All Who Heard were Astonished

“After seeing Him (the Christ child) the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.  All who heard the shepherd’s story were astonished …” ~ Luke 2:17-18

 

The Christian faith is not so much about place as it movement and message.  Yes the Christ child was born in Bethlehem but He and His parents escaped to Egypt.  He was raised in Nazareth. His ministry for the most part was in Galilee and the surrounding regions.  He did not have a place to lay His head.  He was arraigned in Jerusalem.  Crucified on Golgotha.  His body placed in a garden tomb.  But He arose and ascended to heaven among many eyewitnesses.  He is seated at the right hand of the heavenly Father interceding on our behalf.  He sent the Holy Spirit to empower us with His love and message.  And today the church is on the move!  Our faith is alive.  Miracles and healings occur.  People’s lives are forever changed.  Why?  Because of the power of the gospel!

 

Simple shepherds heard angelic proclamations, witnessed the birth of the messiah and proclaimed the gospel message of peace and good will to all men … an all who heard the shepherd’s story were astonished!

 

After seeing Christ they told everyone.  The questions that beg our attention as we close out this year and begin a new one; the questions that challenge us for a new decade 2020-2029 are: 

 
  • Have we seen Jesus in a fresh new way? When we see a new baby life is renewed.  There is something so precious and innocent in the infants face.  Christ wishes to reveal Himself to you again.
  • Will you tell everyone your story? Yes you have a story that is being written and rewritten by God Himself.  It’s a masterpiece!  Because the master took the pieces of your life and put them back together!  Others will be astonished at your story at what they hear!
 

It is my intent and purpose throughout this next decade to make it the best 10 years of my Christian life.  I want a fresh new vision of Christ and I want to express that in a radical way so that all will be astonished … suddenly overpowered with wonder and surprised at the amazing grace of God.

 
~ Happy New Year
Pastor Greg


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Christmas Wisdom

“Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea during the time when Herod was king. After Jesus was born, some wise men from the East came to Jerusalem. They asked, ‘Where is the baby who was born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.’”  Matthew 2:1-2

 

The wise men to me are the most fascinating people in the Christmas story.  Who were these guys anyway?  The answer is we don’t know.  We don’t really know who the wise men were.  The bible word calls them magi.  Magi were kind of a combination of philosopher, scientist and astronomer.  They were quite wealthy.  The magi of that day were wealthy and they were well educated.  They were the Socrates, the Platos, and the Aristotles of the day.  Those were magi.  That’s really about all we know about them. 

 
How many of the wise men were there?  Everybody always says three.  But that’s not what the bible says.  The only reason people think three is because the bible mentions three gifts that they brought gold and frankincense and myrrh.  Here’s what we do know.  They sought out the messiah.  They found Him and presented gifts in worship. 

What makes them wise is … (Matthew 2:1-11)

 
  • They were seekers of truth. (v. 2)
  • They were willing to go to great length to find truth. (v. 1)
  • They didn’t stop until they found truth. (v. 11)
  • They came for the right reason. (v. 2)
  • They gave Jesus the best they had. (v. 11)
 

Why not imitate the wisdom of the wise men by putting Christ first in your life.  Put him first in your finances.  First in your interests.  First in your relationships.  First in your schedule and first in your troubles. 

 

Jesus makes an amazing promise to anybody who does this.  He says in Matthew 6:33 “Seek first [that means give him first place, top priority] the kingdom of God [What’s the kingdom of God?  That’s God’s plans and purpose for your life.  What God wants to do in your life] and his righteousness [What’s his righteousness?  That’s the character God wants to build in you.  That’s the kind of person he wants to make you.  God, I want your plan and I want to be the person you want me to be.  Seek first his plan and purpose and who he wants you to be and here’s the promise] all the other things [circle “all”] will be given to you as well.” 

 

The best Christmas gift you can receive is Christian wisdom … it will forever change your life. 

 
~ Merry Christmas
Pastor Greg


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God Gives Instructions, Not Suggestions

“Greetings, favored woman!  The Lord is with you! … Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.” ~ Luke 1:28, 30-31 NLT

Do you want to know God’s plan for your life?  Are you willing to say yes to it before you really know what it is?  Hmmm, that’s a hard question, isn’t it?  Somewhere we got the idea that God puts things on a menu board and gives us the privilege of selecting those things we prefer.

That’s not how it works.  God doesn’t give us a list of possibilities from which to choose; He gives us specific instructions.  After 400 years of silence, God spoke to Mary and told her about His plan for her to give birth to Jesus.  God didn’t ask her if she wanted to bear a son or be a seamstress. He gave her instructions.

You will conceive, You will name Him Jesus”

Mary’s response was the only response she knew—she was obedient.  

“I am the Lord’s servant.  May everything you have said about me come true.”

She followed God’s instructions and gave birth to His Son.  God wants to do incredible things in your life.  He is waiting for you to have an attitude of unconditional obedience.  If you want to evaluate the options before making a decision, you’ll continue living the way you are living:  From one frustrating Christmas to another.  Year after year of inconsistencies.  But God intended it to be different.  Mary sought out insight to deal with her confusion.   Upon hearing the angel speak of God’s intervention upon Zechariah and Elizabeth, her cousin, she set out to envision the God of the impossible. 

Mary visited with her cousin Elizabeth and upon entering the doorway and hearing the greeting Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with he Holy Spirit. 

Your personal promise is that your destiny will leap forward and there is a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit.  That’s what happens when you respond with a willing heart to be obedient to God’s calling.  So the question is … In what areas of life do you need to cultivate an attitude of unconditional obedience?  It could be someone else’s confirmation and infilling and you to will be blessed.

 

~ Pastor Greg


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Don’t Miss Out if this Season brings on Loneliness

When you come, be sure to bring the coat I left with Carpus at Troas. Also bring my books, and especially my papers”  ~ 2 Timothy 4:13 NLT.

The Holiday Season is upon us.  This week we will celebrate Thanksgiving and be immediately thrust into the melee of Christmas.  Too often it is during this time of merriment that individuals can experience loneliness:  A depressing few weeks destitute of any sense of companionship leaving one feeling a desolation of spirit and soul.   Isolated the season seems more bleak than merry!

What should you do when you go through a season of loneliness? The answer is illustrated in the life of Paul in 2 Timothy 4, when he was in prison and awaiting his execution.  He spent over two years in a Caesarean prison before be escorted to Rome where eventually he was beheaded for his faith. 
 
When you go through a season of loneliness, you need to make the most of your time.  Instead of living in a spirit of dreariness, do what Paul did, take action.  That means making the best of a bad situation.  Resist the temptation to do nothing.  Try to think of creative ways to take advantage of the seasons in which you are alone.

Paul wrote to Timothy from prison and told him, “When you come, be sure to bring the coat I left with Carpus at Troas. Also bring my books, and especially my papers”  ~ 2 Timothy 4:13 NLT.

In a season of loneliness, you need to be comfortable and productive. Even though he was lonely, Paul didn’t throw a pity party.  He didn’t complain or give up.  This is Paul, one of the greatest Christians who ever lived after Jesus himself, who won countless people to Christ, and who is completely alone in his final days.  What does he do?  He makes the best of the situation.  He utilizes his time.  He says two things:

 
  1. “Bring my coat.” Those Roman prisons were damp, dark, and cold.  He did the best he could to take care of himself.  It is true of human nature that when we are lonely and depressed, we don’t take very good care of ourselves—physically or any other way.  We don’t exercise.  We don’t rest well.  We don’t eat right.  Paul did the best he could to take care of himself.  Perhaps you need to hear this today, if you’re not taking very good care of yourself because you’re lonely.
  2. “Bring my books.”  Paul, like me, was a people person.  He didn’t like to be alone; it wasn’t the way God wired him.  Being in solitary confinement in a Roman prison was the opposite of where he wanted to be.  Yet he did the best he could.  He wrote letters that today are included in the New Testament.  Maybe the only way God could slow him down was to put him in solitary confinement.  And some 2,000 years later, we are still benefiting from Paul’s loneliness.  Maybe you could find a good book, or better yet read from Paul’s writings in the New Testament through the holidays and let God’s inspired Word comfort you.
 
 
~ Happy Thanksgiving
Pastor Greg


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Fruitful Suffering

“Joseph named his second son Ephraim, for he said, “God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief.””  ~ Genesis 41:52
 
Fruitful suffering.  That sounds like an oxymoron.  These words shouldn’t go together.  And if they do, we want no part of it.  We might associate with these words continued or magnified suffering.  It seems to multiply.   Why would anyone want that?  But that’s not at all what I want you to see in these words.  What I want you to see is how God can turn your burdens into blessings.  You can be blessed twice!

Joseph’s second son, Ephraim, was born to him after Joseph had been delivered from thirteen years of suffering.  Ephraim’s name, which means “twice fruitful” was chosen, Joseph tells us, because God had made him fruitful in the land of suffering.

Joseph was fruitful in his time of adversity and in his time of prosperity.  When God brings us into a time of suffering, it can be a fruitful time.  It’s rare for us to see the fruit during the suffering period.  But know that the roots are going deep into the spiritual soil of our soul because of our pressing in to God during our time of suffering.  This pressing in is producing a work in our character that cannot be seen until the process is finished.  Such was the case for Joseph.

It is often after a time of struggling and suffering that we begin to see the fruit of the trials that our Lord allowed us to experience.  As I look back with clarity I can see the hand of God upon my circumstances that has led me to new levels of spiritual growth.  If I never went through that season, I would not be where I am today. 

Samson had great anointing but lacked character.  We see many today who have great anointing yet lack character.  But God is raising up Josephs who not only have great anointing for these days but also great character.  Suffering produces character!

If you find yourself in a time of suffering, now is the time to press into God.  Let your roots grow deeper.  Whenever there is a famine, tree roots are forced to dive deeper into the soil to find water.  These times of suffering are designed to create such a deep-rooted faith that our natures will be changed forever.

Take comfort in God’s Word:  “And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast!  ~ 1 Peter 5:10
 

~ Pastor Greg


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Bounce Back

“Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will.  Then you will receive all that He has promised.”  ~ Hebrews 10:26

 
 

I don’t know much about physical fitness.  I could possible use a trainer.  But what I have learned is that when you lift heavier weights for shorter periods of time, you build strength.  And when you use lighter weights with many repetitions, you build endurance.

 
 

There are times in life when we can manage a time of heaviness.  We can do it now and then.  We carry the major problem once or twice and it’s done with.  Whew, aren’t we are glad when it is over. 

 
 

The difficult things in life are those persistent problems:  the ones that never seem to go away.  It seems we all have them.  I believe God wants us to operate with resilience and endurance.  The writer of Hebrews said, we need patient endurance, so that we will continue to do God’s will and receive all that He has promised.”  God wants us to be strong men and women of faith and fortitude.  Someone once said, You need endurance because the Christian life is so daily.  It requires of us a sustained determination.  We cannot give up in the midst of stress.  The Christian life is not a 100-yard dash.  It is a marathon!  When you get up in the morning the Christian life is starring right back at you in the mirror.  It’s an unrelenting pursuit of doing God’s will, doing good!  So you need patient endurance; the capacity to persevere under duress.

 
 

How do you persevere?  You embrace the adversity, knowing all things work together for good (Romans 8:28).  You call on the champions of faith (Hebrews 12:1).  There is a great cloud of witnesses encouraging you forward.  Get rid of anything that is holding you back (Hebrews 12:2).

 
 

Don’t just sit back and watch your life go by passively and unengaged.  Experience the grit of putting one foot in front of the other, holding fast to that purposeful goal God has put in front of you and go for it.  To be gritty with endurance means that you will fall down seven times but you will get back up.  “For though a righteous man falls seven times, he will rise again”  (Proverbs 24:16).   Someone has said, ‘it’s hard to beat a person that never gives up.”  Nishan Panwar said, “People who fall the hardest, bounce back the highest.”  So what you need God has:  Bounce back power; the power to endure!  There’s a prize to be won!

 

~Pastor Greg


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