Which Christmas Will You Have This Year?

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Yesterday was a great day in Church. Every generation celebrating Jesus in the best ways. Plus we had we so much fun, loads of creativity on show, people using their gifts and talents to show off their love for God. And mince pies too. Does it get any better?

With the help of children and parents, we built a nativity yesterday at Xcel Church which wasn’t quite complete. NO JESUS. Too many have a Christmas full of the trimmings ~ the food, the drink, the presents, time with family and friends but it ends up being one with NO JESUS. Nothing wrong with all of those.

Christmas without Jesus is an empty or half-filled Christmas. Seemingly full of all the right things yet not truly satisfying.

God’s desire is that we have a Christmas where we KNOW JESUS. One where we put Jesus at the centre of all the celebrations.

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. [Luke 2:6-7 NIV]

This Christmas receive more that just a gift from a friend, receive the greatest gift and KNOW JESUS.

He came to bring life and light to all the world. He came to seek and save that which was lost. He came to reconnect us to God. He cam to forgive us from all of our wrongdoing. He came to bring life in all its fullness.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full [John 10:10b NIV]

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life [John 3:16]

Spread the word this Christmas. Make sure to take a moment to KNOW JESUS and thank Him for coming from heaven to earth. Why not ask others if they would like to invite Jesus into their life this Christmas, to go from a place of NO JESUS to a life where they can begin to KNOW JESUS.

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If you want to KNOW JESUS this Christmas then why not prayer this simple prayer of salvation to invite Jesus into your life.

DEAR GOD, I AM PRAYING BECAUSE I KNOW I NEED A SAVIOUR. THIS CHRISTMAS I AM DECIDING TO BELIEVE THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD, THAT HE DIED FOR MY SINS AND THEN ROSE AGAIN ON THE THIRD DAY. I AM ASKING YOU GOD TO FORGIVE MY SINS AND I BELIEVE THROUGH JESUS, I AM FORGIVEN. AMEN.

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved [Romans 10:13]

 

 

Sing a New Song

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Sing to him a new song [Psalm 33:3]

It is time to unlearn and to stop singing the same old song. It is easy to catch a hold of a thought, give it a melody and allow it become the soundtrack of our life. Then wherever we are we sing it over ourselves again and again and again. Songs that tell others all about how we feel, full of emotion and always sung with great passion.

Songs of how we feel frustrated.
Songs of how life is hard.
Songs about how things are not going our way.
Songs full of our pain.
Songs of how we feel lost.
Songs all about how we feel hopeless.
Songs full questions to God.

Songs describing all the challenges we face.

Let’s be people of God who will stop singing those songs. Let’s stop singing wrong lyrics over our circumstances like ’Things ain’t like they used to be’, and begin to a sing a new song. Instead begin to sing over your circumstances.

Sing a song of peace.
Sing a song of security.
Sing a song of transformation.
Sing a song of healing.
Sing a song of discovery.
Sing a song of hope.
Sing a song of confidence.

Sing a song of faith.

Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you. [Psalm 33:20-22

To Live Is Christ

I don’t want to die. Too much yet to be accomplished.

The bigger challenge is to make sure I truly live. Before that moment when I take my last breath, will I look back with a sense of gratitude for a life well lived or alternatively look back with too much regret.

I’m certain most people have something they wish they could ‘do over’. Surely the reason we are here though is to do more than just exist and instead, to live on purpose for a purpose.

Whatever or whoever you live for, let it be for more than just yourself. Anyone can do that. Don’t be so limited in your thinking to not consider giving your life for the purpose set by Jesus either.

For to me to live is Christ. I have chosen to nail my life to the cross of Jesus Christ. My response as I wrote about yesterday is to now be occupied by Christ. To place Him first in all things. To live my life well for Him. Unembarrassed. Unashamed. Knowing that when I do die, I am positioned to gain. It’s a win-win as far as I am concerned.

How about you?

Be Occupied By Christ

Over the past week I have been reflecting on the Cross of Christ and the difference it can make to my life. Check them out – they make a great week of devotional thoughts.

Now, on a Monday I need to make my response actually mean something, that my life will be different and make a difference. So here’s the simple challenge for myself every day…be occupied by Christ.

To be occupied means to ‘be busy and active’, ‘to be filled up by’, ‘to engage the mind, energy or attention of’.

There are literally millions of things that can occupy my time, attention, energy, thinking, resources. A whole host of stuff that I can become busy and active about, so much so that I can easily forget that my primary occupation is to be a Christian. The from this position, all that I am involved in is influenced by that.

Christ must occupy my thinking.

Christ must occupy my attitude.

Christ must occupy my future.

Christ must occupy my energy.

Now that can seem a little simple, some may even say naive. Questions may come to mind ~ What about what I want? What about what I think? What about the things that are important to me? All good and valid but surely, just by asking these questions I am in danger of displaying an unwillingness to be occupied by Christ and instead to be occupied by self.

Whatever giant I am facing, whatever thoughts may be racing through my mind, whatever opinion I may have about something, however fearful or unsure I may be about the future, whether I feel everything is great or I am hard done too, I have to remember the cross. I have to remember all that Jesus accomplished for me and allow that to become my life.

Jesus became weak so we could become strong in Him.

Jesus became poor so we could become rich in Him.

Jesus became empty so we could become full of Him.

To be occupied by Christ is to remain humble enough to know that without Him I cannot succeed.

To be occupied by Christ is to remain humble enough to know that His best for my life is better than what I think is best for my life.

I want this to be my response to the cross of Jesus Christ for rest of my life. It can seem a tough call but I recognise the benefits make it worth the challenge. I need Gods unmerited favour over ALL my life, so I am going to get my ‘self’ out of the way, stay as humble as I can and depend wholly on Him for my success.

How about you?

The Cross of Christ: Appreciate the Cost

In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus felt the weight of what was awaiting him. Scripture describes that the burden caused him to sweat drops of blood.

  
And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground [Luke 22:44 ESV]

He was about to carry my sin. And the sin of everyone else too. My sin, the shame that goes with it, the hurt, the pain and the guilt. I can find that hard enough to carry as one person, what a weight to carry for all of humankind.  

Yet he did so willingly. 

Where I might back down from such responsibility, Jesus took up that burden and carried it, on purpose. 

Where I might only think of what’s comfortable for me or the thing which brings me most fulfilment, Jesus chose to do what would bring comfort and fulfilment to us. 

When I might only do what I will do, what I deem to be best for me, Jesus laid down his will and went with what his Heavenly Father was asking. 

Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done [Luke 22:42]

In response, especially as I have decide to follow Hin, my life must acknowledge the cost, the weight of the cross that Jesus carried, the means by which he set me free. 

He loved me and demonstrated that love with an overwhelming act. I reflect and ask a difficult question: Why am I so stubborn at times in holding on to things and behaviours that don’t demonstrate my love for Jesus but are more about a love for what I want and enjoy?

I am free because of Jesus. I am loved unconditionally by Jesus. My sins have been removed and are forgotten because of Jesus. 

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus [Romans 8:1]

Lord let my life reflect that freedom and be the best it can be for you. Amen. 

Less of the Secular

Listened to a Pastor last week make a passing comment about ‘not really doing secular’. 

It’s an interesting comment, one I do not have the full context of, but one that has certainly made me think. It’s made me observe my life too. 

  • Am I loving the secular too much? 
  • Does my love for the secular squeeze out my love for God?
  • Do I try and live too close to the edge  of my faith so I still ‘fit in’?
  • Should I give some stuff up in response to what Jesus gave up for me?

I think the answer to all of these questions is probably ‘YES’. If we are honest, the answer for nearly everyone would be ‘YES’. 

It’s so easy to fill time with anything. I’m not advocating the need to throw out the television or be quite so dramatic. For me it’s more a need to reflect and have a willingness to be really honest with myself. 

  • What actually do I think I can’t live without?
  • What behaviours as a Christian just make a mockery of me saying that I am a Christian?
  • Why am I wiling to settle for such a low standard when Jesus had called me to live the full life He has won for me?

It can be tough being a follower of Jesus. It can involve choosing to not do stuff that others consider normal. And here’s why…because the life God has for any of us is far superior to any temporary pleasure we can enjoy in the moment. 

Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt 6:33)

Trust in the Lord, and do not lean on your own understanding (Prov 3:1)

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (‭‭John‬ ‭10:10‬)

If you are a Christian I would love to know what you think about this. 

3 Life Changing Actions for Every Christian

The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. [Psalm 24:1-6]

As I read these verses, I reflect on what they say to me, how they influence my walk and my relationship with God. 3 simple but life-changing thoughts come to mind…

To recognise God as the Creator and Founder of ALL things. Are we not guilty on occasion of thinking we are the creator and founder of all things? Don’t we often prescribe to God solutions to the problems? Maybe we question His methods? Instead, we should acknowledge His greatness. To declare with confidence that the earth is the Lord’s, not ours, that He has founded and established its order, not us. We are not God, He is. Isn’t that one of those key life questions everyone has to answer? Do I believe in God or not? Is He the one true God or not? Will I surrender every part of my life to Him?

To keep myself in right relationship with God. I’m glad for the grace of God that made a way for us to enter into relationship with God, through the work of Jesus on the cross. I’ve accepted my need for the forgiveness that comes through receiving Jesus as my Saviour and can now enter into His presence 24/7 but I am mindful that it’s not a licence to live however I like. Why would I want to disrespect all that Jesus has done? Why would I not want to keep my life right with God, according to His word? Clean hands and pure hearts is what the Psalmist wrote, which for me is about doing my best to not allow ‘stuff’ to lead, influence, or have first place in my life, causing me to drift from God.

To be continually seeking God. Let’s be that kind of generation. Why? It says we are blessed and who doesn’t want to be blessed, especially blessing that comes from God. Our pace of life is not always conducive for spending time with God, yet in surveys amongst Christians it’s often the number one thing we want more of. Seeking is a deliberate action. We have to decide to make time, create space, or place it is a non-negotiable in our lives. It’s not as difficult as we think. Why not decide to be in Church every Sunday? Why not set the alarm 10 minutes earlier and start a Bible reading plan? Why not take time on an evening to journal your prayers and get a few moments with God?

Pastor Bill Hybels calls it ‘chair time’. Just 15 minutes or so of deliberately sitting alone with God. No distractions. Reading the Word. Praying. Listening to what God is saying. Let me encourage you….it is possible. This is not about religion but about developing a relationship. The hardest part is deciding that you will do this but it might just change your life forever. What have you got to lose?

Q: As a Christian, how do you do at this? What do you do to keep your walk with God strong and healthy?

Time to Focus

I cannot quite believe that it’s December. It may make me sound old but where has the year gone!?

Time to focus. 31 days to finish the year strong.

Having said that, I am learning that this doesn’t mean stressing and straining towards my future but instead, as I walk with God, it’s learning to allow Him to order my steps, and lead me according to His plans and purposes for my life.

I have been encouraged, reminded and challenged in the last couple of days to live life out of the position I have IN Christ rather than through my own self-effort. Obviously I still work hard at what I do, it’s not about being lazy and opting out.  The driver now isn’t me and my performance, it’s Jesus and who I am IN Him.

I know that I am in the right role and being secure in that fact of who Christ has called me to be can help me to focus, on Him and not myself. To rest in His promises, in His presence and in His purposes.

One day in and my heart is refreshed. I genuinely have a greater sense of confidence, a spring in my step even. I am not waiting for the first day of a new year before I make a change, my journal records my prayer today:

‘Teach me to rest in my salvation and to remember that I am seated with you in heavenly places. Don’t allow me to start doing things through self-effort anymore or to strive and stress about things that just sap my energy. Instead I put my trust in You and Your promises to me.

I rest in Your promises that by Your stripes we are healed.

I rest in Your promise to be anxious for nothing but in all things to pray, that the peace of God would guard our hearts.

I rest in the promise of Your provision, that You can meet all my needs according to Your riches in Christ Jesus, that as I seek Your kingdom first and Your righteousness that all the things I have need of will be added to me.

Thanks for being with me and my family. Looking forward to a great day. Amen

[Thanks to Pastor Andy Elmes for some great teaching over the weekend which helped remind me of the truth I knew but had just drifted from]