Donate to Support

Support the church that supports this blog. Donate at - Click the donate button in the upper righthand corner.
Showing posts with label 3rd Sunday in Advent. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 3rd Sunday in Advent. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Real Love

            Advent is the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas when Christians prepare to celebrate Christ's birth, but it is also a time we focus on preparing for Jesus' second coming.  The first time, Jesus came as a harmless little baby.  But the second time, Jesus will come as a conquering King ready to separate the good from the evil. 
            Thankfully, God loves us so much and wants us to be ready.  That’s why He sent Jesus to first time—to get us ready.  Jesus shows us how we need to live and he already atoned for our sins.  Aren't you glad Jesus came the first time so we can be ready when he comes the second time?
John 3:1616 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

Real Love
            There are many popular songs written about love and love is a common theme in books, television, and movies.  However, real love, the kind of love Jesus shows and wants us to have, is so much deeper than the love the world promotes.  Mother Teresa said, "Love, to be real, must cost.  It must hurt.  It must empty us of self."
            I see a lot of expressions of real love in our congregation.   Real love is 12 people from our church joining with a team from Grace Presbyterian to feed over 100 needy people at the City of Refuge last Monday night.  Real love is Kevin Roberts there coloring a picture with a little girl and Tanya Brooker tutoring a child on their math homework before the food was served.  Real love is when our church secretary, Angela, can’t sleep at night because she’s tossing and turning in the bed at 3 AM thinking about what we can do with poinsettias to show the love of Jesus—and she comes up with the Poinsettia Challenge. 
            Real love is Susan Cooksey—a retired teacher—going over to Pleasant Grove Elementary School each week to help out and see how our church can be a blessing to the school.  Most people retire and throw their hands up in praise, "I'm done!  I don't have to work any more!  I've done my time.  Now I can sit at home and collect a retirement check."  In stead, Susan continues to go to the school and work as a volunteer to help teachers and students, because that's what real love does.
            Real love is a Jason and Andrea Denson going through over 2 years of preparation and training and paperwork and praying and hoping and crying and hoping and crying and hoping some more before finally flying over to China to meet their new daughter.  Real love is their son, Jace—who’s been the baby of the family getting all the attention for almost a decade—welcoming his new sister into the family with open arms.  He willingly shares his family with his new sister.
            Real love is James and Mary Greenway taking clothes over to the residents who lost everything in an apartment fire in Dalton this weekend and praying with them to bring peace in the midst of a tragedy.  Real love is Amy Harris spurring our church to sponsor 20 families who have a loved one in prison so they will have Christmas presents and leading the youth to host a Angel Tree Party for the families yesterday.  Real love is someone from our church going to visit a friend in prison because they’re struggling with addiction and mental illness and they did a terrible thing, but Jesus still loves them so we do too. 
            Real love is a parent who sacrifices the time, the money, their life, gaining gray hairs through nights of worry and praying and shedding tears of joy and sometimes disappointment.  Real love is a spouse who cares for their husband or wife as they slowly fade into dementia.  Real love never giving up even when it hurts so bad you just want to die.
1 John 4:19 – We love each other because he [God] loved us first.
            Even though humanity had turned their backs on God, God still loved us and sent Jesus.  We didn't deserve any help, any mercy, any love, but God showed loved us and showed mercy and helped us anyway.  And oh how great is the extent of God's wonderful love!  He sent his one and only son.  He could have and should have come as king treated to a palace and glory with everyone serving him.  But Jesus didn't come to be served.  He came to serve others.  He showed what real love is and he said:

John 15:13 – There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
            Jesus showed us what real love is.  Every day, Jesus laid down his life by the way he served and put others before himself.  And ultimately in the end, Jesus literally laid down his life when he died on the cross for our sins.  1 John 4:10, "This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins." 

Get Ready and Follow Jesus
            Jesus loves us with real love and he want us to love him so we will be ready.  Jesus said in John 14:15, "If you love me, obey my commandments." And what were his commands?  Let me distill it down to 4 basic truths.

·       Command #1 – Repent.  The first sermon Jesus preached was "Repent for the Kingdom of God is near."  In other words, your day of reckoning and judgment could happen at any moment.  God is about to separate the good from the bad and reward each accordingly.  So you better turn away from your wrongdoing and turn to God.
·       Command # 2 – Trust Jesus.  You have to turn away from your evil ways and trying to do what you want and trust and follow Jesus' way.  Do you trust Jesus enough to give up what you want and work for what he wants?  That is the only way to be ready to meet him face to face when he comes again.  That is the only way to find eternal life.
·       Command # 3 – Love.  Jesus said to love God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself.  John 15:12, Jesus said, "This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you."  What does that mean?  It means you lay down your life.  It means life stops being about you.  It’s about serving others and loving them the way Jesus did.
·       Command #4 – Go.  In  Matthew 28:19, 20, Jesus said, "Go and make disciples of all nations…  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you…"  That’s what I what I try to do everyday by the way I live and even as I write this blog.  I want you to become a disciple of Jesus, because I love you and I want you have eternal life in the Kingdom of God with me. 
Are you ready to meet Jesus when he comes again? I hope with all my heart you will obey these commands so you will be ready, because I want to meet you one day in eternity.  Let's plan to get together then and go for a walk down the golden streets beside the crystal sea.  If you've never become a real Christian--one who has repented, believed in Jesus, received his forgiveness, and committed to follow Him--why don't you ask God to receive you into His Kingdom today.  You can use the following as a guide as you pray to God.

A Prayer to Become a Christian
"Father, I'm so sorry for trying to do things my way.  I repent.  I surrender my life to You.  Forgive me for what I've done and help me to follow Jesus from this day forward.  Help me to love You with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.  And help me to love everyone I meet the way You love them.  Show me how I can tell people what Jesus is doing for me.  Thank You for saving me!  Now help me live for You for the rest of my life.  Amen."

If you prayed to become a Christian today, I would like to here from you.  Please email me at so I can pray for you.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

I'll Be Home for Christmas, Part 3 - Grief

Isaiah 61:1-3
1The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
    for the Lord has anointed me
    to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
    and to proclaim that captives will be released
    and prisoners will be freed.
2 He has sent me to tell those who mourn
    that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
    and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
3 To all who mourn in Israel,
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
    that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

The Obstacle of Grief
            In the last two articles of this series, we explored how Jesus helps us overcome sin and get our priorities straight so we can be at Home with God this Christmas.  Another obstacle that keeps us from saying, “I’ll be Home for Christmas” is grief.  Losing someone who is dear to you is traumatic.  Some have said it is like having one of your limbs cut off.  You may “get on” with life, but you may never fully “get over” your loss because your life has changed forever. 
Christmas can be especially difficult for those who have lost loved ones.  People often feel guilty because everyone says they are supposed to feel happy at Christmas, but instead they feel sad and lonely.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you how you should feel.  There is no right or wrong way to feel.  You can’t control the way you feel.  You just feel the way you feel.  And everybody grieves in their own unique way.  Some people who grieve are dramatic and tearful.  Some are very reserved.  Some people grieve for a long time and some seem to work through their grief quickly.  We must be patient with ourselves and others as we grieve.
Grief is important and necessary.  Psychologist tell us that people who repress their grief find it will eventually bubble to the surface latter on—even if it’s ten years down the road.  It’s important to participate in the process of grief so it doesn’t cause problems latter in life.  Even Jesus—the son of God—grieved.  The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:34, “Jesus wept.”  He wept because his dear friend Lazarus died.  He grieved, even though Jesus knew he would raise him back to life in just a few moments.
One of the beautiful things about Christmas is that it reminds us that God cares about us.  In Jesus Christ, God wrapped our injured flesh around His Holy Spirit and became one of us.  He walked a mile in our shoes.  His name is Emmanuel—God living with us.  He is with us in the happy times and the sad times.  God is with us in our grief.  Because of Christmas, we never have to be alone—even when we feel alone.
And because Jesus was born on Christmas our grief will not last forever, but only for a season.  Even if our grief lasts until we take our final breath, it will not last beyond the grave.  For at death, we are liberated from the pain and suffering of this world.  In heaven, there is no more night and no more pain.  The only tears shed in our Heavenly Home are tears of joy.  Indeed, many of the people we grieve for in this life are at Home with God in Heaven this very moment!  They are experiencing the ultimate reality of the hope and joy and peace and love we pray for and long for and sing about and celebrate at Christmas time!
I think Richard Lewis Detrich says it best in his book How to Recover from Grief.  He says:
Over the years we’ve created a highly commercialized cultural myth that Christmas is a time of happiness, good cheer, family, and friends.  We feel guilty, upset, and cheated if, because of grief, we don’t experience the orgasm of happiness that seems to be expected.  But Christmas is, after all, a time of holy days and not a happy daze.  The meaning of Christmas is in the event, in the coming of Christ into our world and into our lives.  Focus on that event.  Christ wasn’t born at a party or even a family reunion but in a stable, with few other people around.  Planning ahead and focusing on the meaning of Christmas will help you through this difficult time.[i]

            The Home God invites us to is a place where tears are welcome.  You don’t have to act as if you don’t feel sad.  You don’t have to feel guilty for your sorrow.  When no one else understands, God understands your pain—He has lived it; He is with you as you go through it. 
God’s Home is not a commercialized fantasy
where everything is happy, happy, happy. 
God’s Home is a reality that deals candidly
with real pain and ultimately overcomes it.

            Because Jesus, the word of God, became flesh and lived among us, he understands the struggles we face that make being Home for Christmas difficult.  But because Jesus is the Son of God, He has the power to overcome any obstacle that threatens to separate us from God. 
            What keeps you from being at Home with God?  Is it sin? Are you too busy?  Are you weighed down by a load of grief?  Jesus understands your struggles and he has made a way for you to come Home.  Do you hear him calling for you today?  He is calling you Home.  Will you accept his invitation?  Will you come Home for Christmas this year? 

Gracious Heavenly Father,
            Thank You for inviting us Home for Christmas.  Help us to be faithful as we take up our cross and follow Jesus on the road that leads us Home.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.

[i] Richard Lewis Detrich and Nicola J. Steele; How to Recover from Grief; revised edition; page 23