The Hope Within


Christmas Crib Father Christmas Nativity Scene

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

As Christmas quickly approaches I can not help but ponder what this time of year means to people. What comes to mind when you think about the Christmas season? For some it means food, family, and gifts. For others it means sadness and pain. Yet, for others it means presents, trees, and stress. What word would you use to describe Christmas?

As I thought about this question, one word kept coming back to me. Hope. Personally Christmas is not so much about the decorations, food, or the presents. Do not misunderstand me, I love all of these things. However, Christmas is so much more! It is a time to stop and remember the gift that was given to each of us all those years ago. There were not immaculate decorations, tables of food, and tons of presents under a tree. No, there was a young woman and her husband, a stable, and a star. More importantly there was Jesus. There was Hope.

When I stop and think back on that first Christmas, my mind often turns to Mary. I can not help but wonder what she must have been feeling. What thoughts were going through her mind as she traveled with her husband on that long journey?

Any woman who has carried a child understands how Mary must have felt physically. We can all relate to the discomfort she must have been in and the anxiety she must have experienced along the way. As a mother I understand the uncertainty she must have felt concerning childbirth. I know the excitement she felt as she thought about holding her baby boy for the first time. But what about the deeper feelings Mary must have experienced? What must have she been feeling deep inside her heart knowing she would soon deliver the Son of God?

I believe above all else, Mary felt Hope. Not only did she feel that Hope inside her heart, but inside her body as the Hope of the world grew.  From the very first flutter she felt, Mary knew that Hope was growing. I believe as those flutters turned into kicks and nudges, Mary understood even more that she carried the Hope of the world inside of her.

Friend, do you have this Hope? The same Hope that Mary carried all those years ago is still a gift for you today. Amid all the busyness and stress Hope can be found. No amount of money can buy it. No store sells it. It can not even be put in a pretty box and placed under the Christmas tree. Hope only comes through salvation and salvation only comes through Jesus Christ.

Do you want to lay down the sorrow that has been weighing you down? Would you like to lay aside that shame and heartache you have been carrying? Today you can. Give it all to Jesus. Let go of all that has you bound down and accept the free gift of Hope that is being offered to you today. I promise that no other gift you receive will ever measure up to the one that was given on that first Christmas oh so many years ago. Find Hope today, friend.

There is Only One Way


“The Lord is merciful and gracious,Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever.” Psalm 103:8-9

Friends, I feel the need to share something that has been on my heart. There is a trend going on among God’s people which disturbs me, and I feel the need to speak out about it.

First, let me say that I very much enjoy sharing words of encouragement with you. I feel this is what I am called to do. I try to share Scriptures that will cheer you on along your Christian journey. I share words of wisdom and stories from our lives that will encourage you and your family. I do my best to take Scripture and use it as a guide for your everyday life.

Next, I want to share my belief on what God wants for His children. I believe that God wants His children to be happy. He wants good things for us. I believe that God rejoices with us when we rejoice, and He hurts with us when we hurt. I believe that God wants to see His children enjoy life.

Here is the problem I am having. There are people out there right now who want to tell you things that simply are not true. While I do enjoy bringing you words of encouragement, I never want to lead you to believe that your life is always going to be easy and worry free. I do not want to fool you into thinking that if you have positive thoughts, your life will always go as planned. Friends, sadly this is not true.

Please do not think I am here to spread gloom and doom. That is not my intention. I do, however, feel that God has placed this on my heart today. I feel that just as I share encouraging words with you I must also share the serious words with you.

In the verse that I shared today, we read that God is merciful and gracious. He is slow to anger and full of mercy. God sent His Son to live on this earth for a season and then to die on the cross so that we might be saved. Yes, He loves us. He is merciful. Yes, He wants good for us.

There is something I want us to understand. Even thought we serve a God who is mighty and gracious and merciful, we are told in John 16:33, that we will face trials and tribulations on this earth. Friends, please do not believe the lie that if you will just think positively, then your life is going to be easy and trouble free. This is not true. We are told right here that we will face trouble. We do, however, find hope if we will continue on to the end of this verse. After we are warned that life is going to be difficult, we are then encouraged by these words, ” But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Within this statement we find the truth. It is not in our own positive thinking that we find hope, but in the assurance that we have a Savior who gave His life for us. In doing so He has conquered the world. This is where we find true, lasting hope.

There is one more misconception that I would like to discuss. This one, in my opinion, is not so obvious. The trouble I have in this matter is not so much that it has been twisted and misused, as it is that it simply has been left out altogether. I am talking about the judgement and the wrath of God.

Now, you may be saying, “But, I thought you were just talking about a loving God.” You would be correct. We do serve a loving God, but if you will continue reading today’s verse you will see that this day of mercy and grace will, at some point, come to an end.

We read in Psalm 103:9He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever.” Friends, there is coming a day when God will say enough is enough. Please do not miss this very important part of the puzzle. Somehow we have gotten so caught up in the power of positive thinking and the blessings of God that we have forgotten about punishment for sin. Romans 6:23 reads, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” There is only one way to Heaven and it is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

You can be as positive as you want to be. You can think all the good thoughts that one mind can manage. You can be as good a person as you want to be. What I want you to understand today is that none of these things are going to keep you out of Hell.

I believe in having a positive attitude. I believe in being a good person. I believe that as Christians our lives should reflect Jesus and the love that He has for us. I encourage my kids every day to be positive. I encourage them to work hard and to be good people. What I make sure they understand though is that none of these things are going to save them from the punishment that sin brings, and none of them are going to get them into Heaven.

I understand that I may appear to be on my soapbox today, but I truly believe in my heart that these words need to be shared. I feel that I have been given the responsibility to share the truth with you. If that comes through encouragement, then that is what I want to share. If, like this morning, it comes as cold, hard facts, then I want to be faithful in sharing that as well.

I do have some encouragement for you this morning. God loves you. He does want good for your life. He sent His One and Only Son to die on the cross for your sins. He is, at this very moment, preparing a place for you when this life is over. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He did so as a gift to all of us. It is up to us to accept that gift and give our lives to Him. This gift is our only hope.

Friends, I want to see happiness and health in our lives. I do want us to be good people. I believe in being positive. But, I do not want us to believe the lie that these things are enough to keep us out of Hell. There is only one way to Heaven. I pray that you have chosen that way today.

What Kind of Vessel are You?


gold_vessel

“But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.” II Timothy 2:20-21

Do you own any items which are special to you? Maybe you have something that has been passed down to you over the years or something that once belonged to a famous person. How do you treat these items? Do you just throw them around or do you keep them protected some place?

How would you feel if you came home one day and your children were making mud pies in great-great-grandma Martha’s fine china? What if you came home from work to find your children playing outside with your limited edition football that had been signed by Joe Montana?

I love to collect vintage items. In my kitchen I have on display all of the many items which have been passed down by my grandmother. I also have a set of china that was given to me by my aunt. It is on display in my china cabinet. Only on very special occasions do I take it out and use it. You see, I have set these items apart for a special purpose.

Do you know that God sees each of us this way?

We were all created by God in His image. There are certain things about each one of us which make us unique and special. We have all been given different talents and gifts which are to be used to bring honor and glory to God.

The question I want us to think about this morning is this: What kind of vessel am I?

In the Bible we can read about certain vessels that were made for specific purposes. There were items made of gold that were never to be used for anything except the particular job for which they were created. It was a great dishonor if these items were ever used for anything else. You see, they were holy vessels, vessels that had been cleansed and committed to serving God.

We are all beautiful vessels yet we are all born with sin in our hearts. We are created by God but are naturally dirty on the inside. We must decide whether or not we are going to allow God to work in us and clean us up. It is our choice whether or not we allow God to use us for that special purpose for which He created us.

When we make the decision to accept Jesus into our hearts we allow Him to come in and cleanse us. We ask Him to forgive us of our sins and we are made new. We are empty vessels waiting to be filled.

Sadly for some people this is as far as they get. They somehow miss the next step, which is sanctification. Being sanctified is being completely cleansed and set apart for a special purpose. It means that we empty ourselves of everything that could hinder the Lord’s work in us and we give ourselves to God for His service.

I want to encourage you, today, to allow God to work in your life. Allow God to cleanse your heart and set you aside for a special purpose. Our verse today says that there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. What kind of vessel will you be? Will you be an everyday vessel that is never really used for anything special, or will you bring honor to God by allowing Him to cleanse you and set you aside for a special purpose? The choice is yours to make. 

The Joy of the Lord is my Strength


joyofthelord

“Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 

Has life knocked you down?

Have you lost your joy?

Friend, all throughout our lives we are going to face trials. These trials will try to steal our joy. They will take the wind out of our sails.

When we find ourselves in these situations, we often wonder how we will ever get back up, how we will ever survive.

I want to encourage your heart this morning. You are not defeated. You are not alone.

Today’s verse tells us that “the joy of the Lord is our strength.”

You see, life is more than we can handle. The day to day struggles that we face are too much for us. The sudden blows that come from the devil will surely knock us to the ground.

The good news is that we do not have to stay there. We have a source of strength, and His name is Jesus.

When life hands you a situation that you can not bear alone, Jesus is there. The joy that can be found in knowing Him and serving Him is enough to pick us back up and dust us off.

Having Jesus in our hearts does not guarantee us a life free from struggles. However, knowing Jesus and having a relationship with Him brings a peace and a joy that can get us through these difficult times.

Do you know Jesus?

Do you have the joy of the Lord in your heart?

I want you to know, today, that Jesus loves you. He is standing, with arms stretched wide, waiting for you to run to Him.

Will you choose Jesus today? Will you let the joy of the Lord be your strength?

Warning: Danger Ahead


Warning

“For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”

1 Thessalonians 5:2

 If you and I were walking in the woods and I said, “You need to be careful because I have spotted a bear here in the woods before,” what would you think?

What would happen as we walked along if, on the ground, you saw signs that indeed a bear had been in this area?

If I suddenly yelled, “RUN! There is a bear,” what would you do?

Would you run, or would you tell me I was crazy? Would you wait around to see just how close that bear would get to you before you would begin to run away?

 It is absurd to think that you would stand and wait for that bear to reach you before you ran. It is crazy to think that you would turn around and face it head on as if you could battle it alone.

Hopefully you would heed my warning. Hopefully you would trust me enough to run when I told you that you were in danger.

***************************************************************************************************

Friends, I am here this morning to warn you. I pray that you will heed my warning. I pray that you will trust me when I tell you that something is coming.

I am here to tell you that if you are not a Christian, if you are not covered by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, then you are in grave danger.

I firmly believe that Jesus is coming back very soon. Too many things are happening and too many signs are being seen to believe differently.

Just as you would never chance being chased by a bear, or just as you would never try to fight it alone, please do not think that you can handle being left behind. Please do not think that you still have plenty of time to get it together.

Today’s verse reminds us that we do not know when Jesus is coming back. His coming will be instantaneous. It will take everyone by surprise.

My question for you is this: Will you be ready? Have you made preparations to leave this world behind and be taken up in the clouds?

There will be no time to make this choice when Jesus does come back. It will be too late when you realize that friends and family are missing and you have been left.

The time to prepare is now. The time to get it together is this very second. We are not promised tomorrow. We are not even promised our next breath.

Will you heed my warning today? Will you trust me when I tell you that something is coming? Will you take the time right now to seek out God’s forgiveness and gain the assurance that you have a home in Heaven when that time comes? Only you can make that choice. No one can do it for you.

The good news is, it is simple to do. Let me tell you how:

1. Realize that you are a sinner. ( Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”)

2. Confess your sins and ask for forgiveness. (1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”)

3. Believe that you have been saved. ( Romans 10:9-10 “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”)

Once you have done these things, Jesus will begin to work in your heart and in your life. He will begin to grow you into the person He wants you to be.

If you follow God’s word and listen to His commandments, you can be assured that when the Lord comes back for His children, you will not be left behind. You will not have to face the many terrible things that are to come. You will have a home waiting for you in Heaven.

I pray, today, that you have taken these steps to prepare for what is to come. I want to know that I have done everything I can to warn and prepare those I love.  It breaks my heart to think of friends and family left behind.

Remember: The Lord is coming back as a thief in the night. I pray you will be ready.