2019 Peace and Joy

2019 Peace and Joy

12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, 8760 hours, 525,600 minutes, 31,536,000 seconds comprise one year. Broken into these pieces it becomes a mathematical item, but it is the moments of our lives. We are breathing, heart pumping, thinking, and so many actions going on in the inside of our bodies without thought to them. Broken down into these pieces we have a small window of expression, interaction, and relationship. To remain healthy, you will need to spend a third of those hours sleeping. You will spend another third of those hours working. You will have to concentrate on your job. You will spend another large section eating, maybe three hours a day minimum.

The daily grind, the routines of life take a considerable amount of time. These routines are for sustaining life and providing for family and self. If you then multiply the annual time spent times the life expectancy of a man or woman, you will find that the weighted issues of life are relegated a very small portion of our attention and for some it is negligible. Time is ticking, but what about the eternal matters that must be decided in that ticking clock?

We have this very handy celebration every year called New Years. It is a moment to mark time, a crossroads, a mile marker. It locates us in the history of the world. It serves to set boundaries of people’s lives, their service, their responsibilities. It also is a count down. You look forward and you look backward and you get a sense of where you are. This barrier of sorts gives each person a moment to evaluate, a moment to say “that is past.” It is a moment to hope for the better, a new day, a new start. We make resolutions, turn over a new leaf, start fresh. We look ahead with a sense of renewal. There is an adventure in it. What does this year hold for me?

With the break of a new year, we cast vision for the next months. But, we also take a hard look at the past months and ponder, “what did I learn, what did I do, what do I need to change moving ahead?”

I have found that hope springs up in me at the change of the calendar. I hope for a better year than the last one. I hope for health for all. I hope that lives will be changed through Jesus. I hope for people to catch the message and purpose of being a follower of Jesus. I hope for prosperity for all my loved ones. I hope for unity in the family and the family of God. I hope I see Jesus more clearly. I hope I serve well and am faithful to Him. I hope for more revelation of his purposes, his word, and his Spirit. I hope to enjoy life, be content, be happy, smell the roses, imbibe in his wonderful creation. I hope for true friends.

I, through his grace, have another 8760 hours to live. You do too. I am familiar with the way life goes though. There will be challenges. There may be grief and sorrow. We are not exempt. But there will be some really great times too. The real joy does not come from events so much as from the relationships we have with loved ones. The events become great memories because of who was there with you.

I really want to see 2019 be the year of building wonderful, familial relationships in the church. I would like this to be a year of building, growing, being healthy, loving one another. I would pray for a year of peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 

– Pastor Bill

Looking For Peace

Looking For Peace

Here we are at the last Sunday of 2018. It seems years go by rather rapidly. The world is filled with turmoil, anger, strife, hatred. We are bombarded daily with negativity through the media and other sources. When Jesus said that he would leave us with peace, his peace, he introduced something that the world does not and cannot have. In fact, most believers struggle to find that kind of peace. He said that his peace would pass all understanding. So, the peace that passes understanding is not attainable by exercises of the mind. His peace is revealed by the Holy Spirit to the inner man, you inside, down deep in the soul.

In the face of criticisms, complaints, negative talk, accusations, cyber bullying, lies spoken, personal attacks, and character assassinations, the Christian has a source of peace, positivity, and hope. In the face of the stream of negativity and angst, the Christian is called to swim counter culturally and provide a flow of hope and positivity. In the face of fear, worry, and hopelessness the Christian can truly offer and display a life and message of peace, meaning, eternal and temporal hope.

The battle for each believer is to not be drawn into the ways and speech of the world. This is not easy. We are to be in the world, but not of the world. We cannot run away and hide and fulfill our calling to go to the world. Hiding the light of Jesus under a basket, as he illustrated, is not our calling. Yet, many want to hide in the safety of withdrawal from the world, or bind themselves in such a legalistic approach that they are useless in reaching a dying world because they do not love the people. 

Yes, we are called to reach out to the people who are negative. We have some who have dropped out of life choosing to waste themselves with pleasures, drugs, and any form of escape. We have others who are angry and are activists who choose violence and rage. There is no peace in their souls. There are those who lose themselves in the money chase and believe riches are the answer. They end up always chasing the carrot dangling in front of their eyes only to be disappointed in the long run. Even in the Christian world there are futile chases that lead to emptiness. We have the drop outs who sit and never share their faith. They are comfortable with church attendance, but there is no drive or joy in their faith. There are also those who use their faith as an escape, researching, reading, devotions, books, but never engage the world. For pastors and leaders it can be the push to be successful, numbers, finances, buildings, programs etc. It becomes a paper chase of success and comparison. Where is the peace? Where is the engagement with the mandate of Christ?

When we reach the place where the peace of Christ reigns we are positioned to be light and salt to a confused and angry world. The world is made up of suffering individuals caught in the turmoil of life and the battle for the souls of men and women. 

Let us work to find that peace in Christ and let us live in peace with one another. Let us love one another and exemplify the desire of the Lord.

THE WONDER OF IT ALL

THE WONDER OF IT ALL

Remember the excitement, the anticipation, the sleeplessness? Remember Christmas being the moment of high excitement. You went to bed with a tree in the living room lit up with colorful lights, tinsel, and ornaments. That alone was beautiful, but what happened in the morning was spectacular. As you came into the room, the lights were still lit on the tree, but under the tree were numerous wrapped gifts in reds, greens, silver, gold and ribbons tightly embracing the contents. We knew better than to touch anything before the parents were up. So, we would knock on the door, make loud noises to arouse them. Once they came to the living room, the orderly distribution of gifts began. Each of us was excited for the others to see what they got. Especially important was to see if you received what you had been hoping for. As a child, Christmas seemed like it would never get here. As an adult, it comes and goes so fast that you struggle to grab the wonder.

Now, my favorite thing has become watching the faces of the little ones as they open something they had wished for. Their parents love to see clothes for the kids, but the kids pass over those quickly for the more exciting toys. All that preparation, buying, wrapping, anticipating, cooking, and the event is over in moments. Yet, during that short event, there are memories made. Things are remembered and simple gifts can become treasures that remain a lifetime. Looking back years later, you begin to realize the sacrifice of parents and loved ones to make Christmas special.

Yes, sacrifice. As a kid you do not realize that it may take a couple of months to pay for the gifts you received. Parents do that. Or maybe someone was working two jobs or working a lot of overtime to make Christmas special. The wonder of Christmas is in the willingness to sacrifice to make the moment wonderful for someone else. 

Some of the toys were played with for awhile and then they faded. Clothing fit and was worn, but in the years of growing a few months made them too small. Yet, the sacrifice was made willingly and for that fleeting moment the reward was seen in the face of joy.

Gratitude should be present, but often is not. Sometimes it takes years to feel the gratitude for what was done. As a child, you do not know. You probably should not. Some have said that they did not know they were poor till they got older into adulthood. The sacrifices and love covered the reality so there would be joy. Then as adulthood awakens the reality of the past, you are awed by what was done for you.

I guess I do not want to lose the wonder of Christmas. The number of gifts do not matter to me, in fact, the fewer the better. You remember better with fewer. What is really important is having family together. The banter, the laughter, the stories, the little ones are the best gifts of the day.

Likewise, the wonder of the sacrifice that God made for us to have joy, fulfillment, and peace is paramount to our celebration. The birth is a wonder of God’s planning and grace, but without the cross it would have been a kid born to a Jewish carpenter and his young wife. The progress of the gift from birth to resurrection makes the wonderment beyond full comprehension. Jesus is a gift that keeps on giving to us daily. The opening of another revelation, another understanding, another prophetic fulfillment causes us to live in wonder. It is Christmas every time we see another facet of the plan and the eternal gift.

I am eternally grateful to Jesus!

– Pastor Bill

Peace on Earth

PEACE ON EARTH

We just finished a very fruitful weekend with our Holy Spirit Encounter Weekend. Ralph did an excellent job of teaching, Duane’s contribution was really good, and I enjoyed sharing as well. There were many good questions and numerous comments that were helpful. We had several guests come to the conference. They each reported how it really helped them. They made comments too about how friendly and loving the church was. (That is really good to hear)

We are fully in the Christmas season. Everyone is busy, decorating, family events, cooking, baking etc. I hope you are not getting stressed out and will be able to enjoy the season with your loved ones. We certainly want to focus on the birth of Christ and all the redemption contained in that miracle. One of the declarations of the angels was “peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” It can be translated, “peace on earth toward men of goodwill.” 

In a time where peace seems so far away, it is important to know where that peace resides and where it comes from. The peace comes from knowing God, knowing Jesus, the one sent by God. It resides within our soul and spirit and not from some external calm in the world. In the face of trials and temptations, rumors of wars and wars, trouble and double trouble, the peace comes to the spirit and soul through the presence of the Holy Spirit. As I look around, if I were looking for peace, I would not find it in circumstances.  I can only find it in the presence of Jesus.

I choose to be positive. I choose to not return evil for evil. I choose to love, not hate. I choose to look to the positive and not live in the negative. I choose to look forward and not look backward. I choose to forgive, not condemn. I choose to speak well, not complain and whine. I choose to have faith for the future and not doubt God’s provision. Life is a series of choices. What you choose, sows the seeds for your harvest. 

The world does not understand the peace of God. Many Christians do not understand the peace of God. Often they are caught in the religious, the legalistic, the performance, the sad carnal responses to life. Caught, trapped. Finding and maintaining the peace of God is a test of endurance. Each trial tests our responses and feelings. Each trial causes the internal to rise up its carnal nature. Each trial then makes us run to God, run to the savior to find the peace that passes understanding. Peace was promised, was announced, was shouted by angelic choruses. The angels declared a new day because of the child to be born.

One day the Prince of Peace will come. One day the Prince will settle the accounts and bring justice and maintain the peace. One day we will do war no more. One day the lion will lie with the lamb. One day the saints of God will love one another like Jesus intended.

– Pastor Bill

Celebrate His Birthday

Celebrate His Birthday

 

The birth of Jesus brought the beginning of one of the greatest changes to eternity that has ever happened in the history of the world. A set of events that are so obscure to the rest of the world that it would have gone unnoticed except for the apostles who recorded it. Yet, this string of events not covered by the media, or written by prominent historians, changed the world. Only, greatly after the fact, did people begin to understand the impact of a birth with eternity riding on its import.

Through the centuries volumes of books have been written expounding the miracle. Books written to explain how this birth fulfilled prophecies centuries old, one waiting for this moment. Books written to expound how the letter of the law was completed by this infant. Libraries are filled with the miracle and the wonder of a God-man, the Emmanuel. 

We call it Christmas. In the celebration we exchange gifts, families are reunited, friends care for one another, children are excited, and traditions are played out and memories are made for life. The world has caught on, enjoying the celebration and the gifts, but often missing any mention of the true reason for celebration.

Even we who believe often miss the point too. I think we can make it very solemn, rather than a celebration. If we focus on the scene, the manger scene, we think about the problem of birthing in a barn, the struggle of no room in the inn. Really, he was born and swaddled in a manger foretelling the preparation of the perfect lamb of God. Hallelujah!  Angels were singing, Hallelujah. Born in Bethlehem, fulfilling the prophecy of Micah and the House of David. Hallelujah! Born of a virgin fulfilling prophecy from Isaiah, Hallelujah!  Shepherds who knew the art of raising and preparing the lamb for sacrifice were awed and understood. Hallelujah!

The need for a perfect, pure, man was being fulfilled. The years to the cross were years of obedience and testing. He passed! The purity remained and he was the perfect sacrifice to cleanse the heavenly altar and throne from the corruption of Adam’s sin. We needed someone without the blood strain of Adam coursing through their veins. Here comes Jesus with pure, untainted, non-Adam blood, the God-Man. This virgin birth becomes one of the pillars of the faith. Without the virgin birth and the pure life of Jesus, we would still be lost in our sin and there would be no hope.

BUT…He was born of a virgin. His blood was completely pure. Death could not hold him. He made the altar clean again. He is the propitiation for our sin. He paid it all. He established a new covenant. He abolished the old covenant. He prepared and made a way for us to live forever in his presence.

Remember…this is really important. Celebrate the birth of Jesus!!