Monday, December 30, 2013
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
I took some time yesterday to focus on Jesus and the Christmas story. It was a very worshipful experience for me to remember who Jesus is and why He came. I think that's what amazes me the most about the whole story of Christmas ... realizing who Jesus is and the fact that He still came! I am constantly amazed at the fact that nothing was going to stop God in His pursuit of us. He took the first step toward us and remains committed to pursuing us.
What follows is straight from the Bible. If you take the time to read it, allow the words of Scripture to fill your heart and your mind with hope. I trust this will be as worshipful for you as it was for me. Merry Christmas!
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1 – 3) For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. (Colossians 1:16) In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:4) The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world (John 1:9) that My salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. (Isaiah 49:6)
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given. (Isaiah 9:6) He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. (Isaiah 53:2) Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (Philippians 2:6 – 7)
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:26 – 28) Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father Dave, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:27 – 33)
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” (Luke 1:34 – 37) “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:38)
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. (Matthew 1:18 – 19)
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:20 – 23)
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. (Luke 2:1 – 3) So Joseph also went us 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 guest room available for them. (Luke 2:4 – 7)
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 that will cause great joy for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8 – 12) Suddenly a great company of heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:13 – 14) When the angels had left them and gone in to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Lets go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried 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. (Luke 2:15 – 18)
So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. (John 1:14) He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. (John 1:10 – 11) He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:3 – 5)
For God was please to have all of his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:19 – 20) 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)
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9 – 11) And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon!" Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)
Monday, December 23, 2013
Last Wednesday our youth pastor (Dan Cosentino) asked me to be at axis to be a part of an Ugly Christmas Sweater contest. As you can see above, mine was pretty ugly! He also asked if I'd be willing to share just a little bit about how things have been going for me since I transitioned from youth pastor here 4 months ago. I was thrilled about the opportunity and was really looking forward to experiencing a Wednesday night at axis again.
To my TOTAL surprise, though, the night ended up being a time when students and adults thanked me for the 11 years I served as a youth pastor. I was totally taken off guard by it. Students and adults lined up, sat down beside me, and then began to share story after story about how ... well ... how I guess I've impacted their life. For 40 minutes stories were shared. Some were incredibly serious. Some were just plain funny Some were a combination of the two. But, for 40 minutes people just poured their words of encouragement and thanks in to my life. It was one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had.
A few things came to mind as they shared:
First ... if anything good comes from my life it's all because of Jesus. Jesus is the best thing that has ever happened to me and if anyone has been blessed or encouraged because of something I have done, it's all because Jesus has totally blessed my life.
Second ... most of what was shared revolved around me spending time with people. Some shared about late nights I spent at their homes. Other shared about mission trips. Others shared about how I would just sit and listen and talk with them. Others shared about weekend trips together. Well, I had the time to do things like that only because my wife freed me up to do them. Carol is an amazing woman and does so much behind the scenes. I'm constantly floored by the way she serves and helps and no one even knows about it. With 4 young children in our home, I would not have been able to do anything without her help. Being married to her really helped make me a much better youth pastor.
Third ... if anything good happened in the lives of kids at axis, it was a team effort. I had the awesome privilege of working with incredible adult volunteers. Man, they were truly awesome and I loved serving with them and watching them love on teenagers. Whatever kind words were said about me on that night would not have been said if it wasn't for our adults. The adult team I had the privilege of serving with really was an incredible team! I love those guys.
Fourth ... I wish everyone in ministry would get a chance to experience something like that. Ministry really is difficult work. It's easy to wonder if what you're doing is making a difference. It's easy to let a negative thought creep in or a lie from the enemy steal some joy. In youth ministry, especially, we often don't get to see the results of the time we put in with students. There are times when it can get discouraging. But, hearing story after story of how lives were impacted ... wow ... it just felt so encouraging and I really was able to see that what I wanted to have happen in axis and in the lives of the kids there really was able to happen. After the night, I was reminded of the many who serve in ministry who really need to hear or experience something like I did on that night. Some rarely hear it and my heart truly goes out to them.
If you're in ministry or serve other people in any type of way, let me just say ... you're making a difference. Keep pressing on. Don't give up. Stay engaged and encouraged and let God continue His work in you while you work with others. You may not see results right away, but you're efforts are making a difference. If you've been blessed by someone, please take the time to let them know how they have impacted your life.
At the end of the night, the students and adults prayed over me. I was so blessed and so encouraged and so thankful.
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