Wise Christmas

Key Scripture: Matthew 2: 1-12

During the Christmas season, we never seem to have enough money. Our bank account balance falls miserably short of everything we want to buy for friends and family, so we put it on a credit card and hope for the best. Instead of snow-balling our debt and paying it off, we end up crushed by a financial avalanche. If you’re missing Peace because of all of the “stuff” you need to get, it’s time to put Christ back in the center of your finances. Give regularly back to Him, especially during seasons when it’s most difficult to give. Learn to give like Him, caring more about the person than the present. The greatest gifts we receive have nothing to do with what we want, and everything to do with who we are and who we’re becoming. Instead of buying gifts that cost a lot, give gifts that mean a lot - and rediscover the Peace you’ve been missing.

Scripture References: 1 Timothy 6:17, 1 Timothy 6:9-10, Ephesians 4:28, Malachi 3:10

Christmas Time

Key Scripture:  Luke 1: 26-38

During the Christmas season, we never seem to have enough time. Our already busy schedule gets even more crowded with work parties, decorating the house, entertaining friends, shopping for those perfect gifts, and countless other holiday responsibilities. When our busy schedule and our crazy plans become the center of our lives, we will inevitably find ourselves missing Peace. It’s easy to be preoccupied with everything we need to get done without ever considering what Jesus actually wants us to do. When we submit to God’s will and serve Him as Master, He frees us from the tyranny of the urgent. This Christmas season, stop trying to get control of your crazy holiday schedule. Instead, give HIM control of your schedule and rediscover the Peace you’ve been missing.

Scripture References: Philippians 3:19, Matthew 22:27-40, Ephesians 5:15-16

Peace?

Key Scripture: Luke 10:38-42

Christmas is a season filled with so many great things, yet it’s also a time when most of us find ourselves missing peace. With so many gifts to buy and parties to attend, we never seem to have enough time or money. “‘Tis the season to be stressed” seems to be the norm. So how do we find peace? We need to remember the real meaning of Christmas and focus on Jesus, the Peace of Peace.

Scripture References: Isaiah 9:6, Luke 2:8-14, John 14:27, John 16:33, Romans 5:1, Colossians 3:15, Philippians 4:4-7

God's Way

Key Scripture:  Nehemiah 13:1-31

A life that matters is lived God’s Way; it’s a life of uncompromising obedience to His Word. This doesn’t just happen naturally. In fact, the sinful part of man constantly pulls him away from God and His perfect plan for us. Knowing this, we must do all we can to remove sinful influences that are destructive toward our Faith and not allow them to take root and take up residence in our lives. It’s vital to know and keep His commands when it comes to revenue, rest and relationships. These important areas of our lives directly affect the health of the only real essential area of life: our relationship with God. Are you living your own way? The World’s way? Or are you living God’s Way?

Scripture References: Galatians 5:17, Matthew 18:8-9, Galatians 5:4, Romans 7:6-7, Exodus 20:8, 11, Isaiah 30:15, 2 Corinthians 6:14-16, James 4:4

No Thanks

Key Scripture:  Nehemiah 12: 1-47

Thanksgiving should be more than just a holiday; it should be a regular part of our lives. Our natural tendency, however, is to compare ourselves to other people which leads to discontentment. We end up focusing more on the problems in our lives and the things we don’t have. We give no thanks. Yet, even during times of loss and difficulty, it’s important to praise God for who He is and thank Him for what He’s done. If we have nothing else, we have been redeemed from our sin and given the gift of Life in Christ. Thanksgiving can be expressed through worship – singing songs of gratitude and praise - and through giving cheerfully back to God. When we choose to give thanks, we protect ourselves against anger and bitterness, and we experience greater health in our mind, body and relationships. Let’s give thanks this holiday and every day!

Scripture References:  Nehemiah 12:1, 8, 24, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Nehemiah 12:27-30, 31, 38, 40, 43, Numbers 19:9, Hebrews 9:14

Willing

Key Scripture:  Nehemiah 11:1-36

Once the walls were rebuilt, it wastime for people to move back into the city. This was no small challenge for those who would be moving in. They would have to relocate their families, prepare their new homes, clean and rebuild a city that had been abandoned for 142 years - all with the threat of attack still looming. Despite these difficulties, there were some who were willing to move back into Jerusalem. They recognized God’s hand at work and the opportunity to be a part of it. A life that matters is a life that willingly goes where God leads, no matter the work or risk. Many people wait for a significant life to happen by chance, but God wants it to happen by choice. When we choose to answer His call, we experience His blessing and our lives are remembered. Are you still waiting, or are you willing?

Other Scripture References: Nehemiah 11:1-2, Luke 9:23, Joshua 24:15, 2 Corinthians 8:5, Judges 5:2

Live Free

Key Scripture: Nehemiah 9:1-39

America is the “Land of the Free,” yet most Americans live in slavery every day. We celebrate our freedom to do what we want, forgetting that true freedom is also being able to not do what we don’t want. We are slaves to sin, to fear, and to addiction. We regularly make and break commitments to God, to others and even to ourselves. We’ve become accustomed to failure and all too familiar with shame. But Jesus came to set us free. We are no longer slaves to the rules of this world because we are children of God. We’ve been redeemed to be different. As followers of Jesus, we don’t live like others live, talk like others talk or even think like others think. He brought us into His family so we can stand out in this world. Is your life different? Are you really living free?

Scripture References: Nehemiah 9:36-38, John 8:34, Romans 7:15, 18-19, 24-25, Hebrews 7:22, 8:8-10, Nehemiah 10:28-29, John 12:31-32, 1 Peter 2:9, Nehemiah 10:30-39, Matthew 6:24, 33, Luke 12:15-21, Matthew 6:19-21, 2 Samuel 24:24

Acknowledge

Key Scripture:  Nehemiah 9

 As we look to build the things God calls us to build, we can’t neglect the spiritual rebuilding He wants us to do as well. A real covenant relationship with God is filled with joy and happiness, but it is also about genuine confession and repentance. God calls His people to repentance along with unbelievers – to turn from our sin and turn back to Him. His hope is that we will clearly recognize the direct connection between the evil in our own hearts and the struggles that keep us in bondage: fear, doubt, addiction, shame and more. If we want to experience a life of significance we must acknowledge our sin and our need for God’s grace and mercy in our lives.

Scripture References:  Psalm 32:5, Matthew 5:4, 1 John 1:9, Psalm 51:10, Isaiah 40:30-31, Ephesians 4:17-24

Oh Joy

Key Scripture:  Nehemiah 8:1-18

A life that matters is a life marked by joy. Life has its trials and pursuing God’s calling often invites even more hardships, yet joy gives us an unshakeable foundation of strength. Joy isn’t the result of emotion – it’s not a feeling. It’s not even the result of volition – it’s not a choice. Joy is the supernatural result of my condition before God. It’s the fruit of knowing i am loved and accepted by my Creator, not because I deserve it, but because of Jesus Christ. No trial, tribulation or loss can change this reality or take it away from me. Happiness is a fickle friend that can change, wane and even leave over time. Yet, joy is steadfast and loyal. Grief and sorrow will never overcome it. No matter how many bad things we experience, it doesn’t change the infinite goodness of my right relationship with God. One day, we will be entirely free from pain, but until then we must remember our true source of strength: the joy of the Lord!

Scripture References:  Nehemiah 8:1-8, Hebrews 5:13-14, Matthew 6:21, 2 Timothy 3:16, Nehemiah 8:9-12, John 15:11, Nehemiah 8:13-18, Revelation 21:4

Calling Home

Key Scripture: Nehemiah 6:15-7:73

God’s priorities are clear. Jesus came to reach out to the least, the last, and the lost and bring them to a place where they can experience His peace and protection. He is the Good Shepherd who will leave the 99 sheep already in the fold in order to bring back just one who has wandered away. And once he returns, there’s a party! Do we as the Church have that same heart? It’s easy to get caught up in all of our Christian activities and duties, forgetting that countless people in this world are struggling with no help, no hope and no home. They live every day in fear, feeling like they don’t belong. At one point, they might even think about visiting church, but the fear of judgment and rejection is just one of many overwhelming reasons to remain where they are. We have the great opportunity and responsibility to bring these people the Good News of forgiveness and belonging in Christ. To do this, we must be a safe place for the exile – a place of Grace who loves people as they are. Do you know someone who needs this Good News today? Call them Home!

Other Scripture References: Nehemiah 6:15-19, Genesis 4:5-7, 1 Corinthians 4:20, Nehemiah 7:1-7, Luke 15:3-7