Happy New Year

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Can we really be at the end of another year?  Wasn’t it just a few days ago we were turning our calendars to 2013?  It seems like we just got into the habit of writing 2013.  Now we must retrain ourselves to write 2014!  Wow, how time flies.

So, what did you accomplish in 2013?  Was it a “happy” new year?  What makes you happy?  Happiness and joy are essential to life.  Wise King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart does good like a medicine…”  Some people try to “medicate” themselves to happiness.  What they find is that no medicine can bring lasting happiness.  Rather, a joyful heart will keep us looking at life from a healthy perspective.  And, as we know, genuine joy and happiness come from a right relationship to the Lord.  So, did your happiness in 2013 come from that source?  May 2014 by a “happy” new year as you draw closer to the Lord.

Was 2013 “new” for you?  Did you get some new things?  Maybe this was year to replace your old car with a new one?  Or, maybe you swapped out your old refrigerator for new one?  Or, maybe you moved into a new home?  But, sooner or later, all of these new things simply become old.  They will fade and deteriorate.  What about you, are you new?  Did you just keep doing all the “old” things?  Or, did you grow spiritually so that you added new things to your walk with your Saviour?  Revelation 21:5 says, “Behold, I make all things new.” Our God is in the business of replacing old, worn out things with new ones.  How well did you do in 2013 replacing your old ways with new ways?  Reread Ephesians 4:22-24 to be reminded of this process.

How long was your “year”?  You might be saying, “what a ridiculous question.”  Of course, we were all given 365 days in 2013.  That breaks down to 12 months or 52 weeks or 8,760 hours or 525,600 minutes or 31,536,000 seconds!  And, as of January 1, 2014 another set of those numbers will be available.  But, just as in 2013, so also in 2014, some of us will not make it to December 31.  Our life will have ended some where in those days.  Moses says in Psalm 90:12, “Lord teach us to number our days…”  This year, will you go through life oblivious to eternity?  2014 is to be another opportunity to prepare ourselves for life after death.  Which of us reading these words will not be on the earth at the end of 2014?  I don’t know, but I do know some will not be.

As you reflect upon the new year, may the Lord give us a “happy new year” because we receive our joy from a right relationship to Himself, because we are being made new by His grace, and we are willing to reflect upon eternity.  Let’s decide now to make 2014 a truly HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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ImageHere it is, Christmas Day.  Another year of remembering the birth of our Saviour.  If it’s not your first Christmas, be sure to still be amazed by the story of it all.

Today, as your family gets up and goes through your family tradition, keep Christ in Christmas.  Read the Christmas story.  Sing a Christmas carol.  Give a gift to Jesus.  Please keep a focus upon the Person of Jesus throughout the day.

As some of us are celebrating Christmas in New York City our tradition is all mixed up!  No snow has fallen, but it is cold.  We have walked the streets of the city for the past two days.  Last night walked past the window displays at Macy’s.  Monday night we walked past the window displays at Saks Fifth Ave.  One thing that stands out about them is that not one window reminds anyone of the Nativity.  But, we have found more New Yorkers who are willing to say, “Merry Christmas,” than in San Francisco!  That makes it a little more Christmasy!

What a blessing we have been given to receive salvation.  The plan started in the heart of God, continued in the incarnation of the Son, progressed to the cross and the resurrection, and will eventuate in our eternal home on the new Earth.  Let’s praise Him for “His unspeakable gift.”

 

What’s in your heart?

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What’s in your wallet?  Have you heard this commercial lately?  If not, you are obviously not watching any TV! Which isn’t a bad thing.  But, this phrase was made popular by Alec Baldwin as the spokesman for Capitol One credit card.  Now, Samuel L. Jackson is the pitchman.  But, in each commercial the final question is, “What’s in your wallet?”

Well, at Christmas time, after all the buying is over, maybe we would conclude that not much is left in our wallets!  But, if we pull the Capitol One credit card, there just might be a big balance on our bill come January 1.

Today I want to pose a different question.  I’m not as concerned about what’s in your wallet as I am about what’s in your heart.  As you navigate through this Christmas season have you even thought much about God’s love for you or your love for God?  Do you stop to recognize the motivation behind the coming of Jesus to Earth was His love for the Father and sinners?  He was obedient to His Father’s will to be humbled to such a low estate.  Please read Philippians 2:5-11 to see how the Apostle Paul presents this humbling.

But, we also must ask ourselves how much do I love God; what is in my heart?  Nearly every person associated with the Christmas story demonstrates an unflinching love for God.  Zacharias, Elizabeth, Joseph, Mary, the Magi, and the shepherds, all showed their love for God by their obedience.  They gave themselves first to God and then to others.

On Sunday we will hear a beautiful rendition of the Christmas story via music.  Come to worship the Lord with us.

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Stars, Sheep, and Silence

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It sure was.  A few lonely shepherds on a lonely hill just doing their job.  Not expecting anything more special on that night than on any other night.  But, things were about to change!

Stars and the sky seem to take a prominent place in the Christmas accounts.  Beginning in Numbers 24:17 the subject of stars and lights take center stage in the expectations of the coming Messiah.  By the time of the birth of Jesus darkness had gripped the world.  Without warning the skies lit up to proclaim the birth of Messiah.  To forgotten shepherds and to to scholarly Magi, the skies trumpeted a message for all the world to hear.

On Sunday we will have the joy of our Adult choir singing music that points us to the stars and the birth of Jesus.  A live orchestra will accompany our choir to proclaim the joy of the birth of Jesus.  I trust you will make plans to be here at 10:30 am for this wonderful message in song.

A part of the Christmas celebration in Los Gatos is the Fantasy of Lights display in Vasona Park.  Though it doesn’t present the real meaning of Christmas, it is still quite spectacular.  This year we have a a few passes which entitle the holder to enter the display for FREE!  If you are one of the first THREE to call the office at 408-395-6144 you can have one of these coupons.  Remember, first come, first served!  Call NOW.

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Shepherds – Really?

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Shepherds, aren’t they so cute.  Little boys wearing their bathrobes scooting off to the manger to see the Baby Jesus.  No Christmas play is quite complete without them.  But, do they actually represent the shepherds of old?  Not really.

If you look into the social status of shepherds in the first century you will find they were on the same rung as the tax collectors!  Now, everyone knows how much we love it when the “IRS man cometh.” 🙂  Can you recall the hateful things said of tax collectors in the Gospels?  Well, shepherds were thought of just as malevolently as the tax collectors.

Shepherds were thought of as dirty, filthy, lonely, uncouth people.  They were classed as lying, cheating, and conniving.  In fact, in a court of law a shepherd could not testify because everyone just assumed he would lie!  Their job was important to the ongoing of the society, but, no one wanted to be one.

Oh how different from the status of shepherds was throughout the Old Testament.  Names such as Abraham, Moses and even David evoke wonderful mental pictures.  David’s experience as a shepherd prepared him for one of his greatest challenges; battling Goliath. And, King David’s most endearing Psalm came from his experience as well.  Psalm 23 is David’s way of pointing out that just as he shepherded his sheep, so the Lord shepherds his people.

Yet, all of that good will changed by the time we reach a bunch of shepherds on a hillside on that first Christmas night.  While these lonely, dejected shepherds prepared for another long night, with the fire flickering and the stars twinkling, the sky lit up like  noonday.  The black darkness of their secluded spot became bright.  Then, on top of seeing an unbelievable sight, they heard a voice!  Was it an illusion?  Was it a dream?  Whatever it was couldn’t be real, or could it?

The words they heard were, “Fear not.”  Don’t be afraid, are you kidding me? But, then they heard the words the world was longing to hear, the words the Jewish people had been looking forward to for centuries, the Messiah is born.  But, this message wasn’t delivered to the “powers that be” in the capitol city of Jerusalem.  No, it was deliverd to a bunch of looney, dirty, neglected, and rejected shepherds.  Crazy, huh?  But, then, God does so many things that are “out of the ordinary.”

But, then, who would feel more “at home” in a barn?  Smelly shepherds or squeaky-clean Scribes?  I think you know that answer.  You see, God really does know what He is doing.  And, you and I can trust Him for our lives as well.  Let’s thank Him for showing us that we normal people are welcome to come to worship.  Be sure to do that during this Christmas season.

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The Wonder of Christmas

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Do you see the words above?  Read through the list to see what they are?  No, I mean read them NOW! 🙂 Did you see it?  Each of these words are used so often in our modern speech that they have lost their impact.  When nearly everything is “amazing” or “wonderful” what sets anything apart as truly amazing?

When you read the Christmas story for the first time you are amazed at it.  You cannot grasp how God became man and came as a little Baby in “the little town of Bethlehem.”  You are astonished by the love of God that He would send His Son to be the Redeemer of a lost, sinful human race.  You wonder about it.

Christmas 1933 saw the introduction of a “new” Christmas carol.  I put new in quotation marks because the song wasn’t new.  It was a folk song well known in the hills of the Appalachia Mountains.  A songwriter b y the name of John Jacob Niles was traveling in the Appalachia mountains when he heard a little girl sing a few lines of this song.  He went home and put the words to a haunting melody and the song became an instant classic.  Here are the words to the first verse.

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on’ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

Do you still wonder about Christmas?  Or, has it become just “old hat”?  This Sunday we will look at how some of the characters in the account of Christmas reacted to the news of the birth of the Baby Jesus.

Let’s add wonder back to Christmas and again be amazed at the story.

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The Sun of Righteousness Rises

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How many of you have ever seen a beautiful sunset?  Unless we are physically blind, I suspect all of us have seen a wonderful setting of the sun.  As the sun sets behind the mountains or sinks into the sea we are in awe of its magnificence.  Yet, it also signals the coming of the darkness of night.  Without the light of the sun shining we must use some sort of artificial light.  The moon and other stars provide some light, but not enough.

But, let me ask you, have you witnessed a beautiful sunrise?  After a long night the sun rises in the East.  Out from the sea or coming above the mountains the sun once again shines brightly and dispels the night.  Someone said, It is always darkest before the dawn.”  It seems that is pretty much true.

We live in a world of darkness desperately searching for a source of light.  I’m not talking about some artificial light to light up the living room,  Rather, I’m rearing to men and women looking for a light to guide them in the world.  They know they are living in darkness.  Now, they want a light to lead them correctly.

At the darkest moment in human history, the Sun of Righteousness came to Bethlehem.  Malachi 4:2 predicted the coming of the Messiah.  Just when it looked like the darkness was forever dispel the light, Jesus, the Light of the World, arose!  Into that small town came the One who was “of old.”  He shined His light into the darkness.

One day, the Lord Jesus Christ will come again.  It will be a new day that looks like the light is almost extinguished.  Then, Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness will come.  During this Christmas season let’s be reflectors of His Light.

 

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What is Christmas anyways?

How many have you asked this question? Maybe most of you reading this post have known the real meaning of Christmas all your lives. Or, maybe it’s been many, many, years for others. But, we all know that many people will pass through another Christmas season wondering why we do it. Some will question the purpose of the gift giving, the strands of lights and the singing of obscure carols. They will wonder, what does it all mean?

You and I have the answer to their question. More than the trappings the world puts on Christmas, we know it points to the birth of the Saviour of the world. The gifts are to remind us of the first gifts brought to Jesus. The lights are to remind us of the one great light that announced His birth to the Magi. And, the carols are to remind us of the song of joy the angels sang on that night. For those who are informed, all of the “trappings” of Christmas make sense.

But, what about those who are uninformed? How can they know? Well, in December, 1965 Charles Shultz gave the world a cute, but pretty correct, view of the real meaning of Christmas. He battled the CBS tv executives to not remove Linus reciting the Christmas story. Without Luke’s account in the production the show would not have gone on! So, for 48 non-stop years Linus recounts the story of Christmas. Now, two generations of children have at least hear the story from the lips of Linus.

Below is the clip from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Watch it one more time and see if it will remind you again of why we go through the Christmas holidays.

Wise Guys and Starry Skies

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“We three kings of orient are; bearing gifts we travel afar…”  So says the popular Christmas carol, “We Three Kings.”  Tradition even names these “kings”; Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchior.  We’re even told they are from three different countries; Babylon, Persia and India. Did they ride camels?  Did they come from different countries?  Let’s see.

Matthew 2:1-12 (click to read) records the account of the visit of the Magi.  First of all, no where are they called kings.  Rather they are Magi.  Most likely they are associated with the Magi of the Book of Daniel.  Having been influenced by Daniel’s prophecy they likely had been watching for this event for centuries.

Second of all, we have no idea of how many Magi came.  We know they brought three gifts.  But, the number of the people who came in this caravan is indeterminable.  Could this entourage of people numbered into the hundreds?  Certainly!  It is possible it was large, loud and learned.

Third of all, they saw a star in the sky.  This star reminded them of a passage the old sage Daniel told them about five centuries earlier.  Numbers 24:17 points to a star that would appear at the coming of Messiah.  Daniel predicted a certain amount of time to pass before the coming of the “Anointed One.”  These learned scholars were not only watching the sky, but they were also watching the calendar.  Now they knew the time had come to travel to the place Messiah was born.

Without a GPS or map, they simply traveled to the best possible place a king would be born.  The capitol city of Jerusalem seemed like the only viable city for this to occur.  So, they came to that town and excitedly asked “Where is He who is born King of the Jews?”  Being told it was about 5 miles south in the little town of Bethlehem they went.  The came, they saw, they worshipped and they left.

Saturday and Sunday our children will present a wonderful presentation of the musical, “Wise Guys and Starry Skies.”  Both performances will be at 6:00 pm.  Plan to attend at least one presentation.  And, ask yourself how wise you are this Christmas season.  Are YOU looking for Christ or not.  The Wise Guys looked for Him!  Wise men today still look for Him.

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