New Year

Wake up now! 7 January 2024

Wake up now!
40 Days of Prayer
Romans 13

Series Big Idea: We are beginning the new year on our knees, joining other Alliance churches for 40 Days of Prayer.
Big Idea: We need to wake up, clean up, and grow up…now!
Wake up! Now! Did you get enough coffee this morning?!
We are beginning the new year on our knees, joining other Alliance churches for 40 Days of Prayer.
Imagine what would happen if we prayed together for the next 40 days and read through the Bible in 2024. Let’s do this! Who’s with me? If you’re looking for some new year’s resolutions (now that you’ve probably broken any you made!), these are two simple ones which will literally change your life. Guaranteed.
This year’s theme for 40 Days of Prayer and really the entire movement known as the Christian & Missionary Alliance—our tribe, our denomination—is
now. There is a measure of urgency related to how we are to live our lives. We need to be intentional, focused, and disciplined because life is short. I’m not saying we can’t have fun in the process, rest well, and play hard. But our days are numbered, opportunities vanish, and tomorrow is not guaranteed.
A Senegalese proverb says, “The opportunity that God sends does not wake up those that are asleep.”
Our text for today is the thirteenth chapter of Romans. If you have a Bible, please turn to Romans 13. It begins with words many find challenging in our day.
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. (Romans 13:1)
Several weeks ago, we looked at Paul’s instructions on marriage where he wrote, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). We’re not fond of the word
submit, are we? Don’t worry, this isn’t a sermon on politics, but these instructions seem universal, so long as following them doesn’t violate the holy scriptures.
So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. 3 For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. (Romans 13:2-3)
This was written to people in the Roman Empire, not exactly a godly society.
The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. 5 So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience. (Romans 13:4-5)
Translation: obey the law…again, unless it violates God’s laws (see Acts 5:29).
There are three institutions God created for humanity—the family/home (Genesis 2:18-25), government (Genesis 9:1-17), and the church (Acts 2). All were created to be a blessing, yet all are capable of corruption and abuse. We’re all sinners and we need authority, we need to submit to others, we need accountability. In the case of government, even if you don’t like the person in office, we are to respect the office because God ordained government. It was His idea.
Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority. (Romans 13:6-7)
There’s a great scene in two of the gospels where religious leaders were trying to trap Jesus with this question:
Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
He saw through their duplicity and said to them,
“Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Luke 20:22-25, NIV)
What is God’s? All of our heart, soul, mind and strength! Back to Romans 13…
Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. 9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law. (Romans 13:8-10)
Love. That’s the sign of spiritual maturity. That’s the sign of a true believer. That’s the sign of someone devoted to God.
Family, I’ve said this so many times that you may be sick of it, but the Great Commandments are to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said so. The writer of Romans said so.
We must be people of love…because we’re people who have been loved…by God. Hallelujah!
While I’m incredibly embarrassed at the unloving behavior of many so-called Christians, the reality is I don’t always look out for the best interest of another person. 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter of the Bible, is not always a description of my life. We need more of God’s love in our hearts so we can express more love to others.
Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. (Romans 13:8)
Going back to this verse for a moment, some godly leaders like J. Hudson Taylor and Charles Spurgeon believed this means we are to have no financial debts. I’m not sure I would go that far—never say never—but debt is definitely a burden and something to be avoided at (almost) all costs. Regardless of your financial debt, we are always indebted to love others.
Now we have the context for today’s central message.
This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11)
Wake up now! Be alert. Get ready. We just celebrated the first advent, the first coming of Jesus to our planet. He is returning…soon! Are you ready? Are your friends and family ready? Tomorrow is not promised. Today is the first day of the rest of your life…and it could be your last. If our purpose in life was merely to pray a prayer to get a get out of hell free card, there’s nothing left to do…but there is! Every follower of Jesus has been commissioned by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 to go and make disciples. We use the phrase “restoring God’s masterpieces” from Ephesians 2:10, but the application is identical. We need to wake up! We need to urge others to wake up, too…both believers and not-yet followers of Jesus.
The greatest way to love our neighbors is to be hope dealers, preaching the good news of Jesus in word and deed. It’s not even about getting them ready to die so much as it is about showing them how to live…the abundant life that Jesus offers…a life filled with faith, hope, and love. Easy? No. Comfortable? Hardly. Exciting? Absolutely! Satisfying? More than anything this world can offer.
The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. (Romans 13:12)
What a brilliant metaphor. Get rid of your sin and walk in the light. Confess and repent your junk and let God forgive and redeem.
We are to wake up…and clean up!
Let’s get a wardrobe makeover in 2024, getting rid of our sinful habits and prideful attitudes and put on the armor of God, the fruit of the Spirit, the robe of righteousness. Some of you trust God with what happens after you die, but you won’t let him be LORD before you die! It’s time to clean up, church! It’s time to stop acting like the world and live radical, alternative lives that ask people the reason for the hope we have. It’s about loving the unlovable, extending grace and forgiveness to the unworthy, and seeking first His Kingdom, not our own.
What’s your new year’s resolution? I hope it’s to join us in 40 Days of Prayer and reading through the Bible this year, but greater than those is to love well, to obey God, to live right.
Now we’re told to
grow up!
Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. (Romans 13:13)
Thanks quite a list. Note some are visible like wild parties, while others like jealousy is more a matter of the heart. It’s worth mentioning again sexual immorality or promiscuity refers to virtually any sexual activity outside of a marriage between a husband and wife. Yes, I know it’s old school, but it’s what honors God. If you are a follower of Jesus, your body is not yours. Your possessions are not yours. Your future is not yours.
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:18-20, NIV)
So we’re commanded to not participate in the darkness. What’s the alternative? Paul returns to a clothing metaphor.
Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires. (Romans 13:14)
Charles Spurgeon said, “The rags of sin must come off if we put on the robe of Christ.”
A few weeks ago, we looked at a similar passage with this “wake up now” message.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.
14 This is why it is said:
            “Wake up, sleeper,
                        rise from the dead,
                        and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:8-14, NIV)
It’s easy for me to stand up here and say, “Love God, hate sin.” The truth is, most of us
want to do the right things. We want to obey God. We want to love well. But life gets in the way. We get tempted…through friends, co-workers, family, and media. We hear, “Everybody’s doing it,” whether explicitly or implicitly. By the way, not everyone is doing it!
The first step in doing anything begins in the mind. We need to “know the truth and the truth will set us free,” Jesus said in John 8:31. This is why we need to be in the scriptures. We need to read them, listen to them, study them, and most of all obey them.
The expression “sleeper” in the original Greek is someone who is “indifferent to their salvation,” one who “yields to sloth and sin.” (Blue Letter Bible) Does that describe you?
The late Keith Green penned these song lyrics a few decades ago:
Oh, can't you see it's such sin? The world is sleeping in the dark That the church just can't fight 'cause it's asleep in the light How can you be so dead when you've been so well fed? Jesus rose from the grave And you, you can't even getta out of bed
Family, we’re on a mission from God. Restoring masterpieces doesn’t just happen. It takes prayer, intentionality, time, and effort. Many of you are actively engaged in making disciples, engaging in spiritual conversations, extending hospitality, surrendering your time, talents, and treasures. Well done, good and faithful servants!
Some of you have been sitting on the sidelines. Maybe it’s indifference. Perhaps you’re asleep. It’s possible that you want to engage but don’t know where to start. Let me offer a few next steps.
-       Pray: online (Zoom), 9:30 AM Sundays, with 40 Days of Prayer devotional
       Study: The Bible Recap (how much time do you spend reading social media?)
       Give: take a faith-filled risk, up your giving (or start) and watch your investment grow
       Invite: Alpha beings 1/17
       Serve: graphics and communications, facilities, student ministries, Life Group hosts, Life Group leaders, musicians and tech, hospitality team, visitation
Wake up…now. Clean up…now. Grow up…now.
What if this is the year we pay attention, remain fully present in the moment, be intentional, and live with passion and purpose? Wake up!
What if this is the year we fully surrender, avoid temptation, embrace accountability, and say no to sin? Clean up!
What if this is the year we learn, study, pray, rest, sabbath? Grow up!
Our closing prayer today was written by Ciro Castro of The Alliance:
God, we pray for an awakening in our hearts. We pray for a deep hunger and a deep longing for You. We ask for a fresh anointing from You. We declare our lack of satisfaction in and rejection of the things that are causing us to drift off to sleep. Search us and know our hearts, God. Replace sloth with vigor, sin with holiness, and indifference with passion. Wake us up now. Amen.
You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Leave Behind, 5 January 2020

Leave Behind (stop doing)
Series—A Fresh Start

Series Big Idea: As we begin this new year/decade, it’s out with the old, in with the new.

Big Idea: There are many things we need to stop doing in order to love God and others.

Welcome to Sunday. Welcome to 2020. Welcome to the Roaring 20’s!

A new year is a time for new beginnings, whether it’s a new diet, exercise plan, or goal. Who’s still going on their new year’s resolutions?!

If you’re like me, you’ve spent some time these past few days reflecting upon the past and pondering the future.

Dave Ramsey encourages entrepreneurs to work in their business, but also work on their business. Do you see the difference? Working in my business might mean making coffee, selling shoes, or repairing cars. Working on my business might involve creating a website, meeting with my accountant, or brainstorming ideas for a new product. The problem many in business have is they’re so busy dealing with the day-to-day operations of working in their business, they forget to step back and assess the big picture. They’re too busy to reflect, dream, think, or even pray.

The same can be said with life. We are so busy and distracted that if we don’t stop, we’ll find our lives only becoming more chaotic. So today I want to offer you a challenge: develop a stop doing list.

How many of you have a to-do list? How many of you have a stop doing list?

I got this idea from best-selling author Jim Collins. He says since we are finite humans, if we add things to our lives, we must also remove them. For example, he decided on day to stop watching television and was thrilled at the time it created for reading and thinking. Before we talk about new year’s resolutions and goals, I want to challenge you to develop a stop doing list.

Author Bob Goff often talks about how he quits something every Thursday. I’m not sure I could do that, but he claims it has changed his life.

Sure, we could just say, “Stop sinning” and be done! But think for a moment about what you’d like to stop doing. What do you want to leave behind as you begin 2020?

I must confess it’s easier for me to add things to my to-do list than it is to delete. One of the most rewarding things in the past year and a half for me has been the Alliance Life on Life retreats. I’m not terribly good at slowing down, listening, solitude, silence, or even prayer. I know they’re important, but if I don’t get results in the first five seconds, I begin to wonder if I’m wasting my time.

I want to look at a few passages of scripture which talk about stopping, quitting, leaving behind. Jesus’ half-brother, James, is quite clear when he writes,

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. (James 1:19-21)

We could easily camp out on this for the rest of the morning.

Quick to listen. Stop distractions.

If I could master this, I’d be thrilled. So would you! It’s sometimes hard for me to listen, especially if someone is speaking slowly. I listen to most podcasts at double-speed and love it. I’m trying to maximize, but it can backfire, especially if I’m trying to consume too much at once and I miss important nuggets. Listening means I am fully present. I give you my undivided attention. I look you in the eye. I feel like this is a rare art form in our culture, yet we have the power to make it common again.

Slow to speak. Stop talking.

I only want wholesome words coming out of my mouth. “Umm” doesn’t count! Recently I caught a few minutes of Jerry Seinfeld when he was at the Stranahan. He was talking about one of his pet peeve phrases: “it is what it is.” I say that all the time, yet does it really add any value to the conversation?

I’ve often been the one to fill silence just to avoid the awkwardness that often comes with silence, unaware that some relish every moment of the quiet it offers.

Slow to become angry. Stop (sinful) anger.

This is easier said than done, right? Just stop it (to quote Bob Newhart). Why do you get angry? When do you get angry?

Anger is not a sin, but it often expresses itself as a sin. We should be angry about injustice such as sex trafficking, but how we deal with it is the issue. Jesus got angry when he realized the sacred Temple had been turned into a flea market (Matthew 21, Mark 11, John 2), but he never sinned. Note he wasn’t particularly “nice,” either! Paul wrote,

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, (Ephesians 4:26)

Jesus managed to deal with the sin of others without sinning himself.

Get rid of all moral filth. Stop evil.

The Greek word for filth means pollution. We don’t hear the word filth much anymore. Maybe it’s not politically correct to call something trash. Get rid of filth…porn, gossip, grumbling, violence, profanity, racism, pride, arrogance, pride…!

The passage ends with something for the to-do list!

Humbly accept the word (Bible).

Read it. Listen to it. Study it. is a great, free tool to assist you.

So What?

There are many things from the past we need to stop doing. Debt. Bitterness. Striving. Addictions. Regret. Worry. Fear. Many times, we dismiss them because they’re so common.

For example, can you imagine going a week without worrying…yet it’s clearly a sin! It might be considered an acceptable sin—unlike adultery—but it’s still a sin. I’ll prove it to you. When is the last time worry added value and energy to your life? Jesus repeatedly said, “Don’t worry.”

“Great,” you say, “how do I leave it behind? How do I stop doing X? How do I stop sinning?”


Realize you can’t stop sinning…on your own!

There’s only one human who has never sinned. Jesus. The rest of us turn to sin as a temporary relief from anxiety. Temptation isn’t sin, but we often succumb to it. Apart from God’s power, we are hopeless. We need the Holy Spirit to overcome our sin addiction. Take responsibility for your sin. Don’t play the blame game.

Receive God’s grace and forgiveness

When you fail, confess—admit it—and repent—turn away.

I almost surprised myself last week during Dinner Church with this simple statement: Because of Jesus, we don’t have to be perfect, but we do have to say yes to God. We have to trust Jesus as not only our Savior but our LORD.

Spend time with God

You are your friends. Choose wisely. When we cease striving and meditate on God, our attitudes and thoughts will shift. It’s not impossible, but it’s hard to sin in the middle of a Bible study. This is why scripture says to cease striving (Psalm 46:10). The NIV translation reads:

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

Dwell on the LORD. Worship Him. Praise Him. Declare His goodness and faithfulness. Be fully present.

Put on the Armor

Ephesians 6 tells us about the armor we can wear to fight the enemy and his lies.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. (Ephesians 6:13)

Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:13-17)

Belt of truth
Boots of peace
Shield of faith
Helmet of salvation
Sword of the Spirit


Ephesians 6 continues,

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. (Ephesians 6:18)

Ask God for strength. Jesus taught us to pray for God to deliver us from the evil one. The Holy Spirit can enable us to let go and let God.

Know your weaknesses

I’m a fan of the acronym HALT. I am must vulnerable to sin when I am hungry, angry (together they make hangry!), lonely, or tired. I am also the most grumpy!

Phone a friend

Let someone know your struggle. Invite them to challenge you, to hold you accountable.

Just do (stop) it!

It’s nearly impossible to quit a habit cold turkey. You need to replace it with something. Recovering alcoholics often smoke. Recovering smokers often chew gum. Recovering gum chewers often…

When I was a kid, there was a movement to burn rock and roll record albums because people said rock music was created by the devil. By the way, satan does not have the power to create anything! He can only mess up the good things God has created. Many people in the 1980’s burned their music only to later buy it all back again! For many, it was Led Zeppelin or Lawrence Welk! Instead, they could’ve replaced their rock music with Christian rock…similar sounds which glorify God.

If you want to quit worry, begin a journal of gratitude.
If you want to quit judging others, start listing your own sins.
If you want to quit debt, focus on the material blessings you already own.
If you want to quit hurry, set your alarm for 5 minutes and be still. Then increase it.

Press On

When the enemy reminds you of your past, remind him of his future!

If you think you’ve done some bad things, consider Paul. He supervised the murder of Christians! Years later, he wrote,

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

When you fall, get up! Keep running to Jesus. He’s not angry with you. He’s just hoping next time you’ll go even further without falling, much like a loving parent with a baby beginning to walk. His arms are outstretched to love you, to encourage you, never to celebrate your sin, but to offer forgiveness and hope and encouragement.

It’s my prayer for all of us that we would leave behind sin in this new year. We can’t sorta stop! We can’t simply sin less. We need to leave it behind, leave it in 2019.

I pray we would leave behind shame from our past. I pray we would leave behind bitterness and unforgiveness. I pray we would leave behind bad habits which lead to debt and poor health, instead developing new positive habits which we’ll talk about next Sunday.

Family, I love you. I want to see you thrive in this new year, not only for your personal peace and satisfaction but also for God’s glory. We’re all been commissioned by Him to go and make disciples, to love Him, and to love others as we love ourselves.

We cannot think like everyone else!
We cannot live like everyone else!
We re-present Jesus every day! People are watching us. They want to know if Jesus is real, if he really is the answer, if we live lives worth living and following, if Jesus makes any real difference.

We can’t do that well if we’re burdened by guilt and greed, debt and defeat, selfishness and sin, distractions and discouragement. Obviously none of us is perfect, but we must be intentional. We’re saved by faith, yes, but as Dallas Willard once remarked,

“Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace, you know, does not just have to do with forgiveness of sins alone.”

We need to make the effort to

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. (Ephesians 4:31)


Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

Someday we’re going to leave this world behind, so we might as well leave behind the desires of this world…to make room for greater things (which we’ll talk about next Sunday).

Recommended Resource(s): Overcomer by David Jeremiah.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Motherhood: Woman of God, 30 December 2018

    Motherhood: Woman of God
    Series—Mary Christmas
    Luke 2:21-52

    Series Overview: Mary may be the most underrated, godly character in the Bible (at least for Protestants!).

    Big Idea: Moms—and Mary, in particular—do more than simply give birth.

    Welcome to in-between Sunday. You know, that awkward time between Christmas and New Year’s. You’re not sure if the decorations should be up or down. Is it ok to still listen to Christmas carols? Half of the world seems to be on vacation while the other half tries to work amidst the gnawing sense that gifts need to be returned and hopefully there’s some deals on leftover Christmas stuff. The space between.

    The same, of course, can be said about our place in history. Throughout Advent—the season of waiting and coming—we’ve noted how we look back at Jesus’ first visit to our planet and anticipate his return. We’ve between his first and second coming.

    As humans, we tend to focus on milestones, significant dates, memorable times. We all have defining moments in our lives, but usually we are living between those occasions. For example, it’s probably not your birthday, but you had one this year…or will tomorrow.

    It’s been said that fathers are celebrated once a year while moms have two holidays: Mother’s Day and Labor Day! Although we are months away from either, we’re going to look at the life of the most famous mom of all…Mary.

    Her story began about nine months before the birth of Jesus, a day we celebrated last week, but her work was just beginning. She was the only person at both the birth and death of Jesus. We don’t have time to look at every mention of Mary in the New Testament, but we’re going to continue our study of the beginning of the gospel or good news of Luke in chapter 2 and see Mary the mother, a woman of God.

    On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. (Luke 2:21)

    Jesus was the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Joshua,” which means “Yahweh is salvation.” It was a common name at the time, but note it was not chosen by Mary or Joseph, but rather Gabriel the angel. Mary and Joseph kept the laws of Judaism.

    When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord” ), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
    (Luke 2:22-24)

    Jesus was dedicated by His parents to the Lord using the offering of the poor, a pair of birds, though middle classes also made such sacrifices.” Fortunately for us, we do not have to slaughter animals in the process of dedicating our children to God, but this was the Old Testament Law.

    Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. (Luke 2:25-26)

    The common shepherds were the first to visit Jesus. Simeon, however, was a wise, godly elder empowered by the Holy Spirit which is significant, especially before Acts chapter two. He was given a promise by God, and the LORD always keeps his promises…and Simeon was no exception.

    Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: (Luke 2:27-28)

    “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
    For my eyes have seen your salvation,
    which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
    a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)

    Jesus was a Jew. His culture was Jewish, but his mission would include the Gentiles, a radical concept for Israel. All the nations will see God’s plan of salvation. The glory of Israel is the Messiah, the bearer of promise. Imagery from the prophet Isaiah is evident here.

    The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:33-35)

    That’s not the kind of blessing I’d want to hear as a parent! This king will clearly be different than Caesar. Suffering has been a part of first-century life and not only will it not end anytime soon, Jesus will share in the suffering. The Messiah will live among his people. The kingdom of God will confront the kingdom of the world, and confrontation is never pretty.

    There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.
    She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38)

    Like Mary, here’s another devoted, godly woman. Talk about surrender! She worshiped, fasted, and prayed night and day. That makes our hour on Sunday look so trivial.

    I love that Luke included this widow in his account.

    Luke has told us Jesus came for Jews and Gentiles. We have seen young and old in this story. The great thing about our faith is it’s available to everyone: boys, girls, men, women, black, white, brown, atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Democrats, Republicans, …the story of Jesus can become anyone’s story.

    When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him. (Luke 2:39-40)

    Now we come to one of my favorite parenting stories in the Bible! There’s plenty of context missed in reading this story 2000 years later, but it’s astonishing on the surface. We jump forward twelve years.

    Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. (Luke 2:41-43)

    This is the reverse of Home Alone! Mary and Joseph head home, leaving Jesus behind. Have you ever lost Jesus? It’s easy for us to get so busy and distracted that we’re not even aware we’ve left him. Perhaps even last week you left Jesus in the manger while you focused on the food, gifts, or even the family. It was his birthday, yet we opened the presents! When we’ve lost Jesus, we need to search for him in prayer, in the Bible…and not given up until we find him.

    Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. (Luke 2:44-45)

    Obviously, this wasn’t a three-person journey. People often traveled in large groups to avoid bandits along the path, among other things. This was an annual pilgrimage. But you would expect a “good” parent to know whether or not their twelve-year-old was with them on such a trip. It seems likely Mary and Joseph returned without the rest of the party, a potentially dangerous journey to a potentially dangerous city.

    After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” (Luke 2:46-48)

    Have you ever blamed someone else for your mistake? I love the humanity of Mary. She blames Jesus but she’s the one who left the city without her young son! I believe the Bible is true and it’s raw moments such as this that verify it for me. You can’t make this stuff up! For the record, Jerusalem is 90 miles from Nazareth.

    I supposed Jesus could’ve responded by saying, “Why did you leave without me?” Instead, Mary’s perfect Son offers an even more radical reply.

    “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. (Luke 2:49-50)

    Mary had said, “Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you,” yet Jesus was focused on his Heavenly Father. Jesus knew his mission, even as a boy. He considered his time in the temple necessary. It will certainly not be his last visit there.

    Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:51-52)

    Jesus was an obedient son. Of course! This would be the end of Jesus’ story from Luke until some seventeen years later.

    Here again we see Mary treasuring all these things in her heart. She knew from before his birth this child was special. She was the mother of the Messiah. It’s hard to imagine the responsibility, the opportunity, the challenge, the blessing. Mary never forgot.

    I want to briefly note two other motherhood moments as we conclude our series
    Mary Christmas.

    In the second chapter of John, Mary tells her son at a wedding, “They have no more wine,” prompting Jesus to miraculous turn about 150 gallons of water into the finest wine.

    In the third chapter of Mark, we see Mary and Jesus’ brothers looking for Jesus. His response: “Who are my mother and my brothers? Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” It was not meant to slam his family, but can you imagine how they felt?

    So What?

    Moms, you can relate to Mary better than anyone. You know the joys and heartache of not only parenting but doing what only moms can do. We can only imagine the conversations she had with Jesus, the questions she asked, the haunting words of Simeon throughout His growth, and the mystery of His identity.

    Parenting is really a stewardship. As humans, we often think things belong to us. That’s my car. Those are my toys. I give my money. This is my body. Those are my kids. The reality is everything we have is a gift on loan from God. The car might become totaled, the toys broken, the money lost, the body decayed. And even our children are not ours. This became especially real on my daughter’s wedding day. I was asked, “Who gives this woman to this man?” and I said, “Her mother and I.” Our girl was no longer ours, but now given to our son in-love.

    Mary watched Jesus grow from a babe in a manger to a circumcised infant to a twelve year-old teaching in the temple to a miraculous wine-maker. She must’ve been so proud when he taught and amazed when he healed. I imagine she was offended when he redefined his family as whoever does God’s will. She was devastated when he was tortured and then executed on the cross, stunned when she found his tomb empty, and overjoyed to see him after the resurrection.

    Such is the roller coaster of parenting…the roller coaster of life. 2018 was filled with many average, uneventful days. There were also defining moments—both good and bad, some expected and some surprising. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict 2019 will be the same! There will be highs and lows, ordinary days and extraordinary ones. We will have opportunities to influence what happens next year, but so many things are simply beyond our control.

    For followers of Jesus, that’s ok. God is sovereign. God is in control. Nothing surprises Him. 2018 was not unexpected for God and neither will be 2019. Like a drone soaring high above a tour bus on the highway, God can see not only this moment but those behind and ahead of us.

    We are in the in between—between the first and second comings of Jesus, between Christmas and New Year’s, almost between 2018 and 2019—but God is here…and there. He is good and faithful, even when it doesn’t feel like it (and I had several moments this year when it didn’t feel like it!). The Kingdom of God is advancing, even as the kingdom of this world continues to succeed.

    As I wrap up my final sermon of 2018, I want to challenge you with two things:

    Give thanks. I know, Thanksgiving was last month, but now is a great time to reflect upon God’s blessings. No matter who you are, there’s plenty of reasons to be thankful. Tomorrow at 7 PM we will gather together here and do exactly that. It will be a time of reflection, a time of sharing, an opportunity to testify of God’s goodness and faithfulness. I think you’ll be encouraged as you hear stories of what God this year in and through our church family.

    Give yourself. Surrender. Let go and let God. This is a radical idea, especially in our culture where we think we’re in control of so much of our lives. As I’ve often said, Jesus didn’t come to start another religion. He’s not looking for people to agree with doctrinal statements or impress others with their biblical knowledge. He showed us what it means to be human and asks for nothing less than total surrender. If you think Mary was offended when Jesus redefined his family, imagine how she felt when he said,

    “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26

    Did Jesus mean we are to hate our family? Certainly not. He meant in comparison to our devotion to God, our love for our family and even our own lives must be minimal. He continued,

    And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:27

    He’s looking for 24/7/365 followers, men and women who have died to their agendas and surrendered to God’s will. “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.” That means every day of 2019 belongs to Jesus. Every penny in your piggy bank, purse, bank account, and investment portfolio belongs to Jesus. Your plans for others—including your family members—belongs to Jesus. Your dreams for the future, your hopes for our church, your political preferences, and your talents belong to Jesus. Every second on the calendar is subject to interruption because it belongs to Jesus.

    Today we close with a popular song many of us have sung countless times, yet putting the lyrics into practice is far more challenging—and rewarding—than simply singing, “I Surrender All.” I’m waiting for someone to write, “I Surrender Some” or “I Surrender All When I Feel Like It,” but that’s not what Jesus requires of His followers. He doesn’t recognize part-time disciples. He’s looking for people who are willing to count the cost, suffer, and be all-in, no matter what.

    Mary was all-in. Mothers have to be all-in when they give birth, but throughout her life she was passionately devoted to God, a wonderful example for all of us. Simeon and Anna are also examples in our text of true followers of the LORD. Even at age 12 Jesus was committed to the Father’s will.

    As we prepare for the new year, it’s my hope and prayer that we would passionately pursue God like never before—as individuals and as a family together—in 2019. Let’s resolve to know God better…and make Him known.

    I Surrender All

    Credits: some ideas from The Real Mary by Scot McKnight

    You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

    Fresh Start, 1 January 2017

    Fresh Start
    Psalm 90

    Big Idea: Today is the first day of the rest of your life!

    Life is full of milestones. Defining moments. Some are unexpected. We don’t usually know when we’ll meet our spouse or best friend. It’s often months or years later when we look back and realize that day was special.

    Other milestones we can anticipate.

    When I was about eight years old I opened a Christmas gift from my aunt and uncle. They knew I was a big sports fan so it made sense they bought me a football jersey. However, the color didn’t represent any of my favorite teams. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it, but it seemed somewhat random…until they mentioned the number. 86. Why was that significant? They told me it was the year of my high school graduation! From that moment on, I anticipated the year 1986!

    Have you been anticipating 2017? Some of you know this will be the year you will graduate—from high school or college. I know a few of you have wedding planned this year. This year will be the birth year of new First Alliance babies! And maybe this will be the year that you—get that dream job, get engaged, or finally win your fantasy football league!

    Others of you are anticipating 2017 for a different reason. You’re just glad 2016 is over. You couldn’t wait to turn the page and have a fresh start. 2016 was a year of pain, disappointment, struggle, or loss. The 2016 election exposed the great tensions of our nation. The entertainment world lost so many stars, a GoFundMe account was established to raise $10,000 to protect Betty White from 2016!

    Regardless of whether 2016 was fantastic or forgettable, I have great news for you: Today is the first day of the rest of your life!

    Life is a gift. Musician Randy Stonehill penned these words:

    I'm gonna celebrate this heartbeat
    Cause it just might be my last
    Everyday is a gift from the Lord on high
    And they all go by so fast
    Amen! Actually, a quick note to parents of young children: the years go by fast, even though the days often seem like they last forever! Diapers, crying, pediatrician visits, packing for trips, …

    But every day is a gift. Our days are numbered, but none of us knows how many we get. Moses famously wrote,

    Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

    Many of us take life for granted—until it’s snatched away suddenly. We simply don’t know our expiration date. It could be today. It could be years from now. Are you ready? They say you’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die.

    On a more cheery note, how will you use this fresh start? It may or may not include written resolutions, but how do you want to live 2017? How do you want to grow? Where do you want to find yourself 365 days from now as 2018 begins?

    I’m reminded of Reinhold Niebuhr’s famous Serenity Prayer

    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    Courage to change the things I can,
    And wisdom to know the difference.

    Oh that we would all have that wisdom!

    Psalm 90

    Most of the psalms were written by…David. One was written by Moses: Psalm 90. It

    A prayer of Moses the man of God. 

    Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    throughout all generations. (Psalm 90:1)

    This is such a comforting thought. Yesterday we remember the life of Bob Carson, an incredible member of this church for decades. God was his dwelling place and will be to his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

    Before the mountains were born
    or you brought forth the whole world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:2)

    From everlasting to everlasting He is God. Hallelujah! Think about that for a moment. He was present before the mountains—before this planet! Our God spoke our universe into existence! And He loves you and me! Sometimes we forget these simple yet truly awesome truths.

    You turn people back to dust,
    saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.” (Psalm 90:3)

    That’s our God! Sometimes we’ve worked so hard to make God personal, we think He’s just like us. We’re created in His image, and some of us have returned the favor! God is awesome. We are but dust. 2016 provided us with many reminders that one day all of us will die—including Prince and Princess…Leah!

    A thousand years in your sight 
    are like a day that has just gone by,
    or like a watch in the night. (Psalm 90:4)

    This verse has been quoted often to speak of the return of Jesus. He said he would return soon, yet 2000 years does not seem soon to us…though it may only be two days to God. Peter wrote

    But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
    (2 Peter 3:8-9)

    Moses continues

    Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
    they are like the new grass of the morning:
    In the morning it springs up new,
    but by evening it is dry and withered. (Psalm 90:5-6)

    Now the reality of our sin moves into focus:

    We are consumed by your anger 
    and terrified by your indignation.
    You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your presence.
    All our days pass away under your wrath;
    we finish our years with a moan.
    Our days may come to seventy years,
    or eighty, if our strength endures;
    yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
    for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
    If only we knew the power of your anger!
    Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due. (Psalm 90:7-11)

    We don’t like to talk about God’s wrath, sin, death, or judgment…but a holy God demands perfection, which is why we desperately need Jesus. His perfect life made his death on the cross for us the perfect and acceptable sacrifice, payment for our sins.

    Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

    Here’s one of the most popular verses in the Bible. In the context of life and death it is deeply profound. Wisdom comes from God…and from understanding our lives are fragile. What is your expiration date? It could be today. It could be sometime this year.

    Relent, LORD! How long will it be?
    Have compassion on your servants.
    Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
    that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
    Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    for as many years as we have seen trouble. (Psalm 90:13-15)

    Remember, this is Moses. Pleading with Pharaoh. 40 years leading complainers in the desert. He knows trouble.
    May your deeds be shown to your servants,
    your splendor to their children.
    May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
    establish the work of our hands for us—
    yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:16-17)

    I love Moses’ conclusion. He doesn’t merely say, “Bless us, LORD. Make us rich. Keep us from sickness.” He gets involved. He wants to do life with God. He wants to partner. He’s willing to work, but realizes he needs God’s favor as he works.

    So What?

    Today is the first day of the rest of your life. How will you live it?

    Today is a fresh start. We’ve all made mistakes in 2016…and we will in 2017, too. But today is a new beginning. It’s a great time to reflect upon what’s truly important; how we want to live; who we want to become.

    Some of you have dreams you’ve buried. Maybe 2017 is the year to revive them, to take baby steps toward their fulfillment.
    Without burdening you a list of new year’s resolutions, consider a few things:

    1. 1. The message of Jesus is a fresh start.

    When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15)

    In a few moments, we’ll celebrate communion communally, together. We remember Jesus died, his body broken, his scarlet blood shed to make us as pure as wool.

    “Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the LORD.
    “Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
    though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

    Leave behind the guilt and shame of 2016. It’s a new day. It’s a new year!

    One of the great struggles for followers of Jesus is satan’s lies. He’s the accuser, and he loves to keep you shackled in your past failures rather than released to pursue God’s future plans. It is often said when satan reminds you of your past, remind him of his future!

    Seriously, though, if you have trusted Jesus Christ as your LORD and Savior, he has forgiven you of all of your sins. All of them! Yes, even that one!

    The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love. 
    He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
    he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities. 
    For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
    as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:8-12)

    That’s good news. That’s great news!

    1. 2. Be reconciled

    Jesus boiled the entire Bible down to two commands: love God and love others. One way we love God is by loving others. As 2017 begins, you need to get right with God. Receive His love and forgiveness. It’s there for the taking. Surrender everything—time, talents, treasures—to Him.

    You also need to get right with others. Jesus said…

    “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister  will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

    “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:21-24)

    My interpretation is, “Get right with others.” Don’t drag bitterness into 2017. Forgive. Let it go. Let go and let God. Seriously. We’ve all been wronged…and we’ve all wronged others.

    Relationships can be messy. I learned that in a whole new way in 2016…unfortunately. There are two people with whom I have unsuccessfully tried to reconcile. Actually, I’ve struggled trying to figure out what I did to deserve the brokenness of the relationship. I’ve asked. I’ve done my best to humble myself. I have been encouraged by these words in the book of Romans…

    If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)

    Despite our best efforts, we may not be able to live at peace with everyone, but “if it is possible” we are to do so.

    They don’t deserve forgiveness. Neither do you! That’s why grace—unmerited favor—is so amazing! Paul wrote to the church in Corinth

    For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

    So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)

    Today is the first day of the rest of your life. How will you live it?

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Back to the Future, 29 December 2013

    Big Idea: As we approach the new year, it’s a perfect time to give thanks for this year and prepare for the next.

    Today we are in the

    2013 is essentially over. Even though we have a few days left, I’ve seen the best sports plays of the year, read about the best movies of the year…it’s as if 2013 is in the rear view mirror.

    2014 does not arrive until Wednesday. I’m excited about the Winter Olympics in February, my daughter’s graduation from college in April…but it’s not here yet.

    The in-between even reminds me of Advent when we look back to the first coming of Jesus and look forward to His return, muddling in the space between.

    Today we are going back to the future. We are going to look back at 2013 and ahead to 2014.

    Psalm 8

    Last Sunday we looked at King David. One of my favorite psalms written by David is Psalm 8.

    When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. (Psalm 8:3-8)

    It continues to boggle my mind how God not only creates us and loves us, but He also invites us to do life with Him. He woos us into a relationship…and then asks us to rule with Him.

    He is so good. He created us. He loves us. He cares for us.

    Psalm 136 says

    Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
    His love endures forever.
    Give thanks to the God of gods.
    His love endures forever.
    Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
    His love endures forever.
    (Psalm 136:1-3)

    I don’t know about you, but I’m almost always looking ahead…sometimes too far ahead. I need the discipline of reflection, of giving thanks. There are trials and challenges ahead, to be sure, but we are commanded throughout the scriptures to give thanks.

    This past week I reviewed some of the highlights of 2013 and gave thanks to God for His goodness.

    How has God been good to you in 2013?

    2014: The Year Ahead

    What is God saying to you about 2014?

    I didn’t ask for new year’s resolutions, though they may be similar. I want you to take some time and prayerfully consider your next-steps.

    It has been said that we overestimate what we can do in a day and underestimate what we can do in a year. For example, if I asked you to read the entire Bible today, you might feel a bit overwhelmed! How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! If you divided the Bible into 365 bites, you could read through the entire Bible in mere minutes each day. For some of you, that’s exactly what God is saying to you—read My Word!

    Two years ago many of us read through the Bible together. In 2013, we’ve been reading the New Testament. In 2014, our Scio Journal is going to focus on the Psalms and Proverbs. You can read and interact on our Facebook page. Please join us!

    Maybe 2014 is the year you finally take a risk and invite a friend to our Easter gathering, get to know your neighbors, serve a homeless person, get out of debt, break an addiction, embark on a missions trip, write your first book, forgive an old offense, go back to school…

    What is God saying to you about 2014?

    In about 365 days we may be together in this same room reflecting upon 2014. How will you live it? How does God want you to live it?

    One word that keeps filling my mouth is “intentional.” We can go with the flow, letting the current of life move us downstream toward our eventual death or we can be proactive and seize the mission God has for our lives. He has created you and me to do good works which He prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

    Listen to the words of Moses in Psalm 90:

    Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (1-2)

    You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.” A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—they are like the new grass of the morning: In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered. (3-6)

    We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan. Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due. Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:7-12)

    What is God saying to you about 2014?

    We’ve reflected upon the past and looked ahead to the future, which leaves us with today. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. I challenge you to be fully present in the moment, not dwelling on the good old days or becoming anxious about the future, but thanking God for His faithfulness, right here, right now. One of the great things about God is He is timeless. He never changes. He is as real today as He was yesterday and will be just as faithful tomorrow.

    In the final book of the Old Testament, Malachi, God Himself says

    I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. (Malachi 3:6)

    James, the half-brother of Jesus, declared that

    Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

    Great Is Thy Faithfulness!

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.