Archive for December, 2017

Are You in the Know?

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead (Philippians 3:8–11, KJV).

Thinking You’re in the Know

There’s nothing worse than being on the outside looking in—being the last person to know, especially when you think you already know what you need to know.

This is where Paul (Saul) started his journey. He thought he knew everything there was to know about God. He thought he was doing the Lord’s work. But, then he discovered through a miraculous encounter with Jesus Christ, that he was in fact persecuting the Lord. He learns everything he knew was false; he wasn’t working for the Lord, but against Him. He became blind, but through his blindness begins to see.

Years later, Paul decides it’s his utmost desire to seek the God he was persecuting. A conversion happened in the life of Paul (Saul). He changes his outlook and life’s pursuit. And, through his conversion to knowing God, he makes a life declaration. But, what were the foundational elements noting the difference between a persecuting Saul and hungry Paul?

Time—Knowing Jesus is a Life Pursuit

When Paul decided to learn truly who God was, he knew he had to change his lifestyle. Long before Paul started his missionary journeys and plight to establish churches, Paul spent time learning the Gospel message. He spent 3 years in Arabia studying and seeking the Lord as well as time with the Apostles in Jerusalem. There was a reason Paul would claim the Gospel didn’t come to him by man, but by God (Galatians 1:12).

Paul noted he only understood God in part, but he wanted to pursue God to know Him in full. His desire was to see clearer day by day (I Corinthians 13:11–12). Over time, God showed more and more of Himself to Paul because he was hungry and because Paul had made knowing God his life’s pursuit. Time was a key factor of changing Saul into Paul.

Priorities—Knowing Jesus is a Loss and Gain

If we truly want to know Jesus, we must realize we’re going to need less of ourselves (loss) and more of Him (gain). Paul put values and priorities in his life and realized everything about God was gain (Philippians 3:8). He would lose everything else in his life if he could only know God. He traded what he knew and/or previously wanted all for something greater in God.

In our walk with Jesus, sometimes people change themselves without knowing why they’re doing it. But, unless you have answers (knowledge) as to why you’re making changes, your faith cannot be built up. You must know what you know!

Experience—Knowing God Requires More than Knowing Facts

Memorizing Bible verses or general knowledge about God isn’t the same as truly knowing Christ. You can study anyone or anything and become an expert in this day an age. But, knowing someone will require relationship and interaction.

When Paul received His sight, he arose, was baptized, and started preaching Jesus. Knowing God isn’t just about head-knowledge—it’s experience, intimacy, and relationship. It’s application that makes the facts of our faith useful.

There are some things we won’t know about God until we know Him. If we ask God, and seek after Him, we will find what we’re looking for (Luke 11:9–10). We can’t know a stranger or have an intimate relationship with them. The same is true for God: we must have a relationship with Him.

Love—The More You Know Him, the More You Love Him

God’s love radiates to us and then is reflected back to Him. We love him because He first loved us (I John 4:19). In Scripture, love is an important principle, and is demonstrated through the bride and bridegroom relationship we have with Christ. When we truly love Him, we will delight in His presence, take time to pray, take time to praise, and offer God true worship. To know God is to love Him.

We are commanded to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:29–30). If we love God, we won’t put anyone or anything else before Him. Our love for Him will bring out the deepest emotions in us, but will also drive us to action and obedience: worship, church attendance, reading the Word, etc. The truest way to show our love is through our obedience (John 14:21). When we obey His commandments, He’ll love us and reveal Himself to us.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on December 27, 2017 with Pastor Nave

Looking Back and Looking Forward

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

We’re a few days away from the start of a New Year. We see the dawn of a new year and are optimistic toward the potential it can bring into our lives. But, it’s also gives us a sense of closure and moves us to take a moment to look back at the year we’ve just endured.

For me, a bit of nostalgia ensues because I love reminiscing. No, I don’t go to Facebook to see my year in review, Instagram, or Snapchat. I pull out the old, hard-bound family albums, flip through the pages, and mentally try to take myself back to the moment in time frozen in the photographs. What a year; what an experience; what a story!

I’ll even take it a step further and pull out multiple albums and start making comparisons to what our family looked like 2 years ago, and then at 5 years ago. We’ve come a long way. We’ve been through a lot together. We’ve made it one more year.

But, our pictures are just moments in time that don’t capture every experience of our lives. The truth is: there are times of hardship, tears, and emotional trauma that have happened between the clicks of the camera’s lens. I can be honest and say when I look at those pictures my mind drifts to the events between the images, what the camera hasn’t immortalized.

If I’m not careful, I’ll dwell too much on the not-so happy times, the mistakes I’ve made, and the dilemma’s I’ve endured. Very quickly, the year of laughs and happy memories can turn into a year of disappointment. And, that sense can follow me into my bright and cheery New Year with Jesus.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13–14, KJV).

Don’t get me wrong—reminiscing isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not to be the central focus of our year. We’ve all lived this past year. We’re not perfect, we’ve messed up, and there are a million things—given the chance—we’d probably do differently. But, Scripture admonishes us to look forward, not behind. Look to and toward the New Year.

Scripture tells us to be thankful for every trial because it builds good things in us (James 1:2–3). What’s not captured between the photographs is what helps to make more happy memories in the future. The year we’ve had is to shape us and to prepare us for what’s coming ahead—what we are to do with the Lord Jesus Christ in the year to come.

A dear sister once told me that we need to get a vision of what we’re praying for. And, once we’ve visualized it, we need to praise Jesus for it! I don’t have my photo album for the next year filled out yet, but I can imagine it in my mind. I can see what God is going to do in the New Year, what He’ll do with me and through me, how He’ll bless my loved ones, and then I can glorify Him for the year ahead.

As the New Year crests, pull out your mental photo album, and start looking ahead. Don’t give up and throw out the old albums if they weren’t everything you’d hoped they’d be. Remember to look ahead toward Jesus and get ready for the new pictures He’s about to take in your life.

Be it Unto Me: The Daily Defeat of Our Flesh and Carnality

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her (Luke 1:26–38, KJV).

Our Will

We are tasked daily with the decision to do two things: defend or defeat our will. When we read the Christmas story in Scripture, we see many people who offered themselves on the altar in an effort to obey or be used by God. It’s no surprise that the human will is very powerful; Scripture denotes this and shows how our will is in direct contrast to God’s (Psalms 16:9, 81:11–12).

We are charged to present ourselves a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1). This poses difficulty for us because even though we’ve been called to live a life on the altar, we keep getting off and doing what we want. Paul noted there’s a constant struggle he—and we all—face in our lives: we have an inner desire to do what’s right, but our flesh works contrary to the Spirit (Romans 7:18–25).

Why We Struggle to Follow God’s Will

We Won’t Accept Who We Are

Who we believe ourselves to be has a huge impact on our behavior. We’re told in Scripture we’re a chosen generation, royal priesthood, holy nation, and a peculiar people (I Peter 2:9). These are identities, assignments, roles, and responsibilities we must follow in our life. They should impact our behavior and how we conduct ourselves on a daily basis. Scripture has told us we’re separate from the world—we’re not like everyone else.

It’s easier to accept God’s will when we accept who we are in Him. We cannot slip into our fleshly role when it’s convenient for us or when things get hard. The hard times in God are just as rewarding as any other time we walk with Him. The Holy Ghost has transformed us and made us a new creature. We must stop impersonating who we used to be.

We’re Too Shallow to Search Out the Hard Truth

Mary asked the angel, Gabriel, how all that was told to her would come to pass (Luke 1:24). She wasn’t afraid to ask God how, why, or what was going on. We fall short in asking God questions because we think it’s too much work. Finding God’s will for our lives isn’t easy, but will require spiritual effort. Mary also proved that questioning God in how He’s going to do something isn’t lacking faith, but showing interest in how He will perform His will in your life.

God will reward people who see Him (Hebrews 11:6; James 4:8). Mary received her answer when she asked and learned the that nothing would be impossible with God (Luke 1:37). God’s will in our lives will include the impossible, and we must not put any restraint or boundary on Him. It’s much easier to follow God’s will when we dive deeper in our walk with God. We need to pray more and seek God to find out His plan for our life.

We Don’t Believe God’s Will is Best

Every time we give into our flesh, we decide something else is better than God’s will. What’s right doesn’t always seem or feel the best—it can be the hardest thing, seem like the poorest choice, or feel awful. Mary may not have thought becoming pregnant out of wedlock was the “best way,” but she knew she had to follow God’s will. She determined in her heart that God’s truth and will is always best.

We must believe that God’s will is best. It’s much easier to accept God’s will when we feel it comes in the form of a blessing, but harder when it shapes, disregards, harms our reputation, or stops us dead in our tracks. Mary knew her will was far less valuable than God’s and His results would be better (Luke 1:32–33).

Learn to Follow God’s Will

We cannot be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). Learning to follow God’s will isn’t going to come naturally to us, but we must continue to try and test this out in our life. We must practice to learn how to follow God’s will.

Paul encouraged the church to do as he did: to die out to flesh daily (I Corinthians 15:31). This is the only way to decrease our flesh so God can increase in our life. Mary did this in her life by offering abandonment, availability, and allegiance to God. She threw away her own will, positioned herself to be in alignment to God’s will, and finally, made a commitment to carry out the plan of God. We must do the same if we will be successful in defeating our flesh and carnality.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on December 20, 2017 with Pastor Nave

The Sprinkle Incident

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

When I was younger, before I knew what baking truly entailed, I longed to help my mother in the kitchen. And, the one time, more than any other time of the year, I wanted to help in the kitchen was when my mother made Christmas cookies. My mother, being the patient, loving parent she is, would let me help.

Sugar cookies have always been a staple during Christmas because everyone loves them—children, parents, and grandparents alike. So, there we were in the kitchen, baking up a storm, literally. After splashing flour everywhere and not pushing the cookie cutter exactly where my mom wanted it to go on the dough, the cookies were made, cooled, and ready for decorating.

Here’s where things went south, quick…

My mom would pull out this cute, little wooden stool with a cat painted atop for me to stand on. The stool was necessary for me to be able to see over, and do anything, on the countertops. The key to standing on the stool was this: hold still, and don’t screw around. But, 4–5 year old kids don’t listen to that; do they?

There I was, minding my own business, sprinkling the freshly-iced sugar cookies when it happened. Somehow, out of nowhere, I felt the legs of that stool start to teeter under my feet. Before I knew it, I was flying backwards, off the stool, sprinkle container in hand, and time when into slo-mo.

Mouth agape, and wide-eyed, I watched those multi-colored sprinkles rain down everywhere in that kitchen like confetti. And, in the faint distance, I heard my mom scream one word: “Noooooooo!”

Long story short: 1) I survived (obviously), 2) no further sugar cookies received a sprinkle glaze that year, 3) it took forever to clean up the sprinkles (sorry mom), 4) we found sprinkles in the kitchen until we moved out (and I’m sure whoever lives in that house today may find an occasional sprinkle and wonder how it got there), and 5) the sprinkle incident is still discussed in the family, even today.

You know, our lives are a lot like my sprinkle incident. We’ve fallen a time or two and dropped a whole container of sprinkles. And, we’re left with the aftermath of having sprinkles everywhere in our lives, even where other people can see them, and it seems like we’ll never be able to clean them up. Our lives will always be dirty and covered with sprinkles.

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21, KJV).

We’re about to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He was born so He would save us from our sprinkle-riddled life. He eventually faced a cross to shed His blood, which would wash away our every sin. He would dissolve, and eradicate every sprinkle we had in our lives—no matter how old, how hidden, or how visible (I Corinthians 6:11).

And, we serve a God who forgets about our sprinkle incidents as far as the east is from the west (Psalms 103:12). Those sprinkles are blotted out, absolutely removed, and God will never talk to you about that sprinkle incident ever again (Acts 3:19).

This Christmas, maybe when you decorate your sugar cookies it will have a different meaning. Maybe when you wake up on Christmas morning, you’ll remember it was because of a God who loved you enough to robe Himself in flesh that you might be able to live a life, sprinkle-free.

 

How God Heals Us: Relationally

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16, KJV).

The Basis of Relationships

God created mankind for relationships. The basis is rooted in His Word—man was made to fellowship with God (Genesis 2:7). There are references throughout the Bible about our types of relationships with God: sons, heirs, friends, etc.

Bad Relationships

Bad relationships are another result of the fall of man; this was not in the perfect plan and will of God. We learn how to relate to others from what has been modeled to us; therefore, relationships in our lives will be applied and amplified throughout generations. What mankind doesn’t influence or attribute to poor relationships, the enemy does and preys upon. One of Satan’s primary strategies is to attack God’s people through relationships.

God brought Israel out of the land of Egypt into the wilderness to teach them about relationships and serving Him. They weren’t born with an understanding of God, or His righteousness. As we aren’t born into the world with a desire to seek God and act upon it in our lives, we have to learn the importance of relationships and how to love people.

Good Relationships

Because relationships are such a vital portion of our daily lives, we need to seek relational healing. We must make an intentional effort to restore and maintain relationships in our lives God’s way. The only way to experience relational healing is to determine what a healthy relationship should be. Scripture tells us healthy relationships will edify not only us, but others and God (Hebrews 10:24). Good relationships will promote love and good works for the Kingdom of God.

James told the church many truths about relationships: 1) saved people still have faults, 2) faults cause damage to relationships, 3) we need to be healed from the damage, and 4) healing comes from prayer and communication.

Confessing Faults

Faults are transgressions we commit to or against another person. Scripture is clear that we have a responsibility to restore the faults and damages in our relationships. We must be careful that we aren’t overtaken in faults and develop offenses (Galatians 6:1). An offense in the flesh can cause a spiritual sickness. We need to reconcile ourselves to those we’ve hurt (Matthew 5:23–24), or go and tell people they’ve hurt us with the aim to reconcile (Matthew 18:15–16).

Showing Compassion

We must have a deep desire to do for others what they cannot do for themselves. Jesus showed this multiple times in Scripture; He tried to understand where people were coming from and the motives behind their action. We’re all human and are going to mess up and it’s important to remember this when seeking to restore relationships.

Promote Discipline

We need to have discipline in our relationships. We cannot have unhealthy habits and boundaries in our relationships. Failing to have any discipline will result in unnecessary hardship. We need “set rules” to follow so we can have peace in our relationships (Hebrews 12:11–13).

Love One Another

God is love and His love is different from any other kind of love. His love (agape) is unsearchable; it’s the love that caused Him to robe Himself in flesh and be crucified on a cross so that we might be free from death and sin. We must extend this love in our relationships; this is how others will know we are His disciples (John 13:35).

Forgive Others

Jesus taught the disciples the importance of forgiveness; we must forgive others to be forgiven (Matthew 6:12). We need to understand that the grace God extends to us must be extended through us to others. God’s grace (forgiveness) is the most valuable gift we can give to others (Colossians 3:13); we must forgive an unlimited number of times (Matthew 18:21–22). If we don’t forgive, it can lead to bitterness in our lives and relationships (Hebrews 12:14).

God Helps Hurt Relationships

A beautiful story about relational healing is found in Genesis 32–33. This is the reconciliation story of Jacob and Esau—2 brothers parted in hatred and reunited in love and forgiveness. If we seek the Lord, and ask Him to heal our relationships, we will see Him work in a mighty way.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on December 13, 2017 with Pastor Nave

Home for the Holidays

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

It’s the old familiar Christmas albums of Amy Grant and James Taylor playing softly in the background. It’s the smell of sweet, buttery yams cooking in the oven, and charcoal waftings from the turkey grilling outside.

It’s the colorful German Christmas stolen arrayed on the countertop, with sparkling fruit peeking out from among the dough. It’s the hardy bellow of laughter from my Dad, squeals of delight from the grandkids, and soft sighs from my mother.

It’s Christmas, and I’m home for the holidays.

There’s never a more comfortable place I can go than back to my parent’s home to celebrate Christmas. Relaxation sets in with every activity. My mind and body move into a state of nostalgia and natural automation as I slip into the pillowed couch, don an apron in the kitchen, or set the table for dinner. Everything relays a certain comfort because I’m home.

I can get caught up a lot around the holidays with heightened anticipation of going home. I desperately want to forget the world, the responsibilities of life, and get lost in the homemade ornaments, antique nativity scenes, and Christmas traditions. I sometimes feel the only way I can escape and celebrate Christmas is to get home.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Everyone has “that place” they can go they call home. And, no matter what happens, you can just fall into your reverie and bask in the presence of family and familiarity. Is there really a better place to be?

Shockingly, yes. I’m sure you didn’t see that coming, especially after I painted quite the picture of my childhood home. But, there’s an escape I can find every day that’s really only one-step away from my forever home. The place I can always feel at home, no matter the location or time of year.

That home is in the presence of the Lord.

Scripture tells us our bodies are the temple (home) of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 3:16). It’s the presence of God in and around us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. When we walk with God on a daily basis, seek Him in prayer, and allow the Holy Ghost to flow through us, we feel the presence of God in a mighty way.

With His presence comes a comfort I cannot describe, for He is the Comforter (John 14:26). With His presence comes a peace I cannot describe, for He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).With His presence comes a sense of nostalgia—wonders I’ve experienced before with Him, for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

No matter the time of the year, when I tap into His presence, I find home right where I’m at. I find home in myself with the Lord. I find home in the earnest of my inheritance (Ephesians 1:14), which is just a little bit of Heaven—my future home—here on earth.

And, this Christmas, while I long to travel home, there’s another home I must visit for the holiday. That is my time alone with Jesus Christ, the Savior to all the world. He has gone to prepare a place for me in my true home, so I can today, and always, be home with Him for the holidays.

 

The Giving of Christmas

Sunday, December 10th, 2017

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6, KJV).

The Fabric of Giving

In the basic sense, giving is good because God is good. John 3:16 that because God loved the world He gave His life so that we could have everlasting life. The desire and need to give is within us because we are made in God’s image. And, since God gave from the very beginning, we too need to give.

Giving Rather than Getting

It’s better to give than it is to receive (Acts 20:35). The world tells us happiness comes when we get, but according to Scripture, our blessings come when we give. Correct giving only comes from the giving of Christmas—this is different from what the world defines. The giving of Christmas is perfect (James 1:17), and that origin is with Jesus.

The gifts our Lord and Savior provides are perfect, complete gifts. He gives gifts that are lasting and meaningful. This Christmas, we should consider giving perfect gifts to our spouses—love and respect (Ephesians 5:25–27), to our children—vision and values (Proverbs 1:8, 13:1), as well as our parents (Exodus 20:12). We need to give what we all want and need from each other this Christmas.

The Giving of Christmas

Has the Right Motive

Our idea of giving has become mechanical and lazy. We must realize giving is not really giving unless sacrifice is at its heart. Jesus called out the giving of a widow in Scripture. All though it didn’t look like she had given much when she cast in 2 mites, she had not given of her abundance. She gave her all (Mark 12:42–44). The heart of the giver is more important than the contents of the box. Jesus was able to teach on true giving because He knew what it meant to give all and to be a sacrifice.

Many times we give with the expectation of something in return. But, we cannot give this Christmas with strings attached (II Corinthians 9:7). God truly loves a cheerful giver, and has directed us to give with purpose. Jesus gave His life because there was a problem to solve, a purpose to fulfill, and a need to be met. So, our gifts need to solve a problem, fulfill a purpose, and meet a need.

Never Stops Giving

Jesus came to the earth so that we might have life (Luke 2:25–32). Jesus’ gift didn’t just end at Bethlehem; it continues on today. He’s still giving out gifts! When the woman met Jesus at the well, He told her that if she knew the gift of God, she would have asked Him for living water (John 4:10). If we knew what God wanted to do in our lives, and that He wants to keep giving, we would ask Him. Ask and we shall receive!

We are complete only in Jesus. He has taken our sins and nailed them to the cross (Colossians 2:8–14). Jesus’ gift didn’t end at Bethlehem; He transcended it to the cross. Jesus paid it all with His death, and He gave it all so that we could have it all this Christmas and at every other time of the year.

Realization of Giving

This Christmas, if we find ourselves unwilling to give, we might want to reflect on what we won’t let God give us, which could be stopping us from giving. Let’s learn the truth of giving this Christmas and see what blessings are in store for us as well as others.

His Mug

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

I know it’s truly the Christmas season when I hear the faint clinking in the kitchen followed by my Dad’s cry of chagrin: Ah, where’s my mug?!?!

In the true spirit of Christmas, my Mother always cycles out the typical day-to-day coffee mugs with Christmas-themed ones. Aptly named “the foo-foo mugs,” my Dad is forced, for the season, to find an alternative mug to consume his coffee until his favorite one returns.

I have to crack a smile when I think about my Dad’s coffee mug. He has quite a few he’s donned as “his,” but there is one that’s particularly special. This coffee mug is painted with a (now faded) American flag, has a slight chip on the edge, and is stained—no matter the number of wash cycles—with the color and smell of coffee.

It’s been around since the dawn of the dinosaurs. It’s Dad’s go-to mug, day or night, and no one drinks out of it, ever. And, it’s typically out on the counter, ready for use. Rare are the times I’ve seen this mug in the kitchen cabinet.

But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work (II Timothy 2:20–21, KJV).

Meet for the master’s use. Do you know what this means? Meet is the Greek word euchréstos which means serviceable, profitable, or easy to make use of. This is where my mind sees the connection with my Dad’s coffee mug.

My Dad’s mug is meet for his use. He’s drank countless cups of coffee from it. He knows it’s strong and reliable because it got a little banged up and survived with just a chip. He knows it can weather the storm because those stars and stripes are still visible on the outside no matter the number of times its gone through the dishwasher. And, because of all of that and more, He’s chosen to call it his coffee mug.

If you’ll allow me the metaphor, we’re all cups and glasses in God’s kitchen cabinet. And, we all need to be a vessel meet for the Master’s use.

We need to be that cup God reaches for (and possibly hunts for) among the rest of the cups in the cabinet. We need to be a vessel that’s always ready and available to be used. We need to be willing to step outside our comfort zone, and this might involve being unsheltered, exposed, or left on the counter. We need to be a mug He can count on because we’ve proven our use—we have a few chips or cracks in our sides, but we have a resiliency to never give up. We need to be a vessel that has the mark of our Maker.

I don’t ever want to be the last clean cup in the cabinet. I don’t want to be the foo-foo mug. I want to get my hands dirty when God asks. Go where He leads. Forge into the storm knowing I might walk out with a little scar, but all the while, trusting in God to get me through.

And, most importantly, I want to be His.

Don’t be a vessel that’s too pretty to be used. Don’t be the “for show” glass that sits on the shelf, or the foo-foo mug that’s cast aside. Be fit for the Master’s use. Be His mug.

The Simplicity of Christmas

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:1–7, KJV).

The Truth about Christmas

Christmas is in the Bible and it’s meant for us to know, understand, and celebrate. On the day of Christ’s birth, the angels proclaimed it and glorified God (Luke 2:14). For us to understand the true nature of Christmas, we need to know it in its simplest form and its very power.

In this day and age, Christmas has become incredibly complicated. If we’re not careful, we’ll get caught up in the stress and forget the true importance of the season and the power it represents. The shepherds would even understand the simplicity of Christmas when they would find the babe lying in a manger (Luke 2:12).

If Christmas is complicated for us, it’s not because God made it complicated. If we want to worship God this Christmas season, we’ll need to do the exact opposite of what we’ve been trained to do. We must focus on the very center of Christmas—the One who came to save all of humanity.

Ingredients for a Simple Christmas

Don’t Have Low Expectations for Things with High Potential

There was a lot going on in the life of Mary and Joseph: Mary was carrying the Savior of the world, they were required to travel back to Bethlehem for a census, cross 80–100 miles (over 4–7 days) in the final days of her pregnancy, and say in less than desirable lodging. But, even so, what was going on in their lives was what God had ordained (Mark 2:5). There were prophecies that had to come true (Isaiah 7:17; Micah 5:2); God was confirming His Word through their lives. We are made to do hard things. God will never ask us to do anything we’re not able to do, and He will never leave or forsake us.

Don’t Make the Fringe the Focus of the Epicenter

When we make endless shopping trips for gifts; cook culinary masterpieces that take weeks to prepare; and spend hours decorating our home to make it look like a show room, we’re missing the simplicity of Christmas. People will not remember the stuff we’ve given them, but they’ll remember the time we’ve spent with them. What matters most is who we celebrate at Christmas—Jesus—and who we celebrate it with—family. Time is the greatest gift and this is anchored throughout the Scriptures.

Cut Out the Complications of Strained Relationships

Jesus began the process of forgiveness at Bethlehem. The cross did not begin at Golgotha, it began in a manger (Colossians 3:13; Hebrews 2:9). We need to make allowances for each other’s faults and forgive those who offend us. We can’t celebrate Christmas with bitterness; the theme of Christmas is forgiveness (John 18:37).

Keep Jesus at the Center

Jesus is the center of attention at Christmas—not the angels, wise men, or the gifts they brought. This Christmas, we need less presents and more presence; we need the presence of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus needs to be in the middle of everything we celebrate, and we’re not going to find Him unless we simplify this Christmas.