Bless 2-4-19

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As we take the step to believe we enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. This relationship brings a believer into a position of belonging to God and His Church (God’s forever family). This relationship with God also leads a believer down a path of becoming the person they have been created to be in Christ. The result is a flourishing life in Christ were belonging and becoming are embraced, and the Christ follower understands that they have been blessed so that they can bless others. This is why it is so important to release Christ followers to partner with God to bless others by advancing His Kingdom.

When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray part of that prayer was that “God’s kingdom would come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). Believers are invited to pray for and called to partner with God for the continual advancement of God’s kingdom on earth. The presence of God’s kingdom today refers to the reign of Christ in the hearts and lives of believers. It also refers to the reigning of Christ in His church. Both produce a growing reflection of the love of Christ and His message being shared in the hope others will receive salvation in Him. This is the very will of God.

The blessings God gives us are intended to be shared with all, beginning with the inestimable blessing of salvation and including all the other good things the Lord has given to the believer. In Genesis, we discover a conversation between God and Abraham where the Lord tells Abraham that he is blessed in order to bless others (see: Gen 12:2-3). God’s blessing to Abraham is just the first step in a much bigger plan to extend that blessing through Abraham to all the peoples of the earth.

We discover in the New Testament that the promises made in the Old Testament, including those made to Abraham, ultimately point to Jesus Christ and find their fulfillment in Him. We read: “Now, the promises were made to Abraham and to his descendant. You will observe that Scripture, in the careful language of a legal document, does not say ‘to descendants,’ referring to everybody in general, but ‘to your descendant’ (the noun, note, is singular), referring to Christ” (Gal 3:16, The Mess). Further, Paul explains in Galatians: “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” Gal 3:29). Since believers are identified with Christ, we are heirs to the promise as well as the divine calling to bless others with the blessing we have received in Christ. Believers are blessed to be a blessing. We are released in the name of Christ and empowered by His Spirit to partner with God to bless others to advance God’s Kingdom.

Let’s encourage one another to live sent (released) lives, blessing others to advance God’s Kingdom. We are called to be everyday missionaries in our everyday mission fields (home, neighborhood, school, workplace, community). Let’s encouraged and equip one another to live with our divine blessings in a way that blesses others. As Christ has brought us the joy of abundant living as His followers, let us share this good news with others in the hope that they too will be blessed to bless others. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Belong 1-28-19

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As we take the step to believe we enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. This relationship brings a believer into a position of belonging to God and His Church. God has hardwired the need to belong into our DNA.

When we come to Christ, we are redeemed, made a new creation, adopted as children of God, and heirs to God’s Kingdom and Kingdom resources. This new position in Christ is something that ought to draw us to Christ and cause us to embrace our belonging to Him. But, what does it mean to belong to Him? It means we are in a loving relationship with our eternal, loving, heavenly Father. However, what I find interesting is that one of the primary images we find of belonging to God in Scripture is that of a slave. Now honestly most of us resist the concept of slavery. Our own nation’s history makes this word stick in our throat. This is a reasonable response. The thought of one person being owned by another person against his will is abhorrent. That is why it’s fascinating that it’s absolutely appropriate for each of us to choose to be slaves of God, whom we live in a loving relationship with and long to serve with our lives.

We find in the book of Exodus an interesting offer. If someone wanted to be a slave by choice, they could choose to be a bond slave (Exo 21:2-6). A bond slave did not sign up for limited servitude but would make a lifetime commitment of service. A bond slave surrendered himself and gave up all his rights – permanently – to his master. The nature of the servant’s new relationship to the master would be no secret. The transaction was made in a public ceremony where a sharp instrument would pierce a hole in the servant’s ear, signifying obedience to the voice of the master. This decision was irreversible. Once the servant had gone through the ear-piercing ceremony, he would always be branded as a bond slave. He would always have a hole in his ear to remind him that he was not his own. Now, certainly, God placed this practical scenario in Scripture to describe the process of voluntary slavery, but I believe in a greater sense it points us to Christ and to depict our relationship with Him.

In Scripture, we discover that Jesus Christ offered Himself as a bond slave to God the Father for His glory and our salvation (Psalm 40:6, 8; Phil 2:7). We also find in the New Testament that the apostles Peter and Paul, along with James and Jude, followed in the steps of the Great Bond Slave when each identified himself as a bond slave of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; Jude 1). These early followers of Christ provide a pattern for every believer who wants to be like their Lord. We are all to offer ourselves as bond slaves of the Lord. Belonging to God means, in part, being marked as His slave.

When I believe in Christ for my salvation, I not only belong to Him, but to His church. Believers are to be raised in understanding what this means. The Lord desires His Church to be a place of belonging. God’s Church is a place where those far from Christ can find salvation and loving acceptance – a place they were created to belong. As God’s Church, we are invited to live the abundant life found in Christ. This abundant life speaks of spiritual abundance which focuses not on duration but of a relationship with God where a follower of Christ continues to journey with Him through a continual process of learning, practicing, and maturing, as well as failing, recovering, adjusting, enduring, and overcoming.  Such a community not only glorifies God and is blessed, but also is a real benefit to others. Believers are blessed in our belonging to God and belonging to one another as His Church, and it is through our oneness (our loving belonging) that we are a witness to others so they too may choose to believe (John 17:20-21).

I wonder if I act more like a temporary servant of God or like one who belongs to Him and is willing to be His permanent slave (a bond slave)? I belong to Him! I belong to His Church! I am a slave of God! How about you? Believers belong to God and His Church.

It is a privilege to do life with each of you. Let us be committed to grow and help others grow in understanding and walking in our belonging to God and His Church. Let us live as slaves of our Lord. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Reflect God’s Love 1-21-19

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When we look at our journey with God, taking the steps of a disciple, it is essential to keep in mind God’s motivation as well as ours. God’s motivation is love. John writes: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God offers us salvation and abundant living because He is good and He loves us.

God does not love us because we have done something right, but because He is righteous. God loves us just because He loves us. Paul describes this truth in Romans: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). The love of God is profound. Christ did not die for the righteous (morally perfect and good) but for sinners (ungodly or unrighteous people) who are living in rebellion against God. Christ died for people like you and me. He died for you and me and everyone else. God’s love is shown in the death of Christ, who died that we might live. While God’s righteousness and justice led to His plan of salvation through the death of Christ (see: Rom 3:25-26), it was His love that motivated this plan.

It is biblically clear that God’s motivation for saving us and inviting us to experience abundant living is love; therefore it ought to also be clear that our motivation for receiving Christ as Lord and Savior and walking with Him as His disciple is love. That is why John records these words of Christ: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Love is a distinguishing mark of a follower of Christ. A believer is to love God with everything and others as themselves. The very love God has for us, and by His Spirit has poured into our very lives, is to flow through us to the world around us. It is to saturate every part of us, being the source of our motivation. We come to Christ and continue in Him out of love.

Love being our motivation makes sense when we explore God’s Word but can be difficult as we practically live our ordinary every day lives. Since God is perfect and we are not, it does not take long to discover that other motivations can seep into our daily walk with Him. Things such as acceptance, fear, and even what we can get from God can become our motivation if we take our eyes off Christ and the truth of His Word. We may begin to operate out of a feeling of condemnation, which is fear of punishment. This is not a healthy motivation, and such fear is unwarranted for a believer (see: Rom 8:1). No, as God is motivated by love, we too ought to be motivated by love. For this reason, John’s words are crucial to understand: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Christian love is a gift from God, demonstrated by Christ on the cross (see: Rom 5:8). God’s love always takes the initiative, and the love found in Christ’s followers is a response to His love.

In order for a believer to share in God’s motivation of love, we must first receive His love and continue to believe He does indeed love us as truly today as He did yesterday and will into the unforeseeable future. God’s love is constant and complete. As we rest in the reality of God’s love for us we are empowered by His Spirit to live motivated by love. Such love glorifies God, blesses us, and benefits others.

Let’s encourage one another to embrace and reflect God’s love as we journey with Christ and take the steps to believe, belong, become, and bless. It is such a blessing to know God and make Him known. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Believe 1-14-19

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There’s no doubt that there is a uniqueness to each of our faith journeys. However, there are four crucial steps that all of us take as we grow in Christ. Crosswinds’ uses four “B” words to describe these steps. The first step is to BELIEVE. To begin a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, we must receive Him as our Lord and Savior. This is why we are committed to faithfully REACH people with the love and message of Jesus Christ as they take the step to BELIEVE.

Jesus speaking to a man named Nicodemus declared: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This verse is the most famous summary of the gospel in the entire Bible. It actually summarizes the whole of Scripture. God’s love and sacrifice for the world (for you and me) makes it possible for “whoever” believes in Christ to have eternal life. God’s love for the world was not mere sentiment but led to a specific action: He “gave his only son,” to suffer and die and pay the price for our sin that separates us from God. Any finite sin against an infinite God has infinite consequences. The purpose God gave His Son was to make His great gift of eternal life available to everyone – to “whoever believes in Him,” that is, whoever personally trusts Him.

Eternal life is a life of abundant joy and immeasurable blessing in the presence of God forever. Those who “believe in” Christ have “eternal life” and already experience its blessings in this present time, although not yet fully, but in some significant measure. Those who have found salvation in Christ are called to allow themselves to be used by Him to reach out to others in the hope they too will choose to believe.

God’s plan from the beginning was for those who are saved, His followers, to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples. Here is God’s plan:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:19-20).

God’s plan is for us to know Him and make Him known. Obviously, this plan begins with knowing Him. The first step in our faith journey is to believe.

God desires for all people to take the step to believe, to receive Christ as Lord and Savior. He desires for all His followers to share His love and message with others in the hope that they too will believe. It is up to each of us to determine how we will respond to God’s great love and invitation to know Him and make Him known, to believe and lead others to Him so they too will believe.

It is a joy to serve with each of you. Let’s embrace our faith and share it with others. Let us rejoice in God’s great gift of eternal life for all who believe and lovingly share the good news with others in the hope that they will come to know Christ and do the same. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Step Into The Journey 1-7-19

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I like the term Journey. God calls us on a journey to grow to maturity in Christ. Unfortunately, some believers chose to receive Christ as Savior, then only halfheartedly follow Him as Lord. Then, they wonder why the power and peace that God has promised is not manifest in their life. Perhaps it’s the unknowns of this spiritual journey that keep them from taking the next right step.

In Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, we read these words from Gandalf as he coaxes Frodo to go on a journey by borrowing these words from his Uncle Bilbo: “It’s a dangerous business going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept up to.” The truth is that life is a journey. We can either walk with Christ or on our own. We either follow in the Lord’s steps swept by His love and grace or take another path swept to places without real confidence in Christ.

There’s no doubt that there is a uniqueness to each of our faith journeys. Our path from here to the unforeseeable future looks different from one another. However, there are four crucial steps that all of us take as we grow in Christ. Crosswinds’ uses four “B” words to describe these steps.

The first step is to BELIEVE. To begin a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, we must receive Him as our Lord and Savior. This is why we are committed to faithfully REACH people with the love and message of Jesus Christ as they take the step to BELIEVE (John 3:16). Those who have found salvation in Christ are called to allow themselves to be used by Him to reach out to others in the hope they too will choose Christ.

The second step is to learn what it means to BELONG. As we enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, we now belong to God and His Church. The deepest desire of every person is to belong. As believers, in Christ, we are adopted as God’s children (1 John 3:1-2) and become a part of God’s forever family (Eph 2:19-22). Therefore, as Crosswinds, we will RAISE believers to follow Christ as they discover what it means to BELONG to Him and His church.

The third step is to BECOME. To grow in our relationship with Christ, we need to discover what it means to mature in Him, becoming the person we have been created to be in Christ (Col 2:6-7). This is why as Crosswinds we will RAISE believers to follow Christ as they BECOME who they were created to be. God calls every believer to help other believers grow in Him. We are called to make disciples who will make disciples who will make disciples (2 Tim 2:2). Kingdom multiplication is our highest calling as we seek to know God and make Him known (Matt 28:19-20).

The final step is BLESS. We are not to hoard God’s blessing, but to be a conduit of His blessing to others (Genesis 12:2; Gal 3:8, 29). The true mark of a believer is not a disciple, but a disciple maker, a kingdom multiplier. As a result, Crosswinds will RELEASE believers to partner with God to BLESS others by advancing His kingdom (Acts 1:8).

I hope each of you is encouraged and equipped to take the steps God is calling you to take on your journey with Him and willing to be used by Him to help others do the same. God calls us on a remarkable journey, but we by faith must be willing to follow His lead and take the steps. Let’s encourage one another to get swept up in Him. God is willing to do more than we could ever ask or imagine in and through our lives (Eph 3:20). Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone).

A New Beginning 1-1-19

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It’s a new year. All of us face the new differently. Some face new with excitement, while others receive it with a little apprehension. I always like the New Year. It is a new beginning of sorts.

When I enter into the New Year, I am reminded of God’s invitation to walk with Him in continual newness. God calls us to be teachable and put any harmful old ways behind us as we do life His way. We are to give our whole selves to Him. Paul writes:

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him” (Rom 12:1, The Message).

We are called to give ourselves entirely to God because of His saving grace. We are to be a living sacrifice, meaning that we have been offered new life in Christ. We are also a living sacrifice because unlike the Old Testament sacrifices that gave their lives by death and blood, we are saved through the finished work of Christ’s death on the cross and covered by His blood. He is the ultimate sacrifice that makes our living sacrifice possible. Therefore, we are to be dedicated entirely to God. This is our reasonable response to God’s profound love. Only as we commit ourselves to the Lord in this way can we be transformed by the renewing of the mind. Paul continues:

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you” (Rom 12:2, The Message).

When we focus on the Lord, He leads us down a Spirit-empowered life of newness. The world, the flesh, and the devil still threaten those who belong to Christ, so we must resist its pressure. Our lives are changed as the Lord makes our minds new. This empowers us to recognize God’s path and walk with Him.

The New Year for me speaks of a new beginning. I am able to press forward like Paul who wrote:

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14, ESV).

Paul is writing about progressing in the new life a believer has in Christ. Like Paul, we are to put the past behind us. We are to learn from our past for sure, but we aren’t to allow it to keep us from advancing in Christ. We are to focus on the Lord and continually reach ahead to see God’s kingdom expand in and through us. We are to “press on” to receive the “prize” that is the fullness of blessings and reward in the age to come, seen especially in unhindered fellowship with Christ forever. That is a new I fully anticipate.

As we head into this New Year, let’s focus on Christ and embrace the new He has for us. It is a new year and each day is a new day. Don’t allow anything to keep you from the pursuit of walking with God and truly being blessed by Him in newness of life and power, so that, we will be a blessing for others. I wish you a Happy New Year. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Christmas Carol 12-24-18

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Keeping Christmas is exciting. Christmas – the celebration of Christ – is a celebration of the transformational presence of God. John writes: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1,14a). God literally moved into our neighborhood. The Christ-child, born in a stable, is God who brought to the world, to you and me, hope and the offer of new life through radical transformation.

There is a scene in Dickens, A Christmas Carol, where Scrooge realizes he can change…he can be changed…he has been given a new chance and a new life with a preferable future. Dickens wrote his story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a mean-spirited man, to show how the power of Christ offers new life and can radically transform our lives, as well as, use the transformed to bring significant change to the world. This is the story of Christmas. Christmas is a celebration of Christ who makes this offer of new life to each and every one of us.

Christmas, literally means, the celebration of Christ. How are we to celebrate? I would propose, by exchanging gifts with God. After all, it has been said, “Christmas is the time for giving” and I would add “receiving.”  Giving is the act of turning over the possession or control of something to someone without cost. Receiving is the act of taking or getting something.

The gift God offers us is new life and radical transformation through His son Jesus Christ. We read: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). That is why Christmas is the celebration of Christ. Christmas is the celebration of a gift offered to us by God. God Who dwelt among us. Jesus came that people may have new life in Him that is meaningful, purposeful, joyful, and eternal. We receive this abundant new life the moment we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. The gift of God is real power, peace, and His presence in all of life throughout eternity. In a world filled with heartache and pain, God offers peace and power. Now that is a gift. That is a reason to celebrate.

What gift can we offer God? How do we exchange gifts with God? Many have tried with much exhaustion and frustration. They have offered their hobbies, money, even good works, but when everything is said and done, it is neither the things we possess nor the things we can do that God desires. It is our whole self. Only when we give all of what we know of ourselves to what we know of God is He our true foundation and our walk with Him characterized by love. This is the gift we can give God. We can give Him ourselves. Mindy Caliguire in her book Discovering Soul Care writes: “Full devotion is that state of your heart where your understanding of truth is equal to your level of surrender.” What better gift could we give God then our very selves?

There is no better way to keep Christmas – to celebration Christ – than to receive His loving gift of salvation (abundant, and new life) and our giving Him the gift of our very self. Just like in A Christmas Carol we too have been offered a fantastic opportunity. We have been given a chance to do life differently…to be transformed by the love and power of Christ.  Let’s receive and live new lives in the One the angels proclaimed:

“This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:12-14)!

We keep Christmas – we celebrate Christ – Who left His neighborhood to move into our neighborhood, dying on the cross for our sins, being resurrected for our salvation. The good news is that all we need to do to experience new life in Him is to receive Him and be transformed as we offer our whole selves to Him. What a wonderful gift! That is a gift worth receiving and a carol worth singing!!!

I pray this Christmas finds each of you richly embracing God’s gift of new life as you joyfully give yourself to Him. As we celebrate Christ and this blessed gift I hope you have a very merry Christmas. May we be immersed in the grace and love of Christ, sharing His message and love with others. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Be blessed and bless others.

Christmas Future 12-17-18

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Charles Dickens wrote his story A Christmas Carol to show how the power of Christ can transform our lives, as well as, use the transformed to bring significant change to the world. Dickens wanted to bring the Christmas spirit to each of his readers in the hope that they would be filled with the love of Christ and share his love with others. In a genuine sense, Dickens desired to see the power of Christ work in his day, leading to a preferable future. I believe within each of us is a desire to have hope in our future and leave a real legacy.

God has created us with an understanding of eternity that in the least leads our hearts to yearn for a positive outcome of our time on earth and to leave a trace after we pass. The ancient preacher writes: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecc 3:11). Human beings were created with a capacity for eternal things and a realization that this life cannot be all there is. Yet, sin has cut us off from eternity and darkened our understanding and will. What a burden to bear: to yearn for eternity and yet not know God.

A short time after Christ’s birth, Mary and Joseph take Jesus to Jerusalem to present Him at the Temple. It was a baby dedication of sorts. They encounter a man named Simeon, who was waiting for the time when God would come to rescue and comfort His people. We are told that the Spirit was upon Simeon, indicating the powerful anointing and manifest presence of the Holy Spirit on his life. Simeon, filled with the Spirit, proclaims:

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).

Simeon rejoices that he has been granted the ability to see the Savior and affirms that He is the Savior of all people (Jew and Gentile alike). He looks upon the Christ child and proclaims that He is a light for Gentiles living in darkness and glory for Israel. Simeon, inspired by God declares that Christ connects our inkling of eternity with the eternal God.

To have a secure future and leave a real God-honoring legacy, we must make two significant shifts. Shift number one is from darkness to light. I am speaking here of receiving Christ as Lord and Savior. Shift number two is from living to legacy. Everyone has a life to live, but not everyone leaves a legacy. Legacy is when you are genuinely grounded in offering yourself and making a meaningful, lasting and energizing contribution to humanity by serving a cause greater than your own. Legacy speaks of a life rippling through the ages, for God’s glory.

Only Jesus can bring light out of darkness and glory out of hopelessness. Only Jesus can fill our hardwired capacity for eternal things with eternal meaning. Only Jesus can take unknown tomorrows and replace it with a known and secure future. A believers Christmas carol is full of hope. The song of celebration of our Christ proclaims that in Him our future is certain and our legacy can be good.

Let’s encourage one another to consider how we will allow Christ to impact our future. In Christ our future is secure, and the legacy we leave will echo throughout eternity. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Christmas Presence 12-10-18

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I do enjoy the Christmas season. I like Christmas lights and decorations. I like giving and receiving gifts. It has always been for me a wonderful time of the year. The thought of Christmas gifts has been and still is a source of excitement. I get pleasure from seeing people open their presents and to be honest opening those given to me. One year I received from my wife, Krista, the gift of a framed picture of our three children. It still is one of the most precious gifts I have ever received. What the picture represented was so much more than a photo it was a celebration of our family and the continued blessings of God in our daily lives.

A gift is defined in the 1828 Webster’s dictionary, my favorite dictionary, as follows:

GIFT, n. [from give.] A present; any thing given or bestowed; any thing, the property of which is voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation; a donation. It is applicable to any thing movable or immovable.

A gift is voluntarily transferred (passed on) to another without compensation (reimbursement). This selfless act is what makes a gift so special. This is why we call the act of God that first Christmas a gift. What a fantastic gift God gave us that first Christmas!

It is amazing that an event that occurred over 2,000 years ago has a real impact on each and every one of our lives. This is made crystal clear through the very words of Christ recorded in Hebrews where we read His actual words as He entered the world. Jesus states in Hebrews 10 how He came into the world to fulfill the type of sacrifice that God demanded. Christ became fully human so that He could offer Himself. Jesus Christ is fully God and fully human. When Christ came into the world, the Spirit prepared for Him a body, and He was completely dedicated to and dependent on His Father’s will. That body would be sacrificed on the cross for the sins of the world, your sins, and mine.

God’s purpose for creating each of us is to live in a loving relationship with Him. Our problem is that our wrongness (sin) keeps us from naturally experiencing this relationship. God’s remedy was that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, as His gift of love for us to pay for our sin on the cross so that through Him we may experience the relationship with God for which we have been created. This beautiful gift can only be made useful in our lives as we respond in faith and accept it.

When we receive salvation in Christ not only is our future secure in Him, but our present is impacted as well. For instance, we have access to God’s grace (Eph 2:8). We are children of God (1 John 1:12). We become a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). We are reconciled to God (Rom 5:8). We are indwelt by the Spirit (John 14:23). We are given spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12). In short, when we receive Christ as Lord and Savior we are given access to the resources of heaven to glorify God, be blessed, and benefit others. We are actually used by God to see His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Now that is a gift that radically impacts our daily living.

I enjoy giving and receiving gifts, but I have never received a gift that even comes close to salvation in Christ. It is the gift that keeps on giving to me as well as those around me. The gift of Christmas covers my past, gives me a sure hope for the future, and grants me confidence as I walk with Christ today.

I encourage each of us to take time each day to reflect on God’s gift of salvation. As we consider the extravagant love this gift represents I hope we will also consider the profound impact this gift has on our present lives. Christ is so worthy of our celebrating. Soli Deo Glory (Glory to God Alone)!

Christmas Past 12-4-18

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There is little doubt that our past can significantly influence our present. This becomes crystal clear around the holidays. For instance, the way Christmas was kept or not kept in our homes growing up can influence how we keep it today. The experience of a loved one passing can have a real impact on how we receive the Christmas season. The birth of a child can magnify the joys of the season. Our past can affect our present in so many ways.

Although the days of my childhood are decades ago, I still approach Christmas with childlike excitement. My memories of Christmas past are filled with joy fueling a growing anticipation of the season. I start listening to Christmas music on October 1. I really like Christmas.

This Christmas season is an interesting one for me. My Mom passed last April. I have to admit that it will be different experiencing the season without her presence. I mourn a bit while celebrating her first Christmas with Christ unhindered by the stuff of earth. Past events, situations, and the sort have an impact on our present.

There, however, is one past event that can radically change our present. In fact, this one past event has the potential to overcome the difficulties of the past and by far outshine the good memories of yesteryears. This event is the birth of Christ.

The prophet Isaiah prophesying about the divine birth proclaimed:

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:6).

The context to the message Isaiah presents here is in response to the dark situation he mentions prior to this passage in the book bearing his name. The purpose of the message is that where darkness had fallen light would shine. The world we live in is full of heartache and pain. All the peoples of the earth are under judgment. This is grim news. However, God is not determined to allow His children to remain in such a bleak and hopeless situation, even if it is due to our rebellion. God’s goodness provides salvation. For a child will be born who is the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.”

God’s answer to the destructive pride of the world is a child, God’s own Son. He will be what no human king has ever been. As “Wonderful Counselor” he can give guidance that is truly great. As “Mighty God” Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. As “Everlasting Father” He is to His people a Father who is always present. As “Prince of Peace” he can bring lasting peace. This is hope personified in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

The process of redemption begins with this knowledge of Christmas past. However, knowledge is not enough. What happened 2,000 years ago has implication on our lives today. Many know that Christmas is about Jesus’ birth, but few know the personal cost this was to God. This act of love was set into motion at the beginning of humanity. God in all His majesty determined to be humbled so that everyone would have the opportunity to have a personal relationship with Him. This was at great personal cost, to say the least. God loves us so much that He took on our debt so that we can know Him. We were on the very mind of God from the beginning. In fact, that first Christmas was marked by God’s love for us with the most selfless act of all time – the very decision of our Lord to humble himself and come born into poverty and die on a cross so that we can have a personal, saving, relationship with Him. This past event can radically change our present by bringing salvation and infusing us with hope.

I pray this Christmas season finds you immersed in the grace and love of Christ. I pray that this one event, Christ’s birth, outshines everything else in your life. I pray that the light of Christ warms your heart and shines brightly to those around you. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!