and His blessings that we’re not impressed anymore? When we become satisfied, or too cynical about Him, we won’t seek after a personal relationship with Him. Our life—our worship—should be a lifestyle of celebrating and discovering God’s worth.

Recover Our Reverence for God

There is a way in which we must serve God (Hebrews 12:28), and in order to be called His servant, we must abide by the criteria He sets for in His Word. We can get caught up in “doing stuff” for God and His Kingdom, but if we lack a relationship with Him, He will tell us He never knew us (Matthew 7:21–23).

We should allow the why drive the what in our spiritual relationship with God. When we lack wonder, we start substituting “works” in our spiritual life and wind up with activity and no relationship. We can become too focused on the details instead of the dream! Cynicism is born when we lose the vision for what God wants to do in our life. If we can take upon His yoke and harness ourselves to Him (Matthew 11:29), we can start to learn how to grow intimacy with the Lord. We need to come along side of Him, instead of Him alongside of us.

The Transformation

We don’t have to be a Grinch this Christmas, or any time of the year, and see the world through a lens of jaded negativity. We can have our spiritual lives transformed back into a state of innocent awe and fascinated astonishment if we can truly find God in our lives. He’s ready and waiting for us to turn to Him and to seek Him out on a level like never before. When we seek, we’ll find Him, and the awe for Him will be ever-present in our life.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on December 16, 2015

Lucid Leaders

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

As 2015 draws to a close, most of us like to reflect on what’s happened during the past year, note how God has blessed and changed us, and even forecast what will happen in 2016.

We may find ourselves in a familiar setting where our leadership (secular, spiritual, or sometimes even household) addresses us individually, or on a team, concerning the year’s achievements. They might outline what went well, what didn’t go so well, and the lessons learned from the past year.

We might be thinking: How did we accomplish anything in the past year? Why were we successful? Individually or on a team? Why did we grow? Individually or on a team?

The answer to these questions—outside of the fact that through God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26)—is good leadership! Good leaders accomplish things through the empowerment of other people.

God has placed leaders in our lives to help us learn and grow as individuals, on a team, in a ministry, in the home, etc. (Hebrews 13:17). God desires that we move forward and not stay in the same place (Ephesians 4:15)!

Signs of Great Leaders in Our Life

They Let Us Dream

Great leaders let us dream, and sometimes dream big. Spiritual leadership knows that God will supply visions to individuals (Acts 2:17) and if we have big (scary) dreams, they’re most likely from God! Leaders want us to provide input toward planning efforts and carrying out tasks. They not only ask for our input, but they listen too. Great leaders help us to do well in our endeavors, and provide insight as to when and how we should invest our time, resources, and effort. One of their goals? To help us succeed!

They Let Us Fail

Sometimes leaders know that an effort may not work based on their experience and/or life knowledge. But, they might give us the go-ahead so that we learn our own lesson. There is a reason for failure in our life—to learn and try again (Proverbs 24:16). Great leaders allow us to wade out into unknown waters to experience the depth, and sometimes turbulent tides, but they won’t let us drown! Our failure is done and over because our leadership kept us engaged and encouraged us to keep going. They had faith in us, and pushed us through failure to success!

They Help Us Celebrate

Where are we at? Celebration time! Great leadership didn’t take the credit for the ideas we came up with. They’re standing in front of us, meeting with us for coffee, or via whatever venue they’ve chosen because they’re giving us credit for the success and want to celebrate with us.

The Road to Leadership

We should be thankful for the leadership God has placed in our life. But, we also should be thanking God that these leaders are shaping us to be a leader ourselves. We can become a great leader from the examples of leadership we’ve been privileged to know and serve under.

And, the best part? We don’t have to be in charge of a large corporation, team, or tons of children, etc. to be a leader. We can lead where we’re at in whatever we’re doing. We only need to these three simple strategies: let others dream, let them sometimes fail, and celebrate in their success. Let the coming New Year be an opportunity for you to celebrate your success in 2015, but be a moment to embark on a coming success in 2016—leadership.

Adapted from Pastor Brad Nave’s Leadership Moment Series

God Has a Plan

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

One thing that we can know for certain during this hectic season and in this crazy world: God has a plan. God has never been the author of confusion (I Corinthians 14:33). He had a plan for our Savior, slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8), prophesied unto men 700 years before His birth (Isaiah 9:6). If God was able to create a plan of salvation threaded throughout all of mankind, how could He not have a plan yet working in each and everyone one of our lives?

God Plans Way Before We Perceive It

When we see God’s plan evident in our lives, we notice it very late in the game. Before we knew that we would have a Savior, God knew the date He would robe Himself in flesh and dwell among us (Galatians 4:4). He gave glimpses of His coming all throughout the Old Testament (Micah 5:2; Genesis 49:10; Isaiah 11:1–5, 10; Jeremiah 23:5).

We especially see the plan for a Savior in the story of Ruth. Boaz was Ruth’s kinsman redeemer, which was a type of Christ. Even after the story of Ruth and Boaz, which foreshadowed the purpose of the Savior, we see down through time that Boaz was one of the descendants of the Messiah! God has created a plan for us even beyond our salvation. And, regardless of our circumstances, He will align everything to be in accordance with His plan.

God’s Plan Can Work Perfectly with Imperfection

Matthew 1 begins with the lineage of Jesus. Hidden in these stories includes the lives of some pretty messed up people. But even in the lives of those who appeared as failures during their time, God knew the part they had in His plan. Time and Jesus will make every circumstance work for our good (Romans 8:28). God tells very long stories—how we perceive ourselves today and what our outcome will be is never anything that we can imagine. While our beginning may be rough, our outcome will be different if we allow Jesus to work His perfect work in our imperfect life.

God’s Plan is Rarely the One We Would Choose

God has a tendency to work in ways that we don’t think that He should, and He has plans that we don’t think He should have. But His ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8–9) and we must trust Him! Mary was told by an angel that she would carry the Savior of the world. God’s plan would put Mary in a position where her character would be questioned, but she trusted in God (Luke 1:38). Mary was convinced that God’s plan was better than anything she could imagine. She trusted God with her whole heart, and God’s perfect plan came to pass in her life. Because she was obedient and trusted in His plan, she was blessed (Luke 1:42)!

Partake of the Plan

Christmas teaches us the truth of God’s plans. Christmas is a time to remember the plan God has to provide redemption and salvation to the entire world. When we accept this plan and trust in Him, we can know that just as God has a plan for His Son, He has a plan for us as well (Jeremiah 29:11). Let go and allow God’s perfect plan be manifested in your life today.

Giving: The Remedy for Materialism

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

The world we live in today constantly pushes the agenda of needing more stuff. Our culture truly tries to discourage the idea of contentment. Those working in the marketing industry spend their entire career trying to get us (the consumer) to impair our self-control in purchasing stuff. Advertisers know what we don’t want to admit about ourselves—we can be given to materialism.

Scripture instructs us not to have an uncontrolled desire to acquire (Exodus 20:17). The human nature is to desire more than s/he needs. But, Scripture warns us the love of money, or the want for more, is the root of all evil (I Timothy 6:10), and therein lies the problem of materialism. Materialism will steal our lives one possession at a time. When we constantly hunger for and feed on this world’s goods, it will have lasting effects on our spiritual life—this outcome will leave us in a condition worse than the actual Grinch.

Effects of Materialism

Fatigue

When we constantly seek after more, we will wear ourselves out (Proverbs 23:4). When we desire to have more money, we work more, and we ultimately overwork ourselves. When comparing our time with family, ability to be in the house of God, etc. to additional hours at work to earn a little extra money, can we say it’s really worth it? We should never trade a valuable commodity for money.

Debt

When we spend what we don’t have (deficit spending) we will work ourselves into debt. A lot of what we think we need is just greed. As humans, slighted by the lens of materialism, we have a problem distinguishing between needs and wants. The more we have, the more others will help us spend it—we will watch everything slip through our fingers into a world of debt (Ecclesiastes 5:11).

Worry

When we’re consumed by materialism, we worry about our money—where it is, how quickly it’s being spent, etc. If we’re a hard worker, and are a good steward of our time, God will bless us. But if we’re working for the wrong motives (to get rich), we’ll find ourselves so consumed in worry, we won’t be able to enjoy the true blessings of God (Ecclesiastes 5:12).

Conflict

The number one cause of divorce is financial tension, otherwise known as money problems. This isn’t just a cultural statistic, but Scripture warns us that our wrong motives will cause quarrels not just with others, but within ourselves (James 4:1). Money should never get in the way of our relationships!

Dissatisfaction

Money will bring happiness for a while, but the excitement will eventually wear off, we will get bored, and we’ll find ourselves in a state of discontentment. We will become dissatisfied (Ecclesiastes 5:10). All things will fade in this life, so we need to focus on things that are eternal that will not fade away (Matthew 6:19–21).

Ability to Give

We will never be a giver (a non-Grinch) unless we become content with what we have. Contentment is not being lazy, but comes from realizing that we can and will be happy by appreciating what God has blessed us with. We can never be happy by keeping an inventory of the things we’re missing. Scripture tells us to be content no matter whatever state we’re in (Philippians 4:11). We should always have a giving nature, even when life’s circumstances are not favorable or giving to us.

Four Ways to Conquer Materialism

Resist Comparing Ourselves to Others

When we compare ourselves to others, this will lead to coveting. We can admire without having to acquire. We should realize that our net worth has no relation to our self-worth. If we seek materialism, we will sacrifice our values, integrity, and relationships to get more. Scripture warns us not to be caught up in the foolish lusts of materialism, because if we do, we’ll get hurt (I Timothy 6:9).

Rejoice in What We Do Have

None of us would have anything unless it was for the goodness of God. Nothing we truly own belongs to us. We have been called by God as a steward of His resources; we just manage what He puts in our life. Wealth will come from God (Ecclesiastes 5:19), but He will only bless those who will be responsible with it.

Refocus on What is Going to Last

All the things we treasure will one day be gone: earth is temporary. We need to give our attention to permanent, eternal values (II Corinthians 4:18). We should think about if the lifestyle we have is determined by culture or by Christ. What is important to us in the light of eternity?

Refocus What We Have to Help Others

If we realize that what we have doesn’t belong to us, then we can easily let it go and give it to someone else who needs it. We have what we do because God is trying to build His kingdom and He wants to use us. The God we serve is a giver by nature. He never blesses us for our own benefit, but blesses so that we can bless others (I Timothy 6:17–19).

Giving Freely

Materialism will kill our spirituality. If we spend time in prayer and fasting, God will show us how materialism is affecting our lives. He will show us how it will ultimately impact us on judgment day if we don’t change now.

Remember God’s Word teaches us to give:

We should think about changing our cultural mindset from materialism to irrational, generous giving. Our giving will never be about what it does for us, but what it does for others (Acts 20:35).

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on December 09, 2015

Trumping Tradition

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

Around the holidays, everyone has their seasonal “traditions”—selecting the perfect Christmas tree, baking cookies/making candy, driving through neighborhoods to view festively decorated landscapes, caroling downtown, gathering with friends and family on particular dates—the list may be endless for some.

As new friends and family enter our life, these traditions may be changed slightly to accommodate a new tradition “perspective,” but on the whole they stay the same. These traditions are wonderfully cherished, and we cling to them with a tight grasp.

Have we ever sat down to determine why we follow our traditions routinely year after year? When and how were they started? By whom? Do our traditions even make sense? Benefit anyone? Cause stress or happiness? Our mindset may be to traverse through our traditions because “that’s what we’ve always done”—no rhyme or true reason.

When we think about our walk with God and our participation in celebratory rituals around the holidays (or otherwise), belief systems, and/or pure relationship with the Almighty God, do we treat Jesus with the same lens? Do we pray, attend church, volunteer in shelters, donate to church ministries, etc. because of tradition?

Do we truly follow after Scripture in what we believe and how to have a right relationship with the Lord of Glory, or is what we do based on what we’ve seen others do and what we’ve heard others say? Do we have a relationship with God today because we want to, or because everyone we know has always done so and we’re “going with the flow” and doing “what’s always been done?”

Scripture tells us to, “Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls…” (Jeremiah 6:16, KJV). Do we know what the true old paths are that our Patriarchs of Faith followed after? Or, have we watered down our walk with the Lord due to tradition—something passed down through time that we no longer understand, and lost the true meaning?

While others may seek after a traditional path, let’s take a step back and analyze the road we travel starting today. If we use the Word and Jesus as our true measuring stick, we may find what we think we know and do isn’t so closely aligned with Scripture after all. We may find that we really don’t have an intimate relationship with God on our own—we’ve just been riding on someone else’s coattails.

But, today is a new day and we can break free of the cookie-cutter mold—the reoccurring event on our calendars! We can challenge what we’ve always done, and evaluate it through prayer, fasting, and reading the Word of God. We will glean answers to all of these questions through revelation by His Spirit. The next time someone asks us, “Why do you do what you do?”—we’ll have an answer!

Let’s not allow our lives to be consumed with the element of tradition—during this Christmas season or at any other time. We need to know, that we know, that we know what the Word of God says, both written and spoken if we are truly to have a right relationships with Him. We may find ourselves staring something new this season. And, after some time, we may be following after true tradition after all.

Giving Without Strings

Monday, December 7th, 2015

With the Christmas season upon us, we are reminded that this time of giving. Most of us participate in gift-giving, but we have a tendency to gift gifts with the assumption we’ll get a gift in return (Proverbs 19:6). Without realizing it, in the action of gift-giving, we become more focused on ourselves than others. We completely miss the miracle of giving in the way that God intended, and the way in which God gives.

Christmas teaches us to give gifts and not to expect anything in return. We need to give according to how God has purposed in our heart and to it cheerfully (II Corinthians 9:7). Scripture instructs us in the type of gift we should give this Christmas.

God’s Gift

Jesus was a gift from God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Jesus’ flesh was crucified and He shed His blood to wash away all of our sins. Jesus paid the ultimate price and reconciled all to Himself (II Corinthians 5:19). Jesus was the world’s greatest gift, and He gave His life. The greatest gift the world ever received could never be paid back. And, like God’s gift, the greatest gift we could give to others will be one that cannot be repaid. We need to learn to give “God Gifts.”

“God Gifts”

We need to give gifts this Christmas that fulfill the essence of Christmas. When we do something for someone that is so overwhelming for them and they cannot return the favor, this is giving a “God Gift.” It is always more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). We are never more like our Father in Heaven, than when we give a gift others cannot repay.

Required Giving

Giving is more than a nice-to-do, but a commandment and a requirement from God. Jesus told His Disciples that when he needed food, water, shelter, clothing, and comfort, they provided to Him (Matthew 25:31–36). When questioned when they had seen their Lord this way, He said, “…Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25: 40, KJV).

When we give unto others, we give unto the Lord. And, when we obey this commandment, we will inherit the kingdom (Matthew 25:34). However, when we fail to give, we will be cursed and find judgment in the everlasting fire (Matthew 25:41–46).

Let Go of the Strings

This Christmas, we cannot truly celebrate the season until we give a “God Gift.” When Jesus died on the cross for us, His blood didn’t have any strings attached. He died because He loved us. When we truly get a love in our hearts for others we will be able to give in the same manner. If we don’t love others and bless them, the love of God is not in us (I John 3:17).

When we give, the dollar amount isn’t what counts. “God Gifts” aren’t expensive by the terms of this world, but are worth more than anything this world could ever offer. This Christmas, let’s practice the ability to give without strings and see the love of God manifested in us.

Adapted from Sunday Morning on December 07, 2015

Peace: The Remedy for Conflict

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

In the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, it’s easy for us to lose sight of the true meaning of the season. We get wrapped up in the activities of the season, and our 100 mph pace fights against the peace we have in our life. Before we know it, we’ve become a Grinch!

The crazy schedules we maintain have a tendency to define our concept of peace. We think peace in our life equals the absence of tension, but God defines this differently. The word peace in Greek reveals God’s true intention—quietness or tranquility of order. Our goal this Christmas season is to find God’s true meaning of peace and apply it in our life!

Three Applications of Peace

Peace with God

The greatest contributor of disorder in our life is disobedience to God. We can be disobedient either to His written or spoken Word. When we are obedient to God, we will have peace through God (Romans 5:1), and we will have a sense of spiritual order in our life.

Scripture tells us, “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17, KJV, emphasis added). The peace that we receive will always be in the presence of God (Holy Ghost) in our live which establishes order when there isn’t any! When we are spiritually minded and obedient to the things of God, we will find peace (Romans 8:6).

Peace of God

Difficulties in our life can bring a feeling of disorder, but only if we view them with the wrong perspective. Peace can bring a sense of psychological order to our life. Jesus gave us a different kind of peace so we wouldn’t be troubled in this world (John 14:27) and so we could overcome tribulation (John 16:33). Jesus promised that when we pray, we would receive the peace of God, which would pass all understanding (Philippians 4:6–7). The world will never understand true peace!

Peace on Earth

God wants us to experience peace in the earthly realm as well as our spirit and mind. Scripture tells us there is to be peace on earth (Luke 2:14) and there is power in God’s peace! When we have the peace of God activated in our life, others will be drawn to us to experience His peace. We can be a witness to the power of God’s peace in our life, and we can impact the world (earth) around us.

We should have peace in our relationships. God has always been the author of peace and not confusion (I Corinthians 14:33; Ephesians 2:14). Jesus came to institute peace back into our relationships. If we don’t have the peace of God, our relationships can get rough. Relationships are where we live out our everyday lives so they need to be peaceful!

What a Person With Peace Looks Like

Scripture tells us that fools will start fights everywhere but the wise keep the peace (Proverbs 29:8). Some people will need conflict to survive, but peaceful people have laid hold on a revelation of where true power resides—in peace! Matthew 5:9 tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers…” (KJV). Problems will never be resolved if we: (1) avoid them and unresolve the conflict or (2) appease the problem! We need to build peace in our lives.

How to Be a Peacemaker

Plan for Peace

Before we come into the presence of God, Scripture tells us to work out our differences with our brothers and sisters (Matthew 5:23–24). God is so concerned that we maintain peace in our lives that He wants us to stop our worship and take care of the conflict. We are to plan to take the initiative to create the peace regardless if we are offended or the offender.

Empathize with People

A challenge with conflict is that no one is willing to see things from the other person’s point of view. We need to empathize with others to help perpetuate peace! We are instructed to have compassion toward one another and love each other (I Peter 3:8). Hurt people have a tendency to hurt others—sometimes by intention and sometimes unintentionally. When others act out, it may have nothing to do with us. We need to try to understand what they’re going through and help bring out peace in their life. The key to intimacy is conflict. Relationships become strong and lasting when they endure conflict together and come out stronger than ever!

Attack the Problem, Not the Person

If we seek to destroy a person, we won’t be able to resolve a conflict and create peace (Proverbs 10:10). When we do approach a brother or a sister to resolve a conflict, we should speak truth in love and respect the person (Ephesians 4:15). When resolving a conflict, consider seven ground rules for fighting fair:

  • Never compare
  • Never condemn
  • Never command
  • Never challenge
  • Never condescend
  • Never contradict
  • Never confuse

Cooperate As Much As Possible

As much as we are able, we are to live peaceably with everyone (Romans 12:18). There are some people we will encounter that will never accept peace, but we are to try as much as we are able to be peaceful with them. God will give us all ability through Him, and the power of the Holy Ghost working in us. God will give us wisdom to mitigate peace with other people, and that peace will be sincere (James 3:17).

Emphasize Reconciliation and Not Resolution

Some conflicts will never be resolved, but this doesn’t mean that we cannot see reconciliation in our relationships. God has given us the ministry of reconciliation (II Corinthians 5:18), which means that we have been restored.

Reconciliation in our lives was accomplished on the cross. Our relationship was restored with God through the shedding of Jesus’s blood. However, the cross did not resolve all conflict in our lives. We are still learning and we are still being taught by God and to be more like Him and to overcome our sinful ways and trials of this world. We are in the process of being resolved, but have already been restored in relationship. In our own relationships, we may never resolve the conflict, but we can disagree with someone and still love them.

Perfect Peace

Human beings are incapable of sustaining God’s definition of peace by ourselves. One of Jesus’ titles was the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). When we have His Spirit activated in our life, we can truly find peace. We need the power of the Holy Ghost working in our lives to be able to experience, maintain, and emulate peace regardless of what is going on around us—especially this Christmas season. Don’t be a Grinch; get God’s peace!

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on December 02, 2015

Celebrate Christmas with Our Family

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

Join APC throughout the month of December as we celebrate Christmas! We have something planned for everyone:

Upcoming Events

Family Life Ministry Christmas Party

December 4th at 6:30PM | The Grinch that Stole Christmas (no kids please)

Christmas Banquet

December 6th at 6:00PM | Guest Speaker: Steve Donaldson (APC Dining Hall) $5/person, 3 and under free

Fusion Christmas Party (following Ignite)

December 18th at 6:00PM | O’ Holy Night black tie-affair (red/white/black), bring a $10 gender-neutral gift

Christmas Service

December 20th at 10:00AM

APC Christmas Program

December 20th at 6:00PM | We Three Spies (student Christmas program)

Perfect Poinsettias

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

We’ve officially entered the Christmas season now that Thanksgiving is over! Everything is arrayed with the colors of red and green, twinkly lights, and white snow.

Amid the colder temperatures, we see quite a bit of plant life contributing to the Christmas décor. The more common is the evergreen; however, we also see the vivid colors of the poinsettia.

The poinsettia bears dark green dentate leaves, bringing the true color of nature indoors. Popping through the greenery are blazing bracts leaves—most often mistaken for petals—which can be many colors. While red is the most common (and my personal favorite), bracts can emit a pallet of hues ranging from orange, pale green, cream, pink, white, or even a marbled array.

In a sea of green foliage, how do a few leaves (bracts) transform into such vibrant colors? To aid in the color-transformation, poinsettias are kept in darkness for at least 12 hours at a time for a minimum of 3 months. Once the colors appear, the poinsettia requires abundant light during the day to ensure the brightest color is attained and retained.

The bracts are the first thing people typically notice about a poinsettia. They’re bright, colorful, and distinct from the rest of the plant. Quite simply, they stand out. The bracts help identify the poinsettia as such, and speak to the beauty of the plant. The bracts have been modified from the way the rest of the poinsettia leaves look and act because they’ve endured a refining process, which has transformed them into their current brilliance.

As Christians we take every opportunity to let the light of Jesus shine through us into this darkened world (Matthew 5:16). We want to stand out, emulate the glory of Christ, and share the beauty of His Gospel with others. But, in order to be an effective light, we also have to undergo a process of change. Our progression to becoming a witness for Christ is likened to the poinsettia.

To look and act differently from everyone else in the world, we must be called out (I Peter 2:9). This requires separation from everyone else (II Corinthians 6:17). God draws us near to Him, covers us with His blood, and gives us a new heart and a new mind (Ezekiel 36:26).

Most of the time, a time of darkness will accompany this separation. When God works to refine us, it’s not always an easy process for us and for those around us. We may face a time of trial during our transformation, walking through the valley, while God works out our imperfections. And, like Jesus, we will experience times where we’re attacked by the wiles of the devil.

Jesus was led by the Spirit into a the wilderness to endure a time of separation, refinement, and spiritual examination (Matthew 4:1). He was tempted by the devil to oppose the plan of God and to serve him—just as we are in our walk with God. But, when Jesus emerged from the wilderness (darkness), He had been transformed! He was ready to embark on His ministry journey and be a light to this world (Matthew 5:14).

For each of us to be a light—a witness for Christ—we will undergo the same process as Jesus (and the poinsettia). A time of darkness and separation is required before we can be transformed and our brilliant colors of the Holy Ghost emerge! When we endure chastisement from God and/or a spiritual trial, God’s wants to stir up our faith and the Holy Ghost in us. When we emerge from this experience, we can share the richness of our colorful blessings with others. We’ll have a testimony that shines brightly and will definitely be something that others will immediately notice! Let’s allow God today to work His way of perfection in us so that we can bring others to Him.