Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Uniquely D.E.S.I.G.N.ed

Uniquely D.E.S.I.G.N.ed
Psalm 139:14
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Romans 12:6
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;

From time to time we offer a class called, “Strengths Finder.” You take a test to figure out what your top 5 strengths are. It is pretty accurate. Most of the time people are not shocked at what they find out. It matches up with what you are drawn to. My question for you as you get ready to cross over into another year is, “What unique quality has God gifted you with?”

Let me suggest a series of questions for you to consider to identify your unique D.E.S.I.G.N.? 
  • Drives: What excites you? What fires you up? 
  • Experiences: What experiences makes you unique from other people? 
  • Spirituality: How do you best connect with God? 
  • Impact: What arena do you feel most compelled to impact? 
  • Genius: What do you do repeatedly, successfully, happily? 
  • Nature: What is your personality? Extrovert, introvert, structured, spontaneous? 
Write down your answers to each of these questions and pray for the Lord to use you to make a difference in the places He leads you this new year. May God provides opportunities for you to glorify His name as you safely cross over to 2017.
Joy in Jesus!
Pastor Mike

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Purpose of Christmas

The Purpose of Christmas
Yes, this past Sunday was another bad stormy day. I remember in 2007 when it was nice all week long and then the weekend came and it the weather turned bad for 9 weeks straight. We are working on 2 weekends of bad weather so far. I just hope and pray that it is not so bad this weekend as we gather for a wonderful Christmas weekend.
One thing that this weekend did do though was to help us to experiment on putting our services on the web. We have heard some good feedback on this and we are going to explore what we need to do in order to get our services on our website in the not so far away future.
While this season is all about the birth of the Christ Child, Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth was not to give us the sweet picture of a baby in a Bethlehem manger. The little baby was born to die for you and for me and thus pay for the forgiveness of our sins. He was born to die so that we might be reconciled to God.
So while we are out and about going from one party to the next, from one family gathering to the next, don’t just think of a baby in a manger. Christmas is much more than that. It is about God coming to earth in human flesh so He could die on the Cross to pay for your salvation and destroy the works of the devil in our lives! That is what Christmas is all about!
In Philippians 2, Paul connects the birth narrative with the cross narrative. As he writes about God becoming a man, he goes on to express the ultimate reason God chose to take this amazing action. Paul says in verse 8, “And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
The word fashion is the Greek word schema. It is the same word that was used to describe a king who exchanged his kingly garments for a brief period of time for the clothing of a beggar. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to use this word which describes what we celebrate at Christmas. Jesus comes to earth, sheds His glorious appearance and exchanges it for the clothing of human flesh. Although man is wonderfully made, it cannot be compared to the eternal and glorious appearance of God. However, for the sake of our redemption, God laid all of the glorious things aside and made in the likeness of a human being.
The story doesn’t stop there. Not only did Jesus take on the clothing of a servant, but He loved us so much that He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross! The word “humbled,” is being willing to stoop to any measure that is needed. This describes the attitude God had when He took upon Himself human flesh. The Creator became like His creation with limitations put on Himself. The fact that He had to become obedient in the flesh shows that it was not an easy task. He humbled Himself to the point of dying a humiliating death on a Cross to purchase the debt we could not pay.
So as you celebrate Christmas this weekend, be sure to remember the real purpose of Christmas. Let me encourage you to get in a discussion with someone about the greatest gift of life that we received because God entered our story with the purpose of taking our place on the Cross.
I’m looking forward to celebrating Christ with you this weekend at our Christmas Eve Service at 4 or 6pm, and on Christmas Sunday morning at 10:45am.
Joy in Jesus!
Pastor Mike

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The First Noel

The First Noel

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.(Luke 2:8)

What a wonderful time we had last Wednesday night during Operation Serve as we divided up and visited different families to sing carols, spread Christmas cheer, and deliver some goodies. The Christmas season would not be complete without singing “The First Noel.” Have you ever wondered where this song came from? I don’t think the shepherds sang it around manger that very first Christmas. It is believed to have had its rise in France during the 15th century. Noel is a French word originating from Latin meaning “birthday.” The song is thought to have been brought across the channel to England by the wandering troubadours. The carol under the English form, “Nowell,” became a great favorite for Christmas Eve, especially west of England. This was when the entire village gathered for singing and celebrating the bringing in of the Yule log. At this time carols were thought of as popular religious songs meant to be sung outside the church rather than within.

“The First Noel” portrays, in vivid narrative style, the story of the birth of Christ. All six verses are needed to complete the entire event when the hymn is sung. The sixth stanza urges us to join together to sing praises to God for the marvels of His creation and for the salvation provided through Christ’s shed blood. The repetition of the joyous “noel” in the refrain is equivalent to our singing out “happy birthday” to someone.

It is interesting to observe that the “King of Israel” was first announced to “certain poor shepherds” only, but in the final stanza the phrases “let us all” and “mankind hath brought” remind us that Christ came to redeem the whole world.

The first noel the angel did say was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay—in fields where they lay keeping their sheep on a cold winter’s night that was so deep.

They looked up and saw a star shining in the east, beyond them far; and to the earth it gave great light, and so it continued both day and night.

And by the light of that same star, three wise men came from country far; to seek for a king was their intent, and to follow the star wherever it went.

This star drew nigh to the northwest; o’er Bethlehem it took its rest; and there it did both stop and stay, right over the place where Jesus lay.

Then entered in those wise men three, full rev’rently upon their knee, and offered there, in His presence, their gold and myrrh and frankincense.

Then let us all with one accord sing praises to our heav’nly Lord, that hath made heav’n and earth of naught, and with His blood mankind hath bought.

Refrain: Noel, noel! Noel, noel! Born is the King of Israel!

The Sunday before Christmas is always a special Sunday in our church as we lift our voices together celebrating the birth of Jesus and lighting the 4th Advent Candle. I have especially sensed a peaceful spirit this year during all of our activities as a church family. So many activities that have ushered in the season from the awesome Children’s Musical to Operation Serve on Wednesdaynight, to the Chinese Ministry party, to random acts of kindness as our church family gave gifts to families represented around the tree in the foyer, to the series, “The Light that Overcomes.” We still have our Christmas Eve service to look forward too as well. This year Christmas will be on Sunday. We plan to have one service at 10:45 a.m. with special communion being served.

Every year I forget to mention the traditional red sock Sunday for the men. We always have it on the fourth Sunday of Advent. That will be this Sunday, December 18. Since it is a special year with Christmas being on Sunday, we will also give a second chance for the men to wear their red socks. Pass the word around. This is our 16th year to have this tradition so I think it is appropriate to have two Sundays to celebrate it.

Let’s allow the joy of Christ’s birth to be reflected on our faces and be heard in our glad singing of praises to Him all through this Christmas season.

Joy in Jesus!
Pastor Mike

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Advent of Christ

The Advent of Christ

 Did you know that Advent is not only preparing for the Christ child to come in the manger, it is also tied to the second Advent – the return of Christ and the home-going of those who are in relationship with Jesus Christ? Jesus coming to earth was a history-changing, life-changing event. Had He not come as a babe in the manger on that night long ago, we would not have had the man Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. The reality of Advent never changes. We are in a season of Advent where we walk in preparation to receive Christ again. I remember as a child, going to the altar many times to accept Christ into my heart. We don’t believe that you have to ask Jesus to come into your heart several times before He actually saves you. But it is good to have a soft heart toward God. I would much rather see someone burn a path to the altar several times than to have a hard heart and not come at all.

I have been seeing a lot of new people coming and seeking the heart of God in our church. It is good to see people drawn to His spirit, not because we have the latest music, but because the Spirit of God is alive and active in our congregation. I don’t want to see a growing church because it is the popular place to be. I want to see a growing church because God is moving on the hearts of people. People are coming to know the Christ of Christmas and are ready to receive the Christ of the last days. It’s all one and the same and it is just as powerful today as it was when Jesus died on the cross.

Look with me at what Paul tells the believers in Thessalonica:

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Jesus’ return is sooner than ever. Let’s enjoy this Advent season as we look forward to the glorious day of Jesus’ return.

Our children did a fantastic job on Sunday. It goes down in the history books as the biggest attendance we have had as a church. We saw 545 people in both of the services. Our children presented the Christmas story in such a dynamic way. I am reminded every Sunday how blessed we are to have such a God-filled, Holy Spirit, Bible believing Church.

I want to invite everyone to come and be a part of “Operation Serve” tonight. We will meet in the Family Life Center at 6:30 p.m. and divide up into groups to go sing and visit many different needs in our church family. Bring the whole family and plan to stay for a short time of fellowship afterward.

This next Sunday is the third Sunday of Advent. We will continue our series, “The Light that Overcomes” as we look at Christmas story through the eyes of Matthew. We will also celebrate church membership by bringing several new members into the church. It’s going to be a great day! Come and see what God is doing…

Joy in Jesus!

Pastor Mike