Originally posted on Pastor Mike Says:

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Krispy Kreme logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Krispy Kreme donuts are all the rage right now. Many of us have tasted them. Some people will line up and wait for hours to buy these sweet little balls of delights. Let me tell you about the process that leads to a Krispy Kreme donut.

First the little balls of dough are shot through with a piercing blast of air to create a hole. Then they go into the proof box where they ride up and down an elevator in an atmosphere of heat and humidity. This causes the dough to rise. After this, they are dropped into hot oil and boiled thoroughly. After surviving this ordeal, the donuts pass through a tasty waterfall of icing.

Does anyone here today feel like a Krispy Kreme doughnut? Do you feel like you have been blasted with air? Do you feel like you have been

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When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:15-20 ESV)

Whenever we read the story of Jesus’ birth or attend a church Christmas play, we expect the shepherds to play a prominent role. Every nativity scene includes a cute little angel and gentle shepherds. They’re just part of the package. We may easily embrace shepherds as key characters in the story, but a Jewish person 2000 years ago would have found this incredulous. For the birth of the Messiah, surely God would invite kings or political influencers, priests or religious insiders, but never shepherds. God wouldn’t invite shepherds.

Shepherds were social outcasts. They were poor, uneducated, uncultured, and uncouth. They were rough characters in a small town on the fringe of society, so much so that their testimony was not even admissible in court. If you were with your family, walking through town, you would likely go to the other side of the street to avoid them.

Shepherds were religious outsiders. Because of the work of caring for the sheep made them ceremonially unclean, they were not allowed into the temple courts or to be an active part of synagogue worship. Religious leaders often considered them on the same level as prostitutes. When it came to religion, they were always on the outside looking in.

God invited a group of guys who had been labeled as outcasts and outsiders by everyone, and placed them at the top of the invite list for the most important birthday in history.

This is a theme we see continue throughout the story of Jesus’ life:

  • Jesus hangs out with religious outsiders, social outcasts, and “sinners” so much that He is accused of being a glutton and a drunkard.
  • Jesus heals a man with leprosy—considered contagious and religiously unclean— by touching him. Most people would have avoided lepers altogether.
  • Jesus chooses an inner circle of followers that includes uneducated fishermen, a former tax collector who has sold out countrymen, a zealot who wants to kill the Romans, and even a former prostitute.
  • Jesus consistently seeks out those who are considered social outcasts and religious outsiders and invites them to be at the center of His ministry.

Those who have been relegated to the outside are not only focus of His rescue mission—they become its leaders. The shepherds had nothing to offer Jesus. They were not religiously trained or socially polished. Unlike the wise men who would arrive later, they did not have exquisite gifts. These guys lived under the stars with only the clothes on their backs, a staff to guide the sheep, and a rod for protection. They had nothing of value to bring to Jesus except for themselves. That’s exactly what He wanted, and what He still wants today.

Who are “shepherds” in your community— social outcasts and religious outsiders? Do you believe that God can use them to impact your community and point people to Him? How can God use you to invite them to join Him mission?

The true reason for Christmas.

Posted: December 15, 2014 in Thoughts on God

It’s that time of year again. December has come and with it all the joys of Christmas. But what is the real meaning of Christmas? Is it the gifts under the tree, the lights in the windows, the cards in the mail, turkey dinners with family and friends, snow in the yard, stockings hanging in the living room, and shouts of “Merry Christmas” to those who pass us in the streets? Is this really Christmas?

For many people, Christmas is a time of sorrow. They don’t have the extra money to buy presents for their children, family, and friends. Many are saddened at Christmastime when they think of their loved ones who will not be able to come home for various reasons. Turkey dinners may be only a wish and not a reality for some.

Yet, Christmas can be a season of great joy. It is a time of God showing His great love for us. It can be a time of healing and renewed strength. You see, Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of the Christ child. God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to be born. His birth brought great joy to the world. Shepherds, wise men, and angels all shared in the excitement of knowing about this great event. They knew this was no ordinary baby. The prophets had told of His coming hundreds of years before. The star stopped over Bethlehem just to mark the way for those who were looking for this special child.

Luke 2: 4-19 says:

“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 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 room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Why did He come? Why did God send His son to this sometimes cruel and hard world? He sent Jesus to us so that one day, He would grow up to become a very important part of history. His story (history) is one of truth, love, and hope. It brought salvation to all of us. Without Jesus, we would all die in our sins.

Jesus was born so one day the price could be paid for the things we have done that are wrong. The Bible says that all have sinned. We are all born with a sin nature. We do things that do not please God. Through the sins of Adam and Eve, we have all inherited that sin nature. We need to have that removed. The only way is through Jesus. Jesus came so He could die on the cross for ALL of our sins. If we believe that Jesus died for our sins, we can ask Him to come into our hearts and forgive us. Then, we are clean and made whole. We can know that heaven is a place where we can go to when this life is over.

“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.” I John 1:9

We can truly be happy at Christmas! No matter what may be happening, we can know that we are His children. We then become sons and daughters of God. Heaven will be our home one day.

Look at Christmas in a new way this year. This is the year to invite Jesus into your heart. You will then have a “Merry Christmas.” The joy and peace you will receive will last all year as you look to God for all your needs to be met.

Jesus Is The Reason For The Season! Rejoice!

Do you wnt to be made well?

Posted: December 14, 2014 in Thoughts on God

James 4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

John 5:6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?

Yeshua (Jesus) asked this man “Do you want to be made well?” Of course he did! Wouldn’t you? Why did Jesus ask a question like this when its answer was so clearly obvious? It seems the Lord wanted to hear him verbalize his need.

In the biography of George Mueller, a strong man of God who established orphanages throughout England in the 1800’s and raised the kids up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, this amazing Saint relied upon God for every single need that he faced without making any financial appeals. He laid before the Lord every aspect of these orphanages. He prayed for the locations, the buildings, the furniture to fill them, the workers to run them, and everything else he could think of. When the first orphanage was ready, Mueller realized one major thing was lacking — orphans!! He forgot to ask the Lord to provide the orphans!

Sometimes the obvious things just smack us in the face, don’t they? On several occasions, I’ve found myself in this very position! Silly me — I forgot to ask!

The Lord is asking us today, “Do you want to be made well?” Whether it be physical healing, spiritual, emotional or financial healing, no thing is too great or too small for our Lord! Perhaps we’ve just forgotten to ask Him!

Love first, last, and always

Posted: December 12, 2014 in Thoughts on God

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:1-7 ESV)

I’ll never forget the first time I really read and understood this verse. I was young, and a “new Christian”; one who’d only known Christ & the church for a short time. I felt an undeniable passion to pursue God, and a strong urge to share this newfound joy and understanding with those around me. The problem with my sense of urgency, however, was that I didn’t yet know much. I hadn’t really lived for a time as a Christian, which meant I hadn’t had time to feel the sting of making “new” mistakes after “being saved”, and I knew little of the Bible or stories of others on the “Christian walk”. Though I had zeal, I lacked the maturity and depth of understanding that is required to approach others in a truly loving way. In truth, I was only beginning to understand what love really was.

When, as Christians, we feel passionate about a particular topic it can be so difficult to remember that we are called by God to LOVE. More than that, we are not to love sometimes, or only when it’s easy, but ALWAYS. Our culture is attracted to strength, and the idea of justice or even vengeance when we feel indignation. We have a perfect example, however, in Jesus. Jesus was the most powerful being on earth, but He was the very picture of perfect love, humility and friendship.

Beloved, remember as you go through this life that you have been called by God to show love to those around; even to those you cannot understand. The next time you feel passionate, don’t let your nature become prideful, argumentative, defensive or harsh. Remember instead the divine example of Christ, the perfect love that has been shown to you, and regard others with love and gentleness.

Love first, love last and love always!

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:8-14 ESV)

Have you ever noticed how people in the Christmas story tend to respond to angels when they show up? If we rewind to Luke 1:30 when the angel Gabriel visits Mary, he tells her, “do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Here, in Luke 2, we read that these rough tough shepherds are instantly “filled with fear” at the sight of an angel and are quickly told to “fear not…” This should make us wonder why they were frightened.

Maybe viewing angels as cute, cuddly versions of cupid is completely wrong. If we scan the the scope of scripture, it appears that whenever angels showed up on the scene they were on a mission to bring a message from God; quite often to “open the can” of God’s judgement. Some type of serious destruction often followed their arrival.

Luke writes that as this angel is sharing the news of Jesus’ birth with the shepherds, that suddenly, a “multitude of the heavenly host appears.” For some reason, this multitude is often displayed as a white robed angelic choir, sometimes with song books in hand. Ironically, the word “host” gives a radically different picture— it’s translated from the Greek word stratia, and literally means a military encampment or a band of soldiers. This was not a choir of cupids but an angelic army straight from heaven. God had sent His army to announce that the Messiah had arrived and the rescue mission for humanity had begun. This army had no intention of dethroning an arrogant Caesar in Rome or removing a corrupt High Priest in Jerusalem. They weren’t about to wipe out the Roman army or restore Israel as a world power. They had arrived to announce “a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger”— an unexpected way for God’s rescue mission to begin.

Why do you think God sent an angelic army to announce the birth of Jesus?

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:1-2 ESV)

If you have ever had young children in your life, you quickly realize how much they live in the present. They have a difficult time realizing the future consequences of their actions. They will draw on the wall knowing that once you walk into the room you will not be happy with it. You can threaten to take away a special privilege happening the next day and they will still disobey when you walk out of the room.

As followers of Jesus, we are not much different than young children who live in the tangible present and forget the spiritual realm. The Apostle Paul reminds the church in Colossae of this. He tells them that as followers of Jesus, we should not focus on the present circumstances, but on the things above, spiritual things. This is not easy, but can have an immediate impact on the here and now on this earth. Paul lets us know how this changes us:

We let go of our earthly, sinful nature, and we step into our renewed selves. Colossians 3:5-10
We become compassionate, kind, humble, meek, patient, forgiving. Colossians 3:12-13
We become more loving, and we have the peace of Christ. Colossians 3:14-15
Our hearts are grateful and kind. Colossians 3:16-17

We hope that these would encourage you to take a moment to consider if you are viewing your life through an earthly lens, or heavenly lens. There is plenty of room for all of us to work on focusing on Jesus and his work, instead of ours here on the earth.

Prayerfully consider today where we are at in this journey.