Saturday, December 31, 2016

What sort of New Years Resolution should a Christian make?

by Michael Steffen

The practice of making a New Year's Resolution goes back over 3000 years to the ancient Babylonians. There is just something about the start of a New Year that gives us the feeling of a fresh start and a new beginning. In reality, there is no difference between December
31st and January 1st. Nothing mystical occurs at midnight on December 31st. The Bible does not speak for or against the concept of a New Year's Resolution. However, if a Christian determines to make a New Year's Resolution, what kind of resolution should he or she make?

Common New Year's Resolutions are: to quit smoking, to quit drinking, to manage money better, and spend more time with family. By far the most common New Year's Resolution is to lose weight, in conjunction with exercising more and eating healthier. These are all good goals to set. However, 1 Timothy 4:8 instructs us to keep exercise in perspective: "For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come." The vast majority of New Year's Resolutions, even among Christians, are in relation to physical things. This should not be.

Many Christians make New Year's Resolutions to pray more, to read the Bible every day, to attend church more regularly, etc., etc. These are fantastic goals! However, these New Year's Resolutions fail just as often as the non-spiritual resolutions. Why? Because there is no power in a New Year's Resolution. Resolving to start or stop doing a certain activity has no value unless you have the proper motivation for stopping or starting that activity. For example, why do you want to read the Bible every day? Is it to honor God and grow spiritually or is it because you have just heard that it is a good thing to do? Why do you want to lose weight? Is it to honor God with your body, or is it for vanity, to honor yourself?

Philippians 4:13 tells us, "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." John 15:5 declares, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." If God is the center of your New Year's Resolution, it has chance for success – depending on your commitment to it. If it is God's will for something to be fulfilled, He will enable you to fulfill it. If a resolution is not God honoring and/or is not in agreement in God's Word – we will not receive God's help in fulfilling the resolution.

So, what sort of New Year's Resolution should a Christian make? 

(1) Pray to the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5) in regards to what resolutions, if any, He would have you make; 
(2) Pray for wisdom as to how to fulfill the goals God gives you;
(3) Rely on God's strength to help you; 
(4) Find an accountability partner who will help you and encourage you; 
(5) Don't become discouraged with occasional failures, instead allow them to motivate you further; 
(6) Don't become proud or vain, but give God the glory. Psalm 37:5- 6, "Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday." Amen

Friday, December 30, 2016


"[The LORD] said to me, ‘Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the darkness, each at the shrine of his own idol? They say, "The LORD does not see us; the LORD has forsaken the land."’ Again, he said, ‘You will see them doing things that are even more detestable’" (Ezekiel 8:12-13 NIV).
Some people of the Judah had been deported to Babylon because of the sins of the people. In spite of this, the other people in the land of Judah continued in their sins. The Spirit of God lifted Prophet Ezekiel up in visions and took him to the city of Jerusalem to show him some of the detestable things that the people of Judah were doing secretly. Interestingly, the people were thinking that because God had forsaken them due to their sins, He did not see them as they continued in the sins. The Spirit showed Ezekiel from one place to the other as these people were doing more and more detestable things that were not hidden from God (see Ezekiel 8). Definitely, these people were punished for their sins (see Ezekiel 9).
Many people like those Jews in Ezekiel’s time are doing bad things secretly today thinking that God does not see them. The psalmist vividly described such people and concluded, "Does he who implanted the ear not hear? Does he who formed the eye not see? Does he who disciplines nations not punish? Does he who teaches man lack knowledge? The LORD knows the thoughts of man; he knows that they are futile" (Psalm 94:9-11 NIV). Some are doing bad things secretly because they have been disappointed in one way or the other. Others are doing so because they are just wicked. Most of such people prefer acting in the secret or darkness because they would not want their wickedness to be exposed (cf. John 3:19-21).
What are you doing secretly thinking that nobody sees you? If nobody sees you, God does! What are you thinking secretly in your heart right now? Would you be proud of your secret acts and thoughts when they are exposed? You may hide things from man. You cannot hide them from God. Always remember the conclusion of the writer of the Ecclesiastes, "For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil" (12:14 NIV).
In His service,
Bayo Afolaranmi (Pastor).

Prayer Point: Pray that God will deliver you from secret/hidden sins.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Be Of Good Cheer

John 16:33 – These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (NKJV)

One of my brothers-in-law has had some serious health issues this year. He has spent many weeks in hospital, endured innumerable tests, and undergone several surgeries. After many attempts at resolution, all of which were ultimately futile, he had to have a leg amputated. He has borne uncertainty, anxiety, and extreme pain.

And yet, when I visit him now, I don't encounter a morose or sombre individual, moaning or feeling sorry for himself. Instead, I encounter a funny, vibrant man who seems determined to overcome his difficulties and live a full and happy life regardless of the circumstances. The nurses and other healthcare professionals who are attending him have remarked that his attitude isn't just good for him, it's rubbing off on other patients, who are now also taking a more positive outlook on their own situations. Visiting with him and my sister isn't an obligation — though it is an obligation I would gladly undertake — but a joy. It's fun!

God calls us to be cheerful. He calls us to face life with hope and with joy, buoyed and supported by our faith. When times are difficult and life looks bleak, let us look into the Word of God. Let us look to our faith. For whenever we face life with hope and good cheer, we are doing as God has commanded us. And let us be assured that by doing so, we will not only feel better ourselves, but also be an inspiration to others.

Prayer: Thank You, God, for the gift of faith and for the gift of joy. Help us always to be cheerful and to face our future with hope and confidence. Help us to find inspiration in others and to inspire them in return. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

Scott Williams

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Living a Deliverance Life

For God the Father has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14

In Chuck Swindoll's book, The Finishing Touch, there's a story told about how hard it is to live in deliverance and freedom when you've been in bondage for a long time.

The scene is a marketplace in northern India where people brought their wares to trade and sell. One old farmer brought in a whole covey of quail he had caught. He hoped to get the attention of passersby by tying strings to a ring fastened to a stick in the ground, which was then tied around the leg of each bird. With all that secure, the birds just walked in a circle, minute by minute, hour after hour.

Sadly, his PR ploy didn't attract much attention. It seemed nobody wanted these birds at all. But then along came a devout Hindu man, who believed in the idea of respect for all life, and his heart literally went out for these birds that were confined and were now merely walking in a monotonous circle when they were meant to fly.

He told the farmer, "I want to buy them all." So he did, and right after that he said to the farmer, "Set them all free. You heard me. Cut the strings from their legs and turn them loose. Set them free."

But a strange thing happened. Cut loose, you'd have thought those birds would have joyfully flown away, but they didn't. They simply continued to march around and around in a circle.

A little frustrated, the Hindu man shooed them off, but they only landed some distance away and they resumed their predictable march.

Freed from their bonds they just kept going round and round in circles as if they were still tied to the stake!

I sometimes think that in life, we Christians are a bit like these birds. When the Bible says we have been set free -- delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of the Father's beloved Son -- we seem to keep walking in the circles of our own wisdom and strength. In the sermon yesterday, I talked about the rescue of those Chilean miners in 2010. What an incredible story! But the rest of the story is that after that magnificent rescue many of the miners went back to very destructive patterns in their lives, which prevented them from making the most of this miraculous deliverance.

So here's a thought for today: you have been delivered from sin, death and the devil himself. Your eternal deliverance is sure in Jesus Christ. The strings have been cut; the strings that have kept you bound to your guilt, your sin, your fears -- they're gone. You have a Savior who wants you not just to be free, but free to follow Him in all things. Take a moment today and think about what it means to live in forgiveness, to live in grace, to live in mercy, and act towards others the way Jesus has acted on your behalf. That's a way of life that doesn't walk in circles but walks in purpose towards an eternal destiny that Christ assures for all who trust in Him. That's pretty amazing stuff.

Wouldn't you agree?

Take a chance today. Quit walking in circles and follow the Lord, who has given you wings to fly!

THE PRAYER: Dear Jesus, because of Your life and Your death and resurrection, You have given me real freedom, real deliverance, wings to fly. Help me soar in obedience to You as I trust in You each and every day. Amen.

In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz
Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
Lutheran Hour Ministries

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Seven Subtle Symptoms of Pride

Fabienne Harford

Pride will kill you. Forever. Pride is the sin most likely to keep you from crying out for a Savior. Those who think they are well will not look for a doctor.

As seriously dangerous as pride is, it’s equally hard to spot. When it comes to diagnosing our heart, those of us have the disease of pride have a challenging time identifying our sickness. Pride infects our eyesight, causing us to view ourselves through a lens that colors and distorts reality. Pride will paint even our ugliness in sin as beautiful and commendable.

We can’t conclude that we don’t struggle with pride because we don’t see pride in our hearts. The comfortable moments that I find myself on the back for how well I am doing are the moments that should alarm me the most. I need to reach for the glasses of Christ-like humility, remembering that nothing good dwells in my flesh, and search my heart for secret pride and its symptoms.

In his essay on [undetected pride][(, Jonathan Edwards points out seven sneaky symptoms of the infection of pride.

1. Fault-Finding

While pride causes us to filter out the evil we see in ourselves, it also causes us to filter out God’s goodness in others. We sift them, letting only their faults live in our perception of them.

When I’m sitting in a sermon or studying a passage, it’s pride that prompts the terrible temptation to skip the Spirit’s surgery on my own heart and instead draft a mental blog post or plan a potential conversation for the people who “really need to hear this.”

Edwards, writes,

The spiritually proud person shows it in his finding fault with other saints . . . . The eminently humble Christian has so much to do at home and sees so much evil in his own that he is not apt to be very busy with other hearts.

2. A Harsh Spirit

Those who have the sickness of pride in their hearts speak of others’ sins with contempt, irritation, frustration, or judgment. Pride is crouching inside our belittling of the struggles of others. It’s cowering in our jokes about the ‘craziness’ of our spouse. It may even be lurking in the prayers we throw upward for our friends that are — subtly or not — tainted with exasperated irritation.

Again Edwards, “Christians who are but fellow-worms ought at least to treat one another with as much humility and gentleness as Christ treats them.”

3. Superficiality

When pride lives in our hearts, we’re far more concerned with others’ perception of us than the reality of our hearts. We fight the sins that have an impact on how others view us, and make peace with the ones that no one sees. We have great success in the areas of holiness that have highly visible accountability, but little concern for the disciplines that happen in secret.

4. Defensiveness

Those who stand in strength of Christ’s righteousness alone find a confident hiding place from the attacks of men and Satan alike. True humility is not knocked off balance and thrown into a defensive posture by challenge or rebuke, but instead continues in doing good, entrusting the soul to our faithful creator.

Edwards says, “For the humble Christian, the more the world is against him, the more silent and still he will be, unless it is in his prayer closet, and there he will not be still.”

5. Presumption Before God

Humility approaches God with humble assurance in Christ Jesus. If either the “humble” or the “assurance” are missing in that equation, our hearts very well might be infected with pride. Some of us have no shortage of boldness before God, but if we’re not careful we can forget that he is God.

Edwards writes, “Some, in their great rejoicing before God, have not paid sufficient regard to that rule in Psalm 2:11 — ‘Worship the Lord with reverence, and rejoice with trembling.’”

Others of us feel no confidence before God. Which sounds like humility, but in reality it’s another symptom of pride. In those moments, we’re testifying that we believe our sins are greater than his grace. We doubt the power of Christ’s blood and we’re stuck staring at ourselves instead of Christ.

6. Desperation for Attention

Pride is hungry for attention, respect, and worship in all its forms.

Maybe it sounds like shameless boasting about ourselves. Maybe it’s being unable to say ‘no’ to anyone because we need to be needed. Maybe it looks like obsessively thirsting for marriage — or fantasizing about a better marriage — because you’re hungry to be adored. Maybe it looks like being haunted by your desire for the right car or the right house or the right title at work: all because you seek the glory that comes from men, not God.

7. Neglecting Others

Pride prefers some people over others. It honors those who the world deems worthy of honor, giving more weight to their words, their wants, and their needs. There’s a thrill that goes through me when people with ‘power’ acknowledge me. We consciously or unconsciously pass over the weak, the inconvenient, and the unattractive, because they don’t seem to offer us much.

Maybe more of us struggle with pride than we thought.

There’s good news for the prideful. Confession of pride signals the beginning of the end for pride. It indicates the war is already being waged. For only when the Spirit of God is moving, already humbling us, can we remove the lenses of pride from our eyes and see ourselves clearly, identifying the sickness and seeking the cure.

By God’s grace, we can turn once again to the glorious gospel in which we stand and make much of him even through identifying our pride in all its hiding places inside of us. Just as my concealed pride once moved me toward death, so the acknowledgement of my own pride moves me toward life by causing me to cling more fiercely to the righteousness of Christ.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23–24)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Neither do I condemn thee

John 8:11

She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
Jesus never condemns any one. We all are already condemned. We have all been borned in sin. We sin every day, and, what we need is forgiveness, not condemnation.
Many Christians are quick to condemn others. They love to gossip, spread rumors, and share dirt they think they know as facts.
That type of folks think they doing good by exposing faults in people. In reality, they are showing their own weakness by trying to lift them selves up by bringing others down. Most people know this and just hope their own faults are not known by that gossiper.
As a Pastor and Christian of some years; I have heard many tells of sin. I had a deacon take a refrigerator from the fellowship hall. I know of a Pastor that took the piano from the sanctuary after he had resigned. Another Pastor stole a large sum of money from his church and then resigned. I could go on and on, but, you get the picture. I could condemn them and hold it against them and allow myself to think ill of them, but I don't. My GOD will take care of them. I want to stay focused on the work Jesus has given me to do.
When we hold a grudge, ill will, and/or concentrate on faults of others, we burden our self down with stuff we can not control.
Turn it all over to our LORD and he will tend to his business.
Plus! The burden will be off you.
Ain't God good?
God Bless;
Walter D. Hill D. Min.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Gift of Angels

Read: Luke 1:26-45

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” (v. 30)

Mary was about to become an unwed pregnant teen, in danger of stoning, rejection, and separation from those she knew and loved. She was about to travel a hard 70 miles at full term. She was about to give birth under less-than-favorable circumstances and lay the child from God in an animal trough. Some might say, “If this is favor with God, I’m not sure I want it!”

But Mary gave her willing consent, and never seemed to waver. When the angel Gabriel told her to not be afraid, she listened, and Joseph trusted the angelic messengers that visited him as well. Ponder for a moment what might have happened if either had allowed their fears to overwhelm their trust of God.

We learn from the angel’s announcement that “favor with God” does not always equal good news for our own carefully constructed reality. The story God is telling is so much bigger than we can imagine. When he makes his advent, we often don’t know what to do with it, but we have a part to play in the big story too, and are told over and over in Scripture we don’t have to be afraid. The “mighty ones who do his bidding” are near (Ps. 103:20 NIV).

—Amy Clemens

The Best Christmas Gift Ever

"Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them..."  (Ps 127:4,5)

The best Christmas gift I ever got was both early and late. My first born child came into this world on December 16th, nine days before Christmas. He was supposed to be a Thanksgiving baby, however, so when my wife went into labor
3 weeks late he had to be delivered by an emergency Caesarean section. My first word when I saw him wasn't even a word but a sigh of relief, love, and joy. My early Christmas present had a red, splotchy face from being overdue but it was washed several times over the next few days with happy tears from me, my wife, and several grandparents.

My son was named Joseph John after me and "J.J." as he was called soon became the most cuddled and photographed child around. He was the first grandchild on both sides of the family and spent his first Christmas going from arms to loving arms as everyone wanted a chance to hold him. I looked forward to a blessed life watching my first born grow up to be a strong and smart man.

That dream, though, wasn't to turn out the way I thought it would. As my son entered his second year we realized that his language wasn't developing as it should. He only seemed interested in a few things and would jump up and down over and over to amuse himself. We finally got him tested but were given no answers. We were only told that he wasn't normal. It was raining that day as my wife and I drove home and finally we pulled the car over, held each other, and added our own tears to the storm.

With the end of that dream came the birth of another. We decided to find out exactly what was "different" about our son do all we could to help him become all he could be. Soon a local Doctor saw what the specialists hadn't. Our son had Autism. In that day very little was known about Autism or what could be done to treat it. My wife and I read every article and researched every treatment there was to help our son. We put our anger at God aside and asked instead for His love and guidance to help us with our boy. We enrolled J.J. in Special Education at school and worked with him everyday at home. We were blessed to get a loving, kind-hearted, and patient personal-aide for him at school and she became like a second mother to him. It was by her side during another Christmas season that my boy spoke his first sentence about the beautiful Christmas tree at the school.

As we continued to work with my son I noticed something else too; his loving spirit was also working on us. His smile was contagious, his cheer was infectious, and his innocent love was purifying. Over the years I became a better, kinder, more loving, and more spiritual person just by being around him. He taught me so much about love, so much about joy, and so much about embracing life. His language continued to improve and he became beloved by his teachers, fellow students, and especially by the school football and basketball teams where he worked as the equipment manager. His loving presence became a comfort to my days. His gentleness helped me to deal with money struggles and career problems. His sweetness helped me when his younger brother was born with an even more severe form of Autism and I gave up teaching to care for them both.

Now as the best Christmas gift I ever got approaches his 28th Christmas with me I have realized that he is the gift that keeps on giving. Like a ray of sunshine he brightens the day of everyone he meets. Like an earth angel he touches the souls of others with his gentle love. He shares his smile with everyone and calls everyone by name. He goes through his life making this Earth a little more like Heaven. He lives out God's dream for him which is a far better dream than mine ever was.

I wish all of you a Merry Christmas. May your Christmas and all of your days be full of the best gift there is, the gift my two special sons give me everyday-the gift of LOVE. God bless you always.

Joseph J. Mozzella

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Prayer to Put Jesus First This Christmas Season

By Debbie McDaniel
“And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7

No room for them. No vacancy. No place. Words that still seem to hang close, even today.

In a world that seeks to crowd Jesus out, where busyness abounds, and hearts are stirred to focus on other things, it can be hard sometimes to choose to keep Him first. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the whole hurried dash of the holidays, and to give our attention to what seems more urgent. Our focus gets blurred; and the most important gets pushed aside.

It takes an active and daily choice to put Christ first, especially in a culture that says you’re too busy to focus there. Or that life is too full. And there’s no more room.

May God help us to choose wisely, what voices we listen to, and where we give our attention today.
He is the One who brings true meaning to Christmas.
He is the One who brings real peace in this all-too-often hectic season.
He is the only One worthy of our time and attention as we slow down the maddening rush around our lives.
We can know all of this in our heads, but may He help us to really believe it in our hearts...and choose to live it out this season.
Making room for Him, first.

Dear God,
Help us to keep our focus first on Christ this season. Please forgive us for giving too much time and attention on other things. Help us to reflect again, on what Christmas is really all about. Thank you that you came to give new life, peace, hope, and joy. Thank you that your power is made perfect in our weakness. Help us to remember that the gift of Christ, Immanuel, is our greatest treasure, not just at Christmas, but for the whole year through. Fill us with your joy and the peace of your Spirit. Direct our hearts and minds towards you. Thank you for your reminder that both in seasons of celebration and in seasons of brokenness, you’re still with us. For you never leave us. Thank you for your daily powerful Presence in our lives, that we can be assured your heart is towards us, your eyes are over us, and your ears are open to our prayers. Thank you that you surround us with favor as with a shield, and we are safe in your care. We choose to press in close to you today...and keep you first in our hearts and lives.
In Jesus’ Name,
Find more by Debbie at, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Adoption into God's Family

"When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!'" Galatians 4:4-6 NASB

The giving of gifts at Christmas remains a dominant tradition. It is the norm for people young and old, rich and poor, in nations throughout the world. One recent poll revealed that the average shopper in America spends an average of $830 on Christmas gifts. But thirty percent plan to spend more than $1,000.

It often is assumed that the first Christmas gifts were the gold, frankincense, and myrrh the Magi gave to Jesus (Matthew 2:11). Yet, from another perspective, the fact is Jesus Himself was the first gift. He was God's gift to men and women everywhere.

Paul wrote that God sent Jesus "so that He might redeem those who were under the Law." He was talking about each one of us. We are lost in our sins, and separated from God. By ourselves, we could not be restored to a relationship with Him.

But God wanted us to be freed from sin and to live in harmony with Him. So He sent Jesus "that we might receive the adoption as sons." This season remember that God sent Jesus because He loves you, and wants a personal relationship with you. He wants you to be part of His family, to think of Him as your Father! It is His gift, and it is available to each of us.

What is your attitude toward God? Do you think of Him as a distant deity? Or do you think of Him as your Father! Celebrate His gift to you: You have been adopted into His family through Jesus Christ, the greatest gift of all.

Today's Inspiring Prayer

Father, thank You for sending Jesus. Thank You that I could be adopted into Your family. Thank you for being my Father. In His name. Amen.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Glory To God In The Highest

Isaiah 9:6a – For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given. (NKJV)

Some years ago, we were on a tour to Israel with a group of fellow believers and a pastor as the leader. Among many places that we visited, we did some extensive sightseeing in Bethlehem by bus as well as on foot. We visited the Church of the Nativity, the Grotto of the Nativity, St. Catherine's Church, and Manger Square, and we walked through the Old City. To be honest, I found it all very overwhelming. I felt that the importance of the place was overshadowed by the man-made places of worship, and some of the tourist attractions seemed to me to be of questionable origin or importance.

One day, we were having lunch just inside the city, and as there was some free time before we were to go to the next place of interest, my wife and I went for a walk down the street. Almost immediately, we were out of the town, and there was a sign that said, "Shepherds' Fields". There were some benches there, and we sat down to gaze at the rolling hills in front of us. My mind wandered back 2000 years to the time when Christ was born in that place.

I imagined the shepherds and their sheep in those very same hills, and the Scripture came to mind:

Luke 2:8 – Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. (NKJV)

After some quiet contemplation, we were called back to the bus to continue our sightseeing tour, but that sight of the shepherds' fields was on my mind all day. In the evening, I looked up the passage which describes it so well.

Luke 2:9-14 – And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" (NKJV)

Immediately the shepherds left their flocks and found and worshipped the Christ Child.

Luke 2:17 – Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. (NKJV)

Likewise, may we leave behind the glitter and commercialism of Christmas, and in our minds and hearts, visit the Christ Child as well, and then tell others about Him, each one of us in our own way.

Prayer: Our Father in heaven, we thank You for Your Son Jesus, Whose birth we celebrate each year. We thank You for the shepherds and for all others who have brought and continue to bring the good news about Jesus. In His name, we pray. Amen.

Joel Jongkind

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Will The Christ Child Come?

Halfway through December we were doing the regular evening things when there was a knock at the door. We opened it to find a small package with a beautiful ceramic lamb inside. We looked at the calendar and realized that the 12 days of Christmas were beginning!! We waiting excitedly for the next night's surprise and only then, with the gift of a matching shepherd, did we realized that the lamb was part of a nativity set.

Each night we grew more excited to see what piece we would receive. Each was exquisitely beautiful. The kids kept trying to catch the givers as we slowing built the scene at the manager and began to focus on Christ's birth.

On Christmas Eve, all the pieces were in place, but the baby Jesus. My 12 year-old son really wanted to catch our benefactors and began to devise all kinds of ways to trap them. He ate his dinner in the mini-van watching and waiting, but no one came.

Finally we called him in to go through our family's Christmas Eve traditions. But before the kids went to bed we checked the front step - No Baby Jesus! We began to worry that my son had scared them off. My husband suggested that maybe they dropped the Jesus and there wouldn't be anything coming. Somehow something was missing that Christmas Eve.

There was a feeling that things weren't complete. The kids went to bed and I put out Christmas, but before I went to bed I again checked to see if the Jesus had come-no, the doorstep was empty. In our family the kids can open their stockings when they want to, but they have to wait to open any presents until Dad wakes up. So one by one they woke up very early and I also woke up to watch them.

Even before they opened their stockings, each child checked to see if perhaps during the night the baby Jesus had come. Missing that piece of the set seemed to have an odd effect. At least it changed my focus. I knew there were presents under the tree for me and I was excited to watch the children open their gifts, but first on my mind was the feeling of waiting for the ceramic Christ Child.

We had opened just about all of the presents when one of the children found one more for me buried deep beneath the limbs of the tree. He handed me a small package from my former visiting teaching companion. This sister was somewhat less active in the church. I had learned over time they didn't have much for Christmas, so that their focus was the children. It sounded like she didn't get many gifts to open, so I had always given her a small package - new dish towels, the next year's lesson manual - not much, but something for her to open. I was touched when at Church on the day before Christmas, she had given me this small package, saying it was just a token of her love and appreciation.

As I took off the bow, I remembered my friendship with her and was filled with gratitude for knowing her and for her kindness and sacrifice in this year giving me a gift. But as the paper fell away, I began to tremble and cry. There in the small brown box was the baby Jesus. He had come!

I realized on that Christmas Day that Christ will come into our lives in ways that we don't expect. The spirit of Christ comes into our hearts as we serve one another. We had waited and watched for him to come, expecting the dramatic "knock at the door and scurrying of feet" but he came in a small, simple package that represented service, friendship, gratitude, and love.

This experience taught me that the beginning of the true spirit of Christmas comes as we open our hearts and actively focus on the Savior. But we will most likely find him in the small and simple acts of love, friendship and service that we give to each other. This Christmas I want to feel again the joy of knowing that Christ is in our home. I want to focus on loving and serving. More than that I want to open my heart to him all year that I may see him again.

Don't forget the reason for the Season.

By Gaye Willis
     "Will The Christ Child Come?"

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21 NIV).
I was coming home from my working place that day when I saw a place full of celebration. A brewery company is organizing a Christmas show. Beer and all sorts of alcoholic drinks were free for every one that attended the show. The place was full of young men and women and even some elderly ones that came to enjoy the show. There was no place for Christ - the reason for Christmas - in the show for it was organized to promote the products of the brewery company.
As I was passing by the place, I was thinking within me of all the funs that normally accompany the Christmas season. Why are we doing all these funs? Are they purposely for Jesus Christ? Have we not turned the season to a season to gratify our selfish desires? It is good that a period of the year is set aside to celebrate His birth. Do we really focus on Jesus Christ who is the reason for Christmas?
Do not celebrate this Christmas without Jesus Christ. He has come to save us. Paul said, "[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" (Titus 2:14 NIV). Have you been saved by Him? As you celebrate this Christmas, think of how you will lead others to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ so that they also will not be celebrating Christmas without Christ.
In His service,
Bayo Afolaranmi (Pastor).

Prayer Point: Jesus Christ, help me not to celebrate this Christmas without You.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Worried Shepherds

"In the same region there were some shepherds ... an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them ... When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, 'Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.'" Luke 2:8-15 NASB

Who were these men to whom the angels announced the birth of Jesus? Not powerful politicians or religious scholars but simple shepherds. Real men living real lives. Men with a range of personalities. Some strong and confident.

Others timid.

At the moment they encountered the angels, we can imagine how some might have been filled with worry. After all, their world was an unstable place. Roman soldiers were everywhere, and in many ways these were oppressed people.

How dark the night could have seemed. How easily they could have felt discouraged and hopeless. They had every reason to doubt. Even the faith inherited from their fathers might have failed them.

They might have felt that God had forgotten them.

Then, suddenly, the angel appeared out of the night. In that moment, they experienced a jolt of resolve and were determined to believe the message and seek the child. But the message might have seemed too good to be true. They may have paused to consider who would believe their story.

Leaving their duty keeping flocks to see a baby? What would others say? Would they say if they stumbled into soldiers, or could not find the baby? What would happen if any sheep were lost? If they could not find the baby?

We can see how some might have wanted to stay behind. But only in going did their lives change. Today, how will you respond to the message of the angels? The call of God? Stay behind? Give in to skepticism and doubt? Or risk everything to follow God? To worship and serve the King?

Today's Inspiring Prayer

Father, I commit these issues to You: ___________. I cast my cares on You. Thank You for loving me. I trust in You. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Do Not Harden Your Heart

So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:19)
Even though the people of Israel saw the waters of the Red Sea divide and they walked over on dry ground, the moment they got thirsty, their hearts were hard against God and they did not trust him to take care of them. They cried out against him and said that life in Egypt was better.
That is what this verse is written to prevent. Oh, how many professing Christians make a start with God. They hear that their sins can be forgiven and that they can escape hell and go to heaven. And they say: “What have I got to lose? I’ll believe.”
But then in a week or a month or a year or ten years, the test comes — a season of no water in the wilderness. A weariness with manna, and subtly a growing craving for the fleeting pleasures of Egypt, as Numbers 11:5–6 says, “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”
This is a terrifying condition to be in — to find yourself no longer interested in Christ and his word and prayer and worship and missions and living for the glory of God. And to find all the fleeting pleasures of this world more attractive than the things of the Spirit.
If that is your situation, I plead with you to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking in this text. Give heed to the word of God. Do not harden your heart. Wake up to the deceitfulness of sin. Consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our great confession, and hold fast to your confidence and hope in him.
And if you have never even made a start with God, then put your hope in him. Turn from sin and from self-reliance and put your confidence in a great Savior. These things are written that you might believe and endure, and have life.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

How Satan Serves God

You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord. (James 5:11)
Behind all disease and disability is the ultimate will of God. Not that Satan is not involved — he is probably always involved in one way or another with destructive purposes (Acts 10:38). But his power is not decisive. He cannot act without God’s permission.
That is one of the points of Job’s sickness. The text makes it plain that when disease came upon Job, “Satan . . . struck Job with loathsome sores” (Job 2:7). His wife urged him to curse God. But Job said, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). And again the author of the book commends Job by saying, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”
In other words: This is a right view of God’s sovereignty over Satan. Satan is real and may have a hand in our calamities, but not the final hand, and not the decisive hand.
James makes clear that God had a good purpose in all Job’s afflictions: “You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11).
So Satan may have been involved, but the ultimate purpose was God’s, and it was “compassionate and merciful.”
This is the same lesson we learn from 2 Corinthians 12:7, where Paul says that his thorn in the flesh was a messenger of Satan and yet was given for the purpose of his own holiness: “To keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me” — to keep me from becoming conceited!
Now, humility is not Satan’s purpose in this affliction. Therefore, the purpose is God’s. Which means that here Satan is being used by God to accomplish his good purposes in Paul’s life.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

How to Help Our Kids Love God’s Word

 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.“ Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NKJV)
She was late.
We had agreed to meet at 6:30 and it was almost 7 when I finally saw my teenage daughter strolling through the mall toward where I sat, waiting. Now I’d be late to my board meeting.
In my frustration, I did what many of us parents have done -- I reacted and jumped to a wrong conclusion.
When we got home, the truth came out that her watch was broken. She thought she had indeed arrived on time. Gulp.
I penitently made my way to her bedroom where I heard her sniffling and knocked.
“May I come in?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Honey, I am sorry,” I began. “I blew it. I didn’t even ask you. Can you ever forgive me?”
She looked up at me through her tears and said, “Sure Dad, everyone makes mistakes.” We held each other for a few minutes, and I went on to my meeting.
My children are grown now. All four of our children are married and have families of their own, but I have to admit there were some days I wasn’t sure we would get here. Donna and I made some mistakes along the way. My children know all my faults. But I learned one of the best things I could do was be honest with my kids and apologize for my mistakes.
Our biggest failures as parents can become the greatest opportunities to illustrate genuine faith to our kids. When we admit our wrongs and allow our kids to see our humanity, to see how we mess up just like anyone else, it catches their attention. It allows us to set a biblical example of humility, love and forgiveness for them to follow.
My own dad taught me how to admit my mistakes, ask for forgiveness and have the humility to reveal my human weaknesses to my kids. His willingness to admit his wrongs impressed me when I was young. I realized he had faults just like me. And he let me see him seeking God and praying through those weaknesses. It impacted me for life.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 offers a roadmap for how we are to live out our faith in front of our children. What we believe must make its way into our daily attitudes, conversations and routines.
The old adage is true about parenting: More is caught than taught.
We can teach our kids what the Bible says, but if we want them to live according to its truth, we need to live it. If we want our kids to have a growing faith and love God’s Word, we need to demonstrate its importance in our lives. A “Do as I say, not as I do” approach to parenting will fall flat.
We can’t fake it as parents. If we don’t model a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ, there is little chance our children will grow up to possess what we lack. Even if we didn’t get it right when our kids were young, we can start now. How?
Begin by seeking the Lord today. Read His Word daily. Connect with your church. Make God’s Word a necessary part of your daily life and watch Him renew a hunger and thirst for Him today. Allow your kids to be a part of that process. Allow them to see the importance and joy of God’s Word in your life. By the grace of God, may they learn to lean on God and develop a growing love for Him and His Word.
Lord, help me embrace Your Word. But most of all, help me to live it. Help me be the kind of parent who will inspire my children to please You, because that’s what they see being lived out in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 24:3-4 “Through wisdom a house is built, And by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled With all precious and pleasant riches.” (NKJV)

Friday, December 16, 2016

Is it Ever Okay to Cut a Person Out of Your Life?

by Laura Polk
We’ve all been there. We come to a crossroads with someone in our lives and realize that we can’t move forward with them for some reason. We worry. We fret. We feel tremendous guilt. And quite frankly, we wonder if it goes against our faith to simply remove them from our lives. Is it ever okay to cut a person out of your life? In short, yes. But, before you take a knife to the chopping block, there are things to consider:

Am I taking it too far?
Disagreeing with someone in your life is not the same as being harmed by them. There are a great many ways for differing opinions to divide people. But we must remember that someone disagreeing with our opinion is not the same as someone being against us. As believers, we should be able to have disagreements while still understanding (and respecting) the other person’s viewpoint. You never know the faith-value you may add to a difficult person’s life, and should consider whether or not God has placed you in their lives for a reason, or them in yours.

Have they proven themselves untrustworthy?
Relationships are built on trust. For some, this is a hard concept to grasp and they will continually allow an untrustworthy person to remain in their lives for fear that they are being unfair. But, once you determine that someone in your life cannot be trusted, is it really to your advantage to keep them close? If someone has taken actions that prove themselves untrustworthy, believe them. People will show you who they are. Remove them before the harm becomes irreparable. 

Am I being manipulated?
People, who are in your life with only themselves in mind, truly don’t want to be in it for the right reason. Don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of. Relationships are a give and take. And while I truly believe that people are placed in our lives for specific reasons, it doesn’t mean that we have to allow them access to us if they clearly don’t have our best interests at heart. If you are always giving because there’s nothing left to take, you are being taken advantage of. It’s time to break away.

Am I in harm’s way?
This should go without saying. But, the same guilt that holds you in a disrespectful relationship with someone holds others in abusive relationships. It is extremely hard to remove someone from our lives, especially if we care deeply for them. But, if there is abuse of any kind: physical, mental, or emotional, you have every right to remove yourself from that situation by removing that person from your life. We are called to live in peace with others and to forgive—yes—but we are not called to live in harm. The truth is that even other believers can harm us in this way, and we are called to remove them (1 Corinthians 5:13). If someone’s behavior is harming you and their actions indicate that this will continue, cut them out. 
We are allowed (and smart) to place boundaries around ourselves that protect our well-being. If we don’t—let’s face it—no one else will. Showing love and respect to others does not mean forgoing loving and respecting ourselves. God wants us to live in freedom so that we can positively impact the lives of others for Him. Make yourself as effective in that role as you can be, by freeing your life from people that would hold you back from doing so. 

Laura Polk is a writer, speaker, and textile designer residing in North Carolina with her three children. Since becoming a single mom, her passion to minister to this group has led her to encourage successful single mom living through The Christian Single Mom on Facebook. Read her latest novel Confessions of a Crispy Mom, follow her journey through her blog or get a glimpse into her quirky thoughts and inspirations for design and writing on Pinterest.

Thursday, December 15, 2016


by C. R. Stam

As true Americans celebrate their liberty, true Christians should rejoice in the even greater liberty which they have in Christ.

Our Lord said: "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" and "If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:32,36). Likewise St. Paul declares that believers in Christ have been made "free from sin" and have become "servants to God," who deals with us in grace (Rom. 6:22).

It is strange that so many sincere religious people actually wish to be in bondage to the Mosaic Law, which can only judge and condemn them for their sins. Peter called the law: "a yoke... which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear" (Acts 15:10). Paul called it "the handwriting of decrees, that was against us, which was contrary to us" (Col. 2:14). He called it "the ministration of death" and "the ministration of condemnation" (II Cor. 3:7,9).

He challenged those who "desired" to be under the law:

"Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?" (Gal. 4:21).

"For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written. Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them" (Gal. 3:10).

Thank God, "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13). Man always responds better to grace than to law. The law was "added because of transgressions" (Gal. 3:19). "By the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3:20). But Christ died for our sins and now true believers serve God from gratitude and love. Hence Rom. 6:14 says: "Sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law but under grace." Since Christ has redeemed us from the law (Gal. 4:5) God says to every true believer:

"Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Gal. 5:1).

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Be Not Ignorant

By Charles Wages
The apostle Paul uses the expression "I would not have you ignorant" six times in addressing four cities—Rome, Corinth, Colosse, and Thessalonica.

The word "ignorant" simply means "without knowledge" and doesn't necessarily mean that a person is unlearned or retarded in normal knowledge. It does mean, though, that we all stand in need of instruction from God's word, and it is not God's will for us to be without knowledge.

In 2 Corinthians 1:8, Paul states, "For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure above strength insomuch that we despaired even of life." In reading and studying 2 Corinthians 1:8-10, we find that death and resurrection stand out clearly. We are told that we have "the sentence of death in ourselves" that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead.

This "sentence of death" was the direct result of sin. Romans 5:12 states: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Certainly, we should know that this sentence of judgment is beyond our control, therefore we should "not trust in ourselves" to save our own selves or to keep ourselves saved.

God would have everyone know that He has delivered His creation from the "sentence of death" through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He lets us know that there is a continuous deliverance from this death. In 2 Corinthians 1:10, we are instructed that deliverance is threefold: past, present, and future. It is stated that "God delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver."

It would be wonderful if everyone was fully aware of the fact that they are sinners by nature and that they are "dead" in trespasses and sins, but that through Christ's death on the cross of Calvary they could be delivered from this death into a newness of life.

We must continue to give forth God's Word that men will "not be ignorant" of their lost condition and then inform them how they may be saved.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:13, the apostle introduces the great truth about the Lord's coming for His Church, by saying, "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren."

Again the fact of death and resurrection stands out clearly. This great theme is given that we should "sorrow not as others who have no hope" and that we should "comfort one another with these words."

The majority of people in the world, even the religious world, are ignorant of our Lord's appearing to gather His own unto Himself. No wonder there is so much sorrow—no wonder there is so little comfort. If people would only know and believe that "the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord."

The widespread ignorance of believing people concerning the "blessed hope" of the Church is causing despair and a sense of "giving up." Many of God's saints are "without knowledge" when it comes to His plans for His Church and for their individual lives. I am sure we are all ignorant of many things, but God is willing to reveal the wonders of His Word to us as we are willing to yield to Him and learn.

Dear God of faithfulness, how delightful to realize that my persistence of faith in You hinges on Your faithfulness toward me. I see that I can continue to depend upon You, because you are fully faithful to me. What expectation this gives me as I consider Your great promises! You will be faithful to fulfill every one of them, as I place my trust in You!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Why Jesus Came

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Hebrews 2:14–15)
Hebrews 2:14–15 is worth more than two minutes in an Advent devotional. These verses connect the beginning and the end of Jesus’s earthly life. They make clear why he came. They would be great to use with an unbelieving friend or family member to take them step by step through your Christian view of Christmas. It might go something like this:
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood . . . ”
The term “children” is taken from the previous verse and refers to the spiritual offspring of Christ, the Messiah (see Isaiah 8:18; 53:10). These are also the “children of God” (John 1:12). In other words, in sending Christ, God has the salvation of his “children” specially in view. It is true that “God so loved the world, that he gave [Jesus]” (John 3:16). But it is also true that God was especially gathering “the children of God who are scattered abroad” (John 11:52). God’s design was to offer Christ to the world, and to effect the salvation of his “children” (see 1 Timothy 4:10). You may experience adoption by receiving Christ (John 1:12).
“ . . . he himself likewise partook of the same things [flesh and blood] . . . ”
Christ existed before the incarnation. He was spirit. He was the eternal Word. He was with God and was God (John 1:1; Colossians 2:9). But he took on flesh and blood and clothed his deity with humanity. He became fully man and remained fully God. It is a great mystery in many ways. But it is at the heart of our faith — and what the Bible teaches.
“ . . . that through death . . . ”
The reason he became man was to die. As God, he could not die for sinners. But as man he could. His aim was to die. Therefore he had to be born human. He was born to die. Good Friday is the reason for Christmas. This is what needs to be said today about the meaning of Christmas.
“ . . . he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil . . . ”
In dying, Christ de-fanged the devil. How? By covering all our sin. This means that Satan has no legitimate grounds to accuse us before God. “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies” (Romans 8:33) — on what grounds does he justify? Through the blood of Jesus (Romans 5:9).
Satan’s ultimate weapon against us is our own sin. If the death of Jesus takes it away, the chief weapon of the devil is taken out of his hand. He cannot make a case for our death penalty, because the Judge has acquitted us by the death of his Son!
“ . . . and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
So, we are free from the fear of death. God has justified us. Satan cannot overturn that decree. And God means for our ultimate safety to have an immediate effect on our lives. He means for the happy ending to take away the slavery and fear of the Now.
If we do not need to fear our last and greatest enemy, death, then we do not need to fear anything. We can be free. Free for joy. Free for others.
What a great Christmas present from God to us! And from us to the world!
From “Born to Die for Freedom”