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Jesus Our Immanuel

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(Originally published 12/7/10)
 
One of the most famous and well known Scriptures of this time of year—I say well known because it adorns Christmas cards and Christmas songs alike, comes out of Isaiah 7:14:
 
Isaiah 7:14 (NKJV) 
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”
 
The Contextual Setting
 
The days of this prophecy were not unlike the days we find ourselves in as a nation. These were dark and frightening times for the nations of Israel and Judah.


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Learning to be Thankful

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(Originally published 11/6/10)

In a short while we will be celebrating one of our greatest national holidays–Thanksgiving Day–a day that we have set aside as a nation to thank the Lord for all His goodness and blessings which He has so richly given to us.

Our nation was birthed in an attitude of thanksgiving to Almighty God for His blessings and providence that planted, sustained, and nurtured our fledgling nation from infancy to maturity as the strongest and most blessed nation on the face of the earth.

Back in those early days, before we were even a nation, those early settlers were thankful to God, not for big houses and new cars, but for keeping them alive!


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Thankful

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(Originally published 11/8/11)

In a couple of weeks we will celebrate one of our greatest national holidays—Thanksgiving Day, a day that we have set aside as a nation to thank the Lord for all His goodness and blessings which He has so richly given to us.  It is well-known that the first Thanksgiving Day was celebrated by our Pilgrim Fathers in 1621 to give thanks for their first winter in the New World.  Two years later William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth Colony, issued this proclamation—


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The Power of the Tongue

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(Originally published 3/16/11)


We all remember the adage growing up, “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” Our parents taught us to say that to the kids who were making fun out of us by calling us names.  

As a kid I tried using that tip several times as a defense against the mean words that some directed at me, but I have to be honest it really didn’t stop the pain of those hurtful words. As I got older and reflected on that saying a little I came to realize that, although our parents meant well, the reason their advice didn’t help to stop the pain of unkind words is because that saying isn’t true.  Sticks and stones can inflict physical pain and may even break a bone or two—but those wounds usually heal without any lasting effects.


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Salt and Light

(Originally published 6/30/11)

Matthew 5:13-16 (NKJV) 
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.  You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

When Jesus likened His disciples to ‘salt and light’ He was basically telling them that the sum total of their Christian character should have an influence on those around them for good. Now that’s not to say that those we have an influence on will necessarily think it’s good and appreciate us—why? Because the world is an open sore and we are salt; the world is living in darkness and we come along shining as lights—both hurt which explains the world’s reaction to us as Jesus described it in v.11-12:


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The Importance of Honeymoon Love

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In Revelation chapter 2 Jesus dictated a letter to the apostle John that was to be given to the church at Ephesus. In that letter the Lord commended the church for the zeal and tireless effort that went into their service for Him. This was a church that had a lot of good things going on. However in verse 4 the Lord Jesus went on to say, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

All of these positive works of service were erased by one negative—they were going through the motions but they had lost the emotion in their relationship with Jesus. Their church was a well oiled machine—but God doesn’t want machines cranking out emotionless service—He wants a love relationship with His people. Jesus said the greatest commandment is “That you love the Lord your God with all you heart, soul, mind and strength” –Not that you serve the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.


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God’s Cure for the Sick Soul

In Ephesians chapter 2 Paul is talking about the riches of God’s grace toward the human race in sending His Son to save us.  However, before a person will appreciate the riches of God’s grace toward them and receive God’s gift of salvation they must first be convinced of their own sinfulness.

Let’s put it this way—say you have a terminal disease and yet you don’t realize you are infected with this disease. And say I recognized the symptoms you have because I too was once infected with that same disease. And so I came to you and told you that I have a cure for the disease you are infected with—a miracle cure, the only one in the world that could save your life. You would probably say to me, “Get lost, I don’t have a disease, I feel fine.”

As long as you’re convinced that you’re healthy you wouldn’t appreciate the cure I was offering to you because in your mind you would not see your need for it. But now let’s imagine that I began to tell you the symptoms of this disease, and as I did you began to realize that you did have those symptoms. If I could eventually convince you that you were, in fact, infected with this deadly disease—then how do you think you’d appreciate the cure?


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Is Jesus at Home in your Heart?

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In Ephesians 3:17 the apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesians, “…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…”

You might be thinking to yourself—“why is Paul praying that Jesus may dwell in their hearts—I thought he was writing this to Christians who already had Jesus living in their hearts?”

It is true that Paul is writing to believers living in Ephesus. It is also true that Jesus lives in the heart of every Christian the moment they receive Him into their heart by faith as Lord and Savior.

So then what is Paul actually saying here? The answer is found in the word “dwell.”

According to the Greek scholar Dr. Kenneth Wuest the verb literally means “to settle down and feel at home.”

Certainly Jesus was already living in the hearts of the Ephesians, or else Paul would not have addressed them as “saints” in Ephesians 1:1.


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Making the New Year Count-Part Three

 

We have been looking at ways to make this New Year count for the Lord in a big way. As we’ve already said, every New Year brings with it new hope–the hope that this year will be a better year than last year. The hope that I can build on what’s good and put behind me what’s bad—that with God’s grace old things will pass away and this will be a new year of blessing and renewal.

The problem is for most people, when they enter into a new year, all they do is hope that things will change–all they do is engage in wishful thinking that things will be different but they never do anything to bring about any change.

Now it’s true that it’s a lot easier talking about change than it is to accomplish it–but with God’s grace and power anything is possible.


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The Love of God

In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul has been teaching and correcting the Christians in Corinth about spiritual gifts—which they were putting above everything else in their church.

At the end of the chapter he stops and says, “And yet I show you a more excellent way.”—1Corinthians 12:31b

Paul stops his teaching on spiritual gifts to talk about something far superior—something he called the “more excellent way” or in other words “something that goes far beyond the gifts in importance”.

In Chapter 13 he tells us that love is the most important thing we can have in our lives and in our churches. The Greek word is ‘agape’, a word that characterizes God’s love which is, selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional.


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