Two Choices

Life is about choices.

The choices we make determine a lot!

Choose to go to college, and you may have college debt…but you probably have more professional options.

Choose to buy a house, and you have a mortgage and responsibilities, but you also have a place of your own, equity, freedom and privacy!

Choose to neglect your health and wellness, and you may have ‘freedom’ of choice for the short term, but you’ll probably pay for it in the long term.

The truth is, we make ‘choices’ every day–large and small–and we often don’t even think about them.

There is one choice, however, that affects all the others.

One choice, handled correctly, can make all the others fall into place.

That choice, more than anything else, will determine whether you live in emotionally, relationally, physically, financially, vocationally, and spiritually healthy ways…or not.

It’s a choice that humans have been making literally from ‘day one’.

The choice: Will I follow God or not?

Will I submit my will, my thoughts, my habits to God…or will I go my own way?

Will I surrender my ‘freedom’ to do whatever I want, whenever I want it, no matter the cost…in order to follow His lead?

The ancient Israelites were given this choice on many occasions: “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curses. Now Choose LIFE, that you and your children may live, and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life…” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

This is the same choice we make, every day–whether to submit to Him, or to go our own way.

Our culture certain tells us to ‘do what you do’…’be your own boss’…’go for it’.

Why, then, would I go against the direction of many around me and consciously ‘Choose Life…Listen…and Hold Fast

Because the Lord is our LIFE!

His ways are right!

He wants to love, bless, and lead us…but we must follow Him.

Today, in countless ways, you and I will make that choice.

Let us Choose LIFE–by choosing HIM!

Delight!

Delight…

According to Merriam-Webster Online, it’s:

  1. “A high degree of satisfaction or pleasure; extreme satisfaction.
  2. Something that gives great pleasure.”

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

It seems pretty important, then, that we seriously consider what our source of ‘delight‘ is.

After all, the thing I take Delight in is often my source of motivation, stamina, and direction.

My source of Delight encourages me to keep going, even when I have to endure difficult days. The Delight is the ‘payoff’!

So…where is Your source of Delight?

Where do you get your ‘satisfaction’ from?

Where do I derive ‘pleasure’ in my life?

For some, their source of Delight would be natural phenomena–sunsets, beaches, spring rain; others take Delight in things–new cars, new houses, money; still others take Delight in relationships–romance, a baby, friendship.

What do YOU ‘Delight‘ in?

Be careful!

A word of warning: Literally every one of those experiences, those things, and those relationships will fail. At some point, they will not provide you with ‘Delight‘.

That’s why Your source of ‘Delight’ is crucial!

The Scriptures encourage us to take Delight in the One Source that never fails…the One Source that is always right, faithful, good, pure, and perfect.

Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” 

To “Delight myself in the Lord” means to derive my pleasure, my joy, my deepest satisfaction from Him. Knowing Him, pleasing Him, following Him…these are the choices I make, every day, that allow me to Delight in Him.

If I take Delight in the Lord, He becomes my direction, my purpose, my sense of meaning. He provides my motivation and ability to overcome challenges.

Ultimately, it means that I prioritize my relationship with Him above all other sources of Delight–experiences, things, and even people.

Do You ‘Delight’ in the Lord? 

Many people who ‘believe’ in the Lord don’t Delight in Him…and it shows.

Ask the Lord to show you today…’Do I Delight in You’?

Let Him search your heart.

He wants you to Delight in Him…and if you do, then He will give you the desires of your heart!

 

Jesus In You!

This morning I had a neat experience.

In my prayer time, one thing I was praying about was my frustration with myself–over my own lack of growth in some areas, my continued struggles to break through some spiritual battles, once and for all, etc.

As I was praying, I believe the Holy Spirit led me to a verse. I looked it up and started studying it, along with several related verses.

The verse was Galatians 2:20:  “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

This verse, along with several passages similar to it (Romans 6, Galatians 4, Ephesians 4, etc.) tell us that the New Life we have–through our faith in Jesus–isn’t about ‘trying harder’ or ‘doing more’ for God. It is, instead, about letting Him have more control, realizing that He is The Only One who can change me. My responsibility is to walk with Him, to remain with Him (through prayer, worship, etc.), and He will change me more and more to reflect Him.

He Lives In Me!

So…I went along my way, and then, when it was time to exercise (today was Treadmill day), I selected a YouTube video–as I often do–of a sermon. In this case, it just happened to be by David Platt, Lead Pastor of McLean Bible Church in Washington, DC. It was called ‘The Secret to the Christian Life’. I was intrigued, so I pulled it up.

What was the secret?

It was the truth found in Galatians 2:20!

This was THE Scripture he was preaching on!

His point was this: Far too many Christians (all of us, at times) are frustrated and discouraged in their faith because it seems as though all their efforts don’t change anything. They’re essentially told ‘Try harder. Do more.’

His point–and the point the Lord had been communicating with me about this morning–was that ‘Trying harder’ is NOT the way to ‘Full Life’ in Jesus. Rather, giving Him more control, letting Him change me…being continually re-filled and refreshed in the Holy Spirit…that is the way!

This is why, later in Galatians, we are told that ‘The fruit OF THE SPIRIT is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23, emphasis added). 

That takes a bit of the ‘discouragement factor’ away.

It’s not about ‘being better’, ‘trying harder’ or ‘doing more’. It’s about walking closely to Him, letting Him change us.

THIS is the secret to ‘Full Life Living’ in Jesus!

…and it’s a whole lot more genuinely enjoyable than ‘religion’!

 

Here’s a link to Platt’s sermon: https://youtu.be/4HBEWJbmexM

You can skip to the 12:00 minute mark–that’s where he starts talking abou it.

What Can We Count On?

Happy New Year!

Happy New DECADE!

Happy 2020!

When I think back to what changed in the last decade, I am amazed. Cultural changes, technological changes, political changes…

On a personal level, there have been family changes, budgetary changes, professional changes…

Things change. That is life.

Going into a new year and a new decade, we can say a few things for sure: 1

) There will be change.

2) God will still be faithful.

3) I have a choice of which one I focus on.

Change will happen…we can not even imagine what our lives will be like in 2030 (If we’re still here!), but we know that it will be different. Some of those changes will be welcome, and some will be resisted. There will be turmoil in the world, and there will ample opportunity for anxiety.

However, there will also be some things that don’t change: The importance of family and relationships, for example. Even more: The Faithfulness of God.

God’s character is the same: James 1:17: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

“Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

The faithfulness of God is one thing that we can count on, no matter what changes and turmoil are happening around us.

Therefore, our choice is this: What will we focus on?

Granted, we have to live our lives in this tumultuous, changing world–we can’t simply ignore it and hide in a hole. However, when it comes to our sense of ‘security’ and ‘peace’, it is crucial that we find that in the faithfulness and goodness of God, as shown in Jesus–not in the circumstances of our world.

God has been faithful. God has been good. By His grace, I intend to find my identity, my security, and my purpose in Him this year!

My prayer for my family, friends and for all, is that you would seek Him and find His love and faithfulness, letting Him be your Foundation.

For ALL People!

The Christmas story…the real one.

It has nothing to do with B.B. Guns and ‘Fragile’ lamps…

The TRUE Christmas story is much more powerful.

Most people love it.

Even those who don’t believe in Jesus understand that it’s a good story of love and the willingness of God to act on that love.

It’s a compelling story, and besides…there’s a birth of a baby involved (and everyone like babies).

However, in our desire to make the story of the events of that first Christmas more ‘magical’, we tend to make it more vague.

Our children add additional animals to the manger scene, we come up with 3 names of the ‘wise men’, etc.–in other words, we add our own ‘filler’ to the events, as if these miraculous events needed our help!

Maybe it would be helpful to clarify:

Who is the message of Christmas actually ‘for’?

More accurately, Who did Jesus come to earth for?

Why did He come?

According to the angels at the announcement to the shepherds, His coming was “Good News of Great Joy to ALL People” (Luke 2:10)

They would clarify just a few verses later ““Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14).

So, the question is, ‘What’ is the Good News, and Who does the favor of God “rest” on?

In it’s most simple form, the ‘Good News‘ is that God sent Jesus to pay for our sin, and the subsequent separation between ourselves and God which resulted from that sin.

Jesus himself said it this way: “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

As the Apostle Paul would later write,that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

It’s something that we could not do on our own, but rather, a gift of God that we receive by faith: “It is by [God’s] grace that you are saved, through faith [in Jesus]; it is a gift of God, not a result of your good works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

So…the GREAT NEWS of Christmas is that Jesus came to save anyone who will call on Him in faith, and believe in Him as Savior and Lord! It is open to anyone! “he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9); “anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!” (Romans 10:13)

So, the great news for us is that the ‘Christmas story’ is available to ALL who believe and call on Jesus!

If there is any ‘bad news’ in this, it’s that some will refuse–through arrogance, unbelief, or spiritual blindness–to “call on” Him.

Those people will miss not only the true impact of those historical events, but even more importantly, they will miss the eternal implications of the eternal truth that Jesus is Lord and Savior!

So, as you’re enjoying the Christmas season, make sure you’re taking time to consider: Are YOU one of those “upon whom His favor rests”, by your faith in Jesus?

If not, you need to make that decision!

Then–and only then–will you really be able to ‘unwrap the gift’ of Jesus this Christmas.

YOU need to ‘Come and See what God has done’!

GREAT Joy!

What brings you the greatest ‘Joy’?

Notice that I didn’t say ‘happiness’–happiness can be very circumstantial and very temporary. ‘Joy‘, on the other hand, is more deep-seated and long-term.

So, what brings you this deeper ‘Joy‘?

For some of us, it might be something significant. Something life-changing.

The birth of a child, for example.

The blessing of family.

A celebration of love.

Life-changing and especially world-changing events can cause ‘Joy’.

When the angels made the amazing announcement to the shepherds on that first Christmas night that they had “Good News of Great Joy, for All People” (Luke 2:10), this was BIG!

“Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior; who is Christ, the Lord”. (Luke 2:11)

This is HUGE! This is life-changing! In reality, it was Eternity-Changing!

We celebrate it every year…however, we are increasingly missing the real reason for celebration.

We are settling for the temporary and superficial ‘happiness’ of the holiday traditions, and missing the Great Joy of the Savior!

I was talking with some friends the other day and we were wondering ‘why‘ this happens–even among Believers in Jesus, who are committed to Him.

Think about it: What occupies most of Your time in preparation for Christmas?

For most of us, it’s all about the ‘extras’–the decorations, the parties, the shopping, assembling and wrapping the presents. Around our house, we even end up getting ‘stressed’ about the baking!

We’re missing the Great Joy of the Savior.

Think of the reaction of the shepherds.

“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.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 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 2:15-20)

They simply had to go and investigate!

When they did, they told everyone! Their excitement and joy were overflowing!

But stop and think: What would their reaction have been if the angels had appeared, made their announcement, but then–upon investigation–they didn’t find the baby?

What if there was no ‘virgin with a baby’…?

Obviously, that would not have been something they talked about other than saying ‘What a bummer’!

The story would have died right there.

But, of course, that’s not what happened! They went and investigated and found everything “just as they had been told”! Therefore, they were joyful and excited, and they could not stop talking about it and celebrating it.

So…how can we get the ‘joy‘ back? How can we that the sense of profound change that they did?

We have to spend time with the Savior.

We must push the noise of the world away for a while and pray, meditate, and worship “Christ, the newborn King“!

He was not only that ‘baby in a manger’. He was, and is, Lord of creation, Savior, Messiah, and Lord!

May you and I have GREAT Joy, because of Jesus, today!

Good News!

Good News–we love to share it!

“She said Yes!”

“It’s a Boy!”

“I got the job!”

“We got the house!”

“We won!”

 

Funny thing about Good News: We usually don’t have to be told to share it. If anything, we may need to be told to stop sharing it at some point.

Good News is fun. Good News is exciting. Good news lifts the spirits.

Even if the ‘Good News‘ isn’t for me, I enjoy seeing other peoples’ smiles.

Just look on your own Facebook pages…think of how many times you end up smiling and celebrating, as you witness the Good News that other people share.

Good News is contagious!

(Obviously, negativity is contagious too…but that’s for another post.)

When the angels came to announce “Good News” to the shepherds that night on a hillside outside of Bethlehem, it was HUGE! This was Major! This called for action and celebration!

This kind of Good News wasn’t something they could ignore. This was “Good News of Great Joy for All People”!

Luke 2:10-12: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

This was what the people of Israel had been longing for, for centuries!

Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Immanuel means “God with us”.)

This was, indeed, ‘Good News‘!

It still is!

It is amazing, stupendous, mind-blowing news: The Savior of the world has come–for us!

No longer are we ‘on our own’!

We are rescued!

This is GOOD NEWS that is worth sharing!

It’s much more important than a house…a job…even a marriage and a baby! This is Eternity-Changing-Good-News!

If you’re not sure about ‘why’ it’s so important, contact me! dave@mykcc.org. Let’s talk!

This is Good News for all–including YOU!

Revel in it! Celebrate it! Share it!

 

Keep Pointing!

As I look around at our culture and the challenges that I see, I have to admit that it becomes increasingly difficult to know what to do…how to make a positive impact.
Political turmoil, corruption, and blatant hypocrisy–from all sides; moral degradation to the point that all social mores are crumbling around us; selfishness and greed run amok; violence invades our everyday lives more each day; hatred is increasing…what can a person do to have any impact on that environment?
As a Believer in Jesus Christ, I am guided by the Holy Spirit and brought back to the wisdom of His Word. I realize that this instantly discredits me to many people. So be it. I still believe that God is sovereign and His will–revealed in the person of Jesus and through the writers of the Scriptures–has not changed.
So, the question I have might be irrelevant for some of you. ‘What is a Christian to do in these circumstances’?
…and the answer, first and foremost, is to PRAY!
In prayer, I humble myself before God. I admit and repent of the sin that I’ve allowed in my own heart. I acknowledge the worldliness that I, myself, have bought in to, and I seek ongoing deliverance from that. I ask God to continue working on myself–helping me to be a truthful ‘Ambassador’ of Jesus.
In that mindset, then I seek to WORSHIP Him more fully and consistently. Worship is, first and foremost, acknowledging Him for who He is–through obedience, through praise and thanksgiving.
In that spirit, I then begin to realize how important it is that I continue to meet with others who have a similar belief system and heart. We need fellowship, encouragement, prayer, and accountability! I need to be reminded not to get ‘sucked in’ to the morass of this world’s values…and to remember that our hope is in the Lord!
Simultaneous to this, we need to reach out in loving, faithful service to those who don’t know…those who are blind to the fact that they’ve been duped. They’ve been sold a bill of goods and deceived by the enemy of their souls. They think they’re free…and that reveling in sin is ‘freedom’. It’s not–it’s enslavement. However, they will only see that if we lovingly, patiently demonstrate the consistent, gracious love of God to them.
Any hope they have…any hope our culture has…rests with Jesus. Therefore, any attempt I make to ‘take over’ or to ‘overthrow’ this world’s values simply will not work. Instead, it’s one heart, one life at a time…and it’s by the grace and mercy of God.
Fellow believers, don’t allow yourself to get sucked into ‘political’ or ‘economic’ answers to what are, in essence, ‘spiritual’ questions. What this world needs, now more than ever, are Christ-followers…
who actually ‘follow Christ’–not just in ‘what we don’t do’, but in ‘what we do‘ and ‘how we do it’.
We need to ‘battle’ with prayer, love, firmness, and grace. We need to point people to their need for Jesus. We need to help others see that Jesus isn’t only our Savior, but is also Lord–and deserves our full, utmost worship.
Will that change this world?
Maybe not for the entire globe. Maybe it won’t alter history and His sovereign plan.
However, it might be like the story of the little boy who found thousands of starfish on the beach and started picking them up, one by one, to throw them back. A man came by and saw what he was doing, and scoffed at his efforts. ‘You know you can’t possibly do it all.’ The boy replied, ‘I can–if others help me’. ‘But you can’t make a real difference’, said the man. The boy bent down, picked up another starfish, tossed it into the water and said: “I made a difference for that one!”
It’s no secret, this world is getting darker.
Our culture has not only turned its back on God, but is now increasingly hostile to God, and anyone who believes in Jesus as
“The Way, The Truth, and The Life.” (John 14:6)
God has His sovereign plan, and we want to get in line with it while encouraging others in it too.
Christian, it’s important. It’s not just about ‘winning a debate’ but about rescuing those who are lost and blind and don’t even know it. It’s about being Jesus’ Ambassadors.
2 Corinthians 5:18-20:And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.  For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

Saying “Yes” to the Good Stuff

What is the impression ‘Christianity‘ has in your mind?

For many, it’s about ‘Saying ‘No’ to things…lots of things’.

From the outside, it may appear that the Christian faith means ‘Not having any fun’, or ‘Always being serious’.

I can understand that impression–after all, many of us who claim to be Christians do seem to have a sour disposition quite a bit of the time. There are those in the faith who do seem to equate Christianity with Crabbiness.

But the truth is, being a follower of Jesus Christ is much, much more than ‘what we can’t do’. In fact, it is about being free–free to follow the plan and the will of the One who created us, knows us, and loves us! It is about saying ‘Yes’ to Him! It’s about True Freedom! freedom-1

The truth is that there are both ‘Yes’s’ and ‘No’s’ involved.

For example, Titus 2:11-14 says, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”

We first say ‘Yes’ to the gracious gift of God–forgiveness and Eternal Life through Jesus, and then (as a result), we say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldliness. We say ‘yes’ to living in a self-controlled, upright way. Why do we do this? Because we’re living with an eternal perspective now. We’re looking forward to the return of our Savior!

We say ‘Yes’ to God, and He teaches us to say ‘No’ to our self-centered, here-and-now lifestyle. He works within us to conform our character to His. It is a wonderful, blessed and life-long adventure of growth!

It is, in fact, FREEDOM to live the way we were designed to live!

As Paul wrote to the Romans, Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)

In view of God’s love and mercy, we offer ourselves to Him–willingly and enthusiastically! He continues to teach us to rise above the superficial thinking of this world, and…in the process…we are able to experience His will for us. His will is good, pleasing and perfect!

Of Course we would say ‘Yes’ to that!

What are You saying ‘Yes’ to?

I am FREE!

Learning to Blush Again

Have you ever known someone who blushes easily?

Maybe they don’t like to be the center of attention, or they get embarrassed when given a compliment.

In many ways, this can seem ‘sweet’ and is charming.

Some people blush when something private is brought up in public, or when lines of decency are crossed. These people blush because there’s ‘a standard’ that should not be compromised, and they don’t handle it well when those standards are broken down.

I believe that we, as a culture, have forgotten how to blush.

We have become so ‘calloused’ to things that are indecent and sinful (from the perspective of God’s Word), that we don’t even bat an eye at the mention of things that, just a few years ago, would have been thought to be way outside the norm.

I was reading today from the Prophet Jeremiah, and here’s what he was moved by the Spirit of the Lord to say:
“They cling to deceit, they refuse to return. I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. No one repents of his wickedness, saying “what have I done?” Each pursues his own course, like a horse charging into battle…

They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace”, they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush.” (Jeremiah 8:5-6, 11-12)

God was especially frustrated and angry with the people in that day who claimed to know Him and worship Him–those who clung to the Law and the Temple as proof of their ‘preferential position’ in God’s eyes, while, at the same time, becoming more and more comfortable with sin.

If you are a Believer in Jesus Christ, I think the message is for you (and I) also. We need to repent of our own worldliness, our own ‘comfort’ with the sins of our world…and of our own sin! We need to ask God, again, to work in our hearts so that we see things His way!

We need to repent of our desire to ‘fit in’ with this self-centered, deceived culture and instead declare that our allegiance, our standards, are the Lord’s alone!

We need to confess our own sin, and worship Him more fully. We need to ask Him to work within us–the Body of Christ–before we throw stones at a world that is, admittedly, “under the spell of the evil one” (1 John 5:19)

May God make us more sensitive to His standards again. May He teach us to be led by the Holy Spirit as we live in this world. May He make us ‘salt and light’ (Matthew 7) again. May His standards be the ones we adopt, protect, and speak up for.

May He teach us to blush again.

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