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Advent 2018: Hope

by CCCLampasas

Cross-posted  at  TheDeeZone

Today is the beginning is of Advent. Advent is a time for us to prepare for Christmas. It isn’t about shopping, baking, decorations or even preparing for the annual Christmas concert, play or cantata.

Advent is about what God did for us. It is about God’s Radical demonstration of love.

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17 (NIV)

Humans were created by God to have a relationship him. Sadly, humans rebelled. It was God who took the initiative to bring restoration and healing to humans.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 (NIV)

Christ came into a dark world so we might have hope. A hope that endures even in the most difficult situations. A hope that isn’t based on our circumstances. A hope that gives purpose and meaning even when life seems pointless. A hope that is anchored in the past saving work of Christ, the ongoing strength for today and the promise of future reward.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Have a blessed week.  — Dee

Nate’s Notes: Prince of Peace

by CCCLampasas

 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.   Isaiah 9:6 NIV

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15 NIV

We can all make a difference and promote peace.

According to his website JaylensChallenge.org, at the tender age of 8 years old Jaylen Arnold wanted to make a difference. In response to bullying, he wanted to fight back with words and experience – rather than with fists or name calling. Jaylen had suffered at the hands of bullies in school due to his disabilities making him an easy target. Bullies don’t like different.

Jaylen wanted to encourage misguided youth to do right, instead of wrong. At the time it seemed liked an impossible task, but with the help and guidance of friends and family, Jaylen did not want to give up. Upon hearing Jaylen’s story, many stepped in to offer help.

After meeting Paul Clarke, Jaylen’s idea of a website didn’t seem so impossible. With a basic website launched intended for Jaylen’s classmates, this was the birth of Jaylen’s Challenge Foundation, Inc.

What started as a small personal project for one little boy has grown into an internationally recognized charity. Jaylen’s Challenge Foundation is known as the leading National Anti-Bullying Foundation as identified and featured on every major network across the globe including ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CNN, Discovery Health, and Nickelodeon. Jaylen’s Challenge has gone from strength to strength. To change the life of a single person with this message would have been wonderful, but Jaylen has literally educated thousands and changed lives.

Although it is wonderful that an eight-year-old boy can help thousands of people, true peace for all humanity can only come through Jesus. If Jaylen can spread peace throughout the world, so too can Christians who serve the Prince of Peace. If Jaylen is a great example to follow, then we should realize how Jesus is an even better example for how to live.

“Rule in your hearts”- The Prince of Peace presides in your hearts, resides as an umpire there, governs your actions, and transforms you. The word rendered here “rule” – is commonly used about the Olympic and other games. It signifies being a director or arbiter over the games. The meaning here is, that the peace which God gives to the soul is to be to us what the governor at the games was to those who contended there. It is to preside over and govern the mind; to preserve everything in its place; and to save it from tumult, disorder, and irregularity.

 Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. Psalm 119:165 NIV

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  1 Peter 5:7 NIV  

Last year, in our Advent series, we explored how Christ is Immanuel, God with us. If Christ is with us, then we have peace. Safety consists not in the absence of danger but in the presence of God. Peace that Jesus gives is not the lack of trouble, but is rather the confidence that He is there with you always.

The Colossians have been raised “with Christ” in the past (3:1), are hidden “with Christ” in the present (3:3), and will be revealed “with Christ” in the future (3:4). We can have peace because Jesus is our Savior and Lord in the past, present, and future. Nothing can separate us from Him, and the Lord has already conquered over death, Satan, and sin.

It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it. — Eleanor Roosevelt

Prayer: Thank you Lord that you are our peace. Your Son embodies peace, and Your Spirit is our advocate and comforter. May we turn to You in times of anxiety and fear. May we realize that You are greater than any of our fears. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

Nathan

Nate’s Notes: Gifts for the Newborn King

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. Matthew 2:7-12 NIV

Dave Barry in his Notes on Western Civilization, Chicago Tribune Magazine, July 28, 1991 wrote:

To avoid offending anybody, the school dropped religion altogether and started singing about the weather. At my son’s school, they now hold the winter program in February and sing increasingly non-memorable songs such as “Winter Wonderland,” “Frosty the Snowman” and–this is a real song–“Suzy Snowflake,” all of which is pretty funny because we live in Miami. A visitor from another planet would assume that the children belonged to the Church of Meteorology.

If aliens visited our homes in December what would they notice? Would they conclude that Christmas is about Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph, and Santa, or would they see the deeper meaning of Christmas? I did not go to church as a child. When my father died, my mom quit going to church and no one taught me about Jesus. Before I became a Christian, I only cared about presents on December 25th. I selfishly thought of my own need for toys. I appreciated the G.I.J.O.E. and Transformer figures they no longer interested me after a few months. I remembered kids talking about Baptists and Methodists on the school bus, but I had no idea who they were because I did not know about Jesus.

Fortunately, the Lord used a minister and his son to lead me to Christ in middle school. What caused the most joy was learning that God is my Father. I lost both my father and stepfather, but I know that Abba Father cares for me. I now prefer Silent Night to Winter Wonderland. Isn’t it interesting that the wise men did not receive presents? They gave them to the newborn king. Christmas today is the opposite of what happened in Bethlehem. Why did the wise men give Jesus gifts?

According to the Biblical Archaeology Society, Biblical scholars and theologians have offered varying interpretations of the meaning and significance of the gold, frankincense, and myrrh that the Magi presented to Jesus, according to the Gospel of Matthew (2:11). These valuable items were standard gifts to honor a king or deity in the ancient world: gold as a precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil. In fact, these same three items were apparently among the gifts, recorded in ancient inscriptions, that King Seleucus II Callinicus offered to the god Apollo at the temple in Miletus in 243 B.C.E. The Book of Isaiah, when describing Jerusalem’s glorious restoration, tells of nations and kings who will come and “bring gold and frankincense and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord” (Isaiah 60:6). Although Matthew’s gospel does not include the names or number of the magi, many believe that the number of the gifts is what led to the tradition of the Three Wisemen.

In addition to the honor and status implied by the value of the gifts of the Magi, scholars think that the Wisemen chose them for their special spiritual symbolism about Jesus himself—gold representing his kingship, frankincense a symbol of his priestly role, and myrrh a prefiguring of his death and embalming—an interpretation made popular in the well-known Christmas carol “We Three Kings.

We three kings of Orient are; bearing gifts we traverse afar, field and fountain, moor, and mountain, following yonder star.

Refrain

O star of wonder, star of light, star with royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light. 

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain, gold I bring to crown him again, King forever, ceasing never, over us all to reign.

Refrain

Frankincense to offer have I; incense owns a Deity nigh; prayer and praising, voices raising, worshiping God on high.

Refrain

Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom; sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

Refrain

Glorious now behold him arise; King and God and sacrifice: Alleluia, Alleluia,

sounds through the earth and skies.

Refrain 

Prayer: Heavenly Father thank you for demonstrating your love through the gift of Your Son. May we worship in humility as the Magi did before the baby Jesus. May we have a heart of gratitude and joy for all of your many blessings. No matter what happens with our families this Christmas, may we reflect on how we are members of Your family. In the majestic name of Jesus, we pray, amen

Nathan

Nate’s Notes: Shepherds and Significance

Photo from Pixabay contributor ArmyAmber.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were teUpdates 3rrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:8-20  (NIV)

I participated in Christmas pageants as a teenager. I usually played the role of a shepherd. It is boring playing a shepherd. Joseph and Mary took center stage, the angels sang before the newborn king, and the wise men presented gifts to Jesus. What did I do? I held a staff and pretended to watch sheep. That was all. I didn’t speak, give gifts, or sing. What about you? Do you sometimes feel insignificant and on the margins? Have you lost the love of your life, retired from a meaningful job, dealt with divisions in your family, or struggled silently with serious health problems?

The good news is that the Heavenly Father loves everyone who calls upon him in the name of Jesus. There are no bench warmers in God’s kingdom. How does Jesus’ birth demonstrate that we are all significant to God?

We are adopted into the family of God. One of my favorite promises in Scripture is that the Lord willingly accepts us into His family. We aren’t just servants or followers. The Triune God loves us so much that we are family. Yahweh is the father who rushes to greet the prodigal son. No matter how far we have strayed, we can journey back home. It is also incredible to think of Jesus as our brother!

4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Galatians 4:4-5

Jesus’ birth is good news to all who believe. The announcement of Jesus’ birth is so important that the Father announced it with angels. Furthermore, the good news brings “great joy.” Jesus’ birth is just as important for us as it was to the shepherds. It is a reason to celebrate. There is nothing wrong with giving and receiving gifts for Christmas. However, our primary focus should be in celebrating the Savior’s birth. We may be happy for a while if we like our gifts, but we will have joy for eternity because of the greatest gift of all: Jesus.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Luke 2:8-10

Jesus’ birth is also a source of peace for all who acknowledge Him as Savior and Lord. We can have peace with the Father and peace with other believers because of Immanuel, God with us. God is not observing us from far away. The Holy Spirit is in us. We are all significant to the Lord. The Father gave His only Son as a sacrifice for us and provided us with His Spirit. We are greatly loved and showered with abundant grace. Whether we are on center stage with a spotlight or we are the silent shepherds off to the side, God loves us! Praise the Lord!

Prayer: Holy Father, we thank you for your great love and mercy. We praise You that in Christ we all have meaning and significance. You have invited us into your family. Give us the compassion and love to see others the way that You see them. May we recognize that we are significant in You and that You supply us with all that we need. In the glorious name of Jesus we pray, amen.

Pastor Nathan

 

Nate’s Notes: Shout the Good News

by CCCLampasas 0 Comments

  9 You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” 10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. 11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.  Isaiah 40: 9-11

Pass It On was one of my favorite praise songs as a high school and college student. The song has a beautiful and timeless message: once you experience God’s love then you will want to shout from the mountain tops letting the world know about Jesus.

Pass It On by Kurt Kiser

Verse 1
It only takes a spark to get a fire going and soon all those around
Can warm up in its glowing; That’s how it is with God’s love
Once you’ve experienced it you spread His love to ev’ryone
You want to pass it on

Verse 2
What a wondrous time is spring when all the trees are budding
The birds begin to sing; The flowers start their blooming
That’s how it is with God’s love; Once you’ve experienced it
You want to sing it’s fresh like spring; You want to pass it on

Verse 3
I wish for you my friend this happiness that I’ve found
You can depend on Him; It matters not where you’re bound
I’ll shout it from the mountain top I want my world to know
The Lord of love has come to me. I want to pass it on

We are so blessed that Jesus has already won the victory. He is the good news. Our role in the gospel (or good news) is simple. We are to be fishers of men (and women) sharing the greatest story ever told. This is the best Christmas gift of all: salvation to all who accept Jesus as the Savior and the Lord. The angels, shepherds, and wise men told the world about the greatest event in world history. The infinite Lord of Lords sent His only begotten Son to be born in humble circumstances.

The birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus are just as relevant today as when they took place. No person is too good, intelligent, or powerful for the good news. The Prince of Peace spoke with authority to military commanders, Roman governors, and religious leaders. He calls us to prioritize his kingdom and to sow the good seed of the gospel. Everyone needs to acknowledge Him, and every knee on heaven and on earth will bow to Jesus when he returns.

How in our day can we shout the good news from the mountain top?

We should pray for the Lord to aid us in our witness to the world. We can also ask the Father to send more laborers for the harvest. We need help.

We need to show that we care. We are to love people whether or not they ever become Christians. Whether or not they ever change, we can care for anyone.

We should ask questions. Almost everyone likes to tell their story. I know that I need to listen more and talk less.

We can ask for a response. Different people are in different stages in life. We could call upon someone to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior but not everyone is ready to make that commitment. Perhaps someone is willing to become friends, visit a church, read the Bible, or make another form of decision. The Holy Spirit changes lives. We are the instruments of Our Father.

Prayer: Lord, please strengthen our resolve to share the good news. We pray for boldness and also wisdom. Only you can change hearts, but you have called us to be messengers. May our heart’s desire be to make your name known to everyone and to share your love with all people. In the precious name of Jesus, we pray, amen.