Friday, December 31, 2010

Run for God’s Resounding Applause by James Ryle

Run for God’s Resounding Applause!
December 31st, 2010 James Ryle 3 comments

“This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting–God’s applause!” (2 Timothy 4:7-8, The Message).

There comes a moment in every life when a corner is turned and the finish line comes into view. This was Paul’s moment, and in his closing letter to his young friend Timothy he calls him out as a champion, and gets him ready for the run of his life. “Anyone who wants to live all out for Christ is in for a lot of trouble,” he said to him, “there’s no way getting around it.” (ch.3:12).

He then encouraged him to remain steadfast in the teachings of the Bible, and to keep the Message alive with his life and works. “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another,” he said, “Showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” (ch. 3:16-17).

He reminded Timothy that God would always be there backing him up, looking over his shoulder; thereby empowering him to stay focused and complete the work that God gave him to do.

Finally, Paul turns his gaze to the finish line and says, “This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting–God’s applause!”

These times in which we live are filled with transition. There are many who have labored long and hard, faithful to the Lord, and are now headed for the finish line as they pass the baton off to you and me. Grab hold of it firmly, and run with fire to the finish.

May we be like Eric Liddell, Scottish Olympic Champion and Missionary to China, who “felt God’s pleasure” when he ran — so much so that he would throw his head back and smile all the way across the finish line!

My friend, run for God’s resounding applause!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Changing the Expression of Christianity in a Generation by David VanCronkhite

The Inevitability of Change
Changing the Expression of Christianity in a Generation

Can the expression of Christianity be changed in a generation? History says, "Absolutely."

You can trace Christianity from its first days and discover how it has re-invented itself in each generation to express systematic concerns over particular issues of culture. Every generation produces leaders who think they understand their day and respond as they believe God would -- some of it good, some of it bad, some very bad.

We don't have to go back to the Crusades, or the Reformation, or the ongoing brutal wars between Christian factions and denominations to see the ability to change Christianity's face, heart and values. Yet there was once a time when being Christian meant a simple understanding that Jesus' purpose on earth was to proclaim the kingdom of God now at hand; when Christian meant the reality of a kingdom totally supernatural, spiritual, of another realm; unseen but known; now but not yet; practical but mysterious.

There was a time...

There was a time when followers of Jesus were known by his model and declaration of "I do only what I see the Father doing." Jesus knew the Father and he knew what pleased the Father because he had ultimate illumination as to the DNA of his Father. Not so long ago people looked for this supernatural experience of being born from above (receiving the DNA of God) in order to enter this supernatural kingdom instead of looking for an escape from hell with a "pray the prayer" mentality.

And there was a time when followers of Jesus knew without a shadow of unbelief that the kingdom of God was, first and foremost, about love, agape, and anything done without agape was absolutely worthless.

We have just now ended a generation that witnessed a few men changing the expression of Christianity in much the same way a movie changed how a generation perceived the ocean and sharks. (Remember Jaws?) These men were and are (some still living) good people. They believed and took action. They laid a new foundation, a new understanding, and a new model for Christianity that famously became known as the Moral Majority.

A negatively charged Christianity

But this movement, with all its good, in the end so negatively charged Christianity that we who are called Christians, and particularly American evangelical Christians, are more known around the world today for our hate and judgment than our love; more for our desire to be moral than our desire to love our neighbor; more for our desire to build buildings where people can be indoctrinated in our manifestos rather than to cross the street to meet and care for our neighbor.

We have developed a litmus test as to whether one is really a Christian and accepted and used by God based upon adherence to doctrine. Many could rightly conclude that success in our faith is measured by the outward expressions of life, not the inward change of heart and of our becoming like our God who is still (He never changes!) compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, merciful, truth, covenantal faithful and forgiving.

Our (baby boomer) generation even saw the definition of sin changed and, therefore, at a greater cost, the understanding of grace and the need for grace. Sin became synonymous primarily with morality and things like drinking and smoking.  In a single generation we have convinced those who desire to follow Jesus that he is more interested in whether they drink wine than whether they're compassionate and gracious to their neighbor; more interested in sexual activity than whether they are forgiving to those who hurt them. The heart issue of Christianity has taken such a backseat to the moral issues of our culture that more and more of those who have met the Father prefer to be identified as "a follower of Christ" instead of a "Christian."

On a new journey to find Jesus

The Bible tells the story of Mary Magdalene going to the tomb to look for the crucified Jesus who is no longer there. She tells Jesus, whom she mistakes for the gardener, "They have taken away my Lord and I don't know where they have put him."

As we move into 2011, we are again looking for where they have taken our Lord, our Jesus, the King of the Kingdom of God, the Eternal Seed, the One who offers freedom from all the systems of man, all the kingdoms of the world; the one who said of David, the King, the adulterer and murderer, "He is a man after my own heart" even though he sorely failed most of today's litmus test.

Change is inevitable. People have grown weary of the judgments of man and are worn out trying to walk under the yokes of self-righteous moralists. The people of God are once again on a journey, as was Mary, to find Jesus. He will be re-resurrected in all his glory, to the great surprise of those who have stolen him and his "I give you a new commandment: love your neighbor." He demonstrated the will of the Father in his everyday life, hanging with sinners, the hated of society, the prisoners of the systems, the discarded, the discouraged, the lonely, those who could not find any identity or worth in the religious, commercial, or political market places of man.

Can we dare believe it can happen again? Can we find and re-center on a God who so loves all and a Son who simply wants to introduce us to his Father and the Kingdom he chose to confer on us? Can 2011 be that year? I believe so.

So, come Holy Spirit! More, Lord!

David VanCronkhite   Contact David

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Roberts Quotes for the Week (#28) by Robert Ricciardelli

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas: Commemorating God's Greatest Gift! by Robert Ricciardelli

Christmas commemorates the greatest event in history, when the Incarnate of God was birthed into the world for the world. As we celebrate this day, the fullness of God's Incarnate gift of life transforms us to live each day for Him and empowers us for eternal good. Christ birthed for the world is forever, not for just one day, for loving, sharing, and giving are to be a way of life. Thank God for the day our Savior was born.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Jesus Became Humble for the Humble by Robert Ricciardelli

Jesus was not just a humble person who was birthed into humanity, but he was was preoccupied with the humble of the world. He became the divine lifter of humble hearts from sin, suffering, and insignificance. Through Him, all that received Him would receive new life, and become significant on earth and for all eternity. Today as we approach the celebration of His birth, He remains preoccupied with the humble of heart.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Best Time to Change is Now by Robert Ricciardelli

Change in one's life is not only desired but often needed in order to survive and thrive. The only lasting way for things to change is for people themselves to change. Godly changes not only promote health, wholeness, and peace, it also ignites an atmosphere for the miraculous to appear. God has given you Himself to transform your life in order to unleash His glory to the world. The best time for changing is now.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Immovable Authentic Servants by Robert Ricciardelli

The most critical need of the Church at this moment is a people that are free, bold, and immovable from God's purposes. They will make no decisions out of fear, will not engage for self pleasure, and will not be influenced by the love of publicity or reputation. They are free from the compulsions that control others, and are servants who remain authentic to who they are regardless of the context or audience.

Immovable Authentic Servants by Robert Ricciardelli

The most critical need of the Church at this moment is a people that are free, bold, and immovable from God's purposes. They will make no decisions out of fear, will not engage for self pleasure, and will not be influenced by the love of publicity or reputation. They are free from the compulsions that control others, and are servants who remain authentic to who they are regardless of the context or audience.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Significance of Communal Life by Robert Ricciardelli

Anything of spiritual value is not the result of individual accomplishments but birthed from communal life. All the knowledge and wisdom of God has come to us through the ages through prophets of God, Christ Himself, Saints who went before us, and from all who have played roles in the formation of our hearts. True spiritual knowledge belongs to the communion of God's people and with all glory to God.

Monday, December 20, 2010

God's Igniting Flame for Your Life by Robert Ricciardelli

Many today are perplexed and confused about the ways of God. Some have had a vision that God has yet to fulfill, and have now lost hope. Many have impatiently turned to their own devices when it is only God who can ignite His flame on His destiny for them. No man lit the burning bush in the days of Moses and no man can ignite the flame of His vision for your life. Be expectant for God to fan His flame over your life.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Embracing All of Creation by Robert Ricciardelli

The Spirit of Christ embraces all of creation. In him were created all things in heaven and on earth; everything visible and everything invisible, all things created through Him and for Him, and in Him all things hold together. Therefore with His Spirit within us, our hearts embrace not only all people but all of creation. Love removes all fear and prejudice, while welcoming and gathering in all that belongs to God.
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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Three Lessons From Mary by James Ryle

Lesson One: Never Overlook the Potential of the Ordinary

“Despise not the day of small beginnings.” (Zechariah 4:10, NLT).

God always does extraordinary things with ordinary stuff. Just look at what He made with dirt — YOU! How amazing is that? The Bible tells us that He made everything out of nothing. He is the CAN DO God. With Him nothing is impossible.
One day a young boy showed up at a crowded event to hear a traveling preached talk about wonderful things. He never dreamed for an instant that he would become the central character in an epic moment of history. The preacher was Jesus. The young boy was the lad with a small sack lunch containing two fish and five loaves of bread.

It was just a sack lunch on any other day, but on this day it became the stuff of miracles. It is amazing what can happen when you place something in the hands of Jesus. What do you think could happen if you placed your life in His hands?

You may be just an ordinary person, with ordinary looks, and ordinary thoughts, ordinary talents and ordinary dreams — but Jesus can do something amazing with that sack lunch of yours. If you just let Him have it.

Most people never reach their full potential in life simply because they overlook the potential of the ordinary. If you simply start where you ARE, instead of waiting to start until you get to where you hope to go — you will become all you ever dreamed of being!

Little by little. Step by step. Day by day.

Like Mary did on that first night when God told her of extraordinary things, say yes to God and let the miracle begin to slowly grow inside you.

Never overlook the potential of the ordinary. That’s the first of three great lessons we learn from Mary’s humble response to God’s invitation.

Lesson Two: Never Under-estimate the Power of a Personal Word from God

“With God nothing shall be impossible.” (Luke 1:37)

Sometimes important things can be lost in translation. This verse is one example of that. The word nothing fails to convey into English the fullness of its Greek beginnings. In order to get a better sense of what is being said, we first need to split the word into two words — as in “no thing” instead of “nothing.”

Next we examine the Greek word rhema, which is translated as “thing.” It literally means “that which is spoken by a living voice.” It refers to the power that is inherent within any thing that God says.
In fact, the full meaning of the word “nothing” would look like this if translated into English — “Each and every thing God says; any and all words that proceed from His mouth; the whole of what He speaks, and not just a part, shall not under any circumstance of any sort be impossible in any way or at any time.”

Or, as the English puts it, “With God nothing shall be impossible.”

The point is both powerful, and personal. Whenever God speaks a word to your heart and places a promise upon your life — you can take it to the bank! He will do what He has said He will do.

“God said it, and it was so.” This phrase fills the first chapter of Genesis and introduces us to the God who does what He says. Even foolish Balaam had enough sense to state the obvious — “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19).

So, then, what has God spoken to you? What promise has He made, what dream has He given, what hope has He placed in your heart? Whatever it is, know this for certain — “Each and every thing God says; any and all words that proceed from His mouth; the whole of what He speaks, and not just a part, shall not under any circumstance of any sort be impossible in any way or at any time.”

Never under-estimate the power of a personal word from God!

Lesson Three: Never Hesitate to Say Yes to God’s Plan for Your Life

“Be it unto me according to Thy Word.” (Luke 1:38).

Os Guinness writes, ” Our passion is to know we are fulfilling the purpose for which we are on earth. All standards of success — wealth, power, knowledge, position, fame — grow tiny and hollow if we do not satisfy this deeper longing.”

Nothing short of God’s will obeyed can both ground and fulfill the truest human desire for significance. And we are never happier than when we are expressing the deepest gifts and callings that are truly us.

Abraham was called by God out of a dead religion practiced by pagans, and became the Father of Faith. He was without children until God spoke a promise. Abraham believed God and became the Father of Nations. He said yes to God.

Moses was a stuttering stammering sheep herding Bedouin in the high deserts of Midian, when a burning bush caught his eye. Approaching the Bush, he heard a voice. That Voice spoke of great and mighty things to come. Moses answered, “Who am I?” The Voice called him out of his own sense of inability and limitations, and ushered him forth into the great drama of human history as one of the greatest and most influential men who has ever lived. He said yes to God.

David was the runt of the litter; the eighth born son in a family where seven was enough. Last on the food chain, there was usually nothing left when his turn came along. God spoke a promise to his young heart in the isolated fields of unseen worship. He believed God and rose to become the greatest King Israel has ever known. He said yes to God.

Mary said yes to God and rose from humble surroundings to be the mother of our Lord.

Now it’s your turn. Whatever the situation of your life, or the circumstances in which you presently find yourself — it is never too late to say yes to God’s will for your life. He can still do the impossible with the improbable.

He CAN do what He says He can do. And He WILL do what He says He will do!

NEVER overlook the extraordinary potential of the ordinary! NEVER under-estimate the power of a personal word from God! And, NEVER hesitate to say yes to God’s plan for your life! These are the three great lessons we learn from a peasant girl named Mary.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Seven Special Gifts to Unwrap This Christmas by Lee Grady

Please don’t let the holidays get so cluttered that you miss the point of the celebration.

Christmas is usually cluttered. We’re overbooked with parties, concerts, football games and shopping trips while our houses are jammed with decorations, out-of-town guests and way too much food. Then on Christmas morning, after the presents have been opened, we sweep up the crumpled giftwrap, tinsel, ribbons, bows, pine needles and boxes that are scattered everywhere. As much as I love the joy of this season (eggnog is my weakness), I struggle to make sure I don’t lose the profound simplicity of Christmas amid the sensory overload.

This year I decided to pay closer attention to the names of Jesus used in the Christmas story. These names are like wrapped gifts—you have to open them carefully to savor their meaning. You might want to share these names with your loved ones at your Christmas dinner, or take a break from the stress of the holidays to look up these Scriptures and ponder them carefully. Remember: Jesus is God’s present to us. Have you fully unwrapped this amazing gift?

1. He is the Son of David (Matt. 1:1). Matthew’s gospel, which was written primarily to Jews, stresses that Jesus was in the royal lineage of Israel’s kings. The genealogy that appears in Matthew 1 traces Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary, to David’s line—and then back to Abraham. Even though Jesus was not the biological son of Joseph, He could legally claim the family name. He was King of the Jews in the truest sense; yet unlike the sinful kings of Israel, Jesus was the perfect ruler—and His kingdom will never end.

2. He is the Son of Adam (Luke 3:38). Luke’s gospel, written to a Gentile audience, focuses on Jesus’ humanity. And the genealogy that appears in Luke 3:23-38 is not about kingly succession. Instead, it traces Jesus’ lineage through Mary’s family tree and goes all the way to Adam—establishing the case that Jesus was a descendent of the first man. Through the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, God’s eternal Word impregnated Mary, making her child both God and man. Yet Jesus, unlike Adam, never disobeyed God. He remained sinless so He could sacrifice His life for us.

3. He is Emmanuel (Matt. 1:23). An angel told Joseph in a dream that Mary would conceive a son miraculously—and that His name would be Emmanuel, which means, “God with us.” Wrapped up in this name is the mystery of the Incarnation. Jesus is, as John’s gospel emphasizes, the Word that “became flesh” (John 1:14). He was with God before the creation of the world as the glorious firstborn Son, but He left the glory of heaven to dwell among sinners on earth.

4. He is Jesus, the Savior (Matt. 1:21). The angel told Mary she would give birth to the “holy child” and that she would call him Jesus, which is the Greek form of the name Joshua (or Yeshua in Hebrew). Jesus means “the Lord saves.” Just as Joshua in the Old Testament succeeded Moses and took God’s people across the Jordan into the Promised Land, Jesus led us out of the wilderness of sin and ushered us “by grace” and “through faith” (Eph. 2:8) into the blessings of salvation.

5. He is the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6). Angels said to the shepherds in Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14). This harkens back to Isaiah’s ancient prophecy that the Messiah would institute peace on earth. The gift of Christ was, in fact, the greatest peace treaty ever enacted. Wherever the true gospel of Christ is preached and believed, hatred is uprooted in human hearts and wars and violence cease.

6. He is the Light of the Gentiles (Luke 2:32). Simeon, the old prophet who met Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus outside the temple in Jerusalem, recognized that the long-awaited Son of God was not sent just to Israel but to all people. Jesus’ mission was a global one. This was also confirmed by the visit of the mysterious magi—wise men from a Gentile country who bowed before the Christ child and honored him as a true king. They knew that some day this King would be worshipped everywhere.

7. He is the Messiah, Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11). This is how the angel described Jesus when he spoke to the shepherds in Bethlehem. The word “Christ” means “the anointed one”; the Hebrew word is Ha-Mashiach, or Messiah. It speaks of the Deliverer God promised to send to earth. Abraham saw Him from a distance; King David sang and prophesied of Him; Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Micah, Haggai, Malachi and many other prophets foretold His coming. He was not only anointed by the Holy Spirit to heal the sick and raise the dead during His short time on earth; He was anointed to die on the Cross for our sins and to be raised from the dead so that we could live with Him forever.

Many people today—even many professing Christians—have never unwrapped the full meaning of the Savior. Some doubt His power to forgive them. Some struggle to believe He is the only path to God. Others don’t experience inward peace because they have never fully submitted to His lordship. Please unwrap this gift. Don’t let the holidays get so cluttered that you miss the point!

Christmas: An Invitation To Reckless Abandon by Elizabeth G. Wallace

     For those of us who grew up celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Christmas story can become too familiar. It easily slips from a story of awe to simple facts of history. We rattle off these events, such as Mary gave birth to Jesus and then the shepherds and wise men came to see him, with the same ease that we describe what we did last weekend. When you stop to really consider it, the story of Christmas is anything but normal. It is absurd. It is full of biological impossibility, strained family dynamics, emotional turmoil, supernatural encounters, a failed assassination attempt, and people asked to do the craziest things.

    This is an invitation to deeply experience the Christmas story.

    How would you feel if God told you that you are bearing his Son? Feel the fear of telling your fiance and parents that you are pregnant, and Joseph is not the father. Sense the shame as the village whispers about you. Imagine the weight of knowing you are carrying God's son, hoping that you don't mess the whole thing up.

    Put yourself in Joseph's shoes. How would you feel if your beloved comes to you and says she is pregnant and you know that the baby is not yours? Feel the betrayal, rejection, and heartbreak of Joseph, based on the wrong conclusions about Mary until God sends the angel who straightens things out.

    How would you feel on a ordinary night at work taking care of your sheep if an angel of the Lord showed up to say "Drop what you are doing and go"? Feel the fear of such a supernatural event, followed by the doubt that creeps in to say, "Did I make that up?" What about leaving the sheep which are your sole source of income? Sense the wonder, fear, uncertainty, and hope of the shepherds as they come to meet their Savior.  

    What if you were one of the servants in the entourage of the magi? You are following your master who is basing his journey on a star. It is not a short journey either. It was weeks, months, maybe even years before you arrive at your final destination. How long would you keep walking to a place you don't know to met a person no one else seems to know about with only a star as a guide? 

    Then as the story continues, when is the last time you had a dream that you woke up from and knew that you, your wife, and child were to leave immediately to live in a foreign country? What was that discussion like? Would you leave friends and family behind based solely on a dream your spouse had to go to Egypt?

    The story is full of one crazy event after another. Beyond recording the details of Jesus' birth, the Christmas story reveals to us the otherness of God and how he longs to partner with big-spirited people to do the impossible. His reality is so much greater than ours. While we are thinking about getting married and settling down with a family in our hometown, he is planning to partner with us to fulfill his plan for the world. 

    The joy of this season is that with each twist and turn in the story God finds people who choose to live from their spirit and follow when they are challenged to believe what they have not seen and do what they have never done before. That is the adventure he is calling each of us to live.

    This Christmas marvel at the outrageous and awesome lengths to which God the Father will go to give you the perfect gift.

    Give him the gift of the same reckless abandon of the shepherds and the magi to pursue and follow your King Jesus.

    May your spirit be so large and in tune with the Holy Spirit that when God shows up in the middle of your ordinary day with an extraordinary plan, you are ready to follow him regardless of how absurd it might sound.

    And for 2011 open your heart to God-size dreams. Wait expectantly for God-sized visions, and don't be surprised as he does exceedingly abundantly more than you can ask or imagine.

© 2010 Elizabeth G. Wallace

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Remembering Joseph: Rethinking Righteousness by Frank Viola

When the nativity story is told, we mostly hear about Mary, the mother of Jesus. For centuries, Mary has been extolled and honored, as she should be. Joseph, however, has often been regarded as a mere footnote to the story.

Today, I’d like to give Joseph his due.

By my lights, Joseph was one of the most righteous men who ever lived. Now when most modern Christians think of a “righteous man,” they think of things like being a good husband, a patient father, a trusted and successful employee who lives a good clean life (doesn’t smoke, drink, chew or run with those who do), and so on.

I have no doubts that Joseph was upright in these areas. But the Bible gives us a much deeper peek at what a righteous person is and how he or she reacts to certain situations. Consider Matthew 1:19-20:

Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to put her away quietly. 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.

Matthew says that because Joseph was a righteous man, he chose not to publicly disgrace and shame Mary, even though (according to his knowledge at the time) she deserved it.


Let that marinate a few moments.

How many Christians today would react the same way that Joseph did if they were standing in his shoes?

Joseph wasn’t out for blood. He didn’t justify in his mind the act of bringing public disgrace upon Mary. Instead, he took the high road and put her away privately, lest she face public humiliation and shame.

I’m sure Joseph’s blood boiled when he heard that the woman who was betrothed to him in marriage was pregnant . . . and not by him. But because he was a righteous man, he showed mercy. He treated her as if he were in her own shoes and was guilty of what he had assumed she did.

Perhaps Joseph thought to himself what his step-son would say to a woman worthy of death almost thirty years later, “He who has never sinned, let him cast the first stone” (John 8:7).

Perhaps after the initial anger, pain, and rage subsided, Joseph took a good, hard look at his own life and recalled the many times where he himself missed the mark.

Perhaps he reflected on his lineage and recalled the many grievous sins that his own kinfolk committed in the past (see Matthew 1:1-16; Joseph’s lineage is populated by those who committed murder, adultery, prostitution, etc. Beyond that, this is the very lineage that God the Father selected for His own Son, Jesus).

In Joseph, we find no self-righteousness at all. And therein do we find a wonderful definition of righteousness. It is to react like Jesus, living void of self-righteousness. As I’ve often said, there is only one Person in the universe who has the right to be self-righteous, and He isn’t.

Consider for a moment the people who Jesus spent most of His time with, who He ate with (which in that day was a sign of union, friendship, and acceptance), who He showed mercy to, who He extended grace to, and who He removed shame from. These were the very people who the religious leaders of His day regarded as the most sinful. Their sinful deeds being at the top of their lists. This is why Jesus earned the title “the friends of sinners.”

Some specific examples:

    * He broke bread in the home of a tax-collector who was siding with Rome in oppressing his own people (Zacchaeus).
    * He completely forgave a woman caught in the act of adultery.
    * He allowed a prostitute to anoint His feet with her hair in the presence of judgmental Pharisees.
    * He communed with and later broke bread with a multiple-divorcee who was living in sin.

Granted, all of these people later repented of their sins and followed the Lord, but Jesus loved them, received them, and their sinful lives didn’t put Him off. The harshest word He said to any of them was “go and sin no more.”

Now . . . shift gears and look at the sins that literally made Jesus angry and provoked Him to issue hot-boiling, scathing rebukes. It was the sins of self-righteousness. And it was aimed at those who sought to shame and humiliate others because of their wrong-doing.

The pure and spotless Lord Jesus Christ turned the pyramid upside down.

Back to Joseph.

Note that Matthew says that while Joseph was considering doing this righteous deed (putting Mary away privately to spare her public disgrace), the angel appeared to him.

How many angels have passed us by because we chose to take the low road of shaming other people because of their sins or shortcomings, without any regard to our own sins and shortcomings?

(At this moment, someone reading that last line is thinking of Matthew 18:15ff. where Jesus says to announce to a local assembly that someone has been put out of the church because of sin. But please consider two things about that passage. First, Jesus said to go to the person privately so as not to shame them, but to bring reconciliation in a private way. Second, the person in view had stubbornly refused to stop sinning after being approached multiple times in private. Only then was it to be “told to the assembly.”)

Joseph’s decision to take the high road and spare Mary public shame is echoed throughout the entire Scriptural narrative. Even beginning at the beginning in Genesis.

Remember Noah’s night of binge drinking? His son, Ham, uncovered his father’s nakedness. Shem and Japeth, on the other hand, walked into the tent backwards with a blanket, refusing to see the shame, but covering their father’s disgraceful state. Ham was cursed as a result.

It’s difficult on our flesh to walk into a tent backwards, holding a blanket. But that’s God’s way. It’s the way of righteousness.

He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. (Prov. 17:9)

Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs (Prov. 10:12)

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Pet. 4:8)

Jesus Christ, your Lord, is in the business of removing people’s shame.

Our Lord’s first miracle at Cana demonstrated His heart to remove public shame from a bridegroom who had miscalculated how much wine to provide for his wedding. Jesus remedied the situation by providing the best wine at the very end, covering the social disgrace that would have been leveled at the bridegroom’s feet because of his error.*

If you’ve done something in your past that you have repented of (ceased from practicing), but it still haunts you with regret, take heart. Peter, whose many sins grew in their severity until the most grievous of all—the betrayal of his Lord—was not only fully forgiven and restored by Jesus, but he was used mightily by the Master, even earning the title “the greatest apostle.”

Echoing the promise of the New Covenant in Hebrews 8:12, A.W. Tozer rightly says, “When God forgives, He forgets.”

Let us take our cue from God Himself.

I am blessed by Joseph. I am encouraged by Joseph. And I am challenged by Joseph. It’s no wonder that God picked him to be the father of Jesus. (Joseph was also from the line of David, fulfilling the prophecy of the Messiah’s lineage.)

This Christmas season, let’s remember Joseph. The Life that dwells in every Christian . . . the Life of Joseph’s step-son, Jesus the Christ . . . will always lead us to treat others the same way we would want to be treated if we were standing in their shoes. No one wishes to be shamed and disgraced if they’ve repented of wrong-doing. And self-righteousness is not in His nature.

Coaching Freedom From Fear by Joseph Umidi

Joseph is a friend and partner. At some level, we are all coaches whether intentional or not. We are called to guide others to the Way, the Truth, and Freedom Life in Christ. We will be sharing some ways in the next few weeks for those of you who desire to be intentional coaches. The world needs us. Below is a gift from Joseph that keeps on giving... Robert

What fears are your clients expressing this Christmas season?  What fears are you facing as you look at the horizon?  What would Freedom from Fear look like for you and them in 2011?
Here is the gift of Christmas for all coaches who are willing to receive it and give it to others...FREEDOM FROM FEAR!

Fear of INADEQUACY (Luke 1:12-13) 
Zacharias and Elizabeth were just too old, too competent in their profession, too planned for their twilight years to take on this new venture, calling, paradigm...this 'wild at heart' John the Baptist baby who would "turn the hearts of the fathers to the children..." v.17)
Every coach who has this Freedom from Fear can approach any employee of the major name brand stores who will be closing down or downsizing at the end of this year to help them face their vocational and transitional Inadequacies without fear.  There will be no timelier gift to many in the coming months than a Fearless Coach who is focused on helping people embrace their new assignments in life without fear.  Some of them may compare the impact of your life on them like a visitation from an angel!

Fear of INTIMIDATION (Luke 1:30, 74) 
Teenager Mary knew what it meant for her to be pregnant out of wedlock in her day and culture...she had seen and heard the voices of mockery and shame that had intimidated and marginalized others in her day.  Who would believe her dream and "visitation" and how would this affect the most important person in her life, Joseph?
Every coach worth their transformational training knows what it means to conquer our own intimidating voices within before we tackle those around us.  What assignments do others or we have that intimidates our own comfort zones or the 'group think' of those around us?  Who are the significant people around our clients or us whose opinions are keeping us from our own destiny significance?  What 'for such a time as this' dreams are being busted by the intimidators who control the gateways of our lives? is the answer; YOU HAVE FOUND FAVOR WITH GOD!

Fear of INSIGNIFICANCE (Luke 2:9-10)  Shepherds don't count for much in any culture.  Out in the hill country they could see the glow of the city where the VIPs lived their lives in significant busyness while they followed generations of sheep trails by day and quiet star gazing by night.  Seems like the same old purposeless driven life....until they heard that 'tailor made", just for them Word, UNTO YOU THIS DAY...."are you REALLY talking to ME?"
Every coach knows that they have stayed the course on their search for significance; not settling for the ordinary but pressing on to the extra-ordinary.  We are qualified by our own example of freedom to call the shepherds and the sheep around us to the higher ground of living their lives on target.  We have discovered that the freedom is in the journey, not the arrival.  The issue is what we are aiming at, not what we have hit.  At the end of 2010 we simply need to ask others, and ourselves "What have we done with 'Unto YOU this day has been given...'?"

Fear of INDECISIVENESS (Matthew 1:20)  Joseph's mind and heart was a battlefield of emotional and mental contradictions.  Every decision was a lose/lose.  Like so many indecisive men down the ages he felt he was caught in a double bind with no way out.  Even not making a public example of her left him numb.  He feared the consequences of every decision that his mind paraded before him.
Every coach knows that they need a coach when the options before them leave them paralyzed with indecisiveness; someone who can help them re-frame the situation, get another perspective on it, come up with creative options that have been overlooked.  We know that someone will appear to us by day or night who will help us see in a new way so that we can decide with a new freedom.  In days of political spin, corporate speak, and religious hype we can be a sounding board for others who can get the clarity that says "This is the way, walk in it", "Choose this day...", "As for me and my house, we will..."

Freedom is best known when the landscape is subject to the bondage of pessimism, anxiety, worry, dread, all contributing to a FEAR of the Future.  That is why our own Freedom from Fear is the greatest qualification to coach others this Christmas and beyond.  Here is your gift.  Why not open it now so you can serve others and set the captives free from fear, one conversation at a time.

Because He came,
Dr. Joseph

Monday, December 20, 2010

Redeeming Disillusionment by Stephen Crosby

Disillusionment has always been a common malady for the Lord’s followers. The early church expected the literal return of the Lord in their lifetime. When it didn’t happen, they needed the encouragement that comes from a major adjustment in their expectation and understanding. Much of the NT was written to psychologically encourage and theologically adjust the saints. The book of Hebrews is a great example of a letter written to a people who were ready to “chuck it” because things had not panned out according to their expectations.

The overwhelming majority of popular level media teaching and preaching is a set-up for disillusionment. When all the promised temporal blessings for good behaving and promise claiming saints do not come to pass, a crisis is inevitable. The first wave of human carnage surrounds us in those for whom the tired and ragged remnants of Charismatic and apostolic-prophetic teachings have not produced the “promised” results. (i) Disillusionment is saying it mildly. Many feel so betrayed, so misled, so the “fool,” for believing another generation’s lightweight preacher talk, that they have turned into God-haters. It is but the first fruits of a greater harvest to come. I get no joy in proclaiming so. My hope is to be there for folks when the non-Calvary, simplistic promises and premises they have built their lives upon, come crashing down around them.

The disillusionment phenomenon also influenced Israel of old, and God sent the prophets to encourage and adjust them. Nowhere is this more prominent that in the return of the exiles from Babylon. Based on their understanding of their past history, those who returned from Babylon had “land of milk and honey” expectations for their return. What they got was the “land of ruin and desolation.” Rather than a “walk-in-take-over” of houses and lands prepared for them, they were confronted with the charred ruination and remains of another generation’s failures. Does this sound familiar?

When the exiles returned, they set up the altar of sacrifice, but the temple was not rebuilt due to the scope of the task and the resistance they experienced from outside influences. The altar of sacrifice had to do with their personal standing with God, but the temple was meant to be the testimonial habitation of God in the earth. They settled for “personal” issues, while the greater issue of God’s testimony in the earth was ignored. Again, the media airwaves are saturated with techniques on how to “get your blessing,” rather than how to be the incarnation of the life of God in the earth, living effectively one with another.

God’s provision for Israel was to send Haggai (and others) to purge their romanticism, realign their expectations, change their thinking, challenge them to faithfulness, and exhort them to a work that involved something greater than their own interests. There are lots of applications for us today.

Many are disillusioned with organized and institutional forms of the faith and have embraced house church and emergent church forms, only to eventually discover equal amounts of disillusionment in these venues. I suggest that the problem is deeper than our meeting formats. Our message and methods have been focused on: a) individual salvation (our individual ticket to heaven), b) the temporal benefits that are mine, and c) giving our lives to build a “thing”- either the “church” as we have known it, or the “church” as we think it should be. Either way, our expectation is in a thing.

We’re supposed to be building the temple-the spiritual temple that is, the Body of Christ, not just focusing on the activities of the altar.

I believe that a prophetic call of encouragement, alignment, and correction is going out at this hour for those who are His own, to step out of a self-aware and self-interest based Christianity (regardless of meeting form) to get serious about Christ in us all . . . Christ in you, Christ in me . . . and give ourselves to the that “building.” We have tried everything else. It has only produced frustration and disillusionment.

We must understand that our mandate is to build the body of Christ by exhorting to love, and good works. We must understand that revelation does not come from the preaching ministry in the pulpit, but from our “connectedness” together in the body. The unveiling of Christ that we desire is not related to a gifted orator in a pulpit, or a gifted evangelist, or an anointed prophet or apostle. The unveiling of Christ we need is directly related to our being knit together in love (Col. 2:2). That is where the “mystery” is revealed.

It has been my long persuasion that Jesus’ rebuke to the Pharisees regarding their inability to see Him until they say “blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” (Matt. 23:39) has got nothing to do with the details of His personal return. It applies firstly to the new creation, post-Pentecost apostles, and to every recreated believer since. It is an absolute ban. Until we can say blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, (the new creation indwelt, Spirit-filled, believer who comes in the name of the Lord), we will never “see Him,” regardless of how “anointed” our various ministry expressions are or how “biblically accurate” the structure of our meetings are.

Like Israel of old we need to pull away from a sacrificial consciousness of my own personal sins being forgiven, and move into a “temple building” consciousness that serves as an incarnational witness to the world that God is alive . . . in flesh . . . in you and me. The New Testament temple, the New Testament habitation of His presence, has to be built. Out of the ruins of a previous generation’s failures we must engage in the divine agenda.

Here is my prophetic declaration. The days of the effectiveness of those other methodologies (ii) are over. Done. Finished. They have been tried, and have produced only rubble. We can continue to sing our songs, wave our banners, dance our dances, preach our messages, and whatever it is we do. But if we are serious about a different future day of God’s purposes in the earth, we must get serious about building the temple. We must discover and embrace Body-Consciousness. We must recognize Christ wherever He is, in one another, and give ourselves to the seeing of Him there, not out of heaven.

That is I live to die for you. You and I are the living sacrifices, and together we constitute the testimonial temple of God in the earth. All that I am, all that Christ has put in me, is . . . for you . . . and for the world. Together, we are the temple not made with hands that is to be the testimony in the earth that Jesus is alive in resurrection. If we are content with our own “promises of blessing” rather than the hard work of relationship building and the development of actually knowing one another so we can actually exhort one another to love and good works, we will never see the days of God on earth that generations have been preaching about.

End Note References

i “Breakthrough” is always just “one more faith-act of obedience” away.
ii Pulpit consciousness, ministry consciousness, gift consciousness, anointing consciousness, miracle consciousness, etc.

Copyright 2010 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby Permission to copy, forward, or distribute this article is granted as long as this copyright byline is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Roberts Quotes for the Week (#27) by Robert Ricciardelli

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Communal Life Heritage by Robert Ricciardelli

Anything of spiritual value is not the result of individual accomplishments but birthed from communal life. All the knowledge and wisdom of God has come to us through the ages through prophets of God, Christ Himself, Saints who went before us, and from all who have played roles in the formation of our hearts. True spiritual knowledge belongs to the communion of God's people and with all glory to God.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Extraordinary Family by Robert Ricciardelli

We are all part of one family "set apart" by God to bring light into the darkness. As ambassadors of His Unshakable Kingdom we represent a people who like anyone else, live ordinary lives and struggle with ordinary problems. What is extraordinary about us is the Spirit within, who gives us overcoming power, clarity, and an unwavering love for God, in bringing His love and service to others each day in His name.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Early Departure, Heavenly Seed by Robert Ricciardelli

Many people have died at a young age leaving many to wonder what impact they may have made if they had led a full life, but their impact and legacy goes far beyond the years they were here. Faithful people always gain in their departure, while depositing eternal seeds of heaven into the hearts of others. They are as much witnesses to Christ as those who have accomplished much or have lived a full life.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Beyond Organizational Limitations by Robert Ricciardelli

We often limit the Church to the organizations of people, and the activity of those organizations. But the Church is a organism, a people alive and empowered in Spirit. We reveal the living Christ far beyond the boundaries of any human institution. The Spirit "blows where it pleases", and touches hearts wherever He wants, with no human constraints. People of destiny who proclaim Christ through words and deeds.

The Kingdom Overtakes Man's Ways by Robert Ricciardelli

Religious pedestals and kingdoms of self continue to fall and make way for God's ever coming Kingdom. His Kingdom overtakes mans words, ways, and judgments. His presence filled love pours through lives that are obediently harmonized in Him, and synchronized with each other by His Spirit. The synchronized harmony of God's empowered people, bring witness to the Kingdom, the power, and the glory of God on earth.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Actions Speak Louder Than Words by Robert Ricciardelli

The world sees a church that lives little of what it preaches, often living in opposition to the gospel it pronounces. We give visibility to Jesus in how we live and not what we say. Wherever we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the lonely or rejected, and bring unity and peace to those who are divided, we proclaim Christ and the love of God, whether we speak about Him or not. Actions speak louder than words!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Presence Lives in You by Robert Ricciardelli

God loves His creation beyond the four walls of established religion or congregational meetings. As ambassadors for Christ to the world, we have a larger task beyond the all important fellowship and nurturing of one another. We are a witness of God's love made visible through His presence in our every day lives. Presence does not live in a building, or when the music is playing, for Presence lives in you.
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