I once was a slave to an addiction. My addiction eventually led to criminal acts that resulted in incarceration. Following the exposure of my addiction I managed to live a tolerable recovery. Little was I aware that God was working in my life and desired that I experience genuine recovery.
Today I gladly proclaim that Jesus has set me free. I will always face temptations as we all do. However, I have become an over comer with a “genuine victory”. As I began to facilitate groups and emphasize to others the permanency of the work of Jesus I became convinced and trusted my Savior to release me from the bondage of my addiction.
As I began to read and study more closely than ever the life of Jesus I was enlightened by His Holy Spirit of the truth of the miracles of Jesus. He went about doing good, healing the lame, giving sight to the blind, raising the dead, forgiving sin and meeting the physical and spiritual needs of all who by faith would trust Him.
It was obvious that when He healed the lame man that he was totally healed. He did not have to go to an orthopedic surgeon or to physical therapy. In fact he did not even walk with a limp. He was totally healed of his lameness.
When Jesus healed the blind man he was made to see. He did not begin with a blurry view of the environment around him. He did not go to the optometrist and get a prescription for glasses. He was able to see. He was totally healed of his blindness.
This is the season to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Savior. Too often we share our thoughts to prove the resurrection. However, most folks I talk to do not doubt the resurrection. They fail to recognize the significance of the event.
Let me encourage each of us to focus on the significance of what Jesus did for us. More important than being convinced of the fact of the resurrection is to understand why Jesus chose to die. He died that I might live. He died that I may have a relationship with Him. I was separated from him due to my sin.
As a result of my sin I needed to reconcile myself to our perfect God. I could not do it. So God prior to the earth being formed made a plan by which I could receive atonement to escape the punishment of my sin. It was to be made possible through the birth, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. He paid the debt I could not pay.
As addicts we know that recovery is our goal. To achieve that goal we need the presence and power of Jesus Christ who was tempted as we are but never gave into sin. His death was absolutely necessary for Him to be resurrected and to return to the Father in order to send His Holy Spirit to convict me of sin, draw me to the Savior and empower me to overcome any and all sin which includes all the sinful addictions that has captured my heart.
Today because of the resurrection I am a free man. Do I still disappoint God? Yes, but because of the resurrection I have the forgiveness of sin and have received eternal life that Jesus alone can give me. Is the resurrection a fact? Yes. However the significance of that event is far more important to me and I hope the same for you.
He did it for me!!! He did it for you!!! He did it for all who will repent and receive it!!! Praise HIM!!!
OBEDIENCE IS BETTER THAN SACRIFICE….
…NOT OBEDIENCE RATHER THAN SACRIFICE
Last Wednesday I left the office early and took an overnight trip. I picked up Ken, one of God’s trophies, and made my way to Sebring, Florida to visit with my 98 years young Aunt Julia. A number of decades ago my Aunt Julia became the wife of my Uncle, a Baptist preacher, who is now enjoying his heavenly rewards. For 50 plus years she stood by his side as the First Lady of the church, a very challenging and difficult position to hold at times.
As we visited and reminisced she shared stories of her life as the wife of a circuit riding pastor. Uncle Etha served four little country churches at one time. They would often stay in the home of parishioners the night before or after Sunday services which sometimes created a challenge as well.
She told of the time they stayed with a family and at bed time they were taken to the barn to sleep. After running the hound dog off the mattress provided for their bed she took her new born baby and wrapped her up in her “petty coat”. She was hoping to keep any fleas or ticks the dog may have left in the bed from biting the baby.
Her life was a marker for obedience. As a young bride she vowed to stay with her groom through the best and the worst. She became the mother of 4 daughters and remained faithfully obedient to her Savior as well as her mate.
Obedience is better than sacrifice but it often requires sacrifice which she willingly gave.
Then I made my way on down to Dunklin Memorial Camp, a substance abuse residential faith based ministry located in Okeechobee, Florida. There I was able to visit with Brother Mickey Evans and his very devoted wife, Laura Mae. These two folks are also a marker of total obedience to the Lord.
God gave Brother Mickey a vision to begin a camp for alcoholics and he obeyed. He and Laura Mae left a newly built pastor’s home in Indiantown, Florida, and moved to the swamp in a little one room shack.
Last year the ministry celebrated the 50th anniversary of the camp. I read the history of the ministry as written in a newly composed book printed and published for this special event. I was taken back by the multitudes of circumstantial obedience endured by these two dedicated people.
Laura Mae cooked on an old bed box springs in order to feed her family and the men in the camp. Brother Mickey began loving on the unlovely and ministering to the wounded and hurting addicts as God brought them to the camp. A swamp filled with snakes along with other critters was gradually developed into an absolute miraculous village.
My prayer is that each of us, including me, will learn and be inspired by the obedience of those that have gone before us. They are the markers in our lives that should lead us in the direction of sacrificial obedience. It is the road “less traveled by” but the road that leads to eternal rewards, perhaps some present rewards, but surely the eternal ones.
What an evening. The 10th annual benefit for Christian 12 Step was an awesome celebration. Above all Jesus was honored as testimonies were shared by overcomers whose lives have been recovered and saved from addictions. Thank you Jason, Don, Alan, Josh, and Ken for your encouraging testimonies. A special thanks to Kim and Nancy sharing the change in family relationships brought about by husbands and fathers finding recovery through the Christian 12 Step Ministry.
We were honored by the attendance of John sharing the story of the change in the life of Marge’s daughter through Christian 12 Step. Marge has opened the doors in a number of counties in Ohio. The ministry is now recognized in the drug courts and as an option given for offenders to be part of a faith based programs to pursue recovery as part of their sentence.
It was my privilege to introduce some very special guests, Sylvia and Rebecca Counselman, wife and daughter of the late Bill Counselman, former chaplaincy director for the Florida Department of Corrections. Reverend Counselman was very committed to the worth of every individual including those who had made consequential choices in the past.
Present was also Chaplain John Meyer and his wife Pat. Chaplain Meyer was a very special chaplain in my past and continually encouraged me. Also Bob and Janice Gregory were in attendance. The Gregorys assisted me with housing and employment years ago when I was in need. I also recognized Katherine Burns and her husband Dale. Katherine is one of the most compassionate people I have ever met and directs the largest reentry center for prisoners in the state of Florida. We do appreciate the support we receive from so many folks that inspire us.
The Ray and Rita Geisel Outstanding Service Award were given to two very special ladies. Jan DiBello was presented the 2013 Award and Janet Maidment was presented the 2014 Award. Both these ladies are committed and consistent volunteers. We could not do what we do without our dedicated volunteers.
The music rendered by Norman Lee was an inspiration to all in attendance. The Ocala Hilton provided a most delicious buffet with a great atmosphere as usual. And auctioneer, Cole Erwin, coordinated the best auction ever. We were able to raise several thousand dollars to assist in the continued outreach of Christian 12 Step.
A special thanks to Sheri Martin and Renee Arnett for hours of time dedicated to making the event a most successful fundraiser. Also thanks to dozens of donors who made the auction possible. I was hoping that whoever got the St. Augustine Weekend and the Maggie Valley Week would offer it to me so I could get away for a few days. But I assume that they intend to take advantage of the “get out of town” as a gift to be enjoyed with their families. Let me also say thanks to Kandi Crossen for the beautiful chocolate daises that adorned each table and auctioned off to add to the benefit.
Thanks to all those in attendance. Without you we could not have had a most successful evening. Remember to reserve March 7, 2015 for the 11th annual banquet and the 36th anniversary of Christian 12 Step Ministry.
Christian 12 Step Ministry
Annual Banquet and Benefit with
Silent Auction and Verbal Auction
Saturday, March 1, 2014, 5:30 pm
At the Ocala Hilton
We are anticipating a great evening of celebration and worship. Hors d’oeuvres at 5:30 pm. Come and enjoy the silent auction prior to dinner being served at 6:30 pm.
A $50 donation is requested for dinner. Gold ($2500), Silver ($1500), Bronze ($1000), Table ($500) Sponsorships are available.
Norman Lee will be presenting dinner music. Individual testimonies will be shared by those who have been blessed by the ministry.
A verbal auction will be held following the program. If you would like to have the opportunity of family passes to Disney, a North Carolina vacation in a cabin in Maggie Valley, admission to activities in Augustine, an autograph photo and CD from Casting Crowns, Kennedy Space Complex tickets, Gator Locker Room gift card, etc, then you will want to be at the Ocala Hilton the evening of March 1.
See you, Saturday, March 1, 5:30 pm at the Ocala Hilton.
How many people have we read about in the Bible that was good prospective candidates for a recovery group?
Let’s read Luke 19:1-10
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus who was chief tax collector and a very rich man. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because Jesus was going to pass that way.
When Jesus reached that spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he scurried down and welcomed him warmly (into his home). All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of someone who is a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, “Look, sir, I’ll give half of what I own to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the son of Adam came to seek out and to save the lost.”
Zacchaeus Joins the Group
God comes to collect our garbage - not to be impressed by our goodness.
• … After 32 years of watching people get the courage and the faith to change,
I’m convinced that we don’t always arrive at “faith” through our thinking but we most often catch it from someone who’s already got it”.
We just read the story of a strange, little man named Zacchaeus – A man who caught his faith from Jesus.
And there’s a lot about Zacchaeus that we don’t know.
His story in the gospel is just about as short as he was.
But what we do know is that Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector in Jericho.
He was a Jewish traitor working for the Roman army and he collected unbelievably high taxes from everyone passing through on the road to Jerusalem.
And Jericho was a place that you almost had to pass through if you wanted to get to Jerusalem –so he had himself a really good spot.
Now those tax collectors had to turn over most of what they collected to the Romans.
But whatever one of those guys could charge over and above the minimum tax – well that was theirs to keep.
So crooked and greedy little Zacchaeus charged people as much as he could; and he racked up quite a few shekels by doing’ it.
What we can also be pretty sure of from his story – is that this guy was hated by just about everybody who ever passed through that town.
In writing his gospel stories, Luke loves to tell about sinners and outcasts;
He tells us about how they were drawn to Jesus, because Jesus was always first drawn to them.
While all of their neighbors shunned these outcasts and kicked them out of their group, this man Jesus sought them out and befriended them.
He healed their wounds – He invited them to eat with him –
He told them that God loved them.
– If you were an outcast – being welcomed and being loved – that came as some pretty Good News!
… And so Zacchaeus must have heard some of these stories about Jesus making the rounds
– And now he hears that today Jesus is passing through his own town.
He’s curious to know him.
• The gospel says, “He was trying to see who he was.”
Trying to see if the stories he’d heard about him were true.
But Little Zacchaeus can’t see because the crowds are swarming all around Jesus and because he’s too short to see over their heads.
Notice that none of that stops him, because this visitor to Jericho is really important to him.
Zacchaeus runs ahead and he finds a sycamore tree to climb – and there he sits, literally hanging way out on a limb, waiting for Jesus and the crowd to come passing by below.
And when Jesus finally does come to that spot in the road, he stops the procession.
He sees this little man sitting’ way up there in the tree – and Jesus already knows him
Jesus already knows part of this guy’s story.
Jesus knows he’s one of the outcasts – One of the ones who feel himself: “unworthy” –
The people in the town see a crook and a liar and a thief – but Jesus sees another one of “the lost.”
Perhaps when Jesus arrived in Jericho, he stopped into a meeting of Outcasts Anonymous and some of the Old Timers told him all about Zacchaeus
They told him he was probably the most hated man in their town.
And so Jesus looks up into that tree and he calls him by name,
“Hey Zacchaeus, come on down here! – I’ve got to go to your house today – and I want to have supper with you tonight too.”
Right away, a murmur starts rippling through the crowd.
The good people of Jericho aren’t too pleased with Jesus’ choice for a new-found-friend.
“He’s calling out the most hated man in Jericho.
The people in that town who should have been “counted in” are counted out – and this hated man who everyone counted out – “he’s in!”
In another gospel story, Jesus puts it like this.
He says: “Prostitutes and tax collectors are getting into God’s kingdom – but the proud are locking them out.”
Zacchaeus scurries down from the tree while all his neighbors are jeering and hurling insults at him –
None of it slows him down a bit! – He leads Jesus to his house and he invites him to come in.
And now there comes a part of Zacchaeus story that we don’t get to hear.
What was it that Jesus said to him there inside his own house?
What words did he use to change him?
Because Zacchaeus not only took Jesus into his home, but when he comes out and stands there next to him, it’s obvious to everyone in town that he’s taken him into his heart as well.
Zacchaeus stands in front of all his neighbors: a changed man.
Jesus’ faith in him made a changed man out of the cheating’, little tax collector.
“Half of all that I own I’ll give to the poor; and if I’ve cheated anyone of anything, I’ll pay ‘em back four times as much.”
This guy went from taking Step One – to finishing Steps Eight & Nine all inside of a single day!
And so Jesus tells the crowd to rejoice over what’s happened to Zacchaeus, because he’s not the same man anymore.
“Today salvation has come to this man’s house, because he too is a son of Abraham.”
The outcast has come home.
The despised and rejected one’s been brought back and welcomed into the family.
Jesus says to the crowd, “You see why I’ve come?
I’ve come to seek out and save the lost.”
But the good people of Jericho thought Jesus was coming to see them!
They thought he’d probably have dinner that night with the mayor of Jericho.
Maybe he’d stop in and give a nice little speech at the Jericho Chamber of Commerce or go say something holy and profound to all of “the good people” gathered in the temple.
After all, it was the good people who threw a procession in his honor – But what does Jesus do?
He spots a sinner up a tree and he takes off and spends the whole day with the most hated man in their village!
There’s a powerful message in this story.
I think it’s a message about the outcasts who live inside each one of us.
A message about those hated and shameful parts of us that we’ve all tried to bury and forget, parts that we try to push down and cover over so no one will see them – maybe not even ourselves.
But those parts have a way of coming out again and stalking us down.
Maybe it is shame from a childhood where we were born unwanted or told we were no good.
Maybe it’s the outcast part of us that we carry from marriage that went bad or the ghosts from a family we walked out on.
Some of us have done some pretty rotten things in Jericho!
“Things done and left un-done!”
… But today we read a man’s story.
And this little guy’s story’s been told for 2,000 years because there’s something he’s got that we all need to catch.
The guy found hope – He found hope when everyone said he was hopeless.
And within a few short hours of finding that hope: he was changed.
Zacchaeus was desperate – ready to go to any lengths.
Zacchaeus had his first AA meeting in a tree, I think, just like Zacchaeus, I have had to climb a few trees cause there was no place else for me to go.
We don’t know what it was that those two men said to one another when they were huddled together inside that house, but I’ve got to believe that what Zacchaeus took with him into the house that night was a big part of what changed him.
He carried in all of his shame and all of his guilt.
He put those feelings of being an outcast – a thief – a traitor – he put them into his own words and he told his story to Jesus.
And Jesus listened — and Jesus loved him.
What happens to us when we take the risk and share our real stories with God & with other people?
Neither God or the people hearing us run away.
Neither God or the people hearing us condemn us.
Maybe for the first time in years, we’re welcomed back home.
We’re not treated like outcasts any more.
And so just like Zacchaeus, we all need to be changed.
Changed by the unconditional love and acceptance that comes from a God who drops whatever he’s doing and comes running after us.
And once we’ve tasted his love – and once we’ve felt his acceptance & experienced his forgiveness, then drinking & drugging & tax collecting & prostituting, they just don’t have that much to offer us anymore.
… Jesus said, “I came to seek out and to save the lost.”
He comes again offering us the same.
And so, what’s Zacchaeus trying to tell us?
Maybe it’s simply this:
If you haven’t shared all of your story – If you haven’t shared your shame with God & with another human being – then please – before the parade passes you by again –
Get down from the tree and do it!
Borrowed from Mike Riccardi
New Year 2014 As we approach the beginning of the New Year, many people are reflecting on the previous year and how they’ve lived their lives, and are making resolutions and determinations to live better in the coming year, whatever that may mean. The process seems to involve a kind of refocusing on things that are important to us so that when we will have come to the end of this next year we will look even more favorably on it than the previous one.
… as we anticipate…2014 I want to write an open letter of sorts that focuses on the most important realities in the world. And the addressee of my open letter is you. No matter who you are—whether young in the faith, a seasoned saint, or not a believer in Jesus at all; whether we’re good friends, have only spoken a few times, or if I don’t know you from Adam—I can think of nothing more profitable that I’d like to say directly to you. And perhaps the most interesting distinctive about this open letter for 2014 is that it’s nothing new. It’s the same old message for a brand new year, because it’s the only message that is sufficient to transcend all times and cultures. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I hope you’ll read carefully.
God is Holy
The Bible teaches that the entire universe was created by God. And that God who has created everything has spoken to humanity in the Bible. And the Bible tells us that a fundamental characteristic of God is that He is holy. 1 John 1:5 says, “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” That’s a way of saying that He’s entirely pure. God’s character is one of perfect moral uprightness. He is the essence of all that is good—so much so that, as the verse says, He can have absolutely no fellowship with “darkness”—no fellowship with that which is not perfectly holy, righteous, and pure.
God’s righteous character was expressed in the law He gave to Moses and the Israelites. You’ve heard of the Ten Commandments. They summarized the perfection of God’s character. These laws were directives for how people who were in a proper relationship with God must act.
We are Sinful
The problem is: all of us are sinful. We have all broken God’s law. All humanity has “gone astray like sheep, and each one of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). We’ve tried to live our lives without God, according to our own standards, in our own ways. Whether we’re drug addicts and murderers, or white collar, well-to-do, upstanding citizens, we do what we do because we want to do it, with no consideration for God and what He would have us to do. The Bible calls that sin. It is the missing of the mark, the falling short of God’s standard of righteousness.
And in your heart of hearts you know you’re a sinner. I don’t know anyone who would say that they are perfect, even by their own standards. Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “There is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” And if God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all, then in order to have fellowship with Him, we’d need to be perfectly holy like Him. But we’re not. Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are stained by the “darkness” of our sin. And this is a problem, because if darkness can’t dwell with light, and we’re darkness and God is light, we’re cut off from a relationship with Him. We become absolutely incapable of doing the very thing we were created and designed to do: to enjoy a relationship with our Creator.
There is a Penalty for Sin
But it’s not just that we and God can’t be friends. There’s a penalty to be paid for sin. The Bible tells us that that penalty is death, Romans 6:23: “The wages of sin is death.” But the death that Paul talks about there isn’t just physical death. It’s not like we pay for our sins by going out of existence. The death talked about in that verse is a spiritual death. This is hell: eternal conscious torment. Jesus Himself calls it “a furnace of fire,” where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:50).
The idea of hell grates against the sensibilities of modern people, because nobody thinks they’re really bad enough to deserve something like eternal torment. They might admit that they’re not the greatest of people, but surely they don’t deserve that. But their reasoning is skewed. The punishment for sin isn’t measured by the sin itself. In other words, it’s not like some sins get a worse punishment for other sins. Murder, lust, and lying all receive the sentence of an eternity in hell. That’s because punishment for sin is measured by the One sinned against. All sin is fundamentally a sin against God, and He is infinitely holy. Therefore, sin against an infinitely holy God demands an infinite punishment. That’s why the punishment is so serious: because God is actually that righteous.
And so the bad news is that we’re sinful, separated from God, and doomed to spend eternity in hell. There’s nothing we can do about it. We can’t simply tell God we’re sorry and we won’t do it again. What would you say about a judge who let a guilty, convicted criminal go free because he was sorry and said he wouldn’t do it again? You’d call him an unjust judge. But God is a perfectly just, perfectly righteous Judge. God’s justice demands that sin be punished, and the only payment is eternal spiritual death.
God Became Man
But the Good News is: God saw the miserable condition of humanity, and took pity on us. He knew that there was no way we could ever earn our way back to Him. We could never pay for our sins. But just when man was absolutely hopeless, when we were all doomed to spend eternity in hell with no way to pay our penalty, God the Father sent His Son to the earth on a mission. He was miraculously born to a virgin. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit miraculously conceived Jesus in Mary’s womb. And so being conceived by the Holy Spirit, Jesus was God. And being born to a human being, He was human. This is the greatest mystery in the universe. As finite human beings, we can’t entirely wrap our minds around this, but it’s true: Jesus was fully God and fully man.
He lived for 33 years on the earth. He grew up just like every other child. He became a carpenter like Joseph, His earthly father. The great difference, though, between Jesus and every other human being, was that He never sinned. Never once did He ever break God’s law. He always loved God with all His heart, soul, mind, and strength in everything He did. He never sought satisfaction outside of the Father Himself. He never disobeyed His parents, He was never selfish, He never spoke sinful words. In a word, He lived the life that you and I should have lived, but failed to live. He lived a life totally worthy of God, a life that was purely “Light,” like we said before, with no darkness at all.
Jesus Paid the Penalty
And because He was perfectly righteous, He was fit to be the substitute for sinners. The Bible records for us that the Jews plotted to kill Jesus because He preached a message that was very different to the religious establishment of His day. It was against the Jewish law to put people to death, so they sought help from the Romans, who were the governing body in Israel. Because the governor, Pontius Pilate, feared that the people would riot if he didn’t give them what they wanted, he agreed to crucify Jesus.
At the same time, Scripture also tells us that God sent His Son to die this way. It was all part of God’s plan. God used the sinful desires of the Jews and the Romans to accomplish something for His own good purpose. On the cross, Jesus suffered for sins. But He didn’t suffer for His own sins. He had no sins. He lived an entirely perfect life. No, on the cross, God “caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”
The verse right before that, Isaiah 53:5, says, “He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” What was happening on the cross was: God was carrying out the punishment against my sins—i.e., the pouring out of His wrath—on His innocent Son. Jesus voluntarily laid down His life in order to pay the penalty for sins. On the cross, God treated Jesus if He lived my life. And because I believe in Him, He treats me as if I lived Jesus’ life. See, because God is perfectly righteous, the only way to get to heaven is to be perfectly righteous. But because Jesus was perfectly righteous, and traded places with me on the cross, the perfect righteousness I need to go to heaven is His righteousness applied to my account.
After Jesus died, God miraculously raised Him from the dead three days later in order to show that He was satisfied with His sacrifice. Jesus was dead, but then He came back to life! It was a miracle. The Bible says God did this to “furnish proof to all men” that this message is true (Acts 17:30-31).
And now, God promises that…
•if you acknowledge that you are a sinner—that you have broken His law,
•and if you admit that there is no way that you could earn His favor and His forgiveness,
•and if you purpose to turn away from your life of sin and commit your life to Him,
•and if you trust in Jesus’ righteousness alone for your acceptance before this holy God,
…then He will have treated Jesus as if He lived your life, and will treat you as if you lived Jesus’ life. You will be saved from the penalty of your sin, and will be able to enjoy fellowship with God forever in heaven, and even fellowship with Him starting now.
In other words, if you believe that you’re a sinner and deserve God’s punishment because of your sin, but you also believe that God sent Jesus to endure that punishment in your place, and that His sacrifice is the only way you can be forgiven, then God promises that He will forgive you and you will be saved. You’ll know the God who created you.
Don’t Waste Your Life
God designed your soul. And He designed you so that, just as a car engine is designed to run on gasoline, you’re designed to run on Him. He is what life is about. All of the disappointments, discouragements, and uncertainties of your life find their resolution in Him. And all of the satisfactions, fun experiences, and joys of life find their consummation in Him. Everything good in our lives is like a trail of breadcrumbs that leads us to the feast of God Himself. And everything bad in our lives is a reminder that life lived apart from knowing God in Christ is not the way it was meant to be.
And I also don’t want to see you waste your life. God created us for the purpose of rightly knowing and worshiping Him. That’s the meaning of life. That’s where true happiness and satisfaction are found. When you don’t live your life for that purpose, you waste it. So many people go through life seeking that happiness, but never find it because they don’t know what life is really about. I don’t want that for you. I don’t want you to suffer God’s wrath eternally for your sin. I want to spend eternity in heaven worshiping God with you, praising Him for how gracious He was to forgive our sins because of Christ’s sacrifice.
So would you receive Christ? Would you acknowledge your sinfulness before God and admit you can’t do a thing about it? Would you turn from your sin, and seek to live your life in submission to Jesus Christ? Would you trust in Jesus alone for your righteousness before God? Would you join me in worshiping the God we were created to know?
Mike originally published this post on December 30, 2011.
“What is the true meaning of Christmas?”
The true meaning of Christmas is love. John 3:16-17says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
The true meaning of Christmas is the celebration of this incredible act of love. The real Christmas story is the story of God’s becoming a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ.
Why did God do such a thing? Because He loves us! Why was Christmas necessary? Because we needed a Savior! Why does God love us so much? Because He is love itself (1 John 4:8). Why do we celebrate Christmas each year? Out of gratitude for what God did for us, we remember His birth by giving each other gifts, worshipping Him, and being especially conscious of the poor and less fortunate.
The true meaning of Christmas is love. God loved His own and provided a way—the only Way—for us to spend eternity with Him. He gave His only Son to take our punishment for our sins. He paid the price in full, and we are free from condemnation when we accept that free gift of love. “But God demonstrated His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Recommended Resources: The Case for Christmas by Lee Strobel & Logos Bible Soft-ware.
What’s your excuse? When you feel like GOD just can’t work with you, please remember…
It’s not your ABILITIES that count, It’s your AVAILABILITY!
Among the great men & women in the Bible,
Noah was a drunk! (Genesis 9:21) He made his own wine.
Abraham thought he was too old! (Genesis 17:17) Sara and I are too old to have children
Isaac was a liar, just like his Dad! (Genesis 26:7, 20:2) Told them his wife Rebekah was his sister
Jacob was a liar & a schemer! (Genesis 27:19 and many more!) Stole his brothers birthright
Leah was plain (ugly?)! (Genesis 29:17) She had weak eyes and was not as beautiful as Rachael
Joseph was abused! (Genesis 37:18f and many more!) His brothers did not like him
Moses had a speach problem! (Exodus 4:10) He stuttered and had difficulty speaking
Gideon was afraid! (Judges 6:27) Went to fight by night fearful he couldn’t win in the daytime
Samson had long hair and was a womanizer! (Judges 16:17, 14:2, 16:1)
Rahab was a prostitute! (Joshua 2:1, 6:17) used by God to protect the spies
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young! (Jeremiah 1:6, I can’t speak I am just a child 1 Timothy 4:12 Let no one despise your youth, flee youthful lust
David was an adulterer and a murderer! (2 Samuel 12:9) Bathsheba and Uriah
Elijah was suicidal! (1 Kings 19:4) I am the only one left- after all the miracles- fire from heaven- defeating Jezebelle
Isaiah preached naked! (Isaiah 20:2-3) A sign of what will happen to the enemies of God
Jonah ran from God! (Jonah 1:3) The first submarine with no lights.
Naomi was a bitter widow! (Ruth 1:20) The Lord has dealt bitterly with me- I went out full and came back empty- Ruth brought out
Job went bankrupt! (Job 1:13-19) His story is the encouragement to so many today
Peter denied Christ! (Matthew 26:69-74) But chosen to be the preacher on the day of Pentecost
The Disciples fell asleep while praying! (Matthew 26:40-43) But chosen by Jesus to begin His 3 year earthly ministry
Martha worried about everything! (Luke 10:40-41) Jesus rebuked her
The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once! (John 4:18) Became a witness that won her whole town to Jesus
Zaccheus was too small! (Luke 19:3) What a recovery
Paul was too religious! (Philippians 3:4-6) became a persecutor of Christians and then turned from religion to Christ and became a church planter
Timothy had an ulcer! (1 Timothy 5:23) Had stomach problems
*AND* Lazarus was dead! Loose him and let him go!!! (John 11:1-44)
Borrowed from Dr. Lou at Dunklin
Letters to a Disciple
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep” (John 21:17).
It is difficult for many of us to love Jesus. We accept His death on the cross; we are grateful for that. We worship Him because He is seated at the right hand of the Father; we realize He is Lord, and deserving of our worship. But do we love Him? Do some of us fabricate a love for Jesus that we really don’t feel, but believe we should have in order to be good Christians?
What is our perception of Jesus? Is it based upon the knowledge acquired by listening to others, or has a relationship been established? Have we witnessed the experiences and heard the testimonies of our friends, yet harbored doubt in our hearts because we have had no exciting experience of our own?
What do we lack? Why are we unable to experience something we so desperately want? Why can’t we love Jesus with the fervor we see in others? Is there something within us that prohibits us from reaching out to our Lord with all our heart?
Jesus told us to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength! We know that to love God, we must love Jesus because no one can come to the Father except through Jesus. So we’re back to square one. We must love Jesus.
Perhaps we should define love. Simply stated, love is the preference of one person for another person. It carries with it the desire and ability to surrender self in favor of that other one. Because of this, true love is unnatural to the flesh.
Love we manufacture is always conditional, and can turn into lust at any moment. We may have affection for someone, but affection doesn’t have the true nature of love in it.
Actually, the love we’re looking for, pure and unconditional love, comes from one source only, “….the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). Does this mean we are unable to love unconditionally, on our own? Yes, it means just that.
We must let this Scripture soak in:
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
By this, love is perfected with us, that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
We love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:15-19).
Unless we open ourselves to receive God’s love, we can try all we want, but never be able to love Jesus with the intensity He requires. We can pray for Him to increase our ability to love Him, but it will never happen until we submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit, whose job it is to “pour it out”, or to “shed it abroad” in our hearts. (Romans 5:5)
The Holy Spirit must first reveal who Jesus is. The raising of Lazarus was not simply Jesus performing the act of raising the dead. Instead, He said, “I AM the resurrection!” It is not that He gives us life, HE IS the life! It is not that He gives us bread, HE IS the bread! The testimony of the Holy Spirit about Jesus is what Jesus IS Himself! And we are thrust into the center of that magnificence by the sovereign act of God, because we have agreed to believe.
nderstanding this can never be acquired by listening to teaching, it becomes a reality by accepting what Paul talks about in Romans 6, then carried out by living in union with Christ. That unbroken fellowship produces a rich, wonderful life, filled with tremendous spiritual results.
We are so filled with His love, that we can love Him as He wishes, and we can properly tend His sheep. The living water, vitally and inseparably linked with Jesus, flows from us to others with virtually no effort on our part. Jesus is Life, Light, and Love, and our union with Him reflects all that.
How do we accomplish this? How do we acquire a love for Jesus that results in our being able to tend His sheep? Let’s go over it once again. Love must be personal to be anything at all; therefore, we must establish a personal relationship with Jesus. This is accomplished by talking to Him, by laying out our lives before Him and inviting Him to help Himself.
He builds the relationship by degrees, bringing our lives into oneness with Him. We focus our attention with every ounce of energy upon that relationship. When we commit to Jesus with that kind of determination, He meets us at the commitment point and guides us into the relationship we both desire.
Does it sound too simple? It is too simple for our intellect. But our intellect is not to be confused with God’s wisdom. Every facet of our relationship with God depends upon our step of faith in His wisdom. We must remember, faith always precedes understanding. If that were not the case, there would be no need for faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God!
What are you doing of eternal value?
How much do I Love Jesus?