Turnpike Wesleyan Reflections

October 2013 Newsletter

posted Sep 28, 2013, 6:52 AM by Chruch Staff

A minister, a boy scout, and a scientist were the only passengers on a small plane. The pilot came back to the cabin and explained that the plane was going down but there were only three parachutes and four people. The pilot then added, “I should have one of the parachutes because I have a wife and three small children.” So he grabbed a parachute and jumped. The scientist jumped up almost immediately and said, “I should have one of the parachutes because I am the smartest man in the world and everyone needs me.” So he took one and jumped. The minister turned to the Boy Scout and with a sad smile said, “You are young and I have lived a rich life, so you take the remaining parachute, and I’ll go down with the plane.” Then the Boy Scout said, “Relax, Reverend, the smartest man in the world just picked up my backpack and jumped out!”

One man’s boast can be another man’s salvation. If any man had room for boasting, the apostle Paul certainly did. He could have boasted for any number of reasons. In Philippians 3:4 he states, “If anyone else thinks he has reason to boast, I have more.” He was circumcised on the eighth day. He was born into the right family, the tribe of Benjamin. He was very faithful to his religion; he was as religious as they come. He kept all of the rules. But he counted all of that as worthless. The Apostle’s boast wasn’t in his achievements or his accomplishments – it wasn’t in anything but Christ.

In Romans chapter one, Paul calls himself a “debtor” both to God and to God’s people. His message is as simple as this: “People all around us need the Lord Jesus Christ and we have the God News to share.”

Suppose the governor of this state were to hand you a pardon for a man on death row. And it was up to you to deliver that pardon. Suppose the Governor said, “I’m giving you the honor to take this pardon to the warden and to see that this man is set free.” So you put that pardon in your pocket and with good intentions you are going to deliver that pardon. But in the meanwhile you had some shopping to do, and then it dawned on you that the lawn needed mowing, then you get an invitation to go golfing with some friends, and in the meanwhile you book a family vacation. After all is said and done, you then pick up the newspaper and read where a man has been put to death – the very man you had the pardon in your pocket to free.

How would you feel? I tell you there are souls all around us that are about to be plunged into Christ-less eternity and you and I have the message or the pardon to deliver. This is why Paul considered himself a debtor to those around him.

Newsletter - Summer Edition 2013

posted Jun 25, 2013, 7:03 AM by Chruch Staff   [ updated Jun 25, 2013, 8:07 AM ]

There is an old story about a man by the name of John Griffith, who lived in Oklahoma in 1929. He had lost all he had in the stock market crash. He moved to Mississippi where he took a job as bridge operator for a railroad trestle.

In 1937 he was involved in a horrible accident. On one occasion his 8 year-old son, Greg, spent the day with his dad at work. The boy poked around the office and asked dozens of questions - just like little boys do. The bridge was over a river and whenever a ship came, John had to open the bridge to allow the ships to pass.

The day the boy was there with his father a ship was coming, so John opened up the draw bridge. After a moment or two he realized his son wasn’t in the office and as he looked around, to his horror, John saw his son climbing around on the gears of the draw bridge. He hurried outside to rescue his son but just then he heard a fast approaching passenger train, the Memphis Express, filled with 400 people. He yelled to his son, but the noise of the now clearing ship and the oncoming train made it impossible for the boy to hear him.

All of a sudden John Griffith realized his horrible dilemma. If he took the time to rescue his son the train would crash killing all aboard, but if he closed the bridge, the boy would be crushed in the gears.

John ended up sacrificing his son. He made the horrible decision, pulled the lever and closed the bridge. It is said, as the train went by John could see the faces of the passengers, some reading, some even waving, all of them oblivious to the sacrifice that had just been made for them.

I just shared with you the story of John Griffith and the bridge. Did you know that God once faced a similar dilemma. He could not save sinners and spare Jesus as well. How could He be just and justifier at the same time? God had to allow the jaws of death to close in on either us or on his son. I am so thankful that He allowed Jesus to give up His life for us.

However, millions every day go by oblivious and indifferent of this sacrifice. There also is one tremendous difference between the two fathers. Unlike the Memphis Express that caught John Griffith by surprise, sending Jesus was not a panic move. It wasn’t a spontaneous decision. It was planned. Paul said in Gal 4:4 … “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son.”

Jesus’ death was not the result of jealous Jews or hard-hearted Romans. It was the result of a loving God who saw there was no other way to save man. We all know what John 3:16 says, but do we also know what 1 John 3:16 says? 1 John 3:16 … “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” Matt Redman put it well in the song entitled, “This is how we know.”

This is how we know
This is how we know what love is
Just one look at Your cross
And this is where we see
This is where we see how love works
For You surrendered Your all

And this is how we know
That You have loved us first
This is where we chose
To love You in return

For You so loved the world
That You gave Your only Son
Love amazing, so divine
We will love You in return
For this life that You give
For this death that You have died
Love amazing, so divine
We will love You in reply, Lord

June 2013 Newsletter

posted May 22, 2013, 11:11 AM by Chruch Staff

Life is full of choices. We choose our cars, our homes, our jobs, our classes. We choose to be good employees or poor employees. We choose to be good parents or bad parents. We choose to pay our bills or to allow the collector to come for them. Life is made up of choices. 

You may not be fully aware of it, but we also choose the attitudes that dictate our lives. Our attitudes are not so much based upon our circumstances as they are our choice to either be positive or negative in those circumstances. God chooses what we go through. We choose how we go through it.

I came across the following story that you might find interesting. There was a man whose name was Edwin Thomas, a master of the stage. During the latter half of the 1800’s, this small man with a huge voice had few rivals. Debuting in Richard III at the age of fifteen, he found unrivaled success with his abilities to act out the great dramas of Shakespeare.

In New York City, for one hundred consecutive nights he performed Hamlet and even in London where the tough British critics lived he won favor in their hearts with his acting skills.

When it came to difficulties in life, Edwin Thomas was quite acquainted with those also. Edwin Thomas was not alone for he had two brothers, John and Junius. They too, were actors, although they were not nearly as gifted as was Edwin.

In 1863, the three brothers performed together in Julius Caesar. The fact that Edwin’s brother took the role of Brutus was almost an eerie foreboding of what was to occur in just two years.

One little decision would not only affect the brothers but an entire nation. This same John who played the assassin in Julius Caesar is the same John who would play the role of assassin in Ford’s Theatre. On a dark April night in 1865 with the Civil War pulling at the heart and soldiers of a divided nation, John walked into the theater and fired a bullet at the head of Abraham Lincoln. You see, the last name of the brothers was Booth—Edwin Thomas Booth and John Wilkes Booth.

That night would mark Edwin forever. He would never be the same again. The shame from his brother’s crime drove him into retirement. He might have never returned to the stage had it not been for a twist of fate at a New Jersey train station. Edwin was awaiting his coach when a well-dressed young man, pressed by the crowd, lost his footing and fell between the platform and the moving train. Without hesitation, Edwin locked a leg around the railing, grabbed the man, and pulled him to safety. After the sighs of relief, the young man recognized the famous Edwin Booth. Edwin, however, did not recognize the young man whom he had rescued. That knowledge would come to him a few weeks later in a letter, a letter that he would carry in his pocket to his grave. It was a letter from the chief secretary to General Ulysses S. Grant. It was a letter thanking Edwin Booth for saving the life of the child of an American hero, Abraham Lincoln. How ironic that while one brother killed the president, the other brother saved the president’s son. The boy that was yanked to safety was none other than Robert Todd Lincoln.

When Paul commands Timothy to fight the good fight of faith, sometimes we have this rather romantic picture of Christians slaying demons and overcoming the forces of evil. But the major point Paul is making is the fact that the real battle we engage in involve the decisions and the attitudes we make each and every day that reveal just how much or how little our relationship with Jesus means to us.

May 2013 Newsletter

posted Apr 26, 2013, 5:31 AM by Chruch Staff

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” II Timothy 1:7

So, what are you afraid of? What is it that sends Goosebumps up and down your spine, brings your heart to your throat and pretty much paralyses you? Snakes, heights, spiders, enclosed spaces? Most of these things have been explored at some point or another on “Fear Factor.” Have you seen the show? It defies reason as far as I am concerned.

The show begins with six contestants, three male and three female. Since the show began several years ago the contestants have jumped between moving trucks, have leaped out of twelve story buildings, bobbed for plums in a tub of snakes and been buried in 300,000 worms. Add to that they've eaten eyes, brains, bugs and body parts we don’t discuss in polite company. When Franklin D. Roosevelt said; “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” he obviously hadn't watched this show.

The Bible talks about fear, in fact, the word fear is mentioned 266 times and the word afraid is mentioned 223 times. The first time fear is mentioned is in Genesis 3:10 and the last time it’s seen is in Revelation 19:5.

In the New Testament there are actually seven different Greek words that are translated as fear in the English language.

In case you hadn't noticed, English is a rather lazy language. We’ll take one word and make it mean a dozen different things. My favorite word like that is “Fast.” An apparently simple word, but how many meanings can the word fast have? Well, if you were to make a boat fast it could either mean that you make it quicker or you tie it up. If you said a person was fast it could mean they were quick or that they had loose morals. If you said a color was fast it would mean that it wouldn't run as opposed to saying that you are fast meaning you do run, except if you were fast asleep - then you wouldn't be moving at all. Fast can also mean to go without food, it can mean that your watch has gained time, or that a film is designed for a short exposure time. Enough of that. Let me suggest three most common Greek words for fear.

The first word is “Phobeo” and it means to be in awe of, or to revere or respect something. This is a natural fear. In the Bible it refers to the fear of God or fear of death. This is the type of fear that keeps us from doing silly things, like putting our head in a Plexiglas box full of tarantulas.

The second word is very closely related to the first one and it is “Phobos” and it means exceedingly afraid or terrified. It’s where we get our word “Phobia.” It is natural fear taken to the extreme. If the first type of fear keeps us living, the second type keeps us from living.

The third type of fear is actually the word that Paul uses in his letter to Timothy, and that word is “Deilia” which means, timid or fearful - it actually comes from the Greek word “Deilos” which means faithless. And the context of this word is that of being afraid to do things, or for that matter, even to try things, because you fear failure. This is the fear that makes us live mediocre, ordinary lives, never taking chances, never trying to change anything … we are content to simply drift along.

In light of our fears (whatever they might be) Paul tells us that God can help us to counter-act fear with 1) Supernatural Power: Fear says, “I can’t!” The power over fear quotes Philippians 4:13: “For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.” 2) Supernatural Love: I Corinthians 13 and 3) Supernatural Discipline: motivational speaker, Napoleon Hill, said; “Self-disciplined begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you don’t control what you think, you can’t control what you do” (Romans 12:1-2). Do not be overcome by fear - claim what God has given you … power, love and a sound-mind.

April 2013 Newsletter

posted Apr 10, 2013, 7:07 AM by Chruch Staff

Let me encourage you to read James 2:1-13 for it teaches us the proper attitude we ought to have for one another. 

Verse one says: “My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” The word translated “favoritism” comes from two words - “to receive” and “face.” “To receive by face” is to evaluate a person on the basis of surface characteristics. James warns, “Don’t just look at a person’s face, or outward appearance. Don’t be biased in your judgment by clothing, wealth, or position!”

The reason is simple: such favoritism obviously runs counter to the character of Christ. Though He was “glorious,” He humbled Himself to identify with the poor and the oppressed. His mission was announced at the beginning of His ministry: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed” (Luke 4:18).

Prejudice based on physical appearance, social status or race is inconsistent with faith in the One who came to break down the barriers of nationality, race, sexism and religion.

James goes on to say in verses 2-4 … “For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, ‘You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor’ - well, doesn't this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?”

Here James offers a graphic illustration of the problem. Two men come into a Christian gathering (“meeting” is literally synagogue). One is lavishly attired in elegant clothes and fine jewelry. The other is poorly clad in “shabby clothes.” The contrast in the clothing spotlights the fact that they were using the inaccurate measure of outward appearance to determine personal worth in this assembly.

The usher quickly assessed the situation and the rich man was offered a choice seat. The poor man is rudely told, “Stand there,” or as Phillips’ paraphrases, “if you must sit, sit on the floor.” This means that the poor man is not only treated as inferior to the rich man, but even inferior to the Christians gathered there.

The symbol for Justice is always a blindfolded lady holding scales in her hand. Unable to see anyone because of the blindfold she is able to serve the cause of justice impartially. God does not allow Lady Justice to peek. He is no respecter of persons. With Him there is no partiality. He expects us to make equitable judgments also or we are guilty of injustice.

The attitude James opposed was plainly contrary to the Word of God. Leviticus 19:15 says, “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” Partiality or prejudice violates the spirit of the gospel. James says they had judged “with evil thoughts” or motives.

James Boice speaks to all Christians when he says; “In the perspective of Christ we are all poor; we are all underprivileged; we are all nobodies who only by his grace have become somebody in responding to the gospel. We of all people ought to go to those who have no stature in this world’s eyes so that as the gospel is preached and they respond to it they might find stature before God.”

Throughout Scripture God takes the side of the poor, the underprivileged and the oppressed. Deuteronomy 10:17-19 expresses this so well: “The Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.”

God wasn't forced to settle for the poor; He deliberately chose them. They are special objects of His love. Jesus Christ was rich, but the Lord of Glory became poor for our sake. He came down to earth and took our alien nature, our sin and our curse upon Himself. He extended the grace of God by choosing us.

Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me, and that Thou bid’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come. I come!

Just as I am, and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot, to Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come! I come. That is the basis on which Christ received you.

March 2013 Newsletter

posted Apr 10, 2013, 7:03 AM by Chruch Staff

The Scripture tells us that Jesus reacted emotionally many times from different scenes that He saw. When He saw the poor. When He saw the hungry. When He saw people sinning. When He saw the ill. The Scriptures say repeatedly that “He had compassion on them.” 

But it only tells us of two times that Jesus cried. One time He cried at the grave of Lazarus. You remember, Mary & Martha were both weeping and it says that Jesus wept with them. He wept for them. He entered into their grief with compassion and He identified with their sorrow & despair.

In Luke 19:22-44 we find the 2nd occasion. He looked at the city of Jerusalem. He saw the mixture of faces and the masses of humanity gathered there and He realized the emptiness of their lives. They had not received the message of peace. They did not understand the purpose of His coming. They had eyes, but they didn't see. They had ears, but they didn't hear. They missed the whole point of the message that God had given to them.

The fact they waved palm branches showed that they didn't understand. By waving palm branches they were showing that they expected Jesus to be another warlord - another general of the armies - one who would lead them to overthrow the Romans.

They were saying that they were ready to pick up their swords and shields and go to war if He would lead them! One interpretation of Hosanna means “Save us now!”

Jesus said, “I didn't come for that purpose. I came to show you a more excellent way. I came to show you the way of love.” He had said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. If someone smites you on the cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone wants your coat, give him your shirt as well. If they command you to carry their pack a mile, go two” (Matthew 5:39-42).

Those people who listened to Him must have thought, “Well, those are beautiful words, but surely He doesn't mean Rome? He doesn't expect us to love Rome? Only a lunatic would command you to love Rome. We can’t love Rome!” But that was exactly what He was saying? “Love even Rome - because Rome with her mighty army has seen the power of the sword. But Rome has not seen the power of love. Show them love!”

The nation of Israel had the opportunity to show Rome something new and different. But because they didn't understand Jesus - because they completely misunderstood His mission - Jesus wept. These were God’s people - God’s chosen people. God had loved them and led them across the wilderness and into the Promised Land. But they did not understand the Messiah when He walked in their midst. Because of that, Jesus wept. All because they didn't recognize the Messiah when He came!

How different their lives could have been. How different the history of Israel could have been if they had only recognized the one who came into their midst, riding on a colt. It is Matthew who adds that as Jesus looked at the city He said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem. How often would I have gathered you together as a hen gathers her chicks beneath her wings. But you would not come.”

Here we are, much like those in the city of Jerusalem, finding ourselves in the presence of Jesus. I wonder what He finds when He looks into our faces? Does He see people concerned about so many things - worried about income taxes - worried about job security - worried about their health or lack of it? Does He see people who are so busy doing things here and there - so busy that they never bother to consider those things that are eternally important? Or does he see people who recognize Him for who He is? The Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God?

When He turns and looks into our lives, I wonder, will He weep once again because of what He sees? Or will we have the joy that passes all understanding as we respond to His outstretched arms.

February 2013 Newsletter

posted Jan 28, 2013, 8:02 AM by Chruch Staff

If asked, Pastor, of all the topics you have preached on, which has been the hardest to get across?” Without much hesitation, I would have to say, “Becoming totally devoted to Christ.” 

I recall a newspaper editor who had just been informed that a storm had knocked down a high voltage wire across the street - right in the middle of the town’s business district. The editor assigned two reporters to cover the story. He sent them out saying, “No one knows whether the wire is alive or not, so I need your cooperation. One of you needs to grab the wire while the other writes the story!”

Maybe you heard about the chicken and the pig strolling down the street and coming across a restaurant sign that read: “Bacon & Eggs Breakfast Only $2.99.” The chicken puffed out her feathers and said, “Look, we are making a contribution to society.” The pig exclaimed, “For you it is a contribution … for me it is a total sacrifice!”

I believe the message of Acts 20:19-24 involves this thing of total sacrifice. The Apostle Paul is saying (and I am paraphrasing) “As far as devotion to Jesus Christ is concerned, I will risk grabbing the live wire.” Paul is content in nothing less than being a “Living Sacrifice” for Jesus Christ. He no longer counts his life as dear unto himself - and he is willing to abandon personal aspirations if need be.

Yet, when it comes to presenting this kind of radical discipleship to our culture (even to church-goers), great opposition arises. People think you are speaking a foreign language. When you venture upon a message of complete surrender, you are walking where angels fear to tread.

But today I am going to risk grabbing the live wire and some of you may just want to stick around to write the story! Let me ask, “What is total surrender?”

Luke tells us in Luke 10:27 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” Have we offered ourselves in such a way that we can live in the constant awareness of His presence? If we have placed our confidence in our keen intellect or robust health, if we have put our trust in our stocks & bonds or savings account … we will one day stand before God’s throne and be found wanting!

Our confidence and our trust must be in God alone … if we confess that our strength and our ability are inadequate but that God’s strength and His ability will never fail, then we have discovered the way of commitment.

I know that it is hard to hear verses like: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God” or “Always abound in the work of the Lord” or “Set your minds on things above” or “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his soul?” Thus, today I encourage you to embrace Christ with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. I challenge you not to hold anything back. And let me add - I have never met anyone who regretted his or her decision to become a totally, sold-out Christian. Yet, I could fill a stadium with those who shipwrecked their lives because they refused to respond to God’s call. Who or what satisfies your soul today?

There was a man who never was satisfied, he always wanted more. He wanted more money so he made investments that had a billion dollar return; he wanted more fame so he broke into Hollywood and became a filmmaker and a star; he wanted more sensual pleasure so he paid handsome fees to indulge his every sexual urge; he wanted more thrills so he designed, built, and piloted the fastest aircraft in the world; he wanted more power so he secretly dealt political favors so cleverly that two US Presidents became his pawns. All he ever wanted was more!

But as Paul Harvey would say, “Here’s the rest of the story” … in this man’s concluding years he was emaciated, colorless, sunken chest, paranoid, fingernails grotesque and looking like long corkscrews, rotten and black teeth, tumors, innumerable needle marks from drug addiction. Yes, Howard Hughes died believing the myth of more.

Today’s call is to radical commitment to Jesus Christ and even though it’s a tough challenge, such a commitment brings total and complete satisfaction. It leads to life in all its fullness.

January 2013 Newsletter

posted Dec 28, 2012, 8:17 AM by Chruch Staff

Have you ever felt like you were up against overwhelming situations? It could be the first day of school (or having to return to school following Christmas break). Or it could be that your month outlasts your money. Perhaps it is job frustration. 

Well, whatever the situation might be, today’s challenge is for us to put complete trust and confidence in a God Who is bigger than our problems and mightier than our enemies.

In John 6:1-13 (the feeding of the 5,000) we discover the fourth miracle the Apostle John records (John only records seven of Jesus’ miracles). And it appears that John is more interested in the people associated with this miracle than the miracle itself.

And that is the way it should be. Jesus did not do miracles just for the sake of being a miracle-worker. He did miracles so that lives could be forever changed and so that God’s glory may abound!

As we look at this miracle, I want you to know that it challenges “Task Oriented” people. This story is about people & compassion - not about programs or agendas.

Jesus first approaches Philip. With 12 disciples close at hand and His inner circle (Peter, James & John) standing right there in His midst, why did Jesus select Philip?

First of all, because Philip was from that area. If anyone knew where to purchase food and how to go about it, it would be Philip. Secondly, Philip was a very practical man who often displayed a business approach to things.

Jesus asked Philip as a means to test his faith. “Philip, are you going to depend on God’s resources or on your own?” Philip failed. He looks over the situation and responds by saying, “Lord, this situation is hopeless! Nothing can be done about this problem.”

People, while it is a good thing to be realistic about any situation, Philip’s approach is not a good one because it fails to draw on God’s resources. It fails to see the big picture … “With God, all things are possible.”

As we face our problems, no matter what they may be, the best way to insure that there will be no improvements, no resolutions, is for us to sit back like Philip and complain that it’s hopeless - that nothing can be done.

Next we discover Andrew, who approaches Jesus. Apparently Andrew overheard Jesus’ conversation with Philip and decides to do something. He knows it is not much but at least it is a beginning. Andrew does not sit back and complain. He takes a proactive approach. He looks for help. But alas, he realizes that even with all his efforts and hard work, it is not enough … he still falls short. He comes to Jesus and says, “I’ve tried. I’ve found two fish sticks and 5 loaves of Wonder-bread, but it surely isn’t going to feed 5,000 plus hungry mouths.”

We sense in Andrew an element of despair and defeat. People, whenever we try to tackle our problems our way, we will inevitably encounter the same despair, the same defeat. You see, placing faith in your resources, faith in yourself, or faith in your wisdom is misplaced faith that leaves you angered and frustrated.

The boy, with Jesus’ power, approaches the situation. We know very little about this boy. In fact, the Bible never gives him a name, even though this miracle is recorded in all four Gospels. You see, his name is not important … but the position of his heart is. He said, “Here am I, Lord, use me and whatever I have in any way possible.” And all he had was five loaves of bread - Luke 11:5 seems to indicate that three loaves were looked on as a meal for one person … hence, the loaves were probably quite small. He also had two fish - some scholars believed he had pickled fish which was common in that area and in that time. This young lad actually had a “poor man’s” lunch. But this lad’s poor-man’s offering had dividends that he, in his wildest imagination, could not have fathomed.

Notice that after the people are fed, Jesus has his disciples collect the leftovers. 12 disciples … 12 baskets full of food. What a awesome reminder of God’s love, provision and power.

Most of us possess a little bit of Philip and a little bit of Andrew. But we need to possess a whole lot of that boy! As we come to the beginning of a new year, I want you to know that there is a “Bread” that is being offered here today. It is not barley bread - but the “Living Bread.” Jesus desires to enter your life here and now to give you hope and help.

If you want to deal with life and all of it’s overwhelming stresses in the year 2013 - you need a little Philip (practicality), a little Andrew (proactive), a good dose of that boy (faith to move mountains) … but you need all of Jesus!

December Newsletter 2012

posted Nov 30, 2012, 5:12 AM by Chruch Staff

As we approach this Advent Season, allow me to share the “Where, Who & Why of Christmas.” 

First, let’s look at the Where of Christmas. Scripture tells us that Christ was born in a manger. Pastor Bill Hybels writes, “God wanted His Son to experience life in its blue-collar boldness. Jesus’ first breath of air burned with the odor of animal urine. The first noises he heard were the grunts of livestock. From day one, God the Father determined not to shelter His Son from the rude, crude realities of life on Planet Earth.” He was born in a stable - in the lowliest of places so that He truly could identify with each one of us reading this article today.

Secondly, let’s look at the Who of Christmas. Jesus came for the poor and the powerless; He came for the obscure and the ordinary. Jesus came for the nameless and those of no account. He came to a peasant girl and a poor carpenter. He came for all those people who think no one really knows their name; for all those people who don’t have a strong arm to lean on when they’re in need; and for all those people who will never grab the brass ring in life.

There is a huge pauper’s grave in New York. It is filled with the bodies of people who were too poor to pay for their own burial. Many of the thousands who are buried there are nameless. They were homeless, prisoners, addicts, ill, or just too poor for anyone to care much about. But the monument over the grave tells the whole truth. It bears one simple inscription from John 10:3, “And He shall call His own by name.”

Jesus gave up His own glory in order to put on the clothes of an or­dinary man. He came to see life through our eyes in order to convince us to see ourselves through His eyes!

Finally, let’s look at the Why of Christmas. Jesus did not come to lead his people into battle against the Romans. Not to reign in power and might. Not to set up a kingdom by force, but He did come to lead us in a battle against the forces of sin and death. He came to set up an eternal kingdom of justice and righteousness. He came to take away all our sins. And he didn’t do it with power or a show of force. He did it by humbling himself and coming to where we are.

Author Dennis Covington recalls that on long summer evenings when he and his buddies had been out fishing or playing ball, each boy’s mother would call him home in a different way. Most mothers would lean out the back door and yell for her child. “Frank! Danny! Stanley! Come home!” Some mothers had big cowbells outside the back door and they would ring the cowbell to call a child home.

But Dennis’ dad was always the one to call him home. And Mr. Covington didn’t just stand on the porch and yell for Dennis. He wandered down to the lake and softly called his name. And father and son would walk home together. As Covington writes, “He always came to the place I was before he called my name.”

And that’s exactly what God did for us. In Jesus, He came to the place where we were before He called us. He came for you, He came for me. He is “Emmanuel - God with us.” It is my prayer that you know the Christ of Christmas personally and that you have responded positively when He called you by name. May you have a blessed and joyous Christmas season!

November Newsletter 2012

posted Oct 26, 2012, 7:20 AM by Chruch Staff

Romans 12:2 states this: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is!” (The New Living Translation). 

In my recent readings, I came across a thought that captivated me. The author posed a question aimed at the heart … “Do you possess a ‘Popeye the Sailor Man’ mentality?” I am afraid that many of us would have to answer, “Yes,” if we were to be completely honest. Not too many in our culture (or in our churches) sense any possibility of change. Their lives cry out; “Don’t expect much from me. Don’t get your hopes up because this is just who I am.” In the words of Popeye, “I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam!”

The problem with this line of thinking is that it doesn’t offer any hope for growth or change. It does not leave much room for what “you yam not!” Even Popeye became what he yam not when connected with a can of spinach. His energies, his stamina, his focus, his drive, his purpose and his resolve were all transformed at the infusion of this green leaf plant.

My challenge to you this day is that you do not allow yourself to be duped into believing that “you yam what you yam and that’s all that you yam!” My prayer for you is that you allow God to continually be at work within you to enable you to become the person He had in mind when He originally designed you … as the Apostle Paul put it, “Let God transform you.”

You can become what you yam not. You can be transformed and you can be a positive, unique, life-changing force to be reckoned with. How? By allowing the Holy Spirit (God’s spiritual can of spinach, if you please) to be unleashed in your life.

When I attended Oklahoma Wesleyan University, I learned a chorus that reflects this very message. It goes something like this: “I’ve been changed by the power of the Lord living in me. I’ve been changed by the power of Christ and Calvary. I’ve been changed and rejoicing that I’m not what I used to be. I’ve been changed by the power of Christ and Calvary!”

“I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam” is a very controlling and powerful philosophy but it is not God’s. God is in the changing business … He desires to make you and me into what we yam not! Amen!

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