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A Debt Paid in Full

God the Father sent His Son Jesus to shed His blood on the cross in payment for the sin debt we owed.
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Finding Clear Guidance

Though we want instant answers to prayer, God may wait for us to spend time reading His Word and getting to know Him better.
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The One Decision That Frees You to Forgive

 

We can’t be happy without our relationships. And it is inevitable in relationships that you eventually find yourself in a position that calls for forgiveness. I want you to think for a moment about a relationship in which you are struggling to forgive, and consider the words you’re reading right now to be written just for you.

Years ago, I found myself deeply hurt by someone close to me and absolutely stuck and unable to move on. There was one mental shift that transformed my ability to forgive in that situation and it is this:

I decided to stop taking the offense personally.

Now, I know what you might be thinking. “How can I not take something personally when the person intentionally did it to me?”  At least, that was my first question when a friend first suggested it. I brushed it off as unrealistic. Then she gave me a copy of what became one of my favorite books, The Four Agreements. One of the agreements was simply this: “Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality…”

I didn’t really understand it at first, but I wanted to.  I wanted desperately to let go, to be able to forgive and move on.  So I prayed about it, I talked to friends about it, I journaled about it, and I finally started to get it:  What others choose to do, even if they try to do it to me, is really not about me.  It’s about them.  It’s about their emotional condition, their spiritual condition, their own hurt and pain.  It doesn’t excuse their behavior. It doesn’t make it OK.  But it does help explain that there is a reason for it. It explains that I cannot change them, and therefore, I must let go.

Whoever has hurt you, consider this: If you wait for them to apologize or feel remorse before you can let go of your grudge, move forward, or get your joy back, you might be waiting for the rest of your life.  Refuse to allow a person who hurt you to have that much power over you and your emotions.  Free yourself from being held hostage to how they choose to react or apologize before you are able to just be free.

It is definitely easier said than done, and I have to tell you, in the most difficult forgiveness scenario I ever faced, I wasn’t able to do it alone.  I literally prayed and said to God, “I can’t forgive this person, so I need you to change my heart because I don’t even know how.”  And miraculously, within a matter of about three weeks, my heart softened. I released them, and believe it or not, I even began to pray for them.  I recognized that they had some serious issues.  I would never be able to say anything to them that would fix those issues, but I could have mercy. I could set a very strong boundary to protect myself from more hurt.  Yet I didn’t need to feel a grudge, I didn’t need to seek revenge, I no longer needed to be angry.

The person who most needs the act of forgiveness is the forgiver, because it frees you.  You are no longer bound up in the toxic emotions of grudges and revenge.  Don’t take it personally.  Hurting people hurt people. It is what it is.  Take back control of your emotions, your peace and your joy.

 

My challenge to you this week:

Don’t take anything personally.

 

Journaling question:

Who do you need to forgive? What do you need to forgive them for? How would it feel to stop taking their offending actions personally? When are you willing to do that?

 

Leave your comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

 

The post The One Decision That Frees You to Forgive appeared first on Valorie Burton.

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The Church at Smyrna: No Rebuke, but Trouble Will Come, Part 2 (Revive the Family, Revive the Church, Awaken the Nation, O Lord #304)

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

A homily is “a short talk on a religious or moral topic; a usually short sermon; a lecture or discourse on or of a biblical theme.”

In our series of homilies from the book of Ephesians, we focused on reviving Christian families. Now, I am sharing a verse-by-verse series of short messages from the book of Revelation, specifically targeted at reviving the church. If our country is to be awakened, the family and the church must be revived first.

TEXT: Revelation 2:8-11:

8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;

9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

—-

Jack Hyles said, “A tribulation gives you the opportunity to test a truth you have always believed.”

Leonard Ravenhill said, “It’s not the imitation of Christ that you and I need, it’s an impartation of Christ that we need. We need Christ living in us the hope of glory.”

In their book, The Ten Greatest Revivals Ever, Elmer Towns and Douglas Porter share with us: “During Robert Haldane’s time, the Reformed churches of Switzerland were in decline. In 1810, several young men had united under the banner “La Societe desAmis” (“The Society of Friends”) as an evangelical response to the apparent spiritual apostasy in their church. Opposition by the clergy, most of whom adhered to Arian heresy, had been so strong that the group had disbanded in 1814. Some of the more committed members had left the Reformed Church and joined the Moravians.”

—-

While the church at Smyrna was being buffeted on all sides — by Satan, by the pagan Romans, and by the religious Jews — it would have been easy for them to feel as though they were all alone in their tribulation. That is why Jesus says, “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.” Jesus is not just talking about knowing something in an informational way. He knows what they are going through by experience. One of the best things that can happen to you when you are going through a hard time is to be comforted by someone who has experienced the same thing. They truly know how you feel and they are able to encourage you in a way that others cannot.

First, we see that Jesus knows the works of the church at Smyrna. He knows the good that they have done in the face of evil and persecution. Jesus healed people, fed people, and taught people the ways of God, all the while He was being slandered, criticized, and targeted for arrest and assassination. If you are doing good in the face of evil, Jesus knows what you are going through.

Second, Jesus knows the tribulation of the church at Smyrna. He knows the mocking, the beatings, and the killings that have been perpetrated against them because those very same things were perpetrated against Him. He knows what it feels like to face disdain and difficulty from people you are trying to show the way of salvation. If you have faced tribulation, Jesus knows what you are going through.

Third, Jesus knows the poverty of the church at Smyrna. The Bible tells us that Jesus had no place to lay his head on this earth. Throughout His ministry, He depended on the kindness of friends for his daily sustenance. This is significant because Jesus could have provided money, food, and a place to stay for Himself and His disciples through miraculous means. But He did not. He CHOSE to identify with the millions of impoverished Christians who would follow Him, many of whom become impoverished only because of their Christian witness.

After a year in which the most persecuted group of people in the world were once again Christians, these words of Jesus are especially relevant today. One organization has predicted that the persecution of Christians will get worse in 2017. Believers around the world need to be reminded that Jesus knows everything that they are going through because He has experienced it. He has not abandoned us. He has not forgotten us. He has suffered for us and with us. And that alone is a great encouragement.

Johnson Oatman wrote:

There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus,
No, not one! No, not one!
None else could heal all our soul’s diseases,
No, not one! No, not one!

Jesus knows all about our struggles,
He will guide till the day is done;
There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus,
No, not one! No, not one!

No friend like Him is so high and holy,
No, not one! No, not one!
And yet no friend is so meek and lowly,
No, not one! No, not one!

There’s not an hour that He is not near us,
No, not one! No, not one!
No night so dark but His love can cheer us,
No, not one! No, not one!

Did ever saint find this Friend forsake him?
No, not one! No, not one!
Or sinner find that He would not take him?
No, not one! No, not one!

Was e’er a gift like the Savior given?
No, not one! No, not one!
Will He refuse us a home in heaven?
No, not one! No, not one!

Let’s pray.

Now, if you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, please keep in mind that the Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” First, understand, that you are a sinner and that the wages of sin is death and Hell. But God sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for your sins. He was buried, and He rose from the dead by the power of God so that you can be saved from death and Hell. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I now believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.

If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on trusting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. You have done the most important thing in life. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to GospelLightSociety.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door”. Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door, by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.

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The National Black Church Initiative Is Appalled At The Way Ms. Omarosa Manigault Was Treated By Some Rude and Disrespectful Customers In Nordstrom

The Black Church will not allow this to happen again

Washington, DC – The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches comprised of 15 denominations and 15.7 million African Americans, is appalled at the way that Ms. Omarosa Manigault was treated while shopping for wedding gowns for her upcoming marriage. The Black Church apologizes on behalf of those rude customers to this wonderful human being who represents the Black community with dignity, respect and intelligence in representing our people as the Assistant to the President and director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison focusing on issues such as community outreach.

The National Black Church Initiative and 34,000 churches are proud of her and what she has accomplished in her lifetime in front of the TV cameras. One can only respect how she has handled the current situation and how she has handled one of the roughest, nastiest political campaigns ever waged in this country. She really is one of our heroic African American women who has demonstrated poise and the ethics and teachings of Jesus.

Rev. Anthony Evans, President of the National Black Church Initiative says, “Again I am ashamed of our people and how they treat one of our own who has went through pure hell in this past campaign and has been a victim of harassment and bullying. The Black Church will not allow this to happen to this sister. I must tell you with all pride and indignation, take your hands off this woman. She is the person that God has appointed at this time to represent our interests in the White House under the current Trump Administration.”

“God has placed her there and I am happy to be among the supporters of this young woman and very proud of her forthcoming biblical marriage. One of the things that the public does not understand, and some of our people have failed to recognize is that this young lady is a called Minister of the Gospel. Let me echo the Scriptures, how beautiful are the feats of those who preach the Gospel. Let it be clear from this day forward that she has the unabated support of 34,000 Black Churches as she seeks to carry out her job on behalf of Christ and Black people. Amen.”

This is why she should not ever be treated in the manner visited upon her and her wedding party during their trip to Nordstrom. To the young ladies who felt compelled to heckle her and to call her names unbecoming of any Christian character, the Church publicly and loudly denounces their behavior towards this sister. Regardless of your politics she has represented African Americans with a sense of grace and respect that we can all be proud of. We can never stay silent when one of our own is treated in such a manner. This is the second incident that the Church has had to speak out on regarding the behavior of some African American women towards African American leadership in a public forum.

The last time we lifted our pen in indignation was against some African American females who threatened the lives of Tavis Smiley because he had an opposite perspective to our then President Barack Obama. These women who have heckled Ms. Omarosa and the women who threatened Tavis’ life do not represent the dignity and grace of Black women who understand how to address themselves in public dressed in the African American history, pride and our community.

ABOUT NBCI
The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI) is a coalition of 34,000 African American and Latino churches working to eradicate racial disparities in healthcare, technology, education, housing, and the environment. NBCI’s mission is to provide critical wellness information to all of its members, congregants, churches and the public. Our methodology is utilizing faith and sound health science.

NBCI’s purpose is to partner with major organizations and officials whose main mission is to reduce racial disparities in the variety of areas cited above. NBCI offers faith-based, out-of-the-box and cutting edge solutions to stubborn economic and social issues. NBCI’s programs are governed by credible statistical analysis, science based strategies and techniques, and methods that work. Visit our website at www.naltblackchurch.com.

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What are these “Five Solas” and Why Do They Even Matter? An Interview with College Church Pastor Josh Moody

Solas are essential to understand if we are to understand the Reformation

Josh Moody is the pastor of College Church. We’ve become fast friends and I drive (or walk) by his church at least five times a week. It’s a great blessing to our community and has a long and powerful history.

Josh and I have been discussing theology, and often have come back to the solas. We are even doing a conference together around the solas. But it seems to me that, outside of Calvinistic circles, people don’t talk about the solas much—and they need to. As such, I asked Josh a bit about it—but first I wanted to ask what it is like to pastor a church like College Church (formerly pastored by Kent Hughes, for example).

Josh, tell me what it’s like to pastor a historic church like College Church.

Being a pastor anywhere is a great joy and a great challenge, but pastoring a historic church is probably fascinating in its own way. There are reasons things have been done a certain way for a long time, and you have to learn them as you go. And, of course, you stand on the legacy of those who came before you (like Kent Hughes in my case), but you also are called to lead the church in a new era with new plans. But, it’s a great blessing to have such a heritage, but also such a great future.

Of course, pastoring is always a challenge. I had someone who jumped into help us with something this week observe my daily working patterns and said ‘hey do you always work this hard?’, to which the reply was ‘yeah, pretty much.’ Pastoring is dying, being the scum of the earth; it’s a serving job, it’s not a look-at-me-aren’t-I-great job. The humanity in us all sometimes baulks at being a living sacrifice, and we all have to find ways to get low and serve. And ...

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What are these “Five Solas” and Why Do They Even Matter? An Interview with College Church Pastor Josh Moody

Solas are essential to understand if we are to understand the Reformation

Josh Moody is the pastor of College Church. We’ve become fast friends and I drive (or walk) by his church at least five times a week. It’s a great blessing to our community and has a long and powerful history.

Josh and I have been discussing theology, and often have come back to the solas. We are even doing a conference together around the solas. But it seems to me that, outside of Calvinistic circles, people don’t talk about the solas much—and they need to. As such, I asked Josh a bit about it—but first I wanted to ask what it is like to pastor a church like College Church (formerly pastored by Kent Hughes, for example).

Josh, tell me what it’s like to pastor a historic church like College Church.

Being a pastor anywhere is a great joy and a great challenge, but pastoring a historic church is probably fascinating in its own way. There are reasons things have been done a certain way for a long time, and you have to learn them as you go. And, of course, you stand on the legacy of those who came before you (like Kent Hughes in my case), but you also are called to lead the church in a new era with new plans. But, it’s a great blessing to have such a heritage, but also such a great future.

Of course, pastoring is always a challenge. I had someone who jumped into help us with something this week observe my daily working patterns and said ‘hey do you always work this hard?’, to which the reply was ‘yeah, pretty much.’ Pastoring is dying, being the scum of the earth; it’s a serving job, it’s not a look-at-me-aren’t-I-great job. The humanity in us all sometimes baulks at being a living sacrifice, and we all have to find ways to get low and serve. And ...

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Resources for Learning Your Catechisms

I mentioned recently that part of the joy of being Reformed is entering into an existing, defined stream of theology. (See Use Your Catechism, Silly.) As Reformed believers, we have a well-defined reference library of creeds, confessions, and catechisms, and it is wise to ground ourselves in this established body of truth. To that end, here are a few resources that may prove helpful as you explore them for your own purposes or teach them to your children.

Training Hearts, Teaching Minds and Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds by Starr Meade. Meade has written two similar books meant for family devotions. Training Hearts, Teaching Minds devotes six devotional readings to each of the Westminster Shorter Catechism’s 104 questions and answers. Thus, it can be completed in two years based on six devotions per week. Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds devotes six devotional readings to each of the Heidelberg Catechism’s 52 Lord’s Days (or sections). Thus, it can be completed in one year based on six devotions per week. The publisher says, “This book of daily readings aids memorization by devoting six days and meditations to each question. It explains the catechism in simple language, includes key Scripture readings, and takes just a few moments each day, allowing time for discussion and review.”

My family is currently using and enjoying Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds and finding it ideal for our brief early-morning devotion. Each morning I read the catechism’s question and answer, the devotional, and then the associated Scripture passage(s). By reading the question and answer every day for six days, the family begins to gain familiarity with it; by reading the associated Scripture passage, they learn that the catechism is meant to explain, not replace the Bible.

Big Beliefs! by David Helm. This family devotional is geared to ages seven through twelve and traces the Westminster Confession of Faith. We recently completed it as a family and enjoyed it a lot. It offers thirty-three lessons, each of which contain three devotionals. The publisher describes it this way: “Big Beliefs! is a devotional expressly intended to enable parents to succeed and children to grow in grace and knowledge. Three weekly readings accompanied by suggested Scripture passages introduce and simply explain thirty-three key theological concepts found in the Westminster Confession of Faith (included in its entirety, in modern English). Questions following each reading will help you to start a conversation about what you have learned each day. This nonthreatening, encouraging devotional will make a comprehensive beginning to your child’s understanding of Christianity’s big beliefs.”

The Good News We Almost Forgot by Kevin DeYoung. One of DeYoung’s lesser-known books, this one is based on the Heidelberg Catechism of the Dutch Reformed tradition. The publisher describes DeYoung’s book like this: “In The Good News We Almost Forgot, Kevin DeYoung explores the Heidelberg Catechism and writes 52 brief chapters on what it has shown him. The Heidelberg is largely a commentary on the Apostle’s Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer, and deals with man’s guilt, God’s grace, and believers’ gratitude. This book is a clear-headed, warm-hearted exploration of the faith, simple enough for young believers and deep enough for mature believers.” This one is ideal for personal reading.

The Heidelberg Catechism, The Westminster Shorter Catechism, and The Westminster Confession of Faith by G.I. Williamson. These three books are study guides that were created for use in classroom situations. Each guide moves through the catechism or confession, explains it, and asks questions for review and application. They have been in use for many years and have proven their worth.

I am certain there are more resources like these, perhaps especially in the Baptist tradition. But this list represents the books I am familiar with and the ones I have used.

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Weekend A La Carte (February 25)

Today’s Kindle deals include two classics that will be at home in any Christian’s library.

 Man in the Middle

“David Dockery, president of Trinity International University, knows the feeling of exhaustion. His wife, Lanese, gave birth to their three boys in three years. While he was president at Union University, one student shot another, and an EF4 tornado tore through while half of the students were on campus. But the most emotionally exhausting day in his life came on January 24, 1992.” Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra explains…

Media Hottakes We’d See If The Chronicles Of Narnia Were Released This Year

This is clever. “Here’s how our politically obsessed and ideologically sequestered press would report on C.S. Lewis’s classic children’s fantasy series.”

The Jewish Calendar

Here’s a little visual overview of the Jewish calendar.

The World’s First Roller Coasters (Video)

We’ve come a long way.

Redefining Reality

Joe Carter explains why the transgender debate is really about redefining reality. “If you want to change a society, you merely need to get the public to shift an idea from the category of ‘unthinkable’ to ‘policy.’ You’ll know you’ve been successful when the formerly unthinkable has become public school policy.”

Mom/Dad, I’m Not Sure I Want to be a Christian Anymore…

Brad Hambrick offers counsel on what to do and say when/if your child says those words.

When Christians Hurt You

“As the culture war rages on, there is another battle raging to which we must turn our attention. When I was a boy, my dad would sometimes tell me, ‘No one will hurt you so much as others in the church.'” That’s true, isn’t it?

Facing Death and Finding Life

I love Vance Christie’s biographical writings.

Flashback: When I Glory in My Shame

Just as a dog will lie down or roll over or beg or bark on command to get a sausage—doesn’t she realize how pathetic she looks?—, there is not much I won’t do to receive validation, to have others affirm my self-worth according to my criteria.

For The Church, With The Church

My thanks goes to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for sponsoring the blog this week.

No one ever said at the end of his course that he had been too holy and lived too near to God. —J.C. Ryle

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Notable Voices and the Week in Review: February 25, 2017

Earlier this week at ThomRainer.com:

 


8 Reasons Why You Need Regularly-Scheduled Testimonies in Your Worship ServiceChuck Lawless

I believe strongly in regularly (that is, once a month or once each quarter) using testimonies in a church’s worship services. Here’s why:

 


7 Reasons Why You Can’t Seem to Get a Job InterviewArt Rainer

If you are consistently not getting initial interviews, there is probably a reason why. So before you send out your next resume, consider these seven reasons why people often don’t get job interviews:

 


3 Reasons Why Ministry Leaders Choose to Be IsolatedEric Geiger

It is not uncommon for ministry leaders to preach on community while living in isolation. While we can preach on community for everyone else, ministry leaders are often tempted to live in isolation. Why do ministry leaders often choose isolation? What pulls them away from community and away from being vulnerable with others? While there are a plethora of reasons, here are three painful reasons ministry leaders often choose isolation over community:

 


Confessions of a Church ShopperKelly King

I’ve visited a few congregations, and I want to make a few observations as an “outside” person who is walking through your church door. I’m not trying to be critical, but if you are a ministry leader, I want to give you some practical ways you can make a good first impression.

 


5 Unfair Criticisms People Levy At Strategic Church LeadersCarey Nieuwhof

You can be strategic and deeply devoted to Jesus. You can think and be faithful. However, if you’re a strategic leader, get ready. As soon as the conversation gets specific and detailed, some people start criticizing. Here’s what you need to be prepared to hear.

 


Five Key Giving Trends in ChurchesSam Rainer

Much about church giving is changing. Worship attendance, conversions, and baptisms are often the most scrutinized metrics, but giving trends are close behind. Here are five macro trends that are affecting most churches in the United States.

 


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Three Questions to Ask of Any Bible Passage

If you aren’t experienced in applying God’s Word to your life, you might be frustrated. How do you do it? Today I want to give you three questions you can ask of any passage that will help you apply the Bible to your life. Here are the three questions:
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Convictions that Conquered the World, Part 1 of 2

When you hear the word conviction, what do you think of? Is God still at work amidst all of the destruction and despair in the world? How did pain and persecution in the early days of Christianity help spread the Gospel? Listen as Ravi Zacharias looks at how the convictions of Jesus helped change the world, this week on Let My People Think.
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Learning Contentment

With a focus on Christ, we can learn to be content regardless of our circumstances.
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God Shines Most in Our Messiness

God Shines Most in Our Messiness

A recent bipolar diagnosis shocks the group. Cancer ravages the health of a young wife and mother. An impending divorce threatens to tear apart a marriage, family, and community. A member struggling with same-sex attraction searches for ways to share his struggle. The lone black man in the small group is peppered yet again with questions about racism. The single mom cries out for help with her teenage son. A young couple struggles to accept that they can’t have biological children. The widow, married for more than six decades, gropes for reasons to go on. A father of six children shares the news of his recent layoff.

Life is hard and broken. Christian clichés aren’t going to cut it in the unavoidable messiness of realities like these.

Community Is Messy

Christian community — in the local church, in small group, missional community, or wherever else — is messy. If our friends are plunging headlong into a dark place, someone needs to go after them. And we have no quick fixes for the deep wounds we face: depression, anxiety, eating disorders, broken relationships, miscarriage, loneliness, unemployment, deteriorating health, wayward children, death of a parent, disability, and the list literally goes on and on.

Life is messy. For some of us, that scares us to no end. We don’t know what to say, what to do, how to engage, or how to help. Many step into community tentatively, secretly hoping it will not be messy. We want good friends, loving community, and easy, comfortable, enjoyable conversation. But the reality is that every true Christ-centered community will have its difficulties.

Christian community, by necessity and design, is messy. We are sinners, the world is broken, and God is at work. In the gospel story he has written, his grace and love shine more beautifully than ever in the messiness of our lives.

Powerful Gospel

The gospel helps us to move from risk-adverse and messiness-avoiding people to those who lean into one another when the pain and confusion come. The gospel transforms naturally self-centered people into those who selflessly serve others. The gospel transforms, over time, a proud and arrogant man into a humble man willing to ask for help. The gospel turns an ingrown, self-absorbed group into one welcoming to the spiritual seeker. The gospel generates generosity in a community to help make the dream of adoption a reality for a couple. The gospel motivates a group to fold a widow in and become her new family. The gospel slowly mends a broken marriage through consistent Bible study, prayer, and encouragement.

In the darkest moments, the gospel of Jesus Christ shines its brightest and most brilliant.

The tragic irony is that we hide. We throw a rug over the vomit of our lives sitting in the middle of the room. We withdraw when our blood pressure rises. We recoil when tempers flare. We pull back when we’ve been offended. We lean away when sin is exposed.

In these moments, we must battle our natural instincts, and trust our growing gospel instincts, to lean into the mess. It’s not easy. It’s never easy. But as we lean in together with his people, guided by his Spirit, and dependent on his grace and help, God brings hope and healing.

Wanted: Broken People

God always works the mess for good, for those who love him. He has designed the body of Christ such that every member, even the broken ones — especially the broken ones — are needed. In God’s plan, the broken and needy ones are often the ones we need most.

The apostle Paul says, “If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. . . . If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?” (1 Corinthians 12:15, 17). We need every single part. We need the feet, even those with ingrown toenails. We need ears, mouths, and noses. No part is indispensable. That means we need the broken and hurting among us just as much as we need the spiritually mature. We need those who suffer from mental disability, physical infirmity, or broken hearts as much as we need those who are doing well and flying high.

Some Sunday mornings, I sit next to a young man who has Down syndrome. He is filled with the joy of Christ and sings with more gusto than anyone around him. He has a bigger smile on his face than anyone I know, and he always greets me heartily. He serves me by reminding me of the excitement and exuberance that should accompany the worship of God with his people. This young man — who has lived all his life with a disability — reveals the beauty of joyful and uninhibited praise. He reminds me worship isn’t about me, but God. I need that reminder. I need him.

Lean into Community

Bearing one another’s burdens and forgiving one another is messy. But let God use the messiness to make you and others more like him. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (1 Corinthians 12:21–22).

Whether you are a hand, a foot, or a big toe with a bunion, the body of Christ needs you. It won’t be easy — for anyone — but we need each other, and the reminder that God does his brightest work in our messiness. When we walk with one another through joys and trials, we’ll better see the transforming power of the gospel.

God does his best work in and through us when we seek to serve one another, especially when we run out of answers, quick fixes, and clichés, so that we point others directly to Jesus and his cross.

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God Shines Most in Our Messiness

God Shines Most in Our Messiness

A recent bipolar diagnosis shocks the group. Cancer ravages the health of a young wife and mother. An impending divorce threatens to tear apart a marriage, family, and community. A member struggling with same-sex attraction searches for ways to share his struggle. The lone black man in the small group is peppered yet again with questions about racism. The single mom cries out for help with her teenage son. A young couple struggles to accept that they can’t have biological children. The widow, married for more than six decades, gropes for reasons to go on. A father of six children shares the news of his recent layoff.

Life is hard and broken. Christian clichés aren’t going to cut it in the unavoidable messiness of realities like these.

Community Is Messy

Christian community — in the local church, in small group, missional community, or wherever else — is messy. If our friends are plunging headlong into a dark place, someone needs to go after them. And we have no quick fixes for the deep wounds we face: depression, anxiety, eating disorders, broken relationships, miscarriage, loneliness, unemployment, deteriorating health, wayward children, death of a parent, disability, and the list literally goes on and on.

Life is messy. For some of us, that scares us to no end. We don’t know what to say, what to do, how to engage, or how to help. Many step into community tentatively, secretly hoping it will not be messy. We want good friends, loving community, and easy, comfortable, enjoyable conversation. But the reality is that every true Christ-centered community will have its difficulties.

Christian community, by necessity and design, is messy. We are sinners, the world is broken, and God is at work. In the gospel story he has written, his grace and love shine more beautifully than ever in the messiness of our lives.

Powerful Gospel

The gospel helps us to move from risk-adverse and messiness-avoiding people to those who lean into one another when the pain and confusion come. The gospel transforms naturally self-centered people into those who selflessly serve others. The gospel transforms, over time, a proud and arrogant man into a humble man willing to ask for help. The gospel turns an ingrown, self-absorbed group into one welcoming to the spiritual seeker. The gospel generates generosity in a community to help make the dream of adoption a reality for a couple. The gospel motivates a group to fold a widow in and become her new family. The gospel slowly mends a broken marriage through consistent Bible study, prayer, and encouragement.

In the darkest moments, the gospel of Jesus Christ shines its brightest and most brilliant.

The tragic irony is that we hide. We throw a rug over the vomit of our lives sitting in the middle of the room. We withdraw when our blood pressure rises. We recoil when tempers flare. We pull back when we’ve been offended. We lean away when sin is exposed.

In these moments, we must battle our natural instincts, and trust our growing gospel instincts, to lean into the mess. It’s not easy. It’s never easy. But as we lean in together with his people, guided by his Spirit, and dependent on his grace and help, God brings hope and healing.

Wanted: Broken People

God always works the mess for good, for those who love him. He has designed the body of Christ such that every member, even the broken ones — especially the broken ones — are needed. In God’s plan, the broken and needy ones are often the ones we need most.

The apostle Paul says, “If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. . . . If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?” (1 Corinthians 12:15, 17). We need every single part. We need the feet, even those with ingrown toenails. We need ears, mouths, and noses. No part is indispensable. That means we need the broken and hurting among us just as much as we need the spiritually mature. We need those who suffer from mental disability, physical infirmity, or broken hearts as much as we need those who are doing well and flying high.

Some Sunday mornings, I sit next to a young man who has Down syndrome. He is filled with the joy of Christ and sings with more gusto than anyone around him. He has a bigger smile on his face than anyone I know, and he always greets me heartily. He serves me by reminding me of the excitement and exuberance that should accompany the worship of God with his people. This young man — who has lived all his life with a disability — reveals the beauty of joyful and uninhibited praise. He reminds me worship isn’t about me, but God. I need that reminder. I need him.

Lean into Community

Bearing one another’s burdens and forgiving one another is messy. But let God use the messiness to make you and others more like him. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (1 Corinthians 12:21–22).

Whether you are a hand, a foot, or a big toe with a bunion, the body of Christ needs you. It won’t be easy — for anyone — but we need each other, and the reminder that God does his brightest work in our messiness. When we walk with one another through joys and trials, we’ll better see the transforming power of the gospel.

God does his best work in and through us when we seek to serve one another, especially when we run out of answers, quick fixes, and clichés, so that we point others directly to Jesus and his cross.

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Jesus Brought Heaven’s Joy to a Hellish World (Just Jesus Evangelistic Campaign, Day 35 / Day 402 since Jan. 1, 2016)

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TEXT: Matthew 2:7-11:

7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

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

After preaching the Gospel every day for 367 days straight throughout the 2016 presidential campaign season, I am preaching the Gospel every day throughout the first 100 days of President Donald Trump’s term. If you think a new president being in office is the only thing needed to save America and ‘make America great again’, you are woefully deceived. The church must follow through and “keep the main thing the main thing: and that is reaching unbelievers with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and praying for their salvation, for the problem in America is not only disobedient presidents, politicians, and people, but disobedient pastors, preachers, and parishioners who have refused to obey the Lord’s Great Commission which is to, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,’ and who have refused to obey God’s repeated commands to ‘pray without ceasing’ for unbelievers, believers, and political leaders.” So, we encourage you to pray for the new president, but not to get caught up in the political happenings like the world does. Nothing much is going to change until people get saved and get their hearts right with the Lord. And that is what this campaign is all about.

This campaign is inspired by the following three verses: 1 Corinthians 2:2 which says, “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Acts 5:42 which says, “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” And 2 Timothy 2:4 which says, “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”

This series is not for Christians necessarily. However, I do hope you are one of those saints who still loves to hear the “Old, old story of Jesus and His love” — As another hymn says, “For those who know it best Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.” This series is primarily for unbelievers, so they can hear and understand the Gospel and be saved from sin and the punishment of sin which is hell. This is message number 35, day 402 since Jan. 1, 2016.

Marshall Segal said, “The story of the world meeting Jesus in the flesh is a story of the world finally finding full joy in God.”

After hearing from the Jewish scribes that Jesus’ birth had been prophesied to take place in Bethlehem, Herod takes the wise men aside and inquires about the specific time the star appeared. Knowing that it would have taken the wise men months to determine the significance of the star, plan their journey, and then trek five hundred miles across the desert on camelback, it is safe to assume that the star had appeared several months if not more than a year prior to the wise men’s arrival in Jerusalem. Herod recognizes this and asks the wise men to tell him when the star first appeared. He deduces that that must have been the time the child was born. He tells the wise men, “Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.” Of course, we know that he has no intent on doing such a thing.

Dr. Warren Wiersbe says, “It is no surprise that Herod tried to kill Jesus, for Herod alone wanted to bear the title “King of the Jews.” But there was another reason. Herod was not a full-blooded Jew; he was actually an Idumaean, a descendant of Esau. This is a picture of the old struggle between Esau and Jacob that began even before the boys were born. It is the spiritual versus the carnal, the godly versus the worldly.”

The wise men begin their journey to Bethlehem from Jerusalem, a trip of about five miles. We see that the star which they had seen in their homeland now moves ahead of them until it comes to “stand over where the young child was.” This star was no ordinary celestial event. Stars, because of the rotation of the earth, appear to move from east to west. However, this star would have had to moved from north to south, as Bethlehem is south of Jerusalem. The only explanation is that the star was divinely guided as it appeared to move ahead of the wise men and then stopped directly over the place where Jesus lived with Mary and Joseph. When the wise men saw the star that pointed them to Jesus Christ, the Bible says “they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”

The words translated as “rejoice” and “joy” come from the same root word in Greek. It means to be glad, to be happy, to be cheerful, or to be delighted. But, not only were the wise men joyful, they had “exceeding, great” joy. At long last, their journey to find the newborn King was complete. And though, by all outward appearances, He was not yet a king and had done none of those things associated with kings or any of the things that the prophets had said He would do, just by His appearance, He brought joy to the hearts of these men who had searched long and hard for His arrival.

Joy is a theme that we see all throughout the story of Jesus’ birth. When the angel announced that Elizabeth would give birth to Jesus’ forerunner, John the Baptist, he said, “You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.” When the angel announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds outside Bethlehem he said, “I bring thee glad tidings of great joy that shall be for all people.” The glad tidings of the Gospel are not for a few, not even only for the children of Israel, but for all people on the face of the earth. We see this in the journey of the wise men — pagan astrologers from afar — who had joy bursting forth in their hearts when they realized that they had finally found the child Jesus.

The joyous message of Jesus’ birth continues all the way through to the end of Jesus’ time on earth. After He died on the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended into Heaven, Luke records that the disciples “worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” It is this great joy that Jesus wants to impart to your life today. Isaac Watts was onto something when he wrote these timeless words:

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,

Is your heart prepared to make room for King Jesus? Are you ready for Him to eradicate the power and punishment of sin from your life? Are you ready for Him to let His blessings flow to you and through you? Then, it is time for you to place your faith and trust in Him. Here is how you can do that today:

First, accept the fact that you are a sinner, and that you have broken God’s law. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

Second, accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”

Third, accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Also, the Bible states in Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

Now that is bad news, but here’s the good news. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can live eternally with Him. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will.

Romans 10:9 & 13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved… For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. I am sorry for my sins, and today I choose to turn from my sins. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. I trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and I choose to follow Him as Lord from this day forward. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.

If you believed in your heart that Jesus Christ died on the cross, was buried, and rose again, allow me to say, congratulations on doing the most important thing in life and that is accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour! For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to GospelLightSociety.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door”. Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

If you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior today, please email me at [email protected] and let us know. There is some free material that we want to send you. If you have a prayer request, please e-mail that to us as well, and we will pray for you until you tell us to stop.

God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.

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What Is the Deepest Root of Your Joy? (Christian Hedonism in Two Minutes)

The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God. If we don’t want God above all things, we have not been truly converted.

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What Is the Deepest Root of Your Joy? (Christian Hedonism in Two Minutes)

The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God. If we don’t want God above all things, we have not been truly converted.

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Ten Contrasts between Entertainers and Leaders

There is a great tendency in human nature to crave the affirmation of other human beings. With some people, their need for affirmation is so great it hinders their ability to discern between the will of God and the will of man. What is more alarming is the fact that those who lead churches and […]

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Press on to Know Jesus More (Sermon Clip on the Supremacy of Christ)

The supremacy of Christ is meant to be the sun at the center of our lives, keeping all the planets of our existence in orbit. Let us press on to know him.

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