Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy New Year 2020

Happy New Year
Image Credit:  geralt - CCO Public Domain Image - via Pixabay

 Happy New Year!

I'm sitting here in the warmth of my home as I watch 2019 fade away and 2020 wash in.  We are on the brink of a new year and a new decade.  Not too long ago, all I could think about was how awful the past ten years have been.  My children grew up and I grew old.  My sweet babies grew into teenagers.  They were great kids.  They always were.  We never had any "real" trouble with any of them, but we did have to navigate through some unexpected circumstances.  At the time, my heart was breaking into a million pieces and I thought things would never be the same.  We suffered a few broken relationships, not between any of us but between people we love.  We suffered because they suffered and our relationships were negatively impacted because of those circumstances.  I'm dancing around details because those are private, but those details made our journey through the 20-teens a living nightmare at times.  Some relationships simply faded due to time and the natural changes that come along with the passing of it.  My husband's heart decided it didn't like a regular beat but rather a crazy combination of many different rhythms and way too fast.  He endured 4 heart ablation procedures.  I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease, Basal Cell Carcinoma (skin cancer), and Renal Cell Carcinoma (kidney cancer).  18 months ago, I caught 6 viruses all at once as well as Medication-Induced Lupus.  I could barely walk.  I became so weak at one point that I could not even hold a small cup of water by myself.  I had to give up my home-based business.  I had become so sick that I thought I might not survive . . . but I did.  There were other things - financial challenges and the usual family hurdles that most people have to jump from time to time.

We survived all of it . . . not on our own, but through God's grace and healing.

Abundant Family Living Etsy Shop
Get inspirational printables for your home here.

At one time, I wanted to sell our home, pack up all we owned, and move away.  I couldn't be at peace in my own home because everywhere I looked, I was reminded of the pain and harshness of the past years.  But now . . . now I look around and I see the sweetness of restored relationships, mature children, a home that I am capable of keeping up again.  I see memories . . . the kind of memories that make my heart smile, memories I had forgotten about because they had been hidden by bitterness.

Now I look around my home and I see evidence of restoration that can only come through God's divine intervention, grace, and healing.  God took the things in our lives that the enemy meant for evil and He used them for His good.

My home, for most of the past ten years, had been a place of conflict and sickness but now it is a place of peace and joy.

My 40s were rough.  The 20-teens were rough.

I turned 50 this past October and in about an hour and a half 2020 will begin.

Tonight, I sit in the warmth of my home with a new sense of joy and peace and I look so forward to a new year and a new decade.

If you are reading this and you are sitting where I sat over the past ten years, in a place of conflict and soul aching heartbreak, I encourage you to keep trusting God's plan for your life.  The fact that I sit in peace tonight doesn't mean that everything turned out great in all the conflict of the past decade.  In fact, that is not the case.  Some relationships between people we love are not reconciled and it is looking more and more like those bridges are burned forever.  Our family is not perfect but no family is perfect.  I beat skin cancer and kidney cancer but I still suffer from Crohn's Disease.  I am at peace tonight because I know that God's timing is not my timing.  His ways are not my ways and His plan for all of us is so much bigger than I can even begin to imagine.

At one time, I believed all the lies that Satan threw at me.

You are not a good wife.

You are a terrible mother.

You aren't even a good daughter, sister, daughter-in-law, etc.

You have failed at everything.

I sit here in peace because I now know that those are all lies from the enemy.  I am at peace because I know that my God is so much bigger than my failures.  I am at peace because my God has taken the things that the enemy meant for evil and He used them for His good.

Find Your Word 2020

He can and will do the same for you. 

Resolve right now to surrender all that seems to be falling down around you into His unfailing hands.  Lay it all down at the foot of the cross.  Start the new year and the new decade with a new sense of peace, not because your circumstances may or may not have changed, but because God can and will change YOU.

If you are already a born again believer, then I encourage you to keep trusting God's plan for you.

If you have no idea what it means to be a born again believer, then please CLICK HERE to learn how you can give your heart and life to Jesus.  This is a great time to begin a new life in Christ.

If you are reading this, then you have survived everything you have ever been through.  God has been faithful in your past.  He will be faithful in your future.  This is not a promise of a future free of heartache and pain, but a promise that God will carry you through all of it, a promise that God will take what Satan intends for evil and use it for His good.  I know that I will still face difficult days ahead and so will you.  This is simply part of living a human life, but know that nothing in your future is a surprise to God.  He loves you and He does have a plan for your life . . . and it is an amazing one.

Let me leave you with a verse that I claimed as one of my "life verses" many years ago.
"For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." - Jeremiah 29:11
Happy New Year Everyone!


Sunday, December 29, 2019

Keep the Christmas Spirit Going (Don't Miss Christmas Series)

Keep the Christmas Spirit Going

Jesus was conceived of a virgin girl.  When he was born, he was wrapped in swaddling cloths and placed in a lowly feeding trough.  Yet, He was worshiped by those who heard of Him supernaturally.  They learned of Jesus' birth from angels and found Him by following a star in the sky.  In Christmas movies about Jesus' birth, this is where many of those movies end.  But then what? You might be feeling the same way in the days following Christmas Day.  You have spent months decorating your home, singing Christmas carols with your family, attending school programs, cooking Christmas foods, baking Christmas cookies, and shopping for the people on your Christmas list.  Christmas Eve and Christmas Day passed swiftly by.  Now all the decorations are put away, all the food has been consumed, the gifts have been unwrapped, and normal school classes are back in session.  It's kind of depressing, isn't it?  Now what?  How do we keep the Christmas spirit going?

As Christians, we are called by God to keep the Christmas spirit going all year long.  How do we do this?

The following are my Bible study notes based on my pastor's sermon titled "Keep it Going."

Keep the Christmas Spirit Going

1.  Stay faithful in the midst of the mundane.

In the Bible, after we read about the birth of Jesus, there is a 12 year jump before we read about Him again.  What was happening during those 12 years?  I believe Jesus, though perfectly sinless, led a normal life.  I think Mary and Joseph were normal parents who worked hard and raised more children.  I think their life looked very much like other young Jewish families of the day.  Jesus probably attended school with His peers as He learned the teachings of the Old Testament.  Through all of those 12 years, Mary and Joseph remained faithful to their calling, their calling to raise Jesus, the Son of the only true living God.  They were faithful to do what God told them to do and to go where God told them to go.

Paul wrote in the book of Ephesians:
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called. - Ephesians 4:1
Luke tells us what little we know about Jesus in His first 12 years.
The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. - Luke 2:40
The child grew and becaome strong . . . Luke 2:40 Wall Art

Great things were happening in Jesus during the 12 years He spent as a normal, yet sinless, child in a normal family.  Jesus' faithfulness did not diminish in the midst of his normal life.  God wants the same from each of us.  In the middle of the mundane life of babies crying, cooking meals, playing taxi drive for all the kids (for years), homework assignments, class projects, business meetings, relationship changes, paying bills, and the list goes on and on and on - - - in the middle of all of those things, God wants us to remain faithful to Him. 

How do we become filled with wisdom?  We are filled with wisdom when we ask God for it and we spend time in His Word.

Even in church, we are to do the same.  All the special speakers, programs, music, and more is fine.  All of those things help us grow in Christ, but we shouldn't place the value of our spiritual life on those things alone.  God places great value on simple things, simple lives, and simple people.  God chose a normal man to build the ark.  He chose a normal shepherd boy to become a king.  He chose a normal young woman (a young girl by our standards today) to birth His only Son.  Then, God chose normal men to spread the gospel to all nations after Jesus' ascension.

Abundant Family Living Etsy Shop Inspirational Prints

2.  Get lost in the greatness of God. 
Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast; and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware of it, but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and went a day’s journey; and they began looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances. When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem looking for Him. Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. When they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.” And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” But they did not understand the statement which He had made to them. - Luke 2:41-50
I lost my son once.  We were at an outdoor mall.  It was early Spring.  It wasn't warm enough to turn on the air conditioning, but many of the store clerks had left their doors open to let in the cool breezes.  We were there with other family members.  I was constantly looking around to determine the whereabouts of my son who was about 15 months old at the time.  Sometimes my mother would have him and sometimes my dad was holding him.  Once when I turned to check on him, he wasn't with either of them.  Neither did my brother or sister-in-law have him.  I began searching around the store but couldn't see him.  Within seconds, I was frantically running around the store yelling his name and moving around and through all the clothing racks.  I didn't care how silly I looked.  All I could think about was finding my son.  My worst fear might have happened.  For all I knew, he could have been kidnapped.  I was frantic.  Just as I was about to have a nervous breakdown, a couple walked through the open door to ask if we were searching for a little boy in a red outfit.  I ran outside immediately to find him standing on the sidewalk watching the cars go by.  He loved watching cars.  The whole incident lasted only a minute or two, but it seemed like an eternity to me.  I can't begin to imagine how Joseph and Mary must have felt.  They had been given the enormous responsibility to raise the Son of God, but now he was lost . . . for three days!  They must have been worried sick.

Joseph and Mary found Jesus where they had left Him, in the best place for Him to have been lost.  He was in the temple and He had amazed those around Him with His understanding.  He had been lost in the greatness of God.

There are many things we can get lost in during the new year ahead.  We can get lost in work, in gaining the approval of others, in political division, in financial burdens, etc.

Instead, how about we choose to spend more time in God's Word.  Let's pray more.  Resolve to attend church with other believers.  Put your life on the table before God for Him to use you.  Encourage others to do the same.


Sunday, December 15, 2019

Don't Miss Christmas: Be a Blessing

Don't Miss Christmas:  Be a Blessing

We are in our third week of our Don't Miss Christmas Series at Church.  We have learned how to not miss Christmas by focusing on Jesus and Simplicity.  Today we are learning how to not miss Christmas by learning to be a blessing.

The following are my Bible study notes based on my pastor's sermon titled "Don't Miss Christmas:  Be a Blessing."

You are invited to watch, listen, and worship with us here.

Be a Blessing

Our scripture text for this Bible study is found in Matthew 2:1-23.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.

Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.

The Flight to Egypt

Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”

So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

Herod Slaughters Babies

Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
Weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children;
And she refused to be comforted,
Because they were no more.

But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: 

“He shall be called a Nazarene.” - Matthew 2:1-23
This part of the Christmas story is not a "warm fuzzy" part.  In fact, it's quiet horrible.  

Typical manger scenes have it all wrong.  Did you notice in the passage above that the wise men found Jesus in a HOUSE with His mother?  They didn't find him in a stable or in a manger.  They found him at home in a house with Mary, his mother.  The wise men were not there at the manger the night that Jesus was born.  We usually visualize three wise men because we know they brought three gifts.  However, we really do not know exactly how many wise men traveled to see Jesus.  There might have been many.  Remember when we said that in Biblical times, people traveled in caravans.  It is possible that many wise men traveled in caravans as they followed the star to find Jesus.

The wise men were likely a tribe of men who were highly educated.  They studied astronomy.  They were highly respected in their communities.  The Greeks called them Magi.

Who was Herod?  There were many Herods in Biblical times.  They were from the same family and they were paranoid about power.  The Herod mentioned here in Matthew 2 is Herod the Great.  He may have been in his 70s by the time Jesus was born or at least during Jesus' childhood.  Herod the Great was a bad dude.  He killed his wife, his mother, and other family members.  He was messed up!

Until I heard this sermon, I never thought about what Mary and Joseph must have thought about all the babies and children being slaughtered by Herod.  I always have a deep grieving pit in my stomach when I read this story but it never occurred to me that Mary and Joseph might have felt a sense of guilt as they carried their precious Jesus to safety as other children were being slaughtered in an attempt to kill their baby Jesus.   They must have grieved deeply over what was happening to all the babies and toddlers around them as they fled safely with Jesus.

This part of the Christmas story is hard.  As hard as it is, we need to realize that life is not like a Hallmark movie.  Real life is dealing with brokenness.  In real life, we are dealing with bills, broken relationships, loss of loved ones, financial issues, etc.  In all this chaos, we need to stop and worship Jesus.  

In the chaos of Christmas, worshiping Jesus always overflows in blessings. 

Herod had a chance to worship Jesus, but he chose to kill Him instead.

Don't miss your chance to worship Jesus.  Don't miss Christmas.  

You are where you are for a reason.  Be a blessing.

The wise men came to worship and they were generous with their gifts.  If we really want to worship, we should follow their example and be generous too.  Give to those in need.  When you give to them, you give to Him.  Give to the homeless.  Give to missionaries.  Give to local heroes.  Give to others. 

In the chaos of Christmas, worshiping Jesus always overflows with blessing. 

Don't Miss Christmas:  Be a Blessing
Images created in Picmonkey.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Don't Miss Christmas: Focus on Simplicity

Don't Miss Christmas:  Focus on Simplicity

We are continuing our Don't Miss Christmas Series at my church.  Last week, we learned how to not miss Christmas by staying focused on Jesus.  This week, we are going to learn how to keep things simple.  Sometimes the Christmas season can be a bit overwhelming.  There is always so much to do.  We can busy ourselves into missing Christmas.  Don't miss Christmas.  Focus on simplicity.

The following are my Bible study notes based on my pastor's sermon titled "Don't Miss Christmas:  Simplicity."

You are invited to watch, listen, and worship with us here.


The first Christmas was a Christmas of simplicity.
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. - Luke 2:1-5

It was prophesied by God that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem.
But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity. - Micah 5:2
The Christmas stories that we have enjoyed since childhood are not exactly historically correct.  We typically see Mary and Joseph traveling alone to Bethlehem, but in those days, people traveled in caravans.  Mary and Joseph were most likely traveling with many others.
While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. - Luke 2:6-7
We usually picture Mary and Joseph knocking on the door of an Inn that might be like an ancient hotel, but it is likely that inns back in those days were very different.  Inns in Bible times were more likely to have been rustic places, perhaps even caves, where animals and shepherds stayed.

Swaddling clothes were more like shop rags.  The manger was probably made of limestone instead of wood.  

And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. - Luke 2:7-8

The humble shepherds were the first to learn about the birth of Jesus.  Back then, shepherds were thought of as dirty and "less than."  Shepherds were not allowed to enter the temple to worship.  They were not allowed to testify in a court of law.  BUT, they were the first to worship Jesus!

Don't let anyone tell you that you that you are not good enough.  God has a plan for you!
And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”  

So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. - Luke 2:9-20

The story of Jesus' birth is a simple story, not one filled with fluff and bling.  

What did the shepherds do after they had seen Jesus in the manger?  They went out and told others what they had heard and seen.

In the Biblical story of Jesus' birth, there were not gifts brought to Jesus while He was still a baby in a manger.  The wise men with gifts came later. 

The only gift given on that first Christmas night was straight from God - the gift of Jesus.

Keep Christmas simple.

Spend less, love more.  Give fewer gifts and give more of your presence. 

Why do we overdo it?

- to impress others. 
- to be likable or to please others.
- to find more happiness.
- to be loved or return love.
- because it is the lifestyle we were raised in.
For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. - Galatians 1:10
When we overdo, we might go into debt.  We might fall into a depression.  We might get overwhelmed with distractions.  When we go into debt, we cannot give generously and wisely.

This Christmas, embrace the simplicity and humility of Jesus Christ.

Go to Jesus with your burdens and leave with the gift of freedom in Jesus.

Don't Miss Christmas:  Focus on Simplicity

Image Credits:
Freely Photos

Read other posts in the Don't Miss Christmas Series here.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Don't Miss Christmas: Focus on Jesus

Don't Miss Christmas
It seems like we just finished Thanksgiving dinner.  Now here we are, just days before Christmas.  I have not posted a blog post until now.  I have not worked either of my online stores.  I did have a few local orders to fill, but it seems like I have spent every waking moment trying to make sure all the decorations are out, all the gifts are bought (and wrapped or bagged), and all the Christmas parties and meals are planned.  Just moments before I began this post, I wrapped my last gift and placed it snuggly under my Christmas tree.  I have not stopped since Thanksgiving Day.  I have felt incredibly rushed and overwhelmed this year and I don't really know why.  Tomorrow, I'll go to the grocery store to purchase all the ingredients for all the family Christmas meals.  When I get home, I'll start preparing a few food items with only hours to spare before we begin the annual Christmas parade of family fun gatherings.  I love every minute I get to spend with family and friends this time of year but it is also very easy to get all bogged down in the "to do" list and miss Christmas.  We like to think that Christmas is a time for family and parties, but it really isn't.  Christmas is about the birth of Jesus and nothing else.  Everything else is just a bonus.  If we aren't careful, we can do all the preparing and make it to every single Christmas party but still miss Christmas.  Our pastor has been taking us through a series of Bible studies that teach us how to not miss Christmas and his messages could not possibly have been more timely.

The following are my Bible study notes based on my pastor's sermon titled "Don't Miss Christmas:  Focus on Jesus."

You are invited to watch, listen, and worship with us here.

Don't Miss Christmas

Focus on Jesus

Our Bible study text for today is found in Isaiah 9:6-7.
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this. - Isaiah 9:6-7
The holiday season can bring stress and even depression into our homes.  Many are dealing with loss of life, broken relationships, financial issues, etc which make the holidays less enjoyable and sometimes hard.  How about changing the focus?  Don't just turn on the lights.  BE the light.  Give less presents and more presence.  Gifts come and go but investing in someone has long term and sometimes eternal effects.  

Focus on Jesus

During the Christmas season, let's fix our thoughts on Jesus.
Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession. - Hebrews 3:1
Distractions make us lose focus.  Seek Jesus first.
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Matthew 6:33

To miss Christ is to miss Christmas.

View Christmas as a promise, a snapshot of things to come.  Think about Heaven.  All the things we expect to be perfect about Christmas should remind us of what Heaven will be like.  Think about the names of Jesus.

The Names of Jesus

1.  Wonderful

Jesus is wonderful.  He is awesome!
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. - Luke 1:32

Don't forget how wonderful it is to be forgiven with an eternity in Heaven.

2.  Counselor

We all need direction in decision-making.  Have you made poor decisions in the past?  Don't let those decisions define you.  Let them refine you.  Think about how much better we would be if we allow our Wonderful Counselor to guide our decisions. He knows what we need.  He is free.  He is a counselor for everybody.  He is a safe vault.  He won't tell everyone else your business.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;
I will counsel you with My eye upon you. - Psalm 32:8
Take everything to God.  Take to Him your Christmas budget and anything else that troubles you.  Train your heart to listen to God.

3.  Mighty God

We have at our disposal a mighty, powerful God.
For nothing will be impossible with God. - Luke 1:37

4.  Everlasting Father

God is my Father.  My relationship with my Jesus ensures me an eternity with my father.  Do you have a relationship with Jesus?

We never have to walk alone.  

5.  Prince of Peace

This is the kind of peace that is not because of the absence of problems, but rather in the presence of Jesus in our lives.  It has everything to do with relationship, nothing else.
And through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in Heaven. - Colossians 1:20

Peace is not free.  It is paid for by the cross of Jesus. 

Don't Miss Christmas.  Focus on Jesus.
Don't Miss Christmas:  Focus on Jesus

Read other posts in the Don't Miss Christmas Series here.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Life Application Study Bible

Last month, I told you about the NIV Quest Study Bible.  It's a great Bible.  If you missed that post, go check it out.  Today, I'm going to tell you about the NIV Life Application Study Bible.  It has been updated and expanded.  In this Bible, there are thousands of notes and other features that will help you apply God's Word to your everyday life.

*The NIV Life Application Study Bible was provided to me by Bible Gateway in exchange for an honest review as a Bible Gateway Blogger Grid Member.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The facts and opinions in this post are totally my own.

 The Life Application Study Bible

As I stated in my last Bible review, it is impossible for me to read the Bible through and study it in depth before my review deadline.  There is just too much in there.  What I can do is show you all the features offered in this updated and expanded version of the NIV Life Application Study Bible.

Are you planning to gift someone with a new study Bible?  This one has a presentation page.  Write your own sentiment here before you wrap it up.

The Contents page gives you an overview of the many features this Bible offers you and shows you where to find each feature.

The NIV Life Application Study Bible has a cross reference system.  A cross reference system is important for understanding scripture passages.  Cross referencing helps us understand the Biblical context and background for the Scriptures.

You'll find an alphabetical list of the books of the Bible.  I somehow missed getting the photo but you'll also find a list of books in the Bible in order of their appearance in the Old and New Testaments.  In the New Testament, words of Jesus are in red.

Each book of the Bible begins with a description of the book.  You'll see the author if the the author is known.  You'll learn the time period in which the book was written, key verses, and a timeline - just to name a few things.

Throughout the Bible, there are lots of footnotes.  The footnotes outline and sometimes explains the key points in the passages.

Maps throughout the Bible help you understand the geography of Biblical times and locations of Biblical events.  Maps help you place Biblical events in their historical locations and also help you determine where in our world today that those events happened.

I came across this awesome description of the twelve disciples.  This graphic describes each disciples occupation, outstanding characteristics, major life events, what Jesus said about him, a key lesson fro each disciple's life, and selected references for each one.

A Bible dictionary and concordance helps you understand terms you might not recognize within scripture passages.  A Bible concordance shows you where each word is found in the Scriptures.

I discovered an index to personality profiles.  This is the reference you'll use if you want to learn more about a specific Biblical character.

This NIV Life Application Study Bible contains an index to charts.  It gives you the title to the chart in each book of the Bible and the page where the specific chart is located.

This chart shows you 250 events in the life of  Christ.  You'll see where each event is recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Are you interested in learning more about becoming a more effective Christian worker?  There is a section within this Bible that gives you many tips.  This one starts with how to become a Christian.

In the back of the Bible, you'll find many colorful maps.  You can use these maps to build upon what you learn from the maps you'll find within the Scripture texts.

As you can see, there are many things to love about the NIV Life Application Study Bible.  This is simply an overview of all this Bible has to offer.  Whether you are a new believer who is just starting to study your Bible or a seasoned Biblical scholar, you'll find many helpful features in this Bible.

I encourage you to go to Bible Gateway here to read an interview with the NIV Life Application Study Bible's general editor.

You can get your copy here.

This item is available here.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Do You Want to Make a Difference in the World?


The following are my Bible study notes based on my pastor's sermon about making a difference in the world around us.

Our scripture passage is Mark 6:30-44.  You are invited to watch, listen, and worship with us here.

If You Want To Make A Difference | October 27, 2019 | Pastor Grady Sutton from Christ Place Church on Vimeo.

In this passage of scripture, Jesus is about 32 years old.  He has been in ministry for about 2 years.  Jesus' cousin, John the Baptist, has recently been killed.  Jesus is grieving his cousin's death.  He was tired and needed to rest.  (Mark 6:31)

Have you ever needed a break?  Of course you have.  We all need a break from time to time.  Sometimes we need to take some private time away from our circumstances.  Jesus and his apostles were taking some time to step away privately after learning of the death of John the Baptist.  At this time, Jesus was already well known and it was not uncommon for crowds to gather when they recognized Him.  Even though Jesus had intended to take a break with the apostles, He was moved with compassion for the people who had gathered.  Jesus was tired but he chose to make a difference for the people in the place where He was.

Do you want to make a difference in the place where you are?

How to Make a Difference in the World

1.  Start where you are. 

Begin by caring for the people God has placed in your life:  coworkers, neighbors, etc.  We are all swimming in a sea of lossness.  You might not be a missionary in a third world country, but you live in a neighborhood and people in your neighborhood need Jesus.  Make a difference for them.

2.  Use what you have. 

The disciples told Jesus that they didn't have enough food.  Jesus said, "Tell me what you DO have."

Make no excuses.  Use what you have to make a difference in the lives of others.  Keep in mind that loaves of bread back then were more like biscuits that we eat today.

*Be sure to watch the video above in its entirety to hear my pastor's funny lunchbox story. :)

3.  Do what you can.

You might not have the resources to do Billy Graham type crusades, but you can invite someone to the table.  You can meet someone's need, small or large.  You can tell someone that Jesus loves them.

4.  Give it to Jesus.

Jesus will always do something.  Put it all in His hands.  When the apostles didn't know how to feed the people, Jesus fed them with 5 biscuits and 2 scrawny fish.

What Jesus did for the people on that day long ago, He wants to do for you and me today.

Do you have a relationship with Jesus?  He desires a relationship with you.  Then, He wants you to make a difference.

Learn more about how to have a relationship with Jesus here.  Then, go and make a difference.


Image Credit:  Eye of Ebony - Public Domain Image via Freely Photos

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Is God Always Good? (Study on the Book of Habakkuk)

The following are my Bible study notes based on my pastor's sermon titled "Is God Always Good?"  Our Scripture text is in Habakkuk, chapter 3.

You are invited to watch, listen, and worship with us here.

Is God Always Good? | Why God? | Pastor Jeff Crook from Christ Place Church on Vimeo.

We can be hopeful even in the hardest times.  This is what the short little three-chapter book of Habakkuk teaches us.  In the first chapter, Habakkuk asked the question, "Why, God?"  In the second chapter, we read about waiting on God.  Today we are in the third chapter where we will read that God is good always, even in the hard times.  

It is easy to say that God is good when things are going well, but can we still say that God is good when life crumbles around us?

As we read through Habakkuk, we see that Habakkuk's circumstances didn't change, but his heart was changed.  God doesn't always change our circumstances, but He changes us.

Read Habakkuk's prayer in chapter 3, verses 1 and 2. 
A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.
Lord, I have heard the report about You and I fear.
O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years,
In the midst of the years make it known;
In wrath remember mercy. - Habakkuk 3:1-2
Now, read what Habakkuk says in chapter 3, verse 18.
Yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. - Habakkuk 3:18
Habakkuk Rejoice Pendant
This item is available here.

Things were still bad, but Habakkuk still praised God.

Let's go back now and include verse 17.
Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. - Habakkuk 3:17-18
Habakkuk 3:17-18

We were encouraged to circle the words "Though" in verse 17 and the word "Yet" in verse 18.  If you don't have your Bible with you right now, go get it if you can.  Find Habakkuk 3:17-18 in your Bible and circle these words.  Remember them.

Let's put verse 17 within today's perspective.  It would be like a total collapse of our economy.  Even so, Habakkuk says that God is good.

I know this is not easy.  In fact, it can sometimes be really hard to say that God is good when the world around us crumbles . . . 

when we get a cancer diagnosis.
when our child rebels.
when we lose a parent.
when we lose a child.
when we suffer financially.
when we suffer a broken relationship.

The list could go on and on and on.

Is God Always Good?

How do we get to a point where we can say that God is good even in the hard times?


1.  God's grace gives us stability.   God never runs out of grace. 
The Lord God is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places. - Habakkuk 3:19
Why are high places important?  Remember what we said last week about the rampart?  High places can give us an advantage over the enemy. 

Suffering will either make you humble or it will make you arrogant.  Suffering will make you sweeter or it will make you sour.

God gives us "hinds feet" so that we can tread the mountains.  God uses the tough times to build our character.  Then, later on we can be thankful for the suffering because God used it for good.

Keep your eyes on Jesus!

2.  Suffering and Joy happen concurrently.

God is not only good after the suffering.  He is good during the suffering as well.

Are you facing a crises?

In God, you can have deep peace in the midst of your crisis.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. - 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
2 Corinthians 4:8-9
This item is available here.

Have you received bad news lately?

God will give you hinds feet for the struggle.

3.  We must repeat and remember.

We must remember the discipline of repeating.  Habakkuk continued to praise God over and over again even though his circumstances didn't change.  We need to repeatedly praise God even when our circumstances don't change.  We learn by repetition.  There are 4 gospels in the New Testament:  Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  All four gospels tell the same story.  Reading all four gospels repeatedly help us to remember the truths taught in the gospels.  God uses the discipline of repetition to teach us life lessons and make us stronger.  

These notes that I'm typing right now are repeated.  First, I write them down in my own handwriting as my pastor preaches on Sunday mornings.  I come here later to type them into my blog.  I do this to help me remember what I'm taught.  I do this so I can come back later to reread my notes in organized groups and so that you who are reading this can benefit from them as well.  

We must remember the discipline of remembering.  We need to remind ourselves of who God is.  We need to remind ourselves of God's faithfulness.  Remember God's Word.  Remember all that God has already done for you in the past.  

Keep your eyes on God, not on your circumstances or the people you might blame for your circumstances.  

Is God always good?  YES!

Our pastor tells the stories of two different men.  Be sure to watch the entire video above to get the whole story.  The gist of the story is that one man was blesses with abundance and He praised God for His faithfulness.  The second man suffered great losses, but he still praised God for His faithfulness.  

Don't lose hope when things go wrong.

God is good all the time.

God is faithful.   

Read all posts in this Habakkuk study here.

Is God Aways Good?  A Study on the Book of Habakkuk

Have you ordered my book yet?

Have you ordered my book yet?
Start reading!

Verse of the Day from Bible Gateway