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

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

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

Fight

Nehemiah’s story shows that whenever you try to accomplish anything significant for the Lord, you will face strong opposition. The name “Satan” means “adversary”; he is committed to opposing God and His people, especially when they are zealous to exalt God’s glory.

On the personal level as long as you live with one foot in the world, living according to the world’s values and for the world’s goals, Satan won’t often trouble you. You can go to church and even pray and read your Bible, and he won’t mind. But the minute you wake up from your spiritual lethargy, shake off the worldly mindset, and commit yourself to radical obedience to Jesus Christ, you will encounter spiritual opposition! We have all been called to make a difference in this world for God’s glory.  This call will require us to stand up and fight the opposition that is certain to come, so Fight!

Scripture References

Key Scripture:  Nehemiah 4

Nehemiah 4:1-23

Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!” Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders. So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.  But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry. And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night. 10 In Judah it was said,“The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” 11 And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.” 12 At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.”13 So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 14 And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.” 15 When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. 16 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, 17 who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other.18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me. 19 And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. 20 In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” 21 So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from the break of dawn until the stars came out. 22 I also said to the people at that time, “Let every man and his servant pass the night within Jerusalem, that they may be a guard for us by night and may labor by day.” 23 So neither I nor my brothers nor my servants nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us took off our clothes; each kept his weapon at his right hand.

 Ephesians 2:10

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 1 Corinthians 7:17

Only let each person lead the lifethat the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.

John10:10

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

1 Peter 5:8-9 

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, 

 Ephesians 6:10-14a

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, ……..

Quote

“If we don't fight for what we 'stand for' with our passionate words and honest actions, do we really 'stand' for anything?”  ~ Tiffany Madison

James 4:7

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

1 Timothy 6:12

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

 1 Corinthians 9:26

So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 

 2 Corinthians 2:10-12

Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

 

 

 

 

 

Civil

In God’s blueprint for His Church, we are called to be a light and an example to the world around us. We have a civil obligation to be kind and courteous to those around us. This isn’t always easy when things – and people – get difficult. How do we respond like Jesus in these moments? It’s important to remind ourselves that we too were once lost, and it was Christ who saved us. Everything we do for Him is nothing more than the product of all that He has already done for us. With a heart of gratitude, let’s show the world the grace of God through the way we treat others.

Scripture References

Key Scripture:  Titus 3:1-15
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. 9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
Final Instructions and Greetings
12 When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. 14 And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.
15 All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith.
Grace be with you all.

Romans 13:1
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

Matthew 5:14-16
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Philippians 2:14-15
14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.

James 2:15-16
15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

 

Own it!

Key Scripture: Titus 1:1-5

There’s no such thing as a perfect church, at least not according to our standards. But what if Church was imperfect by design? In God’s blueprint for the church we don’t just have members, we have owners. Ownership is a different way of thinking. If you’re a gym member and a machine breaks or something needs cleaning, you visit the front desk and let someone know. It’s up to them to fix the problem. However, if you’re an owner of that gym, you roll up your sleeves and take care of the problem. The way many Christians see themselves and their God given role in the church is not the way God designed it to be. As we understand our identity as a servant of Christ, we become less concerned with problems we see and more concerned with the solution God calls us to be.

Other Scripture References:  Romans 12:2, Luke 9:23, Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 139:14, Ephesians 2:10

Why is There Hunger?

Key Scripture: Genesis 25:29-34

If God is love, then why are people all over the world starving to death? According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, malnourishment and starvation affect more than 800 million people every year. This tragedy is even greater in light of the fact that there is enough food in our world to feed them all. The problem isn’t a lack of resources, but a deeper problem of the human heart. Hunger is the brain’s response to detecting a need for nourishment. It indicates an emptiness. This emptiness can be physical, but it can also be emotional or spiritual. We can hunger for food, or for acceptance and social validation. Before we can solve the problem of hunger in the world, we must satisfy the starvation of the human soul. Only then will we learn to be contributors in a world of consumers and to give of ourselves to those in need.

Other Scripture References: Philippians 3:17-21; Matthew 5:6; 1 John 2:15; Ecclesiastes 1:1-8; Ecclesiastes 2:1-11; 1 Timothy 6:6-7; Philippians 4:11

Without Question

Key Scripture: 1 John 4:7-12

God is love…Or is He? One look at the overwhelming amount of tragedy, chaos and evil in our world is enough to cause many to question the love of God. Love is at the core of who God is, but it’s not all that God is. He is also holy, righteous and just. He is a God of wrath against sin and all that is evil in His creation. These attributes are not inferior to His love, nor are they in conflict with it. In fact, God is loving in His holiness, righteousness and justice. All of God’s attributes exist in perfect harmony with each other. Most importantly, God’s love isn’t just an idea we talk about at church; it’s a reality that every one of us has an opportunity to receive and experience today. Is God love? Without question.

Other Scripture References: Romans 5:6-8; Psalm 90:2; Romans 8:31-39; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9

Coincidence

Life is full of coincidences…or is it? A coincidence is defined as a remarkable series of events or circumstances with no apparent connection.  However, the Bible reveals God to be the great Connector. He is sovereign over every circumstance and all things are under His control and authority.  Nothing we experience – no matter how seemingly random or terrible - is outside of the scope of His sovereignty.  When our lives seem to be unraveling, we can find peace in knowing that our loving God always holds the thread.

Scripture References: Ruth 2:1-22; Ephesians 1:11; Romans 8:28; Psalm 56:11; Isaiah 55:8-9; Jeremiah 29:11

Heart Health

Chances are, you have a heart problem. Our faith, like our bodies, can neither thrive nor survive without a healthy heart. While some people suffer from a physical heart condition, every one of us is born with a spiritual heart condition. Our faith is weak and we struggle with sin, bitterness and shame. Sin in our lives is the symptom of a deeper diagnosis – a deceitful heart that is desperately sick. We can’t cure it on our own, but Jesus can! He came to give us a new and healthy heart through the miracle of forgiveness. When we receive forgiveness, our heart is changed. When we forgive others, our heart remains healthy. At the heart of our problems is the problem of the heart. How is your heart today?

Scripture References: Mark 12:1-12, Jeremiah 17:9; Ezekiel 36:26; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 3:21-24, Ephesians 2:1-5, Matthew 6:12; Ephesians 4:31-32; Colossians 3:12-13