Thursday, December 31, 2009

More Angels

And again with the angelic "Don't be afraid."

Luke 2:10-17 (New Living Translation)

10 The angel reassured them. "Don't be afraid! I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior--yes, the Messiah, the Lord--has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger."

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others--the armies of heaven--praising God and saying,

14 "Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased."

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Let's go to Bethlehem! Let's see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.

Your story is just as important. Sure, the shepherd had a crazy story of angels lighting up the night sky. But they were shepherds.

Tell your story.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Keep Christmas Going

Sometimes the weird little things we do make all the difference. Like that guy that was the ruler of Israel--everybody loves a census right! But who knew that it would be a catalyst for fulfilling prophecy.

Luke 2:1-7 (New Living Translation)

1 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David's ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, his fiancee, who was now obviously pregnant.

6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

You see, God loves you. He sent this helpless little baby for you. It was weird. It was unexpected. It was, and always will be, because He loves you. A lot!

So celebrate a census. Celebrate a baby. Celebrate Jesus. Merry Christmas.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Plans

Put yourself in Joseph's shoes. He's updated his relationship status on Facebook to "engaged." All his carpenter buddies know Mary, he's even lined up the caterer. And then she drops this little bomb on him. "Wait? What? You're pregnant?"

What would you do? Well...

Matthew 1:20-21, 24 (New Living Translation)

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. "Joseph, son of David," the angel said, "do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."

...

24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.

Maybe he had heard about this:

Isaiah 7:14 (NLT)

14 All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means "God is with us").

God's plans don't look like our plans. Which is good to remember in the middle of a busy time.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Carols Some More

Here's another of the original Christmas carols. This one is by Zechariah, John's father.

Luke 1:67-79 (New Living Translation)

67 Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy:
68 "Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has visited and redeemed his people.
69 He has sent us a mighty Savior
from the royal line of his servant David,
70 just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago.
71 Now we will be saved from our enemies and from all who hate us.
72 He has been merciful to our ancestors
by remembering his sacred covenant--
73 the covenant he swore with an oath
to our ancestor Abraham.
74 We have been rescued from our enemies
so we can serve God without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness
for as long as we live.
76 "And you, my little son,
will be called the prophet of the Most High,
because you will prepare the way for the Lord.
77 You will tell his people how to find salvation
through forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of God's tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace."

Bing may have been dreaming of a white Christmas, but Zechariah was dreaming of a Saviour who will make our sins whiter than snow.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Your Song

When you think about it, this song of Mary, might just very well be the very first Christmas carol. Take a listen:

Luke 1:46-55 (New Living Translation)

46 Mary responded,
"Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.
50 He shows mercy from generation to generation
to all who fear him.
51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
52 He has brought down princes from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54 He has helped his servant Israel
and remembered to be merciful.
55 For he made this promise to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children forever."

You like it? It's called the Magnificat. It's a song about the majesty of God and the fact that He keeps His promises. What's your song today?

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Angel

The story of Gabe the angel chatting with Mary is always the most majestic scene in the Christmas pageant. You know, with the angel flying in, and of course sweet smell of manufactured smoke. It's exciting, and beautiful. Sometimes I wonder, was it exciting and beautiful to Mary.

Luke 1:26-33, 38 (New Living Translation)

28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, "Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!"

29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 "Don't be afraid, Mary," the angel told her, "for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!"

...

38 Mary responded, "I am the Lord's servant. May everything you have said about me come true." And then the angel left her.

I'm always impressed that the Bible says, "Mary responded 'I am the Lord's servant,'" fully knowing the hard road ahead of her. Maybe she really understood it would change her life and all of ours forever. Or, maybe she just trusted God.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas

Getting you ready for Christmas with a verses out of Luke 1. Ever notice the first thing an angel says…

Luke 1:13-17 (New Living Translation)

"Don't be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly."

John was like the Thanksgiving if Jesus is Christmas. Not quite the main event but still a big deal.

He was also an answer to some long term prayer requests from Zechariah. When you you’ve prayed about something for the millionth time, remember the message from the angel: “God has heard your prayer.”

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Faithful

Imagine a man who had everything and then everything was taken away. Instead of holding it all back, he relied on the Lord. He goes as far as saying the Lord's words are more precious than food!

Job 23:11-12 (New Living Translation)

11 For I have stayed on God’s paths;
I have followed his ways and not turned aside.
12 I have not departed from his commands,
but have treasured his words more than daily food.

It'd be sweet to be able to say that about yourself, wouldn't it? Think about it.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Finish It Up

It's easy to get really excited about something. Maybe it's a new jeep, an iPhone, or even God. Sad to say, short attention spans plague us. Soon something else new and improved comes into view, and what was once the object of our attention becomes just another thing on the shelf. You know what I mean? The Corinthians suffered from this as well.

2 Corinthians 8:10-12 (New Living Translation)

10 Here is my advice: It would be good for you to finish what you started a year ago. Last year you were the first who wanted to give, and you were the first to begin doing it. 11 Now you should finish what you started. Let the eagerness you showed in the beginning be matched now by your giving. Give in proportion to what you have. 12 Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have.

Do you kind of want to pretend like you didn't hear these words? Well, Paul said it best, and you heard it here.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Just Like A Garden

Ever notice how many different ways there are to water a garden? Like, how some people just drown their plants with this downpour from the hose, and some people try to recreate the Amazonian rainforest by showering the whole garden with a spray. However you do it, everyone agrees that the garden needs watering--and so does God?

Isaiah 58:9-11 (New Living Translation)

9 Then when you call, the LORD will answer.
'Yes, I am here,' he will quickly reply.

"Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
10 Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11 The LORD will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring."

Want to be a well-watered garden? Help people who are in trouble. Feed the hungry. Fight oppression. Do God's work, and light the world!

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Get Me Some Titus

There are friends, and then there are friends. Lots of people are nice, but there are a few people who make your life better just by showing up. They know just what to say, and they actually care about you. Hopefully you have a few people like that. Paul did. And he talks about one of them, his friend Titus.

2 Corinthians 7:5-7 (New Living Translation)

5 When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside. 6 But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus. 7 His presence was a joy, but so was the news he brought of the encouragement he received from you. When he told us how much you long to see me, and how sorry you are for what happened, and how loyal you are to me, I was filled with joy!

So, if you're feeling down, or having a bad day, give your "Titus" a call.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rescued

You know, history repeats itself. Listen to this.

Nehemiah 9:25-28 (New Living Translation)

25 "Our ancestors captured fortified cities and fertile land. They took over houses full of good things, with cisterns already dug and vineyards and olive groves and fruit trees in abundance. So they ate until they were full and grew fat and enjoyed themselves in all your blessings.

26 "But despite all this, they were disobedient and rebelled against you. They turned their backs on your Law, they killed your prophets who warned them to return to you, and they committed terrible blasphemies. 27 So you handed them over to their enemies, who made them suffer. But in their time of trouble they cried to you, and you heard them from heaven. In your great mercy, you sent them liberators who rescued them from their enemies.

28 "But as soon as they were at peace, your people again committed evil in your sight, and once more you let their enemies conquer them. Yet whenever your people turned and cried to you again for help, you listened once more from heaven. In your wonderful mercy, you rescued them many times!"

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

God's Secret Plan

Check this out. I've got a secret, but I'm not going to tell you what it is. Don't feel bad, you've got secrets too. And, actually, so does God.

Deuteronomy 29:29 (New Living Translation)

29 "The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions."

There are some things God keeps to Himself. But there is plenty that He does reveal. Find out more tomorrow.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Truth, Is It Out There?

Solomon, the wisest guy who ever lived, had some interesting things to say about telling the truth.

Proverbs 12:17-23 (New Living Translation)

17 An honest witness tells the truth;
a false witness tells lies.

18 Some people make cutting remarks,
but the words of the wise bring healing.

19 Truthful words stand the test of time,
but lies are soon exposed.

20 Deceit fills hearts that are plotting evil;
joy fills hearts that are planning peace!

21 No harm comes to the godly,
but the wicked have their fill of trouble.

22 The LORD detests lying lips,
but he delights in those who tell the truth.

23 The wise don’t make a show of their knowledge,
but fools broadcast their foolishness.

Ok, think about it. Has telling the truth made a difference in your life?

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Can't Get No...

A candy bar may really satisfy your desire for the sweet, unparalleled combination of smooth milk chocolate, silken caramel, crunchy peanuts, and soft dense nougat. But what satisfies your soul?

The psalmist explores soul satisfaction in the lyrics to Psalm 107.

Psalm 107:1-9 (New Living Translation)

1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
2 Has the LORD redeemed you? Then speak out!
Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies.
3 For he has gathered the exiles from many lands,
from east and west,
from north and south.

4 Some wandered in the wilderness,
lost and homeless.
5 Hungry and thirsty,
they nearly died.
6 “LORD, help!” they cried in their trouble,
and he rescued them from their distress.
7 He led them straight to safety,
to a city where they could live.
8 Let them praise the LORD for his great love
and for the wonderful things he has done for them.
9 For he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things.

Let God satisfy your soul. That satisfaction lasts longer than a sugar high anyway. And by the way, what exactly is nougat? We may never know.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hardware Upgrade

Heavenly bodies? Earthly bodies? Dying bodies? A little clarification:

2 Corinthians 5:3-4 (New Living Translation)

3 For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. 4 While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life.

This is the verse I think about when my knee starts giving me troubles while on my run. I say, bring on the heavenly bodies.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Talkin' 'Bout A Big Screen TV


So everything is bigger in Texas, right? Check out the new stadium in Dallas/Ft Worth.
Construction cost $1.4 Billion.
Footprint: about 3, 000, 000 sq ft.
But the new screen...the new screen is ENORMOUS!
$600: the cost of powering the video board for one hour.
30 Million: The number of light bulbs on the entire video board.
3,000: The total number of flat-screen TVs in Cowboys Stadium.
4,896: The number of NFL players it would take to equal the weight of the video board (1.2 million pounds)
160 feet long X 72 feet high.

How big does the screen appear to fans at the game? A fan in section 100 of Cowboys Stadium is 90 feet away from the screen, which is the equivalent of sitting 3.13 feet from a 52" TV.

Each side of the video board is equivalent to: 136 7'X12' projection screens (the size used by many churches)

1,241 52" flat screen TVs.

151,733 iPhones.

17,242 magazines.

26 buses (40 foot)

2.3 IMAX screens.

That's big, maybe even excessive. Oh yeah, they also play football there.

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Compassion

Two prostitutes were fighting over a baby. So, they came to Solomon to solve the fight. How did Solomon decide which was the real mother? Check it out:

1 Kings 3:24-28 (New Living Translation)

24 All right, bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought to the king.

25 Then he said, “Cut the living child in two, and give half to one woman and half to the other!”

26 Then the woman who was the real mother of the living child, and who loved him very much, cried out, “Oh no, my lord! Give her the child—please do not kill him!”

But the other woman said, “All right, he will be neither yours nor mine; divide him between us!”

27 Then the king said, “Do not kill the child, but give him to the woman who wants him to live, for she is his mother!”

28 When all Israel heard the king’s decision, the people were in awe of the king, for they saw the wisdom God had given him for rendering justice.

Solomon knew that truth follows compassion. Wisdom--it comes from doing what you're doing: listening to God's Word!

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Advent Conspiracy 04: Receive Follow-Up

Final Soulhouse of the year is now in the books or online I suppose you could say. Listen in on the podcast, think about it and keep trying to live your Christmas different this year. Worship Fully: Spend Less: Give More: Love All.
You are free to conspire.

When does your Christmas tree go up?

Who trims it?

How?

What other traditions do you observe?

How does the shepherds’ experience with the angels compare to that of Zechariah (1:8-9) and Mary (1:26-27)?

Of all the people the angels could have visited, why did God send them to the shepherds?

How does that relate to Mary’s song (1:46-55)?

How might Mary ponder the events of Luke 1-2 (really her story)?

God appeared to Zechariah, Mary and the shepherds when they were just being themselves. What does that imply about what it means to be “spiritual”?

How has God spoken to you in the ordinary flow of life?

Other people didn’t hear the angels. Why?

How can you be open to God’s serendipity in your life?

What precious event has God done that you “treasure in your heart”?


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How To Treat Each Other

Wouldn't everything be great if other people weren't messing it up all the time? Paul talks to the Ephesians about how they ought to treat each other.

Ephesians 4:1-7 (New Living Translation)

1 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.

7 However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ.

You have abilities and perspectives that other people need. And other people have perspectives and abilities that you need. So, get together and change the world!

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Perfection

So let's review; how to be perfect in God's eyes? Hey, take a look at Romans 3.

Romans 3:22-26 (New Living Translation)

22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.

"Made right with God." When you've got Jesus, God doesn't see all the bad stuff in your life, all He sees in Jesus.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Feelin' Wealthy?

You know, you don't need money to be wealthy. Here's what the apostle Paul wrote to his friend named Timothy.

1 Timothy 6:6-9 (New Living Translation)

6 Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 7 After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can't take anything with us when we leave it. 8 So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

9 But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction.

You may be wealthy and not feel like it. Ask God today to show you how He's blessed you.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Very Expensive


"You think you're better than me?!" Well, you might be, you might not. Truth is, none of us measure up. We're all saved by grace. God saved us even though we have done nothing to deserve it.

Romans 10:8-13 (New Living Translation)

8 And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: 9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” 12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Isn't that great? People say salvation is free. But more accurately, salvation is not free, it's paid for. It cost us nothing, but it cost Jesus His life. Thank Him for that gift today, and for the grace He has given you.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Freedom!


Have you seen that commercial where a man gives a little girl a brand new bike? She hops on, but before she can go anywhere, the man stops her and points to a small square drawn around the bike and says, "You can't take that bike out of the box." And the sad look on the little girl's face is heartbreaking.

Is that how you sometimes think of your faith? Like it promises great things, but it's complicated by a bunch of rules that makes life more of a pain than before. Here's what Paul says:

2 Corinthians 5:17-18 (New Living Translation)

17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ.

Life in Christ is a life of freedom! And even more amazing, it's a gift! No strings attached!

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Don't Give Up

Here's what Paul had to say to Timothy about staying strong in his calling.

2 Timothy 4:1-5 (New Living Translation)

1 I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his Kingdom: 2 Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

3 For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will reject the truth and chase after myths.

5 But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.

Ok, if you had to stand before Jesus at the end of today, what would you do between now and then?

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Disciple's Prayer

Do you ever wonder how to pray? Did you know that Jesus gave us an example?

Matthew 6:9-13 (New Living Translation)

9 Pray like this:

Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
10 May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today the food we need,
12 and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
13 And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.

So next time you're not sure what to say, say that!

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Work Hard. Character Good.

Peace takes work. Holiness takes work. Work is hard. Work may not be fun, but it's good. Without work you don't build character. We don't know for sure who wrote Hebrews, but whoever it was had this to say to the Jewish Christians about work.

Hebrews 12:14-17 (New Living Translation)

14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. 15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. 16 Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal. 17 You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears.

So yeah for peace, and yeah for holiness! Boo on bitterness, and boo on trading away birthrights for soup. Keep hard at work on holiness, and look after those around you as well.

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Do You Want Strength & Character?

Discipline is not a joy ride. Like the Israelites, we all get reprimanded by the Lord. It's not fun, but grows our trust and reliance on Him.

Deuteronomy 8:2-5 (New Living Translation)

2 Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. 3 Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 4 For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell. 5 Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the LORD your God disciplines you for your own good.

Keep in mind, His loving discipline only lasts a little while. But His goodness, it lasts forever.

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Humble?

Hey, here's a question for you. What does it mean to be humble?

Philippians 2:3-8 (New Living Translation)

3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

6 Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Jesus gave up a lot. He humbled Himself for me and for you. Look, we're not asking you to die on a cross. But to be like Christ, we have to be humble just like Him. So, what's that mean for you?

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Friday, December 4, 2009

What Do You Trust?

You know, there's a lot in the Bible about money. Why? Well, check out what Paul says.

1 Timothy 6:17-18 (New Living Translation)

17 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.

"Being rich in good works" ... that basically means helping other in need. Whether you have lots of money or lots of time, God gave it to you for a reason.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

...But I Get Up Again

Imagine a super-bad day. Maybe it's today, for me, it was a day when I missed my train in Germany, which caused me to miss my flight to Paris, which made me miss my flight back home--and I was stressed, a lot!

Ok. Now picture your worst day.

2 Corinthians 2:8-10 (New Living Translation)

8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

You've gone through tough stuff, and you're going to go through it again. But, you know, we may not be safe from being knocked down, but we're safe from being destroyed. Try to remember that and let it be a little light in your darkest moment.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Exam Time

We all feel worthless sometimes, but here's the truth that crushes that lie.

Psalm 139:1-6, 16-18 (New Living Translation)

1 O LORD, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
2 You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
3 You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
4 You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, LORD.
5 You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!

...


16 You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.

17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!

Hey guys, stop believing the lie. Listen, love has no barriers--now that's acceptance.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Quotes, Cuz They Make You Go "hmmmm"

"Jesus died for people, not principles. Pharisees care about keeping rules. Jesus cares about healing hurts."
-Rick Warren

Luke 13:14-15 (New International Version)

14Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, "There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath."

15The Lord answered him, "You hypocrites! Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water?


FREEDOM is what we are called to and that's how we need to live. Not just as an expectation for "me" but as way to interact with all those who come across my path.

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Thanks

Your turkey is defrosting, baking … maybe even gone. But the spirit of thankfulness hopefully lasts longer than warm pumpkin pie with home made whip cream.

Check out what what Paul does in 2 Timothy 1:3-5

2 Timothy 1:3-5 (New Living Translation)

3 Timothy, I thank God for you—the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did. Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again.

5 I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.

So be thankful. We are. Who are you thankful for? Tell them.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent Conspiracy 02: Rebel Follow-Up

Week 2 of Advent Conspiracy: Rebel has happened. Take the time to listen to the podcast or just dive straight into this study to help you prepare for one of the holiest days of the year. Do it yourself or get together with some friends, family or strangers and discuss.

READ: Matthew 2:1-12

What is your favourite tradition related to Christmas?

Who are three “Magi” or wise men you turn to for advice?

Why was it important that Jesus be born in Bethlehem?

Since the Magi were pagan astrologers, why would they leave everything in order to follow that star?

In light of the prophecy (v.6), why was Herod so concerned that the baby be found?

Note the responses of the Magi upon seeing Jesus. How is that similar to the response that Christians make to Jesus? How is it different?

What do the star , the Magi, the gifts, the homage, the hostility and the prophecy teach about the significance of Jesus?

In your journey toward God, how are you like the Magi? Unlike them? Have you had to leave anything to follow Jesus? What is the “gold, incense, and myrrh” in your life? How have you offered this to Jesus?

If Jesus is all about the “Kingdom” & Caesar is all about the “Empire” what Caesars are you facing? Will it make a difference how you respond?

What do you want to rebel against in the empire that surrounds you?

What can you put on the line this year to not compromise?

What would this look like to your friends or family?

Will it motivate them or freak them out?

Read: Luke 1:26-38

Mary’s initial reaction to the angel’s appearance was: fear, confusion, doubt, faith, concern, curiosity?

Why did God choose Mary to give birth to His Son? 1. She earned the honour by her holy life. 2. she was at the right place at the right time. 3. her lineage was correct. 4. he had her in mind from the beginning. 5. only God knows why he picked her.

What do you think was the hardest for May to comprehend? 1. the fact that she was favoured by God 2. a pregnancy before marriage 3. who her child was going to be 4. how all this fits into God’s plan.

How do you think Mary felt about giving birth to the Messiah? Scared, honoured, burdened, glad, lonely, wait-and-see?

Why did the angel tell Mary about Elizabeth’s condition? 1. to prove God’s power 2. to unfold the rest of God’s plan 3. to encourage her 4. to give her something else to think about?

After this encounter with the angel, how did Mary envision herself? 1. ascending a throne 2. as a lowly servant 3. as a surrogate mother 4. as an ordinary person?

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The Way

You know, salvation isn't a do-it-yourself, choose-your-own-path kind of thing. You gotta pick the right door. Jesus explained in Luke 13.

Luke 13:24-25, 29-30 (New Living Translation)

24 “Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail. 25 When the master of the house has locked the door, it will be too late. You will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Lord, open the door for us!’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’"

Ok, you won't reach Heaven through the most traveled, most popular way. Think about it for yourself:

"And people will come from all over the world—from east and west, north and south—to take their places in the Kingdom of God. 30 And note this: Some who seem least important now will be the greatest then, and some who are the greatest now will be least important then.”

The choice is yours.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lookin' For Trouble?

You know, there's enough trouble in this world. Don't go looking for it.

Proverbs 20:3 (New Living Translation)

3 Avoiding a fight is a mark of honor;
only fools insist on quarreling.

Proverbs 13:10 (English Standard Version)

10 By insolence comes nothing but strife,
but with those who take advice is wisdom.

Proverbs 16:28 (New Living Translation)

28 A troublemaker plants seeds of strife;
gossip separates the best of friends.

Proverbs 21:23 (New Living Translation)

23 Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut,
and you will stay out of trouble.

The wisest guy that ever lived wrote that stuff! And you know, sometimes our tongues can get us in the most trouble. More on that tomorrow.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Got A Light?

God's Word is like a flashlight...you know, that you may use when camping in a dark forest to get from your tent past the outhouses to the dining hall to the campfire.

Without that flashlight, you may trip and fall by accidentally putting your foot into a shallow hole filled with water and leaves forcing you to wait there, stuck in the dark until a large camper who also has no flashlight finds you and punches you repeatedly before taking your marshmallows and s'mores chocolate...

Bottom line--you need a flashlight. And God's Word is like a flashlight:

Psalm 119:105-112 (New Living Translation)

105 Your word is a lamp to guide my feet
and a light for my path.
106 I’ve promised it once, and I’ll promise it again:
I will obey your righteous regulations.
107 I have suffered much, O LORD;
restore my life again as you promised.
108 LORD, accept my offering of praise,
and teach me your regulations.
109 My life constantly hangs in the balance,
but I will not stop obeying your instructions.
110 The wicked have set their traps for me,
but I will not turn from your commandments.
111 Your laws are my treasure;
they are my heart’s delight.
112 I am determined to keep your decrees
to the very end.

The Word of God is important. Don't forget, it's like a camping flashlight! Determine today to read and follow God's Word.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

THOUGHT: The Word of God

Why is this Bible thing so important? Well, here's a little something to answer that from Hebrews.

Hebrews 4:12 (New Living Translation)

12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.

Alive and powerful...exposes thoughts and desires. Give that some thought.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

THOUGHT: A Revisioned World

Ok: It's August 16, 1965--Imagine you are in line to see the Beatles, yes, THE Beatles, play Shea Stadium in New York City. Arguably one of the most famous concerts in rock history. Cars are barely moving, lining up, trying to get close to the stadium. John, Paul, George, and Ringo themselves have to take a helicopter to get to the show on time just because of the traffic.

Now, would you want to be at the front of the line or the back? Front row seats, or nosebleeds? Jesus talks to his disciples about being first or last:

Mark 9:33-37 (New Living Translation)

33 After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” 34 But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

36 Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”

You want to be first? Then be last. You want to hang out with the greatest, then hang out with the least. Get it?

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

ANNOUNCEMENT: A Christmas Treat For You!


Here is a wee Christmas treat for you. (ok not here exactly. Check the podcast)

As we count down to Christmas I am going to be sharing with you a great story that helps to describe what it might have been like in Heaven around the first Christmas. I will be reading chapter by chapter Max Lucado's "An Angel's Story"; so we can experience this story together.

Hope you enjoy coming back for new episodes periodically as I read you a goodnight story :)

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THOUGHT: Confession


Psalm 51:1-10, is actually a prayer. So, let's pray:

Psalm 51:1-10 (New Living Translation)

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins.
2 Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin.
3 For I recognize my rebellion;
it haunts me day and night.
4 Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
and your judgment against me is just.
5 For I was born a sinner--
yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
6 But you desire honesty from the womb,
teaching me wisdom even there.

7 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Oh, give me back my joy again;
you have broken me--
now let me rejoice.
9 Don’t keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.

Enjoy your day, because with confession comes freedom.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Advent Conspiracy: 4 Words That Could Change Your Christmas 01: Worship Followup

Give a little listen to the podcast that starts this new series up. Does it make you think? Do you think that you will be willing and able to join the Advent Conspiracy?

Read: Luke 2:1-20


What’s your favourite thing about Christmas?

When you were a child, what part did you ever play in the Christmas pageant?

Suppose this group acted out the Christmas story. Who would you choose to play Joseph? Mary? The innkeeper? The shepherds? The angels?

What is the closest you’ve come to experiencing the presence of angels watching over you?

How would you feel if an angel suddenly appeared to you with a message about God’s plan for your life?

Who was the “angel” that first told you about Jesus? What effect has this good news had on you?

From Another Angle:

Pregnant before marriage. Broke. Homeless. If you were Mary and Joseph’s friend, what chance would you have given them? A. none B. 50/50 C. uphill all the way D. a great way to begin

Why do you suppose the Saviour of the world was born in an obscure village and laid in a manger? A. to fulfill Old Testament prophecy B. to show he was an ordinary person C. it just happened that way D. he demanded no special favours E. God didn’t want to draw attention to his son’s birth F. No place would have been as grand as he deserved.

What effect did the angelic visit have on the shepherds? A. they wondered if they had been dreaming B. They saw God in a new way C. Their lives were changed forever D. It was soon business as usual.

What do you think the shepherds were most excited to tell others? A. about hearing the angels sing B. about seeing the newborn baby C. God’s plan for their salvation D. that the angel’s words were true E. that the wait for Messiah was over

Do you think Mary & Joseph understood the full significance of the child they brought into the world? A. probably not B. up to a point C. Mary could have D. They must have E. they couldn’t have.

What effect has the news of Christ’s birth had on you? A. business as usual B. spiritual commitment C. aw awakened sense of joy D. hope for the future E. thankfulness for God’s forgiveness F. confusion about God’s plan

How would you describe your relationship with Jesus Christ now?

If you were to spread the word about Jesus has done for you, with whom would you speak first?

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THOUGHT: The Message

You know, Marshall McLuhan once said, "The medium is the message." Basically, how something is taught might be more important than what is taught. Keep that in mind as you listen to Paul talk about his work.

2 Corinthians 5:11-12 (New Living Translation)

11 Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too. 12 Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart.

When it comes to sharing God's love with others, our actions say way more than our words do. Remember, your life may be the only medium for your friends to see Jesus. So, what message are you sending them?

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THOUGHT: He Knows

Ok, so, does God ever seem like He's just so far away to you? Well, maybe not as far as you think.

Psalm 139:7-10, 13-16 (New Living Translation)

7 I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
8 If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave, you are there.
9 If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
. . .

13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous--how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.

God's right there with you. Right now.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

THOUGHT: Generous: Be It

Here's a little something about generosity: Give generously!

2 Corinthians 8:7 (New Living Translation)

7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (New Living Translation)

6 Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”

You know, this is more than just about money, it's about the things you're good at. It's about your time. It's about love.

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