Reflecting the Lord's Glory

Well, Christmas is past, the New Year has come in, and now finally, maybe, our schedules are beginning to normalize just a bit (although I'm reminded that Erma Bombeck said that normal is just a setting on your washing machine).

Regardless, I'd like to challenge you to make church a part of your normal setting in 2014.  With everything going on around us, there are many reasons to encourage you to come be involved with others in the church family.  For everything I could say about needing to be here for what you may get out of it (which is important), I'd rather suggest there's an even greater reason to show up and get involved: to simply give God His due glory.

We are here on this earth because God desires that we know Him and glorify Him.  According to Ephesians 1:12, we are here to praise our glorious God!  Worship is an important part of service.  God inhabits the praises of His people.  (Psalm 22:3).

Did you know that your worship is a witness?  Acts 2:47 says that the early church was "praising God and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved."  There was a direct connection between worship and witness.  We are being watched, both inside and outside the walls of our building.  When times are less than wonderful, the world marvels at our ability to continue rejoicing.

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The Harvest is Now

"Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest'?  Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for the harvest."  [John 4:35]

Here is an interesting fact about American church history you may not know.  Years ago, when the first New England churches were designed, they were built with clear windows instead of the stained glass we see so often today – and the graveyard was usually in the church yard, placed so it would be visible from the pulpit.  Why?  So the pastor would see the graveyard while he preached and could be reminded of the urgency of his message!  It was so he could be reminded that everyone who sat in the pews before him as he spoke, would eventually take their place in that cemetery beyond the windows...and ultimately stand before God's judgment.  Can you imagine?

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Christmas - Episode 1 of "Justified"

Have you ever sat down and really considered why Christmas happened?  Have you ever searched the Scriptures beyond the Luke 2 story of His birth, to find out why that birth happened?  A lot of folks would say that Christmas happened so that Jesus would live on earth and teach us by His words and His actions how we should live our lives.  Take a minute, though, and really think that through.

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True Thankfulness - Even for Fleas

One great joy of Thanksgiving is leftovers.  For some reason, turkey and dressing tastes almost better on Thursday night or maybe even Friday or Saturday, doesn't it?  I came across a website that adds up all the goodness of leftovers and then gives us a calorie count (how bad is that?).  And then, on top of that, it tells how far you need to walk to shed those calories!  A turkey sandwich, some dressing and mashed potatoes, a little cranberry sauce, and a piece of pie with ice cream – 13 miles!  Add some gravy and you have to walk 15 miles to shake off that one meal of leftovers!!  Can you imagine?  If we were serious about getting rid of those calories, our sidewalks would be more clogged than our arteries!

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Goodness and Mercy

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."  [Psalm 23:6]
It seems like many people are under lots of stress, tension, and discouragement.  We all seem to know someone close to us going through major health issues.  The job market and economy are in the pits.  Relationships for some folks don't seem to last.  Politicians can't agree on the time of day (and if they did we wouldn't trust them to tell us).  The culture is going south in a hand basket.  Are you experiencing any of this personally? Are you right now in a season of defeat or discouragement?  Does it even seem like God is real, yet not present with you in your trials...someplace far off and distant from your own reality?

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In His Time

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law."  [Deuteronomy 29:29]

The first century believers lived under Roman rule.  You might remember Pax Romana from world history class in high school – a time of forced peace.  Everything was calm unless you raised a stink against the Empire.  Not a time for much personal freedom, especially for the upstart Christians, but it was a time of relative peace throughout the land.  Add to that the common language of Greek and the best system of roadway travel, and you realize the stage was set for the Christians to move from community to community.  That allowed them to carry out Christ's command of spreading the gospel into the world.  A cultural coincidence or God's perfect timing?  If you weren't taking advantage of the open doors, though, you may have been unaware of much other than difficult days under Roman rule.

How do you see God's timing in your life?  The verse above tells us there are some things that are only for God to know.  In that category, among other things, is the number of days we have here.  Who knows the span of our days?  Only our Lord.

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Evangelism, Revival, and the Holy Spirit

Earlier this week I was reading over notes I had accumulated while attending the Moody Pastors' Conference in Chicago a couple of months ago.  I was struck in a particular way by one speaker's comments in light of the current four-part sermon series I'm working on – "Belonging in the Body of Christ."  Byron Paulus', executive director of Life Action Ministries, topic was connecting revival (which we say we want) to evangelism (which we say is difficult).  Jesus' final earthly command contained in it the promise of power to carry it out...But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

Here is what I noticed: The work didn't actually start in Jerusalem.  Jesus said the work would begin in the disciples – you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.  Understand the empowerment is a gift given to every believer in Jesus – the supernatural desire and ability to share God's kingdom and His love.  We already have the power!  "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness."  (2 Peter 2:3)

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