2015 is upon us! Are we ready to embrace the future? For many, the prospect of the future may be exciting for others full or doubt…join Charles, Daniel, and special guest Micah Cavanaugh as they discuss how you can embrace the future with surety and joy…
Facing the New Year is not the same for everyone. Even among those of us who are followers of Christ, all New Years are not equal. The Christmas holidays and the coming New Year may be a cheerful time for many of us, but for some it is a troubling time. And even for those of us who are not of a melancholy bent, reminders of hurtful events and facing an uncertain year can create emotional stress and even dread.
So all of us need to approach the New Year from a Biblical perspective, and in the process set a pattern for ourselves for the rest of the year and even our lives. And it is really not all that complicated. We need to begin by renewing a contrite heart. Nothing is so foreign to human nature than the attitude of contrition. It really takes a work of God’s Spirit, but we are responsible for humbling ourselves before God. Revisit Isaiah’s experience before a holy God who exclaimed; “Woe is me, for I am ruined, for I am a man of unclean lips.”
Faced with our sins and failures, we can ignore them or wallow in them. Neither is Biblical. We must not ignore our sins. We must own them and confess them. New beginnings are made of confession before God. “He who covers his sin will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We cannot rush into the New Year without coming clean with God.
But neither should we wallow in the misery of sin. There is a perverse perspective on sin that may convince us that the more we make ourselves feel bad about our sin, the more likely God will look on us with favor. There is certainly a place for grieving over our sins. It is a necessary part of the process. But it is not an end in itself. The goal is the restoration that is only found in the person of Christ.
So begin the New Year by renewing a contrite heart. But we must move on by renewing a confident hope. The New Testament concept of hope is light years away from the “hope so” of modern language. New Testament hope is a sure expectation. Those who know the forgiveness of Christ have every reason to enter the year with hope. The struggles and failures of the past are swallowed up by the mercy and grace of God. The unknown is overcome by the knowledge that our Lord knows all things and orders all things according to His will. Whatever comes our way will be used by our Father for our good and for His glory. As we “press toward the mark of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” we can be confident that our Lord will guide us into His will. So ours is no silly, frivolous faith in faith itself or a giddy sense that everything is going to be alright. We who are saved trust in the living God Who does all things well and gives us this year to live, as long as He gives us breath, each day to His glory. Face this year with a contrite heart and a confident hope in the living God.
Picture courtesy of lifeofpix.com shot by Leroy
“God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” It sounds so comforting. But how do you tell that to your friend or family member who is suffering through hardship?
I was talking with a friend a couple of nights ago discussing a particular situation he was going through: a situation difficult to see the good in. It had to do with a guy/girl relationship. He told me that even if the situation didn’t work out he knew God was going to bring someone along to make it okay. My initial thought might usually be to agree and hopefully bring some comfort to this situation, but, owing to what God has been teaching me lately, I had to disagree. “What if God never brings someone along?” I asked. “In fact, what if God has designed for you to wake up at age 65 still sleeping alone in your bed?” This was not what he was expecting to hear. It is not really what anyone wants to hear at any time but especially when you are questioning your relationship status.
Proverbs 16:4 says, “God has made all things for his own purpose: even the wicked for the day of evil.”
God has even made the wicked for an appointed day, according to the writer of Proverbs. How does this work? When Jesus tells Peter to “Let down your nets,” in Luke 5:4, Peter had already been fishing all night with no fish to show for it. If Peter had let down the nets when Jesus told him to but caught nothing, would that make God a bad God or Jesus untrustworthy? Remember, he told Jeremiah that he would preach his entire ministry but never see a convert.
What’s my point? God is more interested in your holiness than he is your happiness. God has made all things for his purpose. That includes whatever you are currently going through or will go through in the future. God may plan for you to have a spouse and get a job, but what if that is not His plan. Will you serve Him joyfully? God is not in the business of giving us what we want. He is God and he will draw His children closer to Himself. As John Piper says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”
God is not necessarily most glorified when we are happy with our current situation because we got what we wanted. Remember, Hosea was told by God to essentially go find his harlot wife and bring her back to his home. If I am Hosea my first thought is, “What?! How can God do this?”
Remember, God sees all and is not only watching but causing all things. That’s action! Don’t believe me?
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God CAUSES all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
For anyone going through hardship or for those who may be questioning what God is doing in their lives, I want you to know this. God loves you and has a divine plan for your life that includes hardship and tough times, but He is working each of these things out for your good and His glory. Even if you do not see the reasons, there will be a day when you understand. 1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then I shall know even as also I am known.”
Does this mean God gives His children bad gifts? Absolutely not. Just read Matthew 7:11. He loves to give good gifts. But good is often mistaken for what we want.
This side of glory we cannot know all the reasons God is doing what He is doing, but for me it is enough to trust Him and leave the outcome in his hands.
How do we express the wonder of the old Christmas story in a fresh way? Maybe the “freshness” of the old story is in the truth itself: the wonder of Christ and His incarnation.
Few things other than Scripture express the wonder of the incarnation better than H. R. Bramley’s poem on the subject. It is one of my favorites, and when you read it, I think you will see why. Maybe you will want to read it to your family on Christmas Eve. Enjoy and Merry Christmas.
A babe on the breast of a maiden He lies,
Yet sits with the Father on high in the skies,
Before Him their faces the seraphim hide,
While Joseph stands waiting, unscared by His side.
Oh, wonder of wonders, which none can unfold!
The Ancient of Days is an hour or two old,
The Maker of all things is made of the earth,
Man is worshipped by angels, and God comes to birth.
The Word in the bliss of the Godhead remains,
Yet in flesh comes to suffer the keenest of pains,
He is that He was, and forever shall be,
But becomes what He was not for you and for me
As you know, my brother and I are excited to be fundraising with Vision4Living Ministries, so we can bring to you the preaching ministry of Charles Cavanaugh [read more][watch our video]. However, we also know that running a ministry, big or small, requires monthly expenditures. So in our ‘Reasons to Give’ initiative this Christmas, we are making a special request – monthly donors. Monthly donors will help us maintain the online and teaching ministry of Vision4Living.
Here is what we need to offset monthly costs:
- $1000 a month
- 50 donors at $20 a month
- Ministry accomplished!
In return for your generous commitment to partner with us in ministry, we will give you two things:
- Quarterly updates on how your contribution furthers the cause of the gospel
- A free book from our personal library for the first 50 monthly donors
Would you consider partnering with us in ministry? We can do this, by the Grace of God and His gracious blessing through you. May you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
We are used to hearing the traditional age old Christmas blogs and sermons every year, but do we ever take the time to consider and ponder the realities of Christmas? It’s real. And the struggles and challenges of those who lived out the story bear witness to the reality Christmas holds for us. Join Charles and Daniel as the discuss the reality of what Christmas means for you as the believer…
Most of us who are Baby Boomers or older have watched the transformation of our culture and the transformation of how American society views and celebrates Christmas. We have watched the controversy over whether we have Christmas trees or holiday trees. We have heard the change in some stores from traditional Christmas carols to no hint of reference to Christ. We have witnessed lawsuits claiming Nativity scenes are unconstitutional. We have seen the uproar over what have been called unjust encroachments upon Christian civil liberties. The truth is that nothing much has changed in 2000 years. The denial of the Biblical reality of Christ continues to stand against all we hold as true and right. The early church faced the same encroachments against the truth of the Gospel. The Apostle John wrote to those he had brought to faith and nourished in the Gospel in order to bring them back to the center, the person of Christ. And with all the “dissing” of the Biblical realities of Christmas, let us use each Christmas celebration as an opportunity to refocus on those realities. And though the Christmas holiday would have been foreign to the Apostle, what He said to those first century believers can do much to lead us to celebrate a Christ-centered Christmas. (See 1 John 1.)
John does not attempt to trace Christ’s earthly roots but His eternal roots. He is “that which ever was from the beginning”. The Lord Jesus was no “Johnny come lately” to the theological scene. He was no mere human personality whose significance and influence could be dissected and distorted by man-made philosophies. He was and is the eternal Word: “the Word of life.” This is the eternal reality of Christ.
Some are apt to lump Christ in with the mythology of Christmas. The search for the “historical” Jesus and other so-called intellectual pursuits are of no help to our lost world. John faced the errors of those who disputed the truth of Christ’s physical reality, and he refutes such outrageous lies. “We were there! We heard Him! We saw Him! We gazed upon Him and gave serious though to what we saw. He did not just pass by us. He tabernacles among us. We touched and embraced Him, this Word of Life. This was no mysterious apparition of fictitious character. It was God incarnate!”(1 John 1:2)
So what are the practical and personal implications of these great Christmas truths? We do not worship a mere phantom or fictitious Christ but a real and risen Savior and Lord. “Fret not over evil doers who trivialize, marginalize, and seek to eliminate Christ from Christmas and even our culture. “For unto us a child is born … the mighty God”. “His name will be Immanuel which is God with us.” ” You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Yes, the truths of the incarnate Christ are transcendent and spiritual, but they are no less real and personal to those who look to Him in faith. “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift”.
There is no more central of a mission than the mission of teaching, proclaiming, and living for the glory of Christ as a body of believers. Join Charles and Daniel as they wrap up their series on the church and discuss this central mission…
“I’ve got to get it done: just get all this decorating done in my house!”
My dear husband reminds me today it’s not just for me; all this decorating the home; but the joy my family and friends get when they come.
I have this little country sign with jingle bells that reads, “Catch the Spirit.” I picked it up, and it struck me that I need to catch the spirit of Christmas; like the verse in Galatians 4:4-5.
“But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the Law, to redeem those that were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”
- stopping to remember what the season is about as I place a homemade manger with a baby Jesus under my Christmas tree, placing a simple wooden sign in front of it that says “Jesus”, catching the spirit… the greatest gift of all!
- slowing down and sitting by my Christmas tree, looking at each ornament on my tree. Each ornament has a story. Some were given to me by dear friends; ornaments from long ago when my children were young. There is a special ornament that hangs on the front of my tree that I hang every year. When I was a pastor’s wife, many years ago, a sweet eight year old girl stitched it together to form a bow and hung jingle bells from it. It’s a very crude ornament, yet in my eyes I see all the love that went into making this for me: catching the spirit of giving.
So…I’m busy, stressed, sometimes frustrated, and very tired. If I’m not careful, I will lose or miss the spirit (the Spirit). God help me not to miss Christmas.