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.

Have YOU Ever Been ‘Trey’d’?

Trey Flowers, the defensive end for the Detroit Lions, was called last night for 2 identical penalties that he’s never been called for before.

Never been called, because he doesn’t do that. He uses a legal technique, and always has. (For the record, last night he didn’t do anything illegal, either…calls were egregious errors.) These 2 calls effectively ended up costing the Lions the game–a big swing of fortune.

For most of us, that was a frustrating end to a hard-fought game…and that’s it. We will vent on Twitter or Facebook, then go on.

Obviously, for the players, it’s a much bigger deal. Their jobs depend on an ‘even’ playing field. Their opportunities to compete are limited–only 16 games in the regular season.

These calls contributed to the Lions going from 1st place to 4th place in their division…a tough hole to dig out of!

After the game, Flowers remained composed, and did not ‘go off’ at all. He showed class and composure as he was asked about it. Professional, to be sure.

However, it does point out something very real we all go through.

Virtually every one of us has faced a situation where someone ‘over us’ in authority mis-applies that authority, treats us unfairly, or penalizes us without cause…either inadvertently, or maliciously.

How do we respond when that happens?

In all seriousness, this was a penalty in a game. Ultimately, it has no power to really change the lives of the vast majority of us.

…but there are other times that we do face unfairness, injustice, and a misuse of power and authority.

What do we do then?

Psalm 37: 1-9:

Don’t worry about the wicked
    or envy those who do wrong.
For like grass, they soon fade away.
    Like spring flowers, they soon wither.

Trust in the Lord and do good.
    Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Commit everything you do to the Lord.
    Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
    and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

Be still in the presence of the Lord,
    and wait patiently for him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
    or fret about their wicked schemes.

Stop being angry!
    Turn from your rage!
Do not lose your temper—
    it only leads to harm.
For the wicked will be destroyed,
    but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land.”

Don’t get me wrong–I’m not calling the Refs ‘evil’, I’m simply using this example in the game to deal with what is real in life.

There are people who are evil, unfair, and who misuse their power over us. In those times, it is important that we can ‘trust in the Lord’, that we “commit everything you do to the Lord”, who will come to our aid and help us!

He will make ‘the justice of our cause’ to shine!

True, we can’t do anything about the #NFL Refs, and we can’t change bad calls in that game, but we can, individually, rise above the unfairness and injustice we face–through faith in God!

Trusting that the Lord will work, even in unfair situations, is a key to rising above it. It changes our perspective, and enables us to remain faithful and strong, in the midst of serious emotional and relational challenges.

Don’t give in! Don’t lower yourself to respond ‘in-kind’. Instead, trust Him…He will do His work!

Becoming Stronger Than Others’ Opinions

One thing we hear a lot about these days–with justification–is bullying. Especially as school starts up again, I’m sure we’ll see this in the news and on social media.

Certainly, bullying and harassing others is wrong, and should be strongly condemned. This behavior is never acceptable, and must not be minimized. As adults, we need to be unequivocal about this.

I know that we always tried to teach our kids to think about ‘the other person’ and how our comments can either build them up, or tear them down. Our hope, especially as followers of Jesus, is to love people. That cannot happen if I’m bullying or verbally abusing others.

Yet, simply making it our goal to ‘stop bullying’ is only part of the solution.

Another part of the solution is learning to take the opinions of others–positive and negative–less seriously.

I know that, when I went into Junior High at a new school, I was determined to do everything necessary to become ‘popular’. I wasn’t built to win approval through sports, and I didn’t have the drive to win approval through academics. I just knew though, that I could become popular. Popularity became an ‘idol’ for me, and I sought it at all costs.

Surprisingly, it worked! I did gain a degree of popularity in Jr. High, then High School. I had achieved my goal!

Yet, I also knew that others’ opinions of me could change, and if their opinions were ‘everything’ to me, then I was ‘skating on thin ice’, at best. There were ‘cracks’ in my foundation.

When other peoples’ opinions–positive or negative–are given the power to make us feel ‘good’ or ‘bad’ about ourselves, we’ve placed our hope on shaky ground.

The writer of Proverbs wrote, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” (Proverbs 29:25).

THAT is where our opinions of ourselves should come from–God, our Creator. HE is the One who’s opinions matters, for real. He created us, He designed us, He knows what is best for us, and He loves us!

In fact, He loved us so much that He pursues a relationship with us, through Jesus.

“God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world, through him, could be saved.” (John 3:16-17)

God, our Father, wants a relationship with us. It is through that relationship that we can experience Life…to the Full (John 10:10)–life the way He designed it to be!

His opinion of us matters, for real…and it is good.

When we learn to build our ‘self-image’ on God’s thoughts about us, then–and only then–will our ‘foundation’ be strong.

Rise Above!

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or an NFL Football Coach–nod to Matt Patricia of the #DetroitLions) to see that there is a LOT of negativity, drama, and genuine conflict in our culture right now.

Unfortunately, this had led to even more mud-slinging, name-calling, and impugning the character of those we disagree with.

As always, negative emotions and conflict spread like wildfire. It is much easier to spread negative headlines, stories and issues then it is to spread something positive.

Here’s the problem: For Christians, we are called to live differently! We do not want to get ‘sucked in to the vortex’ of the negativity–becoming part of the problem. This does not glorify God in any way–personally or publically.

Instead we are called to live differently…

Ephesians 5:1-16:

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving…

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord…

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”

Believe me, I KNOW…it’s easy to get sucked in. When racism, hatred, violence and greed show themselves, we want to weigh in. These are, after all, important topics and issues to discuss.

However, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have a higher calling–higher than your political affiliation, higher even then your duty as an American. You have a calling by God to represent Him, to point people to Him, and to impact this world for Him–for ETERNITY!

We need to live with that in mind!

That does not mean that we can’t have an opinion, or that we can’t discuss these things. It does, however, mean that we need to do so with Spirit-led self-control, with love, and with grace!

So…next time you want to ‘weigh in’ or opine on the culture, first stop! Pray and ask the Lord to help you do so in a way which shows your eternal priorities, and your loving, Christ-like mindset.

You and I–as Believers–must impact our world. We have to be involved…but we dare not do so ‘in the flesh’, but rather, ‘in the Spirit’.

Then…and only then…will we be able to “Make the most of every opportunity” and make the impact that the Lord wants His children to.

 

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