Living Nativity

We love presenting the message of Christ’s arrival in Bethlehem to our Cedar Springs community.

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The Carols Of Christmas

Carols Of ChristmasI heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men. (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

 

How many “old familiar carols” have you heard Christmas after Christmas, until the words have almost lost their meaning? If we’re not careful, any song repeated too often can lose the richness of its original intent.

There are some amazing messages in many of our old familiar Christmas carols, because many of those messages are saturated with the old familiar story of Redemption that the Bible tells over and over again.

Please join me this Sunday as we take a new look at the old familiar messages in our Christmas carols. These messages will bring a new appreciation of God’s love that was sung at Christ’s Advent, and reawaken the sweetness of meaning for this Christmas Day.

Setting The Example For Us

FundraiserWhen Paul was writing to his young protege Timothy he said, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). I was so proud of a couple of young people who did this for us at Calvary Assembly of God yesterday!

Savannah has been raising money for childhood cancer research. She shared with us how this is the least-funded form of cancer research, and that every three minutes a child is diagnosed with cancer. “That is unacceptable,” Savannah said. So in an amazing example-setting move for all of us, Savannah and two of her coworkers worked to bring in over $3000 in donations for childhood cancer research, and they shaved their heads as a sign of solidarity with the children undergoing cancer treatments. By the way, you can still donate to this noble cause by clicking here.

Then Josh brought us a challenging message entitled Are You Growing? Taking his text from 1 Corinthians 3:6, Josh reminded us that God makes things grow, but we can put ourselves in a place for Him to do that. Just as with a plant, our spiritual growth requires:

  • Sunshine—basking in God’s presence.
  • Water—soaking up God’s Word.
  • Nutrients—surrounding ourselves with the people and things that encourage growth.
  • Time—the dedication and investment in God’s process.

I am so proud of Josh and Savannah for setting an example for us to follow!

From The Cutting Room Floor: The Love In The Law

Love In The LawWhenever I am working on a series of messages, I always end up with way more material than I could possibly share. But it’s still really good stuff! I remember a movie director once remarking that some of his best and favorite scenes ended up on the cutting room floor during the movie’s editing process. So here are some of the quotes and thoughts I really liked, recovered from “the cutting room floor” as I prepared our Love In The Law series.

“True obedience to God (not just to lists of laws) means more than outward performances which can be tallied in percentages (like 80 percent obeyed). Rather, true obedience is to be so transformed that we delight to do God’s will at multiple levels. We delight in His will as the excellent expression of His wisdom and justice and love. We delight in personal, close communion with Him as our guide, which we would lose, at least for a season, if we acted against His counsel. We delight in His gift of a clean conscience. We delight in the smile of His approval. We delight in God Himself whom we see and know more clearly when we walk in unbroken fellowship and obedience. We delight in the prospect of ongoing assurance and hope, which is jeopardized and weakened if we gradually slip away from Him in callous disobedience.” —John Piper

I delight to do Your will, O my God; yes, Your law is with in my heart. —Psalm 40:8

“To detect ourselves thus balancing a transgression here, against many observances there, ought at once to startle us into the conviction that the whole principle of our lives must be faulty. Our aim is, not to love God, or to obey Him, but to get to heaven, or at least escape hell, on the cheapest terms.” —Alfred Plummer

“Our will is morally and spiritually flawed. Nevertheless we are responsible to do the commandments of God. The moral corruption that cripples us does not relieve us of our responsibility to do what is right and good to do.” —John Piper

“I call the love to God the motion of the soul toward the enjoyment of God for His own sake, and the enjoyment of one’s self and of one’s neighbor for the sake of God.” —Augustine

“If thou neglect thy love to thy neighbor, in vain thou professest thy love to God; for by thy love to God, the love to thy neighbor is begotten, and by thy love to thy neighbor, thy love to God is nourished.” —Francis Quarles

“A pennyweight o’ love is worth a pound o’ law.” —Scottish Proverb

It pleased the Lord for the sake of His righteousness to make His law great and glorious. —Isaiah 42:21

Blessing Or Burden?

Blessing or burdenGod’s commandments aren’t a bunch of Don’ts. If we look at them through the perspective of a loving Lawgiver, they are really Dos that will keep us in a place that God can bless.

Take the 9th Commandment: You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor (Exodus 20:16; Deuteronomy 5:20). This is the first of two commandments that emphasize the damage that can be done to our neighbor if we violate the law. Speaking falsely against someone does real harm to our neighbor, so in a sense God says, “Don’t do it!

But God also tells us what to Do so that He can bless us—

  • How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! … For there the Lord bestows His blessing, even life forevermore (Psalm 133:1, 3).
  • Psalm 15 says that he who will live in God’s presence is the one who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman (vv. 1-3).

The word for false in this commandment can mean: (1) an untruth; (2) insincere or deceptive words (e.g. flattery); (3) being purposely vague; or (4) speaking words that are true but harmful. So we Don’t want to do those, but what should we Do?

Jesus said that the way we speak is an indication of what has been going on in our heart and mind (Luke 6:45), so the way to fulfill the Do part of the commandment starts inside. A good guide is Paul’s list in Philippians 4:8—are my thoughts about my neighbor focused on what’s true? noble? right? pure? lovely? admirable? excellent? and praiseworthy?

In the New Testament, the word “blessing” is a compound word that literally means good words. So here’s the question I’m asking myself: Are my words to and about my neighbor a burden to them or a blessing?

If you are in the Cedar Springs area, please join me next week as we wrap up this series called The Love In The Law.

Keeping The Ninth Commandment

4 ways to give true testimonySome folks asked that I post a couple of things I shared in my message this morning about the ninth commandment: You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

Here are 4 ways to observe the positive side of this 9th commandment:

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
Who steals my purse steals trash; ‘tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ‘tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed. —Iago, in William Shakespeare’s Othello

Are You A Thief?

Don't Be A ThiefThere are different kinds of thieves. There’s the one that acknowledges, “I’m a thief. I take things that don’t belong to me. I use cunning and skill, and force if I need to.” Then there’s the one who steals quietly without ever realizing he’s stealing.

In the Ten Commandments when God says, “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15), guess what type of thief He’s talking about? It’s not the brazen, bold thief, but the one who may not even realize he’s stealing.

The Hebrew word for steal means move by stealth, take something secretly, or deceive someone. How can we steal?

All of these are subtle, stealthy, secretive ways of robbing someone of time, ideas, value, interest, credit, or even actual possessions!

So here are 4 ways to avoid becoming an thief:

  1. Learn to be content with what you have—Philippians 4:12-13.
  2. Don’t let worry rule your life—Matthew 6:25-34.
  3. Work hard for your employer or employees—Ephesians 6:5-9.
  4. If you have stolen, make full restitution as quickly as possible—Luke 19:8.

Every one of the Ten Commandments are broken in our hearts long before they are worked out in our bodies. So listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to you to make sure you are not a sneaky thief!

If you are in the Cedar Springs area, I’d love for you to join me next Sunday as we continue this series called The Love In The Law.

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