Never Ending Christmas

Christmas at my house has a shelf life of about two days. Christmas day is full of excitement, as our young children are often out of bed and bubbling over with excitement around 4:30am (new rule: no waking up mom and dad before 6:30am, or there will be no presents!). The present opening tends to take a couple of hours, interspersed with breakfast, snacks, and pictures. Once the present are all opened the kids become singularly focused on their new toys and games. By about noon on December 27th, however, the new “stuff” has lost its excitement and newness, and the children are back to constantly uttering their two favorite phrases “I’m bored” and “there is nothing to do!” Yep, the joy of that Christmas morning seems to last only about 48 hours before it loses all significance.

That begs the following questions: what is shelf-life of the joy of Christmas in our lives? How long is it before the significance of Christmas is replaced by our worldly wants and concerns? There is a story in scripture that does a great job addressing these questions. It happens eight days after Jesus is born. Now, put yourself in the shoes of Mary and Joseph for a moment. All of these amazing things happen in a short period of time: angels appear to them, they have this crazy journey to Bethlehem (including giving birth in a barn), random shepherds show up, more angels appear, and they now have the Son of God as their son. Now THAT’S a Christmas! Yet, eight days later, you have to wonder whether or not the wonder of it all has given way to the stress of raising a baby. And so it is that Mary and Joseph fulfill their religious duty and bring their eight day old to the Temple. There they encounter two different people, Simeon and Anna, who explain to them how significant their son really is. You can read the whole account in Luke 2:25-40, but let me give you the highlights. These are three ways in which Simeon and Anna point out the significant Christmas should have to all of us every single day.

  1. Jesus gives us salvation: Jesus came on Christmas not simply to teach us, but to save us for all eternity. Without Christmas we would be headed for death and hell, but because God came to us in that stable we may have life everlasting!
  2. Jesus provides guidance for our decisions: Because God came to earth in the form of Jesus we have received MASSIVE amounts of advice and guidance direct from God. What a significant treasure that is, and one we need to do a better job of listening to. 
  3. Jesus changes our worldview: Jesus didn’t come for just a few believers, but for the entire world. This should challenge us to think beyond ourselves and our churches, and to think about those who need Christ throughout our world. 

This year, lets not allow the joy of Christmas to be a 48 hour thing, but rather, something we celebrate and remember all year long. 

Searching For Love

Luke 2:23-24New International Version (NIV)

23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Mary and Joseph had to go to the temple for purification rites. That was the Law, Leviticus 12. They had to redeem their son since he was the first born son. They paid their money to redeem the Redeemer who would one day redeem his parents and all mankind with his blood.

This may not be part of the Christmas story that you are looking for today, but this was a sacrifice of love in the form of two birds. The birds would be the sacrifice of Jesus redemption according to the Law.

We always want this Hallmark photo of Mary and Jesus giving birth in this seemingly sterile stable, yet that wasn’t the case. It was a mess with foul odors, stinky shepherds, and probably blood on the floor from birth.

Yet, according to John 3:16, God so loved the world He sent His Son down to earth to our mess. It is a place of struggle, pain, and eventual death. Yet, we celebrate Christmas searching for love.

God is love and so is his Son. It is hard for me to wrap my brain around it to the place where God sent his Son for me and my brokenness and shame. Like David says, “I lift my eyes to the hills for a glimpse of my Savior’s love.”

Are you searching for love today? It’s not in a manger anymore. He came. He died. He rose from the dead. We wait for His soon return for us. That is love. 

Merry Christmas to all my brothers in Christ and your families.

Strength and Courage

Michael

 

Vital Ministries News

Only 2 more days until Christmas. Choose to be an expression of Christ’s love these next days. Take time to love on family and friends. Be an expression of love with your time. Be present in family moments.

Strength and Courage

Michael

 

Vital Ministries News

Love Jesus more than anyone. Point your life choices to Jesus. Have transparent love for Jesus. Have real love for Christ. Be thankful for Jesus in your life.

Strength and Courage

Michael

 

Battle

I have been struggling for the past few weeks.  I’ve been struggling personally, professionally, financially, mentally and most of all, spiritually.  

I had lunch a few days ago with two close friends, Pastor Jeff and Pastor Ben.  These men are solid, go to counsel for me and they were concerned.  These men wanted to talk with me, listen to me, exhort me, and reassure me.  What was truly fascinating about this conversation was when they pointed out something that I know, but hadn’t considered.  This current state, the afflictions, they’re satan.  It’s a spiritual assault.  

Pastor Ben pointed out the victory in the Lord that the three of us shared just a few weeks ago.  The victory was the Lord working a sermon out for me just a couple hours before I had to deliver it.  It was amazing, and it had an impact.  Days later, the onslaught began.

Pastor Ben pointed to a passage in Luke 22, in which Jesus addresses Simon Peter and tells him of his impending denial of Jesus and their (the disciples) loss of heart and personal torment. 

Luke 22:28-30 (NASB) You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Before Jesus tells of the anguish, He proclaims this to them, (sic) “I’m giving you a kingdom.  We will live, eat, drink and judge along side one another.” What a spiritual high!  These men, with Jesus at the Last Supper, have just been told by the Son of God, you will be with me, side by side for eternity!  It doesn’t get much higher than that, does it? 

Luke 22:31,32 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Then Jesus drops this on Simon Peter, (sic) “satan asked to shake you to your core, put the screws to you.  But don’t worry, I prayed that your faith may not fail you and that you’ll return full of fire, vigor and serve as my ambassadors to your brethren of this world!”  What?  He didn’t say, “no way! I’ll never let you mess with them!”  And… just as surely as the Lord lives, that very thing happened.  

You see, God knew the condition of their hearts, the depth of their faith.  He had a purpose that was best served by men who’s world had been rocked, their faith tested.  Why?  Because He knew through the midst of it, their endurance would be witnessed and God glorified.  He knew that when they came out the other side, they would be challenged, bolder, stronger, more effectual in the work He had prepared for them to do.  

Does God allow satan access to His children, yes… absolutely!  Scripture shows us here in Jesus’ own words.  He shows us the same in Job.  Paul speaks of it  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

He does so, however, knowing that He has prepared us, or He would not allow satan to war against us.  These spiritual battles so very often come on the heals of a spiritual high, a victory.  That makes them the even more crushing.  The stronger we grow in our faith, the more effectual the work that God is able to do through us, the greater satan’s desire to have at us.  As we mature in our faith and we learn to recognize these attacks for what they are, satan’s attempt to render us ineffectual, to question God and the reason’s for our Hope and faith, we can glory in them.  Glory?  Yes, absolutely revel and glory in them!  Shout from the rooftops, “thank you Lord for empowering me and trusting me to the point that you would allow satan the opportunity!”  As He matures us and develops in us the ability to discern these attacks from the outset and utilize the tools He has equipped us with, satan is rendered impotent.  

I want to thank God for sending Pastor Ben and Pastor Rabe to be the tools of my rescue from these attacks.  Be watchful and vigilant.  Remember, when you’re under attack by the “god of this world”, it merely means that God knows He’s prepared you to glorify Him in that battle!   Have a blessed weekend.

In full pursuit of the greatest Trophy,

Scott Pace

 

 

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